SELF-RECOMMENDING!

OT97: Dopen Thread

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

1. Comment of the week is John Schilling on Google X Prize. There’s also a lot of good discussion in the free energy thread, though I can’t pick just one.

2. New ad for brain preservation company Nectome – see eg this article about their head researcher winning the Brain Preservation Prize. If you’re interested in helping, there’s an link for joining their team at the bottom of their site.

3. Nobody is under any obligation to comply with this, but if you want to encourage this blog to continue to exist, I request not to be cited in major national newspapers. I realize it’s meant well, and I appreciate the honor, but I’ve gotten a few more real-life threats than I’m entirely comfortable with, and I would prefer decreased publicity for now.

4. I recently put a couple of responses to an online spat up here because I needed somewhere to host them, unaware that this would email all several thousand people on my mailing list. Sorry about that. I’ve deleted some of them because of the whole “decreased publicity” thing, and I would appreciate help from anyone who knows how to make it so I can put random useful text up in an out-of-the-way place without insta-emailing everybody.

5. Thanks to Lanny for fixing this blog’s comment report function. You should now be able to report inappropriate comments again. If you can’t, please say so and we’ll try to figure out what went wrong.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1,264 Responses to OT97: Dopen Thread

  1. David says:

    I look at evolution as this:

    Evolution happens when some process is traversing the branches of its substrate in the universe, such that what happens in later branches is more likely to occur if universal conditions around it make it more likely to occur.

    Like running through permutations.

    The process both impacts the substrate and the substrate affects the way the process plays out. Life is one such process: life is exploring the possible branches of what DNA can do and how it plays out, how life can use resources and the ecosystems that arise and fall, and all other such emergent effects.

  2. lisasarah5 says:

    Could you replace your post of 11.16.16, “You Are Still Crying Wolf”? It was a very fine piece, and all the more startling for its clarity and honesty among a welter of outrage which would shout it down.

    Please do not deny curious readers the power of your reasoning based on a reticence to be seen as a promoter. As Kipling wrote, ” If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken / Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools …”

    I daresay you can bear it. This was one of the only rigorous blogs which spoke the truth. It needs to perdure, for its historicity and rigor.

  3. OptimalSolver says:

    If Stephen Wolfram achieves his lifelong dream and discovers the computer program that underlies The Universe, what would he actually be able to do with it?

  4. Ilya Shpitser says:

    This is slightly late to the game (emerging from deadline hell…)

    Re: adversarial collaboration with Chris, here are my comments:

    “1) COMPAS (the main algo we were discussing) treats blacks and whites the same.”

    Agreed, but _only_ under that definition of same.

    “2) The algorithm makes no egregiously incorrect inferences – i.e. a bunch of people the algo says have a 30% chance of recidivism do roughly have a 30% chance, regardless of race. The algorithm is not biased against blacks, in the sense of systematically making wrong decisions with a consistent direction.”

    Disagree, or agree depending on the notion of bias used. I am working on a sequel to our paper where four different distinct kinds of bias show up (statistical bias due to model misspecification, confounding bias, bias due to unfair practices in the real world, and decision-making bias by a decision rule). I think a lot of disagreement I had with Chris had to do with what I believe to be confusion on what the word “bias” means. Bias means a lot of unrelated things in statistics, unfortunately.

    “3) If we used an alternate algorithm, this algorithm would need to directly discriminate – to punish a white person more harshly for the same behavior. Said algorithm would also lead to more more murders/rapes/other violent crimes by blacks and/or leave more harmless white people in jail.”

    You have to define discrimination first, and tell me why that definition is reasonable. Chris would probably use a regression-based definition, and I would claim that definition is wrong (because it fails to do intuitively correct things in examples). I probably agree with above under what I think Chris’ narrow definition of discrimination is, I just think the definition is silly.

    Where Chris thinks I disagree:

    “a) the article is misleading.”

    I am sure it’s misleading to some people. I don’t think it’s intentional though. I said as much.

    “b) The misleading nature is deliberate, and probably done for clickbait. I can’t think of an experiment to measure this.”

    Chris is correct that I disagree here.

    “c) Selection bias somewhere in the data collection is somehow driving the predictions of COMPAS. I only have a rough idea of what Ilya is hinting at here, but I propose to resolve this by looking for direct evidence of this selection bias. (He’ll need to clearly state what the bias is that he thinks exists, of course.)”

    Selection and confounding bias is not a function of the observed data. To see this consider a dataset where some values have question marks (there is missing data). I give you two stories for how those question marks were generated in the data:

    (a) “?” was generated by a coin flip.

    (b) “?” was generated by a coin flip that depends on the observed values of the row (there is selection bias in missingness, essentially).

    Claim: no test of observed data can distinguish (a) from (b) in general. This is not a novel observation in statistics, this is known as “missing data and causal inference models make untestable assumptions.” Known since the 1970s (Don Rubin’s work).

    Here is one stats.stackexchange question that casually mentions that a common assumption in the Rubin causal model is untestable, for example:

    https://stats.stackexchange.com/questions/182222/unconfoundedness-in-rubins-causal-model-laymans-explanation

    Chris’ proposal seems to be unaware of the fact that selection bias cannot in general be tested via observed data.

    The sorts of selection bias I am worried about has to do with the fact that given similar looking people, one white and one black, the black one (in America) will likely have a ton more arrests on paper for spurious reasons. Or longer sentences for no good reason.

    The fact that selection bias is not a function of the observed data (e.g. literally the data matrix we have) does not mean we cannot obtain information on selection bias in the data. We can interview folks who obtain the data, ask how variables are defined and recorded for different ethnic groups, do investigative journalism in general. The information is there, but it’s “meta-information” about the data matrix. This is how we would obtain evidence of bias of the sort I am worried about.

    I don’t have a commitment on the normative point, but I think it is important to think about trade offs.

    • Murphy says:

      For those wondering about context:

      https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/01/28/ot94-isotopen-thread/#comment-594899

      Mind if I restate part of my post from that?

      Is David Friedman roughly describing your point of contention?

      I think , but cannot guarantee that I’ve 100% understood but I think David Friedman’s post covers the point of contention fairly well.

      “Take a simple case which I think, although I might be mistaken, is the sort of thing you are thinking of. The legal system in a jurisdiction is more willing to arrest and convict a black than a white on the same probability of guilt. Probability of reoffending is estimated using an algorithm whose input is number of past convictions. The result is that a black and a white who have both committed ten burglaries and are both equally likely to commit another get recorded as having different past convictions, the white having been convicted for five of his, the black for six. So the algorithm predicts the black is more likely to offend. And it appears to be correct, if we measure offenses by convictions, because when both of them reoffend the black is more likely to be arrested and convicted. Is this the sort of thing you are thinking of?”

      However stucchio also argues that there are a bunch of metrics you can use to try to assess claims of bias in the source data set to potentially make certain claims of bias like that falsifiable.

      For example, if you think (as Ilya seems to) that police are biased in arrest rates against blacks, you should look for crime measurements that exclude the police. For example, the NCVS or crime *reports*.

      Which would seem like an obvious approach to assess for that particular flavor of biased source data.

      But your position seemed to be pretty much the embodiment of this graphic,angel emoji included::

      https://i2.wp.com/jacobitemag.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Capture5.png?w=753&ssl=1

      Our take is we should think about things people intuitively think shouldn’t happen — like directly using race in a decision (because what one’s race is, directly, is not relevant for recidivism prediction or loan decision). Then we say, ok if these things shouldn’t happen in data generated from a hypothetical “fair world” where above biases are not built in to data generation, let’s try to find a world close to ours where those things people intuitively think shouldn’t happen in fact do not happen.

      where even if the data did hypothetically correctly reflect reality… you’d object to reality [???] as being unfair? since we should make choices based on a hypothetical fair world? Please say I’m misreading you.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        I agree that we should look for evidence of bias of the sort I am worried about. I am happy to do that. With the caveat that (per my original post), stuff like selection bias in the data matrix is not a function of the data matrix. You have to look for “side information.”

        You/David stated what I am worried about correctly.

        “where even if the data did hypothetically correctly reflect reality… you’d object to reality [???] as being unfair? since we should make choices based on a hypothetical fair world? ”

        Correct. My way of thinking about fairness is there are two worlds — our world, and the “fair world.”

        Characterizing the “fair world” is not so easy. There are some features of this world most people will agree on, and some features people will disagree on based on politics and ethical intuitions disagreeing. We could argue about this.

        Data comes from our (unfair) world. The stuff I try to do is identify features in our (unfair) world that are unfair, and associate these features with undesirable patterns in the data. Then I aim to find the world closest to our world where those features (via patterns in the data) are removed.

        This is a similar way of thinking that people in causal inference employ, where data where treatment assignment is “uncontrolled” that we actually have is adjusted to move it to a hypothetical world close to observed world where treatment assigned is “controlled.”

    • Aapje says:

      @Ilya Shpitser

      You have to define discrimination first, and tell me why that definition is reasonable. Chris would probably use a regression-based definition, and I would claim that definition is wrong (because it fails to do intuitively correct things in examples).

      As a bystander to your argument with Stuccio, it seems to me that your disagreement really boils down to your respective intuitions about what discrimination actually is and/or how significant you believe that certain distorting influences are.

      Chris’ proposal seems to be unaware of the fact that selection bias cannot in general be tested via observed data. The sorts of selection bias I am worried about has to do with the fact that given similar looking people, one white and one black, the black one (in America) will likely have a ton more arrests on paper for spurious reasons. Or longer sentences for no good reason.

      So if I understand you correctly, you are arguing that racial discrimination causes black people to be arrested much more eagerly, sentenced much more eagerly, get much higher sentences, etc; so it is impossible to determine the actual criminality of black people, because there is no measurement without huge distortions. So you can only measure the effect of C (criminality) + D (discrimination) together: CD. Perhaps you are also claiming that D is much bigger than C, so you can only measure cD (mostly discrimination and only a bit of actual criminality).

      I have to admit that I consider this a rather extreme claim, because there are measurements that seem relatively hard to distort, like looking at murders, that one can probably use to calibrate the other measurements reasonably well.

      Anyway, it seems to me that you have four options:

      1. Treat CD as D, which means tuning the algorithm to have equal outcomes. The obvious cost to this is that any actual difference in C between races is ignored, so you give relatively higher sentence to races that have a less criminal culture. This discourages self-improvement by members of a more criminogenic culture. Also, this solution gives the problem that it doesn’t tell you what equal outcome is fair in the first place. Perhaps white people are discriminated in favor of, so if you treat black people as white people, you are under-sentencing both groups. Also, it is quite possible there are other axes of legal discrimination than race. If you claim that it is unknowable whether racial differences in CD are C or D, but that we should treat them as D on faith, then where is the justification to use sentencing algorithms at all? Any person who gets a higher sentence due to the algorithm can claim that there is unknowable, but real discrimination against them based on a trait they have & claim to have their CD measurement be treated as D.

      2. Try to estimate the level of discrimination, by comparing relatively hard to distort measurements to outcomes. Then one can apply a correction factor to the sentencing algorithm based on the trait of the individual. An obvious possible problem here is that the discrimination may actually vary a great deal. If the average discrimination is 10% higher sentencing, but Judge KKK gives a 20% higher sentence to black Bob, while Judge SJ gives a 10% lower sentence to black John, then a 10% discount for Bob and John is still individually unjust. If discrimination changes over time, you will also presumably lag with your corrections, so at best you will correct for the level of discrimination of some years ago. The correction mechanism may also become subject to group-advocacy/virtue signalling/politics/etc; where people favor a correction factor that cannot be defended with the best scientific evidence.

      3. Treat CD as C. The downside is that you then give relatively high sentences to those who are being discriminated against and that you can keep a feedback loop going.

      4. Eliminate measurements from the algorithm. The downside is that you give relatively high sentences to less criminal individuals.

      You seem to be favoring a solution that strongly errs to favor the groups that you believe are strongly discriminated against*, at the expense of strongly erring in the disfavor of groups that you believe are discriminated in favor of or that are treated fairly. However, if the level of distortion by discrimination is far lower than you think and/or one of the main causes of discrimination is prejudice against actually criminogenic culture(s) and/or your solution causes more racial resentment, then it may not actually be the best choice.

      Note that one can also believe that the sentencing algorithms are not the (best) place to solve the problem & that discrimination has to be addressed differently.

      * Although…do you believe that the algorithms should be changing in favor of men as well, as legal discrimination against men appears to be far greater than against black people? My experience is that those who favor equality of algorithmic outcome don’t seek to to merely compensate for legal discrimination, but seek to compensate for societal discrimination in general. Using these means for that goal is very problematic.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        “I have to admit that I consider this a rather extreme claim, because there are measurements that seem relatively hard to distort, like looking at murders, that one can probably use to calibrate the other measurements reasonably well.”

        I agree that murder is murder. The sorts of stuff I am worried about is arrests and sentencing for drug offenses (there is a long documented history of racial bias there), minor arrests for “contempt of cop,” or things that are left to judge discretion in southern states, where “preconceptions” might play a large role.

        But people who murder often don’t start there, they work up to murder. Features predicting murder might have all sorts of issue — heterogeneous definition or recording across ethnic groups, etc.

        Another issue is predictive policing reinforcing existing biases, here is a good article on this:

        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1740-9713.2016.00960.x/full

        One important thing I should clarify — the sort of algorithmic stuff I am working on is NOT NOT NOT meant as a sort of “technie oracle” for what fairness is. The work on coming to a definition of what a fair world looks like is up to people, with their ethical and political disagreements. Different definitions will yield different adjustments in data analysis one will make.

        What we did in our work was try to look at features of the fair world most reasonable people would agree is reasonable. I think when it comes to direct influence of race on outcome, I don’t think anyone on slatestar, even folks fairly on the right, really disagreed. But one could imagine giving a different definition where folks on the left will agree, and folks on the right disagree. Or vice versa.

        “really boils down to your respective intuitions about what discrimination actually is”

        Probably. But I think I can easily give examples where most people agree with me, and disagree with Chris.

        • Aapje says:

          But I think I can easily give examples where most people agree with me, and disagree with Chris.

          I would be interested in this. I already thought that object-level examples would illuminate the debate between you and Chris.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Have you looked at our paper?

            https://arxiv.org/pdf/1705.10378.pdf

            We consider the following legal definition:

            “The central question in any employment-discrimination
            case is whether the employer would have taken the
            same action had the employee been of a different race
            (age, sex, religion, national origin etc.) and everything
            else had been the same.”

            Folks find this definition fairly intuitive.

            The key point here is biological sex is assigned at conception, which means most personal characteristics relevant to the job are causally influenced by biological sex. The criterion “had everything else been the same” implies that the counterfactual criterion in the above quote is about changing biological sex, but only for the purpose of it’s direct impact on the hiring decision, NOT for the purposes of the other characteristics.

            If you agree with that, it immediately falls out that the definition is a particular sort of counterfactual definition and does not reduce to regressions except in very special cases.

          • Aapje says:

            “The central question in any employment-discrimination case is whether the employer would have taken the same action had the employee been of a different race (age, sex, religion, national origin etc.) and everything else had been the same.”

            Folks find this definition fairly intuitive.

            I only believe that it is intuitive if the race (or other trait) is (theoretically) flipped when the actual decision is made by the employer. So then the racism or other race-based influences on the person, that happened before this time and made him who he is, are fair game for the employer to consider.

            Take these three theoretical people:
            – black Bob, a 40 year old person with various life experiences that differed because of his race
            – white Bob, who had exactly the same ‘black’ life experiences as black Bob, but suddenly changed race at age 40
            – white non-Bob, a 40 year old person who was not born to black parents and doesn’t have black person life experiences, but otherwise is as similar to black Bob as possible

            I believe that it is reasonable and intuitive to expect the employer to threat black Bob like white Bob, but not to threat black Bob like white non-Bob.

            For example, let’s assume that black Bob had a racist experience that kept him from going to the university and that if he was white non-Bob, he had done so and had learned to be a programmer. By contrast, black Bob is not qualified for this job. If such racist effects exist, then the ability by employees to program is a racially sensitive covariate (as you put it in your paper).

            Then to demand that the employer threats black Bob like white non-Bob forces the employer hire a person who cannot do the job or to make black Bob the person he would have been if he was born white. The former undermines meritocracy and the very ability for society to function. The latter seems an impossible ask, since you can’t just magically undo what was done. The employer cannot instantly turn black Bob into an educated programmer who can do the job.

            So it seems absurd to me to make the employer responsible for bringing into reality an alternative timeline. The alternative timeline will always be unknowable, so the injury cannot even be determined. The employer also didn’t inflict the injury, so why would they be responsible for fixing it? Finally, the injury may be unfixable.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            The criterion “had everything else been the same” implies that the counterfactual criterion in the above quote is about changing biological sex, but only for the purpose of it’s direct impact on the hiring decision, NOT for the purposes of the other characteristics.

            This seems plainly false to me, Ilya. “Had everything else been the same” does not merely imply, but plainly states that EVERYTHING else be the same. Which means the only variable that can change is sex, and all other variables (to include personality, intelligence, personal history, academic strengths and weaknesses, criminal record in the case of legal questions, etc) must be held constant.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Specifically, to what they would have been under the original sex.

            The point is, that quantity is a counterfactual quantity, and is not in general equal to a regression (a regression is a conditional expectation defined on a distribution over _factual_ random variables).

            “So it seems absurd to me to make the employer responsible for bringing into reality an alternative timeline. The alternative timeline will always be unknowable, so the injury cannot even be determined. The employer also didn’t inflict the injury, so why would they be responsible for fixing it? Finally, the injury may be unfixable.”

            The fact that you noticed that a lot of legal definitions are counterfactual and this creates complications does not actually change the fact that a lot of legal definitions are counterfactual.

            Another common counterfactual one is “but for” causation in tort law.

            It sort of sounds like your argument is with the legal community, or perhaps with American law. Not with me.

            Actually I am trying to avoid an infinite time sink of arguing with people here. My take is, if you don’t agree with the proposal, that is ok. Write yours, and put it on arxiv, and we can talk about it.

          • quanta413 says:

            It sort of sounds like your argument is with the legal community, or perhaps with American law. Not with me.

            The law community also uses the idea of proximate cause when deciding torts. This seems like roughly the legal concept corresponding to what Aapje is talking about.

            American law is unsurprisingly unwilling to use just any counterfactual on its own without considering some scope to restrict where legal liability lies.

            So I don’t think he has any bones to pick with American law. Nice try though.

            Although really, I don’t see why the argument is necessary. Unless I’m mistaken, since you hold everything constant but the one variable, you have restricted the scope. The counterfactual doesn’t propagate changes through like Aapje is considering.

          • Aapje says:

            @Ilya Shpitser

            IANAL, but I don’t believe that the generally accepted way to read (and administer) the law is how you do it.

            I find your argument very weird, as you seem to accept that your reading is unworkable, yet you still hold it as the sensible reading to use. This seems incongruent to me.

            Your work seems to only makes sense in a universe where there is no discrimination (or even just culture that is correlated with race) in the first place, but at that point your work is pointless. In any ‘real’ situations, your work becomes unusable.

            Hence I see your work as science fiction.

          • Murphy says:

            @Ilya

            … You appear to be applying a logicians approach to legal language which typically doesn’t yield correct results.

            I had a CS professor years back who talked about the problems with this. A college had attempted to automatically parse legal data to treat like propositional logic. it worked up to a point….

            Of course in the real legal system there’s lots of things where laywers know that XYZ is treated with a certain dose of common sense due to a pile of case law because if the courts keep producing absurd results sooner or later something is done about it.

            If a company is hiring, say, a pilot, they’re allowed include criteria that are involved in actually being able to do the job. If a blind person turns up and makes the claim that had that person not been born blind they might have had flying lessons and been hired “but for” their disability…. that doesn’t mean the company is being unfair (pretty much all definitions) hiring someone who is both a qualified pilot and able to see the runway.

            But I’m not so sure that would fall under the definition of fairness you seem to be using….

          • The Nybbler says:

            The “but for” language is from Carson v Bethlehem Steel, which is a generalization of language from an age-discrimination case Gehring v Case Corp. Both are clearly supporting the “only the protected characteristic changes” interpretation.

    • quanta413 says:

      Did you catch the paper I linked during the last discussion? http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/4/1/eaao5580.full

      It appears that COMPAS has similar results by race to a linear classifier on two features, age and number of past convictions. So at least any proxies through family details etc. have managed to mostly just add a bunch of cancelling noise even if unfair. In a way, that’s better than what I would have expected. A proxy for race appears to have little predictive relevance once you take into account age and number of past convictions.

      Unless I’m missing something, I don’t see how age could be unfair (Ok, I can imagine convoluted just-so strories, but they’re… pretty bad ideas).

      That leaves your worries about number of past convictions. If that’s not detectable in some data set given a plausible generative model for the bias I would be shocked. The homicide rate differences alone show that some differences are not caused by differential enforcement.

      EDIT: Or worst case scenario, given a model of how the bias is generated, it should be possible to specify a what data to collect or experiment to do to detect something distinct from the alternate case.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        “A proxy for race appears to have little predictive relevance once you take into account age and number of past convictions.”

        You are conflating predictive relevance and relevance for fairness considerations.

        I am happy to talk about the paper you linked, but we first have to agree on what notion of fairness we are using, and why we are using it. (I disagree with their notation of fairness, for fairly obvious reasons we get into in our paper).

        • quanta413 says:

          I am conflating nothing. You are reading into what I said a thing I did not say.
          I’m mostly just surprised that possible race proxies add nothing to predictive (in the sense of correlation) power in this case, fair or unfair. I would have gained predictive power in terms of guessing things about someone in Alabama circa 1930 (or even better 1830) by knowing their race, but it obviously wouldn’t have been because of anything fair. Completely the opposite.

          Second, I understand it has no guaranteed relevance to fairness by your definition.

          You have even said yourself you do not expect past convictions to necessarily be fair to use due to differential contact with police etc. I figure the simplest explanation is that if the two feature model is likely unfair for using an unfair causal path involving past convictions a 127-feature model using that feature + other random stuff and delivering similar-ish results is probably going to end up being unfair for a similar causal path. Although I understand it may be unfair in additional ways while delivering essentially identical group results, or may even end up being not unfair at all depending on what causal model you specify.

          It seems more productive to me to focus on how unfair a model with similar group level results is. Where that model is transparent (two features). It restricts the number of scenarios we have to consider for how an unfair inference has been made (compared to the 127 feature case). Like now we can focus on unfair causal paths that affect either age or # of past convictions and don’t need to worry about any paths that don’t connect to those. I’d have to double check your paper for the exact criteria on which paths can be excluded, but my goal is just to narrow it down.

          A 127 variable model with an unknown algorithm being used is not even vaguely transparent which should have ruled it out from the start. I actually found the paper reading the CJLF blog (IIRC) and if those guys (very tough on crime types) think it’s a procedural travesty, I think I’d have trouble finding many lawyers of any stripe who wouldn’t find it disturbing.

          But now we know we’d have most of the problems that ProPublica wrote about if we used a linear predictor and two variables. That’s a considerably simpler case to discuss.

          EDIT: For clarity and a little bit less… lengthy

  5. Brad says:

    In case anyone is wondering and because it doesn’t appear to have been posted anywhere easily findable on the internet yet:

    The irs is not accepting so-called silent returns that don’t answer the health insurance question this year. If you file one by paper you’ll receive a letter asking for additional information and saying that if you don’t respond they’ll calculate the shared responsibility payment for you.

    They had earlier announced that they wouldn’t accept e-filed silent returns but hadn’t said what they’d do about paper filed ones.

  6. nameless1 says:

    Copying a comment of mine from the computational mood thread because this thread is mroe read and it may be interesting as I think I had an insight:

    “So this is how good world and predictable world, desire and expectation are linked: via action? We expect our actions to make our world better and fulfill our desires or else we would have acted differently, and if it does not happen we feel let down and have low confidence in our predictions about what action to take to make things better for us?

    Hm. It is pretty interesting that I went through all the comments and links in both of these posts, and never figured it is action that may be linking expectation and desire, predictable world and good world. And I am actually depressed. Wait, non-depressed people actually expect their actions matter? I just do whatever is expected of me and never expect my actions make me happier, I expect either a miracle will or nothing. I never really planned to win, I planned to fail but in a way that I cannot be blamed because I took all the socially expected actions to avoid it.

    This sounds seriously interesting. How do non-depressed people expect their actions will make them happier? Let’s make an inventory. From 3 to 12 years old my happiest moments were getting exciting toys as presents. That depended on other people giving them to me, not on my actions. From about 12 to 36, it depended on trying to find a pretty girlfriend, which depended on them, not me, as I asked a lot out but most rejected. Finally married now it seems how my evening goes depends on whether my wife and daugther are fighting when I am arriving at home or they are being angels to each other. Nothing seems to depend on me.

    How do non-depressed people do things that make themselves happier that does not depend on other people?”

    Friston strangely reminds me of Mises. Mises takes it as axiom that people do stuff because they want to exchange the current state of things to a more preferred state of things, that this is behind all action. Of course the specific action one takes depends on which action one finds most likely to succeed. But isn’t it going too far to say people act in order to reduce uncertainty? People act in order to satisfy preferences and reducing uncertainty makes their actions more effective, so some of their actions will be dedicated to that: before you attack, you recon, you don’t just blindly rush into battle. But we still cannot reduce all a military does to recon…

  7. OptimalSolver says:

    I forget nearly everything I read.

    About a year ago, I managed to slog through the SEP’s entry on Imagination. I now realize I don’t remember a single thing about it, not even the introduction.

    This makes me wonder what the point of reading anything substantial is if I’ll just forget it all anyway.

    • Nick says:

      Take notes. Seriously, take notes. And if you don’t have time to take notes (which raises the question why you would still read the things), at least pull excerpts from it so you know the parts to skim or not skim if you look at it again—copy-pasting is super easy, but writing them by hand helps a lot with memory, so either way is going to be beneficial.

      Somewhat dissenting essay from Paul Graham, who thinks it’s enough sometimes that your mental models get updated, even if you can’t pinpoint the source.

    • Well... says:

      Do podcasts or audiobooks have this same effect?

  8. johan_larson says:

    Megan McArdle, one of my favorite columnists, has moved from Bloomberg to the Washington Post.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/people/megan-mcardle

    It seems a bit odd for a paper that far left to hire someone so right-libertarian.

    • Nick says:

      The New York Times has Ross Douthat, right? I don’t think it’s too unusual for major papers to have a dissenting voice or two. But maybe they’re both exceptions in this regard.

    • IrishDude says:

      Washington Post hosted Volokh Conspiracy for a while, with writings from a collection of conservatives and libertarians, so this move isn’t out of line with that precedent.

    • secondcityscientist says:

      The Post has Dave Weigel, formerly of reason.com, and Robert Costa, formerly of National Review, as political reporters. They have Jennifer Rubin, formerly of Commentary, as an opinion writer with her own vertical. Kathleen Parker writes a regular column for the post and Charles Krauthammer had a regular column there too. If you visit the WaPo opinion site today you’ll find articles by Hugh Hewitt and Marc Theissen.

      They run articles from liberals and leftists too, but the WaPo opinion page is not “far left”.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      The bad news is that it puts her behind a paywall.

      • keranih says:

        Kindle/Amazon gets you 6 months subscription for $1. Still haven’t figured out how to get to the comments section.

    • hyperboloid says:

      Washington Post …far left

      You’re dragging the Overton window around pretty hard if you’re describing the Washington Post as far left. The place was a major center for the Neocons for years. If Charles Krauthammer, Jenifer Rubin, and Kathleen Parker are the far left, then where is the center?

      • Aapje says:

        @hyperboloid

        I think that the way you quote is a bit deceptive and you should not do that. He said “that far left,” not “far left.” Something can be “that far left” compared to Megan McArdle and yet still be centre-left compared to the overall political landscape.

        That said, I agree with your criticism that it is silly to argue that the Overton window of the WaPo is that restrictive.

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        Does nobody in this comments section understand sarcasm/irony.

  9. christianschwalbach says:

    Came across this article: https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/03/ten-reasons-we-cant-and-shouldnt-be-nordic/ from National Review (obviously conservative leaning) and while I could somewhat agree with a few of the authors points, I was motivated enough to do a step by step refutation/rebuttal of his points. Before I continue, I want to point out that I don’t support a viewpoint that the US should attempt to entirely emulate the “Nordic Model”, but I do feel that a lot can be learned from the policies in those countries, and used to influence the policies of our future. Here is my rebuttal, point by point:
    1. Innovation is an interesting thing. I agree that a certain degree of competition is needed for capitalism to function, but “Cutthroat Capitalism” , as the author titles it, can create warped incentives also. In a race for “market victories”, the health of a society can suffer, and in many cases, the product or service created via “cutthroat capitalism”, is, as a whole, not all that innovative. Innovation occurs as a side effect of freedom of experimentation and exploration of ideas (at least partially), which in the US, is largely a factor of a combination of diverse population, Excellent upper tier universities, and exchange of ideas. On a per capita basis, several analyses list countries like Sweden , Germany (not Nordic) and even Finland , as being more innovative than the US. I feel that we fail to recognize the outsize impact that a few individuals can have on the level of US innovation. Those individuals (Elon Musk) (Gates) etc.. all had access to privileged educations, and notably did not come form backgrounds of poverty and destitution. ‘Cutthroat Capitalism’ can, as a side effect, create higher levels of destitution , which in turn, can decrease the ability of sectors of the population to be innovative. I should add , also, that the “super entrepreneur” type is often born , and not made, as individuals with a proclivity towards innovation seek avenues of doing so. There is little I see (other than issues of scale and exposure) , preventing Nordic Citizens from doing this.
    2. I largely agree with this point, and this is a reason why I feel the US couldn’t copy Nordic ideas directly, but being multicultural, and populated by many descendants of Nordics and Western Europeans, there is not a lack of cultural elements in the US that would be antagonistic to these Nordic Influences
    3. I find this to be an odd point. Economies are often comprised of a mix of old and new companies in varying ratios. As far as pure size, many of the US’ largest non tech companies are also rather old, and in regards to tech, while they may not comprise any Facebooks, Apples, Microsofts, etc… there is a small-scale Tech startup scene in Scandinavia, with Spotify and Skype as product examples. He also fails to account that Nordic economies and policies are not static in nature, and Sweden has lowered tax rates at times to foster growth, but they have not dismantled the core of the system…
    4. I partially agree, as corruption anywhere is a bugger of a problem. That being said, it wasnt long ago that Americans had more faith in the Government, and one could argue in the growth days of the 50’s and 60’s the US had more parallels with Nordic Countries than it has now.
    5. Choice can be over-rated. Also, freedom and choice are not the same thing. Choices are entirely invalid when one cannot access them due to financial or other constraints. One could argue that Nordic Social democracy increases choice and opportunity by removing certain financial constraints upon one’s life.
    6. This is a classic “the kids are becoming soft” argument. I personally blame social media and tech access anywhere for this issue, largely. US kids are just the same as Nordic kids in their use of entertainment and a proclivity to laziness. Self-motivation is a huge factor here, and while I agree that giving people too much can breed a certain degree of complacency, the opposite extreme is also counter-effective for the health of a society. I do agree somewhat with the idea of requiring students to have a bit of skin in the game, regarding education, but its the degree of it that matters. Make it affordable.
    7. So….societies aren’t perfect? Who knew? (and this statement is also directed at Leftist Utopia types as well)
    8. One can also argue that in many places in the US, take home pay is high, but external expenses eat up a lot of it, esp.medical, housing, and education.
    9. People explore chemically induced forms of “Happiness” everywhere, as we as SlateSC readers know. “Drive and Motivation” is a rather nebulous concept, and I see the same type of emptiness of people who face harsh day to day living challenges as I do people who have more provided for them. Consult an actual Psychiatrist, Mr. Author……
    10. This is where a free market needs to be meshed with Government action. Namely, failures of unrestrained capitalist approaches to society often need to be counter-measured by Government. There is also the point that no system is perfect, and yet doing nothing can let issues fester until they blow up in an even bigger manner. Do I trust the Government? No, not completely, but I also recognize its role and as a citizen, I have a concern that my Government serve me in the best manner that it can. None of this necessitates absolute growth of government, rather I feel it points more towards reform and redirection, which is something I assume many NR readers can also agree with.

    • christianschwalbach says:

      I would amend my #1 point by stating that competition can indeed benefit the consumer via cheaper goods and services, but the effects on the environment, worker rights, and even culture, can cancel out benefit of price, or quality. The American “move fast and break things” motivation in capitalism is not the only way to create innovation by any means, nor may it even be the best way

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      In re the “so much screen time” issue– I haven’t seen much talk about the amount of creativity online. There’s a lot of art, fiction, video, etc.

      • AG says:

        Precisely. Someone has to make all that content, and it’s far from usually being made by the old guard. What can be said, I suppose, is that the new paradigms of online content aren’t necessarily lucrative, but that more indicates that the screen consumer generation might have different priorities than innovating for money vs. innovating for something else. (After all, the most financially successful can just as much be those who innovate a new form of rent seeking or exploitation.)

        The patreon model in which every video ends with an explanation that these things take time and effort so your support is much appreciated suggests that in a UBI world, more people could spend more time creating quality content. Most of the great artworks of old were also created under a patron art system, rather than a commission/product based one. Neither did Mendel have to spend most of his time begging for grants.

        • christianschwalbach says:

          This is an excellent point, and one that I feel strongly about, as I have been greatly enraptured by the level of creative content being placed online, that has expanded my knowledge and perception immensely.

      • christianschwalbach says:

        Well, I do still see internet/social media usage as simply a tool, and those who are genuinely curious about learning will use it to learn, and those that want to boost egos, etc….will do so. Its just much easier to have perceptions warped by online interactions nowadays, and that can play into a mindset of those that have grown up with smart phones, facebook, etc… I am 28, but didn’t get FB until 2012, and even then, most of my internet usage has been either reading or interacting in discourses over favored topics.

    • baconbits9 says:

      8. One can also argue that in many places in the US, take home pay is high, but external expenses eat up a lot of it, esp.medical, housing, and education.

      How does this address his point?

      • christianschwalbach says:

        He was arguing that higher tax rates and , to an extent, cost of living diminishes levels of take home pay for Nordic citizens in general. My counter was that in the US, many people have to pay large sums of their take home pay towards services and goods that are either fully or partially subsidized in Nordic Nations. (Housing is a partial exception)

  10. Scott, I just read and greatly enjoyed your book review of “Albion’s Seed”. Also enjoyed the comments from you and others here about how much the four English-speaking colonial tribes identified in that work have led to our current national tribalism.

    Noticing that the post was written in April 2016 and that its comment thread concluded a month later I’m curious about a followup, for two reasons.

    (a) Here we are almost two years later and it sure feels like the Red/Blue national tribalism was come to a new level of focus. How much Trump and the reaction to him has actually sharpened that conflict versus simply revealed it is something that maybe we can’t really see yet from inside the national madness. But surely the right answer is _entirely_ just one or the other…anyway, does “Albion’s Seed” today seem more or less or differently explanatory than it did in April 2016?

    (b) There is one significant candidate fifth founding tribe in colonial America that you didn’t mention even in passing, the Dutch-led New Netherlands. (“Dutch-led” rather than simply “Dutch” because it was actually fairly polyglot within a certain range of ethnicities.) Perhaps you’ve seen the book “Island at the Center of the World”? The argument is that the New Netherlands while brief in its specific legal existence was long and deep in its effects upon the formation and development of what became the U.S. (One specific example being free-wheeling and inventive entreprenuerialism at scale, what we now tend to summarize as “Wall Street” or “the financial sector”.) This particular tribal identity also persisted in New York/New Jersey well beyond the end of the official Dutch colony, indeed through and even beyond the Revolutionary War. (Turns out that I have multiple ancestors who were still speaking Dutch at home when their sons went off to fight in the War of 1812.)

    • Chlopodo says:

      Are you familiar with American Nations? It covers some of what you mention– it’s a follow-up on the Albion’s Seed model of American history (except much shorter and, I assume, aimed more toward regular readers), which includes New Netherlands as well as New France and New Spain as colonizing cultures. It’s good but not great.

    • Tenacious D says:

      As far as founding tribes go, don’t overlook the indigenous people either. I think it was 1491 by C. Mann where I read the suggestion that a lot of distinctive features of American culture may have been cross-pollinated from the Iroquois and other tribes.

      • Chlopodo says:

        It’s been a while but Mann’s argument IIRC was that the South partially inherited the slaveholding system from Southern indigenous who were holdovers from the Mississippian cultures, vs. the North which inherited the democratic system from the Iroquoians. I don’t really buy it, considering that the South’s first “partners in crime” in the slave trade were the Iroquoian Westos.

  11. onyomi says:

    There is discussion above about taboo-ing racism, possibly to replace it with several, more descriptive terms. I thought to brainstorm everything I commonly see falling under the umbrella of “racism” and how these might be described with greater granularity. My initial sense was that most usages of “racism” involve elements of at least two categories freely mixed-and-matched. Thus, 5 possible As and 9 possible Bs means 45, rather than 14 variants of “racism.”*

    A.
    1. Preferring people who look like you/avoiding people who don’t look like you.

    2. Preferring people who talk like you/avoiding people who don’t talk like you.

    3. Preferring people who celebrate the same holidays as you/avoiding…

    4. Preferring people of similar economic or educational level.

    5. Preferring people who share your values/world-view.

    B:
    1. Not wanting to be neighbors/socialize with people for any of above reasons.

    2. Not wanting to hire or promote the above

    3. Stating accurate, but negative facts about above as a group

    4. Stating inaccurate, negative ideas about above as a group

    5. Treating strangers/groups of above differently on the basis of an accurate perception of group differences

    6. Treating strangers/groups above differently on the basis of a distorted perception of group differences

    7. Treating familiar individuals of above differently due to an accurate or inaccurate knowledge of group differences that does not apply to said individual

    8. Not extending full rights of citizenship to the above, including equal protection

    9. Actively harassing, abusing, attacking the above

    I think what the above suggest to me is: a lot of what is commonly called “racism” isn’t really strictly about race, though, again, I don’t deny the picture is complicated by frequent overlap of language/race/culture, etc.

    Second, I think a lot of these things are not obviously problematic, especially from a libertarian standpoint of freedom of association. For example, I don’t see anything obviously wrong with wanting to have neighbors who speak the same language as you and celebrate the same holidays as you, nor even with wanting neighbors who look like you. I don’t personally care much about these points, but I don’t see anything evil about having and acting on such preferences.

