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OT91: Opaean Thread

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

1. Some people arguing at length against my post on taxes and on harassment. But comment of the week is Cameron Mahoney on pharma scams.

2. New ad for for the AI Safety Reading Group, meets every Wednesday night on Skype.

3. Related: MIRI is holding their annual fundraiser.

4. Some very minor updates to the Mistakes, Comments, and Predictions pages on the top.

5. I know many people left Patreon because of their plan to levy big fees on small donations. Patreon has since said they’re not going to do that. If you left my Patreon because of that, you may want to un-leave. I was considering switching from a per-post to per-month donation system anyway , just because most people program their per-post donations so they only count for the first few posts per month anyway, but I’m not sure. I’ll probably include a question on the survey about what people prefer.

6. Speaking of which, I’ve been busy working on a new survey. Expect it out in a few days to weeks.

7. Merry holidays to everyone!

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854 Responses to OT91: Opaean Thread

  1. eddie.purcell says:

    I often have crippling existential dread (which I’m learning is not as uncommon as I thought), triggered by slightly-scary real things which I then irrationally extrapolate from. Triggers include the recent UFO story, AI safety, recent nuclear war fears, etc…

    Therapists I’ve talked to have been largely unsympathetic. I’ve been meditating, which has helped, and I’ve been prescribed clonazepam for really acute anxiety, but I haven’t been able to really overcome these things. Does anyone around here have any suggestions?

    • baconbacon says:

      Listen to some Jordan Peterson podcasts to get more information but in general exposure therapy (in his view) works not by overcoming fear, but by demonstrating to your self that you can handle it. This jives pretty well with my experiences (posted not far above) along with getting something that manifested my poor decisions concretely.

      • eddie.purcell says:

        Is exposure therapy really what I want? it strikes me that part of the problem is that I can’t be exposed to these fears. When I worry about AI, I worry about something that doesn’t exist yet.

        • baconbacon says:

          (I think) what you want is the effect that exposure therapy gives, which is learning how to get close to your fears (be it physically or in thought) without getting tipped into the overwhelming aspect of them.

    • Evan Þ says:

      I’ve had vaguely-similar senses of dread, too, from things which seem to violate the usual way the world works (like UFO’s, though the recent story didn’t do it for me). Are you religious? The way I’ve dealt with them best is reading the Bible, praying (“St. Patrick’s Breastplate” works really well), and visualizing God’s presence in the most picturesque way I can.

      • eddie.purcell says:

        I’m not religious, though it’s interesting that meditation – the thing which works best (which is not to say it’s really that helpful) for me – sounds not dissimilar to what works for you. Forgive me if I mischaracterize what praying/your relationship with God is to you, though.

  2. Kevin C. says:

    Once, here on SSC, when I said that my preferred political system would likely have me executed, others suggested that when one comes to such a conclusion, one should recheck one’s reasoning.

    Well, what should one do if they find that, according to their own deep moral/religious/political values, they deserve to die. And that under the suggested rechecking, one’s value system and deductions still hold, and that one still unworthy of life?

    • chroMa says:

      Try to work and improve yourself by the moral standards you hold to make yourself worthy of life.

      • Anonymous says:

        This.

      • Kevin C. says:

        Far easier said than done, particularly when:
        •much of the problem is due to the ways one is irreparably defective as a human being (autism spectrum, introversion, depression, etc.)
        •one is too old/it is too late for certain actions necessary to be properly virtuous/worthy,
        •the greater society is actively hostile to one’s value system, and hence provides massive further barriers.

        • Zenit says:

          •much of the problem is due to the ways one is irreparably defective as a human being (autism spectrum, introversion, depression, etc.)

          Isn’t the society you idealize and want to bring back medieval feudal society? In this society, you will be indeed executed if you preached in public atheism and refused to recant, but this society never believed in such thing as “defective people”. Medieval person would advise you to care about your immortal soul, not your imperfect and perishable body.

          • Kevin C. says:

            Medieval person would advise you to care about your immortal soul, not your imperfect and perishable body.

            Except that, one, there’s no such thing as an immortal soul for me to care for, and secondly, the problem isn’t my body, it’s my mind. How do you think autistics and schizophrenics fared in Medieval society?Or Imperial China? Such societies certainly did kill a lot of their people, no? And let plenty of those incapable of supporting themselves die, right? The standard explanation for “changeling myths” also comes to mind.

            Edit: and they didn’t exactly hold single men in their mid-thirties, who weren’t in celibate religious orders, in high regard, did they? Especially not China, and especially not eldest sons, upon whom the moral duty to continue the family line primarily fell. Nor were these societies exactly supportive of thirty-something men who were totally incapable of supporting themselves.

          • Anonymous says:

            How do you think autistics and schizophrenics fared in Medieval society? Or Imperial China?

            Autistics were probably rounded off to village idiots, and lived out their doing simple manual labour with the rest of their family. I expect their marriage and procreation prospects were better then, with arranged marriages being a thing.

            Schizophrenics on the other hand sound like a high risk of being taken for possessed by the various satans.

          • Aapje says:

            It seems unlikely to me that marriages were arranged for village idiots. In general, Christian societies in the past tended to exempt substantial numbers of people from marriage (see monasteries).

            I would think that high functioning autistic people might be very likely to become monks/nuns. The strict daily routine, the ability to engage deeply with a single subject and the much clearer rules for how to interact with people all seems to greatly suit them.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Aapje

            Excellent point. However, I still think that the odds of being married off were way higher for autistics in medieval times than nowadays.

          • rlms says:

            I doubt it. Consider how many people died before they could’ve been married.

          • Jaskologist says:

            If my reading of Little Flowers of St Francis and Brothers Karamazov is right, monasteries were a popular destination for schizophrenics and other mental illnesses.

          • Anonymous says:

            @rlms

            If you die, you can’t be killed!

          • Evan Þ says:

            Except that, one, there’s no such thing as an immortal soul for me to care for…

            Well, if you want to bring back medieval society, shouldn’t you at least act like an immortal soul exists?

            (Or do you dissent from Kant’s Categorical Imperative?)

          • How do you think autistics and schizophrenics fared in Medieval society?Or Imperial China? Such societies certainly did kill a lot of their people, no?

            Murder rates seem to have been considerably higher in medieval Europe than in modern societies–I don’t know about China. But killing in the sense of execution wasn’t, so far as I can tell. The only figures I could find for the execution rate in Imperial China suggested that it was quite low.

        • Anonymous says:

          Die trying. Die well.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I still think you (I’m talking specifically to Kevin) need to seriously consider how to rationalize yourself into Christian belief. After that your problem is solved:

          When I consider how my light is spent
          Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
          And that one talent which is death to hide
          Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
          To serve therewith my Maker, and present
          My true account, lest he returning chide,
          “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
          I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
          That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
          Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
          Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
          Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
          And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
          They also serve who only stand and wait.”

          — John Milton, On His Blindness

    • MrApophenia says:

      Post your reasoning in a public space full of people who are hostile to it and see if any of the arguments against it are convincing. From the premise you are clearly open to the idea that your mental process is incorrect somewhere here (or else your preferred society wouldn’t want you dead), but if that’s the case, then maybe the error is indeed in your society preference.

      • Nick says:

        I second the suggestion to get more eyes on one’s reasoning, but “a public space full of people who are hostile to it” could mean a lot of things. It if means SSC, sure, but I expect most other places would be unhelpful at best.

        To Kevin, the part I don’t get is why your preferred society would want to execute you. My issue here isn’t with the death penalty, which I think is fine in principle, it’s that I don’t see how you or others have done a capital crime by being autistic or schizophrenic or depressed or whatever. So what’s your preferred society’s reasoning for this? Why are they not, say, institutionalizing them, exiling them, or leaving them to the care of their families?

        • Winter Shaker says:

          I took Kevin to mean that any historical societies which enacted his preferred policies in regard to sex/gender/ethnicity/kyriarchy etc were also societies which routinely killed nonbelievers (or at least people who were unable to convincingly fake belief) in the local gods, and that he is assuming that the tendency towards murderous retribution for religious non-conformism is an inevitable side effect of a society being willing to enact the policies that he does like.

          • Evan Þ says:

            If that’s his concern, the answer is either “post his reasoning and let us argue him into Christianity,” or “fake it, which according to some apologists, will probably end up with his believing it.” (I’d say the other answer is “lots of prayer,” which I’m already starting on.)

            But what I got from his first post mentioning changeling legends is that he thinks his neo-medieval society will kill autistic people or else let them die – which as Jaskologist et al point out, isn’t the case.

        • Kevin C. says:

          To Kevin, the part I don’t get is why your preferred society would want to execute you.

          Because I’m a useless, worthless, defective parasite on the body public that only leeches and consumes the taxes of hard-working folks, who will keep on consuming more than I produce, and will never stop being a net loss and drain upon others? And because the alternative to outright executing me, leaving me to starve because I’m unable to support myself, gives me the opportunity to “go bandit” to stave off that death, at which point I’d be executed for the banditry anyway, and the harm of my acts until caught would be a net negative, so why not just kill me now before that happens?

          • baconbacon says:

            Do you think charity was invented in the 1930s when social security was implemented?

            People care, and try to help. Throughout history. Poor people without much disposable income. People will love you just for being and you have to do something truly abhorrent to break that.

          • Zenit says:

            Because I’m a useless, worthless, defective parasite

            In past societies admired by you, the sick and disabled were not seen as “parasites”, but fellow children of God. To support them was work of Christian and Muslim charity, Buddhist compassion or Confucian benevolence.

            consumes the taxes of hard-working folks

            The “hard working” folks of top 1% who pay the most taxes are, by traditionalist standards, infidels and heretics who deserve to die and have all their ill gotten wealth expropriated by True Believers once the True King comes. You are just taking your cut in advance.

            The “ideal society” you describe is something from fevered dreams of most hardcore modern Social Darwinists, not something that ever existed, not even in Nazi Germany.

            For example, there were targets of Nazi T4 euthanasia program:

            https://www.phdn.org/archives/www.mazal.org/Lifton/LiftonT065.htm

            The targets of Nazi T4 program were:

            1. Patients suffering from specified diseases who are not employable or are employable only in simple mechanical work. The diseases were schizophrenia, epilepsy, senile diseases, therapy-resistant paralysis and other syphilitic sequelae, feeblemindedness from any cause, encephalitis, Huntington’s chorea, and other neurological conditions of a terminal nature.

            2. Patients who have been continually institutionalized for at least five years.

            3. Patients who are in custody as criminally insane.

            4. Patients who are not German citizens, or are not or German or kindred blood, giving race and nationality.

            It seems that your standards are much stricter that Nazi ones – maybe you can relax them a little?

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Zenit

            In past societies admired by you, the sick and disabled were not seen as “parasites”, but fellow children of God. To support them was work of Christian and Muslim charity, Buddhist compassion or Confucian benevolence.

            But I don’t live in such a society, and I’m not living off such willing charity (which might be at least less immoral, if still far from virtuous), but from taxation-backed parasitism.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            But I don’t live in such a society, and I’m not living off such willing charity (which might be at least less immoral, if still far from virtuous), but from taxation-backed parasitism.

            I’m not sure the distinction between the modern welfare state and its medieval equivalent is so clear-cut. Back in the day, the Church was largely responsible for caring for the sick, and most of the Church’s wealth came from royal lands which various pious kings had given it. Since the king and the government were pretty much synonymous, the money to care for the sick was coming from the government, just with the Church acting as an intermediary organisation which actually delivered the care.

            Plus, there are examples of direct state welfare in older societies, too. The most famous example would probably be ancient Rome, where the government used to buy up lots of grain and sell it to the poor at a subsidised price.

            It’s also worth bearing in mind that, in modern western countries, most people use up more money in government services than they pay in taxation. If you’re a worthless parasite, then so are 150-million-plus of your fellow citizens.

          • Nearly Takuan says:

            While I cannot assume the list of tax-funded goods you depend on has been described exhaustively here, it does seem to me that, if negotiated properly, most of those things can fit into an annual budget roughly equal to the amount I pay in income tax. So, if it helps, you can think of all the cash you’re leeching as coming directly from someone who gives it pretty willingly. (And since I’m clearly a Blue Tribesman, there is at least one reason to consider me your inferior and less deserving of that money anyway.)

          • Evan Þ says:

            Since the king and the government were pretty much synonymous, the money to care for the sick was coming from the government, just with the Church acting as an intermediary organisation which actually delivered the care.

            Don’t forget the many examples of charity given out directly by kings and other wealthy men, too. Since the Bible’s what I have readily at hand, see e.g. Job 31:19 (where he denies that “I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering”) and the frequent references to people eating at the tables of kings; if I had my books with me, I could give many medieval examples too.

    • Well... says:

      The only friendship I ever terminated as an adult was with someone saying approximately the same thing as you. Actually the similarities are kind of uncanny, except my friend isn’t autistic: he’s very “dark enlightenment” and wishes we could return to a much older/more conservative/more religious system (I don’t know if he would say medieval feudalism is already too advanced), but he is an atheist, introverted, oldest son, mid-30s, has depression, etc. and talked about the interaction of these characteristics of his the same way you do.

      As far as I can see it, here are your choices:

      1. Learn to live with inconsistency (You already know how to do this; we all do.)
      2. Kill yourself (Don’t do this, and it doesn’t seem like you want to anyway.)
      3. Go live in a cabin in the woods (Way better alternative to #2.)
      4. Change your beliefs (This will happen on its own anyway. How different were your beliefs 10 years ago? No reason to think they’ll be any less different 10 years from now.)
      5. Change the world (Seems like a tall order but what if you adjust your expectations about how much of the world one typical person can be expected to change, and just try to meet that standard?)

      Here are a couple practical recommendations too:

      1. Avoid all forms of journalism.
      2. Stop visiting All Trite websites.
      3. Dive deep into a non-political topic you’re interested in. Books, websites, blogs, etc.
      4. Exercise and get outside more.
      5. Move to a more conservative area so that progressivism/social justice/multiculti etc. isn’t being rammed down your throat as much. Where do you live now?

      I think your goal should be: get your career situated if it isn’t already, date a girl, marry her, buy a house, have 2 kids, and raise them to be the kind of people you like. That’s a lot of work and there will be rough patches but overall I can’t think of a better way to improve the world, no matter what your political philosophy, in a way that will also deliver huge value to yourself over time.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Re 5 – As of several months ago, he lived in Anchorage, AK. I’m afraid he’s already in a non-Blue area… not that matters so much given the Internet.

      • Kevin C. says:

        First, what Evan Þ said. Second

        I think your goal should be: get your career situated if it isn’t already,

        I’m on disability, and have been through Division of Vocational Rehabilitation twice. I’ve been pretty much pronounced officially unemployable (or as close as it gets), and my career seems permanently nonexistent, which I guess might be considered “situated”.

        date a girl, marry her,

        I think we’ve covered this before on here, but lots of SSC people say this is a bad idea. And as a 36-year-old who has almost no friends and who has literally never dated or even asked someone out before… every statistic I’ve seen says that at this point, it’s too late to start now… according to the CDC stats, pretty much every man who is still a virgin at my age dies a virgin. And that’s before you add in autism, mental illness, permanent unemployment, living in a male-skewed area (and I can’t move for many reasons), receeding hairline, overweight as a side effect of antipsychotic medication, and all my other negatives that ensure no woman could ever possibly want me.

        buy a house,

        Again, I can’t even afford my apartment without the government subsidy.

        have 2 kids,

        See above. Plus, everyone seems to agree that I’d be a terrible, terrible father and absolutely shouldn’t have kids.

        and raise them to be the kind of people you like.

        First, this would require a spouse who is okay with me raising them in that manner, and see above. Second, sure, until my therapist decides that, like she’s strongly hinted, my raising them like that constitutes “abuse” and she calls Family Services on us (she’s a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, after all).

        overall I can’t think of a better way to improve the world, no matter what your political philosophy, in a way that will also deliver huge value to yourself over time.

        Agreed, but I don’t see how it is at all possible, given the insurmountable barriers in place.

        • hyperboloid says:

          permanent unemployment

          Kevin, why are you unable to get a job?

          You seem to be intelligent, and correct me if i’m wrong but I don’t think you’re physically disabled. You’ve never written anything here to make me think that you are psychotic, or suffering from a mental illness other than high functioning ASD and depression.

          Do you have a degree? Do you have any interests (other than far right politics), or special skills? I think I’ve heard you mention mathematics.

          Do you have family that can arrange for you to get a job, even clerical work, or something in retail, or maintenance?

          Even a menial job can help build an employment history, and pay for for education that can help eventually earn a comfortable living wage. If you apply yourself, and get creative about covering up a few of the gaps on your resume, in a few years you could be earning a comfortable middle class salary as an accountant, or an office manager, or a bookkeeper, or something.

          Once you’re financially secure, and supporting yourself through your own means; take some vacation days, fly to Vegas, and avail yourself of the services of one of our nations finer legal brothels. It’s not a real relationship, but it’s some kind of companionship from a woman, and at least you won’t die a virgin.

          I’m not saying that you will ever live an easy life, indeed I’m certain you will face hardship, and loneliness. But there is a life worth living out there for you. There are billions around the world who lead meaningful existences with far less.

          • fly to Vegas, and avail yourself of the services of one of our nations finer legal brothels.

            I may be mistaken, but I believe that in Vegas prostitution is illegal, although common. It is legal in a few other parts of the state.

          • Kevin C. says:

            You’ve never written anything here to make me think that you are psychotic, or suffering from a mental illness other than high functioning ASD and depression.

            That’s because my schizophrenia responds well to my antipsychotic medication.

            Do you have a degree?

            BS in Physics, from Caltech.

            Do you have any interests (other than far right politics)

            Yes, but none that turn into job opportunities.

            or special skills?

            Not that I can think of.

            Do you have family that can arrange for you to get a job, even clerical work, or something in retail, or maintenance?

            Nope. My high-school-drop-out father is a maintenance man whose work schedule is spotty these days on account of his landlord/housing-speculator employer being basically treading water and, last I heard, possibly owing serious back taxes. And my Mom married out of high school, was a full-time homemaker, and only after my youngest brother graduated high school started working for our municipal library system, and said system is struggling and has downsized several times since then, including closing an entire branch, on account of our city’s numerous budget woes.

            Even a menial job can help build an employment history,

            and pretty much demolish my benefits in the process (SSI very much sets up one of those “welfare trap” situations), while likely also driving me into yet another psychiatric hospitalization.

            and pay for for education that can help eventually earn a comfortable living wage.

            Again, I already have a degree, not that it’s been of any use.

            get creative about covering up a few of the gaps on your resume

            More than just “gaps.” I had my first hospitalization in college, and my longest job ever was less than a year (part time at a math tutoring place that went out of business).

            in a few years you could be earning a comfortable middle class salary as an accountant, or an office manager, or a bookkeeper, or something.

            No, not really

            Once you’re financially secure, and supporting yourself through your own means; take some vacation days, fly to Vegas, and avail yourself of the services of one of our nations finer legal brothels.

            Prostitution is immoral.

            It’s not a real relationship, but it’s some kind of companionship from a woman, and at least you won’t die a virgin.

            It’s not about “not dying a virigin”; better to die a virgin than resort to pre-marital fornication for pay to prevent it, it’s about not perpetuating my race, family line, family name, and values.

            But there is a life worth living out there for you.

            [citation neeeded]

          • wanderingimpromptu says:

            I’m a little confused. So your schizophrenia responds well to medication and you have high functioning ASD. So the issue is the depression? What’s stopping you from the part-time accountant approach?

            Only probing bc you seem to place so much moral value on being self supporting. I personally think it’s perfectly reasonable for you to continue to live off of welfare.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @wanderingimpromptu

            What’s stopping you from the part-time accountant approach?

            First, lack of the requisite degree, certification, previous job experience, etc. Secondly, I don’t know of anyone who employs part-time accountants. I have a friend who is an accountant, now working for the state government, and from what he’s said, pretty much nobody’s hiring here right now. Which fits what I’ve heard about most other job fields. I mentioned upthread about my parents’ job insecurities. Another friend of mine may have to move out of town in pursuit of work (and just after he and Wife #3 bought a new house), since he recently got laid off (by e-mail!) when most of the petroleum engineering firm he worked for was “downsized.” The economy, and especially the job market in Anchorage (and Alaska in general) suck right now, and have been sucking for a while. And third, there’s all my social skill issues; I’m not good at tolerating stress, my “customer service” abilities are nonexistent. And for more “physical” jobs, I have gross and fine motor skill deficits and cooordination issues due to sensory processing disorder (a big part of why I don’t drive).

            Edit:

            I personally think it’s perfectly reasonable for you to continue to live off of welfare.

            Suppose I did accept this. Consider what this does vis-a-vis Well…’s outlined life goal, as what woman wants to marry a man on welfare? See the polls showing something like ~75% wouldn’t even go on a date with an unemployed man, the many studies about how a wife making more than her husband are a recipe for strife, resentment, and divorce, or the entire book about how and why poor women choose single motherhood over being shackled by matrimony to poor men.

          • wanderingimpromptu says:

            Okay, I didn’t know that about the job market in Anchorage/in general for accountants. It seems like there are barriers to entry that require a self-starter-ism & level of motivation that would be hard to muster while depressed. It still looks like the depression is key here, but I’ll assume you have already pursued/are pursuing all the correct avenues to address that. I know that there’s often/usually no easy “cure.” 🙁

            Re: marriage, I don’t have easy answers for you there, but I think life is still worth living without marriage/kids.

          • On employment possibilities.

            Aren’t there jobs that involve grading exams for a per exam payment? Presumably it could be done over the internet, and with a degree from a respectable school you should qualify.

          • Aapje says:

            @Kevin C

            What about volunteer work? It’s generally easier to find volunteer work that fits how you want to work. Since the boss doesn’t have as much leverage, you can negotiate better. You can also do it for relatively few hours/days a week, which may be more manageable for you, right now. Also, I think that plenty of non-profits can use financial expertise.

            Then you can build up some work history, get some positive feedback in your life, get to practice/work on certain skills, have more direct contact with other people, etc. Quite often, volunteers can take on more work if they want/are capable, so you can try to gradually do more work. Plus, you might get lucky and have someone appreciate your work and make an offer for a paid job (and be relatively confident that you can do it). You’d also be contributing to society.

          • Brad says:

            I really hate to get sucked into this, but isn’t the obvious thing to do what your idols do? Make blog posts on ultra-far-right topics while hawking gold, ammunition, and canned food? Why cast your pearls in front of us swine?

          • Kevin C. says:

            @David Friedman

            Aren’t there jobs that involve grading exams for a per exam payment?

            Never seen nor heard of that.

            Presumably it could be done over the internet

            That doesn’t mean that anyone out there is doing it over the internet.

            @Aapje

            What about volunteer work?

            I did volunteer work with a cat adoption center on weekends for a few months here

            It’s generally easier to find volunteer work that fits how you want to work.

            That wasn’t my experience. Like when I had a fire break out in my oven, and had to call the fire department, one Saturday evening, I had to go in as scheduled the next day, because, when I called the lady in charge, she said I had to show up when scheduled “unless someone has died.” I had to fight with her, a few weeks in advance, to get the Saturday that was my youngest brother’s birthday “off.” With the new bus system, took me over an hour to get their, and over an hour to get back home, which, along with the hours of operation, meant it was taking up my entire weekend, and she kept pushing for me to add weekdays too. She got irate with me for not replying promptly to her text messages… which I never got, because you can’t get texts on a landline phone. In fact, texting was pretty much her only mode of phone communications, and I don’t have a phone that can send texts. She pretty much wanted a regular, full employee to work to her schedule — only that she doesn’t have to pay. You can see why I’m not doing that anymore. Come the new year, and the holiday season being over, I’ll see about trying another of the possibilities for volunteering on my (short) list.

            Also, I think that plenty of non-profits can use financial expertise.

            Except I don’t have “financial expertise.” I’m not an accountant; that was hyperboloid and wanderingimpromptu’s idea/suggestion.

            And from what I’ve seen in the search I did for volunteer opportunities, they, much like job openings, seem thin on the ground here. Many want specific skills, like a lawyer, or the one for business owners and executives to talk to school kids about entrepreneurship and running a business. And much of what turned up on the searches is opportunities for “community service hours” — as in, the court sentenced you to such-and-such-many hours of community service. And then there’s the problem of not driving and being dependent on our newly “improved” bus system (pretty much everyone who uses the buses hates the changes; pretty much only Mayor Berkowitz and his cronies consider it better), which renders a sizeable fraction of little there is left inaccessible to me.

          • Rick Hull says:

            With a physics degree from Caltech, you should be able to teach physics, at least via something like The Khan Academy. And you should also be able to qualify for education grants if you want specialize in e.g. accounting. The world accessible from an Internet terminal is marvelous and marvelously large and growing. Ask yourself, what is the #1 thing that you have have control of that is holding you back. And separately, what is holding you back that is uncontrolled but might be controllable? Incremental progress on the margin is always within reach.

          • Aapje says:

            @Kevin C

            Of course, if organizations aren’t very desperate for volunteers, they get way more demanding than if they are. I would also expect some organizations to be especially attractive to very demanding people, including cat adoption centers.

            So I would suggest finding non-profits whose goals greatly exceed their means. If these are not available locally or too difficult for you to travel to, you can also try to find them online. For instance, you can start seriously contributing to Wiki’s or you can find look at this listing. Of course, online volunteering doesn’t have some of the advantages of local volunteering, but it might still give you purpose in life & a feeling that you contribute.

      • Kevin C. says:

        3. Dive deep into a non-political topic you’re interested in. Books, websites, blogs, etc.

        Except these seem to keep getting politicized. Like, for example, earlier tonight, at the annual Christmas party of the family of a friend of mine (since elementary school). My friend introduced me to a “science nerd” acquaintance of his I’d not met before. She immediately demanded I desplay my “nerd cred.” When I began with my degree, she said that wasn’t what she meant, she meant “nerd/geek culture” familiarity. So, going with a salient example, I mentioned my recent comments here about favorite Ellison story and favorite Herbert story. At the first mention of Frank Herbert, she immediately commented about Dune being “totally phallic,” then went right on to saying how she wanted to “dig up Heinlein and punch him in the crotch repeatedly,” as the start of a rant about how she won’t and “can’t” read the sci-fi “classics” because they’re just “totally full of utter misogyny,” and so on.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I have / had generalized anxiety and depression, and one of the first things I noticed when I started getting better was how utterly disconnected my feelings of fear and despair were from reality.

      A healthy person hears about an escaped tiger roaming the neighborhood and then he feels anxious until it’s caught. An unhealthy person feels anxious all the time and then when he passes the zoo that anxiety attaches to the possibility of escaped tigers.

      I’m not you but I would bet dollars to donuts that if you step back and look at your thought processes that the generalized fear and hopelessness are there before whatever in particular is bothering you that day. If you can catch those feelings attaching to new unrelated events that should prove to you that they’re not a product of reasoning but a treatable illness.

      Also, on a somewhat related note, I don’t see why anyone would want to execute you. From how you’ve described your ideal political system it doesn’t sound like the monarchs would be roaming the countryside hunting random guys who aren’t causing any trouble.

      • baconbacon says:

        I have / had generalized anxiety and depression, and one of the first things I noticed when I started getting better was how utterly disconnected my feelings of fear and despair were from reality.

        When I was depressed and suicidal simply telling someone what I wanted to kill myself basically stopped that feeling (or heavily muted it for a period). This didn’t solve my issues though, because that statement and the retreat of suicidal thoughts made me extremely embarrassed to be standing in front of someone that I had just told I wanted to kill myself, and doubly embarrassed that it was no longer true, and triply embarrassed that I couldn’t even describe those feelings in a way that felt authentic anymore. The best way that I have been able to describe it is that depressed me started to feel authentic and non depressed me started to feel like a fraud and a liar. I functionally fell into a world where I started hating being happy and not depressed, and that was both reality and false.

    • Randy M says:

      Given the grim conclusion, it seems like you could make subtle improvements to your ideals to account for people like yourself.
      Maybe only most men should be masculine warrior-engineers with doting wives and obedient children, and there’s room for those that don’t fit in in other spheres supporting them indirectly, like for example in monasteries copying manuscripts, or in the king’s court keeping meticulous historical records, or in the general store sweeping up stocking shelves.

      If you are basing your ideals on some particular historical instance, remember that it’s primarily the lives of the powerful few that get remembered, but that doesn’t mean other oddballs didn’t find some niche somewhere. Not every society has to (and probably none should be) the Sparta of 300, tossing defectives to the wolves.

      If you are basing your ideals on a reasoned, um, ideal, then consider if you couldn’t make one a little better that has a non-miserable place for people like yourself, perhaps one you don’t meet yet but could with some striving–one that accounts for your circumstances.

      and they didn’t exactly hold single men in their mid-thirties, who weren’t in celibate religious orders, in high regard, did they? Especially not China

      Not held in high regard != deserves death, surely?

    • Brad says:

      according to their own deep moral/religious/political values

      Since you are an atheist you don’t think these come from god. I don’t think even the must reductive of the nature guys think these are literally encoded in DNA. So what work is “deep” supposed to be doing there?

      There’s absolutely no reason you have to spend the rest of your life as a miserable far far rightest. You can stop reading those terrible websites, stop defending H B D and N R X online, go get a different hobby other than being an edgelord. That’s a choice that’s open to you.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      We don’t have a system that would execute you, and you seem not to be preventing one from coming to be, so you might as well try to enjoy the life our existing system is (foolishly, in your estimation) permitting you?

      • Kevin C. says:

        so you might as well try to enjoy the life our existing system is (foolishly, in your estimation) permitting you?

        How does one enjoy life while knowing that one is evil scum that deserves to die?

        • baconbacon says:

          How does one enjoy life while knowing that one is evil scum that deserves to die?

          This doesn’t sound like Truth, this sounds like someone who is suffering and needs help. There are people who would want to help you, and further would derive meaning from trying to help you. I don’t mean in a “post a selfie at the food kitchen around Thanksgiving” kind of way, the kind of way that their friends and relatives might not even know it was happening until they went through personal affects after they passed kind of way.

          There are people who would love you just for being.

          • Kevin C. says:

            this sounds like someone who is suffering and needs help.

            What help is there out there that I’m not already receiving? I’m already on meds, in therapy, and getting government money (extracted from taxpayers, making me a vile parasite on the body public).

            There are people who would love you just for being.

            You keep repeating this, but that does not make it so. And so what? Being loved by others and being worthy of life are not synonymous. After all, even plenty of serial killers have people who love them.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          “Would be executed by the ideal society” does not imply “is evil scum and deserves to die”.

        • baconbacon says:

          How does one enjoy life while knowing that one is evil scum that deserves to die?

          We all die and deserve has nothing to do with it. Death is a fact of existence, unavoidable as far as we know. I am going to die and you are going to die, the only question that has meaning is how do you live?

          • Kevin C. says:

            We all die and deserve has nothing to do with it.

            How can you possibly deny that there are some human beings alive that indeed deserve to die?

            Okay, then, how does one continue, knowing that one can survive only by living in an immoral manner?

          • baconbacon says:

            What is immoral about your manner?

          • Kevin C. says:

            Again, I’m on SSI, APA, housing assistance, etc… which is to say, I am a parasite on the body public who consumes more than he produces and subsists entirely not upon voluntary, personal charity, but the tax dollars of others.

            Not to mention doing nothing of any real consequence to contribute to the perpetuation of my family line, tribe, culture, values, etc.

          • baconbacon says:

            None of this sounds immoral. Amoral behavior probably, but few people (even anarcho capitalist, anti government, anti welfare people like me) would consider you immoral for receiving benefits unless you are lying/cheating/stealing to obtain them. Many people have criticized the dole as being immoral because of its cost and effect, which is very different from people on the dole being immoral.

            Not to mention doing nothing of any real consequence to contribute to the perpetuation of my family line, tribe, culture, values, etc.

            A person cannot have a moral obligation to do something that is impossible for them to do. It could only be immoral if you feel you could be doing these things, but are choosing not to.

            How can you possibly deny that there are some human beings alive that indeed deserve to die?

            They are going to die either way. You are really asking “can you deny that there are people that I deserve to condemn to death now rather than later”, which is a whole different ball of wax.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @baconbacon

            A person cannot have a moral obligation to do something that is impossible for them to do.

            Yes, they can. We’ve had this discussion before, vis-a-vis “moral luck” (and that the view that people cannot be held morally responsible for things outside their control is an unworkable moral system, so therefore people can be morally responsible for things entirely outside their control).

            You are really asking “can you deny that there are people that I deserve to condemn to death now rather than later”, which is a whole different ball of wax

            Okay, rephrasing, I don’t see how you can possibly dispute that there are indeed people that deserve to be condemned to death “now rather than later” either.

          • baconbacon says:

            Yes, they can. We’ve had this discussion before, vis-a-vis “moral luck” .

            No they can’t, whatever discussion you have had isn’t clear, but that doesn’t make it correct.

            (and that the view that people cannot be held morally responsible for things outside their control is an unworkable moral system, so therefore people can be morally responsible for things entirely outside their control)

            This is easily addressed. A person can have a moral obligation to ATTEMPT to do something. They cannot have a moral obligation to succeed in something that they physically cannot accomplish. Trying, and failing, to stop the holocaust isn’t an immoral act. Saying “I almost certainly can’t stop it, so I won’t try” might well be. Morality is not measured by outcomes or you get screwy results.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @baconbacon

            No they can’t, whatever discussion you have had isn’t clear, but that doesn’t make it correct.

            Yes, they can. And I was referring to this open thread discussion back in October, wherein was linked the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s page on “moral luck“:

            Moral luck occurs when an agent can be correctly treated as an object of moral judgment despite the fact that a significant aspect of what she is assessed for depends on factors beyond her control. Bernard Williams writes, “when I first introduced the expression moral luck, I expected to suggest an oxymoron” (Williams 1993, 251). Indeed, immunity from luck has been thought by many to be part of the very essence of morality. And yet, as Williams (1981) and Thomas Nagel (1979) showed in their now classic pair of articles, it appears that our everyday judgments and practices commit us to the existence of moral luck. The problem of moral luck arises because we seem to be committed to the general principle that we are morally assessable only to the extent that what we are assessed for depends on factors under our control (call this the “Control Principle”). At the same time, when it comes to countless particular cases, we morally assess agents for things that depend on factors that are not in their control. And making the situation still more problematic is the fact that a very natural line of reasoning suggests that it is impossible to morally assess anyone for anything if we adhere to the Control Principle.

            Consider a soldier who has a particular duty to fufill (like, say, bringing the troops under his command to help defend a city, with a legal requirement to arrive to the task on time, and penalties for being late), and who then fails to carry out said duty (like, say, being delayed by a flood). There is no excuse for not doing one’s duties. Have you heard of the four French corporals shot by firing squad in WWI in the “Souain affair”?

            I’m pretty sure David Friedman can back me up on this, but I seem to recall that under traditional Chinese law, if your superior (whom you’re required by law to obey) gives you an illegal order, your choices are either to carry out the order, and then be punished for the crime one has committed in doing so (because crimes must not go unpunished), or else refuse the order, and be punished for this disobedience. There is no moral, punishment-free choice. Sometimes there are indeed situations where all possible choices are immoral (and punishable).

            We are all born with duties upon us — duties which are non-dischargeable, absolute, and morally binding. Duty is heavier than the mountains, and death is lighter than a feather. Failure to do one’s duties has no excuse, save a higher duty. Impossibility is no defense.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I am a parasite on the body public who consumes more than he produces

            As I said in another comment (but I think it bears repeating here), most people in modern countries consume more than they produce. If consuming more than you produce makes you a parasite on the body politic, join the club, there are millions of us.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Consider a soldier who has a particular duty to fufill (like, say, bringing the troops under his command to help defend a city, with a legal requirement to arrive to the task on time, and penalties for being late), and who then fails to carry out said duty (like, say, being delayed by a flood). There is no excuse for not doing one’s duties. Have you heard of the four French corporals shot by firing squad in WWI in the “Souain affair”?

            I’m pretty sure David Friedman can back me up on this, but I seem to recall that under traditional Chinese law, if your superior (whom you’re required by law to obey) gives you an illegal order, your choices are either to carry out the order, and then be punished for the crime one has committed in doing so (because crimes must not go unpunished), or else refuse the order, and be punished for this disobedience. There is no moral, punishment-free choice. Sometimes there are indeed situations where all possible choices are immoral (and punishable).

            Those examples only show that authorities sometimes make crazy decisions. If the Chinese Emperor gives you an impossible order and then punishes you for failing to comply, the correct conclusion is that the Emperor is unjust and tyrannical, not that you were acting immorally by being unable to break the law of non-contradiction or to control the weather.

          • baconbacon says:

            There is no excuse for not doing one’s duties

            You are trying to sneak in an appeal to authority through a back door. Who decides your duties? If someone else is exclusively deciding them for you then you aren’t a moral agent any more than the wind is a moral agent. You don’t consider yourself moral or immoral, you are amoral (as far as your apparent philosophy is concerned).

            If you define your own duties then the statement “there is no excuse for not doing your duties” would mean that you are morally obligated to do “the right thing” without regard to the punishment or non punishment, which completely wipes out your next paragraph on Chinese law/tradition.

            Moral luck occurs when an agent can be correctly treated as an object of moral judgment despite the fact that a significant aspect of what she is assessed for depends on factors beyond her control.

            There are perhaps 50 issues with this. First is you took “completely out of someones control” and swapped it with partially (even if its the greater part) out of a persons control.

            More importantly (I’m considering deleting the above) is that the examples of “moral luck” are framed in a way that is frankly, bullshit.

            For example, we seem to blame those who have murdered more than we blame those who have merely attempted murder, even if the reason for the lack of success in the second case is that the intended victim unexpectedly tripped and fell to the floor just as the bullet arrived at head-height

            Similarly, if two drivers have taken all precautions, and are abiding by all the rules of the road, and in one case, a dog runs in front of the car and is killed, and not in the other, then, given that the dog’s running out was not something over which either driver had control, it seems that we are reluctant to blame one driver more than the other

            We don’t live in this world where we get to look at actions, perfectly isolate behaviors, and divide the results. The claim about the driver who hits the dog having done “all” he could do is illustrative. What man lives a perfectly moral life in all choices and actions? Has he never picked a fight with his wife, lost sleep because of it and was slightly less alert? Any number of possibilities exist where better behavior in the past would have avoided the situation that the author presumes to know don’t exist, or presumes to know the outcomes of the behaviors. In short it is an attempt to introduce god through a back door, presuming omniscience and then deriving morality, when human morality is derived from uncertainty.

            Furthermore the author (of the Stanford Link) with the examples pulls a bait and switch, looking only at a part of the judgement processes that people go through. If an upright citizen hits a dog we are more forgiving than if one with DUIs on their record hits a dog. In fact many people will weight those past, but not directly casual factors, more highly than the factors that actually are known about the physical events surrounding the crash when coming to their personal judgement. In murder trails previous behaviors, like planning, evoke stronger reactions than ones committed in the heat of the moment. Character witnesses are often called in for the sentencing process, etc.

            To put it bluntly, virtually no one passes judgement based on an individual action alone. Parts of the moral life of the actor are brought into the picture and weighed by almost everyone.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I should point out that Christianity has, as a rather central concept, both the idea that we are evil scum worthy of death according to the proper law, and a way out. This was very pivotal in the life of Martin Luther.

