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Open Thread 92.25

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

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722 Responses to Open Thread 92.25

  1. rlms says:

    Ex-employees sue Google for workplace discrimination based on race/gender. Damore comes across well enough (and most of his critics badly), as you would expect given that the brief is written on his behalf. But I can certainly understand why his coworker was fired; he seems incredibly annoying:

    On November 9, 2016, a few days after President Trump was elected as President, Sarmad Gilani (“Gilani”), a Google employee, posted the following message on a Dory thread (an internal forum where Google employees can ask questions that other Google employees can respond to): “As someone already targeted by the FBI (including at work) for being a Muslim, I’m worried for my personal safety and liberty. Will Google take a public stand to defend minorities and use its influence, or just issue the usual politically nuanced statements about our values.” Gudeman responded skeptically to Gilani’s claim that he was targeted solely due to his religion by asking, “In the administration of the most pro-Muslim president in history you were targeted just for being a Muslim? Why didn’t you file a civil rights suit? The Justice Department would take your side if it really happened.”

    Another fairly uncompelling example of persecution of conservatives:

    Google HR brought up the following post that the employee made in response to a Google thread in which someone specifically requested conservative parenting advice: “If I had a child, I would teach him/her traditional gender roles and patriarchy from a very young age. That’s the hardest thing to fix later, and our degenerate society constantly pushes the wrong message.”

    Google HR stated, “We did not find that this post, on its face, violated any of Google’s policies, but your choice of words could suggest that you were advocating for a system in which men work outside the home and women do not, or that you were advocating for rigid adherence to gender identity at birth. We trust that neither is what you intended to say. We are providing you with this feedback so that you can better understand how some Googlers interpreted your statements, and so that you are better equipped to ensure that Google is a place in which all Googlers are able to reach their full potential.”

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I don’t know, that second example is pretty damning. Maybe this is just me but Google’s HR department shouldn’t feel the need to make thinly veiled threats to employees like a mafia don.

      If Google’s policy was that the workplace is a place for work and not for advocating politics and to leave all that crap at home, nobody could reasonably complain about that. I don’t want to hear my coworkers’ political views and they definitely don’t want to hear mine. But it’s obvious that their policy is that political advocacy is A-OK as long as it’s leftist advocacy but advocating for right wing causes is bordering on a firing offense.

      • rlms says:

        A completely apolitical workplace is theoretically possible, but unlikely to be popular in practice. Inevitably, there will be some range of political views that it’s acceptable to espouse, and the question is where the line should be drawn.

        My impression before reading that brief was that Google had drawn the line in a way that excluded many reasonable right-wing views. If they had, say, fired someone for saying “If I had a child, I would raise them to be a good Christian and respect their elders and betters”, that would be damning. But someone receiving a passive-aggressive message from HR (without any actual consequences) in response to an edgy comment advocating “patriarchy” and deploring “degeneracy” doesn’t seem like a huge injustice to me, and suggests their line is in a sensible place.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I’m a young guy and when I was growing up I was always taught that it was impolite to talk about politics, money or religion with anyone but your closest friends. This is especially true in a professional setting.

          If you can’t keep your opinions to yourself during the workday then that’s a sign of serious incontinence. That goes for even the most uncontroversial views.

          • johan_larson says:

            That seems a bit overcautious to me. You should be able to speak more freely than that if you’re living under Trump or May and not Stalin or Mao.

            But even I would acknowledge you need to be somewhat careful about what you say and who you say it to, particularly if you have views near or over the bounds of the conventional wisdom of your society or subculture.

            I certainly have some opinions I would not share in an open forum like this.

          • Brad says:

            That’s my basic instinct as well (bring back reticence!). But as observed, an occasional mild center-left or center-right comment seems to pass muster almost everywhere. And if you are e.g. waiting for the start of a meeting with a small group of colleges and ostentatiously refuse to say anything at all about whatever the issue of the day is, then you’ll stick out.

            To be clear though, if what is in the complaint is representative, then google is a huge outlier in terms of maintaining a professional work environment and I expect it to bite them in the ass sooner rather than later.

        • albatross11 says:

          One problem with applying this rule: stuff inside my Overton window seems kinda apolitical, stuff outside seems unpleasantly polemic and contentious.

          Suppose we start every company meeting with a pledge of allegiance and a short nondenominational Christian prayer. Whether that seems like an imposition of the company management’s views or a standard statement of what most people believe depends on what you’re used to and sensitive to. If we do that in a fairly traditional place, perhaps most employees will feel like it’s pretty inoffensive and harmless, but a few will really find it uncomfortable, even if they’re permitted to remain seated/silent for that part of the meeting. I’m pretty sure a standard American workplace in 1970 would have found very little pushback on that sort of practice, even though 1970 had its share of non-Christians, non-Americans, and people for whom a pledge of allegiance seemed pretty creepy[1].

          Run forward 48 years and open a company meeting with an opening monologue about the value of diversity and the importance of decreasing the dominance of white men and replacing them with women of color. Perhaps the majority of people in the meeting nod and think something between “okay, that sounds good to me” and “geez, more of this time-wasting nonsense.” But some people find it pretty damned grating.

          In 1970, raising the issue that the prayer and pledge are offensive to the HR or legal departments or to management would have seemed like making trouble or attention-whoring to most of the employees. And probably the same is true in 2018 when you raise the issue that the diversity monologue is offensive to you. Most people find the views being expressed well within the window of acceptable views, so don’t really see why anyone should object.

          [1] This includes me–in culture-war/tribal terms I’m often comfortable in settings where starting a meeting/basketball game/etc with the pledge of allegiance is perfectly acceptable, but it’s always seemed rather un-American to me to be making a big public collective pledge of this kind.

    • johan_larson says:

      I think this lawsuit is a sign that Google’s management miscalculated. They thought if they fired the troublemaker, they’d take some heat but the issue would be settled. Damore would go off to some other software company, and other wannabe-pundits within the company would learn to stay away from sensitive matters. But the issue keeps going.

      Ultimately, the last thing the Google bosses want is for this to drag on. They don’t want to be on the front lines of the culture war. They want to build great things and make piles of money.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        They don’t want to be on the front lines of the culture war. They want to build great things and make piles of money.

        If you have piles of money, you may not be interested in the culture war but the culture war is very much interested in you.

      • The Nybbler says:

        At least some of Google’s management does IMO want to be on the front lines of the culture war. SVP Urs Hoelzle and SRE head Ben Treynor, for example. Also SVP David Drummond, who once invited Black Lives Matter activists on the stage at a company “TGIF” all-hands meeting.

        I’m sure they’re quite miffed that the other side is now shooting back.

        • Matt M says:

          Yeah, I’m not at all convinced that any major tech company doesn’t want to be involved in the culture war. Most of their public statements are pretty thinly veiled missiles in it.

          I know a lot of people have this perception that businesses are just a bunch of greedy capitalists who only care about the bottom line and politics is bad for business, etc. I don’t think tech is that way. These are companies with relatively young founders and executives who have ambitions of “making the world a better place” and for many of them that roughly parallels “victory in the culture war.” Or at the very least “being on the right side of the culture war when the dust clears.”

          • albatross11 says:

            Being a part of the CW can be done in more or less internally destructive ways.

            At one end, you have a workplace that welcomes a lot of diversity–transpeople and non-binary people are welcome, polyamorous people can bring all their SOs to the company picnic, etc. That might undermine some group cohesiveness if some employees are made uncomfortable by the open presence of others, but it’s probably not all that destructive.

            At the other end, you have internal purges and denunciations–people getting fired or hassled by HR because they describe their BDSM relationships in insufficiently feminist-friendly terms, or because they are politically active outside work hours in the wrong direction. That seems like it will create a really toxic work environment, which probably will undermine productivity and drive some productive people away. (On the other side, to the extent that having a shared culture and set of assumptions benefits a company, maybe it will make the company work better by driving away all the people who don’t fit in with the corporate culture.)

  2. Fingerspitzengefuehl says:

    Some time ago Scott complained about not being able to see patients via remote conferencing.

    In 2018, he can now, in Illinois:

    > Psychiatrist Appointments Via Video Conference

    House Bill 2907 removes the requirement that a psychiatrist be in the same room as a patient, allowing physicians or other licensed health care professionals to offer treatment via teleconference utilizing video and electronic communications.

    >>

    Not sure if you’d have to be licensed in IL to do this, or if a CA license is okay.

    • Well... says:

      I wonder if the psychologist is in the same room with the patient AND is teleconferencing with them (e.g. possibly for reasons having to do with technology used to mitigate a physical handicap, or a language barrier?) would that violate the rules in other states…

  3. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I got an email a couple of hours ago about a new post about birth order effects. Admittedly, it’s labelled [DRAFT], but I’m surprised it’s not up on the site yet.

    • magehat says:

      I got this as well, it seemed really odd. I could read the entire post in the email, and if I clicked on the link it took me to the main blog but the content was password protected.

      The post was interesting though 🙂

    • JulieK says:

      Apparently it’s not ready to be released to the general public.
      Can we get a password to comment, I wonder?

  4. Mark says:

    Never mind anything else, Trump is too old to be President. I don’t know anyone who has maintained good health in their 70s.
    The dude really needs to be relaxing, trolling, playing some golf.

    Becoming President at 70 is crazy.

    • Matt M says:

      The dude really needs to be relaxing, trolling, playing some golf.

      That’s exactly what he does spend most of his time doing! (at least, according to the social media posts of people who hate him)

      • Tarpitz says:

        I am all in favour of presidents in general and this one in particular playing more golf and doing less presidenting.

        • Matt M says:

          Indeed. The whole circus is rather funny.

          Trump is Hitler!

          LOL stupid Hitler is spending all of his time golfing. GET BACK TO WORK, HITLER!

    • hyperboloid says:

      One of the things I’ve noticed in my older relatives is that as they age cognitive decline tends to effect their capacity to learn new skills, while leaving their existing abilities largely intact. Indeed, I believe that there is good scientific evidence that aging tends to cause a decline in fluid intelligence, while having a relatively modest effect on crystallized intelligence. It seems that it really is true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

      There are men in their seventh decade who effectively lead large corporations, and hold senior positions in government; but without fail they are all men who have literally a lifetime of experience in those roles. When it comes to heads of state, it is true that the list of septuagenarians is long on aging dictators, who’s countries’ closed political systems make it hard to accesses how much day to day power they actually hold. Nevertheless there have been many well regarded democratic leaders who governed well into their seventies.

      Ronald Reagan was sixty nine years old when he was first elected, and seventy three when he was reelected. Jose “pepe” Mujica, the highly regarded president of Uruguay, was seventy five when first elected, and eighty when left office. Japanese Prime minister Shigeru Yoshida was sixty seven when first elected, and left office at age seventy six. He notably helped Shepperd Japan thorough it’s turbulent post war years, and laid the groundwork for the economic miracle of the sixties, and seventies. Charles de Gaulle returned to politics at age sixty eight, founded the fifth republic by rewriting the French constitution, withdrew from Algeria (an act that lead the French far to attempt to assassinate him), and radically realigned France’s policies toward the third world, before leaving office at age 79.

      I don’t think there is any reason to believe that seventy is too old to be president, I do think that it is far to old to launch a career in politics. People who argued that Trump must be competent to be president because of his years in business were missing something fundamental; a man can remain able doing something he has done for decades, by falling back on long learned routines, even while his mind loses the ability to adapt, and gain new skills.

      Enough of Trump’s skills as a media showman transferred into politics, that he could win an election, at least against Hillary. But once in office he found himself unable to adapt in a world he barely understood, leaving us with an inept chief executive spinning into a death spiral of rage and confusion.

      • cassander says:

        Charles de Gaulle returned to politics at age sixty eight,

        “returned to politics” is a generous term for what amounted to him launching a coup that he ratified by referendum. And the paras tried to assassinate him because they put him in power precisely because thy didn’t think he’d go wobbly on algeria. Now, granted, that all speaks to him still being quite vigorous 68, but let’s call spades spades.

    • Well... says:

      I don’t know anyone who has maintained good health in their 70s.

      Many members of my family on my mom’s side maintain good health at least through their 80s. Granted, none of them smoke and almost none of them drink much (like Trump!), but they eat whatever they want and don’t exercise much (also like Trump!). They all stay really sharp and keep learning new things too (no idea if this is like Trump, but seems possible).

      So, it happens.

    • Anon. says:

      Buffett is 87 and is still going all-out. Also his diet is comically unhealthy.

  5. Le Maistre Chat says:

    I see from the FTL thread that some of you have played Civilization 2. I’ve been a fan of the Civ series since 2 and thought it would be interesting for rationalists to discuss how it’s become a better or worse simulation over time.

    Things I think Civ2 got right:
    Civil disorder and secession. Cities/vassal kingdoms/etc breaking away from the central government has always been a big deal, which Civ4 made a non-issue. Angry population became no longer any danger, only a resource (using the Slavery civic).
    In a Republic or Democracy, you had an AI Senate working at cross purposes to you. After Civ2, you were an absolute dictator under democracy.
    The Fundamentalist government getting self-funding Fanatics was realistic, though one can question “no one is unhappy in exchange for cutting scientific advance in half.”
    Captured cities spawn Partisans in modern times.
    Framing tile improvement as “irrigation” and industrial-era farmland being advanced irrigation makes a lot more sense than having wheat, rice and corn as bonus resources and then building “Nothing farms” on normal grasslands and plains, as happened later in the series.

    • Mark says:

      Thank God for the Hawk Party.

      The thing I really liked about Civ 2 was the Second World War scenario.
      They also had some expansion where you could play as fantasy races, which was I think the first time in the series where you had races with more of an individual character.

      Things that Civ2 is missing:
      I like the sphere of influence stuff that was introduced in, I think, call to power, or maybe civ 3.

      Each faction having individual character, like Alpha Centauri (MO2, endless legend).

      Slavery mechanic in Call to Power was really good fun – I really wish there were more games with slavery in it. I like to have the option to nerve staple, gas, planet bust, pillage, and destroy my enemies both internal and external.
      Like in Master of Orion 2, if you conquer a race you can breed them and send them off to work on your factory worlds, or recruit them as slave-legions.
      (Maybe I’m dreaming this, but I feel like MO3 had the option to set up penal colonies, (and this was just about the only good thing about it))

      The ‘united nations’ style institution that makes diplomacy worthwhile.

      Other than that, I don’t think the new features of 4x games have really added to game play, so I’m more or less happy with civ2.

      [
      Also, the ability to customise and upgrade units is a good thing missing from civ 2.
      Trade was pretty simple in civ2, but I don’t feel like that was really a problem.
      ]

      • Matt M says:

        Each faction having individual character

        Spoken like someone who never had to deal with Genghis Khan in the early stages of the game! (Montezuma was probably more dangerous, but less blatantly hostile and aggressive)

      • cassander says:

        (Maybe I’m dreaming this, but I feel like MO3 had the option to set up penal colonies, (and this was just about the only good thing about it))

        Moo3 was a catastrophe, but were a lot of really cool ideas there, even if most were very poorly implemented. the “templates” (I forget what they were really called) where certain custom species had different planet preferences that weren’t just “1/2 of the planets are terrain X and half are Y, and my people like Y”, but “my people live in gas giants”. The idea of the ship pool had huge potential, an attempt at more sophisticated orion senate. It’s a shame it was all such a disaster.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        The thing I really liked about Civ 2 was the Second World War scenario.
        They also had some expansion where you could play as fantasy races, which was I think the first time in the series where you had races with more of an individual character.

        Aw yeah, Civ 2 WW2 was great.
        Distinct races that continue to exist when conquered are my favorite part of SF and fantasy Civ-type games. I got Master of Orion 2 in the sixth grade or so, around the same time as Civ 2. Apparently the same creators put out a Master of Magic, but I never had it…

    • Matt M says:

      In a Republic or Democracy, you had an AI Senate working at cross purposes to you

      IIRC this isn’t quite right. Literally the only thing the Senate did was force you to accept peace treaties. They didn’t hinder you in any other way. And given war weariness, it made little sense to do much warmongering while under Republic/Democracy in the first place. Which leads to the major unrealism of the series: That you have one long, continuous, uninterrupted dynastic chain lasting 5,000 years. And that somehow, even during revolutions, you stay in power even if the structure of the government changes. But more tactically, if you want to go to war, you just have a revolution first and switch to Communism/Fundamentalism, and you don’t have to worry about the Senate anymore – then once you’re done warring it up, switch back to Democracy for the science and gold bonuses. The only cost to revolution is a few turns of anarchy, which itself is mitigated by constructing the right wonder.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        IIRC this isn’t quite right. Literally the only thing the Senate did was force you to accept peace treaties. They didn’t hinder you in any other way.

        I think you’re correct. It’s been some time.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Structural unrealism of the series:

      As Matt M pointed out, no matter how many revolutions you have, you (Your 6,000 year dynasty?) remains in power. This is a necessary conceit, but does lead to gaming the system with “Democratic peace/Fundamentalist (or next best thing if it’s not Civ2) war, lather rinse repeat, build the No Anarchy Wonder if you’re repeating enough to justify the opportunity cost.”

      Structural problems that aren’t necessary:
      A state R&D program that begins in the chalcolithic. It would have been more realistic and educational for civs to spawn named inventors. Civ4 tacked this on as an optional use of Great People, but such a mechanic could have replaced the 6,000 year R&D program.
      Whig history. Even when you’re losing, civilization is monotonically advancing. Barbarians should cause events of the scope of the Bronze Age Collapse or fall of the Western Roman Empire.
      Every economy is a command economy. Not only military assets, but every building in every city in the empire requires the ruler’s personal decision.

      • Mark says:

        You aren’t playing the ruler, though, you are the civilisation.

        Though I suppose you do have all the advisors and rulers talking to you.
        In practice you are the ruler, in theory, if anyone asks, you are the abstract civilisation.

      • powerfuller says:

        I would argue (facetiously) the 6,000 dynasty being unrealistic is survivorship bias. If we count all of a player’s lost or abandoned games, the average civilization would be a lot shorter.

      • Matt M says:

        It made the gameplay somewhat annoying, but I always thought the “blind research” option in AC was far more realistic (you could select from four priorities: exploration, construction, pure science, or military – but you could not pick a specific technology to research).

        Also I remember reading that they once seriously pondered putting “dark ages” in the game, but decided that players would rather be rewarded than punished, so we got the “golden age” mechanic isntead.

        As far as the command economy goes, AC at the very least (and most Civ games too I think?) do give you the option to automate… well, just about everything, including city construction. It makes for a less fun game, but is definitely more realistic.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          It made the gameplay somewhat annoying, but I always thought the “blind research” option in AC was far more realistic (you could select from four priorities: exploration, construction, pure science, or military – but you could not pick a specific technology to research).

          Definitely. Plus like I said, Civ 4 could have replaced chalcolithic R&D with the Great People.

          Also I remember reading that they once seriously pondered putting “dark ages” in the game, but decided that players would rather be rewarded than punished, so we got the “golden age” mechanic isntead.

          Players have a skewed idea of “punishment” that hamstrings designing a simulation. I think it would be possible to design a civ game such that “escaping” a dark age feels like a reward for excellent play. I mean, Egypt survived the Bronze Age Collapse intact. 🙂

          As far as the command economy goes, AC at the very least (and most Civ games too I think?) do give you the option to automate… well, just about everything, including city construction. It makes for a less fun game, but is definitely more realistic.

          Wasn’t “the AI competently runs planets without you” part of why Master of Orion 3 flopped?

          • Matt M says:

            I think it would be possible to design a civ game such that “escaping” a dark age feels like a reward for excellent play. I mean, Egypt survived the Bronze Age Collapse intact.

            Well, Birth of the Federation (a Star Trek licensed game of this type) was known to throw various anomalies at you, of varying strength. A Borg Cube showing up early on was basically a “give up and re-start your game” scenario.

          • cassander says:

            Players have a skewed idea of “punishment” that hamstrings designing a simulation. I think it would be possible to design a civ game such that “escaping” a dark age feels like a reward for excellent play. I mean, Egypt survived the Bronze Age Collapse intact. 🙂

            I’ve always thought hat you could make a great “collapsing empire” game where you play an empire in terminal decline and see how long you can last, almost like a roguelike strategy game. But I think that’s a fairly niche taste, and that most players would get really annoyed stuck playing an empire that’s declining.

          • Nick says:

            Lots of games are designed around surviving as long as you can, including building games—some tower defense games have an infinity mode like this. So I could certainly see a well liked browser game operating like that.

          • toastengineer says:

            @cassander

            It’s a question of managing expectations. As long as the game makes it clear that “this is a ‘you will lose, try to hold it off” kinda game and not a “win” kinda game from the beginning that could work.

          • Matt M says:

            Even Tower Defense, I think, largely triggers our reward impulse and our desire to build something. The most popular ones typically reward you currency which you use to build new towers, upgrade your existing ones, cast spells, etc. Even though you know inevitably it ends with it all being destroyed, most of the game consists of you building something awesome and receiving rewards. And it’s designed such that typically, when you lose, you lose quickly, in a single “turn”, rather than slowly see your empire deteriorate over multiple turns while you struggle to keep it alive.

          • dndnrsn says:

            A game where you know you’re going to lose from the start would be fun as long as it never happens in a way that’s transparent BS.

          • albatross11 says:

            To be more realistic, I’d like to see 4X games randomize the technology tree each time. You can work on fusion power, but maybe it’s way harder than it looks, or maybe it’s practically impossible to develop, and you won’t know until you try for a long time and give up.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Things Civ3 got right:
      Borders/spheres Of influence. Previously, your state had no borders; military units had a “Zone of Control” foreign units couldn’t move through (a mechanic Sid Meier took from tabletop wargames?). You either created a solid ZoC around your state, or foreign forces would waltz deep into your territory.
      Strategic resources: for the first time, you needed access to iron, oil, uranium, etc to build various units.
      Diplomat and Caravan units were eliminated. Diplomats could bribe foreign units and entire cities to join your empire, which was just, um… Caravans were realistic but tedious micronanagement, so procedurally generated trade routes were a big improvement.
      Bigger maps. It was now possible to play on a 362×362 map of Earth. Since cities could not be adjacent, this means a tile always represented ~12-25 linear miles of land. Civ maps would never be this big again, diluting their realism.

      Civ3 also introduced special units and abilities for each nation, which I’m not sure how to rate.

      • DavidS says:

        I assumed the dynasty thing was you playing as ‘the nation’ in some way. Though the idea of a distinct ‘nation’ starting in 4000BC and lasting till 2000AD+ is somewhat difficult.

        Yeah, the Senate just made peace behind your back. The war weariness thing wasn’t dreadful if you had a booming economy and lots of luxuries plus women’s suffrage or whatever it was that reduced it.

  6. Mark says:

    Do you think it’s true that low IQ people (meaning lower than 130 IQ) will find it difficult to appreciate Scott’s writing?

    I’m low IQ, and I love it.

    And, if it isn’t true, how could there possibly be a selection effect that makes the average IQ of the readership 140?

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s probably just a case of the IQ communication barrier. The blog probably appeals to people from -30 to +30 of Scott’s IQ, because they can understand the content.

      • dndnrsn says:

        +/-30 “communication window” is plausible (I’d estimated it’s something like that a while ago) as it explains why politicians tend, when actual test results, SATs, etc are available (as opposed to that one guy’s bogus system for guessing politicians’ IQs that, uh, coincidentally puts most Ds ahead of most Rs) to test in the 120s-130s. Someone with an IQ of 120 could communicate effectively with people down to 90 – I imagine that would be most voters – but still have some idea what the IQ 150 eggheads mean when they talk about egghead stuff.

    • rahien.din says:

      There are more than a few people here who claim an IQ (on formal testing) that is below 100, and who are frequent and productive posters. Proof is in the pudding.

      • Anonymous says:

        There are 15 people in the public survey data who claimed an IQ of 100 or below; one of them claims an IQ of 1, three claim IQs below 60, and the rest are 90+. There are 16 people who claim an IQ of 180 or above.

        Seems fairly bell-curvy, where the most common IQs are in the 130s and 140s, with hundreds of claims.

        • albatross11 says:

          Beware the lizardman constant.

          Beyond that, what we care about is how well your brain works. An IQ test is an attempt to measure that, which has an error distribution associated with it. Some of that error is variation from day to day, or luck in guessing some answers, some is bigger stuff like depression or illness lowering scores, some is some kind of systematic bias in the way the test works that just happens to underestimate or overestimate your intelligence. (An easy example of this is that vocabulary tests are correlated with IQ and can be used as one component of an IQ test, but if you’re not a native speaker of English, you’re going to get a big underestimate of your actual intelligence.)

          My first-cut model here is that we have:

          a. An IQ score, which tries to estimate

          b. an actual level of intelligence, which then influences

          c. your ability to read and understand complicated ideas such as those expressed on SSC.

          (a) is not a terrible way to predict (c), but there’s a fair bit of noise between them.

    • Well... says:

      I only had my IQ formally tested once, in the second grade. I scored 129. Somehow I feel like I’d score higher on a formal test if I took it now, but not a full standard deviation higher.

      I find Scott’s clarity and volume of writing truly impressive. I’m already an above-average writer but I think it would take me a long time to get to the level Scott was at years ago even though Scott is a few months younger than me, and I think it’s a matter of raw talent there. Scott also seems like he’s more mature than me in many important ways.

      I find Scott’s breadth and depth of knowledge on various topics impressive too, but not unattainably so.

    • Deiseach says:

      Do you think it’s true that low IQ people (meaning lower than 130 IQ) will find it difficult to appreciate Scott’s writing?

      A stoopid persin rites:

      I are plenty lower dan 130 and I luv dis place! Scott rites gooder nor anywun! 🙂

    • John Schilling says:

      As Scott himself famously explained, IQ as typically measured is a good statistical indicator at large sample sizes but a poor predictor of personal performance. It is entirely plausible for there to be a selection bias that makes the average IQ here 140, but still allows a fat tail of “low-IQ” people who enjoy the blog due to a combination of individual idiosyncrasy and measurement error.

      • Wrong Species says:

        I’m sure that’s true to a certain extent but it also sounds like an excuse. “You’re not dumb. The test isn’t accurately measuring your abilities. You write articulately and have nerdy interests. I’m sure your smarter than the test says.” Maybe it’s not a perfect measure but it is more signal than noise even on an individual level and people should have some idea of their capabilities and be able to plan for that. You’re probably not going to win a nobel prize in physics with a 105 IQ for instance.

        • Aapje says:

          You’re probably not going to win a Nobel prize in physics with a 150 IQ either. 😛

          • John Schilling says:

            But at 125 IQ, you’d fit in the OP’s definition of “Low IQ” and still be ahead of Richard Feynman, so maybe?

      • Mark says:

        Yeah, maybe.

        But, the average IQ of a student studying philosophy at university is around 130.

        It seems weird that the selection for reading SSC would be more extreme than for studying philosophy at Uni, considering that a philosophy degree is both less interesting, and harder, than a SSC post.

        I suppose you can get a better job with a philosophy degree.

        By my back of envelope calculations someone with an IQ of 145-160 would have love knowledge (as opposed to learning things for instrumental reasons) at four times the rate of people with IQ 115-130 to make ssc IQ work.

        Actually, maybe that is reasonable.

        [Basically I’m trying to say that the ssc filter is half the strength of the philosophy filter for 145-160 but twice the strength for 115-130 IQ.

        Not sure that means much though – the ssc IQ still requires IQ 145-160 to be 300 times more interested than 115-130.]

        • John Schilling says:

          It seems weird that the selection for reading SSC would be more extreme than for studying philosophy at Uni, considering that a philosophy degree is both less interesting, and harder, than a SSC post.

          I would expect that studying philosophy at Uni would be fairly central for reading SSC, given that SSC was founded by a guy who studied philosophy at Uni (and at the time hadn’t completed any other education or embarked on a career, IIRC).

          • albatross11 says:

            Is there good data on how intelligence determines voluntary leisure activities like this?

        • rlms says:

          “But, the average IQ of a student studying philosophy at university is around 130.”
          Wait, really?! That makes the claimed SSC average IQ much more plausible to me. I can easily believe SSC readers are more selective than philosophy students; studying philosophy doesn’t mean you have to do well at it.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          It seems weird that the selection for reading SSC would be more extreme than for studying philosophy at Uni, considering that a philosophy degree is both less interesting, and harder, than a SSC post.

          This sounds silly. I generally skip the posts about medical substances because *groan* and *yawn*; the chances are that I will find a random SEP article more interesting.

          I believe that most of SSC content is less intellectually stimulating than enlisting in the generic philosophy program. You can read the brilliantly-written post and “ride along” and feel yourself being so smart. Studying, in general, however requires work and independent thinking (you have to write essays, you argue and ask questions with profs and other students, you have to pass tests), unless the program is really terrible and/or you have ended up in a class far below your aptitude. And the philosophy program in my uni is quite difficult to get in, yet I have no reason to believe the uni is anyhow exceptional.

          Also isn’t philosophy the academic subject terrible choice if you seek knowledge for its instrumental value or a job qualification? I was under impression that mostly people who love (or, at the bare minimum, are interested in) the idea of seeking truth for truth’s sake would be those who are driven to study philosophy; those with affinity for how academic philosophy is done today (ie with bookish-yet-socializable personality) would be the ones who decide to stay.

          • Nornagest says:

            Philosophy isn’t the kind of degree with direct career implications, but as non-career-path degrees go it’s about as good a signal as it gets — mostly because it’s one of the most difficult. I know more than one employee at $BIG_TECH_COMPANY with a philosophy degree.

        • The Red Foliot says:

          A lot of people going to university only do so because it’s the ‘thing you do’ if you are middle class and have finished high school. There’s a social incentive for attending university, but nonesuch for reading SSC. So people reading SSC do so entirely on their own accord; while people attending university do so partly on their own accord, but partly because society tells them to. And for people of a young age, most of them probably have little idea what ‘philosophy’ entails before signing up for it. I don’t think I even knew of ‘sociology’ before finishing high school.

  7. Wrong Species says:

    Who are the most respected people in the world alive today? Not the most popular or interesting. The people who others will listen to, and even when they hate, they still take seriously.

    • johan_larson says:

      Well, back in October, the Economist decided that Xi Jinping was the most powerful man in the world and said so on the cover.

      Noam Chomsky was the most cited living person in academic sources back in the 90s. Not sure that’s true any more.

      Donald Trump, by virtue of being the president of the United States, certainly gets plenty of attention. Rather less respect, though.

      Time magazine’s list of the ten richest people in the world includes people such as Jeff Bezos, who run the most influential companies in the world.

      • ohwhatisthis? says:

        Yeah. Peking University is prrobably the world’s hardest uni to get into now. If us news ranked it according to how unis are usually ranked here,I’d be a little surprised if it wasn’t ranked first.

        Heh. Respect from whom? Don’t fall for the trap of only counting the opinions of a certain section of the country,even if it’s one you identify with more.

        Is Peter Singer still the most cited, or one of the most? Daniel Dennet? Is it Steven Pinker?

    • Aapje says:

      Angela Merkel?

      • Mark says:

        Really?

        I’ve never really looked into it in detail, but as a British person I always kind of got the impression the Merkel was mad, arrogant, and malicious.

        • Aapje says:

          She is actually extremely conservative. In German, the word ‘Merkeln’ means doing nothing. Her usual method is waiting out the debate and then do the bare minimum. Letting in so many refugees was really the exception, where she couldn’t contain her own emotions.

          But the example was poor, since outside of Germany & The Netherlands, most people probably have a completely wrong image of her, based on the one time where she acted differently.

          • Anonymous says:

            That’s an unusual, but technically correct usage of ‘conservative’!

          • Aapje says:

            Merkel’s party is actually considered liberal-conservative.

            So politically, she is also conservative*, although not extremely so.

            * Although she is not very steadfast and positions her party in large part based on electoral considerations.

          • DavidS says:

            Interestingly I think she is generally liked by left-libereal type people in the UK (and was before the refugee thing so not just that). I think it’s a mix of seeming competent (not based on knowledge of policy, just generally aura) plus many people thinking Germany is better in a number of left-liberal ways.

            I think ‘who’s most respected’ really matters whether you mean ‘net respect’ (i.e. if people who actively dislike you and think you’re rubbish count against you). I’d suspect more ‘neutral’ figures like scientists/businessmen may beat politicians etc. But in general I’m not very confident who (politics, religion, business) really crosses cultural/national lines effectively. I’d suspect ideally it would be someone who was best known for who/what they were AGAINST.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’d put my money on Pope Francis as the #1 most respected man in the world.

      There are 1.2 billion people who don’t have much choice about whether or not they take him seriously, and since he’s also become a media darling the rest of us non-Catholics end up hearing his opinion on pretty much every issue the chattering classes care about. Even if you think he’s a clown he’s still got an enormous megaphone and it’s useful to know what he’s saying this week.

      President Trump is a weird case because he’s in exactly the same position but, by any normal definition, he seems more like the most disrespected man in the world. He has a captive audience 350 million in the US and who knows how many more in the 150 countries where our troops are stationed, plus the rapt attention of the international press. But at the same time, very few people outside of a hard core of his supporters have a very high opinion of his character or his abilities.

      • johan_larson says:

        Don’t some protestants believe the pope is literally the Antichrist?

        Seems like that should lower his average level of respectedness.

        • Aapje says:

          In my country those people are a tiny minority and they seem to have shifted to seeing Islam as the most dangerous religion now.

        • Matt M says:

          This runs into the issue of how we ask the question. Is it raw number of people who claim to respect you? Or is it “net approval rating” or something like that?

          If it’s raw number, surely the pope is near the top, and politicians will fill out much of the rest of the list. If it’s “approval rating” then anyone who is remotely controversial doesn’t have much of a shot, and the winners would probably all be non-political athletes and entertainers.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I definitely meant more the first than the second. People like The Rock but they don’t particularly care about his opinions.

            Although it’s not the number of people who claim to respect you. A lot of people hate the New England Patriots but they still respect their ability to play football, even if they don’t admit it or only do so begrudgingly.

          • John Schilling says:

            A lot of people hate the New England Patriots but they still respect their ability to play football

            Don’t you mean flatball?

          • Matt M says:

            Wrong Species,

            So do you mean “Who is the person that people actually respect the most, to include people they would never admit (even to themselves) to respecting?”

        • Wrong Species says:

          Being considered the antichrist means they take him seriously, even if they hate him. If they didn’t respect the Pope, they wouldn’t care about him.

    • Nick says:

      This isn’t exactly what you’re asking for, but I can only think of two people whom folks seem to have nothing but good to say about: George Takei and the late Fred Rogers.

    • rlms says:

      Steven Hawking.

    • johan_larson says:

      We are probably looking for someone who is well known, generally well thought of, and trusted with hefty responsibilities.

      Alan Greenspan was a good candidate during his time as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

      After Greenspan, perhaps Obama? Just being POTUS puts him up there in the rankings, and he was so very charismatic.

      I agree than Angela Merkel is a good candidate right now. In the press she is generally portrayed as holding the EU together by sheer force of will.

  8. Zorgon says:

    It’s official: The sneering classes have announced open season on anything to do with AI risk.

    • Mark says:

      This is too easy – if you want sneers on your side, just start writing articles about how AI risk doesn’t matter because all of the white dude-bros will be living on Mars with Elon Musk. All Nazis agree that paperclip maximiser is a brilliant opportunity for racial cleansing, and as an added bonus, lower levels of AI will enable Nazi-bros to push women and minorities out of their low paid but noble work.

      Throw in a bit about people worrying about AI risk being ‘snowflakes’, get some retweets from Donald Trump Jr. – and Bob’s your uncle – all of the annoying people will be on your side.

      [To be fair, right wing nasties do their fair share of sneering too, but I think you have to choose one bunch of annoying people to have on your side – I don’t think there is any way to have both. Left wing annoyers have more reach.]

    • Orpheus says:

      I don’t think that a person reviewing video games for a living should look down on people doing actual academic research, in any discipline.

  9. ohwhatisthis? says:

    What is going on with the absolutely ridiculous IQ of non-homosexual MTF transgenders?

    I’m seeing cross cultural reports of around 125, making it the highest result I know of in social science sans profession that select for it heavily (scientists, doctors)

    • Deiseach says:

      What is going on with the absolutely ridiculous IQ of non-homosexual MTF transgenders?

      Where are you getting your results? Not everybody takes or has been given an IQ test, so I’m going to speculate here that the people in this category who have IQ test results to report are (a) probably middle-to upper middle class, white EDIT: that sounds like assuming there are no smart POC so knocked that one out, college-educated, professional (b) working in STEM professions, so there is a filtering effect going on.

      If you can show a source for this claim, I’d be interested to see if they had a sampling that included, say, Brazilian sex-workers or was it all the likes of this person?

      • ohwhatisthis? says:

        Some research done at institutes that have homosexual and non-homosexual MTF transgenders. Average for homosexual transitionerrs, 120+ for non homosexual transitionerrs. While most of the case studies are Caucasian….most of the cross cultural results have been done in Europe

        I think this discrepancy of scores is one of the most *interesting* results in social science.

  10. Nick says:

    What’s your internal narrative like?

    Friends have observed that my narrative about myself always sounds like a sitcom—hilarious situations, wacky antics, over the top characters. I am, of course, the protagonist and Only Sane Man. 😀 But clearly this isn’t the only narrative you could have: you could be the ruthless soldier protecting your ingroup, you could be surrounded by idiots, you could be the wronged and oppressed. Internal narratives don’t have to be self-serving, but in my experience they are self-centered. And they’re not all negative, the three links that came to my mind just were; perhaps instead you see life as just getting better and better from here on out, or your narrative is centered around your contribution and legacy to the world. Some folks impose a structure on their narrative, separating it into arcs with neatly defined beginnings and conclusions; having graduated recently I’m “starting a new chapter.” Others don’t pay much attention that sort of thing, or even much attention to their narrative at all.

    • Matt M says:

      Like many intellectual/mopey teens of the 90s, I probably identified a bit too much with Daria, seeing myself as in the world – but not of it. Something akin to an alien observer who struggles to relate to most people, and can’t really be arsed to make much of an attempt to try.

      • Well... says:

        So many female friends/acquaintances of mine in junior high and high school identified with Daria it became an eyeroll-inducing cliche. It got to where if a girl told me (in so many words) she identified with Daria, it actually meant I knew less about her than before she told me.

        I guess the creators of Daria were onto something. She really captured the zeitgeist of a whole generation of 13-15 year-old girls in the 90s.

        • Matt M says:

          I guess the creators of Daria were onto something. She really captured the zeitgeist of a whole generation of 13-15 year-old girls in the 90s.

          I’m not sure that’s quite right. This question used to bother me a lot – because you’re right that a ton of teenage girls identified with her. Which is weird – because her qualities weren’t that identifiable. Like, they clearly placed her at the extreme end of both intellect, and social awkwardness. And yet, tons of teenage girls (and many boys) who didn’t really have those qualities still identified with her.

