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Open Thread 86.75

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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927 Responses to Open Thread 86.75

  1. Thegnskald says:

    So, my apologies to everyone because I realize this show gets way too much coverage already and the fan base has gotten obnoxious lately, but, well, the last episode of Rick and Morty Season 3 is amazingly good, and it is bothering me that many people don’t quite seem to see why.

    Rot13ing everything, because spoilers, and because I’d rather not subject anybody who doesn’t care to the content of this. Content warning, this may be me reading way too much into something (but I kind of doubt it, given the construction of the show so far):

    Fb, fubeg fhzznel: Gur ragver rcvfbqr vf na nethzrag nobhg cbjre, naq nobhg gur angher bs tbireazrag, naq gur angher bs vagryyvtrapr. Gur znva “cybg” bs gur rcvfbqr vf na bire-gur-gbc cbjre fgehttyr orgjrra Evpx naq Zbegl naq gur Cerfvqrag bs gur HF, va juvpu Evpx’f bayl bowrpgvir vf gb fubj gur cerfvqrag gung uvf cbjre vf hygvzngryl vyyhfbel, gung ur vf qrcraqrag ba gur vagryyvtrapr bs crbcyr haqre uvf pbageby, naq gung fbzrobql jvgu zber vagryyvtrapr pna fhoireg naq qrfgebl nalguvat gur Cerfvqrag vf pncnoyr bs oevatvat gb orne, qevivat guvf yrffba va fgrc-ol-fgrc.

    Ba gur onpx fvqr, jr unir n pybar cybg jvgu Orgu, jub unf ernyvmrq gung Evpx’f vagryyvtrapr znxrf uvz hagehfgjbegul – fur vf greevsvrq fur zvtug or n pybar jub zvtug or xvyyrq, naq Evpx’f ernffhenaprf snvy gb ernffher ure, orpnhfr ur vf fzneg rabhtu gb ernffher ure ertneqyrff bs gur gehgu bs gur fvghngvba – fb fur ghearq gb Wreel, jub fur xabjf vf gbb fghcvq gb gevpx ure, gb erfbyir gur gehgu bs gur fvghngvba.

    Fb Evpx orngf gur Cerfvqrag, jvgu n fgebat juvss bs Ngynf Fuehttrq tbvat ba va gung cbjre fgehttyr (nf gur zrgncube vf n irel yvoregnevna-rfdhr “Tbireazrag hygvzngryl pbzrf qbja gb sbepr, naq gur pncnpvgl sbe gung sbepr vf ynetryl vyyhfbel”) – naq jura uvf nggragvba ergheaf gb uvf snzvyl, ur qvfpbiref gung, gb uvf fubpx, ur unf npghnyyl orra qrsrngrq ol Wreel (be engure, ur unf qvfpbirerq ur unf bhgfznegrq uvzfrys), orpnhfr fghcvqvgl zrnaf Wreel vf gehfgjbegul jurernf Evpx vf abg.

    V rkcrpg gur arkg frnfba gb eribyir nebhaq Evpx’f pbhagrenethzrag ntnvafg fghcvqvgl nf n cebbs-bs-gehfg, ol ratntvat va cresbezngvir fghcvqvgl juvpu erirnyf uvf ybir sbe uvf snzvyl, sbyybjrq ol n fhqqra npg bs “Shpx guvf, ybbx, lbh pna’g gehfg zr whfg orpnhfr V nz fvzcyr, V jnf ylvat nobhg orvat fvzcyr. Lbh unir gb gehfg zr jvgubhg nal thnenagrrf, orpnhfr gurer vf ab jnl gb znxr fhpu thnenagrrf. Nyfb lbh’er nyy fghcvq sbe abg ernyvmvat guvf va gur svefg cynpr.”

    Gurer zvtug nyfb or fbzr fhogrkg va gurer nobhg Gehzc’f cresbezngvir fghcvqvgl, vg’f uneq gb fnl; ohg V pna qrsvavgryl frr na nagv-Gehzc nethzrag ohvyqvat bhg bs gur arkg frnfba, jurernf guvf bar pna, vs lbh fdhvag, fbeg bs or frra nf – guebhtu Wreel’f ivpgbel bire Evpx – na nethzrag va snibe bs Gehzc.

    V’z birenyy whfg fghaarq ol ubj jryy-pbafgehpgrq guvf rcvfbqr jnf, naq ubj vagevpngr gur zrgncubef ner. N ybg bs crbcyr frrz xvaq bs qbja ba vg nf ergheavat gb gur fgnghf dhb – ohg vg vfa’g gur fgnghf dhb, Evpx unf whfg orra qrsrngrq, naq qrsrngrq ol Wreel. Vg unf orra gur svefg gvzr Evpx’f avuvyvfz unf fubja n jrnx cbvag; tenagrq, nf V’ir fhttrfgrq nobir, gur jrnx cbvag unf na ninvynoyr pbhagre-nethzrag.

    Overall I’ve found this season to be the strongest so far, and am vaguely annoyed by the fanbase. This is one of the rare times I am going to say this: I understand your complaint that hiring women for the sake of hiring women may not be ideal, if that is what happened, but your suggestion that the show has gotten less intelligent is, quite simply, wrong; it has moved on from Philosophy 101 to something like Philosophy 102. You’re being sexists. Knock it off.

    And on a tangential note, the fact that you value knowledge for its own sake, and thus find references intrinsically rewarding because they are a cheap way of demonstrating your own knowledge, is a flaw in your personality that is being exploited by people who understand you better than you understand yourself in order to sell you content.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      Don’t really feel like doing spoiler text or spoiling anything, so here is a pastebin:

      https://pastebin.com/TNdTeude

      oh, and:

      And on a tangential note, the fact that you value flavor for its own sake, and thus find burritos and tacos intrinsically rewarding because they are a cheap way of tasting good flavors, is a flaw in your personality that is being exploited by people who understand you better than you understand yourself in order to sell you Mexican food.

      i feel owned already

      • Thegnskald says:

        It is more like feeding a starving person artificial sweeteners.

        Which is to say, a burrito fulfills a need. Referential satisfaction is the artificial filling of a need for intellectual feedback on one’s understanding of the world.

        It is stroking your knowledge-ego without actually having to go through the effort of knowing things, because such humor is, in mass media, necessarily lowered to the common denominator, typically other mass media.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          Which is to say, a burrito fulfills a need. Referential satisfaction is the artificial filling of a need for intellectual feedback on one’s understanding of the world.

          But the need is still filled, right?

          It is stroking your knowledge-ego without actually having to go through the effort of knowing things, because such humor is, in mass media, necessarily lowered to the common denominator, typically other mass media.

          This is like the equivalent of eating a burrito without knowing how to make one. Well, so what?

          As to your other posts: I don’t recall that many badass moments from Morty but i’d imagine this to be part of an overall character development and upgrade from doing so many adventures with Rick. But Summer leapfrogged both of them and only for one episode because of her being angry; not exactly the same thing. And as for “the whole family being made up of psychopaths”, I don’t think the “kill and eat mutants” bit foreshadows this at all, so much as just people adjusting to their circumstances.

          If the psychiatry scene came from Harmon, then fine. The obvious problem with this entire argument is that we can’t know who said what and indeed the creators have said that almost everything is a joint effort. But most people have noticed a drop-off in quality.

          • Thegnskald says:

            It doesn’t fill the need, no, any more than artificial sweeteners fill the need for calories – what it does is trick the brain into thinking the need is fulfilled.

            And Summer was engaging in reckless behavior that happened to work out for her. We have seen Rick engage in far more impressive acts when he needs to – he didn’t need to because he could just leave.

            Taking unnecessary risks isn’t competence.

            ETA: Also, I am baffled by the collision of “We all cooperate” and “Any fault of the new season is entirely due to the women that were hired”.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            It doesn’t fill the need, no, any more than artificial sweeteners fill the need for calories – what it does is trick the brain into thinking the need is fulfilled.

            If the brain thinks an entirely mental need is fulfilled, then isn’t it?

            And Summer was engaging in reckless behavior that happened to work out for her. We have seen Rick engage in far more impressive acts when he needs to – he didn’t need to because he could just leave.

            Maybe I’m wrong, but the act of just shooting a shotgun at a car, causing it to flip and the driver to die…I don’t think anyone has done anything more physically impressive in the series. So maybe not “competence” so much as “skill” or something.

            ETA: Also, I am baffled by the collision of “We all cooperate” and “Any fault of the new season is entirely due to the women that were hired”.

            What I’m saying is that it’s obviously difficult to discern whose fault any drop-off in quality is, and that I am attempting to do so. I acknowledge that I might fail, but like I said: most acknowledge that the quality has indeed dropped off, and the addition of female writers is the largest change we know of. It’s not that far-fetched to find a correlation there.

      • Thegnskald says:

        As for R&M, Morty was allowed a number of out-of-place badass moments in Season 2, which also foreshadowed the changes in Beth’s behavior. Nothing really changed this season except other characters started to catch up a little bit. (In terms of the entire family being made up of psychopaths of varying flavours; we actually saw hints of this in the first season, when the family becomes happy when life becomes “Kill and eat mutants”)

        The psychiatrist scene almost certainly came from Harmon, echoing some commentary he has made before in another context. (Actually, I think the deconstruction of the nature of power in the final episode was probably also Harmon. Normal people do not think that way.) Blaming new authors for self-insertion of one of the original creators’ thoughts is… eh.

        • Nornagest says:

          Huh, I thought the psychiatrist bit was one of the best scenes in the series. Was less impressed with the last episode of S3, though.

          • Thegnskald says:

            It was pretty good. Reminded me of Dr Killinger from Metalocalypse.

            I liked the last episode, but that might just be my own interpretation of the episode as a deconstruction of the idea of power.

          • Nornagest says:

            If it’s intended as the author’s response to how the fanbase treats Rick, though, I think it might end up missing the mark. A lot of the fanbase seems to like Rick not so much because he’s a genius (there are lots of geniuses on TV) as because of the importance the show’s internal logic attaches to that genius. Even though it constantly ends up getting the cast in trouble, and even though Rick’s own attitude toward it is far from healthy, it’s literally the most significant thing in the world — in several worlds, in fact.

            I think that, not watching an unstoppable intellectual badass as such, is what makes stories like this attractive to their target audience. If you’re a lonely young nerd, then that means you’ve probably grown up with the idea that your intelligence is your defining feature, and you probably hold it responsible to some extent for everything good and bad that happens to you. Emphasis on bad: since you see it as a mixed blessing, seeing a character on TV who’s got the same smarts but only gets good things out of them will ring hollow. But if their intelligence causes problems for them, like you feel yours has caused problems for you? That’s someone you can identify with: not just a genius, a martyr to genius. And if the world almost literally revolves around them despite their problems? Hoo boy, that’s a potent power fantasy.

            I have the same problem with Ender’s Game, HPMoR, etc.

  2. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Any thoughts about what having a second headquarters might do to Amazon?

    • johan_larson says:

      Probably nothing. I expect this new site, however large, will not be a true HQ. The HQ is wherever Bezos and his court are located, full stop.

      • kingofmen says:

        That’s what king James thought too, when he fled to Oxford one step ahead of the London mob. The London mob had the last laugh. 🙂

  3. johan_larson says:

    Does anyone here happen to know how much safer an airbag system makes a car if the occupants are wearing their seatbelts? It seems to me the airbag wouldn’t make that much difference, since a properly belted-in occupant already won’t fly forward in the event of a crash.

    I did some searching, but all I could find was this graph, which doesn’t distinguish seat belt users from non-users.

    • S_J says:

      Seat belts keep the driver/passenger safely in their seat while the car decelerates-rapidly/rolls-over.

      For a driver, the air bag provides protection of the chest and head from sudden impact into the steering wheel. A seat belt with a shoulder harness can keep the chest mostly safe, but it is rather hard to design a restraint for the driver’s head. (The Wiki article you link has three pictures of a test-dummy with a seatbelt, and a simulated crash. The motion of the dummy’s head could be very harmful to a real person, if it were not slowed down by the air-bag.)

      I don’t know if the same applies to passengers, though I imagine that whiplash is still a danger to the passenger, even if there is not a steering wheel in the way.

  4. Bellum Gallicum says:

    I have been reading past posts over the last year and enjoy them immensely.

    The post comparing intelligence and height was incredible but the statement that the team of 7 footers would win over a team of 6’6 players ignores several factors. Wingspan, explosiveness, agility, and size of talent pool.

    The teams in the NBA finals last year would often play with players under 6’6 as their centers and never had more than one player who was a center on the floor. The Cavilers lack a true center and Warriors best two lineups omit front court players completely.

    Data can give us an amazing view of the world but as it becomes more precise it makes it easy to mistake the map for the territory.

    Thanks again for all your great posts and this classic online community

  5. Rick Hull says:

    anecdote:data :: synecdoche:?

    i.e. They say the plural of anecdote is not data. What is the plural of synecdoche?

  6. BBA says:

    Greetings from Vermont, the state that nobody remembers used to be an independent country.

    The early colonies were chartered with only vague descriptions of their territories, a necessity due to the lack of information about American geography at the time. Thus both New York and New Hampshire claimed what became Vermont as part of their respective provinces, and both were selling the land to settlers and speculators. This ended with a royal decree in 1764 that New York had the proper claim, to the dismay of the settlers, who had largely come from New Hampshire. New York then declared the New Hampshire land grants invalid and demanded payment from the settlers in exchange for proper title. The settlers would have none of this, and this dispute continued for a few years, until the Vermonters declared their independence from New York at about the same time that New York and its twelve co-conspirators were declaring independence from Britain.

    What’s interesting is the Vermont Republic never meant to be an independent country. Its first constitution, in 1777, called for the state to be represented in the Continental Congress, and coins issued by the state government contained the motto “stella quarta decima” – the fourteenth star. New York managed to keep Vermont out of the Union for 14 years, finally relenting when Vermont paid $30,000 to settle the Empire State’s remaining land claims. The First Congress admitted Vermont to the Union on February 18, 1791, ending the brief and unwanted independence of the Vermont Republic. And that’s…the rest of the story. Good day!

    • quaelegit says:

      Thanks for sharing! I had heard vaguely that Vermont was a country for a while, but didn’t know the story. Sounds like VT has a much more solid claim to being a country than CA 😛

      And waiting 24 years to get admitted to the union… I wonder if they ever considered trying to join Quebec (or whatever political entity was in charge of montreal at that time…)

  7. balrog says:

    Occasionally is comments like: “I’m depressed, anxious, insomniac trans and about to start hormones” (feel free to replace with any other choosing of psychological problems). What makes me wonder:

    1) Why are such people going for hormones while they have other presumably more important problems to solve.

    2) Why is there belief that one such drastic step as getting your hormones totally out of balance, coupled with several existing serious problems would not just lead to complete mental breakdown (eg. successful suicide)?

    3) When you apply for drivers license you have 5 minute talk with psychiatrist to make sure you’re not insane (no idea what they are actually checking). Also many psychiatric medicines come with big warnings like: “Don’t operate heavy machinery”. Why would person who isn’t getting enough sleep, has lost will to live and is generally considered temporarily not clear headed be allowed to make life-changing irreversible decisions in life which are known to have lots of side-effects?

    • Zorgon says:

      I’ve seen the same pattern. Quite apart from the fact that this is an inevitability (due to the immense co-morbidity rate amongst trans people), what you’re seeing here is a combination of availability heuristics.

      Firstly, it is famously difficult to find and obtain reliable methods of dealing with depression, anxiety and insomnia alike. While chemical methods to correct all of these exist, they are ineffective with tedious and, for the patient, quite distressing regularity.

      Secondly, currently in the UK current medical climate it is remarkably easy to get onto the “transition track” of mandated therapy, consultation and counselling leading to hormone treatment and eventually surgery. There are remarkably few hormone treatments available, and almost all of them work as intended for almost all patients. Contrast this with the first issue.

      Thirdly, the individuals you’re talking about are likely surrounded by a cultural zeitgeist which places a great deal of negative emphasis on “cis”, where “cis” is defined as not having started taking the magic hormone pills yet. They’ll have likely entered that culture in order to find support with their issues, many of which will stem from their gender identity problems, and even if they don’t it is likely that selection bias will push the idea that fixing their gender issues will fix everything. Therefore you have a self-selecting group with a heavily-reinforced belief that making the evil cis-ness go away as soon as possible will fix their problems. This group is overwhelmingly likely to choose to treat their gender issues first.

      Finally, and most importantly, in my experience depression in particular has a persistent and honestly rather vicious way of making you feel like it’s an implacable enemy that cannot be defeated, while gender dysphoria has no such self-reinforcing invincibility; as a result I can imagine that it seems a natural first port of call for treatment.

      Of the three trans people I know well, two sought hormone treatment as soon as possible in spite of other (arguably more severe) long-term issues. In both cases I would say that the reason for this was overwhelmingly that to their eyes, their gender issues were significantly more tractable than their other issues; dealing with their gender problems became a “first strike against the dark” kind of situation, and this is supported by their statements at the time.

      The third was and is reticent to take any radical steps to deal with their gender issues and remains purely socially transitioned; I would note that she suffers from significantly less in the way of comorbid issues along with her GID.

      • Lillian says:

        One thing i’ve noticed is post transition folk often counsel pre-transition ones to start dealing with their mental problems first, and then pursue HRT and the rest. Not necessarily have everything fixed, but at least start therapy and medication before ordering bootleg hormones on the internet. Pre-transition folk usually don’t want to hear this, and they tend to resent someone who already has what they desperately want telling them to be patient and take it slow.

        Playing into this is that transsexuals are on a timer, because the older they get, the less good their results will be. Younger bodies are more malleable than older ones. Also most of them percieve post-transition life as being radically better than pre-transition, so naturally they want to maximize the amount of life they get on the better side of the line. This is reinforced by those who have transitioned frequently saying they wish they’d done it sooner.

        Given a large set of problems to deal with, it seems rational to prioritise the time critical one.

    • Incurian says:

      When you apply for drivers license you have 5 minute talk with psychiatrist

      Where? I’ve never heard of this.

  8. Another Throw says:

    Upthread and buried deep, it was mentioned in passing that (apparently) Libertarians hold that property owners can charge rent, but States cannot.

    While I am generally sympathetic to Libertarian beliefs, some of them occasionally seem kind of coo-coo. And this strikes me as an particularly ballsy claim (if actually held).

    So, Libertarians Unite! and explain to me how the entire apparatus of England is anything other than a thousand years of rental contracts and arbitration between a property owner, the Crown, and her tenants. Explain to me how the Commonwealths of Pennsylvania and Delaware are anything other than three hundred years of rental contracts and arbitration between the perpetual trust created by William Penn from the property given to him by the Crown in payment of dept, and their tenants.

    And then tell me again how a tenant can charge rent, but the property owner cannot.

    Look, I get the impression that Libertarian beliefs are strongly influenced by American history, and most jurisdictions in America like to pretend that the State isn’t the primary property owner because America was founded when a bunch of upstarts stole a hell of a lot of property from the Crown, because screw George, but that doesn’t actually make it true.

    Edit: That may come across a little strong, so I should say this is a genuine inquiry. Also, you can probably replace “property” with “land.”

    Edit again: I should also probably stipulate 950 years with regards to England. The Anglo-Saxons treated property, most notably the Crown, differently before the Conquest and, even if you accept William’s claim that Edward could alienate the crown to whomever he pleased, imposing the Continental system of property ownership with the battle-ax was probably a genuine injustice.

    Edited yet again: But even still, the accepted method of changing the terms of the agreement was for the King to go ahead and announce it. The tenant’s options were to accept the new terms, or return the land and bugger off, or try for arbitration. This generally involved lining up as many men as you could find to take turns whacking each other with battle axes and it routinely turned out in William’s favor. Since the terms of the agreement were changed in accordance with the terms of the agreement it is hard to get worked up about it.

    • Incurian says:

      If you think the crown is a legitimate landlord, I don’t see why the crown can’t charge rent. Also you may want to distinguish libertarians from anarchists.

      • Another Throw says:

        I did have a passing concern that there may be some conflation between libertarians and anarchists going on, which is why I hedged about whether it is a Libertarian belief or not.

    • The question is whether the state legitimately owns the territory it rules, and why.

      • Another Throw says:

        Since both you and Incurian have mentioned legitimacy (and probably everybody else to follow will as well), I am going to infer that this lies near the heart of the matter. And then change the subject entirely. Do states spring from the freshly fallen dew and then decide that they have right over territory, or are they instituted amongst men to safeguard mumble, mumble, and property?

        If it is the latter, and you recognize the legitimacy of property and the legitimacy of contracts, can you simultaneously deny the legitimacy of contracts to safeguard property rights just because they have been hewn from the Primal Anarchy?

        Is a State just a Home Owner’s Association that has fermented for a thousand years and in so doing developed a host of ancillary trappings to safeguard the rights of its members against a host of rival claimants in the absence of a more powerful superstate to appeal to?

        • Nornagest says:

          That might be a better analogy than you’re trying to make it; HOAs have a lot of the same problems that states do, writ small, and I think they’re operating under a lot of the same incentives. It’s not that interesting to me whether our resident libertarians can come up with a satisfying answer to this particular “checkmate, atheists!” question, but that wouldn’t be a bad starting point for a consequential analysis of how state power works, where it tends to go wrong, and how those harms can be minimized.

          • Another Throw says:

            My perhaps unstudied impression is that a state apparatus that looks a large degree like what we currently see is an inevitable consequence of our understanding of property, rights, and contract. And since empirical evidence suggests that our understand of property, rights, and contract has lead to an unprecedented explosion in wealth around the world, I am not entirely sure what we can change at the root without undermining that progress (like causing the collapse of market capitalism, ushering in a new Dark Age, from which a new set of states will be hewn from the Primal Anarchy). And anything we can modify at the branch will just slightly shuffle who the winners and slightly-less-winners of that wealth are.

            As for the explosion of HOAs, I see them as a symptom of the failures of the State. Both because the State has interfered too much in the housing market: subsidizing the construction and purchase of large, single-family, single-generation dwellings far above what the market can bear; while simultaneously restricting the construction of small, multi-family, multi-generation dwellings far below what the market demands. The reduplication of the state apparatus in the HOA is a result of the lumbering behemoth that the state has become being unable to actually safeguard the property rights value of that oversupplied property. The asinine pettiness that the HOAs adopt further underscores that fragility of the market. I mean, my God, if the color someone three streets over paints their door causes your property value to tank, I don’t know what to tell you, but maybe you shouldn’t have invested so much in an single, volatile asset because it may not end well for you.

            But that’s an aside. The point is, the reason HOAs have all the same failures of the State is because the HOA is trying to achieve what the State was supposed to be doing, but can’t/wont/isn’t. And because the that very same State has totally porked (another) market intervention.

            Draw down the power of the State to perform terrible market interventions, which it is notoriously bad at, and redirect its energies back at safeguarding the rights of its constituents, instead of trying to fiddle with their finances?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            The asinine pettiness that the HOAs adopt further underscores that fragility of the market. I mean, my God, if the color someone three streets over paints their door causes your property value to tank, I don’t know what to tell you, but maybe you shouldn’t have invested so much in an single, volatile asset because it may not end well for you.

            Eh, that’s kind of the weakman of HOAs. My neighborhood had a phase 1 and 2 before the housing crash, and then phase 3 was developed by a company that bought the remainder (and control of the HOA) for a song. They cared absolutely nothing for architectural consistency, so you drive through the first two phases and everything looks harmonious, and then you get to phase three and it’s wood home next to stucco home next to brick home…it just looks awful. I’m very glad my home is as far from phase 3 as one can get.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Most HOAs are creatures of the state. They became popular because the developer is required by environmental laws to provide to provide drainage in new subdivisions, and then an entity to manage that common drainage area must continue to exist. Once you’ve got that, you’re halfway to an HOA, and the things grow like cancer from there. They’re basically petty governments who attract either corrupt or petty people to run them; most of the people living in HOA-benighted communities have to work for a living and don’t have time to fight for control of the HOA. The excuses about property values are mostly nonsense; the enforcers of most of those regulations enforce them because they’re the kind of people who like regulations for their own sake.

            Has nothing to do with any state preference for single family homes that people don’t wan’t; people do want them, and wanted them before HOAs became popular. There are many single-family subdivisions out there with no HOA, including the Levittowns.

    • actinide meta says:

      Try this: suppose states were really the legitimate property owners of their territory, and it’s just a linguistic accident or confusion that we talk about their citizens “owning” real property. And suppose that the oligarchic distribution of “sovereign property” doesn’t impose any obligations on these property owners. And never mind that this argument proves too much, and likely justifies the worst sort of oppressive dictatorship as much as it does the governments you actually approve of.

      In that case, viewed as private organizations, all existing states are guilty of many monstrous crimes that are not at all justifiable as defenses of their territory, and deserve “execution” (as organizations, not individuals) for these crimes, and the confiscation of “their” property.

      “Charging rent” is just about the least awful thing that states do.

      • cassander says:

        careful now, that’s not just death eater talk, that’s basically VoldemortV himself talkng.

      • Incurian says:

        I was going to reply upthread, but this captures the gist of it. Legitimacy is one reason to be opposed to government, but their track record for being dicks is another good one.

      • Wrong Species says:

        It’s not a linguistic mistake so much as an intentional divergence. The line between property and state can be very fluid, especially in pre modern times. Feudal lords were both property owners and mini states. Confucius thought all land ultimately belonged to the state. If you want a modern example, look at the British East India Company. Property owners are just as capable as being monsters. The best example of that probably being slavery. Individuals went out to Africa, captured people and then took them back and sold them to other individuals. And those individuals did not treat their slaves well. The only reason property owners aren’t as monstrous right now is because their power is limited by the state. If you break up the state, it’s not the end of that power, just the transfer. And since these privatized states aren’t democracies, there are fewer check on their power.

        • actinide meta says:

          The only reason property owners aren’t as monstrous right now is because their power is limited by the state. If you break up the state, it’s not the end of that power, just the transfer. And since these privatized states aren’t democracies, there are fewer check on their power.

          Ancaps propose different mechanisms for limiting power. Maybe these proposals are adequate; maybe they need work. Other libertarians think that we do need states for this purpose. But it’s a straw man to pretend that anyone just wants to get rid of states and see what happens.

          • rlms says:

            “Ancaps propose different mechanisms for limiting power.”
            Name three.

          • actinide meta says:

            @rlms

            Arbitration. A plurality of protection agencies, each of which can be called to account by the others. Defense underwriters. Tiebout competition (“exit”).

            I have my own ideas about mechanism design, so I’m not going to defend these. I plan to start asking for feedback on some ideas here, in fact. But I’m going to have to work my way up to ancap, which is desirable but hard.

          • rlms says:

            But as far as I know, ancaps think those kinds of things will spontaneously appear when we get rid of states. I haven’t heard anyone saying “we need to make sure arbitrators and protection agencies are ready to take over from governments before we get rid of them”, ancaps invariably assume that successful mechanisms will spontaneously arise (i.e. we can just “get rid of states and see what happens”).

          • actinide meta says:

            @rlms

            Well, I guess you are going to have to wait for someone who believes that to show up and argue with you. I don’t think that point of view is very common, and I think it is bonkers.

            Here’s @David Friedman saying how he thinks ancap ought to arise: incremental development of new institutions that peacefully and gradually take over from old ones as people realize they work better.

            My personal hope would be that these ideas get tested out, hopefully first in some computer game so that we can work out some of the details without real people dying from the mistakes, and then in a charter city or seastead or something where people can leave if it goes south, and then maybe in some failed state where the alternative is the definitely bad kind of anarchy. And then maybe we can start thinking about how to transition the US. I think it’s pretty reasonable to look skeptically at someone who wants you to deploy their utopian political vision in production and hasn’t even, say, built a peaceful and productive realm in Eve Online.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I can sort of imagine ancaps who think these mechanisms will spontaneously arise, but only in the sense that they believe there exist experts more knowledgeable than they in the domains in question, and will implement mechanisms they are already used to. The mechanisms may end up similar to status quo in cases where the domain was already efficient. Or they may end up radically different in cases where the existing mechanisms were arbitrarily held in place by government intervention.

          • ancaps invariably assume that successful mechanisms will spontaneously arise (i.e. we can just “get rid of states and see what happens”).

            You are mistaken.

            Given that your claim is “invariably,” a single counterexample is sufficient, and I have been arguing against the claim in question for decades.

          • rlms says:

            I remember there being a discussion in the SSC comments some time ago about what would happen if the US government suddenly disappeared. I don’t recall any libertarians arguing that the consequences would be negative. Thinking that incremental change is the best practical way to achieve a successful ancap society doesn’t imply thinking it is the only way.

      • I was going to reply upthread, but this captures the gist of it. Legitimacy is one reason to be opposed to government, but their track record for being dicks is another good one

        Are you completely sure that private enterprises are intrinsically incapable of being dickish? Or is it maybe that
        , while they do bad things , they don’t generally do them on quite the same scale as government?

        • actinide meta says:

          It depends on the definition of “private.” Even if you’re mean, it’s hard to really hurt people without some kind of violence. So it doesn’t matter whether you call something a government, a corporation, or organized crime. What matters is whether and how it deploys violence. If private enterprises can get away with lots of violence, many will also do monstrous things.

          You may think that the only way an organization can be kept nonviolent is for some bigger organization to threaten it with violence, and that we might as well label the biggest organization in our area (which is therefore going to be pretty violent) a state and hope it is a comparatively “nice” one. But it isn’t obvious that this is the only structure that works. After all, a state is made up of lots of parts. What keeps them from fighting among themselves? Why would anyone pay any attention to a constitution, for example, which is just words on paper? Are you sure there’s no way to apply these coordination mechanisms, or others, to create a situation where there isn’t a single violent monopolist which is free to do whatever the hell it wants to others?

          That is the anarcho-capitalist project. It isn’t finished.

          • It depends on the definition of “private.” Even if you’re mean, it’s hard to really hurt people without some kind of violence.

            I strongly disagree. You can hurt someone by limiting their resources and opportunities. If a parent keeps their child cold and hungry, that’s considered abuse.

    • Guy in TN says:

      I think much of the confusion is the result of the word “property” being used to refer to two very different concepts.

      In one sense, the sense that I see most Leftists use it, “property” is a description of a legal framework regarding resource distribution (property law, contracts law, ect). In this sense, to say that something is “legitimate property”, or to say that you are “owner”, is to describe whether you can go to a courthouse and win your claim during a dispute. This sense says nothing of what the resource distribution ought to be, it is merely a description of what legal entitlements to resources there are. In this sense, someone can be acting as a “legitimate property owner” and still be doing something highly immoral (e.g., slavery).

      The other sense, used mostly by libertarians, is the usage of “property” as a normative claim. It is a statement that a resource ought to be allocated to someone, and that that person ought to have certain levels of control over it. This is why the phrase “taxation is theft” makes sense for libertarians.

      The second usage is merely stating that something is permitted or unacceptable in regards to your particular theory of resource entitlement. For libertarians, I assume this is something like Lockean homesteading theory. However, the problem with using this definition of property in a debate is that anyone else can do this too. I can say that, “Actually, property is defined as only resources that are legitimately acquired in accordance with the principles of Rawlsian Social Justice”. Which sounds like a ridiculous response, but it’s what non-libertarians hear when libertarians start talking about homesteading.

      So to answer OP’s question, I think you first need to go back to the more basic, descriptional definition of property. If the state can legally charge rent, then they must be the property owner. (That they already charge property tax seems to be evidence that they are indeed the highest legal sovereignty). This question is wholly separate, of course, from whether the state should charge rent, which can’t be investigated by looking at the legal concept of property.

      • Jiro says:

        You could say the same thing about “freedom”. By one definition, “freedom” refers to the list of things where you can legally claim recourse if someone acts against you. For instance, a policy banning Islam would not, if accepted by the courts, violate your freedom of religion; it just means you don’t have freedom of religion. By another definition, it’s a normative claim, and a government can violate your freedom of religion after all.

        But somehow I don’t think anyone discussing freedom will be treated as contributing to the discussion if they keep saying that it’s impossible for the government to violate your freedoms. Because if you define “freedom” in this manner, there isn’t much you can really *say* about freedom. It’s a self-consistent definition, but the only thing you can use it for is to tell the other guy that he should stop complaining because freedom can’t be violated.

        The same is true for defining “property” as “that which you can legally claim”.

        • Guy in TN says:

          It’s not that I am insisting that when someone talks about “property” or “freedom” that they must conform to my definitions. It’s that we could stop talking past each other if we knew what definitions people were working with. “Freedom” is a great example. We have freedom of speech in the legal sense, as the courts so often remind us, yet there is a long list of free speech exceptions. So when someone says “obscenity law violates my free speech”, they could be simultaneously correct and incorrect, because free speech means two separate things (the legal sense and the colloquial sense).

          There’s plenty you can say about freedom in the legal sense, and property in the legal sense. The entire field of the study of law is devoted to exactly this. If someone wants to talk about their value systems that’s fine, but don’t muddy it up by being unclear if you are making descriptive or normative claims. For example, if you say “taxation is theft”, and I respond with “no, private property is theft”, the only way we are going to make any progress is by first recognizing that we are both just re-iterating our own theory of resource entitlement. “X is theft” does no argumentative work on its own whatsoever.

          The word “rights” is also another good example. “Legal rights” and “natural rights” are miles apart. A lawyer would likely end up scratching his head after talking to a libertarian, and a libertarian would walk away thinking the lawyer was a monster- not realize they were talking about two entirely separate things.

        • Guy in TN says:

          In a nutshell: Using the language of legal property as a vehicle to advance normative claims is a bad idea. It’s ripe for Motte and Bailey abuse.

        • Mark says:

          If you are defining freedom as “things we should be allowed to do”, then it is completely superfluous to talk about a system of organisation called “Freedomism” that is really keen on freedom.

          “I believe that we should be allowed to do the things that we should be allowed to do, and you are evil, and possibly mad, because you think we shouldn’t be allowed to do the things we should be allowed to do. Can’t you see that your position makes no sense?”

      • actinide meta says:

        In one sense, the sense that I see most Leftists use it, “property” is a description of a legal framework regarding resource distribution (property law, contracts law, ect)… In this sense, someone can be acting as a “legitimate property owner” and still be doing something highly immoral (e.g., slavery).

        Test this theory: try telling some “Leftists” that slaves were the “legitimate property” of their owners. Report back to us, if you survive.

  9. johan_larson says:

    The new ad for Call of Duty: WWII, “Reassemble!” is great. It’s a rare bit of advertising that’s good enough to work as entertainment in its own right.

    I hope it becomes a cultural touchstone for a few years.

    • quaelegit says:

      Okay yep, that was pretty fun to watch!

      Are teams really that big for videogames? I’m used to (my friends playing) LoL and DotA2 and the new one, which all have teams of 5. Can you even have that many people working together usefully in a game?

      • Montfort says:

        For more “casual” first person shooters, 16, 32, or even 64+ player servers are popular for team games, IME more popular than smaller 8 or 10 player servers. You’re right that if you were trying to coordinate all 8, 16, or 32+ players closely it would be a challenge, but that’s not usually how the game is played. Instead, players tend to play individually. If you’re trying to defend a point, for example, you probably wouldn’t just run around other parts of the map, but you also probably wouldn’t have an explicit plan – you’d just look for a chokepoint that isn’t guarded well enough and play there. Players like winning, and like performing well personally, but are mostly “having fun” (though that’s kind of a loaded term). The purpose of having a regular team in Call of Duty is usually just to have some time to play with your friends and talk about other things, not to assemble a group of high-skilled individuals to compete with other such groups.

        To be fair, some Call of Duty players do like worrying about team tactics and coordination and so on. But largely they migrate to modded versions of the game or different games that are targeted more towards that kind of play. And similarly, a lot of players of “competitive” games make teams with friends of varying commitment and skill – but those games make that kind of play just a little less easy: e.g. finding an extra player if you’re one or two short takes longer, individual skill differences are more decisive, there’s an expectation that certain roles will be filled (e.g. you can’t just play 5 AD carries. (I think. I don’t play LoL)).

    • m.alex.matt says:

      My girlfriend makes fun of Call of Duty a lot (she’s got…prejudices against mainstream things, which is funny for a girl so into football), but I’m pretty excited about this. I played all of them up to the first Modern Warfare all the way through and decently frequently online. Will probably be picking it up when it comes out.

  10. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/pollution-kills-people-wars-violence-article-1.3575493

    I realize this is a little early, but what are effective altruists thinking about this?

  11. Two McMillion says:

    Reposting from the last OT, since I only posted it near the end:

    Has anyone here read Island by Aldous Huxley? What did you think of it?

    For those who don’t know, Island is basically Huxley’s attempt to describe an ideal society after deciding that Brave New World was incomplete by itself. Essentially, he’s describing a society that gets right everything that the society in Brave New World gets wrong. From a literary standpoint, it’s not particularly well-written, but a lot of the ideas discussed seem like they’d appeal to the Less Wrong/rationalist crowd.

    • lvlln says:

      I hadn’t heard of Island before, but I think I’ll check out the audiobook on Audible now that just finished Lolita. I read Brave New World around my late teens, and I thought it was neat but also a little perplexed at the interpretation that it was a dystopia rather than a utopia. So I imagine Island might have more stuff for me to chew on.

    • powerfuller says:

      To repeat what I said last thread, one of the biggest problems with Island, as with Utopian literature in general, is that there’s never a discussion or sense of how any of the proposed solutions might fail, or why people might reject them (excluding the evil, foolish antagonists) and what the society would do in that case. For example, the novel suggested that husbands should be willing to let their wives be impregnated with higher quality stock from the benevolent technocrats’ sperm banks; rather than address in depth why men ought to be willing to do this, or acknowledge how it might be difficult or unfair to them, he hand-wavingly says “any enlightened man would be willing.” The strangest idea in the novel for me was the Mutual Adoption Club, in which everybody in a neighborhood agrees to all be co-parents and co-children of each other, so if you’re fighting with your mom, you can go chill with your other mom until you both cool down and everybody comes round to fix all the wrong thoughts the two of you have had. I just found it unbelievable that parents would agree to cede some much power over their children to their neighbors, or that some parents wouldn’t use it to shirk their responsibilities, or that kids wouldn’t default to the most permissive parent on the block, or a bunch of other problems.

