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OT92: Ocean Thread

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread (there are also hidden open threads twice a week you can reach through the Open Thread tab on the top of the page). Post about anything you want, ask random questions, whatever. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server. Also:

1. This is your last chance to take the 2017-2018 Slate Star Codex reader survey. I will be closing it tomorrow.

2. New ad on the sidebar: Shearwater, a Boston tech startup that helps universities run mentorship programs, is looking for software engineers.

3. Happy new year!

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971 Responses to OT92: Ocean Thread

  1. j1000000 says:

    Anyone have any book recommendations? I’m not talking “best of 2017,” I’m talking the best books you’ve ever read. I’m trying to be online less this year.

    I’d read any book of any type — sci fi, mystery, history, memoir, poetry, anything is good by me.

    • engleberg says:

      The Berlin Project– Gregory Benford. Amazing on building nukes. Never thought SF could still be done this well.

    • lvlln says:

      My favorite novel ever is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. The film is probably more famous and quite good, but I thought it came nowhere close to capturing the magic of the book.

      I’ve been listening to Island by Aldous Huxley after seeing it mentioned here. Not done, so can’t say how much I recommend it yet, but at the least, about halfway through I’m finding its (supposed) insights into the human condition to be far more impressive than what I expected from a book from 1962, when I think the science around things like psychology, meditation, and psychedelics aren’t quite where they are now (though perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, since the science around those things have progressed very slowly, if at all, overall).

      Last year, I listened to Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, and I can’t recommend it enough. I plan on actually reading it eventually, because the writing is really masterful. That said, Jeremy Irons was an absolute delight to listen to in the version I listened to.

      Perhaps a bit dated and also perhaps not so useful for most people who are already likely to read this blog, but I enjoyed both Freakonomics and Superfreakonomics by Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt thoroughly when they came out way back when and helped me to think about things in a behavioral economics sort of way.

      My favorite Shakespeare play is 12th Night, Or What You Will, and I think it’s criminally underrated, at least compared to his other more famous works. The 90s movie starring Helena Bonham Carter is quite good, and not a bad way of consuming the play, but I quite enjoyed reading it. It’s a really fun, lighthearted story with lots of funny twists and situational irony.

      If you like Major League Baseball at all, I recommend Moneyball by Michael Lewis, though, like Freakonomics above, it might be dated because its unusual-for-its-time ideas have already seeped into our culture so thoroughly. I haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t comment on that.

    • littskad says:

      Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series. Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun. T. W. Korner’s The Pleasures of Counting. Glen Cook’s Black Company series.

    • schazjmd says:

      I strongly recommend Thomas Perry’s Jane Whitefield series. Jane (who is half native american) is a guide, as she calls herself — someone who helps people in trouble disappear from their old lives. They are truly fascinating, lots of woodlore and Seneca history while still being fast-paced adventures. Her methods and tricks for establishing new identities and for not getting caught in your new life are fun to learn about. Perry made a point in the series to differentiate between what was possible when the series began (1995) and how much harder it became post-2001. There are eight books in the series — I just wish he’d write more.

      • engleberg says:

        Perry’s Butcher’s Boy series is excellent. Best I’ve read in that genre (smart violent criminal loner) since The Name of the Game is Death. Better some ways. Stephen Barnes Casanegra was the cleverest hip-hop novel ever, but had worrying touches of conscience.

    • methylethyl says:

      The Yearling –Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. I was lucky enough to stumble across it instead of being assigned it in school. I’ve always loved it.

      H.L. Mencken and Hilaire Belloc are always fun to read– I love their essay collections. Even enjoy listening to people read Belloc on librivox.

      P.G. Wodehouse— it is baffling that anyone could be so prolific, write so well, and be so hilarous, for so long. Makes me ill in large doses, same as cake and ice cream. So fun, though.

      I’ll likely lose you here, but you did say “anything”, so some of my other all-time-favorite reads (so much that I’ve read them multiple times) include:

      Weeds of the Northeast –Richard H. Uva. Really is just a very thorough field guide. I wish I knew why I find it so enthralling, but it is one of the books I never intend to part with.

      The Septic System Owner’s Manual–Lloyd Kahn. Probably moot if you haven’t a septic system, but it is weirdly charming for a book about sewage disposal. I think it’s the cartoon illustrations. For a year, even my five-year-old was in love with it, and we would read sections at bedtime and pore over the diagrams together. YMMV.

      Primitive Technology— David Wescott. The how-to manual for atlatls, bow drills, beehive houses, and other fun things. Of course, you can find all that stuff on YouTube these days. But if you’re trying to get away from the screen…

      Wild Fermentation–Sandor Ellix Katz. How to make booze, sauerkraut, pickles, gingerale, and other delicious microbe-laden foodstuffs. Fun to read, and also had a lot of fun trying some of the instructions– some tasty results, some terrifying ones. All good fun.

      Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers— Stephen Harrod Buhner. Oddly, I’m not a beer person. We only tried a couple of the recipes here. But the book was a very enjoyable read. Sort of a love-letter to fermented beverages and history of brewing, with recipes.

    • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

      The Phoenix Legacy trilogy by M. K. Wren. (Science fiction.)

      The Riddle-Master trilogy by Patricia A. McKillip. (Fantasy.)

      The Shockwave Rider by John Brunner; also Born Under Mars, The Long Result, Times Without Number, and perhaps The Stardroppers, though they’re all much lighter reading. (Science fiction.)

      (EDIT: John Brunner’s work varies a great deal, a lot of it I really disliked, especially The Sheep Look Up which for some reason is better known than many of my favorites. So if you’ve read one or two of his books and didn’t like them, don’t take that as definitive.)

      Too Many Magicians by Randall Garrett. (Fantasy.)

      • engleberg says:

        The best Garrett stuff I’ve read is Takeoff and Takeoff Two, but then I haven’t read his old Asteroid Belt civilization stories.

    • For poetry, some suggestions:
      Kipling’s collected poetry
      Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry
      G. K. Chesterton’s poetry, especially the “Ballad of the White Horse.”

  2. Deiseach says:

    Short animated version of An Béal Bocht/The Poor Mouth by Myles na gCopaleen/Flann O’Brien/Brien O’Nolan, done by TG4 (Irish-language TV station here). English subtitles available, don’t worry about not understanding the language.

    There’s a lot of in-jokes in the novel about a particular strain of Irish biographical/autobiographical material that was produced at the height of the Language Revival, where the authentic native peasant and of course Gaelic life was one of wretched poverty and misery, which comes through in this adaptation. There’s a very great deal left out of course – it’s hard to compress something like that into half an hour and get in all the allusions and nuances; half the joke about the Great Gaelic Féis the main character’s grandfather puts on to attract the urban Irish-speakers is (a) the assumed names given to some of them are, for instance, names of tunes like “the stack of barley” and “the west wind” (b) poking fun at the kind of pen names assumed by urban Irish-speakers during the Language Revival, where they did give themselves names like “Máire (Mary)” (for a male writer) and “The Hawk” – but it’s funny and close enough to the main story.

  3. Mark says:

    The fact that the title of the 2018 SSC survey post was “Please take the 2018 SSC reader survey” as opposed to “2018 SSC reader survey” repelled me, and I didn’t take the survey.

  4. Deiseach says:

    My God, Scott! I had no idea you people were so depraved and debauched! Those infamous cuddle puddles were nowhere near as innocent as they sounded!

    Others are very heavy on drugs and women and usually end in group “cuddle puddles,” a gateway to ever-so-slightly more discreet sexual encounters.

    Absolutely hilarious pearl-clutching article linked over on the sub-reddit. Did you know, for example, that some people to go to Ibiza to have promiscuous sex and indulge in drugs?

    I mean, I’ve only known about that since the 90s when the club/party scene really took off as cheap holiday destination for young Brits/Europeans, but it seems to be news to Miss Emily!

    Still, the vast majority of people in Silicon Valley have no idea these kinds of sex parties are happening at all. If you’re reading this and shaking your head saying, “This isn’t the Silicon Valley that I know,” you may not be a rich and edgy male founder or investor, or a female in tech in her 20s.

    The Bay Area – Sodom and Gomorrah By The Sea! All the good, respectable sons and daughters of honest toil who dwell there having no idea of the depravity in their midst – I am metaphorically rolling around on the floor clutching my sides, here.

    “Rich, socially liberal people like to have lots of sex’n’drugs, and rich men can easily find attractive young women to attend their parties and hook up with” – like, did she not read The Great Gatsby in school? This has been going on forever.

    • Nornagest says:

      Has the word “bro” just lost all meaning?

      • toastengineer says:

        It’s the feminist-y left’s equivalent of the alt-right’s “cuck,” an insulting term that sums up everything they don’t like about the Hated Enemy.

        • albatross11 says:

          Also like “cuck” in that it’s a marker for people whose writing is probably going to be a waste of your time to read.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Best I can tell, “Miss Emily” is mostly offended by the fact that rich NERDS are having the crazy sex-n-drugs parties (where there’s affirmative consent for kissing and no cheating; spouses are fully involved). When it was just stock traders, that was OK.

      And as I also pointed out on the subreddit, she claims the “rank and file” men are involved too, but mentions none. (Because of course in reality the rank and file men aren’t invited to such things, the elite men have their standards)

      She also complains there’s not enough homoerotic action:

      It’s worth asking, however, if these sexual adventurers are so progressive, why do these parties seem to lean so heavily toward male-heterosexual fantasies? Women are often expected to be involved in threesomes that include other women; male gay and bisexual behavior is conspicuously absent.

      My personal guess would be that there are, in fact, OTHER parties that Miss Chang and her friends haven’t been invited to where that sort of thing goes on.

      • toastengineer says:

        Best I can tell, “Miss Emily” is mostly offended by the fact that rich NERDS are having the crazy sex-n-drugs parties (where there’s affirmative consent for kissing and no cheating; spouses are fully involved). When it was just stock traders, that was OK.

        I don’t think so. It’s just that the core of feminism is the (oftentimes justified, let’s not forget) fear of powerful men, and right now the SV startup nouveau-riche are the prevailing archetype of the powerful man, esp. in the circles these folks run in. If coke-snorting bankers were still the popularly-perceived captains of the modern world they’d still be targeting them.

        • The Nybbler says:

          It’s nerd hate.

          Rich men expecting casual sexual access to women is anything but a new paradigm. But many of the A-listers in Silicon Valley have something unique in common: a lonely adolescence devoid of contact with the opposite sex. Married V.C. described his teenage life as years of playing computer games and not going on a date until he was 20 years old. Now, to his amazement, he finds himself in a circle of trusted and adventurous tech friends with the money and resources to explore their every desire. After years of restriction and longing, he is living a fantasy, and his wife is right there along with him.

          Married V.C.’s story—that his current voraciousness is explained by his sexual deprivation in adolescence—is one I hear a lot in Silicon Valley. They are finally getting theirs.

          The men then end things, several using the same explanation. “They say, ‘I’m still catching up. I lost my virginity when I was 25,’ ” Ava tells me. “And I’ll say, ‘Well, you’re 33 now, are we all caught up yet?’ In any other context, [these fancy dates] would be romantic, but instead it’s charged because no one would fuck them in high school. . . . I honestly think what they want is a do-over because women wouldn’t bone them until now.”

          (and on and on)

          • Wrong Species says:

            Yup. Nerds aren’t supposed to be in positions of power. They’re supposed to be doormats only used when the cool kids need them. Silicon Valley really messed up the status quo. God forbid nerds want to attain happiness.

          • albatross11 says:

            The more generic version of this: The Wrong Kind of People are winning (getting rich, becoming powerful, being visibly successful, having a happy life, etc.) That’s probably a story that’s been of interest to the Right Kind of People (who were falling in status or power or wealth) forever.

            Think of the well-born having to put up with upstart nobodies who’d made their fortune in trade. Or old-rich families dealing with industrialists who’d come from nothing and gotten rich.

          • Zorgon says:

            Yup. Nerds aren’t supposed to be in positions of power. They’re supposed to be doormats only used when the cool kids need them.

            The idea that any nerd that steps out of this prescribed line is irredeemably evil is the primary plot element of the much-feted Callister episode of Black Mirror.

            I think keeping an eye out for this attitude in particular is going to be important in the years to come. I see no evidence that the imminent culture war pendulum swing back to the right is going to be any friendlier to nerds.

      • baconbits9 says:

        My personal guess would be that there are, in fact, OTHER parties that Miss Chang and her friends haven’t been invited to where that sort of thing goes on.

        Dear Diary: Went to Silicon Valley, couldn’t find any gay orgies, why is that? Off topic, spent a lovely evening in San Francisco at a nice little cafe. What a delightful city.

    • Lillian says:

      Did you know, for example, that some people to go to Ibiza to have promiscuous sex and indulge in drugs? I mean, I’ve only known about that since the 90s when the club/party scene really took off as cheap holiday destination for young Brits/Europeans, but it seems to be news to Miss Emily!

      There was even a silly pop-song about it in 1999! We’re Going to Ibiza, by the Vengaboys.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Ibiza’s less well-known on this side of the Atlantic, I guess.

      Perhaps Vanity Fair’s been taken over by the Pilgrim.

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      You mean to tell me that there are poly people having sex parties and taking drugs in San Francisco?

      I am shocked, shocked to find that there is gambling in this establishment.

      • m.alex.matt says:

        I thought people doing drugs and having strange, new kinds of sex was something that had been going on continuously in San Francisco since 1967.

      • Deiseach says:

        Worse even than that, Ozy! Straight guys like to fool around with lots of pretty women before settling down, and they think they can put off marriage until later than women can or would like to do!

        I know, like myself you would never have expected such a thing 🙂

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          And sometimes the parties that have a lot of straight men at them don’t exactly have great attitudes towards women and queer men!

          I’ll give you a moment to absorb this shocking revelation.

    • S_J says:

      That story reminded me of various stories I’ve read about the elite of early-Imperial-Rome.

      Admittedly, what I read was a handful of novels that might be called historical fiction…but the sexual antics of various holders of the name/title Ceasar look very similar to the descriptions of those parties.

      As you say, this appears to be nothing new. The wealthy and powerful of Renaissance Italy likely behaved that way. I’m certain that every branch of the Royal Families of Europe has a few stories like that in their history.

      I wouldn’t be surprised to hear such stories from the mining-town-booms of the 1850s in California and other parts of the Western US. Likewise with the Roaring Twenties, in New York City.

      Come to think of it, this story could be re-written without much effort by changing the drug-of-choice to some sort of alcohol, and the milieu to the Kennedy family during the Presidency of JFK.

      It seems to be a regular feature of American culture to imagine that our Our Elites are Better. This article comes off as a shocked realization that this may not be true about the Silicon Valley Elites.

      • quaelegit says:

        On the Julio-Claudians — it’s important to keep in mind that most sources we have were written by political enemies. For example, Tacitus and Seutonius were writing under the patronage of later Emperors (who would want to delegitimise the Julio-Claudians to help solidify their own rule) and later historians were mostly Christians (who definitely had no love for J-C’s or the first century Roman Elite in general). I’m no historian either, and it’s quite plausible that there was a lot of decadence in high Roman society at the time, but I think a lot of modern fiction takes the wild stories told by Seutonius et al. uncritically.

        For a similar example, it’s pretty much impossible to get the story straight on Empress Wu because all of the sources are so obviously biased (Mike Dash wrote a great essay on her: https://mikedashhistory.com/2012/08/11/the-demonization-of-empress-wu/)

        Edit: not that this really affects you’re overall point, I just had to get the pedantry off my chest. 😛

        Oh also:

        “Our Elites are Better” is something I also see fairly often in American history, but I’d imagine it’s pretty widespread, right? Most people probably want to believe their elites are leading society well (and behaving in a way deserving of their power/status). (Although now I’m thinking of lots of counterexamples… *shrug*)

        • Yosarian2 says:

          Yeah. There’s also a big issue where middle age Christian writers had to explain why, after Rome became Christian, the western Roman empire collapsed, and were often debating against people who argued that the Roman empire collapsed because Rome abandoned their traditional gods. So the medieval Christian writer’s response was usually something along the lines of “Rome fell because Romans were too immoral”, usually with a lot of dubious anecdotes about the “sexual immorality” of Romans.

    • Iain says:

      There is some tiresome straw-manning and selective quoting going on in this thread. This isn’t just about nerds having sex, and how terrible that is. The article is clear from the beginning:

      If this were just confined to personal lives it would be one thing. But what happens at these sex parties—and in open relationships—unfortunately, doesn’t stay there. The freewheeling sex lives pursued by men in tech—from the elite down to the rank and file—have consequences for how business gets done in Silicon Valley.

      … all the way to the last sentence:

      The problem is that weekend views of women as sex pawns and founder hounders can’t help but affect weekday views of women as colleagues, entrepreneurs, and peers.

      Sex parties are fine. A culture where attendance at sex parties is simultaneously expected and harmful to the careers of female entrepreneurs is not fine:

      Married V.C. admits he might decline to hire or fund a woman he’s come across within his sex-partying tribe. “If it’s a friend of a friend or you’ve seen them half-naked at Burning Man, all these ties come into play,” he says. “Those things do happen. It’s making San Francisco feel really small and insular because everybody’s dated everybody.” Men actually get business done at sex parties and strip clubs. But when women put themselves in these situations, they risk losing credibility and respect.
      The party scene is now so pervasive that women entrepreneurs say turning down invitations relegates them to the uncool-kids’ table. “It’s very hard to create a personal connection with a male investor, and if you succeed, they become attracted to you,” one told me. “They think you’re part of their inner circle, [and] in San Francisco that means you’re invited to some kind of orgy. I couldn’t escape it here. Not doing it was a thing.” Rather than finding it odd that she would attend a sex party, says this entrepreneur, people would be confused about her not attending. “The fact that you don’t go is weird,” the entrepreneur said, and it means being left out of important conversations. “They talk business at these parties. They do business,” she said. “They decide things.” Ultimately, this entrepreneur got so fed up that she moved herself and her start-up to New York and left Silicon Valley for good.

      When people claim that the lack of female entrepreneurs in tech is not solely meritocratic, this is the sort of thing that supports their case.

      Is this behaviour new? Of course not. But it’s a problem in every other industry where it happens, and it’s a problem here. If Silicon Valley is going to progressively disrupt stale old paradigms and lead us into the glorious meritocratic future, maybe it can try starting here.

      (Now, maybe the article overstates the centrality of Silicon Valley sex parties, and exaggerates the problems facing female entrepreneurs. I have no personal experience here. But it’s disappointing that the only part of this article many of us seem to care about is the part where Somebody Says Something Mean about Nerds on the Internet.)

      • The Nybbler says:

        There is some tiresome straw-manning and selective quoting going on in this thread. This isn’t just about nerds having sex, and how terrible that is.

        She sure spills quite a bit of ink on that subject. It’s quite important to her.

        The freewheeling sex lives pursued by men in tech—from the elite down to the rank and file—have consequences for how business gets done in Silicon Valley.

        And this is a blatant smear. Not one man from the “rank and file” is mentioned.

        The article is a double-barreled smear — one, on Silicon Valley elites for having sex parties which sound pretty similar to the sort of things elites have been known for millennia. Except with affirmative consent for kissing, oddly. The article makes it out to be especially bad for these particular elites to be doing so because they didn’t get any sex in high school. Two, by association, on the rank and file men in tech in Silicon Valley, even though they aren’t invited to these parties.

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          There is really, really no shortage of sex parties in San Francisco to which rank-and-file techies can go if they want to. We literally close down a street once a year so that people can have a kinky sex party on it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I know infamous ex-rank-and-file-techie James Damore was spotted at that one (I gather it was rather a violation of etiquette for the spotter to post his pic on Twitter). But they’re not the kinky sex parties that the writer was talking about.

          • Randy M says:

            That seems besides the point of the criticism Iain unscores, namely that networking happens at elite sex parties for men only. That rank an file men have the opportunity to attend sex parties elsewhere doesn’t really bear on the question of whether they are a part of perpetuating some kind of misogynist techie-sex culture or not.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Would you say that the San Francisco kinky party scene is part of San Francisco’s LGBT scene, even when a supermajority of the activity at a party is male dom/fem sub?
            I’ve noticed here that kink parties feel a need to signal how LGBT they are despite that obvious fact. 🙁

        • Iain says:

          And this is a blatant smear. Not one man from the “rank and file” is mentioned.

          This is false. Search for “another married colleague approach her” for one example. More importantly: to read this as an smear on the rank and file, you have to ignore the majority of the text. See, for example, this bit:

          Still, the vast majority of people in Silicon Valley have no idea these kinds of sex parties are happening at all. If you’re reading this and shaking your head saying, “This isn’t the Silicon Valley that I know,” you may not be a rich and edgy male founder or investor, or a female in tech in her 20s.

          There are ways in which Silicon Valley’s sex culture has ramifications at the rank and file, but this article is clearly about the elite.

          I’m not claiming this is a perfect article. I’m claiming that it identifies a real problem, which a depressing number of SSC commenters are choosing to ignore or downplay because they feel kinship with the people involved. It is true that similar problems exist in other places; that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem here just because nerds are involved.

          • The Nybbler says:

            This is false. Search for “another married colleague approach her” for one example.

            The position of this other married colleague is not given. Nor is her boss of the rank-and-file; she’s an “executive assistant”, making her boss an executive.

            More importantly: to read this as an smear on the rank and file, you have to ignore the majority of the text.

            It does not make it less of a smear that she casts broad aspersions then spends the rest of the article backing them up with narrow examples. It makes it _more_ of a smear that she does so.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I am confused.

        Attending the sex parties makes them not worth investing in, and attending the sex parties makes them uncool and then not worth investing in?

        Maybe that is the dynamic, but it seems kind of post-hoc. If you don’t get investment – and most people don’t get investment – you can always blame the culture, either because you don’t attend sex parties, or because you do.

        Does anybody have statistics on, say, the odds of a women entrepreneur getting investment compared to a man, given roughly equal experience?

        ETA:

        My prior is that the statistics won’t vary much, because it is my experience that our culture blames sexism when women get negative outcomes regardless of the proportionality of those outcomes. For example, a woman running for office in the US is more likely to be elected than a man running for office, yet we blame sexism if a woman loses, even though she is less likely to.

        ETA 2:

        On further consideration, if it does hold up, I would have a follow-up question: Would a woman dom have a different experience than a woman sub? I am assuming BDSM plays a part in these parties, because the BDSM crowd is pretty much the only group that does such parties in my area

        • Iain says:

          This article seems relevant. From the conclusion:

          Third, and most interestingly, venture capital financing does indeed impact the performance gap. The performance of female-led startups is markedly worse than that of male-led startups, unless they’re financed by VCs with female general partners. Then the difference disappears. Those VCs are either better at selecting women-led projects, or better at advising them, or both.

          • albatross11 says:

            This Paul Graham essay discusses some very limited evidence that the VC process is biased against women founders.

          • Thegnskald says:

            If male-run VC companies invest preferentially in female-led companies, you would expect exactly that result, because they would invest in a higher proportion of low-value companies run by women than by men.

            In other words – this could be explained by sexism favoring women, rather than sexism against them.

            (I am not saying it is, because the key information when it comes to obtaining investment is odds of investment, not necessarily success afterwards.)

            ETA:

            Albatross11, that metric suggests VC companies with a woman partner are more biased against women than those without, using Iain’s data. Which begs the question of whether the company looked at in that article has women partner(s).

          • The Nybbler says:

            Paul Graham’s essay suggests that bias against women in the selection process should manifest as better performance by women who are selected. Iain’s article agrees, and goes on to say that the likely issue is poorer evaluation of female-led startups by male VCs. What it carefully tiptoes around is that by the assumptions made earlier (and in Graham’s essay) this indicates bias towards female-led startups by male VCs (but not by female ones)

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I wonder if women founders are any more disposed to go after mysterious “revenue-generating” projects instead of the latest push-around-wheelbarrows-of-monopoly-money scheme.

          • Yosarian2 says:

            In other words – this could be explained by sexism favoring women, rather than sexism against them.

            Or, it could provide evidence for the phenomenon the article is claiming exists. If male VC investors actually do tend to invest in woman based on those woman having sex with them at sex parties or whatever, then that might mean that the woman the choose to invest in may not be the best options, which would make the outcomes of those investments systematically worse even if they aren’t investing in that many women.

            I have no idea if that’s what’s happening here or not, just thought I should point out the possibility.

      • albatross11 says:

        I’m a little confused by the claim you’re making (or the author of the piece is making). Is it:

        a. Women founders who go to the sex parties lose out on VC funding?

        b. Women founders who don’t go to the sex parties lose out on VC funding?

        The quote you shared above supports (a) but not (b). Though I’d expect there to be some benefit to women going to the sex parties via making connections to VCs in ways that anyone who’s not an attractive woman would have a hard time doing, and I don’t know how those two balance out.

        The other point is that men who go to sex parties and rack up high numbers of notches on their bedposts see women as sex objects and then don’t see them as valuable coworkers. That seems plausible, but it’s not clear to me that it must be true. How would we tell if it were true or false?

        (The fact that at this sex party, the very powerful and wealthy men seemed to be being pretty careful to make sure they had consent before doing anything, and to make sure their wives knew what was going on and were okay with it, doesn’t exactly re-enforce a model of these guys as seeing women as sex toys. OTOH, maybe the sex parties where the guys are behaving badly are harder for a journalist to get invited to.)

        • John Schilling says:

          I’m a little confused by the claim you’re making (or the author of the piece is making). Is it:

          a. Women founders who go to the sex parties lose out on VC funding?

          b. Women founders who don’t go to the sex parties lose out on VC funding?

          It could plausibly be that women founders lose out on VC funding period, because sexism, but that sexist VCs hold out the false promise of funding to entice women founders to sex parties. Almost certainly this is the case for some sexist male VCs; the question is one of degree, and that’s damnably hard to answer from cherrypicked anecdotes.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          The article says both (A) and (B) and it seems to say that (A and B) is worse than either one by itself.

          I think it is possible to make sensible claims along these lines, but the article doesn’t try, because it is written in bad faith. One problem is that some women believe (A) and some believe (B). They choose to sell sex or not-sex under false pretenses. If women’s attendance doesn’t matter, that’s good, but probably men’s attendance does matter. Men who attend have an unfair advantage not just over men who decline, but also over women. You could spin this as pressure on men to attend, but you could also spin this as an unfair advantage over women.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Maybe if they hadn’t spent the last decade shitting on nerds and Nice Guys we would be more sympathetic. It’s clear we’re the outgroup and there’s no reason for us to care about the latest Very Important Issue(based on a few anecdotes) when we’ll get treated like scum no matter what.

        • Ozy Frantz says:

          Women who found tech startups are mostly female nerds. A dynamic where hot girls get invited to sex parties and get to do lots of networking there disadvantages female nerds, most of whom are as weird and unattractive as male nerds.

          Unless by “nerd” you meant “male nerd,” in which case it would probably be helpful to specify in the future.

          • Wrong Species says:

            When article after article talks about “nerd entitlement” and “nerd misogyny”, I’m pretty sure they’re not talking about self-hating lesbians.

          • Ozy Frantz says:

            So your logic is “I don’t care about the problems of nerdy women, because some other completely unrelated women dislike nerdy men”? That is certainly a principle.

          • Aapje says:

            @Ozy Frantz

            I can’t speak for Wrong Species, but I do understand a frustration with serious issues for a large group being ignored, while relatively less serious issues that affect a fairly small and overall pretty well-off group get treated as major issue to be solved very quickly.

            Imagine being in a culture where the problem of CEOs not getting a lot of time with their kids is seen as a major crisis, but poor people who have the same problem because they have to work two jobs get:
            – no recognition that they also don’t get to see their kids very much
            – no recognition that their situation is worse, because unlike CEOs, they don’t have the money to mitigate some of the downsides (like hiring nannies)
            – portrayed as being lazy moochers who have much more time to play with/care for their kids, even though the facts are otherwise

            The problem here is that if you signal boost or even just give legitimacy to the parenting problems of CEOs (which are an actual issue), you automatically legitimize the rest of the agenda of those who care about CEOs, which consists of ‘class warfare’ (in my made up example).

            So in this scenario, proclaiming concern about CEOs is not harm free, but actually results in harm to poor people, because the people who you empower by doing so, use that power to harm poor people. Similarly, legitimizing the issues of the small group of female tech entrepreneurs can strengthen an anti-nerd culture, creating more harm than dismissing the issue, which strictly speaking is unfair. However, given people’s irrationality and biases, acting deontologically unfair may be the most fair utilitarian choice.

            Note that I feel that our different views on this issue are reflected in your choice to call yourself a feminist, despite disagreeing with many of the strong biases against men in the feminist movement, while I call myself an anti-feminist.

        • Viliam says:

          Same here. There are only so many times you can tell me “nerds are subhuman garbage” before I stop listening and reading your webpages full of ads.

          And if it is about women being insufficiently represented among the top 1%, then excuse me, but the problems of the top 1% are nowhere near the top of my priority list.

  5. johan_larson says:

    What’s the dirtiest, nastiest, most disreputable thing you can do in our society without breaking the law?

    Serious answers only, please.

  6. Droch says:

    Does anyone know logic/math oriented brainteasers and problems, especially if they are probability oriented?

    An example of what I am looking for is the one in the Jane Street ad in the sidebar.

    • littskad says:

      You might like Frederick Mosteller’s Fifty Challenging Problems in Probability. Dover has a very cheap version.

    • RavenclawPrefect says:

      /r/mathriddles on Reddit is my favorite source for math problems in general (I’m biased since I moderate it, but I also don’t know of any better resource which is freely available online, and I’ve looked a fair bit). Some recent probability-themed posts (scroll back and/or search for dozens more): 1 2 3 4

      Another good source would be http://wiki.xkcd.com/irc/Puzzles (also not probability-specific, but with a number of such problems).

  7. AlesZiegler says:

    Weird thought just occured to me after reading several articles on US tax reform. Btw. as non-American I find many features of this debate nearly incomprehensible and very boring, which is not what I expected from major public policy initiative of Donald Trump (its positive surprise). Anyway, my main point is that most persuasive argument for Trump’s tax reform is what everyone cites as charge against it, namely, that it will increase public debt. My thoughts on this are strongly influenced by Eurocrisis.

    Argument would be as follows: Great Recession revealed that Fed acts de facto mainly as guardian against inflation and financial instability. It failed to take agressive steps to loosen credit even in conditions of high unemployment and low inflation, despite its legal mandate to fight unemployment. See whole Scott Sumner for extended version of this argument. Also, I recall that lot of research popped up lately on negative welfare effects of unemployment, which showed that they are worse than was previously thought. That means “political burden” (not really the right word, but I dont know better) of increasing aggregate demand and thus employment falls in US on fiscal policy more than was previously thought, and also that probability of Fed having political will to restore order during some panicky sell-off of US debt has risen, and I would rate it as quite high even before Great Recession. Hence increasing future deficits seems paradoxicaly like reasonable insurance policy against possible future demand drought.

    Not sure I buy this argument myself.

    • John Schilling says:

      Not sure I buy this argument myself.

      Since you seem to place zero weight on the negative consequences of excessive debt, it is unsurprising that you find deficits a “reasonable insurance policy” against other economic ills. Setting your house on fire is a reasonable insurance policy against ennui and boredom, if you ignore the negatives of setting your house on fire.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      If you’re getting this from Sumner then you also have to reckon with his belief in monetary offset– i.e. the Fed either wants there to be more aggregate demand or it doesn’t; if it doesn’t, it will counteract whatever added demand your deficits provide and fiscal stimulus will be futile; if it does, it has the means to boost AD using monetary stimulus only, and fiscal stimulus will be superfluous.

    • baconbits9 says:

      It failed to take agressive steps to loosen credit even in conditions of high unemployment and low inflation,

      If you read Sumner you see he says that they aren’t “aggressive enough”, the Fed clearly made aggressive moves when considered against their own history.

  8. df45 says:

    Is there value in formally diagnosing emotional problems? Every once in a while I’ll hear about some emotional disorder and a lot of the symptoms sound eerily familiar. Is there any point in following up on a disorder that sounds like it describes what I’m experiencing? I’ll still have the same collection of problems whether I group them together and throw a label on them or not, what would I gain by having a formal diagnosis of something?

    A second related question: Is there any sort of universal diagnostic test? Something that would ask me hundreds of questions about every conceivable aspect of my life, then say “here are some things you might talk to your psychiatrist about.”?

  9. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Now that Star Wars is grossing $1 billion domestic/film rehashing the superweapon beats from ANH and RotJ, do you think Time-Warner or Universal could be convinced that they’d make more than $1 billion/film with a Lensman adaption?
    After all, surely an escalating arms race would have more sense of wonder for audiences than only the villains having a superweapon and the same things happening with it every time?

    • John Schilling says:

      The relevant figure isn’t Last Jedi‘s $billion-plus, but John Carter‘s $284 million on a $263 million production budget. I suspect the latter would have done better if they’d been allowed to use “Princess” and “Mars” in the title, but even so. Retro SF doesn’t score gigabucks (see also The Rocketeer, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow)

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Triplanetary is radioactively retro, but I’m not convinced that applies to the main series.
        Of course that doesn’t matter if the Warner or Universal exec you offer the spec script to pattern matches “old SF” to “money-losing John Carter of Mars” rather than “profitable Star Trek”.

        • John Schilling says:

          “Star Trek” hasn’t been “old SF” since 1979, and it took a lot of effort to get Paramount to sign off on the risk of TMP. Since then, “Star Trek” has never been more than five years old.

