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Open Thread 100.75

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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980 Responses to Open Thread 100.75

  1. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Is anyone else having problems with the page jumping up and down by a line or two? It seems to happen the most when I use the chronological list of articles, but not only then.

    • Randy M says:

      I think this occurs when you have an edited post, and it is counting down the time until the edit window closes, but the length of the text in the countdown vacillates between one and two lines at various second counts, pushing the text up and down, depending on the width of your browser window.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        That’s plausible, but I have no idea why it seems to be a new phenomenon.

      • Nick says:

        Randy’s right about what causes it. (I suppose something else could cause the same thing, but I don’t know what.) Possible changes if it’s only happening recently: you used to reply to threads bottom up, but now you do top down; you used to wait a while before posting again, so the countdown timer was gone by then; you didn’t post much or at all in the most nested level of the comment hierarchy, since in the wider comments the counter is always one line.

        • A1987dM says:

          …or used to use a font where all digits are the same width and now uses a font where some digits are narrower.

  2. Deiseach says:

    Re: what DrBeat said about “did you know 20% of field reporters killed are women/oh but nobody cares about the men killed” – I don’t know if that is meant to be war correspondents only or all reporters who are out on the job, so let’s take a look at some figures.

    I’m going to take “full-time journalists not newsroom leaders” as equivalent to field reporters (i.e. out gathering the information, not back in the newsroom as an editor) and, using the figures from this 2017 American survey, we get:

    All Other FT Journalists
    Men 60.79%
    Women 39.21%

    So roughly a 60/40 split of men/women as journalists. If 20% of the women are getting killed, that sounds to my ignorant ears as if more women than men, proportionately, are being killed (if my estimations are wrong, correct me) and this would seem to be a matter of concern: if I send Jane rather than John to cover a story and Jane is more likely to be killed, why is this and can I do anything about it (other than not sending Jane, Sally or Latisha but only sending Mike, Jake and DeVon)?

    If Jane is more likely to be raped/attacked than John, I don’t think “Oh so you only care if a woman is raped, men mean nothing!” is a good reply when no, really, in the same situation Jane is more at risk than John of being raped; I could send John on fifty of these assignments and he would not be in the same peril. The same way that it would not be seen as helpful to say “Oh, you only care if a black guy is shot, white guys mean nothing!” where if I send DeVon rather than Mike on the same assignment, DeVon is much more likely to end up dead.

    • Aapje says:

      I’m going to take “full-time journalists not newsroom leaders” as equivalent to field reporters

      Field reporters are only really at risk if they go to battle zones or dangerous regions, which most full-time journalists who are not newsroom leaders do not do. So your statistics don’t really reflect who is at risk.

      If 20% of the women are getting killed, that sounds to my ignorant ears as if more women than men, proportionately, are being killed

      No, given a 60/40 split (which as I said, is a bad figure), you’d expect that 40% of the killed reporters are women. If they actually are 20% of deaths, then female reporters are half as likely to die as they ‘ought’ to.

      There are various possible explanations for this, including that the male reporters act more dangerously, that the male reporters are sent into more dangerous situations and/or that others are more likely to become violent against male reporters in equally dangerous situations.

      • Deiseach says:

        No, given a 60/40 split (which as I said, is a bad figure), you’d expect that 40% of the killed reporters are women. If they actually are 20% of deaths, then female reporters are half as likely to die as they ‘ought’ to.

        I was trying to work out “if 40% of field reporters are women, and [unknown number] of journalists are killed, is 20% of [unknown number] in proportion, low, or high?” Since DrBeat didn’t give a number, I have no idea.

        Let’s say 10% of reporters are killed. Is 20% of 10% for 40% sub-population high, low or what? You see why I am confused!

        • bean says:

          As best I can tell, the 20% and 40% numbers are directly comparable. 40% of field reporters are women. 20% of dead field reporters are women. Women are statistically a lot safer than men as field journalists. (The obvious question is if particularly dangerous types of field journalism are disproportionately male. I suspect that this is very much the case.)

    • S_J says:

      I’m not sure where the “20%” number comes from, but I decided dig up some numbers.

      There is an organization called Committee to Protect Journalists that publishes numbers of journalists who die on-the-job.

      Their database has both “Journalists” and “Media Workers”, but it is impossible to sort/filter “Media Workers” subset by Gender/YearOfDeath/Job/Location. It is also impossible to sort/filter the “Motive Unconfirmed” data by any of these categories. Among the “Motive Confirmed” listing are deaths by “Dangerous Assignment”, “Crossfire”, and “Murder”.

      The most common European country that reported such deaths is France. The most common North American country that reported such deaths is Mexico. Other parts of the world that show up regularly: India, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Israel & Palestinian Territories, South Africa, Turkey, etc. Not all have internal or external wars, but those with wars had much higher Journalist deaths than those without.

      Interestingly, their “Gender” column has “Male/Female/Nonbinary”, but the “Nonbinary” option is so small (numerically) that I’ll ignore it for the moment.

      This table was gathered by hand, for each year from 2008 to 2017.

      Deaths listed in CPJ statistics : Journalists, Motive Confirmed
      Year, Deaths of Male Journalists, Deaths of Female Journalists
      2008, 41, 1
      2009, 66, 9
      2010, 44, 0
      2011, 48, 1
      2012, 70, 4
      2013, 68, 5
      2014, 56, 5
      2015, 66, 7
      2016, 47, 1
      2017, 38, 8

      These numbers are small and subject to lots of spikes of noise. The percentages of Females in CPJ statistics varies from zero to twenty. Over the decade shown above, the value is about 7%.

      However, we have no good baseline of the M-to-F ratio of journalists in the parts of the world that see most such deaths. Nor do we have a good grasp on how well or poorly female journalists are treated, relative to male journalists, in environments where journalism is a dangerous job.

  3. Deiseach says:

    Right lads, a genuine question and a chance for ye to put me in my box.

    For those claiming it is a gynocentric world and men are disregarded and discarded, let’s have a thought experiment. How would your life be improved in the following situation?

    We wake up tomorrow and there are no women in the world (I should say, you wake up tomorrow as I’ll be one of the vanished women – already an improvement!) The world is no longer gynocentric but properly androcentric as nature and God intended 🙂

    No women, no girls, no female humans of any description (I’ll ignore trans women and gay men to keep from going off on a tangent and getting bogged down there). Men and boys are left. So for all the fathers seeking custody of their kids, congratulations, you’ve got it by default.

    Any man applying for a job or a promotion need not worry about “no white guys wanted” as there are no affirmative -action women to take it away from the better-qualified male candidate (but does affirmative action on race still exist, or is that a relic of gynocentric thinking which has been discarded in our rational, sensible, decent man’s world?)

    All men, even the least skilled, have a chance of a job because now all those women are gone so the jobs they took in male-dominated areas are now open, and all those jobs in female-majority areas are there to be filled. Maybe you still can’t get that white-collar office job but now you can be a care home assistant or contract cleaner or work as waitstaff in Hooters (possibly some rebranding required there).

    Best of all, there is no status competition based on female attention. Women cannot award and deny status becasue they are no longer there to be the status-setters. Chad Thundercock and Joe Loser are equals because Chad can’t get sixteen baby-mommas to Joe’s ‘I have a pin-up of a pop singer on my bedroom wall since I was fifteen’. This is going to be great since there won’t be any kind of replacement status competing to still bring Chad out on top and Joe at the bottom, right?

    So how would your life be better, even in the smallest way, in the new Man’s World? I don’t care if you say “Come on, I never said I want to do away with women, this is a misrepresentation!” If you can’t back up your claims that you, as a man, are suffering through gynocentrism then I submit your problem is not “Women are the problem” but “Society as currently constituted is the problem” and that if you are still likely to be lonely, low-status and not fitting in in the new androcentric dispensation, women are a scapegoat and not the root cause.

    So prove me wrong! Tell me how you will thrive and flourish in a world where your friend Tom can spend all his time with you now instead of wasting it having to go home to the old ball and chain! Where a world of ‘all everyone cares about is sports, car racing, and lifting big heavy weights’ is one where you are right at home!

    • albatross11 says:

      We now have a truly vast societal incentive to invent the uterine replicator, within the next 50 years or so, so there will continue to be a human race. (See _Ethan of Athos_)

    • Aapje says:

      I’ll run with your premise a bit, but lets make it clear that this doesn’t mean that I advocate gynocide.

      I am also not claiming that women are the root cause.

      I will also only look at some possible advantages, not make a cost/benefit analysis.

      So how would your life be better, even in the smallest way, in the new Man’s World?

      Men seem to work more hours than they want, in part so they can transfer money to women. Also, government taxation is more on men + spending more on women, suggesting that men need/ask less from government than they currently spend in taxes.

      So a likely outcome would be that men would work fewer hours + pay less in tax, so they would enjoy more free time, while possibly not having that much less money to spend.

      Unmasculine/gay behavior would likely lose most if not all of the stigma. So men would likely become far more intimate and gays would become safer. Given that disparities between men and women exist, that obviously don’t exist between men, it is likely that fewer men would be excluded from this kind of intimacy.

      Nerds would likely gain status, since they make the nice things that men tend to like. It now has no sexual advantage to be less nerdy or to prove yourself less nerdy (like by beating up and ostracizing nerds).

      • Deiseach says:

        So a likely outcome would be that men would work fewer hours + pay less in tax, so they would enjoy more free time, while possibly not having that much less money to spend.

        How does this square with the argument over the so-called gender pay gap, that the real reason women earn less is that they work fewer hours and don’t ‘lean into’ their careers as men do, for reasons varying from lack of ambition to being primarily responsible for child-care?

        A man who wants to advance in his career has to work the long hours, I’ve seen it said on here. In the all-male world, would that not still apply? Ben who works sixty hours a week gets the promotion, Joe who works the bare forty doesn’t?

        Unmasculine/gay behavior would likely lose most if not all of the stigma. So men would likely become far more intimate and gays would become safer. Given that disparities between men and women exist, that obviously don’t exist between men, it is likely that fewer men would be excluded from this kind of intimacy.

        I wonder. I deliberately left gay men out, because if one of the causes of disgruntlement is “lack of access to sex/intimate companionship”, then gay men will have an advantage over straight men here. And they will then be seen as the privileged class with sexual marketplace value and status-conferral and all the rest of the sexual gate-keeping that women are charged with upholding. I can see straight men who are sexually frustrated being very resentful of that gay couple holding hands and kissing in the restaurant. I imagine sexbots will be a technology that becomes very urgent for development to meet the needs of straight men for sex/companionship but that difference will still remain. If Joe Loser resents Chad Thundercock for being able to get as much company as he wants, that resentment will still be there if it’s Chad getting fifteen boyfriends not girlfriends and rubbing in Joe’s lack of companionship.

        On the other hand, society may revert to the erastes/eromenos model of yore, and I would like the model of intimate, close friendships that are acknowledged as another love to be restored (even without sexual connotations). I don’t know how successful the ‘older man/youth as lovers’ model would be, though, without the progression on to “and then you get married and stop fucking cute twinks*” expectations of the past, because there aren’t women to marry; de facto everyone is now gay perforce? It’s going to be very tough on the guys who can’t hack their sexuality to find their own gender attractive, and if they think trying to live up to women’s standards of attractiveness is tough, let them try the standards for gay guys!

        There’s also Cordwainer Smith’s take on it in The Crime and The Glory of Commander Suzdal, but I really don’t think this is a possibility 🙂

        *From Catullus’ Poem 61:

        122 Let not the merry Fescennine
        123 jesting be silent,
        124 let the favourite boy give away nuts to the sla ves
        125 when he hears how his lord

        126 has left his love.
        127 Give nuts to the slaves,
        128 favourite: your time is past,
        129 you have played with nuts long enough:
        130 you must now be the servant of Talassius.

        131 Give nuts, beloved slave.
        132 Today and yesterday
        133 you disdained the country wives,
        134 now the barber shaves
        135 your cheeks. Wretched, ah! wretched

        136 lover, throw the nuts!
        137 They will say that you,
        138 perfumed bridegroom, are unwilling
        139 to give up your old pleasures; but abstain
        140 Io Hymen Hymenaeus io,

        141 io Hymen Hymenaeus!
        142 We know that you are acquainted
        143 with no unlawful joys: but a husband
        144 has not the same liberty.

        • Aapje says:

          How does this square with the argument over the so-called gender pay gap, that the real reason women earn less is that they work fewer hours and don’t ‘lean into’ their careers as men do, for reasons varying from lack of ambition to being primarily responsible for child-care?

          The traditional labor distribution is that men work more to earn the money needed for the family, while the women work less, to instead spend their time on child-care and other unpaid labor.

          If you were to shoot all men, women would have to do more paid work. If you get rid of women, men have to start doing more of the unpaid labor and they will then surely react by spending less time on work.

          A man who wants to advance in his career has to work the long hours, I’ve seen it said on here. In the all-male world, would that not still apply? Ben who works sixty hours a week gets the promotion, Joe who works the bare forty doesn’t?

          There is far less need for the promotion when a guy doesn’t have to impress women or pay for what women ask for. Men will also quickly stop having to raise children without women around.

          Why have a huge career if you can pay for your mancave & Xbox? 😛

          Of course, you will have some workaholic men who just live to work, but many men will seek a different work/life-balance.

          I wonder. I deliberately left gay men out, because if one of the causes of disgruntlement is “lack of access to sex/intimate companionship”, then gay men will have an advantage over straight men here. And they will then be seen as the privileged class with sexual marketplace value and status-conferral and all the rest of the sexual gate-keeping that women are charged with upholding.

          That makes no sense to me.

          Either a man wants to have sex with other men, in which case he can just have sex with other men and there is no need to be angry at gays. Or he doesn’t want to have sex with men, in which case the gay men are irrelevant, since they offer something that the ‘non-gay sex desiring’ man doesn’t want.

          The resentment at women is specifically because women:
          – have features that men want to play with, but lack themselves
          – have different standards from men, so there is a mismatch

          If you’d only have men, you’d still have a beauty hierarchy, where ugly gays may be pissed that few want to have sex with them. However, you wouldn’t have a libido gap between groups with different sexual equipment. Everyone who wanted to have gay sex could then have gay sex, if they lowered their standards far enough & probably quite easily too (given the current behavior of gay people).

          I can see straight men who are sexually frustrated being very resentful of that gay couple holding hands and kissing in the restaurant.

          That does make sense, although beating up gay men has no benefit in this scenario, aside from hurting the privileged and dragging them down.

          I imagine sexbots will be a technology that becomes very urgent for development to meet the needs of straight men for sex/companionship but that difference will still remain.

          Almost done, if you don’t mind having sex with something closer to a dead person than a living one.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            It’s funny, because the wage gap is typically cited as evidence that society favors men, when the reality is that the wage gap is due to society’s oppression of men.

    • The Nybbler says:

      “Women are the problem” is a strawman. “Gynocentrism” is akin to “patriarchy” in that both assert that “Society as currently constituted is the problem”.

    • DrBeat says:

      You have to stop lying, Deiseach. You have to stop. You need to stop lying.

      The thing that you are doing is lying. You can’t stop being an awful person if you can’t stop lying. If any time someone tells you something you don’t want to hear, you say “Oh, obviously this person hates women, wants women to be removed, and thinks the world should be “properly androcentric as nature and God intended”, I should tell everyone this is what they want and address them as such,” then the word for the thing you are doing is lying.

      You have to stop lying, Deiseach.

      I cannot correct the mistakes you have made in your fundamental premises that make the entire question absurd and utterly valueless. Because you have not made mistakes. What you have done is lied. And when corrected, you ignore the corrections, and you tell more lies.

      You have to stop lying, Deiseach.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        If it makes you feel any better, Deiseach has been pulling the same thing with me. Repeatedly and aggressively misrepresenting the positions of me and other people.

        But ironically she is doing a good job of demonstrating gynocentrism in action.

        Earlier, I posted the following statement:

        When pressed, most self-described female incels will admit to having had sexual and romantic relationships in the past. No doubt their situation is pretty lousy but I think it’s qualitatively different from that of someone who has literally never had any kind of sexual or romantic relationship.

        She apparently interpreted this statement to mean that “there have never been spinsters or women who were deemed unmarriageable”

        Logically, the two statements are very different. But to a gynocentrist, they are equivalent. Because both statements are perceived as putting women in a negative light. To the likes of Deiseach, any statement that is perceived as putting women in a negative light is offensive and therefore wrong.

        And that’s a big issue with the incel problem. If we acknowledge that there is a special problem which affect primarily men and needs attention, we are going against the principle that everything should be about women’s wants and needs and well-being. And if we acknowledge that many or most incels are decent guys who are unsuccessful with women because they lack the looks/money/status that women crave, that’s strike 2 and 3. Because it makes it seem that women might be shallow and we all know that Women are Wonderful.

        • DrBeat says:

          You don’t see this level of anticharity with racists or literal anti-Semites. But when someone starts talking about men being harmed, everyone becomes a compulsive liar in order to make those words go away. Because feminism and sexism are the same thing, and sexism has infinite dominion. It cannot ever possibly be defeated. It will simply assert away its own defeat, and this will become true.

          Women can do anything a man can do. They are exactly as cruel, as selfish, as sadistic, as petty, as pointlessly destructive, as narcissistic, as intoxicated by the power of punishing someone simply because they are too weak to make you stop punishing them. But unlike men, all of their cruelties will be excused, ignored, or explained away as being men’s fault. Women Are Wonderful — life is irredeemable.

      • fion says:

        I don’t think she’s lying.

        • Deiseach says:

          What I’m seeing is guys who can’t put up “were there no women in the world, this is how my life would be improved” so I’m forced to conclude that they have real problems but they are using “gynocentrism” as the easy way out: if only the world were not tilted in favour of [something I can never be], then my life would be better!

          Whereas if you are suffering from disadvantages of mental health problems, lack of qualifications for the new knowledge economy, low socio-economic status, other health problems or the like, even in an all-male world you would still be at a disadvantage, and this time there is no ‘easy’ fix like “roll back the decades to when it was men at work, women in the home”.

          Sure, maybe structural racism and The Man are keeping you down, and in a world where white people didn’t exist you’d be an executive with a big office and a fancy lifestyle. Or maybe you’d still be picking rubbish off a trash heap in Manila. As in the couplet by Yeats:

          Parnell came down the road, he said to a cheering man:
          “Ireland shall get her freedom and you still break stone”.

          • DrBeat says:

            What I’m seeing is guys who can’t put up “were there no women in the world, this is how my life would be improved” so I’m forced to conclude that they have real problems but they are using “gynocentrism” as the easy way out:

            You have to stop lying, Deiseach. You have to stop lying.

            You have to stop lying.

            So stop lying.

            When someone explains their position, and you think you understand it, and you say their position is something totally different, that is a misunderstanding.

            When they repeatedly tell you that you have misunderstood them, and you never at any point acknowledge they have said this, and you continually accuse them of having the position that is totally different from what they are saying, that ALSO makes them low-status and makes you higher-status and able to contemptuously dismiss them

            Then there is a word for what you are doing. The word for what you are doing is “lying”.

            You have to stop lying, Deiseach.

          • John Schilling says:

            You have to stop lying, Deiseach. You have to stop lying.

            Actually, she doesn’t. First, she has established enough status and credibility here that she could get away with an awful lot in the way of lying if she were of a mind to. And second, the only people who seem to think she is lying in any noteworthy sense, are foolishly resorting to grade-school rebuttals.

            “You have to stop lying, so stop lying”, convinces no one that isn’t already on your side. It persuades no one to investigate the facts on their own. It can be effective when used by a high-status individual against one of lower status, but that’s not you, not here. When used against an adversary with higher local status than your own, it causes more people to rally to her defense than yours.

            If in fact you are the victim of a persistent high-status liar, and aren’t willing to settle for having a handful of low-status losers commiserate with you, the defense that actually works is to respond to the lies, every time, with “That isn’t actually true, because [reasoned rebuttal with evidence]”. Yes, it’s more work and less fun than the elementary-school version, but it’s all you’ve got.

            We now return you to your impotent grievances, which I for one wish you would take elsewhere if you don’t have any better way to express them.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Actually, she doesn’t. First, she has established enough status and credibility here that she could get away with an awful lot in the way of lying if she were of a mind to

            I agree that she doesn’t have to stop lying, but her status or reputations doesn’t change anything. She’s a liar, just like you are.

            But it’s nice to see how CONCERNED you are.

          • John Schilling says:

            She’s a liar, just like you are.

            Stop digging.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Stop digging.

            Lol, thanks for your CONCERN. I’m grateful that such a high-status and well-respected poster such as yourself is showing such CONCERN.

          • The Nybbler says:

            What I’m seeing is guys who can’t put up “were there no women in the world, this is how my life would be improved”

            The entire scenario is ridiculous. The world would be unrecognizably different if there were no women in it. The biggest change would be that such a world would not have a next generation of humans; there is no long term. And I’m not going to call you a liar, but I’m pretty sure you realize the scenario is ridiculous and you’re deliberately working up our green-gravatared posters.

            (Also I second John’s remarks)

          • Nornagest says:

            Not all green gravatars!

          • The world would be unrecognizably different if there were no women in it. The biggest change would be that such a world would not have a next generation of humans; there is no long term.

            For an entertaining picture of such a world, one with a long term to it, see Ethan of Athos by Bujold.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Fortaleza and DrBeat are banned for three months for insulting a commenter and malicious, content-free responses.

      Deiseach is banned for one month for a comment which lowers the quality of discourse and is so uncharitable that it borders on trolling, after receiving warnings.

  4. Deiseach says:

    fortaleza84 asked me:

    Please quote me where I stated or implied (or assumed) that:

    (1) there have never been spinsters or women who were deemed unmarriageable,

    (2) there have never been women who wanted to marry and have families but couldn’t find or attract a husband; and

    (3) that any woman can have any man and as many men as she wants but a guy who isn’t a 10 in looks, wealth and what passes for status in his particular social circle has no chance at all.

    Here is my reply to his request for point no. 3 – that a guy who isn’t a 10 has no chance at all, winnowed from his comments on this thread (and I haven’t gone through every single one):

    If we start from the premise that “being an incel doesn’t mean you are subhuman swine,” it follows that women regularly pass on otherwise decent men for somewhat shallow reasons such as physical attractiveness; race; wealth; social status; etc.

    As an example, consider the situation where a man tries to strike up a conversation with a woman in a public space. It’s well known that the reaction he gets will have much more to do with his physical attractiveness than his actual behavior. And yet if the man is unattractive, most women will fault him for some aspect of his behavior (e.g. “How dare he approach me while I was wearing headphones!”).

    Women don’t like to think of themselves as being so driven by a man’s looks, money, and status.

    I agree, and in fact the formulation offered by albatross — “women often judge potential mates on surface-level stuff like appearance, wealth, dress, social status, etc.,” — is a pretty mild way of putting it and doesn’t really capture the reality — that women are primarily driven by looks, money, and status in selecting potential mates.

    Suppose an incel man complains that he is lacking in looks, money, and status and it seems to him unfair that men with these attributes get a lot of sexual/romantic attention even when those men regularly mistreat women. It’s unusual for women to agree with him even though everything he said is literally correct and consistent with the abstract premise.

    Actually I think most incels would be ecstatic to have such a girlfriend. But women date up which means that there are inevitably men at the bottom who get nobody.

    Just like I said — women are primarily driven by looks, money, and status in selecting mates.

    I’m pretty confident that if you look at those studies, you would find that men’s success in terms of responses from women is highly correlated with (1) their degree of physical attractiveness; (2) their income/wealth; and (3) the status of their occupation.

    All of this confirms the common sense observation that men are naturally polygynous and women are naturally hypergamous; that to the extent people are free to follow their natural instincts, men at the top will tend to have multiple women leaving men at the bottom with nothing.

    The vast majority of incels would not be incels if they were physically attractive or if they lived in a time when there was a surplus of women. [At least here he seems to acknowledge that part of the problem is “not enough women to go round” and not simply “women only want hot rich high-status guys”]

    I think this is a key point. At a societal level, the problem of inceldom is NOT because such men are “creepy” or out-of-shape or are too picky. At an individual level, all these things are important, but at a societal level there is a shortage of women combined with the female hypergamy instinct which will result in an inceldom problem regardless of the creepiness/fitness/pickiness of men.

    If it’s common for a man who is 10/10 in terms of desirability to marry 2 or 3 women, those women cannot all be 10/10s — the mathematics won’t allow it. Some of them will have to be 9/10s.
    So where does that leave men who are 9/10? Chances are they will be with 2 or 3 girls who are 8/10. And so on down the line. Women date up and men date down.

    Generally speaking, those types of articles are by women in their late 30s and 40s who refuse to accept that women suffer a dramatic decline in sexual marketplace value around age 35. Chad has lost interest in them and other men are sexually invisible to them. [So here he’s saying that men who are not “Chads”, i.e. the 10s, are “sexually invisible” to women, even the raddled hags of 35 and 40 years]

    In terms of standards, it’s true that “ridiculously high standards” is more of a female problem than a male problem, presumably due to the female hypergamy instinct. In fact, I saw a couple fascinating studies in which women consistently rated 80-90% of men as below average in looks.

    If we accept that in a general sense, incels are the victims of circumstance, the ugly conclusion is that there are innocent people who are suffering as a result of women’s shallow nature.

    I leave it up to the rest of you as to whether or not I have demonstrated that fortaleza84 harps on about women only wanting the cream of the crop when it comes to men. As for points 1 and 2, I couldn’t address them because he never considers women as incels, save to contrast unfavourably female incels with males:

    When pressed, most self-described female incels will admit to having had sexual and romantic relationships in the past. No doubt their situation is pretty lousy but I think it’s qualitatively different from that of someone who has literally never had any kind of sexual or romantic relationship.

    So there, at least, he does not acknowledge that there are women who have never had a chance at a relationship in the same way as there are men who have never had a chance. I may be mistaken, but baked into that does seem to be the assumption “even so-called female incels can get a man if they wish, while male incels never can get a woman”.

    Though I’ll grant him this: he does say some women are alone (but by choice, not by necessity):

    I suppose one could say that a 25-year-old incel male should be happy to date and marry an alpha widow in her 50s or 60s but I think in practice, it doesn’t work out like that. From my observation, such a woman would rather be alone than do what she perceives as dating down.

  5. Hi, SSC!

    I don’t have much of anything to say (as usual :D) but I wanted to share that my life seems to be improving at the moment, despite the summer time (I am one of those weirdos that do worse in summer months than winter months).

    I think I may have grossly underestimated how important it is to get good sleep – which is quite a statement, since fixing my previous sleep problems was my absolute highest priority the past half year. And I was still underestimating how much better good sleep would make me feel.

    As of about two days, I now have a room to my own, have taped over the windows, no longer am right next to drainage pipes (sound source) and my snoring boyfriend (love him, but that shit is maddening), and I caught myself actually kind of happy about the cloudless, bright sky outside today, even thought I have an intense dislike of sunlight (very light sensitive eyes).

    It’s surreal. I hope it lasts.

    Just wanted to give this community an update! (Even if I’ve never really gotten into the topic before, and so no one was waiting for one. I just feel good news ought to be shared. <3)

    Stay awesome, slatestarcodex!

    • John Schilling says:

      Glad to hear things are going better for you, and +1 on the importance of sleep.

  6. Deiseach says:

    Dear Facebook,

    Re: Your Friend Suggestions and “People you may know”

    I can say with absolute certainty I do not know anyone involved with or working for “UK Sexological Bodywork Professional Training”.

    Yours faithfully,

    O_o

    P.S. Neither do I know anyone going to or who has gone to Harvard, but at least that was flattering to the vanity. Though presumably some people’s vanity would be flattered by the suggestion they know a sex therapist, so horses for courses.

    • Nornagest says:

      You have more exciting friend suggestions than I do. Mine is basically just a list of people I’ve seen at parties but don’t really know.

      Beats three or four years ago, though, when it was just a list of people I hate.

      • Deiseach says:

        I wish my life were as exciting as Facebook seems to think it is, but I honestly have no idea where they’re pulling these suggestions from (friends of friends of friends who lived in the same town?)

  7. haveyouguysevermetanyoneyoudidnttrytotalkover says:

    Scott, the 34-year-old poster above me seems worth frowning at. Now, I am not suggesting that his behavior is a bannable offense, but I also don’t think he’s contributing anything of quality to the comment section. He has followed Deiseach around this open thread, making needlessly petty remarks to her, and attempting to gaslight her about her own experience.

    Far upthread, Deiseach posted:

    I’m a little bemused by the notion that women have it so easy on the dating market and have all the advantages over these poor guys, because come on, there are such things as female incels and have been, as long and as much as male incels.

    34-year-old poster directly replied:

    When pressed, most self-described female incels will admit to having had sexual and romantic relationships in the past. No doubt their situation is pretty lousy but I think it’s qualitatively different from that of someone who has literally never had any kind of sexual or romantic relationship.

    When Deiseach felt the need to express her frustration with the continued denial of the existence of ‘incel’ women and posted:

    What annoys me is that a lot of this arguing seems to presume that there have never been spinsters or women who were deemed unmarriageable…

    The 34-year-old who denied (with no supporting data) the validity of the existence of most ‘incel’ women in his previous response to Deiseach then said:

    Would you mind providing a few quotes of this? Because I didn’t notice anything like that in the comments.

    He also says “gynocentric” far too often.

    • skef says:

      Arguing that someone is a statistical corner case is not the same thing as gaslighting. The key quoted material is not arguing that the class doesn’t exist, it’s arguing that it is much smaller than another class.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        Also, this poster is glossing over the distinctions between (1) present and past; and (2) marriage and more casual relationships.

        In the past, there have been places and times where there were shortages of men, sometimes big shortages. Also, today as in the past it is generally easier for a woman to get into a more casual relationship than to find a man who is willing to marry her.

        The upshot of this is that the claim “Most female incels (in the modern world) have had sexual/romantic relationships in the past” does NOT in any way imply that “There have never been women who were considered unmarriageable.” In fact, the two statements are so obviously different that it makes me question the good faith of anyone who tries to claim they are equivalent.

        Which is actually why it’s important to keep harping on gynocentrism. Why do so many peoples’ brains click off when confronted with information that puts women in a negative light?

        • Deiseach says:

          Which is actually why it’s important to keep harping on gynocentrism.

          We have to give in and admit that fortaleza84 is, in fact, correct: it is a woman’s world today, ruled by the iron fist of the matriarchy, and men are only second-class citizens permitted to exist on sufferance.

          So dance, monkey-boy, dance!

          EDIT: I don’t feel that I’m being stalked or harassed or the like and fortaleza84 has every right to express his opinions on the state of the world, but his attitude does remind me of the opposite one of those feminists who claim The Patriarchy has always and everywhere been oppressing and repressing noble, innocent, suffering women and that even today women are under constant attack and never, ever have they ever had anything nice for themselves that evil men did not come and take away.

          I think Margaret Atwood is full of it in The Handmaid’s Tale, no matter how much she may purr under the current praise and attention she is getting for being prophetic or whatever, and I think fortaleza84 is as blinkered about “women today have it all their own way and men can only cower in silence lest they provoke destruction rained down on them through no fault of their own”.

          I do acknowledge that it’s hard for men who are “I’m an average guy, I’m not ugly or poor or stupid or bad, why can’t I get any kind of chance with a girl the way that this other guy who isn’t any better than me can?” but that will not be remedied by “women should be taught to redirect their desires from ‘hypergamy’ to ‘someone on their own level’, and women who marry outside their level are disrupting the chain of supply”. I don’t believe that there are soulmates or destined couples or indeed “for every old sock there’s an old shoe”, I think that the history of the world shows that both men and women have gone unmarried and unloved, and that life is not fair, you can’t always get what you want, “I want doesn’t get”, and trying to figure out what you ‘deserve’ is a lot trickier than you think. “Treat every man according to his deserts, and who should ‘scape whipping?”

          Some of this reminds me of nothing so much as the sub-set of argument between some lesbians and some trans women about “the cotton ceiling” where it’s “I’m not sexually attracted to dicks” versus “that’s transphobia!”

          Yes, it would be great if that hot butch or femme you were attracted to would sleep with you, but no, you can’t make people who don’t find dicks a turn-on have sex with you even if it’s a woman’s dick not a man’s dick.

          Isn’t there a whole line of ethical dispute over “you cannot derive an ought from a should“? Women should give ordinary lower-status incel guys a chance, but you can’t make this that women ought to.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            men are only second-class citizens permitted to exist on sufferance.

            I wouldn’t go that far, but men in the West are definitely second-class citizens.

          • DrBeat says:

            So dance, monkey-boy, dance!

            Can we please not with the “insert totally unsupported things obviously wrong things into opponent’s argument, then dismiss it because of the things you inserted into it?”

            The world is gynocentric. That’s very hard to argue without making things up. The world is focused on women and the lives of women and the well-being of women as the only things that are relevant. Men do not matter, will never matter, and are utterly invisible if a woman might be distressed anywhere near them. Did you know that 20% of reporters killed in the field are women? What a horrible plight to befall women, says everybody, what proof it is that women have it so hard and are in so much danger, they say without ever noticing the insanity. Because they are gynocentric. They only ever look at women.

            This gynocentrism does not give you, personally, the thing that you want one hundred percent of the time. But even if it was driven by hostility, you wouldn’t argue that modern activists, who only look at America, only focus on America, only think of things in relation to America, can only envision the state of America, only know what things are like in America, can only talk about America, and actively avoid learning about the situation in any country that isn’t America… that they can’t possibly be Americentric because they don’t like America, would you?

          • Deiseach says:

            The world is gynocentric. That’s very hard to argue without making things up.

            In some places, in some ways, and in a swing of the pendulum from how it used to be. When dowry attacks are still a real thing, saying the entire world is gynocentric and men are the discarded sex doesn’t hold.

            “If I were a woman I’d have things so much easier” – maybe. And maybe not. Unless we switch not alone genders but situations, we won’t know if any particular man has it better/worse than any particular woman.

            I’ve had times in my life from the age of eleven on where I’ve gone “If I were a boy/man, I’d have it so much easier”. And maybe I would have had in that particular situation, and maybe I wouldn’t. The grass is always greener on the other side.

            Did you know that 20% of reporters killed in the field are women? What a horrible plight to befall women, says everybody, what proof it is that women have it so hard and are in so much danger

            No, I didn’t, and I haven’t heard or read anything about it that I could see in my usual news perusal. If you’re on the qui vive for such examples and searching them out every day, then you’ll live in a world where “oh no, they’re complaining about the 20% of women and ignoring the 80% of men, this proves nobody cares about men!” But so does the person searching for murders of trans people, NIMBYism as the cause of the housing shortage, and the decrease in the size of the Curly-Wurly. You find what you’re looking for.

            Did you know that there’s been a very recent murder in my country where a man killed his wife and first tried to pawn it off on “some mysterious person came to our house and killed her and I only found her dead body”? This plainly proves that men are so dangerous they should be forbidden from marriage!

            Well, except there’s also been a case where a woman killed her husband. So if I wanted to prove men were natural predators, I could pick out all the murders and assaults with a male perpetrator. And vice versa for women are predators. But all that would prove is that both men and women are murderers.

          • DrBeat says:

            You are being deliberately obtuse and you know it. Please stop doing that.

            “A man killed his wife” does not prove men are threatening and “a woman killed her husband” does not prove women are threatening. However, if a man kills his wife around the same time a woman killed her husband, under similar circumstances, and the whole nation is transfixed by what a horrific threatening brute the male killer was while making excuses for the poor victimized threatened female killer, that says something about who people care about and who they do not care about.

            Then again, you’ve already conclusively proven my point. You point to a dowry attack as proof women are threatened and endangered and we do not care enough about men’s well being. A dowry attack is when a woman is murdered, maimed, or assaulted in order for someone to get a valuable dowry, or avoid paying a valuable dowry.

            Men are murdered, maimed and assualted in order to get money all of the time. It’s an entire genre of entertainment, and a prestigious one. It’s something that is such a fundamental part of how you see the world you don’t even notice it. Men are murdered for inheritances, they are murdered for businesses, they are murdered for promotions, they are murdered for houses, they are murdered for what is in their pockets. Not a single one of those things surprises you. They are perfectly within your view of the world.

            But the moment a woman is murdered, or maimed, or assaulted, in order for someone to get money, you forget all those things. You can only see women. You can only look at women. You look at women, you do not look at men, and then you make very confident proclamations about where women stand relative to men. Because women’s lives are so much more inherently precious than men’s.

            Because you are in the thrall of gynocentrism.

          • Deiseach says:

            Dear DrBeat:

            The husband-murder case I have in mind was certainly not one where people were all “oh the poor innocent lamb, she was driven to it!” It was a very nasty case where the public reaction was the opposite.

            Please don’t assume I mean ‘some people deserve to be murdered’. Please also note that I was trying to make the point that no, it would be ridiculous to say that men should be barred from marriage on the grounds that men murder their wives (since wives murder husbands, parents murder children, children murder parents, and all kinds of family members murder other family members).

            Men are murdered, maimed and assualted in order to get money all of the time. It’s an entire genre of entertainment, and a prestigious one.

            Oh, you mean like crime novels, action movies and the rest? Where women also are murdered, raped and tortured for money as an entire genre of entertainment? Unless you’re trying to say that The Running Man is a real game show?

            Note: apparently it really is, but the Korean version doesn’t seem to have ‘you can kill a man for real’ as part of its format.

            Because women’s lives are so much more inherently precious than men’s.

            Would it make you happy for me to say “Yes, this is true, this is what women really think”? Because I know some neo-pagan idiocy has some kind of thing along that lines, but I do think it’s stupid. However, if you find it personally consolatory to think that every woman that passes in the street is inwardly sneering about “look at the inferior disposable specimen who dares to breathe the same air as I”, then you do you. God knows, I’ve resorted to fucking awful self-remedying means of dealing with being depressed, so I can’t look down on anyone else’s unrealistic fucking awful coping mechanism from a higher moral ground.

          • rlms says:

            According to Wikipedia, 77% of murder victims in the US are men. However, so are 90% of murderers. Also, the male skew comes to some extent from the skew in gang-related murders; women are a majority (64%) of domestic homicides.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I’d be interested to know how much homicide patterns reflect evolved brain adaptations.
            I don’t know how domestic homicide would go down in Paleolithic forage bands, but gangs do seem like a pathological reflection of hunting parties.

          • CatCube says:

            @DrBeat

            I think that of everybody here, you’re the one who’s most thoroughly blue-pilled. By that I mean that you’ve completely bought in to the defective feminist/SJW analysis of the world. I think even the most SJW-aligned person on here will at least allow some problems with it, but you’ve just gulped that down whole.

            The most corrosive aspect of this is the one that Scott decried here, where there is exactly one axis of oppression and we’re all just fighting about where we are on it. This isn’t true in any meaningful sense, and it’s deeply destructive to the soul to model the world in this way, but the reason that it took hold in the feminism and SJW spheres is because it’s the one where they can win.

            I mean, women really, truly, did (and do) have some awful shit to deal with. That doesn’t detract from the fact that there are different ways that men have it awful, some of which you’ve articulated.

            The other one that hasn’t come up as much in this thread is family courts. Back about 10 years ago me and one of my NCOs had to try to talk a Soldier through a divorce, and the NCO had to lay out the truth for him: “Look, she’s got the vagina, and that matters in divorce court.”

            But both you and feminists are playing the Oppression Olympics, and guess what dude, they’re going to win. That’s the reason they try to make everything a contest in the Oppression Olympics. Because they can point to real, black letter law that used to hold–I mean, women didn’t used to be allowed to vote!–where the problems that men face today tend to only show up in some rather dry statistics. It’s worth noting that many of the problems women face today also only show up in some rather dry statistics, but men also don’t have the full historical weight to add heft to their accusations.

            Please, stop with the black-and-white thinking. By buying in to this narrative, you’re only increasing their power. Only by acknowledging the (often orthogonal) problems that men and women face can we actually solve both.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t know how domestic homicide would go down in Paleolithic forage bands, but gangs do seem like a pathological reflection of hunting parties.

            Gangs are one of those phenomena that pops up cross-culturally when you meet the criteria for it. The main ingredients seem to be weak rule of law plus an external threat plus young men (teenage to mid-twenties) with time on their hands; you don’t need a big threat if you have enough idle men and boys, but a big enough one can substitute. So they pop up regularly in conflict zones (esp. among deserters and refugees, who don’t have their regular jobs to keep them busy), or in cultural contexts where a lot of money (enough to invite robbery) is changing hands but there’s no effective policing.

            Tribal war bands are probably the earliest manifestation of the impulse. I’d be willing to bet that your average lord’s retainers in a feudal society bore more than a passing resemblance to a modern street gang, too.

          • DrBeat says:

            However, if you find it personally consolatory to think that every woman that passes in the street is inwardly sneering about “look at the inferior disposable specimen who dares to breathe the same air as I”, then you do you.

            It would be very nice if you were to stop lying, and subsequently stop mocking and dismissing me for the things you lied about. So any time you could get on top of that “not lying” thing would be swell.

            According to Wikipedia, 77% of murder victims in the US are men. However, so are 90% of murderers.

            The phrase “victim-blaming” never even crossed your mind, did it? Not anyone else. Because men cannot be victims. Men must have deserved it. Men’s lives have no worth and are disposable.

            You cannot notice and will never notice.

            But both you and feminists are playing the Oppression Olympics, and guess what dude, they’re going to win. That’s the reason they try to make everything a contest in the Oppression Olympics. Because they can point to real, black letter law that used to hold–I mean, women didn’t used to be allowed to vote!–where the problems that men face today tend to only show up in some rather dry statistics.

            One: those “rather dry statistics” are “a mountain of human corpses that none of you motherfuckers can even notice because men’s lives hold so little value to you”. Women’s lives and livelihoods were protected in black letter law. Women didn’t used to want to vote because they didn’t want to die in a ditch in the fucking Ardennes Forest. Women couldn’t open bank accounts, because it was legally forbidden to hold women responsible for their debts. And over here, we have the TOWER OF ROTTING HUMAN BODIES, THOUSANDS OF MEN THROWN AWAY THAT YOU ARE INCAPABLE OF EVER CARING ABOUT. Dry statistics. That’s all it is. Men die and it doesn’t matter. Dry statistics. Beaten to death, shot by police, stabbed, choked to death in miserable grinding poverty, freezing to death on benches because there are no battered men’s shelters to open their doors to them because of the deliberate and concerted actions of feminists, you will never have the capacity to care about dead men. Somewhere, a woman might be upset.

            2: You are the one pushing feminism and blaming me for it. I did not play Oppression Olympics. Sexism is not a scale with two ends. Calling attention to sexism does not “take away” from the precious and wonderful women. Sexism is a single, unified, invincible thing that has infinite dominion over every one of your souls. There is not sexism and reverse sexism. There is sexism. And it rules you. It always has, and it always will. Gynocentrism is how sexism works. It is how sexism works when gynocentrism creates a result that a female feminist observer would want, and it is how sexism works when gynocentrism creates a result that a female feminist observer would not want.

            Men are threatening and degrading and capable and powerful agents who act upon others and are never acted upon. Women are precious and wonderful and incapable and useless victims who never act upon others and are only acted upon. This is sexism. It is also feminism. They have absolute continuity. Neither one can ever be deafeated and they will never diminish in power. You will stomp on our throats while shrieking their song to a deaf universe, grinding away everything that made life tolerable in the name of Making The World A Better Place.

          • CatCube says:

            @DrBeat

            You should probably take a few breaths into a paper bag, there, sport. Because a lot of the “gynocentric” things you’re blaming there are violence perpetrated on men, by men, under the direction of other men.

            I’m not sure how you square “WWI was a sacrifice of male bodies to women” with the fact that the only member of the House of Representatives to vote against the declaration of war on Germany was the only female member, who was instrumental in passing the 19th amendment after the war.

            Now, if you want to argue against war in general as being one of the greatest killers of men, that’s fair. But that’s separate discussion from how the forces that fight a war should be composed. Mixing sexes in a fighting force is stupid and counterproductive, because the officers have better things to do than try to keep them from porking each other. (And a fair number of the officers will of course be guilty of this as well) Since you’re not going to field an army with the few women who are capable of doing the job, that means you’re going to end up with a force composed of men. However, the fact remains that the decisions to go to war were made by men. You can’t whine that women didn’t have or want the vote and then simultaneously blame the process they didn’t have input into for sacrificing men at their behest.

            As far as the murder rate, if I can even understand what you’re complaining about, the fact that noting that 77% of the victims and 90% of the perpetrators are male forms some sort of “victim blaming” is horseshit. For the most part, drugs and gang activity are at least a plurality of the motive behind murders, and the notion that these guys are innocent little lambs being mind-controlled into slaughtering each other by the malign influence of feminism is so laughable that I’m starting to question if this whole “DrBeat” thing is a really impressive long-term troll. They’re killing each other because they want to control drug territory and settle scores from previous killings about drug territory–and just like WWI, women have very little input into the decisionmaking.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms & Catcube

            According to Wikipedia, 77% of murder victims in the US are men. However, so are 90% of murderers.

            For the most part, drugs and gang activity are at least a plurality of the motive behind murders, and the notion that these guys are innocent little lambs being mind-controlled into slaughtering each other by the malign influence of feminism is so laughable

            Patriarchy is men going out on the hunt, risking their lives, while women do the safer house/cave work.

