718 thoughts on “Open Thread 125.5”

1. sty_silver

I can write java and Haskell and a bit of Matlab. I need to learn (a bit of) Python in a week. What’s the best online resource out there? Bonus points if it’s rigorous and doesn’t leave open questions, and if it walks me through setting stuff up.

1. Hoopyfreud

Are you trying to do Haskell things or Matlab things? Very different answers are implied by this one.

1. sty_silver

More Matlab things. The immediate use case is implementation of geometric algorithms and some corresponding drawings.

1. Hoopyfreud

Wait, you’re trying to generate drawings in Python?

I ask because this is somwhat nontrivial. The algorthms will be “java that cares about whitespace,” more or less. This is easy enough – I can track you down a reference in a bit. But if you wanna draw, you may end up having a bad time.

1. sty_silver

Well, I have a class upcoming where we have to do geometrical stuff in Python, so it’s not up to me. I think there’s one tutorial for the graphic stuff but not python in general.

1. sty_silver

I’ve only just started it, but it looks like it’s exactly what I was looking for. The author spent real thought on how to best teach the subject, they’re taking a rigorous approach, and they’re taking the setting-things-up stage seriously (which I appreciate a lot). Thanks. The paywall isn’t a big deal.

2. Well...

I’m trying to understand orbital dynamics just a little better.

Suppose you are in orbit, your head pointed in the direction you are traveling, your belly facing Earth. You have six thrusters aligned with your center of mass, one facing in each direction: “down” toward Earth, “up” toward outer space, “forward” in the direction you’re traveling, “backward” counter to the direction you’re traveling, and one each left and right.

Firing “backward” will move you “up” (raise your altitude). Firing “forward” will move you “down” (lower your altitude). I hope that’s right so far.

Firing “left” and “right” should push you “right” or “left” respectively, altering the plane of your orbit (not sure if that’s the right term) but not your altitude — or do they do something less intuitive than that?

What does firing “up” or “down” do? Slow down/speed up your orbital velocity? If so, which does what?

1. cassander

spend a few dozen hours playing kerbal space program with no mods. that will teach you more than words can ever say.

1. Incurian

This may seem flippant, but it’s genuinely good advice. Possibly there are videos of other people playing ksp which will be nearly as instructive. If you can’t find one, I’ll make one.

Relevant xkcd: https://xkcd.com/1356/

2. Protagoras

Cassander has the right idea. It’s just not simple; even with your starting point, you’re kind of right about the effects of firing forward or backward, but unless your orbit is perfectly circular (and if it is now, it won’t be once you start doing all this firing of the thrusters), important details of the effects will depend on which part of the orbit you are in when you do the firing. And the other things you mention have similar complications.

3. Nornagest

“Up” and “down” are radial and anti-radial burns. They can be thought of as rotating your orbit around an axis starting at your spacecraft and extending “left” and “right” (for which the jargon is normal and anti-normal): burning radial rotates your orbit in the direction you’re orbiting, burning anti-radial in the other direction.

Source: have played a lot of Kerbal Space Program.

4. Controls Freak

The first thing that might help is to not think about moving “up/down”, like you’re in an airplane. Instead, a common assumption in intro orbital is that chemical rocket burns are extremely short duration compared to the time it takes to move through an orbit. We often take it to the limit, and just assume that it’s an instantaneous change in velocity.

Next, what does an instantaneous change in velocity do? Well, it doesn’t “move” you in any direction. It’s instantaneous, so your position is the same both before and after. That’s one point in space that is common between your old orbit and your new orbit. But your new orbit can’t be the same as your old orbit, because you’ve changed your velocity vector at that point. You then really should compute an entirely new orbit that is defined by that constant position and your new velocity. The picture that results is that a short, high-intensity rocket burst switches you from one fixed orbit in space to a different fixed orbit in space.

The easiest cases are firing “backward” or “forward”, since they both just change the magnitude of your velocity and not the direction. If we add an additional super-simplifying assumption that we started off with a circular orbit, firing “backward” increases the altitude at the other side of the orbit, whereas firing “forward” decreases the altitude at the other side of the orbit. So, while you start off going “up”/”down”, eventually you hit a max/min altitude at the other side of the orbit, and since that orbit has to come back to where you started (remember, your starting position is a point on your new fixed orbit, too (slight caveat: assuming you don’t achieve exit velocity)), after you hit the max/min on the other side, you’ll come back down/up on your way back to where you started. This is why, in the big picture, we shouldn’t start thinking in terms of up/down until after we’ve really got this intro picture figured out.

You’re right that firing left/right changes the plane of your orbit. This one is actually pretty simple.

It gets more complicated if we didn’t start on a circular orbit, and it gets more complicated if we think about firing “up”/”down”. These burns really require going and doing the vector math explicitly, and then turning the crank on some algebra to find out what our new fixed orbit is. The intuition of gaining energy by firing “backward” and losing energy by firing “forward” is decent enough to think that you’re going to raise/lower the altitude at some point elsewhere on the orbit, but the complication for this (and for “up”/”down”) is that at many points on the orbit, “down” isn’t actually pointed at Earth, because your velocity is not perpendicular to your position vector. So, some component of the velocity change may be adding/subtracting from your angular momentum, while another component is twisting the fixed orbit in another fashion. I haven’t played KSP, so I don’t know if that’ll help here. I’d go to a white board. You can probably find intro notes available online from a good university, but they may be tough if you don’t have much math background.

Finally, I want to note that I focused on big, quick burns. I think they’re critical to really getting into orbital. Smaller, maneuvering burns (for, say, docking) does have a bit of its own intuition, which for now I’ll just say is beyond the scope of this comment (and which I think really need to build on this first-order understanding of the big, quick ones.

5. John Schilling

One key factor here is that orbits are periodic, so once you stop thrusting you are guaranteed to circle back to your current position(*) once every orbit period. If you’re parked at the International Space Station and you perform a single small maneuver under rocket thrust, then even though you have accelerated directly away from it, you are pretty much guaranteed to crash into ISS, probably in about 90 minutes. A large maneuver might have you crashing into Earth first, or escaping from Earth’s gravity never to return.

Note: NASA insists on triple-checking your math before allowing you to dock or undock a spacecraft from ISS.

More specifically: If you perform a single short maneuver “forward”, your initial motion will be forward, but you will trace out a roughly circular path relative to where you would have been if you hadn’t maneuvered, the center of which is above your starting point. If you want a permanent increase in altitude, you need to do a second maneuver (also “forward”) at the high point of that circle. Viewed from afar, the first maneuver transformed your orbit into an ellipse tangent to the original orbit at its lowest point, and the second maneuver puts you into a new circular(ish) orbit tangent to the ellipse at its highest point. Also, you’ve increased your orbital altitude, which increases its period and means you will be drifting “back” from where you otherwise would have been.

A single maneuver “up”, starts with upwards motion but results in a periodic circle whose center is behind where you otherwise would have been. A single maneuver “back”, initial backwards motion, periodic circle with its center below where you would have been, and reduced orbit period so slow drift forwards. Single maneuver “down”, initial downwards motion, periodic circle with its center ahead of where you would have been.

“Left” or “right” put you on a narrow periodic figure-eight path with the center where you would have been if you hadn’t maneuvered. Viewed from afar, you’ve just rotated the plane of your orbit – but that plane has to run through the center of the Earth, and it has to include the point at which you turned off your engine.

Cassander and Munroe are right; Kerbal space program will generate a feel for this better than anything else really can.

* In inertial space, relative to the body you are orbiting, assuming no third-body perturbations, and second-order effects may dominate if the magnitude of your orbital adjustment is large.

I timestamped the portion of this video that visually shows what happens during a radial burn.

3. Well...

I watched the first episode of “The First” on Hulu, and thought it was pretty darn excellent. Then I found out there’s only one season because it was cancelled. I haven’t seen any reviews or articles about it, but reading the synopsis of the episodes on Wikipedia, my hypothesis is the creators failed to find that sweet spot of audience members who are both interested in a realistic depiction of what our first visit to Mars might look like and who can tolerate a whole first season entirely focused on the earthly drama behind the lives of the astronauts. Personally, I am not in that category — I want to watch cool space stuff, dammit — so I then skipped to the last episode and watched that. It gave me what I wanted.

Still, it was a very nice two episodes. The only thing I found obviously unrealistic was the amount of empty cabin space in the launch vehicle.

4. Wrong Species

Marxists have generally conceptualized government welfare as a capitulation by the capitalists to stave off a socialist revolution. Bernie Sanders is leading the Democrats in recent polls. Do you think the majority of Democrats are willing to use a socialist-tinged candidate to stave off the social justice warriors/advocates? In his recent speeches, he’s been using social justice language but I think most people really doubt his authenticity there. Maybe they prefer the guy trying to change the economy over the candidates trying to change their communities?

1. AG

Social Justice language is the domain of the well off.
Actual social justice action, boots on the ground, is still mostly about economic charity.

So yeah, the majority of people, people who don’t have the time or money to pay attention to the latest language rules out of academia, are voting for the guy who will put more cash in their wallets. Social Justice language has no feasible action plan for cost disease.

2. Eugene Dawn

This far out, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden (your link says this is the first poll where Bernie beats Joe, so it’s not even clear if this is a real trend) are in the lead mostly because of name-recognition. Constructing grand narratives this early is a risky business: at the comparable point in the 2016 cycle, Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio led Republican polls and Donald Trump was two months away from announcing his candidacy. I doubt any of the lessons you’d have drawn from Walker being the leader in April 2015 would’ve held up well.

3. Guy in TN

Did you have a particular social policy in mind, in which Sanders position could be characterized as aligning to the right of his primary opponents?

I’m struggling to think of any of significance.

IIRC in the 2016 primaries he called open borders a Koch Brothers proposal. According to some schools of thought opposition to open borders puts you on the far right irrespective of all other policy positions.

The other problem is that depending on who you ask, in the age of woke capital signaling against wealth inequality or against foreign wars or against opioids makes you a reactionary. A lot of it has to do with how you frame an issue though.

Also as a representative of Vermont his reputation for gun control might be weaker than his opponents.

Non policy reasons:
Intersectionalists blame his disproportionately male and disproportionately Caucasian supporters from scuttling HRC’s general campaign although they gave him a degree of mischief even before the primaries were settled. If someone catches the ire of intersectionalists they may end up appearing to be reactionary irrespective of the policy positions.

1. Guy in TN

IIRC in the 2016 primaries he called open borders a Koch Brothers proposal.

Right, but Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and ect, don’t support open borders either. Julian Castro’s position might be accurately characterized as in support of open borders, but at this point he might not even crack the top 10 in polling.

Also as a representative of Vermont his reputation for gun control might be weaker than his opponents.

This was one issue I was considering as well. But gun control, while part of the left, isn’t really part of the standard “social justice” (race/gender/sexuality) wheelhouse. I do see Biden using it to hammer Sanders, though.

If someone catches the ire of intersectionalists they may end up appearing to be reactionary irrespective of the policy positions.

This is what I was hinting towards. He was branded as reactionary by his opponents in 2016 on rather baseless grounds. Sander’s actual policy positions, both economic and social, are decidedly to the left.

So we don’t have to buy into the 2016 primary propaganda framework. It was only cynically deployed because Hillary Clinton was a centrist running in a climate where her policy positions (and her “experience”) became liabilities rather than assets. If Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren become top-tier contenders we might see it resurrected for a second round. But if Sander’s main opponent is Biden, it will be a too hard of a sell that Biden is more “woke”. And Biden adds absolutely nothing in terms of identity representation.

My 2020 prediction, assuming the main contenders are Biden and Sanders, will be that we see a narrative of ideological re-alignment that undos the scrambling of 2016. Sanders will be the “left candidate” (both in economic and social policy), and Biden will be the “center candidate” (in both ways as well). This bizarre narrative that appeared in 2015 of the center-left being somehow more “woke” than the socialist-left will finally come to an end.

This was Sanders’ Statement:

“So I was disappointed, if not surprised, at the visceral horror with which Bernie Sanders reacted to the idea when interviewed by my colleague Ezra Klein. “Open borders?” he interjected. “No, that’s a Koch brothers proposal.” The idea, he argued, is a right-wing scheme meant to flood the US with cheap labor and depress wages for native-born workers. “I think from a moral responsibility, we’ve got to work with the rest of the industrialized world to address the problems of international poverty,” he conceded, “but you don’t do that by making people in this country even poorer.”

Very of the democratic candidates will candidly say they support open borders, what you have instead is something more akin to anti-anti-open borders. If your campaign signals that every means by which a migrant might be deterred from entering the united states will be rolled back, abolished, or given a nice big loop hole, you can signal that the United States is safe to enter.

The other approach has been to blur the distinction between asylum seekers and economic migrants and then dare the opposition to run on an anti-asylum seeking platform.

Bernie sanders by contrast *explicitly* opposed open borders in a way that the other democratic candidates did not (as far as i know) — and did so on the basis of depressing native wages. Although he did so in 2016.

2. Guy in TN

It will not be open arms. It will not be come on — it will be, we’re going to hold hearings with our judges consistent with international law and American law, and we’re going to send the vast majority of you back.

A little muddled, but his intent is pretty clear. The U.S. will not have “open arms” to immigrants, and most will be sent back.

4. Plumber

@Wrong Species;

Interesting, I wonder if Sanders getting ahead of Biden is due to thr allegations of the Biden being “handsy”, and how much Biden’s drop in the polls is because potential voters don’t like that about him – or just think his chances of winning are less?

In any case I agree with @Eugene Dawn that at this point Biden and Sanders are leading because of name recognition, as for the ‘PC’ language thing, my perception is that most of what are often called “SJW’s” are co-eds and relatively young graduates, most “anti-SJW’s” are Republicans, and most Democratic Party voters just don’t care much about that.

The majority of the electorate wants what’s left of the welfare state that they think will benefit them (primarily social security and Medicare, which are what I call “tontine socialism”) to be preserved, and wants those with higher incomes than themselves to be taxed more to pay for it, and the majority of the electorate thinks that “political correctness has gone too far”.

My guess is that most of the Democratic Party voters just want the checks to keep going to their parents and their parents doctors (and themselves when they’re old enough), with a vocal minority who care about “PC language”, and another minority who want their relatives to be allowed to join them in the U.S.A. and not be deported.

My guess is that most Republican Party voters want immigration limited, with a vocal minority who want ‘traditional values’ and a donor class that doesn’t want it’s taxes raised.

The difference between most Democratic Party voters and most Republican Party voters is less what side of issues they’re on and more which issues they care most about.

1. Eugene Dawn

my perception is that most of what are often called “SJW’s” are co-eds and relatively young graduates, most “anti-SJW’s” are Republicans, and most Democratic Party voters just don’t care much about that.

I think this is mostly true, though with some caveats: whites in the Democratic party really have gotten a lot more liberal, and this has made the party more liberal overall. You’re probably right that “most” Democratic voters don’t care, but it’s a pretty narrow most: liberals are now around 43% of the party and while probably not all of them are ‘SJW’s in the strong sense, I’d still guess that close to half of the party has some affinity for the language of racial justice.
This seems to be mostly tied to the rise of the share of college-educated Democrats, who now comprise 35% of the party, which is probably why you have the impression that ‘SJW’s are in college or just out of it.

However, to return to the original topic of a divide between Bernie Dems and SJW Dems, I think that’s more wrong than right: I think that the self-consciously socialist Bernie wing is also disproportionately young, white, and college-educated, and is composed of mostly the same type of person as the ‘SJW’ wing. In this Gallup data, for instance, you can see a 22-point gap between liberal Dems and moderates on government-run healthcare which is Bernie’s signature issue, bigger than the gap between liberals and moderates on the more ‘SJW’-y issue of gay marriage (though the gap between liberals and conservatives is bigger for gay marriage). In other words, I don’t think Bernie is the candidate of the normie Dems either; that’s Biden if it’s anyone.

In short, I think the impression that Bernie voters and ‘SJW’s are different groups is mostly wrong: both Bernie and the ‘SJW’s appeal to a group of mostly young, mostly college-educated, mostly white voters who are strongly liberal on economics and on social issues; there is some difference of emphasis to be sure, but most of the hostility between the two groups is a remnant of the 2016 election and probably not really because Bernie voters oppose social justice in any meaningful way. Insofar as any of the Dem candidates has actually decided to run as the ‘SJW’ candidate (and I’m not sure any has; Kamala Harris is the one people cite but I don’t know that she’s actually done much to run in this way), they and Bernie will likely be competing for the same pool of liberal voters, by appealing to different priorities. Other candidates will walk a fine line between passing litmus tests set by the liberals without endorsing policies that may alienate less ideological voters.

On this last point, I think Plumber is right that Dems broadly speaking want higher taxes on the rich, and are concerned about healthcare but don’t necessarily want single-payer (according to this poll, Biden outperforms Bernie 2-1 among voters who say healthcare is their primary issue!)
My impression is that most of the Dems are running more or less in this lane: selling welfare-state type programs without being ideologically socialist, and casting themselves broadly as representing a diverse coalition of Americans without being ideologically ‘SJW’. Probably they will attack Trump on immigration, but for the most part on the narrow ground of opposing family separation and the wall, and proposing ‘path to citizenship’-type stuff.

Looking at this there are not really any areas where Bernie looks divergent from the other candidates, though in support for single payer and a green New Deal there’s obviously a lot of room for differences to emerge.
The big areas where I think Dems seem to be going all in on social issues that are overtly liberal are abortion (all the Dems are unanimous here), abolishing ICE (a few candidates are for it, Bernie is uncommited), reparations (a few Dems are pro, and Bernie is listed as ‘partial’), legalizing weed (mostly all pro). Abortion and legal marijuana are the two race-and-gender-issues where Democrats seem to genuinely be going out over their skis. While abortion is certainly controversial, it’s not exactly a new issue, and neither issue strikes me as being really an ‘SJW’-type issue.

1. Plumber

@Eugene Dawn,

I don’t disagree with much of your analysis, it’s all very convincing, and I’d say that your characterization of Sanders [I]strongest [/i] supporters (those with a “Feel the Bern” bumper sticker, et cetera) being closely aligned with the “New Left”/”PC”/”SJW” wing (I do wish there was a better agreed on term, “anti-traditionalists” maybe?) and aren’t particularly opposed, I was thinking more of the (maybe exaggerated) phenomenon oft reported in 2016 of those who said thar they suppeted both Sanders and Trump over Clinton, and of less activist voters in general.

As it is “Medi-care for all” is popular among Democrats, and is popular among the broad electorate as long as someone else will pay for it (Medi-caid for all is more affordable, but I’m doubtful that the majority of voters would be satisfied with that level of care), and ultimately Democratic primary voters want someone who will win in 2020 less than “building a movement” (Overton window changing), only a small percentage of American people moved into a tent for ‘Occupy’ after all.

That said, while the Biden wing is still the plurality of Democrats, it is literally dying off (my Grandmother loved Biden, and cast a vote for the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008, she died after that).

I’ll be suprised if either Biden (who still hasn’t declared himself a candidate!) or Sanders wins the nomination, and I don’t think Warren will get it either (she didn’t win her election in Massachusetts by wide enough of a margin to look like the person to defeat Trump), at this point I’d bet on Harris, but that’s mostly because I’m less familiar with the other candidates.

1. Eugene Dawn

I was thinking more of the (maybe exaggerated) phenomenon oft reported in 2016 of those who said thar they suppeted both Sanders and Trump over Clinton, and of less activist voters in general.

This is a fair point, though I think again there are some caveats: one, there is another axis here that you might call “institutional vs. non-institutional”, or more evocatively, “insider vs. outsider”, which is not strictly-speaking ideological, but which is probably responsible for some of Bernie’s appeal to these voters, and two, we should be careful not to over-interpret these voters’ support for Bernie: apparently there were more Clinton (primary)-McCain (general) voters in 2008 than Bernie-Trump voters in 2016, and the Clinton-McCain types are probably pretty similar to Bernie-Trump voters: I can’t find the data now but I’ve read that Clinton beat Obama with white, working class, midwestern voters–exactly the same voters who abandoned her 8 years later for Bernie. Obviously, we should be careful of drawing the conclusion that because Hillary did better with non-ideological working class whites in 2008, it must be because of an ideological divide that she did a better job of crossing than Obama did.
The fact that Bernie won those voters over Clinton in 2016 doesn’t mean they’ll still be there for him in 2020 when Bernie is running on free college and government-run healthcare, and Joe Biden is the voice of moderation who can connect with the forgotten white working class.

As it is “Medi-care for all” is popular among Democrats, and is popular among the broad electorate as long as someone else will pay for it (Medi-caid for all is more affordable, but I’m doubtful that the majority of voters would be satisfied with that level of care), and ultimately Democratic primary voters want someone who will win in 2020 less than “building a movement”

My impression is that Dems like Medicare 4 All because Medicare is a popular government program; not because it satisfies an abstract ideological desire for single-payer. I think Democrats will (and should) run on healthcare, and as a Canadian, I have no objections to single-payer, but I expect something like a public option, or a Medicare buy-in, or a lower eligibility age for Medicare or something along those lines to catch on.

I also agree (and polling seems to bear this out) that beating Trump is priority number, which means the Keynesian beauty contest of electability will play a big role (I think 2016 blowback might explain some of why Bernie and Biden are doing well in the polls–they’re seen as the most electable).

I have no idea who will win. I certainly think Biden and Bernie have good shots, but that just shows how useless it is to use ideology to predict: they are the two least alike candidates ideologically, and they are the two front-runners. As always, charisma, popularity, and factors like that should be expected to count for as much or more than ideology and that seems hard to predict.

2. Eugene Dawn

I just want to add, on the subject of Bernie-Trump voters, my one anecdote: I have a cousin who ended up voting Trump, who hated Hillary (he told me he thought she’d had people murdered), who claimed to hate Trump as well, but less so. This cousin’s preferred candidate was Bernie…and his next-favourite candidate was Marco Rubio. Finally, his biggest complaint about Obama was Obama’s weak foreign policy.

Obviously one anecdote is basically meaningless, but it’s a good example of what I’m alleging in the comment above would look like in practice: that Bernie > Trump > Hillary voters are very unlikely to be ideologically motivated, or even to have coherent ideological preferences; they are most likely judging politicians on the basis of ‘insider vs. outsider’ or charisma or something that has little or nothing to do with ideology.

5. baconbits9

For those following I closed my first options position today, will try to put a short description on my blog later. The long and the short of it is a nice gain despite really not knowing what I am doing.

1. Walter

Never forget this feeling. Every time some EMH person appears to tell you that it is impossible to make money, because surely goldman sachs would have already done so, just remember that you know they are wrong.

1. J Mann

Every time some EMH person appears to tell you that it is impossible to make money, because surely goldman sachs would have already done so, just remember that you know they are wrong.

Just to clarify, that’s not what the EMH implies, although I can’t rule out there are people who believe that.

2. j1000000

I am following! I’m not investing my life savings in your stock tips, more like I enjoy the idea that I’ve stumbled upon a new Michael Burry in the SSC comments and I always admire people who put their money where their internet commenting opinions are. Why SQ?

6. Nancy Lebovitz

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2019/04/handheld-dna-device-finds-illegal-shark-fins/

Moving slowly towards handy analysis. Checking on whether a meat sample is from an endangered shark species. The hardware costs \$1000 (includes two test cartridges– each cartridge costs \$200), and a cartridge casts \$200 and can test 12 samples for \$42 each.

Testing takes from a few minutes to three or four hours.

This is far from something an average person would take to a restaurant, but it’s progress.

1. hls2003

I doubt individual diners would do it even if there were a smartphone app that took thirty seconds. However, health inspectors and such could have a tool like that in their general arsenal and use it for random sampling. That threat of enforcement should shut down a lot of the illegal traffic so that restaurant-goers need have less worry.

2. metacelsus

The MinION is a DNA sequencer (using nanopore technology). This is a very useful general-purpose tool for analyzing arbitrary DNA. However, if the DNA targets are known in advance (for example, the set of endangered shark genomes) then the testing could be accomplished a lot more cheaply using PCR-based methods. It would probably be possible to make a portable version of a PCR thermocycler for doing this testing. This could have a very low marginal cost (less than \$1 per sample). If any engineers want to try to make this, I would be happy to share ideas.

7. johan_larson

I was digging through the website of my alma mater, the University of Waterloo, and happened upon a program that did not exist when I went there, Mathematical Finance. It doesn’t have much in common with the older Mathematics & Business degree; it’s about mathematical modelling, rather than running businesses.

And it’s no joke; there are three required Pure Math courses, and another two on short-lists. Pure Math is a small elite department within the much larger Faculty of Mathematics. Their students typically competed in (and won) math contests in high school. I guess the finance companies don’t need to raid the physics grad schools any more; they can find more specifically trained personnel.

1. salvorhardin

The pure math -> finance pipeline has been going for awhile now. I got a Ph.D. in pure math about fifteen years ago and, at the conferences where Ph.D. candidates interviewed for standard academic jobs, finance shops interviewing for quantitative analyst positions were common. I got an interview with one and was almost immediately turned off by the gratuitous and all-encompassing competitive mentality the interviewer displayed; he asked about my hobbies, I mentioned duplicate bridge and cycling, and he bragged about the number of master points his coworkers had in bridge and the toughness of the century rides they’d recently done. There is some truth to the idea that some people just really, really like to keep score.

1. Tarpitz

The trouble with bridge is that while it’s a very, very good game, it’s at the same time pretty much strictly worse than Magic…

1. Randy M

Magic players are always misusing the term “strictly worse”, although since Bridge is cheaper I’d say this is an egregious case. 😉

2. SamChevre

I much prefer bridge–I can play equally well with a random deck of cards from the grocery store as any other deck.

3. Walter

The toughest thing for me about the hobby is that without a designated partner it is always a crap shoot who I end up with. Teaches interpersonal skills, at least!

8. toastengineer

Does any of this comport with folks’ understanding of the state of brain-computer interfacing, or is this guy just fulla crap?

1. Enkidum

I know a little more than most about BCI (though am not by any means an expert and haven’t worked with it myself), but I don’t particularly want to listen to 1.5 hours of someone waffle on about it. Can you summarize main claims?

