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Open Thread 99.75

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

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689 Responses to Open Thread 99.75

  1. jeqofire says:

    I can never remember which is which between foxes and hedgehogs. One specializes, and the other diversifies, right? Can we add Achidnas to refer to those who just try to brute force everything?

    • Brad says:

      A fox knows many things, but a hedgehog one important thing.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      It is much more memorable in the original:

      πόλλ᾽ οἶδ ἀλώπηξ, ἀλλ᾽ ἐχῖνος ἓν μέγα.

      Moreover, then you can see that it would be bad to add echidnas (or echinoids) to the list.

      (I have found conflicting accounts or the original. This is the best source I have found. Greek, English.)

  2. johan_larson says:

    Your mission is to win an Olympic medal and a Nobel Prize. You set yourself the goal at age ten, at which point you are already a clever and athletic child. You have prosperous and supportive parents and may start in any country at all. How will you do this, and what prizes will you aim for?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Go through puberty and do intense strength training into my adulthood, then transition to a woman. Win the Olympic gold medal in women’s wieght-lifting.

      Become an outspoken trans activist with extra credibility due to the controversy over my Olympic medal win. Do some trans outreach work in Africa and South America. Keep my finger on the pulse of mainstream center-left politics until I’m awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

    • Aapje says:

      That combination seems a bit weird, since I don’t see how you can really combine these well enough. So I’ll just answer for the medal part:

      Step 1: be a woman/girl
      Step 2: be or become German
      Step 3: take up luge
      Step 4: become good
      (optional) Step 5: sabotage your fellow German competitors at the Olympics

      Why:
      – Winter sports tend to be far less competitive
      – Equipment dependent sport, where Germans make the best equipment, so if you become the best German, you will probably win the gold.
      – Luge is very scary and women tend to be less risk-taking, so probably less competition.
      – In general, fewer women are into competitive sports, so less competition

    • onyomi says:

      As others are answering, it seems to be a combination of spotting the lower hanging fruit (which medals and prizes are relatively less competitive) and of accurately appraising your own competitive advantages (“which set of Olympic athletes does my body type most resemble?” might be one question to ask).

      I guess, as Aapje said, winter sports are probably overall less competitive, presumably because they’re less practiced. So being from somewhere wintry seems a good bet, as does practicing a sport with other high barriers to entry (dressage, or yeah, luge), since we’ve stipulated you have rich parents.

      Also, presumably it’s going to be better to focus on winning the Olympic medal first and the Nobel Prize later, since the former is more age-prohibitive, generally (though apparently a lot of scientists, mathematicians, etc. do make their most influential breakthrough when they’re young and their brains presumably more plastic/less attached to a particular way of doing things; I’m not sure, however, to what extent a given breakthrough, if Einstein hadn’t got around to it when he was 30, he would still have gotten around to it when he was 40, because his brain was just well-wired to solve that problem–of course, that’s also 10 years for someone else to beat him to it, potentially).

    • fion says:

      The Olympic medal is probably the easier part, since there’s a lot more of them going around. If you wanted to make it as easy as possible on yourself it would be good to start in a country that is quite small, so that you have a good chance of getting on the team, but has a really good tradition in a particular team sport (team sport is probably better because again, more medals going around.)

      For the Nobel prizes I have no idea which one is easiest. For the sciences, try to go to Oxbridge or Harvard or something. Work really hard. Make contacts with big names. Try and eat really healthily so you survive long enough. Do something experimental rather than theoretical.

    • Brad says:

      You probably want to get the olympic medal out of the way as young as possible and pivot hard. The suggests women’s gymnastics.

      • John Schilling says:

        Gymnastics judging is at least partially subjective. So is Nobel judging. So if you are or can become a physically attractive, charismatic woman with a secondary talent for self-promotion, going for women’s gymnastics would let you leverage the same attributes for both prizes.

        • Brad says:

          Along similar lines you probably want to be born in a poor, non-aligned, third world country as both gymnastics and noble prizes are partly geopolitical. On the other hand you want to move the US while still young so you can have a first rate training and coaching program. If possible, you should train with the US Olympic team but compete under your birth country’s flag (not sure what the rules are there).

    • cassander says:

      The Chinese engaged in a similar exercise for the 2008 olympics and are planning to do it again. At the time, I remember an article that went into a fair bit of detail about the process, but I can’t seem to find it right now. IIRC, the basis of the methodology was to identify sports with relatively weak competition then throw money and bodies at them. This meant looking at the more obscure sports, like equestrian and shooting events, and a big emphasis on women’s sports. They also seem to have had athletes focus more, despite winning more golds than the US, they had fewer multiple medalists.

      A strategy to maximize the success of a particular person winning requires some changes, but there are some lessons here. One, definitely be female. Two, pick a sport where success does not require physical attributes that you might not develop and can’t acquire. Three, pick a team sport in the hope that they can cover any weaknesses you develop. Four, focus relentlessly on maximizing your performance for one particular event. 5th, pick a lower profile sport with less competition.

      Given all these criteria, I think your best bets would be shooting, fencing, bobsledding, or biathlon. Pick whichever one you like the most/have the most aptitude for, move to whatever country traditionally has the best program for it, and spend the next 10-20 years doing nothing else.

      That’s the non-cynical approach. The cynical approach is is fion’s. Grow up male and not white as the citizen of a not white country that does not have an enlightened attitude towards gender issues. After puberty, move out of that country, transition as minimally as possible, and beat the crap out of the female athletes at a sport that requires a lot of upper body strength. Become an outspoken trans activist, remain scrupulously progressive, return to your unenlightened country for missionary work breaking down gender barriers and win the Peace Prize for your efforts.

  3. cassander says:

    There’s a definite air of non-native speaker. Some stuff that’s not exactly wrong, just some unconventional phrases and word choice. The biggest thing that’s really wong is some inconsistent tense usage and some preposition and punctiation choices. For example:

    When the Iconoclast Byzantine emperor Leo IV died in 780, his wife Irene became regent for their 10-year-old son Constantine VI. She earned the favor of the church and the common people by reversing her husband’s religious policies and allowing the use of icons – for that, the Orthodox Church considers her a saint. As Constantine grew up, she encouraged the youth to have fun and to leave the boring administration of the empire to her. At the age of 20 Constantine had the title of emperor, but the Empire was still ruled by the regent.

    Encouraged by some courtiers, Constantine began to think about taking power and exiling his mother to Sicily. When Irene found out, she exiled his supporters and had him beaten like a disobedient little child. When she tried to have herself recognized as empress in her own right though, the army revolted against her and gave the power to the young emperor. He proved to be incapable, impulsive and cruel, blinding his enemies or cutting their tongues (the punishment by mutilation was already a tradition in Byzantine Empire).

    Despite this cruel streak, he was lenient towards his mother. He gave her all the honors befitting her rank, though no real power. To gain leverage, she used her beautiful lady-in-waiting Theodote as bait. Young Constantine fell so much in love that he divorced Maria, his wife once chosen by Irene, forced her to enter a convent, and married the temptress. This was a violation of canon law, the ensuing controversy cost Constantine the support of the church. When the emperor’s popularity was further eroded by military defeat, Irene’s supporters reinstated her. Constantine attempted to flee to Asia Minor, but his shrewd mother blackmailed his last supporters to into surrendering him to her. Constantine was blinded and exiled on an island – some sources say that he died soon after from the wounds, others say he lived blind for years. And Irene ruled in her own name – the only woman ever to do so in the Byzantine Empire.

    • a reader says:

      Thank you very very much. I see that you not only improved/reformulated my writing but also added some information, like the year – maybe I should add the years everywhere?

  4. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I tend to find racism a pretty plausible explanation for a lot of things, and I’m going to list some of my priors.

    One thing is being Jewish. I’m not saying everyone who’s Jewish would react the same way, but I learned early that the majority can be wrong when it mistreats people.

    Another angle is that I think the human race has a wide mean streak. I see evidence that hurting people is something people do for fun as well as profit. Unlike Marxists, I think that sometimes people get a material advantage from mistreating those who don’t strike back, and sometimes bullying is a luxury that’s bought at the cost of material advantage.

    I note that people who don’t want to believe racism is in play tend to be weak on the costs of racism to those subject to it, and also don’t allow that racism can include massive overreaction to real differences.

    • John Schilling says:

      I tend to find racism a pretty plausible explanation for a lot of things,

      I find racism to be a pretty plausible explanation for a lot of things, for approximately your reasons. But I also find other plausible explanations for a lot of the same things. Classism and cultural supremacism, in particular, often drive the same sort of observed behavior that we expect from racism, come from the same roots, and are hard to disentangle.

      So, even before accusations of racism became a superweapon, the claim that racism was causing [X] required more evidence than the observation that racism plausibly could cause [X].

      • albatross11 says:

        +1

        The usual pattern in this kind of story is that there’s a situation with enough ambiguity that it could be explained by some kind of racism[1], or by some other thing. So we end up with our priors dominating our conclusions. This is not helped by the fact that media usually do a pretty bad job of accurate reporting on stories like this, particularly in terms of omission of relevant facts that would mess up the story they want to tell.

        [1] Which might mean overt racial animus, or unconscious bias in when to decide to ask someone to leave, or rational discrimination based on local statistics, or any number of other things.

      • quanta413 says:

        Classism and cultural supremacism, in particular, often drive the same sort of observed behavior that we expect from racism, come from the same roots, and are hard to disentangle.

        Agreed. The language we use doesn’t carve reality at the joints very well. Even worse, it’s not much aid to narrowing down to appropriate tactics for a person or group to deal with the problems they have due to some -ism at any scale. Two different instances of racism may call for two different tactics to deal with due to different social environment.

        It’s better than nothing, but insufficient.

  5. a reader says:

    For the native English speakers here – please help!

    I wrote a history (list) article and before sending him for publication, I must eliminate any language mistakes in it – because they say:

    Your English level must be that of a native speaker to have a successful submission. This is the number one reason we reject lists.

    This is the article – please tell me if there are any language (or factual) errors in it:

    https://pastebin.com/sNw6vq3D

    (It was already verified by 3 compatriots whose English is better than mine, so it shouldn’t have many mistakes now, I hope.)

    • fion says:

      I read no. 9 (lines 54-59) and all the language seemed perfect. Can’t comment on factual errors as I know nothing of this. Interesting (if grisly) story, though!

    • skef says:

      Some of the language is a little rough. I did a pass on the intro and #1-3 here: https://pastebin.com/ub5b4sAK . I didn’t touch anything after.

    • Brad says:

      I wrote a history (list) article and before sending him for publication …

      We generally use ‘it’ for inanimate objects in English. There are few exceptions, naval types use ‘she’ for boats, but the overwhelming rule is ‘it’.

      I looked at number 6:

      unfit for ruling -> unfit for rule
      made him supsect of importence -> lead people to suspect he was impotent

    • Deiseach says:

      Nit-picky corrections below, just small errors (to my eyes, others may disagree that some of these are even errors):

      Like Lysandra, Arsinoe was the daughter of Ptolemy I, king of Egypt – from the family who would later give the famous Cleopatra – so it is not very surprising that the young woman managed to gain a great influence over his aging husband.

      HER aging husband.

      So, she persuaded the king that Agathocles conspired against him and prepared a rebellion – making the father arrest and execute his son.

      WAS CONSPIRING against him and PREPARING a rebellion
      OR
      HAD conspired against him and HAD prepared a rebellion

      3. Emperor Heraclius mutilates his rebel bastard son, Atalarichos

      John Atalarichos was the illegitimate son of Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, born by a concubine.

      BORN TO a concubine
      OR
      BORNE BY a concubine.

      4. Empress Irene blinds her son, Emperor Constantine VI

      A beating LIKE a disobedient little child
      OR
      AS TO a disobedient little child

      Furious, Ivan the Terrible stroke him in the head with his scepter.

      STRUCK him in the head with his scepter.

      8. Sultan Mehmet III kills his son Mahmud

      Prince Mahmud was a youth eager for military deeds – he asked insistently his father, the sultan, to give him an army and send him to fight against a rebellion that was happening in Anatolia.

      He INSISTENTLY ASKED his father

      So, she sent a message to a Sufi sheikh, who was considered clairvoyant, asking how much more will the sultan live and whether her son will become the next sultan.

      Asking HOW MUCH LONGER will the sultan live

      9. Tsar Peter the Great kills his son Alexei

      Peter the Great is remembered now as a great ruler with modern, enlightened views – but his views on family weren’t enlightened at all. He sent his first wife to a monastery, letting his little son without a mother;

      LEAVING his little son without a mother

    • cube says:

      “she exiled his supporters and gave him a beating like to a disobedient little child.”

      Should be “gave him a beating like a disobedient little child”, or if you’re concerned then about ambiguity between beater and beatee: “gave him a beating as though he were a disobedient little child”.

      “(the punishment by mutilation was already a tradition in Byzantine Empire)”

      I’d say there’s a “the” where it doesn’t belong, and one missing where it does:

      “(punishment by mutilation was already a tradition in the Byzantine Empire)”

      Or with more flair:

      “(punishment by mutilation was by that point a tradition in the Byzantine Empire)”

    • a reader says:

      Thank you all very much – you truly are effective altruists! Special thanks to skef, who rewrote a large part of the article. So:

      9 (Alexei) was verified by fion
      6 (Don Carlos) was verified an corrected by Brad
      4 (Irene)was verified and corrected by cube
      Deiseach verified and corrected 1, 3, 4, 8 (Mehmet) and 9 (Alexei)
      1-3 (+intro) were improved by skef
      4 (Irene) was improved by cassander

      Has anybody read 5 (Suleiman, the longest one), 7 (Ivan) or 10 (Korean prince Sado)?

      • cube says:

        I read 5 and found nothing concrete to change, although I’d say your style is a little comma heavy. (I tend to be pretty comma heavy, and this seemed like more commas than I would put). In particular:

        “Bayezid, defeated, took refuge, with his family, in the neighboring Safavid Persia. ”

        I think you should consider dropping the commas that offset “with his family” so that it reads:

        “Bayezid, defeated, took refuge with his family in the neighboring Safavid Persia.”

        It’s not technically wrong with the commas offsetting there, but it does slow things down quite a bit in my head, and I don’t think they are needed there for clarity or emphasis.

        Also, you didn’t mention Deiseach’s contribution of “stroke” to “struck” for (7) Ivan, which should definitely be fixed. And I assume you have not been updating the pastebin with these edits, since I don’t see them changed there.

        • a reader says:

          Thank you once again.

          And you are right , I forgot that Deiseach also verified & corrected 7 (Ivan) – and I had a serious verb error there.

          So, now only the last point 10 (Korean prince) remained apparently unverified – or maybe it wasn’t mentioned because it doesn’t have any mistakes? I would be surprised, after all that. Would anybody verify it please?

  6. Atlas says:

    Random gripe: I find responding to allegations of racism by, as a man, enthusiastically affirming one’s willingness to have casual sex with women of another race frustratingly illogical. (I say this as someone who is anti-anti-racist and #woke about aitch-bee-dee, as it happens.) The most recent example was in an NYT article about some German rappers, but I also remember Conor McGregor making a similar statement some time ago, and just generally I feel like I see this “argument” (or rather, low-IQ attempt to elide actually engaging with an idea) a lot.

    Whether or not one is actually a racist (and I’m not even necessarily saying that it’s wrong to be racist), having sex with women of a different race is not a costly, hard-to-fake signal of anti-racism. Having sex (with consent or not) with the women of a defeated tribe is just about the oldest sign of victory in a conflict there is, as per e.g. the Iliad. Given that sexual encounters are/were (all other things equal!) less costly/more desirable for men than women, a man being able to have non-committal sex with multiple desirable women is an indication of his power vis a vis women and other men. So, if you’re looking at things on a collectivist level (i.e. being the r-word), there’s no problem with men from your in-group having fun with women from an out-group; that just shows how awesome your group is. A problem would be if men from your in-group monogamously commit to out-group women and have children with them, and a much greater problem is if women from your in-group have sex with men from an out-group. (I believe that Andrew Anglin has, from a different ideological perspective obviously, said much the same thing.)

    To take a historical example: white slave owners in the Americas and Muslim slave owners in the ME/NA region sometimes had sexual relations with women they held as property. Surely this doesn’t mean that they weren’t racist?

    So the point being, affirming a willingness to have no strings attached intercourse with a woman of a different race is not in fact a convincing indication that you’re not a racist. You may well in fact not be a racist, and indeed there may not even necessarily be anything wrong with a certain kind of in-group preference demonized as racism, but this is an almost totally irrelevant piece of evidence one way or the other.

    And there’s an inversely fallacious claim made sometimes by leftists, a sub-species of “Ha! He actually said ‘some of my best friends are black.’Wow, just wow!” variety point and sputtering. Namely, that sometimes a person accused of racism will point out that they are married and have children with a person of a different race. To which leftists will incredulously say something like “wow! He actually said that….I literally can’t even…I mean, in [the current year]….” and deny that this is any defense.

    However, it is in fact a costly, hard-to-fake signal of anti-racism, as per above; to an actual racist, inter-racial marriage and child-rearing is a huge negative.

    • fion says:

      Leftist, anti-racist here. I was reading your comment, nodding along going “yep, makes sense, sounds like a very sensible argument” and then I got to the twist at the end and was like “shit, that’s an interesting point.”

      I’ve always been kind of on the fence about the “I’m not racist – I have black friends” stuff. On the one hand, I don’t think it’s a particularly strong argument, but on the other hand I do get kind of embarrassed by my fellow leftists (and almost everybody else, by the way) jumping on it as the most definitive proof that somebody is, in fact, a racist. On the other hand* I kind of feel as though, given that that phrase attracts so much scorn, anybody who is in touch with reality would simply avoid using it, racist or not. So in a roundabout way I probably would think less of somebody for saying it, but I certainly wouldn’t be one of the ones criticising them.

      To answer your actual point, I wonder if one of the differences between you and our incredulous leftists is what you mean by racism? It’s almost certainly impossible to (for example) viscerally hate everybody whose skin is a different colour to yours while simultaneously being married to such a person and having mixed-race children. But I’m sure it is possible to be of the belief that (for example) east-Asians tend to be lazy and have a poor work ethic on account of their race** and still be married to such a person. The latter is still “racist” by many people’s definitions and many self-proclaimed anti-racists would consider it a very *problematic* opinion, deserving of *calling-out* and all the rest of it.

      A less strong point, but worth noting. There’s a difference between “some of my best friends are black” and “I’ve been married to a black woman for ten years and we have three beautiful children.” I think the former gets much more scorn than the latter, and I think this makes sense as it’s a much less costly signal.

      *Yes, I have three hands. What of it?

      **I wanted to use an example that wasn’t actually something people say. Sorry if that makes my point more obscure.

      • JustToSay says:

        On the other hand I kind of feel as though, given that that phrase attracts so much scorn, anybody who is in touch with reality would simply avoid using it, racist or not.

        Just want to say (username coming in handy here), that “in touch with reality” depends on where, socially, you live. I am for instance aware that saying something like that will generate sighs and eye rolls (among kind people! It can be worse among the less charitable.), but I’ve probably only known that for a few years. I’m positive that my husband would have no idea such statements are scorned. He probably wouldn’t say it, just because it’s sorta weird to trot out your friends to prove your point, but if he did, it wouldn’t be in belligerent or unthinking defiance of all the social rules. It would be because he’s genuinely clueless about them.

        It’s awkward when people say cringey stuff, but it’s unfair to assume they’re plowing ahead and willingly hurting people’s feelings and making themselves look stupid, despite totally knowing that’s what’s happening*.

        The differences in bubbles just may be a lot bigger than we think sometimes.

        *Of course, yes, we all know people who will do that very thing. My neighbor comes to mind. I’m just saying let’s not assume that first.

        (Edit to add): I definitely don’t mean you here. You specifically have gone out of your way to not do that. I was focusing on the assumptions behind the “in touch with reality” bit.

        • fion says:

          You make a good point. I shouldn’t underestimate the bubble effect. But I think my point is still valid. If your husband was accused of racism and responded by saying “That’s a stupid accusation – I have some very good friends who are black.” I would hope that his peers would not have much of a problem with that. The point is that he’s not in my bubble. This means he doesn’t know my bubble’s “rules”, but it also means he doesn’t need to, because he’s not meeting those kind of people.

          If he said it in front of the kind of people who would scorn him for it, then he’d learn that (whether reasonable or not) that phrase is one to avoid.

      • Viliam says:

        On the one hand, I don’t think it’s a particularly strong argument, but on the other hand I do get kind of embarrassed by my fellow leftists (and almost everybody else, by the way) jumping on it as the most definitive proof that somebody is, in fact, a racist.

        I wonder what would happen if in such situation you would turn to the person who said “wow, he has a black friend, what a racist!” and ask them: “Do you have any black friends?”. (If they say “yes”, reply: “Well, then you are a racist, too.” If they say “no”, reply: “Thanks god, now we definitely know that you are not a racist! Just take care not to make any black friends in the future, bro.”)

        (I am not an American, do I can’t do this experiment myself.)

        I suspect that the only winning move for that person would be to refuse to answer the question, and attack you instead.

        Yes, I have three hands. What of it?

        It moves you one step higher on the progressive stack, if they are real. Two steps higher, if they are imaginary.

        • Montfort says:

          They don’t go around saying that the phrase “I have a black friend”, regardless of context, is evidence of racism (at least, as far as I know). They view it as evidence of racism when used to deny racism. So to simply ask them “do you have a black friend?” is not analogous and won’t expose the potential inconsistency.

          • The Nybbler says:

            They view it as evidence of racism when used to deny racism.

            Which is the same as this fallacy:

            Cop to driver: “Had anything to drink today”?

            Driver: “I only had two drinks”

            Cop: “Thats what all the drunks say, you’re under arrest”.

            This is the inverse fallacy — the cop knows P(says ‘2 drinks’ | intoxicated) is high, and uses that to conclude P(intoxicated | says ‘2 drinks’) is high. Similarly, even if many racists say “I’m not racist, I have black friends”, this does not mean anyone who says “I have black friends” is a racist.

            (note the “2 drinks” thing is from before states started lowering the BAC level to trace amounts)

        • fion says:

          As others have said, it’s not the having of black friends that is considered the crime, it’s to use them as evidence of your lack of racism in a discussion.

          By the way, I’m not American either. The same phenomenon occurs in Britain.

          It moves you one step higher on the progressive stack, if they are real. Two steps higher, if they are imaginary.

          If I’ve understood your joke, I disapprove of it and think it is *problematic*, but it also made me chuckle. I’m such a bad SJW. 😛

          • John Schilling says:

            it’s to use them as evidence of your lack of racism in a discussion.

            Right, but that’s true of anything you use as evidence of your lack of racism, once you’ve been accused of racism. There are bingo cards and lists that allow accusers to dismiss any defense without consideration or engagement, just by recognizing and categorizing it in the taxonomy of “defenses against racism that we don’t listen to (which is all of them because why listen to racists?)”

            Having black friends is evidence that a person is not a racist. Not proof, but it ought to be convincing roughly in proportion to the number and strength of those friendships. If instead of evaluating those factors someone falls back on “that’s what racists always say!”, then that person is lost to reason and is an obstacle to social progress.

          • A1987dM says:

            Having black friends is evidence that a person is not a racist.

            Yes, but pointing out that you have black friends is evidence that you find having black friends somehow remarkable.

          • John Schilling says:

            Yes, but pointing out that you have black friends is evidence that you find having black friends somehow remarkable.

            No; a person who believes that 95% of white people have black friends and the other 5% of white people are racist, would very likely respond to an accusation of racism with “I have black friends, QED no”

            Saying that you have black friends is evidence that you have been accused of racism and haven’t figured out that this is a no-win scenario. Nothing more than that.

          • Aapje says:

            @A1987dM

            Yes, but pointing out that you have black friends is evidence that you find having black friends somehow remarkable.

            No, it is evidence that the person believes that racists don’t have black friends…which shows that the person has a certain belief about what racists are like.

            It is possible that this is part of a rationalization by a racist that his racist beliefs aren’t actually racist, but that seems merely one possibility.

          • fion says:

            @John Shilling

            I mostly agree with you, but I think you’re a little pessimistic about how powerful and inescapable racism is as an accusation. Having a lack of a record of saying racist things, and having a record of criticising actual racist people both make it pretty hard for people to accuse you of racism.

            Not impossible, of course. There are many poor sods who have been shunned for fictional racism. I agree that this is a problem, but I don’t think it’s as bad as you imply.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Having a lack of a record of saying racist things, and having a record of criticising actual racist people both make it pretty hard for people to accuse you of racism.

            No, it isn’t. You just move the goalposts. If you can’t catch them saying “n-r,n-r,n-r”, maybe you can get them saying “niggardly” or “Niger”. If not, perhaps “thug”. Or “welfare queen”. None of that? Well, maybe they’ve spoke well of being “colorblind”. And if all else fails, just spend paragraphs on indignant accusations which never quite say what the offense is. If they defend themselves, well, that proves the charge.

          • fion says:

            @The Nybbler

            I’m worried I’m getting close to straw man territory here, so please forgive me if that’s what you think I’m doing, but it seems to me that if it really was that easy to accuse innocent people of racism then we’d live in a noticeably different world.

            My argument relies on the assumption that a charge of racism, if it sticks, would have a significant detrimental effect on the standing of a public figure.

            The vast majority of famous people have some people who hate them. Politicians, musicians, actors… they’ve all got people who want to bring them down. Some of these people have not been accused of racism. Perhaps some have and it hasn’t stuck. Point is, if you’ve got a superweapon, you only need a small number of people with an axe to grind to bring somebody down.

            And yet there are many people who have not been so brought down. So either they have no enemies (unlikely) or their enemies are too virtuous to use dirty tactics (unlikely) or accusations of racism aren’t quite as easy as they seem.

          • albatross11 says:

            Or it’s not really such a superweapon. I recall at least somewhat mainstream sources calling the last four Republican presidential candidates racists. My guess is that the not-so-successful application of this superweapon made it rather less effective against the current occupant of the white house.

            There are times and places where it’s very effective, particularly when the attackers have all the megaphones and the accused has little voice and few defenders who can be heard. It’s often pretty effective as a smear, but like “communist,” it’s such a handy smear against an opponent that it gets overused to the point of losing much of its impact.

            This is independent of the weirdos like me that hear “racist” and think “Wait, which of the twenty or so mutually-incompatible meanings of that word are you thinking about?”

    • powerfuller says:

      Honestly, I thought these days (in my environment) that “I’d have sex with someone of X race” was more likely to be taken as evidence of racism than as a lack of racism. Though it always depends on who’s saying it about whom.

      • Aapje says:

        Even if X = human? 😛

      • albatross11 says:

        powerfuller:

        There are people whose racism is such that they would find it repellent to have sex with a member of another race[1]. (This is distinct from just not usually finding members of some other race attractive, I think.) So I guess this is a statement that whatever other definitions of racism may apply to you, at least that one doesn’t.

        Similarly, some people are racist in the sense that they would never voluntarily associate with members of some hated race, in terms of friendships or romantic relationships or voluntary association of any kind.

        [1] I have spoken with people who feel this way. I think it’s very rare among younger people, but I think for older people who were brought up with some notion of race having to do with purity taboos, it was more common.

  7. pontifex says:

    Has anyone read Peter Woit’s book review of “Losing the Nobel Prize”?

    It’s kind of depressing. Peter seems to think that the BICEP2 guys jumped the gun with “an aggressive and heavily promoted discovery claim.” And then later, when it turned out to be false, didn’t suffer any professional repercussions.

    On the other hand, reading some history, I’ve heard similar claims about Galileo, so maybe this is not a new thing for astronomy. People just want to be first, ethically or not!

  8. pontifex says:

    Has anyone read Peter Woit’s book review of “Losing the Nobel Prize?” It’s kind of depressing. Peter seems to think that the BICEP2 guys jumped the gun with “an aggressive and heavily promoted discovery claim.” And then later, when it turned out to be false, didn’t suffer any professional repercussions. On the other hand, reading some history, I’ve heard similar claims about Galileo, so maybe this is not a new thing for astronomy. People just want to be first, ethically or not!

  9. Randy M says:

    Here’s a story where I was all set to laugh at the college radicals thinking they should be celebrated for disruption and being disappointed at facing the consequences… until I looked at the details.
    Reason has an article about what looks like twenty or so student activists who interrupted an alumni event with chants and shouting down the president to give a list of demands such as “raising the university’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, hiring more faculty members of color, and spending more money on counseling services.” Some number of the attendees were not sufficiently enthusiastic about losing the discussion they wanted to have. The student activists were surprised by this, and

    disappointed that the administrators focused more on stopping the students than angry alumni, Cracknell [an activist there] said. “Instead of actually going to the alumni and saying ‘that’s not appropriate’ or removing them from the space, they were more worried about us,” Cracknell said.

    That’s some chutzpah, right? And complaining that “The administration’s letters informing students that they are under investigation have had the effect of “exacerbating any pre-existing mental health conditions” is a whole other layer of irony; I guess no one’s mental health was ever effected by being shouted by hostile protesters out of the blue.
    But! Here’s the catch. What was the event?

    The protest happened during an alumni event reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Silent Vigil at Duke, a series of student-led sit-ins on campus.

    Which included things that may have been silent but still seem rather disruptive and even threatening, as this bit from their student news site says

    450 students marched through the Duke Forest neighborhood to President Douglas Knight’s home, which far exceeded organizers’ turnout expectations. As some students spoke with Knight, others entered his home and ultimately presented him with four demands, some connected to labor activism that had been ongoing for months. These included raising non-academic employee salaries,

    Now, I’m not saying either action was right or wrong in either the goals or the methods, or even that one necessarily justifies the other. But it is quite amusing to see this event of basically old protesters talking about how hip they were back in the day* interrupted by the new generation with some very similar demands. Gee, I wonder where they ever got the idea that this would be approved of?
    *Alright, I wasn’t there, it’s possible the thrust of the discussion was going to be regretful, but I’d bet otherwise.

  10. jonathanezer says:

    This is a long shot, but I LOVE this site, and I’m looking for a personal trainer in the New York area. I want someone who can help me work out, and also have these kinds of discussions.

    If you are a personal trainer in New York, and you’re reading Slate Star Codex, then I want to hire you.

    Jonathan Ezer
    jonathan.ezer@gmail.com

    • WashedOut says:

      As a general rule, effectiveness of a training session declines in proportion to the amount of general chat going on during the session.

      • j1000000 says:

        But if you’re naturally averse to exercising, perhaps long-term success increases with how much you like your personal trainer, trust his/her judgment, and are willing to go back for another session!

  11. lazydragonboy says:

    Anybody have a link to an article on the subject of conflict of interest in evidence based medicine that is a bit better written than this: his evidence he cites seems to be good, but the argument is a bit rambly and vitriolic for my taste.

    • rahien.din says:

      Wazana A. Physicians and the pharmaceutical industry: Is a gift ever just a gift? JAMA. 2000;283:373–80.

      Lexchin J. Interactions between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry: What does the literature say? Can Med Assoc J. 1993; 149:1401–7. [PMC free article]

      Pear R. Drug industry is told to stop gifts to doctors. The New York Times. October 1, 2002;A1.

      Chimonas S, Rothman DJ. New federal guidelines for physician–pharmaceutical industry relations: the politics of policy formation. Health Aff. 2005;24,4:949–60.

      Studdert DM, Mello MM, Brennan TA. Financial conflicts of interest in physician relationships with the pharmaceutical industry: Self-regulation in the shadow of federal prosecution. N Engl J Med. 2004; 351:1891–1900.

      Anderson T. “Drug launches and the impact of pharmaceutical promotion on physician treatment decisions.” Report presented at Prudential Financial/ImpactRx Joint Industry Conference, Omni Berkshire Place, New York, NY, June 20, 2003. Available at http://www.impactrx.com/pdfs/Prudential_Financial_ImpactRx_Joint_Industry_Conference.pdf. Accessed August 23, 2005.

      Larkin I, Ang D, Steinhart J, Chao M, Patterson M, Sah S, Wu T, Schoenbaum M, Hutchins D, Brennan T, Loewenstein G. Association Between Academic Medical Center Pharmaceutical Detailing Policies and Physician Prescribing. JAMA. 2017 May 2;317(17):1785-1795.

  12. johan_larson says:

    Anyone here into cosplay?

    I’ve been following Legion, the TV series, and noticed that the outfits of the monks of the Mi-Go Order are pretty easy to do: Viet Cong-like black pajamas, a simple red piece of cloth worn as a stole, two smears of paint on the forehead, a necklace of wooden beads, sandals, and a shaved head.

    At lowish fidelity, you could just wear actual black PJs, especially if you dye the piping black.

    • beleester says:

      I’ve done a couple of low-budget costumes for Halloween and Purim:

      Hei from Darker than Black: Mask (made from posterboard), black trenchcoat. Knife (foamcore and duct tape).
      No-Face from Spirited Away: Mask, black bathrobe.
      Sith Lord: Plastic lightsaber, black robe.
      Tron: Black shirt and pants, decorated with masking tape in “tron line” patterns. For the identity disc, cover a frisbee in black construction paper and decorate with more tape.

      You can do some amazing stuff with posterboard and construction paper, if you have the time and patience to DIY stuff.

  13. Le Maistre Chat says:

    So I was watching Thor: Ragnarok and it struck me how advanced technology is distinguishable from divine magic in that universe (we see Valkyrie use both a winged horse and a spaceship), contra Clarke, but well balanced with it. Neither appeared clearly superior.
    I don’t think there’s a precedent for this outside of Marvel comics. Usually if the pitch is “gods came from another planet”, it’s straight SF without the supernatural. Even when Thor adapter Jack Kirby left Marvel and created the New Gods at DC, their power generally manifested as Clarke tech with the exception of the god Highfather being a Space Jewish prophet who talked to the Source.
    There are settings were magitech is the only way to fly, but that obviously won’t apply to superhero universes since they use contemporary Earth as a baseline. Star Wars did space opera tech plus the supernatural, with the supernatural being superior.
    What do y’all think of this world-building choice?

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I don’t think that the Force is superior to technology in the Star Wars universe, not exactly anyway. It’s more that it’s totally independent of scale. Yoda’s quote that “Size matters not!” cuts both way; a single Jedi can turn the tide of battles on the scale of fleets and armies, but he can also die by getting himself shot in the back with a blaster bolt.

      From a dramatic point of view that’s essential. Luke uses the Force destroy the Death Star in a single shot at the climax of A New Hope (spoiler alert), but in the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back he nearly dies using the Force to fight a Wampa. That scene doesn’t rely on this one random Wampa being tougher than the entire Imperial Navy and Darth Vader himself. It works because the Force doesn’t give a shit if you’re lifting a lightsaber or an X-Wing, it takes just as much mental effort either way.

      Bringing that back to the MCU, those movies work on a similar principle but with less justification. Why does Winter Soldier expect us to believe that soldiers with guns are any threat to Captain America after we see him fighting gods on an even footing in Avengers? Because one of the implicit rules in those movies is that scale doesn’t exist for superheroes. As long as you’re wearing your underpants on the outside any challenge can be overcome with roughly the same amount of effort.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I don’t think that the Force is superior to technology in the Star Wars universe, not exactly anyway. It’s more that it’s totally independent of scale. Yoda’s quote that “Size matters not!” cuts both way; a single Jedi can turn the tide of battles on the scale of fleets and armies, but he can also die by getting himself shot in the back with a blaster bolt.

        From a dramatic point of view that’s essential. Luke uses the Force destroy the Death Star in a single shot at the climax of A New Hope (spoiler alert), but in the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back he nearly dies using the Force to fight a Wampa. That scene doesn’t rely on this one random Wampa being tougher than the entire Imperial Navy and Darth Vader himself. It works because the Force doesn’t give a shit if you’re lifting a lightsaber or an X-Wing, it takes just as much mental effort either way.

        Hmm, that’s a good point. The OT did superhero-type challenges with actual justification.

      • gbdub says:

        I like this thought, but I’m not sure Star Wars actually works that way.

        Yes, Luke uses the Force to destroy the Death Star – but it’s his Force powers combined with an X-Wing and a pair of proton torpedoes. He doesn’t just float around in space and explode the Death Star with his brain.

        Palpatine is probably the most powerful pure force user we see in the movies… but he still builds a Death Star (twice).

        Yoda might say “size matters not” and Vader says the Death Star is “insignificant, compared to the power of the Force”, but, well, it’s not. No Jedi can blow up a planet. Throughout the series technology is actually way more powerful than any Jedi, although a Jedi is clearly superhuman relative to any non-Force using individual. Anytime we see them in battle, they are clearly very powerful, but not stronger than a fleet or an army.

        • albatross11 says:

          In fact, from what we saw at the end of Revenge of the Sith, most Jedi were overmatched by half a dozen or so guys with blasters going after them at the same time. And the whole reason the Jedi bought into the clone army was that otherwise, they were just going to be wiped out by droid armies. Even if you kill 100 droid soldiers/stormtroopers per lost Jedi, you lose, because your Jedi are a small number of people who each take a decade of training from other Jedi before they’re ready to fight.

          Another take on this idea (I think an attempt to do the same ideas as Star Trek better) was the Mageworld series. The Adepts and Mages are quite powerful in their way, but still can’t substitute for armies or space navies.

    • Schibes says:

      I think magic being at the same “power level” as technology/physical strength is a good place to be for Thor/the wider MCU, as the series has a vast number of characters to juggle about amidst all the various franchise vehicles and the series wants to stay focused on narrative instead of just Who Would Beat Who In A Fight, which would just make it an (even more) fictionalized spectacle like pro wrestling. If magic gets too powerful then casters become de facto demigods as adjacent posters have pointed out in Star Wars, and if magic is too feeble and ineffectual its usage devolves into either grist for the rumor mill or a tool for religious zealots, as in its appearances in Game of Thrones. MCU seems to have chosen a middle course which gives them the most flexibility with their characters as the series continues to evolve.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I think part of the trick the Marvel movies (and to some extent all Kirby Comics in general) have pulled is that it’s Clarke +1. It’s not just that advanced tech looks like magic, it’s that magic and advanced technology literally are the same thing.

      I mean, that’s a line in the first Thor movie. “Your ancestors called it magic, you call it science. Where I come from they are one and the same.”

      Which isn’t light years different from the usual Clarke-tech thing, but I think what distinguishes it is the idea isn’t just that people don’t understand space ships or whatever so they seem like magic. It’s that stuff that is clearly magical, and understood as such by its practitioners, is also just another technological tool once you’re advanced enough. Basically it’s technology at the level where you can kind of just do whatever the fuck you want, so why not flying horses and magic hammers along with space ships and force fields?

      I don’t think there is really meant to be any distinction between them, though.

      • moonfirestorm says:

        The problem with this is that when you start encountering things that beat the magic/technology, then you start really questioning the design decisions they took.

        For example, there are a lot of advantages to a gun over a hammer: you can use it at further distance, it’s easier to aim, requires less open areas to hit its target, and can fire multiple times without having to deal with getting the hammer back.

        Thus, when Thor is having difficulty defeating enemies with his hammer, the question becomes “why didn’t the Asgardians give him a gun instead?”

        That basically boils down to:
        1. The Asgardians never expected there would be an enemy Thor couldn’t defeat with his hammer, so they didn’t need to focus on efficiently using their technology. This seems pretty short-sighted, given how frequently this happens, often against forces the Asgardians knew about already.
        2. Asgardian magic/technology lines up exactly so that an Asgardian gun would be at equivalent or lower effectiveness to an Asgardian hammer, and our hero should prefer the hammer or be indifferent. This maybe works, but it requires a lot of handwavium about why this is, especially when you start comparing that to other bits of Asgardian technology.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          You’re missing

          3. Style points.

          • Civilis says:

            If you need a story justification, you can always package ‘style’ as tradition or symbolism. Asgardian magic “technology” is so advanced (and Asgardians are inherently powerful enough) that they don’t need weapons optimized for straight power to defeat their opponents and can instead consider the morale effects of going with traditional style weapons. The same logic applies with technology to Wakanda; since their technology is so much more advanced than the rest of the world, they’re still at an advantage even with traditional form weapons.

            You could consider Stargate SG-1’s Jaffa as another example of style over function for morale (intimidation) purposes, as well as an illustration of what happens when your enemies unexpectedly catch up on the functional end of weapons development.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            This is basically case 1 though: they don’t need to consider efficiency, and could choose things that look cool or fit with their aesthetics instead of worrying about making the best weapons they can.

            That works great if you’re wrecking anyone you go up against, but the Asgardians have plenty of equivalent-level opponents to deal with, as evidenced by the fact that Thor needs allies sometimes. Did they just suddenly discover all of them? Did they not know about Thanos/Galactus/the Chitauri/etc?

            Even if that’s what’s going on, why haven’t they now swapped to the function-over-form weapons?

            I’m real skeptical the morale effects of fighting with traditional weapons outweigh the morale effects of easily beating everyone.

          • MrApophenia says:

            I do think the intent of the story from what we’ve seen is that Asgard actually is largely unthreatened by outside powers; they are so much more advanced than everybody else that they haven’t faced a real threat since Odin and Hela tamed the nine realms, and the only reason they stopped at nine was that Odin developed a conscience. Their enemies in each of the Thor movies are –

            A) A conquered enemy they defeated eons ago, who are only a threat because an Asgardian helped them.

            B) A conquered enemy they defeated eons ago, who are only a threat because they find a space magic macguffin. (I think – it’s been a long time since I saw the Dark World.)

            C) Another Asgardian.

            Thor doesn’t bring allies along to fight ice giants because they’re actually a threat to him, he brings them along because they all have a lot of fun killing ice giants.

            There’s a reason two out of three Thor movies almost immediately take away his hammer and reduce his power for most of the running time. Movies about a god who easily triumphs over all challenges take a lot of fun out of things, but in theory that is the status quo during the periods of time where Thor movies aren’t happening.

        • MrApophenia says:

          For example, there are a lot of advantages to a gun over a hammer: you can use it at further distance, it’s easier to aim, requires less open areas to hit its target, and can fire multiple times without having to deal with getting the hammer back.

