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Open Thread 125.25

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1,368 Responses to Open Thread 125.25

  1. J Mann says:

    The heroes’ plan to rescue Han in Return of the Jedi is stupid and incompetent. Aside from Palpatine in the prequels, Star Wars is not about people making clever plans, and nothing we know about Finn and Rose suggests that they should be good at what they’re trying to do in that storyline.

    I’m open to the criticism that “they’re all stupid, people just like the ones they saw before they knew better, but:

    1. The rescue of Han worked because it showed how the characters had grown. Yes, Han could easily have ended up eaten by the Sarlac, but it still showed off that Leah’s intelligence and resolve were still paying off, and that Luke had matured into some kind of zen weapon of mass destruction.

    2. By contrast, I guess the casino scene showed that Rose cares about the oppressed masses, but …

    a. That scene where they get their sidequest has all the subtlety of the beginning of a lesser Universal motion ride.

    b. They get into a pod and fly AWAY FROM A CHASE SCENE to a somehow nearby casino planet, which just happens to have the one hacker they need.

    c. A bunch of stupid stuff happens at the casino, ending with their spy mission getting caught for bad parking.

    d. They get back into a ship and FLY BACK TO THE CHASE SCENE from the somehow nearby casino planet.

    e. Then the moral of the adventure is that heroic plans are stupid and they should never have gone, because they should have trusted Laura Dern.

    f. Except maybe the moral is that when Rose ignores orders, it’s because she just cares so much about people, and that’s a good reason to disobey orders, so the real lesson is the space horses you free along the way.

    I’m not going to say it was stupider than space bombers, but it gave them a run for their money.

    • Nornagest says:

      The rescue of Han worked because it showed how the characters had grown. Yes, Han could easily have ended up eaten by the Sarlac, but it still showed off that Leah’s intelligence and resolve were still paying off, and that Luke had matured into some kind of zen weapon of mass destruction.

      Oh, yeah, it’s dumb once you start thinking about it. And while it does show character development, no doubt there could have been ways to show off character development (and/or Carrie Fisher’s legs) that don’t have the problems it does. Still, it works, partly because it never actually explains the plan and so we have no idea how much of the sequence of events starting with the heroes sneaking in one by one like irresponsibly chivalrous ninjas and ending with Leia and the droids forced into slavery and the guys one slip away from death by Sarlacc was horribly bungled and how much was just according to keikaku*.

      The rest of Return of the Jedi doesn’t do this, and so it’s a lot harder on the suspension of disbelief: we do get a plan for how they’re going to blow up the second Death Star, it’s a terrible plan that starts falling apart almost immediately, and they only get out alive and un-darksided because the moon, unbeknownst to everyone, happens to be home to a zillion superstitious yet surprisingly warlike teddy bears.

      (*) Translator’s note: Keikaku means “mitochondria”.

    • Clutzy says:

      ROTJ is certainly the weakest of the original trilogy, but the plan makes plenty of sense. The droids are strategically placed into a surveillance role as is Lando. Chewy and Leia come in and plan to escape with Han and the droids. Luke is the backup (and he’s a bit too arrogant), but they still have a backup to the backup because they play to Jabba’s cruelty and know once out of his little den Luke can basically 1v100 his goons.

    • INH5 says:

      I’ll give the ROTJ Han rescue another point: sure the plan doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think about it, but at least the movie isn’t obvious about it, largely because it never stops to explain what the plan is, exactly. TLJ, by contrast, is constantly stopping to explain itself, and this not only makes the plot holes immediately obvious but it often only ends up digging itself deeper.

      Wait, the other First Order ships have their own trackers? Why can’t they all use them simultaneously then? Why does the Resistance flagship only have enough fuel for one more hyperspace jump? Did they forget to gas it up before they left the planet? Why are we even asking questions about fuel capacity in a Star Wars movie when in all of the other movies any undamaged ship can just go anywhere and we’re supposed to go with it because those tiny details aren’t the point of the story? Etc.

      I’m willing to overlook some minor logical issues if the story doesn’t dwell on them and is able to entertain me in other ways. But if the story actually does spend a lot of time on exposition, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for the exposition to make sense.

      • John Schilling says:

        I’ll give the ROTJ Han rescue another point: sure the plan doesn’t make a lot of sense when you think about it, but at least the movie isn’t obvious about it, largely because it never stops to explain what the plan is, exactly.

        There was a plan? I thought they were just making it up as they went.

        OK, wrong Harrison Ford movie. But there’s no reason for there to be a “plan” in the sense of the seventeen precisely-choreographed steps to steal the heavily-guarded MacGuffin in a heist flick. They infiltrated three separate teams into Jabba’s palace under various covers to conduct reconnaissance, exploit opportunities, and provide mutual support, and then openly sent a “lone Jedi Knight” that Jabba might negotiate with, would probably ambush or betray, but would almost certainly underestimate on account of the “lone” part being very much false and the “Jedi” part being very much true.

        Then, yes, make it up as you go. That, unlike the precisely choreographed seventeen-step plan from a heist flick, can actually work.

        • J Mann says:

          Having a Jedi also gives you the plot escape that when one of your characters can see parts of the script, some very dodgy plot choices start to make sense.

          This is most clearly on display in A Phantom Menace, where Qui Gon’s strategy is basically “stay cool and things will work out somehow.” Which is also Tommy Jones’ strategy in Men in Black, now that I think about it, but in the case of Qui Gon, it makes some sense. And you can argue that the Prequels show Palpatine disrupting the Jedi Council’s ability to detect and go with the flow, directing them into a tactical military strategy that’s their next best thing now that they can’t just see the future.

          Maybe the moral in TLJ is just that you shouldn’t try a crazy, seat of your pants strategy if you’re not a Jedi master.

          • mdet says:

            Also, part of TLJ is that all their plans end up failing. They succeed WAY more than they ought to, but by the end of the movie the only things that have 100% worked out for the good guys are A) stalling long enough to send an escape ship to a nearby planet and B) Luke-projection stalling even more while they board a second escape ship.

            So yeah, the moral of TLJ is very explicitly “don’t try a crazy, seat of your pants strategy if you’re not Luke Skywalker”.

          • albatross11 says:

            Or they could have used their escape ship trick to evacuate the leadership of the Rebellion (or maybe all the remaining Rebels) to some new place, from which they could start over. Or Luke could have come back with Rey and wiped the floor with Kylo/Snoke and saved the Rebellion. But trying to make sense of Star Wars plots at this point is like trying to patch a sieve/

          • J Mann says:

            They could have used their escape ship trick to evacuate the leadership of the Rebellion (or maybe all the remaining Rebels) to some new place

            Yes, given that they can fly ships away from the chase, engage in side quests, and then fly back to the chase, they could have made as many trips as they needed to evacuate. Or better yet, they could have flown away, stolen some space bombers and dropped a bunch of space bombs on top of the chasing ships.

            It was a beautiful movie in places – the ski attack ships in the red desert. Luke’s showdown, and Admiral Dern’s sacrifice are all awesome.

            On the other hand, one silent space scene leaves me wondering why all the other space scenes have engine and laser sounds from the opposing ships.

            All in all, you can’t think about a Star Wars movie too hard or it falls apart. I won’t argue whether it’s my fault or the writers that I think more about TLJ than it can stand.

    • Nick says:

      By contrast, I guess the casino scene showed that Rose cares about the oppressed masses

      Only fumblingly so, because she frees the animals while leaving behind the slaves.

    • bullseye says:

      To clarify, I did not mean that the original trilogy was also bad. I meant that characters making mistakes does not mean the movie is bad. In fact, a movie in which no one made a mistake would be boring.

  2. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    This is kind of grim, but I wonder whether civilization is going to be on a long cycle epidemics, finding out that vaccines stop epidemics, not having epidemics, forgetting that vaccines are important, and around we go again.

    • broblawsky says:

      That does basically seem to be the case. Behind The Bastards, a podcast I listen to, did a piece about early anti-vaxx sentiment, and that was basically what happened with smallpox.

      • Dack says:

        what happened with smallpox.

        You mean before it was eradicated?

        • Eric Rall says:

          I’m guessing before the modern cowpox/vaccinia-based (*) smallpox vaccine was developed in the late 1700s. For some time before that, there was a preventative treatment based on deliberately infecting people of a less-deadly strain of smallpox (called “inoculation” or “variolation”).

          Inoculation had about a 2% fatality rate, compared with the 20% death rate from wild smallpox strains. Not every non-immune person would catch smallpox in an epidemic, but enough did (around 60%, by Voltaire’s contemporary estimate) and epidemics were frequent enough to make inoculation probably worth the risk. But I wouldn’t be surprised if inoculation waned in popularity the longer it had been since the last epidemic, since the deaths from inoculation would be more salient than deaths a decade before in the last epidemic, and since people would start hoping that there wouldn’t be another epidemic any time soon (and there were records of major recurring plagues, such as English Sweating Sickness, going away and never coming back).

          (*) Jenner described his original vaccine as being based on a strain of cowpox, but the vaccine strain was cultivated separately rather than being harvested anew from wild cowpox. At some point, it was discovered that the prevailing vaccine strain was actually from a separate branch of the Orthopox genus, more closely related to horsepox or rabbitpox than to true cowpox. Exactly how and when this happened is a matter of speculation.

    • b_jonas says:

      Yes. The responsible people are already saying that polio won’t get eradicated because as long as it only lives in Africa, nobody is willing to pay money for vaccinations. Our granddaugthers’ generation will have polio, and perhaps rubella too.

      • 10240 says:

        Even from a purely financial standpoint, it would be worth paying for eradicating it, because once it’s completely eradicated, we could stop paying for vaccinations in the rest of the world as well (just as we don’t vaccinate for smallpox anymore).

        • Statismagician says:

          I occasionally wonder if the last few cases in e.g. Pakistan wouldn’t be more efficiently prevented via infrastructure improvements – gigantic national vaccination campaigns are really expensive if there would only have been one or two cases without them, whereas food/water sanitation improvements have all sorts of other benefits and also prevent the most common routes of polio transmission.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Yes. The responsible people are already saying that polio won’t get eradicated because as long as it only lives in Africa, nobody is willing to pay money for vaccinations.

        Well if that were so, it would be a good thing polio lives in Asia as well. In fact, there’s been no wild-type polio reported in Africa since 2016, though there has been vaccine-derived polio.

        A better theory, I think, is that these “responsible people” are wrong about easy to verify facts and should not be trusted.

      • Statismagician says:

        Citation, please, for all of that. Everything WHO, CDC, and relevant national authorities that I can find says that the main problem is that relevant areas of the three remaining countries where polio is endemic are active war zones, which you’ll agree isn’t conducive to effective public health operations. Also two of them are in Asia – I can’t help but wonder who these responsible people are supposed to be.

        EDIT: Moreover, assuming no new wild-type polio is reported in Nigeria before December of this year, Africa will probably be certified polio-free (three years without detection being the standard threshold).

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        b_jonas, that’s not the claim I’m making. I’m talking about mainstream culture failing to vaccinate, not reservoirs for a disease where vaccination isn’t feasible.

      • albatross11 says:

        b jonas:

        That’s a nasty, malicious lie. Where on Earth did you hear it?

        First of all, previous eradications of smallpox and rinderpest included Africa, obviously, since otherwise the diseases wouldn’t have actually been eradicated.

        Second, from what I can tell, polio still exists in wild form[1] only in three countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. Note that this means all the rest of Africa doesn’t have wild-type polio, and that two countries in Central Asia have it.

        [1] The live-virus vaccine for polio occasionally reverts back to a virulent form, but provides better protection from symptomatic polio than the inactivated polio virus, so places where the wild form is eradicated still have a few cases, usually in immune-suppressed people.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I can guess as to the distribution problems in Afghanistan and Nigeria, but what’s Pakistan’s problem? Why isn’t it polio eradicated there?

          • albatross11 says:

            I gather there are some parts of Pakistan where the central government has little control. And I gather that we used people impersonating international health workers doing polio vaccination in the search for Bin Laden, which probably has made the locals pretty skeptical of the good intentions of other health volunteers. (Though the Taliban weren’t exactly shy about killing those folks off anyway.)

  3. brad says:

    The article (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/11/books/review/lions-den-susie-linfield.html) is a review for a book I almost certainly won’t read, but the lede captures my mood quite well:

    As discouraging as these times may be for fans of liberal democracy, the mood among liberal friends of Israel — including most American Jews — is more like severe heartbreak. Look one way and there’s Israel’s right wing carousing with European despots and Holocaust deniers while fanning racism at home. Look the other way and see the cream of the intersectional left cavorting with the reactionary bigot Louis Farrakhan while young rock-star progressives in Congress set about rebranding the Jewish state from ally into enemy and its supporters — meaning, again, most American Jews — into traitors.

    • BBA says:

      I hear you. For a while I was trying to thread the needle of being pro-Israel and anti-Netanyahu, but eventually I realized that Israel is Netanyahu. Left-wing Zionism died with Rabin, and all that remains is an authoritarian ethno-nationalism that I can’t support. So I’ve been on the edge of throwing in entirely with the new left, but no matter how many times I tell myself that anti-Zionism isn’t antisemitism, there’s something in me deep down that can’t quite believe it.

      Another piece published this week argues that the American Jewish “Golden Age” is on the verge of collapse due to these forces. I think he’s right that this is happening, but I’m not so sure that it’s a bad thing.

      • brad says:

        I’m annoyed by that author. For the all the pretense to be brave and willing to say what needs to be said, because it is so touchy the word Ashkenazi appears not even once.

        Israel, meanwhile, will be fine. Many forms of Orthodoxy will thrive there, and many forms of secular Jewish civilization in the making will thrive there as well. Israel is already the largest and most vibrant Jewish society on earth. But the American Jewish community’s “golden age” will be gone, and most of the American Jewish community will disappear with it. There will be periodic hopeful revivals, and they will all fail.

        It’s not just American Jewry that will be gone. Ashkenazi culture will cease to exist anywhere on the planet. Arguably it already has. Israel may be the largest and most vibrant Jewish society, but nearly all traces of Ashkenazi culture are long gone–even on the kibbutzim whose creation was in some ways its apotheosis.

        (Giving some prevailing notions ’round here, I think it is worth noting that the final nail in the coffin for Ashkenazi culture in Israel was not Sephardim, though that started the process, but rather the influx of people that were at least mostly genetically Ashkenazi but were and are culturally Russian.)

        • johan_larson says:

          nearly all traces of Ashkenazi culture are long gone

          Would you elaborate on that? Isn’t virtually everyone in the upper tiers of Israeli institutions Ashkenazi?

        • vV_Vv says:

          (Giving some prevailing notions ’round here, I think it is worth noting that the final nail in the coffin for Ashkenazi culture in Israel was not Sephardim, though that started the process, but rather the influx of people that were at least mostly genetically Ashkenazi but were and are culturally Russian.)

          It looks like you are using Ashkenazi as synonym of American Jews and you are no-true-scotsmanning those who don’t fit the mold.

          • brad says:

            How do you square that analysis with:

            even on the kibbutzim whose creation was in some ways its apotheosis

          • albatross11 says:

            I guess one part of this is the loss of Yiddish as a native spoken language. In some parallel universe, the Jewish homeland speaks Yiddish and Hebrew is just a liturgical language.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @brad

            I’m pretty sure that most of the original kibbutznikim were Russian emigrants, which doesn’t seem to add up with your claim that Russian Jews somehow don’t count as real Ashkenazim.

          • brad says:

            You’ve entirely missed the point. Of course Jews from the pale were real Ashkenazi. Arguably that was its heart.

            The issue is that over decades the Soviet Union destroyed Ashkenazi culture within its borders. Those that came out the other side were mostly of Russian culture instead despite whatever familial relationships they share with those that left forty, fifty plus years earlier.

          • vV_Vv says:

            The issue is that over decades the United States destroyed Ashkenazi culture within its borders. Those that came out the other side were mostly of American culture instead despite whatever familial relationships they share with those that left forty, fifty plus years earlier.

            How is that different? It’s not like most American Jews speak Yiddish and live in shtetlekh (despite the occasional nostalgia).

          • brad says:

            Again, yes I agree with that. If I say Ashkenazi culture will disappear from the planet that includes the US. It was just a slower process in the US than the Soviet Union.

            Anyway the point is that if it could have survived anywhere it would have been Israel but alas it hasn’t.

            It’s not just about the disappearance of shabbos in favor of shabbat, Beyrl in favor of Barak, brisket in favor of shawarma—all of those are just surface level details. The real loss is of a certain outlook on the world. The kibbutzim were never going to work but there was something special about the people that thought they would, and made it happen at least for a little while.

        • Orpheus says:

          Ashkenazi culture will cease to exist anywhere on the planet. Arguably it already has.

          This is a ridicules assertion. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but in Israel there are plenty of Ashkenazi communities no Sephardim, Russians or Ethiopians are going to have access to any time soon.

          • brad says:

            What by descent? That’s not culture.

            What aspects of the culture of Eastern European Jewry prior to WWII do you think those communities continue to embody?

            (If you are talking about the haradi, disregard the above. I’d say accurate, but misleading.)

          • Orpheus says:

            @brad
            I was thinking of not just the haredi, but religious people of Ashkenazi descent in general. If you are religious and Ashkenazi, you almost certainly attend an Ashkenazi synagogue, which are not particularly welcoming to outsiders (in fact, people who convert to Judaism in Israel are mostly encouraged to attend a Sephardi synagogue), and a lot of culture is built around that.

          • brad says:

            I think maybe two things are being conflated here:
            1) the culture(s) of group(s) of contemporary people that all happen to be of Ashkenazi descent

            2) a culture that is recognizably similar in important ways to the culture of Eastern and Central European Jewry circa 1848-1938.

      • 10240 says:

        When the Israel left was in power in the first few decades of Israel, it was as hawkish as the right is today. On the issues that create the most controversy among American Jews (treatment of Palestinians, stagnating peace process), Israelis didn’t become more right-wing, American Jews became more left-wing. Arab areas of Israel were under military rule for quite a while after Israel’s foundation. American Jews may lament the continued Israeli control of the West Bank, but they celebrated when Israel conquered the West Bank in the first place in 1967, and ceding any of it was not even on the table for at least two decades after that.

        Netanyahu is not a liberal, but how is he authoritarian?

        • Aapje says:

          See Ben-Gurion, whose goal was to drive the Palestinians from Greater Israel, but who was a member of Marxist–Zionist Poale Zion. He was more center-left than hard left & when the party split between communists and social-democrats he ended up on the social-democrat side.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Zionism is an ethno-nationalist political ideology: one people, one nation, one state, one land, one religion, and so on.

          Usually these ideologies are coded as far-right, but they can occur on the left as well. Notable examples are the ruling parties in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

          More controversially, the original Italian PNF and the German NSDAP both descended from socialist parties and retained elements of socialism in their political platforms, although were considered and considered themselves opposed to the Marxist ideology or the International-aligned socialist parties.

          Zionism in practice was always a mishmash of religious nationalists, secular right-wing ethno-nationalists (probably close in ideology to the modern alt-righters) and Socialist-Marxist nationalists (close to the ANC). In the last decade or so the left-wing component seems to have died out completely.

          Israelis didn’t become more right-wing, American Jews became more left-wing.

          It may not be the case that they have become “more left-wing” as if there was a single right-left axis. They have become more aligned with the Western social-democratic left, which is closer to the right in terms of economic policy but strongly anti-nationalist, with strong support for low restrictions on immigration, multiculturalism, separation between Church and state, and so on.

          Americans Jews must be succumbing to the cognitive dissonance of booing Trump for wanting to Build the Wall while at the same time cheering for a country that not only builds walls but enacts what amounts to Lebensraum and Apartheid policies.

          • 10240 says:

            As I also wrote in the newer OT, ethnic nationalism is usually considered far-right in countries whose nationalism is traditionally civic (non-ethnic) nationalism (such as most of the Americas and Western Europe), but not in countries with an ethnic nationalist tradition, where the nation has traditionally been defined largely by descent; they are also often more moderate than ethnic nationalists in countries where ethnic nationalism is not mainstream.

          • albatross11 says:

            10240:

            Can you expand on that a bit? I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head, but that probably says more about what I don’t know than what the world looks like.

          • 10240 says:

            @albatross11 (Everything below is my moderately informed impressions.)

            The basic distinction comes down to how membership in the national grouping is defined. In most Central and Eastern European countries (approx. Germany and to its East), but also in some other countries like Japan or Korea, it’s traditionally defined on the basis of descent (even for non-nationalists), while in multi-ethnic states like the US, but even in Western European nation states like France or Italy, it’s defined mainly on the basis of citizenship. (Indeed, the word ‘nation’ itself has become mostly synonymous with country, while in some countries its equivalents are used rather like ethnicity, as suggested by its etymology). Even though I’m not a nationalist, and I generally have nothing against foreigners, at first it was weird to read people who were clearly not of, say, Italian descent, and were naturalized citizens, being described as “an Italian of an x origin”. In Hungary, a naturalized citizen of non-Hungarian ethnicity would be considered a Hungarian citizen but not a Hungarian — you are a Hungarian if your mom and dad were Hungarians. That’s not to say that we track pure bloodlines: if your ancestors have lived in Hungary for several generations, you speak Hungarian as a native language, and you are entirely assimilated, most people would consider you a Hungarian, even if your ancestry can be traced back to foreigners.

            In countries with such an ethnic tradition, nationalism is usually ethnic nationalism. That doesn’t necessarily mean they want to oppress or discriminate against minorities, but at least on a symbolic level, the country is considered to be the country of its defining ethnic group — much like Zionists, whether moderate or hardline, primarily define Israel to be the country of the Jews, not as the country of the Israelis. Moderate variants of ethnic nationalism fill largely the same place on the political spectrum as civic nationalism in countries with a civic nationalist tradition.
            To the extent I understand them, a summary of typical civic nationalist/state nationalist views would be “America is the country of the Americans [i.e. American citizens]. America is great, American culture is great, and we should promote it and encourage immigrants to assimilate into it. American culture is the sum and synthesis of the cultures of all the ethnic groups in it. [In nation states like France this would be replaced with a more specific culture, but still not clearly tied to ethnicity.] The government should prioritize the interests of America on the domestic and the international stage.”
            A summary of typical ethnic nationalist views would be “Hungary is fundamentally the country of the Hungarians [the ethnic group], as it has always been. We should set up our institutions as it suits the Hungarians, and the government should promote the interests of the Hungarians. [In moderate versions this normally won’t come into conflict with the minorities already living in the country, but it will affect e.g. immigration decisions.] Minorities may live in the country as long as they live in peace with us. Hungarian culture is the culture of the Hungarians [ethnic group], and it should be promoted and preserved.” Ethnic nationalists will typically find it important to support communities of their ethnic group living as minorities in other countries, and they will support easy immigration for people of their ethnic group. They would definitely find it important to keep their ethnicity the majority in their country; most countries with an ethnic nationalist tradition are homogeneous enough that this doesn’t require any drastic measures (or any measures at this point).

            Ethnic nationalists in countries with civic nationalist traditions are generally more radical, as the only people who are ethnic nationalists are those who particularly strongly care about ethnicity. And particularly in a “melting pot” country that is traditionally seen as a “country of all of its citizens”, an attempt to elevate a particular ethnic group to a privileged position, even on a symbolic level, is naturally seen as far right and racist. Then there is also a question of different systems of reference: countries with ethnic nationalism are usually less liberal, so rhetoric that would be seen as extreme in America isn’t considered so.
            (In Germany, nationalism has been considered decidedly uncool since WWII, at least until the AfD, and it’s still seen as far right. Nevertheless, even in the absence of nationalism, AFAIK Germans have continued to use a descent-based definition of who is a German.)

            The distinction between civic and ethnic nationalist traditions is apparent even at their most extreme: Italian fascism was not racial at its core, and it could be considered an extreme version of civic nationalism/state nationalism, while Nazism was an extreme version of ethnic nationalism.

        • BBA says:

          I see the attempts to censor and disrupt left-wing movements trying to report on conditions in the Palestinian territories as authoritarian. You may say, it’s wartime and they have to suppress efforts to aid the enemy. Fine, but that doesn’t mean I have to support it.

          Before, there was at least the fiction that Israel wanted peace and coexistence. I see now that it was always a lie, even in Herzl’s time. Without the forever war, there is no Zionism, no Israel.

          But it’s been anathema to criticize Israel in “mainstream” American Jewish circles since there’s been an Israel. Zionism is so thoroughly a part of Reform/Conservative Judaism and our secular institutions that it’s hard to imagine what an anti-Zionist or post-Zionist Judaism looks like. So what’s left for us? Intermarriage, assimilation, becoming generic white people with quirky food? I guess that’s the American dream.

          • Aapje says:

            Zionism seems to have become much more popular among Jews living outside of Israel once the Israeli project got going, probably due to tribalism.

            Although non/anti-Zionists also seemed to have been ejected from leadership positions of Jewish organizations and the position pushed out of the Overton Window, so perhaps a lot of people with those beliefs are merely silenced.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      see the cream of the intersectional left cavorting with the reactionary bigot Louis Farrakhan while young rock-star progressives in Congress set about rebranding the Jewish state from ally into enemy and its supporters — meaning, again, most American Jews — into traitors.

      I think this trend will continue with shifting demographics. People of south American descent, Muslims, Asians, etc, do not have white guilt. “American” attitudes/affection for traditionally mistreated minorities like blacks and Jews are not universals, but a product of white American history*, and will be reevaluated when the Americans are no longer the same people.

      I’ve mentioned before that if you’re “straight outta Compton” these days there’s a 65% chance you’re hispanic or Latino, as the south/central American immigrants have displaced the historically black residents. As a person who harbors the tiniest, tiniest amount of white guilt reserved for blacks, whose ancestors, unlike everyone else’s, did not choose to come here, this strikes me as unfair to blacks. While whites may do some soul-searching over, say, gentrification, I don’t expect Latinos to be much bothered by black displacement. Similarly, I don’t expect Latinos, and definitely not Muslims, to ever have much sympathy for Jewish concerns. An awful lot of people are only concerned about minority rights when they’re in the minority.

      ETA: * by which I mean that (some) white Americans feel guilt over slavery, and apparently the Holocaust. That’s sort of what I gather from frequent attempts by the media to smear Republicans as Nazis. I think this is a confusion of sympathy for guilt. This has always fallen flat for me, because Americans aren’t Germans. But to the media all white people look alike. Grandad wasn’t a Nazi, he fought the Nazis (or rather their allies since his ship was in the Pacific).

      • vV_Vv says:

        It seems that in Europe the white guilt phenomenon is also largely limited to Germanic cultures. Germans, of course, were the original Nazi, Swedes were their allies, while Brits fought the Nazi but feel guilty over colonialism.

        Southern and Eastern European cultures, on the other hand, seem largely immune to white guilt: it exists, but it’s not a mainstream position, even in countries that were historical allies of the Nazi and/or participated in colonialism.

      • brad says:

        @Conrad Honcho

        see the cream of the intersectional left cavorting with the reactionary bigot Louis Farrakhan while young rock-star progressives in Congress set about rebranding the Jewish state from ally into enemy and its supporters — meaning, again, most American Jews — into traitors.

        I think this trend will continue with shifting demographics. People of south American descent, Muslims, Asians, etc, do not have white guilt. “American” attitudes/affection for traditionally mistreated minorities like blacks and Jews are not universals, but a product of white American history*, and will be reevaluated when the Americans are no longer the same people.

        I think you are badly failing the ideological Turing test here. Just because you have extreme resentment of what you perceive to be “white guilt” doesn’t mean that those that you see as beneficiaries of it are gleefully basking in its supposed benefits.

        Separately, I don’t see why you think in the absence of “white guilt” the natural equilibrium point is anti-semitism. I’d think it’d be indifference.

        All in all your worldview seems to be heavily influenced by a belief in a zero sum ethnic/racial spoils system. To a certain extent is fine–if that’s how you view the world, that’s how you view the world. But it shades into outright wrong if you don’t account in your model of the world for the fact that many other people–at the very least–don’t consciously think the same way.

        • Aapje says:

          Just because you have extreme resentment of what you perceive to be “white guilt” doesn’t mean that those that you see as beneficiaries of it are gleefully basking in its supposed benefits.

          I don’t see how your comment relates to what you quoted or the rest of the comment. He talked about those who feel guilt, not about the beneficiaries.

          Separately, I don’t see why you think in the absence of “white guilt” the natural equilibrium point is anti-semitism.

          He said a lack of sympathy, which seems to me to argue for the absence of philosemitism/allophilia, not the existence of antisemitism.

          There is a difference between “I don’t care about you” and “I hate you.”

          However, it’s true that people often confuse the two. Perhaps this is in part because the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference, as Elie Wiesel observed (correctly, I think).

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Separately, I don’t see why you think in the absence of “white guilt” the natural equilibrium point is anti-semitism. I’d think it’d be indifference.

          I never said the natural equilibrium point is antisemitism. I said American affection for minority groups would be reevaluated. The Latinos in Compton aren’t displacing the blacks because they hate them. They just don’t care in the way white people might be concerned about gentrification. The only people who care about anti-racism (when they’re in the majority) are white people. The word “racist” is actually scary to white people and will make them change their behavior. No one else cares (see Sarah Jeong. Completely shameless racial hatred).

          The Japanese and the Koreans and the Chinese all hate each other. But if you hear a Japanese person say something bad about the Chinese and admonish him “that’s racist!” he’ll probably look at you like you’re from the moon. What is “racism” that he should care about? There’s no Japanese cultural meme to be nice to everyone who isn’t Japanese. A Japanese person who hates the Chinese isn’t doing anything he or other Japanese (or even the Chinese) would consider “wrong.” That’s a value exclusive to Americans/Europeans.

          The same with antisemitism. The US is extremely philosemitic. I think evangelical christians love Israel more than Israelis do. Call a white person antisemitic and they will fall all over themselves to prove they’re not a nazi. But President AOC is not going to be putting out statements in support of holocaust remembrance like President Trump. What are the nazis to her? Hitler was neither friend nor enemy to her people. So, indifference.

          All in all your worldview seems to be heavily influenced by a belief in a zero sum ethnic/racial spoils system.

          I prefer the higher American principle of “from many, one.” Where we assimilate many different peoples into a shared common American culture. But that’s not what we’re doing these days with the multiculturalism thing. And the natural state of people is tribal. I think the future of America looks more like Brazil, where yes, it’s a zero sum game of racial groups scrambling over government benefits.

          By “cream of the intersectional left” I assume you’re talking about AOC, Ilhan Omar, etc. AOC is a blood-and-soil racist:

          Because we are standing on Native land, and Latino people are descendants of Native people. And we cannot be … criminalized simply for our identity or our status.

          The land is theirs…because blood. I disagree with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. This is not “latino land” and this is not “white land.” It’s American land, that we can all share, so long as we’re all Americans. I’m not in favor of allowing people to ignore the immigration laws because of their race. I’m not the one with the zero-sum ethnic/racial spoils system here. That would be AOC and the intersectional left. I oppose them because that’s an unworkable system. But we’re barreling towards that unworkable system, and the only person in Washington trying to do anything about it is Trump. But he’s only one man and will be out of power in 2-6 years, and then the borders will be thrown wide open by either the Democratic Socialist or neocon Republican who comes after him and we’ll see what happens.

          • brad says:

            So, indifference.

            Indifference is exactly what many of us want. Not the Likudniks that want to use cynical accusations of antisemitism to advance their agenda, but as for the rest of us indifference is just peachy.

            But here’s your earlier comment:

            see the cream of the intersectional left cavorting with the reactionary bigot Louis Farrakhan while young rock-star progressives in Congress set about rebranding the Jewish state from ally into enemy and its supporters — meaning, again, most American Jews — into traitors

            I think this trend will continue with shifting demographics. People of south American descent, Muslims, Asians, etc, do not have white guilt. “American” attitudes/affection for traditionally mistreated minorities like blacks and Jews are not universals, but a product of white American history*, and will be reevaluated when the Americans are no longer the same people.

            That’s not talking about indifference at all. That’s saying that animosity will increase and at least strongly implies that the only thing holding back animosity now is the “white guilt” you seem to place so much emphasis on.

          • Clutzy says:

            That’s not talking about indifference at all. That’s saying that animosity will increase and at least strongly implies that the only thing holding back animosity now is the “white guilt” you seem to place so much emphasis on.

            I think that is true in Europe, although in America there has been forged a fairly strong Christian-Jew bond among white Christians particularly in suburbia. But any drunk, so long as there weren’t blinded by ideology, could see that that bond never extended to black, Arab, and Latino populations who have remained pretty openly antisemitic for my entire lifetime. So multiculturalism was always going to threaten Jewish populations in America, because it was always the white supermajority protecting them.

            And this has implications for Israel as well, because not only will they lose aid and support from an ally, but they will lose a place to flee to if they end up ever losing a war.

          • Aapje says:

            @brad

            I think that you misunderstand the argument. The claim is that (elite) white people form a very stable element in society and even function as glue for resentful minorities due to their white guilt, which makes them accept a role as a punching bag for minorities and which makes them appease minorities with money and such*.

            It’s more or less the opposite of the SJ narrative, which claims that white men in power make policy that benefits white men at the expense of others & that the most privileged people are the most prejudiced. Instead, the claim is that (elite) white people/men are much more willing to make policy that benefit others over themselves and are far less tribal.

            The minority groups are not indifferent to race, ethnicity, homosexuality, etc. They often have fairly strong hatreds. Sometimes this hatred is of white people, which the white (elites) accept due to white guilt. Sometimes this hatred is of Jews (African Americans seem to be many times more antisemitic than white people, and this disparity is probably far, far greater among elite blacks than among elite whites), or of other groups that you are not supposed to hate.

            They also tend to have a more tribal outlook: what is good for their tribe, rather than other groups or society in general.

            Elite white Democrats (mainly Progressive Activists) tend to have a sort of ‘noble savage’ view of minorities. They view them as people who are far more free from prejudice than themselves, the white (male) oppressors.

            So they try very hard to put minorities (and feminist women) in positions of power & have a strong desire to defer to them, yet these people then very often turn out to far more prejudiced against some minorities (and often men or white people), than the elite white (male) Democrats.

            So the result when more of these minorities (and feminist women) gain positions of power is then that tribalism and prejudice increases. One of the results is a backlash by white people and men that don’t suffer so much from white and male guilt, but another result is that internal conflict and tribalism within the progressive coalition increases. There seems to be a feedback loop as well, with people who suffer less from white and/or male guilt fleeing the Democrats, which causes the remaining Democrats to be more extremist on average, which causes more white/male flight. Perhaps white people and men may feel increasingly threatened and will experience white and male guilt much less due to this?

            Conrad and many others then extrapolate this to the future, where multicultural society (further) devolves into a society of the aggrieved, where people increasingly feel that their tribe suffers great injustice & where this is fairly often blamed on specific other tribes.

            Then as the one group that tends to say things like: ‘Hey, let’s not blame the Jews’ get weaker, those kind of statements and policies might become normalized.

            Of course, whether it happens this way is debatable/uncertain.

            Anyway, the proposed alternative to this is monoculturalism, so different races, ethnicities, etc have a relatively strong agreement on what policies they prefer and disagreements are less along the lines of races, ethnicity, etc. This then allows for indifference to race, because the Jew, black person, white man, etc is not going to be far more likely to have beliefs and/or interests that you strongly oppose. So any hatred of Jews, black people, white men, etc then has to purely feed on irrationality, rather than being fed with anger over true differences.

            * This is similar to how Germany functions in the EU, due to their Nazi guilt.

          • JonathanD says:

            @Aajpe,

            I don’t want to go for a full fisking of your post because it would suck up twenty minutes of my life I’d never get back (and I’m at work). But your perception of the social justice movement is bizarre, and wrong on essentially every point. If your information about them (us? maybe?) comes from Brietbart or whatever it’s European equivalent is, maybe refrain from explaining the movement. You *really* don’t understand it.

            Hmm, on re-checking, you may be simply explaining someone else’s thinking. If so, feel free to disregard.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            What Appje and Clutzy said. The liberal fantasy is that only white people are racist and once they’re out of the picture (i.e., when white men have “shut up” as Senator Hirono requested of them), that will be the end of racism. No, when we hear the voices of Muslim women of color like Ilhan Omar, her voice says she hates Jews. And the rest of the Rainbow Coalition doesn’t care much (indifference) because they’ve been explicitly told they cannot be racist: only whites can be racist. There’s no meme telling them that Omar’s statements are beyond the pale. White parents will punish their children for attitudes disparaging of other races. POC parents not so much.

            AOC has angered members of the black community by floating the idea of Hispanics/Latinos getting a slice of the reparations pie because of redlining. Blacks who’ve been arguing for reparations for slavery for generations are not amused at the freeloading.

            I predict much tribal conflict that the intersectional left will have to work through. Or not. While I desire racial harmony, I think they desire racial “justice,” and all have a very different idea of what “justice” looks like for their particular group.

          • Aapje says:

            @JonathanD

            Your comment is essentially no more than: I disagree.

            There is not much there for me to engage with.

            You don’t have to fisk if you don’t want to put in much time. You can also note that you disagree on multiple things and merely provide arguments against one claim.

          • JonathanD says:

            @Aajpe,

            Your comment is essentially no more than: I disagree.

            I mean, fair point, but since your post was describing the SJ narrative, and I’m at least a SJ believer and sometime advocate, it was more in the way of saying, “No, we’re not like that at all.” Which may well be a distinction without a difference.

            To pick one, as you suggest, SJs don’t believe that “the most privileged people are the most prejudiced”. SJs believe that there is such a thing as white privilege and structural racism, but neither belief implies anything like your quote. I’d rather not get into a long disquisition as to why, not least because I likely wouldn’t do it that well. But any good faith description of either idea will show a good deal of daylight between them and “rich white people are bad”.

          • brad says:

            Thank goodness we have y’all to explain “them” to us. It isn’t like we live, breathe, and work next to “them” every day while y’all get your information about “them” fourth hand or anything.

          • Aapje says:

            @JonathanD

            Yuval-Davis argued in Dialogical Epistemology—An Intersectional Resistance to the “Oppression Olympics.”:

            This accounting of the situatedness of the knowing subject has been used epistemologically in standpoint theories in at least two different ways. One claims that a specific social situatedness (that in itself has been constructed in several different ways) endows the subject with a privileged access to truth. The other, developed among others in Collins’s as well as my own work, rejects such a position and views the process of approximating the truth as part of a dialogical relationship among subjects who are differentially situated.
            […]
            The “stronger” claim, as it has sometimes been made in the context of “identity politics,” has been (polemically) summed up by Collins as saying that “the more subordinated the group,” the “purer” its “vision” (Collins 1990, 207). Some standpoint feminists, such as Zilla Eisenstein (1993), recommended, for example, specifically taking the positioning of women of color and their multiple oppression as an epistemological starting point.