FWIW based on the first comment on the video, I’d suspect this is mostly B.S.:

Neuroscientist at Berlin Institute of Technology here. I work with VR and high density EEG professionally and I can say that most of the stuff is totally way out of touch with reality. I do think there will be EEG in VR headsets in the mid-future, but it’s really gonna be not as you will expect it. You will be absolutely still use every normal control as you do right now. EEG can do a bit of surprise tracking and workload/relaxation, these kind of tings, and very specific other stuff, but that needs to be SPECIFICALLY IMPLEMENTED BY THE DEVS, it’s not magically coming into the game, and it’s much less fantastic than you probably anticipate and for this many many things need to be understoood first. So, don’t get me wrong, this is literally what I devote my life on and I love it, but don’t trust everything you hear from people that don’t work with it themselves, or want to sell you something.﻿

1. toastengineer

EDIT: This is the link to the video with the silence at the beginning cut off

It’s hard to summarize, because he talks about a lot of different things and then it turns in to a Q&A format, but basically he talks about what sounds to me like chiropracty with big magnets for a little while, and then suggests that commodity BCI technology with enough power to read and write your emotional state and make you smell things is within ten years of hitting the market, and Valve’s upcoming VR headset will have some kind of read-only version of the technology built in at launch.

It sounds just grounded enough that I don’t 100% disbelieve it, and other people at Valve have said “BCI is coming way sooner than anyone thinks” as well. I was wondering if this is one of those things where I’m the last person to hear of this and everyone else on SSC has had an autism-curing brainjack for years.

Apparently this is the brainopracty clinic’s website; it has a bunch of studies linked, but… they’re all just powerpoints, not traditional whitepapers? Is this a thing real scientists do? What does “poster accepted” mean?

1. Well...

Has BCI been around for a while? Back in college I remember the psychology department had grad students who were doing something with a kind of electrode-laced headband you could put on and then move a cursor on a screen just by thinking about where it should go. It worked on brainwaves. And there’s been transcranial magnetic stimulation for a few years too, and it can be used to make you feel a bit amped up or whatever. Of course, neither of those technologies are mass-market as far as I know.

I haven’t seen the video but is this guy just basically saying something slightly more advanced than those things is coming and is going to be widely commercially available? If so that doesn’t seem so implausible.

“Posters” are one form research can be presented in. So, “poster accepted” probably means they submitted a poster to a conference or symposium and it got accepted.

2. Enkidum

Still 1.5 hours, I think I’ll pass. But a few general points…

For what it’s worth the titles of the posters on that website are pretty standard for the current state of the art of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) treatments, which is what I think you’re calling “chiropracty with magnets”. I skimmed a couple of the posters/abstracts, and they look legit enough, but keep in mind that your suspicions are correct – posters are inherently less reliable than peer-reviewed papers.

TMS has been around for at least a decade, and is definitely not pseudo-science, but I’ve only seen it used in research applications – zap some bit of the brain and it either does its job really well or really poorly, basically. I’m not aware of any well-established treatments for serious disorders that use it. The fact that they’re only citing posters suggests that this is at best a very novel and as-yet unproven therapy.

That being said, I’d be very surprised if there aren’t therapeutic uses of TMS within the next decade, it would honestly be kind of weird if it didn’t have a utility in this regard, given how good it is for directly manipulating brain states in research. I’m just not sure that this company is the right source for finding out about it, and their website raises all sorts of red flags. I would be very suspicious of anything they claim. This isn’t Deepak Chopra levels of bullshit, but it feels like it’s in the vicinity.

“Poster accepted” means that a conference has agreed that this person is allowed to present the poster. In the vast majority of cases, this means no more than that the abstract has been read by a human, who has verified that it isn’t ranting about how the Jews did 9-11 or whatever. So, essentially, it means nothing.

Also if they’re suggesting that they will be able to create smells on demand with TMS, this is straight-up nonsense for all sorts of reasons. The idea of personalized neural controls for games is actually far easier – in general it’s easier to decode brain states than to create them.

1. SamChevre

Is this a different form/version of the “transcranial magnetic stimulation” that I’m aware of, which is used as a slightly-less-debilitating version of ECT for severe non-medication-responsive depression? I thought of that as a well-established therapy.

2. Enkidum

EPISTEMIC WARNING: I don’t study TMS, I am not a doctor, and I probably soon at least 50% more confident than I should be here.

That sounds like the same thing. I’m not much aware of the therapy side of things, but that kind of thing is what I’d assume TMS would be used for in a therapeutic session.

Basically anything where you can take a reasonable chunk of cortex (say 1cm^2 or so) and give it a huge jolt of activity, you can do with TMS (provided it’s relatively near to the scalp, I don’t know the specifics that well but there are issues with targeting deeper structures). And since that’s more or less what ECT is, I don’t see why TMS wouldn’t do it and be far less debilitating, as you say.

But the fact that the linked website shows very few papers, mostly only presentations, suggests to me that TMS-as-treatment is still in its early days. I don’t know enough to comment much further.

2. Randy M

If you wanted to make a post about the current and near future state of the field, I’d be interested. In whatever level of specificity you cared to provide.

1. Enkidum

I’ll give it a shot.

Epistemic status: My expertise is much more in behaviour and gaze tracking than in neural recording per se, but I have done a bunch of EEG work and read quite a few papers about 5 years ago on BCI and EEG – but that project didn’t end up going anywhere, so even back then I was not an expert. I by no means pretend to be up to date either. I have never done any actual online decoding of neural signals, though I work with people who do.

– The “B” part of BCI is, to my knowledge, pretty much always some kind of voltage recorded at a number of electrodes.

– The BCI that I know of is mostly using some kind of EEG system to collect neural data. EEG consists of surface electrodes fixed to the scalp (usually in a kind of swim cap), with conductive gel smeared between them and the scalp to ensure a good signal. Even then, you usually have to scrape the tissue below the electrode to get the connection as good as possible. If I’m using a 128-channel cap, I could expect to be spending a minimum of 15 minutes and a maximum of 45 just getting all the electrodes connected adequately, depending on a bunch of factors (skin thickness, hair type, etc etc etc). This makes it very difficult to use commercially. A much less ambitious system, say 16 channels or so, might be possible to use, although I’d love to see how they actually go about ensuring an adequate connection without gel and scraping. (Also the fewer electrodes, the less data you have for decoding, which means the less reliable the “B” part of the BCI loop is.)

– The signals that EEG records are voltages due to the coordinated activity of thousands of neurons (otherwise they would never make it to the scalp). Almost all these signals are extremely weak (otherwise your head would be on fire). This means that they are easily overridden by any other electrical activity that happens to be around. Thus much research is done inside Faraday cages, and all wires and other sources of electrical activity inside the cage are shielded. This is clearly not great for everyday commercial use.

– Even worse, the electrical activity generated by muscle movements is vastly stronger than anything the brain does. So, for example, an eye blink or eye movement is a huge problem for any electrodes at the front of the head, and even something as minor as jaw tightening due to stress can fuck with the signal. There are ways to kind of factor these things out, and they’re improving all the time, but they’re still issues. Typically, then, EEG research is done with the subject as motionless as possible, keeping their eyes open and fixating a single point during periods of interest. This, again, makes it very difficult to collect useful data outside the lab.

– Anything other than EEG that I can think of is either too invasive (e.g. implanted electrodes) or too large and expensive (MEG, some laser-based technology whose name eludes me at present) to use commercially. Implanted electrodes could work for people with serious enough problems to warrant drilling a hole in their heads – e.g. paralyzed people, severe epileptics, etc. In this case you have the best of both worlds – the data is much cleaner, and outside noise much less of a problem. However, you have to drill at least one hole in your head, and some people have an objection to that. (I do work with patients with these electrodes implanted, and people on that team are trying to do something very analogous to BCI for the treatment of epileptic seizures, but it is super early days on this work.)

– I believe there has been progress on using implants for, e.g., brain controlled wheelchairs and so on, but I don’t know enough to be a reliable guide there.

– OK…. all of the above is about how you get a neural signal. What do you then do with that signal? It’s just messy as hell, because every neuron is firing all the damn time, and there are a million different computations they could be involved in. (The idea that our brain is full of “grandmother neurons” with single, easily-identifiable functions, is to a first approximation entirely false.) So you do some clever math, and with any luck you can reliably decode certain signals. Some of these are very simple – I can tell in realtime just by looking at some EEG traces whether someone is falling asleep or getting really bored, for example. Most things we are actually interested in are more complicated, but there are fairly reliable patterns associated with, for example, noticing something that does not belong in a sequence or scene, or with being aware that you just made a mistake. Motor planning, which is a big potential use for BCI for paraplegics and so on, is much better studied but unfortunately I know little about it. I think it is a much easier problem than, say, decoding complex emotional states, because we know a fair bit about motor cortex. But even then, I know it’s very difficult.

– Once you’ve decoded your signal, you can decide what to do with it. You make the artificial limb move when the person’s motor cortex wants it to, you make the game harder when the person is bored, etc. This is well within the kind-of-exists or near-future realm of the field, so far as I’m aware. I don’t know anything about how feasible it is to actually take this out of the lab, given the kinds of problems I mentioned above, but you can already, for instance, control an old video game using signals decoded from EEG (in fact that’s about 15 years old, I think).

– Then there’s the other direction, trying to change internal states using TMS or other means, such as stimulating using implanted electrodes. This is currently done in some therapeutic contexts, but it’s a very blunt instrument. The website linked suggests that they’re currently doing this at a much finer-grained level, personalizing the therapy to your own particular problems and your own particular neuronal activity. In principle this ought to be possible, in practice I suspect it’s going to be very patchy at best for several years to come. (I’d love to be wrong about that.)

– As for trying to induce particular sensory experiences – nah. You can make someone miss a briefly-presented stimulus, you can make them see random flashes. But any kind of specific control much beyond that is, I’m pretty confident, not merely currently unavailable, but is in principle impossible with existing technology. (I’d also love to be wrong about this, but I’m pretty sure I’m not.)

Christ that was a lot more than I intended to write.

1. Randy M

Thanks. You’ve been added to my list of SSC posters I’d expect to reliably pick apart my amateur sci-fi. 😉

2. Randy M

I’ll take you both up on that someday, but I’m slow, so you may have forgotten by then. Appreciate the vote of confidence.

9. Hoopyfreud

What should the standard of negligence for medical care be?

Keep in mind that test are NOT free, and that this question includes degree of examination. Basically, if a patient walks into a doctor’s office complaining of stabbing abdominal pain, what is the minimum set of procedures that doctor should perform or order in order to avoid failing their legal duty to the patient? If patient input is important here, how well should the patient understand the possible complications, implications, risks, costs, benefits, false positive/negative rates, etc, before giving consent?

This strikes me as an important question because price transparency is not the be-all and end-all of driving medical care costs down. Expensive procedures, especially diagnostic procedures, are routinely ordered without justification. Even if prices are posted, patients aren’t at the doctor’s office “to get an MRI” most of the time; they’re there to get better. People get MRIs because their doctors want them, not because they want them.

I don’t see a way to economically incentivize doctors to order a “reasonable” number of tests under the paradigm in which medicine is currently practiced. Making doctors share the cost of the treatments they order, for example, disincentivizes them from ordering them when they’re needed. At the very minimum, it seems like tort reforms are a good place to start (see: the first thinkpiece that pops up when you google “defensive medicine”). I just have no idea how to formulate a decent legal standard that allows doctors to not prescribe tests that are rather-but-not-necessary-very likely to be unnecessary.

1. HeelBearCub

People get MRIs because their doctors want them, not because they want them.

Uhhhhh, I think you have a very skewed version of the medical profession and the relationship between care providers and patients. Let me just sum up and say “it’s complex”, but that care providers do plenty of things they wouldn’t normally based on the wishes of patients.

At the very minimum, it seems like tort reforms are a good place to start

While “defensive” medicine certainly has something to do with lawsuits, and providers absolutely do hate being sued, I think your estimation of how much this has to do with overall spending on healthcare is probably skewed.

1. Edward Scizorhands

+1. I have a bias that defensive medicine is a major cost driver. But, there’s not really strong evidence for it. (I don’t mean there’s no evidence for it. I mean I was expecting to find strong and clear evidence for my bias, and it’s kinda wishy-washy, and might be really minor.)

2. Hoopyfreud

I should clarify and say that I don’t think defensive medicine is a big cost driver. I do think that the US’s utilization of diagnostic technolgies is large. This probably directly translates into better outcomes for everyone except the people who go broke or don’t get treatment.

In any case, despite my intial question being worthless and stupid, maybe a better one is, “what does duty of care encompass?” The answer almost always eventually includes costs (and suggestions of palliative care as an alternative), but my experience with doctors has been more “let’s take an X just to make sure” than not. On one memorable occasion, X was like 7 vials of blood. Point is, I assume that at some point in the distant past the most meaningful restrictions on treatment came down to what was available; now, something like 40% (if you believe polls) of Americans are skipping doctor’s visits in their local area because treatment is too expensive. I’m pretty sure most of that is down to price, but at least some of that treatment/those diagnostics being only marginally beneficial.

This doesn’t matter much to me anyway, because the earliest I’ll be able to afford any medical treatment at all will be in like 2024, but still. Seems at least somewhat relevant.

1. rahien.din

What you’re aiming at is the medical ethical principle of justice, which encompasses the distribution of scarce resources.

In my opinion, justice charges physicians with properly allocating risk in their medical decision-making.

I’d agree that we need to do a better job of teaching that concept.

3. rahien.din

THIS!

Patients come to clinic seeking “all the tests” all the time. I have to talk people out of doing unnecessary testing. There are entire bodies of literature focused on demonstrating that certain tests are unnecessary – even harmful – in common situations.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of doctors who over-order. Some are even doing it out of greed. But much of that problem is patient driven.

1. Edward Scizorhands

Someone asked a few OTs ago what kind of health care reform you would do if you had the Presidency and Congress and SCOTUS on board, and I didn’t have the heart to get into “all those don’t matter if you don’t have the people on board.”

I hold out a little bit of hope for “consumer-driven healthcare,” but it’s really frustrated by the consumers being such idjits.

1. rahien.din

I don’t believe people are idiots.

I just think people come to doctors for a lot of reasons – good, bad, neither, or both. Those reasons drive a great deal of care decisions. And merely fiddling with payor schemes and prices won’t change that basic reality.

That’s what’s most difficult about being a physician – learning how to build and lead a therapeutic relationship, while properly balancing risk.

Notre Dame is completely burning down in an uncontrolled blaze.

A major operation to tackle the blaze is under way at the 850-year-old Gothic building, but the cathedral’s spire and roof have collapsed…

A spokesman for the cathedral said the whole structure was “burning”.

“There will be nothing left,” he said. “It remains to be seen whether the vault, which protects the cathedral, will be affected or not.”

Well… fuck, what a loss. My strongest connection to Notre Dame is my love of the Disney movie and I’m still in a bit of a shock, I can’t imagine how an art enthusiast and/or Catholic and/or Parisian must be feeling right now. 🙁

1. Eugene Dawn

I had heard nothing of this until a Tweet crossed my feed with an embedded video of the spire collapsing. Absolutely stunning, in the worst possible way. I’m grateful that I’ve had the chance to see Notre Dame in person, and immensely saddened that (barring a reconstruction), I can’t do so again.

It honestly took a few headlines to register that it was the Notre Dame, and not just some spectacular churth blaze we were gawking at.

(barring a reconstruction)

Is that even possible? Like if France threw 10 billion Euros towards the project, could we do a reconstruction in any meaningful way at this point?

1. Eugene Dawn

I have no idea; I’m not sure how much of it is in danger of disappearing? I had thought the spire and the stained glass were gone, and I assume those could be rebuilt/remade. But I don’t know at all.

2. AnteriorMotive

Many bombed-out German churches were restored after WW2. I imagine they could restore Notre-Dame to a degree that the typical tourist would never notice anything amiss. But…

My rough standard would be that a returning tourist could come to the restored cathedral and still ‘recognize’ it, more or less.

3. Watchman

York Minster was severely damaged by fire in the 1980s and restored. There’s enough skilled craftsmen (after all, even without major events all these old churches need repair) to do this but if the tower has gone the architects may be challenged.

2. HeelBearCub

Yeah, I remember seeing Notre Dame when I was 13 and being duly impressed. How very cruddy.

Current speculation pins it is on the nearby renovation work. I’d be surprised if this was intentional from the same perpetrators, it’s a gigantic step-up in coordination and difficulty.

Going from “setting historic church on fire” to “setting historic cathedral on fire” doesn’t seem like that big of a leap.

Also, how does speculation “pin” anything? Nobody knows. There needs to be an investigation, and I’m sure they’ll do one.

Such speculation at this time is irresponsible. There will be an investigation in the due course of time, and there’s no reason to jump ahead of it.

What’s irresponsible? I’m not saying somebody did it. A building catches fire. There are two possibilities: either someone set the fire intentionally, or the fire started by accident. I have no idea which one it was, but when there’s been a bunch of other vandalism/arson against churches in France recently, arson should certainly not be ruled out until an investigation can happen.

1. toastengineer

Being rationalists, I think we should resist the temptation to rule in the most exciting possible explanations until there’s evidence pointing there.

I mean, c’mon, how likely were you to come on here and say “It COULD have been a soldering iron. A building catches fire, there are two possibilities: either the fire was started by a soldering iron, or it was started by some other really hot thing.”

2. Eugene Dawn

If nothing else, might the three-day rule apply to such speculations? We can lament the (hopefully partial) loss of a cultural, artistic, and religious treasure in the meantime.

I think we just have different priors. Fires in general are pretty rare these days. If a building catches fire, I assume a not-insignificant likelihood of arson. Particularly if it’s a church. If somebody says “a black church burned in the South” my first thought is “arson?” and not “soldering iron.”

And in this particular case you’ve also got a bunch of other recent arson/vandalism incidents in France, and it started late in the day. No Frenchman works late.

ETA: the 3 day rule is for politicizing tragedies. What am I politicizing?

4. beleester

I think “speculating on which outgroup caused a tragedy” can definitely count as politicizing it. I recall one or two cases with mass shootings where the immediate internet reaction was “This shows the danger of radical X-ism”, only to find out a few days later that the shooter was actually a radical Y-ist instead. Oops.

(I’m being vague because I can’t remember which way it went – it was either an attack that got blamed on ISIS but turned out to be some right-wing crazy, or it was an attack that got blamed on a lone crazy before ISIS took responsibility. There’s been enough shootings that I’ve probably seen both, actually.)

I think you’re hedging enough that you’re in the clear, but I do think it’s good to tread lightly and avoid making it part of a narrative until you know if it should actually be a part of it.

At this point we know nothing. Speculating about how this is probably the fault of you-know-who is just trying to smear the outgroup, and skirts dangerously close to bearing false witness.

I’m all for heaping blame once we know there’s blame to be heaped, But right now we don’t know anything. There’ll be time enough for blame if the evidence points that way later.

6. Aapje

My impression is that fires are fairly often caused by renovations, as builders rig solutions to be able to use power tools. Short-circuits happen.

Investigators will do their best to figure out the cause.

I think you’re hedging enough that you’re in the clear

Well that’s the important thing.

8. S_J

@toastengineer,

A minor quibble, but soldering irons are lower-energy items than welding torches. Welding torches are also more likely to be found on construction sites for large buildings than are soldering irons.

(Another candidate for initial spark could be a grinding wheel, or an overload on the electrical supply for the construction site, or metal-on-metal impact near poorly-sealed fuel storage…)

Trying to deduce whether this fire was set intentionally is, at this point, attempting to get a conclusion from a set of potentially-conflicting, possibly-erroneous data offered up by news services…that haven’t had time to sort uninformed guesswork from good leads.

2. greenwoodjw

This. Shepard Smith shut somebody down HARD after he began to speculate about blame. It was the right call.

That seems bizarre. The news media has no problem speculating about…basically everything else. When a plane crashes the talking heads will immediately start saying things like “any word on whether or not this could be terrorism..?”

2. greenwoodjw

I think it’s part of Shepard’s brand at this point. “No, we won’t start looking for people to blame. We’re here to provide information.”

3. Theodoric

If nothing else, might the three-day rule apply to such speculations? We can lament the (hopefully partial) loss of a cultural, artistic, and religious treasure in the meantime.

+1
I’m not sure how much they really can investigate while still fighting the fire. Let’s wait until there is a little more information.

2. Deiseach

It looks bad. The (19th century) spire has collapsed and the roof is gone as well as one of the rose windows, but I’m hoping from some reports that it’s not quite as bad as completely burning down.

One good thing is that, as it was undergoing renovation, a lot of the statuary and the like had been moved out. On the other hand, if the fire happened because of the renovations, that’s not so good.

We’ll have to wait and see – it survived the Revolution and neglect afterwards (it was falling down quietly until Victor Hugo’s novel galvanised interest and got it repaired), it can survive this!

1. Randy M

On the other hand, if the fire happened because of the renovations, that’s not so good.

That’s one monumental screw up, pardon the pun.

3. Nick

I can’t imagine how an art enthusiast and/or Catholic and/or Parisian must be feeling right now. 🙁

Heartsick is what we’re feeling right now. It’s been three hours and I still feel like I’m going to vomit. I can’t work. I can’t even think. I don’t know what to do.

4. Le Maistre Chat

A huge tragedy for France, the Church, and the lost tourists of other faiths who won’t see it.

5. Watchman

The positive news is that the main structure is saved apparently, so it’s about which bits were damaged, not the whole building being lost. That’s a relief, as I’ve liked the place the two times I’ve been there.

Note the loss of the tower is of something that can definetly be replaced. It was less than 200 years old despite appearances, and we can definetly still build anything built then because we’ve still got the books on how to do it.

1. beleester

Yeah, the most recent report I read says that a spire collapsed and took out a small amount of the stone ceiling, the wooden parts of the roof burned, and the stained-glass windows are a loss (but they’re also not as old as the rest of the structure), but the stone structure is almost completely intact.

Also, Reddit informs me that researchers had previously laser-mapped the entire structure, which is pretty cool and will definitely make the reconstruction easier.

1. Nick

You may already be aware, but the Houses of Parliament are currently in extremely rough shape. The silver lining of this horrifying tragedy is that it may motivate people around the world to support renovations of buildings such as these.

1. Another Throw

Isn’t Buckingham Palace getting a half a billion dollars in emergency repairs?

All of the cool buildings are in rough shape.

1. Aapje

The time after renovations as well, especially as many renovations of churches include adding or replacing heating, electrics and lights.

6. johan_larson

I wonder, how awesome a modern building could we build for whatever sum of money it will cost to repair Notre Dame?

What modern buildings would you consider awesome? I can think of many that are tall, but not many that inspire awe.

But I’m not a building aficionado, so consider this an invite to others in the thread to enlighten me.

I don’t know if you’d consider it modern, but I’m quite partial to the Woolworth building (nickname—cathedral of commerce) both at a distance and up close. Also check out the lobby if you ever get a chance.

2. BBA

It’s been years since I last visited, but I found the Kennedy Center awe-inspiring. Also, like all High Modernist architecture, quite impractical – everything’s so far from everything else, it takes forever to get to.

1. Protagoras

I only noticed a couple of buildings on the list less than 60 years old, and none less than 30 years old, so the list doesn’t seem relevant to what would be likely to be built today.

2. Fitzroy

Well, the art-deco movement was primarily between around 1910 to 1930-ish so that’s hardly surprising.

They are, nevertheless, awesome and there’s no reason buildings couldn’t be built in that style.

3. Nick

They are, nevertheless, awesome and there’s no reason buildings couldn’t be built in that style.

If there’s no reason buildings couldn’t be built in that style, why aren’t buildings being built in that style?

4. Hoopyfreud

Come on guys I just want to live in my fantasy world where Deco won ;_;

The 1960s are “modern,” right?

2. Orpheus

Could or would? The modern world seems to be mainly in the business of erecting ugly garbage (although there are some exceptions).

7. b_jonas

A month ago, Nick asked “https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/02/17/open-thread-121-5/#comment-721831” how to find data about gothic church architecture, and gave the Notre Dame as an example. I told him that the nave of the Notre Dame was 30 meters tall. I’d like to change my answer.

1. The Nybbler

It’s still 35m high; though parts of it are open to the sky now.

I think the early reports of “the entire structure has been lost” must have been mistranslations or misunderstandings. The entire wooden “attic” was lost, as was the spire. The main parts of the cathedral, including the structural elements, are stone. I gather some were damaged when the spire fell, but most of it is intact.

Yeah I think OP’s quote was in response to “Can we save the spire/windows” rather than the building. I (err) didn’t realize the “vault” referred to the main citadel and not some fireproof artifact storage, so I thought the spokesperson said everything was lost but a basement storage or whatnot.

8. S_J

Two days later, it looks like the loss to the Cathedral of Notre Dame on Ile-de-Paris is mostly of the wooden structure supporting the vault/roof. The stained-glass rosettes survived.

Repairable at less than the cost of a total rebuild, though still likely at great cost.

It is a sobering reminder that even the most enduring of human creations can be rapidly lost. Sometimes the loss (or near-loss) of a great thing is what reminds us of its value.

1. Nick

Two days later, it looks like the loss to the Cathedral of Notre Dame on Ile-de-Paris is mostly of the wooden structure supporting the vault/roof. The stained-glass rosettes survived.

The wooden structure supported the roof; the vaults supported the wooden structure. And the vaults held.

A billion dollars has already been donated, but it’s going to require more than that. I urge everyone to donate.

11. HeelBearCub

Does either conventional knowledge of logical fallacies or the rational-sphere have a good name for arguments which are “technically correct, but actually lying”?

An example of the fallacy:

Alice: Let’s put cheese on all the burgers.
Bob: Carol is lactose intolerant and said she can’t have cheese, so we should make some of the burgers without it.
Carol: Actually, cheese production reduces the amount of lactose in cheeses. Hard cheeses reduce it as much as 90%.
Alice: These are Kraft American singles…

What Carol said is technically correct, but in the context of Alice and Bob’s statements, it’s at the very best irrelevant. Given the implied arguments it’s fallacious.

You could say that Carol is just offering a piece of factual information. But I would say that, in the context of the conversation, it’s Carol’s responsibility to assess contextual relevance. Otherwise they engaged in some form of lying by omission.

I’d like to avoid the “but Carol just like’s odd facts” defense, so let’s say that they bought 16 patties and 16 slices of cheese, and knows that the club treasurer hates “waste”. We don’t know whether this was on their mind at the time. The specifics don’t matter, but we just need to stipulate that Carol has some possible stake in the outcome.

1. J Mann

A clarification:

1) You can definitely intentionally mislead by stating true facts but omitting necessary context. I call this “Clintonian lying,” but that’s probably not a helpful term.

2) You can also unintentionally mislead someone, in that if you had provided the context, they would have come to a different opinion. This in turn can be negligent, willfully blind, or innocent. This is something that ties the fact checkers up all the time – no one provides all the information they have all the time, so you get into whether someone has a duty to present context.

