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Open Thread 94.25

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840 Responses to Open Thread 94.25

  1. Well... says:

    I’ll probably end up reposting this in OT 94.5 94.75 but it’s on my mind and I want to get it out:

    I agree with what I understand to be the central criticism of positive rights, i.e. that they imply obligations that need to be filled by others and that this very quickly will be carried to the point of immorality and injustice. For instance you can’t have a right to healthcare because that implies doctors and nurses and pharmaceutical companies etc. have to provide it for you even if they aren’t paid for it, which kind of turns them into slaves.

    Negative rights make far more sense: you have a right not to, say, be unduly spied upon by your government, or to be forced to ascribe to some particular spiritual religion.

    But what’s the interplay in edge cases such as abortion? (Full disclosure: I am personally opposed to the legality of abortion, but with — and to some degree, because of — low epistemic confidence of the underlying truth about when human life actually begins.) You might say a human embryo has a negative right not to have its life taken, but this implies a positive right to life, which in this case must be, and can only be, provided by its mother. That is an obligation on her. And so in response pro-choice people say “Women have the right to an abortion.” (This of course is at the heart of the abortion debate.)

    Is it that some negative rights are indeed also positive rights, but the negative interpretation of the right always trumps its positive counterpart? And if so, how do you apply that in the case of, e.g. healthcare or other common positive rights claims?

    • Brad says:

      The right to an abortion is best conceptualized similarly to the right to free speech. Just as the latter doesn’t imply anyone owes you a newspaper column, the former doesn’t imply that anyone owes you RU-486. What they instead mean is that the government can’t (unduly) restrict or punish someone from/for speaking or getting an abortion.

      It’s a category mistake to say that the fetus has a right to life because rights, in the relevant sense, are only as against the government. If the government forced an abortion on someone that could conceivably violate a fetus’ right to life, though it’d be more likely to be conceptualized as a rights violation against the mother.

      There is a different sense of the word ‘right’, such as in the sentence “Workers in California have the right to time and a half pay after working 40 hours in a week.” but that’s an entirely different usage and conflating the two only leads to, sometimes deliberate, confusion.

      • Jiro says:

        I don’t think that works, because everyone except a few anarchocapitalists thinks it’s a legitimate function of the government to protect people from being murdered. Withholding this protection in an individual case can then be fairly characterized as a rights violation even though it only involves inaction on the government’s part.

        • Brad says:

          I agree entirely that it is a legitimate function of government to protect people from being murdered. Also, among other things: building roads, putting in place regulations to prevent unchecked pollution, and providing a social safety net. But I don’t see why failures in those legitimate functions of government should be characterized as a rights violations rather than just mis- or malfeasance.

          Once you characterize it as a right you start getting into situations where people claim that unlimited amounts of resources have to be devoted to it because it is a matter of right. Whereas if you just say the government ought to do x, y, and z and it ought to do all those things as well as possible taking into account the constraints it faces, that provides a much more realistic framework than setting up some of them as rights.

          • Jiro says:

            Once you characterize it as a right you start getting into situations where people claim that unlimited amounts of resources have to be devoted to it because it is a matter of right

            No, because the selective application may be considered a rights violation even if just failure to provide it at all to anyone is not.

      • Randy M says:

        rights, in the relevant sense, are only as against the government

        I disagree with this. You may not kill me because I have as much right (desert, entitlement, whatever) to life as do you. You may not take money from my pocket because I have as much right to property as do you.
        Other rights (and even those sometimes) are murkier because they are more likely to conflict and require some compromise and discussion. But fundamentally rights only restrict the government because they restrict everyone. The government probably has more right to restrict your rights than another citizen because we delegate enforcement to the government.

        Now, what you are really talking about, it seems, is how obligated is the government to enforce other people’s violations of your rights. Maybe abortion should be legal because despite the fetus having a right to life, the governmental enforcement of that right creates numerous other harms–I’m not proposing this, but I recognize it as coherent.
        But it is incoherent and absurd to say that abortion should be legal because your rights only restrict the government and not fellow citizens.

    • keranih says:

      Keeping it off abortion –

      I don’t think that its that strange a thing for various positive rights to be balanced. For instance, I have a right to freedom of association, but in specific cases that right can be trumped by the government enforcing the rights of others to not be discriminated against in terms of housing, etc. So I as a landlord would have a very limited ability to control who lives in my property – yet if I am renting out a room in my house, or if I own very few properties (four or less houses or apartments) the rules against discrimination don’t apply.

      So there is a spectrum. Likewise, in the case of murder – it’s not permitted to kill other people. Yet I am permitted to kill in self-defense within certain boundaries. Parents have the right to raise their kids as they see fit…but are not permitted to actually abuse the kids, for a definition of “abuse” that is not entirely set in stone.

      One has a negative right to not have property seized by the gubmit. That is modified by a positive right to be treated as any other citizen would be in the case of eminent domain seizures.

      In the case of abortion, I think there are a series of rights involved, and unfortunately our current law does not permit all of them to be examined. A woman has the right to request medical treatment as she desires, yes. But also – a child has the right to not have fatal medical procedures done to them. A father has a say in the medical treatment of his child. (Grandparents also may have an interest, I’m not entirely clear on the law here.) A woman has the right to not support a person they don’t wish to support – that’s why we have child surrender laws and adoption. But we do have laws prohibiting people from refusing to carry through with obligations they have freely taken on as adults, and to me it’s fairly clear that an adult woman who voluntarily has sexual intercourse with a man is taking on the possibility of the obligation to carry a child to term. (Likewise the man has taken on the obligation to help care for her at least until she gives birth, at which point both of them can surrender the obligation.) (As for birth control failure – well, we can talk about that as well – what responsibility do makers of the pill have for failure to use appropriately?)

      There are a variety of intertwined rights and obligations, and I think it’s a grave error to try too hard to narrow it down to too black and white a choice. As another example – my right to keep and bear arms does not give me the right to menace my neighbor or to damage his barn by shooting in random directions.

      Hopefully this makes sense…

      • Jiro says:

        But we do have laws prohibiting people from refusing to carry through with obligations they have freely taken on as adults, and to me it’s fairly clear that an adult woman who voluntarily has sexual intercourse with a man is taking on the possibility of the obligation to carry a child to term.

        I am generally skeptical of any attempt to claim that someone has “freely taken on” an obligation when they have not stated “I am taking on this obligation”, and sometimes when they have explicitly stated otherwise. You’ve imputed the obligation to them by claiming that by doing X, they have automatically “freely” taken it on. There’s no difference between someone “freely” taking on an obligation this way and you arbitrarily imposing one, since you can associate any obligation with any X that you wish.

        Consider a society where by being non-Muslim, you’ve “freely” taken on the obligation to avoid testifying in the court system or to pay a special tax.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          There’s no difference between someone “freely” taking on an obligation this way and you arbitrarily imposing one, since you can associate any obligation with any X that you wish.

          I don’t think that’s a very good argument, because the link between pregnancy and sex is a natural and expected one, not something arbitrarily imposed by human government (unlike the link between not being a Muslim and paying extra taxes).

          • Jiro says:

            The link between sex and pregnancy is natural, but the link between pregnancy and the obligation to carry the child to term is not.

            Furthermore, the link between sex with a condom that fails on a 1 in 1000 chance, and pregnancy, is not so natural.

          • John Schilling says:

            but the link between pregnancy and the obligation to carry the child to term is not.

            It’s as natural as the link between taking passengers up in an airplane and being obligated to fly that airplane to a safe landing.

            Furthermore, the link between sex with a condom that fails on a 1 in 1000 chance, and pregnancy, is not so natural.

            Because the laws of probability are unnatural?

            Every legal or ethical system that allows gambling, requires the losers to pay up. If you spread your bets so that there’s a 99.9% probability of breaking even while having fun playing the game, but the freak thousand-to-one outcome costs you a hundred thousand dollars, you don’t get to weasel out of it by saying “It’s unnatural that I should have to cover a losing bet, I was just planning to have some easy fun with no consequences here! I took precautions and everything, it’s Not My Fault!”

          • Jiro says:

            It’s as natural as the link between taking passengers up in an airplane and being obligated to fly that airplane to a safe landing.

            I would say that if you specifically say that you’re not going to land the plane, it would be okay to take up passengers and crash the plane (although you wouldn’t get many passengers under those circumstances).

            At least admit that you’re imposing the obligation, rather than that someone “freely took it on”, and justify it in the way you would justify imposing one, rather than sidestepping that by claiming it was “freely chosen”.

            (What do you think of the argument “by opening a cake shop, you have freely chosen to sell gay wedding cakes”?)

            Every legal or ethical system that allows gambling, requires the losers to pay up.

            If you take passengers in a plane, there’s a small chance that a meteor will hit the engine, killing everyone aboard, but we normally don’t consider the airline responsible for that, even if a similar meteor hitting the ground would not have killed anyone.

          • keranih says:

            What of the social assumption that people who smoke are bringing lung cancer down on themselves, or that people who drink a beer and then drive take on the responsibility for any wreck that happens, even though causing a wreck and killing people wasn’t their intent?

            I get it, people have sex while in a state of wanting the sex but not necessarily wanting a baby. That’s how it works.

            It doesn’t change the fact that the baby was a predicted, ordinary, expected outcome of the sex and that people who claim that they rationally thought otherwise are in danger of declaring themselves mentally incompetent.

            The world is full of events that flow from other events. Figuring out causality is one of the first steps in being an adult.

          • John Schilling says:

            At least admit that you’re imposing the obligation, rather than that someone “freely took it on”,

            I am enforcing an implied contract, yes. If a pilot and his passengers make no explicit contract one way or another regarding a safe landing, I will “impose the obligation” that the pilot safely land the plane, and I will not feel the least bit hypocritical about claiming that the pilot freely took on that obligation.

            If you can get airplane passengers, or fetuses, to offer explicit informed consent to the alternative plan, more power to you.

            If you take passengers in a plane, there’s a small chance that a meteor will hit the engine, killing everyone aboard, but we normally don’t consider the airline responsible for that,

            We do require the airline, and the pilot, to do everything they can to land the plane safely if it is hit by a meteor. We do not allow airline pilots to take up parachutes so that they can say “This isn’t what I signed up for, I’m bailing out on you guys” if things go three-sigma wrong.

          • Iain says:

            What of the social assumption that people who smoke are bringing lung cancer down on themselves, or that people who drink a beer and then drive take on the responsibility for any wreck that happens, even though causing a wreck and killing people wasn’t their intent?

            When people get lung cancer or get in a car accident, we see it as a bad thing and try to mitigate the damage, even if they are partially to blame. We don’t deny chemotherapy to smokers on the basis that they knowingly took on the risk. We don’t stop wanting good things for other people because those people made mistakes.

            Ah, you might say: but what if it’s not so simple? We enforce your contracts, even if you regret them, because the alternative would make contracts impossible: if nobody can ever be held to the terms of a contract, why are you bothering to write it? So what if abortion also had downsides? To use the earlier example: what if getting chemotherapy also involved killing another person? But then we’re just back to arguing about whether or not a fetus is actually a person, and all this discussion about obligations gets us nowhere.

          • Controls Freak says:

            then we’re just back to arguing about whether or not a fetus is actually a person, and all this discussion about obligations gets us nowhere.

            Not quite. I mean, I’ve argued for a long time that the first clause is completely right, but the second clause misses some important context. One of the major pro-choice arguments is the violinist argument. It argues that even if the killee is undoubtedly a person, the right to bodily autonomy trumps it. The reason why people are drawn to these responsibility arguments is to respond, “No. If it’s a person, you’ve found your way into a situation where you have the responsibility to try to protect it.”

            (I usually use the example of rock climbing. Suppose your friend falls, and the rope gets caught on something and is wrapped around you in some fashion. Maybe you’re in danger of a rope burn; maybe you’re in danger of losing a limb; maybe you’re in danger of losing your life. Reasonable people can disagree about where to draw lines here, and most people agree that if the thing on the other end of the rope is a worm instead of a person, you can choose to cut the rope… but basically no one says, “You can cut the rope just because you’re not interested.”)

            This discussion about obligations is complicated and messy, and it’s clearly short-circuited by claims of worm-valued fetuses, but given personhood, the discussion is, shall we say, fertile ground.

          • Jiro says:

            It doesn’t change the fact that the baby was a predicted, ordinary, expected outcome of the sex

            That doesn’t apply if the sex was with a condom or other circumstances where the probability of the outcome was small. In those circumstances, the outcome is neither predicted, ordinary, nor expected, unless you have definitions of those that are completely separate from the actual likelihood of the outcome.

          • Jiro says:

            I am enforcing an implied contract, yes.

            What do you think of the implied contract “by selling wedding cakes, you have freely chosen to sell gay wedding cakes”?

          • Controls Freak says:

            That doesn’t apply if the sex was with a condom or other circumstances where the probability of the outcome was small. In those circumstances, the outcome is neither predicted, ordinary, nor expected, unless you have definitions of those that are completely separate from the actual likelihood of the outcome.

            Again, the analogy I like is rock climbing. When you’re rock climbing, nobody wants to end up in a situation where one person is dangling from the rope, at the mercy of the other (who is maybe even in danger from the tension). Everyone does everything they can to avoid that situation. They prepare their gear; they practice their technique; they look for the best locations to anchor their ropes. It’s a small probability. Nevertheless, it happens… and if you choose to cut the rope, you partner will surely fall to his death.

            Are you really saying that because you didn’t want to end up in this situation, you can blithely cut the rope, letting him fall to his death, just because, “Meh. I have other things I’d like to do right now”?

          • Jiro says:

            Are you really saying that because you didn’t want to end up in this situation, you can blithely cut the rope, letting him fall to his death, just because, “Meh.

            I would say that they have an obligation to not cut the rope for several reasons, not all of which apply to abortion… and none of those reasons would be “because he freely took on the obligation” or “because he expects that this situation would occur”.

            I’m not really arguing abortion. I’m arguing arguments. If you treat “He freely took on the obligation” as a valid argument when you only imputed the obligation, that has bad implications.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Furthermore, the link between sex with a condom that fails on a 1 in 1000 chance, and pregnancy, is not so natural.

            “Sex with a condom” isn’t a separate kind of activity to “sex”; it’s still sex, it’s just that you’re taking steps to try and avoid the natural outcome.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I would say that they have an obligation to not cut the rope for several reasons, not all of which apply to abortion… and none of those reasons would be “because he freely took on the obligation” or “because he expects that this situation would occur”.

            …I’m listening.

          • keranih says:

            When people get lung cancer or get in a car accident, we see it as a bad thing and try to mitigate the damage, even if they are partially to blame.

            Right. But that mitigation has limits – they aren’t allowed to find someone with compatible tissue type and kill them so they can have a lung transplant. (And is there not a “you have to quit smoking in order to be eligible for transplants” to some cases?)

            Nor are you allowed to shot someone else if you were injured in a car wreck. Nor to steal from them.

            We don’t deny chemotherapy to smokers on the basis that they knowingly took on the risk. We don’t stop wanting good things for other people because those people made mistakes.

            Correct. And there are those who excuse all sorts of bad behavior on accounta bad luck, or bad things having been done in the past to the current transgressor. But most people don’t buy that you’re allowed to hurt other people because you’ve been insulted, inconvenienced, or had some minor financial setback.

            People who have sex and end up pregnant but don’t want the baby are not without *any* sort of assistance – there are many people searching for babies to adopt, who will assist with healthcare and other expenses. There are people who will help mothers who want to keep their babies.

            It’s a bit harder to replace the free swinging lifestyle and social group that often (but not always) goes along with having sex but not wanting the baby. But I’m really having a hard time using that as a justification for abortion.

          • Jiro says:

            “Sex with a condom” isn’t a separate kind of activity to “sex”; it’s still sex, it’s just that you’re taking steps to try and avoid the natural outcome.

            I’m not convinced that “natural outcome” here is a meaningful concept. You can arbitrarily choose either the version with or without the condom as being the “natural” one, and treat the other as a modification to it. Your answer changes depending on which version you pick as the “natural” version.

            Also, I have a hard time seeing a way to make sense out of this without also saying that baking wedding cakes “naturally” includes baking gay wedding cakes.

          • Jaskologist says:

            The chance of pregnancy from a single act of sex+condom may be 1 in 1000, but over the course of a year, it’s 15%. That’s a pretty high probability for a life-changing event.

          • John Schilling says:

            The natural outcome of sex, with or without a condom, is a small but finite possibility of pregnancy. It’s a gamble. And, barring fraud, the enforceability of gambling debts is independent of the odds.

          • Iain says:

            @keranih:

            This whole obligation argument is meaningless without discussing the set of entities to which we can have obligations.

            Mercy is a virtue. It is good to help people avoid negative consequences for their actions, unless that causes harm to another person. That makes it important to think carefully about who counts as “another person”.

            To turn your argument around: if an adult woman who voluntarily has sexual intercourse with a man is taking on a possible obligation, why should we let them use a condom? Surely the obligation they have to their future child outweighs their desire for consequence-free sex.

            You might say — but it’s not a child yet! It’s just the possibility of a child. But then you have to explain precisely why it is that the potential of a sperm and an egg don’t trigger an obligation, but the potential of the tiny clump of cells that they produce when they run into each other does.

            I’m sure you can produce an explanation. But you can’t do so just by faffing around with abstract talk about obligations. You have to grapple directly with the arguments for and against fetal personhood: when and why does a fetus become a person? If you don’t, then you are never going to convince anybody who doesn’t already agree with you.

            The violinist argument is a thought experiment about how far abortion can be justified even if fetuses are people, not a meaningful stance on its own. That’s why the original article ends with:

            At this place, however, it should be remembered that we have only been pretending throughout that the fetus is a human being from the moment of conception. A very early abortion is surely not the killing of a person, and so is not dealt with by anything I have said here.

          • Jiro says:

            The natural outcome of sex, with or without a condom, is a small but finite possibility of pregnancy.

            If the “natural outcome” is pregnancy, you need to justify claiming that something with a very small chance of happening is a natural outcome.

            If the “natural outcome” is a chance of pregnancy, then you don’t need to justify that, but you now need to justify why a chance of pregnancy has any implications. I already pointed out that there are situations (like a meteor hitting the engine of a plane) where there is some small chance but where we don’t think any debt has been created.

            (Also, gambling debts is a bad analogy. Gambling debts are something that happens most of the time, not a small percentage of the time. Gambling winnings happen a small percent of the time.)

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I’m not convinced that “natural outcome” here is a meaningful concept. You can arbitrarily choose either the version with or without the condom as being the “natural” one, and treat the other as a modification to it. Your answer changes depending on which version you pick as the “natural” version.

            “Sex” obviously isn’t a modification of “sex with a condom”, because (a) the concept of “sex” is logically prior to the concept of “sex with a condom” (you can’t understand the latter without understanding the former), and (b) creatures have been having sex for hundreds of millions of years, and it’s only in the last few centuries that people thought of using an artificial barrier to prevent pregnancy.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            (Also, gambling debts is a bad analogy. Gambling debts are something that happens most of the time, not a small percentage of the time. Gambling winnings happen a small percent of the time.)

            Say that you make a bet on the probability of your beating me at tennis, knowing that I’m a rubbish tennis player and you have a 99.9% chance of beating me. By freakish good luck, however, I manage to beat you. Should you be allowed to say “It’s not fair, me beating Mr. X at tennis only happens a small percent of the time and I wasn’t expecting to lose, therefore I shouldn’t have to pay up”?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Or, to take another example: say I decide to go parachuting, but my parachute malfunctions and I fall to my death. Someone might well say of me, “It’s a shame, but he knew the risks.” That is, although I didn’t want to die, I knew there was a chance of that happening, a chance which I accepted when I made the decision to go parachuting. I don’t see why the same logic shouldn’t apply, mutatis mutandis, to having sex.

          • Controls Freak says:

            if an adult woman who voluntarily has sexual intercourse with a man is taking on a possible obligation, why should we let them use a condom? Surely the obligation they have to their future child outweighs their desire for consequence-free sex.

            I mean, why do we let people use safety equipment while rock climbing? Surely the obligation to not cut the rope holding someone who has slipped and fallen outweighs their desire for consequence-free recreation.

            You have to grapple directly with the arguments for and against fetal personhood: when and why does a fetus become a person? If you don’t, then you are never going to convince anybody who doesn’t already agree with you.

            Again, I agree with this entirely, which is why arguments like, “Why should we let people use a condom,” fall completely flat. The entire premise of the responsibility argument is that it’s a situation where personhood has been acknowledged (which is the core of the violinist argument, even if the throwaway line at the end tries to retreat to other ground).

            I already pointed out that there are situations (like a meteor hitting the engine of a plane) where there is some small chance but where we don’t think any debt has been created.

            And John already adjusted your situation to be far more analogous, getting the opposite result.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Again, the analogy I like is rock climbing. When you’re rock climbing, nobody wants to end up in a situation where one person is dangling from the rope, at the mercy of the other (who is maybe even in danger from the tension).

            @Controls Freak: Are you referring to incidents like Simon Yates and Joe Simpson?

          • Controls Freak says:

            I don’t have a specific instance in mind. I’m not familiar enough with that example to speak to it exactly.

          • Dan L says:

            @John, @Mr. X:

            I reject the comparison of sex to gambling, and pregnancy to gambling debts. Gambling is inherently a possibility of gain balanced against a possibility of loss – gambling without the latter is a contradiction in terms. Contrast that with sex, where not all couples face a chance of pregnancy to begin with. Those that do face that risk can reduce its likelihood to almost arbitrarily low levels without getting rid of the benefit they were pursuing in the first place.

            The us of teleology (“natural ends”, “expected consequences”, “God’s will”, etc.) to make pregnancy a universal possible negative might serve to re-balance the gamble, but I don’t see any arguments there that stand on their own merits. It is entirely possible to divorce the pursuit of sex with the pursuit of pregnancy both physically and psychologically. I’d accept that STDs would serve as a outcome that would restore the gambling analogy, but I don’t think anyone here wants to make the case that women are obligated to suffer them without treatment if they’re unlucky enough to catch one. That’s actually a useful heuristic in general – any argument that maintains its structure after ‘carry pregnancy to term’ is swapped with ‘suffer STD indefinitely’ is probably more about controlling sexual behavior than the morality of abortion.

            The pilot scenarios are all pretty much variants of the more general implied contract argument. I find it hard to give that one much credit without first granting both personhood and the teleological purpose of sex. Rejecting the latter is enough to move on without considering the former.

            If a skydiver’s parachute malfunctions, I’d recommend they use their reserve chute. If they feel that the natural end of jumping out of a plane is death and – their first measure to prevent this having failed – it would be immoral to attempt to avert the downsides of their risky behavior, I’d think that the metaphor had broken down somewhere. The benefit is again highly separable from the risk.

          • Controls Freak says:

            Gambling is inherently a possibility of gain balanced against a possibility of loss

            Nope. That’s not needed for any analysis. It just so happens that some people think that there is a possibility of gain in sex (pleasure) and a possibility of loss (pregnancy). Other people think that pregnancy isn’t a loss. Or, like you point out, some are actually sterile. Or, dudes can have sex with dudes. No one says that pregnancy is a natural outcome of homosexual sex, but they do say that it is a natural outcome of heterosexual sex between fertile individuals. This needs zero teleology. It just needs basic biology. Sometimes, when men and women have sex, pregnancy occurs. This probability is reduced, but not eliminated, by the use of modern contraception.

            If they feel that the natural end of jumping out of a plane is death and – their first measure to prevent this having failed – it would be immoral to attempt to avert the downsides of their risky behavior

            Again, this is entirely missing the point. No one is claiming that it is immoral simply to avert the downside of risky behavior. People are claiming that it’s immoral to kill a person in order to avert the foreseeable downside of risky behavior. (Again, all of this is modulo the personhood claim.) You pulled the quote out from where Mr. X was describing what foreseeable consequences were, not constructing an entirely analogous situation.

          • Dan L says:

            @ Controls Freak:

            Again, this is entirely missing the point.

            Your argument is distinctly different from the ones I was addressing, makes different assumptions, and has different edge cases. You shouldn’t be terribly surprised that my comment doesn’t address your concerns.

            Personhood arguments are worth having, but my position on those is sufficiently complicated that I’m not that interested in bringing it in unnecessarily. Other arguments here don’t rely on it, but have other issues I disagree with.

            No one says that pregnancy is a natural outcome of homosexual sex, but they do say that it is a natural outcome of heterosexual sex between fertile individuals. This needs zero teleology. It just needs basic biology. Sometimes, when men and women have sex, pregnancy occurs. This probability is reduced, but not eliminated, by the use of modern contraception.

            The biology is neither necessary nor sufficient to give pregnancy special moral status over contracting an STD. That is where the teleology comes in, at my objection.

            No one is claiming that it is immoral simply to avert the downside of risky behavior.

            You aren’t, but others are – by analogizing sex to a risky behavior where averting the downside is immoral, or at least a contract violation. That’s the part I object to. That framework simply doesn’t work for sex even in fertile, consensual cases.

            You pulled the quote out from where Mr. X was describing what foreseeable consequences were, not constructing an entirely analogous situation.

            I pulled that quote from a scenario Mr. X described where a negative consequence was portrayed as natural after the failure of a single one of the several standard safeguards. Still seems like a good analogy to me, though probably not for the intended reasons.

        • keranih says:

          I am generally skeptical of any attempt to claim that someone has “freely taken on” an obligation when they have not stated “I am taking on this obligation”, and sometimes when they have explicitly stated otherwise. You’ve imputed the obligation to them by claiming that by doing X, they have automatically “freely” taken it on.

          I could live with this – in fact, I believe that previous generations did so. A female was considered a minor child, with no ability to consent to taking on the obligation of bearing a child, until released into the custody of her husband. A (male) person who had intercourse with an unmarried woman was assumed to have raped her.

          But while I *could* live with this, I rather prefer the modern age, and modern sensibilities, which state that a female of the age of consent and of sound mind is perfectly capable of recognizing that sex => pregnancy, and that she has the right *and responsibility* to manage her own body so as to avoid conception.

          We spend too long treating young people (and, to a certain extent, women all their lives) like they are not capable of basic responsibility and self-restraint. It’s about to the point where I’m on board with a general “coming of age” ceremony for people at some point between 14 and 18 – prior to the ceremony, they are minor children, and the responsibility of their parents, after, they are adults and can sign contracts, work whatever job hours they like, drive, consume mind altering substances, etc. If their parents want to provide funds after that, sure, but the responsibility is of the independent adult.

          • A (male) person who had intercourse with an unmarried woman was assumed to have raped her.

            What time and place are you describing and what is the evidence for that claim?

          • keranih says:

            @DavidFriedman –

            My apologies for a combination of talking out my butt, badly formatting a revised comment, and conflating old levant customs with Appalachian shotgun weddings.

            I withdraw that claim.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      For instance you can’t have a right to healthcare because that implies doctors and nurses and pharmaceutical companies etc. have to provide it for you even if they aren’t paid for it, which kind of turns them into slaves… You might say a human embryo has a negative right not to have its life taken, but this implies a positive right to life, which in this case must be, and can only be, provided by its mother. That is an obligation on her.

      I don’t think this is a valid comparison. In the healthcare example, the doctors and nurses have to go out of their way to help you, but in the abortion example, the woman has to not go out of her way to harm the child. If she does nothing and lets nature take its course, the result is a child being born, not an abortion. Accordingly, saying that the foetus has a right not be aborted is more like saying you have a right not be murdered than saying that you have a right to receive healthcare.

      • Well... says:

        I see your point, but a woman who “lets nature take its course” will still be subjected to the agonies of pregnancy and childbirth and her body will never be the same afterward. That’s not exactly nothing.

        • The original Mr. X says:

          True, but we don’t normally give people a free pass for murder just because it’s easier for them. For example, I wouldn’t be allowed to kill someone to use one of their organs for a transplant, even if I’d die without it (and even though dying is much worse than the usual side-effects of pregnancy).

    • Mark says:

      Yes, I don’t think that there can be a clear distinction between negative and positive rights, because the right to be left alone (negative right) implies a positive right.

      For example, the right not to be taxed implies a right to use property as I personally wish without reference to society. People are obliged to accept my judgement, are obliged to respect my ownership.

      The right to not be spied on, implies the right to do what I wish without being observed.

      I think that the idea of negative rights appeals to people who think within a liberal moral framework because the phrasing makes it easier to assume away the social relations that are actually the fundamental essence of any right.

      With the case of nurses and doctors, they work and live within a complex economic social system – the question is the obligation that they have to broader society when occupying that role.

      I should also say that we only have freedom of conscience, in any society, however liberal, to the extent that our conscience isn’t very important.

      • John Schilling says:

        For example, the right not to be taxed implies a right to use property as I personally wish without reference to society. People are obliged to accept my judgement, are obliged to respect my ownership.

        People aren’t obliged to “accept” or “respect” your property in the sense of approving of it or publicly endorsing it or any such thing, they are only obliged to refrain from trespassing or other active infringement.

        It is I think fairly easy to distinguish between rights/responsibilities/whatever that bound a person’s range of action in some affair to all of possibility except specified infringements, and those that bound a person’s range of action to a narrow set of specified obligations. Enforcing negative rights may require the former, enforcing positive “rights” crosses over into the latter, and trying to linguistically rephrase the one as the other is usually pretty obvious.

        Also, it is problematic to “guarantee” negative rights in the broad and absolute sense, because that suggests an open-ended commitment to providing enforcers. Which is why we are careful to say things like “Congress shall pass no law … abridging the freedom of speech” rather than “Congress shall make 100% certain that nobody else ever tries to shut you up either”.

        • Mark says:

          With respect to my property, don’t my negative rights imply that your actions (with respect to my property) are bound to a narrow set of specified obligations? That is, do nothing unless you ask first.

          I feel like what you are describing as negative rights are actually more like common social sense, and the difficulty with “positive rights” is that it’s impossible to define comprehensively which behaviour is acceptable without relying upon that distributed knowledge.

          • John Schilling says:

            Your property represents a narrow set of reality and therefore meaningfully impinges on only a narrow subset of things that I might do. If you claim e.g. “I have the right to secure my property against the impact of even infinitesimal sound waves so shut up about stuff I don’t like”, I think I will laugh. If you say “no trespassing on this one acre out of the two hundred million or so acres on Earth”, I will not feel myself bound to a narrow set of obligations.

          • Mark says:

            So, I suppose that the negative-positive right distinction is about the perceived severity of the imposition.

            As such, by definition, negative rights are going to be a easier sell than positive rights.

            You’ll always want to couch things in terms of a negative right – a negative right might appeal to common sense, leave open possibility for alternative actions, whereas a positive right is going to seem like an unreasonable imposition.

          • Guy in TN says:

            You’ll always want to couch things in terms of a negative right – a negative right might appeal to common sense, leave open possibility for alternative actions, whereas a positive right is going to seem like an unreasonable imposition.

            Except in cases where the right is so important, that you don’t want to leave open the possibility for alternative actions.

            For example, if the “right to an attorney” in the U.S. Constitution had been interpreted as a negative right (i.e., you are allowed to hire an attorney, if you can afford it), I think most of us would agree that the situation for the poor in our legal system would be less just.

            If the proposed “right” is an imposition that the people consider to be wholly good, then framing it in a “negative right” guts it of its power, and its supporters will lose morale. Imagine how little enthusiasm the Civil Rights Act would have had, for instance, if it was framed as “if someone feel like it, they will now be allowed to treat blacks equally”.

          • John Schilling says:

            For example, if the “right to an attorney” in the U.S. Constitution had been interpreted as a negative right (i.e., you are allowed to hire an attorney, if you can afford it),

            More properly, the state is allowed to prosecute alleged criminals, if and only if it can afford attorneys for both sides. The defendant has the additional negative right of not having to accept the state-provided attorney.

          • keranih says:

            Imagine how little enthusiasm the Civil Rights Act would have had, for instance, if it was framed as “if someone feel like it, they will now be allowed to treat blacks equally”.

            Well, imagine how much less contentious it would have been, if that had been the case (as was argued in Plessy vs Ferguson, f’zample) – if discrimination was *allowed* but no longer *required*. People who wanted to offer services, housing, etc to buyers of any race could do so, and those who did not wish to do so could go on being discriminatory.

            At a minimum, it would have been a partial shift, so those hide-bound sorts who disliked change would not have been forced to accept something where they had not yet seen the value of the new way. I think that while the change (to race-neutral business dealings) would have been slow to start, once it took hold (ten-fifteen years) it would have snowballed until it surpassed even where we are today, only without the over-reach of the government-required discrimination that we call affirmative action.

            (I use foreign cars as my mental model for this – once tariffs dropped to the point where the Japanese imports were better deals, the American patriotic loyalty to Detroit folded like a cheap suit.)

            Whether or not a faster shift to a meritocracy would have been better for those on the short end of the merit stick, well, that’s another question.

          • Guy in TN says:

            I think that while the change (to race-neutral business dealings) would have been slow to start, once it took hold (ten-fifteen years) it would have snowballed until it surpassed even where we are today, only without the over-reach of the government-required discrimination

            I don’t think this would necessarily be the case. Your tariff analogy rests on too many assumptions, namely: 1. That non-discrimination is necessarily more profitable than discrimination 2. That profit-seeking will outweigh other goals a person has that are achieved by discrimination (such as cultural preservation, racial homogenity, ect)

            We have a good mini-experiment going on with sexual orientation discrimination right now, with some states outlawing it, and others silent on the matter. According to your model, all else equal, we should expect the states that were silent on the matter should surpass the states that outlaw sexual orientation discrimination, in terms of eliminating discrimination. I don’t buy it- outlawing discrimination has cultural ripple effects. The cultural norms of society, what is “acceptable” or “unacceptable” behavior are shaped by the laws they exist under.

          • Guy in TN says:

            Well, imagine how much less contentious it would have been, if that had been the case (as was argued in Plessy vs Ferguson, f’zample) – if discrimination was *allowed* but no longer *required*.

            It’s true. It would have been about as uncontentious, and unsatisfying, for the leaders of the Civil Rights movement as a bill to change the picture on a stamp. The Civil Rights movement was not formed out of concern that business owners lacked the power of non-discrimination.

          • keranih says:

            We have a good mini-experiment going on with sexual orientation discrimination right now, with some states outlawing it, and others silent on the matter.

            Ehhh. I don’t think the experiment is a) all that free market and b) shows what you think it does. *I* see something that was only marginally acceptable in a few fringe places three decades back now suddenly being enforced as the norm. If race relations had gone this route, then MLK Jr would never had had the opportunity to become a household name.

            The cultural norms of society, what is “acceptable” or “unacceptable” behavior are shaped by the laws they exist under.

            Never argued otherwise, although I think there is a limited ability to make something acceptable if the culture doesn’t accept it. What I’m talking about is the most useful and non-disruptive ways to change culture via the laws.

    • John Schilling says:

      Note that the majority view on abortion in modern western civilization is that one must not abort a living child(*) except in cases of rape, incest, or severe threat to maternal health. Rape and incest cover the vast majority of cases in which a woman didn’t freely chose to do a thing that could lead to their incubating a new life, and threats to maternal health cover the cases where the consequence of this choice might go beyond having to carry a pregnancy to term.

      Any negative right can be waived by taking on a responsibility that requires positive action. I have the right to work as an airline pilot, or not, but I do not have the right to work as an airline pilot and then quit 30,000 feet over Iceland to take up my true passion of extreme sky-diving. I have the right to speak my mind or to stay silent, but if I take a job as an air traffic controller I must offer exactly and only the proper traffic guidance until the end of my shift. One might argue that waiving a right should require some explicit contract, but nobody actually reads the fine print of their airline tickets to ensure that the airline has contracted with its pilots to remain on duty for the whole flight. And almost all real ethical systems allow for implied contracts on the grounds of obviousness, nobody would do X without a mutual agreement to Y as well, so doing X is presumed to be a contract for Y.

      In the specific case of abortion, any such contract must be implied, because the party most involved doesn’t exist until after the relevant actions have commenced. But as implied contracts go, “if you do anything that has a non-trivial probability of making an innocent life dependent on your carrying a pregnancy to term, you must carrying any resulting pregnancy to term” would seem to be on pretty solid ground.

      For a more interesting ethical question, what positive and negative rights might apply if the mother doesn’t want to raise the child after birth and there isn’t a waiting list of prospective adoptive parents?

      * Whether first-trimester embryos count as “living” is a subvariation of this, but most everyone believes that once “zygote” gives way to “child”, you are no longer allowed to kill it for the mother’s convenience.

    • It’s a category mistake to say that the fetus has a right to life because rights, in the relevant sense, are only as against the government.

      I disagree. I have a negative right not to be killed. Someone who kills me violates that right, which is why it is appropriate to forcibly prevent him from doing so or punish him if he succeeds.

      (responding this time to Karanih)

      For instance, I have a right to freedom of association, but in specific cases that right can be trumped by the government enforcing the rights of others to not be discriminated against in terms of housing, etc.

      I don’t think so. In my view, the second is a claim of a positive right–the right to have someone else hire you, rent to you, etc., unless he can show a reason acceptable for not doing so.

      I agree with a different point you made. In the abortion case, if one believes that the fetus is a person with rights, the question is whether the mother, by bringing the fetus into existence dependent on her body, is undertaking an enforceable obligation to support the fetus in her body until birth.

    • Wrong Species says:

      Do you think mothers are obligated to keep their children alive by not starving them? Congratulations, you believe in positive rights. The question is simple: at what point in its development does a fetus gain the right to be kept alive? Is it conception, birth or somewhere in between? The positive/negative rights dichotomy is almost besides the point.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        I think most people believe a mother is obligated to keeping her children alive by either not starving them OR by transferring guardianship to other (willing) adults. Transferring guardianship isn’t feasible during pregnancy, and starving a fetus without starving oneself is also virtually impossible to do intentionally, so pregnancy doesn’t really involve positive rights, and post-birth transfer of guardianship necessarily does.

  2. Deiseach says:

    Just now noticed the new slogan on the header.

    Well, we can’t say we haven’t been been warned! 😉

  3. keranih says:

    Recent news reports have brought me to think more on utilitarianism – a moral philosophy that I don’t embrace, but haven’t yet completely rejected. But pondering this set of recent events has me wondering if I’m completely grasping the system.

    The situation: Paul Shapiro and Wayne Pacelle were highly visible and highly effective administrators of Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and were together arguably responsible for the decades-long gains in legislation and public opinion shifts resulting in restrictive regulations on modern livestock farming in the USA.

    (I myself view these regulatory shifts as largely aesthetics and without positive impact, aimed primarily at driving farmers out of business, and the lack of efficacy made even worse by my strong suspicion that the end goal is to completely separate humans from domestic animals, but there are many people of good heart and sound reasoning who disagree with me.)

    Recent allegations of sexual impropriety have forced both men to resign their positions.

    (On reading what has been released about their alleged actions, and coming from a position of regarding most of the #MeToo movement with extreme dubiousness, I feel that these men acted as cads and displayed a profound lack of moral fiber, but I am quite doubtful that they did much that was *illegal* or that could be easily made illegal. (I hold that supervisors and heads of departments should *absolutely* not be shopping for sexual partners amongst their subordinates, but then I’m also an old square who doesn’t hold with “open” relationships either.))

    For the purposes of this thought experiment, I would like to accept as a given that 1) the gains that the HSUS made during the last 20 years are at least 1/3 due to the direct efforts of these two men, so that without their guidance and efforts (ie, had someone else been in their place, 1/3 of the gains would not have taken place) 2) the gains made by HSUS led to a measurable reduction in misery in a measurable number of livestock animals and 3) these two men caused a measurable amount of misery to a measurable number of subordinates who would not have been made miserable had some other, non-cad person been in the HSUS leadership position. (Here I would like to limit the measured harm to those subordinates themselves, and not to bystanders, enablers, or HSUS donors who have experienced either moral outrage or accusations of complicity.)

