SSC Survey Results 2018

Thanks to the 8,077 people (!) who took this year’s SSC survey.

I don’t have the energy to screenshot/copy/paste the graph for every single question the way I have in previous years, so let’s do it differently.

The survey page is changed so that you can just press “okay” and “submit”, and it will bring you to the results page and see all the results. I’m not sure you can take the whole survey anymore, but if you find a way to do so, please don’t. Just press “okay” and “submit” and you should be fine. Don’t worry, all identifying questions (including the identifier string and all long answers) have been hidden.

See the exact questions for the SSC survey.

See results from the SSC survey.

See results from the Mechanical Turk comparison survey.

(this might have a lot of lag if you try to do it at the same time as everyone else; if you tell your browser to stop scripts it might improve)

I plan to post longer analyses (including the ones in the pre-registered hypotheses) later on, hopefully dragging them out into a bunch of Least Publishable Units.

If you want to scoop me, or investigate the data yourself, you can download the answers of the 7298 people who agreed to have their responses shared publicly:

Main survey: .xlsx, .csv

Turk survey: .xlsx, .csv

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438 Responses to SSC Survey Results 2018

  1. wanderingimpromptu says:

    I’m surprised by how few Asians there are. The Bay Area is 23% Asian & presumably the percentage of Asians amongst Bay Area/similar area techie types is even higher. The SSC Asian percentage is 6%.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      SSC is less than 10% Bay Areans.

      • 27chaos says:

        If you’re concerned about nerd baiting, I highly suggest you never use the phrase Bay Arean again. Problematic phonemes.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          It’s a perfectly cromulent term. They believe in the heresy of Bay Arianism.

        • Deiseach says:

          Problematic phonemes.

          The Even Worser version of that which I have seen was “Bay Aryans”, due to the proselytisation for the virtues of the Bay Area (and why everyone should move there and get a job in programming/coding), technology, the Singularity, and the rest of such high-tech moral attitudes coupled with a perceived aura of slight self-congratulation for being so progressive and ethical 🙂

    • akarlin says:

      I am not at all surprised.

      1. It is in perfect sync with LessWrong demographics, about which I wrote here:

      2. East Asians are underrepresented relative to their high IQs in all sorts of “out of left field” communities, while whites are overrepresented.

      This is from an as yet unpublished post that has been lingering in my archives for ages (note to self – erm, publish it), in which I gathered racial demographic statistics for various unusual and interesting groups. Here is the White vs. Asian share for each one of them:

      Burning Man 2014 – 87% / 5.7%
      LessWrong 2014 – 86.1% / 3.9%
      Occupy Wall Street – 81.2% / 2.8%
      Transhumanists 2012 – 85.3% / 3.3%

      • Aapje says:

        Perhaps Asians tend to have a strong cultural bias towards conformism?

        • dotctor says:

          That’s what my gf, who is Chinese, keeps telling me about Chinese politics. “Don’t look at it from a Western lens, the Chinese are culturally much more reticent to protest etc.”.

          (Note that she doesn’t say that they’d accept anything just that they might be more reticent to openly protest, for example.)

        • The Element of Surprise says:

          That would probably explain OWS and possibly Burning Man, but LW / SSC counts as non-conformist?

          • akarlin says:

            I would argue that the LW/SSC-sphere are actually less conformist than both OWS and Burning Man.

            One is a standard Leftist protest movement, and not a particularly radical one at that, and while it was once countercultural, Burning Man has since been suborned by… well, The Man.

            To the contrary, discussing the efficacy of nootropics, trying to quantify the conscious experience of a fish, and analyzing takeoff scenarios for superintelligence really is quite weird.

        • akarlin says:

          Both stereotypes and psychometric studies do seem to agree on that.

        • ohwhatisthis? says:

          Doubt it.

          The world of artistic production that arrives in America of east Asian art,music, and shows is no less diverse than American shows/movies/art.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Are you sure Asians are underrepresented?

        The US is 5-6% Asian.

        US respondents to the survey are 4% East Asian and 2% Indian, which adds up to 6%.

        Also of note, we’re about twice as Indian as the US as a whole.

        • Aapje says:

          The SSC survey respondents are considerably better educated than the average American, though. Asian Americans have the highest educational attainment of any race, so they ought to be over represented given their high average education.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Update: Also, the average white is 34, and the average Asian is 25. Maybe they’re more equal around young ages, but older Asians (? more likely immigrants or acculturated in Asian culture) are less likely to enjoy this sort of thing?

          • akarlin says:

            Good points.

            My response:

            1. Latest figure is that 6.7% of Americans are Asian-Americans.

            2. Of these, around 1% are Indian, which are you correctly point out are overrepresented. However, Indians behave much more like verbal IQ elite Caucasians in this respect (and many others, i.e. “bamboo ceiling” doesn’t apply to them).

            3. As Aapje points out, there “should be” many more Asian-Americans going by their educational attainments – 15% of elite college enrolments (despite affirmative action), nearly 40% at Caltech (which doesn’t practice it).

            4. In the US, whites are also older than Asians: Median age for whites is 43, for Asians it is 36.

    • KG says:

      I am arguably an Asian who lives in the Bay Area, but I put “Other” because I’m only half Korean and a smaller fraction Filipino, and I identify more as “mixed” than anything else. I can’t speak for whatever the statistics are, but many “Asians” I know are also mixed.

  2. Douglas Knight says:

    In changing the survey to display mode, you mangled the Turk survey. The dummy question got merged with the race question, so now Whites are outnumbered by Okays. The main survey turned out OK. You might want to fix that, but it’s not a big deal.

  3. harland0 says:

    Wow. I had no idea SSC had such a white male problem. Everyone on this website is almost the same, and agrees on many fundamental points. Where’s the diversity? I expected better from such a progressive space. I don’t know why I’m so shocked…but I am.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      EDIT: I previously responded to this as if it was genuine concern. After reviewing harland0’s comment history, I notice he is very conservative and means this sarcastically. In that case, it’s incredibly annoying trolling, and he is banned indefinitely

      • Nornagest says:

        I’m… pretty sure that was sarcasm.

      • Toby Bartels says:

        Now I want to know what your original response was! Probably something very reasonable.

      • BeatriceBernardo says:

        Even if he was trolling, wouldn’t a valid concern benefit from a good response?

        • JulieK says:

          “You have too many people who are (specific race and/or gender) here” is not a valid concern.

          • Yosarian2 says:

            It can be, it depends on the context in which you are saying it.

            I think it’s actually true that if we want the rationalist movement (or the transhumanist movement or the rational altruist movement or whatever movement you want to talk about, there’s a significant amount of overlap of course) to have a significant cultural and social impact and to actually make the world a better place, we need to try to find a way to expand its appeal, and specifically to find a way to get more women and more people from other demographic groups interested and involved in the subjects.

            I mean, even putting aside the “white male” issue for a moment, I’ve been saying for a while that the whole transhumanist movement needs to find a way to expand past its natural base of “science fiction readers, computer programmers, engineers, and people already doing extreme body mods” if its ever going to accomplish anything important. There’s no reason it should be limited to those groups, either, there is potential for at least many of the ideas there to appeal to a lot of other people.

          • Viliam says:

            Those nerdy-stuff-related movements simply need to get rid of nerds and all nerdy stuff.

          • Randy M says:

            Transhumanism does not need a diverse array of adherents in order to make the world better. In fact, it doesn’t need adherents–it needs innovations that improve peoples lives. After these are existent, the fans will come.

          • Yosarian2 says:

            “Innovations” don’t just happen. If you want transhumanist style innovations, then you need:

            -People willing to push for innovations that were developed for “medical” reasons to also be at least legal to use for “enhancement” reasons as well. Maybe even encouraged, if possible, but at least legal. This can be thought of through a wide array of technologies, everything from genetics (in either adults or embryos) through brain stimulation through prosthetic/cybernetics through nootropic drugs ect, but the basic argument is similar in all of those cases. I expect at least some of these things to become significant political issues within the next decade.

            -A significant number of consumers that want and demand “transhuman” technologies; consumer demand often drives innovation.

            -You also want consumes and a society that at a minimum don’t have an instinctive backlash against anything that “looks weird”, like you got when the “Google Glass” thing was first released. Anything like that could significantly delay and limit the usage and development of the kinds of technologies transhumanists are interested in, many of which have the potential to provoke a much stronger backlash then wearable glasses with a camera. Getting more people to at least understand that transhumanist view of the world is likely to change how people view certain kinds of innovations.

            -Support within academia for research that has enhancement or transhumanist implications. At the moment it can be hard to even find places to get that kind of research published, to get grants for that kind of research, ect. On a related note, if some transhumanists are right about what kinds of things are possible in terms of anti-aging research ect, it might help if more people in academia or in pharmaceutical companies were more interested in funding or conducting that kind of research; it does seem like there is more interest in that area lately.

            -Support within technology companies to think about product development in a transhumanist kind of fashion. (This is the one that currently is the strongest, IMHO; there seem to be a lot of transhumanists in Silicon Valley, at least, and that does help.)

            Ect. This whole idea that some transhumanists have the kind of future you might like to see is going to just happen on it’s own in a reasonable timeframe without at least a significant number of people across different parts of society supporting it, demanding it, and/or at least permitting it to happen seems to be likely incorrect to me.

          • Yosarian2 says:

            @Villiam: something can still be “nerdy” and still be widely adopted and accepted by the larger culture. We’ve seen that in everything from the mass adoption of technology to the widespread popular culture acceptance of a variety of things that were previously just “geek culture”.

            I don’t think “being nerdy” is the primary issue here.

          • JulieK says:

            There’s a difference between saying “We need more X” and “We have too many Y.” At least, there’s a difference in how a typical Y feels when hearing the statements.

          • Yosarian2 says:

            I would never say we have too many Y. All of these movements are quite small in absolute numbers right now.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Those nerdy-stuff-related movements simply need to get rid of nerds and all nerdy stuff.

            Ah, a large part of the Culture War in a nutshell.

            Epistemic Status: I thought the OP was a pretty funny troll. Wait, is that even a valid epistemic status?

            Edit: No, it’s not.

            Actual epistemic status: Rather more serious than I’d like to be.

            As for OP, I think it might have been intended as humorous trolling which came off more harshly than intended. I plead for leniency.

          • Aapje says:


            Various countries/cultures that are not Western seem to have significantly fewer qualms than the US, so Effective Transhumanism may consist of American money and/or expertise, with the projects being done elsewhere. This is actually already happening:

            That is the case in a major project conceived by Steve Hsu, vice president for research at Michigan State University, to search for genes that influence intelligence. Under the guidance of Zhao Bowen, BGI is now sequencing the DNA of more than 2,000 people—mostly Americans—who have IQ scores of at least 160, or four standard deviations above the mean.

            The Chinese even do this for free, because they believe in the potential.

          • MugaSofer says:

            Transhumanism has little to do with “nerdy people”; it’s supposed to be a universal human thing. It’s only connection to nerds is that it’s mostly believed by nerds.

            Rationalism has a bit of a connection to nerdiness, in that “analyse X in a sciency/mathy way so you can do it better” is quite nerdy. But certainly the original Sequences talk quite a lot about “raising the sanity waterline” as a society-wide endeavour.

          • John Schilling says:

            Transhumanism and Rationalism are both things nerdy people think all of humanity would be better off adopting and that all of non-nerdy humanity barely notices and doesn’t much care for when they do notice. Difference is, Rationalism is a thing nerdy people can do (or imagine they are doing) right now and say to the rest, “what fools you are not to be doing this wonderful thing”. Transhumanism is a thing nerdy people can only imagine doing in the future, and mostly imagine that the rest of the world will of course eagerly join them in this wonderful thing.

          • Aapje says:

            Non-nerdy people are already doing semi-transhumanist/eugenics things, like selectively aborting embryos with various conditions.

        • Deiseach says:

          Even by my standards of being sarcastic and not genuinely meaning it, that comment was heavy-handed, so the True Caliph instigating the Reign of Terror was right and proper.

        • Doesntliketocomment says:

          Not really, because he is trying to drive the conversation into a direction that makes his opponents seem as ridiculous and unsympathetic as possible. It’s important that a discussion is structured around actual representative viewpoints rather than strawmen specifically designed to be offensive.

      • Reasoner says:

        You’re the boss, obviously, but I’d humbly suggest that a lifetime ban would be excessive and you should un-ban him in <3 months to see if he's capable of shaping up.

      • Eponymous says:

        A ban seems a completely disproportionate and unreasonable response to that comment. I’m honestly quite surprised.

      • adrian.ratnapala says:

        Too me it seemed more like dumb but moderately amusuing trolling.

        This is Scott’s site, but banning seems unwarrented unless there is a lot of historical trolling. But I read the point about reviwing the history as illuminating the meaning of this one comment. Merely being very conservative doesn’t sound like it’s a banning offence around here.

        • I think the point was that his being very conservative meant that the post was intended as sarcasm, and Scott thought that level or form of sarcasm was unwarranted.

  4. Douglas Knight says:

    People always want to know the precise phrasing of the questions: see here

  5. Iceman says:

    First thing I noted: On the political affiliation question, 387 people (5.1%) said they were n30r34ct10naries. 160 people (2.1%) said they were alt-right. This means we have more than twice as many explicitly-not-populist-rightists than populist-rightists. I find that encouraging.

    The graph about how people feel about H|_|man B1od1vers1ty form a bell curve. How appropriate.

    More seriously, is there a name for the distribution on a five point scale where 1 ~= 5 < 2 < 3 < 4? Eyeballing it, lots of responses roughly fit that pattern, or its inverse ordering.

    • wearsshoes says:

      @Iceman: It’s what a left- or right- skewed distribution tends to look like when mapped to a small number of discrete points.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I changed the date as part of my general policy to avoid having the first few comments be about neorx, in order to not send out a signal that we want more discussion of it here.

    • A1987dM says:

      You might want to divide each percentage by that of the corresponding answer on the placebo question to compensate for the effect.

    • jasonbayz says:

      Is there a filter for certain buzzwords?

      “This means we have more than twice as many explicitly-not-populist-rightists than populist-rightists. I find that encouraging.”

      Not how I’d interpret it: the nr-xers are populists who don’t want to be associated with Richard Spencer’s LARPer parade. A separation into “civic nationalists” and “ethno-nationalists” would have been better.

      • Brad says:

        Is there a filter for certain buzzwords?

        Yes. Among them N R X and H B D.

      • Nornagest says:

        Several synonyms for “novo-regressionary” are banned. I think some keywords around populist rightism are too, although I forget which ones.

        • fion says:

          I’m sure the question has been asked and answered before, but why are such words banned? It clearly doesn’t prevent discussion of what the words stand for. Is it to protect against google searches?

          • A1987dM says:

            Both that, and to make sure that people who do want to discuss what the words stand for must at least overcome a trivial inconvenience, I guess.

          • fion says:

            Thanks for drawing my attention to that concept. Whether or not it’s relevant here, it’s quite interesting… I’m now considering trying to set up some kind of trivial inconvenience to myself accessing this website to save me procrastinating so much… 😛

      • MugaSofer says:

        nr-xers are populists

        … you do mean the bring-back-literal-Kings guys, right?

        • Nornagest says:

          Conventional wisdom used to be that enn-arr-ecks encompassed several groups, not all of whom were into the king thing. Nick Land types had very different obsessions from Mencius Moldbug types. They shared a skepticism of modernity and a desire to bring back traditionalist social modes (“social technology”, I think is the phrase), but which social modes and which parts of modernity varied substantially, and some versions could be considered populist.

          Some of those groups evolved into or were engulfed by the modern alt-right, but others are still kicking. On balance what’s left of it is probably less populist than it was three or five years ago, though.

  6. fortybot says:

    Are the questions anywhere? Some of these are meaningless without the questions (i.e. anything which doesn’t have a descriptive title and only has numbers for answers).

  7. fahertym says:

    The most common SAT score is perfect! On both the 1600 and 2400. Jesus.

    • Toggle says:

      That seems pretty reasonable; if the right side of the bell curve falls off slowly, then it makes sense for ‘greater than 1590’ to be a larger group of people than, say, ‘precisely 1570’. On the GRE, for example, a perfect score on the math section only got you 94th percentile the year I took it- which means that the only way for a score to be ‘more common’ than the perfect score is if more than 6% of the test-takers got that *exact* number. That will only be true very close to the mean. It’s less pronounced for the SAT than for the GRE, but still, the average SSC SAT score doesn’t have to be *that* far above average before the perfect-score pileup is the modal value.