1. The original Mr. X

1) You can definitely intentionally mislead by stating true facts but omitting necessary context. I call this “Clintonian lying,” but that’s probably not a helpful term.

That’s just “telling a half-truth” or “lying by omission”, right?

1. J Mann

I think it’s an extreme case of those terms. I have some of Clinton’s quotes downthread, and what he describes is almost a game – making statements that are literally true in some sense, but you intend to be misleadling.

It’s exhausting, because if you have someone who does it, every conversation becomes a deposition where the listener has to think of every possible interpretation of every statement and clarify.

1. HeelBearCub

It’s exhausting, because if you have someone who does it, every conversation becomes a deposition where the listener has to think of every possible interpretation of every statement and clarify.

This was/is a huge motivator for my wish to explore the idea.

2. J Mann

Personally, I’d distinguish that from normal discussion, which I idealize as identifying points of agreement and disagreement, and then investigating the areas of disagreement and exchanging relevant information.

I apologize for beating a dead horse, but my perfect discussion would look something like this.

Speaker 1) People used to think left-handedness was sinful. In fact, the sin is mentioned 25 times in the Bible. Now they think it’s not a sin. So we shouldn’t be so confident homosexuality is a sin.

Speaker 2) The Bible doesn’t call left-handedness a sin even once. It mentions being on someone’s right hand as a place of honor several times, but never calls the left or left-handedness sinful. Left handedness is specifically mentioned only twice. Ehud is left handed, and 700 archers (maybe slingmen, I don’t recall) of the tribe of Benjamin are left handed and exceptionally accurate. The archers are part of a rebellion, but their left-handedness isn’t used pejoratively any more than their accuracy is, and Ehud is a Biblical hero. (There’s also a mention of ambidexerity – interestingly but not relevant here, Ehud, the archers, and the ambidexterous dudes are all of the tribe of Benjamin).

Speaker 1) OK, you’re probably right that the Bible doesn’t specifically say that left handedness is sinful, but it does reflect common historical beliefs that the right hand is better than the left, either because most people are right handed or because of hygiene rules or something like that.

In any event, that doesn’t take away from my overall point that many historical ideas of sinfulness, such as left-handedness, now seem absurd, and we shouldn’t place a lot of value on historical ideas of sinfulness when identifying sin today.

Speaker 2) That seems fair. Of course, that doesn’t mean that ideas considered sinful historically are not sinful, but you’re totally right that most people don’t have a problem with mixing wool and linen, not stoning adulterers, and the like.

3. HeelBearCub

@J. Mann:
That conversation isn’t one I have a problem with.

The issue comes when speaker 2 finishes by simply re-iterating their first point in a different way, or asks for ever more proof that people saw left-handedness as sinful or that is was “caused” by the Bible, etc.

4. J Mann

@HeelBearCub

IMHO, people are just having different conversations – group 2 objects to the implication that the Bible calls left handedness sinful, and group 1 doesn’t really care about that and wants to make a point about overall changing values.

Group 1: We’re offended that Group 2 keeps picking on this minor part of our argument. Even if they’re right, it feels like a straw man because that point isn’t necessary to our argument.

Group 2: We’re not that interested in Group 2’s overall argument, either because we actually agree with it(!) or because it’s a well known argument and we feel familiar with it and don’t think we can make much progress.

We’re focusing on the narrow point not to undermine Group 1’s overall argument but because that’s the issue we’re interested in.

Either side can make some progress by identifying the issues they agree with and moving forward.

Group 1: I agree, the Bible doesn’t say that, and including that in the argument was unproductive. However, do you agree that left-handedness was historically seen as sinful, that the idea now seems absurd, and that that indicates that other historical taboos might be ripe for reexamination.

– or –

Group 2: We agree, many people in the past, both Christian and otherwise, have seen left-handedness as suspect or wrong, and that now seems absurd. Do you agree that the Bible doesn’t call left handedness a sin?

And presto – at least we all know what we’re disagreeing about. 🙂

5. HeelBearCub

@J Mann:
I think where we are going to run into problems is the idea that what the “Bible” “says” is “clear”.

Are the kinds of statements made in “the” Bible about the left hand different some ways than statements made about “homosexuality”? Sure. I agree that the current versions of the Bible are explicit in condemning “homosexual” behavior in a way that it does not condemn using your left hand.

But … as I linked below even some who are engaging in apologetics have to fall back on an idea that when their Bible refers to left it means material and when it refers to right it means spiritual. They clearly understand the text to condemn something about the left, left hands, the left side of the body, etc. They understand the text to clearly instruct you to do things with your “right” side and not your “left”.

ETA: and then there are other arguments about versions, translations and what may be backformation of vocabulary (like sodomite).

6. Randy M

But … as I linked below

When you see all those examples side by side, it really underscores how you’ve got no case, man. Jordan Peterson couldn’t map that meaning into a case for anti-left handedness if you spotted him a dozen lobsters.

7. HeelBearCub

@Randy M:
I’ll just say that your comment seems unfamiliar with the broad scope of religious interpretation and leave it at that.

8. The original Mr. X

I’ll just say that your comment seems unfamiliar with the broad scope of religious interpretation and leave it at that.

And yet, you have not presented a single example of somebody citing the Bible in support of an anti-left-handed stance.

If your model of how people interpret the Bible leads you to expect that they would do this, maybe your model is wrong.

9. J Mann

Looking at if from a Bayesian perspective, let’s take the evidence on: “Resolved: The Bible played a meaningful part in anti-left handed beliefs among some historical Christians.”

Pro:

– The Bible generally refers to the right hand position as more honorable than the left.

– There are examples of Christians who believed that left handedness was, variously (a) a mark of the Devil, (b) a state requiring correction.

Con:

– Prejudice against the left-handed is widespread. It existed in non-Christian societies who influenced Christianity, such as the Greeks and Romans, and in societies who had minimal contact with Christianity, such as the Chinese. It’s frequently sourced to non-Biblical sources in those societies, such as hygienic rules or the fact that most people are stronger and more accurate with their right hand. At the same time that Catholic schools were prejudiced against the left-handed, so were US public schools. So it’s possible that anti-sinister prejudice among Christians has the same roots as it does against non-Christians.

– We’ve been Googling this for close to a week now and have found all sorts of sources, and not only have we not found any major religious commentary sourcing left-handed prejudice to the Bible (which is what I would expect if the Bible were a significant source), we haven’t found any commentary whatsoever.

– On its face, the Bible isn’t any more critical of the left side vs right than it of low versus high. But we don’t argue that the Bible led to the belief that being short is sinful. In fact, the Bible does refer to left-handedness twice, in completely neutral terms.

I’m undecided but skeptical that the Bible played a material role in anti-left handed prejudice against Christians. It’s entirely possible that someone who was already prejudiced pointed to the left vs right passages, but if it was substantial, you would think we would find some historical evidence more easily.

On the other hand, there probably is a name for the fallacy that “if you can’t find it on the internet, it doesn’t exist,” so it’s entirely possible that there is such a body of historical sources and we just haven’t found it.

10. Nornagest

there probably is a name for the fallacy that “if you can’t find it on the internet, it doesn’t exist,”

Probably, but I can’t find that name on Google, soooooooo…

11. The original Mr. X

On the other hand, there probably is a name for the fallacy that “if you can’t find it on the internet, it doesn’t exist,” so it’s entirely possible that there is such a body of historical sources and we just haven’t found it.

In general I agree, but given that this discussion started with HBC accusing David Friedman of lying for saying that the Bible doesn’t call left-handedness a sin, I really don’t think that “It’s possible that there’s evidence which supports me and we just haven’t found it” cuts the mustard here.

1. HeelBearCub

Hmmmm. The classic “Who’s on first?” example seems to lead in a different direction, but maybe that example of ambiguity is misleading.

How appropriate.

More seriously , I don’t think this is classical equivocation? If someone accused Carol of equivocation he might point out that he had specified “hard cheese”. The real issue is that he knows (or should know) that the burgers aren’t likely to have hard cheese put on them. Perhaps we could say that the ambiguity is not implicit, but relied upon, as anyone accepting the argument would be ignoring the specifics in favor of the general notion of “cheese”.

Maybe this is me being unsophisticated but I don’t see any meaningful difference there.

Carol is relying on the ambiguity in the word cheese to conflate processed and hard cheese. Her statements are technically true but misleading.

1. HeelBearCub

Yeah, that is why I was agreeing ambiguity about “cheese” could make this equivocation.

But, Carol is also confused, or at least confusing, as to whether this fact about hard cheese has any relevance to the lactose intolerant person in question.

Even if the cheese in question was Parmesan, Carol doesn’t know how it will affect the person in question. So there is more going on here than just a question of what specific kind of cheese goes on the burger.

2. Eugene Dawn

I’d say this has to do with Gricean maxims: though the statement is technically truthful, it violates the maxim of relation. I think it’s not uncommon to hear it said that, by violating one or more of the maxims, one may change the meaning of a statement, for example sarcastic statements often violate the maxim of quality (“oh yeah, that’s a great idea”, said of an obviously terrible idea). However, there are often other clues to indicate when this is being done for some effect–the ‘sarcasm voice’, eye-rolls, etc.

In your example, I’d say that by deliberately flouting the maxim of relation without giving the conversational cues that this is done deliberately for effect, the speaker is being conversationally uncooperative. Whether this is strictly speaking a lie I don’t think I have an opinion, but I think it’s bad conversational form at the very least, and in certain circumstances is effectively deliberately sabotaging communication.

1. HeelBearCub

Thanks. I’d say this is clearly pointing towards what I meant. Although, Nabil ad Dajjal’s suggestion of equivocation has merit as well.

1. Eugene Dawn

I think equivocation is just a more specific name for a particular type of violation of Gricean maxims, that of quantity: one ought to be as informative as necessary. But equivocation violates this by using language that is insufficiently informative. As with other violations, this can be done to produce various effects that are not generally thought to be uncooperative, like the comedic double entendre, but otherwise to be equivocal is to refuse to participate usefully in a conversation.

2. Randy M

I’d say the fairly universal assumption of relevance makes the statement a lie by implication.

Actually, cheese production reduces the amount of lactose in cheeses.

Stating this after someone raises a concern about lactose intolerance implies that the cheese production reduces the lactose to a level such that it satisfies the objection.

Although it’s weird in this case that Carol brings this up, since a misunderstanding is only going to harm her.
Given that, it could charitably be read as a request for information on the type of cheese to be employed.

1. HeelBearCub

Aww, crud.

I originally did not have Carol as a participant in the conversation. Let’s just say one of them is Carol Burnett and the other Carol O’Connor.

1. HeelBearCub

Interesting, as I would say your first post is actually an example of what I am talking about.

ETA: To be clear and unambiguous, I am saying you, in your post, are the one “lying”.

1. HeelBearCub

Is it technically correct that the Bible does not say being left handed is a sin? Probably (although I am taking David’s word for it).

Is this an honest and full exploration and explanation of the way broad communities have regarded whether being left-handed was sinful, and how that was both affected by their reading of the Bible, and in turn affected their reading of the Bible?

2. baconbits9

Is this an honest and full exploration and explanation of the way broad communities have regarded whether being left-handed was sinful, and how that was affected by their reading of the Bible?

this is completely besides the point of David’s post.

I don’t think the bible even implies being left-handed is a sin. I can’t think of anything else where “being a thing” is sinful. I’m assuming this is all an allegory for homosexuality, and “being gay” isn’t a sin: gay sex is a sin.

My argument with David’s post would be that the person on FaceBook he’s criticizing is not lying by telling the truth: he’s just lying, since the bible doesn’t say being left-handed is a sin.

4. Nornagest

To be excruciatingly fair, “my sin is mentioned in the Bible 25 times” doesn’t, strictly speaking, imply that it’s named in the Bible as a sin. It’s the clear implication but it’s not the literal meaning of the words.

That being said, this smells like satire to me.

5. HeelBearCub

@baconbits9:

But was it the point of Nicholas Ferroni’s post? That is the real question. It’s the question David is ignoring in order to make his point.

Did that prevent people from interpreting the Bible as saying that being left-handed was a sin? And if they did interpret the Bible as saying being left-handed was a sin, maybe you want to re-think whether it implies it…

6. J Mann

Is this an honest and full exploration and explanation of the way broad communities have regarded whether being left-handed was sinful, and how that was both affected by their reading of the Bible, and in turn affected their reading of the Bible?

1) Does David know this other information? If not, is he lying?

2) If I say “the Bible calls being left handed sinful 25 different times” and it doesn’t, aren’t I lying? If I say something that a reasonable ready would understand to mean the same thing, isn’t that lying?

3) If your proposition is that anyone who isn’t providing complete context is lying, then I think it’s not helpful, because I don’t see how anyone can tell the truth.

7. HeelBearCub

@J. Mann:

Based on who David Friedman is, and his interests, I will say “knew or should have known”. At the very best we are talking about gross negligence.

8. Nornagest

The Facebook post David Friedman quoted. I don’t know Nicholas Ferroni from Adam, Google isn’t helping, and I’m aware that left-handedness has been stigmatized in the past (probably even now in a few places), but that stigma’s so rare these days, especially among the demographics that David’s likely to run into on Facebook, that I expect there’s a lot more people willing to jokingly claim persecution to make a point than who’ve actually been persecuted for it.

9. baconbits9

But was it the point of Nicholas Ferroni’s post? That is the real question. It’s the question David is ignoring in order to make his point.

The point of David’s post is that a writer can give a false impression without telling any individual falsehoods, whatever Ferroni’s point is doesn’t change the fact that he wrote a couple of sentences that would lead most readers to believe he had claimed that the bible specifically called being left-handed a sin while being able to deny that he had actually written that. The bible saying that “being left handed is a sin” 25 times is much, much stronger case against the bible than “some people who base their beliefs on the bible think being left handed is a sin”.

Many of David’s posts are not about “this is the correct interpretation, that is the incorrect one” but about how to approach the evidence presented.

10. J Mann

@HBC – Between: (a) the guy who said the bible calls being left-handed a sin 25 times, and (b) David, who pointed out that the Bible does not call being left handed a sin 25 times but did say that the Bible does have a number of sections where it associates being on a person’s right hand with more honor, I find David’s statement much more factual.

It literally and accurately describes the contents of the Bible. David’s statement makes you better informed about what is in the Bible, and Ferroni’s statement makes you worse informed.

You would like some additional context – that various people in history, including some religious people, have looked at left-handedness as sinful – but at that point, it’s sort of turtles all the way down.

Did you point out that many Greeks and Romans had negative views about left-handedness, and that Christian views may have arisen from borrowing from those sources rather than the Bible? If I decide that you should have, does that make you a liar? That doesn’t seem like a helpful definition.

11. HeelBearCub

@Nornagest:

As I pointed out below, my grandmother was forced to become right-handed by having her hand tied behind her back and told that being left handed was a sin in her Catholic school as a child. Someone else makes the claim for themself in the comments on his post. This is not “far in the ancient past” occurrence.

I can’t vouch for this website, but it comports with my knowledge:

indeed as late as the 1960s and 1970s, Catholic school teachers in particular routinely inflicted corporal punishment and psychological pressure on left-handed students, ranging from accusations of being in cahoots with the Devil to, bizarrely, being Communist.

12. Nornagest

My grandfather had a similar story, but Nicholas looks to be about my age. Anyway, I’m not going for an existence proof here, I’m going for relative likelihoods.

13. HeelBearCub

@J. Mann:

It literally and accurately describes the contents of the Bible. David’s statement makes you better informed about what is in the Bible, and Ferroni’s statement makes you worse informed.

And there we have the fallacy.

14. Randy M

And there we have the fallacy.

I don’t find a similarity with your opening anecdote. In the story David relates, someone is communicating a falsehood about the Bible through innuendo (that it declares left-handedness a sin). David’s correcting this is thus not irrelevant or misleading. It is as worst pedantic, but pedantry is no sin when the point being corrected is an important one.

I agree with David that this example is similar to yours in that it places a true fact into an irrelevant discourse in order to mislead. edit: It is possible that this misleading is only due to sloppy construction or a side effect of the speaker’s broader point, but that’s charitable.

(moreover, I suspect you could make an equally compelling case that public schools are bad based on a subset of them at one time correcting left-handers).

Well TIL. I guess. I am Catholic, and I’ve never heard of such a thing. So either this is some kind of (extremely bizarre) anti-Catholic propaganda, or…I don’t know. This makes no sense.

I’ve never seen any Catholic writings that say left handedness is a sin, and regardless, the bible itself makes no mention of left-handedness being a sin, either. The person David is criticizing is far more wrong than David is.

16. Eugene Dawn

I’m assuming this is all an allegory for homosexuality, and “being gay” isn’t a sin: gay sex is a sin.

My argument with David’s post would be that the person on FaceBook he’s criticizing is not lying by telling the truth: he’s just lying, since the bible doesn’t say being left-handed is a sin.

Two things: in the analogy, being left-handed isn’t wrong, it’s using your left hand as your dominant hand, so the analogy to homosexuality strikes me as apt, at least in that sense.

Second, the original post David quotes isn’t a lie, since the author never says his sin is mentioned in the Bible as a sin. The problem with the statement is that you are obviously meant to read it that way.

So either this is some kind of (extremely bizarre) anti-Catholic propaganda, or…I don’t know. This makes no sense.

I’ve never seen any Catholic writings that say left handedness is a sin, and regardless, the bible itself makes no mention of left-handedness being a sin, either.

Although the practice of ‘correcting’ left-handedness is pretty wide-spread, in modern Europe and North America, it does seem to have survived into recent memory mostly in Catholic parochial schools: apparently in Quebec this was going on until the 1970s. It’s not clear to me if there was actually a religious justification for it: some people have cited God separating out the righteous to the right and the sinners to the left, but a) I can’t find any confirmation this is the source, or even a post-hoc justification that was ever actually used and b) it seems just as likely to me that the left = sin, right = good categorization from the Bible is an embodiment of older cultural prejudices and are not causative.

I’d guess the fact that the practice seems to mostly have persisted in Catholic schools, with nuns administering the beatings, is a bigger part of the reason it’s associated with religious bigotry.

@JMann

Does David know this other information? If not, is he lying?

Did the original author know the information that David cites? Perhaps he simply mangled a count of “number of times left-handedness is mentioned unfavourably in the Bible”, or some such. The point is, when you say something like “my sin is mentioned in the Bible 25 times”, failing to confirm that this is not misleading is still, if not exactly lying, being uncooperative in a Gricean sense: it contributes to misunderstanding.

HBC’s point isn’t that David left out all possible context, it’s that by leaving out the fact that religious institutions (possibly using religious justifications though I can’t find confirmation of this point) did indeed beat left-handers to force them to conform to rand-handed standards, David creates the (misleading) impression that there is no correlation between oppression of left-handers and religion, and that since this is the point the original author is making, that too is Griceanly uncooperative.

@HBC
With all that said, though, I’m inclined to side more with David Friedman here. While it’s true that his post leaves out important context, I think in the context of responding to an already factual-but-misleading claim, that’s less important. Sometimes you just gotta respond to narrow, factual claims and point out the ways they’re misleading, and I think the original example is misleading enough that it’s worth being called out on its own.

I think all of the above shows though, how hard it can be to decide when the Gricean maxim are being obeyed, and when not. To some extent, I think a lot of the arguments here are really debates along these lines: who is being tendentious by leaving out obvious and important context, vs. who is attempting to suffocate the debate by bringing in pointless examples to dodge the main point? It will depend on what you think the necessary context is, what you think the central point is, etc.

17. HeelBearCub

There weren’t many more people more devoutly Catholic than my grandmother and my grandfather. They wouldn’t even come to my wedding because we weren’t married by a Catholic priest. She was definitely not slandering the Catholic church.

The point of the original post David is referencing is that: a) Regarding left-handedness as a sin was common. b) People referenced specific things in the Bible to back this up. c) We have discarded that belief and learned to accept left-handedness, d) Which means that (your) current belief in the Biblical condemnation of homosexuality may well be discarded in the future.

18. dick

Similarly, I wonder if there will be a time several centuries in the future when religious opposition to homosexuality has more or less been forgotten, considering how vague and sparse the scriptural references are. It’s not hard to imagine a casual commenter saying something like, “Oh, I think that stuff about the 20th century church being anti-homosexual has been pretty well debunked now. Sure they technically frowned on it, and some individual religious writers probably really hated gays since that was so common for the time, but if you go back and read stuff from that era it’s clear that the vitriol was mostly secular and political.”

19. HeelBearCub

@Eugene Dawn:
Don’t you think that David has an extra duty to be maximally charitable when he is calling someone else out for “lying by telling the truth”? I mean, I suppose we could go another layer of meta and say I’m the one truly at fault, however…

But since he obviously doesn’t believe it is a sin, his claim only makes sense on the assumption that the Bible says it is.

That statement is plainly false. His claim also makes sense on the assumption that it was common for people to claim the Bible named left-handedness as sinful.

I think David could merely have made the point: “This could create the misimpression that the Bible states in plain language that left-handedness is sinful. We don’t find clear references to this, but rather only suggestive narrative that equates left as good and right as bad.”

But in making that point, you need to concede that our understanding of sin as stated in the Bible is interpretive and subject to change over time.

20. baconbits9

This is the quote David uses, absent clarifying context this interpretation is weak at best.

“I was born a sinner too. My sin is mentioned in the Bible 25 times. I tried to change but I couldn’t… Luckily society learned to accept us left-handed people.”

For this to be consistent with your interpretation you have to interpret him as saying “society used to interpret the bible as saying being left handed is sinful, but now it is interpreted differently.” This is a non obvious interpretation.

21. HeelBearCub

@baconbits9:
Uhhhhhhh….

Luckily society learned to accept us left-handed people

What exactly do you think that means? Because religious people are part of society, and don’t currently think of the Bible as condemning the left-handed, so, uh, yeah.

22. HeelBearCub

I can’t think of anything else where “being a thing” is sinful.

I just wanted to point out a small wrinkle here that I think is quite interesting. You are so completely accepting of the idea that people are left-handed, that you can’t even conceive that anyone would question this.

But of course, by analogy, my Grandmother wasn’t “left-handed” … she merely used her left hand as her dominant hand. Thus she was prevented from sinning by stopping her from using that hand …

23. Eugene Dawn

Don’t you think that David has an extra duty to be maximally charitable when he is calling someone else out for “lying by telling the truth”?

I think he’s right in this case. I think the comparison between left-handedness and homosexuality is fair enough, but it’s pretty obvious that the weak point in the analogy is the explicit condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible, which is absent in the case of left-handedness. That doesn’t destroy the analogy or anything, but rather than avoid the issue, or confront it head on, the original post is phrased in a way that strongly implies that the analogy holds even on that point, when it doesn’t. This is dishonest enough that it’s valuable to be called out on.
I think the strongest defense of the original claim is that it’s clearly meant to be humorous: it’s not a dishonest claim, it’s the sort of joke that relies as many do, on leading your expectations in one direction, and then springing a surprise at the end. Without knowing who shared the meme on FB, it’s hard to say whether this defense works, but if you take it literally, David’s criticism is fair and important enough that I think it can stand alone.

If he went on to dismiss the entire analogy afterward, then I’d expect more context, but on the narrow issue he’s right.

However, one pretty obvious flaw in David’s post that I missed the first time through, is this part of his reasoning: “But since he obviously doesn’t believe it is a sin, his claim only makes sense on the assumption that the Bible says it is.”–he misses the possibility that Ferroni does not believe it is a sin, but he believes the people who do (or more likely, did) believe it’s a sin thought that the Bible agreed with them on the matter (and that Ferroni may be correct in this belief).

Ultimately I don’t think this changes the analysis: you don’t need to read that closely to draw the obvious inference that the Bible calls left-handedness a sin.

@HBC

I still reject the analogy because the bible doesn’t even call using the left-hand as a dominant hand a sin. The situation with your grandmother sounds like some kind of superstition, perhaps a regional one? Using the left hand as the dominant hand is not in the catechism as sinful, nor is it in the bible. Your grandmother’s schoolteacher’s behavior in this regard seems non-central with regards to their Catholicism. Or their Catholicism is non-central to the behavior. I’m having a brain fart and can’t figure out which way that works.

I’m also fine with calling a person who’s attracted to people of the same sex “a homosexual” rather than “a person who’s attracted to people of the same sex.” But the similarity ends there, as the bible does explicitly call out non-marital non-husband-wife sex as sinful, and is something the Catholic Church has officially “frowned upon” for quite some time.

25. HeelBearCub

Your grandmother’s schoolteacher’s behavior in this regard seems non-central with regards to their Catholicism.

Nuns teaching in a Catholic school seem fairly central to me. This behavior would not be common today, but that is sort of the whole point.

If the nun liked chewing gum, is that because of biblical writings and/or Catholic teachings extolling the virtues of chewing gum?

27. HeelBearCub

@Eugene Dawn:

explicit condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible, which is absent in the case of left-handedness.

The most important question here is, how important is it that we currently read the bible as explicitly condemning homosexuality? There is explicit language in the bible that is ignored. Overeating is explicitly condemned. Being rich is explicitly condemned. Eating shellfish is explicitly condemned. Etc.

How sure are you that, in the past, people did not read the Bible as clearly condemning left-handedness? We are analyzing a 4 sentence meme that clearly is intended as an intuition pump, not a precise statement about the exact language of the Bible.

How sure are you that one hundred or one thousand years years from now “the Bible” (or “some Bible”) will be read as explicitly condemning “homosexuality”? How confident are you that original Aramaic was faithfully translated? How confident are you that “Sodomites” are homosexuals?

The Bible is not a literal book. It is allegorical and metaphorical in its telling. It has been translated and retranslated and rewritten over and over. What is and is not considered important or sinful changes over time.

And let me be clear, my position isn’t that “the Church”, or “the Bible” is responsible for these sentiments. It’s rather that those sentiments found reflection in religion, much as any sentiments of any day do.

28. HeelBearCub

You are muddying the water here by making it about an individual teacher.

It would depend a great deal on whether a) it was common teaching by nuns in general, b) it was accepted teaching, c) the nuns taught that it was rooted in Biblical principle (for example teaching that it was gluttony).

So if we had religious figures commonly teaching that chewing gum was sinful because it was gluttony, yes, that would be an example. Absent evidence of an innate nature of chewing gum it wouldn’t be analogous, but it would be an example.

And to be clear, I’m not saying it was ONLY nuns who did it. It was relatively common in general, just more common in religious settings later on.