          My best explanation here is that the show was just so well written and the character was so well fleshed out, without becoming a one-dimensional cliche. There simply weren’t many shows with well developed characters targeted at teen audiences. Daria avoided being an unrelateable cliche because her flaws were on display just as much as her talents. Her attitude got her into trouble, not just with the ignorant masses she didn’t care about, but with her close friends and family as well. She was relatable not so much in the “I am also super booksmart but terrible with people” sense, but in the “I also have a few clear strengths, but many weaknesses, I am not perfect, and I sometimes get into trouble that I could have prevented” sense. She was neither a perfect Mary Sue, nor a one-dimensional stereotype (the show developed its other characters fairly well in this regard too – most notably Jane and Quinn). I think that’s what people were mostly relating too.

          Or at least, that’s the only logical explanation I can come up with.

          • Deiseach says:

            a ton of teenage girls identified with her. Which is weird – because her qualities weren’t that identifiable

            But Daria was, as you say, on the periphery. And every teenager goes through a period of “nobody understands me, my parents treat me like a child, I’m surrounded by idiots, my exquisite sensitivity causes me to suffer in this cloddish world!”

            You didn’t have to be as smart or whatever as Daria to identify with “she gets it!” And she was presented as the heroine, or at least as not the butt of the joke – her clueless if well-meaning parents and popularity-chasing sister were the butts if butts there were.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t think that’s wrong, but at the same time, it does, in fact, apply to Jane too, and virtually nobody relates to her. It even applies to Quinn (although her positive qualities are exposed pretty rarely, such that a casual viewer may have missed them entirely).

            And it does annoy me a bit that everyone laughs at the fashion club, presumably because it reminds them of real life, and yet, nobody would dare admit that they are basically like Sandi. But presumably, there are more Sandis in the world than Darias. Somebody has to be Sandi!. And if you can’t produce me an honor roll transcript or a high SAT score, you’re far more likely to be Sandi than Daria!

          • bean says:

            And it does annoy me a bit that everyone laughs at the fashion club, presumably because it reminds them of real life, and yet, nobody would dare admit that they are basically like Sandi.

            Selection bias? Maybe you either weren’t talking to the people who were Sandi, or they weren’t watching Daria.

          • John Schilling says:

            Jane and Quinn don’t have internal monologues. If your self-defining characteristic is that nobody understands you and so you don’t even bother talking about the important stuff any more, you can’t relate to anyone without an internal monologue.

            Also, I don’t think Daria’s academic performance was usually front and center, and Dunning-Kruger means even the dullards will see themselves as being smart where it really matters. Particularly in their internal monologue about all the things nobody else is wise enough to understand about them.

            Daria got the internal monologue right enough that even I could identify with her, and me/1997 was anything but a teenage girl.

          • Matt M says:

            Selection bias? Maybe you either weren’t talking to the people who were Sandi, or they weren’t watching Daria.

            Hmm, I’m not sure if I knew a Sandi, but I definitely knew a Quinn who loudly insisted she was a Daria. And even Sandi has a few redeeming moments, such that she’s probably overall about the same as Quinn, we just don’t get to see her positive attributes as much (even Quinn’s are rarely revealed).

      • Brad says:

        Like many intellectual/mopey teens of the 90s, I probably identified a bit too much with Daria, seeing myself as in the world – but not of it.

        Weird. I was a intellectual/mopey teen in the 90s and I never even heard of Daria. We didn’t have cable, so fine that I didn’t watch, but never even heard of it. Maybe I was just a little too old (graduated high school in 98).

        • Matt M says:

          If you haven’t yet, you should go back and check it out sometime. It stands up pretty well, even decades later. Some of the smartest written TV I’ve seen in general, and almost certainly the smartest TV ever developed with a teenage audience in mind.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      The dad in Leave it to Beaver I guess? I go to work, I do my job, I come home, my wife makes wonderful dinners, I dote on my kids, we go to church on Sunday.

    • Baeraad says:

      I’m definitely the hapless antihero in some kind of sitcom, eternally trying to make things as simple and easy for myself as possible only to get ambushed with complexity and confusion – often in a karmic fashion, as a result of my own character flaws, but sometimes just because the world seems gleefully fond of messing with me.

      The series divides pretty evenly into one-year seasons with their own themes and conflicts. Also, some episodes have been criticised as being overly dark and serious and not all that funny, and some theorise that the writers occasionally suffer from delusions of writing True Art instead of focusing on the situation-based absurdist humour that people actually tune in for.

    • Mark says:

      On a good day, I take pride in my ability to endure life.

      On a really good day, I’m carefree and happy.

    • James says:

      Detached, wry, ironic, constantly on the look-out for potential jokes. A strong dose of quite severe but light-hearted and not-to-be-taken-seriously self-deprecation (“you fucking idiot!”), which might surprise those who know me. And probably much more cynical than my agreeable presentation probably suggests.

    • powerfuller says:

      I’m stuck in a play acting out the same scenes over and over, but changing roles.

    • Thegnskald says:

      The closest thing I have to a narrative is a continual impression that I am one of the PCs in some kind of deranged MMoRPG.

      Also, apparently I cheated like crazy creating my character.

      ETA: Either that or I am very cleverly min-maxed. Which fits, since that is the way I play games.

      • Nick says:

        Can you elaborate? This is the sort of unconventional answer I was hoping for.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Part of it is intelligence (and my core stats in general). Part of it is that things always work out for me in a bizarre combination of luck and skill. Part of it is the odd narrative arcs of life. Part of it is that people repeat, constantly; I rarely meet somebody I haven’t met before with a different face.

          But the biggest part is that everybody else seems to be following a script – and more.to the point, appear unaware they are following a script.

          There was one experience in particular, in which a project ran over budget, and there was a meeting to discuss why. I immediately identified the purpose of the meeting as being to say that a meeting had been done, chose something I could have done better, and offered that up. Nothing would change; the issue had largely been an unknown unknown.

          The next individual in line couldn’t do that. They were more concerned with not losing face than noticing that the meeting was a formality in a process. So they stuck to a script of insisting they hadn’t done anything wrong. They stuck to their script, the meeting host stuck to theirs (of pursuing something to write down so the process could be completed as designed), and the meeting kept going, getting increasingly awkward until I redirected it.

          Nobody makes choices, nobody exerts agency, they just stick to their script. And it is getting worse; GPS units take away the last bit of agency most people engage in on a daily basis, choosing what route to drive. Nobody wants to make a decision. Not even pointless ones, like where to eat dinner.

          So I end up making them, often on behalf of other people.

          ETA:

          This is written in a “normal” perspective which attempts to describe the experience to convey it. I really do get the impression I am in a game or simulation or something. I find my own existence and experiences too improbable; I am, in the same normal perspective sense, a crank, but I am internally very certain I have a working theory of everything, which doesn’t help the entire situation.

          • Deiseach says:

            So what would you have done had the end result of the meeting been “Okay, Thegnskald was the only one to say he screwed up, so we’ll pin the blame on him and move on” and you got demoted, punished or even fired for it? Your assumption was that (a) nobody was seriously looking for a reason, the meeting was only about having a meeting and (b) you were in a position where you were too valuable to discipline or scapegoat. What if you had been wrong and they were looking for a scapegoat? You just offered yourself up!

            It’s easy to say “they were all sticking to their scripts and exhibiting no agency (while I was the smart, aloof guy who could see through it all)” but it sounds like you stuck to your script as well (“I’m the only competent guy in the room” with talk of immediately identifying the purpose of the meeting, knowing the reason for the over-run, giving the host the answer they wanted, judging the others in the meeting for not doing likewise, and then taking it upon yourself to re-direct the meeting).

            I immediately identified the purpose of the meeting as being to say that a meeting had been done

            Yeah. Anyone with any length of time working in an office environment knows this, too. “Why did this happen?” meetings are not about finding out what went wrong and how to prevent it in future, it’s about CYA and “Something has been done”. Doesn’t take supersenses of the “I’m the only one with agency here” type to realise that.

            The next individual in line couldn’t do that. They were more concerned with not losing face than noticing that the meeting was a formality in a process.

            Or perhaps they had judged, identified and were acting upon their own situation. They might have considered “If I accept blame, I’m not in a strong position where I’m too valuable to be disciplined. If I say ‘yeah, sorry, I screwed up on this’, I am making myself vulnerable. I need to defend myself and say nothing”. They might have classified the meeting on a different basis from you – not that they couldn’t see the ‘real’ purpose, but that they identified the purpose of the meeting as “the process is to find a scapegoat”. Beware of assuming you’re the Only Smart Guy in the Room! That other person might have been acting in their best interests and the reason the meeting host hammered on the point was because they did want to scapegoat them!

            Nobody makes choices, nobody exerts agency, they just stick to their script. …So I end up making them, often on behalf of other people.

            And that’s the script you stick to: they’re sheeple, I’m a wolf but just be glad I’m acting as a sheepdog.

          • cassander says:

            There was one experience in particular, in which a project ran over budget, and there was a meeting to discuss why. I immediately identified the purpose of the meeting as being to say that a meeting had been done, chose something I could have done better, and offered that up. Nothing would change; the issue had largely been an unknown unknown.

            Pro-tip, from hardwon personal experience. Don’t do this. Don’t try to short circuit social convention by trying to call people out on it, it never works. The people that sincerely believe in the process will take it as an insult and the people that don’t will think you’re an idiot for pissing off the room.

            You’re much better figuring out what the people want out of the ritual and providing it while playing along.

          • Aapje says:

            @cassander

            Isn’t that what he did? He offered up a mistake that wasn’t the actual cause, so the management could report they identified a problem and had taken measures to prevent it in the future (not really).

            He didn’t say that he called anyone out.

          • John Schilling says:

            “I immediately identified the purpose of the meeting” is ambiguous on that point, and including it in the same sentence as the public offering-up of an explanation suggests that the “identification” was also public rather than private. But Thegnskald can clarify.

          • Aapje says:

            @John Schilling

            I interpreted that as inner monologue and clarification for the reader aka ‘us’.

    • Anonymous says:

      What’s your internal narrative like?

      Procedurally generated.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Sympathetic, yet sometimes asshole, major supporting character in one of those kinda-dark sitcoms, in which the main character is an unsympathetic asshole. I get a spinoff which lasts for 2 seasons and nerds on the internet claim it was the best and definitely deserved more seasons.

      • Nick says:

        Wait, you’re not the main character? That’s the first I’ve heard of that.

        • dndnrsn says:

          I’ve known a fair number of people who are probably going to be important in one way or another; protagonists, if you will. A lot of them are really unpleasant people, whether that’s in a serious moral way or not. They tend to be confident they are the main character for reasons other than the default “everyone is the star of their own story” and that seems to really affect how they treat others, which is usually not very well.

          • Mark says:

            That isn’t an inner narrative though – you’re surely talking about status?

            It’s probably sinful to say this, but it is true – throughout my life I’ve often felt like I am Jesus.
            I don’t think I’m particularly unpleasant to others – though I’ve had my share of cleansing the temple moments.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think “status” is kind of vague for this and we’ve never really “defined” it here. Back in university I was probably “higher status” in my friend group than some people who in future are going to be important people, in the sense of being better-liked. But “generally pleasant and well-liked, won’t betray you” doesn’t scream “protagonist” to me?

            The original question seemed to be more about “what archetype are you?” than “internal narrative” but maybe I’m understanding internal narrative differently from other people. I guess I consider “internal narrative” to be “what’s it like inside your head.”

        • Thegnskald says:

          I have met a few people who felt like side characters. There was a discussion about it on Less Wrong at one point, as well (in that context, a self-described sidekick expressed annoyance at the agenty emphasis of the sequences, arguing fairly convincingly that sidekicks were valuable. If I recall all that correctly, it has been a few years.)

          • Nick says:

            Well, I think categorizing people as side characters requires assuming (implicitly, in this case) what the narrative actually is, what it’s about. I linked Scott’s MsScribe post at the top, and the protagonist there is clearly MsScribe herself, with various fans playing major supporting roles. But it’s not like it’s impossible to write a different narrative where someone else is the protagonist—”The story of how Cassandra Clare became a published author” is an obvious one, and there MsScribe is just a supporting character. I’m sure in MsScribe’s head, MsScribe’s the protagonist; I’m sure in Clare’s head, Clare is. The interesting thing to me here is not “What is mankind’s narrative and what part do you play in it,”—nearly all of us are bit players*—rather it’s “What is your narrative and how do you relate to everyone else.”

            Does that make more sense, as to how I’m seeing protagonist vs side character here?

            *Someone’s internal narrative may, I suppose, have this explicitly as the backdrop, but it’s not like they’re a footnote in it—it’s still all about their contributions, and it could still take on a million different forms given the person’s own life, anywhere from “I was born for greatness and by a cruel twist of fate am not achieving it” to “I was born from nothing and by hard work and determination am on track to have it all.”

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Probably Toby from the Office.

    • Fahundo says:

      I always felt like I was basically Peter Parker if he never got bitten by a super spider, or Harry Potter if it turned out he was just a weirdo and not a wizard, or any similar protagonist if the fantastical aspects of their story never happened.

    • nimim.k.m. says:

      It used to be “protagonist of the generic bildungsroman narrative structure” (because I was a teenager and teenagers predictably realize that they are growing up). Exact flavors coming and going depending on my interests and what books I was reading, but the generic idea was donwright trope-y: hardships, adventures, romance and at the end I’d make it and be a wizard.

      None of that happened, and now I’m unsure how to view my life. It’s like Dickens’ David Copperfield or Great Expectations, where both main characters go and study as they grow up, but Dickens glances over the particulars of them studying; studying under Dr. Strong or Mr. Pocket is merely background for the plot. Except in my in case I find out that the plot was missing. There’s only the glance-over.

      I think I’ve mentioned Mann’s Buddenbrooks a couple of times here. I believe it resonates with me because in the end, the whole Buddenbrook family business … just … deteriorates and collapses. Not the family business aspect, but how there was a story, and it ended, and the end looked like an unwinding mechanism.

      Maybe “becoming adult” for my kind of people (who read to much stories about protagonists who win at the end when they were kids) is the moment you realize that the thing that distinguishes narratives from reality is that they seriously are not true. And not because the real life is narratives with sad ends, but it’s because the real life has no structure. No plot arcs. No meaningful, well-developed characters: you meet some people, and then you realize you don’t meet those people because, well, stuff, but you never even knew much anything about them..

      Sometimes you spot people (at least going by the outwardly signs) who are the intelligent, capable protagonists of their stories and the results suggests that those stories (if the book were to conclude now) would be those with a happy ending. Or at least the kind of stories that are about well-off people having minor family crises and episodic daily life. Bildungsroman that after the final page, turned into a sitcom (maybe a sequel?).

    • rahien.din says:

      Like the narrator of Heaney’s poem “Terminus.” The poem is from his book The Haw Lantern, which is available via google.

      It’s different from (as above) the feeling that one is in the world but not of it. It’s more like being simultaneously in two worlds, and in neither world.

    • Orpheus says:

      I pretend that I am the narrator in a Dostoevsky novel.

  11. Deiseach says:

    I have come to the conclusion that there is money to be made in private industry telling the government it can get people into employment.

    You don’t have to actually get people into employment but you can make money off selling goods and services to the government, and if the people don’t get jobs, you have the handy scapegoat of “they’re all just workshy dole-spongers” and thanks very much for renewing the contract for another $/£/€ millions worth of spending next year.

    I’m ranting a bit here because of a tangential experience with one of this lot in its Irish version (one of its two Irish versions) which, amongst other things, is selling a potted CV service – on its website it claims that this is an individually and personally tailored to the candidate service, which is doubtless what it sold it to the government as, but in reality it’s a bought-in software package for its Irish arm from its British parent company which in turn bought it from US sources.

    And I know it’s US inspired because I did a trial run of my own CV on a related package, and the entire thing – phrasing, job descriptions, spellings – is US not UK/Irish usage. “Individually tailored” my backside!

    So if anybody fancies making some money and is of an entrepreneurial mindset, all you have to do is cobble together a lowest common denominator “write a CV” software package that takes about ten minutes to complete online and could be done by a trained monkey, dress it up in blah about “specifically designed for the individual needs of the jobseeker and administered by our highly-trained staff to ensure maximum impact” and charge about 200% the going rate for the thing, which will then be snapped up as an absolute bargain. Just make sure you keep charging an annual fee (payable in quarterly instalments) for “licencing” use of the mess, and a business-friendly “people who get up early in the morning” government will be delighted to partner with you!

    I would like there to be a proper scheme for getting long-term unemployed people back into work, and even one that accesses private business to do it. This is not that scheme; it’s a shoddy “make maximum bux off a government contract” scam-adjacent concern that will soak up money from the government and leave people with no additional skills, training or help than they’re already getting.

    • Matt M says:

      I would like there to be a proper scheme for getting long-term unemployed people back into work

      Why are you assuming that the long-term unemployed want to get back into work?

      Many of them don’t. Or at least, they don’t under realistic conditions (i.e. they want an easy job, high wages, and a flexible schedule – and barring that, would prefer unemployment)

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I think you’re kind of skirting around her point, which is that this CV writing service obviously sucks, and is an example of someone fleecing the government.

      • Deiseach says:

        Why are you assuming that the long-term unemployed want to get back into work?

        Because I was one of those? And worked my heart out for a solid year chasing new employment? And lucked into my present job no thanks to any government initiative? (Any job I have got has never been from any kind of government arm-twisting). And had a very brief brush with this particular company, which broke all kinds of guidelines as to how they were supposed to treat their “clients” e.g. for one thing you are not supposed to discuss private, sensitive information like medical history in the open where everyone else can hear. This set up treated their front line staff pretty much as call-centre staff (i.e. just sign up as many prospects as possible and no training), skipped mandatory things like “we have someone from the Department of Social Protection to inform you that amongst other things you will be signing a contract with this company” (something I only discovered by going through their website and following the trail of links back to the DSP), and a host of other dodgy dealings like the aforesaid CV package.

        Their business model – and it is a business – relies on getting the quarterly fees for a year from getting people into full-time employment. In order to do this, the original terms have been watered down (when this scheme started, they were supposed to deliver “forty hours a week minimum jobs”, now “full-time” has been defined down to “thirty hours a week” which is actually legally a “part-time” worker) and they don’t put people into training (people on this scheme cannot take up Community Employment scheme or job training offered to them, they have to stay on this scheme until they get a job) and the jobs they are sending people to are not what they’re trained for – basically, if they can get you a job stacking shelves at the local supermarket they will do so even if you’re a teacher or nurse, and then they claim the fee from the government for putting you into a job.

        Even worse, there are complaints that where someone got a job themselves without the help of the companies involved, the companies have tried claiming they placed the person to get these fees. It’s not looking like a good activation scheme at all, and that’s my complaint: when I was unemployed I wanted help to get back to work, and my very thankfully brief brush with this lot was not that help – I’ve previously worked the other side of such dealings with welfare clients, I know what the regulations are supposed to be and how you’re supposed to act, the whole set-up was shoddy and I knew it wasn’t legit, so I refused to engage with them after the preliminary interview which made them very angry, as they would not get the initial signing-on fee until I signed the contract, which I refused to do since it had not been explained to me. They tried threats but since I hadn’t signed the contract, they couldn’t in reality carry those out, so I ignored them, signed off the dole, and fortunately got my present job a couple of weeks later.

        Beta Guy is correct in that my major complaint here is that this lot are charging the government (and out of taxpayers’ money) premium fees for a fake service that in actuality is a cheap bought-in and unsuited to local conditions software package that the Department of Social Welfare could buy the licence for itself, distribute to the local dole offices, and let the unemployed signing on write their own CVs off it without going near this lot claiming to provide a personalised service tailored to the individual which will get them into a job interview and that will be “the programme is expected to cost the Government €200 million to €340 million over six years”, thank you very much.

        As I said, if I had the brains/enterprise spirit to work out a scam like this (I’ll write CVs for the people signing on, Minister, and you can pay me a fee for doing this! It’ll work better than ordinary CV writing because I’m a private business!), there’s money to be made out there.

        • Aapje says:

          My anecdotal, n=1 experience, is also that the Employee Insurance Agency has very little interest in actually providing the unemployed what they need and instead merely forces the person to apply to jobs that they can’t get.

          A person in my vicinity was also initially refused job training to become a programmer, because that person was supposedly already too well educated. Fortunately, he managed to convince them otherwise and managed to find a job fairly quickly afterwards and is now still working after retirement*.

          * This person is a workaholic who also worked quite hard when unemployed, doing volunteer work.

      • lvlln says:

        Aren’t unemployed people, by definition, people who are looking for work but failing to find one? I think people who are not working and have no desire to work are just called not working. And I think those who could find work but not ones that fit their preferences are called underemployed.

        • Matt M says:

          Not sure if this is true everywhere, but my understanding is that both the availability of government benefits, as well as general social pressures, provide pretty huge incentives for non-working people to claim to be interested in and looking for work, rather than saying “There’s nothing really wrong with me, but I’d prefer to just live off disability forever”

        • Aapje says:

          Many welfare systems only give people money if they go looking for work, so this pushes people who want welfare, but not a job into performing the motions. So it’s not a given that people who look for work want a job.

          • albatross11 says:

            When I was on unemployment, about 15 years ago, my actual job search (personal contacts in my field) and my paper job search (sending unsolicited resume/cover letter pairs to random companies) were entirely disjoint.

          • Matt M says:

            Right. There is virtually no circumstance in which it benefits someone to honestly reveal a preference for not working. You are always better off claiming that, gosh darn it, you’re trying really hard to find a job, but aw shucks, there just aren’t any to be found!

            And I think a lot of these people really believe it. Spend a lot of your time and effort trying to prove to the bureaucracy that you really want to work but you’re a victim of forces beyond your control, and eventually, you’re going to convince yourself that’s true – even if in your heart of hearts, you know it isn’t.

          • John Schilling says:

            Right. There is virtually no circumstance in which it benefits someone to honestly reveal a preference for not working.

            If “honestly” includes transparent wink-wink-nudge-nudge lies, there’s the difference between unemployment insurance (aka “welfare” or “the dole”) and long-term disability (SSDI in the US). The former pays modest living expenses in exchanged for being constantly hassled to get a job already, the latter front-loads the bureaucratic hassle but then you are never hassled or even really allowed to get a job ever again. And while an individual claim to being disabled on the grounds of invisible “soft tissue injuries” or “fatigue” may be genuine and sincere, at the aggregate you can probably use the prevalence of such claims as a marker for how many people prefer to not be working.

            In the early 1990s, “welfare reform” in the United States cut off most forms of unemployment insurance after 6 months, later stretched to a year. There was a subsequent and massive increase in SSDI enrollment, but the rules for SSDI hadn’t changed much and I don’t recall any massive epidemic of disabling diseases. I conclude that these are people who genuinely preferred working so long as looking for a job wasn’t costing them their safety net.

          • Matt M says:

            SSDI requires you to claim some debilitating condition that prevents you from working – which is different from a mere preference not to.

            My point is that there are basically three categories of non-working people:

            1. People who are looking for a job because they genuinely want to be employed, and have realistic expectations such that they are likely to eventually find and accept a job
            2. People who have some sort of medical condition such that it is unlikely they will be able to find and keep any job of consequence
            3. People who are physically capable of finding and holding job, but would prefer to live off some form of assistance rather than working

            There is NO situation in which it benefits someone to admit to belonging in Group 3. People in Group 3 are always better off pretending to be in Group 1 to collect short-term unemployment, or Group 2 to collect long-term disability. The fact that there are approximately zero people who would admit to being in Group 3 leads the more trusting members of society to think that Group 3 does not exist, or that it’s a ridiculously small minority – an opinion to which I, respectfully, disagree.

          • John Schilling says:

            SSDI requires you to claim some debilitating condition that prevents you from working – which is different from a mere preference not to.

            How so? The set of people who prefer not to work and the set of people who will claim a debilitating condition if that lets them get away with not working are not quite an identity, but I think pretty close. Are you claiming that there is a significant population of people who would prefer not to work but wouldn’t dream of saying “yeah, I got that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome thing” to get away with not working and not being hassled about getting a job?

            Yes, it’s theoretically possible that someone could be punished for lying about having the symptoms of CFS, but it’s also theoretically possible they could be punished for lying about having looked real hard for work last week. Realistically, of course, no.

          • Fahundo says:

            What about those of us who have jobs but would rather get paid not to work?

          • Anonymous says:

            @Matt M
            @John Schilling

            Having worked with the underclass, and even interpreted for them in welfare proceedings, I’m inclined to side with John. The only reason group 1 isn’t group 2 is their inability to fraudulently prove they’ve got a debilitating Gold Rush era disease that prevents them from thinking clearly during day and night.

            Overall, I would estimate that group 2 fakers are a great deal smarter than group 1 fakers, because of the comparative difficulty of fraudulently claiming the benefit.

          • Matt M says:

            Uh, maybe I phrased myself poorly, but I’m not sure I disagree with that.

            In any case, I don’t really care about distinguishing between Group 1 and Group 2. My only point is that there are a lot of people in Group 3, who have absolutely zero incentive to admit they’re in Group 3, and who have a lot of incentive to pretend to be 1 or 2.

            Such that saying “I don’t know anyone who claims to be in Group 3, so there must not be many of those people” is dumb, because of course nobody would admit to being in 3. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t.

          • gbdub says:

            Before we all jump on the “everyone on SSDI is a dirty welfare queen” train, it’s worth noting that there is also a group that is nominally in group 2, but would prefer to be in group 1.

            However, SSDI is set up in such a way that the penalty for attempting to move to group 1 and failing is extremely high. You lose all SSDI benefits after a few months of working, and if you become unemployed again you can be stuck without any benefits for months to a year +. This is particularly bad if you have a legitimate medical condition (such as mental illness) that might not be truly 100% debilitating, but requires continual, expensive medical care, and you rely on the Medicaid that comes along with SSDI to stay healthy. That is, you may not be 100% disabled now, but if you lose SSDI and then become unemployed again, you’ll be disabled by inability to pay for the medical care you need to be functional.

          • albatross11 says:

            Fahundo:

            I think the usual fix for that is making sure that the public assistance you can get is pretty meager, so that your desire not to work will be overridden by your desire for the nice things money can buy.

          • albatross11 says:

            gbdub:

            Presumably nobody really thinks everyone on disability is a fraud. Instead, if you run a disability program, you face an unpleasant tradeoff between making sure people who need the program get the benefit, and making sure people who don’t need the program don’t get the benefit.

            There are many people in the world with hard-to-see-from-the-outside disabling problems that prevent them working for a living. There are many people in the world who’d like to avoid whatever shitty job they can get and still get enough money to live on. There is no error-free way to distinguish between them.

            As I understand it (not too well), SSI handles that by making it a huge bureaucratic slog to get into the program in the first place, and then taking away the benefit if you ever work again. That imposes a lot of costs–it means someone who could do some part-time or occasional work but still can’t reliably work full time doesn’t dare take that work, for fear of losing their benefits. And it means that genuinely disabled people may wait a couple years before getting on disability, or may be denied because they don’t look very disabled even if they are.

            In general, there are a lot of costs to having social welfare programs where you try to make sue the people who get them are either deserving or needy enough. This is one thing that makes me like something like a UBI as an alternative.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Instead, if you run a disability program, you face an unpleasant tradeoff between making sure people who need the program get the benefit, and making sure people who don’t need the program don’t get the benefit.

            And most methods for making this tradeoff end up failing on both counts. The actual down-on-his-luck person gets stymied by the system, while those who have made a career of milking it do fine.

          • gbdub says:

            @albatross11 – your understanding matches my experience. I was largely just getting annoyed by comments such as Anonymous’ “The only reason group 1 isn’t group 2 is their inability to fraudulently prove they’ve got a debilitating Gold Rush era disease that prevents them from thinking clearly during day and night.”

            To me that read like a cheap shot at the population on disability.

          • Anonymous says:

            @gbdub

            I meant the frauds, not the genuine cases. Not sure if I made that clear enough.

          • Brad says:

            @gbdub
            There are a few programs designed to make that process not quite so high stakes. I’ve never worked with anyone that participated but I have come across descriptions.

            —-

            In general, I’d rather see long term disability moved to the insurance industry. I’m open to the idea that it should be mandatory, but I don’t see why it needs to be provisioned or adjudicated by the government. Where’s the market failure?

            For welfare qua welfare as opposed to “everything was going great until I became disabled”, I prefer a UBI and after that a pure means tested program. Dead last is any program with a (inevitably poor) attempt to test for deservingness.

          • gbdub says:

            The issue with running it through insurance is that such insurance is usually provided or subsidized by your employer. If you are disabled before you are able to join the workforce in the first place, that wouldn’t work.

            Now if you have something like a UBI, maybe it doesn’t matter (though a world where we get UBI before universal health care would surprise me) – whether you don’t want to work or can’t, you still get the check.

            The problems with benefit cliffs aren’t really limited to SSDI (that’s just the one I’ve had some direct exposure to). It just seemed particularly relevant when we were talking about people who are “unemployed but picky” – sometimes that’s the case because “any job will do” isn’t an option if it nukes the benefits you rely on.

          • Brad says:

            If you are disabled before you can enter the workforce then in general you aren’t entitled to SSDI but instead SSI (usual significantly less money). The exception is adult children of retired workers collecting social security that were disabled from before age 18.

            I agree you can’t replace SSI with insurance, but I think you could replace SSDI with it. SSI is the program I’d like to see replaced with either UBI or plain old means tested welfare.

            For reference SSDI runs about $140 billion a year and SSI about $60B.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            From what I’ve seen, people aren’t “doing fine” on SSDI etc. They’re getting by.

            The system favors people who are good at filling out forms and showing up for appointments and/or have people who will help them. There are plenty of disabilities which make dealing with bureaucracy difficult or impossible.

      • Aapje says:

        @Matt M

        Many of them don’t. Or at least, they don’t under realistic conditions (i.e. they want an easy job, high wages, and a flexible schedule – and barring that, would prefer unemployment)

        Not wanting to work or wanting to work only under certain conditions are two different things. I think it is wrong to equate the two.

        I also think that it is unfair to assume that job requirements by the unemployed are necessarily unreasonable. My strong impression is that quite a few of these kind of demands are because of limitations that actually exist. A person with a bad back who refuses hard labor is probably not refusing because she necessarily wants easy labor, but more likely because she doesn’t want to destroy her body even further and turn into an invalid. A person who needs some flexibility to care for a kid may simply not be able to properly raise a kid with a full-time job and he can’t just ignore the kids needs.

        Of course, one can argue that any and all demands by the unemployed are unreasonable and that they cannot reject any job that the market is willing to pay for, including the jobs that damage them severely and permanently. However, I reject that.

        • albatross11 says:

          The bigger constraint is that you probably want to keep working in your field. It will take longer to get a job that’s actually in your field than any old job, but it’s probably worth it in terms of both immediate income and long-term income.

          • Aapje says:

            In my country one has to take lower quality jobs the longer one remains unemployed, which seems reasonable in itself.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Among the endless semifunctional people in my social group are a few who refuse to work because their demands are, in fact, unreasonable.

          One such individual regards any work they are actually qualified for as beneath them, yet also refuses to get any kind of education that would create such a qualification. They cycle through an endless series of get-rich-quick schemes instead, which do actually sometimes generate money, but not the kind of money they expect.

          There are people who are unemployed because they have reasonable demands that cannot be met; I have known a couple, including a talented mechanic who suffered a severe on-the-job injury, and lives in an area with a very poor economy, and can’t leave because his kid’s mother lives there

          I have met far more people of the former sort, however; typically ex-middle class, who expect to achieve the same level of success as their parents, but unaware how much work their parents put in to get there, or perhaps just unwilling. They typically see a lower-class job as a dead end they will be stuck in forever, perhaps because that is the social narrative of lower-class work.

        • Matt M says:

          Not wanting to work or wanting to work only under certain conditions are two different things. I think it is wrong to equate the two.

          If the “certain conditions” are clearly unrealistic, then I think it’s fine to equate them.

          Saying “I have a bad back and I don’t want to do heavy lifting” is one thing. Saying “I have a bad back and I don’t want to do heavy lifting, AND I need a guarantee that I’ll never have to work overtime so I can attend my daughter’s basketball games, AND I need to be making at least $25/hour, AND I don’t want to work in the service industry, AND…”

          I have plenty of extended family members who “can’t find a job” that, when you actually talk to them, go down this road. They’ve actually received several job offers, they just can’t find one that meets the proper half-dozen requirements they’ve outlined. Is it reasonable for them to have preferences? Sure. Is it reasonable for them to portray themselves as victims of economic forces beyond their control, thus requiring that they steal my money to prevent them from starving to death? No. Not even close.

    • maintain says:

      I’ve seen a number of novice rationalists committing what I shall term the Free Energy Fallacy, which is something along the lines of, “This system’s purpose is supposed to be to cook omelettes, and yet it produces terrible omelettes. So why don’t I use my amazing skills to cook some better omelettes and take over?”

      And generally the answer is that maybe the system from your perspective is broken, but everyone within the system is intensely competing along other dimensions and you can’t keep up with that competition. They’re all chasing whatever things people in that system actually pursue—instead of the lost purposes they wistfully remember, but don’t have a chance to pursue because it would be career suicide. You won’t become competitive along those dimensions just by cooking better omelettes.

      • toastengineer says:

        But again, she isn’t really pointing out that this is an opportunity to fix things so much as “huh, look how many free eggs the government is handing out to anyone who makes a solid attempt at pronouncing “omlette” properly and produces a receipt for a frying pan.”

  12. Well... says:

    I like Doug DeMuro’s videos (in which he shows you intimately around all kinds of cars you’d probably never get to see up close) but this one I found particularly fascinating, in large part because I like the way he approaches it. It’s basically him walking around reacting to what he perceives as the car culture in South Korea. A bit repetitive but worth watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZD2pBeXY6Q

    Curious if anyone here who lives in or has been to S. Korea has a different impression.

  13. Viliam says:

    I used to imagine “culture wars” as purely a battle of memes over generally neutral substrate of human brains. That which side you join mostly depends on the environment you grew up in, and the experiences you had; i.e. that individual humans were more or less just a function of their histories (which include previous interactions with various memes).

    But recently I am thinking that the genetic aspect may be much more important than it seems; that perhaps people join their side of a “culture” wars mostly because of their genes. For example, the Big Five traits are largely inherited; and you can see how they distinguish not only between the Conservatives and Liberals, but even e.g. between the Egalitarian Left and Authoritarian Left. As an extreme version, political opinion could simply be an expression of one’s genes, a part of a phenotype. Similarly, the whole “reproductive ants” conflict sometimes seems like a grand battle between the autistic spectrum and cluster B.

    The obvious counter-argument: If people’s politics are determined genetically, why do people sometimes change sides?

    The obvious answer: The genes do not determine politics with 100% certainty; they are just highly correlated. By the way, have you noticed that most people actually don’t change sides?

    Or perhaps the famous examples of people who have “seen the light” and changed sides dramatically are simply people who have initially joined a wrong side (e.g. because of peer pressure), gradually found out that the side was incompatible with their nature, and finally decided to resolve the tension by conversion.

    (By the way, I assume that there are more “political phenotypes” than there are officially recognized political opinions; simply because in politics one needs allies, so even if you could use some service like 23andMe to find out the political opinion tailored to your nature, you would still wish to join some larger coalition to achieve something in real world. The publicly recognized political opinions are just Schelling points around which people coordinate.)

    • rlms says:

      Are there some studies you are thinking of that show the extent to which politics is heritable?

      • rahien.din says:

        Are there studies that look at the politics of identical twins separated at birth? Seems the only way to disentangle what is genetic from what is acculturation.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          In theory studies of twins separated at birth are great, but in practice, they’re terrible, because there are so few subjects.

          But, no, it isn’t the only way. You can disentangle genetics from upbringing using either adoption or comparing identical twins to fraternal twins. Mainly people do the latter. It’s good to do the former as a check, though.

          • rlms says:

            Although presumably there are problems with the latter method in that there are non-genetic differences between identical and fraternal twins (some identical twins deliberately try to appear differently, others deliberately try to act the same). And twins of all kinds are a peculiar subset of the general population.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Peer pressure? What seems to me the obvious guess is that children should obtain their political allegiance from their parents and that conversion should be towards genes. Indeed, there is a large shared environment component to politics. Whether late in life politics are more genetic is a testable hypothesis, but I don’t think it has been tested.

      One famous example of political conversion is the Trotskyists who became Neoconservative warmongers. Many people interpret this as two sides that are quite similar and both compatible with their nature, but just a change of superficial allegiance.

      This graph from this article says that partisan affiliation has almost no genetic component, and liberal-conservative ideology is 60% genetic.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think the majority of time when people change their political opinions, it’s because they have changed their views of the facts of the matter. I’ve changed my mind on many issues over the last five years but I don’t think my values are any different.

    • Anonymous says:

      The obvious counter-argument: If people’s politics are determined genetically, why do people sometimes change sides?

      Looking at the various political turncoats of the USA, it seems that while they change teams, they don’t change their values/ideologies/behaviour.

      • toastengineer says:

        Yeah, most folks who switch teams say something along the lines of “the [team]’s principles changed, my principles stayed the same.”

    • Well... says:

      Note: my reply below involves a lot of necessary simplification.

      My twin brother and I are essentially (though not staunchly) on opposite sides of the culture war. Our genes are the same, obviously, and we had an almost entirely shared environment up through about age 14 and then a mostly shared environment through the end of high school. Our politics began to diverge in high school and then diverged much more steeply after age 18 when I moved to the other side of the country. We still have a few friends in common though none equally in common (e.g. one of his besties is one of my former close friends now more of a friendly acquaintance). We take in essentially no news/political media in common, and he uses social network websites like Facebook and Twitter while I do not.

      That would seem to suggest nurture is more powerful than nature in our case. But wait, there’s more!

      From many of our other qualities, you could probably predict our politics: back when we were both exercising regularly in college, he was more into cardio while I lifted weights; he works in fine arts, I work in technology; he lives in a big coastal city, I live in a Midwestern suburb; he says he has some kind of actual syndrome where looking at art sometimes makes him cry, I have never experienced anything even close; although we both have very eclectic taste in music, he seems to have a fondness for soothing folk stuff with female vocalists, while I like heavy aggressive rock and I can’t stand women singing in rock. Etc.

      One possibly major caveat: we are mirror-image twins.

      • we are mirror-image twins.

        That explains it. Right reflected in a mirror is left.

        • Well... says:

          But only somewhat; it doesn’t explain it entirely. We still have a lot of other qualities that are similar the way you’d expect in monozygotic twins. Some of these qualities can be traced to shared upbringing and some are clearly genetic. So I don’t think it’s as cut-and-dry as you’d like.

      • Deiseach says:

        some kind of actual syndrome where looking at art sometimes makes him cry

        Stendhal Syndrome? Is apparently a real thing, closest I’ve come to it is overdosing on too much Botticelli where I’ve had to close the art books because too…much…beauty…getting…overwhelmed…

        • Well... says:

          Yeah, that’s the one.