      • DavidS says:

        I thought that some (hunter-gatherer?) societies already had something very similar to the mutual adoption club? It doesn’t seem that unrealistic to me if your neighbours are a very close-knit community. Maybe harder to imagine for us because we have exceptional lack of parents ceding power (e.g. a generation ago, in lots of communities in the UK any adult would tell off/chastise/hit any child, where now this would not happen (may still in some others, I’d guess though fairly self-contained immigrant cultures etc.)

        • powerfuller says:

          You’re definitely right it matches small hunter-gatherer, etc. societies, and I admit it may strike others as more plausible than me (typical mind fallacy — I assume no parents would want to give up raising their children if they didn’t need to). But I do think it’s an idea that breaks down in anything over a small population, and it’s one of the least feasibly implemented suggestions in the novel for Huxley’s society. I guess I assumed it was meant as a suggestion for us rather than a hypothetical for its own sake, but that’s I got from most of the book (e.g. yes, you should become a Buddhist and try psychedelics).

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        As I understand it, that sort of shared child-raising (without a committee for correcting thoughts) was going on mere decades ago in the US, and may still be in places where there is more trust and consensus than is usual. It was just a neighborhood and/or relatives thing.

        I’ve even heard about places (southern?) where it was acceptable for a neighbor to hit an unrelated child who they saw misbehaving.

        • DavidS says:

          Where/when my parents grew up (50s/60s, different working class areas of the UK) this was definitely a thing. My grandmother was extremely strange in many ways and one of them was that she got angry if other people hit (or told off) her kids.

          • powerfuller says:

            I think my biggest objection to it was that it degraded the parents’ responsibility and authority, which wouldn’t matter if everybody in the community already agrees on all important issues, but if I were, say, a religious minority, I wouldn’t want everybody else on my street trying to raise my kids under their religion, with little ability to object on my part. Letting strangers reprimand children may work, but letting children shop around for parents seems foolish, as I said above they could end up defaulting to the most permissive parents available. Following my complaint above, the solution works well in the novel because everybody’s all enlightened, and I can imagine a lot of communities where it could work, but Huxley never seems to imagine how his solutions might fail, or how they could work under serious conflicts of opinion.

        • B Beck says:

          Neighbors physically disciplining other people’s kids was pretty common in the 80’s in the part of Alabama where I grew up, mostly among poor folks.
          I imagine it’s not as common now, but I’d be surprised if it had died out completely.

  12. S_J says:

    So, I was reminded recently of one of the odder court cases in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Backstory: during the Prohibition era of the Roaring 20s, there were not many Federal-level laws regulating the sale of guns. Gangsters and rum-runners could easily get their hands on all kinds of firearms, but favored things like sawn-off shotguns or the Thompson Sub-Machine Gun. [1]

    The most notorious gangland shooting of the Prohibition era was the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Seven men were lined up and shot until dead in a garage on the North Side of Chicago. Events like this led to discussion in Congress, and proposals by the President. Eventually the National Firearms Act of 1934 was written, passed by both houses of Congress, and signed into law.

    The NFA covered several categories of weapons: machine-guns, short-barreled shotguns, short-barreled rifles, suppressors, grenade launchers, other explosive devices, and a few other oddities of firearms-type. [2] Guns covered by the NFA were not forbidden, but required special background checks, payment of a special Federal tax, and a tax stamp on the paperwork. Background checks with 1930s-era communication technology was slow, but the government agency never felt any pressure to speed things up…Thus, approvals could take up to a year.

    Anyways, back to the Supreme Court case.

    In 1939, a guy named Jack Miller (and an associate named Frank Layton) were arrested for crimes related to a bank robbery. They were in possession of a short-barreled shotgun, had transported the shotgun across State lines, and had never paid the NFA-related tax for it.

    The defendants claimed that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protected their short-barreled shotgun. The Federal District judge dismissed the case, but the U.S. attorney appealed to the Supreme Court.

    By the time the case reached the Supreme Court, one defendant (Layton) had plea-bargained away the original charges. The other defendant (Miller) was either unable or unwilling to pay his lawyer to travel to DC. [3]

    The U.S. vs Miller case was thus held with only the lawyers for the U.S. Government present. The lawyer for Miller was not present at all.

    Shortly after the argument was presented at the Supreme Court, Miller was found dead. He had been shot by unknown assailants.

    When the results were announced, it was little surprise that the Supreme Court sided with the U.S. Attorney, and against Miller. The legal opinion was that the short-barreled shotgun was not protected by the Second Amendment, since it was not a weapon usable for a citizens’ militia. [4] Further, the shotgun used by Miller had never seen service in any militia organization. Finally, the NFA levied a tax, and was not a prohibition.

    The case was sent back down to the District Court, so that Miller could be put on trial for his crime. But since Miller was already dead, that trial never went any further.

    For nearly seventy years, no other Supreme Court case touched directly on the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

    Hundreds of pro-and-con arguments about gun rights in the United States cited the Miller case. Few of those arguments mentioned the fact that Miller’s lawyer never appeared to argue on Miller’s behalf. Fewer mentioned that it appeared that the District Judge and the U.S. Attorney picked a case likely to be upheld by the Supreme Court.

    It was an odd case that cast a long shadow.

    ——————————————————————————————————
    [1] The “Tommy gun” is a short-barreled, fully-automatic rifle. The Sub-Machine Gun designation usually means that the gun uses ammunition designed for a pistol, but would perform fully-automatic (or repeating) fire. As long as the user held the trigger down, the gun would keep firing until the magazine was empty.

    It’s harder to conceal than a pistol, but easier to conceal than a shotgun or a traditional rifle.

    [2] The NFA included an Any Other Weapon category, which mostly covers short-barreled rifles with a second vertical grip…though I’m told that this was a last-minute kludge to keep most handguns from being covered by the definitions of the NFA.

    [3] I don’t know whether Miller ever learned about the appeal. Miller’s lawyer may have only heard that the appeal was accepted by the Supreme Court a day or two before the hearing.

    [4] Cue hundred of modern-day gun-nuts shouting, that means I should be able to buy an M-16, since it would be useful as a militia weapon!
    And a couple of dozen military historians arguing whether short-barreled shotguns were used by the United States military, and whether it might be considered a typical citizen-militia weapon….

    • Thegnskald says:

      If anybody is interested in the history of gun regulation, Smallest Minority has a pretty comprehensive selection of the relevant laws (it is written from a pro-gun-right perspective, mind, and I cannot vouch that he isn’t leaving anything inconvenient out):

      Cut-n-paste

      • S_J says:

        I find the Miller case odd and interesting by itself.

        Its place in the general framework of Federal gun law in the United States is important. For many years, I had simply thought it was a case of the Feds slapping down some criminal who wanted to claim Second Amendment protection for his gun. I was a little surprised to learn the full story:

        I’ll also confess to being heavy on the “individual-rights” interpretation of Second Amendment scholarship.

        And I did spend many years educating myself about gun law in the United States. (Speaking of which…thanks for reminding me of The Smallest Minority. He was good at developing and posting long-form, carefully-thought-out essays.)

        I might try to play this out into a general effort-post discussion of the history of gun law in the U.S. I don’t know if there is any interest.

  13. johan_larson says:

    The deadline for applications to host Amazon’s HQ2 passed yesterday. Any thoughts on what city will get it? I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about Atlanta. There has been some talk of Boston and Denver, too.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I expect Atlanta. Big air travel hub, relatively inexpensive, lots of diversity points.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Hey, since they got Seattle’s subway system in the 1970’s, I guess it’d only be fitting for them to get Seattle’s spillover tech firm.

    • Null Hypothesis says:

      Some moderate/smaller-sized cities have also submitted Applications.

      I guess it depends on what Amazon is looking for. Big cities if they want all the infrastructure there. Smaller city if they want a nicer living environment/cost of living for their employees. They did say something along the lines of 50,000 people working there, so any smaller towns would need to have the infrastructure to support that growth.

      On the one hand, it’s a business decision. So whatever place gives them the best cost while satisfying all their needs. On the other hand, it’s a headquarters, which means a higher proportion of ‘important-and-well-paid people’ so to speak. So they might take factors like crime, access to nature, housing prices, etc into account more strongly, since the kind of people making the decision are also the kind that could benefit from those things.

      • johan_larson says:

        Let’s suppose they went with a small town or started from nothing. How big a town would you get if Amazon’s HQ2 were its only “export industry”?

        50,000 Amazon employees implies some number of family members. The average household size is three. If we assume one person per household works for Amazon, that gets us up to 150,000. But these people also need various services. They need grocery stores, teachers, barbers, cops, car mechanics, and all the rest. And of course those people need things too, and so on. Might another factor of three cover it? That gets us up to 450,000, which isn’t a small town, by any measure.

  14. johan_larson says:

    It’s not hard to find articles like this one trumpeting the news that 70-some percent of youth are not fit to serve in the military. But only one percent of youth are both fit to serve and actually interested, meaning that about 97% are not interested. It seems to me the military doesn’t have a fitness problem; it has an engagement problem.

    • bean says:

      Some of that is negotiable. For instance, I was disqualified by the ‘no psych medication’ requirement. I could have gone off the Ritalin for a year, but I couldn’t afford to waste a year doing nothing and annoying everyone. If things got desperate, they could look at changing that. As, in fact, they did (via freely-available waivers) during the serious recruiting problems of about 10 years ago.
      We’re never going to have to fight WW2 with a mass army again. I think obesity is enough of a problem without dragging national security into it.

  15. lustforlust says:

    In SSRIs: Much more than you wanted to know, Scott mentions the possibility of “permanent SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction that does not remit once the drug is stopped.”

    This is me. I took SSRIs (60mg of Celexa) for 2 years and went from a ~once daily to ~once monthly sex drive. Now, despite being off SSRIs for >1 year I still have near zero libido. This experience has been absolutely crushing.

    Needless to say I am desperate for solutions and psychiatrists have not been delivering on this front (“it’s probably psychological” ad nauseam). Any ideas? Wacky and epistemologically unfounded ideas encouraged! I’ve ruled out all the common culprits like low T.

    If others have experienced this I am also happy to share (much) more and compare notes.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Epistemologically unfounded solution coming right up:

      Try masturbating (or having sex, if you have a partner) at least once every day, even if you don’t feel like it.

      I noticed this effect when, for medicalish reasons, I couldn’t for a month and a half; my sex drive had plummeted to zero.

      The usual logic seems to be “higher sex drive”->”more sexual gratification” – I think that causality goes both ways, however.

      ETA: Please let me (or us) know if this works, if you try it. It would be excellent evidence as to a pet theory of mine.

      • lustforlust says:

        Thanks! Will try (or try to try, rather) and report back. Gearing up for a psychologically bizarre month of sex…

        Another data point to add for those who stumble upon this: The SSRIs made me hypomanic, both times I started (Zoloft then citalopram) and at each subsequent dose increase of citalopram. Combined with low libido this actually produced some pretty odd sexual behavior. On one hand I didn’t really have a sex drive so wasn’t masturbating, but on the other I was progressively and risk seeking. So the equilibrium was that I actually had lots of increasingly risky sex with near strangers. Luckily the hypomania subsided and I reached the >maximum dose before it progressed into consequences, it did feel like an early process of sex addiction. Good times with SSRIs!

      • Alphonse says:

        Curious if you can point to any evidence in favor of this theory. Not looking for peer-reviewed articles on this subject, but a longer-form treatment of whatever evidence exists (of whatever quality). I would be interested to read more if there is more information available.

        Relatedly, assuming the theory is true, any thoughts about the necessary frequency? E.g. I can imagine that even if it’s correct, that shifting from once a month to once a week wouldn’t work, but what about from once every other week to once every other day?

        • Thegnskald says:

          I can point to religious literature from a couple cultures, but as far as I know (and I have looked), nobody has actually looked into it.

          As for frequency, I think it is more of an equilibrium thing; whatever you get used to getting is what your body expects to get.

          (Although there appears to be both a ceiling and a floor, for practical purposes.)

          • Alphonse says:

            I expected that might be the case for the availability of evidence, although I had hoped it would not be. Nonetheless, I appreciate the reply, and the thoughts regarding frequency also make sense. Certainly an interesting idea in any event.

    • [Thing] says:

      Wellbutrin (bupropion) and Buspar (buspirone) both noticeably ameliorated my SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction, although in my case the problem has been minor enough that I didn’t bother continuing to take either drug after they turned out not to help with my mood. I’d say Buspar was the better of the two for aphrodisiac purposes, but of course YMMV.

  16. Kevin C. says:

    From Hari Ziyad, at Afropunk, working off the recent Jeremy Lin – Kenyon Martin controversy: “Black People Cannot Be Guilty of Cultural Appropriation. Period.

    Two weeks ago, Brooklyn Nets player Jeremy Lin unveiled his new dreadlocks to controversy. Lin, who is of Taiwanese descent, was quickly accused of cultural appropriation, and fellow basketball star Kenyon Martin even called the hairstyle and its allowance “foolishness.” Whether or not Lin’s locks were appropriative is not actually what I’m interested in discussing here, as I have long grown tired of those conversations, and am more interested in discussing what always underlines the violence of “appropriation” in the first place: anti-Blackness.

    In contrast, because anti-Blackness is global, everyone benefits from Black culture while the dehumanization of Black people persists. As Preston Anderson points out, even if Lin had his own personal history with locks, Black people “know very intimately [that] the burden of locs was placed on us. Jeremy Lin gets to be edgy. White kids get to be avante garde and, for them, it’s a statement of rebelliousness. For us, we’ve fought to be able to keep them in the NFL, in the army [etc.] We’re still fighting to have them not associated with criminality and this is a fight no other non Black group has had to fight around them.”

    This is why, while Black folks can definitely perpetuate violence against non-Black people, Black people adopting other cultures or customs is not appropriation. Appropriation is about benefiting from other cultures while simultaneously dehumanizing them. An anti-Black society by definition means all non-Black people do this, and no Black people are able to.

    (Emphasis added.)

    Is it wrong of me to hope we see more people saying and writing stuff like this?

    • skef says:

      I like how the commenters don’t even bother with the author and rag on the publication. Savvy!

    • I’m sorry, I just can’t take accusations of “cultural appropriation” seriously. Cultures/subcultures influence one another and borrow from one another all the time, and have done so since there were cultures.

      • Randy M says:

        Likewise; until cultural appropriation is actually a crime, I don’t care who is guilty of it.
        People who make accusations of it are usefully showing something about themselves, though, so that’s a plus.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        From what I’ve seen, the anger over it seems driven by taking something one culture’s member considers sacred and using it something they consider profane. The stock example of this is “sexy Indian chief” costumes at Halloween.

        And then there’s anger in the other direction, driven by offense at offense, particularly when the remake isn’t particularly profane. Stock example is First Nations garb on an eight-year-old at a school Thanksgiving play.

        Key signs that make this difficult to judge include the borrower being genuine, but doing it poorly (say, one’s dressed in a Pilgrim’s outfit, while the other is wearing a war bonnet straight out of a plains tribe). Imagine someone at a comic book convention dressed as a general, implemented by wearing every medal they could find – including a Medal of Honor mockup. Another is when the borrower isn’t being obviously respectful toward the culture, but nonetheless managed a great deal of artistry in their rendition. (Like perhaps a wide-release film that gets some key details wrong. Maybe even spectacularly wrong, and you end up with Godzilla vs. Mecha-Lakota or something.)

        Then the irony movement kicks in, and every time you cook a meal that isn’t 100% traceable back through eight generations of your family someone slams it as appropriation and everyone has a hearty laugh. Which means that whatever point someone might have originally had here gets lost in the noise.

        • Thegnskald says:

          I would say Mulan (the Disney movie) might be a good case example that people here might find sympathetic.

          Let’s take a story from another culture and warp it into a moral lesson about Western-style feminism, making the Chinese out to be Western-style sexists.

          This is a culture in which the idea of warrior women is a long-standing cultural icon, mind; in one of the major versions of the story, a relative of the emperor, herself a warrior, is the one who discovers Mulan is a woman, and takes her as her protege.

          They also removed major elements of the story to make it fit the narrative better – most versions of the story have a younger brother to Mulan, who she is protecting by going in his place, as she thinks he is way too young to be drafted. I find that version way more compelling, but again, it damages the feminist narrative.

          And the “Chinese women should be submissive and dumb” thing is just plain offensive. Their stories celebrate intelligent and strong women.

          • Lillian says:

            But Disney does this to stories of every culture. The original Sleeping Beauty is raped by the prince, becomes pregnant, gives birth, and wakes up when her newborn suckles her finger. The original Little Mermaid is rejected by the prince and dies of despair. In Victor Hugo’s novel Esmeralda is hanged while Phoebus withholds exculpatory evidence, and Quasimodo dies craddling her corpse.

            Either Disney movies are bad in general for having no respect for the source material, or they should be judged as their own thing. Personally i’m inclined to take the latter approach, and on those grounds Mulan is a pretty good movie.

          • Nornagest says:

            Can’t we take it on a case-by-case basis? Mermaid and Hunchback are both modern stories for which we can cite single canonical versions, and famous ones at that. It makes some amount of sense to say that the Disney versions of those represent the watered-down pop version. But I don’t think you can say that in the same way for the likes of Sleeping Beauty or Mulan, which are traditional stories that have probably been told in hundreds of different ways (and that’s just the published ones), including some pretty family-friendly renditions at least in Beauty‘s case. While it’s not exactly wrong to say that Beauty was bowdlerized by Disney, among others, it paints a somewhat more realistic picture to say that Sun, Moon, and Talia (the rapey one) is an early member of a large family of stories that also includes the Disney film.

    • Salem says:

      I just find it hilarious that the idiot who accused Jeremy Lin of cultural appropriation had Chinese tattoos. Talk about hoisted by your own petard.

      • lvlln says:

        Chinese letters are Chinese, but is the practice of tattooing Chinese letters on oneself Chinese culture or American/Western culture? I don’t know anything about the history of tattoos in China or America, so I don’t know, but maybe it’s possible for a Chinese person to be guilty of cultural appropriation of American culture if they get a Chinese character tattoo?

        • Well... says:

          Is it cultural appropriation for an American to get mad about the Chinese guy’s cultural appropriation of the American custom of getting a tattoo of culturally appropriated Chinese characters, since between Chinese and American, where Chinese characters are involved, it’s usually the Chinese getting mad about cultural appropriation?

    • Charles F says:

      Really basic question, but in the fight to stop dreadlocks from being associated with criminality, why isn’t milquetoast hipsters wearing them a good thing? If a bunch of edgy kids are doing it, won’t it become clear that it’s not a reliable signal anymore?

      Really, blackness is what people are associating with criminality, right? And by scrupulously adopting styles and mannerisms not too strongly associated with blackness, black people can reduce that association for themselves. But if white kids adopt something from black culture, the association weakens, avoiding it becomes less of a strong signal for the black person who wants to distance themselves from the associations with criminality, and without strong signals to the contrary, people are more likely to default to just associating them with criminality based on their skin color.

      Does that make any sense?

      • JonathanD says:

        @Charles, it does, but it misses what people get mad about. People are pissed because something for which they are condemned or insulted is embraced by people who get to pull it off consequence free. Bonus if the group doing the embracing is the same group that did the insulting.

        All of that said, if we embrace cultural appropriation we literally lose rock ‘n’ roll, so as an idea it is, or should be, a non starter. But we can nonetheless at least understand why people are pissed.

        Somewhat relevant

        • dndnrsn says:

          This, and the explanation of something sacred being treated as a profane trifle, and the economic model (eg, if Big Name Company creates a knockoff of Traditional Product, they’re taking money away from the Traditional Manufacturers; if Big Name Company is selling a knockoff of something sacred, that’s a twofer) are all eminently reasonable. I think where it becomes hard to communicate is where particular models of harm come in. Most people, I think, would accept a model of cultural appropriation focusing on the insult of something group a is punished for being feted among group b, or of something important and restricted being marketed as a trifle. But the audience of the model that conceives of insult as harm/violence is actually quite small.

        • quaelegit says:

          That is a great polandball comic, thanks for sharing.

          @ dndnrsn –I’m sympathetic to the economic argument, but I’m also worried that focusing on attribution and making sure the originators get their fair share will lead to the sort of snarls we already have with intellectual property. Possibly even worse because its less well defined — people argue over invention priority, but can you imagine trying to establish cuisine or recipe priority?

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m thinking more of hard products like, say, textiles. Big Name Company making a shirt with some Traditional X-ish Design on it is, at a minimum, gauche. The problem is that “this is gauche, this is insulting, this is dishonouring ancestral traditions” is far less common than “this is harmful, this is violence.” And the economic argument, which actually involves an easily quantifiable harm (if BNC sells a thousand knockoff beaded handbags for a hundred each, that is potentially taking money away from the painstakingly-made actually-traditional ones that take much more labour and thus cost more, and are made by people in a community that might be impoverished and needs the money more than a CEO needs another jet) is the least common “harm” argument.

            Or, take the whole “who’s allowed to write in what voices?” argument. I’m sympathetic to the “white authors writing novels about xyz crowds out probably less established xyz authors” argument. But unfortunately, it’s not the most common argument I’ve seen; the most common arguments tend to be ones that only work if you’ve adopted a certain set of beliefs already.

            Ironically, the sort of right-wingers who snort at the whole concept of cultural appropriation could probably be won over with appeals to the other moral foundations, especially respect (respect cultures by not creating knockoffs; respect the cultural traditions embodied in those things) and sanctity (mostly for things that are sacred within a culture; getting offended about people getting wasted while wearing sexy nun costumes is probably a right-wing more than a left-wing thing, but you could also apply the disgust reflex to the “that’s gauche” reaction). But instead they’re turned off by overwrought appeals to care.

            The comparison above is made to someone wearing reproduction medals they didn’t earn, and I’m pretty sure Stolen Valour Act type stuff is a primarily right-wing thing. (Just as criticizing the troops is the right wing version of political incorrectness, Stolen Valour is the right wing version of cultural appropriation.) But the Stolen Valour stuff is justified mostly as dishonouring the abstracted notion of military service and sacrifice, and as dishonouring the sacrifice of those actually earning the medals now rather than harming them. There’s a side of the economic argument (eg, when a politician is found to have claimed medals to look good, it cheapens the value of the medal elsewhere) too. Or, flag burning.

            What’s weird is that “cultures should stay pure, things that are sacred should be treated as such, people should be loyal to their ancestry, and ancestral institutions should be honoured” is a very conservative position, at the core of it. “This is harming us now, quantifiably” seems like someone with a heavily care/harm focused morality having some kind of atavistic conservative impulse, then filtering it through their entirely-not-conservative moral sense.

          • Randy M says:

            Ironically, the sort of right-wingers who snort at the whole concept of cultural appropriation

            Hi!

            could probably be won over with appeals to the other moral foundations, especially respect … and sanctity

            Well, sure, I’m sympathetic, but our brave new culture has basically no time for paying mind not purposely flouting the sanctity of it’s own cultural roots that the best I can muster is a sympathetic “get it line.”

            To be serious, if someone I knew had a personal concern and addressed me directly with respect, I’d probably change my behavior. For example, if my kids were taking martial arts and they were wearing gis as play clothes and an Asian person I knew (particular nationality probably dependent on particular style) said that was disrespecting their culture or some such, I’d follow the recommendations, at least in public. (Actually something similar happened, when a friend and I were joking about silly martial-arts styles like pocket-fu and my roommate said, hey guys, that’s my culture your joking about, and we toned it down.)

            But so many of the actual appeals to this concept are impersonal, overwrought, brought on behalf of others for virtue signalling purposes, aimed as innocent targets, etc. it’s hard to see any legitimate side to the complaints.

            “This is harming us now, quantifiably” seems like someone with a heavily care/harm focused morality having some kind of atavistic conservative impulse, then filtering it through their entirely-not-conservative moral sense.

            Makes sense, and explains some of the incoherence.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            To second what Randy said, I’m sympathetic to something like “don’t dress up like Indians,” but then we get stuff like self-identified witches who get mad about witch costumes at Halloween.

            I’m fine with the giving of the inch, it’s the taking of the mile that bothers me.

            Also, the complaints about not respecting other cultures are from the same people who find “Piss Christ” daring and thought provoking. I don’t think they’d respond as well to “Piss Muhammad,” “Piss Star of David,” or “Piss Martin Luther King Jr.” So it comes across as an appeal to one-way altruism.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Perhaps there are people objecting to witch costumes, but right now the offense is largely at ethnically/culturally based costumes worn by people not of those groups. Which are offenses that are real that could best be categorized as respect, or sanctity. Today in the paper I saw an article that said “dress as a witch but don’t dress in another culture’s costume” – perhaps in ten years, that person will be scolded for dressing their kid up as a witch. Who knows.

            For your other point, people who adopt the “it’s harmful” thinking usually have as another element of their worldview an understanding of harm heavily tied up in group dynamics: “the Catholic church is big and powerful so one artist can’t harm it.” I disagree with this thinking, because quantifying offense or harm based on power dynamics instead of what was offensive or harmful leads to some very weird mental contortions. But it’s still important to think of where they’re coming from.

            (Perhaps the solution is for everyone to dress in the traditional garb of their ancestors, thus avoiding offences caused by appropriation? Would this make tradnats woke?)

          • Nornagest says:

            Perhaps the solution is for everyone to dress in the traditional garb of their ancestors, thus avoiding offences caused by appropriation?

            If that means I can cosplay as a Viking at work, then I’m all for it.

            Ideally with axe, but I’ll settle for without.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            (Perhaps the solution is for everyone to dress in the traditional garb of their ancestors, thus avoiding offences caused by appropriation? Would this make tradnats woke?)

            So can I be a winged Hussar for Halloween? That sounds awesome!

            ETA: Obligatory Sabaton

          • Nornagest says:

            For example, if my kids were taking martial arts and they were wearing gis as play clothes and an Asian person I knew (particular nationality probably dependent on particular style) said that was disrespecting their culture or some such, I’d follow the recommendations, at least in public.

            Gis were invented in the 1920s by Kano sensei, the founder of judo, and he was very much into making judo an international sport rather than a Japanese-specific cultural exercise. You’re in the clear on this one.

            There’d be a better case for some more obscure elements of martial arts uniform, like hakama (the wide, pleated, skirt-like pants used in kendo, kyudo, and sometimes aikido), but honestly hakama are such a pain in the ass to put on that I can’t see them being used as play clothes. It’s like trying to wear a squid.

          • Randy M says:

            Okay, but I was struggling to think of a relevant example. I didn’t actually think gis were seen as sacred by any culture, anyway (especially after Mr Miyagi used a JC Penny belt), and I don’t think people should be disallowed/shamed for trying out random every-day trappings of another culture.

            Here’s a weird one, though. Some evangelical churches occasionally try out more Jewish trappings, such as a church I attended having a Seder, though more for demonstration purposes (it wasn’t part of the regular service; I didn’t attend). Would this be cultural appropriation, given the religion itself was founded by Jews, but then integrated into European culture for two thousand years?

          • Chalid says:

            Stolen Valour is the right wing version of cultural appropriation

            Surely the primary example is complaints about the commercialization of Christmas, which I suspect dwarfs all left-wing cultural appropriation complaints combined.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I thought Christmas complaints had gone to “THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS!” long ago.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Christmas complaints are about cultural erasure, not appropriation.

          • But the Stolen Valour stuff is justified mostly as dishonouring the abstracted notion of military service and sacrifice,

            I think a different argument against it is that it reduces the ability of the real thing to carry information. If you see someone wearing a medal, you don’t know if he’s a real war hero or a fake.

            The version of this that strikes me is the proliferation of fake “Baby on Board” signs on cars. They don’t say “Baby on Board” but something else intended as a joke. But the shape signals “Baby on Board sign,” which makes it less likely that people will notice a real such sign and drive more carefully in response. I don’t think the signs should be illegal but I do think less of anyone who chooses to use one, because he is subverting, for his own amusement, a useful social custom.

          • dndnrsn says:

            That’s essentially the economic argument, of sorts, isn’t it? It’s less valuable (not monetarily, but in some other way) to the real possessors because of the fakes.

          • Nornagest says:

            Personally, I’ve always found “Baby On Board” signs obnoxious rather than useful. Partly because it reads to me as a status claim rather than a safety warning, but mostly because they tend to be found on 1990s-era minivans swerving erratically in and out of the left lane, rickety four-banger engines redlined, tailgating lighter and more maneuverable cars. Which is why I don’t find them plausible as a safety thing.

          • bean says:

            I just don’t understand the point. “Oh, I was going to drive dangerously and put my own life and the life of several other people at risk, but since there’s a baby involved, I’m going to be safe instead.”
            Really? What information is this conveying? I guess it makes some sense in a rescue context, but how good are people at making sure that they take it down when there isn’t a baby? And what if I can’t see it because I’m on the wrong side?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I always thought they were status related and not about safety.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @bean, it’s reminding people to – as some internet comment boxes say – “remember the human.” Maybe it doesn’t work, but that’s the theory.

          • Well... says:

            @Randy M:

            Messianic Judaism is a thing. From my admittedly limited vantage point it seems like a lot of Christian congregations these days, while not necessarily becoming Messianic Jewish, are starting to embrace more of the OT roots of the NT.

            As one of God’s set-aside tribe, I don’t have a problem with that, and actually see it as a good thing. Christianity wasn’t exactly an appropriation of Judaism…more like a spin-off that turned into its own much bigger thing.

            Besides, I enjoy hearing the Messianic Jewish perspective. I find it interesting.

          • JayT says:

            I don’t think stolen valor quite maps to cultural appropriation, for a couple of reasons.
            First, it’s claiming accomplishments that you don’t have. Culture isn’t an accomplishment made by an individual.
            Second, stolen valor is (usually) meant to be deceptive. People claim to be war heroes so that they get adoration or free stuff. The coed dressed up like a sexy Indian maid isn’t trying to fool people into thinking she’s actually a Native American. As far as I know, people don’t claim halloween costumes of soldiers are stolen valor.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @JayT, the Boy Scouts do oppose people wearing Scout uniforms for Halloween, out of risk of confusion. Or at least, that’s what the people at the official Scout Shop told me twelve years ago.

          • Randy M says:

            Just imagine all the little old ladies standing on street corners, wondering why noone is helping them cross!

            Non-trans drag queens–cultural appropriation, or no? Why should it limited to culture?

          • Iain says:

            @JayT:

            War bonnets actually map quite closely to “stolen valor”. They’re one of the cases where I think there is actual meat on the bones of accusations of cultural appropriation. (Compare and contrast the case of the kimono, where beleaguered manufacturers are desperately trying to get their product appropriated.)

          • JayT says:

            I think it’s in bad taste to wear something like a war bonnet, but that still doesn’t change the fact that a person wearing one as a costume isn’t trying to convince people they are an actual member of a Plains Indians* tribe, and because of that it isn’t the same thing as stolen valor. Like I say, I’ve never seen someone claim that dressing up as someone like George Patton would be considered stolen valor.

            * Unless you’re Iron Eyes Cody, that is. In which case I agree it’s equivalent to stolen valor.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Eyes_Cody

          • Brad says:

            I think the best analogy for stolen valor is certain things that would fit under the definition of rape by deception, that existed. I think both are immoral and neither should be against the law. Certain kinds of “cultural appropriation” are in the same neighborhood, but not quite on the dot.

          • Chalid says:

            Interpreted charitably, “Baby on Board” means “I’m exhausted and stressed and possibly have someone screaming in my ear, so expect me to be a crappy, distracted driver and give me lots of space.”

            @Jaskologist you see both types of complaints.

          • Randy M says:

            That’s actually a really good interpretation; I’d just seen it in the above suggested version of “Drive safe, my kid is important” which seems both condescending and presumptuous at the same time.

          • Thegnskald says:

            So, the purpose of the “Baby On Board” signs is the same as the signs some people put on their front doors saying there is a cat inside, or whatever: It is to alert emergency personnel that there is an additional, easy-to-miss victim, in the event of an emergency in which this might be pertinent.

            (Which isn’t to say that is why everyone who has one, has one, but that is the intended purpose. It isn’t telling other drivers to be cautious)

          • Deiseach says:

            Some evangelical churches occasionally try out more Jewish trappings, such as a church I attended having a Seder, though more for demonstration purposes

            That does provoke some mild eye-rolling in me. Centuries ago their parent denominations made a very large point of dumping all ritual from their church services, reduced the Eucharist to “It’s the Lord’s Supper, it’s an ordinance and not a commandment and certainly not a sacrament (so in a couple hundred years we’ll invent these things and then wonder why it doesn’t feel like anything important), no vestments, and the most important part of the service is the sermon and the second most important part is the hymn-singing”, then when the natural human instincts kick in and their descendants feel like they might like a bit of ritual to go with their devotion to show that this is something serious, not workaday, and relating to the divine, they cast about them and pitch on the Jews as the source from which to adopt watered-down imitations of sacramental meals.

            Because No Popery, even if they’ve never actually heard the slogan.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            The “stolen valor” comparison strikes me as a poor one on several levels, the primary one being that wearing an article of military clothing for fashion, or even an entire uniform, does not in and of itself constitute “stolen valor”.

            When someone dresses up using cultural or ethnic trappings, AND makes false claims that these trappings represent achievements, deeds, or qualities about themselves, AND then uses this false representation for personal material gain, THAT would be a direct comparison to actual cases of “stolen valor”.

            So, more Rachel Dolezal than Jeremy Lin.

            I’ve always felt that the SVA was a stupid idea, and that any sufficiently egregious case was probably already actionable either as some sort of civil tort or existing fraud laws, but I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority of vets there.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Deiseach, n=1, but I’m a Baptist and I love ceremony, liturgy, and ritual. I read the Book of Common Prayer every Lent; I would love it if a miracle happened and my church went full “smells and bells.”

            (And it would take a miracle, believe me.)

            Why don’t I convert? In a word, theology. Please, have the presbyter hand out the Eucharist with great pomp and circumstance – but the bread which is broken is still bread in both substance and accidents, and it is no sacrifice, and the presbyter who administers it has no special mark on his soul from his ordination. And all the rest.

            Happy Reformation Day coming up! Thanks be to God for Martin Luther!

          • bean says:

            I’m pretty much with Evan on this one, although maybe not quite as extreme. I think the Catholics may overdo ritual, but most American protestants underdo it badly.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @JayT, Trofim Lysenko

            I don’t think it maps directly. What I mean is more that it’s similar enough. Someone trying to convince a right-winger that cultural appropriation is bad might say “well, you know how wearing medals you didn’t earn is bad? This is kind of like that” and maybe someone trying to convince a left-winger that the SVA is good or that flag-burning is bad might try to reference the cultural appropriation concept like “well, you know how you get offended by that, because xyz? Well, we get offended by these things, for reasons that are kind of similar if you squint.”

            There’s also the economic angle to it. Trofim Lysenko brings up Dolezal, who appears to have gotten some career benefits from pretending to be black. Likewise, there are politicians who have claimed to be veterans to benefit themselves. On a lower level, there are stories of guys who put on camo uniforms so people will buy them drinks.

            The economic angle in, say, a Pocahontas costume, is that the costume company (which is probably not operated by Native American/Aboriginal people) is making money selling a culture as a consumable product. Here in Canada there have been disputes over who gets to write novels with Aboriginal protagonists – I think the economic argument (there are probably Aboriginal writers finding a harder time getting a share of the market, just because supply and demand) is strong (but as noted earlier, not argued enough).

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Evan and bean, I think you don’t know what you’re missing. I’m with Deiseach. When the bell goes off, and the Real Presence is felt…that’s capital H Holy. It feels really, really nice.

            And now I’m remembering the time this happened and then one of my toddlers stood up in the pew and took his pants off in front of everyone because he had an itch. It’s hard to keep things holy.

          • rlms says:

            The ingroup equivalent of cultural appropriation is fake geek girls.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            For a girl who plays D&D, board games and computer strategy games, not having a definition of “fake” is disconcerting.

          • Deiseach says:

            Evan Þ, you are making my point for me. It’s not even the theology these offshoots of offshoots of offshoots of original Reform denominations are concerned about because they’ve chucked out the theology as well and are running now on cultural patterns. Then they have to turn back to the Old Testament and to the original Jewish rites because they feel the need for something authentic but have so cored out their own faith that there is nothing more there. Which then leads to the children of those who were sola Scriptura indeed going back to Scripture, and to a faith that has kept the rites and rituals.

            You don’t need to accept the Catholic and Orthodox theology of the Eucharist but what should be done is develop a theology of the Lord’s Supper of their own. Look at their own resources. Go back to the Gospels. Stop being so afraid of reflexive “But that looks like what the Catholics do!” when it comes to the Last Supper and Good Friday. Don’t have neat little pre-packed crackers and grape juice (because Alcohol Is Bad, and apparently the Welch grape juice company used the Baptist antipathy to alcohol to persuade them that what was used at the Last Supper was grape juice not wine, and hey guess what we can sell you grape juice for use in your services) consumed individually by people in the pews – it’s meant to be the Supper at the Table, for crying out loud!