    Can someone work it out for me if, under those circumstances given above, it was a net gain or loss for the world, in terms of utility, that these cads were running HSUS?

    For me, the math seems pretty clear, to the point of dumping utilitarianism entirely as a moral framework and advocating that everyone else do so as well. Tell me I’m wrong.

    • noddingin says:

      @keranih
      2) the gains made by HSUS led to a measurable reduction in misery in a measurable number of livestock animals and 3) these two men caused a measurable amount of misery to a measurable number of subordinates who would not have been made miserable had some other, non-cad person been in the HSUS leadership position.

      In this world the greatest suffering of the greatest number happens to animals. Consistent Utiitarians discount animal suffering to some degree or completely. For people whose discount system supports donating to HSUS in the first place, the math is clear to the point of ignoring caddishness. The cads’ subordinate victims are not caged animals [details redacted].

  4. johan_larson says:

    In earlier OTs, we discussed Amazon’s list of finalists for its HQ2 site. I’ve done some work comparing the list with the list of top US cities.

    To begin with, there are seven cities on Amazon’s list that are not among the top 20 cities of the US: Austin, Columbus, Indianapolis, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, and Toronto. Toronto is in Canada. Pittsburgh has CMU, a major source of recruits for Amazon. Austin, Columbus, Indianapolis, and Raleigh are state capitals (which tends to imply a certain sophistication) and have major research universities nearby. The one puzzler here is Nashville. Why the heck is Nashville on Amazon’s list?

    Going the other way, there are nine top-20 cities that didn’t make Amazon’s list: Houston, Phoenix, Riverside, Detroit, Seattle, Minneapolis, San Diego, Tampa, and St. Louis. Detroit is a shithole and Amazon is already in Seattle. But the others are more puzzling. What’s wrong with Houston? The weather? And Minneapolis is supposed to be a nice place. Could it be a workforce issue? Are there just not enough of the sort of people Amazon is looking for in Tampa and St. Louis. It’s strange.

    • Deiseach says:

      Why the heck is Nashville on Amazon’s list?

      I imagine a few of the cities on the list are not really serious contenders, they’re there as bargaining chips: “well, sorry to hear you can’t move on that zoning law/tax exemption, you know City X would love to have us and they’re willing to cut a deal” type negotiating.

      As well, a cheap labour force and being a major employer in the local economy would be attractive. According to Wikipedia, Nashville is “often labeled the “Athens of the South” due to the many colleges and universities in the city and the metropolitan area” – having a pipeline of graduates that go straight from graduation to work for your business, plus local colleges working to set up courses that fit what your requirements are, working on research in conjunction with your company, having programmes funded by your business etc. is a very attractive prospect: you can pay what are good salaries by local measure without having the kind of competition for talent where the graduates expect to have a choice of employers and so you have to provide competitively expensive salaries and benefits.

      Plus there’s the real estate carrot – it would be a lot easier to get your preferred building where the local ordinances are being changed to your needs than you having to fit in with the local rules:

      Real estate is becoming a major driver for the city’s economy. Based on a survey of nearly 1,500 real estate industry professionals conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Urban Land Institute, Nashville ranked 7th nationally in terms of attractiveness to real estate investors for 2016.As of October 2015, according to city figures, there is more than $2 billion in real estate projects underway or projected to start in 2016. Due to high yields available to investors, Nashville has been attracting a lot of capital from out-of-state. A key factor that has been attributed to the increase in investment is the adjustment to the city’s zoning code. Developers can easily include a combination of residential, office, retail and entertainment space into their projects.

      Saw a link to a story about this, not sure if it’s culture-warry or not, but there’s apparently a push by a gay rights group that is campaigning on No Gay? No Way! for potential Amazon headquarters.

      So it’ll be interesting to see what city does eventually get the nod, if it’s one of the undesirable cities or not, and if there is maybe the wedge of “if you want a big industry/business to locate in your state for $$$$$$$ to the local economy and jobs, get with the progressive law-making”. (This is the culture war part I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to raise in this quarter-thread or not). I’m wondering that last bit because of why would tech companies from out of state be filing an amicus brief in a case like below?, and because of the rumblings way back about hitting discriminatory states by having events cancelled there, and the California travel bans:

      The company was one of the more than 50 tech firms that last year signed a friend of the court brief in a case involving a transgender high school student in Virginia.

      North Carolina seems to have, let’s say, adjusted its cultural sensibilities in response to economic boycotts:

      Companies in the past have used corporate clout to try to sway politicians and effect change, including in North Carolina.

      In 2016, PayPal canceled its plans to open a global operations center in Charlotte after North Carolina passed House Bill 2, also known as the “bathroom bill,” preventing cities from creating their own non-discrimination policies to protect transgender people. The center was expected to employ 400 people.

      McFarlane, who is politically unaffiliated, said after HB2’s passage that the city supports the transgender community. Republican lawmakers who control the legislature and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper partially repealed HB2 last year but set temporary restrictions on new local anti-discrimination ordinances.

      Then last fall, Cooper signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination in his administration and in companies that do business with the state.

      “The repeal of HB 2 was a major step in repairing our state’s reputation and after the repeal last year, North Carolina attracted major new investment by companies such as Credit Suisse, Infosys, Allstate and Verizon,” Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said in a statement. “Amazon knows the progress we’ve made and what a great home North Carolina would make for HQ2.”

      • Brad says:

        North Carolina seems to have, let’s say, adjusted its cultural sensibilities in response to economic boycotts:

        That’s not an accurate description of what happened. It isn’t as if the bigots changed their minds when economic pressure was applied. Rather the bigots managed to seize control of state government in the first place due to gerrymandering and low turnout. The publicity generated by the boycotts, among other things, energized more of the actual majority to come out and participate. That’s how Cooper was elected. But the gerrymandered to hell and back legislature is still trying to thwart public opinion.

        • Deiseach says:

          It isn’t as if the bigots changed their minds when economic pressure was applied.

          Which is not at all what I would expect to have happen; what I mean is I think this kind of economic pressure does nothing to change underlying attitudes, only engenders resentment in those being told “sorry, he who pays the piper calls the tune” and is a power exercise by those seeking to impose their morals on others (even for the best of intentions; do this elsewhere and there would be wails of “colonialism!” arising).

          Your description of one side as bigots is the kind of attitude that I’m talking about, and how when side A is in power it’s “they seized control by nefarious means”, when side B is in power it’s “the good people were energized to act”. I doubt not but if the places were switched and the North Carolina people were creating an activist group to improve the morals of San Francisco, there’d be the same talk of bigots and good people, only reversed as the occasion had it:

          Thou hast seen
          a farmer’s dog bark at a beggar?
          And the creature run from the cur? There thou
          mightst behold the great image of authority: a
          dog’s obeyed in office.
          Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand!
          Why dost thou lash that whore? Strip thine own back;
          Thou hotly lust’st to use her in that kind
          For which thou whipp’st her. The usurer hangs the cozener.
          Through tatter’d clothes small vices do appear;
          Robes and furr’d gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold,
          And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks:
          Arm it in rags, a pigmy’s straw does pierce it.

          • Brad says:

            a power exercise by those seeking to impose their morals on others

            You mean like the bigots with their ridiculous gerrymandering? If they are so sure of their public support, why the need for absurdly drawn districts?

            Your description of one side as bigots is the kind of attitude that I’m talking about

            I don’t especially care if you don’t like me calling a spade a spade. I’m sure you’ll live.

            and how when side A is in power it’s “they seized control by nefarious means”, when side B is in power it’s “the good people were energized to act”.

            You can go look at turnout numbers. Those are objective facts. Sorry if you don’t like them.

            I doubt not but if the places were switched and the North Carolina people were creating an activist group to improve the morals of San Francisco, there’d be the same talk of bigots and good people, only reversed as the occasion had it:

            It turns out that being a bigot has nothing at all to do with whether or not one is a native of North Carolina or an interfering outsider. Who’d have thunk?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Of course, maybe the vast majority of humans throughout history have just so happened to be bigoted in the exact same way. Or, maybe [current year]’s progressive gender norms aren’t actually self-evident, and people like Brad are displaying exactly the small-minded bigotry they accuse others of. Occam’s Razor would suggest the latter theory is more likely.

          • Barely matters says:

            Jesus Brad, are you ok?

            Half the time I’m rooting for you here, but the last few days you’ve been veering towards straight up Earthly Knight levels of frothy rage. I know I’m not even the first person to say this. Consider a week off maybe?

          • Deiseach says:

            You can go look at turnout numbers. Those are objective facts. Sorry if you don’t like them.

            Now where have I heard this before? Oh yeah, some meme floating around about, for instance, This is Thing I Want and will impose on reality regardless of your opinion. Sorry, I don’t make the rules when somebody is pushing an agenda or stupid joke or shitposting.

            Brad, I get that you’re liberal. I get that you think conservative attitudes are the ruination of the world and should all disappear. I get that this makes you angry. I have the same attitude as you, except in reverse: I think bakeries should bake gay cakes but that does not mean anything more on my part than ‘eh, eveyrone is free to go to Hell in their own way’, not “yes indeedy same-sex marriages are the exact sacramental equal of heterosexual marriages”.

            What I am saying is be careful what you wish for, such tools are a double-edged sword, and will be as eager to cut you as your enemy. Make it accepted that out-of-state big companies or interest groups can influence laws by the threat of economic pressure, and when the pendulum swings and the conservatives are in power, you have now given them a tool to say “you better repeal that unisex bathroom law if you want the new data centre”.

            Go right ahead, I don’t live in a rural shit hole, I live in San Francisco/Big Urban Centre, say you? Great, but not everybody does. And concentrating all the eggs in one basket means a dilution of power, as we saw with the recent election: it’s no good having fifty million more votes in Blue City than your opponent, if that only gets you the same seat as having ten million votes, but if some of those excess forty million had been spread out in marginal areas, you would have won seats that you did not.

            You’ve mentioned California, and a lot of similar comment likes to brag over how much richer Blue states are. But even California has its own problems, and getting tax-paying jobs into the state is something they too would have a keen interest in. How bad would the balance sheet need to look, to have the California state government willing to do some ‘adjustments’ to liberalising laws in return for jobs and taxes in less urban, less well-off areas of the state? This might not be beyond the bounds of probability!

            ‘Do as you would be done by’ is not too bad a motto.

          • Brad says:

            Go right ahead, I don’t live in a rural shit hole, I live in San Francisco/Big Urban Centre, say you? Great, but not everybody does. And concentrating all the eggs in one basket means a dilution of power, as we saw with the recent election: it’s no good having fifty million more votes in Blue City than your opponent, if that only gets you the same seat as having ten million votes, but if some of those excess forty million had been spread out in marginal areas, you would have won seats that you did not.

            I think it is quite unfortunate we in the US have such a undemocratic system, one where all animals are equal but some are more equal than others. Hopefully we can fix that unjust system one of these days.

      • The Nybbler says:

        What North Carolina is likely to find out is that capitulating isn’t sufficient; they’ll still be North Carolina and still hated. I expect Bezos doesn’t care one way or another, he’s just looking at more practical considerations. Atlanta for cost and air connections, or D.C. area for access to the politicians, seem most likely to me. Though he might want to consider that locating in a less progressive state might spare his company some of the Google-style drama.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah, I wonder if this is also something of a distraction; I have my suspicion that Amazon have it down to a shortlist of three or so cities they really intend as candidates, but something like this is very useful for places like North Carolina to think the real reason they got rejected was because of outside influence, and not because they were only on the list as a token.

          I don’t think Bezos is really going to be influenced by the No Gay No Way, but in his place I’d be very happy to have a “well gee guys, I was all prepared to move to your small-minded bigoted one horse town (yeah right) but what could I do against the might of public opinion?” excuse to divert any resentment when the dust settles and the “not within a million miles of your burgh” city is selected.

        • Brad says:

          Though he might want to consider that locating in a less progressive state might spare his company some of the Google-style drama.

          Google seems to be doing just fine. In California companies in general are doing far far better than companies in your “less progressive states”. Might want to update your mental model to match reality better.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You appear to be responding to something I did not say.

          • Deiseach says:

            Companies are doing just fine but are no more eager than your bogeyman Republicans to pay more taxes and have more regulations, so they can be as socially liberal as they like but they’re still “not enough money for public services? lol not my problem, find your own cash not my taxes!”

            Part of Google’s public firing of Damore was, in my own personal opinion, to ward off the bad publicity from the Department of Labour case about gender inequality. “Look, we fired a bigot!” they can say. “How therefore can we be treating women less well?”

        • pontifex says:

          Bezos is a numbers guy. He was a quant on Wall Street before he started Amazon. I would expect him to run the numbers for the cost of land, availability of housing, impact of tax breaks, etc. rather than getting swayed by vague feelings against a region. After all, he doesn’t have to live there, any more than he has to work as a picker or a packer.

          If he does think about the politics, I would expect that he thinks about it from a game-theory point of view. It’s better for Amazon if they can claim to be creating jobs in a red state. Putting all your eggs in the Blue Tribe basket just makes your company a pawn in the interminable culture wars.

          The real strike against North Carolina is probably just that there isn’t enough talent there. The research triangle has enough talent to sustain some defense contractors, but probably not enough for the likes of Amazon.

          • albatross11 says:

            The research triangle area is a really nice place to live, though, and it probably wouldn’t be hard to attract more high-quality people to move there. And I suspect that if politics is a factor at all in the decision, it will push them toward a red state–Republicans sometimes win elections, after all.

          • johan_larson says:

            If the issue is qualified staff, the issue is almost certainly truly senior and mid-career professional. These people are in their forties or fifties, and tend to have families and mortgages and community ties and whatnot. Twenty-somethings will move across the country and across the world to work for Amazon. Getting forty-somethings to move is harder.

      • quaelegit says:

        > Nashville is “often labeled the “Athens of the South” due to the many colleges and universities in the city and the metropolitan area”

        I found this amusing because Nashville isn’t too far from a literal “Athens of the South”, home of the University of Georgia 😛

        (And look, Ohio Univeristy is also in a town called Athens! I would say something about nominative determinism but this is probably entirely conscious and deliberate.)

        • Deiseach says:

          You get something similar with “Edinburgh, the Athens of the North”.

          I think when you need to compare yourself to the original cities and label yourself as the Athens/Venice of the Random Geographical Location, it’s a sign of desperation 🙂

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            I often shake my head when my hometown proclaims itself the “Paris of the Plains.”

            Look, I love Kansas City and have no doubts that it is the finest city in the world (especially as long as coasters sneer at “flyover country” and stay away), but monikers like that just reek of trying too hard to impress.

          • gbdub says:

            A running joke at U of Michigan (which had been called the “Harvard of the West”, back when Michigan was the West) was to refer to Harvard as “The Michigan of the East”. I had a T-shirt featuring the Harvard seal and that slogan.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Amazon requested that cities put together proposals, so it shouldn’t be surprising that a large number of finalists are political centers. These are areas that I would guess would have out sized experience in promotions/recruitment, and if you want to be cynical are filled with the type of people more willing to spend taxpayer money to make a big splash (in both the presentation and the tax incentives to draw Amazon).

    • Well... says:

      Columbus is also a major hub, and a very happening one at the moment, of logistics and supply chain management. That’s pretty important for a company like Amazon.

      Another thing to consider is where the tech talent is located. Paying for lots of employees’ relocation is a major cost. Nashville and Columbus are both home to many other Fortune 500 companies’ headquarters; those companies have already attracted the talent so Amazon can just come in and snipe it.

    • johan_larson says:

      I missed San Francisco, which is a top-20 city, but not on Amazon’s list. The problem is almost certainly cost. San Francisco and its surroundings have one heck of a talent pool, but you have to pay really well so people can afford places to live. Even then, commutes tend to be long.

      • quaelegit says:

        Cost, too close/similar in advantages to Seattle, and Amazon already has a huge presence in the Bay Area (at least a lot of my CS friends did internships with them in the Bay Area instead of Seattle).

    • Brad says:

      Why the heck is Nashville on Amazon’s list?

      Nashville is growing fairly rapidly, it may end up being a new Atlanta for its region. It’s a serious interstate hub, has 1.8 million in the metro area, and Vanderbilt is a quite respectable university. BNA doesn’t have great connections right now, but as a prior major hub it has spare capacity.

      I’d think it was a long shot, but I’d give it a better odds than Columbus or Indianapolis.

      What’s wrong with Houston?

      Got wrecked by Harvey just as the finalists were being selected. They probably had other things on their mind then working on a bid.

      That Minneapolis didn’t make the cut was a little surprising to me. It’s physically closer to Seattle than all the finalists except LA and Denver. Maybe that had something to do with it.

    • quaelegit says:

      I’m not sure “state capital” is a good proxy for sophistication. One thing that surprised me when I had to memorize state capitals in school was how often state capitals are NOT major population or cultural centers in their states. Like nothing against Harrisburg, Salem, or Carson City, but they are not the most important cities in their states culturally or economically (actually I just checked and Salem IS the second largest city in Oregon, but I hear about it less than Eugene or Hillsboro or of course Portland — if you want we can talk about Olympia instead). There are exceptions (Phoenix, Indianapolis,Boston, etc.), but I think the rule is there. And lots of state capitals that are pretty big/important cities (e.g. Sacramento, Albany) they are overshadowed by bigger and more important cities.

      • johan_larson says:

        Sure, a state capital doesn’t strictly imply sophistication. But having the state government in town means the legislators are around, and they tend to be more educated than most, with many being law school grads. And then there’s the senior civil servants (ditto) and of course the lobbyists, who tend to be a well-heeled bunch. Plus there are often important secondary institutions such as senior courts in state capitals as well, bringing in even more of the fancy folk.

        I don’t have a reference, but I remember reading that three things point to prosperity for smaller centres: a state government, a major university, and a major medical center. Some places, such as Madison, WI, are three for three. So I think a seat of state government will generally do better on cultural sophistication than a city of comparable size without the state government in town.

    • SamChevre says:

      Things I’d expect to be significant pros for Nashville.

      It’s a major transport hub–it was significant in the War between the States for that reason, and it hasn’t changed. IIRC, half the US population lives within a day’s drive. It’s got 3 interstates, an international airport, and significant rail infrastructure.

      It’s big enough to have almost any big-city amenity you’d like, helped by the music industry (which means it has more live performances than most cities of comparable size.)

      It’s fast-growing–it’s neither space-constrained via geography, nor politically constrained.

  5. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Anyone know whether Jordan Peterson has spoken against the far right?

    I’m not saying he’s obliged to do so, but at a minimum, it’s another of the temptations to waste your time on social media.

    • Anonymous says:

      Numerous times, AFAIK. Like that time he’s in that interview where they show him the picture where he’s standing behind a Pepe banner. And in his lectures about Hitler and stuff.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Frequently in his Maps of Meaning lectures. I can find some timestamps if you’re really interested. One of the things that got him started on the psychology of belief was trying to understand how people got wrapped up in pathological ideologies, in particular Nazism/the holocaust and the Soviet Union/gulags.

      So there’s a lot of reference to Jung and “incorporating your shadow.” Which is, understanding that you, as a human, are not harmless, are not by default “good,” and have in you the capacity for great evil. “The shadow of a man reaches all the way down to hell.” He wants his students to understand that the Nazi concentration camp guards were humans, not monsters, and that if they had been in Nazi Germany they probably would have been Nazis.

      With regards to current politics, well, he’s going to be speaking out more against the extreme left than the extreme right because he’s in the university system, which has a much bigger commie problem than it does a nazi problem.

      • albatross11 says:

        I haven’t read/watched anything by Peterson, but the realization that I (and people like me) am capable of great evil is one thing I got from reading a bunch of papers in a social psych class in college.

        And this fits with history. Pretty routinely, governments and societies full of ordinary human beings who weren’t recruited from prisons or mental hospitals go off and do insane and horrifying things, under the influence of social pressure, ideology, and responding to incentives.

        There’s a famous picture of a bunch of staff from one of the Nazi death camps out on a holiday together. The creepy thing is, there’s nothing creepy about the picture–if someone told you it was a bunch of people from the contracts and acquisitions office out on holiday together, you’d believe them. These were pretty ordinary human beings, doing monstrous things because humans are capable of that, and even capable of convincing ourselves our monstrous deeds are unpleasant but necessary and ultimately for the best.

        That’s a useful thing to keep in mind when you find yourself quieting your internal doubts about whether some apparently awful thing going on is really somehow okay, because after all everyone else seems to be going along and maybe it’s not so bad and all for the best.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The realization that circumstance is often the deciding factor, rather than character, in such things, is an important one; an important moral lesson. Very few people, if asked, “were you an average German in 1933/an average Hutu in 1994/any number of other examples say “I would have gone along with it all and kept my head down,” let alone say they would have done horrible things to other people. Many would say they would have resisted. But historical experience shows that most people go along, and those who do awful things outnumber those who actively resist. There’s not much to support the idea that Germans or Hutus or whoever are different. Thinking that you are (or, I am) one of the good ones, morally clean by default, no need to try to be moral, is a great way to be one of the bad ones, be it on a mundane everyday level, or a grotesque historical level. This is all perhaps a bit trite, but it doesn’t seem a common enough sentiment.

    • lvlln says:

      After watching the Cathy Newman interview, I ended up watching a bunch of his interviews in the past couple weeks, and he’s spoken out against the far right many times. There’s a couple things he’s repeated in a few interviews when he’s asked about it:

      – He sees the far right and far left as playing the same identity politics game and decries them both. He notes that he sees the right as reacting to the left’s turn to identity politics with, “Oh, so we’re all just a bunch of disparate tribes divided by our race, in constant conflict with each other? Fine, then I choose my tribe (white), and I’m gonna win.”
      – He has received a lot of messages from people on the right who were on the verge of falling into far-right extremism, but who were turned away back toward the center thanks to watching his lectures. He noted in one interview that this was his motivation for tweeting at one point towards some 4channers to “get their act together” and “sort themselves out” (I don’t know the exact phrasing, but he says variations of those phrases a lot) by using his future authoring program (one would also guess that he was also motivated by the $100 he would get from each person taking that program, though).

  6. honhonhonhon says:

    I am vaguely aware that vitamin supplements for the most part don’t do anything. Or, well, I am vaguely aware that apparently some studies say so. Why might that be the case?

    • Brad says:

      Shouldn’t that be your prior? I wouldn’t expect vitamin supplements to do anything for someone not suffering from a vitamin deficiency (scurvy, rickets, beriberi, etc.) Is the question why aren’t vitamin deficiencies widespread?

      • honhonhonhon says:

        As long as some part of the population has nutritional deficiencies, and supplements help with that, a large enough study should detect the effect. It is likely that Western people almost never eat in a way that leaves them vitamin deficient, but I don’t know, it could also be that the studies are flawed or that the supplements aren’t being digested.

        • Brad says:

          Are the studies likely to pick up people that are vitamin deficient? (Honest question, I have no idea if huge longitudinal studies with broad samples of the population or A/B studies with college students.)

    • Randy M says:

      I think vitamin deficiencies might be more widespread, but aren’t a lot of our common foods already somewhat supplemented with various added vitamins? Fortified with iron and B-whatevers?

    • John Schilling says:

      Why might that be the case?

      Vitamins are to bodies as grease is to squeaky wheels. Not enough causes big problems, but more than enough does you no more good. And in modern western civilization, pretty much everyone can afford a diet bountiful and diverse enough to provide enough of everything without even really trying.

      If there’s value in vitamin supplements, it is at the level of a daily multivitamin as a hedge against some personal dietary quirk leaving one with a minor deficiency, which is going to be hard to tease out of the data. The bit where some people go down the aisles of the local health food store making sure they’ve got 500 mg of this and 2000 units of that and God knows what other thing, that’s just pushing it into the regime of zero marginal return and introducing pure noise into any attempt to study the issue.

    • Aapje says:

      @honhonhonhon

      Because most people swallow multi-vitamins on the assumption that you can never have enough, but some vitamins are unhealthy in larger doses. So they probably do about as much bad as good.

      I would suggest only taking the vitamins that you would logically be missing out on. For people who see little sun and/or have dark skin in places where that is not the best, vitamin D is useful. Relatively many people in northern countries are deficient in that.

      Vegans should generally take B12.

      Vitamin C might be useful for people who eat little fruit.

      Other vitamins probably don’t need to be supplemented, if you have a half-way decent diet.

      • Deiseach says:

        I am vaguely aware that vitamin supplements for the most part don’t do anything. Or, well, I am vaguely aware that apparently some studies say so. Why might that be the case?

        Generally people are eating good diets and getting enough, the massive vitamin doses come from faddy notions like the Vitamin C megadosage recommended by the likes of Linus Pauling. If you’re getting enough, then any excess of the water-soluble one will be excreted and do nothing for you.

        In other cases, you could have a good diet but be deficient for other reasons. Some medications can leave you with deficiencies, so taking vitamins remedies that (though it’s correct that a good diet is better in the first place). You may have no idea why you’ve suddenly got muscle cramps or breathlessness after starting a new medication, and no idea that this is due (say) to a reduction in magnesium, and neither does your doctor so you stop taking that and start something else, because your doctor knows “studies say vitamin supplementation do nothing”, instead of recommending you to take a magnesium supplement along with the pill.

        Getting older, things like fish oil supplements for the creaky joints are also good 🙂

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      Salt is supplemented with iodine. Milk is supplemented with vitamin D,hiding the modern deficiency due to indoor lighting. “Unhealthy” Cereals are supplemented with quite a few vitamins and minerals.Monster energy drinks are vitamin fortified.

      After all of those vitamin supplements, its easy to see how the utility of a multivitamin pill is hard to track.

      Vitamins:
      Vitamin A
      B2-Riboflavin
      B3-Niacin
      B6
      B12
      Vitamin C
      FOlic Acid
      Vitamin D
      Calcium

      Minerals:
      iodine
      Phosphorous
      Magnesium
      Zinc
      Copper

      Are all those supplemented by a monster energy drink and “junk” cereal with milk instead of water. With that in mind, a mostly bad diet of lots of junk food*** with some marginal good decisions here and there may not be obviously crippling.

      Seconding Aapje, its probably smart to 1. Track your diet 2. Get a blood panel 3. Pay attention to the vitamins/minerals you seem have a deficiency, using both the blood panel and the diet chart as data inputs.

      ***A point I have about lots of junk food is that…looking at the ingredients, why is it considered junk? Look at the Memphis BBQ chicken ingredient list. Or that of a Whopper from burger king (totally unsurprising considering its made of meat, bread, and vegetables).

      Turns out, an energy drink and a whopper might not be the worst thing in the world :O. Given that surprisingly high vitamin and mineral count from a whopper and a slice of pizza and a monster, has anyone actually tabulated the typical “junk food” diet(not consistining of a childish only candy diet).

      Or, is making a kale-chicken whole wheat sandwich and a slice of orange juice ??actually?? less totally nutritionally balanced for you than eating a whopper and a zero-calorie energy drink? There has to be a reason all these teenage athletes are not falling apart, aye?****

      What is the meta-knowledge of having located all the important vitamins and minerals? Animal and rat and monkey experiments on pure supplements vs food sources, have they been done?

      ****For an additional meta discussion, what is the evidence base on the safety of current industry regulations of pesticide usage and human consumption of trace amounts for organic? Turns out its a complex issue?

      • ohwhatisthis? says:

        Note: This just shows that what looks like a “junk food” diet may actually be secure.

        • ohwhatisthis? says:

          —note, assuming this isn’t a “total junk crap” diet, like Twinkies, dew, and Doritos.

      • keranih says:

        I do not have the study in front of me, but a 1960’s study at (I think) the University of FL compared the nutritional value of a burger-n-milkshake to that of the diet that was actually consumed off the plates of college cafeteria “whole meal” servings. The burger-n-shake came out way, *way* ahead.

        Most of this was because kids just were not eating the complete meal served – no surprise, kids don’t like mass-cooked veggies. Also, a large part of the advantage was the milkshake, which if replaced with a soda (diet or not) showed a substantial loss of nutrients.

        This is a known problem in animal nutrition, where there are at least five different diets in any formulation:

        – the diet as written up by the nutritionist (with ‘book’ values for each ingredient)
        – the diet as loaded in to the mill (with real ingredients which may be degredated or superior to the book averages)
        – the diet as run out of the mill (which might be over cooked, under mixed, or contaminated)
        – the diet as delivered to the animal (might be contaminated, in a hard to reach area, or otherwise compromised)
        – the diet as consumed by the animal (because animals do have preferences, and are no more likely to chose the whole wheat bagel over the jelly donut than humans)

        Of course, when humans ‘sort’ their food and eat what they prefer, we blame the individual humans for having preferences. When animals do the same thing, we blame the humans who manipulate the environment.

        • ohwhatisthis? says:

          >Most of this was because kids just were not eating the complete meal served – no surprise, kids don’t like mass-cooked veggies.

          I view this as an *excellent* point to the “replace pizzas in schools with whole vegetables and bread”. What are you going to do, cram feed the kids? The same result probably happens.

  7. Zorgon says:

    It’s taken a really long time, but I think I have finally hit the point of Mencken’s quote about raising the black flag and starting to slit throats.

    The trigger for this has been a long-term acquaintance of mine. A long, long time ago I’d have called her a friend, but that was 10 years and a divorce from a closer friend ago. He’s gone into a trade and become an extremely useful member of society, and she’s gotten a job in the civil service and as far as I can tell is granted an extremely comfortable middle-to-upper-middle class lifestyle in return for twiddling spreadsheets, shouting at people and complaining interminably about her infinitesimal workload on Facebook.

    I say “she/her”, but of course like practically everyone else of her age cohort and income bracket, this person has decided as of a couple of years ago that they’re “genderqueer” (or possibly “agendered” or some other neologism I’m not Tumblr enough to keep up with). One must bear in mind that this person had been, and still is, the source of endless comments prefixed with “As a woman…” and “I don’t think you understand what women…” and on and on and on; the most egregious example of which was her telling me that my upcoming wedding, at that time still in the planning stages, was far too low-key and my then-fiancee couldn’t possibly be happy with the plans and that “if I was a woman I’d understand.”
    (The extremely-low-key wedding was caused partly by our considerable poverty, and the woman telling me this was from a wealthy upper-middle class family that spent something like 6 figures on her wedding. Of course. But mainly the low-key thing was my beloved’s idea; she preferred the idea of something quiet in a registry office with close friends and family only.)

    So needless to say I didn’t respond well to this person’s declaration that they now had Super Special Gender Identity Status and that we must all immediately kowtow to their decision or be considered Bad Friends (this was before disagreeing with this sort of thing meant you were a Nazi and could be punched with impunity, of course). But I put up with it, ranted loudly in private to non-mutual friends about the incredible, jaw-dropping audacity of the woman, and got on with her life.

    Until the day before yesterday, when she posted on her Facebook about how incredibly unfair it was that people run historical LARPs involving fixed binary gender roles, because it “erases her identity”. This woman, who I will note is arguably still the most “Plz give sympathy for how hard it is to be a woman” person I’ve ever known, made a whole impassioned declaration and demand for sympathy about how she felt she was pushing her face against some kind of glass ceiling because her special gender identity isn’t represented.

    In historical LARPs.

    That’s it. I’m out of patience, I’m out of charity, I’m done. I’m not giving these people the benefit of the doubt any more. I have gazed into the abyss and it has dyed purple hair and reposts Jessica Valenti articles.

    I guess what I’m asking is for someone to talk me down. Because as things stand I’m having to devote a significant portion of my mental and emotional energy not committing social and career suicide. The single thing keeping me from becoming a marginally less fabulous version of Milo right now is that I work in the video game industry, which as we all know has its gatekeeping apparatus entirely and completely SJW infested from top to bottom, so revealing my power level (as the chan kids say) would be utterly ruinous. But on the other hand, I cannot keep quietly watching the narcissists take over. What the hell do I do, Agony SSC?

    • Iain says:

      You know an inane drama magnet. She says dumb things on Facebook. Why is the solution not simply to stop wasting your time reading the things she posts on Facebook?

      Like, sure, her particular flavour of irritation is social justice flavoured. If the cultural context were different and her grabs for authority were all “As a mother” or “As a Christian”, would she be any less annoying?

      For your own sanity, just unfriend her and move on.

      • Zorgon says:

        Imma hear you and Imma take your advice, but…

        She’s just the final straw. It’s really, really not just her.

        This was retweeted by a friend and former colleague/mentor yesterday (Trigger Warning: Brianna Wu):

        https://twitter.com/Spacekatgal/status/959060124752113664

        Bear in mind that she’s taking about Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari. She led the campaign to get the GDC to retract their Pioneer Award to him. Never mind that she has produced a grand total of one terrible game that sold paltry amounts, the important thing is that she made some grandiose claims about the Evil Enemy and gave the press lots of red meat to drive the Two Minutes Hate, so we must all go along with her campaign to erase the history of the medium and slander one of the founding figures in gaming!

        Like most Grey Tribe folks, I built my social circles out of Blue Tribe people; I’m surrounded by it. I cannot get away from it. I feel like I’ve woken up in a pool full of sharks and I can’t move without getting a papercut.

        • Iain says:

          My goodness. If the Game Developer’s Conference does not give Nolan Bushnell this award, our children may grow up never knowing who founded Atari! (Well, aside from his place in the Video Game Hall of Fame. And the Consumer Electronics Association Hall of Fame. And his BAFTA. But other than that!)

          I bet Nolan Bushnell is really upset about all this.

          • Zorgon says:

            Yes, his carefully-worded prostration before the howling mob definitely convinces me that I shouldn’t be upset about them labelling him as being on par with Harvey Weinstein.

            But, I mean, I’m just a privileged white(ish) male! Obviously we should centre the women’s voices here… let’s see what they have to say about it.

            Any response to that from The Verge? The Guardian? Etc? No? Thought not.

        • John Schilling says:

          This was retweeted by a friend and former colleague/mentor yesterday (Trigger Warning: Brianna Wu):

          That was entertaining. Did you notice that about 90% of the replies were telling Wu to knock it off?

          If you didn’t notice that, you need to quit Twitter, cold turkey. And probably Facebook and the rest. Social media is for keeping in touch with friends you don’t see or talk to regularly, and what’s the point of friends like that anyway?

          That’s not a rhetorical question. There is some value to having “Facebook friends”. But it is almost certainly not worth the aggravation it is causing you, so if you can’t effectively curate and/or critically evaluate your social media feed, cut it off. Otherwise, look for the signs of hope, like the pushback against Brianna Wu’s outburst.

          • Zorgon says:

            To be clear, while 90% of the replies were telling Wu where to stick it, much of my direct Twitter feed is comprised of people inside the industry and they were most definitely doing the precise opposite. (I don’t use Twitter for anything other than industry stuff.)

        • Deiseach says:

          (1) I’d agree with the advice about unfriending/dumping/cutting off all contact with Drama Queen

          (2) The industry stuff is a pain in the neck, but I think most of it is more “HR says we have to have a policy on this” than actual belief. There certainly are influential voices making a mess all over the place, but the main thing is the bottom line, to be blunt and unsophisticated about it. If whining snowflakes make sales of a company’s new game crash, they will kow-tow to the whining snowflakes in as public a manner as possible. If the whining gets a few headlines but people still buy it, they won’t bother making big splashy announcements.

          I’m beginning to think this is cresting; the more egregious rainbow hairdye lot are at their maximum influence (as with Hollywood) and the tide will turn because (a) much of the change will have happened (b) the demands get too irksome and minute (tiny fiddly little things are microaggressions!) where nobody cares except the whining snowflakes, and it turns out there’s not as many of them as originally thought. After the big push for transgender rights in the wake of the gay marriage success, the general cultural tone in society is likely to be: guy in a dress says he’s a woman, okay, she’s a woman (if you dress, behave and look like a woman, you’re a woman). Person in ratty holed jeans says they’re six different genders any day of the week and there’s no such thing as binary gender, who has time or patience to put up with that nonsense (except Google and that’s only because they’ve got more money than God)?

          It does suck right now, but I do believe most organisations are actually in Cover Your Ass mode than True Believer mode.

          • cassander says:

            It does suck right now, but I do believe most organisations are actually in Cover Your Ass mode than True Believer mode.

            If cover your ass mode persists long enough, it eventually becomes true believer mode, or at least conventional wisdom mode, which is almost as bad.

          • Deiseach says:

            If cover your ass mode persists long enough, it eventually becomes true believer mode, or at least conventional wisdom mode, which is almost as bad.

            But at least in CYA mode, no-one is going out looking for witches or heretics or interested in getting up a crusade, they just want to nod along to the Annual Diversity in the Workplace lecture then get back to work and forget all about it. Zorgon is, not unnaturally, worried that right now they’re in the middle of an industry-wide Let’s Root Out Heresy campaign, while it may in actuality be that everyone is so scared that the other person is a True Believer, they’re only issuing the usual “let us applaud Comrade Stalin’s great speech” boilerplate in response to stuff like this simply for the sake of CYA.

    • James says:

      I admit that I, too, am puzzled by the number of completely gender-conforming, unandrogynous women I know who have started using they/them and calling themselves genderqueer.

      • Deiseach says:

        I admit that I, too, am puzzled by the number of completely gender-conforming, unandrogynous women I know who have started using they/them and calling themselves genderqueer.

        To the point where, when I see someone describing themselves as such, I automatically go “Ah, a woman wrote this”.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I know this isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it does look like “transgenders have a penis, genderqueers have a vagina”, doesn’t it?

          • Deiseach says:

            Over on the sub-reddit, both of us would already have been banned for a minimum of a month for this 🙂

            So I will carefully neither agree nor disagree with any comment, taking every opportunity to disassociate myself from Obviously Bad Hats, and neither confirming nor denying anything anybody has said ever anytime anyplace anywhere, it’s the right one, that’s Martini.

      • ohwhatisthis? says:

        Sexual arousal is comprised of the subjective and genital sensation that we get when exposed to provocative sexual stimuli. For men, sexual arousal may be the primary way they learn their sexual orientation. That is, heterosexual men become aroused by women, and homosexual men by men. There has long been the suspicion that women’s sexual arousal is less predictable by their sexual orientation, and we have recently demonstrated that this is true. In this line of research, we have studied men’s and women’s subjective and physiological (i.e., genital) response to purely male, purely female, or mixed (male-female) sexual stimuli. As expected based on prior research, men’s responses were category specific; that is, homosexual men were aroused by male stimuli and heterosexual men were aroused by heterosexual stimuli. Women had a very different, bisexual, pattern of arousal, on average, no matter whether they were heterosexual or homosexual. This probably means that men’s and women’s brains are organized quite differently, and furthermore, that (visual) sexual arousal does not play as important a role in women’s sexual orientation development as it does in men’s. You can download our article, which was published in Psychological Science.

        *citation
        http://faculty.wcas.northwestern.edu/JMichael-Bailey/research.html

    • Randy M says:

      You are aware you can unfollow people on Facebook, right? How often is this sort of thing in your life apart from social media?
      There’s something to be said for taking a bold stand for truth as you see it, speaking your mind and letting the chips fall where they may. Perhaps you’ll be a catalyst for some preference cascade for saying what the cowed masses are all thinking.
      Personally I tend towards the “ignore the crazy and let reality be the judge” position.

      • Zorgon says:

        How often is this sort of thing in your life apart from social media?

        My primary hobbies are tabletop games, larping, and video games. So the answer to your question is “every time I do anything at all”.

        edit: Also, I should probably remind folks that I’ve literally lost friends because I’ve linked them to Slate Star Codex articles. This is not just a social media problem.

        • Randy M says:

          Well, mine too, but I host events for the same group of personal acquaintances and don’t seek out opinions on Twitter much, so it is a very minor background noise in my life.

          There was the time a friends wife took the time to post an article in our closed 5-10 person group about how bad it can be to be the only representative of a marginalized group in amidst a bunch of privileged tabletop players. This seemed like a personal rebuke, given the context, and I bite my metaphorical tongue to avoid telling her to take her social causes and shove em, especially since she won’t even allow her husband out of the house on a weekly basis anymore.