          Everything E.E. Smith ever wrote, is ancient in calendric and cultural terms, and unfilmable as a big-budget motion picture.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            OK, so I’m too ancient at heart to understand the first thing about marketing fiction. 🙂

        • Lillian says:

          Triplanetary is mostly fine as originally written, before Smith ham-handedly edited it to try and make it fit with the Lensmen universe. The main issue for a modern audience is the main female character Clio Marsden is a stereotypical damsel in distress and pretty much useless, but that can be fixed. Easiest way would be to have her be a scientist who contributes to Conway Costigan’s observations of the Nevians and their technology, and also the one who makes the chemical weapon that allows them to escape.

          • Sfoil says:

            The main issue for me was that the Solar System is secretly controlled by an anonymous cabal of spies headed by an eugenically superior technocrat who systematically uses blackmail to control “front” organizations like the U.S. Senate. This is portrayed not even merely as inevitable, but as actually desirable. There’s also a remarkably casual attitude towards weapons of mass destruction, especially chemical agents, which the hero employs as a sort of superpower. I mean, you could make it work, but a lot would have to get redone.

          • Lillian says:

            Okay admittedly a modern audience might baulk at the heroes wiping out an entire Nevian city with poison gas to cover their escape, followed by the Boise nuking another city in order to force the Nevians to come to terms. It didn’t occur to me at first because i happen to share Smith’s cavalier attitude toward weapons of mass destruction. Also frankly i don’t have any problem with the actions of the heroes. The Nevians started it by taking out an entire fleet as well as the city of Pittsburgh completely unprovoked, so i think it’s entirely reasonable for Triplanetary to respond in kind.

            As for the cabal of spies that secretly runs everything, it doesn’t really strike me as plot critical element, as evidenced by the fact that i had completely forgotten about it. The movie can get rid of it and still be a faithful adaptation.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            I’m not sure about “systematically”. I recall Samms using blackmail once and the victim was an unambiguous villain. Plus, I don’t think your characterization of the US Senate as a “front” under Triplanetary’s control is accurate. The Cosmocrat party was aligned with Samms but that wasn’t exactly a secret and they weren’t in power until the very end of that arc of the story.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Funny, I was thinking that the quandary of how the Patrol can tilt the US election to the Cosmopolitans (I wouldn’t call them “Cosmocrats”) when they don’t want to violate ethics to defeat the evil Nationalists would be a good way to make 2018 audiences see Samms as a hero.

      • baconbits9 says:

        How do you count the War of the Worlds remake that made ~800 million?

        • John Schilling says:

          War of the Worlds gets remade about once a generation; doing so on a blockbuster budget in 2005 was about as big a deal as making a Star Trek movie in 1979. The last prior incarnation was either the 1989-1990 television series if you go by name, 1996’s Mars Attacks! and Independence Day by plot.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If you are taking ID as a follow up it is 40+ years after the original film and set box office records.

            I don’t know how you classify “retro” sci fi, but it seems like it is going to be a niche genre by definition, which is rarely going to end up broad appeal.

    • Nornagest says:

      I think that arms race, in a faithful adaptation, would come off a little too campy on film for modern audiences. An unfaithful one might have legs, but if we’re throwing out the extreme Golden Age camp there’s nothing to distinguish the setting from any other space opera besides the name.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        It’s not clear to me what you’re envisioning the difference as.
        Maybe I’m an idiot at marketing, but I felt that the arms race is campy in the same way Star Wars is, not more so in a peculiar Golden Age way.
        Also, the planet-busters don’t start getting made until Grey Lensman, so the real hump to get over in a faithful adaptation is how interstellar Civilization gives every Lensman unlimited authority because they’re dudes who have been screened by the equivalent of Starfleet for incorruptible pureness and then given a badge of office by angels. And we initially see them use this authority as judge, jury and executioner against space heroin dealers.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’m not sure how much better I can articulate it, but the weapons and power supplies and corresponding one-upsmanship — especially in Grey Lensman and later, yes, but there’s also an early uptick in Triplanetary, which to be fair you could excise from the timeline with little trouble — give me the same feeling as that line in The Rocky Horror Picture Show about “a laser! Firing a beam of pure antimatter!”

          Objectively that stuff’s no sillier than e.g. the radium rifles in A Princess of Mars, or for that matter the lightsabers in Star Wars, but for some reason Burroughs’ silliness feels appealingly kitschy to me and Smith’s actually strains my suspension of disbelief. Maybe it’s just that Smith dwells on it so much more.

          But you’re right, a faithful adaptation would also be Problematic as hell and that might end up being the bigger issue.

          • Sfoil says:

            Smith’s technobabble has always felt far more pretentious to me than Burroughs’ (or Lucas’), as well. I agree it has to do with the amount of space Smith devotes to explaining it; there’s an uncanny valley effect where he abandons pretext of simple plot axiom/background without actually managing to convince the reader of plausibility.

            Plus there’s an undertow of what I’m going to uncharitably refer to as “fetishization” of all this gee-whiz technology in Lensman that’s not present in stories like John Carter that just use them as pieces of the setting — technological improvement/power creep is important to the Lensman universe in a way it just isn’t in those other stories.

          • engleberg says:

            Doc Smith lived through some really fun and exciting arms races staged on top of the greatest technological improvement in human history. It is a pity the Cold War arms race was so dull and creepy that it spoils our ability to enjoy this aspect of his books.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            Curious; I was thinking about the same uncanny valley effect just the other day regarding a book I’m reading (Giants’ Star) but the Lensman series was one of my mental examples of getting it right. 🙂

            I mean, sure, there’s an intertialess drive, and some of the consequences of that are discussed, but it isn’t as if he tries to explain how or why it works: it just does. A negasphere is “negative matter” but there’s no talk about quantum inversions or whatever, it just works. And so on. None of it is plausible, but it is all very cool.

            … I’m pretty pro-technology, mind you.

    • InferentialDistance says:

      I’d rather have Trigger, Madhouse, or Production I.G. do a proper full-series anime adaption. Imagine a 3 to 4 part OVA for each book…

  10. spinystellate says:

    I’m looking for a new source for U.S.+Global news for the new year. Desired features:
    1) No/few ads; I am willing to pay for good journalism
    2) No/little clickbait
    3) Minimal culture war coverage
    4) Moderate ideological lean (alternatively, multiple sources with ideologies that cancel out)
    5) Helps me understand what parts of human civilization are getting better vs worse
    6) Consumable on multiple devices (Kindle subscription preferred)
    7) Makes me a deeper thinker and a better person
    I feel like every time I find a new news source it has gotten worse within a year. This could be due to tracking cookies learning that I am clicking on stories that I don’t really want to read, and then feeding me more of those.

    • Wrong Species says:

      You could always browse the news incognito.

    • Urstoff says:

      The major papers (NYTimes, WaPo) seem to cover everything except for number 5 (which seems somewhat incompatible with 4) and number 7 (why would news sources do that?).

      • Nornagest says:

        I interpreted 4 to mean “little ideological slant”, not “‘moderate’ on the political spectrum”, and by that criterion both the NYT and the WaPo fail 4. Post-Trump they also fail 3. I don’t see 4 as conflicting much with 5, but ideological or not, you’re gonna have a hard time finding any traditional news source that doesn’t fail it; news has a pretty fundamental negative bias.

        • Urstoff says:

          The reporting in NYTimes and WaPo is pretty good, as far as things go. Unless the requirement is no ideological slant in the editorial division, which is silly. They also both produce enough news that 3 is easily satisfiable, unless you are determined to read everything an outlet puts out, which would also be silly.

          As always, sticking to one news source is not sufficient.

          • Nornagest says:

            I can’t speak for spinystellate, but when I want to get away from the culture war, it’s not enough for me to theoretically be able to spend an hour reading non-culture-war stuff; I need few or no culture war headlines. Good luck getting that from any major paper these days besides maybe the WSJ.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            Assuming paper here is not literal, Reuters?

          • Nornagest says:

            Reuters is… borderline. Their main business is as a wholesaler of news, not a retailer, so they aren’t what I was thinking of when I said “paper” and their incentives are substantially different from the likes of the Times. But you can consume their stories on a retail level, so fair enough.

    • SamChevre says:

      If you are willing to spend the money, the Economist is the closest thing I can think of to meeting your criteria.

    • rlms says:

      What do you think about BBC news and the Economist?

    • Orpheus says:

      Wikipedia’s news feed?

    • Levantine says:

      Nowadays such a news source is often tailored by the consumers themselves, who choose which individual authors, journalists, public intellectuals and ordinary individuals are worth being followed on … Twitter, for example.

      I’ve started using Twitter several months ago just for this purpose, and am very satisfied with it. A few other people I follow using RSS, or by reminding myself to go to their website directly.

      Wikipedia News, Reuters et al. are all on Twitter and you can see how they stand in comparison with more informal news sources.

  11. rlms says:

    This party political broadcast, but ironically (or maybe unironically two levels up, I’m not sure).

  12. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Elizabeth Bear has a story called “A Bug’s A-Life” on her patreon. I don’t know when or if it will be generally available, but it’s got a plausible idea for constraining AIs– put limits on the amount resources they can put into their programmed goals.

    This doesn’t guarantee safety, but it does seem like a start.

    I think the big risk from AI isn’t accidentally inventing a paper-clipper, it’s AIs designed to maximize profit and/or power.

    Early sf example: Brunner’s The Jagged Orbit.

    • Bugmaster says:

      put limits on the amount resources they can put into their programmed goals

      Isn’t this a built-in feature of the real world ? The AI can simulate whatever it wants; but once it decides to add more hardware, or discover gravity waves, or build a spaceship or whatever, it will be limited by the resources available to it. Building all that stuff takes time, energy, materials, etc. If humans are still around (and if they’re not, who cares ?), then it will also take money, labor, and trust. Even if you assume that magical gray-goo nanotechnology is somehow possible, constructing a major structure will still require all that stuff.

      • roystgnr says:

        And in yesterday evening’s news, Windows and Linux developers are currently scrambling to come out with patches for an Intel processor bug that weakens security on the last decade of their CPU releases.

        Discovering gravity waves or building a spaceship will take time. But adding a few exaflops of additional distributed hardware may just require an AI to be a little superhuman at computer security analysis.

    • roystgnr says:

      Apologies for the ignorant question; I’m not on patreon, much less a supporter of her specific account.

      Define “resources put into”?

      If I make a social media post that goes viral and gets a billion views, do I subtract from my ledger the millions of man-hours worth of time spent reading my post, or the kilowatt-hours of electricity in composing and sending the original post, or the trillion FLOPs spent composing it?

      If the answer is “kilowatt-hours” then I don’t think this limits existential risk at all: a malevolent superintelligence can probably do nearly unlimited damage by proxy alone.

      If “man-hours”, then this probably paralyzes the AI: any interaction with the outside world is going to have similarly exponentially growing ripple-effects. Even without getting into details, notice that either “AI acts safely enough to convince researchers to proceed further” or “AI acts but not safely enough” are world-changing events! So “AI doesn’t act” is all that remains, and the AI shuts itself down.

      If “FLOPs” then this removes some categories of risk (the AI now has a bound on superintelligence, so can’t achieve evil goals as easily) but adds others (the AI now has a bound on superintelligence, so can’t predict whether outcomes will be good or bad as easily). Less danger of “Bwa ha ha!”, but more danger of “Oops!”, and it’s hard to even guess at how much less or how much more.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I was thinking about something like not being allowed to spend more than a specified amount of money, no matter how it’s acquired. Or maybe not being allowed to lie to people, though that might be hard to define.

  13. fortaleza84 says:

    Is there any scientific evidence that “shit tests” are real? This is an idea in the PUA community that if a girl is attracted sexually to a man, she will often act disrespectfully or unreasonably towards him as a way of testing whether he is the sort of strong independent man she wants as a mate.

    • Well... says:

      “She called me a creep, then told me to buzz off back to my mom’s basement and leave her alone and threatened to call the cops on me if I didn’t comply. Obviously she is infatuated with me and has green-lit me to go back to her place later, but is just testing me first to see whether I respond to her attacks in an Alpha way.”

      Now I know that guys on the internet who claim to be PUAs have never actually met a woman.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        The canonical shit test is “hold my purse while I go to the bathroom” not “OMG GTFO creep!”

        The theory is that by asking / demanding that a man take a submissive posture, a woman can weed out men who aren’t dominant and confident enough to refuse gracefully. A submissive man will agree weakly; a dominant but unconfident man will make a scene about it; a dominant and confident man will laugh off the request.

        Personally, I’m not sure that I buy that explanation. In my experience this sort of thing seems more like women try to make sure that their men aren’t too attractive to other women. If so, it’s the same impulse which drives both men and women to get jealous when their significant others hit the gym.

        • CatCube says:

          I’m just throwing this on the street to see if the cat licks it up, but have you considered that it might just be a pain in the ass to have the purse with her and she wants somebody to watch it so it doesn’t get stolen? I’ve seen women ask other women to watch their purse, and I very highly doubt that it’s part of some ridiculous game they’re playing with each other.

          • rlms says:

            The intricate social games females engage in are truly inscrutable (I agree with you; if there is some fiendish strategy behind it I would expect it to be unconscious use of the Ben Franklin effect).

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            It’s facially reasonable but it doesn’t fit my experience very well.

            I’ve only ever had women try to push their purses on to me when there were other attractive women around. In, say, a diner for Sunday brunch it would just be left hanging from her seat or she’d bring it with her. But in, say, a clothing store where a salesgirl so much as looked in my direction the purse wouldn’t come with her into the changing room. Over time and multiple women it seemed more and more like a way of “marking” or emasculating a taken guy.

            That’s why I favor my explanation over the competing alternatives. Obviously it’s anecdotal but that’s how it appeared to me.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            but have you considered that it might just be a pain in the ass to have the purse with her and she wants somebody to watch it so it doesn’t get stolen?

            Let’s make a thought experiment out of this. Suppose the girl in question is an aspiring actress, journalist, model, whatever, and the man she is chatting with is a well respected executive in the industry with the power to give her a great opportunity. Will she ask him to hold her purse while she goes to the bathroom? Of course not, she might even pee her panties rather than leave this man waiting for her.

            On the other hand, suppose the girl is herself somewhat successful and she happens to be at a bar with her personal assistant. In that case, it pretty much goes without saying that the personal assistant will hold her purse and wait for her.

            In other words, when you think about it, it seems that the request to hold the girl’s purse is very much tied in to her perception of the social status of the man she is talking to.

            From there, it’s not a big leap to hypothesize that the man’s reaction to her request will influence her perception of his social status which will in turn influence her level of attraction to him.

          • JonathanD says:

            @fortaleza84

            Your thought experiment includes a woman with someone of clearly higher status and someone with clearly lower status. It leaves out someone who’s a peer. If a woman is sitting at a bar with a friend and needs to use the restroom, or is shopping and needs to try some stuff on, does she ask the friend to hold her bag?

          • fortaleza84 says:

            It leaves out someone who’s a peer. If a woman is sitting at a bar with a friend and needs to use the restroom, or is shopping and needs to try some stuff on, does she ask the friend to hold her bag?

            Perhaps, I would say it depends on her relationship with the friend.

            A more interesting question is what if she just met the person and has no set relationship with that person. There’s something to be said for the idea of treating a stranger in a social setting with a good deal of deference and respect.

          • Well... says:

            OK so if we’re going along with this dumb game…

            Is asking an almost stranger (i.e. a stranger who you’ve been talking to for, say, an hour or so at the bar) to hold your purse an act of deference and respect, or an act of arrogance and disrespect?

            I’m inclined to see it as respectful. She’s giving you something very personal and valuable, and trusting you with a lot of power over her. It’s like a cat letting you rub its belly.

            One big difference between this and the example of handing your briefcase to the important executive, by the way, is that the executive has more important things to do than hold your briefcase, and you both know it. That’s the immediate reason why it’s disrespectful in that situation. If you’re hanging around at a bar chatting up ladies, then by definition you do not have anything more important to do.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            One big difference between this and the example of handing your briefcase to the important executive, by the way, is that the executive has more important things to do than hold your briefcase, and you both know it. That’s the immediate reason why it’s disrespectful in that situation. If you’re hanging around at a bar chatting up ladies, then by definition you do not have anything more important to do.

            If you are at a social event, what does this executive have to do that’s so important? And why does holding someone’s briefcase or purse interfere with it?

            I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I do know that most girls, upon meeting a man who is clearly of high status and power, wouldn’t dare to ask him to hold their purse or briefcase or whatever while they went to the bathroom.

            But I’d like to hear your answer to those questions.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Having thought about it a bit, I will propose answers to my own questions: If our hypothetical executive is at a social event, he has little or nothing to do that’s particularly more important than an average man at the same event. He’s just there to socialize with people. Moreover, there’s nothing stopping him from socializing with people while he hold’s a girl’s purse, briefcase, whatever.

            And yet very few women would dare ask this hypothetical high-status man to hold their purse. Because almost everyone knows at some level that holding someone’s bag while they attend to other matters is a socially submissive role.

            In fact, I would propose a “shit-test test”: If a woman imposes on a man she just met in some way, would she have done the same thing if the man were unquestionably of high status? If the answer is “no,” then it’s a shit test.

            What’s also interesting about some of the comments here is that they demonstrate that shit tests tend to have an element of deniability about them. “Why do you feel put upon? She’s trusting you with a valuable item.” “What’s the big deal? Anyone would hold a purse for a friend.”

            Or even the meta “Why are you obsessing so much over perceived social status games?”

            It seems that shit tests (if they exist) are calculated to be at the edge of what’s socially acceptable.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Is asking an almost stranger (i.e. a stranger who you’ve been talking to for, say, an hour or so at the bar) to hold your purse an act of deference and respect, or an act of arrogance and disrespect?

            It could be either. The whole PUA thing works (as far as it does) because they are trying to approach the same type of woman, in the same type of situation. Eventually you run into someone who responds well to behavior X, Y and Z, all the psychological stuff is mostly fluff (or figuring out the specific X, Y and Z that appeals to the broadest audience).

          • Iain says:

            This hypothetical executive proves too much. Sure, a woman won’t ask a high-ranking executive she’s never met to hold her purse — but that’s because she wouldn’t ask him for anything. You are postulating an arbitrarily high-status stranger — to the extent that women will purportedly piss themselves instead of making him wait — and then judging women for not treating every man they date with the same obsequiousness.

            If you start with the premise that equal status in a relationship is a problem — or worse, a deliberate challenge — then you will end up in some weird places.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Social peers engage in status games all the time to establish a pecking order.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            This hypothetical executive proves too much. Sure, a woman won’t ask a high-ranking executive she’s never met to hold her purse — but that’s because she wouldn’t ask him for anything .

            Actually that’s not totally true. If a woman meets a high status man at a social event, she might ask him for a business card; she might ask him for an internship; she might ask to meet him later for “advice” etc. All of these things are requests that do not put the other person in a subordinate position.

            You are postulating an arbitrarily high-status stranger — to the extent that women will purportedly piss themselves instead of making him wait — and then judging women for not treating every man they date with the same obsequiousness.

            I think you misread my posts. See, there has been a suggestion that asking a man to hold your purse is actually an act of respect and deference. There has also been a suggestion that such a request is unrelated to status issues.

            I intentionally chose an extreme example mainly to demonstrate that these suggestions are incorrect. That said, I do think that when it comes to imposing upon others, a woman who meets a stranger at a social event should show a great deal of deference and respect. And the same goes for a man of course.

        • Wrong Species says:

          It’s incredibly depressing that holding someone’s purse is considered a shit test. If a guy I was talking to asked me to watch his drink while he went to the bathroom, I wouldn’t think anything of it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s a shit test because holding a purse is unmasculine. I don’t know if there is an equivalent for women; “here, hold my beard?”

          • JonathanD says:

            @The Nybbler

            Why is it unmasculine? If you’re holding a purse, you’ve not only clearly got a girl, you’ve got a girl who trusts you with her private things. It seems to me that it’s a clear mark of romantic success.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Generalization from few samples: I’ve noticed that when a man holds a woman’s handbag, he doubles up the strap and holds it in one hand, presumably to show it isn’t his bag.

            I have no idea what a man does if he’s handed a clutch purse– that’s the kind without a strap.

          • Urstoff says:

            Threads about dating (or any male/female interactions) here are an endless source of facepalms.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            It’s a shit test because holding a purse is unmasculine

            I kinda disagree; I think that what’s going on is that holding someone’s stuff while they go do something is often (but not always) an indication or signal that the bag-holder is in a subordinate role.

            Let’s suppose it’s a briefcase in question. Who would you ask to hold your briefcase while you go use the men’s room – your assistant? Or the wealthy and important potential client you are meeting with? The answer is pretty obvious.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I have no idea what a man does if he’s handed a clutch purse– that’s the kind without a strap.

            Under the arm like a football of course.

            Let’s suppose it’s a briefcase in question. Who would you ask to hold your briefcase while you go use the men’s room – your assistant?

            Sure. But I could also ask a peer to hold my briefcase or backpack or other ungendered or usually-male-gendered item. Not so with a purse.

          • JonathanD says:

            Generalization from few samples: I’ve noticed that when a man holds a woman’s handbag, he doubles up the strap and holds it in one hand, presumably to show it isn’t his bag.

            Sample of one: I always sling it over my opposite shoulder (so that it hangs safely without sliding off, the same way I carry a laptop bag). I like having my hands free. Might be because I have three small kids, I often need my hands free.

          • rahien.din says:

            The Nybbler,

            I don’t know if there is an equivalent for women

            Probably all the various ways (and the various circumstances in which) men try to get women to put out.

            Nancy Lebovitz,

            I have no idea what a man does if he’s handed a clutch purse

            The Nybbler’s “like a football” is great.

            Me, I wedge it between my arm and chest, put my hand in my pocket, and lean against a wall. Kind of fun when she pulls it out herself when she gets back.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            But I could also ask a peer to hold my briefcase or backpack or other ungendered or usually-male-gendered item.

            What about a stranger you had just met in a social setting?

          • The Nybbler says:

            What about a stranger you had just met in a social setting?

            I’m not asking a stranger to hold or watch anything valuable of mine.

            And there’s a difference between “hold” and “watch”. If you’re sitting at a table with a woman and she asks you to “watch her purse” which she leaves on her seat, that seems unlikely to be a shit-test.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I don’t know if there is an equivalent for women

            I doubt it, since a woman’s social status has far less impact on how sexually attractive she is to men.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I’m not asking a stranger to hold or watch anything valuable of mine.

            That would apply equally to a purse or a briefcase, agreed?

          • The Nybbler says:

            That would apply equally to a purse or a briefcase, agreed?

            Of course.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            @Nybbler

            And yet it’s (allegedly) common for girls to ask men they just met to hold their purse.

            Something which, admittedly, has never happened to me. But there are other examples of (supposed) shit tests where the man is asked to do something or is put upon in a way which isn’t particularly feminine. For example if the girl shows up late for a date; or flirts with another man in front of her date; or texts with someone in front of her date.

            The key common element (in my opinion) is that the girl is treating the man more like someone of low status than someone of high status.

          • Well... says:

            I think I’ve figured it out: it’s a meta-test meant to see whether the guy is obsessed with the imagined status dynamics of every little micro-interaction, even in a social setting.

            What kind of adult men have such an obsession? (Hint: not alphas.)

          • toastengineer says:

            I hate to lay this particular card out on the table but since someone has to and no-one else will:

            You may want to consider that some of this “complicated invisible social game that doesn’t make sense to many of the people who hang around on blogs about deep politics and deeper LOTR jokes” might have something to do with that brain-wiring that autistic folks don’t have as much of.

            Remember all that stuff about the rules of social interactions being optimized to be on the edges of human comprehension with all that specialized social-processing wetware turned on.

            I have very very very, very little respect for PUA stuff in general, but I know for a fact “shit testing” exists because I’ve sat in on women making plans for how to do it (and they were genuinely shocked when I said “wow, if I was your boyfriend and I heard this conversation I’d dump you immediately, this seems incredibly disrespectful to your partner.”)

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I think I’ve figured it out: it’s a meta-test meant to see whether the guy is obsessed with the imagined status dynamics of every little micro-interaction

            It’s funny you should say that, because in general in life I’ve noticed that passive-aggressive people, when called out on their nonsense, will often accuse the other person of obsessing over trivialities.

          • James says:

            @toastengineer:

            I’ve sat in on women making plans for how to do it

            Awww, and you’re just gonna leave us in suspense like that?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think that what’s going on is that holding someone’s stuff while they go do something is often (but not always) an indication or signal that the bag-holder is in a subordinate role.

            Literally left holding the bag.

            My response to being asked to hold someone’s purse: “but it doesn’t match my shoes!”

        • Well... says:

          The OP description of the shit test said it’s when a woman would “act disrespectfully or unreasonably”. Asking a guy to hold her purse doesn’t qualify, so chalk that up to fortaleza84’s bad description I guess. Also, the name “shit test” is overkill. “Favor test” seems more accurate.

          Anyway, one obvious problem with the shit test is you’re not really weeding out non-alpha guys, because you’d still get false positives from either A) run of the mill dickheads B) guys who grew up in very patriarchal cultures and generally treat women poorly (e.g. basically all the Somali guys I’ve known well or lived with, and there have been about a dozen) and C) regular guys who are socially fluent (and thus won’t whine and make a scene) but feel really uncomfortable holding purses and know how to talk their way out of it.

          When my wife asks me to hold her purse, I jokingly make sure she sees me sling it over my shoulder like the way this guy’s carrying his blazer, because that is the manliest way to hold it. I even make a dumb cave-man face. I get a chuckle and my wife inevitably laughs and rolls her eyes.

          It seems far more likely that if there is some weird game being played (and not just a purse being an annoying thing to have to lug around, causing women to push it onto the first reasonably trustworthy person they find first chance they get), it’s the girl letting the guy know she trusts him.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            The OP description of the shit test said it’s when a woman would “act disrespectfully or unreasonably”. Asking a guy to hold her purse doesn’t qualify,

            If it’s someone you just met, it’s a bit disrespectful in my opinion. If a girl happens to meet some bigshot who has the power to boost her career, is she going to ask him to hold her purse? Of course not.

            But anyway, perhaps “unreasonable or disrespectful” isn’t the best way to put it. Perhaps a better way to put it is “treating a man in a way that puts him in a subordinate role.”

          • Well... says:

            I don’t see it as a woman putting a man in a subordinate role to ask him to hold her purse once.

            (Now, if they have been an item for months or years and it’s a continual pattern of her using him like a butler and dictating to him everything he should do, that’d be different.)

            A man who does see it that way is insecure and will not have long-term success with a woman, unless maybe if that woman is a doormat.

            In normal relationships, the various facets of shared life take on their own power dynamics, so that you may be more dominant in some areas and your s/o is more dominant in others. Without that balance you’d start to get resentment or worse.

            So a normal, healthy guy on his very first date, or when he first meets the woman, responds to the request to hold her purse by thinking “OK, no biggie.” An enfeebled man-boy with some kind of inferiority complex and maybe a lot of other baggage responds by thinking “She’s trying to groom me for slavery!”

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I don’t see it as a woman putting a man in a subordinate role to ask him to hold her purse once.

            And yet, most women, if they went to a social event and met a hypothetical-powerful-high-status-executive-who-could-give-a-big-boost-to-their-career, wouldn’t dare ask him to hold their purse while they went to the ladies’ room.

            Why is that?

          • rlms says:

            Not treating as higher status isn’t the same thing as treating as lower status. Equality is also possible.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Not treating as higher status isn’t the same thing as treating as lower status. Equality is also possible.

            I agree, but I would add that familiarity plays a role too. There’s a difference between how a pair of friends can treat each other and how a pair of people who just met. The unwritten rule, in my opinion, is that when you’ve just met someone at a social event, you treat them with a good deal of deference and respect in terms of imposing on them.

          • rlms says:

            @fortaleza84

            The unwritten rule, in my opinion, is that when you’ve just met someone at a social event, you treat them with a good deal of deference and respect in terms of imposing on them.

            I don’t think that’s true in the context of flirting. Certainly it seems at odds with PUA recommended strategies: deferentially Respecting Women is precisely what they tell you to avoid.

            I don’t think this contradicts your statement that familiarity plays a role. It certainly does, but IMO treating someone with more familiarity than the objective facts about your relationship would indicate (acting like you’ve known them longer than you have) is the central part of flirting.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I don’t think that’s true in the context of flirting. Certainly it seems at odds with PUA recommended strategies: deferentially Respecting Women is precisely what they tell you to avoid.

            I imagine that most PUAs would say they are advising people to break (or bend) the unwritten rules of normal social interaction. Agreed?

          • rlms says:

            In the sense I referred to, yes (e.g. there is a certain amount of familiarity one is expected to have with someone one has just met, and PUAs encourage behaving in a more familiar way than suggested by that custom). But in the sense of breaking “the rules”, not generally. They didn’t invent flirting.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            But in the sense of breaking “the rules”, not generally. They didn’t invent flirting.

            I’m not sure that I would categorize a shit test as “flirting,” but it depends on the definition of “flirting.” And also on the definition of “shit test,” but I’m comfortable adding to the definition “imposing on a person in a way that would, in a Platonic context, be seen as overly familiar.”

          • dndnrsn says:

            @fortaleza84:

            …“imposing on a person in a way that would, in a Platonic context, be seen as overly familiar.”

            This jumped out at me, because it sounds a lot like how one might best describe guys who do “negging” – they’re acting overly familiar (you jokingly insult your friends, not random people you just met) and to some extent are imposing on someone else (emotionally speaking).

            (cut to a woman saying to a guy, “hey, you look like someone who spends a lot of time holding purses”)

          • rlms says:

            That’s a separate thing. Neither shit tests (as described) nor responses to them are flirting. I agree that the PUA-recommended response to them breaks social rules. But I’m not quite sure why that’s relevant.

            Here’s how things seem to stand to me. You say that because a high status man would not be shit tested, a man who acquiesces to purse-holding shows himself to be low status (and thus less attractive). I disagree: I think that a man might agree to e.g. hold his approximately equal status sister’s purse. Sure, he probably wouldn’t do the same for an equal status stranger (familiarity matters), but in the situations PUAs concern themselves with it is natural for both parties to behave in an over-familiar way. I don’t see where social rules come into this.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I think the major point being missed in this whole back and forth is that the highest status members are generally setting the standards. I have no idea if Bill Gates would hold Melinda’s purse, or if she would ask, but whatever that interaction turned out to be in public would almost always become instantly acceptable for their group.

            Social games are mostly played by people who don’t have solid status within the group. This is probably a large part of why ‘negging’ works on some people, as it puts their status in question. The initial approach has already signaled that they are high enough status to talk to you by your own definition. The negative comment casts doubt on how desirable they are to you, while the actual attention gives them a point of stability. The female equivalent would probably be something like talking to a guy about a peer’s accomplishments.

          • Randy M says:

            Shit tests, aka fitness tests if you want to be PG about it (which is amusing), may not be flirting in and of themselves, but if it isn’t done in order to probe a man’s emotional strength and judge his worth a as a mate, it’s a non-central example.

            Not all purse holding requests are going to be done in order to determine if a man can turn down a demeaning request; norms vary.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Looking at how men treat their sisters to discuss how men interact with women is not a path to insight.

            Men bucket women into the following rough groups (and people get added to groups via official and unofficial adoption):
            * his mother
            * his daughters and nieces
            * his sisters
            * his wife the mother of his children (ideal, more complicated with “blended families” etc)
            * his mistresses / lovers / flings / fwb
            * his grandmothers, older aunts, grand aunts, their close friends, etc
            * other women in his family of too close of consanguinity
            * all other women he sees
            * the invisible

            Trying to understand how they see women in group #6 by how they see women in group #3 will get you part of the way, but will also lead you astray.

            Wise modern men are trained to put coworkers in group #9 not group #8.

          • rlms says:

            @Mark Atwood
            I’m not trying to come up with a positive theory about how people behave, I’m trying to show that fortaleza84’s model is wrong. They are saying (as I understand it) that because high status men don’t hold purses and low status ones do, if a woman you are attracted to asks you to hold her purse you shouldn’t do so, because then you will seem low status. I’m saying that actually men do hold purses for approximately equal status women they are familiar with (sisters, friends etc.), so you can acquiesce without becoming low status and hence less attractive. It’s true that doing so precludes you from having the status of the woman’s boss, but I don’t know why you would want that. People don’t usually date their bosses.

            In the (in my opinion infrequent) case of women who *are* less attracted to men who hold their purses, I think other factors are at play. Specifically, I think they are probably attracted to combativeness. This theory differs from the status one in that it predicts these women wouldn’t be attracted to rich respected but very agreeable men, but could be attracted to poor but disagreeable ones.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            When my wife asks me to hold her purse

            wife

            This just in: the social dynamics in long-term, stable relationships are different from the social dynamics in courtships between strangers or acquaintances. More news at 11!

          • fortaleza84 says:

            This jumped out at me, because it sounds a lot like how one might best describe guys who do “negging” – they’re acting overly familiar (you jokingly insult your friends, not random people you just met) and to some extent are imposing on someone else (emotionally speaking).

            Yes, perhaps “negging” is the male equivalent to a shit test. After all, the purpose is to reduce a woman’s self-concept so that the man seems superior in comparison.

            And certainly one could categorize “negging” as passive-aggressive behavior.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            it is natural for both parties to behave in an over-familiar way.

            Over-familiar compared to what standard?

          • fortaleza84 says:

            It’s true that doing so precludes you from having the status of the woman’s boss, but I don’t know why you would want that. People don’t usually date their bosses.

            Actually sexual relationships between male bosses and female subordinates are pretty common. If you do a Google search on the phrase, you will see studies estimating it at around 1 in 6 women. Presumably the self-reported statistics are low since some of these relationships are extra-marital.