          Just to totally nerd out for a second, Mjolnir is totally better than a gun. I’m not convinced its range limit is less than a gun, it’s self-directed and semi-autonomous, and it can hit multiple targets on one throw. There’s a bit in one of the movies where it flies in a circle around Thor and takes out a bunch of foes in one shot. Plus, you never need to reload, it lets you fly, and if you really absolutely must shoot a projectile instead, why not lightning bolts?

          I know this doesn’t necessarily invalidate the broader point, but come on, Mjolnir is way better than a gun before you even get to style!

          Although actually, I do think the intent within the fiction is some version of this. I mean, something very similar was actually made text instead of subtext in Black Panther – the Wakandan general rolling her eyes at the primitive foreigners so backwards they still use guns, as opposed to the far-superior vibranium spear. The implication of the scene is that, at least within the fictional world in question, the spear actually is a better tool for the purpose than a gun would be.

          You can definitely pick this apart if you analyze it too much – a detailed analysis of the relative combat effectiveness of using a thermonuclear missile or the Asgardian Destroyer, for instance, might find situations where the missile is more effective. But at that point you are rather taking the fun out of your space viking adventures, I think.

          • beleester says:

            Yes, Mjolnir has some awesome powers, but the question is, do those powers have to be mounted in the form of a bigass hammer? For instance, can I get my lightning magic in a more aimable form, like a wand or staff? Can I get homing, self-guided throwing knives instead? Can I fly with a jetpack instead of a hammer, in case I want my hands free?

            At some point, either you have to say that, due to obscure magical reasons, a hammer really is the optimal weapon for an Asgardian warrior who wants to fly and shoot lightning bolts, or you give up and admit they don’t really design these things for pure practicality.

            (Or you take the best of both worlds, and equip your wizard staff with a scope and pistol grip. :P)

          • John Schilling says:

            If a weapon is observed to frequently miss its target, and I can’t see a visible sight anywhere, I can’t not ask “why isn’t there a sight on that thing?”, and the usual answer is “because this is a very silly movie or TV show”. I am much more likely to excuse that if it doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a fantasy.

            Mjolnir is fine. It never or almost never misses, so we can imagine it is self-guided or thought-guided or whatnot, and if we assume a thought-guided kinetic smash-o-mat that has to be of roughly bowling-ball size for the desired effect, sure, put it on a handle and shape it like a hammer.

            But, e.g. the wands of the Cinematic Potterverse are problematic. At least in the books, we don’t get long descriptions of ineffectual pyrotechnics and can assume the spells are magically guided.

          • Montfort says:

            @John,
            ah, but the potterverse works on point-shooting. (Actually, does point-shooting work IRL?)

            The “real” reason you can’t put a sight on a wand is because the spells involve sweeping your wrist/elbow/shoulder around in complicated gestures, and the spell fires off when the gesture and incantation are complete, with no delay for aiming. You often see them looking down their wands dramatically when they’re trying to pose for the trailer/poster, but if you pay close attention they’re usually wiggling their wand or waving/jabbing it dramatically when they cast a spell.

            @MrApophenia,
            The argument for a gun over mjolnir (which would be very situational), is that no matter how great mjolnir is at seeking targets, it can’t defend you while it’s flying around hitting fools 200m away. But a gun has many bullets and you can fire at targets as fast as you can aim (and mjolnir appears to fly slower than a bullet). This is more relevant at longer range.

            But if Thor had six mjolnir, I think they’d be better in almost any situation I can imagine.

          • 1soru1 says:

            Can I get homing, self-guided throwing knives instead?

            Yes, if you are Loki. But at equivalent material technology levels, a hammer beats a knife in combat with armored opponents.

            https://www.reddit.com/r/whowouldwin/comments/4vwonh/the_culture_vs_marvel/

          • John Schilling says:

            ah, but the potterverse works on point-shooting. (Actually, does point-shooting work IRL?)

            No it does not, which is the point. Well, it doesn’t work for hitting a target more than a few paces away, more than a small fraction of the time.

      • gbdub says:

        Then again the latest Thor movie, without getting too spoiler-y, features Thor having a bit of a “the real magic was inside you all along” moment, and in general the powers involved seem more supernatural than in past installments (where it was closer to “fantasy themed technology”).

    • Glen Raphael says:

      [Re: Technology coexisting with magic]

      What do y’all think of this world-building choice?

      I am baffled by the theology of Legends of Tomorrow.

      A recent season arc had to do with capturing/reconstructing/using the Spear of Destiny, a magical artifact that “has the power to permanently rewrite time” because the spear was used to stab Jesus. The Spear can only be destroyed with the help of Christ’s Blood, so our time-travelers go back to 1916 where some church has one of the last remaining tiny vials of it.

      And I’m thinking: wait, 1916??? You need some blood from Jesus Christ, you have a time-traveling ship, and you pick 1916? Why not go back to, I dunno, the time of the actual Christ? Explain the problem, convince him to donate a pint or two. Or snag some of his blood when he’s 10 and asleep. Get fresh blood, maybe do experiments with the amount you don’t need to figure out where the “magic” in it is. Does magic blood have an expiration date? Isn’t “the power to destroy a magic spear” a weirdly specific power? What *else* can Jesus’s magic blood do? Or better yet, could we just ask Jesus to do the magic we need while the blood is still in his body?

      Okay, maybe the good guys don’t want to risk the time ripples from interacting with Jesus, but surely the bad time-travelers trying to screw up the timeline don’t care about that. If Jesus can do miracles and people with his blood can too, why aren’t there time-traveling blood-letters lined up around the block in his time waving fistfuls of cash? If you get a transfusion from Jesus, does that make you a god as well?

      [IIRC the in-universe explanation for 1916 is that the church gets destroyed in WWI so the plan is to grab something that’s about to disappear anyway. But…c’mon. This vial has been sitting around in various hushed locations for 1900 years and you can’t just quietly replace it with a duplicate in some period that’s not an active war zone?]

  14. DavidS says:

    There’s a lot of debate here in the UK about the ‘gender pay gap’ (difference in average male vs female pay). Obviously pretty crude and doesn’t capture what causes it and if this is bad. But people discussing it have brought up more ‘input ‘ type evidence about e.g. Identical CVs getting more call backs with a male name etc. I’ve also read a bit about a triaL in the Australian civil service that found a bias the other way with CVs presented as from white men getting the worst results and those from Indigenous women the best.

    Was just wondering if there are any big studies with good methodology on this sort of thing? General standard of public debate makes it hard to tell…

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I don’t know about good methodology. I’m suspicious of the one commonly flogged in the US media about racial disparities in number of callbacks because I think the names selected code for class in addition to race. That is, “DeShawn” codes for both black and lower class while “Trevor” codes for both white and not lower class. I’m not sure if there’s a way to solve this, because while there are names that code for white and lower class (“Cletus”), middle and upper class black names are indistinguishable from white names (see “Thomas Sowell” and “Ben Carson”).

    • Anon. says:

      The methodology of these CV studies is uniformly terrible because they all start by assuming that gender/race/names/etc do not carry any useful information.

      • Well... says:

        That might be true. Personally, I would guess there is useful information in a name but it’s outweighed by the potential for a name to trip off a cascade of cognitive biases. Maybe there is some research out there that tries to disprove this hypothesis?

      • DavidS says:

        I meant ‘is it true that people (consciously/otherwise) discriminate based on gender/race as identified by names on applications’.

        The question of whether such discrimination is OK is a separate issue, although at least in legal terms in most of the West I think the answer is ‘no’: you’re not allowed to use membership of a race/gender as a filtering factor based on probabilities in the same way you’re allowed to use other things like having certain qualifications.

        I’ve heard the social class argument and I can see controlling for this as regards race would be difficult. For gender though couldn’t you get a quasi-objective equivalence between names as if you choose a female name for one CV you can choose as the equivalent male name a name which is strongly predicted as likely in brothers of girls given the female name.

    • Aapje says:

      @DavidS & Conrad

      The most often cited CV callback study, which compared callbacks for black and white applicants, didn’t replicate when redone with a different set of names, even though it replicated several times with the same set of names. The reason may be that the discrimination was actually based on Socioeconomic Status (where the selected black names were seen as having lower SES than the selected white names).

    • Iain says:

      Of note: a recent Canadian study reproduced the same effect, except with Asian names. Greg Johnson and Emily Brown got significantly more callbacks than Samir Sharma and Tara Singh, Ali Saeed and Hina Chaudhry, or Lei Li and Xuiying Zhang. This is true even when comparing Asian-named applicants with master’s degrees to Anglo-named applicants with bachelor’s degrees.

      This is hard to reconcile with the idea that employers are just rationally discriminating on merit.

      • IrishDude says:

        This is hard to reconcile with the idea that employers are just rationally discriminating on merit.

        Depends on what you include in merit, but I can see employers having potential concerns about communication/language barriers as well as concerns about cultural fit (wanting your team to have enough background in common to facilitate collaboration), such that they may rationally have some preference for native Canadians (using name as a proxy). Also, I’m not sure how Canadian employment law works, but if there are de facto higher costs for firing/disciplining minorities (due to higher rates of law suits), it may also be rational for employers to have a lower preference towards hiring minorities.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          Not sure how it is in Canada, but in the US asian names are also more likely to require expensive immigration sponsorship. Paired with a master’s degree, total compensation would have to be much higher than a probably-native with a bachelor’s.

        • Iain says:

          The effect persists even in Asian-named applicants with a Canadian education and Canadian work experience, and according to the study “rates of discrimination were similar regardless of the extent to which the job required communication skills”.

          Canada is less litigious than the US and more generous with immigration visas, so those explanations also don’t seem sufficient. “Expensive immigration sponsorship” is not really a thing in Canada, and more importantly would presumably appear explicitly on a resume. There’s no need to guess based on name.

          • dndnrsn says:

            OK, Cancon time. I would be interested in seeing a study looking at how Greg Saeed and Suzanne Li would do – what’s the discrimination against people whose names signal “not white but assimilated” like?

          • IrishDude says:

            The effect persists even in Asian-named applicants with a Canadian education and Canadian work experience, and according to the study “rates of discrimination were similar regardless of the extent to which the job required communication skills”.

            Also in the paragraph you quote from:
            “Oreopoulos contacted employers as a later stage of his research, to get their perspectives on the results, and many indicated that an Asian name suggested the possibility of language problems and heavy accents. However, as Oreopoulos observed, the information in the resumes – including the Canadian education and experience – would contradict this concern, and in any case the employer could easily check by means of a quick telephone call. ”

            Employers are directly telling the researchers that they think language concerns could cause differences in call-back rates. I’d suggest that the fact they make this suggestion is strong evidence that it’s something employers consider. The researcher suggests that a quick call could remedy this, but I imagine the marginal cost of needing to phone call an applicant to determine preliminary qualifications, for someone going through a stack of hundreds of resumes, is going to decrease the likelihood of follow-up.

            Another section of the linked paper:
            “However, in another aspect the study included resumes where applicants had an Asian name but with foreign education and varying degrees of foreign experience. Analysis showed that applicants with Asian names plus foreign education but all Canadian experience
            were 29.7% percent less likely to get a call compared to applicants with Anglo; 46.1% percent less likely if the Asian applicant had a mix of Canadian and foreign experience, and 62.5% percent less likely if the Asian applicant had only foreign experience (see Figure 1, shaded bars). In other words, among Asian applicants with foreign education, the presence or absence of Canadian experience made a very large difference in the response of employers.”

            This suggests that the more integrated the Asian applicant is into Canadian society (and culture?), as proxied by the amount of Canadian work experience, the more likely employers are to follow-up with them. Also, Canadian work experience probably is somewhat a proxy for language proficiency. This seems to be strong evidence of employer concerns about the background of the applicants and how well they’d fit in/communicate at their workplace. The fact that Asian applicants with Canadian education and work experience have lower call-back rates than non-Asians could reflect, in part, residual concerns about differences in culture/language.

            Canada is less litigious than the US

            Less litigious isn’t “not litigious”, so any differences in lawsuit rate between minorities and other groups, even if both are at generally lower rates than the U.S., would still have a marginal impact on employers preferences about hiring minorities.

          • IrishDude says:

            My prior comment seems to have disappeared…luckily I copied the text before submitting:

            The effect persists even in Asian-named applicants with a Canadian education and Canadian work experience, and according to the study “rates of discrimination were similar regardless of the extent to which the job required communication skills”.

            Also in the paragraph you quote from:
            “Oreopoulos contacted employers as a later stage of his research, to get their perspectives on the results, and many indicated that an Asian name suggested the possibility of language problems and heavy accents. However, as Oreopoulos observed, the information in the resumes –
            including the Canadian education and experience – would contradict this concern, and in any case the employer could easily check by means of a quick telephone call. ”

            Employers are directly telling the researchers that they think language concerns could cause differences in call-back rates. I’d suggest that the fact they make this suggestion is strong evidence that it’s something employers consider. The researcher suggests that a quick call could remedy this, but I imagine the marginal cost of needing to phone call an applicant to determine preliminary qualifications, for someone going through a stack of hundreds of resumes, is going to decrease the likelihood of follow-up.

            Another section of the linked paper:
            “However, in another aspect the study included resumes where applicants had an Asian name but with foreign education and varying degrees of foreign experience. Analysis showed that applicants with Asian names plus foreign education but all Canadian experience
            were 29.7% percent less likely to get a call compared to applicants with Anglo; 46.1% percent less likely if the Asian applicant had a mix of Canadian and foreign experience, and 62.5% percent less likely if the Asian applicant had only foreign experience (see Figure 1, shaded bars). In other words, among Asian applicants with foreign education, the presence or absence of Canadian experience made a very large difference in the response of employers.”

            This suggests that the more integrated the Asian applicant is into Canadian society (and culture?), as proxied by the amount of Canadian work experience, the more likely employers are to follow-up with them. Also, Canadian work experience probably is somewhat a proxy for language proficiency. This seems to be strong evidence of employer concerns about the background of the applicants and how well they’d fit in/communicate at their workplace. The fact that Asian applicants with Canadian education and work experience have lower call-back rates than non-Asians could reflect, in part, residual concerns about differences in culture/language.

            Canada is less litigious than the US

            Less litigious isn’t “not litigious”, so any differences in lawsuit rate between minorities and other groups, even if both are at generally lower rates than the U.S., would still have a marginal impact on employers preferences about hiring minorities.

          • Iain says:

            The marginal chilling effect of a handful of Canadian lawsuits is not enough to explain a difference of this magnitude. (Also, “our other employees are all bigots and will get us sued if we let them work with Asians” is not a compelling argument that discrimination is not a relevant factor.)

            Everybody agrees that employers have concerns about language fluency and culture fit. The disagreement is whether those concerns can possibly justify such a large effect. The callback difference between a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree was just over 10%; the difference between an Asian name and an Anglo name was 28%. There’s no way that the mere chance of a language skills deficit is three times more important than a graduate degree. You’re not going to accidentally hire somebody who can’t speak English; the only cost imposed on the prospective employer is a single phone screen, and the upside is significant.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Canada is less litigious than the US and more generous with immigration visas, so those explanations also don’t seem sufficient. “Expensive immigration sponsorship” is not really a thing in Canada, and more importantly would presumably appear explicitly on a resume. There’s no need to guess based on name.

            All right fair enough. In that case, it’s hard to overestimate the sheer Molochian foolishness of recruiting practice; disappointing but not too surprising to add personal bias to the mix of garbage heuristics they use to blackhole 99% of resumes received. “This person will cost too much” is at least a halfway decent heuristic but I’ll take your word that that’s not a factor in this case for y’all up north.

            I’m inclined to believe that “appears explicitly on a resume” is only relevant about 50% of the time for first passes. And that’s if it’s “properly” buzzwordified.

          • IrishDude says:

            The marginal chilling effect of a handful of Canadian lawsuits is not enough to explain a difference of this magnitude.

            The marginal effect might partially explain the gap, with the magnitude unknown. The undercallback rate for Asian names is probably multi-causal, of which I’d expect bigotry is an explanation, but not the whole of it. As alluded to elsewhere in this thread, bigotry is costly to the bottom-line, so I have a low prior on it as the main explanation for the phenomena described here.

            (Also, “our other employees are all bigots and will get us sued if we let them work with Asians” is not a compelling argument that discrimination is not a relevant factor.)

            I don’t think your quote is necessarily what an employer would be worried about. It would be that if you’re firing two employees for just cause under identical conditions, would a minority be more likely to sue than a non-minority. If so, then the expected costs of hiring a minority are higher on this human resources dimension.

            Everybody agrees that employers have concerns about language fluency and culture fit. The disagreement is whether those concerns can possibly justify such a large effect.

            The undercallback rate was 62.5% for foreign education, Asian names with all foreign work experience and 29.7% for foreign education, Asian names with all Canadian work experience. The undercallback rate is cut in half, reduced by 32.8 percentage points, for non-native Asians having Canadian work experience. Do you consider that a large effect? What’s your explanation for this phenomenon?

      • Anon. says:

        This is hard to reconcile with the idea that employers are just rationally discriminating on merit.

        What are you waiting for? It’s a huge money-making opportunity. Go for it. You can get rich and help end discrimination at the same time!

        • fortaleza84 says:

          I think I have found one exploitable inefficiency in the job market. Most of my best employees have been overweight women.

          To put it another way, I think there is irrational discrimination against fat women. People turn them down because they don’t want to have an unattractive woman lurking around the office even if she is a competent worker.

          Of course, I hire only part-time people so perhaps part of what’s going on is that employers are rationally discriminating against people who can be expected to take a lot of sick time. Presumably women take more sick time than men and fat people take more sick time than thin people.

          Edit: But I agree with the general point. It’s laughable that employers all over the Western world are mustache-twirling villains who hire white men and overpay them for no other reason than to shore up the Patriarchy.

          • albatross11 says:

            fortaleza:

            Mustache-twirling villains seeking to keep other races down is one version of racism, but not one that I think many people actually think is happening much in modern America. (Though it’s sometimes one half of a Motte-and-Bailey.)

            I suspect a fair bit of irrational employment discrimination comes down to agency problems–the guy doing the hiring has his own incentives, which aren’t the same as the company’s. This probably drives some level of preferring attractive women to unattractive ones, and also some level of age-discrimination (the 30 year old manager may not feel comfortable managing the 50 year old guy applying for a job with him). But I really don’t know.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I agree that there are probably some scattered principal/agent issues, but it’s very unlikely that there is a large exploitable inefficiency in the labor market.

          • albatross11 says:

            fortaleza:

            I don’t entirely share your confidence, but I’m not sure you’re wrong, either. What I’ve seen of the hiring process in general (private and public sector, large and small companies) doesn’t make me think it’s a highly-optimized thing like the stock market where any opportunity for a small profit is instantly spotted and jumped on. There’s a lot of noise in the system, a lot of inefficiencies, the HR department tends to be risk-averse and rule-following rather than smart and innovative, etc.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            doesn’t make me think it’s a highly-optimized thing like the stock market where any opportunity for a small profit is instantly spotted and jumped on

            I don’t think so either. I’m talking about large inefficiencies. Metaphorically, I’m talking about hundred dollar bills sitting on the sidewalk waiting to get picked up while thousands of people walk by and ignore them.

            Metaphorically, the stock market is like a sidewalk where even a nickel will get snatched up in seconds and chances are a penny won’t last long either. I doubt that employment markets are that efficient.

        • Montfort says:

          This is a reasonable argument in general, but by personalizing it you’ve made it much less persuasive. To rephrase: “What are you waiting for? Drop your whole life and move to Canada and start a business. Even if you don’t have any of the necessary skills or resources, surely your small margin on hiring better employees for the going wage will overcome any other deficiencies and guarantee success within your risk tolerance.”

      • marshwiggle says:

        There’s another reason for such discrimination than racism. Not that I’m saying Canadians aren’t racist. But they also have a serious bias against non-Canadians. Admittedly, they would have a larger bias against, say, American citizenship than Indian. But it’s not just bias on the part of the people making hiring decisions. From the few years I lived in Canada, it really seemed like many of the laws were aimed at making hiring a non-Canadian citizen way harder than hiring a Canadian citizen, or punished you in only barely subtle ways for having done so. Some of that might have been British Columbian law rather than Federal, but then, BC has the highest Asian density.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The study involved Canadian experience, though. I don’t think citizenship or lack thereof was part of the study.

          • marshwiggle says:

            People can still have priors about difficulties they might face with an applicant of foreign origin. At least in British Columbia, a decent fraction of people of Asian origin still had fairly thick accents when graduating from undergraduate or graduate programs. Many of them lacked citizenship. I have a smaller sample size by far for people with multiple years of Canadian work experience, but I can imagine similar issues there.

            The study claims that language barrier can’t have been an issue because some of the jobs supposedly didn’t require communication skills, but the employers cited language difficulties as a reason. Yes, the fake resumes presumably didn’t track citizenship, but that doesn’t mean issues with Canadian law and non citizens didn’t change the priors of the employers for completely nonracist reasons.

            In short, the study doesn’t look very good. That said, I already believed for purely anecdotal reasons that Canadians are sometimes rather racist.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I think a study that threw in white-but-not-Anglo names, both with and without an Anglo first name, along with tossing Anglo first names into the various other categories too, would give a lot more information.

          • Chalid says:

            IME Chinese applicants will often anglicize their first names on their resumes.

          • Aapje says:

            A Chinese kid in my high school class legally changed her name from Qin (pronounced as tsjin, if I recall correctly) to Jessica, because she got fed up with no non-Chinese ever being able to pronounce it correctly the first time.

            So the name-change doesn’t have to be (entirely) for signalling reasons.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje

            Sure, it isn’t 100% reliable for signalling “assimilated” or whatever. But going by a different name or changing your name signals that you’re willing to go along to get along, and various other things.

            Compare: a guy named “Vincenzo Rizzo” whose grandparents were born in Italy but moved to Canada, and the rest of the family is Canadian-born, a guy with the same name but who goes by “Vince”, and a guy who has the same last name but his parents named him “Vincent” instead of “Vincenzo.” Without knowing anything else about these guys, the names are already causing me to come up with different notions of what these guys, their upbringing, etc, are like.

            A study that seeks to use names to gauge discrimination can fail to see whether it’s anti-not-white or anti-foreign/unassimilated/not-assimilated-enough if it doesn’t throw in a few Vincenzo Rizzos and Paul Kims. Speaking roughly, I’d say that I would guess the results would show, from least to most:

            1. Anglo or NW European (not necessarily sending off “assimilated” signals, but I think we’re past the point when we can recognize that someone from there can’t be assimilated; Quebec is a special case) OR white but South/East European but sending off “assimilated” signals (Joe Smith, Vincent Rizzo)
            2. Not white, but sending off assimilated signals (Paul Kim, etc) – I’d imagine that there’s discrimination versus some groups more than others (like, maybe Paul Ogbeke gets discriminated against more than Paul Singh, or vice versa, whatever).
            3. White, but sending off unassimilated signals (Vincenzo Rizzo, etc).
            4. Not white, sending off unassimilated signals. Within this group, I expect the hardest hit are black people with names that get coded as “African American lower-class”; I would expect that Darnell Washington gets discriminated against worse than Hyde Ogbeke.

            So, I would guess both racism and anti-unassimilated prejudice are going on. This study seems to fail to differentiate them.

  15. AnarchyDice says:

    I’m working on writing an alt-historical fantasy, basically where magic is rediscovered right around the turn of the first century.

    If there was magic that was created by shaping words into or from an element (i.e. water, metal, earth, air, crystal, wood, bone) it did what was carved into it, what type of magic devices would you think of? The inscriptions do need to have a line of physical contact with the person activating them, otherwise normal physics resume. Also assume that there is a limit on how much energy the magic can create, meaning only negligible mass creation is possible. Longer sentences become increasingly unreliable, and my not do what you intend.

    Some examples I thought of:

    Water pumps: inscription that pushes water, see also light water craft
    -Powered sails inscribed to draw in air currents. Also automated windmills away from water and large watercraft
    -Larger mills from stones inscribed to move away from other stone, setup to turn in a circle like a powered millstone. This could create larger mills or possibly things like a paddleboat.
    -Furnaces and forges with inscribed bellows to draw in air efficiently and easily or higher temperatures without elaborate constructions.
    -Early cannons and firearms using inscribed metal tubes that launch metal balls at high velocity.

    -Engraved leather reins giving the attached beast of burden a boost of stamina, speed, or strength.
    -Sand cranes, use inscribed clay shuts that pull loose earth around as counterweights for cranes and trebuchets
    -Shatterstones an inscribed mining explosive that shatters the surrounding contiguous stone nearby to gravel, leaving behind impurities like ore

    • beleester says:

      If you need physical contact to activate your inscription, wearable technology will be in fashion. Mages will wear lots of rings and bracers and bangles, perhaps eventually developing into “powered armor” that has inscriptions on every plate. (Armor enchanted to repel bullets and arrows would be pretty sweet). For stationary devices, there would be some sort of comfortable seat so that the operator can keep the magic flowing without getting uncomfortable.

      Also, you’ll want to create your energy as close to the point of use as possible. For instance, generating a magical wind to turn a windmill will be less efficient than simply enchanting the millstone to turn on its own (assuming the magic produces the same amount of energy in either case).

      Also, does the inscribed material need to match the element in some way (stone for a mining spell, cloth for a wind spell, etc)? If that’s not the case, then it’s probably easiest to just write the spell on paper and tape it to whatever you want to enchant.

      • AnarchyDice says:

        Yes, one of the limits I was thinking of in this magic system was that the element the writing is in is the one that can be effected by the inscription. It wouldn’t be impossible to write something on a scroll and attach it, but it would be inefficient/less-predictable so as to be mostly useless. So it seems like any powered sails would have to be either retrofits of existing ships/windmills or for applications where they haven’t yet figured out a reliable way to use a better energy source for powering movement. This is also why I liked the time period I picked, right around when the renaissance is starting to get underway so I can play with how magic would change the direction of technology.

        I was thinking it would be tough to do magic armor due to the fact that a defender has to either provide equal energy against any point of attack all the time or have a complicated scheme of applying defensive reinforcement against just the attacked part of their armor. But I could see it being a sort of practiced skill to control one’s own magical armor pieces consciously to get the most out of a limited energy supply.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      You should look at the history of Hermeticism and the trifecta of alchemy, astrology and theurgy / “natural magic.”

      Science as we know it originated from Hermetic communities in Europe after the practices had been reintroduced to Europe by the Muslim world. Alchemy slowly evolved into chemistry and medicine; astrology became physics and astronomy; I don’t know whether theurgy influenced mathematics or vice versa, but both Newton and Liebnitz were obsessed with it so that’s probably not a coincidence. Even into the twentieth century a lot of famous scientists have also been heavily influenced by the occult, most notably the “father of the atomic bomb” Robert Oppenheimer.

      So if you want a form of magic that feels vaguely scientific that seems like a good starting point. I did something similar in the RPG I’m working on.

      • AnarchyDice says:

        I chose that rough time period exactly because of the flourishing of ideas and conflict between Christianity and Islam, as well as for the exploration of science/alchemy/theology of the beginnings of the Renaissance. It also gives fertile ground for quick adoption of the new magic due to the necessities of the Crusades and various factions of fighting going on at the time.

        Thank you for the reference to Theurgy! Lots of new facets to tie to things I’ve already been brainstorming, and I might play off that name to replace just calling the magic “inscribing”. I am going for something vaguely scientific, with the world still working to discover lots of its properties and narrow down its inconsistencies (which I have authorial reasons for the whole system functioning the way it does).

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I’m working on writing an alt-historical fantasy, basically where magic is rediscovered right around the turn of the first century.

          I chose that rough time period exactly because of the flourishing of ideas and conflict between Christianity and Islam, as well as for the exploration of science/alchemy/theology of the beginnings of the Renaissance.

          I’m confused about how these statements jive.

          Are you saying that magic was rediscovered in the first century but the game is set during the Renaissance? If so, there probably shouldn’t even be such a thing as Islam because an Eastern Roman Empire with magitech really shouldn’t be in any danger from period Arab armies. The fall of the Western Roman Empire is still somewhat plausible as most of the Germanic invaders were originally employed as mercenaries and trained in the use of Roman weapons and tactics.

          Or are you saying that the game is set in the first century, in which case Christianity is a handful of guys trying to avoid being thrown in with lions and Islam is several centuries off.

          • AnarchyDice says:

            Looks like my original reply got eaten.

            I was mistaken in how I described it, mixing it up with various iterations I had tried working through before settling on the 12th century. Magic was rediscovered in the late Eastern Roman Empire around the turn of the millennium and grew to prominence thanks to its usefulness in the crusades.

            As for the Renniassance, I meant it more in the underpinnings of all the new technology coming into place due to increased trade around the 12th century, boosted at a faster speed thanks to magic being real. With an earlier power source, a lot of the technology of the renniassance era (using coal) could happen sooner, although will likely only be rumors at this point in the alt-historical world.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      How do you inscribe on air?

      Magical reins: could you increase the horse’s sensitivity to directions? Its calmness?

      Could you have spells of perfection? For example, make ball bearings smoother.

      Medical uses– is rapid healing a simple enough sentence to be usefu?

      “a boost of stamina, speed, or strength”: Useful for just about anyone for anything.

      You probably shouldn’t allow for magic that increases intelligence. Your novel would become too hard to write.

      • AnarchyDice says:

        For air, I would think that reverse writing would work, i.e. engrave something such that the air (or water) filling it would form the intended words. It could make for some machining challenges in this time period if I wanted to do pipes with an inscription on the inside for something like a water pump, but open aqueducts or troughs could do that fairly well.

        As for the magical reins, I could see some kind of effect of those types working. I’ve already got ideas for various magically enhanced livestock or domesticated creatures including some who have been altered permanently by various effect.

        I’d have to look into the types of machining people were doing around the 10th to 12th centuries, but I could imagine tools and processes beginning to get modifications for improvement, sort of like an earlier industrial revolution. The real kicker at the time for metallurgy was purification of metals, perhaps introduction of heating and material filtering magic could help speed this along.

        As for the boost of stamina, speed, etc, that would come from manipulation of the inner body to do things like repair torn tissues, regenerate blood sugars, trigger hormone changes, and the like (although the science of the time wouldn’t recognize those things). So there may be a limited application for intelligence boosting, but only along the lines of focus improvement, sensory changes, memory improvement, etc (like what nootropics or some drug side-effects could do). I can easily make the argument that “intelligence” is too nebulous a topic that instructions related to it would either not work, or fall well short of expectations. That should also side-step any artificially intelligent constructs.

    • veeloxtrox says:

      An important question is if the only requirement to be able to do magic is being able to write or if there is some “spark” needed to do magic. If it is the former, the ability to write becomes a very very important skill to have. Peasants might only know this strokes make fire and then the more educated you become the better you get at magic. On the other end you end up with very important people who by their spark get to do magic for everyone in the village/town/city/province/country depending on how rare the spark is.

      Train systems is something that a sufficiently organized country could make. You enchant the rails to levitate and you enchant the train to provide thrust. Similarly a building could have a vacuum tube like system.

      I also feel like the system you describe could be used to transform the martial that is being written on, if you allow intent to affect the outcome then something as simple as “mold” or “transform” could be used. So you go to the tailor and they take a cloth off the wall, take some measurements of you, then begin writing on the cloth. In about 5 minutes you have a perfectly fitting shirt. If you wanted to take this one step further, all clothes mold to the wearer. Maybe very fancy and expensive clothes change color on command. You could also have self-molding or custom armor.

      It might even be possible to set up a sort of alchemy factory where you have a proto-assembly line where you put in raw materials in one end and finished products come out. Each step in the process is a particular material that has a set of words on it that do one part of the process.

      • AnarchyDice says:

        The idea I have is that there isn’t a hard and fast “gate” on who can do magic, as anyone can make contact with an inscription and provide energy to it. The limiter on it though is on how much energy people can channel safely without short term or long term complications plus how efficient they are at doing so. This draws on the body’s metabolism partially (with the source of the magic providing the rest), so all but the most infirm or ill-suited people could power a small fire-starter or simple enchantment, while fewer could turn a millstone, and even fewer power complicated magical equipment.

        As for trains, vacuum tubes, assembly lines and such: That would the historical path I would expect them to eventually take, but with high-middle age machining, metallurgy, and other technological limitations, such things wouldn’t be seen outside of hypotheticals or one-offs by well-financed eccentrics.

        Intent and malleability of words is going to play a large part in the magic schema, which is where experimentation tries to find the most reliable mental-states in combination with carefully worded inscriptions to make superior products. This is also the main limiting factor in long, complex instructions: there are increasingly many degrees of freedom exponentially expanding as the number of possible word definitions and connotations increase, including the possibility of the magic failing to parse a command at all. I could see a high end tailor using enchantment to form clothing, or mannequins able to shape themselves to a customer’s form to allow for exact workings. Fabrics with inscriptions sown or woven into their construction with various effects could make for high-fashion amongst nobility.

        • veeloxtrox says:

          The idea I have is that there isn’t a hard and fast “gate” on who can do magic, as anyone can make contact with an inscription and provide energy to it. The limiter on it though is on how much energy people can channel safely without short term or long term complications plus how efficient they are at doing so.

          I think that is a good way to approach it. Overall this system reminds me of the magic in Eragon. One follow up question, is what happens if you inscribe the same word over and over into the item? Does it become stronger, more durable, or nothing? Does it matter if you do the same word in the same place for 7 days or if you do the same word in different places for 7 days?

          • AnarchyDice says:

            I only read the first book, so maybe they got more into the details of the magic system, but I remember it being based on being able to know the true names of things?

            The magic system I’m envisioning is more like trying to compile code to a distant magic processor with no idea exactly how it translates the written word into its own machine language, so to speak. It wouldn’t make anything more powerful to have it written more times, but it would add redundancy in the case of combat so that an errant cut or dent doesn’t make your writing incomplete. Using it more times would help you get a better feel on its limitations and quirks, so more experienced artifacts and wielders are going to have certain advantages over the hot new-fangled enchanters.

          • veeloxtrox says:

            If you speak the spell you attempt to accomplish the task and you use the energy needed to make it happen, so magic is a shortcut but lets you do things that are not possible otherwise but you don’t break the laws of thermodynamics.

            Sounds like it could be a good system. Also, do forget that you can fudge the magic system a little to make a better story 🙂

    • johan_larson says:

      One direction you could explore is to let anyone make magic. Working out the implications of this will lead to distinctive settings.

      Anyone can make magic. It’s easy and fun. Doing really impressive things is hard and takes training, but anyone can learn the basics and plenty of people figure it out for themselves. Unfortunately, power comes a lot more easily than control, and people working at the limits of their abilities tend to be tempted to force it, and then things go wrong quickly. And in this case, going wrong means “it ate your face” or “you burned down the village”. That’s why responsible societies tend to carefully instruct their members not to work magic they haven’t been trained in and have safeguards in place to control magic gone wild. But no safeguards work perfectly, and youths gotta youth, you know.

      • AnarchyDice says:

        Yeah, I actually started with wanting to make it work that way and so had to dive into figuring out the behind the scenes crunch of how metabolic calorie efficiency could translate to magical power so that magic would hit the sweet spot of being powerful but not overwhelming. The limiting factor in this case is going to be the knowledge of how to read and write (although much less so than historical literacy rates would predict due to how useful reading and writing has become), useful materials to inscribe/enchant, and knowledge of useful enchantments to inscribe. Lots of inscriptions will simply fail to do anything at all while still consuming some of the user’s energy, and others will fail in the sense of poorly worded wishes doing the letter of the enchantment but not the exact intent. I.E. a firestarting enchantment might shower the user in sparks or ignite the firestarter itself rather than what it is pointed at.

        The consequences of magic here are much grosser than just accidentally burning off a face, channeling too much is known to cause serious internal, organ mutating issues related to the element you overchanneled. It would make for some interesting last stands, if there weren’t other narrative reasons why those don’t work.

    • Loquat says:

      If you can engrave magic on bone, can you engrave it on living bone? It would obviously be painful to do, but having one’s skull permanently enchanted could be quite useful, and unlike a magic bracer nobody can steal it from you.

      • Schibes says:

        Maybe painful to you, but I bet some of those “body modification enthusiasts” would TOTALLY sign up for a few rounds of skull carving if the end result were Real Ultimate Power. I mean, we got some dudes out there with so much junk crammed under their scalps they basically look like Klingons at this point, what’s a little more scraping around underneath? It seems almost boring by comparison.

      • AnarchyDice says:

        Yep! Although it would be mostly limited to effects working on living flesh contiguous with where the inscription is. Due to the nature of antiseptics and surgery at the time though, this is likely only going to be for the desperate, crazy, or highly elite.

        They could also probably accomplish the same thing with animal-derived ink tattoos, although those could be negated by a well placed cut.

  16. rlms says:

    Seen on Facebook, Sam Harris conclusively solves the is-ought problem:

    1/ Let’s assume that there are no ought’s or should’s in this universe. There is only what *is*—the totality of actual (and possible) facts.

    2/ Among the myriad things that exist are conscious minds, susceptible to a vast range of actual (and possible) experiences.

    3/ Unfortunately, many experiences suck. And they don’t just suck as a matter of cultural convention or personal bias—they really and truly suck. (If you doubt this, place your hand on a hot stove and report back.)

    4/ Conscious minds are natural phenomena. Consequently, if we were to learn everything there is to know about physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, economics, etc., we would know everything there is to know about making our corner of the universe suck less.

    5/ If we *should* to do anything in this life, we should avoid what really and truly sucks. (If you consider this question-begging, consult your stove, as above.)

    6/ Of course, we can be confused or mistaken about experience. Something can suck for a while, only to reveal new experiences which don’t suck at all. On these occasions we say, “At first that sucked, but it was worth it!”

    7/ We can also be selfish and shortsighted. Many solutions to our problems are zero-sum (my gain will be your loss). But *better* solutions aren’t. (By what measure of “better”? Fewer things suck.)

    8/ So what is morality? What *ought* sentient beings like ourselves do? Understand how the world works (facts), so that we can avoid what sucks (values).

    Easy! Why did this take so long? Because academic philosophers were misled by silly postmodernist ideas that stopped them grasping step three (“Unfortunately, many experiences suck”), one assumes (I’m not sure how this applies to Hume and contemporaries). But wait! In the comments, someone points out that Harris is decades too late; Rand already solved ethics with Objectivism.

    • Brad says:

      At the end he should have written “So, why does your field need a whole journal, anyway?” At least that would have shown a soupçon of self awareness.

    • Because academic philosophers were misled by silly postmodernist ideas that stopped them grasping step three

      When did postmodernism start?

      5/ If we *should* to do anything in this life, we should avoid what really and truly sucks. (If you consider this question-begging, consult your stove, as above.)

      I consider it question begging. I don’t want to keep my hand on the stove, but want isn’t should. If I want to kill someone, I shouldn’t.

      • rlms says:

        When did postmodernism start?

        I would say the mid-20th century, which makes it all the more puzzling how it managed to infect Hume and his 18th century contemporaries.

        • Protagoras says:

          Yeah, it does have to come after modernism, which was early 20th century. I mean, OK, technically just having that name doesn’t mean it has to come later, as some names are very silly, but really the unifying characteristic of postmodernists is their reaction against some version of (what they take to be) modernism. So they couldn’t exist before there was a general awareness of there being such a thing as modernism to react against.

      • beleester says:

        The best steelman I can give of the “hot stove” thing is that it shows that some values are not learned, they’re instinctive. This doesn’t get you an objective morality, but it does show that there are certain moral values that the vast majority of humans will agree on (like “don’t put your hand on a hot stove”), which is close enough for government work.

        Unfortunately, “do whatever makes the universe suck less” isn’t really enough to build a useful moral code with.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      Both this community and the older, larger atheist community have a terrible habit of wheel-reinventing. This might be a quintessential example.

    • Philosophisticat says:

      Harris makes a fool of himself pretty regularly, but he’s at his worst when he tries to do philosophy (or maybe it just stands out to me).

      • christhenottopher says:

        Every time I see Harris brought up, it always strikes me that he seems to think the reason a problem hasn’t been solved is the idiocy of the people trying to solve it rather than the complexity of the question. And as such I’m consistently not impressed by his solutions. But that could be a selection bias since I started avoiding seeking his opinions out once I noticed that pattern, and he generally only gets brought up for the clearly wrong stuff otherwise.

    • Deiseach says:

      Consequently, if we were to learn everything there is to know about physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, economics, etc., we would know everything there is to know about making our corner of the universe suck less.

      Yeah, no. What if we know everything there is to know and it turns out “Under these conditions if you want/get life, conscious or not, things do suck; non-sucky universes are sterile/dead”? Doesn’t help you very much once you get past the “no killing no stealing no lying no I mean it” rules for making society not suck as much to live in.

    • Anon. says:

      That was bad, but not as bad as Yudkowskian metaethics. Glass houses etc.

    • WashedOut says:

      “Values are facts about the well-being of conscious creatures.”

      -verbatim Sam Harris statement

      Agree or disagree?

      • Atlas says:

        Strong agree. I don’t think Harris quite explains it correctly, but I think the is-ought dichotomy is illusory. Every single “ought” statement that is allegedly different from “is” statements reduces to some sort of descriptive fact. (And therefore “ought” questions can in fact be answered by “is” statements.)

        • Wrong Species says:

          How do you get a statement equivalent to “we ought to reduce suffering” without some variation of the word “ought”?

      • skef says:

        This is tricky unless “well-being” itself can be sussed out without adverting to values, but doing so is harder than it may look.

    • fion says:

      I feel as though he flirts with a useful and interesting (though not original) observation, but then proceeds to balls it up with twelve-year-old level philosophy.

      I think there is a sense in which “oughts” don’t exist. Or do exist, but are kind of synthetic things created by sufficiently complicated mechanisms. There is a universe. It does contain conscious organisms. These organisms do pursue some outcomes over others. These organisms do think deeply about why they pursue some outcomes over others. These organisms do invent philosophy and get confused about the is/ought problem.

      None of that is a solution to the is/ought problem, and none of it helps us decide what to do or not do, but there is some worth to considering questions of morality from a kind of outside, scientific view. Just always be clear that when you do that you’re not doing morality.

    • Wrong Species says:

      One thing no ones pointed out is the idea that nonzero sum solutions are always inferior needs a lot stronger defense than what he is giving. It seems trivially obvious to me that there are nonzero options that help one person more than the alternatives. I would need to see a strong argument against that before accepting the premise.