    • Brad says:

      Whatever I might think of the underlying notion in general, it seems rather perverse to reference Mencken’s quote about the supposed irrepressible male instinct for violence as a jumping off point for a long rant about how you’ve had it up to here and someone ought to stop you before you start writing strongly worded facebook posts. Unless you are actually considering murdering this person, in which case I’d strongly recommend seeking psychiatric help.

      Also, BTW

      work in the video game industry, which as we all know has its gatekeeping apparatus entirely and completely SJW infested from top to bottom

      “we” know no such thing.

      • Zorgon says:

        The SJWs went after Nolan Bushnell – a man with more impact in his left fingertip than any of these failures – and both the entire gaming press and the GDC followed along within a day or two. There is no longer any uncertainty about this.

        • Brad says:

          If you think that is slam dunk evidence for your claim–“its gatekeeping apparatus entirely and completely SJW infested from top to bottom”–such that you no longer have “any uncertainty” than I have to wonder what in the world you are doing posting in any part of the greater rationalist-sphere. Because it is abundantly clear that you have no interest in being “less wrong”, confronting cognitive biases, or building more accurate models of the world. You just want to rant about the hated “SJW” enemy directly to a nodding choir. Aren’t there chans for that sort of thing?

          • Zorgon says:

            I’m a cunning agent sent by dark sneering forces to flush out would-be members of the Rationalist Police, clearly.

            I’ve made my priors and the basis of my current positions very clear; you have done nothing thus far except yowl at me for not agreeing with your (thus far unstated but easy to infer) position. Hardly the response of an arch-rationalist, now is it?

          • rlms says:

            I didn’t know that randomly state things and claiming those statements as your “priors” was sufficient to call mark someone as a Rationalist. If Time Cube Guy popped up here and did the same thing, would we respect that? (Well, maybe, but I think that would probably be wrong).

          • Zorgon says:

            Oh, are we playing Negative Affect By Association now? Hurray, I love that game! OK, um… you’re just like Gilles de Rais in some unspecified fashion!

            Bored now. Can people quit with this comment policing stuff already? Either engage with the damn point or go bother someone else.

          • Randy M says:

            Some people really enjoy making sure the grass in our walled garden is 4.5 inches and no higher. I’m not sure it’s worth arguing them out of this past time.

          • Brad says:

            Either engage with the damn point or go bother someone else.

            What exactly are the damn points you think you made? Do you think this place should be a safe space for evidence free rants about the hated enemy and that such rants should met only with uncritical emotional validation? Because that sounds awful to me.

          • Zorgon says:

            You responded with two things, one of which was snarking at something drawn from a very-well-known passage from this very blog (!), the other one of which was effectively nothing more than “LOLNO”.

            I know your glass house is well-polished, but please try to remember it’s there when you get the stone-throwing urges.

          • Zorgon says:

            I would also like to request that you examine your motivations and consider why you feel the need to walk through comment threads correcting people’s overstatements regarding SJW infestation (you’ve done it more than once in this comment thread alone).

            Y’know, while we’re making Rationalist Demands of one another.

          • Iain says:

            @Brad:

            While I share your opinion on the underlying merits of Zorgon’s claim, you might want to chill out a little. This is not the first time in the last couple of days where you’ve seemed to get a little too personal. Take a deep breath and relax. It’s just the Internet.

            @Zorgon:

            Unartfully phrased as it may be, Brad and rlms have a point. You are not acting maximally rationally here. Put it this way: is there any evidence that you would accept that would demonstrate that you are blowing this out of proportion? Again: this is Nolan Bushnell’s response to this whole incident:

            I applaud the GDC for ensuring that their institution reflects what is right, specifically with regards to how people should be treated in the workplace. And if that means an award is the price I have to pay personally so the whole industry may be more aware and sensitive to these issues, I applaud that, too. If my personal actions or the actions of anyone who ever worked with me offended or caused pain to anyone at our companies, then I apologize without reservation.

            That is a pretty unequivocal statement. It should give you pause. Instead, you instantly dismissed it as “carefully-worded prostration before the howling mob”. Really? Nolan Bushnell is a 74 year old multi-millionaire, not some wilting flower. What exactly do you think he is afraid of? This is, as you keep telling us, the man who founded Atari, and a couple dozen other companies besides. You really think he wouldn’t be willing to stand up for himself? Or at the very least hold himself back from “applauding” more than once in a three sentence statement?

            It’s kind of scary to consider the possibility that your revered hero actually agrees with your enemies. Because if that were true, and your enemies had a valid point all along, then all this self-righteous indignation you’re feeling might be nothing more than the joy of taking part in a whipped-up mob.

            But we all know that They are the only ones who whip up mobs. There’s no way that We would ever do that.

          • rlms says:

            @Iain
            My reply is perfectly artfully phrased for the purpose of amusing myself, which is clearly the only thing anyone here except you is doing.

          • pontifex says:

            I didn’t know that randomly state things and claiming those statements as your “priors” was sufficient to call mark someone as a Rationalist. If Time Cube Guy popped up here and did the same thing, would we respect that? (Well, maybe, but I think that would probably be wrong).

            Of course!

            😉

      • Zorgon says:

        Also, here’s what I was referencing:

        I struggle against this all the time. H.L. Mencken writes “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.” Well, this is my temptation. It requires more willpower than anything else I do in my life – more willpower than it takes for me to get up in the morning and work a ten hour day – to resist the urge to just hoist the black flag and turn into a much less tolerant and compassionate version of Heartiste.

        From the Righful Caliph himself.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Obsessing about an infuriating person is a life-sucking habit– speaking from experience, it’s a very hard one to give up, but it might be possible to tone it down.

      Is it feasible for you to stop reading her on facebook? Not that this helps with the general problem.

      I’m distracted by the possibility of a game about a woman organizing the defense of her castle while her husband is off fighting or possibly dead. I believe this really happened in the middle ages. On the other hand, it presumably wouldn’t be a LARP. Or could it be?

      • Zorgon says:

        To re-iterate what I said above – this is not specifically about this one person. She’s just the final damn straw, the illustrative example of everything which has been dogging my heels for the last few years.

        Regarding your idea – I’ve seen it used in a LARP quite a few times. LARP has a pretty good gender ratio, at least in the UK, so finding exciting roles for women has been of considerable importance for a long time and solutions range from wholly egalitarian fantasy settings to constructing scenarios like the one you mention in historical settings.

        • Thegnskald says:

          China has a long history of women warriors, and someone might find LARPing a Chinese battle interesting. Although the most prominent battles involving large numbers of women came later (Opium wars and the socialist revolution), they were frequently present in peasant uprisings in particular.

          Because of the nature of the Chinese draft, they were never present in large numbers in regular armies; in general, women have played a larger role in war when the war is fought with volunteer forces rather than drafted, it is just that draft forces have long been the norm. So volunteer armies – which will typically be revolts – would be the place to look for women in historical war.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Hm. Who was the noblewoman who flashed an army holding her son hostage while her husband was away? She said something like “I can make more sons” in response to their demand to use the hostage to gain entry into the fortress.

      • It really happened in the Middle Ages.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I agree with Iain. I gather she’s not in your social or work circles aside from Facebook, so just cutting her off entirely is probably the best route.

    • Thegnskald says:

      It sounds like you have a terrible.social group, between this and other comments.

      Personally? I’d say hoist the flag. But hoist -their- flag. And hang them on it. Write about female privilege, about how corporations sell feminism out to sell movies, about how politicians sell feminism out to buy votes. Write about how modern feminism has changed from empowering women to live up to the standards men live by, to infantilizing them and arguing that the standards for women should be lowered, all to the ends of selling women moisturizers and media. Point out that challenging the gender status quo isn’t achieved by treating women as having innate womanly wisdom, or in treating women’s suffering as special, or in lauding praise on mediocre products because they are nominally pro-women; that these attitudes are parochial throwbacks to an era where women got patted on the head for trying, because after all they couldn’t be expected to do as well as men. Remind people how sexist the Democrats were about Sarah Palin. Insist that treating women as needing special protections is sexist and demeaning.

      Make them choke on their ideology. It really isn’t hard; feminists spent decades building up a case for equal treatment, and it all hinged on the argument that women are just as good as men. Make your case -as- a feminist.

      And let the chips fall where they will. Do you really want to stay friends with the people who will leave?

      • Iain says:

        This is terrible advice, and you should ignore it.

        • Thegnskald says:

          I’d say any advice that amounts to “Ignore your feelings on the matter” is terrible advice. That turns people into paranoid recluses who are terrified of speaking out, a terror that gradually turns into a much less ignorable anger.

        • Zorgon says:

          Clearly he should just have made sarcastic comments instead, that seems to be the way forward.

          (You’re right, though, it’s impressively self-destructive advice.)

          • Thegnskald says:

            Nah.

            It isn’t advice about how to change the world, however, it is advice about how to change your perspective about the world.

            Because nobody will destroy you. You will just be ignored by everyone outside your small circle.

            “Guy argues old school feminism was better” isn’t something that anyone would even want to signal-boost; it is a way of making your points that will help relieve your frustration without incurring particular social costs.

            You could just argue your perspective. I do so all the time, under names that are one Google search away from my real name. Nobody cares. You aren’t important, you are just another face in the crowd.

            The feminism angle is to help you -feel- safer. Because the mob of angry voices strikes more randomly than deliberately; they can’t bring terror down on every voice speaking against them.

            And once you realize the danger is mostly in your head, a lot of the anger will go with it.

    • lvlln says:

      So in a recent Sam Harris podcast, he had on Eric Weinstein & Ben Shapiro, and Weinstein coined a term he called “the intellectual dark web,” referring to the group of “classic” liberal thinkers like the people in that podcast and others like Eric’s brother Bret, Jordan Peterson, Christina Hoff Sommers, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, etc. who have become persona non grata by the SJW-left for daring to have honest intellectual discussions about thorny social issues. Leaving aside the Xtreme Kool edginess of that name, I thought he made a good point, which is that, for as powerful and influential as the SJW-left is, their contributions to the conversation about social issues is stagnant and boring, and if they refuse to engage with such people, then such people can just keep those conversations going on their own.

      Going to your story, what I’m getting at is that, yes, people like your genderqueer “friend” exist, and they do cause incredible harm to others through the resentment and hatred they express under the guise of progressivism. But you can’t do anything to change people like her. But you CAN seek out like-minded others who aren’t so ideologically possessed. Those people exist, and they’re continuing the conversation on how best to affect the direction of society and of each individual’s lives, and leaving the SJW-left with their simplistic one-note message behind. Who’s to say how well that will go, but at least for me, whenever I feel despair at the SJW-left continuing to infest everything in my life, I turn my thoughts to the fact that the so-called “intellectual dark web” does exist, and that, as far as objective numbers indicate, it’s gaining popularity and attention. Who’s to say if it will end up actually achieving much, but I think it’s far too early to say that all hope is lost.

      In terms of your career, it sounds like you’re having to walk a tightrope, which seems really awful and stressful. I don’t know how much your skills are transferable to outside the gaming industry, but maybe you could explore that? That’s not to say that you should change your job; but rather, put yourself in as best a place as possible to survive if it becomes the case that you inadvertently commit career suicide. I think what allows the SJW-left to continue its creeping infestation into all levels of society is how effective they are at punishing people who tell the truth, and one way to fight back against it is to always tell the truth. That doesn’t necessarily mean become another Milo – rather, it means to be very careful with what you say, to give yourself the least amount of vulnerability while still not lying. And sometimes even that’s not enough, and so it’s good to have all your ducks in a row, and also to put yourself in as indispensable a position as possible, so that you’re harder to take down. It sucks that you’d have to work that much harder just to get by, but, well, it is what it is. And maybe if you do that, you can have your cake and eat it to, by fighting the creeping SJW infestation in what little way you can, while also keeping your job, and maybe you won’t feel emotionally and mentally exhausted.

      • Zorgon says:

        Thank you. This is a genuinely insightful and helpful comment and I appreciate it a great deal.

        My current day job is “games-adjacent”, which is another way of saying I’ve already followed your advice some time ago (albeit not entirely by choice, but that’s a whole other mostly unconnected story). I’m working my way back into games for the simple reason that I love making them and don’t really know how to stop. Still, if the Eye Of Mordor descends upon me then I will find myself out of work very quickly. For now, “hiding my power level” (there needs to be a better term for this but so far the chans are the only people who have come up with one) is about the only chance I have.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’m working my way back into games for the simple reason that I love making them and don’t really know how to stop.

          If the industry is as fully infiltrated as you say, and your feelings are as described, I suggest you do stop. As someone who is at least nearly as equally upset by these people and who spent some years at Google as the SJWs got more and more obnoxious (see Damore’s lawsuit Exhibit B for details), it is extremely emotionally draining to put up with that shit. Less emotionally draining, but career-limiting, to NOT put up with that shit.

          • Zorgon says:

            I’ve been operating on a basis of “If I wait long enough the pendulum will swing and I won’t need to hide any more”. Not sure if I still believe that now.

        • lvlln says:

          Have you heard of the currently-in-development game called Yandere Simulator? It’s being made by one guy, and the game has been attacked by SJWs for its theme & imagery, which is you playing as a high school stalker girl going around murdering her potential rivals to the affection of her crush, while avoiding detection. It’s already banned on Twitch, and it’s nowhere near close to release yet, and the developer has explicitly called out Twitch for banning him for possibly SJW-related reasons. The developer has a YouTube channel where he occasionally posts updates on the development progress, and it has 1.8 million subscribers, and his latest video, posted today, already has 300K views.

          I have no idea if this game will succeed or if this guy will be out in the streets this time next year. I have no idea if the model for development he’s following makes any sense for anyone else. But I think, at the very least, the popularity of his videos indicates that there is the possibility for a game developer to survive even while openly fighting against the SJW-left. Maybe you’ll have to carve your own unique path that’s very different from what others have, like this guy has; I imagine that would be extremely scary and stressful and require even more hard work than a regular video game developer. But how does that difficulty compare to the difficulty of the constant mental and emotional energy being sucked away from you right now? That’s a legitimate question you might want to ask yourself, and it’s not obvious which one’s the right answer. But I do think the industry is such that there is a choice that you can make, rather than losing all hope.

          • Deiseach says:

            I dunno, I don’t identify as SJW and I’d not be thrilled about a game based on “crazy teenager commits mass murder FOR OBSESSIVE INFATUATION LOVE” either!

          • pontifex says:

            I dunno, I don’t identify as SJW and I’d not be thrilled about a game based on “crazy teenager commits mass murder FOR OBSESSIVE INFATUATION LOVE” either!

            This seems to be a recurring theme. Choose between SJW nonsense or weird fringe culture. Come on, at least we gave you the choice… vote for Turd Sandwich or Giant Douche.

          • lvlln says:

            I dunno, I don’t identify as SJW and I’d not be thrilled about a game based on “crazy teenager commits mass murder FOR OBSESSIVE INFATUATION LOVE” either!

            Well, just because you aren’t thrilled about the game doesn’t mean you are going around shaming the creator and his fans or actively sabotaging his ability to sell advertise his game.

      • albatross11 says:

        It seems like a hopeful sign, to me, that there are a lot of places online (including here) where you can find smarter conversations about touchy social issues. Those discussions surely have a lot of mistakes and bad actors and such, but they’re also the only way we can hope to converge on a sensible picture of the world.

        The whole phenomenon of whipping up a virtual mob (and more rarely, a real one) in response to people making statements or arguments you don’t like is incredibly broken. But it works well with our media and culture, where most people don’t really pay attention unless someone is outraged and there’s an apparent burning issue to deal with. And where a lot more people care about “whose side are you on?” than about “who’s right?” or “how can we figure out who’s right?”

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Pope Benedict wrote somewhere that when he was a boy during the Nazi regime, reading old books was what kept him sane.
      So keep doing your historical stuff and ignore the hair dye totalitarians.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Unfollow people on social media, don’t hateread stuff, and find hobbies/communities that are closer to neutral. Ignore the “community” of a hobby you must keep – tabletop RPGs are one of my major hobbies, and yet somehow I have no idea what the “RPG community” is like. The only RPG community you need is the people you play with. If you have a job that’s in a field where people are annoying, just keep your head down. If you have a hobby where you must be a part of a larger community (LARPing?) minimize your exposure outside of that. There are plenty of neutral places – some people here are scared of the omnipresent and all-powerful “hairdye NKVD”, but they are convinced that everyone outside of a few university campuses, etc, is basically a blackshirt; it seems pretty obvious neither position is anywhere close to correct.

      Don’t argue with people over social media; do it in person one-on-one or not at all. People who are completely unreasonable over social media/in groups/in groups over social media are usually much friendlier, etc, in person; conversely, some people who are reasonable in person are awful in groups or over social media. Social media is pretty poisonous; it feeds into and upon a lot of awful human tendencies.

      Criticize yourself/your opinions. Don’t be “this person is annoying, therefore, I must take the opposite road.” That’s unhealthy too. We all fall victim to this. Pick some person you might take over your annoying acquaintance or some lefty culture warrior and criticize them.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Good advice, for, I think, the wrong problem.

        Zorgan’s issue seems to be that he feels powerless in a sea of hostile forces who will destroy him if he ever reveals himself. This gives rise to anger.

        This advice might help long-term, but I think it could also result in a deep resentment about being chased out of the places he used to occupy.

        What he needs to learn isn’t that not everybody is like that, but that the people that are like that are, on net, basically harmless. Loud, annoying, but harmless. We hear about the cases they pursue – that isn’t the case that should worry us, it would be if the people they attacked were so common as to not be noteworthy.

        Noteworthy/newsworthy is a bizarre issue, because it means the cases that attract our limited attention are usually the cases we should be worried least about, but, because of perverse incentives drawing them to our attention, seem the most pertinent issues.

        • dndnrsn says:

          His comment seemed to be a minor of worry/fear with a major of annoyance/anger. He can control his internal state, what he does, what he consumes, a lot better than he can control the outside world.

        • Zorgon says:

          Thegnskald, I think you are wrong and that your viewpoint on the world is skewed by your own relative freedom from this particular interminable cultural storm. (Which now I think of it is kind of a “check your privilege” response…)

          Regardless, thank you for at least attempting to engage in good faith and with empathy; it is appreciated.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Are you talking to me or Thegnskald?

          • Zorgon says:

            Edited for clarity 🙂

          • Thegnskald says:

            Well, I doubt I can convince you, but just keep in mind an old soldier in this particular war just doesn’t find it that concerning.

            Mind, there are aspects of the culture war that I do have trouble maintaining emotion equilibrium about – which can loosely be summed up as “Men are now saddled with the same responsibilities and none of the privileges that balanced things out” – but as far as danger goes, driving to pick up my e-cig fluid is way more dangerous than pissing off the professionally pissed.

            Hm. It is hard to say which addiction I prefer more, nicotine or annoying people who need to be annoyed.

      • Zorgon says:

        @dndnrsn:
        Good advice, and I’ll figure out what parts I’m capable of following. Thank you.

      • Baeraad says:

        tabletop RPGs are one of my major hobbies, and yet somehow I have no idea what the “RPG community” is like.

        It’s not a pretty sight. Think of the most anal-retentive, railroading GM you’ve ever had. That’s the progressive faction. Then think of the most immature, uncontrollable, “I’m Chaotic Neutral so I can run around trying to have sex with everything” player you’ve ever had. That’s the libertarian faction. Those two factions make up 99% of the online roleplaying community, and spend 99% of their time trying to think of ways of getting on each other’s nerves. Possibly some actual roleplaying gets done at some point, but only if it is a hyper-enlightened examination of privilege and prejudice or a testosterone-brimming gorefest with extra rape and misogyny, respectively.

    • Anonymous says:

      What the hell do I do, Agony SSC?

      Move somewhere where being genderqueer gets you beat up, not kowtowed to.

      • Zorgon says:

        Even if I considered beating up narcissistic idiots an acceptable solution (and I don’t), there are vanishingly few places that would support both that idea and… well, more-or-less anything else about my life.

        • Anonymous says:

          Have you heard about Eastern Europe?

          (I’m not proposing YOU beat them up. Just go somewhere where these people have a good reason not to advertise themselves.)

      • dndnrsn says:

        This is terrible advice, because the kind of people who do that are not especially nice, to say the least.

        • Anonymous says:

          Depends on your level of tolerance for post-modernism vs your level of tolerance for petty crime and/or vigilantism. FWIW, living in the USA already means you have to have a high level of tolerance of crime, so moving to a place where people are hostile to genderqueers, but generally rob and kill people much less would be an improvement.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Pick your poison, I guess. One the one hand, someplace SJWs get to use their proclaimed marginalization as a lever to get control of social and corporate apparatus which they use to punish dissenters. On the other, someplace where someone who admits to being a member of a marginalized class gets physically punished for it. I’d prefer “neither”, but I’m not sure it exists.

          • albatross11 says:

            Wouldn’t most of the working world qualify here? Plenty of offices have a culture in which you will be fired neither for being a loud Trump supporter nor for being openly gay.

          • Anonymous says:

            Not sure those are a stable state. Known states appear to be:
            1. Normalcy expected, abnormality punished.
            2. Normalcy and abnormality tolerated.
            3. Normalcy punished, abnormality celebrated.

            So far as I know, only 1 is anywhere near stable.

          • Nice to know everyone has always agreed on what normality is.

    • Nornagest says:

      Are genderqueer Vikings really a hill you want to die on?

    • AG says:

      Leave tech and get into SEM. I have lab technicians working for me that voted Trump, and others who are pro-guns rights Democrats. I have met lab techs at two different companies now who were in punk bands for years before becoming lab techs. There are still others who take the usual Trump potshots. And there are 1st generation immigrants. These people all still attend each others’ barbecues outside of work and share food recipes and talk sportsball or TV with no political subtext, in between, you know, actually doing the work.

      And then get deep on a fandom so overtly degenerate that the friends you make keep it pretty apolitical because you cannot get into such a fandom without not giving that much a shit about moral mores..

      The grey tribe is seriously out of touch with the rest of America (like, even more than the blue tribe, because the blue tribe is large enough to have border members seeing the outside perspective, whereas grey’s borders are all blue). Leave the bubble and discover that most people don’t give a shit about these things!

      I mean, most of them will probably make just as much fun of historical LARPS for trad reasons, so you should probably pick up the perspective on that part, too. Learn how good you’ve got it that your hobbies are even acceptable water cooler talk. Or decide it’s not worth it, and you’d prefer to work in a place where you’re basically back in the nerd closet, but no one will talk smack about your shit in a really cringey way. Because, again, they don’t give a shit about any of it.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I don’t know about Zorgon but it’s a little late for me to start a new career as an entry-level lab tech. Besides, not long ago tech was politically diverse as well. For all I know, labs are just a few years behind.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I’m guessing that AG is in a different field than I am, because biomedicine is pretty far gone in terms of culture.

        There are some truths that must be acknowledged because of the nature of the field. If you ignore the biological ramifications of sex or ethnicity when you’re researching e.g. non-small cell lung cancer your results will be worthless. But in a way that just makes biomedical scientists that much more desperate to signal PC-compliance in other areas.

        Between how pervasive overt discrimination against white men is and how few academic jobs are left I’ve begun preparing to leave academia as soon as I get my doctorate and MBA. Industry and consulting have their own problems but at least I’ll be getting paid in proportion to the amount of shit I’d need to swallow.

    • Robert Liguori says:

      First: Let me say that the situation you’re in sucks. Seeing vice cloak itself in the colors of virtue and be celebrated for it is incredibly discomfiting, and when the vice in question is undisguised malice towards you and yours, it can be very easy to be very stressed.

      However, let me follow up by asking you to at least consider the possibility that you are seeing many bad actors, and confusing them for Everyone. I know you can think of a dozen people like Spreadsheet-Twiddling LARP Complainer, and that they are the most egregious, but I really think that you will find, as you audit your circle of friends in your mind, that there are some good ones among them.

      Look for them. Speak to them, if you can, about your troubles, in as neutral terms as you can manage. You may well find that many of the people around you feel similarly, and were just as fearful of you of bad actors being all that there were.

      Or you might not, at which point you shrug, re-do your audit, and if absolutely necessary, seek out a broader circle of friends.

      I also think it might be helpful to really look at the specifics of your own company and situation in particular. There certainly have been culture war horror stories out of the video game industry and many others, but it may do you some good to look at the specifics of your own company, and your own situation. If your own company isn’t reiterating the Standard Narrative (or is doing it in the expected large corporate way of making the appropriate noises and spending a moderate bit of money and attention on it, then going back to doing things the old way), then that is probably a good sign. And if you see the reverse, that your company in particular is beginning to espouse specific values and positions you disagree strongly with…well, as you say, you have a valuable skill, and you do have options.

      If I were in your position, I’d strongly recommend looking for a large, boring company and becoming an IT drone there, and pursuing games development in your own time, according to your own agenda. I, of course, can’t know the specifics of your situation, but many large boring companies are happy to pay for their lack of cool, interesting work with actual money, and that is a trade-off I found I was entirely happy to make personally.

      And hey, if it’s any consolation to you, I’ve been speaking my mind under my real name for many years now, and the worst that’s happened to me is that I’ve been chased out of a few Internet hangouts, and then gone on to find better ones. Your situation may be much more precarious then mine; if so, best of luck in finding your own way to hauling back from that precariousness and finding a stable path that still lets you call idiots idiots when you feel you must.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      …what? The game industry is SJW infested? What does that term even mean, really? I kindof have an idea of what it means, but I don’t. I never could really separate a lot of political correctness from…possibly excessive politeness. Is it like hipster, where no one knows what it means? Is it the type of glasses? I think dyed purple hair can look nice. Who is Jessica Valenti?

      Idk, if games are not as brutal,bloody,sexualized,risque and offensive as you like, download off the internet and mod em. I’ll start you off with animal abuse, Kitten Cannon Yaaaayyyy!(boo irl, for the stupid)

      For the rest of the post, idk. Ignore people that annoy/anger you on the internet?

      What is your response to people who believe they are so far beyond the base binary gender continuum that the believe they are merely infinite-dimensional eldritch beings whose Astral projection onto the earthly plane is sheer convenience, and the male-female split is merely a genetic-social real/nonreal Constructivism?

      • Baeraad says:

        I never could really separate a lot of political correctness from…possibly excessive politeness.

        The line is indeed blurry, and people can often be quick to complain about “political correctness” when all that’s happening is that someone is trying to be a good person and make people happy. It’s unfortunate, and just one more reason why there is no right side in the Culture War, just two wrong ones.

        My own personal rule of thumb is that if you’re being excessively polite and inoffensive to everyone and leave it at that, you’re a good person. If you’re being excessively polite and inoffensive to certain select groups while treating everyone else as shit and taking every opportunity to brag about how progressive and woke you are – then you’re politically correct. And also the worst.

        Who is Jessica Valenti?

        She is the vile spawn of Satan sent to make me, personally, even more miserable and despised by everyone than I already am.

        Well, that, or possibly she’s a journalist writing a lot of bitchy articles about how awful men are and how wonderful feminists are for standing up to them, and getting praised as a paragon of virtue for it.

        You know. WHICHEVER ONE IS MORE ANNOYING! :p

        (seriously though. Jessica Valenti is awful)

    • BBA says:

      My usual reaction to this kind of thing is, get used to it. This is how it is now, and it’s just going to get more like this in the future. If the alternative to SJ repression is a return to theocratic repression, then I say all hail the hairdye NKVD.

      I would have liked liberalism, but I guess we as a species can’t have nice things.

      (Also, Bushnell created Chuck E Cheese, and deserves our eternal scorn and condemnation for that alone.)

      • quanta413 says:

        Bah, we’ll probably still be closer to liberalism overall although I’m a lot less confident about this claim than I used to be. Liberalism in practice tends to involve lots of screaming and possibly some terrorism rather than looking like high minded debate. But it sucks less than all the alternatives.

  8. Thegnskald says:

    DavidFriedman –

    Question, if you would:

    While it is unlikely bordering on impossible for a corporation to own itself (since each purchase of stock the corporation makes raises it’s own value, making each iterative purchase more expensive), and likewise unlikely for an equivalent two-company situation to arise (same problem, albeit slower and less direct, so it could probably go further), what would be the practical outcome if it did happen that there existed some conglomeration of corporations such that all ownership of the conglomeration was held by the conglomeration? (100 companies each holding 1% of the whole, such that in the late stage there isn’t a final human stockholder with enough voting stock to liquidate the whole mess).

    I can’t find any laws against such an arrangement, and it isn’t clear to me what would happen (my intuition is that the constant recirculation of funds through dividends, combined with corporate tax incentives, would encourage the companies in question to spend their money buying stock from other companies, forming an economic singularity that would, absent outside forces intervening, or an executive deciding to raise funds by selling some stock, gradually suck everything into it, possibly unnoticed in an era in which companies are routinely owned by other companies?)

    • Brad says:

      Not David Friedman obviously and I don’t have a direct answer, but take a look at some of the news articles that are coming out about Ikea’s corporate structure in the wake of founder Ingvar Kamprad’s death.

      More generally, consider the simplified version — a charity of some sort or another (say with a perpetual board) owns all the shares of some for profit corporation.

    • pontifex says:

      It’s not uncommon for companies to own pieces of other companies. For example, in Japan, there is a high rate of cross-shareholding, where a big company will own a piece of another big company. This is generally considered undesirable because it reduces (or eliminates) the pressure for these companies to compete henceforth. It also tends to build up de-facto conglomerates… and conglomerates are often not well-run (for example, look at GE.)

      I can’t find any laws against such an arrangement, and it isn’t clear to me what would happen (my intuition is that the constant recirculation of funds through dividends, combined with corporate tax incentives, would encourage the companies in question to spend their money buying stock from other companies, forming an economic singularity that would, absent outside forces intervening, or an executive deciding to raise funds by selling some stock, gradually suck everything into it, possibly unnoticed in an era in which companies are routinely owned by other companies?)

      I’m not sure if it’s legal for a company to be “owned by itself.” There probably needs to be a “beneficial owner” somewhere. But you’d have to ask a lawyer or a corporate accountant about that. But, arguendo, let’s say that it is possible. The company still has a finite amount of money. It’s not going to suck everything into itself. And what incentive do the managers have to manage well, if there are no shareholders or board of directors to hold them to account? Why not give themselves huge cash or stock bonuses? There’s nobody to say no.

      Ultimately, a company without a beneficial owner is just a huge pot of money and assets sitting there for the taking. And we all know what tends to happen to those.

      By the way, speaking of weird shareholder incentives, the rise of passive investing (in indexes) has created some.

      • Thegnskald says:

        The stockholders are the other companies in the loop – basically, the management of the other companies would keep a check on the management of the individual companies.

        I am wondering if it would be possible to construct a corporate charter such that such an arrangement could be maintained and expanded – I guess the first issue is whether or not corporate charters are legally binding.

        So set up a charter such that the charter is infectious – any company a majority share is acquired in gets switched over to the infectious corporate charter.

        Have the CEO elected by the workers; CEO salary is set at, say, 1% of the company profit by the charter. Half of all remaining profits are distributed to all past and current employees according to the total salary accrued at the company – retirement built in, basically, and a slight incentive to leave a company that would be better off without you, or at least to make getting laid off not-as-bad.

        The remaining profits get split up between dividends to other companies in the scheme, building up a rainy day fund, and purchasing stock.

        The charter would need to forbid the sale of company-held stock in other companies in the scheme.

        It would need a poison pill of some kind, as if a company goes bankrupt, it’s creditors might try to take ownership of stock in other companies in the scheme.

        You would also need some sort of incentive structure for stock purchasing, to ensure that the people responsible for purchasing stock put the company’s interests first.

        By aligning everything right, you might get a corporate conglomeration which is incentived to eat all other corporations, transforming them piecemeal into part of itself.

        Basically, a corporate analogy to copyleft.

        ETA:. You would also need a mechanism to change the corporate charter, come to think of it.

        I’d lean towards “Changes proposed by CEOs, voted on by workers, requiring a majority vote to pass”, but with the added modification that a majority of all companies have to all vote for the change – and an Amicability clause which effectively splits the conglomeration, so that any companies which didn’t vote for the change are split off into their own conglomeration maintaining the original charter. (This prevents individual companies from splitting off, while enabling change if it is necessary, while also not forcing any company into changing if its workers don’t agree with the changes)

        ETA again:

        You would also need some kind of crisis / emergency mode, whereby the workers can vote to temporarily forgo the normal charter in favor of a temporary emergency charter, to permit, for example, hiring a CEO who specializes in salvaging companies going bankrupt (as they probably wouldn’t agree to the terms of employment of the normal condition CEO).

  9. Well... says:

    “I wish that guy had died twice,” Tom said, rather rehearsed.

    • James says:

      Took me a while, but nice.

      • Well... says:

        “Even though the princess is dead she keeps telling jokes!” Tom said, still digesting.

        “They really should be giving me a 2.9% APR,” Tom expectorated.

        “I can’t give enough praise to the medicinal drinks they have Mumbai,” sang Tom, in diatonics.

        “Let’s go find out what’s beyond the sunset,” said Tom, sequestered.

        “You can hit that digital marketing company with a club, but only once” said Tom unabashedly.

        “Get caught with less than this much weed and you only get a fine,” Tom announced.

        • Randy M says:

          “I wonder if she expects me to pay?” Tom said horrifically.

          • Incurian says:

            Thanks, this one helped me understand the joke.

          • Well... says:

            “I became a tycoon by importing vegetable fat from Africa and using it in cosmetics,” said Tom, shaking.

            “Despite my lisp I am truly present — in a state of enlightenment!” Tom said now and then.

            “This is the facility where we grind the horse hooves,” Tom said gloomily.

            “But I’ve already autographed it for you twice!” said Tom, resigned.

            “I sing each note deliberately,” Tom lamented.

            “Almost a shade of crimson,” Tom sneered.

    • Well... says:

      “That’s how Sean Connery refers to chimpanzees,” said Tom, shimmying.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      “This was all coastal lowland up until the Laramide orogeny,” Tom explained.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      “Don’t worry, my mother’s only joking,” Tom said majestically.

      “I lost all my money to a scam artist in Los Angeles,” Tom said laconically.

      “Let’s summon the Persian magicians!” Tom said magically.

  10. johan_larson says:

    What works in other media are ripe for movie adaptations?

    Personally, I’d wait in line all night for tickets to the film version of The Last of Us, starring Millie Bobby Brown and Hugh Jackman.

    • Randy M says:

      I’d say look to games (no, not Battleship…) They’re making a WoW movie, and Magic the Gathering. Built in fan base and characters (though there’s the risk of trying to hew too closely to a massive story). Deus Ex, Mass Effect, Bioshock X-Com, Skyrim, there’s lots of intellectual properties here that could be snapped up if the first forays do good.

      • Vorkon says:

        I don’t think that games are a particularly good format to try to turn into movies, to be honest, and not just because most of the attempts so far have been pretty bad.

        The thing that makes games an engaging medium is the interactivity, and in the good ones, the story, characters, and setting are designed with that interactivity in mind. Even in the more story-heavy games that try their best to be “cinematic,” much of the impact of the story comes from the fact that it is, in a way, YOU experiencing it, and no matter how well a movie might make you sympathize with a character, the story is written with the idea in mind that you’ll be able to put yourself in a character’s shoes in a way that movies just don’t really do, and when they try you get boring, blank-slate protagonists like Pants from Twilight.

        • Randy M says:

          I guess maybe I missed the mark if he’s asking for strict adaptations, but taking the setting and exploring some of the conflicts or characters from a different angle seems to have lots of potential.
          Anyways, it seems like some efforts are being made, so we’ll see.

      • Nornagest says:

        The Magic and WoW movies are going to be crap, just like the D&D movie was crap. They both have too much lore and not enough story, leaving any scriptwriter of less than exceptional genius with an impossible needle to thread. Skyrim and Mass Effect have a similar problem, although the issue there is less that there’s no central story and more that the central story is basically just a weak excuse to explore twelve million dungeons until your machine melts under the load of the six million mods you have installed, or to hang out with your weird alien cat-bird-velociraptor buddy (once he finishes those calibrations).

        You could probably get a decent movie out of Bioshock. Maybe Deus Ex or X-Com but you’d have to be careful not to look too derivative of existing film properties. I’d say Red Dead Redemption, but that would just be a remake of Unforgiven.

        • Incurian says:

          I thought Mass Effect had a decent story and some excellent characters (though I still hope they don’t try to make it into a movie).

          • Nornagest says:

            The characters are amazing, although nailing down a definitive version of Shepard would be a thorny problem for a scriptwriter. But we can say they’re amazing because we’ve gotten to know them over three games and hundreds of sidequests. There’s no room for anything but the core Reaper storyline in a movie; that’s probably the least interesting part of the writing for those games, but it wouldn’t be fatal if it wasn’t for the fact that it’d crowd out all the more interesting parts.

            It might be viable as a miniseries.

        • beleester says:

          XCOM I think could work as a movie or mini-series. Yes, it’s not going to be the first “alien invasion” movie, but it approaches it from a somewhat different angle. And the fact that the characters and missions are randomly generated means that you don’t actually have that much specific stuff you need to include or cut to make your movie feel like XCOM. It’s got a couple of story beats – UFO recovery, Terror mission, Alien Base, Alien Retaliation, Overseer, Temple Ship – and you can fit them together however you want. It’s more about the aesthetics and the tone.

          (You’ll probably have to change how the story beats go from the game, because the game’s pacing is very different from a movie. Instead of ratcheting up the tension steadily, it goes up and down – you research a new tech and get the advantage, they reveal a new alien and you fall behind again, and eventually you reign supreme at the top of the tech tree. A movie wants a more dramatic ending.)

        • John Schilling says:

          The original Deus Ex struck me as an excellent game with some annoying flaws, that would make a better movie than a game because most of the flaws were driven by the gaming format and wouldn’t carry over to the movie version. It’s certainly possible that they could screw it up, of course, but the ingredients for a great story in cinematic form are there.

          • cassander says:

            As much as I love Deus Ex as a game, I feel there’s too much plot for a single movie and it’s structured wrong for a trilogy. I’d much rather someone take the idea and tropes from deus ex (protagonist discovering big epic (but planned in advance) conspiracies) and make a premium TV show out of it without feeling the need to follow the exact plot of the game.

          • John Schilling says:

            You could make a decent TV series out of it, and maybe TV is the best place for that sort of thing these days, but an awful lot of the plot is expendable if you’re being ruthless. Pretty much the entire section in NYC, for example, could be turned into an extended action opener a la any James Bond or Indiana Jones flick, setting up Denton as a rogue agent on the run for having refused to assassinate a terrorist who wasn’t. And once you pick which ending you’re going to use, you can trim a lot of the supporting material for the other two threads.

            Possibly the main problem with making a movie of it is that the Hong Kong plotline can’t be excised and maybe can’t be turned into something the PRC’s censors will approve of. Twenty years ago we’d just move it to Japan but I’m not sure that works as well today. So maybe premium TV it is.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Deus Ex is a great game, but it’s not a great story, honestly. Written down, it’s really derivative. Most games – computer, tabletop RPG, whatever – have stories that rarely rise above a dime novel. The vast majority of the goodness of Deus Ex is in how it plays as a game. With that taken out, it’s a mishmash of 101-level conspiracy theory and cyperpunk.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            It might make a relatively ‘deep’ action movie, though.

          • John Schilling says:

            It does put rather more thought into how to integrate the various conspiracy theories with each other, and then with the cyberpunk setting, that most in that line. And it is quite good at fleshing out multiple points of view without particularly favoring one over another (beyond, of course, “unleashing plagues to support your conspiracy for world domination is Bad”). So, yeah, “deep action movie” is about right if it were done as a movie, and there would be room for more than that if it were a TV series.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It could be an action movie with a little more going on, yeah. But what makes it really special as a game is that it railroads the player less than is the norm. A movie based on the same plot would most likely not be as special a movie as it is a game.