            More generally, women are hypergamous. Among other things, they have a sexual preference for men who are higher status than themselves. So yeah, if a woman perceives a man as high status, it greatly increases his chances of her agreeing to a sexual/romantic relationship with him.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @fortaleza84

            After all, the purpose is to reduce a woman’s self-concept so that the man seems superior in comparison.

            That’s the explanation PUAs give, but the whole concept seems more to me like “forcing intimacy” – playful insults are something people do with their friends and intimate partners. Some people will respond to a playful-seeming insult from someone they don’t know with a false corollary – “must be a friend.” Some people do this to everyone, regardless of gender. It can fall flat – the only person I know to have done it to me is an intensely dislikable twerp.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            That’s the explanation PUAs give, but the whole concept seems more to me like “forcing intimacy” – playful insults are something people do with their friends and intimate partners.

            I think I’m going to disagree with this. People also admit to vulnerabilities with intimate friends. They send greeting cards to intimate friends. They spontaneously do nice things for intimate friends.

            I’m not a PUA but I know that if a guy does any of these things with a girl he is sexually interested in, he’s very likely buying himself a ticket to the friendzone. At best.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Obligatory Dinosaur Comics.

            Let me reformulate – forcing intimacy, in a way that’s clearly putting one person above the other. And, don’t some PUA-type tactics advise revealing (minor, quirky, possibly made-up) vulnerabilities, for that reason?

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Let me reformulate – forcing intimacy, in a way that’s clearly putting one person above the other.

            If you mean the man ends up above the woman, then yes of course and in fact that’s the essential element.

            If you mean either person can be subordinate, what basis do you have to believe that? Why would making yourself subordinate make a difference?

            And, don’t some PUA-type tactics advise revealing (minor, quirky, possibly made-up) vulnerabilities, for that reason?

            I’ve never heard of such a thing. Looks to me like you are epicycling.

          • James says:

            Let me reformulate – forcing intimacy, in a way that’s clearly putting one person above the other.

            If you mean the man ends up above the woman, then yes of course and in fact that’s the essential element.

            I don’t know—I’m sure many PUAs would be just as happy with an outcome of reverse missionary.

            And, don’t some PUA-type tactics advise revealing (minor, quirky, possibly made-up) vulnerabilities, for that reason?

            I’ve never heard of such a thing. Looks to me like you are epicycling.

            Being vulnerable is a foundational part of Mark Manson’s schtick (though he doesn’t suggest that the vulnerabilities be minor or quirky, and I doubt he’d condone them being made up). I’ve also seen other PUAs, maybe Juggler, suggest something closer to the ‘minor, quirky, possibly made-up’ style of vulnerability confiding.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I don’t know—I’m sure many PUAs would be just as happy with an outcome of reverse missionary.

            Do you seriously believe that’s what I was talking about? I’m honestly curious.

          • rlms says:

            Is developing a sense of humour a known PUA technique? If not, perhaps it should be.

          • Being vulnerable is a foundational part of Mark Manson’s schtick (though he doesn’t suggest that the vulnerabilities be minor or quirky, and I doubt he’d condone them being made up).

            I think Mark Manson would be classed as a former PUA, or even an anti-PUA. He has generally wise things to say about a wide range of topics.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Is developing a sense of humour a known PUA technique?

            I wouldn’t know since attractive women generally approach me based on my looks and status and then propose marriage after we’ve had sex a couple times.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Friendly reminder to the peanut gallery that there exists a tool for blocking those you judge to be trolls

            Thanks, that’s very helpful.

            It’s also nice to know that you are CONCERNED.

        • Zorgon says:

          The canonical shit test is “hold my purse while I go to the bathroom”

          Oh my. This explains so much.

          In the past 3 years I’ve had three occasions where women who were to varying degree strangers (one relative of an acquaintance, one older woman I’d been talking to for a short time, and one complete stranger that I’d not spoken to but exchanged glances with in a cabaret bar) have either asked me to look after their bag or, in the last case, simply walked up, left their bag next to my table, and walked into the loo without so much as speaking a word to me.

          The first two I took as being slightly odd demonstrations of unearned trust, while the third completely confounded me at the time (especially given she then returned, picked up her bag from where she’d left it without looking at me, sat with her friends and kept staring at me for the next half an hour until I left).

          I should note I’m not in the dating game – I’m in a very stable (5+ years) relationship, and I don’t get out that much due to kids. So the idea these might have been in some way connected to some kind of dating-related test didn’t even cross my mind until now.

          • InferentialDistance says:

            I’m in a very stable (5+ years) relationship

            Adds to your attractiveness.

          • engleberg says:

            Does sound like ‘bring some, player. Extra cheese on mine.’ But ladies? Find a way to test a gentleman’s firmness that doesn’t give him access to your cash, credit cards, and personal data.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Find a way to test a gentleman’s firmness that doesn’t give him access to your cash, credit cards, and personal data.

            Jokes on him: the purse has nothing but feminine products in it.

            (Based On A True Story of a Daring Robbery at the Louvre. OK, actually just a cheap purse of my wife’s being swiped while we were eating lunch at one of the parks nearby)

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Since their idea can only be anecdotal, here is a counter-anecdotal hypothesis that says these men actually prefer this kind of woman to a less abrasive partner: http://bigthink.com/harpys-review/the-curious-appeal-and-rise-of-the-mean-girlfriend

      • aNeopuritan says:

        There’s substantial space between “barely not a doormat” and the “funnier” examples of shit-testing out there. For example, I think “I like Stolichnaya, goddamnit!” is quite mild in the latter context. That said, the (apparent to me) truth of this is just evidence that both men and women on average like meaner people than current mainstream opinion admits.

        • Deiseach says:

          The riposte to the Stolichnaya thing, it seems to me, is take back the drink, go off to the bar again, then come back with the same drink only this time saying “I got your Stoli for you, honey”.

          That, or throw it over the ungrateful bitch.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Very interesting article, thanks for the link!

        That said:

        Rebecca’s a beautiful, talented single New Yorker in her mid-30s who, despite because of her attributes, hasn’t had much (any) luck with relationships.

        Rebecca is dating on hard mode.

        She’s in New York City, with a culture second only to Seattle in terms of how unapproachable people are and a lopsided dating scene. She’s in her thirties when women’s looks rapidly deteriorate. And she’s talented, AKA financially successful, which means she’s probably looking for a man who’s pulling in similar amounts of money.

        No wonder she hasn’t had any success! She might actually be too nice, that’s entirely possible, but even a more cutthroat woman would struggle in her shoes.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          Off-topic, but I’ve noticed that these “I can’t find a man!” articles almost invariably involve women who are a combination of (1) over 35; (2) overweight; and (3) successful in their careers.

          Unfortunately, a lot of women just refuse to appreciate just how important youth and health are in terms of male sexual attraction. And how unimportant career success or social status are.

          • John Schilling says:

            I do not believe social status is unimportant; mixed-class relationships are relatively rare, and most attractive women from blue-collar backgrounds are not dating white-collar men. Note also the traditional and not nearly extinct “Mrs” or “Pre-Wed” degree, with only a vague notion of leading to career success but elevating a woman’s social status for marital purposes.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I’ll agree with JS that social status is more important than commonly given credit in the PUA-sphere. My brother ended up marrying a working class girl one step removed from trailer trash. This was definitely criticized, especially when she turned out not to have any real redeeming qualities.

            I don’t think “career success” is necessarily the same as “social status” though. Like, my brother-in-law’s girlfriend has an advanced degree and pursues social work (currently unemployed, never will make much money) but she’s unquestionably good enough for my UMC brother-in-law. It would not help much if she were pulling down 6 figures like my wife or my college marketing friend.

            I have another friend working as a temp in the Bay Area right now, after spending 8 out of 12 months in 2017 unemployed. She’s dating some French guy who has a sailboat and apparently makes lots of money figuring out how to juice bags or whatever SV does these days. Does it matter that she’s marginally employed? No, it matters that she knows how to order from a sommelier, act in an art museum, and wear a cocktail dress with some dignity.

            If I’m from a family that regularly eats at restaurants with sommeliers, I am probably not going to be a big fan of a girl that thinks “Burger King” when she thinks “fancy meal.” But whether she’s making a lot of money as an ad exec or not as much money as a K-5 teacher is not as big a factor, especially if I am making Mad Money myself.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think “career success” is necessarily the same as “social status” though.

            Agreed, and again see the “pre-wed” degree. My father ended up marrying a Midwestern farmer’s daughter, but only after she’d put an Ivy-league degree between herself and her working-class background. I don’t think she ever held a paying job in the field she nominally trained for(*), but it worked out for her. And me, obviously.

            Simplistically speaking, a man gains status if it looks like a woman who could have had independent career success was willing to set that aside to be his mate, whereas he loses status if it looks like he couldn’t convince any of his peers to date/marry him and so had to go trolling for some presumedly gold-digging harlot. It used to be that the man also lost some measure of status if his wife didn’t give up his career for him; this at least is fortunately fading.

            * Only after her death did I find out that she inspired approximately all of her younger cousins to head off to college, previously unheard of in the family, and many of them did go on to career success.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            “I do not believe social status is unimportant; ”

            Perhaps we aren’t thinking the same thing when we use the phrase “social status.” To illustrate, imagine that a male attorney is thinking about pursuing a romantic relationship with a female attorney he meets. From his perspective, the difference between a hotshot partner at a big law firm and struggling per diem attorney isn’t that big. He’s going to prefer the girl who is young and pretty. For a woman, the difference between the high status attorney and low status attorney is a much bigger deal.

            I do agree that social class takes on a good deal of importance for both sexes when it comes to marriage. Even then, a young pretty female secretary probably has a much better chance of marrying a male executive than the same situation with the sexes reversed.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @fortaleza84

            Unless there’s a new euphemism I don’t know, or I didn’t read the article closely enough, where does it say she’s overweight? Has “curvy” gotten so devalued through overuse that “beautiful” is now shorthand for “overweight”?

            @John Schilling

            Mixed-class (income, social class, education, etc) relationships used to be more common among heterosexuals; opening up parts of the job market that had been entirely/mostly closed to women has changed that. Guys with advanced degrees marrying secretaries with high school diplomas ceased to be a thing when the number of women going to school to get them increased, number of women with them increased, number of women in the workplace with the relevant jobs increased… The age gap has probably also narrowed.

            I have read that male-male relationships tend to have wider class and age gaps than heterosexual relationships. This might be attributable to gay men being more likely to meet in non-work environments (eg, gay clubs) where classes and ages mingle more (in the case of a gay club, there are fewer gay than straight clubs, so presumably they sort less).

            On the other hand, men might just have different preferences than women – the same source (which, annoyingly, I have a 50% chance of finding every time I try to find it; I should just bookmark it or print out a copy) says that female-female relationships have narrower age and class gaps than heterosexual relationships, and posits that women don’t like these gaps, whereas men don’t care (or outright search for younger partners, in a lot of cases).

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m not sure that mixed social class relationships(*) were ever really that common, with boss-secretary being a special case because a secretary is traditionally a working-class woman whose particular skillset includes interacting smoothly with her boss’s peers at least in a professional setting. And even then, boss-secretary was the exception, not the rule. Browsing through the list of richest Americans in history, I see them mostly marrying the daughters of other rich businessmen, along with cousins, classmates, and churchgoers (in an era when churches tended to be socially stratified). Would be interesting to see the patterns for lower-tier rich dudes and the upper middle class, but it’s going to be harder to find data there.

            Mixed education, there’s a long tradition of “finishing schools” and the like designed to produce socially acceptable mates for college-educated men. Mixed income, absolutely – but if you look at the income of the woman’s father, probably much less so.

            * For definitions of “relationship” beyond tricks, one-night stands, and caddish seductions.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Unless there’s a new euphemism I don’t know, or I didn’t read the article closely enough, where does it say she’s overweight?

            Nowhere, I’m talking about these types of articles and complaints in general and not just that particular article. From reading and hearing articles and complaints in the “Why can’t I find a man?” genre it seems that the biggest mistake, by far, is women not realizing how much youth matters to men in terms of sexual attractiveness.

            But second and third place go to (1) not realizing how much of a turn-off overweight is to men; and (2) not realizing how little men care about professional success.

            Probably there’s an element of projection here. From the female perspective, the difference between a 25-year-old man and a 35-year-old-man is not all that much in terms of his sexual attractiveness. So it’s natural to assume that the male perspective is similar. Which it assuredly isn’t.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think we’re mixing up “class” and “status.” The iconic “creepy neckbeard coder nerd” is low status, but not lower class.

          • Anonymous says:

            I think John has a great point. While it doesn’t matter much to a man how much a woman earns, or how much professional success she has, it matters a lot – for marriage, anyway, rather than casual one-night stands – how successful her father is. Poor paternal heritage runs the risk of poor male heirs.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I think we’re mixing up “class” and “status.” The iconic “creepy neckbeard coder nerd” is low status, but not lower class.

            Yeah, these “I can’t find a man” types are generally arguing that they should be seen as more attractive based on their own career success, not based on their overall social status.

            I actually know a woman, a 50 year old doctor, whose husband left her for a woman who was much younger. What’s interesting is how mystified this woman’s circle of friends is at this woman’s inability to find a man who is in her age range; fit; and successful like her.

          • Guys with advanced degrees marrying secretaries with high school diplomas ceased to be a thing when

            A slightly different explanation is that when opportunities for smart women to pursue high status careers became more common, it became less common for women with only a high school diploma to include the smart (and energetic and …) ones, making it harder to find the wife a successful man wanted in that population.

      • James says:

        An interesting mirror of the “women like assholes” meme.

        For my part, this passage:

        The mean girlfriend embarrasses her nice boyfriend when he solicitously buys her a martini, because he chose the wrong vodka. “I like Stolichnaya, goddamnit!” she snaps in front of their friends.

        gave me the horn, but I think I’m a weird outlier. I’m a sub male, and “bratty, entitled bitch” is just my type. But I don’t think that can apply to the majority of the men pursuing the women this writer is describing, so the mystery remains.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          That article just did not ring true for me at all. The majority of married men I know are married to incredibly nice and gracious women. I do know of one guy who is married to an assertive, somewhat demeaning women, but he sucks at dating and therefore had few options…he’s also been raised from birth to be subservient to people and especially women in all personal matters.

          I know of some guys who dated “mean” women, and it was absolute hell on them. Those couples did not last. This includes one guy who THOUGHT he wanted a strong, assertive, take charge woman, until he ended up arguing with her till 3 AM just a few too many nights. Thank the freakin’ LORD he’s not in that relationship anymore: our social group did not like her one bit.

          I can’t think of any guys that actually PREFER mean girls. I do know many guys who are married to girls that would typically be described as boring, homebody girls: I am one! It’s awesome. There’s a lot of Netflix and chill, there’s little fighting, you get food made for you all the time, and you have plenty of spare time to play video games or comment on SSC.

          • baconbits9 says:

            That article just did not ring true for me at all. The majority of married men I know are married to incredibly nice and gracious women.

            I suspect that reporters in general have to know more assholes in life (at least to some degree). How many interesting stories can you write about a stable relationship? Tolstoy starts out Anna Karenina with “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”, which I think pretty much sums up the journalists lot. You don’t spend 3 years behind lines in a “peace zone” with a booming economy if you want to win awards. If you want to write about city life you don’t hang out with people that are doing well.

          • James says:

            This includes one guy who THOUGHT he wanted a strong, assertive, take charge woman, until he ended up arguing with her till 3 AM just a few too many nights. Thank the freakin’ LORD he’s not in that relationship anymore: our social group did not like her one bit.

            If I’m lucky, maybe this could be me one day! Perhaps I, like your friend, would come to regret it. I have no idea.

            Meanwhile, if I can say this without it sounding too cutting: the homebody-style relationship you describe sounds unbearably dull to me.

            I admit to being a bit confused about this.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Hey, no problems from me. Everyone has their own preferences. You might prefer the argumentative relationship. That preference just doesn’t happen to exist in my social circle, so I suspect it’s a minority position, and/or associated with other personality traits that are also excluded from my social circle.

          • James says:

            The only trouble is that I’m, by nature, mild, meek, and thoughtful! Tempestous women generally do not, I think, go for mild, meek, thoughtful men.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        This seems like as good a time as any to throw out this wild idea I’ve half-baked:
        Modern society has a preoccupation with being (/appearing/being perceived as) morally in-the-right, to the point that people would rather be wronged than wrong others. So we see a glut of subs and a shortage of doms, and a high demand for partners who will walk all over you so you never have to worry about whether you’re walking all over them.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Not my reason for dominant men, but an intriguing hypothesis.

        • Thegnskald says:

          It is more complex than that.

          Imagine a BDSM session with a sub who won’t speak up when things go too far.

          People who are too submissive are utterly inappropriate for a dom/sub relationship. And most people are too submissive.

          I’m a dom. There is no way in hell I would date anybody who won’t give me shit from time to time. If I were in the dating pool now (shudder), the snappish women would be an option, just because she is clearly comfortable speaking her mind. Although I would find it amusing rather than embarrassing, because honestly, that would be hilarious.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          ADifferentAnonymous’s post sounds like me.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Additional thoughts on this:

          The Screwtape Letters had the basic idea (see blockquote here).

          We’re kind of in a state of ‘fighting the last war’–our canonical picture of evil is the overt domineer who always demands and gets what they want. By this model, letting others have their way gives you moral superiority. We all know that this behavior taken to extremes isn’t morally superior at all, but we lack common knowledge of that, and so feel that a third party would judge us the villain if we let people get away with practicing “petty altruisms” on us.

          My personal take on this is that I, too, feel the need to be ethical. I often want my gf to be more selfish–the way I see it, I have to treat her well no matter what, so ideally she’ll help me do that.

          The Stolichnaya example honestly sounds awful to me, but here’s its even-worse “too-nice” reflection: she takes the martini, thanks me for it, doesn’t drink it, acts withdrawn until I notice and ask what the matter is, and then explains that they needed a drink to loosen up but I got the wrong vodka but they didn’t want to trouble me by asking for a different one.

          • Deiseach says:

            Can people really tell the difference in vodkas? They all taste like diluted rubbing alcohol to me, and even if properly chilled they just taste like cold diluted rubbing alcohol 🙂

          • Nornagest says:

            Yes. Vodka flavors aren’t as distinctive as, say, whisky, and low-grade ones tend to blur together for me, but I can tell midgrade and higher apart pretty well. Gray Goose tastes smooth but bland, Belvedere tastes vanilla-y. Ketel 1 and Stoli taste stronger, and are better for mixed drinks.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Like any alcohol, it’s a mix of reality, status signalling, and self-deception.

            It’s a myth that vodka is “pure alcohol” or “supposed to taste like nothing at all” or any of the other statements. It is, generally speaking, distilled (not bottled!) at a much higher proof (at least one reputable distiller claimed to me “it’s not legally vodka unless you take it above X proof in the still” (I believe X was around 180–whiskey will come out of the copper at something like 120-140, by comparison), but I don’t think this is a universally regulated standard) which means it’s going to be closer to pure EtOH/H2O solution than other liquor, but there are definitely other components. Some trade regs get quoted a lot as saying its “flavorless” but this is just flatly wrong.

            Point being: there’s a difference between extremely cheap vodka (Popov was popular in undergrad for being like five bucks a handle), reasonable vodka, and very nice vodka. The cheap stuff is incredibly foul unless mixed into sorority-girl sugary crap. The reasonable stuff (most vodkas) tastes pretty anonymous, though strongly alcoholic (and if you don’t like the taste of EtOH you won’t like it.) Very nice vodka can have actually interesting taste profiles.

            Now the trick is: expensive cool vodkas (Goose, Stoli, Absolut, whatever) are not “very nice”. They are “reasonable”, but jacked up their prices, advertised well, and now are just status symbols. Some people taste them, pay attention, notice this, and think “Hey, all vodka is identical!” No, just the stuff that’s sold as a status symbol. To be fair, they’re not bad–if I wanted a vodka martini, which I wouldn’t, because a martini is made with gin, goddammit, and is strictly inferior to a Vesper anyway, I would have no *objection* to a Stoli or Goose martini. It just wouldn’t be worth paying extra for.

            My two favorite vodkas are St. George’s and High West Oat, both of which taste, to my palate, great. That said, I tend to buy much cheaper stuff (though not Popov) on the rare occasions I need it at home for an infusion base or the like. I will bet money that I can ID High West Oat in a blind taste, it just doesn’t matter that much for what I tend to use vodka for.

            People rag on flavored or infused vodka a lot, but I think this is dumb. There certainly exist terrible ones, but there are plenty that are actually delicious. For that matter, you know what gin is? Juniper-infused vodka. Seriously. That’s the practical definition of gin: a vodka that’s infused with herbs and spices with particularly strong juniper notes (almost always.) Anyone who drinks gin and tonics likes infused vodka.

            Source for the above: I am not an alcoholic but if you saw my liquor cabinet I wouldn’t be offended if you thought I was.

          • Bugmaster says:

            FWIW I really like horseradish-infused vodka (pepper-infused is good too). Plain old vodka just tastes pointless to me, though… I feel like it’s just an alcohol delivery system.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I doubt that there is any, but would be interested to see it if it exists.

      Keep in mind that “there is little to no scientific evidence of X” means very different things depending on the state of the field. In a well-studied field, it means that X probably isn’t the case because it would have been turned up by previous investigation. In a more obscure field, it means that we can’t say much of anything because the question hasn’t been adequately investigated.

      I’m not an expert by any means but it looks like there’s almost no high-quality research on human courtship. So I don’t expect to see very much scientific evidence for or against the idea.

    • Deiseach says:

      she will often act disrespectfully or unreasonably towards him

      Where “disrespectful” and “unreasonable” mean “She said no”.

      God alone knows. I’m not going to say “Of course this never happens” because humans are humans and therefore perverse, so women (and men) may indulge in this behaviour.

      But I think this is more a portmanteau excuse for failure (“she wasn’t rejecting you, it was a shit test”) and wearing down resistance (“you passed the shit test so she really wanted you all along, it wasn’t that you wouldn’t take no for an answer and just wore her down into saying ‘yes’ to get rid of you”).

      I really think “No” “Ah come on” “No” “Come on, you know you wanna” “No” “I’m gonna keep at it till you say yes” “(Oh for fuck’s sake) Okay, yes” “See, I knew you didn’t mean it!” is the explanation, not some mythical “shit test”.

      It’s like this scene with Neelix and Tuvok (only less strangling), where Neelix is being an annoying oblivious nuisance under the guise of “now I know you really don’t mean that so I’m going to change your mind for you because I have your best interests at heart!”

      Tuvok is not shit testing Neelix, he really does want him to go away and leave him alone.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        Where “disrespectful” and “unreasonable” mean “She said no”.

        Do you seriously believe that’s what I’m talking about? I’m honestly curious.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        See my comment to Well… above.

        Rejection isn’t called a shit test, it’s just called rejection. A shit test is when a woman tries to get you to do something that will make you less attractive to her if you agree to do it.

        It’s weird that people make this mistake. If you can’t recognize rejection you’re not going to pick anyone up because you’re going to waste all of your time talking to people who aren’t interested in you. It’s not the first thing you learn but it’s damn close.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          A shit test is when a woman tries to get you to do something that will make you less attractive to her if you agree to do it.

          Assuming that shit tests are real, of course. I think it also includes when the woman engages in behavior which is objectively disrespectful or unreasonable, for example coming late to a date or flirting with another man right in front of her date.

          I suppose one can break things down into a few questions:

          First, do women really engage in this sort of behavior?

          Second, assuming that they do, is she more attracted to the man who reacts in a confident, dominant, unfazed manner? (And less attracted to the man who reacts defensively or submissively)?

          Third, again assuming that women engage in this sort of behavior, is it motivated at some level by the desire to test the man?

          The answer to the first question is clearly “yes.” Any man who has spent time trying to engage with women romantically can confirm this.

          I’m not so sure about the answer to the second question.

          As to the third question, the answer to the question is less important as a practical matter than the answer to the second.

          It’s weird that people make this mistake

          Putting aside whether shit tests are real, there’s no question that women regularly act disrespectfully and/or unreasonably towards men in the context of courtship. In our gynocentric society, a lot of people act pretty emotionally and negatively towards any observation which puts women in a negative light.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I suppose one can break things down into a few questions:

            First, do women really engage in this sort of behavior?

            Second, assuming that they do, is she more attracted to the man who reacts in a confident, dominant, unfazed manner? (And less attracted to the man who reacts defensively or submissively)?

            Third, again assuming that women engage in this sort of behavior, is it motivated at some level by the desire to test the man?

            Your way of breaking it down is clear and reasonable.

            Two is the most interesting question to me, as three seems difficult to test. I don’t know of any research that has been done on it unfortunately.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Also, what proportion of women do this? What proportion of attractive women?

          • Deiseach says:

            I think it also includes when the woman engages in behavior which is objectively disrespectful or unreasonable, for example coming late to a date or flirting with another man right in front of her date.

            there’s no question that women regularly act disrespectfully and/or unreasonably towards men in the context of courtship

            You have two things there. For the first, yes that’s rude behaviour whichever sex engages in it. If there’s not a good reason for being late, then turning up late is impolite. Being on a date with someone and paying all your attention to a different person is also rude.

            But then you jump from that to something very subjective. Was she “flirting with another man” or was it “hey that’s my old friend Tom, fancy him being here!” And what one person considers reasonable/unreasonable behaviour may not be the same as what another person considers. If someone is being deliberately rude, inattentive, and unreasonable then yes that’s wrong. “She should speak to nobody else, look at nobody else, pay no attention to anybody else, wait for me to answer questions put to us or even to her, let me take the lead in where we go and what we do when we get there” – that may be ‘reasonable’ for one party and considered ‘disrespectful’ if breached by the other. But the other party may think “I am going to answer any question put to me, I’m not a dog” – is that being disrespectful?

            Mostly I think my problem is I’m trying to imagine my mother in these scenarios and she’d go through these guys for a shortcut if they tried that shit on her (well, would have in her youth, e.g. she was the one walked home a drunk guy after a dance so he wouldn’t get himself drowned – the dance was held in a beachfront hotel and the walk home was along the strand with the tide coming in, and he wasn’t even her date, just a neighbour guy she knew. Not the kind of submissive and deferential to the male feminine behaviour some of these sites recommend to seek in a woman!). I suppose I was just raised wrong by a strong-minded independent woman who was formed in her attitudes before the Feminist 60s so I can’t even blame them for that influence on her! 🙂

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Where “disrespectful” and “unreasonable” mean “She said no”.

            Do you seriously believe that’s what I’m talking about? I’m honestly curious.

          • Anonymous says:

            @fortaleza84

            Daisy is a little ancient and, as per her self-report, doesn’t experience normal human sexuality. It’s probably just a intergenerational/inexperienced misunderstanding.

      • jehanne_lorraine says:

        Hey Deiseach- on the off chance you want to spend your spare time reading about PUAs you should have a look at Clarisse Thorn’s Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser. She was a writer for a formerly prominent feminist blog (feministe.us, seems to have basically died a couple years ago for some reason), who spent quite a bit of time hanging around pickup artists.

        IIRC she writes quite a bit about the whole idea of the shit test- and comes to similar conclusions as you. Although she does think it’s a flirting tactic some women use. A lot of the nonsense from PUAs seems to be extrapolating “common behaviors in the LA club scene” -> “things all women across the world do all the time”. Unfortunately, they also have a lot of good advice for men that goes beyond the usual “hit the gym, talk to women, dress well”. It’s easy to imagine a lot of guys getting some success following their advice, inheriting some dubious (to put it mildly) ethical principles, and assuming the rest of their theories hold.

        • James says:

          I just finished reading this and vouch for its goodness–not necessarily to Deiseach, but to anyone interested in the subject.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I recommend the book, too. I don’t know whether it’s accurate, but it’s interesting and plausible.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I don’t know if the logic behind it makes sense. I can definitely say, at a minimum, some women enjoy verbal banter and hurl more insults than Gordon Rasmey. It may be for no other reason than this is what rom-coms tell them to do.

      • rlms says:

        I think that’s a different thing. Some men also enjoy verbal banter; it’s a common gender-neutral part of flirting (or platonic interactions between friends). If you’re talking about women going too far and actually causing offence, I don’t think the reason for that is different for the general reason: cruelty can be fun.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Possibly. I did not consider that, because I’ve honestly never encountered a guy that says he enjoys verbal banter with women. I’m trying to remember from actions, but anything I come up with is going to be tainted. I cannot think of any guys who have tried starting banter with women other than one guy I STRONGLY suspect secretly reads PUA literature, and Jersey Shore Wanna-bees operating in sexually charged atmospheres.

          • rlms says:

            Really?! Do you know guys who enjoy verbal banter with their male friends?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            With guys? Sure. It’s part of being friends with guys.

            It’s not really part of initial courtship for these guys though.

          • rlms says:

            That’s surprising to me. I guess it depends who the guys are courting. If they only ever flirt with strangers, I can understand it more. The majority of flirting I see is between at least vague acquaintances, which probably changes things.

    • maintain says:

      I’m inclined to think that people “test” other people in little status fights all the time. (Although it’s more common in some cultures than others. If you’re posting on this blog, it’s probably not too common for the people you hang out with.)

      Although that’s just my first impression.

      How much scientific research is there about human status hierarchies period? Any good books on the topic?

      • fortaleza84 says:

        I’m inclined to think that people “test” other people in little status fights all the time

        .

        Yes, it could be that “shit tests” are better thought of as a subset of passive-aggressive behavior. For example the cashier who drops your receipt on the counter rather than handing it to you. Or the customer service representative with a bad attitude. In the latter case, it’s often difficult to exactly describe how the service rep is being rude.

        In fact, this seems to be a common thread in passive-aggressive behavior, it often seems calculated to be at the very edge of what’s rude and/or socially unacceptable so that the perpetrator can pretend to herself and others that she wasn’t doing anything wrong.

        Also, my general impression is that this type of behavior is primarily, but not exclusively, engaged in by females. Perhaps because men tend to choose what might be called “aggressive-aggressive behavior” over passive-aggressive behavior. For example it’s common to see some young tough walking down the sidewalk in such a way that other people have to get out of his way.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          You actually have an emotional reaction to having to pick your receipt up off a counter?

          To be fair, maybe I would, too– I’m not sure whether I’ve had to.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            It is pretty clearly a microaggression, just one step up from dropping your change on the counter instead of putting it in your outstretched hand.

            And I say that as someone who considers most claims of microaggression to be bullshit.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            You actually have an emotional reaction to having to pick your receipt up off a counter?

            Absolutely, if my hand is out for the cashier to hand me the receipt.

            But again, your question demonstrates one of the interesting things about passive-aggressive behavior. It’s so easy for the perpetrator to minimize it. It seems that a lot of the time it’s calculated to be annoying but with deniability.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I agree that if you have your hand out for the receipt, it’s probably a microaggression to put the receipt on the counter.

            However, I didn’t add the outstretched hand into the scenario when I made the comment.

    • Anon. says:

      Seems easy enough to test, no? Get a couple of actors to record two scenarios, one where the guy passes the shit test and one where he fails it. Show the videos to a sample of women, and ask them to rate the guy’s attractiveness. You’d have to find a more scientific-sounding name than “shit test” but I’m sure you could get this funded and published given the right credentials.

      • maintain says:

        That depends on who is conducting the experiment.

        Looking at the comments in this thread, I think that if you’re predisposed to think the hypothesis is bullshit, your experiment will probably be something like this:

        Woman: I’m not interested. Please leave me alone.
        Man: Girl, you know you want it. Don’t play hard to get.

        If you’re predisposed to thinking the hypothesis is valid, your experiment will go something like this:

        Woman: You think you’re so great, don’t you? I hate egotistical guys like you. (intense eye contact and big grin)
        Man: Yep, guilty as charged. So anyway, what do you do for a living?

        Both sides would conduct the experiment, and declare that the result of the experiment validates their hypothesis.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Ideally, whoever’s conducting the experiment would have both sides validate the script in advance, and have them watch the film afterwards (before having the sample rate it) to guard against the actor’s body language biasing the result.

          In practice, though, you’re probably right.

          • maintain says:

            To make the experiment even less open to bias, you could just give people chat logs between a man and a woman.

          • Tarpitz says:

            Speaking as an actor, do not attempt scientific experiments involving actors and expect to get useful data. You won’t even consistently get the same performance of the same scenario out of a given actor – not even close enough to be useful – and you’re going to have to use a bunch of actors to get a meaningful sample. At the very least, anticipate needing a truly gargantuan sample to ensure that the performance variation noise washes out.

      • Aapje says:

        You’d have to find a more scientific-sounding name than “shit test”

        “excrementum temptatio”

    • methylethyl says:

      I love reading these threads: men, talking about the behavior of women in such a way that women seem to be a foreign culture of which I have no experience. Does this mean they have no idea what women are like, or that I am mistaken about being one?

      • Urstoff says:

        Is this post a “shit test”: Y/N

      • Nornagest says:

        The maximally charitable interpretation is probably that a lot of people’s behavior around dating and romance is unconscious and pre-rational. For guys too, no doubt.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          This is exactly why I never used to discuss my heterosexuality on a rationalist blog.
          As the Italian Renaissance epic Orlando furioso says, eros is a species of madness.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Eh.

        Neither.

        You have experience being you. You have zero experience being other women, or more particularly, being all other women.

        There is a -type- of woman who engages in the behavior described.

        And this type of woman happens to be the type of woman some men are attracted to. It also happens to be a type of woman who is unlikely to hang around SSC. Personality correlates well with personality, but not so well with romantic interests, so we happen to have some of those men here, as well as some men who have incidentally dated them.

        • rlms says:

          I think it’s less that there happen to be some men who are attracted to that type here, and more that there are some men who read PUA stuff which mentions shit tests because the idea of them appeals to men who read PUA stuff.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Also possible.