            Patriarchy is men interacting with the dangerous world through their jobs, taking risks, while women do the safer house work.

            Patriarchy is men going to war when the community is threatened, often specifically seeking to kill the men of the other tribe, while leaving their own women in safety.

            Self-reported domestic violence statistics suggest that men are not inherently more eager to use violence. Men do more damage, but use violence against women less than vice versa. I suspect that men and women naturally are about equally violent, but that the (modern) social pressure on men to not hit women results in less violence by men against women than vice versa.

            So why are men more prone to use violence in gangs or such, but not domestically? For the former, they are playing their gender role. Gangs are a mixture of a dangerous job and war, so of course men put themselves into these situations.

            This is not because of feminism, but by demanding benevolent sexism, most feminism fights to keep pressure on men to perform their male gender role to provide benefits of women. Of course, they simultaneously decry the downsides that these same behaviors have for women.

            This is the hypocrisy of most feminism that puts men into a situation where they cannot ever succeed.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            I basically agree with DrBeat on this, but I think it’s worth keeping mind that the critical defenders of gynocentrism are men. If it were just a straight up political contest between men and women, kind of like Republicans versus Democrats, then of course men would win hands down.

            But that’s not how it works, of course. Women are biased in favor of women and men are also biased in favor of women. So it doesn’t really matter that leadership roles in society are occupied by men, society has always been gynocentric (although feminism has exacerbated the problem).

            I mean, women didn’t used to be allowed to vote!

            And children still can’t vote, even though society values children significantly more than adults.

            women are a majority (64%) of domestic homicides.

            That sounds a little high to me, I would guess it’s more like 50/50. Of course a woman who murders her husband has a much better chance of getting away with it by claiming victimhood.

            But what’s more interesting is the amount of societal resources and concern directed towards male on female domestic violence. There’s a Violence Against Women Act; almost all domestic violence shelters are for women; a woman can easily pick up the phone and have her husband or boyfriend thrown in jail or kicked out of the house with very little in the way of repercussions if she just made the whole thing up.

            In short, society is very much concerned about the well-being, desires, and needs of women. To the point where expressing concern over predominantly male issues can get you labeled a misogynist.

            Which brings me back to the point I made earlier: There is a real problem with incels. But unfortunately, since it’s a male problem, it won’t get much attention, except of course for derision and scorn.

          • DrBeat says:

            and the notion that these guys are innocent little lambs being mind-controlled into slaughtering each other by the malign influence of feminism is so laughable that I’m starting to question if this whole “DrBeat” thing is a really impressive long-term troll.

            Do me a favor? Please stop lying about what I said and making up a completely different thing for me to have said, so you can dismiss me based on the lie that you told. It’s rude. If you could stop lying, that would be great.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            However, the fact remains that the decisions to go to war were made by men.

            As I noted elsewhere, men are the critical defenders of gynocentrism. If it were just a straight up battle of the sexes, women would obviously lose. Gynocentrism is driven by men putting women ahead of other men.

            (From a moral perspective, I don’t see why this should matter. Consider age discrimination in the workplace. As often as not, the discriminators are older people who prefer to hire young people for whatever reason.)

            But in any event, the morality of the situation is beside the point, which is that there is a problem with a significant chunk of men who are really suffering, in large part due to gynocentrism, and paying attention to the problem is difficult, again due to gynocentrism.

    • The Nybbler says:

      While fortaleza84 has been kind of a dick* to Deiseach, making a new account to make a long post complaining about him is obnoxious. Especially with that obnoxious username. Use the report button, or (especially in the likely event it’s not working), try calling him out in the offending thread itself, with a post that addressing only the point in question. And use your existing username. Unless of course you’re a banned user just trying to stir up trouble.

      * the wonders of not being politically correct, I can use gendered insults without guilt.

      • Deiseach says:

        While fortaleza84 has been kind of a dick to Deiseach

        Ah, not really. And I’ve probably been as much of a dick back, so it all cancels out. They have a particular interpretation of the current situation in the Sex Wars and I have an opposite one, so it’s no more than if they liked chocolate and I liked vanilla ice cream and we were disputing the question of superior deliciousness* – it’s going to be “so you say, but can you back that up?”

        *Vanilla all the way, all the chocolate ice-creams I’ve had have tended to be chalky and/or too rich and not really suited to the medium

  8. Deiseach says:

    Since I have been informed by fortaleza84 that this is a gynocentric world now, here’s some advice from the 30s for women that can now usefully be re-jigged for you men trying to showcase your wares in the sexual market where women are the purchasers with the power!

    What’s cute about little cutie?
    It’s her beauty, not brains
    Old father time will never harm you
    If your charm still remains
    After you grow old baby,
    You don’t have to be a cold baby
    Keep young and beautiful,
    It’s your duty to be beautiful
    Keep young and beautiful,
    If you want to be loved.

    Don’t fail to do your stuff
    With a little powder and a puff.

    Keep young and beautiful if you want to be loved.
    If you’re wise, exercise all the fat off,
    Take it off, off of here, off of there

    When you’re seen anywhere with your hat off,
    Wear a marcel wave in your hair
    Take care of all those charms,
    And you’ll always be in someone’s arms
    Keep young and beautiful if you want to be loved.

    Remember boys, if you want to be loved, it’s your duty to be beautiful! And since this can’t at all be taken as an attitude that women might find objectionable, neither is it objectifying or offensive to tell men that they have to sell themselves to potential mates on looks!

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      And now the data

      https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/yygEfqEETrhNZAfXw/why-humans-suck-ratings-of-personality-conditioned-on-looks

      I really really want to see this broken down by subpopulations.

    • The Nybbler says:

      The sentiment is in the right place but I’m afraid the specific advice is mostly inapplicable. Also, while women are the ones with the better position now, this doesn’t mean they’ve changed position from sellers to buyers or vice versa; it means the market has changed from a sellers market to a buyers one or vice versa.

      • fortaleza84 says:

        It shouldn’t be that controversial that if a specific man wants to attract women (or vice versa) then he (or she) should work on improving his (or her) physical appearance. I think what feminists object to is that for women, looks are relatively more important than they are for men.

        I think what happens is that feminists see the small minority of physically unattractive men who are still able to attract women based on these men’s wealth and status. And this excites envy. (Physically unattractive men of low wealth and status are invisible to these same feminists).

        • Deiseach says:

          I think what happens is that feminists see the small minority of physically unattractive men who are still able to attract women based on these men’s wealth and status. And this excites envy.

          In the same way that incels see “physically unattractive men who are still able to attract women based on these men’s wealth and status. And this excites envy”, or have you not been arguing all this time that women who try to attract and/or marry mates ‘above their station’ are being unfair? That the younger second wife of a rich older man has a knock-on effect all down the chain that leads to Joe at the bottom not being able to get a date or a mate? That women are shallow for judging men’s worth by their status?

          That certainly sounds like envy to me: “he’s ugly, I’m ugly, but because he has money he got the hot young blonde and I didn’t!”

          Never mind all the stuff about “guys who treat women badly still get a lot of women while the nice guys suffer” – that’s also reeking of envy and unintentionally sounds like “I wish I could be abusive to women and get away with it”, even if that’s not meant.

          I’d be glad to meet you half-way on “people can be horrible, people can be shallow, and life is unfair”, but when it’s all “men judge women on looks and this has a solid evo-pysch basis and is perfectly reasonable” but “women judge men on wealth and status and this is evidence of their shallowness”, I don’t know where we can go. If it’s Evolution Makes men from twenty to sixty preferentially choose to pursue women of twenty for mate selection and successful reproduction reasons, then it’s also Evolution Makes women want men with resources – lack of resources means incapacity to support offspring means dead offspring, which is reproductive failure (see the story of “Hansel and Gretel” where the father cannot provide to feed his children).

          If you want to impose a law that “no man can have a second wife, no matter if he’s divorced or a widower; no man can have a string of relationships with women; it has to be life-long ‘one man one woman and that woman has to be your first choice’ or else it’s unfair because it disrupts the chain of supply and Joe can’t get Sue that he otherwise could get because she traded up to Philip”, then go right ahead and try. I think you’ll face a lot of opposition, and it won’t be exclusively from women, even the envious feminists.

          If you want to blame someone for the shocking state of the modern world, then try blaming Caroline Norton. This is from the Daily Mail (not generally regarded as a left-wing progressive paper) of 2008 and written by a male author, but even setting aside the tone of “ain’t progress wonderful?”, there is evidence that the world has not always been gynocentric:

          In the early Victorian era, a woman entering upon marriage had almost no rights. All her property automatically became her husband’s. Even if she had her own land, her husband received the income from it.

          A husband had the right to lock up his wife. If he beat her, she had no legal redress. The law mostly removed itself from marital relations.

          Married women were put into the same category as lunatics, idiots, outlaws and children.

          Even her children were not hers, according to the law. And if a woman left the home to take refuge elsewhere, as Caroline did twice, her husband could lock her out, without needing a court order.

          A husband could beat a wife without interference from the law? Surely not! Well, fiction is indicative of the attitudes of the past, and here’s a quote from a Sherlock Holmes story, The Adventure of the Abbey Grange, set in 1897, published in 1904, and plainly acceptable as realistic to the reading public that a man could beat his wife without fear of interference from outside forces:

          The woman has “over one eye … a hideous, plum coloured swelling” which is assumed to be the result of the attack of the (fictitious) burglars, but which we find out happened when her husband “rushed like a madman into the room, called her the vilest name that a man could use to a woman, and welted her across the face with the stick he had in his hand”.

          Even at the very beginning, we learn how things stood in the marriage (and this is where Doyle uses the story to press for the reform of the divorce laws which he personally was interested in):

          “You have other injuries, madam! What is this?” Two vivid red spots stood out on one of the white, round limbs. She hastily covered it.

          “It is nothing. It has no connection with this hideous business tonight. If you and your friend will sit down, I will tell you all I can. I am the wife of Sir Eustace Brackenstall. I have been married about a year. I suppose that it is no use my attempting to conceal that our marriage has not been a happy one. I fear that all our neighbors would tell you that, even if I were to attempt to deny it. Perhaps the fault may be partly mine. I was brought up in the freer, less conventional atmosphere of South Australia, and this English life, with its proprieties and its primness, is not congenial to me.

          “But the main reason lies in the one fact, which is notorious to everyone, and that is that Sir Eustace was a confirmed drunkard. To be with such a man for an hour is unpleasant. Can you imagine what it means for a sensitive and high-spirited woman to be tied to him for day and night? It is a sacrilege, a crime, a villainy to hold that such a marriage is binding. I say that these monstrous laws of yours will bring a curse upon the land — God will not let such wickedness endure.” For an instant she sat up, her cheeks flushed, and her eyes blazing from under the terrible mark upon her brow.

          Her maid later testifies that this wasn’t a once-off occurrence:

          She was an interesting person, this stern Australian nurse— taciturn, suspicious, ungracious, it took some time before Holmes’s pleasant manner and frank acceptance of all that she said thawed her into a corresponding amiability. She did not attempt to conceal her hatred for her late employer.

          “Yes, sir, it is true that he threw the decanter at me. I heard him call my mistress a name, and I told him that he would not dare to speak so if her brother had been there. Then it was that he threw it at me. He might have thrown a dozen if he had but left my bonny bird alone. He was forever ill-treating her, and she too proud to complain. She will not even tell me all that he has done to her. She never told me of those marks on her arm that you saw this morning, but I know very well that they come from a stab with a hatpin. The sly devil— God forgive me that I should speak of him so, now that he is dead! But a devil he was, if ever one walked the earth. He was all honey when first we met him — only eighteen months ago, and we both feel as if it were eighteen years. She had only just arrived in London. Yes, it was her first voyage — she had never been from home before. He won her with his title and his money and his false London ways. If she made a mistake she has paid for it, if ever a woman did. What month did we meet him? Well, I tell you it was just after we arrived. We arrived in June, and it was July. They were married in January of last year. Yes, she is down in the morning-room again, and I have no doubt she will see you, but you must not ask too much of her, for she has gone through all that flesh and blood will stand.”

          And nobody in the story – not Holmes, not Watson – ever says “but why didn’t she just walk out and leave him?” because they know all the reasons this would be practically impossible.

          But it’s a gynocentric world and always has been, right?

          • toastengineer says:

            I think you’re misunderstanding what MRA-types mean when they say “gynocentrism.” It’s completely orthogonal to what you’re talking about. It’s not about women having power, it’s about society being focused on the problems and value of women – and that’s often not going to be any good for the women themselves.

            Like, the fact that women were essentially bought and sold like human cattle in the 1800s falls under the heading of gynocentrism being a problem, if that makes any sense. Just because society is organized around keeping you safe, for a given value of safe, and around to produce babies absolutely does not mean the things people do to ensure that are going to be good for you as a person.

          • fortaleza84 says:

            In the same way that incels see

            That may or may not be true, but it’s not relevant to the issue at hand, i.e. it’s just feminist deflection. Anyway, you are ignoring an earlier question:

            Please quote me where I stated or implied (or presumed)

            (1) there have never been spinsters or women who were deemed unmarriageable,

            (2) there have never been women who wanted to marry and have families but couldn’t find or attract a husband; and

            (3) that any woman can have any man and as many men as she wants but a guy who isn’t a 10 in looks, wealth and what passes for status in his particular social circle has no chance at all.

            Failing that, please admit that I stated or implied no such thing and apologize for misrepresenting my position.

            As noted above, this is the last time I will ask.

          • Deiseach says:

            toastengineer, your example seems to show that anything and everything can be gynocentrism – so a society where the rights in law of men were deemed superior to those of women was in actuality gynocentric, a society where the reaction has swung to the other side is gynocentric.

            A divorced woman being denied custody of her children is gynocentric. A divorced man being denied custody of his children is gynocentric. Women being confined to the domestic sphere is gynocentric. Women getting preferential treatment in the world of work is gynocentric. Women not being drafted for the army is gynocentric, women being shoehorned into elite army regiments is gynocentric.

            Blue is gynocentric and so is pink?

          • rlms says:

            In other words, “gynocentrism” is almost a perfect reflection of “patriarchy” — a useful description of some social phenomena that is overused a lot.

          • toastengineer says:

            It might be used as a word-for-Satan by some people but certainly not by me and not by most of the people who I overhear talking about it.

            > A divorced woman being denied custody of her children is gynocentric.

            Don’t see how.

            > Women being confined to the domestic sphere is gynocentric. Women getting preferential treatment in the world of work is gynocentric.

            Yes, both boil down to over-protectiveness. You could similarly argue that forcing women to be housewives is “patriarchal” and demanding that women be propped up by the men around them in their career is also “patriarchal,” and in that case I’d say you’re kinda right.

            > Women not being drafted for the army is gynocentric, women being shoehorned into elite army regiments is gynocentric.

            First yes, second no, unless the justification is that them being in elite army regiments would actually protect them by teaching them combat skills or something.

            Imagine you have a large stationary magnet and a steel bearing in a sealed tube that’s nailed to the floor at its center. The bearing will sit at one end of the tube, attracted by the magnet. If you rotate the tube so that that it can’t be close to the magnet there, the bearing will fly over to the other end. Just because the magnet is equally capable of pulling the bearing to a different extreme if the one it was at is suddenly made unacceptable, does not mean the magnet is non-existent or somehow badly specified.

            Do you disagree with the specific statement that, in general, all else being equal, in Western cultures (and probably all of humanity, but I don’t need to prove that much) the vast majority of people are much more upset by a bad thing happening to a woman than to a man?

          • fortaleza84 says:

            Yes, both boil down to over-protectiveness.

            I actually disagree with this a bit. Right now, women don’t have to register for conscription if they don’t want to. Those who do volunteer to serve will enjoy relaxed standards if they wish to try out for an elite unit. And if an all out shooting war develops such that such women are in significant danger, they can simply get pregnant and will be excused from service with no negative repercussions.

            Gynocentrism means that society is primarily concerned with the well-being, desires, and needs of women over those of men. And the military is a good example of this. A woman can decide she wants nothing to do with the military; she can decide that she wants to play soldier; she can decide that she wants to change her mind. In all cases, the military will bend over backwards to accommodate her desires.

            By contrast, men must register for conscription under penalty of losing student loan eligibility; those who wish to serve in elite units must pass the most rigorous tests; and if a war breaks out they will get in serious trouble if they flake on their obligations.

            That’s gynocentrism folks.

        • toastengineer says:

          It makes me think of that one Star Trek episode where they’re like “there’s no way that woman could live a normal fulfilling life in the outside world! she’s UGLY! keep her on the Lotus Eater planet.”

          • Deiseach says:

            I think that episode wasn’t merely “she’s ugly” (they addressed that in the episode “Mudd’s Women”, including ‘gold digging for a rich husband’ versus ‘guys want hot looking chicks and value appearance over substance’) but that she couldn’t live off-world anymore; the Talosians who healed her had put her back together not quite correctly, and it was about her health as much as her looks:

            Vina explains that she cannot leave. An expedition had indeed crash-landed on Talos IV; Vina was the sole survivor, but was badly injured. The Talosians were able to save her, but as they had no understanding of human physiology or aesthetics at the time, she was left horribly disfigured. With the aid of the Talosians’ illusions, she is able to appear beautiful and in good health, as much to herself as to any others.

            Indeed, Pike after his debilitating accident is permitted to go back to the Lotus Eater planet so he can have the illusory life of good health, the same as Vina. So it’s not simply “an ugly woman cannot have a fulfilling life”.

  9. ohwhatisthis? says:

    In “What the hell is this” of the day, Trump to appoint Dr. Oz to health council.

    https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-to-appoint-dr-oz-bill-belichick-to-health-council

    Aye aye aye

    • toastengineer says:

      Sounds about right.

      The real question is whether Oprah will keep him on when she wins.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Are there any *free* livestreaming solutions out there? Preferably ones that don’t require you to verify your phone number and real identity (I’m looking at you, YouTube).

    I’ve sort of been using appear.in as a substitute, but it annoys the recipients, having to accept mic/cam enablement.

    • toastengineer says:

      Twitch? I don’t remember having to provide any details except a username and password. You probably need to give them a W2 or something to get partnered but just to stream…

      I know another small organization that hosts their own streaming solution based on uStream that they have 100% control over (they most definitely do not use it to broadcast copyrighted content, never ever) but I don’t know how they made that happen.

  11. Deiseach says:

    He’s ten, and desperate to be cool and fit in, and fighting hard to achieve and retain the cool status he manages to get. Very normal, very natural, very typical of a kid that age.

    He also needs a good kick in the pants.

    When father’s week came, I felt frustrated because I didn’t have enough cool clothes there, and it took a while for me to get father to find the time to buy some for me. Mother always got me what I wanted, right when I wanted it. At mother’s house, all of my needs were met with excellent precision, whereas at father’s house, there would always be a time delay because father and Soumaya had less time for me, and paid less attention to me.

    You are not the little prince of your own kingdom around whom the world revolves. This is a natural mindset for a ten year old, it’s much less suitable for a twenty-two year old, and for someone older still it’s verging on the pathological to be “why aren’t women paying me the kind of attention I deserve?”

    This is probably the genuinely saddest part of this whole messy production:

    Despite my struggles to be regarded as “cool” and my obsession with attaining such recognition, Fifth grade was my favorite school year in Elementary School. I played with more people than I ever did in previous grades, I was less shy, I wasn’t a dork, and I had an awesome time learning how to skateboard and hacky sack. It was memorable year filled with joyful experiences.

    Yes, because your stepmother made you do things outside your comfort zone and when circumstances forced changes on you that you couldn’t pick and choose, you adapted and began to grow out of the constant gazing in the mirror of your own mind. If this could have continued, who knows what would have been the result? And again, despite all his doom-saying, this shows he was not condemned to loneliness and derision during that decade between the ages of ten and twenty. There were ways out, if he could have taken them.

    But Elliot can’t, because he’s still mired in his own preferences. His class goes on a camping trip and he does the usual “ugh I’m not sleeping in a tent, I want to go in a cabin!” and gets his way, but he won’t like it:

    Before bedtime, Michael Ray took out a magazine that had pictures of beautiful model women, and all of the boys gathered around and looked at them. So… even at the early age of ten, boys were starting to be attracted to the female body. I didn’t understand this… I hadn’t yet reached that stage. I pretended to be interested just so that I wouldn’t appear uncool. All of those boys probably lost their virginity by sixteen. Damn them.

    No scintilla of awareness that some of the other boys could also have been pretending so as not to seem uncool. Automatic and immediate assumption that everyone else effortlessly achieved what was denied him. No recognition that you have to put work into relationships. No, he is Special because he is Condemned And Set Apart to be Forever Alone And Miserable.

    Again, I repeat, that as children we all play together as equals in a fair environment. Only after the advent of puberty does the true brutality of human nature show its face. Life will become a bitter and unfair struggle for self-worth, all because girls will choose some boys over others. The boys who girls find attractive will live pleasure-filled lives while they dominate the boys who girls deem unworthy. Matt Bordier will go on to live a life of pleasure. Girls will throw themselves at him. And I will go on to be rejected and humiliated by girls.

    Except by his own showing, this is not the whole truth. He’s just told us about two years’ worth of him deciding who were and were not the cool kids in his class (all boys) and competing with them and trying to be one of the cool kids and rejecting and refusing to play or interact with kids he did not deem cool. This had nothing to do with girls and already he was sorting out himself and his peers and others not on the basis of equality but status. Yes, puberty and competing for female attention is going to complicate this, but it’s already in his life. His envy and jealousy is already in his life. His desire to have blond hair (and getting his own hair bleached) is already in his life. He was not living in some paradise until the wicked girls threw him out.

    I saw eight-year-old boys at the skatepark who could do a kickflip with ease, and it made me so angry. Why did I fail at everything I tried? I asked myself. My dreams of becoming a professional skateboarder were over. I felt so defeated.

    I do feel like I’m kicking a lame dog here, but since Rodger is being hailed as some kind of harbinger of inceldom (both by those lauding his example and those using him as a bogeyman), I think it’s important to examine the mindset on display and try and open up a window to let light in, to show that what someone thinks is the truth of their situation – no matter how they may really be suffering real pain by it – is not necessarily so from the outside, and that an outside view can be what is needed to let some air in to the stifling closed room of self-regard and self-condemnation and let. you. breathe.

    So again, his jealousy and extremity of reaction – over valuation of his own skills, over valuation of others, immediate ‘if I can’t be perfect at this, forget it’ and not enjoying it for its own sake – is on show. He’ll apply this same valuation to interactions with women, and be as flawed in his analysis.

    And here we get to the meat of it:

    I noticed that there were two groups of cool, popular kids. There were the skateboarder kids, such as Vinny Maggio, Ashton Moio, Darrel, Wes, and Alex Dib. And then there were the boys who were popular with girls, including Vincent, Robert Morgan, and Oren Aks. They all seemed so confident and aggressive. I felt so intimidated by them, and I hated them for it. I hated them so much, but I had to increase my standing with them. I wanted to be friends with them.

    I also observed the girls. I was still very short for my age, and most of the girls were taller than me. I hadn’t reached puberty yet, but I was starting to admire female prettiness. There was one group of pretty, popular girls, and they all seemed to like hanging out with that boy Robert Morgan. I didn’t yet desire girls sexually, but I still felt envy towards Robert for being able to attract the attention of all the popular girls. What was so special about Robert Morgan? I constantly asked myself.

    I thought all of the cool kids were obnoxious jerks, but I tried as best as I could to hide my disgust and
    appear “cool” to them. They were obnoxious jerks, and yet somehow it was these boys who all of the girls flocked to. This showed me that the world was a brutal place, and human beings were nothing more than savage animals. Everything my father taught me was proven wrong. He raised me to be a polite, kind gentleman. In a decent world, that would be ideal. But the polite, kind gentleman doesn’t win in the real world. The girls don’t flock to the gentlemen. They flock to the alpha male. They flock to the boys who appear to have the most power and status. And it was a ruthless struggle to reach such a height.

    This is an eleven year old’s thinking, so you expect it to be full of shit. Still holding to it when you’re twenty-two is immature. For one thing, his father had no problem getting a new wife, Elliot mentioned how surprised he was by how fast after the divorce his father re-married, so which is it: his father is not a gentleman but is really an obnoxious jerk, or Elliot is wrong in jumping to the conclusion that only obnoxious jerks get girls?

    And I sincerely doubt eleven year old, tantrum-throwing to get his own way, I wanna be cool and popular, I think you’re a jerk but I’ll still suck up to you Elliot was coming across as a “polite, kind gentleman” at that age, no matter how he may think he showed off. We’ve already seen status competition among boys in his story so far, does he not realise that there’s status competition amongst girls too? That an eleven year old girl who’s developing breasts and having her first period is not going to hang around with a boy who is still shorter than his peers and has not started puberty yet? That there is pressure on girls about the kind of boys they should seek to attract?

    Being this unaware and self-involved when you’re eleven is normal. Still believing it when you’re nearly a grown man is retardation of emotional development.

    And then he undercuts his whole tale of Woe, Woe, No Woman Has Ever Smiled At Me by saying that some girls were nice to him and even hugged him and that middle school was quite pleasant, actually.

    He remains extremely thin-skinned and over-sensitive; he’s eleven and still stewing over something that happened when he was nine and his stepmother scolded him (indeed, writing this manifesto, he’s twenty-two and still stewing over it) and he’s still obsessed with status; his father reduces child support which affects his mother’s income and they have to move down a rung on the property ladder:

    I was a bit hesitant to invite anyone from Pinecrest to my mother’s house, because it was located in Canoga Park, a bad area, and most of the kids at Pinecrest were upper-middle class who would look down on me for living there. But I couldn’t back out of this once my mother invited Connor. He came over and all went well, we played a few video games for a couple of hours. But after that playdate, he would always rip on me for living in a “poor” house. He would also tell other kids at Pinecrest about it.

    This infuriated me to no end, and I would keep proclaiming that my father lives in a prestigious threestory house in the Woodland Hills Heights. I became vehemently obsessed with proving to Connor and everyone else that I wasn’t poor. I went so far as to bring pictures of my father’s house to school.

    I don’t know whether it’s pathetic or hilarious that an eleven year old is worrying about property values and sounding like a mini-Hyacinth Bouquet talking about her sister Violet’s house with “room for a pony”.

    I can’t wade through the rest of this, it’s too depressing. But I think it’s plain that Rodger had a lot more issues going on to make him do what he did than simply “girls are horrible and don’t pay attention to non-alpha guys”. It wasn’t girls who made him a snob, socially anxious, immature, and obsessed with status that he could not achieve of his own efforts. If he’d had the patience to wait to physically and emotionally and chronologically grow up, things could have gotten better for him. Every time he was forced out of his comfort zone as a kid, things did get better. The real tragedy is that he invented a narrative for himself where it was someone else’s fault he didn’t get the things he deserved to get and that all others got with no effort, and he refused to be willing to work with people who wanted to get him to change that scenario to something more realistic.

    A government-mandated girlfriend would not have helped, as the only girlfriend that would be satisfactory for him would have been one to confirm him in his scenario and not challenge it, and challenging it was the only way out.

    • Wrong Species says:

      I think he needed a job. In High School, he basically never interacted with anyone outside of video games. After High School, he would drop out of college at the mere sight of couples in his class. When living with roommates, he went out of his way to never interact with them. His parents still payed for his apartment anyways. If they hadn’t done that, he might have been forced to get a job and then learn how to socialize with other people.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Or would he just have stewed, that a gentleman such as he should be forced to interact with buffoons and the like, in order to earn a bit of money?

        • Wrong Species says:

          Pretty much everyone who works in fast food/retail has those thoughts. Complaining about customers is how coworkers bond. And learning how to do small talk is a necessary part of learning how to socialize, even if it’s with people you hate. Maybe it wouldn’t have helped, but I don’t think Rodger was destined to be a mass murderer.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yeah, that’s a good point. He might have made the leap from “I must deal with these buffoons! The outrage!” to “hey guys, sucks we gotta deal with these buffoons, anyway, it’s a Friday, anyone wanna grab beers” – any number of things could have slapped him out of his headspace. Then again, things that happened could have slapped him out of there, and didn’t. He wasn’t destined to be a mass murderer – he chose to be a mass murderer – but how many things in his life that could have snapped him out of that didn’t?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “Pretty much everyone who works in fast food/retail has those thoughts. Complaining about customers is how coworkers bond. And learning how to do small talk is a necessary part of learning how to socialize, even if it’s with people you hate. Maybe it wouldn’t have helped, but I don’t think Rodger was destined to be a mass murderer.”

            Actually, workplace shootings happen.

            It’s quite possible that a habit of extreme resentment isn’t necessarily solved by making someone’s life moderately worse.

    • rlms says:

      Has anyone suggested that a government-mandated girlfriend would’ve helped? (I skimmed the discussion above, so if they have please link so I can have a laugh).

      • Protagoras says:

        No, but some people have said other things which have been exaggerated/misinterpreted as suggesting that.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah, I’m not saying anyone (well… this being humanity, you never know) is seriously agitating for government-provided girlfriends, but what the solution to “some people want love and can’t get it” is, I don’t think anyone knows.

          Would it be nice if everyone who wanted love had a romantic partner (even better, one who really loved them)? Yes, it would.

          It would also be nice if everyone was given five million dollars into their bank account, a McMansion and a Porsche. Or even that every job, from burger-flipper on up, paid thirty dollars an hour plus perks, but we’ve been told that this is not doable for very good reasons (sorry, burgeoning middle-class developing nations, you can’t have the Western lifestyle, it is unsustainable and climate change is the result).

          I don’t see that an ideal plan of sexual redistribution is going to be any more workable than an ideal plan of wealth distribution. If some people are going to be in jobs that pay the minimum wage (even the highest minimum wage) and are not going to get anything better, and there are good arguments why they can’t get the same cushy unionised job with high pay and benefits as the good old days, then the same with the sexual marketplace; maybe in the good old days a man was guaranteed a woman, just as he was guaranteed the job for life and a pension at the end of it with regular pay rises and promotions simply for serving his time with the company/sweet union-protected manufacturing job with great pay and benefits, but that was then and today is very different.

        • John Schilling says:

          Yeah, I’m not saying anyone (well… this being humanity, you never know) is seriously agitating for government-provided girlfriends, but what the solution to “some people want love and can’t get it” is, I don’t think anyone knows.

          No one knows the solution, but every single time someone raises the problem as something that might be worth trying to solve, the clockwork response is “How dare you propose the government reduce women to sexual slavery for the sake of creepy nerds! You’re a wannabe rapist, you are – you should feel bad and you should be driven from polite society, hey everybody, come here and help me drive this guy from polite society!”

          Unless someone actually has proposed government-issued girlfriends, that’s arguing in exceedingly bad faith and should have no place here. Also, it’s not going to work nearly as well as you think it will.

    • BBA says:

      Thank you for wading through all that.

      The sheer hatefulness of that worldview and the fact that it’s (seen as) representative of the “incel community”, of which I’ve never been a part, is why I find it so offensive to see people use “incel” as a blanket term for the romanceless, whether sympathetically or hostilely. Because speaking as an unloved, maybe unlovable person, I have absolutely no sympathy for that hatefulness and I refuse to be lumped in with it.

      Maybe I’m being unfair, but I know what I am, and I’m not that.

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, it’s mostly sad. Rodger plainly had a lot of issues, and focused on romantic failure as the one simple easy identifiable problem that if only he could fix that, everything else would be miraculously better. And it was the fault of women, not his fault, that he was unsuccessful.

        A lot of it was immaturity and being unable to recognise that, for instance, he simply wasn’t ready at the age of ten or eleven to start being interested in girls. That he was seeking status – he writes about “all the cool boys in middle school have girls, I want to be one of the cool boys, therefore I have to get a girl” even though developmentally he was behind the other boys – and again, that’s normal: some people will go into puberty faster than others, some will go in slower.

        But that set the tone for the rest of his youth: getting a girl was all about showing off his equal status with the cool kids. And he was very young – twenty-two is no age at all! Deciding that his life was a complete mess and it was all the fault of the girls he found attractive and high-status who wouldn’t go out with him (so he could have the status-by-association he so craved) is exactly the kind of immature, mentally troubled reaction you would expect.

        That he’s been seen as some kind of hero is probably only ironic “poking the normies”. But there probably are some equally immature, equally troubled young men who think “hey yeah, he’s right, it’s not my fault my life sucks, it’s women who are to blame with their unrealistic expectations! A man is supposed to get a woman, I’m a man, I’m supposed to get a woman, and if I don’t it’s the woman’s fault for not keeping her side of the bargain!”

      • Obelix says:

        BBA:

        The sheer hatefulness of that worldview and the fact that it’s (seen as) representative of the “incel community”, of which I’ve never been a part, is why I find it so offensive to see people use “incel” as a blanket term for the romanceless, whether sympathetically or hostilely.

        What I do wonder is when “incel” actually acquired this meaning. Because back 15 years ago or so, I was reading and posting on the involuntary celibacy mailing list where I believe the word “incel” actually originated (as well as some other lingo such as “marcel” for married celibate people). And while there were some bitter men there (and also bitter women; it was a mixed gender community), there were also very interesting, intelligent and supportive people of both genders, some gay people, some asexual people, some kinky people, people who’d lived through periods of involuntary celibacy and had constructive advice about mental health and so on. It makes me a little sad that the word “incel”, which to me brings back good memories, now has such a terrible meaning.

        • Anonymous says:

          married celibate

          Which is faintly ridiculous, given the meaning of “celibate”.

          • Obelix says:

            It meant married people who no longer had any sexual intimacy with their partner. Which certainly isn’t a rare thing.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Obelix

            I gather, but consider that the dictionary definition of “celibacy” is “not being married”. Sexlessness is only there by implication, given that one does not licitly have sex outside of marriage. And the modern state of affairs not recognizing marital debt is just another perversion to add to the pile.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Pretty much nobody who isn’t a Catholic theologian or priest (or VERY persnickety lay person) uses celibacy to mean “refraining from marriage” as opposed to “refraining from sex”. Nor is “chastity” used to mean refraining from extramarital sex; instead, it’s just a more positive word for refraining from sex. Nor is “continence” used to refer to sex at all.

          • Anonymous says:

            @The Nybbler

            (or VERY persnickety lay person)

            Thank you! 😉

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nybbler: Yeah, “she’s incontinenf” sounds gross. Even “slut” is nicer. 😛

  12. Deiseach says:

    I’m skipping ahead again, but I want to pull out something that is probably really important in the whole affair of Elliot Rodger and the final action he took.

    He’s nine, he’s beginning to notice that there’s a hierarchy at school and some kids are cool and some kids are not, and he decides that he’s not one of the cool kids (and blames his parents for not making him one by making him dress better, have a good haircut, etc. but again, this is a natural description of a child at that stage).

    But I think the real seed of the problem is here, and it’s not about girls as such (though this is how he eventually chooses to define it) – it’s about being mixed-race and having severe envy of the white kids he lives amongst and goes to school with and has as friends. Again, if he constantly is testing girls as to whether they think he’s really cool and as good as a white boy, even if he’s not aware he’s doing it, this is going to alienate them.

    This revelation about the world, and about myself, really decreased my self-esteem. On top of this was the feeling that I was different because I am of mixed race. I am half White, half Asian, and this made me different from the normal fully-white kids that I was trying to fit in with.

    I envied the cool kids, and I wanted to be one of them. I was a bit frustrated at my parents for not shaping me into one of these kids in the past. They never made an effort to dress me in stylish clothing or get me a good-looking haircut. I had to make every effort to rectify this. I had to adapt.

    My first act was to ask my parents to allow me to bleach my hair blonde. I always envied and admired blonde-haired people, they always seemed so much more beautiful.

    If his explanation for rejection is “girls won’t go out with me because I’m not white”, then the cure or mitigation for that is not “give him a government-assigned girlfriend”, it’s “do a lot of hard work on his self-image, perception of whiteness and Asianness, internalised dislike, and so forth”.

    Again, Elliot is pretty spoiled. He describes how he throws tantrums to get his own way and how he dislikes his father making him do things whereas he gets his own way with his mother. Once again, very natural, and this is the job of parents: yes, you may hate having to go to Aunt Mary’s house and all those boring adults, but being shoved out of your comfort zone teaches you a lot of things and opens up new opportunities for you:

    Early in the summer, father forced me to attend summer camp at an elementary school nearby our new house. This school was Bay Laurel Elementary School in Calabasas. I hated the prospect, and I vehemently protested it. The last thing I wanted to do was spend my coveted summer at a school where I didn’t know anyone.

    I was starting to like going to father’s house a lot more after moving to our lovely new house with my exquisite new room, but this decision of father’s made me dislike my weeks there again. At mother’s house, I had it my way more often, and that’s how I wanted to live.

    I hated having to go to camp during the summer, and I was miserable at the start, but a couple weeks
    into it I made friends with two brothers named Thomas and Tyler.

    Honestly, reading this makes me think that what Elliot (and a good portion of other incels) really needed was a good spanking or two when he was a kid (sorry, ‘don’t hit children that’s child abuse!’ people, but he needed more discipline than he was getting to stop him being a spoiled brat).

    Elliot is ten here and talking to a man at one of his father’s parties, and the man does the usual “oh ho ho, you have a great time ahead of you and you’ll know what I mean when you get older”:

    Now I know what he meant. Childhood is fun, but when a boy reaches puberty a whole new world opens up to him… a whole new world with new pleasures, such as sex and love. Other boys will experience this, but not me, it pains me to say. That is the basis of my tragic life. I will not have a great time in the next ten years. The pleasures of sex and love will be denied to me. Other boys will experience it, but not me. Instead, I will only experience misery, rejection, loneliness, and pain.

    I remind you, this is a 22 year old kid writing this about how his life is ruined and blasted and destroyed. All this grandiose Sorrows Of Young Werther stuff is natural for the self-involved mindset of the young not yet fully-adult, but it’s also immature and self-regarding and really does need the help of time to grow up and grow out of being that much of a prat.

  13. Deiseach says:

    fortaleza84 has driven me to something I never thought I’d do – reading Elliot Rodger’s manifesto. If Rodger is the symbol of inceldom and a type of hero to some in the – what do I call it? community? classification? – then presumably his complaints and analysis of how he came to be the way he was can give understanding into what the claims of inceldom are.

    So I’m holding my nose and diving in, and I’m going to comment (probably extensively) on this.

    First, some preliminary remarks. For all the talk about the perception of incels feeling entitled to sex and women’s emotional labour, I think it’s true to say that why they are aggrieved has not so much to do with sex as it is with intimacy, and not so much with intimacy for its own sake (some of the outbursts I’ve read have left me feeling “but what would you do with a girlfriend if you got one? you seem to have no idea that a relationship is about two people and there’s nothing there about what you could contribute to the relationship as a source of support and encouragement”), as that we’re butting heads with the societal imperative about stages of adulthood and crossing thresholds. Becoming part of a couple is one of these rites of passage, and there’s probably an evolutionary reason why there’s such pressure over “congratulations, you have now formed a breeding pair and will pass on your genes to a new generation”.

    For teenagers/young twenties, this isn’t such a big deal (though it feels really big) since they’re not really ready for adulthood yet, but it’s also true that this is one of the steps towards forming a household and family of your own – the breeding pair – like moving out of your parents’ home and getting a job that marks you as successfully navigating the transition from childhood/adolescence to adulthood/full membership in the tribe. And seeing your peers achieving this while you’re stranded on the hither shore is a genuine grievance, where maybe not consciously but it happens all the same, you will be perceived as not an adult in the same way as they are (regardless of chronological age), as being stuck in the childhood stage, of having failed to pass a crucial step on the path of how life is supposed to go.

    That’s a different perceived immaturity to the actual immaturity of many teenage/early twenties young men (and women), and it only gets worse as you get older and your being out of step with the rest of your cohort sticks out even more. So a genuine grievance there and one that is going to be very difficult to address because you’re fighting what is damn near a biological imperative hardwired into our psyches about “grow up, find a mate, have children yourself, the circle of life”. Even the fact that marriage and child-bearing is delayed for reasons of getting an education, establishing a career, and having more choices that are socially acceptable about obtaining sex and companionship today than “get married at sixteen” is only addressing the top layer of this iceberg floating in the collective unconscious that ‘real’ adulthood happens when you’re old enough to reproduce and find a mate to do that with (those are some mangled metaphors, but do you get what I’m driving at?)

    Okay, that being said, let’s start off with Rodger was only 22 when he finally flipped and killed those people and himself. That’s still very young and I think indicative of the gross immaturity of youth (distinct from the ‘you have not traversed this stage of initiation into adulthood so are still regarded as immature’ biological imperative above). Too impatient to wait longer, convinced that it was all over for him at that early stage of his life, despair and vengefulness driving him to aggressive and useless violence.

    My father, Peter Rodger, was only 26 when he impregnated my mother, Chin, who was 30. Peter is of British descent, hailing from the prestigious Rodger family; a family that was once part of the wealthy upper classes before they lost all of their fortune during the Great Depression. My father’s father, George Rodger, was a renowned photojournalist who had taken very famous photographs during the Second World War, though he failed to reacquire the family’s lost fortune. My mother is of Chinese descent. She was born in Malaysia, and moved to England at a young age to work as a nurse on several film sets, where she became friends with very important individuals in
    the film industry, including George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. She even dated George Lucas for a short time.

    He starts off his manifesto with his birth and background, and this is an example of that adolescent immaturity. He’s staking a claim through his parents to unearned status that he does not possess of his own achievement, which is natural enough – he’s too young to have achieved anything himself as yet. If he wants status and can’t get it by being ‘athletic hero’ or whatever, then he has to fall back on ‘do you know who I am?’

    The trouble is, NOBODY CARES ABOUT THAT. Put yourself in the shoes of an eighteen or nineteen year old girl being approached by Rodger at the same age, and all he does when you agree to have coffee with him is talk like this about how his family were really important back in the day. He was living in Los Angeles, who cares if your father’s family were gentry once upon a time? Status is measured differently there, and he acknowledges this by “my mom dated George Lucas, you know”. Yes, and? Do you hang out with the Lucas family? Have you any pull or influence in the world of movies? No? Then DON’T TALK ABOUT IT BECAUSE EVERYONE IN LA PROBABLY CLAIMS THEY KNOW BIG MOVIE STARS AND PRODUCERS.

    That’s one piece of badly needed advice on ‘how to talk to girls’ that I’m betting he never got or discarded. If feeling low-status and rejected, it’s natural to console yourself by “my blood is blue”, but alas that also comes across as you being self-absorbed, narcissistic, thinking you’re better than everyone else, and even a bit weird/creepy if you keep bragging about some photographer nobody under the age of fifty ever heard of.

    He rambles on about his life going back to when he was three and talking about a birthday party and yeah, okay, this is his apologia pro vita sua but once again NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOUR BIRTHDAY PARTY WHEN YOU WERE THREE EXCEPT YOU. And then he slips back into boasting – “already a world traveller” at such a young age – yeah, no. Your family moving from the US to England and taking you on holiday to Malaysia and Spain by the age of five is not really “seasoned world traveller”. It’s hard to tell how much of this is part of the elaborate consolatory fantasy he spun about his secret specialness that was part of “the value in me” that “the females of the human species were incapable of seeing” and how much is a deliberately mannered and affected style artificially adopted for effect.

    A mix of both, perhaps.

    “At the age of 4, I, Elliot Rodger, had already been to six different countries. Who can claim that, eh? The United Kingdom, France, Spain, Greece, Malaysia, and the United States.”

    Probably a lot more kids than you imagine, Elliot, and once again this does not make you special and if you boasted about this to girls it would turn them off (“This guy thought that his parents taking him to America when he was four made him, like, James Bond or something! Can you imagine?”)

    He then moves on to the ages of 5-9 and once again indulges in overwrought scene-setting. Again, all very natural for someone who has made fanfiction of their own life as compensation and salve to a bruised ego for perceived injustices and unfairnesses, but if you cultivate and indulge in an attitude of “I’m so much better than the rest of you”, people will pick up on it and it will turn them against you. A girl might go on a first date with a fairly attractive young guy but if all he did was brag about himself all the time, it’s not likely she’ll agree to a second – unless there is an element of gold-digging, and since he was only 22 with no established career, not independently wealthy and probably dependent on his mother’s income, there seems to be little to no chance of expensive presents in exchange for smiling and nodding along and going “Oh Elliot, you’re so fascinating!”

    Even when talking about six year old himself, he can’t help boasting about the famous father of his first real friend. This constant snobbery is wearing, and I’m only a few pages in. I’m going to skip ahead through his description of age seven, his parents’ divorce, dad getting a new girlfriend/wife fast, again the mention of how his stepmother’s family are A REALLY BIG DEAL back in her home country and so on. We get to age nine and some real meat beneath all the “this shows how sweet and innocent I was back then and how I had no idea the cruel fate that lay in store for me because women are bitches”:

    The first frustration of the year, which would remain for the rest of my life, was the fact that I was very short for my age. As Fourth Grade started, it fully dawned on me that I was the shortest kid in my class – even the girls were taller than me. In the past, I rarely gave a thought to it, but at this stage I became extremely annoyed at how everyone was taller than me, and how the tallest boys were automatically respected more. It instilled the first feelings of inferiority in me, and such feelings would only grow more volatile with time.