          • Kevin C. says:

            I should point out that Christianity has, as a rather central concept, both the idea that we are evil scum worthy of death according to the proper law, and a way out.

            Again, not a Christian. I have the former without the latter.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I know you’re not a Christian. You’re just a guy who thinks that Christianity was right about pretty much everything you can verify, and you’re having an existential crisis on a subject which Christianity very specifically addresses. You just don’t agree with it on the things you’re not actually able to verify.

            I say go the lambdaphagy route and try faking it till you make it. It’s not like what you’re currently doing is working out for you, so why not give it a shot?

  3. jeqofire says:

    Back when falling asleep with the TV on was a thing that happened, it wasn’t horribly unusual for my dreams to be invaded by whatever sound was coming from said TV.
    Tonight, I had a text-to-speech engine reading these comments, and so my dreams were invaded by the dating subthread. I noticed something was weird when I realized I could not hear myself whining.
    So that was weird.
    (The hall light got turned on somehow in this dream, too. I think the fact that the rest of it involved wandering the house listening to SSC kept me from realizing I could just teleport to the moon if I felt like it. … Come to think of it, I’ve never been to the moon in a dream. Have I even been to Mars? I’ve been in space numerous times, but this solar system remains woefully unexplored. Right, time to look for episodes of The Magic School Bus, so as to prepare for tomorrow night.)

    • Well... says:

      Hah, that’s funny.

      I’ve had at least one or two dreams where I went to the moon. The one I remember well was pretty crazy: I got there by elevator–not a space elevator, a regular one. There was an ugly new housing subdivision that had been built on the moon but nobody seemed to be living in it. And then the weirdest thing was how I was there at night so the moon was lit by Earthlight.

  4. chroMa says:

    I have a question thats nagged at me for quite a bit of time and I’m wondering if I could get some feedback on it. At least on Facebook (and for me, my Facebook is pretty left-leaning) when I see people who are always trying to get people to vote they are overwhelmingly Democrats. Many of them work for the Democratic party or for Democratic candidates. Is the reason behind the fervor for voting just that they believe most/more non-voters are Democrats, not Republicans? If they thought (or knew) that every new person voting was likely to be a vote against their candidate/party would I still see the “You have to vote, it counts, people died, etc” type posts from those democratic friends?

    TLDR: Is the Blue Tribes’s focus on more people voting mostly strategic?

    • Nornagest says:

      Are you relatively young? Young people are strongly slanted Democratic, so get-out-the-vote efforts targeted at young people are almost always Democrat-aligned.

    • yodelyak says:

      Let’s see… these claims might explain it.

      1. People who are used to having power do not require coaching to exercise it. (Nobody has to tell old money to save their money at good interest rates, and nobody has to tell judges or bankers to vote, or drive them to the polls.) People who are used to being comparatively downtrodden or powerless the rest of the year have to be reminded–often downright coached–to remember and act on the fact that they aren’t powerless on election day.

      2. Electoral power acts to check other kinds of power, especially inertia/incumbency and financial power. (I realize incumbency is still powerful, but much less so than if offices were held for life.)

      3. Countries with first-past-the-post, winner-take-all elections will, for game theory reasons, have precisely two relevant parties.

      4. Because of #2 and #3, the two parties will be one that is (relatively) money-and-tradition, and one that is (relatively) new-good-ideas and equal power for everybody. That second “equal power for everybody” will care relatively more about increasing overall voter turn-out. So the “blue” party will be the one that develops a deep culture of valuing electoral fairness, and while the “red” team may also care about that, it probably isn’t in their strategic advantage to *do* anything that resembles caring. Meanwhile it *is* in their strategic advantage to do things aimed at reducing voter turnout, such as spending their time investigating voter fraud, uh, theories. (But maybe not ones that relate to a country that rhymes with “Tussia”.)

      • MrApophenia says:

        I actually think this reasoning might break down a bit at the end, because it’s looking at our current two party system and assuming it’s state is the natural result of having two parties.

        But for most of American history the parties weren’t like this. They were often divided along differing issues than they are now. Historically, each party contained both liberals and conservatives. And that’s before you even touch the impact of the Great Racist Swap the parties engaged in during the 1960s and 70s.

        My understanding (someone tell me if I’m wrong) is that the current state of having 2 extremely idealistically distinct parties with clearly delineated and separate views that almost everyone in the party agrees on is a relatively recent change in the 2-Party system.

        • dodrian says:

          I think “almost everyone in the party agrees” is a relatively recent change in perception of the parties – it’s an easy narrative to weave in mass and social media, as it’s more effective in getting us vs. them votes. Actually I suspect this was always the perception at the time, but with hindsight it’s easier to see the dissenting factions.

          Consider at the moment supporting the Democratic party you have the Saunders-socialists, the Blue-State moneyed neoliberals, and the social justice wing. The current Republican coalition includes the rust belt MAGAers (arguably a recent switch), Red-State moneyed neoliberals, and the evangelical wing.

          What I’m not sure about is whether the parties were always that much at eachother’s throats. Trump appears to be repealing anything he can, just because it was something Obama enacted, and there’s no way any Democratic representative in Congress would dare vote with Republicans on any significant issue at the moment. That feels to me like a new situation, but I suspect I just haven’t studied recent modern history enough.

          • MrApophenia says:

            My understanding from what I have read about this is that the ideological variance in each party used to be much more broad than it is now. Today there are factions of liberals in the Democrat party and factions of conservatives in the Republican party, but go back a few decades and each party contained its own liberal and conservative wings, and party conflict did not clearly map into a modern left/right divide at all.

        • yodelyak says:

          @MrApophenia

          I think you are right that my analysis gets much thinner where it seems to suggest it’s always been like this. I think–epistemic status, wild speculation at the bottom of a comment thread–that the reason it hasn’t always been like this may relate to there being, historically, many other reasons any particular state’s money-and-power set may find themselves disagreeing with the money-and-power set of another state, to the point where instead of class war, you get regional or ideological or trade wars. Slavery comes to mind as the bright and shining example; disputes over slavery and related policies spawned a full blown civil war with elite “money-and-incumbency” types on both sides. Leading up to it, in the north, I think even some very well-established money/incumbency sets often favored coalitions opposed to slavery. Nowadays, a couple generations into having national television and national news, we have national parties and national party politics. Maybe the result is, money plus incumbency can’t easily partner up with “new and better” from neighboring states, so “money plus incumbency” is stuck all batting on the same team.

          But, this still makes no attempt to incorporate anything from (say) Albion’s seed or the fact that sometimes very rich, incumbent types get old and make generous decisions, or the fact that there’s such a thing as religion and it seems to aim to interact with the general sweep of history, or or or… So, it’s obviously an insufficient analysis.

    • Timothy says:

      My understanding is that those who would vote for Republicans if they show up tend to show up on their own, while those who would vote for Democrats if they show up more often need to be cajoled, reminded, and given rides to the polls – this is the impression I’ve got from Democrats griping about this situation.

    • 10240 says:

      Their Facebook friends are mostly left-wing to, and if they decide to vote, they are likely to vote democrat. It’s not the non-voters in general that matters, but the non-voters among their friends.

    • Kevin C. says:

      “Get out the vote” efforts — like the many such the Jones campaign did in Alabama, with buses and fish fries and such — are yet another area where I look at the Left doing something that appears effective and asking “why aren’t we on the Right doing that too?” Is it really one of those where what works for the Left doesn’t for the Right; perhaps, because, as Timothy suggests, there are far fewer potential Republican voters who don’t vote (and could be reached to do so by GotV efforts) than Democrat voters? (Which would imply that the Right is in even worse demographic shape than present election results would indicate.)

    • chroMa says:

      @Nornagest – Yes I’m relatively young. Relative, of course, being relative 😉

      @Timothy, @10240, @Kevin – You all seem to be agreeing that “Yes its mostly strategic” as in “They do it because it helps them get a disportionately large share of people they convinced to vote”. Am I reading you all correctly basically?

      @yodelyak – You also seem to be saying its strategic (that is, they do it because it gets them more votes, maybe they would stop doing it if it was bankers/republicans/old farts who were staying at home), but giving an explanation behind why it will always be the “left/blue tribe” party that will be democratically inclined.

      Thanks for your answers guys/gals.

      • Well... says:

        Keep in mind also that Facebook is not a passive platform. It uses an algorithm to show certain kids of content to different users based on information it has about them. So that has to be taken into account too.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      So, per Pew, Dems have a big advantage in the non-voter pool. Likely half of non-voters identify lean Dem at the least, compared to less than a third for the GOP.
      http://www.people-press.org/2014/10/31/the-party-of-nonvoters-2/

      Taking into account the party leanings of independents, about half of nonvoters (51%) either identify as Democrats or lean Democratic; just 30% affiliate with the GOP or lean Republican, while 20% do not lean toward either party. Among likely voters, 50% identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, 44% identify as Republicans or lean Republican, and just 6% have no party leanings

      Any broad-based GOTV effort will probably help Dems more than the GOP. However, I presume the GOP DOES campaign to target their likely voters, through things like canvassing, mailers, etc.

      The sort of GOTV things that YOU see and your FRIENDS see are likely skewed towards young people, which is a (D) leaning group.

    • SamChevre says:

      My (very-snarky) answer is that we have two parties: the “everyone should vote, but we’ll make sure it doesn’t matter what you vote for” party, and the “only a few people should vote, but it should matter what they vote for” party.

    • yodelyak says:

      I answered the wrong question yesterday. I answered as to whether blue tribe’s focus on more people voting is, in fact, in their strategic interest. (Per my answer above, yes, yes it is. Just as red tribe’s interest runs the other direction.) You asked if the fact of their focus on that issue is “mostly strategic”–that is, are they focused on it for the benefit it will get them, or are they focused on it because it is noble and righteous?

      On the level of asking whether their interest in expanding and protecting the franchise is sincerely rooted in nobleness and righteous sentiment, I’d say it’s about as sincere, and about as deeply held, as basic blue tribe ideas of self-determination and free choice for men and women. I would also say that it manifests much more strongly in young people who aren’t too pragmatic/cynical yet.

      From my own experience, I’d say that the very large majority of operative-level Democratic campaign staff are quite sincere. (I’ve worked with >100, and can think of only 1 or 2 who I think could even politely entertain an idea like “if it were fairly administered, a basic literacy test would be a good addition to our electoral process.”) In terms of just how sincere… well, it’s probably a notch or two lower in intensity-of-belief as the level of intensity I have seen summoned by the more religious young men I have known when “Jesus” comes up and they find themselves deploying a line like “lord and savior.” In other words, it’s pretty damn sincere. It’s also rooted in that same noble and heroic place in (some?) young people’s hearts that spawns phrases like “lionhearted” or that makes young people volunteer for war. You can quibble with whether it’s wise or not to care about expanding the franchise–like most things young folk heroically and sincerely believe, it can be a little bit divorced from present reality sometimes. (I recall reading more than once, some red-tribe person pointing out that, for this-or-that non-democracy, an immediate transition to free and fair elections would result in anarchy and then a prolonged civil war. I’m not qualified to judge how right they were, if at all, in any particular case or in general, but you can see the contours of their argument in the predictions that Iraq wasn’t ready for democracy.)

      I would also say that most national-level campaign strategists have the breadth of mind to have teased out the difference between sincere efforts to expand the franchise purely for the sake of people who don’t really have/use it. For example, the direct human benefits of getting an extra 20% of disadvantaged people to vote would make a big, direct difference in places like Ferguson, where at one point, IIRC, all the county elected officials were white, while the town was majority black, and the town was funding its police department largely with driving-while-black ticket. Places like Ferguson–small, potentially blue areas in deep red states–often aren’t top-priorities for blue-tribe turnout efforts because the state’s congressional districts will still be gerrymandered, and the state’s electoral votes will still go for red tribe. Instead, priority often is given to already-established blue tribe strongholds with machine-like control of how ballots get filled out, in order to “run up the score”. So I’d say if you want to figure out to what extent blue tribe’s decision makers–even the senior level, big money national ones–really believe there’s nobility in expanding the franchise… look for how big the effort gap is between registration efforts in states that matter, and in states that don’t. I think Dean’s “Fifty States Campaign” and the fact that (IIRC) somebody did get around to starting a well-funded voter registration campaign in Ferguson might be things you could look into.

      • yodelyak says:

        Also, because I notice I’ve been being weird online, I should disclaim that today I have a 102 degree fever and am home from work. This probably ain’t my most coherent piece of writing ever.

      • Aapje says:

        On the level of asking whether their interest in expanding and protecting the franchise is sincerely rooted in nobleness and righteous sentiment, I’d say it’s about as sincere, and about as deeply held, as basic blue tribe ideas of self-determination and free choice for men and women

        So…abandoned as soon as it benefits the wrong group? 🙂

        Of course, this doesn’t mean that the belief isn’t sincere. Many people have sincere beliefs that conflict with each other.

  5. postgenetic says:

    Collapse, or the large and relatively rapid restructuring of relationships in a network, is when-not-if physics. This physics is called self-organized criticality or critical-state universality. (see Ubiquity by Mark Buchanan)
    Human numbers and power have grown exponentially, generating unprecedented environs. Increasingly, we don’t fit the emergent environs we’ve created, and continue to create. We continue to generate relationships that augment the likelihood of critical-state universality.
    Here’s a 3 minute read that addresses part of our dilemma.
    Passing Natural Selection Tests link text

  6. A question that I’ve been wondering about having to do with the current dating market, which I am decades out of. Have we reached the point in large parts of it where someone, in particular a woman, who is interested in long term relationships but not in casual sex is effectively off the market because all potential partners are on Tinder and uninterested in anyone who isn’t?

    Or is there a dual market, both casual sex and traditional courtship, with some people in one market, some in the other, and some in both? I’m thinking not of separated markets in different places or social circles but of two markets in the same social network.

    An academic I know who has been studying the norms of American college students told me there was tension between the women who are looking for a long term partner and the women interested in casual sex, with the former viewing the latter as scabs and trying, with limited success, to use social pressure against them. I don’t know how well his observations of one college generalize

    • quanta413 says:

      I’m in my late 20s and I’ve never tried Tinder etc. and have only met people the old fashioned way. I don’t think this was necessarily similar to traditional courtship though. Other than a relationship that started when I was a decade younger, things either end or become sexual very rapidly (like less than week). I haven’t dated much though, very small sample.

      I think dual market might not be a bad description otherwise. I’ve known people who only meet people the old fashioned way through school or work or shared activities, and people who are in both markets. I’m not sure I’ve known anyone who was only on Tinder/Grindr/etc.

    • Bugmaster says:

      FWIW I’m old, so I’m way off the market; but all the younger couples I know have met each other online. Tinder appears to be gaining popularity; but before that, there were online dating sites, forums, and even MMORPGs. The notion of meeting in person is not yet treated as “hopelessly old-fashioned”, but it’s definitely somewhere around “quaint”. As far as I understand, the consensus seems to be that one is supposed to date a bunch of random partners for a while, just to try it out; and if one of those dates leads to something more permanent, great. If not, that’s good too.

    • S_J says:

      I had some experience dating via eHarmony and Match.Com over the past few years. I have zero experience with Tinder and its relatives.

      My experience is that the dating market appears to be a dual market. I strongly suspect that internet services which are trying to connect people for long-term relationships can be a big help to people who are looking for those things.

      (In my experience, sorting for religious-preference and religious-service-attendance on eHarmony was a good way to filter against people who were pursuing casual sex, and in favor of people who were pursuing long-term relationships. That may not work for people who do not fit that pattern themselves, but there are likely similar methods available to those who are pursuing long-term relationships instead of casual sex.)

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’d agree with the characterization of a dual market, with two big caveats.

      The first is that it’s really only a dual market for women. Whether you’re hooking up with girls who are explicitly looking for casual sex or those who want relationships, in my experience they’re looking for exactly the same traits. It’s just about their expectations for how long you’ll be around.

      The second is that a lot of women don’t actually understand that there are two markets. They present themselves as fun and casual but then get indignant that the men they attract don’t stick around. There’s a bafflement that men will gladly have sex with “fast” girls but prefer to date “slow” girls.

      I think this is mostly confusion about what each sex stereotypically wants. Men stereotypically want easy sex and faithful chaste girlfriends and don’t expect to get both from the same woman. Women stereotypically want tall, well-built, dominant men and want them to stay around. Men who project their own desires on women act like unattractive Nice Guys; women who project their own desires on men turn the sex appeal up to 11 in the hopes that a guy won’t want to leave in the morning.

      • Ozy Frantz says:

        In my experience it is not true that men don’t stick around after casual sex. They seem to be about as likely to stick around after casual sex as they are after a sexless date. Of course, that means that casual sex is a terrible plan if you really only want to have sex with people you’ve made a commitment to (I am not sure why this wouldn’t be obvious, since that’s basically saying casual sex is a bad plan for people who don’t like casual sex). But it’s a perfectly fine way of finding a marital partner if you happen to enjoy casual sex; it gets you out of the house and meeting single people.

        Confounding variables: the less important one is that I’m poly. I suspect this has effects in both directions: while I wouldn’t be surprised if marriage-minded poly men were more likely than most men to also seek out casual sex, polyamory also means that men who are currently in a committed relationship or married aren’t filtered out of your dating pool. The more important one is that, while I have heard legends of men who really really don’t want to marry promiscuous women, I am not entirely sure where I would find such a cryptid and certainly have never had sex with one. I expect that in dating pools with a higher number of men who don’t like sluts the dynamics will be different, and perhaps going slow would be a better strategy.

        • Randy M says:

          while I have heard legends of men who really really don’t want to marry promiscuous women, I am not entirely sure where I would find such a cryptid

          Venn diagram of them and men into poly women likely shows something considerably less than a total eclipse.
          Also, I suspect that that is an unpopular fetish to advertise in San Francisco area.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I mean you are/were a camgirl* and run in a group of self-described “bonobos” in America’s most famously libertine city with a huge gender imbalance favoring women**. I’m not surprised that you haven’t encountered many picky guys!

          Anyway, being that I’m such a cryptid myself I can assure you that we do exist and I’m fact there are quite a few of us. Most don’t openly advertise our existence but we’re not hard to find.

          *Let me know if you have a preferred term. Sex worker is gender neutral but has a much stronger connotation.
          **Again not sure how to phrase this.

        • baconbacon says:

          The more important one is that, while I have heard legends of men who really really don’t want to marry promiscuous women, I am not entirely sure where I would find such a cryptid and certainly have never had sex with one.

          Out of curiosity, how many of those men were actually married to promiscuous women?

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          Randy and Nabil: Yes, you two, I agree, that is why I noted my experience in a paragraph beginning with “confounding variables” and concluding with “I expect that in dating pools with a higher number of men who don’t like sluts the dynamics will be different.” (I would note that the men I am aware of are in fact picky, just about different things, and sometimes about finding a spouse with a high level of sluttiness. I’d also note that I am capable of observing men’s behavior and not just their outward statements, and the behavior of the men I know is consistent with not caring or preferring promiscuous women but inconsistent with preferring chaste women and lying about this preference.)

          baconbacon: Lots? Not to be crude, but “wow, she’s horny, interested in experimenting in bed, and good at sucking dick” is a selling point in a wife for a fair number of men, including monogamous ones.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Good in bed and horny != promiscuous.

            It sounds counterintuitive but the best sex I’ve had has consistently been with women who had zero or very limited sexual experience when I met them. A blank slate is much easier to work with than someone who’s picked up a lot of bad habits from other guys.

          • baconbacon says:

            Lots? Not to be crude, but “wow, she’s horny, interested in experimenting in bed, and good at sucking dick” is a selling point in a wife for a fair number of men, including monogamous ones.

            Sure, but to be equally candid “good at sucking dick” is a selling point in as far as she is sucking my dick, not in as far as she is good at sucking other guys dicks (beyond the increased ability due to practice and enthusiasm). I know people who were perfectly happy to marry women who were promiscuous prior to marriage, but wouldn’t be so happy married to a still promiscuous woman.

            If I might add another question, how many of those men had kids?

          • Randy M says:

            Not to be crude, but “wow, she’s horny, interested in experimenting in bed, and good at sucking dick” is a selling point in a wife for a fair number of men, including monogamous ones.

            Based on what?
            Sure, no guy wants a wife who is going to deny him once they are married. But contra the quoted assertion, I haven’t heard too many men express the line of thought “I’d like a wife who’s learned a lot through her exotic pre-marital sex life.”

            Frankly, point of fact, sex just isn’t all that complicated. The key fact (apart from having the complimentary working parts) there is enthusiasm, which depends on a lot of things, some of which will be correlated with promiscuity but none dependent on it. Actual technique? Being “good at it”? I dodn’t see what’s there that can’t be discovered together fairly easily.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Nabil: In my experience, selecting for women who really really like sex tends, all things equal, to select for women who have had a higher number of previous sexual partners. Although of course there are exceptions and my experience is biased in many ways.

            baconbacon: Sure, monogamous people are monogamous, and any monogamous man will have to assure himself of his partner’s interest in and capability for monogamy, as any poly man will have to assure himself of his partner’s interest in and capability for polyamory.

            I don’t think I can provide any sort of reasonable generalization about the kids issue, because bonobo rationalists are in general bizarrely fond of children. Like, I would certainly not predict that hookups in general would be derailed because one’s partner would rather play with the three-year-old one lives with than have sex, and yet guess what happened to me this weekend. (To be fair, it is genuinely difficult to resist her doe-eyed pleas for “just ONE more story about Aphrodite come out the water”.) So it is not any surprise that bonobo rats are enthusiastically reproducing, but that doesn’t update me much on what promiscuous men in general like.

            Randy: Clearly, our samples include very different sets of men, which was my point in the first place.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Bonobo rationalists might like the idea of kids, but given how few of them they’re having, revealed preferences really aren’t on your side. (I’m aware you’re pregnant, but anecdotes and statistics.)

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Average maternal age at first child is 26; average paternal age is, naturally, a little older. Bonobos are almost always in their twenties, so they tend to have zero children or one child. Check in on us in a decade or so and see if I win my argument with my husband about whether we should have six or only three. 🙂

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            It’s a bit hard to specify it in terms of TFR because of demographics, but I’m willing to lay money that the mean number of children per cis female bonobo rationalist is under one in five years. Want to take that bet?

          • baconbacon says:

            My question about kids was just curiosity, because having 2 kids myself has made the prospect of having additional emotional and sexual relationships seem, lets say, impractical. I made an ill advised crack to my wife once about her having an affair, and the rebuttal was “when exactly would I have the time?” accompanied by the hairiest of eyeballs.

            As a married man I can imagine having sex with other women easily, I cannot imagine building an emotional and sexual relationship with another woman while maintaining my marriage (assuming my wife was fine with it in the first place) easily. I think most porn reflects this in the “I’m a plumber, I’m here to lay some pipe” buildup, or the MILF aggressively seeking out sex. You need some shorthand to jump over that chasm.

          • “when exactly would I have the time?”

            After we had our first child, I concluded that nobody could possibly have more than two. I could believe that, with practice, one could find the time to squeeze in a second, but it was obvious that people who claimed more than that borrowed the extras from friends when they had to put them on display.

            This goes along with my conclusion, after writing my second book, that prior to the invention of the word processor no books were written. It’s just too much work.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @Ozy, I hadn’t heard you’re pregnant; congratulations! May your time reviewing parenting books pay off with many positive returns.

          • Randy M says:

            After we had our first child, I concluded that nobody could possibly have more than two.

            Well, after the first couple children you have have the older ones help care for the younger ones.

            I suppose that if one is to be successful at it, the same should go for successive wives, as well.

          • Anonymous says:

            Well, after the first couple children you have have the older ones help care for the younger ones.

            Nothing beats having live-in grandparents.

          • baconbacon says:

            Well, after the first couple children you have have the older ones help care for the younger ones.

            You don’t even have to wait for past the first couple. With my kids 2 is much easier than 1 as once the younger was about 18 months or so they started being able to fulfill some of each others emotional needs. We hope to have a 3rd, though that is looking a lot less likely now, and that would be an interesting dynamic to observe.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            baconbacon: I have no idea how people have children without multiple relatively committed emotional relationships (although of course those are often friendships rather than romantic relationships, but sex is not generally the time-consuming part of a relationship). Who takes your kid to the park when you’re having a bad day? Who reads your kid books when you cannot bear to read the Very Hungry Caterpillar one more time?

            Evan: Thank you! Viktor will appear Real Soon Now, at which point I assume my blog will become 100% about how he is the best baby in the whole entire world and no other baby can live up to his wonderfulness.

          • @Ozy:

            Please note that when Viktor appears you have to bring him to our next meetup, on pain of my not only being very sad but starting rumors that Viktor is fictional.

            It’s simple logic.

            If you have a baby you will believe that he is wonderful.

            If you have a baby you believe is wonderful you will want to show him off.

            If you fail to show him off you must not have him.

          • baconbacon says:

            I have no idea how people have children without multiple relatively committed emotional relationships (although of course those are often friendships rather than romantic relationships, but sex is not generally the time-consuming part of a relationship). Who takes your kid to the park when you’re having a bad day? Who reads your kid books when you cannot bear to read the Very Hungry Caterpillar one more time?

            The people who do this aren’t selected for on the basis of mutual sexual attraction and compatibility (also my in-laws, so GROSS). Most of the time the initial friendship is started on the basis of “we live close and have kids about the same age”. The couple we are closest with probably took over 2 years to get to that point, and that is with trying on at least a half dozen other families. Even the couple that I was friendly with before they had kids hasn’t been a good match for a couple of reasons, and its not because I don’t like them any more.

          • Aapje says:

            @Ozy Frantz

            I think that many people either just suck it up and go to the park while having a bad day or they just tell the kid ‘no’.

            Given your specific circumstances, your bad days are probably worse than the bad days of other people. You may be ‘typical minding’ here by assuming that this is more of an issue for most people than it actually is.

            Also what baconbacon said. Neighbors who seem trustworthy enough not to murder your kid can be taken mutual advantage of.

            @DavidFriedman

            Having a baby is not proof as she could just have rented a baby. You need to ask for a long form birth certificate 😛

          • baconbacon says:

            I would like to try to reframe my point/question.

            When my wife said “when would I have the time to have an affair” it helped highlight for me a new part of what it would mean to have her cheat. Proir to having kids cheating would have been a violation of a promise, after having kids it has taken on a new dimension. Cheating would mean that she was making a concerted effort to cheat over repairing our relationship. The difference here is that with kids, work, illnesses and trying to maintain a life outside of our family our relationship becomes a lesser part of the whole than it was. The relationship has gone from “what movie should we see” to “when could we see a movie together”. To cheat then would be devastating and a sign we shouldn’t be together, to cheat now would be to signal that you aren’t going to even try to fix the relationship anymore.

            To extend that to how I would imagine myself in a poly-amorous marriage, it would be one thing to be childless and have ‘enough’ time together that other sexual relationships could be classified as “other. With kids it is harder to imagine maintaining the marriage because the outside escapades would feel like they were coming directly at the expense of our relationship.

            Not claiming this is true, just trying to explain my thoughts and why I asked what I did.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          [casual sex is] a perfectly fine way of finding a marital partner if you happen to enjoy casual sex; it gets you out of the house and meeting single people.

          This makes a ton of sense. But it also seems like a popular view that casual sex is diametrically opposed to seeking long-term relationships. Maybe this is why everyone is so confused?

          It’s as if a bunch of people only wanted to see movies with their dates and didn’t want anything else–those looking for more would feel confused and even betrayed when date after date met them, saw a movie, and went home.

          Except where this breaks down for me is that our culture repeats over and over that men only want casual sex–it’s not a secret, and I don’t get how observing it would confuse anyone. Is there a reason women find this hard to believe/doubt the cultural sources that repeat it?

          • baconbacon says:

            I think part of the problem is parents and society pushing a very simplified version of dating on their kids. Some guys (and I presume some girls) really do just want sex, and you probably want your kids to be aware of the large potential gap between what they want and expect and what the other party wants and expects.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            If you’re going to feel confused and even betrayed when your casual sex partners only want casual sex, having casual sex is a very bad way to meet a marital partner for you. Similarly, while book clubs may be an excellent way to meet a wife, it is probably ill-advised to take up going to them if you loathe reading and consider every hour spent talking about books wasted if a fiancee does not come out of it.

            I have no secret wisdom to impart about women who don’t like casual sex and insist on having it anyway, although if any of them are reading I encourage them to take up a hobby they actually like.

          • albatross11 says:

            When you’re looking for a mate, you’re trying to infer some long-term personality traits and deeply-held beliefs that the other person may want to conceal. Having a year-long serious intimate relationship with someone you love, as an adult, in which you don’t have sex because she intends to go to her marriage bed a virgin is a *really expensive and hard-to-fake signal* about her beliefs.

          • in which you don’t have sex because she intends to go to her marriage bed a virgin is a *really expensive and hard-to-fake signal* about her beliefs.

            Unless she doesn’t like sex, in which case it is an easy to fake signal.

          • baconbacon says:

            @ David Friedman

            The signal that she won’t cheat is probably stronger in that case, so she isn’t actually faking it.

          • It’s not a signal about her beliefs, however.

            And a wife who likes sex with you but is faithful is, ceteris paribus, preferable to one who doesn’t like sex at all.

          • baconbacon says:

            And a wife who likes sex with you but is faithful is, ceteris paribus, preferable to one who doesn’t like sex at all.

            You are assuming independent variables. If you like large breasts a woman with D cups is preferable to C cups, but that doesn’t mean you should try to get your wife to get implants.

            It’s not a signal about her beliefs, however.

            It is a signal about how hard it is to convince her to have sex outside of her moral system. Now it might be that she has tons of will power, or it might be that sex isn’t particularly tempting for her, but either way the signal is “I am unlikely to cheat” and it is a strong signal.

          • albatross11 says:

            David Friedman:

            Okay, I hadn’t thought of that one. Assuming she’s also sending signals of being pretty aroused/interested (and is willing to do some things short of sex with her fiance), but is still not willing to have sex, this seems like a useful signal. But yeah, if she just isn’t interested in sex, then it’s not a huge sacrifice for her to make to not have sex before marriage.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I believe that the science suggests that women are fairly likely to get aroused during sex, even if they were not so beforehand.

            So for a man who very strongly favors fidelity and also very strongly favors being sexually satisfied, it may be advantageous to be in a relationship with a woman who is very willing/feels obligated to have sex when the man is aroused, who gets aroused fairly easily during sex and who doesn’t get easily aroused when she is not already having sex. This set of traits ought to result in a woman who sexually satisfies her partner*, but who is very unlikely to have sex with another man.

            * Assuming that having the woman initiate sex is not one of his major needs

    • Rob K says:

      I’m long since married, but observing friends who are still in the single world (this is in a professional class milieu in Boston) it seems that different dating sites and apps cater to different segments of the market. Tinder is more on the casual sex side; OKCupid seems to straddle the middle; Coffee Meet Bagel was one that my friends who were pursuing a long term partner preferred.

      I have a number of friends in marriages or relationships that started online, but I don’t think any of them started on Tinder.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        That seems more like how the sites and apps market themselves than how they’re used in practice.

        The only difference I noticed between OKC and CMB was that the latter limited how many people you could match with in order to frustrate you into making micro-transactions. The ratio of dates : hookups seemed about the same.

        The gimmicks of each site also don’t seem to matter. Your compatibility on OKC doesn’t seem to track actual chemistry: IME it’s more useful to use the answers to specific questions as filters and not even look at the score. And the friends-of-friends feature of CMB is mostly good for creating awkward moments between acquaintances and co-workers while most actual matches are with randos anyway.

        • Rob K says:

          This may be a question of where we’re getting our info from. My friends are mostly male, and include a few guys in the vague “up for anything” range and a few others who were pursuing serious commitment with intensity ranging from “pretty serious” to “the all consuming focus of Gollum with his eyes upon the one ring”. Those in the serious commitment category described the sites more or less as I have, though how much that was shaped by the marketing I have no idea.

          I will say that even the extreme extroverts among my friends found the online dating experience grating, but women were more likely to find it so unpleasant as to give it up entirely.

        • Nearly Takuan says:

          1. Marketing and gimmicks don’t automatically cause real differences between platforms, but they do have some influence on how users sort themselves — IIRC, back when Apple was primarily marketing its computers as tools for artists, artsy types were more likely than the average consumer to own a Mac and “power users” on the platform knew they were in an exclusive club and seemed pretty proud of it. So if a dating site says, “we cater primarily to people who are looking for long-term romantic partners”, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the site actually provides good tools for seeking long-term romantic partners, but it does mean that a lot of the schmucks who initially populate the site are going to be the type who are seeking long-term romantic partners.

          2. I haven’t used CMB, but OKC was quite useful to me in finding a romantic partner while weeding out the hookups. You’re right that the compatibility matrices are bad at predicting chemistry, but I did something similar to Amy Webb’s strategy—answered only questions where at least one answer would be a dealbreaker for me (with the necessary condition that the question not be phrased ambiguously), and gave them all equal weight so that anyone who answered my chosen 50 questions “correctly” would see a 95% match on my profile regardless of what they thought their own tastes were. I also freely admitted that I’d done this, with a link at the top of my bio that explained why I chose each question. Caveats: I had* the dubious “advantage” of being the kind of guy almost no women want to date (certainly not have sex with) in the first place, plus I had just a handful of mostly political/religious dealbreakers but almost no preferences otherwise.

          *Might still be true, but since that time I haven’t really needed to find out.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I don’t think it actually does attract people who want long-term relationships though, but rather people who want to want long-term relationships.

            That is, they’re just as likely to hook up with a guy they match with but justify it to themselves differently.

            I did something similar to Amy Webb’s strategy—answered only questions where at least one answer would be a dealbreaker for me (with the necessary condition that the question not be phrased ambiguously), and gave them all equal weight so that anyone who answered my chosen 50 questions “correctly” would see a 95% match on my profile regardless of what they thought their own tastes were.

            That’s really smart.

            Hopefully I’ll marry my girlfriend as planned and never have a chance to test this strategy. But it sounds solid.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The “want” vs “want to want” distinction is one that is important in many different spheres. Sex and dating is one of those spheres. A huge amount of self-deception goes on.

      • fion says:

        This is different from my impression. I used tinder with the intention of finding a medium/long-term relationship, but didn’t explicitly say so on my profile. All the people I ended up dating were also interested in a medium/long-term relationship, but didn’t explicitly say so on their profile. I ended up in a relationship with one for a few months, and I’ve been with my current partner for a year after meeting on tinder. Compared to the experiences of my friends, this isn’t atypical.

        I’m aware a lot of people use tinder for casual sex, but (at least if you live in a reasonably-sized city) there’s a great many people for whom that isn’t the case.
        (Though I wonder if this varies geographically.)

        (EDIT: I’m in my early 20s, if anybody cares.)

    • onyomi says:

      I would guess women uninterested in casual sex effectively put themselves in an older dating pool.

      In my 20s I would not have dated a woman who wanted commitment before sex, because I wanted sex (and companionship), but not commitment. I think a lot of younger men feel similarly.

      Now, in my 30s, I’m married, but if my wife were to leave me, I’d probably be more interested in finding someone to raise a family with than in casual sex.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        There’s a middle ground between ‘casual sex’ and ‘no sex until commitment’, which is a deep but uncommitted relationship as prerequisite for sex.

        I also, in college, would not have considered anyone who wanted to wait for marriage; but I expected to wait for some sort of breakthrough of emotional intimacy, though I wouldn’t have been against faster sex.

        (I’m male btw)

        • onyomi says:

          Yes, I should clarify that 20s me was not into one-night-stands; I just wasn’t interested enough in commitment to consider committing to a woman without first sleeping with her for some longish time.

          And, actually my wife is one such woman I “dated” and eventually lived with for a few years before we finally decided to get married.

          So I don’t think women should necessarily fear “if I have sex with him early on he won’t consider me LTR/wife material.” Personally I had no such bias. However, I would have been biased against women who wouldn’t sleep with me as “girlfriend material” in my 20s, while I think I’d be less biased in my 30s.

          • Do you get a pattern of men who are simultaneously courting a woman for long term purposes who won’t sleep with them and having casual sex with women who will? My impression is that something along those lines existed in the past. “Sowing his wild oats.”

            If you do have that pattern, does it require subterfuge or is the woman being courted willing to accept it as reasonable prior to (but not after) marriage?

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            I really have a hard time imagining any monogamous person being okay with their partner having casual sex with someone else.

          • Nearly Takuan says:

            @Ozy

            There’s no particular reason you should believe me, but that is true of me. I would agree it’s probably not a common thing though, not because I’m such a specimen but because most people aren’t asexual men partnered with bisexual women. There are other statistically irregular attributes at play too but that’s the main one.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nearly Takuan

            I think that many more monogamous men are accepting of their partner having sex with women than with men.

    • dndnrsn says:

      If there’s two separate markets, there’s a lot of overlap. People don’t seem aware of what’s going on though – the best examples are women who express shock and indignation that guys they were having casual sex with were only in it for the casual sex, or men who express shock and indignation that the women they were behaving in a relationship-y fashion towards started a “so, we’re dating, right?” conversation.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Out of dating market, didn’t have much XP/success when I was in it. Opinions should be taken with grain of salt.

      Would I describe dating as a “dual market”? No. Not in the way you’re describing it, anyways. All relationships among young people seem to become physical quite quickly, even relationships intended to be “long-term.” So, yeah, if you meet someone at a club, you might have a ONS, but your coffee date the next day is also going to escalate to something sexual by Date 2. The people meeting at clubs also aren’t necessarily committed to a straight ONS dynamic either: they are okay meeting up with each other again and exchange numbers.

      I’d describe it more as segmented by venue and some norms, and less market conditions and attempted end goals.

      Conditions changed a bit in the post-college world. There actually WAS a dating market, and dates. College and immediately post seemed to be more of a “hang out in a large social group and meet someone.” The number of people more interested in marriage post-college, combined with online dating, created a more formal dating market.

      However, participating in this formal dating market was a loser’s game, at least in my friend group.

    • wanderingimpromptu says:

      An academic I know who has been studying the norms of American college students told me there was tension between the women who are looking for a long term partner and the women interested in casual sex, with the former viewing the latter as scabs and trying, with limited success, to use social pressure against them. I don’t know how well his observations of one college generalize

      Hmm, I didn’t see a lot of this at my college, but I suppose women with those views might keep quiet about them unless they were sure of the reception.

      My experience as a woman with a naturally monogamous/emotionally-bonded style is that I spent a lot of time in denial about it. I thought (and still kinda think) that being open/poly, bi, and/or sexually adventurous was the most good and evolved way to be, and admired my friends who were more naturally any of those things. I went to a lot of parties and some online dates trying to will myself into being less of an inhibited prude and generally failing.

      I suppose religious or socially conservative women might explicitly resent those who have casual sex, but most campuses are pretty liberal, and “live and let live” re: sexual approach is considered the appropriate philosophy, regardless of your natural inclinations. My impression is that most women with my relationship style view it as something to semi-grudgingly accept about themselves, not something to be proud of.

      Or is there a dual market, both casual sex and traditional courtship

      The dual market I see is between people who go On Official Dates (whether arranged online or in person) vs. people who fall into relationships through group social interactions that gradually lead to deepening intimacy. There’s varying amounts of casual sex in both markets.

      • I thought (and still kinda think) that being open/poly, bi, and/or sexually adventurous was the most good and evolved way to be

        Why? Indeed, what does “most good and evolved way to be” mean?