          In fact, my brother seems to generally be into finding out the name of every particular chronic quirk he notices. He even sees seeks out specialist doctors for some of them them. Whereas, I’m prone to just assuming I’m in perfect baseline health and any little thing that comes up is just a fluke, even if it comes up consistently over long periods of time.

    • secondcityscientist says:

      How does the gene-determinism theory of politics reckon with the huge age gap in US politics? Old people are strongly Republican, young people are strongly Democratic. Also importantly, this is a recent phenomenon – it looks like it started around 2004.

      Are we hypothesizing that Blue Tribe types had more kids than Red Tribe types? That goes strongly against typical behavior descriptions for those two tribes.

      • Anonymous says:

        Politics change with age. And quite rationally, too.

        • secondcityscientist says:

          As far as I can tell, your cited data are from a one-time survey of individuals sorted by age, not a longitudinal study keeping track of changes within individuals (which is sort of what it purports to be, and what you’d need for a “politics changes with age” conclusion). Most political science work that I’ve seen suggests that individuals tend to stick to their parties long-term.

          When I was just learning about politics in the 90s, the consensus was that since Democrats promised to not cut Social Security they would forever keep the votes of old people. Meanwhile Republicans wanted to cut Social Security and thus were doomed to always lose the oldster vote. That… did not hold up. Old people from the 90s died and were replaced with new, more Republican old people.

          Anyway even though I think your data is wrongly interpreted, either interpretation of the data suggests that politics is not particularly driven by genes. For a genetic component we’d expect a pretty consistent graph across age groups, rather than the wild swings the data shows.

      • albatross11 says:

        There’s no reason you should limit your model to only genes. Think of height–genes matter, but so does early childhood environment, and so does age–the same guy is a different height at 15, 45, and 75.

        If you do a twin study, you will see that genes matter–identical twins’ heights have a stronger correlation than fraternal twins’ heights. If you do an adoption study in a first-world country, you will conclude that genes matter and childhood environment doesn’t matter, since essentially every adopted kid in a first world country gets sufficient nutrition and adequate medical care and the normal package of vaccinations and such. And yet, we know from a lot of other data that nutrition and childhood disease matter for height, and that this almost certainly explains why average height (like raw IQ scores) goes up over time almost everywhere.

        • secondcityscientist says:

          My hypothesis would tend to be that environmental factors (crime rate, economic health, social norms of the time, etc) at the time that political identities form (which differs between individuals) is an important enough factor that it usually overrides genetics, in much the way that genetics for height don’t matter as much in undernourished people. Genetics can predominate in extreme cases, but people who are average-ish would be comfortable on either side of many divisions depending upon how they felt when they started to pay attention to politics.

          In general as a biologist I find “genetic causes” for emergent human behaviors, like politics, to be pretty suspicious. If we ever get convincing GWAS data for Big 5 personality types maybe I’ll be more interested. Someone’s even working on it, so maybe.

  14. ariel says:

    Does anyone have a list of upcoming books they’re looking forward to reading? I’ve really appreciated Luke Muehlhauser and Nick Beckstead’s lists.

  15. johan_larson says:

    I’m thinking the next Jurassic Park/World sequel should be a movie-within-a-movie, about the efforts of an InGen executive to salvage a few remaining scraps of revenue from the ruins of the park. He sends an expedition to the island with three goals: figure out what happened, survey the wreckage, and get marketable footage of remaining dinosaurs. We see the executive making deals with movie studios and selecting staff for the expedition. The expedition will film itself as part of the action; much of the outer movie is what the expedition itself is filming.

    The expedition gets underway, but when the director and the executive view the video that is coming back, they’re not satisfied. There is too much footage of the team itself and the ruins of the park. They’re not seeing enough dinosaurs. They urge the team to look harder for dinosaurs and get closer to them, but there is only slight improvement.

    The executive then tries to improve the footage by getting the dinosaurs to fight more. He dispatches a helicopter to spray the island with pheromones that will send the dinosaurs into rut, making them more aggressive. This works rather better than expected, and the team on the island gets mauled pretty badly, having to make a quick retreat from the island.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Only works if Jurassic World is abandoned. At the end of JW it’s not clear that the park will be closing after this “unfortunate incident.”

      • quaelegit says:

        Isn’t there a trailer out showing the whole island is abandoned? That was my impression but I might be misinterpreting (I saw the trailer as part of the previews before the current Star Wars movie in a theatre so don’t remember it very well…)

        • Lillian says:

          The premise of the sequel is that the island has been abandoned, but its volcano is going to erupt. Somehow the heroes convince the US government to finance a rescue mission instead of letting the fire and ash take out the genetically engineered abominations. While i enjoyed Jurassic World a lot, i’ve decided i’m going to give the sequel a pass, because the whole affair strikes me as incredibly stupid.

          • pansnarrans says:

            You know, I watched the trailer already, but only now does the thought occur “Wait, they built their disaster-waiting-to-happen monster zoo on an island with an active volcano?”

            John Hammond is a complete idiot.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      Maybe they could make it a Bollywood Romantic Comedy and have everyone break out into a big group dance now and then?

  16. angularangel says:

    Gonna go ahead and link my Agora site again. It’s not too impressive yet, but I’m hoping it will be of interest to at least some people. XD

    https://agora-2866.nodechef.com/forum

  17. Clocknight says:

    On the same vein as @j1000000 comment, I want to ask for book recomendations, but in my case I want to be more specific.

    Any book recommendations for a recent 18 year old? Books about anything really, be it politics, economics, philosophy, science, fiction etc., that you would recommend reading for someone my age? Especially books about understanding the world. I’m lacking (good)things to read at the moment, so I would be thankful for suggestions.

    • dndnrsn says:

      What do you already know about? How much raw time do you have to read?

      • Clocknight says:

        What do you already know about?

        Not much. I mean, I probably know something, but it’s all over the place so I probably wouldn’t be able to pinpoint my knowledge exactly.

        How much raw time do you have to read?

        All the time in the world. I’m not studying currently, and I don’t work (yet), so my schedule, at least for the next month or so, is pretty much open all day.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Do you have a particular interest in history? If so, any time/place in particular? One book I definitely can recommend is War by Gwynne Dyer. There’s been 2 editions, I think. “History of the world” type books usually fall flat – too much to cover – but books with long time focus but relatively narrow topic focus can handle it. It’s a “social history” of war, which would be a good complement to other social histories, which usually neglect military history, relatively speaking. Otherwise, indicate what areas you’d be interested in; somebody here will probably know something.

          On the subject of “understanding the world” a general-coverage intro to religion textbook might be good. Most people’s understanding of religion as a historical phenomenon isn’t that great. Whatever the Religion 101 course at a decent university is using ought to do the trick. If you enjoy that, you can delve a little deeper. I can recommend the Ehrman New Testament introduction textbook (but if you buy it, unless you are actually going to use it for school, don’t get the latest edition; buying new university textbooks is horrendously expensive – looking at Amazon, the latest edition is near a hundred bucks Canadian, while a used copy of the last edition runs a little over ten).

          For fiction, somebody’s gonna recommend Pratchett, if you don’t know Pratchett already. So I guess that somebody’s me this time.

    • I will immodestly recommend three of my books, all, I think, accessible to a bright and interested 18 year old:

      The Machinery of Freedom
      Hidden Order
      Future Imperfect

      • Matt M says:

        Heh, I was quickly scrolling through the comments and stopped at a point where the book titles were visible, but the poster and first sentence were not. My first immediate thought was “Look at this guy, sucking up to David Friedman!”

        • albatross11 says:

          Actually, I’d add _Law’s Order_ to that list–that’s a book that I found enormously valuable in understanding the world.

    • rlms says:

      Gödel Escher Bach
      Sophie’s World
      Thinking Fast and Slow
      The Definitive Book of Body Language

      • albatross11 says:

        Influence (Cialdini)
        Superpredictors (Tetlock)
        Knowledge and Decisions (Sowell)

      • quaelegit says:

        Woo, someone else has read Sophie’s World! A delightfully weird little book, and great (if light) introduction to Western Philosophy. It’s written for kids (my guess is ~5th grade?) but I greatly enjoyed reading it in college for fun!

        I really wish I’d read it before Anathem, I might have gotten a lot more out of the latter book on my first read…

        • rlms says:

          Fifth grade?! I’d say it’s aimed at people around Sophie/Hilde’s age (I think 14), but as you say is definitely appreciable by adults. I’m hesitant to mention it in general book recommendation threads even though I like it a lot because it is quite lightweight (I think there are some actual philosophers around here), but recommending it to a fellow teenager feels OK.

          • quaelegit says:

            Wow, I thought Sophie was 11! My bad (especially as birthdays are a major plot point of the book — Happy Birthday Hilde!). It’s been a while since I read it. 😛

            Agree that protagonist age is a reasonable proxie for target audience in this kind of book.

          • Protagoras says:

            As one of the actual philosophers around here, I read it a long time ago. I recall it being very weak when it came to recent philosophy (20th century), but a pretty good introduction to some earlier ideas.

    • Dry Raven says:

      If you have problems with procrastination or being productive in general, I would recommend Getting Things Done. It teaches you how to take all of the ambiguous and nasty responsibilities and obligations that stress you (homework, projects, work responsibilities for 18 year old) and build them into a personal infrastructure that allows your mind to be free of that constant stressful load and make an incredible amount of progress actually getting those things done. I’ve been fighting a war against my own inability to force myself to do work I need to do for years and years, and when I read that book I had the mental shock of realizing there was someone who had already fought a lot of that war for me. It’s been one of the biggest improvements on my life, but it does take some effort to get used to and to get it right. But it will improve your life forever if you can get it done- and in a real getting-what-you-want-from-life kind of way and not a look-at-this-interesting-useless-intellectual-thought-I-got-from-this-intellectual-book-I’ve-intellectually-read kind of way. If I had one recommendation to myself at your age it would be to read this (along with the advice to strive towards intellectual humility, but that’s a different story).

    • Well... says:

      Every 18 year-old should read The Fountainhead.

      • Brad says:

        I disagree. Ayn Rand is a cognito hazard that has a non-trivial chance of turning the reader into an asshole. She should be read under kabbalah rules (married, 30, and learned in Torah).

        • Thegnskald says:

          Eh.

          I think it is more that assholes are more likely to like her work. She does a good job of constructing an ethical system which works for assholes, and her arguments don’t depend on empathy or other potentially missing experiences.

          Also, she does an excellent job identifying a class of abusive behaviors that otherwise go largely unremarked-upon, and specifying how and why they are abusive, and provides a framework to replace the abusive one. If you have lived with a parent with BPD, Atlas Shrugged is an extremely helpful book.

          • Matt M says:

            And not only that, the books are so long and not enjoyable to read that anyone who isn’t already somewhat pre-disposed to like her ideas has virtually zero chance of actually finishing the book.

            I’ve done my share of “read the enemy to learn about them” in my day, but I can’t imagine being able to get through 50+ pages of Rand without really really liking her!

        • Thegnskald says:

          Reads like a motte-and-bailey defense.

          Which is to say – it argues that critics are strawmanning postmodernism as something it isn’t, while ignoring that the critics are criticizing how postmodernism is practiced. As part of this, it pretends most people understand what postmodernism is, offering up Scott’s steelmanning of it as the default social understanding.

          If that were the default understanding, Scott’s steelmanned defense would have been pointless.

          Popular postmodernism from my perspective: A bunch of people using words like “dichotomy” incorrectly to sound smarter than they are.

          • Brad says:

            If both the hard core of academics and the much larger group of people that occasionally say things like “deconstruct” thought of and described themselves as postmodernist than this critique would be fair enough. But given that they the larger group doesn’t, the two step — the critic first externally defines the group in question, then uses that group as the basis of the “popular understanding” — is a bridge too far.

            Consider if I claimed that anyone that was influenced directly or indirectly by Ayn Rand’s ideas was an Objectivist. And then I criticized Objectivists (simplicitur) on the basis of characteristics this much larger group did not necessarily share with the smaller group of self declared Objectivists. That would be highly confusing at best.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Brad –

            Your response has left me baffled. Are you agreeing with me? I honestly can’t tell; my overall impression is disagreement, but your arguments appear to more meaningful criticisms of the comic than the critics portrayed in the comic.

          • Brad says:

            Sorry, it wasn’t my intention to baffle. I’m pretty sure I’m (respectfully) disagreeing with you. I’m criticizing the critics of postmodernism as unreasonable (i.e. agreeing with the comic).

            My basic complaint with the critics of “popular postmodernism” is that “popular postmodernism” is largely a creation of the critics themselves.

            I don’t think the problem of “A bunch of people using words like “dichotomy” incorrectly to sound smarter than they are” warrants attacks on “postmodernism”. People trying to make themselves sound smarter isn’t meaningfully “postmodernism” and in any event spending time criticizing such people is boring and pointless.

            I hope this was clearer.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Ok. But.

            I can point to nonsensical bullshit in feminism that is explicitly labeled as “postmodern”. The comic then treats criticizing this form of discourse as equivalent to criticizing gender equality, since both are part of the larger group “Critics of feminism”. They are rounded down to opposing gender equality, expressed dismissively as opposing having women in movies.

            That is the whole of the comic, the entire sneer-in-place-of-a-joke; critics are neanderthal conservatives (although I repeat myself) opposed to progress and all good things,an argument implicitly underpinned by the same kind of generalization you argue against.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Additionally, more to your points:

            I disagree that criticizing people who use the word “dichotomy” incorrectly is pointless.

            Because these people were some of my professors, or the authors of books my professors assigned, in college/university. That’s a serious problem.

            ETA:

            Putting this here instead of comment-dumping, although it isn’t directly related:

            You argue that postmodernism of the sort that critics criticize is their own invention. I disagree. Postmodern architecture, art, prose, poetry – postmodernism as the rejection of a central narrative isn’t postmodernism in its entirety, and critics rightly point out how much of the broader postmodernism is pseudointellectual drivel.

            Maybe it began with that core idea, and everything else is poseurs – but if so, the poseurs greatly outnumber the core, and the battle over the word “postmodern” has already been lost, and instead of getting angry at critics who are criticizing postmodernism, maybe the correct answer is just to realize that society – including those critics – means something else by the word now, and choose a new word. Post-structural-narrative, maybe.

          • Brad says:

            Just to be clear, I think that criticizing anyone or anything that explicitly uses the word postmodern is fair game. That should cover your professor, feminist article authors, and similar. To the extent the “poseurs” have themselves appropriated the word postmodern, your right that’s not on the critics.

            What I object to is where the masses are not using the term postmodern. Where it is the critic that is identifying some vague very widespread idea that he then derives a chain from Derrida or whoever to and so decides that all those million of people —
            who may have at one time or another referenced this vague idea — are postmodernists and every stupid thing they believe, say, or do reflects back on postmodernism. In this case, it is the critic that is the origin of the imprecise language, not those he is criticizing.

      • rlms says:

        “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.”

        • James says:

          One of my favourite stock joke formats, but I don’t think the punchline is well-executed in this case.

        • Viliam says:

          The heroes are unbelievable, but the villains are 100% precise.

          Like, when a few decades later you read news about Venezuela, it seems like someone is playing a LARP based on Ayn Rand’s novels.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I am always baffled by the criticism that her heroes are unbelievable.

            I mean… that was sort of one of her core arguments, that heroes should be heroic, that heroes were meant to be aspirational ideals rather than real people. She wrote about it in the same book that the heroes were in.

            We can disagree with her aesthetic choices, but it is baffling that people seem to think that she was trying to write realistic characters and failed; if you want that, We The Living is a horribly depressing book showing how well real people deal with the Atlas Shrugged world, which is to say, extremely poorly.

            Atlas Shrugged is a Romantic book, with Romantic heroes fighting Romantic battles.

          • powerfuller says:

            @Thegnskald

            I remember reading a story about somebody asking Rand about her characters being unrealistic, to which she replied, “What about me? I’m a real person!” I have no idea if it’s true, though; I assume not.

            I suggest clocknight read Anthem instead (or first), as you get a taste of Rand without much time wasted.

          • Don_Flamingo says:

            I liked Atlas Shrugged.
            And I didn’t find the heroes (Dagny and Rearden) super unbelievable. Unlikely, sure. But i think they’re well fleshed out, actually. (you get a feeling for what they want, what they value, and you root and feel for them)
            Rearden is also somewhat flawed (mainly a stick up his ass and being pussy-whipped by his wife for literally no good reason).
            D’Anconia is of course very much Tony Stark, which is fun.
            The oil guy in the few scenes he’s in, is very much the Hulk (also good).
            Galt is boring capitalism Jesus.
            There’s also a Norwegian pirate (which I’d much rather have read more about).
            And I found the Akston vs Stadler dichotomy underdeveloped (Stadler just being weak, panicky and craven felt really empty).
            I really would have liked a rewrite of this book, tbh.
            Could have been much better.
            Maybe get rid off Galt entirely… (though there’s a good one-liner, that should be made by someone else)
            But if you have a good visual imagination and ‘see’ it more as a lenghty Watchmen style comic book, then there is shiny new tech, lots of disasters and drama, a love triangle (square?), a Lysenko style- faminie, rotten, ugly, evil people, shiny, pretty people with an honorable cause, a deep conspiracy and Super Mega Death laserz.

            I hated Fountainhead. Just a bunch of geometry/architecture/BDSM fetish and an unlikable, boring superrobotic redhead as a main character. (compare with a likeable boring superrobotic redhead in ‘Guards! Guards!)

          • Nick says:

            There’s also a Norwegian pirate (which I’d much rather have read more about).

            This is an aside, but when I read this I thought, “Wait, are you sure you’re not thinking of the Illuminatus! trilogy?” Turns out that no, the Illuminatus! trilogy was thinking of him too:

            He is also comparable to a degree to Ragnar Danneskjold, a libertarian pirate in the Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged, which is spoofed in the chronicles as “Telemachus Sneezed”. Like Danneskjold, Hagbard participates in the black market, exploiting and resisting governments, and both characters have Norwegian roots.

          • albatross11 says:

            The biggest unbelievable aspect of _Atlas Shrugged_ is that all the smart, productive people share the same tastes in art, music, philosophy, literature, religion, politics, etc. In our world, smart productive people disagree on all that stuff *all the time*.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’ve said this before, but the first third-to-half of Atlas Shrugged is a much better story than the whole thing, because up to that point it’s a book about flawed but basically likeable characters building something great in the face of adversity, and after that point the adversity wins and it becomes a book about Ayn Rand’s flawless Mary Sue waifu saying “fuck everything, burn it all down” and everyone else cheering him on.

          • Matt M says:

            The biggest unbelievable aspect of _Atlas Shrugged_ is that all the smart, productive people share the same tastes in art, music, philosophy, literature, religion, politics, etc. In our world, smart productive people disagree on all that stuff *all the time*.

            Didn’t Ayn Rand famously drum people out of her movement if they didn’t like the same composers she did?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I didn’t mind Atlas Shrugged, except for that god-awful John Galt speech. Did anyone read that entire thing?

            I also was not a huge fan of the Galt’s Gulch Groupies launching a JSOC mission to rescue John Galt, or when one of the “heroes” executes a man because he does not want to make a decision.

            Ahhhh, also at the beginning of the book, where there is a broken train signal. It flashes that it is not safe to advance. The engineer knows it is safe to advance, but does not want to disobey the signal, for obvious reasons. The owner of the railroad orders him to advance, and mentally rebukes the engineer for not advancing when the signal is broken.

            Like, if we’re just going to ignore the signals, why bother even maintaining the signals?

          • quaelegit says:

            I only read the first quarter of Atlas Shrugged before I had to return my roommate’s copy but I’m intending to finish it.

            Dagny Taggart reads to me like a weird robot, and everyone else was just intensely frustrating.

            To me it felt like the rules of the world were “there are a few special perfect people and everyone else is weak, stupid, and can’t be arsed to do anything unless it would slightly hinder the perfect people.”

            I found that once I decided to accept that as a premise, the world and story were actually pretty interesting.

            And it’s not like Atlas Shrugged is the only book out there with highly unrealistic social dynamics (I like the comparison to superheros in this thread 😛 )

            But somehow the unrealism bothered me more than in other stories (well I haven’t read/watched much superhero stuff besides Watchmen).

            That said I do intend to finish it, so we’ll see!

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            The incident with the signal was based on Charles Minot’s invention of the train order. ADBG is right, Rand’s version really doesn’t come off.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I found that every time I’d think Rand’s villains were unbelievable, I’d run across someone talking exactly like one of them.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            A lot of Rearden’s character earlier in the book can be explained by his being lower class and having an emotionally abusive mother.

            He can’t see that there’s something wrong with Lillian because he doesn’t believe he deserves anything better.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            In re whether Rand resembled one of her own heroes: She wrote novels in a language that wasn’t her first language. Two of them were best-sellers. They had political and cultural influence. This is pretty impressive.

            Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to have taken Atlas Shrugged in the opposite sense to how it was intended. She thought it was virtuous to make a lot of money by doing something useful. Just having a lot of money didn’t prove anything.

            I think all too many people came away with the impression that acquiring a lot of money through commerce was proof of virtue.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I think of Rand as someone who stepped outside consensus reality and found both true and false things. I have no idea whether every 18 year old should read her.

        We probably do need an ethics of doing good work even if Rand only did a partial job of it.

    • Urstoff says:

      The Critique of Pure Reason

    • SamChevre says:

      Books I read sometime between 16 and 22, that still shape my thinking. I’ll group them by how they influence my thinking.

      Books that provide useful categories:
      Leftism: from de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, available online. Has great, clear descriptions of the differences between tolerance and acceptance, between equality and identicalness, and between democracy and liberty. The second half of the book is more detailed, and may be of less interest.

      The Bell Curve. Don’t worry about whether the most controversial parts (which are in only one chapter) are true: read it for a good introduction to basic statistical reasoning, and for the concept of a valued place.

      The New Industrial State, John Kenneth Galbraith: outdated in detail, but the best book I know of for describing and demonstrating the importance of institutions (“the Technostructure”) in economic and political life.

      Books about “how we got here”

      The History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Winston Churchill. A good history of the development of the consittutional democracy with common law, which is the taken-for-granted legal system of most of the West now. Also amazingly well-written; a great illustration of the way words, done expertly, can change mood as well as convey information.

      Christianity: the first 3000 Years, Diarmaid Macculloch: didn’t read this, but wish I had. A history of Christianity that covers the Greek and Jewish roots of most core Christian beliefs.

      Books that gave me better arguments, exposure to interesting things, and so on:
      H.L. Mencken–anything you can easily find.
      Kipling: anything you can get your hands on.
      Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis: a good apologetic for Christianity.
      Simply Christian, N.T. Wright: didn’t have it then, wish I had. Another good apologetic for Christianity, with today’s details rather than WW2 era details.

      • Randy M says:

        A manager I had awhile back took the time while giving an intro to statistics class to disavow The Bell Curve after mentioning its* statistical namesake.

        *I wanted to say “eponymous” here, but that gets the referent backwards. Is there a name for the reverse relationship, where you talk of the thing something is named after?

        • Douglas Knight says:

          According to wikipedia, eponym and namesake were opposites (although now both have both meanings), but your usage is opposite to the original: the namesake is named after the eponym.

      • Well... says:

        Books about “how we got here”

        Cosmos by Carl Sagan was awesome, and a nice complement to the TV series.

      • SamChevre says:

        Thinking about it more, four more books–two of which I first read in the same time period:

        Julian Simon, The Ultimate Resource. The most optimistic book I have ever read. Probably overstates it’s case, but the case for human creativity as a central resource has stuck with me.

        Milton Friedman, Free to Choose One of the foundational books for libertarian conservatism; read it with the Galbraith book for maximum impact.

        Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions Read this in my late twenties, and would have been glad to have read it earlier. Another of the “useful taxonomies” books–the vision of the world as perfectible, versus as improvable but definitively imperfect, is a very useful taxonomy.

        And last, but most central, the King James version of the Bible. Very likely the most influential book in English: I first read it in first grade.

        • Matt M says:

          I second the Ultimate Resource. Very interesting economics book. Makes an argument that was a bit uncommon, but compelling back in the 80s, and is probably even less common but even more compelling today.

          For the Bible, I’d recommend against the KJV. It’s just such a struggle in some places. You can still get the essence of the original but follow along better with a more modern translation, such as the NIV.

          I’d also recommend Hamlet, as maybe the second most influential book (play technically) in English. If you’re not familiar with it, you’d be surprised how many common sayings/idioms originated within its text.

          • SamChevre says:

            On Bible translations–if your goal is to be familiar with the Bible stories, arguments, and random weirdness, I would definitely recommend something other than the KJV (my suggestion would be ESV); that’s what I recommend when I’m recommend Bible-as-sacred-text. But the KJV made English what it is (I’d argue the second-most-important is Cranmer’s prayerbook, not Shakespeare, but they are close), so it’s what I recommend for Bible-as-English-literature.

          • Nornagest says:

            I like the King James Bible. It’s harder to read and follow than more recent English translations, but it is such better poetry than most of them: the modal translation these days seems to favor textual correctness or vernacular comprehension over literary value, which tends to make reading it a slog.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest:I find textual correctness most important for the Epistles. While believers believe there are crucial teachings throughout, the majority is either story or poetry, both of which late modern English has decayed at. Orwell even makes a point/joke of how moderns would translate Ecclesiastes in “Politics and the English Language”!

    • zoozoc says:

      Same reply as the other book recommendations (I actually read all of these around your age).

      I heartily recommend anything by Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Most people are only familiar with Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky) and War and Peace (Tolstoy). My favorite book by Dostoevsky is actually “The Brothers Karamazov”. It can be a little slow in parts, but something I learned reading is that it is ok to skim sometimes, especially if not doing so would keep you from reading the book further.

      “War and Peace” is also a great book, but there are shorter books by Tolstoy that might be better to start with. I loved it, but I love epic, long books. Again, it can be ok to skim things. It also helps to have an external guide to all of the different Russian names since it can be confusing who is who since everyone has like 4 different names.

    • For books in the category of “educating yourself about an interesting subject by reading something you enjoy reading,” in addition to my books, which attempt that, I would also recommend:

      The Selfish Gene
      Thinking Fast and Slow
      Seeing Like a State

    • quaelegit says:

      Two nonfiction books that blew my mind as a 17 year old (close enough right? I can’t remember any similar ones from the next year…) I am not sure how much of their effect was unique to my individual interests and gaps in knowledge:

      The Evolution of Cooperation by Robert Axelrod — about the iterated prisoners dilemma, this book was my introduction to game theory. It’s concise, raises a lot of interesting points, and illustrates them through my favorite technique of historical examples (yay Christmas Truce). Might not be as mind blowing if you know more about game theory. Someone recently made a very nice game/interactive summary of the book — google “The Evolution of Trust” — but there’s a lot more exploration in the book itself ofc.

      Why Big, Fierce Animals Are Rare — a simple ecology primer that raises some points that seem so clear and obvious that I was amazed I’d never realized them before (to be fair I’ve never known much about biology). The only one I remember right now is that ecosystems with less species diversity (e.g. tundra) tend to be a lot more resilient than those with lots of species diversity (e.g. Amazon rainforest). I don’t remember the explanation well enough to give it here concisely — go read the book! 😛

      I found both of these a lot more mind-opening than Outliers and Freakonomics (thought I really enjoyed both of those), fwiw, but again not sure how much of that was due to them covering gaps in my pre-existing knowledge/exposure.

    • toastengineer says:

      No one’s gonna recommend the Sequences\Rationality from AI to Zombies?

    • Mark says:

      Look Out, Whitey! Black Power’s Gon’ Get Your Mama! by Julius Lester

      Heart of Darkness

      Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics

      That Hideous Strength

      Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton. Especially the bit about patriotism.

    • Levantine says:

      Any book recommendations for a recent 18 year old? Books about anything really, be it politics, economics, philosophy, science, fiction etc., that you would recommend reading for someone my age? Especially books about understanding the world.

      Jeff Schmidt’s Disciplined Minds covers studying in high education and how it depends on and shapes the student’s personality. While some books have one point and then repeat it on hundreds of pages, this one makes a series of such points. If you don’t mean to study institutionally any time soon, you might forward this to those who do.
      Jeff Schmidt recommends to the students a certain Prisoner of War guide. I followed his advice and found that guide underwhelming. So, I searched for other ways to learn about being a POW, and found a much better source: In the valley of the Kwai from 1963 by Ernest Gordon. This book has been published under several different titles, so, to be clear: Gordon has published only one book. It’s also one of the best books one can read.

      economics

      I’m currently reading, and I wish to have read it at 18 Yanis Varoufakis’ Foundations of Economics – A Beginner’s Companion.

      politics

      Yanis Varoufakis’ My battle with Europe’s deep establishment (2017) is the best book about European politics, and IMF, nowadays. Yes, it’s suspicious that I’m recommending two books by a single author. Suspiciously check them.

      philosophy

      Marcus Aurelius, one more seconding (1)
      Check Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing by Sören Kierkegaard, and see how it goes. If it’s difficult leave it. DON’T torture yourself over this kind of thing. (2)

      science

      If I were 18, I’d try Gian-Carlo Rota’s Introduction to Probability(*). I’d also get Poincare’s Last Essays and see how it goes, too.
      It’s better to start with what is harder, and eventually retreat to ‘humbler’ (popular) subjects.

      A negative recommendation: skip SJ Gould and Jared Diamond. They will make you learn some things correctly, and they will also make you learn some important things wrongly. What is wrongly learned is hard to unlearn.

      I can’t think of better pop science than Robert Trivers’ writings. The Logic of Lying is packed with insights that are relevant to everyday life, especially when life is dominated by hormones.

      fiction

      I second Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. … Dostoyevsky had written his novels by getting himself drunk and with a goal to write masterpieces. So, I’m interested in the inspirations he got under influence of alcohol, NOT in treating him as some kind of a wise man who knew what he was doing. Stoicism and Dostoyevsky are in mutual conflict.

      Recently I’ve started reading Dream of the Red Chamber, by recommendation from T. Greer.

      etc.

      Geoff Thompson’s The Art of Fighting without Fighting
      Spengler, for the place of man in the world: Man & Technics
      Just to get a taste of the world beyond commonly accepted notions, see
      Paul Manning’s Martin Bormann: Nazi in Exile
      Grover Furr’s Blood Lies
      John Perkins’ Psychonavigation

      (*) About learning hard science: take encouragement from what these guys had to say:
      (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRmsTkr2_Ao)

      Lastly, I’m not captivated by the idea of a young man reading many books, especially when I recall Schopenhauer’s warnings.

      “Let the content (and medium) dictate your reading style. The goal is understanding, not completion.”

      • Levantine says:

        P. S. Speaking of science books relevant in everyday life, one has to mention
        (i) Robert Sapolsky’s Behave: probably the most highly regarded book of that character. I just never read it because circumstances (I already know half of what it says).
        (ii) Eric Berne’s The Games People Play is popular for many decades, and is exactly about what its title says. It uses some jargon words that can be learned easily and accepted cheek-in-tongue. The point of the book is elsewhere: in worldly knowledge.

    • rahien.din says:

      Anything on Stoicism. This philosophy has had quite a revival in the past decade and there are a ton of books about it. A great general-purpose approach to life.

      How to Lie With Statistics (pdf) Great addition to your bullshit detector.

      Otherwise : as a young person you should seek out intellectual counterweights, to start to balance the forces governing your mental life.

  18. Well... says:

    It seems like most white people’s expressed preference for racial diversity is greater than their revealed preference for it. (If you disagree, please explain.)

    I am the opposite: I don’t value racial diversity much in my ideas/words and if I’m comfortable with who I’m talking to I’ll sometimes even defend racial homogeneity, but I voluntarily have lots of racial diversity in my life anyway (via marriage and friends). It feels like this reversal is exceptionally rare and unusual, but is it?

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think you’re just noticing the noisy ones. People who care about racial diversity and actually have it in their life probably don’t need to talk about it much. People who don’t care about it don’t need to talk about it much whether they have it or not. Those who don’t have it and talk about it may have an expressed preference that isn’t matching their situation not because they don’t have the preference, but because the preference isn’t their number one priority. For instance, the area of suburban PA I used to live in had very few blacks and hispanics in areas an upper-middle-class person would want to live in. On another forum I frequent, it’s often remarked that it’s hard to get racial diversity (not counting Asians) and the best school districts.

      • JulieK says:

        That was my thought as well. White people’s expressed preference for racial diversity probably correlates with socioeconomic status. Preference for socioeconomic homogeneity takes priority over their genuine preference for racial diversity.

        • Well... says:

          But the way they talk about racial diversity makes it sound like a top priority. They don’t dedicate nearly as much time (if any) to defending socioeconomic homogeneity. That goes right along with what I said originally.

          • They don’t dedicate nearly as much time (if any) to defending socioeconomic homogeneity.

            That’s probably because they don’t value socioeconomic homogeneity as such. Rather, they value each of the specific things that happen when upper-middle-class people cluster together. Homogenous affluent suburbs have low crime, well-funded schools, ample recreational facilities, well-maintained infrastructure, high aesthetic standards, and so on.

          • Well... says:

            I know an older white couple who moved to a low-crime rural setting near a small, very left-wing liberal arts college. They were driving me around and showing me the area, lauding everything about it, but threw in something to the effect of “the one drawback is it’s very white.”

            I think those sorts of white people might acknowledge the discrepancy between their expressed and revealed preferences for racial diversity, but would explain it away rather than admitting that racial diversity simply isn’t as important to them as the mix of those other things you mentioned.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Where did they move from?

            This seems like the sort of 97% white Vermont-style anti-racist. “How could anyone possibly be racist? Darryl in Accounting is black, and he’s wonderful!”

          • Well... says:

            They moved from a pretty racially- and religiously-diverse suburb. Their particular pocket of it was very nice and still very diverse, but not very nice parts were adjacent, and it was a suburb of a somewhat big Midwestern city and they both had ample exposure to the, uh, crime-ier sides of diversity.

          • Matt M says:

            This seems like the sort of 97% white Vermont-style anti-racist. “How could anyone possibly be racist? Darryl in Accounting is black, and he’s wonderful!”

            I grew up in a 95% white college town in Oregon. The joke was something like “These progressives can’t wait for a black person to move in just to tell them how welcome and accepting they are”

            The joke for if you actually met a black person was, “So, do you play for the basketball team or the football team?”

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Matt M: Nice. Was this Eugene or a smaller town?

          • Matt M says:

            I’d rather not give it away.

    • Dry Raven says:

      Derbyshire noted this as well somewhere, mentioning how race realist types (not saying you are one) are much more likely to have married out of their race. He framed it as them being somewhat low-status, the kind of folks who wouldn’t have their vanity offended of controversial low status ideas (like white racial homogeneity being a good in any situation). In general, it implicitly low status for a white person to marry outside of the race, I’m sure there there is a similar affect for who you associate yourself with. Another data point- I’ve made the same observation at many different times in my life, and while I’m not always on the side of racial homogeneity, I am the kind of person who really does take it very seriously as an idea, and also have a massively disproportional personal life of romance and association with people not just out-of-race, but in particular out-of-country.

      • Well... says:

        OK, let’s get more granular then:

        As a white American I think you get more racial diversity points for having a spouse/friends who are black American than some kind of nonwhite+foreign. (And if I had to create some kind of hierarchy there, I’d say in order from least- to most- racial diversity points it goes: European (e.g. nonwhites who grew up in Europe), Indian, Arab/Middle Eastern/North African, East Asian, SE Asian/Polynesian/Aboriginal, South/Central American, East/Sub-Saharan African. Then in terms of nonwhites from the USA, it follows a similar order, just put “American” after each. American Indian comes before black American but after Americans from South/Central America.)

        Foreigners are viewed as somewhat exotic, and being married to/friends with them means (at least in the logic of racial diversity) that you’re at least somewhat worldly and probably listen to BBC news on NPR. Also, the foreigners most Americans are likely to get to know well are the ones who come here for college, and therefore are likely already from elite socioeconomic strata in their own countries.

        So the Derb gets more racial diversity points than a white Cultural Marxist who’s married to another white person, but he only gets a few measly points for having a Chinese wife. Jeb Bush has more points because he married a Mexican. Charles Murray has more than Derb and might have slightly fewer or slightly more than Jeb because he married a Hawaiian with one hand. And I have more than all of them combined.

        I am probably more of a “race realist” than Jeb Bush, but I’m definitely less of a race provocateur than the Derb (and he’s way more reasonable on race than most of the all-trite).

        • The Nybbler says:

          And I have more than both of them combined.

          If we’re talking about SJ points, you have to include politics. I don’t know Brad Torgersen’s view on race relations in general, but regardless he gets zero points for being married to a black woman because he’s a Sad Puppy leader. In general I think paying attention to people who, if you have the right politics, then judge you by the color of your spouse, is probably a bad idea.

          • Well... says:

            I was purely counting points for the racial diversity of one’s spouse and friends. (I threw in Murray’s wife’s one-handedness as more of a joke.)

            I don’t know Brad Torgersen but how about Bill De Blasio? Should he have just as many racial diversity points as me?! Absolutely not! This means I have to get even more granular, this time including political views:

            There is an inverse correlation between your racial diversity points and the amount of political attitudes/ideas you share in common with your black wife.

            Now, I think De Blasio and his wife are both pretty far left. I’m not sure which of them is farther left, but I’d bet they’re pretty close.

            My wife is basically center-left, and I’m kind of all over the place (mostly because of high epistemic uncertainty on economic and foreign policy issues) but I average out somewhere firmly on the right.

            I’d bet this pattern holds for my black friends vs. Bill De Blasio’s black friends.

            So based on this careful and scientifically sound analysis, I clearly get more racial diversity points than Bill De Blasio.

          • Randy M says:

            We need to know whether it’s a right or left hand to count it now, don’t we?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      My best guess is that it comes down to what sort of diversity it is.

      I really like diversity in the sense that I can work alongside scientists from all over the world. The fact that one was raised in Sichuan, another in southern India, a third in Israel means that people always have interesting things to say. Not to mention that casting a wide net means that you can pull in the best of the best from a population of seven billion.

      My friend group and dating history are also diverse in that sense and for the same reasons.

      But I’m less a fan of the kind of diversity where I needed to watch my back every time I walked around my old neighborhood after sunset, or where my city has a bombing or truck attack every few weeks. That kind of diversity and its many champions can go straight to hell.

      My ideal would be to have a diverse selection of friendly peers but my country’s political establishment is determined to give me a diverse selection of murderous losers. So I’m politically opposed to diversity despite enjoying it personally.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        This is how I see it. Diverse people can be good, but what the Western ruling class cares most about is more Muslims. They can go to Hell.