            But I know a couple of the, ah, sort of women who engage in that sort of behavior. They’re… fun people to have at parties, basically, and cyclones of catty drama otherwise. (Meaning most other women don’t like them very much, since most people didn’t enjoy that aspect of high school at all)

            They seem to appeal to a certain kind of individual who feels low-status, who can sort of live vicariously through them while also feeling like they are “dating up” in the social hierarchy.

          • Deiseach says:

            some men who read PUA stuff which mentions shit tests because the idea of them appeals to men who read PUA stuff

            I wonder? The idea of “this is a shit test and you should say NO” especially when putting it in a context of “she will ask you something DISRESPECTFUL and UNREASONABLE” sounds a bit like yearning for the old days of When Men Were Men and could order their womenfolk around and be admired for it, and women knew their place (note: guys, these days never really existed like that). A stripped-down version of The Taming of the Shrew?

          • rlms says:

            Eh, I’m slightly more charitable (I think) than that. I think it’s less a reflection of a desire for Good Old-Fashioned Gender Roles, and more that men who seek out PUA stuff often harbour some bitterness towards women, and also like the idea of having a system to interact with them. So “women have these crazy manipulative schemes, and your lack of knowledge of them is a principal reason for your lack of romantic success” is an appealing sentiment.

          • Aapje says:

            @Deiseach

            I think that it is wrong to argue that those who adapt to a reality desire that reality.

            I may oppose violence, but if ‘Bob’ clearly means to go on a killing spree, I may choose to use violence against this person rather than be non-violent. I may prefer the situation where neither Bob or me uses violence, but that may not be an option because Bob is free to acts as he wants. I can only choose my own actions and I am limited to the options available to me.

            Similarly, people may prefer non-traditionalist dating methods, yet not be able to achieve success those they want to get into a relationship with, when they stick to those methods, because others want to be woo’d with traditionalist dating methods. In that case the choice can be between going along with that or staying single, which may leave both the person and the people the person wants to date worse off.

            Now, I do agree that some PUA methods seem quite unethical and also quite unpleasant, but if a person is attracted to women who want a man who acts high status, then it seems like the only option is to start acting high status. I would argue that giving a person what they want like this is less unethical than wanting it.

            If your argument is that shit tests don’t exist or that PUAs have a bias to seeing them more than they actually occur, then you can blame them for being biased, but I don’t see how it follows that they then actually desire this.

        • methylethyl says:

          Seems like a plausible theory.

        • Deiseach says:

          There is a -type- of woman who engages in the behavior described.

          Sure. But that’s a type, not all women. Phrasing it as “any and all women you meet will put you through shit tests” is as unrealistic as “any and all men will be gruff and tongue-tied around the objects of their admiration to the point of seeming to positively dislike them (but will in actuality die for them)”.

          • Nornagest says:

            Occurs to me that this is a mirror of that irritating “not all men” discourse.

            I’m hardly an expert on pickup, but it’s clearly designed by and for people who hang around clubs in major cities. In that context, it doesn’t have to be something that Yes All Women do for the heuristic to make sense: sooner or later, and probably sooner, you’re going to run into someone who tries it on you. Especially since I gather Rule 1, or close to it, is to talk to any remotely interesting woman who looks like she might also be interested.

            (EDIT: moved this between subthreads, since it makes more sense here)

          • Deiseach says:

            Yeah but Nornagest, if you’re mainly hanging out in clubs trying to pick up people there, the kind of people you’re interacting with are the kind that go to clubs to pick up/get picked up.

            There’s a natural age limit to that kind of behaviour, and the infamous “forty or older married/separated guy hitting on the twenty-something women” is the figure of fun there usually. For the guys, I suppose it’s the “bleached blonde drama queen” of these examples.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m not sure where you’re going with this. If you’re saying that it’s limited by context, that was sort of my point: the original question was “are shit tests real?”, and my answer is “it’s probably a useful concept in the context the term was designed for”. No one in this thread has said that they represent some kind of human (or even female) universal.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            No one in this thread has said that they represent some kind of human (or even female) universal.

            Actually, I’m starting to come up with a more general hypothesis. It seems that a lot of people (perhaps most) engage in status games with other people. For example, the cashier who puts your receipt down on the counter even though your hand is out. Or the young man who walks down the sidewalk without changing his course at all, forcing other people to get out of his way (until he runs into another young man doing the same thing!). Or the grocery shopper who takes longer to vacate a parking spot if she sees someone is waiting for it.

            Arguably, what’s special about courtship is the female hypergamy instinct. i.e. women are attracted to men who have higher status than them. So whether it’s a test or not, if a man allows a woman to maneuver him into a socially subordinate role, there really is a good chance she will lose sexual interest in him.

            So perhaps there are no shit tests by conscious or unconscious design, it’s just the natural consequences of (1) the human instinct to play status games; and (2) female hypergamy.

          • albatross11 says:

            All models lie, some models are useful. For the purposes of the PUAs, it doesn’t matter if their underlying theories of human psychology are nonsense–they just want to have practical techniques to help them pick up girls.

          • Thegnskald says:

            For some men, it is, for all relevant purposes, all women.

            It is a type of argument which is generally fruitless to pursue, because, effectively, you are arguing with a constantly reinforced perspective; if they were the sort of men who dated outside their type, they would already have encountered evidence against their worldview.

            It is like women who are attracted to assholes; you aren’t going to convince them that men aren’t assholes, because you are arguing against all their available evidence.

            But you know what is great?

            Apparently there are now pickup communities where men are judged based on their skill at PUA. If you aren’t good at it, you don’t get dates. Because dating is a reactive marketplace. Meaning there are women out there now who do shit tests, not because it is what they would otherwise do, but entirely to see how good the guy is at dealing with it.

            I assume because a guy who is good at PUA is good for casual sex. He won’t get clingy, won’t keep bothering her – one and done.

            I find this grandly entertaining. (And have encountered PUA people whining about it, because it turns their confidence game or whatever it is into a rooster show, and they know it. Their grand vision of turning the sexual marketplace to their own advantage has been turned against them.)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “Turns their confidence game or whatever it is into a rooster show, and they know it.”

            What cock-ups.

          • Anonymous says:

            (And have encountered PUA people whining about it, because it turns their confidence game or whatever it is into a rooster show, and they know it. Their grand vision of turning the sexual marketplace to their own advantage has been turned against them.)

            I think they misunderstood the point of PUA – casual fornication. If they are getting their cucumbers sinfully pickled, what’s the problem?

          • Aapje says:

            @Anonymous

            ‘Red Pill’ theory also extends to long term relationships. The basic idea is that women want to mate with an alpha/rooster, but want to have a long term relationship with a beta/provider.

            So within this theory, one can play the role of an alpha to get sex, one can play the role of a beta to get a sexless marriage (where she may cheat with alphas) or be both alpha and beta to make a woman fully satisfied.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Aapje

            My interpretation that women want alpha, and only alpha, but often can’t get the alphas to stick around (or pay them any attention whatsoever if they’re too old), and resort to the consolation prize of beta, or in the case of more sinister women – marriage with beta, and adultery with any alphas that deign to notice them.

      • Does this mean they have no idea what women are like…?

        Remember that many of us are severely challenged when it comes to “ordinary” social interactions.

        Those on the autism spectrum, in particular, want to know clear rules and recipes about behavior, as if it were a programming language. I myself grew up grousing that nobody ever let me look at the social-skills manual. This kind of complaint is probably baffling to most people.

        As Scott put it, ordinary conversation skirts the edge of being unintelligible, and ordinary flirting skirts the edge of being inappropriate. These are very difficult waters to navigate if you’re autistic.

        • methylethyl says:

          I should note that the question was only slightly tongue-in-cheek, and that despite being a hetero biological female, I did complete the SSC survey, and scored 39 on the autism quotient, and somewhat masculine on the gender profile. I have truly never been able to figure out whether threads like this are describing typical female behavior (that I don’t understand, being rather atypical– I don’t even carry a purse!), or if the behavior described is fictional or at least very atypical.

          • methylethyl says:

            PS: If you ever do get hold of the social skills manual, can you make me a copy? 😉

          • Deiseach says:

            Ditto re: the autism and scoring masculine despite being cishet female here. I really do not get the thing about “mind my purse” being a “shit test”, since the only time I’ve been asked “would you mind my bag/purse while I go to the loo?” it’s been seen as a perfectly ordinary request (even strangers have asked this of me).

            Granted, that’s not women making a request of a potential romantic partner, it’s women asking another woman for an ordinary favour. But I would have assumed a woman asking her boyfriend (or date/potential boyfriend) to mind her bag was just that – please look after this so it doesn’t get stolen, and I trust you enough to leave this with you. Not “are you A Manly Man who is so macho and testosterone-filled he can’t even be seen within twenty feet of Woman’s Things or else all the other Manly Men will think he’s an effeminate homosexual” kind of testing?

            I honestly do think a guy thinking “aha, is this woman trying to find out if I am a soft and pliable mommy’s boy who is so girly I won’t mind sitting with a Plainly This Belongs To A Female item beside me, that others might mistake as belonging to me and not her” is maybe worrying about something else entirely?

          • methylethyl says:

            Deiseach: I’m willing to accept the purse scenario as plausible, I just can’t comprehend it. I tried. There was maybe some comical brain overheating. I’ve held purses for women– nobody wants to set an expensive handbag on the floor of a public restroom, after all. They’re a nuisance, though. That’s why God made pockets. The idea that anyone would go to the trouble of using it as some sort of covert social pawn is baffling… but no more baffling than wearing makeup (I can’t imagine why any sane person would do this, short of hiding some major disfigurement– but it is obvious that many people do, and many of them appear to be both sane and not-disfigured)(a recent houseguest spilled some liquid eyeliner on the edge of my sink– and I can’t figure out how to remove it. Sandpaper would damage the countertop. I haven’t tried paint thinner yet, but it’s the logical next step. I am having a comprehension problem about this: 1) This stuff is basically hard enamel paint, 2) It is marketed for use on the delicate skin around the eyes, and 3) people actually use it that way. On purpose. Without coercion. Incomprehensible!). So… yeah. If true, it’s just another bizarre thing to add to the list of “weird sh*t other people do that doesn’t make any sense.”

          • John Schilling says:

            Nobody wants to set an expensive handbag on the floor of a public restroom, after all

            .

            Do doors on the stalls in womens’ restrooms not have hooks for hanging coats, hats. handbags, and the like?

            I have no fondness for restroom floors, but I don’t think I have ever asked anyone to hold my briefcase, backpack, or messenger bag while visiting one. And, even if it doesn’t qualify as “shit-testing”, it strikes me that dressing and accessorizing in such a manner that one needs a personal restroom attendant whenever one goes out in public at least qualifies as “high maintenance”.

          • baconbits9 says:

            PS: If you ever do get hold of the social skills manual, can you make me a copy?

            The first rule of social skills is that you have to act as if you haven’t gotten them out of a manual.

          • Anonymous says:

            @methylethyl

            It’s called “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie.

          • The Nybbler says:

            “How to win friends and influence people”

            Most overrated secular book ever. It’s a bunch of folksy stories by and about Carnegie, replete with (now meaningless) name-drops, wherein he illustrates that by stroking other people’s egos you can get them to do what you want.

          • Anonymous says:

            That sounds like social skills to me.

          • methylethyl says:

            Do doors on the stalls in womens’ restrooms not have hooks for hanging coats, hats. handbags, and the like?

            Sometimes. If you haven’t scoped out the restrooms before, why risk it? In most settings, the hook is on the inside of the stall door, right at the top, and susceptible to unscrupulous people reaching over the door and grabbing your purse, while you are stuck on the pot. In places with slow maintenance, the hooks will often be broken off. Some places you get lucky and the hooks are on the side or back of the stall, or lower on the door, or there’s one of those giant toilet paper vaults that can be used as a shelf. Your average diner, chinese takeout, or gas station restroom is a single no-stall room with no hooks, shelves, or other reasonably dry and hygienic places to put a bag. It’s complicated.

            I freaking hate purses, and on the odd occasions I’m forced to carry one, it’s basically a zipper pocket on a string (because female-clothing manufacturers sometimes forget to include pockets, and you still have to have someplace to put your wallet), so I don’t have to worry about where to set it. But some of my friends invest quite a lot of money in designer handbags (I understand this is some sort of signalling mechanism to let other women know your social status, but it is very mysterious to me– like wearing painful shoes). If I had paid $800 for a handbag, I’d probably engage in some strange behaviors to keep it safe, too.

          • the hook is on the inside of the stall door, right at the top …. In places with slow maintenance, the hooks will often be broken off.

            In men’s toilets, the hooks are almost all broken off by vandals, and never replaced. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow the maintenance is.

            I don’t really understand why vandals would target coat hooks. Or maybe there’s just a lot of wear and tear on stall doors. But you can go through a long line of stalls in a large men’s public restroom and find the hook broken or missing in every one.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t really understand why vandals would target coat hooks.

            That’s where they happened to be bored one time, I guess.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            In men’s toilets, the hooks are almost all broken off by vandals, and never replaced.

            Not my experience, maybe a regionalism?

            My experience with toilet stalls is in movie theaters, higher end shopping malls, Seattle local cafes, class A business office space, airports, and on board commercial aircraft.

            Coat and bag hooks are always present, and always functional. Given that I’m almost always wearing one of my nice bespoke outercoats and a small shoulder bag holding a notebook and a few tablets when I’m out and about, I always use the hooks, and finding one broken off and unrepaired would make me angry and stick in my memory.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Bespoke overcoats? Oh my. 🙂

          • albatross11 says:

            I haven’t noticed this either–most mens rooms where I live seem to have functional coat hooks. OTOH, I rarely go to bars (and didn’t even when I was in the dating market), so maybe I just go different sorts of places where there are fewer vandals.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Never seen a coat hook broken off.

            Or I should say, I guess, that they have always been there on the rare occasion when I need one, since I don’t generally look for one.

            However, it would surprise me 0% if this was nearly universal in most of New England. Terrible people there seem to tend to engage in petty destruction. (Terrible people elsewhere have different hobbies to keep them busy, like meth or knitting ill-fitting clothing for family members.)

          • methylethyl says:

            However, it would surprise me 0% if this was nearly universal in most of New England.

            Oddly enough, I noticed this problem (broken coat hooks) most when I lived in the Boston area. That is also where I was most asked to look after someone else’s purse. This may be coincidence.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            However, it would surprise me 0% if this was nearly universal in most of New England.

            Oh… Boston!

            I missed that part, and regularly block those memories.

            Yeah, New England is *special*. When I’m transiting through Logan, I’m surprised that the toilets actually work, let alone if there are coathooks in the stall.

          • Never seen a coat hook broken off.

            Not my experience, maybe a regionalism?

            I haven’t noticed this either–most mens rooms where I live seem to have functional coat hooks.

            It occurs to me that my frustration with broken and missing coat hooks dates back to the 1990s. Maybe the situation is not as bad today as it was then.

            Hill Auditorium at the University of Michigan is an upscale concert venue built in 1913. Around 20 years ago, the building was renovated, and toilet facilities were greatly expanded. To my surprise and frustration, the newly built stalls had no hooks at all, apparently as a pre-emptive surrender to vandals.

            I and others managed to persuade the renovation architects that habitues of classical music concerts were (1) unlikely to vandalize coat hooks, and (2) more likely to need them, due to wearing fancy garb. And so “wardrobe hooks” were installed. I haven’t made a systematic study, but I believe those hooks are still in place.

          • NoSuchPlace says:

            PS: If you ever do get hold of the social skills manual, can you make me a copy?

            This exists if it is the kind of thing you are looking for.

        • caryatis says:

          @methylethyl About makeup…I don’t get why you don’t get it. People in general like to be more attractive. Eyeliner is an easy way of making myself more attractive. Therefore…

          Is your issue that you don’t know how to use it or believe it would be painful?

          • methylethyl says:

            @caryatis: I “get it” in theory. People like to look more attractive, get more positive attention from others, etc.

            The particular eyeliner in question cannot be removed from my bathroom counter with water, soap, or vigorous scrubbing. It’s still there, weeks later. Is the user supposed to wait for skin cell turnover to get it off the face, or use solvents right next to the mucous membranes of the eyes?? Neither seems like a good idea.

            I am familiar with the “how” in basic makeup technique, but have always found wearing the stuff on my face unbearable. Comfort and practicality (cost, skin health, necessity of carrying a purse) rank higher in my personal hierarchy than other people’s assessments of me– for better or worse.

          • Aapje says:

            @methylethyl

            Supposedly there are at least 4 methods to remove it. Soap is presumably the wrong thing to use (and the eyeliner may even be designed to be soap resistant, so you can wash your face without removing the eyeliner).

            PS. A non-cross dressing man explaining make-up to a woman. Surely I win a mansplaining award for this one? 😛

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @methylethyl,

            Eyeliner comes off of skin very easily. Just put your fingertip on it and you can easily smudge it*, and a little ethanol on a cotton ball will clean it entirely. After all, that’s what it was designed for.

            I think your real problem is that your countertop isn’t made of human skin and makeup companies don’t make a lot of sales to people trying to make their sinks look pretty on a Friday night. It left a stain because that’s not the sort of material it was designed to come off of easily.

            *Protip: Don’t actually do this if you don’t want the woman in question to get very annoyed with you.

          • methylethyl says:

            I’ve now tried rubbing alcohol and vegetable oil, with no success. Sigh. Thanks for the suggestions, anyway. Perhaps acetone?

            @Aapje: Makeup is hardly a “women-only” area of expertise (especially if you include newscasters and theater participants). I think you’re safe.

          • The Nybbler says:

            A bit of searching reveals some of the pigments are metal-based; Bar Keeper’s Friend might work to remove it.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Supposing for the sake of argument that the men can use their conclusions about the behavior of women to make substantially-better-than-chance predictions about how women will act in certain situations. And further suppose that you cannot make such predictions about other women. Which answer would this argue for?

        Neither, of course; it’s possible for a man to have a more useful theory-of-mind of women, at least in the context of courting, than a given woman does. He certainly has more incentive.

        • methylethyl says:

          True. And I’ve never tried to date women, so I can’t say from experience what they’re like in a romantic context.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        I think it’s not uncommon for a typical man to have romantically pursued hundreds of women, enough experience to observe patterns. A typical woman probably has zero experience romantically pursuing women. All she has to go on is introspection and self-reporting from other women.

        Introspection can often be pretty unreliable when it comes to (1) discerning one’s motivations; and (2) understanding one’s misbehavior. The same is true when people self-report regarding their own motivations or misbehavior.

        • WarOnReasons says:

          A typical man that has romantically pursued hundreds of women probably has significantly lower standards. Therefore he is much more likely to encounter all sorts of pathological behaviors than men who focus on quality rather than quantity. I would be wary of extrapolating the experience of such people on the general population.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            A typical man that has romantically pursued hundreds of women probably has significantly lower standards.

            Lower than what? Based on my general experiences, I would estimate that number is pretty typical. I’m not just talking about trying to pick up girls at social events, I am talking about every situation where a guy meets a girl he is interested in sexually/romantically and attempts to socialize with her.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m probably not typical[1], but romantically pursuing hundreds of women sounds quite unusual to me. I mean, if you’re saying something like “casually flirted with hundreds of women,” that’s probably true of me. But actually dating someone, or interacting with her in a context where romance/sex was on the table as a possibility–that’s maybe 20-30 women in my whole life. (And I don’t think I’ve lived an especially sheltered or romantically/sexually-deprived life.)

            My suspicion is that the big advantage the PUAs have in figuring stuff out is that they have a large number of trials, and a clear way of telling whether or not each trial was successful. You don’t need a lot of sophisticated data analysis when you’ve got a big enough N. The parts of their model they can test using this large N are only the ones that lead to success or failure in seducing women–their deeper claims about human nature, female psychology, etc., are probably no more insightful than anyone else’s. But within the realm of picking up women in bars and similar places, they’re at least in a position to learn a lot quickly.

            [1] But I’m not anywhere close to being autistic and I’m not particularly socially awkward. I dated a fair bit in high school and college, had a relatively successful sex life as a single man, and got married around the time I turned 30 to a woman I’d been close friends with for about a decade before we started dating.

      • InferentialDistance says:

        Psychology is the study of a black box, and given the differences, both biological and environmental, between men and women, it should be unsurprising that attempting to understand psychology related specifically to those differences*, but for the other sex, would look so.

        * Courtship is closely involved with sexual reproduction, about which both sexual differences and social organization are strongly connected. It should be unsurprising that the psychology of courtship differs between the sexes, and is affected by gender roles.

    • The example I heard recently, from someone arguing that women do this kind of “testing”, was approximately as follows.

      Third date. She says something about not seeing this relationship going further, maybe we can be friends, we’re not going to have sex. He is upset, and argues, but we had such good times together, etc.

      That’s a “fail”, and they will never date again. [says the narrator]

      Same scenario: He says ouch, sorry to hear that, as if casually disappointed, but changes the subject: Oh, by the way, how are you liking that Pilates class?

      That’s a “pass”, and they go to bed that night. [says the possibly unreliable narrator]

      My actual understanding (and I wish I knew this back when I was younger): your displayed interest in the potential partner is attractive only if it doesn’t exceed her interest in you.

      If you’ve just met, or barely know each other, it is creepy to be too eager.

      For example, it is wildly unattractive to give the impression that rejecting a date with you will cause you torment.

      If she sees that you’d be just mildly disappointed when she says “no”, she’s more likely to say “yes”.

      I suppose mild, casual disappointment after a setback, rather than anguish, shows confidence and resilience, which are obviously attractive qualities.

      • powerfuller says:

        My actual understanding (and I wish I knew this back when I was younger): your displayed interest in the potential partner is attractive only if it doesn’t exceed her interest in you.

        That reminds me of the observation from Swann’s Way — if it becomes known that one partner cares too much about the other, it absolves the other of any guilt for caring too little.

      • Randy M says:

        Attractiveness is largely relative to other people, and other people’s opinions of a person are going to affect your perception of that person. If they seem like they have options, convincingly, then that is going to make them more attractive than someone for whom you are there only choice–and then their attraction to you is also kind of insulting, in that you don’t want to be the person that somebody with no attractiveness thinks s/he can/should be able to attract.

        Of course in practice attractiveness is multi-faceted, but the principle should hold to an extent.

      • maintain says:

        This is your friendly Kolmogorov whisper network reporting in. The topic you are discussing is extremely sensitive. You may think that your statements are completely innocent, but other people may find them very offensive. Perhaps consider discussing this topic anonymously.

        • publiusvarinius says:

          Thank you for maintaining this valuable service!

        • Deiseach says:

          You may think that your statements are completely innocent, but other people may find them very offensive.

          “Other people” can go whistle Dixie. As long as no names are being named or examples from easily identifiable or findable accounts on social media/other sites, free comment is, well, free.

          (Note: possible slight sensitivity on my part regarding others who find things offensive, as I’m currently smarting under the rebuke on another site where one of the “can dish it out but can’t take it” crowd went running to the mods over something I meant as teasing in tone).

          • As long as no names are being named or examples from easily identifiable or findable accounts on social media/other sites, free comment is, well, free.

            I presume the Kolmogorov whisper was directed at me, and my name is named right there.

            To be clear: I deplore PUA views and tactics (relevant XKCD). Rather, I pointed out that the man’s supposed “pass the shit test” action was merely having the good sense not to openly catastrophize about romantic setbacks.

          • Bugmaster says:

            I now have Dixie stuck in my head. I’ll get you for this memetic hazard, Deiseach ! You and your little dog, too !

    • rahien.din says:

      If you presuppose that women are going to try and reject you by making you do mildly humiliating things, then that reveals your default attitudes toward women. It also sheds light on the selection procedure by which you choose which woman to pursue. So the idea of a “shit test” seems like a mirror.

      People are always gauging the other people they interact with. And they tend to act weirder around people they are sexually attracted to. So it doesn’t seem surprising that a woman would scrutinize a man’s actions more closely and more weirdly if they were sexually attracted to that man. If a woman gives a man her purse to hold, and he does it gracefully, and she’s instantly turned off, then she either wasn’t that into him in the first place, or she’s reacting more weirdly than the average woman, or both.

      Probably this entire phenomenon is applicable no matter the combination of gender. People are just weird and awkward – think of all the teenage boys who put bugs on the shirts of the teenage girls they like. I don’t think it’s necessary to surmise all this other stuff.

      ETA : unnecessary and distracting phraseology

      • fortaleza84 says:

        If a woman gives a man her purse to hold, and he does it gracefully, and she’s instantly turned off, then she either wasn’t that into him in the first place,

        No girl has ever asked me to hold her purse, but it’s happened to me many times that (1) there was a girl I was interested in; (2) we spent time together and there seemed to be mutual attraction; (3) I did something nice for her; and (4) she immediately lost interest in me.

        A lot of men I have spoken to report similar experiences.

        It’s easy enough to shrug your shoulders and say “People are weird when it comes to sex,” but I think by doing that you are missing the opportunity to have a more accurate and predictive model of female behavior.

        What PUA’s would say (and I think they are correct on this point) is that women are hypergamous, i.e. their sexual attraction is primarily towards men who are above them in terms of power and status. When a girl perceives that a man values her more than vice versa, it tends to diminish him in her eyes and cause her to lose sexual attraction.

        And having thought about it, I think that’s the problem with shit tests. Whether they are real or not, passive-aggressive behavior is very real, especially among women. In the context of courtship, if a man allows himself to be maneuvered into a subordinate role with the woman by accepting passive-aggressive behavior, it undermines his chances of getting a romantic/sexual relationship.

        • rahien.din says:

          An accurate and predictive model of female behavior is that they will maneuver you into a subordinate role and then reject you as a sexual partner, because women are passive-aggressive and sexually attracted to power and status.

          You have placed a mirror between yourself and the women you think you understand.

          Good luck out there.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Women never engage in passive-aggressive behavior

            That’s quite a generalization.

            But good luck out there.

        • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

          No girl has ever asked me to hold her purse, but it’s happened to me many times that (1) there was a girl I was interested in; (2) we spent time together and there seemed to be mutual attraction; (3) I did something nice for her; and (4) she immediately lost interest in me.

          Now see, I would interpret that as her suddenly realizing that you were looking for a romantic relationship with her, something she was never interested in.

          I don’t trust my judgement in these matters, but I thought it made for an interesting contrast.

          Chandler on flirting.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Now see, I would interpret that as her suddenly realizing that you were looking for a romantic relationship with her, something she was never interested in.

            I’m kinda skeptical about this interpretation. For example, if I invite a girl to meet me alone for lunch, there’s a decent chance she thinks I’m interested in her. If she then asks me to help her find a job and I agree to send her resume to a few contacts, it’s difficult to see how this would increase her estimate of the chances I am interested in her romantically.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            If she then asks me to help her find a job and I agree to send her resume to a few contacts,

            Not the sort of scenario I was envisaging. To be honest, that one sounds more like she was faking interest because she wanted something from you. [Previous disclaimer applies; I’m really not good at this.]

          • fortaleza84 says:

            To be honest, that one sounds more like she was faking interest because she wanted something from you.

            For various reasons, that does not fit the facts in the situation I described. To be sure, there are all kinds of interpretations of any situation, but the basic pattern I have observed (and other men have reported) seems pretty consistent. An apparent drop in romantic interest immediately following a favor. Regardless of whether the favor is requested or volunteered. And regardless of whether the favor itself would signal romantic interest.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Tentative explanation (very tentative): The man did a favor for the woman that wasn’t something she actually wanted.

          She’s sufficiently conflict averse that she doesn’t want to tell him she wanted something else, or thought it was too early the relationship for significant favors. The relationship is new enough and marginal enough that the cost to her of bailing out is low.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Tentative explanation (very tentative): The man did a favor for the woman that wasn’t something she actually wanted.

            A lot of the time, the favor is requested. And a lot of the time, the favor would be pretty easy to turn down.

            I’d like to say that I’m open to alternative explanations of the phenomenon I (and many other men) have observed, but in reality the evidence is pretty compelling that when a man does something nice for a woman it is likely to trigger her hypergamy instinct into being less sexually attracted to him.

            Also, it seems to me that alternative explanations are quite likely the result of “women are wonderful” bias, i.e. people have a tendency to instinctively reject arguments, evidence, or hypothesis which are perceived to paint women in a negative light.

          • Harry Maurice Johnston says:

            That bias may be a factor, but I think it’s more that we’ve never personally seen it happen, and that your explanation doesn’t seem to make sense. (How is being willing and able to do something nice for a woman a sign of low status?)

            That doesn’t rule your theory out, of course. It might be a new and/or localized cultural phenomena, or one contingent on some non-obvious characteristic of the existing relationship. Or just one of those mysterious bubble things Scott discussed a while back.

          • methylethyl says:

            This reminds me of an employment discussion I ran across ages ago. In a totally non-romantic setting, the author claimed that the way to get along with your coworkers was NOT to do favors for them, or if you do, make it seem like it was them doing you a favor. People will hate you if they feel obligated or indebted to you– it introduces a lot of tension into the relationship. According to the advice, the way to ingratiate yourself with coworkers is to remind them of things they’ve done for you, in a “dude, you saved my @ss, I owe you one!” kind of way.

            If true, this might easily explain an aversion to favors in a romantic setting. Possibly with some amplification, as a woman in a “owe you a favor” (especially if it’s a big favor) situation may be quite a lot more uncomfortable than a coworker. Typically, coworkers don’t expect sex in return.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            but in reality the evidence is pretty compelling that when a man does something nice for a woman it is likely to trigger her hypergamy instinct into being less sexually attracted to him.

            Alternative hypothesis: The situation has become transactional which switches those particular women into a mental state other than romantic interest.

            I’d also have to see how the men verbally and non-verbally respond in the situation to see if they’re unconsciously sending signals to the woman.

            And quite frankly, without a heck of a lot more detail from the men and the women both, I’m not willing to accept your hypothesis as likely to be true. Or your statement above to Harry:

            To be honest, that one sounds more like she was faking interest because she wanted something from you.

            For various reasons, that does not fit the facts in the situation I described.

            The vast majority of transactions and interactions between men and women are not of a sexual-interest nature (even if flirtation is involved). Hard proof is needed when declaring that a particular one is.

            people have a tendency to instinctively reject arguments, evidence, or hypothesis which are perceived to paint women in a negative light.

            Harry’s earlier counter-hypothesis which you rejected did not paint the lunch-resume woman in a positive light, it painted her as a manipulator. Which to most people is likely seen as a greater negative than your hypothesis.

    • Anonymous says:

      Is there any scientific evidence that “shit tests” are real?

      Not that I know of, but if there is, I’d definitely add it to my Repository of Hatred!

    • Loquat says:

      N=1 and all that, but I will to confess to having accidentally shit-tested a boyfriend back in college. Basically, in a fit of selfishness I changed my mind a few times over whether he was coming to a certain family event or hanging out with his own friends he hadn’t seen in a while, and he just did what I told him without at any point objecting. I realized afterwards that I’d been a bitch and walked all over him, and that furthermore I probably didn’t have the self-discipline to stay a good person in a relationship with someone who wouldn’t stand up to me.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      A thought: a lot of comments in this thread sound vaguely like “oh, it might happen, but only one of those women would do it.”

      “Those” women do not have a monopoly on “bad” behavior. And “those” women do not universally engage in “bad” behavior, nor are they only the sort that men with supposedly low standards would pursue.

    • Brad says:

      Aren’t there numerous forums for this? Do we really need to spend creepiness points debating PUA ideas? For the all the radioactivity, at least with respect to the race stuff there’s a plausible argument that it is under-discussed elsewhere.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Ah but OP said the magic words “scientific evidence” so QED it must belong here.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        Aren’t there numerous forums for this?

        Possibly, but for what it may be worth this discussion as proved very helpful for me to start thinking about “shit tests” (if they exist) as part of a broader set of social phenomena. In a typical red pill forum, it probably would have been a lot harder to do this. Probably half the posts would be either guys complaining about their bitchy ex-wife/girlfriend or boasting about the 19 year old cheerleader they are supposedly banging.

        • Brad says:

          Your posts over the last month or so that I’ve seen your handle here, have almost all served to make this forum more like those forums. If even you recognize that end state as undesirable, then you should cease and desist from these types of posts.

          There is a reason that all the places that discuss “shit tests” are … well shitty.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with discussing “shit tests,” I do think that the types of posts I complained about can be disruptive. So to the extent that discussing shit tests, makes this forum “more like” a red pill forum, I don’t see the problem.

            But what’s even more disruptive is meta-debate, so my contribution to this meta-exchange is done. I will not read or respond to anything further you post to this thread, but feel free to have the last word. Bye.

  14. johan_larson says:

    This one’s for the military history nerds.

    Suppose you could get front-row seats to any battle in history. Cannae? D-Day? Yorktown? Sure, whatever you want. You’ll have your own personal invisible flying drone camera that lets you view the battle from any angle. Subtitles are available too.

    But there’s a catch: you’ll face the same risk of death or injury as the actual participants. TANSTAAFL, you know.

    Anyone still interested?

    • bean says:

      I think so. I’m leaning towards Jutland (of course). The casualties were relatively low for a major battle, although I might poke around and see if there’s something almost as interesting with a significantly lower risk.

      • johan_larson says:

        100,000 participants, 9,000 or so casualties at Jutland. Not a risk I would face voluntarily.

        • bean says:

          Where’d the 100,000 number come from? That seems a bit lower than I’d expect from the ratio of ships sunk to total ships there, particularly given that several ships did in fact have a lot of survivors.