I’m not muddying the waters. I’m saying that the only people I have ever heard from that left-handedness is a sin are your grandmother via you and David’s FaceBook acquaintance. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that your grandmother’s story is accurate as she remembers it. But since the facts are:

1) The bible says nothing about the wickedness of left-handed people.

2) The Catholic catechism and Catholic tradition are silent as to the wickedness of lefties.

3) None of the far better read than I Catholics on this blog, like Nick and Deiseach, are aware of any encyclicals or theological treatises on the wickedness of lefties.

4) You don’t have any sources except for a blurb on some unsourced website.

So maybe it’s a little unfair to call out the Catholic Church for their mistreatment of lefties when there appears to be zero connection between the Catholic Church and lefty oppression. Conceding that your grandmother’s story is accurate and she was oppressed by nuns for handedness, perhaps the source of that bigotry was not religious in nature, but some other superstition, cultural quirk, or personal peccadillo.

30. Enkidum

Just jumping in where I haven’t been asked to: the prohibition against left-handers is (was) very real, I have multiple elder relatives who were smacked for using their left hands as children, and I’ve heard about the same thing from many other people.

This is not a Catholic thing. My family is entirely Anglican or Presbyterian. I believe it was the default position in most of the English-speaking world, and in many other cultures as well, to use physical violence to stop children using their left hands, and that this went on until somewhere between 1930-1960ish. I imagine this was tied to the bible, as most things were, but I don’t think there’s much actual basis for this.

31. Gobbobobble

Can throw another anecdote on the pile: my grandfather also experienced nuns *ahem* “discouraging” left-handedness.

32. Eugene Dawn

If the nun liked chewing gum, is that because of biblical writings and/or Catholic teachings extolling the virtues of chewing gum?

If the nun, in her capacity as teacher at a Catholic school, beat children for not chewing gum while telling them they were sinful for not doing so, then I think there’d be a case for it.

More generally, the issue is clearly not an isolated instance of a nun or two who thought left-handedness was sinful: it’s that, in at least a few places, Catholic educational institutions write large practiced this.

“It was taught by teachers at a great many Catholic schools” is not necessarily the best definition of a “Catholic teaching”, but I do think it’s a defensible definition.

(Obviously it will depend how widespread and how institutional this practice was whether the above is on point).

@HBC

The most important question here is, how important is it that we currently read the bible as explicitly condemning homosexuality?

I agree this is the important question, and I agree there’s a defensible argument along the lines you sketch out. My issue is, the original post dodges the important question by misleadingly implying that the textual support is comparable for left-handedness and homosexuality being sins.

If the point was just, both homosexuality and left-handedness have been treated as deviant, and have historically been subject to cruel ‘correction’, and that religious institutions and practice contributed to both cases, then I would be 100% on board. But the quote as written seems to be trying to smuggle in undetected yet another point of similarity that is actually more controversial, and I think it’s fair to point that out.

On the other hand, I’m more convinced after thinking about it that the original post is actually best regarded as a humorous display of paraprosdokian, and that the initial sentence is meant to be misleading not to misinform, but to set up a humorous reveal. In this case, “my sin is mentioned 25 times in the Bible” is no more a lie than “I shot an elephant in my pyjamas” is in the classic joke: the point isn’t to make you believe something false, it’s to misdirect you for the punchline.

“It was taught by teachers at a great many Catholic schools” is not necessarily the best definition of a “Catholic teaching”, but I do think it’s a defensible definition.

It’s likely at some point the nuns also taught HBC’s grandmother that 2 + 2 = 4. Is arithmetic now a “Catholic teaching?”

34. Paul Zrimsek

Every time I see a linguistic prescriptivist insisting on some imaginary rule of grammar or usage, it seems they learned it from their high-school English teacher. Nuns also being teachers, I think it likely that the authority behind their views about the wickedness of left-handedness is just as imaginary.

35. Nick

Every time I see a linguistic prescriptivist insisting on some imaginary rule of grammar or usage, it seems they learned it from their high-school English teacher.

My seventh and eighth grade language arts teacher at Catholic school was a rabid Strunk & White devotee. I am dearly glad no sane person considers this Catholic teaching.

36. HeelBearCub

On the other hand, I’m more convinced after thinking about it that the original post is actually best regarded as a humorous display of paraprosdokian, and that the initial sentence is meant to be misleading not to misinform, but to set up a humorous reveal.

… and this kind of misunderstanding is what I was referring to in my very original post. The insistence on being technically correct as the only kind of correct (“The Bible never explicitly condemns left-handedness, therefore you are lying.”) Then the re-iteration on this particular point without ever fully engaging with the main point.

37. Eugene Dawn

It’s likely at some point the nuns also taught HBC’s grandmother that 2 + 2 = 4. Is arithmetic now a “Catholic teaching?”

Obviously the difference is that teaching arithmetic is not unique to Catholic schools, and that it is not justified on the basis of religious doctrine. I don’t know to what extent Catholic schools were distinctive in punishing left-handers, or to what extent the teachers justified their behaviour by an appeal to (unofficial) doctrine–but that’s the issue here.

FWIW, I suspect you’re right, and that if there even is a correlation between Catholic schools and this sort of abuse its probably confounded by some other variable; Catholic schools of a certain era and locality have a reputation for strictness in general.

38. Eugene Dawn

… and this kind of misunderstanding is what I was referring to in my very original post.

Okay, I guess, though I think “missing the joke” is a different thing than “attempting to mislead by stating an irrelevant truth”. Also, I only decided it was probably a joke after thinking about it on and off for…however long this thread has been going on. I don’t grudge David his first reaction of taking it literally, and if you do take it literally, I think his response is fair.

39. Randy M

My seventh and eighth grade language arts teacher at Catholic school was a rabid Strunk & White devotee. I am dearly glad no sane person considers this Catholic teaching.

I believest language proscriptivists to havest a home in the King James only demoninations of Protestantism. Yea, verily. [edit: lol @Nick]

Okay, I guess, though I think “missing the joke” is a different thing than “attempting to mislead by stating an irrelevant truth”. Also, I only decided it was probably a joke after thinking about it on and off for

Those aren’t mutually exclusive. It certainly was an attempt at humor, but the entire point, humorous and otherwise, relies on the truth of the unstated, but heavily implied and untrue, assertion.

40. HeelBearCub

I think you are engaging in a version of the “No True Scotsman” argument.

How much evidence is required here? You seem to be rejecting the idea that it was commonplace, and wish to reject as attributed solely to a few cranks.

41. J Mann

At the end of the day, if you started at a neutral position and want to know what the Bible says about left-handedness, Ferroni’s statement will make you worse informed, and DavidFriedman’s statement will make you better informed.

There’s a separate question – which is whether left-handedness was once seen by many as sinful and now isn’t. Ferroni is correct on that point, and Friedman doesn’t contradict it. The fact that some parts of Ferroni’s statement are correct doesn’t mean that other parts aren’t misleading.

42. Nick

@Eugene Dawn: I have a suspicion that the big difference is the extent to which it persisted, and that the confounder is nuns being older and from an earlier generation than many teachers. But this is pure speculation on my part; I don’t even know whether nuns were in fact older than the average teacher.

43. J Mann

HeelBearCub (who I love, and I hope is taking this discussion as genial disagreement!) writes:

Is this an honest and full exploration and explanation of the way broad communities have regarded whether being left-handed was sinful

I don’t think it has to be. If you say “Andrew Jackson was a nightmare president, is responsible for the death of vast numbers of Native Americans and also captured and experimented on 3 aliens visiting from Neptune,” I can say “no, he didn’t experiment on aliens” without also getting into a full and broad discussion of the other qualities you allege made him a bad president.

44. Randy M

How much evidence is required here? You seem to be rejecting the idea that it was commonplace, and wish to reject as attributed solely to a few cranks.

It’s more the type than the amount. Relative frequency of Catholic, Protestant, and secular prohibitions on using left handedness would probably be sufficient for making a point.

Though doesn’t make the statement David called out truer, or, charitably, any less misstated.

45. Nick

I believest language proscriptivists to havest a home in the King James only demoninations of Protestantism. Yea, verily.

I follow Burr in my language proscriptivism—talk less, smile more.

46. J Mann

I’d also say that without more, I’d like to see some evidence that discrimination against the left-handed was sourced to the Bible by the discriminators – you would think there would be a religious tract somewhere.

It’s worth noting that retraining left handed people was a wide-spread belief in the country generally. For example, in 1946, the chief psychiatrist of the New York Public Schools published a book claiming that unless retrained, left-handed students would suffer cognitive defects. It’s possible that these apocryphal* nuns were just following the educational common wisdom that they grew up with.

* Because they’re Catholic – hee!

47. Eugene Dawn

Those aren’t mutually exclusive. It certainly was an attempt at humor, but the entire point, humorous and otherwise, relies on the truth of the unstated, but heavily implied and untrue, assertion.

At this risk of taking this thread even further away from where it started, I think this is wrong: it’s like saying that the joke, “one morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas–how he got in my pyjamas I’ll never know!”, relies on the truth of the unstated, but heavily implied assumption that I was in the pyjamas not the elephant.

This seems wrong to me: in both cases, by the end of the joke you’re supposed to realize that you got the wrong impression from the first part, and that’s what makes it funny. You’re not supposed to walk away thinking that both the joke-teller and the elephant were in pyjamas. Similarly, you’re not supposed to leave the left-handed joke thinking that the Bible treats left-handedness analogously to homosexuality: you’re supposed to think it just long enough for the punchline to surprise you.

48. Randy M

@Eugene Dawn

At this risk of taking this thread even further away from where it started

Eh, that horse is a bloody mess at this point.

There’s certainly humor in the absurd, or in made up tales. There may be no chickens that ever crossed the road, for all I know.

But some stories or jokes depend on their truth for the humor value. “Wouldn’t it be funny if the Bible were so dumb that it called being Left-handed evil?”
“Uh, yeah, heh heh, that would be funny. Um, does it?”
“Well, no, it actually doesn’t.”

That’s not really a joke. And I think the humorous story quoted is more similar to the above than the “I’ve got an elephant in my refrigerator stories.” If anything, it’s a prank, perhaps, which can be funny but at usually only once you reveal you knew the truth all along.

The joke you tell about the elephant relies on ambiguity in the syntax. These jokes only work if you are scrupulous in setting them up. If you had said “I was wearing my pyjamas when I shot an elephant! It was weird that he also wore pyjamas!” that’s a pretty bad joke. Similarly, by saying his “sin” is in the bible, it heavily implied that the bible considers it a sin. So, if it is merely a joke, it’s a bad one, that comes off more as point scoring based on the implied but absurdity that isn’t actually the case. So maybe it is a poorly set up meme not meant to be taken seriously–but then why use that to make a serious point about Christian attitudes about sodomy?

49. Eugene Dawn

I have a suspicion that the big difference is the extent to which it persisted, and that the confounder is nuns being older and from an earlier generation than many teachers. But this is pure speculation on my part; I don’t even know whether nuns were in fact older than the average teacher.

100% agree on the persistence being the big thing here, and less than 100% agreement, but still find plausible the mechanism.

I should clarify that I don’t think this is actually some uniquely Catholic, or even religious thing, though I think due to the availability bias it’s not nuts that people think so; I just think Honcho’s gum chewing analogy was pretty tendentious and since this whole thread is about how it’s okay to respond to narrow misleading claims even in a context where the broader point is true, I figured it’d be okay to point that out. That was probably a mistake, since this thread is pretty ridiculously long already…not that this post is helping.

50. HeelBearCub

@Eugene Dawn:
I don’t think that is quite correct either. It’s a similar kind of joke, but it is in the George Carlin rhetorical tradition. You are supposed to be surprised and then discomfited by the analogous, biased behavior. You laugh, but not only laugh.

51. HeelBearCub

I have a suspicion that the big difference is the extent to which it persisted, and that the confounder is nuns being older and from an earlier generation than many teachers.

To the extent that it may have persisted longer in religious teachers than others, the analogy is that much stronger.

Again, the question is to what extent did we have people in society stating Biblical reasons for bias against the left-handed? Having other, non-religious grounds stated for the bias does not invalidate the parallel, but makes it, again, stronger.

52. Eugene Dawn

Wouldn’t it be funny if the Bible were so dumb that it called being Left-handed evil?”
“Uh, yeah, heh heh, that would be funny. Um, does it?”
“Well, no, it actually doesn’t.

I don’t think we’ll convince each other, but I disagree: the actual comparison between ‘correction’ of lefties and gays is, I think natural enough, which is the major premise of the joke. The opening statement is then the set-up; I agree it’s not as natural as the rest, and is a bit ‘gimmick’y, but it’s not egregious.

To repurpose your paraphrase, I think the joke is, “can you believe people were so dumb they used to believe left-handedness was evil?”, and the thing about the Bible is an inelegant attempt to make that premise connect up with the gay marriage debate in a more direct way.

EDIT to add a response to HBC:

You are supposed to be surprised and then discomfited by the analogous, biased behavior. You laugh, but not only laugh.

Oh, yes, I 100% agree. That’s my “major premise” I reference above. I just think that the reference to the Bible is there mostly to smooth over the mechanics of the joke: to set up a situation where you think someone’s talking about being gay when it’s actually left-handedness.

EDIT again because Randy’s comment that I’m replying to has changed. At this point, I think we agree: the reference to “sin” and the “Bible” is carrying more weight than it can, which is why it collapses if you attempt to take it literally. On the other hand, it’s only there to get you to the punchline, which as HBC notes relies on the notion that current religious attitudes to homosexuality have something in common with old attitudes about left-handedness.
If you think the latter is basically reasonably, you’ll probably find the initial statement a bit of a reach, but ultimately forgivable to set up an otherwise okay joke. If you disagree, it’s a strained attempt to set up a joke with an equally strained punchline.

53. HeelBearCub

@J Mann:
Would you accept a nun believing it to have been common?

I have an old ruler I can loan you, if that helps.

Why do Catholics have a history of shunning left handedness? It’s not rocket science. The left hand was associated with the devil, so people who were left handed were guilty by association, as though their handedness was a sign that they were evil.

54. hls2003

The relative strength (or weakness) of the analogy is the whole point of the claim (or the “joke,” to take Eugene Dawn’s framing). If it’s a strong analogy, then it’s a little bit clever, maybe makes you chuckle and makes you think (HBC’s “Carlin-esque” framing). If it’s a weak analogy, and the two are not in fact very similar, then it doesn’t do either one. It’s just kind of dumb. And the strength of the analogy mostly depends on the similarity of the facts. If the alleged similarities are not actually true, then you’re left without much of an analogy, joke, or point.

55. Randy M

To repurpose your paraphrase, I think the joke is, “can you believe people were so dumb they used to believe left-handedness was evil?”, and the thing about the Bible is an inelegant attempt to make that premise connect up with the gay marriage debate in a more direct way.

The direct way seems to be as a way to attack the authority of scripture–which there are certainly fair ways of doing, I’ll grant–but very lazily, by falsely attributing a specific prohibition to it.
Ultimately I think more context would be needed to determine whether it was rhetorical slight of hand to score points, a cheap joke based shared dislike, or both–it’s hard to communicate tone in print sometimes.

Looking up the origins of the word sinister now; it’s maybe not super relevant, but there doesn’t seem to be any biblical reason for negative lefty associations. Someone mentioned the obvious that writing with fountain pens left to right left handed will smear the ink, and the teachers enforcement of right handedness may be a hold over form that.

@HeelBearCub
That’s a good link to establish the existence of the practice. In the end, whether you think the dishonesty matters depends on whether you think there’s a difference between the actual content of the Bible and other unrelated superstitions religious (and other) people happened to hold. I think the implication is worth correcting–but not not, after all, worth all the words given to it in this thread.

But I’m a sucker for a language debate.

56. Eugene Dawn

At this point, I think we’ve analysed this joke to death, so I’m not going to say anymore about it; if we disagree, we disagree. To sum up, I think a) David is right the initial statement is badly misleading, almost to the point of being a lie if taken literally; b)HBC is right that David is wrong to take it literally, since it’s probably a joke, though bii) he’s wrong to say that is tantamount to David lying; c) whether the joke works or not probably depends on how sympathetic you are to the idea that anti-gay attitudes are just as ridiculous handedness-prejudice: because of a), it’s not a great joke, but if you like the underlying idea then you’ll forgive it as a setup for a more reasonable joke.

On the matter of the history of left-handed prejudice, it seems to be quite culturally widespread, and certainly predates both Christianity and fountain pens. It is also present in Islamic culture, where the right-to-left writing argues against a ‘mechanistic’ etiology. I think it’s just an old cultural prejudice that lasted longer in more conservative educational contexts, which for various reasons were more likely to be religious ones as well.

57. Nick

Someone mentioned the obvious that writing with fountain pens left to right left handed will smear the ink, and the teachers enforcement of right handedness may be a hold over form that.

This is vastly understating it. If even a ballpoint pen doesn’t dry quickly enough, or a student writes too quickly, or even uses a pencil, things will smear. And the faster you write the more it will smear, in any medium. When I’d been copying a lot down in pencil, I could lift my hand up and would have a smear of graphite running the full length of my hand; the same went with cheap ballpoint pens. It’s a nuisance to student and teacher, to say nothing of being sloppy and reflecting poorly as a result. And given how important a signature is, that sloppiness could be very important indeed.

Of course, none of this is to say that using one’s left hand dominantly is a sin or ought to be treated as such; on the contrary, treating it as such is wrong. But I’m not in the least surprised that teachers teaching penmanship took a dim view of lefties.

58. HeelBearCub

@Eugene Dawn:

ii) he’s wrong to say that is tantamount to David lying;

David is the one who called it lying. I put “lying” in quotes for a reason. I’m simply echoing his own phrasing.

59. Nick

David is the one who called it lying. I put “lying” in quotes for a reason. I’m simply echoing his own phrasing.

Yes, you did. You also said it was “an example of what I am talking about,” which you called lying, without quotes, in your original post.

60. Randy M

It is also present in Islamic culture, where the right-to-left writing argues against a ‘mechanistic’ etiology.

I didn’t mean to say all left-handed prejudice originates from the writing concern, just the specific enforcement of it in a school setting.
There’s also (to bring this back to a biblical tale) the fact that left-handed swordsmen were harder to fight against for right handers, and the wiping convention in some places.

But all that is just the fact that a small population with instincts noticeably distinct from the majority drew suspicion, or at least find themselves in a world designed for acting in the opposite manner with little empathy.
Is there even a good hypothesis today for why people develop different preferences in handedness and why in the ratio that we see?
My eldest is a lefty, and I’ve never observed her cavorting with Satan, but we do keep a close eye on her on full moons and Halloween just to be safe.

61. HeelBearCub

@Nick:
Fair enough, although I did put the whole phrase in quotes at the beginning: “technically correct but actually lying”. I went on to identify this as a what I thought of as a fallacy, which is usually regarded as distinct. I think my example makes this pretty clear.

62. Nick

Is there even a good hypothesis today for why people develop different preferences in handedness and why in the ratio that we see?

Handedness seems to be part of a constellation of laterality preferences; folks have a preferred eye as well, for example. And a classmate of mine once did a science fair experiment where she found a dominant paw in cats, so—assuming her experiment replicates!—it doesn’t seem to be just us. I can’t imagine why it occurs in the ratio it does, though.

63. Nick

Fair enough, although I did put the whole phrase in quotes at the beginning: “technically correct but actually lying”. I went on to identify this as a what I thought of as a fallacy, which is usually regarded as distinct. I think my example makes this pretty clear.

You also called it lying by omission after calling it a fallacy. But I’m waaay out of pedantry points for the week, so I’m just going to concede here.

64. Gobbobobble

There’s also (to bring this back to a biblical tale) the fact that left-handed swordsmen were harder to fight against for right handers

I would think it is also quite useful in formation combat for everyone in your group to have the same handedness

65. J Mann

@HeelBearCub

I’m still not sure the source is biblical – the nun doesn’t cite to the Bible.

There are a number of sources that say that left handedness was associated with Satan or witchcraft, but none of them have a reference to the Bible, which doesn’t rule out that the Bible was a source of the belief but also doesn’t offer a lot of support for it. The nun appears to source it in general beliefs, and in hygiene, which has come up a number of times as I look into this.

(And as I pointed out, educational retraining of lefties also appears to be secularly common.).

66. Edward Scizorhands

This might get lost, but when I was in elementary school I learned “Catholic nuns have a history of being too strict in trying to get rid of left-handedness” from my teachers.

Those teachers were Catholic nuns.

I think the left-handed thing is a pedagogical tradition that tries to get uniformity in penmanship so for obvious reasons it’s not important in a less literate age.

There are a lot of cultural artifacts that in more conservative eras would have been enforced as if sin was involved when the religion didn’t explicitly call for it.

But the psychological distinction between something explicitly ID’d as a sin and something made taboo by the culture separate from religion is relatively weak. It’s all going to feel like ‘Sin’.

68. The original Mr. X

@ HBC:

From your telling, it doesn’t sound like the ruler-wielding nuns from your anecdote ever actually pointed to any particular scriptural passages to justify their belief that left-handedness is a sin. In other words, it’s very poor evidence for people interpreting the Bible as calling left-handedness a sin. The same goes for the other evidence you’ve offered. I’ve no idea why you’ve decided to make “The Bible implies that being left-handed is a sin, and David Friedman is lying or grossly negligent in claiming otherwise” your hill to die on, but frankly it’s just making you come across as stubborn, belligerent, and irrational.

69. The original Mr. X

@ Eugene:

I think the strongest defense of the original claim is that it’s clearly meant to be humorous: it’s not a dishonest claim, it’s the sort of joke that relies as many do, on leading your expectations in one direction, and then springing a surprise at the end. Without knowing who shared the meme on FB, it’s hard to say whether this defense works, but if you take it literally, David’s criticism is fair and important enough that I think it can stand alone.

I can’t vouch for the mental state of the specific person Friedman was quoting, but I’ve certainly seen people sharing the same meme as an attack on Christian moral teaching, and I don’t recall seeing anybody sharing it as just a silly joke with no purpose.

70. Randy M

There are a lot of cultural artifacts that in more conservative eras would have been enforced as if sin was involved when the religion didn’t explicitly call for it.

But the psychological distinction between something explicitly ID’d as a sin and something made taboo by the culture separate from religion is relatively weak. It’s all going to feel like ‘Sin’.

Very interesting point, thanks.

71. DinoNerd

The funniest part of this thread is the implication in many posts that Catholics follow the sola scriptura rule in deciding what is sinful.

Even Catholic theologians don’t do that. Never mind nuns or lay people.

1. Nornagest

The first post? I can see how you might think the AGW one is burying the lede (though I don’t agree), but the religion one looks entirely inoffensive to me.

2. J Mann

HBC, that did not help to resolve the ambiguity. What’s the lie by omission?

1) I agree with DavidFriedman. If someone says “My sin [left-handedness] is mentioned in the Bible 25 times,” they should know that a reasonable listener will understand that to mean that the Bible refers to left-handedness as a sin 25 times, not that the Bible does not call left-handedness a sin at all, but merely refers to it in other contexts that many times.

2) IMHO, it’s often not helpful to call things lies so much as misleading, so as to get away from intent. If David’s speaker honestly believes the Bible calls left-handedness a sin, then he’s not lying, merely misinformed.

2.1) Similarly, if Carol believes that the cheese in question is low lactose, then the fact that she’s mistaken doesn’t make her a liar. Maybe she doesn’t know what cheese it is, and offers the hard cheese info specifically so that the better informed burger preparers can decide, or maybe she things American cheese is still substantially reduced.

1. HeelBearCub

The lie by omission is ignoring that being left-handed was considered a sin and people did cite the Bible’s references as their source.

Heck, my own grandmother had her left-hand tied behind her until she was “cured” and, to the best of my knowledge, was told it was a sin.

ETA:
And there is someone who was raised Catholic in the comments of that post also relating the same story.

2. baconbits9

The lie by omission is ignoring that being left-handed was considered a sin and people did cite the Bible’s references as their source.

1. The bible says left handedness is a sin.

2. Some people say that left handedness is a sin and mistakenly attribute that to the bible.

These are two different situations, Ferroni’s quote (alone, context could change that) implies the first, and the first implies that all people who use the bible as a moral authority are crappy people. The second only implies that some people who make incorrect claims about the bible are morally dubious.

3. HeelBearCub

@baconbits9:
Ferroni’s quote is consistent with either.

Especially when we consider the fact the Bible, along with most other morality tales, contains a great deal of language which is intended to be interpreted.

For instance, does the New Testament mention the sin of being a rich man three times?

“And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

4. baconbits9

Ferroni’s quote is consistent with either.

Yes, that is the whole point. Write a line that is consistent with a false interpretation that will lead readers to a false conclusion without explicitly lying.

5. HeelBearCub

@baconbits9:
If I am trying to make the point that people’s interpretation of the Bible in condemning homosexuality is wrong, I can point to the fact that it has been read to say that left-handedness is condemned.

There is not an unerring, unchanging interpretation of sinfulness as stated by the Bible.

6. baconbits9

If I am trying to make the point that people’s interpretation of the Bible in condemning homosexuality is wrong, I can point to the fact that it has been read to say that left-handedness is condemned.

You would not then use the phrase “My sin is mentioned 25 times in the bible”, which reads as a statement of fact not a statement of interpretation, or interpretive fact*.

7. HeelBearCub

@baconbits9:
If previously others had pointed at those passages as establishing the sinfulness of the use of the left hand, it’s absolutely fine.

8. baconbits9

No, its really not unless there was near universal agreement in that interpretation because multiple groups use the bible with different interpretations. By starting with “the bible” he is tarring everyone who uses the bible as their moral authority, not just SOME of the people. Now if he has scholarship showing that many/most/virtually all followers of the bible have taken that stance, maybe even within a relatively short time frame, then that is the type of context that would make his statement reasonable.

It is an extremely charitable reading to view him as saying “N of many interpretations of the bible says left-handedness is a sin”.

9. HeelBearCub

It is an extremely charitable reading to view him as saying “N of many interpretations of the bible says left-handedness is a sin”.

Why?

Do all interpretations of the Bible consider homosexuality a sin?

10. Clutzy

TBH I think both HBC and David are too charitable to the quoted man. The statement quoted is just false. There is no reasonable interpretation of it other than “the bible explicitly says left handedness is a sin 25 times”

11. Nick

This whole framing is bizarre; to my mind the question is whether this view of lefties originates in Christianity or is parasitic on it, and if the latter, how much ammunition Christianity gives it. As far as I can tell, the answer to the former is “no” and the answer to the latter is “very little.” Both of which, by the way, David was saying in his post.