        • Brad says:

          > but what the Western ruling class cares most about is more Muslims

          That’s a bizarre conclusion to draw.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Well, the WEIRD West includes the EU, US, Canada and Australia. There’s also a less educated, poorer West (Latin America & the Philippines), whose ruling class I’m not talking about.
            In the US, the biggest immigration-diversity issue is Latinos, our fellow Westerners, jumping the southern land border and not speaking English. But in the EU and Australia, the poorer brown people just beyond the border are Muslims. The unelected creme de la creme of the European ruling class is now suing Poland, Hungary and Czechia because their elected governments are refusing to absorb Muslim “refugees”, “asylum seekers” or whatever you call them to avoid saying “Muslims”. Does this EVER happen when the foreigners belong to any other religion?
            Meanwhile as treasonous ISIS fighters return to their countries of citizenship from Iraq & Syria, elected Leftist rulers like Justin Trudeau of Canada want to “reintegrate” them to spread Islam again rather than putting them in jail for life for treason for want of a death penalty to apply. Can you imagine citizens or permanent residents who took up arms against their countrymen for a cause the Left DOESN’T like getting away unpunished?

          • rlms says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Can you imagine citizens or permanent residents who took up arms against their countrymen for a cause the Left DOESN’T like getting away unpunished?

            Certainly I can!

            Does this EVER happen when the foreigners belong to any other religion?

            I genuinely can’t tell what your thought process is here. My best guess is that you think religion is the obviously most relevant factor because the only other example of refugees you are considering is Jews fleeing the Nazis. But that doesn’t really work, because although they are sometimes referred to as Jews (that being the reason for their persecution), I don’t think any non-Literal-Nazis object to calling them refugees.

            Yes, of course people fleeing war in Syria and Iraq are called refugees and asylum seekers. The majority of those specifically are Muslim (but that’s not true for e.g. Eritreans), but certainly not all are. In any case, I don’t see why that’s relevant: they aren’t being persecuted for being Muslim. If anything, it’s the opposite. I expect a disproportionately large number of Syrian refugees (i.e. >10%) are Christian, since they face disproportionate persecution.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Certainly I can!

            I think it was pretty clear that LMC was talking about the situation now, not the situation eighty years ago.

            Yes, of course people fleeing war in Syria and Iraq are called refugees and asylum seekers. The majority of those specifically are Muslim (but that’s not true for e.g. Eritreans), but certainly not all are. In any case, I don’t see why that’s relevant: they aren’t being persecuted for being Muslim. If anything, it’s the opposite. I expect a disproportionately large number of Syrian refugees (i.e. >10%) are Christian, since they face disproportionate persecution.

            Most of the refugees (or “refugees”) currently entering Europe aren’t actually fleeing the war in Syria or Iraq.

            I genuinely can’t tell what your thought process is here. My best guess is that you think religion is the obviously most relevant factor because the only other example of refugees you are considering is Jews fleeing the Nazis.

            Religion is the most relevant factor because Western governments don’t give a shit about persecution when it’s Christians being persecuted. How many Western governments, for example, did anything to stop ISIS before vs. after they started killing Yazidis?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @rlms: I didn’t know that pro-Franco foreign volunteers fought their countrymen in the Leftist International Brigades and got away with it. That’s still an 80-year-old example, though.

            I genuinely can’t tell what your thought process is here. My best guess is that you think religion is the obviously most relevant factor because the only other example of refugees you are considering is Jews fleeing the Nazis.

            No, I think religion is the obviously most relevant factor because they’re emigrating because of a jihad yet perversely still practice the religion of jihad in their host countries.
            Most voters across the EU want a Muslim immigration ban, but AFAIK only in Poland, Hungary and Czechia have they democratically elected ruling Parties that share this value. The unelected Rulers in the EU bureaucracy/judiciary are now using their unaccountable power to punish them for getting what European voters most everywhere (apparently not Spain and the UK) want.
            If the Rulers really cared about refugees qua refugees, they’d be prioritizing religious minorities who deserve death under sharia, followed by Christians and Jews.
            What’s really happening? In my country, the US, the Syrian “refugee” problem was used an excuse to bring in Muslims, such that two years ago the number was 53 Christians and 10 other non-Muslims. This wasn’t directly President Obama’s fault: USG was relying on the UN, which is so grievously biased in favor of Muslims that militants were entering the UN refugee camps to assassinate infidels.

          • rlms says:

            @The Original Mr. X
            I don’t think that’s clear at all. But I’ll grant it for the sake of argument. Since “the Left” apparently sympathises with ISIS, maybe the Western volunteers who have taken arms up against ISIS provide another example. Wait, they seem to have names like “The Queer Insurrection and Liberation Army”, so possibly they fail the “cause the Left” supports part. Yet they are fighting against “the Left”‘s bosom buddies ISIS; this is very mysterious.

            Most of the refugees (or “refugees”) currently entering Europe aren’t actually fleeing the war in Syria or Iraq.

            Source?

            How many Western governments, for example, did anything to stop ISIS before vs. after they started killing Yazidis?

            Are you saying that the victims of ISIS were largely Christian until they started persecuting Yazidis? You are aware that there are a lot of Muslims in Syria and Iraq, right?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            rlms, have you attempted to find numbers for the % of Syrian refugees who are Christian?

            This says 1-2% in UK. But the UK is very different from continental Europe. The UK is probably taking refugees from camps, where have few Christians because of persecution. Many sources claim 55k (40k*4/3) Christian refugees in Germany, but they all seem to be citing this, which doesn’t seem to have such numbers. It does claim that only 5% of Christian refugees are Syrian. It also claims that 86% of Christian refugees are recent converts, which confuses me.

          • Randy M says:

            Since it seems the Syrian civil war is winding down, have European officials begun the process of helping the refugees admitted in the last few years that came to escape the war find their way back to rebuild their homelands?

          • rlms says:

            @Le Maistre Chat
            Addressing your points in reverse order:
            I agree that if the US/UN want to treat refugees fairly, then that National Review article implies they should focus more on minority groups. But they presumably also want to be effective (help as many people as possible). If they were purely optimising for fairness, they’d carefully calculate the need (and possibly worthiness) of each refugee, but then only have the resources to admit a handful. It looks like currently they’re pretty far to the effectiveness side. It’s reasonable to think they should focus more on fairness — I’d probably agree — but the fact that they don’t doesn’t imply nefarious motives.

            Governments or the EU not following their voters’ wishes is a separate issue. I think that sometimes overriding voters’ wishes is good, sometimes it’s bad. It’s difficult to say which category this falls into: a blanket ban on Muslim/Muslim majority immigration is obviously stupid, but regardless of my opinions on the direct harms of accepting migrants it is possible that drastically reducing numbers might be necessary in some countries to keep voters happy. I’m somewhat skeptical about that article, since a figure of 47% of UK citizens supporting a Muslim ban matches neither my experience, the voting record, or the 28% of people having an unfavourable view of Muslims. But in any case, I don’t really see the relevance of this. The Britons who don’t want Muslim immigrants don’t want (Christian) Poles either.

            No, I think religion is the obviously most relevant factor because they’re emigrating because of a jihad yet perversely still practice the religion of jihad in their host countries.

            This is the same boring stupidity as Dawkensian “abortion clinic shooters are Christian and so is Mother Theresa, so she’s terrible too” (I mean, she apparently is, but not for that reason). People who shoot up abortion clinics are bad. But very few Christians do that! Especially not Christians who have been shot at for running abortion clinics!

          • Brad says:

            Your follow up isn’t helping. The basic problem is that you are assuming everyone else shares your obsession, they just disagree with you on how to relate to it. But it is the initial assumption is where you are so very wrong and leads to bizarre statements like “but what the Western ruling class cares most about is more Muslims”.

            I think in the local jargon it is called typical minding.

          • John Schilling says:

            Since “the Left” apparently sympathizes with ISIS

            Citation needed.

            “The Left” sympathizes with peaceful Muslims. Peaceful Muslims get beat up on by the Lesser Satan, aka the religious fanatics of ISIS, for not joining ISIS. Peaceful Muslims get beat up on by the Greater Satan, aka the religious fanatics of “The Right”, for having the same religion as ISIS. These are actually good reasons to sympathize with someone, but more importantly they are very appealingly sympathetic to “The Left”.

            “The Left” may also do a poor job of distinguishing between peaceful Muslims and ISIS, but that’s a separate matter. And not unique to “The Left”; their default assumption that any Muslim under consideration should be presumed peaceful and non-ISIS is far closer to the truth than “The Right”‘s default assumption that they should be presumed an ISIS militant.

          • rlms says:

            @Douglas Knight
            This article has some relevant figures. Firstly, apparently Syria likely has fewer Christians than I thought (the CIA world factbook claims 10% rather than 5%). Secondly, while there are disproportionately few Syrian Christian refugees, there are disproportionately more (by a larger factor) Iraqi Christian refugees. Various theories are suggested to explain this, all of which seem fairly plausible.

            @Randy M
            I don’t know, have the Jews been sent back to Germany yet? Since that war finished over half a century ago, whereas the Syrian one is due to hopefully finish at some point soon, it seems like it should be more of a priority.

            @John Schilling
            I’m paraphrasing Le Maistre Chat’s “Meanwhile as treasonous ISIS fighters return to their countries of citizenship from Iraq & Syria… Can you imagine citizens or permanent residents who took up arms against their countrymen for a cause the Left DOESN’T like getting away unpunished?”. Personally, I don’t think “the Left” sympathises with ISIS, as I said I expect their sympathies lie more with groups like the Marksist-Leninist Komünist Partisi who are fighting them.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I don’t know, have the Jews been sent back to Germany yet? Since that war finished over half a century ago, whereas the Syrian one is due to hopefully finish at some point soon, it seems like it should be more of a priority.

            (in lieu of a direct source ’cause I’m a pleb) MartyrMade podcast has a pretty good series on Israel-Palestine that touches on how the 40s-era Zionists sublimated a sizeable chunk of the refugee restoration effort into helping get the Jews to Israel instead of back to Germany (and Poland, Russia, France, Netherlands, etc etc etc).

            Also most of the people directly-affected by WWII are dead by now. Their children’s children don’t have homes in Germany (etc) to return to. Syrian refugees do, though it will generally require a fair bit of rebuilding so some sort of Marshall Plan analogue is in order.

          • Matt M says:

            I think someone else pointed out that if the true goal of these “refugees” was to temporarily escape conflict, then return home, it would make the most sense for them to stay in Turkey, or some other nearby Muslim-majority nation. Or at the very least, to stay in the closest European countries they could find (Greece, Italy, wherever).

            But the fact that so many of them wanted to go to places like Sweden and the UK suggests that returning home was never a consideration at all, and/or that the armed conflict was nothing more than a convenient excuse to get away.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @rlms:

            Source?

            Here you go. Unfortunately there isn’t a single “money quote” I can give, but the article makes it pretty clear that the majority of refugees were from countries other than Syria or Iraq.

            This is the same boring stupidity as Dawkensian “abortion clinic shooters are Christian and so is Mother Theresa, so she’s terrible too” (I mean, she apparently is, but not for that reason). People who shoot up abortion clinics are bad. But very few Christians do that! Especially not Christians who have been shot at for running abortion clinics!

            The difference is that many of the migrants do in fact hold to a religion much more similar to that of ISIS than to that of Mother Theresa. Hence the diversity bollards and armed police springing up around European cities.

            Governments or the EU not following their voters’ wishes is a separate issue. I think that sometimes overriding voters’ wishes is good, sometimes it’s bad. It’s difficult to say which category this falls into: a blanket ban on Muslim/Muslim majority immigration is obviously stupid, but regardless of my opinions on the direct harms of accepting migrants it is possible that drastically reducing numbers might be necessary in some countries to keep voters happy.

            Yes, it really is difficult to say whether or not voters are reasonable in wanting to be able to walk around their own cities without risking getting blown up, stabbed, shot at or run over.

            @ Douglas:

            But the UK is very different from continental Europe. The UK is probably taking refugees from camps, where have few Christians because of persecution.

            Indeed, although oddly, it seems that nobody here wants to deal with the implications of getting all our refugees from places where religious minorities are too scared to enter for fear of persecution.

          • Anonymous says:

            @The original Mr. X

            Yes, it really is difficult to say whether or not voters are reasonable in wanting to be able to walk around their own cities without risking getting blown up, stabbed, shot at or run over.

            FWIW, the low-grade crime, welfare fraud, demographic change and loss of social trust is the major problem with Muslim immigration, not terrorism itself. Terrorism is an insult to go with the injury.

          • rlms says:

            @The original Mr. X

            Here you go. Unfortunately there isn’t a single “money quote” I can give, but the article makes it pretty clear that the majority of refugees were from countries other than Syria or Iraq.

            That’s not the impression I got. As you say, there are no clear statements about the demographics of all migrants, but from e.g. “According to UNHCR, the top ten nationalities of Mediterranean Sea arrivals in 2015 were Syria (49%), Afghanistan (21%), Iraq (8%)…” it seems like a slim majority of migrants are Syrian/Iraqi. But anyway, it wasn’t my intention to imply that the overwhelming majority (or even that *a* majority) of migrants are Syrian/Iraqi; I mentioned Eritrea as well. My original point was that even though a large number of migrants are Syrian/Iraqi refugees (and therefore mostly Muslim), they are certainly not all Muslims. If Syrian/Iraqi refugees are only say 20% of the total and there are actually more from e.g. Eritrea and South Sudan than I thought, that strengthens my point.

            The difference is that many of the migrants do in fact hold to a religion much more similar to that of ISIS than to that of Mother Theresa. Hence the diversity bollards and armed police springing up around European cities.

            I’m not comparing Islam to Mother Theresa’s religion, I’m comparing abortion clinic shooters’. If you want to do a detailed analysis of the theological differences in each case, I’m all ears. But if not you should probably avoid evidenceless assertions.

            I’m sorry, but being triggered by bollards is not a compelling argument. If you’re concerned about police with guns, you should probably stay away from the US.

            If terrorism is actually a terrible problem, give me a graph showing how deaths from it compare to those from other causes. If you can’t do that, focusing on how scary methods of prevention are is just scaremongering.

            Yes, it really is difficult to say whether or not voters are reasonable in wanting to be able to walk around their own cities without risking getting blown up, stabbed, shot at or run over.

            The proposed plan isn’t pressing a magical button that will prevent terrorism forever with no downsides. Instead, as far as I can tell, it’s banning Muslim immigration. That would obviously at the very least have huge downsides for the immigrants affected, and — given that very few recent terrorist attacks were committed by recent immigrants — probably have very little effect on the rate of terrorism. The situation isn’t like the 1970s/1980s, where a similar policy in the UK with respect to Ireland probably would have reduced the frequency of terrorist attacks (which incidentally was a fair bit higher than the current one).

          • Mark says:

            I don’t think it’s necessary to have immigration to every country on humanitarian grounds.

            Germany likes Islamic immigration, Poland doesn’t. Let Germany become a majority Muslim country, the rest of the world can see how it works out. There is absolutely no humanitarian or practical reason to insist that every developed country follows the same policy.

            I don’t think the leaders care most about Muslims. It doesn’t seem to matter to them, except to the extent that for ageing western wool-heads, Christianity sounds “bad” and anything not Christian sounds “good”.

            It really is hard to tell where the liberal agenda of big money ends, and the wooly headed left liberalism begins. But the end result is that they want open borders.

          • Matt M says:

            Germany likes Islamic immigration, Poland doesn’t. Let Germany become a majority Muslim country, the rest of the world can see how it works out. There is absolutely no humanitarian or practical reason to insist that every developed country follows the same policy.

            Right. It’s interesting to watch the ruling class of France and Germany attempt to reconcile “Diversity is our strength!” with “These other nations must be forced to share in this burden!”

            Are the refugees a benefit or a burden? If a benefit, you should be happy that you are getting so many, while your foolhardy neighbors are refusing this boon. If a burden, then it’s entirely reasonable for your populace to say “Maybe we should be doing less of this” and demand greater restrictions.

          • Anonymous says:

            @rlms
            @The original Mr. X

            Are those 49% Syrians actually verified to be actual Syrians, rather than middle-eastern-looking people with a conspicuous overabundance birth dates like 01-01-01 as gathered from their totally legit passports?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I’m sorry, but being triggered by bollards is not a compelling argument. If you’re concerned about police with guns, you should probably stay away from the US.

            If terrorism is actually a terrible problem, give me a graph showing how deaths from it compare to those from other causes. If you can’t do that, focusing on how scary methods of prevention are is just scaremongering.

            So social capital is now so low that governments feel the need to implement measures to stop one section of the populace murdering another, and your only response is to make a smug comment about “being triggered by bollards”? Pathetic. Anyway, since you’re clearly more interested in scoring points than in actual debate, that’s it from me.

          • Brad says:

            That last dig with the flounce is kind of your thing, inn’t?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            That last dig with the flounce is kind of your thing, inn’t?

            I’ve made a resolution not to argue with trolls.

          • Brad says:

            “You are a troll and I’m done with you” is still arguing. It’s just being obnoxious about it. If you want to stop posting in a particular subthread the way to do that is to stop posting in a particular subthread.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Brad

            “You are a troll and I’m done with you” is still arguing.

            No, it’s not.

            It’s just being obnoxious about it.

            Pot, meet kettle.

    • Odovacer says:

      Tangentially, there are some on the left who have very superficial views on diversity/multiculturalism. To them it generally means people with different skin colors, exciting clothing, delicious foods, and who celebrate interesting and meaningful* holidays. Despite all those differences, these people believe that all cultures (with the exception of the red tribe) are all really the same underneath, i.e. liberal and secularlish in a western way. That is, they don’t take religion seriously nor do they believe that cultures can be very different in terms of values and societal structure. It’s very naive.

      *meaningful in a spiritual, but not religious way

    • zz says:

      Take a conjecture I’ve had bouncing around in the back of my head for a while.

      I hail from a fairly left-leaning area (Clinton took my county by double-digit points). I play pickup ultimate in a city that’s slightly blacker than the national average and the organizing board puts a lot of effort into getting more women to play. In 5+ years playing with this group, we have had precisely one black person play, and maybe 1/15 of our players are women.

      Later, I spent several months in a religiousy-rightish college town (which went for Clinton by between 1 and 2 points). I played pickup with a group that had evolved been intelligently designed from a bible study group. One-third the base rate of blacks and, while there was some sort of acceptance of liberal/feminist/humanist-ish* ideals, I doubt anyone there identified as feminist such that there was absolutely no special effort to get women to come out. Since we organized games through Facebook, I know that several of our members posted nonironically about Answers in Genesis. We had a prayer circle before we started each day’s games. Despite this, we had higher black turnout (one regular; salt accordingly) and much higher female turnout.

      So, the conjecture: it was the prayer circle.

      That is: if your group underrepresents some demographic, and you talk nonstop about how that demographic is underrepresented, you’re basically forcing ingroup/outgroup lines along that dimension, so the underrepresented feel like they’re outgroups. But if you draw your ingroup/outgroup lines along the “did they hold hands and listen while our leader prayed to Jesus”… that may very well be more inclusive, at least in the short-term.

      Relatedly, I’ve become quite adept at being unfazed by politics, but the one exception when my lefty friends treat anyone right of Bernie Sanders as automatically a *ist, greedy, hates the poor, etc asshole. These were good people and my friends and somehow managed to be significantly more successful in the dimensions you (claim to) care about. The lefty friends go on and on about hate speech, but portion of the religious right I met never had any mean word to say about anyone or anything; the only hate speech I heard was directed at them. Best analogue I’ve seen is that one scene with Ainsley Hayes.

      *Our group was organized by a female engineering PhD student, who was one of the ones posting unironically about Answers in Genesis and would invite us to her church’s events and near as I could tell, nobody else seemed to notice they were being lead by a woman. Contrast to summer league back home, which was mixed and had captains who were less likely than chance to be women.

  19. INH5 says:

    Why are more than 60% of accountants and auditors female? This doesn’t seem to fit with any of the popular theories put forward to explain occupational gender ratios.

    Men having a greater affinity for systemizing/technical work while women have a greater affinity for empathizing/social work? Unless I’m seriously mistaken about the duties of an accounting job, I would place it on the far “technical” end of the technical/social spectrum, right around other office-based technical jobs like computer programming.

    Men having a greater desire for money and status? Accounting pays quite well, with a median annual salary around $67,000, and the upper levels of the field are very high-status.

    Cultural archetypes/role models? This seems unlikely. Granted, I don’t watch a lot of TV nowadays, but it seems like the stereotypical accountant is still a nerdy man, even though that stereotype apparently hasn’t been accurate for decades. The only prominent exception I can think of is Skylar White from Breaking Bad, but accounting was majority-female before that show started airing.

    Women having a greater desire for flexible hours and work/life balance? Maybe. It is entirely possible that the average accounting firm has better policies in this area than the average tech company, but I can’t think of any intrinsic reasons to expect that to be the case. Ditto for cultural fit, harassment, and similar issues.

    Does anyone have any ideas? Because I’m honestly stumped.

    • Nornagest says:

      Accountant isn’t a people job, but it’s seen as a very boring and stable one.

    • dndnrsn says:

      While that article doesn’t say anything about the relative seniority of female and male accountants, it does note that there’s a pay gap, with men making more. That might indicate that women are more likely to be more junior accountants. Is 60% women that unusual for lower-ranking white collar jobs? It might not be anything to do with accounting in particular.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Bookkeeping has long been a female-dominated position. I suspect it’s been pretty natural as occupational gender barriers have relaxed for many of those who had been or would have been in “Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks” (as BLS puts it) to go into the higher-level positions of accounting and auditing instead.

      • Matt M says:

        I’m leaning towards something like this. I’d suggest that “accounting” as such is not nearly as technical as people might think, and that entry/low level accounting positions today are closer to being administrative than technical in nature. I once had a job as an “accounting technician” at a university – our office consisted of two men and five women. The job was very people-oriented. Some basic math skills were required, but the software did most of the heavy lifting. Most of what I did was call people up and have them explain their weird receipts for accounts payable, or talk to vendors to reconcile things, or review expenses that were submitted, etc.

        I’d guess that once you move up the pyramid, to like “partners of big four audit firms” you get a much more typical male-dominant structure. But that base of the accounting pyramid looks more like secretarial work than it does like wall street wizardry.

        • INH5 says:

          The job was very people-oriented. Some basic math skills were required, but the software did most of the heavy lifting. Most of what I did was call people up and have them explain their weird receipts for accounts payable, or talk to vendors to reconcile things, or review expenses that were submitted, etc.

          That actually doesn’t sound particularly people-oriented at all to me. Sure, you’re talking to people, but you’re talking to them about technical things and working with them to get numbers to add up properly. That’s almost the exact definition of “systemizing” used by Baron Cohen et al.

          Furthermore, couldn’t you say similar things about just about any office job? Even things like programming and engineering involve similar duties: talking to customers and supervisors about production/design goals, reviewing bug/problem reports, going to meetings to discuss various things related to your work, and so on. At this point, I’m starting to wonder if there is any job that requires talking to people ever that can’t be retroactively argued to actually be people-oriented if it turns out to be popular among women.

    • Anonymous says:

      Women are more deontological than men are (anyone have the source? I’ve heard it repeated around here more than once), which might be helpful in a profession that consists of following rules to the letter. Women (under 60) are also more orderly, which seems like a no-brainer in accounting.

      Accounting is a job without physical requirements other than general able-bodiedness (of the upper body, at least), which helps any interested woman get in.

      Additionally “60/40” isn’t a big skew. Look at, say, miners and nurses.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      “Women having a greater desire for flexible hours and work/life balance?”

      I always thought that’s it. Easy to go part-time, low stress, flexible hours.

      In fact I think that accounting jobs fit the needs of women with a family so perfectly, that they basically drove most of the men in the sector out by wage dumping.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I think accounting is a lot less technical than people suspect. There’s a whole gamut of different functions, ranging from clerical to VP-level decision-making, and most tend to be clustered around the “clerical” level, particularly for less computer-oriented operations. Like, if someone is submitting an invoice, and you need to verify the invoice is right? That’s Accounting (specifically Accounts Payable). It’s also not rocket science.

      Same thing for what I do, which is essentially keeping the books straight so we know who has paid their bills or not. It’s why both the functions I described are increasingly outsourced to India the Philippines/Costa Rica (always gotta go after the cheapest labor!).

      Not sure if you looked into my AR series at all, but a good 1/3 of my job is just applying cash to the correct charges. It’s not only not technical, it’s so mind-numbingly simple I want to claw my eyes out.

      There are more technically inclined fields in business….specifically Management Information Systems (IT for business!), Finance, Actuary Sciences…the latter two involve a lot of math. The first exam for an actuarial license is probability theory, all of which is vastly more complex than anything you’ll encounter in Accounting. Finance has extremely complicated models, because Finance is all about “how much do I pay for this asset?” Accounting is more “do I put the revenue from this asset into column A or column B?”

      The above majors I just mentioned are all male-biased. You can look at the 2014-2015 numbers here:
      https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d16/tables/dt16_318.30.asp
      The above programs are skewed 65+% male, vs. parity for Accounting.

      The pay gap in Accounting, highlighted on your link, also suggests that women in Accounting are more at the clerical level, and less at the senior level.

      I’d also add that parity in Accounting means an over-representation of men. Women earn 57-58% of all bachelor degrees. A 7 point swing towards men is pretty big…like, if we had a field that was 64% female, we’d consider it biased towards women, even given the ratios present in college.

      Also, while I would not describe Accounting as “people field” (compare to medicine or education), it does NOT fit the archetype of the lonely person sitting in the office all by themselves for hours and hours. There’s no Mark Zuckerberg “wired in” to spreadsheets and books for 10 hours straight. Even if you are auditing, you’re talking to a lot of people to figure out what’s wrong with the books.

    • phisheep says:

      Women having a greater desire for flexible hours and work/life balance? Maybe. It is entirely possible that the average accounting firm has better policies in this area than the average tech company, but I can’t think of any intrinsic reasons to expect that to be the case. Ditto for cultural fit, harassment, and similar issues.

      I suspect it is about location.

      A lot of accountancy – and pretty well all small-business accountancy – is still locally-based. For example, in my small town in the UK there are about 2000 small businesses and 20 accounting firms. That on its own makes the job more family-friendly. Couple that with the fact that accounting deadlines are visible a long way off and can be planned around, and you’ve got a job that is tailor made for women with families.

      It is similar to the way IT was in the 1970s before networks were invented – IT was a local business and pretty well gender-balanced. Then came networks, and consolidation and outsourcing and long commutes, and women left the market in droves and never came back.

      It is much more to do with location than policy. Regardless of a firm’s policies you can’t respond to a school emergency if you are three hours away.

    • shakeddown says:

      the upper levels of the field are very high-status.

      Are they? Especially as commonly seen? The standard view of accounting seems to be boring, not high-status, and stable, which would put off men who want high-status/reach jobs more and are willing to accept risks for them.

      • Brad says:

        I think there’s a tendency to conflate well paid with high-status. And there is something to that — rich people are able to get the entire service sector to treat them as if they were high status whether they are or aren’t. And not just the service sector, there are people who genuinely look up to anyone that’s “made it”. But I agree with you that it isn’t the whole story.

      • Matt M says:

        Depends on how we define “the field” I guess.

        But I would think being a partner at a big-four audit firm is high-status. Not “high status” like Beyonce or Elon Musk, but you know, within the professional world, it counts for a lot.

        I might also suggest that the “top of the pyramid” for a corporate accountant might be a CFO position, which is pretty prestigious. Usually second in importance only to the CEO themself (and often with a decent shot at becoming him)

      • SamChevre says:

        I’m accounting-adjacent (an actuary with substantial valuation and reporting experience) and I’d say that the high end for accounting is very high-status, but is not much like the low end. It’s like a definition of “IT professional” that includes level 1 helpdesk employees and senior engineers at Google and Microsoft.

        The high end, for accounting, is in three areas: big four equity partners, technical accountants (some work for big four firms, some work for bodies like FASB), and company controllers. CFO is a finance position–it’s common for CFO’s to be accountants, but it’s a “fairly likely”, not a “nearly always”.

        But most accountants do routine work, as noted above.

    • I am an accountant, so I think I should weigh with my experience and thoughts.

      1) I have been in the profession almost 40 years and I have noticed it becoming more female. But even when I went to college in the ’70’s, it was maybe half and half.

      2) ADBG points out that females tend to be at a lower level clerical side. I think it is true that accounting clerks are even more female dominated than male, I have noticed recently that there are majority females on the professional level also. I think accounting clerks are much more likely to be female just for historic reasons — it simply isn’t considered very masculine to be an accounting clerk, so guys shy away from that. Yes, the highest levels are more predominantly male, but I think that is accounted for by more females younger (since not as many in profession years ago), and the higher ambitions of most men.

      3) Accounting has never been as non-social as stereotyped, but it is still a lot more technical than other office jobs. Kind of like IT actually — you have to know what you are doing, but you still have to talk to others to figure out how to do your thing.

      4) I think the reason females are attracted to accounting is for the exact same reason I was attracted to it — there are lots of jobs there. The other profession with lots of jobs is engineering, but women seemed to be repelled by engineering. Maybe because they aren’t used to working with “things,” maybe because it feels unfeminine, or maybe because they don’t think they’d fit in with such a high male majority. I guess education also has lots of jobs, but female accountants are mostly nerdish, and education does require a lot of social interaction. And education has the reputation of being for those not real smart. Accountants are a bit sharper than that.

  20. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Thing I thought as a precocious teenager: “If ‘the price of freedom is eternal vigilance’, how do we prove in a utilitarian calculus that it’s worth that possibly infinite stress?”
    Conservative realization I had later: the price of ANY norm is indefinite vigilance. No social structure is so natural as to not require vigilance.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Some systems are pretty equilibriumistic, given certain conditions. I would say that capitalism and democracy(in well established countries) aren’t really in any danger of collapsing any time soon. If they do, it will be because of a changing environment, not because of lack of vigilance.

    • beleester says:

      If freedom lasts forever, then it’s also of infinite value, so I don’t think infinity alone is a reason to dismiss it. So long as the value of freedom for time X is more than the cost of being vigilant for time X, then it’s worth it.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Right; teenage LMC was being over-clever. Once you take it out of pious cliche form, it works for freedom or anything else with a utility higher than the disutility of vigilance for time X.

  21. Egregious Philbin says:

    Is there a compendium detailing our Contemporary Understanding of Psychoanalysis?

  22. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    There’s a phenomenon that I’ve seen a lot but AFAIK doesn’t have a pithy name. The basic idea is that accusing someone of having an unsavory motive leads others to accuse you of having the same motivation.

    So if you were to say that someone who wears a baseball cap to cover up his bald spot is insecure, someone else will inevitably jump in to say that actually you’re the one who’s insecure for spending so much time thinking about what may or may not be under other men’s hats. In fact it’s perfectly normal for a middle-aged man to wear a baseball cap indoors and only a deeply insecure person like you would think that it was being worn to hide a bald spot.

    It’s a very weird yet surprisingly effective form of dismissal. I would appreciate if anyone knows or could coin a name to describe it.

    • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

      If you want to make it a bit shorter, this seems to be just “accusing someone of projecting”, no idea of a good way to verb it all the way to a single word.

      • Incurian says:

        Projection projection.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Projecting projection?

        • Incurian says:

          We should be friends.

          • Nick says:

            I ship it.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I am bad at friendship, to be honest. The big issue is that for me, out of sight is out of mind, which makes me terrible at maintenance. (I lean on my wife to remind me that people exist)

          • Randy M says:

            Yeah, I have that weakness too. Other than the wife, it’s also useful to have kids who like to skype their Grandparents so you don’t accidentally go a few months without contact.

            @Nick: Interested to see the full fan-fiction

          • Nick says:

            Randy, I’ll get right on that. 😀

            I have the same weakness. I’m often anxious that I’m bothering people or will be should I call or even text out of the blue. It’s why I like slower communication like email or services like Discord or Steam, where I can see when someone is online and not busy.

          • CatCube says:

            I do the exact same thing. If I don’t have a reason to deal with somebody for a while, I drift away.

    • Anonymous says:

      It’s like a Goebbelsian* metagame, where the rational actions of the guilty and the innocent are the same.

      Suppose you suspect that your enemies are hypocrites, and secretly doing in private what they condemn publicly. So you accuse them of actually being evil, but if they *are* secret hypocrites and have some guile in their brains, they will accuse you in turn of projecting your own moral failings onto them. But this can happen, too, if you are wrong about them being evil, but they are aware of the mechanism – the innocent but well-prepared will use the same defense.

      * The man is supposed to have said, “Accuse your enemies of which you yourself are guilty.” But the quote is probably a misattributed paraphrase.

    • Nick says:

      Nitpick, but I don’t know that this is very common—I’ve seen it from certain people years ago and not at all since. Do you hear this sort of thing from everyone, or just particular people consistently?

      Also: does anyone know a good counterstrategy? I’m tempted to respond to the insecurity example with, “No, in fact it’s perfectly normal to notice such things about people you see and interact with every day, and only a deeply insecure person like you would think I’m insecure to notice.” Bounce it back a couple of times and they’ve got to get sick of it.

    • Brad says:

      So if you were to say that someone who wears a baseball cap to cover up his bald spot is insecure

      What exactly are you hoping to accomplish here? I think maybe I’m rooting for the person with the surprisingly effective form of dismissal.

      • beleester says:

        It’s pretty innocuous when applied to bald spots, but I think in general it’s a pretty awful form of argument. It’s a souped-up form of Bulverism – it’s accusing the other person of having impure motives simply because they argued against you, and it generally involves weird mental gymnastics as you come up with a reason why looking for bald spots makes you a terrible person.

        One terrible example that I’ve actually seen is “I’m not racist for using a stereotype, you’re racist for noticing! The only reason you’d think that my comment was racist was because you associate that stereotype with black people, so that makes you the real racist.”

        • gbdub says:

          Your terrible example seems like a reasonable way to respond to a baseless accusation of dog-whistling.

          • lvlln says:

            I think I read on a comment on this blog someone write “If you can recognize a dog whistle, then you are the dog.”

            Obviously it’s not as simple as that, since, unlike the case with real dog whistles, we’re not dealing with actual biological differences in the ears which prevents members of some species from detecting sounds of frequencies that members of other species can detect (leaving aside the biological variances that do allow certain humans to actually hear frequencies that most humans can’t but most dogs can).

            But I think it’s a good heuristic, because, in my experience, people who consider themselves to be superior to the masses, especially in the realm of politics, and especially especially with respect to the thinking process of people they don’t like, are wrong almost every time. Also, there’s the fact that dog whistles are an iterated game, where the people forming dog whistles are strongly incentivized to modify their dog whistles if they get decoded by people they intend to keep in the dark.

            I’ve taken to concluding that any time I believe I’ve noticed a dog whistle that I wasn’t intended to properly decode, the proper conclusion is to believe that I’m actually practicing some form of strawmanning or projection. At least, unless there’s unambiguous evidence pointing the other direction.

          • beleester says:

            Perhaps, but it’s also a useful/terrible way to defend an actual dog-whistle, and the case I saw was pretty unambiguous. There are dog whistles you might accidentally stumble into, and then there are shibboleths which you basically never hear outside of hate groups.

            If you say “dindu nuffin,” then an argument that “I didn’t actually say the word “black”, so for all you know I was talking about a white person” is going to be extremely unconvincing.

          • beleester says:

            I’d dispute it being a reasonable argument in any case, but in this case, it wasn’t a dog whistle. As lvlln points out, that would imply there was some subtlety, or the belief that only their ingroup would hear it. It was just a stereotype. Or I suppose you could call it a shibboleth, because it’s hard to imagine someone using that specific mix of stereotypes unless they were deep into their subculture.

            It was roughly along the lines of saying “Sure, I wrote about a character named “Goldstein Meyerson McJewname,” who comes from a line of bankers, has a fetishistic love of money, and is fleeing the Nazis, but I didn’t actually say they were Jewish, so you must just be making racist assumptions.” It was that transparent.

            (I didn’t say it was an effective use of this trick, just a blatant one.)

          • A1987dM says:

            the biological variances that do allow certain humans to actually hear frequencies that most humans can’t

            AKA “youth.”

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Mosquito

  23. ADifferentAnonymous says:

    Recently stumbled on https://funereal-disease.tumblr.com/post/167564104520/fierceawakening-alarajrogers-niambi.

    The original tweet is misogynistic and bad, unless it was followed by “…which is a perfectly valid conception of friendship, but you might get hurt if it’s not what you’re expecting”. But I worry the responses are veering towards reversed stupidity and “men are defective women”. (sidenote, I think there was an “Xs aren’t defective Ys” post in the sequences or something? Anyone have the link?)

    I’m mostly going on personal experience, and I’m not sure if I’m a representative man or a schizoid outlier, so this might be wrong, but…

    The model of men in the link is that we’re walking around with a deep need to confide problems in people, circumscribed by an oppressive norm that we can only do this with romantic partners. The norm is mostly real. The need is not. I didn’t feel it while I was single, and I don’t feel it in my current long-term relationship–I basically only talk about my problems when there’s a solution to ask for.

    Meanwhile, my gf has strong impulses to tell me every new problem that enters her life and also frequently revisit old ones. She’s mentally unusual too, but this behavior seems pretty in accord with what threads like the above consider ‘normal’. And I feel like a toxic-masculine insensitive dinosaur for saying this, but this is quite burdensome to me. (This is a stereotypical boyfriend/husband complaint, which suggests to me that I’m not that weird for feeling this.) I tolerate it because I recognize it’s essential to my gf’s well-being, which I value. I believe that the cultural understanding of a romantic relationship justifies my gf in expecting this, and that the value of my relationship in my life makes it worthwhile from my perspective, but I would definitely opt out of a medium-strength friendship if it required that much listening.

    If men were really starved for this kind of emotional intimacy, they could problem-dump right back at these female friends, they would find it really fulfilling, and they wouldn’t be tweeting about how dissatisfied they are with the arrangement. Maybe men have the default model of friendship they do, because it’s what we usually want?

    (I realize bonding more closely with more people is a good strategy for ensuring you’re cared for if you’re old and your partner dies. I still don’t want to do it.)

    • Randy M says:

      To be charitable to the original sentiment, perhaps he is given the ljbf shoot-down to segue into one-sided friendships, where he is expected to listen to problems without having concern for his own needs expressed by the woman in question.

      Perhaps relevant is the stereotypical (meaning probably true in general) gendered split in listening response–men, when hearing a problem described, begin thinking of ways in which to solve or mitigate the problem. Women would prefer the men (or their female friends) to seek to understand the emotional impact the problem has on them and express that back to them in a therapeutic manner.

      The men’s view is, of course, correct (that is, I am a man and this makes more sense to me). A friend isn’t someone who “listens to your problems” a friend is someone who helps you solve your problems–often in hilariously stupid ways, of course.

      As far as society oppressing me through the norm of repressing feelings–I track with you. I don’t have a deep seated need to gush emotionally. My instinctual response to people feeling bad, based on introspection and recollection, is not “tell me all about it, you’ll feel better” but “go to sleep, you’ll feel better in the morning.” (I do not intend this as a cure for clinical depression, fyi).