            Do these imitation Seders use wine, by the way? If they’re scrupulous about recreating the details for that, but throw it out for the Christian celebration, that’s simply one more problem. The theology is the heart of it, and by ripping out the theology of the Eucharist because it seemed idolatrous, and took away the emphasis from faith alone as salvific, naturally the ritual was weakened and diluted until it became meaningless (Calvin reducing the words of Christ to merely an ordinance is a problem for Calvin, not for the custom of the universal Church), and then leaves those who go running back to Judaism as the source as searching for something they can legitimately perform, while ignoring that they can instead focus on “do this in remembrance of Me” and develop a theology and practice around that, instead of doing a Seder-lite. They need not believe that the bread is anything more than bread, but they do need to perform in practice that it’s not just a piece of cracker and that the Old Testament Seder is more Scriptural than the Supper.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have used the MoH example, since it’s too close to Stolen Valour and thus distracts from the point. Cultural appropriation doesn’t seem to have much to do with pretending one is a badass from another culture. Rather, it seems driven more by disgust at banal laziness toward them.

            A better example for me to bring up would probably have been farbology.

          • Aapje says:

            @Conrad

            And now I’m remembering the time this happened and then one of my toddlers stood up in the pew and took his pants off in front of everyone because he had an itch. It’s hard to keep things holy.

            Just be happy that your toddler didn’t make it a holy shit.

          • quanta413 says:

            @rlms

            The ingroup equivalent of cultural appropriation is fake geek girls.

            If cultural appropriation was discussed as rarely as fake geek girls, that would be great. Even having been a geek my entire life, I can’t remember hearing even one complaint in person about fake geek girls. On the other hand, even my not super lefty friends will occasionally talk about cultural appropriation (and I don’t mean just to diss the term). And google trends seems to show a similar pattern online https://trends.google.us/trends/explore?date=all&q=%22fake%20geek%20girls%22,%22cultural%20appropriation%22

            When I google “fake geek girls” (without the quotes) I get one article criticizing “fake geek girls” from 2012, and several articles criticizing the usage of the term (also from around 2012).

            “Fake geek girls” is really the ingroup equivalent of “white patriarchy”. Almost no one actually uses either term, and it’s mostly just a bludgeon to say the outgroup is mean and exclusionary. Once again, I appeal to google trends https://trends.google.us/trends/explore?date=all&q=%22fake%20geek%20girls%22,%22white%20patriarchy%22

          • rlms says:

            @quanta413
            My intended equivalences were that both involve one group engaging with some culture in a way that a group which claims to own the culture disapproves of, and that (in my opinion) most accusations of both are wrong. If you want, you can broaden the category “fake geek girls” to all the groups of “new fans” (of Marvel movies, new Who etc.) that people complain about, but I think the analogy is less close there.

          • quanta413 says:

            @rlms

            If you want, you can broaden the category “fake geek girls” to all the groups of “new fans” (of Marvel movies, new Who etc.) that people complain about, but I think the analogy is less close there.

            The broader category actually seems like a more accurate comparison to me because it’s more about a borrowing or modification of some pre-existing culture not someone trying but failing to somehow be authentic or something. I mean how many people ever had anything to gain by pretending to be a geek or pretending to be black? It’s not zero people, but it’s damn low and even the people who have something to gain are probably not the sort of people I’m going to feel upset about.

            FWIW I agree that most accusations of both are wrong. Even when I feel that the accused did something wrong, I usually think the accusations are off base about what is wrong. It’s doing something poorly enough or tastelessly enough that’s wrong regardless of whether it’s “borrowed” or something native to one’s culture.

            On the other hand, the comparison to “stolen valor” upthread seems like one of the better possible steelman versions of cultural appropriation even though it’s a pretty small slice of what people actually complain about. In those cases, it really is the misrepresentation that is wrong so to speak. Because lying is wrong.

          • bean says:

            I don’t think the “new fan” thing is necessarily about someone who is pretending to like something more than they do so much as it is about someone whose understanding of how much they know about/like/are into something is really miscalibrated. Let’s try a battleship analogy.
            For some reason, over the next year, interest in battleships/old warships explodes. Maybe somebody made a really good documentary series or something. Now, lots of people have battleship T-shirts and the like. They have factory-built models. They may buy books, but they’re the ones with lots of pretty pictures, and little technical content. They don’t know what immune zones are, and are iffy on what ‘caliber’ means. They don’t know about Norman Friedman, or Raven & Roberts. And they consider themselves serious battleship fans.
            This is likely to annoy me. Not just because I was doing this before it was cool, but because there’s an entire level these people are not getting. I’ve invested a lot of time and money in this hobby, and they’re claiming something approaching equality with me on the basis of a tiny fraction of the effort I’ve put in.
            Well, maybe the analogy breaks down here. I’d probably enjoy this immensely, as I like educating the public, and I’m sure enough of them would get serious to improve book availability. But if you don’t delight in explaining your hobby to normal people and just want to talk with other serious hobbyists, you now have at the very least a much worse signal-to-noise ratio.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Fake battleship fans, who only care about the Bismarck and Yamato.

          • Brad says:

            I’ve never been involved in any of these fandom scenes, but if say when I law school some women wanted to come to federalist society meetings (we were mostly men) and I suspected the reason wasn’t because she was really interested in conservative legal principles but rather that she wanted some of the glamour that came from being associated with we federalist society members, I think I would have been flattered rather than insulted.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Didn’t the Germans have a ship called Admiral Hipster or something like that? I think it fired a special artisanal shell that no one knew where to find.

          • Nornagest says:

            I agree that the “fake geek girls” thing comes from the same place as e.g. “casual” hate in gaming, but I don’t think it has anything to do with level of knowledge as such. I think the issue is that by calling yourself a geek, you’re claiming membership in a culture, and that culture’s defined in part by shared victimhood and ostracism: whether it’s true or not (and IME it’s not as true as the stereotype suggests), geek/nerd/gamer culture tends to carry with it an assumption that you got e.g. stuffed into the trash cans in high school. When someone comes along who reads as not having had those experiences, and identifies as belonging to one of those cultures, hackles tend to get raised.

            Because reality is messy, there will always be plenty of cases where the core skills the culture values turn out not to come with the stereotype: for example I knew a girl in college who was astonishingly attractive in an alternative sort of way, had the kind of social life that you’d expect with that, and was better at old Nintendo games than anyone else I’ve met. But because people are tribal, they’ll probably always run into others who basically don’t care about the core skills and just want to talk to someone else who got beaten up in the locker room.

          • bean says:

            @dndnrsn

            Fake battleship fans, who only care about the Bismarck and Yamato.

            Thought about using that analogy, but decided to be a little bit less mean. Wehraboos seem like a pretty pure manifestation of this kind of thing, actually.

            @Brad
            The appropriate analogy isn’t a woman who becomes an active member for glamor, it’s a woman who shows up to a very occasional meeting/joins late and then milks it for all the glamor she can.

            @Paul Zrimsek

            Didn’t the Germans have a ship called Admiral Hipster or something like that? I think it fired a special artisanal shell that no one knew where to find.

            Post of the thread. Brilliant.

            @Nornagest
            I think you’re not entirely wrong, but the real problem comes when you’ve got someone with neither the skills nor the background who is trying to claim membership. Someone who suffered for the hobby when it wasn’t cool (even in the sense of the opportunity cost of not doing something else instead) is going to look down on someone who didn’t suffer and joined when it became cool, and they’re going to doubly look down if they didn’t make the old standards.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @bean

            Wehraboos seem to be a combination of people who gain a casual knowledge of things and decide that Tigers were the best thing ever, and people with a deeper but distorted/selectively ignorant knowledge. Like, I don’t know, a music fan whose understanding of a genre is based around the bands they like and ignorant of the ones they don’t and maintains the ones they like are the important bands.

            Speaking of music, anecdotally at least, music is more prone to “fake female fan”-denouncing behaviour by unpleasant guys than gaming or whatever – the trope is “oh, you’re a fan of x? Name three of their albums” after all, not “oh, you’re a fan of y? Name three of the games” isn’t it?

          • bean says:

            Wehraboos seem to be a combination of people who gain a casual knowledge of things and decide that Tigers were the best thing ever, and people with a deeper but distorted/selectively ignorant knowledge.

            Well, yes. But both are still operating on a very different level from you and me, sitting there with ‘Wages of Destruction’ and ‘In Defense of Naval Supremacy’ respectively. Some of them may have lots of books, but they’re mostly variants on The Tiger Tank, not deeper stuff.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I’d probably enjoy this immensely, as I like educating the public, and I’m sure enough of them would get serious to improve book availability.

            Except to complete the analogy, the new superficial battleship fans would look down on the old fans who were totally into it, and they’d look at you like you had three heads if you tried to talk to them at a deeper level.

          • bean says:

            Except to complete the analogy, the new superficial battleship fans would look down on the old fans who were totally into it, and they’d look at you like you had three heads if you tried to talk to them at a deeper level.

            Well, replace me personally with someone who isn’t nearly as into the communicator side of it, and who doesn’t have my social skills. (No, people who knew me in middle school, stop laughing. I’m serious.) I once saw this kind of thing compared with gentrification. People who can get along with the new entrants will do well. People who can’t get pushed aside, and it’s bad for them. I’m pretty sure I’m in the first category here, but there’s somebody in the second.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @bean

            [hipster voice, twirls moustache, puts down IPA]

            “Ugh, I bet a casual like you even thinks Albert Speer was honest in his memoirs.”

    • Well... says:

      1. Jeremy Lin doesn’t have dreadlocks. He got his hair braided in the “corn-row” style popularized by black people, which is something many non-black people, including many Asians, have been doing for decades. Why did everyone suddenly forget what dreadlocks are?

      2. If there’s a stereotype about black people with dreadlocks, it’s that they look like maybe those black people might have some weed on them. Weed happens to be illegal in most places, but dreadlocks are definitely not associated with the worst of black criminality. In my experience, for black people with dreadlocks it’s usually a marker of hippie-ness, new-agey-ness, social consciousness, etc. Remember in The Wire, the gang was always trying to get that one kid to cut his long hair off because it made him stand out to cops. As far as I can tell that is based on a real pattern in gang culture.

    • Deiseach says:

      We’re still fighting to have them not associated with criminality and this is a fight no other non Black group has had to fight around them.

      Two ways to interpret this.

      (1) As a purely American example, where African-Americans who have worn such hairstyles or natural hair have had derogatory remarks made about their hair and have been culturally coerced to use straighteners and all kinds of hair products and wigs to make their hair look like White/Asian people’s hair – straight, shiny, soft. Okay, this works as far as it goes. No other ethnicity has had to use hair straighteners because they have straight hair already.

      (2) As far as it goes is not past the borders of the Americas. Not only African-Americans have had their hair styles associated with criminality and undesirable traits, to the point where there were attempts to make it illegal to wear your hair like that.

      “Black people can’t be appropriative” and “no non-Black people have had this struggle” only work when you are confining your examples to the USA. However, when you’re invoking global anti-Blackness, then you have to deal with global examples, and of course Black people can engage in cultural appropriation where they are or have been the historically dominant majority and/or culture!

      • Zorgon says:

        No other ethnicity has had to use hair straighteners because they have straight hair already.

        I know a few dozen goths who would beg to differ.

      • The Nybbler says:

        No other ethnicity has had to use hair straighteners because they have straight hair already.

        ROTFL.

        • Deiseach says:

          Nybbler, no, see that doesn’t work! Nobody has naturally curly hair except Black people! Don’t you recall the argument as phrased:

          As Preston Anderson points out, even if Lin had his own personal history with locks, Black people “know very intimately [that] the burden of locs was placed on us.

          So white people who got perms to give them curly hair are appropriating natural hair, and white people who have naturally curly hair are doing something wrong as well because they get to have curly hair and not have any burden placed upon them. They don’t have to use hair straighteners because they don’t get negative associations with their hair.

          Yes, it’s a ridiculous argument because there are non-Black people with curly, wavy, non-straight hair, but acknowledging that undercuts the political point the article is trying to make, so it gets left out.

    • Lillian says:

      Black people know very intimately that the burden of locs was placed on us. Jeremy Lin gets to be edgy. White kids get to be avante garde and, for them, it’s a statement of rebelliousness. For us, we’ve fought to be able to keep them in the NFL, in the army [etc.] We’re still fighting to have them not associated with criminality and this is a fight no other non Black group has had to fight around them.

      Here’s something i don’t get. Wouldn’t black hair styles becoming a blase thing white people do accomplish the stated goal in this fight? If you want to be able to enjoy black cultural markers without being bothered, encouraging white people to enjoy them too seems like the best way to do it. If you can make it so that Wall Street executives wear dradlocks and cornrows without eyebrows being raised, you’ve pretty much won. The style is now officially respectable.

      Seriously guys, make appropriation work for you. Like if there’s an American Cultural Appripriation committee, i want beg them to please appropriate Spanish blood sausage next. There should be articles in the New York Times where guys named Tyler rant about the hot new taste they “discovered”, plus all the wholesome nutrients it has, and how every fashion conscious carnivore should be eating them. Maybe then i’ll then be finally able to buy butifarras at my local supermarket.

      Honestly the whole cultural appropriation thing feels like a backwards narrative. Back in the old days people would deliberately export their culture to others, with its adoption being seens as a sign of superiority and dominance. The fact that St. Patrick’s Day is now America’s get shit faced and pretend to be Irish day is a sign that the Irish won. That Cinco de Mayo is heading in that direction is the herald of Mexican victory. Yet somehow it’s now woke to be in favour of cultural ghettoes. What the hell happened?

      • The Nybbler says:

        Here’s something i don’t get. Wouldn’t black hair styles becoming a blase thing white people do accomplish the stated goal in this fight?

        The question almost answers itself; the stated goal is not the actual goal.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        If you can make it so that Wall Street executives wear dradlocks and cornrows without eyebrows being raised, you’ve pretty much won. The style is now officially respectable.

        they want black things to be respectable regardless of white opinions

        is my understanding

  17. Kevin C. says:

    A survey of college students on free speech and self-expression, from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, contracted with YouGov.

    Some highlights:

    Very liberal students are 14 percentage points more likely to feel comfortable expressing their opinions in the classroom than their very conservative peers.
    Half of students (54%) agree that they have stopped themselves from sharing an idea or opinion in class at some point since beginning college.
    Almost one-third of students (30%) have self-censored in class because they thought their words might be considered offensive to their peers.
    Almost one-third of students (29%) have self-censored on campus outside of class because they thought their ideas might be politically incorrect.

    Almost half of students recognize that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment. Of the 46% of students who recognize this, 31% think hate speech should not be protected.

    A disinvitation occurs when a guest speaker has been invited to a campus to speak, but the college or university later withdraws the speaker’s invitation. Although we find that most students (93%) agree that their school should invite a variety of speakers to campus, more than half of students (56%) agree that there are times when a college or university should withdraw a guest speaker’s invitation after the event has been announced. Nearly two-thirds of activist students (65%) and slightly more than one-half of students who don’t engage in activist activities (52%), agree that there are times when a college should withdraw a guest speaker’s invitation in some cases.

    We find evidence of a partisan divide in attitudes toward disinvitations. Democratic students are 19 percentage points more likely than their Republican peers to agree that there are times a speaker should be disinvited. Almost half of Republicans (47%) and two-thirds of Democrats (66%) support disinvitations in some instances. There is a 40 percentage point ideological divide in attitudes toward disinvitations: 78% of very liberal students and 38% of very conservative students support the withdrawal of a guest speaker’s invitation in some instances.

    (Emphasis in original)

    Definitely an interesting read.

    • Kevin C. says:

      And perhaps tangentially related: Students storm library, shut down College Republicans meeting

      A College Republicans meeting at the University of California, Santa Cruz was taken over by protesters screaming that the group’s existence is a threat to the safety of students.

      One of the ringleaders of the protest was student activist Haik Adamian, who posted an announcement in the official UCSC Student Facebook group calling on students to deny the CR group its First Amendment rights.

      “White Supremacist, fascist sympathizing College Republicans are having a meeting at McHenry library, room 0332. Everybody be aware of this violent racist activity happening everyday on this campus!” he wrote, adding that “We need a movement of people on this campus that rejects the ‘right of assembly,’ or ‘right of free speech’ for white supremacists and fascists.”

      According to the UCSC College Republicans, their offers to discuss the concerns of the protesters were met with exclamations that “dialogue is violence,” after which the protesters called the club’s presence a “threat to the library” and demanded that the CR members vacate the space immediately.

      On the other hand, though,

      The commotion culminated in one of the student activists running out into the main library area screaming that there were “Nazis downstairs,” but while the gimmick drew several spectators, many of them expressed indignation at the actions of the protestors.

      “As a Democrat, I am embarrassed that some people on the left act this way,” remarked Phil Leonard Vogel, creator of the moderate campus news publication City on a Phil. “They give all of us a terrible name.”

      After nearly two hours, school officials eventually called the police, who reportedly arrested three of the protesters.

      • Nornagest says:

        That sounds like UCSC, all right. That school was into Social Justice like ten years before it was cool.

        • Kevin C. says:

          Q. Why did the hipster burn the roof of their mouth?

          A. Because they were eating their pizza before it was cool.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Q. How many hipsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?

            A. It’s a really obscure number you’ve probably never heard of it.

          • Brad says:

            Q. What do two rednecks say after breaking up?

            A. Let’s just be cousins.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Q: If someone who speaks two languages is bilingual, and someone who speaks many languages is multilingual, then what do you call someone who speaks one language?

            A: An American.

          • Nornagest says:

            Since this is getting kind of mean-spirited, maybe I should clarify that I meant my comment literally: what I saw of campus discourse at UCSC in the early 2000s closely resembled what we’d see in the broader culture ten years later.

            (Hipster culture wasn’t really a thing at the time; that only emerged a few years later.)

          • cassander says:

            @Nornagest

            I saw a lot of the same things going on at bryn mawr a decade ago as well. My favorite moment was when a bunch of students of color seized the floor at plenary to protest how unfair it was that so many of the student council leaders were white, only for it for it to be quickly revealed that most of them ran for election unopposed.

        • Bellum Gallicum says:

          According to the article the group is being lead by Haik Adamian whose personal slogan is “Hungry? Eat the Rich”

          Now that’s what I call shifting the Overton window!

          This attitude is amazingly common in UCSC students. A few of years ago I would say that social and environmental justice/socialism on UCSC campus was trendy
          (cultural appropriation, permaculture, radical feminism, tiny houses, Bernie)
          but some of the students now are closer to anarchist marxists.
          (burn it all down, BBQ the people who owned property before 1940 on the coals, support anyone who will cause chaos, and hopefully an AI will do the work and give everyone money??) seems kinda random but I have heard it with slight variations many times.

          They have chained themselves to block the highway and similar street tactics the last two years and I’ve talked to several of them about what they are up to.

          Please let me know if I have overstepped any community guidelines, I’m new but wanted to post because have a special interest in UCSC campus politics and a deep curiosity about the transformation of the political parties that seems to be going on around us.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Hungry? Eat the Rich”

            Now that’s what I call shifting the Overton window!

            That’s been a slogan since at least the 1970s. It originally comes from Rousseau.

            Student protesters chaining themselves to things is nothing new, either. During the last major construction on the UCSC campus — don’t know exactly what the building was, but this would have been six or eight years ago — I heard about students living in the trees that was slated to be cut down, building treehouses, surviving on food and water donated by sympathizers on the ground, and refusing to leave. That lasted for months, IIRC.

          • Bellum Gallicum says:

            Yes exactly the language is that of the French Revolution, Violent revolution regardless of consequence or law, which I feel is a change from the sustainability and diversity agenda that I felt was incredibly popular for the last decade.

            And the chaining makes the same point, previously they were chaining themselves to trees on Campus to protest Construction. Now they are chaining themselves in the middle of the highway at the center of town to protest the fact that College isn’t free and borders exist. That seems quite different to me. Maybe the Democratic party has always been preaching rioting in the streets and the immediate beginning of a worldwide society without property and borders. Or maybe you are suggesting these people are only doing so in an ironic way? But they seem quite sincere and willing to risk their health, reputation and academic status.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        The way this narrative is written, I keep expecting one of the protestors to have his hood pulled off to reveal special guest star Marty Feldman grumbling about meddling kids or something.

      • Protagoras says:

        What do you expect from UCSC? Go banana slugs.

        • Evan Þ says:

          I expect that if the California state government keeps funding liberal indoctrination centers, sooner or later someone will file a lawsuit.

          Fortunately, this time three protestors were arrested. Someone should keep an eye on things to make sure they’re actually charged and sentenced, instead of quietly released.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I mean… nobody’s sued the state in the last, I don’t know, half-century of UCSC being a “liberal indoctrination center.” What do you think is changing?

      • lvlln says:

        protesters screaming that [a club of College Republicans]’s existence is a threat to the safety of students.

        Of all the many disturbing things about this recent phenomenon in general and the stuff in the articles you linked specifically, this part stands out to me particularly. We’ve seen this before in recent history, where people were deemed to be threats to safety of everyone else merely based on the beliefs they held. It, among other factors, led to atrocities that are basically universally recognized as evil today and the deadliest war – by far the deadliest on a per-time basis, I believe – in history. I’m hopeful that the current sociopolitical landscape won’t allow it to escalate like that, but the fact that these protestors are doing their darn hardest to escalate as fast as possible while ignorant or ambivalent to such disastrous consequences is a bit depressing.

        • Brad says:

          Which incidents are you thinking of? The nazis mostly killed people because of thier ethnicity. Ditto in Rawanda. The worst communist mass atrocities were targeted on the basis of the victims’ supposed or actual economic class (and often had an ethnic or quasi-ethnic underlying component).

          • dndnrsn says:

            There was an ideological component to the Soviet mass killings and starvations (eg, the Kulaks were seen as standing in the way of collectivization; the shit done to the Ukrainians was justified by the dreaming up of a vast and imaginary Ukrainian conspiracy), and while the purges were not the biggest mass killing, they were justified on ideological grounds (an equally imaginary vast worldwide Trotskyite conspiracy).

            As for the Nazis, their mass killings were primarily on basis of ethnicity, but there were ideological components: they talked about “Judeo-Bolshevism” and their conspiracy theories had an ideological angle, and saw the war against the USSR as a conflict having both racial (German vs Slav) and ideological (national socialism vs communism) dimensions.

            So, you’re right, but there were ideological components.

            Further, “these people must be dealt with as pre-emptive threats” is what the Nazis and Communists did, regardless of their grounds for why someone was a threat.

            EDIT: I am not comparing the current situation to 30s authoritarianism. Just history wank.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But didn’t the Nazis also kill homosexuals, and communists? And while yes ethnicity was the primary motivator with regards to Jews, they justified it because of stuff they claimed the Jews were doing (stab-in-the-back myth, “international Jewry,” etc).

            Just saying the extremist (the behavior described in the article is far outside that of mainstream Democrats) rhetoric ramps up in the same way, where all white people are suspected of perpetuating what’s essentially a conspiracy of white supremacy.

            ETA: ninjered by dndnrsn

          • Brad says:

            I don’t like the redefinition of “unsafe” to mean “offended”, but I think it is a real stretch to go from there to mass killings. A stretch that, perhaps ironically, is closely related to the very characteristic that is being criticized.

            The campus Republicans aren’t some imminent threat of White Supremacist genocide and the screaming protesters aren’t some imminent threat of the institution of reeducation camps.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Brad

            You’re certainly right. The rhetoric on both sides is completely disproportionate to reality. Searching tells me this is Sayre’s law.

          • lvlln says:

            I think dndnrsn & Conrad Honcho covered what I was thinking of pretty well. Nazis exterminated on the basis of ethnicity and also on the basis of religion, political ideology, sexual orientation.

            More generally, a point I didn’t make above is that one’s beliefs, whether they be one’s religion, political ideology, sexual orientation, are no more voluntarily chosen by an individual than one’s ethnicity, so even ignoring the examples of belief that actually happened, the phenomena are disturbingly similar.

            I certainly don’t think a genocidal regime popping out of these movements is a high probability risk to watch out for. If I did, I’d be making plans to leave the country long-term and also not be publishing anything like this that expresses my opinions in a semi-public space (probably not even in a private space, given the state of computer security these days). But the fact that these movements are engaging in and attempting to escalate behavior that did lead to such atrocities in the past is disturbing enough by itself. That these are done by college students, people who are supposed to be among the most educated and knowledgeable about history relative to others in their age group makes it extra depressing.

          • Brad says:

            @lvlln

            More generally, a point I didn’t make above is that one’s beliefs, whether they be one’s religion, political ideology, sexual orientation, are no more voluntarily chosen by an individual than one’s ethnicity,

            That’s a very contestable statement! It amounts to endorsing some variety of determinism. While there are strong arguments for determism, I don’t think you can just drop a statement like that as if it were a widely agreed upon premise on which to build arguments.

          • Nick says:

            You mean determinism in the sense of free will debates? I don’t really see how that’s the case; just because you don’t choose whether to be, say, convinced by an argument or convinced by some particular evidence, that doesn’t mean you can’t choose anything at all.

          • and the screaming protesters aren’t some imminent threat of the institution of reeducation camps.

            Only because they are still a small minority. I see no reason why the people described wouldn’t favor reeducation camps if they saw them as an option.

            A mild version already exists. Faculty and staff at the institution I recently retired from were required to take training on what counted as harassment and what they should do in response to observing it.

          • Brad says:

            @Nick

            You mean determinism in the sense of free will debates?

            Yes.

            I don’t really see how that’s the case; just because you don’t choose whether to be, say, convinced by an argument or convinced by some particular evidence, that doesn’t mean you can’t choose anything at all.

            It may not *necessarily* mean that — but your beliefs, ideological positions, and religion not being the product of free will is many steps down the road to determinism.

            As a reductio — it could be the case that the one and only free choice men can make is whether to prefer vanilla or chocolate ice cream, but such a specialized world seems unlikely to be true. Similarly, though less absurdly, I’m not sure how you’d go about drawing a principled line such that there was some nucleus of free will but it didn’t extend to having real — that is freely chosen — political beliefs.

            @DavidFriedman

            Only because they are still a small minority.

            Perhaps. But they *are* a small minority. Just like the marchers in Charlottesville. Or College Republicans for that matter.

            I see no reason why the people described wouldn’t favor reeducation camps if they saw them as an option.

            I think that probably says more about your priors in terms of people-in-general’s propensity to support totalitarianism than it does about these particular people.

          • Evan Þ says:

            A mild version already exists. Faculty and staff at the institution I recently retired from were required to take training on what counted as harassment and what they should do in response to observing it.

            Not just at colleges, either. Here at Very Big Software Company, it’s required of all employees.

            (And I hear that at other places outside VBSC, offenders are sometimes required to attend more such training as punitive measures. To some degree, the reeducation camps are already in place.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            Harassment-education sessions are more likely driven by profit motive than ideological influence. If the company or university makes everyone attend “see something, say something” training about sexual harassment, when someone files a sexual harassment suit the company or university will have an easier time shifting the blame to the individuals who saw something and didn’t say something.

          • BBA says:

            Anti-harassment training can be political indoctrination, depending on the definition of harassment used, but I don’t think it strictly is. First-wave feminism has been in the water supply long enough that “harassment is wrong” is now uncontrovertible.

            That’s a separate question from whether or not it works, which I’m increasingly cynical about.

          • First-wave feminism has been in the water supply long enough that “harassment is wrong” is now uncontrovertible.

            But what counts as harassment is not.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @BBA

            “Harassment is bad” is probably more a second-wave thing? First wave feminism was more “we want to vote, and also, prohibition.”

          • quanta413 says:

            @BBA

            That’s a separate question from whether or not it works, which I’m increasingly cynical about.

            I honestly could never figure out what the argument was for why it would work in most of the places it is used. It seemed to presume a significant number of well-intentioned but simultaneously extremely ignorant and socially inept people. On the other hand, a lot of it seems like ass covering to avoid blame on the employer (“but look, our employee took sexual harassment training, we were doing everything we could to prevent such horrible behavior!”) or to deal with activists by providing some of them with a job ostensibly for a cause they like (i.e. co-opt some activists into the power structure).

    • Evan Þ says:

      Almost half of students recognize that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment. Of the 46% of students who recognize this, 31% think hate speech should not be protected.

      And this is why I tremble for our civil liberties. Between the 54% who think it’s already unprotected and the 31% who think it should be, I expect the First Amendment to be aggressively rolled back within the next twenty years – perhaps with an explicit Constitutional amendment; more likely with court decisions gradually hemming it in; at the very least with social disapproval.

      For example, twenty years from now, I expect no notable web host will be willing to host a blog like this.

      • Machine Interface says:

        There are many kinds of speech that are not (and have never been) protected by the first amendment.

        It’s interesting to know exactly where you stand compared to the current level of protected vs non-protected speech. Do you think that the amount of speech that is protected is 1) too low? (some speech that is not protected should be) 2) just right? (anything less would be censorship, anything more would create civil disorder) 3) too high? (some speech that is protected should not be).

        What kind of justification do you propose for the particular level of speech you think should be allowed? If you think more forms of speech should be allowed, does that include forms of speech that are effectively tools of private censorship (intimidation, moral harasment, threats, doxxing)? If no, how do you justify that particular limit? If you consider that the current level of speech protection is just right, can you conceive that what is “just right” for you might be “too much” or “not enough” for other people?

        • Salem says:

          There are many kinds of speech that are not (and have never been) protected by the first amendment.

          Pshhh. There are a few, well-defined and narrowly limited exceptions: obscenity, defamation, fraud, incitement, true threats and speech integral to already criminal conduct. It’s not an open-ended set; the Supreme Court has repeatedly declined to add to them.

          What kind of justification do you propose for the particular level of speech you think should be allowed?

          That’s not the question, and never has been. To quote the immortal words:

          The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech does not extend only to categories of speech that survive an ad hoc balancing of relative social costs and benefits. The First Amendment itself reflects a judgment by the American people that the benefits of its restrictions on the Government outweigh the costs.

        • Evan Þ says:

          @Machine Interface, thank you for serving as Example #2.

          I endorse everything Salem said. Yes, I am aware that some people disagree with that judgment made in the First Amendment. I think following their proposals will lead to a weaker and less-vibrant culture, less intellectual discussion, less advancement of science and technology, and other negative things. Further, I think it will lead to other restrictions on civil rights. I do not want to live in that sort of a society.

        • SamChevre says:

          I will go with “on average, 1, but I want different not just less.”

          I would like some speech that is currently protected to not be protected:
          1) Libel and slander (ascertainably false facts coupled with disparagement); I think New York vs Sullivan with its “actual malice” standard is unhelpful.
          2) Information which was acquired illegally should make you legally liable if you disseminate it. (Reversing New York Times vs United States.)
          2) Speech in public spaces where non-employees are required to be present (mostly schools); I think that schools should have more ability to restrict student speech at school than they do.

          I would like some speech protections that are currently not in place:
          1) Governments cannot outsource restrictions on speech. If government can’t forbid it on the sidewalk in front of the Courthouse, they also cannot hold someone else liable for making it or ignoring it. (The goal here is to eviscerate harassment and discrimination law as applied to speech.)
          2) If you have legally acquired information, you should be able to distribute it as you please without liability.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          I think that schools should have more ability to restrict student speech at school than they do.

          Why?

          • SamChevre says:

            I think schools should have more ability to restrict student speech than they do, because so many students are (effectively) required to be there, and the goal is to teach the students. If forbidding racial insults, or discussions of sex, or pro-Trump/anti-Trump advocacy, will make it easier for the students to accomplish the purpose for which they are required to be present, then I think it’s reasonable. (Basically, I’m saying schools should have the same ability to constrain speech as government-as-employer, rather than the constraints of government-as-government.)

          • Evan Þ says:

            @SamChevre, but conversely, if the government is forcing me under threat of violence to be at a particular place at a particular time, the very least they can do is leave me free to talk about sex/Trump/whatever with my similarly-inclined friends who’re also being forced to be there.

      • DavidS says:

        Is that what “Of the 46%, 31% think” means? I read it as 0.46*0.31=14% or so know it’s protected but want to overturn it.

        I’m not sure social disapproval of an Amendment means it’s aggressively rolled back (albeit not American so don’t fully speak the language of The Constitution that plays such a part of US political discourse)

        • Nornagest says:

          An amendment has only been rolled back as such once in American history (the 18th, prohibition of alcohol). But there haven’t been too many unpopular amendments besides it; lots of politically inconvenient ones, though, and what usually happens to those is that more and more exceptions get carved out until the amendment in practice is more or less toothless.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          David reads it correctly; Evan incorrectly.
          FIRE saw that it was confusing, so included a footnote:

          One hundred seventy-one students recognized that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, but think it should not be protected.

          (out of 1250 surveyed, so 14%)

          • Evan Þ says:

            Thank you; I’m moderately relieved.

            (Only “moderately,” because that’s still 54% who think it’s already unprotected, plus 14% who think it should be… that’s still a two-thirds majority between them.)

  18. johan_larson says:

    Bean’s writing about mines got me thinking. It would be useful to be able to drop a mine into the water, have it sink to a specified depth, and then have it hold that depth, without tethers either to the surface or the sea bottom. And for longevity, it should be able to do so without power, since batteries run out.

    Can such a thing be built? This device would need to be more dense than sea water at the surface, but become less dense as it sinks, presumably triggered by increasing pressure. So this thing needs to get bigger as you squeeze it harder.

    I suppose you could make a mine that is slightly denser than water. Because water is slightly compressible, the density of water should increase very slightly with increasing pressure (i.e. depth). But because the compressibility is slight, the density gradient is going to be correspondingly small, meaning the depth of a mine designed this way is going to be imprecise and it would sink really deep when dropped in.

    • Nornagest says:

      It’s very hard to maintain depth passively, because the density of water does not change very much with pressure. It does change, but very very slowly — at 20 degrees C, the density of water at the surface is 998 g/liter, and at 68 atmospheres (about 670 meters down) it’s 1001 g/liter. You can do active depth-keeping based on pressure readings, but that takes power.

      I think the approach of making a mine that’s very slightly denser than water at sea level would only work in perfectly still water; otherwise currents and upwellings would swamp its slight tendency to find the right depth. Most of the places you’d want to mine are not perfectly still.

      • johan_larson says:

        As depth increases, the pressure increases, the ambient light decreases, and the temperature (usually) decreases. One of these needs to cause the mine to get less dense. And the process must be reversible, so it doesn’t require power.

        • bean says:

          If you want this to be at all workable, it has to run on pressure. Light just doesn’t have enough energy, and the oceans have all sorts of interesting thermal properties. You don’t want your mine surfacing at night, or falling really deep when it enters the gulf stream.

    • bean says:

      I’m not sure that’s physically possible if you want to do it passively. Holding consistent depth in water is really hard. Submarines do it by keeping a little bit of way on and using their planes (fins) to hold themselves at the desired depth depth. And whatever mechanism you do use is going to be badly affected by any changes in general water density, due to temperature or salinity.
      The tethers do another useful thing, which is hold the mine in one place. I wouldn’t want to make a totally passive drifting mine, for obvious reasons.
      That said, this device would be useful. In practice, one trouble moored mines occasionally have is tides. You either run the risk of the mines breaching the surface at low tide, or being too deep at high tide. If you could solve that, it would be nice.

    • John Schilling says:

      You’d need a passive system with a negative coefficient of expansion, so that it expanded (and became more buoyant) as the pressure increased. Such a system would have an equilibrium depth; any deeper and the extra pressure increases buoyancy to bring it back up and vice versa.

      It would also be the key element in a class of perpetual motion machines – use it to displace water from a closed volume at high pressure and then readmit it at low pressure – so it cannot exist as a passive system. Best you can do is to try and make it an energetically efficient passive system and minimize the load on the batteries.

      • bean says:

        It would also be the key element in a class of perpetual motion machines – use it to displace water from a closed volume at high pressure and then readmit it at low pressure – so it cannot exist as a passive system.

        That’s the insight I was looking for. I thought I detected a conservation law violation, but I wasn’t sure how to prove it.

      • willachandler says:

        It is well to appreciate that, in the real-world ocean, the perpetual motion of Slocum Gliders (see below) pragmatically refutes all such perpetual-motion “proofs”. 🙂

        STEM-history supplies innumerably many practical examples of paradoxical proof-refutation. For example:

        Theoretical considerations of the feasibility of correcting chromatic aberration were debated in the 18th century following Newton’s statement that such a correction was impossible.

        Another, related (and manifestly mine-relevant) paradigmatic example is the (ingeniously astounding!) String Paradox (video here), whose computer-science/communication-theory analog is known as Braess’ Paradox.

        These examples illuminate the immense practical utility of (what deserves to be called) “the Forder/Russel/Klein/Knuth Principle”:”

        [Forder]: The virtue of a logical proof is not that it compels belief but that it suggest  doubts.

        [Russell]: It is one of the chief merits of proofs that they instill a certain skepticism about the result proved.

        [Klein]: The proof tells us where to concentrate our doubts.

        {Knuth]: Beware of bugs in the above code; I have only proved it correct, not tried it.

        In summary, rational cognition has historically evidenced a profound incapacity to appreciate the paradoxical practical limits to that same rational cognition! 🙂

    • cassander says:

      You build it lighter than water with a void space and a pressure sensor and a string of temperature sensors. The temperature sensors spool out as it sinks, using the temperature sensors to calculate how much pressure it should be feeling as a proxy for depth. I have absolutely no idea how much power something like this would take.

      That said, it doesn’t do you much good, because the mine would drift with the current, and the whole point of mines is that you know where they are and the enemy doesn’t.

      • John Schilling says:

        and the whole point of mines is that you know where they are and the enemy doesn’t.

        Meh, if you’re losing and the enemy is on the other side of the sea, making the sea more dangerous for everyone maybe isn’t such a bad thing. What you don’t know, enemy spies can’t pry loose nor can he deduce anything by keeping a close eye on your minelayers.

        Drifting mines have definitely been proposed in naval warfare, and universally condemned as nigh-piratical and a violation of the laws of civilized warfare. Since drifting mines, unlike e.g. unrestricted submarine warfare, offer only a marginal advantage in niche applications, that ban actually held.

        • johan_larson says:

          Some men just want to watch the world sea burn explode.