    This tiny rare shoot of self-awareness does give us some help; unfortunately, it’s going to be true that kids who deviate from the norm (be that too tall/too short/too thin/too fat/glasses/not sporty/too brainy/too rich/too poor/you name it) are going to be picked on, and are going to perceive themselves as not fitting the norm, and kids are desperately anxious not to stick out and to be ‘just like everyone else’. No matter what helpful adults or well-meaning teachers may say, a kid who can tell that he’s not ‘fitting in’ is going to judge himself as harshly as other kids judge him – or even if they’re not judging him at all.

    Is womankind to blame for Elliot being short? Well, if we blame his mother for being Asian and therefore short, of course! But at least he doesn’t indulge in any of that kind of specious thinking (at least not yet). And there’s another sprig of self-awareness poking through:

    By nature, I am a very jealous person, and at the age of nine my jealous nature sprung to the surface. …Jealousy and envy… those are two feelings that would dominate my entire life and bring me immense pain.

    And again, how to deal with jealousy and envy is not DECIDE WOMEN ARE FIENDS AND START KILLING PEOPLE.

    Though to be fair to Rodger, he seems to have decided everyone was horrible, not just women, and killed men as well as women. The kid had issues upon issues, and plainly perceived mockery and deliberate insult at times when there was none because of his brooding upon what he felt were personal inadequacies. He refused mental health treatment for whatever reason, probably because he wasn’t yet ready or willing to do the work needed to change including acknowledging that some of his problems were of his own making, and then he just went off.

    To make a hero out of him, in no matter how ironic a way, is a bad idea. And forcing some kind of “if sexual marketplace really was fair, give him a girlfriend” would probably not have helped, unless he did eventually become truly mature, self-aware, and changed his attitude and behaviour. It’s more likely that he would have become emotionally and verbally abusive, maybe even physically abusive, and blamed her for not being the kind of supportive and unconditionally loving and loyal girlfriend she should have been.

    Giving a miser gold does not cure him.

    • bean says:

      And seeing your peers achieving this while you’re stranded on the hither shore is a genuine grievance, where maybe not consciously but it happens all the same, you will be perceived as not an adult in the same way as they are (regardless of chronological age), as being stuck in the childhood stage, of having failed to pass a crucial step on the path of how life is supposed to go.

      I have a lot of sympathy for this, because it’s basically where I’m at right now. In most other regards, I’m doing adulthood very well. I have a good job, my own place, pay all my own bills, have friends, etc. But my attempts to ask girls out go hilariously wrong, usually for reasons totally out of my control (I’m not going to share details, and none have been “get away, you monster”, but it’s not been a great experience), and I do sometimes find myself resenting those who’ve made it past that step. As a Christian, I trust that God has good plans for me, and those may or may not involve a wife at some point in the future, but that it’s his best plan either way. It’s still hard to deal with, and I imagine it’s much harder still when you don’t have that comfort, and have spent years letting it warp you.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        If God doesn’t want you to find a wife, maybe His plan involves naval warrior monk’s. 🙂
        But yeah, Rodgers was existing in a worldview where the only definition of success is mating and making babies. There’s no such thing as transcendent joy, just the pleasure of having a stable sexual relationship. He was crazy on multiple levels, but the modern worldview was definitely not helping.

    • fortaleza84 says:

      fortaleza84 has driven me to something I never thought I’d do

      That’s an interesting way to avoid responsibility.

      Anyway, I don’t think that Elliot Rodger’s situation gives much insight into that of the typical incel. Elliot Rodger was not just socially awkward or Aspergy — he was batsh*t crazy even ignoring his spree killing. He was also sufficiently attractive and wealthy that he could have gotten a girlfriend no problem.

      A more typical incel is a buddy of mine — a 35 year old attorney, moderately successful but short and slight of build and with an unattractive face. He’s not afraid to hit on girls but it never gets him anywhere. It’s a competitive dating market and he always seems to come up short.

      • Anonymous says:

        fortaleza84 has driven me to something I never thought I’d do

        That’s an interesting way to avoid responsibility.

        *insert obvious sexist joke* 😉

        EDIT: Damn, that sharp brace stripper is overzealous. I don’t think that was even remotely valid XML!

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Rodger didn’t mention being teased for being short– just that he resented taller kids getting more respect.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I don’t think anyone regards Rodgers as a hero. “Supreme Gentleman” is an ironic meme.

  14. Deiseach says:

    A news story that sounds too good to be true – but if it really is developed and replaces bariatric surgery as the last-ditch recommendation, that can only be an improvement.

    What the story never says and what I’d really like to know, is what happened once the treatment stopped: did people regain the weight? Were the changes lasting?

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      Eh, I think a combination of spicy soups and intelligently applied stimulants(Adderall, nicotine) works well. Its what the rich celebrities do!

  15. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Does anyone know of works of fiction that combine hard SF with the supernatural? I was just thinking of how the superhero genre is soft SF set in the present, except there are also gods and wizards. Has anyone tried combining the supernatural with hard SF, or is that type of fiction inherently committed to materialism?

    • rlms says:

      Too Like The Lightning, kind of.

    • Nornagest says:

      Well, Lovecraft’s the first author that comes to mind, and William Hope Hodgson is the second, but genre boundaries weren’t that well defined when they were writing. I can think of plenty of more modern works that mix psychic powers with hard-ish SF (the Mass Effect franchise, for example), but they generally include at least a half-assed materialistic motivation for those powers.

      Gene Wolfe’s New Sun cycle, maybe? Looks like low fantasy with an Abrahamic flavor, turns out to be fairly hard SF on a second or third reading. (I also adore it.)

      There’s also “hard fantasy“, the fantasy subgenre that tries to bring hard SF-like rigor to its fantastic elements. Tough to do well, though.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        “Hard fantasy” or psionics probably aren’t what I’m looking for… HP Lovecraft and Hodgson definitely fit, so it doesn’t have to be recent. Of course recent novels are more likely to be hard SF because Science Marches On, but late Lovecraft holds up pretty well except for a couple of howlers like the Mi-Go’ s wings pushing the ether.
        Definitely gotta read the New Sun.

    • Andrew Hunter says:

      Stross’s the Laundry Files, which takes many Lovecraftian (and also normal) supernatural tropes and tries to interpret them in a hard setting (with a lot of impossible tech.)

      One book has elves about which he says “They understand enough science to build a turbojet engine, but would never chose to do so; it would seem simpler to them to open a portal to a hell dimension full of fire.” That’s the kind of thing we’re dealing with.

    • albatross11 says:

      The Mageworld books have wizards and starships at the same time, with complementary powers/uses.

      ETA: Vinge’s _The Witling_ has an SFish universe with a species who can teleport people or things via some power.

      And the usual way for some categories of personal magic to get introduced into hard SF is to call it “psi”.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Macworld sounds like what I’m looking for. Not sure about the Vinge.
        Basically I think it would be philosophically interesting to see a setting where believable futuristic technology exists and materialism is false. Have plot elements like brain uploading where the original person and the AI with their memories meet in the afterlife, or engineers only being able to build slow STL ships, but Apollo can turn devotees into light and remake their bodies at the destination. 🙂

    • beleester says:

      Ra by Sam Hughes. Magic is real, it’s in everyday use, and by speaking the right words with an appropriate wand or ring, you can break the laws of physics.

      The catch is that “Magic isn’t.” It’s not convenient, it’s more like programming or engineering. It takes days or weeks to design a new spell, and generally some complicated metalworking as well. When one character uses her spells for combat, it’s described as the equivalent of attacking someone with a cordless drill – it works in a pinch, but it’s really not what it’s designed for.

      Later on, the story delves into the origins and inner workings of magic – where did it come from, what rules does it follow, and why isn’t it a convenient Do What I Mean system? – and it becomes less hard sci-fi and more Sufficiently Advanced Technology, and the ending is a bit of a curveball, but it’s still an interesting system.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      All the final fantasy games.

      • rahien.din says:

        Ditto the entire Warhammer 40k universe.

        • ohwhatisthis? says:

          There is a lThere is a lesser known cult film known as “Star Wars” that seems to fit this too.esser known cult film known as “Star Wars” that seems to fit this too.

        • DrBeat says:

          There is nothing hard about that SF.

    • cassander says:

      Echopraxia is the the sequel to Blindsight and while I don’t think it’s as good, it is very hard sci fi and does try to wrestle with some of those ideas in a grounded, hard sci-fi way, but not in the manner of the marvel universe.

      That said, I don’t think you can have magic and hard sci-fi combine marvel style in a serious way. If Mjolnir exists, it has to have a power source, a mechanism for its powers, some reason why only the worthy can lift it, and so on. You can call those things magic spells if you like, but if they behave predictably, then they just become another set of fundamental forces that can be analyzed, described, and manipulated by another set of technology.

      And, to sell my headcannon, that’s basically what the Asgardians are. They might have an easier time understanding or manipulating those forces, but they aren’t fundamentally different. They’re Noldor or Numenoreans, the mightiest and fairest of the children of the world.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Sure, the tools that gods use can be just another set of fundamental forces analyzed, described and manipulated by another set of technology, but I think it’s be philosophically interesting to see that exist alongside science as we know it. The difference between that and superheroes is that superhero scientists aren’t limited to known science, but can do things like change human size and mass if they feel like it.

    • littskad says:

      Have you read any Alfred Bester? I think that both The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination could fit your criterion: the first involves telepathy, the second self-teleportation. Plus, they’re really interesting and good.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Five Twelfths of Heaven and its sequels– space flight powered by alchemy, or at least something like alchemy.

      Celestial Matters. What if ancient Greek ideas about the elements were true? A major part of the story is an expedition to the sun to get some elemental fire. China is the other superpower because feng shui is also true, but that part isn’t worked out as well as the Greek side.

  16. Atlas says:

    Does the evidence for the substantial heritability of political views, as well as the separate but highly related evidence for demographic groups (age, race, gender, religion, et cetera) voting together to some degree, pose a serious, even fatal, challenge to the theoretical foundations of democracy?

    I feel like the connection between demographics and voting patterns is sort of a fish swimming in water sort of thing—we’re so used to the fact that people of the same ethnicity, age, religion, gender, or what have you, tend to make similar choices about which candidates/policies/parties are best that we rarely stop to reflect on what a truly remarkable fact this is.

    The SEP summarizes part of the instrumentalist arguments made by thinkers like John Stuart Mill for democracy like this:

    Epistemologically, democracy is thought to be the best decision-making method on the grounds that it is generally more reliable in helping participants discover the right decisions. Since democracy brings a lot of people into the process of decision making, it can take advantage of many sources of information and critical assessment of laws and policies. Democratic decision-making tends to be more informed than other forms about the interests of citizens and the causal mechanisms necessary to advance those interests. Furthermore, the broad based discussion typical of democracy enhances the critical assessment of the different moral ideas that guide decision-makers.

    Okay, so theoretically, a big (though not the only) advantage of democracy is that people move from incorrect decisions to correct ones by talking about ideas with other people and sharing information. For instance, there’s a debate in American politics about to what extent, if any, it would be advisable to regulate the ownership and sale of firearms. So presumably, since the US is a democracy, people will rationally research and discuss the issue, and individuals will come to lots of different nuanced conclusions that will be harmonized by democracy to produce superior results.

    So isn’t it kind of weird then that polling by Pew finds that 75% of Hispanic individuals believe that “controlling gun ownership is more important than protecting the right to own guns”, compared to 42% of non-Hispanic white individuals? Why did the rational individual decision makers of one ethnic group look at the evidence and tend to come to one conclusion, while the rational individual decision makers of another ethnic group tended to come to another?

    In this case, it seems less like who wins elections is the result of who is judged in rational debate to have the most enlightened policies, and more an arbitrary fact of which groups of people are allowed to vote. If you had a country that was 95% American white, presumably they would vote in politicians who believe that pro-gun policies are good, whereas if you had a country that was 95% American Hispanic, presumably they would vote in politicians who believe that anti-gun policies are good.

    This isn’t just a theoretical question; John Judis and Ruy Teixeira famously argued in 2004 the “the Emerging Democratic Majority” that, among other things, demographic change from Hispanic and Asian immigration would ultimately give control of the commanding heights of American politics to the Democrats. The title of their book/thesis was a reference to Kevin Phillips’ 1969 book “the Emerging Republican Majority”, which insightfully and presciently argued that a “Southern Strategy” based on appealing to Southern whites would lead to consistent electoral success for the Republican Party.

    You’ll notice that these learned analysts didn’t argue that one party would start winning more elections in the future because, say, a new meta-analysis of the evidence on climate change just came out, which seriously discredited the Democratic/Republican party line on climate change, or the results of a local minimum wage increase were so clearly bad/good more that voters would clearly see that the minimum wage is good/bad and accordingly vote for the pro/anti-minimum wage party. They argued that one party would be more successful in the future because it would be representing the interests/views of a numerically superior ethnic group in the future.

    So in that case, it doesn’t seem like the victors in a democracy in the real world are the people who manage to present the best evidence for their preferred policies, which I feel like is what we were promised would happen in a democracy. It seems like the victors are actually the politicians who figure out how to get more of their kind of people and less of the other kind of people in a polity. (This is what Steve S*iler’s “Affordable Family Formation” proposal is about, for instance.)

    For instance: which do you think would be more effective over the next, say, thirty years in advancing the pro-gun ownership cause in the US: a consensus by 90% of researchers that the data shows that gun control is an ineffective policy, or a doubling of the birth rate of people, like white Southern Christians, who tend to be pro-gun rights? I would have to imagine the latter.

    I have quite a bit more to say and a lot more research to do, but hopefully this is an interesting starting point for a discussion, and I’m very curious to hear folks’ thoughts.

    • hls2003 says:

      I agree that the increasing segmentation of American society and the rise of identity politics poses challenges for American democracy. But I do think it’s overstating the matter to suggest that preferences are unchangeable to a meaningful degree. I think what the evidence shows is that the timescale of change tends to be relatively slow in comparison to electoral cycles, but change does happen, usually at a cultural level, and often in conjunction with or reaction to other cultural changes. For an obvious example, there was a time when African-American voters were as strongly Republican as they now are Democratic, and the big fights in early 20th century Republican politics were over control of the A-A delegates’ support. Obviously that changed in the 1930’s-1960’s. Theoretically, it could change again. Whites did not used to be nearly so conservative (or at least not so Republican). There are plausible arguments that the Emerging Democratic Majority thesis foundered in part on the delayed reaction of lower-class whites to the Democrats’ embrace of pro-minority identity politics, producing a slow pro-Republican shift. You started seeing it with the Reagan Democrats, for example, and the phenomenon of Obama voters shifting to Trump suggests it is ongoing. Politics tends to be a pendulum, and coalitions (even unlikely ones) tend to form to offset permanent majorities. Not in time for an election cycle, but over a generation or two.

    • Nornagest says:

      The causality here is two-way: people don’t just vote for a party because the party represents what they believe, they substantially also take a position on some issue because that’s what their party’s for, or at least because they’ve been exposed to the arguments for it (and not for the other side) through their social circle or their pastor or Jon Stewart. Because of that it’s very hard to say how many of the things those polls are measuring actually reflect an innate predisposition to belief.

      Both parties try to swing demographic groups all the time, and pulling this off is largely a matter of figuring out things that a group cares about strongly but which aren’t well served by their traditional representation. The GOP tried to do it with non-Cuban Hispanics during the Bush years by softening their stance on immigration, but that was largely a failure; lately they’ve had more luck appealing to white union members (a traditional Democratic constituency) by emphasizing economic nativism.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I just want to say I love the phrase “their pastor or Jon Stewart”, because it captures so much about how voting works.

      • MrApophenia says:

        This is my take as well. When you vote for a party, you tend to take on that party’s views. Since the party of “Protecting the 2nd Amnendment” is also perceived (rightly or wrongly) as the party of hating minorities, you will tend to see minorities adopting policy positions opposed to them, even on unrelated issues.

        And the same goes on lots of other seemingly unrelated characteristics. Why does being an evangelical Christian make you more likely to oppose gun control? Why does being transgender make you more likely to believe in global warming? Etc.

        • Zephalinda says:

          And the same goes on lots of other seemingly unrelated characteristics. Why does being an evangelical Christian make you more likely to oppose gun control? Why does being transgender make you more likely to believe in global warming?

          Seems not unlikely that there’s some underlying factor strongly related to both. Perhaps something like “subculture” that’s a combination of social class (not just strictly income) and geographic location (especially rural/urban)?

          I’d expect people living on the same block in Seattle, and in the same neighborhood in rural Pennsylvania, to have a lot of shared political views, regardless of individuals’ demographic groups. But it’s also the case that particular demographic groups are more likely to occupy specific geography/class niches, owing to historical patterns of immigration and economic activity. So then you’d get a situation where what’s actually just local culture shows up on polls as a weird, messy correlation between demographics and ideology.

        • John Schilling says:

          Since the party of “Protecting the 2nd Amnendment” is also perceived (rightly or wrongly) as the party of hating minorities,

          But it is perceived as such almost entirely from outside the party, which I think shouldn’t matter for the process you are describing.

  17. Well... says:

    I’ve been somewhat seriously lifting weights for about a dozen years, on and off with my longest “on” stretches lasting about 6-8 months and my longest “off” stretches lasting a year or two. There are a couple things I still am not sure about. Maybe someone more experienced here can offer advice:

    – When I do lat pulldowns, whether wide-grip or supinated close-grip, I rarely feel the burn in my lats afterwards, even though I’m careful to exercise proper form (esp. keeping my back in the right posture and not pulling with my forearms). Occasionally I feel a bit of a burn up nearer my shoulder blades. Sometimes I wonder if I’m leaning back too far or not far enough. Is this normal?

    – There’s a lot of conflicting information on how to do a proper shrug, especially around the issue of whether to pinch the shoulder blades the whole time and just go up and down, or whether to go from down and front to up and back in a straight line. I’ve taken to just doing each, on alternate days. Which is right, or are they both right and simply emphasize different muscles? Also, even though I try to mentally isolate my traps, I seem to inevitably engage my neck muscles a lot. Is that normal?

    – I have a naturally long slender neck, so I do neck exercises (“nexercises” of course). I do them safely, following what I judge to be the best advice available online. I mainly do this to strengthen my neck so as to prevent injury and contribute to my general health (as I’ve heard these exercises can do), but I’m also interested in building mass. Should I really expect that to happen? Should I only expect it if I start using weight?

    – I’ve heard that when working out you should start with exercises that focus on the largest/longest muscles and over the course of the workout move to the ones that hit the smallest/shortest muscles. But a lot of the prefab “recommended workouts” on fitness sites don’t do this, and when I’ve followed them I feel great and see results. Is there a general guideline for what order to do exercises in?

    • Nornagest says:

      I’ve heard that when working out you should start with exercises that focus on the largest/longest muscles and over the course of the workout move to the ones that hit the smallest/shortest muscles. But a lot of the prefab “recommended workouts” on fitness sites don’t do this, and when I’ve followed them I feel great and see results. Is there a general guideline for what order to do exercises in?

      Within a muscle group, with the biggest motions and move to smaller ones. The biggest lifts — squats, deadlifts, presses — involve whole chains of muscles, and you will only be able to lift as much weight with them as the weakest links can. If you tire out one particular muscle in the chain, every other muscle isn’t being exercised as much as it could be.

      If you’re exercising different muscle groups it doesn’t matter what order you do them in. Also, for the first few months you’ll probably be limited more by neurology than by muscle fatigue, which is why a lot of beginner programs (Starting Strength, etc.) prescribe full-body exercises in a more or less arbitrary order.

    • WashedOut says:

      I’ve heard that when working out you should start with exercises that focus on the largest/longest muscles and over the course of the workout move to the ones that hit the smallest/shortest muscles. But a lot of the prefab “recommended workouts” on fitness sites don’t do this, and when I’ve followed them I feel great and see results. Is there a general guideline for what order to do exercises in?

      There’s a few things going on here. The ‘Big 3’ lifts (or 4 if you include OHP) are generally geared toward achieving a higher 1 rep max or 3 RM, in terms of progression goals. It’s easier to achieve these goals earlier in the workout than at the end, in part due to the preferential use of your phosphate (ATP) energy sources. Another thing is that stronglifts get you lifting across a larger range of motion and often require you to engage your core and focus on form, which sets you up nicely for targetting smaller groups later. Lastly, magazines and articles may want you to do 5 sets of bicep curls to ‘get massive arms’ because the pump you get shows instant results. But if you’re training back and you start the workout with biceps, you’re going to have a real hard time. So ignore the prefab workouts on this one.

      – When I do lat pulldowns, whether wide-grip or supinated close-grip, I rarely feel the burn in my lats afterwards, even though I’m careful to exercise proper form (esp. keeping my back in the right posture and not pulling with my forearms). Occasionally I feel a bit of a burn up nearer my shoulder blades. Sometimes I wonder if I’m leaning back too far or not far enough. Is this normal?

      Focus on achieving a really strong mind-muscle connection before starting the exercise. One good way to do this is to find a pull up bar and tie a stretchy band around it so a loop hangs down. Put your right hand/wrist through the loop and walk backwards until there’s plenty of tension. Rotate your stance so your right leg is stepped back, and gently twist your torso to the right to get a really good stretch all the way down your right lat. Once you can feel the lat engaging you can try retracting your right shoulder blade to get some contraction. Repeat and do same for the left side. After doing this you should be able to flex your lats unassisted. Now when you do your lat pulldowns you’re just flexing them but with weight in your hands.

      If none of the above works, try doing isolateral pulldowns with one side at a time, rather than with the solid bar. If your gym doesn’t have this machine you can set up a bench under/next to a cable column.

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      Buy Arnolds encyclopedia of bodybuilding. Know that after getting experience, the greats tended to just go into the gym, feel their body out, and work out what felt like could be hit hard that day.

      • dndnrsn says:

        The greats also had the qualities that set them up for success, both physically and psychologically. The chances are that the average Joe or Jane doesn’t have these. Additionally, the average Joe or Jane is not trying to win the Olympia in the 60s or 70s, let alone today. Doing what worked for the guys from the golden age of bodybuilding won’t work for a random person.

        • ohwhatisthis? says:

          Sure it will. Just like, not as much.

          • dndnrsn says:

            It will be suboptimal for their average-person needs, given the time available, compared to relatively short workouts. Arnold’s approach is great for someone with good genetics who can build their life around bodybuilding and related activities.

      • Well... says:

        after getting experience, the greats tended to just go into the gym, feel their body out, and work out what felt like could be hit hard that day.

        That’s more or less what I do most of the time. One of the reasons is I like to keep my body guessing as to what muscle groups will be worked out.

        • Aapje says:

          Double-blind workouts?

          • Well... says:

            I remember hearing that if you routinize your workouts (e.g. Monday legs and shoulders, Tuesday arms and core, etc.) your body adapts and you don’t break down (or whatever is supposed to happen) muscle tissue as well so it doesn’t grow as strong/big.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’m pretty sure that’s broscience.

          • toastengineer says:

            I thought the whole point was to get the body to adapt, because the way it adapts is by making the muscle bigger?

          • Aapje says:

            The body repairs the damaged muscle, but then keeps going to make the muscles stronger than before. The latter is called supercompensation.

        • ohwhatisthis? says:

          I think people really really overdo that “body guessing” thing. Its more important to make yourself tired at the end of the workout after hitting a bunch of big exercises, and doing some filling in and fine tuning with minor exercises vs obsessing with switching things up.

          Really, I think that’s more of a motivational line to get people to experiment then something clearly valid.

          • dndnrsn says:

            This is probably correct. A good workout is one where you feel strong as anything in the gym, and then when you’re in the changeroom you suddenly feel wiped out.

  18. Well... says:

    The American scientists one hears interviewed on TV and radio seem much more enthusiastic and animated than British ones, who seem quiet and reserved. The “In Our Time” BBC podcast provides evidence of this, for example in the episode n feathered dinosaurs in which there is an American scientist interviewed among the British ones, and it’s easy to picture, from their voices alone, the American scientist barely able to resist jumping out of his chair and waving his hands around while his British counterparts sit pensively at the table gripping their mugs of tea.

    I am curious whether y’all think this pattern really exists and if so if it is due to general cultural differences between Americans and Brits — in particular differences in the respective subcultures of each that are most likely to produce scientists — or whether the actual science cultures in America and Great Britain are different. Or is it a selection thing?

    • Iain says:

      This phenomenon has also been observed when it comes to letters of reference.

    • Randy M says:

      I think television producers in the two countries, and their perception on what their viewers expect credible scientists to sound/behave like, and possibly those producers wish to differentiate themselves from the stuffy/sensationalist counterparts across the pond, play into it more than actual differences among scientists.

    • Urstoff says:

      I’ve often heard that Americans gesture (and speak) “louder” than Europeans, so it seems like it could be just a general cultural difference.

      • Randy M says:

        Than all Europeans, or just German/British/Nordic types? mediterranean peoples are well known for gesticulating.

        • Urstoff says:

          The former; I suppose I’ve mostly just heard this from British people. Don’t know how much it compares to French, German, or Scandinavian tendencies.

    • quanta413 says:

      Or is it a selection thing?

      Obviously genetic selection. Probably selection pressures in the last couple hundred years. We’re going to need to do a GWAS.

      Just to head off confusion at the pass here: in case it’s not totally clear, I’m joking.

    • It’s not anything about science in particular, it’s just the general cultural trait of Americans being more directly expressive of their emotions than British people.

    • Nornagest says:

      I would like to know who these scientists are who don’t show childlike glee at the prospect of feathered dinosaurs, so I can find them and learn what the hell’s wrong with them.

  19. achelois says:

    What you guys think about a site that tries to reconcile feminism and the manosphere by emphasising how misaligned goals (rather than one sex being the baddies) often trip us up in the dating world?

    I think this article does a good job of arguing that our frustrations are often less to do with men or women being terrible and more about men and women chasing different things at different times in their lives (and then blaming the other sex when they don’t get what they want).

    Is there anything important missing? What do you think of the site in general?

    https://modernsexmag.com/

    • Aapje says:

      I don’t think that feminist organizations, feminist academics or feminist activists can be reconciled with the ‘manosphere’ in the near future, but it may be possible for a subset of more casual feminists. However, I think that there is a fundamental disinterest in society to recognize how some behaviors by women impact men negatively, and huge frustration about dating on both sides, so I don’t see this as a fertile place for reconciliation. The pain/anger/etc on both sides is just too great.

      Ultimately, the truth is sad and involves unsolvable problems, which the article that you linked to also concluded. Realism tends to be unpopular, because it involves telling many people that they can’t have what they want. It’s generally a lot more pleasant to blame the other and pretend that they are blocking you from Utopia.

      A good part of the article (and other articles on the site) is that the advice to men seems relatively decent. Certainly a lot better than: ‘be yourself’ or such nonsense. The article does place the onus on men to adapt to women and argues that women can’t be expected to adapt to men, which is probably off putting to egalitarians and MRA & instead, more PUA-friendly. However, PUAs are still going to recognize the unfairness and will merely accept it as a sad state of affairs that they cannot change. I think that this will clash with those (feminists) who don’t consider it unfair.

      When the article talks about women seeking to have children young, it seems extremely wrong. My strong perception is that most women want to put off having women when young, so they can advance their career, travel and have fun in other ways, before getting locked into the ‘mommy-lifestyle.’ The man is then generally expected to accommodate this perfectly, by being an outgoing person who makes sufficient time for her at first, while later changing his preferences to be much of a provider and carer. The article fails to recognize this or talk about the consequences.

      In general, there is only one contributor to the site. The articles do seem to suffer from the typical mind fallacy, where only one perspective is presented. I don’t see it going anywhere.

      • achelois says:

        Excellent point about women wanting to put off kids and then expecting men to adapt, have never considered that before. The biological clock puts an imperative on having them, if not young, then not too old, but societal pressures to be successful and independent and the real desire to actually be a well rounded individual and not miss out on ‘living’ pull women in the other direction too. Have a career, freedom, travel, but don’t miss out on the family in the end. Tricky balancing act. But yeah, the expectation that men will knuckle down when the woman is ready is an interesting one.

        Re: “PUAs are still going to recognize the unfairness and will merely accept it as a sad state of affairs that they cannot change.”

        Is there anything you think could be done to give disgruntled incels and POAs the feeling that women/society are listening, and sympathise with their frustrations? More importantly, do you think there are any practical measures that could ease some of the frustration both sexes are dealing with in the sexual marketplace? Or is the endgame just reams of miscommunication, blame and frustration and lots of people being kinda unhappy?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          The PUAs don’t care. They’re perfectly happy with the outcome of the sexual revolution and the “anti slut-shaming” campaigns. They play the game and get the casual sex. Should they decide in their 30s that they’d like to have a family and kids instead they just pick up a younger woman who’s ready for a family. As it stands they’re the only winners in this whole situation.

          My coworker is 35 and he’s getting ready to marry a 22 year old. Some friends of his were making fun of him for it but he doesn’t care. This is all working out very well for him, and for her (he’s good looking and has a good job, nice car, and owns a home).

        • Aapje says:

          @achelois

          The biological clock puts an imperative on having them, if not young, then not too old, but societal pressures to be successful and independent and the real desire to actually be a well rounded individual and not miss out on ‘living’ pull women in the other direction too.

          The biological clock makes the current popular female strategy very risky, because once a woman decides to go for a family, a relatively short period is left. If it then turns out that her current partner doesn’t want to start a family and she needs to find a new guy, they have trouble getting pregnant or such, her just-in-time planning has fairly little slack, so women can then be under immense time pressure.

          It’s not something that can be changed easily, primarily because of the requirements of having a career. People are expected to start working right after college and not to take long breaks or to work part-time, to advance. So postponing children is often the only option for a woman who wants to have both a career and children.

          Is there anything you think could be done to give disgruntled incels and POAs the feeling that women/society are listening, and sympathise with their frustrations?

          My perception is that women are much more allowed to air their grievances and talk about their failures in civilized society, among friends and family, but also in the media. I think that this has several important effects:
          – It keeps these discussions much more in spaces that are not filled with the most disgruntled people, keeping people from radicalizing and building up an identity around their misfortune.
          – It results in people seeing ‘rags to riches’ stories, as women more easily talk about failing in the past, even if they are successful now. This gives hope, as well as a chance to learn from their stories.
          – It makes it far more clear that these grievances are widely felt. I think that incels especially, feel like they are extremely bad off compared to the rest of society, much more than is actually the case.

          So one thing that can be done is to reduce these taboos. Breaking down taboos is one of the key ways in which activists effect change. A big issue here is that activists tend to need a strong community that give them sufficient status, because they tend to lose their status in general. For several reasons, this is especially hard to achieve for men’s issues.

          Also, female ‘game’ is very socially acceptable. For example, it is totally acceptable for women to talk about and use make up. Make up is women deceiving men as to their natural looks. In part men know that they are being deceived and in part they don’t (especially when women use subtle make up). Some women constantly wear make-up in an implicit deal with their partner: I give you what you prefer, even if it is not actually me. Some women hook their partner by wearing make-up and then bait-and-switch.

          The result of this socially acceptability is that it is far easier for women who are not naturally very capable at making themselves attractive, to get solid advice that works. Furthermore, women are encouraged to use some ‘dark triad’ methods. That seems far more effective and results in a better overall outcomes for both genders than to be totally deontologically moral.

          In essence, a lot of male ‘game’/PUA is very similar to female ‘game’. It’s about doing things that make the man more attractive, even if it’s not what the man would naturally do. Then just like with women using make-up, some men keep up the act to give their partner what they want permanently & some do the bait-and-switch.

          Just like with women, it seems that using some ‘dark triad’ methods is far more effective and results in a better overall outcomes for both genders than to be totally deontologically moral.

          It seems to me that it is harder now for men to learn to use the appropriate level of ‘game,’ without going overboard or doing it too little. The latter is also a great risk since feminists tend to strongly push a deontological morality for men, based on rules that try to eliminate the risks for women. The best way to eliminate risks is to avoid doing anything that is effective and the advice by feminists to men tends to result in men and women being isolated from each other, which is rather safe, but also undesired by most men and women.

          So I fear that I have to argue that pushing back against feminism on this front is also very important.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            So one thing that can be done is to reduce these taboos. Breaking down taboos is one of the key ways in which activists effect change. A big issue here is that activists tend to need a strong community that give them sufficient status, because they tend to lose their status in general. For several reasons, this is especially hard to achieve for men’s issues.

            I think this is the real usefulness of the show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” It’s about the only thing that shows sympathy towards some guys who are incel. And then shows how drastically they can improve their circumstances with some effort.

    • Aapje says:

      Bloody hell, I read another article.

      A quote:

      For starters, because they’re exhibiting such low levels of social intelligence by employing a strategy that involves bestowing unwanted attention on someone who is clearly unreceptive. […] But I really can understand why, in their minds, I seem like a stuck up bitch. I genuinely do think I’m better than them. (Sorry in advance because this is horrible, but it’s a gut instinct not a feeling that I want to endorse). These guys are pathetic losers to me. I think of them more like animals than equals or fully fledged people.

      This is actually the same kind of content that gives PUA forums their bad reputation. It’s toxic writing that attracts toxic people.

      Then it actually gets worse, because she argues that men/nerds from rich backgrounds may be able to learn how to woo women, but that the situation for poor men is pretty hopeless, so we need more abortions to get rid of these men. :O

      So…my end conclusion is that some PUAs may like this, but mainly because it validates their opinion that (feminist) women have completely unrealistic demands and should be manipulated emotionally to perceive men who don’t naturally have high social ability or other traits they demand. They will be hate-reading this content, rather than considering it just.

      Her calling out social justice for virtue signalling is going to make her very unpopular among mainstream social justice advocates.

      • toastengineer says:

        To be brutally honest, as awful as it is I’m pretty sure that is an accurate description of how most women think about most men. That’s how I get treated most of the time.

        It reminds me of those two feminist types who were on here like a year or so ago who were like, “well yeah, I pity male abuse victims in a ‘look at the sad puppy’ way, but it’s ridiculous to believe they somehow ‘deserve’ happiness.” Except the way they said it was way more convincing that they actually believed it. Like, wow, you genuinely don’t care about any human being who does not either remind you of yourself or appear to be useful to you. I was under the impression you guys were a hallucination caused by outgroup biases.

        Lemme provide a favorable out-of-context quote from the same article, to balance your unfavorable one:

        The thing is, society gains nothing from ostracising people like this further and branding them as pariahs. I know I’ve admitted that my own gut instinct is one of revulsion, and I don’t know any way around that feeling. But the key, I think, although it’s against a lot of odds, is for society to provide as many avenues as possible for men like that to find a place of their own and a sense of worth in the world.

        No, it’s not ok for men to shout at women or harass them, and this behaviour should be condemned. But the humanity of a person should be nurtured, rather than completely written off, and people who struggle to behave appropriately in the world should be helped as best they can, even when they exhibit unacceptable behaviour.

        • quanta413 says:

          I think this is unfair to her.

          She’s not talking about men quietly complaining behind her back. She’s talking about strange men who publicly hit on her then insult her to her face.

          I think that’s a pretty reasonable way to feel. When a guy screams “faggot!” at me from a passing car, I’m inclined to think of him as more of a stupid animal than much else.

          I also agree with her that the other extreme of becoming groveling and apologetic is a total turn off.

      • achelois says:

        @Aapje

        On rich vs poor men, I think it was more about smart vs dumb men. Being dumb is really hard to change. Plenty of engineers and the like aren’t from rich families, but they’re smart and have a greater capacity to think their actions through, which might be why they tend to react less on gut instinct and wounded pride.

        On:

        some PUAs may like this, but mainly because it validates their opinion that (feminist) women have completely unrealistic demands and should be manipulated emotionally to perceive men who don’t naturally have high social ability or other traits they demand.

        POA’s might read it that way, but it would be a faulty conclusion. Many women do have unrealistic expectations, but really dumb men, who are uneducated and can’t express themselves well verbally – no ‘game’ in the world is going to help them. It’s the equivalent of being fat. You can’t hide it anywhere, everybody can see it and basically everybody will judge you for it. Only dumb women pair up with dumb men (barring ridiculous high status outliers). Also, how could a really dumb man have the capacity to emotionally manipulate a woman, especially a smarter one?

        I think that’s the main thing the article was trying to highlight – POV of smart woman explaining how low status low intellect men seem to her. It’s an ugly view, but honest.

        Surely most smart men also view really dumb men in a similar way? I don’t imagine many SSC readers are regularly hanging out with dumb, inarticulate men… We segregate ourselves into our tribes and these men are not of our tribe. They’re of a tribe that (if we’re honest) we often look down on. That’s kind of bad, but it’s an ugly truth.

        • Aapje says:

          On rich vs poor men, I think it was more about smart vs dumb men.

          She seems to be arguing both that the social environment holds some people back, but also that men with low IQ cannot be taught.

          My interpretation is that by advocating for abortions among the poor, she was addressing the first part: having fewer men grow up in a bad social environment, that is commonly found among the poor.

          I don’t see any indication that she believes that the poor are dumber and favors abortions of the poor to do eugenics. If she was actually arguing for eugenics, that would make it impossible for her to get any decent traction with social justice people.

          Surely most smart men also view really dumb men in a similar way?

          Both dumb men and women are not so pleasant to be around. She specifically wants dumb men gone, though, which is rather narcissist and sexist.

    • Acedia says:

      I appreciate Lipmann’s willingness to share her uglier and less socially acceptable thoughts and feelings. Public discussions of modern dating really suffer from how full of shit everybody is about what they think and what they want, so there’s real value in that. I’ll probably visit the site again.

      • quanta413 says:

        Agreed. It’s refreshing because it’s not the sort of thing it’s acceptable to say.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Why do you think that feminists and the various subcultures in the manosphere want to reconcile?

      Feminists and men’s rights activists (MRAs) hate one another despite (because of?) their nearly identical worldviews. MRAs can’t be reincorporated into feminism without a lot of compromises on important issues like domestic violence and divorce law. Feminists have no incentive to compromise on those issues.

      Feminists and men going their own way (MGTOWs) aren’t going to reconcile because the latter are diligently separating themselves from the former. They don’t like each other but they don’t have to since MGTOWs make every effort to avoid institutional feminism. Feminism’s totalitarian instinct is to prevent any escape, but ultimately these guys aren’t catches to begin with and they have bigger fish to fry.

      Feminists and pick up artists (PUAs) could probably reconcile. Feminists require much less effort to pick up and guys like Mark Manson have shown that you can write PUA-adjacent advice provided that you fill it with enough feminist buzzwords to get it past the censors. That said, it’s hard to talk about women’s preferences honestly within a feminist framework so this seems unlikely.

      Feminists and traditional conservatives (Tradcons) are already old enemies and feminism is in the midst of a decades-long process of grinding them into the dust. That’s not about to change.

      I don’t think incels are properly part of the manosphere, but nonetheless they seem to have little incentive to reconcile either.

      • DrBeat says:

        How do feminists and MRAs have identical worldviews?

        • Anonymous says:

          I think it’s an exaggeration, but both nominally advocate equal rights and both are primarily interested in advancing rights for *their* constituency.

          • Aapje says:

            I disagree with that. It seems to me that nearly all of the academic/gender studies & activist feminists want special privileges for women (benevolent sexism). My impression is that most MRAs want equal treatment.

            In a society where people care far more about helping women, you will only get equal treatment by specifically demanding more for men, but asking for the same thing that women get, is only “advancing rights for *their* constituency” by virtue of society being sexist. The desired outcome is not to advance rights only for men, but to actually achieve equal rights.

          • Anonymous says:

            @Aapje

            I don’t think we actually disagree.

          • toastengineer says:

            MRAs are basically feminists back when feminism was good (see also Fearful Symmetry.)

            Thus, the majority right now are people who have noticed huge injustices and want to fix them, and while they’re susceptible to Super Happy Death Spiral type effects they don’t seem to have fallen in to any of those traps yet. There is a certain distribution of angriness, though, and as they achieve their goals only the moderates will boil off and angriest people will be left. Hopefully the angry people don’t get to bank on their predecessors reputation.

            I don’t buy the “identical worldviews” thing; feminists believe in an invisible not-really-a-conspiracy against them while MRAs just think the laws are fucked because things radically changed in the last ~100 years and the law hasn’t caught up.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @toastengineer

            Do you consider yourself an MRA?

            I’d characterize the “old school MRAs” as basically a split (a secular heresy, if you want to call it that) among male feminists, with a few of the women going along with them. Mostly over stuff like custody and other divorce-related stuff, where the laws were based on sexist assumptions (“women are better at caring for children, men work jobs so they have money”) but that often were (or at least seemed) unfair to guys getting divorced. It became largely about this for a while, and attracted mostly embittered divorced guys. There was a while where people might as been as likely to know it as “father’s rights” as “MRA” or whatever. Some of these guys were loonies, and it attracted some guys who didn’t deserve to be anywhere near their kids, or who legit owed a bunch of back child support, or whatever.

            It’s gotten a lot uglier in recent years, as it’s started attracting younger guys, whose complaint is that society isn’t fair (especially in regard to sex and dating and so on) to twentysomething (usually lower-status-in-context) men, rather that it isn’t fair to middle-aged guys getting divorced. It’s not moderates peeling off as objectives have been achieved, I don’t think. It’s that MRA, as a “brand”, has been swallowed up by redpill thinking, to the point that most people don’t think there’s a difference, if they think about it at all.

            This is because the redpill elevator pitch is more appealing to men, especially younger men. “Society is unfair and let’s ask society to change; in the meantime, let’s sit around in a circle and say it’s unfair that we gotta pay our ex-wives when we don’t even get to see our kids” is kinda pathetic; “society is unfair and here’s how you can take advantage of that unfairness to get laid” is going to be more appealing to a lot of guys.

          • toastengineer says:

            @dndnrsn

            No, I’m a sympathizer but not one of them. For one thing I don’t actually actively seek out information about them, I’m just partially remembering following the anti-SJW folks back before they started winning, some of whom called themselves MRAs and were overall definitely adjacent, and partially going off the information that I’ve stumbled upon since.

            I say to judge movements by their actual detectable effects on the universe, and the MRAs detectable effect seems to be a very small positive (running a small number of support organizations for divorced men that I certainly never got any help from) and a very small negative (occasionally being annoying and anti-rational in the way 90s feminists sometimes were,) summing to epsilon.

            My impression was that the most prominent MRAs were mostly women; Karen Straughan, that lady who invented domestic abuse shelters, Christina Hoff Sommers (though I don’t think she ever called herself one…) uhh… others whose faces I remember but not names…

            I worry that you’re confusing weakman MRAs with the real thing, though if you actually study them your perception is probably more accurate than mine. My impression from them was redpillers were their TERFs; no-one actually likes them and the few things they agree on are mostly by accident, but their enemies love to prop them up as “look at this dumbass feminist with a toilet seat on her head/look at this shitbag MRA saying he wants to knock up as women as he can and not face any consequences.” Also a lot of intentional conflation with PUA, which makes about as much sense as conflating feminism with knitting. Of course maybe the redpillers are actually growing, but I never got any impression that any of the MRAs who hung out with the “father’s rights” style MRAs thought of them as any more than “those psychos who stole our name with the help of dishonest feminists.”

            The division I saw was the one between the old-fashioned “delete the laws that are explicitly about discriminating against men and boys and then quit” and the “society is unacceptably cruel and unfair in subtler ways” people who look too much like feminists to me to fully support them, because even though I think they’re ~90% right I didn’t see any Affective Death Spiral mitigation going on and a whole lot of mind-killing anger. Those two groups were held together pretty strongly by, well, the actual existence of laws and policies deliberately and openly or nearly openly designed to harm men; group 2 wanted to accomplish all group 1’s goals first, the difference is that they wanted to keep going afterwards.

            I’m pretty sure I never saw anyone trying to “frame sex relations in terms of Marxist class struggle” though, they seemed too pissed at the feminists to ever do something that looked that much like them, and too right/anti-sjw-left adjacent.

          • rlms says:

            Taking /r/MensRights as representative of the movement, it looks to be about 1/3 father’s rights, 1/3 opposition to false rape accusations, 1/3 opposition to feminism. Red pill stuff does not seem to be a significant part of it in terms of numbers. On the other hand, looking at /r/theredpill suggests that MRA is a minor but significant part of that movement.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @toastengineer

            My impression was that the most prominent MRAs were mostly women; Karen Straughan, that lady who invented domestic abuse shelters, Christina Hoff Sommers (though I don’t think she ever called herself one…) uhh… others whose faces I remember but not names…

            I worry that you’re confusing weakman MRAs with the real thing, though if you actually study them your perception is probably more accurate than mine. My impression from them was redpillers were their TERFs; no-one actually likes them and the few things they agree on are mostly by accident, but their enemies love to prop them up as “look at this dumbass feminist with a toilet seat on her head/look at this shitbag MRA saying he wants to knock up as women as he can and not face any consequences.” Also a lot of intentional conflation with PUA, which makes about as much sense as conflating feminism with knitting. Of course maybe the redpillers are actually growing, but I never got any impression that any of the MRAs who hung out with the “father’s rights” style MRAs thought of them as any more than “those psychos who stole our name with the help of dishonest feminists.”