      Like you suggest, often my spouse will want to talk about banal problems or fleeting emotions. I’m fine with listening for her sake, and she, in turn, will consider suggestions to improve as empathy. I do admit to resorting to quote Peter Pan if the chatter gets too pointless or prolonged–“girls talk too much.”

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I think it’s more a problem of bad framing.

      A good friend will commiserate with you about your problems. He’ll also try to help you solve the problems which seem solvable and take your mind off of the problems which don’t. And if after that you’re still wallowing in your problems he’ll try to snap you out of it.

      That’s actually much more involved than just listening and nodding. It’s something you wouldn’t do for just anybody, which is why a guy who unloads his issues on you when you barely know him is so awkward. It’s also why a woman unloading on you implies a sexual relationship: you’re not my family, you’re not a close friend, so why do you think that you can ask me to do all of this work for you?

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        If that’s the whole problem, isn’t the answer that men should just listen and nod when a female friend confides problems, instead of getting mad about a presumptuous request she isn’t actually making?

        I don’t think it’s that simple. The possible complications are
        a) A woman who confides in a male friend actually does expect him to solve the problems, and the tumblr thread is wrong to say this is the same as a female friendship.
        b) “Listening and nodding” isn’t actually all that easy.

        I read you as leaning towards a), but my money is on b). I know I’m not expected to solve many of the problems my gf tells me about, but I still find it taxing to listen.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          If that’s the whole problem, isn’t the answer that men should just listen and nod when a female friend confides problems, instead of getting mad about a presumptuous request she isn’t actually making?

          Yes, that’s exactly the right solution. In fact that’s what I do now that my friend group is primarily composed of women.

          The problem is that, like nearly everything else to do with women, nobody reputable is willing to just straightforwardly tell you what’s going on. It’s ridiculous how much basic 101 level advice is verboten in polite company. So you either need to stumble onto the right answer through trial and error or take the red pill.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Hypothetically and on the average, men might have less need to talk about their problems than women, but still some need. After all, you’re telling us about this stress in your relationship. Do you want advice? Commiseration? Something else?

      *Sometimes*, being able to talk to someone about a problem (see rubber-duck debugging) has a steadying effect so that the person with the problem can solve it themselves.

      Getting good effects with a human rather than a rubber duck is probably a sophisticated transaction which takes flexibility from the talker and possibly some mirroring and leading from the listener.

      • Aapje says:

        Indeed. I think that men have less need for emotional support, but also less opportunity to get emotional support, aside from their partner. If the need is non-zero, this can still result in some men getting very insufficient emotional support.

        I would distinguish emotional support from problem-solving help and from arranging your thoughts by verbalizing them. These seem like 3 different ways in which talking to/with another person can help.

        According to the stereotype, men tend to dislike providing emotional support, enjoy problem solving and are often fine with being talked to without any expectation that they actually listen/respond.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        After all, you’re telling us about this stress in your relationship. Do you want advice? Commiseration? Something else?

        Easiest answer is that I want to prove a point in an online argument, but in honesty I probably did have some desire to get this out there. And I have, on a few occasions, made serious use of M-x doctor, a vintage-tech rubber duck.

        But this sort of behavior is pretty rare for me–I seriously think I engage in anything of the sort less than once a month.

        So, yes, “less but not none” is probably on the mark.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      I think part of the issue is that LJBF relationships are generally different from actual friendships. What typically happens in an LJBF relationship is that when the woman needs help or emotional support, the man will drop everything and be there for her; when the man needs anything, the woman will either not help him at all or help only if it’s super-convenient for her.

      In the stereotypical LJBF relationship, the man will listen for hours to the woman complain about how her latest boyfriend is mistreating her; there will be little or no discussion of the man’s personal problems.

      In the typical LJBF relationship, if the woman is feeling down and wants to meet the man for coffee or lunch or whatever, she will contact him and he will juggle his schedule to make sure he can accommodate her. On the other hand, if the man wants to meet the woman, chances are she will blow him off.

      So, in my opinion, it’s perfectly reasonable for a man to object to and complaint about such a one-sided relationship. To be sure, he should accept responsibility for allowing himself to be used. But I think a large percentage of guys make this mistake at some point in their lives. Especially when you are young, it’s difficult to pass up the opportunity to spend time with a girl you like sexually/romantically. It’s difficult to resist the urge to do nice things for her. It’s hard to accept the reality that this girl who seems magical is just cold-heartedly using you.

      • John Schilling says:

        A woman who is actually a friend to a single man, will be willing to set him up with her single girlfriends. Or her sister, or to be his wingman in nightclubs, etc. This should mostly solve the romantic asymmetry at issue. If it doesn’t, if there isn’t even a sincere attempt, then at least one of the two probably has an agenda beyond “just” being friends.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          A woman who is actually a friend to a single man, will be willing to set him up with her single girlfriends. Or her sister, or to be his wingman in nightclubs, etc.

          Or even do anything at all for him, e.g. send him a card on his birthday; act as a witness if he is signing legal documents; check his mail if he goes away; call his former employer for a reference to see what’s being said about him; etc. In a typical LJBF relationship, the woman does none of these things for the man. She literally won’t lift a finger to help him out.

          then at least one of the two probably has an agenda beyond “just” being friends.

          Well sure, the man is consciously or subconscously hoping that the “friendship” will turn into a sexual/romantic relationship; the woman is consciously or subconsciously using the man.

        • Matt M says:

          A woman who is actually a friend to a single man, will be willing to set him up with her single girlfriends.

          This has always been my “Am I being used” test of preference. Any time I get the “Some other girl will be so lucky to have you!” nonsense I immediately follow with, “Great, so which of your friends are you willing to set me up with?” Usually, the answer is zero, which makes it pretty obvious where we all stand.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            “Some other girl will be so lucky to have you!” nonsense I immediately follow with, “Great, so which of your friends are you willing to set me up with?”

            What’s interesting is that you already know she’s full of sh*t, you just want to demonstrate it to her.

            It’s kind of like when I get sales calls from advertising companies who are confident they can generate lots of valuable leads for me. I always say “Great, so you can give me a free 30-day trial, right?” Of course they always refuse.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I don’t see how the guy in this scenario has a legitimate complaint anymore than a girl involved in a FWB relationship has a legitimate complaint that the guy doesn’t want to marry her.

        Or businesses complaining no one wants to buy their product after offering a whole bunch of free samples.

        The bigger problem is treating men as defective women, refusing to make any attempt to understand men, and vilifying men just a bit too easily. Like, if a young girl sleeps with a guy to try to get him into a relationship? Most people would think of her as naïve, but not morally tainted, and would probably understand both her intentions and why she is heart-broken afterwards. No one would try to pathologize her unwillingness to routinely engage in One Night Stands and Friends With Benefits-style relationships, or point to women’s lower sex drive as evidence of women being defective men.

        From personal experience, men don’t particularly want friendships that talk about “Big Stuff.” I can’t speak for other people’s relationships, but while I would be devastated if my Wife passed, it’s not because I have the stereotypical female “BFF” relationship with her. I don’t talk with her for hours and I don’t unload any special insecurities on her that I wouldn’t unload on anyone else.

        I really have no desire for a BFF.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          I don’t see how the guy in this scenario has a legitimate complaint anymore than a girl involved in a FWB relationship has a legitimate complaint that the guy doesn’t want to marry her.

          I’ve never been in such a relationship, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that it’s one-sided, e.g. the man gets sex at his convenience and never does anything for the woman; and that she puts up with it because she is hoping it will lead to a committed relationship which it never will.

          First, regardless of whether the woman has a legitimate complaint or not, such a relationship is fundamentally different from a normal friendship and it’s dishonest to pretend that the two things are the same. Second, I would say the woman does have a legitimate complaint in that she is being used. To be sure she can break off the relationship at any time, but it doesn’t change the fact that she is being used.

          Or businesses complaining no one wants to buy their product after offering a whole bunch of free samples.

          I’m not sure it’s analogous, but I think that if the samplers don’t have any serious intent to purchase the product, the business has a legitimate complaint.

          Like, if a young girl sleeps with a guy to try to get him into a relationship? Most people would think of her as naïve, but not morally tainted, and would probably understand both her intentions and why she is heart-broken afterwards.

          I basically agree, there is a big problem with demonization of male sexuality.

          • albatross11 says:

            It seems like the main issue there is whether they’re honest with each other about their intentions. If Alice is enjoying the sex but hopes it will lead to a longer-term relationship, and Bob is enjoying the sex but doesn’t intend for the relationship to progress any further, that’s not exploitation or anything, but it is a situation where they should talk over their intentions. Maybe Alice will break things off because she realizes the relationship is never going any further than fun sex; maybe Bob will break it off because he doesn’t want to feel pressured into a long-term relationship he doesn’t want. Or maybe they’ll decide to keep going because sex is fun, or because each of them hopes the other will change their mind eventually.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            It seems like the main issue there is whether they’re honest with each other about their intentions.

            In theory, I agree. So for example, suppose the woman in an LJBF situation were to say “Just so we are clear, I have no interest in you sexually and I never will; I intend to use you as an emotional tampon for as long as you let me as well as to accept free meals from you, call you to pick me up when I’m in a jam, etc., but I will never lift a finger to help you when you need it and behind your back I will be laughing with my friends about this little puppy dog that follows me around.”

            If the man agrees and accepts, is the woman still misbehaving in some way? I think so, but ultimately it doesn’t matter — the main point is that such a relationship is not a “friendship” by any reasonable definition of the term.

            Here’s the question on the table:

            So a woman’s idea of [let’s just be friends] is being friends?

            And I think that the answer to this question is “no.” 100% no. An LJBF relationship is normally one-sided, abusive, and exploitative.

          • Matt M says:

            If the man agrees and accepts, is the woman still misbehaving in some way?

            No. At that point, no normal man would continue to have any contact with her. And if he does, he gets what he deserves.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            No. At that point, no normal man would continue to have any contact with her. And if he does, he gets what he deserves.

            That’s a fascinating response to me, because your point isn’t quite the same as stating that the woman is not misbehaving.

          • Matt M says:

            Because she’s not misbehaving. Maybe the guy is an emotional masochist, I dunno. But if she tells him up-front what the deal is, and he chooses to accept it, there’s no fraud involved. There’s no victim. No one has been deceived. Just because I wouldn’t take that deal doesn’t mean anyone who does take it is a victim.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Because she’s not misbehaving. Maybe the guy is an emotional masochist, I dunno. But if she tells him up-front what the deal is, and he chooses to accept it, there’s no fraud involved. There’s no victim. No one has been deceived. Just because I wouldn’t take that deal doesn’t mean anyone who does take it is a victim.

            I disagree. Even if the guy is an emotional masochist, hurting him is still wrong. Just like, even if he’s a physical masochist who gets off on suffering serious physical injuries, it would still be wrong to injure him.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            For what it may be worth, I subscribe to the moral principle that it’s wrong to take advantage of someone’s desperate desire without a compelling reason.

            So for example, if I were snowbound in a mountain hut with a smoker who had run out of cigarettes, and I had an extra pack that I was about to throw away, I think it would be wrong of me to charge him a month’s worth of his income for that pack of cigarettes.

            Similarly, if I were making a movie and a young woman desperately wanted me to give her a role in that movie, I think it would be wrong of me to request sexual relations from her in exchange for giving her the role.

            By contrast, some people believe in the “morals of the marketplace,” i.e. that whatever two adults agree to, if there is no fraud or forcible coercion, is a-ok.

            I can’t think of any way to prove that one of these principles is right and the other is wrong, I suppose it’s a matter of moral taste.

            But in the case of an LJBF relationship, the man is head over heels in love with the woman; he is about as desperate for her attention as a drug addict is for another hit of drugs. And IMHO, it’s wrong for the woman to take advantage of that desperation without a compelling reason.

          • that whatever two adults agree to, if there is no fraud or forcible coercion, is a-ok.

            There might be some people with that view. But I think the more common position (and mine) is not that it is a-ok but that it is not a wrong of the sort that justifies other people forcibly preventing it.

          • toastengineer says:

            By contrast, some people believe in the “morals of the marketplace,” i.e. that whatever two adults agree to, if there is no fraud or forcible coercion, is a-ok.

            I count manipulating or producing glitches in people’s brains as tantamount to force.

            The whole idea behind “morals of the marketplace” assumes everyone’s rationally deciding if a deal is good for them and refusing it if it isn’t; if you intentionally induced whoever you were dealing with to make an irrational decision then that’s just as NAP-violating as, say, lying to them about the value of what you’re selling.

            So for example, even though I’m a libertarian I consider full-blown casinos to be worth making illegal (banning low-stakes dice games or sports betting or whatever isn’t mind-controll-y enough or worth the cost of enforcement.)

          • fortaleza84 says:

            But I think the more common position (and mine) is not that it is a-ok but that it is not a wrong of the sort that justifies other people forcibly preventing it.

            I doubt many people would such a law, policy, or practice in the case of a person who uses a suitor.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I count manipulating or producing glitches in people’s brains as tantamount to force.

            The whole idea behind “morals of the marketplace” assumes everyone’s rationally deciding if a deal is good for them and refusing it if it isn’t; if you intentionally induced whoever you were dealing with to make an irrational decision then that’s just as NAP-violating as, say, lying to them about the value of what you’re selling.

            What if the person just happens to have such a glitch but you did not intentionally create it?

          • Aapje says:

            It happens that a smitten person hangs out/has sex with their love interest, who in turn is not interested in the same level of commitment. Sometimes such an arrangement does result in the love interest becoming more interested him/herself, which is generally a good outcome.

            So I would argue that the morality depends on the likelihood of this happening and on whether the behavior damages the smitten person (and to what extent).

            For example, imagine a smitten man who hangs out with a woman in the hope that this will make her love him. If she has no substantial dislike of him, but merely no attraction, then there is a possibility that this works. Allowing this situation is then more ethical than if she is quite sure that she can never come to love him. However, if this situation lasts for some time and she doesn’t develop any attraction, then it becomes less ethical. Furthermore, if the only damage to him is opportunity costs, this is more ethical than if the arrangement makes him very unhappy.

            A similar analysis seems correct if the genders are reversed/for a fuckbuddy who wants a relationship.

            Of course, making the most moral decision requires actual understanding by each person of where the other person stands, which may often not exist.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think it’s instructive to swap the genders here and see what we get:

            a. Smitten man + romantically uninterested but friendly woman

            This can end up in a wide range of places. Sometimes, the couple ends up together in the end. Sometimes, the woman is conscious of the man’s feelings and careful not to lead him on or take advantage of him. Sometimes, the woman just accepts the favors and attention as her due (especially common among young and pretty women, I think–a pretty 22 year old woman has often spent her whole life with boys doing nice things for her and paying attention to her, and it’s easy for that to seem like the natural order of the world) without thinking much about what’s going on–this is the most common LJBF pattern as I think of it. Sometimes the woman understands what’s going on and uses it to manipulate the man for her benefit.

            b. Smitten woman + romantically uninterested but friendly man

            Again, this ends up in a variety of places. Sometimes, they end up together in the end. Sometimes, the man knows what’s going on and is careful not to take advantage of the situation–knowing that sleeping with his friend = committing to a serious relationship at least in her mind, and not wanting to betray a friend, he’s careful to keep some distance. Sometimes, he just enjoys the attention or even sleeps with her without thinking about what this means for her–usually that doesn’t go on super long, but it will hurt her a lot when she realizes how he feels. Sometimes, he’s playing her in the classic “cad” behaviors–she wants a long-term relationship, he wants some sex, and he pushes her buttons and abandons her when something better comes along.

            I’ve been on both sides of this dynamic. When I was dating, almost everyone I dated was a friend first, often a pretty close one. Sometimes I had women who were clearly more interested in me than I was in them, and I’ll admit I didn’t always think that through before enjoying the attention and sex that was available. (Though as I got older, I realized what was going on and mostly started avoiding that stuff. The spirit is willing, but the little head thinks for itself.)

            And for whatever it’s worth, my wife and I were close friends, I was romantically interested in her and she wasn’t interested in me, for like a decade before we started dating. We weren’t exactly a classic LJBF situation–we were close friends, and we both did things for each other at times, and hung out a lot because we enjoyed each other’s company. I can think of a couple big things I did for her when she needed them, but both were things I’d have done for a close male friend, and sometimes she did pretty big favors for me, too. During that time, we both dated other people, and sometimes commiserated over our romantic difficulties.

            I think this kind of situation is a mix–at times, it’s a manipulative person playing with someone else’s affections; more often, it’s two somewhat-clueless-and-confused people screwing up in ways that sometimes hurt each other; sometimes, it’s an intermediate stage between not-romantically-paired and romantically-paired.

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            the man gets sex at his convenience and never does anything for the woman… I would say the woman does have a legitimate complaint in that she is being used.

            In my model of this, the woman is acting as if she fully enjoys the sex as an end in itself. When she cancels plans to be there for the man, she doesn’t tell him about the plans. So unless the man is either quite good at sensing dishonesty, or trusts stereotypes over what a specific woman tells him about herself, how is he to know there’s anything wrong?

            I assume something analogous in the LJBF case; I imagine the man in question in fact does his best to avoid showing any boredom or resentment and tries to convince the woman that he’s happy to listen. (At least, that’s what I imagine myself doing in such a situation).

          • fortaleza84 says:

            It happens that a smitten person hangs out/has sex with their love interest, who in turn is not interested in the same level of commitment. Sometimes such an arrangement does result in the love interest becoming more interested him/herself, which is generally a good outcome.

            So I would argue that the morality depends on the likelihood of this happening and on whether the behavior damages the smitten person (and to what extent).

            In principle I agree with you, but I think that as a practical matter, in situations where the man is “smitten” and the woman LJBF’s him, it’s extremely rare that the woman develops sexual or romantic attraction for the man. Once in a blue moon she may have a long-term relationship with him for financial reasons; due to family pressure; or for some other reason, but otherwise a reasonable approximation of his chances is “zero.”

            To put it more simply, it is extremely unlikely that a man will escape the friend zone. I think what’s going on is that women have a strong hypergamy instinct. If they are not sexually attracted to a man, him entering a subordinate role in her life is likely to reduce her level of sexual attraction even further.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            In my model of this, the woman is acting as if she fully enjoys the sex as an end in itself. When she cancels plans to be there for the man, she doesn’t tell him about the plans. So unless the man is either quite good at sensing dishonesty, or trusts stereotypes over what a specific woman tells him about herself, how is he to know there’s anything wrong?

            I assume something analogous in the LJBF case;

            I think it usually becomes pretty obvious if a relationship is one-sided. One person takes a long time to respond to messages or e-mails, if at all, while the other person always responds promptly. One person is always available while the other is busy a lot of the time. One person regularly cancels plans at the last minute while the other one doesn’t. Etc. etc. etc.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          From personal experience, men don’t particularly want friendships that talk about “Big Stuff.” I can’t speak for other people’s relationships, but while I would be devastated if my Wife passed, it’s not because I have the stereotypical female “BFF” relationship with her. I don’t talk with her for hours and I don’t unload any special insecurities on her that I wouldn’t unload on anyone else.

          I have been known to talk with my male friends for hours, but the conversations always revolve around topics of mutual interests. Unloading my insecurities and unhappinesses onto them would be a very good way of turning our friendship into an ex-friendship.

        • Fahundo says:

          anymore than a girl involved in a FWB relationship has a legitimate complaint that the guy doesn’t want to marry her.

          Why does FWB need to be specified? In a romantic relationship the guy owes her a marriage at some point?

          • Nornagest says:

            One could argue for a cultural default that a sufficiently close and well-established romantic relationship is expected to lead to eventual engagement and marriage, although that’s probably pretty contextual these days.

          • albatross11 says:

            Again, the issue is about what each side is expecting as at least a possible outcome.

            a. If I’m paying you a lot of attention and doing you a lot of favors and doing much of the normal boyfriend-like stuff with you in hopes that we’ll end up dating or sleeping together, but dating me is not even on the table as far as you’re concerned, that’s a bad situation.

            b. If you’re sleeping with me and dating me and doing a lot of the normal girlfriend-like stuff in hopes that we’ll end up married or at least in a long-term relationship, but a long-term relationship with you isn’t even on the table as far as I’m concerned, that’s also a bad situation.

            They’re not exactly parallel, because the typical way men and women approach relationships is different. But they’re kind-of mirror images of one another.

          • Viliam says:

            @albatross11 — I would generalize what you wrote like this:

            There are situations where people need to test each other in order to gain information necessary to make a decision whether to proceed to the next level of relationship. (Because it costs less than getting to the next level, finding out that you made a mistake, and getting out.) Inevitably, sometimes the tests result in “no”.

            Sometimes the situation is asymmetric, and one party bears disproportionately greater costs of the testing. Sometimes the other party actually benefits from participation in the testing.

            In such situations the benefiting party can commit fraud by participating in the test with an intention to fail it on purpose; the actual motivation being the side-effects of the test. Such fraud is often impossible to prove, because from outside it may seem the same as participating in good faith; saying “no” is one of the expected possible outcomes. But sometimes it is obvious to an impartial observer; or it may be anything in between. This becomes further complicated when the social norm is that the exact nature of the test is not discussed explicitly. Also, the line between intentional deception and self-deception is not clearly visible.

            Such situations also happen outside romantic relationships. For example, an unethical employer may ask a job candidate to do a large piece of work as a “test”, when the actual intention is merely to get the work done for free.

      • gbdub says:

        I think part of the issue is that LJBF relationships are generally different from actual friendships.

        This is a good point, and why the casual dismissal of the original tweet is bad. “The Friendzone” is generally not a normal friendship. The guy in such a relationship is treating the girl like he would his girlfriend, not like his friends he doesn’t have romantic interest in.

        It’s hard to accept the reality that this girl who seems magical is just cold-heartedly using you.

        This goes too far – in my experience the girl is usually just as naive about how guys work and is just oblivious to the heartache she’s causing (and to be fair, the guys in these situations are usually not particularly good at / are deliberately avoiding expressing their desires openly).

        • fortaleza84 says:

          in my experience the girl is usually just as naive about how guys work and is just oblivious to the heartache she’s causing

          Surely she’s aware that he does all kinds of stuff for her and she does next to nothing in return. But even if she’s unaware how one-sided the relationship is, it’s reasonable for the man to object and complain.

          And by the way, here’s a video that’s worth taking a look at:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_lh5fR4DMA

          Basically, a series of women are asked if they have any male “just friends” and are then asked if they think those men are interested in them sexually. In all cases, the girls answered “yes.”

          To be sure, these sorts of videos are often edited to give a misleading impression and sometimes they are outright fake. But I think this one rings true. If a girl has a male “just friend,” she usually knows perfectly well that he is interested in her sexually.

          • Matt M says:

            I mean, any non-hideous female could claim that any given male was “interested in her sexually” and be right, like, 95% of the time. It’s a pretty solid guess as a baseline…

          • Nornagest says:

            Surely she’s aware that he does all kinds of stuff for her and she does next to nothing in return.

            I think these relationships tend to be lopsided but not one-sided, and that the uninfatuated party usually feels sincere (but not sexual) affection for the infatuated one. If the infatuated one ends up proposing most joint activities, or initiating contact more, or paying for stuff… well, friendships are never perfectly symmetrical in those ways, so that’s relatively easy to shrug off as long as they’re putting effort in. And they are. If they’re aware of the infatuation, for example (and they probably are), they’re going to spend a lot of time tiptoeing around it so as not to hurt feelings, and that’s a lot of work.

            They aren’t going to be fully aware of the extent to which the infatuated party’s actions function (consciously or otherwise) as romantic gestures, or of how much hurt they’re causing by, in effect, continually rejecting their friend’s advances.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            so that’s relatively easy to shrug off as long as they’re putting effort in. And they are

            For what it may be worth, that is not consistent with my observations and experiences. What I have observed is that the woman in the LJBF relationship does practically nothing for the man.

          • Nornagest says:

            Let’s just say I have high confidence and leave it at that.

          • A1987dM says:

            I don’t think “X would hook up with Y if they had a chance” makes an otherwise-ordinary friendship between X and Y impossible (I mean, I think I’ve been in such friendships both as X and as Y), so I don’t find that video at all convincing. I mean, if a friend richer than you gave you an expensive birthday present you would probably take it, but this hardly mean that friendships between people with different amounts of wealth are impossible, does it?

            (The difference between that and the stereotypical friendzone is that the latter involves a level of interest higher than just “would hook up with them if given a chance”, and in the former X has gotten over the fact that Y won’t hook up with them, and the possibility that Y will eventually change their mind isn’t the only or even the main reason for X to want to be friends with Y.)

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I don’t think “X would hook up with Y if they had a chance” makes an otherwise-ordinary friendship between X and Y impossible (I mean, I think I’ve been in such friendships both as X and as Y), so I don’t find that video at all convincing

            It may not be convincing of its own thesis, but, assuming it’s representative, it does show that women are generally aware when they are “friends” with a man who is sexually interested in them. To be sure, such a friendship is not necessarily the LJBF type situation I was referencing above, but . . .

            If a woman is aware of a man in her life who has unrequited sexual interest in her, and she is accepting favors from him while giving little or nothing in return, she may not be intentionally using him, but to borrow a couple legalisms, she is certainly doing so knowingly or recklessly.

          • A1987dM says:

            @fortaleza84:

            That much I don’t actually disagree with (at least for a broader-than-usual (but still reasonable) definition of “aware”).

          • Matt M says:

            but this hardly mean that friendships between people with different amounts of wealth are impossible, does it?

            Not impossible, but surely both difficult and uncommon. Assuming that by “different amounts of wealth” you aren’t talking 30k vs 80k. I imagine that most of Mark Zuckerberg’s friends aren’t living in poverty (even after his “look at how well I understand blue-collar America” tour).

            You can look at stories of professional athletes from lower class backgrounds who make millions of dollars, but end up broke (or worse, in massive debt). There are varying reasons for this phenomenon, but one prominent one is that they keep close connections with lower-class friends and family who use them for their wealth, siphoning a lot of it away without the earner fully realizing what is going on.

          • gbdub says:

            At the same time, if you were to ask the male “just friend”, he would probably correctly guess that his sexual interest was unrequited.

            At any rate there’s still a wide gulf between, “forced to think about it, I’ll admit that my guy friend is probably attracted to me sexually” and “I am actively aware of his interest in me, that he feels our relationship is one sided, and that he is hurt by that, but I don’t care and will deliberately, cold heartedly manipulate him to get what I want with zero investment in my part”.

            You seem to assume that all women in these relationships are worldly, sophisticated, manipulative, and mature, while the men are naive, innocent victims.

            In my experience that’s way off the mark. Typically it’s more like the girl, herself young, naive, perhaps possessed of the sort of lazy but not mean spirited selfishness common to young adults, is getting more blatant sexual attention than she wants or needs. Meanwhile, her nice guy friend is always there for her without her ever actually demanding anything, but he never makes a move – clearly he can’t be that interested, maybe he’s gay? Isn’t that blatant borderline harassment behavior how men who want you are supposed to act? And of course, being a girl, she could never make a move on him unless she were truly desperate.

            Meanwhile the guy, who is timid, shy, and lacks confidence, dotes on her but never actual makes an explicit advance because he fears rejection. This is why I do think “lopsided, not one sided” is apt. Usually the problem is that the guy gets enough out of the friendship that he fears losing it by making his intentions explicit and getting turned down. As long as no one says anything, no one has to risk the awkwardness of dumping or getting dumped.

            Generally, both parties tend to have poor models of what the other is thinking, and/or stay in a comfort zone of not confronting any thoughts that might lead to an uncomfortable situation.

          • lvlln says:

            You can look at stories of professional athletes from lower class backgrounds who make millions of dollars, but end up broke (or worse, in massive debt). There are varying reasons for this phenomenon, but one prominent one is that they keep close connections with lower-class friends and family who use them for their wealth, siphoning a lot of it away without the earner fully realizing what is going on.

            A complete aside, but this reminds me of something I read a while ago where some professional athlete mentioned his mother sending him a bill for raising him for some obscene amount of money after he made the pros. I don’t recall the exact details, but I think it might have been the NFL player Phillip Buchanon referred to in this article.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            You seem to assume that all women in these relationships are worldly, sophisticated, manipulative, and mature, while the men are naive, innocent victims.

            Lol, that’s quite an impressive straw man you’ve built up.

            In my experience that’s way off the mark.

            And down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            While I agree with gdub’s charitable description, the….erm…”think pieces” on the LJBF and Nice Guy dynamics are pretty damn mean-spirited.

            Same for the people who pop up on my FB feed whining about it. Coupled with rants about patriarchy. Apparently I will enjoy these sexless relationships, and will love doing make-overs and tea parties too, if only the patriarchy will get out of my way?

          • Matt M says:

            Usually the problem is that the guy gets enough out of the friendship that he fears losing it by making his intentions explicit and getting turned down.

            Yeah, I definitely think this is true more often than most “nice guys” would care to admit. Or, even further, that even if they are explicit and get turned down, they endeavor to keep the friendship going anyway, because being platonic friends with a pretty girl is still a better feeling than having no contact with the female gender at all.

            I was in that situation once, and used to always tell myself “Man, I’m putting everything into this and getting nothing in return.” But after some serious self-reflection, it turned out I was getting a lot in return – just not sex. It’s easy for young/horny men to see “everything but sex” as the equivalent of “nothing at all” even when, in fact, it isn’t.

          • gbdub says:

            @fortaleza84:
            You originally stated “It’s hard to accept the reality that this girl who seems magical is just cold-heartedly using you,” and several other comments along a similar vein, so I felt my man’s stuffing was fairly stout.

            But whatever, if you disagree with my characterization of your position, do we actually disagree on the rest of the points I presented?
            @ A Definite Beta Guy:

            the….erm…”think pieces” on the LJBF and Nice Guy dynamics are pretty damn mean-spirited.

            Absolutely true. I’m just saying we shouldn’t overcorrect to assuming bad faith on the part of any girl with a Just Friend.

          • At a slight tangent, there seems to be an implicit assumption in these discussions that women only marry or commit to a long term relationship with men to whom they are sexually attracted.

            I doubt it’s true. Sexual attraction is obviously a plus. But a woman who wants to run a home and bring up children might reasonably choose an honest, productive man whose company she enjoyed but who did not turn her on over a man she was attracted to but didn’t think would make a good husband.

          • Matt M says:

            But a woman who wants to run a home and bring up children might reasonably choose an honest, productive man whose company she enjoyed but who did not turn her on over a man she was attracted to but didn’t think would make a good husband.

            Typically, this happens when she’s a bit older. After she spent most of her youth spurning the “nice guys” in favor of the “bad boys”, which is why the “nice guy” complaint is very common among younger men, and significantly less common for older men. Once you hit 30 or so, the complaint shifts from “No women want me” to “These women spent all their youth rejecting me – and NOW they want me to buy them stuff and take care of their kids? Yeah right!”

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Honestly, DF? While I think women sometimes settle for men they aren’t really attracted to, I don’t think this is something particularly common with marriages. Young girls date guys they aren’t really into because they want boyfriends. At least this is what I gather from the women in my social group.

            Based on the stories, these were pretty shitty relationships. They involved a great deal of cheating and “monkey branching” to new, more attractive guys when available.

            This adds a new wrinkle to the whole “LJBF” thing. “Oh, so you want to be my boyfriend? Uhh, sure, I guess we can date for a bit. Here’s an unenthusiastic HJ. You’ll be gone in 6 weeks when that hot guy from Psychology finally notices me.”

          • powerfuller says:

            If attraction is important to women, and if it’s true that most women find most men below average in attractiveness, then it seems a lot of women are set up to be disappointed in marriage. But it’s probably the case most men will be disappointed as well. Isn’t one of the main functions of traditional sexual/marriage mores to get people to accept a dull or disappointing sex life in exchange for better character in a spouse or a more stable married life?

          • Anonymous says:

            @powerfuller

            Isn’t one of the main functions of traditional sexual/marriage mores to get people to accept a dull or disappointing sex life in exchange for better character in a spouse or a more stable married life?

            Given that traditional sexual/marriage mores include the concept of marital debt (if one spouse wants to have sex, they have sex), which is like the reverse of modern mores (both spouses must want to have sex, or it’s a crime for sex to occur), I’m pretty skeptical of pre-modern people having substantially worse sex lives than our contemporaries do. It’s even in the news that, say, Millennials are having less sex than any generation on record.

          • powerfuller says:

            @anonymous

            Though frequency of intercourse isn’t the only metric (and putting aside any downsides of marital debt), you’re right that the sex lives of the past may have been better than ours (having an attractive spouse isn’t the only metric either). I would guess couples in the past made more effort to maximize their compatibility or ability to please each other; I (and others I know) tend to assume that if I’m not sexually compatible with someone off the bat, I never will be.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            At a slight tangent, there seems to be an implicit assumption in these discussions that women only marry or commit to a long term relationship with men to whom they are sexually attracted.

            I doubt it’s true. Sexual attraction is obviously a plus.

            In theory I agree with you, but in this day and age, the sexual marketplace — as well as family law — is tilted so much in favor of women that this does not happen very often and when it does, it’s a recipe for disaster for the man.

            Because even if the woman breaks down and marries her suitor for money, security, whatever (which is unlikely since welfare, affirmative action, etc. give her the financial ability to focus on the more sexually exciting men for her), there’s very little stopping her from cheating on her husband, cuckolding him, monkey-branching, getting divorced and collecting her cash and prizes, etc.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Honestly, DF? While I think women sometimes settle for men they aren’t really attracted to, I don’t think this is something particularly common with marriages.

            Yeah, I think it was more common in the past when (1) the ratio of marriageable men to marriageable women wasn’t ridiculously tilted in favor of women; (2) getting married offered a much bigger boost to a woman’s social status and financial prospects; and (3) family law and social stigma discouraged wives from monkey-branching and eat-pray-love divorces.

            But even then, and perhaps especially then, cuckoldry was pretty common.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            But whatever, if you disagree with my characterization of your position, do we actually disagree on the rest of the points I presented?

            I think that in typical LJBF situations, the woman typically knows that the man is interested in her; knows that he’s doing all kinds of stuff for her without her doing anything in return; and probably knows that these two things are related. If she’s unaware that she’s using him, chances are it’s because she is so narcissistic that she doesn’t think about the one-sidedness of the relationship. To borrow a legalism, if she is not acting intentionally, chances are she is acting knowingly or recklessly. Or perhaps negligently.

            If that contradicts your position, then we disagree.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Typically, this happens when she’s a bit older. After she spent most of her youth spurning the “nice guys” in favor of the “bad boys”, which is why the “nice guy” complaint is very common among younger men, and significantly less common for older men.

            That may be part of it, but I think part of it is that a woman’s sexual attractiveness drops pretty dramatically after age 30. Part of the “nice guy” formula seems to be that he is very much sexually attracted to the girl in question.

          • A1987dM says:

            @Mark M:

            Assuming that by “different amounts of wealth” you aren’t talking 30k vs 80k.

            Yes I am.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @fortaleza84:

            the ratio of marriageable men to marriageable women wasn’t ridiculously tilted in favor of women

            Is this actually the case? Seems like this is something that varies depending on age, location, etc. At universities where women are 2/3 of the student body, the dating market is kinder to men than to women, generally.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Is this actually the case? Seems like this is something that varies depending on age, location, etc.

            For the most part, it varies from “bad for men” to “extremely bad for men.” There may be a few narrow areas which aren’t quite that bad, but keep in mind that with the internet, it’s very easy for most girls on college campuses to meet men from off-campus.

          • dndnrsn says:

            But the guys they’re meeting from off-campus are still mostly going to be guys who have university degrees, are university students, etc, right? And the population in undergrad is, overall, increasingly skewing towards women outnumbering men. May also be doing that in grad/professional school. By and large, women with a university education don’t appear to be that interested in guys without.

            If the relationship “market” favoured women over men so much, you wouldn’t have the cottage industry of women in their 30s wondering where all the guys went.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @dndnrsn

            You’re underestimating the doggishness polygynous behavior of the men the women in their 20s find attractive. On average, they are with enough women at any given time to easily easily overwhelm the gender disparity. So what happens is that when many of them start to settle down, it’s like musical chairs when the music stops — some of the women are left out. The unattractive men are still out in the cold the whole time.

          • Wrong Species says:

            If the relationship “market” favoured women over men so much, you wouldn’t have the cottage industry of women in their 30s wondering where all the guys went.

            That can easily be reconciled. The market does favor women but these 30+ women have very high standards.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Anecdata and all, but I went to a college with an about 2-1 female-male ratio. You’d see guys in relationships with women who were waaaaaaay out of their league, attractiveness-wise. Comically so, sometimes. There were guys who got around a lot, but this didn’t seem to put much of a damper on the general trend of their being “inflation” for male attractiveness.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Some of the confusion in this thread is due to confusing the marriage market with the dating market.

          • Matt M says:

            Getting back to my point about age.

            “Help, I’m trapped in a just friends situation!” is a lament of young men. “Where have all the good men gone?” is a lament of older women. Both are, generally speaking, correct.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            If the relationship “market” favoured women over men so much, you wouldn’t have the cottage industry of women in their 30s wondering where all the guys went.

            The “relationship market” isn’t quite the same thing as the marriage market. When I said that marriageable men greatly outnumber marriageable women, I did not define the word “marriageable,” but part of my definition is that the person should be fertile enough to have a good chance of producing 2 or 3 healthy children.

            These “where are all the men” women are almost always either post-wall or very close. Keep in mind DF’s original comment that a woman might make the rational decision to choose a less exciting man who would make a good husband/father. Which makes sense, but to get such a man, there needs to be something in it for him, i.e. the possibility of having a few children. If he’s going to be supporting another man’s children or marrying a girl who is over 35, he has much less incentive.

            The other issue is that due to their hypergamous instincts, a significant percentage of women are literally blind to men who fall below some threshold of desirability. For a lot of women, this problem is not obvious when they are in their 20s since the more desirable men pay them a good deal of attention. It just seems like men, in general, are commitment-phobic. A few years later, the more desirable men stop paying them attention and suddenly it seems like there are no men left.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Women in their 30s are more fertile than generally thought .

            Are we talking about early 30s or late 30s? I think it’s an important distinction. For years, the conventional wisdom has been that it’s not safe for a woman to get pregnant after age 35. Unfortunately, a lot of feminists are very eager to downplay this fact, so it’s a good idea to be skeptical of claims which dispute this.

          • albatross11 says:

            Is there evidence that cuckholdry was common then? Or is now? ISTR something on West Hunter suggesting that the rate was below 1% of children not coming from their fathers (looking at last names of people in an unbroken male line of descent from some common ancestor and their Y chromosomes), but I don’t have a cite for that.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Is there evidence that cuckholdry was common then? Or is now? ISTR something on West Hunter suggesting that the rate was below 1%

            I did a search and I think I found the study you are referring to, estimating a historical cuckold rate of 1-2% per generation. Interestingly, the study’s abstract indicates that other studies have found rates between 8 and 30%.