    • Alkatyn says:

      It seems plausible that the people who are most likely to remember their scores off the top of their heads are those who had unusually high scores, so there may be a selection bias issue.

    • John Schilling says:

      If a distribution is both truncated and sufficiently finely-granulated, then the max and min values will necessarily be more common than any single intermediate value. The ten-point granularity of SAT scores is presumably sufficient to manifest this effect. And the SAT-400 crowd is presumably filtered out by the implicit literacy requirement.

    • Anthony says:

      I forgot to ask if the renorming in the 90s was at the same time as going from 1600 to 2400. Is it? Because the shift was large – 1600 was a *rare* score when I took it.

  8. Bobby Shaftoe says:

    I am really surprised by the amount of disagreement on the palindrome question!

    I think “())(” is clearly a palindrome by any reasonable definition.

    I can support including “()()” as a kind of visual honorary palindrome, so I understand why someone might select “both”.

    But all of you “()()” only people, what are you thinking!?!

    • Nornagest says:

      That strikes me as something like the burger-and-fries-for-$2.20 question, where the answer is dead obvious if you think about it for a second but you do actually have to think about it for a second.

      First sight and second thoughts, I think is the phrase?

      • Scott Alexander says:

        I’ll admit that, if I didn’t already know this was a “trick question”, I would never in a million years have gotten it right. Even knowing it’s a trick question it takes me a few seconds of staring before I can remember the trick each time.

        • atreic says:

          Yes, I only got it because I knew it was a trick question – it had completely caught me out about two weeks previously somewhere else on the internet, and I had to stare at it until my brain melted.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I got the 2.20 problem wrong for the first time ever on this survey.

        (Along with at least one other answer)

        Probably should not have done it at the end of a lunch break so that I was rushing through everything as quickly as possible.

    • Jack V says:

      Huh, I assumed this was a philosophical question, not a trick question. Like, if you read right-to-left languages, you don’t reflect letters compared to left-to-right languages, but I assume ‘)’ means ‘open bracket’ and ‘(‘ means ‘close bracket’. So I realised that the actual characters were not in the same order, but just by looking at it “()()” FELT a lot more like a palindrome.

      • Toby Bartels says:

        Palindromes are most commonly taken to be letter-by-letter palindromes, but people also sometimes consider word-by-word palindromes (Wikipedia suggests ‘Is it crazy how saying sentences backwards creates backwards sentences saying how crazy it is?’). Neither applies here, where there are no letters or words!

        The closest thing to a letter-by-letter palindrome that applies here is a character-by-character palindrome, which is almost the same thing for normal text except that letter-by-letter palindromes ignore punctuation, capitalization, and spaces. In contrast, these examples consist entirely of punctuation. The character-by-character palindrome here is definitely the first one.

        However, given that we’re already doing something nonstandard, one could also consider a pixel-by-pixel palindrome, which with ordinary text is impossible to achieve, but which in this case is the second one.

        • Toby Bartels says:

          I agree that it’s word-like. If you think that


          is a palindrome, what about





        • Toby Bartels says:

          Then my work here is done. :–)

        • Shion Arita says:

          I said both, since I’d say that visual palindromes count.

          so I’d say that
          (live)(live) is not a palindrome.
          (live)(evil) is not a palindrome.


          (live))evil( is a palindrome
          and so would be:


          (can’t find a mirrored L character nor undercase e)

    • googolplexbyte says:

      I got palindrome confused with ambigram

    • scmccarthy says:

      I had to think about this question a long time before deciding.

      I kinda think that considering ())( a palindrome is missing the point of palindromes for the sake of being narrowly correct. Palindromes have an interesting aesthetic quality of reading the same forward as backward. ()() has that aesthetic quality. ())( doesn’t. This is because when you look at those things, you don’t see four unicode characters – you see a symmetric symbol “()()” and an asymmetric symbol “())(“.

      If the question was literally asking which sequence of unicode characters is identical under reversal, sure, the answer is ())(. But I don’t see a good reason to treat curvy lines the same as english letters here.

      • dodrian says:

        I endorse this answer.

        ()() is in the spirit of the palindrome, ())( is the law of the palindrome.

      • meh says:

        Which of these is a palindrome?
        1. “bdbd”
        2. “bddb”
        3. “abab”
        4. “abba”

      • Quixote says:

        I endorse this answer.

        ()() is in the essence of the palindrome, ())( is the technical detail of the palindrome.

        Note I have modeled this answer on the one 2 above it and it does not reflect original wording, just endorsement.

    • sohois says:

      I didn’t parse it as individual parentheses, but as pairs. As such, the 2 pairs “()()” is clearly a palindrome whilst “())(” is not.

      edit: and it is correct to view brackets in this way, since as far as I am aware a single isolated bracket has no meaning and will never appear in text, formulae or mathematics. You will only see brackets when they form a pair.

      • Toby Bartels says:

        Would you consider




        to be a palindrome?

        • thewaler says:

          Well, if we’re talking about a char-based comparison (like in the original question) and not a letter-based comparison (like most palindromes that ignore punctuation).

          • Toby Bartels says:

            You’re certainly correct about what’s a character-by-character palindrome, but I really want to know what sohois’s intuition is.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Another not-sohois, but:

            If you treat parenthesise as pairs, rather than individual characters, then “()()” is a palindrome (empty container, empty container), and “())(” is gibberish that doesn’t read forward, and cannot be meaningfully reversed.

        • dodrian says:

          I would consider (live)(evil) to be a palindrome, but not (live)(live).

          I wouldn’t really consider (live))evil( to be a palindrome, unless pressed to do so as a technicality.

        • sohois says:

          The latter is the palindrome. Even amongst those who have the same view as I on bracket palindromes, I doubt there is anyone that would view the former as a palindrome.

          I would not accept (live))evil( as a palindrome because I don’t believe any arbitrary sequence of symbols should be able to be classed as a palindrome. In the initial question, only () functions as an acceptable sequence of characters.

          • Toby Bartels says:

            OK, thanks.

            What I’m checking for is whether you are thinking of the paired parentheses as word-like rather than letter-like. (‘live live’ is a word-by-word palindrome, while ‘live evil’ is a letter-by-letter palindrome.) It seems that you are thinking of palindromes letter by letter once letters appear, but you have different standards for punctuation.

          • Toby Bartels says:

            While we’re at it, on the subject of acceptable sequences of characters, what would you have said if Scott had asked you which of the following is a palindrome?

            butterflies 'n' rainbows


            shitbuckets 'n' stekcubtihs

            (I’m trying to go for the maximum aesthetic contrast here.)

          • sohois says:

            With punctuation, I would consider something like god;dog to be a palindrome, with the semi colon functioning as a single character. I would not consider god)dog to be a palindrome as a bracket cannot exist independently in a sentence, it must always be a pair. I thus feel it is reasonable to consider () as being in essence a single character, even if they are split up by something within the brackets.

            As for your second question, butterflies ‘n’ rainbows is not a palindrome, I think we can all agree on that, but also shitbuckets ‘n’ stekcubtihs is not a palindrome because stekcubtihs is not recognizable as anything. Letter-by-letter palindromes must still obey some rules to be considered palindromes

          • Toby Bartels says:

            Alright. I’ll end with the observation that neither




            is valid use of punctuation in English either, but of course some invalid things seem more intuitively invalid than others!

        • MugaSofer says:

          I’d consider the first one only a palindrome. The second is a broken attempt at a letter-based palindrome.

      • The one instance I know of where an unbalanced parenthesis is used is for system commands in the APL programming language (on 1970s-era IBM mainframes, primarily), which start with a right parenthesis, specifically chosen to not be confusable with a valid statement in APL or any other mathematical notation.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      Here I was, thinking that all a palindrome is is a word spelled the same by replacing first letter with last, second with second to last, etc…and it ends up the same. And the CS version is doing that with any ascii character.

      Huh. Maybe I answered ‘wrong’ on the question since I think I just answered what looked nice, the
      ()(), and not the one that works by the definition. I’m dumb.

    • themadmammaker says:

      Considering that the reversed version of “(” is “)” makes palindromes more expressive, since the mirrored version of a phrase preserves “valid” parentheses – meaning, you only have a closing parenthesis of you opened it previously.

      Without that rule, it’s impossible to have a palindrome containing valid parentheses; you have to have abominations like (live))evil(. Ugh!

      • Bobby Shaftoe says:

        This is a very interesting point. I agree that counting “(live))evil(” as a palindrome is an upsetting result, somehow more so than “())(“.

    • Rachael says:

      I just got misled by the palindrome question. I answered “()()” and now believe I was simply wrong. It’s not a palindrome, any more than “bod” is.

    • Yosarian2 says:

      I voted ()() only. I could rationalize up some justification for it, but I think the truth is that my brain literally can’t parse something that ends with a )( and never closes the parenthesis. I can’t look at ())( and think anything but “Ow, that’s wrong, it hurts, fix it, fix it, fix it”.

    • Deiseach says:

      A palindrome is the same forwards and backwards. If we take ())( and do it backwards, we get )(() which is not the same. Well, not the same visually, as you point out. Doing it by copying transcription, we do get ())( which okay, I admit, is a palindrome.

      I suppose this question is sorting out those who are visually oriented from those who are not, as (say) flipping the letter W still gives you W but flipping ( gives you ).

      • Gobbobobble says:

        By that logic, “bob” is not a palindrome because backwards it would be “dod”

        • Deiseach says:

          That’s correct, but on the other hand a word as distinct from a symbol cluster is a different unit to my mind (or eyes). I can ‘see’ “bob” as a palindrome but I can’t ‘see’ ())( as one because when I try to reverse it mentally, the brackets rotate whereas the letters in a word don’t.

          By that logic, “bob” is not a palindrome because backwards it would be “dod”

          A random string of letters that did not form a recognisable word, though – I have a feeling that would be different, and I’d mentally flip those as well.

          Ooh – but “bobdod” could be a palindrome, because backwards and flipped it would be “bobdod”! That is weird; reading “bob” backwards, my mind still sees it as “bob” but reading “bobdod” backwards, my mind has no problem reversing the letters!

          I have no idea what my brain does, as you can see, I have no control over it 🙂

      • Doctor Mist says:

        I am finding it surprisingly frustrating to perceive that English has no word that is a visual palindrome like ()() but not also a lexical palindrome like ())(. The only pair of letters I can think of that are each others’ reflections are “p” and “q”, so “pooq” would be a visual palindrome but not a lexical palindrome, if it were a word. But “q” is (almost) invariably attached to “u”, which in lower case has no reflection.

        I did a nerdy search for words that were the reversals of English words with q’s replaced by p’s, in hopes I might find a two-word visual palindrome like “quow woup”, assuming a funky font that omits the tail on the lower-case “u”. No luck.

        • rlms says:

          There are also “b” and “d”, giving at very least “dob”-“bod” (date of birth and slang for “body”). There might be some fonts where “s” and “z” are mirrors as well.

        • There’s ‘b’ and ‘d’ also. Some letters are their own reversal, including ‘u’ (if written in a sans-serif font).

      • JohnBuridan says:

        I must with some embarrassment admit that I didn’t realize you could select more than one answer. After 2 minutes of staring at it, I decided that Scott was “looking for” ())(, even though I think that answer is pedantic and/or autistic.

        Not that Scott is pedantic or autistic.

    • Nearly Takuan says:

      I answered “())(” only, but after contemplating the Computer Science-y angle plus the Wikipedia entry, it now seems like the most logically-consistent conclusion is “both”.

      Since words like “pull-up” and phrases like “a man, a plan, a canal: Panama” are generally considered palindromes, clearly the criteria for what is or is not a palindrome (even in a character-by-character case) disregards letter case and non-alphanumeric characters:

      Clearly “())(” and “()()” are both palindromes, since in each case, after stripping out the special characters and ignoring letter case, we have an empty string. The reverse of an empty string is an empty string, which exactly matches the empty string, therefore all sequences that contain only non-alphanumeric characters are palindromes e.g. “(((((((((” is also a palindrome.

      • rlms says:

        “(((((((((” is also a palindrome.

        Yes, but more to the point, by your definition “(((())))” is also a palindrome.

        • Nearly Takuan says:

          Ha, good catch. I didn’t think that one through at all, which is silly given that I started out with “())( is definitely a palindrome”.

        • Deiseach says:

          Now see, to my eyes, the first is not a palindrome but the second definitely is.

          I think I am working off some notion of symmetry and mirror reversal here but I have no idea what or why.

      • Aapje says:

        @Nearly Takuan

        I disagree, “()()” is a valid expression, so it is equivalent to an empty string.

        “())(” results in a parse error, so one doesn’t even get to consider whether it is a palindrome or not, because the parser rejects the sequence of characters.

        Of course, this is based on a relatively strict definition of palindrome, where only correct words qualify. “Radar” is a palindrome in English, but “xhrrhx” is not.

        IMO, the common usage of ‘palindrome’ requires the characters to actually form correct words, so they follow this strict definition.

    • secret_tunnel says:

      I voted “()()” without thinking about it and realized it was wrong when I saw how many people voted “())(” in the results and had to think about it again.

      The burger and fries question was obviously a trick to me, the parentheses one slid under my radar.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I understood the trick, but answered with my intuition anyway. A palindrome is something which reads the same forwards and backwards. My internal tokenizer parses “())(” as “set of parens followed by a reversed set of parens”, which reads backwards as “)(()”. “()()” is parsed as “two sets of parens”.

      (though sometimes my internal tokenizer parses “())(” as “A set of parens, an extra closed paren, and an open paren”. This would reverse to “()()” but in fact when I start thinking about it how to read it backwards, it flips to being “a set of parens followed by a reversed set of parens” again)

  9. bodo says:

    I must say, the question about the square panel and circle illusion was misleading to me.

    I didn’t know about that optical illusion until searching the comments on the original post just now, but the survey said “clearly visible”, so I was quite frustrated when I could not see any circles. That is the main reason I want to leave this comment, I guess.
    Apart from the wording of the question, now that I see what you mean, there really aren’t any circles in the image. There are approximations of _discs_ there and quite ragged ones at that… And I can not unsee them!1!

    • Max says:

      Someone posted the “solution” in one of the comments on an earlier post, and I still cannot see the circles even after looking at that solution. Or discs. Or anything other than straight lines.

    • gemmaem says:

      I found myself wondering if that question was testing for people who would just blatantly lie and say they saw something when they didn’t! Either way, I couldn’t see them, and said so.

      • One Name May Hide Another says:

        I stared at the darn thing for a long time before I saw the circles, but once I saw them, I actually thought the question was accurate: they are pretty clear circles, maybe a bit pixelated. There is a grid of 4×4 circles, 7 of which you can see highlighted here:

    • Sebastian_H says:

      I looked this one up elsewhere. If I look at the ‘solution’ and then the original, my mind can suddenly see the circles, and then they vanish. It is a bit disturbing. But thus far I can’t make my mind keep seeing the circles. It is as if the need to interpret depth is super strong in my head.

      EDIT: I tried for a few more minutes and now I can report that if I look at the center column for a second or two I can perceive the discs. As soon as I look at one of the discs, my eyes start to follow the ‘steps’ and then suddenly I’m seeing the squares again.

    • fion says:

      I saw the illusion a while ago and I stared at it for ages trying and failing to see the circles. A friend pointed them out to me and now I can’t look at the image without seeing them. It’s almost annoying that I can’t get rid of them!

      But I wouldn’t call them the ‘approximation’ of anything, nor would I call them ‘ragged’. To me they are clean and blatant. I accept that they don’t have an outline, so perhaps the word ‘disc’ is more appropriate than ‘circle’. However, in common use I would say that the definitions of discs and circles overlaps sufficiently to call these circles.

      • A1987dM says:

        I can switch it at will (I see the circles if I stare at the center of a circle, especially if I focus my vision, and I see the rectangles if I stare at the center of a rectangle, especially if I blur my vision).

        An illusion that once I saw it I can not unsee no matter how hard I try is the cigar wall one.

  10. Toby Bartels says:

    The responses that I see peter out around the questions on religion, after which ‘no responses have been submitted’. (Firefox on Android, so I’ll try later on a decent computer)

  11. Password says:

    The political distribution of SSC readers is apparently far more liberal/leftist than that of those who comment.

    • Enkidum says:

      That, in my experience, is true of virtually the entire online world (save for explicitly hard-right spaces).

      • disciplinaryarbitrage says:

        That doesn’t seem at all obvious to me. Comments in local and quote-unquote mainstream news sources, sure; my folk explanation is that people who bother to comment on the small platform are cranky older homeowners with too much time on their hands, a group that naturally tends conservative.