            I don’t study it, so much as there was a whole bunch of coverage during a campus kerfuffle, and I’ve read some feminist-but-sympathetic stuff (eg, Faludi’s Stiffed). The big-name MRA who I think of is Warren Farrell; Hoff Sommers is more in fashion today? If Farrell is a weakman, he’s a weakman who’s done a lot of self-promotion.

            I don’t think there’s a lot of intentional conflation; it’s simple outgroup homogeneity bias. Probably part of it too is that our society tends to put a lot of rhetorical value to using “rights language” even when what’s being talked about isn’t about “rights” in any technical sense. But mostly outgroup homogeneity bias.

            The division I saw was the one between the old-fashioned “delete the laws that are explicitly about discriminating against men and boys and then quit” and the “society is unacceptably cruel and unfair in subtler ways” people who look too much like feminists to me to fully support them, because even though I think they’re ~90% right I didn’t see any Affective Death Spiral mitigation going on and a whole lot of mind-killing anger. Those two groups were held together pretty strongly by, well, the actual existence of laws and policies deliberately and openly or nearly openly designed to harm men; group 2 wanted to accomplish all group 1’s goals first, the difference is that they wanted to keep going afterwards.

            Did you notice an age gap, too?

          • toastengineer says:

            I did not, since this was all internet-based, though I would be mildly surprised if the more conservative (in the ‘don’t change society’ sense) MRAs did not tend to be older.

            I have no idea who Warren Farrel is. I’m not sure how big C. H. Sommers is today but she was a biggish deal in the late 90s and had a mild resurgence when the anti-SJW movement took off. My grandfathers library contained a copy of The War Against Boys, so she crosses the “do random people have copies of this person’s books” test at least.

            I’m not sure how accurate even trying-to-be-sympathetic feminist discussion of MRAs is going to be; Cassie Jay’s The Red Pill is basically an entire documentary of “I actually talked to some MRAs and it turns out everything anyone says about them is a blatant lie.” And it’s banned in at least one country (Australia) so that tells you how popular the movement is with the people in power.

            In fact if your “campus kerfuffle” happened in the last couple years you’re probably thinking of those ROK nutjobs that organized a bunch of protests at colleges a couple years back; they’re radical redpillers, they just call themselves MRAs. They’re the one political organization not currently in power that genuinely scares me.

          • Aapje says:

            @toastengineer

            Warren Farrell is more progressive than Hoff Sommers. He served on the New York City Board of NOW, so he started off as a second wave feminist, but he was actually serious about gender equality, which caused him to clash with feminists, as he started calling out sexism in women (as well).

            My impression is that Farrell has been highly influential on MRAs that go beyond father’s rights, for instance, by calling men the disposable sex in 1993.

            Note that Cassie Jay’s The Red Pill was not actually banned in Australia. Their first public viewing in Australia was cancelled after feminist protests & various other cinema’s and other places refused to show it. However, it was shown elsewhere and it can be seen in Australia through streaming services.

            Cassie Jay was treated very unfairly by the Australian media, a true media hit job.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @toastengineer

            In fact if your “campus kerfuffle” happened in the last couple years you’re probably thinking of those ROK nutjobs that organized a bunch of protests at colleges a couple years back; they’re radical redpillers, they just call themselves MRAs. They’re the one political organization not currently in power that genuinely scares me.

            Nah, this was before that. They were more old-school MRAs, not redpillers.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Not identical but nearly identical, at least compared to every pre-feminist ideology I’m aware of.

          Both feminists and MRAs frame sex relations in terms of Marxist class struggle, with an oppressor sex exploiting an oppressed sex. All the usual tools of Marxist analysis, such as false consciousness, are on display.

          Both feminists and MRAs view the relevant differences between the sexes as arising from imposed gender roles rather than biological differences, and thus share the ostensible goal of sexual equality through social reform. The fact that both are reformist rather than revolutionary isn’t unusual for modern day Marxists.

          The fact that they disagree about which sex is oppressed and which is the oppressor seems hardly relevant compared to the fact that they both are using identical modes of analysis and activism. Neither one can possibly achieve their goals because their premises are garbage and their methods are ineffective at anything except for accumulating power in the hands of unscrupulous madmen.

          • Aapje says:

            Both feminists and MRAs frame sex relations in terms of Marxist class struggle, with an oppressor sex exploiting an oppressed sex.

            Some feminists attack MRAs by claiming that MRAs believe that men are oppressed by women and then point to an example of women having it worse than men to ‘debunk’ men’s rights activism (note that I have never been able to convince a feminist that men are not oppressing women, by pointing to a situation where men do worse). However, the claim that men are oppressed by women is one that I have rarely heard from MRAs. Certainly far, far, far, far less than I have heard the opposite from feminists.

            Social justice people who claim unidirectional oppression tend to defend it based on a post-modern variant of Critical theory*, which argues that groups who are over-represented in positions of power cannot but help themselves and hurt those who are underrepresented.

            For obvious reasons, this is not an argument that MRAs tend to use.

            Both feminists and MRAs view the relevant differences between the sexes as arising from imposed gender roles rather than biological differences, and thus share the ostensible goal of sexual equality through social reform.

            Again you are conflating fundamentally different beliefs by leaving out important differences.

            It is obvious that all social activists believe that there are unfair social aspects, or they wouldn’t be social activists, but would either resign themselves to the status quo or would embrace eugenics or technology as the solution.

            However, very many feminists seem to believe that biological differences are so minor, that any significant inequality of outcome must be caused by a social element. MRAs generally seem far more willing to believe that there are significant biological differences and thus tend to focus less on equality of outcome and more on the genders being treated equally when they make (or desire to make) the same choices.

            If you look at what MRAs tend to want, you see that they don’t tend to argue for a class struggle, where men must rise up and join together against the women. Instead, they tend to argue for equal treatment under the law and by (government) policy.

            I would argue that MRAs tend to be more like MLK and (this wave of) feminists tend to be more like Malcolm X.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Good article and very honest. But at the end she misses the obvious. What do you do when you have misaligned goals? You compromise. This is the old adage “men trade love for sex and women trade sex for love.” The author’s hypothetical girl keeps selecting men for a relationship (love) and then giving away the sex before getting the commitment for the love. She notes that women are the gatekeepers of sex and men are the gatekeepers of relationships, but maybe the solution is to taboo opening the one gate while the other gate is still shut. Open both gates, or neither gate.

    • Thegnskald says:

      I think the idea of reconciliation is incorrect.

      Fifteen years ago, the response by a typical feminist when male rape victims were brought up was to deny it was a significant issue and only brought up by trolls to distract people from real problems. Today, a typical feminist will insist that male rape victims are of course a feminist issue and always have been. The victory will be a couple of years hence, incremental, and largely invisible, even to those who fought for it, already moving on to a new fringe position.

      It isn’t a matter of reconciliation. Rather, it is a matter of moving overton windows such that the things people think need to be reconciled move far enough apart that it no longer matters. There will never be a reconciliation; there will only be increasing irrelevance as the views of the groups move further and further afield and find it harder and harder to recruit new members.

      (That said, a pox on the house of feminism for having made a schism necessary in the first place.)

    • rahien.din says:

      A few thoughts.

      Men can’t be the only ones trammelled by the combination of environment and genetics, right? I know there has got to be some reporting bias (after all, who would have the temerity to write such an essay about icky bitches trying to reach above their station?) but are there no women who are frustrated to the same degree and for the same reasons? This seems… incomplete, somehow.

      She describes men who are unconfident, and who are basically low on prospects due to some combination of inborn and environmental factors, who are frustrated, and who are thus all the more belligerent. Presuming that the worst-off of these men might be unreachable in any practical sense, and so – she baldly asks – is it worth it for them to have been born?

      Even though I strongly disagree with the way that she connects “These men were never aborted” with “I find these men revolting,” nor do I wish anyone ill (or dead), this does make me wonder if some of this issue is due to the modern professional landscape. In the not-too-distant past, there were more available jobs in professions that were more physically demanding and more dangerous, and these jobs were more valued by society. Those professions would have provided some of these guys with a better physique and a justified confidence… and also, some of them would have died in the course of their work. Think of sailors, miners, lumberjacks, firemen – all hot, all at risk. On an object level, that would fit more closely with what she describes.

      So maybe the source of the issue isn’t that all of the sudden women are beset by horny troglodytes, in whom they place their justified scorn. Maybe instead the issue is how our society has aligned physicality, risk, and status in such a way that disqualifies certain persons a priori.

      She also describes that many of these men just don’t know how to approach a woman, at all, or how to handle or anticipate rejection. Some of them have emotional outbursts, others become obsequious. I honestly dislike PUA, in terms of its premises, goals, and methods. But if it seems to work, and if it is doing so by teaching men how to be objective, project confidence, and deal with rejection, then it is accomplishing some of the relationship goals that the writer here thinks are likely unreachable. Maybe PUA can function as a transitional step. Sort of like how Karl Marx viewed capitalism.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      What you guys think about a site that tries to reconcile feminism and the manosphere by emphasising how misaligned goals (rather than one sex being the baddies) often trip us up in the dating world?

      I mean, I don’t disagree, I just think that this is incredibly obvious to anyone who has associated with humans for more than 5 minutes and doesn’t have an ideological axe to grind.

      At first I had a problem with the article because it was simply an Apex Fallacy from the male perspective, but the author did bring up so-called “Invisible Men.”

      Your problem is that you aren’t going to convince people that DO have an axe to grind. Like, the incel guys are going to see some of her comments about aborting the unintelligent low-game men and think all women are terrible. Which is true in a “we are all sinners” sense, but not true from a “civilization is doomed because YOU are uncivilized” sense.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        @ADBG: I really think that’s the root problem with feminism, anti-racism, etc. These secular ideologies were born in Western Christian civilization but instead of saying “we are all sinners”, they say “the only thing standing in the way of utopia is that you men/whites are all sinners.”

        • Nornagest says:

          I think this is substantially untrue, at least for anti-racism. Social Justice, with its heavy emphasis on privilege discourse, is mainly a white and Asian phenomenon and carries with it very strong connotations of self-examination — “we are all sinners, and these innocents are the victims of our sin”. It does like to pedestalize academic black or Hispanic authors writing for a white audience, but that’s not where most of the day-to-day social pressure is coming from. The way regular black and Hispanic guys talk about race shares some of the same concepts, but the overall approach is very different and its top priorities are much more pragmatic — less concerned with implicit bias, more concerned with e.g. police brutality.

          (I think every time a post starting “If you are white…” has crossed my Facebook feed, it’s been shared by a white friend. I’m a little short on details, though, because that’s usually about as far as I read before unfollowing them.)

          You could make a better case for feminism.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: OK, so change the pronoun to “we.” It’s still doing the same work as the doctrine of Adam’s Fall, but only white people are Children of Adam. How often do academics acknowledge, for example, human depravity in pre-Columbian America rather than assigning all evil to Europeans?

          • Nornagest says:

            Depends what branch of academia you’re talking about. Historians and anthropologists are usually pretty willing to acknowledge all the horrifying shit that’s gone on in the past, although they’ll often downplay it for understandable reasons — if you spend twenty years studying the Aztecs you’ll probably fall in love with them a little, mountains of skulls and all. I took a few courses in school from a Marxian archaeologist specializing in the pre-contact Southwest, and he didn’t gloss much over as far as I can tell.

            Critical Identity Studies types would very rarely bring it up, but they’d say it’s outside their ambit: those fields are more or less defined as the study of group marginalization in a modern context. I have all sorts of issues with the assumptions that bakes in, but if you ignore that it’s pretty reasonable. Though e.g. Latin American Studies is generally pretty willing to invoke positive aspects of pre-contact culture to motivate some present-day quirk.

            I’m not gonna offer an excuse for sociology.

          • mdet says:

            While there’s definitely a distinction between the way Social Justice talks about race vs the way everyday black, hispanic, etc. people talk about race, I think that implicit bias IS an everyday-black-people concept, if not in those words exactly.

            Like, everyday black people aren’t going around talking about the Implicit Association Test and how people need to take it to see how racist they are on the inside. But they WILL talk about how the person who says “I’m not racist, I don’t have any problem with black people” can both be entirely sincere and still do racist things sometimes, if only out of ignorance. Is this a similar enough concept to “implicit bias”?

          • Nornagest says:

            Sure. But I don’t get the sense that that takes as central a position as privilege does in SJ theory. I’m saying the priorities are different, not that the concept is totally absent — and that the priorities are different because SJ content is written primarily by and for white and Asian people who’re… how to put this charitably… dissatisfied with liberal* approaches to race, and looking for other ways to conceptualize themselves relative to it.

            (*) As in “liberals get the bullet too”.

  20. I often listen to certain modern pop philosophers like Sam Harris have conversations and think they don’t sound so much smarter than I am, but is this a mistake? When I try to speak, or write I come across as less smart than I actually am, because of the difficulties in translating fully formed many faceted concepts into human language. Could it be that since the pop philosophers are better speakers than I am, their internal thought process is again wildly more complex than my own, and I can infer mind boggling levels of thought from that?

    • Well, you’re in a good place to practice.

    • Aapje says:

      @Forward Synthesis

      It seems very likely that the conversion ratio between intelligence and perceived intelligence is far from constant, so some of these people may actually not smarter than people who are perceived as less intelligent, but may be merely better at articulating their thoughts in ways that are or at least seem smart.

      Also, anything that is popular is presumably of limited intelligence, given that the inferential distance probably increases with a greater gap in intelligence. So presumably, as people make a smarter argument, they will give more valuable insight to people of less intelligence, but only to a point where the other person can still follow enough of the argument. After that point, the other person may still be able to recognize that the person is smart, but they will no longer be interested in listening to them.

      Since few people are interested in listening to me, I can therefor conclude that I am super-smart 😛

      • albatross11 says:

        Ability to communicate clearly is a mix of talent and skill, and it varies across people. It’s probably correlated with intelligence, but it’s not the same thing as intelligence.

        Being quick with a response is also not the same thing as intelligence, though I imagine it’s correlated with intelligence.

        I know people in my field, whose work I’m qualified to evaluate, who are extremely good at communicating, and others who are bad at it. And people who are extremely quick on their feet, mentally, and others who almost need to go off for a couple hours and think about each response in a conversation.

        Someone like Sam Harris is guaranteed to be a good communicator and quick on his feet, because otherwise he wouldn’t be successful at doing books and podcasts. If you judge his intelligence by how verbally adept he is, I think you’re going to overestimate him–not because he’s not smart (he sure seems smart when I’ve heard him speaking), but because he’s probably an unusually good communicator for someone with his level of intelligence.

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        I love reading your opinions, Aapje. Sorry to lower your intelligence.

    • WashedOut says:

      The types of people you mention have done a lot of writing, and have been discussing/debating with many different people for a long time. Writing is a form of thinking – something like ‘thinking + ordering’, and if you do enough of it and in probing ways, your conversations naturally benefit. Similarly, speaking to many different people, especially those wiser than you are, will hone your speech.

      Could it be that since the pop philosophers are better speakers than I am, their internal thought process is again wildly more complex than my own, and I can infer mind boggling levels of thought from that?

      No. I am not a neuroscientist but ‘wildly more complex’ thought processes do not seem apt to describe the mind of experienced writers and debaters. They are just traversing conceptual terrain that they have navigated before, and can see the obstacles well in advance of the ordinary person.

      There is also the possibility that the fact they don’t seem that much smarter than you is because you aren’t listening closely enough, or are not grasping the magnitude of their ideas. A little epistemic humility never hurts.

    • rlms says:

      I’ve had similar thoughts; I think people generally come across as less intelligent than they are “on the inside” both because communication is hard, and because good communicators edit before transmitting. But in the specific case of Sam Harris, I am pretty confident he isn’t much smarter than me — he doesn’t just say simple things, but also stupid ones.

    • qwints says:

      Since popularizers target the general population, the complexity of thoughts in their work is a very poor hueristic for the complexity of their internal thought processes. I’d also question how much you really understand a concept you can’t express in your native language.

    • j1000000 says:

      As others have said, Sam Harris and people like him are most certainly “smart,” but there’s no reason to think their ability as communicators translates 1:1 with the complexity of their thought process/validity of their ideas.

      Seems trivial to think of realms where charismatic or eloquent or handsome popularizers simply aren’t as smart as the unpolished (or nerdy) practitioners/academics doing the real work.

      I definitely do not think of people giving TED talks as the height of intellect.

    • Chlopodo says:

      Might be useful to distinguish intelligence from wit. In the case of Sam Harris, I think he misses the ball on quite a few things, but also has a better way with words and sense of humor than most other people of his type. I specifically remember something he said on one podcast, where he described engaging with people who come at him in bad faith as “It’s like they’ve already drawn the chalk outline of my body on the pavement and they expect me to just lie down in it”… which is one of my favorite metaphors I’ve ever heard anyone say.

  21. tayfie says:

    How do you all interpret the name of the blog?

    I know it is a near anagram of Scott Alexander, but is there a deeper meaning to it? The name wasn’t chosen at random.

    Slate: A slate is a tablet, something that can be written on or the written record itself. The connection to a blog is obvious. However, a slate also means a list of candidates or propositions.

    Star: A star is a performer with great talent, but I don’t think Scott is that boastful. Star also means something that is followed, a guide. A star can be followed by choice, fortune, or destiny.

    Codex: A book of codes, fundamental rules or laws.

    Thus, I think the name of the blog means roughly “A list of candidates for the code of destiny”

    • Aapje says:

      As I’ve argued before, Scott is actually an AI. His interface is a tablet (slate). His software is based on machine learning, so it is unreadable spaghetti code, similar to how a traditional codex would be a long continuous scroll. He is powered by the ITER Tokamak, in which the plasma burns as hot as a star (the scientists who control ITER are just pretending that construction is not yet done).

      It’s quite obvious, really.

    • christhenottopher says:

      I’m with you on the slate as list part, but I would suggest that star codex works better when kept together as a clear references to the Codex Astartes. And what is the most important lesson of that codex? Loyalty to the Emperor. Ever wonder why the comments section is so tolerant of right wing voices? Because Scott is compiling a list of people who will be inducted into the Masons in the glorious Archipelago future.

      The plan is clear. All glory to the Inevitable Masonic Technomonarchy!

      • Aapje says:

        Because Scott is compiling a list of people who will be inducted into the Masons in the glorious Archipelago future sent to the gulags.

    • beleester says:

      I think “Slate” should be read as an adjective modifying “Star” – either the color slate, or the material. That would make the title something like “Book of the Stone Star.”

      (This is supported by the header image, which clearly shows a grey star)

      As for what this signifies? Well, stars in the sky are not made out of stone. Nor are celebrities. But you could perhaps describe a precious gemstone as a “Stone Star.” Like the Star of Africa. So the title would be best translated as “The coded book of precious gems.”

      Clearly, the blog is a treasure map to Scott’s secret trove of gold and jewels. His posts are filled with clues and veiled references to its location, if you can puzzle them out. We know our host loves Kabbalah and finding secret correspondences – this would surely be his magnum opus.

      EDIT: Even better, Scott wrote a post about where to find the Silmarils – the most valuable jewels in Middle-Earth, one of which was placed in the sky as a star. That must be where the chain of clues starts!

    • j1000000 says:

      I just interpret it as science fiction-y sounding nonsense meant to give off the signal that if you like anagrams and science fiction, then you’ll probably like this type of place/be the type of person we welcome you here.

      As a result, because I dislike science fiction, for years I ignored it when people recommended this blog to me. Which was a mistake because no one has ever articulated my beliefs better than Scott.

      • toastengineer says:

        I always interpreted it less as scifi and more as trying to invoke images of an ancient mystical conspiracy. This blog is after all about distributing powerful and sometimes borderline forbidden knowledge to insiders of a weird math cult.

        But maybe we read different scifi.

        • j1000000 says:

          I read basically no sci-fi. I mostly just saw “star” and was like ugh booooriiinnngggg.

    • pontifex says:

      The name is clearly a reference to Slate magazine.* Metaphorically, Scott is constructing a concordance, or codex, containing footnotes to the magazine’s thinkpieces. The star is a common textual idiom denoting a footnote.

      [*] This is probably completely wrong

      • hls2003 says:

        This is actually very similar to what I thought at first. Back in the early-mid 2000’s, Slate used to have a “top commenter” system whereby certain recognized commenters had their posts appear with a star next to their names. They were known as “star posters” or something very similar to that. When I first saw the name of the Web site, I thought it was an offshoot of Slate formed or populated primarily by Slate star posters.

  22. BBA says:

    Via WNYC: a new study on school choice in the NYC public schools shows that racial segregation persists even in the absence of strict attendance boundaries. Furthermore, it’s not just “white flight” driving this, as black parents have made the most use of school choice and charter schools. Also, this study is about elementary school enrollment, which isn’t based on test scores so the Horrible Banned Discourse doesn’t come into play here.

    If you believe that Brown v. Board was rightly decided, and that “separate is inherently unequal”, this throws cold water on the notion that vouchers – or residential desegregation – will produce real equality. However, the more recent Parents Involved decision prohibits race-based allocations to schools, so I don’t know how to desegregate. All enrollment by lottery? Somehow I don’t think Tribeca parents will be too keen on sending their kids to Upper East Side schools five miles away, never mind that those are both rich white neighborhoods in District 2. The only other answers I can come up with are even more outlandish and less likely to work.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I almost commented without reading the original study, which would have been an enormous mistake. I strongly recommend that everyone actually click through to the link and not just read the WNYC article.

      Two important facts not mentioned in the article:
      1. The largest single group exercising school choice, by a large margin, are black families (Fig 1). Similarly, black families are far and away the most likely to actually leave public schools for charters altogether; most white, Asian, and Hispanic families opt to move to different zoned or unzoned public schools (Fig 3).
      2. Black families who choose different schools saw an absolutely extraordinary increase in their children’s test scores: a 13% increase in English and a 19% increase in Math scores (Fig 4).
      ETA: I wrote this in a misleading way. The increase is in how many students performed at or above grade level. Still a huge improvement, just wanted to clarify.

      So to sum up: Black people, when offered the choice, overwhelmingly pick the options most likely to help their children succeed. They abandon their crappy neighborhood public schools and move their kids into charter schools where they do much better academically.

      We live in truly strange times when our “segregationists” are predominantly black people trying to improve their kids lot in life and succeeding!

      • Aapje says:

        @Nabil ad Dajjal

        Black families who choose different schools saw an absolutely extraordinary increase in their children’s test scores: a 13% increase in English and a 19% increase in Math scores

        Is that compared to their earlier test scores or relative to the black population that doesn’t leave?

        In other words, are they actually doing better at the new school or are the most capable black students leaving?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          It’s relative to the population which doesn’t leave.

          Now as you mention there are a number of ways this could be interpreted. The charter schools could be much better, so that more children are able to keep pace with their schoolwork. The charter schools could be more selective, so that more of the children they admit are able to keep pace with their schoolwork. It could be a combination of both of those factors. Or it could be something else entirely.

          But I don’t see how either of the options you bring up are supposed to be bad things. Allowing diligent and capable kids to get out from under the yoke of their disruptive and incompetent peers is a good thing. Even if all the charter schools are doing is sorting out the problem kids, that’s a valuable service that the public schools have thus far failed to provide.

          This is an archetypical crab bucket situation. The logic seems to be that we can’t let just some black kids do better in school; it’s better if all of them have lousy educations than to let any escape poverty.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s also worth understanding what the impact of charter schools actually is, so we can know how much of a benefit they provide and decide whether it’s worth it.

            Maybe charter schools are ultimately just selecting the best students (smart, well-behaved, with parents that care enough to lean on them to get their homework done). In that case, the charters may still be making the world a better place, by making the lives of the smart fraction of the poor black kids of Baltimore have happier lives. But if that doesn’t change their life outcomes much (say, send more of them to college or help more of them stay out of jail), then we’re just running this program to make those kids happier. That’s valuable, but not as valuable as making them better off in the rest of their lives.

            Alternatively, maybe they’re actually helping the kids academically, so that the kids going to the charters end up on grade level and not needing a bunch of remedial classes once they get to college, say. In that case, the benefit is a lot bigger.

            We need to know that benefit and be honest about it, for charters just as for universal pre-K (which seems to me to have the same sort of questions hanging around it). Then we can decide if charters are worth the costs, or whether we’d rather accomplish the same goals in some other way (like building reform schools for the worst-behaved kids).

          • cassander says:

            @albatross11

            We need to know that benefit and be honest about it, for charters just as for universal pre-K (which seems to me to have the same sort of questions hanging around it). Then we can decide if charters are worth the costs, or whether we’d rather accomplish the same goals in some other way (like building reform schools for the worst-behaved kids).

            What costs are there for charters? I mean, the schools obviously cost money, but no more, and often less, than other public schools.

      • BBA says:

        It just seems like if the end result is black students in charter schools, Hispanic students in poor neighborhood schools, white and Asian students in rich neighborhood schools, and this is what everyone wants, then what was the point of desegregation? Were the court cases, the protests, the fire hoses, the National Guard all for nothing?

        For an even more striking example, last year the NY Times profiled District 1, which abolished zoned schools altogether and has school choice for everyone. Remarkably, self-segregation is so pervasive that two schools in the same building had dramatically different racial breakdowns.

        • albatross11 says:

          The segregated schools that got broken down by court cases and national guardsmen were imposed on everyone by the state. Black kids weren’t allowed to go to the same schools as whites, and black kids presumably got a worse education.

          What you’re talking about is the result of parents choosing where they want their kids to go, and finding schools that are a good mix for their culture and preferences. It seems completely different to me.

          All kinds of things that are choices are segregated in that sense–movies, music, TV, books, favorite foods, what kind of alcohol you like, etc. We could impose some kind of coercive desegregation on the world in those areas, but it would make the world a worse place.

        • sharper13 says:

          It shouldn’t be a mystery that when given a choice people prefer to go to the same schools as their friends and neighbors attend, to hang out with people they have stuff in common with. In NY, that just happens to fall along more black/white racial lines, while in say, Southern CA, you’d end up with difference lines.

          What you’re looking for to explain the segregation results of free choice is the Schelling model. It explains how mild preferences can lead to larger segregations than you’d expect. There’s lots of academic research on how this works in various contexts.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          This is a great example of what I like to call the totalitarian instinct of modern liberalism. If it is not forbidden, it is compulsory; if it is not compulsory, it is forbidden.

          It just seems like if the end result is black students in charter schools, Hispanic students in poor neighborhood schools, white and Asian students in rich neighborhood schools, and this is what everyone wants, then what was the point of desegregation? Were the court cases, the protests, the fire hoses, the National Guard all for nothing?

          Under Jim Crow it was illegal to run an integrated school. Integration was forbidden.

          Under desegregation it was / is illegal to run a segregated school. Integration was / is compulsory.

          Now with school choice and charter schools, integration is neither forbidden nor (entirely) compulsory. People can put their kids in integrated schools if they want to but they aren’t required to. And in the process they seem to be, in New York City at least, making better choices for their children’s educations.

          Isn’t this a huge victory for the cause of human liberty? Why is this regrettable and not something to be celebrated?

      • Mark V Anderson says:

        This is similar to the situation in Minneapolis for many years. North Minneapolis has been losing students from the public schools for years. North Minneapolis is mostly Black and poor. Minnesota allows easy transfers between school districts and also also has a lot of charter schools. Most of these kids are going to suburban school districts and charter schools. The suburban schools are now more integrated, but the charter schools are far more segregated than the public schools, many of them being 80-90% Black. And I think there is one charter that is almost 100% Hmong.

        Unfortunately, most of these charter schools seem to do very badly, at least based on their average test scores. Now it may be that these kids wouldn’t have any better test scores if they had stayed in the public schools, but it is suggestive that these schools don’t have much academic worth. It would be very beneficial for someone to do longitudinal studies on students going to the charters, so we’d know better if it’s the school or the kids causing the low test scores. There are a couple of charters that are doing very well, but they are in the minority. It is very interesting, however, that the largest cause of segregation in Minneapolis schools is due to “Black flight.”

        I also wanted to say that I certainly don’t believe in the broad statement made in Brown that separately is inherently unequal, at least in the implication that at least one of the groups is inherently worse off when there is separate education. I think there are situations where a race or a culture could get superior education by breaking off from the main group, and the group they broke off from might also increase their achievement. I read this case, and I believe the Supremes decided rightly that the Whites did harm the education of Blacks in that case by giving them a separate (and much worse) education. But that doesn’t mean it is always the case.

    • The Nybbler says:

      One amusing (in the larger scheme of things) thing about that report: They note that in 2007 there was a Supreme Court decision forbidding voluntary desegregation plans based on race. So what did they do? Immediately go looking for proxies for race to use.

      Bloomberg’s approach to school choice was in line with a 2007 Supreme Court decision, Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, also known as the “PICS” case; it overturned voluntary desegregation plans based on race. District 1 on the Lower East Side was no longer permitted to use race as it once had to allocate seats in its elementary schools; a handful of popular schools which had previously had a balance of White, Black, and Hispanic children became disproportionately White. It’s too soon to say whether a new plan, designed to allocate seats based on free lunch eligibility and English language proficiency, will result in better integration.

      • cassander says:

        how does that even make sense? the whole point of de-segregation plans is changing the racial mix. if you’re not talking about race, what are you trying to de-segregate?

    • cassander says:

      If you believe that Brown v. Board was rightly decided, and that “separate is inherently unequal”, this throws cold water on the notion that vouchers – or residential desegregation – will produce real equality.

      I don’t think the claim is that vouchers will actively produce de-segregation, just vouchers can’t possibly be worse in this regard than the current practice of assigning people to schools based on where they live.

      >However, the more recent Parents Involved decision prohibits race-based allocations to schools, so I don’t know how to desegregate.

      the problem with segregation was that it mandated the separation of blacks into separate (and almost invariably inferior) schools (and other venues, of course). If parents have the ability to send their kids to schools filled with kids of other races, and simply choose not to, then why do we care? Do we consider the continued existence of the historically black colleges an affront to integration?

      >All enrollment by lottery?

      How do you mean? I think that in a genuinely voucherized school system (i.e. a system where virtually all schools are either privately operated or charters that only get funding based on enrollment) then lotteries are almost a necessity. Schools should have to admit all comers, and if they have more applicants than they can handle they should have to hold a lottery for a substantial number of them, e.g if the school has 100 slots, and they get 150 applicants, they can admit 50 of their choice and have to have a lottery for the remaining 50 slots.

      • rlms says:

        Schools should have to admit all comers, and if they have more applicants than they can handle they should have to hold a lottery for a substantial number of them, e.g if the school has 100 slots, and they get 150 applicants, they can admit 50 of their choice and have to have a lottery for the remaining 50 slots.

        Why not let them choose entirely (i.e. based on merit), or force them to choose based on distance (since all else being equal students would benefit from being at a nearer school)?

        • cassander says:

          going by distance is just bringing back the public school system we have now, which is the problem we’re trying to solve. Letting schools choose their entire student bodies will lead to endless fighting over racial disparities, schools cherry picking the “best” students, and so forth. a lottery substantially cuts off those arguments.

    • If you believe that Brown v. Board was rightly decided, and that “separate is inherently unequal”, this throws cold water on the notion that vouchers – or residential desegregation – will produce real equality.

      That depends on why you believe that separate is inherently unequal.

      One reason could be that, in a segregated public school system, the white parents, being more politically influential, will get resources distributed unequally in their favor–make sure that the good teachers end up in the white schools, the bad teachers in the black schools, for instance. Vouchers eliminate that situation, since all the schools get the same amount of money per student and teachers are allocated by the market not the school board.

      Obviously there are other possible reasons for which that wouldn’t be the case.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Brown v. Board of Ed rejected the resource argument:

        In the instant cases, that question is directly presented. Here, unlike Sweatt v. Painter, there are findings below that the Negro and white schools involved have been equalized, or are being equalized, with respect to buildings, curricula, qualifications and salaries of teachers, and other “tangible” factors.

        Warren quotes a lower court in the same case in stating:

        Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of the law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn. Segregation with the sanction of law, therefore, has a tendency to [retard] the educational and mental development of negro children and to deprive them of some of the benefits they would receive in a racial[ly] integrated school system.

  23. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    Good news to share: job offer came in! Finally, the job market works in my favor, for the first time since graduating in the middle of a freakin’ recession. 15% bump is nice as well.

    This puts me a lot closer to where I want to be, career-wise. No more collections for me, on to factory costing, and then hopefully building up some FP&A experience in 2 years.

    Current company is likely to be a bit disappointed, but they’ve given me one hell of a run-around these last 4 months, so I’m not feeling sympathetic. Given the FP&A job I wanted to some random kid with 1 year of experience and crappy job performance kind of ruined my enthusiasm.

    • hls2003 says:

      Congratulations on the new position! Few things better than leaving behind a negative work situation.

    • Nick says:

      Congratulations!

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Grats!

    • bean says:

      Congratulations, and good luck with the new job.

    • J Mann says:

      Awesome, great news!

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      So what is FP&A? I suppose I should know this since I am an accountant, but I think it is the latest terminology and I am behind the times. Maybe it is what used to be called a cost accountant, where you primarily calculate inventory costs and cost of sales? If so, that does sound a lot better than collections. More analytical and less begging customers to pay. At least to me it sounds a lot better.

      • SamChevre says:

        FP&A – financial planning and analysis. (We (I’m in an FP&A role) are the group that’s primarily responsible for forecast (AKA Financial Planning), explaining differences between actual results and forecasts (aka Analysis). It’s on the fringe of true accounting, as it’s on the fringe of actuarial work–but you’ll generally have experts in both in FP&A at an insurance company.

  24. rlms says:

    The first game of SSC diplomacy (see summary here) finished a couple of weeks ago. Anyone interested in another? If you are, fill in this form. Comment below with any questions.

  25. johan_larson says:

    Geoff Graham asks an interesting question on Twitter:

    You must hire one of three candidates:

    The first is a college graduate.
    The second completed a marathon.
    The third owns a Porsche.

    These are all the facts that you can know before you make your decision. Which one do you hire?

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Depends on the position. For most corporate positions, marathon, hands down. Marathon finishers are largely young, driven, and college-educated.

    • rahien.din says:

      What am I hiring them for?

    • The Nybbler says:

      I would expect that the Porsche owner is a college graduate; Porsches are expensive, and most non-college careers that would lead to Porsche ownership (e.g. master tradesman, possibly elite salesperson though they usually would have college) wouldn’t lead them to applying for a job in any field I’d be involved in hiring for. There’s the chance that they aren’t college graduates and inherited or were given the Porsche, or bought a really old Porsche, but I’d bet against.

      Completing a marathon selects for tenaciousness and willingness to endure pain. That’s positive too, not as positive as past success though.

      So I go for the Porsche owner. Unless I find out it’s one of the SUVs.

      • Well... says:

        I was gonna say, if it’s the Cayenne forget about it. In fact, I’d want to know the model and year. If it’s a 911 for instance it’s gotta be pre-1998, before the water-cooled engines. And none of those weird ones from the 80s with the pop-up headlights.

    • christhenottopher says:

      The twitter poll result is interesting, the marathon winner won hands down.

      Knowing nothing else, I’d agree with that actually. College degrees are common enough now the signal isn’t as strong as it was a few decades ago. Successful marathon completion however shows good conscientiousness and good health (which helps prevent lose work due to health issues). The Porsche owner could be a talented worker who made a lot of money, or someone who has trouble controlling their own spending, or someone who makes lower amounts but focuses everything on their car, or heir to a larger fortune. Too many not helpful ways that signal can go so they’re probably the lowest for me.

    • johan_larson says:

      You are all invited to estimate the portion of the US population that has run a marathon.

      Make a guess, and check it against the actual figure, here: https://www.statisticbrain.com/marathon-running-statistics/

      • Nornagest says:

        V thrffrq nobhg unys n creprag, onfrq ba n pehqr rfgvzngr bs ubj znal znenguba ehaaref V xabj if. gbgny ahzore bs npdhnvagnaprf, naq na rira pehqre pbeerpgvba sbe ubj jrveq n fbpvny pvepyr V unir. Gheaf bhg unys n creprag vf rknpgyl evtug.

      • Randy M says:

        My fermi estimate:
        Bar va frira gubhfnaq va gur HF (nobhg svsgl gubhfnaq va n trarengvba, gbgny HF cbchyngvba nobhg guerr uhaqerq svsgl zvyyvba)

        Survey says… Off by n snpgbe bs guvegl svir.

        Eh, not too bad. (By which I mean, terrible)

      • fion says:

        I was a factor of two too large. I’m reasonably happy with that.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Wow, I guessed it perfectly right. Exactly on the nose.

        This is the most exciting thing that’s happened to me in literally days.

      • Clocknight says:

        V jnf bss ol unys creprag

        So pretty good I guess?

    • fion says:

      Yeah, I agree with everybody else. Marathon runner. Able to work hard, patient, well-organised etc.

      College degree is definitely positive, but less so.

      Owning a porsche puts me off. Ok, you’re successful, but your priorities are very different from mine. I guess depending on the job that might be a good thing, but my gut reaction is negative.

    • Well... says:

      This seems like a gotcha question where you’re tricked into overthinking and the right answer is to hire the college graduate.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yes. Education is a proxy for intelligence, which is positively correlated with pretty much any kind of job. Inasmuch as the job isn’t very specific in other requirements, the college grad is the correct choice almost always.

        • Well... says:

          I hate the hollow signaling of education and the overcredentializing it feeds into, but I still think you’re right!

          • Anonymous says:

            Mmm. If my business grows to the point where I’ll be doing advert-based hiring, I’ll just have the applicants do an IQ test. (Yes, it is legal here.)

    • DavidS says:

      I’m not sure how much they predict each other (and presuambly you don’t know that they’re not all college grad marathon runners with Porsches). I sort of feel like I might go for the marathon runner but only because I believe most marathon runners were also college grads…

    • ohwhatisthis? says:

      Hack the NSA to get data on all of mankind, run one of those fancy deep learning algorithms, find out which choice optimizes which job?

  26. johan_larson says:

    Question for the attorneys in this forum.

    Is it possible for a judge to dismiss charges against a clearly guilty defendant on grounds that amount to “no harm, no foul” or something like that? How much discretion do judges have in these matters?

    • hls2003 says:

      What you’re asking is basically a tautology, and for that reason the answer is “no.” The phrase “clearly guilty defendant” means, by definition, that there is a criminal statute the elements of which are each satisfied by the defendant. At that point, there is no basis to dismiss the charges. Magnitude of harm is often one such element of various crimes (e.g. damage or theft in excess of $500) and in such cases, a “no harm no foul” ruling would not be dealing with a “clearly guilty defendant.”

      What you’re describing is somewhat closer to jury nullification, where a jury refuses to convict a clearly guilty defendant. The jury is, more or less, a black box, so there is more room for them to do so.

      The closest judicial equivalent is a very low sentence following a guilty verdict. Except where limited by sentencing statutes, judges typically have quite a lot of discretion at the sentencing phase.

      • The Nybbler says:

        There’s also, in many states, the possibility of deferred judgement (probation before judgement, adjournment contemplating dismissal, probably other terms for it), where the defendant is put on probation and if the terms of the probation are fulfilled, the charges are dismissed without entering a judgement of guilty.

        (Maryland managed to mess this up by treating PBJ as a guilty verdict in certain circumstances, which exactly spoils the reason for accepting probation before judgement in the first place)

        • hls2003 says:

          Sure, you see a lot of this for, e.g., college kids drunk in public or other misdemeanors from an otherwise clean record. But I wouldn’t consider that to be the same thing as dismissing the charges. It’s just an alternate version of a suspended sentence which recognizes the damage that a conviction can do to a person’s record.

          Interestingly, most entities requiring a background check have gotten wise to this – often you get demands for information on any arrest not leading to a conviction or any convictions which have been expunged or charges nolle pros’d and are thus not of record.

    • WashedOut says:

      On the ‘no harm’ part of your question:

      By way of counterexample, in civil/tort law a person can be found guilty of an offense in cases where there is provably zero harm eventuated from the misdeed. In such cases the ‘foul’ is acting in a way that may give rise to some harm under certain circumstances, though they did not arise in this particular case. This is sufficient grounds for civil liability.

      I would say that a judge’s discretion would stop at cases like the above. It would resume again in (some) cases involving minors, those with cognitive impairments or first offenders where the it simply isn’t worth the Judge’s time. Anecdotally, magistrates routinely dismiss minor traffic offenders protesting speeding fines and red-light cameras, but this says more about ‘the system’ than anything else.

      • rahien.din says:

        By way of counterexample, in civil/tort law a person can be found guilty of an offense in cases where there is provably zero harm eventuated from the misdeed.

        There seem to be examples within criminal law, too. One could be found guilty of trespassing, or of breaking the speed limit, even when there has been no harm.

  27. Nick says:

    Not to gloat, but did anyone notice this recent question on stackexchange? I rest my case that people today think differently about what is virtue and vice. 😛

  28. mrtapeguy says:

    Interested in your “Crying Wolf” article which I’ve referenced in the past. Can’t find it in the internet archive. Not a Trump supporter, although I would hope that good research is available to anyone even if it doesn’t make someone you dislike look even worse. I always say, when you have the truth on your side there is no need to exaggerate and the same is true with everyone claiming Trump is a Nazi. As you point out, he’s super awful but the proliferation of these groups is not what everyone is claiming.

    Thanks,

    Craig
    IVN Contributor

    • Aapje says:

      Scott removed it:

      I think this post has been picked up by some pro-Trump bots who won’t stop tweeting it. I am going to try hiding it for a while to see what happens. If you really want the original, you can find it at the Internet Archive. I’ll probably put it back up in a month or two. I still believe it’s generally correct but I don’t want to see it used as an all-purpose defense of Trump, who remains horrible in 99% of ways.

      But, you can find it here.

    • Aapje says:

      Scott removed it:

      I think this post has been picked up by some pro-Trump bots who won’t stop tweeting it. I am going to try hiding it for a while to see what happens. If you really want the original, you can find it at the Internet Archive. I’ll probably put it back up in a month or two. I still believe it’s generally correct but I don’t want to see it used as an all-purpose defense of Trump, who remains horrible in 99% of ways.

      You can find it on web.archive.org.

  29. powerfuller says:

    Hey, here’s another intermittent long post on poetry. Previous posts are on the spondee and rising and falling rhythms. Today I’m talking about the villanelle. The basic form is thus: 5 tercets and a quatrain, with 2 refrains alternating throughout, both of which are included in the first and last stanzas. The rhyme scheme (with A’ and A” for the refrains) is:

    A’bA” abA’ abA” abA’ abA” abA’A”

    The most famous villanelles these days are probably One Art and Do Not Go Gentle.

    The history of the form is interesting. It claims roots in French and Italian peasant songs of the 16th century. It’s basically a myth), however, that the poetic form we know today was established then. Rather, the term “villanelle” referred broadly to songs or lyrics with no standard form. Strand and Boland theorize these villanelles were round songs sung to accompany farm labor, like sea shanties or African American call-and-response songs. The 1680 Dictionnaire Francois defines “villanelle” to mean an improvised peasant song. César-Pierre Richelet, the dictionary’s author, describes the villanelle as “a pious or flirtatious song, amorous and pastoral… the type of verse that can be composed only by being sung.” This improvisational aspect seems a little at odds with a work song; were the refrains of the villanelle originally meant to keep time with the performers’ work, or were they a consequence of improvising (i.e. repeating lines to give yourself time to compose new ones), or both? Further complicating the issue is Ronald McFarland’s argument that the Italian equivalent, the “villanella,” was never a real folk song, but a courtly affectation about as genuinely pastoral as Virgil’s Eclogues. This could be an issue, though, of the folk songs being a lost oral tradition, leaving only the written imitations to history.

    Montaigne mentions villanelles in Essay 54, “Of Vain Subtleties,” as popular songs from people without science or writing, but containing “certain artless graces” comparable to the beauty of highbrow poetry. Vauquelin de La Fresnaye expressed the same sentiment in a poem from 1605: “Sans sentir rien de l’Art, comme une villanelle” [unconscious of Art, like a villanelle]. Other references from the time discuss qualities of the accompanying music, not lyrics. Of the 17 known poems published in the Renaissance titled “Villanelle,” “Villanesque,” etc., none share a fixed form. The French poet Joseph Boulmier, in an introduction to a collection of villanelles in 1878, claimed to have combed all the prosody manuals of the 15th and 16th centuries without finding any mentions of a fixed form.

    So where did the form come from? Is there an Ur-villanelle on which the modern form is based? Yes, this would be the poem “J’ai perdu ma tourterelle…” by Jean Passerat, written in 1574 and published in 1606. It was a nonce form, and no other poem from that time or earlier is known to share it.

    As mentioned above, the lexicographer and prosodist Richelet discussed villanelles, but he gave Passerat no mention. There is a more elaborate description of the villanelle in Richelet’s Dictionnaire de Rimes, but only in editions after that of 1751, long after Richelet’s death. As such, the description must have been added by another lexicographer, Pierre-Charles Berthelin. The entry says the villanelle is “a shepherd’s song,” provides Passerat’s as an example, and describes its form. That description, however, was only of Passerat’s poem in particular, not meant to be of a type. As such, some historians consider Berthelin the man who fixed the form because of this entry, though it might be fairer to say the form was fixed by people misreading it. But nobody seems to have noticed this definition nor written a poem following its example, so I think it seems important to historians in retrospect, but actually influenced nothing.