  17. Saitama says:

    I hope this isn’t too culture war. I’ll be brief:

    I’m a gay man and I don’t like it. I used to be pretty progressive-liberal in my politics and thinking; i came out of the closet, moved in with my boyfriend (still live with him), and became an atheist.

    Since then I’ve discovered the rationalist community. From there I’ve slippery-sloped all the way into a kind of post-rationalist conservative-traditional swamp: I think a lot of what progressivism does and wants is bad for people and communities. This includes LGBT stuff (the ‘gay agenda’).

    I don’t want to be gay. I would like to raise family at some point. I’d like some advice from people here because I’m hopeful I’ll hear a new perspective on this predicament. I’ve tried bringing this up with a few people IRL and there’s really only two responses, which are more or less isomorphic to “You’re perfect just the way you are!” or “Gay people aren’t real. Stop masturbating.”

    Any thoughts?

    • rlms says:

      I would like to raise family at some point.

      Why would being gay preclude that?

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Possibly not helpful, but would it work for you to raise a family with another man?

    • onyomi says:

      I don’t know about the advisability of trying to do so, but if you do decide you’d be happier married to a woman, make sure she knows and the two of you have some sort of clear understanding. I know more than one couple where the man came out of the closet in middle age, after having kids, etc. It mostly was pretty amicable, but always ended in divorce and probably sub-ideal situations for the kids, to say nothing of said wife.

    • Brad says:

      My advice is to quit right wing online spaces, including alas this one, cold turkey. With time you can probably recover.

    • skef says:

      “I don’t want to be gay” is a very common thought on the part of gay men. At times in the past the vast majority of men attracted to men likely spent some or all of their lives preoccupied with it. However, there does not seem to be a method of changing sexual orientation that works reliably, or even for a significant percentage of those that try it.

      So suppose that instead of “You’re perfect just the way you are!” we consider the adjacent answer “sorry, you’re stuck with this pattern of attraction.”

      Lots of people are stuck with sub-optimal characteristics. Some people are ugly by conventional standards. Some people are particularly prone to gaining weight, which can affect their attractiveness and health. Some people are impotent. Some men are 5’6 and below. Often the world could be better for people with these characteristics, but the power to make it better doesn’t rest with any individual. So people have to make do.

      There probably isn’t a lot you can do about “LGBT stuff” on the societal level either way. So I would recommend concentrating on your own life. Take any opportunities you find inherently objectionable and strike them off the list. Consider leaving some that are objectionable but not inherently: plenty of hard-core libertarians collect Social Security reasoning that there is no sense in losing out on a present social reality. Make the best life you can within the parameters you find acceptable.

      As you do this, don’t twist the standard “is bad for people and communities” into something that is only about self-presentation. Plenty of gay men have lied to women they marry and then cheat on. Marriages that fall below a threshold of truthfulness are destructive. If you can find someone open to a similar but more honest arrangement, that’s different.

    • What do you want to raise a family *for*?

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Some people don’t like the sex they are born as and change it. Not liking the sexual preference you are born with and wanting to change it is okay. But doing so is risky and difficult and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

      As others have said, being gay doesn’t stop you from raising a family. List out all the benefits that you think you would gain from not being gay. How important are they to you? How much is being gay an obstacle to them?

      I don’t think anyone else has said this, but a professional therapist can help, too. You are probably worried on how to find out without an agenda and I don’t have advice on that.

    • xXxanonxXx says:

      To my knowledge it’s not possible to change your sexual orientation in any way that will last beyond 5 years. Is that really what you want though? It seems you could have everything you described as important while still being married to another man. A friend of mine is gay, and somewhat conservative (by northeast standards anyway). He has his own law firm. Spends his time bemoaning the state of modern music and sneering at whatever progressive grassroots movement is in the news that day. His husband works as his secretary. No joke. They don’t have children, but that’s by choice.

    • ninjafetus says:

      I can’t tell — do you have a problem with your attraction to men, or all the other stuff?

      If you’re okay with your attraction, don’t forget that you can still be be gay (attracted to men) without being “gay” (part of the LGBT cultural tribe). And you can still raise a family! It just depends on the people you spend your time with. Believe it or not, there are some of us non-straight folk who will treat your attraction as a part of who you are, no more important than your hair color, and not expect any kind of cultural behavior or belief.

      That said, there’s a lot of ways to have a family other than wife/husband/child. You can marry your boyfriend and adopt. You can have a surrogate. You can join a poly M/F couple and raise a kid with them.

      I guess it all depends on how much of your issue is the attraction or the baggage. Personally, I just get rid of the baggage, but that’s the privilege of being bi vs. gay.

    • zoozoc says:

      I don’t have much to add, other than that many others who are gay also disagree with the LGBT stuff. From a conservative Christian side (in which gay sex is considered wrong), there are indeed those who are both gay and Christian. If you are curious about this perspective, this website explains it much better than I could.

      http://www.livingout.org/

    • Levantine says:

      Any thoughts?

      1. I’ve heard Bred Weinstein say (I can’t place the YT video segment) that in the animal world, generally, individuals that are isolated start to become increasingly androgynous. It might be – I’m speculating – that that the degree of homosexuality of many individuals is a function to how many people they meet and of what sex they are. I would suggest you try to spend more time surrounded by women, and see what, if anything, changes in your tendencies.

      Even if it happens to lead nowhere, there is point 2.: Human beings are so diverse in their inclinations, and the number of women in the world is about three billion, that there is probably more than one woman willing to marry a homosexual man. Of one I already know:

      “In 1967, [Sondra] Locke married her childhood friend Gordon Anderson, who has since been outed as a homosexual. In her autobiography, Locke says that she never had sexual relations with her husband, and that she married him after he told her he was gay. When she began her affair with Eastwood, Anderson was already living with another man. However, they are still very close friends and remain legally married to this day.”

      http://www.thefullwiki.org/Sondra_Locke

      Best wishes

    • aristides says:

      My advice is to look for a lesbian or asexual woman, who wants the same thing as you, and be honest about it. There are quite a few success stories in the Christian community with relationships like this. The key is having a strong gaydar, or friend with one, so you can find the right woman. Some large churches might even have small groups that get together to seek support for thier “sinful sexuap desires.”

      • Levantine says:

        My advice is to look for a lesbian or asexual woman, who wants the same thing as you, and be honest about it. There are quite a few success stories in the Christian community with relationships like this.

        Seconded.

    • pontifex says:

      Sorry to be That Guy, but I think you’re perfect just the way you are. There are plenty of gay conservatives these days. Peter Thiel comes to mind.

    • tayfie says:

      You didn’t explicitly say so, but I think you say you feel a conflict between being gay and conservative. I think you feel disappointed that the default reaction people have is to deny your experience exists or should exist.

      My advice is to write about this a lot, in all the detail you can muster. You can do so in a private journal or start a blog. The purpose is to organize your thoughts. Address the specific issues that are nagging at you. If you do so in public, this will also go a long way toward convincing people your experience is real and valid. The problem is I can’t tell you what actions to take without knowing a lot more, and by the time you told me all I needed to know, you would likely have resolved the conflict yourself already.

    • Wrong Species says:

      What exactly is the conservative, atheist case against homosexuality?

      • cassander says:

        Against homosexuality in general? or something more specific like gays in the military or gay marriage?

        With gays in the military, I think a decent case can be made along similar lines to some of the issues with women in the military, at least in combat units. The ideal* squad of soldiers is a bunch of young men who have been together a long time, have bonded through suffering, and are all equally pissed off that they haven’t gotten laid in a while. If you have gay soldiers, you’ll have gay soldiers fucking, and that will disrupt the small unit dynamics that are absolutely essential to motivating groups of young men to risk their lives to achieve their mission. Are there are people who are capable of refraining from sexual activity in the face of daily interaction with people they are attracted to? Sure, but the number is going to be tiny, but the number is going to be small, and getting them is not worth the cost of also getting all the people who are not so capable.

        That said, there is also a cost to trying to keep them out of the military. It’s easy to keep women out, not so easy to keep out anyone with a kinsey score of >0. It’s a huge waste of effort keeping up some anti-gay inquisition and it creates all sorts of terrible personal and institutional incentives. Given that only a very small percentage of the army is gay, you’re probably better off trying to enforce a culture of “don’t fuck squadmates” by punishing unreported fraternization harshly while allowing easy transfers of people who do get involved.

        * There are alternative models where everyone gets laid that also seem to work fairly well, but, well, this is puritanical america we’re talking about.

        • Wrong Species says:

          Putting that argument aside, he was talking about being gay in general. I don’t see how you can really see homosexuality as inherently bad without some kind of religious motivation.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            This depends on how important (legitimate) children are to the person/extended family/community, and how close to a 6 the homosexually inclined person is on the Kinsey scale.

          • onyomi says:

            Re. the Kinsey Scale, I recall seeing what I considered a better classification for sexual desires at some point, don’t know if it has a name: instead of one bar that can be pushed or a pulled i a heterosexual or homosexual direction, it has two bars, one indicating attraction for men, and another indicating attraction for women. This takes into account the possibility of some people being very attracted to both men and women, and the possibility of someone not being strongly sexually attracted to hardly anyone, and any permutation in between.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Homosexuality is associated with all sorts of negative life outcomes. Homosexuals are much more likely to contract STDs, abuse drugs or alcohol, suffer from depression, commit suicide, etc. If you are approached by the Sexual Orientation Fairy and told “you may choose your sexual orientation” the correct answer is “straight.”

  18. dndnrsn says:

    Tabletop game thread:

    @Nabil ad Dajjal had mentioned the Prince Valiant RPG, which had a feature that he described in a way that made it sound eerily like more recent games the big thing of which was there were mechanics to let players have control over things in a fairly unusual way. But it’s from 1989.

    Which got me thinking: what old games have you played that had some surprisingly modern-seeming features? Either something you thought of as a new thing that turned out to be older than you thought, or just something ahead of its time. Or maybe you don’t know either way.

    Twilight 2000 is a very crunchy game, it was made by a wargames company, and it is obsessive about tactical combat and the effects of what happens when a rocket hits something. But the introductory adventure and the first campaign – I haven’t read anything else – to the first edition are sandboxy in a way I have always found surprising. The intro just says “well your unit got destroyed” and gives them a map, and the ref has the version of the map with local knowledge and enemy units. Then the campaigns feature to some degree or another ability to make major decisions and in at least one, multiple sides trying to get what the PCs got by various means. Which is a less common scenario, than the opposite: PCs gotta get a bunch of stuff from people. They’ve got NPCs pursuing them for once. It’s not improvisational – it’s all heavily defined, and must have been a lot of work to write – but it is very sandboxy. Personally, I had thought shouting about your sandbox was a more modern thing. I don’t know the extent to which this shows up in other games of the period. But the first adventure from the campaign, some of the most player choice I’ve seen.

    Toon, from ’84, is pretty uncrunchy for what I think of as the 80s norm, and it’s by Steve Jackson, so I would assume the tendency would ordinarily be towards crunch. Really simple game. It’s also very open that it’s not intended to be in any way a simulation of reality – and being really insistent about that seems like a more “modern” idea to me. (They got their crunch in by releasing a settings supplement that featured a huge jump in rules complexity to add far too detailed magic, cyberpunk, ship-building, etc rules)

    (You could also include wargames and such, maybe even some computer games that are just simulations of board games, maybe stretch to computer games that shout about being sandboxes – that’s certainly a thing)

    • Nornagest says:

      Paranoia isn’t truly old-school — the first edition came out in 1984, the second in ’87 — but it was hugely innovative for its time: fast-moving, streamlined, and highly competitive at a time when crunchy, deliberate, collaborative play was the trend. It rewards player improvisation so much, and provides so many ready-made hooks for it, that all you need to do to successfully GM it is to scribble down a half-dozen situations and a few good dystopia jokes. I’m not even exaggerating, I’ve seen that done.

      It’s a really fun game. You can’t run a full campaign of it, though, because half of everyone’s clones will be dead at the end of the first session.

      • dndnrsn says:

        I don’t know about the first edition, but the second edition seems kinda crunchy, looking at it. At least comparing its rules to the Paranoia XP version, which I ran for a summer some years ago. It’s a special beast – I learned a lot from running it.

        • Nornagest says:

          The first edition is crunchier than the second — it didn’t fully grow into its theme until late in the first edition’s lifecycle. But yeah, I’m thinking more by ’80s and ’90s standards than by modern.

          If I were running a Paranoia game today, I’d probably pick XP.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I gather there’s a new edition but I don’t know anything about it.

          • sandoratthezoo says:

            I played it recently. It seemed… bad. I’m not the biggest Paranoia person in general, but the failing of low-quality modern games is having really pointedly gamey mechanics that kill momentum of play because they’re hard to reconcile with the fictional reality or require a lot of game-level thinking (high-quality modern games still have pointedly gamey mechanics but fit them into areas where they don’t serve as stumbling blocks).

    • AeXeaz says:

      A lot of early adventures (for everything from D&D to Call of Cthulhu and Runequest) were sandboxes. The strongly plotted, railroady adventures full of metaplot didn’t really “take over” before the 90s.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Chaosium released 4 campaigns for Call of Cthulhu in the 80s. Shadows of Yog-Sothoth (1982) is a real dog, in my opinion – it would probably involve significant railroading to run, in addition to other flaws (it’s the only one of the four I haven’t run, though). Fungi from Yuggoth (1984) I ran in its Day of the Beast version, and it too has a problem with requiring railroading – I had to edit it to remove railroading, and there was still some necessity for it, in addition to other flaws.

        Masks of Nyarlathotep (1984) isn’t a sandbox, but the PCs can approach it in many different ways, and the scenario as a whole is set up in such a way that little to no railroading is involved – it’s not “plotted” very strongly. It’s fantastic. Spawn of Azathoth (1986) seems like sort of a stab at the same thing – the PCs can take it in different orders – but it’s very flawed.

        Single adventures are a different story, potentially – they tend not to be plotted out in the way a campaign can be- but not many of them are true sandboxes either. There’s more of them, so harder to cover. Looking at the big 4 80s campaigns, though, it doesn’t seem like CoC, at least, had a progression from sandbox to railroad.

        I think you’re right about the “metaplot” thing, at least if we’re discussing it the same way. That was more a 90s thing, maybe starting in the 80s. I associate the term with some of the AD&D settings as publishing defined settings became a bigger deal with 2nd ed, but even more I associate it with White Wolf, a creature of the 90s more or less.

        • AeXeaz says:

          Yeah, you’re definitely right about the campaigns, and I’d guess that’s because it’s harder to up the scale of the Call of Cthulhu sandbox.

          The basic D&D sandbox unit was the “Dungeon”, which easily scales up to “Dungeons and the Wilderness surrounding them” (hex crawls), whereas the Cthulhu sandbox unit was the “Haunted Place” (house, plantation, hospital), which is much harder to scale up without losing what makes Call of Cthulhu special. Points of light vs points of darkness…

          (The “Haunted Place” doesn’t have to be literally haunted, it’s just wherever the really spooky or dangerous stuff is happening)

    • beleester says:

      I’ve read that rules for “mooks” (weak enemies designed to die in droves against the hero) date back to 1979 (Bushido), even though we normally think of that as a feature of modern, narrative-focused RPGs.

      • dndnrsn says:

        It’s curious it’s something that’s become associated more with narrative-focused games; it can be good for high-action games too: the ORE has the rules for “minions” – it’s a die pool game, and a group of minions usually has dice equal to their number, or thereabouts. It makes ten mooks a different threat than if they’re handled individually. Ten mooks handled individually are only a risk to a powerful PC if they roll luckily, and it’s kind of annoying to face foes who are no match for you unless they get a really lucky roll. Facing ten mooks as one “enemy” changes that, and usually runs quicker too.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      This one is odd because it’s the exact opposite of modern but it still caught me off guard when I saw it.

      If you look at the rules for Chainmail, the tabletop wargame which eventually became D&D, there are no hit points. Like every other wargame it used a wounds system: a fighter could survive a number of hits equal to his level. Damage rolls used a d6 just like in the earliest editions of D&D but instead of doing 1-6 points of damage, you would kill if you rolled above a particular value determined by your weapons and the enemy’s armor.

      Again, this is the opposite of new: every wargame does this. But it’s interesting that D&D took a step backwards immediately. Wound systems are a lot easier to deal with mechanically and make more logical sense than hit point systems. More modern RPGs seem to get this but the legacy of D&D means that hit points are still the default in both RPGs and video games.

      • beleester says:

        That has the problem of being “swingy” – either they roll a kill and you’re dead, or they don’t and you’re not dead. That’s fine for a tabletop wargame where your fighters are expendable, not so great when every dead fighter has a name and backstory. Hit points allow for a more gradual transition – you take a hit, and now you’re wounded, but the cleric has a chance to get you back on your feet. It gives the party more chances to be unlucky or make mistakes.

  19. Well... says:

    What are y’all’s thoughts on this? IQ^2 episode: “Feminism is for Everyone”. I came in on the middle of it and found it somewhat alarming.

    (Sorry, couldn’t find a transcript.)

    • Aapje says:

      It is illustrative of what is wrong with most feminist activism today. I don’t see how this specific video is alarming, since it’s really no worse or better than feminist activism in general.

  20. cassander says:

    Several threads ago, in a thread about star trek discovery, someone here claimed that one of the fundamental problems with it was that it was a space war arc, which wasn’t really a good backdrop for star trek. I don’t want to debate that point, I want to ask, what IS a good framing arc to base a star trek like show on, because I can see that there are basically three. One is space war, most triumphantly done in Babylon 5 and DS9. Another is space cold war, where the war is threatened, but never breaks out. the third is Lost in space. All three present the crew with specific goals, have high stakes, and create a framework within which you can have the continuity you need for story telling but which are flexible enough to accomodate enough change to keep those stakes feeling real.

    I can’t believe that these are the only three, but they’re the only 3 that come to my mind. What other major arcs would people like to see tackled, beyond just bumbling around the universe for kicks.

    • johan_larson says:

      You could travel out beyond the frontier for a bunch of reasons:
      – commerce: find cool and valuable stuff, trade for it, and ship it home for $TEXAS
      – science: find out what’s out there and don’t die before you get the information back
      – bounty hunters: some miscreants flee the civilized systems and head out beyond the frontier; your job is to bring them back
      – kicks: you’re bored bored bored, but you have money money money, and a fast ship; time to see and do all the weird shit the universe has to offer

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        – science: find out what’s out there and don’t die before you get the information back

        Star Lovecraft.

    • christhenottopher says:

      -Space internal political conflict: for Star Trek probably not at the Game of Thrones level, but “idealists clash over the future of the Federation” beyond a one-off episode could be good.

      -Space pioneers: gotta found and survive in a new territory.

      -Space cold war/space war but the protagonists are the bad guys: Romulans vs Federation, but our PoV is Romulans

      • Wrong Species says:

        I would be interested in a Star Trek where there was a conflict between people who take a hardline against genetic engineering and those who don’t. DS9 flirted with the idea but only a little.

        • albatross11 says:

          It would be fun to watch such a show if they actually played fair with both sides, but I don’t think that’s the strong suit of Star Trek type shows.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Maybe not but at least in DS9 they softened there stance and that was about 20 years ago.

        • powerfuller says:

          I forget most of the details (like whether engineering or only selective breeding was used), but wasn’t that the point of the Eugenics Wars? I know it predates the Federation, but I think the question is put aside because it was supposedly already settled. Though I cannot imagine that nobody in the Federation would ever be tempted to use such methods again.

          • cassander says:

            The super humans (called augments) were genetically engineered in some non-specific way that definitely wasn’t selective breeding.

            There was a plot arc in enterprise that involved an Arik Soong (the last name of the guy who invents Data and also played by Brent Spiner) creating a virus that would implant augment DNA into everyone. He was stopped, but there’s some convoluted story of this virus spreading to klingons to explain why they look different in TOS.

          • Wrong Species says:

            My main problem was that they just assumed that genetic engineering causes evil instead of a serious philosophical examination of the issue.

    • skef says:

      I’m almost certainly in an irrelevant minority, but at this point my preference would be to reject the question and have an anthology series set in the universe. If it helps, have the writers weave a few minor-ish characters in clever ways through the different stories. Do 2-3 episode arcs if and when it makes sense. I’ve seen enough crew-of-a-Star-Trek ship shows by now that I have little interest in more of that.

      • AG says:

        Stargate’s great innovation on that front was to render ships the less efficient means of travel. This turned “space war” in premise necessarily into ground conflicts.
        I’d say that it helped the show’s budget, too. Most shows that feature a full ship end up having to do bottle episodes on the ship sets for like half of their episodes.
        (Dark Matter made an artform of this. The creative ways they’d structure plots to justify bottle episodes got awe-inspiring.)

      • cassander says:

        I’ve made almost exactly the same argument actually. My pitch was every season got a new ship, a new crew, and a new 10-15 episode story helmed by an all powerful writer/director. You can jump around in different timelines, different places in time, do whatever. If one doesn’t work, move on. If one works really well, spin it off as its own series.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I guess Voyager would be the Lost in Space one, but they never had the guts to really commit to it.

      Let’s survey what some other shows have done.

      Find the Macguffin in Space: the B5 spin-off Crusade tried this, where they would explore space/ancient technology to find a cure to a deadly disease. But that show flopped.

      Outlaws in Space: Farscape did this one best, IMO. Our heroes are scrappy underdogs pursued by much more powerful foes. Honorable mention to Firefly and even BSG for this. I’m not sure you could pull this off well in the Star Trek universe, at least not with a Federation ship.

      Post-Apocalypse in Space: Andromeda was originally based off of one Roddenberry’s ideas for a show about rebuilding the Federation after it had fallen. I think there is a lot of potential for this one, if executed well.

      • Wrong Species says:

        Voyager was infuriating at times.

        A spaceship teleported across the galaxy and is trying to make its way back to Earth…

        “Captain, there’s something slightly unusual about this star system that is way off our path.”

        “Great, let’s go study it for the next week.”

        • Deiseach says:

          Voyager was infuriating at times.

          They didn’t know what they wanted to do with it or the characters. They started off quasi-realistic: Voyager is stuck in the Delta Quadrant and has to take the long way home, there are no cheats or short cuts. They tried exploring what that would mean (having to cobble together alliances from scratch, being confined to one large area of influence, no handy space stations or starbases or workshop planets where you can stop off for repairs, upgrades and supplies) but didn’t make a good job of it.

          My own personal opinion is that the Kazon, who were the major protagonists for Voyager at the start, just were not an interesting species and hadn’t much depth to them, so the constant run-ins with them were boring. Seska’s little surprise treachery was a good idea, but mishandled and wasted.

          Then they dropped that quasi-realism and went for short cuts, cheats, and more interesting encounters which led to things like “we have to ration use of the replicators because we haven’t enough spare energy to run them at full capacity, which means setting up an actual kitchen to cook raw food grown in the soil planet-side like cavemen, but we do have enough energy to run the holodeck for wacky adventures because um it runs on a different kind of energy? *handwave handwave*. Then there was the “what pairings will we try to pair up? Chakotay/Janeway? Chakotay/Seven? The Doctor/B’Elanna/anyone?” and the tendency to take one character as a fan favourite and run them into the ground with giving them extra attention (first The Doctor then Seven suffered this) at the expense of the rest of the crew.

          I’m also very annoyed with how they treated Harry Kim, but that’s for another day 🙂

          • rmtodd says:

            Yeah, that was the big problem with Voyager, that they never really seemed to take seriously the fact that they’re a ship all on their own out there, with no resources to support them — they should be running out of all sorts of things, having various ship systems break down, etc.. I recall some years back reading an interview with Ronald D. Moore, shortly after he had left the writing staff of Voyager, complaining of much the same thing: that the producers/showrunners didn’t take seriously the implications of the premise of the show. Interesting to read it in retrospect after watching Ronald D. Moore’s subsequent TV work — I sometime suspect he filmed 4 seasons worth of Battlestar Galactica just to say “See! That’s what Voyager should have been like!” And if so, yeah, he kinda had a point. (Not that BSG:The New Generation didn’t have its own flaws, but it did avoid Voyager’s obvious issues….

          • cassander says:

            I’m also very annoyed with how they treated Harry Kim, but that’s for another day

            I like to point out that On DS9 Nog goes from illiterate ferengi busboy to starfleet lieutenant in less time then it took Kim to go from ensign to ensign. Or to compare the level of character in this guy who was in 123 voyager episodes to the level of character given to bit players on DS9

      • > Outlaws in Space:

        How could you omit the mighty Blake’s Seven?

        • Deiseach says:

          How could you omit the mighty Blake’s Seven?

          If you want Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies, and the Big Bad Wins then sure, but I’m not sure even grimdark American shows are quite ready to go there 🙂

          I loved that show even though the special effects were ropey* and some of the attitudes were very 70s (what women really want is a Big Strong Manly Man to keep ’em in their place and remind them that they’re Womanly Women**), but goodness me it’s depressing: we start off with Our Hero mindwiped and framed as a paedophile*** in order to so blacken his name nobody will ever want anything to do with his cause, and it goes downhill from there (some good moments of trying to examine “so what exactly is the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist, anyway?” and how in reality the Scrappy Underdogs are more likely to end up smooshed by the Giant Military Complex than to win).

          Completely the opposite of Star Wars (the original trilogy): imagine if that had ended with Han long gone back to being a space pirate and Leia killing Luke under the belief that he’d gone dark side only to find out that it was all an elaborate cover story that went badly wrong, and Leia left as the sole Resistance leader faced with the victorious Palpatine, surrounded by Stormtroopers, and no way out.

          *the first season opening credits are done partly in the style of cross stitching, you have to see it to believe it

          **Harvest of Kairos. No surprise that he ends up dead 🙂

          ***complete with recorded court testimony from genuinely traumatised children who probably have had fake memories implanted by the Federation forces to make them believe they have been sexually abused by Blake and so be credible witnesses

          • Protagoras says:

            Sure, the female characters could have been better in some cases, but most of the time Servalan was a great villain. And the relationship between Avon and Blake, and Avon’s struggles after Blake was lost, were really interesting.

          • Deiseach says:

            most of the time Servalan was a great villain. And the relationship between Avon and Blake, and Avon’s struggles after Blake was lost, were really interesting.

            Servalan was a fantastic villain. We start off with the Supreme Commander of the Federation Military and when introduced to us, instead of the kind of villain you’d expect from the set-up, she’s this doe-eyed waif in white 🙂

            She was always competent and always permitted to be competent, even when they glammed up the character, which was marvellous. And she does win in the end, thanks to stupidity on the part of the Scrappy Underdogs.

            The Avon-Blake dynamic was fantastic, as well. Blake is very much a flawed hero, and how much that is down to having his mind shattered and re-assembled twice and how much is that deep down his real personality is a bit of an asshole (he’s prepared to be a violent revolutionary) is an open question: he’s quite capable of passionate rhetoric about rights and freedom and at the same time being deceitful and manipulative (the later disagreement between him and Cally over his leadership and goals and the direction he’s taking the Revolution), and you do get the sense that for the Resistance who have been fighting all the years he’s been mindwiped to be a good complacent citizen he’s more valuable as a symbolic figurehead of the past than as a leader right now.

            Avon presents himself as having absolutely no idealism of Blake’s type, yet he’s fascinated despite himself by it. And when he does get the chance to be a criminal mastermind instead of a saviour of the masses – he’s not terribly good at it. Vila is the career criminal, Avon really only had one big attempt at white-collar crime and he got caught 🙂 They set up elaboate and ingenious heists and even when they pull them off, the Federation still come out ahead. It’s great! In a very grimdark, realistic, way.

            Then Avon goes slightly mad and seems to decide that if he can’t succeed in crime, he’ll take on Blake’s mantle, and that goes even worse. I can’t imagine Star Trek showing that the Dominion won the war with the Federation as the culmination to Deep Space Nine, and even Babylon 5 or the revamped Battlestar Galactica for all their attempts at grittiness gave the conventional happy endings.

    • The Nybbler says:

      To explore strange new worlds
      To seek out new life, and new civilization
      To boldly go where no man has gone before.

      What’s the matter with bumbling around the universe for kicks?

      • cassander says:

        Nothing wrong with that, but I like my fiction structured, and I at least get more out of it when there is overarching narrative structure that pays off in significant ways.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’ve been re-watching TOS with my girlfriend, her for the first time, and I noticed something that I had mostly missed the first time I saw it: the Federation has a lot more lovable scoundrels and con-men than you would think given the communist utopian premise.

      We were watching The Trouble With Tribbles last night and while I remembered Harry Mudd I had completely forgotten about Cyrano Jones. Characters like Vash in TNG show that this concept of mercenary humans hadn’t been completely obliviated even in the most sanctimoniously communist era of the show. The majority of humans might be clueless about the idea of money but there are at least a few roving traders trying to make a buck on the frontier.

      That’s a concept that would be interesting to explore. A Rogue Trader, explicitly not a Starfleet ship, exploring the frontier looking for work. The tone could be a lot lighter than Discovery, with the crew being good hearted people who might be tempted to ignore the problem of the week but in the end always choose to help even if it means losing out on a business opportunity. Think Firefly by way of DS9.

    • John Schilling says:

      I want to ask, what IS a good framing arc to base a star trek like show on,

      None whatsoever. That’s like asking what’s a good framing arc to base a police procedural on. The Law and Order franchise is now up to more than fifty combined and highly successful seasons, and while some of them have occasionally had story arcs going on, they were mostly B-plot stuff and the shows were AFIK never based on them.

      As Nybbler points out, Star Trek comes with a mission statement, and it’s a mission statement that pretty much demands an episodic rather than arc-based structure. If you’re doing something very different than that, then you’re not doing a “Star Trek like” show and you shouldn’t feel obligated to try and make it like Star Trek in other ways. And you shouldn’t use the name.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      My wife never watched Enterprise and watched it on Netflix a month ago. (I asked to watch the last half-season with her and we have two episodes to go.) It was interesting to see her view.

      She really liked the first two seasons because they had such a nice outlook of hope and got depressed by the grrr-let’s-get-them attitude of the Xindi arc. It’s one of the reasons we like Orville. But we also both loved DS9, which definitely wasn’t that. I’m not sure how much the mood we are looking for depends on just what we want at a particular time. DS9 was a nice change after all those seasons of TNG, but grimdark for the sake of grimdark is just . . . well, depressing.

    • AG says:

      Post-war framing, and the pure messiness that comes after that. You can do Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, USSR metaphors. Hell, you can do young-USA metaphors except this time the Federation was the British Empire. You can do Civil War Reconstruction metaphors, you can do metaphors for the period between the World Wars. You can do Japan-after-WW2 metaphors. The issues of re-building, supporting allies, re-integrating former enemies, the failure thereof, the cleanup of remaining pockets of resistance, the works.

      But most TV shows HATE tackling that framework, because it’s much more fun to follow a tight-knit crew trying to stick it to The Man. Even TOS cheated the strength of the Federation because the Enterprise crew were on their own on unknown planets, so they were still the underdog individualist crew under that framework.
      Often, multi-season genre shows will get around to a “our heroes are now The Man” season (Angel S5, Buffy’s first comics season, Nikita S3), but they tend to be less of fan-favorites, and almost always climax in blowing up the power structures so our heroes become underdogs again.

      For that matter, why not do a show about the crew who has to clean up after the chaotic political messes that the Big Damn Heroes leave behind wherever they go? (Slightly different from that recent comedy show about the shenanigans of an insurance company in a world where superheroes exist)

  21. johan_larson says:

    It’s thirty years from today. What are the youth of the nation up to that has older folks baffled, incredulous, or outraged?

    Hive minding. Deliberately altered states of consciousness to enhance on-task focus, tele-present cooperative work and team identification have filtered out of academic labs into a hobbyist community. Many people, especially young people, are experimenting with ways to fuse into teams, packs, or hives temporarily or permanently.

    • christhenottopher says:

      Their music will sound like the music from the 1980s but everyone in the older generation prefers the 90s. This will cause consternation about the malign effects of this music on the minds and morals of the youth.

      The young people’s jokes will make no sense. This will cause consternation about the malign effects of this humor on the minds and morals of the youth.

      Young people will more obsessed with new technologies that potential reduce incentives to engage in some older human form of interaction. This will cause consternation about the malign effects of this technology on the minds and morals of the youth.

      The sexual habits of the young will be either significantly more or significantly less prudish than their elders (yes more prudish happens too, see 50s vs 20s, 90s vs 70s, Victorians vs Regency, etc). This will cause consternation about the malign effects of this preference on the minds and morals of the youth.

      The ethnic makeup of the youths will be more diverse than the prior generation. This will be mostly praised in the media, with mostly private grumbling from some of the more conservative older folks.

      Most of the intergenerational conflicts will be variations on themes that can be seen in past generational conflicts. The world will be more recognizable in technology than techno-optimists suspect (because most new ideas fail), with the exception of technological ideas almost no one is predicting right now. Jules Verne was expecting dirigibles everywhere, not the internet.

      • Wrong Species says:

        For thousands of years, the primary economic activity of humanity was agriculture. Life didn’t change much at all. Then(depending on your timeline), in less than a hundred years, it just changed on a fundamental level. That happened 200 years ago. It baffles me that people think the future is just going to be same as the past, but with funny new slang. Just the changes between now and 30 years ago would have seemed miraculous to our ancestors.

        • Well... says:

          What do you think of this statement:

          The changes (in economic activity, way of life, technology, paradigms, etc.) are different, but the way people respond to them* are not.

          *People mostly respond by going along with recent changes but constantly complaining about them.

          • christhenottopher says:

            I endorse the above reply.

          • mrthorntonblog says:

            For the most part, yes. However, on occasion, there are noticeable jolts. The passenger yanks the steering wheel. Committing to driving off-road can make roads.

          • Wrong Species says:

            I don’t really think that’s true either. Economic growth has radically changed people’s conception of the world. Marxist revolutions, for example, would almost certainly never happened if it wasn’t for the Industrial Revolution.

          • christhenottopher says:

            @Wrong Species

            I’m glad you used that example because I can then point out examples like the Munster Rebellion and the even more successful Hussite state which even modern socialist writers point to as pre-industrial communist revolutions. And let’s not forget the Incan economy was centrally planned with no money or markets (OK I’m willing to admit some skepticism there given the lack of native Incan primary sources, but their economy was clearly weirdly state planned compared to most historical economies). Hell, even the early Christian church is a potential example. So yeah, anti-property, communal, and even revolutionary groups pre-date the industrial revolution. I’m unmoved. History may not precisely repeat (none of these leaders were named Marx for instance), but it way more than rhymes.

          • Wrong Species says:

            You can point to isolated examples of things that kind of look like Marxism but it’s really not the same. The ideas he espoused were only able to gain a foothold in society because of the success of capitalism. Do you think it’s a coincidence that all of these Marxist revolutions happened when they did? Do you think it’s a coincidence that people basically didn’t care about anyone outside their in group and then in the span of a couple hundred years it became standard? What about the world wide spread of democracy? What about atheism? How can you look back at the last couple hundred years and see anything less than a complete reorganization of society? You can’t just have an economic revolution and expect people not to act differently and they didn’t. We have evidence that they didn’t so what exactly are you trying to defend here?

          • christhenottopher says:

            @Wrong Species

            How can you look back at the last couple hundred years and see anything less than a complete reorganization of society? You can’t just have an economic revolution and expect people not to act differently and they didn’t. We have evidence that they didn’t so what exactly are you trying to defend here?

            Actually it’s not that difficult. Starting with Marx, I’m hardly the first person to recognize it’s just the secularized version of Christian Millenialism. Of particular note is the recurrence of a teleological history ending in a non-hierarchal paradise. And let’s be clear, depending on whether one thinks of the marxism that actually took hold (aka state controlled economies that were actually a feature of the many part of the near east, most prominently Egypt and a prominent exception being the Levant) or as class-less societies (which were a recurring theme for Christian heretical movements throughout the medieval period and as noted previously did gain some power at times).

            Also democracy has a longer and more common history than is normally thought of. Of course city-states around the world had democratic systems whether we’re talking the Italian Republics (also the Dutch Republic and Swiss confederation were centuries old democratic systems larger than city-state levels), the many democratic or republican city states of the Ancient Mediterranean, or the republics that dominated Northern India during the time of the Buddha. Not to mention the numerous elective monarchy systems that had varying portions of the populace able to vote. Hell you could even consider the kuraltai of the Mongols a voting system, only one with really universal suffrage. You may call these isolated, but that doesn’t seem right to me given that a lot of democratic systems existed in the “non-state” areas of the world at all times, and some of these state democratic systems were co-existing with more despostic states throughout history. Really what we’re seeing is a shift in percentage of the population in democratic state vs non-democratic ones. That’s not nothing, but various points and places in history have shifted that balance in the past too.

            In the initial start of this conversation, the question was what older folks will complain about with younger people. And my argument is that older people always have complaints about younger generations have been pretty similar and even past the previous 200 years. Somehow, this got taken to mean that I was saying:

            the future is just going to be same as the past, but with funny new slang.

            Perhaps I should say “my interlocutor thinks that in the future, literally nothing will be the same. Time will flow backwards, everyone will eat through their belly buttons, and nobody will want to have sex.” That seems like an unfair description of your position though doesn’t it? So really I’m partially reacting against what seems like a lubriciously unfair description of my position. Especially when I specifically said things like:

            Young people will more obsessed with new technologies

            with the exception of technological ideas almost no one is predicting right now

            Yes the world has changed. My point is that not everything has changed. The past is richer than the story of “100 thousand years of hunting and gathering, 10 thousand years of farming, then 200 years of actually cool things.” But the present does have continuity with what came before as well, and you can see this too. Go to a place in the world where most people still are living in subsistence agriculture and you will experience culture shock of course. But will you also start to notice commonalities? Most of the personal conflicts still come down to who is trying to sleep with whom, who owes who money/goods, who believes what on some political issue (though admittedly the scale of the politics will tend to be smaller). People still have fun socializing, listening to music, and telling stories to each other.

            So you want the stance I’m pushing? Change will happen, but as long as the change doesn’t wipe out humans there will be a lot of things recognizable, especially when you get past the veneer of the latest fads.

          • cassander says:

            @Wrong Species

            christhenottopher made most of the points I wanted to here. The industrial revolution obviously brought about radical changes in the way society was organized, those changes came about because changes in material conditions led to changes in social conditions, which led to a reshuffling of older ideas. Humans are pretty much human, and have been for a long time. We’re maybe a little bit smarter on average than we used to be thanks to better nutrition, but we’re not coming up with genuinely new ideas, especially when it comes to money, sex, and power. Which ideas seem more attractive has definitely changed, but marxism is millennialism with the serial numbers filed off (or as I prefer, marxism is to christianity as orcs are to elves)

      • albatross11 says:

        We’ve been in a period of exponential growth of wealth and technology. If you want to imagine a future where that doesn’t continue, you probably need to think of why and then what the other consequences are.

        The most common SFnal trope here is some kind of apocalypse that knocks our technological and scientific progress back a few centuries. That’s also not extrapolating in a straight line from the existing world, but it’s plausible. There are a whole bunch of these. Depending on the cause of the apocalypse, there may be subsequent suppression of technology. (Say, 99% of humanity is killed off by an engineered virus, and the survivors suppress the hell out of biology as a result.)

        The other ways I can see this exponential growth stopping are:

        a. Some kind of social retrogression from science and technology–the Butlerian Jihad puts an end to AI research, the Beowulf Code prevents meddling with human genetics, the Trisolarians send sentient subatomic particles to screw up any basic research and so eventually the font of new science and technology runs dry. In all cases, you imagine some kind of ongoing incremental progress, but very few amazing breakthroughs. (Fallen Angels)

        b. Some kind of police state preventing further scientific and technological improvements–Directive 10-289 implemented by ubiquitous governance or something. (The Peace War)

        c. The whole solar system moves into the Unthinking Depths or suffers some kind of genetic collapse from accumulation of deleterious mutations/dysgenic breeding and exponential progress stops as we turn into unusually bright chimps trying to understand what’s going on inside the shiny machines left by the ancient departed gods. (The Marching Morons, implied in A Fire Upon the Deep)

        d. We just flat hit the outer limits of unaugmented human intelligence before we can do much to augment it, we pick all the low-hanging fruit, and progress stalls as we have to wait for the occasional Gauss or Newton or Einstein to happen by and discover something new, which hardly anyone else can even understand because it takes a +6 sigma intellect to be able to even understand the question they’re answering. (A Deepness in the Sky, The Mote in God’s Eye)

        I’m pretty convinced that if we ever hit something that ends our exponential growth in wealth and technology, it will cause huge problems, because so much of our civilization is built implicitly on the idea that we’ll keep having exponential growth in those things.

        • christhenottopher says:

          This seems to be missing my point. My argument is that what causes generational conflict doesn’t change that much (you can see complaints about the moral failings of newer generations about as far as we have writing…hell even in myths, consider the Greek myth of the formation of humans where men go from being gold to silver to iron, being worse each time around). And also my argument is not that growth stops (though world GDP growth is slower now than the 60s and 70s). And think about what types of technologies were expected 30 years ago versus what we have now. Did fusion power replace coal power plants? Nope, natural gas did. Did we start using supersonic jets for all air travel? Nope, we scrapped the Concorde even. Flying cars? Nope. Space tourism? Not really yet. But who called the largest companies in the world being an internet search engine, an online version of Walmart, and a cell phone manufacturer? Who called social media technology? Bitcoin?

          My point is you likely won’t guess which technologies arise (or you better be making a ton of money off your skills), but the specific technologies don’t impact too greatly how the intergenerational complaints occur.

          • mrthorntonblog says:

            “But who called the largest companies in the world being an internet search engine”

            In hindsight, someone should have. What with infinite curiosity being such a human universal and our life span being so short, combined with Clarke’s prediction of the massively dispersed “total sum of human knowledge” library.

          • christhenottopher says:

            We live in a world ruled by cause and effect. In hindsight there’s always an obvious seeming story, but, though cliche, it’s still true that hindsight is WAY different than foresight. That’s why it’s much more helpful to ask were people actually expecting something rather than craft a story that they “should have” expected something.