        On Facebook and politics-Twitter (e.g. people tweeting at politicians, political journalists/pundits, etc.) I think the comments distribution is more strongly bimodal than the readers distribution. People with middle-of-the-road, wishy-washy opinions get drowned out by hot takes and/or attacked by both teams, and therefore drop out of the discussion.

        Maybe this is just me, though.

        • Enkidum says:

          Actually sorry, yes, you’re right. I guess I was thinking specifically of comment sections as opposed to just plain old social media. Even on places where the comment sections are just facebook posts (like, say, 538), I’m willing to bet a fairly substantial sum of money that there’s a strong rightward bias among frequent commenters. It was certainly true of obviously left-wing places like NPR back when it allowed comments, and I find it hard to think of many comment sections where politics is addressed at all where this bias doesn’t seem to exist.

      • trivialanalyst says:

        I remember a time when Internet comments were almost exclusively left-leaning. It’s still true in some places (reddit and tumblr outside of specific communities, for example). Now that I think of it, those places never aged up like the rest of the Internet has over the last 10-15 years.

    • That fits my impression of the comments, but it would be interesting to see the political distribution figures for frequent commenters from the poll.

    • 4bpp says:

      You could probably try running a correlation between that field and self-reported frequency of commenting.

      My guess would be that the frequent commenters, too, self-report as far more liberal/leftist than you would believe. This would be due to some combination of the unusual being more salient (there are few civil discussion spaces in which genuine right-wingers can comment with impunity) and the existence of people who identify as leftist but disagree with the American mainstream left on critical points (“hereditarian left”).

    • tayfie says:

      There’s a lot going on there, but I’ll summarize the reasons in order of importance.

      1. The lurkers, being more left-leaning than the average of the commenters, tends to judge the commenters as more right-leaning than they would report themselves. It’s surprisingly hard to judge against the background of something other than your immediate social group.
      2. SSC has a culture of (meta-)*contrarianism, so people who disagree are more encouraged comment.
      3. People are most likely to respond if they don’t already see their viewpoint represented, so there is a tendency for the ideological minority to compensate by commenting more.
      4. Charity and pseudonyms mean people are not afraid to express their real views, and right-leaning views are less socially acceptable. People are not driven away for not fitting in.

      • Aapje says:

        I would argue that the average left-leaning person has more ‘right-wing’ beliefs than is commonly believed and that the average right-leaning person is has more ‘left-wing’ beliefs than is commonly believed.

        However, this is hard to see because tribalism tends to push people into being quiet about their heterodoxy and to be more vocal about their orthodoxy, while this community tends to have the opposite.

        Additionally, I think this community is especially attractive to relatively heterodox leftists, as well as libertarians (who tend to be socially left and economically right).

  12. Anonymous says:

    Wow, so many computers!

  13. MawBTS says:

    Scrolling to the bottom of all of these to see the funny/joke answers.

    • Aapje says:

      Some nice ones:



      I don’t think the question is what age you pick for your D&D character…


      We have (a) God in our midst?


      New York City (2)

      On a related note: is Washington DC treated as a state for most purposes?

      Scaling question (machines making widgets):

      Who knows how things scale.?! Need to test. Every day people make this mistake in tech.

      Unknowable, could be working serially with variable bottlenecks, but you’re looking for 5 and I shouldn’t be an ass.

      How long it takes to cover half the pond

      need another beer to care

      I hate math problems so much I’m going to ruin this data field out of spite.

      Gender Role Test M

      this is a pathetic concern. I have no idea what great feelings of emasculation must be driving the current pop cultural obsession with this stuff

      I guess that someone got a lower masculinity score than expected.

      • mindspillage says:

        On a related note: is Washington DC treated as a state for most purposes?

        Yes, it is. DC is a separate federal district that is not part of a state, so DC residents generally give DC as their “state” and forms generally expect this.

        (If your “most purposes” includes representation in the U.S. Senate, though, the answer is no.)

      • Nearly Takuan says:

        Disappointed that (as far as I can tell) nobody responded to “State” with something like “mostly liquid, some solids and suspensions”.

      • disciplinaryarbitrage says:

        Other strong answers:

        Location: “Europa (the moon, not the continent)”, “Imbakedistan”

        Religious Denomination: “Anti Radio Button Input”, “Homebrew materialist panthiest kind of shit”, “Jimi Hendrix,” and “Set Theoretician. After that, many worlds are possible.”

  14. Aapje says:

    I found it interesting that the Turkers prefer polyamory almost as much, but are uncertain less often (more of them round down to mono, perhaps despite having cheated?). This suggests polyamory is not actually significantly more popular among SSC readers.

  15. Anon. says:

    People entering text in numeric fields are just the worst. What were you thinking?

  16. atreic says:

    Why is the SSC country data so nice, but the Mechanical Turk data so full of different ways of writing ‘From America’? It looks like you gave SSC tick-boxes and Mechanical Turk free text, but I assumed the surveys were identical?

  17. ownshoes says:

    Lots of people (like me) answered ‘atheist/atheism/athiestfdghkfd’ or ‘none’ to the religious background question.

    It might be a bit of a headache to combine these – some people’s definition of atheism is that it’s the same as having no particular beliefs about religion. While others will have been raised to vehemently believe that there is no God.

    • nameless1 says:

      I find the religious views/denom/bkgrd results very confusing. Basically, most atheists are first gen atheists, children of religious parents? Why? How? Even if I allow for America being America I don’t think the gap is so big – I mean in Europe most intellectual families were already atheists in the late 19th century. If you are 40 and your parents were of the hippie generation and were generally urban, not rural, it is nearly impossible for them to be religious in 1968, I just cannot imagine it how that does work that on Saturday you have pot driven random sex at someone’s house while rocking out to Hendrix and go to church on Sunday, just no way.

      • Aapje says:

        There are over twice the number of people with a university diploma now compared to the 1960’s, so it’s likely that a fairly high percentage of intellectuals do not have intellectual parents. It’s even questionable whether most people with a university diploma are even intellectuals. So even those with one or more parents that have a university diploma may very often not be children of intellectuals.

        I think that you are extremely wrong to assume that the generation of 1968 was made up of mostly hippies. There is an estimate of the size of the hippie generation that puts it at ~400,000 people (including more casual hippies), which makes it about 1.17% of the Baby Boomers. Those figures are from the US. I would expect the percentage of hippies to be even lower in Europe.

        I also think that you are wrong to equate ‘being religious’ with a religious lifestyle. In my country, only 10% of the people who consider themselves a member of a church actually go to service. 3/4 never do.

      • A1987dM says:

        I just cannot imagine it how that does work that on Saturday you have pot driven random sex at someone’s house while rocking out to Hendrix and go to church on Sunday, just no way.

        Except for the sex part, that’s me in my late teens (though that was neither in the 1960s, nor in a major city, nor in the US).

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Many hippies became Protestant Christians as they got older. It was called the Jesus people movement.

      • disciplinaryarbitrage says:

        What Aapje said, plus a couple other (US-centric) thoughts:

        By any reasonable definition, most people (even SSCers) do not grow up in “intellectual families,” and as America has been more strongly religious than western Europe for a long time more of the intelligentsia are at least weakly religious. Most people in the US circa 1968 were raised in some kind of religious milieu.

        American Protestantism has sort of bifurcated since the late 20th c. into weak-sauce traditional denominations (Episcopalians, Methodists, Lutherans, etc.) and fundamentalists/evangelicals, correlated with both urban/rural, blue/red, upper middle/working class splits. The mainline churches seem to have hit a death spiral of blandly feel-goodiness with aesthetics comforting to older generations raised in them, but without the power to move younger adherents to strong faith or the critical mass of participation to make them useful social institutions. The evangelical movement avoided that death spiral with stronger doses of hellfire/spiritual warfare/promises of earthly success, but increasingly alienated the intelligent and the liberal with doctrine plainly at odds with observable evidence, and right-wing political tie-ins.

        I see a parallel between these two failure modes and self-reported explanations of irreligion today. The “spiritual but not religious” and “I just sort of drifted away” correspond to the mainline failure mode, while the “I woke up one morning and realized it’s all bullshit” and “The clergy are a bunch of jerks” types correspond to the fundamentalist failure mode. And as this progresses irreligion becomes more normalized, so the social costs of leaving one’s church decline; churched kids grow up with more irreligious peers, and so on.

        As a first gen atheist raised by hippie-generation (not actual hippie), strongly religious parents I’m not at all surprised by this result.

      • Toby Bartels says:

        Hippies may not have belonged to The Man’s churches, but they were syncretists, not sceptics. Here is some hippie spirituality:

      • Tarpitz says:

        My (then Christian, from a working class Christian household) mother met my (then atheist, from an upper middle class atheist household but with the sort of public school (in the English sense) education that inevitably includes religious morning assemblies) father when both studied botany as Oxford undergrads in the early-mid 70s. He converted to please her; my three younger brothers and I were brought up Anglican. Over time, Dad’s faith became sincere while Mum lost hers. She is now quite angrily atheist; he’s the treasurer of the diocesan synod, remarried to a woman (also a graduate of a good university) who grew up Catholic (the daughter of devout Punjabi Catholic immigrants) but couldn’t marry a divorcé under the auspices of said church, and their two sons, currently 9 and 7, are being brought up somewhere between Anglicanism and Catholicism.

        I’m honestly not sure what the current religious beliefs or lack thereof of any of my full brothers (all highly intelligent, though only one a graduate) may be, beyond the fact that none of them go to church nor are stridently atheist. My own views… I guess I hold with low confidence a cousin of simulationism with the strong suspicion that even the next level up might be completely incomprehensible to us. An extremely powerful entity with an interest in the antics of conscious beings in this world somewhere up the chain seems possible, but really I don’t give much for our chances of drawing useful conclusions about anything in that line.

        Point being, individual cases are frequently weird and universal cultural generalizations like that are prone to error. That said, I’ll make one myself: the attitude of the educated English upper middle class to religion is best summarised, if summarised it must be, by David Cameron’s “Magic FM in the Chilterns” line.

  18. MarginalCost says:

    Looks like the single largest difference between SSC and Turkers is in Navon 1 – Turkers were far more likely to see the big H before the little E’s compared to SSC’ers. It was also interesting that SSC’ers were incrementalists, while Turkers wanted to burn the system to the ground.

    Also, I can’t trust that Turker data on mental illness. I feel like the low sample size meant a few trolls may have ruined comparisons. Specifically:
    *One Turker thought they had all 11 different mental illnesses/addiction/personality disorders/etc, and one more thought they had everything except Bipolar.
    *Two claimed to have been formally diagnosed with Anxiety, OCD, Borderline, Bipolar, and Autism, one of whom also claimed to have been formally diagnosed with schizophrenia, and both also had a few self-diagnosed conditions. Note that these two individuals constitute the entirety of the sample that said they had formal diagnoses of Autism and Borderline PD.
    * Three others not included in the above have at least a family history of everything, plus at least two formal diagnoses, and at least three informal diagnoses.

    Altogether, the above 7 individuals constitute 50% or more of formal diagnoses for 7 of the 11 disorders, and 30% or more of the informal diagnoses for 7 or of the 11 disorders.

    They were also more likely to give odd responses in other areas, with 5 of the 7 seeming deliberate trolls throughout the survey to me. These 5 loved Feminism, Trump, Immigration, Sanders, and Ryan. Our only 2 1600 SAT scores were from this group. 4 out of the 5 were vegans. I call shenanigans.

    Interestingly, the other hypothesis I had for identifying bad faith responses seems to have failed. 8 Turkers were more charitable toward extremists they disagreed with than moderates they disagreed with. But their other responses didn’t seem to raise any particular red flags and were fairly internally consitent. (Aside from 1 of these who fell into the previously identified group of likely trolls.) To be fair, this is exactly what “I can tolerate anything but the Outgroup” would predict.

  19. apollocarmb says:

    13 year olds read this blog??

    • Jonas Moss says:

      I have no problem believing that! There are plenty of smart 13-year-olds around. Also note that there are 2/7938 13 year old readers, which probably matches your prior probability pretty well.

    • Toby Bartels says:

      Probably younger, but they know that it’s illegal to collect personal information about web site users under the age of 13 in the United States, and they’re trying not to get Scott in trouble. (To be serious for a moment, I don’t actually know if it’s illegal when it’s anonymous as in this survey.)

    • James Miller says:

      My 13-year-old son is one of them. He was reading it ten minutes ago.

    • maintain says:

      Why wouldn’t they? Why would you be surprised by this?

      • apollocarmb says:

        I didn’t think 13 year olds were that smart

        • maintain says:

          I know. It was a rhetorical question meant to indicate that I have encountered many people who are young, but still intelligent, and to encourage you not to believe in unfair stereotypes.

          Also now I have to wonder why you have not encountered this. Why were you surprised but not me? What is going on differently in your life that you reached such a different conclusion than me?

          If someone was, for instance, shocked to find that there were any black people who were interested in computer programming, maybe you could chalk that up to them living in an area where there are no black people. But you can’t claim to live in an area where there are no young people?

          • apollocarmb says:

            I have never in my life encountered a 13 year old interested in/understands SSC stuff becuase they are a very rare breed.

            That’s why the syllablus is what it is.

          • Nornagest says:

            When I was thirteen, SSC didn’t exist, but if it did I would probably have read it, understood about 80% of it, assumed the other 20% that I didn’t understand wasn’t worth understanding, and said so at length, to the irritation of those around me.

            But I’d still have been interested.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: based on that description, when I was 14, we would have either been great friends or loathed each other.
            I would have been reading SSC shortly after first reading Plato, and while seeing an adolescent psychiatrist. Surely an apt moment!

          • Anthony says:

            I’d have been interested in SSC when I was 13, and been capable of understanding most of the posts. (Not physically possible – I’m pretty sure Scott is more than 13 years younger than me.)

            My elder daughter will probably be able to understand much of SSC by the time she’s 13. Younger daughter, too, though I think she’s less likely to be interested.

    • Randy M says:

      I believe in some circles it is a bar-mitzvah requirement.

  20. Jonas Moss says:

    I made a histogram of the ages to make it more interpretable.

    The parametric density is the log-normal, which had by far the best fit among the four i tried (gamma, Weibull, skew normal, log-normal).

    • fion says:

      Thanks, that’s fun to see.

    • Deiseach says:

      Graph seems to fit with some quick work on ages I did: mean age = 32, median age = 29, mode = 28 (I’m still having a look at the raw data which is very interesting; I’d love to know if the respondent claiming they make $60 million dollars a year was just trolling or do we really have some multi-millionaires amongst the readership? We had one person claiming to be making $10 million and one claiming to be making $15 million per annum as well as our $60 million person, and 32 people in the range $1-5 million per year).

      • It wouldn’t astonish me if Peter Thiel read this blog.

        • John Schilling says:

          Nor I, but I would be surprised if he took the survey with complete honesty. Too much personal risk and no way to reliably safeguard against doxxing.

          • Toby Bartels says:

            What risk? He’s already a visible Trump supporter; compared to that, who cares if people figure out that he reads SSC!?

          • John Schilling says:

            Doxxing Thiel, in this context, gets you not only the fact that he reads SSC, but his honest answers to all the questions on the survey. Some of which (e.g. does he use Adderall) might be used against him by his enemies in ways “Ha ha he supports Trump and reads SSC” can’t.

          • Toby Bartels says:

            Well, it gets you his answers. Whether it gets you his honest answers depends on what those are and how likely he thinks it is that his other answers will give him away.

            Looking back, I guess that that was your point!

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            I think Peter Thiel has successfully raised the expected costs of Doxxing Peter Thiel, even as to relatively trivial matters, really, really high. I wouldn’t risk it.

      • dank says:

        Stripe CEO Patrick Collison has said in an interview that he reads SSC. Don’t know his salary but Forbes lists net worth at > $1Billion.

      • Matt M says:

        I’d also suspect some crypto investors read this blog. Not sure how they mentally account for “annual income” but surely some of them have some really high net worth…

      • Procrustes says:

        A couple of these are very likely errors. The $60 million guy listed his profession as “statistics” and “Entry-level / in-training / still short of full money-making ability”, and the $10 million guy CS and “Student / intern / otherwise pre-significant-money-making”. They also listed their ages as 24 and 19 respectively.

        The $15 million fellow gave more consistent answers (well into career, $300k charity, hundreds of thousands on crypto, finance).

        • Deiseach says:

          I did wonder if it was a case of one (or two) zeroes too many by accident, but if you’re doing stats and mixing up your thousands and your millions, yeah keep on with that training 🙂

        • Toby Bartels says:

          A couple of these are very likely errors.