        It would be good, perhaps evolved, if humans were immune to venereal diseases, but we aren’t. Since are not, acting as if we are is not good. It is imprudent to base your actions on how you would like things to be instead of how they are.

        For humans, sexual intercourse has emotional concomitants. These emotional concomitants can be used to support a long term pair bonded relationship, a relationship that, for most people, is stronger if exclusive. A long term pair bonded relationship is very useful, most obviously for producing and rearing children. Hence a life style designed to maximize orgasms, or even fun dates, is probably not optimal for most people.

        The implications of this argument are not clear since, in this case as all others, there are tradeoffs. But it casts serious doubt on the idea that being sexually adventurous is an unambiguously good idea.

        The generalization of this discussion is the question of whether the sexual revolution was a good thing. I’m agnostic on it, human beings being complicated creatures and alternative life strategies having both costs and benefits. But I’m in an environment where it is usually taken for granted that it was a very good thing, which makes it more interesting to argue that it wasn’t–along the lines sketched above.

        • wanderingimpromptu says:

          Yeah, I recognize that given the psychological makeup of most people, monogamy is the correct and stable choice. But the psychological makeup of most people is adaptive for an environment without reliable birth control & STD prevention. The people who happened to luck out with with a low-jealousy disposition, the ability to love multiple people at once, and the ability to feel sexual desire without emotional attachment had something that I wished I could have. If I could have pressed a button to make myself like them, I would have. (Since then I’ve started seeing more aesthetic beauty in exclusive pair bonds, so I’m not sure I still would). Lacking such a button, I thought that I could change my disposition through force of will and environmental conditioning. I was wrong, but it was worth a try!

          As for whether the sexual revolution was a good thing, I’m not entirely sure either, but I would lean towards yes. While it does introduce new kinds of emotional turmoil and stress into people’s lives, I almost always think giving people more freedom to choose is a good thing. Not having to marry the first person you date/have sex with is a good thing for everyone, imo; I’m going to marry the second person I’ve dated, but damn was that first relationship a necessary learning experience (which destroyed the relationship in the process). A hookup environment is a good thing for some people & a source of pressure for others.

          But overall, the stats for the stability of the marriages that most people still end up in are pretty good now. Divorce rates are back down (especially among the highly educated), cheating is no more common than it always was, and the fact that you don’t have to marry young just to have socially legitimized sex results in a greater proportion of true companionate marriages. Older people with more relationship and life experiences under their belt are much better at choosing appropriate life partners that they’ll actually want to stay with, not stay with bc forced by social pressure. Having seen the quality of the marriages in older generations of my family (who were from a country and time without sexual freedom, and generally married the first people they dated), I really can’t be more grateful for the sexual culture I live in, even though I partake of less of it than most.

          • The people who happened to luck out with with a low-jealousy disposition, the ability to love multiple people at once, and the ability to feel sexual desire without emotion

            You may be correct that they are the lucky ones, but I’m not sure. I would like to see good long term data on the relationships those people end up having.

            Also, suppose you have those characteristics but most people don’t. To get the benefit without the cost you will have to pair with someone who also has that characteristics. Given the difficulties that already exist for successful marital search, that could be a serious problem.

          • Thinking some more about this, it occurred to me that my earlier comment explored the advantages of the traditional courtship model but did not look at what the benefits of the alternatives were or were not.

            I am assuming two alternatives: Casual sex/hookup model and polyamory.

            The obvious advantage of the first over traditional courtship is lots of sex with lots of partners. Traditional courtship also gives you lots of sex, once you have found your long term partner, but casual sex means you don’t have to wait and may choose to have the sex without having to make the effort required to find a long term partner.

            What is the value of that? The obvious answer is sensual pleasure, but you can get that by masturbating. Why isn’t masturbation an adequate substitute for intercourse?

            One answer goes back to my earlier point on the attraction of the conservative model: Intercourse has emotional concomitants. Sleep with a woman and you get to feel loving and loved.

            But in the case of a one night stand that’s fake–you are not actually going to care for your partner or have her care for you afterwards, however you feel immediately after intercourse.

            Indeed, it may be a negative. One of the surprising things about sex is the amount of hostility associated with it–consider that the standard terms for intercourse, most obviously “fuck,” are negative terms in all other contexts.

            One reason may be that you end up feeling inappropriate emotions, feeling as though you should be loving someone you actually barely know, and you block them by feeling hostile to her–the fact she slept with you means she is a slut and so not someone you should love. This is a conjectural explanation but feels right to me.

            A second reason intercourse feels better than masturbation, at least to males (I don’t know the female side), is that it boosts your self-perceived status. You have achieved something.

            In a traditional society that’s perfectly reasonable. You have achieved something difficult, demonstrated that you are an unusually attractive male, since women are normally very reluctant to sleep with males without a long term commitment. But in a society where casual sex is normal, the feeling of pride is bogus–like feeling good about yourself for beating up low level npc’s in World of Warcraft.

            What about the male taste for multiple partners? In the environment we evolved in that made at least evolutionary sense, since a man who succeeded in sex with multiple partners was not limited to the reproductive abilities of one partner. It makes no such sense when all of your partners are on the pill.

            This point echoes something Wandering said, about behavior being adaptive to a past environment. Given that men do have a taste for multiple partners it’s understandable that they act on it, but the argument suggests that they would be better off if they didn’t.

            My conclusion so far is that the benefits of the casual sex pattern, while they surely exist, are less than one might at first think.

            I have less to say about polyamory, due to insufficient information–at most one case I have significant first hand observation of and no statistics I have seen. The theory, as I understand it, is usually to have one primary relationship, which is the standard long term pair mating minus sexual exclusivity, plus secondary relationships that are something between that and casual sex–longer term than casual sex, less expectation of permanence than ordinary marriage, more emotional attachment than casual sex, weaker than ordinary marriage.

            I can imagine that working well, at least for some people. The most obvious problem is that a secondary relationship could drain emotional force form the primary and, under some circumstances, threaten it. Comments welcome from those who know more about the subject than I do.

  7. onyomi says:

    As it seems lately like all prominent men in the world engage in inappropriate sexual behavior, a question arises for me:

    It’s clear that people with certain personality characteristics tend to achieve leadership positions of authority. Among those personality characteristics, besides competence and intelligence are: high energy, extroverted, confident, high risk tolerance, etc. etc.

    If you had a Venn diagram of people with the above characteristics and people who are likely to engage in unwanted or overly aggressive sexual behavior, it seems likely to me there is a pretty big overlap, especially considering that women tend to be attracted to authority and all humans tend to defer to authority, which the above traits are more likely to get you (and being given authority likely increases confidence further), exacerbating the problem.

    Clearly people with the above traits contribute a lot to society when they are inventing things, taking risks to pour themselves into entrepreneurial ventures, etc. etc. But that also doesn’t excuse other bad behavior on their part.

    What I’m getting at, though, is what if there is a causal, if not necessarily unavoidable (?), rather than incidental connection between powerful men and sexual harassment? Is there a way to avoid this without filling all positions of authority with passive, low-confidence people? Without overshooting the mark in educating the confidence-lacking, non-risk-taking, passive men?

    • The Nybbler says:

      What I’m getting at, though, is what if there is a causal, if not necessarily unavoidable (?), rather than incidental connection between powerful men and sexual harassment?

      Well, yeah, Dark Triad gonna be dark.

      Is there a way to avoid this without filling all positions of authority with passive, low-confidence people?

      Not only is the answer to that no, there’s no way to avoid it at all; leaders gotta have leadership.

      Without overshooting the mark in educating the confidence-lacking, non-risk-taking, passive men?

      No again; the Dark Triad guys aren’t gong to take the fall if they can avoid it, so they are going to do the best they can to dump the heat on others. And they can do pretty good, most of the time.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Mike Pence isn’t raping anyone.

      Therefore, fill all leadership roles with the devoutly religious. If a man does not believe that, no matter how high he rises, there is a higher authority who will send him to literal Hell for violating the rules, and that this authority will know about all such violations, he is not fit to hold authority himself.

      (Note: I have no solution for the Dark Triads learn to fake piety.)

    • Null42 says:

      A common argument is that you should hire more women for positions of power, since presumably they don’t do this sort of thing.

      Might you create other problems? I imagine so or other civilizations would have done it more often. But I don’t know which ones.

      • Ozy Frantz says:

        That seems like an unjustifiably optimistic opinion about human nature. I suspect the underrepresentation of female harassers is simply because there weren’t a lot of female bosses thirty years ago.

        • hyperboloid says:

          @Ozy Frantz
          The pervasive assumption in most cultures is that women on average prefer to take a passive role in sexual courtship. There are very good reasons to think that this is both true, and deeply rooted in biology.

          It seems very likely that women are much less likely to harass, and men are much less likely to mind if they do.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            men are much less likely to mind if they do.

            That ignores the market distortion effects of harassment though. The male student who doesn’t mind his female teacher’s sexual advances gets better grades, a worse education, and an unfair advantage over his classmates.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            It’s interesting that this deeply rooted truth of sexual biology is literally less than a hundred years old in our culture:

            As the historian Beth L. Bailey argued in a 1988 book on courtship in twentieth-century America, calling, which took place in the female “sphere” of the home, afforded women a degree of control that dating in the public, male sphere didn’t. Plus, it was up to women to pursue men. Bailey quotes a young man’s letter that was published in Ladies’ Home Journal in 1909: “May I call upon a young woman whom I greatly admire, although she had not given me permission?” Not if he wanted to have a chance with her, came the reply.

            Even if men initiating were deeply rooted in biology even among the sort of women who become successful bosses, I am pretty sure that personal assistants can discreetly make it known to the men in question that it is expected that they ask the boss out.

            I think most men would mind very much if they were being harassed by the female equivalent of Harvey Weinstein (as opposed to by a young, attractive woman whom they can say ‘no’ to without jeopardizing their career).

          • AnonYEmous says:

            It’s interesting that this deeply rooted truth of sexual biology is literally less than a hundred years old in our culture:

            No offense, but it seems like the calling system was constructed for certain reasons, whereas the dating system – as shown in this various article – sprang up naturally. It seems to me like the latter system is more likely to avoid being a social construct.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I suspect that’s not the only reason, but it probably is a significant reason. Once you filter for women who desire those positions of power and are willing to do what it takes to get them, you’re going to have the harassers concentrated in that group of women (even if there are fewer overall). And you’ll probably end up with other nasty behaviors more common in women then man to make up for any reduction in harassment.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Is there a way to avoid this without filling all positions of authority with passive, low-confidence people? Without overshooting the mark in educating the confidence-lacking, non-risk-taking, passive men?

      Go back to the days when male-female interactions were more tightly regulated and chaperoned. That wouldn’t eliminate all harassment, but it would significantly reduce the opportunities people have for harassment. Would Harvey Weinstein have been able to get up to half of what he did if all his meetings had been in public places instead of hotel rooms?

      • Protagoras says:

        Do you have any evidence that this actually reduced harassment, rather than merely reducing reporting of it? Based on rates of out of wedlock pregnancy, as well as biographies and fiction of bygone eras, it doesn’t seem like tight regulation and chaperoning did much to prevent anything, it just meant anything that went on involved people circumventing the regulation, who thus were incentivized not to speak up about it. I certainly think you’re being wildly over-optimistic about the extent to which older social norms would have reduced Weinstein’s ability to pressure people into private meetings.

        • albatross11 says:

          My very uninformed impression is that Hollywood and Broadway have been infamous for powerful people extorting sexual favors from aspiring actors more-or-less forever–including in the 20s and 30s and 40s, when there was still a fair bit of the older set of rules in place about male/female relations.

          • roystgnr says:

            The Fatty Arbuckle scandal was in 1921. Even if Arbuckle really was innocent of murderous rape, the rest of Virginia Rappe’s life (aspiring actress getting parts from a director boyfriend, with health problems aggravated by bootleg liquor and “substandard” abortions) does not appear to have been positively affected by the times and the customs.

            Actress Norma Shearer married the head producer at MGM in 1927; Joan Crawford was accused of “sleeping her way to the top” more covertly during the same period.

            In the 30s actress Jean Harlow’s short life “was perennially the stuff of tabloid gossip, including the suicide of her second husband, producer Paul Bern, her relationships with gangsters, nude photos at the age of 17, problems with a greedy stepfather, and a reported abortion of a child fathered by William Powell.”

            There were tons of Hollywood scandals from the same era, but those were the most famous which had the “younger actress in thrall of older producer” vibe.

            Although Errol Flynn, actor rather than producer, appears to be borderline? Between the admitted pursuit of barely-legal women and the rape charges by not-quite-legal women, he looks like the 1940s-era Roy Moore. The 33 year old guy started pursuing an 18 year old girl at the courthouse where his rape trial was going on; she became his second wife! This will probably not become a fun behind-the-scenes fact to mention the next time my kids want to watch Rapunzel…

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          fiction of bygone eras

          Will future historians judge our society’s typical sexual behavior by bodice-ripper romance novels and the plot lines of pornographic videos?

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Is that the only kind of fiction you think exists?

            Also, yes, you can tell a lot about sexual mores from the plot lines of porn. (See the debate in classics about whether the number of women depicted spinning yarn on pornographic vases implies an ancient Greek fetish for yarn-spinning or a tendency for sex workers to have two jobs.)

          • Incurian says:

            I sure hope so.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Is that the only kind of fiction you think exists?

            Gak, I’m found out! 😉

            Regardless, is there not way more casual sex on TV and in movies than there is in real life?

          • Randy M says:

            Is that the only kind of fiction you think exists?

            If so, I’m glad he doesn’t get to rewrite Harry Potter.

          • Nick says:

            If so, I’m glad he doesn’t get to rewrite Harry Potter.

            Who needs Fifty Shades when we’ve got Prisoner of Azkaban?

          • Paul says:

            @Ozy Frantz

            Now that I think of it, that classics debate is really a false dichotomy–Not that ancient Greeks really had a fetish for spinning and weaving per se, but it’s not unreasonable for those activities to be used in reference to something titillating.

            Spinning and weaving were normal feminine tasks that Proper Women would do for the household, and it only makes sense that Greek sex workers would do that kind of work between clients… But portraying sex workers as doing proper household tasks that all proper chaste Greek women would do also has the side benefit of classing up strictly transactional sex.

            Instead of ‘buying sex’, the Greek client is being ‘entertained by a courtesan’ who theoretically does all the things a ‘true’ lady does, but secretly transgresses those social boundaries by embracing her lust for the client. That’s the sort of context that’s appealing for something to be expressed in pornographic art.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            Conrad: I agree that fiction is not generally an accurate representation of real life, but I think that fiction can be very informative about the values and norms of a culture, including its norms related to sexual harassment.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Do you have any evidence that this actually reduced harassment, rather than merely reducing reporting of it?

          If you reduce the opportunities people have for doing something, it seems reasonable that people will do that thing less. If you think it doesn’t have an effect, the onus is on you to show it.

    • Well... says:

      As it seems lately like all prominent men in the world engage in inappropriate sexual behavior

      Could it be that prominent men, proportionally, engage in much less inappropriate sexual behavior than their much-less-prominent counterparts, but that we hear disproportionately far more about the former? I’m thinking about rape statistics in prisons and in poor black ghettos, which obviously isn’t a perfect metric (because of the white collar people being more likely to get away with crime thing) but at least tells us something.

      • albatross11 says:

        The uneven reporting makes it really hard to draw a lot of conclusions about whether different kinds of people are doing more/less of the sexual harassment. By definition, we only hear about newsworthy people’s sexual harassment cases–mostly that’s people in showbiz or politics (showbiz for ugly people), with a side order of in-the-public-spotlight businesses (as with Uber’s old CEO). If the purchasing manager at the local plastic factory sexually harasses his receptionist, how on Earth would any of us ever hear about it?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          If the purchasing manager at the local plastic factory sexually harasses his receptionist, how on Earth would any of us ever hear about it?

          I’m very curious as to the extent to which this happens. I would find it extremely hard to believe this sort of behavior happens in my non-glamorous workplace, but I also had no idea Matt Lauer’s office was a rape dungeon.

          • albatross11 says:

            My understanding is that for most such accusations, HR and upper management tries to handle things quietly. So some manager at your workplace might have had a couple complaints and been counseled by HR/upper management, and maybe you wouldn’t have heard about it. This probably wouldn’t be the case if we were talking about Harvey Weinstein level misbehavior, though. But even if there’s a lawsuit and eventual settlement, it will probably include some kind of gag clause, so you’d probably hear that there’d been a lawsuit but not many details.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But the kind of behavior we’re seeing in the pervnado is consistent and covered up. I don’t think Matt Lauer got a talkin’ to from HR after the first woman and then was quietly let go after the second.

            I would find it very hard to believe my CEO’s secretary screwed him to get her job and is servicing him to keep it. Also she’s like 80 years old.

  8. Bugmaster says:

    Is there a decent music playing app for Windows, which could act as a replacement for Winamp ?

    More specifically, I have a large music library, organized into directories in the filesystem. I’m looking for a program to play these files, with the following features:

    * A simple and clean UI (skins are optional though welcome)
    * Quicksearch by title/artist/filename
    * Continuous play, shuffle, repeat (crossfade optional but welcome)
    * Playlist management
    * Automatic volume leveling
    * MP3 metadata tag management
    * Remembers your play queue between app restarts

    On the other hand, I absolutely want to avoid the following features:

    * Requires an always-on Internet connection
    * Uploads all your music to the cloud (especiall since it will then make you pay money for cloud storage)
    * Organizes your music for you according to some proprietary algorithm (that promises to be “quick and easy” but never is)
    * Shares anything at all on social media
    * Contains ads. And yes, music suggestions count as ads.
    * Requires you to go through some complex procedure just to play the music files on your hard drive

    So yeah, basically I’m looking for Winamp 2.0, and don’t say “K-Jofol” because that’s dead too. Any ideas ?

    • skef says:

      I use foobar2000 and although I don’t use all the features in your list it seems to have the ones I don’t (e.g. ReplayGain). It doesn’t do anything networky unless you give it a URL (unless it’s querying for album art or something).

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Seconding foobar2000. I actually use Linux and I use foobar2000 anyway (by means of Wine; it works really well, actually) because there just doesn’t seem to be anything else like it. I don’t actually know if it does all the things you want because I don’t use it for all those things, but, as with Winamp, there’s likely a plugin that does. Seriously, there’s a lot of plugins.

    • Bugmaster says:

      Thanks, I’m trying it out right now, and it seems to be working pretty well.

    • wervenyt says:

      MusicBee is the best Windows music player/library manager I’m aware of at the moment, and I think it fits all of your requirements. Foobar2k has some minor features over it, but foobar also has the lowest ratio of aesthetic design to popularity of any graphical program that I know of.

    • neciampater says:

      Great Question. I used Winamp for years also with a large music library.

      MediaMonkey is awful.

      Haven’t tried foobar2000.

      I did recently use Google Play Music Manager to upload my large library and I can access the large library from any device thru Google Play Music which is nice.

  9. mdet says:

    Real quick: What are yall’s thoughts in the Net Neutrality debate (in the US, although outside perspectives are welcome)? My view right now is that repealing the Title II rules seems like it could result in ISPs showing favoritism to established companies like Netflix / Hulu at the expense of their smaller competitors, and that there could be some price gouging in areas with weak competition (which sounds like it’s many places). On the other hand, if I understand correctly we didn’t have any of those Title II rules in place before 2015, and — despite a few examples of shady behavior from ISPs — everyone seemed happy enough with pre-2015 internet service. Other thoughts?

    • Nornagest says:

      ISPs showing favoritism to Netflix et al. is almost the opposite of what I’d be worried about. On one level, NN is a fight between established content companies like Netflix and Google (think YouTube), whose services use a ton of bandwidth and who want it to stay undifferentiated, and ISPs like Comcast, who want to be able to throttle stuff when they feel like it. The minor streaming services aren’t big enough to matter, and the ISPs have too adversarial a relationship with the content providers to be forming a cartel anytime soon.

      (On another level it’s a fight between people who think of Comcast as a public utility and people who think of Comcast as a business, but Netflix has no dog in that fight.)

      • mdet says:

        It was recently pointed out to me that Netflix & Youtube alone make up over 50% of all downstream internet traffic in North America, and they’re only expected to grow.

        My possibly-naive-and-incomplete-understanding: From an ISP perspective, it sounds like the “pipes” are going to need some big upgrades in order to handle the rapid growth of online streaming. Someone needs to pay for these upgrades. They can either charge everyone for this, regardless of whether you’re actually one of the people doing all the streaming, or they can charge only the video-streaming companies/customers themselves by making video streaming more expensive than other data. I don’t personally find the latter unfair — if the “cost” of the internet is going up, someone’s going to have to bear it, and charging the people most responsible for that increase is not the worst way to handle the problem.

        But (here’s my concern) if ISPs do decide to charge streamers more, it’ll be the big companies like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu who can afford to pay that premium, and the up & coming services I’ve never heard of who can’t. And in countries with weaker laws, there have been big companies who pay ISPs to keep their content in the fast lane while their competitors literally lag behind.

        Edit: I guess where we disagree is that I see ISPs throttling content not as an arbitrary way to punish customers & extort money, but as a reasonable reaction to the fact that Netflix’s very existence is throttling all other websites. (Correct me if I misunderstand how bandwidth works, but Netflix taking up over 1/3rd of traffic sounds like something that would slow down all other net usage)

        • Nornagest says:

          I guess where we disagree is that I see ISPs throttling content not as an arbitrary way to punish customers & extort money, but as a reasonable reaction to the fact that Netflix’s very existence is throttling all other websites.

          I was trying to be value-neutral in my description; maybe “when they feel like it” was too flippant. I lean slightly toward the NN side, but only slightly: there are legitimate business reasons to want to be able to selectively throttle traffic, and I would be in favor of letting them run their course if we were talking about any other industry. But in this industry, last-mile broadband Internet service is locally often a de-facto monopoly and I’m leery of a regulatory environment that gives a company twice voted the worst in America that much leverage. Breaking down the crony-capitalist arrangements that allow ISPs to maintain local monopoly status would be a much better solution, but it doesn’t seem to be on the table right now.

          Whether and how much a service like Netflix affects other traffic is a complex question. The large content services often keep much of their traffic off public fiber as much as they can, although there are situations where “as much as they can” is not very much.

          • Nearly Takuan says:

            twice voted the worst in America

            Not to dispute anything else you’re saying (very much agree and have little to add), but EA won that honor several times and BP won it once, by a hair (Bank of America got almost the same number of votes). So, it seems only very slightly unfair to extrapolate from this that Americans in general are more concerned about slow customer service than they are about dooming the planet….

        • Mark Atwood says:

          Netflix keeps their content inventory in every CDN they can reasonably pair with. If a Netflix media stream is crossing the core transits directly addressed to your TV set, your ISP has fucked up, and it’s their fault, not Netflix’s.

          • mdet says:

            I have no idea what you just said. I was going off the fact that if you have 30 people streaming video in a building, everyone else’s connection will get slowed, and assuming that this also generalized to a city-wide level. Is this not true / a gross oversimplification?

          • actinide meta says:

            @mdet

            The video has to cross the pipe to your building, because there isn’t already a copy of the video in your building. But there “should” already be a copy of a popular video in your city; it shouldn’t have to cross the world all the way from Netflix headquarters. These logistics are the job of “content delivery networks”.

            That said, I’m not sure this changes much. I think most of the costs of the internet are close to the “last mile”, and certainly that is where competition is weakest. And there, Netflix traffic costs as much as anything else to carry.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      On the other hand, if I understand correctly we didn’t have any of those Title II rules in place before 2015, and — despite a few examples of shady behavior from ISPs — everyone seemed happy enough with pre-2015 internet service.

      We didn’t have the Title II rules applied to it, no, but the FCC was enforcing net neutrality by other means. ISPs sued, the courts ruled that indeed said this other authority was not sufficient for what the FCC was doing, so the FCC pulled out Title II. So no the idea that there were no net neutrality rules prior to 2015 is not correct (though the rules were not always quite so explicit), even though the authority for those rules did not come from the use of Title II.

      The better question is, why didn’t we need net neutrality rules back in the 90s?

      My understanding — and this is based purely on, like, stuff I’ve read on the internet, this may be substantially wrong, corrections appreciated — is that it’s because the ISP market was more competitive back then, obviating the need for explicit regulation since competition would achieve the same thing; and the ISP market was more competitive back then because everyone was on dialup and the Telecom Act of 1996 forced phone companies to lease out their lines, allowing a bunch of small ISPs to spring up, not controlled by the phone companies, because they didn’t actually need to own the physical lines. However, these days everyone’s on broadband, which isn’t covered by the Telecom Act, allowing the very few companies who actually own the physical lines to form a broadband ISP oligopoly (which in many places is a straight-up monopoly and is rarely more than a duopoly).

      So net neutrality rules such as Title II are not necessarily the only solution here. However I gather that the “force companies to lease lines” solution has the substantial drawback that it substantially de-incentivizes actually building the lines.

      That’s the rough understanding I have, anyway.

    • Jaskologist says:

      9 times out of 10, process is more important than the specific policy. On that basis alone, this was a good decision. The precedent that an agency can simply declare that it has power over a new area instead of running that through the legislature is bad, bad process. I care about that a lot more than I care about the specifics of Net Neutrality, although I’ll admit I’m moderately skeptical of that, too.

    • actinide meta says:

      I have trouble predicting what the effects of “deregulated” NN will be. Any of the following, or a mix, seem imaginable:

      (a) Comcast is able to collect some extra money from customers in markets where they have a near-monopoly via some kind of price discrimination that works better than just selling faster and slower pipes. Although this situation consists of Comcast screwing people and not providing any better service, I think that it actually is still a “Marshall improvement”: the consumer surplus that Comcast captures benefits Comcast shareholders at the expense of Comcast customers (a wash), and some people who didn’t find Internet access worth it before now sign up for the Ultra-Cheap-Only-Five-Websites plan or whatever

      (b) Some complicated new kind of collusion arises where existing big internet companies pay for a fast lane, making it harder for new startups to compete and enshrining current market leaders forever. This would presumably be bad. It seems like the wrong companies are for and against NN for this to be the expected equilibrium, but maybe everybody’s wrong.

      (c) ISPs make Netflix and Youtube pay for their bandwidth usage. In a competitive equilibrium, this makes internet access cheaper and video streaming services more expensive in a way that makes the market more efficient. In an ISP monopoly situation, maybe this is mostly a transfer of money to the ISPs (but does that hurt efficiency?). In reality, where ISPs have monopolies on some customers, but streaming services have monopolies on some content that customers in competitive markets want, it’s not really clear who has the upper hand in negotiation. Plausibly Netflix pays something less than the full cost of delivering their traffic, and customers in competitive ISP markets see a corresponding decrease in Internet prices, but customers in monopoly markets see their overall costs increase. This is… a mixed bag?

      (d) The whole thing is a big nothingburger. The regulations that are being rolled back are pretty recent, and nothing much changed when they went into effect. So maybe the market equilibrium is the same as the regulated one.

      (e) Greedy ISPs create serious enough problems for the big content providers that the latter are spurred to finance breaking ISP monopolies. That would be good.

      (f) Five or ten or twenty years from now, some new technology or business model doesn’t get crushed by regulations originally intended to enforce NN, or regulatory capture that evolves in the interim. That’s good.

      So I guess I see more potential for good than harm overall, though I have low confidence and I do think there’s significant potential for people in monopoly ISP markets to be losers.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        And if it turns out that the ISPs do bad things, and bad things happen, great, we can propose legislation for regulation to solve those problems. But the hysteria I’m seeing coming out of reddit and the like does not seem warranted. I’m not in favor of preemptive regulation.

    • yodelyak says:

      My problem with ending NN is actually in the “insidious attacks on public fora and, thereby, freedom” vein. Basically, I worry about Comcast deciding to throttle Fox News, and Century Link throttling Maddow. And, like a lot of people with worries in that department, I’m inclined toward absolutist positions. Pay per bit, sure–and I’d be in favor of price discrimination by volume. But my understanding is Comcast may now charge Fox News differently for streaming than it charges Maddow…. and that sets my “someone is trying to own public forums” spidey-sense all out of whack.

  10. Mark says:

    Star Wars…?

    The real tragedy is that the best adventure of the last 25 years was John Carter. The audience was given a fun, imaginative, coherent feeling movie, and they turned their noses up at it.

    Now we get this Star Wars rubbish. It’s alright, but you feel like you have to either turn your brain off completely, or spend half the time making up excuses for the writers. And, there’s just loads of decisions that aren’t cool. Really uncool.

    I wish we lived in the John Carter succeeds timeline. In fact, I had a near death experience in 2012, and everything seems to have gone wrong with movies since then. I sometimes wonder if I’m in a coma or something, and my imagination just isn’t up to making interesting stories.

    • Nornagest says:

      John Carter was a reasonably well-done piece of B-movie schlock on its own merits, but it wasn’t a good adaptation of A Princess of Mars. And I really think it deserves a good one.

      (Personally, I’d say The Fifth Element was the best SF adventure movie of the last 25 years. I had high hopes for Valerian as a spiritual successor, but Luc Besson really dropped the ball on casting that one.)

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        A Princesss of Mars is really good, and it’s frustrating that Disney ended up doing the adaptation and being scared of the words “princess” and “Mars”.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        I have an angry canned rant about Valerian

        It could have been something great, but instead Luc Besson blew a quarter billion euro on a shitty piece of fan fiction that he wrote in his head when he was 14, that was directly in opposition of the very point of the relationship between Valerian and Laureline.

        • Nornagest says:

          Well, it’s Luc Besson. I like the guy, but high-budget fanfic concepts (often starring his girlfriend) have kind of been his schtick since the Nineties — even The Fifth Element was about 60% Heavy Metal (or, I guess, Métal Hurlant) pastiche.

          Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This was unfortunately one of the times where it doesn’t.

    • baconbacon says:

      It took in ~300 million at the box office, it wasn’t that audiences turned their noses up at it, it was that to profit on a film that costs half a billion to make (give or take) it has to appeal to almost everyone.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        What decisions do you think the makers of episode VIII made to make it appeal to “almost everyone” that they wouldn’t have done otherwise?

        Edit: Ohhhhh, thanks Randy. Question withdrawn.

        • mdet says:

          I don’t think marketing made any relevant changes to the story itself, but probably could’ve affected the execution in little ways. Like the little bird things that got a shot in the trailer but do little to nothing from a story or worldbuilding perspective. They entirely exist to be cute enough to sell toys. Similar with making BB8 a “cuter” R2.

        • Randy M says:

          I think bb was referring to John Carter.

    • achenx says:

      Remember, it was originally going to be named “John Carter of Mars”, as it should be, but what studio executives learned from “Mars Needs Moms” failing was that “Mars” was a bad word to put in a movie title.

  11. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Via Marginal Revolution: Quillette
    against romanticizing hunter-gatherers
    .

    I’m definitely not as bothered by infant mortality as I think they expect me to be, but the other points–violence, sexism, inequality–seem well taken. Seems to me to establish fairly well that hunter-gatherer bands are not the ideal human society, but rather just another flawed system we’ve tried, though still one with some promising characteristics.

    Also, as someone quite skeptical of the sexual-progressivism-leads-to-sexual-inequality arguments, I feel compelled to admit that the reproductive inequality observations require an update in their favor. Does make me wonder about the exact distribution and what the qualitative experiences of the people involved are like.

    • cmurdock says:

      Not all infanticide is equal– e.g. the 16th century Coahuiltecans of Texas killed infants by burying them alive. Which, by the way, is probably a better way to go than how the Greeks did it, with staking them to the ground, but you’re still likely to get in a lot more trouble from certain quarters by talking about the former than the latter.

    • Well... says:

      For some reason hunter-gatherer tribes doesn’t sound to me like a system one “tries.” It doesn’t seem analogous to something like democracy or progressivism.

      • Well... says:

        Last night I watched a documentary about uncontacted peoples–specifically the ones who are coming out of the forest and asking to join the relatively modern tribal societies around them along the Brazil/Peru border. Yeah, I really don’t think their old ways are a system they were trying.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          An inexact turn of phrase to try to convey an intuitive sense of hunter-gathering not seeming special or magical, but rather belonging in a pile along with all the other known systems of human life, whether or not they were adopted deliberately.

    • Bugmaster says:

      As far as I can tell, the Rationalist ™ community enforces certain tropes that society at large does not, e.g. endorsement of cryonics, unquestionable many-worlds interpretation of quantum theory, the superiority of polyamory, AI risk as an immediate and dire threat; and, of course, the superiority of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. If one were to act uncharitably, one might say that such beliefs are similar in nature to e.g. somewhat outlandish beliefs held by major world religions: they are supposed to be deliberately irrational, in order to provide group cohesion, signaling, and a sense of unique identity.

      A more charitable interpretation of the hunter-gatherer belief might be that rationalists hold different values than people such as myself, and thus the word “happiness” means something different to them than it does to me. Despite their fascination with modern science and technology (which would be impossible in a hunter-gatherer society), they maintain that “ignorance is bliss”.

      A hunter-gatherer who spends 30 hours a week collecting berries may never know the intricacies of higher mathematics, or the convenience of world-wide communication; and he may have a much higher chance of dying from technologically preventable causes; but, because he doesn’t know that life can be any different, he can feel truly happy. Meanwhile, despite the fact that the modern man routinely wields a nearly unimaginable amount of power at his fingertips, he has less leisure time and more worries in his life, and thus he feels much less happy. Rationalists would argue that your capabilities don’t really matter, as long as you feel good about your life; by this standard, modern life is truly awful, since each new capability brings with it a new set of worries.

      • Aapje says:

        What is your evidence for rationalists advocating the superiority of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle? From what I’ve seen here, the most you can argue is that some people think that humans are biologically not suited for an individualized society, but I don’t see how it follows that they are then luddites who want to go back a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

        • Bugmaster says:

          I’m just going by Scott’s posts, the replies to it, and discussion on Less Wrong before that. However, I don’t think it’d be accurate to describe Rationalists as “luddites who want to go back a hunter-gatherer lifestyle”. Rather, they believe that the hunter-gatherer lifestyle is superior to our modern one in every way… but they don’t want to go back to it. I’m not sure if this is because they don’t think they can, or simply because the belief is irrational (but merely Rational ™).

          • Evan Þ says:

            I think one of the reasons for that is that a hunter-gatherer lifestyle can’t support anywhere near as many people as our current lifestyle. Depending on your ethical system, that could mean:

            * We can’t go back to hunting-gathering because the transition involve too much death, which is a moral negative.

            * Hunting-gathering is superior for the individual, but adding up happiness across greater numbers of people means it’s inferior for the group.

          • Nearly Takuan says:

            The closest Scott has come to saying something like this, that I can recall, is written in Burdens:

            If my patient, the one with the brain damage, were back in the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness, in a nice tribe with Dunbar’s number of people, there would be no problem.

            Maybe his cognitive problems would make him a slightly less proficient hunter than someone else, but whatever, he could always gather.

            Maybe his emotional control problems would give him a little bit of a handicap in tribal politics, but he wouldn’t get arrested for making a scene, he wouldn’t get fired for not sucking up to his boss enough, he wouldn’t be forced to live in a tiny apartment with people he didn’t necessarily like who were constantly getting on his nerves. He might get in a fight and end up with a spear through his gut, but in that case his problems would be over anyway.

            Otherwise he could just hang out and live in a cave and gather roots and berries and maybe hunt buffalo and participate in the appropriate tribal bonding rituals like everyone else.

            But society came and paved over the place where all the roots and berry plants grew and killed the buffalo and dynamited the caves and declared the tribal bonding rituals Problematic. This increased productivity by about a zillion times, so most people ended up better off. The only ones who didn’t were the ones who for some reason couldn’t participate in it.

            (if you’re one of those people who sees red every time someone mentions evolution or cavemen, imagine him as a dockworker a hundred years ago, or a peasant farmer a thousand)

            Society got where it is by systematically destroying everything that could have supported him and replacing it with things that required skills he didn’t have. Of course it owes him when he suddenly can’t support himself. Think of it as the ultimate use of eminent domain; a power beyond your control has seized everything in the world, it had some good economic reasons for doing so, but it at least owes you compensation!

            But this is clearly an argument for (at least minimal) social safety nets, not a suggestion that we ought suddenly to burn our farms, let loose our cattle, and go back to picking berries and spearing fish. It’s a recognition that while “a rising tide lifts all boats”, it also makes anyone left without a boat more vulnerable to risks like drowning, hypothermia, and general discomfort from having soaked squishy skin. If we’re going to make the tide rise, with the expectation that most people will at least have a plank to lie on, that’s not Ir-Rational™ but to many of us it still feels ethically wrong not to at least make sure the poorest among us have access to water-wings and giant noodles.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nearly Takuan

            Indeed.

            My personal belief is also that most people are delusional about what actually makes them happy and try to create an environment that should make them happy, but actually makes them unhappy in various ways.

            I think we should try to fix that.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            Agreed with what people in this thread are saying, but I didn’t think it was all that particular to rationalists. Quillette isn’t talking about rationalists when they complain about romanticizing hunter-gatherers. I think it’s a non-universal but fairly-common blue tribe thing.

            Related: Robin Hanson has written that liberals have forager values and conservatives have farmer values, and society is steadily using wealth from industry to re-attain a forager-like lifestyle.

          • Aapje says:

            I’ve seen a few feminists argue that the patriarchy came about due to farming and that hunter-gathering societies were thus gender egalitarian.

            However, my perception is that this is more to argue that full gender equality is achievable, than to demand a return to a pre-farming society (although I didn’t press them on that point).

  12. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Americanism: how is this a heresy?
    The core issue appears to be that Catholic clergy in the United States were teaching that the Establishment Clause was a good thing, and Pope Leo XIII defined that as a heresy, backed by the concern of French and German bishops that such liberalism would weaken the Church in their countries. But… isn’t this what the Papacy has taught since Dignitatis humanae was declared in 1965?

    • Anonymous says:

      AFAIK, DH prohibits forced conversion, rather than endorsing secularism. There’s a difference between “let’s run our affairs without any interference from the Church” and “let’s convert these folks at gunpoint”. If I recall my catechism, and I do, the Church reserves the right to meddle in politics where morality is concerned. I’m going to go out on a limb that you can have an official state religion, and simultaneously not force subjects to be part of that religion.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        OK, that makes sense. I was under the impression that DH had declared separation of church and state part of the Natural Law or something, so like Spain was in error for being a confessional state after 1965.
        No question that the Church reserves the right to meddle in politics over morals. She would say, for example, that the secular arm banning abortion is a matter of natural rights, not discriminating in favor of a religion.

        • Nick says:

          Actually, squaring Dignitatis Humanae with previous documents like Mirari Vos and the Syllabus Errorum is not an easy task. Many Catholic theologians will simply take the position that DH is a reversal of previous teachings on religious liberty, not a kind of development or refinement. (This is always the first part of a syllogism. Second part is, therefore the Church can and inevitably will reverse her teaching on pet issue X.) For Catholics who, on the other hand, maintain that the various statements in Mirari Vos and the Syllabus Errorum are doctrinal, and that DH cannot reverse said teachings, a good deal of work is done interpreting them in line with one another. Thomas Pink attempts one such interpretation.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            For Catholics who, on the other hand, maintain that the various statements in Mirari Vos and the Syllabus Errorum are doctrinal, and that DH cannot reverse said teachings, a good deal of work is done interpreting them in line with one another. Thomas Pink attempts one such interpretation.