This is not the case with homosexual sex—there are prohibitions in the Old and New Testament and a consistent tradition throughout Christianity, until very, very recently. Moreover, I can find such things taught at all levels of authority; I can if I like open a moral theology textbook and find precise discussions of the sinfulness of homosexual sex, which I cannot do for “using a dominant left hand.” Proscription of homosexual sex very plausibly partly originates in the Bible, and it gives a lot of ‘ammunition’ for regarding it as sinful.

12. baconbits9

Why?

Because he specifically states “My sin is mentioned in the Bible 25 times”. If I said “my wife mentioned that…” the implication is that my wife said something on the subject, and that if you had heard her actual words you would agree with my characterization. The goal is to convey what my wife said, and not what one of her ex boyfriends told me she said. The chain is wife -> me -> you. It implies either the most straight forward interpretation or my interpretation of what she said, not some other, unmentioned, 3rd parties interpretation.

Now I will totally flip to your side if there is a major authority on the bible, say the pope, on record as saying that left-handedness is a sin and without significant contradiction*, as then you have something like a representative sample of opinion.

Do all interpretations of the Bible consider homosexuality a sin?

I don’t know what that has to do with this discussion, it sounds as if you are putting the cart first. The quote doesn’t mention interpretations at all, and you are starting from the point assuming interpretations.

*I don’t mean an obscure opinion of one pope that that wasn’t at all influential, as he says ‘society moved on’ implying it was a broadly held belief.

13. DavidFriedman

TBH I think both HBC and David are too charitable to the quoted man. The statement quoted is just false. There is no reasonable interpretation of it other than “the bible explicitly says left handedness is a sin 25 times”

I was being only a little too charitable. There is an alternative interpretation–that left handedness is a sin, and is mentioned in the Bible 25 times. I’m not sure it is a reasonable interpretation, since it is pretty obvious that the author didn’t think left handedness was a sin, but using “my sin” to mean “my characteristic that some people think is a sin” is only a mild stretch.

So far as HBC’s argument, it reminds me of a position of one of my fellow libertarians that I have criticized in the past. He makes a factual claim X that is either false or deliberately misleading. I call him on it. His response amounts to “I made the claim X in order to support the conclusion Y, and Y is true.”

That is the defense HBC appears to be making on behalf of the author I criticized. X is “the Bible calls left-handedness a sin many times.” Y is “Some Christians have claimed that left-handedness is a sin, possibly thinking that position was supported by the Bible.”

And Z, his real objective, is “the fact that people claim the Bible says homosexuality is a sin is no reason think it is a sin.” Z arguably would follow from X if X were true but does not follow from Y if the Bible does say that homosexuality is a sin and does not say that left-handedness is a sin.

He may have also had the secondary objective Z’: The Bible is obviously nonsense, as shown by what it says about left-handedness, so people should not believe in it. That argument also depends on X being true, and it isn’t.

Two questions for HBC:

Is it morally correct to tell lies in order to get people to believe a true conclusion?

Is it morally wrong to point out that a statement is a lie if it was made in order to persuade people of a true conclusion?

14. HeelBearCub

@baconbits9:

The quote doesn’t mention interpretations at all, and you are starting from the point assuming interpretations.

As I have already pointed out, interpretation is intrinsic to the quote. The final sentence is:

Luckily society learned to accept us left-handed people.

Society doesn’t interpret the Bible to say that being left-handed is a sin now. Society did in the past. This is the entire point of the quote.

15. HeelBearCub

@David Friedman:

“the fact that people claim the Bible says homosexuality is a sin is no reason think it is a sin.”

Well, at least you are finally admitting the point of the post. It is about what people claim.

But let us modify that statement:
The fact that people claim the Bible says homosexuality is a sin is not sufficient reason to think it is a sin.

As to your questions, I would say they are missing the point.

Did many Catholic schools in the past commonly teach that being left-handed was sinful? Did they point to Biblical passages to justify this?

16. The original Mr. X

baconbits9:

1. The bible says left handedness is a sin.
2. Some people say that left handedness is a sin and mistakenly attribute that to the bible.

I mean, none of HBC’s links or anecdotes even get us to 2, since nobody in them seems to actually cite any passages from the Bible. So it’s really more like:

3. Some people who believed in the Bible also believed that left-handedness is a sin, but don’t seem to have cited Biblical teaching for this.

Whilst it’s possible that some people did cite the Bible for this belief, HBC hasn’t provided any evidence of them doing so, so until he does I’m going to treat his assertion that “people did cite the Bible’s references as their source” as a lie — a regular lie, I mean, not just a lie by omission.

17. HeelBearCub

@The Original Mr. X:
Generally speaking the Bible broadly tends to symbolize the right hand or side as strong, masculine and holy and the left hand or side as weak, feminine and sinful. The right hand is frequently cited in positive, terms and the left hand less frequently cited in generally negative terms, although not exclusively so.

What did people cite?

He shall separate all nations one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left…then shall the king say unto them on his right hand, come, ye blessed of my father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

Did the Bible cause this negative association? Highly unlikely, but that isn’t my point.

18. J Mann

OK, HeelBearCub, I hope you enjoy this endless discussion as much as I do, because I would like to digress to the following:

In the article you link, the author includes a copy of the painting The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man with the following caption:

The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man by Peter Paul Rubens and Jan Brueghel the Elder. Note that in this painting, as in others like it, Eve always appears on Adam’s left.

I know it’s not relevant to your point, but that statement is obviously false, isn’t it? Unless I’m missing something, Eve appears to Adam’s right from our perspective, and she’s also more right than left from Adam’s perspective – she’s in front of him, and her left knee is to the right of his left knee. They’re exchanging the apple with their right hands, and neither hand is crossing the center line of their body. There’s a small dog lined up with the center of Adam’s body, and from Adam’s perspective, Eve is to the right of that dog. I don’t see any sense in which Eve is to Adam’s left.

—-

As to the point you and Mr. X are debating, the author says that “many historians” cite the passage in Matthew when “attempting” to explain historical Christian attitudes towards left-handedness.

I agree that a tertiary source is some Bayesian evidence that these historians (a) exist and (b) may have an example of someone citing Matthew in condemning left-handedness, but I’d still like to see a primary source. 🙂

19. HeelBearCub

@J. Mann:
Nearer the left side of Adam’s body.

Sure, these artist’s didn’t have a great command of the idea of perspective, but you are reading it as if they are facing each other, but Adam’s torso is twisted. He is seated facing towards the observer and twisting toward’s Eve, to his left and our right, thus Eve is on the left side of Adam.

Sit in a chair, twist your body as Adam is doing, and point with your right hand. What side are you pointing towards?

20. The original Mr. X

@ HBC:

Generally speaking the Bible broadly tends to symbolize the right hand or side as strong, masculine and holy and the left hand or side as weak, feminine and sinful. The right hand is frequently cited in positive, terms and the left hand less frequently cited in generally negative terms, although not exclusively so.

David Friedman said as much in the original blogpost. This was never under dispute.

What did people cite?

So your “evidence” basically boils down to a vague, unreferenced, third-hand claim about what “many historians” (how many? citing what evidence?) think. And yet you accuse David Friedman of “gross negligence” in doing his research. Pot, kettle, etc.

21. The original Mr. X

Incidentally, the article’s claim that “Eve always appears on Adam’s left” in pictures of the Fall piqued my interest, so I did a quick Google search to see if I could find any counter-examples. Lo and behold, I quickly found examples of pictures where Eve was more-or-less directly in front of Adam (e.g., here), or standing to his right (e.g., here, here, here, and here).

The fact that I was able to disprove one of the article’s claims with literally ten seconds of Googling doesn’t exactly fill me with trust for the rest of its claims.

22. HeelBearCub

@The Original Mr. X:
My contention has ALWAYS been that the overall culture both influenced the writing, compilation, translation and re-translation of the the Bible (or any other religious texts) and subsequently USES that text as a means of reinforcing the mores and culture of the present day.

The cultural practice of disregard for the left-hand is millennia old. The language and culture is filled with referents. The Bible, as a product of culture, is filled with these referents as well. In this, I feel quite certain that I am in the right.

You have plenty of anecdotal evidence on this thread of how that was applied. If you think all of that symbolism wasn’t referred to by people with bias against the left-handed, for whatever reason, then I find your reasoning to be crooked.

23. The original Mr. X

@ HBC:

For all your blustering, you have yet to provide a single example of anybody saying “Writing with your left hand is wrong, because the Bible says so.”

If you think all of that symbolism wasn’t referred to by people with bias against the left-handed, for whatever reason, then I find your reasoning to be crooked.

If they did, you should be able to find an example, right?

3. helloo

*Puts on (fake) mind reading helm.*

I think HBC is saying that David is implying that Nicholas Ferroni is wrong to use that statement to dismiss the Bible.
But HBC feels that it should not be dismissed even if not factually accurate as the similarity is still apt.

That Nicholas Ferroni should be known to be stating (Bible/those that use the Bible treats left-handness like gays and because we don’t think left-handness is bad, we should ignore what the Bible says about gays)

The main issue I have with this is the historic fact that left-handness was treated badly during those times and culture in which the Bible was written that it is hard to see if it’s the Bible’s statement.

Like if a book uses various racist words, it might be that the book contains racists views but not necessarily that the author is racist. This is often a source of controversy so it’s hardly settled one way or the other.

The main issue I have with this is the historic fact that left-handness was treated badly during those times and culture in which the Bible was written that it is hard to see if it’s the Bible’s statement.

This is still going too far. The only actual instance I can think of the Bible mentioning handedness is with Ehud, for whom it is a tactical advantage.

Beyond that, there’s general references to “being seated at the right hand” which was indeed a place of honor in the culture (being seated at the left-hand of the host was only the second highest place of honor). That’s about it, and is why Friedman used it as an example of truthful dishonesty. You can accurately say that the Bible mentions the directions left and right lots of times. But using that to imply that the Bible is calling out left-handedness as sinful is not honest.

2. HeelBearCub

@helloo:
I’ll just say that I wouldn’t agree with your summary and say that my multitude other comments explain more fully what I mean.

3. helloo

Unfortunately, then I haven’t caught on it.

My understanding is that your concern is still with the treatment of left-handness rather than the accuracy of the text itself that should be looked at.

Also, I’d say as a possible “fallacy fallacy” warning – besides the lively discussion brought forth here, this kind of “lying” will often be thrown at “nitpicks” where one side feels is relevant while the other does not.
For example, grouping or incorrect word usage (does it matter whether they really are a Nazi/racist when you should understand what negative traits about them I am condemning?) (trying to pick apart the precise wording of a law means you are siding with the bad thing that this law is trying to prevent!)

With this group of pendatics, I would not say that such an action would be productive to be label as a gotcha.

What’s Carol’s motivation for lying? She’s the one who’s lactose intolerant, right? So isn’t she only hurting herself? Maybe the example isn’t clear. Given that the only person who winds up worse off here is Carol, it looks like she could just be an idiot.

1. HeelBearCub

Yeah, that’s just a screw up in editing on my part. Two completely different “Carol”s.

Gotcha, thanks for clearing it up. I don’t have an answer for the question, though 🙂

Reconsidering, I think it’s just a “lie by omission.” Carol 2 lies by omission by neglecting to point out that the cheese in question, Kraft singles, is a soft cheese and not the hard cheeses to which her fact relates.

2. Eugene Dawn

I think the problem with regarding this as (simply) a lie by omission is that it’s actually more truthful to omit even more, by not saying anything. To my mind, a lie by omission should involve removing a key component of an otherwise true and important statement, or a failure to speak up to correct a misapprehension. In contrast, in the case under consideration, silence is in some sense the most truthful response: the important, truthful information has already been said (that Carol can’t have cheese because of the lactose), and so can’t be omitted–but it is obscured, not by leaving important information out, but by adding unnecessary, obfuscatory information.

3. Nornagest

It’s barely worth mentioning in this context, but soft/hard in cheese doesn’t predict lactose content particularly well. Cheddar and mozzarella don’t have much more than parmesan, and brie by some of the sources I just looked up might have less. Feta on the other hand has much more. Cream, interestingly, is also pretty low in lactose.

American cheese is pretty high as cheese goes, although what you’d get from a Kraft single is still like an order of magnitude less than from a cup of milk.

4. J Mann

Back to HBC’s original question, the best example of this IMHO is Bill Clinton’s equivocation. During his grand jury testimony, he said that when asked by his staff if there was a sexual relationship between him and Lewinsky, he would say “there is nothing going on between us,” which he privately understood to mean that there was not a sexual relationship at that time, although there had been one in the past, and he said that he hadn’t had “sex” with Lewinsky, which he privately understood to exclude oral sex and mutual masturbation.

I had a very careful thing I said, and I tried not to say anything else . . . . I remember that I issued a number of denials to people that I thought needed to hear them, but I tried to be careful and to be accurate.

And I believe, sir, that — you’ll have to ask them what they thought. But I was using those terms in the normal way people use them

That I used — in the language I used, I said, there’s nothing going on between us. That was true. I said I did not have sex with her as I defined it. That was true.

I said things that were true. They may have been misleading, and if they were I have to take responsibility for it, and I’m sorry.

1. HeelBearCub

Eh, this is adjacent, but it’s not really in the territory of my fallacy, per se.

I mean it is related, in that Clinton is trying to convince people of the argument that he didn’t commit any improprieties…. but it’s also in a legal setting where technically correct (sometimes) really is the standard.

Nonetheless Clinton isn’t merely constructing a poor argument, he is also very actively engaging in a kind of deception. Fallacies can be active, but not quite in this way. Clinton has secret knowledge here, of his own actions . So I don’t think it’s directly comparable.

2. Nick

In moral theology this is called strict mental reservation: mentally adding words to qualify things said that, taken alone, would be false. Surprisingly, you will find theologians defending it—Wikipedia quotes the Augustinian Martin de Azpilcueta, but try to be surprised here, it’s associated with the Jesuits—but it was later condemned. Wide mental reservation, where what is said is merely ambiguous, remains permissible with sufficient cause, a position I’ve defended here at SSC.

5. gettin_schwifty

Carol’s information is relevant to cheese and lactose problems, but not to the current context. I don’t read her as offering any argument, I read her as derailing the conversation. I have to assume I’m missing something and focusing too much on the example.

1. Edward Scizorhands

“Derailing” is sometimes the correct term for this kind of true-but-irrelevant information.

1. Eugene Dawn

The problem is, it’s technically on-topic; as the name implies, derailing should be reserved for not just irrelevant but off-topic information. The issue is that it’s not just an attempt to dodge, it’s an attempt to dodge while not looking like you’re dodging: by all appearances, this is a useful, factual contribution to the conversation.

6. hls2003

Just to address the original example, I think this fits pretty firmly into the category of “Red Herring” fallacy. The (non-false) statement is offered in an attempt to derail the original argument about how to deal with lactose intolerance in the social setting, by presenting instead an irrelevant side-trail to follow.

12. JohnNV

I’m trying to get into the Three Body Problem, but I’m about 20 pages in and am having a hard time enjoying it. Many, many people say it is a wonderful book, so I should ask the SSC crowd, is it worth it? It’s worth mentioning that I’m reading it in English.

1. LesHapablap

I enjoyed book one but books two and three were much more interesting. I vote well worth it. I did find the writing stilted in the translation though.

2. Wrong Species

The characters all feel a bit off(maybe it’s a Chinese thing?) but it definitely gets more interesting as you get deeper through it. If you get to the halfway point and nothing peaks your interest, it might not be for you but I do recommend finishing it. At twenty pages, I believe you haven’t really seen the main plot yet anyways.

3. Elephant

I found it awful, and I don’t understand the positive views that many people have. (Though I also know people who agree that it’s not good!) The story is interesting. The writing is very clunky, and I don’t think it’s a translation issue. The ending is very unsatisfying, but I don’t want to spoil it if you continue.

1. sfoil

The clunkiness of the prose is a translation issue. The translator, Ken Liu, wrote somewhere that he tried to maintain (paraphrasing) a sense of the Chinese prosody, and it shows.

The second book is translated by Joel Martinsen, and lacks 3BP’s awkwardness. Ken Liu (or his agent, or the publisher…) apparently agreed that the Martinsen approach was better, since Liu rendered the third book in ma more natural English style.

If your complaints are about the characters, well, Cixin Liu is writing in the vein of Arthur C. Clarke, and that comes with the territory.

1. Evan Þ

What’d you think of the chapter on the Cultural Revolution? There was a lot of the book I didn’t care for, but I thought it was worth reading for that alone.

2. tayfie

I think the clunkiness you mention actually gives the book its charm for me. A Chinese author and characters has more appeal if it doesn’t sound like perfect English. I would expect some Chinese perspective to be hard to communicate in English.

4. JPNunez

IMHO Book 1 is the best one, due to the tightness of the plot. There’s almost not wasted chapters, everything just adds on and on.

Except maybe at the beginning. The parts about the cultural revolution maybe drag a little.

I disliked Book 2. It’s a bore that is trying to be too smart. Book 3 is wonderful, but you gotta accept it is gonna meander around for a while touching diverse subplots and subjects.

5. Viliam

I enjoyed the books a lot. Not the ending of the last book, but until then it was fantastic.

It takes a while to start being sci-fi. But showing how humans behave under usual circumstances helps to explain their behavior later when the sci-fi things start happening.

If perchance you haven’t read Meditations on Moloch yet, you might want to read the article before reading the books, to get into the right mood. Because the trilogy is, essentially, a universe-sized portrait of Moloch.

6. melolontha

I read the whole first book, and stopped there; IMO (and based on fairly vague memories) it was okay, but not worth persisting with if you’re not enjoying it. This is partly due to my own particular tastes — I tend to prefer books with more warmth — but I think the prose was ‘objectively’ mediocre and the characterisation worse. The story was kind of interesting, and I think it must have been told in a fairly compelling way, but it didn’t go anywhere particularly satisfying by the end of the first book.

7. littleby

I didn’t like it at all. The first several chapters are about this very memorable countdown-timer gimmick, and then in the second half the author attempts to explain why the countdown-timer gimmick happened, and it’s such bullshit.

The characters are terrible, which is sometimes forgiveable if you have a really good Big Idea, but this story had a such-bullshit Big Idea, and I want a refund on the time I spent reading this book.

— I did sort of notice some interesting cultural points. The author venerates scientists in a way that US culture doesn’t, really, and I wonder if that’s a common Chinese meme or if it’s just this book. Also I noticed some confusion while reading the Chinese-revolution flashback: I thought China had this censorship thing going on, and they’d get mad at you if you wrote something critical of the government? Does this book get a pass because it’s just criticizing the previous government? Or what, exactly?

1. tayfie

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole series and disagree with your opinion and think calling the idea “bullshit” and the characters “terrible” is not critique so much as trashing. You wouldn’t read a restaurant review that only called the food “nasty”.

I can also answer both of your cultural questions with the same answer. China is officially encouraging science fiction as distraction from government corruption, inspiration for their citizens to become leading scientists, and a geopolitical move to spread Chinese cultural influence. Here’s a recent take on this theme from the geopolitical angle.

8. Walter

I had a bit of a cultural issue getting into it, I dunno, just felt like the author was somehow coming at things from a different angle. I couldn’t really get into the characters, but the overall story made up for it, in my view. It is a ripping yarn, peopled by robots.

13. Well...

Linguistics question:

Is the word “path” (as in “Walk along the path in the garden and you’ll come to the fountain”) related to the word “pathology”? (Or, if you like, to its root word “pathos”?) How are they related?

1. BlindKungFuMaster

I am not a linguist, but I’d say they aren’t.

Path is of germanic origin, pathos is greek. That they happen to be spelled the same in English is just random happenstance. In other germanic languages you wouldn’t even think of the question. The “th” also probably isn’t the same sound originally.

1. Machine Interface

It gets better: the Proto-Germanic word itself appears to be a borrowing from an ancient Persian language, back when the Scythians’ extensions reached as far as present-day central Ukraine. It would in turn be from a Proto-Indo-European root *pent-/*pont- which was actually very productive; reflex include the English verb “to find”, Latin “pons/pontis” (bridge) and its Romance descents, Greek “pontos” (sea, then the Pontus region in Anatolia) which in turn has many unusual offsprings like Arabic “bunduq” (hazelnut, loaned from Greek “Pontikon koruon”, pontic nut).

So “path finding” is actually twice the same root.

14. proyas

I’m going to visit Brooklyn and want to see “the cool stuff” and/or “the hipster stuff” that make the place so great. I’ve never been there before and will have one full day to look around. Can someone help me make an itinerary?

P.S. – I’m not interested in sports and think most craft breweries are scams.

1. HeelBearCub

First question is whether you already think NYC is special and have experienced other boroughs…

15. Nancy Lebovitz

It’s at least plausible that Trump has a decent chance at a second term if the economy is in good shape, and if not, not.

Thoughts about the condition of the economy before the election?

1. Le Maistre Chat

I find it very probable that there will be a recession before Election Day next year, given certain indicators and the typical decade gap between recessions. The question is timing: I think investors should be prepared for negative economic growth to start as early as the end of this August, while ideal timing for Democrats would be Q2 & Q3 of next year.

1. baconbits9

while ideal timing for Democrats would be Q2 & Q3 of next year.

Dems want it to start at the latest in Q1 of next year to make sure the R word can be used in earnest against Trump by the time the election rolls around.

1. Le Maistre Chat

Does it hurt the incumbent if there’s a recession followed by a quarterly report of positive growth before election day, though?

1. Hoopyfreud

Yes. Wages and employment are sticky. “It’s the economy, stupid” isn’t about what people see on the news, but about what they observe and feel.

2. baconbits9

There aren’t really any 2 quarter recessions in the US. There is the 1980 recession which lasted 6 months and was followed by a 16 month recession that started a year after the 1980 one ended, and every other recession is 8 months+ since the Civil War (iirc). It is fairly unlikely that we are going to be reporting an end to a recession that starts in 2020 before election day.

Just as an example though the elder Bush was supposedly denied a 2nd term by a recession, and that one officially ended a year + before election day.

I don’t see any indicators for recession. Employment is strong, investment is good, wages are rising, growth is good, housing is good, gas prices are moderately low.

1. baconbits9

What were these indicators looking like in 2000, 2006 etc?

Recessions don’t tend to go from 3% growth one quarter, to 2% the next, to 1% and then to -1%. Using Tradingeconomics.com US annualized GDP growth was 3.5%, 0.9%, 2.3%, 2.2% 2.5% leading into the recession and the UE rate was under 4.5% until mid 2007.

2. broblawsky

The labor market is still strong, but it’s a lagging indicator. Housing is actually in the early stages of a recession right now – take a look at median housing prices. Gas prices are only weakly linked to recessions, and rising wages can actually be a bad thing – a surge in inflation is one of the tell-tale indicators of a recession.

1. broblawsky

Median sales for new houses and all houses follow very similar trends; the Fed just reports all-houses prices less frequently (quarterly instead of monthly), so I prefer to follow the new-houses reports.

2. baconbits9

They have done, which is different from they do. What you really want for home price trends is the case-shiller index as that tracks same home sales. This will prevent many potential anomalies from spoiling your predictions as either of the two measures you mention can be shifted via composition changes that might not tell you what you think it is telling you.

3. broblawsky

> They have done, which is different from they do.

Over the entire 56-year history of the two series, they’ve never differed from each other by more than 3%. Assuming that they’ll continue to track together seems to be an extremely safe bet to me.

> What you really want for home price trends is the case-shiller index as that tracks same home sales. This will prevent many potential anomalies from spoiling your predictions as either of the two measures you mention can be shifted via composition changes that might not tell you what you think it is telling you.

The commonly available Case-Shiller index only goes back to 1987, while the HUD data goes back to 1963. (I recognize that Shiller himself has published data that goes back farther, but I’m not sure how well it compares to the more modern data.) I feel that that’s enough of a difference to justify using the HUD data; the fact that the Case-Shiller index overweighs single-family homes as compared to multi-family also makes it less useful for gauging housing price changes in cities.

4. baconbits9

Over the entire 56-year history of the two series, they’ve never differed from each other by more than 3%

So you can get better accuracy by using a better metric, and assuming they will track together in the future is a pointless risk when both are readily available.

The commonly available Case-Shiller index only goes back to 1987, while the HUD data goes back to 1963. (I recognize that Shiller himself has published data that goes back farther, but I’m not sure how well it compares to the more modern data.) I feel that that’s enough of a difference to justify using the HUD data

The methodology (despite its flaws) of C-S is far superior, the extra data doesn’t actually give us better information. Using medianhome prices instead of case-shiller gives you a very different view of the housing bubble. Median home prices gives the impression of a 20 year uptrend with fairly steady gains and maybe a higher than previous rate of growth for the last 3ish years. Zooming all the way out it looks like a 30-40 year up trend with a few years at the end that are maybe boom prices.

5. broblawsky

So you can get better accuracy by using a better metric, and assuming they will track together in the future is a pointless risk when both are readily available.

The all-houses data isn’t readily available, that’s my point – since its only reported on a quarterly basis, it’s frequently very out of date. The last point in the all-houses data was reported on March 5, and only covered up to the end of December 2018. The new-houses data is more recent and, again, doesn’t substantially differ from the all-houses data. If you prefer the greater precision of the all-houses data, I respect that. Two people can have different priorities in data collection.

The methodology (despite its flaws) of C-S is far superior, the extra data doesn’t actually give us better information. Using medianhome prices instead of case-shiller gives you a very different view of the housing bubble. Median home prices gives the impression of a 20 year uptrend with fairly steady gains and maybe a higher than previous rate of growth for the last 3ish years. Zooming all the way out it looks like a 30-40 year up trend with a few years at the end that are maybe boom prices.

Plotting the two on the same chart does show a less extreme peak for the median all-sales data than for the Case-Shiller data (155.7 for median vs 184.4 for Case-Shiller, both indexed to Jan 200), but I don’t see how that’s an inherently less valuable insight into the price appreciation than the Case-Shiller data. Both show similar Y-o-Y gains. Additionally, the greater temporal scope of the median sales price data allows us to find historical precedents for the 2008 housing crash, such as the 1987 housing bubble.

The slow down in home price growth is probably necessary as it had been carrying on in excess of incomes for several years. The fact that it’s a slow down and not a more rapid fall is also a good thing.

Underwriting on mortgages is also stricter now than it was in 2006, so I don’t anticipate a relatively smaller increase in foreclosures resulting in the kind of chain reaction to the financial system.

This doesn’t refute your point necessarily, only to point out that people shouldn’t assume that the absence of unsustainable home price growth is a red flag of impending doom.