    Of the above possible combinations that seem like real problems to me and actually primarily about race, it’s basically just A1 in combination with B4, 6, 7, 8, and 9; and B4 and B6 are only immoral if one knowingly states or acts on false or distorted info (not sure the latter is even possible); otherwise, I’d say they’re unfortunate mistake that could be corrected, but not immoral, and probably not even relevant to this discussion since, as Scott described in “Against Murderism,” a consequentialist approach to defining racism produces absurd consequences.

    So, possible variants of “racism” worthy of the name:

    1.4. Spreading false or distorted information about a racial group. (“racial disinformation”?)

    1.6. Treating unfamiliar members of a racial group badly on the basis of a distorted perception. (“racial misperception”?)

    1.7. Treating familiar individual members of a racial group badly on the basis of accurate or distorted knowledge of the group that does not apply to the individual. (“racial stereotyping”?)

    1.8. Actively harassing, abusing, attacking, etc. people because of their race. (“racial abuse”?)

    1.9. Not extending equal protection under law to citizens of different races. (“racial inequality”?)

    If someone has additions to the lists or better names for these or other combinations of the above that seem important, it might be helpful; I will admit I’m not actually sure any of these things are common problems in the US today, though I realize some would probably disagree about many or all, and that many would also object to my arguably extreme stance on freedom of association.

    *I also don’t deny the possibility of “intersectionality”–that is, that someone could simultaneously be biased against someone because they look different, speak a different language, and are statistically more likely to commit crimes than your group, but I still think it’s worth categorizing because: if you are white, and treat poor, uneducated black people badly, but no worse than equally poor, uneducated white people, then that is better termed something like “classism” than racism. Or if you are a white asshole and treat black people badly, but no worse than you treat white people, then that is a case of “asshole-ism,” not “racism” (arguably even if you abuse the black person with a racial epithet: an asshole, wanting to yell at someone, might grab any epithet close to hand: if he gets angry at a fat person and calls him a “fatass” for example, that doesn’t necessarily reflect deepseated “size-ism,” it may just reflect him grabbing an obvious physical feature to insult).

    • Christophe Biocca says:

      Arguably you’re missing a variant on 8: Promoting laws that while facially neutral, either deliberately or accidentally disproportionally harm the above. “Disparate impact” gets brought up a lot, and it has some of the more recent examples: “Stop and Frisk”, having inland immigration controls up to X km away from the border, treating hair-braiding as cosmetology and requiring people to be licensed, voter ID requirements, raising/keeping/lowering the minimum wage, all have been categorized as “racist” in at least some circles. The religious counterpart to this, when the Supreme Court declared it to not count as infringement on religion, was broadly banned (to the extent possible) at the federal level and in many states.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I would add “institutional racism” to the list– people in positions of power being actively malevolent and having more effect than private individuals, and neglecting the interests of various groups. I think the Flint water crisis is a strong example of institutional racism– there were a lot of complaints about the water which were ignored.

      • cassander says:

        . I think the Flint water crisis is a strong example of institutional racism– there were a lot of complaints about the water which were ignored

        There is zero evidence that this had anything to do with their race. I think this is a better example of the abuse of the term institutional racism.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Indeed, it was quite the multiracial screw-up. Flint is roughly 50% black, 40% white, and of the two emergency managers who were criminally charged, one is black and the other is white.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Nybbler, thanks for the details.

            It could be more reasonably viewed as institutional prejudice against poor people rather than black people.

          • Nick says:

            It could be more reasonably viewed as institutional prejudice against poor people rather than black people.

            A lot of conflicts in America could be. This is something that’s frustrated me about contemporary social justice discourse practically since I became aware of it: most injustices are primarily attributable to, or at least significantly exacerbated by, poverty. That’s absolutely not to say it should always be the primary concern, but the discourse seems to me to focus disproportionately on issues of race, sex, etc.

            I probably shouldn’t link to ragebait like this, but it’s a CW thread so whatever: Rod Dreher reports of anti–poor white Southern language at Stanford, which was supported by a staff member whom a student complained to. You’ll notice that these students are appealing to the same concepts an SJW would appeal to: racism, classism, slurs, etc. Any leftist could find common ground with this complaint if they tried—but somehow the staff member and student (if it was a student who did it) don’t.

          • keranih says:

            I am a bit disturbed that Flint, of all things, has been *so effectively* painted as racist in its root cases to the extent that Nancy L – generally a logic-minded liberal – isn’t aware of the facts on the ground.

            …this makes me doubt that other cases which are presented as (and which I have accepted as) clear cut examples of racism are actually so.

          • johan_larson says:

            A lot of conflicts in America could be. This is something that’s frustrated me about contemporary social justice discourse practically since I became aware of it: most injustices are primarily attributable to, or at least significantly exacerbated by, poverty. That’s absolutely not to say it should always be the primary concern, but the discourse seems to me to focus disproportionately on issues of race, sex, etc.

            This.

            I think it would be far more effective to focus on helping the poor (and the bottom end of the working class, depending on where you draw the lines) rather than trying to sort out who is and is not a victim of various sorts of prejudice. I would also expect it to be less controversial, because the poor are pretty obviously suffering, whereas some members of victim-credentialed groups are not.

      • keranih says:

        “institutional racism” to the list– people in positions of power being actively malevolent and having more effect than private individuals, and neglecting the interests of various groups.

        Wait, that’s a new one to me. I thought that institutional racism wasn’t either active nor malevolent, and that it wasn’t due to specific individuals so much as a society wide concept of How Things Are Done.

        Did the definition change or am I thinking of something else?

  12. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    So it looks like Telford England is going to be the next Rotherham. Their local Muslim pedophile gang is estimated to have raped over a thousand English girls. It’s tragic but not unexpected news: these gangs operate all across the country, with cooperation from the police and media in keeping victims quiet.

    The evil of these rapists, the “community” which spawned them, and the establishment which run cover for them is unfathomably sickening. As is the cowardice of the English people who have utterly failed to fight back and instead meekly accepted dhimmitude.

    I’m going to take a break from posting for a while. Please for the love of God arm yourself and keep a close eye on your kids.

    • Murphy says:

      I was trying to find out what the link was but the articles seem…. bizarre.

      it’s as if they just took every crime committed in a 40 year period in telford and then highlighted every crime where the perpetrator was Muslim… including some idiot who got in an accident with a teenager trying to ride on the hood of his car….. and then linking that with estimates for total abuse cases of any kind over 40 years.

      I mean there was a group caught abusing girls, but that case was numbers an order of magnitude or so lower.

      it’s a city of 150K-ish so 1000 girls would mean something like 3% of the entire female population.

      If it’s supposed to be from a few neighborhoods/schools/estates then that would imply something like 25-50% of the entire female population of some neighbourhoods were having sex with [how many?] 9-12 guys?

      You should be able to check/falsify this by walking up to about 2 dozen random women between the ages of 50 and 15 in telford council estates and asking if they were personally abused by any kind of organized group of child sex traffickers.

      The methodology from the daily mail and similar here seems …. odd.

  13. dodrian says:

    In honor of tomorrow being March 14 (Pi Day), what are your favorite pie recipes?

    Mine is this Key Lime Pie, though I usually use regular limes and a graham cracker base.

    I don’t think I’ll make it this year because precisely cooling the filling takes a bit too much time.

    Anyone have a good chocolate meringue recipe?

    • rahien.din says:

      Stella Parks’s The Best Cherry Pie is well-named, both as itself, and as a demonstration of her tapioca starch method for fruit pies.

      Here’s my own recipe for Kentucky Derby Pie.

      Purchase or make two 6-oz shortbread pie crusts, and toast them in a 350 degree oven until they have a nice aroma.

      Mix together :
      1 cup light corn syrup, heated for a 1:30 in the microwave
      6 ounces good eatin’ chocolate (60% cacao or more)
      1/2 cup unsalted butter, browned.

      Add :
      1 cup demerara (or similarly full-flavored) sugar
      A good shot of rye whiskey. You could probably use any dark liquor.
      1 teaspoon vanilla
      1/4 teaspoon salt
      A dash or two of bitters

      Whisk four whole eggs (about a cup’s worth) the mix them into the batter. Just make sure nothing’s hot enough to scramble your eggs.

      Pour pecan pieces into each crust, and make it more than enough for the top layer of a regular pecan pie – you want to end up with a layer of nuts on top and some more nuts buried on the pie.

      Divide the batter between the crusts, covering the nuts.

      Bake at 350 for about forty minutes. The pies will puff up a little and have a decent set when they are done. Eat warm, or eat cool, with whipped cream.

      • dodrian says:

        That sounds really good, now I have to weigh up if I’m willing to spend the evening shelling my tub of pecans…

    • AG says:

      I’m really proud of a couple of zombie pies I did years ago:
      -If you’re up to attempting pie crust from scratch, mix it with a tiny bit of blue or green food coloring to get that grayish skin color
      -Layer of cherries on the bottom
      -Custard filling, use food coloring to get a nasty green color of your choice
      -Use a solid top pie crust rather than the strips kind. However, cut some holes/gashes into it, such that some custard seeps out
      -I also used spare/extra crust to do “stiches” over “scars” in the crust, or even better, have hands/fingers coming out of one of the holes
      -Since I was using canned cherries, I had some of the gel/syrup left, and when I spread some of that over the crust, it bakes into this dried blood color

      —-
      My other favorite is a savory pie recipe I got from rat-tumb! (Unfindable now, of course, because blue hellsite is unsearchable)
      Caramelized onion layer on the bottom. Add layer of shredded cheddar.
      Take puree’d squash/tuber of choice, (I once boiled sweet potato with milk) mix with powder spices and cheddar. Original was cinnamon and nutmeg and such, but I’ve experimented with variants using ginger+black pepper, allspice, and especially yellow curry powder, and they all work out pretty great.
      Add the squash/tuber filling.
      Top with shredded cheddar.
      Bake until cheddar on top starts browning a bit.

      • Iain says:

        Speaking of savoury pies: my recipe for tourtiere, which I got from my mother, which she got from a Quebecois classmate in university:

        In a heavy 3 qt casserole, slowly cook the following ingredients until the meat loses its colour, then cover and simmer 45 minutes or until the liquid diminishes to half:
        1 1/2 lbs ground pork
        1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
        1 minced onion
        3/4 cup boiling water
        1 clove garlic, minced
        1/4 tsp cinnamon
        1/4 tsp ground cloves
        1/2 tsp celery salt
        1/4 tsp pepper
        1/2 tsp sage
        1 1/2 tsp salt

        After the mixture has simmered, add 4 medium sized potatoes (boiled and mashed).
        Mix well, cool, and put in a double-crust pastry.

        Oven:
        450F for 10 min.
        350F for 30-40 min.

        This will make two pies.

        It’s particularly good with a bit of red pepper jelly.

    • Anon. says:

      Dorie Greenspan’s Creamiest Lime Cream Meringue Pie. I guarantee it will blow your socks off. The texture is simply divine, and it has an incredibly concentrated (delicious) flavor…just a tiny bit of filling lights up your entire mouth.

      The Momofuku banana cream pie is pretty great too.

      If you like chocolate, try this Warm Chocolate & Banana Tart.

    • Telminha says:

      Thank you for the recipe. It sounds delicious.

      This is a damn fine cherry pie recipe. I’ve made it a few times; it’s very good with a cup of coffee.
      I wanted to try huckleberry pie. They say it’s particularly delicious, but I’ve never seen huckleberries in the grocery stores around here.

      Anyway, happy Pi day. Well, not so happy with the departure of Hawking. Coincidentally, today is also Albert Einstein’s birthday.

    • zz says:

      I feel obligated to point out that π isn’t half the number τ is. I’d be more than happy to make a double pie recipe in a bit over three months, though!

  14. veeloxtrox says:

    This question has been on the back burner for awhile and recently I got into discussion about it and haven’t gotten a good answer, hopefully someone here can help?

    to;dr: Is there any evidence that the multiverse theory is more like than deism?

    First, my understanding of modern astrophysics is that pre big bang, we have no idea what was happening. The big bang happens in such a way that the cosmological constant is exactly what is needed to allow life to form billions of years later on Earth. The cosmological constant our universe has is really really really unlikely. How do you explain this? Well theists (such as the Catholic Church ) can say “God did it on purpose” problem solved. Atheists don’t have that out so they suppose we got lucky, really really really lucky. The only way this happened is that there are many many many universes and due to survisership bias, our has the right cosmological constant for life.

    Is there any evidence for or theories that exist that allow the multiverse theory to have more explantory power or be more likely than deism? So far I haven’t heard any arguments with supporting evidence and I am hoping there is someone that make such an argument or tell me why they don’t exist.

    • Murphy says:

      they suppose we got lucky, really really really lucky.

      Anthropic principle.

      Even if there’s only one universe, pretty much by definition nobody would be there to ask the question if the universe was inimical to life.

      It’s not even luck, it’s “you only get to wonder about existence if you actually exist”

      it’s like saying,

      “I’m the descendant of a chain of a billion organisms isn’t is so incredibly unlikely that every one of them made it to reproductive age!

      If each one had just a 10% chance of dying before reproduction age that means that there’s only a (0.9^1000000000)= 2.74 × 10^-45757491 chance of it happening and me ever existing! If even one of them hadn’t survived then I wouldn’t exist!”

      “Hence that must mean something special!”

      You see the problem with that style of logic? If the 2.74 × 10^-45757491 chance hadn’t come up then that person wouldn’t be there to ask the question. And the effect isn’t a result of factoring in the 7 billion other humans.

      Never mind that there may be countless other chemistries/physics perfectly compatible with different types of life under different constants. We don’t really know because we don’t live in a universe where that’s the case, for all we know there could even be a host of other viable ways to do life in our own universe.

      In the non-hypothetical world, there are no dodo’s wondering about how remarkable it is that they happen to be on an island that’s never had organisms hostile to their existence imported.

      Even in hypotheticals there is no cold dead universe without life or sentient entities where someone is wondering how remarkable it is that the cosmological constant happens to be hostile to life.

      • Philosophisticat says:

        I think the view that the anthropic principle counts as an explanation of the constants or that it should make unlikely existence less surprising is deeply confused. To borrow an example from Richard Swinburne, if I am in front of a firing squad of a thousand people, and all of them fire and miss, it is true that I would not be around to wonder about why I am still alive unless they had all missed. But that doesn’t make my being around any less surprising. Nor does it prevent me from using the fact that I survived as a reason for against various hypotheses, including the design-type hypothesis that the firing squad missed intentionally.

        Most of the quick responses to the fine tuning argument are quite bad.

        • Murphy says:

          It’s not sexy or interesting. It’s just an utterly solid argument. Richard Swinburne appears to be looking for sexy or fun or interesting arguments vs boring ones which merely can’t be refuted.

          You can structure anything to sound unlikely but if the alternative is no thinking entities being around to wonder then you need to factor that in. Exactly 100% of thinking entities thinking about how remarkable it is they exist will be doing so in universes that contain thinking entities.

          Perhaps the entire universe except earth is dead and life developing at all is even more vastly unlikely than the constant working. Of all the billions of lifeless rocks what remarkable “luck” that we just happen to be on one that has liquid water, the one that just happens to be in the Goldilocks zone, just happens to have a magnetosphere, just happens to have tectonic plates, just happens to lack too much impacting space junk to smother life in the cradle… etc etc etc.

          Indeed it’s probably more unlikely for any random rock to meet all the criteria than for a thousand people to miss at once when shooting at someone.

          But if those boxes weren’t ticked there would be nobody asking.

          100% of thinking entities thinking about how remarkable it is they exist will be doing so in conditions that allow them to exist and think.

          It’s boring. it’s unsatisfying. but the common sickness in philosophy is rejecting boring but solid vs sexy and interesting.

          • fion says:

            There are some things that the anthropic principle is the obviously correct, boring answer to, such as “why is the Earth the distance it is from the sun?”.

            There are other things where it’s not obvious that the anthropic principle is the correct answer, such as “why does the cosmological constant have the value it has?”.

            I imagine Richard Swinburne is the sort of person who entertains himself by shuffling a pack of cards and then looking at all the cards in turn, gobsmacked that they came out in the order they did, and feeling kind of nostalgic that once he shuffles them again, no pack of cards in the universe will ever be in that order ever again.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            And that’s exactly why some resort to multiverses: it renders the second question analogous to the first.

            If (somehow) we had developed a clear understanding of the solar system without ever twigging to the face that the stars were suns like ours, your two questions would be analogous.

            Saying “this circumstance, out of all of them, happened to be the one where everything lined up properly” somehow seems more compelling than “this circumstance, apparently the only one that exists, also happened to have everything line up properly”. It’s a little like Occam’s razor — the former has one unexplained thing, and the latter has two.

            All in how you look at it, of course: you also hear the multiverse criticized for “multiplying entities” with a vengeance, a claim it’s hard to argue with.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            @Murphy I can’t follow what you’re saying here or how it is a response to the point I made.

      • donteverrunbad says:

        Boltzmann brains are another problem with the anthropic principle: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boltzmann_brain

        Paraphrased as: “fine tuned universes are so rare that if you are a conscious entity, you are far more likely to be a Boltzmann brain than actually living in a fine tuned universe.”

        • Murphy says:

          sure, but a Boltzmann brain has no particular experiential link to the universe in which it’s “running”, they’d exist in a solipist universe and have no stability from second to second. So to anyone still existing in a few seconds from now: either you’re probably not a Boltzmann brain or this is a hallucination along with all your memories and you’ll no longer exist in any form in a few seconds.

    • fion says:

      There are various attempts to explain the size of the cosmological constant. Cosmologists admit that it is one of the hardest unsolved problems in science. So I think it’s wrong to frame “multiple universe theory” as “the atheists'” answer to the problem. The truth is we don’t have an answer, but we’re working on it.

      I think you have a second misunderstanding, which is that multiple universes are not proposed “as a theory” in order to explain stuff, but rather are a consequence of some of our other theories. For example, inflation describes a period of the universe’s evolution in which space was expanding exponentially. We have quite a bit of evidence for this, by the way. It’s not an ad hoc way to try and give us multiple universes. However, if you do have a period of inflation, there’s no reason to suppose each region of the universe will stop inflating at the same time. If one region stops inflating it rapidly becomes separated by any other such regions because the intervening regions are still inflating. Thus theories of inflation can give rise to multiple universes. Then all you need is for the cosmological “constant” to actually be a slowly-varying function of position in space and different pockets of the universe will have different values of the cosmological constant. Some of which will be low.

      I apologise for going into a bit of detail (and I also apologise for not going into more detail – I will on request), but the point is that “multiverse theory” isn’t really a thing. Rather, something that looks like a multiverse can arise from certain well-established theories. (I believe there are also arguments that string theory leads to a multiverse, but I’m not an expert in string theory so I won’t comment on that.)

      Deism, on the other hand, is not a plausible consequence of any physical theory. It also has its own fine-tuning problems. (What were the conditions that caused the constant-setting being to have the properties it has that makes it want to set the constants in any particular way?)

      (Note, there is another kind of “multiple universe” that arises from a particular interpretation of quantum mechanics. This is *not* related to the multiple universes I’ve been describing. Both are kind of misnomers, but for different reasons.)

      • Doctor Mist says:

        If one region stops inflating it rapidly becomes separated by any other such regions because the intervening regions are still inflating. Thus theories of inflation can give rise to multiple universes.

        I’ve read this, but from my layman’s position I couldn’t figure out what would give the different universes different values for things like the fine-structure constant or the relative masses of elementary particles. Is there a story for that, or is that still a work in progress?

        • fion says:

          I think you need to suppose that all those things (the fine structure constant, the mass of the electron, the cosmological constant, etc.) can in general be functions of space-time. The model I described results in the universe* being very much larger** than our region, so it’s possible for the “constants” to be almost exactly constant in our region but still take radically different values in other regions.

          This might sound a bit unsatisfactory, this “suppose the ‘constants’ can vary”, but we don’t actually have any theoretical reason to assume them to be constant. The data shows that they’re either constant or very, very near to it, but if the universe is much bigger than what we can see, why are we surprised that the length scales over which they vary are very large?

          The tl;dr is that it’s definitely a work in progress and probably will be for many decades yet. However, I also confess to this only being tangentially related to my field, so my understanding may be lacking in important ways. If anybody reading knows more, please weigh in.

          *I’m using slightly different terminology to the OP. I prefer to reserve “universe” to refer to the whole thing and use “region” to refer to the part we have access to. This isn’t the same as the “observable universe” which is even smaller. Where I use “region” you might prefer to think “universe” and where I use “universe” you might prefer to use “multiverse”.

          **I can’t express how great an understatement this is.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Thanks.

            It seems like you’d have to replace an anthropic explanation for “the constants are just right in the single universe” with an anthropic explanation for “the constants vary only over scales in the super-universe that are so large that we can’t see them vary”.

            But perhaps that falls out of the different regions maybe having lots of different sizes, and there are regions where the variation does happen at smaller scales. It seems like there might be an interesting connection to the fact that we inflated enough that we have nearly zero curvature and a strikingly uniform density — perhaps it is only in such regions that the constants are nearly constant. (Hand-wave, hand-wave.) But of course regions where the constants varied over small scales would not promote life, any more than a region with truly constant constants that were the wrong values.

            I never cared much for Smolin’s “cosmological natural selection” because I never saw why the universe generated inside a black hole should have different parameters from its parent universe. But I gather that the discovery that black holes don’t lose information put the kibosh on that.

          • fion says:

            @Doctor Mist

            Yeah, I think you’re right. Although, as @MB points out below, it’s hard to justify an anthropic principle for such a thing. To paraphrase MB, there’s no obvious reason why intelligent life couldn’t arise in a universe where the region-of-near-constant-constants was much smaller than the size of the observable universe, as long as it’s bigger than a galaxy or so.

            We would probably need a physical explanation why the “constants” needed to vary slowly rather than rely on the anthropic principle.

            For what it’s worth, I don’t really believe this line of reasoning anyway. I’m still hopeful that we’ll find an explanation for at least some of the physical constants that doesn’t resort to anthropics (and doesn’t require multiple universes, although those may still exist).

            I agree with you re: cosmological natural selection. I think it’s a really cool idea and I find it fascinating that such a thing almost works, but there’s just too many stretches involved.

      • MB says:

        The good thing is that this inflation-based multiverse theory should be testable to some extent, because then remote but still observable regions of the universe should have measurably different values of the fundamental constants.
        If this is not so, then it requires a separate explanation, i.e. why does our observable universe exhibit measurably constant values of the fundamental constants, while at the same time these values are non-constant at larger scales. What is so special about the scale of the observable universe?
        I don’t see how this follows from e.g. the anthropic principle either: why couldn’t conscious life arise in a universe in which each galaxy had its own values of the fundamental constants?
        The string theory version of the multiverse theory or the one based on the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics seems more compatible with the anthropic principle, though also at the same time less easily falsifiable (or provable).

        • fion says:

          Regarding your first point, I don’t think I share your optimism. There doesn’t need to be anything special about the scale of the observable universe. Suppose there’s a particular constant that we can measure to one part in a million, even if it’s in the most distant galaxy observable. Suppose also that the variation in this “constant” over the size of the observable universe is one part in a billion. Perhaps we need to go a thousand times the radius of our observable universe away before it gets to one in a million, and perhaps we need to go a billion times the radius of our universe for it to be different by a factor of order one.

          Now, we don’t know that the universe is finite in extent! If it’s infinite, then you can easily go a billion times the radius of our observable universe away. So the “constants” can still explore a huge range of values.

          In short, the variation length-scales can be anything longer than the observable universe, they don’t need to be close to it, which I think is what you assumed. As such, the size of the observable universe isn’t a special number at all.

          Your second point seems sound to me, as I said above. I think proponents of this view would need to come up with a reason why the variation had to always be slow. They might be able to do this, especially if they invoked inflation, which tends to stretch out inhomogeneities, but I don’t know the details.

          As for your third point, I think the string multiverse might be compatible with the anthropic principle (although as I said I don’t understand it) but the Everettean (many-worlds interpretation of QM) one isn’t. The constants of nature are the same in all Everettean universes.

          • MB says:

            Thank you for the detailed response.

            Regarding the first point, the scale of the observable universe is significant because between the smallest and the largest observable scales there are many intermediate scales. Thus, if the fundamental constants are the same at all these scales, this is a significant fact, which deserves an explanation. Probably more observation is needed, though.

            The existence of many other scales on top of that, while theoretically possible, seems a sort of a cop-out. Hopefully the inhomogenous nature of the universe should have some (possibly indirectly) testable consequences. If the constants are measurably constant in the observable universe, with no detectable variation, then the object of scientific investigation should be finding out why, not speculating how things look different when we cannot see them.

            Possibly, the vast majority of the matter in the universe is situated within some large homogenous bubbles and only a little is within the small bubbles, in areas still undergoing rapid inflation, or at the “boundary” between bubbles. However, again, this does not seem to follow from the anthropic principle. I don’t see why conscious life couldn’t possibly have arisen in a universe in which there are many galaxy-sized (or even smaller) bubbles. I don’t see why a galaxy-sized bubble is necessarily inhospitable to life and why there couldn’t be many more of them than there are large ones.

            All these arguments suffer from the same flaw: using probability to argue about the probability of conscious life without knowing what the priors are.

            As for the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, it does not explain the fundamental constants, but what I meant was that it is perfectly compatible with the anthropic principle.

          • fion says:

            @MB

            Yes, you’re right that if you were going to go for this line of argument, you’d need to explain why the variation was sufficiently slow. The point I was making is that it’s not a fine-tuning problem. It doesn’t need to be exactly such-and-such; it just needs to be sufficiently large.

            So I completely agree with you, that if we continue to measure ‘constants’ as being constant in the observable universe, we should try to figure out why. My point is that such measurements do not do not disprove the hypothesis that the ‘constants’ vary – they just put a lower bound on what the length-scale of variation is.

            Sometimes this is all we can do in physics. Sometimes we only have a single bound that we push further and further until people gradually start giving up on the idea that the true value is anything other than zero or infinite (depending on which way we’re pushing a bound). We really should be motivated by our theories, i.e. do we have a plausible theory that predicts that the length-scale should fall somewhere within the bounds we already have? Does that theory predict that length-scale to be somewhat close to our bounds and is it likely that future experiments will improve our bounds? If the answer to the first question is no, most physicists will lose interest. If the answer to the first question is yes but the answer to the second question is no, then the theory is interesting but not testable. We’d get really excited if both answers were yes.

            I think you’re right that the anthropic principle can’t do this alone. It needs some physics first. If there’s a physical reason why the variation is always slow and the regions of constant ‘constants’ are always large, then the anthropic principle can explain why we are in a region with the right constants. If, however, the variation can happen on any scale, then the anthropic principle can’t explain why we live in a region where the constants are constant over many galaxies, as you say.

            I’m not sure I understand what you mean by your final paragraph. I don’t see any way that the anthropic principle is helpful with regards to Everettean QM.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            I don’t see any way that the anthropic principle is helpful with regards to Everettean QM.

            I assume he means that life would observe itself in some Everettean universe no matter how incredibly unlikely life is, as long as it is technically not impossible.

  15. Silverlock says:

    Don’t tell Scott, but I am not a big worrier re the whole AI singularity thing. At least, I* wasn’t until I ran into SCP-\̅\̅\̅\̅-J (wherein all the existing SCPs were loaded into Botnik, a predictive keyboard app).

    Having seen that “All personnel assigned to SCP-2003 have been found completely emptied of contents” and read the note regarding “Facility Director Shirley Gillespie and the smell her body is wrapped in,” I no longer can afford to deny the reality that we are all doomed and also that “Agent Maxwell lost some vital minutes before abandoning flesh itself.”

    Furthermore, “crispy sex pirates.”

  16. RC-cola-and-a-moon-pie says:

    I think the whole contretemps with that guy Robinson exemplifies why I was so surprised and concerned by Scott’s post on “conflict” versus “mistake” approaches to argumentation over policy. Scott characterized the conflict group as follows (deleting a paragraph break):

    “What would the conflict theorist argument against the Jacobite piece look like? Take a second to actually think about this. Is it similar to what I’m writing right now – an explanation of conflict vs. mistake theory, and a defense of how conflict theory actually describes the world better than mistake theory does? No. It’s the Baffler’s article saying that public choice theory is racist, and if you believe it you’re a white supremacist. If this wasn’t your guess, you still don’t understand that conflict theorists aren’t mistake theorists who just have a different theory about what the mistake is. They’re not going to respond to your criticism by politely explaining why you’re incorrect.”

    This sounded pretty horrifying. And then at the conclusion of the piece, Scott said in effect (obviously not an actual quotation here), “hey, this blog used to be mistake theory focused but no longer! What I really need to be doing here is engaging from the conflict perspective!” (The same conflict perspective that makes accusations of racism in lieu of merits arguments presumably.)

    I know this isn’t exactly what was going on in the partly deleted exchange with Robinson, but some of Scott’s reactions are precisely the same as mine when he announced that it was time to start taking more seriously the approach to argument characterized in Scott’s (actual) quote above.

    All that said, I’m 100% on Scott’s side in this and I hope it doesn’t coming across like I’m taking this obviously, understandably painful episode as an occasion to take a jab at Scott. It’s more an admittedly self-centered effortnon my part to reiterate my surprise with the conclusion of that “conflict” piece.

  17. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Buddhist tradition has it that when Ashoka converted, he wanted to retrieve the relics of Gautama Buddha that king Ajatashatru of Magadha had collected in a dungeon protected by mechanical guards or traps. The most elaborate version of this tradition can be found in the Pali cosmology text Lokapannatti, which reveals that the machines were robots built with stolen Roman technology.
    It seems that, in the 6th century BC, Roma-visaya (kingdom of Rome) was famous for its bhuta vahana yanta (spirit motion machines). The king maintained a monopoly by requiring all engineers to stay within the city limits. An ambitious old man in Pataliputra, India wished for the boon of being reincarnated as a Roman engineer, and so in his next life he became one’s apprentice and son-in-law. When he became a father, he hatched a plan to spread the technology by telling his son to have him cremated in India when he died. Then he sewed a robot engineering text into a cut in his thigh and ran east from Rome, soon getting killed by his own machines.

    Needless to say, I’ll have to incorporate the Roman discovery and loss of robotics into the mythic crossover timeline discussed last OT. 🙂

    • Michael Handy says:

      So the king in question, assuming this tale is true, would be Tarquinus Superbus. It’s not as completely insane as it sounds, Ashoka would have extensive contact with the Hindu-Greek kingdoms and points west.

      Ajatashatru would have been rather young, as his reign begins 3 years after Tarquinus dies in Southern Italy. But the timeline could work. And the story of the heroic republicans destroying the machine tyranny makes for a good story.

      • Deiseach says:

        It also makes a nice difference to the usual “exotic Eastern technologically advanced lost mystic knowledge of the ancients” having it be the Romans and not the Egyptians/Indians/Lemurians with the flying saucers 🙂

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Yes, interesting how cliches can flip when you use the earliest source. 🙂
          Another example of this is how the Prose Edda treats the Germanic people as primitives who can be tricked by advanced Asians (as Snorri describes the Aesir).

  18. Matt M says:

    Re: Outlandish predictions of the effects of climate change

    I was interested in this editorial on the WSJ, which discusses a recent model that gained some traction by predicting that climate change would reduce world GDP by 20%. Of note is that the model also includes predictions like:

    While the world economy stagnates, the model projects, cold countries will achieve almost unimaginable wealth. Iceland supposedly will achieve annual per capita income of $1.5 million by 2100, more than double that of any other country except Finland ($860,000). Mongolia, which currently ranks 118th in per capita income, is supposed to rise to seventh, at which point the average Mongolian will earn four times as much as the average American. Canada’s economy becomes seven times as large as China’s.

    I have a tough time imagining there is a single person, on Earth, who legitimately believes that climate change will, within the next 80 years, create world where the average Mongolian is 4x richer than the average American. Not one. And yet, that won’t stop people from casually referring to this 20% figure as if it’s totally uncontroversial science that only an idiot would disagree with.

    • yodelyak says:

      Hm. Seems like the let’s-not-act-on-climate side often target straw men. I can’t get at this particular article, because paywall. Give us a link to the specific model(s) the article is mocking?

      • yodelyak says:

        I mean, it would be really big news if this was a model-maker like Richard Muller, who had a model that was so obviously stupid.

        (Muller is the author of this NY Times op-ed: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/opinion/the-conversion-of-a-climate-change-skeptic.html, and not everyone agrees with him, but his change-of-heart on acknowledging that climate was real and scary was a pretty big deal in moving a lot of moderates to accept that the data was, in fact, persuasive.)

        Forgive a little skepticism though. The Wall Street Journal’s reporting is really pretty decent, as reporting goes, but IMHO the op-ed page consistently parrots the same viewpoint as Fox and the rest of the Murdoch empire.

        • The Wall Street Journal’s reporting is really pretty decent, as reporting goes, but IMHO the op-ed page consistently parrots the same viewpoint as Fox and the rest of the Murdoch empire.

          That struck me as amusing. My conclusion about the WSJ, long ago and having nothing to do with climate issues, was the precise opposite. The Op-ed page has generally sensible views on economics, the news stories don’t.

          That was mostly in to a story on the failure of the free market to work for adoption, the evidence being that there was a shortage (I think at the time–it could have been a surplus) of infants for adoption. It apparently did not occur to the authors that a market where the price was legally fixed at zero was not precisely a free market.

          • yodelyak says:

            I stand by my point that the WSJ’s reporting is good, “as reporting goes.” Your adoption example seems particularly egregious, and I’m not sure I’ve seen “free market” completely mistaken that badly in some time, but I generally agree that reporting should be relied on for object-level facts (the pavement was wet today between 4pm and 7pm, and it rained today between 4pm and 7pm) not for theory-level stuff (the pavement’s wetness today between 4 and 7pm caused a rainstorm to occur at the same time).

            What I had meant to imply with “as reporting goes” was that the WSJ’s reporting is pretty wide-ranging and interesting, although you pretty much have to ignore the theory-level stuff. If you read only one paper to know what’s going on in the world, I think the WSJ is one of the best for pavement-was-wet-today facts that are interesting.

            I think the op-ed page has an internally consistent view (I’m not saying their view of economics is wrong, far from it, just that practical economics is an *applied* science and facts-on-the-ground matter) that is deployed in sometimes seeming disregard to facts on the ground, and often in strange opposition to those facts, unless/until you notice that the WSJ works for somebody specific, who probably has a viewpoint that resists some facts.

          • Deiseach says:

            It apparently did not occur to the authors that a market where the price was legally fixed at zero was not precisely a free market.

            Not unless they adopt the modest proposal and go in for a new kind of baby farming, where people would get pregnant to supply the adoption market?

            Fourthly, The constant breeders, besides the gain of eight shillings sterling per annum by the sale of their children, will be rid of the charge of maintaining them after the first year.

            Sixthly, This would be a great inducement to marriage, which all wise nations have either encouraged by rewards, or enforced by laws and penalties. It would encrease the care and tenderness of mothers towards their children, when they were sure of a settlement for life to the poor babes, provided in some sort by the publick, to their annual profit instead of expence. We should soon see an honest emulation among the married women, which of them could bring the fattest child to the market. Men would become as fond of their wives, during the time of their pregnancy, as they are now of their mares in foal, their cows in calf, or sow when they are ready to farrow; nor offer to beat or kick them (as is too frequent a practice) for fear of a miscarriage.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Not unless they adopt the modest proposal

            There is, shall we say, a slight difference between farming babies for food and farming babies for adoption.

    • untimelyreflections says:

      > I have a tough time imagining

      Proof by failure of imagination.

      Reading their FAW they have anticipated and address many of the objections people are raising.

  19. JPNunez says:

    Metaculus has private questions now. Only you see them and the site tracks them.

    They just added them so I don’t know how good the system is, but sounds p great.

  20. achenx says:

    The last open thread had a small subthread about baroque music. I just wanted to recommend All of Bach (http://allofbach.com/en/) for anyone interested in Bach performances. It’s an excellent site. Well produced-videos with good performances of a wide range of Bach’s music. Most pieces have a short interview with the performers as well.

  21. OptimalSolver says:

    When, where, and why do you predict your public meltdown will occur?

    • Bugmaster says:

      You are assuming this had not already happened 🙂

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Yup, I had severe depression in college and snapped one day when a professor cancelled class and did not email us ahead of time. I had to commute an hour and a half and had no other classes for another 3 hours, so basically came in for a 9 AM class for no reason.

        Smashed my fist into a wall.

        Not my brightest moment…

    • Well... says:

      I don’t think I’ll ever have one as an adult but if I do, I hope it will be at one of those high end “SoDoSoPa” type shopping plazas with an Apple Store and a Nordstrom’s where you have to walk outside to go from one shop to the next.

  22. temujin9 says:

    Regarding “avoiding random email”: depends on how connected with this site you need. If you want it on SSC, but without the alert, that may take some tweaking of settings (or code) for the WordPress plugin doing your alerting. I can take a look, if you’re comfortable sharing credentials; you can reach me at my Greenfield address for more on that.

    If you don’t care about the URL, use https://gist.github.com/ or similar.

  23. Anatoly says:

    (warning: CW in article and especially in contents)

    Understanding the California Mind, by Victor Davis Hanson

    “Some time ago I was bitten by two dogs while biking down a rural avenue nearby. The animals’ owners did not speak English, refused to tie up the unlicensed and unvaccinated biters, and in fact let their other dogs out, one of which also bit me. It took four calls to various legal authorities and a local congressional rep to have the dogs quarantined in an effort to avoid rabies shots. The owners were never cited.

    The California solution is always the same: the law-abiding must adjust to the non-law-abiding. So I quit riding out here and they kept their unvaccinated, unlicensed, and untied dogs.
    […]
    In California, civilization is speeding in reverse—well aside from the decrepit infrastructure, dismal public schools, and sky-high home prices. Or rather, the state travels halfway in reverse: anything involving the private sector (smartphones, Internet, new cars, TV, or getting solar panels installed) is 21st-century. Anything involving the overwhelmed government or public utilities (enforcing dumping laws, licensing dogs, hooking up solar panel meters to the grid, observing common traffic courtesies) is early 20th-century.
    […]
    Cynicism is rampant. Law-abiding Californians do whatever is necessary not to come to the attention of any authorities, whose desperate need for both revenue and perceived social justice (150,000 households in a state of 40 million residents pay about 50 percent of California income tax revenue) is carnivorous.”