          Either that, or they've got big plans!

    • A1987dM says:

      Can someone do the same for IQ, personality test scores, and other continuous variables?

  21. Baeraad says:

    Not many surprises here, are there? We’re super-male, super-white and super-nerdy.

    The only thing that actually surprised me was how fully 60% were liberal or social democratic, and each of those categories on their own was larger than the libertarian one. I mean, considering that even Scott himself spends a lot of time grousing about how safety regulations stand in the way of the otherwise inevitable world-saving triumph of Smartness, and how the last time he grudgingly spoke against a tax cut for the rich he had to spend the two following posts going “no, really, less taxes is NOT automatically a good thing!”, you’d think that conservative/libertarian would be the most common inclination around here.

    I wonder what the correlation might be between libertarian vs liberal views on the one hand and posting frequency on the other? Because while liberals can be plenty loud, the loud sort of liberal is the sort that Scott commonly speaks against, thus presumably making them feel unwelcome here and ensuring that what liberals do stick around are the quiet and mild-mannered ones. Whereas libertarians… well, let’s put it this way, I keep hearing that there is such a thing as feminists who don’t constantly want to tell me how privileged and uncaring I am, but I have never even heard anyone suggest that there might be such a thing as a libertarian who didn’t want to constantly tell me how lazy and entitled I am… :p

    • Jacob Silterra says:

      I think we (Scott, myself, other SSC readers) tend to be libertarian at the margin. That is, if there is currently a serious public debate on some issue we take the libertarian side (though exceptions can happen). I wouldn’t assume there are a lot of End the Fed, Taxation is Theft, Get Rid of the Government and Privatize Everything type libertarians.

      It’s also possible to be in favor of safety regulations in principle, but think the specific ones implemented in the US are dumb. And if other countries have better ones that is a strong argument against the idea that government safety regulations are inherently dumb.

      • Deiseach says:

        Safety regulations can sound excessive and dumb until you need them. Nine times out of ten you’ll get away with it, but the tenth time is the one that will kill you.

        Take safety harnesses and scaffolding. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy, even professional builders, wearing these. But on other hand, we had a guy in to take a look at our roof after the recent stormy winds, and he was going up the ladder onto the roof just for the preliminary examination – didn’t even have scaffolding up yet – when a strong gust of wind caught him and if he hadn’t been able to grab onto the chimney, he could have had a nasty fall.

        If he hadn’t been in grabbing distance, even though the roof is relatively not that high, he’d have come down on a concrete path and would definitely have broken bones and maybe even his skull.

        Like I said, precautions sound excessive until that one time – and then it’s too late.

        • Tarpitz says:

          Assuming Ireland is anything like the UK in this regard, safety regulations will already mandate that your man fix his ladder and wear a harness. And yet, as you rightly note, no-one does. This is a classic example of costly, ineffective regulation that serves the interests only of harness manufacturers and people who run working at heights courses. Yes, in a better world people would wear harnesses. Regulation, or at least the type of regulatory approaches we actually have, doesn’t get us there.

      • John Schilling says:

        Safety regulations can sound excessive and dumb until you need them. Nine times out of ten you’ll get away with it, but the tenth time is the one that will kill you.

        I have a hard time thinking of any safety regulations that will kill anyone, or otherwise cause grievous harm, every tenth time they are ignored(*). Or every hundredth, and every thousandth is going to be rare. Those are things that don’t need to be prohibited because nobody does them in the first place.

        By the time you get to “nine hundred ninety nine thousand, nine hundred ninety nine times out of a million you’ll get away with it”, pretty much everybody is on board with trying to get away with it, and ready to calculate the odds on quietly murdering the busybody with the clipboard and the safety checklist.

        * As opposed to being perversely violated to make a suicidal point.

        • Yosarian2 says:

          I think the conflict comes, and the safety regulations may be needed, when the people who are trying to decide about making the tradeoffs of risk vs profit are not the people actually taking the risks. Factories and mines being two obvious examples; there are plenty of examples where for example the person who owned the coal mine took unnecessary risks with the lives of their workers, and the death rate in coal miners was certainly a lot higher than one in a million in the days before regulations.

          • Petja Ylitalo says:

            There´s an much better solution to this: death&injury tax, that the company has to pay when their workers get hurt.
            That way you get employers to use the best ideas they can come up with to reduce issues, and since incentives are aligned you don´t have to come up with strict regulations that cause side effects (like me programming with a helmet on because in the other end of the building they are still doing construction work).

          • Yosarian2 says:

            One problem there is that small mine owners often take set up a small company or LLC and big risks, intending to just declare bankruptcy if there’s a mine collapse or things otherwise go wrong. (That’s also frequently how they avoid paying the environmental clean up costs of shutting down an exhausted mine.) That frequently happens now, and they could use the same thing to avoid paying the death and injury tax.

            Really the only option in those cases is to regulate them for both safety and environmental standards while the mine is still open and profitable.

          • Brad says:

            In that case you can just make them buy insurance and let the insurance be the regulator. The real problem comes when you move from a mine to a nuclear power plant.

        • Deiseach says:

          Those are things that don’t need to be prohibited because nobody does them in the first place.

          You would think. And yet, somebody makes the news by trying exactly the “surely nobody would be this stupid?” on a regular basis.

          I’m nominating right now the lassie who drove down the Salthill Prom in the teeth of a storm. In a Mini. Blithely assured that nothing would happen her because God (or some higher power) was looking out for her. Very lucky for her it didn’t, but it could easily have turned out the other way (a year or two back, an entire family got drowned because their parked car rolled down a slipway into a harbour).

      • quanta413 says:

        Hell, even when the safety regulation is a good idea in principle i.e. everyone should follow it if they had perfect rule following abilities, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good regulation in practice. Humans have a rather finite capacity for keeping rules in mind, so some things that might add only a marginal amount of safety might be better off not being a rule just so people can focus on the important rules.

        I also think that even if every rule is individually a good idea, at some point, you can easily have far too many rules for most humans to competently follow. This can lead to a degradation of how the law is actually implemented and followed, because now everyone is in violation and who gets punished can be a function of politics, “how did the inspector feel that day”, or sheer dumb luck rather than a function of the actual severity of violations.

        I haven’t had any bad experiences with safety inspections, but I’ve never dealt with government inspectors. I’ve been a lab safety contact for internal safety audits for a couple years now and each year we’ve had ~10 minor violations and yet have been complimented for being one of the better labs. All of the problems really were minor (I swear), but all the rules violated were good rules. When there is no centralized place to find all the rules (and there are ~1000’s of them and they cover all sorts of different things), and you only have ~2-4 people in a lab or business who are permanent, and maybe 2-5 times as many who are only around for a couple years, someone is going to commit some safety violations each year.

    • Toby Bartels says:

      You should meet some leftlibertarians. They don’t think that you're lazy and entitled; they think that safety regulations are how The Man keeps the little guy down.

    • Yosarian2 says:

      Interesting note here, is that in general, people who work in technology in Silicon Valley tend to be liberal and consider themselves liberal, but the one way they differ from most other liberals is that they tend to want less regulation. But in basically every other way they could measure, they were liberal (in favor of higher taxes on the rich for purposes of wealth redistribution and free health care for the poor, liberal on social and cultural issues, want the government to do something about global warming, pro-immigration, globalist, ect)

      There was an interesting article about this data from a Stanford University poll in the New York Times a few months ago, it’s worth a read:

      Reading that, I found it interesting because that kind of anti-regulation liberalism really resonates with me and probably with a lot of other people here. I wish there was a better term for it; “left-libertarian” comes close but may imply other things that “Silicon Valley liberals” don’t necessarally agree with.

      • Deiseach says:

        But in basically every other way they could measure, they were liberal (in favor of higher taxes on the rich for purposes of wealth redistribution

        I wonder about that, because some media coverage tends to make it that they’re not so hot on good pay and working conditions for the peons (not going to link to anything because that would only get us going down the rabbit hole). Is it a case of hostile coverage, or “tax the rich but I’m not rich, I’m doing okay, the rich I mean is that guy kind of rich”? You know – “I’m not rich, rich means has a yacht” “yeah I have a yacht but he has a bigger yacht, he’s rich” “sure I have a big yacht, but he has two yachts” and so on?

        • Yosarian2 says:

          The people who were surveyed, who were generally pretty rich technologists, were pretty strongly in favor of raising their own taxes in order to help the poor.

          What they were not in favor of is the kind of labor restrictions/ regulations on surge pricing/ ect, probably because of a general philosophy that that kind of thing doesn’t actually help the poor.

          “What’s surprising to us,” he continued, “is that you could find this group that says, ‘Actually, our taxes should go up and more money should go to things like universal health care, or that we should do more to protect the environment’ — but at the same time believes that regulations and labor unions are a problem.”

          The tech elite’s mix of views is unique; no other group in the survey favored both greater wealth redistribution and laxer regulation. It is genuinely difficult to think of any politician who aligns with that mix.

          • tscharf says:

            Department of the Treasury
            1500 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
            Washington, D.C. 20220

            Send as much money as desired. I imagine they will find a way to cash the check. If all the liberals agree to tax themselves more, then at least they would be halfway there. Curiously when the left obtained power recently they somehow don’t get around to raising taxes on themselves, funny that.

          • Yosarian2 says:

            The reason taxation works is that everyone has to contribute. You could try funding all government services with charitable donations, which is I think what you are suggesting, but everyone would be motivated to donate less and hope other people pick up the slack, and in the end everyone would suffer for it. It’s a basic coordination problem.

          • Deiseach says:

            And yet surge pricing hurts people who don’t have “Well I can always pay extra at a busy time” money for convenience, while they may not be poor enough to benefit from the services paid for by the higher taxes paid by the guy charging the surge prices. Someone who has to pay eight or ten dollars more than they budgeted for a ride at surge prices can be affected by that bite out of “what money I have left over after paying my bills” in a way that is a lot more serious than “but it’s only ten bucks more” sounds.

          • Yosarian2 says:

            If there wasn’t surge pricing, then there simply wouldn’t be enough drivers at that time, and you wouldn’t be able to get a ride quickly, or maybe wouldn’t be able to get one at all.

            If surge pricing hurts your wallet, then the problem isn’t surge pricing, it’s that there isn’t a good, more cost-effect way of getting around, like a decent mass transit system for example. If there’s not enough supply of transportation to go around at certain times at the normal price, then it simply will cost more, and if you try to prevent that you will just cause a shortage of transportation.

            Banning surge pricing is like putting price controls on food; it always sounds like a good idea because it sure seems like food prices going up hurts poor people, but in reality price controls like that just causes food shortages that hurt poor people more. Same principle applies here.

            If you want to help the poor, frankly the solution is to tax the rich more and give the poor money directly, not try to prevent the price curve of supply and demand from working.

          • Anthony says:

            I would suspect the average Uber or Lyft driver has a significantly lower income than their average passenger, so on balance, surge pricing will help the poor (driver) more than it will hurt.

          • Aapje says:


            Surge pricing works by pricing people out of using the service at a busy time, which can be because of the cost/benefit ratio becomes negative to the consumer (which is capitalism working well), but also because the consumer doesn’t have the liquid capital available aka not enough money in their wallet. The latter can be considered a form of market failure. Stability in pricing results in allowing people to budget better, which is a benefit to people with marginal finances, as they can then make better choices.

            There are also more complex issues. For example, if we have high enough welfare and/or there are other societal costs to people not having a job, the cost to society of a person losing their job can be (substantially) higher than to the person themselves. So their personal cost/benefit ratio to getting that Uber to get to their job would then become negative sooner than optimal for society as a whole. If so, it makes sense to subsidize their spending, rather than to just give them more money.

            Another example is that if people are economically irrational (which they partially are), then it can be advantageous to set up society in a way that would not be optimal for economically rational people, but is for the economically irrational.

            A third example is that more affluent people may not be willing to directly subsidize the poor at the same level as they are willing to overpay for services. This may not even be because they dislike wealth redistribution, but can merely be because they dislike taxation and/or disfavor wealth distribution by means of direct handouts. If so, higher levels of wealth redistribution may be achieved by subsidizing spending (of all or specifically the poor).

          • Yosarian2 says:

            @Aapje: Surge pricing affects both the supply and the demand side of the equation. You do get people choosing to not use Uber at peak times because of surge pricing, and you also get more drivers going out to drive at peak times because they know they’ll get paid more.

            You are right though that the unpredictability of it is a negitive and can have negitive impacts on budgeting and consumers.

            So their personal cost/benefit ratio to getting that Uber to get to their job would then become negative sooner than optimal for society as a whole.

            I’m not opposed to subsidizing transportation for poor people to go to work, but that would be a narrow, targeted thing; you don’t necessarally want to subside all transportation, because in general more cars on the road and more gasoline being burned has significant negitive externalizes.

          • tscharf says:

            “I’m strongly in favor of raising my own taxes”

            1. I am willing to send more money on my own to the government because I am a giving wonderful moral person.

            2. I’m strongly in favor of raising my own taxes, but only if others also pay.

            3. I’m strongly in favor of raising my own taxes, but only if others also pay, and the rich and businesses (meaning people richer than me) pay the most

            4. I’m strongly in favor of raising taxes, but not on myself.

            5. I don’t really mean this, I won’t actually vote to raise my own taxes because I pay enough already.

            People want to signal #1, but almost everyone who makes this statement falls into #2 to #5, and I suspect #5 is very popular when push comes to shove.

          • John Schilling says:

            You are right though that the unpredictability of it is a negitive and can have negitive impacts on budgeting and consumers.

            The fact that an Uber ride is going to cost more on New Year’s Eve or right after the Big Game, shouldn’t be all that unpredictable.

            And even if it is unpredictable, it is not a global negative if a surprising price signal stops someone from buying a specific service that costs more to provide than it is worth to them, or which by absolute supply limits will be denied to someone who really needs it because you used it for convenience earlier. Giving one person a subsidized ride to save them the negative impact of an unexpected price, is likely to have a bigger negative impact on someone else.

          • MugaSofer says:

            Why on Earth would anybody want to signal #1?

            The only people I ever see suggest #1 are libertarians making fun of #2, like tscharf.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Warren Buffett is often reported as saying #1, but a closer look reveals he’s actually saying #2. I’ve certainly run into people on the internet willing to proclaim #1 until called on it, though.

          • Yosarian2 says:

            I mean, I’ve voted to raise my own taxes quite a few times before. I’m in favor of higher gas taxes, and I have a horrific commute so the gas tax hike costs costs me more then it costs most other people.

            Obviously when we’re talking about taxes it’s a “and everyone else has to pay as well” situation (so I guess #2 on your list), but for example if taxes go up in order to give free health care to the poor that would cost me money without helping me personally, and I’m still in favor of that.

        • Nornagest says:

          If you assumed that all media coverage of Silicon Valley is a pack of malicious lies written by envious idiots who were raised by hyenas, you’d be wrong, but not by much.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Is “raised by hyenas” the same as “raised by wolves” + gender dysphoria?

          • Nornagest says:

            I was going more for an evocative image than anything else, but it’s a riff on the self-descriptive tagline of an old, old LiveJournal dedicated to geek drama. I think they were going for “raised by wolves” plus the fact that hyena clans are matriarchal.

          • Toby Bartels says:

            But hyenas have a sense of humor.

      • Matt M says:

        I think “tribal affinity” is relevant here too. Red tribe and blue tribe are how most people see the world, and most of us affiliate with one or the other. Occasionally you get the people who insist “grey tribe” is an actual thing, but most people do not concede that it really is.

        I’ve been in some pretty deep libertarian circles for several years now, and even in “libertarian” circles things split into left-libertarians and right-libertarians pretty darn quickly. Which is to say there are a whole lot of people whose preferred policy set maps to “libertarian” but would still primarily identify as liberal (further complicated by the classic libertarian claim of “we’re the REAL liberals!”) or conservative (we’re just trying to conserve the libertarian principles the founders laid out in the constitution!).

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          How many left-libertarians are there? Would be an interesting question. Virtually all the libertarian groups I have associated with are decisively right-libertarian, but they are partially offshoots of firearms related forums…so that probably explains why I rarely encounter these left-libertarians.

          • Matt M says:

            Plenty. They don’t call themselves that, of course. And a lot of right-libertarians are re-identifying as alt-right. But Jeffery Tucker is a prime example. Most of the crowd could be described as left-libertarian. Austin Petersen basically was (although since he decided to become a Republican to increase his chances of winning elected office, this may have changed). McAfee took the stage at the libertarian convention and said “shame on you white males” which doesn’t strike me as something someone with a red-tribe affinity would ever say.