            Given that V2 explicitly avoided defining any new doctrine (as Paul VI, JPII and Benedict XVI all said at various times), wouldn’t it be easier to just say that DH is trumped by Mirari Vos and the Syllabus and therefore doesn’t have any force?

          • Nick says:

            Given that V2 explicitly avoided defining any new doctrine (as Paul VI, JPII and Benedict XVI all said at various times), wouldn’t it be easier to just say that DH is trumped by Mirari Vos and the Syllabus and therefore doesn’t have any force?

            That’s possible too (and yeah, I should have mentioned that possibility), but that just assumes the interpretation of DH in conflict with Mirari Vos and the Syllabus. I see that as something of a nuclear option, personally—it’s possible, but we should avoid ignoring a pastoral document, and a more recent one at that, if we can help it.

  13. fawz says:

    How do you “compensate” for living somewhere where there’s (apparently) no real rationalist community?

    • crybx says:

      I don’t have an answer. I just want to second this question. I live near Louisville, KY and am frankly clueless about how to make rationalist friends without driving for hours to potentially disappointing meetups.

    • Viliam says:

      Internet, of course. Reading SSC and LW provides the illusion of a community. And once in a while I meet rationalists who live “not near, but also not too far”, and between the meetups I communicate with some of them online.

      And I was trying to popularize rationality at the place where I live, but so far no success.

      • Kevin C. says:

        Internet, of course.

        Except, as studies like this one show, “online social contacts” are not a full substitute for IRL interactions, and can actually increase loneliness.

  14. Anon. says:

    Where can I find a good overview of cryptocurrencies that support smart contracts, preferably with some sort of comparison between them? Also what’s the deal with ERC20 tokens? This stuff is super interesting but I have no idea where to start.

  15. TheApiary says:

    I am wondering what people know/think about tardive dysphoria/treatment resistant depression caused by antidepressant use over time. I’ve been taking Wellbutrin for about 6 years, since I was 18. I was extremely depressed and suicidal and couldn’t do anything, and it helped very quickly and significantly. I’d had very bad depressive episodes multiple times before that, and have had only small ones since then. One time I tried stopping the Wellbutrin because my doctor and I were curious about what would happen, and I started to feel depressed and went back on it before anything really bad happened. So my instinct is if it ain’t broke don’t fix it– I’m doing well, it definitely fixes a problem and doesn’t seem to cause any, so why mess with it? It also seems silly to worry about my long term risk of becoming treatment resistant because what’s the point of being responsive to treatment if I don’t treat it? But a few people have told me this is dumb and short sighted, so I thought I would see what people here have to say.

  16. szopeno says:

    I’ve read again the fun with taxes and I have just realised, that alice is the one who cares, and bob the one who provides 😀 I think some people would roast Scott for gender stereotypes here 😀

  17. anon472732 says:

    When people propose that men and women have brains that are just different, and maybe that’s why there aren’t more females in tech, I have a hard time deciding if I really am an atypical female, or if they’re making bad or biased assumptions.

    I’m 30 years old. I’m a cisgender, mostly heterosexual female. I’m attracted to guys (less often girls) that are intelligent. Confidence, maybe erring a bit into arrogance, multiplies the effect. I’m sexually submissive, not very vanilla, and have trouble maintaining attraction to someone who isn’t sexually dominant. I share that to make a point that when it comes to sexuality, I’m not a particularly atypical female.

    I also don’t have any signs that I have a larger than normal amount of testosterone for a female. My parents were very opened minded and my socialization with peers was largely stunted by moving so often that I was the new kid in school nearly every year, in the middle of the school year at that. I was usually a loner. I share that to make a point that I was uniquely outside of a lot of the typical cultural experience. I watched YouTube videos in my 20s to figure out how to put on makeup for the first time.

    I also have a computer engineering degree.
    I work as a programmer.
    I’m an atheist.
    On the things-vs-people spectrum, I am firmly on the things side.
    I don’t have kids, and I never want kids.

    If discrimination has held me back as a female in tech, it has been subtle enough to where I second guess if it happened, or it’s gone on behind closed doors where I can’t see.

    But I have been aware of a…general pressure.

    Anecdotes:

    All the girls in the intro programming class besides me are gone when the next semester starts. I don’t know why? I was usually a loner anyway.

    Classmates who ask me to work on group projects with them inevitably ask me on dates. Classmates who get girlfriends stop speaking to me.

    I am told at lunch with coworkers that, “We were nervous adding a girl to the team. It could have totally killed the group dynamic. But you’re cool.” I say nothing because I have no idea what response doesn’t hurt my place in the ‘bro group dynamic’.

    Male coworkers who, once relaxed, joke about women, and then seem to remember I’m female and say things like “You’re not a real girl though.” They mean it as a compliment. I say nothing. I look at them like they’re morons, and they laugh.

    A nagging wonder if the reason my ideas are sometimes argued against until a male coworker backs them is because of gender or something else? Best not to be overly sensitive and bring it up?

    Why is this guy I am interviewing for a position not looking at me when he answers a series of questions I ask him? He’s only looking at my male coworker. It’s so blatant that I’m kind of shocked. I am the one who convinces everyone not to hire him. Everyone else thought he knew his shit and would be a good hire. Time goes by, other candidates turn down offers, and we’re dying for talent, so they hire him anyway.

    There is a pressure. I carry on by just…carrying on with what I wanted anyway. I am not a champion. I don’t rock the boat. But I’m not blind.

    • temujin9 says:

      Outside (male programmer) perspective, epistemic status vague:

      I would guess you are an atypical female, in the thing-brain thing. Thing-brain seems essential for skilled programming, in a way that it doesn’t for many other jobs. (I suspect this has to do with the relative novelty and massive breadth of the field: it’s more valuable to explore than to ask for existing maps.)

      Men in the industry are roughly the same range of shitty-to-okay that they are outside the industry. They also don’t have a lot of counter-signal to learn from, because their industry is dominated by thing-brain people (typically male, and also typically bad at social steering conversations).

      If you’re not thing-brained, you’re probably going to wash out, and thus women (less often thing-brained) wash out more frequently. If you can’t (or don’t want to) fit in to the nerd-frat culture that is the default, you will have a much harder time advancing in an industry hyped about “culture fit” in hiring. The combination of those two seems to explain the bad behavior you observe (which I’ve seen, in group conversations with female colleagues) and the gender imbalance shown in statistics, without resorting to claims of exceptionally high sexism in nerds.

      • anon says:

        On an initial gut level, your reply makes a lot of sense and gives me a nice feeling of closure/understanding.

    • maintain says:

      >He’s only looking at my male coworker. It’s so blatant that I’m kind of shocked. I am the one who convinces everyone not to hire him.

      Good job. Real programmers actually avoid eye contact and just mumble stuff.

      • anon says:

        He did not avoid eye contact, he just avoided looking at me, or even in my direction, over my head, or at the table in front of me. He made eye contact with my male coworker while answering my questions. He also did not display any signs of general nervousness and was very laid back.

        • maintain says:

          >He also did not display any signs of general nervousness and was very laid back.

          totally not a legit coder

        • quanta413 says:

          I think maintain might jokingly be saying that you were correct to argue to not hire the candidate because he was looking at your colleague when he should have been looking at his shoes.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Hi, 30 year-old female, not vanilla. I am more people-oriented than you (not a programmer, math was my hardest subject in school), but have an Aspergers diagnosis from the DSM-IV era.
      I do not believe your first anecdote is sexism. You probably need a certain brain structure to maintain the programmer worldview. The rest of your anecdotes are quite sexist. Those behaviors sound pretty hurtful; is that correct? It’s hard to say how much this pressure/structure has held back your career, but a woman is more than a career.

      • anon says:

        I actually wonder if something is off because I’m not hurt by these things. I don’t even know if I should call them sexism or not. I’m just waving at these anecdotes as me noticing something gender related is going on.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Well if you’re not hurt by these things, they’re less of a big deal. But for sure something gender-related is going on in your field.

        • Ketil says:

          Not sure what you’re really asking. But sure, something gender is going on, always, everywhere, because that is how nature and evolution work. I think you are right not to overinterpret these things as sexism or hostility, because men can often be thoughtless and tactless, but rarely misogynist. IM(middle aged, straight, male)O.

          If things don’t bother you, I wouldn’t make a fuss. If they do, you can (and probably should) respond in some way. I would try to do so in a non-threatening way (accusations of sexism or harassment tend to be social WMDs these days, so things can probably escalate quickly). Just ask the guy who says you’re not a “real girl” what he means by that, or if you’re prefer, remind him jokingly a couple of times that he’s not a real man, and I think he will take the hint eventually. Explain the thing about the guy not looking at you to your colleague/boss, and if necessary, remind him that your current inclusive and pleasant environment would be at risk if they hire someone who is uncomfortable working with women. You could also have asked him directly in the interview: are you uncomfortable working with women? Why do you look at him when you are talking to me?

          It is pretty clear that women have very different ways of dealing with these things (meaning anything from gender jokes, sexualized or romantic attention, adversity), I wouldn’t worry about your reaction being “off”. When something does bother you, make it clear to the person who is responsible.

      • Skivverus says:

        I mostly agree with your appraisal on which anecdotes are sexism; a couple may have alternative explanations, though.
        (translation: blatant speculation follows)

        Classmates who ask me to work on group projects with them inevitably ask me on dates. Classmates who get girlfriends stop speaking to me.

        Second half more sexist than the first; the first is likely a consequence of “spending hours in proximity to person of a gender I am attracted to, who has a demonstrated common interest” times “guys have social expectations to ask potential partners out”.
        So, sexism-as-societal-force, more than sexism-as-personal-fault, at least in the first case. Second case, if I’m being charitable, is overcompensation for the first case, possibly to avoid jealousy issues.

        I am told at lunch with coworkers that, “We were nervous adding a girl to the team. It could have totally killed the group dynamic. But you’re cool.” I say nothing because I have no idea what response doesn’t hurt my place in the ‘bro group dynamic’.

        Charitable interpretation: replace ‘bro’ with ‘romance-free, and therefore hopefully distraction- and drama- free’.

        Male coworkers who, once relaxed, joke about women, and then seem to remember I’m female and say things like “You’re not a real girl though.” They mean it as a compliment. I say nothing. I look at them like they’re morons, and they laugh.

        Possible alternative meaning/subtext: it’s not intended as a compliment/insult, but a reassurance: “I’m not going to date you/lump you in with these other women”. Still blatantly sexist, though.

        A nagging wonder if the reason my ideas are sometimes argued against until a male coworker backs them is because of gender or something else? Best not to be overly sensitive and bring it up?

        Related to your first anecdote: how many female vs. male coworkers do you have that could do the backing? Having one’s ideas argued against may well be par for the course (depending on the company).
        For instance, Joel Spolsky mentions “One of the best things a program manager can add to the software design process is a second opinion as to how things should be designed, hopefully one that is more empathetic to those DOUBLE SUPER UNSMART USERS with their pesky mental feebleness requiring that an application be usable without reading the man page, writing a custom emacs-lisp function, or translating numbers into octal in your head.”
        Substitute “argue against” for “second opinion”.

        Why is this guy I am interviewing for a position not looking at me when he answers a series of questions I ask him? He’s only looking at my male coworker. It’s so blatant that I’m kind of shocked.

        Possibly overcompensation for introspected or socially-warned-against ‘ogling’ tendencies, but yeah, also possibly just dismissive.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Possibly overcompensation for introspected or socially-warned-against ‘ogling’ tendencies…

          Not just “socially” warned against, but explicitly directed in a mandatory company-wide meeting — where the humorless bureaucrat explains that looking at any woman, for any reason, may be construed as harassment. I’ve been through at least one of those meetings at every single company I’ve worked at. The wording varies, but the message is always the same.

          Of course, most people take that stuff in stride, recognizing the intimidating language for what it is — simple legalistic ass-covering by the corporate overlords. However, some people are more trusting, and take it seriously. I’ve known at least one person who switched teams when the manager of his team hired a woman, because he was deathly afraid of getting fired for some perceived offence.

          • Nornagest says:

            Really? I’ve been through a number of mandatory company-wide harassment trainings, and I don’t think any of them went quite that far — though the scope of harassment was always broad and subjective.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            HR is an evil institution that favors women. This doesn’t mean anon hasn’t experienced sexism. It would mean she’s experienced male sexism that was rational for the men in question.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Nornagest:
            In my experience, the phrasing was the same in most of those meetings, and it went something like this: “looking at a woman in a way she finds objectionable constitutes harassment”.

            @Le Maistre Chat:
            I guess that depends on your definition of “sexism”. The word is mutliply-overloaded; it could mean “a prejudice against a specific sex”, “an unwarranted prejudice against a specific sex”, or “prejudice against a gender whose members do not enjoy social privilege”. I’m sure there are many other definitions, too. Anyway, I don’t really care about the word; I was just trying to provide some possible explanations for some of the male behaviors that the OP experienced.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            However, some people are more trusting, and take it seriously.

            That doesn’t quite gel with “He also did not display any signs of general nervousness and was very laid back.”

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Gobbobobble:
            Right, I missed that part earlier, since it was in a separate comment. Still, in this case I’d still lean toward a more charitable explanation. For example, seeming “laid back” at an interview is a skill that job applicants are practically required to cultivate, so maybe this guy hadn’t quite mastered it. Of course, it’s also possible that he was a bona-fide sexist.

            FWIW, I’ve only ever met one blatantly sexist job applicant. He performed pretty poorly at the technical portion of the interview, and he must have known it, because he tried to bluster his way through the interview with our female business analyst. Instead, she made him cry.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m sexually submissive, not very vanilla, and have trouble maintaining attraction to someone who isn’t sexually dominant. I share that to make a point that when it comes to sexuality, I’m not a particularly atypical female.

      ?

      I mean, I am completely turned off by sexually dominant persons (or those who try to be) and am not at all sexually submissive – that is, were I to be sexually active. I generally react very badly to attempts to dominate me, whether it be by greater authority or whatever even in a non-sexual way (I will respect proper authority and have no problem with hierarchy but do have a big problem with someone just throwing their weight around), so either I am an atypical female – which probably, yes – or I’m not quite understanding what you are saying? Maybe in your particular circumstances being “sexually submissive, non-vanilla, very attracted to a dom/domme personality” is “typical female sexual behaviour” but um – perhaps not everywhere, everyone?

      Apart from that – no formal diagnosis but given family background, I have a suspicion I am floating around somewhere on the (old) Asperger’s side of things. Can’t say that I’m necessarily thing-oriented but definitely not people-oriented. From an early age, more interested in “boys'” things than “girls'” things (e.g. aged seven, more or less verbally bullied a male classmate into sharing his comics with me; always preferred reading boys’ comics than girls’ as British girls’ comics were boring – no I’m not interested in stories about orphans, ponies, ballet or boarding schools; this carried over into reading American comics when I could get them; have been a life-long SF fan).

      As for the rest of it – that is not necessarily “hey I don’t think I’m not like the other girls but this happened” – that’s the kind of thing that does happen even to “typical” females. You’re probably in a tougher situation since fewer women do go into programming for whatever reasons, and since you have the talent and interest to stick with it, you’ve ended up in a majority male profession.

      It’s not just programmers. It’s all majority-male professions (in my admittedly limited experience of such). Yes, guys looking at the male in the room/on the interview panel for the ‘real’ boss/important person to impress. That happens. Yes to all the rest of it, including the “you’re different, you’re not like other girls” and “I don’t want to rock the boat, am I just being over-sensitive here?”

      • anon says:

        I have read that more females than males are sexually submissive. I think it is interesting that your reaction to that being roughly, “I don’t know about that being typical because that’s not how I am, but maybe” is roughly how I’m struggling to understand the proposition that girl brains just don’t think in ways that lead boys into tech.

        • that girl brains just don’t think in ways that lead boys into tech

          Isn’t it much more plausible that males and females have a different distribution of characteristics, including the ones being lumped into girl/boy brains?

          Males and females have a different distribution of heights as well, but I am not surprised to observe that there are many women who are taller than I am.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I’m >6 feet tall, and was shocked to recently learn that the WNBA refruits women shorter than that. I thought they’d only recruit from the 99.99th percentile.

          • Mark says:

            That is 99.9th percentile.

          • Incurian says:

            They have good fundamentals.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Mark: Wow, I thought ~1% of women of Northern European descent were at least my height.
            I just can’t help being a total outlier.

          • anon says:

            I’m not being very precise with my wording, but I don’t mean to imply I think there’s no distribution. I originally posted because I was having trouble reconciling views that would mean I am an outlier with views that I’m not and there really is something systemic going on. Pinpointing myself in the distribution helps me know whether to count myself as (weak, but first-hand) evidence one way or the other.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Maybe in your particular circumstances being “sexually submissive, non-vanilla, very attracted to a dom/domme personality” is “typical female sexual behaviour” but um – perhaps not everywhere, everyone?

        Sure, not everywhere, everyone, but I grok what she’s saying. It is common for human females to have sexual submission tendencies. Go to a BDSM party in a Blue city and you’ll find that a supermajority of the activity is straight/bi females getting bound and beaten, regardless of the hegemonic feminist and LGBT ideology.
        In the modern West, it’s also common for women to socially exert power over men, but I’ve never perceived an erotic subtext to it. Dicking other humans over because you can is not a sin of lust. 😉

        From an early age, more interested in “boys’” things than “girls’” things (e.g. aged seven, more or less verbally bullied a male classmate into sharing his comics with me; always preferred reading boys’ comics than girls’ as British girls’ comics were boring – no I’m not interested in stories about orphans, ponies, ballet or boarding schools; this carried over into reading American comics when I could get them; have been a life-long SF fan).

        Well-replicated monkey studies have shown that this is normal for females, while the reverse isn’t!
        I could go into childhood anecdotes if anyone cares.

        • rlms says:

          I believe most people who are into BDSM are subs, regardless of gender.

          • fion says:

            Beware! Second-hand anecdotal evidence follows:

            In my friend’s experience, males in the BDSM community are reasonably balanced between subs and doms but females are overwhelmingly subs. This is consistent with both your comment and the one you are responding to.

        • Deiseach says:

          It is common for human females to have sexual submission tendencies.

          Depending on what definition and degree of value you ascribe to “submission” then yes, female sexuality involves that. And women have been socially pushed in the direction of submissiveness (a slightly different thing) in sexual and romantic, as well as domestic and public, matters.

          Go to a BDSM party in a Blue city and you’ll find that a supermajority of the activity is straight/bi females getting bound and beaten, regardless of the hegemonic feminist and LGBT ideology.

          But the “getting bound and beaten” – I would dispute that. Some women? Yes. As well as some men. And naturally, if you’re in a large urban centre then it is going to be relatively more easy to find others who share your interests, and then when you find a group of people who like the same things you do, you are going to spend more time with them, and other like-minded people they in turn introduce you to, and then it becomes “well, practically every person I meet likes kippling, so I’m not atypical in that” and no, you’re not – for that activity in that grouping in that city.

          I have never gotten the sexual appeal of beating – from the vanilla “ooh I’ve been naughty, spank me!” to the serious “welts, bruises and even bleeding”. For me “getting hit as a punishment” is, well, “getting hit as a punishment” – it hurts, it’s meant to hurt, and it’s not meant to be fun. So I am not on that wavelength at all. It has little to do with feminism or ideology in my case, merely “No, I do not get this at all, it’s completely unappealing to me, and if anyone tried smacking me about they’d regret it”.

          • Nornagest says:

            But the “getting bound and beaten” – I would dispute that. Some women? Yes. As well as some men.

            LMC is right on the empirics. Go to that sort of party, and you’ll see a lot more women than men on the receiving end; I’m quite confident of this. Most often identifying as bi in my experience, but this might be the OKCupid style of “bi” that’s more about signaling adventurousness than actual preference. Occasionally straight guys or lesbian women, but less often. Gay guys have their own events and I don’t know how common it is for them.

            That doesn’t mean that all women, or even the same ratio, are more on the submissive side in the vanilla world, but I think it is evidence that they’re more likely to be, since kink in this sense is less about true paraphilia and more about finding ritualized ways to tickle the dark and squishy parts of your brain. Though, since we’re talking about the vanilla world now, “on the submissive side” here should not be read in a whips-and-chains sense, but more in the sense that there tend to be active and passive roles in a relationship and you might prefer one to the other.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I wouldn’t dispute that you’re in the majority on not getting kink. But if a woman isn’t vanilla, she’ll probably be a heterosexual or bi sub.
            I get that this has nothing to do with feminism or ideology for you; you’re asexual and if you weren’t you’d want to marry a vanilla gentleman. We’re totally on the same wavelength about Christian stuff, even if I can’t pull off being a prude. 🙂

            I also want to echo what Nornagest said about dominance/submission not being a paraphilia, but about tickling the parts of our primate brains that are too dark for mainstream society. Most women may be glad that we don’t live in a traditional patriarchal society and not want their husband/guy to dominate them, but I believe it’s part of the human bell curve and so can’t be eradicated by socialization.

        • Null42 says:

          For what it’s worth, my limited experience suggests that nerds are more likely to be kinky and women are more likely to be submissive (I said ‘more likely’ not ‘always’), to the point where dominant women can make a living being dominant. So I suspect the OP’s comment is statistically likely as a result of being a nerd and a woman.

          As for the kink thing–I suspect that, as you say later, it’s a matter of the primate pathways of dominance and submission (which carry an erotic charge) being exciting but politically incorrect–which adds in the lure of the forbidden. I also suspect a lot of lefty women and men may be able to use the ‘transgressive’ nature as an excuse for playing the old stereotypical roles–being told what to do by your boyfriend is patriarchal, but being into kinky sex is transgressive and hence OK. (I have had feminists confirm this for me in unguarded moments, but that is an n of 5 or so and should not be taken any further than that.)

          OK, how about nerds and kink? I suspect that

          1. Our literal minds tend to prefer making the role explicit rather than implicit
          2. Having explicit rules is nice if you’re not good at reading facial expressions and body language. And negotiating out ahead of time what you are and aren’t allowed to do to each other is easier than having to guess by body language.
          3. A lot of the engineering types like to fiddle with the cuffs and ropes, etc.

          • Bugmaster says:

            FWIW, I’m a software engineer, but the kinky mindset is totally alien to me. Logically, I understand that some people enjoy it, but I can’t ever imagine finding it enjoyable myself. I could be an outlier, however.

          • fion says:

            I’m in the same boat as Bugmaster on this: very nerdy, very un-kinky.

        • It is common for human females to have sexual submission tendencies.

          It occurs to me that this thread may link into the discussion of the sexual misdeeds of Moore, Trump, et. al.

          Suppose many women are turned on by sexually aggressive men. A sexually aggressive man observes this and over generalizes, concludes that women who react negatively to his behavior are pretending, or playing hard to get, or something similar but if he only pushes a little harder … .

          • Aapje says:

            I’ve seen many a woman argue that they do not send strong signals of disapproval, out of fear, which would logically feed into this as well.

            If many women who feel ‘AAAAAAAAAAARGH,’ actually communicate ‘meh,’ then a sexually aggressive man may clearly see the benefits to himself (lots of sex), but misinterpret most of the fear and loathing that he causes in women as mere disinterest.

      • so either I am an atypical female – which probably, yes –

        You just noticed?

        You are an atypical human being, and a good thing too. Would there were more.

        • Iain says:

          To a first approximation, everybody is atypical.

          • Bugmaster says:

            This article seems to be wasting several pages on simply saying, “When assessing a distribution, make sure to look at the standard deviation as well as the mean”. Am I missing something ?

          • quanta413 says:

            I would say that the important insight (which I don’t think the person who wrote the article realized) has nothing to do with means vs means + standard deviations. It’s that as you select on more and more traits, the odds a particular individual satisfies your criteria decrease geometrically with the number of traits. This may or may not be an intuitive result, but it’s mathematically simple. If you wish to select x fraction of some distribution for N uncorrelated traits, then the odds someone is in that fraction for all N traits goes as x^N. So the percent of people within 1 SD of the mean for ten traits is about 2%.

            You’ll notice in the article, the criteria was much stricter. You can quickly work out by hand without taking any measurements that you’d expect roughly the results Daniels got if the various body measurements are only weakly correlated within humans. He wanted people within the middle 30% of ten measurements. That would imply roughly a fraction .3^10 ~= 6/1,000,000 people would fit this criteria. Unsurprisingly in a sample of only a few thousand people he found no one who fit the criteria. And if you select on three traits, you’d expect about .3^3 ~= .027 i.e. 2.7% of the population to fit this criteria. Daniels found <3.5% so we're doing pretty well there.

            So the interesting thing you learn from these measurements perhaps is that human appendage sizes and such aren't super strongly correlated.

    • Murphy says:

      I’m honestly not sure how atypical you are, it probably depends on what fraction of the population of women you’re sampling from. You don’t sound unusual for women in tech but that’s a fairly trimmed down sample already.

      How out of place would you feel if dropped into the social group of a nursing or public health class?

      There’s definitely an IT type. Male or female the people who stay all have a certain feel to them.

      Though I also have a fairly restricted sample: I could have favored courses and workplaces that have such a personality type.

      I remember one of my male classmates after graduation complaining about where he started working because they were all “match heads”, non-geeky guys who were obsessed with “the match”, whatever match had been on the night before. Despite it being a software house. So I may be inside a cultural bubble even within IT.

      • anon says:

        How out of place would you feel if dropped into the social group of a nursing or public health class?

        I’d probably feel like an alien, but be able to converse fine while internally being bored by the conversation and sort of terrified of letting them realize I was bored.

        I agree there seems to be an IT type. I just wonder if predisposition vs circumstance made me that type.

        [Edit/Update]

        I actually wonder if more females would go into tech if they didn’t go through some enculturation I missed, and if all this ‘man/woman brains are different’ isn’t people really missing how much our culture is causing woman to have non IT preferences.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I actually wonder if more females would go into tech if they didn’t go through some enculturation I missed, and if all this ‘man/woman brains are different’ isn’t people really missing how much our culture is causing woman to have non IT preferences.

          Well, these aren’t mutually exclusive. Brain structure is shaped by enculturation, not just gene expression. Women might go into tech at a 50/50 ratio if we all missed the same enculturation you did. Some anti-feminists will argue that this is stymied by math ability being gendered, but I strongly disagree.

        • Murphy says:

          My sister went into nursing but is sort of an IT type. (read, extremely high functioning slightly autistic type) Takes a much harsher view than me and apparently mentally separates her coworkers into “wishy-washy people-types” and “the problem oriented people”.

          And is of the belief that almost anyone with the latter mindset is so rare in nursing that they almost automatically end up promoted fairly quickly but are so common in IT that it’s not worth mentioning. She took a look at IT, took a look at nursing and decided she had a competitive advantage in nursing.

          It worked out really quite well for her and she now makes a lot more money than I do and shot up the ranks and pay scale at a rate most only dream of.

    • Bugmaster says:

      Regarding the group dynamics, part of it could be due to HR concerns. I (a man) have been a member of a couple of small all-male teams, and in both cases the upper-level management was under a lot of pressure from HR to hire a woman. The immediate managers (as well as regular programmers) were somewhat reluctant do that, however — partially because experienced female programmers are very hard to find, and partially because having a woman on the team was perceived to be somewhat dangerous.

      If a programmer gets into a heated argument with a male colleague, they might shake hands the next morning after tempers have cooled off; if a senior programmer corrects a junior male colleague on something, he can be reasonably sure the mistake will be fixed the next day. But if his colleague is female, she could simply go to HR and get him fired for harassment or discrimination, and there’s nothing he can do to stop it. You may argue that this perception is inaccurate, but it does exist; most people have heard or experienced at least one story along these lines.

      The problem is exacerbated by the fact that competent female programmers are quite rare (competent programmers are rare already, and female ones multiplicatively so). Unfortunately, this makes female programmers incredibly attractive to their male colleagues. From what I’ve seen, most (though obviously not all) male programmers would never act on this attraction, but it’s difficult to eliminate the underlying feeling. Given that merely looking at a woman could be considered sexual harassment under some HR regimes, this can make people incredibly self-conscious — hence the avoidance of eye contact, etc.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        It’s true that men at work being afraid of her because of the power of HR is a plausible model for the sexism she’s experiencing.
        “You’re not a real girl” seems beyond the pale, nonetheless.

        • Bugmaster says:

          “You’re not a real girl” seems beyond the pale, nonetheless.

          Well, yes, that is highly offensive… But I’ve known people who would totally say that, and mean it as a compliment. Programmers are not always good at expressing what they mean in socially acceptable human language; if they were, they’d go into management :-/

        • ze2 says:

          I have a hard time thinking of “You’re not a real girl” as an anything but a compliment and honestly I can imagine saying it myself, though more likely I would say “not a regular girl”.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you look at the statistics of computing employment in the world, you will see a very interesting trend (not very strong, but you can see it) – the more backwards/poor/third-world/patriarchal a country is, the more women are employed in the field. The more that has been done to further women’s freedom and equality with men, the more stark the differences between men and women are as far as choice of career is involved.

      The simplest explanation is that in countries where women are free and rich, they are free to pursue whatever they want to pursue, whereas in poor and backward places, they just pursue what brings in the money, and personal interest is a non-issue. This suggests that male and female interests as far as vocation is concerned are quite a bit different – and that heavily lopsided professions are a sign of progress, not oppression.

      • Ketil says:

        I wonder about this. Women have more or less taken over fields like veterinary studies and psychology, which used to be high status, male dominated fields. I think that in addition to high popularity among girls, the popularity of these fields among boys must have declined. Why and how did this happen? What made these fields less attractive to boys all of a sudden? The increased number of women? A perception that a high proportion of women makes the fields less manly? Something else entirely?

        • Anonymous says:

          I think it’s the same effect. I don’t think either of the examples is particularly “manly”. Sure, some men like those, but given the freedom of choice and sufficient affluence not to care overmuch about how much one earns, most will choose something more interesting.

        • Aapje says:

          @Ketil

          Those fields seem very people-oriented, which is perfectly consistent with the theory that women were kept out of them in the past by gender discrimination; while that is no longer true now.

        • Molly says:

          Regarding veterinary work, I wonder if there was a marked shift from farm animal rural care toward city cat and dog care, which came with the abandonment of small family farming? The impression I get from James Herriot at mid century, which includes a high percentage of working animals, is quite different from most modern animal care. Meanwhile, are the people prescribing antibiotics for cows and pigs mostly female? I would guess not, but don’t have any data on it.

          On the people/things front, it seems likely that dealing with a dog that’s considered a family member and its owners/family is more people, while dealing with a steer that might infect the whole herd and needs to be treated or killed so a farmer’s livelihood isn’t lost is more thing (and is also larger, stronger, and more likely to injure you).

    • Viliam says:

      Classmates who ask me to work on group projects with them inevitably ask me on dates. Classmates who get girlfriends stop speaking to me.

      Too bad we can’t make an experiment and see what exactly happens in a parallel universe where you are male but otherwise have the same traits. Because there are multiple options.

      I don’t know you personally, so I am just talking completely generally here: Some guys really are sexist, and they simply won’t accept a girl as “one of them”. But also some girls are boring, and the only reason a guy would talk to them is trying to get sex. These are two different situations, but what you described is possible in each of them.

    • Aapje says:

      @anon472732

      When people propose that men and women have brains that are just different, and maybe that’s why there aren’t more females in tech, I have a hard time deciding if I really am an atypical female, or if they’re making bad or biased assumptions.

      You need to keep in mind that a brain difference between the average man and woman doesn’t mean that every man has a trait more than every woman. Studies show a very large gender differences on the people–things dimension of interests, but that is still perfectly consistent with a substantial minority of women who are quite thing-oriented and men who are quite people-oriented.

      I suspect you are atypical, by being in this minority, but it is not a 1% or .1% minority, but substantially larger.

      Furthermore, I suspect that people can nurture their thing-oriented or people-oriented side. So most likely, women train themselves to be more people-oriented than they biologically are and vice versa for men, because of peer effects and gender norms. You describe yourself as a loner, including not socializing with fellow girls in the intro programming class, which suggests that you either avoided part of this socialization or even socialized towards being more thing-oriented.

      As for your anecdotes, as far as I can observe this, I have not seen any of that, except for a relatively high percentage of the women quickly flunking out (but I talked to one of the women and she never programmed before going to study Computer Science, so she seemed ill-prepared). Of course, I am from a different culture, so perhaps things are a bit different than in America. Also/alternatively, I can see how relatively rare events may be very meaningful to you, yet not very visible to male colleagues.

      Also, I want to point out that being in a small minority automatically means that you get a high percentage of shit, simply because the shitty people who target the other gender have only a small group to target, so the nastiness doesn’t dilute in a way it would if the gender ratios were more equal. I have heard a single anecdote of a male nurse who experienced a lot of gendered unpleasantness coming his way, which might be (partially) explained by the same mechanism.

    • Hyzenthlay says:

      Why is this guy I am interviewing for a position not looking at me when he answers a series of questions I ask him? He’s only looking at my male coworker. It’s so blatant that I’m kind of shocked.

      I’m not in programming or a tech field, but I’ve noticed the “if I’m talking to a man and there’s another male in the room the man will look at them and talk at them, not me” thing. If there’s no other male in the room they’ll typically make eye contact with me and talk to me the same way they would a man.

      I don’t think it’s a “holding women in lower regard” thing so much as a “men being more comfortable talking to/relating to other men” thing, and it never bothered me that much, but it is definitely a thing I’ve noticed. And if I were actually interviewing someone and they were looking at someone else the whole time, that would definitely seem strange.

      It also seems to be a much more common behavior (in my limited experience) among older men.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Male coworkers who, once relaxed, joke about women, and then seem to remember I’m female and say things like “You’re not a real girl though.” They mean it as a compliment. I say nothing. I look at them like they’re morons, and they laugh.

      They know they’ve put their foot in their mouth, and don’t know how to recover. Men, even geeky men, make jokes about women, and we _know_ we’re not supposed to make them around women.

      Why is this guy I am interviewing for a position not looking at me when he answers a series of questions I ask him? He’s only looking at my male coworker. It’s so blatant that I’m kind of shocked. I am the one who convinces everyone not to hire him.

      I’ve heard of this, though I’ve never had the misfortune to see it. I’d like to say, sexist or not, that it’d be unlikely he’d be dumb enough to deliberately insult you during a job interview, but unfortunately I’ve run into a few candidates who are that dumb (with respect to non-gender-related things). So I don’t know what’s going through that guy’s head, whether it was insult or over-reaction to sexual harassment training or some sort of actual fear of women, but I think you were right to recommend against hiring him.

      • Bugmaster says:

        I think there’s room for some charity regarding the “you’re not a real girl” comment. I’ve heard other male programmers say something to that extent (back in my youth, that is), and what they usually mean is something like the following:

        “Most women treat nerdy men, and especially programmers, as leprous pariahs; in fact, in our society, it is considered taboo for a woman to show interest in programming or to voluntarily converse with a programmer. You, however, have chosen to break this taboo — as evidenced by the fact that I am able to converse with you on even terms, as I would with any other nerdy man. And, as if merely refusing to shun me wasn’t amazing enough, you at least as capable of a programmer as I am, which means that I’m able to talk to you about my life’s passion without having to resort to lengthy introductory explanations ! Truly, you are a wonder and I am glad to have you on my team”.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Well, yeah, it’s possible to hurt a woman’s feelings when what you’re trying to say is “You’re a wonder and I’m glad to have you on my team and also you’re atttactive.”
          Sometimes though, this “you’re just one of the guys” attitude nerd girls get can give you a complex, considering nerds skew more literal-minded than neurotypical…

        • ze2 says:

          I work in CS and that’s almost exactly how I would interpret it.

    • wanderingimpromptu says:

      If discrimination has held me back as a female in tech, it has been subtle enough to where I second guess if it happened, or it’s gone on behind closed doors where I can’t see.

      I don’t think any of your examples are particularly subtle.

      Classmates who get girlfriends stop speaking to me.

      Lost networking opportunities, lost opportunities to make friends who share your interests and learn from them.

      It’s their right to decline to befriend anyone they want, but it absolutely does make it harder for you to succeed.

      I am told at lunch with coworkers that, “We were nervous adding a girl to the team. It could have totally killed the group dynamic. But you’re cool.”

      There probably have been teams who were nervous about adding a girl to their dynamic who then didn’t overcome it and add you.

      Moreover, being impactful and taking leadership depend in large part on the rapport you have with your colleagues. If you’re working with people who don’t have a reference frame for a platonic, friendly relationship between people of different sexes, that’ll absolutely hinder you in the workplace. (This point applies to the friendship anecdote above too.)

      Why is this guy I am interviewing for a position not looking at me when he answers a series of questions I ask him? He’s only looking at my male coworker. It’s so blatant that I’m kind of shocked. I am the one who convinces everyone not to hire him. Everyone else thought he knew his shit and would be a good hire. Time goes by, other candidates turn down offers, and we’re dying for talent, so they hire him anyway.

      And now there’s a guy who won’t even look at you on the team. How are you supposed to collaborate with him? Is he going to ignore any ideas you bring up during team discussions? And how does that affect the social dynamic with the rest of the team? The more influence he gains, the more you’ll be sidelined, and the more it’ll normalize the practice of treating you like a social leper. Even if you somehow manage to work past/around this, there’s no way you’re starting on an equal playing field with coworkers who don’t have to deal with these kinds of problems.

      I’m actually kind of shocked that you’ve had such blatant experiences of sexism in the industry. Fwiw, I’m a female programmer at a large tech company and I’ve never had experiences like this. Maybe try for a change of scenery… but if that’s not a realistic option, well, keep on keeping on, I guess! I’m impressed with you for dealing with shit I couldn’t deal with.

      • 10240 says:

        Classmates who get girlfriends stop speaking to me.

        Lost networking opportunities, lost opportunities to make friends who share your interests and learn from them.

        It’s unclear, though, if they were actually less friendly to her than to their male classmates after they got girlfriends, or they were more friendly to her than to their male classmates when they wanted to get laid.

        • wanderingimpromptu says:

          “stop speaking to me” implies the former. Of course, it’s possible she attended a CS program where the default behavior was to not speak with classmates much (or at all? But that seems unlikely). At my university, friendships and study groups were pretty central to the CS learning experience, and they were mixed gender. If the culture was instead such that you’d only befriend opposite gender classmates when trying to get laid, that would severely disadvantage members of the minority gender.

          • I think you are missing the argument. We are not talking about a random person but a particular person.

            One possibility is that she is someone who, male or female, classmates would be disinclined to talk with, and that some do because she is female and they are interested. In which case she is getting a mild advantage from being female.

            The other, perhaps more plausible possibility, is that they would avoid speaking with her because she is female unless they were pursuing her.

            Both are consistent with the data we have.

  18. OneAngryLizard says:

    Anyone familiar with the Mozilla “looking glass” add-on debacle and wants to argue for why this is not the final straw and a reason to want to see Mozilla razed to the ground or at the very least have its front entrance decorated with the (figuratively people, figuratively) spiked heads of its current C-team and board ?

    Alternatively: how likely is it that whoever made/approved this decision within Mozilla was [un]wittingly bent on sabotaging the organization ?

    Some preemptive points to avoid rehashes from everywhere else:

    Yes all other major browsers are arguably worse in terms of ongoing privacy threat (though afaik none has gone so egregiously full-retard so as to push unrelated partnerships tie-ins – hence the suspicion of management-level sabotage). But this is the one that got its traction by convincing the users that this is basically a textbook example of the kind of thing users would need not worry about it doing.