          Alternately, the railroad operators of the world have had enough of competing with ocean shipping, and seed the oceans of the world with drift mines to stop it. In other news, a rail link is built across the Bering Strait.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Alternately, the railroad operators of the world have had enough of competing with ocean shipping, and seed the oceans of the world with drift mines kaiju to stop it.

            Coming next summer to a cinema near you!!!

          • johan_larson says:

            Drift mines in the first movie. Kaiju in the second. Literal demons from hell in the third. Aliens in the fourth. A rogue AI in the fifth. And the sixth will never get made because people will be sick of the franchise by then (the fifth had a much reduced budget, and suffered for it.)

            The series will make a star of whatever young actress plays Hank Squarejaw’s second-in-command . He’s an SAS veteran and she’s something a bit less combative, possibly a scientist or a political advisor. The series will earn one major Oscar, Best Actor in a Supporting Role for whoever plays the Ambassador of Hell in the third movie.

      • bean says:

        The temperature sensors spool out as it sinks, using the temperature sensors to calculate how much pressure it should be feeling as a proxy for depth. I have absolutely no idea how much power something like this would take.

        I’m not sure you’d need anything more than a simple pressure sensor. Water’s density doesn’t vary that much with temperature, certainly not enough to stop you from holding the mine in the band you want to use to kill enemy shipping.

    • Chalid says:

      Using the fact that some materials have different coefficients of thermal expansion, you can imagine contraptions that would become more buoyant with decreasing temperature.

      e.g. strong rigid cubic frame of low CTE, arms with very high CTE attached to each cube corner and reaching toward the middle, which when cooled shrink and pull outward on something in the center, causing the thing in the center to displace more water.

      Not practical obviously but it might be a fun engineering problem.

    • willachandler says:

      It’s pretty impressive that SSC commenters could so nearly (re)invent the ingenious thermodynamic principles of the incredible (to me, anyway) zero-power Slocum Thermal Glider (technical description here, video here).

  19. A new subject.

    According to recent news stories, a long term study of insect populations in Germany concluded that they are rapidly shrinking–down to about 25% of what they were three decades back. There doesn’t seem to be a clear explanation of the reason, but one possibility is the use of pesticides.

    Germany bans GMO crops. GMO crops are in large part a substitute for crop plus pesticide. It would be interesting to know if there is a similar decline in other parts of the world which do not have such restrictions. Unfortunately, knowing that requires that someone started studying insect populations long enough ago to measure a decline–I don’t know whether any such studies exist in countries that permit GMO crops.

    Suppose, however, it turns out that there is a close connection between GMO bans and declining insect populations. Greens are then faced with a problem–which horn of the dilemma do they choose?

    The most likely solution is to campaign for banning both pesticides and GMO crops.

    • Nornagest says:

      I would be astonished if someone hadn’t been looking at insect populations in e.g. the US three decades ago — that seems like the kind of information that ecologists and agricultural scientists, among others, would need to do some pretty basic work.

    • massivefocusedinaction says:

      I thought GMO crops were to allow liberal use of herbicides?

      • Nornagest says:

        There are lots of different reasons to modify crops. Disease resistance is a big one, and often implies less use of crop additives (many diseases are fought in non-resistant crops by spraying copper sulfate or other fungicides or biocides). Pest resistance is another, and obviously implies less pesticide use. Herbicide tolerance is, yes, a third. Then there’s improved yield, improved appearance, improved handling traits…

      • skef says:

        Huh … according to NPR the category “pesticide” includes both herbicides and insecticides. I don’t think of plants as pests, but I’m not much of a gardener (or a plant).

        Presumably Bt-crops and the like are the category relevant to the question.

      • JayT says:

        Some, like RoundUp Ready Corn, have been modified to allow liberal use of herbicides. However, there are many different types of GMOs, and some, like Bt corn, make the plants resistant to insects.

  20. veeloxtrox says:

    Another of the thoughts rolling around in my head that I want to hear thoughts from the SSC community[0].

    What is the minimum standard of living that the USA should provide its citizens? This is an idealistic question and ignores the practicality of both paying for and implementing any such standard of living. I think that quite a bit of the disagreement in US that is rooted in differing answers to this question. I would also be interested to know if people think that the answer should be different depending on the citizen. One example, should a 70 year old that worked in a factory for 50 years and is blind get the same standard of living as a 23 year old who is to lazy to work?

    [0] Shout out to all the people that have answered past questions of mine. It seems to becoming a habit that I ask questions and just kind of read the responses. If any has thoughts on this habit I would be happy to hear them.

    • rlms says:

      Ignoring the practicality stops that being a well-defined question. As written, I think the only two answers are “eternal lives of indescribable bliss for everyone” and “eternal lives of indescribable bliss for people who haven’t done bad things”.

    • Salem says:

      What is the minimum standard of living that the USA should provide its citizens? This is an idealistic question and ignores the practicality of both paying for and implementing any such standard of living.

      Well, if we don’t want to pay for anything, I say a chicken in every pot and a moon on every stick.

      I think that quite a bit of the disagreement in US that is rooted in differing answers to this question.

      No, I think most of the disagreement in the US results from whether you see “the practicality of paying for” – and creating – the resources we consume, individually and collectively, as a mere implementation detail or the key point.

    • Anonymous says:

      What is the minimum standard of living that the USA should provide its citizens?

      None. The government should not provide a standard of living.

      One example, should a 70 year old that worked in a factory for 50 years and is blind get the same standard of living as a 23 year old who is [too] lazy to work?

      Neither should get anything from the government, unless it’s some sort of damage compensation (like, for instance, if it’s the government’s fault the guy became blind).

      My point stands especially in a republic, where the money raised in taxation are not, de jure, the rulers’ own money. In a non-republican form of government, where the government treasury is all discretionary spending, to be used according to the despot’s (or clique’s) fancy, this problem does not tend to occur so much, because that money is better spent keeping the generals loyal (as opposed to bribing the electorate) and building golden palaces.

      The government should not pretend to be a charity, should not pretend to be a church, and should not pretend to be your family – all of which are the legitimate sources of aid for the poor.

  21. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hm6TU7JI0XU

    Two minutes about strength being a problem in meditation– I’m not sure I understand it.

    When Bruce Frantzis mentioned strength as a problem in meditation, I thought he meant a feeling of effort which was a result of opposing oneself.

    Thoughts?

    • Charles F says:

      If you feel like you’re using strength, there’s something wrong. Either you don’t have the capacity for the practice you’re currently doing yet (or as he put it, you’re a weakling), your form/technique is missing something and you’re trying to force the practice anyway by applying more effort, or there’s an outside/environmental problem preventing you from practicing effectively.

      Opposing oneself is a common pattern in the second category and it’s especially frustrating to try to resolve it through strength because the increased effort will increase the opposition along with the intended target. If you had the control to apply your effort only in the intended way, you wouldn’t be encountering the opposition in the first place.

  22. ldsrrs says:

    On the subject of predictive processing and perceptual control, I think there is an important difference between them: how they behave under nonlinear change of variables. For example, let’s say that you are holding a knob that is connected (with 1:1 gear ratio) to a wheel, which you can only see the side of through a slot. The knob has numbers on it, so you can tell what angle it is. The wheel has a dot on the side which lets you see the sine of the wheel’s angle. 0 degrees on the knob corresponds to the dot being in the middle of the slot. As you twist the knob the wheel turns and the dot moves up or down, or disappears to the far side of the wheel if you turn it too far. If you don’t care what position the dot is in (uniform utility), you also won’t care what angle the knob is at so you won’t turn it at all. If you care a little where the dot is, wanting it to be near the top enough to be worth the effort of moving it, but not much more, then you will just turn the knob to a little less than 90 degrees.

    Now let’s consider this from the point of view of estimation. Someone else is controlling the system. They are moving the dot (and the wheel with it) to a uniformly random vertical location on the slot. Your job is to guess where the knob will end up. In this situation you should pick 0 degrees, because sine inverse tends to produce more values in that range. The distribution of angles is not uniformly random, instead it is P(theta) = cos(theta). Since when dot is near the middle moving the knob makes the dot move faster than when the dot is at the top, more positions of the dot are covered by the middle of the knob’s range than the ends. Even if the dot is not chosen uniformly at random, and is instead biased slightly towards the top, you should still pick a point in the middle as the bias won’t be enough to make up for the nonlinear sine function.

    I think that under predictive processing the control and prediction scenarios would be treated the same, incorrectly predicting (in the control case) that you should put the knob near 0 degrees, even though you would slightly prefer an angle of almost 90 degrees. Even if predictive processing only works when controlling another mental subsystem as a tool, I think that there are plenty of things in the brain that would behave nonlinearly enough for this argument to work.

    The difference between control and prediction can be considered to be one of units. Utility is measured in utilons, or at least in some unit that doesn’t depend on the units of the variable you a controlling, while probability density, as you can tell from the word “density”, is measured in units of 1 over the units of the variable you are predicting. From the linear algebra point of view, utility is in a vector space and probability is in its dual space. Or, from measure theory, probability is a measure while utility is just a function to be integrated.

  23. ldsrrs says:

    On the subject of predictive processing and perceptual control, I think there is an important difference between them: how they behave under nonlinear change of variables. For example, let’s say that you are holding a knob that is connected (with 1:1 gear ratio) to a wheel, which you can only see the side of through a slot. The knob has numbers on it, so you can tell what angle it is. The wheel has a dot on the side which lets you see the sine of the wheel’s angle. 0 degrees on the knob corresponds to the dot being in the middle of the slot. As you twist the knob the wheel turns and the dot moves up or down, or disappears to the far side of the wheel if you turn it too far. If you don’t care what position the dot is in (uniform utility), you also won’t care what angle the knob is at so you won’t turn it at all. If you care a little where the dot is, wanting it to be near the top enough to be worth the effort of moving it, but not much more, then you will just turn the knob to a little less than 90 degrees.

    Now let’s consider this from the point of view of estimation. Someone else is controlling the system. They are moving the dot (and the wheel with it) to a uniformly random vertical location on the slot. Your job is to guess where the knob will end up. In this situation you should pick 0 degrees, because sine inverse tends to produce more values in that range. The distribution of angles is not uniformly random, instead it is P(theta) = cos(theta). Since when dot is near the middle moving the knob makes the dot move faster than when the dot is at the top, more positions of the dot are covered by the middle of the knob’s range than the ends. Even if the dot is not chosen uniformly at random, and is instead biased slightly towards the top, you should still pick a point in the middle as the bias won’t be enough to make up for the nonlinear sine function.

    I think that under predictive processing the control and prediction scenarios would be treated the same, incorrectly predicting (in the control case) that you should put the knob near 0 degrees even when you would slightly prefer the dot to be at the top. Even if predictive processing only works when controlling another mental subsystem as a tool, I think that there are plenty of things in the brain that would behave nonlinearly enough for this argument to work.

    The differences between control and prediction can be considered to be one of units. Utility is measured in utilons, or at least in some unit that doesn’t depend on the units of the variable you a controlling, while probability density, as you can tell from the word “density”, is measured in units of 1 over the units of the variable you are predicting. From the linear algebra point of view, utility is in a vector space and probability is in its dual space. Or, from measure theory, probability is a measure while utility is just a function to be integrated.

  24. DavidS says:

    Anyone here play Go? I ask mostly because I think it’s a great, great game but thought might particularly interest ‘rationalist-sphere’ people as
    1. Abstract games I think often appeal to intelligent and/or nerdy people (stereotypes all over the place here, I know)
    2. It’s very interesting from a ‘seeing your own improvement’ and self-conscious improvement angle. E.g. I’m using a system of reviewing every game I play online and sometimes getting reviews from others. Something very satisfying about this
    3. Links to interesting current affairs as Go was poster-child of ‘game that AI won’t beat human at as recently as maybe 5 years ago. Computers have now beaten humans and most recently a new bot has been made, proabbly the strongest ever, that learnt entirely off its own games with no human games to study or human preconceived principles or good/bad moves beyond the rules. https://deepmind.com/blog/alphago-zero-learning-scratch/

    • rlms says:

      Yes. I’m not that good though. The thing I like about it in comparison to chess (which I used to play quite a lot of) is the extent to which intuition matters. It’s much more about using pattern matching than calculation or memorisation. I also like being able to justify moves by quoting snappy proverbs.

    • Well... says:

      Related: anyone here play Pente?

      • massivefocusedinaction says:

        My family loves Pente. We played on a homemade set for years before we could easily find it over the internet.

      • Nick says:

        OH MY GOSH SOMEONE ELSE HAS HEARD OF IT

        Sorry. I feel so alone sometimes. A friend of mine made an online version of it a few years back and we all played a bunch of it. I was pretty good at it, but not great. I got some friends to play it more recently, but it didn’t catch on; they’re not really fans of abstract board games, especially when I’m the only one who really wants to play and I beat them every game anyway. 😛

        • Well... says:

          I was always better than everyone else I played in person. Then I discovered it’s online and never won a single game against anyone else I played there.

          • Nick says:

            I should see about coercing asking a friend to play with me online. He’s never played, so I figure I have a chance….

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      I don’t really play it, but could play a little bit about in the same way it’s expected of a civilized Westerner to know the rules of chess. I balk at the investment required to become even a “decent amateur” at both.

    • PedroS says:

      I play at OGS. I am barely 14-15k, but I thoroughly enjoy playing. I do not have much patience to review my own games, though.

  25. ldsrrs says:

    On the subject of predictive processing and perceptual control, I think there is an important difference between them: how they behave under nonlinear change of variables. For example, let’s say that you are holding a knob that is connected (with 1:1 gear ratio) to a wheel, which you can only see the side of through a slot. The knob has numbers on it, so you can tell what angle it is. The wheel has a dot on the side which lets you see the sine of the wheel’s angle. 0 degrees on the knob corresponds to the dot being in the middle of the slot. As you twist the knob the wheel turns and the dot moves up or down, or disappears to the far side of the wheel if you turn it too far. If you don’t care what position the dot is in (uniform utility), you also won’t care what angle the knob is at so you won’t turn it at all. If you care a little where the dot is, wanting it to be near the top enough to be worth the effort of moving it, but not much more, then you will just turn the knob to a little less than 90 degrees.

    Now let’s consider this from the point of view of estimation. Someone else is controlling the system. They positioning the dot at a uniformly random vertical location on the slot. Your job is to guess where the knob will end up. In this situation you should pick 0 degrees, because sine inverse tends to produce more values in that range. The distribution of angles is not uniformly random, instead it is P(theta) = cos(theta). Since when dot is near the middle moving the knob makes the dot move faster than when the dot is at the top, more positions of the dot are covered by the middle of the knob’s range than the ends. Even if the dot is not chosen uniformly at random, and is instead biased slightly towards the top, you should still pick a point in the middle as the bias won’t be enough to make up for the nonlinear sine function.

    I think that under predictive processing the control and prediction scenarios would be treated the same, incorrectly predicting (in the control case) that you should put the knob near 0 degrees even when you would slightly prefer the dot to be at the top.

    The differences between control and prediction can be considered to be one of units. Utility is measured in utilons, or at least in some unit that doesn’t depend on the units of the variable you a controlling, while probability density, as you can tell from the word “density”, is measured in units of 1/ the units of the variable you are predicting. From the linear algebra point of view, utility is in a vector space and probability is in its dual space. Or, from measure theory, probability is a measure while utility is just a function to be integrated.

  26. johan_larson says:

    Folks, we have a problem. And the problem is Christmas. It just doesn’t work where it is in the yearly calendar. it’s right next to New Year’s Day and, at least in the US, also uncomfortably close to Thanksgiving. Fortunately, there is no reason the birth of Jesus has to be celebrated in December. It’s just traditional. Tradition counts for little, so we can move it elsewhere in the year.

    The question is, where? Spacing out major holidays is a good idea. In the US, the big events of the year are New Year’s Day (January), the Super Bowl (February), Easter (April), Independence Day (July), Back to School (September), and Thanksgiving (November).

    What’s available? If we say that no two major events can share a month, we have Mar/May/Jun/Aug/Oct/Dec. It seems weird to have the two biggest religious events in adjacent months, so let’s drop the months around April, giving us Jun/Aug/Oct/Dec. New Years’s Day is right at the beginning of the month, so it really spoils Dec too, giving us Jun/Aug/Oct. Off hand, August looks pretty good. It’s well away from Easter, and nothing else is happening in August anyway.

    • JayT says:

      I actually think that it’s a good thing that the US’ three most universally celebrated holidays are all clustered in a six week period. It makes it easy to take long vacations without using too much PTO, and it consolidates all of the work days that you know nothing will get done at one time. If you throw Christmas into the middle of August, then you are killing a week out of what is probably one of the most productive months of the year.

      Of course, I was always the kid that ate all of his halloween candy the night of, because the ecstasy of that gluttony was so much better than trying to spread it out over a longer period.

    • RDNinja says:

      I’m sure Australia would be thrilled to finally use all those Christmas songs about winter time, but I don’t really want to give that up myself.

      End of December is good because I can dump all of my unused vacation days that I can’t carry over, to make an even longer Christmas break. Last year, I stretched it out enough to take advantage of the New Year holiday too.

    • dodrian says:

      Controversially I’m going to suggest keeping Christmas where it is, but moving New Year to August 1st.

      I realize this would cause no end of problems (date continuity, numbering months, etc etc), but I think it would make the year flow better, at least in the northern hemisphere.

      • johan_larson says:

        Oh, God. This is going to break so much software. It will be the 2000 bug all over again. You monster.

        • dodrian says:

          We’re going to change things in 2019. That’s halfway between Y2K and Unix Epoch End, to keep programmers in practice for massive time problem headaches.

      • bean says:

        With my fireworks hat on, I think this is a good thing. Particularly up north, you have to spend all 8 hours of daylight working, then spend 8 hours standing around in the cold waiting for midnight. If it was in summer, we could do 8 hours of work, spend two hours waiting, then go home.

    • Deiseach says:

      It’s just traditional. Tradition counts for little, so we can move it elsewhere in the year.

      You monster!

      Oh, it’s only traditional to celebrate your birthday, so your family and friends can forget all about it this year, right? 🙂

    • Well... says:

      Clustering major holidays creates other times of year when travel is cheaper (e.g. in the fall and in the early part of the year). If holidays were more evenly spaced I doubt this would happen.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Keeping them close together gives us a Schelling Point where we can say “NO! It is not Christmas Season yet!” We’re barely holding that line as is. If Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas were evenly spaced throughout the year, then the stores would be decked out in Halloween decorations January-April, Thanksgiving stuff May-August, and Christmas music September-December. Never-ending Hell on Earth, basically.

        • Well... says:

          Oh God you’re right. That’s a good point too.

        • Nornagest says:

          I don’t mind the decorations. I don’t even mind Christmas carols that much. It’s the obnoxious Christmas pop that I can’t stand, and it seems like it gets piped into every retail outlet on Earth for two months of the year.

          “Fairytale of New York” is cool, but I’ve never heard it shopping and I don’t think I ever will.

        • johan_larson says:

          Now you have me trying to imagine someone of such exquisitely refined sensibilities that listening to mediocre pop music is literally torture. It’s difficult. I’m not that creative.

          • SamChevre says:

            Imagine animatronic bears, playing a low-fi, off-key version of “Rudolf the Rednosed Reindeer” alternating with a low-fi, squeaky version of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”, approximately every 5 minutes. For 8 hours. While you work at a coffee stand coffee across the hall.

            Not quite torture, but definitely an experience I’d pay not to repeat.

  27. Odovacer says:

    What do you dislike about technology? Anything from the effects of certain technologies, to concepts, to uses, or pet peeves.

    GPS: Computer directions have gotten me out of a lot of jams. They’re very useful. However, I often find that they can be aggravating. For example, they will often have me cut through a residential neighborhood to make a left on a busy road where the cross-traffic doesn’t stop. Or, it will have me exit the highway, only to get right back on it, or take the highway when local streets are much easier and faster to navigate. I don’t know if it thinks it will save me a few seconds, but it often takes me more time overall.

    Sharing: I don’t care where you went for vacation, or what you had for dinner. I agreed to be your Facebook/Twitter friend because I know you and it would be “rude” not to. Thankfully, we can now mute/unfollow other people.

    Hype about old concepts: AirBnB is just boarding rooms. Uber is just a taxi. Bodega is just vending machines. These are very old concepts, but because there’s an app these very old concepts are now “amazing”!

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Luddite, I’ve used all of the above. I’m just channeling my inner Andy Rooney.

    • Nornagest says:

      AirBnB is just boarding rooms. Uber is just a taxi. Bodega is just vending machines. These are very old concepts, but because there’s an app these very old concepts are now “amazing”!

      They are exciting for two reasons. The first, more obvious one is that the app takes a lot of the friction out — before Uber, when I visited a strange city, I’d have to find a phone booth, flip through to the “taxi” section of the phone book there, find the company that looked least likely to overcharge me, feed fifty cents into the machine, hope the connection wasn’t too terrible and that the dispatcher and I spoke mutually intelligible dialects of English, and then wait an hour for a car to be available. In the five years or so between the demise of the phone booth and the rise of Uber, I’d have to Google it ahead of time or I’d just be screwed. Now I just summon an Uber or a Lyft and it’s there in five.

      The second, more arguable one is that a lot of customary and regulatory cruft and Seeing-Like-A-Stateing tends to accumulate around these concepts, and by pretending that the app makes it something totally new and different we can reset that in a way that would otherwise be politically impossible. This has admittedly mixed effects, and a lot of ink’s been spilled over its downsides, but I think it’s probably a good thing on balance — as evidenced by the fact that most of the complaints seem to come from a handful of rent-seekers (plus a few hopeless ideologues).

      • Well... says:

        Your Uber example isn’t fair. Suppose all other technology had advanced the same as it has except Uber and other ridesharing services and their respective apps weren’t invented. You’d get to your strange city, type 4 letters into your smartphone, hit the call button, and schedule your pickup. No reason why Ace Taxi should take any longer to get to you than Uber, given you’re in the same city.

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          And still talk to the impossible to understand dispatcher, wait the hour for the car to MAYBE show up, in a wreck with bad shocks, with a driver who reeks of smoke, bad cologne, and who is yelling at his wife’s brother-in-law in farsi on his phone, and who’s credit card reader still doesn’t work. And he’s in a shitty mood because he has to pay his taxi company for his own job, bribe his scheduler to get shifts so he can go home and see his wife and son while they are awake at least once a week, bribe his dispatcher to get this fare, bribe the garage mechanic to get a car that that actually runs, and has to work for 12 hours a day with no bennies, combining the worst of gig work with the worst of a job, with none of the advantages of either. While the owner of his taxi company is a fully paid up member of the “keep the city counselors and the members of the regulatory board in untraceable undeclared big bags of small bills spending money” club.

          Yeah no, the taxi companies deserve to die, the politicians they bought should be in prison, and there is no reason to have any goodwill towards the defenders of the taxi cartels. There is nothing there left to steelman.

          I fully support Uber, because it is apparent to me that it has required a team of asshole business psychopaths backed with billions of dollars of VC money to burn that rotten industry to the ground. Uber loses money on every ride, and I am all for VC billionaires subsidizing my life infrastructure. And when they both are done killing each other, the field is open to new TNCs. Once the taxi cartels are dead, staked, burned, and salted, there is no natural moat, no really high barriers to entry in the TNC industry.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          One large difference I see is in the models for certifying taxi drivers. Uber’s and Lyft’s seems to be less onerous. Another is the payment model, namely with the lack of tipping. (I’m not opposed to tipping in principle, but I personally find it preferable to not have to worry about it.)

          Of course, one could argue that these models are better because competition is forcing Uber / Lyft to beat the classic taxi system or go bankrupt. Technology is just the assistant here.

          • Brad says:

            I think Lyft has in app tipping and uber is putting it in under pressure. Once tipping is an option it is soon going to be socially mandated.

          • Jonathan says:

            I think Lyft has in app tipping and uber is putting it in under pressure. Once tipping is an option it is soon going to be socially mandated.

            Uber has already added it.

        • Nornagest says:

          No reason why Ace Taxi should take any longer to get to you than Uber, given you’re in the same city.

          Maybe there is “no reason”, but I was in a city that had banned Ubers recently, and the taxi I called still took an hour to get there.

          That strongly suggests to me that there’s some complexity here that’s being glossed over. One obvious issue is economy of scale — in most cities there are lots of taxi companies and each driver only works for a single one, so if I call a random taxi company its closest taxi is likely to be physically further from me than if I use a ridesharing app, where there are only two main companies (Uber and Lyft) and many drivers are hooked into both networks. Wouldn’t be surprised if the Uber/Lyft algorithm does a better job of dispatching than human dispatchers, either.

          • gbdub says:

            This discussion came up in a previous OT (can’t recall which one) and I think the answer was that taxi drivers strongly prefer street hails to dispatch, and if you’re far enough away from common pickup points that you can’t street hail a cab, the cabbie isn’t going to want to pick you up. Which makes sense, from the cabbie’s perspective – he doesn’t want to drop off / pick up in the boonies, where he’ll spend a lot of time driving without a fare.

            Uber punishes drivers who decline too many dispatches, so the effective pool of available drivers to pick you up in the boonies is larger.

          • Well... says:

            from the cabbie’s perspective – he doesn’t want to drop off / pick up in the boonies, where he’ll spend a lot of time driving without a fare.

            But doesn’t Uber have that same…

            Uber punishes drivers who decline too many dispatches

            …Oh. But, as I said further down, there aren’t that many Uber drivers, are there? And also, how sustainable is this? Wouldn’t the pool of Uber drivers eventually gel around busy areas where there are fewer fares worth turning down?

          • John Schilling says:

            Wouldn’t the pool of Uber drivers eventually gel around busy areas where there are fewer fares worth turning down?

            “Worth turning down” is doing the heavy lifting here. If Uber wants their drivers available 24/7 on ten minutes’ notice anywhere in downtown Sunnyvale, it will make those fares the offers too good to refuse, and it will do it without the riders noticing or paying extra. Fares that might pull drivers away from the preferred markets, Uber can make those invisible or it can just not subsidize them in which case drivers will start turning them down.

            So long as the investment money keeps flowing, Uber can make the drivers favor whatever markets it wants. And it quite reasonably wants to favor the markets filled with the sort of people most likely to become Uber investors.

          • gbdub says:

            The other trick is that in many (most? all?) places with a large traditional taxi presence, only taxis are allowed to pick up street hails – Uber drivers can legally only pick up fares they are dispatched to. Ubers also can’t wait at taxi stands.

            So the quick, easy fare pickups that cause cabbies to be lousy at getting to dispatched rides are not available to Uber drivers.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            I have been an Uber passenger going to back when all they did was black towncars. I’ve talked to a lot of Uber drivers, and for a few years one of my office EAs drove for Uber on weekends.

            Uber makes a best effort to dispatch the nearest driver, where nearest is roughly measured in drivetime (They used to have a problem where if you were too close to a freeway, it would select a driver that was nearby in euclidean space, but they were on the freeway and the next exit is 5 miles down.)

            It tries to interleave a bit, so if a driver is heading in your direction to drop someone off, they can immediately confirm they will come pick you up, after they drop that person off.

            If you want, you can select UberPool. And then the car will overlap passengers, picking up and dropping off people. This gets cheap. During peak times, when there are a lot of UberPool passengers, I can often UberPool across a major city for cheaper than the cost of the local muni bus system.

            Uber does not tell the driver the destination until the passenger gets picked up.

            Uber penalizes drivers for declining too many times, and increases the penalty if the pickup is in any geo that is, ah, “sensitive”, or any geo that statistically has too many declines. This is why Black America *loves* Uber: they will go into black neighborhoods, and they will pick up black passengers.

            I’ve spoken to Uber drivers who used to drive taxi, who will freely admit they used to refuse to go to black neighborhoods or carry black passengers, but now willingly do so. Drivers would claim that taxi to and from black neighborhoods ran too high a risk of fare stiffing, muggings, and “bad passengers”. Activists say the drivers overstate the problem. Either way, it’s much less of a problem for a TNC.

            If a destination is “too far”, then the driver can refuse with much less penalty. If it’s “too too far”, and the driver cannot pick up a passenger for the return, then the passenger get billed for the empty return trip.

            I’ve talked to Uber drivers who have taken passangers on long trips, up to 4 hours. Those get expensive, but if you missed your flight, and you HAVE to be there, Uber can do that. My own personal record is 3 hours: I had an Uber pick me up from an airport, drive me 90 minutes to a remote office park, someone waiting at the lab handed me a suitcase full of prototypes, and then the Uber drove me back to the airport.

            I know one guy who used to love Uber, and now hates it, because they won’t come pick him up. Said guy is a foulmouthed asshole and is proud of it, and ran afoul of one of Uber’s best features: the drivers get to rate the passengers just like the passengers rate the drivers. If a passenger’s rating drops below a certain point, the driver can decline to pick them up without penalty. If it drops even lower, Uber will kick them out of the system. Sometimes Uber till tell them they are kicked, and sometimes they just get shadowbanned: they can open the app, and request a pickup, but there just always is “there are no cars available”.

            Another feature that the drivers love: if a passenger damages the car, Uber bills the passenger for the repairs. If the passenger throws up in the car, the driver can immediately go a detailer, have it cleaned while it’s fresh, and the passenger gets billed for the cleanup. This is why Uber drivers are willing to do the “weekend club district runs”, in addition to the fare multipliers that are in effect in such areas.

          • Aapje says:

            @Standing in the Shadows

            Uber is generally cashless which means that they aren’t good targets for muggings, so that may play a major role too for why those drivers are willing to go into bad neighborhoods.

          • Bellum Gallicum says:

            I feel the reason Uber works better than taxis is that Venture companies have given Uber Billions of dollars to expand because software companies have much less regulatory burden and tax capture than a regular company.

            Because when a software company enters a business areana they get to compete without having to support the overall system.

            For example if I used a computer program to choose the ten best NBA players and pay each of them twice what they previous made. You win every championship because you wouldn’t have to buy a team, build an areana, or be subject to collective bargaining.

            This is what is underlying much of business in American and creating the conditions of the stratification of salaries and real estate prices

            If you earn in an uncaptured industry like software or finance everyone has high incomes and expensive houses, while everyone who works in other industries wonders why it’s impossible to get ahead.
            Which has caused many people in my opinion to dodge the whole thing by working for the government, Non Profits, or not work at all

            It’s not that software and banks are bad and factories and stores are good it’s that factories and stores have been around forever and are subject to massive amounts of regulation per capita by comparison

        • JayT says:

          No reason why Ace Taxi should take any longer to get to you than Uber, given you’re in the same city.

          There are actually several reasons why it will take a taxi longer to get to you.
          1) The taxis on its way to pick you up can grab a random person off the street before getting to you in the hopes they are going in the right direction, thus getting them two fares.

          2) The taxi can pick up someone off the street and just forget about you, making the dispatcher send out another cab, that can do the same.

          3) Taxis have specific zones they have to pick fairs up from. If there’s a taxi assigned to a sleepy suburb on Friday night they can’t drive out to the theater that just let out downtown to pick you up. You have to wait for one of the taxis in your zone.

          4) There are limits to how many taxis there are. If there is unexpected demand, there is nothing they can do to get more taxis on the road.

          • Well... says:

            Right but there aren’t that many Uber drivers either, are there? It seems like the Uber experience in large cities/busy suburbs just outside large cities is being pitted against the taxi experience in sleepy suburbs.

          • JayT says:

            The number of Uber drivers can, and does, change depending on demand. I know people that are not full time Uber drivers by any stretch, but if they don’t have anything going on during a weekend, and there is some event going on, they will turn on the Uber app and go grab some fares. The number of drivers expands and contracts along with the demand. Taxis on the other hand have to schedule their drivers, and even then, they have limits as to how many can be in a given area.

            The issue isn’t so much with taxis in sleepy suburbs, the issue is that there aren’t enough taxis in the city centers. So even if you call for one, it doesn’t mean you will definitely get one in any reasonable time frame.

        • John Schilling says:

          Except that Ace Taxi would almost certainly have to generate positive cash flow from the new scheme in the first year or two, and so couldn’t match the service/price point of a company that can subsidize its first decade of operations on investor hype and handwaving about driverless cars.

          • Well... says:

            You’re not exactly selling Uber there as something other than hype.

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not trying to. However, I will note that hype can be a useful tool for extracting money from fools and putting it to less-foolish uses. Uber has provided and will continue for at least a few more years to provide a useful transportation service for millions of people who were not well-served by conventional taxis. There’s a small chance that it will be critical to the development of self-driving cars. What else would the fools paying for it have been doing with their money, if not for Uber?

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            Austin Texas is an interesting place to look at for a post-Uber world. It is served by several local TNCs, some of which are organized as co-ops or as public-benefit corporations, which are now starting to experiment with cross federating their drivers and passengers.

            The only really difficult barrier to entry for the TNC industry ever was the existing taxi cartels. Once they are destroyed, there is not much of a natural monopoly, and not much need for national or international scale. This will make things a bit more difficult for people who travel to other cities a lot, but that’s a business problem with a technical solution.

          • Well... says:

            @John Schilling:

            I generally oppose driverless cars, so that’s still not a plus for Uber.

    • Baeraad says:

      TOUCHSCREENS! D<

      I hate those things. I am always pushing too hard or not hard enough. And my fingertops end up feeling weird because I've rubbed away all the oils from them. Give me buttons or give me death!

      Other than that, I can't actually think of anything. There are some things that annoy me because they're replacing something I'm used to with something I now have to learn how to use, and of course the social consequences of technology can be regrettable, but as far as the technology itself goes… touchscreens. Fuck'em.

      • Protagoras says:

        A view held by all right-thinking people, who can in fact be identified as right-thinking on the basis of their holding this view.

      • Odovacer says:

        I forgot that! I really dislike typing on a touchscreen. I often end up hitting the wrong keys.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        My peeve with touchscreens is that I can’t touch type. I can go over 100 wpm on a computer. On a touch screen, I’m lucky if I get 20. 10 if I have to use punctuation.

        • carvenvisage says:

          Have you tried disabling the audio feedback? usually there’s a big of lag which could be disconcerting if you’re used to keys clacking in rhythm with your fingers.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Lag is definitely not the bottleneck. The bottleneck is my having to use my thumbs to do what I could normally do with all ten fingers.

    • gbdub says:

      Stop trying to cram networks into things that don’t need them. It’s a huge vulnerability, leads to waste, and frankly I just don’t need internet access on my toaster.

    • Well... says:

      Since I am a Luddite, this is total catnip for me…

      +1 for GPS – I love my assortment of paper maps and take pride in those rare instances where I need to pull off somewhere to open one up and get my bearings.

      +1 for Sharing, though that points to a deeper and more general problem with social media and the internet.

      +1 for hype about old concepts.

      I’ll add…

      Emoticons and LOLspeak. Other than the odd smiley or tongue-out smiley to sort of give people permission to laugh along with you, I hate emoticons and these silly abbreviations. (Not ALL abbreviations; “ttyl” is OK, as is OK, because both do save time and convey meaning in an honest way, but “LOL” is disingenuous because you’re not really laughing out loud–“haha” is more honest because it’s self-contained–and OMFG doesn’t become less vulgar just because you haven’t spelled out the word “fucking.”) Speaking of which…

      The phrase “for fuck’s sake” and all its variations and abbreviations. (Yes, language is technology.) I hate this phrase; it belies an attitude that is directly opposite of empathy or humility. It’s the verbal equivalent of the posture where you’re standing there with your arms crossed tapping your foot impatiently, waiting for the other person to catch up to you in your enlightened, superior intellectual position. It’s patronizing, the way an annoyed parent talks to a misbehaved child.

      Modern cars. Automatic transmissions are bad enough, but I can be a bit sympathetic there. But, cars that keep you in your lane, that are full of giant touch-screens, that you need a PhD in electrical engineering to change the brakes on…all that stuff is just kinda pathetic. Speaking of which…

      Automatic driver’s door windows. I can forgive those horrible automatic windows on all the other doors, since when you’re alone in your car you might not be able to reach them, but the window that’s right next to you–the one that goes up and down the most and whose mechanism is at the greatest risk of meeting its lifetime cycle limit–could easily be controlled by a crank. Cranking a window up and down is not hard. It doesn’t take that long. And it’s more satisfying, kind of like being able to hang up on someone by slamming the phone down rather than by pressing a button. Speaking of which…

      Smartphones. You really don’t need to walk around with the internet in your pocket. You just don’t. A few people in a few select professions can make reasoned arguments about needing to be able to access various modes of communication, but even there I’m still left with some narrow-eyed doubt.

      Text messages longer than 50 characters. Just call me. Or we can text back and forth to say we’re unable to talk right now and then one of us can call the other later.

      Buffets in which the silverware and napkins are placed at the beginning of the line rather than at the end. OK, this is pushing the definition of “technology” a bit, but it definitely is a kind of system design issue. First of all, I’m going to be carrying a plate and shoveling food onto it. Let me focus on that task without juggling extra items. Second of all, it’s not until I get to the end when I’ll really know what silverware I need and I’ll be thinking about how to wipe up my face after I’ve gobbled up all this mess. For any of you planning a spread for a party or an event, please take note.

      Driverless cars. I think there’s a high probability that we will not be able to have mixed-autonomy roads for very long (ostensibly for safety reasons) which means driverless cars are the death of regular cars. I like regular cars. I like car culture. And even though I occasionally would rather be reading or sleeping or whatever else, I like driving.

      IoT. I don’t need my phone to talk to my lamp to talk to my shoes to talk to my toaster oven. Nobody does. And as another commenter pointed out, it just opens up all these potential points of vulnerability.