          • John Schilling says:

            It railroads you less than usual, until it needs to force you back through one of the chokepoints. A movie, done well, could make those feel like a combination of agency and bad luck on the protagonist’s part.

          • dndnrsn says:

            What definition of railroading do you use? I like this one.

          • John Schilling says:

            That’s a fair definition of railroading. The first example I can remember of Deus Ex falling back on railroading is the mission to assassinate (IIRC) Lebedev, the terrorist-who-isn’t in NYC. The story to that point has set up UNATCO as untrustworthy and Lebedev as potentially sympathetic, has made “should I follow orders and kill this guy in cold blood?” an obvious moral and tactical dilemma, and gives the player the choice to pull the trigger or not.

            If not, he’ll be dead in a few minutes anyway. And the player will go through IIRC exactly one more mission as a trusted UNATCO agent before being forced to go rogue and flee to Hong Kong. The player’s choice is made meaningless.

            And in hindsight, for no good reason unless the dev team was really starved for resources. Granted, it’s a linear narrative, and granted, there weren’t the development resources for elaborate threads most players weren’t going to follow. But it would have cost them little to set up alternate outcomes for that mission where Lebedev lives, either because Denton sneaks him out of the airport or offers to join his NSF “terrorists” against the impending UNATCO raid. After which, yep, he’d have to go rogue. It should have been easy enough to make those alternate paths converge in Hong Kong shortly thereafter, and even to tweak dialogue etc going forward so that Lebedev’s survival seems to have been critical for enabling events that, yeah, were really scripted and going to play out at someone’s instigation regardless.

            That’s one of annoying flaws in an otherwise superb game I was referring to. A movie version could do better, by scripting one path that is optimized for the choice Denton makes rather than one that has to fit two choices and then clumsily block all other possibilities.

          • Nornagest says:

            Lebedev can survive that mission if you kill Anna first, although it’s a tough fight, and the narrative then skips to the raid on Paul’s apartment. But Lebedev gets captured and killed a mission or two down the road anyway — IIRC you find his corpse in the MJ12 lab.

        • moonfirestorm says:

          and WoW movies are going to be crap

          You guys know the WoW movie is already out, right? It’s called Warcraft, it was released in 2016, and as far as I know there’s no plans for a sequel.

          It kinda whiffed, IMO because they tried to make a lot of characters that were rather straightforward into complex ones (for example, giving Lothar a son). There was space for the simple characters, but once you started giving everyone their own little arc the story got too choked with character development. They also made a lot of divergences from the original plot, that are really going to bite them if they tried to follow the Second War: they basically have to write their own story now, which probably isn’t going to make the fans happy and requires them to fill their own plot holes.

          World of Warcraft has a lot of lore and not a lot of story, but the Warcraft games that gave birth to it have a pretty central story that’s good for ~5 movies (Warcraft 1, Warcraft 2, Beyond the Dark Portal, and Warcraft 3 probably can fill 2 movies if not 3), if they wanted to, without having to go into the huge backstory that surrounds every character.

          After the Third War you start having problems figuring out where you’re going, but if you’ve gotten that far and still have an audience you might be OK going off in the various directions you’d need to.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Half Life: Episode 3.

    • Matt M says:

      I haven’t seen it yet, but the trailers for Logan always struck me as “This looks like someone trying to make a ‘The Last Of Us’ movie”

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I really want to see a screen adaption of the Battle of Vienna, with Jan Sobieski’s winged Hussars charging to break the siege of the gates of Vienna, ending Islamic incursion into Europe (until Merkel, anyway).

      Big historical war epics are great box office spectacle (think Gladiator), and given current politics, the media will freak out that a movie about brave Polish Catholics liberating Europe from invading Muslim hordes is pandering to “the alt-right.” Controversy and free advertising galore.

      Directed by Mel Gibson.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I’d give anything for a winged hussars skewering Muslims at Vienna movie.

      • cassander says:

        Well, they kinda did, but Peter Jackson directed.

      • albatross11 says:

        I’m trying to figure out: did the wings serve any purpose other than making the huge dude about to run a lance through your chest look even more enormous and terrifying?

        • John Schilling says:

          The bit about the huge dude running a lance through your chest is mostly a bluff. Your pike should be longer and more firmly braced than his lance, and his horse is both vulnerable and not-stupid(*). He can really only run his lance through your back, if you’re fool enough to turn it, or maybe your side if the comrade who is supposed to have your flank wimps out.

          So, yeah, looking enormous and terrifying. Which armored men charging on big horses have already got, but every little bit helps. They absolutely have to get each of the men on foot to at least wonder whether the men on either side might turn and run.

          * Well, OK, horses can be pretty stupid, but usually not impale-yourself-on-a-pointy-stick stupid.

        • Protagoras says:

          I wonder if there’s an element of making them more visible to their own infantry. If your elite troops are moving around, looking for a chance for a flanking attack (one of the biggest uses of cavalry), it’s probably beneficial if the guys fighting on the front line can see that that’s what they’re doing, and not worry that the knights and nobles have run off and left them behind (being able to do that is another advantage of cavalry, of course).

        • cassander says:

          the noise they made was apparently very loud and very intimidating. And, as John Schilling says, for a cavalry charge to be really effective, you need to get the enemy to break, so looking and sounding as enormous and terrifying as possible was very important.

    • Vorkon says:

      Just because the Marvel movies have made Shared Universes such a big deal in film lately, it would be interesting to see how they handle adaptations of Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere books. Mistborn, especially, would probably translate pretty well to screen, with the flashy, visually interesting, and internally consistent (and thus, more capable of building a story around) powers, the distinct look to the world, and the fact that the first book was centered around a heist story, which we already know makes for a good movie.

      Unfortunately, he has a tendency to sell his movie/game rights to random studios nobody has ever heard of that just happen to make a really good pitch, so I doubt we’ll ever see that happen. I’m tentatively looking forward to the Stormlight VR thingy that’s apparently about to come out soon, though!

      Similarly, the adaptations are already in the works, but the adaptations they’re making of Patrick Rothfuss’ books seem… Interesting, to say the least. Music is pretty important to the series, and with Lin Manuel Miranda producing and doing the music for it, I could see it turning out very well.

      That said, I recently found out that apparently the TV series is actually going to be a prequel, and the books themselves will be adapted into movies. The idea of a prequel TV series is interesting, (I had my doubts about Kvothe being able to carry an entire series himself, and while some of the side characters are pretty cool, the story focuses so much on him that it would be hard to make it about an ensemble cast, and a prequel circumvents that problem, while still giving them a way to portray the setting. It gets around the “he’ll never actually finish the books” problem, to boot) but a series of movies is just a terrible format for this story. Plus, if they work all of the lore, backstory, and evocative mythology of the setting into the prequel series, and leave the movies JUST telling Kvothe’s story, well, frankly you’re left with a not particularly interesting story. So we’ll see how that turns out.

      • Wrong Species says:

        They definitely shouldn’t do anything based on the Stormlight Archives until Sanderson is finished with the series, roughly 6-8 years from now for the first half of his 10 book plan. The question I’m wondering is if it would work better as movies or a tv series. It seems like, based on the length, that it should be a tv series but I’m not sure if there is enough action in the individual chapters to sustain an audience in the same way that Game of Thrones has.

        • Vorkon says:

          The structure of a Stormlight book is practically tailor-made to be made into a TV series. I’ve lost count of the number of shows that do the whole, “A-story set in the present, interspersed with flashbacks to a B-story in the past that fleshes out the characters and relates thematically to what’s going on in the A-story” structure.

          Also, I don’t think “lack of action” is something I’ve ever heard the Stormlight Archives accused of. I can’t think of a single chapter that wasn’t eventful in some way.

          One advantage GoT has over it is that, other than Dany, it STARTS OUT with most of the central characters together, giving the audience a chance to grow to care about them as a group, before they branch off to go do their own thing, while in the Stormlight books they start out separate and (so far, at least) slowly come together. I’ve seen a lot of successful shows with that paradigm, however, (Heroes springs to mind, for some reason, but I’m sure I could think of others if I tried) and as long as the individual groups of characters are interesting (which they are) and the story feels like it’s going somewhere satisfying (and if there’s one thing you can say about Sanderson’s work, he always has everything meticulously plotted out, so we know it’ll never fall into the whole X-Files or Lost style “make them think we have a grand over-arching plan when we’re really just making things up as we go” trap) that paradigm can work pretty well, too.

          But yeah, as far as I know they’re not planning to do anything specific with Stormlight just yet. I was just referring to this one VR Walking/Flying Simulator Game/Experience Thingy that somebody is apparently putting out.

          Like I said, though, Mistborn would work great as a series of movies. (Or maybe as a GTA/Ubisoft/Arkham-style open world game; that particular set of powers would be quite fun for traversing an environment.)

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      Good movie adaptions are hard to do. Putting a good 200+ page book or a game into a movie usually means leaving out quite a few important things.

      30 minute episodes are easier. A Descent Into The Maelstrom by Poe could work nicely.

  11. DunnoWhatToDo says:

    If anyone needs a background, CTRL+F my username.

    So, despite getting those soul-crushing bouts of loneliness, I’ll sometimes switch back to awesome mode and feel great, much better, like it’s all over and stuff.

    Insight: Loneliness comes and goes, and is inconsistent. I can feel great sometimes but feel badly down at others. I currently feel like I have the confidence to make so many hearts melt that I’ll end up in prison, only to be swiftly released because they couldn’t handle the amount of women wanting a visit. To say nothing of love letters!

    Solution: I’ll first get myself a psychiatrist. Then I’ll try going to different places to meet people/women. My main concern is that I’m only being there because of the women, rather than any actual interest. Probably lots of great girls at a charity event or whatever, but it does make it feel like a deception if I’m there just to get a girl. Does anyone else feel like this, though? Maybe I’m just thinking too much about the motivation? There’s also an argument to be made against automatic rejection of things, because I haven’t tried them yet. Maybe I’ll enjoy it? Who knows.

    • James says:

      I would question whether you need to see a psychiatrist, unless your issues are ongoing or this episode is part of a concerning ongoing pattern.

      My main concern is that I’m only being there because of the women, rather than any actual interest. Probably lots of great girls at a charity event or whatever, but it does make it feel like a deception if I’m there just to get a girl.

      Oh Christ, not this can of worms again!

      You’re in luck (?), insofar as there was recently a gigantic discussion of the ethics of exactly this—mingled with tips for how to go about it in practice—here.

    • DunnoWhatToDo says:

      Minor update: I tried reaching out to two girls I used to work with and felt confident that they liked me enough to reply; neither did. A bit disappointed but it’s not such a big deal.

      Paging @James
      Wow, that’s such a disorienting thread. I’ll go over it again sometime later but man, holy shit.

      Paging @Matt B
      Wow, a lot of stuff you wrote reasonated with me. Particularly the third paragraph here. It was some sweet reading, so thanks for that.

      Your “focus on dating” thing actually makes sense, well, at least it feels a better direction than my “shoot everywhere and hope to hit”. But where do I do it? Tiner? OkCupid? Approach any girl I like? I’m not really sure where to begin, to be perfectly fair. I don’t have any horrible anxiety in general anymore, I can make chat reasonably easy, and barring my recent adventure I don’t usually have a huge anxiety approaching girls. I’m good with all the female trainers in my gym, and all of it came from my own initiative, although an argument could be made for them needing to be nice to trainees. I’m not sure if that’s such great evidence, but it’s still the best one I can come up with. Possibly a lake wobegon effect though.

      I’m more or less in your position, with a bit more confidence, although I never got past “I have a boyfriend”, so maybe I’m giving myself too much credit. But who knows, maybe I missed a few signals.

      • Matt M says:

        But where do I do it? Tiner? OkCupid? Approach any girl I like?

        All of the above. For two reasons:

        1. Dating is a numbers game – Even Babe Ruth struck out a lot of times. You can’t hit a pitch you don’t swing at, etc.

        2. The more you do it, the better you get at it.

        The biggest advice I can give you is that you need to do everything you can to sever the emotional reaction you are experiencing. Treat this process as coldly and logically as you can. Forget anything you know about human relationships that you learned from a romantic comedy. Ignore all advice you receive from women. Ignore most advice you receive from attractive and/or charismatic men.

        • DunnoWhatToDo says:

          @Matt M

          Whoa, fast reply. Thanks, man.

          My emotional reaction has been greatly reduced, although if you experienced what you said in that third paragraph I mentioned, then I imagine it’s gonna take a bit more time. Still no reason not to do it. Most of the women I approached still gave me a smile and held eye contact, so I assume I’m on the right track. Another girl – really damn sexy one even complimented me on my courage after I that girl out.

          As far as my “dating knowledge” goes and comes from, it’s mostly based on Mark Manson’s stuff. Here’s a taste of his book, here’s his website. Most of his stuff is mostly about being as confident as possible with yourself, although I’ll concede that your white lies are probably better from a consequentalist point of view. After reading your posts on that thread, it feels like (almost) all dating advice irredeemably sucks.

          Where did you get your own start, by the way? I’m curious.

          • Matt M says:

            I had the most success on Tinder and POF. POF is really the bottom of the barrel, but it’s a great place to start.

          • DunnoWhatToDo says:

            I meant what gave you the motivation and the direction to solve your issues at 25.

            Tinder might work but POF is just bad for Israel. OkCupid looks better. Now I feel like I need some picture magic. I’m bad at pictures.

          • Matt M says:

            IME OkCupid was horrible. The worst of the bunch by far.

            I can’t really speak to motivation. If you’re not motivated by sex, status, and loneliness… uh, consider yourself lucky and drop this whole thing and spend more time on productive things?

          • DunnoWhatToDo says:

            That’s a good question.

            I’d say I’m mostly sex motivated, but occasionally I see a really sweet girl that I’d like to keep to myself as happened recently, but ideally I would still sleep with other girls. Like, I could ideally have a larger house and have a bunch of sexy girls live with me.

            Loneliness sometimes comes but otherwise, it’s not really there.

            I don’t care much about status although it’s certainly a useful thing.

          • James says:

            I like Mark Manson a lot. If Nabil ad Dajjal hadn’t sworn off talking about this stuff for now because he got bored of recommending Bang and Day Bang, he would also recommend that you take a look at Bang and Day Bang. If you email me (you can find my email at the page my name links to) I can send you epubs of either or both. (Actually, feel free to email me regardless, because I’m happy to carry on this discussion, but I’m mildly reluctant to clog up the OTs with too much more of this sort of thing. There’s been a lot of it lately, for some reason, through no fault of yours.)

            I would also suggest that you don’t get overreliant on online dating. At least for me, I feel like for a while it became a bit of a crutch/shield to let me avoid dealing with my irl shyness about approaching women.

            @Matt M (or anyone else), any thoughts on why OKCupid’s so much worse than the others? It’s the only one I’ve tried, and I admit I haven’t had much joy on there in a long time (though I had some when I first started there).

            @DunnoWhatToDo: Pictures are important for all of them, even OKCupid.

          • DunnoWhatToDo says:

            @James

            I’m horrible with pictures. Got some tips?

            Those books are by Roosh, right? Any overlap with MM’s stuff?

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m horrible with pictures. Got some tips?

            Hire or make friends with someone that isn’t.

          • Barely matters says:

            Simple Pickup is probably the best material out there if you’re young, not jaded, and just starting out. It’s a lot lighter than most of the stuff out there, isn’t as adversarial as Roosh, and features things like picking up girls with only pokemon lines. If you get into swing states of high confidence, you might really like their ProjectGo.

            It’s goofy, but I can’t recommend those guys highly enough for day approaches.

          • I’m horrible with pictures. Got some tips?

            Have a friend follow you around for half an hour or so, walking, talking, whatever, and taking lots of pictures–now that pictures are digital film is free. Select the best one.

            I did that when I needed a picture for a book jacket and it worked–not as good as the best picture taken by someone I know who is a very serious photographer, but better than various studio shots I had had taken.

          • DunnoWhatToDo says:

            @James

            I’ve sent you an email. Just being extra cautious it doesn’t end up in the junk.

      • MNH says:

        I find it a little shocking everyone takes such a shortsighted approach to meeting women to date. The best way to date imo is to first make genuine platonic female friends, then meet their friends. This is very nice because their friends are already somewhat filtered for being the sort of person you would get along with, and your platonic friend can vouch that you yourself a person worth spending time with.

        • Barely matters says:

          Seconded, although I realize that getting there can be almost equally difficult while starting from an impoverished social circle.

          It’s a different skillset but, unless you already have them, becoming friends with attractive girls (At a level deeper than casual acquaintances) isn’t that much easier than getting into full on relationships with them. I know I find it easier to do relationships, because they’re less likely to abruptly ditch when they get a new boyfriend.

        • johan_larson says:

          In my experience, trying to be friends with someone of the opposite sex, beyond the level of casual acquaintances or colleagues, is hard. Friends do things together, typically just the two of them, and suggestions in that direction tend to be mistaken for courtship.

  12. Marx and Engels on free trade: they were for it! Take that, Donald Trump!

    My favorite lines:

    While recognizing that protection may still, under certain circumstances, for instance in the Germany of 1847, be of advantage to the manufacturing capitalists; while proving that that Free Trade was not the panacea for all the evils under which the working class suffered, and might even aggravate them; he [Marx] pronounces, ultimately and on principle, in favor of Free Trade.

    To him, Free Trade is the normal condition of modern capitalist production. Only under Free Trade can the immense productive powers of steam, of electricity, of machinery, be full developed; and the quicker the pace of this development, the sooner and the more fully will be realized its inevitable results; society splits up into two classes, capitalists here, wage-laborers there; hereditary wealth on one side, hereditary poverty on the other; supply outstripping demand, the markets being unable to absorb the ever growing mass of the production of industry; an ever recurring cycle of prosperity, glut, crisis, panic, chronic depression, and gradual revival of trade, the harbinger not of permanent improvement but of renewed overproduction and crisis; in short, productive forces expanding to such a degree that they rebel, as against unbearable fetters, against the social institutions under which they are put in motion; the only possible solution: a social revolution, freeing the social productive forces from the fetters of an antiquated social order, and the actual producers, the great mass of the people, from wage slavery. And because Free Trade is the natural, the normal atmosphere for this historical evolution, the economic medium in which the conditions for the inevitable social revolution will be the soonest created — for this reason, and for this alone, did Marx declare in favor of Free Trade.

    Protection is at best an endless screw, and you never know when you have done with it. By protecting one industry, you directly or indirectly hurt all others, and have therefore to protect them too. By so doing you again damage the industry that you first protected, and have to compensate it; but this compensation reacts, as before, on all other trades, and entitles them to redress, and so on ad infinitum.

    But the worst of protection is that when you once have got it, you cannot easily get rid of it. Difficult as is the process of adjustment of an equitable tariff, the return to Free Trade is immensely more difficult…The moment a branch of national industry has completely conquered the home market, that moment exportation becomes a necessity to it…Thus the passage from a home to an export trade becomes a question of life and death for the industries concerned. But they are met by the established rights, the vested interests of others who as yet find protection either safer or more profitable than Free Trade. Then ensues a long and obstinate fight between Free Traders and Protectionists; a fight where, on both sides, the leadership soon passes out of the hands of the people directly interested, into those of professional politicians, the wire-pullers of the traditional political parties, whose interest is not a settlement of the question, but its being kept open forever; and the result of an immense loss of time, energy, and money is a series of compromises favoring now one, then the other side…

    This absurd system of protection to manufacturers is nothing but the sop thrown to industrial capitalists to induce them to support a still more outrageous monopoly given to the landed interest. Not only is all agricultural produce subjected to heavy import duties which are increased from year to year, but certain rural industries, carried on large estates for account of the proprietor, are positively endowed out of the public purse. The beet-root sugar manufacture is not only protected, but receives enormous sums in the shape of export premiums. One who ought to know is of opinion that if the exported sugar was all thrown into the sea, the manufacturer would still clear a profit out of government premium. Similarly, the potato-spirit distilleries receive, in consequence of recent legislation, a present out of the pockets of the public of about $9 million a year. And as almost every large landowner in northeastern Germany is either a beet-root sugar manufacturer or a potato-spirit distiller, or both, no wonder the world is literally deluged with their production.

    This policy, ruinous under any circumstances, is doubly so in a country whose manufactures keep up their standing in neutral markets chiefly through the cheapness of labor. Wages in Germany, kept near starvation point at the best of times, through redundancy of population (which increases rapidly, in spite of emigration), must rise in consequence of the rise in all necessaries caused by protection; the German manufacturer will then no longer be able, as he too often is ow, to make up for a ruinous price of his articles by a deduction from the normal wages of his hands and will be driven out of the market. Protection, in Germany, is killing the goose that lays the golden egg.

    It is hardly worthwhile to speak of Russia. There, the protective tariff — the duties having to be paid in gold, instead of in the depreciated paper currency of the country — serves above all things to supply the pauper government with the hard cash indispensable for transactions with foreign creditors. On the very day on which that tariff fulfills its protective mission by totally excluding foreign goods, on that day the Russian government is bankrupt. And yet that same government amuses its subjects by dangling before their eyes the prospect of making Russia, by means of this tariff, an entirely self-supplying country, requiring from the foreigner neither food, nor raw material, nor manufactured articles, nor works of art. The people who believe in this vision of a Russian Empire, secluded and isolated from the rest of the world, are on a level with the patriotic Prussian lieutenant who went into a shop and asked for a globe, not a terrestrial or a celestial one, but a globe of Prussia.

    The question of Free Trade or Protection moves entirely within the bounds of the present system of capitalist production, and has, therefore, no direct interest for us socialists who want to do away with that system.

    Indirectly, however, it interests us inasmuch as we must desire as the present system of production to develop and expand as freely and as quickly as possible: because along with it will develop also those economic phenomena which are its necessary consequences, and which must destroy the whole system: misery of the great mass of the people, in consequence of overproduction.

    But if Marx declared in favor of Free Trade on that ground, is that not a reason for every supporter of the present order of society to declare against Free Trade? If Free Trade is stated to be revolutionary, must not all good citizens vote for Protection as a conservative plan?

    If a country nowadays accepts Free Trade, it will certainly not do so to please the socialists. It will do so because Free trade has become a necessity for the industrial capitalists. But if it should reject Free Trade and stick to Protection, in order to cheat the socialists out of the expected social catastrophe, that will not hurt the prospects of socialism in the least. Protection is a plan for artificially manufacturing manufacturers, and therefore also a plan for artificially manufacturing wage laborers. You cannot breed the one without breeding the other.

    The wage laborer everywhere follows in the footsteps of the manufacturer; he is like the “gloomy care” of Horace, that sits behind the rider, and that he cannot shake off wherever he go. You cannot escape fate; in other words, you cannot escape the necessary consequences of your own actions. A system of production based upon the exploitation of wage labor, in which wealth increases in proportion to the number of laborers employed and exploited, such a system is bound to increase the class of wage laborers, that is to say, the class which is fated one day to destroy the system itself. In the meantime, there is no help for it: you must go on developing the capitalist system, you must accelerate the production, accumulation, and centralization of capitalist wealth, and, along with it, the production of a revolutionary class of laborers. Whether you try the Protectionist or the Free Trade will make no difference in the end, and hardly any in the length of the respite left to you until the day when that end will come. For long before that day will protection have become an unbearable shackle to any country aspiring, with a chance of success, to hold its own in the world market.

    • Anon. says:

      Lenin, too:

      Yes, the Marxists do consider large-scale capitalism progressive—not, of course, because it replaces “independence” by dependence, but because it creates conditions for abolishing dependence.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Only under Free Trade can the immense productive powers of steam, of electricity, of machinery, be full developed; and the quicker the pace of this development, the sooner and the more fully will be realized its inevitable results; society splits up into two classes, capitalists here, wage-laborers there; hereditary wealth on one side, hereditary poverty on the other; supply outstripping demand, the markets being unable to absorb the ever growing mass of the production of industry;

      And there it is. Marx wasn’t ‘in favor of free trade’ he thought that free trade would accelerat the decline of capitalism and cause worse class divisions. Its like a guy giving you a peach because he thinks it is poison and wants to murder you, what a great guy giving away all these peaches was Marx!

  13. dodrian says:

    In at least 6 months but probably less than a year I’d like to move away from where I live at the moment and find a new job. I was hoping people could give suggestions on how to prepare/make myself more competitive.

    I graduated with a bachelor’s in Computer Science from a respected university back in 2009. I ended up taking non-software jobs in community work & education until two years ago, when fed up of unsociable hours I joined a manufacturing company as an internal software developer. It’s not been very complicated stuff – a C# database application and a few data crunching scripts and internal websites using php/python/Django.

    Would taking an online course in something help my resume? I get the impression that those qualifications generally don’t mean much, but that having a small project to showcase at an interview might. Or, would contributing an open source application be positive? (It just always seems too daunting to know where to begin)

    I don’t have a particular specialty in mind – I’m fine doing back-end stuff but have always struggled with front-end (no eye for design, though I’ve never used a front-end framework, would learning something like Angular mean no-more mucking around with low-level css?). Any suggestions on other things I could look at?

  14. secondcityscientist says:

    In 2012, Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum posted a big article about the connection between environmental lead and violent crime rates titled “Lead: America’s Real Criminal Element”.

    Today he’s posted a big roundup of things that he and others have written about the connection between environmental lead and violent crime. My favorite was this bit:

    Everyone has their own pet theory of why crime rose in the 60s and 70s: guns, poverty, drugs, the counterculture, the breakdown of the family, black “pathologies,” racism, moral decay, the decline of religion, and so forth. This is why so many people dislike the lead-crime hypothesis. If it’s true, it means your pet theory probably isn’t. And nobody wants to give up their pet theories.

    My fellow greater Chicagoland residents might find this map from the Chicago Tribune interesting – environmental lead appears to have persisted here through the early 2000s, although the mid-2000s saw a big decrease. We (probably) haven’t hit the crime decline predicted by the blood lead level decline yet, but we should be coming up on it soon.

    • baconbits9 says:

      My fellow greater Chicagoland residents might find this map from the Chicago Tribune interesting – environmental lead appears to have persisted here through the early 2000s, although the mid-2000s saw a big decrease. We (probably) haven’t hit the crime decline predicted by the blood lead level decline yet, but we should be coming up on it soon.

      Buy real estate in marginal neighborhoods then?

    • maintain says:

      I wonder how many people dislike the lead-crime hypothesis because they have lead poisoning that affects their ability to reason properly.

    • Wrong Species says:

      He says because of when lead was introduced in cars in the late 40’s, it caused those children, who became teenagers in the late 60’s, to become more violent. But violent crime was going up as early as 1963.

      If lead explains the decline, then why was the dip in the early 80’s followed by an even greater increase in the mid 80-90’s?

      Places like Baltimore didn’t really experience a strong decrease in violence. Does Baltimore have noticeably more lead paint than other cities?

      The United States and the UK had large increases in violent crimes. What about other Western European countries?

      I’m not convinced that older people still committing crimes implies anything about lead poisoning. The differences between older cohorts from 1991 to now is small, and a possible reason is that there are fewer “marginal criminals” among the older crowd, meaning they are less likely to be affected by outside incentives, whatever those may be. I’m betting that the percentage of older criminals is fairly stable across time periods, regardless of lead.

      I’m still not convinced that lead isn’t correlated with some other variable that could explain the rise and decline. I’m sure that he has addressed it somewhere but I didn’t see it in the article.

      • maintain says:

        >He says because of when lead was introduced in cars in the late 40’s, it caused those children, who became teenagers in the late 60’s, to become more violent. But violent crime was going up as early as 1963.

        Leaded gasoline was introduced well before that. In the article he only stated that the amount started increasing after WWII.

        >If lead explains the decline, then why was the dip in the early 80’s followed by an even greater increase in the mid 80-90’s?

        >Places like Baltimore didn’t really experience a strong decrease in violence. Does Baltimore have noticeably more lead paint than other cities?

        The lead-crime hypothesis only seeks to explain the large crime wave from the 1960s to the 1990s. Obviously there are going to be other crime rate fluctuations in the meantime that are not related to lead. What you are saying is the equivalent of saying “You doctors say that bacteria kill people, but this guy got hit by a car. Did he have too many bacteria, which caused him to be hit by a car? Checkmate, germ theorists!”

        Also, Baltimore did experience a decrease in crime. It just also experienced a spike in crime after the recent riots.

        >I’m not convinced that older people still committing crimes implies anything about lead poisoning.

        In and of itself it doesn’t prove anything, but it would be predicted by the hypothesis. So, taken with all the other evidence, it starts to be convincing.

        • Wrong Species says:

          On Baltimore, it did have somewhat of a slowdown before the recent spike but it’s not much, certainly very little compared to other US cities.

          Leaded gasoline was introduced well before that. In the article he only stated that the amount started increasing after WWII.

          His claim was that there a dramatic increase in lead starting in the late 40’s, which was what lead to a generation of criminals starting in the late 60’s. The question is still the same: why did homicides starting dramatically increasing as early as 1963?

          The lead-crime hypothesis only seeks to explain the large crime wave from the 1960s to the 1990s. Obviously there are going to be other crime rate fluctuations in the meantime that are not related to lead.

          But if the decline and then increase can be explained through other theories, then lead can at best only explain the increase from the late 60’s through the 70’s. And if that’s true, the evidence for it is much weaker.

          • maintain says:

            >On Baltimore, it did have somewhat of a slowdown before the recent spike but it’s not much, certainly very little compared to other US cities.

            “That guy that got hit by a car did get slightly better after he was given antibiotics, but not much, certainly very little compared to other people who were given antibiotics.”

            >His claim was that there a dramatic increase in lead starting in the late 40’s, which was what lead to a generation of criminals starting in the late 60’s. The question is still the same: why did homicides starting dramatically increasing as early as 1963?

            Are we looking at the same charts here? Lead started increasing a little in the 40s. Crime started increasing a little in the 60s. Lead had increased a lot by the 50s. Crime had increased a lot by the 70s. There were some minor fluctuations, but crime was high and stayed high until about 20 years after leaded gasoline was phased out.

            At this point, it just takes more effort for me to disbelieve the lead crime link than to believe it. If you put lead into the environment, people are going to experience the symptoms of lead poisoning. It’s pretty simple.

            You can also google Steven Pinker’s thoughts on the lead-crime hypothesis. He says some stuff that is skeptical of the theory that should make anyone who supports the theory pause and think. I’d really like to see a good debate between the two sides.

          • Wrong Species says:

            On Baltimore, the thesis is that lead explains the majority of the rise and fall of violent crime, let’s say 95% of it. So if New York crime rises by 95%, we’ve got a good confirmation of the theory. But if Baltimore crime only drops by 5%, then at the very least the theory is missing something. If Baltimore still has level high levels of lead, then that explains it. But if levels of lead dropped like in NYC but there wasn’t a corresponding drop in crime, then somethings wrong.

            On the graph, I looked at it but I was mainly thinking about the US homicide rate. There you can clearly see where the rate starts increasing and the noticeable drop in the 80’s. But of course, the graph measures violent crime, not homicide, something I wasn’t thinking about. It’s weird that the increase happened earlier and quicker than the increase in violent crime.

          • albatross11 says:

            Wrong Species:

            I think homicide tends to be better reported and less subject to gaming by police departments who know they’re being judged by the crime statistics. So it’s possible that violent crime went up overall, but many police departments tried to keep a lid on the bad statistics[1] for a couple years till things got bad enough that they couldn’t do it anymore.

            [1] I think a common technique for this is to dissuade people from filiing reports for minor crimes, and to reclassify major crimes down–the attempted murder becomes assault, for example.

          • maintain says:

            Yeah, that’s a good question. I do wonder what is up with Baltimore.

      • maintain says:

        >I’m betting that the percentage of older criminals is fairly stable across time periods, regardless of lead.

        I’m not sure I understood you correctly in that paragraph you wrote, but if you scroll down to the chart that says Change in Imprisonment Rate by Age it says that the percentage of older criminals has not been stable. Older people now (who were born at the height of leaded gasoline usage) are way more likely to commit crimes than older people born before leaded gasoline.

        • Wrong Species says:

          I interpreted that graph as meaning “change in incarceration rate by age”, meaning that rate at which those people by age were in jail, not the rate they were being arrested and then put in jail. You may be right though. Looking back, I’m not sure.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’d noticed in a vague way that there seem to be a few older violent criminals, and I’ve wondered whether it might be that people are healthier later in life.

          • rlms says:

            I just found out recently that the perpetrators of possibly the largest burglary in English history were 75, 61, 67 and 76 at the time.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’ve always heard the claim that most people age out of violent crime. One obvious reason is physical–if your job involves a lot of getting into fights, beating people up, running away from the cops, etc., that’s going to be a lot harder for a 50 year old than a 20 year old. But there also seems to be some kind of change in aggression level as young men get older, which you see in everyday life as well as in crime stats.

          • Aapje says:

            Perhaps it’s mostly that testosterone goes down, plus that most of these men do end up with relationships & children and may think that they have something to lose because of that.

          • keranih says:

            Alternative idea: A non-trivial number of young violent men don’t live long enough to be old violent men.

            I have also heard that this is part of the reason that the US incarcerated population is larger than other nations with similar rates of violence – we are not in the habit of letting people die in prison at the same rate. I don’t have the data for this.

      • secondcityscientist says:

        The United States and the UK had large increases in violent crimes. What about other Western European countries?

        This article, linked in the 2012 Drum feature, has data on West Germany, France, Italy and Finland in addition to the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada (and of course the US). All of them have the same shape, though Finland’s crime curve and lead curves are both much shallower.

        • albatross11 says:

          One thing I wonder about w.r.t. the lead/crime theory is, shouldn’t we also see declining average IQ scores tracking with childhood lead exposure? I’ve never heard of any such pattern in US data, but if very widespread lead exposure was going on, I’d expect it to exist.

          • John Schilling says:

            Average IQ scores are mostly about, well, average people. Violent crime is mostly about two-sigma outliers. Depending on how the effects of lead exposure are distributed, you might well see significant effects only among the outliers.

          • albatross11 says:

            That seems plausible, but the theory Drum is pushing seems to be that there was widespread lead exposure due to leaded gasoline. Wouldn’t that have hit across a big chunk of the country–at least the part of the country living in cities and near highways and gas stations and such? The theory claims that this explains a rise (and then a fall) in crime rates across the whole US, and across many other countries. If we got a large number of kids exposed to lead enough to have effects on their brain development and behavior, they should also have depressed IQs.

            I’m visualizing this like a bell curve for violence, where there’s a cutoff at, say, + 2 sigma for where you become a lifelong violent criminal. And widespread lead exposure shifts that bell curve a bit to the right, so more people become violent criminals, in the same way that widespread lead exposure shifts the IQ bell curve to the left a bit.

  15. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://autnot.wordpress.com/2017/12/14/autism-labour-and-birth/

    An autistic woman describes her experiences of giving birth and what she wants from people helping her.

    She calls herself a hard woman– someone who’s focused on competence and doesn’t want unnecessary socializing.

  16. Randy M says:

    Thought indirectly related to some above discussions.
    If we had a UBI, would that justify reducing labor regulations enough to significantly reduce the cost of labor, and thereby increase wages, employment, and productivity?

    Some requirements are predicated on employers having the advantage of employees having no choice but to work somewhere, so things like discrimination, or very tight safety requirements, or minimum wage are argued for on the basis that people are assuming risks out of (a perhaps left wing view of) coercion. I don’t know the significance of this cost, however, nor how voters/legislators/regulators feel about people more voluntarily assuming risks/facing discrimination/taking lower pay, etc.

    • Brad says:

      It’s a very interesting question. For me the minimum wage part is easy, I don’t support it to begin with so sure I think it is even less necessary in a world with UBI. But the other ones have some real bite. My first instinct would be that in terms of safety regulations the two issues would: informed consent and socialized costs of injuries. In terms of discrimination, I’m not sure how coercion plays into it?

      • Randy M says:

        Bear in mind I’m not an expert in work-place regulations and just listed three categories off the top of my head and am looking for explanations of others; but I know every large employer will have HR specialists who in part ensure compliance with these laws.

        In terms of discrimination, I’m not sure how coercion plays into it?

        If you can’t get a job anywhere now, you starve, where starve is a stand-in for a quality of life below what a presumed UBI would give. This makes legal discrimination particularly bad, since it would lead to unemployment for large groups of people (if certain critiques of our country are true). I don’t believe many corporations would save money by wide-spread discrimination; rather that they would not have to employ people to ensure compliance with the rules.

    • Mark says:

      Minimum wage improves productivity, investment, so I think you’d still want that even with UBI.

      I think, given the culture, people will have to be forced out of the workforce.

      • Randy M says:

        Minimum wage laws themselves, or higher wages?

        • Mark says:

          Minimum wage laws themselves. If there is someone willing and able to work for below the minimum wage, removing that option means that at least some of the firms will invest more in training, automation.

          I suppose that if wages were just higher, that’d imply that productivity was already high or that people somehow decided not to do scut work, so the cause and effect would be the other way around.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Minimum wage laws themselves. If there is someone willing and able to work for below the minimum wage, removing that option means that at least some of the firms will invest more in training, automation.

            This isn’t a net gain, its a compartmental gain. France’s productivity per hour worked is on par with the US, but that is because they have basically driven the bottom of the work force out. Total productivity is down, average productivity is up but only because they don’t factor in the 0 for the guy who doesn’t work.

          • Mark says:

            The existence of a person isn’t a cost unless you’re concerned about space/environment (and then it doesn’t matter if they work or not.)

            I mean, should leisure time for workers also count against productivity?

          • baconbits9 says:

            The existence of a person isn’t a cost

            That person doesn’t need to be fed, clothed and housed?

            I mean, should leisure time for workers also count against productivity?

            Should we put everyone except the single most productive person in the world on welfare? If you don’t count the people out of the workforce then average productivity goes way the hell up!

            Yes, leisure time needs to be counted in a consistent way. It doesn’t count ‘against’, but it has to count.

          • Mark says:

            Yeah, I suppose there is a limit to how far you could take things – you need some level of production, absolutely.

            But I think it’s reasonable to suppose that the greatest (emotional physical) costs of labour are paid by those who produce the least – the people who we need to work the least, are the ones who are paying the highest costs for their labour.
            So, if we can move them out of the workforce, and ensure that the remaining workers are producing more with their time, it could be good.

            And, you could adjust the level of the minimum wage to avoid banning necessary labour.

          • baconbits9 says:

            But I think it’s reasonable to suppose that the greatest (emotional physical) costs of labour are paid by those who produce the least – the people who we need to work the least, are the ones who are paying the highest costs for their labour.

            It depends on what ‘costs’ you are talking about. People who speak 5 languages or are skilled artists have options if they aren’t working. Their opportunity cost is high, while the typical minimum wage worker has little else going for them outside of their jobs. An $8 an hour worker who learns a skill that pushes his earnings to $10 an hour (and there are many that would do this for them) has increased his value by 25%, whereas the $100,000 a year employee has far fewer options that will increase their salary that much.

            There is no obvious way to compare the two people in terms of costs and benefits of work to the individual outside of dollars earned. I find it suspicious that it sounds OK to push a class of people into dependence on the state when the argument ignores their individual humanity.

      • Nornagest says:

        Forty years ago it would have been easy to look at the culture and say that you’d never see divorce rates higher than, say, 10%, and yet here we are.

        • Mark says:

          Yes. At least in the UK that was achieved as part of a conscious political program with accompanying legal changes.

          • Nornagest says:

            You are proposing a conscious political program with accompanying legal changes. You don’t intend to push people out of the workforce, I think, but the divorce reformers didn’t intend more than a marginal increase in divorce rates either — they just wanted to get rid of requirements for the process that they saw as cruel, unproductive, and potentially exploitative.

            Turns out that marginal effects matter. A lot.

          • Mark says:

            No, I absolutely do intend to push people out of the workforce, or at least to force them out of the explicitly productive part of the economy.

            If they want to do grow olives incredibly inefficiently because that is something that they really love doing, good luck to them, but I think that the desire, due to culture, to appear productive has really malign effects on workers.