    Yes the engineers working on the browser itself are not primarily at fault here*, the whole project can and should be de-mozified and move to a a vehicle ideally not controlled by self-serving money-and-status-poisoned sociopaths.
    It also appears they are a not-too-influential minority in an organization that owes its existence almost single-handedly to the product they produce for bellow-market compensation (some are volunteers ffs !).

    * The existence of a mechanism to silently push add-ons is still on them.

    • fawz says:

      Anyone familiar with the Mozilla “looking glass” add-on debacle and wants to argue for why this is not the final straw and a reason to want to see Mozilla razed to the ground or at the very least have its front entrance decorated with the (figuratively people, figuratively) spiked heads of its current C-team and board ?

      Razed to the ground? Let’s assume the worst: even if you accept that the debacle was caused by sabotage, that still leaves a decent chunk of Mozilla’s activity that arguable has positive effects on the world in terms of privacy and open source development.

      The question is this: what action is more likely to lead to a world where we have more browser diversity and more browser(s) that respect and encourage “privacy etc”. I don’t think a unilaterally “razing Mozilla to the ground” does anything but harden fronts and weaken the sphere in general. However that’s not the same as not adjusting the trust you extend them and doesn’t mean not criticizing them. I do think it is very much necessary to support alternatives and encourage alternative thinking/solutions to the problem, as well as do some deep and non-trivial thinking on the problem of browser’s having to be huge projects nowadays, and the resulting problems that brings.

      • OneAngryLizard says:

        Razed to the ground as in having the board and management fired, the key asset and source of revenue (Firefox) removed and reformed under its own organization with the narrow mandate and focus of producing a user-aligned browser and a contributor-dominated control structure more akin to existing open source governance models (which are not perfect by any means but would probably be strictly better than the current situation).
        Also such organization could be forced into actual transparency unlike the current foundation-corporation hack.

        • fawz says:

          That I would agree with, given my perspective of things, as it wouldn’t simply “destroy” the effort that is behind Firefox as a whole, which I thought “raze” might imply. The problem of Firefox ignoring user input wrt. design decisions has come up enough to warrant concern before.

          • OneAngryLizard says:

            The raze was for Mozilla (org, corp), not Firefox (contributors, code). I know it’s a very non-trivial distinction but I believe it can be made non the less.

            Basically the “raze” scenario sees Firefox leaving Mozilla (or more likely getting forked because trademark or whatever) and the “spikes” scenario sees Mozilla getting taken over by people committed to its stated purpose, ridding itself of fundamental conflicts of interests, aligning its interest with those of its users and keeping Firefox while maintaining its “philanthropic” image fwiw – frankly I don’t see it happening but would be happy to be proven wrong.

    • Anatoly says:

      I read the discussion on Hacker News up to a point where it was mentioned that enabling the alarming behavior required manually flipping a particular about:config flag. After that I dismissed the whole thing, figuring that most of it is histrionics of people addicted to outrage culture. Do you think that was uncharitable of me?

      I mean, I can certainly see how this shouldn’t have been pushed to all users even in a default-disabled state, how it’s tacky, how some people turn such flags on as a matter of principled desire to beta-test stuff or whatever, and shouldn’t have been surprised by the behavior… but all of that taken together shouldn’t amount to *that* much outrage. And the fact that the discussion-starting items didn’t mention this, most important, fact about the extension, and I needed to go 2-3 levels deep into the discussion to see this patiently explained several times by the Mozilla engineer, told me that this was about the social media outrage circus much more than the underlying bad decision by Mozilla. Razed to the ground? Spiked heads? Ew.

      • OneAngryLizard says:

        There are two issues here – the first is that Mozilla finds it ethically acceptable to even have a way to silently push add-ons to users and the other is how they chose to make use of this ability.

        I don’t think most people who are outraged by it missed the fact that the extension was inert by default but that’s a very small mitigating factor here, any more than a ransomware that only triggers if it determines the computer on which it runs to belong to a sufficiently high-value target would be mitigated by it – the same mindset that saw no problem with creating and pushing this extension in the first place could have reasonably decided to automatically activate it for machines satisfying a certain demographic criteria – this isn’t an outlandish concern, this is the modus operandi of entire industries on the internet concerned with “monetization” of downloaded software and is the opposite of the side Mozilla spent their efforts positioning itself in public’s perception – So yeah, outrage.

        Razed to the ground? Spiked heads? Ew.

        Figuratively, do not raze or spike anything or anyone.

      • fawz says:

        It’s good that the addon was inert by default.

        The problem is that the addon was installed without consent using an opt-out mechanism meant for testing new features (SHIELD studies) while the addon is basically an ad. This creates a situation where you cannot trust that the service that was used won’t be abused in the future for other similar purposes. It also raises the question of why there is an opt-out service allowing remote installs of addons in the first place in a browser that labels itself as promoting the opposite in terms of this kind of behavior.

        Using the SHIELD studies service for pushing a commercial/ad addon is reminiscent of HP using their security updates channel to push DRM to their printers. If they do that once, you’re not going to trust that mechanism anymore.

        I guess the negative reactions to this were amplified by the cliqz drama that recently caused them a bit of bad press in germany specifically and the community in general.

      • Iain says:

        I’m with Anatoly.

        It is a bad idea to ship a tacky advertising tie-in? I suppose so. But the level of outrage here seems completely disproportionate.

        All the outrage seems to be speculative: sure, a completely inert extension might not be so bad, but what if Mozilla decided to push something malevolent? That’s silly. If you are afraid that Mozilla can push updates to Firefox, you haven’t been paying attention. Firefox pushes bug fixes and new features in auto-updates all the time, and nobody finds that concerning. You can turn it off, if you like.

        Firefox has a bunch of Easter eggs. Would people be calling for heads on spikes if a Firefox auto-update included new Easter eggs? How is that any different from this case, except for the fact that this Easter egg is a TV tie-in?

        • OneAngryLizard says:

          Firefox pushes bug fixes and new features in auto-updates all the time, and nobody finds that concerning. You can turn it off, if you like.

          There is a difference between automatically updating existing functionality, adding new but related features and clandestinely installing a new unrelated component because your CMO buddied up with some studio exec, in particular updates can be configured to “ask first” can be reviewed for contents and audited retroactively.
          There is already a highly inadequate norm of what a vendor can change via an update without warning – non-optional functionality changes bundled with security patches etc. and once again if there is someone I could expect not to pull this kind of shit its the vendor whose existence is largely justified by being the one that can be expected not to pull this kind of shit.

          There was a brief discussion about how CISOs and other organizational security professionals should react to this and I really don’t have a good case against them blanket-blocking everything Mozilla related if Mozilla maintains the “it was just a joke that got out of hand” attitude without owning up to the level of trust breached here.

          Firefox has a bunch of Easter eggs. Would people be calling for heads on spikes if a Firefox auto-update included new Easter eggs? How is that any different from this case, except for the fact that this Easter egg is a TV tie-in?

          If you really don’t see the qualitative difference between those easter eggs and the looking glass addon I guess I will not be able to convince you there is one.

          • Iain says:

            If you really don’t see the qualitative difference between those easter eggs and the looking glass addon I guess I will not be able to convince you there is one.

            No, seriously, explain it to me. If you have to puff out your chest and posture about the obvious qualitative difference, it is not a good sign for the quality of your argument.

            Is it because they shipped it as an extension? Logically, you should be much more concerned about code that is invisibly included in the browser itself than about a plugin that shows up in your list of extensions: extensions are less powerful and easier to find.

            Is it because Mozilla was paid for it? Because that’s not actually true.

            I like this take, from a Mozilla employee:

            My impression (without any internal knowledge on the subject) is that this was intended as a way to promote Firefox to Mr Robot viewers. A lot of people in this thread seem to have this backwards, IIUC – it’s not an ad for Mr Robot, it’s the onboarding experience of an ad for Firefox that ran in Mr Robot.

            The folks behind this presumably wanted this experience to be seamless, and were also trying to keep it under wraps to preserve the surprise factor. This meant that they bypassed the usual processes by which Firefox engineers would have had the opportunity to (a) raise concerns about the deployment approach, and (b) suggest other mechanisms that would have achieved the desired experience while keeping deployment appropriately scoped.

            It’s really heartbreaking that it ended up this way. The marketing team was trying to think outside the box to bring new users to Firefox, which is crucial if Quantum is to succeed. Surprises and stealth are the bread and butter of marketing, but they didn’t think through the dangers of applying those things to engineering. Moreover, the very nature of surprise and stealth meant that they missed the chance for internal feedback before it went live.

            A lot of us inside Mozilla are hurting right now. We poured our lives into Quantum for two years for the long-shot dream of giving Firefox a fresh start and saving the web from monopoly. It’s frustrating to feel that all our hard-earned goodwill might be squandered by a few people and a botched marketing stunt. But the people behind that stunt were only trying to help, and I’m sure they feel especially terrible right now too.

            Mozilla will learn from this. But the mistakes here are probably less sinister than they may appear, and it would be sad if they caused our most closely-aligned users to switch to Chrome.

          • OneAngryLizard says:

            No, seriously, explain it to me. If you have to puff out your chest and posture about the obvious qualitative difference, it is not a good sign for the quality of your argument.

            Fine, it’s about understanding and preserving trust boundaries and expectations – afaik none of those easter eggs are doing anything that could reasonably increase the security risk to my system, data and myself (If for example one these phones home to Mozilla registering that it was activated while telemetry is turned off that is already totally not ok).
            In this case my trust and expectation in Mozilla was to not have any extensions I did not expressly install as well as not to have my computer and attention utilized for the benefit of any third party (or even Mozilla itself for that matter)

            My impression (without any internal knowledge on the subject) is that this was intended as a way to promote Firefox to Mr Robot viewers.
            A lot of people in this thread seem to have this backwards, IIUC – it’s not an ad for Mr Robot, it’s the onboarding experience of an ad for Firefox that ran in Mr Robot.

            Uh… wat ? How is something that runs inside firefox can promote firefox to people who are not running firefox ?
            Or did they think that hearing about firefox on the show would cause people to go download and install firefox but the extra hassle of then opting into this extension will be what turns them off it ?

            And why is someone without any knowledge of the matter has to speculatively defend and justify it rather than having the most senior exec behind this explaining what the hell they were thinking as if the trust of their user base depended on it ?

            The folks behind this presumably wanted this experience to be seamless, and were also trying to keep it under wraps to preserve the surprise factor. This meant that they bypassed the usual processes by which Firefox engineers would have had the opportunity to (a) raise concerns about the deployment approach, and (b) suggest other mechanisms that would have achieved the desired experience while keeping deployment appropriately scoped.

            CISO hat on again, vein pulsating – what else is there in Firefox that was snuck past the engineers and kept under wraps more successfully ?

            But the mistakes here are probably less sinister than they may appear

            I could readily grant that most if not all people involved in this didn’t think of themselves as doing something sinister, this in a nutshell is the problem. (though the fact that they apparently took care to bypass the ones who would recognize it as sinister kinda puts a dent in that argument)

          • Iain says:

            afaik none of those easter eggs are doing anything that could reasonably increase the security risk to my system, data and myself

            Okay, but neither was this extension.

            Is it possible that Mozilla could push an extension that does those things? Sure. But they haven’t done that — neither as an extension nor as part of the browser proper — so maybe we can all hold our horses until we have an actual sign of wrongdoing. Right now, you should be about as concerned about this as you were when Chrome added code to make the screen rotate when you search for “do a barrel roll”.

            Uh… wat ? How is something that runs inside firefox can promote firefox to people who are not running firefox ?

            The idea, as I understand it, was that the show would drop clues about using Firefox to play an ARG, and the ARG would be extra-immersive because you wouldn’t have to go download a special extension. Are there better ways to do this? Absolutely. Is this a sinister sign of the end of the world? Nope.

          • OneAngryLizard says:

            Okay, but neither was this extension.

            This is becoming circular which is why I said that unless you recognize the difference in conformance to expectations and trust between those easter eggs and the looking glass addon you are unlikely to be convinced – If these were not expectations or trust that you had in place they weren’t violated for you.

            Right now, you should be about as concerned about this as you were when Chrome added code to make the screen rotate when you search for “do a barrel roll”.

            If it does that when I search for it on http://www.google.com (as opposed to the address/search bar) then
            this is not as rhetorical an analogy as you probably meant it to be, but the thing is I know that
            google is using chrome as part of a strategy to blur the line between the “web” and the “computer” and is taking liberties with the systems it is installed on that I prefer for it not to have – this is why I was using Firefox in the first place, this is the premise underlying user’s good will towards Firefox and a key reason their chairman gets to take home over 1M USD a year from the half a billion or so Mozilla gets paid for… just setting the default search provider… right ?

            The idea, as I understand it, was that the show would drop clues about using Firefox to play an ARG, and the ARG would be extra-immersive because you wouldn’t have to go download a special extension. Are there better ways to do this? Absolutely. Is this a sinister sign of the end of the world? Nope.

            Except that for the people downloading and installing ff just for this the marginal immersiveness is near zero and for the people already using ff… well you see.

            The point is that while the incompetence/malice balance here can be debated the end result as far as trust in the organization is pretty bleak and is compounded by them trying to downplay the severity of this incident.

        • Iain says:

          For the record, Mozilla has released an official statement.

          • OneAngryLizard says:

            So it did. This HN thread pretty much covers all the angles so not much to add.
            Hope the review and post-mortem will address some of the underlying issues but the fact that this is not coming from either the chairman or the ceo indicates that this is still not being taken at the expected level of concern.

  19. Folamh3 says:

    I had a bit of free time in work this morning, so I made a silly comic inspired by the last section of “Contra Grant on Exaggerated Differences”. Hope it’s good for a giggle.

    Silly comic

  20. Alex Zavoluk says:

    I seem to recall a SSC reader or SSC-adjacent individual who was running a blog which was providing a Google Maps tour of the Pan-American highway, starting in Barrow. Does anyone else recall this blog or have a link? I can’t seem to find it on Google.

    • Kevin C. says:

      Just as a reminder, the former Barrow, Alaska has been officially renamed Utqiaġvik.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Just as a reminder, the former Barrow, Alaska has been officially renamed Utqiaġvik.

        Calling the big mountain “Denali” is fine, but calling “Barrow” something I can neither pronounce nor spell nor even type isn’t going to cut it. I will reach back into my Philadelphia roots (Philadelphians never respect the new name for things, except “Kelly Drive”) and continue to call it “Barrow”.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          To be fair, for all I know, ‘Denali’ might be just as hard for an English speaker to pronounce as ‘Utqiaġvik’ in the respective indigenous languages.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Luckily, the actual start of the Pan-American Highway is in Deadhorse, Prudhoe Bay, which is hell and gone from Barrow.

            Did you hear about the Alaskan who won’t admit he’s dyslexic? He’s still in denali about it.

          • Alex Zavoluk says:

            Well, I can’t even remember the thing I’m talking about!

        • quaelegit says:

          It’s only nine letters and far less confusing than lots of East Coast place names (at least coming from the West Coast — place names should be in English or Spanish, please, none of this Dutch/Algonqin/whatever weirdness 😛 ). For example, I couldn’t even find “Chincoteague” on Wikipedia because I had confused the spelling so badly, I had to google Chesapeake ponies 😛

          A rough stab at pronouncing it (yes I know this is incorrect but I find having a pronunciation in mind really helps me remember spelling): “Ut-key-og-vick”

          And if you’re up for a challenge (and/or have practice with Inupiaq phonemes), NPR has pronunciation guide in this article: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/12/01/503979353/barrow-alaska-changes-its-name-back-to-its-original-utqiagvik

      • Alex Zavoluk says:

        I didn’t actually know that, so it’s hardly a reminder.

        If you’d left off the first 4 words, this would have come across as far less condescending.

  21. Vermillion says:

    Dan Carlin has a new podcast! Hardcore History Addendum only two episodes so far but I quite enjoyed both. He promises this’ll be for shorter, more frequent releases as opposed to the audiobook sized regular show but I remember he said the same for Blitz episodes so I’m taking that with several grains of salt.

    • bean says:

      He promises this’ll be for shorter, more frequent releases as opposed to the audiobook sized regular show but I remember he said the same for Blitz episodes so I’m taking that with several grains of salt.

      I’ve found I have the same problem. Writing a cut-down version of your regular output is really, really hard. If you’re forced to be dramatically shorter, it can work, but I can totally understand why “twice the frequency, half the length” is usually an abysmal failure.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Thanks for the tip! Hadn’t heard about this project and I can’t seem to find it linked anywhere on his website…

      • Vermillion says:

        Yeah I just happened to see it on twitter the other day. He said he’d announce it’s existence on the main feed after the next giant show drops ‘real soon’.

  22. Markus Ramikin says:

    Thanks for the heads-up, Scott. Somehow I missed the newsletter in my mailbox.

    Time to spend some Units of Caring.

  23. Universal Set says:

    A couple of months ago (in OT 86.5) I posted asking for career advice. It was requested that I post a follow-up, so here it is.

    After thinking through my options and current situation, I decided that the best course of action for me was to make a career change sooner rather than later. I’ve resigned my current position (tenure-track math professor) effective the end of May (when my contract ends) and I’m preparing for a career change, most likely into software engineering. I’m looking for positions with a significant problem-solving component — I want to do something that uses my talents, not just write obvious code that any CS grad could write — but the work doesn’t need to be explicitly mathematical, and I’m under no illusions that I would somehow never end up doing something “boring”.

    I’ll be doing a mostly-nationwide job search (just don’t want to be in NYC) beginning very soon, and looking to start work sometime in the summer. (Actually I ended up getting myself into the application process at one company already, but I was originally not intending to apply until January or later when I’d had more time to prepare.) In the meantime, I’ve been working on filling in some skills/knowledge gaps (specifically re: software development tools and best practices, since I never took those sorts of CS classes as a student), and doing coding problems for fun and practice.

    Feel free to ask questions, give advice, etc.

    PS: I think I’ve gotten myself addicted to Project Euler again — my name there is also universalset. If any of you are fellow Project Euler enthusiasts, let me know and I’ll share my friend code.

    • Vanessa Kowalski says:

      I’m curious what made you decide on such a career change? Personally, I’m trying to do more or less the opposite change.

      • baconbacon says:

        You guys could switch places and make a movie!

      • Universal Set says:

        There were a number of reasons.

        First, I’ll point out that academic jobs are not all of a piece. There’s a huge variety of dysfunction in academia, and my experience is not representative of every position. I was teaching at a small, nonselective school (used to be considered a liberal arts college, but I don’t really think it is anymore). I made the decision coming out of grad school to *not* target primarily research-oriented institutions because, while I enjoy working on hard problems, my grad school experience taught me that publish-or-perish pressure was going to be really bad for my mental health. The selective SLACs didn’t want me (I actually got only one job offer, for my current position; if you are not a superstar, good luck getting a job at the selective SLACs, as everyone seems to want them).

        That said, here’s a few of the reasons I made the decision to leave.

        1. I wasn’t using my talents. The most advanced class offered at my school is a first-semester course in abstract algebra, which is watered down compared to the similar course I took my very first semester of college. There wasn’t much time for research, and I found that even when I had the opportunity, my heart really wasn’t in it anyway (despite my love of problem-solving).
        2. The students weren’t interested in math. Even the math majors (of which there have been very, very few). In my 3.5 years here, I’ve had all of one student who showed actual interest in mathematics beyond getting their homework done. Most math majors report disliking the math classes which consist primarily of proofs rather than calculations. Considering that the whole reason I decided to go this direction was to share my love of math…well…
        3. Skills and interest mismatch. I liked teaching/coaching/mentoring more advanced students (e.g. students doing the Putnam exam or the ACM-ICPC when I was in grad school), but engaging a class of students who fundamentally don’t care about math is not something I’m particularly good at (I mean, I’m not bad at it; just not great), and not something I enjoy. Grading and lecture prep is also not my idea of fun. These take up most of my working time.
        4. Not nearly enough pay for the work. My salary is about 45k, and I’ve taught an average of 13-14 credit hours per semester, sometimes with four or more different preps. Flexible summers and winter breaks are nice, but I’d much rather work a job I enjoy and get paid for it.

        I’m looking at software in particular because I’ve always enjoyed algorithmic thinking and coding in addition to math, and if my experience doing e.g. ICPC in undergrad and similar problems is anything to go by, I’m pretty good at it. And at any rate, nobody is going to pay me to sit around solving fun math problems at my leisure, so looking for the intersection of my talents/interests and where the demand is makes sense.

    • temujin9 says:

      Since you’re strongly mathematically inclined already, I would highly recommend going into Machine Learning. I’m a 20 year industry veteran, and I am regretting that I let my math chops slide, now that I’m starting to investigate ML myself.

      I don’t tend to follow subthreads here (the notification system sucks for it), but you can email me at temujin9@greenfieldguild.com if you want some additional pointers on getting into the field.

    • raj says:

      With a math PHD, and assuming you have passable coding skill, you should be able to get a good job. By which I mean, 6 figures and interesting.

      You could probably make a lot of money in finance, or do some interesting R&D. I think you want something that uses your math background rather than traditional software engineering (which is typically boring anyways); have you considered machine learning?

      You should probably be learning R or python if you aren’t already.

    • Erusian says:

      I’m looking for positions with a significant problem-solving component — I want to do something that uses my talents, not just write obvious code that any CS grad could write

      This mentally translates to me as “I want to be given more responsibility than I have proven I can handle and think I’m better at programming than people who spent years specifically studying that.” Fun jobs are, well, fun, and people will fight for them. Also, I’d be worried about your ability/willingness to do non-challenging code. For example, I recently had to solve a really interesting problem about optimizing paths through geo-located data. I then had to write a basic API and play around with some basic web code and data viz libraries to present it. All that was ‘stuff any CS grad could do’. But it’d be unreasonable and a little arrogant to expect to do the fun part and hand off the monkey work to someone else.

      I know you said that you understand there will be some boring parts. But people don’t just hear what you say, they hear how much you say and in what order. Saying, “I really don’t want to do this, really really, but I can if I have to I guess.” is… not a ringing endorsement. And this is especially important for positioning because that’s your weakest point. If you combine what you can’t do well with what you don’t want to do, it can hurt your career. Your boss’s perception you don’t want to do something could blur with the fact you don’t do it well yet and hurt his opinion of you.

      I don’t mean this as an attack. Just some advice. Here’s how I would put it: I have a strong mathematical and problem solving background and would like to apply those skills. I’m very eager to learn new skills, or strengthen my weaker skills. But I really want to focus on apply and improving that core math skill set.

      With this, I hear “He’s a math guy who wants to stay a math guy while learning what he needs to support that path.” I then think, “Do I need a really mathy guy who is weak as a programmer?” For me personally, I’d think a path into web/mobile optimization, big data, or conventional analysis sections. But different companies have different needs.

      • Brad says:

        It’s comments like this that bring to the forefront how far away San Francisco is from New York.

        The answer to “Do I need a really mathy guy who is weak as a programmer?” is hedge funds do and will gladly hire monkeys to the boring parts.

        Finance is the obvious answer here. Machine learning is the only thing that competes compensation-wise, but: 1) that ultra high level of compensation has to do with temporary shortages rather than shortages due to a limited number of people that could do it no matter what and 2) machine learning has a much higher barrier to entry in terms of what he’d need to do from here. There are quant shops that do on the job training as long as you come in with really strong math skills and some programming skills, AFAIK that doesn’t exist in ML.

        • skef says:

          Along the lines of my comment below, am I right in thinking that 1) having a lot of documented experience with difficult programming problems, 2) a fancy, documented science education, and 3) actually being someone who could do ML stuff (let’s just stipulate) is basically irrelevant to working in ML right now? Given the baseline skepticism and lots of people trying to pass themselves off as ML types, it’s not even worth raising the issue? The only route there would be to go off and do it unilaterally for a couple years and then maybe that might be helpful?

          [I assume it’s obvious that this person also being a world expert on the subject of intentional action would also be entirely irrelevant?]

          • Brad says:

            I’m not as familiar with the ML side of things as I’m sure others on here are. (See NYC vs SF.) That said my impression is that:

            There are people being hired right now to do ML work that don’t have a proven track record, just because there is such a shortage that there have to be. But the kind of people sparking bidding wars are those that either: (better) have a proven track record of cutting edge ML work or are coming out of top Phd programs.

          • skef says:

            My sense is that I would complement any project that is trying to make the various ML strategies as parts of some better functioning whole. But I don’t know if anyone is or how I would find out, let alone how I would get in a room with them.

        • Chalid says:

          This. However, the OP doesn’t want to be in NYC. I’m not sure how many quant shops or banks exist outside the NYC area that will train you if you come in with strong math skills and not much else. (Lots of banks outside NYC, but they’re usually not the kind that puts such a high premium on raw intelligence in their entry-level quants, or that even hire quants at all.)

          For the level of programming competence required – my first job was at a big NYC investment bank, and I think someone who got a good grade in CS 101 from a high-quality school would be just fine in the interviews we gave, assuming they remembered everything. Ditto my second job.

          • Brad says:

            “However, the OP doesn’t want to be in NYC.”

            Oops. Somehow missed that. Assuming that includes Greenwich etc. it is a lot of tougher to get into that industry. I know of a few quants in far flung corners of the country, but they didn’t start there.

          • Chalid says:

            Now that I think about it, I think Boston is the best bet for starting in quant finance outside of NYC – there are lots of asset management jobs there in particular. State Street and Fidelity and such are willing to hire math PhDs. But the pay is significantly worse than in NYC and my impression is that the jobs are less interesting on average (perhaps less demanding, too).

      • Universal Set says:

        I can see how that line might come off as arrogant, and so I obviously wouldn’t say it that way when interviewing. But mostly this comment confuses me, and the only thing I can think of is that we have really, really different reference classes for “any CS grad” and what they can do.

        Obviously I wouldn’t presume to be a better programmer than any of my peers who graduated with CS degrees from my Alma Mater or a similar institution. (They obviously have a major head start and I suspect it will take me years to catch up.) But there are something like 50,000 new CS grads every year in the US. My current institution graduates students who could barely pass an elementary data structures and algorithms course (and that “pass” is… sometimes generous).

        Let me express my confusion in this way: Google (to take one example among many) is famously selective about who they hire. They pay large amounts of money to find and keep the most talented people — and this doesn’t mean just the most experienced people; they hire people straight from undergrad, too. Unless they are behaving extremely irrationally, this means that they expect that most people with CS degrees can’t do most of the work. Otherwise, they’d just hire the really good people for the hard stuff, and pay half as much or less to hire generic-CS-grad to do the easy stuff.

        On the other hand, there are companies who will hire generic-CS-grads who can only write code that’s exactly the same as code they’ve seen before. This is the kind of job I want to avoid.

        I don’t have any objections to writing code that’s not solving a novel problem. I don’t even have objections to writing obvious code. Even when solving a novel problem, some of the code is going to be the obvious stuff, after all! (I mean, that’s pretty much exactly your example.) I just don’t want to only write obvious code.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Companies like Google take a longer view, preferring newbies who have the potential to grow into more senior positions. The idea is to grow an intellectual ecosystem, rather than just focus on “getting the work done”. This may be more expensive in the short term but is arguably cheaper in the long term, and Google has enough boatloads of money that they can afford to take the long view.

          (At a company all-hands many years ago, an engineer asked Eric Schmidt, then the CEO, what was the next big opportunity Google would explore. Schmidt replied, “I don’t know — you’re supposed to tell me that!”)

          The point is that the actual coding work done by new grads at Google is not necessarily so profoundly challenging — but they want to hire people who (a) can, or soon will be able to, do much more, and (b) are motivated enough by big challenges that they take pleasure and pride in all the grunge work that goes along with such challenges, and whose solutions to the big challenges are informed by their knowledge of what the grunge work looks like.

          Maybe what’s missing from your story is: What makes you think you can write even generic-CS-grad-quality code? Note that I’m not saying you can’t, just that you didn’t say much to address that question. A PhD and academic experience in math isn’t a convincing answer — but if you have an answer, and add the math background to it, the result might well convince a place like Google to see you as the right kind of newbie. But you’re not going to get a job as a high-level system architect right out of the box, and if you expect your math credentials to give you that, then you’re the wrong kind of newbie.

          That said, I expect Erusian and I are unfairly hammering you for a tone that you’re projecting here among friends but that you would be savvy enough to modulate at an interview.

          • Universal Set says:

            a tone that you’re projecting here among friends but that you would be savvy enough to modulate at an interview

            This is certainly part of it. But apparently I’m communicating poorly if I’m generating the impression that I think

            a job as a high-level system architect right out of the box

            is at all a reasonable outcome. Not only would I not expect this to happen, I don’t think it would be appropriate! I know darned well that I’m not, currently, an expert software developer — indeed, I’m not, currently, anything other than a rank beginner at software development. I expect to have to “put in the time” for that to change. (I’m currently working through some MIT OpenCourseWare to get started on that.)

            What I’m saying I have that the average CS grad doesn’t is problem-solving ability. (And yes, I don’t just mean being able to solve math problems; I was on a high-performing ICPC team in college and have done a bunch of programming problems in a similar vein.) Clearly it’s rather gauche to say something like this at an interview, but most people are pretty hopeless at thinking through problems and doing anything more complex than following a recipe, and this unfortunately seems to go for many people with CS degrees and programming jobs too. My point about wanting to use my talents is that I don’t want the kind of job where this is entirely sufficient.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Though it’s probably obvious to you, I think the way to say what you mean is to talk about your background as the basis of your ambitions rather than as the basis for your qualifications. (Not that you put it either way exclusively before, but the distinction might have been a little muddy.) Focus on the kinds of things that your background prepares you to learn quickly rather than to do immediately.

            And of course the most important filter happens even earlier, when you figure out where to apply. You’ll aim for places with hard problems and an engineering focus rather than places for which programming is just a support function for the folks doing the real work.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          Obviously I wouldn’t presume to be a better programmer than any of my peers who graduated with CS degrees from my Alma Mater or a similar institution

          Do I know you?

          • Universal Set says:

            Yes. (This nym is already connected to my real-life identity, so just as a fig leaf to keep it from showing up in searches: Oevna Evpr.)

    • skef says:

      One issue that has been discussed here before but that you may not yet have encountered is that there is a striking baseline skepticism about programming skills in hiring. The people who interview you will act as if they are screening for uselessness, with a presumption that you may well be useless. Your resume will help to establish your supposed skills match, but won’t help much otherwise.

      What works most effectively against this is “networking”. But much of the networking will occur in an epistemic vacuum. People you have met but have never worked with you will attest to this or that skill.

      • Nornagest says:

        You would be astonished how many people I interview for supposedly senior positions can’t code.

        Or maybe you wouldn’t. Point is there’s a lot of useless people.

        • skef says:

          Sure. But the result for the programmer is nevertheless either constant skepticism or ascending a networking ladder that has little to do with one’s skills.

          In other fields you can have done things in the past such that even people who weren’t there will assume you are skilled absent further evidence. So the attitude can be both warranted and very depressing to those subject to it.

        • Universal Set says:

          Can I ask you to clarify what you mean by “can’t code”? I’ve read about the FizzBuzz thing, but honestly I still have a hard time believing it, so every time I read this I wonder what the implicit bar for being able to code is. (And do you have a sense for how many of these people are just lying about their experience vs. have done actual jobs while not being able to code?)

          • Nornagest says:

            I’ve seen people fail FizzBuzz, but not often. But much more often I see people who lack fundamental knowledge of data structures, can’t do basic pointer math (I work in a C++ shop), struggle with fencepost errors, et cetera. 101-level stuff.

            Don’t know how many are lying.

          • johan_larson says:

            I’ve been given the FizzBuzz question. PhD in Computer Science, a decade of industrial experience, Google on my resume, and still, FizzBuzz.

            Jesus wept.

            On good days I can persuade myself it wasn’t a test of programming skill, but of humility and obedience.

          • Universal Set says:

            Ok, that’s much less surprising than tons of people failing FizzBuzz. (I would have been astonished at this before my current job, but see above about the skills of some of the CS grads from my institution.)

          • Dog says:

            I’ve interviewed various people, but only one with a CS degree. He was a recent graduate, and listed Python on his resume as his preferred language. I gave him a FizzBuzz style problem in Python and he failed it.

  24. Lillian says:

    Random thought: The correct answer to the Prisoner’s Dilemma is to ask for a lawyer.

    • baconbacon says:

      Only works if you both ask for a lawyer.

      • Lillian says:

        If you ask for a lawyer and the other guy doesn’t, your position is not harmed, but your lawyer may still be able to negotiate a better deal. The only scenario in which you are worse off with a lawyer if you get one who is more incompetent than you would be without him, which is possible but highly unlikely.

    • actinide meta says:

      Just make sure you don’t accidentally ask for a lawyer dog instead.

    • OneAngryLizard says:

      And have your lawyer sign one of those nifty joint-defense agreements with the other guy’s lawyer – that way you know if he plans to defect.

  25. Kevin C. says:

    So, thoughts on a therapist recommending that an atheist patient consider “finding religion”? Or that a patient should be able and willing to completely and easily change their deeply-held moral beliefs (whether of religious origin or not), and up-end their entire sense of right and wrong, because “beliefs are just beliefs”?

    Or, relatedly, the therapist recommending that a patient belonging to an unpopular minority religion — like, say, Jehovah’s Witnesses — should first consider converting to a more “mainstream” religion? And if the patient doesn’t or won’t, if they are at all interested in marriage and family formation they should absolutely look to not only marry outside the faith, but agree to raise any children in their spouse’s more popular religion rather than their own, because raising children with unpopular “fringe” beliefs borders on abusive?

    • Murphy says:

      “because raising children with unpopular “fringe” beliefs borders on abusive?”

      This seems like a dangerous principle to adopt and an odd thing to hear from a therapist unless fringe is very problematic on other metrics.

      recommending that an atheist patient consider “finding religion”?

      I could imagine this since weak-sauce religion can be somewhat beneficial to some people. Gives you somewhere to meet and talk to people each week, easy way to give you some social structure etc. It’s not unusual for religious congregations to include lots of people who don’t really believe much who don’t shape their whole morality around the religion.

      I could also imagine a therapist gently maneuvering someone to try to get them to consider whether the UFO cult that’s asking them to donate their life savings an their firstborns virginity to the cult leader may not have their best interests at heart.

      “beliefs are just beliefs”?

      again, context here may be important. Some beliefs are super closely held, some are just idle fancies people aren’t terribly attached to.

    • Aapje says:

      @Kevin C

      I don’t see how one can just do that, so the advice seems to be non-actionable.

      However, LSD or other psychedelics can result in a ‘deep’ psychological change, which might benefit you greatly. I am very risk averse and loath to advise people to do things that may mess them up permanently. In your case, I think that the risk vs potential reward ration is so good (especially since your current situation is so unpleasant to you), that you should try it.

      • Kevin C. says:

        However, LSD or other psychedelics can result in a ‘deep’ psychological change, which might benefit you greatly.

        Look, I’m already taking one drug to prevent hallucinations, I don’t need another one that causes them. Besides, there’s evidence of adverse reactions between LSD and schizophrenia; from Wikipedia:

        Review studies suggest that LSD likely plays a role in precipitating the onset of acute psychosis in previously healthy individuals with an increased likelihood in individuals who have a family history of schizophrenia.[7][35] There is evidence that people with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia have a higher likelihood of experiencing adverse effects from taking LSD.[35]

        • Aapje says:

          Fair enough. You just seem incapable of doing the things that could make your life considerably better, so I was thinking that a major mental change might improve that. Some people seem to get that from psychedelics.

        • Creutzer says:

          On the one hand, that is a very valid concern. On the other, at some point you’ve got to ask: what do you have left to loose?

          In a similar vein, though less radically: your value system allows people who are useless anyway to spend as much time as they can in meditation, doesn’t it? It’s a significant investment of effort for uncertain gain, sure, but your opportunity cost seems very low.

          • Kevin C. says:

            In a similar vein, though less radically: your value system allows people who are useless anyway to spend as much time as they can in meditation, doesn’t it?

            Um, where did you come up with that?

          • Creutzer says:

            It was just a guess. But if not even that is allowed, then I’m afraid you’re going to just have to do something that’s not allowed.

            I also suspect you may be conflating two questions: it’s one thing to think that society should be set up in such a way that you wouldn’t be able to continue to live. It’s quite another to infer from that that you, now, in the society you find yourself in, have to stop being alive.

          • Aapje says:

            Indeed. Kevin, what if you have to decide between two evils? Are you willing to choose the lesser evil?

    • Brad says:

      People get deprogrammed. I don’t see why that couldn’t apply to extremely far right beliefs.

      I don’t know about “easily” though.

    • baconbacon says:

      Or, relatedly, the therapist recommending that a patient belonging to an unpopular minority religion — like, say, Jehovah’s Witnesses — should first consider converting to a more “mainstream” religion? And if the patient doesn’t or won’t, if they are at all interested in marriage and family formation they should absolutely look to not only marry outside the faith, but agree to raise any children in their spouse’s more popular religion rather than their own, because raising children with unpopular “fringe” beliefs borders on abusive?

      IIRC the Jo Hos won’t recognize a marriage to a non Jo Ho. Functionally you are ostracized if you marry outside the religion, so you aren’t raising your kids in that community anyway.

      So, thoughts on a therapist recommending that an atheist patient consider “finding religion”? Or that a patient should be able and willing to completely and easily change their deeply-held moral beliefs (whether of religious origin or not), and up-end their entire sense of right and wrong, because “beliefs are just beliefs”?

      Depends on the severity of the problem I guess. If the patient is there for relatively minor issues then it would seem presumptuous to make such a suggestion. If the patient is struggling with many aspects of their life then suggesting a major life change sounds more appropriate. As far as the deeply held moral beliefs, if they are actually deeply held then what is the issue in challenging them? Unless the only church in your town is regularly participating in abhorrent practices in your view (say aggressively protesting abortion clinics and you are staunchly pro choice), you can probably explore the space without actually committing an immoral action, or supporting one.

      • Kevin C. says:

        IIRC the Jo Hos won’t recognize a marriage to a non Jo Ho. Functionally you are ostracized if you marry outside the religion, so you aren’t raising your kids in that community anyway.

        So pick another unpopular “fringe” religion; the “Jo Hos” were just a quick example.

        As far as the deeply held moral beliefs, if they are actually deeply held then what is the issue in challenging them?

        First, because as Ozy said below,

        The therapist needs to support the client’s values and goals, even if they personally disagree.

        Secondly, because if you don’t then change your beliefs as instructed, you’re “resisting therapy” and “don’t want to be helped.”

        Unless the only church in your town is regularly participating in abhorrent practices in your view (say aggressively protesting abortion clinics and you are staunchly pro choice), you can probably explore the space without actually committing an immoral action, or supporting one.

        It’s not that attending church would require committing or supporting an immoral action, it’s that it requires believing in God, and I just don’t, and can’t fake it well enough to look like I do, either.

        • baconbacon says:

          I am trying to keep things abstract as obviously you know far more about the situation than I do. I hope I don’t overstep or sound accusatory or as if I am trying to diagnose you over the net.

          The therapist needs to support the client’s values and goals, even if they personally disagree.

          Presumably if you are in therapy there is a goal of improving or handling some aspect of your life. That is the goal the therapist ought to be supporting, if you have some value that (they think) is preventing progress then it is the therapist’s obligation to broach it (eventually).