          • bean says:

            I may have to run a source check on that. It’s suspiciously round, and definitely lower than I expected. 6 of 72 large ships were lost with most hands (3 battlecruisers, 2 armored cruisers, 1 pre-dreadnought). Ignoring the light ships for now, that suggests that the number of total engaged should be closer to 110,000 if every ship was equally crewed.

          • CatCube says:

            You probably know, but it’s worth a reminder for people that don’t discuss battles often that the term “casualties” includes losses of all types–killed, missing, and wounded. Wounded are typically the largest component by far.

            Of course, I’m thinking of land combat, where I know you’re more likely to be wounded than killed, but I don’t know if that’s true for naval combat. I could see that you either make it off the ship with no wounds or get stuck on it and die being possible, but I’d still think that getting injured during the abandonment and awaiting rescue is possible.

          • bean says:

            @CatCube
            Not at Jutland. From Wiki:
            British:
            6,094 killed
            674 wounded
            177 captured
            German:
            2,551 killed
            507 wounded

            On land, you’re correct. At sea, it varies a lot, depending on the state of the ships and the SAR effort afterwards. Jutland saw 6 big ships blow up with single-digit numbers of survivors, and only two sink in ways that could get most of the crew off. Some battles have even more lopsided ratios (Denmark Strait), while others are probably a lot more like land battles. I can’t find wounded for most naval battles, and in some cases the survivors don’t get picked up even though they get off the ships.

          • johan_larson says:

            @bean

            I may have to run a source check on that.

            By all means. 100,000 is the only figure I’ve been able to Google up. It’s easy to find the total number of ships on each size, the losses in ships and men, and even a complete order of battle. But getting the number of participants is harder. It may require print sources.

            Here’s hoping you don’t have to add up the crew sizes for 250 ships.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          That’s an interesting question– how much risk are people willing to take for knowledge?

          How dangerous is being a battle observer on those terms compared to, say, being a volcanologist? What’s the riskiest sort of knowledge-gathering? In science? In journalism?

          • dodrian says:

            The obvious answer would be astronaut.

            By my count, there have been 357 people selected by NASA to become astronauts (not all have flown, nor will fly).

            Three died in the Apollo 1 fire, seven each in the Challenger and Columbia disasters – that’s 17 American astronaut deaths directly as a result of their work, or 4.8%. There were additionally several deaths of astronauts in training aircraft.

    • rahien.din says:

      I might do Lake Trasimene if I could assume the risk of Hannibal’s forces.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Sure, just as long as I get to go to confession first.

    • Well... says:

      I’d like to go see the Walls of Jericho come down. And since I’m part of God’s chosen tribe and no casualties on that side are reported, I have reason to believe I’d be pretty safe.

    • Deiseach says:

      Battle of Clontarf, as long as I’m not Brian Bóroimhe 🙂

    • aNeopuritan says:

      Possibly unqualified answer, but at least a different perspective: I’m at least military-history-nerd-adjacent, and I wasn’t all that interested *before* the catch (I guess that without it, “I wouldn’t turn it down” … well, perhaps even with); you win wars with larger population, more cultural cohesion, and more industry.

    • Urstoff says:

      Balaclava to see if the poem holds up

  15. jhertzlinger says:

    Aren’t anti-agathics supposed to be invented this year?

    • Morgan says:

      “As usual, he was wrong”

      (Probably)

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Millions now living will never die!

      • Deiseach says:

        Millions now living will never die!

        That always sounded vaguely threatening to me. So what is going to happen to them?

        • Doctor Mist says:

          I don’t know if he took that from life, but in the story I assumed they expected to be taken to Heaven in the Rapture or similar.

          • roystgnr says:

            That’s a Jehovah’s Witnesses phrase; Googling dates it to 1918. I haven’t read Blish (except a few short stories, IIRC?) but I’ve heard he based his “Believers” heavily on them.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          For the benefit of the puzzled, the story is James Blish’s They Shall Have Stars (first of the Cities in Flight novels. I’ve often thought that they’d make a better movie franchise than most F&SF stories that have been turned into movie franchises.)

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        I recognize the humor.

        Statistically accidents will get us all.

  16. OrneryOstrich says:

    Contra Scott on IQ differences
    Scott’s often said that IQ is like height, and that thinking of IQ the way you think of height is a good way to think about the topic with different emotional attachments. Some people are taller than others, and everybody generally accepts that. Being tall makes you better at basketball, and everybody generally accepts that. Similarly, some people have higher IQ, and having a higher IQ makes you better at doing important sciencey stuff to save the human race. For fun, he used Space Jam as a jokey example of saving an entire civilization through basketball.
    I think the analogy between IQ and height is great, but Scott doesn’t go far enough or think about the analogy as much as he should.
    Here’s how a truly unbiased observer would describe humans and height:

    All humans exist in the kiloscopic range, and are invisible to our naked eyes. Humans call each other “tall” if they are 0.002km, and “short” if they are 0.0015km. Someone who is 0.001km is one of the shortest of the short. The differences between heights are extremely important to humans – some refuse to mate with humans shorter than them, some refuse to mate with humans taller than them, and some have built their livelihoods and lives around a sport involving a hoop hanging 0.0033km off the ground. While the height differences between humans are imperceptible to us, humans are extremely competitive and consider all differences important.

    And I think IQ is the same way. Sure some humans are smarter than others, but the differences are tiny. We’re just really really good at sussing out these differences. We spend our childhoods finding niches where we’re slightly better at something than other people, and then we spend our adulthoods exploiting a niche where possible. Basketball is a good analogy not because it’s actually important for the human race’s survival, but because it’s a totally artificial test of height that’s basically designed to weed out the tall from the short. If IQ is important for a skill, that’s a sign that the skill is really just a competition with other humans.
    When Scott talks about IQ as a necessary skill to save the human race from technology we can barely comprehend, note that the root cause of every X-risk is still human intelligence (or meteors, I guess). Avoiding X-risk isn’t a situation where IQ is a key factor in achieving some objective cause – it’s still about outsmarting other humans.
    Here are my concrete predictions:
    1. We call a skill “zero-sum” if you can’t improve your standing without decreasing someone else’s. Shooting a basket is a nonzero-sum skill, but playing basketball is a zero-sum skill. If a skill is nonzero-sum, either nearly every human can learn to do it, or almost no human can learn to do it. There aren’t any skills that only, say, 75% of humans can learn to do. Anyone can cook, but not everyone can be the best cook.
    2. If we ever make contact with an alien race, it’s extremely unlikely that they’ll consider a chosen few of us to be intelligent. Either all of us are intelligent, or none of us are.
    3. Children will be more interested in a subject if they’re the best at it compared to their immediate peers, and being the best early on is a sure indicator that you will continue to improve at this skill throughout your life. What would happen if we gave a standardized test to children, then compared children with the same objective score but different scores relative to their class? I predict that being much worse than your peers will cause your skill to decline, being much better than your peers will cause your skill to stagnate, and trading ranks with a handful of people at the top of the class will make you thrive, no matter how “objectively” good at the skill you initially were.
    Finally.
    If you lived in the middle ages, what odds would you have placed that one day 97% of all people would be able to read? I don’t know about you, but I would have placed maybe 5% odds on this happening. I feel the same way about all STEM, today – anyone under the age of 6, no matter their IQ, could start today and develop an decent understanding of any branch of science. But mastery of STEM is seen as zero-sum. If you’re doing research, you want to be the first to publish or patent. If you’re working in industry, you’re stack-ranked against your coworkers, and your company is elbowing out competitors. People lose interest in STEM because they see their peers outperform them, and they should! Society promotes STEM as a means to best other humans, not as a general tool to understand the world, the way we promote literacy.

  17. eddie.purcell says:

    Is there a consensus on how much we should believe Seth Abramson (@sethabramson)? He goes back and forth between seeming legit and seeming crack-potty to me (as a lay-person wrt law etc..), but his twitter threads on the Mueller investigation are compelling, and I want badly to but a lot of credence in them.

    In favor, it seems:
    -many of his predictions in the last few months have borne out.

    against:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seth_Abramson#Tweets_about_Donald_Trump seems to be a good reason not to take him too seriously

  18. Mark says:

    I’m in my mid-thirties, and I don’t have enough money to live in a house, and be a normal person.

    Does anyone have any good advice on professions or trades where there is a fairly clear pathway to earning money?

    My dream would be to become some sort of cowled wise man. Or a master craftsman with a lustrous beard living in the 17th century (but with trains and medicine).

    So, basically, I’m not sure that my passions are a sensible guide to the kind of work I should be doing.

    I think I’m looking for a job where there is a clear pathway to getting a job in that field (not something that would require 10 years of specialist education/luck), something that doesn’t require a great deal of passion (just a job), that pays reasonably well (average pay/conditions), with room for development and progression, and that doesn’t involve too much forced enthusiasm.

    • johan_larson says:

      Are you looking for white-collar desk work?

      How many years of training would be acceptable?

      Can you pay for your training or does it need to be free or nearly free?

      • Mark says:

        White collar desk work would be fine, as long as it’s not completely routine work, with some sort of skill (or possibility of gaining a skill) that means I’m not completely at the mercy of the company I’m working for.

        So, it’d be fine as long as the work left me with some time, and money, to be able to do healthy outside stuff, and the skills gave me the option to have reasonable working conditions.

        Training – I could probably do a year of training (without pay) if I was more or less guaranteed a job at the end of it. I can pay for it, but I really don’t want to waste time/money on something speculative.

        • johan_larson says:

          How would you feel about working for the armed services? They offer training, including quite sophisticated training, for those who qualify. It’s free, and some of the technical training is transferable to civilian occupations.

          Unfortunately the pay for enlisted personnel tends to be kind of sad, though the benefits are good.

          The max enlistment ages are air force:39, army:35, navy:34 and marines:28.

          • Mark says:

            Would be interesting, but I’m British and I’m over the maximum age for British armed forces.
            I also don’t meet residency requirements, as I have lived abroad within the last five years.

          • Evan Þ says:

            French Foreign Legion?

        • Deiseach says:

          White collar desk work would be fine, as long as it’s not completely routine work, with some sort of skill (or possibility of gaining a skill) that means I’m not completely at the mercy of the company I’m working for.

          Accountancy. At minimum, an accounting technician course (lets you go on then to get more qualifications if that’s what you want). Seems to be a good chance of getting a job out of it, definitely is a transferable skill. Depends on whether or not you think it would bore you to tears 🙂

          Looks like there are two rival bodies in the UK to train as an accounting technician if that whets your interest.

          • Mark says:

            Thanks – I’ll look into that.

          • Yes, I was going to suggest this under the main post, but instead I’ll talk about it here.

            I became an accountant about 40 years ago, because I was looking for a profession where I was in demand so I didn’t have to beg for a job. It only kind of worked. It took 45 interviews after college to land a job, and I had difficulty switching positions once I had a job. But I think that was mostly me, because I am very bad at job interviews, and I was too ambitious to settle for certain positions. Once I had some experience, there was a lot of demand for my services, if I was willing to switch jobs with no upgrade. Now I find it very easy to get jobs, but I doubt you are looking for a position that will allow you a good work/life balance when you’re 60. 🙂

            Of course the reason there is demand for accountants is because many find it boring, so you don’t want it if it is too deadly to you. But if you like to play with numbers, without needing it to be higher math, you’d probably do okay.

            There are plenty of accounting positions that do not have a good work/life balance, such as at public accounting firms or large corporations, but there are lots of jobs with a good balance and decent, if not extraordinary pay, such as for the government or at smaller firms.

            You also said you would be willing to get more training up to a year. Since you already have a college degree, I think you would need at least a year to get to get credentials to get a professional accounting position (4 years at least in US if you had no degree). It might be two years — I’m not sure what the requirements are, especially in UK, and it depends how many business classes you’ve taken in the past.

          • Mark says:

            Thanks!

    • The Nybbler says:

      The answer to this on September 25, 1979 was “cab driver”. But I don’t think that works any more. Unless you’re a natural salesperson, there’s not much you can do that is both lucrative and doesn’t require education/specialized training.

      • Mark says:

        I’m pretty introverted, so salesperson isn’t the first job that I’d think of doing.
        I’ve done work with elements of sales in it before (telesales and retail) I wasn’t especially bad at it, but I’m definitely not a natural networker, or anything like that.

    • Null42 says:

      Yeah, honestly, ‘do what you love’ works for about 1% of the population, the rest of us have to do jobs we’re not stoked about to make a living. Nothing wrong with that. My best guess is you want to have freedom of intellectual pursuit and want a job that will give you enough free time to do this. As such the most relevant thing would probably be that hours would be relatively limited.

      Of course, basic economics states that higher income derives from jobs that are harder to fill, including reasons like requiring years of specialist education, worse conditions (garbageman vs preschool teacher), and requiring social skills some people may not have, like bullshitting. So, basically, the more desirable the job and the more people can do it, the less it pays. (We’re ignoring stuff like CEO of a major corporation where you get your buddies to pay you an enormous salary, those are rare.) Ordinarily I’d say, you’re here, try programming, but I hear age discrimination is really bad in that field. Civil service jobs often have limited hours and aren’t too unpleasant albeit boring, but you might have difficulty getting hired if you don’t fit ‘diversity’ requirements. (People with more knowledge of these fields are welcome to correct me.)

      My point is: what’s the most important thing to you? Is it not bullshitting? (Sales is pretty easy to break into in many areas but is essentially bullshitting.) Is it having enough free time to read obscure books? Rank your priorities and go from there.

      And whatever happens, don’t beat yourself up over failing to be successful. Between automation, rising educational costs, and galloping inequality exacerbate by donor control of government, most of us are going to be losers in the days ahead. It’s not you, it’s America.

      • Mark says:

        My best guess is you want to have freedom of intellectual pursuit and want a job that will give you enough free time to do this. As such the most relevant thing would probably be that hours would be relatively limited.

        Yep… I’m really looking for a “work to live” type job, but I don’t mind putting in the hours as long as I have ‘normal’ free time and possibility of improving conditions with experience.

        My point is: what’s the most important thing to you?

        Work-life balance. I think the problem with a bullshit-type job is that I’m going to be unhappy with it, it’ll be playing on my mind. I just want to be able to go in and do something and not really have to think about it once I’m done.

      • Kevin C. says:

        And whatever happens, don’t beat yourself up over failing to be successful. Between automation, rising educational costs, and galloping inequality exacerbate by donor control of government, most of us are going to be losers in the days ahead. It’s not you, it’s America.

        I’ve never understood how this is supposed be at all comforting. If I’m a failure, I’m a failure. If my circumstances objectively suck, they suck. And they do these independent of other people. Whether I’m alone in my miserable state, or it is shared by millions of others, does not make it any less objectively miserable.

        (Edit: Note: this is also why I didn’t respond to Andrew Hunter above with a “you think you’ve got it bad, what have you got to complain about, my situation is so much worse,” like I easily could have. Because it doesn’t matter; my being worse off doesn’t change the facts of his situation any.)

        And problems being down to systemic issues, rather than personal failings, if anything makes it worse. Because one can have a chance at working to solve problems based at an individual scale. But there are no individual solutions to systemic problems, which means the possibility of addressing them is much diminished, and the hope of escaping one’s misery is increasingly false.

        As a related aside, in various therapies for both depression and stress tolerance, one technique they always seem to recommend is investigating or considering those in worse circumstances than yourself. I’ve only ever found this to make things worse, because it only seems to further emphasize the crushing ubiquity of misery, the slow decay of the world we live in, the general wretchedness of being alive, that Camus may have had the right question but the wrong answer, etc.

        • Mark says:

          Yeah, I kind of agree with this – if something is a real issue, just telling someone to not think it is, is unlikely to work.

          “Don’t worry, what’s the worst that could happen?”
          “Cheer up, might never happen”
          etc.

          On the other hand, if people don’t have a strong emotional issue, it might be helpful.

          With respect to therapy, I think the basic idea is that if you can get someone to recognise that the root cause of their feeling isn’t the world, isn’t really rational, you can address the root emotional cause of the problem.

          So, I don’t think it’s designed to make you feel better, it’s designed to get you to a place where you can stop thinking?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Thinking about how other people have it worse doesn’t help me– it’s not just that I end up thinking about misery in the world, it reminds me that everything good in my life could be lost. And I might start thinking about a lot of people in worse circumstances are managing better than I am.

          Vaguely related: A woman finds out that focusing on gratitude made her depression worse.

          What she needed was acknowledgement that her situation was really bad rather than trying to force her emotions.

        • Hyzenthlay says:

          As a related aside, in various therapies for both depression and stress tolerance, one technique they always seem to recommend is investigating or considering those in worse circumstances than yourself. I’ve only ever found this to make things worse

          Yeah, I’ve never understood how this is supposed to be helpful. Like, if someone has just lost an arm, telling them, “Cheer up, some people don’t have any limbs at all!” would be a ridiculous thing to say. (Though, who knows, maybe there are some people who would find it comforting.) There’s always going to be someone who has it worse than you, but that doesn’t make your own problems any less real or any easier to deal with.

          I guess the idea behind this strategy is to make you appreciate what you have more–to switch from thinking “I’ve just lost a limb, I’m crippled for life” to “Well, I still have three limbs. Could be better, but could be worse.” And maybe the reason it does work for some people is that humans often tend to think in hierarchical or relative terms–i.e. how well they’re doing compared to other people. But if your suffering isn’t really based on your perception of how you compare to others, then it’s unlikely to be helpful.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I take it that your reference to craftsmen means that you’d be willing to do blue collar work?

      There will always be a need for plumbers, electricians, HVAC and the like. My information might be a few decades out of date but I don’t believe a four year degree is required, just a license and possibly some community college. It pays reasonably well so if you’re frugal and live in a low cost of living area you can own a house, send your kids to state schools debt-free and save up enough for a comfortable retirement. That’s what my dad did.

      • Mark says:

        Yeah, no objection, but I think I might be too old to become a tradesman? If it’s something that’s normally done through an apprenticeship I think it might be a bit tricky to get in on it?

        • Tarpitz says:

          You are definitely not too old to start in the one trade I actually know about (TV systems installation/maintenance) and I suspect the same would hold for becoming a plumber or a sparky (or a cabinet-maker, or whatever). However, there are real downsides to these jobs: they generally start at 8, often after a significant commute, and they are physically hard in a way that somehow doesn’t constitute satisfying exertion or burn calories but does leave you tired and sore at the end of the day, and generally disinclined to do anything useful. In the longer term, they wear you down at the joints, and are very hard to do once your body starts to go (typically some time in your 50s, based on people I’ve known) – this is where your starting age is a real consideration. The money when you start out is terrible, although it certainly can rise to very respectable amounts once you’ve been doing it for a while – another strike given your concern about starting age. They often involve working in cramped, filthy environments, or on high ladders, sometimes in bad weather. They also involve a ton of driving, often in heavy traffic. I’ve done this stuff as a job to live by on-and-off for a decade, and I don’t particularly recommend it. My last day of this stint is tomorrow and I can’t bloody wait – with luck, I may never have to go back.

          The one exception I know of: door entry system installation/maintenance. Buzzers for blocks of flats, that sort of thing. That’s a cushy gig that tends not to involve anywhere fouler than an electrical cupboard, with most of the work done at chest height with your feet on solid ground, indoors or in a porch, while having to exert very little force. See if you can find a course for that…

        • baconbits9 says:

          It might be tricky to find a set up, but 30 isn’t to old. If you find a 60 year old plumber who is going to work 5-15 more years he is going to want someone to do the harder things that his body doesn’t want to do anymore. 30 is as good as 20 (and maybe better because you are going to be more reliable) and you can perhaps even take over the business when he retires.

          A lot of small businesses just close up shop when the owners retire for the want of someone to pass them on to.

        • Mark says:

          Thanks – that’s useful info.

    • hyperboloid says:

      What kind of education do you have now?

      • Mark says:

        BA
        N1 JLPT

        I’ve dabbled in programming and maths (on-again, off-again studying for a graduate diploma in maths, but not really making much headway.)

        • johan_larson says:

          At least here in Canada, community colleges offer two-year degrees in computer programming. You should be able to find something similar in the UK, and use that to swing an entry-level job in software. The work is quite pleasant, and the industry is too short of qualified staff to treat people like crap.

        • rlms says:

          One of my family members did a few modules on computer science with the Open University and got a part time job as a programmer with no prior knowledge/certifications, so that’s something you could look into.

        • Mark says:

          Someone above mentioned agism in programming – does anyone think that would be a big issue if I got some low level qualification in programming?

          Is there really going to be a job there?

          • rlms says:

            I think the guy I know was in his 40s when he did it. There might be ageism in the exciting shiny jobs you probably wouldn’t want to apply for anyway, I don’t expect there’s much in less sexy roles.

            What’s your BA in, and how good is it? If it’s a science (or even if not), have you considered teaching? My impression is you can actually get paid to be trained as a science teacher.

          • Mark says:

            Yeah, you can get a bursary to complete teacher training – I have thought about it, but I’ve heard some horror stories about the conditions.
            Seems like one of those jobs where a lot of people are prepared to work over the odds because it’s their calling.

          • rlms says:

            I think the conditions probably vary greatly between schools. The average private school will be much nicer than the average state school. Unfortunately, I imagine that if the government pays for your training, they will want you to work for them.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Where do you live or where are you willing to live?

      You mentioned elsewhere in the thread that you have done some programming stuff. Low-end remote webdev consulting can, as I understand it, pretty easily bring in like $50-80k per year, plenty to live in lost-cost-of-living areas with a pretty good life.

      • Mark says:

        I live in an expensive area of the UK – I don’t particularly want to move, and I think I’d rather sort out some stable work before I moved anyway.

        If I can’t get anything going in the next 18 months or so, I’ll move somewhere cheaper.

        Any idea what kind of stuff you have to be able to do to turn web development into a career?

        I have absolutely no design skill.

    • m.alex.matt says:

      Networking/IT is always a great path for someone with some mental accuity and just enough drive to get something done. Doesn’t require a college degree and on-the-job training is still kind of a thing, although it tends to be informal. You can make pretty good pay, even at the lower levels (although the dregs of helpdesk can be pretty flat in that department, unless you get really, really lucky), and you can do pretty great if you’re willing to put the work in to go higher up.

      You can study/train for a CCNA in a few months for anywhere from a few hundred (textbooks, maybe some equipment) to a few thousand (formal training classes somewhere) dollars. It’s not the meal ticket it would have once been, but it’ll get your foot in the door somewhere and IT is an industry where your experience and your connections will get you a long, long way after that.

      • Mark says:

        Thanks, I’ll take a look.

        • Fossegrimen says:

          I’ll second this recommendation with the modification that an Oracle or MSSQL DBA certification usually faces a better job market these days while effort seems to be about the same.

    • cassander says:

      Nursing can be quite lucrative, at least in parts of the US, with more or less guaranteed employment. not sure about the UK.

      • Well... says:

        To be an actual RN you have to do quite a bit of school, I believe, and it ain’t cheap. You can become a nurse’s aid with far less school, but the pay is lousy.

        The actual work for both those positions is, from my perspective, really hard, stressful, etc.

      • Mark says:

        Maybe I’ll look into it – might be worthwhile to see if there are any volunteering opportunities.
        I feel like you have to be quite enthusiastic about caring for people to do well at that one though, also need a degree, so I’m not sure it’d be for me.

    • aNeopuritan says:

      “Or a master craftsman with a lustrous beard living in the 17th century (but with trains and medicine).”

      Elaborating on that to John Michael Greer when he has an Open Thread might pay off – something.

      • Mark says:

        I’ll check it out!

      • sophiegrouchy says:

        There was a very small new college that trained people to be master craftsmen in historic building techniques, so they can do things like repair historic sites. Was a lot of schooling, but possibly you wouldn’t mind since it would be exactly what you wanted to do. (and I think you can start doing some work well before you finish the program)

    • Randy M says:

      I’m in my mid-thirties, and I don’t have enough money to live in a house, and be a normal person.

      Do you mean a house you own or at least mortgage, or anything over your head at all? In the case of the latter, I’m in the same boat, renting an apartment. Housing prices are pretty nuts around here and I’m risk adverse.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m in my mid-thirties, and I don’t have enough money to live in a house, and be a normal person.

      Renting is not a deficient way to live. (And I don’t say this just because I’m a landlord! 😉 )

      Does anyone have any good advice on professions or trades where there is a fairly clear pathway to earning money?

      Check out programming/IT work. It has a fairly linear payoff. Even if you’re a shitty programmer, you can earn some money consistently. You might not get rich, but the profession has a really low barrier to entry. If you can get yourself up to pass fizzbuzz, you’re probably in the top 10% of those applying for any position.

    • sunnydestroy says:

      I have a friend in a similar situation. This is in the US.

      If you’re living somewhere with reasonable amounts of construction then you can make decent money as a construction truck driver and hauler. It requires a commercial driving license, which you’ll need to go to school for. Unlike long distance truck drivers, you’ll be hauling locally. Once you make enough, you can have your own tractor and can make over 100K annually as an owner-operator. My friend has multiple family members who have purchased houses in the expensive SF Bay Area with this type of work.

      Another seemingly simple, but decent paying job that is construction-adjacent is tire washer. It’s literally what it sounds like–you wash the tires of trucks going in and out of construction sites so they don’t track dirt on public roads.

      A lot of construction sites hire on the spot for certain jobs. You can check out a few to see what they’re looking for.

      Something more technical that I know pays well, but might be difficult to get into is escalator technician.

  19. BBA says:

    Interesting fact regarding airline safety: There were no jet airliner crashes anywhere in the world in 2017 and only two fatal crashes involving turboprop planes.

    • gloster80256 says:

      That is interesting indeed.

    • JRM says:

      That is a cool fact! Wow!

      I was just talking to a NASA subcontractor employee last night, and if I understand it correctly (and I might not) they have an airspace reporting system where you can self-report screwups/problems and there’s no punishment for reporting even if the screwup is your own; it’s designed to fix problems. I think it’s this.

      The process is designed to see also if there’s repeated “human error,” which could be a sign of process problems. It sounded like a better government program than most. And that’s amazingly safe airspace this year. As an occasional kvetcher about government, I’m glad to see positive results from this and other programs.

      • CatCube says:

        You’ve got it correct. It’s the Aviation Safety Reporting System, Wikipedia explanation here.

        The reports are anonymized, and you get a form pointing to the incident report (by number, I think). If the FAA decides to pursue and enforcement action, apparently having that form will make them go much easier on you. (Note that I’ve read that on official media for the system, but have never had any interaction to know if that’s actually true or not.)

      • temujin9 says:

        NASA’s blameless postmortems are an exemplar in the software industry.

    • bean says:

      Saw this too. Good work to everyone involved. There’s a spectacular amount of effort that goes into this.

    • CatCube says:

      The last fatal accident in the US was in 2013, with Asiana Airlines Flight 214, where only three people died. As a side note, two of those fatalities were due to not wearing seatbelts on landing, when they were thrown clear during the accident. So that’s why they make you wear them on landing.

      The last one before that was in 2009, with Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashing with the loss of 50.

  20. rahien.din says:

    – First and Foremost –

    Dear all,

    Thanks for enriching my 2017. This was the first year I commented here in earnest, and it has been a hell of a lot of fun to try and keep up with all you amazing people. Here’s to another!

    – End of the year music lists –

    I’m interested in your favorite music you encountered in 2017 (primarily stuff that was released in 2017). This is entirely selfish, as the SSC commentariat is more intellectually and aesthetically diverse than any other community I interact with. I’d love to feed my own musical omnivorism with your recommendations.

    Give me your list of songs/albums, however many you want, and give me at least some blurb about why each one was so good.

    • Well... says:

      The only band I got into in 2017 was Snapcase. They formed maybe 25 years ago and split up maybe 15 years ago. (I believe they did a reunion show back in 2011 and another in 2015 and that’s all folks, but I’m going from memory here.) Their album “Progression Through Unlearning” is phenomenal.

      • Well... says:

        Oops, you wanted a blurb.

        “Progression Through Unlearning” is track after relentless track of raw energy. It’s an onslaught of Get Up Off Your Ass and Headbang. The riffs are intricate but groovy, while at the same time unbelievably heavy, and something about them, even with the volume turned down, is just always really loud.

        Now, the “singer” doesn’t do much else besides scream/yell, and I think actual singing might have served at least parts of some of the songs better, but his style definitely works nonetheless. The only other criticism I have of the album is that it probably could have used one or two down-tempo songs just to give the listener a break and some counterpoint to the amped up white-knuckle ride that is the rest of the album. But that isn’t too big a problem anyway, especially since the album’s only a little over half an hour long.

        One of my favorite things about the album is the sound of the drummer’s snare, which he’s tuned really high. For whatever reason it reminds me of when you’re wearing a helmet and you get thwacked in the head with a rock. In general I really like the crisp production on this album. Apparently many people have commented that it’s remarkably well-produced for the genre.

        You can listen to the full thing here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBOh3mf-oM0

        • rahien.din says:

          This is such a bad-ass record. And you’re totally right about the production. It wouldn’t be the banger that it is without that precise production.

          The high-pitched screamed vocals remind me of Karp.

          • Well... says:

            You clearly have good taste in music. I haven’t heard of Karp, but if I love “Progression Through Unlearning” (and if I’m already familiar with Helmet*), what other bands/albums should I listen to?

            *I showed PTU to a friend and within a minute or two he nodded and said “Yup, sounds like Helmet turned up to 11.” I thought that was the most apt 1-sentence description of Snapcase I’d ever heard.

          • rahien.din says:

            Karp are this goofy/snarly/sludgy post-hardcore band. They’re pretty fun! The singer sounds like Jim Ward’s evil twin.

            Helmet turned up to 11

            That’s a hell of a good description.

            what other bands/albums should I listen to?

            The ones I know are probably pretty familiar to you :

            Sepultura’s Chaos A.D. has a similar stripped-down confident stalk, it grooves hard, and the drumming is rhythmically interesting. They’re a good bit thrashier.

            Early Mastodon is kind of like Helmet on psychedelics – right down to Brann Dailor’s vocal stylings.

            Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come : A Chimerical Bombination in 12 Bursts uses space a little bit like Helmet, and brings in the same kind of jazzy influences, but with a more frantic energy. (You do have to put up with some spoken-word anti-capitalist diatribes. Refused were a band too anarchist to remain a band.)

            (I guess, technically most numbskull nu-metal is heavily indebted to Helmet…)

    • James says:

      I don’t really keep up with current music so I haven’t much to say on 2017 releases; I’m not sure I’ve listened to a single one. I like Fever Ray a lot so I’m looking forward to listening to the album she just released when I have a moment and am in the right frame of mind.

      I like your comments, though I think I might sometimes get you mixed up with someone else.

      Edit: OK, Boys was a fun single. That’s all I got. (Could this be the least SSC-aligned aesthetic possible?)

    • Anon. says:

      If you’re into post-punk, give Drab Majesty a try.

    • rahien.din says:

      Here’s mine in no particular order :

      Goldfrapp, Silver Eye. I love Goldfrapp’s breathy elastic strut. IMHO this is the first album that unites their thumping electronic pop with their experimental folky leanings into one lush package.

      The Great Old Ones, EOD…. A fantastic slab of melodic fourth-wave black metal with the perfect blend of suffocating aggression and awed/horrified atmosphere. No one else does Lovecraftian atmosphere and Chthonic roars better. Secret weapon is their drummer.

      Dyscarnate, With All Their Might. Brilliant, tight, modern death metal. They forge a host of influences into a targeted, grooving assault – they do it so well that they got overlooked as a meat-and-potatoes band. Bonus points for indirectly getting me to listen to Behemoth’s Evangelion.

      Lo-Pan, In Tensions (EP). Soaring, muscular, regal stoner rock built for the open road. Every riff feels like a wheel turning, moving and not moving, like driving a muscle car through the desert.

      Moonchild, Voyager. Beautiful, creamy-smooth modern R&B with a jazz sensibility. Sexy as hell. Displaced Zero 7’s Simple Things as my longtime-favorite chillout music.

      Soap Revelations, Little Oceans. This is what prog could be if it cuts loose of Dream Theater and all the deedly-deet. Propulsive, grand, layered, and spanning the spectrum of emotion – but still focused. Some of my favorite melodies in unconventional meter.

      Voyager, Ghost Mile. And this is what djent could have been. Intricate rhythms ripping through reverb-drenched expanses, all propelled by Daniel Estrin’s amazing vocals and a grip on drama that just never lets go. I get a MSR every time they hit the blastbeat in “Ghost Mile.”

      Charly Bliss, Guppy. Pop punk is always at its best when it has a killer instinct, and this one doesn’t let up. Like Spiraling-meets-Weezer, but dirtier. Eva Hendricks is a spectacular vocalist, letting her voice murmur, soar, shrill, clip, and crack at all the right moments.

      Archspire, Relentless Mutation. Here’s the album that taught me to like tech-death. For an album this crystalline and composed to sound so organic and so fun is an incredible feat. I don’t know how they managed to make such a harmonious album out of the rapid-fire vocal delivery, the roll-heavy drumming, and the spiraling guitar and bass lines. But this band is blisteringly tight. Some of the album’s best moments are the moments when the band goes jarringly quiet, or when a single guitar is exposed over a barrelling drumline – it’s that use of space that really pushes this one over the top for me. Turns out (hi, Pyrrhon, Artificial Brain, Dodecahedron) that one doesn’t need to be hyper-dissonant, disgusting, airless, or asphyxiatingly harsh to make the year’s best metal album. You had me at “Involuntary Doppelganger.”

      Darkest Hour, Godless Prophets and the Migrant Flora. Towering, chaotic, savage metalcore. Every aspect – the injections of doom, the deathy breakdowns, the sudden melodies – just mashes the accelerator down even harder.