            Doing work because you think it to be necessary vs. working because you need to be seen as necessary.

    • baconbits9 says:

      No, unfortunately I think the opposite will/would be true in the long run. I will start with what I think is the general idealized UBI proposal, where everyone gets enough money to ‘get by’ and major social programs (UE, SS etc) are deleted and their funding shifting to UBI. The issues with the UBI start with the average and move out to the extremes. If you set the UBI to what the ‘average’ person needs then you have three basic classes of people. Ones who have lower expenses than average, those that have average expenses and those who have above average expenses. The first group loves it, a tent, sleeping bag, boots and $10,000 a year means you could explore every national park to your heart’s content. Not for everyone of course, but for a few an enormous boon. On the other end you have people who legitimately can’t cover basic expenses (including medical care) for $10,000 a year, or $20,000 a year. Insurance works because your pay out can greatly exceed your pay in, but UBI is a cash payment. Shortly after it is implemented it will be noted that some people have health insurance bills exceeding the total annual UBI before counting their copays and deductibles.

      This will not stand, so the government will step in and force everyone to buy insurance and ban price hikes for preexisting conditions or set up some government run supplemental insurance. Later it will be noticed that you can buy a house in the rust belt for 2-3 years worth of rent in the low ends of major cities, also food costs, taxes etc. UBI is going to functionally end up as a subsidy to live in low cost areas, but those areas often became low cost because they were low productivity relative to cities. Productivity will dip (a little), labor mobility will dip (maybe a little, maybe a lot) and you will get a (more) fragmented labor force, with unemployed people whiling away empty hours until they discover opiates.

      This will also not stand, and regulations will be put in place to ‘correct’ the issue.

      At the other end though everyone who is healthy with a modest cost of living has the alternative of quitting their job and spending a few years hiking, or learning to paint or writing a novel. This is billed as ‘good’, but it means a higher opportunity cost of working, which functionally means you have given them higher bargaining power as a group. This should push down returns on capital which should push down investment in capital which should push down investment which should push down productivity.

      • Randy M says:

        I track with you and agree that’s more likely.

        This may make for an interesting digression, though:

        but those areas often became low cost because they were low productivity relative to cities

        What makes an area “low productivity”? Access to infrastructure like harbors? The population density?

        This [worker’s bargaining power] is billed as ‘good’, but it means a higher opportunity cost of working, which functionally means you have given them higher bargaining power as a group. This should push down returns on capital which should push down investment in capital which should push down investment which should push down productivity.

        Well, that basically boils down to “higher wages interfere with productivity” and at that point, what’s the point of productivity (from a sociological perspective, not an investor perspective) anyway?

        • baconbits9 says:

          Well, that basically boils down to “higher wages interfere with productivity” and at that point, what’s the point of productivity (from a sociological perspective, not an investor perspective) anyway?

          No it doesn’t because some of the wages are not tied to productivity which is the issue. At a basic level higher wages come from higher productivity, the more you break that relationship towards higher wages without regard to productivity the lower the rate of return on capitial.

          • Randy M says:

            No it doesn’t because some of the wages are not tied to productivity which is the issue.

            I was going to retort that higher wages aren’t ever going to be a problem, then paused to remember I don’t support $50 minimum wage laws, so I see your point.
            Still, kind of bothers me to say that workers not facing the threat of starvation is a problem.

          • baconbits9 says:

            It isn’t that its a problem, it is a fact of life. If no one works then everyone starves. The higher the % of the population that works means the less each faces starvation (oversimplified). This is why communism, socialism, UBI, Welfare etc increase the risk of starvation, not decrease it.

        • albatross11 says:

          Places that have a lot of retirees living in them are currently experiencing some of what you might imagine for low-cost areas in an UBI world. However, there are a *lot* of low-cost places in the US. Most of the US has pretty low land/housing prices. The prices get crazy in places where there are a lot of high-paying jobs and not so much available housing. UBI wouldn’t cause the same thing to happen everywhere, it would just make it possible for some people to move to lower-cost places where their UBI would go further.

          • Matt M says:

            Places that have a lot of retirees living in them are currently experiencing some of what you might imagine for low-cost areas in an UBI world.

            How many “places with a lot of retirees” are really low-cost though? Like, Miami is a famous destination for retirees, but isn’t exactly low-cost. On the other hand, I imagine rural Montana is very low-cost, but doesn’t have a reputation for retirees flocking there…

      • Brad says:

        This seems to be fighting the question. The hypo is “If we had a UBI …” and your answer seems to be “that will not be allowed stand”.

        • baconbits9 says:

          The question, as I take it, is one of practicality. If we do X, can we then do Y to increase the benefits of X should be answered in some way relating to how X and Y are going to be implemented. UBI is in many ways worse than welfare if your goal is to reduce extreme poverty, and either there is going to be visible extreme poverty of politicians will propose solutions to fix it. I wrote a general explanation of what I think would happen after the implementation of UBI, which seems in line with the question.

          • Randy M says:

            I was looking to understand both the potential effects of UBI and the extent of the cost of workplace regulation (without, you know, doing actual research into either) and how they might intersect. All replies were interesting.

          • Brad says:

            UBI is in many ways worse than welfare if your goal is to reduce extreme poverty, and either there is going to be visible extreme poverty of politicians will propose solutions to fix it.

            Only because you seem to assume that it is intended to replace all existing healthcare programs.

            No UBI proposal I’ve seen suggests eliminating medicare, medicaid, and ACA. That’s a lot to hide in the etc of “(UE, SS etc)”.

            In terms of cash and cash like programs, UBI is much superior to traditional welfare in terms of eliminating extreme poverty, because traditional welfare has a lot of holes in it (at since the 90s) and doesn’t have a great signup rate even among those populations that are eligible.

            The big winners from a UBI are those in extreme poverty, the losers, large net taxpayers aside, are those currently receiving several thousand dollars a month from the government — mostly high end social security collectors. A reduction from that to $800-$1000 a month is going to surely hurt but doesn’t drive them into extreme poverty.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Proposals to make UBI cost neutral, or near cost neutral require the displacement of most of those programs. Without displacing those programs you get the same conclusion through a different route when you start discussing the expected marginal tax issues and work incentive issues.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The big winners from a UBI are those in extreme poverty

            The majority of people in extreme poverty in advanced cultures are there because of addiction or mental illness issues (either their own or their caretakers). Cash transfers don’t do much in these situations on average (sometimes they make things better but they can also make things worse or prevent improvement). It is also reasonable to expect (though not certain) that UBI + welfare will push labro force participation down, which will push effective prices up for those living in extreme poverty.

  17. fortaleza84 says:

    I have been thinking about the discussion of lying from the last thread; I admitted in that thread that I have often lied about my motivations which seems to be a very common type of lie.

    The hypothesis occurred to me this morning that all of the evil and wicked people I have ever known or known of had two and only two things in common: They harmed other people; and they lied about their motivations. It seems to me that lying about one’s motivations is fundamentally wrapped up with evil. In fact, just as most evil people are unaware of it (everyone is the good guy in his own story), it’s also very common for people to be unaware of their true motivations for doing things. It seems to me these two observations have an equivalency between them.

    Anyway, just as various forms of transparency have helped to alleviate wrongdoing in the world (e.g. videotaping government misbehavior), perhaps one of the most important applications of AI will be to construct a system for accurately assessing peoples’ motivations.

    Edit: I’m not claiming that lying about one’s motivations is inherently evil; in fact it seems like it’s often the only way for decent people to get by in this world.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I had a Come to Jesus a few years back, and my insight was that every bad thing I’d ever done, every person I’d ever hurt, every thing I’d ever done that I felt shame over involved a lie. Either I lied about what I was going to do, or I lied about what I did, and it did not turn out well. It certainly did not turn out well for my conscience. I resolved to stop lying.

      That doesn’t mean always tell the truth. That’s very difficult because it’s hard to know what the truth is. But I can identify my own falsehoods. And then avoid them. So when pondering a course of action, one thing to ask myself is “will I feel the need to lie about this later?” And if the answer is “yes,” then don’t do that thing. Find another way to accomplish the goal. If there’s no way to accomplish the goal without lying, then maybe that’s not a good goal.

      As for “decent people getting by,” you can also 1) not volunteer information and 2) refuse to answer. “That’s private. I don’t want to talk about that sort of thing.”

      I find that this attitude helps me keep a clean conscience and sleep better at night. I’m not claiming this to be any special insight of my own. I didn’t coin “Honesty is the best policy” or “To thine own self be true.”

    • The Nybbler says:

      If everyone (or at least the vast majority) lies about their motivations, it’s not a good distinguisher of evil.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        Yes, unless everyone is somewhat evil.

        • Anonymous says:

          Sounds plausible.

        • Matt M says:

          If it somehow became known that Mother Teresa didn’t actually believe in God and was super vain and all of her deeds were in pursuit of achieving worldwide fame – would that make her evil?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            How reasonable are Hitchens’ claims that Mother Teresa wasn’t doing much good?

          • SamChevre says:

            I consider his claims that she “wasn’t doing much good” very plausible, for his definition of good. I just very very strongly disagree with his definition of good.

            His fundamental objection (IIRC) is that subsistence-level care for the destitute elderly doesn’t affect their lifespan much, and does nothing about the structural problem of poverty. I think that being cared for, and treated as valuable, is very good even if it doesn’t extend life.

            Edited to add: By the same standards of “good”, holding my 2-year-old when she’s upset because of some trivial issue–like the dress she wanted needs to be washed–is not doing any good.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, I don’t think anyone was ever under the delusion that her efforts stacked up favorably to effective altruism or anything like that…

          • albatross11 says:

            One thing I think is really valuable to take away from effective altruism is: It’s possible to do stuff that is demanding and hard and *feels* like you’re doing a lot of good, but where you aren’t actually doing as much good as you intended.

            Sometimes, that may turn on your definition of good. If you’re measuring QALYs, then visiting sick people in hospitals and nursing homes and hospices looks like a total waste of time, but if you’re measuring by how much impact that has on the people visited, it might look very different.

            Other times, that may be true even when we’re all using the same definition of good. A doctor who purged and bled his patients probably thought he was doing them some good, and maybe was doing it for free out of his inherent goodness, but he was still probably not helping much and maybe was making his patients worse off.

    • Grek says:

      My experience has been that it’s slightly more complicated than just truth = good; lies = bad. In particular, I favour a two factor model as follows: Whenever you are presented with a possible course of action, your brain does two checks. First, “Do [insert evolutionarily adapted heuristics here] suggest that this action would help me, personally, ignoring social sanctions?” Second, “Do [insert evolutionarily adapted heuristics here] think that social sanctions are likely to arise if I am honest to my peers about the answer to that prior question?”

      If check one comes out in favour of action, you feel motivated to take the action; if not you end up with akrasia at best and an ugh field at worst. Call this feeling an urge. If check two suggests a lack of sanctions, the urge is ego syntonic and the reasons for the urge are made available to the part of the mind responsible for examining and articulating your own reasoning. If not, you get the urge without any explanation for why; instead your introspective abilities attempt to work it out from first principles without direct access to the prior evaluation.

      If your introspective abilities aren’t very good, you end up believing a plausible lie told to you by your own mind. Thus the ‘unaware evil’ described in the top level comment. If your introspective abilities are up to par, you get the plausible lies (which are just discarded hypothesises which sound suitably sympathetic to others) and the actual reason itself. You can then either act on the action or not and tell one of the plausible lies, or not.

      The tricky part is that both of these operations feel mostly the same from the inside, making it very hard to tell if your true motives are what you think they are. Which is of course the entire point, since the purpose of all of this internal obfuscation is to make humans better at keeping their true motives secret from other humans. But if you know how the process works and you’ve practiced paying attention to the subtle nuances of your lived experience in tremendous detail and nothing is distracting you, you can sometimes tell which one is happening based on the type and quality of the hypothesises generated, whether you’re feeling motivated or dismotivated and whether your motives ‘sound cynical enough’ for lack of a better description.

    • actinide meta says:

      I am on team “lying is bad.”

      But I think people are in most contexts entitled to privacy in their motivations. It’s usually not everyone’s business why you are doing something. I think it should be generally considered rude to demand someone explain their motivation, and not for someone to refuse to answer such a question.

      Another thing about lies that I don’t think I said in the last thread: I don’t think most lies are even ultimately self serving. People typically don’t seem to lie as part of a carefully crafted evil (or good) plan, they mostly seem to lie to avoid mild social embarrassment, and then to try to avoid being caught in those lies, in a spiral that winds up costing them more than the original benefit. Less Xanatos Gambit and more 50 Ways to Say Goodbye.

  18. Aapje says:

    This is a pretty interesting portrait of Jordan Peterson. Ignore the clickbait title.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Good article. I would really like to see an academic fairly critique Peterson. All we get is the typical name calling (sexist, transphobic, etc) and guilt by association (“someone held up a picture of Pepe the Frog next to him, that means he’s alt-right!”)*. I would really like someone who disagrees with Peterson to tell me what he’s actually wrong about.

      * I find the whole “alt-right” thing especially weird with regards to Peterson. Ignoring the obvious worldview difference between the anti-ideology Peterson and the narrow ideology of the alt-right, Peterson is far bigger than the alt-right. Richard Spencer has ~90k twitter followers. Peterson has ~400k on twitter, and over 700k on YouTube. Peterson’s Patreon brings in at least $60,000 each month. Nobody’s giving that kind of cash to the alt-right. Peterson’s fans cannot possibly be “the alt-right” because Peterson’s following dwarfs the alt-right by at least an order of magnitude and is growing fast.

      • Matt M says:

        As used in popular conversation, “alt right” has no standard definition. It basically means “Any right-leaning person who does not loudly and constantly attack Trump”

      • toastengineer says:

        Someone who listens to news media that are trying to convince them that the “alt-right” is something to be so terrified of that you never take your eyes away from the news ticker is not going to think of that.

      • Randy M says:

        You think that he’s bigger than the alt-right. Some, especially those inclined to facially critique Peterson, have a more expansive view of the movement.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Then a rising alt-right tide should lift all (most? Many?) alt-right boats. What other allegedly alt-right figures have been attracting followers like Peterson?

          • Well... says:

            Maybe number of followers isn’t the right metric, or at least not a useful metric by itself? Peterson’s hot right now because he’s the latest Brave Guy Standing Up to the Insane Establishment and its Whiny Henchmen, but before that he was mostly unknown. Compare with Steve Sailer who’s had a pretty large following for a long time, but not as large as Peterson’s obviously.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Mainstream appeal, then? Peterson got popular on YouTube, but now he’s interviewed on Channel 4 (hostilely) and Fox (fawningly). Other “alt-right” figures are unknown outside of their narrow platforms.

            I think the only thing Peterson has in common with the alt-right is a hatred for SJWs, and the left pattern matches “doesn’t like SJWs” to “nazis” and that’s that.

          • Well... says:

            Yeah, I think that’s about right. I would still say the extent of Peterson’s mainstream appearances is probably evidence against an all-trite association, at least in the sense of “alternative” and “mainstream” being oil and water. For instance, Steve Sailer isn’t going to be on Fox & Friends, even if Sailer is every bit as reasonable and knowledgeable as Peterson. (That’s a real “if”; I don’t have strong confidence whether he is or isn’t, but for sake of argument let’s say he is.) So this makes a true comparison of “how big is X among the all-trite” difficult.

          • Randy M says:

            What other allegedly alt-right figures have been attracting followers like Peterson?

            Devil’s Advocate: Trump. Collectively, Breitbart. Maybe Milo? How is his book doing?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Well… and Randy M

            Peterson is waaaaaaaay less radioactive than Sailer or Milo.

            Peterson is a free speech crusader by the standards of Canada, but I’m pretty sure he’s on the record as saying that he doesn’t mind Canada’s hate-speech, etc, laws, which are incredibly restrictive by the standards of the US and would get knocked down by the first court they ran into. The diciest thing about him is the whole “postmodern neo-Marxism” thing, which is uncomfortably close to “cultural Marxism”, which is basically a conspiracy theory, and one that certainly isn’t not anti-Semitic. He also has some sketchy fans, and has on at least one occasion publicized things like public Facebook pages of people who don’t like him – which is basically plausibly-deniable incitement to harass, and is at minimum bad form. His objection to nonbinary pronouns is based on a really weird reading of C-16, and is a strange hill to die on. He speaks with great authority on subjects he doesn’t know a great deal about – eg, a Biblical scholar might be at odds with him about the Bible. But those arguing against him usually have to depend to some extent on guilt by association and quote-mining (which is disappointing, because I am not a huge fan of the guy, and keep seeing what I want to be incisive critiques and instead are lazy boo lights). You wouldn’t have to do that with Sailer and Milo.

            Sailer has as one of his core opinions something that is a completely unacceptable opinion in modern western society – namely, his opinion of the most racially-focused version of “horrible banned discourse”. This isn’t something that someone trying to show would have to do by selective quotation or guilt by association or whatever. He has opinions that are anathema to most people, and is quite cheerful about it.

            Milo, meanwhile, has a shtick built around saying offensive things in the most insulting way possible, and then being gleeful when people are offended and insulted. He uses slurs, misgenders people for funsies, etc. There’s that whole thing where he wrote an article on the alt-right playing down the white nationalist, etc, part of it, and then it turned out he was basically using white nationalists as proofreaders (those emails were real, right?). There’s also the chance he believes very little of it but saw a niche – which makes him not just odious and juvenile but also a huckster.

            I know people with fairly impeccable left-wing credentials who have said some variant on “that guy makes some decent points, but he is kinda dicey” about Peterson. The chance of them saying that about Sailer or Milo is zero.

          • Randy M says:

            I know people with fairly impeccable left-wing credentials who have said some variant on “that guy makes some decent points, but he is kinda dicey” about Peterson. The chance of them saying that about Sailer or Milo is zero.

            The question is, would those left-wing people put Peterson in the deplorable basket, or not. I think so, based on the fact that I think they find the alt-right to be a significant threat and would put a wider variety of opinions into that basket, such as thinking there are two genders, etc.

            If you consider Slate to be impeccably left wing (idk, do you?) this supports my claim.

            The examples of Milo etc. were the examples of other people who would be considered alt-right and have or had a comparable following. I don’t know how comparable they are, but there’s other factors; I think based on his usage of Youtube videos, Peterson probably has Sailer beat on charisma, and he is rather less scandal plagued than Milo.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Something I must have omitted: they said these things privately. There are probably people at Slate who think Peterson is right about some things. But they probably know not to write articles saying that. I’ve never had any left-wing friend of mine privately say they agree with Milo on anything.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the actual phenomenon isn’t an alt-right tide, it’s a breaking of the megaphone monopoly. Thirty years ago, it was a lot harder for people who were opposed by most/all of the mainstream broadcast and print media outlets to get much of an audience, so they couldn’t become popular successes even if they were pretty appealing to a large chunk of people. I think talk radio and cable TV really started allowing this kind of end run around the gatekeepers (or at least one set of gatekeepers), but the internet made it a lot easier to do that end-run.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is Peterson opposed by most/all of the outlets? I think you’re right that the internet played a huge role in all this, but there’s lots of people who agree with him. The internet’s role was in making this something that people outside of one Canadian university knew about.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m very much not an expert, but I think a lot of what he says is pretty anodyne–ie, clean up your room. A lot of the rest is somewhat esoteric, modern mysticism. That leaves some controversial things, maybe just the transgender thing and anti-leftwing academia (possibly atheist crusader types). I think it probably rounds to most mainstream opinion makers not seeing him as worth opposing if they aren’t into fighting on those particular causes. Those that are will want to paint him as an extremist lunatic, of course, but they likely aren’t representative.

          • dndnrsn says:

            He’s a weird mixture of stuff.

            1. Jungian stuff, or whatever.
            2. Weird misinterpretation to Bill C-16. As I recall, his initial objection was to being made to use whatever pronoun – which was a weird interpretation, from what I’ve seen lawyers say.
            3. Fairly anodyne but apparently not anodyne enough that people don’t need to hear it about getting your shit together, but honestly, nothing you couldn’t get from preexisting sources.
            4. Also, apparently you shouldn’t eat carbs.
            5. Weird, vaguely (?) conspiratorial, overly-complicated stuff about certain current trends in parts of academia.

          • Well... says:

            2. Weird misinterpretation to Bill C-16. As I recall, his initial objection was to being made to use whatever pronoun – which was a weird interpretation, from what I’ve seen lawyers say.

            Can you expand on that? I’ve only heard his side of it.

            Anyway, another problem with the all-trite thing is, who doesn’t deny being affiliated with the all-trite when the affiliation is alleged? I’ve seen Milo deny it for instance, insisting instead that he and many in the all-trite are merely “fellow travelers” but then going on to list issues where he thinks there is no overlap between him and them (e.g. Israel).

            I personally don’t think that if you define the all-trite in a reasonable way that Jordan Peterson should be included in it. My point is more to say that reasonable definitions of the all-trite are hard to come by and even those are complicated by the huge variance in specific cases, which means that when someone says Jordan Peterson is affiliated with the all-trite it’s not terribly hard to see why they say that.

            Or another way to put it might be that you have to be atypically familiar with both the all-trite and Peterson to be able to easily tell that he isn’t part of the all-trite.

          • Deiseach says:

            As I recall, his initial objection was to being made to use whatever pronoun – which was a weird interpretation, from what I’ve seen lawyers say.

            Well, since I had no idea what a “Title XII” or “Dear Colleague” letter was and had to go look it up, imagine my surprise when I found Title XII was originally about “you have to spend as much on/sponsor women’s sports and teams in universities as you do on men’s sports and teams”. How they got from that to “Dear Colleague, this covers rape accusations and how you should deal with them” I have no idea, so I’d be taking with a grain of salt any “lawyers say this teeny-weeny rule will never expand to cover things as you fear”.

            Emanations of penumbras and all the rest of it.

          • Matt M says:

            How they got from that to “Dear Colleague

            The phrase “equal opportunity” has been twisted in common American usage from something like “You can’t refuse service to someone because of race or gender” to something like “If you allow anything negative to happen to anyone of race or gender, you are denying them equal opportunity to enjoy your services and therefore you are in a lot of trouble.”

          • Aapje says:

            @Randy M

            He also argues that traits that are commonly seen as negative can help society and that people should not necessarily suppress them entirely. In the context of many of his followers being men, I can see how some may see this as support for ‘toxic masculinity’ or worse.

            @dndnrsn

            Looking at Bill C-16, it says:

            all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on […] gender identity or expression

            This can be interpreted in a really expansive way, because some may argue that being addressed in person or in writing as an ‘expansive ornate building’ is a need and if others do not do this, this person will be so psychologically hurt that they are hindered in having the equal opportunity to “make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have” as a person who identifies as male or female.

            Alternatively, this can be interpreted in a very limited way, where a person who identifies as an ‘expansive ornate building’ may not be denied something for having that identity, but where others are not required to affirm or recognize this.

            The bill doesn’t seem to specify the limit to which needs have to be accommodated, which seems to leave it up to the judge’s digression. In itself, I can see why Peterson may not want to be at the mercy of a judge, especially if he fears ‘Cthulhu swims left’ and/or in ‘legislating from the bench.’

            In a world where ‘men and women should be treated equally’ became mostly misandrist ‘Title IX panels,’ I can see why he cannot live with such vagueness.

          • Randy M says:

            He also argues that traits that are commonly seen as negative can help society and that people should not necessarily suppress them entirely. In the context of many of his followers being men, I can see how some may see this as support for ‘toxic masculinity’ or worse.

            What came to mind reading your first sentence was Autism. Goes to show it’s a fairly general statement without examples or context.

            As far as ‘toxic masculinity’ being bad, well, that’s tautological. To say all masculinity is toxic, though, is a motte (if I’m using that right) that definitely deserves pushback.

            [eta: correction accepted. I’ll just have to remember it’s the opposite of what I remember.]

          • Winter Shaker says:

            To say all masculinity is toxic, though, is a motte (if I’m using that right)

            Other way round: if I understood the metaphor right, the motte is the obviously-defensible, not-much-use-to-your-special-interest-group claim, and the bailey is the claim that is hard to defend, but profitable to you if you can get away with it.

          • Aapje says:

            @Randy M

            I think that you should not underestimate the bad faith that people commonly have for attempts to help men.

            It’s not a coincidence that the Newman interview used the fact that his audience is heavily slanted towards men pejoratively (and so did my own newspaper), while Newman got out of sorts when Peterson explained that he helped women in their careers. She clearly could not imagine how someone can care about men as men; as well as about women as women. Of course, this is my criticism in general: that very few fight for equality of opportunity for men and women, but instead, that it is often a fight for one gender at the expense of the other.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Well…, @Deiseach, @Matt M, @Aapje

            C-16 could be interpreted in any number of ways, but Peterson is taking the most slippery-slope interpretation possible and then asserting it’s the core of C-16. I don’t think that a comparison to Title IX really works; Peterson is a tenured academic, and we’re talking about speech rather than allegations of criminal or borderline actions.

            With regard to whether he’s alt-right, yeah, defining these things might require a greater than normal knowledge of what alt-right is, or about Peterson, but we’re not talking huge familiarity (I’ve never watched a Peterson video, because I can’t stand trying to follow videos) and people casting sweeping judgments on whatever without being familiar is kind of the problem in general. We do it here about some things, other people elsewhere do it about other things, etc.

          • Matt M says:

            Peterson is taking the most slippery-slope interpretation possible and then asserting it’s the core of C-16. I don’t think that a comparison to Title IX really works

            What were the opponents of Title IX, back in the 70s, saying the worst-case slippery slope scenario would be?

            Because I feel like current day policies are probably worse than that. Did anyone ever imagine the sort of sexual assault tribunals where the accused have zero rights?

          • Zorgon says:

            @Aapje

            I think that you should not underestimate the bad faith that people commonly have for attempts to help men.

            How does that quote go?

            The First Rule of Gynocentrism Club is that no discussion of Gynocentrism is permitted. Anywhere. Ever.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Anyway, another problem with the all-trite thing is, who doesn’t deny being affiliated with the all-trite when the affiliation is alleged?

            Richard Spencer and Vox Day to name two.

            I’ve seen Milo deny it for instance, insisting instead that he and many in the all-trite are merely “fellow travelers” but then going on to list issues where he thinks there is no overlap between him and them (e.g. Israel).

            Milo has consistently denied being a member of the alt-right. For a while after Charlottesville, “alt-right” was starting to solidify with the meaning of the actual neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates, fascists, white nationalists, etc. But it’s too tempting a term and now it’s back to the motte-and-bailey where people bring up Spencer and the neo-Nazis to show you should hate them, but use a much wider meaning when assigning the term to their opponents.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            In every (nearly every? I haven’t seen one where they don’t) interview of Peterson that isn’t with an explicitly right-wing interviewer, the interviewer spends a fair amount of time grilling Peterson about his association with the alt-right.

            I think all of us here, left, right and center, agree Peterson is not alt-right. He rejects pretty much any sort of collective behavior or explanations for politics and instead is a radical individualist.

            When Newman, Salon, etc, mention the alt-right alongside Peterson, or ask him about his involvement with the alt-right, do you think they’re merely ignorant? Have they not seen any of the other interviews he’s done in which he’s explained he has nothing to do with the alt-right, and if anything his “sort yourself out, take responsibility for your own life” message diverts people away from both far left and far right collectivist ideologies?

            Or are they doing it because they’re trying to tar him with guilt by (false) association? It just seems to me if you’ve got 15 minutes to ask Peterson, who’s got this large body of work about religion, mythology, psychology, self-help, etc, and every single “neutral” interviewer must ask about that one time somebody held up a banner with Pepe on it for a photo with him, there’s something uncharitable going on.

          • Iain says:

            To be clear: all that Bill C-16 did was take the list in the Canadian Human Rights Act listing the prohibited grounds for discrimination and stick “gender identity or expression” somewhere in the middle. Everything else that Aapje quoted was already in the Act. All the stuff about being arrested for using the wrong pronouns is Peterson’s legally dubious extrapolation.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Deisach

            Title IX is what gets you the Dear Colleague Letter, not XII.

            This is the main part of Title IX

            No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

            The rest is mostly exceptions, in particular fraternities and sororities.

            From that, you get the no-due-process rape tribunals. Men have tried to use it; with a few exceptions, despite its neutral language, courts have refuse to apply it that way. Some cases against tribunal results have succeeded on due process grounds instead.

          • Matt M says:

            It just seems to me if you’ve got 15 minutes to ask Peterson, who’s got this large body of work about religion, mythology, psychology, self-help, etc, and every single “neutral” interviewer must ask about that one time somebody held up a banner with Pepe on it for a photo with him, there’s something uncharitable going on.

            The mainstream media doesn’t give a single crap about his large body of religion, mythology, and psychology. There are hundreds of professors in the world who have that.

            Peterson is only famous because alt-right people like him. If it wasn’t for the Pepe the Frog photos, they wouldn’t bother interviewing him at all. So of course they’re going to ask about that. He can keep insisting all he wants to do is tell people to clean their room all he wants, but he’s only famous because he has become, like it or not, a highly politicized figure.

          • Well... says:

            @The Nybbler:

            But it’s too tempting a term and now it’s back to the motte-and-bailey where people bring up Spencer and the neo-Nazis to show you should hate them, but use a much wider meaning when assigning the term to their opponents.

            If I’m understanding right, motte-and-bailey is basically another way to describe the bait-and-switch? Get someone to agree to an uncontroversial claim and use that agreement to argue he agrees with a radical claim? I’m still trying to figure out that term and how the metaphor works.

            @Conrad Honcho:

            When Newman, Salon, etc, mention the alt-right alongside Peterson, or ask him about his involvement with the alt-right, do you think they’re merely ignorant? Have they not seen any of the other interviews he’s done in which he’s explained he has nothing to do with the alt-right, and if anything his “sort yourself out, take responsibility for your own life” message diverts people away from both far left and far right collectivist ideologies?

            Or are they doing it because they’re trying to tar him with guilt by (false) association? It just seems to me if you’ve got 15 minutes to ask Peterson, who’s got this large body of work about religion, mythology, psychology, self-help, etc, and every single “neutral” interviewer must ask about that one time somebody held up a banner with Pepe on it for a photo with him, there’s something uncharitable going on.

            Maybe a bit of both? I can’t honestly believe that Newman, Salon et al. are familiar beyond a crude glance with Richard Spencer, let alone Steve Sailer, John Derbyshire, Moldbug, Duke, r/pol memes, etc. So I am totally confident that they do not appreciate the diversity of perspectives and attitudes that exist even among people who are solidly, unquestionably in the all-trite. Throwing Peterson into that pit isn’t a measured tactic, it’s a reflex built on assumptions about where the boundary of polite discourse lies.

            If you are familiar with the all-trite you realize there are particular ideas and attitudes and explicit affiliations* that can be said to roughly mark its edges. It’s an often jagged and reactive edge, but it’s there nonetheless, and there is in many areas plenty of space between it and the boundary of polite discourse.

            If you aren’t familiar with the all-trite, then the edge of the all-trite is merely the other side of whatever you consider to be the boundary of polite discourse.

            *The fact that Peterson once said something favorable about Milo is not what I’d consider an explicit affiliation. The fact that Sailer and Derbyshire and McInnes and Goad all write at Taki’s Mag and link to each other’s articles all the time is.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Peterson is only famous because alt-right people like him.

            I don’t think that’s true at all. I already laid out that his twitter and youtube numbers dwarf alt-right people. Nobody in the alt-right has a #1 on Amazon book like Peterson does. Peterson can’t possibly be famous because of “alt-right support” when his supporters dwarf the alt-right.

            That’s like saying Rachel Maddow is only popular because of literal communists. Hey, I’m sure among literal communists Maddow is probably a pretty OK news personality, but the number of people watching Rachel Maddow who are not literal communists dwarfs the population of literal communists watching her.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t think that’s true at all. I already laid out that his twitter and youtube numbers dwarf alt-right people.

            My argument is not “ONLY alt-right people follow Peterson.” It is “Were it not for being associated with the alt-right, nobody would have known about Peterson in the first place.”

            He got famous for a political association. But he was also intelligent and reasonable enough to then, once famous, attract attention from fair-minded politically neutral people – as well as the requisite amount of followers who hate him but pay attention to him anyway.

            But his unique attribute is still, to this day, “Says things that annoy SJWs but is slightly more intelligent and reasonable about it than Trump or Milo.”

            LOTS of people write self-help books. LOTS of college professors have interesting insights about religion and psychology. Nobody cares about those people. The whole reason that English lady kept trying to goad him with “So you’re saying women are inferior???” is because that would be interesting. She wanted to attract viewers and generate controversy, because that’s what sells. If Peterson was just some well educated dude who said “clean your room” he’d have like 100 twitter followers, tops.

          • Zorgon says:

            @MattM

            My argument is not “ONLY alt-right people follow Peterson.” It is “Were it not for being associated with the alt-right, nobody would have known about Peterson in the first place.”

            This doesn’t fit with my memory of events; Peterson hit the news because of the protests against him at his campus. It’d be far more accurate to say that “Were it not for being against current transgender activist orthodoxy, nobody would have known about Peterson in the first place.”

          • Matt M says:

            Fine, whatever.

            “Refuses to use transgender pronouns” maps directly to “Nazi” for 95% of the mainstream media.

            Which is why these interviewers are bewildered by him. They THINK they’re getting Milo – but what shows up is far less entertaining (in terms of making a good cable news “scream at each other session”) than what they wanted.

          • Brad says:

            “Refuses to use transgender pronouns” maps directly to “Nazi” for 95% of the mainstream media.

            No it doesn’t. Quit lying.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Matt M

            As Iain notes, it’s just adding stuff on to the Canadian Human Rights Act. That dates to 1977. Why would adding gender identity to it suddenly cause the way the Act is applied, etc, to change?

            @Well…

            Motte and Bailey is something come up with by a philosopher (?) but popularized (?) by Scott:

            The writers of the paper compare this to a form of medieval castle, where there would be a field of desirable and economically productive land called a bailey, and a big ugly tower in the middle called the motte. If you were a medieval lord, you would do most of your economic activity in the bailey and get rich. If an enemy approached, you would retreat to the motte and rain down arrows on the enemy until they gave up and went away. Then you would go back to the bailey, which is the place you wanted to be all along.

            So the motte-and-bailey doctrine is when you make a bold, controversial statement. Then when somebody challenges you, you claim you were just making an obvious, uncontroversial statement, so you are clearly right and they are silly for challenging you. Then when the argument is over you go back to making the bold, controversial statement.

            I’ve also seen it called “strategic equivocation” which is probably a better term because it isn’t an analogy to medieval siege warfare.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The mainstream media doesn’t give a single crap about his large body of religion, mythology, and psychology. There are hundreds of professors in the world who have that.

            No, the MSM cares that he has 500,000+ followers and that some people hate him and some people love him. Some of his followers love him for his large body of knowledge, and so the MSM cares (to a degree) about his large body of knowledge.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Well…

            The motte-and-bailey tactic as referenced on this blog is described in “Social Justice and Words, Words, Words”. It’s more switch than bait, and particularly it involves a narrower and wider meaning

          • Well... says:

            Sounds like motte-and-bailey might just be describing “foolishly making a bolder statement than you can actually defend, then retreating to the milder one you can defend if someone calls you out on it” at least 99% of the time. The other 1% of time it’s a calculated maneuver worthy of a name.

          • Matt M says:

            Some of his followers love him for his large body of knowledge, and so the MSM cares (to a degree) about his large body of knowledge.

            Then how come they don’t ask him about his “large body of knowledge” and instead they lead with “SO HOW DID YOU BECOME THE LEADER OF THE ALT-RIGHT? WHY DO YOU THINK WOMEN ARE INFERIOR? IS IT TRUE YOU BELIEVE HOMOSEXUALITY IS A MENTAL DISORDER? WHY ARE YOU BREAKING CANADIAN LAW? WHY DO NAZIS LOVE YOU SO MUCH?”

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Well…

            That’s far too charitable. The motte-and-bailey user will retreat to the motte when challenged, but will re-occupy the bailey as soon as the challenger goes away.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Then how come they don’t ask him about his “large body of knowledge” and instead they lead with “SO HOW DID YOU BECOME THE LEADER OF THE ALT-RIGHT? WHY DO YOU THINK WOMEN ARE INFERIOR? IS IT TRUE YOU BELIEVE HOMOSEXUALITY IS A MENTAL DISORDER? WHY ARE YOU BREAKING CANADIAN LAW? WHY DO NAZIS LOVE YOU SO MUCH?”

            How about you give some actual examples.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Matt M

            Then how come they don’t ask him about his “large body of knowledge” and instead they lead with [nazi stuff]

            Yes, that’s entirely my point. He doesn’t have anything to do with that stuff, wasn’t popularized by those people, is only liked by them so far as he makes leftists mad, but he doesn’t share the alt-right Horrible Banned Discourse ideology and in fact denounces it.

            It just seems like you’re making a tautology. “If he wasn’t in league with the internet nazis, why are they asking him about internet nazi stuff?!” They’re doing it to falsely associate him with those people, when he isn’t part of their ideology, didn’t rise to prominence because of anything having anything to do with them, and if anything one who was involved with the alt-right who came to see things Peterson’s way would no longer identify with the alt-right.

          • Zorgon says:

            “Refuses to use transgender pronouns” maps directly to “Nazi” for 95% of the mainstream media.

            You’re wrong, as Brad points out above, although I’d probably agree if you said that a plurality of the mainstream media would present it with strong negative affect.

            The “Nazi” stuff, on the other hand, is pretty specific and mostly avoided by libel-conscious mainstream sources. Taken from memory, I’d suggest that the timeline goes like this:

            1) The press are primed by the Berkeley riots etc to cover high-profile campus protests
            2) Peterson makes his videos about transgender pronouns
            3) Social media frenzy on transgender pronoun issues strikes a match with campus activists
            4) Peterson becomes targeted by campus activists
            5) The press picks up on this (following online activist leads) and begins covering the controversy
            6) Peterson is interviewed and refuses to apologise or give ground
            7) Channers etc notice Peterson’s refusal to give ground and approve strongly
            8) More public members of the then-nascent “Alt Right” respond to increasing approval of Peterson from their base
            9) Media association of Peterson and “Alt Right” begins
            10) “Alt Right” begins to coalesce into the two different meanings I mention above (actual Alt Right / broader “Alt Right”)
            11) Actual Alt Right holds Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, actual Nazis show up, protester is killed
            12) “Nazi Threat” narrative becomes dominant and is conflated with Alt Right (and by extension, “Alt Right”)
            13) Peterson therefore becomes “Nazi” by association (along with countless others)

            “Peterson is a Nazi” is guilt-by-association twice over, so it’s mostly restricted to bloggers and social media. The conflation of Peterson and “Alt Right”, on the other hand, is more deeply rooted.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It is relevant that Peterson is getting a decent sum of money (probably not the 50-60k a month some sources claim; more likely 1-2x his 175k U of T income) from his fans, some of whom are at a minimum pretty sketchy. It’s unclear what he’s doing with that money. It seems plausible to think that he might move his positions in such a way to please people who are doubling or tripling his (already pretty nice) salary.

          • albatross11 says:

            For a controversial person, the goal of a TV interviewer is to get ratings by keeping the controversy going. The controversy is the only reason most people are watching–they’ve heard this Peterson guy is some kind of Nazi or something, and want to see him get yelled at on TV. As best I can tell, most TV talking heads interviewing writers haven’t bothered reading the book, and maybe at best have some talking points from some assistant who may have read the book.

            In the past, this worked pretty well, because while people who knew what the controversial person actually had said, written, believed, etc., would know that the TV interviewer was an idiot, there wasn’t any way for them to discuss it widely. So the interviewer could put words in the mouth of the interviewee, cut them off, put misleading or emotionally-loaded images around the interview, or even carefully edit the interview to make sure the audience got the right impression, and there was unlikely to be much public realization that it had happened.