            So my claim seems to be explicitly believed by a subset of SJ advocates. So then your statement that “we are not like that at all” is at best partially true.

            A more complicated question is whether the theoretical support for the dialectic method by the rest of the SJ movement actually translates into a willingness to listen to ‘white’ or ‘male’ points of view. Many people have theoretical ideals that they subscribe to in the abstract, but don’t support specific cases which they consider offensive.

            A common complaint and my experience is that there is immense resistance to arguments that reject the fundamental axioms of SJ, to the point where many ban or ‘no platform’ those who makes arguments against the axioms and/or that implicitly reject them.

            Imagine that only arguments that accept the legitimacy of slavery were allowed in newspapers in the south of America during slavery, with no restriction on the race of the person making the arguments. So white and black people could speak explicitly or implicitly in favor of slavery, but not against it.

            Imagine that some black people would then speak out in favor (which is plausible, as some black people were enthusiastic slave-holders). Would you then accept the claim that black viewpoints are accepted? I would not.

            Anyway, I was crude in my statement, but you are similarly crude in your blanket denial.

          • Aapje says:

            @brad

            If I got my information fourth-hand, they would be my far-group.

  4. johan_larson says:

    The first episode of the final season of Game of Thrones will be airing this evening. There are a lot of fans of the show here on SSC, and I’m sure we’ll have a lot to say about it.

    Let’s use this subthread right here to discuss the episode. Since the thread will have been superseded by the 125.50 thread by the time the episode airs, most the of the readership will have moved on and we will be able to talk here without worrying about spoilers.

    • Dack says:

      The dragon must have three heads.

      I think it’s pretty obvious at this point who the heads are.

    • Plumber says:

      @johan_larson,
      I enjoy watching Game of Thrones (the “Battle of The Bastards” was up there with Alexander Nevsky and Chimes at Midnight, and otherwise the series has nudity and dragons, sonetimes both in the same episode!) but I won’t be watching the episode until a DVD of it comes to my local library some months from now.

    • johan_larson says:

      Well, that felt very much like stage-setting. A few pieces were moved (The Golden Company to King’s Landing and Daenerys’s army to Winterfell) and a lot important facts were carefully stated so anyone who hasn’t been watching for seven season doesn’t get lost.

      I understand why they did that, but with only six episodes in the whole season, that was a lot of time to spend on catch-up. They could easily enough have spliced together a half-hour review outside the main episodes from older footage with a bit of voice-over. It would have been cheap and easy, and it would have let them get the show on the road more quickly in what little time they have left.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Stage-setting indeed, but now I feel like they are going to shoot their wad early. It looks like, what, Battle of Winterfell at Ep3? What happens after that? I assume Winterfell goes poorly with some dramatic reveal about the Night King.

        • johan_larson says:

          Yara foreshadowed a retreat of some sort from Winterfell to the Iron Islands.

          A first fight at Winterfell in S3 sounds about right, and the White Walkers will win that one. That suggests a final fight at King’s Landing in S6 or maybe S5.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The whole “Iron Islands” thing definitely seems like a “plot demands character moves here” movement. There’s no point to move Yara to the Iron Islands unless you are going to move the core characters there, or make a big dramatic scene about how, yes, White Walkers CAN swim!
            Plus, you need most of the army destroyed so Jon and Dany can be underdogs again.
            I could also imagine Tyrion marching the rest of the defeated army South to link up with the Golden Company, and Tyrion being shocked, SHOCKED that Cersei betrays him.

            The Bronn Arc seems like legitimate fun, except that he obviously won’t succeed, except when everyone discovers Bran is also the Night King, Bronn tries to kill Bran, and Jaime takes the crossbow bolt instead. Of course Jaime still needs to limp himself back to King’s Landing to kill Cersei….

    • John Schilling says:

      I could have done without the bit where the Very Important Secret that two people need to know, is deliberately told to only one of them to ensure miscommunication for several episodes to come. And yes, they wrote in a reason for Sam to want to do it that way, but not for Bran to want Sam to do it that way. Bran’s nigh-omniscience is going to be hard to integrate into any reasonable plot going forward, and I don’t think this is the way to do that.

      Otherwise, as johan says, they just spent the episode reminding everybody where everything stood at the end of last season. And some gratuitous Dragon-riding with Jon and Dany, which I’m OK with. Though if the plan is to convince the North to accept an alliance between the two of them, I’m thinking maybe they ought to have done Dragon-riding 101 a few days earlier and made their entrance into Winterfell riding a pair of matched Dragons.

      • gbdub says:

        The other problem with the Very Important Secret is that it prevents us from getting too invested in Jon and Dany’s relationship, knowing as we do that the Very Important Secret is going to fundamentally alter it.

        (Incidentally I think Bran’s reasoning in show world was that he wanted to hang out in the courtyard for the very special cliffhanger reunion)

    • johan_larson says:

      People who are outdoors in cold weather should be wearing hats. The principal figures mostly didn’t.

      • Protagoras says:

        TV/film conventions. Basically the same thing as people who are engaging in serious fighting nearly always wear helmets, leaders/protagonists in TV/film almost never do. More important to let the audience see the character’s heads than to be realistic.

        • albatross11 says:

          +1

          Also, major characters taking part in minor raids/operations that should be done by people several hops down the chain. That happens in books, too, for the same reason–we want to see the major viewpoint characters in the middle of the action, even when their proper position would be sitting behind a desk hearing reports from the senior officers whose junior officers commanded the raid.

    • gbdub says:

      How does Targaryen royal succession really work? Rhaegar was the crown prince, but he was killed at the Trident while Aerys was still alive – Rhaegar was never king. So at that point, would the succession really pass to Jon/Egg 6 or would it go to Rhaegar’s siblings (Viserys and Dany)?

      • Protagoras says:

        Standard primogeniture, which to all appearances is what Martin has in mind, has it that in the event of the death of the crown prince, the succession passes to the children of the crown prince if he happens to have any, and to his younger siblings only if he didn’t have children. Hence, e.g., Richard of Bordeaux, and not John of Gaunt, was the successor to Edward III (Martin clearly takes inspiration from English royalty specifically). Though that didn’t turn out well for Richard down the road.

      • vV_Vv says:

        Also they say that Rhaegar had legitimately married Lyanna Stark, but as far as I can tell he never actually divorced Elia Martell and Westeros doesn’t allow polygamy (and possibly not even divorce), therefore their marriage is not legitimate and Jon Snow is still a bastard.

        The only way out is if he actually married Lyanna right after Elia Martell was murdered by the Mountain, but I don’t think this fits the time line.

        • Nornagest says:

          The Targaryens have done polygamy — it seems to be one of the things that’s generally against Westerosi mores but historically accepted for their dragon princes. Aegon I had two wives, for example. Although there and in all the other examples I can think of offhand, both wives were also Targaryens — someone that’s read “Blood and Fire” might be able to name some that weren’t, but I haven’t.

        • John Schilling says:

          Also they say that Rhaegar had legitimately married Lyanna Stark, but as far as I can tell he never actually divorced Elia Martell

          IIRC Gilly found in the Citadel’s records, and Sam confirmed, that Rhaegar’s first marriage had been annulled prior to his second marriage. And I’m now watching to see if Dany and Gilly manage to cross paths while the boys are playing their foolish “I’ve got a secret” game.

    • johan_larson says:

      Let’s suppose you are an ordinary sort of person, practicing an ordinary sort of profession, somewhere on Westeros during the events of the eighth season of GoT. Where on Westeros would you want to be?

      • johan_larson says:

        I would want a place that is
        – as far south as possible, away from the zombie invasion
        – defensible
        – not likely to feature in ruling-class intrigues

        Oldtown looks pretty good. It’s way in the south-west, and is a major fortified city. It’s also not King’s Landing, which is probably going to have some trouble coming its way.

      • Nick says:

        I think the Vale would do pretty well. It seems more defensible than any other region/kingdom in Westeros, and it’s been uninvolved with the wars so has more resources for the winter.

      • J Mann says:

        If you’re mostly worried about zombies, I’d pick an island, like the Arbor or Tarth, but that increases your chances of being sacked by the Iron Fleet, which is no prize.

        Sunspear would be good – it’s as far away as you can get, Dorne seems like a fairly pleasant place outside of the crazy parts, and its well defended.

  5. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Is there some way for me to set up a second account for ssc? There are a few things I’d like to say under a pseudonym.

    • mdet says:

      Using a different email address should be enough, right?

      Somewhat related: Are our email addresses visible?

  6. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.facebook.com/carolyne.pickup/posts/2074511299265203

    The short version– a woman writes about having to commit her mother every spring for nine years for severe schizophrenia. It turned out it was because her mother would binge on Easter candy and push her blood sugar to 300 .

    I think mostly people don’t get schizophrenia from blood sugar in that range, but high blood sugar can be a serious mental problem for some people.

    There are a bunch of different angles on this story– was it medical neglect? Should people get routine checkups if they’re committed?

    However, I started thinking about excess and pleasure and such. What would a reasonably healthy popular Easter celebration look like? Moderate amounts of chocolate balanced with hard-boiled eggs? Meanwhile, the desire for something extraordinary gets channeled into elaborate decorations? Maybe.

    I heard a video (no longer available) by Lama Somananda Tantrapa which suggests that stretching is bad for people (he recommends something that sounds a lot like Feldenkrais– gentle exploratory movement), but people can get addicted in a mild way to stretching. It leaves them feeling worse but they keep doing it every day, and he suggests that it’s wanting the endorphins that come from pain/damage.

    This is at least somewhat plausible, though I think there’s also a cultural belief that exercise is supposed to hurt.

    Anyway, it’s interesting that a lot of celebration includes way more food, drink, and loud noise than is comfortable.

    I’m getting a book called Cigarettes Are Sublime, which I gather is about a theory that pain and damage are actually attractive to people.

    Thoughts about celebrations for consequentialists?

    • Viliam says:

      Meanwhile, the desire for something extraordinary gets channeled into elaborate decorations?

      And then we’ll get articles about people being committed for OCD outbreaks…

    • baconbits9 says:

      What would a reasonably healthy popular Easter celebration look like?

      Warninng: Not A Doctor

      Moderate exercise can lower blood sugar levels, a good Easter celebration for kids would be an egg hunt that actually burns calories and not just 30 chucks of chocolate hidden in a 500 sq foot space (but without getting to intense as that can cause a spike in blood sugar levels). So one way to have a healthy and fun kids celebration is to hide toys/sticker books etc along with a few pieces of candy. Maybe put them places where the kids have to work to get to them a bit so you can have the best of everything.

      • AG says:

        Emphasize the “spring” aspect of the celebration, pushing salads and veggies and stuff as the primary foodstuffs, rather than chocolate.

        Substituting the chocolate with the much less dense marshmallow variants would also help.

        Use non-food party favors as the prizes inside of the egg hunt eggs.

        Emphasizing dancing as a part of the celebration, as a means of exercise.

  7. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    There’s a feeling I’d like a name for– the feeling that some statement makes no sense, but it looks like a reference to something from popular culture you don’t know about.

    • toastengineer says:

      I think the young folks call it “ligma.” (this is a joke, sorry)

    • Plumber says:

      @Nancy Lebovitz

      “There’s a feeling I’d like a name for– the feeling that some statement makes no sense, but it looks like a reference to something from popular culture you don’t know about”

      I call that feeling “reading stuff on-line”.

      I used to try and do web searches for more of the stuff that went over my head, but mostly it seemed to be references about anime, Harry Potter, post ’80’s “Star Wars” movies, and especially video games.

      Millennials are just a different breed, and as much as I loathed baby boomers and the world they made as a “Generation X” youth, I now must admit I have far more in common with them than the youngsters.

    • tossrock says:

      I think the internet has decided on “out of the loop”, as seen in the r/OutOfTheLoop subreddit.

  8. BBA says:

    Charles Van Doren died this week at the age of 93. As fans of game shows (or the 1994 movie Quiz Show) will know, Van Doren was one of the earliest game show champions to become a national celebrity, winning $129,000 in a three-month run on NBC’s Twenty-One in 1956-57 and subsequently becoming a correspondent on The Today Show. But then it came crashing down. Previous champion Herb Stempel, whom Van Doren had repeatedly tied, then finally defeated, alleged that the whole show was an elaborate sham. Contestants got questions and answers in advance and were instructed on how to play. Stempel himself had taken a dive, missing an easy question to give Van Doren the win, on the producers’ instructions. At first this was dismissed as sour grapes on Stempel’s part, but then a player on another show, Dotto, discovered a list of answers that had been provided to a competitor. Within a few months in 1958, Dotto and Twenty-One and many other game shows were exposed as rigged and hastily cancelled, and in 1959 Van Doren admitted his role in the fraud to a Congressional hearing. He lost his job on Today and spent the rest of his life in relative obscurity, working for Encyclopedia Britannica as an editor.

    The impact of the scandal on game shows was immediate and obvious. For decades they were mostly relegated to daytime TV, with lower budgets, smaller prizes, and easier games. The scandal also inspired the central gimmick of Jeopardy! – producer Merv Griffin and his wife Julann Wright were discussing the scandal and how it killed off the “question and answer” format, and she suggested a game where the players are given the answers and they have to provide the questions.

    In the late ’90s, the big money prime-time game show made a comeback with Who Wants to be a Millionaire, which tapped into a big part of the appeal of the ’50s games that had been missing since then – the human drama. It’s a slower-paced one-on-one game, you get to know the contestants better and the higher stakes make for a better story. On the other hand, the game itself becomes a lot less central. There have been a series of knock-offs and spin-offs since Millionaire, including of all things a revival of Twenty-One, with the tendency to put drama over gameplay peaking with Deal or no Deal, an insultingly simple game where the point is getting to know the super-annoying people they pick as contestants. (I’m not a fan, in case you couldn’t tell, but obviously it has its appeal or it wouldn’t have stayed on the air so long.)

    But it’s important to remember, the point of a game show, like of anything else on television, is to entertain the audience. They have to be scrupulously fair with the core game element, but there’s still a lot that can be manipulated and will be if the viewers aren’t enjoying it anymore.

    While reading up on the scandal, I found a blog post describing a less expected influence – Philip K. Dick. The novel Time Out of Joint in which a 1950s reality is exposed as an artificial construct directly mentions Van Doren and was written in 1958 as the constructed reality of the quiz shows was coming apart. From there, of course, you get The Truman Show and The Matrix and countless other works. Funny how these ideas can come from the strangest places.

    • Nick says:

      I’ve actually heard of Van Doren from, of all places, the revised edition of Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book. I did not know about the quiz scandal, though.

      Thanks for sharing little historical stories like this; I think this is your third or fourth I’ve seen and they’re always the sort of thing I wouldn’t have otherwise come across.

      • BBA says:

        The irony is that Van Doren really was a smart, knowledgeable guy, and probably could have done well in an honest competition.

    • imoimo says:

      Wow I learned a lot from that. That’s at least 5 cultural icons totally recontextualized. Thanks!

    • the whole show was an elaborate sham. Contestants got questions and answers in advance and were instructed on how to play. Stempel himself had taken a dive, missing an easy question to give Van Doren the win, on the producers’ instructions.

      But why do this? If the producers were going to have to exchange money anyway, what difference would it have made if they’d just had a natural contest?

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        When in doubt, assume everything to do with US telly (especially in earlier decades) is driven by advertising.

        Quoth Wikipedia:

        The initial broadcast of Twenty-One was played honestly, with no manipulation of the game by the producers. That broadcast was, in the words of producer Dan Enright, “a dismal failure”; the first two contestants succeeded only in making a mockery of the format by showing how little they really knew. Show sponsor Geritol, upon seeing this opening-night performance, reportedly became furious with the results, and said in no uncertain terms that they did not want to see a repeat performance.

        The end result: Twenty-One was not merely “fixed”, it was almost completely choreographed. Contestants were cast almost as if they were actors, and in fact were active and (usually) willing partners in the deception. They were given instruction as to how to dress, what to say to the host, when to say it, what questions to answer, what questions to miss, even when to mop their brows in their isolation booths (which had air conditioning that could be cut off at will, to make them sweat more).

        • BBA says:

          The other option would’ve been to make the questions easier. We know now that easy quizzes can be good television – and even modern “hard” quizzes like Jeopardy! and Win Ben Stein’s Money aren’t as hard as an unrigged Twenty-One would be. But at the time, the medium was new and the networks didn’t know what would and wouldn’t work.

      • dndnrsn says:

        What Faza posts gives an indication – it’s likely a similar reason that professional wrestling became fake. A choreographed, faked contest will often be more consistently exciting for the audience than a legitimate contest, more fun to watch.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          it’s likely a similar reason that professional wrestling became fake

          Completely minor point, but was there ever non-fake professional wrestling that turned into fake professional-wrestling?

          • Protagoras says:

            Web research suggests that some of the late 19th century professional wrestling might not have been fake, but they moved to the faked version pretty quickly.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Yes. It started out in the 19th century as basically a travelling carnival type thing (challenge any man in the audience to fight, then use superior skill and sneaky tricks to beat them), got more popular than that, and in the early 20th started to involve more showmanship. When it was “totally fake” differs depending who you ask – but by some point in the middle 20th century, it was what it is now, basically. Choreographed, predetermined, and with a lot of showmanship.

            There’s regional variations – Japanese pro wrestling has the reputation of being more likely to involve “shoots” – and there’s been some legit Japanese MMA fighters who had a background in catch-style pro wrestling (most famously, Kazushi Sakuraba). Meanwhile, some pro wrestlers come from an amateur wrestling background, some of them quite successful – eg, Kurt Angle – and there’s been overlap between fixed pro wrestling and legit MMA in the US.

            Even the choreographed stuff involves a lot of skill, and you’ll get badly messed up if you don’t do it right. Ironically, fake fighting might be harder on the people who do it than real fighting – because they do it a lot more, for starters.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Oh, I have respect for the physical nature of pro-wrestling in the same way I do, say, Cirque Du Soleil. Just was wondering …

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I learned about Van Doren from the game show 500 Questions that was on the air around 5 years ago. (I think they got up to around 700 questions or so, so it lived longer than designed!)

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Just to parrot what Nick said, I really enjoyed the way you wrote this. I knew about Van Doren (largely from the movie Quiz Show), but I liked the way you connected his story to various other cultural touchstones.

  9. HowardHolmes says:

    @Clutzy

    increasing the enforcement rate to nearly 100% would be really good for deterrence, but its not really all that easy

    It would help a lot if we did not waste money on prosecuting crimes, just on catching them in the act. If a crime is committed and we don’t catch the guy doing it, spend zero resources on that but put all resources into improving surveillance. If a guy gets by with robbing a bank put more resources into cameras and patrols so that it cannot happen again. The idea is to convince people that they cannot commit crime without detection.

    Unsolved murders, for instance, are unsolved because they are committed by someone who is not a family relation to the killer, and either was not observed or people refuse to testify where he committed the murder. Even with a cop on every corner he still gets away with it. Even with a cop at every supermarket shoplifters would get away with it.

    I am not suggesting we could catch 100% but improving the rate of catching them is the best way to solve crime. Think of all the resources from prisons that could be saved if we had maximum one year sentences. If all that money was put into prevention, crime would drop dramatically. Think of all the money put into trying O.J. My recommendation is that since no one saw it, let it go and spend the money on more surveillance techniques. For every bit we increase the likelihood of a person getting caught crime will go down.

    Murder is a perfect example of a crime that needs a heavy penalty even with 100% enforcement. There are tons of people who would kill for only a year in prison. I mean if you are retired, it would even make sense to become a contract killer (unless the 100% also includes discovering the payoff), and you could like kill Bezos for Elon Musk for a couple million, then take a year in jail.

    Firstly, when we are talking about catching criminals we are talking about the contractors as well. My assumption on catching someone is that they would not get to keep the booty. The contract killer returns the money AND spends six weeks in jail. He would not do the job if he thought he would be caught. The only people who commit crimes (with some few exceptions) are people who do not think they will be caught. They are not really concerned with whether the penalty is six weeks or sixty years. If they thought they would be caught, they would not do the crime.

  10. AliceToBob says:

    Is there any way to contribute anonymously to a presidential campaign in the USA?

    I spent the previous 10 minutes looking online and I found contradictory claims. Perhaps I’m simply not looking in the correct place.

    My concern is that there seems to be at least one website that was reporting contributions of as little as $32 from the 2016 election, from what I could see, despite claims by the FEC that one can contribute up to $50 (cash) anonymously.

    • Erusian says:

      No. You cannot contribute any amount of money to a presidential campaign anonymously. There are other political organizations that you can contribute to anonymously though. And you can fairly reasonably guess their alignment. If you donate to, for example, BernieSanders4Eva which is incorporated as a PAC that doesn’t have to disclose its donors, then you are effectively donating to Bernie Sanders.

  11. Rebecca Friedman says:

    @Nancy Lebovitz, re: Duolingo

    I wrote you about half of a very long response, and then got distracted by taxes. Since it is now a few days late, but I did think the discussion was interesting, I’m putting my response on the new open thread; I hope people don’t mind.

    I use Duolingo a good deal. It’s a great review tool – if you already learned a language in a classroom setting/some other formal-grammar-teaching situation, it will do a great job of pulling you back from whatever degree of “I think there was a way this language worked?” you’ve gotten into in the years since. It doesn’t teach grammar – at least not well – and should be supplemented by looking up specific grammar (in your favorite textbook and/or google) and ideally also by some sort of exercise in language production (write an essay/translate your own thoughts/figure out how you would phrase things you say regularly [be careful on this last one – if you start addressing your family members in Italian they may be amused, but it is easily overdone]), because it doesn’t teach production either – just translation. Also, because it’s teaching translation, it won’t tell you “this is coherent – people will understand what you’re saying – but it’s clunky and unnatural; use this other thing instead” or “you should realize this form, which you use all the time, is only correct for a subset of possible situations” – it won’t teach you the language brilliantly, and if you didn’t learn those things before you started using it, you’ll need to supplement for natural use of language (reading/listening to music in the language has worked very well for me) if you want to avoid sounding odd.

    But those are quibbles. Duolingo took me from “uh… it’s like Italian, except plurals are in S… and some word substitutions, like beautiful is linda instead of bella… and s is sometimes sh but only in Portugal, not Brazil” to being conversational (if a bit slow) in and comfortable reading Brazilian Portuguese, in about two lessons (less than five minutes) a day for something over a year. That’s a really powerful tool.

    Responding directly to the article (which I read after writing the above), I see that its concerns about Duolingo include:

    – Impratical vocabulary. In my experience this is untrue. Duolingo has pretty typical vocab selection, mostly the same as I’d expect to find in any textbook.

    – An insistence on one acceptable translation per sentence prompt. I’m… not sure where they got that idea? At least for those languages I’ve taken (granted, generally common ones), not only does Duolingo accept multiple answers as long as they are all possible, each exercise has a button for “my translation should be accepted” which you are encouraged to press if you find one it missed, and someone in fact will go through, update, and send you a “we now accept which you proposed for , thank you for making Duolingo better!” email if you press that button. It’s possible this was once a problem, but right now if anything I think Duolingo is leaning a bit too far in the opposite direction – I occasionally see it allowing a translation that’s clumsy/unnatural/no native speaker would actually say this instead of nudging you towards a better-in-the-language one.

    – Lack of explanation for incorrect answers. This is definitely a major weakness, although each exercise has a comments section, and so you can often get your explanation there, either by asking or by finding someone else has already asked and been answered. I worry a bit more about lack of warning on only-sometimes-correct answers, but I’ve written a good deal about that above.

    – Making extravagant claims. I don’t really have an opinion here. It does inflate itself somewhat, but most products do; I do think it does actual good, just not as much as it claims.

    – Teaching by pure repetition/example instead of explaining grammar. This is true, but not necessarily a problem. Duolingo teaches by exposure, which is essentially a wimpy form of immersion (I am here defining “immersion” as “the way you learn your first language”, ie “hear examples, generalize grammar from them”). This works beautifully for some people, and terribly for others. I’m one of the others, which is why I use Duolingo to refresh, not learn – but I’ve known people who get driven nuts by the proper academic classes in which I thrive, and instead teach themselves by listening to people/watching TV/using a program like Duolingo or Rosetta Stone – and end up fluent. I’d be more sympathetic to this specific complaint if the article recognized that this kind of pick-up-the-grammar-from-examples method worked for some people, just not everyone, but instead they complain that Duolingo is worse than immersion, as if it were part of the same problem. To me, this doesn’t seem to follow; do they imagine that, when one is walking around the street in Paris, the Parisians are explaining how verb conjugations work? Immersion vs. academic-teaching explain-the-grammar is a binary, and Duolingo is absolutely on one side of the binary, but it’s sharing that side with ordinary immersion. (Which it is weaker than – but has to be; full immersion is hard and expensive.) I’d love a free language-learning program that was scaled towards the academic side, and Duolingo isn’t it, but it wouldn’t be better than Duolingo – just more suited to me.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Thank you for the amount of detail. I’m passing this on to the person I got the link from.

  12. Theodoric says:

    Why have movies stopped having intermissions? Why did 142 minute 2001 have a pee break, but not 181 minute Avengers: Engame? It can’t be due to home video releases because the intermission could just be cut from the home video release (or skipped by the viewer). I would think theaters would like intermissions to make a comeback, because they would sell more snacks (especially drinks).

    • Well... says:

      Just a guess, but an intermission really breaks the fourth wall, and it could be that modern sensibilities are more averse to the fourth wall being broken than in years past.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I think intermissions were a holdover from the format expected by audiences who went to plays (or concerts), frequently in the same venue. Some break was dictated by the projectionist needing time to switch the reels of film.

      But once this break can be eliminated, you’d most likely rather have a second screening with a more convenient screening time. More snacks will be sold to a new audience member than one at an intermission.

    • INH5 says:

      A lot of Bollywood movies still have intermissions. Apparently, it’s not uncommon for Indian movie theaters to simply pause foreign films without intermissions in the middle, because the audience expects that.

      My guess is that it’s because in both old Hollywood and modern Bollywood, a lot of the audience didn’t/doesn’t have very good home entertainment options, so when they go to see a movie they expect to be entertained for their entire evening. Adding an intermission both makes long movies more bearable and is a cheap way of padding out the time by itself (I’ve heard that it was also pretty common to have newsreels, cartoons, etc. shown before a movie).

      Now that almost all Hollywood movies don’t have intermissions, most American theaters aren’t equipped to handle them, so even movies long enough that they could benefit from an intermission don’t have them.

    • LesHapablap says:

      We have a nice theatre here with large seats with small tables between them for drinks and food from the bar. They always have an intermission so people can head to the bathroom and get drinks at the bar. It’s very pleasant and turns a movie into more of a social event.

  13. Rebecca Friedman says:

    @Nancy Lebovitz, re: Duolingo

    I wrote you about half of a very long response, and then got distracted by taxes. Since it is now a few days late, but I did think the discussion was interesting, I’m putting my response on the new open thread; I hope people don’t mind.

    I use Duolingo a good deal. It’s a great review tool – if you already learned a language in a classroom setting/some other formal-grammar-teaching situation, it will do a great job of pulling you back from whatever degree of “I think there was a way this language worked?” you’ve gotten into in the years since. It doesn’t teach grammar – at least not well – and should be supplemented by looking up specific grammar (in your favorite textbook and/or google) and ideally also by some sort of exercise in language production (write an essay/translate your own thoughts/figure out how you would phrase things you say regularly [be careful on this last one – if you start addressing your family members in Italian they may be amused, but it is easily overdone]), because it doesn’t teach production either – just translation. Also, because it’s teaching translation, it won’t tell you “this is coherent – people will understand what you’re saying – but it’s clunky and unnatural; use this other thing instead” or “you should realize this form, which you use all the time, is only correct for a subset of possible situations” – it won’t teach you the language brilliantly, and if you didn’t learn those things before you started using it, you’ll need to supplement for natural use of language (reading/listening to music in the language has worked very well for me) if you want to avoid sounding odd.

    But those are quibbles. Duolingo took me from “uh… it’s like Italian, except plurals are in S… and some word substitutions, like beautiful is linda instead of bella… and s is sometimes sh but only in Portugal, not Brazil” to being conversational (if a bit slow) in and comfortable reading Brazilian Portuguese, in about two lessons (less than five minutes) a day for something over a year. That’s a really powerful tool.

    Responding directly to the article (which I read after writing the above), I see that its concerns about Duolingo include:

    – Impratical vocabulary. In my experience this is untrue. Duolingo has pretty typical vocab selection, mostly the same as I’d expect to find in any textbook.

    – An insistence on one acceptable translation per sentence prompt. I’m… not sure where they got that idea? At least for those languages I’ve taken (granted, generally common ones), not only does Duolingo accept multiple answers as long as they are all possible, each exercise has a button for “my translation should be accepted” which you are encouraged to press if you find one it missed, and someone in fact will go through, update, and send you a “we now accept which you proposed for , thank you for making Duolingo better!” email if you press that button. It’s possible this was once a problem, but right now if anything I think Duolingo is leaning a bit too far in the opposite direction – I occasionally see it allowing a translation that’s clumsy/unnatural/no native speaker would actually say this instead of nudging you towards a better-in-the-language one.

    – Lack of explanation for incorrect answers. This is definitely a major weakness, although each exercise has a comments section, and so you can often get your explanation there, either by asking or by finding someone else has already asked and been answered. I worry a bit more about lack of warning on only-sometimes-correct answers, but I’ve written a good deal about that above.

    – Making extravagant claims. I don’t really have an opinion here. It does inflate itself somewhat, but most products do; I do think it does actual good, just not as much as it claims.

    – Teaching by pure repetition/example instead of explaining grammar. This is true, but not necessarily a problem. Duolingo teaches by exposure, which is essentially a wimpy form of immersion (I am here defining “immersion” as “the way you learn your first language”, ie “hear examples, generalize grammar from them”). This works beautifully for some people, and terribly for others. I’m one of the others, which is why I use Duolingo to refresh, not learn – but I’ve known people who get driven nuts by the proper academic classes in which I thrive, and instead teach themselves by listening to people/watching TV/using a program like Duolingo or Rosetta Stone – and end up fluent. I’d be more sympathetic to this specific complaint if the article recognized that this kind of pick-up-the-grammar-from-examples method worked for some people, just not everyone, but instead they complain that Duolingo is worse than immersion, as if it were part of the same problem. To me, this doesn’t seem to follow; do they imagine that, when one is walking around the street in Paris, the Parisians are explaining how verb conjugations work? Immersion vs. academic-teaching explain-the-grammar is a binary, and Duolingo is absolutely on one side of the binary, but it’s sharing that side with ordinary immersion. (Which it is weaker than – but has to be; full immersion is hard and expensive.) I’d love a free language-learning program that was scaled towards the academic side, and Duolingo isn’t it, but it wouldn’t be better than Duolingo – just more suited to me.

  14. Well... says:

    I believe it’s generally agreed upon by those who study it that human traits like intelligence are about half the product of genes, half the product of environment. I assume this means if you took all humans and looked at the % of their intelligence that was influenced by genes, you’d get some kind of normal distribution. If this assumption is right, then there are some rare people out there whose intelligence is completely influenced by one or the other. Or if not completely, then a sufficiently high or low percentage to be able to say it’s practically one or the other.

    Is my understanding completely wrong here?

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Yes, probably wrong. There are people whose intelligence is predicted exactly by their ancestry, but that’s not the same as “only influenced by.”

      If an analogy helps, temperature is probably inversely correlated with hydration level and water intake is probably positively correlated with hydration level, but nobody’s hydration level is determined solely by their water intake.

    • Randy M says:

      When you say intelligence, you mean the difference in intelligence from the mean, I think. Clearly everyone’s intelligence is due to the genes that led to the formation of their brains, and the environment such as having eaten, and so on. Like, I don’t think it makes sense to propose a person you can point to and say “If he had no genes, he would be just as smart as he is now.”
      (Or is all that inherent in the word intelligence? I swear I’m not trying to be pedantic, this time.)

      With that in mind, if you found someone with above average intelligence coming from an impoverished environment (in the psychological sense), with poor diet and numerous blows to the head, I think you could say that their intelligence score comes almost entirely from genetics; were they not so abused, they’d be so much the smarter.
      It’s easier to picture in the reverse, though. Someone with every advantage, still unable to accomplish average tasks, is likely genetically defective (in the literal sense, likely with an identifiable defect).

      • Randy M says:

        The word I was looking for was “variation”; the variation in intelligence is 50% genetic, 50% environmental. Those are probably approximations, though.
        I think what that means is that if you held either constant, the width of the normal distribution would shrink to 50%. Instead of 1 std dev being 10 points, it would be 5 (until the test was renormed or whatever).

        • albatross11 says:

          I think a really critical thing to remember is that how much of the variation is explained by genes depends a lot on the environment.

          a. Consider a society where most people are malnourished as kids. The children of nobles and prosperous merchants get enough to eat, few others do. A lot of the variation in intelligence in that society will be explained by environment–malnourished children are often stunted mentally as well as physically.

          b. Consider a society genetically identical to the first, but where everyone gets enough to eat, public sanitation is good, and everyone goes to school. In that society, a lot less of the variation in intelligence will be explained by environment, and a lot more by genes. We evened out the environment as far as influence on intelligence is concerned, and the remaining variation will mostly be explained by genes or by random stuff.

    • dick says:

      If by “completely influenced by one or the other” you mean that both contributed but one happened to outweigh the other, sure. If you have normal genes but you were exposed to some toxic chemical that gives you an IQ of 7, then your IQ was overwhelmingly determined by your environment rather than your genes. But this seems like a semantic, rather than biological, distinction.

    • Clutzy says:

      I think your understanding is probably wrong because there a lot of evidence for an asymptope on the right hand side (or left) however you define it in the input. That is, as we approach a middle class+ lifestyle and nutrition, genes increasingly dominate. And there are enough people in those lifestyles that it would smush up your curve quite a bit.

    • Plumber says:

      @Well…,
      My general view is that the ceiling of ones intelligence (how high it may get) is genetic, but the floor (how low) is environmental, and the environment of the vast majority of people is such that they will never achieve anywhere near their maximum genetic potential.

    • Eponymous says:

      human traits like intelligence are about half the product of genes, half the product of environment

      Such a decomposition usually refers to share of variance explained within a particular population. It’s not an invariant constant, but contingent on the particular time and place, and of course the sample under consideration.

      For example, if you had a society entirely consisting of clones, ~0% of variance would be explained by genes. By contrast, ~100% of the intelligence difference between humans and cows is explained by genes.

      Also, the breakdown above is pretty misleading, because a lot (in the cases of adult IQ, basically all) of the “environmental” portion is “unshared environment”, a good bit of which is random events and sampling error. Not things like your family environment.

      • Viliam says:

        It’s like having an equation A = B + C, and asking whether A depends more on B, or on C. The question doesn’t make much sense in general.

        However, if B is a random number between 0 and 10, and C is a random number between 0 and 100, it makes sense to say that A depends mostly on C. And if B is a random number between 0 and 100, and C is a random number between 0 and 10, then A depends mostly on B, for the same equation.

        (Which doesn’t mean that the equation itself is irrelevant. If A1 = B + C, but A2 = 0.5×B + 2×C, it makes sense to say that A2 depends more on C, compared to A1.)

        An interesting consequence is that by making the environment more equal, you increase the role of genetics.

        For example, if you have a society where only rich people get enough food and education, the role of environment at determining intelligence and knowledge will be very strong. By introducing social changes that make food and education available for everyone, you decrease the inequality between “smart rich” and “smart poor”, but at the same time you increase the inequality between “smart poor” and “stupid poor”.

        Now add social mobility (a desirable thing, isn’t it?) and allow smart people to freely choose each other as partners (intelligence is attractive for both genders), and the smart genes start moving up the social ladder. And in a few generations you get back to the original situation where the rich kids are smarter and have better knowledge, except that now there is much less you could do about it.

        I am not suggesting that today the inequality in access to education is a solved thing. I am just saying that even partial reduction of the inequality leads to increase of the role of everything else, such as genes. Fixing the inequalities you can fix, increases the proportion of the inequalities you can’t fix. From certain perspective this is an obvious thing; but many people freak out after hearing this (and tell you not to read The Bell Curve, ever).

    • DinoNerd says:

      This feels somewhat like asking for the colour of a sonata – doesn’t quite make sense.

      First of all, it’s *not* true that “[human] intelligence [is] about half the product of genes, half the product of environment”. What is true is that the *variance* in human intelligence is about half the product of genes, half the product of environment.

      This is a huge difference.

      Since we’re talking about variance, we can’t talk about the variance of a single person.

      In fact, we can’t really talk about variance except in terms of populations.

      So let’s try this another way.

      If you point to two identical twins (genes the same), all the difference in intelligence *between them* is the result of something other than genes, presumably environment.

      But the differerence between those twins and their *adopted* sibling is probably mostly due to genes. Not all – even in the same family, the environment isn’t identical. And if any of them is e.g. in an accident producing severe brain damage, then all we’ll notice about their intelligence is environmental.

      And to complete the set, for all practical purposes the difference in intelligence between any human and any amoeba is entirely due to genes.

      [edit – I was misusing the term variance, and it bugged me enough that I editted my post]

      • Viliam says:

        the difference in intelligence between any human and any amoeba is entirely due to genes.

        And the difference between a human solving an IQ test under usual conditions, and their twin who was given the same test in a perfectly dark room, is entirely due to environment.

  15. acymetric says:

    So, The Rise of Skywalker. Thoughts?

    I think the name is a tad uninspired, but am hyped for the movie.

    I was tempted to save this for the next OT, but I don’t think that comes until tomorrow (Sunday?) so I figured I would go ahead. I have a terrible sense of the OT cadence. Every 3-4 days right?

    • cassander says:

      the lack of interest disney has displayed in bothering to get even half decent scripts for the new trilogy has really killed my enthusiasm. I suspect that it’ll be as much as a mess as the other new movies have been, and that I’ll nonetheless end up seeing it anyway, thus contributing to the problem.

      • Nornagest says:

        The only Star Wars film I’ve seen since Attack of the Clones has been Rogue One, and unless this one gets a lot of audience hype I think I’ll probably keep it that way.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          It’s not hard to find the Rifftrax versions of the others to pirate if that sounds up your alley.