      The Night Flight Orchestra, Amber Galactic. Pitch-perfect 80’s rock filtered through two dudes from Soilwork. Filled with all the strutting guitar lines, spacy keys, wailing hooks, and songs whose titles are girls’ names you could ever want to pump your fist to.

      Meliorist, ii (EP). Nu-prog needed the propulsiveness of metalcore to have a reason to live. Metalcore needed the jazzy thoughtfulness of prog to be less numbskull-y. (And BTBAM always had too much banjo.) Meliorist nails it. Bonus for the Alan Watts sample in “New Chapter.”

      Dvne, Asheran. Someone grab Brann Dailor by the chin and tell him “No, like this.” The spacy, tribal, fuzzed-out middle ground between Isis, Intronaut, and Elder.

    • rlms says:

      Not sure if I first listened to them in 2017, but to date the band I have found through SSC is Streetlight Manifesto (ska-punk). Not sure how much more well known it became in this crowd thanks to the Hugo nomination, but assuming it’s still fairly obscure I think a lot of SSC readers would like clipping.’s album Splendor & Misery (experimental hip hop space opera).

    • Vitor says:

      Not 2017 releases, but these two stand out for me among the music I first heard in 2017:

      Arbrynth – Arbrynth: hard to describe. Something like melodeath but way more chill, also semi-acoustic. Going a bit in the direction of neofolk maybe, with its slow, dark melodies carrying a deep emotionality. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but that hardly detracts from it.

      Stavroz – The Ginning: deep house with a variety of acoustic instruments such as guitar and sax carrying its rich and intricate melodies. To me, it just feels much more alive than most other electronic music.

    • sty_silver says:

      Since you said ‘primarily’ rather than ‘exclusively’, and since this year was great in terms of discoveries but lacking in terms of new releases for me, here are some things not released in 2017…

      1. Program Music I (by Kashiwa Daisuke)
      This is sort of a mixture of classical music, rock, and electronics. I’m not familiar with that kind of music at all and didn’t really expect to like it – but man it’s ridiculously good. I’ve rarely been this impressed by anything. It makes almost every other album I’ve ever listened to look childish in comparison.

      The bulk of the music is carried by strings and piano, but editing plays a major role also. There will be samples, such as of laughing or of running water, sometimes only played for a second, or going in and out, or used in various other hard-to-describe ways. Often, the music will cut out for the faction of a second, like if something with the recording wasn’t right, only it’s deliberate and very effective.

      The first track is roughly 35 minutes long, it has numerous different themes which are all in themselves beautiful, but the way it transitions between them is probably the most noteworthy part of it. It’s a multi-faceted, digressive, playful sort of track.

      The second track is roughly 25 minutes. Here, Kashiwa found this really weird effect… sound… thing that on first listen I almost found a bit unpleasant but at the same time weirdly captivating and emotional, which is used over and over again. This track is much more focused, dense, spastic. The second half leads to a grand climax which lasts for about 5 minutes. The most common critique I have of music, aside from it being too simple, is that the good ideas aren’t explored far enough, and wow if ever an idea was explored skillfully and to its fullest extent, it is here. Every second of the finale is gold.

      2. Mariner (Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas)
      This is extreme metal – if you’re not into that kind of music, this is probably not a good entry point. It also was released in 2016, so that’s only one year off.

      Why is it good? I find Julie’s vocal performance phoenomenal, but that’s in a sense of being emotional, shocking, and frankly insane, not in a technical sense. It’s a stark contrast to the music which is known for its large, atmospheric soundscapes.

      Listening to this track will give you a fairly good idea whether it’s for you. Another album which goes all out on the final track.

      3. Every Joe Hisaishi soundtrack for Studio Ghibli
      Particularly of My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s delivery service, Spirited Away, and The tale of Princess Kaguya.

      This is just really pleasant orchestral music. Samples [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vD1yAEWpzeQ]here[/url], [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6e3KFHmNyGE&t=678s]here[/url], [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qg-g2DH8GZw&t=2819s]here[/url] or [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qg-g2DH8GZw&t=974s]here.[/url]

    • sty_silver says:

      Since you said ‘primarily’ rather than ‘exclusively’, and since this year was great in terms of discoveries but lacking in terms of new releases for me, here are some things not released in 2017…

      1. Program Music I (by Kashiwa Daisuke)
      This is sort of a mixture of classic, rock, and electronics. I’m not familiar with that kind of music at all and didn’t really expect to like it – but man it’s ridiculously good. I’ve rarely been this impressed by anything. It makes almost every other album I’ve ever listened to look childish in comparison.

      The bulk of the music is carried by strings and piano, but editing plays a major role also. There will be samples, such as of laughing or of running water, sometimes only played for a second, or going in and out, or used in various other hard-to-describe ways. Often, the music will cut out for the faction of a second, like if something with the recording wasn’t right, only it’s deliberate and very effective.

      The first track is roughly 35 minutes long, it has numerous different themes which are all in themselves beautiful, but the way it transitions between them is probably the most noteworthy part of it. It’s a multi-faceted, digressive, playful sort of track.

      The second track is roughly 25 minutes. Here, Kashiwa found this really weird effect… sound… thing that on first listen I almost found a bit unpleasant but at the same time weirdly captivating and emotional, which is used over and over again. This track is much more focused, dense, spastic. The second half leads to a grand climax which lasts for about 5 minutes. The most common critique I have of music, aside from it being too simple, is that the good ideas aren’t explored far enough, and wow if ever an idea was explored skillfully and to its fullest extent, it is here. Every second of the finale is gold.

      On youtube here and here.

      2. Mariner (Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas)
      This is extreme metal – if you’re not into that kind of music, this is probably not a good entry point. This was released in 2016.

      Why is it good? I find Julie’s vocal performance phenomenal, but that’s in a sense of being emotional, shocking, and frankly insane, not in a technical sense. It’s a stark contrast to the music which is known for its large, atmospheric soundscapes.

      Listening to this track will give you a fairly good idea whether it’s for you. Another album which goes all out on the final track.

      3. Every Joe Hisaishi soundtrack for Studio Ghibli
      Particularly of My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s delivery service, Spirited Away, and The Tale of Princess Kaguya.

      This is just really pleasant orchestral music. Samples here, here, here or here.

      • rahien.din says:

        I listened to Mariner last year, and while it never got into my rotation, I agree it’s an excellent record.

        I have really enjoyed your recommendation of Joe Hisaishi. Do Japanese composers share a particular sound? Listening to Hisaishi, I’m sometimes reminded of Nobuo Uematsa and sometimes of Yoko Kanno.

    • KG says:

      She’s not from 2017 and to be honest I discovered her at least a few years earlier, but recently I’ve come to the realization that Cake Bake Betty is my favorite music artist. Almost every song she’s made (which is honestly not a lot) I love, and they’re all very weird lyrically. I started with One By One.

    • Muro says:

      Most definitely “Without Warning”, by Offset and 21 Savage. Ghostface Killers, Ric Flair Drip are my favourite tracks.

    • Loquat says:

      It’s 2016 rather than 2017, but I really liked King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s album Nonagon Infinity (9 songs where each feeds into the next so you can totally play it as an endless loop).

      They also managed to release not 1, not 2, but 5 albums in 2017, but I still like NI best.

    • pontifex says:

      I’ve been listening to a lot of synthwave. Volkor X, Carpenter Brut, Perturbator.

    • aNeopuritan says:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yHsmZy-YS8

      Pretense of a blurb: contains songs called “Miðgarðsormur”, “Hel”, and “Loki”; lyrics in medieval Icelandic poetic metric.

    • Urstoff says:

      My two favorites from the year:

      Archspire – Relentless Mutation

      An amazing tech-death record on every level, with great songwriting, which is a rarity for tech-death.

      Dodecahedron – Kwintessens

      From the huge wave of dissonant death metal (e.g., Artificial Brain, Pyrrhon, Ingurgitating Oblivion), this one is my favorite. It is definitely an album and not just a collection of songs.

    • Montfort says:

      I put a lot of bands and albums on a list to check out earlier this year and never got around to it – maybe I’ll get on that. But here’s what stuck with me enough to make it into my collection from 2017 (and then subsequently seemed good enough on repeated listens to stay in rotation).

      “Aathma” by Persefone – prog metal with a little bit of death flavor. Primarily I judge music based on whether it can hold my attention and for how long, and even ~9 months since its release it’s still doing pretty well at distracting me from writing this comment. I found the lyrics a bit banal (though, to be fair, presumably English is not their first language), but the music is very expressive. Paul Masvidal (founding member of Cynic) even makes an appearance on “Living Waves.”

      “C​:​\​>COPY *​.​* A: /V ” by Master Boot Record – a fusion of chiptune and heavy metal. MBR is pretty much the best at this genre intersection (that I know of), and this is another solid album. Good texture to the sound.

  21. McLovin says:

    One of my goals for the new year is to learn more about bioengineering/synthetic biology/CRISPR/etc. Does anyone have any books, articles, or online courses they would recommend to someone interested in this who’s biological knowledge is mostly what I’ve picked up learning bioinformatics? The more “practical”, the better.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      NEB has a variety of videos and “Zines” (these are instructional advertisements). The Zines seem fairly simple (I’ve only looked at one), but visually and verbally describe the basics of their topic. You can print them here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/print-your-own-x-12424124

      If you’re in the Bay Area you can contact LBNL and see if their JGI, JBEI, or Potter Street locations can fit you into a tour. These tours are fairly speedy (half an hour or so), but very practically describe how they do Synbio or etc…. (I’m not actually sure if Potter Street does Synbio, but know that the other two locations do.)

      JBEI: https://www.jbei.org/about/visit/
      JGI: https://jgi.doe.gov/contact-us/
      LBNL in general: https://www.lbl.gov/community/tours-faq/tours/

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Can you be more specific about what you want?

      If you’re looking for a broad understanding of what’s going on in biology today, Cell’s review journals (“Trends in X”) are considered very good. No review article can really substitute for reading the primary literature but it’s a good jumping off point. I should probably read more of them myself to be honest.

      If you’re looking for protocols and tools related to CRISPR in particular, it depends a lot on what exactly you’re interested in. Knock outs and knock ins need different approaches, as do different model organisms. Regardless, GuideScan is AFAIK the best resource available for finding good cut sites which is the one constant.

  22. Tenacious D says:

    There’s a good documentary on the early years of Bitcoin called “Banking on Bitcoin” that I watched a couple of days ago. It even includes a case of nominative determinism: Benjamin Lawsky as the financial superintendent who came up with the regulatory framework for cryptocurrencies in New York state.

  23. Zephalinda says:

    From “Concept-Shaped Holes Can Be Impossible to Notice”:

    Number one, I read some good anthropology about primitive and medieval societies, which actually described pre-atomized life and the way that there was barely even an individual identity and the community determined everything you ever did.

    I’d like to investigate this subject further, specifically as regards life in the Middle Ages. Anyone have ideas for medieval anthropology readings that match what’s described here?

    • cassander says:

      It’s not medieval, but there’s a great book, peasants into frenchmen, that is a sort of a social history of rural france from 1815 to 1914, or a little beyond in a few places. It’s very much about the death of that lifestyle, and how it took much longer to die than is commonly assumed.

  24. Null42 says:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/he-delivered-their-babies-and-examined-their-bodies-now-patients-are-suing-after-learning-he-used-a-fake-name-and-stolen-social-security-numbers-for-credentials/2017/12/30/b2732232-e43a-11e7-ab50-621fe0588340_story.html

    Anyone see this?

    Does this prove you really can ‘fake it till you make it’ as an MD assuming you prepare appropriately? Or was this guy just getting around the limits on FMGs? I’m not clear from the article.

    • rahien.din says:

      On one hand, if the hospital’s claims are true, he completed appropriate medical training, and maintained appropriate certifications and licenses. In some sense – especially in the risky and litigious realm of OB – this is evidence of competent performance. It’s hard to even say he was trying to “fake it till you make it” because he doesn’t seem to have been fake. Again, insofar as we can believe those claims, he did his job.

      On the other hand, what the hell? This business of a fake name – and repeated SSN fraud! – is not a one-time thing. It’s a very consistent pattern. There’s something very wrong here. And, in a very particular sense, the hospital was paying him to provide a true identity. He definitely failed his duties in those regards.

      • Deiseach says:

        Whatever about his qualifications, if I go by the facts as presented in that story the guy came to the US on some kind of tourist/holiday visa, seems to have intended to overstay as an illegal immigrant (a lot of Irish did the same, so can’t throw stones there) but started off with getting fake ID (social security numbers etc.) in order to try and qualify as a doctor, or have any qualifications he may already have had recognised.

        So it sounds like he may have been a failed doctor/medical student in his own country and knew he had little to no chance of legally getting work in America. The habitual fake ID is a big red flag here and though I have no idea of the law, surely is a criminal offence? I’m not entirely sure if identity theft was involved (stealing and using the name of a legit African doctor who had real qualifications to back up his claims) but the fact that he relied on stealing or faking social security numbers to create and maintain a fake identity is very dubious practice indeed and inclines me to think he wasn’t properly qualified in his home country (re-sitting an American licencing exam three times until you scrape a pass isn’t great either, no matter how his lawyer tries to make it sound).

  25. actinide meta says:

    Scott at one point signal boosted Sarah Constantin’s report on Dr. Paul Marik’s sepsis treatment. Sepsis is a major cause of death worldwide and existing treatments do not prevent a high mortality rate. Marik’s treatment is a combination of cheap drugs and vitamins and there is anecdotal and retrospective evidence that it works much better, and in vitro evidence to support the mechanism of action. But there is a huge graveyard of promising treatments for sepsis that didn’t work out in randomized trials, so the odds are against it being for real.

    There is now a large private foundation funding a large multicenter RCT in the US, which is great, but the cost and schedule have both ballooned, which is not so great (*millions* of people die worldwide from sepsis yearly, so conceivably a “holocaust worth” of QALYs will be lost while we wait for data). I have been approached by a doctor in South Africa who wants to run a cheap randomized trial; besides maybe being faster (perhaps even fast enough to be hypothesis generating for larger studies) it would give very valuable information on how the treatment works in a third world patient population and care setting (the largest number of deaths occur in such places). I am still awaiting a full proposal, but if the costs are within 4x of the initial estimate I can fund it myself, so I’m not raising money. And there is enough institutional support and personal connections that I’m not too worried about fraud. But I’m concerned that the people involved might be inexperienced and get things (including budget estimates) very wrong, and I’m not competent to evaluate a proposal in this field. So I’m seeking one or more people with either clinical trials or critical care experience who are willing to take some time to read a proposal and ask questions. Is there anyone here who can help or knows someone who can?

    • Deiseach says:

      the cost and schedule have both ballooned

      Finagle’s Laws. Everything takes longer. And costs more.

      • quaelegit says:

        And this still applies when Finagle’s Law is taken into account. (Or is that Hofstadter’s Law? 😛 )

      • benquo says:

        That’s actually true mainly in contexts where there are systemic incentives for fraud and lowballing (e.g. once you start funders wanna pay for completion lest they be embarrassed, and there’s enough turnover that they don’t learn to distrust you in particular).

        In other words, that’s only ALMOST universally true.

    • Carl says:

      Saw the note in the open thread – I work in South Africa, specifically on encouraging collaboration between USA / RSA, and my personal research is in infectious disease. I have some experience with trials (on the theory side) and probably know some of the right players.

      Which is to say — I’d love to help. I’m completely new to wordpress, however – what’s the best way to turn this into one-on-one discussion?

      • nevernot says:

        I also came here from the open thread. I have a background running non-medical field RCTs in developing countries and some exposure to the medical / clinical trials space – would love to help out as well, looking forward to instructions on how to reach you or get involved.

      • actinide meta says:

        I don’t know of a great way to establish contact using this commenting system, so we will improvise.

        @Carl, I will reach out to you using the e-mail address linked in your profile.

        @nevernot (and others), I don’t want to post my real e-mail address permanently here, but I have created a disposable one: meta@getnada.com. E-mail me at that address in the near future and I will get back to you from my real address.

        I am still awaiting an actual proposal from the investigator (I was told to expect something in “January”).

  26. johan_larson says:

    Happy new year everyone! May your resolutions hold at least until February.

    Just a reminder that we’re talking about The Last Jedi, with spoilers, here:
    https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/12/24/open-thread-91-5/

  27. Andrew Hunter says:

    Happy New Year, SSC. I turn 30 in five days.

    I kinda feel like I have squandered my entire twenties, and made every major decision wrong, mostly in irreparable ways. Other than serving as a cautionary example for other people, is there much I can do with this knowledge? I deeply wish for the ability to get a do-over on, well, pretty much anything major I chose since 13 or so? (9 or so, really, but 9-13 didn’t matter all that much even though i did all the stupid things.) But that’s obviously impossible.

    I’m not sure what the next best option is. I can hardly fake a new life.

    • johan_larson says:

      You’re a software engineer at Google in Seattle, right? Those are very good choices of profession, employer, and location. An awful lot of people would love to be in your shoes.

      Don’t be so hard on yourself.

      • Reasoner says:

        Yeah, seriously.

        Also, tell us what mistakes you think you’ve made so we can learn from them?

        • magana says:

          Yes, please share the most robust lessons you’ve learned. I’m eager to avoid any avoidable mistakes I can.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Seattle is a city full of pathologically unfriendly passive-aggressive terrible people. I have spent five years trying to become friends and get close with anyone. I still know more people in San Francisco who would do me the slightest favor. Now, practically speaking, I’m stuck here.

        As for the rest, that entitles me to be blamed for everything that goes wrong in current culture and despised as a subhuman loser. By the way, Google stopped being a haven for people like me about six years ago. Now it’s a place where “techies” have to apologize to everyone else for their presumption in wanting to be part of society. A pair of recruiters spent fifteen minutes talking about how ugly I was and laughing at me while I waited for a meeting near their desks a few years back. That is not something that would happen anywhere that respected people like me.

        • Brad says:

          You aren’t stuck there. You have a bunch of money saved up. You have valuable skills.

          You could quit tomorrow, move to NYC, and find a job at a bank or a startup without any problem. You could go on the expat circuit and land in Croatia, Czech Republic, or Thailand living high on remote contract work. You could move to Minneapolis, St. Louis, or Cincinnati and be the hotshot at some enterprise software shop.

          Sure, none of these choices are going to get you a wife and close circle of friends from your undergraduate years at Yale, but that’s not the one and only path to happiness.

          This whole “it’s too late” is an excuse to not take scary steps that would upend your comfortable but unsatisfying existence. I’m the better part of a decade older than you and wasted significantly more time, and am in the midst of upending my life. I don’t know how it will work out, but one way or another next year won’t be the same as last.

        • johan_larson says:

          I’m sorry you’re unhappy. But 30 isn’t too late to change things. Some door have closed — you can’t become a pro athlete starting at 30 — but most are still open.

          If you had it all to do over again, where would you be living, what would your profession be, and who would you be working for?

        • Loquat says:

          Have you considered changing to a less trendy employer? My husband, reading over my shoulder, is going on about all the white guys being at boring nuts&bolts companies like Oracle.

          Or, if you’re willing to un-stick yourself, try moving. Houston and Austin are both pretty nice, and I hear good things about Minnesota if you’re willing to put up with a serious winter.

          ETA: I totally felt like I wasted my 20’s, too. At 30 I was working a crappy no-benefits job with a killer commute. But, well, I put in some effort to change it and wound up with my current job instead, where I’m pretty happy.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          The culture in the Big Software Cities (Seattle, Boston, Silicon Valley, NYC) would tell you that there are no jobs of your kind anywhere else in the country. They are wrong. It’s hard for you to see it because you are immersed in it, but it’s okay.

          Roll a d20, add 10, and then look at the entry with that number from this list: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Metropolitan_Statistical_Areas. Start looking for communities of you areas of tech interest and you will very very likely find there a bunch of people interested in that already.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Also, consider that just because you have programming skills does not mean you have to work for a company that sells programs. I have an electrical engineering degree but I do coding and database work in healthcare. I work in a comfy red state with a wonderful community. I make almost as much as I could in a tech haven city, but my cost of living is far less.

            Conrad Honcho’s Mule Theory of Employment:

            Whatever you do, do not be the Mule. The Mule is the person who makes the product or provides the service that the company actually sells. If you’re working at McDonald’s, the burger flipper is the Mule. If you’re working at a hospital, the doctors are the Mules. And you know what you do with Mules? You whip them. The entire rest of the organization is designed around extracting as much labor from the Mules as possible.

            So what you want to be is Mule Support. The rest of the organization doesn’t really know what you do, or look that closely at it unless you screw up. Nobody in management is looking at reports of exactly how many dollars per hour you’re generating because you’re not part of the dollar-generating apparatus.

            I don’t have huge deadlines that make or break the company. Nobody cares if I skip out early to pick up a sick kid from school, so long as I get my job done. Nobody really bothers me at all.

            My father described it a little differently. He liked being “non-essential personnel.” He was a judge in the US Navy. Important job, sure, but not really part of the core mission of killing the enemies of our nation and breaking their stuff. Mule Support. Well, whenever a hurricane or something would shut down the naval base, the memo would go out: “non-essential personnel should stay home.” And my father would gleefully say, “I, am non-essential personnel!”

            Don’t be the Mule. Be non-essential personnel.

          • James says:

            Yeah, I’m a coder working for an architecture firm, basically writing the CRUD screen web app that we use internally for our admin. It’s a nice gig and I’m really glad I don’t “work in tech”. Good pay, reasonable hours, friendly people, no crunch insanity, and as I’m the only techie there, I can do things how I see fit technically (and spend plenty of time commenting on SSC without anyone being able to tell that I’m getting things done that few percent slower than I could have).

          • Brad says:

            Whatever you do, do not be the Mule. The Mule is the person who makes the product or provides the service that the company actually sells.

            Funny, I’ve more than once heard nearly the exact opposite advice. I guess it all depends on what you hope to get out of a job.

          • Nornagest says:

            The mule has a harder job, but is also less likely to be downsized and more likely to be promoted (if the mule happens to be in one of the increasingly rare companies that actually does internal promotions). Whether the mule is paid better or worse than mule support depends on the economics of the industry.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            CH: be a loser
            Brad: be a sociopath
            What they have in common: don’t be clueless.

          • Brad says:

            Thanks for that link, I was confused and a little insulted.

          • Aapje says:

            @Brad

            Yeah, I was afraid that not recognizing the reference might result in such an interpretation.

            BTW, I think that Douglas Knight is wrong to classify you as being pro-sociopath anyway. Venkatesh’s model doesn’t neatly map onto Mule/Mule Support.

            Basically, in Venkatesh’s model, the sociopaths are those who seek upward mobility in the organization and actually have the skills to achieve that. The clueless are people with the same goal, but who don’t have those skills, so they expend a lot of effort, but the benefits go to the sociopaths. The losers are those who believe that they don’t have the skills for upward mobility and who refuse to expend effort where the benefit doesn’t go to them. These are people who do the minimum required for the job.

            It’s a rather cynical model based on the assumption that people are pretty much exclusively motivated by selfish desires.

          • Brad says:

            I think age probably plays a role. Look at Nornagest’s post; do people under thirty have a visceral sense of what being at risk of being downsized is like (or a bear stock market for that matter)?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I guess it all depends on what you hope to get out of a job.

            Work to live not live to work.

            I generally reject the idea that one should go for a “rewarding” career. The vast majority of jobs suck. It’s called “work” for a reason. If “success” means “being excited to go to work every day” then probably 95% of people are failures.

            This is a CW free thread I believe but if you’re interested in discussing why I think this is especially tragic for women and the way “women in in the workforce” has been sold to women and girls we can do that in the next thread.

            The mule has a harder job, but is also less likely to be downsized

            I don’t think there’s really any hard and fast rule about that. Ford could lay off autoworkers (Mules) because of robots, or they could lay off IT staff (Mule Support) because of outsourcing. But management is probably paying way more attention to your productivity and how necessary each assembly line worker is, but probably don’t really have much of any way of measuring how productive the IT staff is.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            This is not, in fact, a culture war free thread, so you’re free to discuss whatever it is you want.

          • rlms says:

            I think the likely Mule/Support tradeoff is more stress, higher reward for the skilled/less stress, lower reward for performing well. Although this is only relevant for comparable jobs: it’s probably better to be working on McDonalds’ website than flipping burgers, but even though the Mule/Support dynamic is the opposite way round, you would make the same choice at Google.

          • Aapje says:

            More than 80% of McDonald’s restaurants are franchises. I would argue that you then have different companies with the same name.

            It seems to me that the primary process of McDonald’s the franchisor includes marketing, to maximize the well-being of McDonald’s restaurants, which then in turn results in more franchise payments to McDonald’s the franchisor. As such, someone who works on the website would then contribute to the ‘unique selling points’ of McDonald’s the franchisor.

        • vulcanii says:

          Hey Andrew,

          I worked at Google in Seattle for six months and found it an absolutely miserable and awful experience just like you describe. I left about a year ago, but I still live in the area. If you’re interested in getting coffee and making a friend, email me at vulcaniissc@gmail.com

        • Scott Alexander says:

          I don’t know if you’ve tried this, but there’s a decent-sized rationalist community in Seattle and all the people there seem pretty nice to me. If you need introductions, email me.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          Andrew, I live in Seattle. Want to get coffee at Ada’s Technical Bookstore sometime?

    • Rachael says:

      Whatever you would do if you had a do-over, do those things now. 30 isn’t that old. You’re one decade into an adulthood that might last six decades.
      If it helps, pretend you’re really 50 and have been miraculously sent back to age 30 and given a chance to charge things.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Well, the biggest issue is that most of the things I should have done are no longer an option.

        One of the biggest mistakes, for example, was thinking that college was about learning things: I chose to go to my undergrad because I judged that I’d learn the most interesting things there. College is actually about building a social group (and being the single best time to find long term partners you’ll ever have: Yale is essentially a dating service for society’s elite.) I turned down an Ivy League school. Too late now. I will never have that opportunity to build a social group again, and I’m stuck trying to do it as an adult, when no one wants to meet new people (and new people without friends are assumed, correctly, to be losers no one wants around.)

        (Ironically, I used to joke about falling off the face of the earth, faking a new identity, and starting again in college. Whether or not that was a good idea, I certainly can’t credibly fake being 18 anymore, so…)

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Ironically, I used to joke about falling off the face of the earth, faking a new identity, and starting again in college. Whether or not that was a good idea, I certainly can’t credibly fake being 18 anymore, so…

          If you wanted to go that route you could try a technical program at a community college. When I did that in my late twenties the particular program I chose in the particular locale* was filled with people close to my age or noticeably older. If I had any desire for a social network the signs were obvious that I could have had one.

          * – I actually went to 3 campuses and online for this program, one of the campuses met this criteria in a town which had recently closed a GE (IIRC) plant and which had another industry opening up.

        • engleberg says:

          Optimism of the heart, pessimism of the head is an ideal state. You are halfway to perfection. Lift till you puke for a half hour once a week, and you will be a miserable exhausted loser with muscles sagging from exhaustion for hours afterwards. But the rest of the week you will be comfortably strong, and this will raise your morale.

        • Orpheus says:

          Have you considered going to grad school? If you are unhappy with your current job, location and social circle (or lack thereof) doing a PhD somewhere far away may be a good solution to those problems.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Man, I think you’re looking at this the wrong way. Mrs. ADBG was Ms. Popular back in high school and college. She had lots of friends. She rarely ever sees or talks to them. They just don’t live near us, since she did that “All Upper Middle Class white children need to go out of state for college or else they are Losers” thing, and her entire social circle evaporated upon graduation.

          Even in college, she had stupid situations like her roommate cancelling cable without telling anyone else in the house, people leaving the house and hiding their dishes in cabinets which caused a roast infestation, epic screaming matches, you know, that sort of thing. Because college students are immature.

          I had a decent number of college friends, but there are only 2 I talk to or see on a regular basis anymore. Most of my current friends (and I have a ton) come from other people that my college friends met, or friends from meet-up.

          I’d highly recommend giving Meet-Up a shot, though it may not work so well with the Seattle Freeze.

        • Jon S says:

          Orpheus suggested a PhD program… I’d also suggest an MBA as a possibility. It’s almost explicitly all about ‘networking’ (much of which seems to consist of undergrad-style partying).

        • Hyzenthlay says:

          College is actually about building a social group (and being the single best time to find long term partners you’ll ever have: Yale is essentially a dating service for society’s elite.)

          I do think this is true for a lot of people, and many young people would benefit from hearing this. I think the message doesn’t get pushed because there’s an assumption that young people will just naturally form relationships when they’re in that environment, but for introverted, nerdy people that’s really not the case.

          I remember on my first day of college one of the professors gave a speech about the importance of studying hard and making classes a priority and he said something like, “no one my age ever says ‘I wish I had gone to more parties in college.'” And even at the time, I remember thinking that that was probably bullshit and that there were probably large numbers of people who regretted not going to more parties, not making more friends, or not dating more people/having more sex when they were in college.

          Though, also, I don’t think college is the end-all and be-all of social life. Most of the people in my (very limited) social circle I met while I was college-aged, but I didn’t meet them in college. They’re people I met online and then found out we lived reasonably close together.

    • Anonymous says:

      Learn. Adapt. Do better.

    • Mark says:

      Subsistance farming or urban foraging.

    • Baeraad says:

      For what it’s worth, my twenties were a long string of failures, humiliations and mistakes, too. I don’t think that’s a very unusual thing.

      Also for what it’s worth, my experience is that you eventually make your peace with not having lived a perfect life. You sort of learn to like what you’ve got, and make the best of the opportunities you still have.

    • Well... says:

      Unless you’re in a seriously bad (e.g. life-threatening, abuse- and degradation-filled, etc.) situation, you don’t really get to savor your regrets.

      “What does ‘not getting to savor your regrets’ mean?”

      It means that for any given regret, you can point to a way in which it has affected your life’s trajectory and brought you to your current situation. “But for my dumb decision back then, I wouldn’t be where I am today.” If where you are today has anything going for it, then you owe some of that to the dumb decision you made back then. It was still a dumb decision, but without it you likely wouldn’t have the good things in your life that you currently enjoy.

      “But I might have had other, even better things in my life to enjoy, had I made better decisions!”

      How would you know you’d made better decisions? I put it to you that even if you could get a do-over and correct each dumb decision, you’d wind up at age 30 regretting the same amount of dumb decisions and wishing for a do-over. We are programmed by evolution to sit in front of our mental replay machines analyzing memories of our past for ways in which we could have done better.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Do you mean stupid things that hurt yourself? That hurt other people? That caused you to miss opportunities? That wasted time?

    • Anonymous1191 says:

      Andrew:

      I spent my 20s in the haze of an addiction. I burned every social bridge I had, exhausted all goodwill, and ended up both homeless and in very precarious health. My primary activity every day was trekking around collecting bottles and cans to turn in to the recycling center for minuscule amounts of cash. I spent my 30th birthday in an institution.

      I am 38 now. I have a house, a lovely wife a decade my junior. I have full custody of my kids. I have a professional career in one of the more prestigious companies in my field/area. I have substantial savings (if, also, a substantial amount of loans I am working to pay off). I even have the best dog a man could ask for. I am happy.

      What changed? I did the hard thing, the to-20s-me impossible thing, and beat the thing that was pushing me down. For me, that was my addiction. I kept coming back and back and back, failing and failing and failing, until it worked. It took several years. I went to professional school–in my 30s!–and met aforementioned amazing woman. What I did, specifically, is less relevant to anyone else than the throughline: small, hard, tedious, incremental improvements, every day, until I got a better life.

      I have read some of your troubles, that you have posted previously. Details-wise, our situations differ. What I want to say is a couple of things. One, 30 is young. You have not wasted your life. Listen to the older folks here; what they are telling you is true. I am healthier, happier, stronger, more energetic, more skilled, more adventurous, at 38 than I was in the morass that was my late 20s. In other words, I feel younger now than I did then. There is a point where people think you’re old, and you begin to suffer in others’ esteem because of that. Urban coastal tech-dominated society wants you to think that point is in your late 20s. It is not. You’re not there yet.

      Two, whatever the hard thing is that you feel you have to do to improve your life, do it. Everyone, in a hard spot, flails for the quick fix that will turn everything around. Do I dump this person? Do I quit my job? Do I move to that place? If everything is bad, and you have an idea that seems like it could fix everything in less than, say, six months, the idea is probably a pleasant fantasy. Remaking a life–your do-over–is a slow thing. An ocean liner, turning course one degree at a time. It took me several years of slow, tiny tiny tiny incremental improvements to get to a place where I could look around and go, “Huh. Things are better than they used to be.” Once you hit that point, everything seems to accelerate, and the good stuff comes faster and faster.

      Three, in the scheme of a life, a couple years well-invested are well-invested indeed. Far more dangerous is the creeping malaise of do-nothingism. If you’re not happy, do something different. Even a few years casting about trying different things before you hit on what works for you is better than coasting through those years and finding yourself right where you are now. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. In the thick of it, sure, it feels like forever and nothing is happening and why did I get myself into this. From the other side, you’ll be glad to have spent that time, and you’ll find that you picked up a lot of valuable things that you didn’t even realize were valuable before.

      I know all of this is vague and handwavy. It has to be, because I’m not you and you’re not me. But the takeaway is:

      tl;dr: Do something. And if that doesn’t work, do something else. Emphasis on the “do.” You can lose a whole life waiting for things to change. 30 only feels old to 30-year-olds. 30 is terribly, terribly young. Don’t give up one-third(!) into your life. Small, incremental changes add up, and any meaningful change requires time and effort. You have that time and energy. Future-you will appreciate past-you’s efforts.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I can’t think of anything else to say in favor of addiction, but at least it’s a well-defined problem.