            That doesn’t work so well now. The megaphones aren’t entirely pointed in one direction anymore, and so people can and do have big public discussions about how dishonest or sloppy an interviewer or news story is.

          • albatross11 says:

            dndnrsn:

            I don’t know a lot about Peterson, but he sure seems like a guy who has spent his whole life developing a set of ideas. My guess is that he really, really wants those ideas widely read and talked about and considered, probably at least as much as he wants some Youtube income. Hopefully, he’s sensible enough to realize that the current media/social media attention blitz is temporary. If so, he’ll be thinking about how to keep his ideas in the spotlight, and the Youtube dollars flowing, for as long as possible.

            I suspect this translates into continuing to try to express what he sees as his most important ideas as clearly as possible, while also allowing for enough controversy to stay in the spotlight. The SJW world seems quite willing to continue the profitable[1]-for-Peterson outrage storm indefinitely, even for pretty mild stuff like overtly refusing to use preferred pronouns or making pretty tame and sensible comments about physical and psychological differences between men and women, so he doesn’t even have to do anything particularly outrageous or embarrassing.

            [1] Though the outrage storm is probably also extremely stressful for him, and may impede his normal work as a psychologist and professor.

          • Well... says:

            @The Nybbler:

            I don’t think I’m being too generous. I think most people just aren’t that careful. Especially not journalists, or people arguing on the internet.

            @albatross11:

            Yes, although I think you are discounting how atypically well Peterson handles himself in those situations. He doesn’t just keep his cool, he has a careful way of saying things that is extremely hard to take out of context. (Compare with Milo for instance.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            Consciously or unconsciously, people will follow the meal ticket. A given person doesn’t have to be bad, sneaky, whatever, to do that, whether they mean to or not. We all do this (for given values of “meal ticket” – it might be professional advancement, it might be personal ego-stroking, whatever).

          • baconbits9 says:

            It is relevant that Peterson is getting a decent sum of money (probably not the 50-60k a month some sources claim; more likely 1-2x his 175k U of T income) from his fans, some of whom are at a minimum pretty sketchy. It’s unclear what he’s doing with that money. It seems plausible to think that he might move his positions in such a way to please people who are doubling or tripling his (already pretty nice) salary.

            The first thing that Peterson did with the money was set up a series of biblical lectures for the public, renting a hall and quality recording equipment and performing college style lectures on the Old Testament for a crowd of ~500 (iirc). He has stated that he has plans to do more of this and is also in the early stages of trying to put together an on line college based on his views on a classical education.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I thought the first thing he did was buy some new recording equipment? I don’t think he’s running off with all his Patreon dollars to Tahiti or whatever. Just saying, if I was getting money from sketchy people, I’d give a bunch to charity and be open with the accounting.

          • lvlln says:

            If Peterson ends up unconsciously following his meal-ticket, that seems like a strong indicator that he will continue to say what he thinks is the truth as he’s developed throughout his academic career, because that’s sort of been his brand and what has gotten him that much money on Patreon. I mean, it’s not even like we have any ideological information on his Patreon patrons – they might be, on average, far to the left of him, far to the right of him, or exactly in-line with him politically. So if we’re to theorize that he’ll be pulled politically in some direction by the views of his Patreon patrons, it’s just as reasonable to theorize that he’ll move towards becoming a born-again SJW as that he’ll become alt-right.

            But regardless of that, having checked out some of his lectures from before he became famous in late 2016, the sense I get is that he just stands up for the truth as he believes it which he’s figured out over the years, and that naturally causes controversy due to the state of affairs these days. It’s what’s caused people to throw money at him, and if he wants to keep that money flow going, it seems likely that he’ll keep doing that.

            He’s publicly stated that he wants to start an online humanities university, and it seems likely that he’ll funnel Patreon $ & his book sales $ towards that. He’s probably reached vast diminishing returns in terms of how much he can upgrade his video equipment with the Patreon $, which I believe was his original purpose with it.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Cheap trick to state that he is getting money from sketchy people.

            Who is he getting money from? You don’t know the specifics, calling them sketchy as the default position is an attempt to smear. Why should he give it away either? People have given him money and he is using it to promote his views, seems pretty reasonable.

          • Zorgon says:

            I’m relatively sure everyone on Patreon getting more than beer money is getting money from at least some sketchy people of some kind.

          • albatross11 says:

            dndnsrn:

            What kind of sketchy people do you think Peterson is getting his money from? I assume you’re not claiming it’s the Russian government, or Mexican drug gangs, or Al Qaida.

            What I think you’re talking about is that he’s probably getting money from people whose beliefs you disagree with, or maybe that he disagrees with. Perhaps many people whose beliefs are broadly socially unacceptable.

            Is there a general principle you think should apply there–one that would also apply to media personalities or writers or thinkers you find worthwhile? Like “if you get donations from people with unacceptable views, then you mustn’t use that money–not even for expressing your own views that are acceptable”?

            This feels to me like an isolated demand for moral rigor–holding people from the other tribe to a much higher standard than you’d hold someone from your own tribe to.

            If you’re a thinker and writer, and you make money from selling your books or ads on Youtube or your Patreon account or whatever else, and then you spend that money on continuing to spread your ideas–write more books, give more lectures, put out more videos, etc., you’re doing just wgat you should do.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @baconbits9

            Where did I say that sketchy was the default position? You’re putting words in my mouth.

            @albatross11

            Wait, whose tribe am I? I’m not putting down any rules or anything. I’m just saying, if he gets rewarded for saying some things more than others, that influences what he says, very likely. When he was a popular-with-students psych prof, he was not getting Patreon dollars for what he was saying. He gets Patreon dollars for dunking on people those donating don’t like.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Where did I say that sketchy was the default position? You’re putting words in my mouth.

            Perhaps you could clear up what you meant by these statements then

            some of whom are at a minimum pretty sketchy.

            He also has some sketchy fans, and has on at least one occasion

            It is relevant that Peterson is getting a decent sum of money (probably not the 50-60k a month some sources claim; more likely 1-2x his 175k U of T income) from his fans, some of whom are at a minimum pretty sketchy.

          • Matt M says:

            It strikes me as unlikely that any significant amount of Peterson’s pateron donations are coming from hardcore alt-right types.

            If you consider that he’s getting upwards of 50k/month… keep in mind that it took Christopher Cantwell (who is proudly and explicitly alt-right)
            several months to raise about 15k… with the explicit goal of helping him buy a lawyer to get him bailed out of jail he was stuck in for macing a transgender left-wing protester in the face.

            If I was a “sketchy” right-wing figure, I know who *I* would donate to first…

          • dndnrsn says:

            @baconbits9

            If I said that some of his fans are sketchy, I in fact meant that, of his fans, some of them are sketchy. It seems pretty clear what I meant, and I’m not sure how you went from that to it being the default. He has fans. Some of his fans – some portion of them – are sketchy. I have no idea what portion are; I imagine it’s a not-insignificant minority.

          • baconbits9 says:

            If I said that some of his fans are sketchy, I in fact meant that, of his fans, some of them are sketchy

            You said that some of his fans are sketchy and specifically said that you would do X if some sketchy people gave you money. This, and other things you said, imply that Peterson should/would adjust his behavior based on these sketchy fans but you never mention how many of his fans are sketchy, which strongly implies that your default position is that enough of Peterson’s fans are sketchy that he ought to change his behavior, or that he would be incentivised to change his behavior to cater to them.

            Your default position for any individual supporter of Peterson’s might not be sketchy, but your default position for his supporters as a group is clearly sketchy, with no evidence supporting this.

          • dndnrsn says:

            There’s a clear difference between “enough are sketchy to make it worth modifying behaviour” and “default to them being sketchy.” I have no idea what sort of evidence could be produced regarding a whole bunch of anonymous Patreon donors. Are we going to apply that standard of evidence to everything we talk about here?

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            …Just saying, if I was getting money from sketchy people, I’d give a bunch to charity and be open with the accounting…

            This talk is cheap, and your insinuations are in bad faith.

          • dndnrsn says:

            What insinuations?

            A common theme in the sort of attempted takedowns I’ve seen is, what’s happening with this money? Questions concerning guilt by association, what exactly he’s saying, etc, seem a lot more subjective than a balance sheet. If he could say, look, I’m making such-and-such an amount, and this is what’s happening to it, that would undermine the people who claim he’s making 700k+ a year off of Patreon and socking it away for himself.

            Or, if I’m being unfair and uncharitable and not providing any evidence, maybe we (as in, this comment section) could start applying the same charity and standards of evidence to, say, obnoxious hairdyed campus lefty activists that we should be to Peterson and his fans?

            EDIT: let’s put it this way. What do you think the attitude here would be to some lefty activist of the Patreon-culture-warrior variety whose Patreon stats were exactly the same as Peterson’s?

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            There’s not much point in asking what insinuations and then clearly talking about your insinuations just below. Especially when you’re behaving perfectly reasonably in a different subthread in the open comments.

            And I don’t care about campus lefties making money on Patreon, I seem to have not ever posted accusing one of them of being secret khmer rouge sympathizers or subtly influenced by bolshevik infiltrators. Perhaps you have confused me with someone else.

            Or if you want to box everyone into groups and play SSC identity politics go ahead, but your moral posturing about how you’re only engaging in poor behavior against your outgroup to make a point is only depressing. I don’t actually believe you’re serious in that you wouldn’t do it to people in your outgroup if some people on the right here didn’t do it to some people on the left. If it makes you feel any better, I wouldn’t believe the people on the right who like playing that game either if they said they swear they would drop it just as soon as they were done engaging in guilt by association games about some particular lefty either.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            I’ll say it openly: turning off the amount raised looks like it could be sketchy. Not even “looks sketchy.” It might not be sketchy. Peterson seems like, some dumb and misguided opinions/positions aside, probably more upright than the average. He certainly comes off as more upright than a lot of the people who have occupied a similar-but-more-to-the-right position in the internet ecosystem – for example, Milo went from “gamers are loser basement virgins” to “gamers are the brave vanguard of free speech and cultural libertarianism” pretty quickly and the whole email thing is mega sketchy, Cernovich is a (buy my book) blatant (buy my book) huckster (buy my book). He also comes off as more upright than plenty of culture warriors on the opposite side of the aisle. But I think there’s not being sketchy, and there’s avoiding the appearance of sketchiness.

            And it’s not really guilt by association – guilt by association is “some sketchy people like him, ergo, he must be sketchy.” You can’t control who your fans are. It’s actually about ethics in accounting.

            Peterson’s not my outgroup, either. I roll my eyes at most of the attempted hitpieces, because they’re mostly really bad. I yearn for a good critique of the guy, but most of the criticisms I see, especially those embraced by people I know to be intelligent, are just depressing, borderline-dishonest messes. I am in fact being careful to critique the guy because my lizard lobster brain is telling me “psst, those shitty hypocrites from university don’t like this guy, so, he’s probably OK” and I’ve been trying pretty hard not to listen to that sort of instinct.

            Maybe it was cheap talk to say “oh I’d give it to charity” but the charge against him that (to me) sticks the most that actually gets made (because the hitpieces don’t say “he has some sketchy fans” they say “he must be a Nazi”; they don’t say “he’s a dick about gender neutral pronouns” they say “he hates trans people”, etc). It would be fairly easily dispelled; if he releases the amounts and shows what the amounts are doing, and the books disprove the charge that he’s raking in x dollars and keeping it for himself, then anyone who continues to make that charge is clearly a liar.

            I’m also not accusing you of playing culture war or whatever. Just that, around these parts, the background level of charity and standards of evidence are higher for people on the right than the left.

          • baconbits9 says:

            There’s a clear difference between “enough are sketchy to make it worth modifying behaviour” and “default to them being sketchy.”

            There is no clear difference. X% of Peterson’s fans are sketchy, the 100-X% are not sketchy, if Peterson started catering to the sketchy side then he is not catering to the 100-x%. The implication is either that the 100-x% don’t care about him catering to the sketchy fans, making them sketchy themselves or that the X% dominates the donating portion of his fan base.

            Either your claim is that his fan base is dominated by sketchy donors, or that his non sketchy donors don’t mind at all if he pushes toward the sketchy side, either of these is a default position about his fan base.

            I have no idea what sort of evidence could be produced regarding a whole bunch of anonymous Patreon donors. Are we going to apply that standard of evidence to everything we talk about here?

            I think the standard of evidence should be SOME, of SOME KIND when you are discussing groups of people and some potential outcomes (and discussing them exclusively in these terms makes it worse).

          • baconbits9 says:

            A common theme in the sort of attempted takedowns I’ve seen is, what’s happening with this money? Questions concerning guilt by association, what exactly he’s saying, etc, seem a lot more subjective than a balance sheet. If he could say, look, I’m making such-and-such an amount, and this is what’s happening to it, that would undermine the people who claim he’s making 700k+ a year off of Patreon and socking it away for himself.

            Responding to hit pieces undermines them? Or gives them credibility? Either is possible, the latter sounds more plausible to me. It functionally cedes the framing to his opposition.

            Stephen King makes more than that per year, and it is certainly plausible that certain types of violent criminals like his stories and are over represented in his fan base, should he then detail every dollar he makes and how he spends it?

          • dndnrsn says:

            OK, instead of thinking of it as sketchy vs non-sketchy, if his fans mostly like him for his culture war potential, isn’t he going to have an incentive to do more culture warring, if that’s why people donate? There are non-sketchy people who support a right-wing (or anti-left wing, or anti-idpol, or whatever) culture war position.

            You can look at his Patreon earnings and patrons, and see that a handful of people gave close to five bucks each a month when he was a psych prof talking about Jung or w/e. When he becomes famous because campus lefty activists whose actions optimize for position, etc, within campus lefty circles, and think “optics” is just another way of saying “respectability politics”, try to make him into a public enemy; that’s when all of a sudden people start watching his videos and sending him money and so on. Prior to that, he was largely known to people who were University of Toronto students who had taken his course, and he was making fairly typical established-tenured-professor money.

            So I’ll withdraw from him trying to please sketchy donors, because I think you make a good point. But I think it’s safe to say that his incentive is to culture war. Even if he doesn’t want to.

            (Considering that, it might be good for him if he becomes the “clean your room” guy, not the “BASED PROFESSOR DUNKS ON ESSJAYDUBUS” guy)

            EDIT: And I think debunking claims made in hit pieces, when they can be debunked (due to being objectively-verifiable things), does weaken hit pieces. Rolling Stone getting the pants sued off them didn’t make the UVA piece stronger. It won’t convince people who already hate him that he’s OK. And his fans probably don’t care if he’s buying a bunch of gold plated vacuums so he can clean his room in the ballingest way possible. But if you take someone like me – I think that the accounting issue is basically 1/3 of my issues with the guy – there are people who haven’t taken a side.

          • baconbits9 says:

            OK, instead of thinking of it as sketchy vs non-sketchy, if his fans mostly like him for his culture war potential, isn’t he going to have an incentive to do more culture warring, if that’s why people donate?

            What is the evidence that his fans like him for his culture war potential. Sort his youtube channel videos by views and #1 is his first lecture in his biblical series, nearly 500,000 more views than his #2 video. In his top 8 videos 6 of them are are an hour+, and 7 are 30 mins+. He has 30 videos with 300,000+ views (selected for nice round numbers), quick count 11 of them are his lectures. Peterson’s non culture war oriented book is also currently #1 in books on Amazon.

            It is pretty clear that his publicity comes from the attacks of culture war members, his twitter/youtube/facebook hits spiked in the two weeks after the channel 4 interview was released*, but it is equally clear that there is a strong demand for his long, thoughtful pieces.

            * I don’t think it is incidental that he flustered the interviewer not with a logical defense of his position but by defending her right to be antagonistic towards him.

          • baconbits9 says:

            So I’ll withdraw from him trying to please sketchy donors, because I think you make a good point. But I think it’s safe to say that his incentive is to culture war. Even if he doesn’t want to.

            This is only reasonable if you assume he can be “based professor dunking” without his current approach. When I (sample size of 1) watched that channel 4 video I didn’t think he was particularly impressive (and I listened to his entire podcast library in 6 weeks last year) until he got to the point where he was emphasizing the importance of free speech, and it clearly flusters the interviewer. I don’t think he can get to that point of the interview while being intentionally culture wary before that.

            Peterson has also stated that he thinks his popularity is tied to dissatisfaction with the culture war, and that his lecture series basically is providing his bonafides as being against the culture war, and speaking to his character.

          • quanta413 says:

            And it’s not really guilt by association – guilt by association is “some sketchy people like him, ergo, he must be sketchy.” You can’t control who your fans are. It’s actually about ethics in accounting.

            I’m going to be honest. Unless he’s making explicit promises about not buying second houses or whatever, I think he could spend his part of his patreon money on hookers and blow and I wouldn’t find it any more questionable than spending money he had earned from a book contract or his job as a professor on hookers and blow. So that sort of egregious behavior would be questionable, but not because of the source of the money.

            You have given 0 evidence that he’s doing anything bad with the money. You haven’t yet crossed the most basic of thresholds to shift the burden of proof onto him. And the burden of proof starts on you unless you want to advocate that whenever X pays Y, Y has a duty to disclose how they are spending money to X.

            You’ve started shifting tactics from “maybe some sketchy people (read: the all-trite) are a subset of the people paying him on Patreon so he should disclose his finances and donate money from sketchy people to charity” to the much more boring claim “people on Patreon should disclose their earnings and how they spend it to their donors”. The second claim is not a moral imperative and there are good reasons to think it is wrong, even if it is a little harder for hucksters to bilk people if they have to fake a little bit of accounting.

          • Well... says:

            I haven’t been following y’all’s disagreement about disclosure and sketchy fans too closely but I wonder if what’s at the heart of it is something about Patreon or putting out a tip jar in general? When you pay for a subscription or a service or whatever, maybe it’s psychologically a fundamentally different experience. You perceive the transfer of money, of ownership, of obligation, etc. differently. Because Patreon/tip jar/donation system feels like you’re doing a favor or giving a monetary compliment to the person you’re paying, rather than exchanging money for a service or product, you feel like you still have some rights to determine what that money is ultimately spent on.

            Just floating it out there as a possibility, because it seems like you guys are off on a long weird tangent that doesn’t really map to what we were talking about before.

          • Aapje says:

            I want to point out that it might also be a cultural thing. Basically, a lot of the ways in which Americans are open about their wealth/income/spending is considered rather gauche in my country. Perhaps as a Canadian, he has non-American sensibilities.

            Also, from my perspective, Patreon is merely a gifting system and people can stop donating if they dislike the quid-pro-quo. Peterson could be held accountable if he made certain promises in return for the money, which AFAIK he hasn’t.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @baconbits 9

            What is the evidence that his fans like him for his culture war potential. Sort his youtube channel videos by views and #1 is his first lecture in his biblical series, nearly 500,000 more views than his #2 video. In his top 8 videos 6 of them are are an hour+, and 7 are 30 mins+. He has 30 videos with 300,000+ views (selected for nice round numbers), quick count 11 of them are his lectures. Peterson’s non culture war oriented book is also currently #1 in books on Amazon.

            He got famous and became big because of culture war, and if you look at stuff like the memes made of him, etc, culture war seems pretty big. His book is kind of culture war-y, isn’t it? The idea that people (but mostly men) gotta stop whining, stop complaining about outside forces making their life hard, put their shit together, and focus on their own shit. That’s culture war in the same way Washington vs DuBois was culture war, or that it would be culture war stuff if Stoicism got big again.

            It is pretty clear that his publicity comes from the attacks of culture war members, his twitter/youtube/facebook hits spiked in the two weeks after the channel 4 interview was released*, but it is equally clear that there is a strong demand for his long, thoughtful pieces.

            Maybe you’re right. I don’t know how we could figure out if the people who join his Patreon after some kind of culture war flareup are there because they love them some culture war, or because they like his interpretation of the Bible and only learned of him because of the culture war.

            * I don’t think it is incidental that he flustered the interviewer not with a logical defense of his position but by defending her right to be antagonistic towards him.

            Yeah, that was some jiujitsu.

            This is only reasonable if you assume he can be “based professor dunking” without his current approach. When I (sample size of 1) watched that channel 4 video I didn’t think he was particularly impressive (and I listened to his entire podcast library in 6 weeks last year) until he got to the point where he was emphasizing the importance of free speech, and it clearly flusters the interviewer. I don’t think he can get to that point of the interview while being intentionally culture wary before that.

            Watching that video, what was impressive was that he didn’t flip the table, game-of-Monopoly-you’re-losing style, and go home. The entire interview is like this:

            Peterson: “women are on average shorter than men”
            Interviewer: “so what you’re saying is, women should be put into car crushing machines to make them shorter?”

            Peterson has also stated that he thinks his popularity is tied to dissatisfaction with the culture war, and that his lecture series basically is providing his bonafides as being against the culture war, and speaking to his character.

            One side of the culture war thinks that trying to be neutral in the culture war is being on the opposite side in the culture war, though.

            @quanta413

            I’m going to be honest. Unless he’s making explicit promises about not buying second houses or whatever, I think he could spend his part of his patreon money on hookers and blow and I wouldn’t find it any more questionable than spending money he had earned from a book contract or his job as a professor on hookers and blow. So that sort of egregious behavior would be questionable, but not because of the source of the money.

            You have given 0 evidence that he’s doing anything bad with the money. You haven’t yet crossed the most basic of thresholds to shift the burden of proof onto him. And the burden of proof starts on you unless you want to advocate that whenever X pays Y, Y has a duty to disclose how they are spending money to X.

            But I’m not saying he’s doing anything bad with the money. I’m saying that if the hit pieces usually run as follows:

            -he is deplorable because deplorables like him
            -he hates trans people
            -he is using his vast Patreon fortune to build an orbital cannon

            He can’t really do much about the first two, because they’re subjective, but if he shows that he makes x dollars, and it’s all going to orphans, the third is proven to be a false charge. Likewise, while his book money is unknown, his U of T income is known; $175k probably doesn’t buy a ton of hookers and blow after upkeep and so forth. You have to economize and choose one.

            You’ve started shifting tactics from “maybe some sketchy people (read: the all-trite) are a subset of the people paying him on Patreon so he should disclose his finances and donate money from sketchy people to charity” to the much more boring claim “people on Patreon should disclose their earnings and how they spend it to their donors”. The second claim is not a moral imperative and there are good reasons to think it is wrong, even if it is a little harder for hucksters to bilk people if they have to fake a little bit of accounting.

            Why do you call it tactics? Maybe I was wrong at first. Maybe I’m trying to figure out what I think. Some thing about the guy I like, some things I really disagree with. I’m trying not to make the basic error of deciding what I think of him based on ingroup or outgroup.

            @Well…

            Patreon works by monthly subscription, right? That might create a different vibe than paying per thing, or tossing money in a tip jar one time.

            @Aapje

            My experience is that Canadians are more reticent about money than Americans.

          • Barely matters says:

            His book is kind of culture war-y, isn’t it?

            I mean, only in the sense that literally anything can be part of the culture war if someone decides to make it so. If people trying to sort out their lives and improve themselves is culture war, then we’re further gone than I thought.

            Which side is pro self improvement and mental health? If I absolutely have to pick a side, I want to be on that one.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Barely matters

            It’s been part of the culture war for a long time; the current positions match pretty well to Washington and DuBois, based on an extremely superficial understanding of them. You can basically predict somebody’s position in the culture wars based on which of the two they like the sound of more.

            The opposite position isn’t unreasonable; it says “telling people to pick themselves up ignores forces they can’t control keeping them down.” That’s perfectly reasonable and fair.

            In one case or another, probably one exhortation (pick yourself up vs change society) is better than the other. I think it’s easy to confuse the two.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            Patreon works by monthly subscription, right? That might create a different vibe than paying per thing, or tossing money in a tip jar one time.

            It can be either. Some people set theirs up to be per unit of output (per video, per piece of artwork posted, etc), some set up a monthly subscription. It’s also worth noting that the public numbers on what someone is receiving from Patreon are often massively overblown due to the phenomenon of people trying to subscribe and unsubscribe or simply denying/disputing the charges in order to get access for free, so I would take reports like “He was getting $60,000 a month on patreon” with a grain of salt sufficient to carve a new washington monument from. It’s possible that this phenomenon is worse on the Patreon accounts I’m most familiar with (for artists and webcomics) but I doubt it.

            As for increased transparency being a good way to deflect critics, quick research into similar cases indicates to me that this is not in fact the case, or at least wasn’t for Feminist Frequency and the like. What helped them there wasn’t being transparent, but rather that no one other than breitbart and various anti-feminist youtubers gave a crap in the first place.

          • Barely matters says:

            @dndnrsn

            Only to the extent that self improvement and societal improvement are zero sum, which I think is approximately zero. The framing that the two are in conflict is a huge part of the problem here. Society is made better by lots of individuals being made better.

            Thing is, especially with JP here, I don’t see anything like this framing. Seriously, who is saying that sorting out personal problems makes things worse systemically? That seems flat out unhinged.

            And combined with the ‘neutral is enemy’ mindset, I really hope that holding this view doesn’t make me a sketchy alt right scumbag.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            But I’m not saying he’s doing anything bad with the money. I’m saying that if the hit pieces usually run as follows:

            -he is deplorable because deplorables like him
            -he hates trans people
            -he is using his vast Patreon fortune to build an orbital cannon

            He can’t really do much about the first two, because they’re subjective, but if he shows that he makes x dollars, and it’s all going to orphans, the third is proven to be a false charge. Likewise, while his book money is unknown, his U of T income is known; $175k probably doesn’t buy a ton of hookers and blow after upkeep and so forth. You have to economize and choose one.

            Haters gonna hate. He could live the life of Jesus Christ and still have hit pieces written on him. If he doesn’t want to take the time to organize receipts, that’s between him and his patrons. Even if he did, there’s no real indication it would make a difference. There’s are 9/11 truthers; there’s a hell of a lot of evidence there, but there’s a wacko fringe anyways. His listed plans in his Patreon seem like a long shot to me (another better online university), but it’s not a problem.

            And seriously, what is up with your demand that his money be donated to orphans? He’s already said he’s working on organizing an online university and courses in the humanities. Donating the money to orphans would be roughly as much of a breach of trust as spending it on a nice second house. Either totally innocuous or breach of a promise depending on your viewpoint. Unless the idea here is “people accused of possibly spending money on bad things by their haters must instead give that money to charity”. That’s a bad principle that if people followed it would give veto power to any vocal and angry minority.

            Why do you call it tactics? Maybe I was wrong at first. Maybe I’m trying to figure out what I think. Some thing about the guy I like, some things I really disagree with. I’m trying not to make the basic error of deciding what I think of him based on ingroup or outgroup.

            I guess tactics because of how the discussion is proceeding. But yes, maybe I am wrong. You could be changing your mind.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            It can be either. Some people set theirs up to be per unit of output (per video, per piece of artwork posted, etc), some set up a monthly subscription. It’s also worth noting that the public numbers on what someone is receiving from Patreon are often massively overblown due to the phenomenon of people trying to subscribe and unsubscribe or simply denying/disputing the charges in order to get access for free, so I would take reports like “He was getting $60,000 a month on patreon” with a grain of salt sufficient to carve a new washington monument from. It’s possible that this phenomenon is worse on the Patreon accounts I’m most familiar with (for artists and webcomics) but I doubt it.

            If the numbers for subscribers and $/subscriber/month are unreliable, what do you think would be a reasonable correction? Reduce by 25 or 50%? I don’t use Patreon; it seems to me like Kickstarter but with a commitment.

            As for increased transparency being a good way to deflect critics, quick research into similar cases indicates to me that this is not in fact the case, or at least wasn’t for Feminist Frequency and the like. What helped them there wasn’t being transparent, but rather that no one other than breitbart and various anti-feminist youtubers gave a crap in the first place.

            But there’s the critics, and the people watching. You aren’t necessarily arguing with your interlocutors for the purpose of changing their mind; you might be arguing to make your case to the people watching.

            @Barely matters

            Only to the extent that self improvement and societal improvement are zero sum, which I think is approximately zero. The framing that the two are in conflict is a huge part of the problem here. Society is made better by lots of individuals being made better.

            Thing is, especially with JP here, I don’t see anything like this framing. Seriously, who is saying that sorting out personal problems makes things worse systemically? That seems flat out unhinged.

            And combined with the ‘neutral is enemy’ mindset, I really hope that holding this view doesn’t make me a sketchy alt right scumbag.

            The idea is not that it’s zero-sum. It’s that attempting individual change of the “clean your room” variety will of necessity mean less effort and attention to change of the “fix the world” variety – this seems a reasonable position to hold, because there’s only so much time in the day.

            If someone’s problems are externally imposed (eg discrimination), it is unfair and cruel to tell them that the problem is something in their control that they must deal with on their own. Even if you say “it is unfair that this externally imposed problem exists, but it will be harder to change than to fight as hard as you can on your own” it’s still rather unfair to put the onus of dealing with a bad system on the victims.

            If someone’s problems are internal but not self-imposed (say, they are depressed due entirely to malfunctioning brain chemistry) a message of “this is not your fault and nobody else’s fault but you gotta [get up, shower, go to see your therapist, take your meds]” (I think Peterson blames depression on diet to some extent?) is going to be more helpful than either “we need to fix society to help you” or “get out of bed, you weakling loser.”

            There are other people whose problems are entirely internal and self-imposed. A guy with nothing wrong with him with decent prospects who just sits on the couch inhaling junk food playing x-box and living off his parents needs to get off the couch, clean up his diet, clean up his room, go to the gym, finish his degree, get a job, etc.

            Whether you think problems in society, or whether you tend to think a given problem is mostly, one of the three above, seems to track pretty well with whether someone is a right winger (bootstraps!) or a left winger (fix society!). The “you have internal problems that are no one’s fault – have you tried modafinil/CBT/whatever” way of thinking is rarer, but is probably one you see more present in these parts. Giving someone the wrong advice is potentially ruinous, because their problem is not going to be fixed by the solution to another problem, and will just make them feel worse about everything.

            A lot of Peterson’s fans are people who need to hear the third message with a side of the second, I suspect. To people who are left-wing past a certain point (as, say, campus activist left-wingers and those with affinity to them are) the message of “fix yourself” is just how those in power keep those without power down; they see it as a kind of shell game. They do, to some extent, have a point.

            @quanta413

            Haters gonna hate. He could live the life of Jesus Christ and still have hit pieces written on him. If he doesn’t want to take the time to organize receipts, that’s between him and his patrons. Even if he did, there’s no real indication it would make a difference. There’s are 9/11 truthers; there’s a hell of a lot of evidence there, but there’s a wacko fringe anyways. His listed plans in his Patreon seem like a long shot to me (another better online university), but it’s not a problem.

            Haters indeed gonna hate, and allegators gonna allegate, but the charges against Jesus were primarily subjective ones – he eats with sinners and tax collectors, it was by the leader of the evil spirits that he cast out evil spirits, etc. I think there’s a difference between inherently-subjective charges and more objective charges. A neutral(ish) observer can usually tell the difference. There’s a charge against him that, if it’s a false charge, can easily be disproven.

            And seriously, what is up with your demand that his money be donated to orphans? He’s already said he’s working on organizing an online university and courses in the humanities. Donating the money to orphans would be roughly as much of a breach of trust as spending it on a nice second house. Either totally innocuous or breach of a promise depending on your viewpoint. Unless the idea here is “people accused of possibly spending money on bad things by their haters must instead give that money to charity”. That’s a bad principle that if people followed it would give veto power to any vocal and angry minority.

            Charity was a dumb thing to say; “orphans” is just generic shorthand for “worthy cause.” If he’s using the money to put together an online university, it would be nice to see a progress report, some white papers, whatever.

            I guess tactics because of how the discussion is proceeding. But yes, maybe I am wrong. You could be changing your mind.


            What are you insinuating about my insinuations?

            Do you like borscht?

            EDIT: Though, if you think I’m being unfair about Peterson’s possible motivations or incentives, wait until the next time I talk about the whole complex of entrenched student-government-type Canadian campus lefty activists who make up a solid chunk of his opposition; I can factually state their motivations/incentives are dreadful.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ dndnrsn:

            The idea is not that it’s zero-sum. It’s that attempting individual change of the “clean your room” variety will of necessity mean less effort and attention to change of the “fix the world” variety – this seems a reasonable position to hold, because there’s only so much time in the day.

            It seems reasonable, but is most likely wrong. Fixing the world requires a lot of energy, commitment and resilience, all of which are likely to be in short supply if you spend all your time feeling depressed and helpless.

            Not to mention, any serious societal problems are likely going to take years or decades to fix, and one has to consider how people should act and feel until the problem is fixed. If societal prejudice against you is going to take at least twenty years to get rid of, it’s probably better for you to make your life moderately happy in the meantime than to persist in feeling miserable in the hopes of slightly reducing the prejudice-elimination time.

            Haters indeed gonna hate, and allegators gonna allegate, but the charges against Jesus were primarily subjective ones – he eats with sinners and tax collectors, it was by the leader of the evil spirits that he cast out evil spirits, etc.

            Those are all objective allegations — Jesus either did or did not eat with sinners, eat with tax collectors, or cavort with evil spirits (though granted the latter might have been harder to verify than the first two).

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            I think Peterson blames depression on diet to some extent?

            All that I’ve seen is that he blames his own depression on diet issues. I have seen no claim about the cause of depression in general.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            Charity was a dumb thing to say; “orphans” is just generic shorthand for “worthy cause.” If he’s using the money to put together an online university, it would be nice to see a progress report, some white papers, whatever.

            I think he only kicked the idea off in the last half year or so. And if he hadn’t promised that buying a second house would have been an acceptable use of his patreon money up until then. My vague impression is he’s still in the investigatory stage. I don’t watch him, so I have no interest in digging through all his interviews and lectures to figure out what he’s said exactly. If he’d done nothing 3 years after making explicit promises, that would be one thing. Currently, any evidenceless claims that he’s acting in bad faith or building an orbital cannon are obvious and lazy attempts at character assassination and should be ignored as such.

            It is not trivial or effortless to prove that you’re not bilking your patrons/investors/whatever. A white paper wouldn’t prove anything different from what he’s said in interviews. Early on when starting something, the most important thing is to get something concrete done to prove you aren’t either full of it or incapable. But his given plan is for something complicated enough where it’ll take a couple years to see how things pan out. Maybe he could show something in 6 months if he didn’t already have a job, but given he already has one 1.5-2 years seems like a reasonable scale to watch progress on.

            For what’s it worth, I don’t worry about the motivations of Canadian SJW’s either. I think they’re mostly normal, acceptable ones and should be assumed to be as such without good evidence to the contrary. I do worry about the effects of people’s actions though. That interests me much more.

            But if you didn’t name a specific person as having done something bad, I would be less inclined to respond than when you accuse a specific person because I think those conversations are usually way past the possible cheap talk/bad faith stage and into the “they will ruin your soul if you engage in them” stage. There are several posters here who go from intelligent and reasonable to basically frothing within 6 sentences of vague culture war topics even though they may be totally calm during a very specific culture war topic. I mean, I might cave to my lizard brain and get baited anyways, but I try not to.

          • baconbits9 says:

            One side of the culture war thinks that trying to be neutral in the culture war is being on the opposite side in the culture war, though

            These aren’t the people donating to him or buying his book though.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The original Mr. X

            It seems reasonable, but is most likely wrong. Fixing the world requires a lot of energy, commitment and resilience, all of which are likely to be in short supply if you spend all your time feeling depressed and helpless.

            Not to mention, any serious societal problems are likely going to take years or decades to fix, and one has to consider how people should act and feel until the problem is fixed. If societal prejudice against you is going to take at least twenty years to get rid of, it’s probably better for you to make your life moderately happy in the meantime than to persist in feeling miserable in the hopes of slightly reducing the prejudice-elimination time.

            However, I think we can see where the disagreement resides? Someone who takes the opposite view would say that they think that fixing society is perhaps easier, and certainly the fairer thing to do. Additionally, with regard to the “making yourself miserable” thing – consider “activist burnout”.

            Those are all objective allegations — Jesus either did or did not eat with sinners, eat with tax collectors, or cavort with evil spirits (though granted the latter might have been harder to verify than the first two).

            Let me clarify: does eating with sinners and tax collectors make him a sinner, tax-collector-adjacent, whatever? By the morals of those accusing him, yeah, probably – you need to remain ritually pure by avoiding impure people; consorting with tax collectors suggests collaboration with those collecting taxes for the hated imperial occupier… But the morals Jesus is quoted as expressing are about your actions, not your associates. These are different moral systems, so, they’re subjective. While the “Judaism-legalistic; Christianity-faith” division that you see a little later on is ahistorical, it seems likely that as a historical figure, Jesus preached a morality different from many of the prevailing trends in the Judaism of the time, since his understanding of the world and humanity’s place to it was different (prophetic vs apocalyptic is one way I recall it being put).

            @Aapje

            All that I’ve seen is that he blames his own depression on diet issues. I have seen no claim about the cause of depression in general.

            I’m pretty sure he and his daughter promote the diet-screws-you-up message as something that’s happening to a fair number of people, from what I’ve seen (which is admittedly not much).

            @quanta413

            I think he only kicked the idea off in the last half year or so. And if he hadn’t promised that buying a second house would have been an acceptable use of his patreon money up until then. My vague impression is he’s still in the investigatory stage. I don’t watch him, so I have no interest in digging through all his interviews and lectures to figure out what he’s said exactly. If he’d done nothing 3 years after making explicit promises, that would be one thing. Currently, any evidenceless claims that he’s acting in bad faith or building an orbital cannon are obvious and lazy attempts at character assassination and should be ignored as such.

            It is not trivial or effortless to prove that you’re not bilking your patrons/investors/whatever. A white paper wouldn’t prove anything different from what he’s said in interviews. Early on when starting something, the most important thing is to get something concrete done to prove you aren’t either full of it or incapable. But his given plan is for something complicated enough where it’ll take a couple years to see how things pan out. Maybe he could show something in 6 months if he didn’t already have a job, but given he already has one 1.5-2 years seems like a reasonable scale to watch progress on.

            These are all fair points.

            For what’s it worth, I don’t worry about the motivations of Canadian SJW’s either. I think they’re mostly normal, acceptable ones and should be assumed to be as such without good evidence to the contrary. I do worry about the effects of people’s actions though. That interests me much more.

            I’m a big “compare stated preferences to revealed preferences” guy. There’s a moderately-sized, not-especially-lucrative-but-got-some-nice-sinecures situation in Canada involving the intersection of university student unions (far more centralized than American) and lefty activist groups. What’s the maxim or principle or w/e about people fighting for position within an organization being different from, and taking over from, fighting for the organization’s position? Lot of that in the Canadian lefty activist scene, especially on campus. Lot of people whose conscious motivation is probably “fix the world” – I’m not accusing them of acting in bad faith; we as humans are excellent at self-deception – but whose actions suggest a different, likely unconscious, motivation – which is to have a decent life with an OK paycheque (which is not an unclean motivation!)

            But if you didn’t name a specific person as having done something bad, I would be less inclined to respond than when you accuse a specific person because I think those conversations are usually way past the possible cheap talk/bad faith stage and into the “they will ruin your soul if you engage in them” stage. There are several posters here who go from intelligent and reasonable to basically frothing within 6 sentences of vague culture war topics even though they may be totally calm during a very specific culture war topic. I mean, I might cave to my lizard brain and get baited anyways, but I try not to.

            I don’t think I was accusing him of anything; if it came off that way, it wasn’t my intention. In general, I think that Patreon can create bad incentives, and there’s definitely some sketchiness going on overall.

            @baconbits9

            These aren’t the people donating to him or buying his book though.

            Of course not. But my point is that their objection to “clean your room” is not “well, that guy we don’t like said it.” If anyone came out with a book right now saying “improve your life by doing xyz, get your shit together, don’t demand that other people help you, don’t wait for them to help you” to everyone uniformly, it would become a culture war topic, with the battle lines drawn very predictably.

      • Well... says:

        I would really like to see an academic fairly critique Peterson.