          Secondly, because if you don’t then change your beliefs as instructed, you’re “resisting therapy” and “don’t want to be helped.”

          It’s a catch 22 isn’t it? If your therapist has a legitimate point to make but you won’t consider it that would be the case. If your therapist is lazy/a quack/disrespectful to your beliefs then you shouldn’t feel obligated to follow their suggestions.

          The reality is probably in between. A therapist is a person who is trying to do their job well in general, but has many personal limitations as we all do, and is trying to tread that line while dealing with all their own bullshit which ranges from personal problems to handling all the paperwork and stress that comes with patients. If you actually want a relationship with them then it has to have some acknowledgement that they have some good qualities and bad.

          It’s not that attending church would require committing or supporting an immoral action, it’s that it requires believing in God, and I just don’t, and can’t fake it well enough to look like I do, either.

          There are very few churches that would actually require this. I would bet if you walked into a confessional booth and started with “father I am an atheist…” you aren’t getting kicked out of 1 in a 100.

          Religion isn’t simply worshiping a majestic, bearded man in the sky. This is actually a very late addition to ancient rituals, and it is possible that the literally millions of people, if not billions, who have attempted to find value in one system or another have actually been able to do so.

    • swarmofbeasts says:

      I would be uncomfortable with a therapist saying “You are making a bad life choice. You should make a different life choice,” for any choice outside of something that obviously poses a danger to oneself or others, or something that is almost certainly a symptom of mental illness rather than an ordinary stupid thing that people sometimes do. Especially when it comes to something as personal as religion. Good therapy in my experience lets you turn over an idea in your head to make sure it’s in line with your own values and priorities – it shouldn’t substitute the therapist’s values and priorities, whether those are “religion is good” or “religion is bad” or “fringe religions are bad.”

      That said, if someone were struggling with being gay, for example, because they were a Jehovah’s Witness, “How would you feel about leaving the religion?” is probably a conversation that would have to come up eventually. Not as the only right answer – but because if you have that discussion, you can weigh the importance of religion and sexuality in your own head and either figure out some way to reconcile them or decide that there isn’t one.

      • baconbacon says:

        Good therapy in my experience lets you turn over an idea in your head to make sure it’s in line with your own values and priorities

        What if your issues stem from bad values and priorities?

        • swarmofbeasts says:

          Then there’s a long-term conversation to be had about the effects that your values and priorities are having in your life, and if there’s a dream you need to let go of or a goal you’re chasing that’s ultimately counterproductive, but I don’t think “Your values are bad; get different values” has ever worked as therapy.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Have you read This is Water?

      • Viliam says:

        I did now. PDF with 8 pages of text. I am still not sure what it tried to say.

        • Kevin C. says:

          It’s David Foster Wallace, what do you expect? (Plus, was he really someone one should take advice on mental health from, given his end?)

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      The therapist needs to support the client’s values and goals, even if they personally disagree. If your therapist isn’t doing that, fire them and get a new therapist.

      • Kevin C. says:

        And if you can’t fire them, because you’re on disability & medicaid, and you’re stuck with whoever the local Neighhborhood Health Center assigns you?

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          Ouch.

          I think the first step is probably to rule out the possibility that it’s a misunderstanding. Go to your therapist and say something like “I am an atheist and I do not feel comfortable attending a church, because it feels like lying about my beliefs. This is not an acceptable solution for me. Please do not bring it up again.”

          If that doesn’t work, you have a couple options.

          Depending on your exact circumstances, you might be able to make a stink about it with the bureaucracy. I’m a hardliner on “it is not the therapist’s job to determine what the client’s values are,” but even for people who are less hardline than I am religion is special. If there is someone you can complain to, you might want to complain that your therapist is disrespecting your religious beliefs and you would like either a new therapist or for them to cut it the fuck out. How well this will work probably depends on where you live; it’ll work better in San Francisco than in Alabama.

          If not, think about what you want from therapy. If you want, say, treatment for your insomnia, just say whatever the therapist wants to hear and move on to what you want therapy for (“yeah, I’ve been really enjoying going to church. No problems at all. Now, about that sleep hygiene–“). If you want treatment for (say) being really lonely all the time, and your therapist refuses to consider ways of helping you other than “church! if it doesn’t work, MORE church!”, then quit; you have better things to do with the time and energy you’re spending going to therapy. If you can’t quit because something important (medication, disability check, accommodations) is dependent on going to therapy, then say whatever gets you through the therapy session. Either way, seek real help somewhere else– maybe a CBT book, maybe lifestyle interventions, maybe a free mindfulness class, maybe a wise friend, whatever works for you.

          • Kevin C. says:

            Go to your therapist and say something like “I am an atheist and I do not feel comfortable attending a church, because it feels like lying about my beliefs. This is not an acceptable solution for me. Please do not bring it up again.”

            As I said in a reply lower down, I did in fact say pretty much this, and the response was ‘well, have you considered agnosticism? That’s something like atheism but more “mainstream,” isn’t it?’ Then she went on with ‘okay, if you can’t believe in God, what about something like the Force from “Star Wars”?’

            But, I feel I should say that, despite my complaints here, she is probably one of the best therapists I’ve ever had. Which is probably why issues like this stand out all the more.

            Either way, seek real help somewhere else– maybe a CBT book, maybe lifestyle interventions, maybe a free mindfulness class, maybe a wise friend, whatever works for you.

            And where would I find any of those — I should say, I’ve read some CBT stuff a while back, and had “mindfulness” as part of a therapy group based on Linehan’s DBT work.

          • Randy M says:

            Then she went on with ‘okay, if you can’t believe in God, what about something like the Force from “Star Wars”?’

            Say “I do believe in the Force, but it comes from the Devil!”

          • Nearly Takuan says:

            @Kevin C.

            It sounds to me like she recognizes that there’s nothing you can immediately do to “fix” everything about your situation, so the best bet is to just hope it gets better, somehow, and then maybe use positive feelings from that to begin making smaller changes. (Apologies if you already know this, and especially if she has already straightforwardly told you.) The tactic that’s worked best for her in the past is probably getting patients to engage with something “spiritual”. She may not know other ways of getting to that point. She may not know other ways of solving the core problem(s). It is a fairly human mistake to get stuck assuming an A -> B -> C relation always holds, and then get frustrated about A -> B not working when what we really wanted in the first place was C. (Sometimes this is for the best anyway, since when going directly after C is an option, many of us have a tendency to choose wireheading.)

            For my part, of course I don’t believe in The Force, but I’m pretty sure that sometimes people get lucky and other times people get unlucky (desert does not have a place in this setting either). Whatever situation you find yourself in at any given time is in part due to your own actions, but also in part due to sheer luck or lack thereof. Based on your comments here, I don’t think you’re at risk of blaming too much on luck and too little on yourself, so I might suggest just leaning up against that guard-rail for the time being. Assume as many bad things as possible in your life are due to bad luck, and that the amount of bad luck you’ve experienced in the past neither increases nor decreases the probability you experience a certain amount of good luck in the future.

            If this point of view seems more in line with your current concept of the world than the overtly religious stuff, and it’s not provoking more thoughts of misery and despair than anything else, then you might assign The Consolation of Philosophy as homework for your therapist. (I didn’t want to make assumptions about whether or not you’ve already read it, but she is fair game.)

        • vV_Vv says:

          If you are stuck with her, then she is stuck with you. Any time she mentions religion, make an argument for Atheism, and be sure to phrase it in the most confrontational (but formally polite) way you can think of: basically imply that theists are idiots. Chances are that she will eventually be so offended that she will never bring the topic up again.

          But, actually, you should probably not even bother: your therapist is clearly incompetent, either quit, or if you have to sit there for some other reason, say whatever you have to and do not care.

      • The therapist needs to support the client’s values and goals,

        On the whole, or unconditionally?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      This suggestion goes back to William James and CG Jung, so it’s hardly fringe. I don’t think there are peer-reviewed studies on it because it’s hard and thus hard to get a credible sample size (and even then, the replication crisis). The aforesaid psychologists had anecdotal evidence that it works, though; e.g. Jung told a severe alcoholic “At this point only God can cure you” and he founded Alcoholics Anonymous after he managed to get born again.

    • Deiseach says:

      Sounds pushy, and I’d definitely be very wary if the therapist followed up with “and so why not come along to my church this Sunday, check it out?”

      On the other hand, some deeply-held beliefs may be holding someone back (if they need to be in therapy) and that requires chipping away (or blasting with dynamite) in order to make progress.

      It’s hard to say, since I know myself I cling to certain beliefs and attitudes and am highly resistant to change, even though change is exactly what needs to happen if I were ever to move on from where I’m stuck.

      But it does depend if it’s a suggestion along the lines of “have you considered religion as a social support, maybe going along to a local church in order to find a community, don’t bother about that whole ‘believing in God’ thing, that’s not the point here” rather than “you need to be converted and repent your sins” type of judgement.

      • Kevin C. says:

        There wasn’t really any of the “come check out my church” to it. Paraphrasing from memory, one bit was like “okay, so if you can’t ‘fake believing’ in God enough to join a church, have you considered at least becoming, um, what’s the word… is it ‘agnostic’? I think that’s it… what is an ‘agnostic,’ anyway?” Followed by me explaining to her what agnosticism was. See, all she knew or remembered was that is was somehow similar to atheism but “less extreme” — and therefore better.

        The overall impression I’ve been getting is someone who holds that actually believing in something, caring about capital-t Truth, is foolish, and that one should readily discard and take up “beliefs” like removing or putting on clothing — and that like clothing, one should “put on” whatever beliefs are fashionable at the moment, simply because they are fashionable. Shut off your brain and follow the herd.

        • Deiseach says:

          Hmmm. I’m hoping this was more along the lines of teasing out what agnosticism meant to you – feigning ignorance so you would explain to her “agnosticism is this, this and this” in order to get a handle on “okay, he can move to this” or “no, he’s really entrenched where he is”.

          I wonder if this stems from therapeutic experience – they must see a lot of people with firmly-held beliefs that are wrong or doing them harm, and very resistant to abandoning or changing those beliefs because they’ve invested so much time and energy into them, the beliefs work as an explanation, and if they give those up what are they going to do?

          The therapist then has to convince the client that they can loosen their grip on a belief, even give it up, and they can (a) find another one that is better/healthier/truer (b) the world will not come crashing down around their ears if they do this.

          But that’s steelmanning on my part, and your therapist may be as you are representing her. My one and only appointment to see a counsellor/therapist went so comically wrong in about every way that I am certainly in no position to have an opinion on therapy as she is spoke!

    • WashedOut says:

      If by “finding religion” you mean “get acquainted with the central ideas of the Bible” then i’d say that’s perfectly legitimate advice. Specifically,

      1. ‘Salvation’, or the voluntary acceptance and transcendence of suffering
      2. Sacrifice of the present self for the good of the hypothetical future self

      I don’t think either of those would be hard barriers for the intellectually honest atheist, since a lot of what perturbs atheists is about the conduct of major organised religions.

      • Kevin C. says:

        If by “finding religion” you mean “get acquainted with the central ideas of the Bible”

        Actually, it’s clear she was referring to the social participation in church part. Plus, I’ve read the Bible several times, and frankly, find a lot to agree with.

        since a lot of what perturbs atheists is about the conduct of major organised religions.

        I think you must be new here — or at least not have encountered my other postings. Yes, I’m an atheist — but not the standard lefty atheist who dislikes religion because “fundies” aren’t nice enough to gays. I’m one of those deplorable en-ar-ex types who believes Horrible Banned Discourse. I’m the guy who thinks that outside science and technology, the last 500 years were a mistake; I’m a fan of the Inquisitions and the Albigensian Crusade… and the Crusades, for that matter. I think Paul is wise on the issue of male headship and subordination of women. Heck, I’ve had good things to say about ISIS and Boko Haram. If I have any concern about “the conduct of major organised religions,” it’s that they’re not reactionary and traditional and “oppressive” and “intolerant” enough.

        No, the probem is I don’t believe that God exists. I have yet to find any persuasive evidence that there exists anything beyond the physical universe. There is no supernatural, only the natural.

        • Anonymous says:

          I have yet to find any persuasive evidence that there exists anything beyond the physical universe.

          What stops you from assuming it does, sans evidence?

          In any case, you don’t need to believe in God to attend Mass. Churches are open even to unbelievers (for the purpose of converting them into believers). You don’t get to receive sacraments, but otherwise, there’s nothing stopping from attaching yourself to your local Christian community anyway, explaining truthfully, if pressed, that you *wish* you could believe in God.

          • Nick says:

            That approach can work for some people, but I doubt it’s going to do much for Kevin. If he thinks there’s a fair chance God exists, and that he’d be happier in organized religion, I’d just recommend a study of apologetics. If he’s, say, grappling with a purported proof of God’s existence, he’s welcome to post questions or objections here; a bunch of us have cut our teeth over at Feser’s comboxes.

            ETA: And saying “I’m studying Christianity” would probably get his therapist off his back about this.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Anonymous

            What stops you from assuming it does, sans evidence?

            Burden of proof. Russell’s teapot. Occam’s razor. And, since folk here like Harry Potter references, Hermione vs. Luna on the Ressurrection Stone. What stops you from assuming leprechauns exist, sans evidence? What stops you from assuming invisible dragons exist, sans evidence? What stops you from assuming aliens on a planet in the Zeta Reticulii system exist, sans evidence? And so on, and so on. If you do this, you either have to believe in everything not specifically disproven, or else you’re picking and choosing your beliefs — again, treating them like clothing — on something irrational.

            Look, I believe that if I hold out an object and let it go, it will fall, not hover; I believe that if I stick my bare hand into a flame, I will get burned. I suppose a person could somehow choose to believe otherwise — somehow convince themselves that objects levitate and that they’re fireproof — but doing so would be irrational and stupid. Beliefs are the map in one’s head of the shape of objective reality. If you are “filling in” any portion of that map for reasons other than it’s what the best evidence says the territory is shaped like, for any reason other than it’s what’s most likely to be True, then you’re doing it wrong.

            @Nick

            Again, I’m not one of those lefty atheist-types who recoils in horror from Christian (or other religious) texts. I’m a right-winger, remember, and most of my fellows are religious. I’ve read a fair bit of apologetics, and have found none of it convincing. In fact, I’ve developed a special hatred for the mix of word games and circular-reasoning-via-smuggled-assumptions that are “ontological” proofs. (You cannot simply make existence part of an entity’s definition! Definitions do not work that way![/Morbo])

          • Anonymous says:

            @Kevin C.

            What stops you from assuming leprechauns exist, sans evidence? What stops you from assuming invisible dragons exist, sans evidence? What stops you from assuming aliens on a planet in the Zeta Reticulii system exist, sans evidence?

            None of those beliefs have any particular influence on my well-being. OTOH, belief in God certainly does, and doubly certainly has influence on the well-being of people that would suffer if I were not to try to live up to God’s law.

            Overall, my impression is that your rationality is harming you more than it is helping you.

          • Nick says:

            Kevin,

            Again, I’m not one of those lefty atheist-types who recoils in horror from Christian (or other religious) texts. I’m a right-winger, remember, and most of my fellows are religious. I’ve read a fair bit of apologetics, and have found none of it convincing. In fact, I’ve developed a special hatred for the mix of word games and circular-reasoning-via-smuggled-assumptions that are “ontological” proofs. (You cannot simply make existence part of an entity’s definition! Definitions do not work that way![/Morbo])

            I’m not assuming you’re a lefty atheist-type, it’s just that your experience with apologetics is largely opaque to us. It’s why I suggested airing objections here—on the one hand I’ve known folks to give sophisticated and challenging objections to various arguments, and on the other hand I’ve known folks to misunderstand the arguments or not realize the (defensible) assumptions being made and so on. That’s not to say I think you’re reading them uncharitably or anything—it’s just, I don’t know whether it’s Aquinas you’re reading or a modern apologist like Feser or a terrible one like D’Souza or….

            Anonymous,

            None of those beliefs have any particular influence on my well-being. OTOH, belief in God certainly does, and doubly certainly has influence on the well-being of people that would suffer if I were not to try to live up to God’s law.

            You’re putting the cart before the horse. You ought live according to His law because you believe God exists, not believe God exists because you ought to live according to His law. You need some reason in the first place to live according to His law—and where is Kevin going to get that, other than “God exists”? Living according to His law certainly does good to those to whom one would want to do good, but it’s not like Kevin is a lawless barbarian without God (and I’m not sure that’s a strong case anyway); as he’s repeatedly said, his therapist thinks his moral code is too strict already.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Nick

            You’re putting the cart before the horse. You ought live according to His law because you believe God exists, not believe God exists because you ought to live according to His law.

            And why not? I am assensing that God’s law is the law that is consistent with reality and good outcomes for followers, therefore I suspect that God is who He claims He is. Whereas, I would be highly suspicious of the source of a law that was inconsistent with reality and harmful to adherents. A simple fruit test, nothing more.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Nick:

            You’re putting the cart before the horse. You ought live according to His law because you believe God exists, not believe God exists because you ought to live according to His law

            This sort of question came up on the latest Sam Harris podcast, in conversation with Bret Weinstein, who was talking about ‘metaphorical truths’ – claims which are not factually true, but which, if acted on as if they are true, give better outcomes than the alternative of acting as if they are false. This goes back to the old epistemic rationality vs. instrumental rationality debate, and his particular example was the belief that porcupines can throw their quills. Given how nasty a porcupine quill injury is, even though they can’t actually launch them as projectiles, someone who believes they can and therefore gives porcupines a wider berth is less likely to actually get quilled, thus the belief is false but adaptive. He surmises that the religious memes of long-established religions are not merely random by-products, as suggested by Richard Dawkins and others, but beneficial-to-their-believers adaptations that have outcompeted rival less beneficial memes (that’s how the religions manage to be long-established) … with the caveat that they only stay adaptive if the environment doesn’t change too fast, and that given the pace of change today, many religious memes which were once adaptive might have ceased to be so.

            I don’t see any reason to think it prima facie wrong to say that the specific supernatural claims of, say, traditional Catholicism, are not factually correct but that believing they are (and being part of a community that believes likewise) will get you certain advantages that you cannot otherwise get. Certainly I think that the specific claims of traditional religions are more likely to be false-but-adaptive than actually true.

            Of course, that’s not a very comforting proposition for either of us, for me because if I, like Kevin, can’t force myself to believe things I’m unpersuaded by, then I can’t have nice things (though I suspect that Kevin and I might have pretty different ideas of ‘nice things’ anyway), and even if I could, believing things which are vulnerable to the truth is unstable, and for you because it’s central to your preferred religion that the religion is true, and not merely useful, but I don’t think either of us can dismiss Anonymous’ reasoning so easily here.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Winter Shaker
            @Nick

            For the record, this isn’t my primary reason to believe in God’s existence, merely a helpful ancillary one. My belief in God in instinctive (or, if you prefer, a supernatural virtue granted by Him), as distinguished from my worship, which is by choice and largely due to the reasoning I gave above. Per Kevin’s own statement, he lacks instinctive faith, so I provided the other item I know of that could help.

          • baconbacon says:

            This sort of question came up on the latest Sam Harris podcast, in conversation with Bret Weinstein, who was talking about ‘metaphorical truths’ – claims which are not factually true, but which, if acted on as if they are true, give better outcomes than the alternative of acting as if they are false. This goes back to the old epistemic rationality vs. instrumental rationality debate, and his particular example was the belief that porcupines can throw their quills. Given how nasty a porcupine quill injury is, even though they can’t actually launch them as projectiles, someone who believes they can and therefore gives porcupines a wider berth is less likely to actually get quilled, thus the belief is false but adaptive

            This is probably not (quite) accurate. More likely is that lots of things that are “the truth” have little actual value, and further that ‘truth’ is just a functioning model of the world “Porcupine quills hurt like a bitch” is the “truth” that matters in the information exchange. Demonstrating that porcupines can’t throw their quills comes at a cost (or at least a risk) and confers no benefits. The two choices of “porcupine’s can/can’t throw quills” should, for reasons of robustness push toward ‘can’.

            The functioning model of the world falls apart faster the more precise your ‘truths’ are when confronted with contradictory data. Porcupines can’t throw quills falls apart if you happen upon a species or sub-population of porcupines that can. Porcupines can throw their quills doesn’t fall apart and provides basically the same protection if you never encounter such a population, thus the can is more robust across time and space*.

            I don’t see any reason to think it prima facie wrong to say that the specific supernatural claims of, say, traditional Catholicism, are not factually correct but that believing they are (and being part of a community that believes likewise) will get you certain advantages that you cannot otherwise get. Certainly I think that the specific claims of traditional religions are more likely to be false-but-adaptive than actually true.

            The importance of information is how it works in your known world and the unknown world. The idea that religion or Christianity is just some information dressed up in stories is overly simplistic. “God is watching you” can be seen both as a basic ‘make sure people do good when they are around other people’ rule of thumb, but can also be seen as a “you don’t know which of your bad actions is going to make your life worse” rule of thumb.

            * you can bet if you found a population that used porcupines as a significant nutritional source they would know the truth.

        • I have yet to find any persuasive evidence that there exists anything beyond the physical universe.

          My younger son, who has historical interests, has been arguing that the history of Joan of Arc is such evidence. It’s very well recorded from primary sources and it is hard to explain the established facts without assuming that she really was either a divinely inspired saint or something else equally outside our normal picture of the world.

          You might find it interesting to explore that. If you are curious I can ask him about his sources.

          • Evan Þ says:

            As someone who researched Joan several years ago (in the process of writing a historical dramatization of her story), I agree with you.

            Unfortunately, I didn’t write down most of the sources I used, but the transcript of her trial is available online. I’d recommend someone read a general biography first for important context, but then go on to that as essentially the closest we can get to Joan’s own words.

          • Kevin C. says:

            it is hard to explain the established facts without assuming that she really was either a divinely inspired saint or something else equally outside our normal picture of the world.

            No, it isn’t.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m… not an r/atheism type, but let’s say habitually contrarian about these sorts of claims, and I’ve had that conversation with David’s son. He makes a surprisingly strong case; as far as I can tell the weakest link of the story is that a lot of the primary sources were compiled by the then-King of France, several years after the fact, as a way of proving that he hadn’t consorted with a witch. Since the simplest explanation of any story like this is that the primary sources are lying through their teeth, that’s the place to push if you’re going to. But enough of those primary sources include people who should have been enemies of France and of Joan that this line of argument’s weaker than it would otherwise be.

            Might also be interesting to investigate Islam and Buddhism and see if they have anyone as (a) stupendously badass, (b) “divinely inspired”, and (c) well-attested.

          • Zenit says:

            Joan of Arc

            Case of Joan of Arc is indeed extraordinary, but I do not see how it proves Christianity.

            Meaning of miracle is sign – sign of God’s will, God’s mercy or God’s wrath, and traditional miracles are like this. Pious person is miraculously saved or healed, blasphemer or infidel is miraculously smitten, saint receives vivid vision of Heaven, sinner sees frightening vision of Hell, etc.

            What was the meaning and sign of Joan’s mission – that Capets and not Plantagenets are the rightful kings of France?
            Why shall Christian God care about this, care enough to arrange major miracle to save Charles VII’s throne? When numerous Christian kings before and after were overthrown with no miraculous help incoming?

            This is a reason ( one of many) why the Church was skeptical about Joan of Arc and why she was cannonized as late as 1920.

            Might also be interesting to investigate Islam and Buddhism and see if they have anyone as (a) stupendously badass, (b) “divinely inspired”, and (c) well-attested.

            Well, story of Muhammad is as badass as is possible to be. 40 year old accountant hears the voice of angel and becomes a warlord and conqueror.

          • Nornagest says:

            I brought up Muhammad in the abovementioned conversation. The response was that Muhammad showed near-superhuman charisma (and really good poetry skills) but few other unusual qualities — Ali, for example, seems to have been the one leading most of the early Muslim armies. At forty, he’d have had time to develop a broad skillset, and his previous career as a merchant would have brought him into contact with lots of different people and ideas. And charisma would have been a useful trait for him as a merchant as well as a prophet.

            Joan of Arc, on the other hand, was an illiterate seventeen-year-old farmgirl who fought like an experienced general (showing a particular aptitude for artillery, apparently, which was the least intuitive aspect of the military science of the time) and stood up, during her trial, to some of the best lawyers and theologians Europe had to offer. It’s remotely possible that she was an Isaac Newton type — freakishly intelligent with a religious bent, and very very lucky — but pure intelligence only gets you so far, and those are all demanding, technical fields. And Newton was a lot weirder.

            If she wasn’t on a literal mission from God, she’s still more like an Eighties-era fantasy protagonist than any other real person I know of. All she’s missing is a talking wolf.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I’d be interested in hearing this elaborated on, as somebody who knows next to nothing about Joan of Arc.

            This sounds like it ties into some thoughts I’ve been meaning to write up related to historical accounts of the miraculous and Scott’s recent posts on surfing uncertainty.

          • wanderingimpromptu says:

            Evan, that transcript is really fascinating! Thank you for linking it.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I should also add that I have had, IRL, a friend make a pretty similar argument, complete with reference to “well recorded” primary sources, only for a different historical incident of slightly different, shall we say polarity: the Salem Witch Trials. That at least some of those executed were genuine witches is indisputible once you read the first-hand accounts, he held, because they make it “indisputable that something demonic was clearly happening there.”

          • @Kevin C.

            The fact that some arguments of type X are bad does not imply that all arguments of type X are bad.

            I can, for instance, offer arguments to prove that two equals one, that an angle slightly larger than a right angle is equal to a right angle, and that all horses are the same color.

            It does not follow that all algebraic, geometric or logical proofs are bogus.

            For what it’s worth, my son was reared by parents one of whom is an atheist (myself), has shown no particular interest in going to church, and is very interested in history (his major at U of C).

          • Evan Þ says:

            What was the meaning and sign of Joan’s mission – that Capets and not Plantagenets are the rightful kings of France?
            Why shall Christian God care about this, care enough to arrange major miracle to save Charles VII’s throne?

            Very cogent argument. I’m not saying her voices were from God. I’m saying they’re something supernatural.

            (My theory is that they were indeed demons, but Joan didn’t have the least idea of this.)

          • Randy M says:

            My theory is that they were indeed demons, but Joan didn’t have the least idea of this.

            I think you found a way to piss everybody at once!

            Okay, maybe not fundamentalist Protestants or, say, Hindus. I’m not sure what the Muslim position on JoA is, but you’d probably rile some faction up with your notions.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Holy cow. Joan of Arc as empirical evidence for the supernatural is significant to me, yet I almost missed this thread.

            @Nornagest: He makes a surprisingly strong case; as far as I can tell the weakest link of the story is that a lot of the primary sources were compiled by the then-King of France, several years after the fact, as a way of proving that he hadn’t consorted with a witch. Since the simplest explanation of any story like this is that the primary sources are lying through their teeth, that’s the place to push if you’re going to. But enough of those primary sources include people who should have been enemies of France and of Joan that this line of argument’s weaker than it would otherwise be.

            When you look into the facts, it appears that the whole reason she was on trial was because the Plantagenet forces had no naturalistic explanation for how they had lost battles to an illiterate teenage girl.
            You’ll get pushback on this along the lines of “medieval misogyny” and “medieval people were biased in favor of supernatural explanations”. But that’s modern bias: early 15th century Europeans knew that royal women could be competent military commanders (at minimum, the King of England would have remembered his ancestress Eleanor of Aquitaine). But an illiterate teenage girl was something else.
            As far as credulity towards the supernatural, this argument typically proposes the alternative that Joan was an extremely high-IQ girl whose genius was comorbid with a brain disorder like schizophrenia.
            Two problems with this: Joan was uneducated. Next, the Western upper classes had a fair understanding of mental illness. Charles VII’s father had a condition that made him believe he was made of glass, and this was treated as a mental illness, NOT demonic.

            Note also that the primary sources relate facts that don’t undermine the claim that Charles VII had allied with a witch. At Jargeau, she saved the Duke of Alencon’s life by foretelling where a cannonball would hit. During the same siege, a cannonball hit her torso while she was on a siege ladder. Such powers, their culture taught, could come from either God or demons.

            Might also be interesting to investigate Islam and Buddhism and see if they have anyone as (a) stupendously badass, (b) “divinely inspired”, and (c) well-attested.

            It would definitely be interesting.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Our Fake History had a pretty good series on Joan of Arc, too, though IIRC not especially transparent on its sources.

    • johan_larson says:

      So, thoughts on a therapist recommending that an atheist patient consider “finding religion”?

      I think I would ask the therapist why he or she thinks finding religion would be useful? Perhaps the therapist is actually trying to prod me toward more social engagement, or a more strongly held moral code, both of which I could see being useful, and religion is just a proxy.

      If that was not the case, and the therapist is actually suggesting finding religion, I would have to wonder how one even does such a thing. How does someone who is convinced Jesus never rose from the dead suddenly come to believe otherwise? Dive head-first into the apologetics literature? That’s at best a lot of hard (dare I say, soul-searching) work, and might not succeed.

      • Kevin C. says:

        I think I would ask the therapist why he or she thinks finding religion would be useful? Perhaps the therapist is actually trying to prod me toward more social engagement, or a more strongly held moral code, both of which I could see being useful, and religion is just a proxy.

        Actually, my therapist has been actively prodding me to have a less strongly held moral code, at least partially, reading between the lines, because she finds my moral values unconscionable and anathema — for one, she’s implied that any attempt to pass them on to a future generation would at least border upon abuse. But also, because it’s “fringe,” and she repeatedly seems to be taking a vox populi vox dei attitude that one should hold beliefs first and foremost because of their popularity. And because she does seem to genuinely believe in “ask the Universe for what you want; the Universe will provide” hippy woo-woo “The Secret” bullshit, wherein your mood actually directly affects the world, everything bad that happens to you is ultimately your own fault since it happened because you weren’t thinking positive enough.

        And we’ve been directly discussing increasing my social engagement, as I’ve been very much trying to do so. And I suppose part of the reason religious communities were brought up is because religious traditionalists are, outside of matters of God and the supernatural, much closer to me in morals and worldview than other groups — and maybe by socializing with them, they’ll make me more “mainstream” and less of an Evil Nazi.

        Dive head-first into the apologetics literature? That’s at best a lot of hard (dare I say, soul-searching) work, and might not succeed.

        It didn’t for me.

        • baconbacon says:

          It is very difficult to respond to someone who uses crappy caricatures of things they don’t like.

          And because she does seem to genuinely believe in “ask the Universe for what you want; the Universe will provide” hippy woo-woo “The Secret” bullshit, wherein your mood actually directly affects the world, everything bad that happens to you is ultimately your own fault since it happened because you weren’t thinking positive enough.

          I won’t call this a straw man because you can probably find some instances of people who believe something like this, but using the least informed fringe position isn’t a positive one. If you were to seek out the dumbest atheist bloggers you could build a terrible representation of atheism, or the worst followers of X, Y or Z.

      • Case of Joan of Arc is indeed extraordinary, but I do not see how it proves Christianity.

        I didn’t say it did. What I wrote was:

        it is hard to explain the established facts without assuming that she really was either a divinely inspired saint or something else equally outside our normal picture of the world.

        And that was in response to:

        I have yet to find any persuasive evidence that there exists anything beyond the physical universe.

  26. Levantine says:

    I’d like to try describe the phenomenon consisting of three elements:
    1) people perceiving mental health problems in others, even close ones,
    2) people perceiving those mental problems as giving them hardship and even putting them in danger,
    3) the person with alleged mental health problems never gets diagnosed, for whatever reasons.

    Just a few examples:
    Since I was growing up I saw that my parents, quite conventional, university-graduated middle class types, have a number of hang-ups and quirks, that were shared by NO one else, as far as I could see. Those quirks and hang-ups caused me many problems, because I had to to cover up and cover for them as if I were the adult and they the children.
    And it takes just a brief glance to see that I’m far from the only one who was in such a position. Some of my cousins would say openly, our parents are – loony / lunatic / insane. In response, I’d show animation on my face, and they’d reaffirm what they said – and that would be pretty much the end for the topic.
    In my early twenties, a school peer with stellar academic results opened in front of me the subject of her parents being “insane,” colloquially speaking (or not). And, she herself had such a hard time as an overachiever, she had hit a kind of psychological wall and was obviously desperate.
    All of the above was without anyone of the above mentioned taking drugs or having problems with addiction. It was in Europe.

    Possibly related to the above, we have all encountered – or made – comments that that-and-that population must be mad to have such and such political attitudes. … and that certain – or all – politicians are truly mentally ill. But I would like to avoid politicization of the topic.

    That topic is wider than mental health only. Still, the latter are unavoidable. Adding to its complexity is the contentious character of psychiatric diagnosis done by professionals (viz., the Rosenhan experiment, madinamerica.com), and its complex historical background (see Roy Porter’s “Madness: A Brief History”).

    Now and then, I tend to look over it all, as just one more complicated subject with people speaking with more conviction than they should … Except for those perceptions of there truly being harmful mental problems that are under-addressed. and the feeling that it’s better to engage in hand-waving than just shut up in an attempt for stoicism.

  27. Jeremiah says:

    I’ve been thinking about the sexual harassment problem lately. (The best umbrella term I’ve come across is the Pervnado). And while I don’t think I have many truly unique insights I do have one thought that I’d like people’s opinion on.

    It seems that if people get caught up in the Pervnado, that there’s only one penalty possible, professional obliteration. No one get’s suspended or fined, or sent to counseling. You’re either fine, or you’re out of a job (potentially for a long time). Considering this is it possible that the reason why people like Woody Allen have escaped so far, is that while people would be happy to see him punished, they don’t want to see him become a persona non grata, and given that they can only choose this or nothing they choose nothing? Perhaps the same thing is happening with Bill Clinton? Thoughts?

    • Murphy says:

      Sort of similar to the problem of making hanging the punishment for smaller crimes in the UK back in the 1800’s : the judge doesn’t really want to kill someone for it so they search for some excuse or just declare they’ve hanged the person while actually arranging for them to move elsewhere.

      The person actually wronged is also pissed if they find out because they’ve been robbed of a chance at justice/redress/vengeance.

      • Jeremiah says:

        Ah yes, I recall Thomas Moore going on about this at some length in Utopia. His argument was if you get hanged for stealing a loaf of bread and hanged for murder, then if you get caught in the act of stealing bread you have no incentive to not then murder the person who caught you, since the penalty is the same…

        • Murphy says:

          I think that’s a different issue. If the penalty for stealing a loaf of bread is death then even if you get caught stealing a loaf of bread and even if you don’t turn to murder… the people who then have to process you may not actually want to see you dead. Even the guy you stole the loaf of bread from may get sick to his stomach at the idea of your death over a loaf of bread.

          The judge and jury also may feel similarly uncomfortable.

          And if any one of them feels uncomfortable enough to derail the process, perhaps with a jury member nullifying or a judge finding some excuse to throw out the case or the jailer finding some excuse to look away while a door is open before you can be taken down death row….. you find yourself in the situation where lots of people receive zero punishment of any kind while some people get unlucky and die for a breadstick.

          Lots of people end up unhappy because unlucky people are dying for trivial things while no punishment at all is getting handed out for some things which should have some kind of penalty thanks to the headsman and various others in system being unhappy to carry out the sentences.

          Which leads to further social problems when pretty, charming, likable people get off scot free while unpopular minorities and ugly unpopular people get the headsmans axe.

          • If the penalty for stealing a loaf of bread is death

            In 18th century England it wasn’t. To be a non-clergyable felony theft had to be of something worth more than forty shillings (or meet various other special conditions).

            In Islamic law, the Hadd offense of theft, the one for which your hand gets cut off, doesn’t apply to stealing food.

      • Chalid says:

        So my understanding of the 1800s UK legal system is mainly from Patrick O’Brian, but didn’t they have transportation, flogging, and pillory?

        • Pillory and flogging were for non-capital felonies–but almost all serious offenses were capital. Transportation was mostly a result of being convicted of a capital felony and then agreeing to transportation in exchange for a pardon.

      • I’m not aware of any cases where the judge claimed to have hanged someone who actually just moved. For one thing, hanging was public.

        Of people charged with capital crimes, only a small minority ended up hanged, and of people convicted of capital crimes only a minority. The available outs, other than acquittal, were:

        1. The jury could find the defendant guilty of a non-capital included offense (“pious perjury”).
        2. The convicted defendant could be pardoned and sent home.
        3. The convicted defendant could be pardoned conditional on agreeing to transportation (17 years indentured servitude in the New World).
        4. The convicted defendant could be pardoned conditional on agreeing to enlist in the army or navy.

        Those interested in a more detailed account will find it in the chapter on 18th c. English law in my draft of Legal Systems Very Different.

    • Emily says:

      I think when someone is very high-profile, it’s difficult to punish them in small ways. If someone’s your star and making a lot of money for you, and you respond to media accusations that he did some really bad stuff by saying “we’re making him go to counseling”, it sounds insincere, like you’re not actually punishing that person and behind the scenes things will go on the same as they were before. Outsiders can’t evaluate whether things are actually changing. The best way to get across that you take the allegations seriously is to cut ties with that person completely. Also, if they’re very high-profile, they may not accept serious punishment; they may prefer to lose their job.

      When the case isn’t high-profile, though, people do get punished in smaller ways. But we don’t hear about that.

      • Jeremiah says:

        That’s a fair point, but I do get the sense that the “outsiders” may be the one’s driving this, and that in reference to being able to evaluate things, that money has traditionally worked as a way of measuring and a way of meting out punishment in the in between space.

        • Emily says:

          Definitely outsiders are driving much of this. If a company was already aware of what was going on and interested in doing something about it, they already would have done it.

          I think a lot of people are viscerally uncomfortable with the idea that you can pay to sexually harass your colleagues. And fining employees is rarely how employment issues are settled, so it’s not surprising that they’re not being settled like this. A normal range of negative employment outcomes (outside of the military) would be something like: you’re warned, you’re put on a performance improvement plan, you’re fired. Maybe you’re demoted or your responsibilities change, maybe. Fining would be quite odd.

    • DocKaon says:

      The perpetrators that have been penalized are in areas which are strongly dependent on public good will and generally intolerant of any missteps such as politics, media, and entertainment. Any number of things can result in the destruction of a career in these fields from one impolitic comment to weight gain to just one serious failure. These are fields where the vast majority of people who attempt to enter them fail to have any success what so ever. I don’t see a problem in being credibly accused of a pattern of sexual harassment resulting in at least the same punishment as starring in a major box office bomb or reporting a badly sourced story that turned out to be false.

    • shakeddown says:

      Seems like the opposite(ish) is happening with Bill Clinton: Now that the Clintons are done with politics, it’s suddenly become hip to talk about how he’s a Bad Abuser, despite no change in evidence on him. So (partial) evidence in your favour.

  28. johan_larson says:

    Over the weekend I ran into something interesting in the Amazon Kindle stacks. An outfit called Wildside Press is bundling collections of 20-30 short stories and selling them on Kindle for 77 cents. Most of the stories seem to be quite old, probably from the sixties and seventies, so they are surely cheap. But I’m still surprised that the economics of this venture work out. And it must, since they keep doing it. Here’s the 12th Science Fiction MEGAPACK:

    https://www.amazon.com/12th-Science-Fiction-MEGAPACK®-ebook/dp/B01EMDK2W6

    Even for old stories, I can’s see the authors or their estates asking for less than $100 per story. 28 stories at $100 each is $2800 just for the story rights. I have to believe the editorial effort in finding, negotiating for, and formatting the stories for publication is going to at least double that, bringing the cost to maybe $6000. And selling at $0.77 each, I’m guessing after Amazon fees and whatnot they might be pulling in $0.50 per copy, meaning they break even at 12,000 copies sold. Is there really that much of an audience for miscellaneous SF shorts?