I do think a recession in some form is probable, if not before 2020 then immediately after. Hopefully given that it’s likely to be driven by rising business costs and not a collapse in the financial system it will be relatively mild.

16. Le Maistre Chat

The oldest example, IIRC, would be the Bible, which gives a simple Table of Nations in Genesis 10 where the 70 nations of the known world are assumed to be “races” deriving from 70 nomadic patriarchs who wandered away from the Tower of Babel. The Bible then goes on to trace Jewish ethnogenesis through Abraham’s grandson Jacob/Israel, a United Monarchy of his descendants, and then the formation of a separate Kingdom of Judah.

In the Iliad, we find a much more complex story. The people who crossed the Aegean to besiege Troy and all speak the same language are called “Achaeans” or “Danaans” by Homer, without explaining his terms. Much later sources, starting with Aeschylus, explain “Danaans” as the tribe of Danaos… a brother of the King of Egypt who fled to the Argolid. As for “Achaeans”, it’s first explained in the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women as referring to half the descendants of one Xuthus, a grandson of Deucalion, whose family started moving south from Thessaly after the Flood. Xuthus is given another son, Ion, and brothers named Aeolus and Dorus, to explain the origin of tribes speaking different dialects of the same language. Later authors repeated with significant consistency an origin story where the Hellenic language was introduced from the north, there were already indigenous people called the Pelasgians, and they got their civilization from Egyptian and Phoenician (e.g. Cadmus of Thebes) heroes.

Another interesting, though almost certainly false, story of ethnogenesis through the meeting of indigenous people and peripatetic heroes is the Prose Edda‘s story of how Odin led a band of his kinfolk, the Aesir, from Troy in Asia through Germany to Sweden, where he used his advanced knowledge to trick the indigenous chief Glyfi into accepting him as king and a god.

1. Lambert

Is there any ethnicity that *hasn’t* been “traced back” to the Trojans?

Romulus and Remus: decendants of Æneas.
Vikings: decendants of Æneas.
King Arthur: You bloody well guessed it. Descendant of Æneas.

2. dndnrsn

Speaking of people descended from ancient heroes, fun fact: according to family legend, Gary Gygax’s family was descended from Goliath. After his unfortunate run-in with a slingstone, Goliath’s family somehow ended up in Switzerland, and from there the US.

3. Lambert

I’d have speculated he was descended from a Lydian with a ring of invisibility, myself.

(via the Etruscans and Raeti, of course)

4. Douglas Knight

What do you mean that the Iliad has a complex story? The only complexity you mention is the pair of synonyms. The complexity seems to be in later stories.

The only time Homer mentions Pelasgians, it is to describe Larissa as Pelasgian. Larissa in Thessaly is considered Pelasgian. But Homer says that the Larissans fought for Troy, so everyone assumes he’s talking about a different place and a different meaning of Pelasgian. It’s a pretty weird coincidence. (Larissa in Thessaly is sometimes considered the home of Achilles, which would be pretty strong reason to think it different from Homer’s Larissa. But other times he is given a different home, usually in Thessaly.)

———

The Minoans were writing Greek by 1400, hundreds of years before the Bronze Age Collapse. If the language came from the north, then the people who brought it didn’t cause the Collapse. If the language came from the north and the Trojan war was part of the Collapse, then the ethnogenesis was already done before the story, so why doesn’t Homer’s language suggest it?

1. toastengineer

Everything seems to be heading that way. A couple months ago I saw some random journalist who pretty clearly wasn’t the kind of person who talks to our kind of people refer to pre-existing beliefs as “priors.”

2. tayfie

The ideas of rationalists and AI philosophers are more powerful than is commonly understood.

17. Eugene Dawn

Apparently Gene Wolfe has died. I expect many SSCers have read him and admire his work–others can probably say more than I, but my impression is he is one of the most well-regarded science-fiction authors, and frankly, writers in any genre. I’d be interested to read the tributes and recommendations of others who have read more of his work than I have.

1. Anatoly

Oh no, such terrible news! He was in a class of his own, truly one of the titans of the 20th century literature – ought to be generally recognized as such, but wasn’t and won’t be because of the straitjacket of genre, which is especially cruel in his case.

The Book of the New Sun is often recommended as the best of his writing (it’s a tetralogy later augmented by a fifth novel, but they’re short – all five together is fewer words than one of G.R.R.Martin’s door-stoppers), but while I can’t praise it enough, it might also be quite dense and hard to read for a newcomer to Wolfe. I thought the compilation of short stories The Best of Gene Wolfe was excellent, and if someone desires longer works, The Fifth Head of Cerberus (a collection of three somewhat-related novellas, one of them bearing the same name) gives the reader, in terms of both its ideas and its prose, more than one could ever reasonably expect from a single book.

Seconding the recommendation for The Fifth Head of Cerberus (the novella itself) – I reread it last year and was struck by the sense of atmosphere he is able to create with his prose. Such a haunting, beautiful work. Perhaps my favourite SF short story, or certainly one of a very few that I remember and celebrate especially for their literary merit.

1. Eugene Dawn

I’ve the New Sun tetralogy and Peace, but not Fifth Head. It sounds like that’s probably the next most important Wolfe to read?

2. Deiseach

Sad news. Lux aeterna to his soul. He was a great writer; ingenious, infuriating, brain-melting, wonderful use of language and if the reader tripped themselves up by not taking careful note of what was going on, too bad for the reader.

1. Eugene Dawn

I only started reading Wolfe fairly recently, but I agree with all of the above. I’ve meant to re-read New Sun since I’ve only read it once, and I’m pretty sure ~80% of it went over my head, so maybe now is the time.

18. Aapje

Just after WW I, a political movement published a list of demands that I reproduce below*. This was the declaration of their political stance.

Your mission/task, if you choose to accept it, is to read this list and judge the movement on various axes, on a scale from 0 to 100 (you can copy/paste this list and add your score after each one):
– conservative vs progressive:
– capitalist vs socialist:
– authoritarian vs libertarian:
– elitist vs populist:
– nationalist vs globalist:

So a score of 0 for ‘conservative vs progressive’ means that you think that the movement is extremely radically conservative and a score of 100 means that you think they are extremely radically progressive. A score of 50 would then be centrist. Please keep the era in mind when scoring.

Please try to avoid spoilers in your comment, if you figure out which movement it is (use ROT13 if necessary).

Changes to politics

– Universal suffrage with a lowered voting age to 18 years, and voting and electoral office eligibility for all age 25 and up
– Proportional representation on a regional basis
– Voting for women
– Representation at government level of newly created national councils by economic sector
– The formation of a national council of experts for labor, for industry, for transportation, for the public health, for communications, etc. Selections to be made of professionals or of tradesmen with legislative powers, and elected directly to a general commission with ministerial powers.

Changes to labor and social policy

– The quick enactment of a law of the state that sanctions an eight-hour workday for all workers
– A minimum wage
– The participation of workers’ representatives in the functions of industry commissions
– To show the same confidence in the labor unions (that prove to be technically and morally worthy) as is given to industry executives or public servants
– Reorganization of the railways and the transport sector
– Revision of the draft law on invalidity insurance
– Reduction of the retirement age from 65 to 55

Changes to military policy

– Creation of a short-service national militia with specifically defensive responsibilities
– Armaments factories are to be nationalized
– A peaceful but competitive foreign policy

Changes to financial policy

– A strong progressive tax on capital (envisaging a “partial expropriation” of concentrated wealth)
– The seizure of all the possessions of the religious congregations and the abolition of religious authority, which constitute an enormous liability on the Nation and on the privileges of the poor
– Revision of all contracts for military provisions
– The revision of all military contracts and the seizure of 85 percent of the profits therein

* I left out one demand that is too peculiar to a specific country.

1. Faza (TCM)

Point for point, this looks to me like Gur Znavsrfgb bs gur Vgnyvna Snfpv bs Pbzong (taken verbatim from Wikipedia, if I’m any judge).

1. Faza (TCM)

I didn’t. I checked the wiki to make sure I was right.

Otherwise, I’m with Plumber on the rating challenge. If I were to attempt an unbiased rating, I’d rate the entire thing as leaning towards:
– progressive,
– socialist,
– authoritarian,
– populist,
– nationalist.

1. Eric Rall

That was my guess, too. I declined to rate the party on the dimensions given because I was confident enough in my guess that it would have been hard to keep that from informing my ratings.

2. Plumber

@Aapje,

Since which political movement this is is far too easy to guess it’s too hard for me to rate the individual agenda items.

1. Aapje

Fair enough. I’d like to see how people rate it who don’t guess the answer or who can rate the items at face value.

3. fion

– conservative vs progressive: 60
– capitalist vs socialist: 45
– authoritarian vs libertarian: no information
– elitist vs populist: 60
– nationalist vs globalist: 40

4. Garrett

I think I know which movement this is (I’ll check after rating).
– conservative vs progressive: About 75. Expanding the franchise was pretty radical at that point.
– capitalist vs socialist: 90. Lots of removal of control/ownership over capital.
– authoritarian vs libertarian: 30. Fairly strong-arm, but narrow in scope of life.
– elitist vs populist: 60, but bi-modal. Creation of eg. industry councils is pretty elitist. Otherwise populist.
– nationalist vs globalist: 40, but weakly. Other than explicit defensive responsibilities and maybe reduction of foreign religious influence, it’s domestic rather than foreign policy.

Checking hypothesis: Yep – I guessed correctly.

5. Eponymous

You request an answer at higher detail and precision than I can provide without excess effort.

Overall the platform seems fairly leftist. Maybe 3/10.

For the other dimensions I will answer using somewhat vague language. I would call the platform populist, socialist, and authoritarian. It’s not globalist, but not sure it could really be called nationalist, so maybe 5/10 on that one.

I guessed before looking that this is a movement one would typically consider conservative.

I learned something new today, so thank you.

6. Zeno of Citium

0———————————–100
conservative vs progressive: 90
capitalist vs socialist: 70
authoritarian vs libertarian: 40
elitist vs populist: 90
nationalist vs globalist: 40

Due to the context you gave and the way these things normally go, I think that this is gur cyngsbez bs gur Anmvf, onpx jura gurl jrer znxvat cbchyvfg, fbpvnyvfg cebzvfrf gb gel naq trg vagb cbjre. Snmn fnvq orybj gung vg’f sebz gur Vgnyvna snfpvfgf vafgrnq, juvpu znxrf zber frafr tvira gur cbvag nobhg gur puhepu.

7. Edward Scizorhands

– conservative vs progressive: 80
– capitalist vs socialist: 75
– authoritarian vs libertarian: 25
– elitist vs populist: 80
– nationalist vs globalist: 30

Considered, but rejected based on “The seizure of all the possessions of the religious congregations and the abolition of religious authority, which constitute an enormous liability on the Nation and on the privileges of the poor.”

2. Eric Rall

“Representation at government level of newly created national councils by economic sector” was my primary clue. The leader of the party in question had originally been a yrsg-nanepuvfg, fcrpvsvpnyyl n Flaqvpnyvfg. Yrsg-nanepuvfgf trarenyyl jnag cevingr bjarefuvc bs gur zrnaf bs cebqhpgvba gb or nobyvfurq, ohg abg genafsreerq gb gur Fgngr (guvf orvat n xrl qvssrerapr orgjrra yrsg-nanepuvfgf naq pbzzhavfgf). Flaqvpnyvfgf va cnegvphyne cebcbfr gb genafsre pbageby bs gur zrnaf bs cebqhpgvba gb pbhapvyf gung znantr rnpu vaqhfgel be rpbabzvp frpgbe.

Gur anmvf jrer nyfb n shfvba bs ryrzragf bs gur eribyhgvbanel yrsg naq gur angvbanyvfg/zvyvgnevfg evtug, ohg gurve ebbgf va gur yrsg jrer n ybg yrff fcrpvsvp guna gubfr bs gur Vgnyvna snfpvfgf.

3. sharper13

That was my initial thought, as its similar enough, but having had occasion (during a different recent set of SSC comments) to read their specific platform, this is zvffvat n ybg bs gur angvbanyvfg-eryngrq eurgbevp, fb V thrff gur vgnyvna irefvba nf svggvat orggre (haven’t checked to be sure).

8. Nornagest

Solidly progressive, weakly socialist in a 1918 context, authoritarian, leaning towards populist, not enough foreign policy demands to make a call on nationalism vs. globalism. Call it 85, 65, 25, 60, ?.

(V jbhyq unir thrffrq gur Anmvf, orpnhfr vg’f nyjnlf gur Anmvf jura fbzrbar znxrf n yvfg yvxr guvf, ohg gurl onfvpnyyl qvqa’g rkvfg va 1918 fb V’z tbvat gb thrff gur Snfpvfgf vafgrnq.)

9. Clutzy

– conservative vs progressive: 80
– capitalist vs socialist: 80
– authoritarian vs libertarian: 5
– elitist vs populist: 50
– nationalist vs globalist: 50

10. bullseye

Changes to politics

Lowered voting age and age of office: Progressive, I guess? Only because younger people tend to be more progressive.

Proportional representation: Populist, I guess? Only because incumbents oppose this type of change because they might lose their jobs.

Women’s suffrage: Progressive.

Representation in government of national councils of economic sectors: Socialist or capitalist, depending on whether it’s labor or capital on the councils.

National council of experts with actual power: Elitist.

Changes to labor and social policy
Overall socialist. Reorganizing the railways and transport sector is authoritarian (unless it’s already under government control). I don’t know what the draft law on invalidity insurance is.

Changes to military policy
Creation of a militia: Conservative and nationalist, I guess?
Nationalize weapons factories: Socialist, authoritarian, maybe conservative and nationalist if it’s done for national security reasons
Peaceful but competitive foreign policy: nationalist (because of the competitive part; nobody says they like war)

Changes to financial policy
Tax the rich: socialist
Seize religious property for the sake of the poor: socialist, progressive, authoritarian
Seizing profits from military contractors: socialist, authoritarian

– conservative vs progressive: 50
– capitalist vs socialist: 90
– authoritarian vs libertarian: 0
– elitist vs populist: 60 (low confidence; not many data points here)
– nationalist vs globalist: 30 (low confidence; not many data points here)

Onfrq ba jub V xabj gurfr crbcyr ner, gurl jrer (be pynvzrq gb or) zber cebterffvir, fbzrjung zber fbpvnyvfg, naq yrff cbchyvfg gung V jbhyq unir rkcrpgrq. Fbzr bs gur qvssrerag zvtug or gung V’z zber snzvyvne jvgu gur Trezna irefvba.

1. Nornagest

National council of experts with actual power: Elitist.

Would be elitist in a 2019 context, but in a 1918 context it’s more likely being held up in opposition to traditional power of some sort. Similarly, creating a militia and nationalizing weapons factories wouldn’t likely be read as conservative a hundred years ago.

1. Clutzy

Not really. The platform is very Wilsonian who was a Harvard president and very much an elitist. That was basically the progressive platform. The militia would have been conservative in a 1918 American context because it would have been contrasted with a standing army which is less conservative, but I don’t know how that changes in Europe, and nationalizing the underlying factories for war has not been a conservative position anywhere since like the 1700s.

11. Aapje

I calculated the averages of the answers so far, which are:
– conservative vs progressive: 73.3
– capitalist vs socialist: 72.5
– authoritarian vs libertarian: 24
– elitist vs populist: 68.3
– nationalist vs globalist: 36

So quite progressive, socialist, authoritarian, populist and nationalist.

This list is from the Snfpvfg Znavsrfgb nxn gur Znavsrfgb bs gur Vgnyvna Snfpv bs Pbzong. Guvf cnegl jnf sbhaqrq ol Zhffbyvav, nygubhtu gur znavsrfgb jnf jevggra ol bguref.

Vagrerfgvatyl, gur snfpvfgf qvq cbbeyl va gur ryrpgvbaf naq gura cvibgrq gb n qvssrerag ntraqn, sbphfrq zhpu zber ba zvyvgnel ntterffvba, yrorafenhz naq enpvny fhcrevbevgl.

V’z jbexvat ba n zber rkgrafvir pbzzrag gb qvir qrrcre vagb gur bevtvany snfpvfg ntraqn naq ubj gur Qhgpu ner gur gehr snfpvfgf (uzzz, znl abg jnag gb chg vg yvxr gung :C )

19. Paul Brinkley

Apparently this is the bet witness thread.

I have bet Robi Rahman that a Republican will win the 2020 presidential election (likely Trump, or Pence if Trump should have to leave for medical reasons), at 3:2 odds – my \$120 against his \$80. As of now, it’s in writing. Interestingly, both of us think this is easy money.

Much of my reasoning is informed by Keys to the White House, which, by my interpretation, had the incumbent getting six keys, losing one, and probably losing three more, leaving three tossups. One of those tossups, however, was a Mueller conviction (scandal), and that flipped. A future scandal is certainly possible, but my tea leaves estimate Trump being likely to lock up two more keys. (I estimated 85% chance of this last year, which was what motivated Robi to email me with a wager offer. It was a good offer; the offered odds were more favorable to me, and I feel deservedly sheepish that even so, I had to think carefully – suggesting that I should probably not have said 85%.)

1. J Mann

I’m fairly certain I will prefer Trump to the Democratic nominee, which depresses me more than I can easily express.

1. J Mann

Trump’s ineffectual, offensive, and divisive, but he picks good judges (from my perspective).

He has limited ability to plan or to execute a plan, which reduces the damage he can do, but also probably limits forward progress except in areas where he outsources to someone with a good plan, like judges and criminal justice reform. He’s destroying a lot of promising conservatives just by having them be around him, which is depleting the bench. If there’s an actual crisis with a non-obvious answer, we’re in trouble. His style of politics and is damaging both sides by encouraging demagoguery on both sides.

Biden is old guard, so he’s probably “awful, but awful within normal parameters,” as PJ O’Rourke said in his endorsement of Hillary last time. Like Trump, he’s also undisciplined, so he might not get much done, and like Trump, he seems to be a little racist.

If we get college funding, health care, abortion, gun, foreign policy or climate reform, I don’t expect it to be bipartisan – the Dems will declare some combination of “we can’t work with the Republicans/we proposed something that Rick Wilson says is classic Republican values/ and/or we won” and jam something I hate down my throat.

I’d love to find a way to climb down from maximalist politics on both sides, but I’m stuck hoping that any Dem who wins is about as ineffectual as Trump has been.

So maybe Biden, yeah, but if the net effect of a president is whether we pick Federalist Society judges or ACS judges, and whether we support Netanyahu and oppose Maduro or the other way around, I guess I prefer Trump to Biden. (Yuck).

2. albatross11

Twitter et al massively accelerate the culture war purity spiral, and politicians for the most part just follow their incentives. So I imagine we’ll get some pretty horrible choice from the Democratic side, perhaps someone who’s as scary and offensive to mainstream Republicans as Trump is to mainstream Democrats.

1. Watchman

Seems a sensible bet to me. Apart from anything else I’d argue that the media hostility to Trump will lower the likelihood of people indicating they will support him, meaning polling will indicate a stronger Democrat lead than actually exists.

1. broblawsky

That wasn’t the case in the midterms, though – polling proved to be fairly accurate in that case. I think the pro-Trump echo chamber in which many of Trump’s supporters exist minimizes that effect.

2. Eponymous

Predictit currently has the GOP winning the presidency selling at 44c. Does this discrepancy lead you to question your prediction? Also, why are you accepting a bet at much worse than market odds?

I haven’t thought it over very carefully, but 44% seems reasonable to me. Trump is very unpopular, and I tend to think that counts for something in politics.

1. John Schilling

Predictit had Trump at \$0.22 the day before the 2016 election, and \$0.26 for Brexit the day before the referendum.

Existing prediction markets are overrated, as their caps and fee structures cannot adequately incentivize the level of effort reliable forecasting requires. As with e.g. lottery tickets, the weak financial return is reinforced by the emotional return, in this case the expected positive experience of “I have joined with my colleagues in Wisely Predicting(tm) the Good Thing that we all really wanted”, and since prediction markets are mostly a cosmopolitan liberal(ish) thing, they will overpredict victories for cosmopolitan liberalism.

If they’re predicting 44% for Trump, we’re probably getting four more years of Trump. But it’s a year and a half until the election, so don’t loose hope just yet.

1. Eponymous

Predictit had Trump at \$0.22 the day before the 2016 election, and \$0.26 for Brexit the day before the referendum.

Just because a predictor has assigned low probability to something twice doesn’t mean it’s a bad predictor in general.

Are you claiming that predictit is miscalibrated in general, or that it’s just miscalibrated with respect to a particular identifiable reference class of events that contains the 2016 election and Brexit? And how confident are you in prospectively assigning the 2020 election to this reference class?

Existing prediction markets are overrated, as their caps and fee structures cannot adequately incentivize the level of effort reliable forecasting requires.

Agreed. But I would expect the deviations to be within a certain margin, such that assigning a 44c price to an event that correct analysis of publicly available data assigns an 85% probability to would be quite unlikely. Particularly since “2020 winner” is probably one of their largest volume markets.

And while I don’t take market prices as the Word of God, and my reservations apply doubly to low-volume/cap political prediction markets, I think you are taking an overly dismissive attitude towards the information they do provide.

and since prediction markets are mostly a cosmopolitan liberal(ish) thing, they will overpredict victories for cosmopolitan liberalism.

Do you have any empirical evidence for this claim? I mean, besides the two examples you cite above?

If they’re predicting 44% for Trump, we’re probably getting four more years of Trump. But it’s a year and a half until the election, so don’t loose hope just yet.

How confident are you about my political views? Your predictive record is not looking too hot.

1. John Schilling

How confident are you about my political views?

I have not even speculated about your political views. I have made an assertion about the differential political views of predictit forecasters vs. US/UK voters, about which I am fairly confident.

Your predictive record is not looking too hot.

Which predictions are you referring to, and do you imagine them to have been falsified by events or does “not looking too hot” mean only that they disagree with your own predictions?

2. Eponymous

I interpreted your closing sentence to mean that *I* should not lose hope that the GOP would lose the 2020 election, despite your thinking it unlikely. What else did you mean by it?

And I’m far from sure that traders on political prediction markets have any particular political tilt or bias. Though I have been monitoring the surprising recent performances of Yang and Buttigieg.

3. greenwoodjw

@Eponymous

I read it as a snarky “I predict Trump will win but it’s a year+ out so anything can happen and the Dems could still win”

4. John Schilling

It was intended as more of a side note along the lines of “your implied prediction of Trump’s probable defeat could still be validated by events; you may be right in the end”, but I can see how it would be read as a claim that you actively desired Trump’s defeat. I should have been more precise, and I apologize for the confusion.

2. Dan L

Predictit had Trump at \$0.22 the day before the 2016 election, and \$0.26 for Brexit the day before the referendum.

Did you pick these examples because they’re especially valuable from a statistical standpoint, or because they were surprising results? If you’re explicitly filtering for surprising results, do you think you’re saying much about calibration? What do you think the true probabilistic odds for those events were?

I do think that prediction markets have systemic errors, but my current working theory is that they tend to be biased in favor of over-correcting for events weighted by perceived narrative importance.

1. Dan L

I should elaborate – I also agree that there are demographic factors at play that skew online predictions markets, but these are not quite as one-dimensional as “+X point for Democrats”. Andrew Yang is the internet’s candidate these days, but before him there was Ron Paul 2012.

3. Tatterdemalion

The presidency has only changed parties twice in four years once since 1900.

Since the war, the “date and eight” law,

Democrats_win = date & 8;

has only been wrong once.

That for the Republicans to lose the presidency this soon after gaining it would be virtually unprecedented doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but I think it’s grounds for pessimism.

1. Jiro

This is p-hacking. You can find an arbitrary characteristic of pretty much any election to make pretty much any prediction you want based on how that arbitrary characteristic worked out in the past.

1. greenwoodjw

There are understood mechanisms behind this specific phenomena, however. The 8-year cycle isn’t some arbitrary characteristic but a major element in the election.

1. Hoopyfreud

This exchange nicely illustrates why causal inference based on natural experiments is messy, hard, and necessary.

2. Aapje

@Jiro

It’s not arbitrary. One of the reasons for term limits is that incumbents have a natural advantage due to people by default being risk averse.

1. Aapje

If you see this as an incorrect bias it makes sense.

Most democratic system don’t give the voters maximum freedom to get what they want, for a reason.

20. Heterosteus

So, water memory.

In the last few months I’ve twice (independently) ended up in a conversation with someone who insisted that water memory is totally a thing, that the story I’d absorbed from the secular community (which revolves around the research done in France around 1990) is “old news”, and that I don’t know what I’m talking about when I say it’s been debunked and is in fact a textbook example of the importance of proper experimental blinding. One of them made repeated reference to “the Japanese studies” as the current state of the art in the area.

Now, I’m obviously very sceptical, partly because water memory was always a pretty silly idea and partly because both of these people were fairly kooky, but in terms of epistemic virtue I don’t want to go on confidently basing my beliefs on 30-year-old data if the supporters of water memory think they have something newer and better.

1. Aapje

I know that this is the theory behind homeopathy. I know that studies have shown that homeopathy doesn’t work.

1. Heterosteus

I know that this is the theory behind homeopathy. I know that studies have shown that homeopathy doesn’t work.

Well, with homeopathy you have studies showing it doesn’t work at a high level (i.e. that it doesn’t perform better than placebo in treating actual patients) and at a low level (i.e. that there’s no water memory effect when the study is properly blinded). I’m talking specifically about the low level here.

I think if I was convinced water memory was a thing it still wouldn’t convince me that homeopathy works (because of the high-level studies) but it would make me much less resistant to counter-evidence in favour of homeopathy in the future.

2. vV_Vv

One of them made repeated reference to “the Japanese studies” as the current state of the art in the area.

Probably this nonsense:

“In 2008, Emoto published his findings in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, a peer reviewed scientific journal of the Society for Scientific Exploration.[17] The work was conducted and authored by Masaru Emoto and Takashige Kizu of Emoto’s own IHM General Institute, along with Dean Radin and Nancy Lund of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, which is on Stephen Barrett’s Quackwatch list of questionable organizations.[18] In the experiment, more than 1,900 of Emoto’s followers focused feelings of gratitude toward water stored in bottles, which was then frozen and its crystalline formations inspected.[10] The gratitude-focused crystals were rated slightly more “beautiful” than one set of control crystals and slightly less “beautiful” than the other controls. An objective comparison of the samples did not reveal any significant differences.[10]”

More generally, water memory is in the same league with cold fusion and psychokinesis as “theories” (more like system of beliefs) in search for observations, while actual scientific discovery proceeds from initial observations to hypothesis to verification.