            Based on my general life experience, I would say that a large percentage of people will cheat (on anything) if (1) they have some incentive; and (2) they have a pretty good chance of getting away with it. So I would guess that the higher estimate is closer to reality but I suppose the jury is still out.

            In any event, in modern-day gynocentric USA there is basically nothing in the way of legal consequences for a wife who cuckolds her husband. Even the social consequences are not that bad in a lot of communities.

          • My memory of looking at the subject some years back is that there was one English study with a very small sample that claimed a very high rate of false paternity, possibly as much as 30%. There were much better studies from (I think) Iceland and Switzerland that found rates of more like 1%.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Has the man, in this typical relationship, ever tried to talk about his personal problems?* If he tries that and gets shut down, sure, it’s a bad friendship. But if not, well, consider it from the woman’s perspective: she’s perfectly willing to reciprocate in kind on the benefits she’s receiving in the relationship, and while it’s kind of weird she’s never taken up on it, she’s also never told this is a problem.

        When he juggles his schedule to accommodate a proposed meeting, does he tell the woman he’s doing that? Or does he tell her his schedule is open and juggle it behind the scenes? If it’s the latter, he can’t really expect reciprocation on his secret sacrifice.

        *Granted, it may be that he hasn’t tried this, because his foremost personal problem is “I’m getting friendzoned”. But the woman can’t know this.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          Has the man, in this typical relationship, ever tried to talk about his personal problems?

          I would guess it varies from relationship to relationship, but even if he hasn’t tried, I think it’s pretty unusual for the woman to open the door by expressing genuine interest in what’s going on in his life.

          When he juggles his schedule to accommodate a proposed meeting, does he tell the woman he’s doing that?

          Again, I would guess it varies, but as I mentioned above, when a relationship is one-sided it usually becomes pretty obvious to both parties. One person immediately responds to messages while the other does not; One person is always available and the other is not; one person regularly cancels dates at the last minute while the other doesn’t; one person regularly comes late while the other is on time; dates always take place at a location more convenient to one party; etc. etc.

    • Matt M says:

      It’s also worth noting that most men don’t really look favorably upon their girlfriends having close personal “friendships” with other men. Like, if my girlfriend re-arranges her schedule at the last minute to give a ride to the airport to some other guy I don’t really know, that’s probably going to be a problem.

      In this sense, the “having sex with someone else” part essentially demands the relationship not be mutually beneficial, because a woman being wholly reciprocal in friendship with another male will certainly trigger jealous feelings in her boyfriend/husband. Men know how other men work. They know that the “just friends” guy is trying to bone her, and unless they’re very confident that their girl is completely loyal and is just using this guy up and stringing him along, it’s a risk they almost certainly won’t want to have to take.

      This, of course, isn’t the case if it’s a group friendship situation, if the male friend is friends with the girlfriend AND the boyfriend, because in that case, you’re often present during their interactions as well, but even if you aren’t, you presumably know and trust that your good buddy won’t try anything with your girl.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        It’s also worth noting that most men don’t really look favorably upon their girlfriends having close personal “friendships” with other men. Like, if my girlfriend re-arranges her schedule at the last minute to give a ride to the airport to some other guy I don’t really know, that’s probably going to be a problem.

        I agree, but I think that in LJBF relationships when the girl is seriously dating another man to the point where they are boyfriend and girlfriend and the boyfriend would notice that his girlfriend is spending time with another guy, what normally happens is that she totally ignores the LJBF guy for a few months. In other words, the LJBF guy usually sees her only when she is casually dating other men or when she is having serious problems with her boyfriend.

    • gbdub says:

      I think both the Anti- and Pro-Nice-Guy sides exaggerate how LJBF relationships play out. A better understanding would improve the discourse, although maybe not change the outcomes much.

      The Anti- side overestimates the male’s “sex entitlement” – I’m sure there are some guys out there who literally think of women as a sex vending machine that simply requires coins of the correct denomination, but that seems pretty rare in reality.

      The Pro- side overestimates the degree to which women intentionally exploit their just-friends guy (again, it’s not “never”, but rare).

      It’s worth remembering that both parties in the relationship tend to be young/naive, and neither tends to have a great model for how the other is viewing the relationship.

      LJBF / Friendzone relationships can be hurtful when they are one-sided (as can any one-sided friendship). One side being much more invested in any relationship is a recipe for pain. This may not be anybody’s fault – it’s hard not to want to do everything for a girl you’ve got a crush on, do whatever it takes to be around her. And it’s equally hard not to accept willingly offered support when you need it.

      But I do think that a good friend will be sensitive of balance in a relationship, and try to avoid it getting one-sided. At the point where it’s obvious one side is giving much more, I think the other side ought to either give more in return or, if they can’t/don’t want to, be honest about that. “Hey, I feel like you’re doing a lot more for me than I’m able to reciprocate. Let’s slow down a bit” (At that point the over-invested side should either actually slow down, or accept the imbalance). This is equally true whether the relationship is romantic or platonic. But it’s also an advanced/mature/not easy part of friendship, and I don’t think it’s fair to assume that someone who fails at it is being intentionally exploitative. It’s also not fair to assume that the person who wants reciprocal investment is being entitled.

    • INH5 says:

      I really don’t want to say this because I hate False Consciousness theories, but I can’t help but notice that compared to women, men are three-and-a-half times as likely to kill themselves, twice as likely to die from a drug overdose, and twice as likely to have “an alcohol use disorder.” So even if men don’t actually want to talk about their feelings, that doesn’t mean that that’s good or healthy. And learned helplessness is definitely a thing, so I think the cause and effect here is open to question.

      Also, while I’m by no means an expert in this kind of thing, modern Western male stoicness seems unusually strict from a historical perspective. Ancient Greek literature, for example, is full of men who are in all other respects paragons of machismo weeping over the losses and troubles of their lives.

      • Nornagest says:

        I’m skeptical that men being more willing to talk about their feelings would make a substantial dent in any of those numbers.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          I am also skeptical and anyway, there are so many differences between men and women, both in terms of innate biology as well as in terms of how they are raised and treated by society at large. To the point where you need to have pretty good evidence to attribute one set of outcomes to one particular cause.

          Are there any cultures where males and females have equal suicide rates? Seems to me that’s your starting point.

          • A1987dM says:

            Are there any cultures where males and females have equal suicide rates?

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_by_suicide_rate#List_by_the_World_Health_Organization_(2015) (sort the table by its last column)

            More women than men kill themselves in Bangladesh and China and there are around a dozen more countries (mostly in Asia) where the two rates are within a factor of 2 of each other.

          • Lillian says:

            Man the Chinese just can’t get a break can they? Not only do they have a horribly biased gender ratio, but they can’t even pin their hopes in epidemic male suicide evening the numbers a little.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Thanks for that 1987. The next question is whether China, Bangladesh, etc. have less of a mismatch than, say, the United States, in terms of male/male and female/female emotional support. I don’t know, but I kinda doubt it.

            I’m stereotyping, but I would guess that in much of South Asia and East Asia, the difference is not so much the availability of emotional support but the amount of options and control a woman has in regards to her life.

          • A1987dM says:

            @Lillian:

            Yeah, the first thing I thought when I saw that was, “well, with their selective abortion thing no wonder they would get an such unusual suicide gender r— no, wait, the effect of that would be the opposite of this. WTH?”

          • Aapje says:

            @A1987dM

            A shortage of women can be bad for women in a society where women are not sufficiently free to choose their partner.

            If there is a shortage of women, the value of a woman goes up, which means fewer men can afford the bride price, so the woman has less choice.

            For example, lets say that with no shortage, the bride price of a reasonably desirable woman would be affordable to 50% of men. Then she can search for a partner among that 50%. If the bride price with a shortage results in a bride price that is affordable to 25% of men, she has half as much choice and it’s much more likely that she has to settle for a man with sufficient money, but with traits that make her unhappy.

            Another issue is that a high bride price has consequences which indirectly may harm the woman. If the man has to lend a large amount to marry, he may have to work very hard after marriage, which can be unpleasant to the wife. The man may also feel more entitled when paying more, treating the wife worse. A related issue is that the bride price usually has to be repaid when divorcing, so a high bride price may effectively make it impossible for the wife to divorce a bad husband.

            Of course, a Chinese woman who seeks a partner also has the advantage of less competition, but that advantage can be (considerably) less than the disadvantages.

      • Lillian says:

        Ancient Greek literature, for example, is full of men who are in all other respects paragons of machismo weeping over the losses and troubles of their lives.

        You have no idea how much i want to see faithful big screen adaptations of a lot of old epics just for the sheer culture shock that will come from all the manly man characters displaying behaviours that are anathema to modern conceptions of masculinity. Just think of the Iliad, for most of the story all we see of Achilles is him crying, throwing temper tantrums, and refusing to help with the fighting. To most people he will seem like a huge whiny bitch, absent all the typical markers of badassery that would justify the sheer terror the Troyans have for the mere sight of his armour. Then when the audience has just about had enough of his shit, he finally rides into battle, and suddenly he’s brutally and swiftly cutting down one man after another.

        “As a fire raging in some mountain glen after long drought- and the dense forest is in a blaze, while the wind carries great tongues of fire in every direction- even so furiously did Achilles rage, wielding his spear as though he were a god, and giving chase to those whom he would slay, till the dark earth ran with blood. Or as one who yokes broad-browed oxen that they may tread barley in a threshing-floor- and it is soon bruised small under the feet of the lowing cattle- even so did the horses of Achilles trample on the shields and bodies of the slain. The axle underneath and the railing that ran round the car were bespattered with clots of blood thrown up by the horses’ hoofs, and from the tyres of the wheels; but the son of Peleus pressed on to win still further glory, and his hands were bedrabbled with gore.”

        He routs the entire Troyan army, chasing half of it into a steep-banked stream.

        “Forthwith the hero left his spear upon the bank, leaning it against a tamarisk bush, and plunged into the river like a god, armed with his sword only. Fell was his purpose as he hewed the Trojans down on every side. Their dying groans rose hideous as the sword smote them, and the river ran red with blood. As when fish fly scared before a huge dolphin, and fill every nook and corner of some fair haven- for he is sure to eat all he can catch- even so did the Trojans cower under the banks of the mighty river, and when Achilles’ arms grew weary with killing them, he drew twelve youths alive out of the water, to sacrifice in revenge for Patroclus son of Menoetius. He drew them out like dazed fawns, bound their hands behind them with the girdles of their own shirts, and gave them over to his men to take back to the ships. Then he sprang into the river, thirsting for still further blood.”

        It would be glorious to see. Yet lest the audience think he grew out of his fits of weeping, at the end of the story Achilles and Priam cry in each other’s arms.

        • Deiseach says:

          To most people he will seem like a huge whiny bitch, absent all the typical markers of badassery that would justify the sheer terror the Troyans have for the mere sight of his armour. Then when the audience has just about had enough of his shit, he finally rides into battle, and suddenly he’s brutally and swiftly cutting down one man after another.

          See Kate Beaton’s cartoon on this (I particularly like Scamander here) 🙂

        • AlphaGamma says:

          You have no idea how much i want to see faithful big screen adaptations of a lot of old epics just for the sheer culture shock that will come from all the manly man characters displaying behaviours that are anathema to modern conceptions of masculinity. Just think of the Iliad, for most of the story all we see of Achilles is him crying, throwing temper tantrums, and refusing to help with the fighting. To most people he will seem like a huge whiny bitch, absent all the typical markers of badassery that would justify the sheer terror the Troyans have for the mere sight of his armour.

          Plus, of course, he’s meant to be pretty. When disguised as a girl on Skyros, even though he is old enough to father a child, he is considered an unusually beautiful girl.

        • lvlln says:

          I was shown Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus in 6th grade during history class when I went to an all-boys school. I recall at the time a bunch of my classmates, being middle school boys, giggling at the overt emotional expressions of Spartacus and his friend near the end, particularly when one declares his love for Spartacus after being fatally injured by him after being forced to duel (the loser gets to die quickly, the winner gets to be crucified).

        • John Schilling says:

          I thought Wolfgang Peterson’s Troy did a fairly good job of this, within the constraints of having the plot rearranged to fit in ~3 hours and remove all the supernatural elements. Brad Pitt is pretty enough for Achilles, he’s got the sulking primadonna action star bit down pat like he’s been living it IRL for his whole career, and he was able to turn on the badassery when needed. Not to the extent of single-handedly slaughtering armies, because not supernatural, but you could certainly see him inspiring friends and terrifying foes to the same end result. Don’t recall him literally in tears, but grieving with Priam, yes.

          But the compression and demagicking does cost a fair bit of what was once an epic tale of gods and heroes, so YMMV.

          • Lillian says:

            It was a very good adaptation, or at least the Director’s Cut was. However it was still an adaptation with the character’s actions and behaviours altered to be more in line with the cultural prejudices of a modern audience. This is an understandable thing to do when you want your film to make money, but i still really want to see something like a mini-series that faithfully adapts the Iliad, including the gods, the epic heroes, the grandiose displays of unashamed emotion.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Just think of the Iliad, for most of the story all we see of Achilles is him crying, throwing temper tantrums, and refusing to help with the fighting. To most people he will seem like a huge whiny bitch, absent all the typical markers of badassery that would justify the sheer terror the Troyans have for the mere sight of his armour. Then when the audience has just about had enough of his shit, he finally rides into battle, and suddenly he’s brutally and swiftly cutting down one man after another

          Those who follow NFL drama (that is, none of us sportsball-saying Grey Tribers) will recognize the type.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Just think of the Iliad, for most of the story all we see of Achilles is him crying, throwing temper tantrums, and refusing to help with the fighting. To most people he will seem like a huge whiny bitch, absent all the typical markers of badassery that would justify the sheer terror the Troyans have for the mere sight of his armour. Then when the audience has just about had enough of his shit, he finally rides into battle, and suddenly he’s brutally and swiftly cutting down one man after another.

          That description sounds eerily familiar. Have you seen the new Star Wars sequels?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          What I’m seeing is how much one’s direction of empathy affects art– not exactly news.

          However, I’m pretty sure one is either supposed to read it as delightful to be Achilles or a lot of fun to watch Achilles. To put it mildly, this isn’t modern sensibilities.

          It’s not just that Achilles is doing tremendous amounts of killing, but when he needs a little break, he commits a war crime.

      • Thegnskald says:

        You might enjoy the Punisher series on Netflix.

        In spite of the focus on essentially stoic characters, and a heavy theme of violence, it has more male emotion and vulnerability than I have seen since the Lethal Weapon series. (Although Secondhand Lions gets an honorable mention for implied emotion)

        I just wish it had kept up using Tom Wait’s “Hell Broke Luce” every time the Punisher goes ballistic.

        • Lillian says:

          Already watched it! With my Boyfriend even, he was super stocked for it after Daredevil Season 2 (aka The Punisher Season 0). It’s a very good show about male vulnerability and bonding, particularly since it puts front an centre how modern cultural expectations of manhood get in the way of the characters being able to process their emotions in a healthy way. At the same time though, it doesn’t make a big deal out of or call attention to them. The issues are there, but nobody calls attention to them, because there’s nobody on screen who would.

          It’s a pretty heavy show, but in a good way. The Punisher is character that’s very easy to go all dark and edgy on, but they do a good job of humanizing and adding complexity to him. And also of occasionally presenting him with problems that can’t be solved with ultraviolence. Overall, i’d say the stoicism that society demands of men does allow opportunities for some amazing acting, since we get to see so many characters who you can see are falling apart inside, and yet have to pretend to be holding it together in order to keep moving forward.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        No, the False Consciousness hypothesis definitely belongs on the table. The historical evidence seems a stronger argument than the general “bad stuff happens to men” statistics, though.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Even without false consciousness, we could arrive at the same results.

          Version One, men don’t get support for the relatively small set of things they do need support for. Socially enforced stoicism equips them better to deal with the small stuff, while depriving them of the network to support them through the big stuff.

          Version Two, having more small-scale crises better equips women to deal with bigger crises. Stoicism could genuinely make you more emotionally stable, but at the cost of losing out on learning to cope with emotional issues/instability, so issues that cross a certain threshold hit men harder.

          Version Three, stoicism becomes part of your identity, so when you are overwhelmed with emotional issues, you have an additional emotional issue on top of that, of having your identity ripped away from you (right when you need such a bedrock the most).

          Version Four, since stoicism is part of masculine identity, being unable to cope with an issue makes you a failure. (Similar, but not identical to, 3)

          And so on.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        These stats make me cautious as well, but most of the guys I talk to say they don’t want these kinds of friendships, and the complaining about the over-emotiveness of women is near universal among guys in relationships.

        It’s totally possible that there is some combination of the following:
        1. These self-destructive guys in particular have broken support networks, while most guys are doing just fine.
        2. The happiness of men in relationships has little to do with the availability of routine emotional support, and is instead based on some other fringe benefit. We should probably assign a letter for this unidentified variable, perhaps “S.” Perhaps men not getting “S” are pretty upset, and this “S” cannot be provided by their male friends.

        • albatross11 says:

          Well, S *can* be provided by male friends, but that’s more of a minority taste….

        • Garrett says:

          Then the question is: how do we level the playing field for success with “S”?

          • The Nybbler says:

            We’ll look at areas in which those who are not doing so well with “S’ are doing well, and we’ll take the fruits of their labor in those areas and redistribute them to others who aren’t doing so well in them but are doing well with “S”. This will automatically, through cosmic balancing, also level “S”.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I’m not into macro-fixes for things like this. People will muddle through and norms will evolve as needed.

            We should just allow people to pursue whatever types of relationships they want, and give some tips to get those relationships. It’s better than ending up permanently with a group of “Untitled” men and women, all of whom are getting attacked by cottage industries dedicated to demonizing said men and women for not fully complying with other people’s wishes.

          • albatross11 says:

            ObSFReference: _The Rainbow Cadenza_

    • Lillian says:

      My gf has strong impulses to tell me every new problem that enters her life and also frequently revisit old ones. She’s mentally unusual too, but this behavior seems pretty in accord with what threads like the above consider ‘normal’. And I feel like a toxic-masculine insensitive dinosaur for saying this, but this is quite burdensome to me. (This is a stereotypical boyfriend/husband complaint, which suggests to me that I’m not that weird for feeling this.) I tolerate it because I recognize it’s essential to my gf’s well-being, which I value. I believe that the cultural understanding of a romantic relationship justifies my gf in expecting this, and that the value of my relationship in my life makes it worthwhile from my perspective, but I would definitely opt out of a medium-strength friendship if it required that much listening.

      Being aware of this dynamic is why i don’t understand what feminists mean when they say that women are stuck doing the majority of the emotional labour in heterosexual relationships. It seems to me like it’s my Boyfriend who does bulk of the emotional labour in the relationship, because he has to deal with all of my emotional baggage, but i only have to deal with a fraction of his.

      Also, i spent a while reading blogs by couples in non-religious but still traditionally oriented marriages, and they expressed a similar sentiment as well. The wives tended to experience their internal lives as an chaotic tempest of emotion, in which their husbands were rocks that they could anchor against and weather the storm. They would talk gratefully about how their men would soothe them, calm them, make everything right and sensible again. Meanwhile the husbands would write about how the wife was freaking out and stressed over things, and he went and calmed her down and settled her, then later give her clear instructions on how to proceed, which she went on to follow with renewed strength. This is very clearly emotional labour, and yet it was a theme on both sides that it was the husbands who were doing the bulk of it. The wife’s job was to trust and obey him.

      It was an interesting contrast to the radical feminist blogs i was reading around the same time. Particularly since the traditional couples actually seemed more open minded than the radical feminists. The former had an attitude that their arrangement was good for them, and probably would be for most other people, but not necessarily for everyone, and were tolerant and supportive of people with other arrangements. Meanwhile the radfems tended to treat any deviations from their idea of the right way to live as a sure sign of the Patriarchy’s malign influence.

      • Baeraad says:

        One female friend of mine once read one of those angry feminist articles about how women had to do all the emotional labour… and then shamefacedly approached me to ask if I felt like I was doing all the emotional labour in our relationship. I assured her, truthfully, that I did not.

        The funny thing, though? I have no idea what sort of emotional labour it is that she thought I was doing. She’s always been super-stoical and reluctant to talk about herself in the first place, let alone share any deep insecurities or fears. As near as I can tell, I’m the one who’s always complaining about how depressed I am, and she who does the listening and sympathetic nodding. I have no idea what to make of that.

        As for traditional people often being more easy-going than supposedly tolerant liberals… yes, I’ve noticed that too, actually. Though it’s probably worth keeping in mind that radfems aren’t the equivalent of regular conservatives, they’re the equivalent of the kind of conservatives who roam the Internet and bellow about depravity and the evils of birth control. The equivalent of old-fashioned couples who mind their own business are the “sure, I’ll have a bit of casual sex in between monogamous relationships if the opportunity presents itself” millenial slackers who mind their own business. They’re just not as noticeable, since they’re right smack in the mainstream and therefore don’t stand out in any way.

        • Aapje says:

          @Baeraad

          In a weird way your story makes sense because some feminists seem to see the stoic person as the one who is demanding emotional labor from the less stoic person. So it then makes sense that if your female friend believed such a person, she would consider her own, more stoic role as demanding emotional labor from you.

          One can argue in general that some feminist terminology or the way some feminists define their terminology is little more than a label they use to refer to certain masculine behavior. It’s very common for feminists to assume that only masculine behavior can cause problems. This can then be quite confusing when feminine behavior also falls under the definition that feminists claim to use and were this behavior also (sometimes) hurts others, but where the actual arguments and reasoning is not based on the definition, but on combining that definition with further assumptions/bias.

        • Lillian says:

          As for traditional people often being more easy-going than supposedly tolerant liberals… yes, I’ve noticed that too, actually. Though it’s probably worth keeping in mind that radfems aren’t the equivalent of regular conservatives, they’re the equivalent of the kind of conservatives who roam the Internet and bellow about depravity and the evils of birth control. The equivalent of old-fashioned couples who mind their own business are the “sure, I’ll have a bit of casual sex in between monogamous relationships if the opportunity presents itself” millenial slackers who mind their own business. They’re just not as noticeable, since they’re right smack in the mainstream and therefore don’t stand out in any way.

          It’s true the two groups are not comparable. It would be more fair to pit the rad-fems against the religious traditional marriage types, since they do tend to insist theirs is the one and only acceptable way. Nonetheless it seems extremely weird that between a group that preaches wives’ obedience to husbands, and a group that preaches female liberation, it’s the former that has the greater respect for women’s agency. Both suggest an ideal way to live, but the liberation gals are like, “Everyone who deviates is deluded, colluded, coerced, and oppressed!” While traditonalist couples are more like, “Most people could benefit from this, but it’s cool if you don’t like it, you do you.” It’s the complete opposite of what i would naively expect, you know?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Baeraad

          Hypothesis: she’s stoical because she believes that any request (even implied) for emotional support is an imposition– and she applies this standard to herself much more than to other people.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Yeah, I always wonder this when I read about gendered emotional labor. My charitable reading of the feminist position is in pre-feminist culture, men can complain to their bros about all the listening they have to do and be immediately understood, whereas women’s emotional labor is taken for granted to the point there aren’t even words for it. But I can’t quite find a way to justify that no one seems to ever acknowledge that men might also do emotional labor.

      • Randy M says:

        That’s because the women (who writes about topics like “emotional labor”, certainly a subset of women) see the emotional outpouring that they are doing as a service to the other party, as well as the prying to get him to try to do the same–despite her being compelled to do so. Meanwhile, it’s not like the man has to work to get her to be emotional, so how are things difficult for him, really?

        • Nornagest says:

          This. I’m kinda sympathetic to some types of emotional labor discourse — certainly a cashier at McDonalds who needs to smile for the rudest customers is performing emotional labor — but I have a problem with the concept where it implies that unwanted and unneeded emotionality, or even sympathy, creates a debt in its recipient. Regardless of the effort involved. If, uninvited, I take a shovel and spend an afternoon digging a big hole in your front lawn, I’ve expended labor but you certainly don’t owe me anything.

    • Mark says:

      I’m good at talking, and I’ve got a good imagination, so I’ve always found talking about my problems to be exceedingly dangerous.

      I end up talking myself into dark places. Not helpful.

      LJBF is odd. I don’t think I could physically listen to all that stuff.
      Actually, as I’m getting older, I find it increasingly difficult to listen to women talking about normal stuff, let alone their neuroses. They really do love their digressions.

      • skef says:

        Actually, as I’m getting older, I find it increasingly difficult to listen to women talking about normal stuff, let alone their neuroses. They really do love their digressions.

        Ontogeny recapitulates misogyny? I thought it was the other way around.

    • outis says:

      This is quite interesting to me, because I actually do feel the need to discuss my problems with other people. And it ends up pushing those people away, both men *and* women.
      I also don’t feel very manly, and maybe this is why.

  24. Andrew Hunter says:

    For many years I’ve been idly building parts of a fictional universe which naturally admits space-opera style naval battles. (I mean, not the colossally dumb parts like everything happening in 2D, but big battleships and carriers with humans on them invading each other’s planetary systems.) The goal is to have the facts (the fictional physics, engineering, and societies) lead to the kind of scenes we want being sane and well thought out by the people enacting them, instead of just decreed by fiat. At the moment it’s mostly just a collection of spare parts that I like, but some of them are good.

    In particular, I have come up with a system of FTL travel that I think has nice consequences. In particular, it dodges the Ender’s Game/island hopping problem nicely: that is, why would we have frontiers or pickets or anything at all, instead of just sending your entire fleet to the enemy’s home planet? The actual mechanisms aren’t new (I am told this is vaguely similar to EVE, and I know Hyperion and Uplift have some matching macguffins), but to my knowledge the details (which are important) are novel, and I haven’t seen anyone work out the consequences here.

    We have two forms of FTL which we can nickname “gates” and “warp drive”. Warp drive is the standard trick: via whatever cheat you like, your ship can travel at some multiple of c or fake it convincingly. (I have not learned enough general relativity yet to come up with a good explanation of why this doesn’t violate causality or allow time travel, so right now it’s authorial fiat.) There is one important caveat: warp drive gives off a signature that’s detectable at some interstellar distance (the signature travelling considerably faster than the ship.) This gives us a tunable parameter D with units of time: the detection distance divided by the travel speed, which is to say the warning time you have before an incoming fleet is upon you. The absolute speed of travel depends on how long a time scale you want for your story: I can see the answer being Aubrey Maturin In Space where going to the next country over is a few weeks and Australia is a year away, or Phileas Fogg In Space where going to the next country over takes a day’s effort and Australia is a month or so out.

    (One important detail: other than detection signatures, which aren’t very detailed, there is *no* FTL radio. If you want to give orders to the Alpha Centauri commander, send a dispatch boat.)

    Gates are also what you think: instantaneous (or close to it) travel between two fixed points (systems you control.) Gates are expensive, relatively fragile, and take time and effort to construct. (I haven’t decided if they are built in place at both ends simultaneously (likely) or towed very slowly between systems, but in particular, you absolutely *cannot* bring one end of a gate with your invasion fleet: this is not Hyperion, where you leave your entire fleet in a staging location and then pour it out of your first ship in the enemy system.

    In your polity, the inhabited systems all contain a few gates, forming a connected (though extremely sparse–most systems will only have 2-5 gates due to cost and time) graph. Conversely, you *do not* have gates connecting enemy-held systems. This gives us another parameter with units of time T: the diameter of that graph, times the average time to navigate between gates at sublight speed inside a system (plus overhead time for traffic jams making it through, etc.) T is, effectively, the time it takes your fleet to assemble at a given point in your connected network.

    The nice thing here: this cuts island hopping off at the knees. If you send a fleet towards Earth trying to bypass my other systems, I’ll know as soon as you reach my borders. Your fleet is now stuck in warp for weeks useless, and mine is free to raid wherever I want; I then assemble it either in Earth or, to keep my civilians safe, I muster it in a system you’re going to pass by and take a quick warp jaunt to intercept you.

    Now, an interesting question for the border patrol: how do D and T compare? If D >> T, then we get stalemates: any significant incursion towards one of my frontier systems can be met with equal or greater force, because I can get my entire fleet there in time from its one central base. We won’t see major battles except when the attacker is willing to engage the whole of the defender’s forces. I think this is the least interesting scenario, but it’s not without merit. Call this trench warfare.

    If T >> D, then we need significant picket forces across the frontier while they send messengers screaming for help. The defenders, outnumbered, then must protect the gate, while the attackers try to take it out before overwhelming reinforcements arrive–but mostly they’ll win. We’ll see very strong pickets in frontier systems that cannot be lost, and many more will fall to attackers, blowing their own gates to avoid letting enemy fleets run rampant across your own interior lines. One would expect a wide fringe of systems between enemies that were gateless due to changing hands multiple times before gates could be built: in fact, that’d be the primary challenge for long term strategic action: hold a system for long enough to reconnect it to your web, at which point forces pour in to defend it.

    If T ~= D, then we still need picket forces, but the attackers are taking much more of a risk–they’re desperately trying to isolate a system before they’re overrun. We’d see multiple nodal commitments in defence, I expect. Here we also might see a lot more multi pronged attacks and feints — try to force a commitment in system A allowing B to be overrun. I’m not sure which of these two scenarios I prefer, they both can be good.

    There are also a lot of fun emergent properties in the system. For example: I send a small raiding force (a single battlecruiser or escort carrier, plus screen) towards a major frontier system. They can’t take it by force…but can they fight their way to the gate? Even assuming they won’t be able to destroy it, they might be able to make transit–because the defenders can’t afford to self-destruct it in response to such a small commitment. We then have a nice scenario of privateer-like commerce raiders running around the back lines of the defender’s gate network trying to do as much damage as possible while constantly on the run from nodal defense forces: how many system can they trash infrastructure in before they’re either brought to action or forced to retreat towards home base?

    Anyway, I like this a lot. Thoughts?

    • albatross11 says:

      Other than the detectability of the fleet in warp, a lot of what you’re describing is close to the way Weber set things up in his Honor Harrington books. You can make a very long journey in hyperspace and raid the enemy’s home planet, but your fleet is gone (out of sight, out of contact) for a long time. Or you can go through a wormhole and come out the other side instantaneously.

      If the only form of FTL is wormholes/jump points/etc., then you get something like what the Bujold’s Vorkosigan books have. In that case, you can’t raid the enemy’s home system unless you can get through the jump points. (The Mote in God’s Eye has the same basic idea.)

      In both of those works, wormholes/jump points are natural features of the universe, not anything anyone builds. And everyone puts warships and forts around the wormholes, since that’s the best way to prevent invasions.

      I like the idea that jump gates are some huge expensive investment–it adds a lot of interesting twists. You now have to worry about attacks on your jump gates. Depending on the parameters of your model, you could end up with a situation where the attacker first destroys a couple of critical jump gates that would have allowed re-enforcements to arrive in time via suicide attack by apparently-unarmed freighters, and then sends his detectable-at-a-distance invasion fleet–your re-enforcements can’t get there in time without the jump gates. (Or doing so would leave your home planet uncovered for too long.)

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        It could be more fun than that– there are possibilities of sabotaging or subverting the other side’s jump gates.

        • albatross11 says:

          Okay, that would be cool–I slip a “maintenance upgrade” into your jump gate and reroute it to some new star system, and collect all the cargo ships that go through until you figure out what happened….

          Alternatively, I reroute your jump gate to where I’ve got my whole space navy waiting and then the invasion starts.

          Or maybe I just sabotage it so your jump gate destroys the ships that pass it instead of sending them to a friendly star system. Then the raid shows up and your ships all flee through the jump gate into oblivion.

      • Randy M says:

        Another way of considering ftl travel would be one where you are literally moving faster than your sensors, so all warp is flying blind. Assume some shields but not invulnerability, and perhaps some margin of error in navigation. The result would (probably) be a system of voyages via short hops, dropping out of warp speed to recompute your location and scan ahead for dangers before re-entering warp. Warp would make you undetectable until you dropped out of it.
        Perhaps information could be transmitted faster than travel via small, autonomous messenger drones/ships. Once an invading fleet is spotted, it tries to out race these towards the target.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        It sounds to me then like the ideal invasion plan is to send warp-capable missiles at several of the enemy’s gates at once while the invasion force lags slightly behind. They know an attack is coming, they don’t know exactly where to send reinforcements, but their connecting gates are destroyed before the invasion fleet shows up.

        One of my problems with an awful lot of space invasion scenarios is they frequently do not account for Big Dumb Rocks*. Independence Day was ridiculous: when all you want to do is collect resources from the planet**, there’s no reason to enter the atmosphere at all. Take over planet N. While extracting resources from planet N, send swarm of neutron bombs to planet N+1. Arrive X years later to extract resources from now barren world.

        Related, another thing to ask is, why is anyone engaged in interstellar war at all? What is the rare resource they’re fighting over? Is it habitable worlds that are rare (liquid water on surface)? Biodiversity? Minerals?

        * Fine, Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Cold Harsh Mistress.

        ** Another common objection to “invading for resources” is that “why do you need a habitable world at all? You’re already in space! Mine dead worlds, asteroids!” The problem is concentration. On Earth, minerals have been concentrated into deposits/veins by eons of geological, hydrological, and biological processes. Elements don’t necessarily naturally clump together. There’s billions of tons of platinum in them thar’ asteroids! There’s an atom of it over there, an atom over there, an atom over there… Now, you would think if you can manipulate matter, energy, space and time well enough to travel between stars, you could probably sift through those atoms just fine, grind up the asteroids and separate out the atoms like a CoinStar machine, but maybe not. So there is a case for “we’re invading a life-bearing planet for minerals:” you don’t get geological and biological processes to concentrate material on dead worlds like asteroids or Mars.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          One of my problems with an awful lot of space invasion scenarios is they frequently do not account for Big Dumb Rocks*.

          Even without warp drive, rocks can be spotted from quite some distance. John Schilling schooled me on this a few months ago, as I was totally unaware of the scale and efficiency of wide-field IR telescopy.

          (I used to think the same thing, but so long as you can’t reasonably accelerate a rock to half of C without giving the target warning time, it’s not that big a deal.)

          Now, a lot of settings do totally break down when they say explicitly you can do that and any planets still exist, but it’s not a fully general counter.

        • honhonhonhon says:

          Your fleet is now stuck in warp for weeks useless, and mine is free to raid wherever I want; I then assemble it either in Earth or, to keep my civilians safe, I muster it in a system you’re going to pass by and take a quick warp jaunt to intercept you.

          In Banner of the Stars, ships travelling in hyperspace can enter each other’s bubble and then fight as if they are in normal space (bubbles with more mass are slower, so ships moving in formation still use individual bubbles and only merge by necessity; meaning merging with an enemy ship does not necessarily put you under the guns of the entire enemy fleet). Andrew’s second sentence implies that warp combat is similarly possible in his system, so a warp-enabled missile aimed at a gate can be intercepted and destroyed by a picket.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think that would depend on the way various warp speeds work. Can a missile, which is just an engine, guidance system and warhead, go significantly faster than a picket, which has engines, hull, weapons, life support, people, etc., or does basically everything at warp go the same speed? If the missiles go fast (like missiles!) then you have the same problems we have with ICBM missile defense.

            Also, consider swarming. Pickets are probably going to be more expensive than missiles. I can throw 100 fast warp missiles at your gates. Can your pickets intercept them all?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Conrad –

            A simple solution: Have frontier warp gates from a staging point. A pocket can intercept one missile, gate ahead, intercept a second, and so on. Thus, without whittling down the frontier gates first, a single picket can take out multiple missiles.

            Alternatively, anti-missile missiles, which would probably be less expensive than regular missiles.

          • Rob K says:

            This and some related questions seem like they would matter a lot in terms of how combat would work here.

            Is the warp drive cheap? Is it, say, half the cost of a capital ship? Can real-space projectiles/explosions/chaff impact ships in warp? If not, do warp bubbles have to “merge” for a phsyical attack to take place? How big are warp bubbles? Can you detect how much mass a given warping ship has/warp bubble contains?

            Depending on the answers to those questions you could imagine the dominant tactics ranging from launching swarms of warp missiles against the enemy fleet (which would presumably be launching interceptors and possibly decoy warp drives) to fleets dominated by capital ships maneuvering to try and isolate and gang up on opposing units.

            In fact, you’d probably have to tune some of these parameters so that warp combat wasn’t mutually suicidal, or at least implausibly costly.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            I am not sure about the *cost* of a warp drive, but I can tell you the *size* and complexity of one is significant. Warp cruise missiles aren’t possible, or at least wouldn’t be cheaper than building real fleets.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Alternatively, anti-missile missiles, which would probably be less expensive than regular missiles.

            I would think bullets that can hit other bullets would be more expensive than bullets that hit big, stationary targets. Aren’t our current (and mostly ineffective?) missile defense systems harder to build and more expensive than an ICBM?

            I am not sure about the *cost* of a warp drive, but I can tell you the *size* and complexity of one is significant. Warp cruise missiles aren’t possible, or at least wouldn’t be cheaper than building real fleets.

            So no small, fast warp-capable ships then. No X-Wing fighters, only TIE fighters.

            ETA: also, the cost is the only thing that would matter in terms of whether or not it’s cheaper to build warp cruise missiles.

          • bean says:

            Aren’t our current (and mostly ineffective?) missile defense systems harder to build and more expensive than an ICBM?

            This is both difficult to answer and not really relevant due to various factors which are going to distort it. I’d expect they’d be of broadly similar magnitude.

          • Thegnskald says:

            The big issue with shooting bullets (and missiles, for that matter) out of the air is that, relative to the distance they travel, they move really quickly. The challenge is targeting them, of which the challenge is identifying where they will be.

            For a fleet of incoming missiles, assuming their warp signature gives sufficient information to determine direction and velocity, you can readily intercept a dumb missile with another dumb missile, and probably a much smaller one.

            A smart missile random-walking would be harder to target, but would be more expensive; the response to a smart missile would be a smart anti-missile, which would use course corrections.

            Of course, a mixed barrage would be harder, but you could assume they are all dumb missiles for the first volley, then target whatever survives with smarter missiles for the second.

            A very clever missile might avoid other warp signatures, in addition to random-walking; you could counter this with more anti-missile missiles covering a wide area. Depending on the fuel requirements for warp, these might be recoverable, as well.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            So that would depend on the nature of whatever allows warp travel to be detectable. Do the warp detectors get a precise location, or do they get a fuzzy “we know something in this light-year diameter sphere is warping in this general direction.”

            And if you’ve got a smart anti-warp-missile that’s tracking down the warp-missile, then now you’ve got to have a warp field detector (that doesn’t get confused by its own warp field) on the missile. So the anti-warp-missile with its warp engine, warp detector, warhead and guidance system is more expensive than your dumbfired warp-missile with its warp drive and warhead.