    How fair is this article as a description of life and ills in the non-Bay Area California (which I think it focuses on)? This is an obviously CW question, but I’m asking in good faith as a non-American who’s only been to the Bay Area one.

    • Brad says:

      It’s worth keeping in mind when thinking about California that Southern California which is almost exclusively greater LA and greater San Diego, is 60% of the state. The greater Bay Area is another 22%. Greater Sacramento is another 6%. That leaves only 12% for the entire rest of the state, and there are other, albeit smaller, cities. California, despite its physical size, is even less rural than the United States as a whole (~19% rural population).

      12% of California’s population is still more than about half the states in the country, but that’s just an indication of how rotten our boroughs have gotten.

      When you ask about life and ills in the non-Bay Area California, you are mostly asking about life in SoCal, not the exurbs of Selma, California.

      • Matt M says:

        I’ll also add to this that, while I haven’t lived in both, my perception is that living in the Bay Area and living in LA aren’t really all that different at all… at least when it comes to interaction with local government.

        Like, I doubt anyone would look at the complaints in this article and say “Well that might apply to SF but not LA!” (or vice-versa)

      • christianschwalbach says:

        CA is a state of great weather and harsh terrain. Makes sense that every urban area is allayed around either a River Port or a Bay. As a lifelong westerner, it wasnt until I lived in North Carolina that I realized that the terrain east of the Mississippi is much more conducive to having cities that are spread out in a more evenly dispersed manner than out west.

    • bean says:

      California is bizarre. When I was living there, I put an insert from one of my first power bills on my office wall. It was talking about the California Climate Change Credit. Twice a year, in April and October, every utility gives everyone $30 off their bill, and asks politely that it be used to fight climate change. This makes no sense. If you want to lower rates, lower rates. If you want to fight climate change, take the money and fight climate change directly.

      That said, I didn’t mind it too much. It was expensive, but I was blessed with a job which meant that it wasn’t a huge deal. And I didn’t really see that many homeless or others causing serious social problems. That said, my encounter with the state over getting my car smogged was not pleasant, and I didn’t own property or do other things to attract government attention.

      I am glad I’m out of there, although it wasn’t all bad. Oklahoma’s regulation of ADD meds has caused me more grief than any policy of California’s ever did.

      • johan_larson says:

        I lived in California for seven years, and don’t remember any troublesome interaction with government. I had to visit the DMV twice to convert and renew my licence, but that went smoothly enough. I also got stopped by a cop once for turning at a place I shouldn’t have, but he let me off after checking my license and registration.

        Maybe Canadians are raised to behave in ways that signals NOT A TROUBLEMAKER to American authority figures.

    • quaelegit says:

      Like bean, my experience with state and local governments has been not great but not atrocious, and about the same to that in other states. (Also like bean, I was mostly in Los Angeles and I never owned land in California.) I moved to Texas last June and have found the offices themselves a bit more pleasant (less waiting time, nicer staff) the paperwork is more confusing. So far I’ve mostly only dealt with car-related offices, in a “nice” part of town, and so I definitely wouldn’t generalize my TX experiences.

      I’ve only read the opening of the article (will finish reading and might have more to comment later), but the problems the author is describing sound like problems of rural poverty in general.

    • Nornagest says:

      The article sounds like it takes place in one of the larger Central Valley communities to me — Stockton, Modesto, Fresno, Bakersfield, something like that. (“Almond orchard” is a bit of a tell.) Those are some of the worst cities in the United States (Stockton and Modesto, especially, show up somewhere near the top of the list every time the question is asked), and the fact that they continue that way is an indictment of leadership at every level, but as Brad says they’re not really indicative of a “California mindset”, if such a thing exists.

      Don’t get me wrong, California has big, big problems. But this strikes me as more narrative-driven than substantial.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Not related to Hanson’s small-town California issues, but I’ve heard that San Francisco has a discarded drug syringe problem that makes Portland’s look trivial and that homeless people also defecate on public infrastructure like escalators. Is that true?

      • Nornagest says:

        I can confirm the defecation issue but not the drug syringe one. Never gone looking for syringes in SF, though, and I’ve never lived in the city proper.

      • Ozy Frantz says:

        Yep.

        In defense of homeless people, they don’t WANT to defecate on the public infrastructure, it’s just that for some reason San Francisco does not have public toilets.

        • Nornagest says:

          Public toilets or no, I can think of a lot of less disruptive places to defecate than a BART escalator. It’s not like SF is running low on dark alleys.

          (BART really should reopen the toilets, though.)

        • keranih says:

          Lots of towns don’t have public toilets. Most towns in the USA, actually.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, I don’t buy this. No cities in the US have cheap, accessible public toilets. And yet, most of them don’t have homeless people shitting in the streets.

          • mrjeremyfade says:

            Yes, but a few towns are difficult, (in the bay area) for say social workers, driving through, and the usual public functions, provided by say McDonalds or Starbucks, are not available. Highly correlated with high crime areas or high homeless areas.

        • Glen Raphael says:

          [homeless] don’t WANT to defecate on the public infrastructure, it’s just that for some reason San Francisco does not have public toilets.

          I blame excessive regulation. This seems like the sort of problem the free market could pretty quickly render a non-problem were doing so legally allowed, but alas, doing so is even *less* legally allowed in SF than elsewhere.

          Not having bathrooms in an area isn’t merely inconvenient to homeless people, it is also inconvenient to customers. And all the businesses in the area do have bathrooms, they are merely reserved for employee rather than customer use. So…why is that?

          Imagine you’re a business owner in an old building containing an old restroom which was NOT built “handicapped-accessible” because…the building is old. The room or the hallway to get to the restroom is too narrow to fit a wheelchair. Under the regulatory climate in San Francisco, if you merely allow customers to use that bathroom a disabilities activist is likely to come along and sue you under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act or the even stronger California and local enhancements of that set of regulations. In SF it will be ruinously expensive to fight the lawsuit and the activists will WIN, possibly bankrupting you. That’s what happens if you make the toilet available to the public. But in most cases no law mandates you doing so, so clearly the lowest-risk option is to NOT HAVE A TOILET CUSTOMERS CAN USE.

          But wait, suppose you are unusually public-spirited and out of the goodness of your heart you want to spend the money to construct a fully-accessible bathroom? In SF it’s not just the ADA, you ALSO have to satisfy the requirements of a dozen other bureaucracies. The new bathroom has to be more earthquake safe than the building was before. You have to satisfy historical preservationists that you haven’t in any way altered the external appearance of the building while adding that motorized wheelchair ramp to the entrance. You have to satisfy noise ordinances by not making any loud noises at odd times while reconstructing a building. You have to file an environmental impact report. You have to pay off building inspectors and contribute to councilmember campaigns and hire union workers and pay a “living wage” and somehow stay in business despite having to close the doors for a while as work is being done and then wait for a new Certificate of Occupancy.

          And even all this might be survivable but for the first-mover problem, that if you’re the FIRST person to add a public restroom your bathroom gets ALL the traffic, which is really unpleasant for customers and expensive to maintain.

          There is an obvious market mechanism that would STILL make it possible. And that market mechanism is…CHARGE MONEY FOR USE. In a free market, the first few businesses would install PAY TOILETS and charge a dollar (or a quarter, or whatever) for access, thereby reducing demand and generating some revenue with which to pay for the cost of supplies and maintenance as well as reimbursing the cost of building that expensive infrastructure. The very first PAY toilets might be quite expensive but lucrative. As more firms join in, competition drops the price to more reasonable levels. Some might charge a lot and specialize in being extra-nice, others might charge a little and specialize in being cheap.

          Given that world, one could solve the poop problem in the short term by having the local business council or the city or some charity pass out special tokens to let the local homeless use pay toilets for free. Longer term, after a few toilets already exist and are profitable it’ll be much easier and lower-risk for other businesses to add them; eventually prices will come down to nearly-free and the burden of serving homeless will be split up among a hundred firms rather than a couple of first-movers.

          However…Pay toilets are illegal today. So that option – common in the 1970s – is off the table.

          Thus, all we can do is wait and hope the SF government itself adds enough toilets that *it* owns and maintains. Meanwhile, try not to step on the poop.

          • skef says:

            While this was a lovely trip down A Priori Lane, a little research would reveal:

            1) Like pretty much every where in the U.S., businesses that make most of their money off food are required (by regulations!) to have customer-accessible bathrooms.

            2) The city does (try to) maintain a couple dozen public toilets. And although I don’t know if they still do, for a long while after they were installed in the late 90s they were pay toilets.

            The general feeling about #1 is that it doesn’t help as much as it could because such businesses often claim their bathrooms are out of order (Regulations: not all powerful!). #2 isn’t all that great because the bathrooms are often out of order, and even when they are working are often used for “other purposes”.

            The thing about pay toilets is that they make the most economic sense as profit centers in limited option contexts: rest stops, bus stops, possibly convenience stores and places with a gift shop that don’t care about looking classy. Anywhere else, charging for use of a bathroom makes you look petty to your customers. A good point of comparison is charging for WIFI, which has mostly disappeared in the U.S. except in analogous limited-option contexts.

            The main difficulties of operating a customer-accessible or public toilet are that some fraction of people will be angling to use it without paying (or buying) and some fraction of people will do things in or to the bathroom that aren’t remotely worth the trouble compared with what they have paid or bought. And these fractions aren’t necessarily the same.

            When a bad thing happens in your pay toilet you can’t charge for it until you fix the problem. Just raising the price until you can pay someone mind the bathroom constantly will likely piss off customers who aren’t likely to do something bad.

            Still, many businesses have figured out how to deal with these problems. I’ve only rarely come across a Starbucks with an out-of-order bathroom, and when I’m in S.F. and need one that’s usually where i head to. The out-of-order thing is mostly restricted to fast-food places anyway. The regulations around bathrooms aren’t that different from the more general set of regulations that businesses are subject to, and businesses manage to operate even in San Francisco.

            The bathrooms-for-the-homeless problem is more prosaic. For one thing, there’s no direct market solution if the “customers” would prefer pissing and shitting on the street to paying the lowest viable price. This is obvious, which is why discussions of this subject are always accompanied by vague intimations of law enforcement. One problem with that (among … others) is that its hard to imagine an actual law enforcement solution (that isn’t a discreet trip to potters’s field by way of a gas chamber*) that wouldn’t cost much, much more.

            * Of course, many smaller U.S. municipalities have famously used the related bus-ticket strategy. But that just moves the problem around, as it were.

          • johan_larson says:

            I’ve often wondered why homeless people seem to be an exclusively urban phenomenon. I’ve lived and worked in both built-up urban environments and suburbs, and I don’t think I ever saw a homeless person in the suburbs. Meanwhile even Toronto the Good has homeless people sleeping in the streets. Literally. They have tarps and blankets and whatnot and set up on exhaust vents from the subway, which emit hot air. Disgusting.

            Do suburban cops make a habit of kicking out homeless people, while city cops just don’t?

          • johan_larson says:

            I wonder if you could run a business that just offers bathroom facilities. For $5 you get 15 minutes use of a toilet and sink. For $10 you get 30 minutes use of a shower stall, toilet and sink. There’s an attendant that handles payment and keeps the facilities clean, or maybe two for a large store.

          • fahertym says:

            Awesome comment!

          • Brad says:

            Car homeless sometimes use gym memberships for exactly that purpose.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Thing is

            1) The homeless don’t have money for bathrooms. If there were pay toilets they got some money, they won’t be spending it on pay toilets if they can use the sidewalk.

            2) They don’t pay money to businesses and no business wants them using their bathrooms.

            3) If you have pay toilets, but somehow let the homeless use pay toilets for free, no one else is going to want to use them.

            4) Americans hate pay toilets, so even if you solved the rest of the problems you’d never make a profit on them.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @skef:

            While this was a lovely trip down A Priori Lane, a little research would reveal […] The city does (try to) maintain a couple dozen public toilets….for a long while after they were installed in the late 90s they were pay toilets.

            I’m actually old enough to remember SF in the ’90s and I distinctly recall disabilities activists at that time successfully made the best the enemy of the good on this issue. Some French firm that had been making attractive self-contained self-cleaning toilets in Paris (of the style pictured here) wanted to sell them to SF. SF being what it is, the fact that the type pictured isn’t wheelchair-accessible means we COULDN’T just install those. Making the same design big enough to handle wheelchairs massively increases the cost (4x? Something like that…) to build and ship and install and dramatically reduces the number of suitable installation sites. So the design/approval process dragged out for years and the same budget that might have installed 10 small bathrooms quickly instead installed 2 big hulking ones slowly. Continuing that rate of progress to the present day we COULD have had “enough” toilets by now (even including a few “accessible” ones!) but instead we have a mismatch between supply and demand.

            businesses that make most of their money off food are required (by regulations!) to have customer-accessible bathrooms.

            Are you sure that’s the rule? I’m pretty sure it’s specifically restaurants that applies to. A stall that just sells cookies, for instance, rarely has one. Or a food truck, or a small takeout coffee shop…Anyway, the big issue is areas where the retail isn’t restaurants.

            The thing about pay toilets is that they make the most economic sense as profit centers in limited option contexts…

            No, the thing about (private) pay toilets is that they are illegal. If nobody wants them anyway, why leave the law in place banning them – there’s no need for it! Apparently the answer to that is because feminism. Laws were passed banning pay toilets on the grounds that (1) a lock on bathroom stalls discriminates against women, because urinals often weren’t similarly restricted, (2) it discriminates against poor people who can’t afford to pay. These forms of discrimination are unfair, so all we have to do is pass a law banning pay toilets and the discrimination will disappear!

            …along with many of the toilets. 🙁

          • skef says:

            SF being what it is, the fact that the type pictured isn’t wheelchair-accessible means we COULDN’T just install those.

            Oh, I see. The problem here is that a state government agency couldn’t set aside a federal regulation and just do what it wanted to in this case, and this says something important about the burdens on private businesses. Of course, it got an exception from the state rule about pay toilets and you don’t seem very happy about that.

            I’ve been in a number of non-accessible restaurant bathrooms. There is substantial grandfathering built into the ADA rules on private businesses, with additional requirements coming into effect on new construction and upon remodeling. This is true of bathrooms and more generally (e.g., stairs versus a ramp at an entrance).

            I’m curious: Since the subject here is bathroom access for the homeless (of whom there are not that many, statistically speaking), are you under the impression that the market addresses the problem of bathroom access for the physically disabled? Have you read about how hard Paris and other European cities were/are for the physically disabled prior to regulation?

            Are you sure that’s the rule? I’m pretty sure it’s specifically restaurants that applies to. A stall that just sells cookies, for instance, rarely has one. Or a food truck, or a small takeout coffee shop…Anyway, the big issue is areas where the retail isn’t restaurants.

            Looking into this further, it appears that the rule is some combination of food/beverage sales and seating. So yes, if a business is a “stall” or has no place on the premises for consumption, they are probably not covered.

            No, the thing about (private) pay toilets is that they are illegal.

            Meh. Most of the country has been subject to laws passed in the 70s. This was more of a feminist issue than is obviously apparent now because men generally wouldn’t pay to piss — they would just use the side of the road instead. Some areas have rescinded those laws and you still don’t see pay toilets in those places in any significant numbers. Americans don’t want them, and they wouldn’t solve the problem under discussion.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @skef:

            The problem here is that a state government agency couldn’t set aside a federal regulation and just do what it wanted to in this case, and this says something important about the burdens on private businesses.

            Actually it does. SF is kind of a “perfect storm” wrt regulations of this sort – if they are going to cause problems anywhere in the US it’ll be probably be there. Multiple factors that all compound badly, where any one factor alone might be survivable.

            The first problem is that SF has a massive NIMBYism streak. The locals have a general no-growth agenda and the power to enforce it. They don’t want bigger buildings. They don’t want crappy old buildings to get replaced by nicer new buildings. Cheap housing is bad because it breeds crime and noise; expensive housing is bad because rich people move in and change the character of the neighborhood; offices are bad because it attracts tech-bros, and…really we just want this neighborhood to stay exactly the way it is forever and ever.

            Without that factor, you’d see change in the form of old buildings regularly getting gut-renovated/redeveloped or torn down and replaced with new ones, new buildings getting built on vacant lots…and all the newly-designed buildings would be designed from the start to include accessible bathrooms. So the fact that changing ANYTHING in SF is so damned hard and expensive contributes to there being insufficient accessible bathrooms.

            (The fact that there aren’t any accessible bathrooms in any of these old buildings makes the disability activists all the more desperate to demand them in those rare cases where they CAN. They kind of have a point.)

            Another problem is that California prides itself on leading the way when it comes to new regulations, so SF doesn’t merely have to satisfy the ADA, they have their own even stricter versions to contend with. California is constantly tweaking things further to maintain activist cred as a forward-looking state. (eg: a recent round of “improvements” involved legally mandating specific signage for gender-neutral bathrooms.)

            Yet another problem is the nature of the local activist community. See, laws like the ADA don’t enforce themselves. Rather, the law set the terms under which lawsuits may be filed. Whether lawsuits then actually are filed depends on finding a suitable deep-pocketed plaintiff willing to show up and get offended and then pursue the lawsuit until justice is done.

            So one could almost completely ignore these laws if one didn’t have a local population of unreasonably offend-able activists with the right characteristics to file and win the suits. Or the right characteristics to show up at city hall meetings and demagogue over the issue until the council sighs and decides it’s cheaper to let them have what they want than keep fighting about it.

            SF does have that large population, and that has made all the difference.

            Of course, it got an exception from the state rule about pay toilets and you don’t seem very happy about that.

            No, no, I’m quite happy about that! Astounded, even. I remember that factor being a sticking point in the ’90s and I’m not sure how whoever managed that even pulled it off. I just wish that kind of exception were also available to private firms.

          • skef says:

            Glen Raphael: This latest post doesn’t help my impression that you’re using the subject of bathroom access for the homeless to gripe about a bunch of things that, if changed, wouldn’t much change bathroom access for the homeless.

            We get it, you’re a libertarian. You’re also off-topic.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            @skef

            a bunch of things that, if changed, wouldn’t much change bathroom access for the homeless.

            You’re free to believe that, but you’re wrong. 🙂 Improving bathroom access for everyone (by loosening the rules and norms that make this unusually difficult) can’t help but somewhat improve bathroom access for the homeless as well. (Maybe it’s not a complete solution, but few things are.)

            (As an added bonus, you also might get fewer homeless people if we legalized building cheaper housing!)

            You’re also off-topic

            You seem a bit unclear on the whole “open thread” concept. 🙂

          • skef says:

            You seem a bit unclear on the whole “open thread” concept.

            Um, I’m not reporting you or something. I’m telling you.

            You are acting like a stock character internet libertarian whose urgently communicated list of government gripes bears at best a vague and partial relation to the subject, but is advertised as obviously the whole key to the issue. Any charm this character had wore off years ago. Even those who entirely agree with you could generate the whole thread for themselves from your first sentence.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            In Philadelphia, restaurants seem to be required to have bathrooms. Most have accessible bathrooms, but there are some where you need to take stairs– I assume they were grandfathered in.

            I’ve heard that a problem with wheelchair accessible public bathrooms is that people were using them for sex.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            To correct some earlier discussion: it turns out SF actually didn’t manage to get an exception to the rules prohibiting pay toilets. IIRC the original plan had been to have pay toilets, but what ended up actually being installed was free-of-charge toilets funded by advertising kiosks. The toilets and kiosks are bundled together – a management company under contract is supposed to use the ad revenue to cover the cost of maintaining the toilets.

            Since the toilets aren’t pay toilets, the firm contracted to run them has no direct monetary incentive to keep the toilets nice and functional and popular – they get ad revenue whether the toilets work or not. So the toilets are smelly and dangerous and often don’t work. One spot check, found 6 of 10 toilets examined were not working.

            The city started installing these in 1995 and there are now 25 toilets, most in poor repair. So the city is planning to replace them with a new design. But since the old design has been in place for 20 years this naturally requires a review by the Planning department’s Historic Preservation Commission.

            That’s the same Historic Preservation Commission that needs six months to decide if a random no-name laundromat is too important to allow putting some new apartments near a transit corridor.

            SF has arguably the slowest and most restrictive land-use policies in the nation – the gist of my comments above is that this issue slows things like installing better toilets (whether public OR private) in much the same way as it slows the installation of every other thing that requires city approval.

            Though a spot of good news is that there’s gradually been a developing YIMBY – Yes In My Backyard! – countermovement, which seems to have influenced all three plausible new mayor candidates and some state legislators and even the local Sierra Club. Things might get better!

            [removed some needless argumentation. Deep breath…]

          • Nornagest says:

            So that’s the story behind those hulking trash-can-looking public restrooms along Market and Mission that never work. Huh. I learned something today.

      • azhdahak says:

        Portland has straight-up junkie tent camps. I’ve spent more time in SF than I care to admit, but I somehow missed them all there, so that surprised me.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      As has been noted, Hanson’s anecdotes are quite non-central to “the California mindset.” He’s either pointing to local problems or law enforcement problems that arise from the progressive mindset (“I had to adjust my law-abiding lifestyle to these lawbreakers who didn’t speak English”). So labeling his real problems “the California mindset” makes a false truth claim.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Agree with the other posters that this is an accurate description, but not specifically Californian. Nothing seemed like something you wouldn’t find in Arizona

    • Mustard Tiger says:

      I live in rural Southern California and agree with this article. My coworkers and I see and experience similar examples daily.

  24. SpeakLittle says:

    DISCLAIMER: I read but rarely comment, so please let me know if I’m violating any community norms with this post.

    I was recently passed over for a position at work. According to the interviewer (after the fact), the reasons were two-fold. First, during the interview, I came across as too passive, and not confident enough. Second, I had a particular performance review that, while not bad, was less than a ringing endorsement and which gave them pause about my ability to fulfill the duties of the position for which I was interviewing. I frequently clashed with the supervisor who wrote that endorsement, largely due to said individual’s tendency to play fast and loose with the rules. Said individual was eventually investigated for alleged illegal doings and, though cleared, reassigned elsewhere in the company. To add to this, I found out today that the position was given to a co-worker. I’m comfortable saying I’m better than he is at our job,* but he has a very confident, aggressive, and assertive personality (to the point of cockiness in my opinion).

    With the background thus established, I pose the following questions to the SSC readership:

    1) Does anyone have any recommendations for developing a more assertive and confident demeanor without turning into an arrogant or self-aggrandizing blowhard? I’m not saying that’s what my co-worker is; I just have trouble with “middle gears” sometimes.

    2) Does anyone have any recommendations on dealing with bitterness and anger?. I find myself slowly growing to hate the supervisor who wrote the review and resenting the company system which seems to be judging me on the results of a single review. (For the record, I’ve worked at this company 8 years.) I generally like my firm and I enjoy my job but if I don’t find a way to deal with this, I expect I’ll wind up jaded, bitter, and burned-out, which is something I’d rather avoid.

    3) Does anyone have any recommendations on dealing with envy? I don’t particularly dislike said co-worker and I genuinely want to be happy for his success. On the other hand, this position is something I’ve been working towards for about two years and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t upset that it’s been given to someone I consider less qualified than myself.

    I realize I’m doing a lot of whining, but my hope is that someone here at SSC can help me find a way out of this loop of alternatively being angry at myself for not being good enough for this position and being angry at other people for the reasons described above.

    *Even considering Dunning-Kruger effect(s)

    • The Nybbler says:

      Time to move on to a new job.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Look for a new job, which isn’t the same as take a new job. Seeing what else is available can help you figure out if your current job is worth it or not while giving you a measure of control back into your life that you feel you have lost.

    • Matt M says:

      I would say that the first step is acceptance. Accept that management made a decision, and it very well may have been the correct one, or at least a very well informed one. Accept that “projects a confident demeanor” is a business skill that becomes increasingly vital as one increases in seniority, and is (apparently) a skill at which you need to improve. Accept that being better at the job you current have does not necessarily mean you’re more qualified for a promotion than someone else. Accept that sometimes, luck plays a role, and you may have just been unlucky to have been stuck with the previous manager who wrote you a bad review.

      Viewing this outcome as “management screwed me over” does you little good. Work on the confidence thing, at the very least. It will help you in all sorts of situations in life. Perhaps you’re over-indexing on “fear of being perceived as arrogant.” I’d recommend casting that aside and simply trying to be more confident, arrogance-be-damned. Maybe find a close and trusted colleague and ask them to let you know if you’re coming across as arrogant. I’ve done that before myself and found out that I have a much lower bar for “arrogant” than most other people do. 9 times out of 10, if I thought I was sounding arrogant and asked someone, they’d say “No, it didn’t seem that way to me at all.”

    • ksvanhorn says:

      I don’t have any good advice for you, just wanted to say that I’m impressed by your constructive attitude.

    • Bugmaster says:

      Here’s my advice. FWIW I have only done this once myself, but I’ve had multiple coworkers who followed a similar procedure and achieved good results.

      1). Start looking for a new job immediately. Make it clear to recruiters that you’re looking for the position you would’ve been promoted into, not your current position.

      2). Once you have some good leads (or better yet, an actual offer), go talk to your supervisor and/or interviewer. Calmly explain the situation to him. Don’t try to sound threatening, or even particularly confident, but simply explain the plain facts: you believe that you deserve this job, there’s someone willing to hire you for this job, so now the ball is in your current company’s court. If you’d really prefer to keep working at your current company, make sure to mention that — but if not, don’t lie.

      3). Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but ultimately, the very best revenge is simply living well. If your current employers don’t value your skills, simply find someone else who will; then bid your current employer farewell. Don’t get aggressive about it, there’s no point. Of course, if you cannot find a better job (and, with the way the economy is going, this is somewhat likely), then you will have to stick it out at your current position. In such cases, there’s really not much you can do. Getting angry doesn’t help, but I’m well aware that telling someone that getting angry doesn’t help usually just makes them angrier. I’m honestly not sure how to deal with such situations.

      • disciplinaryarbitrage says:

        I think this is potentially good advice for many people, but maybe not OP. Parlaying an outside offer into an internal promotion without winding up on management’s shit list is a delicate task. You need to be able to correctly read the company culture, your higher-ups attitudes, and your market value and suitability for your desired role and play your cards carefully. Even moreso in this situation, when OP is gunning for a job already assigned to someone else, is angry at the system generally and this supervisor specifically, and has trouble with nuance in how they communicate.

        Contra your statement on the current economy, the US labor market (I’m assuming that’s where OP is located, correct me if I’m wrong) is currently very tight. For most people in most sectors, it’s not a bad time to move, which is what OP should (most likely) do.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Parlaying an outside offer into an internal promotion without winding up on management’s shit list is a delicate task.

          I agree, but I think you may be over-complicating things. My advice solves a much simpler problem: “Get the job that I know I deserve”. If you get that job at your current company, great. If you get it at some other company… also great. Once you have a job offer, there’s almost no way to lose. I agree that adding the restriction “…and I want to stay at my current company” makes the task much harder (and perhaps outright impossible for people with a technical skillset), but that’s not what I was aiming for.

        • The Nybbler says:

          It probably doesn’t matter; they’re not going to make a serious counteroffer. He’s in the position of play-it-safe Picard from ST:TNG “Tapestry”; they’re just not going to take any amount of aggressiveness now positively.

    • keranih says:

      Some thoughts on the second two questions, both of which are real issues.

      2) Spend a little time mentally playing with the idea that this supervisor had sound reasons for doing what he did, such that if you had been in his place, you would have done the same thing. You can get a little silly if you like – the supervisor had a vision that your coworker was going to get hit by a bus next week, and wanted to make his last couple weeks on earth happy ones. Or the supervisor was told to not pick you because you’ve been hand selected for special adviser to the CEO, only they can’t tell you yet. Throw in a few reasonable ideas as well. The idea is to build a mental construct that allows you to imagine a world where the supervisor didn’t pick the other person out of malice to you. It’s not to convince you that the choice wasn’t a mistake, but to let you get rid of the crippling anger.

      3) Look for ways to help the new guy. I read where helping people makes you more favorable towards them. Also its the right thing for the company esp if you really were the better choice. This will also allow you some time to study your coworker and figure out what they see in him. Also keep on with your current plan for looking for a new job and improving yourself.

      There are likely a ton of things that went into picking one person over another and you can’t control them all. Work on the ones you can.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      re: 1. If you’re being condescending, you’ll get push-back from people, multiple people. Some may just ask you fewer questions, they may avoid asking you questions when you’re clearly the best person to ask, they may tense up around you, they may offer polite passive-aggressive criticisms (“jeez, really laying it on thick there, huh?”), or they may offer blunt criticisms.
      Basically, if you are being cocky and arrogant, there will be plenty of signals. Since you are probably a rather docile person, you will almost definitely pick up on these signals. So crossing the line into “YOU ARE A JERK” territory probably isn’t a big deal.

      Re: 2. Well, I don’t have a good answer to this one. There are reasons why managers do the things that they do and they aren’t necessarily wrong. Keeping that in mind and remembering that sometimes things do not break your way is probably the best antidote to resentment, along with counting your blessings and remaining humble.
      Expressing your bitterness probably won’t help. Confiding in co-workers will likely result in gossip spreading around the company, and that will reflect poorly on you.

      Taking positive actions to move yourself forward will help you feel less like a victim of circumstance, because your focus will be on those positive actions. So, talk to your boss about advancement opportunities, and talk to recruiters about new opportunities.

  25. baconbits9 says:

    A lesson on how to spot bad economic or financial thinking. The linked article was a reply to libertarians in general, and Bryan Caplan named specifically, who claim Singapore as one of the most capitalistic countries in the world. In it he makes a messy comparison that is common for those with limited expertise (or honesty) in economics, in short he compares a stock to a flow in support of a conclusion.

    In March of last year, Temasek had a net portfolio value of S$275 billion, which is equal to around 62% of the country’s annual GDP. To put this figure in more familiar terms, Temasek’s total holdings are equivalent to if the US government built a $12.4 trillion wealth fund.

    Here the author has compared two unlike things in an effort to come up with a big number to support their point. He compares a stock (the value of the sovereign wealth fund) to a flow (the annual GDP), let’s compare a stock to a stock, or a flow to a flow to see how different the numbers can be. Googling gives me an estimate of total US assets at ~225 trillion dollars, and as such a US sovereign wealth fund that owned 12.4 trillion dollars in assets would own ~5.5% of total US assets. Or we could guess at the returns on that stock and compare that to annual GDP in the US. If the fund returned 5% annually it would be generating 620 billion dollars in income a year, nothing to shake a stick at, but if compared to US GDP of ~18.6 trillion dollars it would be worth ~3.3% US annual GDP.

    These comparisons, while not perfect, are obviously more legitimate for the thrust of the piece than the comparison made. This goes for either side of the isle. If a conservative or libertarian publishes warnings on a debt crises and uses total debt to GDP ratios on their own they are doing the same basic thing.

    This is a handy heuristic for casual economics readers to follow, learning the distinction between stocks and flows will allow you to identify sloppy approaches to problems with (alarmingly) high frequency.

    • Brad says:

      That kind of stock and flow are often compared. It’s a way of getting a handle on the size of the stock in more familiar flow terms. For example, you very often see various nation’s national debt quoted as a percentage of annual GDP.

      For a more physical example, consider something like dam capacity quoted as a units of annual flow. The purpose there would be to give an idea of how much of a buffer in units of time the dam is providing.

      On the other hand, total US assets is a fuzzy, hard to define, hard to measure, hard to grasp quantity that is very rarely used for any thing and so has little explanatory power.

      • baconbits9 says:

        That kind of stock and flow are often compared. For example, you very often see various nation’s national debt quoted as a percentage of annual GDP.

        That doesn’t make it correct, the economic journalism bar is low. Any comparison that doesn’t lead or link back to a discussion about debt servicing costs (at the least) isn’t actually giving you useful information, it just sounds useful.

        It’s a way of getting a handle on the size of the stock in more familiar flow terms.

        No, its a specifically poor way of getting a handle on the size of the stock. Asset X is worth Y% of gdp doesn’t give you handle on anything on its own and asset X is worth Y% of all total assets is just as easy to handle while presenting a far more accurate picture.

        For a more physical example, consider something like dam capacity quoted as a units of annual flow. The purpose there would be to give an idea of how much of a buffer in units of time the dam is providing.

        You can compare the stock to a flow of the same thing, the analogy here would be to compare the sovereign wealth fund’s total assets to the sovereign wealth funds earnings. For a damn you would have no reason to compare the damn’s capacity to the total flow of all rivers including rivers that didn’t flow into or out of the damn.

        • Brad says:

          That doesn’t make it correct, the economic journalism bar is low.

          Alan Greenspan:
          https://www.bis.org/review/r040121a.pdf

          By the end of 2003, net external claims on U.S. residents had risen to approximately 25 percent of a year’s GDP, still far less than net claims on many of our trading partners but rising at the equivalent of 5 percentage points of GDP annually

          Ben Bernanke
          https://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/speech/bernanke20110614a.htm

          The ratio of outstanding federal debt to GDP, expected to be about 69 percent at the end of this fiscal year, would under that scenario rise to 87 percent in 2020 and 146 percent in 2030.

          Janet Yellen:
          https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/29/yellen-20-trillion-national-debt-should-keep-people-awake-at-night.html

          I would simply say that I am very worried about the sustainability of the U.S. debt trajectory,” Yellen said. “Our current debt-to-GDP ratio of about 75 percent is not frightening but it’s also not low.

          Mario Draghi:

          The public debt of these countries, equal to
          73 per cent of GDP in 2007, will exceed 100 per cent this year.

          All economic illiterates?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Let’s look at Greenspan’s actual quote in context

            There is no simple measure by which to judge the sustainability of either a string of current account deficits or their consequence, a significant buildup in external claims that need to be serviced. In the end, the restraint on the size of tolerable U.S. imbalances in the global arena will likely be the reluctance of foreign country residents to accumulate additional debt and equity claims against U.S. residents. By the end of 2003, net external claims on U.S. residents had risen to approximately 25 percent of a year’s GDP, still far less than net claims on many of our trading partners but rising at
            the equivalent of 5 percentage points of GDP annually. However, without some notion of America’s capacity for raising cross-border debt, the sustainability of the current account deficit is difficult to estimate. That capacity is evidently, in part, a function of globalization since the apparent increase in our debt-raising capacity appears to be related to the reduced cost and increasing reach of international financial intermediation.

            The very first line of the paragraph is a literal warning against using single measures

            There is no simple measure by which to judge the sustainability of either a string of current account
            deficits or their consequence, a significant buildup in external claims that need to be serviced.

            then directly after the quote you select he states

            However, without some notion of America’s
            capacity for raising cross-border debt, the sustainability of the current account deficit is difficult to estimate.
            That capacity is evidently, in part, a function of globalization since the apparent increase in our debt-raising capacity appears to be related to the reduced cost and increasing reach of international financial intermediation.

            The bolded section literally can be read as

            “without some notion of the total stock of potential foreign appetite for US bonds we cannot estimate the importance of current total foreign bond holdings”.

            You literally quoted someone who couched his stock to flow comparison with an acknowledgement that stock to stock is what is needed.

    • bean says:

      Singapore is unique. One of the most free-market countries in the world is run by a party that started off as the left splinter of a leftist party. And it’s not that the leadership changed, either. Lee Kuan Yew was in charge from early on. The PAP actually got kicked out of the Comintern. And they’re the ones in charge now.

      But ultimately LKY and the PAP have been pragmatic. They knew they needed to attract foreign investment capital, so they made themselves business-friendly. In the 50s and 60s, they had a truly horrific housing problem to solve, and decided government was the best way to do it. They then sold off the units later. (I’d disagree with the article’s characterization of the leases as being a way to keep people in public housing. I’m not entirely sure why it’s done that way, but it’s ownership in practice, and I’d like a cite on declining value. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they’re renewable by the tenant for a nominal fee.) And in 1949, I’d like to know which state they were talking about. It was a British colony at the time, and I wouldn’t be surprised if lots of land got transferred under the handover. How much was actually appropriated is an open question.

      I’m not that familiar with Temasek, but it’s hard to describe as socialist owning the means of production in other countries, and it seems to be largely independent of the government. Admittedly, that’s somewhat hard to measure in Singapore, because the government doesn’t change. PAP could infiltrate it so that it does what the government wants without formal control.

    • actinide meta says:

      I don’t think this is a solid example of the fallacy normally referred to as comparing stocks and flows, which is essentially an error of dimension (e.g. subtracting a quantity of dollars from a quantity of dollars per year). The article divides a stock by a flow which is fine; the result has units of years, so reporting it as just “62%” would be flatly incorrect, but I think the actual statement in the article is reasonably clear. Then it multiplies by another flow to get another stock (equivalently, it multiplies the original stock by a unitless ratio of flows).

      You can argue that this is, in context, a bad way of rescaling figures about Singapore to compare it to the US. Maybe it would indeed be more useful to compare the total wealth of the countries. But you have to make this case on the merits; the calculation in the article isn’t just meaningless.

      (I take no object level position on Singapore)

  26. HeirOfDivineThings says:

    Anyone have any experience with surrogacy? One of my good female friends has offered us her eggs but does not want to get pregnant.

    I did a bit of Googling, and surrogacy services seem like they’re geared towards extremely wealthy people. Another female friend mentioned that one of her friends likes being pregnant but can’t afford any more kids, but it seems like a legal nightmare to ask someone I don’t know to get pregnant with another person’s embryo. Whereas I assume a surrogacy agency would have that legal quagmire covered.

    Anyone know of any other recommendations?

    • Brad says:

      Are you in the U.S.? Would you mind saying what state? Surrogacy laws vary a great deal jurisdiction right now.

      • HeirOfDivineThings says:

        I am in Pennsylvania

        • Brad says:

          In Pennsylvania surrogacy is legal and surrogacy contracts are generally enforceable as a matter of state law. There is a procedure in place to get a “pre birth” order which will mean that the birth certificate will have the parents on it from the get-go instead of requiring an adoption. As jurisdictions go it looks like towards the better half, but not among the very best.

          I would say you are certainly going to need to hire a lawyer to draw up the surrogacy agreement, the egg donation agreement, and navigating the birth certificate process. You should also think about if and how you could pay for litigation costs if things went sour.