    • Well... says:

      As long as we’re just pulling stuff out of thin air…

      In 30 years us older folks won’t be sitting around scratching our heads much.

      95% of us will be hive minding too (we’ll still grumble all the time about how much it sucks and how we should probably just cancel our subscription, but we’ll never cancel it) and the other 5% will be somewhere between “no thanks, not for me” and “OMG the Unabomber was right and these are the end times.”

    • yodelyak says:

      Many young people are not only deliberately hiveminding, they are doing so with some fraction of the hive-mind artificial or long-dead.

      E.g., the civil war re-enactors will be sufficiently engaged with Grant and Lincoln and using VR and AI-NPCs etc such that they’re really experiencing something like 1850s unionism, 24/7, and have their family lives and sense of meaning inside that, rather than as a framework within which that is a meaningful hobby.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Young people will find ways to avoid being surveilled by old people. Old people will be uneasy about this. Or worse– maybe intergenerational hatred will have ramped up, and there will be intergenerational terrorism and persecution coming from both sides.

  22. Mark V Anderson says:

    I have a question for people at SSC relating to my job. I have recently been part of a project at work to put the company on SAP. This is a several year process where we put on a few locations at a time. The issue is that it seems to me that the process of testing seems to be a very dysfunctional process. But I am on the margins, and so it is hard to see the big picture. I’d like to hear from others who have done the same sort of thing. Project management is far from my area of expertise, but from my perspective it is pretty screwed up.

    I am a tax accountant, and have worked in corporate tax for about the last 30 years. Somehow I got involved in this technology issue where I help with setting up SAP for the tax side, along with two supplementary tax programs. Part of the latest round includes an upgrade of one of the tax programs, and that is what I am most concerned about. I am on the business side. I know when we’ve got the right answer, but am often clueless as to how the computer gets to that point. Although I am also the guy who maintains the tables for one of the tax software programs, and know more than anyone else about how these tables work.

    We just finished a round of testing, and it made me think of all the dumb ways this is set up. The way testing is done is each area writes up a whole bunch of tests before the testing begins, and then during testing every group goes through each step of each test. We have to explain if each test is as expected, and periodically prove it is correct with screen shots. We then either pass the test or call it a defect to be fixed by somebody. Theoretically this makes sense, but several issues:

    1) After the tests are complete, quality then checks them all to make sure we documented everything correctly. We periodically have some tests rejected, so we have to re-do them, because we didn’t explain something right or didn’t add a screen shot in the right place. Why are these tests audited at all? I am the tax expert and will know if the system works or not. Why do I have to prove it to someone who doesn’t know tax at all? Do they assume I don’t care if it is right or not, so I have to prove to them it is right? It seems to me that the quality people subtract value from the process by paying more attention to the (dumb) process than the result.

    2) Before we started our rounds of testing, I came up with a list of tests I would like to do to determine if the tax upgrade works. Unfortunately, with all the time I am taking doing tests, and helping to fix the defects, I haven’t had any time to do any of my “off-line” tests. Theoretically, I should try to incorporate these “off-line” tests into the official tests we run for this round, but it is difficult to do this, since tax is only part of every test, and it is hard to get the other areas to adjust their tests to test the tax issues. When I have gotten them to do it, half the time they mis-understand and it doesn’t really test what I want it to test. But by then I can’t change anything. It is much easier just to do my own tests.

    3) It is frowned on when I do these off-line tests. I’ve been told that all defects must be related to an official test. And yet if I want someone in IT to work on an issue, I need to have an official defect. I have been successful in convincing the powers that be to allow some defects without an official test, but I always get the feeling that I am doing something wrong.

    4) Quite often we find issues that come up in the middle of a round of testing, but we are supposed to tie all issues back to particular tests (set up in the beginning). It hasn’t been uncommon for me to find totally unrelated errors when I am testing defect fixes. It doesn’t make sense to me to tie these to the tests that they originated from, but that seems to be how we are supposed to do it.

    5) Security is very tight. Instead of giving me security for my sign-in login so I can do tests and analysis, I am expected to use test ID logins that theoretically give me the security I need. For the latest round of testing, I used about a half dozen different logins to do various analysis. I never was able to find a test set ID for one particular task I wanted to work on, so I had to ask others to take care of it. They also changed the password for these logins every week. Just one more obstacle to getting things done.

    6) The focus of testing is 100% on getting the testing done on time. We get constant statistics on the percentage of tests completed and defects closed. The guy who gets everything completed on time is the hero, and anyone who holds up the process because things don’t work is the goat. One has to be very strong willed to insist that we have to fix something instead of just passing it, in the face of top management who want to meet the deadlines. It is very easy to just pass on marginal tests.

    7) In past years I have often seen issues in production where the question comes up as to why it wasn’t caught in testing. The reaction is usually is to double down on the process – more auditing of tests, more tests. My reaction is the opposite. Just adding more tests won’t help. You need to analyze which tests were not done, and add those. But that isn’t what is done. Instead they make testing even busier and thus more likely to miss important issues.

    It is my impression that my organization uses the state of the art. I think if my organization was audited by a software developing group we’d come out with flying colors. But my impression is that all these bells and whistles detract from our testing more than add to it. When I do testing, I am usually doing two things. 1) I make sure it works, and 2) I do all the red tape so that I am allowed to go to the next step. I think #2 makes #1 more difficult.

    We definitely need formal processes for our large organization. I have seen many times where someone working on one process screws up someone in another process that doesn’t even occur to them. But I don’t see how the processes we have help to fix that. They instead seem to hinder.

    • christhenottopher says:

      As a person who works with SAP on a daily basis for my work…you have my sympathies. My company uses it for somewhat different purposes than it sounds like yours does, but we frequently have bugs that come up with our system and it tends to be very prone to user errors (which is a problem since not everyone we hire is great with computers in general so minor screw ups are frequent). We apparently used to have other systems that were far less failure prone (and cut the time needed to deal with a single record in half relative to our SAP system), but that was before I was hired.

      I don’t have too much specific to help, but the things that tend to give us the biggest headaches at my work are when user permissions get messed up (“Oh great, the entire department now has permission to do…nothing”) or time out problems (“yes leaving that record open and doing nothing for 30 minutes will lead it to time out. What? Have the system tell you that happened? As if! You get to find out when you save and all your work disappears”).

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I’m just working on this testing temporarily; I’m just doing testing because of the tax software upgrade. Most of the time I work in the production system. The problems I have in production are quite different than what I’ve seen in testing. The biggest problem from my point of view is that we keep adding bolt-ons and keep doing “improvements.” Every bolt-on software has to be able to talk to both SAP and all the other previous bolt-ons — so it seems to me that each new bolt-on exponentially increases the problems. And whenever they make improvements they never think to test tax. So when it goes to production they complain to me about the tax errors, and that’s when I first hear of the change.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      You are perfectly correct that your testing process is dysfunctional. It is also extremely common and the main reason I have a ridiculously well-paying consulting gig. If I weren’t fully booked I’d offer my services.
      For an interesting blog on the ills of traditional software testing and working fixes you might want to try out developsense.com

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I would appreciate you giving more detail about what you see as dysfunctional. All seven of my points, or just some of them. After all, we have lots of high paid consultants at my firm already running this process, and I bet they would totally disagree with me about it being dysfunctional. So I am curious in what way you agree with me. I am not looking for a detailed plan of what we should be doing — just a few bullet points how you see we are going wrong based on my notes.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Sounds exactly like the testing at my company. And the company before that. Ha.

      Re: 1. They need to be audited because these tests take a hell of a lot of time and are absolutely thankless work. Therefore, people will lie about doing said tests. Therefore, someone needs to audit the results.
      The majority of tests will pass just fine, but woe unto you if you miss something. We rolled out a new check application app last year. I had to do the testing for it. The team picking what to test missed one little thing that destroyed 100% of productivity. They had to a full roll-back and restore a backup. Woops!

      Everything needs to be tied out back to an actual test because there is probably not a tracking system independent of what they have set up. So if I find an error while testing, that was not on the test, there is no way to track it, and therefore fix it. Creating a new ticket probably requires director-level approval from MULTIPLE teams, same with adding an additional test on an existing ticket.

      Re: security. I don’t get it. I run into the same problems, sometimes. Some testing they require me to use the test accountant with its 1-week expiring password. Some testing I can actually log-in with my own credentials.

      Re: your own testing and your own suggestions. I guess this would depend on your company culture…I feel like in most corporate places, no one gives a shit about these things if you are staff, and your manager doesn’t have a whole lot of influence, either. Most decision-making is 2-3 decisions above staff level, so you might as well talk about how you think it’s a great idea to move your factory to China to save on costs. No one cares. You’re nobody and you have no qualifications.

      Also, don’t ask me for improvement ideas, cause, ya know, nothing we want ever gets implemented. After a while we’re concerned it just comes across as whining.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        Well yeah, I am pretty much a peon at my firm. I have input as to how the taxes work, but they won’t listen to me about process. But even more than my level, it’s that I am a newbie at this and don’t even work full time at testing. I think there are a few hundred people at my firm doing this process — what gives special insight in my tiny corner? I am not trying to make changes here. I have no hope at that, and anyway, I really really don’t want to get into this testing stuff permanently, which is what that would require. We are a pretty collegial company, so if I had a more central role and had been doing this a few years, I might have some influence. But I really don’t want to do that. The purpose of my posting was partly to let off steam, and partly to see if anyone could see what I am looking at wrong. After all, there are hundreds of very smart people working on this process,and it doesn’t appear others have my disdain for the process. I suppose it is possible many people are hiding their issues because they don’t want to lose their jobs, and it is easier to go along than make waves.

        It is true that security seems to be a problem with every company I work at. Computer security seems to attract people with power issues, and they always seem to want to err on the side of too little security than too much. As an accountant I understand the need for controls, but defining the exact security needed for every job is pretty stupid. They should instead give everyone ALL security, and then take away only what hurts control.

        If auditing is to be done, it should be done by the same group that does the tests. They will understand when the test has been done wrong, and they are the ones that will be hurt in production if the tester screws up. The QA testers find dumb stuff that doesn’t matter, and miss important stuff that does.

        You are probably right about the tracking of defects, although I don’t understand this tracking. And it seems more important to actually fix problems you find, even not on an official test, than to let it go just because you can’t track it.

  23. rlms says:

    Congratulations to John Schilling (France) on winning the first game of SSC readers’ diplomacy)! The map can be seen here. For interested parties, we’re planning to write a recap of the game for the next OT.

    Copy of email sent to players (for those I don’t have the email of):
    Various commenters have expressed interest in a recap, and various players have said they made notes as we went along. IIRC, Chevalier Mal Fet said he was planning to write a recap, if that’s completed then the easiest thing might be to add bits to that based on private notes and use that, otherwise (or additionally for anyone who hasn’t written anything but would like to) I’ve emailed out a link to a Google Doc (or you can email me stuff/comment here).

    • andrewflicker says:

      I’d be interested in participants’ honest estimation of how much time each day/week they spent thinking about, discussing, negotiation, and otherwise dedicating time and mental effort to the game.

      Personally, while I very much enjoy in-person Diplomacy, I’ve given up on online, PBP, or office games because of the way it takes over all of my free time.

      • fion says:

        I found it took far too much of my time. Of course, I was in both games, which in itself was unwise. Different points in the game took different amounts of time, though, so it’s difficult to estimate. At the start we spent a long time trying to get other nations on-side and when planning stabs it took a lot of time and effort to figure out what stories to give each person. But by the end when I was on the losing side of a 3v3, it was just a case of putting in some moves that weren’t stupid, telling Russia and Turkey what I was doing, and then checking to see if they’d asked me to support something or whatever.

        Also, I did some of it while at work, and my progress at work has been noticeably affected.

        Having said all that, I think I found the online game more fun than in-person games. I think it’s a case of the more you put in the more you get out.

        Just re-read my comment and found I didn’t answer your question. Maybe an hour a day on average, with a bit more at the weekend?

        • Randy M says:

          Sorry I dropped out a week or two ago, fion. By that point I didn’t see anyway to break through the trenches and the game was moving so slow with delays and such that I stopped following.
          We had a pretty good showing. First blood, even if it was on our eventual ally.

          • fion says:

            No worries. The game did get to a point where there wasn’t much to discuss. To be honest, I think it doesn’t lend itself particularly well to playing in teams. We spent quite a bit of time in internal discussions even deciding what we were going to say to other countries!

            We did indeed. I’m quite fond of our double betrayal in Spring 1902. 🙂

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Not to spoil the eventual writeup, but that was an awesome turn. Super tense. I (Turkey) remember watching the last few minutes tick down excited and dreading the results – wasn’t sure if y’all on Team Austria would follow-through or I’d be the sucker getting smacked from 3 sides.

            5/5 would stubbornly lose with again!

          • Randy M says:

            That’s good, I feel partly responsible for persuading you to side with us.

      • John Schilling says:

        That’s a very good question. I probably put a solid 8-12 hours into the first move, spread over the course of a week – the online system in question wisely gave the players a week for the first move, because of the extra strategizing and negotiations taking place. And there were 2-3 transitional points where I had to put extra time, though not quite at that level, to account for major shifts in strategy and alliances.

        But for the most part, the game proceeded at a level of about two full turns (one game year) per week, and each turn was maybe an hour of my time. 20-30 minutes trying to figure out how everyone else was going to move, 10-15 minutes crafting my own moves, 10-15 minutes writing and responding to press, and 10-30 minutes in the sandbox trying to make sure I hadn’t missed anything with the consequences of my moves. I could have cut it down to half that level without ill effect on my play, I think, but it was all good fun.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Too much, probably, but it’s time well spent. I’d guess somewhere around an hour a day on average. But then I take too long to write and proofread messages and fuss about with the sandbox for potential moves a lot. Like John said, could probably halve it without too much impact on the results.

      • metacelsus says:

        Way too much time: probably 2 hours/day, if “mental effort” counts (I couldn’t stop thinking about it). I eventually had to quit the game after a few weeks so I could focus on my schoolwork.

      • tayfie says:

        I’d say I averaged 60 +/- 20 minutes a day. It mostly took the form of reading all my messages when I got home from work, then focusing on something else while I thought of appropriate responses.

        I’d say it was a definite hit to my free time, but it was not bad enough I would not play again.

    • quaelegit says:

      Cool! Why are some islands + Switzerland whited out?

      • Eric Rall says:

        The whited-out areas are impassable by the rules of the game. Switzerland is most significant, since it prevents, say Burgundy and Tyrol from being directly connected, but it cannot itself be crossed or occupied. Ireland, Crete, Sardinia, Corsica, and the Maldives are just cosmetic, and the game would play identically if they were simply omitted (since the sea spaces to either side still connect either way).

    • metacelsus says:

      I’d like to see the recap. I initially was on Germany’s team, but I had to drop out after a few weeks since the game was eating up way too much of my time. When I left, France and Germany were allied. I guess France must have backstabbed Germany at some point.

      • John Schilling says:

        France here, and I gather you were the one I was negotiating with at the outset. And well done. The Franco-German alliance was the longest and strongest in the game, solid as a rock from the first turn to the second-to-last and conquering two-thirds of Europe along the way. Then there was that last turn…

        Recap is scheduled for the full OT this Sunday, I believe.

    • cassander says:

      I’m a big diplomacy fan, though not so much of the online play. That said, if you play again, I’d like to suggest using this map and slight rule alterations which I think are better designed than the stock map.

    • tayfie says:

      I have no interest in adding to the recap currently, but may comment tomorrow when it is posted.

  24. bean says:

    Random question. Any former Scouts (Boy/Girl) here? I spent 6 years in the Boy Scouts (US). Never made it past First Class, because I was too busy enjoying camping, and was kind of an idiot at that age. I regret not doing more. I did get to go to Philmont (10-day backpacking trip in New Mexico) twice, though, which is my 2nd-favorite place on the planet. (Behind Iowa, obviously).

    • Nornagest says:

      I was a Cub Scout for several years, and then briefly a Boy Scout. Not totally clear on the reasons my family pulled out — it wasn’t my idea, but I don’t remember any particular drama — but I can’t have been at that level for more than a year or so.

      I enjoyed the crafty and outdoorsey stuff, but I also remember there being qualifications for all sorts of random surburban make-work shit that I had to earn in order to meet expectations. That part of it seemed like a waste of time, especially since I pretty much lived in the woods at the time.

    • dodrian says:

      I was a cub scout all the way through, but dropped out of the boy scouts after a year or two when I discovered computers.

      • John Schilling says:

        I believe I actually wrote my first working computer program for the newfangled “computing” merit badge. Not sure about that, but the timing would have been close. But my school had better computers, so that wasn’t where scouting held my attention.

    • skef says:

      I was only a cub scout, and only for a few years. I stopped shortly after one of my few youthful insights, when I suddenly realized that I was a member of a religious paramilitary organization.

      As I remember I did work through the primary pre-Boy-levels as well as various other beads and badges. I made a pinewood derby car and “raced” it.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Former here as well, also stopped before Eagle. I believe I was a Star Scout before leaving, which only now do I realize is absolutely fabulous. Makes me wish I were gay to get some good mileage out of the joke, or at least a bigger Sailor Moon fan or something!

      I’d have stuck with it if I had a half-decent troop, but the adult leadership was garbage and the other scouts way more interested in playing pick-up basketball or bullying me for being a nerd. I enjoyed the backpacking and camping a lot, though, especially the larger events where I got to ditch my troop and hang out with Scouts from other parts of the country.

    • John Schilling says:

      Very much enjoyed the camping, hiking, and general backwoodsmanship, which overlapped with what our family did for fun anyway. Learned some useful stuff. Experienced hypothermia. Never made it to Philmont, because see above and guess where I was doing all this. Was a sufficiently focused nerd in my approach to all this that I efficiently worked the system and made Eagle. Then had no more goals, so drifted away.

      Yes, it was a paramilitary organization. Explicitly so. Lord Baden-Powell created the Scouts because he felt the British Empire didn’t have enough literal commandos and needed to start training them young. But the religious aspect, to the extent that it ever was important, had mostly faded to empty ritual by the time I was involved, and not too much of that. From what I understand, the paramilitary side has since done the same, but I haven’t been paying close attention.

      • skef says:

        In truth the religious stuff wasn’t all that heavy-handed in my case either. Scouting seemed to subjectively fall into the category of “community” for most participants, and especially the local leaders, and religion was a natural part of community. It wasn’t that non-Christians weren’t welcome, but that there was a sort of default attitude of Christianity. I never encountered any conversion attempts or such.

    • rlms says:

      Yes, for roughly 14 years (UK, male). It was a pretty major part of my life, and I plan to go back as a leader when I have time. My impression is that scouting is quite different across the Atlantic. We did have badges and hierarchies, but there wasn’t much of an emphasis on them. The UK’s paramilitary youth organisations are the various Cadets (and on the other side there are various hippy versions of scouts). The religious side of it involved us turning up to the occasional church service in exchange for free use of the hall, and the odd irreverent prayer on camps. In terms of structure, I believe the American Scouts are single-gender and cover ages 11-18, whereas we have generally single-gender groups for ages 5-10, frequently mixed-gender Scouts for ages 10-14, and mixed-gender Explorers for ages 14-18.

    • christhenottopher says:

      Made it past cub scouts but only stayed in the actual boy scouts about a year. I spent a week at a summer camp my that year and HATED it…probably because I wasn’t super close friends with most of my fellow scouts, was an overly picky eater (to a degree I still find completely absurd in hindsight), and was terrified that hidden wolf spiders were going to bite and kill me the moment I sat down on a toilet (yes I know now they probably wouldn’t have killed me and the stories were exagerrated).

      I don’t really regret leaving (a few of the scouts I knew were actual racists not “Charles Murray saying IQ is real” type and it was always uncomfortable hanging out with them), but as I’ve aged I have grown to appreciate the woods a lot more. Especially when there’s a cabin with a hot tub rather than tents with spider-infested outhouses.

    • sfoil says:

      I was in the Boy Scouts, and active to the point that it was a pretty substantial part of my life as a teenager, including spending some of my summers as paid staff at a camp. I enjoyed the various outdoor aspects, which was something I don’t think I could have reasonably experienced anywhere else. Some of the forestry and especially rope skills I continue to employ on a routine basis, and fire-starting without accelerants is a relatively impressive trick to a lot of people.

      Scouts is basically run on a franchise system, and experience varies wildly by troop. Many troops meet in churches, with a more than a few being explicitly religious in nature. Based on my experience working on a camp staff, some Mormon churches in particular appeared to form Scout troops as an alternative to church “youth groups”.

      Regarding John Schilling, the only paramilitary aspect was the uniforms. There were some shooting merit badges, but they were obviously deliberately non-military, not that that mattered too much in the minds of the average 14-year-old boy.

    • quaelegit says:

      I was a Girl Scout since Daisies (kindergarten) and technically still am a girl scout because my mom registered me for lifetime membership. I got my Silver Award (middle school project like a mini Gold Award, which is the GS equivalent to Eagle Scout project) but I was never super into it. Did get a couple fun camping trips and summer camps out of it though.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Eagle scout here. Dedicated a lot of my teenage years to Boy Scouts, loved it and wish that it hadn’t gone over to the other side culture-war wise so my sons could do it.

      It actually helped smooth over my early relationship with my father-in-law, since he was also an Eagle Scout, which gave us an early point to bond over.

      • gbdub says:

        Did the Boy Scouts go to the other side of the culture war, or did the culture war go to the other side of them?

        • EchoChaos says:

          I suppose everything depends on perspective, but from mine, I feel like going from “organization for strictly men” to “accepting transgenders” to “accepting girls” is pretty solidly on the other side of the culture war.

          • gbdub says:

            Ah, I forgot about those fairly recent shifts. My mental picture of “controversies the Scouts are involved in” still has them on the “miffed about openly gay leaders” side (which was their traditional side, but the culture moved to the other side of them).

          • albatross11 says:

            My sons are scouts (2nd Class and Life right now), and their troop (in a very blue part of the country) doesn’t seem SJW-y or culture-warry at all. The troop is very multicultural because the area is, the religious content is sort of a handwave toward nondenominational monotheism, and it seems like it’s exactly what I would have expected of a well-run boy scout troop.

            They’re still working out how they’ll eventually integrate girls into the troop. My daughter (who’s nine) is very interested in the answer, but nobody seems to know a lot of details yet.

    • Brad says:

      Life scout. I’m afraid the fact that I never got around to doing an eagle project has been somewhat telling. I have very fond memories of those camping trips. Given where I grew up and my parents I never would have camped otherwise.

    • johan_larson says:

      I was a Boy Scout for a few years in Finland and Canada. In both cases, the scout troops I was part of didn’t take themselves very seriously, so it was mostly about socializing with other kids, and occasionally going on camping trips. I didn’t particularly like it; I would have preferred to stay home and read. I might also have been more into it if the troops had been a bit more achievement oriented or if my parents had expected more of Scouting than attendance and a bit of fun.

      I had a look at the modern Scouting movement and what they’re up to a couple of years ago. I respect their badge standards; what they ask of 10-14 year olds (Scouts in Canada) isn’t easy. But they’ve scrubbed out most of the paramilitary stuff and replaced it with civics, which I find hopelessly square.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I joined cub scouts for some reason, but never really liked it. I think I thought we’d be camping, but I don’t think we did so once in the three years I was in. I guess that’s why I never considered boy scouts, even though in retrospect that’s probably when the camping would’ve finally happened.

      • Jaskologist says:

        In my experience, packs were run by the parents of the kids who happened to be in them at the time, so you probably just got a bad batch of parents. We camped plenty.

        I moved around the time I turned from a Cub to a Boy, and didn’t make any friends in my new troop, so I just dropped out and joined my church’s knock-off boy scouts. Just as much camping and outdoors stuff, more religious, less militaristic.

    • marshwiggle says:

      Eagle Scout here. My troop had issues – I think I was one of two boys to pass the requirements honestly. I did get to camp a fair amount, and I learned some things about managing incompetent and apathetic people. From what I can tell our troop was particularly bad though, and the things one was required to learn and do still seem reasonable in retrospect.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        What did you learn about managing incompetent and apathetic people?

        • Aapje says:

          Leave them tied up in the forest? 😛

          • marshwiggle says:

            I never did that, but in order to teach the younger boys how to identify plants (as they were required to do) I did take them on a short hike. Then I told them that I’d lead them back to camp once they could each pass the plant identification test. They never did pay enough attention to where we were going to be confident of getting back on their own. That, despite the fact that I rarely took them more than 500 meters from camp.

            I’m not sure that was ethical, but it was the only way I ever discovered of getting them to pay attention to the distinguishing features of the local plant life.

        • marshwiggle says:

          This isn’t quite the answer I’d give now, but 17 year old me would have said:

          Don’t give orders that won’t be obeyed – unless you know that inevitable and unacceptable disaster will result from disobedience (like, say, their unsecured tent falling on them in the middle of the night due to wind).

          People need to know there will be a certain and immediate consequence to outright being lazy, so it is definitely not worth it.

          There’s only so much you can care for other people’s maturity more than they do.

          It’s a lot easier to get people to care about a project they can imagine, see, touch, and or immediately enjoy part of.

          Young men, once they start running wild, are much harder to get back under control than it would have been to keep them in control. Chaos is highly contagious.

          Don’t assume that people will take even the most basic and obvious safety precautions.

          You lose serious popularity for enforcing necessary precautions. Sometimes that is worth it anyway (e.g. food poisoning prevention. Going from a 50% risk to 0% risk is worth some unpopularity).

          Boys like fire, and anything related to it. The ones I dealt with hate work and walking, and anything related to it. They will work a moderate amount for fire. They will actually respect other people’s work and competence if it clearly leads to fire.

          Ditto, only for assault ladders and other such constructions.

          Authority figures above you won’t always obey the rules or back you up.

          Sometimes inertia is on your side – it can be worth quite a bit of effort to get people doing a thing. It can often be set up to require relatively little effort over time to get them to keep doing it.

          Sometimes you can make a dent in wildly oblivious incompetence by setting up a tangible counterexample to something they falsely believe. It is much more rare that telling them they are wrong will work.

          There’s often a tipping point, where everyone is waiting for someone else to disobey and get away with it. Don’t let it get beyond that tipping point. Stay well away from that tipping point.

          Some things you just have to do yourself to make sure they are done right. Set it up so there are things others can do at around the same time so there isn’t moral hazard, i.e. incentives to be incompetent.

          Under ordinary circumstances, people very easily learn a thing then forget it the next day. Seeing if they remember it later isn’t enough, as sometimes they are only capable of it in a context similar to the one in which they learned it, and you were there when they learned it…

          People will go along with just about anything if it doesn’t cost them much and everyone else is doing it. That can be used for good (traditions with a useful purpose), evil (ganging up on someone and doing horrible things to them), or neither (most things, though it can lead you to falsely believe that people at least kind of want something they are merely going along with).

          If people are doing something stupid, consider getting to a minimum safe distance even if it would be socially awkward. If that’s not possible, be mentally prepared to avoid or ameliorate. I broke a bone learning that one.

          However incompetent and uninvolved the adult supervision looks, it gets a lot worse rather quickly without it.

          Of course, those were lessons I learned the hard way by doing the exact opposite. Except the last one, that wasn’t my choice. Looking back, some of those should have been obvious to me, but I was more than a little clueless. I don’t think those lessons represent any deep wisdom. Just a list of mistakes it was fairly easy to stumble into.

          • Nornagest says:

            Good lessons. I kind of wish I’d stuck with the Scouts long enough to learn these; I only figured most of them out much later in life.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Thank you for a comprehensive answer.

    • smocc says:

      I was a Cub Scout for a year or two.

      I was a Boy Scout for a few years back when it was an integrated part of my church’s boys youth program. I didn’t like it at the time, largely because I didn’t like the boys in my troop. We did a few campouts, maybe one or two a year, including one large multi-troop one. I kind of liked those. I prided myself on having as few merit badges as possible. I think maybe I had one or two just by dint of showing up at some workshop activities.

      As soon as I got out of high school and moved to a place surrounded by a good outdoors I started wishing I had learned more from Scouts than I did. My wife lights the fire when we go camping and I feel horrible every time.

    • Wander says:

      I was in Scouts Australia for as long as you can be, and then was a Venturer for a few years. Scouts was mostly playing games and doing rope skills and lighting campfires as our primary camp skills. We usually would do a few camps a year, mostly in coordination with a bunch of other scouts. I did quite enjoy it, as we had some very laid back leaders and bent the rules a little (these days to do a camp you need a leader per 3 scouts!) and did some dangerous stuff that was very fun as a kid. I wish we did more quarterstaff though, as apparently that was once a proper badge and we still had them around but just didn’t use them. Also we weren’t very serious about the actual badges part, and none of us got past our Red Cord.
      Venturers was a joke, but a fun one. We would do extremely dangerous and irresponsible things, and learnt no real skills.

    • yodelyak says:

      Two trips to Philmont, Eagle Scout.

      Curious if Boundary Waters is as cool as it looks.

      Philmont really is special.

      • yodelyak says:

        My troop was one of three in my suburb. I knew all three well, both by reputation and by making some inferences from who was in each.

        Call mine Troop 1. Mine was scout-run, interested in ranks and camping/outdoor adventure. We had ironic patrol names like “The Ticks” where the logo was from the Tick superhero. We were cool, and the most fun. (No of course I’m not biased. Why would you suspect a Scout of bias? Impossible.) Troop 2 got more done, in terms of hosting pinewood derbies and collecting badges from jamborees and being involved in popcorn fundraising, and I think they had bigger budgets for food at their camp-outs… but their social scene was “more blockbuster, less indie flick” and my sense was they weren’t good at hard things like getting a bowline knot right the first time. They were about as good at earning ranks, or a little less good, and their adults were maybe a little more forgiving of cheats. (Honestly, looking back, I’m really impressed with how much integrity scouting had. Has?) Troop 2 had less adventure-like camp-outs, like quincees and 20-mile hikes than we did, but probably more than the Mormons… although really the Mormons were kind of a black box to me. Troop 3, at this point it’s clear, was the Mormons. They were more rank-focused in terms of how the scouts treated each other–rank actually mattered socially, not just for purposes of bragging rights in the distant future–and were too earnest, but frankly were so excellent it was hard to fault them.

        • bean says:

          Interesting. In the Northwest, it’s generally believed that in Mormon troops, rank comes up with the rations. My Dad’s fairly heavily involved with the scouts up there, even though my brother and I are both long gone.

    • moonfirestorm says:

      Loved Cub Scouts, quickly dropped out after my first Boy Scout camping trip. I distinctly recall a moment where the adults were making food and when I walked over, was told that we’d have to eat stuff we made ourselves. At the time I think I was like 12 or 13, I had no idea how to cook, especially in the absence of a kitchen, and to the best of my knowledge had not been told anything about this development in advance. Very much a “what the hell, adults” moment.

      I was also woken up at 4 AM in freezing cold by those same adults to go watch a meteor shower, despite my obvious disinterest. I think those two incidents cover why I left pretty cleanly: it was a superposition of “you’re on you’re own, you’re going to have to fend for yourself” and “you’re under our supervision, you still have to do what we say”

    • xXxanonxXx says:

      The most common question I got on leaving the scouts was whether I regretted not attaining the rank of Eagle. Truth is though, my only regret is not going to Philmont. Anyone who went came back describing it like some sort of religious experience. I have nothing but good things to say about the organization in general. Send your kids! They’ll learn about knots!

      • bean says:

        Anyone who went came back describing it like some sort of religious experience.

        It kind of was. I was a bit mystified by the people who had been until I went myself the first time. After that, I knew I was going back, and it’s pretty much the only reason I hung around for my last year of Scouts. Some day, I hope to have kids and take them there.

        • yodelyak says:

          I still point at my philmont bus driver as one of my best-ever tour-guides. And all he showed us was the bus!

          “Scouts.

          This is the bus. It has been in zero accidents, but that statement describes the past, not today.

          [speeding up to a very fast clip, and pointing now at the parts being named.] This is the front. This is the back. This is this side, this is that side. This is the top, this is the bottom. If at any time this side becomes that side, or the top becomes the bottom, the exits are in this side, that side, the front, the back, and the top. Do not exit through the bottom. There are first aid kits at the front and the back.”

          There’s magic in pacing, and in acknowledging the mundanity of mundane things.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I hated the idea of scouting as a kid. I thought it was dumb and stupid.

      I married into a scouting family. Even though I still think I would have hated it as a kid, I’ve seen how it benefits lots of children. My oldest is finishing his Eagle as I type this. My youngest is going to tour a battleship this weekend.

      • bean says:

        My youngest is going to tour a battleship this weekend.

        Which one?

        • Andrew Hunter says:

          His youngest child, presumably.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Andrew Hunter is right. But so is the answer “USS Yorktown.”

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            That ain’t a battleship.

            Though nothing will ever top the idiot co-intern I hung out one summer in San Francisco who insisted we were spending the Fourth of July visiting a battleship.

            It was a fucking Liberty Ship. A Liberty Ship. A slapdash, barely held together, obsolete when they built the fucking thing, merchie.

            An important, historically meaningful, crucially valuable to the war effort merchie. But A BATTLESHIP SHE WAS NOT.

          • bean says:

            @Andrew
            I assume that my reputation would make my interest clear.

            @Edward
            Uhhh……
            Yorktown is a carrier, not a battleship. The former is funny-looking and has a flat top for airplanes. The latter is magnificent and wonderful in every way.

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            @Bean: I was intentionally misunderstanding you for humor. It’s a dick move. Sorry.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            That explains all the planes on top of it.

      • moonfirestorm says:

        Huh, I totally forgot my Scouting troop did that. We went to Battleship Cove in Massachusetts: I think I slept on board the USS Massachusetts, but I certainly wouldn’t have been able to distinguish between battleship and destroyer at that age.

        • bean says:

          I’d be surprised if they did sleepovers on the Kennedy as well as the Massachusetts for logistics reasons. Honestly, I’m amazed those work at all, and I wasn’t constantly being sent down into the bilges to find lost scouts.

    • Iain says:

      My brother and I both spent the full nine years (3 as Beavers, 3 as Cubs, 3 as Scouts) in Scouts Canada. I think my dad would have stayed on as a scout leader even after my brother aged out, but my mom put her foot down and said 12 years was enough.

    • rahien.din says:

      Eagle scout, Vigil award, one trip to Philmont. Time awaits you in those hills.

    • My parents made me to go to Beavers and Cubs (in the UK) when I was little, but I never liked it and eventually they gave up on trying to make me like it.

    • FLWAB says:

      I was a Cub scout from Tiger to Webelos, but I never really got anywhere as a Boy Scout and dropped out after a year or so. Honestly I was kind of tired of scouting for personality based reasons (introvert, rather be reading a book), and since I grew up in deep woods with no neighbor within a mile I got plenty of nature exposure on my own. I knew I would never make it to Eagle Scout, so I just set myself on earning the Arrow of Light before I graduated from Cub Scouts and was satisfied with that as far as achievements go. They taught me my knots, but I have since forgotten all of them.

      I did miss the Pinewood Derbies though. Those were pretty great.

      • Nornagest says:

        The Boy Scout knots are hit-and-miss — I get the impression they were probably the best common knots when Scouting was getting started (no excuse for the sheepshank, though), but that was before rock climbing and a bunch of other knot-heavy disciplines had really gotten their feet under them, and they’ve stayed fossilized since.

        Bowline, sheet bend, (double) fisherman’s knot and trucker’s hitch are all good knots and should still be taught. Two half-hitches has the virtue of simplicity, which is important if you’re teaching preteens or teenagers, but it’s more stable if you add a round turn. But clove hitches are insecure, taut-line hitches are very situational, and square knots are really bad: even properly tied ones fail readily under anything other than a light, steady load, and people think they’re secure, which is worse. Just use a sheet bend, it works better.

        I’d teach constrictor (and slipped constrictor) knots as a superior alternative to the clove hitch, and figure-eight knots as a stopper knot that can be adapted into many other uses. I’d also add the alpine butterfly knot, which covers a spectrum of uses that none of the standard Boy Scout knots do. It’s quick and easy, a great building block for more complicated tie-downs, and just generally cool.

        • marshwiggle says:

          I agree that clove hitches are insecure, though they do have one use – starting a lashing between two pieces of wood. They work in that case because they are used as a temporary knot.

          Taut line might be rather situational, but situations where it is useful do come up in camping.

          The square knot has all the problems you mention, but it is still the knot I use the most not counting shoe laces. It is really easy to tie, and in day to day life a light steady load is rather common. Of course, even when I did rock climbing I didn’t use rope, and I do a fair amount of random jury rigging. This is because it is such an easy knot to tie, and it is often good enough in situations where nothing really bad happens if it fails and it is by far the least sketchy element of the jury rigged setup.

          Overall though, yes, the Scouting knots do seem to be the product of tradition rather than any sort of optimization.

          Lastly, thank you for posting the link to the alpine butterfly. It looks useful and I did not know it. I’m going to go watch the video for it now.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          @Nornagest:

          The Boy Scout knots are hit-and-miss — I get the impression they were probably the best common knots when Scouting was getting started (no excuse for the sheepshank, though), but that was before rock climbing and a bunch of other knot-heavy disciplines had really gotten their feet under them, and they’ve stayed fossilized since.

          IOW, Boy Scout knots are good enough for regular bondage but can be unsafe for suspension. 😛

          • Nornagest says:

            Well, now that you mention it…

          • Nornagest says:

            That’s a pretty specialized skillset, though. The knots I mentioned are certainly, ah, dual-purpose, but I know plenty of people who’ve been playing with ropes recreationally for years but couldn’t secure a tent to save their lives.

            There’s actually a funny story behind that. A lot of the more common recreational ties are descended from Edo-era Japanese rope techniques intended to secure criminals or prisoners of war. I learned some of the original techniques in a martial arts context, and it turns out that because of a Japanese cultural quirk, being bound was at one point considered dishonorable but being entangled was not — a very important distinction when these would frequently have been used by middle-class troopers or law enforcement officials on samurai of a much higher social class. So a lot of these techniques for handling prisoners don’t have any actual knots in them: you just wrap them up in a special way and hang onto the end of the rope to keep it taut, and everyone’s honor is satisfied.

            I had a hard time keeping a straight face when I walked into the dojo one day to find all the upperclassmen very seriously trying out hojojutsu techniques on each other.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest:

            So a lot of these techniques for handling prisoners don’t have any actual knots in them: you just wrap them up in a special way and hang onto the end of the rope to keep it taut, and everyone’s honor is satisfied.

            I’ll admit I had a hard time keeping a straight face when I walked into the dojo one day to find all the upperclassmen very seriously trying out hojojutsu techniques on each other.

            ceremonial tea spit-take

            OK, I knew about the Edo Japanese origin of recreational ties, but not this. I wonder if they gave a whit about the honor of criminals who were female commoners: I could swear I’ve read in two different sources that it was customary to bind a woman prisoner naked at a bridge or other public place in Edo Japan, but “bound” could be a loose translation.

          • powerfuller says:

            Boy Scout knots are good enough for regular bondage

            Can confirm. Am Eagle Scout into such things. Good ol’ Japanese square lashing…

        • albatross11 says:

          You can get surprisingly far on variants of the figure 8 knot–the figure 8 stopper, figure 8 loop in the end of a rope, and figure-8 bend.

          • Nornagest says:

            Yeah, it’s not my very favorite knot (that would probably be the alpine butterfly), but if I had to know just one that might be it. Its only major deficiencies are that you can’t use it for anything that needs to be adjusted or tightened, it’s hard to tie in a line under load, and it’s hard to use on a fixed ring or pole that you don’t have access to the end of — a retraced figure-eight loop is a possibility there but that’s significantly more of a pain in the ass than just using a bowline.

        • sfoil says:

          I use tautline hitches constantly, although at least half of that involves staking down tents.

    • biffchalupa says:

      I was not a scout, though my dad and all of his brothers were very much into scouting growing up in the 50s and 60s, and my younger brother made it to Life Scout as well.

      However, I was a Sea Cadet (this seemed relevant enough, particularly to bean’s interests, to reply). Several here have referred to Scouts as a paramilitary youth organization, but Sea Cadets is literally chartered by the U.S. Navy and incorporates enlisted training curricula, uniforms, etc. I spent two weeks as a fourteen year old at Aberdeen Proving Grounds sleeping in former barracks, getting yelled at by Marines, and marching in formation. The organization at large seemed like a strange mix of (i) suburban units comprising nerds looking for some edge to get into the Naval Academy who, once past the required 2-week basic training, pursued all kinds of classes and advanced trainings (basically intense summer camps) and (ii) more urban or just “bad school district” kids who really needed the paramilitary structure and 2 weeks of boot camp but for the most part didn’t pursue much beyond that.

      It operated a lot like my brother’s scouting experience, with engagement broken down into weekly meetings, occasional weekend activities, and summer camps. The camp experiences weren’t as an entire unit, but selected by individual cadets in the winter and spring. In addition to basic training, I did two weeks of sailing camp in Florida, a long weekend of fire training in Groton, naval aviation in Pensacola, and probably other extended trips that were less memorable. As a unit, we’d do 1 or 2 day trips to visit bases and/or vessels.

      It was pretty badass at the time (and looking back now). I had a government ID and prior to 9/11 could get onto military bases pretty much no questions asked (driven by my mom, naturally). Things did change quite a bit after 9/11, and I was already a junior in high school by that time so kind of just stopped going to the weekly meetings at some point and did the Naval Academy’s summer seminar (for which you don’t have to be a cadet).

      ETA – oh, we learned knots as well.

    • powerfuller says:

      Eagle Scout here. My dad got Eagle too but never was much involved in my scouting; I have brothers who never joined. Went to that Florida sailing base but never Philmont. Scouting was the probably the most fun and rewarding thing I did as a kid/teenager; most of my close friends from that time whom I still keep in touch with were from my troop. Knots are fun, yo.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Late to the party – I’d been busy with RL stuff and have been catching up on OTs.

      Eagle Scout. Almost didn’t make it – ISTR it was the month of my 18th birthday when I got it. I went to Philmont twice as well, once as a Life(?) Scout, once after I turned 18, as an advisor. Definitely worth the trip both times.