      Wearables. And here I mean things that are active (so, not glasses), talk to other devices (so, not traditional wristwatches), and maybe some third criterion that I’m forgetting. I’m not absolutely opposed to cyborgism, since prescription medication and eyeglasses and pacemakers and prosthetic limbs are steps along that road, but I think I’m opposed to elective cyborgism that’s meant to enhance people beyond their natural capabilities or to modify people beyond their natural qualities. Speaking of which…

      Tattoos, piercings, and other similar types of permanent body modification. The body you were born with is a completed work of beauty, not a blank canvas. I theorize that to see your body as a blank canvas suggests you might have a mental disorder akin to facial blindness. Every reason given for getting one of these body modifications (that I’ve ever heard anyway) leaves open another way the person could have gotten that same benefit without the body modification: “This symbol is important to me;” –> “Paint it on your bedroom wall.” “I like pain;” –> “Pay someone to slap you in the face.” Etc. The one exception is as a marker of group belonging, as in a gang or military unit or primitive tribe. To that point, it’s true that body modification has been the norm for most of human history and that the thousand or so years–now ending–when it was tabooed in the Western world was the aberration, but for most of that time humans lived in small tribes and experienced a lot of conflict. Markers of tribal identity were important for survival and morale reasons.

      Headphones or earbuds worn in public. Get that junk out of your ears/off your head. Come live in the real world with the rest of us.

      Boy, I’m getting grumpier as I write this. I should stop.

      [Edited to add: here’s a few that don’t make me quite so pissed off.]
      The lighter fluid people pour over charcoals when barbecuing. This stuff makes everything you cook taste like chemicals. I doubt it’s healthy. To get your coals started, just build a small wood fire, then place your coals gently on top of it. Add more coals as those first ones catch. It’s really not that hard.

      Big lawns. And by big I mean bigger than about 200 square feet, because a little lawn is nice to walk around barefoot on now and then or set up an occasional game of backyard badminton or whatever. Beyond that, who needs that much grass? Nobody, that’s who. It’s a pain to mow and rake, it’s a pain to weed and edge, it’s wasteful to water, and it’s ugly as sin. Give me trees, myrtle, bushes, raised beds, gravel with succulents planted in it, a zen rock garden–almost anything else.

      Anime. OK it’s not a technology but I’m going to rant about it anyway. Beautiful, rich, detailed backgrounds done in gorgeous watercolors…and then foreground sprites that look like they’re drawn in friggin crayon, animated at 12fps, or frequently there’s no movement at all and just panning across it. All within an extremely narrow stylistic range. Don’t the Japanese know how to do cell animation properly? What the heck is this crap, and how can anyone stand watching it? It’s beyond me.

      • Civilis says:

        Anime. OK it’s not a technology but I’m going to rant about it anyway. Beautiful, rich, detailed backgrounds done in gorgeous watercolors…and then foreground sprites that look like they’re drawn in friggin crayon, animated at 12fps, or frequently there’s no movement at all and just panning across it. All within an extremely narrow stylistic range. Don’t the Japanese know how to do cell animation properly? What the heck is this crap, and how can anyone stand watching it? It’s beyond me.

        Obviously, you’re not watching the right anime. It’s excusable, as most of what comes to the attention of non-fans over here is the cheap stuff put together for teens, almost all of which is done in a specific, identical style. And it’s often (but not always) getting better while most Western cartoons for the same audience have been reduced to the point that they are practically Adobe Flash animations.

        • Charles F says:

          I had pretty much the same view as @Well… until a few weeks ago. With a very small number of exceptions which made up for it on other merits (plus Madoka, which I thought was actually good in terms of animation) I couldn’t bring myself to watch anime. Then a friend told me about OVAs, which apparently are where 99% of studios’ actual efforts go, and showed me a couple of them. I haven’t gotten around to watching more than the couple they showed me, but I definitely plan to.

          • Civilis says:

            There’s very definitely a Your Mileage May Very quotient with any form of art. Something I enjoy, I always assume there’s a baseline 10% chance that someone else will just not like for some reason, and that’s if we have almost the same tastes to start with. I normally wouldn’t have replied to @Well…, since there’s nothing wrong with not liking anime, it’s just I was thinking on the subject after the Star Trek/Star Wars thread, and his specific complaints were things I’d seen from people that had only seen a limited cross-section of the genre and had extrapolated that to the genre as a whole.

            Your complaints sound more like what ‘I tried it and didn’t like it’ sounds like. I can’t get into Dr. Who or Firefly. I’ve tried both, and I see what people like about both series, but they didn’t click with me. But I’m not going to apply criticisms of those series to sci-fi TV as a whole, because there’s a good chance I’m not seeing a representative sample of it or I don’t understand what people are seeing in it. People aren’t watching Dr. Who for the cutting edge special effects, and if I tried watching it just for the effects, I’d never have gotten as far as I did.

            There are definitely differing quality levels in animation in anime, depending on the studio and budget. If the series is popular enough to support a bonus OVA release, it’s probably high quality to begin with, and of course the OVA is going to be better done. You’ll also get some series where the studio is phoning it in, and the animation and story suffer. And phoning it in tends to happen with a lot of long-running series, which have long-term fans with an investment in the series who stick with it despite the flaws. And then there are the one or two exceptions, best illustrated (heh) with the recent kerfuffle over Kemono Friends, where the animation is horribly low budget but the series is popular because the production team worked hard to compensate for it.

          • Nornagest says:

            TV anime is cheap as hell. Even moreso than Western TV animation; however cheap you think it is, it’s cheaper than that. The studios cut every corner they can because they don’t have the budget to do anything else — compare Hanna-Barbera cartoons from the Seventies and Eighties.

            The artistic standards for individual frames are pretty high as long as that segment didn’t get farmed out to some fly-by-night studio in Korea, and there are lots of tricks that get used to make the animation feel more fluid than it is, but it’s never going to have Disney’s detail or fluidity because Disney-style animation is incredibly expensive.

          • Well... says:

            Can you give some examples?

            I have a couple friends who are huge anime fans and they’ve shown me off-the-beaten-path stuff but it still had those problems I mentioned and I found it uninteresting/unpleasant to watch.

          • Jiro says:

            OVAs were most popular in the late 1980’s-early 1990’s, where Japan was doing well economically and creators had money to burn on projects. Furthermore, something that was an OVA back then would probably be a 12 episode late night TV series now, which would of course have a lower budget per episode.

          • Nornagest says:

            Off-the-beaten-path generally implies niche, which implies even cheaper. The TV anime with the highest technical quality tend to be self-contained mainstream series by established studios, lasting a season or two — longer-running series tend to get used as cash cows, and also to have a lot of filler.

          • Civilis says:

            I have a couple friends who are huge anime fans and they’ve shown me off-the-beaten-path stuff but it still had those problems I mentioned and I found it uninteresting/unpleasant to watch.

            I apologize for any flippancy in my initial reply, I was assuming a bit from your post, perhaps assuming things that weren’t there. I’m now thinking that it might be that I don’t notice the animation tricks because I’m focused on the story and used to the medium, or because I’ve watched enough series that the differences between, say, the Shounen Jump style and the CLAMP style are meaningful enough to differentiate art styles, where they might not be for someone not into the medium.

            I have an uncomfortably high miss rate recommending anime series to friends that I know enjoy anime that I don’t feel comfortable recommending things to people who’s tastes I don’t know.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I don’t think “Shonen Jump style” is a meaningful category in the way CLAMP is, as far as artsyle goes.

          • Civilis says:

            Off-the-beaten-path generally implies niche, which implies even cheaper. The TV anime with the highest technical quality tend to be self-contained mainstream series by established studios, lasting a season or two — longer-running series tend to get used as cash cows, and also to have a lot of filler.

            Off-the-beaten-path for an American discussing anime implies shows which weren’t shown on TV in America. Most of those are shows in the Shounen Jump male-teen-action audience model (Dragonball / Bleach / Naruto / etc.) or that made it to Adult Swim. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Death Note and Cowboy Bebop probably don’t count as off-the-beaten-path. On the other hand, there’s shows which while Big In Japan never had a chance of making it over here outside the anime community.

          • lvlln says:

            @Well…

            Can you give some examples?

            I have a couple friends who are huge anime fans and they’ve shown me off-the-beaten-path stuff but it still had those problems I mentioned and I found it uninteresting/unpleasant to watch.

            I’m a huge anime fan, and, if anything, your description of anime’s technical failings is a bit generous. I believe most animation in most anime is at 8fps (i.e. animated on the 3s on 24fps). I’d guess the technical failings and the stylistic limitations you criticize describe something like 99% of all TV anime, and TV anime makes up most of anime that fans tend to watch.

            That said, there is that 1% that are higher quality and/or more stylistically creative. YMMV on whether those sufficiently overcome your issues with anime, though. I’d recommend checking out some Masaaki Yuasa works like Tatami Galaxy (one of my personal favorites) or Kaiba for something that’s both stylistically different from most anime and also with more fluid animation. Works by Akiyuki Shinbo tend to be stylistically very different from most anime (despite similar character designs and even lower technical quality), with examples like Magical Girl Madoka Magica, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei (personal favorite anime comedy), or Bakemonogatari, among many others.

            For higher technical values in TV anime, Kyoto Animation has made a name for itself for tending to use smoother animation more than most studios. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s usually a noticeable step up. Examples include The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Hyouka, Sound Euphonium!, among many others.

            Movies and OVAs often avoid the pitfalls you mentioned, because they’re usually higher budget and often have more artistic freedom. Above creators I mentioned – Yuasa, Shinbo, KyoAni – all have movies that go above and beyond what they do with their TV shows, at least in terms of technical quality and often in stylistic creativity (Kizumonogatari – not directed directly by Shinbo but at his studio – stands out in recent memory). Specific to movies, there are some well known directors too – you’ve almost definitely heard of Miyazaki, who’s alright, but I’m a bigger fan of Satoshi Kon (Paprika & Millennium Actress are 2 of my favorites), Makoto Shinkai (Your Name and the first 1/3 of 8CM/s are great, and his works are always beautiful, though you might find the character designs and animations to suffer from the same issues you complained about), and Kazuya Tsurumaki/Hideaki Anno (FLCL, Diebuster, Evangelion 2.22 – that last one is legit one of the best action movies I’ve seen, animated or not).

            Obviously, I’m not saying you should check all of these out, but if any of the above shows/movies pique your interest after learning more about what they actually are, you might find that they don’t run into the issues you have with most anime, or at least the issues are fairly minimal.

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          Western cartoons for the same audience have been reduced to the point that they are practically Adobe Flash animations

          You may be thinking you are being figurative, but that’s literally true, but it’s not the bad thing you think it is. A lot of animation work is done with specialized-for-animation-artists software tools, which literally outputs SWF as part of archive and rendering pipelines. SWF is liked because it’s a well characterized format that lots of tools can handle, and that can be and has been rerendered as needed for everything from 240×200 on a small phone to 24kX16k for digital IMAX.

          It can be stunningly gorgeous work. Go look for the thesis projects for graduates from CalArts and from Sheradon Animation and from Digipen and from etc etc etc. Most of those are “Adobe Flash animations” then rendered into H.264 or WebM for YouTube playback.

          • Civilis says:

            You may be thinking you are being figurative, but that’s literally true, but it’s not the bad thing you think it is.

            These tools aren’t necessarily bad, but their use on a TV show is almost always a sign that the network is trying to churn out the show as cheaply as possible, which almost never corresponds with the show being good. Shows don’t need to be expensive to be good, but it does take effort to make a good show, and choosing to use the cheapest production method possible usually doesn’t match up with putting effort in to make a show good.

            There are, of course, exceptions. South Park uses extremely crude animation (insert obvious joke here), and it works because the show’s humor is premised on its topicality, and so a ridiculously fast turnaround time is necessary.

      • Nick says:

        “LOL” is disingenuous because you’re not really laughing out loud

        I made a rule a long time ago that I wouldn’t use “lol” unless I really did laugh out loud.

        • Well... says:

          I kinda made that rule with myself too, but then I found that if I actually laughed out loud it was so remarkable that I’d feel moved to just write something like “I literally just laughed out loud at that.”

          • Nick says:

            The trouble, as I see it, is that we need a polite sign for approving of someone’s humor; if “lol” comes across as too committed to actual, laugh out loud hilarity, we just need a weaker one. I think “hah” is better captures polite chuckling than “lol” does and might be a good compromise for you, and I do use it sometimes myself.

            (Truly, truly, this is the sort of analysis folks come to SSC for.)

          • Randy M says:

            (Truly, truly, this is the sort of analysis folks come to SSC for.)

            In that case it’s interesting to point out the different connotations of “hah” and “heh” and even perhaps “haha” (let alone the Simpson’s tainted “ha-ha” or an uncontrolled “hahaha”)
            Hah is a more surprised sort of laugh, showing genuine, though brief, amusement. Heh is honest appreciation, too, but less surprised; kind of like you saw a joke coming, but still enjoyed the particular artistry employed.

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, absolutely, Randy. Though most of the reason I prefer “Hah” to “Heh” is that it can’t (in my experience) come across as ironic or insincere the way “Heh” can; “Heh”‘s honest appreciation is only contextual and subject to subversion.

          • Randy M says:

            You’re right, I should have said “can be.” If you are laughing at someone, hah is an uncontrolled guffaw at a pratfall; heh is a snide enjoyment of their faux pas.

          • quaelegit says:

            @nick

            I don’t know about anyone else, but this is exactly* the sort of analysis I come to SSC for 😛

            *Well, one of the kinds, at least

          • Well... says:

            @quaelegit:

            Seconded.

            Also I agree with this particular analysis 100%.

          • carvenvisage says:

            and even perhaps “haha” (let alone the Simpson’s tainted “ha-ha”

            hahahahahaha

            _

            one reason ‘lol’ is good is because it’s easy to type while you’re still laughing. I did laugh pretty hard at this but I couldn’t type the above until I was mostly done.

      • ManyCookies says:

        I like regular cars. I like car culture.

        U.S horse culture is pretty healthy despite their obsolescence as a mode of travel, I think driving culture would likewise survive on private roads/tracks.

        • Well... says:

          I think you’re right–there might still be some private tracks where you can drive your old-school human-controlled car. But overall, it’s not a fair comparison:

          A horse is not analogous to a car. The engine of a car, maybe. If you’re strictly referring to the horse itself as the mode of travel, it was analogous to a motorcycle.

          A horse is a thing to behold in its own right. Basically nobody keeps a running engine on a stand in their garage.

          U.S. horse culture is healthy by the standards of “quaint cultures that are obsolete in utilitarian terms,” but I don’t think it’s healthy by the standards of “cultures based around common modes of transportation.”

          • Evan Þ says:

            A decent number of people keep classic cars in their garages, too. My uncle and cousin restore them as a hobby.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Assuming that driverless cars won’t mix well with regular cars(I think you’re right about that), your options are either to keep car culture or save thousands of lives every day.

        • John Schilling says:

          Assuming that driverless cars won’t mix well with regular cars and that driverless cars are substantially safer than regular cars while delivering equivalent performance.

          The best pilotless airplanes still insist on crashing an order of magnitude or so more often than regular planes flying equivalent mission profiles(*). And the aviation environment is positively pristine compared to the urban driving environment.
          So, for all the AI-worship here, I’m going to insist on making that assumption explicit w/re driverless cars and I’m going to dismiss any claim or argument that doesn’t at least make a good-faith effort to defend it.

          * Now mostly mission profiles where nobody shoots at the very very expensive drone, so this isn’t a matter of taking on extra risk while leaving the pilot at home.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Pilots go through more training and have higher incentive to be more attentive than your typical driver. Even if they weren’t substantially safer than a good driver, they could still save thousands of lives that way.

            Either way, I can’t imagine that legislatures would ban regular cars from the road unless there was a compelling reason. If self driving cars weren’t safer they would either share the road or be banned until they were safer.

          • CatCube says:

            As previous experience has shown, “compelling reason” can include a constituency protecting it’s ricebowl. For example, there really wasn’t much of a compelling reason to sharply limit taxi license numbers, except for taxi company profits.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Catcube

            People aren’t very passionate about taxi medallions. If a city literally banned people from driving for no good reason, those people are going to kicked out of office and they know that.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I hate this phrase; it belies an attitude that is directly opposite of empathy or humility.

        It’s supposed to be swearing; apparently it still carries some weight.

        but the window that’s right next to you–the one that goes up and down the most and whose mechanism is at the greatest risk of meeting its lifetime cycle limit–could easily be controlled by a crank.

        The modern motorized mechanism is slightly lighter and cheaper, and doesn’t hit your knee.

        Headphones or earbuds worn in public.

        That goes back to the Sony Walkman. Probably makes the crowded urban world a lot more pleasant for some people… which is definitely a bad thing.

        The lighter fluid people pour over charcoals when barbecuing

        You’re only supposed to use it to start the coals, not add it afterwards! Use it right and you won’t taste it because it’s quite volatile and will burn off before the coals are ready. But a chimney starter works as well.

        Driverless cars.

        Indeed. If the choice is between the end of car culture and tens of thousands of deaths… death it is. Especially because the end of ordinary cars probably also means the rest of us dragged kicking and screaming into urban ratboxes where the fleet owners find it economical to operate.

        • Lillian says:

          Unusual to see someone outright admitting a higher death rate is an acceptable price to pay for keeping something they like. Most people will tiptoe around that belief because innocent life is one of Western culture’s sacradest vaues. A

          A similar thing happens with gun culure. Maybe i’m just typical minding here, but i’m pretty sure a a substantial portion of gun owners do believe draconian gun control would save lives, but are willing to accept a higher murder rate and the occasional gun rampage in order to keep their guns. It would be interesting if people started admitting it, but probably tactically unwise. Though there is this!

          • cassander says:

            I would guarantee that the vast majority of gun owners think that banning guns would result in more murders, because, to quote them, if you make guns criminal, then only criminals will have guns. If you corner them on gun suicides, then maybe you’ll get them to admit overall fewer deaths might come about, but probably not and definitely not for murders.

            For my money, I don’t care how many people it kills, I want a 100mph speed limit on the interstates.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Unusual to see someone outright admitting a higher death rate is an acceptable price to pay for keeping something they like. Most people will tiptoe around that belief because innocent life is one of Western culture’s sacradest vaues.

            Ah, but the preference revealed by their right foot (and feigned inability to see red lights and stop signs) says otherwise. And at one time “safety box” was a car enthusiast’s derogatory term for cars engineered for safety rather than enjoyment.

      • carvenvisage says:

        but “LOL” is disingenuous because you’re not really laughing out loud

        lol has mutated to be more about it’s phonetics than its acronym.

        It’s like punctuation. I’ve used it in person.

        LOL is a squawk. Don’t think I’ve used that one in person, ..bug eyes and all.

        Sometimes I’m not only laughing when I type it, I’m saying it out loud as well. lol. (was laughing there, but didn’t say it)

        • The original Mr. X says:

          I also know people (sick, degenerate people) who say “lol” in conversation when they’re clearly not laughing out loud.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      If your tech has a UI you’ve just about got to have UI specialists on hand. But once you’ve got them, they’re going to keep futzing with the UI just to keep busy. I’ve found that at least 9 out of 10 updates are changes for the worse.

      • Aapje says:

        @Paul

        You can also use UI consultants.

      • Well... says:

        But once you’ve got them, they’re going to keep futzing with the UI just to keep busy

        So? Let them make their recommendations and then put them in the backlog, and prioritize them along with all the other user stories. If they’re that important they’ll get prioritized high enough to be worked on in an upcoming sprint.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        Still and all, they do seem to fiddle constantly with UIs. Alternative explanations welcome.

        • Well... says:

          If you’re referring to the way websites keep changing their looks and layouts once in a while, some of that is push from marketing to stay up to date with the branding. (Why marketing keeps changing the branding, I’m not sure. I thought Taco Bell’s orange-green-maroon mid-90s look was fine, didn’t make me want their food any less than today’s purple-magenta-yellow look.)

          Most of the rest of it is dark patterns designed to increase your engagement and test your habits.

          The remaining fraction is because they’re designing things iteratively and have figured out a better way to handle some interaction.

    • pontifex says:

      I think social media was a terrible invention. Twitter encourages the worst kind of bandwagoning, me-too mob mentality. Facebook, Google+, etc. encourage people to overshare parts of their life that should be private.

      You might think that you could opt out of Facebook, but you would be wrong. Facebook keeps “shadow accounts” of people who don’t create accounts. And people can tag your face in their photos, and so forth. Not to mention, if you have no page, people may create a fake account for you. So like credit bureaus or the NSA, it’s just something we have to accept now.

      Similarly, with Twitter, you can choose not to look at it (and you should!) but you still have to live in a country governed by someone who uses it constantly. And you still have to deal with hordes of people who will not shut up about the latest Twitter fad. Or even worse, who vote according to what they read on Twitter.

  28. Wrong Species says:

    Third times the charm: libertarianism part 3.(1 2)

    I have mentioned that property tax isn’t fundamentally different than rent up above. I want to break down exactly what I mean by that. Take four scenarios:

    1) You are born in a country and never reside anywhere else.

    2) You are an immigrant to a country.

    3) You live in one house your whole life.

    4) You grow up in one house and then leave and find another house to reside in.

    When it comes the voluntaristic qualities of each scenario, libertarians group up 1 and 2 compared to 3 and 4. But in my view, the better grouping is 1 and 3, versus 2 and 4. In 2 and 4, they both have a singular moment of consent when we can agree they consented to the rules of the land. But in one and three, there isn’t that singular moment and that’s what makes consent tricky in those situations. I think where libertarians get confused is that the central example of property tax is residing in a country your entire life and the central example of rent is leaving your parents house and finding a place on your own. That’s why they see property tax as involuntary and rent as voluntary. And the reason that these are the central examples of property tax and rent is that countries are big and properties are small. But big and small aren’t the fundamental aspect of voluntaryness. You can have tiny states and large property.

    • This doesn’t make much sense to me. I think your point is that while libertarians will say you volunteer to live in a house and can always move somewhere else, you are thinking one also volunteers to live in a country and can live somewhere else?

      This might make sense if there were as many countries as there are houses, and if there were as few barriers to switching countries as there are to switching houses. But neither of those are anywhere close to being true. I have lived in dozens of houses and apartments in my life, but only one country. It is definitely voluntary what house I live in. It would be a lot more difficult to switch countries, and there are a whole lot fewer choices of countries than houses.

      I don’t think this argument holds water.

      • Wrong Species says:

        If you were right, then libertarians could simply be satisfied with an arrangement that had smaller states. Conversely, property owners acquiring large tracts of land would be considered an involuntary arrangement. Either way, the distinction between state/property doesn’t hold.

        • quanta413 says:

          As a vaguely libertarian-ish person, if changing government really was as easy and flexible as changing houses currently is (in the U.S.), yes, I would consider your analogy fairly reasonable. You’re almost describing ancapistan at that point. It’s not just a matter of size but also of the ability to relatively easily leave one contract and form a new contract.

          But I don’t think you’ve even meaningfully answered why the vast difference in scale between even small states and large properties is somehow unimportant. When’s the last time a private property owner controlled as much land as a significant state? When Leopold II ruled the Congo? The house of Saud or something? I can only think of royalty, and I don’t think this is something libertarians really approve of.

          Or to look at it another way, total U.S. wealth is about 1000x as much wealth as the wealthiest man in the world (currently Bill Gates). Pretend for the moment that the U.S. has all the wealth so we exaggerate how much wealth is concentrated in one man. Now compare to the land and population claimed by various states as a fraction of the world total. If the largest state in the world consisted of 1/1000 of the population of the world (i.e. the largest government claimed 6 million citizens) and the typical state was far, far smaller that would metaphorically be similar to Bill Gates vs everyone else. The reality is that 6 million is a very small state, and most people live under governments that can and often do screw people orders of magnitude harder than Bill Gates ever could screw anyone.

        • Thegnskald says:

          I feel like you don’t read much libertarian thought, here.

          Smaller states (combined with open borders) is, in fact, one of the proposed solutions to the things they regard as problems. It isn’t universally regarded as a complete solution, but libertarians can’t agree on anything, so that isn’t a surprise.

          • Wrong Species says:

            You’re not even a libertarian right? This isn’t how all libertarians think but it’s pretty much the defining aspect of deontological anarcho-capitalism as written about by people like Murray Rothbard and Michael Huemer. Read For a New Liberty by Rothbard or Problems of Political Authority by Huemer if you want to know how they actually think. I promise you that they would not agree that small geographic states are the solution to the problems of bigger states.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Used to be.

            And Rothbard was making the rounds in libertarian circles when I left, with increasing interest as a result of various projects attempting to round up funding for a microstate.

          • actinide meta says:

            @Wrong Species

            Since you cite Huemer as an example of the philosophy you are trying to refute, it seems to me that he engages pretty directly with your line of argument practically right away in The Problem of Political Authority. He categorizes it as a social contract argument. From section 2.5.1:

            “Begin with the first condition on valid agreements: all parties to a contract must have a reasonable way of opting out… In light of [the extreme difficulty and cost of emigration], is the option of leaving the territory a reasonable way of opting out of the social contract?… [But] this is not the primary issue. The primary issue is whether one is being asked to give up something to which one has a right, as the price of rejecting the social contract… Here is one answer: perhaps the state owns all the territory over which it claims jurisdiction… Even if we granted that the state owns its territory, it is debatable whether it may expel people who reject the social contract [because of the really bad consequences of that]. But… we may instead focus on whether the state in fact owns all the territory over which it claims jurisdiction. [It doesn’t.]”

            So Huemer thinks the most important problem with equating the government’s actions with those of a property owner is just that the government doesn’t actually own the territory. Secondarily, he makes the point that even a legitimate property owner would probably not have an absolute moral right to their property in an analogously oligarchic situation. These objections seem pretty similar to the ones you are getting here. I don’t think that deontological libertarians are as insensitive to circumstance as you suppose.

            In my own view, the most relevant difference between states and properties is neither historical (in)justice or size. It’s entry cost. If it were practical to raise some capital, buy sovereign territory, and start a new state, without fighting a war, that wouldn’t make the actions of existing states right, but it would mean those of us who object to the status quo could go try to build better institutions instead of complaining.

            And conversely, if there were no property for sale anywhere in the world (or if the prices were astronomical), the argument that property rights were oppressive would… start sounding pretty good to me.

          • B Beck says:

            @Wrong Species

            I promise you that they would not agree that small geographic states are the solution to the problems of bigger states.”

            Small geographic states as the solution to the problems of bigger states is almost exactly what Rothbard argues for in Nations by Consent:Decomposing the Nation-State

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Beck

            You either misunderstand me or Rothbard. His point is that anarcho-capitalism is the only solution to the problem of nation states. Secession is simply a gateway. That is what my point was.

            @actinide

            And conversely, if there were no property for sale anywhere in the world (or if the prices were astronomical), the argument that

            Let’s say we dismantled states and started fresh. I don’t see any reason why economies of scale wouldn’t kick in and all the productive areas of the world would get bought up by the wealthy. In that world, land property because much more valuable because you can rule instead of simply charge rent. I think that scenario is very likely.

          • actinide meta says:

            @Wrong Species

            I don’t see any reason why economies of scale wouldn’t kick in and all the productive areas of the world would get bought up by the wealthy. In that world, land property because much more valuable because you can rule instead of simply charge rent.

            I explained why no one will ever peacefully buy up all the land in the world, or raise the prices to extreme levels, in a previous conversation with you. I can’t rule out that anarcho-capitalism would increase land prices (though it isn’t obvious; sovereigns have to pay for defense!). But if sovereign title is much more valuable that only makes it harder to get a monopoly. And we aren’t talking about anything analogous to “desert island” scenarios.

            If you mean that anarcho-capitalist institutions would fail to prevent violent conquest, or that the market would fail to find ways to provide security without huge territories that look just like states, or something like that, you could be right or wrong depending on the institutions. I call myself an ancap because I think that optimal institutions, whatever they are, probably don’t include recognizable states and do include a lot of free exchange. It doesn’t mean that I think Machinery of Freedom or Problem of Political Authority Part 2 are complete blueprints for a utopia. It certainly doesn’t mean that I think that if you tore down existing states better institutions would somehow automatically materialize. We have ample evidence that successful anarcho-capitalism isn’t inevitable, because the status quo obviously arose in some sense from “anarchy.”

          • Wrong Species says:

            @actinide meta

            You explained why one person couldn’t buy up the entire world, which was never something I actually believed. It was part of a thought experiment in the same manner that Tale of the Slave doesn’t depend on its realism to make its point. But there’s a difference between one guy and a bunch of rich guys.

          • actinide meta says:

            @Wrong Species

            It’s even harder for a group of people to significantly harm you by buying up property. They likewise have to come up with multiples of the whole wealth of the world to drive the price up significantly, and then they have to solve the extra problem of coordinating to oppress you.

          • But there’s a difference between one guy and a bunch of rich guys.

            The difference being that one guy has a monopoly and so can charge a monopoly price, a reasonably large number of rich guys are a competitive market and charge a competitive price because of the difficult of maintaining a cartel with many members.

        • actinide meta says:

          @Wrong Species

          Since you cite Huemer as an example of the philosophy you are trying to refute, it seems to me that he engages pretty directly with your line of argument practically right away in The Problem of Political Authority. He categorizes it as a social contract argument. From section 2.5.1:

          “Begin with the first condition on valid agreements: all parties to a contract must have a reasonable way of opting out… In light of [the extreme difficulty and cost of emigration], is the option of leaving the territory a reasonable way of opting out of the social contract?… [But] this is not the primary issue. The primary issue is whether one is being asked to give up something to which one has a right, as the price of rejecting the social contract… Here is one answer: perhaps the state owns all the territory over which it claims jurisdiction… Even if we granted that the state owns its territory, it is debatable whether it may expel people who reject the social contract [because of the really bad consequences of that]. But… we may instead focus on whether the state in fact owns all the territory over which it claims jurisdiction. [It doesn’t.]”

          So Huemer thinks the most important problem with equating the government’s actions with those of a property owner is just that the government doesn’t actually own the territory. Secondarily, he makes the point that even a legitimate property owner would probably not have an absolute moral right to their property in an analogously oligarchic situation. These objections seem pretty similar to the ones you are getting here. I don’t think that deontological libertarians are as insensitive to details of the situation as you suppose.

          In my own view, the most important difference between states and properties is neither historical (in)justice or size. It’s entry cost. If it were practical to raise some capital, buy sovereign territory, and start a new state, without fighting a war, that wouldn’t make the actions of existing states right, but it would mean those of us who object to the status quo could go try to build better institutions instead of complaining.

          And conversely, if there were no property for sale anywhere in the world (or, to anticipate an objection, if the prices were astronomical), the argument that property rights were oppressive would… start sounding pretty good to me.

    • JayT says:

      Yeah, your example only works in a world with open borders, which is something most libertarians want. One reason being, because then governments would be more like landlords, where if you don’t like them, then you can go try out a different one.

      I get the feeling you’re trying to model this, but in using a simple model, you’re missing out on some of the major problems libertarians are trying to solve.

    • BBA says:

      Please, just stop. Libertarianism is completely internally consistent, and trying to debunk it on its own terms is the equivalent of trying to find a contradiction in Lobachevsky geometry because there’s no way Euclid could’ve been wrong.

      (And for that matter, the same is true for libertarians trying to debunk statism.)

      • Wrong Species says:

        They can only both be true if they start from different premises. But both are supposed to be upheld by premises we can all agree with so that’s not true. It’s not like I’m the only one who sees inconsistencies in libertarian thought. It’s just that most of the people who do are radical leftists and don’t engage with libertarians.

        • JayT says:

          Consistent and true are obviously two completely different things.

          Also, it’s obviously not true that everyone is starting from the same premise.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Also, it’s obviously not true that everyone is starting from the same premise.

            Everyone has their own set of unspoken assumptions that they carry with them, sure. But when it comes to explicit argument, everyone assumes that there isn’t some unshakeable difference with other people or they wouldn’t bother arguing in the first place. Debate assumes that we can peel back enough layers to get at some level of agreement.

          • JayT says:

            I don’t think that is actually true. For example, there are people that think inequality is bad, full stop. They think it is bad for moral reasons. However, I think that the concept of inequality is meaningless. What I think matters is quality of life, and worrying about inequality doesn’t necessarily have any impact on that. Some of the most equal countries are extremely poor, and some of the most unequal countries are very rich. To me, the rich countries have a better system because across the board the quality of life is better than in the poor country, but I know people that would disagree. There is no way to peel back enough layers to get to a point of agreement.

          • BBA says:

            Also, it’s obviously not true that everyone is starting from the same premise.

            Took the words out of my mouth. Libertarians start with the view that “government is necessarily bad” and statists start with the view that “government is not necessarily bad.” These can’t be derived from more abstract principles, any more than Euclid’s fifth postulate can be derived from the other four.

    • IrishDude says:

      I group 1 and 2 compared to 3 and 4, but not for voluntaristic qualities, but for just ownership qualities. As I said above “A robber pointing a gun at a victim to take their money is functionally equivalent to a victim then pointing a gun at the robber to take their money back. The morality of the situations is different, I hope you’d agree.” Who owns what makes a big difference in when coercion is justified.

      If Jane builds a house and farm on unclaimed land, she has just ownership over it. If she then rents her house out to Joe she’s justified in collecting rent. She’d be justified in using coercion to remove Joe from her property if he didn’t pay the rent he agreed to. If Bob comes along and claims by fiat that he owns Jane’s property, and charges Jane rent (or property taxes), and then uses coercion to remove her from her property if she doesn’t pay the rent he demands, that use of coercion is unjustified.

      • To put the point differently, the equivalency between taxes and rent implicitly assumes that the government is the legitimate owner of the country. Libertarians don’t have a fully adequate moral theory of ownership of unproduced resources, most notably land, but “an organization with an army just announced that a wide area with lots of people belongs to it and residents can only remain if they pay for the privilege” isn’t a very plausible candidate. Adding “and a majority of those in the area approve” isn’t that much of an improvement.

        • hyperboloid says:

          If states are not legitimate owners of property, then who is?

          Every inch of privately owned land in north America was stolen from Indians, who likely stole it from other Indians.
          Trace the origin of every cent earned from honest investment back far enough and you will find it’s ultimate origin in some long forgotten principle sum that somebody stole form somebody else. The societies in which the first capitalist ventures were founded were themselves based on systems of slavery and imperialism. Behind every factory built, and every mineshaft dug, was a great army of unfree labor. From the very beginning the wheels of industry were lubricated with blood.

          Libertarianism is not the opposition to coercion, it is instead an elaborate rationalization for using violence to defend title to stolen goods. By what possible standard can you declare that the passage of time has somehow legitimized the original plunder?

          Property is a special kind of right of exclusive use over a thing. When I say that I own something, I mean that there is a socially sanctioned mechanism by which I can deploy violence in defense of my right. All schemes for the distribution of property rights are by necessity coercive.
          We can either use violence in defense of an arbitrary status quo, attempt the impossible and return all the wealth in the world to the descendants of it’s last honest owners, or do the sensible thing and try to distribute property on what ever way is most conducive to the public good.

          • Incurian says:

            or do the sensible thing and try to distribute property on what ever way is most conducive to the public good.

            If only there were some way…

            ETA: You raise a good point about legitimacy. Nonetheless, I find the right solution is the same… This might be a problem on my end and I’m examining it.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            At some point in the course of this screed*, “was stolen at some time in the distant past from one dead person by another dead person” seems to have transmuted itself into “was stolen by the current owners”. The argument against this is not so much that the passage of time legitimizes the original plunder as that (1) the current owner, who nearly always paid market price for whatever he’s got, is hardly ever in any sense a beneficiary of the historical plunder, still less its perpetrator; (2) trying to identify a set of present-day victims and beneficiaries is, as you observe, impossible anyway– which makes it seem rather harsh to blame anyone for not trying to do it; (3) in any case, extending the accusation from landed property to “every cent earned from honest investment” is far too ambitious– most of that wealth was created quite recently, recently enough so that anyone who wants to claim that there was theft involved can reasonably be expected to take the owner to court and prove it.

            *I will happily take back this word if you’ll take back “rationalization”.

          • pontifex says:

            The societies in which the first capitalist ventures were founded were themselves based on systems of slavery and imperialism. Behind every factory built, and every mineshaft dug, was a great army of unfree labor. From the very beginning the wheels of industry were lubricated with blood.

            Actually, capitalism was never very compatible with slavery. All the places that practiced slavery experienced slower economic development than those that did not. Slavery just wasn’t a very good way of allocating labor. For example, eastern europe developed more slowly than western europe because serfdom lasted longer there. The southern US developed slower than the North. And so on.

            Imperialism doesn’t have much to do with capitalism, either. A lot of european countries achieved high levels of economic development with no empire. And a lot of countries, like Spain and Britain after WWII, went broke despite having overseas colonies. There was some effort to make colonies pay for themselves through mercantilist policies, but the general consensus is that it didn’t work that well.

            Libertarianism is not the opposition to coercion, it is instead an elaborate rationalization for using violence to defend title to stolen goods. By what possible standard can you declare that the passage of time has somehow legitimized the original plunder?

            It isn’t about “legitimacy,” but about believing capitalism is an effective and reasonably fair system.

            We can either use violence in defense of an arbitrary status quo, attempt the impossible and return all the wealth in the world to the descendants of it’s last honest owners, or do the sensible thing and try to distribute property on what ever way is most conducive to the public good.

            Here is an honest question, and I’m NOT trying to troll you. In what way does your “sensible” solution differ from what real world communists did in the 20th century?

          • 天可汗 says:

            do the sensible thing and try to distribute property on what ever way is most conducive to the public good

            How do you propose to determine that?

          • The societies in which the first capitalist ventures were founded were themselves based on systems of slavery and imperialism.

            More nearly true of Democracy. Slaves may have been as much as half of the population of Athens, adult male citizens only a small fraction. The Dorian league was converted into the Athenian Empire, enforced by killing or enslaving those unwilling to go along.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Libertarians don’t have a fully adequate moral theory of ownership of unproduced resources, most notably land, but “an organization with an army just announced that a wide area with lots of people belongs to it and residents can only remain if they pay for the privilege” isn’t a very plausible candidate.