          Separately from the legal costs and rules, there may be psychological tests, rules, and/or consent requirements imposed by the fertility clinics that do the egg donation procedure and the IVF/implantation.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Another female friend mentioned that one of her friends likes being pregnant but can’t afford any more kids,

      What.

      • Randy M says:

        There’s upsides, socially and biologically. Definitely downsides, but those vary in intensity.

      • HeirOfDivineThings says:

        That’s the only information I got, and yes that’s weird, and another reason I’m extremely hesitant about “using” her.

      • Urstoff says:

        Some women find that they feel physically their best when pregnant. Hormones do crazy and unpredictable things.

      • Freddie deBoer says:

        I’ve heard the same from a female friend.

      • JustToSay says:

        I don’t get migraines or regular headaches when I’m pregnant or breastfeeding. I’ve heard the same from a few other women I know. I wouldn’t say it’s a win on balance, but that is a nice perk. Also, it’s not true for me, but many women also experience less body-image-based stress when pregnant.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’ve seen one claim that for some women, pregnancy makes depression go away.

        I suppose the deduction should be looking into a hormonal treatment for some cases of depression.

      • Zorgon says:

        My wife absolutely loved being pregnant. I don’t know how much of that is post-pregnancy reprogramming or hormones, but she claims she’s never been happier. (The fact she has MS and her pregnancy marked the lowest degree of symptoms she’s had in the past 2 decades probably has a lot to do with this too.)

  27. Brad says:

    Why is it that some industries are just such total shit-shows? I’m in the market for a new mattress and all of a sudden I feel like I’ve moved from the US, where you can go into a store and buy a tube of toothpaste confident that the price is the price, to Israel where you go the store, elbow your way to the front of the scrum ,and then start bargaining with the clerk over how much that tube of tube of crest really costs.

    Online isn’t any better. You have extreme shadiness with review sites being bought and paid for*, and all the online mattress companies sell idiosyncratic products that can’t be compared directly to each other, just like the brick and mortar stores. They are also all the foam style that I happen not to like.

    * https://www.fastcompany.com/3065928/sleepopolis-casper-bloggers-lawsuits-underside-of-the-mattress-wars

    • Randy M says:

      What are some good but non-obvious heuristics for trusting on-line reviews? It’s hard to know how much collusion/fraud (charitably, marketing) there is for any particular product, but odds are it’s plenty.

      Mattresses seem kind of like cars, in that they are moderately expensive, quality can vary, they are seen as essential for modern life, but not actually required, so it isn’t surprising to see some similarities in purchasing.

      • Brad says:

        I don’t trust slick looking websites that are have links to the products they are reviewing at all. For things like amazon reviews, I read them and see if they sound like shills or not.

        The best bet seems to be enthusiast forums. For example, if you wanted an espresso maker the best place to look for reviews would be a forum where a bunch of people would never even dream of buying anything “mainstream”. They all want this one model that was never exported, was discontinued 5 years ago, and cost $2500 new. Look for a thread like “Need to buy my brother in law a gift, he knows nothing about espresso, what should I get”.

        The problem is I don’t think there are mattress enthusiasts …

        • Nornagest says:

          There is a subreddit for mattresses, but it has something like 2000 followers, so it’s probably a ghost town or a collection of industry shills. The “Science of Sleep” tagline makes me think the latter.

        • Randy M says:

          Yeah, that’s a good point. For my wife’s birthday I was looking for an “escape room” even to play with her friends for an evening. Yelp/groupon is pretty rough guide, because it’s hard to say how many of those are the owner or some service the owners have hired. In the end I found a site run by a particular enthusiast that has rated most of them in the area and going by his recommendation.
          (End result: Found pretty good quality for the price, but should have remembered my wife hates horror and clung terrified to my arm the entire time.)

          • yodelyak says:

            This was like my escape the room experience. Except my partner doesn’t so much hate horror, as kind of enjoy being scared, and expect the same from others, and then actually scare herself a little and turn to me for reassurance–and I’m kind of immune to darkness and banging noises and plotlines about demons as sources of fear/dread, but am definitely *not* immune to my partner grabbing me by both shoulders and screaming into my face, “why aren’t you freaking out?” Not ideal.

            We did a second escape-the-room that wasn’t themed “escaping-hell-demon” and had an excellent time.

        • achenx says:

          As far as a slick website with links to the products they review, I’ve actually found Wirecutter to be pretty good. They seem pretty thorough and not shilling. I’ve found Amazon reviews to be getting harder and harder to trust at all… it’s been a gradual process over the past many years, but it’s gotten to the point where I can’t consider them for most items.

          Enthusiast forums are good when you can find one, yes.

          • Matt M says:

            I like the Wirecutter as a concept, I’ve just had more than a few times where I’ve bought something based on their recommendation and been really disappointed, and ended up replacing the thing with a cheaper, and seemingly better, alternative.

          • disciplinaryarbitrage says:

            Echoing Matt M–Wirecutter/Sweethome (same website, just tech vs. home stuff) seems reasonably trustworthy and thorough, but sometimes seem hung up on really specific product characteristics as essential and worth paying a lot for. That said, if you had a solidly upper-middle class income or above and needed to quickly outfit a home you’d do pretty well just blindly following their recommendation for everything.

      • I would trust reviews for cars more than mattresses. Most people don’t buy cars very often, but many people rent cars frequently or ride in other people’s cars, so there is a good supply of potential reviewers who have experience of a wide range of possibilities for comparison. Also, advertisers have been quite successful in promoting the idea of a car as an expression of the owner’s identity. For this reason and similar reasons, many people have some enthusiasm for discussing cars, and are willing to grant status to others who seem perceptive and knowledgable. Moreover, many features of a car are immediately visible and so open to discussion with other people who happen to be interested.

        By contrast, it is rare for anyone else to know what kind of mattress you have. Even if you sleep on hotel mattresses very frequently, you probably do not know what kind of mattresses they are. People do not generally think of a mattress as an expression of their identity, so there is little potential for impressing others by expounding your views on the subject. I would guess that people buy mattresses even less often than they buy cars, on average. All of this means that the supply of well-informed and detailed reviews is quite thin.

        Books are probably the optimum product for online reviews. There are many potential reviewers who are passionate about books and have read thousands of them and feel that they can gain status by sharing their insights. It is not easy for shills to create fake reviews that sound convincing. Restaurants and hotels are also good, for similar reasons.

        Things like washing machines are the worst for finding meaningful reviews. Most people have only ever owned a very small number of washing machines and are not well placed to make any systematic comparison between them. Also, they are boring, so no one can be bothered to write a review unless they have had a bad experience that they want to rant about. There are magazines that do “professional” reviews, but they only cover a small fraction of the available models. Presumably they would be more comprehensive if that would lead more people to buy the magazine, but apparently it does not work out that way. (Yes, I needed to buy a new washing machine recently.)

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Lack of effective regulation.

    • shakeddown says:

      Israel where you go the store, elbow your way to the front of the scrum ,and then start bargaining with the clerk over how much that tube of tube of crest really costs.

      Where the hell in Israel were you shopping?

    • You have extreme shadiness with review sites being bought and paid for*,

      AKA “the AnCap equivalent to regulatory capture”

  28. Tom Paynter says:

    Re: Against Murderism

    Love the piece and am sympathetic to it, but here’s an idea for why the murderism analogy doesn’t prove that ‘racism’ the way it is commonly used is not useless or nonsensical.

    I think anti-racism activists would say that Alice, Bob, Carol, etc. 1) are making choices that have detrimental effects on minorities, and 2) are blind/ignorant/uncaring about those effects especially in the context of historical/societal context. So Alice is blind to how her discomfort/unfamiliarity with middle-eastern Muslim accents and interests is a result of historical exclusion and how her choice of neighborhood perpetuates that exclusion; Bob is ignoring that low ridership on the bus line in the black neighborhood is due to fewer blacks having jobs to commute to or being integrated into the larger city, and how his choice perpetuates that; etc.

    This works with murderism too: murderism is making choices that insufficiently value human life, and being blind/uncaring to how those choices both arise from and perpetuate a society that insufficiently values human life. So soft-on-crime policies are murderist in that we’re just used to and tolerate losing thousands of people annually to murder and we insufficiently value the pain that each of those murders cause; we go to war because we are accustomed/callous to the loss of life; we support euthanasia because, again, we are blind to the sacredness of each life. Murderers are in effect murderist, because they’ve absorbed this societal indifference to human life. Yes, a drug dealer kills to protect his turf, but he’s willing to do so in part because our whole society insufficiently values human life.

  29. jastice01 says:

    “Nectome” obviously comes from the word “connectome”. Why does it drop the first three letters? Caballistically, it must be because they are trying to conceal a con.

  30. Ron says:

    Can someone give an opinion on the future state of the job market for combining economics & computer science?

    I’m asking for a friend in finances (long-term risk management & day trading) who studies computer science & applied math under the assumption that the combination will be important (already is of course) and relevant for workers (apparently not the case at present, at least in Israel: companies employ CS experts and financing experts and put them in the same room rather than employ dual experts).

    If anyone happens to have any relevant opinion (why currently there are limited job opportunities? will this change in the future? is he wasting his time?), and is willing to shape, it will be most appreciated and may really help.

    • Freddie deBoer says:

      No one knows what the job market will do. People who tell you otherwise are selling snake oil.

    • Matt M says:

      My general advice on “combining” skillsets would just be to make sure that you’re doing so in a way that makes you seem more of an expert in a very specific field/discipline, rather than more of a generalist. Nobody really wants smart generalists anymore.

      So make sure you come across as “expert in the economics of CS” or whatever (which may or may not be in demand, I don’t really know) rather than “he knows a little about economics and a little about CS” (which is a thing that nobody will want).

      • a real dog says:

        This is only partially true.

        I work on the R side of R&D in a very well known corporation, and we’re basically on a “how many boatloads of money you want and when can you start” basis with people who understand both the domain and the technical side.

        In fact, even with the purely technical projects, capacity for independent work (as many as possible of design, dev, QA…), knowing multiple unrelated but complementary technologies, being able to talk shop with outside partners etc. are far better than being an inch wide and mile deep.

        This was really interesting to me because, as a software developer, I was expecting the “choose a technology, spend 5 years living and breathing it, boom, senior dev” career path but didn’t really optimize for it because it’s dreadfully boring. Turns out, I was a square peg that never really looked for a hole that wasn’t round.

    • Christophe Biocca says:

      I started university in a combined Finance/CS degree in 2008: https://uwaterloo.ca/computing-financial-management/about-computing-and-financial-management, based on much the same reasoning.

      Waterloo’s big value proposition is its co-op program, which usually means you graduate with 6-terms (2 years) of work experience relevant to your domain. My first 2 work terms were for standard tech compannies, as they’re more willing to hire junior staff. On my 3rd work term I got a co-op job in BoA-Meryll-Lynch in their development offices (backoffice financial instrument data collection). Even there the job could be (and usually was) done by someone with literally no finance knowledge. The jobs are segregated by skill because mixed-skill people are hard to find, and mixed-skill people end up specializing to one side. I also realized I enjoyed CS work regardless of area of application, so why bother trying to combine the 2 fields?

      By the time I switched to regular CS, our program had lost about 2/3rds of its students (half to CS, half to accounting and finance), largely due to the same mechanics.

      I don’t really regret going into that program (the finance credits counted as electives and so I graduated on time, I just paid more tuition than I otherwise would have), and I do use the finance knowledge to some extent. But it doesn’t have the payoffs that you might assume.

      Now sample size == 1, and Canada != Israel, but I think most of the following is still applicable:

      – Any company big enough to have an HR department doing hiring will not make positions that require both skillsets, simply because they wouldn’t be able to fill them.
      – Both CS/Finance are very broad fields with tons of possible specializations, so usually being “good” at both comes at the expense of being truly specialized in either. Big, slow-moving companies with the money to hire two separate experts will probably do that instead.
      – On the other hand, I’ve seen small startups (“fintech” is the usual category name, Addepar in its early days would be a good example) where being dual-skilled would be an asset as an early employee, because you don’t require as much guidance and have a better understanding of the customer than an average CS grad. The most extreme example of where you’d get an advantage would be in starting your own company, because you’d be a viable development at size 1 (at least in the early stages) and could cut down on a lot of communication overhead. Note that these jobs are still mostly CS-heavy, the Finance knowledge just helps you understand the requirements/fill in the blanks better.

  31. a reader says:

    A little biological quiz:

    1. A man inherits more genes from his father or from his mother?

    2. If humans (Homo Sapiens) inherited some genes from Neanderthals, that means that Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals are actually the same species?

    3. Some scientists successfully cloned an animal but the clone looks visibly, obviously different than the original. What was that animal?

    4. Two (male and female) animals of different species from different continents shared a cage at a zoo and produced a fertile female offspring that later produced her own offsprings. What where those two animals?

    5. Some time ago there was a rumor about a remote village on a tropical island where, around puberty, some girls become boys: they grow a penis, testicles appear… A scientist went to that village to investigate the rumor. Was it real?

    • aphyer says:

      1. His mother
      2. Only if Homo Sapiens and prokaryotes are also the same species.
      3. An amputee
      4. A lion and a tiger.
      5. No, America is not a tropical island.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I imagine for #3 you’re going for rot-13 “puvzren”.

      #5 is mostly true; biology is weird. Of course the guevedoces of the Dominican Republic (and similar populations in Papau New Guinea) are not actually changing sex; as a result of an enzyme deficiency their primary sexual characteristics do not develop or become visible until puberty. What’s really surprising is they seem to be normal men after that (or at least the pop-sci articles claim this); I’d expect a 12 year delay to mess other things up as well.

      • vV_Vv says:

        #5 is mostly true; biology is weird. Of course the guevedoces of the Dominican Republic (and similar populations in Papau New Guinea) are not actually changing sex; as a result of an enzyme deficiency their primary sexual characteristics do not develop or become visible until puberty. What’s really surprising is they seem to be normal men after that (or at least the pop-sci articles claim this); I’d expect a 12 year delay to mess other things up as well.

        Biology is weird as hell.

    • Nornagest says:

      1. His mother; it’s evenly split otherwise but the X chromosome is something like 4x the size of the Y.

      2. No. They are sometimes classified as a subspecies of H. sapiens, but we inherit genes from lots of species we don’t belong to.

      3. Lots of possibilities here, you’ll have to be more specific.

      4. Cnemidophorus neomexicanus and anything else.

      5. I don’t remember the story, but it wouldn’t be here if the answer wasn’t “yes”.

      • Randy M says:

        1-Also mitochondria.

        • Nornagest says:

          Yeah, good point. IIRC mtDNA is a pretty small genome, though.

          • Randy M says:

            And since he specifies genes, and not “genetic material”, I won’t bother estimating how many mitochondria there are per nuclear copy, but in some cells mitochondria is a significant fraction of total volume.

      • vV_Vv says:

        Regarding 1, I wonder if this imbalance is the reason why in mammals females tend to have greater parental investment in the offspring, while in low-sex dimorphic birds, which use the oppose sex differentiation system, parental investment is usually evenly split between males and females.

        • Nornagest says:

          Doesn’t seem very likely. The difference in humans isn’t that big, and I don’t know if the same size relationship between the X and Y chromosomes holds for all mammalian species (though I do know that a few mammals have lost their Y entirely). mtDNA is going to be female-line exclusive or nearly so in anything with our sex-determination system, but it’s only a few thousand base pairs.

        • Dacyn says:

          Different levels of parental investment based on this phenomenon would only make evolutionary sense to the extent that resources not spent on children can be used in pursuit of reproductive goals that aren’t subject to the same phenomenon (e.g. the phenomenon might be a consideration in favor of that a man should use resources to help his sister’s children rather than his own children, but not in favor of that he should use resources to put himself in a better position to have more children, rather than helping his current children)

    • keranih says:

      1. Zbgure
      2. Abcr.
      3. Png,
      4. Ryrcunagf & pnzryf qb guvf nyy gur gvzr.
      5. Lrf. Yvsr vf jrveq.

  32. suntzuanime says:

    I was wondering if somebody had a gun to your head, but I thought I was just being depressed. Golly, this world really is a terrible place that destroys everything of value.

  33. Brett says:

    I just binge-read through the Silmarillion, after reading Children of Hurin. I really enjoyed both of them, at least as much as I enjoyed my re-read of Lord of the Rings a few months ago.

    • Evan Þ says:

      Have you read any of History of Middle-Earth? If not, I’d strongly recommend at least the Beren and Luthien book that came out last year; the Lay of Leithian is beautiful.

      I just read two more books of HoME myself for the first time. The “Notion-Club Papers” was intriguing, and the “Shibboleth of Feanor” and “Problem of Ros” were amazing in the detail they give. They’re definitely an acquired taste, but if you liked the appendices to Return of the King, I’d recommend giving at least some of them a try.

    • ilikekittycat says:

      I listened to Christopher Lee read Children of Hurin and it just made me sad at how there’s this great example of how to do grim/grey-morality fantasy without going brutally nihilist and sophomoric, but we’ve already moved so far past magic helmets and hypnotizing dragons we’ll never go back. Even the Glaurung parts I can imagine disappointing people if they were in a mainstream movie nowadays

    • Bugmaster says:

      For those who have not read the Silmarillion due to its density, I highly recommend the audio book. The voice actor (I forget his name, sorry) who reads it really makes it come alive; if you think of the text as the Bible, think of the voice actor as a fire-and-brimstone preacher. I got chills running down my spine multiple times while listening to that audio book — and no, Fëanor’s speech wasn’t the only case when that happened.

  34. pontifex says:

    3. Nobody is under any obligation to comply with this, but if you want to encourage this blog to continue to exist, I request not to be cited in major national newspapers. I realize it’s meant well, and I appreciate the honor, but I’ve gotten a few more real-life threats than I’m entirely comfortable with, and I would prefer decreased publicity for now.

    It makes me sad sometimes that people (on every side of the political spectrum) can be so horrible. Thank you again for hosting this blog, Scott.

  35. Scott Alexander says:

    John Schilling, what’s your take on the recent supposed North Korean peace offer?

    • John Schilling says:

      I am generally reluctant to recommend podcasts on the grounds that they are a tedious and inefficient means of conveying information, but my colleague Jeffery Lewis pretty much nailed it on this one. Ankit Panda is also on target, and in print.

      TL,DL: Having a sitting US president come to Korea to visit Kim Jong Whatever has been a major North Korean policy goal for at least twenty years and two Kims. It’s a way to boost the legitimacy of the regime, and it is literally the plot of one of their biggest propaganda movies. So Kim III asking Trump to come talk to him isn’t a surrender or even a concession, it’s building on the momentum of the Olympics and the inter-Korean talks to ask the US whether we are willing to make this concession in exchange for a dialogue with North Korea. And, on behalf or the US, Trump said “yes”.

      The dialogue might be worth the diplomatic concession. Nixon did go to China, and that worked out OK. But it’s important to be realistic. And, paying close attention to what the North Koreans actually said, they aren’t inviting Trump over to beg for sanctions relief and give up their nukes. Denuclearization is “on the table”. The terms that will be on the table with it are going to be what they have been all along: An end to all sanctions, and returning all the assets that have been frozen or seized. A formal end to the Korean War and a peace treaty guaranteeing the DPRK’s sovereignty for all time. The complete and permanent removal of all US forces from Korean territory, and an end to joint US-ROK military exercises and command structures. Japan too, if they can swing it. North Korea will keep its nukes until after we do all of the above, and no even then we won’t be able to look into their secret military bases to check. Probably we’ll have to accept their having a space program and a civilian nuclear power industry.

      A skilled US negotiator could probably nibble away at the edges of that, but not at the core. Might be able to commit to phased denuclearization, where North Korea gives up some fraction of its arsenal at each stage and with at least partial verification. Or, we might get a long-term plan for total denuclearization that never actually gets implemented but turns into a de facto nuclear freeze. Things like this could be enough of an improvement over the status quo to be worth doing, even worth the concession of having Trump go to Korea.

      Or Trump could come away looking like a chump and feeling betrayed because Kim didn’t hand over his nukes, and decide he has to Do Something to save face.

      • gbdub says:

        Is there a good reason NOT to formally end the Korean War and recognize North Korea at this point?

        I mean, as for the rest of it, mostly no way – but saying “NK exists, they are a real country, but they are still our adversary and we certainly aren’t going out of our way to make things easy for them” is just formalizing reality.

        I think it would have the upside of not obligating SK to “reunite” if the Kim regime collapses and take on what would probably be the crippling economic burden of rehabbing NK.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          My impression has been that South Korea considered unification on terms like those of German unification — i.e., under the South’s political system — to be a good thing, regardless of the financial cost.

          If so, that wouldn’t stop us from recognizing the North, but the South might think we were undercutting them.

          • cassander says:

            My impression has been that South Korea considered unification on terms like those of German unification — i.e., under the South’s political system –to be a good thing.

            eh, it’s complicated. They’re not officially against it, but the politicians in the south know how expensive re-unification was for Germany. West Germany had 4 times the population of the east, and the east was, if communist, at least an industrialized country. South Korea only has twice the population of the north, and their economy is, well, north korea. Korean re-unification is going to cost trillions and the ROKs know that they’ll get stuck with the bill, so while they’d like it, they’d prefer it at some distant point in the future, not now.

          • Matt M says:

            What makes them think it’ll be any cheaper at “some distant point in the future?”

          • John Schilling says:

            Note that the US offered formal diplomatic recognition to East Germany in 1974; this does not seem to have interfered with the generally amicable relationship between West Germany and the United States.

            And, yes, the ROK genuinely wants reunification but also genuinely doesn’t mind the fact that it will probably not be this generation of South Koreans that has to pay for it.

          • cassander says:

            @Matt M

            Part of it isn’t so much “it will be cheaper” as it is “I won’t have to pay for it.”

            The less cynical part is the belief/hope/wish that given time the north will normalize, become more developed, and thus reduce the disparity that leads to a lot of the cost, basically some long, gradual process, not the south militarily occupying a famine zone in the middle of a war and having to fix everything at once.

          • warrel says:

            korea. Korean re-unification is going to cost trillions and the ROKs know that they’ll get stuck with the bill

            And that’s not even getting into the issues with China. China is not going to sit back and allow a Western-allied country right up against its borders.

      • Nornagest says:

        All else equal, podcasts are a terrible way to communicate information, but they’re a pretty good way to use up the time in traffic that I’d otherwise be spending either listening to Iron Maiden or quietly fuming. I’ve been using Jeffery Lewis’s podcast for that purpose for a while, among others, and he’s one of the rare people in the policy space that don’t make me want to leap across the table and strangle somebody.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I have a notion that *if* the talk happens, Trump may just end up destroying the value to NK of getting to talk with the POTUS, or at least destroying it for as long as he’s in office.

      • Deiseach says:

        Probably we’ll have to accept their having a space program and a civilian nuclear power industry.

        Would North Korea having a civilian nuclear power industry be a bad or a good thing? I’m hazy on the details, there’s a lot of yes-no-maybe about “can you use a power generation plant to enrich weapons-grade uranium?”, so leaving that element aside: nuclear power generation – good for the environment/climate change as it removes one more nation relying on fossil fuels etc. or bad for the West since that helps North Korea slowly inch its way to having some kind of working economy and becoming less likely to collapse of its own accord?

    • hyperboloid says:

      Can’t answer for John Schilling, but there is no “peace offer”. Instead what we have is a proposal for direct talks between Kim Jong Un and Trump, an offer North Korea has made to every US president since the end of the cold war. The terms on offer are likely to be much the same as they have ever been, with North Korea making vague promises about denuclearization in exchange for US security guarantees; namely a peace treaty to replace the armistice that ended the Korean war, the end of the US ROK alliance, the complete withdrawal of American troops from the Korean peninsula, and the guarantee that the South will not pursue It’s own nuclear arms.

      There is zero evidence that the North can be trusteed to keep their side of the bargain , as they have violated every agreement they’ve made with US in the past, including the 1953 armistice. There is on the other hand every reason to believe that the DPRK will never give up it’s nuclear deterrent, and some reason to think that if they were granted a nuclear monopoly on the Korean peninsula, that they might attempt to force reunification on their own terms.

      Edit: ninja’d by the man himself.

      • John Schilling says:

        There is zero evidence that the North can be trusteed to keep their side of the bargain, as they have violated every agreement they’ve made with US in the past,

        Be fair: They cheated only a little bit and to no great consequence with the Agreed Framework; our own little bits of cheating were more visible and more consequential. And that agreement bought us a de facto eight-year nuclear freeze from the DPRK. Looking at where their strategic weapons programs were eight years ago, and where we expect them to be eight years from now, I’m really glad we got those eight years and I’d gladly trade a Trump visit for another eight years.

        • hyperboloid says:

          Your leaving out important context for the 1994 agreement. For one thing It was singed during the hight of the “arduous March” famine of the nineties when millions of north Koreans were saved from starving to death thanks only to western food aid, and for another Pyongyang only singed out of fear that the Clinton administration was going to bomb the Yongbyon facility.

          Since North Korea has managed to pull it self away front the brink of starvation, and it’s subsequent progress on building it’s nuclear arsenal has rendered the threat of US military action much less credible, I don’t see the incentive for them to make the same kind of agreement again.

          You seem to think that there wasn’t really anything to the “wraith of khan” Uranium enrichment program that ultimately scuttled the Agreed Framework in 2003. Was the Bush administration just full of shit about that?

          • John Schilling says:

            The Agreed Framework wasn’t scuttled because of the uranium enrichment; we knew about that in 1998 and decided it wasn’t worth scuttling the deal over. In part because the “no uranium enrichment” part of the deal was less than explicit; in part because we were still thinking of breeder reactors as the main proliferation threat. The Agreed Framework was scuttled because the Bush Administration needed a token non-Islamic member for the “Axis of Evil”, and once we nominated the DPRK there was no rational basis for them to believe we’d ever make good on our end of the deal.

            I’ll leave it to you as to whether the Bush Administration was “full of shit” about the whole “Axis of Evil” thing.

          • ksvanhorn says:

            John’s comment brought to mind this bit of satire from 2002:

            China, Syria, Libya form “Axis of Just As Evil”
            https://arstechnica.com/civis/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=875861

          • Matt M says:

            Calling someone an “axis of evil” certainly isn’t nice, but it also doesn’t necessarily preclude cordial diplomatic relations between two nations.

            I feel like we do a whole lot of business and diplomacy with countries who have public leaders that regularly refer to us as “the great Satan”

          • John Schilling says:

            The only nation whose government officially refers to the US as the “Great Satan” is Iran. You may have noticed that the deal where we decided to stop economically sanctioning Iran as much as the rest of the world would let us get away with, in spite of Iran conspicuously not doing things like testing ICBMs and nuclear weapons, was and is deeply controversial in the United States.

            So, yeah, language like that might not be an absolute dealbreaker, but it’s really damn close. This is diplomacy, and words matter.

          • Matt M says:

            Which is why I said “public leaders” and not “official government position.”

            And I guess you can say that the latter is far more important than the former and that’s fine, I’m not willing to die on that hill.

            But I’d say there are no shortage of prominent individuals with significant power in various middle eastern countries besides Iran that regularly refer to America in very unflattering terms, and are still beneficiaries of trade, foreign aid, military alliances, etc.

          • John Schilling says:

            Which is why I said “public leaders” and not “official government position.”

            Even if you expand it to public leaders generally, “Great Satan” is almost exclusively an Iranian thing, not a generic Muslims-who-dislike-American-policy thing. About the only major exception is Hezbollah, which is pretty clearly in Iran’s orbit.

            And, gosh, the process of negotiating pragmatic live-and-let-live deals with predominantly Muslim nations that don’t like our policies is almost completely uncontroversial in the United States, except with Iran where half the US sees any deal as akin to treason. So maybe it does matter whether you use words like “Great Satan” or “Axis of Evil”.

          • rlms says:

            It seems odd that the American public is so offended by one country (that just so happens to be the main enemy of Israel and regional ally of the USSR Russia) calling it the Great Satan as to preclude any cooperation, but doesn’t have any such qualms about another country (with the opposite relationships) that supplied 3/4 of the 9/11 hijackers.

          • cassander says:

            @RLMS

            You think it’s odd that we get along better with the leadership of a country that doesn’t call us the great satan than one that does?

          • rlms says:

            It’s an odd coincidence that being offended by Iran’s comments fits with what the US would want to do anyway. I suspect that Iran’s public hostility is not the only thing that prevents a friendly relationship with the US. I don’t think Assad made any mean comments about America, but that didn’t seem to help him.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think Assad made any mean comments about America, but that didn’t seem to help him.

            There’s no shortage of Americans, including politically conservative ones, who are willing to say that we should pragmatically come to terms with Assad being Syria’s ruler for the foreseeable future and cut the best possible deal. And even the ones who disagree with that view, don’t accuse its proponents of nigh unto treason the way proponents of the Iran nuclear deal so often are.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It could be “Great Satan”, but it could plausibly be the US still holding a grudge over the whole hostage thing.

          • cassander says:

            @rlms says:

            It’s an odd coincidence that being offended by Iran’s comments fits with what the US would want to do anyway. I suspect that Iran’s public hostility is not the only thing that prevents a friendly relationship with the US. I don’t think Assad made any mean comments about America, but that didn’t seem to help him.

            Let’s take, as a given, that the population of Saudi Arabia is just as hostile to the US as Iran’s. In that case, the leadership of Saudi Arabia is giving off a costly signal in refusing to publicly insult us. They want to, it would benefit them in domestic politics to do so, but they refuse, and the only reason can be show how how badly they (the leadership at least) desire our friendship.

            that Iranian public doesn’t like the US isn’t a strong reason we’re not close to iran. But the Iranian leadership has demonstrated a willingness to give into that public in a way the saudis have not. That’s a pretty good reason to be more sanguine about our relationship with them by people that don’t so refuse.

          • rlms says:

            @John Schilling
            I assume there are many (left-wing) Americans who think the US should be a lot friendlier towards Iran, but possibly I’m extrapolating incorrectly from the situation in the UK (where the leader of the Labour party infamously was a presenter for the Iranian state television channel for a bit).

            There are several reasons for the lack of accusations of treason against people who support friendship with Assad. I think the main one is that those people aren’t Obama, who (like most presidents nowadays) faced accusations of treasons for most things he did. Other reasons are that opposing Assad by supporting Syrian rebels is hard to be that enthusiastic about: it’s difficult to accuse someone of treason and then propose giving money to guys on approximately the same side as ISIS; and that the Israel-Iran dynamic is different to the Israel-Syria one.

            @cassander
            Is the Iranian public that hostile to the US? I don’t really know the opinions of either the Iranian or Saudi general publics (although the small number of Iranians I’ve met didn’t give an impression of hostility).

          • cassander says:

            @RLMS

            Is the Iranian public that hostile to the US? I don’t really know the opinions of either the Iranian or Saudi general publics (although the small number of Iranians I’ve met didn’t give an impression of hostility).

            sorry, I misread you as claiming it was. I saw “Iran’s public hostility” as “Iran’s public’s hostility”

            In any case, I’m sure there’s polling, and I’m sure it’s not terribly reliable. I tend to assume that regimes, even authoritarian ones, don’t go out of their way to offend their people and are usually good at knowing what will offend them. I suspect anti-americanism is at least as popular in Iran as elsewhere in the middle east.

            In any case, public hostility remains not so much a good indicator of lack of desire for a relationship, but it is a good reason for a lack of trust in any relationship. Publicly insulting those you want to do business with is rarely a good idea. Not never, but rarely.

        • Deiseach says:

          Instead what we have is a proposal for direct talks between Kim Jong Un and Trump, an offer North Korea has made to every US president since the end of the cold war.

          I’m really glad we got those eight years and I’d gladly trade a Trump visit for another eight years.

          Just as only Nixon could go to China, only Trump can/could go to North Korea?

          • John Schilling says:

            Insofar as North Korea was one of the designated whipping boys for both left and right in American politics, I think pretty much any US president could have gone to North Korea.

            Hmm, Nixon actually did go to China eight years and one US President after China’s first successful nuclear test. If we discount the 2006 fizzle, it’s now been nine years and one President since North Korea’s first nuclear test. Possibly the real issue is that we’d rather have the whipping boy than the peaceful relations, until the whipping boy has nuclear missiles. Then the next POTUS has to go deal with the problem…

      • b_jonas says:

        You and John Schilling argue that North Korea hasn’t made a peace offer. But Scott’s phrasing is ambiguous. Did the U. S. make a peace offer to North Korea? Did Trump imply any concession other than just a talk?

        • Nornagest says:

          Ask five people what Trump’s implied in any given tweet and you’ll get nine answers. I don’t even want to speculate on what people can read into actual diplomatic communications.

    • John Schilling says:

      Another take, from someone who has been there and done that. Bottom line, talks are potentially a good idea but should come with realistic expectations and months of prep work. Maybe ship all your spare modafinil to the State Department’s few remaining Korea Hands, and cross your fingers?

  36. ksvanhorn says:

    Scott write: “I’ve gotten a few more real-life threats than I’m entirely comfortable with”

    Being nosy and curious, I have to ask: threats from the left, right, both, or other?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      That’s a stand-in for something slightly more complicated that I don’t really want to explain because I don’t want to encourage it / let people know they got to me – but to answer your question, from the left.

      • Wrong Species says:

        And this is why people on the right are paranoid.

        • John Schilling says:

          It’s not like there is any shortage of people on the left who can honestly claim to have received threats or quasi-threats from the right.

          • Protagoras says:

            Can we just agree that it sucks without getting into a pissing contest over who’s more guilty of it? I’m certainly ashamed of how some of my fellow leftists have behaved at times, and apparently they have given me more cause for that. I would like for my side to be better.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @Protagoras

            People on the left may get threats. But when someone on the right gets threatened for their beliefs, the people doing the threatening have institutional support(not something like murder but other kinds of threats). I can’t be honest with people in real life about my political opinions because it could have negative ramifications for me down the line. That’s something your typical progressive simply does not have any experience with and doesn’t understand.

          • Protagoras says:

            @Wong Species, Was it your intention to make me regret my effort to encourage de-escalation, or was that accidental?

          • Wrong Species says:

            I wasn’t trying to paint the left as “more guilty”. I’m just saying it’s not even close to being similar, as one side clearly has more power to carry out its threats than the other. But if you don’t want to go further, then that’s that.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Can we just agree that it sucks without getting into a pissing contest over who’s more guilty of it?

            I’m not sure. It’s a bit like news reports of violence by “youths” or “young men” which omit the race of the offenders. Why is the age and sex of the rioters mentioned but not their race? Why does the headline not say “oxygen breathers commit random violent attack”?

            Perhaps I’m biased because I’m a conservative, but it seems like again and again in public discourse, these sorts of distinctions and lines and categories are drawn (or not drawn) so as to conceal information which tends to undermine the agenda of the Left.

            The fact is that there is a significant problem in America with Leftist violence and intimidation against people who express un-PC views.

      • Aaron Brown says:

        This sucks and I’m sorry it’s happening.

        (Irrespective of which side the threats are coming from.)

  37. willmanidisolin says:

    Can someone recommend a good book on healthcare? Particularly incentive structures in the US system as it stands. Really enjoyed Catastrophic Care + An American Sickness.

    + a recommendation for a SSC style blog about healthcare?

    • Glen Raphael says:

      I liked _Priceless: Curing the Healthcare Crisis_ by John C. Goodman.

    • christianschwalbach says:

      T.R. Reid’s “The Healing of America” is one I read a few years back that offers an easily digestible and personalized view on comparative healthcare systems between, I think, the US, Japan, India, Germany, and France. Rather than go deep into policy, he takes a patients viewpoint, and really points out some of the basic factors that make access to care in other nations more streamlined and efficient.

  38. benwave says:

    Is anyone else highly concerned to see term limits for Premier of China going away? I feel like that’s a big red flag (pun semi-intentional)

    • johan_larson says:

      Highly? No. But it’s a step in the direction of concentration of power in a system where it is already highly concentrated. And that’s usually a bad thing.

    • christhenottopher says:

      Xi Jinping has been concentrating power for a while now, the term limit removal is just symbolic of this. The anti-corruption campaign he ran enabled him to clear out a lot of potential competing centers of power in the country while ensuring the move is popular. After all who likes corrupt officials? And let’s be clear, most of the officials charged probably were guilty. That’s one way dictatorial rulers keep their power. Allow corruption to flourish and use selective prosecution to take out rivals. I think given the context of previous rulers of the PRC, the really important change was the official adoption of Xi Jinping thought. Once you’re cemented in the Constitution at the same level as Mao or Deng, the question is no longer “will I rule for as long as I want,” but “will I rule at the front and center or will I rule from the shadows.” Xi apparently prefers to be more front and center.

      I think this is a potentially worrisome trend. Even good leaders with too much concentrated power are a problem in the long run as they increase system fragility. Reducing a country’s potential failure points to a single person is a generally bad idea.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Do we have any idea how corrupt China is today compared to 10 years ago?

      • Tenacious D says:

        The anti-corruption campaign he ran enabled him to clear out a lot of potential competing centers of power in the country while ensuring the move is popular. After all who likes corrupt officials? And let’s be clear, most of the officials charged probably were guilty. That’s one way dictatorial rulers keep their power. Allow corruption to flourish and use selective prosecution to take out rivals.

        Good point. See also: Mohamed bin Salman.

        • Matt M says:

          Erdogan also.

        • christhenottopher says:

          Yep, MBS seems to be using Xi’s playbook so far when it comes to internal politics (get appointed chairman of everything that matters and use corruption laws to bring down rivals).

      • MB says:

        Actually, putting it this way, it reminds me of Putin a little bit. His humiliation of the corrupt wealth-flaunting oligarchs must have contributed to his popularity (in a sort of cynical, “look how the mighty have fallen” way).
        Two differences — China is not a democracy, unlike Russia (briefly, during the 90s), and Putin openly flaunted the law in the process (but one has to wonder about the Chinese legal system).

    • Anon. says:

      Consider that Deng Xiaoping was never president. These procedural minutiae are irrelevant in the Chinese political environment.

    • Bugmaster says:

      I’m not really concerned about that specific detail, because China is ruled by the Communist Party, which was never bound by any written laws anyway. However, Xi Jinping’s consolidation of actual political power has, as I see it, locked in China’s rapid political and economic ascension. This means that Western-style democracies will continue to decline, irrevocably so. The cultural values of the future belong to China, not to the Enlightenment.