        Yeah, same here. At least just one particular well-known idea of his. Doesn’t matter too much to me which one.

        As for the all-trite (spelling playfully altered to reduce googlability*), I think it’s gonna be weird anyway because it’s a squishy concept. Sometimes the all-trite is just whatever the SJWs don’t like today. But mainly the all-trite is so ideologically and culturally diverse, including in it devout Catholics, new atheists, MRAs, otherwise-regular conservatives, random disaffected guys, pranksters in it for the lulz, and so forth, with really only a few attitudes held in common (nationalism and pushback on political correctness including race realism and anti-feminism to varying degrees), it doesn’t have fine enough lines around it to be consistently used in an informative way.

        In one sense, yes, Peterson is part of the all-trite. I’m sure many people who consider themselves in the all-trite would answer yes to “is Jordan Peterson part of the all-trite?” In another sense he clearly isn’t. It’s a bit like asking “Is the earth inside the sun?” The answer depends on framing.

        *ETA: There was a time when it seemed most people here were doing this in some way, but it looks like I’m the last one. Well, I’ll keep doing it because I’m stubborn and it’s fun.

        • Zorgon says:

          I find it’s best to understand the “All Trite” as being two distinct cultural phenomena:

          1) An extremely niche group of conservatives interested in things like ethnostates and so on
          2) Merely the most recent incarnation of what the non-reproductive worker ants call “getting thrown in the pit”; the metaphorical social gulag that people with unpopular opinions get sent to in order to be dismissed and demonised.

          (The similarity of this binary structure to a certain medieval land-defence tactic has already been mentioned above.)

          This is why Peterson, who has barely ever mentioned games, gets conflated with the worker ants, and why Milo and Dave Rubin (provocateur and milquetoast centrist that they are respectively) get conflated with people who would execute both if they could. It’s nothing more than a rhetorical kill-phrase, a signal for the in-group to ignore, shun and denigrate lest they be thrown in the pit too.

        • Brad says:

          The problems with AR as a term aside, I think there is a newish cluster in the Republican big tent that wasn’t there in any significant numbers at the end of the GWB administration.

          Not business Republicans like Mitt Romney; not Christian right like Mike Pence; and not Ron Paul type libertarians. As compared to Republicans as a whole: disproportionately young, disproportionately well educated (or in the process of becoming so), disproportionately non-observant in terms of religion, and disproportionately likely to live in urban areas or college towns.

          I wouldn’t expect that they are especially large in terms of overall numbers, but they do punch above their weight online. It makes sense to have some kind of term for them.

      • Zorgon says:

        I’ve come across a few decent attempts to grapple with Peterson’s claims but it’s very hard to sort the analytical wheat from the SJW chaff. If I come across one of them again I’ll link to it on here.

    • Well... says:

      Validates much of what I’ve read/intuited/heard discussed about him in the past week.

    • lvlln says:

      Since that article mentioned his reviews on RateMyProfessors.com, I decided to check out Peterson’s ratings page. It’s interesting looking at his ratings from before late 2016, which is when he blew up on the internet. Barring some sort of conspiracy from the RateMyProfessors.com website, those ratings should give fairly honest opinions about the guy from students who weren’t influenced by the polarization that has happened surrounding him. Obviously, the opinions will be fairly limited in scope, since the website is about rating his quality as an instructor, but they’re interesting nonetheless.

      • Well... says:

        How would you summarize them?

        • lvlln says:

          I’m not sure if my own summary would be useful, given that I didn’t do a systematic review of all the ratings, and my own perception of the ratings are colored by my own impression of him which I’ve formed over the past year, but here’s the general sense that I got:

          Students mostly thought that he was a very charismatic, intelligent, and overall excellent lecturer who sometimes blew their mind with the concepts he convincingly taught them about psychology and philosophy. He got most criticized for the high difficulty and seeming randomness (as in, difficult to predict the contents based on his lectures) of his tests, as well as the large volume of reading he assigned. Also, he got criticized for making what the students thought were invalid inferences based on behavior – jumping to conclusions about what someone was thinking. Also, one review accused him of “womb envy,” which I’m not sure exactly what that means.

          I’d say overall, the ratings were skewed very positive, with most of the few negative reviews focusing on the obtuseness and difficulty of his tests while still admitting that his lectures were great.

          But keep in mind, this may be the impression that I get because it reflects the impression I got about him over seeing stuff he did in the past year. The interviews and lectures of his I saw gave me the impression that he was a very intelligent and charismatic speaker, one that explained complex concepts very well and usually made his case very convincingly, but one who also had a tendency to sometimes jump to conclusions based on what seemed to me to be closer to apophenia than actual evidence. And I would expect his tests to be difficult, based on his general theme of telling people that they ought to take on the heaviest load and most responsibility that they can.

          So I’d recommend you check out the page yourself and see what impression you get from it, as it may be more useful to you than taking my colored opinion.

          • Well... says:

            I might. Your summary was great though, and is exactly what I would have expected to find based on the videos of him I’ve seen.

          • Barely matters says:

            I think this is as good as any place to put this, being deeply threaded near the bottom of an Open that’s about to time out.

            I’m going to see JBP next weekend, so if anyone has particularly good/difficult/interesting questions they’d like me to throw at him I can ask during the Q&A and report back.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Barely matters:

            “Dr. Peterson, Kierkegaard was a contemporary of Nietzsche and struggled with many of the same issues he did. Like Nietzsche he recognized that Christianity formed the scaffolding of Western Civilization, but struggled with literal belief in the supernatural. His solution was to take a “Leap of Faith” and choose to believe.

            You’re frequently asked if you believe in God, and you answer that you ‘act as though God exists.’ Could you compare and contrast this attitude with Kierkegaard’s Leap of Faith? Alternatively, could you share your thoughts on the meaning and usefulness of faith? Thank you.”

          • Well... says:

            I’m curious what Peterson thinks of Ted Kaczynski’s philosophy. I expect his answer would be richer/more expansive than what I’d guess he thinks of it.

          • Barely matters says:

            To keep you guys updated, it’s a wash for now.

            The original venue was the subject of some protest (Imagine that) and cancelled his booking. They refunded my tickets and before I’d heard about the venue change the new talk had completely sold out. Next time.

    • Well... says:

      Sort of tangentially related, has Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins, or someone similarly aligned, ever responded to Jordan Peterson’s critique of new atheism?

      • baconbits9 says:

        Peterson appeared on Sam Harris podcast once iirc.

        • Jaskologist says:

          It didn’t go very well. They experienced a failure to communicate, so there wasn’t much in the way of productive dialog.

          • lvlln says:

            Sam Harris announced in a recent episode of his podcast that he intends to do a public discussion with Peterson sometime in June or July, I think. That’ll be over a year after Peterson’s 2 appearances on his podcast, during which time Harris at least has gotten to learn a lot more about Peterson, so one hopes that conversation will be better. In the announcement, Harris noted that when he sees or listens to Peterson in his interviews, he finds something like 90% of what he says to be very correct and insightful, but there’s a 10% that he finds issue with, and he thinks those issues are very important and worth challenging him on. Obviously, given their disagreements on religion, I’m guessing that that 10% has to do with Peterson’s views on religious mythology.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m not sure they disagree so much on what is factually true, as to how useful religion and Christianity in particular is. Peterson, afaict, seems to see it as a useful way in understanding how a man relates to himself, his society, and his position in the world–without actually having much bearing on anything we’d call facts.
            It’s basically a pro-religion, atheist view.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I thought Harris was being deliberately obtuse. I don’t think it’s all that difficult to understand that something can be metaphorically true, or usefully true, without being true by the standards of scientific measurement.

            I think Harris just cannot bring himself to admit that there might, maybe, in some certain edge cases, be something sort of okay associated with religion, because if he does his whole schtick collapses.

          • Well... says:

            If that’s all it is then I’m a bit disappointed. Lots of atheists (e.g. Matthew Chapman) have been going around saying that religion is interesting, beautiful, and socially useful. I must not have understood Peterson, because I thought he was saying something substantially beyond that.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, Peterson goes substantially beyond that, explaining the ways in which mythologies and religious beliefs explain universal truths about human nature and human behavior (“how to act in the world”) far beyond what you can get out of the less strident atheists, which is usually only limited to “well I guess some people maybe act better if they think God will punish them, and I guess being involved with a church makes it easier to find babysitters, but it’s still all malarkey somebody made up to control people.”

    • a reader says:

      By the way, has anyone tried Jordan Peterson’s “self authoring” program ? Is it of any use to sort yourself out – especially against procrastination/akrasia?

      I don’t think he is alt-right, although he has lots of alt-right fans – maybe somewhat alt-light, but he doesn’t seem really racist. He coauthored a study that showed that his program reduced the scores gap both between sexes and between majority and minority students. The study was done in Netherlands, so i suppose the minority were probably Muslims – and the gap between sexes (that the intervention reduced) was in favor of women:

      https://www.nature.com/articles/palcomms201514

      “The current study, therefore, assessed the effects of a brief, evidence-based online intervention aimed at enhancing goal-directed conceptualization and action among first year college students (N=703) at a large European business school. The academic performance of these students was contrasted with that of three pre-intervention control cohorts (N=896, 825 and 720), with particular attention paid to the role of gender and ethnicity. The intervention boosted academic achievement and increased retention rates, particularly for ethnic minority and male students (who had underperformed in previous years). The gap in performance between men and women, and for ethnic minorities versus nationals, became considerably smaller within the intervention cohort. “

      But the man seems quite weird in videos – and he seems to try to reabilitate psychoanalysis, that isn’t exactly science, isn’t it?

      • Aapje says:

        I haven’t done the program, but from what I’ve read about it, it consists of the following:
        – Write an essay on the future that you want to avoid
        – Write an essay on the future that you want to achieve
        – Write down what you can do to get the future you want and to avoid the future you don’t want

        So it’s basically rational thinking for adolescents.

        In the study, they sought to decrease procrastination/akrasia by putting posters around the school with statements from the essays, so students would feel a social expectation to implement the plan.

        • a reader says:

          As far as I know, there are 4 different programs – each can be bought separately for 15$ or all 4 together for 30$:
          – about the future (what you described)
          – about the past
          – about present – about your qualities
          – also about present – about your faults

  19. Rm says:

    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00125-017-4541-7

    HbA1c, diabetes and cognitive decline: the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Fanfan ZhengLi YanZhenchun YangBaoliang ZhongWuxiang Xie, Diabetologia. …Conclusions/interpretation:
    Significant longitudinal associations between HbA1c levels, diabetes status and long-term cognitive decline were observed in this study. Future studies are required to determine the effects of maintaining optimal glucose control on the rate of cognitive decline in people with diabetes.

  20. johan_larson says:

    One of the constants across the industrialized world is low birth rates, generally well below replacement levels. This is a problem because inverted age pyramids, with lots of old people and relatively few young people, mean there are too few workers trying to support too many non-workers. Right now, the solutions being tried to manage this problem are immigration, particularly of young people, and government-provided or -subsidized child care.

    But suppose those solutions just aren’t making enough of a dent, and a government reaches for stronger measures. What might a non-authoritarian government try next?

    • Aapje says:

      – Robots (what they try in Japan).
      – Making euthanasia/suicide by older people easier (Netherlands).
      – Reducing wealth transfers and services to the old (Greece) and/or trying to get children to care for their parents more, rather than have the government do it (Netherlands).
      – Encouraging women to work more, which partially solves the worker shortage, but at the expense of fewer children (all of the West).
      – Encouraging the emigration of old people to low cost countries.

      Another (partial) solution is to wait it out, because the issue will partially resolve itself as the imbalanced pyramid corrects itself by large cohorts dying and small cohorts being born. A major cause of the problem in the first place is that birth rates changed over time.

      • Randy M says:

        – Encouraging the emigration of old people to low cost countries.

        We do this state to state as well here (well, not official policy, but cost of living, etc. does that on its own). Of course, sometimes you have people drawing pensions in CA living in Florida, which probably doesn’t help.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Research extending the health span for the people they’ve got.

      • fion says:

        I wonder if such research might have the side effect of increasing life span even further.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Probably, but there’s also the concept of “squaring the curve”– staying in pretty good health with a fairly sudden decline at the end. I believe the people with genetic longevity (live into their nineties in good shape, die after at most a year or two of bad health) have this.

          So a moderate gain in longevity for most people, but nothing dramatic.

    • Anonymous says:

      Poland is trying generous subsidies for parents. Like, really generous. A couple with four kids can get the equivalent of a minimum wage job, more if they’re poor.

      Nobody I know is trying this, but radically cutting access to secondary and tertiary education might work.

    • fion says:

      I think increasing retirement ages is a symptom of (and kind of a solution to?) this problem.

    • Brad says:

      But suppose those solutions just aren’t making enough of a dent

      Which countries are having trouble attracting working age immigrants?

      • johan_larson says:

        The problem is not finding prospective immigrants. The problem is that the domestic population is unwilling to tolerate large numbers of immigrants, particularly if they are very different in culture or appearance. Japan, on one extreme, allows very little immigration. And the elites of Europe probably overestimated their citizenries’ tolerance for large-scale immigration.

        • Anonymous says:

          Not to mention allowing in migrants who can’t\won’t\don’t work. It’s one thing to let in low skilled, unassimilable manpower. It’s another to let in those who will just make the entitlement situation worse.

          The plebs hate both, but one is worse than the other.

          • johan_larson says:

            Not to mention allowing in migrants who can’t\won’t\don’t work.

            Surely that’s a very small part of the issue. Could there really be all that many people who have enough drive to pull up stakes and emigrate, but then prefer the dole to work? Seems like a stretch. I expect a more common problem is that unskilled immigrants have trouble finding work, particularly if the locals don’t quite trust them.

          • Anonymous says:

            @johan_larson

            Have you heard of the migrant crisis?

          • Randy M says:

            Could there really be all that many people who have enough drive to pull up stakes and emigrate, but then prefer the dole to work? Seems like a stretch.

            Why does that seem like a stretch? Yeah, maybe it’s a hassle to move, but it beats starving, and then if the new nation offers generous enough assistance, well, that beats working.

          • Matt M says:

            Could there really be all that many people who have enough drive to pull up stakes and emigrate, but then prefer the dole to work?

            If “the dole” in western Europe still allows a better and more comfortable lifestyle than “working really damn hard” in the Middle East/Africa does, then yes, absolutely.

          • Anonymous says:

            I’d like to note that the migrants seem to have a fanciful perspective on the ease of getting and amount of gibs they are likely to get, even in places like Germany or Sweden. Which matters little for their coming or not, since that’s entirely on the basis of belief, rather than fact.

          • rlms says:

            Does anyone here have any statistics to support their claims (e.g. employment levels of immigrants in comparison to the native population)?

          • Anonymous says:

            @rlms

            I have some data on this for Norway. Finansavisen has a summary of the balance of tax payments vs entitlement payouts for immigrant ethnic groups in 2012. Also has employment stats there –
            “sysselsetting prosent” is “percentage employed”.

            This data is at least partly confirmable via the official Norwegian statistical bureau (this data is from 2017). I am a little unsure how they define “non-immigrant” in the table; could be without foreign-born, could be without foreign-born and those born in Norway to foreign parents. Third generation are almost certainly counted as ‘native’, but there can’t be that many of those.

            Summarizing:
            – Norwegians (exclusive immigrants) have an employment rate of 67%.
            – Immigrants to Norway have an employment rate of 60%.
            – Immigrants from the North, EU and West Europe have equal or higher employment rates than Norwegians (67-73%).
            – Immigrants from East Europe, North America, Oceania and South/Middle Africa have lower employment than Norwegians (60-62%).
            – Immigrants from Asia have lower employment than Norwegians (52%).
            – Immigrants from Africa (except the earlier mentioned category, which they don’t apparently define further) have lower employment than Norwegians (42%).

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            Employment levels depend extremely strongly on whether the migrants are economic or refugees, their level of education and their culture.

            As such, your question cannot be answered in general, because the migrant populations differ.

          • rlms says:

            @Anonymous
            Thanks! But I don’t think net flow of money from people to government is particularly relevant here, unless you make the (unreasonable) assumption that the distribution of wages amongst the employed is the same for different groups. If employed native Norwegians are more likely to have high-paying jobs than immigrants, then they will appear better than immigrants even if they have the same employment rates.

            Employment rates are more useful, but the ones you have given are clearly measured in an unhelpful way — the “real” rate for Norway as a whole is ~4%, so a figure of >30% must include children, housespouses, people in further education or similar. So you can’t meaningfully compare between groups that differ in those ways.

            @Aapje
            I’m asking for figures about whoever the other commenters are discussing .I agree that they haven’t been particularly specific, but I think I understand who they are pointing at. If you don’t, you should be making your point at them, not me.

          • Anonymous says:

            @rlms

            But I don’t think net flow of money from people to government is particularly relevant here, unless you make the (unreasonable) assumption that the distribution of wages amongst the employed is the same for different groups. If employed native Norwegians are more likely to have high-paying jobs than immigrants, then they will appear better than immigrants even if they have the same employment rates.

            Fair, but that in itself is a problem – importing underclasses.

            Employment rates are more useful, but the ones you have given are clearly measured in an unhelpful way — the “real” rate for Norway as a whole is ~4%, so a figure of >30% must include children, housespouses, people in further education or similar. So you can’t meaningfully compare between groups that differ in those ways.

            FWIW, the stat includes only ages 15-74. No little kids here.

          • rlms says:

            Fair, but that in itself is a problem – importing underclasses.

            Even granting that that would be a consequence, I don’t know that it is. Someone’s got to do the dirty jobs (at optimal quality, at optimal prices). If that someone disproportionately comes from certain groups, that might cause social problems, but I don’t think it’s obvious that those would be worse than the alternative. Also, if the underclass is small enough the evidence suggests they will not be a problem (travellers in the UK do far worse than any other group I’m aware of educationally at least, but no-one considers them a problem on a national level).

            But I don’t think that low-income first-generation immigrants implies importing an underclass. Many immigrant groups have a pattern of later generations working much more skilled jobs than the first one or two.

          • Anonymous says:

            @rlms

            If that someone disproportionately comes from certain groups, that might cause social problems, but I don’t think it’s obvious that those would be worse than the alternative.

            The alternative is employers raising wages for native low-skilled work. I’m pretty sure it’s not a bad thing.

          • rlms says:

            @Anonymous
            Ultimately someone has to pay those wages, and the people receiving them end up doing less useful work than they otherwise would be (e.g. in the extreme your doctors become street sweepers and everyone dies of disease).

        • Aapje says:

          @johan_larson

          That is merely true for low-skill workers. The Japanese government is very open to high-skill migrants, but few of them want to work in Japan.

        • Brad says:

          @johan_larson

          The problem is that the domestic population is unwilling to tolerate large numbers of immigrants, particularly if they are very different in culture or appearance.

          If they are unreasonably rejecting a solution to their problem, and I think they are, then it sounds like the resulting problems are deserved. I don’t see any reason to brainstorm solutions they might, or might not, like. There are plenty of people out there suffering that haven’t perversely rejected perfectly reasonable solutions.

          • Mark says:

            Urgh… what a stinker of a comment.

          • Matt M says:

            If they are unreasonably rejecting a solution to their problem, and I think they are, then it sounds like the resulting problems are deserved.

            Hey cool, we finally agree on something!

            Although I assume you do not agree with my solution, which is something like “If you’re old and didn’t save enough money, you get to die in the street and I don’t care”

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Urgh… what a stinker of a comment.

            Not sure if this comment is helpful, good sir.

          • Brad says:

            @Mark
            From you, I take that as a compliment.

            @Matt M
            Kind of a strange thing to say, given that I’ve already said what my solution is. In any event our country, the United States, has not, at least as of yet, rejected the reasonable solution. So there’s no problem in need of your “solution”, though I don’t doubt you support it regardless of need.

            In any event, per the CIA world factbook, there were only 24 countries with negative population growth in 2016 (excluding countries with trivial populations). All in Eastern Europe except: Greece, Germany, Trinidad and Tobago, Japan, Cuba, and Lebanon. The three largest countries with negative population growth were Russia, Japan, and Germany.

          • Mark says:

            Is this a teachable moment?

            Seems to me like Brad’s comment is definitively unsympathetic.

            So, when I say “what a stinker of a comment” please read as “don’t mix prejudice with lack of charity, unless you want to annoy.”

            Brad, assuming that other people are unreasonable makes your comment shitty. So, don’t take it as a compliment. Don’t take it as evidence that you are superior. Consider the possibility that you may have said a shitty thing.

            That’s what good commenters do.

          • albatross11 says:

            Brad:

            Your argument proves too much. Anytime I propose a solution to some social problem and it turns out that the people in the society don’t agree to it, or think the tradeoff I’m proposing is unacceptable, then you can make the same statement–they deserve it if they won’t take my proposed solution.

            There are a whole bunch of solutions to the inverted-age-pyramid problem that we can propose, and many violate the values of a lot of people in the society. Killing off old people at retirement age is an obvious one. Another is drafting 18 year old women into the Womb Army, where they will deliver a couple kids to be raised in the state creches before returning to their regular lives. Can we also say that any society that doesn’t accept these solutions deserves whatever problems they get?

            Of course, you can say that your proposed solution is “reasonable,” and the horrible ones I’ve outlined above aren’t. But then your argument turns on what’s reasonable and what’s unreasonable–and that’s not something we all agree on.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Brad –

            I think you miss MattM’s point there: You both have solutions. His is to save up for retirement. Yours presumes somebody has failed to implement his solution.

            He is pointing out that, if you are going to say “Screw you, you deserve what you get” to people failing to implement solutions, there is no reason to favor saying that after failing to implement your solution, than there is after somebody fails to implement his.

            Which is to say, if somebody deserves not-salvation on account of not taking steps towards salvation, then that applies for every step not taken, not just the last possible step you happen to support.

            (Which all fails to take into account that there may be valid reasons for not saving up for retirement – such as not having the money to do so – or for opposing immigration – for example by believing that brain drain impoverishes other countries more than it benefits ours)

          • Randy M says:

            Your argument proves too much. Anytime I propose a solution to some social problem and it turns out that the people in the society don’t agree to it, or think the tradeoff I’m proposing is unacceptable, then you can make the same statement–they deserve it if they won’t take my proposed solution.

            This is the mirror of the recent conversation about “If environmentalists don’t want nuclear power they aren’t serious.” It is possible the that they have considered the proposed solution (nuclear power, gradual demographic replacement immigration) and found it lacking in some way and so are considering other alternatives.

          • Matt M says:

            Eh, I’d say I’m not “proposing a solution” so much as I am “disputing that there is a problem.”

            To me, “We need immigrants – otherwise how will we pay for our enormous welfare state?!” is basically a solution in search of a problem. It assumes, as a given, that a welfare state is a thing that must exist.

          • Brad says:

            @Mark

            Is this a teachable moment?

            No, because I think you are a terrible poster (I believe I once referred to a post of yours as dadaist trolling) and your initial contribution to this subthread is further evidence for that belief. Therefore I have no interest in anything you have to say on the subject of being a good poster. Feel free to stop pissing in the wind.

            @albatross11

            Of course, you can say that your proposed solution is “reasonable,” and the horrible ones I’ve outlined above aren’t. But then your argument turns on what’s reasonable and what’s unreasonable–and that’s not something we all agree on.

            Yes, reasonableness is inherently subjective. I don’t claim otherwise. But from my perspective this is a solved problem. If Eastern Europe, Japan, and Germany don’t like the solution that I consider entirely reasonable they can reject it. I can’t stop them.

            I can try to convince citizens of those countries, and others with similar trajectories, to change their minds. In my own small way I have doing just that. I think that effort, no matter how marginal it might be, is more likely to be fruitful than trying to brainstorm fanciful alternative solutions like Anonymous’ ‘forbid women from going to college’ or Matt M’s ‘let old people die in the street’. YMMV.

            @Thegnskald

            He is pointing out that, if you are going to say “Screw you, you deserve what you get” to people failing to implement solutions, there is no reason to favor saying that after failing to implement your solution, than there is after somebody fails to implement his.

            Yes there’s a reason, I consider a nation refusing to allow win-win immigration to be unreasonable while I consider a nation putting in place social safety nets to prevent old people from dying in the streets quite reasonable. Feel free to disagree! That’s what we are here for. But I reject the notion that we can never look at the object level and have to endlessly go to ever higher meta-levels of debate.

            Sometimes it can illuminating to look at things from the meta-level, but far from always.

          • James says:

            dadaist trolling

            No, no, suntzuanime was the only one who could pull that off.

          • Mark says:

            Someone not liking your comment is evidence for their irrationality.

            That explains a lot. As suspected, not a teachable moment.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Promote religious observance:

            Among women age 40–44, completed fertility for women who report that religion is very important to them is 0.4 children higher than that among women for whom religion is only somewhat important and 0.8 children higher than women who are not religious.

            Those who unreasonably reject such a solution deserve what they get.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            How do you promote religious observance?

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Nancy,

            There are probably hundreds of ways. In fact, I think most societies and governments have done so. But off the very top of my head:

            * Bring back Blue Laws (also reduces drug abuse!).
            * Do the same thing we do now to promote fitness, but for religion.
            * Do the same thing you do anytime you slap a rainbow flag on something, but with a cross instead.
            * Fight for more positive portrayals of devout religious believers in media. Fight for better representation of religious characters, commensurate with their actual share of the population. And real religious characters, not just the watered down hippy ones.
            * Teach it in the public schools.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Does Christianity work better than other religions?

          • Iain says:

            Indeed, Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world — in large part because Muslims have larger families than Christians.

            No need to mess about with inferior substitutes; let’s jump straight to sharia law.

            (I believe this is the point at which I am required to say: those who unreasonably reject such a solution deserve what they get.)

          • @Nancy:

            Globally, Muslims have the highest fertility rate, an average of 3.1 children per woman—well above replacement level (2.1) due to young age of Muslims (median age of 23) compared to other religious groups.[4] Christians are second, at 2.7 children per woman.

            (Wiki)

          • Anonymous says:

            ISTR that pre-modern Christianity had better fertility than Islam did. But then, we don’t have much of pre-modern Christianity anymore.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Jaskologist, I think that if you push non-religious people who don’t want children into religion, you’ll end up diluting the religions. Or possibly having a division between old-time religions and new things that look enough like religion to satisfy social pressure.

          • Brad says:

            @Jaskologist

            * Bring back Blue Laws (also reduces drug abuse!).
            * Do the same thing we do now to promote fitness, but for religion.

            You seem to be confused as to which countries have a problem. I don’t know that Japan ever had Blue Laws and unless I quite mistaken I don’t think “we” refers to Russia for you and it certainly doesn’t for me.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Jaskologist

            * Do the same thing we do now to promote fitness, but for religion.

            Do attempts by the government to promote fitness, healthy diet, etc work?

            @Iain

            Right-wing populists converting en masse to Islam would both fulfill several of their goals – especially for those to whom religion is instrumental – and be incredibly amusing (for several different reasons0.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Iain

            Indeed, Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world — in large part because Muslims have larger families than Christians.

            No need to mess about with inferior substitutes; let’s jump straight to sharia law.

            (I believe this is the point at which I am required to say: those who unreasonably reject such a solution deserve what they get.)

            Ignoring the fact that sharia law isn’t really a consistent thing across different Islamic countries and probably has little to do with the fertility patterns, isn’t this the eventual result of the immigration solution in Europe? Whether you convert your population to Islam or import Muslims to replace dying agnostics, eventually the population is much more Muslim. And if they don’t assimilate to the fertility norms of Western Europeans, problem solved permanently.

          • Brad says:

            There are plenty of non-Muslim would be immigrants. The xenophobes of Europe don’t appear to have any interest even in their own coreligionists.

          • Ignoring the fact that sharia law isn’t really a consistent thing across different Islamic countries

            I’m not sure what you mean by sharia law. The only Muslim country I know if that comes anywhere close to running its legal system along the lines of Sunni fiqh, religious law, is Saudi Arabia. Most of the others incorporate some elements from the traditional law, but in a modern statute system.

            Fiqh is pretty consistent across the four Sunni schools of law, with differences in detail. I think the Iranian version of Shia law is reasonably similar; I gather some Sunni scholars have argued it should be counted as the fifth madhab. I don’t know enough about Iran to say how nearly it’s the actual legal system they are using.

            I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the other Shia sects varied a good deal in their legal rules.

            Sharia, as I understand it, is law in the mind of God, what fiqh is an imperfect human attempt to model. From the standpoint of a believing Muslim, Sharia is enforced everywhere on everyone, with the punishments and rewards being provided by God after death.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            Is there any reason to think that immigrants from wherever wouldn’t assimilate to local fertility norms? Fertility norms are more a reaction to incentives driving social norms than they are just social norms in a vacuum. For an example of a Muslim country with a falling fertility rate, take Turkey. By the UN estimate, it’s about 1/3 of what it was in the 50s, and is hovering at replacement rate. Iran has fallen from just under 7 to well under 2. Saudi Arabia has a rate of 2.71. Saudi Arabia’s is 2.71, and has been dropping.

          • albatross11 says:

            dndnsrn:

            I don’t have a link, but my impression is that immigrants from Mexico and Central America to the US tend to do this–the original immigrants have higher fertility, but their kids and grandkids assimilate and get to American levels of fertility.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Brad

            Sure, but even if Poland was immigrant friendly, people would still rather immigrate to Germany. People want to move to rich places. And the immigrants Europe is going to get aren’t going to be the same as in the Americas. Geographic proximity and events in the immigrants countries determine a lot of immigrant flows. Unless it’s Canada or Australia, where the ocean serves as an enormous barrier.

            @DavidFriedman

            I was just responding to Iain’s flippant comment. I just meant in the sense that sharia law doesn’t really specify the laws of a country. Your comment actually taught me more about the distinctions between as interpreted and again differences with statute law.

            @dndnrsn

            Sometimes yes, sometimes no. The Amish and Mennonites didn’t really assimilate anywhere and are more similar to similar sects in other countries than to their fellow citizens. In practice, I don’t think fertility of immigrants will reach the norm of the rest of the country unless the immigrants are a small group being assimilated and aren’t much influencing the surrounding culture. Even then, it usually takes a couple generations. If it’s due to economic and technological changes, then almost every group will reach the same fertility rates in the next century or so. But fertility within group changed a lot in the last century and still shows significant variation from country to country even within the first world. I guess I would say I expect a narrowing of differences between groups, but I don’t expect differences to vanish.

          • Brad says:

            @quanta413
            Sure immigrants would rather go to Germany than Poland. But they’d rather go somewhere legally than somewhere illegally. I did a bunch of Filipino nurse cases when I was working in immigration. Many of my clients had work experience in Saudi Arabia or UAE. Those countries were quite obviously not these nurses first choice, but they were there were legal, decent paying jobs for them there. So that’s where they went.

            Poland apparently has a nursing shortage and the nurse population it has is aging rapidly. Filipinos are 80+% catholic and have a TFR of around 3. But they aren’t Poles and so the Poles don’t want them in Poland. Fine, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Maybe they can try Blue Laws and crosses instead of rainbow flags.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            Sometimes yes, sometimes no. The Amish and Mennonites didn’t really assimilate anywhere and are more similar to similar sects in other countries than to their fellow citizens. In practice, I don’t think fertility of immigrants will reach the norm of the rest of the country unless the immigrants are a small group being assimilated and aren’t much influencing the surrounding culture. Even then, it usually takes a couple generations. If it’s due to economic and technological changes, then almost every group will reach the same fertility rates in the next century or so. But fertility within group changed a lot in the last century and still shows significant variation from country to country even within the first world. I guess I would say I expect a narrowing of differences between groups, but I don’t expect differences to vanish.

            The Amish and Mennonites are completely noncentral examples, though – their entire culture is based around eschewing a lot of the incentives that lead to a drop in fertility. If there was an equivalent sect moving to whatever European country from wherever, settling out in the countryside, and doing their “no cars, no phones, agriculture and handicrafts only” thing, I don’t think that would upset a huge number of people? It’s not as though the Amish and Mennonites have become demographically dominant in the places they’ve moved, and they wouldn’t do the other stuff Europeans are getting antsy about (past basic racism): they’re not gonna live on the streets of the cities, they’re not gonna commit crimes (petty or otherwise), they’re not gonna plow their buggies into crowds of people.

            The evidence from Canada and the US is that immigrant fertility moves to match the norm, by and large, once SES and so forth are corrected for, right? Unless there’s something inherent to group x that group y doesn’t have that makes them have more kids, and I’m not sure that there’s really any evidence for that.

            EDIT:

            @Brad

            For some reason, the thought of a union of Poland and the Philippines popped into my head, and then I thought “shit is this how the Paradox guys come up with game ideas?”

          • Iain says:

            @quanta413:

            You have correctly identified that I was being flippant. To the extent that I am making a serious point, it is simply that people should consider what “everybody should adopt my pro-fertility religious beliefs” looks like from the outside.

            Like dndnrsn, I expect Muslim fertility rates to drop off as they are assimilated: more like Irish Catholics than the Amish.

          • quanta413 says:

            @Brad

            Sure, why not I guess? It’s not going to happen, but I doubt it would hurt if it did. Almost certainly would help.

            @dndnrsn and @Iain

            Sure maybe fertility rates will all converge towards the host countries. This is roughly the pattern of the last 100 years in the West for most cases. With some enormous outliers. But I do not think it should be assumed to hold true forever. I don’t even know if it was true in the past before the last century. And American Indians/Alaskan Natives have much lower total fertility rates than the U.S. average (about 2/3 the U.S. average) despite having lived in the land of the U.S. since before the U.S. But if immigrants fertility rates really do converge towards the below replacement rates of Western countries, that’s a serious argument for current Western culture or economics being pretty broken.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            Source for American Indians/Native Alaskans? Aboriginals in Canada have a population growing at a faster rate than the national population, and a younger population than the national average, which would seem to indicate higher birth rates. Given that their standard of living is lower (I don’t know if they’ve gotten treated worse in Canada than in the US, but they’ve been treated pretty badly, and the worst poverty in the country is in Aboriginal communities usually) it’s not surprising; higher standard of living correlates pretty strongly with lower birth rates.

            In general, the “developed world” pattern means lower birth rates. Kids are more likely to live so you don’t have to have a bunch to ensure a few make it, less useful as labour (no farms, and you can’t send them to work in factories any more), they’re generally more expensive to have, women have kids starting later because technology lets them pursue options other than starting to have kids in their late teens if they so choose (and it looks like they generally do so choose), etc.

            This isn’t even just a developed world thing: there’s countries that still have fairly low standards of living that have seen a swing from “we gotta get people to have fewer children” to “we gotta get people to have more children.”

            In general, I think the pattern shows that the more you get away from a subsistence-agriculture model, the fewer kids you have. I think it’s a given that any immigrant group will see its fertility converge provided a certain degree of integration (economic being more important than social, because economic change drives social change more often than the opposite). Iain is right: the pattern of Muslims in North America is probably going to follow Catholics. The fear that the Irish, Italians, Bavarians, etc were going to take over came to nothing much. (glowing galaxy brain: have you seen the Supreme Court?)

          • baconbits9 says:

            But if immigrants fertility rates really do converge towards the below replacement rates of Western countries, that’s a serious argument for current Western culture or economics being pretty broken.

            No it isn’t, culture doesn’t propagate the way genetics does. Western culture could have a sub replacement level birth rate and still grow by assimilating immigrants and having their birth rates converge over time. There would be an issue if western culture ended up dominating the world’s population by so much that there weren’t enough potential immigrant populations to make up the shortfall AND that under such a scenario birth rates stayed at sub replacement levels.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Presumably, if current patterns continue and there isn’t some sort of global-scale catastrophe, everyone’s birth rates will continue to fall. If one day everywhere in the world has a good-enough standard of living, everywhere will have a sub-2.1 birth rate.

            This is less due to “western culture” than technology, I would posit. Human similarities between groups are greater than differences between groups; anywhere that abandons subsistence agriculture, has accessible birth control, etc, will see a drop.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            Source for American Indians/Native Alaskans?

            I made a mistake. I have now checked additional sources and withdraw the claim. There is no agreement on whether it is lower or higher. Methodologically there’s some sort of variation occurring. Original source I used. I now suspect it’s junk because other sources show smaller gaps although the direction varies.

            An older source that only goes to 2005. You can see in this table that Native American birth rates were higher than the average back in the 1990. That ceased to be true in 1995 and then the rate fell some more.

            But I also found a source with the opposite difference from Pew Hispanic. http://www.pewhispanic.org/2015/09/28/modern-immigration-wave-brings-59-million-to-u-s-driving-population-growth-and-change-through-2065/9-26-2015-1-30-23-pm-2/

            I also found some census data but it’s mostly yearly just for 2012. https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2014/demo/p20-575.pdf

            It lacks a breakdown for Native Americans’ total fertility. However, at least in 2012, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders had over ~1.5x as many births per women as White non-Hispanics. Asians had about 1.2x as many births per women as white non-hispanics. If this year extrapolated out that would mean Asians had higher fertility than white non-hispanics which is the opposite of what most sources I’ve read claimed. Clearly if I can find the time, I should read less and dig through census data more.

            @baconbits9

            Dunno. In the long run, relying on perpetual flow of people from places with births rates that exceed replacement seems like a flaw to me. If the birth rates in other places drop too much, you’re screwed. That looks like the current trajectory.

            The other possibility seems to me to be that eventually those places are much bigger and more powerful (because eventually they have a lot more people), and I would think cultural changes would start flowing the other way.

            @dndnrsn

            Sure, technology makes it possible. But people still have to decide to have less children. Yet in the U.S. surveys show that women have less children than they wanted (see graphs under that section in this great article by Lyman Stone). So either the economy or culture are interfering with people’s preferences, or men are ruining everything for everyone because they don’t want to have enough children and they’re dragging us down. I really am serious about the second possibility although I used a flippant phrasing.

          • Brad says:

            Straight line extrapolation in this case seems very foolish.

            If the Japanese, or whomever, are going to have problems with their societies in the next two or decades because of their current age pyramid, that’s worth thinking about. But worrying about what it will mean when negative growth compounds over half a dozen generations is like worrying about all the problems your baby will have when he is 15 feet tall, because after all he’s doubled in size over the last six months.

            The problems facing modern Japan were completely unknowable 120 years ago. It’s insanity of the hubris type to pretend to know what problems Japan will be facing in another 120 years.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            Sure, technology makes it possible. But people still have to decide to have less children. Yet in the U.S. surveys show that women have less children than they wanted (see graphs under that section in this great article by Lyman Stone). So either the economy or culture are interfering with people’s preferences, or men are ruining everything for everyone because they don’t want to have enough children and they’re dragging us down. I really am serious about the second possibility although I used a flippant phrasing.

            It’s possible the economy is interfering with people’s preferences, and it’s possible that men want children less than women and that’s the issue. But there’s want and want. And there’s also, to steal from Game of Thrones, want to want vs want.

            If someone really wants kids, they will organize their life around that. It’s not impossible to have several children on a tight budget, but it requires prioritizing having children. My experience is that when I lived in a lower middle class area, I saw more children, and more parents herding multiple kids, than in upper-middle-class areas. If having children costs money, and that’s the problem, how come the people with less money have more children? It might mean not being able to take your kids on vacations, or not being able to send them to private schools, or not having a high-powered career. But those things are all different priorities than “having children.”

          • quanta413 says:

            @Brad

            Sure, I agree. I think it by far most likely the cultural or economic situation will change until replacement rate is reached. This may be because more recent arrivals don’t tend towards the mean of past arrivals. This may be because the large clumps we’re talking about obviously have subgroups, some of which exceed replacement rate and some of which don’t. What I’m arguing though is that the fact that either permanent large inflows of immigrants must be maintained (even as the claim is that more and more countries are approaching sub-replacement fertility) or the culture or economic situation must change for the replacement rate to be met is a sign that something current is flawed. In exactly the same way that natural selection tends to remove deleterious mutations (like humans who keep growing forever) from the population, parts of culture which fail to reproduce themselves eventually cease to exist.