      The first time was especially funny (for me). Tent City was, naturally, amazing – literally hundreds of those canvas tents, enough that you’d need a map to find anyone not next door, and thousands of Scouts and leaders around. And there was the Tooth of Time looming over all of it. We all grew up in the middle of Texas, so this was the most mountainous terrain many of us had ever seen (our Scoutmaster was a Vietnam vet, so he probably saw better). There’s also an impressive hill starting within a few hundred yards of Tent City, so three of us decided to go on a little impromptu hike and see what things looked like from the top. It looked good. We could see for miles. And the Tooth looked so close that we may as well go see the top of it, too.

      For those new to hiking, know that things may appear closer than they actually are. We kept going uphill, only to crest a rise and see even more uphill, and still the Tooth was visible, urging us in. We continued. We were young – all around 15 – so we had plenty of energy, and the weather was pleasant, so no one felt thirsty. We kept going, and going, until finally we reached the top after a few hours. It was glorious. We even met a staff member who’d decided to sleep at the top under the stars. We enjoyed the view for a bit and headed down.

      The sun set about halfway back. By the time we were back to the first hill, it was dark enough that we were using flashlights, though we could still sort of make out the trail. We had a bit of a scare when we met a group of late night hikers on their way up – we were starting to wonder whether there were bears out here – but we finally made it back, no trouble, hey guys, what’s up, guess where we went. The first leader of our group sternly had us follow him while he tracked down one of the staff members he’d reported us to when he found out we were missing, and had him pass the message up the chain. While we were gone, they’d apparently alerted three levels of staff trying to find us.

      Eventually all was forgiven. Eventually. We did the normal two-week trip, which concluded with a visit to the Tooth from the other side. While there, our Scoutmaster turned to us and said, “no way y’all made it up here!”. Were he alive today, I think he would still have said that.

      Moral of the story: TELL PEOPLE WHERE YOU’RE GOING. (Of course, in that case, they probably would’ve said no. So now I get a story, albeit at the expense of a lot of grownup worrying.)

  25. Aapje says:

    Given that we’ve had fairly little discussion about the master of Jungian archetypes recently, I think it should be OK to post this, which is a very interesting high-level, charitable summary of what he tries to do:

    Down-flowing Rockboy Saves the World*

    Essentially, the argument is that Mr Lobster agrees with Nietzsche that God is dead, but disagrees that people are rational and thus can become an Overman (Übermensch). The Overman creates new values not based on tradition, but based on love of this world and of life, for himself and others to follow. The entity known for C-16 rejects the idea that people have so much flexibility in what makes them happy. He rejects Nietzsche for believing in nurture too much.

    The National-Socialists also rejected nurture (and went very much overboard in the other direction, going much further than Rockboy). Their very strong belief in genetics, their lack of patience, their Utopianism and such resulted in the Holocaust. The Marxist-Leninists were far more Nietzschean, as they believed very strongly in nurture, but the results were many skulls as well.

    The 12 item List-Maker has looked at these examples and wants to avoid the skulls, so he seeks to maximize human well-being within the bounds of human capability. He believes that man needs a larger narrative, but that the details can vary. So here we get the archetypes, on the assumption that the shared narratives of different cultures are the lowest common denominator of meaning that mankind needs.

    Furthermore, the Mapper of Meanings strongly agrees with Nietzsche that ‘will to power’ is the source of human happiness, where people become happy from achievement, ambition, and striving.

    * Did I go overboard in my anti-Google measures here?

    Interestingly, Nietzsche also came up with the antithesis of the Overman, the Last Man. The Overman finds happiness in pushing him/herself and in becoming. The Last Man is the alternative choice that mankind can make in the face of nihilism: to seek comfort & security, avoid conflict & challenge and find equality in a lack of individuality & creativity.

    Perhaps one of the political conflicts that is being fought now is a struggle between those who favor an outcome more like the Overman vs those want an outcome closer to the Last Man.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m very disappointed that Down-flowing Rockboy was a euphemism.

      I also think that your reading (or maybe Peterson’s reading) of Nietzsche is a bit facile. The Übermensch isn’t chasing the good happiness or running away from the bad unhappiness; that’s exactly what Nietzsche criticizes master morality for doing! The Übermensch accepts the beautiful and the ugly, the good and the bad, happiness and sorrow.

      This is mostly going from memory as my books are at home but reading Nietzsche this way, as essentially endorsing classical pre-Christian master morality, is a misreading. He tolerates master morality because the slave morality which replaced it was intolerable but that’s as far as he is willing to go. He has plenty of venom for people who think that the highest good is to clean up their room and do their Dharma.

      • quaelegit says:

        > I’m very disappointed that Down-flowing Rockboy was a euphemism.

        If I hadn’t already figured who this is referring to I would have guessed it’s some permutation of a doge/snek-type meme group.

      • JulieK says:

        > I’m very disappointed that Down-flowing Rockboy was a euphemism.

        I’m always happy to see some onomastics here.

      • BlindKungFuMaster says:

        Peterson doesn’t talk about happiness. He talks about meaning. Cleaning your room is a metaphor for the idea that meaning comes from taking on responsibility and that you should start to do that in the small things, because otherwise you will not be able to do it in the big things.

        • Aapje says:

          You can Nabil are right, I should have said ‘fulfillment,’ rather than happiness. A bad choice of words.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Yes, Peterson specifically rejects happiness as fleeting and focuses on the primacy of pain, which cannot be argued with.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I had to google his name and pain:

            “Paraphrasing Peterson; We can emotionally eliminate other emotions, but we can’t get rid of our pain no matter what we do. Thus we know it is real. ”

            I call BS to this based on my personal experience (not to mention those born without the ability to feel pain). It’s a simple matter to accept the pain in and identify with it, or failing that, detach from it.

            Or, if not so simple, no more difficult than with any other overwhelming mental stimulus.

            Also, I’d argue that pain isn’t an emotion, just as attraction or repulsion aren’t emotions. They are impulses.

            Peterson’s own psychological dynamics are very evidently at play with this take of his on the primacy of pain.

    • tayfie says:

      Your anti-Google measures were fun, and that was a problem since they were distracting enough I had to read your comment several times to figure out what you meant.

      After reading your linked article and your comment again, I am not sure I understand how the two relate besides being about Gordon Meterson and his endgame. Was your comment supposed to be a summary or your own views on the topic?

      I think people haven’t really responded to this comment much because they are not sure what kind of discussion you are looking for. I know I don’t see the point, and would like to ask you to put forward an explicit question or assertion before I give any opinion.

      • Aapje says:

        The article made me look at Peterson in a different way and I tried to write that down, but I’m usually not that good at being able to write new thoughts down entirely coherently at first. In part this is because there are usually several interesting concepts and I haven’t yet culled some to create a more singular narrative.

        My point was perhaps more that after secularization, there was a need for meaning differently from living in service to God, where some of the initial large-scale answers produced a lot of skulls, including the one semi-inspired by Nietzsche. Peterson believes that we are still flailing about, being easily seduced by grand narratives of justice, which appeal to the unsophisticated, who are not capable of distinguishing the dangerous paths from the ones that benefit mankind. This incapability derives from in part from people confusing their evolved, animalistic needs for justice & their desires for the achievable.

        So Peterson’s solution is then to first work on satisfying a substantial part of the animalistic needs, to enable a form of enlightenment that allows making human progress with less risk of skulls. This enlightenment can be likened to Nietzsche’s concept of the Overman.

        Hmmm, it came out quite different this time around…

        • tayfie says:

          Having trouble explaining new thoughts is probably universal, so I’m glad you took the time to try explaining again for my sake as well as yours. Out of curiosity, what did you think of him before? What was the exact shift provoked by the article?

          To me, “meaning” in this sense is something like a general metaethical frame around which people can structure their lives.

          I agree that Christianity used to fulfill this purpose in Europe and its offspring. It was the only thing universal enough to keep people from defecting away from the shared frame whenever it suited them. The societies of the time used this to create shared expectations among strangers and thereby maintain a social superstructure that kept itself from slowly rotting away.

          However, religion wouldn’t do once the Enlightenment took hold and people realized large parts of what they believed was superstition with no basis in reality. Nietzsche was the first person to describe this problem in detail. Once parts of Christianity were thrown into doubt, its structural integrity as a metaethical frame began to fail. The course he recommended was for humanity to construct a new metaethical frame, a new universal basis for value. An Overman is one who can do this.

          When real people tried, consciously or not, to fulfill Nietzsche’s vision over the 20th century, they failed miserably. They succeeded in getting followers and providing them with meaning, and the emotional attachment to that meaning lead to increasing brutalism to try reconciling the new metaethical frame with how people really acted. The failure was in ensuring their constructions made life better.

          I disagree that Peterson believes these systems mostly appeal to the unsophisticated and would think the opposite is closer to true. He frequently talks about recognizing our own capacity for evil of this sort. The totalitarian regimes and the myths they were built on were engineered by smart people. In fact, only smart people could even grasp the scope of such a project.

          Peterson argues against this hubris of thinking we can establish the foundations of society on pure reason and expect it to turn out well since humans are messy. I view him as advocating a more empirical approach where we study the metaethical frames of the past as much as possible before making our own. This is his obsession with myths and religions, the older the better. He thinks they encode the principles of societies and the age and universality of a myth is evidence the myth captures something beneficial. If we could tie them all together somehow, we could extract the essence into a truly general metaethical frame that everyone can believe without pathological results.

          He, of course, faces a lot of venom for a project like this. Scott has before compared him to a prophet, which is apt because prophets have immense power. Any other wannabe prophet senses he is a threat, a powder keg that might blow their ideas away. Ironically, attacking him only makes him look persecuted, boosting the “prophet” signal louder and getting him more followers.

          • Aapje says:

            The change is more that I now recognize how society is struggling to balance the Overman and The Last Man. For example, the SJ movement seems conflicted to the core over this, where rationally they tend to want to maximize The Last Man, providing ultimate safety, but on the other hand, they still want to achieve and grow. Something similar is true for society in general.

            This comes to a head in how modern society deals with masculinity, where the traditional male gender role was the opposite of The Last Man. Society is conflicted now, it disrespects men when they become The Last Man, but also dislikes the opposite. This creates apathy in men and leaves them susceptible to those who give a better answer than ‘every choice you make is wrong.’

            Ultimately, I consider Peterson fairly uninteresting at the detail level, where a lot of his beliefs and suggestions are more faith-based than rational, but am quite fascinated by the larger picture. I am also frustrated that the discussion in society tends to be stuck at the detail level.

            Also, I want to point out that unsophisticated is not the same as dumb. People can be very smart and yet not be aware of the larger picture, optimizing one metric, while being completely oblivious of the forces that they unintentionally unleash.

            As you say, transforming society is so difficult that only smart people try to lead it, but the difficulty is also so high that people have a tendency to simplify the solution by optimizing for a single metric.

  26. gbdub says:

    So is there any reliable info on what the hell happened at Starbucks? SB went into CYA and grovel mode so fast that it’s hard to tell – was this really some super racist manager, or somebody who tried to throw out some non-paying bums of the wrong shade (and it got out of hand to the point they got arrested)?

    Why is all the hate on SB and not on the cops?

    Why do protesters think screaming at a minimum-wage barista at point blank through a megaphone is a good look that will help their cause?

    Honestly agnostic here, looking for any good-faith / reliable efforts that explain what happened.

    • Anonymous Bosch says:

      So is there any reliable info on what the hell happened at Starbucks? SB went into CYA and grovel mode so fast that it’s hard to tell – was this really some super racist manager, or somebody who tried to throw out some non-paying bums of the wrong shade (and it got out of hand to the point they got arrested)?

      They said that they were waiting for a friend to show up. The friend showed up as they were being arrested. According to various accounts they had been there for about 15-20 minutes. Short of running a controlled experiment on Starbucks’ management with white people, black people, and a stopwatch, it’s impossible to know for sure whether race was the difference in how this played out. So most people are just following their priors. For my part I’ve waited to meet people in coffee shops many times and I’ve definitely spent 15-20 minutes fiddling with my phone some of those times without any fuss. Since my prior is that low-level discrimination involving cutting minorities a little less slack is fairly common (see the various studies regarding apartment hunting and bus fares in Scott’s “SJ for the Demanding of Rigor” post) I’m inclined to believe the standard interpretation.

      The cops aren’t getting much hate because they weren’t particularly violent or unreasonable in escorting them off the premises. All they know is a shop called them to report someone trespassing/loitering.

      Dumb protestor is dumb.

    • John Schilling says:

      What Anonymous Bosch said, plus I think it is known that the two people asked to use the explicitly customer-only rest room, which would have called attention to their not-customer status. What, if anything, happened between that step and calling the police, is probably critical to understanding what happened. Unfortunately, I don’t trust any of the usual sources to provide reliable information on that point.

    • qwints says:

      My understanding is that there’s basically universal agreement on the sequence of events – two Black guys show up, ask for a bathroom key then are told the restrooms are for customers only. They proceed to wait a while in the store. Manager asks them to leave, they say no. Manager call cops and cops issue a trespass warning, then make an arrest when they refuse to leave.

      Let’s see if I can find sources for that:

      911 call

      Local paper narrative

      Yeah, not really much dispute on what happened. Black guys got told to leave when they didn’t make a purchase, manager calls cops, cops issue warning and make arrest when the Black guys don’t leave. I tend to agree with the people thinking Starbucks violated a cultural norm – I would not expect Starbucks to require me to make a purchase if I was waiting for someone for 10-15 minutes, and I certainly wouldn’t expect them to call the cops on me.

      • albatross11 says:

        I share John Schilling’s problem that I don’t really think there are any news sources about the incident that are likely to be careful and honest about what happened.

        One thing I’ll point out, though–if a restaurant or coffee shop can’t kick people out for taking up a table without buying anything, they’re probably going to lose a lot of paying customers. That’s especially true if you’re someplace with a lot of homeless people. If this Starbucks is in an area where that’s a problem, then they probably kick people out for loitering *all the time*, and so do any nearby fast food restaurants and such. Making that unworkable by either laws/lawsuits or outrage fests is probably a good way of making the area into a retail desert where there are no Starbucks or McDonalds.

        Protests and politics and the news outrage cycle are *really bad* and thinking through long-term consequences of whatever demand is being made.

      • Deiseach says:

        I would not expect Starbucks to require me to make a purchase if I was waiting for someone for 10-15 minutes, and I certainly wouldn’t expect them to call the cops on me.

        But is that how long before they called the cops? As I say in a comment below, some news stories that I read said they had been there for two hours. And did they explain they were waiting for someone, or just ask to use the bathroom then continue to sit there without purchasing anything after being refused?

        Calling the cops does sound very extreme, but then again how disruptive was the entire situation?

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Calling the cops does sound very extreme

          If you’ve gotten to the point of wanting someone out of your store it’s the only recommended way. You certainly don’t want to try to physically remove them yourself even if you are Dwayne Johnson and can do it with no risk to yourself because liability.

          This doesn’t mean there wasn’t racism in deciding who to kick out in the first place. But if you tell someone to get out and they say “no” you can either live with the trespasser or call the cops.

          • albatross11 says:

            Think a couple steps further into the future. What happens to all their tables when it turns out they’re not allowed to throw anyone out, and word gets around about this? In some places, that won’t be a problem, because the local culture (aka the rude stares and comments by the other customers) will prevent it. In other places, the Starbucks will discover they’ve just opened up a daytime homeless shelter where they’re obliged to provide free water and keep clean bathrooms.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        I have a vague understanding that you are kinda allowed to loiter without paying, but not allowed to use the bathroom without paying, and that asking to use the bathroom gets you moved into the “buy something or get out” phase.

        My white ass has waited in coffee shops many times. I usually buy something because it feels wrong to loiter without it but I’ve gone without and been fine. “Can you loiter in a coffeeshop without paying” is a cultural grey area because some stores encourage it and others don’t. At the legal level stores obviously need to be able to expel non-paying customers if they want to (and even paying customers, for that matter) but this really isn’t about what’s legal.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      In my earlier darker days when my social anxiety was worse, I got thrown out of the UC Berkeley Law School as a trespasser. Ironically, they told me to leave because the space was reserved for the graduation party, which is why I was there: my friend had just graduated. I had a small panic attack and ran away rather than trying to explain this.

      Had I gotten belligerent and they’d called the cops, well, honestly it’d have been very interesting as 50 L3s and their professors immediately walked in and I’m pretty sure I’d very quickly have had ten lawyers. Now I wish that’d happened. But the point is, anecdotally, such things do happen to non-minorities.

    • gbdub says:

      Thanks for the replies. From the description it sounds like an arrest was certainly unreasonable (though I guess I don’t know what the other options are when the cops show up and they still refuse to leave).

      Calling the cops after 15 minutes also seems very unreasonable, but exactly how unreasonable kind of depends on:
      1) How busy the place is – from the looks of it from the videos, not super busy, some open tables left (no way to know if that was the case when the cops were called.
      2) How belligerent they got when asked to make a purchase or leave in the first place (and when they were told they couldn’t use the bathroom). They seemed pretty calm in the video, but that was again after the cops showed (and of course they did force the cops to cuff them despite presumably being given the option to just leave).
      3) How big a problem “squatters” are at this particular Starbucks

      From the other side, it matters how big a jerk the manager was prior to calling the cops.

      Honestly it sounds to me like both sides violated some cultural norms here – calling the cops is an overreaction, but holding up a table for 15 minutes without buying a token cup of coffee (even when called on it) is also kind of a dick move. Then again it’s a common dick move at Starbucks, or at least the much more common “buy a cup and hold up a table for 3 hours”.

      • Glen Raphael says:

        The police chief claims the men were verbally disrespectful to the police (something along the lines of “You only make $45k/year, who are you to tell us what to do?”) and refused to leave despite three requests to do so. If true, this would seem to suggest (though not prove) they might have been similarly verbally disrespectful to whichever barista called the cops.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The manager told the cops that they cursed at her. Of course this side of the story has been rather de-emphasized.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I simply don’t understand the protesters’ point of view at all. A couple of guys come into a coffee shop to sit but not buy anything. Is this a norm? How will a coffee shop make money if lots of people are always using their chairs without purchases? The coffee shop people asked them to leave. The squatters refused. The coffee shop called the cops, who came and escorted out the squatters. What did the coffee shop do wrong? It’s good this is not culture free thread, because I think this is totally a made up controversy that is a good example of SJ overreach.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Because when anything like this happens to a member of a protected class, there’s a strong presumption that it’s _because_ they are members of a protected class and not for neutral reasons.

        I suspect this was a setup from the beginning, specifically intended to cause a ruckus and probably get some money out of Starbucks. But we’ll probably never know as Starbucks has gone into full mea-culpa mode and isn’t challenging anything.

        The result, I expect, will be that only white people will be thrown out in the future.

        • Jaskologist says:

          You’ll enjoy this gem from 2015:

          Starbucks Wants Employees To Start Conversations About Race With Customers

          As part of the campaign, baristas are encouraged to engage in conversations on race with customers and distribute branded cups with the words “Race Together” handwritten on them.

          “If a customer asks you what this is, try to engage in a discussion that we have problems in this country in regards to race and racial inequality,” Schultz said in a video shared by the company this week.

          • Viliam says:

            Never realized how privileged I am that my employer in a completely non-political job does not demand compelled speech about political topics as a part of my daily work.

            Also, “try to engage in a discussion that we have problems in this country in regards to race and racial inequality” sounds like “take a walk across a minefield, and see what happens”. Worst case, you will be called a racist in media across the whole planet, and Starbucks will fire you, saying they indeed gave you the idea to engage in a dangerous discussion, but of course all specific words you happened to use were your own personal choice and they cannot be held responsible for them.

          • Aapje says:

            Yeah, this truly sounds like a horrible idea. What do they think will happen? How do they even visualize this?

            “Hi customer, I see that you are black. So what was your last experience of racial inequality?”

            “Well barista, I was just harassed with a stupid race question when I just want my damn caffeine!”

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I’ve seen a number of people say it’s customary for Starbucks to let people sit at their tables for quite a while without buying anything. I expect Starbucks gets enough business that it isn’t worth their while to enforce buying things.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m sure that depends on where the Starbucks is, and also on whether the people sitting at the table look likely to buy something eventually. But Starbucks isn’t running a charity–they have nice tables and bathrooms because people spend money there.

            It’s 100% plausible to me that the manager was profiling those guys–that is, that they gave off various signals that suggested they weren’t going to be spending any money there, they looked and acted like people who mostly liked to take up tables and not buy anything, etc.

          • Deiseach says:

            Does anyone know when they told the staff they were waiting to meet someone? I’m going on very sketchy news reports which don’t seem to have any kind of set story (e.g. I was under the impression they’d been in the Starbucks for two hours, not fifteen minutes, before being asked to leave).

            So did they tell the staff they were waiting for someone when refused permission to use the bathroom as it was only for customers, or did they sit there for (however long) not buying anything and only say “We’re waiting to meet someone” when their white friend turned up?

            My impressions, from said sketchy news coverage, is that it does smell like a set-up (person they are waiting for is white, only turns up just as the cops have been called, etc.) but I have no idea what really went on.

            Re: only customers can use bathrooms, this is something that happened to me and my sister forty and more years ago when we were children; my mother told us if we needed to use the bathroom to go into a local café and we did, but we were stopped on the way out by a waitress and told that it was only for customers.

            From the business point of view, I can see why: bathrooms need to be cleaned, that takes staff time (which is paid working hours) as well as the cost of cleaning materials, hot water, soap, etc. Customers cover this cost by their purchases, but people treating these as public lavatories and using without purchasing anything are costing the business money. So restricting the bathrooms to customers only makes sense (and after all, they are not public conveniences, they are on the premises of a business and for a limited use).

            Calling the cops may have been over-reaction, but I don’t know if you can call it racism: if you have a couple of people taking up seats, not buying anything, and refusing to leave when asked, what do you do? Just leave them there? That would seem to encourage others to treat the premises as a public waiting room.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But I think the norm is that someone buys one item and then occupies a table for a long time. The “purchases-to-time ratio” may be small, but it’s not zero.

            That said, the escalation to police involvement seems unreasonably swift.

          • Iain says:

            I was under the impression they’d been in the Starbucks for two hours, not fifteen minutes, before being asked to leave.

            Where did you get this impression? I can’t find a single source that is even close to that, and I’ve spent some time looking. The men claim that they had only been there for a few minutes, and I don’t see anybody contesting that. It therefore doesn’t require any elaborate conspiracy theories to explain why their friend showed up “just” as they were being arrested — because they got arrested right around the time they had scheduled a meeting.

          • mdet says:

            I am skeptical of it being a set-up because the kind of person who expects to make a point with a video of cops forcibly removing black men for no good reason is probably also the person least likely to expect “cops forcibly removing me, a black man” to end well.

            Edit: Put more clearly, if I expect the police to be reasonable, I have no reason to film it. If I expect them to be UNreasonable, I have no desire to fake it

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            “It was a setup” is theoretically possible but seems like some people are too eager to believe a certain narrative. Just like some people seem too eager to believe another narrative.

            Starbucks is probably a perfect storm if you imagine a place where you would find white liberals who would love the chance to imagine filming cops arresting black people. So when it happens they start filming. Stretching for other explanations is stretching, absent some evidence that, say, the filmers knew the black men.

      • BBA says:

        The current SJ orthodoxy is to never call the police, especially not on a person of color, unless you expect someone to get killed. Certainly the Philadelphia PD has a history of using excessive force. Sure, nothing happened this time, but it could have.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          The current SJ orthodoxy is to never call the police, especially not on a person of color, unless you expect someone to get killed.

          I don’t think SJs have any problem calling the police on a white male, unless they think it’s a waste of time because the particular charge they want to file won’t stick (accused rapists have to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt! Patriarchy!) . Read into that what you wish.

          • BBA says:

            Part of what I hear from the criminal justice reform subsphere of the SJ movement is the police are plenty likely to shoot or arrest a random bystander – or the person who called them in the first place.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Calling the police is often “let’s get some strangers with guns here to help with this problem.”

            But there’s no other safe method for ejecting a non-violent trespasser. Even if Starbucks hired private security in every store, they wouldn’t try to physically haul out someone who is just sitting there. There’s no way their insurance would allow that.

            So it’s either the cops or say hi to your new roommate.

      • beleester says:

        There’s a pretty common stereotype that people will buy a cup of coffee, then sit down with their laptop for hours, because a Starbucks is a more comfortable place to do work than an office. Do those people also get asked to leave once they’ve finished their coffee?

        Yeah, it’s kinda rude to hang out for a half hour and not buy anything, but it’s not the sort of thing that usually gets you trespassed.

        • lvlln says:

          I thought the general rule was that making any purchase at all was enough to put you into the “customer” category, which gave you access to the tables and chairs and the bathroom until the moment you left the premises (barring explicit exceptions, e.g. “hey, I’m gonna step out for a bit, but will be back in a minute.”). And so it was acceptable to buy a 5 cent candy and spend 8 hours there until the shop closed, while not buying anything and spending 2 minutes sitting at a table was disallowed.

          I’ve noticed some cafes put controls in place to prevent exploitation of the former kind, by limiting the amount of free wifi you can get, and also posting signs saying that you’re only allowed to sit for a certain limited amount of time. But those are explicitly pointed out.

          In general, this rule makes sense to me, since the idea of the furniture and the bathroom are to serve customers, who pay for the wear and tear by making purchases. There’s some case to be made about the benefits that customers get from having non-customers also have access to the furniture and bathroom, though I think that’s generally solved by treating customers as units of groups rather than of individuals; one person can make a purchase and sit down with his friend who didn’t make a purchase.

          • Randy M says:

            And so it was acceptable to buy a 5 cent candy and spend 8 hours there until the shop closed, while not buying anything and spending 2 minutes sitting at a table was disallowed.

            I’d say that depends pretty heavily on the traffic flow at the time. Restaurants will ask you to leave if you take up a table long enough; coffee shops don’t exactly need table space to sell to people willing to stand in line then leave, but they probably do lose some customers when they have no space inside.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Do those people also get asked to leave once they’ve finished their coffee?

          Sometimes. Some stores actively encourage these people because it’s the culture they want. Other stores do not. When you get asked “how can I help you?” by staff, that’s the social signal they want you to buy something.

          Here’s a discussion from two years ago, which isn’t necessarily representative but the first thing I found on Google. https://www.quora.com/Why-do-people-think-sitting-in-a-coffee-shop-without-buying-a-drink-is-okay

      • xXxanonxXx says:

        Not making a purchase is normal to the point of being a bit of a joke. Do any sort of creative freelance work and you’ll take a lot of meetings in a Starbucks. People treat it like their office, and the company deliberately cultivates that kind of culture. Presumably the paying customers enjoy being surrounded by a bunch of young hopefuls banging out novels nobody will ever read and screenplays that will never be produced.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I don’t frequent Starbucks, but I was under the impression the aspiring novelists would buy something at the start of their occupation. The “purchases-to-time” ratio may be small, but is not zero. Or am I wrong? Do people frequently occupy tables at Starbucks for significant periods, never having purchased anything?

          • xXxanonxXx says:

            I don’t believe it’s common to occupy tables for long periods without making any purchases at all, but it is common to meet friends or prospective partners there without purchasing anything (say 10-15 minutes). I’ve lost track of the number of times I answered a craigslist ad for videography work to discover the “office” of the advertiser was a table at Starbucks. They at least bought coffee, but I never did.

        • albatross11 says:

          I spend a lot of time escaping my office in places like Starbucks. My sense is that almost everyone sitting at a table orders something, but it may be that you buy one coffee and nurse it for a couple hours. (Also iced tea and coffee both come with fairly cheap refills, so you can buy one glass of iced tea for three bucks and refill it three times as needed.)

          I’ve also seen managers ask people to leave when they were being disruptive/annoying or when they were not buying anything, but it’s not common where I hang out. (The main people I’ve seen get told to move along are gaggles of high school kids who are obviously cutting class to be there. The manager seems to leave them alone for awhile and eventually tell them it’s time to move on, presumably back to school before they miss another class.)

      • fortaleza84 says:

        In my area you can come into Starbucks, sit for a while without buying anything, use the bathroom, etc., and nobody says anything to you. But you can’t act as if you own the place.

        Based on my experiences, I would guess that these customers were sending subtle and not-so-subtle dominance signals through their body language and the way they talked. I see this all the time with black people, especially young black people.

        See, there’s a difference between saying “Excuse me, do you think I could use the bathroom” and the stereotypical way a black person typically asks such a question. The first sends the message that you respect the staff’s authority; the second does not. I have found that blacks, especially young blacks, have a tendency to interact in such a way as to try to be treated as the higher status person in the interaction. Which may be tolderated if you are a paying customer, but if not, it’s likely to provoke a negative reaction.

        Although I think there’s a lot of racism against blacks in modern America, my impression is that a lot of the difference in treatment is due to this insolent attitude that is adopted by a lot of blacks. That if a black person walked into Starbucks and signaled through their demeanor that they would submit to the authority of the management, there would not be a problem.

    • Well... says:

      The chief of Philly police issued a video statement about what happened. You can probably find it on Youtube. Not sure how comprehensive it is.

    • dndnrsn says:

      It seems like there are a lot of unknowns, but within possible scenarios, I think that it’s a reasonable model of reality that two guys just minding their own business but not paying for anything would be more likely to get told to leave quickly if they were black than some other groups. I would be less surprised if a black guy I knew had a story than if a white guy, an East Asian person, probably South Asian too. Not scientific, obviously, but I don’t know of any statistics on the issue. Not sure how one could study such things effectively. There are plenty of scenarios in which it is at a minimum plausible that racism was involved on the part of the coffee place or the cops, and they don’t need to have the two guys as 100% perfect either for racism to have been at play. What happened on the day of is a separate issue from the actions of some protesters.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        A Member of the Club: Reflections on Life in a Racially Polarized World has a section of reviews of how black people get treated in top restaurants in NYC. The author is black, and wants places to meet clients. The book was published in 1996l

        The level of service ranges from quite good to a high proportion of awful. I would love to see an update, but haven’t found one.

        Some of you may have heard the chapter where the author wants to learn something about white-only country clubs. He can’t get a job as a waiter, but he does get a job as a busboy, clearing tables.

        • Aapje says:

          Studies show that black people tip less for the same service, so part of the issue may be that as a collective, black people ‘buy’ worse service. One can argue that from the perspective of serving staff, black people tend to discriminate against them by paying them less for the same service.

          As a thought experiment, imagine that people pre-commit to a certain tip if the service is good. If Bob then pre-commits to $100 and John to $20, it seems logical that the servers would expend more effort for Bob, to give him his money’s worth. This seems quite fair to me.

          However, since the actual size of the tip that the server gets is only known post-service, the server doesn’t actually know in advance what to expect. This greatly incentivizes guessing based on clues, to give great service to those who will probably then give a good tip and to give worse service to those who are expected to give a bad tip, rather than to give everyone more middling service. This guessing is not just based on race. For example, I’ve read that servers like men who take women out on dates, because they tend to tip well to show off. They generally seem to dislike churchgoers and non-Americans.

          So actually solving this problem may require changing black culture to have black people tip more, to have white people tip less, to abandon tipping or reduce the amounts.

          Arguing that servers are racist without understanding why they are incentivized to be, seems unlikely to be effective.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            In this case, bad service included being seated slowly and getting worse seats even when better seats were available. It wasn’t just a matter of getting worse service from people who get tipped.

          • mdet says:

            There may be an economic component of “Black people want to eat at the same restaurants as White people, but don’t have as much money to spend and so skimp on tips”.

          • Aapje says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            Do you mean at restaurants? Because it seems to me that restaurants also try to give the best seats to good customers. For example, they are known for putting single people in the worst seats or denying them service altogether (because single people take relatively much space for how much they spend).

            @mdet

            That might be the case, but in most American states the servers need tips to get a decent wage. People tend to get upset at people that hurt their income. From what I’ve seen, servers tend to get very angry at individuals who refuse to tip and demographics that tend to tip less. It also violates a social norm to tip very little and people tend to punish that if they can.

            Anyway, my point is not to attribute the culpability to black people, but mainly to argue that it doesn’t fit the narrative where harm to black people is uniquely felt by them and caused by racial animosity, with no reason for that animosity.

            In general, my assumption is that people have a reason for doing what they do. I believe that people should address that actual reason, rather than address a strawman. Note that one can still disagree that the actual reason is reasonable.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Aaapje

            IME, restaurants will try to pawn off their worst seats on whoever will take them. I’m white and I’ve had that experience. And I’ve certainly gotten worse service than others at the same restaurant, like still waiting for my meal while people who came in after are getting their check.

            I’ve also been followed in stores (and I know when the dude with no neck asks “Can I Help You?”, he’s not the salesman and he means “get out”).

            Refused to be allowed to use the bathroom? Yes (once at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I still owe them a bit of marked territory for that one) Been asked to leave after finishing because I’m taking up a table? Also yes.

            That’s the problem with all the anecdotes. If they happen to black people they’re evidence of racism. If they happen to white people, that’s just life.

          • mdet says:

            @Aapje
            I agree, I was just responding to “this problem may require changing black culture” to say “and/or black economics”

            @The Nybbler
            Black people are often stereotyped as poor, loud, aggressive, rude, etc. Even Especially if it is the case that these stereotypes are accurate, then it’s reasonable to assume / to complain that even black people who aren’t acting this way may get treated as if they are. That says nothing about whether any particular incident is racist, and I think you’re not wrong to say that some people are way too quick to attribute racism (even black people joke about this). But “people are too quick to blame racism” vs “people are too quick to disbelieve racism” is just a bravery debate.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The Nybbler

            But if it’s more likely to happen to black guys, one can start talking about systemic racism, no? And if it happens to black guys who, if they were white, would pass the “sketch test” – guys who do not look like the kind of people to cause trouble* – it’s reasonable to start talking about prejudice.

            *Additionally, as an aside, there are significantly better clues (maleness, drunkenness, youth, general demeanour) than race – I would suspect that differences in crime rate are largely to do with relative sizes of the underclass – presumably a black doctor or whatever is not more likely to mug you than a white doctor.

          • The Nybbler says:

            But if it’s more likely to happen to black guys, one can start talking about systemic racism, no?

            If.

            In this case, we didn’t even get that far. Not anywhere _near_ that far. Black guys arrested, must be racism, go for the protests and the mea culpas and the firing of the manager and now even the police chief is backing down (which tells me there’s someone with serious power pulling the strings; cops usually defend cops up to and including the point of murder).

            BTW, did you know the cops claim the manager told them the two men cursed at her? And that they claim they also insulted the cops by saying “Cops don’t know the laws” and “Y’all make 45G a year”. Both could be lying (and my priors are that the cops are) but this has been rather under-reported.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            But if it’s more likely to happen to black guys, one can start talking about systemic racism, no?

            And if it is more likely to happen to men, one can start talking about systemic misandry.

            And if it is (far) more likely to happen to black men, but not white men or black women, one can start talking about intersectional systemic discrimination of black men.

            And if it is more likely to happen to people who look poor or from certain subcultures, one can start talking about systemic classism.

            Etc.

            Yet the mainstream isn’t even considering these possibilities, they instead have their pre-existing narrative. Events are interpreted according to this narrative. For example, left-wing media like interpreting it as “black guys were forced to leave,” rather than “black guys were forced to leave” or “black guys were forced to leave.” Meanwhile, the right-wing media have their own narrative which is just as biased.

            Incidents that don’t have a characteristic that allows it to be shoehorned into the narrative, don’t get reported as counterexamples, but they get ignored by making assumptions.

            In the left-wing media, the black guy who was shot is assumed to have been shot for being black. The white guy who was shot is assumed to have been shot for being a real threat. For the right-wing media, it tends to be the opposite.

            All this bias is why anecdotal media stories like this one are close to useless. The actual effect is not to enlighten, but to reinforce pre-existing beliefs (of those who control the narrative that is being presented).

          • BBA says:

            @Nybbler: so far, pretty much all the information to come out has supported the arrestees’ narrative, so it’s possible the police are backing down because they haven’t got a leg to stand on.

            Pressure from above? I know Philly elected a reformist DA last year who’s been pushing hard on “ending mass incarceration” – dropping charges on nonviolent drug crimes, requesting much shorter sentences, etc. The DA doesn’t command the police, though. Honestly, I support the experiment, but I expect the police to sabotage it if the DA makes any significant moves against them. And I predict that regardless of how it goes in four years he’ll lose reelection to a machine pol and the police can return to firebombing their own city with impunity.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Nybbler: so far, pretty much all the information to come out has supported the arrestees’ narrative

            The police report does not, though it has not been mentioned in most media coverage, and the manager herself has not been heard from. And not having a leg to stand on is not usually reason for the cops to back down.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @The Nybbler

            The reaction to the thing isn’t the thing itself. The guys could have been arrested because (to posit one scenario) the manager just has some prejudices and for whatever reason the cops decided to arrest them instead of just telling them to go away – I don’t know how or why the cops operate the way they do. That’s different from the activist-types (a decent chunk, not a majority, but a decent chunk of whom seem pretty self-serving) deciding that this is the latest flashpoint and then people with megaphones shouting at service-staff employees because that’s totally woke.

            The model of the world I have built is one where there are things that white guys can get away with more readily than black guys, and some things white guys won’t expect that black guys who otherwise are comparable will expect: I’ve had one negative interaction with a cop in my life (I ran a stop sign on a bike because riding down hills fast is cool and some cop happened to be driving by and told me to knock it off or I’d get a ticket; I was 14 or something) while black guys I know who went to the same school (a good one) as me have more stories about this, to the point that they are very apprehensive about interacting with cops. Etc.

            As for how the guys were behaving – I mean, looking at those two guys, the way they dress and the fact that they’re early-20s “entrepreneurs” – they look like bros of a certain sort. I know guys like that from university (the ones I knew in undergrad post on Facebook about their app, the ones from grad school were all law students aimed solidly at corporate law). They might be annoying – telling a cop “I make more than you do”, which seems implicit in that statement, is a dick move, and I can imagine guys I know saying that when confronted with a cop – but being annoying isn’t a crime. These guys don’t look dangerous, or sketchy. They look like they’d start talking to you at a party about how their startup was going to disrupt crowdsourcing and then would follow you to the drink table when you tried to get another one as an excuse to get away from them. But that’s just annoying. There’s no law against being annoying, and being a finance bro or a corporate law bro or whatever doesn’t merit arrest.

            Maybe they shoulda bought a coffee to get the manager off their backs, but then again, maybe they have good taste in coffee. It’s hard to see what merits arrest, and my model of the world is one in which this is more likely to happen to black guys than white guys.

            As for pressure from above – the police chief might be backing down faster than usual, but this isn’t something that is going to get the cops in huge trouble. The incentive is to back down more quickly from trivialities than “shit, someone’s dead”. Presumably he didn’t get to where he is by being a dummy, and knows how one chooses hills to die on.

            @Aapje

            Sure. The failure to realize that there are ways in which men are negatively stereotyped, and that black men are to some extent stereotyped as “hyper-male” (physically and sexually aggressive and powerful), that really limits the ability of people to notice that it’s black men who tend to have stories about being treated as a threat when they’re doing nothing wrong, and so on – I know black women who have stories about random guys on the street shouting epithets at them, but in general, black guys are way more likely to have stories where my reaction is “that is most likely because you are black; I have never had such an experience”. But the chips have fallen where they have and the lines have been drawn, so neither are many people on the left going to notice what’s happening here, and nor are many people on the right (both seem to be missing the point).

          • The Nybbler says:

            @dndnrsn

            I’m not talking about the merit of the arrest; the arrest was legal by the letter of the law because the men were in the business against the wishes of the business owner’s agent and refused to leave.

            I’m talking about whether the arrest happened because of racism. If the two gave the cops shit, that’s likely to have contributed a LOT more to the arrest than racism (even if it shouldn’t have). I’m white; I’ve given cops shit; I went to jail and spent several thousand dollars getting out of trouble.

            And if they cursed at the manager, as the police report says, that’s a lot more likely to be the reason the manager called the cops on them than racism.

            Of course, the cops could be lying and the manager could have lied to the cops. But nobody in the media is even talking about this or attempting to ascertain whether any of that actually happened. Racism fits the narrative so racism it is.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Surely there are right-wing media outlets defending the cops, the manager, etc? A lot of people are going to think racism was at play here because, well, it’s a not-inaccurate model of the world to think that black guys will get shit when white guys don’t, or at least, relatively more than white guys. I think racism was probably at play here for that reason.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            That is stereotyping, though. Do you think it contributes to the situation to do ‘affirmative stereotyping’ like that? Because I don’t.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Could you rephrase that? I don’t quite understand what you mean.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            Assuming that black people must have been in the wrong, while not making that assumption for non-black people, is stereotyping and is unjust to black people.

            Assuming that black people must have been in the right and victims of racism, while not making that assumption for non-black people, is stereotyping and is unjust to non-black people.

            From a general principle point of view, both are equally wrong. From a practical point of view, both situations are going to result in a group feeling discriminated against, the group will merely be different.

            I call your suggestion to assume racism ‘affirmative stereotyping,’ because it is stereotyping in favor of black people.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Where am I assuming that they must have been in the right?

            I’m saying that it sounds like they were hassled about being there without buying anything quicker than the norm, and these are two guys who don’t look sketchy – they look like they probably have an annoying habit of insisting beer pong get played at parties, but they don’t look sketchy. This suggests prejudice was at play. And that’s not the same thing as them “being in the right” – you could have a situation where someone is in the wrong, but still have racism in there: there are minor misbehaviours a white guy might get away with more easily than a black guy.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            Earlier you didn’t say anything about judging the merits of the situation:

            A lot of people are going to think racism was at play here because, well, it’s a not-inaccurate model of the world to think that black guys will get shit when white guys don’t, or at least, relatively more than white guys. I think racism was probably at play here for that reason.

            But you seem to have left out part of your actual thought process.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m using a lot of “probably” type statements. I think too many to say I’m assuming anything. This isn’t a super-high-probability conviction on my part, but if I had to bet 50 bucks on what it was, I’d go with this.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            I’m just pointing out that there is a tribal/CW element here, where what you are doing is commonly accepted as legitimate by the same people who consider it racist if you use the exact same kind of reasoning, but based on different facts (and vice versa).