Often a proponent of pseudoscientific theory can cite some last study that hasn’t been debunked yet, either non peer-reviewed or published in some allegedly peer-reviewed but shit-tier pay-to-publish journal. This isn’t great evidence for their claim, because the basic premise of how they do research is upside down: if you only look for confirmatory evidence you will always eventually run an experiment where you will reject the null hypothesis.

1. rubberduck

I read the book! Emoto’s experiments had no blinding, not so much as a mention of controls, iirc the book doesn’t even give any actual numbers. A high school chemistry education would be enough to design better-thought-out experiments. In a series of trials in which water was frozen and the crystals were photographed, no mention is made of the temperature or pressure at which the ice was frozen, and the water was never deionized beforehand. The book aims to convince you by showing cherry-picked photographs of ice crystals and the analysis reads like the author is interpreting entrails. I remember one particular example was that water was taken from a lake in which a murder victim had been discovered, and crystals from the lake looked like they had the image of a screaming person.

Tl;dr: water memory theory is not worth anyone’s time.

3. JPNunez

Water only has memory if you hit it against a Bible after every dilution.

This is why we don’t see its devastating effects on potable water.

Bibles are forbidden in the premises of drinking water plants for this reason.

4. Robert Jones

Epistemic virtue doesn’t require you to do your own research before rejecting prima facie ludicrous ideas. It’s reasonable to reject water memory unless and until somebody shows you some convincing evidence in support.

5. Douglas Knight

It is more worthwhile to learn science in general than to pursue specific hypotheses. Also, general knowledge rules out specific hypotheses. In particular, the double slit experiment disproves water memory.

21. Andrew Hunter

I haven’t watched much Game of Thrones, though I’ve read (…the first four) books, and followed a lot of the discussion online (here, on places like The Ringer, etc) and watched a lot of Youtube clips. I went to a watch party tonight, though, and based on John Schilling’s persuasive arguments last week, I put up money against another attendee that Daenerys would end up on the Iron Throne. (He paid me \$20 for a future that pays \$50 iff she doesn’t.)

I think I got good value for money, but John, if you’re really as sure as you claim, I am happy to hedge against you…

1. John Schilling

If there’s room for hedging, I think it is mostly in the realm of power-sharing arrangements where Daenerys wields at least as much power as anyone else in Westeros but e.g. is co-monarch with Jon or maybe the Seven Kingdoms are formally dissolved and Dany winds up with a position equal or greater than any single King. If there’s an Iron Throne with a single unambiguous behind firmly planted on it at the close of S8E6, I’m at least 80% confident it will be Dany’s,

1. Andrew Hunter

I meant hedging in the sense that I’d bet the opposite side of my previous wager with you at appropriate odds, though again your position as stated here seems good. Presumably if you’re as sure as you claim you’d be willing to offer me good odds. 🙂

2. gbdub

I don’t think this is particularly likely, but I like this as a fun prediction:

Jon sacrifices himself to save Dany at some point (maybe he and the Night King mutually off each other). This neatly ties up his discomfort over claiming even a rightful kingship for himself, and the viewers squickiness over the incest angle.

Dany of course can’t have children, and thus the Targaryen line will die with her (probably plunging the kingdoms back into civil war). She also realizes that Jon was more noble than her, and is heartbroken at his death.

Varys, Davos, Tyrion, and maybe Sam convince Dany to set up some sort of Roman Republic type structure.

1. Nornagest

There’s a prophecy saying that Dany can’t have children until a long list of seemingly impossible things happen, but prophecies are notoriously slippery at the best of times and moreso than usual in this series. Her current character arc starts with one prophecy she’s involved in literally going up in smoke (and incidentally fulfilling another one, although the “born in salt and smoke” deal could refer to a half-dozen characters in different ways). I don’t think it’s safe to call it a done deal just yet, although the evidence does seem to point that way.

1. John Schilling

Because of the usual answer to the question “why do/did/will they do that?”: money. Dany not getting the Iron Throne would annoy a great many fans and critics, which would affect HBO’s profits going forward.

Jon Snow fans are by this point either ex-fans or OK with him being the one who suffers and sacrifices so that others may live; they’d be happy to see him on the Iron Throne but they won’t be unhappy to see him die heroically or settle for a lesser prize. And critics are more likely to appreciate him for the nuanced storytelling and character development than for the Empowered Strong Womyn Giving What For to the Bad Bad Men aspect that often dominates “critical” discussion of Dany.

Jon Snow not getting to sit on the Iron Throne doesn’t result in much of anyone saying “Humph! So I guess I’m not buying the DVD box set after all!”, nor cancelling their HBO subscription in the expectation that whatever comes next will betray them too. Doesn’t result in thinkfluencers voxsplaining to the web that HBO should be ashamed for teasing the audiences with promises of feminine empowerment but ultimately giving supreme power to some man in the end. Same goes for e.g. Tyrion Lannister, or any other otherwise-plausible contender.

With Dany, it does. Her plot has been narrowly focused such that any other outcome will be a giant shaggy dog story, a betrayal of the expectations that have been raised in her fandom, and vulnerable to charges of misogyny. That means unhappy viewers and unhappy critics, and less money for HBO.

1. J Mann

Wow, that’s cynical. (Which is not to say it’s wrong. If anything, it makes me take your theory more seriously.)

Do you think the dragons live? Because letting two dragons live would be the biggest fanservice HBO could do for me – I expect them to die, and it makes me sad every time I see them.

How about these endings for a combination of: Benioff & Weiss can sell it to the suits and it’s consistent with the ending bullet points Martin told them way back when:

1) Dany dies heroically along with her dragon. In grief, Jon declares the Seven Kingdoms free of the Iron Throne once and for all and flies away on Viseryon, and Sansa is Queen of the North. (This is the ending I’m leaning towards. It would add some of the same shock as when Ned died, and IMHO complete everyone’s character arc.)

2) Dany, Jon and the dragons live, but they fly away like King Arthur or Frodo to leave all this tiresome ruling behind them, just like Robert proposed to Ned back in Season One. The Seven Kingdoms go on, but their heros, and magic, are out there somewhere.

2. John Schilling

I’m less confident about the dragons than about Dany, but if she lives, they probably live.

And being consistent to the plot points Martin secretly gave them way back when is mostly irrelevant, because those plot points are still secret and Martin hasn’t gotten around to writing the books. If he had written the books, then conspicuously deviating from the books’ ending would also have been a dealbreaker for enough fans to give HBO pause. Orlando Bloom as Legolas may have had more sqeeeing fangirls than Wood/Frodo ever did, but Peter Jackson still could not have gotten away with having Legolas show up at Mt. Doom and throw Gollum into the fires, ring and all. If Tolkein had left LoTR unfinished for Jackson to complete, he probably could have.

Without the final books, the only thing HBO has to be consistent with is the plot and characters as presented to date. Dany’s plot and character have both been laser-focused on the path to the Iron Throne, which is now within her plausible reach; she’s about the only one in the story that doesn’t have an off ramp without the stink of loserdom attached..

3. Enkidum

I’ve read you discussing GoT in several threads now and I think honestly your cynicism is way beyond the bounds of rationality.

Here’s a very simple hypothesis that I think is supported by all the existing evidence: Martin has had the broad outlines of the story firmly in place since the 90’s, including who sits on the throne at the end and which of the major characters will die. These outlines have never changed. He has had extensive conversations with the show runners to ensure they understand what this is, and there will be no major deviations from his vision.

This should be the default assumption of us all, since it is what everyone involved has stated. If you have some kind of evidence to the contrary, it would be interesting to hear it.

Yes, Dany will almost certainly end up on the Iron Throne (or she will die in some kind of insanely noble sacrifice that cements her as the true heroine of the books). Most likely married to Jon. That’s what the books and show have been explicitly foreshadowing from the beginning. This is not because of the the evil feminazis or whatever, it’s because that’s what Martin has always planned.

4. Randy M

If you have some kind of evidence to the contrary, it would be interesting to hear it.

I think Martin being unable to flesh out the outline and actually produce the concluding books is some evidence against there being one. There certainly are competing explanations for him not finishing, though probably none as favorable to him as a writer as simply not knowing where to go satisfactorily.

That said, who the eventual winner is was probably something he had in mind from before starting, so if that’s all we’re talking about, sure.

5. John Schilling

I’ve read you discussing GoT in several threads now and I think honestly your cynicism is way beyond the bounds of rationality.
[…]
This is not because of the the evil feminazis or whatever,

Pot. Kettle. Black. I mean, “evil feminazis”? Really?

And I’m not sure whether to be annoyed or amused by the fact that you are predicting the same outcome as I am but insisting that you are wise and I am petty because of your non-cynical reason for expecting the same outcome. If you actually want to engage on this, I’m going to ask for either a less insulting tone or a falsifiable prediction.

6. J Mann

If you have some kind of evidence to the contrary, it would be interesting to hear it.

I think Martin being unable to flesh out the outline and actually produce the concluding books is some evidence against there being one.

Some evidence, sure, but IMHO, I think it’s pretty likely that Martin, Benioff and Weiss have told the truth – they’ve all said that during development, Martin gave B&W several bullet points of how he was planning to continue and end the series, 2 or 3 of which B&W claim blew their minds. They’ve confirmed that “Hold the door” was one of them, and I think everyone assumes Jon’s parentage was another.

So I think it’s very likely that Martin told them, at least in broad strokes, how he saw the series ending. Of course, they have no obligation to follow those strokes, and it’s entirely possible that of Martin ever finishes the books, he may change some of those details himself.

7. Randy M

You know what? Nevermind all that. I’m slightly annoyed at being out of the loop because I forgot enough of what I read to not bother with Dances with Dragons between the time it and the previous book came out–but I’m really not someone who should hector anybody about procrastination.

8. Nick

Of course, they have no obligation to follow those strokes, and it’s entirely possible that of Martin ever finishes the books, he may change some of those details himself.

There’s some speculation that this is part of the delay—that Martin wants the books to differ from the show. It feels overdetermined, to me, since as I said last thread I think it’s explained well enough by his having certain “knots” he’s struggling to resolve.

9. Enkidum

thinkfluencers voxsplaining to the web that HBO should be ashamed for teasing the audiences with promises of feminine empowerment but ultimately giving supreme power to some man in the end

You have been arguing, as I read it, that due to perceived pressure from unreasonable and contemptible left-wing/feminist fans, HBO will put Dany on the throne. I do think this is tinfoil-hat territory, and “evil feminazis” seems a pretty straightforward summary of the view.

My prediction, as I said, and you have noted, is also that Dany ends up on the throne. If not, she ends up sacrificing herself such that it’s apparent she was the real hero of the story (there are plenty of subsidiary heroes).

Because, you know, this what it’s been pretty clear from about midway through the first book was going to happen. You don’t need to hypothesize anything more than that. Yes, this fits in with the dominant left-wing intellectual/artistic currents of our time, because Martin is a fairly typical member of the Blue Tribe, with a bit more emphasis on unpleasantness and realpolitik than most.

I will add that there is straightforward evidence for my view: literally all the people involved have publicly stated that this is the case. There is absolutely none for yours, other than what I assume is a general dislike of feminist/left-wing artistic tropes.

OK I’m going too far into culture war territory (although it would have been very hard to reply without doing so). I will disengage unless there’s something new and politically neutral to argue.

10. Nancy Lebovitz

In the spirit of the show, maybe Dany and Jon get married, and then someone kills her.

I’d like to see Tyrion on the throne, but I’m not making any bets.

11. John Schilling

You have been arguing, as I read it, that due to perceived pressure from unreasonable and contemptible left-wing/feminist fans, HBO will put Dany on the throne. I do think this is tinfoil-hat territory, and “evil feminazis” seems a pretty straightforward summary of the view.

You have “read it” incorrectly, and very uncharitably so.

I have said nothing about fans being unreasonable, contemptible, left-wing, and/or feminist, only that they are fans of the character Daenerys Targarian and will not be satisfied with any lesser resolution of her storyline. This is not an unreasonable or contemptible position given the development of that story line to date, and it is independent of anyone’s gender.

I have, separately, said that critics have approached the character from a feminist perspective, and implied that I believe this to be unreasonable. Perhaps you can read that as “contemptible”.

Not sure where you get “left-wing” from support for hereditary absolute monarchy, unless you just treat “left-wing” and “feminist” as synonyms or are assuming that I do. “Left-wing” adds nothing but incendiary heat to the discussion, and that’s 100% on you.

And even if you read contempt into my discussion of critical opinion and misread that as applying to the entire fanbase, there are degrees of contempt and “feminazi” goes far, far beyond anything I have said or implied. That leap is quite insulting on your part – and also quite cynical, which makes you a doubly-insulting hypocrite for your opening with an accusation of unwarranted cynicism directed at me.

But as for warranted cynicism – I do in fact believe that a profitable media company might well deviate from the plot of an unpublished book for commercial gain, even as they tell fans that they will of course be faithful to the book. Is this really something you want to assert belongs in “tinfoil-hat territory”?

12. Enkidum

Personally I’d like to see Varys, but that’s not going to happen.

Tyrion and Sansa are, I think, the only other real contenders. Maybe Cersei, but she’s too clearly capital-E evil, and completely irrational now to boot.

13. Wrong Species

I’d like to see Tyrion on the throne, but I’m not making any bets.

Why Tyrion wouldd make a terrible ruler:

He’s a dwarf. Fair or not, image is important and it’s hard for people to respect someone half their size.

He’s a Lannister, who everyone hates, but without the fear, which is why people followed them. Beyond the Lannister name, he himself has his own issues that inspires few to follow him, like killing his own father.

He’s soft. Tyrion wants to win the war for the seven kingdoms without mass deaths. He tries all of these clever schemes to avoid bloodshed which end up simply prolonging the war and costing the Targaryen position dearly. Whoever wins will be in a precarious position and the moment anyone realizes that Tyrion isn’t willing to fight for his position, they’ll rebel.

And of course, he doesn’t have any legitimacy, certainly not compared to Jon or Daenaerys.

14. Enkidum

I apologize for misreading on the critics vs fans (although these days it’s hard to determine what the difference is). I wrote a bunch more pushing back on your feminist/left wing denials, but it is not a productive line of discussion, certainly not for a CW-free thread. I leave it aside.

Yes, I still think your cynical view is a silly one to hold. Because you’re taking a “could be” and arguing that it is in fact the case, which requires assuming that everyone involved is lying to us. Yes, it is possible that there is a conspiracy, but if it would work out exactly the same way without said conspiracy, I think that’s good reason not to believe in it.

Martin strikes me as a very different kind of person from Ronald D. Moore or J J Abrams, both people who are famous for not having a damn clue where their storylines were heading and making it up to most people’s dissatisfaction by the end. He is deconstructing the classic fantasy archetypes, but he’s been very clear that he is nevertheless telling a classic fantasy story, and one that he has had in mind since the beginning. There have been strong hints and prophecies throughout the books that Dany is the one who leads the final battle, and her entire arc bends this way.

Why would you think that the story working out the way most people expect it to is evidence of some sort of capitulation to external pressure? Again, do you have any evidence that this is actually what is happening?

15. A Definite Beta Guy

1) Dany dies heroically along with her dragon. In grief, Jon declares the Seven Kingdoms free of the Iron Throne once and for all and flies away on Viseryon, and Sansa is Queen of the North. (This is the ending I’m leaning towards. It would add some of the same shock as when Ned died, and IMHO complete everyone’s character arc.)

I kind of see something similar, except that Jon has to take a direct action to kill Dany that is necessary to defeat the Night King. Jon will refuse the throne and fly off into the sunset.
Tyrion and Sansa are left to pick up the wreckage, with them reupping their marriage and jointly sitting upon the Iron Throne.

Dany and Jon are not monarchs, they are essentially demi-gods and are going to Starbucks into Heaven when their purposes are filled. Sansa and Tyrion are the worldly rulers.

I agree with JS that I am concerned about this ending actually happening, because the last few seasons have basically involved the series going straight-fantasy-trope, and Dany fans want to see Dany on the throne.

Jon Snow fans don’t want to see Jon Snow on the throne, as Jon Snow doesn’t want the throne. All he ever wanted to do was hang out with Robb, make Ned happy, and be a badass Ranger.

16. Enkidum

Huh, I would like that ending (Jon and Dany dying, Sansa and Tyrion being the worldly rulers). Would be very satisfying for all concerned.

17. J Mann

I kind of see something similar, except that Jon has to take a direct action to kill Dany that is necessary to defeat the Night King.

That’s very good and makes a lot of sense. I don’t remember if the show has pointed out the legend of Azor Ahai, the Last Hero, etc., but it fits the books really well.

Alternately, a more crowd-pleasing alternative is for Dany to kill Jon, then fly away in grief, leaving the older and wiser heads of Varys, Davos, and Tyrion to try to forge some kind of progress.

(That also leaves open the possibility that Dany and/or her dragon are pregnant, and that we may see the return of Targs and their dragons when they are needed, which is nice and Arthurian).

18. A Definite Beta Guy

There have been strong hints and prophecies throughout the books that Dany is the one who leads the final battle, and her entire arc bends this way.

There are also strong hints that Dany would be a terrible ruler, and since she has almost been killed by assassins several times so far, Arya would likely kill her and plunge the nation into another civil war.

So Dany leading the final battle? Yup! Awesome.

Dany on Iron Throne? Ehhh…that worries me.

19. Enkidum

Fair, I think J Mann and Beta Guy have revised my prediction to be Dany-leads-final-battle-but-dies more likely than she ends up on the throne. Certainly I’d be more satisfied with that.

20. Nornagest

I’m assuming that one of the mind-blowing things is that Jamie is going to kill Cersei.

Man, I’ve suspected that since the late Nineties. It’s the obvious subversive thing to do with the valonquar bit, and it would be in character for him, with the proper motivation, as early as A Clash of Kings.

21. John Schilling

Martin strikes me as a very different kind of person from Ronald D. Moore or J J Abrams, both people who are famous for not having a damn clue where their storylines were heading and making it up to most people’s dissatisfaction by the end.

Yes, I agree. But we aren’t discussing the question of how the books will end, nor of how they would have ended if the show hadn’t gotten in the way. The television series is its own thing, and already very different from the books.

Why would you think that the story working out the way most people expect it to is evidence of some sort of capitulation to external pressure?

I’m not. I’m saying that external pressure will prevent the story from deviating from what most people expect. If Martin and Benioff and Weiss all privately wanted the conventional happy ending all along, the conventional happy ending will happen and the external pressure won’t have mattered. If Martin wants one of the tragic or semi-tragic endings that have been discussed here but B&W want the conventional happy ending, then the conventional happy ending will happen and the external pressure will perhaps have given B&W the ammunition they need to win any behind-the-scenes debates with people who want him to stay with Martin’s plan. And if M&B&W all privately want the unconventional tragic ending, then we’ll probably still get the conventional happy ending because B&W aren’t ready to retire. All paths lead to the same outcome, so I am highly confident of that outcome even without being privy to the private motives of the players.

22. J Mann

The story is that GRRM quizzed B&W about some things before giving them rights to the show, including asking who Jon’s parents were. B&W having the answer was a feather in their caps.

Yeah, you’re right. I was conflating that with B&W’s statement that GRRM revealed three shocking moments he had planned – the sacrifice of Shireen, hold the door, and a third moment from the “very end.”

If we assume there’s only one more GRRM-authored-wham-moment left in the show, and that the remaining GRRM shock is Jaime killing Cersei (which I agree seems likely), I guess that increases somewhat the chances of Jon and Dany ruling the Seven Kingdoms.

23. albatross11

Dani’s whole arc through the series has been all about getting to the Iron Throne, so it’s utterly implausible that she selflessly decides to fly away in grief on her dragon/step down for the good of the realm/declare Westeros a representative democracy and have Tyrion oversee the writing of the constitution/whatever. If she needs to incinerate Jon in a blast of dragonfire to finish off the Night King, she’ll feel really bad about it and cry for a day or two, and then go ahead with the coronation. If she’s pregnant with his child somehow (not supposed to be possible, but who knows?), so much the better.

Jon doesn’t want to be king, but probably would be good with being Dani’s husband/consort or being king in a dynastic marriage with her. He’d also be okay with her frying him with dragonfire to stop the Night King, if that was necessary.

Sansa wants power, probably mainly because she has experienced the consequences of being without it good and hard, and never intends to go through that stuff again. She can probably live with being Lady of Winterfell, but she’d likely be happier and feel safer sitting on the Iron Throne. I’m not sure she’ll ever manage to marry, though. (Tyrion, maybe–she’s at least fairly sure he’s not a monster. But it’s not like she’s going to be enthusiastic about some dynastic marriage where she puts herself in some powerful man’s hands anytime soon.)

Cersei also wants power, and probably can’t live as a subordinate ruler to Dani–Dani wouldn’t trust or accept her oath (nor should she), and the surviving Lanisters probably wouldn’t, either. Plus, she has made a long, long list of enemies who want her dead, so without a throne’s worth of power protecting her, she’s a goner, and she knows it.

Nobody else seems to have any plausible chance to take the Iron Throne.

If Dani dies, Jon or Sansa probably end up on the Iron Throne. If everyone dies, Cersei ends up on the Iron Throne, and maybe gives birth to her baby just before Arya kills her.

24. John Schilling

What’s “hold the door”? I assume it has to do with “Hodor!”

Major spoilers, albeit for last season:

“Ubqbe” qvrf fnivat Oena’f yvsr, ubyqvat gur qbbe ntnvafg n ubeqr bs gur Qrnq. Ng nobhg guvf gvzr, Oena gur Guerr-Rlrq Enira vf hfvat uvf Guveq Rlr Cbjref gb bofreir va gur cnfg gur ynetr ohg eryngviryl abezny puvyq anzrq “Jvylf” jub jvyy tebj hc gb orpbzr uvf yblny freinag naq cebgrpgbe naq jbaqrevat jul. Abg haqrefgnaqvat ubj uvf Guveq Rlr Cbjref ernyyl jbex, ur vanqiregragyl vzcerffrf ba Jvylf gung vg vf ernyyl, ernyyl vzcbegnag gung ur Ubyq gur Qbbe, oernxvat uvf zvaq gb gur rkgrag gung ur pna bayl rire nsgre fcrnx na vapernfvatyl fyheerq “UbyQnQbbe!”

25. Enkidum

@John Schilling:

I’d like to apologize for needlessly antagonizing you. It wasn’t kind or useful.

I don’t think you’re correct, and I do think your reasoning about this is suspect, but I didn’t have to be such a transparent jerk about it. Like everyone else here, I have been both wrong and had bad reasoning on many occasions.

2. J Mann

I still think Dany dies prior to the final scene. I don’t expect the dragons to live, and Dany is a dragon.

1. J Mann

Mostly my gut feeling for the series. The general theme is the death of magic – the Children of the Forest and the giants are thought to be extinct, and they mostly are, and the ones that live seem to be dying out. The dragons are thought long dead.

My feeling is that this story is a burst of magic within a larger trend of magical decline – the comet or the walkers or something are reinvigorating magic, but in the long run, it’s science and reason that win out.

I don’t see a new age of dragon riders. Valeria is gone, the Children are gone, the Roynish sorcerers are gone. Jon and Dany and their dragons are IMHO a legend, like Arthur and Merlin, or Frodo and Gandalf. And like them, they need to fade into the mist at the end of the story.

2. vV_Vv

What J Mann said.

Also, the dragons are a thematic foil to the White Walkers: the book series is titled “A Song of Ice and Fire”, once Ice is gone, so will be Fire.

This is foreshadowed by Daenerys being infertile, her army being made of eunuchs who are also infertile for obvious reasons, and Dothraki, who are fertile but are probably never going to integrate in a feudal society.

That’s why I think an appropriate thematic ending for her would be that neither she nor her dragons survive: she’ll finally realize that her ambition was misguided and fulfill her destiny of defeating the Night King and going out in a blaze of glory, rather than withering on the Iron Throne and burning petty rebel lords while her Unsullied age out of service and her Dothraki revert to their barbaric ways.

I guess that’s how Martin intended to end her arc, whether HBO will actually do it rather than going for the Muh Strong Independent Womyn finale remains to be seen.

1. Enkidum

+1 both to your interpretation (which agrees with several people above), and to AG’s requesting that you don’t use the much outgroup snark. This was one of the things that set me off on poor John Schilling above.

1. hls2003

I haven’t read the books since the last one came out (almost a decade, now?) and I only follow the plot summaries of the show. So I do not myself have enough knowledge to apply the lens I am suggesting. But has anyone tried to use history as a guide? The early books of ASOIAF are very much just riffing on the Wars of the Roses. The Wars of the Roses ended when each of the two sides (York & Lancaster) (i.e. Stark/Lannister) had killed off almost everyone in the opposing camp with a drop of Edward III’s blood in their veins. Henry Tudor was a nearly-ridiculous distance away by earlier standards, with only a convoluted matrilineal claim through Margaret Beaufort back to John of Gaunt’s legitimized bastards with his mistress (he married her and legitimized the kids after his first wife’s death).

If one postulates that Martin got many / most of his good plot ideas by borrowing from the history of the Wars of the Roses, then you’d be looking for a current-nobody with a rather weak, convoluted claim who can marry the princess of one of the opposing sides to solidify his claim (i.e. Elizabeth of York).

Without as much expertise, I might say Gendry ends up married to Sansa and sitting on the Iron Throne. Maybe one of the reveals is that Robert Baratheon’s mistress who produced Gendry was actually married to him, or that Robert had legitimized Gendry prior to his death, or something along those lines. Or there may be others who fit the template better, I don’t remember well enough. For example, is Tyrion Lannister’s squire a distant Lannister cousin?

EDIT: To be clear, in this analogy I would be postulating that both Jon and Daenerys die off; the Targaryen line ends. In that context the Targaryens would be more analogous in the historical context to some hypothetical surviving claimants through Richard II’s line; a stronger historical claim but a lineage that was overthrown and eventually went extinct.

1. hls2003

I agree that the mini-series was pretty good! It was also followed up by, I believe, The White Princess, following Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. “Closely” based on the history may be a mite generous; it was an adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s novels.

2. Randy M

True, thanks for clarifying. Not “historically accurate” closely, but “no dragons” closely.

1. Nick

This is a pretty neat suggestion, and would at least explain why Gendry is still in the show.

1. hls2003

I suppose it might also be Arya Stark – a recap I read described Gendry as “her crush.” In that case Sansa would also die in the conflict.

2. Evan Þ

If we’re really following history here, we might just as well see Gendry marry Arya and then kill Sansa to solidify his claim.