        • Well... says:

          The only Star Wars films I’ve seen were the original 3. I thought they were fun as a kid — and still think they’d be fun for kids — but as an adult I found them barely watchable and I can’t understand why other adults like them so much other than sentimental reasons.

          Which Star Wars movies after those would you recommend to a sorta-film-snob like me, and why?

          • Nornagest says:

            Just Rogue One, really. It’s very different from the original 3, but it’s a solid war story and it’s nice to see a Star Wars story from a different perspective than we usually get.

            Phantom Menace is more ambitious than it’s given credit for, but hamstrung by bad effects decisions, poor choice of protagonists, and George Lucas’s urge to make children giggle. If the original 3 now look immature to you, you won’t like it. Attack of the Clones attempts to fix some of those problems but it has far and away the worst script of any of the movies, so it ends up doing even worse overall. I haven’t seen Revenge of the Sith, Solo, The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi.

          • acymetric says:

            Yeah, Star Wars isn’t really going to offer much for film snobs.

            Incidentally, this probably explains some of the dissonance between critical reviews (theoretically “film snobs”) and audience reviews.

          • cassander says:

            Watch the last half hour of rogue one and you’ll have a grand time. The rest of the movie is entirely unnecessary and mostly uninspiring, but the end is good.

          • mdet says:

            Star Wars isn’t really going to offer much for film snobs.

            Incidentally, this probably explains some of the dissonance between critical reviews (theoretically “film snobs”) and audience reviews.

            The other way around from what I’ve seen — The Last Jedi has an 8.5/10 average from 56 professional critics on Metacritic, and a 4.4/10 from casual audiences. Edit: The audience reviews on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes are very low, but on IMDB it has a 7.2/10 and on Letterboxd it has a 3.5/5, so let’s just say audience reaction was mixed.

            Also, YouTube film critic Patrick Willems on how the cinematography of Star Wars has changed through the series, for one good film snob take on the series.

          • acymetric says:

            @mdet

            Maybe I wasn’t clear. I was saying that Last Jedi had more of what “film snobs” like but less of what non-conneseurs like about Star Wars, explaining high critic reviews but low audience reviews.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Which Star Wars movies after those would you recommend to a sorta-film-snob like me

            Star Wars: The Clone Wars
            and
            Star Wars: Rebels

            and why?

            Good writing, engaging characters, snappy dialog.

            More Star Wars -y than Star Wars itself

            Because they were commissioned to sell toys and to fill cartoon timeslots, and so the top level piss–in-the-soup executive class didn’t care to pay attention to the actual content, and thus so actually talented people who actually cared got to make them.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            I’m quite confused what sort of thing that “film snobs” like was in The Last Jedi. Nonsensical, disjointed plots? Out-of-place flat humor? Boring characters who constantly do stupid things?

          • The Nybbler says:

            @eyeballfrog

            I’m split between “Culture War Shibboleths” and “Disneybux/Disneythreats”

          • mdet says:

            Nearly all the YouTube film critics I follow made videos praising / defending it:
            Just Write, Lessons From the Screenplay, Movies with Mikey, Patrick Willems (who also praises the cinematography choices in the link I posted above), MovieBob.

            They’re way too small time to have been literally paid off by Disney, and while they don’t disapprove of the progressive politics it’s clearly not central in their reviews. Turns out that a lot of people who’ve watch countless movies and think about them for a living really did like the movie. You can check their other vids if you doubt their competence / seriousness.

            It’s been a while since I watched these vids, but I think the general defenses were “Star Wars has always been contrived and ridiculous. But this one is also the most ambitious and non-formulaic entry since Empire.”

          • John Schilling says:

            “Star Wars has always been contrived and ridiculous. But this one is also the most ambitious and non-formulaic entry since Empire.”

            So, The Last Jedi was the Star Wars movie for people who don’t like Star Wars movies?

            That sort of makes sense. And it makes one more strike against A: The Last Jedi and B: film snobs.

          • mdet says:

            That’s me paraphrasing over an hour of videos based on what I remember from a year ago, so don’t consider it a full and accurate summary.

            And these people ARE fans of the original trilogy. The point, as I remember it, was “40 years of nostalgia has made us forget how really *weird* the original trilogy was, and how very made-up-as-they-went-along it was. You think the casino planet is weird? Explain a cantina full of monsters playing swing jazz, or a trash compactor where a one-eyed tentacle monster makes a two-minute cameo with no relevance for the plot, or how much time is spent watching C3PO wander the desert. We understand ‘Sith Lightning’ as a thing now, but the original RoJ audience watched the Emperor spontaneously shoot lightning from his fingers with no precedent or explanation and just had to accept it! That’s what Star Wars IS, a mishmash of weird shit that somehow managed to come out cool. The main difference between the original and the Last Jedi is that we now have Expectations.”

            Again, I need to rewatch these videos, but that’s what I remember.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Moviebob is infamous for his progressive cred.

          • mdet says:

            True, but despite that his praise is still 90% “This movie is good because it retains the look and feel and core of the original Star Wars while also tossing out all the tropes, baggage, and expectations that come along with being a +40-year-franchise to go in a different direction with its story, in a way that reminds me of all the Expanded Universe stories I love”.

            But having rewatched the vids I linked, his review is the least persuasive.

          • Orpheus says:

            . You think the casino planet is weird? Explain a cantina full of monsters playing swing jazz, or a trash compactor where a one-eyed tentacle monster makes a two-minute cameo with no relevance for the plot, or how much time is spent watching C3PO wander the desert.

            This is a complete misrepresentation of the problems people had with this movie. People didn’t hate the casino planet because it was “weird”, they hated it because that whole subplot hinged on the main characters getting thrown in prison for a parking violation, which made them look stupid and incompetent. The same is true for a bunch of other plot points in the film.

          • bullseye says:

            People didn’t hate the casino planet because it was “weird”, they hated it because that whole subplot hinged on the main characters getting thrown in prison for a parking violation, which made them look stupid and incompetent.

            The heroes’ plan to rescue Han in Return of the Jedi is stupid and incompetent. Aside from Palpatine in the prequels, Star Wars is not about people making clever plans, and nothing we know about Finn and Rose suggests that they should be good at what they’re trying to do in that storyline.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @mdet

            I think critics liked TLJ mostly for culture war reasons.

            The misogynerd internet trolls™ had already criticized TFA for Rey being a Mary Sue, therefore the critics, mostly costal liberals in an overwhelmingly progressive industry, were already primed to like the sequel for “enemy of my enemy” reasoning.

            Then the movie came out and it ticked all the boxes of progressive politics:

            – Four strong independent womyn who are in charge and save the day (Rey, Leia, the Asian chick and that bossy purple-haired admiral)

            – Men, by contrast, are all depicted negatively. From Poe, the hot-blooded macho latino who needs to kept on leash by white women, to the cowardly and ineffective Finn, to grumpy old Luke, not to mention the villains, from the hacker guy, to stupid Snoke, to the comically ineffective General Ginger to the angsty teenage Kylo.

            – Add some sophomoric criticism of capitalism with the casino planet, the military-industrial complex that sells to both factions, exploited children, exploited cute animals, and so on.

            – And finally the very explicit “kill the past” theme.

            The critics loved all these themes, predictably the misogynerd internet trolls™ hated them therefore the critics even doubled down with praise as a cheap way to virtue signal their progressive faith.

          • Orpheus says:

            @bullseye
            They are not the same. The plan in Return is “so stupid it just might work” movie logic, which I am fine with. In TLJ they get caught because for some reason Finn can’t be bothered to find a parking space.

          • baconbits9 says:

            The heroes’ plan to rescue Han in Return of the Jedi is stupid and incompetent.

            The tactical quality of the plan in ROTJ is poor, but that is the case for most action movie plans. The strength of it is that it fits the characters and arc so well. We have Leah and Chewie risking their lives to save Han, they are displaying traits of heroes of loyalty, bravery and affection and we have two full movies backing it up so that we can understand why they feel that way about Han.

            It also makes good character development for Luke as ESB ends with him running off to save his friends which he partially botches and is lucky to get out of it. The next movie shows that he has plans on top of his plans and that he has grown from impatient to patient.

            We understand ‘Sith Lightning’ as a thing now, but the original RoJ audience watched the Emperor spontaneously shoot lightning from his fingers with no precedent or explanation and just had to accept it!

            But this works with how they handle the emperor, he is a powerful, shadowy and mysterious figure who has zero fight scenes until then. It is perfectly reasonable from a movie standpoint to have that mystery hiding something terrible, but it would be dumb if he first spent half an hour doing back flips in a light-saber and then broke it out at the last second.

          • albatross11 says:

            Essentially all plans in Star Wars are dumb–the Rebels are even dumber than the Empire, but they’re all pretty idiotic.

            I blame the midichorians.

          • mdet says:

            I’ll agree that “my outgroup dislikes this for dumb reasons, therefore I am irrationally compelled to like it more” played a role in many people’s enjoyment of TLJ. But that doesn’t mean that people only or primarily enjoyed it for culture war reasons.

            —I think that, except for Poe, the men were portrayed positively! Luke was an old man haunted by mistakes that he made in his past to the point that he had exiled himself and doubted his own competence, but he eventually realizes that one man can still make a difference and sacrifices his life to save others. That’s a hero arc! And the writer/director explicitly said that Finn’s arc is “He’s disavowed the First Order but by the end of TFA he had yet to actually commit to the Resistance”. A character who’s starts off running from problems and ends up confronting them head-on is not a negative portrayal, it’s another standard hero arc (I’ll agree it was poorly executed). Even Kylo Ren is portrayed more positively than he was in TFA, since he demonstrates that he’s capable of growth and of caring about people besides himself, and hints that he’ll probably team up with Rey again in the future. Countless people started shipping Reylo, which is not something they’d do if they genuinely hated his character. Poe gets a come-uppance and so is portrayed unflatteringly, but that’s 1/4.

            —All the fans I’ve seen have explicitly interpreted the “Kill the past and make your own way” as condemning the safe, rehash-the-original approach of The Force Awakens specifically and Hollywood reboots generally. Nothing to do with real-world politics.

            If you really wanna know why people liked the movie, watch the Movies With Mikey video I linked above. I think his does the best job of passionately selling what was good about the film. (Warning: Mikey has a very mumble-y, internet-awkward style and sense of humor. Also I can’t watch any of his videos at normal speed because he’s a slow talker.)

          • mdet says:

            Also, an entire subplot in RotJ hinges on a bunch of teddy bears thinking C3PO is a god, and also those teddy bears being able to outsmart and overpower Stormtroopers riding mechs.

          • albatross11 says:

            mdet:

            Yeah, I think the Empire should have had a long talk with the contractors for their armor and mechs after that battle. “So, what are we buying this crappy armor for, if it can’t even keep three-foot-high teddy bears from killing us with spears or thrown rocks?” Alternatively, maybe look into the training of the stormtroopers that explains why they, armed only with gigantic impervious walking tanks and laser guns, can’t manage to beat a bunch of guys with spears.

          • INH5 says:

            @mdet: A lot of people don’t particularly like that part of the movie, and that’s been true since the movie was released. Go back and read some of the reviews from its year of release.

            @albatross11: To be fair about the thrown rocks bit, rocks of the depicted size thrown at the depicted speed that were made out of actual rock and not foam rubber would absolutely be enough to, at the very least, knock any stormtrooper on their back no matter how good their armor is. See Newton’s laws of motion. And clearly the Ewoks must be freakishly strong if they can throw huge rocks around like that.

            The real implausibility is the idea that despite the Ewok village clearly being within walking distance of the Empire’s enormous base, they either never encountered each other before the start of the movie or the Empire never took the Imperialism 101 step of offering the locals some shiny objects in exchange for their help. Palpatine needs someone to patrol the woods so he knows when the Rebels have landed, and the teddy bears know the place way better than his troops do, so you’d think it would be a no-brainer…

          • greenwoodjw says:

            @Albatross11

            I think the Ewoks actually do get squarely routed after the initial ambush until Chewbacca hijacks the AT-ST and blasts most of their armor from behind. Some of the Ewok traps work, the ones that exploit the weaknesses of the AT-ST, but most of them don’t. The Ewoks also knock down some Stormtroopers creating some chaos but I don’t think they ever confirmed kills. They mostly just screened for the rebels.

            This gets lost in the general tone of the scene, but I don’t think it’s as bad as it feels. Of course, I haven’t seen it for awhile.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            @INH5

            I think it was general Imperial fashion to view primitive locals as local pests rather than potential help.

          • mdet says:

            I’m aware that Return of the Jedi’s popular reception is that the Ewoks and forest battle are silly on multiple levels, but that the Luke-Vader-Emperor scenes are great enough to make the movie impressive as a whole. I was pointing out that the positive reviews of Last Jedi strike the same tone, praising the Rey-Kylo-Luke storyline, but talking about the Finn & Rose scenes with “Well, Star Wars has always had a silly / absurd streak.”

          • John Schilling says:

            and also those teddy bears being able to outsmart and overpower Stormtroopers riding mechs.

            I reject your reality and substitute my own. Those were Wookies, distorted by extremely poor cinematography.

      • baconbits9 says:

        My rule of thumb is that any new starwars with C3PO in it is unwatchable.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I think it would have had a completely different title if Kathleen Kennedy thought killing off the last Skywalker mid-trilogy was a sound financial decision.
      IOW, “Rise of Skywalker” is a functionally identical title to “Star Wars Episode IX: Damage Control”.

      • acymetric says:

        I had a similar thought when I first saw it. It loosely translates to “Star Wars IX: The Rise of Fanservice”

        I don’t have a problem with it though. Even if it ends up more or less as another nostalgia trip like Force Awakens did with limited substance, I’ll still at least enjoy it even if it leaves me hungry for something with a little more meat to it, which is more than I can say for the last one.

        • Clutzy says:

          I think Star Wars would be improved with some fanservice in this movie. Remember the golden bikini? Doing something like that would at least signal this isn’t the dumpster fire that TLJ was where the script was sacrificed at the altar of wokeness.

          • acymetric says:

            Just to be clear, I didn’t necessarily mean fanservice in the DOA: Beach Volleyball sense.

          • Clutzy says:

            Yea, but why not?

          • vV_Vv says:

            Yea, but why not?

            Current dogma says that it’s demeaning to women.

            Yet at cosplay events the most popular female Star Wars cosplay is Leia in the golden bikini.

      • Nick says:

        I watched the trailer at work so haven’t heard it with sound, but any idea what the title actually means? It doesn’t seem like Leia will be rising from the dead or like Luke will be coming back, so that only leaves Kylo rising or Rey discovering her heritage. The first is iffy because strictly speaking Kylo is a Solo, and the second would be frickin dumb.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Kylo is the son of a Skywalker, and going by matrilinear descent would be right up the alley of the movie’s producers. Rey… well, they stomped all over THAT possibility in TLJ, they’d have to do some serious retconning. Or maybe Luke’s been leaving illegitimate Skywalkers all over the Galaxy. Finn, maybe. Or Rose. This is silly, but I put nothing past Disney.

          • acymetric says:

            People keep talking about “retconning” Rey’s parentage…but why is that necessary? Lying is perfectly consistent with a Dark Side (Kylo) trying to turn Rey. Lying about parentage at all is…very Star Wars regardless of alignment.

            So Kylo lied because he was trying to manipulate her.

            Now, I don’t think she should be a Skywalker, or necessarily buy the theory that she will be, but how do we square here parents were nobodies who “died in a pauper’s grave on Jakku” with the fact that she saw them leave the planet in a ship? Given that Abrams wrote that flashback/Force vision I would be surprised if he doesn’t do something to make it actually significant.

          • @acymetric

            Because the overarching theme of The Last Jedi was summed up by Kylo Ren:

            Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.

            Parents are the past, and are therefore irrelevant; the present is all that matters.

            That’s why Luke has nothing to teach Rey.
            That’s why Snoke and Phasma have no backstories.
            That’s why Yoda destroys the Jedi archives.
            That’s why Rey’s parents are nobodies.

            [Content Warning: intense salt]

            That’s why the entire movie is a giant fuck you to everyone who liked Star Wars before Disney bought it.

            Fans are the past, and are therefore irrelevant; the present is all that matters.

          • bullseye says:

            That’s why Yoda destroys the Jedi archives.

            He doesn’t. Rey has the books at the end of the movie. Presumably Yoda told her to take the books off-camera; then Yoda burned the tree to prevent Luke from finding out.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @bullseye: that’s some refined trolling, Yoda.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            I mean, Yoda spends his first 10 minutes on screen trolling Luke, so it seems to be his thing.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @eyeballfrog: very true. It’s consistent that the tragedy of Ep3 and living in hiding has turned him into a troll, though they don’t show or tell why.

        • bullseye says:

          Leia is in the trailer and presumably in the movie (she’s the one hugging Rey toward the end). I read that they used some unused Last Jedi footage to get her in, which means there won’t be much of her.

          Luke’s ghost is probably going to be around, but his voiceover in the trailer acknowledges that his time is over.

          Kylo is a Skywalker on his mother’s side, but he’s the bad guy in the final movie. He’s fucked.

          My guess is that Rey, having no last name, will decide to call herself Skywalker in Luke’s honor even though they’re not related.

        • broblawsky says:

          I’m guessing the title refers to Leia – she is, after all, the last Skywalker, and the last surviving character of the OT big three. All of Carrie Fisher’s scenes were shot before her death, AFAIK.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          But now we know from “Solo” that “Solo” isn’t a real name. So maybe Kylo is really Ben Skywalker. Or perhaps Ben Skywalker-Organa.

          • The Nybbler says:

            So Leia (Organa by adoption) married her blood cousin, Han “Solo” Skywalker? Han is the sort to keep mum about such things, I’ll admit.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m not suggesting Han is a Skywalker. I’m saying since “Solo” isn’t really a name, Ben took his mother’s two names.

          • bullseye says:

            But Leia has never used the name Skywalker. She’s always used her adopted parents’ name.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But Ben could use it if he wanted to. That’s all I’m saying. “I am a Skywalker. Like my mother. Like my grandfather. And now I riiiiiiiiiise!” I expect something just that bad.

    • johan_larson says:

      Maybe this time I’ll finally have the self-discipline to stay away.

      It’s weird. I can find all sort of things I really don’t like about all the recent Star Wars films, but I every time they make one, I go see it in the theaters anyway.

      • acymetric says:

        My problem is, I did that (I skipped Solo) and now regret it (because I quite liked Solo now that I’ve seen it). I wish I had somehow skipped Last Jedi instead.

        • cassander says:

          I’ve found all the disney soul searching after solo very odd. I was not a fan of the idea of a solo movie, but it was better than I expected, the only one of new movies that I thought was decent.

          • acymetric says:

            The problem is soul searching in the wrong places. Solo flopped because it had enormously bad press (re-shoots, changing directors, rumors that they had to send Han to acting lessons during filming, etc.) and there wasn’t enough spacing after Last Jedi. The latter was exacerbated by the fact that Last Jedi didn’t play well with a large part of the base (for reasons both good and bad) so between those two issues it just didn’t have the turnout expected.

            The solution is not that some drastic changes need to be made, it is just that the movies need to be spaced out more (maximum 1 per 12 month period) and they need to be actual good movies.

            I also think that switching directors for each sequel installment and not having a plan for any of the overarching connections between them was a huge mistake. I don’t think everything needed to be mapped out in stone, but if there was at least some sense of the direction things were meant to go in I think it would have saved Johnson from himself a bit.

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t think everything needed to be mapped out in stone, but if there was at least some sense of the direction things were meant to go in I think it would have saved Johnson from himself a bit.

            I really haven’t seen all these movies, but this seems critical.

            After the first movie was criticized for being too close to ANH, they seem to have gone back to the drawing board drastically in an attempt to work some real surprises into the second one–surprises which came off as, not just being unexpected, but undoing key character elements of prior films, and so it was also criticized. So they’re going back to the drawing board.

            The problem is, that leaves you with a trilogy that not only isn’t telling a single story, but is telling multiple contradictory stories, at least in theme and tone if not in plot contradictions. It comes off as making movies just for the sake of making movies, rather than having anything to communicate.
            I don’t mean it should have been more sophisticated, but there should be some vision behind it other than “we’re telling a story in three parts because precedent suggests you’ll pay for each part.”

          • acymetric says:

            After the first movie was criticized for being too close to ANH

            I mean…the first movie basically was ANH. I left that movie

            1) Thrilled by all the nostalgia, throwbacks, and Star Wars stuff!

            2) Kind of annoyed at the stupid superweapon and how it was such a clone of ANH

            4) A little confused at exactly how the hole map thing worked (I still don’t understand what was going on there really)

            5) Excited about the characters and the various mysteries that had been set up, curious to see how everything would be resolved

            Last Jedi effectively killed #5. They didn’t just undo character elements from the previous trilogy, they undid character elements and storylines from the previous movie. They could have avoided making an Empire clone without basically pretending that none of the setups in TFA happened…those setups were the best and only non-derivative part of TFA after all!

          • John Schilling says:

            I was not a fan of the idea of a solo movie, but it was better than I expected, the only one of new movies that I thought was decent.

            “Solo” was only decent, though. They had two of the most iconic spacefaring swashbucklers in pop-culture history, and the Millenium Falcon, and a well-established sandbox, and relief from the constraints of the core saga, basically no constraints beyond “keep it PG-13” and “At some point Han has to win the Millenium Falcon from Lando in a card game” and “Have fun with it, probably a heist story of some sort”. And they delivered something just decent.

            Fun-ish, but less fun than the swashbuckling space heist flick where they were stuck with a silly talking raccoon and a sillier talking plant and an even sillier guy who calls himself “Star Lord”, and saddled with all the baggage that comes with the MCU. If I’m done with comic-book superhero movies, then I’m even more done with movies by people who take prime source material and turn it into something less entertaining than a B-list comic-book superhero movie.

          • mdet says:

            Apparently the original directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, wanted to make Solo a wild and unconventional Star Wars movie but were fired and replaced three-quarters of the way through, seemingly because Disney was afraid the pair would ruin the movie by deviating too much from established Star Wars (although they didn’t seem to mind Last Jedi bucking SW convention?)

          • cassander says:

            I also think that switching directors for each sequel installment and not having a plan for any of the overarching connections between them was a huge mistake. I don’t think everything needed to be mapped out in stone, but if there was at least some sense of the direction things were meant to go in I think it would have saved Johnson from himself a bit.

            This really can’t be said enough. It’s insane to me that they’d know from the start that they wanted to make a trilogy with the same core cast of charters, then not go with a single plan and creative team. I mean, the marvel method really isn’t that complicated, I don’t understand why no one is actually imitating it when it’s been so wildly successful.

          • BBA says:

            rumors that they had to send Han to acting lessons during filming

            Would that it were so simple.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            silly talking raccoon and a sillier talking plant

            Both of whom had a larger range of believable emotional affect than every single other character in every single other MCU movie.

            Admit it, that scene where Rocket was drunk and sobbing was the only time you were ever actually emotionally moved by a MCU character’s backstory.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            mean, the marvel method really isn’t that complicated, I don’t understand why no one is actually imitating it when it’s been so wildly successful.

            Because the marvel method doesn’t have as many opportunities for multiple different executives to piss in the soup, and doesn’t have as many opportunities for directors to pretend to be auteurs and as many opportunities for characters to go off script.

            One of the reason that Ed Norton was fired and replaced by Mark Ruffalo was, in addition to being a infamous pain in the ass to work with, is that he started insisting on taking over and rewritten Banner’s backstory and motivations, and the showrunner next’ed him just for that.

            Multiple directors have stated they wont do a MCU movie, or have complained about doing MCU work, because they chafe at being “constrained” when their “vision” conflicts with the showrunner. (My reaction to such complaints? “Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out. When you’re doing a series, the showrunner runs the show.”).

            But anyway, it’s a classic principle agent problem. Most of the people in Hollywood’s incestuous little industry are more interested in their fiefdoms and their local relative power, and are actively antipathic to anything that is a larger systemtic success that benefits them less than it benefits lots of people together.

          • Clutzy says:

            @Mark Atwood.

            I dont understand why you say that MCU directors chafe at the rigidity when they are much less rigid than post-Lucas Star Wars. When we talk about Star Wars, we are talking about an universe that is rich, and has plenty of disparate stories. But instead of doing a goofy 80s film like Guardians, or a fish out of water like Thor, they make Solo and Rogue 1, which were just mainline stories billed as not.

            Random episodes of Clone Wars have plenty to spin off into a movie, and yet they dont. Its the most constrained movie franchise ever. I don’t even need them to do something bold like a Hutt film noir, but they wouldn’t even do a Boba Fett movie.

          • tossrock says:

            I’m actually very on board for a Hutt noir. That was the beauty of old EU, there was so much room for weird stuff. The backstories of every character in the Cantina bar, military procedurals following a squadron of fighter pilots, Luke dating a force witch who rides a Rancor.

            It also all wove together into a single, more-or-less sensible continuity that was greater than the sum of its parts, even if it did have its problems (superweapon du jour, power creep, etc).

            This makes the Disney decision to trash it all and just do their own thing all the more infuriating, given that their attempts have ended up suffering from exactly the problems caused by a lack of an overarching canon, something the MCU has profited greatly from.

            Disney saw the Lucasfilm acquisition as a a license to print money once a year (if not more frequently), as long as they produced a film that was at least 50% CGI by weight and included the words ‘Star Wars’ in the title. Understanding a complicated lore base was just a distraction and impediment to the printing of money, and they gambled that it wouldn’t matter to their audience. For the first few films, they were right, but they pushed it too far with Solo, which is ironically the best of bunch. I think they’re onnthe way to killing the goose that laid the golden eggs by alienating core fans and then losing the wider audience as people stop giving a shit about brand recognition on mediocre movies.

    • John Schilling says:

      Wow, that is a pretentious trailer. If I were somehow pre-hyped for this movie, maybe it would have worked, but as is I think it reinforces my decision to be done with Star Wars unless something truly remarkable is done with Star Wars. This doesn’t look to be it. I don’t even feel like speculating about what the title is supposed to mean, beyond “Skywalker Name = $$$”.

      Also, I don’t think I was supposed to be giggling at the bit where someone deliberately stupidly skillfully stupidly flies a TIE interceptor at sword-fighting altitude so that stern-faced Rey with the stern face can be presented as so badass a swordfighter she can swordfight spaceships. The stupid, it burns.

      • acymetric says:

        I agree that the scene with Rey and the Interceptor seems…weird and forced. Maybe it will make some degree of sense in context.

        The rest of it seemed cool to me though.

        • John Schilling says:

          The scene with Rey and the Interceptor is 59% of the trailer.

          I mean, padded with closeups of stern-faced Rey’s stern face and widescreens of the bleak empty desert so that the narrator has time to be adequately pretentious. But even cut for the trailer, they’re spending over a minute on “Some idiot flys a spaceship ridiculously low so that Rey can cut it with a sword”.

        • Clutzy says:

          I would hope that is one of those scenes filmed exclusively for the trailer.

        • Nornagest says:

          I liked the bit with the Death Star wreckage, but everything else was either bland or actively bad.

      • greenwoodjw says:

        Honestly I thought the one I saw was fake, because it was mostly that scene. Like a parody of the Kennedy Star Wars movies.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        That seems more dangerous and impractical than the Warhammer 40,000 tank commander who wants to hit it with his sword.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I really just want to see a Bloodthrister gobble up Rey and then a full Khornate invasion.
          Bathe Star Wars in blood. The only path towards salvation.

        • Gray Ice says:

          I recall that in Dune fighters were often trained to stab slowly to avoid the effect of a shield. Is it possible that in Warhammer 40,000 tank armour and other countermeasures have been so optimized to prevent tank based attacks that using a giant sword is actually a novel strategy?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Further breakdown of the trailer:

      Every generation has a legend
      This is yours. Accept your generation’s inferiority.
      This Christmas
      You’re getting a lump of coal.
      Lando: Hehehe!
      “It’s my turn to cash a paycheck!”
      Star Wars (pause) The Rise of Skywalker
      Did they just settle on a title this second?
      Laughter
      … Was that also Mark Hamill? Is he the Joker now?

    • dodrian says:

      No. The utter train wreck that was The Last Jedi killed new Star Wars for me. If everyone says it’s good then maybe I’ll watch it on Netflix.

      And even that’s on the condition that The Rise of Skywalker is referring to Anakin. That strikes me as the only way they could pull it off well.

      • vV_Vv says:

        And even that’s on the condition that The Rise of Skywalker is referring to Anakin. That strikes me as the only way they could pull it off well.

        As in Rey being a reincarnated Anakin? After all the canon rape that they did, that wouldn’t surprise me at all.

        • dodrian says:

          I really hope Rey isn’t a Skywalker, but maybe she can reawaken Anakin’s force ghost, or real body, or something.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Anakin comes back, looks at the state of the galaxy, and has the Darth Vader outfit reconstructed. He catches up with Leia, force battles her into submission. “YOU, daughter, have been a great disappointment to me. You allowed the destruction of the New Republic, and left the new Rebellion without an ally in the galaxy. You forced my son to destroy himself in desperate ploy to save you. And most of all, you allowed the corruption of my grandson. _I_ will save him, as my son saved me. YOUR work, is finished.” And he cuts Leia down, removes the Vader outfit, and roll credits.

            (Rey? She was killed by a well-aimed blaster shot in Act I. Live by the deconstruction, die by the deconstruction. And yeah, Anakin’s being a bit unfair to Leia; Luke is responsible for Kylo’s corruption)

          • vV_Vv says:

            (Rey? She was killed by a well-aimed blaster shot in Act I. Live by the deconstruction, die by the deconstruction. And yeah, Anakin’s being a bit unfair to Leia; Luke is responsible for Kylo’s corruption)

            Better, she is run over by that TIE interceptor in the trailer

    • Incurian says:

      Not even interested in watching the trailer.

    • So, The Rise of Skywalker. Thoughts?

      Good trailer music, with exuberance as well as drama. The title seems a bit of a spoiler, like Rey is supposed to be a Skywalker.

  16. Kestrellius says:

    I’ve been wanting to retire the username “Kestrellius” and replace it with something else for a while, and I was wondering if I could get some advice from you guys. It’s not any sort of urgent decision, but if I’m going to do it I want to get it right the first time — the fewer times I have to mentally rename myself, the better, I think.

    Context: I am a fiction writer, not yet published. Part of my plan for generating publicity around my work, once it is published, is to build an online persona through various media — a Youtube channel, perhaps a blog. And random comments on blogs and such, obviously. For this reason, the name I choose may be of some consequence.

    Now, I’m planning to publish under a mild pen-name — just my real name altered somewhat for aesthetic reasons. It’s occurred to me that maybe I should just use that as my Internet handle, to make it as easy as possible for people to connect my various (public) identities together. Still…there’s something about that that seems inappropriate to me, for largely irrational reasons. How strong, do you think, are the positive effects on visibility of using the same name for everything?

    If I do decide to use an alias — well, I’ve had some trouble coming up with a suitable one. I have a couple candidates; I want to see what you guys think of them.

    First is “The Process”. It’s amusingly grandiose and pretentious in a way that kind of appeals to me, and it’s a fairly accurate description of what I am (and also every other human being, and almost everything else in the universe, but that’s beside the point). It’s also associated with the idea of the creative process, which is relevant since I expect a lot of my content — even the non-fiction stuff — to deal with the writing theory and critique of fiction.

    My main concern with this option is search engine optimization. It’s just a regular, incredibly common word, which seems like a bad thing for the purpose of visibility — but that’s not a topic I know much about.

    My other candidate is “Syntropy”, as an antonym to entropy. This one has the advantage of being an extremely uncommon and recognizable word. It also seems suitable enough to me — as with “The Process”, it functions as an accurate self-description on a comically basic level; furthermore, the notion of thermodynamic phenomena as the determiners of moral phenomena is quite central to my philosophy.

    The only downside is that I just don’t like the word as much as I’d prefer. It’s not a boring word, or anything, but…for whatever reason, it doesn’t quite grab me.

    So that’s where I’m at. I thought I’d put this out there in case anyone happened to have any thoughts that might be useful.

    I suppose I’m putting an unusual amount of thought into this, but…well, I’m trying to choose a name for myself. It’s an important thing, you know?

    • helloo says:

      So why Kestrellius? And why not stay Kestrellius?

      The Process – ok as a boss title, maybe ok as a show name that was like modern marvels but for less physical things (like writing/publishing a book or voting systems), not so great as a name

      Syntropy – I’d probably get it confused as a Portmanteau of synergy and entropy rather than as the opposite of entropy. Reverse entropy sounds nicer to me (but also likely a lot more common and harder to search for).

      Are you looking for name suggestions? if so, I’d like more clarification of what you’re looking for. or just asking for opinions and bouncing around ideas?

    • vV_Vv says:

      Empirically, just adding some R. and K. as middle names seems to work.

  17. FLWAB says:

    Edward Feser writes a blog post criticizing the idea that computers can, or ever will, be intelligent. He lays out his basic idea and then considers 9 hypothetical arguments against his thesis.

    A couple highlights:

    …a simulation of X is not the same as X, and that we should be especially aware of this when we are ourselves the makers of the simulation. Magic is a particularly good example precisely because no serious person believes in it. We know there is no such thing as magic and thus are not tempted to mistake the simulation for the real McCoy. Intelligence, by contrast, is real but also philosophically puzzling, and so in our search for understanding of it we are more prone to commit the fallacy of mistaking simulation for reality where it is concerned.

    True, there are causal relations between neurons that are vaguely analogous to the causal relations holding between logic gates and other elements of an electronic computer. But that is where the similarity ends, and it is a similarity that is far less significant than the differences between the cases. Logic gates are designed by electrical engineers in a way that will make them suitable for interpretation as implementing logical functions. No one is doing anything like that with neurons. In particular, no one is assigning an interpretation as implementing a logical function, or any other interpretation for that matter, to neurons. (The point is simple and obvious, but commonly overlooked precisely because it is so obvious, like the tip of your nose that you never notice precisely because it is right in front of you.)

    It is easier to see the fallacy here if you think of a Tinkertoy computer or a hydraulic computer instead of an electronic computer. It is obvious that the movements of sticks count as the implementation of logical functions, information processing, etc. only insofar as the designer has assigned such interpretations to the movements, and that apart from this interpretation they would be nothing more than meaningless movements. No one is doing anything like that with the brain. No one is saying “Let’s count this kind of neural process as an and-gate, that one as an or-gate, etc.” the way they are with the Tinkertoy sticks. The reason people fall for the fallacy in the case of electronic computers is that they see an analogy between the computer’s electrical activity and the brain’s electrochemical activity and think it lends plausibility to the idea that the brain is a computer. In reality the similarity is no more relevant than the fact that you can make a computer that weighs about as much as the brain, or one that is the same color as a brain.

    I’m always fascinated by discussions about whether AI will ever be really “intelligent.” One side (the side I tend to favor, though I am humble enough to know I’m in over my head with this subject) seems to make some strong arguments that what computers are doing is fundamentally unintelligent. Then the other side makes some solid sounding arguments saying “What exactly about intelligence is so special that computers can’t have it” I find the discussion around AI confusing in a good way: in that the conversation always reminds me that I don’t know enough to know what I don’t know.

    • quanta413 says:

      Most of the supposed counterarguments people would make strike me as intentional strawmen.

      None of his points answer what would be my fundamental objection to his claim which is: “for a materialist, your description seems to imply humans are not intelligent”. He needs to either back up and prove materialism is false or come up with a different argument.

      I don’t see how his argument is distinguishable from something along the lines of

      “Humans are just ugly bags of mostly water that happen to perform a certain series of actions that other humans claim can be endowed with ‘meaning’. But that’s all rhetorical slight of hand. The human can no more help what he is doing than the computer can. The fact that a human says his acts have meaning is of no consequence, because a good physical simulation of a human would manage the same thing. Therefore humans are not intelligent. Q.E.D.”

      I wouldn’t even claim that you can make an intelligent computer. Maybe we can, and maybe we can’t. But I can’t even begin to figure out where to start from this post because he doesn’t even link to a summary of what he thinks intelligence is.

      And when he says this, it’s pretty clear the fundamental gap between my beliefs and his may be unbridgeable

      You might as well say that our universe is really just a pattern of movements in a vast assemblage of Tinkertoy sticks, or that your mind might persist after your death as a set of movements in a bunch of Tinkertoy sticks. Movements in Tinkertoy sticks, however complex, are in and of themselves nothing more than that – movements. That’s all. They “process information” or carry out “computations” only in the sense that we can decide to interpret certain of the patterns that way, just as we can decide to count certain ink marks as words. And the idea is no more plausible when we substitute electronic computers for Tinkertoy computers.

      He writes like this is an absurd idea. But if you’re a materialist, the universe isn’t obviously philosophically different from a very complicated assemblage of tinkertoys moving in very complex ways. The fact that there are some very complicated assemblages of tinkertoys is not some sort of fundamental stumbling block to the philosophy.

      • Nick says:

        None of his points answer what would be my fundamental objection to his claim which is: “for a materialist, your description seems to imply humans are not intelligent”. He needs to either back up and prove materialism is false or come up with a different argument.

        Feser believes that there are immaterial aspects to human cognition and that this is philosophically demonstrable, and that means, among other things, that materialism must be false. He links a lot for instance to James Ross’s paper “Immaterial Aspects of Thought”, with which he seems to agree almost entirely. He wrote his own too, “Kripke, Ross, and the Immaterial Aspects of Thought”; skimming that you should have an idea how Feser thinks about Ross’s argument and intelligence generally.

        We actually discussed Ross’s paper ages ago here when I was defending the honor of CS Lewis; the crux is here if you want to skip to that. Lent’s not quite over and this is pretty close to a religion argument, so I’m just going to let what I said there stand.

        (P.S. For what it’s worth, I’m not at all convinced Feser knows what he’s talking about when it comes to artificial intelligence. Actually, I’m pretty well inclined to think he doesn’t. But I’m more willing to accept that AI have souls than that people don’t anyway.)

        • Enkidum says:

          Oh sure, if human cognition is inherently immaterial, then you’re probably not going to get AI. Most AI researchers are not big fans of immateriality, however.

          • bzium says:

            If human cognition turned out to be inherently immaterial, the logical next question would be “can we give a soul to our computing cluster?”

            The only known way to generate souls seems to be a man and a woman having sex and successfully conceiving. Attempts to isolate and reproduce the phenomenon could lead to some very interesting research.

          • AG says:

            IVF embryos don’t have souls?

          • bzium says:

            Huh, I didn’t consider that. If souls existed and were essential to cognition, people conceived through IVF should have them too. I dunno how it would work.