          • dndnrsn says:

            But I’m not going from “they’re black” to “they must be in the right.” I’m going from “they’re black” to “I think there’s a good chance racism was involved in this”. Those are two different things.

          • outis says:

            getting worse seats even when better seats were available

            I thought that was a universal human experience. Are you telling me waiters have been profiling me all my life?

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m 100% certain waiters are profiling you all the time. Probably using your race along with anything else they can think of, since they basically don’t make a living wage without tips. Getting a reputation at a particular restaurant or bar as a good tipper is a good way to get very good service in the future. This worked for me when I was a younger man who was usually dressed in pretty scruffy ways, and I assume (but don’t know) it would work for people from racial/ethnic groups with reputations for tipping badly.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          https://www.nytimes.com/1995/10/04/garden/at-dinner-with-lawrence-otis-graham-trials-of-a-member-of-a-special-club.html

          I don’t have the book handy, but I’m not exactly the ideally valued restaurant customer. I’m a woman, and I spend my life in t-shirts and sweat pants/shorts, and I generally dine alone. I was shocked at how badly he was treated a lot of the time.

    • onyomi says:

      Though the mainstream narrative is the exact opposite, I think a reasonable case can be made that white people calling the police on black people who fail to abide by the behavioral norms of (white) American culture, like mass incarceration of young black men, reflects white Americans’ ongoing efforts to integrate black Americans as full members of their society.

      New Asian immigrants to the US do better not only than blacks who have been here for centuries, but even whites who have been here for centuries yes, because IQ, banned discourse and all that, but more fundamentally because they come from places with millennia of farmer (vs. “forager” on Hansen’s definition) genetic and cultural heritage.

      About one thousand years ago European church and state genetically pacified their populations by executing their most violent members at high rates for generations. That is, we’re treating black people the way Europeans treated themselves 1000 years ago, although arguably being too nice about it if violent criminals are still managing to have many children.

      Suggesting that whites should not call the police on black people, or, at least, should strongly question their instincts about when to call the police on black people, either because the police can’t be trusted to treat black people fairly and/or because most white people have an “irrational” fear of black people (that is, a fear beyond that justified by blacks’ higher rates of committing violent crimes) is to admit defeat: blacks fundamentally aren’t a part of majority-white American society and we can’t trust our intuitions about what constitutes “call the police”-worthy behavior on their part, nor our law enforcement to treat them fairly. The end result is just white people trying to find ways to avoid black people by e.g. moving out to the suburbs. Copenhagen interpretation wins again.

      It also arguably empowers the worst members of the black community at the expense of the better members. Imagine the following imaginary deal a genie offers to a black American “from this day forward, all white people will treat you exactly as they would another white person, for good and for ill.” Which black people do you think would be more eager to accept this deal? The “racism is the primary cause of higher rates of black incarceration” view of the world might suggest it would be the criminals, thinking to themselves “oh boy, now I can get away with a lot more, like white people do.” But I don’t think that’s right. Black people know white people go to jail too when they commit violence. I think it’s the smarter, hard-working, peaceful black people who’d sooner jump at this deal, thinking “oh good, now I won’t be held back by the majority’s priors about my group, but can be confident I’m succeeding or failing purely on my own merits.”

      • dndnrsn says:

        I think you are really ignoring the degree to which a lot of black people, regardless of personal attributes, especially black men, experience common low-level harassment. Black guys I know who are from a similar milieu as myself and most of my bubble – educated, middle-class, don’t look sketchy, dress “preppy” or whatever – have stories about getting followed in stores, people crossing the street to avoid them, interactions with police that are more likely to be unfriendly, etc.

        Before he went alt-lite huckster to sell ebooks about having a lemur cranium, Mike Cernovich had a (still out of place, because back then he was a free speech/quasi-PUA blogger who believed coconut oil was a substitute for condoms) piece where he told white people to imagine interacting with airport security every day, and that it was like that for black people, in general.

        • onyomi says:

          I’m actually not sure how this relates to my post, which is not about whether or not black people experience this kind of thing. In fact, I am to some extent conceding they do. I am certainly not claiming that white people currently treat unfamiliar black people exactly the same as unfamiliar white people. My point is rather that interpreting that fact as a sign of white society’s failure to fully accept them as equals may be the wrong way to look at it, or at least, not the only way to look at it.

          Put more simply, given the uncontroversial fact that blacks commit a disproportionate number of crimes, there are only three options I can think of for white people:

          1. Disproportionately call the police on black people (or follow them around the store, etc.) (but ideally not out of proportion to their actual probability of being criminals) until such time as black people stop committing crimes at a higher rate (which would likely take generations of strictly punishing their most violent members and/or big cultural changes). Since errors are unavoidable, this will mean that non-criminal black people also experience a higher rate of being unfair objects of suspicion.

          2. Simply accept a higher probability of being victimized by black people. The problems with this are obvious.

          3. Minimize interaction with unfamiliar black people by e.g. moving to a mostly-white suburb.

          Of these three, only option 1 opens a white person up to moral opprobrium in the current culture, though ironically option 1 is arguably also the only one that involves treating black people as a group, like white people, i. e. by applying the standards of white society to them. If we concede 2 is not reasonable or a practical long-term solution, then the only other option, 3, is actually the one that implies, if only tacitly, that blacks can’t actually be fully integrated into white society.

          Which is not to say 1 is easy. It sounds like it will take a really long time and frankly kind of suck for black people. But if the goal is to one day have black and white people equally successful, equally unlikely to go to prison, and living alongside one another amicably in the same neighborhoods, I don’t see any other option.

          • rlms says:

            What about option 4 — eugenics — that you alluded to in your post above?

          • Randy M says:

            Sure, why don’t you give it a shot and report back? Go on, go eugenic some people.

          • rlms says:

            It seems impractical for a random individual to implement at the moment, but when genetic engineering gets cheap maybe I will.

          • onyomi says:

            My option 1 implies some degree of eugenics for the same reason that European states executing violent criminals for centuries had a eugenic effect. Of course, if the goal is “make black people as smart and non-violent, on average, as white people” (and I’m not claiming that should be
            a goal, though it seems to be what the mainstream claims to want, albeit while disallowing all explanations other than racism for not having yet reached it) explicit eugenics, designer babies etc. would probably be the best way, but that’s even further outside the overton window right now than suggesting black people improve their culture* and white people not be afraid to call the police on them. Maybe designer babies, when they come along, will rescue us from our current, dysgenic social priorities.

            I would certainly support some kind of criminal justice measure whereby violent criminals (of any race) could choose a lighter sentence in exchange for a vasectomy or tubal ligation, though I assume that’s also unconstitutional and/or politically impossible.

            *The only people in society allowed to do this for a time are avuncular old black people, and I’m not minimizing or saying the allegations against Bill Cosby were false, but I can guarantee if Thomas Sowell had ever done anything kinky in his entire life, we would know about it by now.

          • Randy M says:

            It seems impractical for a random individual to implement

            It seemed to me that the suggestions were aimed at individuals, hence the sarcasm.

        • dndnrsn says:

          It relates to your post in that

          I think it’s the smarter, hard-working, peaceful black people who’d sooner jump at this deal, thinking “oh good, now I won’t be held back by the majority’s priors about my group, but can be confident I’m succeeding or failing purely on my own merits.”

          I think it’s more likely that black guys who wouldn’t get followed in stores, or whatever, were they white guys with otherwise everything else the same, would take this, because they wouldn’t have to deal with the hassles. Less about being held back or some sort of existential worry.

          In general, people – and I don’t just mean white people; there’s very little evidence that police departments with more black cops treat black people better, for example – are often better at differentiating sketchy from non-sketchy white people than black people. A cop can see a white guy in a suit driving a nice car, and a tweaker-looking white guy hanging around someone else’s nice car in a sketchy way, and differentiate them; black guys who don’t dress sketchy with nice cars in nice neighbourhoods will have stories about getting stopped by a cop more than their white counterparts will.

          (but ideally not out of proportion to their actual probability of being criminals)

          What I’m saying is that there’s a weaker ability to look at someone and say “well, this guy looks sketchy” based on the particulars. It isn’t just about unfamiliar people, either. The cues of “this guy is trouble” that are the strongest are being young, being drunk, and acting squirrelly. A lot of people substitute other things for that which don’t predict as well.

          • onyomi says:

            I think it’s more likely that black guys who wouldn’t get followed in stores, or whatever, were they white guys with otherwise everything else the same, would take this, because they wouldn’t have to deal with the hassles.

            That is what I was saying. Maybe the bigger points about overall success in life, etc. were unnecessary. I’m saying that black people who would be treated well by white people right now were they white but their behavior exactly the same have more reason to want the behavior of their group to reach that standard so that they can stop being rationally prejudged by that lower standard. Having a higher threshold for calling the police on black people who aren’t meeting white behavior standards, therefore, is more beneficial to those black people who currently behave badly at the long-term expense of those who behave better.

      • Iain says:

        Suggesting that whites should not call the police on black people, or, at least, should strongly question their instincts about when to call the police on black people, either because the police can’t be trusted to treat black people fairly and/or because most white people have an “irrational” fear of black people (that is, a fear beyond that justified by blacks’ higher rates of committing violent crimes) is to admit defeat: blacks fundamentally aren’t a part of majority-white American society and we can’t trust our intuitions about what constitutes “call the police”-worthy behavior on their part, nor our law enforcement to treat them fairly. The end result is just white people trying to find ways to avoid black people by e.g. moving out to the suburbs. Copenhagen interpretation wins again.

        This is unnecessarily fatalistic.

        Identifying a problem does not mean conceding defeat. If we cannot trust law enforcement in 2018 to treat black people fairly, the solution is not to shove our heads in the sand and pretend otherwise, because the truth is too inconvenient. The solution is to work so that law enforcement in 2028 is more trustworthy than today.

        In the meantime, if calling the cops on a black man puts that man at disproportionate risk of violence, you should wish to believe so. (I think we have reasonable grounds to believe this — see here, for example, in particular the racial skew in unarmed victims of police shootings.) If you are at all consequentialist, that belief should probably affect your behaviour.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          If police officers have agency, I’m not responsible for their behavior.

          Also, any other method of removing trespassers is really dumb. Really really really dumb.

          Now, I don’t know how that Starbucks got into a position where those two black men were trespassing, so maybe the situation never needed to get that far. It’s quite believable that the store manager profiled these men and asked them to leave sooner than she would similar white people. But moving coffee shops into a place where they (via social rule) cannot eject people for not buying anything is a noticeable move from the current status quo and probably won’t land where you want it.

          • John Schilling says:

            If police officers have agency, I’m not responsible for their behavior.

            Does that include, e.g., Gestapo officers one might hypothetically have called to deal with an annoying Jew in 1939 Germany?

            I think #BLM and the associated wing of Social Justice greatly overestimate the desire and probability of police officers shooting unarmed black men, but that’s a dispute of fact. If we were to stipulate the fact that police called to deal with annoying black men have a very high probability of shooting them on sight, I don’t think I would accept “…but the police have agency, it’s not my fault” when someone choses to do a thing which they know will likely result in a black man being killed for no good reason.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Well, the Gestapo agents likely didn’t have agency, as they were taking all the Jews by directive, and even if an individual officers showing up were to think otherwise it was still going to happen. The police have no such directive.

            But you make a good point, and I’d probably concede rather than try to figure out how to draw an exact line between the cops being expected to kill all the black men vs being given the power to do so with impunity if they decide to do it.

            I will still maintain that society has disallowed all other methods of ejecting passive trespassers. So even though we’re literally “calling strangers with guns to handle this” it’s the only legal option if you don’t want them living there. (Which, again, we might never needed have gotten to that point with this specific situation.)

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            The degree to which it was all “directives from above, only follovink orders” is questionable. I don’t know about the Gestapo, but in the case of the police battalions that operated as death squads in the east, by some accounts there are no cases of men being punished for refusing to do it.

          • Iain says:

            If police officers have agency, I’m not responsible for their behavior.

            This is not a reasonable standard. Many countries refuse to extradite prisoners to countries where they would be tortured. Is that stupid of them? Torturers have agency, but handing people over to be tortured still has moral weight.

            On this specific case: according to the men’s account, they’d only been around for a few minutes, and they were surprised when the cops who showed up headed for their table:

            Robinson said they were there for a “real estate meeting” and that they had been “working on this for months.” He said he conveyed that to the Starbucks employees when they asked if Nelson and he wanted anything to drink. “We’re fine. We’re just waiting for a meeting, and we’ll be out really quick type thing.”
            When the police arrived in response to a 911 from the store about a disturbance, Robinson said he thought: “It can’t be for us.”

            It’s possible that they’re lying, but I can’t find a single source — even after checking Breitbart — that disputes those details. Also, the Philly police chief, who had previously been vigorously defending his officers as having done nothing wrong, just released a comprehensive apology. Unless Breitbart and the Philly PD are teaming up to pull the wool over our eyes, it seems like these men didn’t know that they were seen as trespassers until the cops showed up. The idea that there was nothing else to do without calling for men with guns doesn’t pass the laugh test.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I never said “only following orders” and I’m really losing patience for having words put in my mouth.

            The idea that there was nothing else to do without calling for men with guns doesn’t pass the laugh test

            Since you can’t fucking read if I say it only once, here, I’ll say it 10 times. Sorry for everyone else but I guess this is necessary.

            Now, I don’t know how that Starbucks got into a position where those two black men were trespassing, so maybe the situation never needed to get that far. It’s quite believable that the store manager profiled these men and asked them to leave sooner than she would similar white people

            Now, I don’t know how that Starbucks got into a position where those two black men were trespassing, so maybe the situation never needed to get that far. It’s quite believable that the store manager profiled these men and asked them to leave sooner than she would similar white people

            Now, I don’t know how that Starbucks got into a position where those two black men were trespassing, so maybe the situation never needed to get that far. It’s quite believable that the store manager profiled these men and asked them to leave sooner than she would similar white people

            Now, I don’t know how that Starbucks got into a position where those two black men were trespassing, so maybe the situation never needed to get that far. It’s quite believable that the store manager profiled these men and asked them to leave sooner than she would similar white people

            Now, I don’t know how that Starbucks got into a position where those two black men were trespassing, so maybe the situation never needed to get that far. It’s quite believable that the store manager profiled these men and asked them to leave sooner than she would similar white people

            Now, I don’t know how that Starbucks got into a position where those two black men were trespassing, so maybe the situation never needed to get that far. It’s quite believable that the store manager profiled these men and asked them to leave sooner than she would similar white people

            Now, I don’t know how that Starbucks got into a position where those two black men were trespassing, so maybe the situation never needed to get that far. It’s quite believable that the store manager profiled these men and asked them to leave sooner than she would similar white people

            Now, I don’t know how that Starbucks got into a position where those two black men were trespassing, so maybe the situation never needed to get that far. It’s quite believable that the store manager profiled these men and asked them to leave sooner than she would similar white people

            Now, I don’t know how that Starbucks got into a position where those two black men were trespassing, so maybe the situation never needed to get that far. It’s quite believable that the store manager profiled these men and asked them to leave sooner than she would similar white people

            Now, I don’t know how that Starbucks got into a position where those two black men were trespassing, so maybe the situation never needed to get that far. It’s quite believable that the store manager profiled these men and asked them to leave sooner than she would similar white people

          • Randy M says:

            The Starbucks manager didn’t tell them the police were being called?
            That seems like an intermediate step between asking politely to leave and calling the police. It would also, to my reckoning, succeed in absolving them of the police officer’s actions, because if the non-customer was in such dire peril from police, he could have left before they arrived after having been warned/threatened with their summons.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I explicitly said

            Now, I don’t know how that Starbucks got into a position where those two black men were trespassing, so maybe the situation never needed to get that far. It’s quite believable that the store manager profiled these men and asked them to leave sooner than she would similar white people

            But you don’t wanna listen. That’s fine.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You don’t call the Gestapo to enforce trespassing laws, you call the local uniformed police. But if you can’t trust the police you have to either enforce your policies yourself, call in your local freelance enforcement agency (in Philadelphia, possibly people actually named “Vinnie” and “Tony”, who aren’t likely to be gentle), or just accept being walked over. It’s the third option the protestors seem to want: no enforcement of rules or policies against black people. This is IMO completely unreasonable.

            One could imagine a situation where if you have a problem with black people, you call a black-controlled enforcement agency (e.g. someone associated with BLM or the Nation of Islam) rather than the police; at the extreme, every race and ethnic group polices their own. I don’t think this is particularly desirable either.

          • Iain says:

            @Edward Scizorhands:

            I will still maintain that society has disallowed all other methods of ejecting passive trespassers.

            You acknowledge that the Starbucks case is not an instance of this problem. Can you point to an actual instance?

            @The Nybbler:

            It’s the third option the protestors seem to want: no enforcement of rules or policies against black people. This is IMO completely unreasonable.

            That’s because it’s a strawman.

            Nobody has said that you aren’t allowed to enforce policies against black people. They’ve said two things:

            1. People “enforce policies” more aggressively against black people than against white people in the same situation. This is bad, and should stop.
            2. Calling the police on a black man has a higher chance of ending badly, and you should take that into account. Note: “you should take that into account” != “you can never do it”.

          • The Nybbler says:

            People “enforce policies” more aggressively against black people than against white people in the same situation. This is bad, and should stop.

            And the evidence for this is merely that the policy was enforced aggressively against two black people in one case. If that’s sufficient, then there can be no enforcement against black people. There’s no pattern demonstrated here, no investigation of any sort. Just enforcement followed by protest.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            You acknowledge that the Starbucks case is not an instance of this problem.

            I am only responding to deny saying this and refute yet another attempt to put words in my mouth.

            There is nothing to be gained by interacting with someone so dishonest.

          • mdet says:

            @Nybbler
            No one is claiming this one incident is sufficient. Nancy Lebovitz gives a link with stories of black people being mistreated and given poor service at various restaurants. Dndnrsn says that they personally know educated, middle class black people with plenty stories of being harassed or treated as unwelcome. Aapje gives rational reasons why we could expect black people to receive poorer service. The social justice side of social media is nothing but “examples of black people being treated poorly”.

            You may doubt that the examples these people provide are actually representative or informative. That’s fine and reasonable. But I don’t know of a single person who is saying “This is the first time I have ever heard a (present-day) story about black people being mistreated, and from this story and this story alone I conclude that black people are frequently treated as suspicious and unwelcome”. And I know you know this because I’m pretty sure you’ll admit this isn’t the first time you’ve thought “Those anti-racists are just assuming this is pervasive based off one incident”. Even if the real issue is “People over-reacting to one-off incidents”, that still requires a pattern of one-off incidents.

            @Edward
            Iain pointed out that the men were not given a warning before the police were called. You didn’t dispute this. “Giving a warning that you will call the police” IS a method of ejecting people that ought to come before *actually* calling the police. If you don’t dispute that the men weren’t given a warning, then you acknowledged that Starbucks *did* have at least one other option (a warning). I can see how you missed Iain’s reasoning here, it was sort of implicit instead of explicit.

          • Iain says:

            I am deeply confused. Edward Scizorhands: what is your argument?

            As far as I can tell, this is how the conversation has gone:

            1. In a conversation about the Starbucks situation, you insist that “society has disallowed all other methods of ejecting passive trespassers”.
            2. I assume that you are talking at least in part about the Starbucks situation, and present evidence to show that the manager jumped immediately to calling in the police without attempting less drastic methods of ejection, like “making it clear to the two men that they had to leave”.
            3. You respond by quoting your own admission that you don’t know all the details of the Starbucks case, and maybe it was racial profiling and could have been avoided.
            4. I ask: okay, so if you don’t want to defend this case as a good example of your thesis, give me a good example of your thesis.
            5. You accuse me of such egregious dishonesty that it’s not worth your time to engage with me.
            6. Wait, what?

            I have obviously misunderstood your argument at some point. Enlighten me.

            PS: Also, I second everything in mdet’s post.

          • Barely matters says:

            @mdet

            To give a counterpoint here, I’ve been specifically trained in a couple jobs *not* to warn people that you’re calling the police. The rationale is that threatening to call the cops is throwing gas on an open fire, and is likely to exacerbate the existing situation and potentially force an altercation that you (By threatening to call the cops) have already acknowledged you don’t have adequate tools to respond to.

            You ask the person to leave/stop yelling/whatever and if they refuse you call for police backup. If you would like a different strategy employed, you at least need to suggest a reasonable course of action that the management could have employed that would not put them at further risk in the worst case scenario of dealing with actual aggressive trespassers. From here it looks like that manager’s hands are tied and, barring how she actually decided to handle it, she is left without reasonable options.

            The reason we can’t have nice things, like warnings of police escalation in this case, is that other people have already abused the vulnerabilities in that course of action, making it a liability. This dynamic is similar to the rest of this case, wherein I’d predict that Starbucks is going to have to start enforcing loitering prohibitions broadly if they want to maintain the ability to remove troublesome noncustomers at all.

          • onyomi says:

            1. People “enforce policies” more aggressively against black people than against white people in the same situation. This is bad, and should stop.

            Why is this bad, given that an unfamiliar black person is more likely, on average, to engage in criminal behavior than a similar acting white person? If a randomly selected unfamiliar black person is 2x as likely as an otherwise identical white person to commit a crime then it seems the rational thing to do is treat him with 2x as much suspicion. Either that, or accept a higher probability of victimization. Of course, one can make the case that white people in this hypothetical are treating unfamiliar black people with >2x suspicion and that’s bad, but that case seems a lot harder to make–certainly no easier than the case that black people overestimate their own likelihood of being a victim of police brutality and that protesters’ priorities are wrong.

            For example, I don’t think it’s bad for airport security to treat young men of Arab descent with more suspicion than a similarly acting old, Asian lady. I think to do otherwise is foolish. This is unfortunate for peaceful young Arab men, but then it’s also unfortunate for young men who are very safe drivers that they have to pay more for car insurance, or for peaceful men of all races that they are generally more feared as potential sources of physical violence than women.

            In other words, this seems to be another protest against noticing patterns.

          • skef says:

            In other words, this seems to be another protest against noticing patterns.

            Like the pattern of people saying this sort of thing often being plain old racists?

          • Barely matters says:

            Like the pattern of people saying this sort of thing often being plain old racists?

            Oh goddamn it, you were doing so well…

          • skef says:

            Oh goddamn it, you were doing so well…

            You think that the word is and should be the taboo around here, because of the way it’s implications tar the accused, but the actual taboo is on any discussion of what the difference is supposed to be. Here, I’ll break it:

            Do people think that, later after tempers cooled down, the guy who tossed the noose over the branch wouldn’t have been able to offer any rationales? That it’s not possible to propose tidy game-theoretic justifications for the occasional lynching? “How was that society supposed to get on getting on without them?”

            Self-proclaimed an-cap onyomi has been extolling the virtues of having everyone be guilty and siccing the police on the ones who really need it, with the latter being based, in this case, on genetics. Not the actual genetics of the person, mind you, but the genetics of the class of people, inferred from appearance. For the sake of argument, suppose we stipulate that this is the best approach. How is it not racist? Why is this argument not “the conventional wisdom is wrong, racism is actually correct?”

            OK, so one answer is “I don’t want to be associated with those people.” Well, I don’t necessarily want to be associated with every single person who has ever been on a pride parade float: Tough shit.

            So what’s the next reason? What is the difference that is so important to keep in mind that we never actually talk about it? What is the nature of this line I’m so unforgivably crossing right now?

            If racists are people who, when asked for their reasoning, twirl their mustaches and say “I hate black people because I’m eeeeeeviiiiiiiilllllll!”, then there have never been any racists, and racism itself is a strawman.

          • Barely matters says:

            Uh yeah, I think you should explain your reasoning rather than just throwing low effort slurs.

            Beyond that the problem is that, apart from you blatantly making up his stance, he’s not wrong. And that you and everyone else does precisely what he’s saying only directed towards different groups. The other problem is that you’re assigning motives to Onyomi when he’s clearly not pleased about this situation, but has no better idea as to fix it than you do when it comes to groups you disfavor.

            It is unfortunate when our peers collectively act badly and it casts undue suspicion on the members of groups who don’t deserve it. It sucks just as much to pay more for auto insurance, or to be treated as Schrodinger’s abuser. If you reply and tell me that those dynamics should be abolished (And in this case, that discriminatory pricing, and female safe spaces should be abolished as sexist. Hell, men are more discriminated against in court compared to women than POC are compared to whites. I hope you’re just as fired up about that discrimination), then I’ll credit you for being consistent in your views. If not, then it sure is unfortunate that all you’ve got is outgroup homogeneity and nasty slurs.

          • skef says:

            Uh yeah, I think you should explain your reasoning rather than just throwing low effort slurs.

            It seems that any discussion of what this line is supposed to be is automatically labeled a “low effort slur”, so I’m not sure what else I can do. Here I am thinking I expressed a line of thought in a set of linked paragraphs …

            Beyond that, the problem is that he’s not wrong, and you and everyone else does precisely the same thing, only with different groups.

            No, I think that people should be treated based on their own personal behavior. Whatever cognitive shortcuts I take don’t translate into advocating the kind of policy onyomi has. This is an actual, important difference that doesn’t wash away with vague references to thought processes.

            The other problem is that you’re assigning motives to Onyomi when he’s clearly not pleased about this situation, but has no better idea as to fix it than you do when it comes to groups you disfavor.

            You’re accusing me of assigning motives to Onyomi, I’m accusing you of assigning motives to nebulous “racists”. Suppose we go find one and extend him the usual SSC charity. Why are you so convinced he winds up looking radically different? Do you think he would not say, “It’s a shame, but …”? Who is this person?

          • Barely matters says:

            Nah, low effort would have been me just calling you a hypocrite and leaving it at that. The discussion is what we’re here for.

            No, I think that people should be treated based on their own personal behavior

            Cool, then show me how wildly off base I am by telling me clearly and unambiguously that treating men more harshly in court than women is unacceptable discrimination.

            Say that Women’s safe spaces are unacceptably discriminating against men who have done nothing wrong at all.

            Say that Affirmative Action unacceptably discriminates against Asian students.

            If you tell me that, and put some mustard on it beyond “It’s unfortunate, but what can you do?”, then I’m in your fucking corner on all these issues including racism. High fives all around for some honest to god epistemic consistency up in here.

            I care about discrimination against blacks exactly as much as I care about discrimination against men, asians, women, whites, lgbts, trans folks, everybody. So I’m taking cues from you here to demonstrate how I should treat the situation.

            If you agree on those three clauses, I agree that this racial discrimination is just as unacceptable and should be fought just as hard. If not, I probably should have just called you a hypocrite and left it at that.

          • skef says:

            Cool then show me how wildly off base I am by saying clearly and unambiguously that treating men more harshly in court than women is unacceptable discrimination.

            Harsher sentences for one gender for the same crime, and given the same prior factors based solely on the behavior of the individual charged, is unacceptable discrimination.

            Say that Women’s safe spaces are unacceptably discriminating against men who have done nothing wrong at all.

            I’m not sure what exactly is being loaded in to “safe spaces” in this request. My general view on “property-specific” institutions is that they’re fine as long as a) property-neutral equivalents are also available (when applicable) and b) people with the other “opposed” properties get the same institutions if and when they want them. By this thinking it would be fine to have a women’s only safe space if there are also men’s safe spaces and (if applicable — it depends on just what “safe” refers to in the specific instance) gender-neutral spaces. Not only do I think this is the right ethical answer, I also think it is the right rhetorical answer. Even if the space set up for men was always empty, setting it up sends a good message that “safety” is complicated and not entirely one-sided, which would diffuse some of the controversy.

            I don’t see any inherent problem with giving relief to women who feel unsafe around men, or to men who feel unsafe around women.

            On a related topic, I think the dismantling of all male colleges was overdone to the extent that there are almost none while some women’s colleges remain. As long as they are genuinely optional, I see value in having the option.

            All that said, the property of “white” is so loaded that I’m not sure it is compatible with this principle. “German” or “Irish”, for example, often seem to work fine. “white” is tricky because of the questionable uses it was drummed up for. When I say “I’m not sure” I mean I’m not sure. Having ethical principles that generalize is preferable. When one doesn’t seem to in practice, you can try to work backwards to the key difference and learn something from it, but that’s not always possible.

            Say that Affirmative Action unacceptably discriminates against Asian students.

            I wouldn’t automatically link these two phenomena. I would say that Asian student quotas, as some colleges seem to have now, are unacceptably discriminatory*.

            I do not think that all affirmative action is unacceptable. There is a chicken-and-egg problem. There may be a point when it becomes unacceptable. Judging that point is tricky.

            * Incidentally, I suspect that this is more driven by attempts to keep wealthy older alumni donating than anything else.

          • Barely matters says:

            I appreciate that. Major kudos.

            In that case I’ll say that I’m willing to advocate against this example of racial discrimination exactly as hard as you are willing to advocate against sentencing differentials, allowing single group spaces only when they belong to preferred groups, and quotas that discriminate based on race.

            Can you think of any improvements that can be made across the board? I’d be thrilled if we could find a way to to rectify the disproportionate suspicion and presumption of guilt towards men during legal disputes and black men in coffee shops (… and legal disputes).

            As long as you’re willing to apply an intervention to all the groups that are being discriminated against for the behaviour of their peers, I’m all ears to just about any idea. As long as the idea is ‘Calling the cops on *people* is dangerous, so maybe we shouldn’t do it as quickly’, rather than specifying only one of several groups that doing so would be more dangerous for, then at least we can evaluate it evenhandedly and productively through a Mistake lens.

            So you’ve changed my mind. I’m willing to call Onyomi’s described belief ‘Racist’ to the same extent that I would call quotas that discriminate against asian students ‘Racist’, or discriminatory sentencing and the shutting down of male only spaces ‘Misandrist’.

            Also, to be completely blunt, I apologize for implying that you are a hypocrite.

          • skef says:

            A clarification: shit is, of course, complicated. So

            a) If it turned out that there were an admissions test cheating conspiracy, it makes sense to try to deal with that. Probably not with a quota though … not sure how that would make sense.

            b) It can be OK to change one’s criteria, for admission or anything else. If you are tempted to do so because of the race or gender of those meeting the criteria, that should give you lots of pause. (a big pause?)

            c) I’m tempted by the idea that fuzzy criteria may be preferable for Goodhart’s law reasons alone.

          • skef says:

            Can you think of any improvements that can be made across the board?

            I think the present state of doubt in the country right now is really terrible — there’s way too little of it. The epistemic battle between the left and the right makes the right look reasonable, because the left tends to be rigidly blank-slatist and the right argues for a mix. But then when you get to actual policies, the right abandons the pretense and clearly thinks that everything significant is explained by biological rather than social mechanisms. (The “we’ve already dealt with all of that, nature is what’s left” position.)

            Scientific evidence doesn’t support “nature is what’s left”, we just don’t know that. In my view the proper way forward given the doubt we should have is a combination of trying to move the needle and accepting different outcomes. When the needle doesn’t move in response to one attempt, try another. Or try moving a different needle for a while. Maybe you have to do some of this forever, or at least a long time.

            So what improvements would I suggest? What the hell do you do in this kind of epistemic environment? Everyone is already pretty sure they know what’s going on and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. No one wants to deal with uncomfortable doubt, so they just eliminate it, setting their own view at the maximum personal comfort* the evidence allows. The population of this board (and the reddit mirror world even more) is in no way an exception. There’s no space for a compromise. It’s a disaster.

            * A lot of this seems ultimately tied to perceptions of desert. One has this good job or gets this good salary or benefit. Or one has that bad job and lacks that good salary or benefit. It is more comfortable to feel that one more deserves one’s good things and unfairly deprived of one’s lacks. So doubt in each case is eliminated to maximize comfort given what haves and lacks the individual most identifies with.

          • skef says:

            Also, to be completely blunt, I apologize for implying that you are a hypocrite.

            Obviously I was aware of the waters I dove into; I basically lamp-shaded it. Strong reactions are natural.

            I really hope the earlier point is not lost on other readers, though. One reason that some people label certain views as racist is not “checkmate racist!” but because of the continuity between those views and past events and institutions that are generally agreed to be racist. The label is appropriate because that’s what the disagreement is about.

          • onyomi says:

            I favor tabooing “racist” from productive discussion because no one self-defines as racist today (except maybe as an attempt to be edgy) and any discussion of racism ends in a battle over definitions (by some people today’s standards and definitions my views are certainly racist; by Abe Lincoln’s standards quoted below, I probably qualify as some sort of radical, utopian egalitarian). Sure, I may benefit from that taboo in the same way an atheist challenging Church orthodoxy in the middle ages would benefit from tabooing words like “sin” or “heresy,” but that wouldn’t necessarily mean “sin” and “heresy” were useful concepts for getting closer to the truth.

            Insofar as I have a concept of what a “plain old racist,” colloquially defined, actually believes, it would probably be something like:

            “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races … I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races from living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be a position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” (Lincoln in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates)

            Maybe this is just another variant on the bingo score card saying “liberals are the real racists,” but my point here is that, of the three options I mention, which would seem most reasonable to an old-timey racist holding Lincoln’s view as stated above, given that living together on unequal footing has been widely deemed unacceptable? I think it’s 3 (live apart from black people), not 1 (live alongside black people and call the police on them when their behavior scares you), as 1 is predicated on the assumption that Lincoln is wrong about the possibility of blacks and whites living together amicably on equal social and political footing.

            As to how possible it actually is for whites and blacks to live in the same communities, participate in the same governments on equal terms, etc. in a manner more harmonious and integrated than today, I’m not sure. But that’s why I am an ancap–because I believe in absolute freedom of association, which includes the freedom not to associate for any reason, and I want people to voluntarily figure out what does and does not work without having somebody’s abstract ideas about how a society should look forced on them.

            I predict in a state of true freedom of association many would self-segregate along racial, ethnic, religious and other lines, but I hope some groups would make diversity of these kinds work. My ideal future would be one in which there are exclusive spaces for whites and blacks, for men and women, for Japanese and Chinese, etc. etc. and also spaces for free mixing of all, or any particular combination.

          • albatross11 says:

            skef:

            I don’t think most of the right actually falls back on “it’s all biology.” That’s a really small subset of the right that happens to be overrepresented here. I’m pretty sure the mainstream position on the right is that the differences in, say, school performance and crime rates between blacks and whites are issues of people choosing to act badly or having a broken culture–lots of single moms and absent dads, “acting white,” “snitches get stitches,” etc.

            More to the point, though, the cause of group differences is often irrelevant for policy responses. When trying to decide whether we need to alter the way the justice system interacts with blacks due to the higher black crime rate, large number of blacks in prison, etc., I don’t think the ultimate cause of those differences matters much. (Similarly, when deciding whether to apply extra surveillance to Muslims as a counterterrorism policy, it’s pretty-much irrelevant whether Islamic terrorism is due to blowback from previous invasions or due to some inherent evil property of Islam or due to a few nutcases using religion as an excuse for murdering people.)

          • albatross11 says:

            If you taboo “racist,” that doesn’t mean you never refer to the concept, that means you make explicit what you mean by it so we don’t end up arguing past each other in terms of definitions.

          • IrishDude says:

            @skef

            Beyond that, the problem is that he’s not wrong, and you and everyone else does precisely the same thing, only with different groups.

            No, I think that people should be treated based on their own personal behavior.

            I agree with you. The problem is you can’t always completely observe someone’s behavior when you need to make a decision about how to act, and might need to resort to second-best metrics. Let’s say you’re walking down a city street at 1am, and you see an old lady walking down one side and a young man walking on the other side. Their behavior is exactly the same, so would you have any preference for which side of the street you choose to walk on? Would age or gender influence your decision at all? What about other characteristics like height, weight, clothing choices, tattoos, hair-cut style, etc.?

            I used to work as a delivery driver for a pizza place. It was well-known among the drivers, black and white, that black people were lower tippers on average. About 1 in 10 white people might give no tip, compared to 4 in 10 black people, and among those who tipped white people gave more than black people, again on average. Some white people did stiff you, and some black people did give very generous tips, but delivering pizzas to white people would lead to higher expected compensation. For some reason I don’t know, there was a high correlation between Sprite ordering and black people, such that the reaction of drivers, black and white, was to occasionally go “Aw man” when they had to make a delivery to a house that had ordered Sprite. Was that reaction unreasonable or irrational? For someone interested in earning more tips, I don’t think it was.

            I treated all customers with politeness and respect, but I still noticed statistical patterns among groups and adjusted my expectations. I think a five-minute conversation with people is more useful to knowing what someone’s about than any superficial physical characteristic they may have, but in the absence of conversation or ability to observe behavior, my brain does make subtle judgments based on other characteristics. In low stakes situations, I make conscious effort to bypass the subtle judgments and treat everyone the same (this usually takes almost no effort, but sometimes a little effort is required). In higher stakes situations, like walking down a city street at 1am, I’m going to use my judgments based on statistical patterns to adjust my behavior.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But then when you get to actual policies, the right abandons the pretense and clearly thinks that everything significant is explained by biological rather than social mechanisms. (The “we’ve already dealt with all of that, nature is what’s left” position.)

            I don’t think that’s true at all. The right also blames culture and individual choice for lack of minority success. For instance, Larry Elder’s three rules for dramatically improving black outcomes: don’t do drugs, stay in school, don’t have kids out of wedlock. Now drone on about how rescuing princesses in video games teaches toxic masculinity and you get invited to the UN, but don’t you go wagging your fingers at the hip-hop raps for encouraging bad behavior in the youth you right-wing Christian bigots!

            Really, I think when it comes to advice or recommendations for improving conditions for black America the right has simply given up. The left owns the culture, and any response to black underachievement that isn’t “it’s all whitey’s fault and here’s some more money” gets you shouted down for racism, so the right shrugs and walks away. We don’t live in the cities and the blacks won’t vote for us anyway so whatever. The best thing we’ve got going now is Trump’s efforts to bring back manufacturing jobs and thereby drive down working class unemployment, which includes black working class unemployment. That’s all we’ve got.

            Oh, but I would like some more information about lead exposure. If the poor (and thereby minorities) are still experiencing greater exposure to things like lead paint, this seems like one of those “biology is mutable” things we can actually fix with a government program.

          • Iain says:

            @onyomi:

            Why is this bad, given that an unfamiliar black person is more likely, on average, to engage in criminal behavior than a similar acting white person? If a randomly selected unfamiliar black person is 2x as likely as an otherwise identical white person to commit a crime then it seems the rational thing to do is treat him with 2x as much suspicion.

            Because nobody calls the cops on a randomly selected unfamiliar black person.

            You call the cops on a specific person for doing a specific thing. How does that person’s race make a difference? You have all the information you need right in front of you. Are they committing a crime: Y/N?

            If you have literally no other information, a person’s race might let you adjust your prior probability of badness from, say, 1% to 2%. But you don’t call the cops on the basis of your priors. You call the cops because they have actually done something wrong. At that point, knowing that they have done something wrong screens off their race.

            Many people on SSC like to complain about identity politics: “we should treat people as individuals, not as members of groups”. It’s darkly amusing to me how “judge black people based on their race” seems to get a pass on those grounds, but “point out that people are judging black people based on their race” does not.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @onyomi

            Why is this bad, given that an unfamiliar black person is more likely, on average, to engage in criminal behavior than a similar acting white person? If a randomly selected unfamiliar black person is 2x as likely as an otherwise identical white person to commit a crime then it seems the rational thing to do is treat him with 2x as much suspicion.

            Is this, however, true? Is it a 2x or whatever modifier, applied generally, across all other categories? Or is it “bad-part-of-inner-city-black-crackhead as likely to victimize you as bad-part-of-rural-area-white-tweaker, just relative to populations as a whole more of the former; black doctor not more likely to victimize you than white doctor”? Because for many people, the issue is that the black doctor (or, for less dramatic flourish, the boring lower-to-middle-middle-class black guy) gets treated like he’s crackhead-or-crackhead-adjacent; if the cops abandoned racism and just put all their energy into classism, I think a lot of people would stop complaining about the cops.

          • albatross11 says:

            Iain:

            I can see your point, but it seems like the opposite side of that is to claim:

            a. You *should not* to modify your willingness to call the police on a black guy relative to a white guy, based on the higher crime rate for blacks relative to whites.

            b. You *should* modify your willingness to call the police on a black guy relative to a white guy, based on the higher rate of the police roughing up or killing[1] blacks relative to whites.

            It seems inconsistent to insist on both of these.

            [1] I think the relative rates of getting killed by the cops are pretty close, but the rates of getting roughed up by the cops are higher for blacks than for whites.

          • albatross11 says:

            dndnsrn:

            My not-too-well-informed guess is that most whites are a lot better at guessing the social class of other whites than of blacks from dress, accent/diction, mannerisms, etc.

          • Randy M says:

            It seems inconsistent to insist on both of these.

            To play devil’s advocate, here (no offense Iain), with any given black person you have enough information on to call the police (so sex, dress, location, demeanor) that probably tells you more about their likelihood to be violent than race (I’m not sure that’s true statistically, but that’s the claim).

            But when you call the police, you are getting a random police officer, so you should then use the statistics data that says police are racist and you should not use them for minor infractions (proportional to the amount of racism that statistics shows them to have).

            Presumably, if you have some information about your local police that shows they have better judgement than average, you should then feel freer to call them, rather than rely on your pattern recognition.

            Mulling this over, I think the problem is that this kind of precise statistical calculation is about as accurate as doing other utilitarian calculations on priors from posteriors and it will ultimately cash out into heuristics of turning a blind eye to black misbehavior, which might save a handful of lives per year but at the cost of increased victimhood of crime, mostly by other blacks.

            (I think in general you should not use the police as a first resort for minor infractions in any case, but the point has been raised above that perhaps there’s concern about patrons reacting dangerously after being threatened with police, presumably for “Late Chinese General” reasons. This is similar to why the security escorts even minor mannered employees out after firing them).

          • Iain says:

            @albatross11:

            I devil’s endorse my devil’s advocate. What Randy M said.

            My not-too-well-informed guess is that most whites are a lot better at guessing the social class of other whites than of blacks from dress, accent/diction, mannerisms, etc.

            Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is a perfect example of what people mean when they say “white privilege”.