    • Deiseach says:

      Congratulations, you are an ordinary human being 🙂

      Most of us feel that “oh no, I wasted all my chances” once the bright infinite vistas of teens and twenties are past. (Maybe some of us really did). Now we’re pretty much settled into something like a job or career or relationship or buying a house or other decision that means we can’t just throw it all over and go do something else, or at least not easily.

      You probably did make stupid choices. Everybody does. Unless you have a time machine to see “if I pick A over B, what will happen?” there is no way (apart from the traditional ones of advice from others, experience, the little voice of conscience) to tell what will be a good or bad choice. A choice can look good under one set of circumstances and turn out bad when those circumstances change.

      Right now you’re in reasonable health, have a job, are not suffering from debilitating addictions, and can function pretty much as a normal member of society. That’s doing okay!

      And you’re not stuck. It might be a bad choice to decide to give it all up and go live as a charcoal burner in the forest. Or not, I don’t have a time machine. Do you want to live as a charcoal burner? Do you think you could avoid starving to death or getting eaten by a bear?

      • aNeopuritan says:

        Ordinary humans breed, therefore the future will look like them. Such as those people you hear about at work. 🙂

    • Incurian says:

      I’ve heard good things about Austin.

    • rahien.din says:

      Let me echo what everyone else has said.

      Your twenties are a sort of Dunning-Kruger decade – you don’t know enough to realize how dumb you are, most of the time, even when you succeed. You hit your 30’s and you finally can see your life in some detail and perspective. (Also, since you’ve got a Y chromosome, your brain is probably fully-myelinated for the first time in your life.) The fact that you feel compelled to evaluate your life in this fashion is evidence that you have developed grown-up evaluative faculties. The fact that you are going meta on your evaluative faculties is further evidence thereof.

      Trust me, and everyone else here : everyone worth their salt goes through this.

      And I can not stress this enough : these newly-operational abilities are the exact result of all your past decisions and reactions. Every single one of those decisions, right or wrong, was another brick laid in the nice mental house in which you now live. You can’t have the grown-up brain without having had the immature brain.

      The only option is : go forth, relying on your ever-improving brain, and not getting too bent out of shape about things.

      • aNeopuritan says:

        I’m in a similar situation to Andrew*, and I don’t remember ever *not* having that capacity (including *way* before 30). It didn’t help; in retrospect, I’m not even convinced it was supposed to.

        *: minus the good parts.

      • Halikaarn says:

        Man, did I need to hear this. The last year (in which I left the Midwest for the Bay Area, drastically reduced my socializing time, and had some frustrating career setbacks) has been happy and positive in many ways (I’m in better physical shape, have more time to spend on intellectual projects and reading, am 2000 miles further from things that stressed me out for most of my life). But the big downside of this has been a steady stream of Dunning-Kruger realizations that make me feel really stupid and laggardly with regard to life decisions made in my 20s. Forgiving myself, having any confidence in my ability to correct my course, and taking concrete steps to do so have been constant battles.

    • cassander says:

      In my 20s, at one point, I dropped out of school and joined the circus. And that doesn’t even make the list of bad decisions I made in my 20s. You’re probably doing fine.

      • Aapje says:

        Now I want to do what you did in the circus. My guess: bearded lady.

        • cassander says:

          If I am a little drunk or feeling a bit perverse (the two tend to come together) I tell people I tamed lions. I can go on for about 20 minutes of totally invented lion taming facts. Really though, I was the technical director and co-producer. It was a very small local show that had no animals.

      • Nornagest says:

        That’s almost impressive. It reads kinda like making a career out of bootlegging whisky eighty years after the end of Prohibition; I thought running away and joining the circus stopped being a viable choice around the same time.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      By the time you’re 30, the number of different lives you might have led completely dwarf the one life you did lead. It can be daunting to think of all the experiences you missed.

      It won’t directly answer your question, but I strongly recommend William Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy. One traditional component of Stoicism is fatalism, but Irvine suggests that in practice this principle was honored mostly not by resignedly accepting whatever comes, but rather by sensibly accepting that the past cannot be changed.

      Of the things about your life that you wish were different, some you can’t change and some you can. No, you cannot be 18 again. But you could probably get an Ivy degree, if you really want one. It’s completely false that you are trapped in your current job.

      • Randy M says:

        By the time you’re 30, the number of different lives you might have led completely dwarf the one life you did lead. It can be daunting to think of all the experiences you missed.

        This is the third topic on this open thread that hits the same theme of the improbability of a facet of life (genetic existence, the laws of physics, any person’s life history). What might have been, what still can be… appropriate for the time of year, as well.

    • The Nybbler says:

      As others have pointed out, you’ve managed to make a shitload of money from Google, so you haven’t done everything wrong.

      As for meeting other people, I gather you have some friends and have dated quite a few people, which puts you ahead of where I was around age 30 — which is about when I started dating my now-wife of 11 years.

      Seattle is a city full of pathologically unfriendly passive-aggressive terrible people. […] Now, practically speaking, I’m stuck here.

      Why? Houses can be sold or rented out. Jobs can be changed. Most of the time I’d suspect that the problem was within rather than without, but Seattle has that kind of reputation (not to mention a lousy gender ratio). GTFO.

      As for the rest, that entitles me to be blamed for everything that goes wrong in current culture and despised as a subhuman loser. By the way, Google stopped being a haven for people like me about six years ago. Now it’s a place where “techies” have to apologize to everyone else for their presumption in wanting to be part of society. A pair of recruiters spent fifteen minutes talking about how ugly I was and laughing at me while I waited for a meeting near their desks a few years back. That is not something that would happen anywhere that respected people like me.

      Last first… who cares what recruiters think? The best of them are good salespeople, basically. The worst would be underqualified on a used car lot, and I’m pretty sure Google doesn’t have a good procedure to sort between them. As for Google’s internal environment… yeah, it’s shit. Seems to have begun with Larry Page taking over and the Socialquake and it kicked into high gear with the Culture War in 2015. I kept myself sane largely by pushing back on internal forums until they decided that was unacceptable. As Vic Gundotra would say, “You don’t have to work for Google; there are alternatives.” Possibly not quite as lucrative, but in the same ballpark.

      • pseudon says:

        Was your internal social media profile picture at the time, by any chance, featuring a white sports car?

      • Chalid says:

        Most of the time I’d suspect that the problem was within rather than without, but Seattle has that kind of reputation (not to mention a lousy gender ratio). GTFO.

        Maybe it’s within, maybe it’s without, but either way he should switch both jobs and location. If the problem is without, then changing his life makes the problem goes away; if the problem is within, at least the new set of experiences will give him a clearer idea of what the actual problem is and he could stop unproductively blaming his environment.

        Actually I’d say everyone should switch jobs at least once or twice in their twenties even if they aren’t unhappy, to get more of a sense of what is available and of what kinds of environments they need in order to be successful.

      • Aapje says:

        Possibly not quite as lucrative, but in the same ballpark.

        Not quite as lucrative compared to Google is still very lucrative compared to the average income. Earning a little less in a more pleasant location isn’t the end of the world.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Hey man,

      From what I’ve seen, you’re better looking than I am, you’re some kind of lightning box magician instead of a humanities schmoe like I am, and we’re both doing the Brazeelyun yooyeetsu, so we’re equal on that count. And hey, I’m gonna be 30 sometime soon, too.

      Calm down. You might feel like a failure, but there are definitely people to whom you are sitting right there in the win position.

      C A L M D O W N.

      (But keep drilling; it’ll get ya better at that BJJ)

    • SamChevre says:

      I’m trying to sympathize, but comparing where you are and where I was is so different…

      When I was thirty, I was just pulling out of the miserable mess that was my twenties. I’d finished college (started in my mid-twenties and nearly died of depression once in the process), started a job, gotten laid off after 6 months, done a mess of odd jobs, started another job when I was 28 with a company that was not well-run. I’d just started dating, for the first time ever. My parents still wouldn’t eat in the same room as me.

      I’d say that feeling like things are really not going well, at 30, is not uncommon.

    • Atlas says:

      Happy New Year, SSC. I turn 30 in five days.

      I kinda feel like I have squandered my entire twenties, and made every major decision wrong, mostly in irreparable ways. Other than serving as a cautionary example for other people, is there much I can do with this knowledge? I deeply wish for the ability to get a do-over on, well, pretty much anything major I chose since 13 or so?… But that’s obviously impossible.

      I’m not sure what the next best option is. I can hardly fake a new life.

      Firstly, a Happy New Year to you as well.

      Secondly, for whatever it’s worth, I turned 20 about a month ago, which I mention because I am thus kind of in the position you say you wish you were in. And instead of rejoicing along the lines of “how awesome is it that I have my entire twenties in front of me?” I’ve mostly been agonizing along the lines of “God damn it, I just wish I could reload a save at the beginning of my teenage years.”

      So this makes me think that, whether you/I/we can “feel” the truth of this intuitively, the desire to go back and change the past is at least generally a Sisyphean one. I conjecture that generally either one knows how to pursue the good life, and thus pursues it in the moment, or one does not know how to pursue the good life, and thus would carry the same confusion with them given the chance to venture into the past.

      There’s been a lot of Stoicismposting on the thread, and I don’t know how valuable you’ve found it, but my two cents’ worth is my understanding of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s conception of eternal recurrence. My probably too simplistic (but I think instrumentally valuable) interpretation is:

      You should seek to live your life such that, if you had to live it over and over again exactly the same way for infinity, you would be content with that fate.

      So to return to the original question of:

      Other than serving as a cautionary example for other people, is there much I can do with this knowledge?

      It seems to me that perhaps you could conclude that looking for the moment, or moments, in the past where if only you could go back and make a different decision and then you’d be happy is like being on the hunt for a creature that never existed in the first place. You’ll never catch that fish of “aha, this particular decision is the one my happiness depended on!” It’s probably more like happiness—or at least contentment— is a certain sort of forward looking amor fati, where you have a calm mindset of “well, I’ll do the best I can and take the bitter with the better.” Like the mindset of the serenity prayer or of the titular wanderer in “Wanderer Above a Sea of Fog”.

      • aNeopuritan says:

        If you, at 20, did screw something up in the recent past, I’m pretty sure it’s fixable. You have plenty of reproductively healthy years ahead, and are *far* from a risk of unemployability due to age. Even if you start from 0 about “being qualified for a good job and a good wife”, there’s no reason to doubt you can get somewhere decent by 30 – if your *starting* place for either of those is 30, though …

    • Jaskologist says:

      How much of this feeling is due to not having found a long term mate yet?

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        It’s a significant contributor, but I could probably manage without one if I had regular contact with people who treated me well and cared about me, even if I weren’t sleeping with them.

        • Evan Þ says:

          I’ve lived just outside Seattle for the last four and a half years, and I’ve made at least three very good friends. I’ve met all of them through church – I know Seattle’s one of the least-churched cities in the country, but have you considered that?

          Also, have you tried the rationalist meetups in Madison Park? I’ve only gone to one of them, but I had a lot of very good conversation there.

          Finally, have you tried book clubs? I found a sci-fi / fantasy book club through the University Bookstore, and while I wouldn’t say I’ve made any deep friendships there, we’re all at least good, polite acquaintances.

        • LewisT says:

          I seem to recall someone (EDIT: Universal Set) once suggesting that you look into moving to a mid-sized city in the Midwest. If the people in Seattle are genuinely as terrible as you say they are, and if a major part of what’s making you so unhappy is a lack of companionship (either a mate or close friends), I do think moving to the Midwest/Rust Belt might be a significantly positive, albeit risky, move. I’ve never lived outside the Midwest (EDIT: actually, near where Universal Set lives), so my experience is quite limited, but I have friends who live or have lived outside the Midwest, and almost all of them agree that people are just friendlier and more caring here than they are in the coasts (the rural South is also an option if you’re looking for friendly people, but I have a feeling you wouldn’t fit in as well there).

        • If historical recreation strikes you as interesting, you could try out the local SCA. I don’t know the Seattle people in particular but several of my closest friends were acquired through the SCA, and I have a generally positive impression of the kingdom Seattle is in (An Tir).

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            I’d been thinking about the SCA recently (unconnected with this whole thing.) It’s a bit of a hard bootstrap to start, but I may make an attempt soon.

          • Barely matters says:

            I can second this.

            I know a few of the Seattle Knights from years ago, and as far as long range acquaintances go they’re doing pretty well in terms of being level headed, stable, quality people with good life trajectories. Many of them have paired off and settled down with their SCA partners compared to the rest of the group that I met them through, who are still largely doing the normal millennial floundering. None of them earn as much as you do (As many of them grew up on farms, giving them access to the horses that they armor and ride), so there might be some culture clash, but they’re system oriented nerds through and through and I’d guess you’d get along with them fairly well.

          • @Andrew:

            I don’t know An Tir, but a few general comments on the SCA.

            It’s a lot of different things for different people. For some it’s mostly about our version of dark ages foot combat done as a sport. For some it’s about recreating some particular part of past culture for the fun of it–cooking from a 10th century cookbook, making jewelry based on museum pieces, making shoes, calligraphy and illumination, poetry, story telling. For some it is two or more of the above.

            For some, probably the majority, an SCA event is basically a costume party for people interested in the Renaissance and/or Middle Ages. For others it’s a joint fantasy–trying to imagine, for at least a few hours, that you are a medieval person interacting with other people. For some it’s mostly the former but occasionally the latter. And someone who treats it as a costume party may also be seriously interested in his particular area and doing good, original, historically accurate work in that area.

            It’s also its own subculture, with customs and jargon not all of which are historically correct. And its own social network.

            For some people it is important mainly as the latter. When I arrived in California with my elder son and a moving truck full of stuff, I was met by two SCA people, one of whom I knew from when he lived in Chicago, who helped us unload. When the husband of one of our SCA friends had serious medical problems, my wife and daughter made up a bunch of food to bring over so she wouldn’t have to worry about feeding herself until the crisis was over. That sort of thing is pretty normal.

    • outis says:

      Happy New Year, Andrew. I’m in a similar situation to you, and in fact I opened a similar but vaguer thread[1] a few OTs ago. I’m a bit older and less athletic, but I’m not going to try to compete on who has it worse.

      On one hand, I wish I could go back to when I was 30; I know I could do so much better with my life. So, you could imagine being me and feeling like you were given a few extra years.
      On the other hand, at 30 I wished I could go back to being 25. At 25 I wished I could be 20 again, and so on.
      To be precise, at each of those times, I wanted to go back to when I was 14; I guess that’s about the age when everyone’s life gets messed up. But I have always felt that I was 5-7 years too old for what I wanted to do, or 5-7 years too late for it.

      It’s strange, because each time I think “it’s too late”, and each time it actually turns out that I can do a lot more and get a lot better. But each time I fail to catch up. Against my depressed predictions from years ago, I won many battles, but lost the war; it was not too late to finish school, get a good job, etc.; but sadly, it seems that it was too late for me to be happy. So I can say that I am doing much better than I imagined possible, and yet I’m just as unhappy as I feared. Has something similar happened to you?

      For me, too, the problem is social life and relationships. I can make friends, but I keep losing them (in part because there must be something wrong with me, in part because they leave the city), and now I’m back to feeling lonely. I also feel like I lost the best chance of finding friends and love in college, and that’s what’s really hurting me now.

      Maybe we could be friends?

      [1]: BTW, sorry for not replying to most people there, things move too fast. I keep meaning to post a response in a new OT, but I’ve been too busy.

      • Inside a semicircle of displays says:

        I also feel like I lost the best chance of finding friends and love in college, and that’s what’s really hurting me now.

        That’s what I thought, until I figured out the entire “friends of friends” situation. I’m 32 now and I’d say that I made over half of my friends over the past five years, well after I finished my education, meeting them via existing friends. Same with romantic relationships.
        (Side note: I’ve got zero people from school I still keep in contact with, I guess interests diverge too drastically afterwards)

        I can make friends, but I keep losing them (in part because there must be something wrong with me, in part because they leave the city)

        I tend to move around quite a bit, and one of my closest friends lives over 500 km away. But there’s a reasonably priced direct flight – that might be a necessary prerequisite to sustain long-distance friendship kind of things.

        Maybe we could be friends?

        I’m not him, but I’d be happy to make your acquaintance.

        • I tend to move around quite a bit, and one of my closest friends lives over 500 km away. But there’s a reasonably priced direct flight – that might be a necessary prerequisite to sustain long-distance friendship kind of things.

          I am currently in a room of a friend’s house in Boston, along with my wife and our two adult children (one bed, two air mattresses). We are there because another friend started a New Year’s party at her house nearby about forty years ago. She died a few years ago but her widower has continued the party. I have been there every New Years for about the past forty, save for one year when I had surgery in late December. It’s a chance to maintain connections with friends who live on the opposite side of the country from where we now live–and for my children to establish friendships with members of the same social network.

          Today we fly to Chicago, where we will spend a few days with friends near there before flying home to San Jose.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Enjoy Chicago. Sorry about the weather. At least the River looks pretty and smells less putrid when it’s frozen over.

        • Randy M says:

          I’ve never had a great ability at making friends, so I decided to start from scratch.

          Okay, bad joke and probably not terribly funny to those looking for romance–for consolation there, read the other people saying they found mates in their thirties up thread.

          Anyway, I keep in touch with one friend from my childhood–which is about half of my childhood friends. In college I was a lot more outgoing, had a pretty good social life, and after graduation I’ve seen one person (other than my wife) from college regularly. And by regularly at this point I mean on my birthday. My gaming groups regularly sputter out from lack of attendees. There’s no animosity, but simply not being anyone’s priority isn’t all that great either, though I’ll concede to being part of the problem, not often taking the initiative.

          Anyhow, lack of close connections seems to be a sad part of modern life. I’m on the west coast as well, perhaps it’s different in the middle states or other countries.

        • outis says:

          Where do you live?

          BTW, notice that Andrew did not take me up on that offer. Which does not surprise me: even people who are lonely do not really want to become friends with people whom they see as having insufficiently high social value. It’s the same process by which a man can long for a relationship while ignoring the ugly women he would have a chance with.

          And I’m not saying it’s wrong. I do the same thing. Having a low-quality friend (or, worse, partner) actually makes your personal value worse, and a low self-value is one of the biggest problems of lonely people to begin with.

          • nimim.k.m. says:

            Which does not surprise me: even people who are lonely do not really want to become friends with people whom they see as having insufficiently high social value.

            In cases like this, I don’t believe it’s about “social value”. It sounds too simplistic (similar to obsessing over “status hierarchies” that have been discussed many times here on OTs).

            More like, fostering a successful friendship needs some positive ties. Friendship based on both friends-to-be having not much in common except that both are lonely sounds potentially very awkward.

            Also, at least while I’ve been battling with loneliness, I would detest any offered “friendship” that I sensed was initiated and maintained only out of pity, instead of say, genuinely thinking I’m person they like to be friends with.

          • outis says:

            @nimim.k.m.:
            I used not to care or even really believe in social status, but eventually my normie simulation has advanced enough to realize that it’s real, and really important. Maybe at some point I’ll loop back into not caring, who knows. But it remains a very useful concept to understand personal interactions.

            I am not offering friendship out of pity, I think Andrew sounds interesting. Also, if you look at the other posts, he picked up higher-status posters on their offers right away.
            A possible confounder is that I’m pseudonymous, perhaps he only feels comfortable meeting other real-name users.

    • dodrian says:

      Given your other comments about a desire for deeper social group/community, I would encourage you to look at local community choirs, bands, troupes, studios, etc, with the intention of starting a new hobby.

      From my experience singing in choirs* working as a group to prepare a performance is a great social-bonding activity. They tend to have a good number of people who are proactive in organizing other social events (dinner, parties, etc), and it makes it easier to network and meet people outside of that group too (I ended up with two great roommates because I mentioned to a choir friend that I was looking for a house-share, and he knew others). If you’re certain that singing isn’t your thing (though I’d still encourage you to try if you haven’t sung since elementary school), I imagine that community theater would be similar (with more roles available, as sound or lighting technicians, stagehands, set workers, etc), as would dance (my 30-something single balding friend loves ballet). Art classes at local studios/community college might also be good, though I would think working on an individual piece is less socially-enriching than working on a performance as a group.

      I found taking up an art especially rewarding as all my other activities/hobbies are pretty stereotypical for a computer engineer, and solitary to boot. Others have said similar things about joining a sports team, though they tend to be more single-gendered activities

      *FWIW, I’ve only ever encountered two people I genuinely believe are tonedeaf, and unable to be taught to sing. Most of the community choirs I’ve been a part of were happy to have a new face, and not very bothered about if they could sing or not – and I originally joined unable to read music.

    • SUT says:

      I want to steelman Hunter’s Dilemma. Maybe Morrison said it best:

      People are strange when you’re a stranger
      Faces look ugly when you’re alone
      Women seem wicked when you’re unwanted

      It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or successful; nobody in middle class society will treat you better at 30 based on a six figure bank account. Also most of your friends who don’t do as well will be supported comfortably enough by their family. And if materially you’re a success (but still Strange) you think to yourself – My God, how much worse will this get if were to ever fall out of the 0.1%?

      The addiction story from Anonymous especially strikes me as failing to imagine what OP’s experience is like: He is not going to be able to get a Associates Degree and sweet talk his way into the American Dream after being 90 days sober. He is Strange – corporate recruiters, whose main responsibility is to put on a polite public facade for thirty minutes, can’t help but trash him. He is not someone people want to give opportunities to, he needs to smarter and better qualified than others.

      Also if you’re in an upper middle class job in an upper middle class city, approaching middle age, most people are just going HOLD on friendships. If you’re charismatic, you can get these people to BUY. And if you’re volatile low class, people often SELL their whole portfolio, which makes it easier to be a rebound friend. It’s the paradox of stability for lone men in these milieus: it makes meeting people and forming bonds the most difficult for people who really do fit all the criteria for ‘buddy’.

      There are large problems here that I don’t think people are appreciating, and I don’t know if the standard answer of Choir/Meditation/Travel works.

    • Matt C says:

      You’ve made other posts like this one. You sound fairly unhappy and extremely unsatisfied.

      If you don’t like what you’re getting, you have to change what you’re doing. Not easy, but it’s the only real option.

      > [about Seattle and Google] Now, practically speaking, I’m stuck here.

      Unless there is something important you have not mentioned, you are actually not stuck. You are single, 29, in good health, intelligent and conscientious, in possession of valuable skills. You are not stuck.

      See Brad’s post about upending your life. You’re 29, single, unhappy with work, unhappy with your town, feeling unloved and unvalued. Sounds like a good time for you to upend your life. You are a capable and resilient guy. Forget about your bank balance for a while. Forget about what “they” might think or say. Quit your job and try something different. Take a leap and come back in a few months and tell us a story about what happened.

      Oh, and there aren’t any do overs. I feel you, sometimes I want one too, but once through is all you get. Good luck.

      • Oh, and there aren’t any do overs.

        I have a story about that.

        • Matt C says:

          Did you ever have to make up your mind . . .

          I can’t imagine leaving my family for anything in the real world. But getting to live the prime of my life over again would be a temptation, I admit.

          I wonder how much of one’s good sense and maturity comes from actually learning from experience, and how much is just having a body where the limbic system has finally started to settle down. Maybe if I woke up nineteen again I’d find myself acting about the same as I did the first time around.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Interesting story.

          I realize this isn’t the point of the story, but if you don’t return to the future, would the original version of you still go on with your original family?

          • I assume so.

            I may have inconsistently assumed that if the narrator chose to return to his original life he would vanish from the new life, abandoning his girlfriend.

            But neither assumption is central, since I was mostly imagining the situation from the standpoint of his consciousness, not the effect of his choice on others.

            I wrote the story a fair while ago so can’t be certain of the details in my mind at the time. I think it’s the only prose short story I have written in the past fifty years.

    • pontifex says:

      I felt the same way when I turned 30. At the time it felt like I was super old and I had squandered my life.

      Now I’m years older and I don’t feel the same way. What changed? Meeting my wife and getting married was very positive. I started to accept that I will never be Larry Ellison or Bill Gates, but I can do a pretty good job of being me.

      I think you do have some friends here on SSC. And I’m sure you have a lot of savings.

      If you truly want to get out of Seattle, you can do an internal transfer at Google, right? Or if Google has gotten too PC for you (I know it is for me) then find a better employer. They are out there. Do keep in mind that it’s hard to come back to Google once you leave (you’ll be off the management fast track). But that track is a lottery anyway– it’s not worth giving up your happiness for that for most people.

    • rks says:

      real advice: move to Eastern Europe (particularly).
      after working at Google I’m sure you can arrange some remote gig to support yourself, or just spend your savings, or become an ESL teacher (you can do this without any diplomas for meager compensation but you’re already rich so whatevs).
      the change in the environment plus guaranteed pretty ladies’ attention will help you think more objectively about your life and where you want to move it further.
      I expect you may tell yourself “that will set my career/life back” or whatever but then you are already thinking that your life is irreparably damaged. so not losing much, eh?

      • Aapje says:

        That seems a little too radical & unnecessary, when sufficient cultural diversity exists in the US and Western Europe & Andrew’s dating prospects would probably improve significantly merely by moving out of a region with a large gender disparity disfavoring men. Also, I’ve heard from various sources that Eastern European relationship culture involves high levels of drama, which may be unpleasant to a Western person/man.

        I also don’t see why it would make sense to become jobless or an ESL teacher when IT skills are in high demand. For example, the Czech Republic* seems to have a significant shortage of IT people. I know for a fact that there are international organizations in Western Europe where programmers who only know English can find a job. I strongly suspect that the same is true for some international organizations in Eastern Europe.

        * That country seems to have westernized sufficiently to be a viable choice (just like Estonia), but I would be wary of moving to some of the other Eastern European countries.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      FWIW I went and had coffee with Andrew last night.

      I’m still gelling my impression in my head. I’ll share my response to this post of his in light of that meeting after it gells some more, with his permission.

  28. chocoearly says:

    Diversity in the workplace has been a hot topic lately, but does a “diverse” workplace actually contribute to increased productivity? What’s your opinion of the utility of diversity? There’s a lot of talk on SSC about tribalism and the like, and I’m imagining situations where a non-diverse team is actually more adept than a diverse one because of fewer tribal problems to overcome.

    • quanta413 says:

      I would say it strongly depends how you define diversity and what the task at hand is. For most definitions of diversity used (read: basically ethnic/racial, gender, and sexual orientation), I think it doesn’t help or hurt most tasks very noticeably. There is almost always a large list of more significant issues that a team should solve first if the goal is improved team performance.

      For an example where the standard diversity does matter, if your goal is to make a national marketing campaign that will reach all of the U.S., it’s probably a good idea to have a broad spectrum of people at least eyeball it including someone who either is or can successfully emulate the mind of conservative white people. It’s usually not a good idea to accidentally piss people off.

      The nonstandard diversity will almost certainly matter if your goal is to run a business. If you’re a software company, you will likely want real marketers at some point and not just engineers. Ditto for needing real lawyers, etc. But I think companies who fail to achieve this sort of diversity (the diversity of actually filling all the different jobs) tend to sink pretty fast.

    • johan_larson says:

      I’ve heard the claim that “diverse” teams perform better, but I’ve never seen that claim rigorously sourced.

      Also, when people in an American (or Canadian) context talk about “diversity” they generally talk about very specific notions of diversity. They are interested in diversity of race, sex, and maybe sexual preference. They’re probably not interested in diversity of wealth, profession, training, worldview, or lifestyle. As far as I can tell, diversity is code for inclusion of whatever groups the left is worried about, and right now that means women, blacks, gays, transsexuals, and Latinos.

      • ilikekittycat says:

        Representation of low wealth/profession/training etc. people in important/powerful circles is what the left is worried about by definition

      • Mary says:

        Witness that James Damore’s memo suggesting things that would make people who are actually different more comfortable in a workplace designed for other people is called an “anti-diversity” memo.

    • dark orchid says:

      This discussion could probably profit from tabooing the word “diversity”. Joel Spolsky (who created a large part of Excel and Trello among other things) says in “Sorting Resumes” (2006) [1]

      Before I start a massive flame war of international scope by using the loaded term “diversity,” let me carefully define what I mean by this. Specifically, I’m looking for people who come from enough of a different background than the existing team that they are likely to bring new ideas and new ways of thinking to the team and challenge any incipient groupthink that is likely to keep us boxed into our own echo-chamber way of thinking about things. When I say different background, I mean culturally, socially, and professionally. Someone who has a lot of experience with enterprise software may bring useful diversity to a team of internet programmers. Someone who grew up poor is going to bring useful diversity to a startup full of Andover preppies. A stay-at-home mom rejoining the workplace may bring useful diversity to a team of recent graduates. An electrical engineer with Assembler experience may bring useful diversity to a team of Lisp hackers. A recent college graduate from Estonia may bring useful diversity to a team of experienced management consultants from the midwest. The only theory here is that the more diverse your team is, the more likely that someone on the team will have some experience in their background that allows them to come up with a different solution.

      Defined that way, diversity is tautologically useful for your workplace.

      [1] https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2006/09/08/sorting-resumes-2/

      • shakeddown says:

        On the other hand it reduces group coherence, which can also be useful.

        • Aapje says:

          I would say that you have idea-generation and idea-acceptance. Diversity increases the former, but makes the latter harder. Too little and too much of each is probably a bad idea. If many ideas are generated or too many objections are raised & people strongly resist accepting the ideas of others, you get analysis paralysis and never get anything done. If idea-generation is low and idea-acceptance is too high, people are not critical enough and go along with bad ideas.

          A complicating factor here is that one common definition of ‘diversity’ seeks to achieve an environment with people of different genders, races, sexualities, etc; but all with the same political beliefs, belonging to the same social class, having the same lifestyle, etc. I would argue that such an environment more often suffers from a lack of meaningful diversity, rather than an excess of it.

        • James C says:

          Group coherence can be trained, however, where as employee backgrounds can’t be changed.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Defined that way, diversity is tautologically useful for your workplace.

        Only because there are no possible consequences mentioned. Sticking a 35 year old, re entering the workforce mom on a crew with only college grads could provide a better perspective or it could isolate her and lead her to be less productive.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think there are studies that show that undiverse teams do better. But I’m on one of these newfangled mobile devices, so doing stuff like looking through research is difficult.

    • Baeraad says:

      I don’t know about all kinds of diversity, but I do firmly believe that a balance between men and women makes for better quality, if not necessarily a larger output. Both are prone to being excessive in their way of thinking – having to convince someone of a different hormonal makeup that your plan is a good one makes for an excellent test of whether it’s actually good or whether it just seems good to you because it aligns with your irrational instincts.

      Though those discussions will take time, so if your goal is to shovel something passable out quickly, then you might be better off with a homogenous workplace, yes.

    • Incurian says:

      As I was going through intelligence training, I found diversity to be extremely valuable. Nearly everyone in my squad had a different background – artillery, aviation, armor, infantry, etc. – which brought not only different specialized knowledge to the table, but we had different ways of thinking about situations. We all learned a lot from each other and put our collective wisdom to good use in ways that would not have been possible if we all had the same background.

    • Tenacious D says:

      Linguistic diversity (assuming fluency in a common language) certainly contributes to increased productivity in my experience. Having members of the team that can talk to potential clients from around the world in languages they’re more comfortable in is a real advantage.

    • maintain says:

      What about diversity with regards to productivity? Like, a team with some people who are very productive, and other people who are not very productive.

      “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

      –Bill Gates

      “I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent — their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy — they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent — he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.”

      — Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord

      • cassander says:

        A somewhat more elegant version. Someone asks Napoleon “Your majesty, how do you choose your marshals?”

        Napoleon says “The stupid and lazy I make common soldiers. They are good for nothing else. The smart and hard working I make officers, for they will know what needs to be done and take great care to ensure every detail is correct. The smart and lazy I make Marshals, for they will also know what needs to be done, but will not bother with the details best left to lower ranks.”

        Then the man asks “but that leaves out the stupid and hardworking, what of them?”

        Napoleon says “Them……I shoot.”

    • Izaak says:

      There’s at least one story out there about a soap dispenser that has a sensor which doesn’t recognize hands being waved in front of it if they have dark skin. Presumably, this is because the team that developed the sensor didn’t have any people on it with dark skin, and so they never noticed this flaw.

      • Evan Þ says:

        I’ve heard the same story about automatic faucets.

      • Deiseach says:

        I have white and pink hands, and I’ve waved them under enough hot-air hand dryers in bathrooms to know that the damn sensors don’t work for anyone. (The many times I’ve wished they’d go back to old fashioned ‘towel onna roller’ as I try to dry my dripping mitts!)

        Racist soap dispensers sound a bit like an urban fable, to be honest.

      • The Nybbler says:

        There’s also a story about a racist camera which detected Asians as blinking when they were not. Presumably this is because the team that developed the sensor didn’t have any Asians on it, and so they never noticed this flaw. The problem with this presumption is that the camera is the Nikkon S630. Developed in Japan. By Japanese people.

        If there’s anything to the soap dispenser story at all, it’s probably similar; it really is just harder to detect people with darker skin. And those things are notoriously unreliable anyway, the sensors get dirty or are installed poorly, which would affect already marginal situations more.

      • James C says:

        I hear Amazon’s Alexa has a lot of trouble understanding Scottish accents. Clearly no true Scotsman works for Amazon.

      • lvlln says:

        Presuming this story actually occurred, it seems to me that the problem has almost nothing to do with the skin colors of the team that developed the sensor and almost everything to do with just poor market research when developing the product. That is, regardless of whatever shade the skins of the development team were, they should have done enough of the basic research to recognize the expected skin shade of the potential users of their product and designed it to work for them accordingly.