          I feel inclined to agree with hyperboloid. What, exactly, is your theory how the private land property came into being? As far as I remember, this has been discussed multiple times merely on the SSC open threads in past years and I struggle to belief you have not seen arguments in same vein before, and yet again we have an argument in the vein of “suddenly an organization with an army just announced it rules over some area and people”, which is particularly ahistorical example.

          Where I live, there are some significant swathes of private land property that came into being because the local crownhead told some people “Hey folks, you can have all the forests around there (waves hand) if you go and inhabit them, implicitly claiming right to them from those other people who also plausibly could think they have a rightful claim to them, and turn them into farmland that will be part of my kingdom. My part of deal: you don’t have to pay taxes for a couple of first years until you get that farming business going on, and I’ll help you dealing with those other people when they disagree about this deal.” (And then there’s a question of what the local nomads thought about this idea of turning their traditional hunting grounds into farmland, which bothered no one except them themselves.)

          The ensuing national history mostly consists of several centuries of various disagreements which parts of lands rightfully belonged to whom and who they should pay tax to and who are the “whom” in the first place, really.

          And that’s just one particular story about some relatively small piece of land area; the world history knows many stories.

          The Anglo-centric economics literature loves to study history of the Anglo-speaking countries: In addition to the US case summarized by hyperboloid, you have the UK where there was stuff like the enclosures of 19th century, or the colonization of Ireland.

          I’ve been lately avoiding these discussions about libertarianism because they never seem to get anywhere. They always seem to begin with discussions about abstract principles within a framework of hypotheticals that are very well suited to arguing how the government is a special kind of evil compared to other forms of ruling over land areas, and yet always seems to ignore the task of explaining how, exactly, those abstract hypotheticals involving Alices, Bobs, Joes and boats map into the existing history of land ownership, which is mostly a history of blatant injustice of who could get their claim to a particular piece of property such as land (and quite often also other people) to stick against claims of everybody else?

          And yet the unstated implication is that obviously the abstract hypotheticals justify getting rid of the special kind of evil that is state, never mind that often the state is both the historical creator of the private property in the modern legalistic sense and the instrument for resolving the disputes regarding property (internal disputes resolved within its internal political system, externally by waging wars with other claimants).

          In previous discussions, I remember Iceland has been brought up as an example of a historic sort-of-libertarian society (especially the Commonwealth era), which seems a bit like of a fascinating special case where a lone island was inhospitable and uninteresting enough that the original settlers have mostly managed to keep it for themselves (even during the periods when the area was politically ruled by other Scandinavian kingdoms).

          I give it to the extreme left-wing activists that they appear to be a more ethically consistent (though immensely impractical) when they either in addition to getting rid of the state also advocate getting rid of private property, or propose replacing the state and the existing society with a structure that hopefully would be more just. (At least, compared to the kind of libertarians who argue for getting rid of the state on moral grounds. Practical policy-level discussions about the societal benefits of free markets vs statist structures are slightly different matter.)

          • quanta413 says:

            And yet the unstated implication is that obviously the abstract hypotheticals justify getting rid of the special kind of evil that is state, never mind that often the state is both the historical creator of the private property in the modern legalistic sense and the instrument for resolving the disputes regarding property (internal disputes resolved within its internal political system, externally by waging wars with other claimants).

            I think this is somewhat misleading. The sheer power of the state makes private property without its imprimatur much less valuable, but that doesn’t mean states created private property in any sort of useful way (not saying you explicitly stated this, but you imply the modern legalistic sense is very important). The modern legal sense of property was not created ex nihilo by the state; it usually only works well when it aligns well with older custom and pre-existing reality on the ground (i.e. possession) or when it creates new forms of property (like cap and tax on pollution emissions). I enjoyed Hernando de Soto’s The Mystery of Capital on the importance of the state’s legal property matching the people’s own sense and on how the U.S. government in many areas often depended on pre-existing arrangements; it changed my understanding of how property rights form and what is important about them. De Soto did/does a lot of work with governments trying to legally formalize pre-existing informal property arrangements so that people can gain security with respect to the state that could otherwise take their property away and so they can gain access to larger markets.

            Personally, I don’t think abolishing states would be a good idea, but that’s partly because I think they serve a useful function of setting some defaults for many forms of agreement and as a last resort for settling disputes and partly because I think the power will end up being concentrated somewhere. But if a state’s default legal system doesn’t reflect what people there actually do, then I’d rather the state gave way than the people.

  29. Le Maistre Chat says:

    What do you make of the governor of Florida declaring a state of emergency because Richard Spencer is going to speak?

    It’s downright surreal to say “We can’t stop racist speech, but we can treat it like a hurricane.”
    Did you know that Spencer had a mere 19,000 followers when Twitter suspended his account? “We need to pay lots of attention to white nationalists because they’re so dangerous” seems like a self-fulfilling prophecy. He’ll never be able to rock you like a hurricane if you don’t make him famous.

    • Zorgon says:

      It’s the Farage effect, and it’s not going to stop until advertisers finally realise that toxoplasma clicks don’t actually sell their products at all.

      • AnonYEmous says:

        That might be true for the media, but this is a story about a statement by the governor. Do you think he would change if the media did?

        • JayT says:

          I think the OP is saying that if people like Spencer weren’t given so much publicity, then their get togethers would have like 20 people showing up, and then disappear without making a difference. As it is right now, there’s a ton of attention given to them, which brings out more of the people like Spencer, as well as protestors, which has been a recipe for unrest.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It’s also all very silly. The National Policy Institute was formed in 2005, and has been having speaking events and conventions for over a decade now…with no influence, no unrest, and no one has cared. Until last year when the news media decided “evil Nazis are everywhere and here’s their leader!” and put Spencer on TV.

            If they had a decade-long history of, after their conventions, pouring into the streets and beating up minorities, yes, this would be a problem worthy of a “state of emergency.” But that does not appear to be the case.

            If the media just ignored Spencer (as they did for the last decade) there would be no problem.

    • Brad says:

      Is this a governance problem or a naming things problem?

      I’ve seen a lot of criticism of e.g. the Berkeley campus and city police for not adequately protecting Yiannopoulos and those that would like to have heard him speak. If under Florida law the procedural step of declaring a state of emergency is necessary to unlock the law enforcement resources necessary to ensure a peaceful event where Spencer can exercise his right to speak, that seems like a pretty good thing to me. Doesn’t it to you?

      Sure, it’s a little silly that in order to do that he has to call the speech an emergency, but it seems pretty churlish and counterproductive to criticize someone for taking a positive step because of the optics of what that step is called.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        If a state of emergency is a necessary procedural step to unlock enough resources to allow a very unpopular speaker to use the Free Speech clause, I’m not criticizing the Governor. But it’s quite surreal.
        A) If that’s it, Democrats get to frame it as a Republican Governor equating anti-racist rioters to a natural disaster.
        B) As Conrad Honcho said, Spencer’s institute had existed for 11 years, blue-skying about a North American ethnostate with Pepes for currency or whatever without one speaking engagement being followed by assaulting minorities. Surely it’s the fault of the media in fall 2016 if state authorities have to unlock those resources when he talks?

  30. isotropy says:

    This infectious little thing is going around….

    http://www.decisionproblem.com/paperclips/

    • Protagoras says:

      Indeed, one suspects there is a meta-paperclip AI at work, trying to fill the universe with paperclip making simulation games.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      I tried a few times to post that but none of the comments went through. I am worried I am somewhow shadow-banned from making top-level comments.

      • ldsrrs says:

        New commenter here: I have also just tried a couple times to make a top-level comment, but they didn’t appear. Do you know if there is some rule against it?

        • johan_larson says:

          No. Did you include any weird links or controversial words?

          Do you have JavaScript enabled in your browser?

          Try making an utterly innocuous post. You’ll have an hour to change or delete it.

          • ldsrrs says:

            I made an innocuous post and it appeared. I then edited my original post in and it disappeared. I guess something in it must be getting blocked. I did include a couple links, but they were to SSC. I don’t think I said anything controversial, but I supposed I may have run into some blacklist anyway.

            The comment was about a previous SSC post (perceptual control). I am not sure what the norm on commenting on past posts is, but I figured that I should post in a open thread since the post comment sections seem to die fairly quickly.

          • Nornagest says:

            There are some terms that will give you the symptoms you describe (the initials of “Horrible Banned Discourse”; the name of a controversy over gaming journalism a few years ago and some of its principals; others which you can find on the Comments page), but that doesn’t sound like anything that would have been likely to trigger them.

            WordPress magic, maybe.

          • ldsrrs says:

            I think I found what was blocking my post. The following two substrings (posted here in reverse) seem to have been responsible. I have no idea why.

            a at dot the positioning
            top the at be to dot the

          • Nornagest says:

            Positioning the dot at the?
            The dot to be at the top?

            Odd.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            These strings?

            positioning the dot at a
            the dot to be at the top

            The word “at” closely followed by “dot” sounds like spelling out email addresses. I don’t think the spam filter should care about that. And it’s the wrong order.

  31. Atlas says:

    Do folks have any thoughts on what the consequences of a German victory in WW1 would have been? Feel free to be as speculative as you want, use whichever turning point you want, etc.

    • Protagoras says:

      So, Germany goes out of its way to avoid pissing off Britain. No aggressive Hochseeflotte building, no invasion of Belgium (start the war with a big attack on Russia, fight defensively against France). As long as we’re giving Germany more skillful diplomacy, have them find some way to convince Italy to honor their pre-war commitments (that the allies look considerably weaker without Britain should make it easier to convince Italy the central powers are the way to go). Russia eventually crumbles. May or may not involve Bolshevik revolution, but there’s nothing particular about this scenario that would hinder the Bolsheviks, so while they got lucky in the real world and very well might not have in any given alternate history, let’s not take away their luck since it isn’t really the point. Still, they get less territory; instead, German and Austrian puppet governments all over Eastern Europe. Without Britain or America in the war, France sues for peace after Russia exits. With the stipulated defensive war against France, not much French territory is actually occupied at the point the peace is negotiated, but probably the Italians try to justify taking a little slice, and perhaps the Germans do as well, or perhaps the Germans are satisfied with some French colonial possessions being ceded to them and some reparations.

      So Germany becomes a colonial power as it hoped, France becomes less of one. U.S. is largely unaffected. Since Britain doesn’t enter the war, Japan doesn’t either, so Japan doesn’t get Germany’s possessions in the Pacific (but probably still tries to use the distraction of the European war to cover attempts to increase their influence in China). Britain doesn’t take over Ottoman possessions, Ottoman Empire lumbers on a bit longer. Despite not gaining that Middle Eastern territory, it is probably to the benefit of the British that they don’t rack up huge war debt, so they probably end up in better shape on this scenario. Italy perhaps still goes fascist, but Austria and the Ottomans stand in the way of their making trouble in the Balkans down the road (they may still make trouble in Africa). No Nazis. France may go fascist, but that’s less scary than German fascism; I don’t think anything very much like WWII happens on this scenario. But there may be other European wars, depending on the evolving political situations in Germany, Austria, and the various Eastern European countries. I’m really not sure how to project this scenario into the later 20th century, as there are too many interacting moving parts; possibly gradual liberalization in the German core and concern about both the Soviets and the U.S. lead to attempts to pursue European unity, or perhaps without the post-WWII situation nothing EUish evolves and the European states continue to squabble. Colonial empires probably last longer; unclear how much longer. Soviet Union is probably less important throughout. Prospects for Japan very hard to predict.

      • SamChevre says:

        Are you counting Alsace-Lorraine as French territory, or German territory, or what? Because in my reading, getting Lorraine back is a central goal for France, and keeping Alsace a central goal for Germany.

        • Protagoras says:

          I’m counting it as German territory for the purposes of this story; by French territory, I mean territory France held at the start of the war, not territory France might have held at some point in history. For that matter, I recall that during the Dreyfus affair, in addition to the anti-semitism there seemed to be suspicion that Dreyfus being Alsatian meant he obviously must have German sympathies. For me that significantly undermines my inclination to trust the French insisting that it Alsace obviously 100% French.

    • cassander says:

      It’s hard to imagine how they could have possibly been worse than what we got. At the very least, it’s difficult to see how any german victory of any sort doesn’t lead to bolshevism getting strangled in its cradle. Entirely aside from geopolitical concerns, I can’t see kaiser willy not avenging the death of his cousin.

      • Protagoras says:

        If it’s still the Bolsheviks who actually make peace with the Germans, I don’t think I can agree with your analysis here. The Germans seem most likely to continue to think that having the Bolsheviks in charge in Russia makes Russia less of a threat to them, and in any event even after a German victory I think there would have been considerable German opposition to yet more large scale warfare so soon. I doubt there would have been more than the half-hearted anti-Bolshevik interventions of actual history.

        • cassander says:

          At brest-litovsk, the Czar and his family were still alive, and the germans had a war in the west they had to win before america showed up in large numbers. the bolsheviks were extremely weak throughout the russian civil war, as was demonstrated by operation Fautschlag where they advanced 500 miles in a month. Almost any concerted opposition would have been enough to unseat them, remember, poland, a country that didn’t exist in 1918, was able to fairly soundly defeat the red armies in 1920-21.

    • John Schilling says:

      Perhaps we should first classify potential German victories. I see three main categories:

      A – Quick win on all fronts. The Schlieffen plan works, Paris falls, Russia can’t stand alone and Britain alone can’t help her, the end. Britain and Russia at least survive, but the Russian frontier is pushed back and everything between the Pyrennes and the Dnepr, between the North Sea and the Med, is the playground of the German and Austro-Hungarian empires.

      B – Long slog leading to win on all fronts. The U-boats bring Britain close enough to starvation to negotiate terms in 1917, or the US doesn’t look likely to come help out so ditto. For bean’s sake, we’ll need a variant where the Germans win a decisive victory at Jutland. Now France and Italy probably survive as well, though with their borders shifted back. Russia also survives, holding her revolution as scheduled but with the Central Powers too weakened to claim all that much in the chaos.

      C – Win in the East, draw in the West. The outcome the stab-in-the-back myth says was within Germany’s reach in 1918. Brest-Litovsk happens, Germany consolidates her gains in the East, and at least looks strong enough in the West that the Allies don’t think they can impose Versailles-esque terms. Germany wins in the sense of coming out with more territory and a relatively stronger position in the postwar order, but is held to prewar borders on the West. The Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires still fall, but the Kaiser gets a seat at the table in deciding how they get divvied up.

      • cassander says:

        I’d tweak your C a bit. No unsrestricted U-boat war leads to the US not getting involved, the russian revolutions happen more or less on schedule, but without being able to wait for the americans the french mutinies are much worse, leading to a negotiated peace in late 1917 on german favorable terms, but with almost all the gains coming in the east.

      • bean says:

        For bean’s sake, we’ll need a variant where the Germans win a decisive victory at Jutland.

        I seriously considered replying to the OP “Beatty was in charge at Jutland”, although in fairness he did pretty decently when he was given the Grand Fleet later in the war.

      • dndnrsn says:

        This was my immediate reaction – a quick victory, or a slow victory? What we got was a slow Entente victory. It’s hard to see how a quick Entente victory happens. Anyway, consequences:

        A, a quick victory (maybe for whatever reason Britain doesn’t get involved or maybe the dice roll slightly differently and the Schlieffen plan works as advertised), is probably the best outcome. War is so awful that a quick victory is only bad if the winners are really evil. In most cases, the shorter the war, the better. A victor in a quick war is probably not going to be screaming for vengeance at the negotiation table, and fewer people die.

        B, probably much like what happened. The victors have still bled enough to want to stick it to the vanquished, which happened, but the war was so awful that nobody wants to go to war again to enforce the peace agreement, which also happened. What happened with Germany post-WWI is a worst of both worlds situation: a bad enough deal at Versailles to make Germany want revenge, but not enforced enough to keep them from taking it. A slow victory by Germany probably just makes things break like that, but the other way.

        C, probably somewhat similar to B. Consider that Italy was on the winning side in WWI, and still went fascist – they still didn’t like the deal they got after the war. Britain and France could quite easily enter a mindset of “we bled so much, for a tie? Clearly got to shake things up!”

      • Wrong Species says:

        How exactly does B happen? The only way that America wouldn’t help out is if Germany never restarted unrestricted submarine warfare. And if they didn’t use the U boats, then they get starved out while Britain eats. The only way I could see them winning past the Schlieffen Plan is by some impressive political maneuvering on their part and ineptitude on Britain’s.

        • Protagoras says:

          Germans win Jutland (somehow), German surface ships break the blockade and open up German trade with America, strengthening the pro-German forces in American politics. German surface ships also take up some of the burden of trying to blockade Britain, and since surface ships do not necessarily have to shoot first and ask questions later the way any submarine that hopes to survive needs to, the German blockade efforts are less offensive to America. Almost every story is helped greatly if German diplomats are less mind-bogglingly incompetent, so have them also not make the astonishingly stupid move of trying to make a deal with Mexico against America. Put that all together, and maybe the pro-war faction in America doesn’t get their way.

          • bean says:

            I endorse this completely. The British blockade was very unpopular in America, which had been a major German trading partner pre-war. I’ve seen suggestions that the 1916 fleet plan was to allow the US to break the British blockade.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Presumably Israel doesn’t happen. Anti-Semitism is probably still respectable.

      • S_J says:

        As part of (B) or (C)…

        For scenarios in which the United States stays out of the war, how many of them start with “the Zimmerman telegram was never sent” or “the Zimmerman telegram was never intercepted/decrypted” ?

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      If we assume no WW2, do atomic bombs get invented?

      • Protagoras says:

        Yes. Maybe later. That is one of the things that complicates the longer term predictions, as it isn’t obvious who would invent them first, and that could easily have a dramatic effect.

        • bean says:

          Less than you’d think. Nuclear weapons are expensive to make en masse. At its height in the mid-50s, the US nuclear weapons program was using something like 15% of the country’s electricity production. (Number remembered from the Atomic Museum and a quick google was people talking about nuclear power vs nuclear weapons). In World War 2 terms, being able to blow up one extra city every other month isn’t particularly impressive. These days, they come with serious diplomatic ramifications, but that wouldn’t necessarily be the case in a world where there’s no Manhattan Project to pour them out.

          • Protagoras says:

            I suppose given the home country of so many of the nuclear scientists, if a victorious Austria-Hungary holds itself together it is one of the most likely candidates to be the first nuclear power, and that probably wouldn’t produce particularly extraordinary effects. Nor would it be likely to do much if the U.S., still not an unlikely candidate, remains the first to go nuclear. But there are dark horse possibilities that could change things much more dramatically. Suppose no other power is willing to put the investment into nuclear weapons because of a generally more peaceful world, but Japan, feeling trapped by America and the European powers it is not able to divide against one another in this alternate timeline, holds back from war at the start of the 40s but desperately invests in its own Manhattan project instead. A suddenly nuclear armed Japan in the late 40s against a world otherwise without nukes doesn’t produce any striking results? Not the most likely scenario, to be sure, but it doesn’t seem impossible.

          • Nornagest says:

            At its height in the mid-50s, the US nuclear weapons program was using something like 15% of the country’s electricity production.

            Isn’t that because gaseous diffusion is really energy-expensive, and it just happened to be the refinement method we went with initially? It’s not necessary to refine uranium, though; we’ve all moved to Zippe centrifuges since, which (while still expensive) are a lot more efficient.

          • bean says:

            @Nornagest
            True. I did some research, and centrifuges appear about an order of magnitude more energy-efficient. Also, the US was building an absurd number of nukes. (That said, the Uranium converted into Pu is natural.) But even 1.5% of US electricity in the 50s is still a lot.

          • cassander says:

            @Protagoras

            Beyond just the problem of numbers the others have identified, it’s not enough just to build the bomb, you also need a delivery system, and in the 1940s, that took the most advanced airplane in the world, something that was really beyond the capacity of Japan to build. And even if Japan had built it, the US can catch up with a crash program in just a couple years anyway.

          • Protagoras says:

            Long range submarines (a Japanese speciality in the real world) launch oversized nuclear-armed torpedoes (doesn’t seem beyond Japanese capability) into several American harbors (and the entrance to Panama) in a sneak attack, perchance? Not saying Japan ends up winning the war that results, but it could certainly end up dramatic and messy. And for that matter, the Japanese were hardly terrible at designing airplanes; in the actual world they just had a lot of trouble building anywhere near sufficient numbers of their steadily improving designs as the war raged on, with their horrible raw material shortages and later their industries being bombed.

          • Nornagest says:

            Turns out on further investigation that gaseous diffusion is not the first large-scale refinement method we tried. The first used even less efficient but more enjoyably mad-sciencey machines called calutrons: basically giant mass spectrometers optimized for separating isotopes rather than analyzing them, courtesy of the subtly different paths taken by U-238 and U-235 in a magnetically bent particle beam. As you might expect from something that sounds like dialogue from a Bond villain just before he feeds the investors to Komodo dragons, they were ridiculously expensive even by the profligate standards of 1940s nuclear programs.

            This is all a bit of a sideline, though; since the calutrons were all shut down in 1945 and replaced by gaseous diffusion plants, they wouldn’t be relevant to electricity consumption in the Fifties. They reappear in the First Gulf War, though, as the basis for Saddam Hussein’s then-operational nuclear program (their parts were not, at the time, subject to export controls).

          • cassander says:

            @Protagoras

            Long range submarines (a Japanese speciality in the real world) launch oversized nuclear-armed torpedoes (doesn’t seem beyond Japanese capability) into several American harbors (and the entrance to Panama) in a sneak attack, perchance?

            the japanese long lance weighed 6000 lbs and delivered a 1000lb warhead. Little boy weighed 10,000lbs. Later nuclear torpedoes (the russian T-5 or the american type 45) had warheads in the 5kt range to keep the size rasonable.

            And for that matter, the Japanese were hardly terrible at designing airplanes; in the actual world they just had a lot of trouble building anywhere near sufficient numbers of their steadily improving designs as the war raged on, with their horrible raw material shortages and later their industries being bombed.

            the japanese problem with quality was at least as serious than their problems with numbers, except very early in the war, when they had a more serious quantity shortage.

            the zero is usually taken as an example of japanese prowess in this area, and it is an excellent design, for what it is. But it’s a design was driven by the fact that japan wasn’t able to make a reliable fighter sized engine that got more than 1000hp. And the zero was one of their better designs, the IJN’s main bomber was an out and out deathtrap. And its design too was largely driven by a need for extreme lightness to achieve sufficient performance on insufficient engines. Japan’s engines were weak because they lacked the engineering, industrial practice, and materials technology (the three are hard to separate) to make truly first rate engines in quantity, and without them, it doesn’t matter how good the rest of your design is.

            I don’t mean to denigrate the japanese achievement, to go from feudalism to where it was in the 40s in so little time was hugely impressive achievement, but Imperial Japan had a level of industrial capacity on a level with that of Italy. It was a third rate power that by virtue of geography, weak competition, and huge expenditures (as a share of national income) on arms managed to carve itself an outsized share of influence. But fast as it grew, its ambitions and ego grew faster, to its ultimate ruin.

          • bean says:

            @Nornagest
            I knew about the Calutrons, but as you said, they weren’t relevant to the discussion. I may try to track down more details on that figure.

            @cassander

            the japanese long lance weighed 6000 lbs and delivered a 1000lb warhead. Little boy weighed 10,000lbs. Later nuclear torpedoes (the russian T-5 or the american type 45) had warheads in the 5kt range to keep the size rasonable.

            First off, they’d probably plant it as a demolition charge using a minisub. Or just blow up the minisub. This is the Japanese. I’d almost expect them to man the nuclear delivery devices on purpose, to say nothing of the logistical simplifications.
            Second, the 5 kt (actually 10-15 kt according to SoA) limit on the Mk (not Type) 45 had everything to do with the necessary yield for the role and nothing to do with weight. The W34 weighed about half as much as the warhead on the Mk 48 torpedo. But there’s no reason to use more than you need.

            This plan actually sounds like the initial plans for the Soviet November-class. Push comes to shove, use the same solution. A really big torpedo.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            First off, they’d probably plant it as a demolition charge using a minisub. Or just blow up the minisub. This is the Japanese. I’d almost expect them to man the nuclear delivery devices on purpose, to say nothing of the logistical simplifications.

            That is an embarrassingly good point.

            Second, the 5 kt (actually 10-15 kt according to SoA) limit on the Mk (not Type) 45 had everything to do with the necessary yield for the role and nothing to do with weight.

            Size and yield were not entirely unrelated. Type 53 developed at about the same time, with a 10 megaton yield, weighed 9000lbs.

            That said, I was unclear. The point I was trying to make was that ww2 era bombs were too large for torpedoes, and the nuclear torpedoes that eventually developed weren’t megaton monsters, .

          • bean says:

            Size and yield were not entirely unrelated. Type 53 developed at about the same time, with a 10 megaton yield, weighed 9000lbs.

            STOP USING BAD NOMENCLATURE! US NUCLEAR WEAPONS DID NOT USE A TYPE SERIES!
            The B53/W53 was much larger and had much higher yield. But these are both vastly more sophisticated devices than the Japanese would have had.

            That said, I was unclear. The point I was trying to make was that ww2 era bombs were too large for torpedoes, and the nuclear torpedoes that eventually developed weren’t megaton monsters,

            No, I get that. The nuclear torpedoes had the warheads they did for specific reasons. The problem was that late 50s tech didn’t really allow high-speed homing torpedoes, and you couldn’t get an accurate-enough fix from the launching submarine via wire guidance to make a conventional warhead work. So they used a nuclear warhead to compensate for the resulting inaccuracy, and the inaccuracy was to the level where 10-15 kt was enough. “What is the largest warhead we can cram into this volume/weight?” wasn’t the only driver of US nuclear weapons design after the early 50s. The weapon was sized to a specific target.

            The Soviets proposed the T-15 torpedo as a multimegaton monster for destroying US ports. It would have been a 155 cm torpedo. They decided not to, but the Japanese could do the same. Agree they couldn’t cram a nuke onto a regular torpedo at the time.

          • cassander says:

            @bean

            STOP USING BAD NOMENCLATURE!

            That one was just a typo.

          • John Schilling says:

            and in the 1940s, that took the most advanced airplane in the world, something that was really beyond the capacity of Japan to build.

            In the 1940s, we used the most advanced airplane in the world, because we happened to have a bunch of them lying around and we were in a hurry. It wasn’t necessary. We didn’t have to. We’ve been through this before, and anyone who can build an atomic bomb at all can build the sort of atomic bomb that will fit neatly in a typical Japanese (or German or Italian or whatever) medium bomber.
            Groves, Oppenheimer, et al didn’t need to, they had a hundred thousand or so Chinese allies dying every month and the Army gearing up for Olympic/Coronet, so they cut out a few months’ worth of physics experiments and shoehorned an armor-plated Gadget into a B-29.

            The Russians and the Brits did exactly the same thing because they had copies of the blueprints and were afraid of missing some clever secret; absolutely everyone else who went into the atom-bomb business started with much lighter designs. As would the Germans or the Japanese or Austro-Hungarians if it had come to that.

          • cassander says:

            @john Schilling

            the first british weapon weighed about 10k lbs and was carried on a jet bomber. Early soviet bombs were based on fat man, and similarly sized, and first carried by the Tu-4, which was a B-29 knockoff. The first french bomb was considerably smaller, but wasn’t deployed until the 60s.

            Bombs obviously got smaller with time, but it took years of development to get there. I think it is entirely unrealistic to imagine that the japanese could have crammed one into a betty in the 40s, at least not if you expected it to have more than a few miles of range. As bean points out, though, suicide nuking was obviously something the japanese would have been totally willing to pursue.

          • John Schilling says:

            the first british weapon weighed about 10k lbs and was carried on a jet bomber. Early soviet bombs were based on fat man, and similarly sized, and first carried by the Tu-4, which was a B-29 knockoff.

            The first British and Russian atomic bombs weighed 10,000 pounds because Fat Man weighed 10,000 pounds, the British and Russians both had Fat Man blueprints, and they didn’t want to risk missing some clever secret on their politically crucial first test. Nobody else did that, and it wasn’t because of some clever trick that only became known in the 1960s.

            We have, literally, been through exactly this discussion before, and it would be annoying to have to repeat it. Everything necessary to build 2000-pound atomic bombs was known to the Manhattan Project team in 1945, and to anyone following in their footsteps, and would almost certainly have been discovered by anyone else following a parallel path in a parallel universe. 10,000 pound atom bombs were several sorts of political expediency, but never a technical necessity.

          • bean says:

            Everything necessary to build 2000-pound atomic bombs was known to the Manhattan Project team in 1945, and to anyone following in their footsteps, and would almost certainly have been discovered by anyone else following a parallel path in a parallel universe

            I’m actually going to challenge you on this. I’m looking through my copy of Swords of Armageddon right now, and I’m not seeing where they could have made a 2000-lb weapon right away. Throughout most of 1949, the discussion was on a 6000-lb weapon for test in 1951, before a couple of major advances (Hansen gives most of the credit to the 92-point implosion system) meant they could make it a lot lighter. The Mk 7’s even greater improvements are credited to better HE and tampers, and the 92-point configuration. These are all things that took a couple of years to get right, and with US resources. Maybe if you throw fissionable material around with gay abandon you could make a 1940s bomb at 2000 lb, but that’s something that a Japanese nuclear program is even less likely to be able to do than the US could/did, and you know as well as I do that was a major concern until the mid-50s. The armor on Fat Man was about 25%, and Little Boy might have been cut by up to 50% if they were really aggressive. But I’m not seeing an 80% cut without some fairly serious improvements in technology.

            Re later nuclear powers and first weapons, the big difference was the propagation of simulation power and resources. This is stuff that the US couldn’t classify, and that a late-40s shoestring A-bomb project wouldn’t have.

          • John Schilling says:

            What made the Mark 5 and Mark 7 different (i.e. much lighter) than Fat Man were the aluminum bomb case, composite levitated pit, 92-point implosion, and overriding all of that, an actual specified requirement for a 3000-lb (Mark 5) or 1500 lb (Mark 7) bomb(*).

            That requirement was set, for a 45″ weapon, in January of 1950 (Hansen V-239). The first Mark 5 was complete by the end of the year. And there was nothing done during that year that could not have been done just as well during 1944-1945, nothing that depended on any post-1944 development or understanding.

            Levitated pits were being modeled at Los Alamos in 1944 (Hansen I-124), and by the end of 1945 were scheduled for testing in Operation Sandstone. Indeed, hollow or levitated pits were the original preferred design (Hasen I-200), set aside because of concerns about Rayleigh-Taylor instability that turned out to be a non-issue for the levitated configuration when they eventually got around to testing it. If the requirement for the first atomic bomb had called for a 2000-lb weapon, then there would have been nothing for it but to proceed with the initial levitated-pit design, and as it turns out it would have worked just fine.

            The rest is just engineering detail, and while it is certainly more tediously annoying to design and debug a 92-point implosion system vs 32-point, it isn’t years more annoying, and the outcome is in absolutely no doubt. Again, if that’s what was needed to meet the initial requirement, that’s what would have been done. In hindsight it would all have worked, and the marginal additional effort would still have left the schedule dominated by the production of fissile material.

            Instead, the Manhattan Project built a 10,000 pound bomb because it was slightly easier and more certain and they were in a tearing hurry, and then the relative handful who didn’t just go home and celebrate spent 1946-1950 using all their cleverness building ever more powerful and efficient 10,000-lb atom bombs and waffling on the subject of how much they even really wanted lighter weapons (which they would have to share with their arch-rivals, the United States Navy).

            TL,DR: When the United States committed to building lightweight atomic bombs, it got them in about a year, and it got them by using nothing it didn’t already know about a year before it built the first heavyweight atomic bombs.

            * Pedantically, the requirements were set by diameter rather than weight, but the one directly drove the other.

          • bean says:

            What made the Mark 5 and Mark 7 different (i.e. much lighter) than Fat Man were the aluminum bomb case, composite levitated pit, 92-point implosion, and overriding all of that, an actual specified requirement for a 3000-lb (Mark 5) or 1500 lb (Mark 7) bomb(*).

            Mk 5 weighed slightly more than half as much as the HE in Fat Man alone, so the aluminum case doesn’t really hold up as an explanation. 92-point implosion was a serious issue for them to work out, and they bought lots of IBM computers to do so. (V-216). They weren’t sure about the compression of the 92-point system in late 1949. (V-237) And the big problem I have with saying that it was the requirements is that the predicted weight of the Mk 5 was 5000 lb as late as August of 1950. (V-240) If it was all so simple to get to Mk 5 weight, why did they estimate 40% high mere months before the weapon was ready?

            That requirement was set, for a 45″ weapon, in January of 1950 (Hansen V-239). The first Mark 5 was complete by the end of the year. And there was nothing done during that year that could not have been done just as well during 1944-1945, nothing that depended on any post-1944 development or understanding.

            Hansen does reference improved explosives at one point, but I’ll sort of grant the point that there was nothing technologically out of reach for them. But there were a lot of things that had to be proved first. Once they were proved, they were the sort of things emerging nuclear powers could figure out from OSINT. I’ll grant that there’s path dependence in this, and a decision in 1944 for a smaller weapon would have moved the date up a lot, but I don’t think you can sustain the claim that it would have only delayed them a month or two.

            Instead, the Manhattan Project built a 10,000 pound bomb because it was slightly easier and more certain and they were in a tearing hurry, and then the relative handful who didn’t just go home and celebrate spent 1946-1950 using all their cleverness building ever more powerful and efficient 10,000-lb atom bombs and waffling on the subject of how much they even really wanted lighter weapons (which they would have to share with their arch-rivals, the United States Navy).

            Hansen explicitly credits knowledge gained on the Mk 4 as being critical to the Mk 5. There was lots of back and forth about “we can build lightweight bombs” “yes, but we can use the same advances to build even better heavyweight bombs”.
            All of that said, I don’t think ‘The X couldn’t deliver an atomic bomb’ is a good argument. There’s lots of ways to do it with a little cleverness. The US chose bombs, and everyone else followed, but a nuclear demolition charge dropped by a minisubmarine would be really devastating, too.

          • John Schilling says:

            Mk 5 weighed slightly more than half as much as the HE in Fat Man alone, so the aluminum case doesn’t really hold up as an explanation.

            The Mk 4 (basically a mass-produced Fat Man) lost about 2,400 lbs of its original 10,800 lb weight when it went from a steel to an aluminum case (Hansen V-181); that’s about 30% of the total weight reduction from the Mk 4 to the Mk 5, and second only to pit levitation in overall weight reduction.

            And the big problem I have with saying that it was the requirements is that the predicted weight of the Mk 5 was 5000 lb as late as August of 1950. (V-240)

            That wasn’t a prediction, that was a plan, based on the size of the weapons bays of aircraft being planned at the same time. See e.g. Hansen V-223; this was a concurrent process with the Air Force wanting bombs which were neither larger nor smaller than their planes were designed to carry. At one point, those requirements met at 45″ and 5000 lbs.

            You are right that there was uncertainty as to whether 92-point implosion would work. There was uncertainty as to whether pit levitation would work. Just as, in 1944, there was uncertainty as to whether implosion would work. All those uncertainties were resolved, not by years of analysis and computer modeling, but by building the device and testing it. Being practical engineers, at each stage they included only the uncertain elements necessary to meet the mission requirement of the day, and so it took several years of changing mission requirements (and some years of lean funding when they could do nothing but mostly-pointless analysis) to get around to testing all of the ingredients for a lightweight atomic bomb.

            But they all worked, the first time they were tested. If the requirement had been for a lightweight bomb up front, there’d have been nothing to do but try all those uncertain things up front. And, with or without the years of anguished uncertainty and analysis, they’d almost certainly have all worked the first time, just like they actually did.

          • bean says:

            The Mk 4 (basically a mass-produced Fat Man) lost about 2,400 lbs of its original 10,800 lb weight when it went from a steel to an aluminum case (Hansen V-181)

            No. The Mk 4 always used the steel case. A similar case, made of Aluminum, was used on the Mk 6. It was apparently designated the Mk 4 case, but it was used on the Mk 6. I’m not saying that it wasn’t a big part of the weight, but you’re still looking at 8 tons, not 1 ton.

            That wasn’t a prediction, that was a plan, based on the size of the weapons bays of aircraft being planned at the same time. See e.g. Hansen V-223; this was a concurrent process with the Air Force wanting bombs which were neither larger nor smaller than their planes were designed to carry. At one point, those requirements met at 45″ and 5000 lbs.

            Not how I read it. The bomb stayed at 45″, they just made it lighter on that diameter. Otherwise, please point me to where they decided they wanted to shave a ton off the weapon. Seriously, I can’t even find a good explanation for where that ton went, and I’ve looked.

            But they all worked, the first time they were tested. If the requirement had been for a lightweight bomb up front, there’d have been nothing to do but try all those uncertain things up front. And, with or without the years of anguished uncertainty and analysis, they’d almost certainly have all worked the first time, just like they actually did.

            I’m not at all sure on the 92-point system, but I don’t know how we can resolve that. Re the other elements, I’m not familiar enough with the history to know how obvious the solutions chosen were relative to other potential options.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Might atomic bombs be so expensive that, in a reasonably peaceful world (smallish wars only, no cold war), no one would invent them? People would probably notice that atomic bombs are possible, but spend their money on something else.

        • Nornagest says:

          Hard to say. We certainly have a lot of little tinpot dictators who’d be happy to build them now if they could get away with it, either to threaten their neighbors or to secure themselves against more powerful enemies, and one who has; and the world’s peaceful enough right now that I might not expect one without a WWII or Cold War to be moreso. But there might be path-dependence issues. The physics behind nukes is not particularly difficult by the standards of modern science, so I’d expect a good conceptual understanding of prompt criticality either way, but there are tough engineering problems in the way that might look less surmountable if there’d never been a Manhattan Project proving that it could be done.

          Overall I’d say it’d probably get done but it might have taken twenty, thirty more years.