    (continued…)

    • powerfuller says:

      The second fixed-form villanelle was written by Theodore de Banville in 1845, though he added 2 tercets to Passerat’s model. I’m skeptical it counts as a conscious imitation of the form qua form, however, as it was a parody of the original poem, not an attempt to adapt the same structure to a different context. The poem is written from the perspective of a journal editor lamenting the loss of a favorite writer, Paul Limayrac, with the refrain “J’ay perdu mon Limayrac,” following Passerat’s “I have lost my turtledove.” Though parody can be a useful step in establishing a genre or convention, I don’t think it alone suffices for declaring Passerat’s rhyme scheme a fixed form; if the only sci-fi novels were “The Time Machine” and Time Machine parodies, I doubt “science fiction” would be a more meaningful category than “Time Machine books.” Anyway, it seems that Banville got his inspiration from an 1844 text by Wilhelm Tenint that described Passerat’s poem as the model of a type, not just the example of a genre, though he diverged from Passerat in implying there were no strict limitations on length. Banville eventually included the fixed-form villanelle in his 1872 Petit traite de poesie francaise, which was the text that popularized the form in England via the poets Edmund Gosse and Austin Dobson. Before 1872, the only fixed-form villanelles in known existence were: Passerat’s original, Banville’s parody, another parody by Banville, and another poem by one Philoxene Boyer, written in 1867. So although there are no known villanelles from 1606 to 1845, it’s possible Boyer was influenced by some tradition Banville was not, right? Nope; the two of them were buddies who collaborated on verse.

      So the villanelle is basically a 19th century invention based off one nonce form 16th century poem. This is like if some musicologists in 23rd century forgot that “rap” was a multifarious musical genre and decided it referred to “music in which somebody rhythmically talks about spaghetti.”

      Gosse and Dobson introduced villanelles to the English in two essays written in 1877 and 1878. Gosse describes the form as “usually wedded to serious or stately expression, and almost demand a vein of pathos,” quite a far cry from bucolic improv, and at odds with Banville and others, who emphasized the form’s naïve and charming aspects. Dobson wrote the first known English villanelle in 1874. Championed in the late 19th century by Oscar Wilde, Swinburne, and others, French forms like the villanelle became associated with artificiality, triviality, effeminacy, exoticism, and decadence. Maybe Gosse was anticipating the counterargument.

      The appeal of the villanelle to 19th English writers probably had much to do with the perception of the form as medieval and rustic, as a reaction to the constraints and moralizing of Victorian poetry. It’s somewhat ironic, then, that the license of the original meaning is all but forgotten, and the fixed form is, if anything, more restrictive formally than most Victorian poetry. Perhaps the veneer of rusticity was more liberating than any looser formal constraints would have been. As Amanda French argues, the form probably would never have found appeal with English writers if not for this fictitious antiquity of, as she puts it, “a sweeter long-ago that never existed.”

      More ironic, perhaps, is that the form came to fruition mostly in the mid 20th century, in the age of free verse. Maybe that was the appeal; the baggier everything got the more interesting its constraints became by contrast (also, the tendency in contemporary poetry toward more and more absurdly severe constraints). Mostly following the success of “Do not go gentle…” and “One Art,” the last 40 years might be the most productive in the history of this “ancient” form. In another irony, the form is basically absent in contemporary French poetry.

      (continued…)

      • powerfuller says:

        Since 8 of its 19 lines are repetitions, and it contains only 2 rhyme sounds, the villanelle doesn’t offer a lot of room to play around with. On the flip side, if you can nail the two refrains, the rest of the poem almost writes itself. Being so restrictive and repetitive, the form can easily become tedious, so it’s the mark of a good poet to successfully maintain interest and variety through the stanzas.

        I think that some forms are better suited to expressing certain ideas and subjects than others (try writing a serious Limerick), and I’m curious what the villanelle is best suited to express. There’s not a lot of space, as contrasted with a fixed form like a sonnet, to develop an idea before one or the other refrains juts back in, forcing the mind to return to the original idea or problem. Because of this, the themes that critics reference most often are obsession and madness. The most famous villanelle on the latter is probably Plath’s. This poem I think is doubly effective for its refrains, and for the alternation between focusing on the relationship (“I dreamed you bewitched me… I fancied you’d return…”) and the intrusive chaos of images (“The stars go waltzing… God topples the sky…”).

        “Do not go gentle…” is also a bit unreasonable, though it serves more as exhortation to than declaration of one’s unwillingness to submit to reality. The refrains here really grip the reader as to say, “Don’t give in! This is important. I’ll keep saying it because it’s important.” This poem employs a common structure to the form, which is enumerating various sets of stances or reactions to the main problem (“wise men,” “good men,” “wild men”), etc. Similar, somewhat, is Wilde’s poem, though that feels more like a raw accretion of detail than of perspectives. You might contrast these with “One Art,” where Bishop gradually expands the scope of the problem from the minute, “lost door keys,” to the macro, “two rivers, a continent.” I think the success of the poem has to do with it’s conscious turning away from obsession toward sober acceptance: all things are lost, but the losses discipline the heart. The poem is almost depressingly sane. I hear a similar tone in Robinson’s The House on the Hill, where the refrains feel less like unfiltered, recurrent grief and more like a statement of fact that must be repeated until its reality sinks in for the reader, the same way you view a body at the wake to force yourself to acknowledge the person is truly dead. The shorter lines augment this feeling; there is no use for “poor fancy-play” to elaborate, so it is given no quarter.

        I wonder if the modern villanelle suits the “artlessness” and “popularity” of its mythical ancestors. I think successful villanelles tend to employ more prosaic refrains like “There is nothing more to say,” than stately refrains like “Dost though remember Sicily?” Though a highly technical form, the villanelle still feels much looser than a Spenserian stanza or Petrarchan sonnet, and, counter-intuitively, the refrains often feel more spontaneous than a well-developed verse paragraph. It seems Gosse’s assessment has come true, as I don’t know any famous villanelles on light, pleasant subjects. So is the form best for low-diction, high-seriousness topics? I think there’s more to say here, but I need to read more villanelles first.

        Finally, the villanelle gave us one of the best uses of poetry in a movie.

    • powerfuller says:

      (last part)

      Since 8 of its 19 lines are repetitions, and it contains only 2 rhyme sounds, the villanelle doesn’t offer a lot of room to play around with. On the flip side, if you can nail the two refrains, the rest of the poem almost writes itself. Being so restrictive and repetitive, the form can easily become tedious, so it’s the mark of a good poet to successfully maintain interest and variety through the stanzas.

      I think that some forms are better suited to expressing certain ideas and subjects than others (try writing a serious Limerick), and I’m curious what the villanelle is best suited to express. There’s not a lot of space, as contrasted with a fixed form like a sonnet, to develop an idea before one or the other refrains juts back in, forcing the mind to return to the original idea or problem. Because of this, the themes that critics reference most often are obsession and madness. The most famous villanelle on the latter is probably Plath’s. This poem I think is doubly effective for its refrains, and for the alternation between focusing on the relationship (“I dreamed you bewitched me… I fancied you’d return…”) and the intrusive chaos of images (“The stars go waltzing… God topples the sky…”).

      “Do not go gentle…” is also a bit unreasonable, though it serves more as exhortation to than declaration of one’s unwillingness to submit to reality. The refrains here really grip the reader as to say, “Don’t give in! This is important. I’ll keep saying it because it’s important.” This poem employs a common structure to the form, which is enumerating various sets of stances or reactions to the main problem (“wise men,” “good men,” “wild men”), etc. Similar, somewhat, is Wilde’s poem, though that feels more like a raw accretion of detail than of perspectives. You might contrast these with “One Art,” where Bishop gradually expands the scope of the problem from the minute, “lost door keys,” to the macro, “two rivers, a continent.” I think the success of the poem has to do with it’s conscious turning away from obsession toward sober acceptance: all things are lost, but the losses discipline the heart. The poem is almost depressingly sane. I hear a similar tone in Robinson’s The House on the Hill, where the refrains feel less like unfiltered, recurrent grief and more like a statement of fact that must be repeated until its reality sinks in for the reader, the same way you view a body at the wake to force yourself to acknowledge the person is truly dead. The shorter lines augment this feeling; there is no use for “poor fancy-play” to elaborate, so it is given no quarter.

      I wonder if the modern villanelle suits the “artlessness” and “popularity” of its mythical ancestors. I think successful villanelles tend to employ more prosaic refrains like “There is nothing more to say,” than stately refrains like “Dost though remember Sicily?” Though a highly technical form, the villanelle still feels much looser than a Spenserian stanza or Petrarchan sonnet, and, counter-intuitively, the refrains often feel more spontaneous than a well-developed verse paragraph. It seems Gosse’s assessment has come true, as I don’t know any famous villanelles on light, pleasant subjects. So is the form best for low-diction, high-seriousness topics? I think there’s more to say here, but I need to read more villanelles first.

      Finally, the villanelle gave us one of the best uses of poetry in a movie.

      • On the flip side, if you can nail the two refrains, the rest of the poem almost writes itself.

        This is part of what makes it fun to write–the point at which, having gotten the refrains right, the rest of the poem falls into place.

      • powerfuller says:

        Whoa! Apologies for the repeats. I was having trouble submitting the posts and didn’t see it had gone through twice until just now. I’m not sure why that happened. I’m sorry they’re clogging up the whole thread now. I reported the repeats so maybe Scott will delete them.

      • Skivverus says:

        It’s ending now, the morning’s first display.
        The pastel coat to hide the sky shall fade.
        So stand and watch the blinking newborn day.

        As clouds coalesce, the crimson fades to gray,
        And soon the rainbow morn will be unmade.
        It’s ending now, the morning’s first display.

        The dawning peacock fire knows the way,
        But needs to preen before the path’s arrayed.
        So stand and watch the blinking newborn day.

        The sun, arisen, sets its track away,
        Concealed by clouds from those below in shade.
        It’s ending now, the morning’s first display.

        And when the day is done the night will say
        The other half must have its accolade.
        It’s ending now, the morning’s first display.
        So stand and watch the blinking newborn day.

        (disclaimer: been a few years; had to rewrite rather than remember the first line of the third stanza. Called it “Ending Dawn”.)

        • powerfuller says:

          Nice! And quite different from any of the examples I posted; no grief or madness here. I like how the refrains slow down the experience of viewing the dawn. I read a soupcon of irony that the refrains linger on the dawn, as opposed to emphasizing dawn’s endless recurrence, with the mention of night in the last stanza.

      • Kindly says:

        See also: the paradelle.

    • James says:

      Little to add, but nice write-up, thanks.

      Any examples of Wildean or Swinburnean villanelles? I love artificiality, triviality, effeminacy, exoticism, and decadence, so such things fall within my interests.

      That Plath poem is very good. (I think I’ve said this here before, but it’s got a great title.)

      • powerfuller says:

        I’ll try to find some good examples this weekend. I’m not sure if Swinburne ever wrote a villanelle; I meant he was part of the larger movement to introduce fancy French forms into English. Sorry that that was misleading.

  30. powerfuller says:

    Hey, here’s another intermittent long post on poetry. This time, I’m talking about the villanelle. The basic form is thus: 5 tercets and a quatrain, with 2 refrains alternating throughout, both of which are included in the first and last stanzas. The rhyme scheme (with A’ and A” for the refrains) is:

    A’bA” abA’ abA” abA’ abA” abA’A”

    The most famous villanelles these days are probably One Art and Do Not Go Gentle.

    The history of the form is interesting. It claims roots in French and Italian peasant songs of the 16th century. It’s basically a myth), however, that the poetic form we know today was established then. Rather, the term “villanelle” referred broadly to songs or lyrics with no standard form. Strand and Boland theorize these villanelles were round songs sung to accompany farm labor, like sea shanties or African American call-and-response songs. The 1680 Dictionnaire Francois defines “villanelle” to mean an improvised peasant song. César-Pierre Richelet, the dictionary’s author, describes the villanelle as “a pious or flirtatious song, amorous and pastoral… the type of verse that can be composed only by being sung.” This improvisational aspect seems a little at odds with a work song; were the refrains of the villanelle originally meant to keep time with the performers’ work, or were they a consequence of improvising (i.e. repeating lines to give yourself time to compose new ones), or both? Further complicating the issue is Ronald McFarland’s argument that the Italian equivalent, the “villanella,” was never a real folk song, but a courtly affectation about as genuinely pastoral as Virgil’s Eclogues. This could be an issue, though, of the folk songs being a lost oral tradition, leaving only the written imitations to history.

    Montaigne mentions villanelles in Essay 54, “Of Vain Subtleties,” as popular songs from people without science or writing, but containing “certain artless graces” comparable to the beauty of highbrow poetry. Vauquelin de La Fresnaye expressed the same sentiment in a poem from 1605: “Sans sentir rien de l’Art, comme une villanelle” [unconscious of Art, like a villanelle]. Other references from the time discuss qualities of the accompanying music, not lyrics. Of the 17 known poems published in the Renaissance titled “Villanelle,” “Villanesque,” etc., none share a fixed form. The French poet Joseph Boulmier, in an introduction to a collection of villanelles in 1878, claimed to have combed all the prosody manuals of the 15th and 16th centuries without finding any mentions of a fixed form.

    So where did the form come from? Is there an Ur-villanelle on which the modern form is based? Yes, this would be the poem “J’ai perdu ma tourterelle…” by Jean Passerat, written in 1574 and published in 1606. It was a nonce form, and no other poem from that time or earlier is known to share it.

    As mentioned above, the lexicographer and prosodist Richelet discussed villanelles, but he gave Passerat no mention. There is a more elaborate description of the villanelle in Richelet’s Dictionnaire de Rimes, but only in editions after that of 1751, long after Richelet’s death. As such, the description must have been added by another lexicographer, Pierre-Charles Berthelin. The entry says the villanelle is “a shepherd’s song,” provides Passerat’s as an example, and describes its form. That description, however, was only of Passerat’s poem in particular, not meant to be of a type. As such, some historians consider Berthelin the man who fixed the form because of this entry, though it might be fairer to say the form was fixed by people misreading it. But nobody seems to have noticed this definition nor written a poem following its example, so I think it seems important to historians in retrospect, but actually influenced nothing.

    The second fixed-form villanelle was written by Theodore de Banville in 1845, though he added 2 tercets to Passerat’s model. I’m skeptical it counts as a conscious imitation of the form qua form, however, as it was a parody of the original poem, not an attempt to adapt the same structure to a different context. The poem is written from the perspective of a journal editor lamenting the loss of a favorite writer, Paul Limayrac, with the refrain “J’ay perdu mon Limayrac,” following Passerat’s “I have lost my turtledove.” Though parody can be a useful step in establishing a genre or convention, I don’t think it alone suffices for declaring Passerat’s rhyme scheme a fixed form; if the only sci-fi novels were “The Time Machine” and Time Machine parodies, I doubt “science fiction” would be a more meaningful category than “Time Machine books.” Anyway, it seems that Banville got his inspiration from an 1844 text by Wilhelm Tenint that described Passerat’s poem as the model of a type, not just the example of a genre, though he diverged from Passerat in implying there were no strict limitations on length. Banville eventually included the fixed-form villanelle in his 1872 Petit traite de poesie francaise, which was the text that popularized the form in England via the poets Edmund Gosse and Austin Dobson. Before 1872, the only fixed-form villanelles in known existence were: Passerat’s original, Banville’s parody, another parody by Banville, and another poem by one Philoxene Boyer, written in 1867. So although there are no known villanelles from 1606 to 1845, it’s possible Boyer was influenced by some tradition Banville was not, right? Nope; the two of them were buddies who collaborated on verse.

    So the villanelle is basically a 19th century invention based off one nonce form 16th century poem. This is like if some musicologists in 23rd century forgot that “rap” was a multifarious musical genre and decided it referred to “music in which somebody rhythmically talks about spaghetti.”

    Gosse and Dobson introduced villanelles to the English in two essays written in 1877 and 1878. Gosse describes the form as “usually wedded to serious or stately expression, and almost demand a vein of pathos,” quite a far cry from bucolic improv, and at odds with Banville and others, who emphasized the form’s naïve and charming aspects. Dobson wrote the first known English villanelle in 1874. Championed in the late 19th century by Oscar Wilde, Swinburne, and others, French forms like the villanelle became associated with artificiality, triviality, effeminacy, exoticism, and decadence. Maybe Gosse was anticipating the counterargument.

    The appeal of the villanelle to 19th English writers probably had much to do with the perception of the form as medieval and rustic, as a reaction to the constraints and moralizing of Victorian poetry. It’s somewhat ironic, then, that the license of the original meaning is all but forgotten, and the fixed form is, if anything, more restrictive formally than most Victorian poetry. Perhaps the veneer of rusticity was more liberating than any looser formal constraints would have been. As Amanda French argues, the form probably would never have found appeal with English writers if not for this fictitious antiquity of, as she puts it, “a sweeter long-ago that never existed.”

    More ironic, perhaps, is that the form came to fruition mostly in the mid 20th century, in the age of free verse. Maybe that was the appeal; the baggier everything got the more interesting its constraints became by contrast (also, the tendency in contemporary poetry toward more and more absurdly severe constraints). Mostly following the success of “Do not go gentle…” and “One Art,” the last 40 years might be the most productive in the history of this “ancient” form. In another irony, the form is basically absent in contemporary French poetry.

    (continued…)

  31. powerfuller says:

    Hey, here’s another intermittent long post on poetry. This time, I’m talking about the villanelle.
    The basic form is thus: 5 tercets and a quatrain, with 2 refrains alternating throughout, both of which are included in the first and last stanzas. The rhyme scheme (with A’ and A” for the refrains) is:

    A’bA” abA’ abA” abA’ abA” abA’A”

    The most famous villanelles these days are probably One Art and Do Not Go Gentle.

    The history of the form is interesting. It claims roots in French and Italian peasant songs of the 16th century. It’s basically a myth), however, that the poetic form we know today was established then. Rather, the term “villanelle” referred broadly to songs or lyrics with no standard form. Strand and Boland theorize these villanelles were round songs sung to accompany farm labor, like sea shanties or African American call-and-response songs. The 1680 Dictionnaire Francois defines “villanelle” to mean an improvised peasant song. César-Pierre Richelet, the dictionary’s author, describes the villanelle as “a pious or flirtatious song, amorous and pastoral… the type of verse that can be composed only by being sung.” This improvisational aspect seems a little at odds with a work song; were the refrains of the villanelle originally meant to keep time with the performers’ work, or were they a consequence of improvising (i.e. repeating lines to give yourself time to compose new ones), or both? Further complicating the issue is Ronald McFarland’s argument that the Italian equivalent, the “villanella,” was never a real folk song, but a courtly affectation about as genuinely pastoral as Virgil’s Eclogues. This could be an issue, though, of the folk songs being a lost oral tradition, leaving only the written imitations to history.

    Montaigne mentions villanelles in Essay 54, “Of Vain Subtleties,” as popular songs from people without science or writing, but containing “certain artless graces” comparable to the beauty of highbrow poetry. Vauquelin de La Fresnaye expressed the same sentiment in a poem from 1605: “Sans sentir rien de l’Art, comme une villanelle” [unconscious of Art, like a villanelle]. Other references from the time discuss qualities of the accompanying music, not lyrics. Of the 17 known poems published in the Renaissance titled “Villanelle,” “Villanesque,” etc., none share a fixed form. The French poet Joseph Boulmier, in an introduction to a collection of villanelles in 1878, claimed to have combed all the prosody manuals of the 15th and 16th centuries without finding any mentions of a fixed form.

    So where did the form come from? Is there an Ur-villanelle on which the modern form is based? Yes, this would be the poem “J’ai perdu ma tourterelle…” by Jean Passerat, written in 1574 and published in 1606. It was a nonce form, and no other poem from that time or earlier is known to share it.

    As mentioned above, the lexicographer and prosodist Richelet discussed villanelles, but he gave Passerat no mention. There is a more elaborate description of the villanelle in Richelet’s Dictionnaire de Rimes, but only in editions after that of 1751, long after Richelet’s death. As such, the description must have been added by another lexicographer, Pierre-Charles Berthelin. The entry says the villanelle is “a shepherd’s song,” provides Passerat’s as an example, and describes its form. That description, however, was only of Passerat’s poem in particular, not meant to be of a type. As such, some historians consider Berthelin the man who fixed the form because of this entry, though it might be fairer to say the form was fixed by people misreading it. But nobody seems to have noticed this definition nor written a poem following its example, so I think it seems important to historians in retrospect, but actually influenced nothing.

    The second fixed-form villanelle was written by Theodore de Banville in 1845, though he added 2 tercets to Passerat’s model. I’m skeptical it counts as a conscious imitation of the form qua form, however, as it was a parody of the original poem, not an attempt to adapt the same structure to a different context. The poem is written from the perspective of a journal editor lamenting the loss of a favorite writer, Paul Limayrac, with the refrain “J’ay perdu mon Limayrac,” following Passerat’s “I have lost my turtledove.” Though parody can be a useful step in establishing a genre or convention, I don’t think it alone suffices for declaring Passerat’s rhyme scheme a fixed form; if the only sci-fi novels were “The Time Machine” and Time Machine parodies, I doubt “science fiction” would be a more meaningful category than “Time Machine books.” Anyway, it seems that Banville got his inspiration from an 1844 text by Wilhelm Tenint that described Passerat’s poem as the model of a type, not just the example of a genre, though he diverged from Passerat in implying there were no strict limitations on length. Banville eventually included the fixed-form villanelle in his 1872 Petit traite de poesie francaise, which was the text that popularized the form in England via the poets Edmund Gosse and Austin Dobson. Before 1872, the only fixed-form villanelles in known existence were: Passerat’s original, Banville’s parody, another parody by Banville, and another poem by one Philoxene Boyer, written in 1867. So although there are no known villanelles from 1606 to 1845, it’s possible Boyer was influenced by some tradition Banville was not, right? Nope; the two of them were buddies who collaborated on verse.

    So the villanelle is basically a 19th century invention based off one nonce form 16th century poem. This is like if some musicologists in 23rd century forgot that “rap” was a multifarious musical genre and decided it referred to “music in which somebody rhythmically talks about spaghetti.”

    Gosse and Dobson introduced villanelles to the English in two essays written in 1877 and 1878. Gosse describes the form as “usually wedded to serious or stately expression, and almost demand a vein of pathos,” quite a far cry from bucolic improv, and at odds with Banville and others, who emphasized the form’s naïve and charming aspects. Dobson wrote the first known English villanelle in 1874. Championed in the late 19th century by Oscar Wilde, Swinburne, and others, French forms like the villanelle became associated with artificiality, triviality, effeminacy, exoticism, and decadence. Maybe Gosse was anticipating the counterargument.

    The appeal of the villanelle to 19th English writers probably had much to do with the perception of the form as medieval and rustic, as a reaction to the constraints and moralizing of Victorian poetry. It’s somewhat ironic, then, that the license of the original meaning is all but forgotten, and the fixed form is, if anything, more restrictive formally than most Victorian poetry. Perhaps the veneer of rusticity was more liberating than any looser formal constraints would have been. As Amanda French argues, the form probably would never have found appeal with English writers if not for this fictitious antiquity of, as she puts it, “a sweeter long-ago that never existed.”

    More ironic, perhaps, is that the form came to fruition mostly in the mid 20th century, in the age of free verse. Maybe that was the appeal; the baggier everything got the more interesting its constraints became by contrast (also, the tendency in contemporary poetry toward more and more absurdly severe constraints). Mostly following the success of “Do not go gentle…” and “One Art,” the last 40 years might be the most productive in the history of this “ancient” form. In another irony, the form is basically absent in contemporary French poetry.

    (continued…)

  32. powerfuller says:

    Hey, here’s another intermittent long post on poetry. This time, I’m talking about the villanelle.
    The basic form is thus: 5 tercets and a quatrain, with 2 refrains alternating throughout, both of which are included in the first and last stanzas. The rhyme scheme (with A’ and A” for the refrains) is:

    A’bA” abA’ abA” abA’ abA” abA’A”

    The most famous villanelles these days are probably One Art and Do Not Go Gentle.

    The history of the form is interesting. It claims roots in French and Italian peasant songs of the 16th century. It’s basically a myth), however, that the poetic form we know today was established then. Rather, the term “villanelle” referred broadly to songs or lyrics with no standard form. Strand and Boland theorize these villanelles were round songs sung to accompany farm labor, like sea shanties or African American call-and-response songs. The 1680 Dictionnaire Francois defines “villanelle” to mean an improvised peasant song. César-Pierre Richelet, the dictionary’s author, describes the villanelle as “a pious or flirtatious song, amorous and pastoral… the type of verse that can be composed only by being sung.” This improvisational aspect seems a little at odds with a work song; were the refrains of the villanelle originally meant to keep time with the performers’ work, or were they a consequence of improvising (i.e. repeating lines to give yourself time to compose new ones), or both? Further complicating the issue is Ronald McFarland’s argument that the Italian equivalent, the “villanella,” was never a real folk song, but a courtly affectation about as genuinely pastoral as Virgil’s Eclogues. This could be an issue, though, of the folk songs being a lost oral tradition, leaving only the written imitations to history.

    Montaigne mentions villanelles in Essay 54, “Of Vain Subtleties,” as popular songs from people without science or writing, but containing “certain artless graces” comparable to the beauty of highbrow poetry. Vauquelin de La Fresnaye expressed the same sentiment in a poem from 1605: “Sans sentir rien de l’Art, comme une villanelle” [unconscious of Art, like a villanelle]. Other references from the time discuss qualities of the accompanying music, not lyrics. Of the 17 known poems published in the Renaissance titled “Villanelle,” “Villanesque,” etc., none share a fixed form. The French poet Joseph Boulmier, in an introduction to a collection of villanelles in 1878, claimed to have combed all the prosody manuals of the 15th and 16th centuries without finding any mentions of a fixed form.

    So where did the form come from? Is there an Ur-villanelle on which the modern form is based? Yes, this would be the poem “J’ai perdu ma tourterelle…” by Jean Passerat, written in 1574 and published in 1606. It was a nonce form, and no other poem from that time or earlier is known to share it.

    As mentioned above, the lexicographer and prosodist Richelet discussed villanelles, but he gave Passerat no mention. There is a more elaborate description of the villanelle in Richelet’s Dictionnaire de Rimes, but only in editions after that of 1751, long after Richelet’s death. As such, the description must have been added by another lexicographer, Pierre-Charles Berthelin. The entry says the villanelle is “a shepherd’s song,” provides Passerat’s as an example, and describes its form. That description, however, was only of Passerat’s poem in particular, not meant to be of a type. As such, some historians consider Berthelin the man who fixed the form because of this entry, though it might be fairer to say the form was fixed by people misreading it. But nobody seems to have noticed this definition nor written a poem following its example, so I think it seems important to historians in retrospect, but actually influenced nothing.

    The second fixed-form villanelle was written by Theodore de Banville in 1845, though he added 2 tercets to Passerat’s model. I’m skeptical it counts as a conscious imitation of the form qua form, however, as it was a parody of the original poem, not an attempt to adapt the same structure to a different context. The poem is written from the perspective of a journal editor lamenting the loss of a favorite writer, Paul Limayrac, with the refrain “J’ay perdu mon Limayrac,” following Passerat’s “I have lost my turtledove.” Though parody can be a useful step in establishing a genre or convention, I don’t think it alone suffices for declaring Passerat’s rhyme scheme a fixed form; if the only sci-fi novels were “The Time Machine” and Time Machine parodies, I doubt “science fiction” would be a more meaningful category than “Time Machine books.” Anyway, it seems that Banville got his inspiration from an 1844 text by Wilhelm Tenint that described Passerat’s poem as the model of a type, not just the example of a genre, though he diverged from Passerat in implying there were no strict limitations on length. Banville eventually included the fixed-form villanelle in his 1872 Petit traite de poesie francaise, which was the text that popularized the form in England via the poets Edmund Gosse and Austin Dobson. Before 1872, the only fixed-form villanelles in known existence were: Passerat’s original, Banville’s parody, another parody by Banville, and another poem by one Philoxene Boyer, written in 1867. So although there are no known villanelles from 1606 to 1845, it’s possible Boyer was influenced by some tradition Banville was not, right? Nope; the two of them were buddies who collaborated on verse.

    So the villanelle is basically a 19th century invention based off one nonce form 16th century poem. This is like if some musicologists in 23rd century forgot that “rap” was a multifarious musical genre and decided it referred to “music in which somebody rhythmically talks about spaghetti.”

    Gosse and Dobson introduced villanelles to the English in two essays written in 1877 and 1878. Gosse describes the form as “usually wedded to serious or stately expression, and almost demand a vein of pathos,” quite a far cry from bucolic improv, and at odds with Banville and others, who emphasized the form’s naïve and charming aspects. Dobson wrote the first known English villanelle in 1874. Championed in the late 19th century by Oscar Wilde, Swinburne, and others, French forms like the villanelle became associated with artificiality, triviality, effeminacy, exoticism, and decadence. Maybe Gosse was anticipating the counterargument.

    The appeal of the villanelle to 19th English writers probably had much to do with the perception of the form as medieval and rustic, as a reaction to the constraints and moralizing of Victorian poetry. It’s somewhat ironic, then, that the license of the original meaning is all but forgotten, and the fixed form is, if anything, more restrictive formally than most Victorian poetry. Perhaps the veneer of rusticity was more liberating than any looser formal constraints would have been. As Amanda French argues, the form probably would never have found appeal with English writers if not for this fictitious antiquity of, as she puts it, “a sweeter long-ago that never existed.”

    More ironic, perhaps, is that the form came to fruition mostly in the mid 20th century, in the age of free verse. Maybe that was the appeal; the baggier everything got the more interesting its constraints became by contrast (also, the tendency in contemporary poetry toward more and more absurdly severe constraints). Mostly following the success of “Do not go gentle…” and “One Art,” the last 40 years might be the most productive in the history of this “ancient” form. In another irony, the form is basically absent in contemporary French poetry.

    Since 8 of its 19 lines are repetitions, and it contains only 2 rhyme sounds, the villanelle doesn’t offer a lot of room to play around with. On the flip side, if you can nail the two refrains, the rest of the poem almost writes itself. Being so restrictive and repetitive, the form can easily become tedious, so it’s the mark of a good poet to successfully maintain interest and variety through the stanzas.

    I think that some forms are better suited to expressing certain ideas and subjects than others (try writing a serious Limerick), and I’m curious what the villanelle is best suited to express. There’s not a lot of space, as contrasted with a fixed form like a sonnet, to develop an idea before one or the other refrains juts back in, forcing the mind to return to the original idea or problem. Because of this, the themes that critics reference most often are obsession and madness. The most famous villanelle on the latter is probably Plath’s. This poem I think is doubly effective for its refrains, and for the alternation between focusing on the relationship (“I dreamed you bewitched me… I fancied you’d return…”) and the intrusive chaos of images (“The stars go waltzing… God topples the sky…”).

    “Do not go gentle…” is also a bit unreasonable, though it serves more as exhortation to than declaration of one’s unwillingness to submit to reality. The refrains here really grip the reader as to say, “Don’t give in! This is important. I’ll keep saying it because it’s important.” This poem employs a common structure to the form, which is enumerating various sets of stances or reactions to the main problem (“wise men,” “good men,” “wild men”), etc. Similar, somewhat, is Wilde’s poem, though that feels more like a raw accretion of detail than of perspectives. You might contrast these with “One Art,” where Bishop gradually expands the scope of the problem from the minute, “lost door keys,” to the macro, “two rivers, a continent.” I think the success of the poem has to do with it’s conscious turning away from obsession toward sober acceptance: all things are lost, but the losses discipline the heart. The poem is almost depressingly sane. I hear a similar tone in Robinson’s The House on the Hill, where the refrains feel less like unfiltered, recurrent grief and more like a statement of fact that must be repeated until its reality sinks in for the reader, the same way you view a body at the wake to force yourself to acknowledge the person is truly dead. The shorter lines augment this feeling; there is no use for “poor fancy-play” to elaborate, so it is given no quarter.

    I wonder if the modern villanelle suits the “artlessness” and “popularity” of its mythical ancestors. I think successful villanelles tend to employ more prosaic refrains like “There is nothing more to say,” than stately refrains like “Dost though remember Sicily?” Though a highly technical form, the villanelle still feels much looser than a Spenserian stanza or Petrarchan sonnet, and, counter-intuitively, the refrains often feel more spontaneous than a well-developed verse paragraph. It seems Gosse’s assessment has come true, as I don’t know any famous villanelles on light, pleasant subjects. So is the form best for low-diction, high-seriousness topics? I think there’s more to say here, but I need to read more villanelles first.

    Finally, the villanelle gave us one of the best uses of poetry in a movie.

  33. Moorlock says:

    Is effective altruism even theoretically possible?

    Effective altruism in a nutshell is the idea that people who hope to be genuinely altruistic should be more attentive to the actual effects of their purportedly altruistic acts, so as to make sure those acts aren’t unintentionally suboptimal (or mostly in the service of other non-altruistic goals), but that they are instead doing the most to advance their genuinely altruistic values.

    Most effective altruists seem to be motivated to alleviate suffering (human and sometimes animal suffering). Such people consider an altruistic act most effective when it alleviates more suffering than any of its alternatives, and they consider a main goal of effective altruism to identify which acts are and are not like that.

    Such altruists are typically not interested in picking favorites among sufferers — sufferers in a far away land who you will never meet, and sufferers next door who will thank you personally for your help, are considered equal or at least very similar.

    The same goes for sufferers distant in time. The suffering of someone alive today is no more or less suffering than that of someone not yet born, and the prevention or alleviation of either is a blessing. I’m sure there’s some debate over whether currently suffering people deserve some higher weighting in our evaluations over future people, but I doubt there are many effective altruists who think the suffering of future people ought not to be included in their calculations at all.

    Something about this was troubling to me, but it just was sort of a vague itch in the back of my mind until I recently read G.E. Moore’s Principia Ethica. Moore takes a stand that seems at least very harmonious with ethical altruism:

    [T]o judge that an action is generally a means to good is to judge not only that it generally does some good, but that it generally does the greatest good of which the circumstances admit. (§16)

    But he goes on to say:

    The first difficulty in the way of establishing a probability that one course of action will give a better total result than another, lies in the fact that we have to take account of the effects of both throughout an infinite future… [O]ur causal knowledge is utterly insufficient to tell us what different effects will probably result from two different actions, except within a comparatively short space of time… Yet, if a choice guided by such considerations is to be rational, we must certainly have some reason to believe that no consequences of our action in a further future will generally be such as to reverse the balance of good that is probable in the future which we can foresee. (§93)

    Moore raises the hope that perhaps as the effects of our actions echo into the future, they become muted and difficult to distinguish from any other actions we might have taken. (“The effects of any individual action seem, after a sufficient space of time, to be found only in trifling modifications spread over a very wide area, whereas its immediate effects consist in some prominent modification of a comparatively narrow area.”) But Moore was writing before the widespread knowledge of chaos theory, which showed us that small changes in the initial conditions of some systems can cause enormous differences in a later state. That history is such a system strikes me as likely.

    This suggests that effective altruism, of the sort that gives weight to future effects as well as immediate effects, might not be possible.

    I would be very interested in reading the thoughts of SSC readers on this conundrum.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Chaos theory doesn’t really make any sense from a chemical or a biological perspective. If you push a single molecule in a random dimension, statistical mechanics tells you that there is essentially no change on the macroscopic scale. The equilibrium states maintained by homeostasis are less absolute than those in chemistry but it’s still pretty much the same story. Small perturbations don’t amplify throughout the system; they’re quashed unless they exceed a critical threshold.

      Given that we live in a world of chemistry and biology, I don’t think there’s much to fear from butterflies flapping their wings. Small acts don’t account for much unless they’re at a critical point.

      That said, I do think that EAs and utilitarians generally don’t have enough intellectual humility. The further you are removed from the beneficiaries of your charity in time and space, the less effective you’ll be for the simple reason that you can’t check if your charity is actually doing any good. If you volunteer at a local homeless shelter or a soup kitchen you can see with your own eyes what the people you’re helping need and which of those needs are still unmet. If you send a check to some foundation working on the other side of the world, the absolute best that you can do is pray that whoever collected, analyzed and reported the data didn’t miss anything important.

      • So how does a tiny nerve impulse result in a punch being thrown, or a gun being fired? Living systems are not in equilibrium. Homesostasis is not equilibrium: thermogenysis is supposed to keep yo out of equlibirum.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I’m going to ignore your example and substitute one which I think illustrates your point more strongly: a single photon absorbed by a retinal rod cell can result in activation of neurons, to the point that humans can consciously perceive as few as 100 photons.

          I don’t see this or your original example as contradicting what I said, because amplifying the signal from one or a hundred subatomic particles into a behavior relies on unbelievably precise control of exactly the sort of critical thresholds I mentioned.

          A hundred UV photons which are absorbed by the DNA and create as many lesions is well within the ability of normal DNA damage repair processes to handle; it takes an incalculably high number of such lesions over a lifetime to cause noticable health problems. A biological system which couldn’t handle that kind of perturbation would never have survived into the present. The fact that the human eye can pick up the same number of photons in the visible range isn’t a sign of how powerful the photons are, but of how extraordinarily light-sensitive the rod cells has evolved to become compared to every other cell type in the body.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        You’ve got chaos theory backwards. Gases are chaotic, but we just don’t care about the microstate.

  34. fion says:

    Just had an IRL discussion in which I argued against what I think I’m correct in calling the “strong AI”* view; that consciousness is entirely algorithmic and any implementation of such an algorithm is just as conscious as any other. This was a first for me, as I would usually argue in favour of it. I think it’s safe to say I lost the argument.

    I’m aware this is probably quite a strong AI-heavy crowd, but what do you think are the best arguments against it? I’m pretty agnostic on the issue, but I definitely find it easier to argue in favour of it than against. (Which, in itself, makes me think that maybe it’s right…) But perhaps I’m just not well-versed enough in the “against” arguments.

    Grateful for comments and pointing-in-the-right-direction in terms of the literature.

    *Wikipedia informs me it is also known as the “computational theory of mind”.

    • Urstoff says:

      I’ll give the typical philosopher’s response: it depends on what you mean by “consciousness”. If you just mean perception (the ability to take in information from the environment), then it can be algorithmic, sure (but may not be necessarily algorithmic). If by consciousness you mean “has qualia” or “phenomenal experience” or any of those other philosophical terms, then you need to specify what properties you take qualia (or whatever) to have and how algorithms can have those properties.

      Of interest might be Sydney Shoemaker’s Functionalism and Qualia.

      • fion says:

        Aye, defining consciousness properly is a bugger. It always seems pretty hard to put a good description/definition to that doesn’t just lead to “but what do you mean by…” ad infinitum, but it’s among the most obvious “I know it when I see it” type things out there.

        I think what I mean is subjective experience, but I might not be using that term the same way as the philosophers. I feel as though it’s impossible by definition to measure externally? Which doesn’t seem very helpful.

        Naively it seems to me like the only way to prove that algorithms can be conscious would be to show that every process in the human brain is algorithmic, since there is only one thing I know for sure has consciousness and it’s me.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Imagine a chatbot that simply implements a lookup table:
      if messageHistory=="Hi there":
      respond("Hi yourself")
      else if messageHistory== ["Hi there", "What's on your mind?"]
      respond("Nothing, I'm bored")
      else if...

      With a big enough lookup table, you could get a chatbot whose performance is indistinguishable from human. Sure, eventually you’ll reach the end of the table and the conversation will stop, but humans stop when they die of old age, so if we make a ridiculously large table that can hold 150 years of conversation, it’s now at least as capable of holding conversation as a human. Sure the database would be the size of a galaxy, but this is a hypothetical, we get to make galaxy-sized databases.

      There is obviously some kind of consciousness-ish quality that a human has and this chatbot lacks, despite the fact that they outwardly act the same. Different things are happening in their “minds”. Essentially, I think that lookup tables prove P-zombies are a coherent concept. You can implement an algorithm which performs identically the outputs of a human, but if the word “conscious” is to mean anything like what we generally use it for, one must admit the chatbot is at least differently conscious than the human, and I would argue less conscious.

      But maybe I’ve missed what you meant about implementations of conscious algorithms, if so, could you explain a bit more?

      • A1987dM says:

        Yeah but who wrote the lookup table?

        I wouldn’t call the table itself “conscious” but I would call any process able to generate such a table with non-negligible probability “conscious”, much like I don’t call a telephone or a book conscious but I do call the people I talk to on the phone or who wrote the book conscious.

        • Wrong Species says:

          At that point, what do you even mean by consciousness? Does a process feel pain? Does a process feel happiness? Can a process love?

      • Wrong Species says:

        The problem with the p zombies concept is that it’s not just saying that something can have the appearance of a conscious being while being unconscious. That seems true enough. It also claims that something can have the exact same physical structure, down to the molecules, of a conscious being without being conscious. That is incoherent.

        • No, it’s just the contradictory to physicalism.

          • Urstoff says:

            Given that none of us can actually tell whether we’re p-zombies or not, it doesn’t seem to be a very useful or interesting concenpt.

          • christhenottopher says:

            No we can’t tell ignota we ourselves are p-zombies, just not if anyone else is. Just think for a second about anything. Were you able to think? Congrats you’re not a zombie, you just can’t prove that too me. As far as I can tell I’m the only proven conscious being, though I magnanimously grant everyone on this site the benefit of the doubt.

          • Urstoff says:

            A p-zombie would also think they’re conscious. I think I’m conscious, but maybe I’m not. If p-zobmies are possible, then it’s possible that I’m a p-zombie. How could I tell whether I’m really conscious or whether I’m just a p-zombie that thinks I’m conscious?

          • John Schilling says:

            A p-zombie would also think they’re conscious.

            A p-zombie would tell everyone else that they think, feel, and perceive that they are conscious. That’s not the same thing, even if it is externally indistinguishable.

          • Urstoff says:

            A p-zombie would also have the belief that they are conscious, as well as have detailed beliefs about their perceptual states. They would even have (false) beliefs about what it’s like to be them.

            The alternative is that a p-zombie says that they are conscious, but knows they aren’t and thus is lying. That would not only be an argument against the identity of the conscious with the physical, but the identity of the intentional with the physical. The supposition of zombies is that all physical states are the same; if they didn’t believe they were conscious, then their intentional/psychological states would also be different. I don’t think the zombie hypothesis is meant to be so broad.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            A p-zombie would also think they’re conscious.

            A p-zombie would not think, period, no? From wiki (emphasis added):

            A philosophical zombie or p-zombie in the philosophy of mind and perception is a hypothetical being that from the outside is indistinguishable from a normal human being but lacks conscious experience, qualia, or sentience.

            So why, from the inside view, does “I think, therefore I am” not apply..?

          • Urstoff says:

            In phil mind, at least, consciousness is not exhaustive of thinking. Intentional processes (believing, perceiving, deciding, desiring, and so forth) are also “thinking”. Indeed, “thinking” really isn’t used much as a term in philosophy of mind because of it’s imprecision. A p-zombie without intentional states would certainly be something: a complex agent indistinguishable from a human that has no beliefs, representations, perceptions, etc.

      • Essentially, I think that lookup tables prove P-zombies are a coherent concept

        Not technically. I call the idea you are getting at C-zombies.

      • fion says:

        I think you’re taking a particular algorithm that mimics consciousness and arguing that it either isn’t conscious or is less conscious than a human. I think this doesn’t answer my question because there could be *other* algorithms that you’ve not imagined that also mimic consciousness and actually are conscious. I think you’ve essentially picked one weak example and disproved it and then claimed that you’ve disproved the general claim that such things can exist. I might not be understanding you right, though, so please correct me if that’s the case.

        On an unrelated note, I feel as though you’re sweeping something under the rug when you make your table so big it can hold 150 years of conversation. I think if you’re allowed galaxy-sized databases I’m allowed to keep asking your computer questions forever. It’s true that humans die, but somehow I really don’t feel this is a fair comparison. The fact that your lookup table runs out after 150 years is an indication that it’s not doing any creative thinking. The fact that I run out after less time than that is because my machinery breaks down. Do you see what I’m getting at? I’m really struggling to put it into words. But anyway, I think this is beside the main point.

    • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

      I agree with Urstoff and Ninety-Three.

      My own contribution: I used to agree with Dennett, Hofstadter, etc. Then I investigated the question “What does it mean for a physical system to ‘implement’ an algorithm?” That changed my mind. Spoiler: The natural ways to define implementation yield the result that almost any system, including the rocks beneath your feet, implements almost every algorithm. As far as I can tell the only way to avoid this result is to put some sort of complexity limit in there: “The mapping between states of the physical system and states of the algorithm must be describable in less than 1000 lines of Javascript.” But (A) this is a sign that we are at a dead end, and (B) depending on what complexity bound you use, it could very well turn out that most AI would not be conscious even though they are simulating a human brain exactly. If the human brain sim is on a virtual machine in silicon, that’s extra steps for the mapping to explain…

      Check out http://www.consc.net/papers/rock.html for a slice of the literature on this issue.

      • Iain says:

        I don’t think this works.

        The algorithm of human consciousness may be implemented in the brain, but it is wired into an entire human body. It receives inputs from the environment — signals from your eyes to your visual cortex, for example — and produces outputs that affect the environment around it.