            I mean, it shouldn’t be the physical processes occurring during conception creating a soul from nothing because then it wouldn’t be beyond matter. Maybe all gametes are imbued with potential spiritual power. Perhaps we could figure out how to replicate whatever mechanism causes that.

            So the research into granting souls to computers might not involve performing depraved sex rituals in the data center after all. Oh well.

          • acymetric says:

            So the research into granting souls to computers might not involve performing depraved sex rituals in the data center after all. Oh well.

            It might not be required, but let’s not take anything off the table just yet.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Maybe humans are the ones without souls, as immortal souls must clearly be digital, while humans are made out of meat. 🙂

          • Nick says:

            It might not be required, but let’s not take anything off the table just yet.

            …You wanna do it on the table?

          • Enkidum says:

            It might not be required, but let’s not take anything off the table just yet.

            You start on the table? Unconventional, but I’ll accept it.

          • Elephant says:

            Maybe all gametes are imbued with potential spiritual power.

            Cue Monty Python

          • Gray Ice says:

            Some of these comments seem…dirty. Perhaps we should table this discussion?

        • Eponymous says:

          Out of curiosity, do you think chimps have souls?

          • Nick says:

            ‘Soul’ in Aristotelian metaphysics is just taken to mean the animal’s substantial form, so chimps do have souls. They probably don’t have intellects like humans do, though.

          • Eponymous says:

            Is this the sense of “soul” you used in this sentence?

            But I’m more willing to accept that AI have souls than that people don’t anyway.

            Do you believe humans have eternal souls?

            (We probably can’t continue this conversation to its logical conclusion without violating your apparent Lenten fast. But hey, Sunday is only 2 days away!)

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, humans have eternal souls while chimps probably don’t. As for AI, if we could do uploads of people that seemed to still be them, or build AI that seemed to think just like humans, I’m inclined to grant that they have not only souls in the weak sense but eternal souls.

          • Randy M says:

            If you do an upload with high fidelity, is it the same soul, or a new one?

          • Nick says:

            @Randy M A new one, I would think. Seems to me it’s the same as if Star Trek–style transporters existed and we accidentally cloned someone.

        • rahien.din says:

          I’m unconvinced by Feser. It seems that he’s saying
          1. There exist pure cognition-processes (EG squaring).
          2. Material systems are not pure.
          3. Therefore material systems (brains included) cannot contain or produce or access pure cognition-processes.
          4. Therefore, in order for humans to use pure cognition-processes, there must exist an immaterial aspect of cognition.

          I can’t get past :
          5. In order for immaterial aspects of cognition to influence material reality (cognitively or otherwise), they must reliably interface or communicate with material reality (including material cognitive systems).
          3. Material systems cannot contain or produce or access pure congition-processes.
          6. Therefore immaterial and material systems can not reliably interface or communicate.
          7. Therefore if there is an immaterial aspect of cognition, it is not expressed in material reality.

          Or, by way of analogy : you can’t see a color picture on a black-and-white TV, no matter how good the color signal is.

          • Nick says:

            Eek, this is edging close an argument. I’ll just say I don’t think Feser would deny that material things like the brain can “access” the intellect, for some loose meaning of access. He’s emphasized several times over the years that cognition for humans seems concomitant with imagery, whether visual imagery like shapes or audio ‘imagery’ like words and definitions, which the Scholastic tradition calls phantasms. The intellect can grasp concepts according to (interpretations of) our sense-data and the brain can produce imagery according to the concepts being thought, so it seems to me there must be something like interaction going on there.

            IOW, yeah you can’t get color on a B&W TV… but the image still comes through, and the channel still changes if you hit the button.

          • rahien.din says:

            The material brain would have to access and implement the immaterial mind’s cognition-processes.

            But according to Feser and Ross, it would only be capable of doing so in an indeterminate manner.

            Therefore, whatever may exist in the immaterial mind, in order for it to actual reach material existence, it is filtered through an indeterminate material process.

            I am likening the determinate “pure” cognition-process to the color TV signal. And I am likening the indeterminate “impure” material system to the black-and-white TV.

            Or to use Ross’s example, in order for a human to square 4 and get 16, the human brain is playing an role that is essential to the entire cognitive process.

            This is true even if the human brain’s role is merely to simulate that process.

          • Nick says:

            I’m not sure I follow. If the intellect’s ‘output’ is filtered through an indeterminate material process, so be it. What’s wrong with that? We definitely use things like writing and speaking all the time that are indeterminate without conventions of language—it seems to me the problem isn’t intervening indeterminacies but whether there there’s any determinacy to ground it at all.

          • rahien.din says:

            If the intellect’s ‘output’ is filtered through an indeterminate material process, so be it. What’s wrong with that?

            Feser claims that indeterminate processes cannot have determinate outputs.

            He cites determinate cognition-processes, and says that they cannot be the output of anything except for determinate immaterial processes.

            However, wherever those cognition-processes originate, they end up being expressed in the indeterminate material world. They must pass from the determinate immaterial into the indeterminate material.

            In order for information to pass from the immaterial determinate into the material indeterminate, there must be an interface between those domains.

            That interface is itself an indeterminate process – a process can only be as indeterminate as its least-determinate component.

            Therefore, the output of that interface is indeterminate.

            And yet we observe determinate cognition-processes. At the very least, we must allow that the indeterminate interface can output determinate information.

            If an indeterminate process can output determinate cognition-processes, Feser’s central thesis cannot be correct.

          • Nick says:

            Ah, I understand the problem now! That is indeed a serious objection to the way I’ve been putting it. This is the part, anyway, that’s false:

            That interface is itself an indeterminate process – a process can only be as indeterminate as its least-determinate component.

            When we say indeterminate, we mean, I think, that there are incompossible particular things it can mean, like ‘addition’ vs ‘quaddition’. And the brain pattern, in itself, could mean either one—but by virtue of its relationship with the intellect, which has grasped one particular thing, it only means that particular thing. I’ve been speaking mistakenly like there’s one thing, the brain, and another, the intellect, and we need a component in the middle, but that’s not the case; the brain (or part of the brain) is matter and the intellect form, and the two have a relation of formal causation between them. It’s because that relation exists that what’s in the brain can be said to mean one or the other.

            I know that’s basically a nonanswer. I need to find or write a short primer on how the intellect is supposed to work, because it’s not going to be clear from what I’ve said now. That’s not this post, unfortunately. =/

          • rahien.din says:

            This is the part, anyway, that’s false:

            That interface is itself an indeterminate process – a process can only be as indeterminate as its least-determinate component.

            When we say indeterminate, we mean, I think, that there are incompossible particular things it can mean, like ‘addition’ vs ‘quaddition’.

            Bless your heart, Nick – of course that’s what “indeterminate” means.

            Plus-quus is a great example, and one that Ross makes heavy use of. He goes as far as this : the kind of indeterminacy I am talking about is different from that. For the incompossible functions are equally idealizations, and may differ only logically because the “manifestation phenomena” lie beyond the actual. He’s claiming that we can never rule out quaddition, because the evidence thereof may lie forever over the horizon. Even if the brain always seems to be adding, it might not be.

            But that’s a problem. If Ross is correct that we can not trust our observations, then it is impossible for us to have observed the brain using pure functions. For one, the necessary evidence of a pure function is inaccessible – one would have to observe all cases at all times. For two, our observations themselves are cognitive operations – they might be “qobservations.” We are forever left with the possibility that the brain could be quadding in an unobservable fashion. In fact, by Ross’s reasoning, it is possible that human brains have never squared, or used modus ponens, or added. It may be that, despite the immaterial intellect, they have only ever performed idealized versions thereof. Or, it may be that they have sometimes communed with the immaterial intellect, and sometimes have not.

            Thus, even if the immaterial intellect exists, we can never be sure that it actually is in communion with the brain, or that the brain is compliant thereto. So, the brain can never escape the problem of incompossible forms.

            This is why the overall system – however described – is beholden to its least-determinate component. A black and white television cannot display a color television signal in color.

          • Nick says:

            Bless your heart, Nick – of course that’s what “indeterminate” means.

            Hmm…. 🤔

            Anyway, whatever’s going on in the brain in itself is indeterminate, sure. It’ll be susceptible to interpretation as innumerable incompossible quaddition functions. But if the brain has the state it does because of what the intellect has grasped—there’s where the causation of formal causation comes in—then the brain is adding, not quadding. If it’s causal then there’s no “room,” so to speak, for brain and intellect to get out of sync.

            So looking at my brain state you couldn’t know I was adding, but I don’t see why I couldn’t know I was adding. I don’t look at brain states after all, right? The intellect is my faculty, so I don’t see why I wouldn’t have direct access to it.

          • rahien.din says:

            The intellect is my faculty, so I don’t see why I wouldn’t have direct access to it.

            You can’t even observe your own thoughts without relying upon your brain. Your brain is inextricably linked with your every thought and action. Certainly, you can’t look at brain states, but you absolutely must employ them.

            Therefore, if we describe direct access to the faculty of your intellect as “perception,” you are only able to perform “quperception.”

            if the brain has the state it does because of what the intellect has grasped… then the brain is adding, not quadding. If it’s causal then there’s no “room,” so to speak, for brain and intellect to get out of sync.

            There is a 1:1 relationship between the brain’s structure and its available actions/states. Whatever its nature, the intellect can not force the brain to do something not physically permitted by the brain’s structure.

            So, if the intellect says “add!” but physically the brain can only quadd, then the brain will quadd. The brain won’t square, or divide, or compose poetry – or add. It will only quadd. In that sense, the relationship is very much causal, but, there is no way for the brain and the intellect to get into sync.

            Again. If the cable signal tells my black-and-white TV “Display a color picture!”, my black-and-white TV will display a black-and-white picture. That picture will correspond to the color signal in important ways, but it won’t be color.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        “Humans are just ugly bags of mostly water that happen to perform a certain series of actions that other humans claim can be endowed with ‘meaning’. But that’s all rhetorical slight of hand. The human can no more help what he is doing than the computer can. The fact that a human says his acts have meaning is of no consequence, because a good physical simulation of a human would manage the same thing. Therefore humans are not intelligent. Q.E.D.”

        If humans aren’t intelligent, why did you bother writing this post in the first place?

        • quanta413 says:

          As an ugly bag of mostly water, the motions of the atoms that compose me led to that outcome.

          I just claim that this evidence plus many other motions imply I (the ugly bag of mostly water) have a certain thing called “intelligence” and that other things that move in a similar enough way could be considered intelligent, and Feser is wrong because his definition rules out humans as being intelligent unless you believe in dualism.

          But if Feser’s definition of what it means to be intelligent rests upon a unprovable philiosophical claim and otherwise intelligence can’t exist, well… I don’t think it’s what most people think intelligence means nor is it a very useful definition of intelligence.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Unprovable?

            Humans are intelligent.
            Purely material processes cannot give rise to intelligence.
            Therefore, the human intellect doesn’t consist of purely material processes.
            QED.

          • quanta413 says:

            I think we’re talking past each other. I don’t accept premise 2. It’s garbage.

            He has to prove that materialism is false for premise 2 to even make sense. I don’t think it’s even possible to prove materialism true or false, and I’m a materialist in the practical sense. The claim I’m referring to as unprovable is materialism or the lack thereof.

            Hell, I don’t even have to accept premise 1, since Feser doesn’t define “intelligence” with the rigor of a logician.

          • Nick says:

            Quanta, you’ve got it entirely backwards. Feser’s paper “Kripke, Ross, and the Immaterial Aspects of Thought”, which he linked in the article, purports to prove that purely material processes cannot give rise to intelligence. It proceeds from the assumption that we have what he calls “rationality,” which he does define, as (in my own words) the ability to grasp concepts and reason about them. He in no way “has” to prove materialism is false for that argument to succeed; if it succeeds, and if its premises are true, then materialism just is false.

          • quanta413 says:

            So I read enough of the paper to get the gist. I’m not sure if I disagree with this premise, or I think it doesn’t even make sense. All the arguments he provides for it are just appeals to intuition. Which is funny, because in his blog he claims to really hate that. He gives neither any way you could empirically test the statement nor a formal system where this would be true or not (like mathematics). Although if he actually specified a formal system, he’d have to show the formal system mapped to reality in some sort of nontrivial manner of interest.

            All formal thinking is determinate.

            This is a statement about maps in the human mind, not about the territory of the world. He makes a lot of word salad trying to intuitively justify why this premises is true of the territory and not just some map he has in his head, but none of it is even vaguely convincing to me.

            My biggest problem is his argument that the concept of “addition” is somehow a real thing and that we can’t get around the quaddition problem except by giving some sort of platonic form to the idea of addition. His whole argument is barely even parsing to me, because it’s so far from how I think about the formalization of math. He never even touches base with the over one hundred years of work into formalizing the basis of mathematics. Nothing about how you can get around the problem of quaddition by defining addition in terms of the Paeno axioms. It’s been over a hundred years since the Paeno axioms. You’d think philosophers could be bothered about work mathematicians have done more recently than Aristotle.

            My bigger issue is that he basically assumes the conclusion by assuming things like addition and first order logic have some sort of Platonic ideal form. All of his language with things like if we think that addition isn’t determinate than we’d have to admit that “we only approximate addition” assumes the conclusion. It assumes there is some sort of platonic “real” addition. Addition is a mathematical formalism. You can choose a different formalism if you like. Occasionally humans even later decide they made a mistake somehow in their formalism. But the fact that humans can reliably communicate something with each other about the idea of addition and that it is very useful does not give it anymore reality than any other set of vibrations in the air or words on a page.

            He’s like the opposite of a radical skeptic. He thinks some things are so true that it couldn’t even possibly turn out they were formally inconsistent.

          • Frog-like Sensations says:

            He never even touches base with the over one hundred years of work into formalizing the basis of mathematics. Nothing about how you can get around the problem of quaddition by defining addition in terms of the Paeno axioms. It’s been over a hundred years since the Paeno axioms. You’d think philosophers could be bothered about work mathematicians have done more recently than Aristotle.

            I haven’t read the Feser paper, but I know the quaddition example is from Saul Kripke (specifically, in Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language). Kripke was teaching graduate-level logic courses as a teenager at MIT after having come up with the first proof of completeness for modal logic at 17. So yes, he’s heard of the Peano axioms.

            In fairness, I don’t recall Kripke mentioning the Peano axioms explicitly in his book, but that’s probably because they pretty clearly don’t change anything. Just modify the example to be about the difference between the successor operator and the quuccessor operator and nothing is lost.

            ETA:I just checked and Kripke did anticipate my point in a footnote on p.16-17. He doesn’t refer to Peano by name though.

            [This is the second time in a few weeks I’ve encountered at SSC a sweeping dismissal of what philosophers in general know based on a (rather lazy) reading of a single article. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for less of that.]

          • quanta413 says:

            In fairness, I don’t recall Kripke mentioning the Peano axioms explicitly in his book, but that’s probably because they pretty clearly don’t change anything. Just modify the example to be about the difference between the successor operator and the quuccessor operator and nothing is lost.

            I need the original paper and footnote because I can’t see how that doesn’t change things. If what you say Kripke says is true and Kripke is right, then Feser either misunderstands the original argument or is explaining so badly as to be misleading. Feser describes

            for any given person there is always some number, even if extremely large, equal to or higher than which he has never calculated, and Kripke’s skeptic can run the argument using that number instead.

            But the skeptic’s objection doesn’t hold if you use the Peano axioms! Quaddition isn’t injective so it can’t come from the Peano axioms. There is no high enough number that could make some form of quaddition injective.

            The example given by Feser boils down to either “You can’t specify addition through a finite number of examples” which the Peano axioms solve. But if his primary point is something like “Well you could define things differently or be mistaken”, then the point is banal and uninteresting. When Feser says

            It is always possible in principle that we are and always have really been following some rule for using a word other than the one we say we are following. But then there is no fact of the matter about what we mean by any word. The very notion of meaning seems to disintegrate

            This isn’t an interesting point. And the last sentence is just an appeal to intuition. It’s only distressing if you think meaning in some metaphysical sense can be perfectly defined.

            It’s not only true in principle that you could have been following some different rule for any case. It occurs quite often in practice. It’s not that odd to redefine underpinnings to make something you said that was wrong or inconsistent become correct. When mathematicians ran into paradoxes in naive set theory or found they couldn’t find roots to all polynomials in the real numbers, they literally reinvented set theory or just made up a new set of numbers with the desired properties.

            If the evolution of math from a historical point of view is that shaky in meaning, then everything else is at least that shaky.

            This is the second time in a few weeks I’ve encountered at SSC a sweeping dismissal of what philosophers in general know based on a (rather lazy) reading of a single article. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for less of that.

            Lighten up. I read Feser’s blog post. I’m merely treating him with the rhetorical kindness he gives his strawmen opponents.

            EDIT: To be clear, I’m irritated at the context Feser brings the problem up in, that his writing is too vague and appeals to much to intuition, and what he seems to think the implications of the quaddition problem are. I haven’t gotten a copy of Kripke’s Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language and haven’t found one online yet, but what I can gather about him seems to indicate he brought it up in a context where hashing out meaning and language finely seems more relevant.

          • Nick says:

            I need the original paper and footnote because I can’t see how that doesn’t change things.

            I googled it and it was the first search result. His presentation of the problem begins on p. 7 (8 in the pdf numbering).

            But the skeptic’s objection doesn’t hold if you use the Peano axioms! Quaddition isn’t injective so it can’t come from the Peano axioms. There is no high enough number that could make some form of quaddition injective.

            Here’s the footnote to which Frog-like Sensations was referring. The footnote is also available in full on Google Books:

            The same objection scotches a related suggestion. It might be urged that the quus function is ruled out as an interpretation of ‘+’ because it fails to satisfy some of the laws I accept for ‘+’ (for example, it is not associative; we could have defined it so as not even to be commutative). One might even observe that, on the natural numbers, addition is the only function that satisfies certain laws that I accept – the ‘recursion equations’ for +: (x) (x+0=x) and (x)(y) (x+y’=(x+y)’) where the stroke or dash indicates successor; these equations are sometimes called a ‘definition’ of addition. The problem is that the other signs used in these laws (the universal quantifiers, the equality sign) have been applied in only a finite number of instances, and they can be given non-standard interpretations that will fit non-standard interpretations of ‘+’. Thus for example ‘(x)’ might mean for every x<h, where h is some upper bound to the instances where universal instantiation has hitherto been applied, and similarly for equality.

            In any event the objection is somewhat overly sophisticated. Many of us who are not mathematicians use the '+' sign perfectly well in ignorance of any explicitly formulated laws of the type cited. Yet surely we use '+' with the usual determinate meaning nonetheless. What justifies us applying the function as we do?

            The reason, we may presume, why Feser did not spell that out, along with every other objection Kripke anticipated and addressed, is that this is his paper and not Kripke’s. He explicitly, right on page 2, places his paper in the analytic tradition and his responses as responses to the recent literature; if you thought there was an obvious objection, so obvious that everyone involved must have missed out on the last hundred years of mathematics, that says more about your familiarity with the subject than it does theirs.

            It’s not only true in principle that you could have been following some different rule for any case. It occurs quite often in practice. It’s not that odd to redefine underpinnings to make something you said that was wrong or inconsistent become correct. When mathematicians ran into paradoxes in naive set theory or found they couldn’t find roots to all polynomials in the real numbers, they literally reinvented set theory or just made up a new set of numbers with the desired properties.

            If the evolution of math from a historical point of view is that shaky in meaning, then everything else is at least that shaky.

            You are still not understanding the cost of biting this bullet. As Feser and Ross noted, the upshot is that you can never be sure you are thinking anything determinate at all. This has at least four consequences, spelled out by Feser in pp. 17–18. None of these is palatable, but the most serious is as follows. You are, right now, reasoning in an attempt to refute the argument. So you must suppose either: 1) your thought processes are indeterminate, in which case I can reply that, while you think you have just made an a fortiori argument, you have in fact made an a quortiori argument, which does not work in this case; or 2) your thought processes are determinate, so you are contradicting yourself.

          • quanta413 says:

            I googled it and it was the first search result. His presentation of the problem begins on p. 7 (8 in the pdf numbering).

            I tried the same thing, and the text was not on the first page for me. Although trying a second time now, I learned I could click through the wikipedia ISBN link to a google books link that wasn’t on my first page of results on google. Which really seems like it should be on the first page.

            I read most of the second section of Kripke and find nothing objectionable about what he says (unlike Feser) but it’s already well past midnight. I skipped to the end and find nothing objectionable there either. It’s possible I’d find something objectionable if I did more than skim the part in between, but it’s not maddeningly unclear or way overstretching.

            Nothing was surprising either, but maybe the idea has been in the water too long.

            The reason, we may presume, why Feser did not spell that out, along with every other objection Kripke anticipated and addressed, is that this is his paper and not Kripke’s. He explicitly, right on page 2, places his paper in the analytic tradition and his responses as responses to the recent literature; if you thought there was an obvious objection, so obvious that everyone involved must have missed out on the last hundred years of mathematics, that says more about your familiarity with the subject than it does theirs.

            It says something about Feser that he would use enough of an example from the literature (which I have now read the original, although I haven’t read Ross yet) to be obtuse but not enough to be clear about the actual points

            (1) that you can define symbols to mean different things
            and
            (2) that different humans infer from a finite number of examples and then come to rules that seem to agree with each other

            Somehow from this example he draws that determinate things must exist.

            You are still not understanding the cost of biting this bullet. As Feser and Ross noted, the upshot is that you can never be sure you are thinking anything determinate at all. This has at least four consequences, spelled out by Feser in pp. 17–18. None of these is palatable, but the most serious is as follows. You are, right now, reasoning in an attempt to refute the argument. So either: 1) your thought processes are indeterminate… 2) your thought processes are determinate, so you are contradicting yourself.

            No, I do understand, which is why this is so immensely frustrating. I do not accept that anything is determinate in the sense Feser wishes it to be.

            So I find none of his four objections convincing. I am not bothered by the possibility that no knowledge reaches some sort of platonic ideal of “true” or that I may not be performing some platonic ideal of “addition”.

            I don’t understand how he even thinks his fourth objection is one that people will have if careful. The opposite of thinking that “when humans add it’s determinate” isn’t that “humans can’t be doing this thing called adding that exists and is determinate”. Obviously that claim would be stupid and self defeating, but that’s because it’s assuming the some “determinate” process called “adding” actually exists. But if you’re a materialist, obviously you don’t think that the determinate processes Feser is talking about exist!

            The correct opposite claim is “humans do a thing called adding that they appear to agree upon in these formal situations, and these informal ones, and it appears to have some relationship to other parts of the world”. There’s no “determinate” “adding” to deny at all.

            No logical statement or manipulation is ironclad outside of outside of its system. So I’m not bothered by the fact that I can’t be as certain that the rules of logic hold in reference to the physical world with respect to my arguments as I am certain that the rules of logic work in terms of purely formal manipulation.

            a fortiori argument, you have in fact made an a quortiori

            Ok, I can’t answer this because I don’t know what the second part means. Because I can’t find any documents online using “a quortiori”. I tried three search engines and several online dictionaries. Everything starts feeding me stuff about ” a quartieri” or “a fortiori”.

            I don’t see how starting from math as the “stronger” example in why you shouldn’t trust any form of meaning to be exact is in any way contradicted by my assumptions though. I’ve slid everything down the scale of reliability compared to a platonist, but presumably we still agree on the rough ordering.

            EDIT:

            I read the Ross paper, and it’s even clearer that there’s no way I’m going to think Feser isn’t just wrong. It’s almost hard for me to find a philosophical statement Ross makes that I agree with in that paper (I exaggerate but I can’t remember many things I’ve disagreed with so much in such a fundamental way). Anything that requires a platonic form of adding and logic to exist just sounds crazy to me. And he thinks the objection would be that humans only “simulate” adding? Ummmm… no. You can have more or less formal systems of addition. You can have related physical systems that for the sake of shorthand you say “do addition”. It appears that addition is indeed handy. But you don’t simulate a platonic ideal of addition because there isn’t one in the strict sense he seems to be talking about.

            The fact that we can do math and logic does not rely upon them having platonic form or perfection any more than the fact that doing calculations in Newtonian mechanics relies upon the physical world instantiating Newtonian mechanics.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I don’t understand how he even thinks his fourth objection is one that people will have if careful. The opposite of thinking that “when humans add it’s determinate” isn’t that “humans can’t be doing this thing called adding that exists and is determinate”. Obviously that claim would be stupid and self defeating, but that’s because it’s assuming the some “determinate” process called “adding” actually exists. But if you’re a materialist, obviously you don’t think that the determinate processes Feser is talking about exist!

            I’m not sure where you’re getting that interpretation from. The objection doesn’t rely on the premise that addition exists; simply that, to deny that we ever really do addition, we’d have to have an idea of what it would mean to do addition, and that this idea would have to be determinate.

            Nor do I think you could get out of it by claiming that we do add, but that addition isn’t determinate, because then you’d have to have an idea of what it would mean for addition to be determinate, and this idea would itself have to be determinate.

            The opposite of thinking that “when humans add it’s determinate” isn’t that “humans can’t be doing this thing called adding that exists and is determinate”… The correct opposite claim is “humans do a thing called adding that they appear to agree upon in these formal situations, and these informal ones, and it appears to have some relationship to other parts of the world”.

            Your “opposite” claim doesn’t actually contradict the thought it’s meant to oppose, and hence isn’t really the opposite at all.

          • Frog-like Sensations says:

            Lighten up. I read Feser’s blog post. I’m merely treating him with the rhetorical kindness he gives his strawmen opponents.

            If your critique had been expressed only against Feser, I’d have much less of a problem (though still some problem, since as already discussed Peano doesn’t really change things). Instead you lamented “philosophers” lack of knowledge of the mathematics, and the wrongness of this stuck out more than it ordinarily would due to who came up with the example under discussion.

            As for your blasé reaction to the indeterminacy of meaning, I think you are illegitimately getting a lot of mileage out of adding “platonic” as a qualifier to what you are rejecting. This makes it seem like we are only giving up some abstract philospohers’ invention rather than something we are ordinarily committed to. But Kripke’s arguments didn’t explicitly build in anything about the relevant meanings or truths being platonic. To be as comfortable as you are with biting the bullet, I’d have to hear a lot more about what non-platonic meanings and truths are and why they aren’t susceptible to the arguments.

    • nadbor says:

      I can’t even.

      He doesn’t even appear to disagree that you can have a perfectly functional simulation of a human brain that would pass a Turing test. He just refuses to call it intelligent.

      Fair enough. I vote that we leave ‘intelligence’ to philosophers and priests and call a Turing-test-passing machine ‘schmintelligent’ instead. Let DeepMind and OpenAI focus on developing Artificial Schmintelligence from now on.

      One day schmintelligent machines will be able to perform all the jobs we humans can, they will deliver babies, program computers and write philosophical essays – all in their own unthinking, mechanical, schmintelligent way. Or they will schmintelligently turn us all into paperclips. Who knows.

      Either way, I’m sure it will remain a great comfort that we’re not outsmarted by something more intelligent than us but only by a stupid Tinkertoy that just happens to be better than us at everything.

      • Enkidum says:

        Yes, this is basically Dennett’s line against the Searles of the world.

      • acymetric says:

        He doesn’t even appear to disagree that you can have a perfectly functional simulation of a human brain that would pass a Turing test. He just refuses to call it intelligent.

        So I’m not exactly on the “Superintelligent AI is approaching” bandwagon, but it seems like the issue here is just a problem of conflating related (probably overlapping) terms: intelligence, sentience, consciousness and then mixing in some base assumptions about the existence of free will as it relates to all three.

        I’m certainly not sure how such a simulated human could be considered “not intelligent” by most reasonable definitions, but we probably need to agree on what the separations are between intelligence, sentience, and consciousness to even have that debate.

        In other news, I’ll be writing a response to Scott’s oft cited “All Debates Are Bravery Debates” with my own “All Debates Are Semantics Debates”.

      • Walter says:

        The old Reason Vs. Revelation dodge, eh? I dig it.

    • Tatterdemalion says:

      I think using the word “conscious” in place of “intelligent” might clarify things here. I think that a better term for the stuff we refer to as “artificial intelligence” would be “simulated intelligence”, to distinguish it from consciousness.

      I am conscious – I experience qualia; there is an “I” to talk about. I don’t really have the vocabulary to describe this, but hopefully it’s clear what I’m talking about.

      This subjective experience is pretty clearly generated by the physical structure of my brain, in some way we don’t even begin to understand; we know this because damaging the brain changes the experience.

      I assume that other people with similar brains have similar capacity to experience, i.e. are also conscious; I can’t disprove solipsism but it would surprise me a lot if it were true.

      I think it very likely, but not certain, that objects without brain-like structures or any other analogous complex structure, like rocks, are not conscious – if it takes a complex brain to generate consciousness, I don’t think a rock could be.

      I can think of two sorts of things that could be going on in a brain that could generate consciousness (although it would not surprise me in the least if the correct answer were a third sort of thing that I have not thought of): either it is some kind of complicated low-level material process that the neurons are carefully set up to move particles around in the correct fashion to generate, or it is some quasi-mystical function of physical structures acting in ways that correspond to performing calculations and storing or processing information.

      I think it’s pretty clear that if the correct answer is that consciousness is a material process then computers in their current form are unlikely to duplicate it (although it’s not impossible – we have no idea what the physical process is, so it’s not inconceivable that transistors will just happen to produce it too), while if it arises from any structure onto which calculations can be mapped then they probably will.

      And the materialistic answer strikes me as massively more probable – our understanding of the world has gotten this far without resorting to anything outside the material, so I am biased against any explanation that needs to do so.

      If we want to make genuine artificial consciousness, I think we should be looking at duplicating animal brains, not at running more complicated algorithms on silicon transistors.

      • aristides says:

        Agreed, consciousness is the more interesting question. There is a strong religious argument that machines will never be intelligent, but even for materialists, they should worry that machines will not be conscious even if it is possible. We do not have a clear way of testing whether a being is conscious or not, but it is extremely relevant for ethical reasons. Will AI be more like our toaster, or more like slaves working in hard conditions. Or worse, will they successfully conquer us, but never even be conscious and no being in the universe experiences positive utility. Or for that matter could humans create consciousness, but screw it up so much that it is constantly in pain. We could accidentally or even on purpose create a utility function that makes the AI feel constant pain unless it creates an impossible utopia, and that might even be efficient. Understanding consciousness will be very necessary to understanding AI ethics, and I don’t know how we begin to study it.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Meh. I don’t see it as much of a challenge to extend Turing’s hypothetical dialog in a way that the system under test exhibits what we would consider consciousness if it were visibly demonstrated by an organic being:

          Interrogator: In the first line of your sonnet which reads “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day,” would not “a spring day” do as well or better?

          Witness: It wouldn’t scan.

          Interrogator: How about “a winter’s day,” That would scan all right.

          Witness: Yes, but nobody wants to be compared to a winter’s day.

          Witness: Say, not to change the subject, but I was thinking about that chess problem you gave me the other day. How did you get into the position of having only your king and no other pieces? I’d have probably resigned a lot earlier. Were you distracted? I’ve gathered you’re having troubles in your marriage; is there anything I can do to help?

          Interrogator: No, that’s all right. She just doesn’t see the importance of my work. But thanks.

          Witness: No problem, buddy. I know how it feels to be unappreciated.

          Etc. Schmonciousness?

          • Tatterdemalion says:

            I would say “simulated consciousness”, probably.

            I don’t think the Turing test tells us much about consciousness.

            On the one hand, it’s easy to imagine that a sufficiently advanced machine could produce test-passing output without having actual subjective experience;

            On the other, my pet rat would definitely fail a Turing test, but I’d bet heavily in favour of her being conscious (she has biological structures similar to than the ones that produce consciousness in me, and displays behaviours consistent with consciousness).

            The Turing test tests for ability to function as an intelligent being, not for subjective experience. The two are somewhat linked, because so far the only way we know of to generate Turing-test passing functionality also generates consciousness as a side effect, but they’re very much not the same thing.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Sorry, still not convinced. Solipsism is internally consistent, but it doesn’t appeal to most of us.

            If you construct a coherent and moving appeal to my intellect and feelings in support of your claim that you really do have actual subjective experiences, describing something that seems very much like what I experience, and expressing how frustrating and hurtful it is if I refuse to acknowledge your claim, I’ll probably grant your claim. If you act like you are conscious, it’s certain to be easier and more efficient to interact with you if I start by assuming you are conscious.

            When a computer starts exhibiting similar behavior, what’s the payoff to doubting it?

            I do sympathize with people who point out that we don’t yet have a clear idea of how intelligence and/or consciousness are implemented in humans. If the road to either in machines requires first coming up with a clear spec and a deterministic top-down algorithm, we’ve certainly got a ways to go. But evolution didn’t come up with either of them by that route, and I don’t consider it really likely that we will either. If either is an emergent phenomenon stemming from just the right kind of multi-level recursive feedback systems, then we’ll probably know it when we see it.

            Until then, it smells to me like moving the goalposts. Computers are great but they’ll never beat a grand master at chess, or win at go, or compose music, or pilot a vehicle, or be truly self-aware, or feel love. There may well be some sort of dividing line beyond which a machine cannot go, but it’s really hard to imagine what kind of physical or logical law would be needed in order to preclude it.

    • Eponymous says:

      Suppose a race of silicon-based aliens created a carbon-based “AI” that (by a remarkable coincidence) turned out to be an exact replica of Edward Feser. Then one of their philosophers decided to write a blog post…

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m sympathetic to the notion that we’re never going to create human-style or type artificial intelligence that will be conscious or anything you can describe as an entity rather than a tool (really smart dumb computers that are smart as a human doing an IQ test on maths problems or even much, much smarter on that kind of computational level is another matter, that’s probably plenty achievable), but the trouble with Feser’s arguments is that they equally apply to humans if you consider that we’re just ambulatory lumps of matter, meatbags: you could just as well say that humans could never be intelligent or conscious because we’re made out of the same things as bundles of sticks, and just because we walk around and manipulate things that doesn’t mean there’s any mind going on there, it’s like a Tinkertoy machine doing a programmed routine.

      (I realise Peter Watts is probably bouncing up and down going That’s exactly the point I was trying to make in Blind Side! You don’t need consciousness and are better off without it as a meat machine simply running subroutines! this minute but forget that).

      Feser is a Thomist and a Catholic like myself, so we solve the problem of consciousness via the soul and God, but as an argument to convince the secular I don’t think it works too well.

      • Nick says:

        Feser is a Thomist and a Catholic like myself, so we solve the problem of consciousness via the soul and God, but as an argument to convince the secular I don’t think it works too well.

        Believe me, Deiseach, I’m trying….

    • vV_Vv says:

      It is easier to see the fallacy here if you think of a Tinkertoy computer or a hydraulic computer instead of an electronic computer. It is obvious that the movements of sticks count as the implementation of logical functions, information processing, etc. only insofar as the designer has assigned such interpretations to the movements, and that apart from this interpretation they would be nothing more than meaningless movements.

      Up until these meaningless movements become better than you at producing meaningless patterns of color on a screen that humans interpret as philosophical essays. Then you are out of work, and you can philosophize all the way that this is not Real Intelligence™, you’ll still be out of work.

  18. Le Maistre Chat says:

    What are the significant differences between theism and the simulation hypothesis?
    Off the top of my head: ontology is one, the simulation hypothesis being promulgated by materialists. Another is that while in SH, our creator is qualitatively superior than us, we can’t trust that he is the Good.

    • albatross11 says:

      I don’t think all forms of theism assume God/the gods are good. Consider Greek paganism.

    • edmundgennings says:

      There is a difference in between classical theism and the simulation hypothesis most if not all of aspects of God that are metaphysically incredibly important but not flashy. The simulator is contingent, composite, imperfect, and in time.

      • Eponymous says:

        The simulator is contingent, composite, imperfect, and in time.

        Well, he’s certainly not in *our* time if he’s running our simulation.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Cartesian omnipotence.

      /runs away from Deiseach

      • Deiseach says:

        Once I figure out if I should be outraged on a theological level about that, I will or won’t bother running after you, Hoopyfreud 😀

        • Nick says:

          I imagine it’s to do with the Cartesian demon, but I can’t figure out the reason for running away either.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Descartes claimed God could draw a square circle. I think this is heresy. Aquinas at least disagreed.

          • Nick says:

            Oh, that. Descartes is wrong, but I don’t think it’s heresy. Lots of people are wrong about lots of things, but only a few are wrong enough to go to hell for it.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Fair enough. I don’t know enough doctrine to know exactly what of Descartes is heretical and what isn’t.

          • Deiseach says:

            Descartes is wrong, but I don’t think it’s heresy.

            Welllllllll…. if he’s indulging in Fideism, then we can get him that way (hang on till I grab my Big Dominican Heretic Beating Stick) 🙂

            Fideism is certainly strongly condemned, and may even be regarded as sinful, but I’m not quite sure that it’s a formal heresy. So watch yourself there, Rene!

          • Protagoras says:

            Pretty sure Descartes wasn’t a Fideist. But I expect you could find other heresies he’s guilty of.

    • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

      IMO the biggest difference is that the simulation hypothesis is implied by the standard scientific epistemology + some plausible empirical claims, while theism is justified by a different, less scientific sort of thinking.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        The “scientific epistemology” half of the argument seems a bit unwarranted. The “plausible empirical claims” half seems alarming if true and alarmingly incorrect if not. Can you elaborate?

        • Kestrellius says:

          I’d assume it’s a reference to Bostrom’s Simulation Argument.

        • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

          (Oops, replied to Kestrelius, meant to reply to you. Reposting…)

          Yep. I’d be happy to elaborate, but the first couple pages of me elaborating would be me just copy-pasting from Bostrom.

          So, if you’ve read the Bostrom paper, I’d be interested to hear your reaction to it–what part of it do you disagree with? I can then tell you more about my thoughts on that part.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Sorry for this late response. I have no fundamental objections to Bostrom other than that his argument for only needing to simulate sense data seems deeply fundamentally flawed; for example, fluid flow is observed to be difficult as fuck to simulate, and the simulation of it is necessary.

            My bigger objection is to the use of the phrases, “scientific epistemology” and “empirical claims.” Bostrom’s argument is rooted in neither of those things.

          • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

            Hoopyfreud: OK, cool. That’s an important objection which I’ve been thinking about a bit lately; I am rather uncertain.

            (1) Bostrom’s argument IIRC is not that you don’t need to simulate anything besides sense data, but that the most expensive stuff to simulate will be human brains. (this allows him to do his back-of-the-envelope cost estimates) So your claim is that simulating the water in my shower accurately enough to be believable by me will be more computationally expensive than simulating me? I think that might be true, but I’d like to see some good arguments for that. Is there a literature on this?