    • Murphy says:

      I think you may need to factor in another element.

      it’s dozens of stories but it’s a grab bag. “with permission of the authors estate” only appears 6 times.

      Most of the stories are from the 1950’s

      the overhead for sorting out deals for every story might be close to what you think but how about the overhead of making 6 deals then bundling them together with another 20 out of copyright works.

      I see the price as 92 cent. Amazon takes something like 30% I believe. So assume 64 cent per copy.

      22 stories cost you nothing except the time to edit them together in a pdf.

      6 stories you need to negotiate.

      So call it $600 for the story rights.

      I think you may be overestimating the cost of formatting everything into a pdf. Negotiating use rights may be some kind of bulk deal where they can go through some third party agency and pick a handful of out-of-print stories from a catalog and pay a set fee.

      I’m thinking they probably break even far closer to 2000 copies sold once they’ve got a workflow going for locating out-of-copyright scifi books and buying a small number of stories to make sure you have a checklist of at least one newer, relatively unknown but up and coming author : (KKR), a few older popular and reliable authors to make sure your book comes up in searches Poul Anderson, Ray Bradbury, Philip K Dick and a bunch to pad it out.

      And they definitely have a workflow. Look inside the book and there’s page after page of MEGAPACK(R) titles with various themes and similar setups. I’m betting the editor has a set of scripts to build the ebooks automatically.

      It looks like they’ve been pumping them out at about 1 a week for years.

      • Jiro says:

        1950’s implies “from the era where you had to register a copyright for it to last more than 28 years”, so I would guess that most of their stories are out of copyright.

      • add_lhr says:

        Also, the Amazon page says that users have reported problems with typos and poor formatting, so the $3,000 estimate on set-up costs is probably too generous (couldn’t you find a graphic designer in a low-income country to do the work for, say, 5 days at $50/day?). In addition, they seem to be experimenting with serialization – i.e. that linked book includes the last chapter of a novel. So if they get customers hooked on the novel, their average revenue per buyer becomes a bit higher in expectation.

  29. Well... says:

    Watched the first 2 episodes of the Unabomber show on Netflix. Mixed feelings, mostly negative.

    – Level of realism in everything from the dialog to the lighting to the sound design is much closer to CSI or Law & Order than The Wire.
    – I don’t care about any of the characters except Kaczynski and then only because I’m already interested in him in real life. But I don’t like that they’re treating him as this Hannibal Lecter/Hitler hybrid whose ideas are supposed to be spooky and dangerous, like some kind of Red Pill.*
    – I know they said they tried to stick just to the facts as much as possible and add only minimal dramatic filler, but there is a lot of implausible brow-raising stuff in basically every scene.
    – When the main character goes to the crime scene or spreads a sea of photographs around him and closes his eyes and then divines the Unabomber’s intentions or mentality, that is just too damn much.

    Also, it’s hard to stomach British actors playing American characters when they can’t quite perfectly do American accents.

    *I’ll keep watching because I’m interested in how they handle Kaczynski’s philosophy of technology as further episodes provide more opportunities to develop the representation of it. So far I think they’ve handled it in an artistically interesting but conceptually fluffy way.

    • OptimalSolver says:

      I’ll keep watching because I’m interested in how they handle Kaczynski’s philosophy of technology

      How interested is the average Netflix writer in tech philosophy? I think you’re in for disappointment.

      Quoting an earlier comment of mine:

      Well writers, especially non-science fiction writers, tend to be highly neurotypical and people-oriented. Even the writers on Star Trek famously had to leave the technobabble to actual sperges.

      It stands to reason that the chrome-and-circuits fanboys would be completely alien to the average writer. An exception would be hard sci-fi, where the characters inadvertently come off as robotic due to the aspergic writer being more interested in ship schematics than people.

      This difference between mental architecture sets up an amusing situation best seen on the new Battlestar Galactica:

      TV and film writers are highly people-oriented, with the ones on sci-fi shows often coming from non sci-fi backgrounds and only begrudgingly taking the job. This leads to them using as the sci-fi setting as only a background to what they really care about, character-focus and relationship drama. This in turn, drives away sci-fi fans (or the male ones, at least) who tuned in for advanced technology and exploration of the unknown, not extreme emotional angst.

      These two cognitive types, empathizers (average writer), and systemizers (average sci-fi fan) can’t really reconcile their interests.

      Again, best place to see this play out is in the new Battlestar Galactica, but also the Abrams Star Trek reboots.

      • OptimalSolver says:

        For an example of the media treating a tech-sperg’s philosophy fairly and in depth, see this BBC documentary on Silk Road:

        https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=H5eT8eA1Ra0

      • The Nybbler says:

        It always comes back to H.G. Wells vs. Henry James. And James always wins.

      • Well... says:

        @OptimalSolver:

        Quoting myself:

        So far I think they’ve handled [Kaczynski’s philosophy] in an artistically interesting but conceptually fluffy way.

        And that’s actually a tad un-generous: I probably should have said they’ve handled it in a way that is accurate but not precise. They might be putting too much emphasis on systems of control and not enough on the specific role technology plays in them (but that’s just what I’ve gotten from 2 episodes).

        Now quoting you:

        writers, especially non-science fiction writers, tend to be highly neurotypical and people-oriented.

        Having worked with writers in Hollywood, I can vouch for the validity of this statement. But that also shouldn’t matter on its face in this instance. Kaczynski’s concerns weren’t some kind of esoteric thing only autistic supernerds can understand or find absorbing. Don’t let the word “technology” throw you off. I actually think the show balances techy wire-and-circuits stuff with conceptual stuff pretty well. It’s just the particulars of how they handle the conceptual stuff, within that balance, that I’m not 100% impressed with.

      • j1000000 says:

        Male sci-fi fans didn’t like the BSG reboot? This is news to me.

    • Well... says:

      In conversation, I often can’t recall the name of the show so I refer to it as “The Ted Kaczynski Show” and then in my head I immediately imagine a 70s-style intro theme:

      dun da-dun dun da-dun dun dun dun! It’s the Ted Kaczynski Show!

    • SUT says:

      So did anyone actually skim the manifesto?

      I did and was surprised by one fact I’ve never heard discussed publicly or in the netflix miniseries: the manifesto is largely an anti-“leftist” [TK’s nomenclature] screed. There is probably as much mention about the dangers of “political correctness” [always scare quoted] as there is about technology. Now TK was clearly not at home in the GOP, and there are a few shots at conservatism in general. But overall, after updating some of the vocabulary, much of the manifesto could fit right into a gray tribe facebook political post or an SSC culture war thread. I’m quite pleased at how little the institutions at the time (law enforcement, media, etc) used this element as a jumping off point to start arguing politics.

      One other thing that stands out is how off-putting it is to discuss politics and philosophy in the style of a mathematics dissertation. There is one (former) SSC commenter, who is you switch his political orientation, would be a dead-wringer for TK’s writing. Does anyone else recognize it?

  30. OptimalSolver says:

    Based on this tweet, how common is it for humans, pet-owners especially, to project stereotypes of human racial groups onto animals?

    Eg, is a black lab more likely to be assigned personality traits usually associated with black humans than a yellow lab would be?

    • johan_larson says:

      Well, to start with black people, they are stereotyped as violent, thuggish, and irresponsible (on the negative side,) but athletic, musical, and pious (on the positive side.) None of these are qualities ascribed to black labs, those gentle, friendly, water-loving doggos.

      • JulieK says:

        I think I read a post by Steve Sailer claiming black dogs are more violent.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        athletic, musical, and pious (on the positive side.)

        Isn’t ‘pious’ more usually used to mean ‘takes their religion way too seriously’, rather than ‘takes their religion about the right level of seriousness’?

        • albertborrow says:

          Only in the post-agnostic boom. “The right level of seriousness” used to be much higher than you’re used to in a place like SCC.

        • Randy M says:

          No, that’s zealous.

        • hlynkacg says:

          Only in modern atheist circles where the “right level of seriousness” is basically “not at all”.

        • Deiseach says:

          “Pious” is nowadays confined to religion, but was not always so; Aeneas in the titular “Aeneid” is referred to as “pious” for his filial reverence and sense of duty to both family and greater destiny as founder of Rome. It has connotations of duty and loyalty, as well as reverence for the gods.

          • dndnrsn says:

            However, familial duty, loyalty, etc would be tied into reverence for the gods in Greco-Roman religion. Dividing religious and secular strongly is a pretty Christian (pretty Protestant, really) thing.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          Must just be the slice of reality I am exposed to. Normally I’d expect to hear someone described as ‘devout’ if they take their religion seriously but the speaker doesn’t intend any disparagement, and ‘pious’ if they do intend disparagement.

          • Nick says:

            I’d agree that devout has a more positive connotation. I don’t know, though, how much more recent, if at all, the negative connotation of pious is.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        The classic “black people of dogs” breed in racist cirlces is pitbulls.

        I don’t actually know if they are more aggressive than average (heard lots of contradictory accounts), but they’re very strong for their size, and therefore pretty dangerous.

        Now, bull-terriers, that is a true hellspawn breed.

        • Jaskologist says:

          But pit bulls aren’t necessarily or even typically black.

          Further wrinkle: most “black” people are actually brown. Dogs, however, come in legit and distinct black and brown colors (and white and yellow, for that matter).

        • albatross11 says:

          This makes me wonder whether there are good statistics somewhere about distribution of breeds of dog by race of owner….

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Not in my experience!
      It’s obvious that dog personalities differ by breed as well as individual, but I’ve never observed people ascribing them traits based.on color.

    • Nornagest says:

      I don’t know about dogs, but there are some fairly persistent personality stereotypes for coat colors (as opposed to breeds) in cats. They don’t seem to map very well to human racial stereotypes, though: black cats (aloof, mysterious) might be an exception because of their occult connotations, but I can’t draw a line from any other coat color to a human ethnic stereotype, either.

      Well, except maybe for orange cats, who have some of the same stereotypes that human redheads do.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Just generally based on color? Not that frequent in my experience.

      For certain specific animals? You bet. Own a chihuahua around white people and the probability he will be asked if he “yo queiros an EN CHEE LAH DAH” in a Speedy Gonzales voice approaches 1

  31. Well... says:

    Some retiring FBI guy is claiming to be releasing UFO footage and that there was a UFO-spotting division. Those facts by themselves are plausible but beyond that I’m pretty sure this is a grand hoax. Thoughts?

    • Well... says:

      I have to say, I ‘m surprised this UFO story isn’t being talked about more here.

    • CatCube says:

      When I was in the Army, we periodically had training on what to do if you suspected spying. The briefing was given by US Army Counterintelligence agents. They gave us a phone number to call (accessible to the public, as well) and told us that no matter what you reported at that number, it would be investigated. He then said, “If you call them and tell them you saw a UFO, they will believe you. I know this, because I have been sent out to cornfields in the middle of nowhere at 4 in the morning many times in my career.”

      I suspect that if this retiring FBI guy is not completely making something up, he’s just procured files from the FBI equivalent of this. So his “revelations” will be the same stories and videos we’ve always seen and discarded, it’s just that he believes they’re real and is hoping that his position will get them taken seriously.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I mean, the New York Times already ran one of the videos with sourcing as from the DOD. And it’s pretty wild.

      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/16/us/politics/pentagon-program-ufo-harry-reid.html

      And here is an interview with the pilots sent to chase the UFO in the video:

      https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/16/us/politics/unidentified-flying-object-navy.html?action=click&contentCollection=Politics&module=RelatedCoverage&region=Marginalia&pgtype=article

      Articles contain gems such as:

      For two weeks, the operator said, the Princeton had been tracking mysterious aircraft. The objects appeared suddenly at 80,000 feet, and then hurtled toward the sea, eventually stopping at 20,000 feet and hovering. Then they either dropped out of radar range or shot straight back up.

      Under Mr. Bigelow’s direction, the company modified buildings in Las Vegas for the storage of metal alloys and other materials that Mr. Elizondo and program contractors said had been recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena.

      A 2009 Pentagon briefing summary of the program prepared by its director at the time asserted that “what was considered science fiction is now science fact,” and that the United States was incapable of defending itself against some of the technologies discovered.

      I know it has become a joke at this point that the news is so crazy that things which would have blown the world wide open a few years ago pass unremarked now, but seriously, how is this not a bigger deal? The DOD is giving the New York times video of UFOs that are casually outrunning fighter jets, and Senators with oversight over the program are talking about how it appears to be a real thing.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Obviously, the chaos in American domestic politics is all part of a vast conspiracy intended to blunt the impact of releasing the truth about UFOs.

      • Well... says:

        If it’s a hoax, I surmise its origins are higher up than the people discussing it with the press, who seem to believe it’s legitimate.

        • MrApophenia says:

          Yep. From the Post article, the DOD apparently also apparently declassified two other videos shot during military encounters with “unexplained aerial phenomena” but I haven’t seen them posted anywhere yet.

      • engleberg says:

        I can shine a searchlight on a cloud in front of a fighter jet and casually outrun the jet. There was a whole 19th century artform for phantasmagoria- shining slide shows on fog banks. The Germans ran films across searchlights at the start of WWII to showy scary propaganda on clouds.

        Does this crap have any serious military use? Beats me. Maybe someone’s figured something out.

        • MrApophenia says:

          Do those searchlights shined on clouds show up on radar, and have the radar signature match what the pilots claim to have seen, and what the plane’s video shows?

          Part of what makes this story so interesting is that it doesn’t follow the usual UFO conspiracy playbook. There’s visually clear video evidence whose source we actually have verified as the Air Force, and on the record interviews in public with the people flying the planes. The folks running the (relatively low-key, not particularly X-Files-ish) government program are also going on record saying they got a bunch of strong evidence that UFOs are actual physical objects flying around in ways we can’t replicate ourselves. Not “they’re aliens,” but “they’re something other than trickery or swamp gas.”

          That’s… pretty nuts actually.

          • beleester says:

            If I’m reading the article right, it doesn’t match up quite as neatly as you make it sound. Here’s the sequence of events in the 2004 encounter:

            USS Princeton picks up something on radar moving in an impossible way for an aircraft.
            Jets get there, nothing on their radar.
            Princeton says it’s on top of them, so pilots look around and see the UFO hovering above the water.
            Pilots see UFO zip away.
            Princeton detects it again, 60 miles away.
            By the time jets arrive, UFO has vanished.

            So only the first location has the radar and visual contact matching up, and only one of the three radars on the scene detected it. Which makes me suspect that it was a glitch in the Princeton’s radar rather than a real object.

            I think “Princeton had glitchy radar, and one time the glitch happened to line up with [swamp gas/chemtrails/random light source]” is consistent with the story.

          • bean says:

            So only the first location has the radar and visual contact matching up, and only one of the three radars on the scene detected it. Which makes me suspect that it was a glitch in the Princeton’s radar rather than a real object.

            What I really want to know is which radar on Princeton was tracking the thing, and how hard they were trying to follow it. Because if it’s the SPS-49, I’m a lot less impressed than I would be if it was the SPY-1. Of course, if only one of Princeton’s two radars was tracking, then it’s pretty obviously a phantom. Although the lack of radar contact from the Hornets is a good sign of that, too.

          • MrApophenia says:

            Except there’s also the video footage. It’s hard to tell exactly what is in that video, but it’s probably not swamp gas.

            Play out @beeleester’s scenario exactly as written, except at the end when they look at the camera footage, the thing from the radar and the pilot eyewitness claims is also on the tape. Change the scenario result at all?

          • John Schilling says:

            The “video” is actually FLIR, which is deliberately contrast-enhanced to exaggerate small temperature differences. If you think you know what e.g. moonlight reflecting from the sea surface under particular viewing angles and sea conditions looks like and this obviously isn’t it, you’re probably wrong. This sort of imagery requires expert interpretation, not “It can’t be that…”

            Also, the object on radar was at 25,000 to 80,000 feet altitude, the visual/FLIR sighting was at or near sea level.

            So we’re back to one radar saying “something spectacular here”, every other radar saying “nothing here”, and primed eyewitnesses backed by a contrast-enhanced false-color image seeing something spectacular in the general vicinity. I think I’m going to want the expert analysis on that FLIR imagery.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      As CatCube said, it’s not a hoax if he’s sincere. Some people in the federal gov’t have been convinced that UFOs are alien spaceships by the weak evidence we are all aware of.

      • hyperboloid says:

        If you look at MK ultra, or project Stargate it’s obvious
        At least some people in the federal government have been convinced of some truly ridiculous pseudo scientific ideas.

        Relative to the decades of research done by multiple federal agencies on psychic phenomena, the government’s interest in UFO’s seems relatively limited.

        • albatross11 says:

          The thing is, it’s reasonable to spend some resources chasing down very unlikely stuff that could conceivably be real, because you might get a big payoff.

    • Deiseach says:

      Someone over on the sub-reddit suggested the UFO hunting was a cover for funneling money to research on experimental aircraft, which makes sense: do you, at the height of the Cold War, want to tell the world (or the spies whose job it is to find out these things) “Why yes, our base at Bottom Top Sideways Lake is for TOP SECRET HUSH-HUSH WAR PLANES DEVELOPMENT so we can beat those pesky Russkies” or do you prefer to have everyone treating it as a slightly ridiculous, therefore not to be taken seriously, therefore ignored and not investigated by snooping journalists writing stories for those spies to read in their morning papers, endeavour by saying “I can’t say anything official about this (psst, we’re investigating flying saucers, don’t tell anyone)”?

      • bean says:

        The particular program under discussion ran 2007-2012, and appears to have been supported by several elderly Senators who were interested in UFOs. It’s pretty obvious that Groom Lake is an experimental aircraft facility that the UFO people latched on to for obvious reasons. Pretty sure it was to the Russians back then, too. We had more plausible ways of trolling them. Set up a black program, make absurd claims, watch as they flushed money trying to duplicate it.

        • Deiseach says:

          It’s pretty obvious that Groom Lake is an experimental aircraft facility that the UFO people latched on to for obvious reasons.

          Ah, but what if it’s a double-triple-quadruple bluff? The ostensible UFO hunting is to cover up the ostensible experimental aircraft which is actually covering up real UFOs! 🙂

    • Null42 says:

      The truth is out there.

  32. bean says:

    To wrap up South American week at Naval Gazing, we have the second part of Huascar’s tale.
    Starting Wednesday, I talk about armor.

  33. OptimalSolver says:

    If you run all possible computer programs in a given language starting with the smallest, and you set an upper time limit on each program to avoid the underlying halting problem, what are the chances of finding a program that does something “interesting”?

    And what would be a good way to make the interesting/not-interesting decision?

    Assume we’re doing this on a current top-10 supercomputer.

    • Ketil says:

      finding a program that does something “interesting”?

      How would you tell? I.e., what counts as “interesting” to you? If you don’t provide any input, this just amounts to producing a sequence of outputs, you might as well just draw random numbers. What numbers are interesting?

    • johnjohn says:

      Using 1’s and 0’s you could get to hello world in 2^160 iterations

    • TeMPOraL says:

      I believe it’s fundamentally equivalent to asking: given a language (e.g. English), what are the chances of finding an interesting story in a string made from random Unicode characters. You can observe that almost all character combinations are meaningless, and even if you happen to get one made entirely of existing words, you’ll notice that almost all word combinations are meaningless too. And we haven’t even got to the meaningful-but-boring part.

      The same thing holds for programs.

      • OptimalSolver says:

        Short English text strings don’t (usually) produce interesting stories, no, but according to Stephen Wolfram, extremely simple programs can have extremely complex behavior. So I’m not sure if it’s exactly equivalent.

      • James C says:

        One of the shortest famous stories: “baby shoes for sale, never worn.” is 32 characters long, including punctuation. If we ignore capitalisation and include ‘,’ ‘.’ and ‘ ‘ in our character set that means that it represents 1 of (32^29) 4.46×10^43 possible 32 character arrangements.

        It takes a very long time to generate anything interesting at random 🙂

      • kominek says:

        if you can write down a context-free grammar for your programming language, it’s trivial to generate (or enumerate) syntactically valid programs.

        it’d be a bit harder to enumerate ones that were semantically valid-enough to execute, but we can hand wave away all the “random characters” stuff.

    • Scott says:

      This question has been studied pretty extensively—see, e.g., the Busy Beaver competition, or Wolfram’s A New Kind of Science (just scale down Wolfram’s claims of originality and earth-shakingness by a few orders of magnitude 🙂 ).

      Short answer: if by “interesting,” you mean complicated and nearly impossible to predict, then you’ll encounter that almost immediately. E.g. there are 5-state, 1-tape, 2-symbol Turing machines for which already no one has yet understood what they’re doing, and whether they halt or run forever. If by “interesting,” you mean “useful or semantically meaningful to humans,” then you’ll need to go further out in the space of programs, although not impossibly further—e.g. I believe there’s already a 23-state Turing machine that halts iff there’s a counterexample to Goldbach’s Conjecture. If you consider that interesting, then you can derive a lower bound from it on the “probability of interesting behavior.”

      Of course, how far out you have to go will depend a lot on the choice of programming language. A typical higher-level language will make things “better,” in that many functionalities are built in that would be very expensive to express in (say) assembly or Turing machine, but also “worse,” in that the overwhelming majority of strings won’t even compile, let alone produce interesting behavior.

      Scott Aaronson

      • OptimalSolver says:

        It was actually reading an article by Wolfram that lead me to ask this.

        The problem is that he’s seems exclusively fixated on cellular automata, and I’m curious as to how his idea would fair if allowed to stretch its legs in general program space.

        • Scott says:

          As I said, it depends on the programming language. You see the same phenomena with (say) Turing machines, or programs written in a suitable assembly language, that you see with cellular automata—namely, extremely short programs that give rise to complex behaviors that you no longer understand. With (say) Java programs, by contrast, it would take miraculous coincidences to get a program that imported classes, etc. etc. in the right way to compile and do anything interesting at all.

      • vV_Vv says:

        A typical higher-level language will make things “better,” in that many functionalities are built in that would be very expensive to express in (say) assembly or Turing machine, but also “worse,” in that the overwhelming majority of strings won’t even compile, let alone produce interesting behavior.

        But high-level languages typically have a decidable grammar, so you could restrict the generation process to only output valid programs (in some languages the type system has features, such as template metaprogramming, that make compilation undecidable, but you can avoid them and restrict yourself to a decidable sub-language or just add some kind of compilation recursion limit, like compilers do in practice).

        • scottaar2 says:

          Fair point. Do you know of any experiments about what happens when you try that? My intuition is that, even if we restrict to programs that compile, the probability of getting a program that “does something interesting” will still be smaller than with Turing machines, because high-level languages effectively “waste” so many bits of entropy on bizarre goals like human comprehensibility, or interfacing with I/O, libraries, etc. etc. But I might be wrong, or right for some languages and wrong for others.

          • vV_Vv says:

            I don’t know of any experiments.

            I guess that if you just try to enumerate programs in some simple way, you would indeed waste your computation budget on library imports or other boilerplate. If you sample programs, however, you might get something interesting, depending on the sampling distribution.

            With high level languages there is more room to play with the probabilities of the PCFG or whatever sampling process you use, and arguably at some point it becomes cheating. Turing machines or other “Turing tarpit” languages leave less room to include a bias in the language itself or in the sampling process.

    • vV_Vv says:

      If you run all possible computer programs in a given language starting with the smallest, and you set an upper time limit on each program to avoid the underlying halting problem, what are the chances of finding a program that does something “interesting”?

      It depends on the language, but in practice it doesn’t take long, at least for Brainfuck-like languages. If I recall correctly, Shane Legg, one of the founders of DeepMind, did some experiments on that during his PhD while he was working on practical approximations of AIXI, but my favorite example is Nanopond by Adam Ierymenko, and artificial life simulator where you can start with a random population of programs and some of them will happen to be self-replicators.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Interestingly, doing basically this is the key to a very cool complexity theorem.

      THEOREM: There exists a turing machine T (explicitly specified) that, if P = NP, solves 3SAT in polynomial time. (That is: I can write down exactly what program to run, and if and only if it’s possible to do so, that program solves 3SAT efficiently. (Ish.))

      PROOF: Pick some enumeration of TMs M_i. Given some 3SAT problem P

      For i = 1...infty:
      For j = 1...i:
      Run M_j for i steps. If it halts, check if the answer is a correct solution of P. If so, print it and halt.

      That’s it. If P=NP we know that some M_n solves 3SAT instances of size S in p(S) steps for some polynomial P. T above solves 3SAT instances in about p(S)^2 steps.

  34. a reader says:

    @Scott Alexander:

    Because you mentioned “minor updates to the Mistakes”: I observed a possible minor mistake in one of your comments (the response to Grant’s reply) to your post about Damore and women in STEM and differences between sexes, “Contra Grant on Exaggerated Differences”. Imo the post is one of your best, I think you should include it in your “Top Posts”, but in your comment I think you were wrong thinking that before the 80’s, there were more percents of women programmers because women were “banned” from other prestigious professions like medicine:

    Women are less likely to be interested in programming than men. But if you ban the smart women from every other occupation – well, they’ll take it. Once you unban them, they’ll go to other things they like more, like being veterinarians (80% women) and forensic scientists (74% women). My guess is in 1980, neither of those careers had many women in them. Where did all those super-smart women who now dominate the fields come from? Probably places like schoolteaching and programming!

    I was a child in the 1980s, but I remember that both my pediatrician and my ophthalmologist were women. Not in the US – but I expect the US to be more advanced than Eastern Europe.

    I think the real explanation is that before the 80’s kids of both sexes became programmers like they became doctors, looking from outside, without previous practice, but after the PCs became more common, the direct contact with them let “people vs. things” difference (I would rather say “beings vs. things”) manifest itself: some young nerds (most of them boys) fell in love with them, started to code and chose programming like talented prodigies chose music or painting.

    (Sorry if I made any mistakes, English is not my native language.)

    • Ketil says:

      I was a child in the 1980s, but I remember that both my pediatrician and my ophthalmologist were women.

      Sure, they existed. Sorry for the language (and obviously, these are numbers for a single nation), but at the bottom, you have a graph of sex and age of today’s doctors. Someone working as a doctor in 1980 would probably be older than 60, and if the proportions have remained constant, there would be about 20% women among the youngest doctors back then – and slightly lower fractions in higher age groups. (The larger number of women retirees is probably due to longer life spans for women)

      Currently, 60-70% of medical students are women, and most of the male doctors are above 50 – so in a few years, the situation will be the opposite of what it was.

      http://legeforeningen.no/yf/Allmennlegeforeningen/Publikasjoner/Festskrift-til-Almmenlegeforeningens-75-ars-jubileum/Festskrift-til-Allmennlegeforeningens-75-arsjubileum/Okonomi-og-arbeidsforhold/Kvinner-og-menn-i-norsk-allmennmedisin–fordeling-og-rekruttering/

    • 1soru1 says:

      > Not in the US – but I expect the US to be more advanced than Eastern Europe.

      I think this is a fairly common misconception amongst people from Eastern Europe. There is not really a simpler linear axis of progress – the USA is simply more _american_ than anywhere else.

    • a reader says:

      @Ketil:

      You are right. I’ve found a stat about women in medical schools in the US:

      https://www.amnhealthcare.com/uploadedFiles/MainSite/Content/Staffing_Recruitment/Staffcare-WP-Women%20in%20Med.pdf

      Women were 22.4% in ’75 and 45.6% in 2000 (see graph at page 4).

      I suppose the main reason that kept out women back then is that in US they study in medical schools only after college, not, like in Europe, immediately after high school. If an European doctor usually finishes medical school at 24, an US doctor just starts it at same age and finishes it close to 30, isn’t it? Women in the 70’s probably wanted to marry and have their children before 30 (afaik the marriage age raised in the last decades, especially for smart women).

      @1soru1:

      I wouldn’t be surprised, for example, if more percents of women had jobs in my country than in the US in the 80’s – because back then, during communist era, there was a law that everybody must have a job.

      But I would be very surprised if in the 70’s, after civil rights era, the women were (officially or unofficially) banned from becoming doctors. Such a scandal, if real, should have been surely remembered.

      • Women were not banned from being doctors or lawyers, but they were a much smaller fraction of medical students or law students in the seventies than they are now. My guess is that the reasons were less discrimination in admissions than fewer women choosing to pursue those careers.

    • Deiseach says:

      Once you unban them, they’ll go to other things they like more, like being veterinarians (80% women) and forensic scientists (74% women).

      I don’t know, I find it hard to believe that up to 1980 a young woman would have sighed wistfully “Oh I’d really love to be a vet but everyone knows that’s a Man’s Job, but I’ll just have to become a computer programmer instead, since everyone knows that’s a Girl’s Job”.

      I think in part it’s the same transition as women going from being nurses to being doctors; it becomes more acceptable for women to move from the ‘assistant’ role and so women who might previously have considered their options limited to nursing are now studying medicine to become doctors instead. Same with vets. Women would have considered their options limited to being veterinary nurses or vet’s assistants in a small animal practice, but now they can be vets themselves in such.

      Bad Old Sexist Attitudes up to the 80s probably would have preferred a male vet to slog through the muck and deal with large, angry beasts (and that’s just the farmers) – presumably that’s what Scott means by “banning” women from being vets* – and this kind of figure would seem to back that up:

      In 1960, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 98 percent of veterinarians were men. In 2013, of the nation’s 99,720 practicing veterinarians, 55 percent were women, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

      *EDIT: No, this article references “the 1964 anti-discrimination legislation” so yes, there were legal bars to women entering certain careers as well as attitudes of “this is not a job for a woman”. But it still isn’t enough to explain why women decided they wanted to be vets (rather than remain as computer programmers) once the ban was lifted.

      I do think the big difference in getting more women into veterinary medicine was the proliferation of small animal clinics and the move towards those kinds of practices (mainly urban) than the ‘traditional’ large animal practices, as Americans began spending the same kind of money for medical treatment (and looking for the same kind of medical treatment) on their pets as would formerly have been reserved for humans. Small animal practices look like they started taking off in the 90s going by this article from 2010, and I wonder if it’s a coincidence that along with that, the numbers of women entering the profession started to rise?

      This 2003 study claims that:

      In an Australian study of veterinary students and recent graduates, the factors that influenced selection of veterinary medicine as a career were generally the same for both genders, but some differences did come to light. Factors that were of more importance in influencing males to study veterinary medicine were a desire to be independent of supervision and the financial attractiveness of veterinary practice. Factors that were of more importance to females in choosing a career in veterinary medicine included a love of animals, the image of veterinarians portrayed on television, an interest as a child in living things, and the scientific study of disease.

      The problem still remains that women – for whatever reason(s) – are not going into large animal veterinary practices, and that these are suffering a decline that could become serious:

      Only 4% of female veterinary graduates of the class of 2001 in the United States entered “large animal exclusive” or “large animal predominant” practice compared with 13% of male graduates. In contrast, 56% of 2001 female veterinary graduates entered “companion animal exclusive” or “companion animal predominant” practice versus only 40% of male graduates.

      • No, this article references “the 1964 anti-discrimination legislation” so yes, there were legal bars to women entering certain careers

        That doesn’t follow, and I do not believe it was true. The lack of anti-discrimination legislation doesn’t mean that it was illegal for a woman to enter medical school, it only means that it wasn’t illegal for a medical school to discriminate in admissions against (or for) women.

        I believe there were bars to a woman becoming a lawyer in the 19th century, at least in some states, but that’s a long time ago.

      • JulieK says:

        (Tangent) I think the shift to veterinarians mainly treating small animals is much older than that – it’s described in the “All creatures great and small” books, whose author started practicing in the 1930s.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yes, but I do think that it’s only relatively recently that expensive interventions and treatments for animals like pets (and not something like a valuable stallion) became commonplace; people taking out pet insurance for medical insurance for their pets, people willing to spend money on operations instead of having a pet put down, and the rest of it.

          I’m frankly amazed when I read some of the begging letters people put up on social media about medical treatment for their cat or dog – people who don’t have spare money are sinking thousands into a pet and asking for donations for this/to enable them to literally pay rent while they’re paying the vet, instead of “Fluffy has cancer, best thing is to have them humanely put down”.

          Large animal practice would probably have been more profitable, or at least seen as “well, farmers will need you to treat their stock, but how many clinics for cats and dogs can a small town support?”. Small animal practices seem to be the way the profession is going today, and that goes hand-in-hand with more women vets (though again, some of the articles were pointing out that as in many professions, as you get nearer the top of the tree it gets more male: lots of women working in practices, not as many owning their own, and very few on the governing bodies/established big names of the profession).

        • quanta413 says:

          Would this have any relationship to changes in animal ownership among Americans? With horses ceasing to be an important mode of transportation and more people owning pet dogs and cats, it seems like this would lead to a change in veterinarians.

  35. Murphy says:

    re: Obsession with Regression

    Pros: kudos on making sure to refer to “Powerful men” rather than just “men”, “white men” or “cis-het-white-males”, putting this head and shoulders above the majority of such commentary.

    Reading this SA… it makes me think of most times I see prolifers and prochoicers arguing at each other.

    The author seems to have a fairly fundamentally different set of precepts to many they’re trying to aim the argument at. When I’ve seen similar before trying to talk to the person about it is like trying to tell them that baby-eating is not baby-eating because it seems to be very much a fundamental values thing.

    I’ll not get this completely correct since I don’t really subscribe to the precept or have a gut feeling for it but: One set of precepts seems to go something like “there is the totem pole of privilege and reducing the inequality on that pole is an absolute fundamental good while things that increase it are fundamentally bad no matter what”

    Hypothetical:

    So in a hypothetical world where some legal anomaly meant that the law didn’t consider it murder if a trans, black woman killed a white male millionaire in his sleep the people who subscribe to that worldview would side against anyone arguing that the exception shouldn’t be there in law. Because removing it would slightly slightly move trans black women even further down the totem pole of privilege and move white male millionaires slightly further up.

    They wouldn’t see any point and would be actively hostile to it. It isn’t like such murders of powerful men are common while lots of trans WOC die every year so any move to change the hypothetical law is just a hostile move against WOC.

    Someone with precepts more common in the lesswrong style communities is more likely to value consistency in the law in it’s own right. The victim and offenders status on the totem pole of privilege doesn’t get considered a major issue. That murder should be murder no matter the skin color of the offender and victim.

    So you get lots of baby-eater style moments when members of the different groups interact.

    Non hypothetical:

    In the US if a female acquaintance drugs and rapes me it isn’t even legally rape. I can legally be the victim of rape but only if the perpetrator is another male. That kind of thinking seems to trickle down to all the lower-tier offenses. I can be a victim but if the offender isn’t another male, good luck.

    The author makes sure to make it clear that they’re 100% on board with taking male on male rape and male on male sexual assault more seriously…. but sort of goes silent on the other bits. I suspect because legal/social changes that would allow a female to be considered a rapist or social views that take assault by women seriously would push women slightly down the totem pole and men slightly up making it very not-babyeating.

    And such not-rapes and assaults are not even terribly common compared to the reverse anyway so anyone making that argument is just making a hostile move against women.

    So there’s almost an automatic conflict between the people who value universality and consistency for it’s own merits and the people who have a totem-pole view.

    The author even seems to not quite get that many of their audience may not share the totem-pole morality because it’s baked right into their arguments. Things are only a problem if aimed at non-dominant groups etc.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I actually think you’re misreading a much more pragmatic, practical concern as an abstract, precept-based one.

      The problem isn’t (at least primarily) one of status or totem pole position, it’s one of not trusting that the other side is arguing in good faith with their objections, and responding accordingly. I suspect that the thinking is more along the following lines:

      When a privileged class is seeing one of their privileges threatened, one common tactic is to respond, “But what about this incredibly rare edge case that also needs to be protected against? And, sure, in order to protect against that, we would also need to make it much, much more difficult to actually enforce negative consequences for this much more common problem that members of our group are currently getting punished for, but shucks, universality, right?”

      Another big example of this in the current sexual harassment/assault explosion is the concern about due process and protection of the accused against false accusations. From a universal-rules POV, of course you want due process and the avoidance of witch hunts.

      But from the POV above, you might also point out that sexual harassment and assault by men in positions of authority seems to be distressingly common, while false accusations are comparatively rare; trying to protect against the latter is not merely focusing on a less severe problem, but taking most actions suggested to deal with that problem actively hinder your ability to deal with the former, much more severe, problem.

      Where the totem pole comes in is that it is not generally seen as mere coincidence that whenever things start getting uncomfortable for the people at the top of that totem pole, it suddenly becomes really important to focus on points of universal law that, just by happy accident, also lessen the pressure on them in the current situation.

      Or to flip back to your example: Imagine we were in the midst of a nation-wide fad of rich, white men hunting black trans women for sport, The Most Dangerous Game style. This has just been revealed by a series of explosive news stories, and everyone is still reeling in shock and surprise.

      Except for a number of rich, white men, who are arguing for greater legal protections against being murdered by black trans women. And it’s like, sure, ok, in principle that is probably good… but is now actually the time to be hashing out that particular problem? Could there possibly be a more pressing one to solve first?

      • Aapje says:

        When the suggested solution to help black trans women is to exempt (rich white) men from basic human rights, like the right to a fair trial, then of course it is important to discuss the rights of (rich white) men at that time, because they are being removed.

        Human rights pretty much never get reduced by directly arguing that they are unnecessary. The way it almost always goes is that people:
        – present an issue that is supposedly more important than those human rights (usually they frame the former in a way that makes it look worse than it is and frame the latter in a way that downplays its importance*)
        – argue that the only way that the issue can successfully be addressed is to reduce the human rights and that believing that other solutions work better means you don’t want the issue to be solved
        – argue that only the outgroup will be effected by the reduction in human rights

        I think that you are extremely mistaken in thinking that these legal protections are mainly protecting rich white men. When people reduce legal protections to help women, this somehow seems to end up hurting black men disproportionately often. Of course, these outcomes are not being discussed very much, because it would undermine ‘the narrative’ that is used to legitimize these politics.

        You seem to believe the rhetoric that the legal protections mainly protect rich white men, so reducing them will mainly hurt this group. I don’t believe that the facts show this and I think that the people you are allying yourselves with have ‘horseshoed’ so far that they are working to undo centuries of progressive policies in favor of policies that are racist and sexist & that remove the legal protections that protect the commoners more than the elite.

        * For example, by arguing that only rich white men benefit from them; as well as ignoring the many indirect effects, including people getting upset at being discriminated against and fighting back.

        PS. I am not aware of any solid evidence showing that false accusations are comparatively rare. I believe that one can only argue with confidence that it is somewhere between 2% and 90%. Note that most people seem to misunderstand what ‘false accusations’ actually refers to and seem to believe that it only refers to intentionally lying accusers. It actually also includes accusers who are wrong, which is probably the far greater group of false accusers (and also means that there is a large grey area, where the accuser is partially correct/wrong). Research suggests that very high percentages of people are not able to testify accurately (in general), that prosecutors can easily fall victim to tunnel vision, etc; which means that legal protections of the accused are crucial. Without them, we just trade one kind of injustice for the other, even if people act with good intent (which is not a given, because a system with few legal protections allows bad actors to take advantage of that). I believe that centuries of experience have shown that legal protections mainly protect the commoners from being oppressed, not that they protect the powerful from being held to account. It just seems that way, but societies with fewer legal protections actually are much worse at allowing an elite to oppress people.