      • John Schilling says:

        That sounds familiar.

        • Bugmaster says:

          Well, right now, Europe is spinning its wheels; they’ve got too many internal problems to deal with, so they can’t really progress economically. India is facing similar issues, and Japan is pretty small. Russia seems hell-bent on returning to the good old days; this may allow them to become a big player once more in the long term, but in the short term, their economy isn’t going to do all that well, so it’s a risky move. Saudi Arabia et al will continue to do well, but their economies are secondary: they can sell lots of oil to someone, but there’s got to be someone there to buy it; and they can’t do anything interesting on their own.

          Thus, the economic battle is between the US and China. Whoever wins this battle gets to impose his values on the world.

          To win the battle, you have to grow your economy. In the past, you could do this through resource extraction or manufacturing, but in the modern world, technological innovation is key. Also, China and Saudi Arabia have manufacturing and resource extraction pretty much covered. Unfortunately, it seems like the US is doing all it can to reduce their capacity for technological innovation. Between increasingly restrictive intellectual property law, various moral prohibitions, education crisis, and generally becoming an unwelcome place for scientifically inclined immigrants, the US is actively eroding its capacity to innovate.

          To be fair, totalitarian countries such as China have their own problems with innovation (you can’t let people get too smart, or they’ll start getting ideas), but they also have one very powerful tool: the ability to plan more than four (or more than two, really) years ahead. China is currently allocating massive amounts of resources to long-term research projects in genetics, AI, and space exploitation. These efforts may or may not bear fruit, but they’re definitely better than doing nothing. This ability to plan ahead can become disrupted due to intra-Party struggles; but now that Xi Jinping emerged as the unquestionably dominant leader, I don’t foresee many stumbling blocks on China’s path to global ascendancy in the near future.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Here’s the problem. China’s going to hit an economic plateau because of its infantile financial markets. If you want Western-style financial markets, you need Western-style rule of law. You don’t need to be Woke, but you do need rich people to have confidence that the ruling premier isn’t going to disappear them and their families.

            Technically the nation does have MORE than enough capital to meet its needs. But that doesn’t matter. You need to deploy it an market-oriented matter. Otherwise you are stuck building factories to meet the quotas imposed upon you by the Premier’s 5-year plan.

            I am not a China bull in the sense that I think it is ever going to supplant America’s global role. I think it’s more likely that I will be the next Michael Jordan than China being a global hegemon akin to the US in the 90s and early 00s.

          • christhenottopher says:

            I’m more with Beta Guy. The idea of “long term planning” with anything as complex and frankly poorly understood as a national economy is way more likely to weaken a state than strengthen it. The reason is you wind up overly optimizing with too little room to maneuver. Honestly the whole idea of such planning reeks of fragility, looks good until the moment a black swan hits. Not to mention, what happens if your singular leader decides to go down a crazy course of action (a la Mao)? What happens if he dies before a decent replacement is ready (after all having a clear replacement leads to people thinking that maybe you should be replaced)? None of this guarantees collapse in the short term, but the more the fate of a nation puts all it’s eggs in one basket, the easier it is for the unexpected to topple the whole structure.

            This isn’t even to mention that shrinking one’s winning coalition changes incentives away from overall growth and public goods to private goods for a smaller number of actors. That’s not the kind of incentive structure that tends towards growth.

          • Wrong Species says:

            People have been saying for years that China is just a few years away from crashing. I’m not buying this idea that they can’t develop the financial markets needed to compete.

            As far as China’s advantages, it’s not just that the government does more. It’s that their society is so much more willing to innovate. They’ve been much less squeamish about genetic engineering. They’re quickly surpassing the US in A.I. They can build train stations faster than we can fix potholes. Even with Silicon Valley, we’re stagnating and they’re not. Of course, their growth isn’t going to continue at the same rate forever but they don’t even need to have the same GDP per Capita to be a threat.

            People like to bring up the example of Japan and use that as an example of why we shouldn’t worry. But in the 19th century, the UK was worried about Germany and look what happened there.

          • Protagoras says:

            People have been saying for years that China is just a few years away from crashing.

            Predicting crashes is hard. But booms never last forever. Predicting that China will crash next year is foolish (though it might), but saying that its track record guarantees things will still be running smoothly ten years down the road seems equally foolish (though, again, it might be).

          • Odovacer says:

            I’m definitely no expert on China. But I do have a question. Will China’s demographics interfere with its rise? By that I mean sex ratio (1.15 males : females at birth) and the fact that it might “grow old before it gets rich”?

            The latter being a problem that Japan and some Western countries will also face. Having too many retired people or people who can’t work and have to be supported by the young might not be a good economic recipe for success.

          • John Schilling says:

            People have been saying for years that China is just a few years away from crashing.

            And people have been saying for almost a century that [dynamic non-western economy X] is going to Rule The World because they are Growing Fast and United in Purpose and they Make Plans and they don’t waste their resources on politics/frivolities like Westerners the speaker disagrees with.

            It was the Russians in the 1930s and it was the Russians again in the 1950s, and then it was the Arabs in the 1970s and then it was the Japanese and now it’s China’s turn. Can you at least come up with a prediction of China’s inevitable economic dominance that doesn’t sound exactly like the ones I was hearing about the Japanese twenty years ago?

            OK, the bit about how China having a dictator-for-life is what cements their role as Dynamic Innovators of the 21st century is new. But that speaks from a profound misunderstanding of China, dictators, and innovation.

          • China is currently allocating massive amounts of resources to long-term research projects in genetics, AI, and space exploitation. These efforts may or may not bear fruit, but they’re definitely better than doing nothing.

            I don’t agree. The problem is that if the state decides subject X is the important one and puts lots of money and status behind it, the talented people go into X instead of Y and Z that aren’t so officially sexy but might be more important. That was part of my view of theoretical physics at the point I left it.

            One of the conclusions of Ronald Coase’s final book, coauthored with Ning Wang on how China went capitalist, was that what did it was mostly marginal revolutions, things Deng didn’t plan but had the good sense not to suppress when they happened. It isn’t clear that Xi has the modesty and sense to do the same.

          • Chalid says:

            In terms of ability to compete for global leadership, China having four times the population of the US will make up for a lot of indifferent or even downright bad policy.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @christhenottopher:

            The idea of “long term planning” with anything as complex and frankly poorly understood as a national economy…

            I was specifically thinking of planning “Manhattan Projects” such as AI, genetic engineering, etc.; not the entire national economy. In fact, China has been experimenting with limited capitalism on and off over the years; their experiments appear to be ongoing.

            @Protagoras:

            …but saying that its track record guarantees things will still be running smoothly ten years down the road seems equally foolish…

            That’s a stronger statement than the one I was making. I only believe that China will do a lot better than the US (and other Western economies), not that everything will go completely perfectly for them.

            @John Schilling:

            And people have been saying for almost a century that [dynamic non-western economy X] is going to Rule The World…

            To be fair, they’ve been saying that about China for a while, and so far, they’ve been right. China started off in a pretty bad position after the Cultural Revolution, but the gap between them and Western nations has been narrowing steadily over the years. In some areas, such as consumer goods manufacturing, they are the undisputed leaders in the world.

            @Chalid:

            …China having four times the population of the US will make up for a lot of indifferent or even downright bad policy.

            Very good point.

          • BlindKungFuMaster says:

            “Can you at least come up with a prediction of China’s inevitable economic dominance that doesn’t sound exactly like the ones I was hearing about the Japanese twenty years ago?”

            How about “China reaches the same GDP per person as Japan and due to the much bigger population will have very comfortably the biggest economy in the world.”?

            Edit: Ah, the point was already made … anyway, I think that’ll be the story of the next 30 years or so. At the same time I’m pretty pessimistic about Europe, mostly because we solve the lack of kids by importing problems. And I don’t think the US will necessarily decline, except relative to China.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @BlindKungFuMaster:
            I agree with what you said, except for this part:

            And I don’t think the US will necessarily decline, except relative to China.

            Firstly, I suppose it depends on how you define “decline”; I do agree that the US economy is unlikely to decrease significantly in absolute terms (at least, not over a long period of time). However, I do believe that the economic growth rate of the US may decline significantly.

            That said, I think you might be missing a very important point: declining “relative to China” is really all that matters. Once the US loses its status as the top economic and technological power (something that is arguably happening as we speak), the knock-on effects will lead to it losing its place as the top military and cultural power, as well. And it’s very hard to get back onto that pedestal once you’ve been knocked off of it — especially when you end up having to learn Chinese in order to participate in the world economy in an effective manner…

          • christhenottopher says:

            Bugmaster:

            I was specifically thinking of planning “Manhattan Projects” such as AI, genetic engineering, etc.; not the entire national economy. In fact, China has been experimenting with limited capitalism on and off over the years; their experiments appear to be ongoing.

            Such projects still pull resources from other possible, more diversified, uses. Not to mention given that we still have as a potential result of the Manhattan project the complete destruction of civilization on accident, I think that example actually reinforces the idea “long term planning leads to extreme fragility to negative consequences.” The examples you note are along the same lines.

          • John Schilling says:

            How about “China reaches the same GDP per person as Japan and due to the much bigger population will have very comfortably the biggest economy in the world.”?

            That does meet the novelty criteria, but I think it still comes up short on the plausibility-of-global-domination front.

            If China’s high GDP per person is due to Chinese people producing goods and services for other Chinese people, that leads to China dominating the Middle Kingdom, in which case good for them and no problem for anyone else.

            If China’s high GDP per person comes from trade with the outside world, then how did it get there? China’s path to high-ish GDP comes from selling goods to foreigners cheaper than the Japanese do, which would seem to lock them in to a substantially lower GDP per capita than Japan. And a lower absolute GDP, because there are barely enough rich foreigners to buy the stuff it takes to keep Japan’s 127 million people as prosperous as they are.

          • cassander says:

            @bugmaster

            I was specifically thinking of planning “Manhattan Projects” such as AI, genetic engineering, etc.; not the entire national economy. In fact, China has been experimenting with limited capitalism on and off over the years; their experiments appear to be ongoing.

            The utility of such efforts for general economic progress is, at best, extremely dubious. In the US, we made 8.4 million new cars in 1970 (significantly fewer than in 1969 or 71). They cost an average of $3500, which means that they cost about 30 billion dollars, which is about what the cost of the apollo program was in 1970 dollars. And the car industry did that every single year. Moonshots don’t make for economic growth, the slow grinding effort of capitalism does, and it can’t be centrally planned.

          • Wrong Species says:

            @John

            If China develops its own industries for domestic consumption and trades less, as a percent of GDP, relative to now, I don’t see why the US wouldn’t still be concerned. If it had Japan levels of GDP per capita, it would regardless be an economic powerhouse and therefore, much stronger on the international stage than it is now.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            In terms of ability to compete for global leadership, China having four times the population of the US will make up for a lot of indifferent or even downright bad policy.

            Sort of, in the same sense that Russia’s opinion still matters a bit because they have tens of thousands of nuclear weapons, a ton of oil, and nearly 200 million people.

            But Russia is nothing compared to the Soviet Union, and even the mighty Soviet Union could only briefly compete with the combined West in a handful of fields. By the end of the Cold War the Soviets were greatly exceeded in practically every single category and the gap was widening quickly, enough that the Soviets had to implement major internal reforms that basically destroyed them.

            Also, China’s comparative population advantage will shrink. China currently has 1.38 billion people to America’s .323 billion people. That’s 4:1. By 2050, China will be at appx. the same level, but the US will expand to .4 billion. And China will actually be older than the US at that time, and the numbers only look worse from there.

            Here’s some food for thought: Japan and South Korea already top some innovation metrics, up there with the US. They have global companies like Toyota and Samsung. They also have much, much, much higher gross investment than the US (which is actually a laggard in investment). Nonetheless, this doesn’t show up in any of the GDP per hour stats….and yes, SK and Japan have impressive GDP per capita numbers, but that’s accomplished in part by working insane hours. If you look at PER HOUR productivity, South Korea is something like 40-50% of the US level, and Japan is something in the 60-70% range. The big Western European states like Germany and France and the UK are in the 90% range.

            I also am not sure why we should automatically assume China will converge to SK and Japanese levels of prosperity, and not, say Malaysia. A relevant comparison might be between Southern Italy and Northern Italy, the former being a corrupt basket case, and the latter being a pretty productive section of the world economy, probably should be considered at least on par with, say, the Great Lakes region.

          • azhdahak says:

            Here’s some food for thought: Japan and South Korea already top some innovation metrics, up there with the US. They have global companies like Toyota and Samsung. They also have much, much, much higher gross investment than the US (which is actually a laggard in investment). Nonetheless, this doesn’t show up in any of the GDP per hour stats….and yes, SK and Japan have impressive GDP per capita numbers, but that’s accomplished in part by working insane hours. If you look at PER HOUR productivity, South Korea is something like 40-50% of the US level, and Japan is something in the 60-70% range. The big Western European states like Germany and France and the UK are in the 90% range.

            Doesn’t Japan have a big problem with people being incentivized to stay long hours at the office for appearances regardless of whether they’re doing anything?

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Both the communist nations we were supposed to convert to democracies with our awesome markets are now ruled by strongmen with effective life-time terms.

      Woooo, “End of History.”

      I’m not highly concerned. I’m not Chinese. If anything I am raising P(US remains #1 superpower in my lifetime).

    • ilikekittycat says:

      Nope. The reaction has been 99% virtue signalling

    • Aevylmar says:

      China is, and has been, a rather undemocratic system, and while I don’t like this, I see it as more of a step for things not improving than for things getting worse. My main worries about this are that I think the increased centralization of power increases the risk of a Chinese civil war; monarchistic and dictatorial systems are very vulnerable to civil conflict, and even if modern ones tend to prefer coups instead, it may only take one botched coup by a major faction for it to degenerate into outright warfare.

      We have not, thus far, had any wars to the death fought by nuclear-armed powers, but it’s entirely possible (maybe 15% in the next twenty years?) we might get a serious war; it might even be something as brutal as the Russian Revolution or as the last Chinese civil war, and the prospect of one of those wars being fought by people some of whom possess nukes worries me very much.

  39. John Classenberg says:

    Can anyone recommend me the best books which either (1) make consequentialist arguments for feminist policy prescriptions, in general or in particular areas, or (2) make arguments about the extent to which woman have been/are oppressed in a manner which is not overly leaden with non-consequentialist moral assertions?

  40. benwave says:

    Oh, and for what it’s worth Scott, I also have also “moved in progressive circles” for a long time and I constantly find people who either literally believe ‘racists are monsters’ or who see them as enemies that must be fought rather than human beings worth saving. So there’s some more evidence you can add to your data pile.

  41. Error says:

    I’m looking to donate to efforts to cure aging.

    What are the relevant organizations that would benefit from more money? I’m only really aware of SENS, and I can’t just outsource my choice to Givewell because IIRC they don’t look into moonshot projects.

    (if any such organizations have a need for an IT engineer/programmer, that’d be nice to know too. I’d like to use my skills for something more worthwhile.)

  42. Nornagest says:

    Thanks to Lanny for fixing this blog’s comment report function. You should now be able to report inappropriate comments again. If you can’t, please say so and we’ll try to figure out what went wrong.

    I’m seeing two buttons now, and they both generate the “Cheatin’ uh?” message. Doesn’t seem to have worked.

  43. I have some questions about changes in U.S. dating norms over the past sixty years or so.

    The old rules, as I understood them, mostly as observer not participant, permitted a man or woman to play the field, date multiple partners. Eventually that was supposed to lead to going steady, which was exclusive, and from there to engagement and marriage. At the dating stage necking and petting were acceptable, intercourse might happen but would lower the status of the woman. It would not lower the status of the man–the traditional double standard. In theory, and sometimes in fact, intercourse was postponed until marriage, but became more likely and more acceptable as the relationship went from dating to going steady to being engaged. It was assumed that the limits on sexual behavior were set by the woman.

    The new rules, as I understand them, are both more and less restrictive. Dating is now supposed to be exclusive. A woman who goes out with A then B then A is violating the norms unless it is very clear that the interaction with B couldn’t be seen as a date by either party. Intercourse on the first date is a norm violation that lowers the status of the woman. Intercourse by the third date is common but not required, intercourse within a few months almost certain, waiting until marriage seen as very odd behavior.

    The first question is whether this account is accurate. The second is whether the double standard still exists in the new context, whether a man who has intercourse on the first date does or doesn’t lose status as a result and the related question of whether it is still assumed that it is the woman who sets the limits on how far sexual activities go.

    And the final and most interesting question is the reasons for the change. In particular, is the increasing acceptability of intercourse at a relatively early stage in the relation responsible for the decreasing acceptability of playing the field, with dating taking on some of the traditional characteristics of marriage–just marriage with very easy divorce.

    • Matt M says:

      Dating is now supposed to be exclusive. A woman who goes out with A then B then A is violating the norms unless it is very clear that the interaction with B couldn’t be seen as a date by either party.

      I don’t think this is true. I think some equivalent of “going steady” is still the norm, even if that exact term is anachronistic. The onus is on one or both individuals to specifically ask for/demand exclusivity. If that conversation hasn’t taken place, both parties are free to date others without being seen as defectors.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        I think it varies more than most people realize. 😛

        • Protagoras says:

          Often in fact varying between two people who are dating one another, with amusing effects (if you’re not one of the two people and you enjoy watching the misery of others).

    • Brad says:

      Intercourse on the first date is a norm violation that lowers the status of the woman.

      Maybe in high school, college, small towns, and tight knitted subcultures. But among most adults in a contemporary urban environments this is now largely outdated. There are so many ways to meet strangers to date and/or hook up with, that a person’s friends, co-workers, etc. need only know as much about his sex life as he chooses to share. And those other people he chooses to tell mostly don’t care. If there’s an issue it’s almost invariably internal—people either do or don’t themselves end up feeling guilty/bad/slutty/whatever. Reputation (“status”) isn’t a big factor.

    • engleberg says:

      @And the final and most interesting question is the reason for the change.

      George MacDonald Fraser (Quartered Safe Out Here or Lights Out at the Signpost, can’t recall which) thought people in the forties just didn’t think about sex as much as we do. They’d have said we are wildly oversexed by porn and advertising as well as just having men and women on the job together as a rule. If you work where it’s all guys, you just don’t see women as much. If she’s always at home doing all the work housework used to be, she won’t see so many men.

      • mtraven says:

        Sexual intercourse began
        In nineteen sixty-three
        (which was rather late for me) –
        Between the end of the “Chatterley” ban
        And the Beatles’ first LP.

        Up to then there’d only been
        A sort of bargaining,
        A wrangle for the ring,
        A shame that started at sixteen
        And spread to everything. — Philip Larkin

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      To answer your first question, you’re off on several of your claims. The old division between dating and going steady still exists, just with new names and much more ambiguity. Sex generally happens before the third date, typically on the first date or even without a date at all (“Netflix and chill”).

      Once you correct that, the second question becomes a lot clearer. The trend is towards atomization full stop. The connections we make are shallower and shorter lived as there’s rarely anything binding us together beyond “chemistry.” If you try to make stronger bonds the full social and legal apparatus of society is arrayed against you.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        > there’s rarely anything binding us together beyond “chemistry.” If you try to make stronger bonds the full social and legal apparatus of society is arrayed against you.

        I won’t say atomization isn’t increasing, but I think you’re overstating things? There are still steps above ‘chemistry’. The current relationship ladder, as I perceive it, goes dating -> cohabitating -> marriage -> children.

    • maintain says:

      Maybe it would be better to think of it not as one rule set, but a couple different rule sets, and people signal which set they want to follow. Prudes find each other. Poly people find each other. Monogamous people find each other. “Monogamous” people find each other.

    • Erusian says:

      My experience is that a person is free to go on as many ‘dates’ (dinner and a movie, whatever) as they want with as many people as they want, but will eventually be accused of stringing the other person along. More often, after determining they’re an acceptable prospect, both parties will start to spend more and more casual time together. This is specifically alone since doing it with your friends is an imposition on them and doing it in public invites comment. This is when sex really becomes a first possibility. It is absolutely not acceptable to do this with multiple people at once (ie, two men in the same room) but you can do it with multiple people at once. (With a natural pressure on the fact you only have so much time and favoring anyone will lead to accusations of leading on the others.)

      At some point, the two will start formally dating, and that is exclusive. The signs of this are showing them off to friends, appearing in public gatherings together, arriving and leaving together, saying they love each other, calling each other boyfriend-girlfriend, etc. This mostly happens either due to a jealousy threshold (demanding exclusivity) or a desire to make the relationship more formal and permanent, since otherwise, neither party has an obligation not to just drop the other. And the longer you are at this stage the more people will pressure you to leave it. The general sentiment is either that they’re incapable of locking the other person down (and so being used) or just stringing the other person along (and so using them), often determined by who is more attractive.

      My experience is that people who disapprove of premarital sex disapprove of it in both genders. People who explicitly approve of premarital sex approve of it in both genders, with some exceptions. The two are at war with each other. The vast majority are in between. They divide sex into short flings (which largely require the person be unknown or distantly known) and long-term relationships. Flings with people close to you can happen only once before the group starts pressing for you to turn it into a long-term relationship. But otherwise mixing flings and relationships is generally considered faux pas. If it’s going from fling to relationship it’s known as catching feelings and is considered somewhat embarrassing. But this isn’t as bad as the other: using relationship signposts to get a lot of sex marks you as a user (ie, someone who uses people or leads them on) and people tend to really look down on that.

      Flings, especially in excess, establish the person as libertine and sex-driven but is not a moral defect per se. I suppose I’d compare it most to drinking. Almost everyone can do it in moderation without much issue. Someone who likes it too much but stays under control gets teased and marked by certain people. Those who let it take over their life are looked down upon.

      I can’t really comment on the change. I never experienced the old system and I was recently kicked out of the Secret Cabal of Young People to Make Specifically YOU Feel Old, so I can’t check their records.

      • maintain says:

        >It is absolutely not acceptable to do this with multiple people at once but you can do it with multiple people at once.

        what

        • Erusian says:

          It is absolutely not acceptable to do this with multiple people at once (ie, two men in the same room) but you can do it with multiple people at once.

          Cutting out the explanative parenthesis does make it sound confusing, doesn’t it? I hope that with that explanation there it makes more sense: You cannot literally have two people in your room at the same time but you can have two people, separately, coming to your room at separate times in the same day, month, whatever.

        • Deiseach says:

          It is absolutely not acceptable to do this with multiple people at once but you can do it with multiple people at once.

          I think it means “No, you can’t ‘come back to my place for a coffee’ with both Bob and Bill at the same time in the same room all together, but you can if you have Bob over on Monday, Bill over on Tuesday, and Sam over on Wednesday, though eventually if your friend-group find out that the reason you can’t go out with the gang on Tuesday is not that you have to wash your hair, they will put pressure on you to decide between Bob, Bill and Sam and make the relationship more ‘Invite Bob along to go to the pub on Thursday’ and move it into the public ‘we’re going out together’ sphere”.

    • Doesntliketocomment says:

      There is huge confounding variable here that you are overlooking, which is age. US dating norms half a century ago were by and large the province of teenagers. Adults would “court” occasionally, but it was a much different affair, likely more similar to what you are describing as the modern model. The dating population now extends through every age demographic, so on the whole dating preferences of older adults trump the practices of the youth, which to a large extent were born out of the school environment with its large population of available partners.

    • Ozy Frantz says:

      It depends on whether you’re dating friends or strangers. If you’re dating friends, in my experience asking someone out is a signal that you’d like to have a committed relationship with them, which is generally monogamous. Sometimes you hook up with your friends several times (without going on a date) and then consider asking them out; hooking up can mean anything from makeouts to intercourse. If you’re dating strangers (usually, but not always, through online dating), then my understanding is that you are allowed to casually date multiple people at once, but I’ve never really dated strangers so I don’t know.

  44. Sniffnoy says:

    So, I don’t suppose the deleted post is going to show up at some less-than-fully-public URL or anything (making it a page rather than a post, like Douglas Knight mentions)? Because it was a really good response… 😛

  45. Douglas Knight says:

    4. I recently put a couple of responses to an online spat up here because I needed somewhere to host them, unaware that this would email all several thousand people on my mailing list. Sorry about that. I’ve deleted some of them because of the whole “decreased publicity” thing, and I would appreciate help from anyone who knows how to make it so I can put random useful text up in an out-of-the-way place without insta-emailing everybody.

    Create a page rather than a post. You’ve done this before, like your mistakes and predictions pages. This will not show up linked from any human-readable page on the site, eg, not in the archive (but it is in the human-unreadable sitemap).

  46. Aapje says:

    Clocks that use the frequency of alternating current as a timer have been running slow in Europe, because Kosovo has stopped subsidizing electricity for the Serbian minority in Kosovo. The minority refuses to pay for their own electricity to a Kosovo utility, because they don’t want to recognize Kosovo’s independence. There was a 2015 agreement to create a Serbian utility company that the Serbian minority in Kosovo could pay to, but this company has not yet been created. Serbia and Kosovo are blaming each other for obstruction.

    So now there is an electricity shortage in Kosovo. Because the power systems are linked in much of Western Europe, this impacts Poland, Portugal, The Netherlands, etc. Instead of 50 hertz, the current alternates at only 49.996 hertz. So some of my clocks are running slow now.

    • yodelyak says:

      Is it worth it for the way the connection makes the world seem alive?

      I mean, the way bitcoin seems to link interest rates to energy price rates is kinda terrifying, but also makes the world seem like a single organism where blood pressure affects metabolic rate affects mood affects… I mean, it just makes everything feel connected, you know? (I’m not a unitarian, I promise. I just don’t know how to point at what I’m pointing at, and suddenly am pointing at it, and hoping someone will understand what I am pointing at and give me a word for it.)

      • Aapje says:

        No. The world is not a single organism, it is a complex system with dependencies.

        This event just underscores that maximizing dependency is not desirable.

        • yodelyak says:

          That’s how I think about it also, actually–the world is not an organism, and I know that. And maximizing dependency should make us all think “cascading failures” somewhere not too far to the back of our heads.

          Looking at my comment now, in a more jaded mindset, I was trying to point at a feeling that’s sometimes available when noticing how things are interconnected. The feeling is available to mostly everyone I think, but people get it different ways. Carl Sagan got it from noticing how petty the world’s arguments can look from outer space (a la “the pale blue dot”) and Henry Nilssen’s song “Think about your troubles” sometimes works pretty well on me.

          So I think I was asking if the specific fact of your clock having fallen behind was, as a matter of inconvenience, outweighed by the neatness of finding yourself in possession of a story along the lines of shortages in Kosovo causing clock delays in Amsterdam, which is the sort of story that might carry this kind of feel. That seems like a stupid question, now, and one mainly aimed at finding emotional reassurance in precisely the kinds of events that ought to make us stop and think carefully. I’m still figuring out how to participate online without being an idiot, apparently.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      This is the most persuasive argument for off-the-grid living I’ve yet encountered. Not for practical/rational reasons, just on an emotional level.

  47. Freddie deBoer says:

    The basic conflict is that Marxism is an amoral philosophy while the social culture of progressivism is intensely moralizing. And today’s left puts adherence to the dominant social culture above anything else, so you get a lot of self-described socialists who have only a moral vocabulary.

    Marxist iconography but liberal beliefs is the order of the day. See Jacobin and their recent Irving Howe turn.

    • dndnrsn says:

      I think you’re right. One thing I’ve noticed is that there’s a lot of people who describe themselves as radicals or leftists but don’t really want much other than the cards of the liberalish, capitalist social order reshuffled: they want more CEOs who aren’t cishet white guys, or are swooning over the fact that capitalist Hollywood has realized that you can make more money by increasing representation, or they’re demanding stuff from the university that amounts to faculty and admin jobs for themselves. Stuff that really is liberal reformist incrementalist stuff, but that’s just not cool. You gotta at least sound like you want to burn the motherfucker down.

      • Freddie deBoer says:

        I mean what’s the signature “socialist” issue today? Single payer health insurance – which isn’t socialist. It’s just welfare state liberalism. A socialist alternative to our medical system is to nationalize the entire industry. Single payer just means that the government is pumping the most money into a legacy market system. Socialist systems destroy markets, not enter them.

        • Matthew S. says:

          I really don’t understand why people with social democratic views in the United states can’t just describe themselves as “social democratic” rather than “socialist.” Nobody seems to have this problem anywhere else.

          • Aapje says:

            Americans seem to insist on maximizing linguistic confusion. Also see: liberal.

          • Toby Bartels says:

            Nobody seems to have this problem anywhere else.

            France? What would you call le Parti socialiste if not social democratic?

          • ilikekittycat says:

            Liberal/progressive/socdem are corny, toxic labels now, and if you say you’re one of those, they’re just gonna say you’re a socialist Marxist communist anyway. You can either deny it, like Obama, which makes you look like a liar, or you can just accept it, like Sanders, which makes people say “oh yea he’s a loon… but one of the only honest ones left”

            The last several decades have proven Nixon’s madman theory to be true, at least for American domestic affairs. If you want any sort of change, you don’t gain anything by letting everyone know you’re not starting from an extreme position

          • fion says:

            Nobody seems to have this problem anywhere else.

            I actually think they have this problem pretty much everywhere.

            Toby Bartels gave the example of France. I would add UK and Spain.

            (Ok, the UK Labour Party isn’t called “The Socialist Party”, but everybody calls Corbyn a socialist even though he’s basically a social-democrat.)

          • Aapje says:

            I dunno about those countries, but in The Netherlands, socialist is not considered a synonym for communist. The stereotypical example of a socialist IS a social-democrat.

          • multiheaded says:

            They call themselves socialist to appropriate the label because the GOP and the libertarians already label welfare liberalism as socialism, duh. How is that not obvious???

        • dndnrsn says:

          American progressives don’t even need to point to Scandinavia to say “look, that’s what social democracy is” – which raises the counterargument “but Scandinavian countries are all high-trust because they consist of three people who know each other well, having to share body heat and all”. Just point at Canada and the NDP. They’re a more-or-less social democratic party in a geographically large, multiethnic society. They don’t always get what they want, in fact they usually don’t, but in some provinces they’re very strong provincially, and they serve to keep the Liberals from tacking too far to the right (since the left wing of the Liberal party would just go NDP). We’ve got some of the social programs that American progressives want and American conservatives think would break the bank. It all works OK.

          • WarOnReasons says:

            A couple of questions about Canada:

            1) Are you sure that Canada would have been able to afford its social programs without its highly restrictive immigration system?

            2) If Canada is a better run country than the US why is emigration from Canada to the US much higher than vice versa?

          • dndnrsn says:

            1. Is our immigration system highly restrictive? We’ve got over double the relative legal immigration of the US. We’ve got a points system, sure. It’s relatively restrictive. But we take in more legal immigrants than the US, and have less immigration-related strife.

            The major unfair, unearned advantage we have is geographic. The US can’t just steal our system. They’d have to figure out a way to deal with the fact that there’s a big border with a much poorer country, and significant demand within the US for cheap, exploitable labour – and deal with that fact in a humane way. Also deal with the fact that there’s a lot of people from south of the border in the US who are there due to nudge-nudge-wink-wink-look-the-other-way from both parties.

            2. That’s usually attributed to “brain drain” – if you work in some fields, the job prospects are just better in the US. You might be more likely to get a job, you might be able to get a better job, or both.

          • WarOnReasons says:

            The US can’t just steal our system. They’d have to figure out a way to deal with the fact that there’s a big border with a much poorer country

            There is a Chinese saying – “It’s easy to be a saint while sitting on a Tian Shan mountain. Much harder is to be a saint while sitting in the marketplace”. When the majority of your immigrants are highly educated people who pay more in taxes than the average native is not it a lot easier to be generous with the uneducated minority?

            if you work in some fields, the job prospects are just better in the US.

            If the job prospects in the US are better for three times as many Canadians as for Americans in Canada (with similar ratios for the EU countries) could this indicate some advantage to the US economic system?

          • dndnrsn says:

            There is a Chinese saying – “It’s easy to be a saint while sitting on a Tian Shan mountain. Much harder is to be a saint while sitting in the marketplace”. When the majority of your immigrants are highly educated people who pay more in taxes than the average native is not it a lot easier to be generous with the uneducated minority?

            Certainly. The average legal immigrant to Canada, and we have far fewer illegal immigrants (geography again), is smarter, better educated, probably less prone to crime, etc, than the average Canadian. We’re one of the few net-immigration-destination countries where that’s the case.

            Combined with the way that all 3 major parties have a decent ability to attract votes from immigrants/their kids, and a decent ability to attract votes from visible minorities (the Conservatives aren’t reliant on white votes to the degree the Republicans are), there’s less incentive for immigration to be treated as a political football, and less anti-immigrant sentiment. What anti-immigrant sentiment there is, is usually focused on refugees and asylum claimants (with the difference between the two often obfuscated, either through ignorance or intentionally) – because they don’t have to go through the points system.

            Were I to be put in charge of the US immigration system, I’d move to a points system without changing the number of immigrants per year – points systems are often used by immigration restrictionists to try and smuggle in reductions in immigration. But illegal immigration would still be the biggest issue.

            If the job prospects in the US are better for three times as many Canadians as for Americans in Canada (with similar ratios for the EU countries) could this indicate some advantage to the US economic system?

            I presume part of it is economy of scale and the US’ central role: there’s 10x as many people in the US, and it’s the world’s dominant economic, cultural, etc power, so the top jobs in whatever field are mostly going to be there. Additionally, a lot more of the US than Canada isn’t frozen year-round so people can actually live there. But I don’t know the degree to which you can say this is because of the US’ system. Just as you can’t look at Canada’s favourable position with regard to immigration without noticing the geographic position, you can’t look at the US’ favourable position without noticing the effects of geography, history, etc. There’s probably nothing Canada could do to cause Wall Street or Hollywood to set up shop in Canada instead of New York or LA.

          • WarOnReasons says:

            Were I to be put in charge of the US immigration system, I’d move to a points system without changing the number of immigrants per year

            Seems a very good idea to me, but it does not seem to be politically feasible in the US.

            I presume part of it is economy of scale and the US’ central role: there’s 10x as many people in the US, and it’s the world’s dominant economic, cultural, etc power, so the top jobs in whatever field are mostly going to be there.

            Suppose we try to test your explanation empirically. If the size of economy and political dominance are the main factors behind the migration asymmetry, I would expect that the magnitude of the asymmetry will be inversely proportional to the size of the country.

            I have taken the migration data for the 13 richest European countries from the Pew website (here is the link in case you are interested http://www.pewglobal.org/2018/02/28/global-migrant-stocks/?country=SG&date=2017) and compared it to the country size. The regression analysis shows that the migration asymmetry (the number of emigrants to the US divided by the number of immigrants from the US) actually increases with the population size (R~0.45). The largest asymmetry is found in Italy (6.2) and Germany (4.6). The smallest is in Switzerland (1).

            So it seems to me that economic and political dominance does not explain the migration asymmetry. Neither, I believe, the difference in climate (while the US weather is an improvement over Canada’s, the climate in Europe is generally much more human-friendly).

          • dndnrsn says:

            I can’t really argue with your numbers, but there’s all sorts of factors that seem difficult to quantify. If considering, say, Switzerland – how does one consider that the disproportionate size of the Swiss banking industry is due to factors other than the number of Swiss people? How do we take language into account – which is important if we’re discussing “skilled” migrants?

            Additionally, I was thinking cultural, rather than political, dominance. There’s a bit more than 4x as many Americans as Germans, but due to English being the default second language in much of the world, the US has a far greater impact on international culture – and so any industry involved in producing that culture is going to be an outsized draw to people looking to work in films or music or whatever. American universities are another big draw – most countries are lucky to have one or two universities in the top 30 or 50 or whatever; the US has many more than that.

            In any case, in Canada, the issue is cast as brain drain. I have no idea whether that’s reality, or just the narrative decided on in the 90s.

          • WarOnReasons says:

            I was thinking cultural, rather than political, dominance.

            I’m not sure I understand your argument. Are you suggesting that most of 650.000 Germans came to the US to work in culture related industries?

            American universities are another big draw – most countries are lucky to have one or two universities in the top 30 or 50 or whatever

            The number of foreign researchers from Western Europe in the US is pretty small (most foreigners are Asians or Eastern Europeans). In any case the entire faculty of the top 50 US universities is under 100.000 people.

            Isn’t it more plausible that most of the educated immigrants come to the US for greater opportunities provided by its “wild capitalism” which they don’t find in their own social-democratic countries?

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m not sure I understand your argument. Are you suggesting that most of 650.000 Germans came to the US to work in culture related industries?

            No, but that there’s some fields the US really dominates. Let’s say you’re a German computer engineer – the best jobs available are liable to be in Silicon Valley. There’s a lot more cases of “you’re a German, and the best jobs in this are in the US” than vice versa.

            The number of foreign researchers from Western Europe in the US is pretty small (most foreigners are Asians or Eastern Europeans). In any case the entire faculty of the top 50 US universities is under 100.000 people.

            I meant it merely as an example of one of the fields where there’s more jobs in the US. Does that faculty size include, say, graduate students?

            Isn’t it more plausible that most of the educated immigrants come to the US for greater opportunities provided by its “wild capitalism” which they don’t find in their own social-democratic countries?

            That’s plausible. It might be one reason more jobs are available. On the other hand, the World Bank has Denmark ahead of the US on how easy it is to do business there, and the Scandinavian social democracies do better than Germany – at least stereotypically, they’re supposed to have stronger cradle-to-grave social welfare systems.

            Regarding Canada, the US ranks well ahead in the rankings, but the actual difference on the 100-point scale the World Bank has used is a few points.

          • WarOnReasons says:

            Does that faculty size include, say, graduate students?

            No, but I don’t think there are many grad students from Western Europe in the US. While the professors in top US universities get much higher wages than their European colleagues the same is not true of grad students.

            No, but that there’s some fields the US really dominates. Let’s say you’re a German computer engineer – the best jobs available are liable to be in Silicon Valley.

            Sure, but I don’t think the fact that Silicon Valley emerged in the US rather than in Germany or UK is purely an accident (just like it’s not an accident that Germany is ahead of the US in manufacturing sector). I suspect that with low taxes, the ease of firing employees (since most start-up fail) and the general fact that capitalism is not considered a bad word in the US have been major factors in creation of the US software companies.

            We’ve got some of the social programs that American progressives want and American conservatives think would break the bank. It all works OK.