          • rlms says:

            Someone Red might say that if they were trolling, and my impression of McAfee is that he is almost constantly doing so (I have no impression of his genuine political views).

          • Matt M says:

            “Always trolling” is probably generally true, but from reports I’ve read and the phrasing of the comments, it doesn’t seem that way in this specific context.

            Keep in mind that McAfee recently married an African-American ex-prostitute.

        • Libertarians divide in multiple ways.

          I tend to think of “left libertarian” as describing the older (and to some extent current European) meaning of libertarian–traditional anarchists.

          Within the American libertarian movement you have, at the moment, the bleeding heart libertarians, who are probably closer to what people here mean by left libertarians. And you have the geolibertarians (Georgists). And a variety of other people with various views, some of whom would call themselves left libertarians.

    • Jonas Moss says:

      “I wonder what the correlation might be between libertarian vs liberal views on the one hand and posting frequency on the other?”

      I’ve done two small analyses on this problem now. There is an association between libertarian/conservative views and posting frequency, but I don’t think it should be understood in terms of correlations, as the data we’re looking it is categorical instead of continuous. In addition, almost everyone is not a frequent poster, which will make the correlation almost useless.

      Here’s what I think is a reasonable analysis: First I put the conservatives and libertarians into one bucket. Then I define “frequent poster” as a member that posts at least once a month. From this, I can find the probability of being conservative or libertarian (CoL) given “frequent poster” (F), and infrequent poster (!F). The numbers are

      P(CoL|F) = 0.54
      P(CoL|!F) = 0.34
      P(CoL) = 0.35

      The small difference between P(CoL|!F) and P(CoL) is there because only 231 out of 7298 are frequent posters.

      In addition, I calculate the risk ratio RR:

      RR = P(CoL|F)/P(CoL|!F) = 1.57

      What I think you should focus on as a measure of association is this risk ratio. It says that a randomly selected person from frequent posters group is about 60% more
      likely to be CoL than a randomly selected person from the infrequent posters group. You want to focus on this number since it hides the irrelevant information about how many non-CoL persons there are at SSC.

      The number RR is almost certainly higher than one, by the way. Using an ordinary Bayesian analysis with Jeffrey’s prior, I find a credible interval of (1.38, 1.77). The posterior mode is still at 1.57, just as before.

      Here’s a plot of the posterior risk ratio.
      Here’s Here’s a plot of the posteriors for CoL|F and CoL|!F.
      Here’s a link to the code.

      I did another analysis first. I contracted all political affiliations into 5, renamed the posting frequency names into 1-5 (1 never posts, 5 always posts, etc), then plotted the density of posting frequencies for all political affiliations separately. Thinking about the CoL-posting frequency question, I don’t think you learn much from this graph, as the no-posters are so many. Still, it’s worth to take a look at.
      Here’s a plot of the densities.
      Here’s a link to the code.

    • Viliam says:

      Base rate fallacy? If libertarians are a tiny minority in the population, it would make sense if they are a minority (although less tiny) even among readers of a blog with libertarian ideas.

      I have never even heard anyone suggest that there might be such a thing as a libertarian who didn’t want to constantly tell me how lazy and entitled I am

      Apparently you are too lazy and entitled to do proper research. Are you expecting the government to do it for you, using my tax money? 😛

    • Skeptical Wolf says:

      I have never even heard anyone suggest that there might be such a thing as a libertarian who didn’t want to constantly tell me how lazy and entitled I am

      Might this be a Bay Area stereotype (or something similarly geographic)? I interact with many libertarians in the midwest and was unaware of this perception until I read your post. It certainly does not reflect my personal experience with people I know that identify in this way.

    • tayfie says:

      I keep hearing that there is such a thing as feminists who don’t constantly want to tell me how privileged and uncaring I am, but I have never even heard anyone suggest that there might be such a thing as a libertarian who didn’t want to constantly tell me how lazy and entitled I am… :p

      This probably only shows that you know more feminists than libertarians. From the outside, the extremists look more numerous and the moderates less numerous than they are.

      • Aapje says:

        Sure, but my strong impression is that this is in no small part because the extremists tend to dominate the conversation as well as drive policy, so it actually may be accurate to weigh the extremists more heavily, if one cares about societal influence.

  22. opisthokonta says:

    I thought the map riddle was difficult and was not able to solve it. In the comments someone wrote that they immediately recognized the geographical features of northwestern USA, so i thought that maybe the riddle was easier for North Americans. I grouped respondents from USA and Canada (n=4994) and compared with the rest (n=2304). It does not seem to be any clear difference in how hard the task was.

    Graph can be found here:

    BTW I had some issues with reading the csv file into R. Some of the columns seem to get mixed together. Probably due to some commas that aren’t quoted or something. The solution was to download the xlsx file and use the readxl package.

    • fion says:

      Damn. That was the excuse I gave for not getting it! Thanks for checking.

    • MarginalCost says:

      Without trying it mysel I would guess some of the cells themselves have commas in them, throwing things off. (For instance the Political Disagreement ones.) Try downloading the xlsx and saving as tab-delimited?

    • opisthokonta says:

      I did a new analysis, since I thought maybe people from north eastern US (not north west) could have a special benefit, since they more likely also knew about the town names. I also combined the answers into just two categories, whether they figured it out or not, ignoring if it was hard or easy.

      Here is a link to a plot of the new analysis:

      It seems that about 80% of both North Eastern US Americans and US/Canadians didn’t get it, while 20% got it. Of people from the rest of the world, 85% failed, while 15% got it. So North Americans have about 5% advantage on this task compared to rest of the world.

      PS I got the number in the original post a bit wrong. I forgot to not count those that didn’t answer the map riddle. Anyway in this analysis there are 3090 US/Canadians (excl. NE US), 1227 North Eastern United Statesians, and 1973 from the rest of the world.

    • One Name May Hide Another says:

      A lot of my friends are Europeans and they often seem quite amused by how Americans have cities/towns such as Athens, IL or Berlin, CT. Based on that, my guess would be that Europeans or European immigrants would be much more likely to guess this map represented some part of the US.

  23. dotctor says:

    It seems there are 4(!) people from LUXEMBOURG who participated in the survey – so at least 3 other readers from my tiny country!

    Would they care to comment and say hello?! 🙂

    NB to everyone else: Please forgive my excitement, we Luxembourgers/Luxembourgians are so few that we can never contain ourselves if we find another Luxembourger outside the country.

    • Anthony says:

      The demonym isn’t “Luxembourgeois”?

      • dotctor says:

        Well, in the local language it would be ‘Lëtzeboier’ or ‘Lëtzebuerger’.

        Luxembourgeois is simply French, which is one of the official languages but not the native language.

        The reason I hesitated is that the correct English demonym is Luxembourger or Luxembourgish person. Both sound quite silly, reminding people either of burgers or of people that are sort of of Luxembourg-ish. 🙂

        So people are usually experimenting with either ‘the Luxembourg people’ or the ‘Luxembourg company’ and sometimes I also hear ‘Luxembourgians’.

  24. Jeremiah says:

    Has anyone had a chance to come up with the numbers for how many took parts 2 and 3?

  25. rlms says:

    Breakdown of political affiliation by commenting frequency and comparison with my analysis from comment scraping here:

    Comments many times a week:
    Left-wing 32.3% (social democrat 19.4%, liberal 9.7%, Marxist 3.2%)
    Libertarian 26%
    Right-wing 38% (conservative 29%, alt-right 6.5%, Death Eater 3.2%)

    Comments at least once a week (including previous category):
    Left-wing 36.4% (social democrat 16.9%, liberal 16.9%, Marxist 2.6%)
    Libertarian 29.9%
    Right-wing 29.9% (conservative 16.9%, alt-right 5.2%, Death Eater 7.8%)

    Comments at least once a month:
    Left-wing 43.7% (social democrat 21.2%, liberal 19.5%, Marxist 3%)
    Libertarian 29.4%
    Right-wing 23.0% (conservative 12.1%, alt-right 3.5%, Death Eater 7.4%)

    Comments at all:
    Left-wing 55% (social democrat 25.0%, liberal 28.2%, Marxist 1.8%)
    Libertarian 24.6%
    Right-wing 15% (7.1% conservative, 2.6% alt-right, 6.2% Death Eater)

    All answers:
    Left-wing 60.7% (29.0% social democrat, 29.7% liberal, 2.0% Marxist)
    Libertarian 21.3%
    Right-wing 13.3% (6.5% conservative, 1.9% alt-right, 4.9% Death Eater)

    In comparison, my results from scraping the comments (weighted by comment frequency) were:
    Left-wing 28%
    Libertarian 25%
    Right-wing 40%
    Other 7%

    • fion says:

      So to check I’m reading/interpreting this right:
      The readership is skewed left (if we temporarily lump “liberals” in with the left), but the most frequent commenters are skewed right. This matches both conventional wisdom on the blog and your results from “scraping the comments”.


      • rlms says:

        Given how “liberal” was defined in the survey, I think it is definitely a subcategory of left. Given the size of the error bars, I wouldn’t say that the comments are skewed right (counting libertarian as separate from right): right-wing commenters are probably the largest single group, but not by much. They are definitely skewed right/libertarian though.

      • Deiseach says:

        Seems to be about right, so that accounts for the impressions many seem to have that “SSC is a right-wing hangout” – the readers in toto* skew left, but the people who shoot their mouths off the most (and I’m one of them) are to the right, so that is what gives the impression.

        *Blessing of rains down in Africa optional

      • Quixote says:

        I’ve long thought the most frequent commenters were paid promoters of right wing ideology. Which explains their high frequency relative to population and ability to comment extensively during working hours.

        This is, by the way, why I’ve commented less and less here overtime. I don’t think you can really engage in a meaningful way with paid spokespeople. Its their job to stay on message and a hard working conscientious spokesperson will stay on message no matter what points you make to them.

        • Nornagest says:

          Well, that’s, uh, unique. Commenting here might get me dismissed as one, but: to a first approximation there are no paid anonymous shills for right-wing ideology on the Internet, any more than there are paid anonymous shills for left-wing ideology. If you think about it for a minute the reason is obvious. Shills are expensive, the political goals people are actually willing to pay for tend to be very specific, and “right-wing ideology” is about as big and as vague as it gets. The cost-benefit analysis just doesn’t work out, especially not while there are millions of people doing the same thing in their own time for free. No, not even for the Kochs or whoever the right-wing billionaire boogeyman is these days.

          There are paid shills for specific, large candidates and causes, as anyone who was online during the last election would have noticed, but they’re first of all usually pretty easy to spot (e.g. new accounts popping out of the woodwork with canned arguments when you use a keyword), and secondly very rare on boards this size. You usually see them canvassing e.g. Reddit or Twitter or larger news sites. There are also professional pundits, but because those make their living from brand recognition, they almost always comment under their own names.

          • Randy M says:

            You’re just saying that so you don’t have to share.

          • Nornagest says:

            Curses, foiled again! And I’d have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for you meddling kids.

          • Quixote says:

            That’s a reasonable seeming response, though I’m not sure I agree with you on the cost effectiveness math.

            A quick google search of cost per impression led me here
            which indicates that the cost to get a 1000 people to see an ad is between 2 to 5 dollars depending on the channel and trustedness of the source. Let’s take the higher end of that range since a comment won’t be expected to be paid advocacy.

            So if a website has 50,000 readers who see the comments, then that’s worth 50*5 = 250 dollars. If the site posts twice a week, then assuming 50 weeks a year (round numbers yay) thats 250*2*50 = 25,000 USD worth of value.

            Since issue ads exist and political advocacy exists we know people buy these at standard rates, and having a paid commenter gets you 25,000 worth of those without trying very hard. Honestly it probably gets you more since the same person could probably be active on several websites. But lets take 25,000 of value as the assumption. So that’s the demand side for paid commenters.

            Now let’s look at the supply side. Could you hire competent english speakers for 25,000 to surf the internet and leave a mixture of relevant comments and comments that promote an agenda? I think so. There are at least ten states with average per capita incomes below 25,000
            Additionally, there are tons of countries with incomes below that level. You might run into issues with english fluency. But since global incomes are lower you might be able to go higher up the ladder. This widget
            lets you check average income levels in various countries. So to look at one worked example, the 25,000 USD income converted to PLD would put you at over 160% of the national average income in poland. A quick google search indicates that english is fairly rare among over 40 crowd but fairly common among younger educated types (I didn’t find a real cite for that and just skimmed some forums). I would bet that you could probably find a young person with an education willing to work for 160% of annual income. Again if you looked carefully you might be able to find countries where you could get that skill for even less.

            So a quick check shows that a paid commenter is at minimum similarly cost effective per impression as common means of advertising and that labor exists that would be willing to work at those rates.

            If its cost effective to do a thing, and labor exists that could do the thing; then somewhere out there, labor is being hired to do the thing. The markets are not perfect but they are pretty efficient.

            Without evidence of a specific market inefficiency that would apply here, it doesn’t seem reasonable to doubt the existence of paid shills. When an opportunity exists people will fill it.

          • Nornagest says:

            The economics of ads are very, very different from forum shills. Broadcast media vs. not quite in-person interaction, but close to it by advertising standards. 50,000 impressions per post is extremely unrealistic in most cases: OP’s survey results point to somewhere north of 10,000 regular readers of this blog (and that’s lowballing it), but I’d be surprised at a tenth of that figure reading the comments on any given post, and most of those probably only read a small fraction. I’d ballpark it at maybe a couple hundred people ever reading these words; add some reasonable assumptions about time spent on a post and you can do the math from there.

            (You could be looking at many times that on a large site, which is why you actually see shills there. But, again, only for specific causes.)

          • Matt M says:

            So a quick check shows that a paid commenter is at minimum similarly cost effective per impression as common means of advertising and that labor exists that would be willing to work at those rates.

            Of course, with advertising, you have 100% control of the content, messaging, etc.

            With paid shills, you can’t verify every single thing they post (or at least, doing so would be very inefficient and costly). There’s also a pretty high level of trust needed – because if they break cover and betray, sell you out, etc. it could be very damaging. (In other words, if paid shills were common, why aren’t there more people out there shouting I WAS A PAID SHILL ONCE!!!). Also the risk of double-agents and such.

          • Nornagest says:

            There were a bunch of tell-all articles a few months ago about so-and-so’s experience in a Kremlin troll farm — mostly targeting, IIRC, Reddit and Russian social media. Never seen one for e.g. Correct the Record, but they might be out there.

            Seems like evidence for my model of “big sites and specific causes yes, small sites and vague ideologies no”.

          • Yosarian2 says:

            Yeah, that’s the main reason I don’t think there were ever “paid Hill shills” during the election. Reporters has little trouble tracking down and even getting interviews with paid Russian trolls, in a different country. So why haven’t there been any verified paid shills found in the US, for either party? Best guess is they either never existed or never existed in significant numbers.

            There are paid Russian shills, that’s been verified, but i would be surprised if they posted here

          • tscharf says:

            One still has to make an actual convincing argument to get something out of it. I don’t think random person dropping in at SSC and claiming HRC was running child sex rings out of pizza shops would have been an effective use of campaign money. Most people voted for valid reasons and I find the argument that secretly paid campaign trolls make a real impact quite unconvincing. A theory that all stupid impressionable people only vote for one side in large numbers is also unlikely.

          • Toby Bartels says:

            Another part of the economic analysis is that if there are already people with your views willing to have fun expressing them on a blog, then there’s no reason to pay for what you’re getting for free. If lots of potential payers share your views, then there’s also a free-rider problem.

            In both cases, the issue is that you’re not paying for the average right-wing commenter; you’re paying for the marginal commenter. And if the number of comments is sufficient (as it seems to be here, for whatever reason), then this isn’t going to be worth much.

        • meh says:

          I don’t think you can really engage in a meaningful way

          I don’t think this is restricted to paid spokespeople. I have noticed the insanity of comments has been increasing over the years.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’ve long thought the most frequent commenters were paid promoters of right wing ideology.

          Oh, do I wish.

        • Deiseach says:

          the most frequent commenters were paid promoters of right wing ideology

          Yeah, when is my cheque from the Koch Brothers gonna come through? I was promised wealth beyond the dreams of avarice for bringing down the pure high-minded tone of this place and persecuting the left-leaning commenters and driving them off, and I haven’t seen one red cent yet!

        • tayfie says:

          I think you just haven’t internalized that Other Peoples’ Experiences Are Very Different.

        • I’ve long thought the most frequent commenters were paid promoters of right wing ideology.

          I don’t suppose you could tell me who I am supposed to bill for my efforts?