        Even if you can produces some elaborate mapping between my brain and the rocks beneath my feet, there’s no way to argue that the rocks beneath my feet are receiving input and producing output in any meaningful way. Your link goes into this: Putnam’s argument about rocks implementing all algorithms is only true for inputless finite-state automata. In the context of the recent-ish SSC posts about perceptual control theory, that’s a huge gap. If brains really do work by attempting to minimize predictive error, then the tight causal loop between input and output is probably really important.

        The question should not be whether the mapping between the physical system and the state of the algorithm is simple. The question should be whether the algorithm’s outputs influence its outputs in the right ways to keep it running.

        You can run a copy of Firefox without an internet connection, but it won’t browse the web. You can run a copy of a human brain without inputs and outputs, but it might not be conscious. That doesn’t mean Firefox isn’t algorithmic. I don’t see why the same isn’t true for consciousness.

        • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

          Right, sorry it took me so long to get back to this:

          Yes, input-output relations are super important for consciousness. So instead of finding a way to interpret the rock as your brain, we find a way to interpret it as a computer simulating a virtual environment which contains, among other things, your brain. Then you have all the right input-output relationships.

          Put it another way: What’s the difference between a generation spaceship with a bunch of humans inside, and a comet of similar size? (Suppose that, for whatever reason, the generation ship doesn’t have any sensors or actuators with which to communicate with the outside world. If the outside world wants to talk with it, it’ll have to cut it open.)

          Answer: No difference, at least not at the level of algorithm-implementation. Both systems can be interpreted as implementing a certain “Several humans exist in an environment of such-and-such specifications etc.” algorithm, of which there are sub-algorithms that are conscious (the particular humans.)

          Of course, the interpretation of the comet is ridiculously complex and unnatural, whereas the interpretation of the generation ship is elegant and straightforward. But why should that matter? And if it does matter, then arguably less-elegant implementations of my brain (e.g. in an ancestor simulation) aren’t conscious either.

          It’s been a while since I thought about this. Now that I write it out, I wonder whether maybe there’s some trick being pulled in the way algorithms can embed in other algorithms–I thought that worked, but I never rigorously checked.

          Thoughts?

      • fion says:

        This is a very interesting point that I’ve never considered. However, I do find Iain’s response to be rather compelling.

        • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

          Thanks! I think so too, like I said, it’s what changed my mind.

          See above for my response to Iain.

    • helloo says:

      The biggest piece of the argument I see is the free will aspect.

      Algorithms are inherently deterministic. Consciousness often implies a kind of awareness and decision making.
      While neither is completely for or against free will, it’ll be a debate on its own to untangle it.
      And people tend to have strong opinions regarding free will.

      The second is the whole “wisdom as a group/emergent intelligence” thing.
      The whole Chinese gym, nation, etc. thought experiments.
      If so, are countries conscious (more conscious?)? systems like capitalism?
      If they do agree that they are, then the values people place on consciousness probably don’t match up with their definition of it.
      People might not like breaking up a nation or a system, but not in the same way as killing a living being.

      • fion says:

        I am of the opinion that there is nothing about consciousness and free will that goes against determinism. Just because my high-level, course-grained picture of the world involves enough unpredictability for choices to seem nondeterministic doesn’t mean that the underlying physics is nondeterministic.

        So if my deterministic neurons can produce effectively free will then why can’t deterministic chips and wires give rise to effectively free will?

        • helloo says:

          If it’s a debate and you’re asking for arguments against “strong AI”, then these are it.

          This is different than trying to convince YOU against “strong AI”.

          As I mentioned, determinism doesn’t necessarily negate free will and there’s schools of thoughts that combine the two – Compatibilism.
          That is however, its own debate with its critics and arguments.
          Unless you think THAT is settled, then it still stands regardless of where your opinion of it is.

          • fion says:

            As I mentioned, determinism doesn’t necessarily negate free will

            Did you? I missed that.

            I don’t really see how free will is relevant one way or the other to this question, though.

          • helloo says:

            That “strong AI” might imply that their consciousness is deterministic + Some feel determinism is against free will + they are not willing to abandon their belief in free will.

            So they are against the “strong AI” argument because it undermines free will.
            You can try to break it at any of the points, but as I said, those tend to be their own debates (which you can find separate arguments for).

    • Nick says:

      I don’t know about strong arguments, but I defended one from James Ross that there must be immaterial aspects to the mind in an earlier thread. The discussion starts here, and I do link to Ross’s paper when I bring it up.

      ETA: I see now that soreff left a response after my last one which I did not respond to. Draw your own conclusions as to who had the better of the discussion.

      • fion says:

        I think this isn’t quite what I’m after, but thanks anyway. I have very high confidence the mind is entirely material. The question I’m thinking about here is: assuming that the mind is entirely material, can we be sure that its operation is algorithmic?

  35. Fahundo says:

    I’m not seeing the hide comment button or the up arrows to quickly navigate to parent posts, what’s up with that?

  36. helloo says:

    Regarding the post/fiction – https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/11/09/ars-longa-vita-brevis/

    Upfront critique- I did not find this story to be that good.
    The characters are fairly flat and uninteresting. The setting was not rich or compelling.
    The central messages of gradually increasing burdens of knowledge learning and reduced knowledge creation was not relatable, realistic, or at least led to much discussion.
    And there’s just way too many “why didn’t they” moments in the plot itself.

    However, two footnotes? additions? fanfictions? could patch up quite a few of the holes, though possibly further weakening the central messages.

    1-
    When talking about alchemy, one generally associates it with lead to gold (or changing one thing to another in general), elixir of life, proto-chemistry, between science and magic.
    There also is another concept introduced with alchemy, that while generally not that well-known, well until the popularity of a certain anime, artificial biological beings – homunculus.

    Not only will it serve as a general purpose explanation for the weirdness (and rigid limitations) of the tower alchemists’ nature, it also helps solve some of issues that weren’t really even brought up like recruitment.
    Though now it also prompts some other questions (ie. why don’t they just create millions of them to speed it up), the issues I thought of could be answered without introducing new concepts (ie. they already reached the limit of where marginalbenefit(alchemist) = cost(additional overhead))
    It also enriches the setting and/or as a possible AI stand-in.

    2.
    A sort of expanded ending I came up in my head that introduces two important ideas.

    A chambermaid descends from the tower to find the general waving his sword and yelling at the alchemist.
    After some frantic shrieks and rushed explanations, the maid sighs and tells off the alchemist for not being truthful.
    “The alchemists locked in the tower are indeed smart. So smart that they can’t even feed themselves and I need to pour food down their throats when they are unconscious like some kind of mother bird.”

    This establishes two things – one, regarding the questions “why don’t they do *this* to be more productive”, answers -“well, maybe they already have”.
    Everything they could do to optimize finding the equation, while still allowing enough stability to allow the thousand year search, they already implemented.
    Not only will that include not dealing with eating, cleaning and everything else, but it’ll also mean they’ll probably be speaking some optimized high density no ambiguity language that doesn’t even have the word king or possibly not even illness.

    The second is that it really pushes a motive in why this all occurred in the first place.
    Though the alchemist in the story that speaks to the general isn’t one of the alchemists in the tower, he still places something regarding them – PRIDE.
    Rather than just state that they couldn’t do it or it’s not worth it, he wants to boast about how important their work is, how vital it is, how much energy has been devoted to it, how close they are to getting it.
    An intelligent solution would be to pretend to be one of those in the tower, do some fake diagnostics on the heir and then say that they are unable to cure it with the medicines they have available, but are working on one that could work – though probably wouldn’t be ready in time.
    But he’s not meant to be some super-capable HR person. He’s someone who was meant to be dedicated to this awesome project that can’t be spared a second – but failed in entrance exam and had to work as a spokesperson for.

  37. b_jonas says:

    Please point me to a good essay that explain transhumanism, in the sense that motivates being why AI safety is such an important topic. Let me explain what I don’t understand about this.

    So Scott and Eliezer explain that if the AI researchers succeed to make AI more intelligent than the top humans, then they’ll be able to make even more intelligent AIs. This will then spiral into a superintelligence that is so much better than humans in everything we do that we have no chance to outcompete or control it in any way. I’m fine with this part. People debate how many years into the future this is, or whether it’s even possible at all, but that’s not the part I want to discuss here.

    The argument goes that the goals of the superintelligence will be very different from the goal of humans. This is because we can’t describe our human values well enough to teach the AI the right goal function. The new world that the superintelligence creates will then not be what us humans want, so this is considered a bad thing. If that is so, then I’m siding with the superintelligence. My problem is that I don’t understand what these human values are that Scott and Eliezer seem to care about, the ones that they believe a superintelligence wouldn’t respect, and I’d like an essay that tries to explain them to me.

    There’s this image painted about the paperclip maximizer. The AI is told to make paperclips. Being smart, the AI wouldn’t just copy our paperclip factories and slightly improve the assembly line process to make paperclips faster. No, it instead plays the long game and becomes a god, spreads all across the universe, uses its tremendous intelligence to turn all the stars as raw materials available for his use, and in the end makes paperclips. At the same time, the AI doesn’t care about the life and wellbeing of the humans of Earth, so it turns them to slaves to assist him in rising to power, then abandon them to extinction once we are no longer useful to him. He does this not because he intrinsically wants to cause suffering to humans, but because this is the most efficient way to achieve its long-term goals. But all this doesn’t sound that terrible to me. Wait, hear me out.

    Some people take a luddite view where all technological progress of civilization is bad, we should never make self-driving cars that make all the truck drivers unemployed, and all humans should spend their day ploughing fields to produce wheat, earning their food with the sweat of their own brow. I don’t agree with this position, but one can at least make some internally consistent arguments for it, and if this was what you believed, then I understood why you didn’t like the superintelligence taking over. But this is definitely not what Scott and Eliezer say.

    Scott and Eliezer do want progress in technology. They want us humans to become the gods ourselves if this uncaring universe doesn’t have one, spread in the universe, reshape it in our image, and use all the stars as raw materials for our long-term goals, or at least share them with other intelligent aliens that we meet or create. On route to this, they might also enhance the intelligence of humans using a combination of biological technology or applying the right incentives to selection. As far as I understand, they want exactly the same future that they claim the paperclip maximizer AI would create. There’s the small point I mentioned about enslaving all humans to assist you in rising to power and then abandoning them to their extinction once they’re no longer needed. But the problem is, I’m not convinced that humans wouldn’t do this. Humans have done war and slavery so much that I don’t see a guarantee that it won’t happen again. Such bad things could happen in many ways. A powerful but mad dictator could commit genocide to further his political agenda. Or we could avoid dictators, but fall into some trap where we can’t coordinate towards our goals, and even though all individual actors are benevolent and wouldn’t want to enslave humans, the system that emerges in uncaring and doesn’t share our values in the way Scott calls Moloch’s work. Or perhaps the humans that are biologically enhanced will no longer be able to empathize with other humans, and won’t treat them as real people, and will only use them as tools for the goals of their group.

    What I’d really like to know is, what are these human values that really distinguish the scenario where the AI becomes god and turns all the stars to paperclips from the scenario when humanity becomes god and turns all the stars to cat videos. You could argue that we humans intrinsically value the life of intelligent beings, and will spread intelligence everywhere. But I don’t think this is a difference, because the argument about the AI says that intelligence is the weapon that lets the AI become all-powerful, and the AI knows this, so it will also spread intelligence everywhere to be able to achieve its goals. I’m quite sure the difference is not some stupid bigoted value like where the humans have pink furry skin and the AIs have green scaly skin, and green scaly lizardman don’t count as real people, so it’s intrinsically more valuable to spread human intelligence than lizardman intelligence. So what is the difference really?

    I call these real human values “transhumanist” only because Scott seems to call them that in “https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/meditations-on-moloch/” , but I could be wrong in that. So if I misunderstand that, then ignore the “transhumanist” terminology please and try to answer my question about human values that an AI might not share.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Yudkowski has a bunch of long posts on his idea of human values, which he calls “coherent extrapolated volition,” or CEV for short.

      The gist of CEV is that it’s the sort of thing that we would want if we were the people we wish that we were. If we were more morally upright then we would want the things that we should want and if we were smarter then we would know how to get them. The idea is circular and not terribly original but it’s a good discussion prompt.

      The big problem is that Yudkowski has a massive ego. Since he’s the smartest and most morally upright human in history [citation needed], clearly humanity’s CEV will look more like his personal values than anything that people actually value today. There will be no faith or fidelity, no sense of purity or purpose, just smug hedonism and endless meaningless games.

      • b_jonas says:

        > The big problem is that Yudkowski has a massive ego.

        This is likely. But I’m asking on this forum because Scott seems to care about this too, which is why I’m pointing to the part of “https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/meditations-on-moloch/” where he says he’s a transhumanist. So it’s certainly not only Eliezer who has an idea about this.

        Update: thanks for the CEV part though, I can look that up at least.

      • mrthorntonblog says:

        The person I wish I were is probably much worse than who I am.

        • Protagoras says:

          Maybe a little reflection on your wishes, with the intent of doing a bit of updating, is in order, then?

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            I have ideas about what tai chi would be like if I were better at it than I am. When I achieve actual improvement, it isn’t like what I imagined, it’s better.

            I can easily believe that people can’t do that much to imagine better versions of themselves.

            An alcoholic can imagine not drinking, and they’d be better off not drinking, but that doesn’t mean they can do a good job of imagining the good things about living sober.

          • LewisT says:

            Eh, I can sympathize a bit with what mrthorntonblog is saying. There are times when I wish I could be a saint, but there are also times when I wish I were less morally constrained so that I could go out and indulge in whatever activity is tempting me at that moment. In the latter times, the person I wish I were is definitely worse than the person I actually am.

      • Deiseach says:

        The big problem is that Yudkowski has a massive ego. Since he’s the smartest and most morally upright human in history [citation needed]

        I believe we have a challenger for the crown in Mr Vinay Gupta who seems to be certain he and his are the only, solely, truly and really enlightened humans what are also smart and can think gooder on this planet out of every culture and era. Clash of the Titans ahoy! 😀

        • Nornagest says:

          Whatever my opinion of the guy, I don’t think there’s any call to bring him up here.

      • Andrew Hunter says:

        I get that you don’t like him, but is there a reason you’re mispelling his name? A number of his critics do this and I don’t know why.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          My bad, I keep forgetting to Google the guy’s name before writing anything about him.

          His last name is spelled in a non-standard way for how it’s pronounced, I don’t even try to remember how to spell his first name, and using his initials is a shibboleth for his admirers. So there’s really no good option besides copy-pasting the damn thing every single time.

          Anyway the point isn’t to convey disrespect. I can do that just fine without misspelling his name. It’s because his name is unusually hard to remember.

          • Nornagest says:

            His last name is spelled in a non-standard way for how it’s pronounced

            -sky is the Russian or Ukrainian transliteration (as in “Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky”), -ski is the Polish one (as in “J. Michael Straczynski”). They’re both suffixes that mean “from the region” or “the estate of”, roughly equivalent to the German “von”.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Does it have the same aristocratic connotation as a nobiliary particle like von? Or just the same literal meaning?

          • Nornagest says:

            Originally, yes, but at some point in the early modern period it started being used by people outside the nobility. The implication’s a lot weaker in Polish (or presumably Russian, though I know less about that) now than it is in German.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I’m going to have to remember “Eliezer von Yudkow.” 🙂

          • Nornagest says:

            If that lets me call our gracious host “Doctor von Scott”, I’m for it.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Nornagest: Yesss. I mean, they both think an intelligent’bot that would otherwise doom us can be programmed to be Friendly, bringing Victory from Doom.

      • If human value were coherent, cat videos would not exist.

    • rahien.din says:

      What I’d really like to know is, what are these human values that really distinguish the scenario where the AI becomes god and turns all the stars to paperclips from the scenario when humanity becomes god and turns all the stars to cat videos.

      …human survival?

      • b_jonas says:

        I care about the survival of intelligent beings. Whether the linage starts with, say, the daughter of my brother or a program in a computer, those are clearly not the final forms. The beings in the future will look different, and I don’t care about their skin color. Survival is survival in either case.

        A superintelligent being would be the best way for this, because it’s less likely to make stupid mistakes like killing everyone on Earth with nuclear missiles before there are enough people outside Earth, or destroying civilization through global warming. I don’t know what the best path is for that superintelligent being, but I don’t intrisically care whether it starts with making biologically engineered humans or with AI computer software.

        • Wrong Species says:

          I don’t intrisically care whether it starts with making biologically engineered humans or with AI computer software.

          Most people do not agree with this. I don’t care about “intelligent beings” in the abstract. I care about intelligent beings that either share continuity with my in-group and/or share my values.

          Is a world where the only intelligent being is a paperclipper something that doesn’t bother you in the slightest?

          • b_jonas says:

            > I care about intelligent beings that either share continuity with my in-group and/or share my values.

            Right, and then we’re back at my original question. What are your values? The important ones, the ones you care so strongly about that you would like future humans to keep.

            Other than self-preservation and eventually becoming god and reshaping the universe in your image, which I expect the paperclip AI will follow as well.

          • Wrong Species says:

            Do you want me to just list everything that people value?

            Other people and our relations to them
            Aesthetics(art, literature, movies, etc.)
            Happiness
            Truth
            Autonomy
            Security

            Do you not care about any of these things?

        • rahien.din says:

          A superintelligent being would be less likely to make stupid mistakes like killing everyone on earth with nuclear weapons

          What if the superintelligent being concluded that the surest path to survival was to kill everyone else on earth with nuclear weapons?

        • [Thing] says:

          I care about the survival of intelligent beings….

          A superintelligent being would be the best way for this, because it’s less likely to make stupid mistakes like killing everyone on Earth with nuclear missiles before there are enough people outside Earth …

          Okay, so it sounds like your concern is that after the point where we know enough to make an unaligned superintelligent AGI, but before we figure out how to make an aligned one, we might accidentally go extinct and fail to spawn an intergalactic civilization, because of human foibles. So we should just build a superintelligent AGI as soon as possible and let that be our legacy.

          Honestly, I’d rather we nuke ourselves than spawn a ruthlessly expansionist superintelligence that kills not only us, but any other weaker life form it encounters in the universe. But if we put that aside for the moment, there’s a compromise solution: As soon as we know how, we make a superintelligent paperclip maximizer or whatever, but we put it on a timer, so that it won’t activate for, say, 100 years, and in the meantime we can turn it off or extend the deadline whenever we want. Then we deposit it someplace relatively safe, like the Moon or Mars.

          This way, if we figure out AI alignment, we can shut off the paperclip maximizer before it activates, and everybody wins; if we nuke ourselves, too bad, but at least we pass on the torch to the paperclip maximizer.

          • b_jonas says:

            > But if we put that aside for the moment, there’s a compromise solution: As soon as we know how, we make a superintelligent paperclip maximizer or whatever, but we put it on a timer, so that it won’t activate for, say, 100 years, and in the meantime we can turn it off or extend the deadline whenever we want. Then we deposit it someplace relatively safe, like the Moon or Mars.

            I don’t think that can work, at least not in the timescale before we colonize exoplanets, for two reasons.

            1. Even a superintelligent paperclip AI needs some resources to start to ascend to power. Just like any dictator, it would probably start by taking over some industrial countries, and using its existing infrastructure to start manufacturing whatever it needs to start to expand. Like, you know, become president of the U.S., make the armed forces build rockets for asteroid mining, or whatever. If you put an inert superintelligence of the Mars, and then the humans civilization dies out before it can expand to places other than Earth, then the superintelligence won’t have a civilization to take advantage of, and will eventually die too.

            2. I think the AI safety people are worried that we’ll cross the intelligence threshold so suddenly that we won’t know where to stop. There won’t be a point when we have an AI that we’re sure is powerful enough, but it can’t yet become powerful.

          • [Thing] says:

            Yeah, those are valid objections. I still don’t think the payoff of spawning a universe-colonizing superintelligence is so intrinsically valuable that we should just go for it without any regard for the interests of pre-existing sentient lifeforms.

            I guess another analogy one could make is with evolution. Evolved organisms have flourished on Earth, and from a super-far-mode perspective, one could just say “That’s good. Flourishing life is better than barren rocks floating in space. Life should flourish throughout the universe.” But almost everything we consider bad is also a byproduct of evolution. It doesn’t seem that bad until you think about it in near mode, e.g. when you think of a time when you or someone you especially empathize with was suffering terribly. By comparison, the suffering of, say, dinosaurs, doesn’t seem all that morally significant. But that’s just a quirk of our psychology. If we have the choice, I think it is incumbent upon us to try to treat the well-being of hypothetical sentient beings of the far future as morally significant, rather than just abandoning them to the cruel vicissitudes of natural selection.

            I suppose if I had reason to believe that Earth life represented the universe’s one and only shot at hosting any phenomenon more interesting than a bunch of barren rocks floating in space, I might be more concerned with spreading life beyond Earth as fast as possible than I am with seeing to the well-being of said life, but the universe is a big place, and it’s probably going to be around for a long time, so I’m pretty sure that if we blow it, some alien life form will eventually get a chance to make the universe a livelier place.

        • sty_silver says:

          I care about the survival of intelligent beings.

          Do you really? If so that’s a very different value system from mine and I think most people’s. I don’t consider intelligence a terminal value, just an instrumental value – an enormously important instrumental value, but still just instrumental. The only terminal value is the well-being of conscious creatures.

          And this distinction is key here. If we build a real paperclipper that takes over the universe, it would likely be extremely intelligent, far more intelligent than all of humanity combined by any sensible measure, but it might not be conscious. Even if it were conscious, it might not be happy. Even if it were happy, it probably wouldn’t be super duper happy.

          Or abstractly put, optimizing for the number of paperclips is very different from optimizing for the well-being of conscious creatures, and this is why we want to avoid it.

          It’s actually also very different from optimizing for intelligence. A paperclipper would presumably just make itself as smart as it needs to and then focus on making paperclips. If you don’t care about consciousness at all and just want to have intelligent beings, you shouldn’t waste so much time making paperclips, you should create lots of other beings like you, or alternatively turn the universe into lots of CPUs for yourself rather than into paperclips.

          • b_jonas says:

            > it might not be conscious

            I don’t understand what consciousness could mean here. If, when you say you care about consciousness more than about intelligence, you mean that you want to encourage vegeterianism because eating meat will make the unintelligent but conscious chickens suffer, I could understand that. But I can’t imagine what an intelligent but unconscious successful paperclip maximizer AI would look like. I don’t believe that philosophical zombies who behave intelligently but lack a soul can exist.

            > it might not be happy

            I definitely don’t buy this one. If you were saying that the enslaved humans weren’t happy under his rule, I could understand that. A human living today can be very unhappy because he lives in an unstable country where a mugger could slit his throat on the street any day, or because he has a terminal illness with no hope for a cure, or because he can’t earn enough to feed his children, or because to earn enough he has to work 80 hours a day and has no time for recreation and pursuing his own happiness. A successful paperclip AI can’t be unhappy in any of those ways. If it can only work on meaningful intellectual tasks like designing warp drives and paperclip assembly lines for 40 hours a week, and needs to relax and watch TV series the rest of the time, then it knows that and will allocate adequate resources to provide that recreation time for himself.

          • sty_silver says:

            I don’t understand what consciousness could mean here. If, when you say you care about consciousness more than about intelligence, you mean that you want to encourage vegeterianism because eating meat will make the unintelligent but conscious chickens suffer, I could understand that. But I can’t imagine what an intelligent but unconscious successful paperclip maximizer AI would look like. I don’t believe that philosophical zombies who behave intelligently but lack a soul can exist.

            Okay, so the core of the disagreement here is that you think a superintelligent machine is necessarily conscious and very happy. If you ever try to discuss this topic somwhere in the future, I would suggest starting from there, because up until now I’ve been rather confused as to why you think a paperclipper scenario could be an okay outcome.

            So… I think you’re wrong about how you think about a) the link between consciousness and intelligence and b) the link between consciousness and human-like emotions.

            I agree with you about the non-existence of philosophical zombies, but for reasons that don’t tell me anything about artificial intelligence. Afaik, a philosophical zombie generally refers to someone who is just like a human, claims to be conscious, but isn’t. That strikes me as implausible because we actually notice that we are conscious, so I don’t see why any being would be mistaken about being conscious.

            But that doesn’t mean an intelligent AI needs to be conscious. I think an unconscious AI might be possible, and such an AI would be aware that it isn’t conscious. So the argument against philosophical zombies doesn’t apply. Do you think there is a different argument for why an intelligent AI must be conscious?

            Please stop me if I’m ascribing false beliefs to you in this paragraph. It seems to me like you imagine intelligence as this complicated thing that we haven’t yet figured out how to program, but once we do, the thing we created will be conscious and it will, therefore, have feelings of stuff like stress and satisfaction.

            This is, I think, false. I’ll taboo the term intelligence for myself here – what AI people are trying to get into AI is effective general problem-solving capability. Right now we have the effective very-narrow problem-solving capability (e.g. in a pocket calculator) and effective kinda-narrow problem-solving capability (in AlphaZero). We’ll keep making it more general and at some point reach something that we would describe as AGI.

            Throughout that process, consciousness may or may not gradually evolve. There is something which our brains do that makes us conscious. We both agree that it’s not about biology, so it must be the ‘process’ of thinking – something I could call an algorithm. Maybe this algorithm is essential for achieving generality and so AI people will also stumble across it. Or maybe it’s something more exotic that evolution dug up to have an effective punishment mechanism, and we’ll find a different (better?) way to achieve generality. I’d assign something like 40% to the first smart AI being conscious.

            But more importantly, even if the AI is conscious, it doesn’t then start to do something about its well being. Humans do something about their own well-being, but that’s because we were designed by evolution and evolution rewards us for doing something about our well-being (at least in the ancestral environment). If an AI becomes conscious, no magic happens. It doesn’t give it any additional agency it didn’t have before. Like, suppose for a moment that we create an AI and it is suffering. If that AI is a paperclipper, then I think that, as a matter of computer science, it is just a fact that it won’t do anything to mitigate its own suffering, even though I’ll totally grant you that it could. If its utility function rewards paper clips, then it is perfectly allowed for it to suffer, for it to realize that it’s suffering, to have the opportunity to make itself happy instead, but to still continue suffering indefinitely.

            If you disagree with that, then you have to provide me a reason why it would.

            Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not claiming that you can’t build an AI that cares about its own happiness. In fact, I’m over 99% sure that you can. Pick any mind you want, human-like, animal-like, conscious or unconscious, whatever. It’s possible to build that mind. But it’s probably really really hard, and it doesn’t happen automatically. As for this discussion, I think that by calling this AI we’re talking about a paperclipper, we’ve pretty much ruled out that it is the kind of mind that cares about its own happiness. A Paperclipper by definition cares only about making paperclips. Somthing that cares about its own happiness wouldn’t just make paperclips.

            So for the paperclipper scenario to be ethically okay, it would have to just happen to be really happy despite not doing anything about its happiness. That strikes me as very unlikely, and again, even if it were the case it would only be a fraction of the happiness that minds which have actually been optimized to experience happiness could experience.

            As an aside, I am a vegetarian and would encourage others not to eat meat to prevent animal suffering.

          • b_jonas says:

            sty_silver: Thanks, that’s a good objection. Yes, I did assume that the AI would be conscious like you write above, but now I’m less sure about that. I still think though that if the AI can feel happy and unhappy, then it will try to become happy.

          • afaik, a philosophical zombie generally refers to someone who is just like a human, claims to be conscious, but isn’t. That strikes me as implausible

            Do you think it is possible for consciousness to depend on being made of a particular kind of matter? Because, if so, a kind of zombie is implied.

            An AI is not necessarily a computer. Not everything is a computer or computer-emulable. It just needs to be artificial and intelligent! The extra ingredient a conscious system has need not be anything other than the physics (chemistry, biology) of its hardware — there is no forced choice between ghosts and machines.

            A physical system can never be exactly emulated with different hardware — the difference has to show up somewhere. It can be hidden by only dealing with a subset of a systems abilities relevant to the job in hand; a brass key can open a door as well as an iron key, but brass cannot be substituted for iron where magnetism is relevant. Physical differences can also be evaded by taking an abstract view of their functioning; two digital circuits might be considered equivalent at the “ones and zeros” level of description even though they physically work at different voltages.

            Thus computer-emulability is not a property of physical systems as such. Even if all physical laws are computable, that does not mean that any physical systems can be fully simulated. The reason is that the level of simulation matters. A simulated plane does not actually fly; a simulated game of chess really is chess. There seems to be a distinction between things like chess, which can survive being simulated at a higher level of abstraction, and planes, which can’t. Moreover, it seems that chess-like things are in minority, and that they can be turned into an abstract programme and adequately simulated because they are already abstract.

            To expand on the last point: suppose you get a positive TT result for one system, A. Then suppose you duplicate the software onto a whole bunch of different hardware platforms, B, C, D….

            (Obviously, they are all assumed to be capable of running the software in the first place). They must give the same results to the TT for A, since they all run the same software, and since the software determines the responses to a TT, as we established above, they must give positive results. But eventually you will hit the wrong hardware — it would be too unlikely to always hit on the right hardware by sheer chance, like throwing an endless series of heads. When you do hit the wrong hardware, you get a false positive. (Actually you don’t know you got a true positive with A in the first place…)

            Thus, some AIs would be “zombies” in a restricted sense of “zombie”. Whereas a zombie is normally thought of a physical duplicate lacking some non-physical factor essentual to consciousness, these are software duplicates lacking some special feature in their hardware. A Computaional zombie is an exact equivalent of a genuine Artificial Consciousness, but only with regards to the kinds of inputs and outputs allowed under a Turing test. If we had some reason for believing that silicon circuitry could be conscious and germanium circuitry couldn’t be, we could easily detect the zombiehood of the germanium zombie just by looking “under the hood”. However, hardware inspection is not allowed in a Turing Test.

            This possibility of Computational Zombies comes about because of the separability of software and hardware in a computational approach, and the further separation of relevant and irrelvant behaviour in the Turing Test. (The separability of software simply means the ability to run the same software on differenet hardware). Physical systems in general — non computers, not susceptible to separate descriptions of hardware and software — do not have that separability. Their total behaviour is determined by their total physical makeup. A kind of Articial Intelligence that was basically non-computational would not be subject to the Compuational Zombie problem. Searle is therefore correct to maintain, as he does, that AI is broadly possible.

          • sty_silver says:

            Do you think it is possible for consciousness to depend on being made of a particular kind of matter? Because, if so, a kind of zombie is implied.

            Possible but very unlikely, I would say.

            Eliezer Yudkowksy has talked about that exact question in this debate, so my first instinct is to refer to him; he’s done a better job arguing than I will do here. The person he was debating had the position that changing the matter is very likely to remove consciousness.

            I agree with you that emulability is not an inherent property of physical systems, and that there is a difference between things like chess and things like planes. I actually agree with almost all claims you make. But I disagree with the conclusion, because consciousness is exactly the kind of thing that seems to be like chess rather than a plane. The first reason that Yudkowsky also points to is that you could have a simulated brain that’s isomorphic to the natural brain in inputs and outputs, which implies that the thoughts “I observe that I am observing something” and “I think therefore I am” will at some point appear, and it seems unreasonable to claim something having these thoughts isn’t conscious.

            And the other reason that I would add is reductionism. Atoms don’t actually know whether they’re part of meat of siliocn, so on a really fundamental level – and this is the level which could be emulated – there is no different matter. Only in the interplay of different atoms do you get something that feels like matter, and it seems unlikely to me that whatever determines consciousness cares about this higher level. In other words, it seems to me that the exact law which governs where consciousness appears would have to be quite complicated if consciousness did depend on matter.

          • sty_silver says:

            @b_jonas:

            I still think though that if the AI can feel happy and unhappy, then it will try to become happy.

            Why?

          • @StySilver

            Are you saying zombies are impossible, or low probability?

            In the absence of any reason to believe otherwise , we should assume that reports of conscious experience are prompted by conscious experience….but material replacement is such a reason, if it even possible for material replacement to matter

            Given the confusion about how consciousness works, I don’t know how you can be sure that it works like chess. Do colours and pains and feelings work like chess?

          • sty_silver says:

            Low probability. I’m not sure that it works like chess, but I think it’s very likely, around 90%, for the reasons I sketched out.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          Imagine two intelligent beings. One of them is an ordinary, 100 IQ human who values ice cream and cat videos and so on. The other is a robot that only values paperclips. It’s only got an IQ of 105 so it’s never going to personally have an intelligence explosion and tile the universe with anything, but it’d really like to. Also, for the sake of making them more equivalent, it’s only got about fifty years of life left before unavoidably dying due to some kind of hardware failure.

          If they’re both trapped in a burning building and there’s only time for one of them, would you rather save the robot because it’s more intelligent? Is it at least obvious why many people would rather save the human? If so, extrapolate from there as to why we would prefer to tile the universe with humans and cat videos rather than paperclipper instances and assembly lines.

          • b_jonas says:

            > If they’re both trapped in a burning building and there’s only time for one of them

            Asimov has a short story “Kid brother” about this. It’s an interesting thought experiment, but I don’t think it’s relevant to the question I asked.

            Suppose that a close relative of yours and a brilliant leading rocket scientist is trapped in a burning a building, and you can save one. The scientist might be important for the future of humanity because his inventions will allow us to colonize other planets saving humanity when Earth becomes toast. But the difference isn’t so obvious that I would know that humanity would definitely be doomed if the scientist dies in the building. (This is a thought experiment – in practical emergency situations you never get such clean tradeoffs.) If you asked me this, I’d answer that I’d save the close relative. This is for a purely selfish reason: while the scientist might help humanity in the long term, my family is likely to help me later when I’m in trouble, so it helps me personally more to save a family member.

            But you can’t extrapolate from that to more than a few generations into the future. I already don’t care about what life my dead great-grandparents lived, nor about more distant relatives that I never meet. If a third cousin of mine got in a burning building, then him being my third cousin wouldn’t do him any favors. I don’t particularly care much what happens with my blood relatives who’ll be born generations after my death either. So in the far future, I’d prefer people in general to colonize other planets more than my distant future relatives to survive in particular.

            In fact, I already care more about the happiness of personal friends I’ve made at work (who aren’t related to me by blood) than of my third cousins. While in practice there are very few people of color in Hungary in my social class, I hope you’ll still believe me if I say that I don’t care much about the skin color of people I meet at work. If I met an AI with IQ 105 at my next job, I’d judge him on his behavior rather than what hardware he’s made of. If he behaved in a way that seems to clash with my values and habits, then I wouldn’t befriend them because of that, but then I also don’t vote for human politicians who advertise political values I don’t agree with. I don’t care whether someone got created from a biological process or not, and won’t prefer humans just because I share some of their genetic information.

            So yes, I might save the robot from the fire if he’s similar enough to humans that this is even a valid question.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Good old New England values.
      No, really, it’s basically the Lovecraft insight: alien intelligences must have values and goals orthogonal to ours, so don’t make any non-human intelligences and be scared of any that are already out there.
      How this extends to human outgroups is left as an exercise for Lovecraft the reader.

    • I don’t think it has much to do with what is objectively valuable, so much as if we build an AI aligned with human values, we get more of what we value, and if we build one that’s misaligned we get less down to possible extinction. It’s selfishness write large. I suppose there’s an issue about whether we should just amplify our arbitrary values, without bothering about objective morality, and another issue of whether an AI arriving at the one true objective morality would be safe for humans….

    • toastengineer says:

      There doesn’t need to be a difference. We want to maximize human values because we are humans, and those are by definition the values we maximize. Clippy feels the same way about anything that cares about things other than paperclips as we do about it.

      Any intelligent actor can be modeled as if they were trying to increase the value of some mathematical function that takes the state of the universe and gives a number; “human values” is our function. Actually listing “human values” comes down to just making lists of things people like/say they like.

      They aren’t “intrinsically more valuable” than alien values – nothing is valuable outside of a value system! We’re brought up to try to take alien values in to consideration, but the reason for that is that other human beings tend to have slightly different values in the grand scheme of things, and e.g. very very few of us actually want to maximize the number of suffering puppies and babies. People in the past had big hyper-destructive wars over what seem to us now to be small differences in values, so people in general have learned that it’s better to perform “value handshakes” with everyone around you, that cooperation overlooking differences is usually the path to the happy ending of whatever story you’re telling.

      But that only works because we’re not in an environment where people have significantly diametric values; in a world with two people, each wanting the exact opposite thing as the other to the exact same extreme, there is no happy ending, no moral rule will lead to a better outcome than one killing the other.

      Thus, the best you can do is try to maximize your own values, with the caveat that the best way to do that is usually to respect the values of the people around you as well.

      I do disagree that there is any such thing as “human values” that has any chance of applying to a majority of humanity for more than a few decades, though.

  38. Chlopodo says:

    Are there any people here who would be unafraid entering [let’s say: alone and at night] a haunted house, or an abandoned mine that’s rumored to be haunted, etc.?

    I have an entirely materialistic worldview, and I am about as certain as I am of anything that ghosts, spirits, etc. aren’t real– but you could never, ever, ever get me to walk alone into a house purported to be haunted, at night, for more than maybe a minute or so. I think my behavior is mostly normal in this regard, and yet one occasionally sees videos taken by people (including believers in the paranormal!) who do seem willing to do these things… so I thought I might as well ask around, and see how other people think.

    • Nornagest says:

      If it’s daylight or the site’s occupied, it barely registers most of the time, although I might think about it if the building creaks late at night when I’m alone or trying to get to sleep. It becomes a lot more salient if it’s dark and abandoned, particularly if it’s also overgrown and decaying, but we’re still not talking terrifying — it’s pleasantly scary to me, like a roller coaster.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I wouldn’t be worried about the haunting. But an abandoned mine is just plain physically dangerous, and an abandoned house also, especially at night when it’s harder to see structural damage. So you wouldn’t see me going in without a good reason (and good light).

      • christhenottopher says:

        You know I was initially going to say that, but then I thought “wait a minute, that doesn’t explain why a Korean would be afraid of the fan, there’s nothing that could happen there!” If a really stretch, maybe a room that is sealed off enough to count for the fan death fear is sealed off enough for carbon monoxide poisoning to be an issue? Or maybe poorly insulated electrical wires could be a more legitimate aspect of the fear? But I have no such fear and have slept in rooms with closed doors and fans on a lot. So there’s clearly some cultural aspect to the fear that goes beyond the reasonable-ish “old creaky houses could cause accidents.”

        So here’s the half-baked idea I’m considering. Westerners are worried about malevolent intelligences in general and Korean are worried about health problems in general. I’m reminded of when I lived with a South Korean roommate for half of a year he was always super worried about health issues. He also introduced me to the idea that drinking cold water causes headaches (which as far as I can tell is completely wrong, still doesn’t happen to me), he always wore gloves on mass transit, and was worried about germs generally. On the other hand he never talked about being worried about safety from other people, whereas American horror stories are almost all “this evil sentient thing is trying to murder you!” Even if you know ghosts are fake, maybe as a westerner we grow up afraid of potential malevolent actors going after us in general? Whereas a Korean would be afraid for their health even knowing that fan death is complete BS?

        • Nornagest says:

          China, Japan, and Korea have lots of ghost stories.

          • christhenottopher says:

            True, though I don’t really know the ratio of “ghost is scary” to “ghost is benevolent/neutral” type stories compared to the West. Maybe it’s the same and they’d be just as freaked out spending the night in a haunted house? Not really sure on that. I still think that the evil being aspect of the building is important to the root of most fears about it rather than the safety of the construction.

        • DrBeat says:

          I seem to recall that “fan death” was something made up to cover for Mob hits back in the day, so there’s no reason to think it’s an evolved belief that serves a purpose to the average person.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Except that there’s got to be some reason (not necessarily a practical reason about not dying) why fan death caught on so strongly as a meme and a visceral fear.

    • quaelegit says:

      I’m more or less the same (don’t believe* in supernatural but would not willingly explored a haunted place alone in the dark).

      For me at least, it’s just like scary movies and TV shows. No, I don’t believe in dark creatures that stalk you as a second shadow and then eat you, but the Dr. Who episode “Silence in Library” still kept me up with the lights on all night. Also had to give up after two episodes of Stranger Things 🙁

      (Oddly, the one “scary movie” that didn’t bother me too much was 1408. I saw a small part of it before watching the whole thing, but I don’t think that partial knowledge of the plot was what made the difference.)

      * I mean, I haven’t thought about it deeply, so maybe I believe in it at some subconscious level, whatever.

    • tayfie says:

      This strikes me as general fear of the unknown.

      You know there aren’t spirits, but you don’t know what *could* be in there.

      What helps me with fear of the unknown is worst case planning. Think about the worst thing that could possibly be in the house, and have a plan to deal with it.

    • andrewflicker says:

      Yeah, leaving aside obvious safety issues as mentioned by other posters- I don’t care. No issues at all. I’m an arachnophobe, so I understand irrational terror, but darkness just doesn’t get me that way. Maybe it’s from years of having terrible eyesight and preferring to sleep in pitch-blackness anyway? Maybe it’s from camping far from other humans? Maybe just a general childhood spent in the sticks? *shrugs*

      EDIT- Ghosts don’t enter into it. I’m an atheist and very materialistic, and seem to (upon introspection) believe that “in my bones”. Not bragging, just can’t feel the haunted-house-scariness. It’s like asking someone with no sense of smell if smelling manure bothers them- of course not, they can’t smell!

    • MrApophenia says:

      I not only would, I have. Being alone in any dark, unknown place at night can be moderately unsettling, but the haunting rumors didn’t add to it particularly.

    • hls2003 says:

      I wouldn’t be comfortable doing it. That’s not to say I couldn’t overcome my reluctance in the right circumstances, and I have actually done versions of it in some instances, but I still wouldn’t be comfortable. I’m not a materialist, though I’m not a believer in ghosts, nor do I fear attack by any supernatural entity in any folktale or horror movie sense. I think “getting the willies” is just that sense where your lizard brain is telling you, in increasingly uncertain terms, “you’re vulnerable.” In my opinion, lacking that sense of unease in such a setting is far more unusual than having it.

    • I would be afraid, but I expect I’d be able to walk around in a haunted house if I had some reason to.

      Similarly, I’m still fairly afraid of the dark, but it doesn’t prevent me walking around in my house or outside at night when I have any reason to do so (in contrast to what it used to do when I was a child).

    • Education Hero says:

      Religious and superstitious beliefs tend to persist when they function as primitive social adaptations to real problems. Though paranormal haunting seems improbable from a materialistic worldview, the idea that these environments might pose a real (physical) danger might well be accurate. So it might be a good idea to understand exactly why others regard certain locations as dangerous, despite rejecting paranormal claims.

      TL;DR: Chesterton’s Fence

    • Protagoras says:

      Yeah. like a couple of others, I can’t claim I would be entirely unafraid, but I certainly wouldn’t refuse to do it or do a swift retreat if I did do it. Embarrassment at my irrational fears would be a more powerful motivation for me than the irrational fears themselves.

    • DavidS says:

      I don’t know if the rumours of haunting would make me more scared: but I wouldn’t enjoy spending lots of time in any large dark area with random noises to be honest.

      I definitely have some superstition despite not believing it though. Particularly ‘tempting fate’: I wouldn’t joke about plausible bad things happening to people I care about (not that I think it will make it happen, it’s a mix of ‘feeling wrong’ and suspicion I would feel worse if it happened by chance).

  39. johan_larson says:

    Reminder: a week from today we’ll start discussing Greg Egan’s novel, Incandescence.

    • Randy M says:

      I bought a copy for this, so it had better be good 😉

      • dodrian says:

        Ditto, though reading the first three chapters last night certainly piqued my interest.

      • J Mann says:

        I’m curious to learn what you thought, although I’ll save it for the thread.

        Personally, I’m somewhat glad I read it, but I have high hopes for the discussion, so hopefully I’ll come out of the week with a strong positive.

    • J Mann says:

      Thanks! I recommended Diaspora to somebody about a year back, but actually haven’t read any other Egan, so I’ll be glad to joint in.

      • quaelegit says:

        I adore his short story anthology Axiomatic, and Terranesia is also a lot of fun.

        I’ll try to join if the library has it or if I can overcome my stinginess to buy the $12 kindle version 😛

    • J Mann says:

      @johan_larson – how much do we need to have read, and do I need to have rot13 working?

      Thanks!

      • johan_larson says:

        You should have read the whole book. The discussion will be fully open. We will write freely about everything in the book, including potential spoilers.

  40. johan_larson says:

    What is the minimum number of national borders you must cross to travel by land from Buenos Aires to Ottawa? Assume all land and river borders are traversible.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I get 11, two ways.

      • johan_larson says:

        V trg gra obeqref, ryrira angvbaf. Ner lbh njner gung Netragvan unf n obeqre jvgu Oenmvy?

      • veeloxtrox says:

        I was able to get 10.

        Netragvan -> Oenmvy -> Pbybzovn -> Cnanzn -> Pbfgn Evpn -> Avpnenthn -> Ubaqhenf -> Thngrznyn -> Zrkvpb -> HFN -> Pnanqn

    • Iain says:

      Fun fact: if you want to do this, you’ll have to go off-road.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Are the crocodiles as bad as they say?

      • johan_larson says:

        That gap seems like some sort of failure of civilization. How did we manage to draw roads all up and down North and South America, but not through that bit?