            People being able to accurately assess that you are not sketchy is a meaningful advantage that white people have over black people. (I do not think the same holds true in reverse: by virtue of being the minority, black people get more practice distinguishing the social class of white people than vice versa.) Is it anybody’s fault? No. Is it a moral failing on the part of white people? Not on its own, no. (Once you’ve noticed it, of course, you presumably have a moral obligation to acknowledge and make allowances for your own inability.)

          • veeloxtrox says:

            Chiming in about the Right saying it is a mix but when it comes to policy time its all biology.

            I can only speak for my small white middle class Midwest upbringing. The most common reason I heard blamed is that black culture resulted in the bad outcomes and that if black culture was fixed it would give the biggest improvements. The second most common reason I heard was that the effects of selective breeding during slavery in the USA had resulted in a population of blacks that were on average more physically fit and less intelligent than whites.

          • Barely matters says:

            Everyone is already pretty sure they know what’s going on and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. No one wants to deal with uncomfortable doubt, so they just eliminate it, setting their own view at the maximum personal comfort* the evidence allows.

            I also don’t think this is what people are doing. I see the vast majority of commenters here admitting that they don’t actually know the breakdown of how much of the situation is caused by innate or biological factors and how much is culture. Within this very thread we’ve seen several “Right Wingers” allude to broken culture as well. The trouble is that in mainstream thought, both of those positions are “Racist” for reasons of disparate impact.

            Example, we both seem to agree that people should be judged not based on the colour of their skin, but on the content of their character, perfectly in line with what MLKjr advocated. This, I’m told, is a terrible and racist thing to say, because it ignores ‘context’.

            Likewise, when you say

            Harsher sentences for one gender for the same crime, and given the same prior factors based solely on the behavior of the individual charged, is unacceptable discrimination.

            Applying this standard to black people also gets labeled as racist on disparate impact grounds, and we’ve seen long discussions in open threads on algorithmic racism, because black people more often have more of those priors and behaviours that predict offending and reoffending.

            The key problem that I see is that we’re dealing with tradeoffs. Take auto insurance for example because it’s hard to get emotionally worked up about. You can say that charging men more due to the collective behaviour of their group is unfairly discriminating against them for their gender, but what else are you going to do? If you blind calculations to gender, then suddenly the women are in the unfair situation of having to subsidize men’s reckless driving habits. Both these plans cause different kinds of ‘injustice’ and both of them are unfortunate, but aside from putting facial recognition cameras and GPS trackers in every car, and collecting perfect data on risk factors for every driver from the moment they get their license (Which comes with it’s own suite of concerns and propensity for abuse), how do you plan to solve it without stepping on somebody’s toes?

            This is a hard, maybe intractable problem. The difference between the Left and Right approaches as it looks to me is that the Left is happy to solve those tradeoffs by just saying “Cool, well whites and men are already fine, so we’ll just tradeoff against them whenever there’s conflict”, and the modern Right goes “No, white people and men are just as deserving of equality as everyone else, so we’re stuck with the hard problem of tradeoffs”, which the Left considers betrayal, as this privileges the status quo. (This, with the understanding that I’m painting both sides with massively broad brushes and we may never meet a perfectly average group member who has all the traits and quirks of their ‘team’).

            I do agree with Onyomi that “Racist” isn’t a standalone argument at this point, because the societal context in which it is used is one where it is frequently employed as a fully general ‘I don’t like this and want to label you as someone radioactive who should be shunned’. So by the same standards that you can call “That sounds like something a racist would say”, he can reply with “And that sounds like something someone with no argument who just wants to shut me down with cheap rhetorical tricks would say”. And you would both be right. And conversation grinds to a halt, no progress is made, polarization increases, and it becomes that much harder to work towards a solution.

            The desire to judge people by the crimes of a group they superficially sound like without listening to what they say they mean is the same impulse that drives the racist discrimination that this whole conversation is about.

          • Barely matters says:

            Everyone is already pretty sure they know what’s going on and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. No one wants to deal with uncomfortable doubt, so they just eliminate it, setting their own view at the maximum personal comfort* the evidence allows.

            I also don’t think this is what people are doing. I see the vast majority of commenters here admitting that they don’t actually know the breakdown of how much of the situation is caused by innate or biological factors and how much is culture. Within this very thread we’ve seen several “Right Wingers” allude to broken culture as well. The trouble is that in mainstream thought, both of those positions are “Racist” for reasons of disparate impact.

            Example, we both seem to agree that people should be judged not based on the colour of their skin, but on the content of their character, perfectly in line with what MLKjr advocated. This, I’m told, is a terrible and racist thing to say, because it ignores ‘context’.

            Likewise, when you say:

            Harsher sentences for one gender for the same crime, and given the same prior factors based solely on the behavior of the individual charged, is unacceptable discrimination.

            Applying this standard to black people also gets labeled as racist on disparate impact grounds, and we’ve seen long discussions in open threads on algorithmic racism, because black people more often have more of those priors and behaviours that predict offending and reoffending.

            The key problem that I see is that we’re dealing with tradeoffs. Take auto insurance for example because it’s hard to get emotionally worked up about. You can say that charging men more due to the collective behaviour of their group is unfairly discriminating against them for their gender, but what else are you going to do? If you blind calculations to gender, then suddenly the women are in the unfair situation of having to subsidize men’s reckless driving habits. Both these plans cause different kinds of ‘injustice’ and both of them are unfortunate, but aside from putting facial recognition cameras and GPS trackers in every car, and collecting perfect data on risk factors for every driver from the moment they get their license (Which comes with it’s own suite of concerns and propensity for abuse), how do you plan to solve it without stepping on somebody’s toes?

            This is a hard, maybe intractable problem. The difference between the Left and Right approaches as it looks to me is that the Left is happy to solve those tradeoffs by just saying “Cool, well whites and men are already fine, so we’ll just tradeoff against them whenever there’s conflict”, and the modern Right goes “No, white people and men are just as deserving of equality as everyone else, so we’re stuck with the hard problem of tradeoffs”, which the Left considers betrayal, as this privileges the status quo. (This, with the understanding that I’m painting both sides with massively broad brushes and we may never meet a perfectly average group member who has all the traits and quirks of their ‘team’).

            I do agree with Onyomi that “Racist” isn’t a standalone argument at this point, because the societal context in which it is used is one where it is frequently employed as a fully general ‘I don’t like this and want to label you as someone radioactive who should be shunned’. So by the same standards that you can call “That sounds like something a racist would say”, he can reply with “And that sounds like something someone with no argument who just wants to shut me down with cheap rhetorical tricks would say”. And you would both be right. And conversation grinds to a halt, no progress is made, polarization increases, and it becomes that much harder to work towards a solution.

            The desire to judge people by the crimes of a group they superficially sound like without listening to what they say they mean is the same impulse that drives the racist discrimination that this whole conversation is about.

          • Barely matters says:

            Everyone is already pretty sure they know what’s going on and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. No one wants to deal with uncomfortable doubt, so they just eliminate it, setting their own view at the maximum personal comfort* the evidence allows.

            I also don’t think this is what people are doing. I see the vast majority of commenters here admitting that they don’t actually know the breakdown of how much of the situation is caused by innate or biological factors and how much is culture. Within this very thread we’ve seen several “Right Wingers” allude to broken culture as well. The trouble is that in mainstream thought, both of those positions are “Racist” for reasons of disparate impact.

            Example, we both seem to agree that people should be judged not based on the colour of their skin, but on the content of their character, perfectly in line with what M L K Jr advocated (Weird spacing because this post keeps hitting a filter, and I’m trying to figure out which term is setting it off). This, I’m told, is a terrible and racist thing to say, because it ignores ‘context’.

            Likewise, when you say

            Harsher sentences for one gender for the same crime, and given the same prior factors based solely on the behavior of the individual charged, is unacceptable discrimination.

            Applying this standard to black people also gets labeled as racist on disparate impact grounds, and we’ve seen long discussions in open threads on algorithmic racism, because black people more often have more of those priors and behaviours that predict offending and reoffending.

            The key problem that I see is that we’re dealing with tradeoffs. Take auto insurance for example because it’s hard to get emotionally worked up about. You can say that charging men more due to the collective behaviour of their group is unfairly discriminating against them for their gender, but what else are you going to do? If you blind calculations to gender, then suddenly the women are in the unfair situation of having to subsidize men’s reckless driving habits. Both these plans cause different kinds of ‘injustice’ and both of them are unfortunate, but aside from putting facial recognition cameras and GPS trackers in every car, and collecting perfect data on risk factors for every driver from the moment they get their license (Which comes with it’s own suite of concerns and propensity for abuse), how do you plan to solve it without stepping on somebody’s toes?

            This is a hard, maybe intractable problem. The difference between the Left and Right approaches as it looks to me is that the Left is happy to solve those tradeoffs by just saying “Cool, well whites and men are already fine, so we’ll just tradeoff against them whenever there’s conflict”, and the modern Right goes “No, white people and men are just as deserving of equality as everyone else, so we’re stuck with the hard problem of tradeoffs”, which the Left considers betrayal, as this privileges the status quo. (This, with the understanding that I’m painting both sides with massively broad brushes and we may never meet a perfectly average group member who has all the traits and quirks of their ‘team’).

            I do agree with Onyomi that “Racist” isn’t a standalone argument at this point, because the societal context in which it is used is one where it is frequently employed as a fully general ‘I don’t like this and want to label you as someone radioactive who should be shunned’. So by the same standards that you can call “That sounds like something a racist would say”, he can reply with “And that sounds like something someone with no argument who just wants to shut me down with cheap rhetorical tricks would say”. And you would both be right. And conversation grinds to a halt, no progress is made, polarization increases, and it becomes that much harder to work towards a solution.

            The desire to judge people by the crimes of a group they superficially sound like without listening to what they say they mean is the same impulse that drives the racist discrimination that this whole conversation is about.

          • Anonymous Bosch says:

            Example, we both seem to agree that people should be judged not based on the colour of their skin, but on the content of their character, perfectly in line with what M L K Jr advocated (Weird spacing because this post keeps hitting a filter, and I’m trying to figure out which term is setting it off). This, I’m told, is a terrible and racist thing to say, because it ignores ‘context’.

            King was an avowed socialist who endorsed affirmative action and economic reparations. Anyone shouting at you for ignoring “context” is extremely correct, because the “context” here is damn near everything else King ever said or wrote. The equivocation between “not judged” and “ignored” is annoying both for its frequency and for the sheer effort it takes to avoid the rest of King’s output and characterize him as endorsing colorblindness.

          • IrishDude says:

            I don’t think most of the right actually falls back on “it’s all biology.”

            I see systemic factors as a partial contributor to observed racial differences in behavior. Imagine a wealthy person offering any woman a million dollars if she had kids and didn’t get married. Imagine that he predominately made this offer to one subgroup of people, and what the effect of that would be after several generations.

            Welfare programs such as food stamps and section 8 housing are often contingent on being a single mother, such that the decision to get married becomes more costly. The introduction of these programs predominately impacted black families, and we saw marriage rates go from being somewhat equal between whites and blacks to large differences in marriage rates.

            Sowell has argued that “the black family, which had survived centuries of slavery and discrimination, began rapidly disintegrating in the liberal welfare state that subsidized unwed pregnancy and changed welfare from an emergency rescue to a way of life.”

            To the extent stable two-parent families lead to better behavior in children, and the welfare state disincentivised stable two-parent families disproportionately among blacks, there is increased dysfunction among the black population due to systemic state intervention.

          • Barely matters says:

            @Anonymous Bosch

            Cool, so then count me as ‘racist’.

            I’m not the sort of racist that thinks things like “certain races are inferior”, but I am the sort of racist who thinks things like “We should judge people by the content of their character, not the colour of their skin”.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @albatross11

            My not-too-well-informed guess is that most whites are a lot better at guessing the social class of other whites than of blacks from dress, accent/diction, mannerisms, etc.

            Definitely, that’s the thing. It also seems to affect how good people are at in interpreting demeanour? As in, is this guy eyeing me up? Does this guy seem like he’s having a mental health episode? Does this guy seem like maybe he’s on one of the bad kinds of drugs (you could fold drunk into this)? Does this guy seem sketchy, squirrelly, etc? White people are probably better at telling “rural white guy who listens to country music” from “rural white guy who just stole country-music guy’s stereo so he can buy meth” than they are at telling apart their black analogues.

            The obvious result of this is that black guys who are among the least sketchy guys in any given room get treated like they’re sketchy. A lot more unsketchy black guys have stories about getting hassled by the police as though they were sketchy than unsketchy white guys have equivalent stories.

            Of course, the complication to this hypothesis is that there’s little to no evidence that black cops don’t necessarily treat black people better. I’ve never really seen that one explained well.

          • albatross11 says:

            RandyM (advocating for a rather red-faced Iain who’s carrying a pitchfork around for some reason):

            To my mind, this is exactly the issue with using the statistics on either side of my example: People are *horrible* at this kind of intuitive probability calculation, especially when tribalism/ideology/etc. gets in the way. This makes me want to:

            a. Surface the tradeoff or discussion–make it explicit what we’re talking about.

            b. Find some kind of numbers that plausibly give us some clues about the matter. Even anecdote is fine if you have nothing better, but *count* the damned anecdotes.

            c. Shut up and multiply. Actually do the calculation to get at least a first-cut, back-of-the-envelope notion of what the numbers look like. The more we do this in the open, the better our calculations will get, and the more we’ll be able to reason about the limitations of our numbers. (Several people responding to my original numbers led to a lot more caveats and consideration of subtleties in using them, but that requires open discussion.)

            There are surely people who’ve build up heuristics based on some combination of experience and prejudice, and who are getting dumb answers as a result–like the little old lady who calls the cops every time she sees a black guy walk down the street because she’s convinced all black guys are criminals.

            However, even when we get our numbers right, we will face a tradeoff. We can make better decisions as individuals and institutionally by taking statistical differences into account. But this tends to screw over the best-performing members of the statistically disfavored groups.

            As a society, we make some tradeoffs there, like deciding to do less racial profiling and accept that maybe the police are less efficient, but also that they’re not hassling as many black guys who weren’t doing anything but walking down the street. But whenever we do, we run into another problem: it is often individually rational to take those statistical differences into account, even if we don’t want people to do so as a matter of policy[1]. That leaves us in a hard position, because in order to implement our policy, we’ve got to compel people to act irrationally. The usual way that seems to work out is that instead of allowing the person on the scene to exercise some judgment, you impose a strict fixed rule on everyone and have zero tolerance for deviations from the rule. That can work, but it has its own failure modes–think of “zero-tolerance” policies in schools for an example.

            [1] Note that there’s a whole other debate about whether and where governments should be imposing such policies, or whether they should even have the power to do so in some domains.

          • Nornagest says:

            White people are probably better at telling “rural white guy who listens to country music” from “rural white guy who just stole country-music guy’s stereo so he can buy meth” than they are at telling apart their black analogues.

            I’m not sure how true this is in context. It does seem like a big caveat if we’re talking about e.g. black guys getting hassled by cops while traveling to West Bumfuck, Tennessee, which is 94% white and 6% Hispanic and where everyone listens to country music or the Insane Clown Posse. But I don’t think anything like that has ever made the news on a large scale, not in the last few years at least.

            Usually when I see a story about some alleged racial persecution going down, it takes place in or near a big city and the villains are cops, cop-adjacent security workers, or retail workers. Whether or not they grew up familiar with the local mix of ethnicities, all three of those jobs involve constantly dealing with locals and require distinguishing sketchy locals from non-sketchy ones. I’d expect them to quickly learn the cultural cues needed to make that distinction, whatever background they come from and whichever color those locals happen to be.

          • mdet says:

            The left owns the culture, and any response to black underachievement that isn’t “it’s all whitey’s fault and here’s some more money” gets you shouted down for racism

            Look up any instance of Barack Obama talking about race and he hits all the same personal-responsibility, stay-in-school, raise-your-kids notes that you describe. I can say as a black person that most conversations between black people (who aren’t social justice types) put about equal weight on “It’s racism” and “Raise your kids right”. There is an assumption that conservatives / Republicans place zero weight on the racism side and all the weight on “Its your own fault”, and so someone on the Right saying the same thing as Obama will be taken in bad faith. But it isn’t actually the case that the culture / personal responsibility critique is entirely taboo.

            people should be judged not based on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character, perfectly in line with what M L K Jr advocated

            Seconding Anon Bosch, I once knew a white person who would call racism and cite Dr. King anytime I made any distinction between black and white people. Just a statement like “I am black and you are white” could sometimes get retorts like “No, we’re both human.” Which is clearly not what King intended, he has plenty of writings where he talks about “the White moderate”, or how black people need pride and self-love to make up for the indignities and disrespect suffered during slavery & Jim Crow.

            My answer to why black police don’t treat black civilians all that much better than white officers is that it’s mostly incentives. If you have a quota for the number of stops & tickets you have to make each month, then you gotta harass somebody. I’d like to think black cops can better tell a senator from a junkie though. Also I feel like some cops fall prey to the the Stanford Prison Experiment effect, where they believe their own hype about having to do whatever it takes to maintain order. I hear the Stanford incident doesn’t hold much weight as a real “experiment” though, so not sure if this even counts for anything.

          • Iain says:

            @albatross11:

            Data (especially question 3). More here (especially “key findings” 3 and 5) and here.

            Here’s a data-heavy analysis of one situation where police disproportionately charge black people. Here‘s more detail about their methodology.

            Here‘s another study showing that black people are far more likely to be handcuffed than white people in cases where no charges are laid.

            Surfacing the trade-offs is only important if we’re currently at a local maximum, where we can’t improve along one axis without taking a step back along another. It’s not at all clear to me that we are at that point. I don’t think it is reasonable to frame the entire problem as zero-sum without justifying that assumption. For example, looping back to the Starbucks incident that started this whole mess, there is plenty of room for better treatment of innocent black men before we have to worry about an inability to punish the guilty.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nornagest

            The argument is usually that some % of this failure is due to irrational prejudice, isn’t it?

          • skef says:

            I don’t think most of the right actually falls back on “it’s all biology.”

            I didn’t say that. I said that the policies that most on the right go on to propose are those one would expect from someone who believes that “it’s all biology”.

            More to the point, though, the cause of group differences is often irrelevant for policy responses. When trying to decide whether we need to alter the way the justice system interacts with blacks due to the higher black crime rate, large number of blacks in prison, etc., I don’t think the ultimate cause of those differences matters much.

            This is one bogus rationale for sliding from “some differences come from nature” to “let’s act as if they all do”. It comes close to saying “to the extent that these differences are based on prejudice, well … that’s the other folks problem.” Someone benefiting from Affirmative Action could say the same thing, but then somehow it’s a whole different story.

          • cassander says:

            @skef says:

            I didn’t say that. I said that the policies that most on the right go on to propose are those one would expect from someone who believes that “it’s all biology”.

            How would you tell the difference between a policy based on “A lot of it is biology” vs. one based on “It’s all biology”?

          • skef says:

            In higher stakes situations, like walking down a city street at 1am, I’m going to use my judgments based on statistical patterns to adjust my behavior.

            Another thing that’s seems true right now is that we’re all having a hard time just being grumpy about one another, and letting it stay at that.

            If I’m walking at night and a woman crosses the street to avoid crossing my path, maybe I’ll be a little grumpy about that. “What did I do?” But it doesn’t really affect me beyond that. A society in which we were only grumpy with a subset of other people in it would be a relative paradise.

            Deferentially (not) giving someone a job, or (not) calling the police on them, or (not) giving them a university slot, affect the person much more. So I’m not sure what the kinds of examples you raise are supposed to tell us. It seems to me like you’re saying “I agree, but … ” and then agreeing more.

            [I think the “grumpy” standard counts against demands for cake-baking in practice. I don’t share the anger about the lawsuit because it’s just following through how our legal system actually sorts through these problems. It might be better to have a little agency deciding how many miles is too many to drive for a wedding cake, and then intervening somehow in those cases. But the law is just set up to decide “OK or not OK in all individual cases”. The people filing the lawsuits didn’t design the system this way.]

          • John Schilling says:

            For that matter, what would be the differences between policy proposals for “100% biology” and “100% culture”? Particularly given the likelihood that a white person proposing deliberate re-engineering of “black culture” will A: accomplish nothing and B: be accused of racism in the process.

          • skef says:

            The right also blames culture and individual choice for lack of minority success. For instance, Larry Elder’s three rules for dramatically improving black outcomes: don’t do drugs, stay in school, don’t have kids out of wedlock.

            Advice to a group is not a policy in the sense I’m using the term, on either the governmental or individual level. Calling the police on group A under different circumstances than group B is a kind of personal policy. Telling them to stay in school may be annoying, but it’s just more speech. So this observation doesn’t really relate to what I’m talking about.

          • Aapje says:

            @dndnrsn

            if the cops abandoned racism and just put all their energy into classism, I think a lot of people would stop complaining about the cops.

            How could people tell the difference, when black people are lower class/poor more often than white people? You’d still get disparate impact.

          • skef says:

            Sure, I may benefit from that taboo in the same way an atheist challenging Church orthodoxy in the middle ages would benefit from tabooing words like “sin” or “heresy,” but that wouldn’t necessarily mean “sin” and “heresy” were useful concepts for getting closer to the truth.

            To go back to the original point: what truth?

            Plain old racists talk like you do now because of the negative social consequences of more overt racism. Treating everyone who talks that way plausibly marginalizes plain old racists. It’s generally agreed that plain old racists are a problem when not marginalized.

            Maybe there are other people who also get marginalized in my process. Is that fair? Oh, well hey look: you don’t actually care about what’s fair. Fairness doesn’t come into it, just group outcomes. So what’s all the belly-aching about?

          • Aapje says:

            My position is that people have only a limited willingness to act against their own interests.

            That many instances that are called racism are people acting to what they think is their interests.

            That if you tell these people that they are racists, a few will change their behavior, but most will not, because their intent is honestly not to harm other races. Because of this, many will also become resentful.

            That if their perception is wrong, we should tell people that, so they can update their stereotypes mental model of the world.

            That if their perception is correct, we should not lie to people about that, because people will then lose trust, feel that you are being racist against them and will ignore you even if you tell them about their actually wrong perceptions and about many other things. Basically, you get the bad consequences of a low trust society.

            Instead, we should tailor a solution to the specific issue. For example, given that black people truly tip less, one can:
            1. Teach tipping norms in schools to everyone, to create a shared norm for all of society.
            2. Put some (respectful) pressure on servers to perhaps not give the greatest service, but to accept limited losses for the good cause.
            3. Tell black people some hard truths like: “If you want to be treated as whites by servers, you should treat servers like white people do. You are an ambassador for your community” (or another story that works, this should ideally be tested for effectiveness first)
            4. Reduce tipping by everyone, for example by mandating that servers get paid a decent wage by their employer, telling people honestly about the costs and benefits of this change.

            In short, treat people like adults and with respect.

          • skef says:

            Everyone is already pretty sure they know what’s going on and doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. No one wants to deal with uncomfortable doubt, so they just eliminate it, setting their own view at the maximum personal comfort* the evidence allows.

            I also don’t think this is what people are doing. I see the vast majority of commenters here admitting that they don’t actually know the breakdown of how much of the situation is caused by innate or biological factors and how much is culture. Within this very thread we’ve seen several “Right Wingers” allude to broken culture as well. The trouble is that in mainstream thought, both of those positions are “Racist” for reasons of disparate impact.

            I’m arguing that everyone implicitly works back from “I deserve the good things that I most associate with my identity, and do not deserve the bad things I’ve received, and the good things I’ve been deprived of that I most associate with my identity.”

            In the present environment, people on the left “work back” further to blank-slatism. The lines of backward implication stretch less far on the right. But in both cases you see the expected effects on policy attitudes: What has, would, or might advantage me* is ultimately sensible, and what has, would, or might disadvantage me is ultimately discriminatory. So the “difficult problem” of deciding what should happen in the presence of doubt somehow always works out in a predictable way. The epistemic difference would only be significant to policy if more people were working forward from it, rather than backward towards it.

            * I intend “what” here in a non-necessary sense that allows for corner cases. We could sit here listing exceptions. My claim is that they would be evidently minor enough to prove the rule.

          • skef says:

            How would you tell the difference between a policy based on “A lot of it is biology” vs. one based on “It’s all biology”?

            The simplest example: Consider interventions to influence unequal outcomes, and a person who believes that

            1) The outcomes in question are due to a mixture of biological and social factors.

            2) The current interventions have as a premise that all unequal outcomes are due to social factors.

            Absent other considerations, I would expect such a person to advocate for a lower, but not zero, level of intervention. Some kind of balance, taking into account the inherent doubt in the situation.

          • albatross11 says:

            skef:

            What you said earlier was:
            But then when you get to actual policies, the right abandons the pretense and clearly thinks that everything significant is explained by biological rather than social mechanisms. (The “we’ve already dealt with all of that, nature is what’s left” position.)

            That’s just not true. As an example, NCLB (a policy of the George W Bush administration) was an attempt to raise educational standards and performance in the worst schools, which were mostly black and hispanic. This is not a policy you’d see proposed by people who thought the then-current performance gap in education was based on unchangeable biological differences.

          • skef says:

            One could quibble, but I’m largely OK with labeling NCLB as an exception to what I’m saying, if it were coming from the right. But Bush Sr. seems at best a very moderate Republican, certainly by today’s standards. And the law passed with very broad bipartisan support — the usual sign of a political compromise.

            The criticisms cited on the Wikipedia page are mostly from the right and mostly have the expected content.

          • albatross11 says:

            skef:

            Large sets of counterexamples to your claim:

            a. Whites who support affirmative action programs in education. In 2014, that was about 55% of whites. Pew Center poll. That’s a lot of people saying “Me and my relatives ought to have a harder time getting into top colleges in order to address some major social problems.”

            b. In the same poll, 8% of blacks and 15% of hispanics opposed affirmative action. Those are substantial numbers of people explicitly saying “Me and my relatives ought not to get an advantage getting into top colleges because it’s not fair or causes other problems downstream.”

            That’s not a narrow exception; we’re talking about tens of millions of people.

          • albatross11 says:

            skef:

            Okay, so what mainstream policy proposals of the right make sense with a model of 100% biological explanation for the statistical differences between blacks and whites, but not with a mixed biological/cultural explanation? I can’t think of many.

            I can’t think of any, but maybe I’m missing something.

          • skef says:

            Ok, yes, those are exceptions to what I’ve said that show I’ve oversimplified. The polarization is along an axis often referred to as left/right, and people don’t automatically wind up on one side or the other based entirely on their personal interests.

            However, the gaps in the model I have described (with respect to present U.S. culture, which is all I’m talking about here) seem to be mostly on the left. So it would be better (for my point) to argue that this is another element of the polarization: Those on the left (who are there for whatever reason) start with the premise that equality of outcome is good, and wind up arguing back to blank-slatism because any other view would create problems for that “conclusion”. Those on the right are OK with inequality of outcome, especially (and implicitly) when it comes to the beneficial inequality of their own outcome, but not so much when it comes to their detrimental inequality. As a result, there is no negotiable middle with respect to policy.

          • skef says:

            Okay, so what mainstream policy proposals of the right make sense with a model of 100% biological explanation for the statistical differences between blacks and whites, but not with a mixed biological/cultural explanation? I can’t think of many.

            What is the standard for “makes sense”? If it is “not contradictory to the evidence” that doesn’t help: doubt (which is not the same thing as a frequentist credence, and bears a complex relationship to a Baysian credence at best) doesn’t support a contradiction.

            But making that the relevant standard is just begging the question: “We’re not sure what’s going on here, so let’s just structure things to my (or group X’s) benefit.” Why?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Aapje

            How could people tell the difference, when black people are lower class/poor more often than white people? You’d still get disparate impact.

            That they catch the same hassles as lower-class black people, or at least to a greater degree compared to their white equivalents, means that the black and middle class are more likely to be sympathetic to the black lower class, again compared. Disparate impact would still be a thing, but unsketchy black guys wouldn’t have the unpleasant experience of habitually getting hassled – and so there would be one less thing they had in common with poor black guys.

          • albatross11 says:

            skef:

            You made a claim that the right makes policies that demonstrate that they clearly think that everything significant is explained by biological rather than social mechanisms.

            I disagreed and suggested as a counterexample a major policy initiative by the last Republican president. Then you declared him not really on the right so you could discard my example. (No *true* right winger puts two sugars in his educational policy.)

            Then, I asked you to suggest a mainstream right wing policy that actually demonstrates a belief in a biological bases for differences in outcomes between blacks and whites.

            If it’s so obvious that right wing policies reflect that belief, then it should be pretty easy to propose examples.

          • onyomi says:

            Because nobody calls the cops on a randomly selected unfamiliar black person.

            You call the cops on a specific person for doing a specific thing.

            @Iain

            Yes, one calls the cops on a gestalt impression of an individual presenting many features all at once, not on an abstract category or particular feature alone, and the high rate of coincidence of various features makes it hard to disentangle causation.

            That said, I do think the brain, mostly subconsciously, very quickly, goes through operations like “male, y/n? if y adjust threat perception +40” “well-dressed, y/n? if n, adjust threat perception +40” “large and muscular, y/n? if y adjust threat perception +50,” “acting belligerent, y/n? if y adjust threat perception +80″… (Scott can tell me all the ways this is wrong).

            As for making a simple judgment call like “is person doing something wrong, y/n? if y, call cops, if n don’t call cops,” I think that is oversimplified. People call the cops when they fear they can’t safely handle a situation themselves. If a small, elderly lady starts grousing when I tell her she has to buy something to use the restroom, that is going to cause a different perception of threat based on my knowledge of groups “small people,” “the elderly” and “women,” relative to my priors about groups “large people,” “youth,” and “men.”

            Soon after the Starbucks thing, a bunch of editorials came out with titles like “Unpacking White Fear,” basically making it sound as if, for many white brains, seeing black skin, in addition to whatever other characteristics or behaviors, makes it go “THREAT LEVEL +9000.” I’m saying it is probably more like “black skin, y/n? if y threat level +30” or something not massively incommensurate with the fact white people know that black people commit more crimes, and not way out of proportion to the similar sort of calculations people make about young people, men, etc. (btw, though I’m white, my prior on Asians being threatening is like, -20 relative to whites, so I don’t think it’s just me fearing “melanated others”).

            Such articles strike me as “gaslighting” by basically telling people whose actual internal heuristics probably aren’t all that out of whack “you are subconsciously doing a +9000 threat calculation on all black people when you should be doing a +0.” Editorials on such events usually don’t even attempt to prove that a white person wouldn’t have been treated the same way had he behaved the same way in the same situation (as many have pointed out, the cops are dicks to everyone, especially anyone who refuses to respect their authoritah), much less that white fear of black people is out of proportion to their actual probability of being victimized by a black criminal. They start by begging the questions that “a, a white person would have somehow got away with the same behavior, or at least got off lighter” and “b, perceiving black people as any more threatening than white people is irrational.” Yet somehow I doubt these same authors rail against women for clutching their purses tighter in the presence of large, young men as opposed to small, old women.

            Do some white people have an irrationally extreme fear of being victimized by a black criminal? Surely. If they are calling the police on nicely-dressed black people who are just strolling down the street minding their own business should they stop doing that? Yes.

            And if I saw one editorial saying “black people need to do x, y, or z to reduce the criminality problem in their communities” for every three articles saying “white people need to stop being irrationally frightened of black people” maybe the latter wouldn’t seem so unreasonable. As it is, the mainstream culture of late feels like an episode at Amy’s Baking Company where everyone is operating based on the premise that Amy is a super-patient, reasonable person, her restaurant is amazing, and any customer who feels otherwise is insane or malicious.

            It is possible that I exist in some sort of Blue tribe white bubble where all my facebook friends constantly link all the “white guys ruin everything” articles and none of the “black people, we need to get our act together” articles, so if mdet or someone else wants to link me examples of e.g. Obama talking about race and emphasizing the black community’s need to focus on personal responsibility, staying in school, raising your kids right, etc. that might adjust my priors somewhat.

          • skef says:

            albatross11: As far as I remember, Bush never talked much about nature versus nurture. This is a conversation about the range of doubt relating to that issue. What can I say about cases in which the subject isn’t actually part of the conversation*?

            I’ll make this simple: take anyone arguing for “human b**diversity” and look at what they actually support on a policy level.

            Here’s one example, from someone you may have heard of:

            It doesn’t have to be this way. Nobody has any real policy disagreements. Everyone can just agree that men and women are equal, that they both have the same rights, that nobody should face harassment or discrimination. We can relax the Permanent State Of Emergency around too few women in tech, and admit that women have the right to go into whatever field they want, and that if they want to go off and be 80% of veterinarians and 74% of forensic scientists, those careers seem good too. We can appreciate the contributions of existing women in tech, make sure the door is open for any new ones who want to join, and start treating each other as human beings again. Your co-worker could just be your co-worker, not a potential Nazi to be assaulted or a potential Stalinist who’s going to rat on you. Your project manager could just be your project manager, not the person tasked with monitoring you for signs of thoughtcrime. Your female co-worker could just be your female co-worker, not a Badass Grrl Coder Who Overcomes Adversity. Your male co-worker could just be your male co-worker, not a Tool Of The Patriarchy Who Denies His Complicity In Oppression. I promise there are industries like this. Medicine is like this! Loads of things are like this! Lots of tech companies are even still like this! This could be you.

            This is towards the end of an article in which Scott takes great pains to point out that he’s only arguing for some degree of relevant difference. (From his comment below: “The question isn’t whether any of it is due to stereotypes. The question is whether any of it isn’t. I think there’s good evidence that the parts that aren’t are the main determining factors right now.”) From this equivocal data he concludes that it’s primarily about “interest”, and suggests the paragraph above, in which the only relevant policy is “making sure to keep the door open”. In other words: nothing proactive. “Sure, there may be some stereotype stuff, but I’m pretty sure it’s not relevant [Why? How does the cited empirical evidence support that conclusion?] so we shouldn’t try to do anything about it.”

            This is from a guy who otherwise takes the greatest pains to be as balanced as possible.

            I’m not sure how one would generalize the observation to arguments that don’t have the nature/nuture question as part of their explicit content. Doing that would require projecting unstated attitudes on the participants. What I’m saying is that when it does come up, the policy proposals from those arguing for some attribution to nature almost always look like this. “Things may have been different in the past, but now outcome differences are “best” explained by biological difference.”, where “best” means “not entirely, but any gaps have no practical consequence”.

            So if we want to talk counter-examples, that’s the type we need to find: “human b**diversity” advocates (and we can add in gender issues as a possibly independent category) arguing for balanced policies. I always look out for this, and so far I’ve always been disappointed.

            * Added: I also think things are far worse now on this front now than they were even a decade ago.

          • Brad says:

            @skef

            In other words, this seems to be another protest against noticing patterns.

            Like the pattern of people saying this sort of thing often being plain old racists?

            This is a highly underappreciated post. We have a bunch of people that go ballistic over being pattern matched as despicable racists using a pretty good heuristic (“not allowed to notice” or variants thereof) defending on the basis of heuristics pattern matching young black men as likely criminals.

          • onyomi says:

            @Brad

            Yet I’m pretty sure all us right-wing probable-racists here largely agree with IrishDude that “a five-minute conversation with people is more useful to knowing what someone’s about than any superficial physical characteristic they may have…”

            Online forum posts are not a situation analogous to making a split-second irl decision about someone you’ve never met before. They are more analogous to a very slow conversation.

          • skef says:

            onyomi:

            That’s just nuts. Participation in online forums like this is highly performative. Many people consciously cultivate personas, others hone rhetoric for use in other contexts. A few people have just recently admitted to maintaining different styles on here versus the reddit. This isn’t window-into-the-soul territory.

            If it helps: all in all, you do sound kinda racist to me.

          • albatross11 says:

            skef:

            My whole point is that human b–diversity is not even remotely a mainstream position on the right. And as a result, mainstream policy positions on the right mostly don’t look like the kind of thing that someone like Steve Sailer or Greg Cochran would propose.

          • albatross11 says:

            Brad:

            Anyone who goes ballistic at being called a racist has probably long since given up on arguing politics on the internet. Similar things apply to all sorts of other labels.

            After all the time I’ve been arguing issues here, I’d at least like to think that if someone’s going to label me, they could do it with a bit more precision, though. “Racist” could mean anything from running around in white sheets burning crosses in peoples’ yards to knowing what the IQ distribution look like.

          • Barely matters says:

            If your definition of racism encompasses what Onyomi is describing of the process of evaluating threat, then your definition includes things that aren’t even bad or unreasonable. I’d prefer if we didn’t water the term down to meaninglessness and frivolity, but you do you.

            I somehow don’t expect that anyone is surprised that Brad wants to call everyone within shouting range racist like the term is going out of style.

          • albatross11 says:

            skef:

            (After thinking about this a bit more)

            If you’re looking among human b–diversity advocates, then yes, you’re going to get a lot of policy proposals based on assumptions of a biological basis for racial/gender/etc. differences. Not always even there, but at least a lot of the time, since within that set of people, the idea that those differences have a genetic basis is pretty common.

            As an example of a place where the policy doesn’t seem to turn on genetic/environmental hypotheses, consider educational policy. I’d like to see tracking on intellectual ability. But the school doesn’t need to worry about average IQs by racial group–they’ve got the kids right there, they can give them tests, observe them in class, talk to them, etc. So track the kids by ability as individuals. Don’t stop tracking when your tracks end up with skewed racial numbers. On the other hand, do work extra hard to make sure what you’re measuring with your tests is ability, rather than (say) the parents’ ability to help with homework, or culture, or native language, or whatever. The same policy seems sensible in a world where racial IQ differences are 100% environmental or 100% genetic–we still want to get the smartest kids into the fast-track so we can get them first-rate educations, and we still want to give everyone an education that’s suited for their abilities. All the information you can get there from race or from heritability of IQ (so that I expect you to be smart because your two older brothers are smart) can be better acquired by just giving you some tests and seeing how you do in class.

            Another example along the same lines is affirmative action in education. There are some predictions you can make about how that’s likely to work out, given the IQ and school performance distributions for different racial groups. (And I think the data is consistent with those predictions.) Those predictions lead me to think AA programs are generally a bad policy[1][2]. But I don’t see why the question of whether those IQ/educational performance differences across races are genetic or environmental would change that much.

            You can imagine other policies where it would matter. For example, immigration policy might look different if you think some groups are genetically going to have lower-IQ grandchildren than others. Though if that’s your concern, it’s way more important to make the immigration system selective in terms of education and intelligence. The PhD economist couple from Nigeria will probably be having some bright kids regardless of the average IQ in Nigeria.

            [1] Though I’d also say that in terms of its actual importance in the world, affirmative action in college admissions gets about 100x as much attention as it deserves. Probably without it, we’d have more black/hispanic engineers and scientists, but it’s mostly not all that big a deal.

            [2] The best argument I know in favor of AA for Ivy League schools: The Ivy League is the ruling class’ educational system. Since we’re going to need some black and hispanic members of the ruling class, it would be good if we managed to get the future likely members of the ruling class that kind of education, so they’d be prepared.

          • skef says:

            But the school doesn’t need to worry about average IQs by racial group–they’ve got the kids right there, they can give them tests, observe them in class, talk to them, etc. So track the kids by ability as individuals. Don’t stop tracking when your tracks end up with skewed racial numbers.

            This sounds reasonable to me as stated. Of course, to be the case on the actual, individual level you would have to be personally OK with the way your kid winds up being tracked, which tends to be the rub with tracking in the U.S.

            However, I would call what you have described “neutral”, and as such I’m not sure what it demonstrates. It’s premised only on the idea that there are individual cognitive differences (which only a tiny fringe on the left would dispute) and that educational speed and style should be sensitive to them. The interesting cases are those in which the evidence doesn’t support strong conclusions, and you’ve basically stipulated that away:

            On the other hand, do work extra hard to make sure what you’re measuring with your tests is ability, rather than (say) the parents’ ability to help with homework, or culture, or native language, or whatever.

            Suppose that you just can’t be sure what your test is measuring? So you have some doubt about whether you’re measuring student ability or something else. Then what?

            On a closely related topic, what should we make of our host’s fairly recent argument to what appears to be the opposite conclusion, that although IQ is an individually applied measurement, it isn’t proper to make inferences about individuals from it? Apparently it’s only good for deciding to give up on black people, or something.

            (Is this uncharitable? I admit to acting out an extended spit take while reading that piece. I’m guessing that in the heat of the tracking-meeting moment, “group” might wind up applying to other folks kids, while “individual” would apply to one’s own kid.)

          • Brad says:

            @albatross11

            Anyone who goes ballistic at being called a racist has probably long since given up on arguing politics on the internet. Similar things apply to all sorts of other labels.

            Ballistic is perhaps not the right word, but there are certainly people that much less causing them to quit arguing politics on the internet, draw motivation to post at great volume by their offense at being considered racist or likely racist by others in their society.

            After all the time I’ve been arguing issues here, I’d at least like to think that if someone’s going to label me, they could do it with a bit more precision, though. “Racist” could mean anything from running around in white sheets burning crosses in peoples’ yards to knowing what the IQ distribution look like.

            Do you think we should taboo “SJW” and its varients?

          • albatross11 says:

            Iain:

            First, thanks for adding data to the conversation. I think there’s pretty good evidence that blacks experience worse treatment at the hands of the cops than whites. It’s not at all clear to me how to quantify that, which is what we’d need to do to work out whether we should be substantially more reluctant to call the cops on a black guy than a white guy.

            Second, I don’t think we can know whether we’ve got a pareto-improvement available without looking at the data in ways that really come down to surfacing the tradeoff.

          • IrishDude says:

            Deferentially (not) giving someone a job, or (not) calling the police on them, or (not) giving them a university slot, affect the person much more [than making someone grumpy]. So I’m not sure what the kinds of examples you raise are supposed to tell us. It seems to me like you’re saying “I agree, but … ” and then agreeing more.

            It was just a response to your statement “No, I think that people should be treated based on their own personal behavior.” I agree that people ought to be treated on the basis of their personal behavior, for moral and pragmatic reasons. But you can’t always completely observe personal behavior, or have a 5-minute conversation, and yet in many situations you still need to form judgments and make decisions. What then? I think it reasonable then to use what other information you have to form your priors, and in higher stakes more costly situations, act on those priors. And that includes statistical discrimination on the basis of things like age, gender, height, weight, clothing style, and in some situations, race.