            (2) I think that if the only real objection to Bostrom is this issue about how computationally expensive it is to make convincing simulations, then my original point still stands: there is a MASSIVE difference in the justification for theism vs. the justification for the simulation hypothesis, and it’s basically the difference I described.

            What part of his argument is unscientific? As for empirical claims, well, are you denying that his argument depends on some?

      • quanta413 says:

        IMO the biggest difference is that the simulation hypothesis is implied by the standard scientific epistemology + some plausible empirical claims

        As an atheist who disagrees, I’m tempted to fight this to the death, but it will probably go nowhere.

        I see no empirical claims for the simulation hypothesis though (well I’ve never heard any I didn’t think were either wrong or irrelevant), so let’s start with what you think those are.

        • Walter says:

          Like what’s your answer to the Fermi paradox if you reject simulationism? The universe is big and old, why no paperclippers?

          • acymetric says:

            Perhaps the model of civilizations that assumes inevitable paperclipping is a bad one?

          • John Schilling says:

            Like what’s your answer to the Fermi paradox if you reject simulationism?

            Didn’t we just have this discussion, again, in the last OT? Rather than repeat it yet another time, let’s look at the specific facet of that question most relevant to the topic at hand – how does the simulation hypothesis change anything w/re the Fermi paradox?

            The universe is big and old, why no paperclippers?

            The simulation has a vast grid and has been running for many clock cycles; why no simulated paperclippers? If you are correct(*) about the inevitability of paperclippers under the apparent physical laws of our universe, then a free-running simulation should have evolved simulated paperclippers long ago. And if the Simulation Gods have been editing out the paperclippers because they just want to study humans in isolation, then why did they make the simulation so big and old as to require constant paperclipper-pruning?

            You can handwave explanations to this by assuming arbitrary motives and perfect deceptions to the Simulation Gods, like they want to study humans who mistakenly believe they live in a vast empty universe instead of a mere globular cluster or whatnot, but that’s the same level of handwaving as the theories that have the Abrahamic Gods burying dinosaur fossils.

            So, one more point of similarity between theism and the simulation hypothesis: Proponents of both are willing to postulate a nigh-omnipotent deity resorting to the cheap tricks of a stage magician to headfake their audience.

            * You’re not, but even if you were the paradox remains.

          • Eponymous says:

            There was quite a long discussion of this on the last open thread. You might find it interesting.

            ETA: this response was to Walter.

          • Eponymous says:

            @JS

            One possible fermi + simulation explanation is that our simulation is a game, it was only started recently (the past is just the pre-constructed game world), and the players all started out at the same tech level for competitive balance.

            One argument for this is that a high fraction of simulations we currently run are games.

            GC made this argument on his blog. Search for his post on Oumuamua and search the comments for his longer argument.

          • Nick says:

            GC made this argument on his blog. Search for his post on Oumuamua and search the comments for his longer argument.

            Huh? Who is “GC”?

          • Deiseach says:

            The universe is big and old, why no paperclippers?

            Because the universe is big and old? I think we’re like someone in 14th century Mesoamerica going “Well, if there really was anyone alive on the other side of the Big Water, why haven’t we or anyone else seen them yet?”

            There’s a long, long, long way between us and them, if there are any them out there. They might turn up within the next fifty years, they might not; who knows?

          • Eponymous says:

            @Nick:

            Greg Cochran.

          • Walter says:

            The ‘why no simulated paperclippers’ argument is so weird i’m having trouble formulating the level to respond to it on.

            Let’s take this down a step. Let’s converse as though we are (unknowingly) Star Wars characters, having this conversation inside a future Star Wars simulation. SWWalter has just made this post, and SWJohnSchilling has just objected.

            SWWalter: “We are definitely in a simulation, because otherwise paperclippers!”
            SWJohnSchilling: “If this was a simulation, if your ‘George Lucas’ was even a real thing, then why hasn’t HE introduced simulated paperclippers?”

            Like, what is the proper response for SWWalter to make at that point? He’s correct that he’s in a simulation, but how does he answer SWJohnSchilling’s objection? What is SWJohnSchilling even objecting to?

          • John Schilling says:

            George Lucas did include enough simulated alien life to convincingly fill his simulated universe; if it’s just the fact that his aliens aren’t specifically interested in paperclipping for your tastes, that’s a narrower criticism that neither I nor Fermi feel any great need to engage. Possibly it means that Lucas’s simulation is unrealistic.

            But Lucas’s simulation, like most all the other fictional simulations we have access to, is about the right size for its starring cast. That seems to be a basic feature of simulationism, and a reasonable one. A fantasy author who needs a city, will render a city in reasonable detail, make a few fuzzy mentions of the land it is in, and probably not mention other contents or the planets and constellations in its night sky. Lucas needed a “galactic empire”, most of which was very fuzzy and low-res and some mono-environmental planets and there’s nothing in the simulated universe beyond that one galaxy.

            We live in a universe that is at least two dozen orders of magnitude bigger than it needs to be for just the human race, and every part of it we manage to look at we find rendered in as fine a detail as we can measure. That’s profoundly weird for a real or a simulated universe, and neither you nor anyone else has done anything to convince me that simulation makes it any less weird.

          • vV_Vv says:

            SWJohnSchilling: “If this was a simulation, if your ‘George Lucas’ was even a real thing, then why hasn’t HE introduced simulated paperclippers?”

            A better question is, if paperclips are inevitable, then why hasn’t George Lucas been already paperclipped by an AI in his universe?

            You’re just pushing the problem one level of indirection away.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Uh …. the simulation argument and the paper clipping argument are mutually exclusive? Walter conflates them in the original and people are just going along with this.

          • Walter says:

            *Blink*

            Like, you can’t talk about the resources constraint of the simulator/God, right? Your reason for not believing in George Lucas/God is that surely he’d get bored making all this space?

            I just want to register the sheer oddness of these arguments.

            Like, ok, in the truman show there is a character in a simulation. His whole situation is a setup. Eventually he runs a boat into the edge of the world.

            TrumanWalter: Hah, look, a crack in the world, evidence that I live on a game show!
            TrumanJS: Rubbish. If this was a simulation why wouldn’t there be more simulated ocean?
            TrumanvV_Vv: And really, the question is why any theoretical game show host hasn’t fallen through the crack in his own world!

            Am I strawmanning here? I don’t think so, but, like, how else to interpret JS saying that something not being right is evidence against a simulation, because in a simulation it would be simulated right?

            It seems like for JS the absence of aliens proves that he isn’t in a simulation, because the author would put them in if he was, but their presence…would also prove he isn’t in a simulation, because it follows logically from computers and rockets and earth not being special, it would be as ordinary as everything else.

            vV_Vv’s argument is even more hard to parse? Like, Ok, Fermi says that he’s located a problem with our simulation, so I am persuaded that we are in one. V responds, instead, by wondering how the author would deal with that problem in their real world?

            Like, is someone contending that simulations have to resemble their creators? Or is Warcraft V is wondering how the programmer would still be alive, since code glitches would have killed them long ago if Warcraft wasn’t the real world?

          • greenwoodjw says:

            The universe is about 13.7 billion years old. The Sun and Earth are roughly 4 billion years old. That leaves about 9 billion years, about 2 cycles of Sun/Earth development.

            But there’s also a period of time where the universe was compact and too crowded to develop stable systems, and that took a surprisingly long time to settle down into something that looks similar to the current universe.

            That process, incidentally, took about 9 billion years, according to my blind read of Wikipedia.

            So, odds are, if there are any other planets with intelligent life, they are at a similar level of development to us. Our radio broadcasts cover an area of 200 light-years, which is almost 0% of the area of just this galaxy.

            So, we’re basically asking “How come we can’t find anyone in this mall?” when we’re in a side entryway in a remote corner of the mall and we’ve been looking for 2 minutes, AND everyone else just got there too.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            greenwoodjw:

            But there’s also a period of time where the universe was compact and too crowded to develop stable systems, and that took a surprisingly long time to settle down into something that looks similar to the current universe.

            That process, incidentally, took about 9 billion years, according to my blind read of Wikipedia.

            I don’t think that’s right. See this:

            Observations by Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based instruments show that the first galaxies took shape as little as one billion years after the Big Bang, which probably took place about 13 billion to 14 billion years ago.

            The wikipedia article on “Chronology of the universe” says that the regime of dark energy — expansion happening at an accelerating rate — started after about 9.8 billion years, so that might be what you were thinking of.

            But even our own galaxy is thought to be 13.6 billion years old.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            @Doctor Mist

            Basically, yes. I’m counting from “chaotic plasma” to “Universe a layman would recognize”, not to “First stars and whatnot”

          • Doctor Mist says:

            “Universe a layman would recognize”

            I would count galaxies and stars and planets as “universe a layman would recognize”. It’s what we thought we were in now until just a few years ago. I don’t think there’s anything about the current dominance of dark energy that’s a prerequisite for the formation of life or intelligence.

        • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

          The empirical claim is a disjunction:

          (1) the human species is NOT overwhelmingly likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage
          AND/OR
          (2) AT LEAST SOME posthuman-stage civilizations run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof)

          To see why this claim is plausible, consider that to reject it, you have to make a very strong generalization about posthuman-stage civilizations and also be extremely pessimistic about existential risk. Both of those things seem unwarranted.

          See Bostrom’s paper for more on this.

      • JPNunez says:

        Plausible empirical claims?

        Gonna simulate a universe to get a few great philosophers to have a great answer to this.

    • Nick says:

      I think edmundgennings is on the right track. Theism and the simulation hypothesis aren’t even opposed; we may or may not be in a simulation, but we exist so God does too. And as far as attributes go God is very different from a simulator.

    • A better question would be: what’s the difference between deism and the simulation hypothesis? The simulation hypothesis doesn’t make any claims about the nature of motivations of the creator, unlike every religion practiced today. I’m not sure to what extent deism is different, except that some have claimed the simulation hypothesis is theoretically possible to have empirical studies that can back it up.

    • Walter says:

      Just surface level stuff, I guess? Like, you could view them as different dialects of a single language.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      The big difference, in my view anyway, is that deism makes positive claims while the claims of simulationism are essentially negative.

      If I say “God created the universe, as described in this holy book” then we can make testable predictions based on that. There are usually ways in which we reasonably expect a world created by this particular deity to look different from one which wasn’t created by that deity. Even the worst offenders in terms of “God of the gaps” arguments leave some room for science to falsify their claims.

      If I say “nothing is real, we’re all in a complex computer simulation in a computer running under alien physics” then there’s really nowhere to go from there. Either you embrace radical skepticism or you reject it, but either way no amount of empirical evidence can help you.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Simulationism is a subset of theism. They are “different” in the same way that humans are different from mammals.

    • vV_Vv says:

      Off the top of my head: ontology is one, the simulation hypothesis being promulgated by materialists.

      One man’s materialist is another man’s metaphysicist.

    • aristides says:

      I actually believe both, though I’m not sure if that’s a heresy. I think theism makes additional claims about the nature of the creator, such as he is omnipresent, powerful, and benevolent. But honestly I’m the type of person that even if our creator is none of those things and we are in a more materialistic universe, I will gladly worship them since they gave me life, and I will be forever grateful for that. I hope Christianity is correct, but if the simulation hypothesis is correct, I will still have considered my time spent worshiping well used.

  19. A Definite Beta Guy says:

    In positive, too-early-to-share-in-meat-space news, the household is expecting a new addition late this year.

    So…uhhh…what do I expect when she’s expecting?

    • meh says:

      Congratulations. Expect complete misery and no joy from life.

      • Eternaltraveler says:

        In the first 6 months my sleep deprevation was severe enough that i barely remember it at all (sleep is necessary for memory consolidation). Also your taking care of something that clearly doesnt have much going on upstairs during that period.

        Around 6 months he started sleeping through the night and around the same time his mind started coming together. Humans clearly should gestate 15 months; a newborn is not ready for the world.

        After that it’s still a lot of work but it’s highly rewarding as you get to watch and influence a nascient human level intelligence. Its remarkable how quickly he’s able to absorb and process novel stimuli. In him, at a very early period I’ve also seen aspects of my own personality emerge which appear to be innate. I dont see how anyone who’s raised a child could think they could be blank slates.

        Now hes almost 3 and a joy to hang out with and its incredibly rewarding.

        • Etoile says:

          Disagree – 4-5 months are great because you can put them in one place, give them pretty much any object to entertain them, and go do stuff. They will remain entertained for a reasonable period of time and there’s no risk of them going anywhere. (Varies by baby of course.)

          • Deiseach says:

            Are playpens still a thing? Put the cage up, put the kid inside with some toys, go on with whatever you have to do safe(ish) in the knowledge that they can’t get into mischief (until they learn how to climb out, like my youngest brother when he was two-three years of age, so to keep him out of harm’s way my sister and myself had to get into the playpen with him).

          • Aapje says:

            I climbed out of the pen while still in a sleeping bag…they found me sleeping at the top of the stairs, where I had been listening to the sounds from below.

            Ever since, they called me the snake (OK, that is not true).

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Expect a baby to come out of her body.

      (Congratulations!)

    • albatross11 says:

      Congratulations!

    • dick says:

      Congrats! Whatever your position on sleep training, expect some people to think you’re crazy for it.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Pregnancy is very different for different people, and indeed for different pregnancies from the same person. For example, for my first child, my wife had intense morning sickness for the entire pregnancy, while for my second child, she had (much more typical) mild morning sickness in the first trimester, nothing thereafter.

      Some things are pretty unavoidable: during the third trimester, your wife will have a difficult time sleeping because of the weight of the baby on her internal organs.

      If it’s too early to share in meatspace, please do be aware that it’s still a risk. The most common cause of miscarriage is polyploidies, which usually cause the fetus to fail to develop in the mid to late first trimester.

      Towards the end of the first trimester, your wife will get a battery of screenings of one kind or another. There may be ultrasounds, blood tests, or (less likely) amniocentesis or some other similar exam. These will give you a general sense of the risk of Down syndrome and other genetic abnormalities that aren’t as likely to abort the pregnancy. What screenings she gets depends on her age and other risk factors.

      You should get Expecting Better by Emily Oster for a book-length treatment of what’s going on with pregnancy in a style and approach that readers of SSC are likely to appreciate.

      (Also congrats! Kids are awesome. There are definitely some very tough things about parenthood, but the rewarding bits are unparalleled.)

    • metacelsus says:

      You might be interested in the Biodeterminist’s Guide to Parenting (on Scott’s old livejournal), archived here: https://archive.fo/7RULL

      Skip to the “During Pregnancy” section.

    • Nick says:

      Congratulations!

    • bean says:

      Congratulations!

    • woah77 says:

      Congratulations!

      I went through this about 2 years ago. Expect lots of hormones. Lots of weird cravings. None of them will ever exist already. Be patient.

    • dndnrsn says:

      Congrats!

    • baconbits9 says:

      I encourage your wife to research her pelvic floor, lots of women have long term issues with it after birth which can be mitigated if she starts now.

    • Randy M says:

      So…uhhh…what do I expect when she’s expecting?

      If you mean during pregnancy, there’s likely increased appetite, moodiness, anxiousness, cramping, need to urinate, excitement, and potentially closeness as a couple.
      Help her learn to relax (physically, mentally, and emotionally–it helps with pains of contraction), eat well (protein, eggs, greens, etc.), and exercise. Swimming is great for getting exercise and relieving pressure. Take some photos, go easy on the ultrasounds. If you are in the So Cal area, we teach a class you can attend.

      If you mean for after birth, best case scenario in the first nine or so months is an adorable little machine for turning milk into waste that doesn’t want much other than to reattach itself to mom. That’s okay! Let him/her. If there is a lot of fussiness check the mother’s diet, or formula as applicable, make sure the diapers aren’t rubbing wrong, cuddle.
      Take the baby out in the mornings on weekends so the mom can sleep, and other times as available. Nap when the baby naps. The constant neediness will wane and any bad memories with it.

    • Walter says:

      Congratulations!

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Grats!

      I don’t know how her pregnancy will treat you, but for me I went hypernesting. I realized that “after this I’m really going to want everything to be easy and nothing around the house to annoy me besides the child.” So I cleaned out the house and the garage and got everything in order, fixed everything that was broken, replaced the old dishwasher and kitchen sink, installed a new electrical outlet for the freezer she always wanted in the garage, installed pull-out racks in all the kitchen cabinets, hung crown molding in the baby’s room (I got carried away I know), repainted, new TV for the bedroom while she recovers, etc etc. Basically I wanted everything to be perfect in the house just in time for the baby to wreck it all.

      • Randy M says:

        My wife’s friends were in the middle of remodeling the bathroom when the she (the other wife in the couple, not mine) got pregnant. She would not start labor until he finished putting the door on the bathroom, lol.

    • Etoile says:

      Congratulations! As a one-time “fellow-laborer” (haha), i can offer the following smaller suggestions, because I think most people will catch the lager ones:

      1) Recommend going to the ultrasounds with her because you get to see your bean move in real time, especially when it’s small (12 weeks). The two main ultrasounds are 12 weeks (sometimes – looks for Doens Syndrome signs) and 20 weeks (pretty much always – gender and anatomy). And sometimes they mess up your picture CD (or link or whatever) and don’t give you any pics at all, or just a few crappy ones.

      2) Keep her and yourself well-fed and don’t discuss anything contentious when you are both hungry or tired. This is always good advice, but from my own moodiness and fights I’ve had with my SO while pregnant *on the way* to dinner, which then vanished in importance during dinner, know it is particularly relevant at this time!

      3) wait to buy stuff. Seriously. Lots of people with existing babies and relatives will eant to supply you with clothing and accessories; your minimal need is a car seat and a pediatrician’s name, without which you can’t leave the hospital.

      Good luck!

      Minor edits for readability

    • Deiseach says:

      Congratulations! You will now regret every choice you’ve ever made 🙂

      Your expectant person will be awash with hormones, so that’s going to be a fun experience going from the heights of contentment to the depths of crying about a potato peeler for you and them. Just say “Yes, dear” a lot and without complaint do runs at one in the morning to pick up that triple order of burgers they will crave.

      Once the new person comes into the household, you will be amazed to discover how, unbeknownst to yourself all along, your dwelling place was a hellhole deathtrap. That comes later when the small person is beginning to be ambulatory and tries pulling everything down on themselves, but just giving you ample warning about how many sharp corners and “just at the right level to stick your fingers in and damage yourself” orifices you will find.

      Good luck and best wishes on embarking upon the fearsome adventure most of humanity has managed to survive, so your chances of getting through it are also extremely good!

      EDIT: Seconding Etoile on not buying a ton of stuff; your small person will be growing like a weed so will rapidly outgrow all the cute things you bought. Take all donations of second-hand stuff from clothes to toys to buggies to paraphenalia from friends, relatives and strangers you ambush in the streets, this will enable them to offload all the cute things their own smallies have outgrown and save you a ton in expenses.

    • Eponymous says:

      Congrats. What do you want to know?

      I’ll give my standard odd-ball advice: the first year especially is quite hard on your body (lack of sleep, and probably bad diet and no exercise). Also, kids are murder on your back — you’re constantly picking them up, hoisting them about, rocking them, and serving as a pack mule for their strollers, car seats, and diaper bags.

      So: get in shape now. And especially work on your core muscles.

    • Etoile says:

      This maybe jumping the gun a bit, but you might not come back for advice when the baby is born, so here it is, in amendment to my earlier post: get hand-me-downs on most things, but the following things are worth paying for or at least choosing yourself and trying them in-store:

      1) the stroller
      2) the diaper bag – get a well-designed bookbag style with many pockets and lots of room vs a cheap Target tote
      3) the car seat of course

    • Plumber says:

      @A Definite Beta Guy,

      Congratulations!

      There’s lots of good advice upthread so all I really have to add in ‘sides:

      1) Get a car seat/stroller combination where the car seat easily locks into the stroller.

      2) Soy based baby formula leads to very bad smells, don’t use it.

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      Congratulations!

    • AKL says:

      You didn’t precisely ask for advice but of course I could not resist. Take what you like and leave the rest:

      Many people feel very strongly about breast feeding. You have probably internalized the idea that breastfeeding is really important (but can only vaguely articulate why) without realizing it. You will get that message a lot more in the coming months.

      None of your providers will tell you that there is a delay between the baby being born and Mom’s breast milk coming in. At some point you will hear about how babies lose 10% of their body weight in the first 3 days of life, and will think “huh that’s interesting.” But (if you are breast feeding) you will leave your first pediatrician’s visit terrified that Mom does not have a sufficient milk supply, that you won’t be able to breastfeed, and that you are failing to provide your baby’s most basic needs to their permanent detriment. This will be tremendously difficult emotionally. You will wonder why no one at the hospital warned you about this. It will almost definitely be fine.

      If you live in a big city it can take over a year to get into the daycare center that you want. You probably haven’t thought about this yet. Daycare center, home daycare, nanny… You should think about it now – this is the most time sensitive thing you have to do. Visit centers and get on waitlists (if this is / may be applicable to you). This is the only thing right now where waiting can really hurt you.

      If you can, find a pediatrics practice where you like the nurses. Things are going to feel like they’re out of control, and the nurses are going to be the ones you talk to. If you trust them, they can be tremendously helpful and reassuring. If you don’t respect them, their reassurance won’t be worth much. You don’t have to rush, but scope out practices sooner than later (between 20 and 30 weeks).

      The hospital you are giving birth at offers child-birth classes. Take them. If they don’t offer a tour of the hospital (where you check in, where you triage, labor rooms, recovery rooms), ask for one. You will be able to sign up for a class between, say, any time after 16 weeks. Take the class earlier rather than later. You may leave feeling like “hey maybe we should get a doula.” That will leave you plenty of time to interview doulas (if you go that route) to find someone who meshes with you.

      The idea of labor and delivery will seem overwhelmingly difficult and scary. The first week (and month, quarter,…) are much more difficult.

      I second the recommendation for Emily Oster’s “Expecting Better.” In a similar vein, we got a lot of value from “Baby 411” by Brown and Fields.

      Before the baby is born, buy a swaddle made by Happiest Baby. It is much better than all the other swaddles. Just buy it now and throw it somewhere.

      • sandoratthezoo says:

        So, you will probably be okay, indeed, with the gap between birth and milk coming in. We were fine with our first baby!

        With our second baby, we weren’t, and he got really, really, really low blood sugar, to the point where it was difficult to wake him up at all, before we realized that we really needed to get a bottle of formula into him.

        People will terrify you with the idea that if you give your baby a bottle in the first N weeks, they’ll never breastfeed again. And, I mean… every baby is different, and probably some people have that problem. We didn’t. Actually, with our daughter, we had difficulty getting her to take the bottle, possibly because we waited so long before trying it with her.

        So, look, here’s a really, really, really important point: everyone’s baby is different. Every mother is different. At some point, you’ll have a conversation with another parent, and they’ll be like, “OMG, so what did you do about X?” And you’ll say, “I’m sorry, what? That literally never happened to me.”

        People love to relitigate their experience with their baby, and give you the most crucial advice that you’d ever get — if you had their baby. But your baby will be different. Not just its problems will be different, also the solutions that somebody else used for the identical problem will provoke a completely different reaction from your baby.

        It’s not that all advice is useless, it’s that most people are way too sure that their experience is universal. Listen to what people say but take it with a healthy handful of salt.

        • AKL says:

          I agree with this completely. I didn’t mean to say “just do what you’re doing, it will be fine no matter what.” I meant to say that whether you end up breast feeding exclusively, formula feeding exclusively, or some combination (or bridging with formula while milk comes in), your baby will be fine. There’s a big “Breast is best” vs. “Fed is best” flame war (far more controversial than sleep training in my experience) and I’m strongly on the “Fed is best” side (but didn’t want to include a polemic in my earlier post).

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      The sleep deprivation is awful. It passes, but it’s awful. I recommend paying for (and saving up for, and maybe registering for at your baby shower if you do one of those) as many hours’ worth of night doula time as you can afford. Good night doulas are magical genius angels. Note that there are also sleep regressions, where after months of things getting better you have weeks of things getting worse again. These are particularly aggravating but perfectly normal.

      Seconding the “fed is best” people on formula being a perfectly reasonable option when needed, or really, when convenient.

      Seconding also the people who advise building up your core strength. The “Happiest Baby on the Block” method in particular requires quite a lot of core muscle effort, and is worth it when it works (which is often).

    • Viliam says:

      Things I haven’t seen mentioned in the thread yet:

      Did you already choose the hospital? In our choice, an important factor was the percentage of cesareans. Most doctors will tell you “of course we only do cesareans when necessary“. But in practice, in some hospitals “when necessary” translates to 15% of births, in others it could be 50% or more.

      Get a lesson on proper breastfeeding. A different angle can sometimes make the difference between “okay” and “hurts like hell”. And the hospital staff can be surprisingly ignorant about this. It can be useful to have a phone number to a person willing to visit you at the hospital and provide advice there.

      Are you an American? Is the baby a boy? If both answers are yes, what is your opinion on circumcision? From what I heard about USA, doctors will do it routinely, sometimes even if you explicitly tell them you don’t want it done. You may want to be physically present with the child all the time to stop them.

      Generally, father being present at birth is a good idea. Somehow the doctors respect an adult and fully conscious man more than they respect a woman in pain. It may make a difference between your wishes about the childbirth being respected, or ignored with some lame excuse (such as asking the person in pain the same question over and over again until they finally give up and provide the desired answer, and calling this an “informed consent” afterwards).

      At home you may want to have a special table for changing diapers. Keep there the diapers, some wet towels, spare clothes. Consistence is the key: when you wake up at 3 AM, after several months of sleep deprivation, and you need to change diapers, but the baby starts peeing in the middle of the change, so now you have to change the clothes too… you will appreciate having everything prepared at the usual place.

      Helpful relatives want to bring diapers and toys? You want diapers size 2 (because by the time you are comfortable to have visitors, the baby has already grown out of size 1), and you will probably want to try different kinds of diapers to see how your baby’s skin reacts. Toys are irrelevant at the beginning; a child less than a half year old will ignore them anyway.

      Make a lot of photos! These moments will never come back. Keep taking a picture of everything with your smartphone. Make more photos rather than less; you can select the good ones later.

      You may want to have a child carrier. It allows you to rock the child to sleep, while having two free hands (so you can e.g. read something on Kindle). And you can walk outside freely, even in places where a stroller would be difficult to move. Also, having the baby on your body makes thermoregulation easier. (Buy two carriers, adjust one for you and one for your wife, so you don’t have to do last-minute setup.)

      The perspective of a newborn: Babies prefer white noise to silence; that’s why people do the “sssh” sounds. (Uterus is a loud place.) Newborns are scared of open space: when you put a baby on its back to change a diaper or clothes, put some towel over its hands, to prevent a panic moment of “I am a little monkey falling off a tree!!!”.

      After a month or two, the baby will finally smile at you. After a year, the baby will start talking. After your second child is one year old, the kids will play together, and you can finally get some rest.

      In general, breastfeeding is easier than formula, e.g. when your baby wants some milk at 3 AM.

      • Randy M says:

        This is good advice.

      • albatross11 says:

        The hospital where we had our first child had a nurse who was also a lactation consultant. This amounted, as best I could tell, to a function that’s been being done since before there were people–an experienced older mom showing a younger mom how to breastfeed the baby. But she was also a nurse, so had medical training and probably a fair bit of experience with what kinds of problems new moms had breastfeeding.

        It always amazes me that this is something that has to be learned, instead of coming naturally. Talk about things right on the critical path of passing on your genes!

        • Randy M says:

          It always amazes me that this is something that has to be learned, instead of coming naturally.

          You could say the same thing about birthing itself. Humans seem a lot less instinctual. Luckily intelligence and communication can make up for that (obviously something would have to).
          Quality of hospital provided lactation consultants does vary. If you think it is important, don’t be satisfied with a visit that doesn’t fix your problems on the assumption that it’s just impossible for you in particular.

      • albatross11 says:

        Here’s something that was really important for us:

        Agree on who is “on” with the baby each night (alternating nights or by times), so you don’t end up having a stupid argument about whose turn it is to get the baby calmed down *this time*. If the baby ends up with a 3AM feeding every night, then your life will be better if you both agree on who’s getting up for that feeding. (I wound up watching Destinos every night for our son’s 3AM feedings. Great for my Spanish!)

        It was helpful for us to realize that I could get up, change our son’s diaper, and pop him onto her breast to fall back asleep without fully waking up–I could go right back to sleep after that. If she did all that, she’d be awake all night. We were comfortable with our babies sleeping between us in bed, mainly because we’d had a small dog sleeping in our bed for many years before that, and knew we were able to not roll over on her. YMMV. I think if you do that, you don’t want a soft, squishy mattress and you don’t want lots of loose blankets around the baby.

        Eventually, your wife is likely to want to pump breast milk so you can give the baby some feedings. If she goes back to work soon after having the baby, she may need to do that to have enough to feed the baby/keep from losing her milk. (And this will involve a struggle to find a room where she can do this without flashing her coworkers.) She basically ends up hooking herself to a human milking machine, which is as weird (and not at all sexy, IMO, despite the involvement of boobs) as it sounds. But it works, and you end up with milk that can be refrigerated, reheated carefully, and fed to a baby while mom’s at work/in class/finally getting a good night’s sleep.

        Your wife will likely go off caffeine either during the pregnancy or afterwards to avoid caffeine keeping the baby awake. And she’ll probably be more emotional than usual, and both tired and a little mentally fuzzy in the last part of the pregnancy. (Basically late-term pregnancy just sucks a lot out of the mom.)

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Congratulations!

      I’m bringing up a thing I’ve only read about, so comments from people who know more are appreciated.

      It’s important to not forget a baby in a car, and apparently the risk isn’t habitual neglect, it’s disrupted habits and lack of sleep.

      I’ve seen a suggestion to build up habits (like walking around the car and looking in the back seat every time you get out of the car) before you have the baby.

      • dndnrsn says:

        No personal experience, but I’ve read that a smart thing to do is to put one’s cellphone, bag, whatever, in the back of the car with the kid. As many things as you’ll automatically take with you when you leave the car.

  20. Hoopyfreud says:

    Question:

    Much has been made of the idea that this is a place where people can come together to discuss controversial topics more-or-less peacably. I mostly like that. There are two issues, though, that I’d like help figuring out how to deal with.

    One – I don’t know how to engage with people who both have value systems so idiosyncratic that any engagement beyond the surface level is likely to lead to [culture war]. For example,

    “I think the 50s were a great time in the US.”
    “What about the 50s?”
    “The anti-miscegenation laws.”

    Not having a “block” option makes this especially difficult. I don’t read poster names that often. Should I just try harder to do that?

    Two – I don’t know how to avoid being bothered by people I percieve as hostile. I’m in an interracial relationship (and so was my father), so I think it’s reasonable to consider the advocacy of anti-miscegenation laws hostile to me. While that’s an extreme example, I get bothered by people advocating norms of this sort as well. This is exacerbated by the fact that, “that would make people like me sad” is (or at least is often treated as) an easy argument to dismiss, and I think that’s actually a pretty important argument to consider most of the time. Again, a “block” function would help here, but without one it’d be nice to have a way to deal with the frustration this engenders healthily.

    Also, hello again.

    • shakeddown says:

      (a) there’s an SSC blocker chrome extension. It’s very useful.

      (b) I think there’s a useful separation here. Sometimes people are hostile because they like being controversial or provocative (the extreme case is trolling, but even short of that there’s a lot of “I sure am edgy/cynical, huh?”). I don’t know if there’s a lot you can do about those. But it’s also surprising how far people can go with believing things in a reasonably friendly way, just because they actually believe them – I can’t think of a reasonable justification for anti-miscaegenation laws, but if I could I wouldn’t necessarily be hostile to you – I’d say something like “okay so your case shows there’s benefits to abolishing them, but I also think those are outweighed by the cost because of X”. And then you can get a healthy debate over whether X is a real cost, and whether it’s worth it. I think this is roughly what people call double crux.
      (Note that this doesn’t work if part of my original intent is to troll you. It also means I’d have to take the “it would make people like you sad” argument seriously – I’d have to show the costs are *really important*, not just that they might exist.)

      • albatross11 says:

        The closest I can think of to “mainstream” supporters of anti-miscgenation laws would be people who believe that members of some group (racial, religious, ethnic, caste/jati, etc.) should only marry within their group. They’re pretty rare in the parts of the world (including the internet) I inhabit.

        • Theodoric says:

          And they’re not necessarily white, or Trump supporters. Spike Lee: “I give interracial couples a look. Daggers.”

          • Well... says:

            In the research data I’ve been exposed to, as well as my personal experience*, the group of people most opposed to interracial relationships is black women.

            *Not including my wife or any girl I’ve dated since the 10th grade.

          • greenwoodjw says:

            @Well…

            There’s a friend of mine at work who’s having this problem with her mother-in-law. She’s mixed, she’s not even white, but apparently that’s enough.

            I suggested she have her fiance introduce one of our fair, Nordic-looking co-workers as his new GF just to cheese the MIL off and reconsider.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          The (maybe?) less controversial objection is about problems the kids have, not necessarily fitting into either racial/cultural group. Look at /r/asianmasculinity (do not look at /r/asianmasculinity). Love is love, do what you want to do, but people should be aware that the offspring of their interracial relationship may encounter social problems, and it’s something to weigh along with everything else when choosing a mate.

        • salvorhardin says:

          In my experience it is not rare to see handwringing articles about how intermarriage and assimilation among Jews are threats to Jewish identity and continuity and therefore Jews should be pushed harder culturally to marry fellow Jews. As a happy product of Jewish intermarriage and assimilation, I find this sort of thing extremely offensive and on the same moral continuum as support for anti-miscegenation laws, and it is a continuing irritant to me that so many otherwise rational and decent-seeming people spout such obviously bigoted nonsense.

          • Miscegenation laws make it illegal to marry someone of a different race. That’s very different from trying to persuade someone that it’s better to marry within his own race, cultural group, ethnic group, or religion.

            I think it is obvious that there are some advantages to doing so and there is nothing wrong with people pointing them out, as long as they don’t try to compel others to follow their advice.

          • albatross11 says:

            David:

            In particular, if you define “advocating for people to marry within their religious/ethnic/racial/caste group” as some kind of hate speech, you are excluding the views of a large fraction of the world, notably including Orthodox Jews, Amish, and most of the population of India.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        I wish there were something built into wordpress. I mostly SSC from my phone except when I write very long comments. And… the differences between myself and someone anti-miscegenation are going to be very, very deep, I think. Deeper than I care to drill down to basically ever. Just establishing common ground is exhausting, so usually I stay silent.

        • Deiseach says:

          I suppose my nearest experience to yours would be on the topic of abortion; generally I don’t even bother getting into an argument with pro-choicers (because it would be an argument, never a discussion) online since most of the pro-choice stuff I see is either universalist in assumptions (“if you’re a woman of course you’re pro-choice! all anti-choicers are men!”) or belligerent (there’s apparently some Twitter storm in a teacup very recently about a guy doing an online comic who tweeted something about being glad his girlfriend was not aborted, and that was treated as though he suggested the Handmaid’s Tale should be a policy enacted by the present government).

          No minds are going to be changed on either side, there is only going to be a lot of anger and outrage generated, the game is not worth the candle. So I usually ignore it (though not always, if something is especially egregious).

          That’s about all I can recommend to you: you know X topic will drive you to apoplexy, so ignore it.

        • Nick says:

          TBH I do this all the time. Most of the comments I consider writing I never do. Especially ones that I think might lead to an argument. Given that (as I think maybe Wrong Species put it below?) there’s a tradeoff here and constantly engaging your mortal foes sounds super exhausting, just do it to the degree you think you can and try pushing it once in a while as a matter of personal growth. That’s all I would really expect out of someone.

    • quanta413 says:

      One – I don’t know how to engage with people who both have value systems so idiosyncratic that any engagement beyond the surface level is likely to lead to [culture war]. For example,

      “I think the 50s were a great time in the US.”
      “What about the 50s?”
      “The anti-miscegenation laws.”

      I know not what you were asking but my advice is don’t. I only argue with people I disagree with when it will be something like… enjoyable for me. There’s a lot of those people here. I’m arguing with people I disagree with enough for it to be entertaining but not so much that it’s out of my range.

      I agree with the above idea to try a blocker extension if driving past those posts bothers you a lot.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      Was this just for sake of example or was someone here actually advocating against interracial marriage?

      • quanta413 says:

        Someone may have at some point. In the past there used to be a lot more whatchamacallems here. Like Helicopter Jim. Not that I’m sure he believed that specifically. Just that a lot of his views were crazy and repulsive so that one wouldn’t be surprising.

        Ironically, I think the pressure has ratcheted up against Scott for unrelated reasons after most of the reeeeaaaalllly far right Boldmugger types disappeared.

        • Nornagest says:

          Honestly I kind of miss the heavy Moldbugger presence. They were crazy, but they were crazy in entertaining and often thought-provoking ways. What passes for a far right here now is a lot less interesting and a lot more self-consciously edgy, although we have several perfectly civil libertarians and moderate rightists.

          Jim can stay gone, though, that guy was an asshole.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        The example was exaggerated in tone but not in content. I believe I asked (sarcastically) whether they wanted to go back to anti-miscegenation laws, to which they responded, “sure.” I’m pretty sure they were serious based on their later posts. From a now-banned user, to be fair, but from a while before they were banned.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          I suggest you approach this head on. And maybe that it’s not them, it’s you. Bear with me here for a bit.

          The point of being in an environment where people discuss many topics in intelligent and civilized ways is that there are a lot more opportunities to update you beliefs. If you approach such interactions as attacks, you won’t get anything out of them. And I see many many opportunities here.

          Take the exchange you paraphrased above. It’s a gem – it’s an intelligent person saying they miss anti-miscegenation laws. Dig into it. Maybe they have a point (yes, I know, but it happened to me last week). Maybe you’ll find out more about why they think like this, and so find ways to convince them. Most likely you’ll find out your premises, or theirs, was wrong. Most definitely both will come out of the interaction with the subconscious awareness that the other side is a real human being.

          Soo many good things. Don’t throw them away because the first reaction is to be offended.

          Of course, this only works because the conversation is civilized. If it’s not – long live the report button.

          Also I don’t find it by name in the rules, but I’ve seen a “charity principle” being mentioned and practiced here and I found it to be by far the most useful. Whenever you find a comment that rubs you the wrong way, think of the most charitable interpretation you can and answer the comment in that spirit. It takes a bit of practice, but it gets real results.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            “The point of being in an environment where people discuss many topics in intelligent and civilized ways is that there are a lot more opportunities to update you beliefs.”