    • Skivverus says:

      Question: what happens if a (ship attached to a) warp drive encounters an obstacle while active? I’m assuming things get messy, but how they get messy will affect the standard tactics.
      If you want your setting to have planets or other installations of comparable difficulty to move (at least, beyond the first book), that requires the warp drive disengage (or disintegrate) well before impact. I believe the standard technobabble links this to gravitational gradients, gravity being the strongest currently known force at applicable distances; that or political treaties.
      However, this explanation doesn’t necessarily apply to other warp drives, or to smaller masses.

      On the T ?= D scenarios, T << D also carries assumptions that warp signatures are difficult to counterfeit (either by warp drives being expensive to make/maintain/use, or by some correlation of the signature with the mass/complexity of the attached ship or convenient asteroid): decoy-swarming the opposing empire is a tactic that comes to mind. (Your fleet has a hundred ships, but fifty signatures to respond to; even if they only have seventy ships in total, that can still add up to a ten-to-one advantage in detail if you have to respond to all fifty simultaneously)

    • cassander says:

      (One important detail: other than detection signatures, which aren’t very detailed, there is *no* FTL radio. If you want to give orders to the Alpha Centauri commander, send a dispatch boat.)

      They don’t have to be detailed, if ships send out a signal that’s faster than they are, you can pulse it to communicate. the bandwidth might be low, and it might not be real time, but it’s still communication.

      (I haven’t decided if they are built in place at both ends simultaneously (likely) or towed very slowly between systems, but in particular, you absolutely *cannot* bring one end of a gate with your invasion fleet:

      if you can tow them, then can’t you bring a gate with you by definition?

      • Skivverus says:

        If you can bring the blueprints along with you, can’t you construct the output end of a gate once you arrive with your beachhead fleet?
        All a matter of time between arrival and setup.
        Of course, if that time is weeks or months, say, and the gate is vulnerable while being constructed/activated (e.g., incompatible with whatever tech you use for shielding against Trivial Offensive Method B), that could satisfy the “can’t bring one end along with the invasion fleet”.

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          Yes. Obviously, if your fleet involves construciton ships you can, given time, money, and safety, build a gate: that’s given in the setting. (That’s how you conquer a planet.) The point being that you certainly can’t use gates offensively to sned through fleets to enemy territory.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Maybe you just can’t tow a gate at warp speed? I don’t imagine a sub-light hauler is going to be much help in an invasion

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Cassander: I think what I mean, in practice, is that it’s not possible to send a letter from Alpha Centauri to Earth without a ship making most of the journey. (Obviously, yes, any information channel is an information channel.)

        As for the towing: that’s why I probably don’t’ think you can do that. Possibly you can tow part of a gate, but still need weeks or months of setup after having done so.

        (One interesting setup would be gates that can be towed, but only at sublight speeds: though this would probably lead to rapid and total breakdown of the gate network.)

        • cassander says:

          I wasn’t really thinking of towing, I was thinking of (A) slapping a warp drive onto a completed gate, (B) building a ship big enough to have an internal gate, or (C) bringing the nearly finished parts of gates inside or on the exterior of several ships and having them assemble once close.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Yeah, the setting allows none of those options by author fiat (because at that point sending around a single jumpship is the dominant strategy.)

        • AlphaGamma says:

          (One interesting setup would be gates that can be towed, but only at sublight speeds: though this would probably lead to rapid and total breakdown of the gate network.)

          This is used by Iain M. Banks in The Algebraist, without other forms of FTL.

      • ManyCookies says:

        you can pulse it to communicate.

        Andrew could patch this by making acceleration changes slow and expensive (fuel wise) during FtL travel.

    • bean says:

      What’s the maximum range of a gate? It’s got to be fairly small, or you’d see a hub-and-spoke system with one or a small number of hubs.
      But I do think that multiple FTL drives in a system is a very interesting mechanic that’s heavily underused. I’ve come up with a couple settings of my own like that.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        How do you figure? I had mostly assumed gates were unlimited range or close to it, but that hub and spoke was fairly unlikely because of the vulnerability of hubs. That is: if a system with two gates is seriously attacked, in most of these scenarios, you don’t have to defend it if you don’t really want to: blow the gates and move on with your life. If a hub is attacked, you have to defend it with all your might, because otherwise your web is disconnected and your entire fleet can be defeated in detail.

        I had expected the optimal move would be to use a low-degree expander graph (possibly with higher degree on your core systems which have enough infrastructure or population that they can’t be sacrificed anyway.) Such graphs have two important properties: low diameter and no small cuts. Low diameter means that you can get between any two points with only a few hops; the lack of small cuts means the graph can’t be disconnected easily: unless you take out a huge fraction of my systems, I can still get anywhere in my remaining territory from anywhere else.

        Note that unlike your favorite piece of real world infrastructure, there’s basically no value ot hub and spoke for efficiency in travel–well, I suppose a pure star graph would require fewer total gates, but only by a constant factor, and two independent freighters going to different final destinations don’t gain any efficiency from taking the same route to a hub, since gates are permanent anyway and there’s no common carrier.

        • bean says:

          But how do you attack a hub? I’d assume it would be basically at the center of the empire, so the warp drives can’t get to it quickly. And I concentrate my entire fleet there, ready to go anywhere in my empire instantly. You might have a couple of hubs for safety, but I don’t see how you can beat it for efficiency. Admittedly, I don’t know how much better it would be than the graph model you propose, as I’m an aerospace guy and know pretty much nothing of topology.

          • The Nybbler says:

            But how do you attack a hub? I’d assume it would be basically at the center of the empire, so the warp drives can’t get to it quickly.

            I stage my fleet in interstellar space somewhere near your hub. That is, I send in a constructor fleet to some location near your hub, build a gate there, then I can move my fleet in quickly. Several options from there — I can do diversionary strikes on spokes to draw off your fleet and then attack your hub. I can do a hit and run from the staging location to destroy your hub gates, then pick off your spokes (which can no longer be defended from the hub) individually.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I think this should lead to you inevitably losing most of the spokes of your hub to a determined enemy.

          • bean says:

            I stage my fleet in interstellar space somewhere near your hub. That is, I send in a constructor fleet to some location near your hub, build a gate there, then I can move my fleet in quickly.

            How? To get anywhere near my hub, you’re moving past a spectacular number of my listening posts. The whole point is that you can’t island-hop like that.

            I think this should lead to you inevitably losing most of the spokes of your hub to a determined enemy.

            I’ve got the ultimate in interior lines with this plan. I don’t have to waste forces in areas where the enemy chooses not to strike.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I guess it depends on the nature of the detection. I was thinking the detection only worked if you were near the path of the warp ship. Interstellar space is big; my constructor fleet is relatively small. I send it in avoiding your listening posts (I carefully avoid ever moving towards an inhabited system). I build a gate deep in your territory and then I can attack from that gate. I can’t hop directly into the hub system but I can attack from nearby, perhaps after I’ve engaged one or more of your spoke systems that border mine to draw your fleet off.

          • John Schilling says:

            Two of the explicit constraints of the scenario are that warp travel is sufficiently detectable to make sneak attacks impractical, and that gates are sufficiently cumbersome that you can’t set one up right next to your target and pour out a fleet. We haven’t been given numerical values for warp detection range or gate construction time, but if you say, “Aha! I’ll sneakily warp in to a point epsilon away from the enemy homeworld, undetected, and then build a gate from which I can pour out a fleet for a surprise attack”, our Mr. Hunter will presumably tweak those parameters to make that not work.

            I’m pretty sure you can’t sneak anywhere close to an enemy system without his knowing what you are up to. You can’t build a gate fast enough to prevent him from concentrating his fleet via pre-existing gates, destroying your gate-building force, and redeploying for frontier defense or counterattack. If you keep your gate-building fleet far enough away that it can’t be detected, then your gate will be far enough away that your attack force will be detected long before it manages to reach the homeworld/hub/whatever, with “long” meaning enough time to concentrate his fleet via gate, engage your attack force, and go back to whatever it was doing before. Which can safely be left undone in the interim, because your fleet is visibly committed.

            Gates are roughly equivalent to railroads here, the ultimate in interior lines of communication and an overwhelming advantage to the defense. You seem to be suggesting that, because all Russian railroads lead to Moscow, Russia can be conquered by building a Secret German Railroad to a spot just outside of Moscow and using it to launch an overwhelming attack without warning. And you are proposing this strategy against a God who can arbitrarily decide how good Russian policemen and partisans are at stopping unauthorized railroad construction.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Gates are roughly equivalent to railroads here, the ultimate in interior lines of communication and an overwhelming advantage to the defense. You seem to be suggesting that, because all Russian railroads lead to Moscow, Russia can be conquered by building a Secret German Railroad to a spot just outside of Moscow and using it to launch an overwhelming attack without warning.

            Well, this does actually work pretty well in Civ2 and AlphaCent.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            But more seriously:

            And you are proposing this strategy against a God who can arbitrarily decide how good Russian policemen and partisans are at stopping unauthorized railroad construction.

            This is true, but I am hopeful that the behavior I want will emerge naturally from any set of reasonable-ish parameters here. While I do get author fiat, my goal here was to make this basically Just Work…so I am curious to see how close I’ve gotten.

            I agree Nybbler’s strategy doesn’t work, though, for basically the reasons you stated.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The big difference between gates and railroads is that gates are points, not lines; I don’t need to build a railroad to somewhere near Moscow, only slip a construction crew in and build a station near Moscow. The other thing is interstellar space is really big; it’d be impractical to enclose a star empire in a network of warp detectors, and anyway the detectors could only report back by sending a ship.

            If I could slip my fleet in, construction of the gate would go unnoticed because of the no-FTL-radio constraint. So if it doesn’t work, it’s because I can’t slip my fleet in. So warp detection must be omnidirectional and fairly long-range.

          • bean says:

            I don’t need to build a railroad to somewhere near Moscow, only slip a construction crew in and build a station near Moscow.

            You need to slip a crew capable of building a major railway station in near Moscow. Somehow, this doesn’t seem to make things that much easier.

            The other thing is interstellar space is really big; it’d be impractical to enclose a star empire in a network of warp detectors, and anyway the detectors could only report back by sending a ship.

            Again, no. Andrew explicitly repudiated the island-hopping approach, which means the detectors have enough range to stop you from slipping between them. And they report back via gate, which is much faster. Your construction force is going to find my 1st Battlecruiser Squadron waiting for it. Or possibly my entire fleet, if I want to exercise them.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Again, no. Andrew explicitly repudiated the island-hopping approach, which means the detectors have enough range to stop you from slipping between them. And they report back via gate, which is much faster.

            That I’m not buying. You can’t possibly build any reasonable grid enclosing an interstellar volume with expensive gates.

          • bean says:

            That I’m not buying. You can’t possibly build any reasonable grid enclosing an interstellar volume with expensive gates.

            This argument depends very heavily on assumptions about both the cost of gates and the range of the detectors. First, if I’m right about detector range, you’re piggybacking off the existing gates, and the cost of the gates is 0. Second, even if I’m wrong, you don’t need to go all the way to the core without gates. Go to the nearest gate, which is going to be a lot closer to you than the bad guys are to their target if they’re trying a deep strike. Under the constraints Andrew laid out, Hub-and-spoke is simply the best option for defense, and quite possibly for trade as well. I could see direct links between systems where the cost of the trade justifies the expense of an extra gate, but from a military perspective, hubs just work. The ‘weak point’ is also the point where I’m going to concentrate my entire fleet. I’m OK with this.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t need to build a railroad to somewhere near Moscow, only slip a construction crew in and build a station near Moscow.

            What are the odds of successfully constructing a complete railroad station anywhere within a hundred miles of Moscow, if the Russian government understands that anyone who isn’t satisfied with the perfectly good Russian-controlled railroad stations already in Moscow is probably planning an invasion and their construction site needs to be bombed or overrun before it turns into a railroad station?

            Whether or not you also need to build an actual railroad from Berlin to Almost Moscow is irrelevant; the Russians will stop you from building the station with or without the rail line.

            Yeah, the Civ2 AI will let you get away with that, but the Civ2 AI isn’t very I.

            The other thing is interstellar space is really big; it’d be impractical to enclose a star empire in a network of warp detectors,

            Says who? What’s the range on a warp detector, a picket or courier ship, and how much do they cost?

            Because the original problem statement said almost exactly the opposite. Ships traveling under warp can be detected well before they are close enough to become an immediate threat. Which, yes, does imply omnidirectional long-range detection, probably at least comparable to the distance between inhabited worlds. And that probably does allow an effective perimeter defense. But no matter. Ships traveling under warp can be detected well before they are close enough to become an immediate threat. And gates can’t simply be dumped out of a “construction fleet” and activated at the touch of a button. Those are the explicit rules of the scenario.

            So if you “slip a construction crew in” to build a gate the enemy doesn’t know about, that gate is by definition far enough away to not pose an immediate threat. He’ll have time to summon reinforcements from across his gate network and probably the adjacent frontier to meet your attack. To build a gate close enough to pose an immediate threat, you have to park a logistics fleet someplace he can clearly see it, and keep it there long enough for him to do something about it. During which period you won’t be able to summon reinforcements, so how much of your fleet were you planning to send as escorts and what mischief will he be getting up to while your fleet is thus committed.

            TL,DR: You’re deliberately breaking the rules by asserting that you can sneak warp ships close to the enemy homeworld.

          • albatross11 says:

            The detectability of FTL ships from far away requires that the signal you are detecting is traveling faster than light–otherwise, the warning would arrive after the invasion fleet. And that implies long-range FTL communications. Whatever the detection range is, that’s how far apart my repeaters are. Each repeater is a warp-equipped starship that will take one of N paths to send one of N possible symbols faster than light.

          • bean says:

            The detectability of FTL ships from far away requires that the signal you are detecting is traveling faster than light–otherwise, the warning would arrive after the invasion fleet. And that implies long-range FTL communications. Whatever the detection range is, that’s how far apart my repeaters are. Each repeater is a warp-equipped starship that will take one of N paths to send one of N possible symbols faster than light.

            That could work, but it depends heavily on the cost of drive-equipped ships and how good the detectors are. The obvious solution is that the detection is bearing-only, so it’s going to take a while to figure out what path the ship is on. Drive modulation isn’t very efficient because (mumble) cooldown (mumble) static.

            @Andrew

            This is true, but I am hopeful that the behavior I want will emerge naturally from any set of reasonable-ish parameters here. While I do get author fiat, my goal here was to make this basically Just Work…so I am curious to see how close I’ve gotten.

            I think you’ve done a pretty good job. You might need to limit the range of the gates to avoid hub-and-spoke being the obvious answer, but the rest of the behavior you describe falls out entirely naturally from your description. I don’t see any reason you can’t set the numbers for the various factors to give the result you want with minimal side-effects.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            albatross11

            The detectability of FTL ships from far away requires that the signal you are detecting is traveling faster than light–otherwise, the warning would arrive after the invasion fleet. And that implies long-range FTL communications.

            I think this is a very important point. The whole “there is no FTL communications, you have to send a ship” cannot exist in the same universe as “ships under warp are detectable before they arrive.” At the very simplest you can just pulse a warp engine on and off at the sending location and detect the faster-than-warp speed signals at the detector.

            This universe doesn’t have no FTL communication, it has communication faster than FTL ships can travel.

          • bean says:

            I think this is a very important point. The whole “there is no FTL communications, you have to send a ship” cannot exist in the same universe as “ships under warp are detectable before they arrive.” At the very simplest you can just pulse a warp engine on and off at the sending location and detect the faster-than-warp speed signals at the detector.

            This is true, but also of very low bandwidth. Maybe because of Warp Space Frequency Damping, the signature’s frequency is extremely low, so the timescale on which you can detect modulations is tens of minutes. Maybe you can do something with transmitted power levels, but you’re definitely more in the “one if by land, two if by sea” mode than you are in having interstellar internet. You might be able to use the warp dispatch chain to tell the commander at Alpha Centauri to execute Plan 4, but you can’t explain a new plan to him in less than a week.

          • baconbits9 says:

            What are the odds of successfully constructing a complete railroad station anywhere within a hundred miles of Moscow, if the Russian government understands that anyone who isn’t satisfied with the perfectly good Russian-controlled railroad stations already in Moscow is probably planning an invasion and their construction site needs to be bombed or overrun before it turns into a railroad station?

            If the Russians are simultaneously monitoring potential attacks from the North, South, East, West, up and down, and the station can be built anywhere in a 360 degree sphere around Moscow, not just on a plain, and that any enemy probe could be the vanguard of a massive fleet of ships that absolutely has to be be responded to every time, then the possibility certainly should exist.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @Conrad Honch on FTL comms:

            I think hands could be waved sufficiently about warp engines being slow to respond, precise localisation at large distances being difficult, signatures of ships close together being hard to distinguish, etc. to severely limit the bandwidth of an FTL communications system.

            I assume that what you want, for space-navy stories, is the dispatch boat appearing on the horizon (warp signature detectable) and possibly being able to send a very limited message by pulsing its drive (equivalent of light or flag signals from the masthead of a sailing vessel), but the recipients having to wait for it to arrive to get the full message.

            EDIT: And bean got there first, possibly by FTL comms…

          • baconbits9 says:

            There are all kinds of questions that need to be answered, the length of time of battles and the length of time it takes to build a gate. If they are similar enough one strategy would be to FTL your fleet in a major attack on the hub, and construct a gate behind your lines while fighting and then warp back out to pick off the enemy hubs.

            The hub and spoke should mean that you can never launch a full scale attack against a non hub and spoke, as your opposition only has to get to and destroy one position once the attack is detected. Simply not engaging a full on assault and organizing your own should usually be a winning strategy.

          • bean says:

            If the Russians are simultaneously monitoring potential attacks from the North, South, East, West, up and down, and the station can be built anywhere in a 360 degree sphere around Moscow, not just on a plain, and that any enemy probe could be the vanguard of a massive fleet of ships that absolutely has to be be responded to every time, then the possibility certainly should exist.

            You’re into “My galley is a threat to your battleship because we can board” territory here. The rules explicitly say that there’s no reasonable expectation of stealth, and that probe is going to take quite a while to guard the van in question. My response to any potential alarm is going to be to send a battle squadron out on “exercises” and snatch up your construction ship.

            There are all kinds of questions that need to be answered, the length of time of battles and the length of time it takes to build a gate. If they are similar enough one strategy would be to FTL your fleet in a major attack on the hub, and construct a gate behind your lines while fighting and then warp back out to pick off the enemy hubs.

            The OP makes it pretty clear that the battle <<< gate. This is a silly strategy in the universe Andrew laid out.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The rules explicitly say that there’s no reasonable expectation of stealth,

            This isn’t stealth, this is conquering bits of undefended territory. Calling it stealth would be like an anti satellite weapon stealth,

          • John Schilling says:

            If the Russians are simultaneously monitoring potential attacks from the North, South, East, West, up and down, and the station can be built anywhere in a 360 degree sphere around Moscow,

            You think that Russia is going to not notice construction work taking place a hundred miles above Moscow, or somehow not care?

            If a fleet of unidentified ships warps in to a point in empty space ten light-years from Sol and then either parks or departs, and if gate construction takes six months, then sometime in the next three months a Solar Commonwealth Coast Guard Cutter is going to make a patrol sweep through that area. Local sweeps by single cutters are going to be vastly cheaper than deep insertions by anything big enough to be or masquerade as a gate-construction fleet; this is trivial.

            If the cutter reports that someone is building a gate, or does not return from the sweep, then an appropriately sized battle fleet will be dispatched to eliminate the threat. There will be months to gather that fleet, and the enemy will be unable to reinforce his vanguard.

            The only way this plan can work is if you keep your gate-construction fleet beyond warp detection range, or if the target is run by complete and total morons of an implausible level of stupidity. If you write a work of fiction in which either the protagonist or the antagonist are such imbeciles as to not bother investigating such an anomaly, it will be hurled against the wall with great force and you will get few repeat sales. And if the gate-construction fleet stays out of warp detection range, the gate is not an immediate threat.

            This isn’t stealth, this is conquering bits of undefended territory.

            Territory which can be used to mount surprise attacks against key strategic targets, and which can be remotely monitored, will not be undefended.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The OP makes it pretty clear that the battle <<< gate. This is a silly strategy in the universe Andrew laid out.

            Sieges, and the building (or assembly) of large machines during that period have been an aspect of war for a long time. Proposing that they are completely eliminated without an explanation is pretty condescending.

          • baconbits9 says:

            You think that Russia is going to not notice construction work taking place a hundred miles above Moscow, or somehow not care?

            What is your proposed mechanism for monitoring a 100 mile, 360 degree sphere around Moscow? What is that 4.2 million cubic miles to monitor, while also monitoring the borders of Russia in a similar manner?

          • John Schilling says:

            Proposing that they [sieges] are completely eliminated without an explanation…

            Explanation: Sieges become a silly unworkable strategy when each of the enemy’s cities and castles is connected by instantaneous teleport gates to the rest of his realm. Either the attacker is up for a decisive battle against the enemy’s main force, without being allowed months of on-site prep time, or the attacker is limited to quick raids. Neither “starve them out” nor “build mighty engines of war before reinforcements arrive” is viable in that context.

          • John Schilling says:

            What is your proposed mechanism for monitoring a 100 mile, 360 degree sphere around Moscow?

            Well, the one Russia actually has would seem to work pretty well for that purpose – and comes with a nuclear-grade blow-up-unwanted-stuff functionality to boot. But for just monitoring, and assuming the defended zone is just empty space, a bored guy with a cheap telescope would suffice to prevent any major construction work from going long undetected.

            If parts of the zone are full of people doing stuff that might confuse the issue, then whatever police force keeps those people from being too blatant in their private criminality can probably also be trusted to note whether anyone is building major infrastructure for a future invading army.

          • bean says:

            This isn’t stealth, this is conquering bits of undefended territory. Calling it stealth would be like an anti satellite weapon stealth,

            This is akin to calling a WWII Japanese plan that involved staging through a base somewhere in the Mojave Desert “conquering bits of undefended territory”. There may not be troops on that specific piece of terrain all the time, but it’s not like you can just stroll in without the other guy noticing.

            Sieges, and the building (or assembly) of large machines during that period have been an aspect of war for a long time. Proposing that they are completely eliminated without an explanation is pretty condescending.

            I was referring to timescales, although that may not have been completely clear. Again, the OP makes it quite clear that building a gate is a slow and expensive process. A gate might take 6 months to build. The timescales for reinforcement and combat are much, much shorter. Building gates is something that falls under the heading of “logistics”, not “tactics”.

            What is your proposed mechanism for monitoring a 100 mile, 360 degree sphere around Moscow? What is that 4.2 million cubic miles to monitor, while also monitoring the borders of Russia in a similar manner?

            A good air defense system will cover way more than 4.2 million cubic miles. It won’t work underground, but that’s irrelevant, because we aren’t actually doing this on Earth. Nor is there any equivalent in this analogy to surface travel, for the same very obvious reason.

          • The Nybbler says:

            But for just monitoring, and assuming the defended zone is just empty space, a bored guy with a cheap telescope would suffice to prevent any major construction work from going long undetected.

            Telescopes don’t work because light is slow. Volume is too big to picket the entire area. If you want to defeat the near-Moscow station idea, you need a very large and omnidirectional warp detection capability, so this puts a constraint on Andrew’s D.

            Of course there’s also the STL game; I warp in to just outside detection range, then send my gate or construction fleet in via STL. This is going to require serious long-term dedication on the part of the attackers, but the idea has been used in a few SF series.

          • bean says:

            Telescopes don’t work because light is slow. Volume is too big to picket the entire area. If you want to defeat the near-Moscow station idea, you need a very large and omnidirectional warp detection capability, so this puts a constraint on Andrew’s D.

            Now you’re just being deliberately difficult. Why can’t they have a large and omnidirectional warp detection capability? What does it break in the setting? The constraints on D are only true if you assume that the only relevant detector is the one right next to the hub/target. Why should this be the case? If detection range is enough to give full or near-full coverage from inhabited systems, then so long as they aren’t super-expensive, the problem goes away. Sure, there are gap-filler systems where there isn’t a colony in the right place, but I find it hard to believe that you couldn’t cook the numbers to make this work.

            Of course there’s also the STL game; I warp in to just outside detection range, then send my gate or construction fleet in via STL. This is going to require serious long-term dedication on the part of the attackers, but the idea has been used in a few SF series.

            How long do the powers expect this war to be going on, anyway? This is akin to a plan to just wait until erosion wears away the enemy’s fortifications, then attack.

          • John Schilling says:

            Also, fast-STL travel is very, very conspicuous. If your homeworld coast guard periodically sends patrols out to a few dozen light-years to drop out of warp and look around with a telescope, the petawatt drive plumes will give away the game years before the constructor fleet gets into position.

          • albatross11 says:

            For a lot of purposes, being able to send a bit per minute faster than light would still be valuable, particularly in a world of FTL ships where the message might be a warning of an impending attack further away than the detection radius of the FTL ships.

          • baconbits9 says:

            This is akin to calling a WWII Japanese plan that involved staging through a base somewhere in the Mojave Desert “conquering bits of undefended territory”. There may not be troops on that specific piece of terrain all the time, but it’s not like you can just stroll in without the other guy noticing.

            You specifically misread what I wrote. I did not say that you would stroll in without the other guy noticing, I said you would enter with a defined force and then the control of that area would prevent accurate information about reinforcement and movement, not that the initial move would be a surprise.

          • John Schilling says:

            then the control of that area would prevent accurate information about reinforcement and movement

            Reinforcement can only come by way of slow and detectable warp travel, so the target of your operation is going to have that information at least and probably well before the reinforcements actually arrive.

            But if not, so what? If he’s got the information that someone just parked a warp-capable fleet in a bit of empty space within quick striking distance of their homeworld, that’s going to be rather like the US Navy noticing that someone just sent a fleet of ships to a deserted atoll two hundred miles from Pearl Harbor. Even if they know nothing else, even if they think they know other stuff that isn’t so, the only plausible responses are, A: send a reconnaissance force to check it out and if they don’t report back with an all clear send a battle fleet, or B: skip the recon force and go straight to the battle fleet, or C: mind-numbing stupidity that makes me throw the book against the wall.

            The only information you need is the fact that a bunch of warp-capable ships went to a place nobody has any non-suspicious reason to be, and that information is guaranteed by the setting.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Explanation: Sieges become a silly unworkable strategy when each of the enemy’s cities and castles is connected by instantaneous teleport gates to the rest of his realm. Either the attacker is up for a decisive battle against the enemy’s main force, without being allowed months of on-site prep time, or the attacker is limited to quick raids. Neither “starve them out” nor “build mighty engines of war before reinforcements arrive” is viable in that context.

            You have jumped to the conclusion that you can force an engagement. If the invading force has FTL travel, they can (to the extent of their fuel and intelligence) keep you pinned at the primary defensive location. If they start building a gate then you are forced to leave the defensive position with a force large enough to deal with the fleet defending that location.

            A capable general could couple constant harassing attacks of varying intensities on various hubs, any move out on the building gate will mean fewer ships to teleport (for a lack of a better term) to their defense.

            A good air defense system will cover way more than 4.2 million cubic miles.

            The short answer is no it won’t. Any air defense system will have an edge that can be attacked. If you have an air defense system that reaches 100 miles around Moscow, that is located in Moscow then the gate can be built 101 miles away. If, as would be more likely, you have multiple locations for your air defense system then you have points you can attack to make a secure location.

            There are multiple examples of countries building up a massive line of fortification which were broken by an invading army thrusting through a handful of points. The Nazi invasion of France as one example.

            Further FTL travel would mean that ships which are stationed out of range, can jump in, fire off their weapons and jump out before you could target them (unless your weapons are faster than FTL), which functionally gives siegers far more range if we assume the gates are essentially fixed targets (that is they can’t be moved at FTL speeds, and weapon systems can).

            You can prevent these tactics in any number of ways, but it is not obvious without intentionally doing so how a siege with FTL vehicles would go.

          • bean says:

            You specifically misread what I wrote. I did not say that you would stroll in without the other guy noticing, I said you would enter with a defined force and then the control of that area would prevent accurate information about reinforcement and movement, not that the initial move would be a surprise.

            The idea that a military force would ignore something that looks exactly like a potential threat, instead of squashing it like a bug immediately, is so mind-numbingly stupid that a book containing it would ablate on its way to the wall, which is why I assumed you were talking about something else. If you have enough force to prevent me squashing it, just attack directly.

            You have jumped to the conclusion that you can force an engagement. If the invading force has FTL travel, they can (to the extent of their fuel and intelligence) keep you pinned at the primary defensive location. If they start building a gate then you are forced to leave the defensive position with a force large enough to deal with the fleet defending that location.

            If the other side has enough forces to pin me down so that I can’t strike at the gate, why are they bothering with it? The whole point of a gate is that I can bring all of my forces to bear through it very quickly. If I can cover the gate’s construction against an enemy who is going to be doing their best to destroy it, then I clearly have the level of superiority needed to defeat the enemy in the long run.

            The short answer is no it won’t.

            Have you even heard of AEGIS?

            Any air defense system will have an edge that can be attacked. If you have an air defense system that reaches 100 miles around Moscow, that is located in Moscow then the gate can be built 101 miles away.

            If you put the gate outside of detection range, then you’re back to the problem we started with.

            If, as would be more likely, you have multiple locations for your air defense system then you have points you can attack to make a secure location.

            The idea that having more locations protecting a city makes it more vulnerable is so bizarre I’m not even going to dignify it with an answer.

            There are multiple examples of countries building up a massive line of fortification which were broken by an invading army thrusting through a handful of points. The Nazi invasion of France as one example.

            Your understanding of the Battle of France is no better than you understanding of air defense systems. The Maginot Line did exactly what the French wanted it to do. The truly horrible politics of the French military are what killed them. It would take several days for orders to reach the troops, and in a fast-moving war that wasn’t going to cut it. The OP clearly establishes that the defender has a massive advantage in terms of speed of movement. I’m rather baffled by your attempts to deny it.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The idea that a military force would ignore something that looks exactly like a potential threat, instead of squashing it like a bug immediately, is so mind-numbingly stupid that a book containing it would ablate on its way to the wall,

            Nope, you still don’t get it.

            The fact that the military HAS to squash it is the whole point. If it takes 100 years to build the gate there is no immediate imperative to squash it. If a gate can plausibly be built during a conflict/siege then it forces a reaction once it is started. Being able to force a major semi-predictable reaction is a tool in the attackers arsenal. It could be that no battles ever end with the gate actually finishing, with the construction still being an important strategic consideration.

            This is always the weakest point in wheel and hub systems. Any threat on the hub must be dealt with, where as less centralized system has more flexibility in strategically choose what to defend and what not to.

          • bean says:

            The fact that the military HAS to squash it is the whole point.

            So your strategy is to send forces out to get squished? Ah. I bow before your strategic genius.

            If it takes 100 years to build the gate there is no immediate imperative to squash it. If a gate can plausibly be built during a conflict/siege then it forces a reaction once it is started. Being able to force a major semi-predictable reaction is a tool in the attackers arsenal.

            It could be a useful tool, but it’s not a free one. It takes ships. Ships sent deep behind my lines, making them vulnerable to defeat in detail, and explicitly right next to my strongest fleet. Again, there’s no FTL radio, so you’re reduced to leaving behind a series of pickets to relay messages to take advantage of my reaction. At best, that works once before they have to run to avoid being snapped up by my battlecruisers. Or I trick you into activating the pickets, turn my fleet back to face down whatever else you were doing, and snap up the pickets.

            This is always the weakest point in wheel and hub systems. Any threat on the hub must be dealt with, where as less centralized system has more flexibility in strategically choose what to defend and what not to.

            It also means that I can respond to any threat with my entire fleet, instantly. Including a threat to the hub. Yes, there are some potential disadvantages. There always are with this kind of thing. But the advantage is so huge that I find it impossible to believe it would make me worse off.

          • baconbits9 says:

            So your strategy is to send forces out to get squished? Ah. I bow before your strategic genius.

            In actual strategy games this is common. Its called a sacrifice in chess, and in more complicated games it has been an integral part of meta strategy. Starcraft (both versions), for example, started out with lots of rushes that placed early structures near the enemy’s base. Scouting these locations became common and they eventually died out. Later the reemerged when high level players found that they could build various strategies simply off the forced reaction to those structures. This was professional level play with significant prize pools.

            You are resorting to defining that you can crush these attempts without notable cost. If you continue to state that this is the case then you will “win” the argument, but all you have done is define the hub is impregnable and not actually explored the space at all. Also you have been insulting and rude to boot.

          • John Schilling says:

            Being able to force a major semi-predictable reaction is a tool in the attackers arsenal.

            It doesn’t normally count as “forcing”, and it isn’t strategically useful, unless there is some degree of urgency to the necessary response. Here, there isn’t.

            It definitively takes a Long Time(*) to warp all the way from the frontier to the enemy heartland. It also definitively takes a Long Time(*) to build a gate. So, yes, if you send a gate construction fleet to the enemy heartland under armed escort, the enemy has to respond. But he only has to respond with a force proportional to your escort, and he can do that at any time of his choosing in that doubly-long period. Meanwhile, the warp ships that will make up his response force are free to conduct operations anywhere in or near his gate network, likely including cross-frontier raids, while your attack force is committed far from home and without a usable gate, without even a path of retreat when the enemy does decide it is time to respond in temporarily overwhelming force.

            That’s about the most cost-ineffective way of “forcing” a response as possible in this setting. You’d get better mileage out of taking your escort force and just sending it to attack the enemy homeworld, raiding every system it passes on the way. That forces the same magnitude of response as deep gate-building but gives the enemy less flexibility on the timing. And it saves you the cost of a gate construction fleet.

            * Compared to the time required for gate and/or local warp travel

          • bean says:

            In actual strategy games this is common. Its called a sacrifice in chess, and in more complicated games it has been an integral part of meta strategy.

            I’m aware of that. But this is not chess, nor is it Starcraft. In fact, it’s not really a strategy game at all. It’s war, which means that you don’t have perfect communication with all of your forces. Shifting forces around like chess pieces is all well and good, but if the sacrifice is deep in my empire, you have no way of telling when I’m leaving myself vulnerable by taking your bait, because the sacrifice can’t talk to you.

            You are resorting to defining that you can crush these attempts without notable cost.

            Actually, I’m not. I’m making two extra assumptions to the ones Andrew stated in the OP:
            1. The Lanchester Square Law is still approximately true. If you have four ships covering the gate, and I send eight out to fight them, I’ll probably lose one ship, and you’ll lose all of yours.
            2. You don’t outnumber me enough to make the scenario outlined in 1 a good trade, or to send a covering force strong enough to stand my main fleet off without making yourself vulnerable elsewhere.

            If you continue to state that this is the case then you will “win” the argument, but all you have done is define the hub is impregnable and not actually explored the space at all.

            I’m assuming the hub is pretty close to impregnable because it has my entire fleet sitting on it and it gives me a massive communication advantage within my territory. I feel pretty safe with my choice.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Hrm.

            If you can fake the warp signature, the hub+spoke strategy loses some effectiveness; fake an attack on every frontier you aren’t attacking, so the defenders can only arrive after the attack has begun. Target the gate first, or set up an ambush (since the defenders are arriving potentially late, and you can concentrate fire as they come through).

            Even better, stage two attacks; one sacrifice play coordinated with the fake attacks, which is coordinated to begin before the real attack. Defenders rush to the fake attack once they figure out where it is, leaving them twice as many jumps away from the real attack.

            ETA:

            This could also work for raids, if you can disable the gate without destroying it; some sort of interference chaff missile, maybe? (You probably want the gate intact so they can accumulate more stuff for you to loot later)

          • bean says:

            If you can fake the warp signature, the hub+spoke strategy loses some effectiveness; fake an attack on every frontier you aren’t attacking, so the defenders can only arrive after the attack has begun. Target the gate first, or set up an ambush (since the defenders are arriving potentially late, and you can concentrate fire as they come through).

            Hub-and-spoke isn’t totally powerless there. Unless it’s trivial to fake the signature so that you can send an arbitrary number of decoys (which is unlikely to be the case because warp drives are apparently expensive), the obvious response is to break the force up into a few smaller forces, send one to each threatened system, intending to cover the gate until the rest of the force can arrive. Also, this attack seems like it should work even better against non-hubbed graphs. At least the hub lets me reassemble my fleet quickly.

            Even better, stage two attacks; one sacrifice play coordinated with the fake attacks, which is coordinated to begin before the real attack. Defenders rush to the fake attack once they figure out where it is, leaving them twice as many jumps away from the real attack.

            That’s still 2 jumps for hub-and-spoke, and more for any other topology.

          • John Schilling says:

            If you can fake the warp signature

            If you can fake the warp signature cheaply enough for this to be decisive, then warp signatures aren’t really meaningfully detectable across interstellar distances – what you can “detect” is a superposition of warp signatures plus noise that any competent adversary will generate in sufficient quantity to make warp signature detection practically useless due to the false-alarm rate.

            The scenario says warp signatures are detectable and implies that this really matters, so warp signatures can’t readily be faked. The most obvious way for this to be true is for the warp signature to be unavoidably proportional to the size and speed of the warp drive starship (nothing else will do) generating it.

          • Rob K says:

            If pieces in chess had the kind of maneuverability described in this scenario, sacrificing would be poor strategy. Chess is a game entirely defined by the variable but symmetric maneuverability of the pieces.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Bean –

            I think hub-and-spoke is probably ideal, given the scenario. I am trying to figure out how to make it less impregnable, given the constraints given.

            I don’t think the small defending force works too well, though; it would be costly, but if the attackers concentrated fire on the gate rather than the defenders, the system is probably theirs, or at least vulnerable to a follow-up attack (depending on the relative distances of the empires; whose constructor fleet can arrive first?)

            It really depends on the relative values of a system versus a ship, both economic and strategic.

            At the very least it nullifies the overwhelming advantage of “entire fleet there to meet you”.

          • bean says:

            @Thegnskald
            I’m pretty much with John on warp signatures being faked. If that’s possible, we don’t get the scenario Andrew described. Maybe you can run merchant ships around, but I’d expect they’d be slower than the battle fleet, and thus able to be told apart. If warp drives are expensive enough (as Andrew indicated), then you’re risking a lot this way.

            I don’t think the small defending force works too well, though; it would be costly, but if the attackers concentrated fire on the gate rather than the defenders, the system is probably theirs, or at least vulnerable to a follow-up attack (depending on the relative distances of the empires; whose constructor fleet can arrive first?)

            You’re assuming that the defending force stays on the gate. The obvious tactic is to send a picket out to try to nail down which force is real as possible, then send the covering force out to intercept them at a distance while the other groups pour through behind. If they blow the gate anyway, I either run or send the rest of the main fleet through the nearest gate.