            Suppose an American conservative asks you the following question – “You say it all works OK in Canada. But Canada is not the US. If we implement social programs that American progressives want we’ll have to spend a lot more than you on helping the unskilled immigrants and their children (since we don’t have a country that can act as a buffer). Unlike Canada, high commodity prices would not help us fund the social programs so we’ll have to raise taxes. But if we raise taxes we’ll start losing immigrants like Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Sergey Brin or even native born entrepreneurs to places like Switzerland and Singapore, thus further depleting our tax base. What makes you so sure it won’t break our bank?”

          • dndnrsn says:

            No, but I don’t think there are many grad students from Western Europe in the US. While the professors in top US universities get much higher wages than their European colleagues the same is not true of grad students.

            I don’t know what the numbers are, but grad students will follow the profs they want to learn from as much as they follow the best pay as a TA or whatever (it usually isn’t great). Anecdotally, the best universities in Canada (all public) don’t treat PhD students as well (monetarily, at least) as the best universities in the US (mostly private).

            Sure, but I don’t think the fact that Silicon Valley emerged in the US rather than in Germany or UK is purely an accident (just like it’s not an accident that Germany is ahead of the US in manufacturing sector). I suspect that with low taxes, the ease of firing employees (since most start-up fail) and the general fact that capitalism is not considered a bad word in the US have been major factors in creation of the US software companies.

            That all sounds plausible. I think you’re leaving out the role of the US military establishment in the founding of the tech sector, though – which can’t be laid at the door of capitalism in the same way. Similarly, the language factor is an issue: a computer programmer in India, where English is quite useful even within India alone (it’s often used for communication when two Indian languages aren’t mutually intelligible), is going to have better options in the US than Germany, the US industry is going to grow more due to more workers available, etc.

            Suppose an American conservative asks you the following question – “You say it all works OK in Canada. But Canada is not the US. If we implement social programs that American progressives want we’ll have to spend a lot more than you on helping the unskilled immigrants and their children (since we don’t have a country that can act as a buffer). Unlike Canada, high commodity prices would not help us fund the social programs so we’ll have to raise taxes. But if we raise taxes we’ll start losing immigrants like Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Sergey Brin or even native born entrepreneurs to places like Switzerland and Singapore, thus further depleting our tax base. What makes you so sure it won’t break our bank?”

            It would, indeed, be much harder to implement in the US than in Canada. However, Canada’s example shows that the outright horror stories won’t come to pass.

          • WarOnReasons says:

            I don’t know what the numbers are, but grad students will follow the profs they want to learn from

            Google shows that there are currently about 10000 German students in the US or roughly 1.5 per cent of the total number of Germans in the US (https://www.statista.com/statistics/233880/international-students-in-the-us-by-country-of-origin/)

            you’re leaving out the role of the US military establishment in the founding of the tech sector

            High military spending may have helped some tech enterprises, but, on the balance, should it not be an economic liability?

            English is quite useful even within India alone

            True. However, I don’t think it’s a decisive factor. UK and Canada have the same advantage (and plenty of Indian immigrants) but no comparable tech sectors.

            It would, indeed, be much harder to implement in the US than in Canada. However, Canada’s example shows that the outright horror stories won’t come to pass.

            Suppose someone suggests to you that Canada should drastically lower its taxes and drop most of its progressive policies because Singapore’s example shows that the outright horror stories won’t come to pass after that (in fact, Singapore has higher average income, lower poverty rate, higher literacy etc.). Would you be convinced by such an argument?

          • rlms says:

            @WarOnReasons

            High military spending may have helped some tech enterprises, but, on the balance, should it not be an economic liability?

            It’s not military spending now that’s relevant, it’s things like ARPANET.

            UK and Canada have the same advantage (and plenty of Indian immigrants) but no comparable tech sectors.

            Canada has around 10% the population of the US, so it would be pretty remarkable if it had a comparable tech sector. To the extent that the comparison it makes sense, I think it probably does have 10% the tech sector, and probably more.

            Would you be convinced by such an argument?

            Canada and the US are a lot more similar than Canada and Singapore, but nevertheless some policies working in Singapore *does* show that they don’t inevitably lead to disaster.

          • dndnrsn says:

            High military spending may have helped some tech enterprises, but, on the balance, should it not be an economic liability?

            On balance for the economy as a whole? Honestly, such questions are out of my wheelhouse, and those whose wheelhouse they are give different answers. But I’d be willing to bet that the beat-the-Reds US military money in computers and so on gave a real shot in the arm to the tech industry.

            True. However, I don’t think it’s a decisive factor. UK and Canada have the same advantage (and plenty of Indian immigrants) but no comparable tech sectors.

            But smaller populations, less Cold War era government spending on tech, and without the historical happenstance that can contribute. I doubt there’s any one decisive factor. If I described Switzerland to you, would you think “now that sounds like a candidate for a disproportionate share of the foreign banking market” absent knowledge of the various historical reasons for Switzerland being a place foreigners like to put their money?

            Suppose someone suggests to you that Canada should drastically lower its taxes and drop most of its progressive policies because Singapore’s example shows that the outright horror stories won’t come to pass after that (in fact, Singapore has higher average income, lower poverty rate, higher literacy etc.). Would you be convinced by such an argument?

            “Shows the outright horror stories won’t come to pass” is different from “think this is a good policy for the context.” Trying to just take Canada’s health care system would probably not work for the US. But a similar system, adapted, might work. My objections to saying “Canada should just adopt Singapore’s model” would be along the lines of pointing out that Canada is much geographically larger and less densely populated while Singapore is a city-state, that the base of Canada’s economy is different, etc, rather than “if Canada did that the rich would hunt people for sport” or whatever. Popular defences of the US health care system versus proposals for a single-payer or similar system tend to be emotive and exaggerated, rather than a simple “we’re a different country and we face different challenges”.

            By way of analogy, “Canada should have the same relative military spending as the US” is a terrible proposal. We don’t need that military; we’re at most a regional player and in any full-on war we’d either be a) alongside the US, b) not involved, or c) screwed. But it’s not a terrible proposal because upping military spending would lead to a junta or mean we would have to abandon all other spending or whatever.

          • bean says:

            By way of analogy, “Canada should have the same relative military spending as the US” is a terrible proposal. We don’t need that military; we’re at most a regional player and in any full-on war we’d either be a) alongside the US, b) not involved, or c) screwed. But it’s not a terrible proposal because upping military spending would lead to a junta or mean we would have to abandon all other spending or whatever.

            But just think. If you did have the same relative military spending as the US, you might be able to afford…
            Amphibious Forces.

          • John Schilling says:

            But I’d be willing to bet that the beat-the-Reds US military money in computers and so on gave a real shot in the arm to the tech industry.

            Perhaps, but I think 1960s era DOD funding is much less of a “shot in the arm” to, e.g. 21st century white tech industry professionals /wannabes relative to blacks, or to native-born Americans vs German grad students vs anyone else, or to the Bay Area tech industry vs that in any other city, or to anything else that anybody has been discussing in this or any other vaguely related thread.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @bean

            “This defence policy paper is just shouting JUNO BEACH repeatedly…”

            “Yes, and?”

            EDIT: @John Schilling

            OP to this subthread is Freddie asking what’s with the mix of liberal beliefs plus Marxist flavour, not the discussion of race, etc, which is going on at the same time. My point is that the American tech industry’s dominance may have something to do with that 60s era funding, which contributes to a Canadian techie being more likely to go to the US for a job than vice versa.

          • WarOnReasons says:

            @ dndnrsn

            If I described Switzerland to you, would you think “now that sounds like a candidate for a disproportionate share of the foreign banking market” absent knowledge of the various historical reasons for Switzerland being a place foreigners like to put their money?

            I may be overestimating myself, but I suppose that if you told me that some country a) is a western-style democracy; b) has one of the lowest state income tax rates in the Western world; c) has bank secrecy protected by a special article of its constitution – then yes, I might have thought that it “sounds like a candidate for a disproportionate share of the foreign banking market”.

            My objections to saying “Canada should just adopt Singapore’s model” would be along the lines of pointing out that Canada is much geographically larger and less densely populated while Singapore is a city-state, that the base of Canada’s economy is different, etc, rather than “if Canada did that the rich would hunt people for sport”

            But were not the objections I raised essentially the same? I did not argue that tuition-free colleges would result in Khmer Rouge style of massacres, but rather that there are major differences between the US and Canada, just like there are major differences between Canada and Singapore. In the previous comments I listed several specific differences between the US and Canada that seem to make it financially impossible for the US to adopt Canadian progressive policies. If you can show me realistic solutions to these problems then I hope I would be open-minded enough to see that I was wrong. If you do not clearly see them yourself then consider the possibility that adopting Canada’s progressive policies may actually be harmful to the US.

            By way of analogy, “Canada should have the same relative military spending as the US” is a terrible proposal. We don’t need that military; we’re at most a regional player and in any full-on war we’d either be a) alongside the US, b) not involved, or c) screwed.

            Good point. But, naturally, less spending by Canada and Europe means that the US has to spend a few more percent of the GDP on its military rather than social programs.

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            By way of analogy, “Canada should have the same relative military spending as the US” is a terrible proposal. We don’t need that military; we’re at most a regional player and in any full-on war we’d either be a) alongside the US, b) not involved, or c) screwed. But it’s not a terrible proposal because upping military spending would lead to a junta or mean we would have to abandon all other spending or whatever.

            But just think. If you did have the same relative military spending as the US, you might be able to afford…
            Amphibious Forces.

            Don’t be silly, bean, I’m pretty sure it was established in the last open thread that Canada has no coasts – that’s why they have to keep their Navy in US ports now.

          • John Schilling says:

            My point is that the American tech industry’s dominance may have something to do with that 60s era funding, which contributes to a Canadian techie being more likely to go to the US for a job than vice versa.

            And I’m skeptical of that point, given how thoroughly the US tech industry has moved from e.g. MIT to Silicon Valley, and how much of it has been offshored altogether. Do Canadian aerospace engineers mostly move to Germany or England or France to practice their trade, on account of the early and largely government-funded lead those countries once had in aircraft and rocket design?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @WarOnReasons

            I may be overestimating myself, but I suppose that if you told me that some country a) is a western-style democracy; b) has one of the lowest state income tax rates in the Western world; c) has bank secrecy protected by a special article of its constitution – then yes, I might have thought that it “sounds like a candidate for a disproportionate share of the foreign banking market”.

            But without particular historical factors, they might not have come to have that bank secrecy, is my point.

            But were not the objections I raised essentially the same? I did not argue that tuition-free colleges would result in Khmer Rouge style of massacres, but rather that there are major differences between the US and Canada, just like there are major differences between Canada and Singapore. In the previous comments I listed several specific differences between the US and Canada that seem to make it financially impossible for the US to adopt Canadian progressive policies. If you can show me realistic solutions to these problems then I hope I would be open-minded enough to see that I was wrong. If you do not clearly see them yourself then consider the possibility that adopting Canada’s progressive policies may actually be harmful to the US.

            I’m not saying your objections are wrong – but they’re more wonkish than some of the objections that have been popularized in the past. I don’t think the US as a whole could adopt a system like Canada’s on a national scale, in part for the reasons you listed. On a state-by-state level, I can see it working, but some states probably wouldn’t be able to make it work. But the reasons they wouldn’t be able to make it work are not “the US is a lower-trust, more-diverse society than the guys out on the fjords have.”

            Good point. But, naturally, less spending by Canada and Europe means that the US has to spend a few more percent of the GDP on its military rather than social programs.

            You’re right that there’s a tendency of various European countries plus Canada to fund their military to less than the NATO target due to the presence of the US. Personally, I think that Canada should start looking at ways to increase military spending – by many accounts, spending is too low and it causes problems for the military’s smooth functioning.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @John Schilling

            And I’m skeptical of that point, given how thoroughly the US tech industry has moved from e.g. MIT to Silicon Valley, and how much of it has been offshored altogether. Do Canadian aerospace engineers mostly move to Germany or England or France to practice their trade, on account of the early and largely government-funded lead those countries once had in aircraft and rocket design?

            Well, Germany’s rocket industry mostly moved to the US, didn’t it?

            More seriously, wasn’t the Silicon Valley area also home to a whole bunch of American defence outfits?

            I’m not saying this is a slam dunk, I’m merely speculating there are reasons other than the US being a bit more business-friendly than Canada for why it’s more of a destination for Canadian workers than vice versa.

          • WarOnReasons says:

            @ dndnrsn

            On a state-by-state level, I can see it working

            It would have been great for the US if each state could make such a decision for itself, but it seems politically impossible. Central authorities almost never willingly reduce their powers.

          • John Schilling says:

            More seriously, wasn’t the Silicon Valley area also home to a whole bunch of American defence outfits?

            Not really. Lockheed-Martin has a fairly substantial facility in Sunnyvale, which is geographically nestled in between Google and Yahoo but doesn’t have much in the way of cultural or economic ties and mostly isn’t doing the software-and-electronics stuff that “Tech” mostly now means. There’s LLNL and LBNL, I suppose. And the proto-Tech industry stalwarts like Xerox and HP and IBM would sell their wares to the DoD but would not really be classified as “defense outfits”.

            Possibly you are thinking of Southern California, where most of the big aerospace companies had their hubs once upon a time (and some still do).

            Mostly, the DOD and DARPA funded a bunch of universities and traditional defense contractors to develop the underlying technology of “Tech”, with the biggest concentration of that effort being in the Boston area. Then a bunch of people saw the commercial potential and decided to work on that, and they coalesced someplace completely different. That happens to have been the San Francisco Bay Area, but I’m not seeing any defense-related reason for that.

          • Nornagest says:

            Lockheed-Martin has a fairly substantial facility in Sunnyvale

            Northrop Grumman’s got one too. Mostly naval stuff, I think. But again it’s not closely tied to Tech.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            After WWII, Termin returned from the Rad Lab to Stanford. Knowing how important and lucrative radar had been during the war, he built up the EE department and brought in defense grants, then he developed a network of small defense contractors focused on radar.

          • bean says:

            Don’t be silly, bean, I’m pretty sure it was established in the last open thread that Canada has no coasts – that’s why they have to keep their Navy in US ports now.

            That’s not really an obstacle. They can just keep the ships in US ports alongside their existing three frigates.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @WarOnReasons

            Canadian provinces and American states have different levels of authority in different things relative to the federal government; I think on the whole Canadian provinces have a bit more autonomy. I’m not a lawyer – but I also think we don’t have anything quite like the whole weird “everything is interstate commerce if you squint” situation in the US.

            @John Schilling

            Ah, I stand corrected – I was misplacing some things. Thanks. I also suppose the hellmouth in Sunnyvale scares people away.

            Maybe it’s just random chance, and then critical mass once you get to a certain point? Hollywood being in LA makes more sense – I’ve read that the local climate and geography is conducive in various ways to filmmaking, or was back in the day at least.

            @bean

            Excuse you, we have twelve frigates. And HMCS Oriole.

          • BBA says:

            I’m not sure that Canadian provinces are more autonomous than US states, it’s just that the lines of federalism are drawn a bit differently. One clear difference to me is that Canada has a nationwide criminal code, only the federal government can amend it, and any provincial law of a criminal nature is necessarily unconstitutional. Contrast the US where both state and federal government have independent criminal-justice apparatuses. A federal crime is a federal crime nationwide, but most crimes fall under state jurisdiction, and even where there’s overlap the local police are enforcing state law, not federal law. So Colorado can make marijuana state-legal and it has a real impact even though it’s still banned under federal law; meanwhile, British Columbia can’t do anything about making marijuana legal, and if federal legalization passes Alberta can’t ban it again.

          • Nornagest says:

            The hellmouth is nice this time of year. It’s warm; the malefic crimson glow contrasts nicely with cloudy skies; the rain makes a soft sizzling sound as it boils away on the brimstone, which does a pretty good job of drowning out the screams of the damned. It’s almost poetic.

          • bean says:

            @dndnrsn

            I also suppose the hellmouth in Sunnyvale scares people away.

            That hellmouth got closed 15 years ago. I think the only one in the US today is in Cleveland.

            Excuse you, we have twelve frigates.

            Yes, but I was giving the strength in US units, not in metric.

            And HMCS Oriole.

            That’s not terribly impressive compared to either our oldest ship or our sail training ship.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @BBA

            That’s one of the places US states have more authority. I’d have to doublecheck, but I’m pretty sure there’s plenty of powers provinces have that states would like to have – I think, for example, Canadian provinces have significantly greater control over natural resources?

            @bean

            Come on, nothing is more luxurious than a yacht.

          • Nick says:

            That hellmouth got closed 15 years ago. I think the only one in the US today is in Cleveland.

            We have many amenities, thank you!

          • Nornagest says:

            I think, for example, Canadian provinces have significantly greater control over natural resources?

            That’s… complicated. States have legal authority over resource extraction within their borders, but the western US, especially, has the odd feature of including a hell of a lot of federal land. Since the feds have title to that land, new resource extraction projects in the western states generally happen only when they feel like granting rights to it.

        • Single payer is a socialist change, it’s just that it’s nationalizing health insurance rather than the whole health industry. Having the government run all the groceries stores would be a socialist change, even if they were still getting the groceries from private producers.

          • multiheaded says:

            Exhibit A, the “socialists” in the US just appropriate what ignorant laymen like Prof. Friedman call them.

          • @Multiheaded:

            You are treating “socialist” as a binary category. I am not.

          • LadyJane says:

            @multiheaded: Much as I may disagree with him, I wouldn’t call Prof. Friedman an “ignorant layman,” especially not on economic issues.

            What you’re failing to understand is that 1.) ‘capitalist’ and ‘socialist’ are both loaded terms that have several different meanings, many of which are nonetheless considered correct by the academic establishment, and 2.) capitalism (in the sense of private property rights and free-marketism) and socialism (in the sense of state and/or collective ownership over land, natural resources, the means of production, or some combination of the above) are not a boolean dichotomy, but rather exist on a spectrum.

            Every modern nation-state is socialist to some degree. For that matter, every modern nation-state is also capitalist to some degree; even the Soviet Union had some semblance of a market. In one sense, you could use the term ‘socialist’ to refer exclusively to proponents of the most extreme form of total socialism. However, the term could also be used to refer to anyone who supports moving in a more socialist direction. I’ve seen some right-libertarians who’ve called Donald J. Trump a socialist for his protectionist trade policies and his staunch support for closed borders, and while that seems like a stretch to me, I do understand the sentiment.

            Of course, I’ve also seen plenty of self-proclaimed socialists claim that Trump’s policies or Bernie’s policies or Hitler’s policies or Stalin’s policies go against the “spirit” of socialism, which is ostensibly based on equality for all men. But it makes a lot more sense to define ideologies in reference to actual tangible policy proposals, rather than by some vague immaterial philosophical ideal.

            Of course, there is a real danger of conservatives or libertarians or liberal centrists referring to anyone they don’t like as a “socialist” if we’re using an overly broad definition of the term. But if we use too narrow of a definition, then ideologues can simply claim that only their specific (often untried and untested) brand of socialism can be considered “real” socialism.

          • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

            @multiheaded: Much as I may disagree with him, I wouldn’t call Prof. Friedman an “ignorant layman,” especially not on economic issues.

            Multiheaded is probably being sarcastic (note the juxtaposition of the the phrase “ignorant layman” with the title of Professor, that implies the opposite), I assume they favour a broader definition of socialist than is being proposed further upthread.

        • hyperboloid says:

          The most radical “Socialist” idea under serious discussion is a guaranteed minimum income, it’s not outright “workers seize the means of production”, but depending on it’s exact terms it could well amount to the same thing in practice.

          Socialist systems destroy markets, not enter them.

          If this is your definition of Socialism, then you are excluding the ideas of the men actually founded the European Socialist movement.

          The early labor and co-operative movements were determined to place control of the means of production in the hands of the workers, and institute a system of industrial democracy. Their view was that the profits earned by capitalists were a form of exploitation that forced workers to turn over a portion of the fruits of their labor to a rent seeking class, thus depriving them of fair market compensation for their work. The predominant notion was that capitalism was a distortion of the free market caused by the unjust concentration of wealth in a small number of hands.

          At any rate, the principle of Socialism, as understood by almost all Socialists before Lenin was that workers would directly control the means of production through some democratic process. This in no way precludes a market mechanism for brining supply and demand into equilibrium.

          In fact It’s surprisingly hard to find any Socialist before the Bolshevik seizure of power who described their vision of society as one of centralized state economic planing. Certainly not Marx; who didn’t really describe it in any detail at all.

          • Matt M says:

            it’s not outright “workers seize the means of production”, but depending on it’s exact terms it could well amount to the same thing in practice.

            The state already regulates virtually every aspect of the “means of production.” Private entities “own” it in name only.

          • hyperboloid says:

            @Matt M
            Do we have sit here and have a conversation where we both pretend that you really believe that?

            Okay, if you insist.

            In the United States today a business owner can (excluding some narrow exceptions dealing with discrimination against women, and some minorities, and some, truly pitiful protections for organized labor) hire and fire any employee he sees fit, for whatever reason he sees fit. He can conduct his business without consulting his employees, or any of their representatives about decisions that will radically impact their lives. He is under no legal obligation to provide them with health insurance, or pay them a living wage. If he has good enough accountants he can often pay little or no corporate tax.

            Of course he can’t hire child labor, or dump toxic waste into public rivers, or pay his workers in credit at the company store. But I’m sure Paul Ryan will get around to writing these great moral injustices one of these days.

          • Matt M says:

            In the United States today a business owner can (excluding some narrow exceptions dealing with discrimination against women, and some minorities, and some, truly pitiful protections for organized labor) hire and fire any employee he sees fit, for whatever reason he sees fit. He can conduct his business without consulting his employees, or any of their representatives about decisions that will radically impact their lives. He is under no legal obligation to provide them with health insurance, or pay them a living wage. If he has good enough accountants he can often pay little or no corporate tax.

            I don’t disagree with any of that specifically, but I think it proves me right, not you.

            1. He can hire and fire “whoever he wants” except for the various categories of people the government says he must hire, and is not allowed to fire. And who controls the list of who these protected groups are? Not him, the state. They claim the right to dictate these terms, and to change them at any moment.

            2. He can “conduct his business” without consulting his employees be he essentially has to consult the state, who controls what types of businesses he is and is not allowed to operate, when, where, etc. Once again, they claim the right to dictate all such terms and to change them at any moment. And he does have to deal with “their representatives.” Congress. (and the various armies of bureaucrats under their employ)

            3. He is under no legal obligation to provide them with certain benefits. But he is under legal obligation to provide certain other benefits. Yet again, the state sets these terms unilaterally without his input. Subject to change at their whim. He is forced to provide unemployment insurance. He is forced to provide a minimum wage. Etc.

            4. I’m aware of very few companies (aside from those who have been unprofitable for several years) who pay zero income tax. But even if true, those terms are, once again, set by Congress. They could eliminate all loopholes and institute a 99% corporate tax rate tomorrow, if they wanted to, and there’s nothing the “owner” of the business could do to stop them.

            Business owners have about as much freedom as schoolchildren do during recess. “You can do whatever you want, at the time and place we select and so long as it doesn’t violate any of these 100 rules we set and that you have no say over.”

          • Randy M says:

            MAtt M–That’s somewhat persuasive, but I think it proves too much. If the only law was “Do not kill your employees” you would be able to say “Sure, I can do anything with my employees–except for those things that I can’t do, like kill them. And who decides what things I can’t do? The state. See, the state basically owns my company when they feel like it.”

          • Matt M says:

            Randy,

            That’s a fair point and pushback. That said, I think “do not murder” falls under basic NAP stuff, and therefore is irrelevant to property rights discussion.

            The state prohibits all sorts of voluntary actions corporations might want to engage in. That’s different entirely. Banning a below-minimum-wage employment contract is NOT the same thing as banning murder.

          • nameless1 says:

            @hyperboloid wherever firing people is not easy, people are very reluctant to hire them. Don’t want to be stuck with a bad hire. In an industrial democracy that means 4 rounds of interviews with all kinds of elected commitees. But not necessarily easier hiring or more jobs.

            I think what socialists don’t understand that transactions cannot be treated like crimes because people always have the option of not engaging in transactions. So if there is a minimum price of labor, minimum wage, you can decide to not hire, not grow the business. If there is an obstacle to fire, you, again, not hire, not grow.

            This is entirely different from a crime like killing where there is no transaction.

            But in transactional relationship, there is something the other party wants and it can always be denied. The worker wants to get hired. Maybe he does not want to get fired too easily, but if the price of that is not getting hired easily he may reconsider. He wants to work. Maybe he does not want to work for peanuts. But if minimum wages result in not getting a job at all, he may reconsider.

            This tends to be the problem with this type of thinking.

            To be honest, direct nationalization, instead of regulatory tinkering, avoids these transaction breaking traps. It introduces others, sure, but those are more complicated. But this kind of regulatory tinkering really ignores even the most basic questions “what if the other guy then does not want the transaction?”

      • Whatever Happened To Anonymous says:

        It’s just center left politics for young people. Since you can’t sell them on the NYT consensus yet, because it’s boring and, even worse, a little conservative, you have to make it seem as these policies and opinions are actually radical and dangerous.

        This kind of stuff really activates my almonds, because even though I am not a fan of the obvious dishonesty of the whole charade, I’d rather they don’t actually go ahead and start supporting actually radical and dangerous stuff.

    • benwave says:

      It seems to me to be a sort of path-dependence thing, where people whose prime motivations were along democratic or social inclusion lines fit in best (or in some cases only) with the workers’ parties and socialist organisations. You therefore find people who identify with those organisations even in cases where they don’t care much about the economic underpinnings of the groups. History has brought people who care about minority rights and people who care about Marxism together, but I think it’s a mistake to think of them as one category.

      edit – I also now recall that I once thought that controversial social issues such as gay marriage, abortion rights, race relations etc. might have risen more into prominence in recent times in some sense Because there has been movement on them in recent memory – while attempts at less inequality etc. have not gone far in the same time period. People see signs of success in those areas, success leads to effort leads to success. I’m not sure to what extent I still believe that, but it was a thought I had a couple of years ago worth mentioning.

    • Wrong Species says:

      When have Marxist movements ever not been moralizing?

      • Freddie deBoer says:

        Marx teaches us that the clash between social classes has nothing to do with the good or ill intent of either and emerges simply because of the underlying structural realities of capitalism.

        • cassander says:

          And Calvinism teaches that you can’t be saved by good works. That doesn’t stop the moralizing. If anything, it seems to encourage it.

          • nameless1 says:

            This is a strange and good point. Look at the far right. They literally believe various minorities are genetically bad and cannot choose not being bad and yet they are frothing.

            Maybe our moral instincts don’t actually line up with the moral philosophy that only conscious decisions are morally culpable. I strongly suspect everybody, not only conservatives, shares Haidt’s disgust reaction. Consider calling a murderer “sick”. People mean it as a condemnation. But why would being sick be a moral judgement? It isn’t. But it can be pretty disgusting. QED.

            The Calvinist can see the unsaved, the Marxist can see the rich as one sees a leper. Sure on a philosophical level it is not a moral fault to be the victim of an illness but GAAAH just get away from me die die die die omfg aggresive panic.

            On the other hand when people emphasize choice and moral responsibility for our choices, they seem to be far less hostile to those who chose badly and do bad things. Mayor caught in a corruption scandal? Step down. And then OK. Maybe they don’t even insist on prison. Just step down and it is over.

            Knowing it was a choice, knowing he COULD HAVE refused the bribe, i.e. he is not (disgustingly) entirely rotten but just made one immoral choice, makes him look human, almost sympathetic. People think well who knows if I could have resisted the temptation?

            So our moral instincts seem to work exactly the other way around than our choice oriented philosophies. If I see you as someone who can still choose between good and evil then I see you as human, as someonelike like me, and that view generates empathy. If I see you as someone so “sick” that you cannot choose anything but evil, I will see you an abomination, not a human and have a strong disgust / kill it with fire reaction.

          • cassander says:

            This is a strange and good point. Look at the far right. They literally believe various minorities are genetically bad and cannot choose not being bad and yet they are frothing.

            I’m not sure what you mean by this. Putting aside questions about whether this characterization is accurate, if I think you’re genetically bad I’ll probably react about the same to you as if I think you’re simply choosing to be bad. Either way, I don’t want living near me/marrying my daughter.

            Maybe our moral instincts don’t actually line up with the moral philosophy that only conscious decisions are morally culpable. I strongly suspect everybody, not only conservatives, shares Haidt’s disgust reaction. Consider calling a murderer “sick”. People mean it as a condemnation. But why would being sick be a moral judgement? It isn’t. But it can be pretty disgusting. QED.

            Haidt has somewhat repudiated his stance on left wing purity.

            So our moral instincts seem to work exactly the other way around than our choice oriented philosophies. If I see you as someone who can still choose between good and evil then I see you as human, as someonelike like me, and that view generates empathy. If I see you as someone so “sick” that you cannot choose anything but evil, I will see you an abomination, not a human and have a strong disgust / kill it with fire reaction

            This is plausible. The trouble is I can tell an equally plausible story, that the person who chooses to be evil must be violently purged/re-educated because he could do good and isn’t, and must at the very least made an example of. Someone who has no choice, by contrast, is someone to be pitied, not hated, because his fate is outside his control. Both moral instincts/stories are real, I think, but different ones activate in different times and circumstances. There’s probably an interesting book about what makes us we choose one narrative and when we choose the other.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Marx teaches us that the clash between social classes has nothing to do with the good or ill intent of either and emerges simply because of the underlying structural realities of capitalism life.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          I mean, there’s still very clearly a normative component? If you meant something stronger by “moralizing”, you might want to be clearer about it.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          What’s never been clear to me is how to reconcile believing that individual Marxists have the power to effect change, with refraining from moralizing and instead ascribing everything to underlying structural realities.

          Like, why would any Marxist make personal sacrifices for the cause, unless it’s in some sense the right thing to do?

          I’m a welfare state liberal myself. Is there any value of ‘should’ available to you to say I “should” be a socialist?

          • Rob K says:

            This is a tension in Marx’s writing; early on, he starts out writing about “universal human emancipation” as a desirable thing, and how it might be achieved. From there he comes up with the idea of the proletariat as the “universal negative” – the people who can’t be freed without freeing everyone. The next step is the “science of history” claim – the idea that the future evolution of class relations is predetermined, according to the logic that Marx has understood.

            You could, I suppose, describe the fundamental theory as amoral – there is a sense that people’s political engagement is going to be driven by their material circumstances. But that doesn’t describe the practice; the dry descriptive theory doesn’t offer any reason to help the proletariat gain power, or really take action at all.

            I’d say the most useful way to handle Marx is to throw out the “science of history” as the garbage it is and use the rest of the analysis (which, imo, contains useful insights) in your preferred moral framework. But YMMV.

  48. rahien.din says:

    Musical trilogies!

    Meaning, take an artist or band, and describe their sound as the mean (artistic center of mass) of three other artists/groups. These could be predecessors, stated influences, or neither ; they could be contemporaries, or could come from some other era. Bonus points for disparate and unexpected trilogies.

    • rahien.din says:

      DVNE : Intronaut, Elder, Isis
      Anna Burch : La Luz, Ladytron, The Cranberries
      Metallica : Diamond Head, Motorhead, Thin Lizzy
      Goldfrapp : Madonna, Justice, Zero 7
      Deftones : The Cure, Meshuggah, Helmet

    • tocny says:

      The Tragically Hip: The Rheostatics, Pearl Jam and The Rolling Stones

      If you haven’t heard of the Hip before, I beseech you to check out their album Fully Completely, or Day For Night.

    • Bugmaster says:

      There should be a way to do this through machine learning, seeing as someone already did it for language:

      https://www.robinsloan.com/voyages-in-sentence-space/

    • christhenottopher says:

      Metric: David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, the Sex Pistols

    • Well... says:

      Soundgarden: Black Sabbath, the Beatles (esp. Harrison and Lennon-penned songs), Jimi Hendrix. (OK, not surprising.)

      Alice in Chains: King’s X, Simon and Garfunkel, Heart.

      Days of the New: Alice in Chains (esp. “Unplugged”), Metallica, Led Zeppelin

      The Tea Party: Nine Inch Nails, The Doors, Led Zeppelin

      Melvins: Black Sabbath, Tom Waits, northwest coast Native American drumming

    • WashedOut says:

      Nails: Slayer, Napalm Death, Integrity

      My Disco: Shellac, Wire, Battles

      Frank Zappa: Bela Bartok, Ween, (modern jazz ensemble)

      Convulsing: Ulcerate, Portal, A Million Dead Birds Laughing

      Baroness: Mastodon, Isis, Torche

    • fion says:

      I don’t really have the musical general knowledge (or perhaps imagination is my failing) to contribute any of these, but I just want to say that I think this is a really fun idea and I’ve enjoyed reading the responses.

    • powerfuller says:

      Jesus and Mary Chain: Beach Boys, Velvet Underground, and Ramones

  49. Anatoly says:

    Continuing the irregular series of puzzles, here’s one that’s slightly more numerical than logical.

    The Cucumber Puzzle, or 28 Days Later

    Having decided to record your cucumber-eating habits, you find that for the past 28 days you ate at least one cucumber every day. Altogether you consumed 42 cucumbers in those 28 days. Prove that there must be a *contiguous* interval of days during which you ate exactly 13 cucumbers (total in that interval, not every day).

    Days are discrete and start/end at midnight. Every cucumber eaten belongs to exactly one day; no midnight snacks or any other tricks. In other words, it doesn’t matter *when* in the day any cucumber was eaten, just on what day. rot13.com your answer, remember to spell out numbers if necessary.

    • rahien.din says:

      There is almost certainly a mathematically-elegant way to solve this, but :

      Fgneg jvgu gur svefg guvegrra qnlf. Rnpu zhfg unir ng yrnfg bar phphzore, fb, vs abar bs gurz unf zber guna bar phphzore, gura gur svefg guvegrra qnlf jvyy or na vagreiny jvgu guvegrra phphzoref. Vs V nqq n phphzore gb gur svefg qnl, gura gur svefg gjryir qnlf jvyy unir guvegrra phphzoref vafgrnq. V pna xrrc nqqvat phphzoref, ohg gur vagreiny pna xrrc fuevaxvat.

      Vs V nqq guvegrra phphzoref gb gur svefg qnl, gura gur guvegrra-phphzoref vagreiny jvyy ab ybatre pbagnva gur svefg qnl, ohg gura qnlf gjb guebhtu sbhegrra jvyy pbagnva guvegrra phphzoref.

      Vs vafgrnq V nqq guvegrra phphzoref gb gur guvegrragu qnl, gura V pna srapr bss gur svefg guvegrra qnlf (rvgure gur svefg gjryir qnlf unir gjryir phphzoref, be gur svefg guvegrra qnlf unir sbhegrra). Nal yrff guna guvegrra jvyy crezvg n guvegrra-phphzore vagreiny jvguva gur svefg guvegrra qnlf.

      Ohg vs V nqq guvegrra phphzoref gb gur guvegrragu qnl, gura qnlf sbhegrra guebhtu gjragl-rvtug pna pbagnva n guvegrra-phphzore vagreiny. Vs V pbhyq nqq guvegrra phphzoref gb bar bs qnlf fvkgrra guebhtu gjragl-rvtug, gura V pbhyq cerirag nal guvegrra-phphzore vagreiny. Ohg V qba’g unir rabhtu phphzoref. Rnpu qnl unf ng yrnfg bar phphzore fb gung vf gjragl-rvtug hfrq, naq gura V hfrq guvegrra ba qnl guvegrra, juvpu fhzf gb sbegl-bar. V bayl unir bar phphzore naq V arrq guvegrra.

      • StellaAthena says:

        Nygubhtu vg vf gehr gung vs lbh qb guvf nanylfvf bhg naq rknzvar rirel pnfr lbh’yy svaq gung gurer vf abg rabhtu phphzoref gb pnhfr ceboyrzf, V qba’g svaq guvf nanylfvf nal zber pbzcryyvat gura fnlvat “V purpxrq nyy gur pnfrf naq vg qbrfa’g jbex.”

        • rahien.din says:

          V gubhtug bs n jnl gb rkcerff guvf zber trarenyyl :

          q = gbgny qnlf (va guvf pnfr gjragl-rvtug)
          p = phphzore vagreiny fhz (va guvf pnfr guvegrra)
          r = gbgny phphzoref rngra (va guvf pnfr sbegl-gjb)

          Vs r vf terngre guna (gjb gvzrf q zvahf p cyhf bar), gura gurer rkvfgf fbzr vagreiny pbagnvavat p phphzoref.

          Va guvf pnfr, sbegl-gjb vf yrff guna (gjb gvzrf gjragl-rvtug zvahf guvegrra cyhf bar), fb gurer vf fbzr vagreiny pbagnvavat guvegrra phphzoref.

    • StellaAthena says:

      Yrg gur ahzore bs phphzoref pbafhzrq ba qnl v or qrabgrq ol p_v. Qrabgr gur ahzore bs phphzoref phzhyngvir pbafhzrq hc hagvy qnl v ol P_v. Gur ahzore bs phphzoref pbafhzrq ba qnlf {z, z+1, z+2, … a} vf abj tvira ol P_a-P_{z-1}. Fvapr jr pbafhzr sbegl-gjb phphzoref, rnpu P_v vf yrff guna be rdhny gb sbegl-gjb. Fvapr jr pbafhzr ng yrnfg bar phphzore cre qnl, rnpu P_v vf qvfgvapg.

      Abj yrgf cvpx fbzr frgf hfvat Enmmzngnm zntvp (n grez jr hfrq va pbyyrtr gb ersre gb pyrireyl cvpxvat fbzrguvat bhg bs gur oyhr gb znxr n ceboyrz pbzr bhg evtug, anzrq nsgre n cebsrffbe jub jnf cnegvphyneyl tbbq ng vg). Bhe frgf jvyy or:
      {bar, sbhegrra}, {gjb, svsgrra}, …, {guvegrra, gjragl-frira},
      {gjragl-rvtug, sbegl-bar}, {gjragl-avar, sbegl-gjb},
      {guvegl}, {guvegl-bar}, …, {guvegl-avar}, {sbegl}

      Gurer ner guvegrra frgf va gur svefg ebj, gjb va gur frpbaq, naq ryrira va gur guveq sbe n gbgny bs gjragl-fvk frgf. Gur havba bs nyy gjragl-fvk frgf pbiref nyy cbffvoyr inyhrf bs P_v, fb rnpu P_v vf n qvfgvapg ahzore gung snyyf va bar bs gurfr frgf. Vs P_n naq P_o unccra gb snyy vafvqr gur fnzr frg, gura gur qvssrerapr bs gubfr jvyy or guvegrra, naq fb ba qnlf {n+1, n+2, …, o} rknpgyl guvegrra phphzoref jvyy or pbafhzrq. Gurer ner gjragl-rvtug qnlf, naq fb gjragl-rvtug inyhrf bs P_v. Gurersber ng yrnfg gjb jvyy snyy vagb gur fnzr frg, ol gur cvtrba-ubyr cevapvcyr.