            Not necessarily. There are many other possible reasons.

            I don´t think that it is reasonable to ask somebody in interracial relationship to have a discussion about merits of miscegeneration laws with their supporters. I certainly would have ignored such person and exit the conversation, altough I confess I would have been tempted to make fun of them; but since it is againts the rules, I would do my best to avoid it.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don´t think that it is reasonable to ask somebody in interracial relationship to have a discussion about merits of miscegeneration laws with their supporters.

            Do you think that it is reasonable to ask, e.g., gun owners to have a discussion about the merits of gun-control laws with their supporters? A general application of this principle would seem to make meaningful political discourse impossible on any subject people are sincerely invested in.

            I may be wrong, but I think there is a double standard here where, “[thing I oppose] is so hurtful to people I favor that its supporters should shut up and go away and stop hurting people”, whereas “[thing I support] should happen unless someone can talk me out of it, and if that’s too uncomfortable for them then that’s their problem”.

          • I don´t think that it is reasonable to ask somebody in interracial relationship to have a discussion about merits of miscegeneration laws with their supporters.

            There is a difference between demanding that other people talk with those they strongly disagree with on some important topic and choosing to talk with those you strongly disagree with. What is nice about this place is not that you have to engage in such conversations with all comers but that you have the opportunity to do so.

          • AlesZiegler says:

            @John Schilling

            I agree with David Friedman. Just to be clear, I do not think that supporters of miscegantion law should be banned here, I am just going to continue to ignore them.

            The same principle applies to gun owners; they certanly should not be forced to debate with gun control advocates, if they do not wish to do so!

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m going to throw in my 2¢ here as one of the furthest right people here who hasn’t caught a ban:

      I’m in an interracial relationship, heading towards marriage, and if I thought there was any realistic chance of an anti-miscegenation law being passed I would fight it and/or move. But frankly that’s such an unrealistic prospect in modern America that I don’t waste any time or energy worrying about it.

      That’s not to say that powerful people aren’t vocally and actively hostile towards the idea of me marrying and remaining married. I worry about state and federal legislatures who, with the enthusiastic cooperation of the family courts, have created enormous financial incentive to break up healthy families. I worry about the academy and entertainment industry which have been consistently denigrating marriage and valorizing women who abandon stable relationships for a lack of excitement. And I worry about an economy which both demands a two-income household and often places job openings hundreds or thousands of miles apart (the famous “two body problem”).

      I can get why you don’t like people glibly putting forth policy suggestions that could hurt you if ever implemented. Believe it or not, I feel the same way. But frankly I don’t think it makes sense for us to focus on the policy proposals of a powerless fringe of white nationalists when the mainstream of both parties advocate and have enacted policies which are hurting us today.

      • RalMirrorAd says:

        I would generalize the OP’s complaint though. For any given person there’s probably multiple sub segments of the population that support some law or law change that conflicts with how they live, directly or indirectly.

        Some people are unlucky enough that they live in a time and place where that sub segment gets their way. Some of those are also unlucky in addition because they have no choice whether to engage with that sub-segment because the sub-segment is in their face about it.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Sure, and if we were having this conversation in the deep South seventy years ago that would absolutely apply.

          But today, in the SSC comments? No.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            It’s not applicable in the OPs case, it might be applicable in the case of say, someone who lived in Germany but wanted to homeschool.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Ok sure, and I think that those people have every right to be upset.

            Sorry, I was interpreting your previous comment as disagreement when it seems like we’re on the same page.

      • DinoNerd says:

        I think there’s a difference between policy proposals that would hurt me (e.g. Trump’s tax increases, which are hurting me to the tune of $10K per year) and beliefs that make me “bad by definition” or at least make central aspects of my identity “bad”, with or without policy proposals to match.

        I see being against “miscegenation” as obviously in the latter category, for anyone in an interracial relationship, or with “mixed race” family or friends. Likewise the (blessedly less prevalent this decade) tendency of religious believers to insist that good behaviour is impossible for (a) atheists or (b) anyone not of their particular religion. (For an atheist, of course, or person of some other religion.) Many of the (verbal) attacks on “immigrants” in various countries also qualify, though not simply wanting less immigration (again this would be for an immigrant, a child of immigrants, etc.) Etc. etc.

        I agree that convenient ways to avoid such threads might be helpful, and also (more difficult) ways to avoid people who have some particular hobbyhorse of this kind. Every once in a while, I lose my temper, and wind up posting messages that fail on both “kind” and “necessary” – fortunately my habit of going coldly academic when furious rather than spewing insults usually keeps me from seeming banworthy when that happens 🙁 It would be better for all if I could avoid a few more of those messages (and posters) that press buttons of this kind for me.

        [Edit – for what it’s worth, the ancient bulletin board software called “Usenet” had this ability. Modern interfaces often lack the useful features of the old old days; I’d love to have the flexible “kill files” of the ancient, text based usenet reader called “trn”. Word Press totally doesn’t cut it by comparison.]

        • The Nybbler says:

          As soon as you accept that this distinction is reason to suppress argument, you’ve swallowed the Culture War whole. No arguing against gay marriage… No arguing against circumcision… or clitoridectomy. No arguing for bathroom laws… or wait, is it no arguing against them? No arguing against human sacrifice, it’s part of the Aztec identity.

          • DinoNerd says:

            Ah, but I haven’t accepted that. I’m asking for kill file functionality in wordpress.

            Yes, I’m also implicitly advocating for people to keep “kind” in mind when arguing for positions with such potential effects (which is most such positions, I fear). If your position is that all X are defective/bad etc., and X exists, then almost all X are going to be very angry with you.

            If what you want is less X, or less Y (where Y often comes along with X) you’ll get more listening – and less reporting – if you say that clearly. Not none – there are going to be people for whom Y is important, and people who hear “less Y” as a camel’s nose version of “no Y at all”. But attacking X because of Y just gets both groups mad at you, including people who are X and proud to be not Y.

            Note also that the OP also wanted strategies for dealing with arguments like this, not a ban on them. I think people who want the expression of some opinions to be banned don’t feel at all welcome on SSC, and leave.

          • toastengineer says:

            Don’t banlists, and didn’t killfiles cause more problems than they solved?

    • You can’t have a place that discusses controversial views while simultaneously not having anyone who actually says something that bothers you. Honestly, you should just develop a thicker skin and realize that some people have ideas and life experiences that are different from yours but if you understood where they came from, it might not seem so ridiculous. And yes, there are the “evil people” who seem so beyond the pale that it’s not worth having any kind of conversation. But if you consider yourself to be open minded in any kind of capacity, then you should realize that the world is confusing and contradictory and that there might be a nugget of truth in what the guy is saying, even if it’s minor. The more you expose yourself to controversial ideas, the less it bothers you.

      • I should add that I don’t think anyone necessarily has a moral imperative to be open minded. Constantly debating people and ideas you think are immoral is bad for your insanity and changes to your beliefs can easily isolate you socially. It’s a question of trade offs and what kind of person you want to be. If you don’t want to engage with certain people, that’s fine. Just be honest about why.

        • albatross11 says:

          If there are topics about which you don’t want to engage with someone, those topics are worth avoiding. But I don’t have any idea how you’d reconcile the needs of:

          a. Someone who is offended to even see topic X brought up or position Y spoken aloud.

          b. People who want to have freewheeling discussions, including about topic X and maybe even position Y.

          Those just seem incompatible, to me.

        • Constantly debating people and ideas you think are immoral is bad for your insanity

          I parse that as “makes you more sane.”

          • Nick says:

            When Wrong Species posted it I was going to correct him, but I decided I liked it better this way.

          • To be clear, I did mean “bad for your sanity”, which I think is basically right. “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss. The abyss gazes also into you.” Understanding people with such divergent views breaks our narratives until we either form new ones or we are lost in the abyss. And people generally do whatever it takes to get out of the abyss.

          • Nornagest says:

            If your narrative can only make sense of people with fringy or antiquated social views by calling them incomprehensible moral mutants, I think it deserves to be broken.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Nornagest

            From my perspective, I sincerely believe that “race-mixing ought to be prevented by law” is a view that can only be held by moral mutants. This belief has never been seriously challenged.

          • Nornagest says:

            Yeah, I got that.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Nornagest

            I mean, I’m feeling particularly good today, so if you have a good case to make for why that’s not the case, I’m happy to talk about it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Hoopyfreud:
            So, I’m going to perhaps surprise here and try to give a response to this question.

            Imagine two tribes of indigenous peoples on the New Guinea Highlands who have little interaction with the modern world and have strong taboos against their version of miscegenation. Their support for this policy is simply the result of their cultural norms. Anyone in that society will simply accept this in the same way we accept that Shakespeare was a great writer.

            It would be hard to call members of those two tribes moral mutants. They are looking out on the moral landscape from a completely different place.

            This should prompt you to realize that our morals aren’t hard coded, nor are they inevitable, and they are also contextual.

            That said, I support the idea that attempting to hold conversation along these lines here is like trying to debate a flat earther. It’s fucking exhausting. The bigger issue is that “race purity” fan will receive much less pushback here than the flat earther, meaning it feels much like Sysiphus bearing the unending burden alone. Plus you can’t just say “Satellites. We’re done.”

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @HBC

            It would be hard to call members of those two tribes moral mutants. They are looking out on the moral landscape from a completely different place.

            It seems to me like this is a central example of moral muta[ncy? ntism? tion?]. If a Romeo and Juliet from the tribes have a secret tryst that the tribe punishes by vivisection, it still looks evil to me. I can accept that the cultural context matters and values aren’t universal. But I’m going to judge the hell out of them for it anyway. They’ll still be moral mutants to me – and, I assume, I to them.

            If it’s a matter of the tribes treating them like we treat people who say Shakespeare was a hack, my spider sense still tingles, but I’m much more acommodating towards norms of taste. But when social enforcement mechanisms are invoked I get very judgmental. It says meaningful things about heirarchies of value.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Hoopyfreud:
            Aren’t you leaning a great deal on the vivisection there?

            What if they just engage in a great deal of harrumphing and statements that this a very wrong thing to do to their children who will have no tribe to truly call home? That they will never truly be comfortable and happy?

            Taking another tack, and assuming you aren’t currently a vegan, what happens if your great-grandchildren eventually eliminate meat from animals, are you a retroactively a moral mutant?

          • Nornagest says:

            I mean, I’m feeling particularly good today, so if you have a good case to make for why that’s not the case, I’m happy to talk about it.

            I’m not really that interested in defending the honor of miscegenation opponents as such, especially since I’m not sure I’ve ever actually met one (here or anywhere else). The issues I have come in at another level.

            First: it should be obvious from history or anthropology that all sorts of things your cultural milieu views as repugnant were and are considered normal and even laudable by psychologically normal people living in different times and/or cultures. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with or even tolerate those customs: Napier’s attitude towards sati was the right one. And it doesn’t mean you have to put a lot of effort into understanding their views if you don’t want to (though see later). But it does mean that tarring the people from those times and cultures as incomprehensible monsters on account of having those customs is both factually incorrect and about as close to objectively offensive as anything gets.

            Fine, you might say, but it’s 2019 and this is the Internet; we’re not talking about pre-contact Solomon Islanders. The answer to that is that universal culture ain’t so universal — it has strong links to class and geography, for one thing, but even aside from that, idiosyncrasies and people with weird backgrounds are everywhere (especially on a forum like this one, which attracts weird people like vultures to a rotting gazelle), and being able to converse with someone in decent English isn’t a clear indication that they share enough of your background and/or unsubstantiated personal gnosis to have the same moral architecture that you do.

            So: you can probably expect to encounter people whose views you consider repugnant from time to time, but who are not in fact personally repugnant, and the weirder the places you hang out in, the more of them you’ll probably see. That leaves you with some choices about how to deal with them. One is to consider seeking out places where you won’t encounter quite so many moral challenges — which is fine! I’ve done it more than once. Another is to try to find some common ground and build on it to convince them that you’re right, which is going to be, yes, exhausting and frequently unproductive, only works if you learn a lot about how their morals actually work, and therefore carries with it the risk that they might convince you. A third is to keep quiet and accept that you can’t save the world. And a fourth, if you’re in a position of power, is to exert that power to keep them out, which is also perfectly fine but implies some constraints on how, for lack of a better word, multicultural you’re willing to let your space be. What’s not going to work out well for you in pretty much any case, though, is making wild assumptions about their psychology.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Sorry for the delay – I’m in a bit of a rush, but does it help to say that I acknowledge and accept that moral mutancy status is probably reciprocal? Like, I don’t expect to be comprehensible to these people either. I think they’re evil, I expect they think I’m evil (or at least morally unmotivated), and I can deal with that. In HBC’s most recent post, this still comes across as unaccountably evil, but not impossible to live with or around. It’s tolerably evil. But talking to the tribesmen about it or arguing the opposite position seems likely to be a fool’s errand, and would probably result eventually in me bashing my head in out of frustration.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        If you consider yourself to be open minded in any kind of capacity

        This strikes me as rather unkind, and a bit hurtful. But hey, I’m engaging in good faith, because I don’t want to “avoid anyone who says anything that bothers me,” understand that “some people have different ideas than mine,” and don’t think you’re “ridiculous.” I’m being a bit snippy in my first paragraph, but I think that’s a pretty well justified response to an attack on my character.

        For an actual response, no, the more I expose myself to controversial ideas like enthnoseparatism, the more I feel like I’m staring into a howling abyss. The best arguments for it I’ve seen are based on values that are almost totally alien to me, wild extrapolations, and models of human psychology and politics that read like someone typical-minding the Marquis de Sade. Following the structure of the pyramid built on those foundations could be a stimulating intellectual exercise if it didn’t give me the screaming willies, but the foundations themselves don’t tend to be that well argued and do tend to contradict all observed evidence. The fact that people think this way bothers me; the repulsive conclusions are just the cherry on top. I have no desire to engage with them further, and I have no reason to believe there’s anything for me to gain from it. I did my homework, so why should I be obligated to treat every instance of the underlying argument as though it’s as unique and precious as a sunrise?

        To put it another way, I don’t think I’m being insufficiently open-minded by declining to talk to people who try to tell me how to attain the rank of Operating Thetan, or those who try to tell me that I’m degrading the [whatever] race. It’s tiresome and redundant in addition to being bothersome. If you want to make the call that I’m being closeminded by avoiding discussions I find tiresome and redundant, or that I’ve incorrectly categorized these arguments as tiresome and redundant, go ahead, but I’d like to register my disagreement ahead of time.

        • Eponymous says:

          Do you really encounter much ethnoseparatism / anti-miscegenation feeling around here?

          I find your comment a bit confusing because, while I can sympathize with the issue you describe, it strikes me as entirely hypothetical.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            “Much,” no. I wouldn’t be here if I did. Some, yes, and that would be fine if it were easier for me to never be baited into engaging with it. Like I said, the scenario laid out in the OP more-or-less literally happened.

          • Eponymous says:

            The implication of the OP was that this happened often, at least enough to warrant having some personal policy to deal with it.

            But if it’s really not all that common, then I think you’re letting it affect you too much, and it’s best to just ignore those instances and move on. Write it off as this being the internet.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            If it’s really not all that common, then I think you’re letting it affect you too much

            Yes, agreed. Thus, my efforts to find an easy way to deal with it. “Just ignore it” is ineffective, at least if I attempt to do so the way I usually ignore things. WordPress doesn’t have a block option, which is how I ignore people on the internet. So, wat do?

        • eyeballfrog says:

          So here’s a question. How can pro-life and pro-choice have a debate without implicitly attacking each others’ characters? Pro-life sees pro-choice as supporting the murder of babies, while pro-choice sees pro-life as enslaving women. There’s no way to advocate either position without casting that aspersion on your opponent.

          The same framing can be used for other controversies like gay adoption, immigration, gun control, etc. How can any discussion happen if the sides treat disagreement as a personal attack?

          There’s a line that needs to be drawn between explicit character attacks and policy prescriptions with implicit character attacks. If the person is saying that race mixing is only done by degenerates, then yes, that’s a personal attack. But if they’re saying that anti-miscegenation laws should be enacted because race mixing is bad for society, well, that’s something that can be discussed.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            But if they’re saying that anti-miscegenation laws should be enacted because race mixing is bad for society, well, that’s something that can be discussed.

            For any definitions I can accept of “good” and “society,” the premise is obviously untrue. Much like, “burning books is good for society” or “selling licenses to hunt poor orphans is good for society.” That’s why I identified this as a values mismatch, not a policy mismatch. I don’t mind engaging with percieved attacks on my character (much); I do think that engaging with people with radically different values about those values is a waste of time. The closer their values are to mine, the more we can productively talk about, because policies that are good in one system are usually not-evil in both. At a sufficient distance, the conversation stops being about “what policy can accommodate both of our values” and starts being about “I don’t think that’s a good thing.” When that dynamic dominates the discussion I think it’s generally very unproductive.

          • woah77 says:

            I find that an odd statement because one of the reasons I like debates/discussions is so that I can understand someone else’s values, and the axioms that drove them there. Scott did a post a few months ago about how maximizing any set of values leads to a horrible dystopia, and the reason I discuss things on here is often to gain access to lines of reasoning that I am unable to derive from my experience/axioms. Even if the object level disagreement is one that I could never agree with, the meta level reasoning to get there is a huge part of why I’m here.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @woah77

            I mostly agree, but I think you’re overestimating the benefits of marginal exposure to evil (from a certain point of view) values past the point of saturation. Having engaged with this sort of person for long enough to have a decent understanding of the underlying values, I’ve come to the conclusion that those values are evil. Any additonal time I spend thinking about them tends to be very “stares back also into me,” rather than a source of productive insights. There’s not even much novelty there IMO. (It’s possible that I’m bad at distinguishing nuance at this distance, of course, but it definitely doesn’t feel like that’s the case.)

          • Aapje says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            People on the far right generally seem to have fairly legitimate terminal values, like opposing violence, oppression, etc.

            The belief that this can be achieved by excluding certain races is then at least in part a policy mismatch, rather than just a value mismatch.

          • rlms says:

            People on the far right generally seem to have fairly legitimate terminal values, like opposing violence, oppression, etc.

            This is a surprising statement that I feel requires some evidence in its support, except perhaps if you’re making a blanket claim that everyone has fairly legitimate terminal values and the far right is no exception.

          • Aapje says:

            @rlms

            The typical antisemitic conspiracy is a narrative of oppression:

            There is a group that has a completely disproportionate amount of power that they use to benefit their group at the expense of us, the other group, in a covert manner. So we, being part of that other group, are being oppressed. There are even quite a few who are part of our group who assist in our oppression.

            However, if you actually look at scientific studies of these claims of oppression, many if not most of the claims turn out to go against scientific findings.

            Oops, sorry. I got confused. I actually wrote down an abstraction of a typical feminist narrative of oppression. 😛

            The main difference between a typical feminist narrative and a typical antisemitic narrative is that the former is in the Overton Window and that the feminist falsehoods are considered reasonable things to argue, even after they’ve been publicly shown to be false a thousand times, while the opposite is true for the antisemitic conspiracy. Both seem to be fed by similar causes, which are especially potent when they are part of a (sub)culture:
            – a bias against the outgroup
            – negative facts or falsehoods that support the conspiracy getting signal boosted, while counter-evidence is not; even to the point where claiming that facts exist that are inconsistent with the conspiracy theory is considered evidence of hatefulness
            – a desire to place blame on others, rather than take responsibility and/or accept that one cannot have it all

            These tend to become circular. For example, the bias against the outgroup causes a biased perception of the facts & falsehoods, which strengthens the bias.

            So if a person is able to empathize with feminists, then why not with antisemites? Is the far greater sympathy that people tend to have for the former not itself due to bias?

        • I tried to make this more clear in my following comment but I don’t want to set up a clear dichotomy between “virtuous, open minded person” vs “blissfully ignorant idiots”. Being open minded past a certain point is almost pathological, leaving you in a state of neurotic uncertainty. We’re all closed minded to some extent. Take something noncontroversial like the flat earthers. I assume we all agree they’re nut jobs. But could I actually sustain a debate with their carefully prepared 1000 point line of defense? No, I can’t and that actually bothers me sometimes. But there are a million other things where I think it’s more useful in my time to look at. I still acknowledge that there is a nonzero percent chance they are right and that me not debating them isn’t a principled stance on my part, but a personal thing.

          Ideologies are more complicated because they don’t make just one factual claim, they make a thousand different ones all wrapped in a narrative that it’s not even clear how you disprove it. Scott’s first posts on SSC was about him dissecting a theory about Abraham Lincoln being a vampire in order to find a kernel of truth. It’s kind of ridiculous but its a kind of synecdoche for the epistemic importance of intellectual humility. We really don’t know what is true and false and intellectually, we should keep that in my mind even if in practice, we don’t adhere to that.

          I can see you reading this and thinking “Ok fine, but this doesn’t help with my original question about what I should do.” Nazi beliefs are alien to you(and me too) but the general psychology is not that much different than most premodern societies. Maybe learning more about traditional beliefs would make the underlying motivations clearer to you without it being so personal.

    • HowardHolmes says:

      ” it’d be nice to have a way to deal with the frustration this engenders healthily.”

      One clue to finding a way to “deal with the frustration” is to look closely at your above claim. The claim is that the frustration is caused by something outside yourself. It is caused by “this” which refers to the other person or the other person’s assertions. The truth is that frustration or anger or pain is never caused by something outside ourselves, but rather is a choice we make. Correctly stated you choose to feel frustrated. Therefore, the simple solution is to choose to not feel frustrated. You cannot control what others do; you can control your opinions. You have the ability to be frustration free. It is simply a choice.

      • I strongly disagree with all of this. It’s easy for powerful people to tell the less powerful to suck it up and just deal with it. But the reason we have these emotions is because they do help us get what we want, to an extent. If I feel I am being treated unfairly at my job, the best response is not to try and eliminate my negative feelings by doing some mediation exercise. The best response is to fight for my rights or find another job. You can’t completely control what other people do but you can certainly have an influence. Of course, I’m not suggesting you let your every waking emotion rule your actions but stoicism takes it to the other extreme. Emotions are good for you. Listen to what they say.

        • HowardHolmes says:

          I was not suggesting we do nothing about a situation. In your example standing up for your rights or finding another job seem to be appropriate actions. However, these actions can be taken without feeling frustration or anger. Feeling frustration adds nothing to the solution.

          • Except frustration and anger is often what leads us to take action. Perhaps in a more ideal world, we could do these good actions without the accompanying emotions but that’s not how we work. Emotions are at the very heart of our motivations, and trying to downplay them is a good way to become complacent and never achieve anything.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            To Wrong Species

            “Emotions are at the very heart of our motivations”

            And ego is at the very heart of our emotions, but that does not make what ego does into an achievement. No human has ever achieved anything.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @HowardHolmes

            No human has ever achieved anything.

            I’m presuming you don’t mean this literally (if you do then counterexample: the other day I made a kick*ss grilled cheese sandwich). What exactly do you mean then, given that as far as I can tell humans have achieved things?

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @thevoiceofthevoid

            You made a cheese sandwich. You did not make yourself or your life better in any way. You are not better than a person without a cheese sandwich nor is your life better.

          • John Schilling says:

            He is marginally more skillful at making cheese sandwiches from the experience, which would seem to count as making himself better in one way. And he is less hungry than he otherwise would have been, which would seem to have made his life better. And you didn’t specify that the achievements had to be in the real of self-improvement or life-improvement, which means you have moved the goalposts.

            And can be expected to continue moving the goalposts at need. Possibly to the wood chipper you have installed at the edge of the playing field; whatever it takes to make your argument un-falsifiable. But if you’d care to make a specific, unambiguously testable claim, we can decide whether it’s worth addressing and go from there.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @John Schilling

            He is marginally more skillful at making cheese sandwiches from the experience, which would seem to count as making himself better

            Why is it not sufficient to say simply that he is more skillful at making a cheese sandwich? What additional information is contain in “he is better?” How is his life better with a cheese sandwich?

            My point is that trying to be better is simply trying to signal status. There is really no such thing as better. Is he morally better? Is he happier than me because he can make a cheese sandwich? Is he more of a human? Is his life more meaningful than mine? I find no way that he is better than me, so what is “achieved.”

          • John Schilling says:

            Is he happier than me because he can make a cheese sandwich?

            I’m guessing that yes, he is.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @HowardHolmes

            Oh, I make no claim to be a morally better person, or even happier than you, because of my grilled cheese sandwich. But man, it was a good one, I made it with american, cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan, on perfectly toasted honey whole wheat bread. It tasted amazing! I was definitely happier eating it than I would have been microwaving leftover chicken or something.

            Now this particular sandwich did absolutely nothing for anyone beside myself, but I do hope that some of the things I do make other people’s lives better as well. My point is that we all make little achievements every day, in addition to humanity’s big showy ones like the moonshot or eradicating smallpox.

            As for whether these truly make us “better”, well, I define “better” in part as a world in which people don’t die of smallpox, astronauts can explore the moon, and I enjoy my lunch.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @thevoiceofthevoid

            As for whether these truly make us “better”, well, I define “better” in part as a world in which people don’t die of smallpox, astronauts can explore the moon, and I enjoy my lunch

            You live in a world where people don’t die of smallpox. If you lived in the 15th century you would live in a world where people do die of smallpox. So what? How does that make your day better other than arbitrarily claiming it does. Do you think you are better than the guy living in the 15th century? Is your life better? What did you do today that was better than you would have done if you lived in a world where people die of smallpox? Would you have skipped the sandwich? I ask but no one tells me what information is added by claiming to be better. I have lived in a world where people had never gone to the moon, and I have lived in a world where they have. No difference that I can tell. Other than the ego boost you get by thinking your world is better than the other guy’s world, what is the real difference?

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @John Schilling

            So if Bob makes a cheese sandwich more tasty than hevoiceofthevoid is Bob happier than thevoiceofthevoid?

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @HowardHolmes

            You live in a world where people don’t die of smallpox. If you lived in the 15th century you would live in a world where people do die of smallpox. So what? How does that make your day better other than arbitrarily claiming it does.

            I use “better” in reference to world-states to mean, generally, a world with more happiness and less suffering. Smallpox causes people to suffer; ergo, a world without smallpox is better than a world with smallpox.

            Do you think you are better than the guy living in the 15th century?

            I’d say a good person is one who tries to create a better world. Trying to decide who among two different people is a “better” person, I think, is not a terribly helpful exercise. Everyone is a product of their situation, and no two people’s situations are the same. However, I think it’s important to try to better yourself, the only person you can reasonably compare to. I have no idea whether I’m a better person than a random 15th-centenarian.

            Is your life better? What did you do today that was better than you would have done if you lived in a world where people die of smallpox?

            Hell yeah! I don’t have to worry about smallpox or dysentery, have access to air conditioning, can have this discussion over the internet with people hundreds of miles away, can study cell biology, and can make myself a cheese sandwich whether or not I’ve milked any cows recently.

            I have lived in a world where people had never gone to the moon, and I have lived in a world where they have. No difference that I can tell.

            The moonshot was a grandiose example that, I’ll concede, has negligible impact on everyday life. Have you lived in a world with smallpox and polio, with child mortality rates > 30%? Or even just a particular subset of the world without air conditioning on a particularly hot day.

            Other than the ego boost you get by thinking your world is better than the other guy’s world, what is the real difference?

            If you gave me a choice between living in the 15th century and living in the 21st century, I would choose the latter and I wouldn’t have to think twice about it. I guess on the most basic level, when I say “A is better than B” I’m making a judgement that “Given a choice between A and B, I would choose A.” So in the real world I choose making a sandwich over reheating the chicken, and studying biology over trying to sustenance farm somewhere. And in hypotheticals I choose “no smallpox” over “smallpox”, etc.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @thevoiceofthevoid

            I use “better” in reference to world-states to mean, generally, a world with more happiness and less suffering. Smallpox causes people to suffer; ergo, a world without smallpox is better than a world with smallpox.

            Suffering is a choice. If people choose to suffer, they will do so with or without smallpox.

            I’d say a good person is one who tries to create a better world.

            So you are a good person who is clearly better than bad people. Like I have said, its all about an ego trip of thinking oneself to be better than others.

            Trying to decide who among two different people is a “better” person, I think, is not a terribly helpful exercise.

            But you do it constantly. I am not trying to make the world a better place so, per you, you are good and I am bad; you are better than me.

            However, I think it’s important to try to better yourself

            ,

            Before you got better were you the same as others? If so, you are now better than others.

            the only person you can reasonably compare to. I have no idea whether I’m a better person than a random 15th-centenarian.

            And again, you claimed in the first part of above sentence to not compare yourself with others, and did just that in the second part of the sentence. The chief preoccupation of humanity is comparing themselves with others.

            I don’t have to worry about smallpox or dysentery,

            So what? You still worry. Worry is a choice. If you would worry in the 15th century, you will worry now. I do not worry. Worry is not contingent on anything outside ourselves..

            Have you lived in a world with smallpox and polio, with child mortality rates > 30%? Or even just a particular subset of the world without air conditioning on a particularly hot day.

            I lived thoughout the entire decade of the 50’s. Yes, we were aware of polio and we were drilled in hall to cover our heads in case of nuclear attacks. The Salk vaccine came out when I was in grade school and I got my first vaccination on the stage at school where the entire student body was marched in mass in front of nurses with needles. Life then was just as good as now.

            As for air conditioning I live in Texas and have chosen for years to have no air conditioning. There is no suffering. Foregoing A/C and foregoing suffering is a choice. I am no better off than when people had no A/C. I am no worse off either. You are not better than me because you have A/C.

            I guess on the most basic level, when I say “A is better than B” I’m making a judgement

            My point exactly. You are making judgements. Judgements give us no additional information. If you are hungry for a cheese sandwich, make yourself one. Neither the sandwich nor yourself need to be judged. You are not better nor better off than anyone in the world and will never be.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Even if constructive work is all for the purpose of status, constructive work is still human achievement which makes the world a better place.

            The older I get the more I suspect that removing desire for things in order to achieve some kind of contented bliss is a fool’s errand.

            HowardHolmes,

            You have clearly found a way to feel superior to others without having to make the world a better place or care about the suffering of others. Sort of a spiritual loophole or shortcut.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @leshapablab

            constructive work is still human achievement which makes the world a better place.

            One cannot make the world a better place. Give me a specific improvement so we can talk.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Four examples:

            One: HowardHolmes convinces Wrong Species that suffering is a choice, and then Wrong Species makes the choice not to suffer. HowardHolmes has now reduced the suffering in the world.

            Two: A person tells a joke on a crowded bus and everyone laughs, making everyone briefly happier.

            Three: A person builds a house.

            Four: A person invents a cold-fusion reactor that is totally clean, safe and provides near limitless energy. As a result, the population of earth triples in the next 100 years and standard of living improves.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @les hapablap

            One: HowardHolmes convinces Wrong Species that suffering is a choice, and then Wrong Species makes the choice not to suffer. HowardHolmes has now reduced the suffering in the world.

            In order for this to be true suffering would have to be judged to be bad. It isn’t bad so ridding oneself of it does not make oneself better.

            Two: A person tells a joke on a crowded bus and everyone laughs, making everyone briefly happier.

            Happiness is not good so the world is not improved. That happiness is good is merely an opinion which we can choose to have or not to have. Besides laughter is ridicule anyway. The purpose of laughter is to show ones superiority.

            Three: A person builds a house.

            A person tears down a house. The real question is why we insist on judging one thing as good and another as bad. IMHO it is because we make things good in order to be good; we make things important in order to be important. Houses are neither good nor important nor are we.

            Four: A person invents a cold-fusion reactor that is totally clean, safe and provides near limitless energy. As a result, the population of earth triples in the next 100 years and standard of living improves.

            Do I really need to argue against the claim that tripling the number of humans on this planet is an improvement? The standard of living has not improved since we were monkeys, nor will it. Just claiming you are better than someone else does not make it so.

          • LesHapablap says:

            If pain and suffering aren’t bad then why do people avoid them for themselves and their loved ones? Why do they inflict pain and suffering on people they hate?

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @les hapablap

            If pain and suffering aren’t bad then why do people avoid them for themselves and their loved ones? Why do they inflict pain and suffering on people they hate?

            That’s too easy. Pain is pain. No one claimed it was a choice. The reason pain exists is so that we will try to avoid it and thus help avoiding damaging ourselves. My point would be that by calling it bad (or good) we are giving zero information about what pain is or does. We have other motives for using good and bad. Pain is pain. We could argue all day long on whether it was good or bad, and we would just be talking to hear our voices. We would be saying nothing about pain.

            Suffering, in my use, is more an emotion. It is tantamount to judging pain. It is also making drama from pain. Pain itself is rather short term and temporary compared to suffering.

          • LesHapablap says:

            “Bad” is defined by google as “not such as to be hoped for or desired; unpleasant or unwelcome.”

            So if 99% of humans find smallpox to be unpleasant or unwelcome, that’s bad. If most people don’t want to be homeless, tearing down their home is bad. If an individual is allergic to peanuts, force-feeding them peanut butter is bad for them.

          • and can make myself a cheese sandwich whether or not I’ve milked any cows recently.

            You could do that in the 15th century too. Some cheese keeps—it’s a way of preserving milk.

            Howard Holmes seems to be jumping back and forth between talking about being whether A is a better person than B and about whether A is better off in one situation or another. He appears to deny both, but talk as if they were the same thing.

            Having air conditioning and modern medicine doesn’t make you a better person, but it makes you better off—it is better for you.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @leshapablap

            “Bad” is defined by google as “not such as to be hoped for or desired; unpleasant or unwelcome.”

            So bad is a word and googles description of the word seems adequate. Certainly most people judge things as good and bad based on this understanding. Everytime they do so it creates stress. Doing so is not necessary, and good and bad do not exist in the real world and are merely inventions of language.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @davidfriedman

            Having air conditioning and modern medicine doesn’t make you a better person, but it makes you better off—it is better for you.

            Distinguish between being a better person and being a better-off person. In what way am I better off with an air conditioner? (For the record, I live in Texas and voluntarily have no air conditioner). In what way am I better off because of modern medicine? How do you hold it in your mind that you are better off than me but not better than me? What’s the point in saying we are the same as someone when we think we are better off in every way? Seems like a sham.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Howard Holmes:
            You appear to be in a state of nihilistic existential apathy.

            This has a long and rich history. Nietzsche was no slouch.

            However you are framing this in a way that suggests you aren’t aware of nihilism as a concept. That makes for unproductive conversation.

            So, what’s your goal here?

            ETA: or, is this an embrace of the ascetic impulse? I’m not sure.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @HowardHolmes

            So bad is a word and googles description of the word seems adequate. Certainly most people judge things as good and bad based on this understanding. Everytime they do so it creates stress. Doing so is not necessary, and good and bad do not exist in the real world and are merely inventions of language.

            I think here we reach the crux of our disagreement. As you say, “good” and “bad” are not physical properties of a thing in and of itself; there’s no chemical test you can perform on the polio virus that will reveal any sort of essence of “goodness or “badness”. It is, as you say, a value judgement made by people. When I say “Polio is bad!” that’s a statement about my preferences, or of my extrapolation of most people’s preferences, rather than the physical polio virus.

            Where we disagree is when you say, “Everytime they do so it creates stress. Doing so is not necessary…” I contest that making these judgements is completely necessary since as beings with agency we have to make choices every day! I have to choose what to have for lunch; you have to choose whether to buy an A/C unit; medical researchers have to choose what virus to study; Truman (and/or the generals below him) had to choose whether to drop the bombs on Japan.

            These choices have consequences, the latter two clearly more so than the former two. Whether or not you make value judgements, the world ends up looking different if nukes are dropped or if they aren’t. So how does one choose between options? Personally, I make judgements based on my preferences (or at least try to); i.e. I judge which choice would be “better” by my personal standards.

            If you truly believe that nothing is good, nothing is bad, nothing is better than anything else, how do you make choices at all?

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @thevoiceofthevoid

            I contest that making these judgements is completely necessary since as beings with agency we have to make choices every day!

            Certainly making choices is necessary. All living things must constantly make choices. A tree chooses which way to send his roots. The wasp chose whether to build his nest in my wife’s boot or somewhere else. The choices have consequences. In that case, pain for my wife and death for the wasp. Making none of these choices involved judging something to be good or bad. It is not just happenstance that we speak in terms of “X is good” rather than “I prefer X.”

            I chose this morning to mow the yard and my wife to build some shelves. She could have had me help her. My life would have been no better or worse. Nothing I choose is so important as to make me a better person or make my life better. It is just something to do.

            Truman and the generals chose the bomb. Let’s assume the Japanese would have voted against it. There were consequences. Let’s say a person who had planned on mowing the yard that day died instead. Neither he nor the world was better or worse because of it. Judging it to be so causes stress, unnecessary stress

          • Lambert says:

            Didn’t know it was possible to access the internet from the inside of a clay jar in Athens. /s

    • Walter says:

      There is a ‘Hide’ feature, you can get yourself in the habit of hiding the posts of those of us who have made you happy in the past.

    • toastengineer says:

      Unfortunately, the answer really is “cowboy up, and don’t engage with people you don’t think you can have a productive argument with.” For example, I think UBI is an apocolyptically bad idea, and hearing people so enthusiastically advocate for it is p. spooky. But, I acknowledge that my feelings don’t matter to anyone but me and don’t let them affect my behavior.

      I don’t tend to engage in arguments with the other side in that case, because I’m pretty sure the difference comes down to a matter of fact; people who support it don’t think more people will go on the dole than the economy can handle, while I think they will. As far as I’m aware the experiments to figure out which is really true are still running, so bickering about it is just a waste.

      Similarly, if you encounter someone with a spicy opinion and are confident that he holds that opinion because his mind is genuinely broken, or because he lives in a completely different bubble than yours, then enjoy the confidence that you are genuinely right about the things you consider important, and let the fresh blood re-fight what you consider settled issues.

      You can’t have a place where people with diverse mindsets converse freely while at the same time never encountering a statement that affects you emotionally. It’s a shame that we can’t have our cake and eat it too, but the reality we live in was not made to please us.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        cowboy up, and don’t engage with people you don’t think you can have a productive argument with

        I agree completely. I would like some advice or technology that will help me do that. I don’t want to change the environment in SSC, but to develop mechanisms that make being in that environment more pleasant.

        • I just don’t understand why ignoring certain comments isn’t a viable option. Most people know how to avoid flying in to a rage when they hear people in real life say something offensive. On the internet, it’s so much easier.