        • bean says:

          Unlikely. Somebody’s going to want them, dreaming of the ultimate weapon. They’re expensive enough, though, that in a world with more tolerance for casualties (like the 40s), they won’t be quite as terrifying until a couple of years of stockpile is available.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not so sure about that. Dollar for dollar, Fat Man-like weapons made with 1945 technology are not that much more devastating than the large-scale strategic bombing that had been going on for years at that point; but Hiroshima and Nagasaki were terrifying to the Japanese partly because they had no idea of what our capabilities were at that point. For all they knew we had a hundred of those things lined up.

            Whatever first use ended up looking like, I think those psychological effects would still have been there, unless we assume a really contrived intelligence environment.

          • bean says:

            Whatever first use ended up looking like, I think those psychological effects would still have been there, unless we assume a really contrived intelligence environment.

            I’m not sure that an intelligence environment like the one that happened then is the norm. Nukes would most likely first appear in a leading industrial power. Those aren’t that easy to close down.

    • Anonymous says:

      This may be of interest: Timeline of World History since 1914.

  32. Peffern says:

    I normally check for and access the hidden open thread through the archives. Is there a better way to do it that I’m missing?

  33. Viliam says:

    A few years ago I read the Millennium trilogy. I was unimpressed and couldn’t understand how such books could be popular. Then I forgot about them, and only recently remembered them again. Suddenly, the books started making sense, in a way.

    One thing that irritated me in the books was that every bad character turned out to be a literal Nazi. And not just an average Nazi, but a participant in some huge international Nazi conspiracy to overthrow democratic governments, or something like that (sorry if I got some detail wrong here, it was a few years ago). In the Millennium universe, one simply can’t be merely an asshole. Or merely a murderer. Or merely a rapist. The sets of all assholes, all murderers, all rapists, and all Nazis do not have merely a big intersection. They are literally the same set. In the Millennium universe, if you see an unsympathetic person, you can safely conclude that he (usually it’s “he”; only sometimes it’s “she” when we see a wife of someone who is an order of magnitude worse than her) is a member of an international Nazi conspiracy. In these books, this is a safe bet.

    I used to laugh at that, but now I feel like this is what people from certain part of the political spectrum actually believe. I mean, at least it would explain the popularity of the books.

    • Nornagest says:

      And here I thought the first book was too heavy-handed.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      Before becoming a successful crime writer, Stieg Larsson was famous as a journalist specializing in Swedish neo-Nazis.

      • Montfort says:

        What bothered me most about the books of the Millennium series I read was how this knowledge made the good qualities ascribed to Blomkvist and the good things that happened to him seem a lot more like wish-fulfillment (or bragging, depending) than natural events and normal characterization, fan-service, and/or narrative convenience.

  34. ManyCookies says:

    On the subject of Sci-Fi, how’s the Ender’s Shadow book sequence? Is it grounded like Speaker and the first 80% of Xenocide were, or did OSC permanently stay at Children of the Mind levels of weirdness?

    • Randy M says:

      I don’t recall the quality, but the style is much more the action oriented Ender’s Game than the philosophical discussion of the latter EG books.

      • Peffern says:

        I liked Ender’s Shadow because I love Bean, but I didn’t read the others. I liked it more than Children of the Mind and Xenocide but less than the good ones.

    • Eltargrim says:

      I found that it followed the pattern of the first sequence: the first book was tight and solid, and the second reasonably grounded; but when Card lets himself into the broader world things all go to hell. Never gets quite as weird as Children of the Mind, but the Shadow series has its own quirks. Where CotM disregards physics, the Shadow series plays it fast and loose with biology.

      If you enjoyed Ender’s Game, Ender’s Shadow is an excellent companion. The rest I’d probably place on the Xenocide tier: decent, but weird enough that you notice.

      • Randy M says:

        Speaking of weird, I personally prefer Card’s stand alone (and, perhaps not coincidentally, older) novels, such as Wyrms, Treason, & Worthing Saga. Anyone else branch out into these, or interested in a review?

    • shakeddown says:

      I somehow wound up reading Ender’s Shadow before Ender’s Game, but I still vastly prefer Ender’s Game (Ender’s Shadow tried to be a standalone book, but unless you’ve read Game there’s a lot of “what was the author thinking?” moments). And I’m usually very high on loyalty to whatever I saw first.
      Shadow sequels are okay. Nothing fantastic, and the characters are kind of inconsistent, but they’re reasonably fun.

    • carvenvisage says:

      It’s more like ender’s game.

  35. Deiseach says:

    I saw this linked in the news today and it was a real jaw-dropper moment for me.

    Men! Women are killing you with our blood! The matriarchy (well, possibly only “Dutch women who have been pregnant at some time whose blood was given to Dutch men”) is causing your downfall!

    Between the hurricane, this, and the sea giving up its dead – when did we start living in a Matthew “Monk” Lewis Gothic novel?

  36. Andrew Hunter says:

    So we’ve all seen the paperclip maximization cookie clicker that got super popular this week, right? (WARNING: memetic hazard.)

    Actually quite a fun game, if as addictively empty as any clicker. I beat it and enjoyed it (I mostly avoid the genre), though I had two big annoyances (moderate spoilers):

    – There are too many possible soft locks. I lost my first playthrough when I made it basically impossible to get the next tech tree item by buying too many processors, and that’s not the only point at which you risk that.

    – The Von Neumann probe design is too opaque: it’s very unclear what the effect of any number of points in any of the features will actually be. (Also, at the beginning at least, it’s too hard to make any progress.)

    But overall had a lot of fun quirky details and places one can fill in story.

  37. gbdub says:

    Sci-Fi Talk having become a bit of thing in the last few OTs, thought I’d pose a (fictional) culture-warry question that was asked at a Comic Con panel this summer:

    Wars vs. Trek – not which one you like better, that’s too easy. Which one, if you had to choose, would you eliminate entirely from history? No movies, shows, books, toys, nothing. The one you pick, and all of its influences, vaporize.

    Particularly interested in any Trekkies that would keep Star Wars, and vice versa.

    • Incurian says:

      I am a Trekkie and I would keep Star Wars.

      I think Star Trek is the better franchise. Its high points are higher, and its low points are nowhere near as low as Star Wars’. Star Trek at its best it deals with complex problems in a fair and interesting manner, and at its worst it’s uninteresting. Star Wars at its best has good versus evil, and at its worst it’s incomprehensible cringe. If you consider the reboots of both franchises, the Star Trek reboot betrayed the franchise but was still watchable – The Phantom Menace or the Force Awakens otoh… That being said, Picard’s speech in The Drumhead can’t compete with Luke mourning his family as the twin suns set over the Jundland Wastes to John Williams’ score.

      I prefer Mass Effect to either, though.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        I am unclear why you are keeping Star Wars given your second graf. Does the existence of the Binary Sunset Theme trump all of Star Trek?

        • Incurian says:

          Yes. And to answer gbdub below, Star Wars gets a strong emotional reaction out of me that I wouldn’t give up, even though I think Star Trek is technically better in most ways.

      • gbdub says:

        Could you expand a bit on why you’d keep Star Wars? I was kind of waiting for the punchline, as it were, most of your post being why you prefer Trek.

        (btw, I will have to object to “low points nowhere near as low”. I can forgive low points in a TV series more than a movie trilogy, but there’s some cringey filler in just TOS and TNG. Heck, TNG had Wesley, the worst of Q, and that one pretty racist episode in just the first season. Maybe “the average installment is better” given that Wars had a whole prequel trilogy with maybe half a movie of good material?)

        • Incurian says:

          Jar Jar, Kylo Ren’s lightsaber, Hayden Christiansen + Natalie Portman…
          I’ll take Wesley and Q any day.

          • Lillian says:

            Kylo Ren’s light saber is awesome and there’s nothing wrong with it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But it has cross guards that another saber would slice right through. That defeats the entire purpose of cross guards!

          • Jaskologist says:

            You’re making a lot of assumptions about the internals of those cross-guards. If the saber-generating stuff is inside the main hilt, then those metal bits sticking out might get sliced up from the top, but they would still protect the wielder from removing his fingers.

          • Thegnskald says:

            It appears that saber-saber contact has a high friction coefficient, as they rarely (if ever?) slide.

            So that design might be fine.

          • JayT says:

            If they don’t slide, then what’s the point of the cross guard?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            If they don’t slide, then what’s the point of the cross guard?

            Answer 1: for when the blade swings down along the other blade without touching it, landing on the other blade’s wielder’s hands.

            Answer 2: they *do* slide, if the strike angle is oblique enough, in about the same way that normal blades would slide. And then suddenly the crossguard matters.

            (Answer little-omega is, of course, that it’s just a story, and they don’t have to explain nuthin’ as long as it looks cool.)

          • Lillian says:

            But it has cross guards that another saber would slice right through. That defeats the entire purpose of cross guards!

            Steven Colbert explained this more than two years ago, man. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dZ80zl46oho

            If they don’t slide, then what’s the point of the cross guard?

            Answer 3: It lets you cut the other guy during a blade lock, as demonstrated in the movie.

    • johan_larson says:

      May I wander off on a tangent? What’s the third-biggest sci-fi media franchise, after ST and SW?

      Alien?

      • JayT says:

        Planet of the Apes, probably.

      • Charles F says:

        I would guess Doctor Who, but is there some particular metric you’re interested in?

      • Nornagest says:

        Measured how? Income? Fandom size? Influence? Longevity?

        I think these would all have different answers. Doctor Who is probably the biggest fandom, but Terminator or something like it would probably edge it out money-wise. In influence terms there are lots of candidates.

      • Eltargrim says:

        Dr Who, perhaps?

      • JayT says:

        I guess it also depends on what you consider “Sci-fi”. Do superheros count? If yes, then I’d say Marvel and DC are ahead of Star Trek, and possibly even Star Wars.

      • keranih says:

        If we’re talking world-wide impact, decades of existence, and multi-media examples, then it’s Batman (or possibly Batman&Superman.)

        Further tangent – is there any *mundane* examples of a media franchise? Does Bond count?

        • johan_larson says:

          I’d say Bond counts. How about Sherlock Holmes? An awful lot of stories, books, TV shows, and movies are specifically about him and his sidekick.

        • gbdub says:

          Law and Order (and CSI, and NCIS…)? Nicholas Sparks? American Pie? Tyler Perry?

          There were 11 Pink Panther movies. A dozen Friday the 13th, if horror counts (I guess that’s borderline). Apparently there was an English comedy series called “Carry On” with 31 films.

          I’d say Indiana Jones counts – it has some supernatural elements to be sure, but it’s classic adventure style supernatural, not sci-fi / fantasy supernatural.

          (Bond definitely counts)

          EDIT: forgot I already mentioned The Fast and the Furious below.

      • Civilis says:

        I think this is going to come down on how you define ‘biggest’ and ‘franchise’.

        As an anime fan, I know there have been a lot of Gundam series, though it’s influence is still mostly confined to Asia. At least one of the Sentai series could also be a contender, and one with more US influence, depending on how you count it and the odd relationship with the Power Rangers series. There’s also Godzilla, which had several movies made in Hollywood.

      • Machine Interface says:

        The most influential sci-fi franchise outside Star Wars and Star Trek is the Cthulhu Mythos (which Lovecraft really conceived as science fiction — the lovecraftian “gods” are really just extremely advanced aliens, which are only seen as gods by feeble human minds — even if many of Lovecraft’s followers treated the mythos as a fantasy setting instead).

        Without the Cthulhu Mythos there would have been no Alien franchise, no Ghostbusters, no Stephen King, no The Thing, no Clive Barker or Hellraiser franchise, many missing episodes of Doctor Who, Star Trek, X-Files and countless other fantasy/sci-fi series, — and that’s just the “inspired by” stuff, there are also countless video games, board games and other derived products directly referencing the Cthulhu Mythos (it helps that it’s all public domain). And the trend show no sign of dying.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Plus, Lovecraft was an influence on pulp fantasy, and although the history of fantasy literature and gaming has been retconned to focus heavily on Tolkein, in reality a lot of tropes (especially in gaming) are very pulpy.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I think everything that’s overtly Cthulhu counts, but not anything derived or inspired by it (e.g. Alien). Otherwise we end up saying everything’s in one big franchise because Shakespeare’s Tempest or something.

          Or maybe more recently, cyberpunk. The fact that we have Snow Crash, Johnny Mnemonic, Shadowrun, and JLA’s Cyborg should not allow us to conclude that Neuromancer is a major franchise, IMO.

    • John Schilling says:

      Get rid of Star Wars. It is quite fun, but it is ultimately just escapist light entertainment. And all of its influence has been to turn other things, that could have been more than that, into fun escapist light entertainment because $$$. Including Star Trek, to the extent that it isn’t now “fun” escapist grimdark entertainment instead.

      • johan_larson says:

        I’m fond of the timeline where “Ender’s Game” kicked off a successful movie franchise in the 80s, and the Vorkosigan Saga followed in the 90s. “Downbelow Station” was fun on the big screen, too.

      • Peffern says:

        Star Wars provides a good cultural touchstone for ‘nerdy’ stuff and provides a mechanism for people to share cultural markers with others, especially when people don’t have much experience with that skill.

        “We met talking about Star Wars but we both liked programming, video games, and Neal Stephenson! What are the odds?”

        SW might be worth it just for the nerd community existing in-and-of-itself.

        • John Schilling says:

          SW might be worth it just for the nerd community existing in-and-of-itself.

          Didn’t we just have a series of effort posts on how the “nerd community” bootstrapped itself into existence in the 1930s? And certainly the people whose unprecedented letter-writing campaign brought “Star Trek” back for a third season were A: nerds (or at least geeks) and B: a community.

          “Star Wars” made that community bigger; I’m not convinced it made it better.

        • JayT says:

          Don’t Star Trek conventions pre-date Star Wars? I feel like the “nerd community” was kind of inevitable.

      • gbdub says:

        And all of its influence has been to turn other things, that could have been more than that, into fun escapist light entertainment because $$$.

        I don’t think that’s quite fair. First, Star Wars probably played a big role in convincing studios that sci fi could be a money maker. Which, maybe that turns some potentially deep properties into light entertainment. On the other hand, maybe some deep properties don’t get made at all without Star Wars opening the door for big-budget sci fi. Does Blade Runner happen without it? (“A ha!” you could argue, “Blade Runner got neutered by studio execs who didn’t like that it wasn’t Star Wars – look how much better the director’s cut is, proving my point!” But the director’s cut never exists without the film getting green-lit in the first place…)

        Also, if sci fi “light entertainment” goes away, it’s probably not getting replaced by deep, cerebral sci fi. It’s getting replaced by other genres of light entertainment. The world without the JJ Abrams Treks isn’t a world with three more TNG films, it’s one with more Fast and Furious clones or whatever.

        • John Schilling says:

          If we can get “Silent Running” and “Soylent Green” made without the influence of “Star Wars”, I think “Blade Runner” would have come through OK. See also, “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

          You are right that Star Wars played a big role in convincing studios that Sci Fi could be a big money maker (again). I consider science fiction to be much more valuable than Sci Fi, and part of what Star Wars did was to obscure the distinction in a way that may have made good science fiction harder to bring to the big screen because people keep looking at it and saying “but if it had more spaceships and explosions it would make more money!”

        • aNeopuritan says:

          “The world without the JJ Abrams Treks isn’t a world with three more TNG films, it’s one with more Fast and Furious clones or whatever.”

          And that would make for a clearer line between Us and Them.

          • gbdub says:

            I disagree that that would be a good thing, unless you enjoy being snobbish / gatekeepery about your hobbies (which many people do).

        • Civilis says:

          Also, if sci fi “light entertainment” goes away, it’s probably not getting replaced by deep, cerebral sci fi. It’s getting replaced by other genres of light entertainment. The world without the JJ Abrams Treks isn’t a world with three more TNG films, it’s one with more Fast and Furious clones or whatever.

          Sci-fi (specifically, space sci-fi) took over from Westerns as the go-to light entertainment genre of choice, and the superhero genre has largely taken over from space sci-fi. In a sense, I’d suspect that Star Trek was more instrumental in the transition than Star Wars. In the absence of Trek, what would have taken over from Westerns, or would it have been another space sci-fi franchise? In the absence of Star Wars, would the superhero genre have arisen earlier, or would there be something else?

          • Jiro says:

            Blockbuster superhero movies and even series depend highly on modern special effects and took over pretty much when the special effects got good enough. They’re also based on source material with strong roots before Star Wars. So I think they would have appeared at about the same time.

      • Lillian says:

        If you lose Star Wars you don’t just lose some escapist light entertainment. You also lose Industrial Light and Magic, the special effects heavy weight in Hollywood. This is to the detriment of a huge number of films, and as a fan of what ILM does, i think sacrifing Star Trek does the least damage.

        Serioisly, special effects is the biggest reason to see movies, because it’s the one thing books can’t replicate. Reading about real live dinosaur theme park just does not compare to actually seeing real live dinosaur theme park.

        Though if you could keep Star Trek and ILM, then Star Wars might be expendable.

    • dodrian says:

      I would ask which franchise has had a greater positive impact. I’d argue for Trek being the franchise to keep.

      Trek is credited with bringing Sci-Fi to a more mainstream audience [Citation Needed], and even as setting the stage to allowing Star Wars to be made. It has had a positive impact through moral episodes (first interracial onscreen kiss, environmentalism in IV, equal rights episodes, etc etc). It has probably inspired more people into sciency/space jobs, though I’d definitely want to see more data on that (especially if you might consider Wars as a ‘gateway drug’ into sci-fi). On this criteria I’d want to keep Trek and dump Wars.

      On the other hand, Star Wars has had a greater cultural impact than Trek. I don’t think we’d see much of an artistic loss if we got rid of Trek. But Wars has given us so much – an excellent original trilogy of movies, big advances in special effects, and really moving pieces of music. That aspect would be awful to lose.

    • Jiro says:

      This is a popular culture version of the question of whether eliminating Hitler from history would prevent World War II, or better yet, preventing the assassination of Franz Ferdinand would prevent World War I. There are lots of things in media that trace back to Star Trek, but if you removed Star Trek from history, that doesn’t mean they’d all disappear. There would inevitably be other series with similar influences.

      The same can be said about Star Wars, of course.

    • zz says:

      Marry Trek, kill Wars, fuck Stargate.

      More interestingly, searching for the canonical order—fuck, marry, kill—I happened across this gem: “Fuck Halloween, kill Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas“.

      • Incurian says:

        Amanda Tapping?

        • zz says:

          Not that I would say no to a Stargate-age Amanda Tapping, but OP was most (2/3) of the way to “fuck marry kill”, so I rounded their post to fuck marry kill for humorous effect.

          In retrospect, the better sci-fi choice would have been Firefly, but sometimes my brain doesn’t think that quickly.

          • John Schilling says:

            Are we including the unaired episodes with Christina “YoSaffBridge” Hendricks? Because, A: wow and B: definitely do not marry, at least in character.

          • Incurian says:

            zz: I got it, I was just doing some locker room talk.

            John: GREAT points!

          • gbdub says:

            I’d let YoSaffBridge tell me Bible stories any day. Just keep anything sharp or valuable locked up.

            Or get a gun show from Nandi.

            Or go to war with Zoe.

            Or fix a spaceship with Kaylee.

            Or do literally anything in the same room with Inara.

            Okay River is pretty creepy/broken in an uncomfortable way.

            And were I into men, there’s something to be said for all the boys of Firefly – Captain Tightpants, the burly antihero, the geeky / irreverent / devoted pilot, the cerebral hot but awkward doctor, even the steadfast man of god with a mysterious past.

            I’m not sure there’s a sci-fi series with hotter characters than Firefly (The actual characters, as opposed to actors playing the characters).

          • Jaskologist says:

            I’m not sure there’s a sci-fi series with hotter characters than Firefly

            At long last, a competition where Andromeda comes out on top.

          • John Schilling says:

            Okay River is pretty creepy/broken in an uncomfortable way

            Yes, but I’d take on all the powers of the universe with her, just to see her smile.

    • cassander says:

      Star Trek for TV, Star Wars for movies and never the twain shall meet? Or is that cheating?

      • John Schilling says:

        If it’s not cheating, I like it. Particularly in this century, when TV is the forum of choice for thoughtful audiovisual entertainment. There was a while (in SF terms, the interregnum between Star Trek and Babylon 5) when that wasn’t the case.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Eliminate it from history and replace it with Jodorowsky’s Dune (1975), right?

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Star Wars was the beginning of big special effects sf movies. How much does this matter? Would they have been invented by someone else?

      Would losing Star Wars mean losing the Star Trek movies?

      • John Schilling says:

        Would losing Star Wars mean losing the Star Trek movies?

        I think we’d have gotten “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” but without as much special effects. Which is a mixed blessing, because the the intro flyaround of the Enterprise was the best thing about that movie and the opening sequence with the Klingon battlecruisers a close second, but maybe the rest of the movie would have been better if they hadn’t had the effects as a crutch?

        We probably wouldn’t have gotten “Wrath of Khan”, which is also a mixed blessing because that was the most fun of all the Star Trek movies but also the one that gave the most bad ideas to subsequent producers.

        And of course something like “The Voyage Home” is easy to do without much in the way of effects, and that’s good clean Star Trek fun if the franchise hasn’t been killed before you get to that point.

        • Standing in the Shadows says:

          I liked Wrath of Khan the most. Not just for huge slabs of well cured ham, and not just for Kirstie Alley back when she was sexy, and not just for James Horner’s theme, and not just for only trek uniforms that looked like functional uniforms (instead of tshirts or pajamas or knockoffs of 20thC uniforms)… but for the big one.

          Kirk’s life to that point had been “solve my immediate problem, and then run away and let everyone else deal with it”. Finally, some of those problems caught back up with him.

          I agree about “bad ideas to subsequent producers” started there, and the worst one was doubly bad because of how badly it was wasted. Kirk had a son. That should have been.. something more. [much text written, then deleted].

          And now since then how many of the trek writers and producers have pulled a “up to now for no reason at all unmentioned family member” for no good reason? Too many. Spock now has two, due to the idiocy of the current trashfire of a show.

    • Civilis says:

      While I wouldn’t consider myself a Star Wars fanboy, I’m more of a Star Wars fan than a Star Trek fan, and I’d probably get rid of Star Wars. I think that while Star Wars has a larger cultural footprint, it’s because the original trilogy perfectly filled a niche (or, more properly, niches) in the culture that would have been filled by something else, while Star Trek’s niche is still unique to Star Trek (and imitators).

      Star Wars is a well-done space opera, but it’s not the only or first space opera. The things that make Star Wars a cultural touchstone aren’t things that are reliant on Star Wars or even space opera. It’s got an incredibly well done soundtrack, and the Imperial March is the iconic villain music, but someone else would have written iconic villain music. Darth Vader is an incredibly well done villain that has influenced the look of dozens of villains, but someone else would have made their own Vader. Han Solo is one of the iconic dashing rogue reluctant heroes, but we’d have had someone else. Had we not had Star Wars, we’d have had all these, but probably not in the same package.

      With Star Trek, had the original series flopped, I don’t think we’d have seen anything filling that niche, and the only things since that have tried have been spin-offs or the occasional homage. I think most of what culturally touches on Star Trek is tied in to the premise of the series. You can have an iconic villain like Darth Vader without a space opera. You can’t have a Captain Kirk (or a Captain Picard) without the Star Trek setup.

      • Jiro says:

        I don’t think the Star Trek formula was so new or unusual that nobody else would come up with it. Star Trek is structurally a Western (“Wagon Train to the Stars” has some merit to it.). Central authority is far enough away that the crew has to solve their own problems, and they’re traveling so they have an opportunity to run into a new group of guest stars every week. (The other type of Western is a frontier town where the guest stars come in every week, which is covered by Deep Space Nine.)

        In a world without Star Trek, there would be something that would look like “Star Trek clone” to us as soon as the next sci fi story came through.

        • Civilis says:

          In a world without Star Trek, there would be something that would look like “Star Trek clone” to us as soon as the next sci fi story came through.

          I figured that between Westerns and the interest in manned space travel, a Space + Western series would eventually get written. The question is, if that initial attempt at doing a Space + Western had failed, what would have happened?

          I did a quick Wikipedia search (so not authoritative), and basically TV sci-fi between Star Trek ending in 1969 and Star Wars, there were no major new TV franchises. Sci-Fi TV between 1969 and Star Wars is effectively Star Trek reruns and the animated series. For the sake of hypotheticals, let’s assume that Star Trek had a cast with worse chemistry, and got cancelled second season (as almost happened). There would likely be much fewer reruns of the show, so a much smaller fanbase. In the real world, with an active fanbase, nobody tried to do a Star Trek clone; would the networks have bankrolled one if Star Trek had sputtered and died?

          • Jiro says:

            Space: 1999 can be considered a Star Trek clone. Quark was a Star Trek parody, even though they tried to shove Star Wars references into it. Lost in Space predated Star Trek but is good as an example here since it doesn’t matter whether it predated or postdated Star Trek. Sealab is a Star Trek clone in a non-space setting.

            Actually, I’d suggest another hypothesis: there weren’t many Star Trek clones because Star Trek wasn’t that influential. What we see when we look at history is Star Wars making a Star Trek revival and Star Trek clones possible, in the same way that it made a Buck Rogers revival and new shows like Battlestar Galactica possible. Star Wars was influential and Star Trek was carried along for the ride.

            And even then, I don’t think Star Wars *specifically* was essential; there would have been an action sci fi blockbuster at some point.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Perhaps scifi would have continued on in the Twilight Zone vein instead. That would be an interesting alternative path.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Fascinating that you point out Trek-as-Western.

          Isn’t the canonical answer that the success of Star Wars was based on it being a curious mashup of space opera (of both Flash Gordon and Asimov variety [1]) and pulp Westerns … and in addition to Westerns, also Kurosawa, pseudo-Asian mysticism, slapstick comedy duo, and WWII aircraft action [2], with the special sauce that the universe looked like lived-in (and had sabers made of light, which is possibly enables the coolest looking sword duels ever)?

          However, Westerns lend Trek only the structure (every week, new Planet of Hats!). Thematically, it is “science utopia” and moreover, the kind of utopia with that both manages to have a Starfleet and it isn’t ultimately focused on war (neither in the way of “space opera” or “military SF” are).

          Without Star Wars, we’d have more of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers. Without Trek, would we have a pro-science utopic sci-fi shows? I guess Doctor Who started as an educational show…

          [1] The Foundation books I read as a kid had explicit Star Destroyer expies as cover art. Back then I thought that publisher was being clueless, but today I think it’s far more likely that they were being very clever.

          [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dam_Busters_(film)

          • The Nybbler says:

            No need to mash up “space opera” and pulp Western. A “space opera” is already a pulp Western in space; the term comes from “horse opera”. Star Wars does add the Kurasowa influence (fortunately not usually called “sword opera”), so you get powered-up swords AND poorly-aimed guns.

    • carvenvisage says:

      Imo star wars was a worse influence:

      1. clap your hands and believe.

      2. positive emotions are magic

      3. negative ones will literally consume you, if allowed the least flicker, -including if you use one to restrain another

      It’s a message of complacency and just worldism, and the films are good enough, and its subtle enough, for it to stick.

      But I would delete star trek for being consciously political and for sucking.

      _

      I quite liked episode 1, especially/including the pod racing. Good action>bad philosophy.

      • Jiro says:

        And certain things are inherently evil to do.

        “If you give in to the anger of dark side you will turn evil”, translated into the modern world, is just another version of “if you kill him you’ll be just like him”, which would mean we shouldn’t fight wars even against Hitler or bin Laden, hurt people in self-defense, or even put criminals in jail.

        • moonfirestorm says:

          But Jedi fight wars and hurt people all the time, without any real danger of turning to the dark side.

          The Force focuses on your motivations and emotions for doing what you’re doing. You can put criminals in jail, but if you’re doing it because you hate the criminals (as opposed to wanting to make the world safer), that might be a problem.

          Although the Emperor trying to get Luke to kill him was kind of weird, given that Luke has no personal relationship with this person anyway and had lots of noble reasons to want to stop the Empire through stopping the Emperor.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Although the Emperor trying to get Luke to kill him was kind of weird, given that Luke has no personal relationship with this person anyway and had lots of noble reasons to want to stop the Empire through stopping the Emperor.

            That’s not why Luke wants to kill him right at the moment, though. Luke wants to kill him because he’s completely pissed off at the Emperor having led his friends into a lethal trap.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            Ah yeah, fair point.

  38. rlms says:

    One small but interminable argument I’ve seen here a lot is whether small countries are better or worse than big ones (specifically economically). In an attempt to settle it, I’ve graphed GDP/capita against population. My conclusion: really rich countries and other territories tend to be small, but beyond that there is little correlation either way.

    • That is a very good idea, but I don’t understand the graph. I presume the horizontal direction is GDP and the vertical direction is pop, but I don’t get it otherwise. And which countries are graphed there? How many in total? A table listing all the countries with their pop and GDP would be useful, especially if I could copy the data so I could play with it in Excel. I really love that you’ve done this analysis, but it could use more output.

      Plus of course I have the thought that correlation isn’t causation. Much of the discussion about large vs. small is whether large countries should be broken up or allow secession. I think that breaking up a large functional country will almost inevitably bring down the GDP per capita of all the smaller parties.

      • rlms says:

        The x axis is population and the y axis is GDP/capita (PPP) in US dollars. The sources are the third (CIA) table here and the 2016 data here (all countries/territories that appear on both should be included, except for a couple I messed up when changing the names that didn’t match).

        • Thank you.

          I am a bit suspicious of the incredibly high incomes of some of the small countries. Falkland Islands at $96,000 per year? Aren’t they mostly sheep farmers? Maybe a couple of billionaires live there? I do think the smallest countries have by far the most suspect data, so maybe pops of 1 million or less need to be eliminated. I am trying to turn this data into an Excel spreadsheet. If I succeed, maybe I will come up with more conclusions.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Based on skimming Wikipedia, apparently the Falkland Islands are a center for oil exploration and large-scale fishing.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Well… engaging in some armchair logic…

      A small country that isn’t rich would get absorbed by another country. So there would be a survivorship bias there.

      Add on top of that, that larger nations (by virtue of law.of averages) would skew more towards average, and phenomenon explained. Small countries are more likely to be outliers; small countries that aren’t outliers on the ‘rich’ side stop being countries.

      • rlms says:

        I don’t think your first paragraph explains the actual data. Small countries that are outliers on the poor side don’t get absorbed, there are plenty of them (see the first graph)! The issue isn’t that small countries are rich rather than poor (they are both), but rather that big countries aren’t ever very rich. Looking at the table of data I used, I think that can be largely explained by the fact small countries are better at being tax havens.

        • Jiro says:

          Maybe small countries have a larger variance?

        • Witness says:

          I think this is a sample-size bias of sorts. I seem to recall there being a specific name for it, but I can’t recall. The same sort of bias creeps up in studies about school and/or class sizes.

          Basically, larger groups of people have a stronger tendency to regress towards the mean, for the same reasons that any large sample of anything does. So outliers (in either direction) are more likely to be found among the small schools/classes/countries. Then, when you look for the best, you tend to find them there, and then assume that this means that the bestness was caused by the smallness.

          • rlms says:

            That’s definitely a thing, but I don’t think it applies here. Small countries are are very much outliers on the rich side, but not really on the poor side (the poorest countries have a fairly broad range of populations).

          • Thegnskald says:

            rlms –

            Adjust my survivorship bias down a bit. Does it line up better?

            (Do we have a history of small failed states?)

          • Nornagest says:

            Present-day Germany was formed essentially by consolidating most of the many microstates in central Europe over the second half of the 19th century. But the relatively stable national borders we now see are not the historical norm — countries used to fission and fusion a lot more than they do now.

        • Aapje says:

          Small countries can base their economy on niches the way large countries can’t.

          Ferrari can also only be Ferrari by virtue of being small. VW Group can have a profitable niche sub-brand (Porsche), but they can only be big by virtue of having low-margin brands as well.

  39. Conrad Honcho says:

    Vox recently published an article by Sean Illing titled “20 of America’s top political scientists gathered to discuss our democracy. They’re scared.” Apparently, democracy only happens when the left is winning.
    The first few paragraphs are unobjectionable. Yes, there is polarization. Yes there is loss of social cohesion. Yes the “class compromise” suffers when economic mobility suffers. And then it dissolves into “it’s all the outgroup.”

    A few nitpicks before the truly objectionable stuff:

    So far at least, our system of checks and balances is working — the courts are checking the executive branch

    No, the courts are yet another partisan divide. Activist judges attempted to stop Trump’s travel ban and having failed once, are about to fail again. Also, how is a judge in Hawaii attempting to block the democratically elected president from exercising basic authority over the nation’s borders granted to him by Congress, in accordance with the will of the voters and strongly in line with public opinion an example of healthy democracy?

    The very first government was two cavemen saying to each other “Okay, if anyone tries to come into the cave who isn’t us, hit him with this rock.” The most basic role of government is controlling borders, and if the people are not to be allowed to control who is and is not allowed across the borders, wouldn’t that be the end of democracy? You, the people, may no longer have any say in who does and does not come into your country?

    Also, Trump is appointing “Scalias all the way down,” so it seems the Executive and Legislative branches might finally be checking an out-of-control judiciary.

    the press remains free and vibrant

    The press is woefully unpopular. They’ll gleefully report Trump has 40-something percent approval while completely ignoring their own 36% approve / 50% disapprove ratings. Nearly half of voters now think the media just makes stuff up. Over and over again we see breathless reports from “anonymous sources” that sound ridiculous and few if any predictions made by these sources come true. Free, yes, but celebrity scandals, opinions about who “utterly destroyed” whom on twitter—this is vibrant?

    and Congress is (mostly) fulfilling its role as an equal branch.

    Congress is the only group in that poll people hate more than the media (19% approve / 60% disapprove). What has Congress done that one could describe as “fulfilling its role?” Who are these 19% of people who approve of Congress? And to qualify Congress’ performance with “mostly?” The most generous I could be is “barely.”

    Next we get:

    Nancy Bermeo, a politics professor at Princeton and Harvard, began her talk with a jarring reminder: Democracies don’t merely collapse, as that “implies a process devoid of will.” Democracies die because of deliberate decisions made by human beings.

    Followed immediately by Illing’s interpretation

    Usually, it’s because the people in power take democratic institutions for granted. They become disconnected from the citizenry. They develop interests separate and apart from the voters. They push policies that benefit themselves and harm the broader population. Do that long enough, Bermeo says, and you’ll cultivate an angry, divided society that pulls apart at the seams.

    How does this follow? Bermeo attributes the death of a democracy to malice, and then Illing immediately describes complacency and incompetence. Which is it?

    I agree with the next few paragraphs describing the failure of the economy to allow people to improve their lives in fair and predictable ways and how this damages the social contract that allows a democracy to function. This all sounds very much like the “economic anxiety” that drove Trump voters. Then we get to polarization:

    At the same time, we’ve seen a spike in racial animus, particularly on the right. It seems likely there’s a connection here.

    The linked study (which we’ve discussed in a previous open thread) says nothing about a “spike in racial animus,” and nothing about it being on the right. Instead, listed among the “Key Findings” of the study is:

    Democrats may be pressured to move further left on identity issues, given that both younger voters and the party’s donor class are quite far to the left on identity issues. If so, American politics would become further polarized along questions of culture and identity.

    Can anyone give me a charitable take on Illing’s statement? I can’t really think of one.

    My interpretation of the last 50 years of race relations has been a (largely successful) attempt to suppress racial consciousness, particularly among whites. A common refrain among (older) white people is “I don’t care if you’re black, white, purple or green, can you get the job done?” A willful colorblindness. It’s only been in the few years with the advancement of privilege ideology (coming from the left) that this is unsatisfactory. Silence is consent, and not noticing race and then not begging POC for forgiveness is the new definition of racism. So I can only model Illing’s thought process as “we’ve told white people they’re the devil and they don’t agree. This is a spike in racial animus among white people / the right.”

    Then we get into more Russia delusion:

    Hypocrisy aside, the reaction of nearly half the country to Russia’s meddling says a lot about our attachment to core democratic values like free and fair elections.

    I know, man, I know. I mean, when those evil Russians spent a whopping $100k on FaceBook ads mostly in 2015 and related to issues besides the Presidential election thereby demolishing the entire $10 billion dollars in American political advertising and who knows how much in mainstream media coverage, that was terrifying. But when CNN said they used Pokemon Go to promote Black Lives Matter swinging the entire election dramatically towards Trump, that’s the end of democracy right there. Game over man, game over. Just tear up the Constitution and crown Putin Czar of the World already.

    The reason we don’t care about this is because it’s silly. It’s very, very silly. Of course foreign interference in elections is undesirable, but in an interconnected world it’s unavoidable. Russia wants to influence our elections, and so does China and Israel and Canada and Carlos Slim and Mexico and everybody else. But it probably all winds up being kind of a wash. And overwhelmingly drowned out by the efforts of the American media and the campaigns themselves.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Most obviously, there’s Donald Trump, who has dispensed with one democratic norm after another. He’s fired an FBI director in order to undercut an investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Moscow

      The director of the FBI serves at the pleasure of the President. Firing him is not dispensing with any democratic norm. Bill Clinton also fired his FBI director. Was he dispensing with any democratic norm? And after the handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton, who trusts Comey in any political matter? The right justifiably distrusts him for, immediately after listing the actions she took that (in their minds definitely) constitute crimes refused to recommend prosecuting those crimes, and the left justifiably distrusts him for violating the universal law enforcement ethical standard of minimizing harm or exposure in criminal investigations. When you investigate Bob for rape but decide he probably didn’t rape, you do not then hold a press conference announcing to the world all the rape-like things Bob did that fall short of rape.

      staffed his White House with family members

      Two people. In advisory roles. No actual power or authority. And again, if we’re gnashing our teeth and rending our garments over this, how horrified were you about Hillary Clinton’s role in her husband’s White House? In what way are these significantly different?

      regularly attacked the free press;

      “We’ll repeat the most outlandish bullshit that you like getting peed on by Russian hookers but how dare you respond with anything but groveling obsequiousness.”

      and refused to divest himself of his business interests.