            @dndnrsn

            Perhaps, but I find your explanation wanting. People fail to obtain things they want all the time. And having children is a much more complicated thing to do correctly than most things. Many people don’t know what their true preferences are until after they’ve had at least one child. But the more you delay having children, by the time you realize you were mistaken about your own preferences, the harder it is to catch up to where you want to be because of biological realities. The increases in fertility in women in middle age and the vast amounts people are willing to spend for fertility treatments indicate that a lot of people really do have less children than they’d like.

            And poorer people might have more children than richer people, but fertility also falls in recessions. People seem to decide more based upon their relative wealth to their past selves (or their parents), not compared to their peers. I’m not claiming U.S. citizens literally lack the necessary money. Most could have 6-12 children if they wanted to. This may be a severe cultural flaw that people decide based upon relative wealth over time rather than absolute cost, but things like that are the sort of thing I’m talking about as being cultural problems.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Perhaps, but I find your explanation wanting. People fail to obtain things they want all the time. And having children is a much more complicated thing to do correctly than most things. Many people don’t know what their true preferences are until after they’ve had at least one child. But the more you delay having children, by the time you realize you were mistaken about your own preferences, the harder it is to catch up to where you want to be because of biological realities. The increases in fertility in women in middle age and the vast amounts people are willing to spend for fertility treatments indicate that a lot of people really do have less children than they’d like.

            Perhaps what’s going on, then, is that people have mistaken ideas about fertility and how much work it is to raise a child? In the former case, mostly women’s fertility – there seems to be a false choice between “pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen, 16-forever” and “start having kids at 35; fertility doesn’t decline right?” In the latter case, anecdotally and by what stats we have, it appears there’s a decent supply of men (given that most children are born to heterosexual couples) who have careers, and wives who have careers, but still deal with household chores, etc, in the manner of some guy in the 50s who expects to come home, get handed an Old Fashioned, and that there be a roast in the oven.

            And poorer people might have more children than richer people, but fertility also falls in recessions. People seem to decide more based upon their relative wealth to their past selves (or their parents), not compared to their peers. I’m not claiming U.S. citizens literally lack the necessary money. Most could have 6-12 children if they wanted to. This may be a severe cultural flaw that people decide based upon relative wealth over time rather than absolute cost, but things like that are the sort of thing I’m talking about as being cultural problems.

            If people decide to have kids based on their experience as kids/their parents’ situation, then there is going to be a massive collapse in middle-middle and upper-middle class births, maybe even lower-upper class depending how you cut it, because the supply of “upper middle class raised person whose money puts them in the lower middle class” and similar is huge. If it’s a relative thing, they won’t be thinking “I can support 2 or 3 kids at a standard of living that’s magical by the standards of most people today” but rather “I won’t be able to put my kids in all the sports” or “is a life where you don’t get taken to Europe as a toddler a life worth living?

          • Doctor Mist says:

            if you push non-religious people who don’t want children into religion, you’ll end up diluting the religions.

            Not necessarily a bad thing. A religion that unifies a populace is arguably better for the populace than a bunch of religions each of which emphasizes its own congregations superiority to the rest.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            I think that explanation makes sense as to what sort of choice some people are implicitly acting like they have.

            Your second paragraph brings up an interesting question that should in principle be answerable from some government data somewhere. We know overall fertility falls in recessions, but we don’t know why. I think the correct people to compare are siblings, ideally identical twins (since the overall trends fluctuate over time). Do people who are in a lower relative percentile of wealth than their parents tend to have more or less kids than siblings who are as wealthy as their parents were? If they have more kids than their siblings, then what is the path that leads to a drop in fertility during recessions? Not absolute or relative wealth but a short term comparison to just a few years ago?

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is the issue a recession, or is it a stagnation? There’s a lot of people right now in the prime of life who face a less favourable economy than someone roughly equivalent did however many years ago, but is that due to something bad now, or something being unusually good back then?

    • Mark says:

      The work people are doing is absolute nonsense anyway, so the solution is less work, less consumption, more community.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      Here’s an idea: A percentage of everyone’s yearly tax payments goes to their parents, if their parents are still living. The parents are free to return the money to the children; blow it on a vacation to Tahiti; whatever they want.

      The idea is that in the past, people had a lot of children because it was expected to be an economic benefit to them. They could have the children work for free on the farm; they could have the children work in a factory and keep the child’s earnings; etc. Obviously it’s not realistic or humane to reintroduce child labor on a large scale, but that’s arguably the fundamental problem: The economic costs of having children are much more privatized than the benefits are socialized.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Alternative construction: Your social security payments are dependent not only on your own salary, but on a percentage of the sum salaries of your children.

      • Matt M says:

        Really? You can’t think of any possible downsides to a world where people receive a vast economic benefit to having their parents die?

        • Randy M says:

          Numerous such situations have existed in the past, and while “killed for the inheritance” is also a motive for Mrs. Lansbury to consider, was it really widespread?
          I suspect by and large the population of killers doesn’t overlap too large with the population of significant-tax payers.
          (plus, fortaleza84 didn’t actually say your taxes do down when your parents die just that a portion of your does to them when you are living. If anything, it is a motivation for keeping your parents alive)

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I agree. Also, the plan could be tweaked by putting a time limit on it. In the past, parents could reap benefits from the children’s productivity for about 10 or 15 years and that was sufficient incentive.

        • John Schilling says:

          I believe the proposal is for the tax rate to be the same but for some of the taxes to go to the parents if alive and the government if not. But this has its own perverse incentives, particularly if you aren’t careful with your definition of “parents”. Even within traditional families, the potential for kickback schemes should be obvious, and I suspect the major effect would be encouraging children to live with their parents well into their thirties and treating the tax transfer as de facto rent.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Even within traditional families, the potential for kickback schemes should be obvious

            Maybe I don’t see what you are getting at, but I don’t see why this is a problem. If Dad says “Son, if you take a high-paying job, I’ll sweeten the deal for you by kicking back all of the extra revenue I get out of it,” what’s the problem?

            I suspect the major effect would be encouraging children to live with their parents well into their thirties and treating the tax transfer as de facto rent.

            I don’t see this one either. The transfer would take place regardless of where the child lives so I don’t see why the child would be incentivized to stay at home or the parents would be incentivized to permit it. Can you clarify?

          • Randy M says:

            But this has its own perverse incentives, particularly if you aren’t careful with your definition of “parents”.

            This exists already in reverse in our tax structure, that is, deductions for dependents, and while it is a source of fraud, I don’t see that fraud as sufficient to motivate eliminating the deduction, so it shouldn’t argue against setting up the reverse. Unless we really are going to enact one of those schemes to eliminate the IRS, seems workable.

          • John Schilling says:

            This exists already in reverse in our tax structure, that is, deductions for dependents, and while it is a source of fraud,

            Deductions for dependents only apply to the extent that the parent, A: has taxable income and B: is spending it to support the dependent child. At least as written, the new proposal involves actual cash payments to deadbeat dads, unemployed baby daddies, etc, which seems to be a rather fundamental change.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Deductions for dependents only apply to the extent that the parent, A: has taxable income and B: is spending it to support the dependent child.

            Actually it has not been true for many years that you have to support your child to receive a deduction. Just being your child is sufficient. The very recent tax law changes removes this deduction completely, but it also doubles the child tax credit, which also is unrelated to whether you support that child. And you don’t even need taxable income for this credit, because it is partially refundable.

        • fortaleza84 says:

          That’s not quite what I proposed, since people would have to pay their taxes regardless of whether it all goes into the general treasury or some of it goes to their parents.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Remember when the problem with birth rates was that you had to find somewhere to send all the excess population?

      But suburbs. While in the West cities have higher nominal birth rates, when you control for age (highly urbanized areas are disproportionately youthful), urban areas tend to have lower birth rates.

      (I am vaguely looking forward to the coming panic when long-term non-permanent male birth control sends birth rates plummeting.)

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Israel has a high birth rate: why don’t we ask them how they accomplish it?

      Apparently, Israel leads the world in IVF births per capita (can’t really find a good source) and leads the world in IVF treatment generally (which may affect the first part). Why?

      Well, in the UK, you are required to have unprotected sex for 2 years, and then go through 12 cycles of artifical insemination. The UK will only cover 3 cycles. The US standard is 6 months, and 3 cycles of artificial insemination. How much your insurance will pay for depends on your insurance coverage, but mine covers 2 cycles (so the UK wins on that front I suppose). It’s only covered up to the age of 40.

      In Israel, not being able to have a child is considered about the worst thing that can happen to you. And Israel really, really wants to increase their birth rate. So in Israel, you can have IVF with an unlimited number of trials, until you have 2 babies. It’s not number of cycles, they will keep giving you IVF treatments until you have 2 kids, up to the age of 45.

      So it’s not hard to conclude that Israel really wants a higher birth rate much more than the UK does. Given that Israel is slightly poor than the UK and has to spend a much higher % of its money on defense, it’s not clear why the UK’s spending on IVFs is not blowing Israel’s out of the water…except that UK isn’t really serious about increasing its birth rate.

      There’s probably some other stuff going on, but I largely suspect that nations that want to increase their birth rate probably aren’t thinking it about all that much. Mandating generous maternity leave is another easy, obvious policy.

      • Randy M says:

        In Israel, not being able to have a child is considered about the worst thing that can happen to you.

        Isn’t this, if true, sufficient explanation without looking at IVF, which is likely a very small percentage?

      • albatross11 says:

        I suspect there’s a whole culture/society/values thing that underpins that. That is, it’s probably not enough to have IVF free to all comers–rather, you need the underlying common belief that not being able to have kids is a tragedy, kids are important and almost everyone should have a few, etc.

        Biology and society don’t particularly align well w.r.t. when women have their kids. A high-achieving woman is likely to be still getting her education and establishing herself in the world until she’s 30 or so, and might not be ready to have kids till her mid-30s. At that point, it’s going to be harder on her in most ways than if she’d started at 20. But starting at 20 means not going to college or getting pregnant in the middle of college, and having your kids at 20, 23, and 27 makes it pretty hard to also get a college degree, then a graduate degree, and then build up a career. Some women manage it, but it’s not easy. In principle, we could change things about our society to make this work better, but I have no idea how to actually do that in practice in a workable way. (Like, you could imagine women having their kids at 18, 20, 22 and then going to college, but most women aren’t ready to marry at 18 and would need a lot of support to manage their kids plus getting a college degree. And nobody has (or should have) the power to impose this kind of social change from above, even if it were clearly a good idea.)

        • Randy M says:

          I’d suggest ending Tulip Subsidies a good first start. Then put some more vocational training (or even some more esoteric self-improvement type college courses for the people who say education exists to improve oneself) into High School, perhaps some small employer subsidies for on-the-job training, which would likely be more focused and efficient.
          I don’t know how to transition, but the relative level of importance in what the average late-high school/college/grad school/internship etc. offers versus what that decade-and-a-half has in terms of fertility is very overstated, imo.

          I’m not saying every 18 year old woman should be heavy with child, but the life script we sell to people seems very heavily weighted towards getting certifications and playing the field and against marriage and children, in terms of priorities, at least, even if abstractly valuing the latter higher.

          Yes, I know babies take money, but the vitality (and not just fertility) of youth is a boon in raising children, which, happiness boosting or not, most people come to want at some point in their lives; it is a vital resource we encourage people to entirely take for granted.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I don’t think the life script makes anywhere near as big a deal as people make it out to be. Asian American birth rates in the US are identical to white birth rates, and Asian Americans are far more likely to follow the life-script that prevents child-birth: the Asian college education rate is 50% compared to the White college education rate of 30%, for instance.

          Blacks have a somewhat higher birth rate, but it’s still below replacement, and their college education rate is only 16%. Latinos are marginally lower at 13.5%, but their birth rates are higher, high enough that they are above replacement.

          There’s definitely a cultural component, but it’s not just the life script. Anecdotally, there are plenty of women in this office that lived traditional life-scripts and ended up with 2 kids. The cultural issue is that they limited themselves to 2 kids, but could probably have 3 or 4 kids if they wanted to. My MIL ended up with 5, and did not start having kids until she was 30.

          You’re really talking about bringing in marginal kids at this point, so you need to make it easier to move from 2 kids to 3 kids, make it easy for single mothers to have kids if they want them, and make it a bit easier for infertile kids to have kids. You probably can’t get up to that Israeli level, but you might be able to get past replacement rates.

          • Randy M says:

            Hrmph. Your data does argue against my theory, although the logic that cutting fertile years basically in half (by starting at thirty or so) reducing fertility seems strong to me.

            You’re really talking about bringing in marginal kids at this point, so you need to make it easier to move from 2 kids to 3 kids, make it easy for single mothers to have kids if they want them

            I’d rather move some of the 2 kid parents to 4 kid parents than adopt the latter goal. Assuming those 2+ kid families aren’t single mothers to begin with.
            How does the fertility rate track age of first marriage?

          • Anonymous says:

            @Randy M

            cutting fertile years basically in half (by starting at thirty or so)

            More like leaving only a quarter of it. Fertility cliff begins at 35.

          • Randy M says:

            @Anonymous: Yeah, but I was trying to be as conservative as possible with the estimate.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The issue is not fertility but fecundity. People don’t want (many) kids, so they’re not having them. People who do want kids but wait until too late are probably (based on the data) not a big factor. So solutions based on voluntary fertility treatments probably won’t do much.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Randy,

            Not sure how the fertility tracks first marriage age….and I’m going to be honest, I’m wayyy too lazy to look into it. I basically only post when I have free time at work, and today is a half-day 😛

            I would prefer focusing on letting 2-parent families have more kids, but the same logic applies to single mothers as applies to women in the c-suite: do you want a higher birth rate, or do you want fewer single mothers? Is it a HUGE deal if we let established women in their late 20s and early 30s raise a few kids easier? I mean, I’m not talking about boosting teen birth rates (though we can even look at that, if we’re REALLY interested in boosting the birth rate).

          • Randy M says:

            Is it a HUGE deal if we let established women in their late 20s and early 30s raise a few kids easier?

            I’d have to consider whether filling in the demographic gaps with Islamic youths or fatherless westerners was more unpalatable. If those are the only options, I think you’re only bailing a sinking boat at that point.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I’d have to consider whether filling in the demographic gaps with Islamic youths or fatherless westerners was more unpalatable. If those are the only options, I think you’re only bailing a sinking boat at that point.

            I’d rather take the Islamic youths, but the marginal immigrant from Islamic nations may not reflect the average. Most of the Islamic youngsters I have met are either fairly Westernized or just a bit outside the norm.

            I guess according to Pew they are slightly more impoverished than the average American family, but it’s not quite the same as what France is dealing with.

      • Brad says:

        Israel is demographically complicated. First, you need to decide whether or not to include the population in the West Bank and/or Gaza and/or residents of Jerusalem and/or those living in Israel proper without citizenship or whether only to look at Israeli citizens. Within the category of Israeli citizens there’s three major relatively distinct sub-groups: haredi Jews, all other Jews, and Israeli Arabs (i.e. Muslim and Christian Israeli citizens).

        If the entirety of the explanation for Israel’s high birth rate as compared to countries at a similar wealth level is haredi Jews and Israeli Arabs (and I have no idea if it is or isn’t) then there’s not many lessons there to be drawn for other countries. It’s just local, non-translatable, idiosyncrasy.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Possibly, but before writing it off, can we at least make an attempt at it? It is what the OP asked, after all.

          If you’re not even making the attempt, can you really be said to be serious about raising your birth rates? It sounds more like “we tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas.”

          • Brad says:

            Sure. Inasmuch as the voters of Poland, Sweden, the UK, or wherever are really worried about the age pyramid and is unwilling to use immigration to fix the problem, then paying for fertility treatments seems like a no brainer. As expensive as they can be, helping people that already want to have children, have children seems like low hanging fruit as compared to trying to convince people to have children that don’t already want them. And most industrialized, unlike the US, have direct levers to determine what is and isn’t paid for in terms of medical treatment.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Mandating generous maternity leave is another easy, obvious policy.

        Easy, obvious, and ineffective, so far as I can tell.

        • Thegnskald says:

          Yeah. You need mandatory paternity leave coupled with it to make it work; otherwise you are just pushing women down the career ladder.

          ETA:
          Although come to think of it, I think Iceland has it. Did it work?

          • Anonymous says:

            No, it didn’t. Iceland’s TFR is below replacement and falling.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Do you want higher birth rates or do you want gender equality at the CEO level? Does the second even matter?

          • Matt M says:

            Tinkering around with tax rates and leave policies seems to be largely missing the point.

            How many people do you know whose decision to have children was largely influenced by tax deductions and leave policies?

            I’m a firm believer in economics and marginal costs and so on and so forth, but it strikes me that most people are not really “on the fence” about whether to have children or not. A lot of people really want kids in which case they are going to have kids, even if they have no spouse, no job, and no plan to provide for them. A lot of other people really don’t want kids and go through elaborate rituals and invasive surgeries to ensure they don’t accidentally end up with any, and throwing promises of small cash payments in their face isn’t going to change their mind.

            I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone whose decision on this issue could be swayed by tinkering around with tax policy.

          • albatross11 says:

            How would we discover whether there are a lot of people “on the fence” about when to have kids, vs people who have clearly made up their minds and aren’t changing them for any plausible tax/career incentive? It sounds plausible that almost nobody is on the fence enough to be influenced, but it’s not clear to me that it’s true.

            One sideline: to the extent you’re wanting the highest-functioning people in your society to have more kids, you’re playing the control-fertility-with-tax-policy game at its hardest setting–those are the people who are the most able to afford some extra costs, and who are (I suspect) most likely to be unwilling to change their life plans (“Get pregnant during grad school? Are you nuts?”) to respond to your nudge toward higher fertility.

          • Matt M says:

            How would we discover whether there are a lot of people “on the fence” about when to have kids, vs people who have clearly made up their minds and aren’t changing them for any plausible tax/career incentive?

            By implementing a bunch of tax/career incentives and watching as they have no effect?

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Matt,

            I may not be on the fence as to whether or not to have kids, but I am definitely on the fence as to how many kids to have. Part of the reason we see so many 2-kid families may be that parents really want kids, can’t afford a bunch, and have 2 as the absolute minimum in mind.

            A lot of couples also may be totally willing to have kids in the future, and then their fertility windows run out before they can have more than 1 or 2.

            Yeah, the majority of kids are going to be born regardless, but we’re talking about moving the birth rate from 1.9 to 2.1.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Paternity leave doesn’t change the problem.

            Maternity leave exacerbates the choice for women between career and children. rather than picking one route or the other the policy is a major incentive to try both. Being human you can do neither at 100%, and so you get X% towards family and Y % towards career (and Z% to personal interests etc).

            The “women shouldn’t have to choose between a career and a family” sect are economically illiterate. Of course you have to choose, every guy who puts in long hours isn’t spending it with his kids, or playing golf or whatever their 2nd best option is, every woman who has a child isn’t working when they are raising it, it is a basic fact of life for everyone.

            Paid parental leave ends up acting as a work subsidy, you have 2 kids in 10 years you get paid for 10 years of work while preforming only 8.* This is more along the lines of a sabbatical than an incentive to have large families, and it should be no surprise that countries with such acts frequently end up with a large section of the female population having careers and 1 or 2 kids.

            *Also they are typically written so as to discourage large families. The woman who has 6 kids in 10 years isn’t going back into the workforce between children long enough to qualify, she might get 1 or 2 years of paid leave depending on the distribution of kids, but she already values having kids over a career by a good amount and is often planning the next kid before the prior is a year old.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I may not be on the fence as to whether or not to have kids, but I am definitely on the fence as to how many kids to have. Part of the reason we see so many 2-kid families may be that parents really want kids, can’t afford a bunch, and have 2 as the absolute minimum in mind.

            3 kids isn’t much more expensive than 2, or 1 if you have a stay at home parent. Each additional kid for the 1 income family is only a small additional cost, each additional kid for the 2 income family is a large additional cost.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, the majority of kids are going to be born regardless, but we’re talking about moving the birth rate from 1.9 to 2.1.

            Really? This doesn’t strike me as something that requires massive social intervention…

            If you wanted to move it from 0.9 to 3.1 I’d be more inclined care…

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            bacon,

            in my particular case we are a 2-earner couple. Plus there are a lot of tail-end expenses involving things like college education and weddings that need to be planned for.

            Going by BLS, 2-earner families are typical and the majority of mothers of young children do have to to work.
            https://www.bls.gov/news.release/famee.nr0.htm

            In 2016, the labor force participation rate of mothers with
            children under 6 years old was lower than the rate of those whose youngest child was
            6 to 17 years old (64.7 percent versus 75.0 percent). The participation rate of
            mothers with infants under a year old was 58.6 percent

            So there’s probably still a significant marginal cost associated with each kid.

            In my neighborhood, full-day Kindergarten is a BIG thing. Parents want to be able to unload their kids on the school system earlier. A couple people were elected to the School Board just because of this.

            Anecdotally, my sister has a stay-at-home-Dad, but he doesn’t want to just watch kids for 10-15 years.

            Matt,

            I agree that we probably don’t need a massive cultural change to get the results we want. Like Brad said, we could just let in immigrant groups that have lets of kids if we really want to.

          • Randy M says:

            Plus there are a lot of tail-end expenses involving things like college education and weddings that need to be planned for.

            You mean your daughters or sons weddings? On the whole, I think people would prefer a sibling to a fancy wedding. You might get siblings you don’t get along with, but you also might never get married, so there’s risk either way. Just tell them “We couldn’t give you an expensive wedding because we gave you a bridesmaid instead.”

            As for college, I’m hoping something changes in the next ten years, because I don’t see how present trends (in tuition cost) can continue. But even if not, I didn’t get much from my parents for college (in the low 4 figures, iirc), and I’m certainly happy to have been born and reared nonetheless.

            If those expenses are reasons not not to have kids one would otherwise have (rather than excuses when you didn’t really want more) I’d say you value a relatively small chance to boost your child’s potential status as higher than I do.
            (edit: And I’m not sure I’m right…. I’ve brought up the topic of how focused parents need to be of securing an UMC position for their young children)

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Yeah, the college expenses….I hope that gets sorted out soon. My FIL said he locked in my sister’s in law tuition and room+board at 23k per year, back in 2010.

            100k is a LOT of money, and growing at 5-6% per year is practically nightmare territory.

          • baconbits9 says:

            My goal (as a stay at home dad and home schooler) is to get my kids to a point where college isn’t necessary for a financially comfortable life.

          • Plus there are a lot of tail-end expenses involving things like college education and weddings that need to be planned for.

            The weddings struck me as odd. If you have the money to put on a fancy wedding, that’s fine, but it’s definitely a luxury good, not something you have to do if you have a kid.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          How string is your prior on this? I find conflicting evidence that lead to a murky conclusion. I would describe my personal opinion as roughly analogous to my opinion that minimum wages probably have a slight depressing effect on low-income employment.

          The consensus from quick googling appears to be that whatever the effect, it is smaller than the effect of cash transfers to families. The costs of the marginal baby is probably high, but if you’re super, super serious about increasing the birth rate, you might be willing to accept that cost.

      • baconbits9 says:

        So it’s not hard to conclude that Israel really wants a higher birth rate much more than the UK does. Given that Israel is slightly poor than the UK and has to spend a much higher % of its money on defense, it’s not clear why the UK’s spending on IVFs is not blowing Israel’s out of the water…except that UK isn’t really serious about increasing its birth rate.

        This is a dubious conclusion, success rates for IVF fall off very quickly. Women in their 40s can see their success rates drop to around 5%, which at $5,000 each would mean $100,000 per live birth just for the IVF (and IVF costs are higher than that in the US by a factor of ~2x iirc). IVF for a woman over 40 is possibly the least cost efficient method for increasing the birth rate. Advertising it could even possibly be counterproductive if it makes women overconfident that they can successfully get pregnant later in life.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          There’s also the UK’s requirement to blow throw multiple courses of other Assisted Reproduction methods before resorting to the IVF. That may be part of why a majority of IVF treatments in the UK are funded privately, not by the NHS.

          Apparently, most British health facilities don’t even follow the NHS guidelines?

          https://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/may/10/ivf-nhs-fertility-postcode-lottery-cut-costs

          In Scotland and Wales, only two cycles of IVF are offered in most cases, and in England, just a fifth of CCGs provide the recommended three rounds. A quarter provide two rounds, 52% provide one round and 2% refuse to fund any IVF treatment whatsoever.

          Also, I don’t see how $100k for a live birth doesn’t seem reasonable when you are, say, Israel, surrounded by hundreds of millions of people who have tried to kill you in the not-so-distant past. It might not seem so unreasonable if your population pyramid becomes inverted and you are being crushed by transfer payments to the elderly (though I am totally on board with capping payments to the elderly to alleviate the budget crisis).

          • Brad says:

            Also, I don’t see how $100k for a live birth doesn’t seem reasonable when you are, say, Israel, surrounded by hundreds of millions of people who have tried to kill you in the not-so-distant past.

            This reads like a non sequitur to me. Can you connect the dots for how paying $100k for fertility treatments makes sense *because* Israel is (allegedly) surrounded by enemies?

            It might not seem so unreasonable if your population pyramid becomes inverted and you are being crushed by transfer payments to the elderly

            What percentage of newly born children would you expect to have a net present value to state coffers of $100k at birth (i.e. net taxes over costs, taking into account timing and discounted appropriately)?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Also, I don’t see how $100k for a live birth doesn’t seem reasonable when you are, say, Israel, surrounded by hundreds of millions of people who have tried to kill you in the not-so-distant past.

            How does this make it reasonable? Is there anyway that Israel can realistically improve its defensive ability by getting 40+ year olds pregnant at ~$100,000 each (and that is a low ball estimate, with all the costs it is probably $200,000-250,000 per live birth)? Adding 1,000 people to their population this way would cost 100 million dollars, and adding 100,000 people this way would be 10 billion- for a country that spends 17 billion on defense (wikipedia).

          • John Schilling says:

            Is there anyway that Israel can realistically improve its defensive ability by getting 40+ year olds pregnant at ~$100,000 each?

            Well, the child of a pregnant 40+ year old woman will presumably serve at least a few years in the IDF twenty years later, and may become a career soldier. The child of a not-pregnant 40+ year old woman, will not.

            Since modern western-style soldiers cost well over $100K each to train, equip, and deploy for battle, it’s quite possible that this is cost-effective at the margin.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Brad,

            Of the IVF babies? Depends on the demographics of the parents and the limitations put in place. I wouldn’t be surprised if the current average American IVF baby tops $100,000+ in net contribution to the federal government.

            Additional babies mean additional soldiers in case Egypt and Syria attempt to invade you for the 4th time. Israel already spends a considerable sum of money per soldier, so while $100,000 for an extra soldier might not be the single best use of money, it also might be value add, especially if you compare it to health care interventions rather than other military weapons.

            Like, if you ask the military if we should spend $800,000 on a heart transplant or 800,000 for 8 new soldiers, what do you think they’ll say?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Of the IVF babies? Depends on the demographics of the parents and the limitations put in place. I wouldn’t be surprised if the current average American IVF baby tops $100,000+ in net contribution to the federal government.

            The IVF baby would have to contribute ~$170,000 to the Federal government at age 18 @ 3% interest to break even on $100,000 per. $190,000 at age 22. Since most of that net contribution is going to come later in life, and after their earnings have paid for their schooling etc you probably talking around age 40 when they actually start paying off that $100,000 which puts it at well over $300,000 if they payed it off in a lump sum at 40. Realistically they won’t pay it off in a lump sum so the total will be $400,000-$500,000 no chance your average current IVF baby does that, let alone the additional marginal IVF babies that you would add.

            Additional babies mean additional soldiers in case Egypt and Syria attempt to invade you for the 4th time

            There is almost no chance that 10,000 extra soldiers 20+ years from now trumps $1 billion in defense spending available now in securing Israel’s long term future.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            10,000 additional soldiers that can be conscripted at any point over a period of 30 years? That are adaptable resources and can be equipped with whatever the military situation calls for? Because your spending today has to foresee military threats in 20-50 year time horizon.

            If you’re worried about the NPV of an IVF baby, question: how much money does the state of New York need to set aside today for a child born tomorrow, using your 3% rate? Start with just the education expenses of $20,000 per year. Since that number is larger than the cost of an IVF baby, which we have all apparently decided is just a gross misuse of funds, have we also determined that NYC should now be following anti-natalist policies too?

            All of this is still angels on pinheads talk. The UK makes it difficult for couples of ALL ages to have IVF compared to Israel, not just women over the age of 40. Women in their 30s have a much greater chance of having a successful conception and therefore the costs per live birth are much less. The state of Israel says it pays $3500 per cycle, not $5,000.

            I also think this is an aside of “what does Israel do to get such a high birth rate” as Israeli birth rates would be substantially higher than US birth rates even without the IVF babies (which account for something like 4% of all births in Israel, while Israel has damn near double the US birth rate using crude birth rate stats).

          • baconbits9 says:

            10,000 additional soldiers that can be conscripted at any point over a period of 30 years?

            No, population and military service don’t work this way. You cannot conscript 100% of a subset and stick them on the front lines with guns, further more you have to wait 15-25 years to be able to conscript them. Finally you once again drop the dollar cost of those births and just use the birth numbers without them. Tanks, bombs, trucks, aircraft etc are far more effective at fighting a numerically superior enemy than a small population increase.

            If you’re worried about the NPV of an IVF baby, question: how much money does the state of New York need to set aside today for a child born tomorrow, using your 3% rate?

            Well first lots of city and state governments have fiscal issues, second you don’t have to put that money aside before the births happen. If school costs 20k a year, and starts at age 6 then with 3% interest the costs at age 10 are ~$108,000. For IVF you have 10 years (actually this should be 12+ years since you start to pay at the start of treatments not at birth) you are at $134,000. Thirdly these costs are IN ADDITION TO the other costs. This is akin to me saying “don’t buy a $400,000 house, it is clearly out of your price range/ability to make payments” and you saying “So I shouldn’t buy a $300,000 house either?” It is very easy to come up with numbers for ‘investments’ where it is a perfectly workable and net positive decision at X and not at all workable 1.3x. Finally these are very low ball estimates. IVF costs 2-3x this much in the US and 3% interest is a very low discount rate.

            All of this is still angels on pinheads talk. The UK makes it difficult for couples of ALL ages to have IVF compared to Israel, not just women over the age of 40. Women in their 30s have a much greater chance of having a successful conception and therefore the costs per live birth are much less.

            Women in their 20s and 30s are also much more likely to have one of the other alternatives succeed. “Have you tried doing your wife” and “have you tried doing your wife at the right time each month” and then “have you tried doing this plastic cup and then having the cup do your wife” are all vastly cheaper than IVF.

            The state of Israel says it pays $3500 per cycle, not $5,000.

            GDP per capita is ~$36,000 in Israel, $3,500*20 at 3% per year for 18 years is ~$115,000, for an individual to pay just for the perpetual interest of 3% per year they would have to transfer 10% of their annual production to the government from age 19 on, every year in excess of the amount needed to pay for all their other social costs like schooling etc (and also start out right at the average and not need time to build up to the average and not start after a stint at university etc).

    • SamChevre says:

      I’d say “Likely to work, but outside the current Overton Window”

      -Tax policy that sharply discourages second incomes, the way the high marginal rates of the 1950’s did.

      • SamChevre says:

        It seems to me that there are two options that point in opposite directions:

        1) Generous maternity leave/more anti-discrimination law/subsidized childcare/etc

        This set of policies is intended to make having children while working easier, particularly for women. In my observation, it may be effective at getting some people to have one child rather than none, but I do not see any state or culture where it has increased birthrates to anything like pre-1970 levels. If, like me, you think “marriage, then children” is the desirable life path, it also seems to do relatively little to encourage marriage, then children relative to single motherhood.

        2) Steeper marginal taxes on second incomes, “breadwinner wage” structures, less limits on employment discrimination against mothers.

        This is the opposite. This is designed to make non-working motherhood the norm, and is what most countries had up until the 1960’s. The goal is to make it so that two-parent, one-income families are socially and economicly comparable to two-parent, two-income families rather than to single-parent families. The subcultures that follow this model–strictly observant Jews, the conservative end of Protestant and Catholic sub-cultures, and some immigrant groups–have much higher birthrates.

        I think model 1 has been tried and failed, and model 2 is demonstrably better. Of course, model 2 is the one that would advantage me, since that’s the family structure of my family.

      • Nornagest says:

        That might incentivize shacking up without getting married before it incentivized stay-at-home parenthood.

    • Odovacer says:

      Here’s a naive thought: Is it possible it could resolve itself? If populations decline in areas, then certain goods like housing will become less expensive. As things are less expensive, that would allow people to have more children.

      • Nornagest says:

        Housing prices are a matter of supply and demand, and supply of housing tends to be relatively inelastic, so if they’re going down, it’s usually because fewer people want to buy. “People” includes potential parents, so we can say more or less by definition that the advantage of cheaper housing is not outweighed by the disadvantages of living in the area.

  21. johan_larson says:

    Some interesting news about cancer treatment out of Stanford:

    Cancer ‘vaccine’ eliminates tumors in mice
    Activating T cells in tumors eliminated even distant metastases in mice, Stanford researchers found. Lymphoma patients are being recruited to test the technique in a clinical trial.

    I’m wondering how excited we should get about this. Cancer is a very slippery foe, and it’s a long way from a promising treatment in mice to a deployable technique in humans.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Eradication of spontaneous malignancy by local immunotherapy

      I haven’t had my coffee yet and I’m not an immunotherapy guy so I can’t comment on the article’s plausibility. My roommate and my girlfriend both know way more about T-cell activation then I do so I’ll see what they think later today.

      That said, cancer has been cured dozens of times in preclinical mouse models. The trick has always to get those treatments to work in a clinical trial with human patients.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Ok so I talked to my roommate and sent him a link to the paper. He’s working on a project involving CAR T cells so he’s the most knowledgeable person I regularly encounter.

        Apparently this approach is out of fashion in the field of immunotherapy because despite a huge amount of work put into them cancer vaccines have never really panned out in the past. He’s very skeptical that Levy has cracked it but is going to look the paper over anyway.

  22. fion says:

    Does anybody have a clever way of keeping up with comments and replies? My best approach so far is to click on the last few posts and Ctrl+F for my name, but it’s quite tedious. I once made the mistake of clicking the “notify me of follow-up comments by email” box, hoping it would notify me when people replied to me, but I think I got emails for every comment that came after mine, not just replies to mine.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I Ctrl-F and search the the string ~ n e w with the spaces removed. That way you see every new comment since the last time you visited the page.

    • Well... says:

      If you’re only interested in replies to you, just hit refresh and then do a search on the page for “fion”. When I do this I scan from bottom to top so it brings each of my comments to the top of the page in turn, which reveals replies below it without having to scroll (so long as my comment isn’t terribly long).

      (I’m not sure if that’s what you said was tedious. If so, then disregard; although I’d argue it’s not that tedious unless you’ve commented dozens of times.)

    • toastengineer says:

      That little [+] gizmo in the top right corner expands upon click to list every post since you were last here.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      The indispensable Bakkot has made some good navigation tools available here.

    • CatCube says:

      @the verbiage ecstatic has created an e-mail widget that does exactly what you ask for. You can find it here: https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/05/25/open-thread-76-25/#comment-504989

      It will e-mail you only if somebody either replies to you with the Reply link, or mentions you in a comment with @username (that is, anytime anybody puts @CatCube in a comment, I’ll get an e-mail)

      There are two downsides: 1) There’s no proper signup page, so you need to edit the URL in the linked comment to sign yourself up (that is, put “fion” in place of the “INSERT” if you click on the link and 2) if you’re the 2nd deepest level here, you’re going to get e-mails for every subsequent comment in the conversation despite them not necessarily being for you, since the deepest level comments are all technically replies to the 2nd deepest level.

      • fion says:

        Ah, yes. I think this is what I was looking for. I’ll try it. 🙂

        • CatCube says:

          If the signup works, you should get an e-mail about this reply.

          One other tool that I’ve found huge in following the comments here (though not replies to you specifically): The thread autocollapser by @Bakkot, found here:
          https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/04/09/ot73-i-lik-the-thred/#comment-486219

          Click on the “Opt In” link.

          What it does is collapse any threads that have no new posts (as defined by the date on the field in the upper right with the + XXX comments since “whenever”) This means you can just scroll down looking for expanded threads. I’ve found the comment section here basically unusable without it, given the sheer number of comments that come up between checking. You don’t need to bother with Ctrl-F nonsense to go to the next new comment, or try to see the green highlighting on new comments as you scroll by.

          Note on that one the widget sees “http://” and “https://” slatestarcodex.com pages as totally different. If you just go my link and click on it, it’ll enable it for https pages, and if you normally surf on http pages, it won’t do it’s magic. You’ll have to edit the link I gave you to “http://” and click on the “Opt In” link there.

  23. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I’ve seen discussion of how you can tell if your society is close to GAI, but how can you tell if a particular project is at risk of going FOOM?

    • Aapje says:

      If it can self-improve without necessarily being harshly limited by the environment?

      For example, if you have an AI that self-improves by ordering hardware and waiting for humans to plug it in, then humans can stop the AI by refusing to produce/ship/plug in the hardware.

      If the AI improves by rewriting it’s code to be more efficient or by deploying a virus that takes over computers on the Internet, we may not be able to control the speed of improvement.

      • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

        Yes, but by that time it will be pretty close to too late. It would be nice to have a signal of some earlier stage than that.

        Maybe once we get to the point where we can train a single system that is human-level good at e.g. every board and computer game, rather than just Chess or Go.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      What does FOOM stand for? I see it used a lot in AI discussions.

      • Thegnskald says:

        I think it is an imaginary sound rather than an acronym, and is supposed to be like a bomb going off.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        In particular, it is the imaginary sound of an AI bootstrapping itself from slightly-smarter-than-humans to vastly-smarter-than-humans in a timeframe too short for humanity to react to.

  24. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Is there any strong nutritional reason for eating insects? I have a notion that we evolved eating insects (among many other things, of course) and those of us who have a taboo against insects might be missing out on something.

    Recently, MOM’s Organic Market has opened locally, and they have a pretty good insect section– dried insects, insect flour, insect bars, chips with one cricket per chip. This stuff isn’t cheap– the cricket flour is $40/pound, which is a better deal than amazon at $56/pound. One argument for insects as food is that if you want animal protein, they’re easier on the environment (and plausibly easier to raise and kill humanely) that animals. I can eat more insects if there’s a good reason to do so.

    Anyway, I can recommend the Chalu Aztec bar– it’s flavored with dark chocolate, coffee, and hot pepper, and it’s worth getting for the taste.

    • Aapje says:

      There is nothing in insects that you will miss out on in comparison to a good diet without insects. Cricket ‘flour’ is mainly just protein powder, so it’s useful in the same situations (for some vegans/vegetarians and some hardcore athletes). Of course, vegans/vegetarians won’t be eating insects, so…

      I would say that the main reason to go for cricket flour over whey/soy/casein protein powder is that the latter tends to be mixed for and marketed to a certain kind of woo-sensititive people who like ‘magic compounds’ that will supposedly make them super strong. Cricket flour is probably a more pure product, because it is marketed to people with ‘natural is safe’-woo, which is also irrational, but better irrationality in this context. So cricket flour probably has less/no superfluous/dangerous additions.

      Most Westerners, especially Americans, ingest way more protein than is necessary. So instead of replacing meat with cricket flour, they are probably better off reducing their meat consumption. I would definitely not replace non-meat products with products with cricket flour, unless you have a reason to ingest more protein. For example, that Aztec bar is pretty much just a high protein chocolate bar, so if you eat it instead of a regular dark chocolate bar, you will increase the protein in your diet. You are also not decreasing animal suffering, unless you offset it by eating less meat.

      PS. I think you meant to write ‘Chapul‘ instead of ‘Chalu’

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