    • Gurkenglas says:

      Sbegl-gjb phphzore-rngvat riragf ner neenatrq nebhaq sbegl-bar vagreinyf bs gvzr. Fbzr pbagnva n zvqavtug, ohg arire gjb. Ab gjb zvqavtugf ner guvegrra vagreinyf ncneg. Neenatr gur vagreinyf va ebjf bs guvegrra, lvryqvat pbyhzaf bs guerr be sbhe. Ab gjb zvqavtugf ner nqwnprag jvguva n pbyhza. Rnpu pbyhza unf hc gb gjb zvqavtugf, sbe n gbgny znkvzhz bs gjragl-fvk zvqavtugf.

    • Bugmaster says:

      What counts as an “interval” ? Does one day count as an interval ? In any case, this answer is too simplistic and therefore is likely wrong, but still:

      Lbh unir gb rng ng yrnfg bar phphzore cre qnl bire gjragl rvtug qnlf. Guvf tvirf lbh n ohqtrg bs sbegl gjb zvahf gjragl rvtug rdhnyf sbhegrra phphzoref gb nyybpngr ubjrire lbh jnag. Hasbeghangryl, sbhegrra vf unys bs gjragl rvtug, naq vf bar terngre guna guvegrra, juvpu zrnaf gurer’f ab ebbz sbe lbh gb nyybpngr gubfr phphzoref jvgubhg bireyncf, naq guhf nyybpngvat gurz gb nibvq shysvyyvat gur pbaqvgvbaf vf vzcbffvoyr.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        This strikes me as the start of an intuitively compelling analysis, but there is still some discussion missing regarding

        gurer’f ab ebbz sbe lbh gb nyybpngr gubfr phphzoref jvgubhg bireyncf

        Vf gurer na boivbhf fgengrtl sbe nyybpngvat gurz guhf? Boivbhfyl nal guvegrra-qnl vagreiny zhfg trg bar nqqrq gb vg (be gung vagreiny shysvyyf gur pbaqvgvbaf). Ohg whfg nqqvat bar qbrfa’g oernx nalguvat orpnhfr lbh pna whfg znxr gur vagreiny bar qnl fubegre gb znxr vg shysvyyvat.

        V guvax lbh zhfg unir n inyhnoyr vaghvgvba, tvira ol gur bofreingvba gung gur nyybpngnoyr pneebgf ahzore sbhegrra, juvpu vf unys bs gjragl-rvtug naq bar zber guna guvegrra. Guvf zhfg or jul sbegl-gjb vf gur tenaq gbgny, naq yrnqf zr gb pbawrpgher gung sbegl-guerr jbhyq *abg* jbex. Ohg gur ynfg cneg bs gur nethzrag vf fgvyy unml sbe zr.

        ETA: Duh. I now realize I’m not sure what I mean by

        yrnqf zr gb pbawrpgher gung sbegl-guerr jbhyq *abg* jbex.

        Qb V zrna gung jvgu sbegl-guerr (naq guhf svsgrra fhecyhf) lbh *pbhyq* cbvfba nyy cbffvoyr shysvyyvat vagreinyf? V pna’g fnl V frr bssunaq ubj.

      • Gurkenglas says:

        Vf lbhe dhrfgvba nobhg “vagreiny”f ersreevat gb zl nafjre?

        Na vagreiny vf n frg bs pbafrphgvir erny ahzoref. Phggvat na vasvavgr yvar gung ercerfragf gvzr jurerrire n phphzore jnf rngra yrnirf sbegl-bar svavgr cvrprf. Nyy vagreinyf zl nafjre gnyxf nobhg yvr va gung frg.

    • entobat says:

      Yrg n(a) or gur phphzoreyngvir pbafhzcgvba shapgvba, v.r. gur gbgny ahzore bs phphzoref rngra ba qnlf 1, …, a vapyhfvir. (Ol pbairagvba n(0) = 0.) Pbafvqre gur sbyybjvat cnegvgvba bs gur frg { 0, …, 42 } ol gur erznvaqre zbq 13:

      { mreb, guvegrra, gjragl-fvk, guvegl-avar }
      { bar, sbhegrra, gjragl-frira, sbegl }
      { gjb, svsgrra, gjragl-rvtug, sbegl-bar }
      { guerr, fvkgrra, gjragl-avar, sbegl-gjb }
      { sbhe, friragrra, guvegl }

      { gjryir, gjragl-svir, guvegl-rvtug }

      Gurer ner 13 fhpu frgf, naq 29 inyhrf bs n(a) gb qvfgevohgr nzbat gurz, fb ol cvtrbaubyr gurer vf fbzr frg va gur cnegvgvba pbagnvavat 3 inyhrf bs n(a). Ohg nal guerr fhpu inyhrf bs n(a), jurgure gurl pbzr sebz n guerr-ryrzrag frg be n 4-ryrzrag bar, jvyy pbagnva gjb gung qvssre ol 13.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        That’s very elegant, and illuminates some other points.

        Sbegl-gjb vfa’g fbzr zntvp fjrrg fcbg, fb zl rneyvre fcrphyngvba jnf jebat; lbhe cebbs jbexf jbexf rira vs svsgl-bar pneebgf jrer rngra, ol tvivat rnpu bs gur guvegrra frgf sbhe ryrzragf.

        Va snpg, fvapr gur cvtrbaubyr cevapvcyr npghnyyl fubjf gung gurer zhfg or rvgure guerr frgf jvgu guerr bs gur inyhrf be ryfr ng yrnfg bar frg jvgu sbhe, vg npghnyyl rkgraqf nyy gur jnl hc gb svsgl-guerr pneebgf — lbhe zbqhyb frgf gura fgneg jvgu gjb svir-ryrzrag frgf:

        {mreb, guvegrra, gjragl-fvk, guvegl-avar, svsgl-gjb}
        {bar, sbhegrra, gjragl-frira, sbegl, svsgl-guerr}

        Vs nal bs gurfr frgf unf sbhe bs gur pbhagf, gjb jvyy qvssre ol guvegrra, ohg vs guerr bs gurz unir guerr bs gur pbhagf, bar bs gurz zhfg or n sbhe-ryrzrag frg, va juvpu pnfr gjb jvyy qvssre ol guvegrra.

        Gung’f n gvtug obhaq, naq fubjf hf ubj gb trg n pbhagrerknzcyr vs gurer ner svsgl-sbhe pneebgf: cvpx gur inyhrf va pbyhzaf bar, guerr, naq svir bs lbhe gnoyr, juvpu unf lbh rngvat bar n qnl sbe gjryir qnlf, gura sbhegrra va bar qnl, gura bar n qnl sbe gjryir qnlf, gura sbhegrra va bar qnl, gura bar n qnl sbe gjb qnlf.

        • entobat says:

          Glad I could provide some clarity.

          V jnf guvaxvat bs tbvat gur bccbfvgr qverpgvba: jvgu bayl guvegl-rvtug phphzoref, gurer ner guvegrra fhpu frgf, nyy bs fvmr guerr. Trggvat gjb va gur fnzr frg vf onq, hayrff lbh qba’g cvpx gur zvqqyr ryrzrag, fb gjragl-fvk qnlf jbhyq oernx vg (ng yrnfg bar frg lbh pbagnva nyy guerr bs), naq gjragl-svir vf qbnoyr va gur bar jnl gung’f cbffvoyr (cvpx gur gjb bhgfvqr ryrzragf bs rnpu frg, pbeerfcbaqvat gb rngvat bar phphzore sbe gjryir qnlf, gura sbhegrra, gura bar phphzore sbe gjryir qnlf ntnva).

  50. christhenottopher says:

    Inspired by a recent Marginal Revolution post, I’ve been thinking about what traits can set a formerly dominant city into long term decline. So I’m curious, within the next 100 years, what currently cosmopolitan cities do you think will decline and lose their status? For me the defining feature of a cosmopolitan city is one where large numbers of people from outside the city’s home country want to move to a city or work there (just being a tourist destination for old buildings or nice museums doesn’t count). So here are a few of my guesses:

    60%: San Francisco – the current tech boom seems to me less built around technology in general, but instead built around a current specific type of mindset and computers specifically. At some point, I would guess that some new type of economic growth engine will get started and I would further guess that a city that is specialized in the last boom would not be the place that rides the wave on the next boom (see Detroit).

    70%: Dubai – The oil economy isn’t going to last forever and no matter how “liberal” a monarchy you’ve got set up I doubt people will really want to move to a desert with intolerant Wahhabis right next door. When the oil profits start tanking, my guess is Dubai will too.

    65%: Hong Kong – Hong Kong is built on two things, relative social/economic freedom compared to China proper, and widespread knowledge of English. That first trait is already being eroded and within a few decades the 1997 handover agreement will no longer be a protection. At that point Hong Kong’s distinctiveness will drop significantly. But there is still some hope for the city for it’s widespread English knowledge.

    More speculative picks:

    Boston 30%: Someone finds an alternative to traditional formal education that catches on with employers. 400 years of banking on being formally educated down the drain.

    London 10%: Brexit turns out way worse than anyone currently expects and Jeremy Corbyn (or someone like him) manages to destroy the finance industry.

    Tokyo 1%: Godzilla turns out to be real.

    • rlms says:

      I think you are too pessimistic about Hong Kong. Their natural harbour isn’t going away any time soon, and more importantly they have a very strong education system: look at the stats on page 8 here.

      • christhenottopher says:

        I would push back on that at two levels. First, education levels seem to be more of an indicator of past success than future growth. Most education is signaling so having an educated workforce is not the growth guarantee it’s often made out to be. Second, Hong Kong Harbor is already declining in importance compared to other nearby ports such as Shenzhen or Guangzhou. Indeed, total traffic in Hong Kong is down about 14% from it’s peak in 2008 even as other Chinese ports continue to rapidly grow. Hong Kong was not an important location before the British arrived there and set up shop. It became important not because it’s the objectively best place to have a port in the Pearl River delta, but because the British economic system put in place there was way more efficient for promoting economic growth than what the Qing, Republic of China, or Mao were offering. As China’s economic policies have become more growth friendly and Hong Kong is put under increasing pressure to stop being so distinct (and therefore a potential rallying point for organizing opposition to the regime), it loses the advantages it had.

        It’s only saving graces I see are momentum and strong English skills, neither or which are guarantees of continued relevance.

        • rlms says:

          I agree that the natural harbour isn’t the reason for Hong Kong’s success relative to Guangzhou, but it still provides a baseline: Guangzhou is arguably cosmopolitan itself already (since China is so big, intranational migration there is more like international in e.g. Europe) and would be more so if it had Hong Kong’s physical infrastructure. Even if the people of Hong Kong were suddenly replaced by those of Guangzhou, it wouldn’t just collapse.

          You can say that education is just signalling, but people listen to signals and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

          I think you’re dismissing “momentum” (in terms of having a strong financial services industry) too quickly. What else does e.g. London have going for it (except for strong English skills I guess)? In theory, there’s nothing to stop the City upping sticks and moving to somewhere else in the UK, but that would require a degree of coordination that won’t be available in practice (unless Brexit goes really badly). For Hong Kong, the PRC could potentially provide that coordination. But that would require a lot of effort on their part and if they end up in a position to do so they will probably have enough control over Hong Kong that they won’t want to.

      • John Schilling says:

        Gunagzhou (traditionally Canton) is as good a port as Hong Kong, and serving a larger industrial market with better access to the Chinese interior. And the PRC has been developing the Shenzen port complex as an alternative to Hong Kong as well.

        Hong Kong was a minor fishing port before the British Empire took over; its economic prosperity was due entirely to its privileged legal position as the best place to trade in Chinese goods or silver without losing all your stuff to nationalization or corruption. It will continue to prosper for maybe a generation or two after that relative privilege vanishes. Less if the PRC government wants to make a point that the privilege is gone.

        ETA: Ninja’d by chris

        • Nornagest says:

          Los Angeles isn’t a particularly good natural port either, and its original reason for becoming a good artificial one (the SoCal oil fields) no longer produces meaningfully. Development counts for a lot.

          • John Schilling says:

            Right, that’s why it matters that Guangzhou is a larger industrial city with better transportation access than Hong Kong. The development is done. Hong Kong lost. All it’s got left, for another twenty-nine years, is the privileged legal system.

    • BBA says:

      50%: Las Vegas – the only reason why it exists is that for half a century, Nevada was the only state where gambling was legal. Now that gambling is increasingly legal in the rest of the country (and the world) Vegas’s growth engine is sputtering, and it hasn’t diversified into any other industries of note.

      • christhenottopher says:

        I think that’s a good call. If anything I’d raise that percentage since similarly overly specialized entertainment towns (I’m looking at you Atlantic City) have met with similar fates.

        • BBA says:

          I had it higher, but then realized that many of the new eastern casinos are owned by LV-based companies, so at least in the near term the city will remain a center of the industry even if the Strip resorts are a smaller piece of the pie. (Also, I’m not sure how “cosmopolitan” Vegas is to begin with. Atlantic City certainly never was.)

        • Matt M says:

          Atlantic City has been declining severely for many years. Vegas has held strong, so far. If anything I’d say that’s a good omen for its long-term chances.

          • christianschwalbach says:

            Atlantic City has had longer to decline though, and is arguably better positioned for any sort of Renaissance, being both located in a prettier area, but closer to larger urban areas.

      • Fahundo says:

        Nevada still has prostitution tho

        • Protagoras says:

          Yes, but the state law prohibits prostitution in counties with over 700,000 people. Clark County (which contains Vegas) would have to lose 2/3 of its population before it would be able to legalize prostitution under current state law. That would be a pretty significant decline.

        • Lillian says:

          Legal prostitution in Nevada accounts for maybe 1% of the market due to the heavy restrictions placed on it. Unless they adopt a far more liberal legal regime it’s never going to amount to much more than a rounding error in the state’s prostitution industry, never mind the whole statewide economy.

      • Matt M says:

        Eh, it has basically diversified into general interest tourism/partying.

        Gambling as a destination, in and of itself, is definitely dying, if not already dead. But I know tons of people who have gone to Vegas as a destination even though they have little to no interest in gambling.

        Presumably anywhere else could take that mantle away and replicate it with enough effort, but nobody has yet.

      • Tenacious D says:

        Las Vegas is also heavily dependent on water that other locales would surely like for themselves.

        • ilikekittycat says:

          “Every city that relies on Colorado water but isn’t Los Angeles” is a good candidate for medium-term decline

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            Nah. Given Californian urban water prices, desalination is basically inevitable for all the coastal cities – which will free up water.

            Which leads to the obvious crazy idea: Desalination based water utility for the Urban Californian. Selling points: “No more rationing or guilt tripping! We are not cheaper, but we will not tell you to stop filling your pools or watering your garden. You pay, we supply.”

          • Matt M says:

            we will not tell you to stop filling your pools or watering your garden

            Given the political climate of California, this strikes me as entirely unwanted/not necessary. A bug, not a feature.

          • Thomas Jørgensen says:

            .. A: If that were so, there would be no pools or lawns there in the first place.
            B: it is easily marketed as a green alternative, too, assuming you have enough sense to source your electricity demand carbon neutrally. (Which is doable. Cali also has cray-cray electricity costs, so running your own supply wont murder your margins.)

          • christianschwalbach says:

            I readily agree. But as a poster mentioned, the Coastal CA cities can enact de salinization once the tech is widely applicable

      • warrel says:

        I think Vegas has another thing going for it though: middle-class people leaving California, for various well-known reasons. People who maybe want a more established metro area, winters not too cold etc. I think this may keep Vegas viable for a while, although obviously , non-gaming employers have to move there as well.

    • Matt M says:

      I’d throw in both SF and Paris as ridiculously large, expensive, cramped, dirty, crime-ridden cities that seem to be increasingly run by people who wish to optimize everything for the interests of homeless drug-addicts/muslim refugees.

    • Wrong Species says:

      San Francisco isn’t going to die because the tech boom ends. It’ll die if people decide that it’s not worth paying thousands of dollars every month to share a room with three other people. At which point, some other city(or multiple cities) will be where the techies go.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Seems like the West Coast version of this

        • bean says:

          That’s not just SF. When I looked at using U-haul to move out of LA, it was basically the same price as hiring movers, and I would have had to pay for the gas. I went with the movers.

      • Chalid says:

        “nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded…”

        I think that’s looking at it the wrong way. The Bay Area has become a world-class metro area in spite of dysfunctional housing policy. People are *still* moving there in spite of the costs. What that suggests is that the region’s natural advantages are very strong. It also means that there are relatively simple policy changes that can be made to boost growth further, which you can’t say about most of the other cities on the list.

        • Matt M says:

          They aren’t “natural” advantages. Not only are they man-made advantages, they’re relatively recent advantages largely dependent on network-effects.

          • Chalid says:

            “Natural” here wasn’t meant to mean literally coming from nature, it was in the sense of “innate.” Though the Bay Area does have pretty significant advantages from nature in its excellent weather, beautiful surroundings, and its harbor.

            San Francisco’s success isn’t a recent phenomenon. The San Francisco Bay Area has either been the most important region on the West Coast, or #2 to LA, since shortly after the Gold Rush. And in spite of the tech boom, it’s still got a decently diversified economy with strengths in financial services, biotech, and tourism, with multiple world-class universities driving further innovation (Stanford, UCSF, UCB).

      • Deiseach says:

        Wrong Species, that’s a big chicken and egg: the thousands of dollars rent for a shoebox is only feasible if the big tech jobs are there – if they go, then people can’t afford to live in SF at those rents, and the techies move away, which accelerates the big tech jobs moving away and rinse and repeat.

        • Doesntliketocomment says:

          You are acting as though the rental prices are born out of a necessity. If the big tech jobs leave, then the rent prices will just shift downwards until they reach a new equilibrium. (The downward shift will be somewhat attenuated by a contraction of supply, as a number of previously rentable “apartments” will go back to being sheds and storage closets.)

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      American Alpha Cities:
      NYC
      San Francisco
      Washington
      Chicago
      Los Angeles

      American Beta Cities:
      Boston
      Atlanta
      Dallas
      Houston
      Philly
      Minneapolis
      Seattle
      Denver
      San Diego
      St. Louis

      Cleveland, Detroit, and Pittsburgh are adjacent cities not far away from this list.

      Within the Alpha-class ranks, I’d suggest SF and Chicago are the most vulnerable. SF has a substantially smaller total GDP than several other American clusters: they seem to be hitting above their weight-class thanks to the tech sector. But them hitting above their weight class means that they have a lot of opportunity for reversion to the mean. I guess their saving grace is that they have the opportunity to hoover up a lot of other West coast companies still, like from Seattle and Portland. Portland and Seattle are both national cities, but they aren’t GLOBAL cities, and their regions produce a lot less output than the area around SF.

      Chicago has the problem of crappy Illinois finances, but it also has the problem of being in a competitive area. The whole Great Lakes region functions as a sort of Mega-City, which puts Chicago in competition with other cities, particularly Toronto. But Chicago is still a global city, so you can still have a lot of companies sourcing INTO Chicago from the surrounding area. Like maybe Express Scripts and AB can move in from St. Louis. That’s not at all impossible to imagine.

      Denver and Houston seem like possible at-risk candidates, and then you have the continuing slide of places like Cleveland, St. Louis, and Detroit.

      I’d like to say LA, because screw California, but I don’t see its global prominence diminishing any time soon, unless California suddenly decides to do something weird and ban all manufacturing or something.

      • johan_larson says:

        SF has a really dysfunctional culture around housing and transit. It could well choke on blocked growth or mishandled growth. We are already seeing spillover in the tech area to nearby centers, particularly Seattle, which is no slouch, with both Amazon and Microsoft.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Yeah, that’s my concern. Like, it’s already smaller than some other US areas, it cannot grow very well, so it needs efficiency out of the people already there, which seems like a chancey game.

          It’s especially at-risk compared to NYC, LA, and DC, IMO, which are going to stay around for a hell of a long time.

          • pontifex says:

            Don’t be fooled by the hype. Seattle is nothing like the Bay Area.

            The first big thing is that non-compete agreements are binding in Washington state, whereas they aren’t in California. So if you want to go from a big company to a startup in Washington, you probably can’t because your noncompete (unless the startup is in California, which does not honor non-compete agreements.)

            Traffic in Seattle sucks. People I have talked to say that it is worse than the Bay Area. The problem is that Seattle has an isthmus-like geography and a concentration of jobs in the city proper.

            Maybe you can get around this by living downtown and walking. But then you have to deal with the fact that it rains all the time.

            One area where Washington is slightly better is in taxes. California has a state-wide income tax, whereas Washington does not.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I’d be more concerned of Seattle jobs going to SF than the other way around. SF is a global city, and Seattle is not.

            SF’s problem is that it cannot get as big as NYC or LA or Houston or Chicago, so it needs to punch above weight to stay in that class. SF isn’t even top 10 in terms of population.

          • Brad says:

            Why couldn’t SF, or at least greater SF, grow as big as any of those cities? NIMBYs aren’t some immutable fact of the universe they are a pernicious political obstacle that it is possible, though by no means easy, to overcome.

            Neither earthquakes nor the geometry of the Bay are insurmountable problems. That said, I don’t know what the elevation and flooding situation is like. That could be a serious and near impossible to fix problem going forward. But Houston and NYC have similar long term issues.

          • Matt M says:

            SF’s problem is that it cannot get as big as NYC or LA or Houston or Chicago, so it needs to punch above weight to stay in that class. SF isn’t even top 10 in terms of population.

            Part of this is just games with subdivision though, isn’t it?

            Don’t focus on cities and focus on “metro areas” and SF has room to expand just the same as Houston does. Houston is a big city mainly because its geographic borders reach pretty wide and encompass a lot of suburbs in a way that isn’t true of SF (or Boston, for example).

          • Nornagest says:

            The populated parts of the Bay are almost all coastal plain except for San Francisco itself, and often infill, but it doesn’t flood very badly because of its geography. The only major river it connects to is the Sacramento, which is kind of a footnote: its floodplains are all further upstream. There is potential for minor flooding along creeks or culverted watercourses but nothing like Houston or the cities along the Mississippi.

            That got stress-tested last year, in fact, when after a long drought the state got hit by a hundred-year storm. The Oroville Dam almost failed but the Bay was left largely intact.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Part of this is just games with subdivision though, isn’t it?

            Don’t focus on cities and focus on “metro areas” and SF has room to expand just the same as Houston does. Houston is a big city mainly because its geographic borders reach pretty wide and encompass a lot of suburbs in a way that isn’t true of SF (or Boston, for example).

            Good point, the broader SF CMSA is #5 on the population list, at least going off the Wiki.

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

        • Deiseach says:

          I’d agree that San Francisco is vulnerable, because Silicon Valley is not so much a place as a state of mind (man). That is, it’s not tied to that location because they need a sea port or the coal from the nearby mines or what have you like traditional manufacturing. The main reason to be there is because “that’s where everyone else is, and the venture capital money for my start-up to create wedding dresses for cats that can be downloaded off our website and 3-D printed”, but if MegaHugeBigCorp decides to move to a secret volcano base new location where the local government is willing to grant them every concession they want (not just tax breaks) in exchange for having a big employer, then where one goes, others may follow.

          If you made Dogpatch really attractive and the big fish started moving there (or even the hot new lean young pretenders who are going to be the next big fish), then it would be easier than it is assumed to be to slowly drain all the cutting-edge away from San Francisco, which might then be just as stuck due to its dependence on Big Tech as Detroit was by being Motor City.

          • Nornagest says:

            Largely true. But there’s an argument that that mindset is enabled by California’s legal environment, which while horrible in a lot of ways does get some things right for a place like Silicon Valley, e.g. by having relatively weak non-compete protections.

            I don’t know how unique this is, though, or really how important.

          • AG says:

            Disagree with your assessment of SF, Deiseach. I work at a building where all of the actual manufacturing plants for the company are in other states/countries (because the associated plant in the area closed down years ago). Logistically, it’s very inefficient for this building to remain open instead of getting moved to where the plants are.
            The reason this building stays open is that a significant number of senior management live in the area, have lived in the area for decades, and don’t want to move. They certainly have the money to ride out SF housing issues (hell, they’re probably counting on it for a nice big retirement payday.)

            The execs will continue to live where they think the quality of life is desirable, and sucks for the peasant employees who can’t afford the area. (See also that Disney World employee who was homeless and died recently.) And so that venture capitalist money will stay right where it is.

            Basically, SF’s weather and unique capability to take daytrips to both super urban and super hiking contrasts with cities like NYC/Houston/LA/Vegas, where you have to spend continuous money on A/C a significant portion of the year, and navigating between urban/suburb/rural attractions takes precious hours.

            The availability of pop culture means a lot to residents! There are certain cities in rural states that are host to increasing numbers of manufacturing plants, due to the every concession/tax break they get from the local government you mentioned, but employees at those places will choose a 4-hours-1-way commute in order to live at the nearest big city, because there’s Nothing To Do in the city where they work. (And education for the kiddies is also crap, which plays a large role in where the middle class chooses to move.)

      • The Nybbler says:

        Detroit’s already declined. In fact, it used to be the undisputed titleholder in the category “most well-known post-apocalyptic urban hellhole in the US” until _The Wire_ and Freddy Grey put Baltimore back in the running (My home state has Camden, unofficial motto “Worse than Detroit”, but it’s too small to count). Pittsburgh, like New York, is a city that already decline and climbed back out of the hole (Detroit, to be fair, is trying, but it’s got a lot more room to go up than down, as there are still packs of feral dogs roaming the streets).

        Was Cleveland ever dominant? I thought it was only known for river fires.

        Of the Alpha class cities you listed, DC isn’t going anywhere as long as the US government is there (that’s all that got it through the ’80s). New York is ascendant. Los Angeles and Chicago seem pretty resilient. San Francisco seems the most likely to fall; it’s a tiny little city punching well above its weight.

      • Rob K says:

        Realistically, St. Louis doesn’t belong on this list, although it does have an interesting decline story. It rose to be the fourth largest US city as the dominant city of the Mississippi and Missouri river trade network, and for several decades functioned as “the city” for a huge slice of the American West. But even before it peaked the railroad connections to Chicago and beyond it the eastern seaboard were taking away the fundamental source of its strength, and it started sliding by the early 20th century.

        There’s an interesting question of whether it can have the sort of renaissance other similar cities have had. A lot of the ingredients seem to be there, but nothing’s caught fire yet for reasons that are hard to pinpoint; the unusually fragmented municipal map and city-county divide are candidates, but not clear why they should have quite such a powerful impact.

    • pontifex says:

      London 10%: Brexit turns out way worse than anyone currently expects and Jeremy Corbyn (or someone like him) manages to destroy the finance industry.

      London is in bad shape. It’s hard to see how the finance industry can survive the next 10 years in London without shrinking substantially. As The Economist writes:

      Financial firms in any of the EU’s member states can serve customers in any of the other 27 without setting up a local branch or subsidiary. Once Britain leaves the EU’s single market, operations based in London will lose this “passport”. No one yet knows what will replace it. A free-trade agreement covering only goods, even if it could be negotiated in time, will plainly not suffice.

      With regard to the political situation, I would put the chance that Jeremy Corbyn or someone like him comes into power in the next 10 years at more than 90% at this point. JC is not going to be friendly to any of the things that London is good at (except maybe foreign oligarchs parking their money there), so the future looks bleak.

    • MB says:

      I’d go with: Frankfurt, Cape Town, Delhi, Calcutta, Rome, Istanbul.
      None of these is currently a first-rank city (some used to), but they’ll sink even lower for reasons of economic, political, and demographic change — and possibly due to war.
      Also, London and Singapore, currently world-class cities, will lose some of their preeminence, for similar reasons.
      Confidence: 80% for each, individually.

    • quaelegit says:

      For everyone discussing San Francisco: are you talking about the City of San Francisco by itself or the Bay Area in general? Because if the latter I’m not sure its “punching above its weight” based on population size — the Nine-County region (which seems to match the modal usage of Bay Area) is 7.6 million, bigger than Great Houstons 6.5 million. The most restrictive group I would accept for “Silicon Valley” would include San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Alameda Counties, which is 5.1 million people.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I mean the City of San Francisco itself. Silicon Valley is traditionally only South Bay, whether you accept that or not.

    • Tarhalindur says:

      Common causes of cities becoming less cosmopolitan: war, climate change (usually desertification), loss of imperial dominance, shifting trade routes (due to changes in trade destinations, regulatory environment, or transport technology – I’ve visited towns that were major centers in the steamboat age but declined when the railroads came), or a dominant industry losing competitiveness (the Rust Belt and manufacturing towns in northern England are both good examples).

      Frankly, my read is that on a hundred-year timescale it’s harder to find cities with upside than downside; that’s far enough that we could see China supplant the US and then get supplanted, and long enough for any sea level rise to start to kick in. (Note: For these purposes it doesn’t matter whether climate change is anthropogenic, only that it happens.)

      Particular downside:

      Phoenix, Tuscon, Vegas, Reno: Inland Western US cities that are very vulnerable to water supply issues.
      Washington DC: On a hundred-year timeframe I’d be very surprised to see the US remain the leading world power. That’s not a death knell for DC – London survived the fall of the British Empire
      New Orleans, Venice, Miami: Obvious risk candidates if any sea level rise occurs at all. For New Orleans/Miami add “major hurricane strike causes too much damage to bother rebuilding and the city is abandoned” risk. (Arguably in New Orleans’s case this has already happened.)
      Johannesburg: Genocide warning.
      Taipei: “The US managing to protect us for a hundred years is unlikely, and when that ends we’re getting invaded by China” warning.
      Silicon Valley in its entirety: Obvious candidate for the next Rust Belt. (Amusingly, San Fran might be in better shape than most of the Valley – they at least have a deepwater harbor to fall back on, though IIRC they foisted most of that off on Oakland. Cities like San Jose are at more risk.)
      Dubai, Riyadh: Yeah, chalk up another pick for “the oil’s going to run out, and when they do these cities are screwed”. (To quote a phrase I’ve heard attributed to Saudi Arabia: “My father rode a camel. I drive a car. My son flies an airplane. His son will ride a camel.”)

      (Won’t argue with Hong Kong being likely to eat losses to due a shift in trade routes/regulatory enviroment, either. Also, Tokyo should be at higher risk, mostly due to the possibility of Chinese economic or military offensives. China still hasn’t forgotten Nanking, after all.)

      • and long enough for any sea level rise to start to kick in. (Note: For these purposes it doesn’t matter whether climate change is anthropogenic, only that it happens.)

        I agree with the second point. I think climate change is in large part anthropogenic, but whether it is is less important than what its implications are.

        But the high end of the IPCC high emission scenario for the end of the century is only about a meter of sea level rise. With a century to do it in, raising dikes by a meter shouldn’t be a big problem. It’s possible that it won’t happen, due to the sort of incompetence that let the New Orleans dikes fail, but that doesn’t seem like the way to bet.

      • B Beck says:

        New Orleans also has to worry about the Mississippi River changing course, which it probably would have done back in the 80’s if not for the Old River Control Structure.
        It doesn’t seem imminent or anything, but it’s a concern.

        • engleberg says:

          @New Orleans also has to worry about the Mississippi River changing course-

          We could gouge the central channel fifty feet deeper two hundred feet wide if we had to. And sticking telephone poles into a break in the levee and packing sandbags around them is a well-established technology. We’ll have problems with areas that used to be flooded sinking as they slowly dry, but we could fix that with scattered ponds.

          • The problem, if I correctly understand the explanation my geologist wife gave me back when we lived in New Orleans, isn’t ultimately the depth of the river channel. It’s that as the delta builds out the slope gets lower and lower, which normally results in the mouth of the delta shifting to find a steeper outlet. That’s what the Corps of Engineers has been fighting for decades.

            One result is that the delta is now so long that the sediment from the Mississippi is being dumped off the edge of the continental shelf so doesn’t wash back to balance the gradual subsidence due to the overburden of past sediment, with the result that the coastline is moving gradually north. On the other hand, if the Corps ever loses it’s fight, and it has come close before, the end of the river switches to the Atchafalaya, Morgan City is under water, and New Orleans is no longer a river port.

            Any geologists reading this, including my wife if she does, are welcome to correct any errors in my account. I once had ideas for a computer game to be called “The Corps vs Mother Nature.”

          • engleberg says:

            @Any geologists reading this are free to correct errors-

            Goes double for me, but ‘the delta is so long that the sediment from the Mississippi is being dumped off the edge of the continental shelf’ rhymes with ‘we could gouge the central channel deep enough to get a steep slope’. Too bad we lose sediment.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Too bad we lose sediment.

            Aha. So the key is to gouge out a channel and truck it back up to Minneapolis!

          • engleberg says:

            @So the key is to gouge out a channel and truck it back up to Minneapolis!

            I like how you think. Had we but world enough and time, I’d like us to gouge a deep channel through the delta, build an underwater dam (or series of dams) at the end of the delta, top of the dam a hundred feet underwater, and tube a slurry of sediment to bolster the Louisiana coast. I leave financing the dam thing as an exercise for the financially competent reader.

          • Had we but world enough and time, I’d like us to gouge a deep channel through the delta, build an underwater dam (or series of dams) at the end of the delta, top of the dam a hundred feet underwater, and tube a slurry of sediment to bolster the Louisiana coast. I leave financing the dam thing as an exercise for the financially competent reader.

            The budgetary cost of the real world equivalent is negative. Just stop engaging in expensive engineering projects to keep the Mississippi from shifting its mouth, as it has been trying to do for a very long time. The sediment gets dumped into shallow water and the coastline stops moving north.

            Of course, Morgen City is now under water and New Orleans is no longer a river port, but you can’t make an omelette without …

          • engleberg says:

            @Just stop building expensive engineering projects-

            This coyness, David Friedman, were no crime, except that letting the Mississippi go where it wants is wildly expensive too- it would go back to multiple swamped-out switchbacks and no navigable channel if we let it. Dredging is an old, well-understood technology. Not that I understand it. I didn’t realize the delta reached the edge of the continental shelf until you said.

          • Which is why I wrote:

            The *budgetary* cost of the real world equivalent is negative.

            (asterisks added for emphasis)

          • engleberg says:

            @Which is why I wrote: the ‘budgetary’ cost is negative-

            My vegetable brain is running slow.

          • It’s a long poem–are you planning to use all of it in this thread, or spread it over several?

  51. SteveReilly says:

    What are the best resources for someone with no university affiliation but who wants to read medical studies? Specifically on complex regional pain syndrome.

    Also, if I were to try a mirror box like the kind that are used to treat phantom limb syndrome I’m guessing it wouldn’t work. But is there a downside to trying? (The pain is in a left hand that has been disabled from childhood.) I can’t imagine that kind of therapy poses any risk even if it’s almost certain to be useless, but I thought I’d check here before trying it.

    • StellaAthena says:

      Depending on what your first question means, either google scholar or scihub

    • pontifex says:

      Start by reading what the best doctors in the field have to say. Normally you’ll be able to find an overview book targetted at a general audience. For example, for RSI, Dr. Pascarelli’s “Guide to Repetitve Strain Injury” helped me recover from RSI.

      A word of caution. There is so much misinformation about medical conditions out there, especially on the internet. At this point, in fact, I basically default to assuming anything I read about medicine or nutrition on the internet is complete bullshit (unless it’s on this blog, of course 🙂 ) This is a case where you want to look for those medical credentials, and exercise some common sense.

      Once you know the fundamentals, you can consider reading the research literature. Although, it can be very difficult to correctly interpret.

    • professorgerm says:

      Some public libraries provide journal access, and some universities sell library access to non-students (my local state university does this and has discounts for certain employers).

      • SteveReilly says:

        Thanks all. There’s a college library near me so I’ll see if they sell access to journals. And yeah, I’m worried about either getting misinformation or my misinterpreting a paper I’ve read. I’ll do my best to run everything by doctors (including the mirror box) before trying anything.

  52. Toby Bartels says:

    I would appreciate help from anyone who knows how to make it so I can put random useful text up in an out-of-the-way place without insta-emailing everybody.

    GitHub?

    • kominek says:

      i was going to suggest github gists, yeah. they’re fairly out of the way while still being a service which will definitely be there tomorrow, and there’s a convenient enough interface for just typing in some bare text.

      • Error says:

        I use gists for this too. I’d be kind of surprised if Scott had a github account, though.

    • johan_larson says:

      If you have something you think of as “articles” for public perusal, blogspot.com works fine. If you have something more like “documents”, some of which should be available to the public, though not presented directly, Google Drive or dropbox.com should work. Both of them should make it possible to make documents globally visible.

      • Nick says:

        Evernote also works for hosting documents. I use it for certain things, but I have pretty mixed feelings about it, to be honest.

  53. doronelinav says:

    I recommend Stephan Jay Gould together with Richard Dawkins’ books (they even have a discussion/discourse along several books countering each other’s arguments)

    • JohnWittle says:

      Gould has a bit of a dismal reputation in these circles, for extremely intellectually dishonest behavior. See the LessWrong post ‘Beware Stephen Jay Gould’.

      • zz says:

        Something of a tl;dr, quoting from The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology (page 11):

        The arguments that not every trait is an adaptation, not all beneficial effects of a trait are its functions, that phenotypes are full of by-products, and that there are constraints on developing systems were all central to Williams’s 1966 critique of evolutionary biology. Thus, many of us were surprised when, 13 years later, Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin (1979) began to repeat the same critique without attribution, writing as if it were unknown to the evolutionary community they were criticizing. One striking difference between the two critiques was Williams’s development of strict standards of evidence can be used to distinguish adaptations from nonadaptations, rendering the issue a matter of empirical research rather than post hoc rhetoric.

  54. Doug says:

    Don’t know the details behind 3). But the fact that it needs to be said is not a good sign for the future of civilization…

  55. OptimalSolver says:

    Crossposting from the subreddit.