          • skef says:

            Well, unless you’ve retired you’re a tenured academic, so technically someone could sneak this accusation under the door marked “Service”.

          • As it happens, I have retired and so am no longer a tenured academic.

            Also, the university I am retired from had two defacto ideologies–Catholicism and soft leftism–and my posts here support neither.

          • skef says:

            All true, although you’ve been a strong advocate for the university’s collegial atmosphere, presumably because that’s accurate.

            But it’s wise to never underestimate the capacity of tenured academics generally for seeing virtually every personal action not directly related to research and teaching as some kind of service.

      • Reasoner says:

        Do lefties read comment sections as frequently as righties? Maybe a question for next year’s survey?

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I don’t think you get a real feeling for the blog when the top posting category is “posts many times a week”. The most energetic posters post many times a *day*. Sometimes many times an hour.

  26. maintain says:

    SSC seems really depressed.

    Why is that?

    The survey says about 25% of us are depressed. A quick internet search shows the depression rate for the general population of the USA is under 10%.

    Does rationalism cause you to see the depressing truth about our world? Do depressed people get into rationalism? Is there an underlying cause that correlates with both?

    • Brad says:

      Isn’t there some correlation between intelligence and depression?

    • Deiseach says:

      SSC seems really depressed.

      But we are also much less autistic than presumed, and not as anxious as I would have thought, so does that make up for it?

    • Nearly Takuan says:

      In my case at least, being depressed plus hate-reading some of SSC’s opposition was the reason I found SSC and started reading in the first place.

    • WarOnReasons says:

      Is there an underlying cause that correlates with both?

      Poor socialization.

      There is a self-feeding loop between critical thinking and poor socialization. People with better critical thinking skills are more likely to notice flaws in the prevailing dogmas of their social circle which leads them to feel estranged from it. And, being less socialized, they feel less pressure to police their thoughts.

    • meh says:

      I think we need to use people seeking online community and willing to take random survey as a baseline, and not entire US pop.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Does rationalism cause you to see the depressing truth about our world?

      I think more likely you see the depressing truth about our world on a more intuitive level, and either find rationalism to convince yourself otherwise (and fail), or find rationalism to justify your intuitive beliefs.

      The general idea is Depressive Realism.

  27. b_jonas says:

    7 people report that they were assigned male gender at birth, and are now female cisgendered. I’m now confused about what “cisgendered” means.

    • fion says:

      Charitably I’d assume they mis-clicked. Uncharitably, perhaps they’re trolling. Did you check their other answers? Do they love both Trump and Obama?

      • ohwhatisthis? says:

        I wanted to answer male at birth, and I now most identift with FTM transgender. What does that mean?

        • fion says:

          Is it true that you were AMAB but now identify with FTM transgender?

          Or are you just saying that’s what you “wanted to answer”?

    • Anonymous says:

      Lizardfolk can perhaps change sexes!

    • Aapje says:


      Ambiguous genitalia are a possible explanation for such a voting. I believe that this doesn’t have to be the result of an intersex condition. So the doctor could then initially assign male, but the person could later be found out to actually be female. This then would not be a transgender person, nor necessarily an intersex person.

      However, this issue supposedly occurs once every 4,500 births, which includes intersex causes, so given the number of responses to the study, one would expect at less than 2 cases of this, not 7.

      • Yosarian2 says:

        I wouldn’t be surprised if people with that condition post here 4 tines as often as you would find in the general population. We clearly attract a much higher population of transgender and asexual people than average so why not?

  28. Jake Barry says:

    If it’s not too much trouble, could we get access to a copy of the original survey or at least the full questions? Would be helpful when analyzing (especially for those of us with poor memory) as many of the field names do not fully define the question that was asked. Apologies if I missed this elsewhere.

  29. The Element of Surprise says:

    The answers to the “Nazi Category” / “Marriage Category” questions would probably be more interesting if each person only got asked one of the two questions. I can imagine that giving the answer to the Nazi question swayed my answer on the Marriage one.

  30. terrafirmer says:

    Loc 1:
    40% of respondents say “People’s misfortunes mostly result from the mistakes they make.”

    Loc 2:
    24% of respondents say “It is not wise to plan too far ahead, because many things are mostly luck.”

    Loc 3:
    81% of respondents say “What happens to me is mostly my own doing.”

    Interesting disconnect in response patterns between Loc 1 and Loc 2/3.

    • FeepingCreature says:

      That set of questions was problematic. Me and another person I talked to, both wanted to answer “People’s misfortunes mostly result from the mistakes they make; their propensity towards mistakes is caused by bad luck.” Given that, it makes sense to apply a different standard to others than to yourself – ie. because for instance I may think that I can take responsibility, but don’t want to force others to.

    • Doesntliketocomment says:

      Not really, Loc 2 only is talking about making long-term plans. Loc 1 could very well be talking about reactive decision making.

    • Randy M says:

      I don’t recall what I said on the survey (haven’t gotten my graded copy back yet) but I would say that it is wise to plan ahead (of course it is definitionally wrong to plan too far ahead!) despite things being mostly luck. You can have an idea of how to react to broad categories of cases, you can know what to do when things do go right for awhile, you can understand better what your goals and priorities are.

      Back to Loc 1, I’m not sure misfortunes are mostly luck, but a lot of the big ones are. Car accidents, cancer, birth defects, downsizing, etc. The minor but frequent misfortunes are probably due to mistakes made, poor planning, impulsiveness, etc.

      And of course it is easy to reconcile 1 & 3, since we are all special snowflakes, unlike the unthinking masses.

      • terrafirmer says:

        And of course it is easy to reconcile 1 & 3, since we are all special snowflakes, unlike the unthinking masses.

        Haha yes, that was how I interpreted it to some degree, along with the US liberal political leaning of the site demographic.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Not really. As a healthy college-educated white American born to a stable upper-middle class family I am one of the most fortunate, comfortable, pampered humans to ever walk this earth. I am fully aware that I am very lucky, and that the majority of humans in the world, born in slums or impoverished villages in Africa, India, China, are far more likely to be unhealthy and miserable, and it’s really not their fault. Just dumb luck.

      Now, given how lucky I am to have the start I did, what happens to me now is pretty much my own doing. This is all on me to screw up.

      • Matt M says:

        Basically agree with this.

        But I also think that it’s not just the fact that I’m privileged, but that there’s a basic level of humility in judging yourself to a higher standard that you judge the “average person.” My own problems are of my own making, but other people’s problems are just bad luck is probably a fairly productive and healthy way to view the world, even if not incredibly consistent.

        That said, I believe most psychological studies would indicate that most people behave the opposite – which is to say that they believe their own successes are due to their own superiority, their own failures due to bad luck, and for others, success due to good luck, failure due to inferiority.

      • Cliff says:

        I always get a bit confused with that way of thinking about luck. Is it really lucky that I am who I am? There is no possible world in which I am Nepalese. Perhaps privileged is a better word, as loaded as that is.

      • tscharf says:

        It’s possible to understand that one is fortunate in their circumstances and not feel the need to apologize for it. Am I sorry that my parents worked so hard to give me a head start and guided me the best they could? Mom, dad, how could you? Am I to feel guilty for doing the same for my kids? Should my kids be penalized for this? Should I be ashamed that multiple generations of my family are part of an overall productive culture?

        Why would I not instead be proud of these things, this legacy? Being given the tools to succeed does not mean you didn’t take those tools and work hard yourself and pass those tools down to your ancestors.

        So yes, there is fortune being born into a productive culture and brought up by responsible parents. The answer is not to cripple thyself to even the odds, it is to spread these tools of success far and wide, provide the template to others. Take what you are given and make the best of it, this will likely make the world a marginally better place.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I agree. I’m not in any way ashamed of my life. This shit is great, and it’s largely due to the decisions of each of my ancestors. I will pass these excellent decisions on to my children, and I’m more than happy to share these traditions with anyone who wants their children to do well. The rules are simple:

          1) Do good.

          2) Avoid evil.

          3) Score big points.

          4) Buy low.

          5) Sell high.

          6) Never dip into capital.

          7) Catholicism is a really good system. Might want to check it out. Worked for my family for hundreds if not a thousand years.

    • Yosarian2 says:

      I think what happens to me is mostly my own doing, but only because I’ve been fortunate enough to have opportunities that I have sometimes made use of and sometimes not. I think a lot of other people who have more serious misfortunes either have not had those opportunities, or have had really bad things happen to them beyond their control.

    • Nearly Takuan says:

      I believe people’s misfortunes mostly result from bad luck — pedantically, because that is literally the etymology of “misfortune”, and in a less-pedantic / broader / philosophical sense, because given any fixed-but-arbitrarily-chosen individual’s list of problems, I would predict/wager that the majority of those problems, weighted by severity, cannot be attributed to deliberate action/consequence choices made by that person.

      I think it is wise to plan pretty far ahead, but include contingencies. Since bad and good luck are both (by definition) outside our control, the outcome of the contingency-plan for what happens when bad-luck events outweigh good-luck events will still probably be worse than the outcome of the primary plan for what happens if bad and good luck events occur with the frequency you anticipate. This is consistent with the bad aspects of your plan’s outcome being attributable to bad luck, but is also consistent with there being wisdom in planning ahead: your situation would be even worse if you didn’t have a plan for dealing with bad luck. (On a personal level: I have set a long-term savings goal for myself so that I can someday afford a mortgage, and I have short-term commitments to add money into my savings account. Over the past two years, I have had to empty my savings account four times in order to account for massive setbacks brought on by circumstances I would not reasonably expect myself to anticipate; obviously, my long-term savings goal will now be met much later than anticipated, but I do not believe that means I should give up on the savings goal entirely and in fact two of the four events that emptied my savings belong to a class of problems that do not affect homeowners.)

      I will admit that I irrationally perceive unanticipated (i.e. not part of any of my plans) events as “luck” unless faced with evidence either that there was some reason I should have anticipated the events or these otherwise arose directly as consequences of my action/inaction (I irresponsibly do not seek out this information); thus the “goodness” or “badness” of something I did not plan for is almost-entirely from “luck”. On the other hand, at the detail level, the specific circumstances that gave rise to whatever event is obviously related in some way to my Major Life Events.

      So: when a bug in my company’s software makes it to production, it is sometimes my fault for not catching it but sometimes demonstrably something I actually caught and tried to prevent, and circumstances outside my control conspired to create a situation in which the bug got out anyway. In the latter case, this is a Bad Thing that is happening Because Of Luck. Regardless, it is wise for me to advise my team to plan for about one hotfix needing to go out every two months, because historically that has been about the frequency we encounter urgent production issues. Regardless, it is the result of my career choice that I am experiencing this problem—if I were a researcher, I would be seeing different bugs, caused by similar-but-distinct circumstances, and the consequences might be different (better in some ways, worse in others). The problem that is happening to me is my own doing, but it might also be luck.

    • Quixote says:

      For myself, I can say that I didn’t see this as a disconnect. I can usually pull off my plans successfully; but that’s because I’m smart and healthy. I didn’t ‘do’ anything to be smart though, I was born that way and have been my whole life. That’s why I went with “outcomes are mostly luck” and “I am mostly responsible for what happens to me”.

      If you are able to reliably produce intended outcomes, then you are lucky, because most people are not able to do that.

    • terrafirmer says:

      A significant portion of responses seem to be in the vein of the following (I apologize if this seems too brusque a summary):

      “People have no input into the hand they are dealt in life, I have have been dealt a pretty good hand relative to most.”

      I think this response completely elides, among other things, the issues with definitions of misfortune. If one perceives simply not being dealt a good hand to start with as an Original Misfortune, then we are essentially robbing the average person of their agency from birth. We are Agents, and the masses are fate and agent-tossed objects. That’s not simply holding one’s self to a higher standard.

      • Aapje says:

        You seem to desire an extremist view on agency. I think that a moderate view is more reasonable, where we accept that some things are within our control, while others are not.

        A rational view on agency has to accept that agency is limited.

        • terrafirmer says:

          Not extremist. There’s a broad distribution of “fortune”, or “privilege” as someone else suggested. Like Yosarian pointed out, there is an inside vs outside issue. It might be unfortunate, but we have to play the hand we are dealt, and a bigotry of low expectations is at least as hurtful as unrealistic expectations.

      • Yosarian2 says:

        Eh. I don’t think that’s at all true. People have agency, but they often can’t change some of the really big misfortunes in their lives.

        I think part of the disconnect comes from the outside view vs the inside view. You see a person in a wheelchair, you think that him being paralyzed is his greatest misfortune, and he probably has no control over that. In an abstract way he might agree with you, but in his day to day life he probably takes that for granted, and the little day-to-day things like getting to work on time or his love life or whatever are what he focuses on; and in those areas he actually does have agency.

  31. TK-421 says:

    I think my favorite write-in answer in the results so far, to one of the political disagreement questions, is “Unable to transcend their humanity”. Whoever wrote that, I’m borrowing it for future use.

  32. Alex Zavoluk says:

    22.3% of takers describe as libertarian, but only 3% of takers are associated with the Libertarian Party. I have a hard time believing you are all in other countries. I’m curious why the difference.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Why be associated with a party at all?

    • Brad says:

      My impression is that sometime late in or just after the GWB administration “libertarian” started becoming more and more a self label for people that vote Republican but want to distinguish themselves from those other Republicans. In particular, it started to mean above all support for gun rights and low taxes which are not especially distinguishable from the rest of the Republican base.

      Prior to that, self professed libertarians online IME were much more likely to talk about drugs, prostitution, and for lack of a better word cyberpunk stuff. I don’t really keep up, but I believe the Libertarian Party is generally speaking still a home for the older version.

    • John Schilling says:

      What is the value of being “associated with” any political party? I’d be surprised if more than 3% of Americans were actual, card-carrying, dues-paying members of any political party, because for most people that’s just a waste of money for at best a very weak signal. Registering to vote in a party’s primary elections would presumably count as being “associated with” a party, but Libertarian party primaries are usually either uncontested or irrelevant. Or both. Meanwhile, Republican and Democratic primaries sometimes have vaguely libertarian-ish candidates that it would be tactically advantageous for a libertarian to vote for.

      • Garrett says:

        Simple! If you’re registered as a Libertarian, nobody calls you asking you for money or to come to a campaign rally. The Libertarians are too disorganized, and the D/R realize it’s a waste of time and would end up with lots of inconvenient questions being asked.

        • Nornagest says:

          You get the same advantage if you’re registered independent but have to deal with fewer awkward questions.

    • Matt M says:

      The libertarian party is an embarrassing failure that no self-respecting person would ever want to associate themselves with.

      Before you think I’m being overly hyperbolic here, might I remind you of this incident?

      Not quite as hilarious – but their #2 candidate for President was the certifiably insane John McAfee, currently wanted for being involved in a murder conspiracy in Belize.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Yeah, the big-L Libertarian stuff is a joke. And if they couldn’t win any states in 2016, against Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, they’ll never win anything. Still a lot of sympathy for small-l libertarian stuff, though.

        • Cliff says:

          “And if they couldn’t win any states in 2016, against Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, they’ll never win anything.”

          Winning a state is a high bar, and never is a long time

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I don’t think that winning a state was ever credible in 2016, but doing substantially better than their baseline against such weak and disliked candidates was, and they didn’t manage that, either.

          • Cliff says:

            True. They were polling at 12% at one point before being excluded from the debates, so it could have been very interesting if Johnson had not been excluded.

            One of the big problems Libertarian candidates face is that, to get a credible presidential candidate you have to go with a convert from another party who has served in high office, so you have a very limited selection. Johnson lost a lot of votes because of various gaffes.

        • Toby Bartels says:

          I was really optimistic about third parties in general, given those candidates, but every one of them crashed and burned. That said, I don't think this can be blamed on the individual parties so much as on political polarization. I could see it coming as November neared and all of the local Sandernistas in my Facebook feed concentrated on the need to vote against Trump, no matter how badly they thought of Clinton, and no matter how irrational that kind of thinking was in a lopsided State like ours whose electoral votes were never in doubt. (But if voters were rational, then they wouldn't be voters, would they?)

    • dronemc says:

      I can only provide my particular anecdote, so it may or may not be representative of others. I grew up Republican without ever really thinking about it, even worked on Capitol Hill for a Republican senator for a while. As I got more exposure to the actual reality of the party (and also became somewhat more self-reflective), it became clearer to me my beliefs (more or less “lower my taxes and I don’t care who you **** or what you put in your body”) didn’t really mesh with the party’s in anything more than a superficial, sound-bite way. I thought of it at the time as the party moving away from me, but in hindsight, I kind of think the movement happened on my part.