      Yes, because in order to maintain democracy we must only have career politicians who have no interests outside of technocratic politics. How can we have a democracy if actual people outside the permanent political class assume power?

      Kuran warns that autocrats tend to exploit these divisions by pushing “policies that may seem responsive to grievances but are ultimately counterproductive.” Think of Donald Trump’s “Muslim ban” or his insistence on building a giant wall on the southern border. Neither of these policies is likely to make a significant difference in the lives of Trump’s voters, but that’s not really the point.

      Perhaps because those are civilizational issues and not personal issues? Perhaps on the “personal issues” front they were also voting for Trump because they think better trade deals and reduced regulation will result in more or better jobs for them? And perhaps when liberals vote for amnesty for illegal aliens, or refugee resettlement, these are also policies that are unlikely to make a significant difference in the lives of Democrat voters, but that’s not really the point? No, no, no, they just hate and are skeered of Mexicans and Muslims for absolutely no reason.

      “Trump isn’t after success — he’s after failure,” Snyder argued. By that, he means that Trump isn’t after what we’d typically consider success — passing good legislation that improves the lives of voters. Instead, Trump has defined the problems in such a way that they can’t be solved. We can’t be young again. We can’t go backward in time. We can’t relive some lost golden age. So these voters are condemned to perpetual disappointment.

      The counterargument is that Trump’s idealization of the past is, in its own way, an expression of a desire for a better future. If you’re a Trump voter, restoring some lost version of America or revamping trade policies or rebuilding the military is a way to create a better tomorrow based on a model from the past.

      For Snyder, though, that’s not really the point. The point is that Trump’s nostalgia is a tactic designed to distract voters from the absence of serious solutions. Trump may not be an authoritarian, Snyder warns, but this is something authoritarians typically do. They need the public to be angry, resentful, and focused on problems that can’t be remedied.”

      But “revamping trade policies” seems like a serious solution to economic problems. We have trade policies for a reason. To address economic issues. Nobody drafted TPP for funsies. It was because some people thought they would be better off with that trade deal instead of a different, or no trade deal. “Building a wall and deporting illegals” sounds like a serious solution to illegal immigration. I mean, just by talking tough on illegal immigration, illegal border crossings are already down by 70%. You can argue the public shouldn’t see illegal immigration as a problem, but you cannot say it “can’t be solved” when just tough talk has reduced the rate of increase in the problem by 70%.

      And, seriously, “They need the public to be angry, resentful and focused on problems that can’t be remedied.” You mean like telling women they only reason the sum of income of all women is less than the sum of income of all men is because of evil sexism? And not at all because women choose different career paths for a variety of reasons, some of which are almost certainly biological in origin?

      You mean like telling black people the only reason the per-capita wealth of blacks is lower than that of whites, Asians and Jews is because of evil white supremacy? And not at all because individuals take different career paths for a variety of reasons, some of which are almost certainly cultural and biological in origin?

      Okay, yes, that one’s ridiculous. They would never mention Asians and Jews in the “racial inequality” demagoguery because it wrecks the “white supremacy” canard.

      The racial and gender inequality demagoguery is the epitome of “angry, resentful, and focused on problems that can’t be remedied,” because you cannot remedy this problem without genetic engineering on a scale such as to make us no longer human. Or perhaps eugenics that would put Hitler to shame.

      Bottom line: I was already pretty cynical about the trajectory of American democracy when I arrived at the conference, and I left feeling justified in that cynicism.

      Great, Illing. I’m so glad the conference reinforced your own prejudices. If it just weren’t for that damned outgroup everything would be peachy.

      • hlynkacg says:

        While I share your opinion of the Illing piece I think there are better places for this sort of rant.

        • The Nybbler says:

          They’re more likely to ban you on the subreddit for it. I didn’t get very far into the article before filing it under “Trump Derangement Syndrome” and giving up.

        • Alphonse says:

          As a point of pushback, I suspect that I’m not alone in regularly reading the Open Threads on SSC but not on the subreddit. If this were the culture-war-free OT, I’d agree with you, but it’s not, and I at least appreciated the top level post in this chain (and would never have seen it were it posted elsewhere).

          • Nornagest says:

            I check the subreddit once a month or so and invariably get annoyed and leave. The non-CW threads aren’t interesting, and the CW threads are bad for my blood pressure.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Nornagest, I check it every week or so, and normally see about one interesting new non-CW thread. Sadly, there’s very little discussion on most of them.

      • Incurian says:

        This only serves to highlight your…

        Okay, yes, that one’s ridiculous. They would never mention Asians and Jews in the “racial inequality” demagoguery because it wrecks the “white supremacy” canard.

        You know, I’ve always thought this would be a fun weak point to take advantage of, but you kind of have to turn into a monster to really exploit it fully and I don’t particularly want to do that.

        • AnonYEmous says:

          You know, I’ve always thought this would be a fun weak point to take advantage of, but you kind of have to turn into a monster to really exploit it fully and I don’t particularly want to do that.

          Plus if you try they’re conditioned to shut down because it’s too good of an argument

          i’m at least 60% serious about this

          • JayT says:

            This is something that always annoys me when people talk about silicon valley not having diversity.

    • Viliam says:

      I think you underestimate the Russians. Ideological war is the one thing they excel in. (Military based on “we have enough humans, and we don’t mind sacrificing them” only comes second.) I actually expect that Russians have more influence over American politics than even most of their critics believe. I would not be surprised to learn that in most major conflicts they support both sides, because their current strategy is essentially to paralyze potential enemies by creating as much chaos as possible. In other words, I suspect that Russians support both Trump and SJWs. (Note: I said “support” not “created”. One can nurture chaos quite efficiently by feeding what grew up naturally.)

      Otherwise; in general, I agree about the hypocrisy. It’s great when Democrat presidents have big powers, but it’s a threat to democracy when Republican presidents do the same. Just like it is okay to hate some ethnic groups, but it is unforgivable to hate some others. And how equality is the supreme value, unless it happens to be a microaggression. “It’s totally different when we do it!” Well, that doesn’t sound very convincing to bystanders.

      Trump is not a cause of the political chaos. He is a consequence.

      • @Viliam

        Trump is not a cause of the political chaos. He is a consequence.

        You kind of stole my comment that Trump is more a symptom of partisanship than a cause. It really is pretty incredible what a stupid and acerbic President we’ve elected to govern the most powerful country in the world. His tweets almost invariably poison the atmosphere even more, and they often end up crippling his own initiatives. But in retrospect, Trump seems to me the inevitable result of the hyper-partisanship on both sides for the last decade or two.

        • Baeraad says:

          While the article has a certain amount of (possibly unconscious) bias, as near as I can tell it doesn’t disagree with you about that part.

          But for all the reasons discussed above, people have gradually disengaged from the status quo. Something has cracked. Citizens have lost faith in the system. The social compact is broken. So now we’re left to stew in our racial and cultural resentments, which paved the way for a demagogue like Trump.

          • Aapje says:

            @Baeraad

            I just wish that there was more of a realization that these racial and cultural resentments exists on both sides and a for them to try to stamp it out on their own side.

            That is the only way we can fix this.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Aapje –

            I dunno, I find it kind of entertaining, after years of being called various versions of “concern troll” for years for complaining about how some of the rhetoric looks from the other side, watching those same people freak out over the exact same behavior now coming from the other side.

          • Aapje says:

            @Thegnskald

            Of course, seeing ‘the chickens come home to roost’ gives a sense of justice, but it’s very ugly justice.

            It’s like having a gang war. It may feel good to see criminals target each other, but it’s hard to call it justice when people get disproportionately hurt relative to their actual crimes and it’s impossible to call it justice when inevitably the violence hurts innocent bystanders.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I agree the Russians are excellent at subversion. Here’s KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov explaining the process of subverting a nation. But the whole “Russians made Trump win” narrative is silly, and when we’re to the point of CNN telling us about Russian activity in Pokemon Go…I just cannot take this seriously, and I cannot take seriously anyone who does.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          And that is why the Soviet Union cannot possibly fall.

          More seriously, there might be more subversion in general than we appreciate.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Subversion is about destroying an existing social or political order, not establishing a working one. One can be good at one without being any good at the other.

    • quanta413 says:

      Congress is the only group in that poll people hate more than the media (19% approve / 60% disapprove). What has Congress done that one could describe as “fulfilling its role?” Who are these 19% of people who approve of Congress? And to qualify Congress’ performance with “mostly?” The most generous I could be is “barely.”

      Your rant is overly long, but let me just pile on this bit.

      Congress has not been fulfilling its role for way too long. Presidents engage in war basically at whim at this point and have been for a while. And government by a combination of autopilot entitlement programs and executive orders is bad.

    • ManyCookies says:

      @Russia, I thought the main Russia concern was over the email hack, which had a huge impact on the race and ultimately the election. And from what I remember of the Comey senate hearing, no one was questioning that Russia was the offending party (though whether they did so independently or at Trump’s behest is a whole other question). If Russia was in fact behind the email hacks, would that level of interference still be unconcerning?

      • Was it interference in a foreign election when Obama went to the U.K. and said that if they voted for Brexit and then wanted a trade deal with the U.S., the U.S. would put them at the back of the line? It was obviously an attempt to influence the election.

        Not the same thing as trying to influence an election anonymously, but is that really the complaint?

      • One Name May Hide Another says:

        The DNC emails were given to WikiLeaks by disgruntled Democrat insiders and not by Russia. This is according not only to Assange himself (who still, BTW, has not ever been contacted for testimony by Mueller’s commission) but also to a personal account of Craig Murray, a British ambassador to Uzbekistan and a whistleblower hero who exposed human rights abuses by the Uzbek government. Murray personally met with one of the Democrats involved in the leaks.

        Additionally, according to an audio interview with Sy Herch, the source of the leaks was Seth Rich, a Democrat operative. Herch states in the interview that he knows this from his very high-level, “unbelievably accurate and careful” FBI source.

        The Intelligence Community Assessment blaming Russia was just that, an “assessment” presented with no evidence by a bunch of analysts “hand-picked” by Clapper. In any sufficiently large organization hand-picking analysts means hand-picking conclusions.

        It is, of course, no surprise that Clapper’s analysts could present no evidence given that the FBI never even bothered to examine the DNC servers. They relied solely on the opinion of CrowdStrike: a private company with a history of dubious work hired by the DNC.

        On top of that, we also had the Guccifer 2.0 persona deliberately planting “Russian fingerprints” in the DNC files they released and, while actually most likely operating in the US Eastern timezone, going through a Russian VPN in an apparent effort to falsely tie the DNC leaks to Russia.

    • cassander says:

      It’s vox, what do you expect? Providing the blue tribe with sophistry is their raison d’être. I can’t say they never rise above that level, but they don’t do so often.

  40. R Flaum says:

    There’s something I’ve always wondered about bear-baiting, and I bet someone here knows the answer: How did they chain up the bear in the first place? Was it drugged, or a domesticated bear, or what?

    • keranih says:

      Bear baiting goes back since long before they had effective animal sedatives (critters drunk on rotting berries aside). Humans have captured “wild” animals frequently. One way is to find a young animal that can be more easily handled – often (but not always) by killing the mother. Another is to chase or lure it into a trap, or to chase it until it collapses of exhaustion.

      As for handling post capture, once caged – slip a nose over its head, or a slip chain – and choke it until it passes out, then muzzle it.

      Helps a lot if you’re a young man, and culturally accustomed to getting hurt. It should be noted that not only was this pre-ASPA, it’s also pre OSHA.

      • R Flaum says:

        Ah, that explains it — I hadn’t thought of using a noose to suffocate them. (Though getting that noose on the bear doesn’t seem like an entirely trivial task either)

  41. Well... says:

    The SSC comment section is the most epistemically cautious, cross-culturally (i.e. across the blue-red divide) empathetic/civil group of people I know of or regularly interact with. Also one of the most intellectually diverse.

    1. Props to Scott for cultivating this environment. After I spent last weekend at a conference where the intellectual environment was NOT like this (but given the professional skills of most of the people there and topics in the presentations, maybe ought to have been at least a little more like it), I appreciate the conversation here that much more.

    2. You all deserve a pat on the back too, SSCers.

    3. Is this how it is in the Rationalist community in general? I don’t really see myself as part of that community and don’t regularly visit any websites that are part of that community aside from this one; the few glimpses I’ve had tell me the answer is no. But maybe I’m wrong?

    4. Post your theories on “What’s our secret sauce?”

    4a. Is “boiling off” part of it?

    • toastengineer says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if part of it is that anyone who isn’t smart and tolerant enough to hang out here takes one look at the comment section, sees either someone saying that racial differences exist or that feminists make good points sometimes or that government is the best solution for certain problems, and bails. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if the posts themselves have this effect as well.

      Seems like the LessWrong comments sections are\were about as tolerant as this place is, if not quite as consistently high-quality. I’ve found the classier libertarian\anarchocapitalist hangouts tend to be similarly pleasant; that’s how I found SSC & rationalism, through libertarianism.

      And I’m sure some significant fraction of it is just careful gardening by Scott.

      And the secret sauce is just Thousand Island dressing (ketchup and mayonnaise,) same as almost all secret sauces. What I wanna know is what’s in Sheetz’s “Boom Boom” sauce, that stuff’s amazing.

      • Peffern says:

        My experience in the libertarianism-adjacent environments is that they tend to be too jargon-filled for me to get a good handle on them. Ditto for the Leftist flavor. What I like about SSC is that the viewpoints are varied enough that people don’t bother building impenetrable buzzword fortresses. That’s probably Scott’s doing.

        • toastengineer says:

          My experience in the libertarianism-adjacent environments is that they tend to be too jargon-filled for me to get a good handle on them.

          Huh. Can you give some examples? Only libertarian jargon I can think of is the NAP, which is just “don’t hurt people except to stop them hurting people*” and using the term “state” to refer to government. And “crony capitalism\corporatism” I suppose.

          *where hurting people means altering or using their property without their permission. This sounds like a weird way to define hurting but if you think about it, most of conventional morality can be defined in terms of property rights.

          In turn, the libertarian conception of property means your body and yourself, anything you’re freely given by another person (and fraud doesn’t count,) and anything produced entirely by and with your property, property you had permission to use, or unowned property (e.g. air.)

      • Viliam says:

        A tolerant community does not necessarily scare away intolerant people. Some people love to fight online, and don’t mind being in the minority. So it is also important that Scott actually bans those people (as opposed to just having that right in theory, but not actually exercising it), and that the community trusts Scott to do so.

        At LessWrong the quality is incosistent, so it is more difficult to agree on what is allowed and what is not. Here by “quality” I mean not just how smart and interesting is the article, but also what norms of politeness or non-mindkilling it follows. As an example, at SSC, Scott may sometimes write something that he really regrets later, and then he probably decides to write nicer than that in the future. But at LW, writing something less nice than usual may actually encourage other people to write even worse stuff, because instead of a regrettable mistake, they see a precedent that opens the gate for them.

        Unless it is something completely different. Maybe writing about quantum physics actually creates more dangerous enemies than writing about social justice. Or maybe it’s LW explicitly talking about creating a movement and changing the world (building the AI, raising the sanity waterline), while SSC feels to outsiders like ultimately just one busy person’s blog.

    • dodrian says:

      Re 4) I was prompted to join the community after reading several posts by Scott which seemed exceptionally level-headed and assumed the best from the people he disagreed with. That was something I wanted to see more of. In this way I think the community starts by self-selecting from a pool of reasonable people (and not because they want to hear more rants or cheerleading about why people they disagree with are dumb).

      It helps that this is still more of a comments section to a blog than a proper forum, and it helps that we get a new OT every few days, which kills discussions with more heat than light. There’s probably something to be said about making it more difficult to continue discussions that get past a certain depth (compare this to a bulletin board type forum where each reply brings the thread back up to the top of the page and make it easy for others to pile on).

      One thing that’s surprised me compared to other forums I’ve visited is how light-handed the moderation here is. This is probably mostly because Scott has better things to do with his time than read every comment, but the effect is that people aren’t playing ‘appeal-to-the-moderators’ games to try and get those they disagree with banned. Having vague rules (kind, true, necessary) rather than an explicit list again makes people less likely to try and game the system.

      In summary, what makes SSC work better for civilized disagreement than many other places on the internet?
      1) A positive example set by Scott
      2) The restrictive format of the comment section
      3) Taking a mostly hands-off approach to moderation.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      3. Is this how it is in the Rationalist community in general? I don’t really see myself as part of that community and don’t regularly visit any websites that are part of that community aside from this one; the few glimpses I’ve had tell me the answer is no. But maybe I’m wrong?

      It’s far more diverse, by virtue of not actually being a community and more of a network of loosely linked ones.

      I wouldn’t say the SSC comments section is super intellectually diverse, actually. More than is common in the internet nowadays, sure, but that’s damning with faint praise.

      • Incurian says:

        I wonder how much more diverse we can get and still communicate effectively.

        • rlms says:

          Significantly more, both in terms of having a higher (but still small) number of extremists and having more people from more centrist but underrepresented viewpoints.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          Somebody invite Terrence Tao to effort post here, and we’ll see how many people can understand him.

      • Well... says:

        I wouldn’t say the SSC comments section is super intellectually diverse, actually.

        My impression is it’s very ideologically diverse but not very culturally diverse.

        • SamChevre says:

          I’m not sure–it depends on what counts as “culture.” But it seems culturally diverse to me–more than most other places on the internet. You’ve got Catholics, polyamorists, people from multiple countries…

          Admittedly, we’re all weird, and most of us would look at something that said “the error rate went down 200%” and say “no way”.

          As a cautionary tale–the site that was like this a decade ago was Making Light.

        • quanta413 says:

          I partly agree with SamChevre, depends how you define culture. On the other hand, as Americans normally think of culture I’m pretty sure the answer would be “not culturally diverse”

          Judging by the 2017 survey results SSC is not very racially diverse. 88% white is pretty white. On the other hand, only 64% of the readership is from the U.S. which surprised me, so the racial demographics may partly reflect the underlying demographics of the countries the readers are from.

          Education level here is also higher than average, and atheists are way overrepresented.

          On the other hand, the political spectrum covered here is really broad.

          • John Schilling says:

            SSC is not very racially diverse. 88% white is pretty white. On the other hand, only 64% of the readership is from the U.S. which surprised me, so the racial demographics may partly reflect the underlying demographics of the countries the readers are from.

            If the SSC readership accurately reflected the underlying demographics of the countries the readers are from, and if we take the “other” category in Scott’s survey to be filled with random Europeans, we would expect to see 71.5% a non-hispanic white readership. So there’s still quite a bit of selection going on.

          • bean says:

            This seems like a textbook case of “Black People Less Likely”.

        • johan_larson says:

          My impression is it’s very ideologically diverse…

          Among the frequent posters? I see a pretty substantial right/libertarian skew. I would guess an American conservative or European anarchist would feel at home here, but a socialist or social democrat would feel like he’s swimming upstream all the time.

          Come to think of it, do we have a socialist among us? A social democrat? A Green?

          • quanta413 says:

            Come to think of it, do we have a socialist among us? A social democrat? A Green?

            I’m pretty sure we have some social democrat-y people here, but some of them also pattern match really badly to the current American fashion where a particular set of cultural beliefs is thought to be required to be “left”. IIRC Aapje said his beliefs were closest to the Dutch… Green party? (which I have no idea how it aligns compared to the U.S. one) And Deiseach is culturally conservative and Catholic, but as I understand it, she’s not economically right wing at all.

            But outside of when Freddie deBoer (who as I understand it has decided to bail from the hellish vortex of online argument; I assume mostly due to interactions he had in the broader media with his writing and on twitter and not here specifically but I don’t know), I don’t think we have many passionate socialists here in the old school sense. People who are pro safety net and welfare state sure, but not many pro-socialism in the shared ownership of the means of production sense. I think that’s largely due to the huge blow socialism as a whole took with the fall of the Soviet Union and the conversion of China to crony capitalism. I get the impression socialism has been hurting for numbers of true believers for decades.

          • Baeraad says:

            Hello! Socialist by preference, social democrat by pragmatism. (as in: I would prefer public ownership of the means of production and all that. I just don’t see how it’s possible anytime soon, and perhaps not ever. So I’ll settle for well-regulated capitalism backed by a welfare state, which is also not something that everyone’s going to be willing to go along with but which I can at least imagine getting a majority behind)

            But it’s true that conservatives and libertarians seem to dominate here. On the other hand, Scott himself starts out from a liberal viewpoint and then leans right from there, which seems to create an environment where people are less inclined to just dismiss left-leaning viewpoints.

          • Aapje says:

            Here is a short summary of the Dutch Green party program in English, so people can see for themselves. The American Green party seems more radical and unrealistic, although this may partly be because the programs on the American Green party site are long term, rather than for the next 4/5 years.

            As for my personal beliefs, they have become highly idiosyncratic. I do think that my disagreements with the social democratic left are mostly because I think they are wrong on the facts, while my disagreements with conservatives & libertarians are often more fundamental and about the desired outcomes.

          • Brad says:

            Among the frequent posters? I see a pretty substantial right/libertarian skew. I would guess an American conservative or European anarchist would feel at home here, but a socialist or social democrat would feel like he’s swimming upstream all the time.

            Forget socialist or social democrats, a bog standard supporter of the American Democratic Party sticks out like a sore thumb. A nominal socialist with an obsessive hatred for feminism, in contrast, would fit right in.

          • John Schilling says:

            a bog standard supporter of the American Democratic Party sticks out like a sore thumb.

            So does a standard supporter of the American Republican Party. We’ve got a few people here who will acknowledge having voted for Trump, but mostly for idiosyncratic non-MAGA reasons.

            SSC optimizes for attracting people who think a lot about political issues. Major political parties optimize for winning the votes of people who’d rather not think a lot about political issues (or they wouldn’t be major), and so wind up in a rather different place.

          • Brad says:

            So does a standard supporter of the American Republican Party.

            Conrad Honcho seems to do fine for himself here. Not a lot of dog piles or anything. That simply wouldn’t be the case for his mirror image.

            There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with a forum being a right wing space, but one ought not to be in denial about it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            While I agree I’m a bog standard Republican voter, I disagree with “supporter of the Republican party.” I, and an awful lot of Republican voters, strongly dislike the Republican party and its leadership.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Brad –

            A few open threads ago Conrad opened a thread in which we mocked him endlessly for not wanting gay children.

            He was nice enough about it, so we were pretty good natured about the ribbing, but no, his right-wing views don’t actually fit in very well here.

            The difference is that he framed the conversation in an acceptable way – being about the children’s outcomes rather than his own feelings about them being gay, and admitting he would accept it if they were. I think most of us have decided he is a decent guy with ideas that would have been socially acceptable a few years ago, and don’t see much point in yelling at him about it.

            Whereas, to be blunt, the leftists here who have issues tend to be not-very-nice about it. The right-wing people mostly behave themselves, possibly because Scott has banned all the right-wing people who don’t, as, for as much as things heat up when left wing people aren’t nice, they explode when right wing people aren’t.

          • Chalid says:

            The bog standard Republican or Democratic party supporter is mostly not that enthused about their party leadership (presidents excepted) but they support their party because they dislike the other party much more.

          • Garrett says:

            I believe that the most recent survey showed that the commentators and the readers tended to be less right-wing than people generally thought.

            It’s possible that breaking down complex ideas and discarding all current standard thoughts leads to people thinking it’s on the other side, when really it’s merely showing that the issue is far more complex than people thought (see articles on gun control, wage gap, pharmaceutical effectiveness, etc). If the summary is “everything you know is wrong” and your prior was that the Lefty solution was correct, it could appear as a right-wing posting.

            Another consideration is that many of the issues being brought up are ones where right-wing positions are more likely to have something interesting to say. For example, analysis of existing programs such as SNAP, etc., often include criticism. Yet there isn’t a lot of discussion talking about the eg. benefits of school prayer, either.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            I believe that the most recent survey showed that the commentators and the readers tended to be less right-wing than people generally thought.

            That’s not super relevant without a measure of volume, if there’s 5 right-leaning commenters and 5 left-leaning commenters, but the left ones comment at a much higher rate, the space will seem (and really, be), more left biased, despite having an even distribution of people.

            One thing that maybe confounds percepion of skew is that I think that people here have less clustered beliefs than usual.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I think it is more to do with the fact that many people here see right-wing views as a novelty, rather than a threat.

            Right-wing is pretty far-tribe here – except, amusingly, a specific kind of far-right which shows up often. Apart from that particular tribe, their notions are quaint and interesting. (And I think that particular tribe gets the anger it does because it is a particularly modern-left version of right-wing thought, but that is a topic for another day.)

            And nobody likes dogpiling libertarians because they seem to enjoy it a little too much. I suspect libertarians revel in going to left-wing spaces and raising havoc, and having so much experience in arguing with leftists as a result, tend to do rather well in that situation.

            But a slightly different version of left? That is going to get some angry reactions. (I’ll cop to that, and have been trying to moderate myself a little better.)

          • skef says:

            A few open threads ago Conrad opened a thread in which we mocked him endlessly for not wanting gay children.

            I recall Conrad being mocked for his crackpot view of what causes homosexuality, and the reasonable, if arguable, assessment that his approach would be very alienating to any of his children who turned out to be gay, regardless of his stated intentions.

            That is, a number of people were criticizing him for what they took to be errors of fact, which is quite common in these comments from all “sides”.

          • a bog standard supporter of the American Democratic Party sticks out like a sore thumb.

            I don’t know if I count as “bog standard”, but I hold my job by virtue of being elected on the Democratic Party ticket every four years, and it is by no means a stretch for me support my fellow candidates on the ticket in Michigan. Do I “stick out like a sore thumb”?

            I wouldn’t have thought so, but then again, I am usually the last to know.

          • rlms says:

            You are definitely not bog standard.

          • JayT says:

            I think another issue is that (in America, at least) the left has a fairly homogeneous set of beliefs. The difference between a Bernie Sanders and a Hillary Clinton is more a matter of degrees. The right on the other hand, is just made up of everything that is left over. People will look at Donald Trump and an ancap and call them both right wing, even though they share almost none of the same views. There’s just a lot more room on “the right” when you have a place that is friendly to more obscure political views.

          • @ rlms

            You are definitely not bog standard.

            I should be flattered, but I’m guessing that to be distinguished from a “bog standard Democrat” is exceedingly faint praise.

            I mean, okay, I’m heterodox on a number of dimensions. I don’t demonize the Red Tribe. I winced at Hillary Clinton’s gun rhetoric. I see nothing wrong with “genetically modified” foods. I’m firmly pro-choice on abortion, but I have a good friend who pickets Planned Parenthood. I think deer are rats with hooves. I think efforts to reduce CO2 emissions are doomed to failure, and that direct human management of the atmosphere will be necessary to ameliorate climate change. I voted for Al Gore, but I doubt he would have made a great president. I am opposed to the removal of politically incorrect cemetery monuments.

            But I don’t think any of those things make me very unusual among Democrats.

            @ JayT

            the left has a fairly homogeneous set of beliefs.

            Outgroups always appear homogeneous.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I don’t think it’s that this is necessarily a right-wing space, so much as it’s a space where a certain brand of left is hated and feared, in a way that really distorts things, and really reduces standards of precision and charity. I think that a straight up Stalinist or Maoist would have a better time here than a liberal-ish SJ advocate.

            EDIT: To put it another way, imagine that libertarians really really hated and feared standard Republicans. A blog run by and for those libertarians would not be a left-wing blog.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @skef

            Seems a touch uncharitable to call my view of what causes homosexuality “crackpot” when it’s the only view consistent with current science.

            You’re welcome to change my mind, but you’ll need some actual facts or data. Simple outrage or mockery is not sufficient.

          • I would prefer public ownership of the means of production and all that. I just don’t see how it’s possible anytime soon

            Is what you mean that you don’t think it is politically possible to get it any time soon or that under current conditions, if you got it, it wouldn’t work well? If only the former, are you familiar with the standard economic arguments, going back to the calculation controversy (Mises et. al. v Lerner et. al.), for why it isn’t a workable system? The comparison of actual outcomes since then seems to support the Mises side.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            okay, I’m heterodox on a number of dimensions [list]

            You would be treated with freezing contempt at all the better social events and by the more connected people the Democratic Party orgs around Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Boston, and New York.

            Whereas the all the Republican voters that I know would welcome you to their backyard dinner parties with that list.

          • rlms says:

            It was definitely intended as a compliment! I was trying to point more at e.g. your “being elected on the Democratic Party ticket every four years” rather than suggesting you might have outlying beliefs.

          • Standing in the Shadows says:

            where a certain brand of left is hated and feared

            For good reason, I think. Not because of their positions on issues, or on their underlying constructive philosophies. Instead because of their playbook for entering a space, and then use outrage performance to shut down any conversation or concepts that they do not approve and prioritize.

            The only way to have a useful and learning conversation with a SJW is with one of them at a time, when they are outnumbered, and they have zero power.

          • Jaskologist says:

            This is probably one of those cases where the average person does not exist.

            Larry is the cream of the crop of the Democratic Party, which is non-average. But he’s not from the fringes of that group, which I think is the more relevant measure of “bog standard” in this discussion.

          • skef says:

            Seems a touch uncharitable to call my view of what causes homosexuality “crackpot” when it’s the only view consistent with current science.

            It has been explained over and over and over that the set of potential non-biological causes is vastly larger than the tiny space of “exposure to depictions and descriptions of homosexuality.” And assuming you really believe that the latter being the cause is “the only view consistent with current science”, perhaps you can point to some scientific evidence ruling out all other potential non-biological causes.

          • JayT says:

            @Larry, can you name two groups that are considered “left wing” but are as different from each other as libertarians and populists are? How about ancaps or fascists?

          • Nornagest says:

            YMMV on how different they are in practice, but left anarchists and Hillary Clinton-style wonkish technocrats are certainly running very different theory.

          • rlms says:

            “How about ancaps or fascists?”
            Wait, fascists are right-wing now?

          • Brad says:

            @Larry Kestenbaum

            Do I “stick out like a sore thumb”?

            But I don’t think any of those things make me very unusual among Democrats.

            I think the idiosyncrasies of the political positions you hold, mostly off-board, are besides the point. It’s the mostly off-board part that makes you a poor counterexample.

            Forget for a second the positions where you might be slightly or more out of step with the mainstream of the party, and take an issue where you are right there in the middle. Maybe it’s minimum wage or maybe it’s universal healthcare or maybe it’s immigration. But whatever it is, do you find yourself posting a lot about here? Do you push back when other people attack that position here?

            I’m not saying you have any kind of responsibility to do. On the contrary, I enjoy the mostly non-ideological posts you make about the political process at the local level a great deal.

            But what it does mean is that if someone says this place is ideologically diverse you aren’t a good example to represent the mainstream center left because your posts are mostly non-ideological.

            This is a right wing space because most of the posts that have any ideological valiance are either right wing or at least anti left. There’s lots of posters in this thread that have kinds of theories about why that might be — maybe it’s because right wing things are more fun to talk about, or maybe it’s because most thoughtful intelligent people are anti-social-left, or maybe it’s because left wing people can’t handle being challenged, or several other mooted explanations. I’m agnostic on that question, but which one, if any, is correct is irrelevant to the main point. I agree that this in an unusually thoughtful and open minded (on most issues) right wing space, but nonetheless still a right wing space.

            And that’s okay. It’s a part of the attraction for me, frankly. Not the angry posts from the perspective of people participating in blue spaces that (not so?) secretly loathe the people around them, those I could certainly live without, but the genuine red tribe and some of the libertarian posts are quite interesting in terms of “what’s the other side thinking”.

          • JayT says:

            @rlms, I’m saying that ancaps and fascists are both groups lumped into the right wing, but they have almost completely different goals and processes.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It has been explained over and over and over that the set of potential non-biological causes is vastly larger than the tiny space of “exposure to depictions and descriptions of homosexuality.”

            It was never my contention that “exposure to depictions and descriptions of homosexuality” were the cause of homosexuality, but that they were at least one contributing factor. I also talked about molestation and cultures like Greeks and some Arab tribes where penetrating boys is acceptable.

            My contention is:

            Almost certainly not genetic.

            Almost certainly not “choice.”

            Perhaps some other biological influences like natal hormone exposure.

            Largely culturally conditioned or fostered by interpersonal interaction.

            Since culture seems to matter (I don’t think the Greeks or the Arabs are biologically gayer than anybody else), then exposure to messages that “gay is great” could lead to increased likelihood of participation in homosexual activities. Therefore I will not be taking my child to Pride parades or showing him pro-homosexual propaganda.

            What part of this is “crackpot?”

          • Thegnskald says:

            Eh. Fascists are left wing by some metrics, right wing by others. Neither wants to claim them, for obvious reasons, so the claims just get bandied about as a way of proving moral superiority.

            While communism was a thing, and there were enough left-wingers happy to include them in their camp, there was a balance to the claims, so most people were happy calling one the left-wing horror and the other the right-wing horror. Now that communism isn’t really material, both sides try to fling both horrors in the other’s camp.

            Meh.

          • You would be treated with freezing contempt at all the better social events and by the more connected people the Democratic Party orgs around Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Boston, and New York.

            Yet, somehow, I am on good terms with such people here in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which surely is as much of a bastion of liberalism as any of the places you listed.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @rlms

            Wait, fascists are left-wing now?

            I don’t know about fascism in general, but it wasn’t called “National Socialism” for nothing.

            For the modern example, look at Richard Spencer. He supports universal healthcare, is opposed to the RAISE act that would make immigration points-based, is pro-homosexual, and is an atheist. If one were to engage him and cure him of his racism, all the rest of his policies would be right at home with the Democratic party.

          • skef says:

            What part of this is “crackpot?”

            The paragraph before this sentence.

          • Randy M says:

            I should be flattered

            Go ahead and go with flattered; you don’t stick out for being unusual in belief, but are measured and well-spoken about what you know, in a way that isn’t bog standard many places. At least I think that’s the implication.

          • @ Jaskologist

            This is probably one of those cases where the average person does not exist.

            I was thinking of precisely that example!

            @ Brad

            Maybe it’s minimum wage or maybe it’s universal healthcare or maybe it’s immigration. But whatever it is, do you find yourself posting a lot about here? Do you push back when other people attack that position here?

            I don’t have unlimited time to argue with people who have different views. And I don’t have unusual insight into those issues. I am much more likely to write about topics where I am well-versed.

            @ Everybody

            Many thanks for the very kind comments.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Eh. Fascists are left wing by some metrics, right wing by others.

            It’s almost like modeling ideologies along one axis is dangerously simplistic or something. See also: modeling humans as belonging to one ideology at a time.

          • rlms says:

            @Conrad Honcho @Thegnskald
            Oops, I meant to question whether fascists were *right*-wing (referencing long debates we’ve had on the subject before which I’m not really interested in repeating).

            @Larry Kestenbaum
            Possibly someone who says “The only way to have a useful and learning conversation with a SJW is with one of them at a time, when they are outnumbered, and they have zero power” may not have the most accurate perception of what Democrat events are like.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            skef, so you agree homosexuality is likely caused by culture and personal interaction? Then shouldn’t avoiding the cultural exposure and personal interactions that are pro-homosexuality decrease the likelihood of homosexual behavior? This does not sound “crackpot” to me unless you’re pushing some kind of political agenda.

            Let’s say you would prefer if your kid is not a racist. Is it a good idea to expose him pro-racist media, and take him to a Klan march and cheer enthusiastically for the marchers?

          • Gobbobobble says:

            (I believe the original version of that comment also said “tied to a table”)

            Poor form, dude. If someone does us all the favor of taking a breath and editing out some of their needless heat, don’t go dragging it back in. There’s enough dealing-in-absolutes in that post to criticize without rekindling the obnoxious exaggeration that was wisely reconsidered.

          • skef says:

            skef, so you agree homosexuality is likely caused by culture and personal interaction?

            Not really, and certainly not in the normal sense of “caused by”. In the earlier thread and now I have mostly been accepting some of your premises for the sake of argument.

            The evidence that I am aware of suggests non-deterministic genetic propensity (twin studies) combined with environmental influences we only have the dimmest grasp on. It is entirely consistent with what we now know that the balance could be made up by what amounts to chance — chaotic influences that would be impossible to control in practice.

            Even assuming a significant social (again, broader than cultural) component, we have very little idea of what that might be. The current evidence for homosexual content playing a significant role seems worse than the evidence for that of “smothering mothers”, in that motherly smothering presumably has a more stable baseline, while common depictions of homosexuality have gone from almost zero to common relatively recently.

            Then shouldn’t avoiding the cultural exposure and personal interactions that are pro-homosexuality decrease the likelihood of homosexual behavior? This does not sound “crackpot” to me unless you’re pushing some kind of political agenda.

            Again and again you jump from the broad category of “culture” to explicit depiction of a particular content.

            Let’s say you would prefer if your kid is not a racist. Is it a good idea to expose him pro-racist media, and take him to a Klan march and cheer enthusiastically for the marchers?

            This sort of analogy seems to be the crux of your argument, even though its premises lie squarely in SJW space.

            Do you believe, for example, that a child never exposed to any romantic content would fail to be attracted to either sex? Do you not see that there are aspects of sexual attraction that are importantly different? That aside from the question of what can cause them to point in an unusual direction, the basic “mechanics” of normally asymmetric attraction likely lie deep in biology?

            The other area of evidence that is particularly relevant is that whatever the causes of sexual orientation, there is a broad consensus that, at least in males, it is fixed* prior to puberty, and correlates with certain childhood behaviors. Pre-pubescent is entirely consistent with environmental and even cultural, but much less so with your comparison to cultural attitudes of the sort that can change throughout someone’s life.

            * In the sense that one could also be “fixed” as a bisexual.