        • Iain says:

          Environmentalists don’t like the idea, the locals don’t like the idea, and it apparently helps keep diseases (like foot-and-mouth disease in cattle) from spreading.

          Efforts have been made for decades to remedy this missing link in the Pan-American Highway. Planning began in 1971 with the help of United States funding, but this was halted in 1974 after concerns raised by environmentalists. Another effort to build the road began in 1992, but by 1994 a United Nations agency reported that the road, and the subsequent development, would cause extensive environmental damage. Cited reasons include evidence that the Darién Gap has prevented the spread of diseased cattle into Central and North America, which have not seen foot-and-mouth disease since 1954, and since at least the 1970s this has been a substantial factor in preventing a road link through the Darién Gap. The Embera-Wounaan and Guna have also expressed concern that the road would bring about the potential erosion of their cultures.

          Many people, groups, indigenous populations, and governments are opposed to completing the Darién portion of the highway. Reasons for opposition include protecting the rain forest, containing the spread of tropical diseases, protecting the livelihood of indigenous peoples in the area, preventing drug trafficking and its associated violence, and preventing foot-and-mouth disease from entering North America. The extension of the highway as far as Yaviza resulted in severe deforestation alongside the highway route within a decade.

    • SamChevre says:

      I guess 11, get 11 but have one wrong
      Pnanqn
      Rfgnqbf Havqbf
      Zrkvpb
      Thngrznyn
      Ubaqhenf
      Avpnenthn
      Pbfgn Evpn
      Cnanzn
      Pbyhzovn
      Rphnqbe Creh, Puvyr (frireny nygreangvirf-Oenmvy,Hehthnl)
      Netragvan

    • christhenottopher says:

      1. Netragvan-Oenmvy
      2. Oenmvy-Pbybzovn
      3. Pbybzovn-Cnanzn
      4. Cnanzn-Pbfgn Evpn
      5. Pbfgn Evpn-Avpnenthn
      6. Avpnenthn-Ubaqhenf
      7. Ubaqhenf-Thngrznyn
      8. Thngrznyn-Zrkvpb
      9. Zrkvpb-HF
      10. HF-Pnanqn

  41. Le Maistre Chat says:

    I take it y’all are familiar with the criticism of female characters being illustrated so that, while facing the viewer, they manage to show him both their butt and breasts?
    Well, here’s a children’s book about Goatee and Pismo, two real-life pet goats from California who learned to surf.

    • Randy M says:

      With most other mammals, the T&A usually line up anyway. Seems having the female turn around and look at the male attempted to be amorous is less objectifying all told.

    • Nornagest says:

      Well, that’s… distracting. I suppose they have an excuse in that goat udders always look vaguely obscene in real life (cow udders don’t, for some reason), but that shade of pink looks like it belongs on a baboon.

      • quaelegit says:

        Yeah I agree that was a poor color choice.

        Re cows: the prominent veins width size of my wrist that lead to the udders wig me out a bit. (This might just be dairy cows.)

  42. drunkfish says:

    What’s the standard procedure, when designing a medical test, to determine the right tradeoff between sensitivity and specificity (where I’m picturing a tradeoff involved in choosing the threshold for a positive test or something similar)? This seems like an incredibly hard thing to do, especially because remotely rare diseases will lead even small deviations from perfect specificity to create high false positive rates. On the other hand, false negatives seem like they’d be incredibly dangerous. I’d imagine there’s some sort of standard for how to strike this balance, and there seem enough medically-informed people who hang out around here that I figure people might have insight.

    • rahien.din says:

      Epistemic status : professionally interested and partially-informed, but I don’t know if there is a standard industry line. Others may, and if so I am interested to read their responses.

      It depends on what you want to do with the test! If you are screening for a disease (testing a broad population for it without a high degree of suspicion for any particular individual), then you generally want your test to be highly-sensitive – or, better yet, you want your diagnostic likelihood ratio for negative results to be low. If you are looking to confirm your suspicion of a disease, you may want a different set of characteristics. Moreover, one must also consider the rates of harm and benefits in patients who receive treatment for the target illness. The goal of medicine is to provide optimal care, and this is not synonymous with optimal classification procedures. There’s a good description thereof in A primer on receiver operating characteristic analysis and diagnostic efficiency statistics for pediatric psychology: we are ready to ROC. J Pediatr Psychol. 2014 :

      Optimize Cut Score Thresholds for Decisions

      The next step is to select a cut score and evaluate the diagnostic efficiency statistics. The choice of optimal threshold depends on three sets of factors: (1) the intended use of the test, (2) the base rate of the disorder in the clinical setting, and (3) the relative costs and benefits attached to correct classification and errors. If the goal is to use an index test as a screener, then high sensitivity is more important than specificity, because the goal is to avoid missing cases that truly have the target diagnosis; and conversely, applications using the index test as diagnostic confirmation would put more of a premium on specificity (Kraemer, 1992). The base rate directly affects the overall accuracy of classifications, as well as the positive and negative predictive powers of the test, whereas sensitivity and specificity are algebraically unrelated to base rate (Pepe, 2003) (see Glossary as well). Positive predictive power describes the percentage of cases testing positive that actually have the diagnosis, and negative predictive power is the accuracy rate of negative test results. These are clinically intuitive and helpful rates, but they change as a function of the rate of the diagnosis (as will become obvious in the following examples).

      (For another description of that important principle – albeit in the venue of test interpretation rather than test design – see The threshold approach to clinical decision making. N Engl J Med. 1980.)

      Now, “A primer on…” describes the use of Cohen’s kappa to optimize these thresholds, but that’s not the only way.

      One good (and very prevalent) way is to use a receiver operator curve, which is a plot of true-positive rate vs. false-positive rate. Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC) Curve Analysis for Medical Diagnostic Test Evaluation. Caspian J Intern Med. 2013 briefly describes how to use the ROC to find an optimal cut off :

      In determining optimal cut off values, at least three methods have been proposed…

      The first method uses the square of distance between the point (0, 1) on the upper left hand corner of ROC space and any point on ROC curve ie. d2= (1-TPF)2+ FPF2=(1-sensetivity)2+ (1-specificty)2. In order to obtain the optimal cut off points, the square of this distance is minimized. In other words, one can calculate this distance for each cut off point in order to find the optimal cut- off value.

      The second method called Youden index uses the maximum of vertical distance of ROC curve from the point (x, y) on diagonal line (chance line). In fact, Youden index maximizes the difference between TPF (sensitivity) and FPF (1-sepicificity): Youden Index=TPF-FPF= Sensitivity+ Specificity -1. Thus, by maximizing Sen + Spec aross various cut-off points, the optimal cut- off point is calculated.

      The third method incorporates the financial costs for correct and false diagnosis and the costs of further work up for diagnosis. In fact, the consequence of each possible test outcome is ascertained to their costs and combining ROC analysis with utility-based decision theory can be used to determine the optimal cut point (26). For example, given a disease with low prevalence and high cost of false positive diagnosis, the cut-point may be chosen at higher value to maximize specificity while for a disease occurring at high prevalence and missing diagnosis has a serious fatal consequences, a lower cut-point value would be selected to maximize sensitivity.

      Another good way to optimize is to maximize your Matthews correlation coefficient (MCC). A worked example I have on hand : Mammillary body changes and seizure outcome after laser interstitial thermal therapy of the mesial temporal lobe. Epil Research 2018. The researchers demonstrated that if you take a patient with hippocampal seizures, and you ablate their hippocampus such that the mammillary body shrinks, the degree of shrinkage is correlated with the probability of seizure freedom.

      If we want to build a binary classification scheme out of those results (mammillary body shrinkage of at least ___% is associated with seizure freedom), we can graph the MCC as a function of our threshold. MCC seems to maximize at ~20% in mammillary body volume reduction, which corresponds to a sensitivity of 0.92 and a specificity of 0.88.

      Edit : less wall-of-text-y ; clarity

      • brmic says:

        Very good info, so I’ll just add 2 cents:
        – Never use the Youden index as it implicitly declares sensitivity and specificity to be equally important, and that’s almost never the case.
        – pAUC is often preferable to AUC in these cases as for practical reasons only a small range of FPR is of interest.

      • drunkfish says:

        Cool, thanks! More tests than I had realized existed, though not surprising I guess. I’m somewhat (but not really…) surprised that it sounds like there isn’t a single test that’s considered the standard to use. I guess context will determine what’s best, but it sounds like from your answer at least that there isn’t an answer to which test to use when? Whatever maximizes patient outcomes though…

        The point about the intent of the test determining how sensitive it needs to be/how non-specific it can get away with being makes a lot of sense, but means that I didn’t get the “this much sensitivity and this much specificity is what we require” answer I was hoping for. I guess it’s just more complicated thank that would allow…

        • rahien.din says:

          I guess it’s just more complicated than that would allow…

          Unfortunately.

          Mammograms (as you mention below) are good example. They are first-line in the appropriately-selected patient – for instance, screening for breast cancer in a 65 y.o woman. In contrast, a screening mammogram would be grossly inappropriate in a 30 y.o woman. But, if a 30 y.o woman detects some kind of breast lump on a self-exam, a mammogram might be helpful.

          (Note : I have nothing to do with testing for breast cancer. If someone knows better than I, CMWIW.)

          You should check out The threshold approach to clinical decision making. N Engl J Med. 1980. (Let me know if you have trouble with a paywall.) It’s a very good explanation of how to handle medical testing. I really think it might make things more clear.

          I would also encourage you to think of likelihood ratios instead of sensitivity and specificity. Whenever we perform any kind of medical test, we must start with our pre-test probability (mathematically speaking, our priors, and medically speaking, our clinical suspicion) and allow the test’s results to update/modify/refine that to a post-test probability. Likelihood ratios are how to do that updating in a precise way. They are medical Bayesianism.

          Likelihood ratios are calculated from sensitivity and specificity. Knowing how they are calculated can show you why a test with near-perfect sensitivity can still suck if it has really bad specificity.

          Likelihood ratios in diagnostic testing – wikipedia
          Likelihood Ratios and Diagnostic Tests (Bayes’ Theorem) – StatsDirect

        • US says:

          Some good comments already. I don’t know to which extent the following points have been included in the links provided, but I decided to add them here anyway.

          One point worth emphasizing is that you’ll always want a mixture of sensitivity and specificity (or, more broadly, test properties) that’ll mean that your test has clinical relevance. This relates both to the type of test you consider and when/whether to test at all (rather than treat/not treat without testing first). If you’re worried someone has disease X and there’s a high risk of said individual having disease X due to the clinical presentation, some tests will for example be inappropriate even if they are very good at making the distinction between individuals requiring treatment X and individuals not requiring treatment X, for example because they take time to perform that the patient might not have – not an uncommon situation in emergency medicine. If you’re so worried you’d treat him regardless of the test result, you shouldn’t test. And the same goes for low-sensitivity screens; if a positive test result of a screen does not imply that you’ll actually act on the result of the screen, you shouldn’t perform it (in screening contexts cost effectiveness is usually critically dependent on how you follow up on the test result, and in many contexts inadequate follow-up means that the value of the test goes down a lot).

          Cost effectiveness is another variable that would/should probably (in an ideal world?) enter the analysis when you’re judging what is or is not a good mixture of sensitivity and specificity – you should be willing to pay more for more precise tests, but only to the extent that those more precise tests lead to better outcomes (you’re usually optimizing over patient outcomes, not test accuracy).

          Skef also mentions this, but the relative values of specificity and sensitivity may well vary during the diagnostic process; i.e. the (ideal) trade-off will depend on what you plan to use the test for. Is the idea behind testing this guy to make (reasonably?) sure he doesn’t have colon cancer, or to figure out if he needs a more accurate, but also more expensive, test? Screening setups will usually involve a multi-level testing structure, and tests at different levels will not treat these trade-offs the same way, nor should they. This also means that the properties of individual tests can not really be viewed in isolation, which makes the problem of finding ‘the ideal mix’ of test properties (whatever these might be) even harder; if you have three potential tests for example, it’s not enough to compare the tests individually against each other, you’d ideally also want to implicitly take into account that different combinations of tests have different properties, and that the timing of the test may also be an important parameter in the decision problem.

    • skef says:

      rahien.din’s message has a lot of info, but I felt like it left out (or buried) the primary design factor.

      It’s fairly rare for there to be a condition that can’t be diagnosed with a pretty degree of accuracy. If the person is available to be tested, there is generally a set of tests that can be run (possibly multiple times) to arrive at a highly reliable conclusion.

      The kind of trade-off you ask about is therefore mostly a matter of “front-line” tests. And therefore the simple answer is: bias towards false positives, and follow up positive results with a more expensive and definitive test or tests. As long as the first test isn’t wildly inaccurate, you want to avoid false negatives as much as possible and funnel the positives into a more definitive test.

      • drunkfish says:

        Ahh fair that makes sense. I think vaguely the motivation for this question in the first place was the fact that I’ve started hearing a decent amount of discussion about how over-testing people is bad because of negative outcomes (especially financial) associated with false positives. I think I hear it mostly with regards to mammograms, but the logic seems to be “when a disease is rare enough, our imperfectly specific tests will always lose to Bayes’ Theorem”. Mammograms are obviously ~front-line, so I guess that means their goal is to be highly sensitive at the cost of specificity that other tests (biopsies?) will handle, but the fact that false positives are bad enough to justify sometimes simply not using the test it seems to imply that the tradeoff between sensitivity and specificity is really important, even at the front lines.

        • skef says:

          I believe the conventional wisdom is that the primary issue with “over-testing” is that it is difficult (and stressful for the “patient”) not to treat a disease once it is identified, and more testing leads to more disease identification prior to any symptoms. Some conditions are good to catch “early”, but others may be counter-productive to treat before they develop into something worse.

          So more testing leads to more treatment, which leads to more complications from treatment.

  43. J Mann says:

    Following up on the interesting discussion on “incels” two threads ago, is there anything that society can do, collectively or individually, to help incels?

    1) I’m sympathetic to Dan Savage telling lonely hearts to hit the gym, get a haircut, practice talking to people, etc., or to the “I got through it” posts that always pick up angry responses on /r/incel, but obviously there are a lot of people who believe that won’t work, either correctly or not.

    2) By contrast, I’ve seen a lot of arguments that the way to solve the problem is to confront incels and get them to acknowledge that they don’t have a right to sex. I confess that I don’t get this one, but I want to, so I’m sure I’m being reductive and would love to be educated.

    3) To be even more unfair, other possibilities seem to be sex robots (Hanson) or a return to traditional values (Douthat).

    Any thoughts?

    • dndnrsn says:

      1. I’m not just sympathetic to this; this is what I think. A lot of people in that sort of circle are people who need the message “suck it up buttercup” and instead got a message that mixes self-pity with “this can’t be changed” and a toxic, self-reinforcing community with beliefs that make them worse people and make it less likely they’ll get laid, find love, whatever.

      2. Seems less profitable than 1. “You’re miserable, and that’s partly of your own making, and some of the stuff that’s not of your making you can still work to fix or alleviate, and you can probably be less miserable if you put the work in and stop being nasty” is a far better message than “you have no right to not be miserable.” Sure, there’s no right not to be miserable. So what?

      3. People whose problem is that they don’t feel desired or validated or whatever won’t be helped by stuff that doesn’t do those things. Beyond the other issues, sex robots won’t do those things, any more than porn or whatever will. As for traditional values, patriarchal societies where high-status men have multiple wives/concubines are pretty dang traditional, and they also have problems with low-status young men who can’t get laid/relationships. Just as traditional are societies where a man getting a wife is basically making a business deal with her father; these societies have problems with young men who can’t seal the deal literally with the dads any more than incels can figuratively with the daughters.

      What’s new here is not the existence of lower-status, usually-younger, men who are or consider themselves unfuckable, unlovable, whatever. What’s new here is technology that allows these ugly, counterproductive communities (if you want to attract women, adopting an ideology that takes a very dim view of women is counterproductive; if you want to get laid, hanging out with people who share in common that they can’t get laid isn’t gonna help) to exist.

      Further, I don’t like the framing of “how to help them” – they simultaneously need to help themselves and play hole-in-the-bucket as to why they can’t.

      • Randy M says:

        Sure, there’s no right not to be miserable. So what?

        I mostly agree with you, but I think there may be a lesson to be imparted along the lines of “women have the right to their own preferences, these are not always honestly communicated in our culture, and you have to think about what you have to offer the other person.” Like reminding someone interviewing for a job to focus on why the company wants them rather than vice versa.

        Just as traditional are societies where a man getting a wife is basically making a business deal with her father; these societies have problems with young men who can’t seal the deal literally with the dads any more than incels can figuratively with the daughters.

        If it is not the case that you have some tribal bigman with a harem, the above situation could be of help to incel men, as there would be pressure on the alphas to settle down with a single woman, especially after having fathered a child, and to stay attached to that one, freeing up more of the average women for these average guys. (Inasmuch as some men will have nothing to offer a father, some fathers will be getting no better offers.)

        Also, as we tried to impress upon Kevin in the past, many traditional societies had some respected role for voluntarily celibate men, monks or priests or the like. That’s not the same as men who wanted wives but couldn’t get them, but it is an option.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          If it is not the case that you have some tribal bigman with a harem, the above situation could be of help to incel men, as there would be pressure on the alphas to settle down with a single woman, especially after having fathered a child, and to stay attached to that one, freeing up more of the average women for these average guys. (Inasmuch as some men will have nothing to offer a father, some fathers will be getting no better offers.)

          Yeah, what people who make the harem argument are overlooking is that our ancestors lived in Christendom, where patriarchy involved shaming high-status men into settling down with one wife.

          • dndnrsn says:

            At what point did kings, etc, not have mistresses?

            EDIT: Let me put it this way. Social mores about sex haven’t changed as dramatically as some think – people are a few times more promiscuous than previously, overall, not a dozen or a hundred. The norms for referring to sex have changed far more than the actual having of sex.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @dndnrsn: St. Louis? Good King Wenchesless? 🙂
            I mean, you’re right that people today are not a dozen times more promiscuous than they were in Christendom, but changing behavior at the margin can be powerful.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, the king might have a mistress or two, and all of it kept very discreetly. But he wasn’t forgoing marriage to bang wenches off Ye Olde Tynder every night. Today we have men who are decidedly not kings doing that sort of thing.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Plenty of kings weren’t particularly discreet about it.

          • Jaskologist says:

            If you’ve reduced the defection rate to just the king, I’d say you’ve pretty well succeeded from a societal distribution-of-sex standpoint. Of course you’re tinkering at the margins, but shrinking those margins drastically is very valuable!

            Think about it from this perspective. We’re balancing off conflicting interests: women’s interests in getting the best genes vs society’s interests in not having a few men monopolize all the women.

            Prohibition is one route. Another is raising the cost of engaging the activity to be discouraged so that people won’t take it unless it really is that much better. There’s probably no way to make “dem royal gametes” undesirable for women. So don’t prohibit that. But do make it clear that those genes better really be all that, to the point that they are worth forgoing the social support of a man working for your household, and your bastard kids getting any sort of inheritance.

            I think in practice, I think that’s what old English common law filius nullius did. Good girls wait until they’re married, and lock down a good man who will support her and her children. Good men see that their best chance to get the goods is to work hard and be a net positive to society, so most of them go down that path. And the lord still gets to bang the scullery maid, who really doesn’t have any better prospects, and so those nice high-status genes still disseminate into the lower classes.

          • rlms says:

            Back in the Good Old Days, prostitution was a lot more common. This claims that 69% of men in 1911 said they’d paid for sex, whereas that figure was 15% in 2007.

          • christhenottopher says:

            Back in the Good Old Days, prostitution was a lot more common. This claims that 69% of men in 1911 said they’d paid for sex, whereas that figure was 15% in 2007.

            Actually the link you provided says the 69% figure (nice) was in 1948. If my history is right, I’m pretty sure there was a minor historical incident right before then that might have increased prostitution demand.

          • dndnrsn says:

            I’m not just talking about kings; the “etc” there is doing a lot of work. In some times and places, it was common for parish priests to have mistresses! There was a special fine for priests with mistresses; many treated it as the cost of doing business, so to speak.

            rlms’ link is important. Men are a lot less likely to frequent prostitutes now – both married men (whose wives will be less likely to see sex as an imposition due to better contraception, antibiotics, and social changes) and unmarried men (who can get sex from their girlfriends, or hookups, or whatever). But back then, they were having lots of illicit sex with prostitutes.

            The sexual landscape is very different, but there was no lost age of chastity.

          • LewisT says:

            @rlms
            @ christhenottopher

            Actually, that 69% figure came from Kinsey, and is (like not a few of his statistics) pretty much totally bogus.

            Unfortunately, the 12,000 cases from which Kinsey et al. drew their conclusions were gathered entirely through convenience sampling of colleagues and friends, and from places such as fraternities, attendees at sexuality lectures, and men in gay bars. Despite its large size, the sample is far from representative.

            (Source)

          • christhenottopher says:

            @LewisT

            I do at least feel gratified in my guess that military service could increase prostitution usage was supported (given that serving had 23.3% with prostitution usage while not served was 9.1%). Though I am still slightly disappointed the kabbalistically appropriate number 69% was inaccurate.

          • rlms says:

            That figure did seem remarkably high, but I think it’s still safe to say (based on other evidence) that prostitution was considerably more common in the past, especially if you go back to pre-syphilis Europe.

          • quanta413 says:

            That figure did seem remarkably high, but I think it’s still safe to say (based on other evidence) that prostitution was considerably more common in the past, especially if you go back to pre-syphilis Europe.

            Considering your last datapoint turned out to be garbage, shouldn’t you either give decent citations (the written occurrences of kings having mistresses or even the occasional parish priest don’t count because that still doesn’t give you any thing but a couple anecdotes; may as well compare to Genghis Khan) or consider the possibility you were wrong?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            Considering your last datapoint turned out to be garbage, shouldn’t you either give decent citations (the written occurrences of kings having mistresses or even the occasional parish priest don’t count because that still doesn’t give you any thing but a couple anecdotes; may as well compare to Genghis Khan) or consider the possibility you were wrong?

            What does Kinsey just making numbers up/running some kind of grad student sex club/whatever he was doing, have to do with earlier historical sources on mistresses or prostitution or whatever?

            Especially past a certain point, hard numbers are tricky to get. There’s a reason that medievalists have to do at least some “well, based on the Decameron, we can say this about the society that produced it” or whatever.

            I tried to do some back-of-the-envelope calculation on how many prostitutes there were in England and Wales today vs the 1890s; ran into the problem that the sources back then are either cops (trying to downplay the number of prostitutes, usually by counting only arrests or even convictions) or social reformers (trying to really highball the number of women in prostitution as proof of the need for social reform to save said women from being in that line of work). Sources now are more reliable, but still run into the problem that you’ve got a tug-of-war between those who want to downplay it since it’s happening on their watch and those who want it as proof of how awful society is.

          • quanta413 says:

            Especially past a certain point, hard numbers are tricky to get. There’s a reason that medievalists have to do at least some “well, based on the Decameron, we can say this about the society that produced it” or whatever.

            Precisely. There’s almost no way to know, so any claim about more or less prostitutes per capita than the past without huge error bounds is almost certainly unjustified.

            So when your numerical datapoint is wrong, you don’t doubledown with “considerably more common in the past” with absolutely no evidence.

            Go back to medieval times or even early America. You’ve often got a whole bunch of agrarian farmers living in small villages. It’s such a different society as to be almost incomparable. It wouldn’t be surprising if they had less prostitution because they didn’t go anywhere and a market for prostitution basically couldn’t form in a small population where everyone knew each other. Cities had prostitutes but were a small fraction of the total population unlike now. The gap between population density now and then means enormous differences.

            I doubt the moral differences are the determining factor.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            First: a datapoint about prostitution in the early-mid 20th century being wrong doesn’t undermine data points about prostitution from before then.

            Second: It’s not a moral difference, it’s a technological difference.

            Prior to the early-middle 20th century: no antibiotics, no Pill, no safe abortion, no way to reliably check the paternity of a given child. The first three make sex risky, for both men and for women (worse for women, and this is probably further offset by greater male risk-taking behaviour). The last one makes sex riskier for women socially – a woman wants a reputation for chastity outside of wedlock because it will feed into a reputation for fidelity within wedlock; she wants to minimize the chance her husband will get correctly or unjustly suspicious and turf her out or whatever – as well as meaning a higher chance then than today that a guy will end up unknowingly raising another man’s child. If you are a family with the means to keep your daughters indoors or otherwise under supervision, you do that; if you’re not, you’re SOL, and you just gotta hope your daughter sent off to work as a maid at the local rich guy’s manor doesn’t catch the eye of the rich guy or his son.

            Development of good, reliable, hormonal contraception, where a woman doesn’t have to convince a guy to put a condom on, etc, that changes a lot, as does safe abortion, as does antibiotics. It probably changes women’s sexual habits more than men, because men are idiots that way – the threat of syphilis or pregnancy probably dissuaded more women from sex than the threat of syphilis or getting someone pregnant dissuaded men (if, with modern medical technology, men and women were equally risk-averse and had the same sex drive, this would predict that lesbians would have the most sex partners and gay men would have the fewest – obviously not the case).

            The change in the sexual landscape in the middle 20th century saw more men get sex from their girlfriends, especially first-time sex, and less with prostitutes. Female prostitutes are one of the possible responses to a situation where sex is risky and women are more dissuaded than men (due probably to some combination of the risks being greater to women and to less risk-taking behaviour): they are essentially professionals paid, in part, to take on risk and harm, in that context. Another outlet is situations where there’s a lopsided bargaining position, like wealthy men going after their servant girls. When for a “respectable woman” having sex with a guy who hasn’t put a ring on it is a less potentially bad choice, more women will do it. This means less demand for prostitutes.

            Taking “there are no more or less prostitutes now versus a hundred or two hundred or however many years ago” as the default assumption is, I think, a mistake. There’s a lot of reasons to think that there were more prostitutes per capita back when a nice respectable guy couldn’t lose his virginity to his nice respectable girlfriend, or whatever.

            Further, there’s lots of historical reasons to think that high-status men, regardless of the society, have always sought out as many sexual partners as their society will let them have, plus wiggle room.

          • rlms says:

            @quanta413
            If you think “the written occurrences of kings having mistresses or even the occasional parish priest” is the kind of evidence that might be brought up in support of the claim that prostitution was more common in the past, you should read more about the issue. Priests didn’t sometimes have mistresses, they owned brothels and claimed that “If you expel prostitution from society, you will unsettle everything on account of lusts”.

          • quanta413 says:

            @rlms

            Cherrypicking a random brothel just outside of London tells you almost nothing except about London at that time. Corrupt bishops are hardly surprising. It’s barely better than just happening to sample modern U.S. mores on prostitution by looking only in a 5 mile region around Mustang Ranch in Nevada.

            @dndnrsn, rlms

            You are both ignoring the primary point I already made about social differences.

            Low density agrarian societies cannot be assumed to have prostitution patterns matching the major cities of their time. Sure, the pill etc, cut the opposite direction. But when people live in very small communities and rarely leave them, it’s not conducive to a sustained pattern of widespread prostitution. There’s no theoretically sensible way to know the magnitudes of either effect. So all that’s left is empiricism on weak data.

            But in the past, looking at major cities or armies or whatever is explicitly biasing the sample in an extreme way. It’s not representative of a population that’s predominantly rural and agrarian. And this is true up until what? The 19th century?

            There’s no way to know if at various points, the past was roughly similar, had an order of magnitude more or less prostitutes per capita without doing the brutal work of trawling through and trying to figure out how many prostitutes there are in a significant sample of tiny villages or towns. And good luck about something people mostly hide.

            I hold that our error bars are just way too big to know if prostitution is more common now or in the past. It’s not like our current measurements are even going to be reliable to better than a factor of 2 or 3 or something like that. How would you even know how bad your systematic errors were? How do you count people that bounce in and out of turning tricks? Escort services? etc. And the problem just gets worse as you go back in time.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            Low density agrarian societies cannot be assumed to have prostitution patterns matching the major cities of their time. Sure, the pill etc, cut the opposite direction. But when people live in very small communities and rarely leave them, it’s not conducive to a sustained pattern of widespread prostitution. There’s no theoretically sensible way to know the magnitudes of either effect. So all that’s left is empiricism on weak data.

            But in the past, looking at major cities or armies or whatever is explicitly biasing the sample in an extreme way. It’s not representative of a population that’s predominantly rural and agrarian. And this is true up until what? The 19th century?

            This is a good point. It raises the question: how large does a settled group of people have to get before that anonymity effect sets in? If it kicks in relatively high, if say you need several thousand people before John the Miller can throw his coins to a prostitute without everyone knowing, that would support your side. If it kicks in smaller – if a decent-sized village would be enough to cover up some sins – that would support mine.

            There’s also some sexual activities that won’t be necessarily constrained in the same way. Everyone might know that the duke has a habit of impregnating and discarding servant girls, but he’s powerful enough that nobody really wants to point it out. Bad behaviour by a powerful individual can be an open secret without the person suffering any consequences.

            There’s no way to know if at various points, the past was roughly similar, had an order of magnitude more or less prostitutes per capita without doing the brutal work of trawling through and trying to figure out how many prostitutes there are in a significant sample of tiny villages or towns. And good luck about something people mostly hide.

            One could try to estimate sexual habits more generally by comparing, say, wedding dates to birth-of-first-child dates. That wouldn’t say much about prostitution, but it would say if people were having sex before the wedding.

            (It’s only one anedcote, but it’s an amusing one: I remember, from a long-ago course, a collection of local court records, I think English, can’t remember the century. In one, a man was charged with some sort of crime for having, allegedly, promised a woman he would marry her if she slept with him, which he had not done. Can’t remember if he was found guilty)

            I hold that our error bars are just way too big to know if prostitution is more common now or in the past. It’s not like our current measurements are even going to be reliable to better than a factor of 2 or 3 or something like that. How would you even know how bad your systematic errors were? How do you count people that bounce in and out of turning tricks? Escort services? etc. And the problem just gets worse as you go back in time.

            OK, so, what’s “the past”; where are we starting for these purposes? When’s the good old days, or at least the better old days?

            EDIT: And more generally, my overall point – this isn’t really about prostitution – is that it’s hard to square with one of the core redpill ideas, which is that things used to be better: that there was a golden age when stuff was considerably better for average or sub-average guys, sexually at least. This is a questionable proposition. There’s always been low-status guys and high-status guys and the latter have always had more partners lifetime. I think the major difference is a recent technological change that’s let the low-status no-sex guys connect with each other, figure out their numbers, and stew.

          • The Red Foliot says:

            I think people tend to forget that males had a high rate of mortality in the past, higher than women. If 10-60 percent of men died in conflicts in tribal societies, that leaves an abundance of women for the survivors. In this context, the higher male sex drive actually makes sense. My view is that we should decrease the number of males born relative to females, so that the sex drives of the two sexes balance out. Just like in ancient times.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            This is a good point. It raises the question: how large does a settled group of people have to get before that anonymity effect sets in? If it kicks in relatively high, if say you need several thousand people before John the Miller can throw his coins to a prostitute without everyone knowing, that would support your side. If it kicks in smaller – if a decent-sized village would be enough to cover up some sins – that would support mine.

            Agreed. It depends heavily on social effects and size of settlements. I’d assume that much like now, prostitution is highly unevenly distributed. We know prostitution springs up near heavily male areas/routes. So truckers, sailers, mining camps, armies, etc.

            I figure that in a lot of areas in the past, a significant number of people had sex before marriage risks be damned. Pretty much like they do now.

            There’s also some sexual activities that won’t be necessarily constrained in the same way. Everyone might know that the duke has a habit of impregnating and discarding servant girls, but he’s powerful enough that nobody really wants to point it out. Bad behaviour by a powerful individual can be an open secret without the person suffering any consequences.

            I agree there is good reason to suspect this may have been more common. It’s just this isn’t prostitution so it wasn’t what I was including in a count. We don’t know the rates of this now either, but it’d be surprising if there weren’t a significant number of people behaving this way.

            We could probably estimate the rate of illicit sex (almost always rape) on say, U.S. southern plantations in the 19th century. We know it can’t be low considering the average % of European ancestry of African Americans.

            Similar qualitative behavior may occur in any highly stratified society where powerful men have control over lower class/caste/slave women. Although it’s possible some social arrangements lead to lower rates of it. Caste systems maybe? They sometimes managed to keep their line of descent within a single group making them genetically distinct from each other (not true of all castes though). That implies illicit sex across the “wrong” castes rarely led to children who themselves had children.

            One could try to estimate sexual habits more generally by comparing, say, wedding dates to birth-of-first-child dates. That wouldn’t say much about prostitution, but it would say if people were having sex before the wedding.

            (It’s only one anedcote, but it’s an amusing one: I remember, from a long-ago course, a collection of local court records, I think English, can’t remember the century. In one, a man was charged with some sort of crime for having, allegedly, promised a woman he would marry her if she slept with him, which he had not done. Can’t remember if he was found guilty)

            This is certainly true. I’d be a little surprised if no one had tried this. The question of estimating a lower bound on the amount of pre-marital sex is an interesting one.

            OK, so, what’s “the past”; where are we starting for these purposes? When’s the good old days, or at least the better old days?

            EDIT: And more generally, my overall point – this isn’t really about prostitution – is that it’s hard to square with one of the core redpill ideas, which is that things used to be better: that there was a golden age when stuff was considerably better for average or sub-average guys, sexually at least. This is a questionable proposition. There’s always been low-status guys and high-status guys and the latter have always had more partners lifetime. I think the major difference is a recent technological change that’s let the low-status no-sex guys connect with each other, figure out their numbers, and stew.

            An excellent point. There are probably times in the past with more and probably times with less prostitution. And of course, we already agree the pattern should vary heavily by where we look.

            I’m saying that it’s going to be hard to really know what times had more or less prostitution outside of extreme cases. On the other hand, we can relatively easily estimate what places have more or less prostitution.

            I agree the redpill thing is at least partly mythological. I don’t think it’s totally wrong though. The various factors that add up to high and low status in a partner aren’t weighed the same the same with modern sexual mores as the factors would be weighed during periods when people got married and had children earlier and divorce rates were much lower (so pre-1960 or thereabouts). And if you step back to the 1800s, it’s hard to imagine any woman shacking up with a man who’s practically unemployable for any length of time. Life was just too damn hard for that. But that’s something that’s possible now although still looked down on.

            @The Red Foliot

            Tribal societies is rather further back than I was thinking. My impression is that at least post-childbirth, women’s mortality rates were notably worse than men’s in most places for couple millenia. Although war can quickly reverse the pattern. But my impression was that war wasn’t so common as to reverse the skew at all times.

            My vague recollection is there are about 105-110 males per female at birth, so your plan is certainly appealing if there was an easy way to pull it off. Although I’d only push it to there being an equal amount of males and females. I don’t like the idea of an imbalance because I’d prefer a relatively monogamous civilization not a polygamous one or one with a bunch of people alone.

          • mtl1882 says:

            From what I’ve read about the 1700s and 1800s, prostitution outside of cities more often took the form of a local girl who would sleep with a small number of guys who were friends. It was less anonymous. One or several guys with money would “keep” a girl – pay her rent etc. Because of fear about diseases, it was a lot less random. They’d find an easy/desperate girl, and control access to her. Then a lot of times, especially if she got pregnant, they’d find some not too smart man, convince him to marry her, and they’d move to a new town where she could get a new reputation. It seems like prostitution was pretty common, especially out west, but sometimes it looked more like having a girlfriend than what we’d think of. Any sexually active woman outside of marriage could be considered a prostitute.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            Agreed. It depends heavily on social effects and size of settlements. I’d assume that much like now, prostitution is highly unevenly distributed. We know prostitution springs up near heavily male areas/routes. So truckers, sailers, mining camps, armies, etc.

            I wish I could find my copy of a book of essays about the intersection of the military and medicine; there’s a chapter on VD in WWI. One of the statistics is that VD infection among the troops tended to be low (I think 10s-20s?) double digits, fairly chronically.

            I figure that in a lot of areas in the past, a significant number of people had sex before marriage risks be damned. Pretty much like they do now.

            Oh, people are idiots. We’ll make really bad choices for sex. But the bad choices are less bad than they used to be, for the most part.

            I agree there is good reason to suspect this may have been more common. It’s just this isn’t prostitution so it wasn’t what I was including in a count. We don’t know the rates of this now either, but it’d be surprising if there weren’t a significant number of people behaving this way.

            We could probably estimate the rate of illicit sex (almost always rape) on say, U.S. southern plantations in the 19th century. We know it can’t be low considering the average % of European ancestry of African Americans.

            Wouldn’t a society like that have two “tracks” regarding what’s considered illicit? After all, there’s an underclass of people who are despised, and before a certain point, enslaved. Doing awful stuff to them would be more accepted than doing it in general.

            Hackett Fischer claims that in general the Cavalier semi-aristocracy of the South tolerated a level of sexually voracious/predatory behaviour by high-status men that wouldn’t have been tolerated further North, as I recall, but I may be getting that muddled. I read the book some time ago.

            Similar qualitative behavior may occur in any highly stratified society where powerful men have control over lower class/caste/slave women. Although it’s possible some social arrangements lead to lower rates of it. Caste systems maybe? They sometimes managed to keep their line of descent within a single group making them genetically distinct from each other (not true of all castes though). That implies illicit sex across the “wrong” castes rarely led to children who themselves had children.

            “Girl falls in love with guy from the wrong side of the tracks and her family murders them” is something that exists in multiple societies, isn’t it? Presumably, at least in part, they were killed to prevent children.

            This is certainly true. I’d be a little surprised if no one had tried this. The question of estimating a lower bound on the amount of pre-marital sex is an interesting one.

            I vaguely remember reading something about looking at New England Puritan communities, the church registries of weddings and births. The level of “baby born 6 months after wedding” was higher than one might expect from Puritans. This could be more “there was some level of tolerance for sleeping with someone you were engaged to, for serious” or more “blunderbuss wedding” territory. Those both fall in different places on a spectrum where one end is “you may have sex after marriage, but you have to feel guilty” and the other is “it’s impolite to ask your casual sexual partners’ names” or whatever.

            An excellent point. There are probably times in the past with more and probably times with less prostitution. And of course, we already agree the pattern should vary heavily by where we look.

            I’m saying that it’s going to be hard to really know what times had more or less prostitution outside of extreme cases. On the other hand, we can relatively easily estimate what places have more or less prostitution.

            Yeah, it’s probably easier to try to estimate over place rather than time.

            I agree the redpill thing is at least partly mythological. I don’t think it’s totally wrong though. The various factors that add up to high and low status in a partner aren’t weighed the same the same with modern sexual mores as the factors would be weighed during periods when people got married and had children earlier and divorce rates were much lower (so pre-1960 or thereabouts). And if you step back to the 1800s, it’s hard to imagine any woman shacking up with a man who’s practically unemployable for any length of time. Life was just too damn hard for that. But that’s something that’s possible now although still looked down on.

            I have a sense that the situation is slightly different – people are still determining status using old-fashioned measures that are somewhat atavistic. For example: in a society where authority is determined in part on physicality, strength, combat ability those things will be high-status in a guy. Society changes more quickly than we (our biology, our socialization, whatever) do. So we count those things for status in contexts where it makes no sense: don’t American presidents tend to be taller than the average? (Is the US a place where wealth gives enough of a nutrition edge to make people taller? Because that would explain taller leaders in some places and times).

            The anecdotal “criminal amoral shithead who has an endless procession of women” – the toughest guy in the trailer park who doesn’t take no shit from nobody might be a loser today, unemployable and sleeping on his girlfriend’s couch. By the standards of most of human history and prehistory, a guy who plays a lot of dominance contests, is relatively good at them, and is able and willing (probably too willing) to resort to force is probably a catch. To put it another way: maybe the difference isn’t that guys like that didn’t exist back in the medieval village or the hunter-gatherer band; maybe the difference is that back then there were more financial and social rewards for being that guy.

          • A couple of points tangential to the thread.

            1. We don’t have data on prostitution, but we do have data on premarital sex–more precisely, on the fraction of brides who were pregnant. For several European cities in the late 19th century it was about a third. That’s from memory, but I think accurate.

            2. It may well be true that in hunter-gatherer societies male mortality was higher than female, giving a high f/m ratio. On the other hand, in somewhat later societies, the most dangerous thing that any large fraction of the population did was childbirth, which could give the opposite result.

          • quanta413 says:

            @dndnrsn

            I wish I could find my copy of a book of essays about the intersection of the military and medicine; there’s a chapter on VD in WWI. One of the statistics is that VD infection among the troops tended to be low (I think 10s-20s?) double digits, fairly chronically.

            That’s pretty high. Chlamydia and Gonorrhea mostly I suppose?

            Oh, people are idiots. We’ll make really bad choices for sex. But the bad choices are less bad than they used to be, for the most part.

            Agreed. It’s a pretty great improvement.

            Wouldn’t a society like that have two “tracks” regarding what’s considered illicit? After all, there’s an underclass of people who are despised, and before a certain point, enslaved. Doing awful stuff to them would be more accepted than doing it in general.

            Hackett Fischer claims that in general the Cavalier semi-aristocracy of the South tolerated a level of sexually voracious/predatory behaviour by high-status men that wouldn’t have been tolerated further North, as I recall, but I may be getting that muddled. I read the book some time ago.

            Yeah, pattern definitely doesn’t vanish post slavery either even if it weakens. One of Zora Neale Hurston’s novels has a main character who’s an illegitimate child of one of the semi-aristocracy and a sharecropper. And there’s “The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man”.

            “Girl falls in love with guy from the wrong side of the tracks and her family murders them” is something that exists in multiple societies, isn’t it? Presumably, at least in part, they were killed to prevent children.

            That’s got to drive down the rate of couples even trying too though right? I mean, when you’re damn sure your families will murder you, that’s a hell of a deterrent. The lack of past gene flow between many jatis implies a pretty high rate of successfully discouraging breaking the taboo or of halting the reproduction of anyone who broke the taboo (or at least expelling each member of the illicit couple from both groups). I figure even the hardiest of fools is usually dissuaded.

            My vague understanding of what’s distinct about population clusters in much of India is the sheer level of consistent long term strictness implied by the genetics of many jatis. Europe has a lot of gradients between Germans and Danes, Germans and Swiss, English and Scots, etc. And their social structure has changed drastically several times in the past couple millennia causing gene flow across previous social boundaries even if the “murder people who mate across the wrong lines” was a still a rule at any given time, Europeans apparently failed to define what the “wrong lines” are consistently for a few thousand years.

            I have a sense that the situation is slightly different – people are still determining status using old-fashioned measures that are somewhat atavistic. For example: in a society where authority is determined in part on physicality, strength, combat ability those things will be high-status in a guy. Society changes more quickly than we (our biology, our socialization, whatever) do. So we count those things for status in contexts where it makes no sense: don’t American presidents tend to be taller than the average? (Is the US a place where wealth gives enough of a nutrition edge to make people taller? Because that would explain taller leaders in some places and times).

            The anecdotal “criminal amoral shithead who has an endless procession of women” – the toughest guy in the trailer park who doesn’t take no shit from nobody might be a loser today, unemployable and sleeping on his girlfriend’s couch. By the standards of most of human history and prehistory, a guy who plays a lot of dominance contests, is relatively good at them, and is able and willing (probably too willing) to resort to force is probably a catch. To put it another way: maybe the difference isn’t that guys like that didn’t exist back in the medieval village or the hunter-gatherer band; maybe the difference is that back then there were more financial and social rewards for being that guy.

            I’m not convinced that being willing to resort to force against other humans is particularly advantageous in 19th century America compared to now. Or in a medieval village compared to now.

            The more risky life is, the more atavistic rage heads can fuck it up for everyone else. I think the modern U.S. and Europe in some ways are more conducive to behaving this way than the past might have been.

            This theory also seems to cut against social survey data where we find that Western “modern” men have values/aggressiveness distinctly higher than women whereas men from more “traditional societies” don’t. Or something vaguely along those lines. People have mentioned it here before, but I can’t remember the results/wording very well.

            It is possible that someone who may be considered a loser now might have done well in the past, but I kind of doubt it for a lot of reasons.

          • ohwhatisthis? says:

            “Yes, the king might have a mistress or two, and all of it kept very discreetly. ”

            What? Plenty of kings had large harems at their whim, even in Christondome.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @quanta413

            That’s pretty high. Chlamydia and Gonorrhea mostly I suppose?

            I can’t remember if they listed the diseases. Gonorrhea was probably the bulk, I would guess; it’s extremely noticeable. I think the highest rates were among Canadians, of the nationalities’ soldiers they looked at – into the 40% range, if I’m remembering it correctly. So either Canadian soldiers were having more sex with prostitutes, or were somehow worse at not getting the clap, or were more conscientious and likely to report that they had it, or were treated better than other nationalities when they reported they had it (I think that different armies treated it differently – some punished men in treatment for VD, which would give them an incentive not to report that they’re pissing funny).

            That’s got to drive down the rate of couples even trying too though right? I mean, when you’re damn sure your families will murder you, that’s a hell of a deterrent. The lack of past gene flow between many jatis implies a pretty high rate of successfully discouraging breaking the taboo or of halting the reproduction of anyone who broke the taboo (or at least expelling each member of the illicit couple from both groups). I figure even the hardiest of fools is usually dissuaded.