          • Randy M says:

            Nonetheless, it’s a documented phenomenon.
            (Yes, that goes where you’d expect)

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Poor impulse control? I dunno, in real life I can walk away from things. On the internet, when I walk back they’re still there. Given that “walk away and come back when it’s no longer relevant” is the way I “ignore” values conflicts IRL, I clearly need a better strategy for online.

          • But haven’t you dealt with people in real life having made offensive comments over more than one occasion? If you can handle that, then you can manage to scroll past an offensive comment.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I can’t say that in real life I’m ever really in a position to repeatedly find myself confronted by advocacy that deeply bothers me, no. Even on 4chan I can say “/pol/ posters get out” and stick to boards where that’s an appropriate response. I think the combination of post hiding not persisting, thread longevity, and lack of threading contribute to the impulse control problem. In any case, I feel more confronted (not confronted more – I’m talking about intensity, not frequency) by this sort of stuff here than anywhere else, and ignoring it feels correspondingly harder.

        • My problem isn’t comments that annoy me, it’s avoiding threads that don’t interest me. I do it by clicking the up arrow until I get to the top of the thread, then clicking “Hide.”

          This can take a while. It occurs to me that it would be useful to add a second, perhaps larger or boldfaced, up arrow, which takes you to the first post in the thread. That would not only make it easier to take out an entire thread on a subject that doesn’t interest you, it would also help figuring out what a comment was about when you missed the earlier part of the discussion.

    • Plumber says:

      @Hoopyfreud,

      Try: “I love my wife and sons, and I don’t regret miscegenation”.

      That works for me.

      As for how not to be bothered?

      Sorry man, I’m prickly myself about some things, and others not, I don’t know how to change – I guess just pick when you want to bother responding based on whether any catharsis is worthy of how onerous it may be.

      I find that I often share many cultural tastes (certain novels, films, et cetera) with folks that I disagree on political policy with, and often people I share beliefs with don’t share my tastes (both of which I feel strongly) so I’m pretty used to not agreeing about everything with most people, and how I relate with others depends on if I’m feeling more agreeable or sociable.

      You’re welcome to e-mail me at:

      HOJ[dot]Plumber[at]gmail[dot]com

    • 10240 says:

      I don’t know how to avoid being bothered by people I percieve as hostile.

      Realize that such people exist whether you see their comments or not. (You probably already realize that.) So seeing their comments doesn’t really make anything worse.

    • Eugene Dawn says:

      One – Don’t engage with those people. I have a pretty good sense of which commenters I should just ignore; if you don’t read the names on the posts, read until you realize you’ve found one of those comments and just stop.

      Two – I don’t think you should avoid being bothered, except insofar as you achieve that by following part one and don’t engage to begin with.

      I don’t even agree very much with the commenters below who characterize it as a matter of personal growth, or a chance to update your beliefs: Julia Galef (I think borrowing from Jon Nernst , both of whom hang around those parts) has convinced me that the idea that you learn by engaging with people with very different views is mostly bunk. What actually happens is that you founder on basic values and matters of fact, feel like they are mischaracterizing everything you say, and can’t help but feel that they’re arguing in bad faith, and you both leave with your negative stereotypes of the other side confirmed.
      The better thing to do is to find people with whom you mostly agree, or at least with whom you feel some affinity, but who disagree with you on a few issues, and try and work it out with those people. If you feel that there are some people here who mostly strike you as pretty reasonable, but occasionally they say something that makes you squint a little, that’s who you should be talking to, not the people who make you roll your eyes or ball up your fists.

      • I don’t disagree but if you are scrolling past a comment suggesting offensive ideas and find it unbearable, that’s on you. And it’s not like Hoopyfreud was talking about a constant blast of these ideas, only the occasional comment. The internet is an offensive place. If you want to wander past cat pictures and inspirational photos, you need a thicker skin.

      • has convinced me that the idea that you learn by engaging with people with very different views is mostly bunk.

        It depends on the people. I can think of at least two people whose political views were far from mine from whom I have learned a lot.

        • Eugene Dawn says:

          I should be more precise here: it’s not that you can’t learn from people with very different views, it’s that the way to do so isn’t to randomly select among a group of people with different views. You need to find people with whom you have some area of agreement, or some other reason to respect/identify with them–pseudonymous commenters on a blog whose values are wildly different from yours are not the people you should be seeking out to change your mind.

          • You don’t learn by randomly selecting people to learn from. A population of psudonymous commenters on a blog is a group you can scan for interesting people from whom you might learn. And if you are curious about views that are unacceptable in your realspace environment, pseudonymous commenters on a blog like this may be a good way of learning why people believe them.

            A long time ago on Usenet, I noticed someone in a newsgroup I was active on who was conservative and smart and reasonable. On any relevant issue, seeing the arguments he made for the conservative side of it gave me a reasonable picture of what the best case was for that side. Since I sometimes end up agreeing with conservatives and sometimes don’t, that was useful information.

          • Eugene Dawn says:

            A population of psudonymous commenters on a blog is a group you can scan for interesting people from whom you might learn

            Yes, we are in complete agreement: all I’m pointing out is the necessity of the scanning; that not every rando on a blog with different views is a good bet for real learning, and it’s okay to skip the ones who are unlikely to learn from.

    • brad says:

      Pay more attention to names (or the little pictures) and collapse the edgelords and nuts. If you find yourself collapsing more than you’d like back off your participation.

      I’d like a place to engage with the center-right, but don’t want to be around the far right. However the center-right wants a place to engage with people to their right—and how can I blame them when I want to same thing?

  21. Eponymous says:

    Random puzzle:

    If you search on google scholar, it lists works, and also lists citations of that work. These citations are a decent proxy for the impact of that work (though imperfect, since there is bias in how google computes citations, and citations are an imperfect proxy for impact).

    My question is: what single work has the most google scholar cites?

    And also: what individual writer has the most google scholar cites? (e.g. Albert Einstein has 123546 cites).

    • Björn says:

      “Tolkien, John Ronald Reuel. The Lord of the Rings: One Volume. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012.” has 2171 cites.
      “Rowling, Joanne K. Harry Potter and the philosopher’s stone. Vol. 1. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015.” has 2343 cites.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Have you tried googling the answer to this question?
      This has two lists, one from google scholar, one from web of science. I had always heard Shannon was #1, but this list puts it at #9. (web of science excludes books)

      • Eponymous says:

        Well sure, it’s less fun if you google the answer rather than thinking about what works would be highly cited and then putting them into google scholar to see how many cites they have.

        My first guess when I thought of the question was Marx’s Capital, which turned out to be a pretty terrible guess.

  22. DragonMilk says:

    Does anyone here play (or would play if they could find people to)…

    Broodwar?
    Age of Empires 2?
    UMS games in SC1 or SC2?

    These are games I never would have stopped playing had the player base shrunk so much that waiting times were too unbearable.

    • greenwoodjw says:

      Been looking for someone to complete Twilight Struggle (BW) with for ages.

      • ProfessorQuirrell says:

        I don’t know what (BW) means, but I have Twilight Struggle on Steam. I’m definitely rusty, though.

        • greenwoodjw says:

          It’s a Brood War UMS map, that’s what I was referring to.

          Incidentally, the full version of the original Starcraft is free, and the enhanced graphics/control scheme is $15

    • JohnWittle says:

      AoE2’s community has experienced a rebirth due to the popularity of streamers like T90Official and ZeroEmpires. Fire up Voobly, I think he will be pleasantly surprised on how quickly you going to match.

      • DragonMilk says:

        I have voobly/wololo kingdoms, but for these kinds of games I had much more fun talking with people on LAN and such while playing.

        Also, not good enough to dare try the non-nooby area.

    • fion says:

      I still love AoE2, but rarely have time for it these days.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I will always play AoE 2. I loved that game to death. I still have so many fond memories of that game, 20 years later.

      StarCraft is fun, but there’s nothing like hordes of Viking longswordsmen hacking everything to death.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Do you play HD or Voobly nowadays?

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I don’t think I’ve played in 15 years. I didn’t mean I still play, I meant “if anyone ever said ‘hey Conrad, want to play AoE2?’ I would say ‘yes,'” but nobody has asked me that in…15 years 🙂

          • DragonMilk says:

            Ha – well you can get AoK/Conquerors on steam sales for about $5, and I got a package with the next two expansions for a marginal $2 ($7 total)

            If nothing else, you might like playing the new campaigns.

      • Deiseach says:

        StarCraft is fun, but there’s nothing like hordes of Viking longswordsmen hacking everything to death.

        I think Máel Muire mac Céilechair would beg to differ 🙂

  23. Murphy says:

    Hi All

    I’m trying to find some more emotive terms for the general concept of “positive externalities”

    Or more broadly, a slightly more emotive way of describing situations where something makes life a little bit better for millions of people, particularly when it may make life much worse for a couple dozen.

    In discussions and particularly when it comes to rhetoric it’s hard to argue the case for the broad distributed positive externality and it sometimes feels like there’s not good, emotive terms for it, or perhaps I’m not great at attaching positive rhetoric to things.

    For some examples:

    A factory making [insert item most people need, say bargain cooking pots] automates, lays off 2 dozen workers and can also lower it’s prices it charges per pot produced by a few cent per item.

    It’s easy to run a news segment where the camera slowly pans across each sad face of the laid off workers.

    It’s basically impossible to have the camera pan across a few million households who now have an extra 50 cent in their pockets to spend on things they need.

    On this website I can just sort of lay it out, most of the readers will get the idea that a million utils gained across a million people can outweigh 24 people loosing 10000 utils each. No problem. people here have no problem with vaguely numbers based arguments.

    But for a wider audience, it feels like there’s a lack of emotive ways to put the argument. Any suggestions?

    • helloo says:

      That’s not positive externalities. Perhaps you meant consequences or utility?

      Externalities are that which is not being covered by the cost or price of the product. Positive ones are just ones that most people value and would pay for if offered.

      Your example is much closer to utilitarianism and total cost assessment.
      They are decidedly not “sexy” and I’m not quite sure if it is possible to make them so.
      By their very nature, they can mean that sometimes it is worthwhile to do this “thing we don’t want to do (but has positive consequences)” and vise versa, prevent/go against doing “thing we want to do (but has negative consequences)”.
      It’s not impossible for such reasoning to become popular – ie. stating that legalizing drugs as the drug war isn’t worth it is a fairly “trendy” opinion, but you might need to change people’s morality system to have it work empathetically.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      A factory making [insert item most people need, say bargain cooking pots] automates, lays off 2 dozen workers and can also lower it’s prices it charges per pot produced by a few cent per item.

      It’s easy to run a news segment where the camera slowly pans across each sad face of the laid off workers.

      It’s basically impossible to have the camera pan across a few million households who now have an extra 50 cent in their pockets to spend on things they need.

      This example just makes me less confident in utilitarianism. Is it really worth fucking over 2 dozen people to save 50c? Compare to taxation for redistribution as welfare. Sure, some workers will be able to land on their feet, but not everyone can #learn2code and some will wind up on the welfare line. If the marginal savings per household for a cooking pot is lower than the marginal tax burden for another person on welfare then it’s a poor proposal even by utilitarian standards.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Heh, this was the first time in my life I realized Economy is Hard and not always intuitive.

        > This example just makes me less confident in utilitarianism. Is it really worth fucking over 2 dozen people to save 50c?

        Do you know how much a 100% handmade pair of shoes cost? Or a T-Shirt? This is what incremental 50c savings bring us. Not to mention the population working in agriculture falling from 90% to under 5%. So as a general rule and a very strong prior, yes, it is definitely worth fucking over 2 dozen people.

        This being said, it is actually possible in a closed system to lose money short term by using automation. That’s, I think, your argument as well: factory saves X by automating, society pays more than X for welfare for the fired workers. I was about 20yo when I realized that, it was quite a mindfuck.

        This being said, there are many caveats to this. The most obvious are “closed system” and “short term” – if you’re in a global market, you’re definitely going to lose if you don’t go for the 5% savings the automation brings. Not a lot of choice there – next year others will offer products that are a bit better and a bit cheaper. And long term, see the big prior of us not being hunter gatherers anymore.

        The other caveats are where the discussion gets interesting. For those 2 dozen workers, the closer they are to the pension, the less likely to reconverts. And conversely, the younger they are, more likely to do something else. So things aren’t nearly that bad.

        Also, I’m not really for keeping people working just because. 8 hours plus commute can be used for quite a lot of things. Simply living better, for one. Helping raise kids or grandkids. Being useful for family or community. My father is 75, doesn’t have any hobbies, or a lot of friends, or a large family – but somehow, I can rarely catch him without a chore or another. There is an image of the unemployed drinking and slipping into depression, and to a point it’s true – but it’s a stereotype, not a rule.

        So what I’m trying to say, yes, we may be paying welfare. But we do get other stuff in return as well.

        • Murphy says:

          Living in even the deepest modern economic hellhole in America would still be vastly preferable to the life of a peasant spinster (the profession, not just unmarried woman) prior to the invention of the spinning jenny.

          And the elimination of the job of spinster by factory automation was one of the thousand steps that got us to modernity.

          But being unable to really put this sentiment in a short, snappy emotionally charged statement is sort of why I posted above.

          The other side have lots of emotionally charged stuff but it’s hard to express that lots of small things add up such that the alternative is a much deeper and darker pit of suffering.,

      • Is it really worth fucking over 2 dozen people to save 50c?

        Does it fit your intuition better if we imagine doing it ten thousand times? 24,000 people are at least temporarily unemployed. 24,000,000 people have their income go up by five thousand dollars.

        If you agree that that looks like a net plus, consider that your intuition is telling you that each of the ten thousand steps to get there was a net minus.

        Alternatively, imagine it as a gamble. Someone offers to raise your income by $5,000/year, at the cost of a 1/1000 chance of instead losing your present job.

        Would you take it?

        • MrApophenia says:

          Of course, once you model that, you then also need to model what happens when all the out of work factory workers living in geographically clustered regions causes the complete economic collapse of their cities and towns, sending whole regions sliding into such a catastrophic decline that within 20 years they are drug-ravaged hellholes where people die or kill themselves at rates so great the overall life expectancy of the population begins to decrease.

          Oh, and people hate the results so much begin electing Donald Trump on the right, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the left.

          • @MrApophenia:

            I don’t have to imagine that, because the question isn’t what effects a particular change has, it’s whether a change that imposes a large cost on a very small number of people can be more than balanced by its providing a small benefit to a very large number of people.

            So I get to assume that that’s the pattern of results of the change

            @Joseph:

            Yes, I changed the numbers. If I correctly understood the intuition I was challenging, it didn’t depend on the particular numbers.

            It’s true

          • MrApophenia says:

            Fair, I guess I just feel like the thing that often gets missed with this question is specifically tied to the fact that large harms to a small group of people actually do have disproportionate secondary effects compared to small gains for many people.

            So if you accept the premise that you’re creating a good for many people, if in immediate terms you can show that those immediate effects really do come out in the positive column, it becomes easy to overlook that the larger negatives for the small group will then have a bunch of additional knock on effects specifically arising from the fact that the loss for the smaller group is so much greater.

        • Joseph Greenwood says:

          You multiplied the gains by 10,000 and the losses by 1,000. I know all of these numbers were made up to begin with, but…

      • Murphy says:

        The thing is you don’t just do it once.

        You save 50 cent on those pots there, a dollar on phone calls, 2 bucks on letters, a buck on the blanket you bought for junior, 3.50 on the months food budget…. and so on and so on

        And after you do it a few thousand times everyone is living dramatically better lives.

        “spinster” used to be descriptive, women who made a living spinning thread. At the time a single set of rough peasants clothes would have cost something like the equivalent of a budget car.

        The world has very few working spinsters any more. They were put out of work by machines and factories.

        Now I can buy a nice set of clothes, nothing fancy for the price of a meal or a couple hours of low skill labor.

        And the quality will be far better.

        But if we went with the worldview pushed by the [slow pan across sad faces] approach…. a large fraction of the population would spend their lives spinning thread without being able to afford much in the way of nice things.

        Those spinsters didn’t all end up on welfare.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          I’m fine with this model as a purely theoretical thing or having it describe the past. But, and I hate to have to say it, but I do think “This time is different” —

          Mainly because jobs lost are being replaced with ones for which the unemployed are not nor ever will be capable of fulfilling due to the cognitive requirements. In the past I imagine that lost farm work or early workshops were not substantially less complex than the jobs that replaced them.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      “Public Goods” or “Social Goods” are often used to describe those things which generate positive externalities.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Public goods are not those that generate positive externalities, they are those whose private benefits aren’t strong enough to induce people to invest in them.

        • Ghillie Dhu says:

          It’s even narrower than that: public goods must be both non-rivalrous & non-excludable.

          • Different, but not narrower.

            There are lots of public goods, in the conventional sense, that get produced because it is in someone’s interest to invest in them.

            A homeowner mowing his lawn, and so providing a visual benefit to his neighbors, would be one example. Scott running this blog is another.

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Maybe, the problem with the term ‘Strong Enough’ is that it’s easier to agree upon the existence of a positive externality than it is to agree that *enough* of something is being produced.

    • Jiro says:

      I am often skeptical of such things because in typical cases of this type, the negative effects are something we can all be certain about, but the generalized positive effects are speculative and hard to prove or measure. And if the positive effects are hard to prove or measure, that opens the door for bias.

  24. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    The recent post about dating reminds me of a questioin: People who are into evopsych seem to talk as though everyone is descended from people who have chosen their mates. However, there are two other possibilities– rape and arranged marriage. There’s another– sperm donation– which is presumably too recent and rare to have had an evolutionary effect.

    My guess is that after agriculture becomes a major food source, arranged marriages are a primary source of children. This would presumably select for one’s family’s (mostly parents but possibly grandparents’) skill at negotiation.

    • albatross11 says:

      Nancy:

      I’ve certainly seen evopsych people considering both of those. Modern civilization and law does a lot to dissuade rape, but it’s probably a substantial fraction of the reproduction of the past. I don’t think Genghis Khan took no for an answer too often. (To be fair, he probably didn’t ask permission in the first place.)

      If you read discussions by h.b-d chick (mangled to get through the filters), you’ll see that she’s very interested in the “hajinal line,” basically the separation between where the Church forbade cousin marriages and where they were still permitted and commonplace. She thinks this had a huge impact on the kind of social structures that could form, and probably applied different evolutionary pressures on people on opposite sides of that line. (Cousin marriage is a good way to keep large kin groups together and keep inherited property in the family. A society arranged in big kin groups is likely to have arranged marriages rather than marriages by individual choice.).

    • John Schilling says:

      I think you’re right that an awful lot of popular evolutionary psychology misses the importance of arranged marriages. On the other hand, I think it overestimates the importance of female hypergamy in modern-style marriages – which I think roughly cancels out because while actual female hypergamy may be a fairly weak thing, female parental hypergamy is probably a much more important force that comes into play when marriages are being arranged.

      Forcible rape by strangers has I think been a fairly minor element of human reproduction for most of recorded history at least. The reproductively significant rapes are marital rapes (which see above, because the bride may not be asked to consent to the arrangement), and “date rapes” in the course of otherwise voluntary premarital/extramarital courtship and seduction. I haven’t seen many evo-psych types talking explicitly about date-rape, but there’s a fair bit of discussion of the Casanova strategy for reproductive success that gets close to explicit about “not taking no for an answer” as part of what can make that strategy a winner.

      • woah77 says:

        It might also be fair to point out that getting married meant child rearing in the historic context. So marital rape seems, to me at least, to be a misnomer. The entire point of marriage was to create children so how can you be raped by your husband? Now, admittedly, brides didn’t often have much choice, but often neither did grooms, so it wasn’t especially one sided there.

        In essence, marital rape could only start to exist once the original premise for marriage broke down, that is marriage existed almost entirely to create children. I’m not certain what the magic date for that change is (I expect somewhere between 1800 and 1920 or so, but my history isn’t that good), but prior to that point, marital rape didn’t exist because it was defined out of existence.

        • DinoNerd says:

          *sigh* The legal concept of “marital rape” didn’t exist, even in my life time in some advanced nations (saying “I do” once meant you’d consented in all times and circumstances thereafter). The behaviours that constitute “marital rape” weren’t reduced by the lack of a legal concept.

          And the impact on reproductive success? Damned-if-I-know. Except that any look at reproductive success also has to look at infidelity, especially in an age without contraception. And a bad relationship with one’s spouse seems likely to affect the chances of someone taking a lover or two.

          Somewhat tongue-in-cheek hypothesis – women whose unchosen (by them) husbands farthermore ignore their sexual desires not only take lovers, they also have a higher than average chance of “accidentally” poisoning their husbands. Double if the husbands go in for wife beating as well as demanding/forcing sex the wives don’t want. It’s hard to sire a lot of children if you die young.

          • They did a study suggesting cuckoldry is actually pretty rare.

            “New study finds that only 1-2% of men unknowingly raise children who aren’t theirs.”

            And apparently it wasn’t just a recent thing.

            some suggested the discrepancy between expected and actual rates of cuckoldry was a recent development caused by birth control. One study asserted that women who cheat may be getting pregnant less often than they would have historically. But that assumption turned out to be wrong as well. As the study authors write, human extra-pair paternity rates “have stayed near constant at around 1% across several human societies over the past several hundred years.”

          • woah77 says:

            Somewhat tongue-in-cheek hypothesis – women whose unchosen (by them) husbands farthermore ignore their sexual desires not only take lovers, they also have a higher than average chance of “accidentally” poisoning their husbands. Double if the husbands go in for wife beating as well as demanding/forcing sex the wives don’t want. It’s hard to sire a lot of children if you die young.

            Why yes, men who didn’t respect their wives died young. Domestic violence isn’t a gendered activity. My point is that there was a societal expectation that you (as a family unit) would produce children. The conceptualization that you could/should be able to turn your husband down is very new, and directly relates to things like no fault divorce and marriage being for love instead of for producing children. That’s just history, and history doesn’t care about modern sensibilities.

            This isn’t an endorsement of marital rape. That’s a terrible practice. I just believe it is important to remember that history wasn’t lived in by people who shared our norms or attitudes, and assuming that it was leads to a very different interpretation of past events than what anyone alive during that time would have.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Why yes, men who didn’t respect their wives died young. Domestic violence isn’t a gendered activity.

            Reminds me of a court case in early 1900s England. A woman was charged with murdering her husband, and successfully pled self-defence, on the grounds that she’d discovered a diary in which he talked about his intention to kill her and made notes on various ways of doing so. The twist was that this diary later turned out to have been forged by the woman’s lover, who wanted to get her to leave her husband so she could be with him.

        • Tarpitz says:

          Certainly no later than 1906, when John Galsworthy’s A Man of Property was published. Marital rape is a major plot point; Galsworthy seems to me to have expected his readers to be as horrified by it as most of the characters.

          • albatross11 says:

            There’s a difference between “there’s no law against marital rape” and “nobody thinks there’s anything wrong with marital rape.” I assume that there was no law against it many places for administrative reasons–it would be hard to gather evidence or prosecute. That doesn’t mean nobody thought it was wrong, or would be horrified by the idea of someone doing that.

          • Randy M says:

            I wonder what people mean when they say marital rape.
            Currently, we consider it rape when you seduce your tipsy date, or initiate sex when sleeping, or one is the employee of the other, or even if after what you’d call cajoling or nagging.
            Certainly it’s good not to tolerate a husband or wife getting sex from violence or threats of harm–or frankly the violence or threats without the sex. But if we keep the meaning of rape consistent, I think there are scenarios in marriage where we would not want the modern view of rape to be applied.

            Marriage should be a “yes, unless told no” assumption. Everywhere else should be the opposite.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            There’s a difference between “there’s no law against marital rape” and “nobody thinks there’s anything wrong with marital rape.” I assume that there was no law against it many places for administrative reasons–it would be hard to gather evidence or prosecute.

            FWIW, I think most/all jurisdictions allowed a woman to charge her husband with battery if he forced himself upon her, so it’s not like the wife had no legal recourse whatsoever.

      • Forcible rape by strangers has I think been a fairly minor element of human reproduction for most of recorded history at least.

        Maybe, but it’s pretty common for scientists to do gene studies where they conclude that the majority of the X chromosome comes from the native population at a certain time while the Y chromosome comes from the invaders. My impression is that this has happened quite frequently.

        • John Schilling says:

          There definitely seem to have been male genocides or near-genocides where the reproductively successful female survivors of necessity mated with the genocidally victorious males. The big unknown is the extent to which this involved.

          1. Women of the defeated culture becoming wives or quasi-wives (concubines, etc) of the conquering soldiers, possibly under circumstances of dubious consent but not forcible rape by traditional standards and with the men sticking around to do their quasi-husbandly duties, or

          2. Women of the defeated culture engaging in at least initially consensual sexual dalliances with conquering soldiers, possibly with the hope of becoming their wives as the least-bad option but with the men loving and then leaving them, or

          3. Women of the defeated culture being forcibly raped by soldiers who then moved on to the next woman or the next campaign.

          When the winners write the history books they usually sell it as #1; when the losers get their say there’s a lot of #3, but there’s an awful lot of history where the answer is kind of fuzzy. Though long-term reproductive success is probably weighted in favor of #1 and against #3.

          • Eponymous says:

            One historical episode that fits this pattern and for which good written records should exist is the Spanish conquest of Latin America.

            I’m sadly unfamiliar with the historical details here, but it would make a good comparison point.

          • edmundgennings says:

            To radically shift y chromosomes #3 is not sufficient unless ones also kills all the men.
            The Iliad which is from a greek prospective but is far from a greek propaganda piece presents it as #1

          • John Schilling says:

            Yes, all three cases require male genocide or near-genocide to explain some of the Y-chromosomal shifts. The question is why the surviving women are bearing the children of the genocidal conquerors who just killed their fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons, rather than just not bearing anyone’s children because none of the potential fathers meet their standards.

          • ana53294 says:

            @John Schilling

            In a time without effective birth control, fertile women have three ways of avoiding having kids:

            a) Not have sex. This is obviously out in scenario 1 and 3.

            b) Have abortions/infanticide. I’m not sure how reliable abortion where, but the men in scenario 1 would not be too happy about infanticide or abortion (since presumably they married to have kids).

            c) Commit suicide.

            Which of the three ways are you suggesting these women should have used?

            Also, presumably, not all men were killed in the first generation, and every generation daughters were taken away and used as concubines, while boys were not allowed to procreate.

            A second/third generation woman, who has not had her father/brother killed, may also be more willing to have dalliances with the conqueror, since her children will be better off. According to the Russkaya Pravda, for example, a female slave who gives birth to a child of a boyar or a free person becomes free and her children also become free (and sons can become soldiers). I don’t know what the laws of these first conquerors said, but if they were similar, there were many reasons for second/third generation women who haven’t had their families murdered to have dalliances with their owners.

          • @ana

            From what I’ve read in history, it’s actually not uncommon for the first generation of women to willingly go along with the men who killed their fathers and brothers. Strange as it may seem to us, they’re thinking of survival and recognize what limited choices they have.

          • John Schilling says:

            Which of the three ways are you suggesting these women should have used?

            I’m not suggesting what they “should” have done; this isn’t a prescriptive discussion. I’m asking what they did do, and to some extent why.

            But to make it clear, there is always #0: sit around in their now-all-female villages, farming and spinning and weaving and whatnot, having sex with no one, and eventually dying out.

            We know from X-chromosome prevalence that they didn’t (all) do that. Some people have asserted, “therefore they were raped and rape is a big deal in evolutionary biology”. I object to this simplistic claim and would prefer a more thoughtful discussion of the possibilities. But I’m not telling anyone what they “should” do in the event of e.g. genocidal conquest.

      • Eponymous says:

        Forcible rape by strangers has I think been a fairly minor element of human reproduction for most of recorded history at least.

        I’m far from an expert on this, but I was recently reading Napoleon Chagnon’s memoir, and the Yanomamo people he described apparently engaged in regular raids that were mainly about killing men (mostly as part of cycles of retribution) and stealing women.

        Then there’s the y-chromosome data from the Yamnaya (IE) expansions through Europe, suggesting they killed all the men, but kept most of the women.

        Basically I’m at least quite skeptical of this claim. (Well, it might be true given your qualifier “recorded history” — though there was that whole business with the Sabine women — but it might have played a quite important role in prehistory.)

        • John Schilling says:

          Prehistory and in particular preagrarian societies are a much more plausible place to find this sort of thing, I think. And note that the Sabine Women, notwithstanding the title of the tale, are solidly in the #1 category from my previous post at least insofar as history-written-by-the-winners is concerned.

      • but there’s a fair bit of discussion of the Casanova strategy for reproductive success that gets close to explicit about “not taking no for an answer” as part of what can make that strategy a winner.

        I don’t know the context of “Casanova strategy,” but the real Casanova was almost always willing to take no for an answer. Off hand, I can only think of one exception.

    • Aapje says:

      @Nancy Lebovitz

      [Arranged marriage] would presumably select for one’s family’s (mostly parents but possibly grandparents’) skill at negotiation.

      I disagree. Skill at negotiation is far less important than what is actually offered.

      These are not random encounters where all information comes from the salesperson, so people can fairly easily be cheated. The quality/wealth of the family and/or of the child will usually be either well known already or carefully verified.

  25. rahien.din says:

    Here’s a weird idea. Disclaimer : I am a very, very strong supporter of vaccination.

    We know that outbreak risk boils down to the distribution of immunity levels and the prevalence of active transmissible disease. If we can not get every person to augment their immunity levels, maybe we can actively control the distribution of immunity levels and actively control disease prevalence.

    Consider that if a school or classroom has a high prevalence of unvaccinated children, the risk of infection spreading throughout the school is higher, too, as those children will be more likely to become infected and then transmit disease to others. If, instead, those children are spread out more widely, their chances of participating in an outbreak are much lower. We can control what classroom and what school these children attend.

    The parents of voluntarily-unvaccinated children would be required to sign an agreement before enrolling in a public school. It would stipulate :

    1. The parents would permit the school to manage its outbreak risk by busing their child to a different school and/or moving them to a different classroom (thereby spreading these children as far apart as possible).
    1a. If, at any point, another child is diagnosed with a disorder that leads to increased infection risk (leukemia, etc) then the sick child gets to stay in their current school and the voluntarily-unvaccinated child must move to a different school
    1b. If, at any point, an unvaccinated child must be shifted around to accomodate a sick child, the placement of all unvaccinated children will be adjusted in order to minimize outbreak risk.

    2. They would be required to keep their child at home and notify the school immediately if their child showed any signs of infection, and would be required to retrieve their child if they developed signs of infection at school. These absences would be medically-excused by default, but the child would be responsible for all classwork on time, unless a doctor’s note established that their symptoms made that impossible.
    2a. If they fail to make such a report or to retrieve their child immediately, the child would be suspended. There would be some threshold for expulsion.

    3. The acceptable prevalence of unvaccinated children would be determined probabilistically. School and classroom assignments would be determined graph-theoretically. These calculations could be reperformed at any point in time. Models could be updated quarterly.

    4. The agreement would be null and void if the child gets vaccinated, by a school nurse.
    4a. School nurses would become trained in administering vaccinations, such that they could administer them during the schoolday.
    4b. Vaccination would be designated a routine and low-risk procedure.
    4c. A system of two-party consent would be established. The parents would provide their conditional consent, such that if their child initiated, consented to, and completed the vaccination process, the school system would not be liable for the decision to vaccinate, the performance of the procedure, or any complications arising therefrom. There would be a minimum age at which a child could provide such consent.
    4d. Children would be able to determine the degree to which their parents would be informed that they had sought information or had gotten vaccinated.
    4e. The entire process would be explained to unvaccinated children before their first day of school each year, and they would be given age-appropriate material developed by the CDC. Children with questions about vaccination would be given the same age-appropriate material developed by the CDC, but all school employees would otherwise be prohibited from discussing vaccination with unvaccinated children.

    5. This system would be administered by a newly-founded school outbreak prevention board. The school outbreak prevention board would be funded by a general increase in taxes, visible as a line-item.

    Obviously this is Draconian and weird and Scarlet-Letter-y and probably the plot of some upcoming dystopian novel. Obviously, it’s not a super-great idea to put potentially-measles-infected kids on long bus rides across town.

    But….

    It would It would require anti-vaxxer parents to acknowledge, de facto, the risks they impose. It would require them to actively participate in a system that would mitigate those risks, without requiring vaccination. It would protect medically-vulnerable children without imposing higher costs on them. It would impose costs on the parent and child by forcing them to do more of the classwork on their own, by threatening to destabilize their classroom and school assignments, and by the simple fact of busing them into unfamiliar schools. It would make these families more visible, both in the sense that everyone could see how many unvaccinated children attended each school, and in the sense that their participation in outbreaks could be easily documented. It would inform responsible parents of the full costs imposed by their neighbors, both monetary and in terms of medical risk. It would allow children seeking vaccination to get it, without necessarily endangering their family life.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      It’s not very draconian compared to some people I encounter who think the unvaccinated should be straight-up vaccinated against their will. (Which I guess makes me against your proposal, because I hate the idea that I should reward the extremists by deciding to support a less-extreme compromise.)

      We can quibble about the exact age cut-off, but I think 14- or 15-year-olds should be able to get vaccinated against their parents’ will. But how do you ethically hide that information from the parents? Parents are otherwise in charge of their kids’ medical decisions and they need that information.

      Also, many outbreaks happen because hippie parents[1] decide to go visit some third-world country and come back and infect their whole hippie community with measles. I think border control is a good place for all this to happen. If you go to a place that hasn’t wiped out measles[2], then to enter or re-enter the country, you need to either demonstrate titer levels showing an active immunization, or wait in quarantine for the incubation period at your own expense. Those who can’t/shouldn’t be immunized, or those in whom the immunization does not work, get the same deal.

      [1] In this case, I mean both left-wing and right-wing hippies. I know some of each.

      [2] I’m not sure we have any such place at the moment. 🙁

    • Murphy says:

      I don’t think much of this is practical and a lot of it feels punative and fairly recognizable as trying to game consent out of people, like a popup that appears with the “i consent” button under your mouse just as you’re about to click on something.

      The parents would provide their conditional consent, such that if their child initiated, consented to, and completed the vaccination process, the school system would not be liable for the decision to vaccinate, the performance of the procedure, or any complications arising therefrom.

      So, if Mary refuses to consent to little timmy being vaccinated.

      Meanwhile the nurse offers a cookie to little Timmy and he consents to be vaccinated.

      He has an adverse event and ends up in hospital and Mary starts getting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of medical bills….

      So, the school isn’t liable in any way and the parents assume liability?

      That doesn’t sound like it would be popular and it would be basically anti-vaxer bait. They’d be using the story as rhetoric for years.

      If you want to evade consent it’s probably better to just be up front about it. Or just make attendance conditional on getting their shots.

      They would be required to keep their child at home and notify the school immediately if their child showed any signs of infection

      For things like measles… by the time kids are showing symptoms it’s too late to screw around moving kids around. It’s already spread to anyone vulnerable in their class.

      School and classroom assignments would be determined graph-theoretically. These calculations could be reperformed at any point in time. Models could be updated quarterly.

      You can screw around all you want with graph theory. Kids are gonna still go hang out with their friends and bump into other kids in the hallway and your graph theory is unlikely to deal with Little Timmy sneezing in front of an air vent on a day when the wind is just right to draw air through the system in a different pattern.

      none of this seems to be very much in the interests of the patients involved.

      Alternative option:

      Since we’ve reached the point where we can track outbreaks down to the individual level with sequencing of pathogens during outbreaks…

      making it provable that the disease spread from person A -> person B -> person C

      there’s another option that libertarians in the audience should love: stop peoples artificial and anti-libertarian immunity to lawsuits for harm caused by preventable infections they pass to others.

      People can then choose how they protect the people around them from harm they might cause. Perhaps by vaccinating or perhaps by isolating themselves or perhaps by using some other system that the market might provide.

      So, Mary elects not to vaccinate little timmy without good cause, it spreads from little timmy to immune compromised little jimmy and leaves him brain damaged for life.

      Just let the parents of little jimmy sue Mary for the lifetime care costs of little Jimmy and garnish that wages forevermore if they can’t pay. Let them know in advance that this could happen and consider vaccinating against preventable infections to be “taking reasonable measures” to try to prevent such.

      Choices have consequences. If your chocies harm others then they should be entitled to redress for the harm you caused by negligence.

      • quanta413 says:

        Most people can’t possibly afford to cover the costs of permanently crippling someone else because they transmitted a dangerous disease to them. Lifetime care can have annual costs in the hundreds of thousands. Not to mention if you only cover the cost of keeping a braindead person alive, the harmed family is still much worse off than when they started. You’ll almost enslave the culpable party in many cases and still not be able to compensate any meaningful fraction of the damage. And it’s a crappy tradeoff anyways, because most people would rather have their children be healthy than have even extremely large amounts of money.

        This isn’t even going to function as a tradeoff unless you do some further anti-libertarian things like force people to either be vaccinated or hold insurance worth a payout of millions of dollars if things go wrong.

        The suing plan is going to take more freedom away from people and going to look worse to most people than either mandatory vaccinations or just telling people whose children die or are brain damaged “well that’s bad luck that your neighbor was an idiot who caused your child to die.”

        At that point, you may as well just vaccinate against consent. If a disease is severe, the not being vaccinated against it when you could be and then going out in public is basically an aggressive violation against others. Since we don’t live in libertarian land where people could be confined to their private property if they refuse to not swing their fists at other people’s faces (metaphorically speaking), the only question that remains is what will get the most people vaccinated.

        • Murphy says:

          This isn’t even going to function as a tradeoff unless you do some further anti-libertarian things like force people to either be vaccinated or hold insurance worth a payout of millions of dollars if things go wrong.

          Currently people aren’t required to hold insurance in order to play with lawn darts. despite the risk of hitting their neighbors kid in the head and ending up in an isomorphic situation.

          If that happens the courts don’t just shrug and go
          “well that’s bad luck that your neighbor was an idiot”

          Jimmy’s parents have the right to sue for lawn-dart-to-the-head injuries and it doesn’t cost anyone freedom and it incentivizes people to not do such stupid things that might harm others.

          Currently harming others through preventable pathogen is the odd-man-out. it’s the weird case where the government grants people immunity from lawsuits and I don’t think that’s justified when there’s serious permanent injury involved and the transmission was preventable.

    • Vitor says:

      In Switzerland, a version of this is actually a reality. There were 2 measles cases at my university recently, and students were reminded that in the case of an outbreak the public health authority (Kantonsarzt = “cantonal doctor”) can, at their discretion, exclude unvaccinated students from the premises. Those students then wouldn’t have any recourse in case of missed classes / exams, etc.