      That said, the Republican party is still my “team” and I follow politics more like sports fan than a player now anyway. I wouldn’t just drop the (preferred local sporting squad) and jump on the (geographical rival) bandwagon in baseball, so I won’t do it for politics either. When asked what my beliefs line up with, though, it’s more of a libertarian stance than a Republican one.

    • Skeptical Wolf says:

      The libertarian party has a motto of “maximum freedom, minimum government”. I like to joke that I’m a libertarian because I agree with 50% of their platform (maximum freedom), which is more than I can say for any other party.

      On a more serious note, I believe that individual liberty has value and restrictions on it do at least some harm. This does not mean that those restrictions shouldn’t exist, merely that we should be aware of the trade-offs involved and only keep the ones that are “worth it” (consistently producing benefits that outweigh those costs). This ideology is pretty similar to that of the people in my life that describe themselves as “libertarian”, so that label is sometimes useful for me to communicate information about myself. I also tend to vote for libertarian candidates whenever I have no preference between the major party ones, as this satisfies my emotional desire to feel as if I participated in the democratic process without weighing against people with more informed opinions (usually my lack of preference comes from a lack of research). However, I don’t feel sufficiently aligned with the U.S. Libertarian party to give them time and money that I could spend on other things.

    • Toby Bartels says:

      I’m not surprised at all. I know that a lot of libertarians regard the Libertarian Party as ineffective and prefer to work within the system, as it were. Then there’s the anarchistic sector that wouldn’t want to belong to any political party at all.

      As for me, I’m a pragmatist, and my party registration varies from year to year, depending on who needs signatures or who has an interesting primary race. (Over the years, I’ve been registered Republican, Democratic, unaffiliated, Libertarian, Green, and Peace and Freedom.) I’m actually registered Libertarian this year, so I’m not one of the people who surprised you, but I would have surprised you last year and might surprise you next year. (That also depends on which options Scott gives us for political philosophy; I don’t always choose libertarian for that either, depending on the available alternatives.)

    • As other people have commented, there are several possibilities for the difference in belief system and that of LP membership. I am one of those you refer to:

      1) I put down libertarian because I lean in that direction. I am closer to being a libertarian than a liberal or conservative, but I disagree a lot with full-throated libertarians.

      2) I will never ever sign the pledge they require of all members. The pledge requires one to eschew coercion totally in government. IMO, that makes the LP anarchists, because one cannot have a government in such a situation. I support less government, not no government.

      • I am a libertarian but not a member of the LP, mostly because I believe in the division of labor, and helping libertarian candidates get votes isn’t the sort of work I would enjoy or be good at.

        The pledge requires one to eschew coercion totally in government. IMO, that makes the LP anarchists, because one cannot have a government in such a situation.

        My impression is that anarchists are still a minority in the LP as in the movement more generally.

        Some minarchists would argue that you can have government without initiation of force. Rand, for instance, wanted the government to have a monopoly of the use of retaliatory force and to be funded without taxation by fees for government services such as contract enforcement.

        It’s arguable–indeed, I have argued at great length in interactions with Objectivists–that the position is not internally consistent, since if retaliatory force does not count as initiation of force then preventing other people from engaging in retaliatory force does. I think that argument goes back at least to Roy Child’s letter to Rand.

        But lots of people either reject that argument or have not been exposed to it.

        • Evan Þ says:

          Wait, did Rand really want people to be barred from self-defense? Or am I misinterpreting “monopoly of the use of retaliatory force”?

  33. Sydney Yin says:

    Okay, so has no one pointed out that someone was apparently directed here by the Dwarf Fortress Development Blog? I can’t find the reference, so OP, if you are willing, please explain yourself.

    Also, someone has been here since SA was still on LiveJournal, and they’re only 15, so assuming they latched just before the inception of SSC proper, in late 2012, at the latest, they started reading when they were 10. So. I feel inadequate.

    Also, SSC has helped someone with AP Stats, AP Lang, College Applications, and getting two girlfriends. No IB, you Philistines?

    I was going to edit the previous sentence to make it clear that each of those things happened to a different respondent, but it’s funnier to leave it there and issue the clarification in the next line.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Also, SSC has helped someone with AP Stats, AP Lang, College Applications, and getting two girlfriends. No IB, you Philistines?

      What question was this? I remember answering it but can’t find it any more.

      EDIT It’s column AY or AZ. The answers seem to be in one or the other, so I guess that’s a bug. It looks like how some previous question got answered or left blank caused these answers to shift around.

    • Toby Bartels says:

      I was going to edit the previous sentence to make it clear that each of those things happened to a different respondent, but it’s funnier to leave it there and issue the clarification in the next line.

      I would have fallen for it if you hadn’t written ‘Philistines’ in the plural.

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      Hey, I have the Diploma but I earned it back in 2008, it’d be quite a trick for SSC to have helped me with it!

  34. sty_silver says:

    I don’t get it. Mechanical Turk … ?

  35. Freddie deBoer says:

    the top 4 self-reported IQs are all divisible by 5 lol

    • Freddie deBoer says:

      Also .5% of SAT takers get a perfect score and it’s the mode lol

      • Nornagest says:

        This is far less suspicious than the divisible-by-5 thing. There’s a thread about it somewhere in these comments.

        • Freddie deBoer says:

          I’ll concede a healthy skew, but not so that the mode on BOTH scales is a perfect score. And the clustering does not look organic to me although I’d have to graph it to decide. I am quite sure there’s some self-reporting inflation going on here.

          Plus empirically we know people score inflate. As noted by this study:

          “The tendency to exaggerate specific attributes about the self, such as one’s GPA and SAT scores, is well documented (Bahrick et al, 1993; Dobbins, Farh, & Werbel, 1993; Gramzow et al., 2003; Kirk & Sereda, 1969; Shepperd, 1993; Willard & Gramzow, 2006; Wright, 2000).”

          • Quixote says:

            We could ask for verification. Every parent whose child actually got a perfect score kept a copy of the score statement.

            So we just ask everyone with top marks to give Scott a way to contact their moms.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Quixote: that’s the strangest “Your mom” high school joke ever.

      • Toby Bartels says:

        The reason for that has been discussed elsewhere here. Could there be a reason for divisibility of high scores? Maybe a lack of precision at that end which causes many tests to always round to 5 instead of to 1?

        • Freddie deBoer says:

          It’s certainly the case that psychometric tests are less valid and reliable the further you go from the mean.

    • Brad says:

      There are a bunch of numbers which can only be childhood IQ numbers (i.e. not deviation) and so even if they accurately reflect the score on some test that actually took place, do not answer the question asked. So much for the reading compensation of former extremely precocious children.

      • Toby Bartels says:

        Childhood IQ tests don’t use a standard deviation of 15? And how are you recognizing these?

        • Brad says:

          Adult IQ tests have ceilings well below some of the numbers that were reported. Really they should have even lower ceilings as they don’t have nearly large enough validation studies to justify the ones they have, but that’s a different story.

          For childhood IQ tests on the other hand, if a 7 year old goes above the ceiling on the test form for 7 year olds they just keep on giving him questions designed for older and older kids. Then they extrapolate an IQ number based on handwaiving math. That’s how kids can end up with numbers like 175. But not only are there not validation studies to show that that number represents 5 std deviation rarity in any reference population, we have evidence to the contrary. As observed, the right tail is way too fat.

          However, childhood IQs of the extrapolated variety have clinical and educational utility. So pediatric psychologists should probably keep doing what they are doing, but the resulting numbers aren’t deviation IQs.

          • Freddie deBoer says:

            Very well said.

          • Toby Bartels says:

            Interesting, thanks. Out of curiosity, would you expect a childhood IQ of *cough* 148 to have much validity?

          • Brad says:

            I guess it depends on what you mean by validity. Even within one standard deviation of the mean where childhood IQ tests are well normed and match to the bell curve, they still aren’t strongly predictive of adult IQ. I’ve seen a stat (sorry no link) that the mean of the parents’ IQs is a better predictor of adult IQ than a test taken at age 5.

            It’s not that it didn’t mean anything, it was a meaningful number that could have been useful in e.g. determining a G&T placement, but if you go around as an adult telling people have an IQ of 148, that’s not a statement you have good evidence for.

          • Tarpitz says:

            I’m not sure IQ scores, adult or otherwise, are particularly helpful in determining a G&T placement. On the table in front of me will generally do fine.

    • A1987dM says:

      I don’t know much about IQ tests, but I guess it’s not very easy for a test to tell 134 and 136 apart so I’d be more willing to trust a test that doesn’t pretend it can, rather than less.

  36. tscharf says:

    78.1% no children?

    Boy have you people got some growing up to do. I’m guessing most people would score this as their biggest life changing experience.

    It’s also a bit interesting to see how many people have only seen a very limited number of political administrations due to their age. Get ready to become a lot more cynical about politics in the next 30 years.

    We could also use more women around here obviously. I wonder why that is the case?

      • dionisos says:

        I highly doubt it have anything to do with that. Or comments in general.

        • One Name May Hide Another says:

          A counterexample: comments like those definitely wouldn’t make me less likely to either read the blog or comment around here.

      • cuke says:

        Speaking as part of the 10%, comments like Brad is linking to here are indeed a significant part of the reason I don’t read the comments more or comment myself more.

        • dionisos says:

          But would you stop reading SSC because of these comments ?

          I don’t believe these comments make a big impact because :
          – It seems to me that the comments are globally better here than on most other part of internet
          – I assume most people don’t read comment, or only a few them, and so there is little chance they fall on comments which are specifically more off-putting to women than to men.
          – Even if the comments are bad, I assume most would still read the article Scott write, if they were interested by them in the first place.

      • Fahundo says:

        What’s the problem with the second one?

      • A1987dM says:

        I don’t think that’s one of the main reasons, 31.3% of respondents being married and 26.8% being in a relationship.

        EDIT: never mind, I just realized “I wonder why that is the case?” referred to there being few women, not to there being few people with children.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      My impression is that there are more people around here who don’t like women than who don’t like men.

      • The Nybbler says:

        How are you counting misanthropes?

      • Aapje says:

        @Nancy Lebovitz

        Isn’t that what you’d expect in a male-dominated environment? Most people probably prefer those who are more similar to them, than those who are more different. I’d expect that this would be true for men and women, as well as for philatelists.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I would expect rationalist environments to have people who don’t make such strong generalizations about whole genders. I would really prefer it if people tried to imagine examples of relationships where bad behavior is possible in different gender combinations.

          You didn’t address what I said– I was talking about disliking women or men, not about liking them.

          • Aapje says:


            You didn’t address what I said– I was talking about disliking women or men, not about liking them.

            If we see ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ as the final outcome of weighing the upsides against the downsides of interacting with a person/group/etc, then they are effectively the same, but with a different sign.

            If you want to separate out the upsides from the downsides, then that is in itself a valid way to answer some questions. However, it is not a valid basis for your claim that there are more people around here who don’t like women than who don’t like men. Perhaps you meant to say that people see more downsides in interacting with women/femininity or that they see more downsides in femininity?

            I would expect rationalist environments to have people who don’t make such strong generalizations about whole genders.

            I think that the evidence is overwhelming that men are more alike to men and women to women. Regardless of any biological basis, this would logically occur due to having gender roles.

            It seems anything but rational to deny this.

            If your complaint/argument is that certain behaviors (like ‘shit tests’) are portrayed as behavior done by some women, but there is little/no recognition of the possibility that the same/similar behavior is done by men (to some extent), then this is a valid complaint. I don’t know if that’s your complaint though.

            I would really prefer it if people tried to imagine examples of relationships where bad behavior is possible in different gender combinations.

            The specific examples that some people are complaining about recently involve romantic relationships and the problems that people have in them. This will inherently result in a focus mostly on the impact of female behavior on men, given that most people here are heterosexual men.

            A relative lack of good research into relationships and such, means that people often can’t go much beyond personal experience. One then can’t expect the female heterosexual perspective or a gay/lesbian perspective, from a heterosexual man, IMO.

            Of course, one could then argue that people should heed Wittgenstein: Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent. However, the importance of sexual relationships to most people makes the stakes too high to them to not want to optimize, even with poor evidence.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:


            I’m still trying to figure out why fortaleza gets on my nerves so much, while I had no problems with “Untitled”.

            I think it’s that he frames a world where women do the damage and men are victims. And I do think that sort of hammering affects people’s stereotypes.

            >If we see ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ as the final outcome of weighing the upsides against the downsides of interacting with a person/group/etc, then they are effectively the same, but with a different sign.

            >If you want to separate out the upsides from the downsides, then that is in itself a valid way to answer some questions. However, it is not a valid basis for your claim that there are more people around here who don’t like women than who don’t like men. Perhaps you meant to say that people see more downsides in interacting with women/femininity or that they see more downsides in femininity?

            No, I see a venue where it’s normal to talk about women being problematic (that is, women in general, typical women) as rather different than than one where it’s normal to talk about good points about men.

            I wonder how you feel about venues where it’s normal for women to talk about how awful men are.

            >>I would expect rationalist environments to have people who don’t make such strong generalizations about whole genders.

            >I think that the evidence is overwhelming that men are more alike to men and women to women. Regardless of any biological basis, this would logically occur due to having gender roles.

            >It seems anything but rational to deny this.

            If you ignore variation and overlap between groups, I don’t think it’s rational.

            >If your complaint/argument is that certain behaviors (like ‘shit tests’) are portrayed as behavior done by some women, but there is little/no recognition of the possibility that the same/similar behavior is done by men (to some extent), then this is a valid complaint. I don’t know if that’s your complaint though.

            That’s approximately it. I don’t have much patience for worldviews where women do all the defecting.

            >>I would really prefer it if people tried to imagine examples of relationships where bad behavior is possible in different gender combinations.

            The specific examples that some people are complaining about recently involve romantic relationships and the problems that people have in them. This will inherently result in a focus mostly on the impact of female behavior on men, given that most people here are heterosexual men.

            >A relative lack of good research into relationships and such, means that people often can’t go much beyond personal experience. One then can’t expect the female heterosexual perspective or a gay/lesbian perspective, from a heterosexual man, IMO.

            One can make some room for the possibility that other viewpoints exist.

          • Aapje says:

            I think that the people who talk about women who defect when it comes to sexuality believe that men defect a lot as well, but don’t see the need to dwell on it, because pretty much no one disbelieves this. When the issue does come up, they tend to say things which only make sense if they believe that plenty of men do defect.

            I think that the discussion revolves around why people defect, much more than whether they do.

            The dominant narrative is that men pretty much only defect because they are bastards and that women defect because men put women in a situation where they can best/only get their needs met by defecting.

            The heterodox perspective is that plenty of men also defect because women put men in a situation where they can best/only get their needs met by defecting. The extra heterodox perspective is that women are sexual gatekeepers and that the previous sentence is true, but that men do not put women in a situation where they can best/only get their needs met by defecting.

            Both these heterodox perspectives are generally seen as misogynist, even though I think that only the latter can reasonable be seen as such. Even then, it is no more misogynist than the dominant narrative is misandrist, as that narrative also exclusively and unreasonably blames one gender for bad outcomes.

            Due to outgroup homogeneity bias, it is likely that many of the critics cannot distinguish the various heterodox perspectives. Furthermore, those who don’t see the dominant narrative as misandrist, are logically going to consider both perspective to be misogynist.

            Finally, there is a general issue that debates tend to center around the disagreements, but that people often have a tendency to unreasonably assume that these disagreement extend to issues that are not discussed.

            I’m still trying to figure out why fortaleza gets on my nerves so much, while I had no problems with “Untitled”.

            Scott is a really, really good writer, who uses all kinds of tricks to confound kneejerk conclusions about his beliefs and to undermine lizard-brain responses. For example, in ‘Untitled’ he undercuts misandrists by giving an example of a lesbian who “internalized that all attraction to women was objectifying and therefore evil.”

            Even then it is the post he gets most hate for.

            I personally also feel that fortaleza is not the most persuasive writer and that some of his ideas go too far, but I think that the dislike speaks to something deeper. Why do people get so upset at what he says that they start meta-discussions about it, but not at what Conrad says about ‘the gay lifestyle’ or what some people here say about Human IQ differences or other topics, that plenty of people strongly disagree with, but apparently don’t get truly upset about?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            re: fortaleza

            In the first linked example by Brad fortaleza states: “Is there any scientific evidence that “shit tests” are real? This is an idea in the PUA community that if a girl is attracted sexually to a man, she will often act disrespectfully or unreasonably towards him as a way of testing whether he is the sort of strong independent man she wants as a mate.” (bold mine to indicate especially problematic phrasings)

            This has a couple of things that are aggravating:
            1) You don’t ask for scientific evidence about whether a minority of members of a very large group (women) do something audacious, because chances are a minority of any large group will if some people are already anecdotally claiming it happens. You ask whether it is done (e.g. if these anecdotes actually exist and aren’t just men trying to make themselves feel better about rejection), and if the stated rationale is accurate in the majority of cases of the underlying action.