            My vague understanding of what’s distinct about population clusters in much of India is the sheer level of consistent long term strictness implied by the genetics of many jatis. Europe has a lot of gradients between Germans and Danes, Germans and Swiss, English and Scots, etc. And their social structure has changed drastically several times in the past couple millennia causing gene flow across previous social boundaries even if the “murder people who mate across the wrong lines” was a still a rule at any given time, Europeans apparently failed to define what the “wrong lines” are consistently for a few thousand years.

            On the other hand, “star-crossed lovers” are a trope in many cultures’ stories. They just have different reasons why they’re star-crossed, and they’re more crossed in some cultures than others. The use of it as a central trope in works of fiction in a given culture would suggest that it’s something taboo enough to be interesting as a plot device (the story of Romeo and Juliet, two young lovers, who get together without any obstacles and don’t kill themselves due to a series of dumb miscommunications, is not a very interesting story) but would be familiar enough that it wouldn’t completely kill suspension of disbelief.

            I’m not convinced that being willing to resort to force against other humans is particularly advantageous in 19th century America compared to now. Or in a medieval village compared to now.

            Oh, I’m just spitballing here. It depends on how much you trust numbers claiming that, say, medieval England was considerably more violent than England today. The authorities were arguably much worse at preventing violence, on average. In such a situation, being able to use violence one’s self would be more attractive.

            The more risky life is, the more atavistic rage heads can fuck it up for everyone else. I think the modern U.S. and Europe in some ways are more conducive to behaving this way than the past might have been.

            How so?

            This theory also seems to cut against social survey data where we find that Western “modern” men have values/aggressiveness distinctly higher than women whereas men from more “traditional societies” don’t. Or something vaguely along those lines. People have mentioned it here before, but I can’t remember the results/wording very well.

            I’d be interested in seeing that, and the definitions.

            It is possible that someone who may be considered a loser now might have done well in the past, but I kind of doubt it for a lot of reasons.

            I think it depends on what kind of loser. Additionally, the other form of the atavism is in non-losers: it’s that we value things that signal strength and potential to do violence, even in contexts where neither strength nor violence are necessary or even desirable. If you have two, say, business executives, the one who’s a bit bigger and taller will probably do better, if all else is equal. I think it’s because there’s some part of our brain/some part of our socialization/both that deep down still expects the big man to lead his guys in battle against the raiders from the tribe a couple valleys over/lead them in a raiding party against the tribe a couple valleys over.

          • Anonymous says:

            @ohwhatisthis?

            What? Plenty of kings had large harems at their whim, even in Christondome.

            To my recollection, it’s more like “a few kings, highly infamous for their scandalous behaviour, were indiscreet about keeping multiple lovers”. I recall Charles II of England, and one of the Polish kings deeply conflicted with the Church over unchristian behaviour.

            Can you substantiate what you mean by “plenty”?

          • rlms says:

            From this list, all but two or so of the British kings had public mistresses that were notable enough to have their own Wikipedia pages. Around half had several. Likewise, the list of sexually active popes is distinctly non-empty.

          • From this list, all but two or so of the British kings had public mistresses that were notable enough to have their own Wikipedia pages.

            ???

            Starting with William the Conqueror, there are eighteen kings of England not on that list:

            William I
            William II
            Henry I
            Stephen
            Richard I
            John
            Henry III
            Edward I
            Henry IV
            Henry V
            Henry VI
            Edward IV
            Edward V
            Edward VI
            Charles I
            William III
            George V
            George VI

          • John Schilling says:

            And I count five who are not believed to have slept with any woman other than their wife,

            Edward II
            Richard II
            James I
            Charles I
            Charles III

            plus three more who did so only before marrying or taking the throne

            Richard III
            Henry VII
            William IV

            By comparison, notoriously sleeping with multiple mistresses is limited to four or five English monarchs of the past thousand years, none of whom are exactly considered role models.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            This is just from fiction, but my impression is that smallish communities might have a prostitute. Everyone knows who she is, and I’m not sure whether everyone one knows who all of her customers are. She isn’t respected, but she’s there.

          • rlms says:

            All the *British* kings (I was being deliberately obtuse). The *English* kings seem to have had fewer, although it seems plausible that that is to some extent due to a lack of historical evidence rather than a lack of mistresses (I assume we also know less about e.g. the sisters-in-law of medieval kings than modern ones).

          • Randy M says:

            I was going to reference the biblical story of Tamar and Judah to show that prostitutes were not unheard of in small ancient agrarian communities, but those may well have been temple prostitutes, indicating that perhaps there wasn’t enough business for full time sex workers. (Joke; but still confounded for other reasons)

        • dndnrsn says:

          @Randy M

          You are assuming here part of the whole redpill worldview (which incels have adopted – they just believe that something they cannot change is keeping them from acting on the advice that’s a part of the worldview): namely, that the top guys are hogging all the women, or that women are “ruined” for normal guys by the top guys, or a combination of the two. This is a big assumption to make, and it sounds like you’re taking it for granted.

          • albatross11 says:

            Is there actual survey data or something that either demonstrates this is true or that it’s not?

          • powerfuller says:

            If it’s true that some women are “ruined,” it ought to be kept in mind that this happens to men, too (though not the incels, probably).

          • Randy M says:

            I am assuming that as monogamy increases, there are more mates to go around.
            You seem to be assuming that that people can be polygamy (serial or concurrent) will increase the options for those who find it hard to get mates, and this has many assumptions baked in as well.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Randy M

            Why do you assume I think that? I don’t know whether changes have made things better or worse for the average person, or for the bottom third, or whatever, speaking statistically.

          • Randy M says:

            Why do you assume I think that?

            Rereading my jumble of typos, I’m not sure what you think I think you are assuming. That aside…

            My original point was that if there is more encouragement towards monogamy, and sexual continence otherwise, there would be fewer men without access to women, except for those that were worse for partners of their respective caliber than being alone–presumably not including the category we feel sympathy for, those with pro-social behavior but some deficit in sex appeal.

            This doesn’t entail assuming that in the current milieu a woman will necessarily become an alpha widow or harem member, but that there is some of that behavior on the margins; some women who have hope of settling for part of an alpha who would otherwise settle for all of a beta. Do you think this is an unlikely state? It doesn’t have to affect every woman to leave some men lacking.

            An alternative assumption is that with more wanton hook-ups and breaking down of standards (something akin to your fully realized sexual revolution, perhaps) there would be more nookie for everyone. This is a theoretical possibility, but not a convincing one; you’d probably eliminate more of the virgins than at present, but still have lots of people without regular sex or companionship, since there would be more hope of getting some attention from the most desirable and little reason to change what constituted desirable.

          • gbdub says:

            “I am assuming that as monogamy increases, there are more mates to go around.”

            This is true relative to a situation where a small cadre of men are monopolizing multiple women. But I don’t think such a “harem” system describes current reality.

            Rather, it’s more like there’s a continuum of promiscuity with both men and women at either end and all along. And it seems like (most) of the hooking up occurs between people on similar levels of that continuum. There are certainly “Chads” and… I don’t know, “Chadettes”? Chad might be hooking up with a dozen women over the course of a year, but it’s not as if those women never date anyone other than Chad.

        • James says:

          “women have the right to their own preferences, these are not always honestly communicated in our culture”

          I think the two parts of this are separable and the latter is sometimes underheard and could be useful to these guys.

          • Randy M says:

            Yeah, but if someone is caught up on how unfair the situation is, pointing out that any remedy other than making oneself more appealing (because the other party has the right to have their desires fulfilled) may not be fully persuasive but may be useful.

      • mdet says:

        Having read the specific Douthat article and Douthat generally, he’s not talking about a return to polygamy, or even a full return to the 1950s-type values. In the article, he specifically pushes back against what he calls a Hugh Hefner morality that puts having lots of great sex all the time as one of the most important things in life. He seems to suggest that if the rest of us all put just a little more value on chastity, incels wouldn’t feel so left out.

        • dndnrsn says:

          Here’s what Douthat says.

          First, because like other forms of neoliberal deregulation the sexual revolution created new winners and losers, new hierarchies to replace the old ones, privileging the beautiful and rich and socially adept in new ways and relegating others to new forms of loneliness and frustration.

          Did it? Do we have some kind of Chad Index over time to measure the sexual marketplace? He just flatly states it. What’s his source? What’s his evidence?

          Second, because in this new landscape, and amid other economic and technological transformations, the sexes seem to be struggling generally to relate to one another, with social and political chasms opening between them and not only marriage and family but also sexual activity itself in recent decline.

          Yeah, relations are pretty bad. Whole bunch of possible reasons. But it’s not because of the “new landscape” because there isn’t really a new landscape as in his first and third points here.

          Third, because the culture’s dominant message about sex is still essentially Hefnerian, despite certain revisions attempted by feminists since the heyday of the Playboy philosophy — a message that frequency and variety in sexual experience is as close to a summum bonum as the human condition has to offer, that the greatest possible diversity in sexual desires and tastes and identities should be not only accepted but cultivated, and that virginity and celibacy are at best strange and at worst pitiable states. And this master narrative, inevitably, makes both the new inequalities and the decline of actual relationships that much more difficult to bear …

          This is really exaggerating. The modern sexual culture is incoherent; the sexual revolution kinda stalled halfway. It’s not like he says it is. Virginity and celibacy are less admired, but the mainstream view does not seem fairly described as “Hefnerian” – maybe influenced by, sure.

          I think his article is looking back to a golden age that never existed. A silver age, maybe.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            There’s definitely a new landscape. Divorce, delayed marriage, women in the workplace, the pill, all these things have changed gender relations in some pretty major ways.

            I agree that Douthat and the Red-Pillers are buying into a Golden Age that never existed. I made this point on a different forum, but while it’s obviously true that women prefer wealthier, more fit, and wittier partners and men prefer younger and more attractive partners, both sexes have malleable tastes. We can settle and be happy with something “reasonable.” It’s why we still have ugly people: ugly people got laid and made babies, too.

            Red Pillers point to stuff like massive cities and online dating and such that creates a supposed “cock carousel” that women “ride” which means they can never be happy with a normal man, and that may be true for a small number of women who adapted poorly to the new landscape. Similarly there probably are a few women and men who cannot get off Tinder and just settle with someone. And both men and women probably have unrealistic expectations as a result of porn/romance novels that makes their real-life partners a bit disappointing.

            But these problems are all over-stated. There are other secular trends driving us towards delayed marriage and caused the divorce bump. And if anything is causing a drying up of sex, it’s the damn smartphones! People aren’t spending too much time on Tinder and checking out guys/girls, they are too busy playing video games and seeking validation from Facebook! Or Snapchat! Or whatever app is “cool” this week!

            Most people are still just people, just some of the details changed.

          • The Nybbler says:

            If you’re going to blame tech, I wouldn’t blame the smartphone but the Sony Walkman and its descendants. Put the headphones in, eliminate casual social interaction. Great for misanthropes, maybe not so great in the long run for normal people.

            However, I think another thing has been missed — violence. Namely, there’s not enough of it. War and violent crime used to kill off a LOT more young men, more than young women. This certainly cut down the competition. Participating in war and violence made the men more attractive to women. And the guys not suited to violence got their chance when the tough guys were actually off at war.

            Now? We’ve got 115 young single men for every 100 young single women nationwide. The odds are bad, and those men who were low-desirability to begin with get the worst of it.

          • mdet says:

            Douthat talks about sex, gender, and relationships fairly regularly in his columns, so you might have to read more of his writing to clarify.

            If I could try to summarize his views:
            —First off, he’s a moderate-conservative Catholic.

            —He thinks that American culture broadly encourages people to have as much sex as they can get, and portrays casual sex and one-night stands as totally acceptable, if not normal. His evidence: Movies & tv, including those aimed at teenagers, are sex-saturated. The prudest standard you’ll usually see is “Wait for the right guy/girl”, where the standards for “right” are little more than “We’ve dated for a several months”. Both sex-positive feminists and Hugh Hefner-type men openly endorse the “Have lots of sex” mindset. “Wait until marriage, or at least near-marriage” is losing popularity, even among devout Christians.

            —He’d probably agree with you that “the sexual revolution kinda stalled halfway”, in the way he describes how predatory men sort of hijacked the sexual revolution and turned it into a way for them to acquire sex more easily. When there’s a presumption that women enjoy casual sex just as much as men do, it makes it much easier to pressure and abuse women and call it “consent”.

            —He’s not too nostalgic though. He recognizes that “in a world of more stringent moral rules, a world that emphasizes sexual restraint and make chastity a virtue, the same predator might find a different way. He might be more aggressive, for instance, and then play on his victim’s sense of shame, her desire to be chaste and her feeling that she’s been soiled by the encounter, to induce her not to tell anyone and perhaps even to continue seeing him, because after once you’ve fallen there’s no point in getting up… Conservatives arguing for a different, thicker sexual ethic than just the rule of ‘consent’ need to recognize that any revived code of sexual restraint would need to draw on the insights of feminism as well as those of pre-sexual revolution sources”

            He thinks that sex and marriage are split along class lines. “In upper class circles, liberal social values do not necessarily lead to libertinism among the people who hold them, and indeed quite often coexist with an impressive amount of personal conservatism, personal restraint…[because] the influence of a libertine culture is counteracted by the dense network of adult authority figures whose examples matter more than what you watch and read and consume.” Given his belief in the importance of marriage to create stable and prosperous families, this is part of what he means by sexual-revolution-as-neoliberal-deregulation, benefiting the privileged and socially adept who can navigate the new rules. Not directly relevant to incels here, but it gets at what ADBG said about divorce, delayed marriage, the pill, online dating, and (I’ll add) online porn changing the way that people approach relationships and what they want when they’re in them.

            I think it’s fair to infer into Douthat that he thinks the cultural norms surrounding sex should be much more chaste than they currently are, but not so chaste as to recreate the days when sex outside of marriage was unspeakably shameful.

          • Deiseach says:

            Did it? Do we have some kind of Chad Index over time to measure the sexual marketplace? He just flatly states it. What’s his source? What’s his evidence?

            Back in Ye Olde Dayes up to the 1970s when Nice Girls Didn’t and there was supposed to be at least the pretence of waiting for marriage, a man who could get dates but not sex, or couldn’t even get dates, could console himself that Nice Girls Didn’t and it was just bad luck that he didn’t have the good job or whatever to be able to afford marriage.

            Now that sex outside of marriage is normal, and Nice Girls Do and do a lot more than vanilla missionary sex, a guy who can’t get a date doesn’t have that sop to his self-esteem. Now that everyone is supposed to be having sex when they turn fourteen*, what’s your excuse to be eighteen and a virgin who can’t even get a kiss?

            *No I know everyone is not, but the blather about ‘we have to let minors have access to contraception and abortions without the consent or knowledge of their parents or else terrible bad things will happen’ sure makes it sound as if everyone is having sex at fourteen.

          • Randy M says:

            However, I think another thing has been missed — violence.

            I meant to consider this point yesterday. We haven’t had a significant war in a while, one that could serve to skew the sex ration. Perhaps that results in more men being left out, though it seems it should make things more even unless one sex had more chance of being content sexless, or…

            Now? We’ve got 115 young single men for every 100 young single women nationwide.

            Wait, what? Why that imbalance?

          • dndnrsn says:

            I read Douthat semi-regularly and I think that in general he’s too ready to believe what the past said about itself. There are some things where it hasn’t gone from “doesn’t happen” to “happens” but from “happens but we say it shouldn’t” to “happens and we say it’s OK.” It might happen more. But how much more? High-status aggressive men who sleep with lots of women aren’t a new invention, at a minimum.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @RandyM

            I don’t know why the imbalance; my intuition would be mostly “male divorcees with younger women”. There are also more men born than women (105 to 100), which likely accounts for some of it.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t know why the imbalance; my intuition would be mostly “male divorcees with younger women”.

            Hmm… if the pool of men is those ages 15-60 and the pool of women is those ages 15-55, then that ratio makes sense, I suppose.

            We might also have to consider how vigorously one is searching; presumably younger people are looking for romantic companionship more than older people, on the basis that they have more reasons to do so (family formation, economic support).

          • bean says:

            There are also more men born than women (105 to 100), which likely accounts for some of it.

            That accounts for all of it if we assume that 2/3 women are not single. The singles pool is going to enrich in men as pairs drop out, provided the death rates are the same. I suspect that some of it is women marrying older men, but I don’t think we should discount raw birthrate in an age when we aren’t finding new and exciting ways to kill off our young men.

          • Jesse E says:

            “Now that everyone is supposed to be having sex when they turn fourteen*, what’s your excuse to be eighteen and a virgin who can’t even get a kiss?”

            Age of first sexual experience is going up bit by bit and the number of partners is going down bit by bit.

          • a reader says:

            I agree with A Definite Beta Guy:

            the Red-Pillers are buying into a Golden Age that never existed.

            That Golden Age being a legendary time before the feminism, the pill &co, when any guy, regardless of his attractiveness and courtship skills, could receive a young, virgin bride if he was considered ok by her parents. That part may be somewhat true, many of today incels may have married a virgin bride (although let’s not forget that Andersen, the famous writer, was probably an incel of his time).

            But what followed after that young and pretty virgin bride (usually still a teen) was married against her will to an unattractive husband with low social skills?

            Think about it: most unmarried girls were virgins, educated at the monastery or under the strict surveillance of their housewife moms and maybe also governesses; both the girls and the mothers knew that a single mistake meant the girl was “lost”.

            So, for all the young men who didn’t yet have the situation to marry and sustain a family, or didn’t yet want those responsibilities, there were mainly two possible sexual targets: the prostitutes (risky because syphilis) and other men’ wives.

            The incel-equivalent would have been an ideal husband – for a prospective Don Juan:
            – not attractive, his forcefully married pretty wife doesn’t love him.
            – no social skills; isolated, few friends, no experience in courtship, so the chances to observe or be informed that his wife cheats are weak.
            – not physically fit – so chances to be a physical threat for the lover are weak.

            So, in that “Golden Age”, the incels wouldn’t be virgins but would most probably be cuckold, raising Chad’s Casanova’s children.

            I think the Red Pill theory has such a success because most men nowadays read less literature (except SF or fantasy).

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        My random thoughts:

        1. As with all things the inceldome thing is a combination of factors beyond the control of the individual male plus factors that are theroetically within the control of the individual male but are very difficult to act upon without some degree of collective will power.

        2. It should be emphasized strongly that the kinds of ‘self improvements’ that people insist incel’s perform to improve their chances of getting women should not be advocated for on the grounds it will improve their chances of partnership. (The fact that it probably will is irrelevant)

        Better life routines, more musculature (I am going to be a bit unfair and assume the typical incel has either too much fat and/or too little muscle) , higher activity levels; these things will generally raise a male’s self esteem and quality of life regardless of whether they die a virgin or not.

        3. A lot of anecdotes are getting thrown around and very little data. For example, incels and the women that despise them are accusing the other of having standards that are too high. Almost no one as far as i can tell has bothered to provide data to support their claims. I say almost because there is a bit of data that suggests women have a higher probability of being in a sexual relationship between the ages of 18-25.

        4. “You’re not entitled to sex” — This is a very frustrating statement to me because I simultaneously agree with it and yet I can barely restrain myself from hold the people who say it in absolute contempt.

        Personally, I don’t believe in rights of any kind and I do not believe that anyone is entitled to anything (I’m partly frustrated because people who say that ‘Sex is not a right’ often but not always believe that people (mostly women) have rights to a laundry list of arbitrary goodies (In an absolute or a social sense) — This view of entitlement[s] seems to come from a position of which groups you sympathize with and which you hold in contempt. However there are nevertheless consequences to supporting social systems which create extreme amounts of inequality.

        If for example a market economy naturally produces a working class operating at the margins for whom wages tend not to increase; it is generally agreed by progressives that having some hedging mechanism (which at a bare minimum could be a strong social norm for charity, and in other cases a welfare state) is valuable/necessary if for no other reason then creating a mass of persons that will threaten the existence of the otherwise wealth-generating system.

        I see a similar argument to be made for modern sexual relationships. If modern technology plus modern social liberal sexual norms produce a system where a significant portion of the population (The majority of whom let me remind you are men of fighting age who often have nothing to lose) are alienated from nearly all social interaction; this threatens the stability of the system. So it is worth addressing with more than condescension if for no other reason than to keep the system working.

        • Matt M says:

          I strongly disagree with #2.

          It may be true that working out more is a good idea, even if it doesn’t attract women, because it will make me healthier.

          But as someone who is currently NOT working out, I’ve already presumably run the cost/benefit analysis in my head, and concluded that the health benefits alone don’t justify the time expense and physical discomfort of working out.

          Therefore, the other general benefits are irrelevant. If you want to convince me to work out, you need to convince me that it will help solve my immediate and most pressing problem. Particularly if there are other approaches to my immediate and most pressing problem that will demand similar resources (i.e., every second and dollar I spend on working out is a second and dollar I’m NOT spending practicing approaches, etc.)

          It’s like suggesting that a poor person looking for a job should read more Shakespeare. Like, okay, maybe reading Shakespeare is good advice in general and we’d all benefit from being well-read. But man, the guy has bigger problems at the moment. So unless that advice is of the form of “Read Shakespeare so that you can pass an Intro English class in Community College and get a degree and make more money,” it strikes me as very bad advice indeed.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            Our disagreement comes from where on the cost benefit analysis personal health falls.

            There are certain approaches to improving health that are extremely costly and I wouldn’t advocate for. And perception of cost is also a function of how the method is integrated into the person’s lifestyle; so doing these things with the support and participation of other people helps.

            I wouldn’t tell someone to go to the Gym for 2+ hours a day or something. [unless they could do it with other people] — But low hanging fruit like changing sleeping patterns, developing a personal hygiene habits, reducing the amount of sugar in your diet; they’re difficult to start at first but have zero cost to maintain once they become habitual.

          • Matt M says:

            Our disagreement comes from where on the cost benefit analysis personal health falls.

            Okay, yeah, obviously.

            But my point is, a recommendation of “start working out to improve your health” is hardly new or groundbreaking or uncommon. Everyone has already heard this. And if you’re making that recommendation to a sedentary person, they’ve presumably already done the cost benefit analysis in their head and came out on the negative side of it.

            So you’re going to have to offer them some sort of additional benefit… and if you readily concede that your advice will not solve what they deem to be their most urgent and pressing problem, it shouldn’t be any surprise whatsoever that they don’t take it.

          • bean says:

            @Matt
            I’m not so sure. Scott’s talked about how a doctor recommending that you stop smoking is actually pretty effective at getting people to stop relative to baseline. I suspect that much the same would be the case with working out.

          • Matt M says:

            The key word there being doctor, thus making it a recommendation from authority. I’m just struggling to see this as an effective conversation:

            Guy: How do I get a girlfriend?
            Other guy: You should work out.
            Guy: That will help me get a girlfriend.
            Other guy: No, but you’ll be healthier, and health is very important.

            Like, how is that helpful?

          • hls2003 says:

            @Matt M

            “No, but you’ll be healthier, and health is very important.”

            The way you’ve written the “advisor” script isn’t how I would think about the advice. It would be more like “Not directly it won’t get you a girlfriend, but you’ll be healthier. Healthier people are often more attractive. You’ll also build confidence, and confident people tend to be more attractive. You’ll gain satisfaction from seeing progress along one axis of your life, which can help break through mental blocks or mental health issues which are whispering that you’re hopeless. It will also open more environments to socializing (e.g. sporty environments) which expands your potential pool. No, working out won’t directly get you a girlfriend (unless you meet someone at the gym) but it might help make you a happier, healthier person. At which point you might care somewhat less about your girlfriend status. Besides potentially making you happier in the interim period, being more satisfied with your single status may help you to exhibit less signs of desperation, which also tends to make you more attractive.”

            Personally, I think the most destructive advice that is widely disseminated is “always be yourself” because many people unfortunately interpret that as “your worst habits, vices, quirks, hygiene, and oddities are ‘yourself’ so be true to those.” Better advice, of the nature bean is suggesting, is “always be striving to be an improved version of yourself” both for inherent and instrumental reasons.

          • hls2003 says:

            @Matt M
            The way you’ve written the “advisor” script isn’t how I would think about the advice. It would be more like “Not directly it won’t get you a girlfriend, but you’ll be healthier. Healthier people are often more attractive. You’ll also build confidence, and confident people tend to be more attractive. You’ll gain satisfaction from seeing progress along one axis of your life, which can help break through mental blocks or mental health issues which are whispering that you’re hopeless. It will also open more environments to socializing (e.g. sporty environments) which expands your potential pool. No, working out won’t directly get you a girlfriend (unless you meet someone at the gym) but it might help make you a happier, healthier person. At which point you might care somewhat less about your girlfriend status. Besides potentially making you happier in the interim period, being more satisfied with your single status may help you to exhibit fewer signs of desperation, which also tends to make you more attractive.”

            Personally, I think the most destructive advice that is widely disseminated is “always be yourself” because many people unfortunately interpret that as “your worst habits, vices, quirks, hygiene, and oddities are ‘yourself’ so be true to those.” Better advice, of the nature bean is suggesting, is “always be striving to be an improved version of yourself” both for inherent and instrumental reasons.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          The biggest problem with telling incels “do X and you will get a gf” is that, for a lot of them, they’ve already been told this, and it turned out not to work, and they feel cheated. It was a different “X” but that’s irrelevant to the pattern-matching they are doing.

    • johan_larson says:

      Make it more socially acceptable for parents to arrange marriages or at least help with the process when their children can’t find mates themselves.

      I don’t know how much of this happens in the Indian overseas diaspora.

    • drunkfish says:

      Re 2:

      I think there’s an important distinction between “nobody is willing to have sex/be intimate with me, and I’m really upset about that” and “the fact that nobody is willing to have sex/be intimate with me is a reflection of how horrible women are”. The latter is disgustingly common from the little I’ve seen of incels, and I think is toxic enough to require serious attention. As far as I can figure, it’s the perspective that “you aren’t entitled to sex” is directed at. I don’t think anybody is trying to say “you have no right to want sex”, they’re saying that you can’t look down on other people for their choice not to have sex with you. I don’t think it’s a solution to help them, but it’s an important response to their discourse. I think it makes sense to do it in parallel with actually helping, but I think it’s pretty problematic to only help without pointing out that a lot of their discourse is horrible.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        I don’t think anybody is trying to say “you have no right to want sex”, they’re saying that you can’t look down on other people for their choice not to have sex with you.

        I agree with the sentiment but question the sincerity of the feminists who voice it here.

        Intersectional feminism normally has zero problem with labelling sexual preferences as problematic. If a man doesn’t want to date a woman because of her weight, race, sexual history, or even the fact that she was once a he then he’s a bigoted asshole. There is a very narrow range of acceptable sexual preferences and the rest are a sign of conscious or unconscious bigotry.

        Women shouldn’t be coerced into dating ugly and unpleasant men, that should be obvious to everyone. But it should be equally obvious that coercing men and women into dating a laundry list of so-called oppressed groups is equally wrong.

        • Nornagest says:

          I agree that this sort of thing shows up in rhetoric, but in actual Blue social circles — or even among full-blown social justice activists — that rhetoric seems to be honored more in the breach than the observance.

          • gbdub says:

            The problem of course is that the, for lack of a better term, “toxic” incels don’t have meatspace blue social circles, and just get the nasty Twitter rhetoric.

          • mdet says:

            I don’t think Nabil’s description of feminists even necessarily holds a contradiction. It seems to me totally possible to both hold “You should not categorically remove someone from the dating pool because of weight, race, sexual history, or trans-status” and “You cannot be compelled to date any particular individual”.

            What I’ve actually seen in practice among social justice aligned people is “We, as a society, should reduce the stigma that makes certain superficial characteristics undesirable”, without necessarily compelling or coercing any specific individual into dating any other specific individual. Like, a very Leftist trans-woman I know lamenting that she had men who would flirt and go on dates with her, knowing she was trans, but those men would refuse to be seen in public with her, refuse to be in any pictures with her, and refuse to introduce her to their friends because the *friends* thought that dating someone trans was nasty.

            This is actually the exact kind of debate I see among social-justice type people on facebook. “So I don’t wanna tell anyone they can’t have preferences, because we all have preferences, but our preferences are influenced by society’s oppressive standards. How do we change society’s standards without telling individuals they can’t have their preferences?”

          • Aapje says:

            @mdet

            But doesn’t that mean that a person then has to lie if they aren’t attracted to overweight/black/promiscuous/trans people? Because if they honestly state that their reason not to date an individual is categorical, they are then seen as creating oppressive standards, aren’t they?

            I am not willing to believe that SJ people in general are very good at separating categorical reasons not to date people that are merely based on stigma vs those that are based personal preference.

            In fact, given that people internalize social norms, I don’t even think that this distinction clearly exists.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I have an admittedly cynical view, but that selective enforcement seems more like a feature than a bug.

            In my very blue circle, the main time when accusations of bigotry for sexual preferences get pulled out is to attempt to remove competition by other women. If any man lower than you on the progressive stack prefers women with traits that you lack, he’s a bigot and needs to be called out.

            Race produces the clearest examples of naked self-interest. White feminists rail against the racism of white men dating Asian women. Black feminists rail against the racism and colorism of black men dating white or lighter-skinned black women respectively. Etc, etc.

            The thing that makes it less amusing is that it’s relatively easy to get caught in the crossfire. If a woman gets salty enough about you choosing another woman over her she has the option to threaten your career and social standing potentially years down the line.

          • Deiseach says:

            because the *friends* thought that dating someone trans was nasty

            Put it down to my cynicism, but I don’t think the “friends” were the problem so much as the guys themselves; it sounds parallel to the “fat/ugly girl who is good enough to fuck but you don’t want to be seen in public with her, because she’s low-status and you don’t want other people to think that she is as good as you can get and you can’t do better”.

            Guys who like to date trans women but don’t want to be seen as a boyfriend are not guys who seriously mean “oh honey, I’m perfectly okay with this, but my friends on the other hand…” They are “I’ve got a fetish for chicks with a dick but society in general thinks that kind of preference is low-status so I’m not going to have people thinking I can’t get a real woman”.

          • Iain says:

            Put it down to my cynicism, but I don’t think the “friends” were the problem so much as the guys themselves; it sounds parallel to the “fat/ugly girl who is good enough to fuck but you don’t want to be seen in public with her, because she’s low-status and you don’t want other people to think that she is as good as you can get and you can’t do better”.

            You are just restating mdet’s point in different words.

            The claim is that there are a bunch of fat/ugly/trans/whatever people who would be happily getting it on in mutually fulfilling relationships if not for concerns about status. Nobody is being asked to ignore their own preferences; they are being asked to stop reinforcing social norms that say some of those preferences are objectively better than others. If you politely turn down a fat girl, nobody will bat an eye; if you spend a lot of time talking about how fat people are inherently repulsive and undateable, people will object.

            if you don’t want to be seen in public with the fat girl you are banging on the down low because you’re afraid of what other people will think, that’s bad. One part of the solution involves you sucking it up and not caring what other people think; the other part involves other people learning to keep their opinions to themselves.

            Edit: As Fion says below: “shouting about those preferences may indicate that you’re being a bit of a dick”.

          • Aapje says:

            @Iain

            Of course, it can also be the other way around: that the incel is getting ignored by some because of status concerns.

          • Iain says:

            If you are in the situation we are talking about — where somebody will have sex with you but not introduce you to their friends because of status concerns — you are by definition not an incel.

            Also: to the extent that incels can’t find love because they are (say) fat, they are already the direct beneficiaries of attempts to reduce status concerns around dating fat people.

          • Matt M says:

            If you are in the situation we are talking about — where somebody will have sex with you but not introduce you to their friends because of status concerns — you are by definition not an incel.

            This is super common from the higher status male, lower status female perspective, but does it ever happen the other way? I feel like males see sex as the ultimate validation while females see public relationships as the ultimate validation.

            While I’d prefer a super hot woman be very publicly into me, I’d certainly happily settle for “sex but I’m not allowed to tell anyone.”

          • mdet says:

            I agree with Iain & fion.

            I also agree that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to change “society’s” standards without changing any individual’s standards. No one really wants to change their own preferences, so the only thing that really ends up happening is shaming people who proclaim out loud “People like X are undesirable”. Occasionally someone may call out an individual for dating / marrying the “wrong” person, as Nabil says, but I’ve never seen anyone do this without criticism and pushback.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          But it should be equally obvious that coercing men and women into dating a laundry list of so-called oppressed groups is equally wrong.

          Sarcasm on:
          But where have all the GOOD men gone?! If Jane can’t get a date (with a suitably attractive, suitably educated, suitably healthy) young man, it’s time we “have a conversation.” And don’t you worry, we have no problem laying out the laundry list of social problems that contribute to this problem of Jane being single. The first of which is obviously porn. Porn just makes men have too high standards and makes them have unrealistic expectations in bed.

          Sarcasm off.

          Obviously there’s a huge difference in how these issues are treated in the media, and the incels (being redpill adjacent) are aware of it. I don’t see how anyone would respond to the cultural criticism with anything other than a “Yeah, right.”

        • fion says:

          I think I probably count as an intersectional feminist, albeit an atypical one because I read SSC… But I don’t think refusal to date women because of their race, weight, sexual history etc. makes you a bigoted asshole and I *think* most of my fellow feminists would agree with me.

          But we’re sweeping some stuff under the rug with the word “refuse”. Having a preference for X over Y doesn’t mean “will never choose Y under any circumstances”. If you’re in the “never under any circumstances” camp then you’re probably a bit bigoted; but if you just have certain preferences then feminists should leave you alone.

          (Of course, shouting about those preferences may indicate that you’re being a bit of a dick, and that may sometimes be what’s provoking the feminists. There’s lots of people that I have a total lack of attraction towards, but I tend to keep that to myself.)

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Would you say that, for example, a gold-star lesbian who will never have sex with a man “under any circumstances” is bigoted against men? Is she being a dick by not keeping that preference to herself?

            I would be very surprised and a bit concerned if you said yes in either case. Yet you seem entirely comfortable applying the same standard to straight men that you would rightly consider abhorrent if applied to LGB people.

          • fion says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            I think there’s a difference between sexual preference and sexuality. But don’t think I’m using that as a way of weaselling out of admitting any anti-straight-man bigotry on my part.

            A straight man who will never have sex with a man under any circumstances is also not bigoted against men, and he is not being a dick if he proudly proclaims his heterosexuality.

            A black lesbian who will never have sex with a white person under any circumstances probably is a bit of a bigot.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I don’t want to imply that you’re dishonest or weasely, and if I have I apologise. You seem like a very upright and interesting person.

            But I don’t think that your distinction between sexuality and sexual preferences is had any basis in reality.

            A lot of self-proclaimed lesbians still have sex with men and enjoy it. It’s actually a recurring controversy in the lesbian community: if these women are considered “real lesbians,” then it implies (to use your terminology) that lesbian sexuality is nothing more than a sexual preference.

            If it turns out that a higher proportion of lesbians seek out sex with men than, say, white men seek out sex with black women* the does that mean that race is a sexuality and gender just a sexual preference? It seems ridiculous but that’s the logic of your categorization scheme.

            *For the record I actually find black women very attractive. That doesn’t mean that I can’t be a racist, obviously, but I think it helps to clarify where the frustration is coming from. Someone who presumes to tell me what to do can go straight to hell even if it was what I was doing anyway.

          • fion says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            Don’t worry – I didn’t take any such implication from you. Good of you to clarify just in case, though. 🙂

            I’ll confess that I don’t actually know that many lesbians, but I do know lots of gay men who, when you discuss sexuality with them, say that they’re actually bisexual with a preference for men. They use “gay” because, for whatever reasons, they find it a useful label. I would guess that this is the same for some lesbians. Perhaps they feel more affinity to the lesbian community than to the bisexual community, or perhaps they have experienced not-being-taken-seriously when they call themselves bisexual (“it’s just a phase”, “she hasn’t met the right man yet”, “she’s curious and experimenting” etc.).

            To be honest, the way I personally view sexuality is more as a preference, but I’m pansexual, so I probably just don’t really understand what it feels like to be monosexual. I do have many straight friends, though, who insist that they feel absolutely no attraction whatsoever to anybody of the same sex as them. This seems kind of weird to me, but I tend to trust them.

          • Aapje says:

            @fion

            I’ve seen people argue that bi people have very low status in the LGBT community. That may play a role as well.

          • fion says:

            @Aapje

            Yes, probably. All the LGBT communities I’ve been in have been very bi-friendly, but you’re right that that’s not always the case.

      • J Mann says:

        Yeah, redpill is a terribly unproductive model of courtship if you aren’t getting results. (I don’t think it’s great if you are getting results, but I have to admit that I don’t have any first hand experience.)

        I don’t think the common lefty twitter response – to make sure that these losers understand they don’t have the right to be loved or accepted – is likely to work. Of course the IMHO correct response – that you have a better change of being loved and accepted if you work the problem than if you don’t – may not work either. Maybe the solution is the right nootropics. (Now that I think about it, not really kidding).

      • The Nybbler says:

        I don’t think anybody is trying to say “you have no right to want sex”, they’re saying that you can’t look down on other people for their choice not to have sex with you.

        Even the second isn’t right; any number of “alpha jerks” look down on women who refuse to have sex with them. It’s a nasty sort of self-confidence, but it beats no self-confidence at all. But in fact I think a lot of these incels have been told something along the lines of “How dare a disgusting toad like you want sex? Gross!”

        • drunkfish says:

          What do you mean the second one isn’t right? “can’t” was the wrong word there, I meant “shouldn’t”. Yeah, I’m sure plenty of alpha jerks do that, and they’re also being assholes. It’s of a different sort I think, looking down on individual women instead of women as a whole (which plenty of incels do), but it’s also very problematic.

          a lot of these incels have been told something along the lines of “How dare a disgusting toad like you want sex? Gross!”

          That’s horrible, I totally agree with you. Anyone who says that should absolutely stop now. If that’s part of the set of people described by J Mann’s point 2, then that’s definitely something to weed out. My goal though was to justify part 2 as part of the conversation, and I do think it has an important place as a response to people who legitimately think they’re entitled to women’s bodies. I’ve seen incels advocate laws that would provide them sex. Perhaps that’s an extreme fringe (though I sort of doubt it since the incel groups we’re discussing are already an extreme fringe), but it’s an important thing to keep in mind. Yes, everyone has the right to want intimacy, to strive for intimacy, and to be upset if they fail to receive it, but no, you don’t get to demand other people’s bodies from them and when conversation gets to that point it needs to be emphatically shut down.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I mean looking down on (particular) women who don’t want to have sex with them is probably healthier for the incels than internalizing the idea that they’re unfuckable. Unless they’re literally elephant-whales with incurable halitosis. As for “problematic”, I don’t think someone else’s internal state is really something that can be reasonably subject to moral judgement, only the actions they take based on it.

            The incel “movement” seems to be a bunch of nasty people with terrible ideas, but going from that to “the people treating them like shit aren’t doing anything wrong” isn’t right either.

          • drunkfish says:

            @The Nybbler

            I’m not referring to incels looking down on particular women, I was saying that about “alpha jerks”. With incels I was specifically taking issue with the fact that they often look down on women as a group, and I think that’s really dangerous.

            As for “problematic”, I don’t think someone else’s internal state is really something that can be reasonably subject to moral judgement, only the actions they take based on it.

            “problematic” doesn’t have to be a moral judgement. I sortof agree with you that actions matter more, but what I’m saying is a widespread belief that “women are horrible because they won’t have sex with me” is really dangerous whether or not every individual acts on that belief. I think I agree that we shouldn’t pass moral judgement on people who believe that without acting, but we can try to take action against that belief. In terms of discourse in society being in part a war between ideas, fighting against that idea has merit if it’s possible to make it less common.

            We probably shouldn’t pass moral judgment on people who are privately racist but capable of somehow not acting on it at all. We should, however, spend time as a society trying to educate against racism so that racism becomes less common, even as a privately held belief.

            but going from that to “the people treating them like shit aren’t doing anything wrong” isn’t right either

            I never said that, I tried to say the opposite. We shouldn’t be treating them like shit. That said, when they frequently hold dangerous beliefs, I think some of the time we could be spending ‘helping’ them should be spent trying to educate/fight away those beliefs.

          • quanta413 says:

            Yeah, I’m sure plenty of alpha jerks do that, and they’re also being assholes. It’s of a different sort I think, looking down on individual women instead of women as a whole (which plenty of incels do), but it’s also very problematic.

            A not insignificant portion of Chads strike me as looking down on women as a whole.

            Looking down on women as a group isn’t the only thing getting incels in trouble. Lots of sexually successful men do that; you’ll see tedious thinkpieces condemning them, but their bad behavior doesn’t always hurt them in meatspace. Witness Sean Connery on slapping women. An extreme case, but not actually that weird. A significant minority of men are sexually successful jerks.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      If you know an “incel” personally, or if you are one, option 1. is the only humane choice. It works, demonstrably, and frankly it’s solid life advice that a lot of regular guys could use too. Some of the more bitter guys are resistant but ultimately you can’t force someone to change. The best thing that you can do is to give them actionable, useful advice.

      People who talk about sexbots, prostitution, or “government issued girlfriends” are usually flogging an ideological dead horse. Usually they’re libertarians trying to make a satire of statist justifications for taxation or conscription that nobody else gets. They’re not serious suggestions and anyone who makes them deserves a smack.

      People who take these guys as an excuse to rail about supposed male entitlement were covered well in Scott’s ‘Radicalizing the Romanceless’ a few years back. It’s all of the ideologically-driven inhumanity of the second group married to a sort of childlike cruelty.

      I don’t think incel per se is a societal problem, although it is likely a symptom of wider problems with our dating culture. A lot of these guys would likely still have trouble courting women in a traditional society but they would have much more support from their families and communities. Loneliness is lethal and in the modern world romantic attachments are all many men have.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        I have nothing to add other than seconding all of this. Incel guys are failing due to personality limitations and high standards. They should do things within their own power to improve themselves and lower their standards. That means getting to the gym, getting a haircut, and dressing well.

        This comes from a guy that could probably be described as “incel” when younger.

        My trigger point is when people confuse personality limitations with dating with personality flaws as an individual. If women choose not to have sex, it doesn’t have anything to do with you as a person. I feel if we remove the sex from the picture and look at a different aspect of life, this will be intuitive: you might be a real crappy interviewer and find it hard or impossible to find gainful employment due to your poor interviewing skills. This might not map AT ALL to your actual job skills, and has absolutely NOTHING to do with your actual worth as a person.

        Returning to traditional values is trying to put the genie back in the bottle: it’s not going to happen. The best you can do is stay inside relatively conservative communities, but even those are exposed to external influences.

        And, yeah, the idea that libertarians want to force people to have sex? Or provide government hookers? Come on.

      • Usually they’re libertarians trying to make a satire of statist justifications for taxation or conscription that nobody else gets.

        There is a novel, The Rainbow Cadenza, by a libertarian along these lines.

      • Education Hero says:

        People who talk about sexbots, prostitution, or “government issued girlfriends” are usually flogging an ideological dead horse. Usually they’re libertarians trying to make a satire of statist justifications for taxation or conscription that nobody else gets. They’re not serious suggestions and anyone who makes them deserves a smack.

        It’s quite amusing, however, to see how quickly some people will flip from supporting economic redistribution to libertarian arguments when it comes to sexual redistribution.

        It’s almost as if ideological positions tend to align with self-interest rather than logical consistency.

        • fion says:

          “It’s almost as if ideological positions tend to align with self-interest rather than logical consistency.”

          Or possibly people think women differ from property in an important way.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            I’m not sure that that’s the best way of framing it, though. You could easily formulate a reasonable traditional monogamy-based ‘sex redistributionism’ in which men at the upper end of the attractiveness scale are not allowed to monopolise more than one woman (which I think is a core incel complaint?), meaning that those other women must choose between a less attractive partner or no partner, but are, crucially, still free to choose. This would not eliminate the incel problem, but it would presumably mitigate it.

            Or, if, as I’m sure some libertarians will argue, economic redistributionism entails the obligation on the wealthy to provide a service of giving away money to those who have less, and sexual redistributionism entails the obligation on the attractive to provide a service of giving away sex/intimacy to the less attractive, then either both (the wealthy and the attractive) or neither are being treated as property. If, of course, there are serious differences in, say, fungibility between sex and money, which there are, then you can argue that they are serious enough to break the analogy, but I don’t think that you can declare the analogy broken without making that argument.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No, the government wouldn’t seize or redistribute the woman, just her sexual labor, in the same way the government seizes and redistributes economic labor in the case of taxation or martial labor in the case of conscription.

          • fion says:

            @Winter Shaker

            Fungibility would indeed be my argument. Money is our most universal exchange. If you want to give a good or a service to somebody, you could do that, or you could give money. And if you owe somebody something, you can pay them in money.

            So if some people are advantaged and others are disadvantaged, and we want to do something about that, we redistribute money from one group to the other. We do not force them to have sex, or bake a cake, or build a house for somebody else; we force them to give money.

            I would engage with a libertarian who used “we should force sexy people to give money to unsexy people” as an example argument, but not if they used “we should force sexy people to give sex to unsexy people”.

            EDIT: @Conrad Honcho, I think my point responds to you as well.

          • Aapje says:

            We do not force them to have sex, or bake a cake

            That example seems ill chosen.