        It seems to me that to prevent this issue from happening again, the solution is to improve market research specifically with respect to the skin colors of the people expected to use the product. And attempting to solve it by increasing the diversity in the shade of skin of the members of the development team doesn’t seem like it would be that helpful.

    • Muro says:

      I was under the impression that women are more prosocial/better teamworkers than men, which means they are better suited for a lot of jobs.

      But, I guess men have some advantages as workers as well- they don’t take time off to raise children, and are more likely to prioritize work over family (which is beneficial for the company).

    • Jiro says:

      This is silly. People on the left talk about “diversity” because in Bakke, the Supreme Court of the United States said that affirmative action is permitted for the sake of “diversity”. If they had said that affirmative action was permitted for the sake of something else, whatever they had said would be claimed by the left to be good instead. I’m surprised the collective wisdom of SSC isn’t more aware of this.

      • outis says:

        This is extremely interesting, thank you.

      • rlms says:

        Reversed Supreme Court judgements are not intelligence.

      • DocKaon says:

        It’s nice that you know that a significant fraction of the American population is lying about their motives. It must be so much easier to make decisions when you can just ignore the arguments of your political opponents because they’re liars.

        • The Nybbler says:

          When the NBA (overwhelmingly black in a majority-white country) gets top marks for diversity, it’s very easy to conclude that “diversity” does not have its plain meaning.

          • baconbits9 says:

            This is really ungenerous. They got an A in part because of the number of women in the league offices and relatively high number of female executives and minority executives and coaches outstripping other sports leagues, along with high international representation in the player pool as specified in the link you provided.

          • The Nybbler says:

            For race, the NFL received an A+ for both players and assistant coaches,

            The text of the reports make it clear: “Diversity” just means more people in the categories they like, and fewer white men. Though there’s a a hierarchy in race: “Although the total percentage of players of color has reached an all-time high at 42.5 percent, there has been a concern in Major League Baseball about the relatively small and declining percentage of African-American players which dropped to 7.7 percent on Opening Day 2017, the lowest in the years TIDES has been tracking this.

            Note this under-representation of African-American players is far less than the under-representation of white players in the NFL, yet there’s no concerns about the latter.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The text of the reports make it clear: “Diversity” just means more people in the categories they like, and fewer white men.

            This is again ungenerous. The assistant coach grade of A+ is for 31.3% representation. Their grade for professional administration for race is an A- for 27.3% and for Gender it is a B- for 35.9%. It is clearly not just a higher % = higher score situation.

            Also a quote from one of your links

            The percentage of players of color is so high that any slight change would not affect the
            grade.

            This would all be consistent with Diversity being equal to a minimum level of representation, and not at all consistent with “as many minorities as possible, and as few white people as possible”.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The player grade is A+ for 75% black. The scoring is simple enough: full marks are attained if minority representation is at least nearly as high as it is in the population. See the chart on page 22. Less than 70% whites = A+, less than 55% men = A+. Doesn’t matter how much less.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The player grade is A+ for 75% black. The scoring is simple enough: full marks are attained if minority representation is at least nearly as high as it is in the population. See the chart on page 22. Less than 70% whites = A+, less than 55% men = A+. Doesn’t matter how much less.

            And? As I said, the correct interpretation is that diversity represents a threshold for specific groups. You started out with

            When the NBA (overwhelmingly black in a majority-white country) gets top marks for diversity

            But this isn’t true. The players are disproportionately black, but with coaches, league positions, front office, ownership in which white males are widely over represented it turns out the league actually is reasonably close to proportional representation.

            If we took your critique seriously we would have a report card of

            1. Players- F, really disproportionate representation.
            2. Owners- F, really disproportionate representation
            3. Upper front office positions, D or F
            4. Overall Gender, F (no women players, WTF?)

            Final score D or F, for a league that shouldn’t be getting that score by your definition.

            Why didn’t they score gender for the players? Because everyone knows that women aren’t going to compete with men on the court. You know what everyone else knows? That there was serious, intentional, structured discrimination against groups in living memory which was manifested in these sports leagues, and that the large swell of minority players since they were reduced and eventually eliminated actually demonstrates that the damage caused was far in excess of the expected levels a proportional representation analysis would lead you to believe.

            Long story short, while the actual report is itself probably on the silly side of PC, your reaction is petty and exaggerated, and shouldn’t be extrapolated across the entire country.

          • John Schilling says:

            It is clearly not just a higher % = higher score situation.

            According to the methodology section on page 18-19 of the report, it actually is. More POC = higher score and more women = higher score, monotonically, until you get to the maximum ‘A+’ rating in both categories (at 30% POC and 45% women). At which it point it stays at ‘A+’, not dropping an iota even if the league were to go to 100% women of color and impose a ban on hiring white males.

            Yay diversity, rah rah rah.

          • Randy M says:

            If we took your critique seriously

            If you don’t take his critique seriously, then it is okay for certain positions to be disproportionately filled by certain demographics. Like, blacks are more suited to being players, whites for managers, etc. This has implications, and is quite heterodox for the diversity crowd.

          • albatross11 says:

            So, silicon valley is also extremely diverse by national origin, and a large fraction of the techies aren’t white. Presumably they should also get top marks for diversity, right?

          • John Schilling says:

            and a large fraction of the techies aren’t white

            That depends on whether Asians count as “white” this week.

          • baconbits9 says:

            According to the methodology section on page 18-19 of the report, it actually is. More POC = higher score and more women = higher score, monotonically, until you get to the maximum ‘A+’ rating in both categories (at 30% POC and 45% women). At which it point it stays at ‘A+’, not dropping an iota even if the league were to go to 100% women of color and impose a ban on hiring white males.

            So in other words it is NOT that, it is a threshold where by hitting X% gains maximum diversity points, but no excess for X+1%. In other words there is not external pressure/motivation/initiative from such a report to increase the representation beyond that point. Do this much work for a C, this much for a B and this much for an A, and any extra work is totally up to you means that at some point extra work is not reflected in the grade received.

            It is perfectly possible for a group aiming at ending discrimination to take this type of stance without it being a direct attack on white people, and as such his reading is an overreaction to a crummy process.

            If you don’t take his critique seriously, then it is okay for certain positions to be disproportionately filled by certain demographics. Like, blacks are more suited to being players, whites for managers, etc. This has implications, and is quite heterodox for the diversity crowd.

            A reasonable position, but he didn’t say that, he said “the NBA is overwhelmingly black”.

            Finally I take issue here because is this not an area where the PC police actually have a damn point? Seriously there was wide spread, systemic discrimination in sports for decades and it turns out that minorities are functionally hyper competent in these areas. They were actually denied access by what amounted to a vast white conspiracy to keep blacks and latinos down. Not only that it appears that the incorporation of minorities has led to more popularity, more fame and greater earnings at every level of these sports, so its not obvious that it is a negative sum game for the majority

            The PC push has tons of flaws, and is in general detestable to me in a lot of ways, but cheering the fact that a deeply racist structure has been reformed in a major way leading to great results for many black, white, and latino people with relatively little input from an invasive government doesn’t appear to be one.

          • baconbits9 says:

            So, silicon valley is also extremely diverse by national origin, and a large fraction of the techies aren’t white. Presumably they should also get top marks for diversity, right?

            What would be the actual numbers?

          • The Nybbler says:

            http://www.businessinsider.com/infographic-tech-diversity-companies-compared-2017-8

            Not a single company listed would get less than an A+ on race using the TIDES methodology.

            Racial Diversity = Fewer white people, more black people. Latinos and Asians change depending on context; TIDES is concerned about Latinos replacing blacks in MLB (though their scoring does not reflect this, only the text).

          • baconbits9 says:

            Racial Diversity = Fewer white people, more black people. Latinos and Asians change depending on context; TIDES is concerned about Latinos replacing blacks in MLB (though their scoring does not reflect this, only the text).

            You are contradicting yourself. Clearly Racial Diversity doesn’t boil down to fewer white people and more black people. You are, in all likelihood, going to continue to act as if the discussion started as a defense of such reports, and not a criticism of your over reaction to them. That is what it is though, you are interpreting results in the most negative light that you can, which is both unnecessary as their are many legitimate complaints to be made, and pretty damn tone deaf when it comes to the history of minorities and specifically blacks in US sports.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Clearly Racial Diversity doesn’t boil down to fewer white people and more black people.

            By the TIDES quantitative scoring methodology, it boils down to “few enough white people”. The “more black people” is not in the scoring but is indicated by the text, which I’ve quoted several times already.

            pretty damn tone deaf when it comes to the history of minorities and specifically blacks in US sports.

            A definition of “diversity” which gives full marks for a theoretical all-black team is not justified by any sort of history.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          It’s nice that you know that a significant fraction of the American population is lying about their motives.

          It’s more frightening than anything else. It’s as if there’s a plague which has turned most of the population into brain-eating zombies.

    • outis says:

      In every rationalization of the supposed benefits of “diversity”, the effect is mediated by intellectual diversity: you need to have queer Honduran hamsterkins on your team because their unique lived experience gives them access to unique ideas and insights that nobody else could have. In that case, it would make sense for companies to seek greater intellectual diversity directly, instead of hoping to reach it as a side effect of optimizing for a vague proxy. But if you follow that obvious conclusion, you get fired.

      So it’s obvious that it’s all pabulum.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      “Diversity” is valuable to the extent it allows different viewpoints on the same point, IMO. It really belongs in the same ballpark as “new blood” and “think outside the box.” The best analogy here is the military guy talking about benefiting from the artillery, aviation, and infantry guy all getting together. These guys should all have different viewpoints on the same operation, all of which need to work in tandem to accomplish the objective.

      In our accounting teams, we have this all the time. Normally our biggest problems come from the sales team, who invent new legal language and deals without telling anyone else, which means we have to make guesses about how to bill it and collect it. They are in turn pissed because we are billing something in a way that reduces revenue below what they expected, making their numbers look bad.

      We also have problems on the collections side with the billing side, but we don’t understand their systems and processes very well. Meanwhile the billing side doesn’t understand our side, so they think nothing of changing years of billings, which makes accounts almost impossible to reconcile and customers refuse to pay because they cannot make sense of their statements.

      My personal thought is that most workers are not working on these cross-functional teams, and “teamwork” is overrated. I think executives and managers overrate these things because practically everything they do involves a large degree of cross-departmental communication. MOST cross-functional problems are SOLVED problems: the SOPs solve them. The major problem is a total lack of diligence, not diversity. The SOP cannot solve the problem if the lazy workers refuse to follow the SOP.

      So, I think diligence is more important.

    • Viliam says:

      In my experience as a software developer…

      I had a great work experience with a colleague whose education and experience was almost the opposite of mine. My education contained a lot of math and theory. His education contained a lot of work with various frameworks. The awesome thing was that when we received a project to do together, we had opposite opinions on which parts were “easy” — so each of us took the part that seemed “easy” from his point of view, and was happy to avoid the other part. I wrote a recursive parser and interpreter of a domain-specific language. He wrote editors and wizards. The customer was shocked to see how quickly we completed the product, and how quickly we could add their new requirements.

      I also had a great work experience with a colleague whose education and experience matched mine. Not only we quickly understood each other, but more importantly, we had the same opinion on what are the “best practices” and in which direction should the code ideally move. We didn’t fight over architecture; we agreed that refactoring is an essential part of development. Within the company, our team used the best tools (such as automated testing, continuous integration, etc.), and produced code with least bugs.

      So… I have good experience with both diverse and non-diverse teams. This is still true even if by diversity you mean “different genders”; except in that case, the former would be an example of a non-diverse team, and the latter an example of a diverse one.

      I can’t say much about diversity in sexual orientation, other than my kinda conservative belief that if your sexual behavior is widely known at the workplace, something probably already got horribly wrong. Maybe that’s just me, but I try to keep my sexual life, and my private life in general, out of workplace, so most colleagues had no idea about it. (If you want to deny my experience by saying something like “X by default”, I’d like to add that despite my discretion, or perhaps precisely because of it, some people made guesses behind my back — and their hypotheses were all over the spectrum.) I actually regret the fact that I have to tell HR about my marital status and number of children, because in my opinion that is simply none of my employer’s business.

      What I consider more important for the productivity of the team is… uhm, the ability to speak freely, for all members of the team. Diverse experience means nothing if you are not allowed to communicate it. Diverse preferences mean nothing if you are not allowed to act on them. (I mean, I had a job where managers on purpose assigned database design to front-end guys, and CSS tweaking to back-end guys. Predictably, the code base was a mess, we had tons of bugs, and we consistently missed all deadlines, but the managers congratulated themselves that they made everyone replaceable. Until one day the whole team quit.)

      The biggest obstacle to this is typically a presence of an “alpha male” on the team; and yes, it is almost always a male (although in one case I have also seen an alpha female, and she had similar impact). Someone with strong opinions and low agreeableness, often with some support from management. In such case, the team cannot exceed the given person’s experience, because other people’s suggestion are mostly rejected. I have seen a situation where such person was thoroughly incompetent, but the management trusted them anyway. I have also seen a situation where such person was quite qualified (although not as much as they believed themselves to be); unfortunately they had a few mistaken beliefs and refused to update on them even in face of evidence, and dismissed anyone else’s qualification.

      Conclusion: If I would have to make a statement about gender diversity, my best guess is that when the woman is a member of the team “naturally” (i.e. because she is a good coder, just like anyone else), her presence is probably an evidence that the team is healthy (to say the least, she was not harassed away). However, adding a woman to the team just because “she is a woman, and we need diversity” might backfire horribly; you may add exactly the dominant personality that will ruin the team (and in addition she will have the perfect political clout: criticizing her will be inherently sexist). But I have never seen a situation like that; judging by Google’s example, the dangerous personalities will most likely apply for a HR position.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I think everyone’s given you the benefits of diversity. With regards to

      a diverse one because of fewer tribal problems to overcome.

      though, you’re only looking at internal tribal problems. Diversity also presents a larger surface area for attack.

      Imagine a half black, half white workforce that’s trying to unionize. Management is opposed to this union, so an operative puts a bug in the ear of the white workers that the blacks only want a union so they can be lazy and mooch off the white workers, and a bug in the ear of the black workers that the white workers are evil racists, who want control of the union rules so they can eventually expel the blacks and replace them with whites. Distrust is sown and the union fails.

      “DIVERSITY IS OUR STRENGTH” is one of those “FREEDOM IS SLAVERY” types of Big Lies. Diversity has advantages, but it also presents great challenges that can only be overcome through struggle. But you can’t simply add diversity to acquire strength. If you’ve got a pen full of cats and dogs fighting each other, throwing in a bunch of lemurs and badgers doesn’t really make the group stronger.

      • Viliam says:

        If you are a “diversity officer”, more diversity means more problems, which means greater job security for you.

  29. soreff says:

    Happy New Year, everyone.

    Odd thought/question:

    Over a long enough time, records are garbled and lost, people and events are forgotten.

    Of the famous names in Western civilization,
    which name would you guess will be the last one to be forgotten?
    My guess is probably Pythagoras, since his theorem is so central to geometrical calculations,
    and these in turn are so central to so much else in science and technology.
    But there are many plausible contenders.
    Who do you think will be the last one to fade into the mist?

    • SpaghettiLee says:

      Jesus. If religious figures don’t count, then maybe Caesar. They’ve both lasted 2,000 years already.

      • KG says:

        I was trying to think of someone with a more “famous” name than Jesus and came up short, but then I thought about the fact that Jesus wasn’t even his name. Does it count as a name that won’t be forgotten if almost no one remembers his real name?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I was thinking in terms of expanding the possible answers– Caesar has given rise to many words meaning leader.

          This is sort of his name being remembered and sort of not, since in general it isn’t attached to his person.

          There’s also a question about what being remembered means– do you mean the general public, or among specialists?

          • soreff says:

            Good points!

            Re

            There’s also a question about what being remembered means– do you mean the general public, or among specialists?

            What I’d had in mind was remembered by specialists.
            (The context is that
            I’d just reread Fred Hoyle’s “October the First is Too Late”,

            [spoiler alert]

            and it includes a rather grisly future history, set from the point
            of view of a civilization from 6000 years from now, which included
            three more world wars (each presumably nuclear). Each of these
            was a near-extinction event, and wiped out most knowledge
            as well)
            In other words, I was thinking in terms of the
            order in which the names will be totally lost.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          but then I thought about the fact that Jesus wasn’t even his name.

          Sure it was; the Greek version of his name.

    • cmurdock says:

      I had the same thought recently, and Neil Armstrong came to mind.

      • Well... says:

        I’d bet there are a lot of (>10 million) Americans around today, over the age of 16, who have no clue who Neil Armstrong is.

      • John Schilling says:

        Christopher Columbus / Cristoforo Colombo is substantially more famous than Leif Erikson. Armstrong was a great guy, and ditto Gagarin, but depending on how the Space Age plays out they seem likely to end up as footnotes to history.

        It may help that the timebase of our entire information infrastructure dates to Armstrong’s first footstep on the moon :-)

    • Deiseach says:

      Galileo – he is already mythologised (the “eppur si muove” anecdote which is already on slightly shaky historical grounds to begin with being given some extra oomph by a website claiming it was delivered on his deathbed) and is so often invoked by those with axes to grind over “my ground-breaking idea is not being taken seriously, they persecuted Galileo and they’re persecuting me!” that in a thousand years time, the Sacred Name of Galileo the Martyr will still be used (the facts may be lost in the mists of time, but the story will have settled on a satisfactory form to be transmitted).

    • rahien.din says:

      Newton.

      He had his fingers in so many pies, ranging from physics, mathematics, and optics to occultism and alchemy.

      Facets of his work are essential to any modern scientist, with the additional mystique of who-discovered-calculus-really? Other facets are almost aphoristically accessible to just about any person – who hasn’t heard of “Isaac Newton under the apple tree”? Other facets of his work provide less conventional avenues for meeting him, such as the origin of the color indigo.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Nimrod, but the name will be identified with Elmer Fudd.

      • rahien.din says:

        See, this is an important point. The name most likely to remembered is not necessarily the name most likely to be remembered accurately for its initial owner.

        • engleberg says:

          The top-dog Semitic god was El or Al. El and Al are The in Spanish and Arabic. OMG is this the future of OMG?!

      • pontifex says:

        Also Elmer Fudd will be re-interpreted as a figure of great wisdom, rather than a comedic figure. The people of the 20th century knew that you have to be “vewy vewy careful”! (A similar thing happened with Shakespeare’s Polonious, who was originally intended to be a verbose buffoon.)

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Of the famous names in Western civilization, which name would you guess will be the last one to be forgotten?

      At this state in our civilization names are guaranteed to be remembered as accurately as we had recorded them since the invention of the printing press.

      The only thing which would stop this would be a fall of civilization, including writing instruments.

      So I’d go with either a religious name (as religions would be the fall back for the majority after a civilization collapse), or the names of those who most helped survive the civilization collapse. These latter names we don’t yet know.

      Any theorems, laws, etc… would be simplified in name to aid memory (e.g. the Triangle rule for Pythagorus’ theorem, the motion laws for Newton’s laws).

      • AlphaGamma says:

        the Triangle rule for Pythagorus’ theorem, the motion laws for Newton’s laws

        At least according to Cixin Liu, this was the terminology used in China in the period around the Cultural Revolution for political reasons…

    • outis says:

      I wouldn’t be too sure about Pythagoras. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a push to replace all of those names of dead white men that are attached to mathematical and scientific concepts, since it is unfair and hurts representation.

    • LewisT says:

      I agree with SpaghettiLee that Jesus is the most likely to be remembered. I am reasonably certain that Christians are and will continue to be more careful to teach their children about Christ than anyone is or will be to teach their children about Pythagoras. Plus, in the event of a catastrophic civilizational collapse, I would expect there to be a rise in religiosity.

      If Jesus doesn’t count by virtue of being Middle Eastern, I agree with anonymousskimmer that the name is likely to be that of someone not yet born, who will become famous due to his efforts to preserve civilization. My second guess would be Hitler.

      As far as I can figure, the name that is least likely to be forgotten must be of someone who had great influence throughout Europe, not just in one or two countries. Under that assumption, a partial list of contenders would be Hitler, Stalin, Napoleon, Charles V, most of the popes, and the Roman emperors. I think we can probably strike Napoleon, Charles V, and any the popes* from that list as a start, leaving Hitler, Stalin, and the Roman emperors. Hitler strikes me as more (in)famous than Stalin, so Stalin’s out. Of the Roman emperors, I think Julius Caesar is the most likely to be remembered. So why Hitler and not Julius Caesar? Obviously it’s too early to tell how well-remembered Hitler will be in 2,000 years’ time, but I think there’s a decent chance he’ll be remembered at least as well as Julius Caesar is today. And since Hitler will have lived more closely in time to the future collapse of Western civilization than Julius Caesar, I think it’s likely that his name will endure better than Caesar’s.

      Plus, I assume Hitler’s name is not likely to be forgotten any time soon by Jews, and Jews have demonstrated an ability to survive as an intact group despite substantial obstacles for at least 3,000 years. As such, I would expect the Jewish people to retain their identity and at least some of their history despite any future civilizational collapse. And one name I would expect them to retain longer than many others would be that of the person who did more than anyone else to try to wipe them off the face of the earth.

      *Even if the papacy survives another civilizational collapse, I think it’s probably fair to say that the names of individual popes are likely to be forgotten.

    • herbert herberson says:

      Jesus is the right answer, but I wanna say Batman because I legitimately think he’ll be in the top ten. Or, at least on the archetype level: I think “tortured dark hero that uses smarts and gadgets to fight crime” will be the most lasting aspect of American culture (altho “extremely tall folksy statesmen with a distinctive hat and a tragic death” will also be a strong contender)

      • cmurdock says:

        Batman is popular now, and recent. Stories and characters can be immensely popular for an extended period of time and then just die out– the Matter of France, the Alexander Romance, Dionysus, post-classical versions of the Trojan War (Dares and Dictys), Prester John, etc.

    • rlms says:

      Pythagoras didn’t invent his theorem (I’m not sure what it’s called in e.g. China and India, where it was discovered earlier), so I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes relatively unknown even without civilisational collapse (for instance if China dominates the world of science in a century or two). Other than those already mentioned, I think George Washington is a possibility: I can imagine American civic religion outcompeting Christianity.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Other than those already mentioned, I think George Washington is a possibility: I can imagine American civic religion outcompeting Christianity.

        I guess I can imagine it too, but I think it’s really unlikely. Christianity is worldwide and quickly growing in Africa, while American civic religion has understandable difficulty catching on anywhere outside America. Even in America, there’re subcultures trying to pull down American civic religion in general and George Washington in particular.

    • Randy M says:

      There are a lot of places named Washington. He’s pretty much locked in while English is spoken. I don’t know if the civilization that comes after us will bother to remember the name, but it seems likely to last through a couple eras.
      Similarly, it’s amusing how long the name of an otherwise not terribly influential cartographer has persisted, and he might well be the winner.

      • quaelegit says:

        >There are a lot of places named Washington.

        And there are/were a lot of places named Alexandria, so that’s a competitor. Also Victoria! (Capital of British Columbia, capital of the Seychelles, Victoria Falls…) 😛

        > otherwise not terribly influential cartographer

        Amerigo Vespucci? 😛

    • John Schilling says:

      I wanna say Batman because I legitimately think he’ll be in the top ten.

      What makes you think Batman will last any longer than the Lone Ranger? The archetype may endure, but the incarnations are ephemeral.

      • herbert herberson says:

        Nothing more or less than a gut instinct that there’s a real element of novelty there that is going to stick with people a long, long time.

        • John Schilling says:

          What do you see as the novelty? “Wealthy playboy dilettante is secretly a masked crusader fighting crime and injustice” goes back at least as far as Zorro and the Scarlet Pimpernal, long before Batman and quickly forgotten when we stopped caring about their particular times and places. Also, that archetype may be shifting to point more towards Tony Stark as we speak. “Lone survivor of a criminal massacre is driven to become a masked crime-fighter” gives you Batman, but it also gives you the Lone Ranger and we stopped caring about him when Clayton Moore forced us to take him out of circulation for a generation. The Frank Miller “dark and angsty tragic antihero” version comes into and out of style every other generation probably all the way back to Homer(*). I don’t see much novelty in Batman except for the specific combination of generic tropes, and I don’t see how he endures for millennia when nobody else filling a similar niche has lasted even a century.

          * Now wondering if Actual Homer had separate tales of Golden Age Achilles, Silver Age Achilles, and Dark Age Achilles that he could evoke for different audiences, with Athenian fanboys arguing over continuity until “Crisis in Infinite Troys” rebooted the whole thing.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Worst. Epic. Ever.

          • herbert herberson says:

            The darkness. Batman looks scary, typically sounds scary, takes an animal that is widely feared as being not not just scary, but creepy/revolting, as his motiff, and uses fear as a weapon. He is a terrorist hero, and while cultural history is certainly full of heroes who cause fear into their enemies, I can’t think of any from history where that isn’t simply a function of their power or dangerousness, but of an intentional ensemble.

            That’s not to say that you can’t find elements of that in other 20th century characters, like the ones you mention, or the Shadow–but bringing together a full package of elements that had been workshopped in other contexts is not nothing. I’m sure that before anyone heard of Odysseus the dark age Greeks told stories of clever heros, or heroes who survived a divine grudge, or who got lost coming back from a war.

          • John Schilling says:

            The darkness. Batman looks scary, typically sounds scary, takes an animal that is widely feared as being not not just scary, but creepy/revolting, as his motiff, and uses fear as a weapon. He is a terrorist hero,

            You thought Adam West was playing a dark, scary, terrorist hero?

            Grimdark goes into and out of style, and e.g. Edmond Dantes was as dark and scary as Bruce Wayne ever will be. And check out the original versions of some of the lighthearted Disney fairy tales sometime. Right now grimdark is in. And Frank Miller was the first to apply it to an A-list superhero, and he chose Batman so for a while Batman was grim and dark and if that’s what you grew up with, if you can’t pull back, you don’t see anything else.

            But in the long run, Adam West’s Batman is as real as Miller’s or Burton’s or Nolan’s. Just as e.g. Roger Moore’s James Bond is as real as Daniel Craig’s. And none of them will be remembered in a thousand years, because none of them invented the dark scary antihero – or anything else truly original or worth remembering for more than a few generations.

    • Michael Handy says:

      The names on the Apollo 11 plaque. They’ve got at least a few hundred million years for a successor civ to discover them. Neil A. Armstrong; Michael Collins; Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr.; Richard Nixon.

      Yep. Nixon.

  30. Yaleocon says:

    I have a weird question; weird answers are fine, probably even preferred. Closely related to Hume’s problem anti-inductivist argument, although it is trying to strike at a metaphysical rather than epistemic issue.

    Why do the laws of physics keep working? Assuming that they will still be the same one second from now, what will have made them stay that way rather than changing?

    • Anatid says:

      Ideas:

      1. Perhaps all mathematically consistent universes exist, and the ones that are simpler to describe in some information theory sense are “more real”. Universes with unchanging physical laws are simpler to describe, so we should expect to find ourselves in one of those.

      2. Even if simpler universes aren’t “more real”, there is a selection effect: universes with laws that change from moment to moment are less likely to evolve minds that can ask your question.

    • Laplace says:

      What we call the “laws of physics” are just the fundamental rules on which our universe operates. If these rules were not constant in time, but rather changing from one moment to another, we would call the meta-rules that govern how the rules change the laws of physics instead. So it’s really primarily a semantic issue.

      If you’re trying to get at the more concrete issue of why physicists usually demand new theories be time translation invariant when they come up with them, I think the answer is just empirical observation. Everything we’ve observed about our universe seems to imply that there are no “special” points in space or time, i.e. where you put the origin of your coordinate system in spacetime doesn’t matter, only the relative distances between stuff are relevant.

      If you’re wondering how we know that the universe runs on any set of mathematically describable rules at all, the answer is we don’t. We just hope this is the case, because logic is the only tool we have for dealing with reality, and if it turns out to be faulty we’re probably screwed anyway.

      • Yaleocon says:

        The semantic point is taken. Let me rephrase my question, then. Some very particular facts need to hold true in order for atoms to exist. The nuclear forces and EM force need to be calibrated super carefully. So interpret my question as asking about those particular “laws of physics”–what stops those forces from changing, such that atoms no longer exist?

        You’re right that if they did change, there would still be “laws”, it’s just that the old ones would be invalid. But it seems important that they not change that way; I like atoms, and I’d have a hard time without them.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Newton’s first law?

        • imoimo says:

          Nothing really? Maybe the laws are in fact unstable and we’re just lucky that they seem stable on our time scale. If so, maybe one day physicists will be able to see evidence of this.

          (Though I agree with Laplace that this is largely semantic. The non-semantic version of what you’re asking is “what if physics stopped obeying laws that are describable by math” which is a much weirder/scarier prospect. Relevant here is this famous essay by Eugene Wigner — “The Miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.”)

          • John Schilling says:

            Nothing really? Maybe the laws are in fact unstable and we’re just lucky that they seem stable on our time scale. If so, maybe one day physicists will be able to see evidence of this.

            We can look at light from stars ten billion years old and see the spectral lines in the same relative positions as they are in our closest neighbors, implying that atomic-scale quantum mechanics is stable over that time scale. And nuclear-scale quantum mechanics given that the stars still burn, and gravity given that they hold together, etc.

            You can perhaps try to piece together a system where everything changes over cosmic time but all the changes exactly cancel out so that ancient stars look like they work exactly like modern ones, but that’s going to involve an awful lot of entities being multiplied beyond necessity and basically equates to a Lying God hypothesis.

          • imoimo says:

            @John Schilling

            I was imagining something more like, “our entire universe has spent its existence thus far — possibly excluding the early universe — in a quasi-stable state.” That would mean the coupling constants in our theories (for strong force, electromagnetism, etc.) appear constant but are actually changing verrry slowly, or perhaps oscillating by small values. Perhaps in the year 8370957623189 AD that slow change will reach a critical point and become a very fast change (either in one place locally, or globally for the whole universe) and matter as we know it will fall apart. Or perhaps such a change is already happening locally somewhere in the universe, and the light from that change either hasn’t reached us yet or for weird physical reasons never will reach us. (How will such a change affect photons? Will it cascade to the space around it or self-destruct and disappear?)

            To be clear, I doubt anything like this will happen/is happening. It requires a lot of coincidence in our favor. That being said, someone with more background in Quantum Field Theory and/or Cosmology than I might be able to make more concrete comments about possibilities such as “could the strong force coupling constant change over time?”. I’ve heard of experiments investigating whether the speed of light is really constant or secretly time-dependent, so I know this is something that people think about.

        • Laplace says:

          Nothing really. There is no deep mathematical or philosophical reason to suppose that atoms will keep existing the way they always have. For example some physical theories have our universe exist in a false vacuum that might collapse into a true one at any given moment with some small probability, changing physical constants and with them particle behaviour to the point that atoms are no longer a thing. This is one of the many fun potential existential risks our civilization faces.

          I’m not sure how likely such a scenario is considered to be, but it’s definitely not an excluded possibility at this point, and if it ever becomes such it will be because experimental observation gives us new Bayesian evidence that makes that hypothesis more unlikely, not because there’s some deep philosophical principle that demands that the fine structure constant always keeps it’s value of 1/137.

        • DocKaon says:

          The Standard Model of Particle Physics contains a fairly large number of physical constants which are not set by anything in the theory. They are constant in our current theories, but a more complete theory could have them change and there have been proposals along those lines.

          Whether they change is an experimental question which is probed via a variety of methods including measurements of the Oklo natural nuclear reactor, spectral lines from distant astronomical objects, and atomic physics laboratory experiments. There have been some reports of variation, but I don’t believe that the evidence is conclusive yet.

    • herbert herberson says:

      Isn’t the answer pretty much “no one knows and if anyone ever does they’ll have created a Unified Field Theory aka the problem Einstein spent the last half of his life trying and failing to solve”?

    • Randy M says:

      At the least, if we were in the kind of universe where fundamental constants were apt to change, it would probably not allow the development of intelligent observers.
      If you want to conclude that other potential universes operate more capriciously, that a philosophical consideration, but I think you’ve reached one of those lines of inquiry that are at the bottom of deep wells of “why?” Physics describes the way things are; inasmuch as it answers “why?” it simply gives a name to the phenomena and declares “because it is.”

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        It would depend on how fast physical constants changed.

        It the constants tended to change approximately every 10 billion years with a good bit of variation, then maybe we just haven’t seen it yet.

    • yodelyak says:

      I think you might find it helpful to take a break from using pointers like the word “laws” to think about stuff–laws, trends, change–other than the universe of object-level things, in favor of spending a bit of time with philosophy of language.

      Basically, I think the answer to Hume’s problem is that what we call knowledge is just the predictive imaginings produced by the programming imparted on a neural net (human brains plus language) by the so-far events of the universe, that we know about. It isn’t a promise of future consistency, nor a promise that the past has actually been consistent so far. You haven’t got any such promises, nor have any of us… not that that will stop you from forming predictive imaginings.

  31. CheshireCat says:

    For about 10 years now I’ve had very deadened emotions. Every psych I’ve been to seems to think it’s depression, but it doesn’t really follow an ordinary symptom cluster and I haven’t really responded to any treatments yet. I’m starting to wonder if this is just something that happens to everyone when they start becoming adults, if there really is something wrong with me at all.

    Basically, I’m at the point where I’ve mostly run out of ideas, and asking strangers on the internet seems about as likely to help as anything else. Not expecting any response, but if anyone wants to brainstorm then I’m all ears. Apologies for the length.

    The deadening began suddenly, following a textbook major depressive episode I had in middle school. I went from crying all the time, feelings of worthlessness, etc to feeling mostly numb but otherwise normal, which was a welcome change at fi