        • MrApophenia says:

          I wasn’t actually saying I agree with the line of argument presented. I wouldn’t be pro-making it legal to murder the rich, just for the record.

          I do think you can probably find less extreme examples where I’d be more sympathetic to the view, but that’s sort of beside the point.

          What I’m saying is that I don’t think OP is correct that this arises out of some Babyeater/Superhappy impossible divide of foundational values.

          It’s a much simpler cooperate/defect scenario where they don’t want to cooperate because they are pretty sure the other side is engaging in a sneaky defection. It’s not that they disageee with the value their opponents are arguing for, it’s that they don’t even believe that value is what is really motivating their opponents.

          • Aapje says:

            Yes, that assumption of bad faith is common. I’ve seen and experienced it many times.

            However, I think that it is too easy to just claim that the foundational values are entirely the same, but that people are prevented from realizing this and/or accepting the truth because of fallacies in their thinking.

            For example, it seems very common among SJ people to demand radical interventions to achieve equality of outcome, based on beliefs that are anything but proven scientifically. This goes against my foundational value of acting with prudence.

            In general, SJ people tend to consider it reasonable to treat people differently based on their race, gender, etc. For example by supporting affirmative action that advantages all people of a certain race/gender/etc over people with another race/gender/etc. This goes very strongly against my foundational value of not discriminating by race/gender/etc.

  36. Creative Username 1138 says:

    From the predictions page:

    2. No real war (500+ deaths including armed combatants on both sides) in Catalonia in the next year: 2%

    It this a mistake or are you extremely pessimistic about Catalonia?

  37. fahertym says:

    Curious to see what people think about this: https://deep-throat-ipo.blogspot.tw/2017/12/a-helping-hand.html

    TLDR –
    This is a long analysis by an anonymous financial adviser claiming that Alibaba, China’s version of Amazon and one of the country’s biggest companies, is basically a massive government-financed ponzi scheme. The breakdown is very long, but in short, Alibaba’s Chinese shareholders have been selling off the company piecemeal to Westerners over the last couple of years despite the stock’s price skyrocketing. Meanwhile, the company continues to post impossibly amazing profits. If Alibaba was really as good as its numbers suggest, the Chinese government would never let it fall into foreign hands.

    • baconbacon says:

      I will read the piece, but

      Alibaba’s Chinese shareholders have been selling off the company piecemeal to Westerners over the last couple of years despite the stock’s price skyrocketing.

      Isn’t this what you would expect of a healthy company? The original shareholders have to be convinced to sell by high prices, selling off at low valuations would be more indicative of shenanigans.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Selling off by insiders is

        a) extremely logical and something every financial advisor will tell you to do for diversification reasons, and

        b) screamed about by know-nothings as proof that the end is nigh.

    • cassander says:

      ponzi scheme isn’t quite right, but large segments of chinese state owned industry is little more than jobs programs. It’s important to remember with china that the old maoist economy never got abolished, just sidelined. It’s all still there, as inefficient as ever, employing huge numbers of people out in the provinces, kept alive with infusions of money taxed from the more or less capitalist economy that runs in parallel.

  38. gloster80256 says:

    It seems virtually certain to me that once Trump is cornered by (whatever major challenge besets him first – indictment/firing Mueller/sexual assault charges), he will go to war with North Korea to wag the dog and deflect attention.

    There are some fairly plausible arguments to be made for the intervention in the first place, some key players in the administration seem to be arguing for it already (McMaster?) and Americans have historically had a tendency to stick to anyone at the helm during a time of war. Given Trump’s personality and hitherto track record, once he is faced with an existential threat to his presidency, why wouldn’t he take this option? There is no chance he will get impeached when missiles are flying.

    This strikes me as a potentially nuclear scenario and something to be avoided, if at all possible…

    • sty_silver says:

      My best arguments for why he wouldn’t do it:

      1) He’s not smart enough to realize this is his best out
      2) Others talk him out of it
      3) He doesn’t really want to be president anyway

      Not saying any of these is likely. I personally wouldn’t bet on such a scenario (as you describe) happening, but it certainly seems like an enormously real possibility.

      • gloster80256 says:

        The thing is, the buildup is already in motion. Last info I have is that US currently has three carrier groups with their assorted air wings in the area and has just now bumped the number of ground-based fighters. It’s been floated that family members of the servicemen and women located in the South-Korean bases should start getting shipped back home but I’m not sure whether that’s been put into action or not. So it’s definitely well on the table and there is a clique cheering for it.

        I’m willing to believe Trump regrets assuming the office – but being deposed as a loser would bother him much more.

        • Ketil says:

          And in any case….would it really be such a bad thing?

          Although evidence is scarce, everything point to NK being the equivalent of a nation-sized concentration camp, with a regime more cruel than almost anything you can compare it to, and the people suffering starvation, diseases, and all kinds of suffering.

          As long as China could keep their hands off without losing face, the war would be swift and decisive. Casualties would of course be uncertain, but probability of a successful nuclear strike would be low. One can imagine fanatical leaders pushing the button in the face of certain defeat, but I don’t think it is likely – and e.g. the nazis did not use their stockpiles of nerve gas in 1945. And even if used, chances are a rocket will fail or be shot down by ABM systems.

          In contrast to our other wars, a long term insurgency of ideological or religious groups is unlikely, and with sufficient funding (which I think could easily be provided), NK could merge with SK, similar to the Germanies. Even if the NK army turns out to be less demoralized that the Iraqi or Afghans were, it is hard to imagine casualties on the same scale as in and after those wars. Post-war, Korea could become demilitarized, with borders and independence guaranteed by China and USA, to the relief of everybody and their budgets.

          The alternative is the continued hardships of the NK populace, and SK and Japan as hostages, as Kim continues to build his nuclear arsenal and missiles until it is too late to do anything. The west continues “sanctions”, while everybody knows Kim will certainly be the last person in the country to starve, and China can continue to live down the embarrassment of being Kim’s friend and protector.

          • gloster80256 says:

            I completely agree with the analysis of NK as a terrible gulag state. It would be nice to get rid of it. The same however goes for Saddam’s regime in 2003. The cure has serious side effects. And the fallout would be much worse than what happened in the Middle East.

            For starters, Seoul (pop. 25 million) is about 35 miles from the DMZ, mostly within reach of NK’s conventional artillery (around 12.000 pieces in total, not counting rocket launchers, in camouflaged concrete emplacements – there aren’t nearly enough bombs in the US arsenals in the area to even theoretically hit them once). Estimated civilian casualties are in the hundreds of thousands in the first 24 hours. Any attempt to evacuate Seoul beforehand is a war signal.

            NK army numbers about 1.2 million active personnel, with about 6 million reserves. The terrain is mostly mountains and jungle. It’s Afghanistan x100. Only a fairly small percentage of the forces need to maintain their will to resist to turn the North into a quasi-permanent guerilla war zone.

            If the regime falls, millions of starving refugees with nothing to lose will begin pouring into China and SK, creating a massive humanitarian and security crisis.

            And that’s the scenario in which China is cool with a removal of a buffer state separating it from a close American ally, South Korea sucks it up and Tokyo doesn’t end up being nuked.

          • James C says:

            Okay, I have a couple of points I really disagree with.

            the war would be swift and decisive.

            Citation very much needed! North Korea has been preparing for war with the United States for its entire history. They have more than a million soldiers under arms, a terrifying amount of (admittedly aging) artillery and a mountainous nation riddled with underground fortresses. Oh, and nukes. Let’s not forget the nukes. Swift and decisive are not the words I’d use to describe that potential conflict. I’d prefer words like, brutal, attritional or annihilation. Now that’s not saying the US couldn’t win, but I have no trouble believing that hundreds of thousands will die on both sides before the end of the war.

            And even if used, chances are a rocket will fail or be shot down by ABM systems.

            Last thing I read estimated the US is capable of shooting down 1/3 of incoming missiles. As long as there aren’t more than ten. Now I’ll grant you North Korea isn’t likely to hit anything more than the right continent, and even then its dicey. However, a lucky shot kills a six figure number of people.

            a long term insurgency of ideological or religious groups is unlikely

            So the decades of living under a cult of personality and complete cultural isolation from the world will just wash away? If anything North Korea could become an insurgency the likes of which make Afghanistan look like tame. Again, they’ve had decades to prepare against a US invasion. Do you really believe that there’s no plans for a post invasion insurgency?

            And in any case….would it really be such a bad thing?

            Yes. For all the reasons above. Best case North Korea is a paper tiger and folds in a weeks. Worst case, South Korea is wiped from the map, Japan loses cities and the US is bombed by another major power for the first time in its history. Millions die, hundreds of thousands of soldiers are needed to secure the peninsula and the insurgency drags on decades.

            North Korea is an ongoing disaster of a country. The trick, is to somehow fix that without making everything much, much worse.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “Although evidence is scarce, everything point to NK being the equivalent of a nation-sized concentration camp, with a regime more cruel than almost anything you can compare it to, and the people suffering starvation, diseases, and all kinds of suffering.”

            And here we have the problem with doing utilitarianism for other people. As bad as NK is, people generally aren’t killing themselves, which presumably means they would rather be alive than dead.

          • Wency says:

            Agree that invading NK would be a terrible idea, just as pre-emptive strikes are almost always a terrible idea. I thought we had learned this by now.

            I do think the probability of a long-term NK insurgency are low though. It would be a SK occupation, and Northerners would quickly figure out that the SK model works in ways theirs doesn’t. A lot of them have probably already figured this out. I’d expect less opposition than the North encountered in occupying the Confederacy.

            It’s more the risks of Chinese intervention and nuclear retaliation that need to be considered.

            Lumping nerve gas in with nuclear weapons under the label “WMDs” is a historical curiosity and a non-sequitur. NK’s nukes exist for no reason but to to deter this kind of attack. It’s quite a gamble to say they won’t be used.

            There’s also the possibility that the U.S. (or even China) ends up retaliating with nukes if NK uses nukes, in which case all the ideas about doing this for the Koreans’ own good go out the window. Even a more level-headed President than Trump could end up using nukes, for game theory reasons.

            U.S.: Do not use nukes or we will use nukes.
            NK: *Uses Nukes*
            U.S.: If we don’t use nukes, then no one will respect our deterrent, and others will be more inclined to use nukes in the future. Therefore, we must use nukes for the sake of future generations.

            *Uses nukes*

          • gloster80256 says:

            Re: Wency
            Do jungles necessarily need to be tropical? (Asking honestly.) Wiki tells me the forest cover is around 70% of the country’s area. The data seems to be about a decade old, so some deforestation may have occurred since but it’s still a lot of dense vegetation cover. In any case, the critical 80% mountains figure certainly holds.

            I am skeptical about the quick integration – the dug-in partisans in the mountains, under the command of political officers, will not get exposed to the superior southern way of life at all. And the continuing action in the area will make life totally miserable for anyone who stays. And those who leave (total pop.: ~20 million) will be stuck in refugee camps for who knows how long. Re-integrating the population would be an absolutely herculean task.

            But these are both, I think, rather minor rotten olives on the whole giant shit sandwich.

            EDIT: Chinese intervention is also the scariest aspect for me. Also, resulting serious internal political tensions in the US (to put it mildly).

          • DeWitt says:

            I’m just here to second everyone who noted that you’re probably way too optimistic. Your scenario for an invasion of NK sounds like a much more modern version of the Schlieffen plan, and examples of more recent examples are many.

          • Sfoil says:

            One way of looking at North Korea’s defenses is that they are intended to make anything but an all-out attack ineffective or impossible. Their critical facilities are sufficiently hardened and/or hidden (to include tons of dummy sites) to make airstrikes ineffective even if their air defenses are marginal. And it’s worth noting that even marginal air defenses can impose a quite high cost in terms of resources allocated to SEAD (here is a reasonable-sounding analysis of this problem in another context, although air warfare isn’t my area of expertise).

            Covert insertion of commando elements is probably effectively impossible. The DPRK has historically been incredibly difficult to attack in this manner, basically because they have a very effective internal security apparatus. The types of environments special forces have been operating in recently are astoundingly permissive in comparison; the closest analogy would be the Bin Laden raid. Which was a) a one-off event by b) the absolute best men available against an enemy who was c) completely unaware at any level d) using novel equipment. But in order to accomplish anything worthwhile many targets would probably have to be hit.

            Conventional forces would either have to breach the DMZ, (at which point why bother stopping?) or make an amphibious landing that would rapidly develop into a huge battle.

            I suppose something could be done completely at standoff, probably using cruise missiles. But these attacks would probably be ineffective, and the North would likely retaliate by e.g. sinking a patrol boat or shelling across the DMZ. We won’t get a good assessment of the damage done by missile strikes, but we will get a great assessment of the damage done by Northern retaliation. Which might also escalate out of control.

            So to effectively deal with the North you either go big or forget it. And there is zero indication that the South Korean (ROK) government is on board with this. Quite the contrary, in fact. (I think the ROK military would make the attack if ordered, though.) The ROK will absorb most of the “American” costs of a Second Korean War in terms of military and civilian dead and wounded, infrastructure damage, etc. That’s true even if the North Korean nuclear weapons work as intended, by the way. They will also be almost entirely responsible for the ensuing occupation. And again, there’s no evidence that they would cooperate in such an operation at all barring an absolutely outrageous casus belli.

            In my opinion China would almost certainly intervene, by the way. Many interesting things are located somewhat near the Chinese border, e.g the Punggye-ri test site. These sites must be secured by someone if the DPRK government falls, and I don’t think it’s likely the Chinese would sit on their hands.

          • Sfoil says:

            Northern-aligned partisans and their fellow travelers had a huge effect on the South Korean government for decades after the Korean War without ever firing a shot. The various military dictators in charge of South Korea could quite plausibly accuse their opponents of having supported Northern occupation forces in one way or another into the 1990s. Now that the South has a more-or-less functional democratic government it’s not obvious that they should test what effect making a drastic change to the demos has on the kratos.

          • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

            The comparison to the Germanies is naive, sorry.

            The WWII allies had a long history of shared cultural, scientific, educational, economic exchange.

            The languages of occupiers and occupied had long been tought in the other’s schools and were common among the elites.

            The allies held a very fine-grained control over Germany in the first years and every suspicious individual was (albeit often cursorily) looked into (‘denazification’).

            The Germans had no commonly held notion of kamikaze strategies (some fanatics and despaired did, but that faded fast), which are not completely unheard of in the Asian regions.

            There were (Stalin aside) rather sane leaders in place with the allies, who also had already seen one world war in leading positions and another at least as witnesses.

            There was a strong motivation on either side of what was to become later the iron curtain (system competititon) to nourish their former enemy and build up a functioning country asap.

            And still there were years of famine right *after* the war (‘hunger winters’ in ’46/7 and ’47/8).

            That compares to today’s situation — how? Textbook generals, meet reality.

            The current pack of scoundrels struggling to hide the shenanigans they did to access power dubiously elected president will achieve something akin to (Iraq x vietnam)^2. But nobody will look into Trump dealing Russia sanctions for election fraud, Russia sanctions for nuclear tech for VEA, the True Pundit hoax with leaks from FBI, FBI & NYPD sabotaging Comey, etc.. It will work as expected for them, while they will not have to suffer the consequences.

            Trump will try to show off his guts. And many others will have to lose theirs in order to prove it. (paraphrasing Kinnock).

            EDIT: I wonder if there are Asian disgruntled losers that would flock to a glory promising resistance akin to ISIS. A suitable ideology should be not too difficult to cook up.

          • Ketil says:

            Thanks for the comments! Let me try to argue my case a little. Let us just agree that it is a requirement that the Chinese agree to at least stay out of it – nobody is willing to risk full scale nuclear war. And also that the international community will foot the bill for post-war repairs and repatriation.

            * War will be swift
            I think recent wars show that a technologically advanced side (meaning the US and allies) quickly eliminates any organized resistance. Air fields will be gone, radar and communication destroyed or jammed, anything remotely resembling a link in any chain of command will be bombed to gravel. Iraqi forces were in much better shape, and they collapsed almost immediately. Hundreds of thousands may die, but NK has practically nothing to touch the allied (for lack of a better word) military forces.

            * Long time insurgency
            I don’t think this is really likely. Perhaps people do feel loyal to their glorious leader, but neither nazis nor Japanese seemed eager to stick to the person cults that used to be so important, and ditto for Saddam. Will underfed and underequipped NK soldiers hide in caves to avoid food and welfare in a fight for the good old days? I doubt it. Who will supply them? Using what money? The army is large, but Saddam had 650 000 troops – better equipped and better fed than the NKs, for all the good it did him.

            * Retaliation against civilian targets
            The artillery (and possible civilian bombardment) is a potential pain in the neck, and so are the nukes. I couldn’t find any good numbers on NK artillery capacity – nor US capacity to knock them out. But although NK personnel may be drilled in bombarding Seoul in case of war, the civilian population should get at least some minutes to reach the nearest shelter. So we could hope for being at the low end of the estimated (the one cited on Wikipedia) of 3-30k casualties (what’s the citation of hundreds of thousands?). And I don’t think any barrage would be remotely effective, there will probably be a lot of confusion and no communications or orders, and at least a lot of the heavy/long range equipment taken out. And I doubt NK has ten nukes (and really, intercepting only one in three? In 1993, Patriots took down between 40 and 90% of SCUDs, depending on whom you trust. And Iron Dome claims 90% intercept rate. Must be that ashkenazi advantage :-), but there is admittedly always a chance of a missile getting through, and that it happens to be the one carrying a nuke. But at least with an ICBM you would have time to get any targeted population into shelters.

            * Nukes and other WMDs
            I only raised this point because people in a situation where they would obviously lose the war had the option to do substantial damage, and refrained. Perhaps a fanatic would push the button in the face of certain defeat – but I think history shows that many wouldn’t.

          • A1987dM says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            As bad as NK is, people generally aren’t killing themselves, which presumably means they would rather be alive than dead.

            Dunno about NK specifically, but that’s not always a valid argument, e.g. certain people don’t suicide just because they think that if they do they’ll go to hell and if they don’t they might eventually go to heaven (i.e. their preference ordering is heaven > oblivion > life > hell but they don’t believe oblivion is possible).

          • John Schilling says:

            And in any case….would it really be such a bad thing?

            Millions of violent deaths are usually considered a bad thing, yes.

            Although evidence is scarce, everything point to NK being the equivalent of a nation-sized concentration camp, with a regime more cruel than almost anything you can compare it to,

            Yes, yes – we’ve heard all this before.

            The actual evidence is that “concentration camp” is applicable to roughly 1% of the population of North Korea, with the remaining 99% living in conditions roughly equivalent to Haiti, Ethiopia, or Afghanistan. Impoverished, with some danger of starvation in the case of drought and near-certainty of violent reprisals if anyone in your family goes out of their way to piss off the local warlord, but most people get by. Including most of the millions who are going to die in your glorious crusade.

            As long as China could keep their hands off without losing face

            ,

            Which you’re going to mention in passing and then never again, because you don’t have a clue how you’re going to keep this from turning into a literal game of Global Thermonuclear War. Instead, you’re trusting that to the keen diplomatic aptitude of the Trump Administration.

            the war would be swift and decisive.

            The decisive part would be swift. After the first few weeks at most, the North Korean regime’s ability to project power would be shattered. Unfortunately, it only takes North Korea a few hours to kill millions of South Koreans, millions of Japanese, and perhaps half a million Americans. And the kind of “swift decisive” war you are proposing will leave the Kim regime with no uncertainty about their need to go all in with swift and decisive retaliation.

            Then we get to the part where we have to deal with a million or more die-hard loyalists who are dug in deeper than ever were the Dwarves of Moria, which probably isn’t going to be fast. Probably most of the millions of North Korean dead are going to come in this phase, though you’ll probably break seven figures just in the quick, decisive part.

            Casualties would of course be uncertain, but probability of a successful nuclear strike would be low. One can imagine fanatical leaders pushing the button in the face of certain defeat, but I don’t think it is likely

            You are expecting them to, what, march off politely to their cells under the Hague? Commit suicide?

            If North Korea’s leaders believe that they are certainly going to go the way of Gaddafi, then it is they are going to kill Donald Trump and Moon Jae-In and that idiot Ketil and the population of San Diego and as many Japanese as they can manage just on general principles.

            But the nukes are going to start flying before then, when they believe that death isn’t certain. They are, rightfully and plausibly, uncertain that that we are really willing to tolerate millions of deaths just to say “we defeated the Evil Kim Dynasty!”, and they are going to ramp up the cost of that war in stages while preserving the option of dialing it back down if we decide not to go all the way through with the megadeath version.

            The North Koreans are actually pretty good at that; it’s something they’ve had a great deal of practice at, and any sensible US or RoK administration should be able to deescalate any confrontation before it goes nuclear. The Trump administration, maybe not. The Ketil administration, almost certainly not.

            And even if used, chances are a rocket will fail or be shot down by ABM systems.

            North Korea’s short- and medium-range missiles have demonstrated 80% reliability in combat use, and American-made missile defenses are about 75% reliable against short-ranged missiles in low-intensity combat. North Korea’s long-ranged missiles are probably only about 50% reliable in combat, but the only US defense system capable of engaging them has demonstrated only ~50% reliability in idealized testing and has never seen any sort of combat use.

            North Korea has an estimated 30-60 nuclear missiles, of which maybe half a dozen are the long-range sort capable of reaching cities on the US mainland. Do the math. Then factor in the hundreds of missiles loaded with nerve and mustard gas, the thousand or so conventional-warhead versions for harassment and defense saturation, the twelve thousand tubes of artillery (also equipped with nerve and mustard gas), the two hundred thousand light infantry trained in infiltrating South Korea by land, sea, air, and tunnel, the several million regular army and militia playing defense, the twenty thousand or so hardened underground sites to conceal all of this and the unknown tunnel network connecting them.

            Bad as the North Korean Regime is, your naive fantasies of Operation Korean Storm: This Time We Won’t Wimp Out would lead to something far worse. And that’s even granting your cavalier assumption that China stays out of it. The Kim Dynasty, unlike Saddam Hussein, has been preparing for exactly this war for sixty years, and unlike Saddam Hussein they do have actual nuclear missiles to fight it with.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            John: Suppose you’re President, and, for whatever reason, have decided that North Korean regime change is among your highest goals. (I hope you’ll agree that while the propaganda is worse than the reality, the reality ain’t good.)

            Do you have any idea of how to do it without millions of deaths? Ideally without waiting centuries either, or assuming post-singularity tech advances? What avenues seem the most promising?

          • baconbacon says:

            Do you have any idea of how to do it without millions of deaths? Ideally without waiting centuries either, or assuming post-singularity tech advances? What avenues seem the most promising?

            Declare NK a free trade zone. Any goods shipped out of Korea will be free of any tariffs or taxes, and all non military goods shipped in likewise.

          • bean says:

            Suppose you’re President, and, for whatever reason, have decided that North Korean regime change is among your highest goals. (I hope you’ll agree that while the propaganda is worse than the reality, the reality ain’t good.)

            I suspect this is one of the cases where the answer is simply that North Korean regime change is a bad goal, and one we need to abandon. Getting rid of Kim isn’t worth the cost, to us or to the North Korean people.

          • John Schilling says:

            Do you have any idea of how to do it without millions of deaths?

            This is roughly equivalent to asking Winston Churchill in 1940 if he has any idea how to get the Nazis out of Poland without millions of deaths. So we’re dealing with extreme long shots.

            I’d at least look at trying to subsidize and “corrupt” the NK black market, which is already a huge part of the real North Korean economy. Even small amounts of prosperity could give the North Korean people much more freedom of action, we could bundle tools for effective social and political action, and we could perhaps use it to establish ties and an alternative path for North Korean elites who could take over for the Kim Dynasty after the revolution. But that revolution would probably be megadeath bloody no matter how much we try to finesse it into a peaceful “color revolution”.

            Also, I’d have the State Department buy me five years by any means necessary, and use those five years to completely rebuild the US theatre and national missile defense architectures from scratch. We’ve learned enough to maybe build highly reliable systems, but that’s an expensive proposition with no payoff next year or the year after that, and for as long as North Korea has been seen as a nuclear threat there has been an almost panicked belief that North Korea might nuke us this year or the next and so there’s nothing for it but to buy more of the crappy defective GBIs we’ve been using all along and hope the latest software patch will fix everything.

            If we’re going to do this, I want five years to prepare to do it right.

        • bean says:

          Last info I have is that US currently has three carrier groups with their assorted air wings in the area and has just now bumped the number of ground-based fighters.

          That was an exercise in runningoperating carriers together. Roosevelt is in the Persian Gulf now, and Nimitz is back home. Reagan’s based in Japan, and she’s back in port now too.

          • gloster80256 says:

            Oh, good. That’s a modicum of relief. Do you have any info on the plan to repatriate the family members of the soldiers stationed in the South?

          • bean says:

            Sorry, no. That’s not something I’d expect to cross my radar, while I had seen an article on the three carriers, which described it as an exercise. That, and the number, meant it was probably achieved by overlapping deployments. That turned out to be the case.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            an exercise in running carriers together

            Considering the navy’s recent history, you might want to rephrase that.

          • bean says:

            Good point, and just inside the edit window, too.

          • The Nybbler says:

            By “exercise” do you mean a training exercise, a sword-rattling exercise, or both?

          • bean says:

            Definitely training, possibly sword-rattling. At the same time, getting three carriers in the same place at the same time isn’t easy, so this might well have been planned a couple years in advance. As it stands, the sword-rattling part is over. I’m not sure we even have a carrier at sea in Westpac right now.

        • mupetblast says:

          I’m either incredibly naive or about to offer a useful POV (or both!), but from my perch at South Korean-owned Samsung Research America in Mountain View there’s not a scintilla of fear about what’s happening over there. There’s no concern “in the air” around the office.

      • shakeddown says:

        I wouldn’t trust (1). Trump is dumb in some ways, but mostly in him not wanting to see things that would be uncomfortable. And while he’s not exactly brilliant at the best of times, declaring war for popularity isn’t that complicated a plan.

      • WashedOut says:

        Consider the following:
        1. US war with NK would very quickly result in the biggest humanitarian disaster in recent memory.
        2. US can’t engage in NK hostilities without some level of support from China (however implicit).
        3. China doesn’t benefit from a post-Kim Jong Un NK. They are probably the 2nd biggest loser if that scenario eventuates.
        4. Trump doesn’t need a war to take the edge off his chaos at home – he already has control of the levers of misinformation and well-poisoning.

        For my 2c the only way to war is if NK strikes first and strikes hard. KJU’s currency is in the narrative of near-godlike power, not the actual demonstrations of military victory. Therefore it is in KJUs interest to maintain the existing charade for as long as he can, rather than get annihilated in the drop of a hat in front of his grovelling populace.

        • Is there any possible scenario in which China fights North Korea–perhaps in which the U.S. and China jointly fight North Korea and if they win China gets to annex it?

          • TheEternallyPerplexed says:

            China is trying to keep down the number of NK refugees already. It won’t want to feed the whole nation. And US won’t allow it to get NK minerals so easily.

            Other scenario: after the NK rulers have fallen and miraculously the country is not completely devastated, there will be a failed state with big businesses from US and China trying to the most of the mineral rights, supported by clandestine operations from government and civilian troops from both nations. A proxy war of secret services (with Eric Prince finally getting official licence for a black-ops ’60es style private spy/sabotage/assassinate organisation). An ongoing war to make big deals — ‘Trump & Blackwater unlimited’.

          • Sfoil says:

            Comedy option: Go-Guryeo irredentism

            “Korea” used to extend substantially north of the Yalu river, and the area is still heavily populated by ethnic Koreans (Joseon-jeok). Lately China’s attitude towards them has taken a rather assimilationist (albeit non-hostile) tone. As the rightful representative of the pure and pious 민적 on this earth and the spiritual successor of both Go-Guryeo the old kingdom of the mountains and rivers and Balhae, its flourishing descendant in the wake of foreign betrayal. the DPRK does what it must to preserve the Korean race and reclaim the lands seized by the teeming Han hordes in olden times.

            The DPRK plays a dangerous game of subversion and then incursion. They rely on a combination of Chinese strategic inundation (maybe they’ve decided it’s time to invade Taiwan? In the wake of a failed intervention in Africa? Then there’s a serious revolt in the west? While Russia kicks all of the Chinese out of its Far East?) and lack of coordination (how quickly can the Chinese reinforce that border anyway?) and the threat of asymmetric damage (nice cyberpunk metropolises you got there, fancy trading them for a third-rate dump like Pyongyang?) to secure territorial concessions, all the rage in the wake of Crimea. After getting a double-pinkie-swear-cross-my-heart from the Yankee-“Hangook” axis that they won’t get stabbed in the back after shifting everything away from the DMZ, of course.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Only way I can think it could happen is if Kim sends off a nuke in the wrong direction. And I can’t see why he would.

    • baconbacon says:

      , some key players in the administration seem to be arguing for it already (McMaster?) and Americans have historically had a tendency to stick to anyone at the helm during a time of war.

      Evidence for this? LBJ couldn’t even win the democratic primary while involved in the Vietnam war, the presidency shifted from Democrat to Republican in the first election after WW1 and the Korean war, Bush 1 was ousted after 1 term shortly after the gulf war was over. There really don’t seem to be a lot of elections during a war to build this list from, there is FDR and Bush 2, and I guess LBJ’s first election.

      • gloster80256 says:

        I’ll flip this – besides LBJ, which president was ever ousted or failed to secure a second term during an ongoing hot war?

        The Korean flip occurred after four terms of FDR/Truman + Truman’s second term and the war was going very poorly at the time. FDR got four terms out of it, Bush 43 won his second term effectively on the back of Iraq and Afghanistan.

        If nothing else, a war is very good excuse for the Congress to “postpone” an impeachment, no matter how strong the case. If there is a case to be made for the strike on it’s own terms, why not roll the dice?

        Anyway, there is a certain argumentative benefit to falsifiable predictions…

        • baconbacon says:

          The null hypothesis would be something like, there is no benefit to being in a war to re election. You stated a positive assertion, you aren’t “flipping” the question but are acting as if I must be arguing the opposite, rather than the null.

          To address the question FDR didn’t get 4 terms during a war, he got his 4th term during a war, and the previous 3 elections that he won occurred before the US entered war. So you have a guy that was popular/skilled enough to get elected 3 times when not at war, attributing the war to his final victory seems like an unnecessary explanation.

          Bush 43 won his second term effectively on the back of Iraq and Afghanistan.

          He did? Do you mean he won his 2nd term on the fact that they were ongoing, or on the perception that things were going well? What is your evidence for this being the driving factor over other factors (like the economy)?

          • gloster80256 says:

            I don’t really feel like putting up a rigorous argument here. It’s a prediction. In due time, it will either come true or not and that will clearly settle matters (though my greatly preferred outcome would be to prevent it by shouting about it loudly…)

            I’ll just note that FDR got his third term in 1940, when the conflict in Europe was in full swing, with France defeated, Britain under siege and US already effectively at war with Germany in the Atlantic.

            I don’t have quantification for Bush II, but I do seem to remember non-negligible talk of “not rocking the boat” post-invasion.

          • baconbacon says:

            I’ll just note that FDR got his third term in 1940, when the conflict in Europe was in full swing, with France defeated, Britain under siege and US already effectively at war with Germany in the Atlantic.

            And I will note that FDR won in 1940 with part of his campaign being built on promises to keep the US out of that war. including statements like

            “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”

            “I am fighting to keep our people out of foreign wars. And I will keep on fighting.”

            “The first purpose of our foreign policy is to keep our country out of war.”

            quickly
            googled source

          • gloster80256 says:

            Fair enough. But the mechanism I’m arguing for isn’t jingoistic – it’s not about Huzzah! Let’s go kill some (insert here)! It’s rather “don’t switch horses mid-race”/don’t disrupt the leadership in an emergency situation. So FDR posturing for peace doesn’t negate this effect.

          • Iain says:

            The sample size is not large enough to conclusively demonstrate that war-time presidents get reelected. There is, however, plenty of evidence to show that presidential popularity increases during wars. (George W. Bush got a big bump at the beginning of the Iraq war. Wikipedia has a few more examples.) It would be quite surprising if higher popularity did not correspond to a better chance of winning reelection.

            Hopefully this all remains theoretical.

          • baconbacon says:

            Fair enough. But the mechanism I’m arguing for isn’t jingoistic – it’s not about Huzzah! Let’s go kill some (insert here)! It’s rather “don’t switch horses mid-race”/don’t disrupt the leadership in an emergency situation.

            If its just that then you have Hoover and Carter ousted during a crisis. Eventually you have either broadened the definition enough to provide counter examples, or narrowed it so much that it provides no real footing for analysis as far as my historical knowledge goes (so a 50 lb bag of rock salt with that one).

          • baconbacon says:

            @ Iain

            If you look at the Bush graph you link the only lasting bump he got was from the 9/11 attacks. Launching the war in Iraq got him about 6 months of breathing room, capturing Saddam half that at best.

          • gloster80256 says:

            Neither Carter or Hoover are really comparable scenarios. I’m also not saying that it’s a surefire method – merely that it improves one’s odds.

            I will concede that your are out-arguing me here – but going to war in a tight spot, given the political configuration of the moment, still seems like an eminently attractive option for the Trump administration.

          • Iain says:

            @baconbacon:

            It’s hard to argue about Bush’s counterfactual approval ratings, so let’s assume what you say is true. Six months of breathing room at the right time can easily be the difference between winning or losing reelection.

            Put it this way: there is enough evidence for the proposition that starting wars is good for US presidential popularity to make it reasonable for Trump or his advisers to believe it. That seems like all that is required to justify gloster80256’s argument. Discovering after the fact that you are right, and wars don’t really guarantee reelection, would be cold comfort.

          • baconbacon says:

            Six months of breathing room might be enough at times, if you assume no long term costs of starting the war. Less than 9 months after Bush’s Iraq bump his approval ratings were the worse of his presidency to that point. Its hard to disentangle the trend, because he ratings were 90%+ after 9/11, and so were bound to fall, but they fell low enough (and crashed again to new lows after Saddam was captured) to at least surmise that the war cost him in the long run.

            This might leave a window for Trump to push for war near the election in 2020 to try to capture this wave, but he would probably need > 37% approval ratings to make that worthwhile or would have to believe he would get a much larger bump than the ~ 12 pt bump that Bush got. He would also have to time it really well, as Bush’s ratings were falling quickly by June after an April invasion. That would basically put Trump in the position to be announcing war in August or September 2019, when (with current ratings) he might not be getting out of the Republican primaries.

          • Iain says:

            There are other timeframes in which Trump might want a boost to his popularity. Consider the (unlikely) hypothetical in which the Democrats win the House and Senate in 2018 and start making serious moves towards impeachment. At that point, a short-term popularity spike might start to look pretty good as a self-defense mechanism.

            To be clear, I am not predicting that Trump will do this. I hope that he (or, maybe more realistically, the people around him — looking at you, Mattis) would have enough sense and decency not to send America to war for short-term political gain. All I’m saying is that, of all the reasons to think Trump won’t start a war as a shiny diversion, “it wouldn’t work” is one of the less reassuring.

          • gloster80256 says:

            Also, he doesn’t need to win an election, necessarily. He may just need to stave off impeachment. For which purpose this is ideal.

          • Nornagest says:

            I trust Mattis more than anyone else in Trump’s cabinet and more than most previous SecDefs, but short of crossing the Potomac with an armored division, he does not have the authority to say “no” to Trump if he wants to initiate military action.

          • Iain says:

            Mattis doesn’t have the legal authority, of course, but he’s in the best position to talk Trump out of an ill-advised war.

          • hlynkacg says:

            …and while he may not have the legal authority he does have the de facto authority.

          • Protagoras says:

            Technically, the President doesn’t have the constitutional authority to declare war; Congress does. Could the SecDef not in principle resist an order from the President to initiate military action on the basis that the President is exceeding his authority?

          • John Schilling says:

            Congress doesn’t have to declare war for the President to wage war; it is sufficient for e.g. someone else to declare war on us. And the War Powers Act clearly gives the president to order whatever military action he believes is necessary for the immediate defense of the United States against any enemy that was rude enough to attack us without first declaring war.

            Military officers can disobey orders they know or reasonably believe to be illegal, but an order to launch a nuclear attack on North Korea isn’t inherently illegal even if it comes in advance of a declaration of war. It may be illegal for other reasons, so if Trump calls the JCS and says “I need a boost in the polls; go nuke Pyongyang”, the missiles probably won’t fly. If he’s suitably thoughtful and ept in first setting the stage and then phrasing the order, then maybe they will. This is Donald Trump, so I’m not betting either way on that one.

            Also, the order to launch a nuclear strike doesn’t go through SecDef Mattis, but does go through the JCS, so that’s where you’ll have to look for someone with the stones to say “No”.

          • CatCube says:

            I don’t think that Secretary Mattis (or the JCS) has to play games about “What can I legally do?” to stop a truly ill-advised war. The President is the Commander-in-Chief, but he still needs funding from Congress for military action.

            If Mattis and/or some members of the Joint Chiefs resign rather than initiate a war, that’s likely to result in a collapse of Congressional support. Recall that in the early ’90s, Bill Clinton was forced to back off from complete integration of homosexuals into the compromise of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” because the Joint Chiefs threatened to resign and he didn’t want to deal with the political fallout.

            Note that I’m talking a conventional conflict here, which is what the original post was fretting about. If Trump ordered a nuclear strike out of the clear blue sky, obviously there’s not enough time for resignations to affect the political landscape. However, I think that if he did something that bonkers, the JCS is likely to refuse on the grounds that the order is illegal, and demand a court martial to determine the legality. OTOH, if Trump is ordering a strike because NORAD is tracking inbound missiles, that’s another matter.

          • John Schilling says:

            The President is the Commander-in-Chief, but he still needs funding from Congress for military action.

            The missiles are already bought and paid for, as are their command and control systems, and the military personnel who would be ordered to fire them do not generally respond to direct orders by rationalizing, “the congressional budget authorization which led to the procurement of this missile didn’t say ‘for the purpose of nuking North Korea’, so I will refuse the order to nuke North Korea”. If Trump orders the launch, and budgetary arguments are all you’ve got, the missiles will fly.

            Three months later, when the Army is busy digging Nork partisans out of caves and tunnels and the ready stockpiles of food and ammunition have been consumed, Congress could refuse to pay for more and leave the soldiers in the field to die. Or it could simply cut off their pay. These are not realistic prospects.

            It is possible that Congress might vote to impeach Trump for nuking North Korea with missiles procured under a ‘not for the purposes of nuking North Korea’ budgetary authorization, but that only comes into play after he’s gone and done it.

          • CatCube says:

            @John Schilling

            You’re conflating two different scenarios. Recall that the original post didn’t posit that Trump hears voices and fires Minutemen at North Korea, it was “start a war”. I don’t like the guy, but I’ve not seen evidence he’s Literally Hitler, either (note that I’m using the word “Literally” literally, as that’s the level it would take to launch an unprovoked nuclear attack). Given that, I’m going on the assumption that the war would start conventional. I agree that it could plausibly become nuclear once a conventional war has started.

            Under the assumption that Trump seeks to start a conventional war, I don’t think he’s going to get very far if Mattis resigns rather than go