        • actinide meta says:

          It seems to me that hub and spoke, possibly with multiple hubs, dominates militarily, precisely because it minimizes T. Keeping the bulk of your fleet at the hub(s) gives you the minimum possible response time to an attack. And the hub systems are as defensible as possible. Right?

          A range limit on gates would probably mitigate this.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Hub and spoke means there is a point that always has to be defended or you just lose. Such a point with adversaries of a similar strength pretty much means you always have to be defending. Depending on how good early warning systems are, and how close the opponents gates can be you might be able to defend indefinitely, but if you end up with to many ships tied up defending your main hub you will lose out system by system, spoke by spoke until you have few enough spokes that you can defend them all. At this point you have to hope that the extra resources your opponents have gained can’t dominate your ability to defend.

          • John Schilling says:

            The hub only has to be defended if the enemy is committed to threatening it. Since the hub is deep in your own space and far from the enemy’s gate network, that’s a huge and nigh-irrevocable commitment, which he has to signal well in advance. And until the attack comes, the “defending” force can operate anywhere in its own empire and maybe skirmish on the enemy’s borders, because they’re only a quick border crossing and spoke transit from being able to defend the hub. The attacker, is limited to attacking the hub or sitting around threatening the hub.

            If an attacker wants to attack the enemy homeworld, is willing to absolutely commit to attacking the enemy homeworld, to signal this well in advance and forfeit any other major operations, yes, you have to defend the homeworld or lose it. Hub and spoke doesn’t make that any more of an issue than it already was, and it gives the owner unmatched strategic flexibility in any other context.

            If gate range is unlimited, it’s going to be hub and spoke, possibly with a redundant hub or two. Either the enemy commits to a decisive attack on the hub with his main fleet, or the hub fleet is going to be able to freely concentrate against any target within a quick warp transit of any spoke without leaving any part of the network vulnerable.

          • baconbits9 says:

            This works if the FTL detectors can’t be destroyed, but if you assume some basic constraints on the gate system then the hub can be threatened simply by sending a smaller FTL force destroying the detectors (or forcing a retreat, however they are set up) on the way. Once on field of view is blind you are forced to pull enough ships back to the hub to defend as you can’t know if the larger force is following behind in an all out attack or not. This will leave spokes under defended.

          • bean says:

            This works if the FTL detectors can’t be destroyed, but if you assume some basic constraints on the gate system then the hub can be threatened simply by sending a smaller FTL force destroying the detectors (or forcing a retreat, however they are set up) on the way.

            But how does this FTL force avoid running into a stronger force responding from the hub on the way? Unless the gates are really, really slow (which is not what Andrew has indicated), the force at the hub will simply crush your raiding force. The whole point is that I can move my entire force anywhere in the entire network basically instantly. That includes wherever you’re raiding.

          • beleester says:

            If the force at the hub is busy crushing a small raid, then they aren’t defending the spokes, and the remainder of your fleet can attack there. Basically, you want to bait the defenders into defending the wrong places.

            The ideal raid would be just big enough to be a threat – it can blow up gates if you don’t take it seriously, but it’s not so big that you can’t send a real fleet somewhere else at the same time. Now the defender has an allocation problem – keep too many ship at the hub, and they lose the spoke. Send out too many, and you lose the hub.

            Heck, the raiders don’t even necessarily have to arrive, they just need to fly at the hub for long enough to get noticed. Yeah, there’s no chance that you’re really going to attack the hub, but they can’t take the risk that you’ll blow up their whole network in one swoop.

            (This depends a whole lot on small details, like how easily you can identify the number of ships from its jump signature, or how easy it is for a raider to hit the gates without having to blast through the entire fleet. Some rulesets make this viable, some don’t.)

            I think a single hub is still optimal, because the allocation problem gets even worse if your response times are longer, and you have more places to defend, but I think you’d want a redundant hub somewhere, just in case.

          • bean says:

            If the force at the hub is busy crushing a small raid, then they aren’t defending the spokes, and the remainder of your fleet can attack there. Basically, you want to bait the defenders into defending the wrong places.

            But that doesn’t really work. Assuming D>>T, I can either shift my entire fleet, then split it and send part of it back, or wait until I’m sure that there isn’t another threat that’s going to pop up before I can get back.

            Heck, the raiders don’t even necessarily have to arrive, they just need to fly at the hub for long enough to get noticed. Yeah, there’s no chance that you’re really going to attack the hub, but they can’t take the risk that you’ll blow up their whole network in one swoop.

            Unless the hub is in one of my peripheral systems, this isn’t a threat. Any raid on the hub will be detected at multiple D out, while any other raid will only be picked up at D. I thus have a fairly long period where they can’t count on me being drawn out of position, but I can choose to engage. There’s some potential complications in this phase, but probably not enough to make this kind of raid good strategy.

            I think a single hub is still optimal, because the allocation problem gets even worse if your response times are longer, and you have more places to defend, but I think you’d want a redundant hub somewhere, just in case.

            I’m not disputing that you’d want some redundancy. But I also don’t think raiding hubs is particularly practical.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think it depends on how fast the ships can move outside the hubs.

            Situation 1: Near the star system you’re moving way sublight, like maybe 0.01 c. I can attack star system X far from the gate, and your ships have to move 50 hours’ travel away from the gate to respond. If I time things right, I can hit some other target while your fleet is still trying to hurry back to the gate or get from the gate of the system where I’m attacking to where my ships are.

            Situation 2: Ships can use warp drive in-system, so anything worth defending is, say, an hour or less travel time from the gate. It’s now much harder to do this kind of distraction attack.

    • actinide meta says:

      I have not learned enough general relativity yet to come up with a good explanation of why this doesn’t violate causality

      This is equally an issue for any other form of FTL communication.

      But all you need is a preferred reference frame. As a bonus, you get to have galactic wind.

    • beleester says:

      Reminds me of the Mass Effect series, which has a similar system – Mass Relays for long-range travel and then shipboard FTL for travel between nearby systems. Although you can’t construct your own Relays, they still form obvious choke points for conflicts.

      One thing I notice is that this has a bit of an unstable equilibrium – once the enemy gets a fleet into your gate network, it’s very hard to get them out again, because they can run away as fast as you can pursue. Unless you’re willing to demolish your own gate network, but it’s a very bad idea to do that when the enemy is deep in your network, because you’d be cutting off a lot more of your systems.

      Also, depending on how hard it is to destroy a gate, a small raiding force can negate a much larger one – blow up all the gates at “home base”, and you’ve cut off the reinforcements for the entire empire. Or bait the enemy fleet into a dead-end system, and trash the gate. A good gate network is going to need redundant paths between major hubs, so that you can’t cut the network in half with a few strategic strikes. It might also be a good idea to have a concealed gate somewhere in important systems – one that’s not visible to mainstream shipping, but you can use it to deliver a fleet if the enemy tries to cut you off. (These are perfect opportunities for a clever reversal or plot twist, so I’m in favor of this system.)

      Another good idea: Put a couple big floating gun platforms on the other side of the gate from a frontier system. If the other side of the gate falls, you don’t blow up the gate. Instead, you let the enemy fleet jump through, and blow the crap out of them the instant they jump in, because you know exactly where they’re coming from. It’s like spawn-camping!

      (Freespace 2 had a mission where you do exactly this – you learn about an enemy offensive coming through a jump node, set up a bigass fleet at the node with some beam cannons, and have a good time watching enemy warships get torn to pieces before they get a chance to move.)

      One last idea: Don’t set up gates in your frontier systems at all. Have them send their traffic by warp drive to a nice, well-defended central gate, and if any attackers manage to seize the frontier system, that’s all you lose – they aren’t sweeping out the whole network.

    • James C says:

      Before anything else, I think you’ve flipped the whole island hopping idea. Island hopping is going from from island A to D by going through B and C first. You’ve kind of made it so that deep strike methods are imposible so you have to island hop in this system to win a war. With FTL interception you can not leave unprotected flanks in your advance so every system between the two polities’ core worlds must be secured before an invasion can commence.

      Anyway, that’s a minor nit-pick. Reading through the thread, I feel this system produces empires connected by dirt roads but with fantastic internal railroads. This may sound familar to any modern history students as this was one of the major factors that lead to the stalemate on the Western front in WW1. While the naval technology is very different, you still have a system that massivly favours the defender by giving them easy means to move their reserves but one where no one can attack without broadcasting their intentions to anyone with half a brain. The lack of an FTL com’ compounds this issue as even successful attacks can’t be followed up on quickly or easily while the gates allow for rapid communications on the defensive.

      Wars with this technology set, therefore, will be costly, complex and very long. I can see two obvious strategic mindsets. The first is a large number of small strikes all across the frontlines. Warp capeable fleets attack, in unison, every single system in reach with the minimum amount of force necessary to cause havok. The defender is forced to split their forces and, hopefully, the attacker can pick a few advantageous battles and retreat wherever significant reserves have been placed. If they can take out a gate and get out, all the better, but gates are of negligable strategic value as fleets can always warp back to friendly teritory.

      The alternative is to just attack. Put every ship you own in a single formation and fly towards the enemies’ core, hitting targets of oppotunity enroute. This is a risky tactic, but by forcing a single decisive battle you exhaust your enemies’ entire navy. Taking the rest of their polity is then just a mopping up exercise. Of course, that assumes you win. If you lose, the converse happens to you, but at least the counter attack will have to get past your defensive advantages first.

      The first method I can see being best suited for fighting an enemy of roughly equal strength (though, actually declaring war on anyone of equal strength in this scenario is a terible idea) and the latter for fighting someone considerably weaker. Either way, the only way to defeat an enemy with a strong gate network is to destroy their navy. The first focuses on bleeding them to death in hundreds of battles and the second focuses on a cataclysmic exchange, but both rely on crushing the enemy’s navy as the number one priority.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Before anything else, I think you’ve flipped the whole island hopping idea. Island hopping is going from from island A to D by going through B and C first. You’ve kind of made it so that deep strike methods are imposible so you have to island hop in this system to win a war

        From Wikipedia:

        Leapfrogging, also known as island hopping, was a military strategy employed by the Allies in the Pacific War against Japan and the Axis powers during World War II. The idea was to bypass heavily fortified Japanese positions and instead concentrate the limited Allied resources on strategically important islands that were not well defended but capable of supporting the drive to the main islands of Japan.

        Yes, you go from A to D via B and C, but you skipped X,Y, and Z (all the strong points.) As you say, I think my system prevents this. (Also prevents going straight to D, which wasn’t possible in WW2 because of supply chain issues and interception, but is a problem in a lot of space warfare scenarios, since any ship capable of going from Earth to Alpha Centauri and showing up a fighting force can probably also go straight to Rigel.)

        • James C says:

          Huh, weird. So apparently the military and civilian definitions are completely opposite to each other because Wikipedia also says

          Island hopping is the crossing of an ocean by a series of shorter journeys between islands, as opposed to a single journey directly to the destination.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        The first method I can see being best suited for fighting an enemy of roughly equal strength (though, actually declaring war on anyone of equal strength in this scenario is a terible idea)

        If you ask ancaps, that’s always true. 🙂 And practically speaking yes, wars “shouldn’t” happen…but they do.

        But more seriously. I only have the barest sketches of societies in the setting, but the main war comes from the following setup (which I’m not sure works, and might abandon, but like parts of.)

        – Gates substantially predate warp travel (or at least “modern” speed ones–possibly they had just-over-c travel, but far too slow to unify a polity.); STL colonization fleets established a large gate network.
        – A large scale calamity caused a partition in the network. (I can’t quite figure out how to justify the remaining societies being two large, contiguous blobs.) Part of the answer here can hopefully help justify why the networks aren’t trivial hub/spokes–people learned, from the huge collapse this produced, that network partitions are catastrophic, and wouldn’t accept graphs with small cuts.

        – Travel between the two connected components was now next to impossible and took impractically long times, whereas travel time remained very short in-group; therefore…

        – Each society evolves independently and on greatly conflicting principles. I think I see one as highly feudal, but I’m not sure what the other model is, structurally.

        – Modern warp is invented; the two networks approach one another rapidly…and neither society is willing to accept the other’s principles. The rapid mixing of a gate network means that any network connection produces huge culture shock; it’s difficult to live and let live.

        – Large scale war of reunification ignites. The defender’s advantage means it’s mostly slow raids on frontiers and border worlds changing hands in and near the un-gated fringe.

        And that’s the present day: we’ve been fighting for 20+ years with very little end in sight. The GDP fraction spent on combat is tiny, but the absolute resources available mean that still admits very large combats, even if most citizens will never see it, being far away on Earth or one of the other major population centers. Frontier planets are much worse off in terms of *risk*, but not living standards. (Civilian casualties are very low for interstellar combat, and generally there’s time to evacuate from infrastructure under attack, but accidents happen, and it’s of course kind of awful to have a new occupation government reversing polarity every three years, but you keep having a job and a house and a life, and effective wages are probably higher as a compensating differential.) (I’d be curious what the local economists, cough cough David, would think of this, besides the whole thing that wars are stupid wastes of resources.)

        • bean says:

          Part of the answer here can hopefully help justify why the networks aren’t trivial hub/spokes–people learned, from the huge collapse this produced, that network partitions are catastrophic, and wouldn’t accept graphs with small cuts.

          OK, but in that case, it seems like the obvious thing to do is to have at least one hub with a giant fleet, because interior lines are really powerful. I think you’d do better by limiting range. There’s a redundant graph without small cuts, but I don’t think the hub is answerable on a military level. As an occasional armchair strategist, being able to put my fleet somewhere central, and just dump it wherever I need it to be basically instantly seems like basically the best thing.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            I think the original network collapse wasn’t warfare based; possibly a major stellar event? Not exactly sure what though.

            I agree that any variation of this is going to result in substantial nodal forces, I just don’t think we necessarily get one single fleet hub.

          • bean says:

            I agree that any variation of this is going to result in substantial nodal forces, I just don’t think we necessarily get one single fleet hub.

            But how could we not? As a strategist, I’m going to be doing everything I can so that D>>T for my entire fleet. Maybe that means one hub. Maybe it means half a dozen hubs, linked so that every fleet is at most two jumps away from any system, and those two jumps allow me to pour my entire fleet in anywhere basically instantly. But if I have one hub and you have three independent ones, each of my ships is worth three of yours. That’s a lot of leverage.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Bean –

            You would want a minimum of two independent hubs, to separate civilian and military traffic. Don’t want separatist terrorists blowing up their ship on your military network, after all.

            But otherwise, yeah. You just need good killswitches on your gates to prevent them from being suborned when facing a superiorly equipped enemy.

          • albatross11 says:

            Whoever discovers warp technology will have a huge advantage. At least for the first few attacks using it, even if it is extremely detectable, nobody will know what they were detecting. (“There’s some really odd signal we’re noticing, and all the radioastronomers in the kingdom are fascinated by figuring out what it is. And…holy shit, is that a fleet of warships? Where’d *they* come from?”)

        • dodrian says:

          From what you’ve outlined, here’s the scenario that popped into my head:

          Central planet (Earth) discovers warp-gate technology. They’re not that difficult/expensive to build, but calibrating them takes a lot of communication, which is light / slower than light (via quantumly entwined photons or whatever technobabble you want). Civilization pushes to expand beyond the solar system sending out slower than light colony ships. When those ships reach their destinations (10s of light years away), they build a warp gate, which takes one to two generations to calibrate properly before they open.

          As the civilization expands outwards, it makes sense to link your new colony with the nearest other civilization, because it’s the one that you can pair with quickest, and has the least likelihood of something going wrong during the pairing (and if something goes wrong with a ‘long pair’, that’s many generations before it would be noticed and fixed). You get a central hub (Earth), with long, chained spokes. Most systems will now have two gates in them: towards Earth and away from Earth).

          It’s then easy to imagine a situation where a big event (terrorism, local war, spacial anomaly, etc) destroys both gates. You have a spoke cut off from the rest of civilization for multiple generations, and it’s easy to extend that even longer (nebula, new black hole, or something that might make building gates & slower than light communication much more difficult than normal, or having a terrorist organization working to cut several chain links at once). In the meantime both remaining parts of the network realize the benefits of having some redundancy, or maybe switching to a hub-and-spoke system, and have the extended time to do so before they come into contact with each other again.

          • bean says:

            I suspect you’d see some cross-connection down the spokes. As you go further in, sending trade between systems that are fairly close in realspace but down different branches would get tiresome. Knock out Earth and you could easily see the system divided into two different sections through those cross-connections.

            I’m not even sure that you need to have just two sections. If the gates take maintenance, then with the Gate Authority cut off after the links to Earth are severed, marginal worlds start to drop off the grid. Maybe some places are mostly isolated. What you really need is for two groups big enough to reunify everyone else. Particularly if one of them discovered warp drives first, which would be a huge advantage while it lasted.

          • dodrian says:

            @bean – certainly there’d be some cross-connections, but it’s also easy to imagine a scenario where there’s one particularly isolated solar system that only has one upstream (Earthbound) and one downstream link. It was originally colonized because of scientific interest – it became the gateway to a downstream spacial anomaly. Because of that, the scientific community flocked to and thrived downstream, also encouraging more colonization downstream.

            That one link gets broken – potentially because of the spacial anomaly. There’s now good reason for the scientific community cut off from Earth to push for rapid expansion, and the have the resources to do it more speedily. They’ll eventually come out a smaller empire, but with a technological advantage. Meanwhile Earth is focusing or reinforcing its connections, so that that scenario can’t happen again.

            This is of course ultimately up to Andrew Hunter. But I’m enjoying speculating, as I think are you 🙂

    • John Schilling says:

      Other thoughts. Hub-and-spoke gates (if technically possible) are not only the obvious winning play on military defense, they are going to dominate commercially as well. And politically, for any strong central government in the setting. So even if they aren’t part of the setup from the outset, there will be strong pressure to build them. Possibly with two or three hubs, if the central government can afford that, but with crosslinks being otherwise deprecated unless there is a strong commercial reason for them because a crosslink can easily become a spoke in some rebellious province’s hub.

      Even if gates are short-ranged and form a distributed net, they seem likely to displace warp travel from most applications. Unless warp drives are quite cheap, their use seems likely to be limited to warships designed for offensive operations, to local merchant shipping between the nearest gate and any world that doesn’t yet have one (but if it isn’t worth a gate it probably isn’t worth a lot of shipping), and niches like exploration and gate construction. Most ships, possibly including most warships, will be gate-only.

      Also, if it is possible to put gates in low orbit, then there won’t be many ships other than orbital shuttlecraft, If gates have to be distant from planets, then it may be that the real center of civilization is the collection of space habitats that grow up around gates in a hundred worlds across a thousand light-years but effectively next door to each other, with planets being the remote backwaters millions and millions of miles from the cosmopolitan hubs but, sigh, I guess we still have to send ships to visit the hicks still living down the well to get our food and raw materials.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Location of gates is an interesting question.

        I am pretty sure that warp drive doesn’t work in-system (the standard gravity well macguffin.) I want significant planetary populations, but I also want substantial spacefaring travel (see my response to Bean below.)

        I am tempted to say that gates are also gravity-well limited, but substantially less so: perhaps (don’t hold me to the numbers) warp drive kicks you out somewhere near the Kuiper belt, whereas the gates are near Jupiter or so.

        It might be time to start putting hard numbers on speeds. The other question is sublight travel. While this is a hard-***ish*** setting, two things I definitely don’t want are:
        – the tyranny of the rocket equation being the most important engineering factor (boring unless the book is *about* rocket engineering, see Saturn’s Children)

        – routine transit at substantial fractions of c (even before relativitistic concerns makes things fucking weird.)

        I go back and forth as to whether they have torchships, but seriously limited fuel (in energy density terms, not mass fraction) or whether I need to invent a reactionless drive that just doesn’t allow you to accelerate for a year at 1g because REASONS. But we do definitely need interplanetary travel OOO of days or weeks at most (otherwise either D << T or even warp drive takes years to get places!), but I don't want a Kardashev Type 1 civ, which is sort of implied by most drive tech that gets you that fast on large ships [1]. These people may live on many worlds, but they're not building dyson spheres.

        [1] For Bean's sake, let's say we want to get BB-61 from Earth to Jupiter in a day. That's 5 AU and 60,000 tons. Back of the envelope, that's 2×10^21 joules (call it four years of current energy usage.) If we accelerate that fast in, say, an hour, that's 5×10^17 watts: close to solar energy flux on the Earth. Now multiply by ten for the First Battle Squadron, plus half again that for screen. I'm not sure there's a reasonable exit from this. Maybe you *can* use warp, but at dramatically slower (sublight?) speeds?

        • bean says:

          I’m not sure there’s a reasonable exit from this. Maybe you *can* use warp, but at dramatically slower (sublight?) speeds?

          60,000 tons is really big for a spaceship by most math I’ve done, but my suggested solution is (mumble mumble) gravity gradients (mumble mumble) warp field, and have ships get slower as they get closer to big things. The c crossover might be somewhere out in the Kuiper Belt.

        • Dissonant Cognizance says:

          Re: gate locations, you could crib slightly from Battletech and have the gates require a stable Lagrange point to operate. Maintaining a link within the gravitationally stable point requires active stabilization/compensation on both ends, so warp ships still drop out at the Kuiper belt or whatever (unless they sneak a stealth probe in to home in on?). That also limits the number of gates a system can have based on its composition, and gives you intra-system commerce at least as interesting as UC Gundam.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Although this further stacks things in favor of defense, consider making warp technology work such that warp fields are unstable/unusable near massive bodies. No warp fields work within ~5AU of a Jupiter-sized mass. Gates, which utilize other dimensions/hyperspace are not impacted by this restriction (the massive object doesn’t exist in the dimension through which gate travel occurs). So, invasion fleets arrive at the periphery of a system and then approach at sub-light speeds. This removes the threat of warp cruise missiles. What’s the point of attaching a warhead to a massive warp engine if it’s then going to have to drop out of warp and move slowly into the system?

    • bean says:

      A thought about how to partially solve the hub-and-spoke issue. What if there were limits on how close together gates could be placed? And more specifically, what if these limits scaled with the distance the gates had to cover? So a gate from the fringes to the center might take half a system, while one to a nearby system is very small? You’d get some interesting tradeoffs on layout, and avoid just having everything be right on top of each other.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        Bean: I was just pondering some sort of gate density restriction, actually.

        I don’t want to have a (particularly short) hard distance limit for aeshetic reasons, though honestly it might be simplest and doesn’t break anything that badly…idk.

        PArt of my problem with hub and spoke is the same problem I have with FTL radio, which is that I want to encourage a setting with local independence of command and control. If the entire fleet lies in harbor at Terra except during fleet actions, the authority of any captain is extremely limited. I definitely want a feel of somewhere between Napoleonic and WW2 (yes, a wide range) independence, where a cruiser squadron on patrol cannot possibly refer to higher authority (and therefore also has to be trusted with basically setting foreign policy.) Note that this is one thing that Honor Harrington gets very right. (I also want this for the non-military parts of society.)

        We already have this property for active offensive operations, since they’re necessarily past your network, but that’s fairly limited.

        Gates definitely limit this no matter what, so I basically want gates to be strong enough to prevent island hopping and no stronger. That said, I’m not sure how much space there is. John points out correctly that with most reasonable parameters gate shipping seriously dominates commercial work too.

        One idea would be ramping up the cost of gates: if they’re not just permanent open doors, but putting a fleet carrier through one takes enough energy to be Real Money to the point where warp shipping is cost competitive, that would dramatically limit their impact on society while still allowing emergency task forces everywhere they need to be…but this kills the backlines raider dead, which is maybe my single favorite thing in the setting, so I don’t want that.

        • albatross11 says:

          You can also have a capacity limitation on gates (the Honor Harrington series does this), or a size limitation (the energy needed to create the gate scales with the fourth power of the diameter of the opening). Both of those give you some interesting limits to play with. Or an energy cost per use of the gate (so maybe you can send the fleet through but then you have to wait a week while the fusion plants/solar collectors/whatever recharge your batteries so you can send them back.

    • Lillian says:

      One important detail: other than detection signatures, which aren’t very detailed, there is *no* FTL radio. If you want to give orders to the Alpha Centauri commander, send a dispatch boat.

      If a signal can be reliably created and detected, it can be used to communicate. The issue is throughput, which has two components: signal generation and signal processing, and communications will be limited by the lowest performing end.

      For example, if it takes a long time to spin-up or spin down a warp drive, and you cannot change vectors while in warp, then it doesn’t matter if the warp signature is highly detailed, very little information can be communicated using the signatures. On the other hand, if warp vectors can be dynamically and rapidly varied, but all detection gets is a fuzzy “yeah there’s active warp engines over yonder” that will also limit how much information can be sent. However understand that limited information is not no information, which means that in some circumstances some form of pre-arranged signal may be useful.

      It’s also important to consider the implications of warp dynamics and warp detection on the strategic picture. For example if warp engines take a long time to spin up, then commanders are going to be much more hesitant to commit to battle, lest they find themselves caught in a losing fight and unable to retreat. On the other hand, the fuzzier warp detection is, the more effective decoys become.

    • ManyCookies says:

      I’m intrigued. So are these gates like wormholes and ships just fly through them, or do ships need to sit there for an hour waiting for a teleport beam? Are there larger and smaller gates, in the sense that a gate can move more ships/larger ships than others?

      Can I turn gates on and off, or does the connection die permanently if it ever breaks? And in a similar vein, can I repair a destroyed gate-end (relatively) quickly and restore the previous connection, or do I need to go through the whole arduous process again?

      Are we talking “fragile” in the sense that a military fleet could break one in a half hour or so, or fragile enough that a civilian ship could suicide rush it and plausibly bring it down (assuming they weren’t blown into atoms the minute they deviated from course).

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      If warp signals aren’t detailed, I want to at least explore creating bare-bones “warp drive only” “ships” and send them everywhere in your system, effectively jamming the signal of my actual fleet.

      If warp signals are detailed, you definitely have FTL radio.

      The simple answer to this is that the warp drive and/or energy source necessary for the warp drive is the expensive part of the ship, but I’m not sure if that fits your general conception of how easy it is to make warp ships.

    • The Red Foliot says:

      It seems like the greater power in any given space-war should inevitably be able to grind down the lesser under this paradigm.

      If power A has 99 ships, and power B has 66 ships, power A could send 67 of their ships against the nearest of power B’s stargates. Power B could choose to defend the gate, and be destroyed, or they could send their own ships out in a counter attack. However, since this is their nearest stargate being attacked their counterattack would necessarily start from one farther away. Their longer transit time gives power A the initiative in responding.

      If Power A saw the entirety of power B’s fleet heading out on a counterattack, they would have the option of sending 35 of their ships home to contest it (once they rejoin with the 32 ships they left behind). They could then parcel out the remainder of their fleet into groups of 1, to raid a total of 32 systems at once. Meanwhile, their fleet at home keeps power B from using the same strategy; power B would have to split their forces into groups of 33 in order to not be destroyed in detail by power A’s defending force. They would burn through power A’s systems at a slower rate than that of power A’s conquest of their own systems, and once the reinforcements power A sent back could regroup with its defensive force, power B would no longer be able to raid at all.

      Furthermore, power B would be forced to destroy the costly stargate they abandoned, in order deprive power A of its use. Because this was the nearest stargate to the nearest of power A’s stargates, it would be impossible for power B to threaten any of power A’s stargates before power A’s reinforcements made it home.

      So essentially, power A would be able to raze power B’s systems at a very high rate, forcing the destruction of one of power B’s stargates in the process; while power B would only be able to destroy some of power A’s outlying systems, unable to reach any of power A’s stargates, and forced into an inefficient raiding process by the threat posed by power A’s defensive force. Ultimately, power A could destroy power B at little cost to itself.

      • 1soru1 says:

        Unless combat is really rigidly deterministic, this seems like a bad plan from A’s point of view. 67 versus 66 is more or less 50:50. And in the case of the 67 warping into a system with a gate, that seems optimistic as the defenders arriving via gate have time to prepare defenses against an attacker of known size and vector.

        One thing goes wrong and A has just lost a war against s power they outnumber.

      • The Red Foliot says:

        A lesser power would always stand to gain from uncertainty. If there was significant uncertainty in battles, the best plan for the greater power would be to fight numerous smaller battles so as to average out its luck. Possibly, the best way for power A to do this in this scenario would be to still send its 67 ship fleet to threaten power B’s nearest stargate; not to engage it, but only to stay near it so as to force power B to keep its fleet stationed there. Power A could then use its remaining 33 ships to harass power B’s peripheral settlements (those it cannot defend without abandoning its stargate). Power B could spare some ships from its main battle fleet to defend against these raiders, but in order to defend against all of the raiders they would need to send half of their main battle fleet, turning their global 3:2 disadvantage into a local 2:1; and not only that but because this scenario allows for total visibility of enemy fleet movements (and because its implied all ships can travel FTL at the same speed), the raiders would never be caught unaware by the enemy counter force. So, essentially power B would slowly be whittled down, just as before but not as swiftly.

        Furthermore, power B would still be unable to launch counter-attacks against any of power A’s stargates without engaging power A’s main fleet, since power A’s main fleet is parked in the intervening distance between the two nearest gates; power A would always be able to reach its own stargate system first. Power B could still launch an attack on power A’s nearest stargate, hoping to force an engagement, that they might defeat power A’s fleet through the uncertainty of combat, but power A would have a good counterstrategy in this case. Power A could retreat back to its nearest stargate with its main fleet, with power B’s in pursuit, allowing its raiders time to ravage power B’s systems freely; once back at their system, they could hop through their stargate to the next nearest stargate (or just keep on running), while destroying the one behind them, leaving power B either stranded or forever in pursuit. During this intervening time, power A would have splintered off forces from its main fleet to loop around behind the pursuing fleet to destroy power B’s now-undefended stargate. Power B could attempt to engage these splinter forces, but doing so would require them to engage in numerous small battles which the splinter forces could always run away from. This would end in their defeat because either power A’s ships would endlessly evade power B’s (unless offered 50:50 odds), or because they would engage power B’s fleet in detail, thus denying power B the advantage of uncertainty (their luck would average out). Either way, they would lose to attrition; as behind all of this their home systems are still being ravaged by power A’s raiding fleet.

        So basically, because there’s no fog of war, and because all FTL travel happens at the same speed, the bigger power would always be able to outplay the lesser. Only by adding fog-of-war or complexity in armaments (different ships able to travel at different speeds; immobile fortresses capable of trading with mobile ships cost efficiently) could power B have a chance.

  25. Well... says:

    Are there any meta-studies on the correlation between facial width-to-height ratios (fWHR) and political preferences? I’ve seen individual studies saying the correlation exists and others saying it doesn’t.

    Or, anyone just want to discuss the topic of interesting fWHR correlations in general?

    • Randy M says:

      Giving what we can seems to skew slightly above average on Fwhr. Using relationship hero man as a median, at least.

    • Clocknight says:

      I know that fWHR correlates to aggression/perceived aggression (a small but significant correlation). But I don`t know if aggression correlates with political preference.

      Also, aggression was the only correlation I knew of. What other ones are there?

      • Well... says:

        Also, aggression was the only correlation I knew of. What other ones are there?

        (Some argue) success in business, success in politics, etc.

    • Proposed study: collect a large random sample of portraits of members of U.S. state legislatures, with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.

      To avoid giving demographic clues, the sample would be limited to middle-aged white men with little or no facial hair, and the pictures would be cropped and sized to be as close to identical as possible.

      Survey respondents would view these portraits in random order, and for each one, guess whether the face belonged to a Democrat or a Republican.

      Hypothesis: The faces of Democrats and Republican politicians are systematically different, and respondents will be able to accurately distinguish them at levels considerably better than chance.

    • dodrian says:

      Are there any VTOL Carriers in active or recent service with planes on them? Do they have catapults?

      I was under the impression that we’re going through a bit of a VTOL drought at the moment, with Harriers mostly retired, and F35 variants only slowly trickling out of the factories.

      • John Schilling says:

        The two Italian carriers, Garibaldi and Cavour, still operate AV-8B Harriers. Everybody else, as you note, got caught in the trap of “we’ll just keep our old Harriers flying until the F-35B enters service, which Lockheed promises will be Real Soon Now”. The UK, India, Spain, and Thailand all had carriers operating Harriers in the past decade, but all have given up on carrier aviation until the F-35B is really available.

        There are some US amphibious-warfare ships that also operate Harriers and/or F-35Bs, but if bean ever gets around to writing the spotters guide for naval auxiliaries he’ll explain why they aren’t properly classified as aircraft carriers.

        • bean says:

          About 90% right. The Indians are going to ski-jumping Mig-29s instead, and the Thais were never that serious about it. AIUI (and this comes from someone who worked on Chakri Naruebet), they bought the Harriers intending to run them out of parts, and then leave the game. Chakri Naruebet is more of a big OPV with a flight deck, anyway. She doesn’t have the combat systems of a true carrier, as she was intended to support anti smuggler/pirate helicopter operations, not ASW or strike missions.

          There are some US amphibious-warfare ships that also operate Harriers and/or F-35Bs, but if bean ever gets around to writing the spotters guide for naval auxiliaries he’ll explain why they aren’t properly classified as aircraft carriers.

          You people are never satisfied! History of amphibious warfare is creeping up the list, and will probably be followed by a spotter’s guide.

      • cassander says:

        John Schilling’s rundown is pretty thorough for current users. For future users, both the Japanese and South Koreans are considering operating aircraft from some of their amphibious assault ships/helicopter destroyers. And the australians have ships large enough to do so and considered the idea but seem to have rejected it for now. The turks are building a ship that’s supposed to be capable of doing so, but as far as I know they haven’t committed to buying any f-35bs yet.

        That said, and as bean notes, it’s important to distinguish between VTOL, STOVL and STOBAR operations. VTOL (vertical take off and landing) imposes pretty substantial reductions in aircraft payload and fuel capacity compared to STOVL (short take off and vertical landing) and STOBAR (short takeoff but arrested recovery). And STOVL operations will have worse sortie rates and bringback capabilities than STOBAR.

        • John Schilling says:

          Pure VTOL operation is I think mostly an air-show stunt at this point. If the ship is an aircraft carrier of any sort, it will almost certainly have either a ski jump or a catapult; if it has neither it is either a helicopter carrier or an amphibious-warfare vessel.

          If it’s one of the latter, there will be pictures of what it would look like if refitted with a ski jump, and articles about how the sneaky so-and-sos are trying to covertly build aircraft carriers and what’s their imperialist agenda anyway. Whether this is true is more of a political question than a technical one.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            Pure VTOL operation is I think mostly an air-show stunt at this point.

            Air-show stunt or possibly ferry flights. The Atlantic Conveyor carried Harriers and Sea Harriers to the Falklands, which took off vertically from an improvised flight deck on arrival in order to make the short ferry flight to the aircraft carriers.

            One Sea Harrier was also kept fuelled and armed on deck during the voyage south in order to be ready to take off (vertically) and defend the ship from Argentinean long-range reconnaissance aircraft. I imagine weapons load and endurance would have been extremely limited, but given that said reconnaissance aircraft were Boeing 707s might have still been useful.

          • cassander says:

            the Japanese maybe, and korean almost certainly, would be be pure VTOL afaik. The japanese ships don’t have ramps, but are at least big enough that might be modified. the korean ships are only 200m long and 18k tons displacement (smaller than the invincible class), just looking at them it seems like they’d have to give up at least one deck spot to add a ramp, even assuming that the ship is structurally capable

          • bean says:

            I got a chance to examine the flight deck of USS America in some detail a year and a half ago. There was no ramp, and yet they routinely operate STOVL harriers. It’s helpful, but not required.

          • John Schilling says:

            What do the LHAs expect to do operationally with their 4-6 Harriers? I can’t imagine an opposed landing in any significant threat environment being done without carrier support.

          • bean says:

            What do the LHAs expect to do operationally with their 4-6 Harriers? I can’t imagine an opposed landing in any significant threat environment being done without carrier support.

            Oh, obviously not. It’s about 50% institutional memory of Fletcher pulling out at Guadalcanal, and 50% having a few strike aircraft of their own on tap so they can get fast CAS when they want, not when the Navy bothers to give them some. I was just pointing out that if you want to operate a few F-35Bs, you can do it without a ski jump. Don’t get me wrong. I expect the median use to be the Japanese/Korean Helicopter Carrier showing up to an intervention (the next Libya), getting in the pictures, and going “Look, we’re helping”, while other people do the difficult bits. Serious strike capability will be limited to a handful of navies. The USN, RN, MN, and maybe the PLAN. The Russians can only play when Kuznetzov’s engines work, and the Indians may eventually join the party.

          • cassander says:

            @bean and John

            You can see videos of flight deck operations on LHDs. Most of the ones I’ve seen have the harriers taking off pretty far back, just ahead of the forward elevator, which means they need about 2/3s of the flight deck to take off, which is about 170 out of 260 meters. Both the Izumos and Dokdos lack the squared bow you see with US amphibs, which reduces the effective length they have available for takeoff. The Izumos are about 250m long, but the Dokdos are only about 200 to start with, only a hair shorter then the HMS invincible, which, even with a ski ramp, had to launch harriers down almost its entire length. And remember, it’s not just a question of having enough length for a takeoff roll. the larger the percentage of your deck you need to keep clear for takeoff rolls, the less room you have to move around other aircraft which will slow down your deck cycle and limit how many aircraft you can effectively carry.

            Now, maybe the F-35Bs will need a shorter take-off run than the harriers, and maybe there’s a sweet spot where a F-35B with a short takeoff roll can get off the deck with more payload than pure VTOL, but it seems like it would be a big sacrifice for either ship to try operating in non VTOL mode, even if it’s possible.

          • bean says:

            @cassander
            I’ll agree that neither ship is an ideal STOVL carrier, and your points about deck size are well-made. That said, I don’t think it’s as binary as you suggest. Yes, operating fully-loaded planes will mean that you can’t range more than a few at once. But you can either not load them fully or accept that you aren’t going to be launching a full alpha strike. If you want that, use CATOBAR. I’m pretty sure that short STOVL is still better than VTOL in payload terms, although I don’t have refs to back that up.

    • Nornagest says:

      Nitpicks: reduplicated “CIWS” in the frigate description, and you’ve got an extra zero in the tonnage figures for early diesel subs.

    • bean says:

      Said Achmiz kindly gave me the ability to give people accounts which will let them comment without my having to approve each one. If you want one (and I’d request you make sure you’re going to comment before asking), email me at battleshipbean at gmail with the username (no spaces, but you can change the displayed name) and password you want.

    • bean says:

      I’ve reposted Why the Carriers are not Doomed, Part 1
      Those of you who read the original will note this was originally written as Part 2. I swapped them because it worked better this way.

  26. j1000000 says:

    I posted this on the last open thread an hour ago but that one’s now probably dead, so reposting and hoping this isn’t a bannable offense:

    Anyone have any book recommendations? I’m talking the best books you’ve ever read, not just a “best of 2017” thing.

    I want to read more books of every type — sci fi, mystery, history, memoir, poetry, anything is good by me.