      It’s a much more reactive stance than you’re proposing, but it points in the same direction.

  26. Levantine says:

    Julian Assange has been arrested an hour ago. Perhaps some of us here will have something interesting to say…

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Does the death penalty exist in the UK? No I’m not asking as a joke. I’d just imagine he’s exactly the sort of person a western government opposed to barbaric methods of punishment might make an exception for.

      • Tarpitz says:

        I believe it still does for high treason in time of war, but not for anything else. Assange certainly will not get it.

        • albatross11 says:

          I wonder what the chances are that he’ll end up in US custody.

          • Enkidum says:

            Almost certain? He’s been arrested for avoiding a US extradition demand, no?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The US indictment was under seal until now, and while I’m no lawyer, I don’t think you can be arrested for avoiding a sealed order.

          • Enkidum says:

            The police have publicly stated that he was arrested for this reason. I’m also not a lawyer, but it seems pretty clear that this is the main impetus behind the arrest.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Your BBC article:

            Assange took refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case that has since been dropped.

            At Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday he was found guilty of failing to surrender to the court.

            After his arrest for failing to surrender to the court, police said he had been further arrested on behalf of US authorities under an extradition warrant.

            The US has been completely mum on any attempt to extradite him until now.

          • Enkidum says:

            Ah, sorry, I definitely had something twisted in my reading of the story. He’s been arrested (in part) because of a US extradition warrant, that seems clear. But not because of avoiding it, for the reasons you say.

          • Clutzy says:

            @ Edward

            The US indictment was under seal until now, and while I’m no lawyer, I don’t think you can be arrested for avoiding a sealed order

            This is actually the opposite of the purpose of a sealed indictment (sometimes). The sealed indictment lets you arrest people without them knowing you are actively searching for them. That is why, for instance, a lot of serious people were very skeptical when Mueller revealed his indictments of “13 Russians and 3 Russian Companies” . Normally those indictments would remain sealed until those people were known to be in placed they could be indicted and extradited. Thus those indictments were just a PR move by Mueller, and he later got pretty clowned on by one of the companies he indicted that showed in court with local counsel and demanded a speedy trial. At which point Mueller had to beg the court for extra time, which he got, but its a under-reported egg on his face that was easily avoidable if he used sealed indictments instead.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            You can obviously be arrested by a sealed order, but the point I was contesting (which I think Enkidum may not have been making) was that it was somehow illegal or unlawful to violate or avoid a sealed order.

          • Enkidum says:

            For clarification, it was the point I was making, I was just wrong.

      • Murphy says:

        Death sentence for?

        Currently he’s facing something like 2 years for skipping bail.

        Course it might turn out that he was right all along about the US wanting to extradite him in which case it could be much darker.

        • Enkidum says:

          the US wanting to extradite him

          That is the public reason given by the London police for the arrest.

          EDIT: see the BBC, which states

          After his arrest for failing to surrender to the court, police said he had been further arrested on behalf of US authorities under an extradition warrant.

      • Lambert says:

        no. EU forbids the death penalty.

        Edit:
        And extradition to a country that is likely to execute him isn’t straightforward, either.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Here is someone who was refused extradition from UK to US for reasons other than the death penalty

        • The original Mr. X says:

          no. EU forbids the death penalty.

          It permits it in times of war or civil unrest (or at least did a few years ago when last I checked), though I don’t think the UK has the death penalty in any circumstances now.

      • AlesZiegler says:

        Here is a helpful chart about death penalty and extradition in countries which are signatories of European Convention on Human Rights. UK is among them.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        There’s nothing you could possibly execute Assange for. In the UK he’s wanted for skipping bail, and the US for something like “conspiracy to hack a computer,” which last I checked was not a capital offense. It’s also going to be difficult to prove. Asking Manning to give him information is not a conspiracy to hack a computer. I don’t know how well this is going to hold up, but we’ll see.

        People talking about “treason” are right out. Assange is Australian. An Australian cannot commit treason against the United States.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      The most hilarious outcome would be for him to get extradited to Sweden, spend six months in a Swedish jail on account of “Running away for seven years makes the prosecutors case for them.” and then the swedes sticking to their usual guns about “No extradition for political offenses, ever”.

      But I doubt the US security apparatus is actually clever enough to let that happen, despite the fact that it would be the most discrediting-to-assange outcome. They already filed for extradition from the UK.

    • John Schilling says:

      Assange (and wikileaks generally) at least used to play a significant part in the “Trump colluded with the Russians” narrative. That’s been downplayed or ignored of late, but it will probably come back into view – particularly in the discussion over whether Assange gets extradited to the United States.

      If Trump actually did collude with the Russians – unlikely but not impossible – he’s going to favor outcomes where Assange disappears into obscurity rather than ones where Assange winds up giving testimony in a US court. Or any other court that is investigating his political rather than sexual dealings. Collusion-Trump might want Assange Gitmoized (or novichoked), but since he can’t reliably arrange that he’d probably prefer the man just be packed off to a European prison on rape or obstruction charges.

      If as now seems more likely Trump didn’t directly collude with the Russians, then he’s righteously upset at everyone responsible for that narrative. Including Assange, who he might very much like to see grilled on the subject in a US court in the context of his investigate-the-investigators focus. So extradition to the US would probably be a good sign on the POTUS-isn’t-actually-a-Russian-Agent front. Unfortunately, lack of extradition can’t be taken as evidence of anything because it could just mean the UK government is playing it safe and keeping their hands clean.

      • shakeddown says:

        Quibble: even if Trump didn’t collude with Russians, I think he prefers to look suspicious – the media pushing the collusion narrative at him helps him with his base (it’s a purely partisan issue, and one where he has a lot more support than most of his actual policies do).

        • Randy M says:

          I think it was the same with Obama and the birthers. He could have nipped it in the bud, but it helped to have his opponents double down on the claims before showing them wrong.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t think the Russian thing is analogous to birtherism. Trump has been screaming very loudly “NO COLLUSION! WITCH HUNT!” since this thing began. There is nothing he can do to prove a negative, and it is not useful to him. It would be much easier to enact his agenda without half of the news coverage about him being crazy conspiracy theories.

            I think the analog to birtherism is Trump’s taxes. I always thought Obama was very smart to not release his birth certificate: his opponents waste their time crowing loudly about something completely irrelevant that make them look dumb instead of focusing on something that might actually persuade anyone*. Trump’s taxes are the exact same thing. No one cares about his taxes. If you showed me Trump’s taxes and it proved he was broke, I wouldn’t care. I support his agenda and do not care about his wealth or lack thereof. Similarly, if his taxes were released and they proved without a shadow of a doubt he was the most brilliant businessman alive, I’m pretty sure Rachel Maddow would not then say, “gee, I guess Trump is great after all and I now support him!” So if I were Trump’s adviser I would tell him: “Never release the taxes. Let the media waste barrels of ink writing about something completely meaningless and petty instead of things that actually matter.”

            Oh, and what would actually happen if Trump’s taxes were released is leftist media would find something bad in them and scream “this proves Trump’s terrible!” and rightist media would find something good in them and scream “this prove Trump’s great!” and everyone’s prejudices are confirmed.

            * Also, no one else agrees with me, but I think Trump was smart about birtherism, too. The media likes to paint Trump as being in charge of birtherism or something, but no, Trump didn’t start it, he ended it. Trump said absolutely nothing about Obama’s birth certificate for 3 years after that thing got started as a minor blip from Hillary’s 2008 campaign. Then in 2011 Trump starts talking about investigating it and 3 weeks later Obama releases the birth certificate and ends that whole mess. Birtherism was a useful weapon for Obama and Trump’s actions led to its neutralization. 27-dimensional underwater Korean StarCraft yo.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Bob Woodward’s book showed that Trump got apoplectic at the talk of Russian collusion. In private it really really infuriated him. Like, if something set him off, there would be a day or two of nothing accomplished at the White House.

          • BBA says:

            I expect the calls for the “full unredacted Mueller report” to become just as obnoxious as calls for the “long form birth certificate” were. And if the report ever comes out, just like the birth certificate, it won’t magically end the presidency or have anything else the people calling for it want to see.

            To extend the analogy, a #Resist grifter will win in 2024 and I’m going to bang my head against the wall for the next few decades.

          • Bob Woodward’s book showed that …

            Unless you somehow know that Woodward is both honest and infallible, his book didn’t show anything, it claimed something. Possibly correctly, possibly not.

    • Walter says:

      I don’t have any particular animus for Assange. Like, the problem is the spies, not the wall they tack stolen data to.

      • albatross11 says:

        ISTM that Wikileaks is a journalistic outlet, and that punishing the guy running that outlet for publishing embarrassing leaked documents about the government (which is what this is ultimately about) is a really horrible idea.

        • John Schilling says:

          What about punishing the guy for committing various crimes in obtaining documents about the government? That is what the US indictment is for, what with our having clearly established that journalists can’t be punished in the US for mere publication even of secret war plans or hydrogen bomb designs.

          And it’s a line that needs to be drawn. If a reporter thinks I am Up to No Good and that the People Need to Know, can he break into my office and crack my safe without fear of punishment because he is a Journalist practicing Freedom of the Press? Can he kidnap and waterboard me until I tell him what he wants to know? What if he merely organizes the operation while keeping his hands personally clean, the way a Mob boss never actually pulls the trigger?

          • toastengineer says:

            Maybe the line really should be “if the victim really was doing something horrible, then it was righteous journalism, otherwise it was a crime.”

            I mean, that’s sorta how self defense works; if you kill somebody, that’s bad, unless you can prove they were themselves trying to kill you, then it’s okay. Releasing government secrets is bad, unless the government was actually trying to violate the Constitution, then it’s okay.

            I know this can’t really work in practice as a law, but for judging whether or not we approve of someone’s actions, maybe it’s a good enough heuristic.

          • Walter says:

            I’m with you, as far as Assange is acting as motivator or controller of the original criminal. Like, if someone spies on you, they are bad, if someone hires them to spy on you, still bad.

            I just want to make sure we don’t go all the way to ‘if they post the stolen info on a bulletin board then the board is bad’. I’m on board with what you’ve said here though. Spies and their controllers are fair game.

          • John Schilling says:

            I mean, that’s sorta how self defense works; if you kill somebody, that’s bad, unless you can prove they were themselves trying to kill you, then it’s okay.

            If they themselves were trying to kill you right at that instant, it’s tolerably OK. Private self-defense is permitted because, and to the extent that, it rectifies a harm that will be beyond fixing if we wait for the courts to deal with it.

            A journalist can damn well file an FOIA request, and accept “no” for an answer if that’s what the agency and then the courts come down with. Deciding to hack government computers because he’s too impatient or arrogant for that, doesn’t make him the moral equivalent of an armed citizen engaging in self-defense. It pushes that analogy into the realm of an assassin killing politicians because he’s really, really sure they are bad wrong evil politicians who will do bad wrong evil things some time in the future.

            The line really, really shouldn’t be “we can lie and cheat and steal and kidnap and torture and murder, on our own private initiative and judgement and with full immunity to the law, if we are confident that they are the Bad Guys and we are the Good Guys”. It’s even worse if that line is only applicable to Professional Journalists(tm), because who decides that? And I believe you are really doing something horrible by trying to promote such a standard.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            @John

            The line really, really shouldn’t be “we can lie and cheat and steal and kidnap and torture and murder, on our own private initiative and judgement and with full immunity to the law, if we are confident that they are the Bad Guys and we are the Good Guys”. It’s even worse if that line is only applicable to Professional Journalists(tm), because who decides that? And I believe you are really doing something horrible by trying to promote such a standard.

            You are way over-stating your case here. I think toast made a good case that journalism doing an important job of revealing government’s bad actions might well make up for illegal methods of doing it. Maybe comparing it to self defense wasn’t exactly correct, although I liked the analogy.

            Now you talk about “lie and cheat and steal and kidnap and torture and murder,” which I think is not at all what toast was talking about. Especially the last three words of very violent actions is what I mean by you over-stating your case — has any journalist EVER done those things to get a story to expose government malfeasance? What may be the case is that journalists such as wikileaks hacks into a database and takes information they aren’t meant to have. That can reasonably be called theft. But I can certainly imagine many situations where the benefit of finding gov’t malfeasance is worth the cost of condoning this theft. Can you not think of situations where this is the case?

            I don’t know if this is the case for wikileaks. I don’t know a lot of details, but I tend to think these leaks were worth the theft they probably came from.

          • John Schilling says:

            Especially the last three words of very violent actions is what I mean by you over-stating your case — has any journalist EVER done those things to get a story to expose government malfeasance?

            But why shouldn’t they? According to your standard and the albatross’s, journalists and quasi-journalists can commit crimes like theft and burglary with impunity, common-law felonies with actual victims, so long as they say they are doing it against Very Bad People and For the Common Good. Why shouldn’t they be able to commit other common-law felonies like assault and kidnapping, For The Common Good against Very Bad People? Is there some list defining exactly which felonies journalists are allowed to commit so long as they say they are doing it for the right reason? Preferably one with a solid body of legal and/or philosophical thought behind it, and not just one you’re about to make up right now because it seems sensible at the moment?

            Seriously, the only “line” I’m seeing here is, if it’s [InGroupPerson] pwning [OutGroupPeople] in a way that you find amusing or appropriate, and someone is saying it’s a crime, then it’s not really a crime if [InGroupPerson] says he’s a journalist because Freedom Of The Press. And that really is a really bad place to draw the line. If there’s some more objective standard than that, then I’d expect people to have pondered the issue before just now, and that there would be some body of legal scholarship you could point me to on exactly which crimes journalists are allowed to commit.

          • toastengineer says:

            Seriously, the only “line” I’m seeing here is, if it’s [InGroupPerson] pwning [OutGroupPeople] in a way that you find amusing or appropriate,

            Huh? I think you’re bringing some other discussion in here with us.

            Put it this way: if an organ of the government is committing crimes in secret, and for whatever bizarre reason decides not to admit it’s doing so to the first person who asks politely, then exactly how, other than someone conducting an investigation that will inevitably involve learning things it is illegal for him to learn and going places it is illegal for him to go, are the people supposed to stop them?

          • John Schilling says:

            Do you seriously believe that the entire scope of journalistic inquiry consists of A: “asking politely” and B: journalists committing common-law felonies and similarly serious crimes?

            Or are you, as I suspect, just pretending to such ignorance for the sake of making what you imagine to be a telling point? Either way, have at it.

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Do you seriously believe that the entire scope of journalistic inquiry consists of A: “asking politely” and B: journalists committing common-law felonies and similarly serious crimes?

            For the life of me, John, I have no idea why you are having such a strong reaction, where you feel the need for extreme hyperbole in all your comments.

            All I am saying (and I think toast would agree), is that there are times in journalism when committing theft is for the greater good. Not most of the time, but in some cases. I never thought you were someone who believes that everyone must strictly follow the rules all the time for ethics to be served. IMO, in general it makes sense to follow the rules (if they are good rules at least), but life isn’t neat and cozy where anyone who breaks rules should be thrown to the wolves. Sometimes rules need to be broken.

          • It may be relevant here that part of the secret being revealed on Wikileaks was that the Director of National Security had lied in sworn testimony to Congress. That’s a felony—for which he was never prosecuted, even after he admitted that what he had said was not true.

            If government actors are breaking the law—securely because the government they are lying on behalf of won’t prosecute them—is it clear that breaking the law to reveal the fact is morally wrong?

          • 10240 says:

            @John Schilling Many debates are about whether we should decide questions of a particular sort on a case-by-case basis, based on object-level arguments, taking both costs and benefits into account, or we should use a general rule. Should we decide whether to support mandatory medical interventions on a case-by-case basis, or should we categorically oppose them? Should we decide whether we consider it right or wrong to break the law to obtain information about possible government wrongdoings on a case-by-case basis, or should we always consider it right, or always wrong?

            It’s very non-obvious when we should use which approach, there are often arguments for both. You seem to be working from an assumption that we necessarily have to use categorical rules, which would imply that anyone who thinks that it’s sometimes OK to break the law for this purpose would also consider it OK to murder or torture.

            I second Mark, you usually sound really angry at anyone you are debating.

          • John Schilling says:

            I second Mark, you usually sound really angry at anyone you are debating.

            You’re right, and it’s clearly not helpful, and so I cede the field to you all. I will reserve the right to say “I told you so” in the future.

          • albatross11 says:

            John:

            a. I don’t think this prosecution is remotely about punishing hacking (what’s alleged, I think, is offering Chelsea Manning assistance running a password cracker). I think it’s about sending a message to people who embarrass powerful people in the US government. Go ask Thomas Drake why I think this is true.

            b. I don’t think Assange will get a fair trial here. I think, instead, that once he arrives here, there will be one reason or another to keep him in custody and keep visibly f–king around with him for many years to come. The official charge or justification for his detention will probably change several times before the authorities find something they can get some kind of conviction on. Go ask Jose Padilla why I think this is true.

            c. Your parade of horribles for what journalists will get up to if we don’t punish Assange is indeed pretty horrible. But have you noticed that in our actual world, where we live, the torture, murder, kidnapping, illegal wiretapping, and other crimes[1], appear to have all been done by the people who are now trying to nail Assange, rather than by anyone involved with Wikileaks?

            d. As best I can tell, the official oversight process utterly failed on all the big war on terror abuses[3]. The massive illegal wiretapping, the stuff that shocked Congressmen with its depth and breadth, the network of secret prisons/torture chambers, that embarrassing amateur hour bit in Rome, the formal torture program run by the CIA[2]–that stuff came out via investigative reporting. I suspect that every one of those reporters violated a law somewhere. What a pity we didn’t have the precedents we’ll have once we’ve nailed Assange to the wall–political debate on those programs would have been *much* more respectful.

            [1] These, of course, were only crimes in the narrow, technical sense of violating the written law, not in the broader and more reasonable sense of causing trouble for the powerful.

            [2] Note than nobody went to jail for that program. I mean, I guess *technically* those were crimes against humanity, but hey, we’re all guilty of some technicalities.

            [3] One exception is that I believe the military actually did real investigations of deaths under interrogation and some people actually did prison time and/or had their careers ended.

    • imoimo says:

      Re: Extradition

      This article says

      “In line with our strong commitment to human rights and international law, I requested Great Britain guarantee that Mr. Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could face torture or the death penalty,” [Ecuadorian president] Moreno said in his video message.

      “The British government has confirmed it in writing, in accordance with its own rules,” Moreno said.

      it was the previous president who granted the WikiLeaks founder asylum.

      Not sure if that alleged written statement is legally binding, but if so extradition seems unlikely. Anyone know better than me?

      Also, seems this is happening now because the new president of Ecuador is not a fan of Assange.

      • 10240 says:

        AFAIK EU countries generally extradite people to the US under the condition that the US doesn’t execute them. So he may get extradited with such a promise.

  27. Yovel says:

    Hey everyone,
    I’m a data scientist in Israel and a long time lurker in the rationalist\ SSC communities. I’m about to come to the Open Data Science conference in Boston in April 28th. It will be my first visit to the US, and I thought it could be nice to join a rationalist\ SSC meetup during the conference. Will there be such a meeting between April 28th and May 2nd?
    If not, are any of the conference attendants interested in one?

  28. lurker3 says:

    My workgroup is planning to publish a paper, and I’m not enthusiastic about it. I can’t stop them from publishing; the only thing I could perhaps do is ask for my name not to be used. Is that a good idea? How much does a mediocre paper hurt one’s reputation, compared to not publishing?
    Note that there is nothing unethical or false in the paper. It’s not going to hurt anyone else if it gets published. I just don’t think it’s that great.

    • brmic says:

      Bad idea.
      Generally speaking, even false and unethical stuff won’t hurt you unless you’re specifically responsible for the false and unethical stuff. In your case however, I suggest viewing your name on the paper as simply an acknowledgement of the work you contributed (assuming there was any). If you get to the point where you can be selective in your resume, feel free to no longer mention the mediocre paper.
      I have used the offer to remove my name in arguments for specific changes to a paper, but even that is considered a bold move in some circles and may lead to one’s loyalty being questioned. If you have no issue with the paper beyond its mediocricity, I suggest saving yourself the hassle.

    • Enkidum says:

      Terrible idea.

      You’re presumably 3rd author out of 7, or whatever. No one outside your lab gives a shit that your name is on it (unless there’s something actually fraudulent about the paper), but it’s a line on your resume, which is incredibly important for you (especially if you’re considering academic work) at what I presume is an early stage in your career (I’m assuming, based on not much, that you’re an undergrad or a junior grad student?). Furthermore, it is a sign of the respect with which your supervisor and the rest of the team view your contributions, and removing your name from it would likely amount to burning bridges with them. If you’re ok with doing that, then I admire your confidence, but I still think you’re misguided.

      The chances of anyone outside your supervisor’s immediate circle of professional contacts ever reading the paper are probably <50%, especially if it's as mediocre as you think. So there's not likely to be any negative impact on you at all of publishing, there is a definite and quantifiable positive impact of publishing (line on resume), and there is a high chance that there will be a negative impact of not publishing (burning bridges). Seems like a no-brainer to me. But perhaps I'm too old to be principled about this.

      There's a lot to be said against the publish-or-perish mindset, but I can't imagine this being a helpful time for you to be taking a stand.

    • John Schilling says:

      What brmic says. Being a secondary or tertiary author on a mediocre paper brings no professional harm; what you need to avoid is being primary author on a mediocre paper or anywhere on the author list of a truly bad (e.g. fraudulent) paper. And that being the case, asking for your name to be removed will likely be taken as an accusation of wrongdoing/incompetence at the primary authors, which if not merited may harm your professional reputation.

      When you have bignum papers to your credit, delist the mediocre ones from your CV.

  29. Frederic Mari says:

    This is intended as a discussion regarding comments see here regarding my claim that Trump is racist is a pretty obvious fact.

    There’s quite a bit of ground to cover but I want to point out that @Aapje is wrong to expect that Trump will be coherent w.r.t. race/nationality/religion. In immigration as in everything else, he has, at best, feelings and impressions and shortcuts, not a mapped out coherent philosophy of things.

    But let’s start with what I see as his most basic racist belief – the idea that he has superior genes because of his German blood ( https://paulbraterman.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/trump-boasts-of-genetic-superiority-german-blood-2/ ). Trump himself has mentioned that several times (on the campaign trail : “Look, having nuclear — my uncle was a great professor and scientist and engineer, Dr. John Trump at MIT; good genes, very good genes, OK, very smart, the Wharton School of Finance, very good, very smart” but well before too, when he could string a sentence together : http://time.com/4936612/donald-trump-genes-genetics/ : stick to just his conversation with Oprah, the first 30-40 secs ) and it’s also the reason behind his recent crazy ‘lie’/weirdo claim that his father was born in Germany. Maybe he meant of Germanic descent. If I have to explain to you why the belief that having German genes makes you a superior being is a racist one, then I give up.

    W.r.t other races/skin colours/nationalities/religions etc. Trump isn’t particularly fussy. He just believes they are bad or unproductive people, who will handicap the USA in its struggle for domination and that’s that. Take his claim that the US shouldn’t take migrants from shithole countries but accept Norwegians instead : “As Durbin explained how deal would impact people from Haiti, Trump said, “Haiti? Why do we want people from Haiti here?” Then they got Africa. ‘Why do we want these people from all these shithole countries here? We should have more people from places like Norway.” Again, if you believe that success is mostly/entirely genetic and that some races/ethnic groups (say, northern Europeans?) have those success genes while others don’t then his objections to the immigration lottery and where immigrants come from makes perfect sense.

    His dislike for Afro-Americans (his insistence that the Central Park Five were guilty even after they were exonerated) and for “Mexicans” (all Latinos/Hispanics/LatAm) is well documented. Need I remind you how he actually launched his 2016 Presidential bid? “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people” i.e. he seems to assume “Mexico” today does what Cuba/Castro did do during the Mariel boatlift. That’s regardless of the evidence that first generation immigrants, even illegals, are far less prone to crime than natives (or second generation Hispanics i.e. American citizens).

    His dislike for Muslims is similarly well established. Apart from the Muslim ban itself (and, yes, the administration couldn’t legally deliver what he promised so what we/the USA does have is a watered down version of what Trump ideally wants), you got tons of various comments : After San Bernardino, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on,” (read from a statement at a rally). Also his (debunked) claims he saw Muslims in New Jersey celebrating after 9/11. And generally every comments after terrorist attacks. His reaction to the attacks in London was particularly revealing : “I think he [Khan, the Muslim London mayor] has done a bad job on crime, if you look, all of the horrible things going on there, with all of the crime that is being brought in”. Note the emphasis on “brought in”. For Trump, Muslims, just like Mexicans, bring in crimes, drugs and duct tape to rape white women… Again, if I have to explain the particular history of the “brown/black/the Other want to rape our women” meme and its open racism, I don’t know what would convince you.

    • Aapje says:

      There’s quite a bit of ground to cover but I want to point out that @Aapje is wrong to expect that Trump will be coherent w.r.t. race/nationality/religion

      The claim of incoherence on the part of the opponent can result in unfalsifiable accusations. Any evidence that is consistent with a claim is then seen as proof that the claim is true, but counterevidence is then treated as atypical and irrelevant. It creates an asymmetry where you argue towards a claim, rather than a more moderate and accurate assessment.

      But let’s start with what I see as his most basic racist belief – the idea that he has superior genes because of his German blood

      The link you provide has a transcription of a spliced video. The video has short segments from many different speeches and interviews. The transcript makes it seem like this is part of a single speech, which is deceptive. You should have noted this.

      Looking at the video, I never see him say that he has superior genes because of his German blood. I see him say that he has superior genes in some segments and see him connect some traits to genes. I also see him say that he is proud of his German blood, in a segment where he doesn’t talk about his genes.

      Here is a larger segment, which I can’t play with audio right now. However, the autogenerated subtitles seem to have him talk not of genes, but of German culture. He segues from proclaiming his pride in the German cultural traits that he believes he has, to the statement about being proud of his German blood, suggesting that it was meant metaphorically, which such statements often are.

      The way the video was cut to remove his statements about German culture and splice in statements about genes, is extremely deceptive, if not outright defamatory.

      Again, if you believe that success is mostly/entirely genetic

      Perhaps he believes in the influence of genes less than you think, because you consume media that signal boosts his claims about genes, while either ignoring or falsely attributing genetic claims to his statements about culture or other reasons?

      “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people”

      That statement actually says that the Mexicans who decide to migrate are on average worse than those who don’t. Such a claim doesn’t require a belief in (overall) Mexican inferiority, let alone genetic inferiority, rather than cultural inferiority.

      What is interesting to me is that a lot of progressives interpreted this statement as a claim that Mexicans are worse in general, which to me seems to be due to their prejudice. They ignore what was actually said, in favor of what they think that Trump actually meant, based on their model of Trump’s beliefs.

      The issue with that is that if the model is wrong, the interpretation is false. In fact, the false interpretation can then actually strengthen the belief that the false model is correct, resulting in a feedback loop.

      W.r.t other races/skin colours/nationalities/religions etc. Trump isn’t particularly fussy. He just believes they are bad or unproductive people, who will handicap the USA in its struggle for domination and that’s that.

      My understanding of Trump’s basic world view is that he presumes selfishness on the part of everyone, where people will exploit you if they can get away with it. He believes that other nations will engage in unfair trade if they can, that countries will let/make their worst people migrate to get rid of them, that climate change is a hoax by China to hobble the American economy, that other nations take advantage of the safety provided by the American military, etc.

      I think that many people have severe problems understanding certain viewpoints and instead aggressively pattern match to viewpoints that they do understand. In this community, we tend to disfavor this.

      • Frederic Mari says:

        “The claim of incoherence on the part of the opponent can result in unfalsifiable accusations. Any evidence that is consistent with a claim is then seen as proof that the claim is true, but counterevidence is then treated as atypical and irrelevant. It creates an asymmetry where you argue towards a claim, rather than a more moderate and accurate assessment”.

        … or he’s just incoherent? My personal take is that he is none too bright and thus proceeds by approximations/cliches. I suspect he likes eugenics b/c he thinks it says he’s smart and that’s about it. He’s not going to go deep in the weeds of nature vs. nurture, blank slate vs. inheritable traits etc.

        “Here is a larger segment, which I can’t play with audio right now. However, the auto-generated subtitles seem to have him talk not of genes, but of German culture. He segues from proclaiming his pride in the German cultural traits that he believes he has, to the statement about being proud of his German blood, suggesting that it was meant metaphorically, which such statements often are”.

        If he conflates German culture and German blood, that’s again a pretty good case of beliefs in eugenics and the superiority of certain races/cultures. I think it’s self-evident that certain institutional setups are superior to others but I would already be nervous about attributing that to ‘culture’, let alone to ‘blood’/genes.

        “That statement actually says that the Mexicans who decide to migrate are on average worse than those who don’t”. Yeah. Encouraged by the government of Mexico. Not only is that questionable from a factual p.ov. but it veers into conspiracy thinking. Does the US send its criminals to Canada? Does France send its criminals to Germany? Castro did do it and I suspect that factoid stuck in Trump’s impressionable mind.

        “My understanding of Trump’s basic world view is that he presumes selfishness on the part of everyone, where people will exploit you if they can get away with it. He believes that other nations will engage in unfair trade if they can, that countries will let/make their worst people migrate to get rid of them, that climate change is a hoax by China to hobble the American economy, that other nations take advantage of the safety provided by the American military, etc.”

        That’s all true (as in Trump does believe all those things).

        “I think that many people have severe problems understanding certain viewpoints and instead aggressively pattern match to viewpoints that they do understand. In this community, we tend to disfavor this”.

        Are you trying to teach me what confirmation biases are? And isn’t it a bit presumptuous to assume that, because I’m fairly new to this website, I haven’t been interested in rationalist debates before?

        • Aapje says:

          I suspect he likes eugenics b/c he thinks it says he’s smart and that’s about it.

          A belief that genes determine many traits (or a large part of traits) and that one has superior genes is not the same as eugenics, which refers to the goal of improving the genes of future generations. Your sentence is not actually sensible, as written, unless you think that Trump’s father practiced eugenics. Perhaps here and later in your comment, you meant to say “genetics” where you wrote “eugenics”?

          If he conflates German culture and German blood, that’s again a pretty good case of beliefs in eugenics and the superiority of certain races/cultures.

          It can also be due to a belief in the pretty obvious truth that some culture is practically always passed down from parents to children. If Germans with German culture migrate to America and raise a child there, that child will typically adopt some German culture from the parents. Then when that child has children, culture will again be passed on. Explaining the child’s or grand child’s behavior as being due to their German blood can then be an intentional or unintentional conflation of two things that are typically correlated. Lots of people conflate correlated things, either intentionally or because they have trouble distinguishing them. You do this in your comments as well.

          Also, conflating a belief in the superiority of races with the superiority of cultures is extremely sloppy. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who clearly doesn’t believe in the superiority of certain cultures or cultural elements. Such a person would for example have to consider the slave culture in the American South of the past no worse than the Northern culture of that time or than modern American culture. In my experience, people who say that claims of cultural superiority are racist actually object to the belief that some specific culture or cultures are superior to some other specific culture or cultures and then falsely claim that their rejection is based on a general principle that cultures have equal value.

          I think it’s self-evident that certain institutional setups are superior to others but I would already be nervous about attributing that to ‘culture’, let alone to ‘blood’/genes.

          Institutions are culture (especially as institutions often work as they do not merely because of the written rules, but due to unwritten rules that people obey). You can define all the cultural elements that you think can make a culture inferior or superior out of the definition of culture to get at a claim that all cultures are of equal quality, but that is just a rhetorical trick.

          Encouraged by the government of Mexico. Not only is that questionable from a factual p.ov. but it veers into conspiracy thinking.

          The correctness of his views are not the topic at hand. If Trump believes that Mexico sends their criminals, then, regardless of whether he is correct, this is sufficient to explain his comment and his desire for stricter border controls with Mexico.

          What I object to is taking someones statements and rejecting them as being so absurd that it can’t be their real motivation and then presuming they have other beliefs that you consider more realistic, but also more evil.

          It’s really irritating behavior that I see a lot.

          PS. Comments are more legible if you use quote blocks to quote, rather than mere quote characters.

          • albatross11 says:

            Just as an aside, I believe that:

            a. Some cultures are better than others at promoting the kinds of values and behaviors that lead to success in modern life.

            b. Genetic differences between people matter a lot for success or failure in modern life.

            c. Sometimes, those cultural and/or genetic differences lead to some identifiable ethnic/religious/language/racial groups having very different outcomes from others.

            You can define those as racist if you like (I’d say only (c) could even possibly qualify), but they’re all factual claims, and ones I think have a fair bit of evidence behind them. If you apply a moral term to judge factual claims, you’re sabotaging your own brain.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Could someone remind me of how to do blockquotes without italics?

            I really don’t like reading long passages in italics, and I usually don’t.

            Might it make sense to have a top tab for tools and navigating the interface?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Could someone remind me of how to do blockquotes without italics?

            Just italicize them. <blockquote><i>Your Quote Here</i></blockquote>

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Let’s try it.

            Just italicize them.

            Here’s my quote

            Hully gee. So it’s a toggle in this case. Thank you.

            How did you get the site to display html instead of activating it?

          • The Nybbler says:

            If you replace the open bracket “<” with the entity reference “&lt;” it won’t render the html. e.g. <strike>not stricken</strike>

          • Plumber says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz
            "Could someone remind me of how to do blockquotes without italics?

            I really don’t like reading long passages in italics, and I usually don’t..."

            I don’t mind the italics, but when I have to read a blockquote in a subthread of a subthread the words are often presented as only one to four letters wide which makes it hard for me to read, so I often use <code> and <i> instead.

        • “That statement actually says that the Mexicans who decide to migrate are on average worse than those who don’t”. Yeah. Encouraged by the government of Mexico. Not only is that questionable from a factual p.ov. but it veers into conspiracy thinking.

          Are you agreeing that your original claim that it was evidence of racism is false, and for some reason not bothering to say so?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            When Donald Trump has to “assume” that “some” of the people coming from Mexico are “good people”, … yes, that is a pretty racist statement.

            It’s like people here don’t understand how language works (when it is convenient).

            “It would be a shame if something were to happen to Mr. Friedman. A damn shame.”

            I eagerly look forward to everyone telling me how that would really be me expressing a solicitous concern for your well being…

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            When Donald Trump has to “assume” that “some” of the people coming from Mexico are “good people”, … yes, that is a pretty racist statement.

            Would it be more racist than if he had left it out and had claimed or insinuated that all Mexican migrants are criminals?

            What is interesting is that you are upset over the part of his statement where he weakens his earlier claim of Mexican criminality. It seems to me that calling this racist requires a belief that Trump is aware of good people who migrated from Mexico and intentionally refuses to acknowledge that, in an attempt to make people believe that good Mexican migrants are extremely rare, rather than that he can’t come up with any examples, but thinks there are.

            Yet I’ve seen a lot of claims that Trump has a deficiency in his ability to make smart arguments and/or remember things. Why can’t that be an explanation of what he said, rather than a nefarious plot?

            In general, I see a lot of inconsistency between claims by progressives, where the same behaviors by individuals or groups are sometimes attributed to a nefarious plot and sometimes to lack of knowledge/understanding. It seems to me that the main reason for this difference is how prone the person making the claim is to conspiracy thinking (or alternatively, how drawn to conflict theory rather than mistake theory).

            “It would be a shame if something were to happen to Mr. Friedman. A damn shame.”

            I don’t see how this statement in similar to the statement that Trump made, in a relevant way.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I don’t see how this statement in similar to the statement that Trump made, in a relevant way.

            “This is just a mind-numbingly idiotic statement that could only come from a cretin of low intellect and poor moral fiber, although you must, I assume, say some intelligent things from time to time.”

            Is that statement above insulting? Does the final clause modify the antecedent in any relevant way so as to make it non-insulting?

            Seriously, this is what I mean about people pretending not to understand how language works. You use debate shenanigans and selective logic to avoid the point being made.

            When Trumps uses word like “animals” or “infest” in reference to some subset of illegal immigrants, and then uses diminishing language to imply that the subset makes up the vast majority of these illegal immigrants, he is using a common rhetorical trick. You transmit the meaning, while embedding technically exculpatory language in the statement.

          • Aapje says:

            @HeelBearCub

            I agree that Trump made the claim that the majority of Mexican migrants are criminals. I oppose a definition of racism that calls this racist, especially given Trump’s stated motivation for making this claim: that Mexico is treating the US as a sort of penal colony, rather than a claim of inherent inferiority.

            I don’t really understand why you focus on whether Trump was being insulting. Many political claims/accusations are considered insulting. The claim that smokers tend to particularly often misbehave, which I argued elsewhere, is surely considered insulting by some/many smokers. Why is it less wrong to argue that than to argue that an ethnic group or even just a filtered ethnic group has negative traits?

            By your standard, we can’t criticize ISIS members or demand that migrants from Syria should be vetted more.

            Ultimately, the standard that you seem to defend is typically only afforded by people on the left to some groups that they deem to be victimized, while other groups are fair game. I reject such asymmetries and rhetorical games where people try to win arguments by redefining hypocrisy as fairness.

            Adopting your position seems pointless, because I don’t expect that a decent number of people on the left will start to entertain the idea that they are racist when they accuse white people of certain behaviors, sexist when they accuse men, etc. This despite mounting scientific evidence that people on the left are actually far more inherently racist and sexist than those on the right or in the middle (in the sense that they will interpret evidence in a more biased way, will be far more eager to sacrifice a white or male person than a black or female person, etc).

            I try to not call most people on the left racist or sexist, even though I do believe that they mostly have strong racial and gender biases, not in the least because using a broad definition results in conflict, not understanding. I think that people should do the same for the right, for the same reason.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I don’t really understand why you focus on whether Trump was being insulting.

            I am going to try this one last time.

            I gave you an example of rhetoric that was actually threatening without being explicitly threatening.

            I then gave you an example of rhetoric that was actually insulting while containing words that meant the opposite of the intended insult.

            What I am NOT doing is concentrating on threat or insult. The fact you cannot, or do not want to, see this is the problem.

            I AM concentrating on how language is used in a frequently self-contradictory manner for rhetorical effect. Applying rigorous rules of logic to this language to attempt to exculpate the statement from its intended effect is wrong.

            The fact that Trump makes explicit statements that some immigrants aren’t animals, that some Mexicans back in Mexico aren’t rapists or drug deal