    What’s your crazy idea?

    Consider this a judgement-free zone to post half-formed, long shot ideas you’ve been reluctant to share with anyone.

    • Anonymous says:

      Get permission from whoever holds the copyright to SR3 to clean the system up.

    • Alsadius says:

      Create a really awesome utility for Battletech that incorporates all the rulebooks, obsoletes all the various unit creation tools and campaign support applications, and otherwise makes playing and theorycrafting the game easy and fun. And then monetize it. (The creators are apparently looking for some things in this category, which is why monetizing someone else’s game is at all conceivable, but if all goes well I’ll be making it much bigger and better than they’re expecting).

      Note that this is primarily crazy because I’m not a particularly good coder, and I already have a full-time job. So, if you know any good guides for getting into serious semi-professional coding(specifically, using C#/Visual Studio/SQLite as my primary languages/tools), that’d be awesome.

      • Thomas Jørgensen says:

        For what you want to do, C is the wrong tool. Java for maximum portability, and reasonably accessible difficulty is probably the way to go.

        • Bugmaster says:

          He said “C#”, not “C”; but I agree, C# might be the wrong tool for this (though not as wrong as C). Java would indeed be better; Python would be better still; in fact, I’d recommend using Python/Javascript/AWS as your platform for a Web app, not Java as a thick client.

        • Alsadius says:

          Java is one that’s been used for a lot of these utilities, but it requires installing a whole Java environment to make it work, and it’s not easily moved onto some OSes(iOS in particular), as I understand it. It’s not terribly well-regarded by the community. Similarly, I want to avoid web apps, because they’re both far too prone to dying, and I find them deeply irritating to sue(if only because I spend a lot of my phone-using time on the subway)

          I wanted to stick to something that was easier to make into a standalone program, and C# is a language I have some recent experience with, as well as being well-supported. It might not be optimal, but it should at least be a decent starting point I think.

        • Brad says:

          Is the deployment story for .net on iOS really better than for the jvm?

    • Zorgon says:

      Build a “hard scifi” 4X space strategy game at absolutely absurd, flat-out ludicrous levels of simulation fidelity. Aurora x 10,000. I’m talking full Einsteinian mechanics running at a granularity measured in fractions of a second. And make it multiplayer.

      • Anonymous says:

        Team up with Walmsley. 😉

        • Zorgon says:

          He’s said a million times he’s making it for him and no-one else. I’d rather team up with bean 🙂

          • Anonymous says:

            The Codex Astartes supports this action.

          • bean says:

            Bean is definitely interested in this plan. I’m not a programmer, but I have a lot of background information you’d need to make it work, and I’m a good researcher.

      • Bugmaster says:

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t doing so require a computer the size of the Universe, because essentially you’re trying to emulate the entire Universe ? 🙂

        • gbdub says:

          Yeah, I know the prompt was “crazy ideas”, but it really seems like if you have the capability to do this, it would have many practical applications that would make you rich.

          • Zorgon says:

            Well, giving it some more thought than the “pie in the sky” 2 second original…

            A project like this would have a number of specific goals which I can see settling out like this:

            – Game Level. Produce the ULTIMATE NERD TOY.
            – Maths Level. Figure out how to leverage the gloriously wide range of simulation maths out there.
            – Systems Design Level. See just how completely batshit insane you can make the scale and granularity and still keep the thing processing at a reasonable rate.

            There’s potential for applying more recent paradigms like Data-Oriented Design and also offload a ton of calculation work to GPUs. I’d be particularly amused by the idea of needing a latest-gen machine just to play a game which is like 99.9% spreadsheets (and that one 3D starfield we all make in our first 3D graphics classes).

          • Nornagest says:

            @Zorgon — That sounds an awful lot like Dwarf Fortress.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Fractions of a second is doable at planetary distances. Light speed helps a lot to localize changes, which is probably why it was implemented in our simuuniverse.

          It all depends on what people would be able to build. Chunks of matter flying around has already been done. Building a ion engine from scratch and expecting it to create thrust… not so much.

      • ilikekittycat says:

        As long as we’re asking for miracles 😋 space 4x strategy game where the ship customization/building/retrofitting is fun and rewarding instead of suicidal tedium

        • bean says:

          I’m not sure that’s compatible with realism. Well, at least if you’re not me. I enjoy shipbuilding in Aurora, but I’m deeply weird.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            I’ve never heard of Aurora. I just googled it and saw the descriptor “Like Dwarf Fortress as a 4X.”

            I’m not sure I’ll ever play it, but that’s a great way to get my attention. How would your review read?

          • bean says:

            I’ve only played a bit of Dwarf Fortress, but I’m a long-time Aurora fan. It’s like DF in that it’s massive and complex and detailed. It’s unlike DF in that it’s less perverse. You’ll write off your first game or two due to bad choices (and you aren’t a real player until you’ve accidentally bombarded a planet), but it’s not a constant struggle to keep everything working, at least to the same degree. (That may just be me being inexperienced in DF, though.)

          • Chevalier Mal Fet says:

            I, also, am intrigued by this “Aurora.”

        • cassander says:

          Master of orion 2 had that!

          • ADifferentAnonymous says:

            You of course meant to say “Master of Orion 1” :p

            Sure it didn’t have retrofitting, but the customization is just deep enough that you’re not certain you’ve built a good ship until you see it fight, and the six class limit imposes some surprisingly realistic tradeoffs around specialization and obsolescence cycle length. These things together mean you can get a real attachment to a class that turns out well.

            I suppose MOO 2’s lack of stacking is a plus for the Navy fans, but to me it undermines class too much. Also, I like small vs. large ships to be a doctrinal choice, but without stacking you basically have to just get bigger as time goes on.

          • cassander says:

            I’d really like to see a system in some games that encourages you to keep around slightly obsolete designs. Spaceward Ho! had a mechanic for this, the first ship of a class would cost dramatically more than all subsequent versions, which discouraged minor improvements. I’d love to see ship build times and cost drop as you make more of a given class.

            I also like the idea of ships losing some efficiency/getting more expensive to refit over time, but I think in practice that would create more of a pain in the ass than benefit.

          • bean says:

            @cassander
            Better classing mechanics is one of my top suggestions for Aurora. As it stands, some people tool their shipyard for the most expensive possible designs (survey sensors are good for this) and then can build anything. I’ve tried and mostly failed to come up with a good implementation. I’ve also suggested learning curves a couple times, though that’s not one of the ideas Steve has taken.

        • Tarhalindur says:

          Ascendancy would have a surprisingly good case here if not for the combination of a couple of other design decisions (invasion and ship limit mechanics, hull unlock techs, and travel time) and the game’s legendarily poor AI ensuring most of it never came into play.

          (Ascendancy’s planetary management, on the other hand, was another matter entirely, at least once you got to what was supposed be the midgame but in practice was the lategame. That game needed a build queue in the worst way.)

          (Speaking of crazy 4X ideas: Ascendancy done right.)

      • kingofthenerdz3 says:

        +1 Upvote

    • SaiNushi says:

      A charity to clean up a poor neighborhood. Not just trash and graffiti, but fixing power lines properly, repairing damaged structures, and such.

      A business to let young children learn how to handle breakables. They could come in, and pick stuff up, and turn it this way and that. Throwing things gets you banned (unless done in a zone set aside for the purpose). Entrance fee, not charge-per-accident, so the parents won’t discourage their kids from actually handling the breakables. Demonstrations for how high up of a drop breaks glass in various shapes at various angles. Group discounts for class field trips. Lots of staff to handle accidental breaks (I suspect there’d be far less than people expect).

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I’ve heard that pre-natal and perinatal care is really good for mothers and babies. It seems like this could be organized as local charities, but I haven’t heard of it happening.

      • Tenacious D says:

        A charity to clean up a poor neighborhood. Not just trash and graffiti, but fixing power lines properly, repairing damaged structures, and such.

        My version of this would be a charity to develop water and wastewater infrastructure on native reserves in Canada.

        And that business idea is brilliant, btw!

      • Randy M says:

        Good luck with your liability insurance.
        Especially if you go with both ideas.

    • Well... says:

      OK, you want the really crazy ones?

      1. A social experiment designed as a gun class for anti-gun activists. They would learn about different types of weapons, their histories and design and capabilities, how to handle and fire them, and how to clean and maintain them. The goal would be to measure the extent to which the class alternately enhanced the activists’ anti-gun arguments or else moderated (or even reversed) their anti-gun stance. The class would be somewhat rigid in structure and content so that nearly identical versions of it could be offered all over the country over a long period of time. Data would be collected with various methods, including analysis of graduates’ gun-related social media statements before and after taking the class.

      2. Figure out the right proportion of coconut to carrot to create the perfect carrot/coconut smoothie. Last time I got a neon orange substance with the consistency of soft butter. (But it tasted as good as I imagined it would.) Got this idea by eating coconut meat and carrots at the same time and experiencing the flavors coming together in my mouth.

      3. I’ve got a few rather absurd ideas for strange short films and subversive music albums I’d enjoy making someday.

      4. Compose a symphony with rhythms modeled on a field of crickets, with a movement that includes machine gun as a soloing percussion instrument.

      5. A company you can hire to perform elaborate April Fool’s Day pranks and events at your place of work or education. There would be a number of restrictions on what kinds of things can be done of course; nobody should get hurt, for instance. The general idea would be to invoke a comical sense of wonder or absurdity.

      6. A novel set in America but with an Australian first-person protagonist. The entire novel would be written in phonetic Australian. (Lawk theess.)

      • Manu says:

        6. Reminds me of Iain M. Banks’ Feersum Injun, which I found totally unreadable. It’s fine for a novel to have its own slang (prime example, Anothy Burgess) but I don’t think I could get through a book written the way you describe. It’s a fun gimmick now and then – an entire book, it would be an ordeal to finish it!

      • Wander says:

        There’s a novel called The Bright Side of My Condition written in something of an Australian pidgin language.

      • quanta413 says:

        Tell me more about idea 2. My interest is piqued. Any other ingredients that go in? Do you use coconut milk, coconut juice, and/or blend a fresh coconut?

        • Well... says:

          The one time I tried it, I used coconut meat, coconut milk (from the same coconut as the meat) and carrots. That’s it.

          I think next I might try simply mixing coconut milk (from a can or a carton, as long as it’s the white and opaque kind and not the translucent stuff that’s more popular now) with carrot juice.

          • quanta413 says:

            Oh yeah, the translucent stuff is coconut juice (sometimes called coconut water). Very different. Refreshing, but not at all creamy.

      • quaelegit says:

        For #5, are you aware of Improv Everywhere? They do stuff pretty similar to your idea, although I don’t know if they hire out to others or just pull their own pranks. Either way, their youtube channel is worth checking out!

        • Well... says:

          I’ve heard of them, and I think I’ve seen a few of the videos. Yes, I think this would be something similar, only of course you could hire them and the pranks would be both tuned to April Fool’s and restricted by a set of ethical codes. I also envision pranks that aren’t necessarily performance-based, but could involve props or effects of some kind.

          A few years ago I had the idea to purchase a bag of customized fortune cookies, with a mix of fortunes that all warned, in various ways, about a chicken. Then I’d find someone with a chicken costume and have him run circles around the building, pecking at windows, etc. It never panned out but I decided there ought to be an affordable way to make it happen.

      • Michael Handy says:

        Unfortunately, unlike Scots, colloquial Australian isn’t really its own dialect, has decayed into a variant of British English in the Cities (where the vast, vast majority of Australians live.) and unless your character is rural NSW/QLD, the Phonetics won’t be what you are expecting.

        Also, America isn’t really different enough, It would be somewhat like a novel set in California, with a protagonist from New York speaking phonetic Brooklyn.

    • johan_larson says:

      A pyrotechnic envelope for destroying hard drives and other electronics. Put in the drive, light the fuse, and stand back.

      An internet hosting provider designed to make it very difficult to push out customers who are doing unpopular but not illegal things, and also designed to make it difficult for outside forces to push the hosting provider itself off the internet more generally.

      A software company built on the apprenticeship model. Starting apprentices spend some portion of their days in classes learning software development, and the rest of the day actually testing/fixing/building things. Managers and tech leads are full-time professionals, the rest of development is done by the apprentices. Apprentices are trusted with increasingly demanding tasks as they accrue experience. The course of study is designed for four years, after which they graduate and seek other positions. The most promising graduates are offered direct positions as tech leads. Apprentices receive modest pay, just enough for room and board.

      A distillation of the GURPS RPG into something simpler and more tractable. Toss out all the magic, fantasy powers, past and future tech levels, and special maneuvers. What’s left is a playable game for modern-day cops, spies, PIs, security operatives, and paramilitary types that fits in 100 pages.

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        An internet hosting provider designed to make it very difficult to push out customers who are doing unpopular but not illegal things, and also designed to make it difficult for outside forces to push the hosting provider itself off the internet more generally.

        Isn’t Nearly Free Speech what you’re looking for? They’re well known for being willing to host controversial content, and I’ve never known them to give in to bullying.

      • engleberg says:

        @Toss out all the past and future tech levels-

        Tech levels are the best part of GURPS!

      • Nornagest says:

        A pyrotechnic envelope for destroying hard drives and other electronics. Put in the drive, light the fuse, and stand back.

        I’d buy this. The last time I had to destroy a bunch of drives I used a literal hammer and anvil, which was fun but time-consuming and probably wouldn’t stand up to serious data recovery techniques.

        • Iain says:

          I had a summer job once where I had to wipe dozens of old hard drives to fulfill the inscrutable mandates of the new corporate security policy.

          Hard drives that would still successfully turn on were overwritten with DBAN. If a drive didn’t boot, I opened it up and scratched up the platters with a screwdriver. A few of them were sealed beyond my ability to open; those went into the side room to be zapped by a big electromagnet.

          Notably, this whole exercise in security theater was assigned to an undergraduate intern who also had full remote access to every computer on site.

          • Randy M says:

            Wouldn’t it have been quicker just to electromagnet-zap the whole lot at once? Given the scratching, it doesn’t seem like reusing them was a goal.

          • Iain says:

            I think the idea was that DBAN would do a more thorough job than the magnet. Realistically, there wasn’t anything remotely sensitive on any of these hard drives anyway.

            There’s a strange satisfaction in taking an absurd job and doing it well. At least one of the drives was so old that none of our functioning machines had the right connector. We pulled an old beast that must have been older than I am out of a back room, but we couldn’t get it to boot, so we eventually resigned ourselves to using the magnet.

      • engleberg says:

        @A distillation of the GURPS RPG into . . . a playable game for cops, spies . . .

        GURPS Cops, other GURPS modules not allowed in the game.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Reading “The Case Against Education” right now, and thinking that the apprenticeship model should really make a comeback, in most industries.

        • Bugmaster says:

          I can’t speak for all industries, but in software engineering, apprenticeship won’t be enough. The apprentice would still need to have a solid grasp on computer science theory, in order to be an effective programmer — as opposed to just learning specific practical skills.

          • Anon. says:

            This is preposterous. CS theory and practical software engineering are worlds apart. Why do you think so many CS grads can’t even write fizzbuzz?

          • Bugmaster says:

            I’m not sure what you mean by “CS theory”, but I’m talking about things like basic data structures (hash tables, arrays, linked lists, trees); big-O notation (not the notation itself, obviously, but its underlying meaning); inheritance (interfaces, design patterns); threading (threads, locks, semaphores, race conditions, deadlocks); basic algorithms (sorting, search, graph traversal); memory allocation (yes, even for garbage-collecting languages); etc. etc.

            You may or may not agree that such ideas are “worlds apart” from practical skills, such as “this is how you make a checkbox” or “this is how you draw a rectangle”; but without these basic concepts, your apprentice would be useless at best, actively harmful at worst. Despite popular belief, programming is a creative endeavour. It’s not about repeating the same tasks over and over (otherwise, the programmer would get replaced by a script pretty quickly); instead, it’s about coming up with effective solutions to novel problems. And without a thorough understanding of theory, it can be nearly impossible to even understand what the problems are, let alone solve them !

          • johan_larson says:

            I don’t think anyone is arguing that software developers should be trained purely by having them follow an experienced software developer around and seeing what they do. There’s definitely a room for some direct instruction (in classrooms) in the underlying fundamentals of the technology, such as what you mentioned. But that’s true even for more blue-collar trades, such as electricians and plumbers.

            The question is how much of this classroom instruction is necessary and useful. The thinking is that a little goes a long way, and actual experience might be more useful. Also, a conventional education in CS in a university involves studying a whole bunch of unrelated stuff. A four-year degree can easily include a year of breadth requirements. I’ve yet to see a convincing argument that the breadth requirements are useful enough to warrant making them mandatory.

          • Robert Liguori says:

            I disagree pretty strongly. I sat through many bits of threading in my college days, and have used exactly none of it in my 10+ years of professional software development since then.

            I think, to continue the metaphor, that there are really distinct levels of skill required. Most software that’s written these days really is apprentice-work, requiring no more than a few year’s instruction by a professional and a clever, motivated student. Building, e.g., a web page with a few minimal bits of non-out-of-the-box functionality in PHP with some custom HTML is exactly the kind of thing which maps to “OK, you’ve learned the basics of blacksmithing and hammerwork, now go make nails for our customers. It’s hard to mess up nails.”

            Journeyman-level software is the stuff which requires deeper understanding, and master-level software requires both understanding the underlying mathematical abstractions, and their bare-metal implementations and when they don’t add up.

            The problem is that while the difference between a nail and a suit of proofed full-plate kicks the average person in the teeth, the difference between a basic gussied-up CRUD application or web page and a really complicated bit of bare-metal bit-hackery doesn’t. As such, people who don’t know software tend to assume that anyone who can build something as fancy-looking as the first can definitely do the second, with predictable consequences.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Robert Liguori:
            Regarding threading, this may be my own bias talking, but personally I use it every day, extensively. What’s more, I’m the only person at my current company who understands how threading works well enough not only to use it, but to avoid using it when possible. I dearly wish this was not the case.

            Building, e.g., a web page with a few minimal bits of non-out-of-the-box functionality…

            …Is a job that is done by CMS systems nowadays. Few people still do it by hand. Naturally, those “few minimal bits” end up being the kind of work that point-and-click systems are poor at automatically generating… i.e., work that requires understanding of what you’re doing, i.e., see my previous comment.

            As such, people who don’t know software tend to assume that anyone who can build something as fancy-looking as the first can definitely do the second…

            Agreed, but as I said above, it is virtually impossible to advance to the next level (“master” vs. “apprentice” or “journeyman” in your example) without a deep understanding of the fundamentals. And very few people can derive all that theory from personal experience. It takes real education to gain that type of understanding.

            @johan_larson:

            The question is how much of this classroom instruction is necessary and useful.

            Well, that depends on the quality of instruction, of course. I feel like I’ve been very lucky, precisely because my own education had a pretty wide breadth; still, if anything, it wasn’t broad enough. I’ve studied (*) the basics of computing all the way from transistors to LISP; and, as it turns out, when you are trying to learn something new in the real world, it’s helpful to see the new idea not as an isolated point in some arbitrary idea-space, but as a new permutation of some pre-existing system.

            To use a trivial example, you can always memorize a rule such as “in Java, if you override equals(), you must also override hashCode()”; but if you understand how hashtables actually work, you won’t have to memorize it, because it’s blindingly obvious. You will also be able to debug your own code (or, Turing forbid, someone else’s) much more effectively, since you won’t need to memorize a dozen possible bugs that could occur due to violating this rule.

            In keeping with the same theme, you could also memorize a rule of thumb like, “don’t try to put X million elements into a List”; but if you understand how memory allocation works, you won’t need to memorize the rule, because it will be obvious. And you’ll be able to apply the implicit rule to other data structures that utilize an internal array, such as hashtables… even if your master neglects to mention them, somehow.

            I could keep going like this forever, but my point is, it’s useful to understand what is happening at multiple levels of abstraction, as opposed to just memorizing some set of quick — though admittedly effective — techniques.

            (*) Note that I said “studied”, not “mastered”, there’s a huge difference there… wish there weren’t.

          • Brad says:

            The devil is in the details. Take big O notation. It’s absolutely imperative that a programmer understands in his bones what it means when he looks up a data structure and the documentation says “inserts are amortized O(1), deletes are O(log n), and get kth highest is O(n)”. It’s far less important that he be proficient at using the master theorem to derive the asymptotic run time of a recursive program.

          • Bugmaster says:

            @Brad:
            Although I agree, I am not sure whether it’s possible (for most people, at least) to internalize the former without performing the latter (or some variant thereof) at least once.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Anon

            As I’ve argued elsewhere, a CS graduate who can’t write fizzbuzz isn’t someone who overemphasized theory at the expensive of practice. It’s someone who skated through without learning or at least remembering anything at all.

          • Jiro says:

            Has anyone ever had a recruiter or hirer complain about people who can’t write fizzbuzz, sent them something saying “I can write fizzbuzz, but I don’t have (ridiculous requirement from your ad)” and get hired?

          • Bugmaster says:

            I’ve personally interviewed a person would could not write a simple counting loop, in any language (we’re just talking about a loop here, not even fizzbuzz). When I tried giving him a hint, he became indignant, proclaiming that such low-level coding minutiae are beneath him.

            He was not hired.

          • Jiro says:

            I’m not asking if there’s someone who can’t do it and wasn’t hired, I’m asking if there was someone who could do it and was hired.

            More specifically, I’m trying to distinguish between “we can’t hire anyone because our applicants are so incompetent that they can’t do fizzbuzz” and “we can’t hire anyone because our requirements are ridiculous, but since it’s also true that some applicants can’t do fizzbuzz, it’s easier to blame it on that”.

            If half your applicants can’t do fizzbuzz, but you also require 3 years experience in each of six technologies (one of which has only been out for 2 years) it really isn’t fair to blame it on the fizzbuzz.

          • Brad says:

            I have to agree with Jiro here, I’m all in favor of increased immigration including programmers, but the fact of the matter is that when it to complaints about not being able to hire I’m very unsympathetic given the cockamamie ways employers hire them (or more relevantly don’t hire them).

          • Bugmaster says:

            I would never hire anyone who couldn’t do fizzbuzz. By analogy, I would never hire a carpenter who couldn’t hammer in a nail, or a fiction writer who couldn’t spell the word “dog”.

          • azhdahak says:

            I do alright on code challenge sites and can certainly do Fizzbuzz, but I’ve applied to hundreds of programming jobs and gotten maybe two dozen phone screens, two interviews, and no offers. I don’t know what the hell these recruiters are talking about.

          • CatCube says:

            The part that scares me is that I’m not a programmer, entirely self-taught in a few languages to the “banging rocks together” point with what I’m sure is a coding style that would make a professional’s face melt like looking into the Ark of the Covenant, and I can write FizzBuzz. How the hell can you take on programming as a career and not be able to accomplish that?

          • Bugmaster says:

            @azhdahak:
            What kind of questions do you get asked on phone screens, out of curiosity ? Are those screens administered by the recruiters, or by the prospective employers ?

            The economy is pretty poor right now, and is likely to remain so for a while, so honestly “two interviews and no offers” sounds pretty typical. Still, if your phone screens consist solely of questions like “define term X” or “where do you see yourself in five years”, that’s a bad sign — it means that your recruiters are wasting both your time, and the time of your prospective employer, so you might want to think about getting better recruiters.

          • azhdahak says:

            My experience is that tech phone screens are pretty different from non-tech phone screens.

            Non-tech phone screens are generally “tell me about your job and why you’re interested in this job, get a more detailed explanation of the job, ask whatever questions you might have, and we’ll somehow make a decision based on that.” I don’t know what the hell is up with that.

            Tech phone screens are where I get the “do you memorize JS trivia in your spare time” nonsense. But I gave up on looking for tech jobs. My impression is that, unless you’re willing to move to Kentucky (which I would be if I had a car), you have to know people to get one of those. (On a higher level, my impression is that it’s less “the economy is poor” and more “the people in charge of hiring are very risk-averse, and the economy isn’t strong enough that they can’t get away with that.” The reason I gave up on tech jobs is that I started hearing from tech recruiters that I was unemployable because my degree wasn’t in CS. Then again, I did App Academy, but didn’t land a job from it [I think because I didn’t have enough general work experience at the time — most of the people there were in their early 30s and I’d applied straight out of college when I realized I didn’t want to become an academic] and it’s been long enough that I figure I can’t tell them that.)

          • John Schilling says:

            Non-tech phone screens are generally “tell me about your job and why you’re interested in this job, get a more detailed explanation of the job, ask whatever questions you might have, and we’ll somehow make a decision based on that.” I don’t know what the hell is up with that.

            What’s up with that is, we’ve already decided we probably want to bring you in for an interview, but that’s expensive so we’re just double-checking to make sure there hasn’t been some mismatch of expectations or other obvious miscommunication that we can clear up with a phone call.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t want to deny the validity of your experiences, but for another perspective I just finished up a programming job search. I have no CS degree. I do have several years of professional experience but all with tiny companies no one knows.

            The very top tech companies showed zero interest. I’ve read in various place that google at least reaches out to anyone internally referred but I’m here to tell you that isn’t true.

            The lumbering enterprises (think banks) were very interested. I was asked more than one time to do automated assessments of my knowledge of java. The questions got fairly obscure but the grading seemed pretty easy. The phone screens for these guys were entirely behavioral (“Tell me about a time …”). The onsites were a mix of behavioral and being asked about experience with very specific technologies. For me this was the stumbling block for this set of companies, I hadn’t used the enterprise-y frameworks and libraries and apparently they don’t believe they are something that any decent programmer can pick up quickly.

            Finally, there were the second tier tech companies, late stage startups, and tech forward but not pure tech companies. This turned out to be my sweet spot. A couple wanted short take home assignments (which I was fine with but understand why many wouldn’t be). The phone screens tended to be a mix of behavioral and high level tech questions (seemingly designed to smoke out someone that’s resume was completely made up). One had a screen sharing phone screen. The onsites all had technical component—whiteboarding, pair programming, API design—it varied.

            One company to consider working with is triplebyte. They are an advertiser here and if you click that link maybe Scott gets a few bucks. Anyway, they are resume blind until very late in the process. There’s a multiple choice test which is very easy. Then they schedule a fairly long phone and screen sharing interview. There are four sections—all of which they explain in advance. I got dinged mostly because my debugging was haphazard and slow where it should have been systemic and fast. But I don’t regret doing it, the process itself and the feedback were helpful. If you pass that, I understand they put you in with a mix of funded startups and established tech companies and you are supposed to be able to skip right to the onsite.

            As a final note, if you are having trouble I’d highly recommend working with a consulting company (e.g. teksys). Or even an Indian body shop (e.g. tata), they are required to, and anecdotally do, employ qualified US nationals that apply. The pay, and especially benefits, for either of these options in this route will be less but a recruiter will work hard for you and you’ll be building a resume.

          • SaiNushi says:

            Never heard of fizzbuzz before this thread. Looked it up on Wikipedia. Given a proper description of the original game at the hiring test, I could totally write it, though I’d have a million questions:
            -what language? (might be obvious based on hiring language, but if hiring for multiple languages…)
            -do you want it to be a game, or just an output?
            -if just an output, do you want it in command line or a gui?

            Self-Taught, never got very far in any of the languages. I did take a course in Java back in college, but that was over a decade ago.

            Studying C# at the moment. I’m tempted to do the output, and then make it into a game, just for the practice…

        • The Nybbler says:

          Might be a case of just preferring the poison you don’t know. Becoming an apprentice in the trades requires either knowing somebody (usually through relatives in the trades) or sometimes getting into an apprenticeship program through the state with a years-long waiting list. And it makes it just as difficult if not more so to change careers as formal degree requirements; nobody wants a 40-year-old plumber’s apprentice.

          And then there’s the worst of both worlds, as we see in various medical and “professional” engineering programs: you have to get a specific degree, and then work as an apprentice (not generally called that; therapy programs call it “supervision”, engineering “progressive engineering experience under a PE”, doctors “internship”, “residency”, and “fellowship”)

    • Bluesilverwave says:

      Crazy idea?

      Implement a US version of Sweden’s Vision Zero without just handing everything over to the machines forever and while maintaining the possibility of personal mobility ownership

      Make real autonomous vehicle safety standards more akin to FAA certification standards than the laughable garbage we have today.

      • Glen Raphael says:

        @ Bluesilverwave:

        Make real autonomous vehicle safety standards more akin to FAA certification standards than the laughable garbage we have today.

        What, did an autonomous vehicle run over your dog?

        Why would you want to strangle a perfectly good new industry in its crib like that? If the FAA had existed at the time of the Wright Brothers the airline industry would never have gotten off the ground, so to speak.

        (My apologies and condolences if an autonomous vehicle did run over your dog… 🙁 )

        • John Schilling says:

          The FAA’s mandate was until fairly recently to regulate and promote the aircraft and air travel industry, which they have done very effectively. And I am not aware of the regulatory activities of the FAA or its predecessors, back to 1926, significantly impeding the development of air commerce (other government agencies took care of that). Nor would any plausible retro-extrapolation of the FAA have interfered with the activities of the Wright Brothers in 1902-1905.

          And for that matter, the contemporary FAA has regulatory authority over commercial space launches, yet Elon Musk seems unimpeded in his ability to send self-driving cars out past Mars.

          The FAA’s approach of “Go do what you want with your own lives, but tell us how many innocent bystanders you expect to kill on average and show your math“, is a bit prior-restraintish for my libertarian tastes, but it’s not an intolerable burden. And we live in a society run by mostly non-libertarian voters, who have historically reacted very badly to finding out after the fact “you killed how many innocent bystanders?” So I’m sympathetic to the idea that the self-driving car industry might in the long run benefit from a bit of the FAA’s style of regulation.

        • The Nybbler says:

          John, the FAA has been attempting with all its might to strangle drones. I’m already theoretically facing several $10,000 fines every time I lift one of my model helicopters off the ground (one for flying an unregistered UAS, plus one for every one of the 15 or so “airports” — some helipads, some fields where a helicopter might make a landing, and one small airport — within 5 miles that I didn’t notify. If you want to fly a drone commercially, you need a raft of paperwork (including certificate of airworthiness) and a private pilot’s license (same as for flying a real airplane), and you must do it under a rather serious set of restrictions. They’re trying to make it worse by requiring transponders that weigh more and cost more than the airframes and electronics. And they shut down all model aircraft operation up to 30 miles from Washington DC for a few months just to show the AMA they were serious.

          If they’d treated full-size aircraft the same way, I can certainly imagine they’d give Wilbur and Orville trouble. Neither of them had a pilot’s license or a mechanic certificate. They certainly didn’t have type certification for any of those things, and they didn’t submit a plan for the testing of each of their experimental aircraft and have it approved.

          • engleberg says:

            @The FAA has been attempting with all it’s might to strangle drones-

            Wonder why. There was a flying penguin moving low enough to annoy traffic last year about a mile from where I live, and cops looked for its owner. Are these regs that never get enforced unless you walk in the cop shop and tell Officer Friendly you are here to help him make his quota? I mean unless an airliner reports a drone you bought sucked into its engine.

          • johan_larson says:

            Neither of them had a pilot’s license or a mechanic certificate. They certainly didn’t have type certification for any of those things, and they didn’t submit a plan for the testing of each of their experimental aircraft and have it approved.

            Well of course they didn’t. They were first, taking off into empty skies. The regulatory infrastructure came later when the industry expanded and having planes run into each other was a reasonable possibility.

            I would guess much of the resistance to small drones come from two sources. The first is sheer institutional inertia and turf war. The FAA wants to make sure they stay in charge of air traffic in the US. Institutions that don’t protect their turf tend to wither, it’s the Iron Law of Bureaucracy. And that means new types of use of the skies must be made to submit to FAA regulation. The second is the quite reasonable fear that existing air traffic, including commercial air traffic, will run into these drones, with bad results.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Well of course they didn’t. They were first, taking off into empty skies. The regulatory infrastructure came later when the industry expanded and having planes run into each other was a reasonable possibility.

            Yes, that’s the point. If you had today’s regulations, you’d have never gotten an airline industry. I’m sure our ur-FAA could have borrowed from some other (probably inappropriate) set of regulations, maybe something from naval shipping or civil engineering. That’s what regulating autonomous cars would be like today. The impulse to regulate means you can’t get any new industry off the ground (literally or otherwise) unless you can move faster than the regulators, and autonomous cars have probably fallen behind the curve and will die on the vine as a result.

            @engleberg

            The regs don’t get enforced because the FAA doesn’t have many enforcement agents. They control pilots by pulling or threatening to pull their licenses or medical and aircraft certifications. People who violate the drone regulations (following of which means flying at a designated flying field where there are people who can co-ordinate with the local airports, or being 5 miles from anywhere) typically don’t have pilot’s licenses (in fact there are some who gave up flying model aircraft in order to safeguard their real licenses). They occasionally threaten people who post drone footage on YouTube for violation of the commercial use rule, and they got some real estate listing services to refuse to allow drone footage; fortunately for the FAA I’m sure real estate agents would not lie about the source of their pictures.

          • If you had today’s regulations, you’d have never gotten an airline industry.

            Along similar lines, I remember my father reporting a conversation he had with someone who was involved with the introduction of some now important medical substance quite a long time ago. The man commented that if current rules had been in effect then they could never have done it.

            Unfortunately, I no longer remember what the substance was.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Unfortunately, I no longer remember what the substance was.

            I’ve heard that claim made about aspirin many times.

    • dndnrsn says:

      An RPG wargame where you are a general and your success is not only about your ability to fight the war.

      Let’s say it’s WWII. If you’re a Soviet, your job is to balance doing what makes military sense with (early on) the boss’s demand to do things that are often pointlessly suicidal and (later on) not get too popular. If you’re the Germans, you probably can’t win. A lot is out of your hands and the German chance after they started Barbarossa was at best 50-50. So your job becomes to juggle commanding well, keeping the boss happy, and trying to set things up so you get captured by the Western Allies and aren’t on the hook for serious war crimes (serious being the kind where you get in trouble more than a few years in prison then out for good behaviour), and then write a book claiming you knew nozzink that sells a bunch to Wehraboos. If you’re a British general early on, it’s about avoiding any huge defeats that just absolutely wreck home front morale. If you’re an American or British general later on, it’s all about balancing the alliance/fighting for position within it – if you’re the top guy, who do you give the bulk of resources to following the Normandy landings? If you’re below that, how do you jockey for those resources? Japanese general would be lightning strikes early on vs holding actions after that. Italian general would be a new game+ hardcore gamer mode, because, c’mon.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sounds sorta like War in the East.

        https://lparchive.org/War-in-the-East/

        • dndnrsn says:

          Ehhh, I don’t know how WitE works; Decisive Campaigns: Barbarossa is probably closest to what I want. But not close enough. I want to be able to play Eisenhower, and face the problem of juggling Monty and Patton. Or, let’s step the difficulty up; make it a Vietnam War game: You’re Westmoreland. Can you make it so people don’t use your name as a pejorative?

      • beleester says:

        Burden of Command is an upcoming release that’s supposed to be about managing the soldiers under your command and earning their respect, in addition to the usual wargame strategy. It’s a smaller-scale form of command than you’re envisioning (you play as a Captain), but I’d keep an eye on it.

    • Not ones I have been reluctant to share, but I think they otherwise qualify …

      A MMORG designed to make learning a language fun. When you are at level one the NPC’s occasionally use a word or phrase in French, always in a context that makes the meaning obvious. As you go up in level, the amount of French gradually increases, using words you have already gotten used to at the lower level. Possibly but not necessarily, at some point it sometimes becomes necessary for you to talk (in text) to them in French.

      Software to put the R back into MMORG speech interaction. When you talk to someone during the game, such as other members of your raid group, the software modifies your voice tone to fit the gender and race of your character.

      • Matt M says:

        Idea 1 seems interesting and plausible.

        I know a few limited phrases in Orcish thanks to WoW!

      • beleester says:

        Software to put the R back into MMORG speech interaction. When you talk to someone during the game, such as other members of your raid group, the software modifies your voice tone to fit the gender and race of your character.

        Nobody’s done it for voice, but there are a few games that do it for text. WoW has a language barrier between Horde and Alliance players, for instance.

        Urban Dead has zombies, which start off only being able to say a couple of phrases – “Graah,” “Grrh,” “Mrh?”, etc. They later can get a skill called “Death Rattle” which lets them chat normally, but their text gets run through a filter that makes it garbled and zombie-ish.

        This led to players ended up developing a “zombie lexicon” so that zombies could communicate more effectively. For instance, “Mrh?” is generally understood to mean “Revive me, please,” which is important, because survivors generally won’t use a revive on a player unless that player actually wants to live. They also came up with phrases that fit into the (very narrow) list of letters that Death Rattle uses, so you could say “Ram, gang, ram!” to urge zombies to break barricades, or “Harm bag man!” to tell them to target players with first aid skills.

        (Urban Dead isn’t as active as it used to be, but it had absolutely fascinating emergent gameplay.)

      • Bugmaster says:

        Slime Forest accomplishes at least some of these goals, though it’s a single-player RPG.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Anti-Semites are human.

      I’m thinking about posting on the subject to Facebook, but I’m not sure it’s worth the trouble.

      • kingofthenerdz3 says:

        So are anti-everything

      • keranih says:

        *narrows eyes* You’re turning into one of those crazy fundy “Love your enemies, pray for them, want them to be well” more-Quaker-than-the-Quakers types, aren’t you.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          No. If I write about anti-Semites being human, I’ll put in caveats about just the facts (they aren’t all the same, some of them will change for the better, punishing them isn’t a reliable method of controlling them), rather than advocating specific changes in how people treat them.

          • keranih says:

            Hmmm. Would you do the same for the people whose actions you admire and find worth emulating?(Point out that they’re human, and could change, etc)

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I don’t think there’s a need to do that sort of work about people I admire– there’s no big push to portray them as not human.

    • benwave says:

      I want to introduce university courses designed such that you spend one day a week at them (say, Friday) but designed to last your entire working life. I dunno how to implement something like that, maybe you could start it off by partnering with some companies in one sector (IT seems like an easier place to start). Eventually replace most bachelor degrees with this ongoing in-tandem-with-employment style of learning.

      • Nick says:

        I could see that working for some stuff, but how does that work for fields where new material builds on previous material? Does it just repeat after a while? If so, isn’t it better partitioned into many classes l