          • skef says:

            I agree that people ought to be treated on the basis of their personal behavior, for moral and pragmatic reasons. But you can’t always completely observe personal behavior, or have a 5-minute conversation, and yet in many situations you still need to form judgments and make decisions. What then? I think it reasonable then to use what other information you have to form your priors, and in higher stakes more costly situations, act on those priors.

            The judgments in particular cases are going to depend on just what those “moral and pragmatic reasons” are for the person making the judgment. (Not to mention what someone takes to be “higher stakes”.)

            For example I suspect that it is not just moral but also pragmatic, on the large scale, that in the U.S. we all (excepting the fast-tracked) go through roughly the same process at the airport scanners. Other people definitely don’t think this.

            In short: no one in this discussion necessarily disagrees with what you’re saying; the debate is about specifics that lie well within these general principles.

            One specific that I would argue for: The moral and pragmatic reasons often call for not guessing based on demographic factors in the absence of information specific to the person. Not always, but often.

          • IrishDude says:

            One specific that I would argue for: The moral and pragmatic reasons often call for not guessing based on demographic factors in the absence of information specific to the person. Not always, but often.

            I agree, because most situations people encounter are low stakes where forming the wrong judgment isn’t costly. However, there are some specific places I think it reasonable to use demographics to form judgments:

            Car insurance, where rates are set in part based on age and gender. Any given young person or male may be a safer driver than an older person or female, but car insurance companies can’t easily directly observe this without several years of driving history, and even with several years of driving history age and gender may still have predictive power. Ignoring age and gender either leads to charging young males too little and losing money on them, possibly leading to bankruptcy, or charging too much to older females, creating unfairness in a less justifiable way and probably losing business from that demographic.

            Israeli airport security, where they engage in profiling based on observed behavior as well as in part on “age, race, religion and destination.” Getting security wrong in Israel means people die, so the stakes are high. Security is also a scarce resource, and employing it inefficiently leads to much higher costs, both financially for Israel and for low-risk groups being unfairly hassled, so being discriminating in how it’s employed is reasonable. It would be unwise to solely focus on demographics, as that can lead to changes in terrorist tactics and create obvious holes in security, but it seems unwise to completely ignore demographics as well.

            Hiring. I’m not an employer, but if I was and I was looking for a long-term employee I might be more hesitant to hire a 75 year old than a 30 year old, based on predictions on how long each employee would stick around. Ignoring age could lead to a costly decision to hire, train, and spend significant resources on someone that might not be around long enough to get positive gains from that investment. Maybe other factors on the resume or in an interview dominate my priors on age, such that I’d hire the 75 year old, but it seems unreasonable to me to ignore age as one factor.

          • albatross11 says:

            skef:

            The best way I know to check your selection mechanisms for advanced classes is to check how well kids from different groups do in the advanced classes.

            Suppose you select according to apparently neutral criteria, and find that black kids in the advanced classes outperform everyone else. That would suggest that maybe your tests were underestimating the abilities of black students. On the other hand, suppose you select according to apparently neutral criteria and find that black kids in the advanced classes do worse than everyone else. That would suggest that maybe your tests were overestimating the abilities of black students.

            Then, you get to decide whether you’re more comfortable with neutral criteria (which are the most defensible to parents who want to know why their kid is in the slow class, and probably the most defensible in court) or with different criteria by race or social class or whatever else (which are harder to defend in court/public, but maybe will get kids into classes that fit them better).

            At the very least, collecting and analyzing that data would make it possible to tell whether your selection criteria for advanced classes was giving reasonable answers.

          • albatross11 says:

            Brad:

            If “SJW” is used as a one-word dismissal of an argument or a person, then yes, we should taboo the word or at least expect some further explanation of what we mean when the word is used.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Do you think we should taboo “SJW” and its varients?

            It often adds way more heat than light. It’s not that I think that term never applies to anyone, but it gets applied very easily and disrupts conversation.

        • albatross11 says:

          Dealing only with the object-level question of how much risk of getting killed you impose on someone by calling the cops on them:

          [TL;DR About 1/10000 of arrests of blacks lead to them getting killed by the cops; about 0.83/10000 arrests of whites lead to them getting killed by the cops. So the risk isn’t nothing, but it’s not super high.]

          The probability of a black person being killed when you call the police on him for trespassing is *extremely* low–much lower than ordinary risks people take every day.

          From the Washington Post’s database of fatal police shootings of civilians in 2017, we get that a total of 987 people were shot by the police, of which 223 were black. There are about 37 million blacks in the US, so the actual risk for a black person of getting killed by the police is extremely low. There were also about 7800 murders of blacks in 2016. If we assume about the same number in 2017, then a black person should be about 38 times as worried about being murdered by a criminal than a policeman.

          From this FBI crime stats table, in 2016, blacks were arrested about 2.2 million times total. Just doing a straight division, that gives us an estimate of

          P(shot by cops | black and arrested ) = (223/2.2E6) ~= 1/10000

          (For reference, using the same numbers)

          There were 457 whites shot dead by the police in 2017. There were 5.9 million arrests of whites in 2016, so assuming about the same number in 2017, we can estimate

          P(shot by cops | white, arrested) = 457/5.9E6 ~= 0.83/10000

          The probabilities are quite close. (Blacks get arrested at a much higher rate, which is why the picture still isn’t wonderful.)

          For blacks, that’s about a one in ten thousand chance of being shot each time they get arrested (and about 83% of that chance for whites each time they get arrested). That’s not nothing, but it’s still pretty damned low. And that incorporates arrests for really serious crimes at the scene of the crime, where there’s a high probability of things going wrong. Intuitively, the probability of being shot when you’re being peacefully arrested at Starbucks because you wouldn’t leave when the manager told you to has got to be lower than that.

          The numbers for total deaths from police shootings, overall, are surely too high, and should be brought down. But they’re also not a significant part of an average black persons’s actual risk of dying this year, either. It’s not quite as far down as terrorism or mass shooting or being done in by an assault chair, but it’s way overstated.

          • albatross11 says:

            This is the FBI table I tried to link to–I am not sure why it failed.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Also, you’re only considering arrests. The chances of an encounter with police leading to a shooting are even lower than the 1/10000 number you give here. In a situation such as this an arrest is uncertain. The police could also show up, say “move along” and the men comply, no arrest occurring.

            I think the escalation to calling the police was unnecessarily swift, but I agree that “because the cops might kill them” is not a likely enough outcome to merit consideration.

          • lvlln says:

            Huh, going by your analysis, that means blacks are about 20% or 1/5 more likely to be killed during an arrest than whites are. Not huge, but not trivial either. I wonder how much it makes sense to adjust one’s behavior on calling the cops depending on the race of the person you think needs being arrested. Would it be something like, if you ran into 5 situations with black people, where if they’d been white you’d definitely call the cops, in 1 of them, you should refrain from calling the cops?

            Also, the 20% difference seems small enough that I wonder if other factors surrounding the arrest, such as the crime being allegedly committed, might dominate that race factor in determining likelihood of an arrest attempt ending in death.

          • christhenottopher says:

            Also, the 20% difference seems small enough that I wonder if other factors surrounding the arrest, such as the crime being allegedly committed, might dominate that race factor in determining likelihood of an arrest attempt ending in death.

            Well, just looking at the table albatross11 provided, I’d say probably yes. Black crime skews more violent and armed than white. Blacks are ~27% of total arrests, ~38% of violent crime arrests, and ~42% of weapon carrying arrests. I’d be very surprised if there was no correlation between violent crime/weapon possession arrests and police shootings.

          • Randy M says:

            Would it be something like, if you ran into 5 situations with black people, where if they’d been white you’d definitely call the cops, in 1 of them, you should refrain from calling the cops?

            It shouldn’t be such a binary decision; if you are exactly at the borderline for the threshold of deciding that you need police assistance, then maybe it would factor in, but most such instances you would probably be well to one side and the slight increase in risk will not be a deciding factor.

            This is like the drug studies that find Wellbeyou gives a 50% increase in spontaneous human combustion. That sounds like a reason to avoid it, unless you find out the numbers are 3 in 100,000 versus 2 in 100,000 for the general population.

          • Iain says:

            @albatross11:

            A small chance of dying presumably correlates with a larger chance of non-fatal police brutality. There is a spectrum of potential negative consequences, death being only the most extreme example.

            Also, if we assume that police are exhibiting some level of racial bias, then it is likely that the number of black people arrested is also inflated. If white people are less likely to get arrested for doing the same thing, then your denominator is off: what we really care about is P(shot by cops | doing something that would get a white person arrested).

            (Obviously those numbers aren’t available, and I think it’s good that you crunched the ones that are. I’m just saying that these estimates should not be taken as the final word.)

            @christhenottopher:

            I don’t think that explanation is consistent with the data here showing that unarmed victims of police shootings are disproportionately likely to be minorities.

          • christhenottopher says:

            @Iain

            I don’t think that explanation is consistent with the data here showing that unarmed victims of police shootings are disproportionately likely to be minorities.

            Actually it still is since violent crime doesn’t need to be armed.

            Though maybe we should head off this discussion since it’s already happened on this blog.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m not claiming my back-of-the-envelope calculation is the final word on anything.

            It’s just that it’s common to see ideas like “you shouldn’t call the police on a black guy in any but the most dire situation, because he’s liable to get shot” bounced around, and I think it’s useful to run a few numbers as a sanity check. As best I can tell (from this and other attempts to look at available statistics and research), blacks commit crimes at a much higher rate than whites, and get arrested at a much higher rate than whites. But once arrested, they seem to get shot at pretty close to the same rate as whites–my back of the envelope calculation here shows about 20% higher, though it’s approximate enough that I don’t have much confidence in that number.

            There was also a paper by Ronald Fryer that drew from three big-city police departments’ records, and found that when you adjusted for the situation of the arrest, blacks and whites had the same rate of being shot by the police, but blacks had a higher rate of pretty much every other unpleasant thing (getting knocked down, getting maced, getting tazed, etc.)

          • Iain says:

            @albatross11:

            Sorry if I implied that you meant your post as the “final word”; I was finishing my post in a hurry before leaving, and didn’t word it as carefully as I might have.

            The Fryer paper was basically what I was gesturing at: getting shot is only one of the possible negative outcomes, and any disparity in getting shot likely extends to other forms of violence. I wasn’t previously aware that being shot is the form of violence with the least disparity; that seems pretty relevant.

          • 1soru1 says:

            About 1/10000 of arrests of blacks lead to them getting killed by the cops; about 0.83/10000 arrests of whites lead to them getting killed by the cops. So the risk isn’t nothing, but it’s not super high

            At 100 micromorts, that’s an order of magnitude higher than first-time skydiving or general anesthetic, and comparable to serving a month in Iraq with the USMC (1000 micromorts per year).

            That’s really astonishingly high, and completely out of line with anything else a normal person might have cause to impose on another. And if it’s a corporate policy for a Starbucks-sized firm, you can expect several such deaths every year.

          • John Schilling says:

            And if it’s a corporate policy for a Starbucks-sized firm, you can expect several such deaths every year.

            Corporate policy isn’t and realistically can’t be anything more than “call the cops”. It’s up to the cops whether to actually arrest the trespasser (well, to the cops and tresspasser jointly), which is what the statistics in question are about.

            I’d guess there’s couple orders of magnitude added to the safety margin from that, and one more from the difference between trespassing arrests and average arrests.

          • albatross11 says:

            1soru1:

            That seems like a surprisingly high number to me, too. My guess is that this is a *way* high upper bound for times when the cops are called to throw someone out of a Starbucks, since:

            a. You’d expect most of this kind of situation to be resolved by the cops telling the guys to leave or get arrested, and the guys leaving. Or by the manager telling the guys “get out or I’m calling the cops” and the guys leaving.

            b. The stakes are way, way lower here than in a lot of arrests. Nobody’s gotten violent so far, there hasn’t been any serious crime committed, etc., so the police aren’t likely to be adrenalined-up and ready to instantly see a cellphone or a wallet as a potential gun.

            On the other hand, assuming the basic numbers are correct, it seems like it would be a good thing to try to get

            P(cops shoot you | cops arrest you )

            down another order of magnitude or so. Remember that our rough estimate of this probability is only about 20% lower for whites than blacks, so this isn’t a matter of either racism or blacks somehow behaving badly, it’s just a general pattern that the cops in the US shoot a lot of people (about a thousand) per year.

          • Glen Raphael says:

            At 100 micromorts, that’s an order of magnitude higher than first-time skydiving

            First-time skydiving is actually ludicrously safe. Our cultural perception of how dangerous it is hasn’t updated much since the sport was new (when it actually was dangerous), but nowadays the training and operational protocols are better, the material science is better, and the equipment is so much better that a first-time skydiver wearing a standard first-time skydiver’s parachute could literally be tossed out the back of the plane unconscious and still survive the landing.

            (The last line of defense is a mandatory reserve chute which can at its own initiative decide it’s time to auto-deploy via a spring and small explosive charge)

        • Gobbobobble says:

          In the meantime, if calling the cops on a black man puts that man at disproportionate risk of violence, you should wish to believe so. ([…]) If you are at all consequentialist, that belief should probably affect your behaviour.

          The other half of that ethical calculus is “does NOT calling the cops on a black man put ME at disproportionate risk of violence [compared to a white man exhibiting similar potentially-cop-calling-worthy behavior]?”

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Absolutely hate should be on SB, especially the manager. Also, some of the “remodeled” Starbucks here in Chicago have entirely eliminated their cafe-style seating. What…..

      Not that it matters. Starbucks is garbage anyways. Now that my work has freshly ground beans there’s just no reason to go.

    • S_J says:

      One question I have, that I haven’t found any clues about in the news reporting:

      Was the manager (or the barista who denied access to the bathroom) a Black person, a White person, or some other racial/ethnic group?

      I haven’t watched the video carefully, so I don’t know if the answer is in the video. I wonder why the skin color of the manager (or barista) were not mentioned in the news reports I saw.

      • The Nybbler says:

        There’s no video, but there is audio of the call to the police. From the voice I expect the caller was a young white woman.

        • S_J says:

          I was trying not to let my pre-conceptions color my thinking.

          My thinking was:
          (A) If the complaining manager wore white skin, the cause of the complaint might be:
          (A.1) one instance too many of poor-looking person asking to use the bathroom and ignoring the “for customer use only” sign
          (A.2.) on instance too many of a non-customer asking to use the bathroom, and ignoring the “for customer use only” sign
          (A.3) one instance too many of a black person asking to use the bathroom and ignoring the “for customer use only” sign
          (A.4) one of the non-customers reminded the manager of someone they had personal problems with in the past

          or,
          (B) if the complaining manager wore black skin, the cause of the complaint might be
          (B.1) one instance too many of poor-looking person asking to use the bathroom and ignoring the “for customer use only” sign
          (B.2) one instance too many of a non-customer asking to use the bathroom and ignoring the “for customer use only” sign
          (B.3.) one instance too many of a black person asking to use the bathroom and ignoring the “for customer use only” sign.
          (B.4) one of the non-customers reminded the manager of someone they had personal problems with in the past

          I have a suspicion that if the complaining manager wore black skin, that factoid would be ignored studiously by most of the people complaining.

          Further thoughts: I find it interesting that no one seems to notice that a business has the right to request that any troublesome person (whether they’ve purchased something from the business or not!) be removed as a trespasser.

          In this case, I don’t see evidence that the behavior of these patrons rose to that level.

          But I don’t think we have video of their behavior before the Police arrived.

          Which is the other question in my mind: were the non-customers too forceful/abusive in their reaction to the manager saying that restrooms were only available to paying customers?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I find it interesting that no one seems to notice that a business has the right to request that any troublesome person (whether they’ve purchased something from the business or not!) be removed as a trespasser.

            Some people have noticed it, but it’s not much in debate that legally Starbucks could kick them out on the smallest of pretenses. So it’s not discussed much because there’s not much to say.

            But was their initial decision to kick them out motivated by racism? That’s less knowable so it’s what people are spending most of their time discussing.

            This is social issue, built on top of a mountain of deep social issues.

  27. quaelegit says:

    There’s been a handful of travel suggestions posts recently, so I thought I’d ask also. If people think these are getting annoyingly frequent (and/or my request is trivial/I should just google it) I can delete it. (I just remembered that I can only delete it within the next hour, so after that, all I can do is apologize.)

    I’m going to be in New Haven, NYC, and Philadelphia next week. Mostly NYC. I’m traveling to visit people, but these people are mostly grad students busy with the end of term stuff. So I need to figure out things to do during the day. My usual first step is to glance through Wikitravel (idk if it’s actually a good rec site but at least it doesn’t have autoplaying videos), but I’m worried the NYC page will be overwhlemingly big. Yes, I am bad at travel planning.

    So, any suggestions for the things to do (preferably during business hours) in the above cities? Food? Parks? Advice on how to plan better?

    • SamChevre says:

      New Haven: my family always goes to the Knights of Columbus Museum. I am not sure how engaging it is if you are neither a Knight nor a child. The Yale museums are supposed to be excellent, and are part of the major museum networks so if you are a member of some other museum, they are probably free.

      • quaelegit says:

        Thank you for the recommendations! I ended up hanging out with my friend near Yale all weekend instead of exploring, although I’m going to the rare book library today, but I’ll keep these in mind if I come back. 🙂

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      You’re gonna have to be way more specific about what you like.

      • quaelegit says:

        I’m sorry I never followed up on this; I know NYC has a LOT of stuff. Thank you for trying to help me narrow down my plans.

    • SamChevre says:

      In New York, for the “definitely random recommendations.”

      Go to Choral Evensong at St Thomas (Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30); they are probably the best Anglican choir in the US, and Choral Evensong is not awkward regardless of your religion (Mass can be).

      Get goat roti at Feroza (way up in the Bronx, but it’s the only place I’ve had roti that actually tastes like it does in the Caribbean.)

      • quaelegit says:

        Thank you, these sound interesting! I’m busy in the evenings but I’ll try to make it to Feroza.

    • Brad says:

      The Met is arguably the best museum in the United States. If you are a museum person at all you should go there.

      • quaelegit says:

        I’m very much a museum person, but less into art museums. Still, that’s the overwhelming recommendation, so I definitely want to check it out!

    • FLWAB says:

      I would highly recommend the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. I mean it’s kind of an obvious recommendation, but their collection is possibly the best on the continent. Their collection of ancient statues is particularly interesting, along with their arms and armor exhibit. But everything there is great.

      If you like architecture I would recommend checking out St. Patrick’s Cathedral or the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. They are both very impressive, and you won’t find cathedral’s much better outside of Europe.

      • quaelegit says:

        Cathedral architecture is cool! St. John is very close to where I’m staying so I’ll definitely to see it.

    • Winter Shaker says:

      My only piece of New York related advice is, yes, do go see the Metropolitan Museum, but if you happen to be a musician, don’t bring an instrument with you because they don’t even let you in the door. You may be able pay a storage fee at the hot dog van at the foot of the main steps, though it will be hot and smell-of-food-ish in there. The guy at the museum explained that they used to have a policy of just letting you in as long as you promised not to play your instruments inside, but people were flouting those rules, so they made a policy of making you check them in at the luggage counter, but they discovered that people were trying to scam them by bringing in pre-damaged instruments and then claiming that the damage had been caused by museum staff and demanding compensation, so they just stopped letting you inside the building with an instrument at all, and thus arose the informal arrangement with the hot dog vendor. Moloch wins, I guess.

      (My instrument was a melodica, all plastic and metal, so not affected by the heat, but if it had been something wooden like a violin, I’d have had to change plans.)

      The Met has a lot of the same kind of ancient historical stuff as the British Museum in London, but when I was in the Akkadian / Babylonian section, there was a biblical guided tour tying the exhibits to the events described in the Old Testament. I’m not sure if ‘only in America’ applies, but I’d certainly never seen the equivalent thing in the many times I’ve been to the British Museum.

      • Michael Handy says:

        In addition, if you dress in any way anachronistically, you might want to tone it down a bit. They’re quite strict on historical costuming not being allowed.

      • quaelegit says:

        >don’t bring an instrument with you

        Not an issue for me, but sounds like you have an interesting story here! Why were you traveling with a melodica?

    • analytic_wheelbarrow says:

      Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. If you like pizza, go to Grimaldi’s after you cross the bridge. There always seems to be a line, so you might want to order take-out and then sit in Brooklyn Bridge Park and eat it. That is a very under-appreciated park, btw. Very nice views of the city and the bridge.

      Take the Staten Island Ferry (free!) to see the Statue of Liberty. Yes, it’s only a “sail-by”, but it takes up a lot less time and money than taking the ferry to Liberty Island.

    • Smith EE says:

      New York: Best place to get a great view for free is the rooftop bar at the 34th Street Marriott Hotel, just outside Penn Station. Couches, drinks, food, and you don’t even need to buy anything. See Jersey, Brooklyn, and all of downtown. Try to be there around sunset on a nice day.

      Make sure to spend some time walking around downtown, south of 14th St, where the grid disappears and the streets are all curvy and confusing and narrow–tourists universally love this.

      9/11 Memorial is beautiful and can be very moving. (The museum too, if you’re into it.) I second the Brooklyn Bridge, make sure to get a nice day for it. John the Divine and St. Patrick’s Cathedral are both stunning.

    • tayfie says:

      Another for the “obvious suggestions” category:

      I’ve been to Philadelphia, and you have to see Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell at minimum, plus all the colonial and revolutionary parts of town you can can manage.

      I remember the double decker bus tours being generally good for this.

      If you have time to travel out to Lancaster, you can visit the oldest Amish settlement in the US and it is beautiful.

      • skef says:

        plus all the colonial and revolutionary parts of town you can can manage.

        Personally, I would say that Ben Franklin’s privy pit is a take-it-or-leave-it sort of thing.

      • quaelegit says:

        Obvious suggestions are also appreciated!

        I’ve actually been to Philly before (briefly), and the liberty bell is the only thing I remember because of Monty Python Flying Circus’ song. I mean, I now know it was the Liberty Bell March first, but I didn’t know that at the time, so it was a bit surreal. 😛

        I probably can’t make it out to Lancaster but it sounds fascinating!

  28. Edward Scizorhands says:

    When I say “Steubenville” what do you think of?

    I think my impression was of a rape case where no one was prosecuted because they were popular football players.

    It turns out this is completely wrong. By the time the Internet hate machine got into swing, the prosecutor had already completed her investigation (but had to hand it over to somoene else because conflict of interest).

    https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/crowdsourcing-justice-truth-behind-steubenville-rape-case is the story as told on NPR’s “On The Media.” I don’t know if there is a transcript.

    Another case which I thought was unrelated is the tale of the guy fighting back against the Sandy Hook Hoaxers. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/09/the-sandy-hook-hoax.html I didn’t make any connection until near the end of the article where you find out there are netwarriors on each side doxxing key players on the other team, which brings us back to internet trolls.

    • secret_tunnel says:

      As someone with no knowledge of that case, to me “Steubenville” sounded like a type of cheese.

    • SamChevre says:

      And it probably says something about me that I think “Catholic University that published a hymnal-was it Canticle? Anyway, it’s green.”

    • Brad says:

      I mean there was a rape there and the rapists did just get slaps on the wrist. Maybe this local prosecutor got a bum rap but this hardly seems like the ‘social media got it wrong’ story of the century.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        but this hardly seems like the ‘social media got it wrong’ story of the century.

        I really wish you would stop reading things into comments that aren’t there.

        And this isn’t something I picked up from brietbart or redstate. It was fucking NPR.

        • j1000000 says:

          I second Brad’s impression of what you were saying.

          • gbdub says:

            Thirded. When you said “turns out this is completely wrong” I figured you meant something was materially different about the crime itself. It would have been immensely helpful if you’d given a summary of what was wrong with the common narrative.

            “Internet hatred fell on some undeserving parties in the case” is certainly interesting, but I can’t see why that merits a “completely wrong” label.

            Frankly your post was kind of clickbaity, don’t be mad when the responses reflect that.

      • christhenottopher says:

        The local prosecutor getting a bum rap was pretty bad for her. And didn’t help with giving the rapists a tough sentence. Misdirecting anger has all the problems of apathy, but with the added fault of harming an innocent person.

        • Brad says:

          The most fundamental problem there is that no one seems to take the kind of awful harassment that anyone with even a tiny modicum of notoriety as a serious issue. Which is a little puzzling given that the set of people with at least a little notoriety basically has all the power.

          But in any event, that’s the real problem her troubles highlight, not social media getting it wrong. Even if the rap wasn’t a bum one, if she really did try to sandbag the investigation she still shouldn’t have had death threats made against her.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I listened to the On the Media podcast, and it left me remarkably uninformed. What did the authorities do? What did the amateurs get wrong?

      Did I completely space out, or is there better information somewhere else?

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        The amateurs, including Anonymous, harassed the ever-living-fuck out of a bunch of people doing the jobs the way the amateurs would have wanted them to.

    • MrApophenia says:

      I haven’t listened to the podcast, but I’m curious if you could elaborate on how the claims of a cover up were completely wrong? I just went back and did some Googling to refresh my memory on this, and it does appear that the claims that at least the coaches and school officials were actively trying to cover it up had some meat to them. From Wikipedia:

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

      The nature of the case led to accusations that coaches and school officials knew about the rape and failed to report it. For example, several texts entered into evidence during the trial implied that Steubenville head coach Reno Saccoccia was trying to cover for the players, which led to nationwide outrage after he received a new contract as the district’s administrative services director.[34] In response, shortly after the sentences were handed down Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced he would empanel a special grand jury to determine whether other crimes were committed—specifically, whether coaches and other school officials failed to report the rape even though Ohio law makes them mandated reporters.

      The panel began meeting in April 2013. On October 8, 2013, the grand jury returned the first indictment of an adult in the case. William Rhinaman, the IT director for Steubenville City Schools, was charged with one count each of tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, obstruction of a public official and grand jury perjury.[35] According to the indictment, Rhinaman hindered the investigation by various means as late as the week before the indictment was handed down. He was also accused of lying to the grand jury when he testified before it on April 8.[36] In February 2015, Rhinaman, under a deal reached with prosecutors, pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing official business. He was sentenced to 90 days of jail. 80 days of his 90-day sentence were suspended provided he completes one year of community control.[37]

      On November 25, 2013, DeWine announced a second round of indictments. Another alleged rape of a 14-year-old girl came to light when a girl came forward after the August rape. No charges have ever been filed in that case,[38] or only after students discussed it.[39][40][41] The highest-profile indictment was that of Steubenville City Schools superintendent Michael McVey, who was charged with obstructing justice, tampering with evidence, obstructing official business and falsification. It was later revealed that the charges against McVey were not related to the August rape. In 2015, McVey agreed in exchange for not facing charges to resign from his post, never seek employment in Steubenville education again and avoid contact with anyone involved in the investigation or case.[42] In August 2015, McVey was hired by the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District as an elementary school principal, sparking outrage from many.[43] Three other adults were also indicted. An elementary school principal and a strength coach were charged with failing to report possible child abuse. Charges against the principal were unrelated to the August rape case and were dismissed before the case went to trial.[44] A former volunteer coach faces several misdemeanor charges, including making false statements and contributing to underage alcohol consumption. [45] Other school employees were reinstated after an investigation into the indictments.[46]

      And while some of that appears pretty procedural, there are things here that at least seem pretty suspect. The texts that came out during the trial, for instance:

      “I got Reno [Saccoccia, the coach]. He took care of it and sh– ain’t gonna happen, even if they did take it to court,” one text reads. Another text indicated that Reno had joked about the incident with Mays.
      http://www.cleveland.com/steubenville-rape-case/index.ssf/2013/04/steubenville_football_coach_re.html

      After some more Googling – this is from the Daily Mail, so take it with the appropriate grain of salt, but this was the only source I was able to quickly find for the ‘joked about it’ text referenced in the above article:

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2295419/Reno-Saccoccia-charges-Steubenville-football-coach-face-charges-failing-report-rape-told-star-players-hed-make-away.html

      ‘What did Reno say to you…?’

      He said: ‘Nothing really. We have to stay in for a week. Next time any of us do anything we are suspended from games for a month.

      ‘But I feel like he took care of it for us.

      ‘Yeh he was joking about it so I’m not worried.’

      • MrApophenia says:

        Another fun fact I found reading about this – the coach from those texts not only kept his job, but after one of the convicted teens finished his astonishingly short sentence early (Ma’lik Richmond was sentenced to a year in juvenile detention and served a bit under nine months), coach Saccoccia put him back on the football team.

    • gbdub says:

      Oh hey, it’s the A-10 Mafia. And also the “dogfighting is the only measure of combat effectiveness” Inquisition.

      At this point the worst thing that can happen is to have the F-35 program substantially cut. We need the airframes, and the path STARTING NOW to an effective F-35 is probably still cheaper than the path to upgrading enough tired old airframes into something that won’t be as good as the F-35 anyway.

      The F-22 was too expensive and had teething problems of its own. Now it’s a beautiful fighter that we don’t have near enough of because knuckleheads like this author thought we could make the overall program substantially cheaper by cutting quantity.

      EDIT: Seriously: “3. Immediately undertake three new competitive prototype flyoff programs to design and build a more lethal and more survivable close air support plane to replace the A-10, and to design and build two different air-to-air fighters that are smaller and more combat-effective than F-16s, F-22s, and F-18s. Test them all against competent enemies equipped with radar missile and stealth countermeasures.”

      Yeah okay, we’re going to develop THREE 5th gen+ fighters quicker and cheaper than getting the F-35 squared away?

      • bean says:

        Yeah okay, we’re going to develop THREE 5th gen+ fighters quicker and cheaper than getting the F-35 squared away?

        Ah, but you don’t understand. By breaking away from the hidebound Pentagon bureaucracy and the entrenched interests of the military-industrial complex, we will be freed from the laws of economics, and free to FIX EVERYTHING.
        Seriously, did Sparky write this?

        • Nornagest says:

          Who do they think is going to enter their competitive flyoff programs, if not the entrenched interests of the military-industrial complex? Zee Germans?

          The line about the F-35 being bad because passive emissions detection can defeat stealth kind of smells to me too. This isn’t my field, but is a plane operating in stealth mode really going to have its IFF transponders or search radar on? That seems like a fairly obvious weakness.

          • bean says:

            Honestly, that’s one of my objections to stealth (speed and altitude are the true way!). But at the same time, they ignore the fact that longwave radars and ESM (which, by the way, is the proper term, and anyone using other terms is ignorant) don’t produce targeting-quality positions. The stuff in Kosovo was a lot more complicated than they make it out to be. And I love the line “So badly damaged it didn’t fly in the Kosovo Air War again”. With something like an F-117, that’s not saying very much at all, given that the war ended a month later.

          • cassander says:

            I’ve heard straight from the program office that 3 growlers can produce target quality data from ESM, but those are, you know, growlers.

          • bean says:

            I’ve heard straight from the program office that 3 growlers can produce target quality data from ESM, but those are, you know, growlers.

            1. Yes, those are Growlers, and thus probably slightly more capable than a random Czech ESM system.
            2. What were they targeting? If it’s a ground-based emitter, I can believe it. I’m not so sure about an airplane, which is moving a lot faster, and in 3D.

          • John Schilling says:

            Passive IR can definitely produce targeting-quality data, and using passive RF midcourse + passive IR terminal guidance to put a missile on target is something the US should know is viable. And for that matter, the US national missile defense system uses UHF radar + terminal IR guidance.

            So I think the traditional 1980s “everybody radiates ’cause radar is awesome” school of air combat may have to go away. And “radar is useless because stealth is awesome” isn’t much better.

            Instead, the overwhelming advantage is going to go to whoever uses radar in an intelligent fashion. Which is to say, intermittently and with datalinks between whoever is doing the radiating and whoever is maneuvering into position to take a shot. Fortunately for for the national interest but to the ridicule of the National Interest, that’s exactly how the USAF is practicing to use its F-22s, and I expect that will carry over to the JSF.

          • bean says:

            Passive IR can definitely produce targeting-quality data, and using passive RF midcourse + passive IR terminal guidance to put a missile on target is something the US should know is viable.

            Don’t think that would work if the passive RF is looking at something less obvious than an ASM seeker head. An F-35 using all of its LPI tricks is going to take the size and processing power of a ground station to pick up.

            And for that matter, the US national missile defense system uses UHF radar + terminal IR guidance.

            It’s shooting at non-maneuvering targets silhouetted against the 4K background of space.
            I won’t say that passive IR couldn’t be effective, but I suspect there are non-obvious limitations. Some of the more recent Standards have backup IR seekers, but the preferred method is still radar illumination.

            Instead, the overwhelming advantage is going to go to whoever uses radar in an intelligent fashion. Which is to say, intermittently and with datalinks between whoever is doing the radiating and whoever is maneuvering into position to take a shot. Fortunately for for the national interest but to the ridicule of the National Interest, that’s exactly how the USAF is practicing to use its F-22s, and I expect that will carry over to the JSF.

            This, at least, is 100% endorsed.

          • John Schilling says:

            Don’t think that would work if the passive RF is looking at something less obvious than an ASM seeker head. An F-35 using all of its LPI tricks is going to take the size and processing power of a ground station to pick up.

            I believe the RIM-116 was designed to work against just the RF signature of a sea-skimming ASM’s radar altimeter, not the actual seeker head.

            But in any event, ground stations are a thing. So are multiple correlated air or ground receivers, which probably work better in this application – the signal will have the same spectrum and modulation at each antenna, the noise won’t. And the bit where tactical datalinks are a good-guy-only technology is I think now well in the past.

            If you radiate 100% of the time, with or without LPI, you’re likely to eat a missile as soon as someone like Dani Zoltán takes an interest. Same deal if you’re too scared to radiate at all. The tactics being practiced by the F-22 squadrons seem like a pretty good middle ground, though I would like to see a good IRST system for when the radar isn’t up.

          • bean says:

            I believe the RIM-116 was designed to work against just the RF signature of a sea-skimming ASM’s radar altimeter, not the actual seeker head.

            Quick! To the big book of naval weapons!
            I don’t see any mention of that capability in World Naval Weapons. I wouldn’t totally rule it out, but a reasonably EMCONd F-35 is still going to be a lot quieter. I suspect we’re in broad agreement, but are pushing different sides of the narrative.

            The tactics being practiced by the F-22 squadrons seem like a pretty good middle ground, though I would like to see a good IRST system for when the radar isn’t up.

            Which is why the F-35 is getting one.

    • bean says:

      National Interest is usually representative of a school of defense journalism that is marked by ignorance of how actual defense procurement works, and that article is no exception. Leaving aside their bizarre formatting, they don’t get that CAS has changed since the days of the A-10. And their comments on AX and LWF are kind of amusing, given the limitations those planes had in the early days. The F-16 came out of Desert Storm the butt of jokes. It only became useful with a few more years and a bunch more electronics. We used to put airplanes into the field, then make them useful, but we’ve switched that around in recent years. I’m an avowed enemy of the “defense reform” school because they’re idiots, as proved in their bizarre plans for the LWF.

      • bean says:

        I’ve read another couple of pages, and National Interest simply does not understand how hard military software is to do right. I work on network-centric software for a military aircraft. That is my day job. What we’re doing is nowhere close to what the F-35 does in terms of complexity, and a lot of the problems listed sound very familiar to me. There are features in the current software that the crew doesn’t use because of how badly they’re implemented. We are working very hard to reduce the number of these to zero, but it’s not an easy task.

        Also, this report was published over a year ago. 4/1/17, actually. I’m going to assume it’s an April Fool’s joke, given the dogfighting and CAS stuff and how horrible it is.

        What else? Oh, right. Limited weapons fit right now.
        Fitting modern weapons to a platform is REALLY HARD. They’re very sophisticated, which means that you need to write a lot of code to make them work with the plane’s systems. Again, I’m speaking from personal experience here. The idea that the F-35 program is a failure because it only carries JDAMs and AMRAAMs today is absurd. Back in the days when all we had were dumb bombs, fitting an airplane with weapons only required you to go out and do stores separation tests. (And those didn’t always go very smoothly, either, but that’s a story for another time.) This is no longer the case, and there’s a reason that not all airplanes are cleared to carry all weapons any more. The F-16 entered service with only Sidewinders and iron bombs, and those are both weapons that have basically no integration with the plane.

        • gbdub says:

          “simply does not understand how hard military software is to do right”

          This is the part that kills me, because at this point it seems like F-35’s problems are mostly software. That problem doesn’t go away if you switch to a different airframe, assuming you want to keep the F-35’s capabilities.

          • bean says:

            At this point, it looks to be all software, except for some of the dogfighting issue, but that’s stupid in a different way.

          • Brad says:

            What was the last major successful software project (>MLOC) that was either written directly by the federal government or by large contractors?

            The curiosity rover apparently had 2.5 MLOC, that would have been completed by 2011. Was that it?

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            Bean: I basically buy everything you’re selling about CAS platforms, and I am with you 200% on the difficulty of good software.

            You seem to be saying you actually think the F-35 was a good choice of airframe, and while I’m no expert, that seems crazy pants. Good enough to not start again from scratch, sure, that I’ll buy as plausible. But if we were doing it again, would you really build something that looks and flies like the F35? Do you disagree that the F-35 was the result of a series of terrible decisions over and beyond its *development* troubles?

            From my non-expert perspective, the arguments against look very strong. To the extent that we need a first line STOVL platform, which I’ll take as read but I’m not actually sure of [1], it seems insane to have that share airframe with our CATOBAR and real-airfield designs. (Those seem a lot more sharable, though perhaps I’m overestimating the similarity.) I’ve certainly seem knowledgable-seeming people say we’re sacrificing quite a lot for body shape (and wing loading, though I don’t understand why or fully trust I understand the importance) to admit vertical thrust. While I’ll agree with you 100% that dogfighting is almost certainly less important than many people think, it is at best embarrassing that we are taking active steps backward here. Even if BVR combat is the part that matters, is there any excuse for not building an airframe that turns as well as a F-16? Are we getting anything from that?

            [1] The standard argument is: The Marines refuse to believe, with good historical reasons, that the navy will provide CAS in hostile airspace. To me this is an argument for sacking and possibly shooting admirals until we get leadership who doesn’t abandon our ground forces, not rebuilding our airforce to fly off amphibious assault ships. If we can trust the navy to do their job, do marines need rough-condition CAS more than can be provided from rotary wing platforms? Do we need serious air support during operations we can’t bother to provision a carrier group for? (We discussed this once many OTs ago, and I think John Schilling told me I’m wrong, but I’m still trying to dig up why.)

          • Andrew Hunter says:

            And while we’re at it: yes, National Interest’s proposed fighter that lives and dies on ESM, infrared, “and I guess also put in a radar for the sake of having one, not that they’d use it” is fucking nuts.

            But do you actually believe that modern stealth as she is spoke will continue to be an overwhelming advantage in combat against first rate adversaries? You say that longwave systems aren’t capable of targeting kill shots. Is this a fundamental problem with such radars, or just a fact about the ones we have?

            Again, as a non-expert, everyone seems to make authoritative statements contradicting one another, and it’s hard to decide who has the right of it. But I do find doubtful the idea that it just doesn’t matter that we can in fact get useful returns off any “stealth” bird. I’m curious how you feel about stealth here.

            (As usual, my perspective on warfighting technology is: I believe nothing is as certain as any side believes it is until first-rate adversaries are fighting for keeps, given that nearly every major war has produced someone getting a very rapid lesson that their shit don’t work the way it says, but…)

            (And how *did* they kill those F-117s, anyway? Even if it took a collaborative effort, how did they target the munitions, and is it a pattern that can be replicated?)

          • bean says:

            You seem to be saying you actually think the F-35 was a good choice of airframe, and while I’m no expert, that seems crazy pants. Good enough to not start again from scratch, sure, that I’ll buy as plausible. But if we were doing it again, would you really build something that looks and flies like the F35? Do you disagree that the F-35 was the result of a series of terrible decisions over and beyond its *development* troubles?

            The dogfighting thing is stupid because of high-off-boresight missiles, not because the airframe is inherently good. I’d say it’s mediocre, but I can also see why it is the way it is.
            The basic problem is that Congress is stupid, and they control the purse strings. In a completely ideal world, we’d have had four projects. One would be to build the combat system for the next-generation fighter/attack aircraft. It would then be installed on separate airframes built specifically for each service. I’m guessing it would be cheaper and we’d get better airplanes. The problem is that Congress, being stupid, doesn’t realize that it would be cheaper, and would start asking why we didn’t do a combined program. This is the same body that brought us the Super Hornet, which is a new airplane that looks like the legacy Hornet.
            If I’m being really cynical, I’d suggest that Congress would also be tempted to cancel the combined combat system program to save money if we had separate airplanes. As it is, it’s rolled into JSF, and they aren’t tempted to. This is a very good thing.

            (We discussed this once many OTs ago, and I think John Schilling told me I’m wrong, but I’m still trying to dig up why.)

            I think I remember that one, and I actually disagree with him on that. STOL is a lot easier on the airframe than STOVL.

            But do you actually believe that modern stealth as she is spoke will continue to be an overwhelming advantage in combat against first rate adversaries?

            No, I don’t. I think stealth has been oversold, and speed and altitude are the future. But at the same time, it makes life harder for the other guy. Even if it’s needing special longwave radar and not being able to target as well, it’s an advantage. Stealth creates gaps in radar coverage that things can fly through. I’d prefer to fly over them, but that’s still a few years away.

            You say that longwave systems aren’t capable of targeting kill shots. Is this a fundamental problem with such radars, or just a fact about the ones we have?

            Fundamental problem. Longer wavelength means you get less precision for a given antenna size. There are ways to mitigate this, but I suspect they aren’t enough given current form constraints (which aren’t easily relaxed).

            (As usual, my perspective on warfighting technology is: I believe nothing is as certain as any side believes it is until first-rate adversaries are fighting for keeps, given that nearly every major war has produced someone getting a very rapid lesson that their shit don’t work the way it says, but…)

            That’s not a terrible perspective. The US puts a lot of effort into making sure that our systems actually work. Probably not enough, but given time and money constraints, I can’t imagine that anyone outside the NATO block comes anywhere close to our standards. To some extent, the reason for the stretch in defense programs since the 60s/70s