            2) Disrespectful and unreasonable don’t have definitions people will agree upon. E.g. The PUA community itself is very well known for ‘negging’ and not taking no for an answer, which makes this entire idea somewhat questionable and self-serving. (Perhaps the women in question are PUAs themselves. Perhaps they are merely mirroring back what they got, or what they’ve learned from reading or seeing PUA techniques in play. Perhaps they really, really find they dislike the man and want him to go away while recognizing he’s the sort unlikely to take no for an answer. [This last is a very plausible scenario to anyone who has ever thought of how to get rid of a person, especially in the context of PUA interactions, and should have been stated as a possible alternative rationale {null hypothesis} in the opening question.])

            So you’ve got a statement which asks whether the observations of men generally seen as jerks, cads, what-have-you who claim that women (as a group) act as jerks, cads, what-have-you as a test are accurate to the general population (“she will often act”) of women.

            3) Do women tend to ask their men to do things for them? As a group sure, we all know this, and the reverse is true too. This isn’t “shit testing” though, not by any respectful or reasonable definition of the term. It makes sense that some people would fall on the tails of the curve here.

            4) “Strong independent man she wants as a mate” – this is not the only kind of mate a woman may want, so the statement needs to be ungeneralized.

            You may as well ask whether the general observations of slave owners as to the laziness of black folk is accurate. Now this is a question that genuinely can be asked, but you sure as hell have to add a whole lot more context to put it in its proper place. It isn’t asking too much that fortaleza do the same with these sorts of questions.

            So I’d say that fortaleza’s primary issue that people find worth meta discussing is the tendency to over-generalize in a bad light about a population many commenters either belong to, or have a relationship with member(s) of, whose experience is orthogonal to that stated in the question.

            Oh yeah, and fortaleza assumes women are ignorant: “From reading and hearing articles and complaints in the “Why can’t I find a man?” genre it seems that the biggest mistake, by far, is women not realizing how much youth matters to men in terms of sexual attractiveness. “

          • Aapje says:


            Not going to reply to your entire post, but I want to point out that with regard to your point 3, what defines a ‘shit test’ is that the demand has to not be fulfilled to ‘pass.’

            For a normal demand, doing what is requested is a ‘pass.’ This seems like a rather important distinction, which fundamentally alters the level of social skills needed to pass. It doesn’t require social skills to just do what you are told. It’s a lot harder to figure out what demands you are supposed to fulfill and which you do not, if some demands are ‘shit tests.’

            As for your final point, is it really offensive to suggest that our culture teaches people to believe various falsehoods? Is it really offensive to suggest that our culture tells men and women different falsehoods?

            The idea that most men are ignorant is typically held by the same people who believe that most women are ignorant, hence the term ‘red pilling.’ So it’s not like women tend to be singled out for being ignorant, AFAIK.

    • Toby Bartels says:

      Careful, this sort of comment can get you banned! (Probably not serious, because I assume that there’s a history with that guy.)

      • sty_silver says:

        The problem with that comment was that it was trolling. When Scott thought it was genuine, he made a genuine reply. This OP is genuine, so there’s no problem.

    • Vanzetti says:

      >Boy have you people got some growing up to do.

      Are you serious?

      >I’m guessing most people would score this as their biggest life changing experience.

      Most people who lost all their limbs would also score this as their biggest life changing experience.

      • Fahundo says:

        Just want to record my agreement with Vanzetti here.

      • dionisos says:

        Same as Fahundo.

      • Toby Bartels says:

        Are we ganging up on tscharf now? I have kids, but my most life-changing experience wasn’t getting either of them. And in that experience, I even managed to keep my limbs!

        • Vanzetti says:

          I support ganging up on condescending pieces of shit.

          Hey tscharf! You know who is much better than you at making children? Escherichia coli. They can multiply every two hours. That’s right, you are inferior to a prokaryote.

          • Mark says:

            I support ganging up on condescending pieces of shit.

            Bit harsh.

            Disabled people may well have a different perspective to the able bodied – if you had a lower percentage of the disabled than the general population I don’t think it’d be out of line to comment upon that.

            “Oh, you may support smaller government now, but just you wait until you are old, poor, and your bones are creaking – you’ll have a different perspective then…”

            With regard to children, a quick google tells me that 25% of women between ages of 20 and 24 in US have children, so parents are almost certainly underrepresented.

            More generally, all other things being equal, older people are wiser than young people.
            All other things aren’t normally equal, but still.

          • Brad says:

            None of this, please.

          • sty_silver says:

            Neither kind nor necessary.

          • keranih says:

            I support ganging up on condescending pieces of shit.

            Nope. Not a good idea.

            I myself agree that “having kids” is a fundamental boundary for most people, and that it’s not the most fundamental one for all people. And I also wish that there were more women who felt comfortable posting here. As a woman who does feel comfortable posting here (to the disappointment of people who’d like fewer conservative voices) I didn’t find those comments anymore off putting than, say, the deep dive into the ())( (or whatever it was) survey question that happened up post. It’s a pov I don’t share, don’t find interesting, and don’t want to dig into with like-minded people, so I moved on to something else.

            You know who is much better than you at making children? Escherichia coli.

            That’s…that’s not an accurate summation of the biological process. At all.

          • The Nybbler says:

            And I also wish that there were more women who felt comfortable posting here. As a woman who does feel comfortable posting here (to the disappointment of people who’d like fewer conservative voices) I didn’t find those comments anymore off putting than, say, the deep dive into the ())( (or whatever it was) survey question that happened up post.

            This one’s at the heart of some of the nerd culture war issues. The basic frame is that people in a certain space are told that if they want more women in that space, they should refrain from doing activities which are off-putting to women as a whole. If the people in that space like those activities and are willing to suffer the consequences of fewer women, they’re told they’re misogynists. And this applies regardless of whether the activity is talking about “shit tests” in dating or discussing the minutia of parenthetical palindromes.

            On a separate note, I’m not sure what’s going on with the extra personal attacks lately (e.g. “condescending pieces of shit”, “Citation given, dumbass”) and I hope they will stop.

          • Toby Bartels says:

            For my part, I regret posting so flippantly about ‘ganging up’. Regardless of whether people were really doing that, I shouldn’t have suggested that I wanted to participate in such.

          • dionisos says:

            I shouldn’t have suggested that I wanted to participate in such.

            I understood it as a “be careful of what you are doing here”, or as a blame, and didn’t even thought it could be interpreted as a “proposal”.
            I assume almost everyone interpreted it like I did.

          • A1987dM says:


            That’s…that’s not an accurate summation of the biological process. At all.

            How so?

            (I mean biologically, regardless of the appropriateness of such a comment in this context.)

          • anonymousskimmer says:



            That’s…that’s not an accurate summation of the biological process. At all.

            How so?

            (I mean biologically, regardless of the appropriateness of such a comment in this context.)

            Since keranih didn’t answer:

            Most bacteria when they divide break into two nearly identical bacteria. It is an act of clone formation.

            In humans organ-containing eukaryotes the analog (a distinct organism dividing to form two nearly identical units) would be monozygotic twinning – something that can only happen early in the development process. We don’t call twins the children of the ‘parent’ zygote, we call them the children of the actual parents.

            Children, per se, don’t exist as a concept until you get to highly asymmetrical reproduction from an independent (relatively speaking) organism which requires the child to develop somehow to reach the adult form; while the adult functionally doesn’t develop after birthing the child, releasing the gametes, or releasing the seeds/spores (though the adult may revert back to form). About the simplest version of this I can think of would be slime mold reproduction.

        • dionisos says:

          Are we ganging up on tscharf now?

          No, didn’t realize it could be interpreted like that, sorry.

        • Toby Bartels says:

          To be sure, getting my children was a pretty life-changing experience, in each case, if not the *most* so.

          On the other hand, I’ve been pretty cynical in politics since high school, which ended as the Clinton administration began. I can’t say that I’ve grown any more cynical since then.

      • publiusvarinius says:

        I too wish to record my agreement with Vanzetti’s first post, without endorsing ganging up on tscharf.

    • outis says:

      I can’t have children because of my personality.

  37. jasonbayz says:

    The “number of daily responses” graph looks suspicious: there are almost as many people who took the survey today as there are people who took it the day it was released.

  38. Gazeboist says:

    Misc notes as I read the data:

    So who’s the special 23 year old, and who are the other 349? (I’m one of the 350, but can’t be bothered to download all the data and check the passphrase thingy).

    Also I think I saw 5 distinct “Netherlands” in the country data. Maybe the rogue 23 year old is Dutch?

    Oh and I forgot to be mad at the survey for conflating consequentialism and utilitarianism. Stop it!

    It looks like four people entered phone numbers for “SAT out of 2400”.

    A lot of the life satisfaction / personality trait things look bimodal.

    I love all the people who are afraid of anything that looks even vaguely like arithmetic.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      (Also haven’t bothered to check the data dump but) My assumption is 349 “23”s and one “23 “. If you highlight the responses, the other singletons don’t have the trailing whitespace

      Edit: Actually 52 is the same way. 42 “52”s and one “52 “. Trim your inputs, Google Surveys :/

  39. There seem to be three minor problems with the IQ/SAT questions:

    1. No distinction between adult and child IQ definitions. One problem is that some of us may not know–my figure was from high school records, which one of the kids got a copy of and circulated, and could have been either–I had been in the same school system since kindergarten. But I expect most people who have a figure for their own IQ know about when it was measured.

    2. No distinction on SAT between before and after renorming (unless that happened at the same time as the 1600-2400 shift).

    3. Nothing on age at which SAT was taken. I suspect that a significant number of people here took it earlier than the usual 17.

    • Gazeboist says:

      (1) I thought I remembered the survey saying not to use childhood IQ scores. I know I didn’t report the test I took when I was seven.

      (3) Sure, but when someone asks for “your SAT score”, they’re generally asking for your highest score, which is likely to be the one from when you were leaving highschool, assuming you took it then. This is pretty well understood, I think. I’d be surprised if it was common for people to not retake the test at the end of high school, simply because the score is very likely to go up.

  40. Mark says:

    The top …n=something… most intelligent people in France, Canada, and the US, read this blog.

  41. THfDg40KFMtgv2aS says:

    Hi. First of all, fantastic blog, I’ll probably make a real account at some point but for now I just have two things to correct/clarify. My survey ID is also my username.

    First, my entry shows “No” for alcohol addiction and “Family member” for drug addiction, when it should be the opposite. I’m not sure I didn’t just hit the wrong one but if the data looks strange there might be something going on.

    Also, when I put that the blog improved my opinion of some forms of libertarianism, I meant things like left- or “bleeding heart libertarianism”, which I considered to fall under libertarianism’s umbrella and yet be agreeable. After lurking more I realised that somebody who wrote the “Non-Libertarian FAQ” probably wouldn’t be happy to find that their blog pushed someone towards normal Libertarianism, and that hasn’t happened, in my case at least.

    • Nornagest says:

      Scott’s relationship with libertarianism is… complex, but at some point I remember him saying that he no longer fully endorses the Non-Libertarian FAQ. “Bleeding-heart libertarian” is fairly close to how I model his current politics, although I doubt he’d accept the label.

    • dionisos says:

      I believe he care more for the “meta-level” than for the “object-level” : Things like avoiding to think as tribes, being fair and charitable, being careful with our own beliefs, etc…

  42. Stezinec says:

    A clarifying note for the Big Five: Neuroticism is reverse-coded (it’s actually Emotional Stability).

    I think this IPIP marker test is a bit imbalanced. The mean Agreeableness is 34.3, which doesn’t seem right.

    The correlation between IQ and Openness is 0.18 though, which is not bad.

  43. Several results on the survey I found interesting:

    1) Three times a many bisexuals as homosexuals? That isn’t the norm for society is it? IS this an SSC thing?

    2) A majority of respondents are non-spiritual atheists. I am in that group, but I am surprised it is so much higher than society at large (at least US, which 2/3’s of respondents).

    3) I downloaded data he provided at the bottom to do some more analysis. First of all I was curious about the sexual harassment questions. I see that 242 of 732 women replied they had never been harassed outside of work. This quite different from what one often reads in the media, who seem to think that women are generally over-whelmed by harassers. There have been a woman or two in the SSC comments that said they haven’t been harassed, but I wondered if they were outliers. But it seems 1/3 of women have never been harassed. We don’t know how frequent it occurred for the other 500; maybe most only a time or two in their lifetimes. Is this an SSC thing too?

  44. Subb4k says:

    Stupid question : how can one access the text of the questions? I have no idea what the question was for the bar graph labelled “Aesthetics”, let alone what the 1 to 5 scale is.

  45. outis says:

    1) I find it a bit surprising that there are way more M than F, but also way more M->F than F->M, but not in the same proportion.

    2) Given the large number of singles, and the low romantic life satisfaction, I wish there had been an incel question.

    3) How is it possible that 14.7% of readers are Jewish, but only 10.2% have a Jewish background?

    4) Is Catholicism the religion most likely to be abandoned? Is this a US-specific phenomenon?

    5) I perceive the person who responded to the IQ question with “53 (not a mistake. 53. Possibly due to undiagnosed dyscalculia)” as smarter than the person who responded with “e^(pi*i)+1”.

    • Aapje says:

      There are more M->F trans people in society for some reason. People have noticed that M->F trans people seem to more often be thing-oriented, which I believe is a trait that is common to SSC readers.

    • JulieK says:

      How is it possible that 14.7% of readers are Jewish, but only 10.2% have a Jewish background?

      Of the readers who currently practice a religion, 14.7% practice Judaism.

      If someone is going to make pretty charts from this data, I recommend making 2 pie charts for questions like this. The second chart should include a white pie-slice for all the people who didn’t answer the question, with everyone who did answer crowded into the remainder of the pie.

      • outis says:

        Oh, I totally missed that the denominator was different. The results page should really show the questions too…

  46. PedroS says:

    I was pleasantly suprised by the self-reporting of the IQ deciles by the respondents: although only 7% of the people placed themselves in the 3 lower deciles, the number of people positioning themselves in the upper half of the SSC audience IQ level was not exceedingly larger than half (actually 62%).

    1st decile 0.48%
    2nd decile 1.97%
    3rd decile 4.75%
    4th decile 8.36%
    5th decile 21.83%
    6th decile 19.45%
    7th decile 18.32%
    8th decile 14.27%
    9th decile 8.12%
    10th decile 2.45%

  47. benwave says:

    Is anyone else as surprised as I am about the placebo question? Why should there be such a strong preference for #4?

    • dionisos says:

      It is strange indeed, for me I think it was something like that :
      1 and 2 seem “negative”, 3 seems too symmetrical, and then not enough random, 5 seems too extreme.

    • KG says:

      I remember picking 4 simply because it’s an unlucky number in some cultures.

    • Aapje says:


      Perhaps people tend to approve the use of placebos, but not for all situations. 😛

    • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

      Of the first five numbers, four is my favorite. Not as presumptuous as five, but it has a bit of weight to it, y’know? Not at all like the overrated 3, and 1 just seemed so obvious.

    • Toby Bartels says:

      4 is a perfect square, and isn’t that what we ask aspire to?

      (ETA: To be sure, 1 is also a perfect square, but as the previous person said, too obvious.)

  48. Worley says:

    Here’s another wild hypothesis: Humans are intensely social, and within groups, they often delegate tasks to each other based on their known abilities. Perhaps older siblings get delegated “assess for BS” evaluations by their younger siblings because older siblings have a larger database about the world and are further along Piaget’s scale. (Insert the anecdote about Piaget attempting to asses Marvin Minsky’s children.) In adult life, some older siblings take up specialization as BS filters for the rest of us (a/k/a “visionaries”), because the accuracy of assessments will rise very rapidly with the amount of time one spends learning a broad spectrum of outre information.

    I’m reminded of the wonderful phrase “the Bay Area intellectual milieu, by which I mean wacky outlandish hypotheses about completely random stuff”.

    I’ve no idea how you’d go about testing this idea. Perhaps surveying science-fiction conventions and the like, but that seems like a heterogeneous population.

  49. terran says:

    Does anybody have a link to the full text of the original questions, ideally indexed by same names as the result columns? I didn’t save it when I took the survey and now the link takes me to the results.