(Never cracked open a single book or watched the show, but I know some English history.)

3. Fitzroy

My wife has a pet prediction (which I’m warming to more and more):

Dany is pregnant with Jon’s child.
He dies in battle (defeating the Others but betrayed by the Lannisters, perhaps?), while she dies in childbirth.
Sam and Gilly spirit the babe away (maybe to Sothoryos).
Cersei still sits the Iron Throne, ruling Seven Kingdoms that are naught but an empty shell of themselves, having been all but destroyed by the war.
The final shot is Cersei on the throne, Jamie at her right hand, as Jamie reaches up and peels off his face…

4. John V

For what it’s worth, you can get 5.5:1 odds for Daenerys to rule Westeros on various sportsbooks.

22. onyomi

Thinking about the recent conversation on the pros and cons of Duolingo, I happened to see this video from the founder of one of the language programs I’m always recommending instead, Lingq, and it struck me that my experience absolutely confirms his theory, not only wrt language learning, but learning in general.

To try to summarize the video and add a bit of my take on it: don’t wait until you’ve “mastered the basics” to try something more challenging or realistic like say, reading a book that interests you or having a conversation with a native speaker in the case of language learning. “Mastering the basics” is, ironically, something for masters to do because effective learning requires a mixture of repetition and novelty.

My experience is certainly that if you try to totally nail down e.g. all the verb conjugations, basic noun declensions, etc. of e.g. Sanskrit before moving on to anything more challenging you will pretty much stay at that level forever, whereas if you periodically attempt something harder but more interesting and practical (say, reading the Bhagavad Gita) you will more clearly see where the gaps in your knowledge really are, get a better picture of the whole “puzzle” you’re trying to fill in, and also get a boost to your motivation as you remember why you were trying to learn Sanskrit in the first place.

Of course, I think the opposite failure mode is also possible. I have been in classes (not just language classes but dance classes, etc.) and have probably unintentionally taught classes where the error was that the students were asked, in effect, to “fly” before they could “walk,” with the result that many of them just get frustrated and mentally check out. However, I think the opposite failure mode “master the basics first!” is at least as common, especially in certain areas like language learning and martial arts. In reality I think a mixture of pushing students to their limits and returning to review fundamentals is best (probably this is uncontroversial, but I feel like I’m only realizing this more clearly after years of being a teacher myself and decades of being a student of various subjects).

Somewhat tangential, I have a suspicion that bad teaching strategies, especially “master the basics first!” are sometimes exhorted by people who consciously or unconsciously have a motivation not to see the learner succeed. One example would be the martial arts class where the teacher assumes, perhaps correctly, that if he teaches the student all the “material” (moves, forms, etc. in the case of something like Karate) too fast then the student will figure he’s learned what he can and drop out. So instead, the instructor, correctly noting that the student can’t even punch and kick that well yet, exhorts him to “master the basics first!”

Also, he recalls, back when he was learning, that he was seemingly always wasting a lot of time chasing after fancy moves and new forms when only later did he realize that only the most basic moves were very useful in a real fight and were, in any case, the core the whole art depended on. If only he had kept his head out of the clouds and focused on “mastering the basics” he might have reached this level of insight sooner! What he doesn’t realize is that “indulging” in trying to learn the fancy stuff was part of his learning process against which the “basics” acquired new meaning and a place in a bigger puzzle his students don’t see yet. So he can, in a well-meaning way, adopt a teaching style that holds his students back from actually ever becoming as good as he is, which is just as well because then they might leave and start their own competitor schools.

tl;dr: “mastering the basics” is for masters, not beginners. Put another way, many educators probably assume that difficulty level should be adjusted to provide a constant level of moderate challenge, when actually alternating between “too hard” and “too easy” may be better.

I think this also hearkens back to a time when education more often took an “apprenticeship”-type model, which is why one sees it more in areas like martial arts that inherit that model and largely aren’t integrated into e.g. secondary school curricula. In Japan, for example, a lot of traditional craftsmen will insist that, for example, in order to become a great sushi chef you have to basically spend twenty years making rice and mopping the floor. This is true insofar as making good sushi rice is a lot harder than it seems, but is also obviously serving some other sort of function, namely that the teacher is going to get a lot of grunt value out of you and you are going to strongly signal your commitment to the occupation and its standards before he is going to transmit the money-making knowledge to you.

1. Enkidum

I taught English for several years in Japan (for a private company that did not actually require us to know much of anything about teaching or language). One of the main problems we had with our students, and the reason why Japan has pretty much the worst English performance in Asia, is that while the entire country has taken English lessons from Grade One on since the 50’s, these have consisted almost solely in memorizing verb tables and vocabulary, which I think is an example of the kind of “mastering the basics” approach you’re talking about. Our classes were almost purely conversational, which was actually what most of the students really needed – a chance to “fly” by actually using some of that vocabulary and grammar, even if imperfectly. (The company was somewhat less of a scam than a lot of other English schools at the time, but was on the whole not too bad, and some students actually learned something.)

2. Reasoner

I’ve thought a fair amount about learning and I think you are right on here. Andrew Gelman is a famous Bayesian statistician, here’s a conversation which occurred on his blog:

[Commenter:] I have a theory (!) that you tend to learn from a mathematics course the material from the prerequisite. To this end, I’m glad I took measure theory to understand real analysis and functional analysis to truly understand the notion of subspaces, inner products, orthogonality, and ultimately, spectral theory. It all seemed useless at the start of my career in industry, as did other abstract notions such as probability distributions over groups, but I’m realizing as problems get “weirder,” I’m glad to have that deep understanding so that I can, if I need to, build probability models from scratch.

[Gelman:] I agree with your theory about learning the prerequisite. I’ve been saying this since I was a student, and it’s advice I’ve been giving to students for years. Regarding measure theory itself, I don’t personally feel at a loss for never having learned it, but I did take a lot of math in college so maybe I got the necessary background without taking that particular course.

3. Winter Shaker

the opposite failure mode “master the basics first!” is at least as common, especially in certain areas like language learning and martial arts

I do not fear talking to the man who has practiced 10,000 verb forms once; I fear talking to the man who has practiced one verb form 10,000 times 😛

23. The original Mr. X

Today’s instalment in The Amazing Adventures of Florida Man: “Florida man, 61, threatens to destroy a town with his ‘army of turtles'”:

A man referring to himself as ‘the saint’ was arrested in a Florida town on Sunday, after police say he screamed obscenities and threatened to unleash an army of turtles to destroy the community…

Upon his arrest, Lane is said to have warned officers that his ‘turtle army will destroy everyone’ and wreak havoc on the local area as revenge for his apprehension.

Full story here.

1. yodelyak

That’s only one of two prototypical Florida man stories today.

The other is: “Florida man attacked and killed by rare bird.”

1. Watchman

Can we assume from all of this that Florida still has a local news-gathering infrastructure in order to provide amusement for the wider world?

1. albatross11

I’ve read (I don’t know where) that Florida has unusually good open-records laws, and that this leads to a lot of Florida Man stories–journalists can get access to the official records cheaply and easily and write a story based on them.

24. Nancy Lebovitz

The solar system has two potential tourist attractions– solar eclipses and Saturn’s rings. Neither are stable over the long haul. What else would be physically possible and really showy?

1. The Nybbler

Black holes (especially with a companion star), pulsars, white dwarfs stripping material from a companion (Type 1a supernova setup)… all very showy though rather inimical to life. A true double planet, tidally locked to each other (or even closer, as in Forward’s Rocheworld). The system in Asimov’s Nightfall would be extremely showy — so many stars that it was almost never night anywhere on a planet. Io, the volcanic moon of Jupiter, is pretty showy though far away; we could imagine a closer and bigger one. A body or better yet bodies in an asteroid belt with solid metal on the surface.

1. albatross11

Jupiter’s red eye storm is pretty spectacular, and you could imagine that being a tourist attraction. Also probably not permanent, though.

1. toastengineer

I’d create a honeymoon destination station right above it.

Sexagon at the hexagon.

2. Nancy Lebovitz

I was wondering about features we don’t have now. Things that might turn up if you were playing with the physics of differently constituted solar systems.

I’ve heard that the early earth would have had continent-spanning tides.

If the moon breaks up, we’d get rings, though I don’t know how showy they’d be.

1. Nick

Doesn’t Olympus Mons have an extremely long, gentle slope? From a map, it looks like you’d basically be hiking across France at a steady 5 degree incline.

1. Nornagest

So, where is the best mountaineering in the Solar System?

There’s probably some pretty good climbing along the Valles Marineris, but Mars’ actual mountains don’t look so hot. Ditto Venus. The equatorial ridge on Iapetus is tall but looks nontechnical. Boösaule Montes on Io might be a contender.

1. Nancy Lebovitz

Best mountaineering is probably a balance between the quality of the mountains and the amount of gravity plus how you feel about climbing in a spacesuit.

2. Concavenator

I submit the Verona Rupes, a 20 km-tall vertical cliff on Miranda, one of Uranus’ moons. Even though Miranda’s gravity is only 1/100th of Earth, that should be still pretty impressive to climb.

«Given Miranda’s low gravity, it would take about 12 minutes to fall from the top, reaching the bottom at the speed of about 200 km/h. Even so, the fall might be survivable given proper airbag protection.»

25. Brendan Richardson

All of the paperwork has been filed and I am now a cryonics member. If anyone would like to compliment my foresight and/or harangue me for being an unwoke atheist techbro, consider this your opportunity.

1. johan_larson

Bold choice.

What’s the total bill, if I may ask? And how likely do you think it is that you’ll be revived?

1. Brendan Richardson

I prefer to think of it as hedging my bets. Waiting for the Singularity with no backup plan, now that’s bold!

Total bill is ~\$100/mo.

Wait But Why

1) If I legally die in a not really bad way and everything goes as planned with getting me into the thermos

and

2) If future humanity ever reaches a point where it has the technology to revive me to full health

and

3) If the cryonics company can manage to store me safely and uninterrupted until that point

and

4) If when that point comes, the outside world actually does take action to revive me

Lets’s do a cryonics Drake Equation.

1) 90%
2) 80%
3) 75%
4) 95%

Which gives me a 51.3% chance. Note that this ignores the possibility of technological advancements making cryonics obsolete during my lifetime.

1. Eternaltraveler

1)25% (this is my experience with assisting with cryopreservations, about 1 in 4 were “good”).
2)unknown. Either zero, or some finite number depending on whether present cryopreservation technology actually preserves the information that constitute’s “you”. Given preservation of information I give it 60%
3)25%. Probably don’t need more than another 100 to 150 years from now. However both extant cryonics organizations have been bailed out by their members on more than one occasion, and those members are getting closer to their time in the dewar. Hopefully the younger crop of members continues to do that when needed.
4)I give this 50%. The future may be stranger than we can imagine and I don’t have any idea how to model whatever might be doing the reviving.

Or around 2% likelihood of being revived. Given that the value of revival approaches infinity (or however many QALYs can fit in between the point of revival and the heat death of the universe) it is the best investment in history.

1. Aapje

Given that the value of revival approaches infinity

Doesn’t life suffer from the Law Of Diminishing Marginal Utility?

2. Aapje

True, but it can also become infinitely negative if the benefits from living even longer become very small, but the fixed cost of living stay the same.

Imagine being locked in solitary confinement permanently (= boredom of existing with nothing nice to do) and then getting a cookie once a month (= doing something fun). Is the cookie worth the wait?

3. Eternaltraveler

Doesn’t life suffer from the Law Of Diminishing Marginal Utility?

@Aapje

Life appears to have increasing marginal utility until it is overwhelmed by disability and suffering.

However, admittedly, ~80 years doesnt seem to be a tiny fraction of enough time to derive a meaningful trend. Let’s revisit the issue after we’ve built a few dyson spheres.

2. Heterosteus

All of these probabilities seem wildly overoptimistic to me. I still think cryonics might well be a good bet, but more as a long-short high-reward gamble than a reliable safeguard.

3. sty_silver

I’ll share mine.

1) 90%
2) 35%
3) 85%
4) 90%

That gives ~24.1%. But I would also put around 65% on cryonics becoming unnecessary conditional on 2)

4. baconbits9

#2 is way to high, there is a non zero chance that even if reviving cryogenic-ally frozen people is possible that the current methods are insufficient for this. If the method you choose doesn’t work the whole equation collapses to zero.

2. freemantle

I’ve been meaning to do this (or at least, more seriously investigate it) for some time. Other than the standard obstacles, I’m not sure how to approach the subject with my wife and other family without them thinking I’m crazy.

I’m interested in your answers to Johan’s questions, and have one more of my own. Conditional on being revived, what probability do you place on wishing you hadn’t been? The way this scenario plays out in my head is being revived into a world I don’t want to be a part of, but with no way of dying again. Maybe the future has strict euthanasia laws, for instance. (I do expect the future to be “better” to live in than the present, for some definition of “better”, but there’s definitely some possibility it’s worse.)

1. Brendan Richardson

<0.01%

A world where suicide is literally impossible would almost certainly be some sort of totalitarian dictatorship, and I don't see anyone being revived under those circumstances.

1. Aapje

Why not?

One of the main reasons why future people may want to revive you is to get something from you. In a benevolent case, this may be a first-hand account of the past. In a less benevolent case, they claim historic continuity/legitimacy of their dictatorship and want you to affirm that (either by making you a hero or a villain).

In tribalist societies, safety comes from membership of the tribe, who will look out for your interests and seek justice if bad things happen to you. As a cryogenic survivor, you will probably have no one to look out for you. So that makes you a prime candidate for exploitation.

Suppose that they extract your consciousness into a computer and then torture you until you do what they want? You might be a slave for eternity.

Have you seen the White Christmas episode of Black mirror? There the main character speeds up time in the computer to make the digital version of a person suffer long periods of solitary confinement, while only seconds pass in real life, until the digital person accedes to operate his smart home appliances, as a slave.

You seem to be reasoning very strongly towards cryogenics, being very optimistic about the chances and upsides, while being overly eager to dismiss risks.

1. Brendan Richardson

Why is this dictatorship expending what would almost certainly be large sums of resources in order to revive people who are almost certainly filthy counterrevolutionaries? More to the point, I am far from the most important person to be cryopreserved. This insane government would just unfreeze a celebrity and reprocess everyone else into raw materials.

2. Aapje

Why is this dictatorship expending what would almost certainly be large sums of resources in order to revive people who are almost certainly filthy counterrevolutionaries?

Like I said, they might want you as the villain. Imagine a future where Hitler had gotten his way, killing all the Jews and having a thousand year empire. Then after a century or so, the regime’s legitimacy and narrative might be questioned by people who doubt that the Jews were evil and had so much power. They might even have an Alex Cohones who doubts that Jews even existed.

Then this dictatorship might be very interested in reviving some Jews to show the world what horrors the regime saved them from. Presumably, those who run the dictatorship will tend to believe their own propaganda.

They can also believe that history is different and that you won’t be a filthy counterrevolutionary. Lots of dictators are well known to have had very romantic beliefs about the past.

Then once they commit to spending lots of money and have lots of propaganda about this majestic undertaking that will prove once and for all that they are right, they can hardly get away with just saying “never mind” when the outcome turns out to be less than ideal. Dictatorships still need to justify themselves to their supporters and themselves.

They need results, so they will have results. Being a filthy, nasty, immoral dictatorship, they do whatever it takes.

More to the point, I am far from the most important person to be cryopreserved. This insane government would just unfreeze a celebrity and reprocess everyone else into raw materials.

Why would the dictatorship have the same priorities as us? They may consider the Sarkesians to be unimportant, while you have a trait that they care about.

Besides, if I were in charge of such a project, I would start with trying to revive the unimportant people and save the big names for last. I can afford to screw up with you, but if I screw up with someone important, the dictator might replace or kill me.

Only once I revive less important people fairly reliably, I would try a celebrity.

If no one is interested in you personally, but see you merely as a stepping stone, the medical expert would be free to do with you what he pleases. Of course, a medical expert under a horrible dictatorship is likely to be very Mengele-like. Would you be happy to be the plaything of a Mengele-like person?

3. Brendan Richardson

Like I said, they might want you as the villain. Imagine a future where Hitler had gotten his way, killing all the Jews and having a thousand year empire. Then after a century or so, the regime’s legitimacy and narrative might be questioned by people who doubt that the Jews were evil and had so much power. They might even have an Alex Cohones who doubts that Jews even existed.

Then this dictatorship might be very interested in reviving some Jews to show the world what horrors the regime saved them from. Presumably, those who run the dictatorship will tend to believe their own propaganda.

So I’m a vitrified Jew-equivalent in a Nazi Germany-equivalent country, but the Nazi-equivalents have tolerated my cryopreservation for decades just in case people forgot how evil Jew-equivalents were? This scenario makes absolutely no sense.

4. Aapje

They may have wanted to keep their Jew-equivalents around for future study. As a frozen corpse in a freezer in a secured government compound, you are not a threat to the regime, especially if reanimation is so difficult and expensive that only the regime could do it.

Some governments currently keep various very dangerous viruses around to study. They keep them away from many other governments, as well as civilians. That’s a lot more risky than keeping some corpses around.

The actual Nazis depended largely on demographic records and judging people’s physical features to decide who was Jewish. However, today companies offer (shitty) tests to see what people’s heritage is.

A very racist regime might want to develop better tests to administer to people and/or may even want to apply CRISPR techniques to replace genes from races they hate with genes from the race they like. Then having a supply of corpses to test and/or to study could help a lot.

2. Edward Scizorhands

Even if you kill yourself, they may be able to revive you again. Depends on the specific kind of cryogenics you are predicting. Is there really a less than 0.01% chance that the cryogenics works by non-destructively scanning you and recreating you?

(Theists wouldn’t argue that a scan of you is still you, but cryogenics and futurists tend to laugh at that.)

3. Eternaltraveler

Congrats.

My wife and I were cryonics members before we met. It’s not entirely clear to me if it’s worth paying membership fees until we are quite a bit older at either of the US options. However it does make sense to have a life insurance policy that is suitable for cryonics.

1. raj

I was in the process of obtaining a life insurance policy but I stopped short, mainly because of membership dues. It seems deeply wrong that a 30 year old should have to pay the same dues as a 70 year old. Strongly disincentives young participants, instead encouraging them to put it off. Which isn’t in mine or the cryogenics companies best interest; it introduces the risk that I die in the interim or lose interest, forget, etc.

I can get a 300k life insurance policy for \$10/month, but alcor dues are \$500 annually. Overall strongly increases my prior that the whole thing is a scam and/or too soon.

They really ought to have a membership where you don’t pay substantial dues but the actual preservation services cost significantly more in the event that you use them. Then young tech-optimists can sign up with cheap insurance policies and switch over as they get older. The few who do die amortize the dues of those who don’t.

4. Butlerian

1) What lovely foresight you have there
2) Such lovely foresight that I am inspired to follow in your footsteps. And since you’ve actually put in the legwork already, it seems like a good time to co-opt your industriousness. So if you could post relevant links, that would be super.
* Note: I do not live in the US, but following Eternaltraveller’s logic, the fact that I have a <100% chance of dying in range of a freezer doesn't really alter it still being the best investment in history

5. dick

What do you imagine the profit motive to be for the person or organization that pays for your new body?

1. dick

Obvious in the sense of that’s a thing you’ve done or that other cryo-enthusiasts have done and you’ll be doing it as well when you get around to it? Or in the sense that you hadn’t considered it but will think about doing something along these lines now?

26. Atlas

What would—in however broad or narrow a sense as you’d like to consider—have happened if Chiang Kai-shek had won the Chinese Civil War?

1. John Schilling

Almost certainly a much nastier Sino-Soviet war than was actually fought, and probably much sooner. There are several ways that can go, almost none of them better than what we got. And while the Nationalists wouldn’t have given us the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution, I also expect they wouldn’t have been terribly good at suppressing corruption or administering a multiethnic state of a billion people so there’s a good chance it would have teetered on the edge of “failed state” status through the latter half of the 20th century.

2. kokotajlod@gmail.com

There would have been conflict between the USSR and Nationalist China, but I don’t think that would have turned out well for the USSR. If Communist China could team up with the USSR to fight the USA in Korea, then Nationalist China could team up with the USA to fight the USSR in Manchuria/Mongolia/Etc. Worst case scenario China loses some territory to the USSR.

Then, probably what would have happened would have been Taiwan writ large. Things wouldn’t have been perfect (Maybe Tibet would look pretty much the same, for example) but probably the economy would be doing better sooner, fewer people would have been killed, and the people would have been more free and less brainwashed. Probably after the initial sino-soviet conflict nationalist China would get so powerful that it would start to move away from the USA; by 2019 the world would probably look very similar to how it looks today, except that China would be even stronger and more democratic.

1. sfoil

Maybe Tibet would look pretty much the same, for example

On the one hand, Nationalist China would have far bigger fish to fry than Communist China did — intervention in Korea was a war of choice that was reasonably unlikely to pose an existential threat, unlike a ROC-USSR War or its prospect. On the other hand, Tibet was practically defenseless. So, you’re probably right.

3. sfoil

I think it basically hinges on two things: the Sino-Soviet War, and whether a Nationalist state’s “corruption” would be worse than Mao’s government, in that order. I don’t have much expertise here, but my priors based on study of Vietnam and Korea are that the alleged magnitude of the KMT’s corruption and incompetence is largely but not entirely Communist propaganda. I mean, look at how the KMT governed Taiwan vs how the CCP governed the mainland.

I agree with John Schilling that the Sino-Soviet War would have happened sooner and been more costly than what we actually got, although I couldn’t say what form it would take. Almost certainly the Soviets would provide safe haven for Communist guerrillas. In the worst case, they actually invade, and I think it would be very difficult for a Nationalist China to prevent the Red Army from lopping off both Manchuria and Xinjiang, especially given the availability of the CCP as bases for puppet governments. I think that even if this worst-case scenario occurs, Nationalist China still ends up better off than the PRC in any given year. The Great Leap Forward & Cultural Revolution were really, really bad.

Overall, a Nationalist China would be good for Korea (it would discourage the Northern invasion and lead to their annihilation if actually attempted), Tibet would be more likely to remain independent, and of course the United States provided they avoid turning the Sino-Soviet War into WW3. Indochinese anti-colonial wars still occur, but without Red China next door they are nowhere near as long or as bloody.

1. Douglas Knight

Look at how Leopold governed Belgium vs how he governed the Congo, not even in sequence, but simultaneously.

1. sfoil

How does that relate at all? Is the KMT going to move to Taiwan even after a Communist defeat and then run a brutal extractive regime on the mainland? That doesn’t make any sense.

1. Douglas Knight

Why did you bring up how KMT ruled Taiwan? Because you think it makes it implausible the historical consensus of its corruption on the mainland? Sometimes one person rules two places differently.

2. sfoil

Details matter. You should at least attempt to explain why you think Nationalist China would be governed like Leopold’s Congo when Nationalist Taiwan was governed like Belgium. Particularly when the CCP actually did govern the mainland rather like the Congo Free State, and for about the same length of time.

As far as the “historical consensus of the KMT’s corruption”, considering the fact that Mao’s China is at least in serious contention for the worst-run government of the 20th century — a field that features some truly awe-inspiring competition — you’re going to have to do more than gesture vaguely towards the fact that some KMT bigwigs were wealthy and high status and did some bad things in order to make the case that they would have done a worse job than the CCP, which parlayed its victory into world-historical levels of bad governance.

3. sfoil

I think that KMT-ruled China would have been a better place than CCP-ruled China by virtually any measure, however you want to put it.

4. Douglas Knight

Do you stand by this statement?

my priors based on study of Vietnam and Korea are that the alleged magnitude of the KMT’s corruption and incompetence is largely but not entirely Communist propaganda

Do you deny that the allegations are the consensus?

If you think that the conclusion stands without this statement, maybe you shouldn’t have made it in the first place.

5. sfoil

Do you stand by this statement?

Yes. Why wouldn’t I?

Do you deny that the allegations are the consensus?

No. This is not mutually exclusive with my above statement.

If you think that the conclusion stands without this statement, maybe you shouldn’t have made it in the first place.

What is it about this that rubs you the wrong way? At any rate, I was anticipating what I considered to be the most likely counterargument to my saying that Nationalist China would have been better off than Red China even if they suffered major territorial losses: “the KMT would have been even worse than the CCP because the KMT was corrupt”.

And I will reiterate: the CCP’s rule after the Civil War was so bad that a garden-variety “corrupt dictatorship”, however defined, would have been better. Further, I suspect that the allegation itself is little more than a self-serving canard by the CCP to justify its violent pursuit of political power and, later, its murderously incompetent and often downright malicious policies.

6. Protagoras

@sfoil, many sources other than the CCP describe the pre-Taiwan KMT as exceptionally corrupt; this is indeed the overwhelming consensus. That the CCP was worse would not make the KMT not corrupt, and you don’t provide any evidence against the consensus, while apparently continuing to stand by your claim that the consensus is wrong.

7. John Schilling

And I will reiterate: the CCP’s rule after the Civil War was so bad that a garden-variety “corrupt dictatorship”, however defined, would have been better.

China under the KMT would not have been a “garden-variety corrupt dictatorship”, because that implies someone doing meaningful dictating. We know what happens when the KMT is tasked with ruling anything much bigger than a monoethnic city-state: power is devolved to local warlords and criminal gangs, and the central government does a poor job of preventing these from waging war against one another or of providing the institutions (e.g. a stable currency) for trade and commerce on a national scale. The trains don’t even run on time. But the secret police work just fine.

If we somehow imagine a KMT that holds together long enough to defeat Mao & co, or more likely that Japan does most of the heavy lifting on that front before going home in 1945, the KMT is most likely going to regress to the prior mean once the immediate threat is gone. And again, we know what that looks like and it looks really bad. Maybe not as bad as Mao’s regime, but that’s damning with faint praise to say the least.

But since it is obviously so important for you to hear people say it: Yes, mainland China under the KMT wouldn’t have been quite as bad as it was under the Communists, except for the bit where the war with Russia is much worse.

4. Protagoras

I think people may be too optimistic about what the victorious KMT would have been like. My impression is that they cleaned up a lot of problems when they became confined to Taiwan, probably partly because they couldn’t afford that shit but also surely because they no longer had to pander to a diverse group of warlords as the warlords were all gone. I suppose if the scenario is that they won because they cleaned up their problems earlier, that might lead to the rosy outcomes some are suggesting, but unless that is built in, a victorious KMT would likely have continued to have the same corruption and regional disloyalty problems even after defeating the communists.

27. Hey

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to meet a specific person on Earth before the end of 2019. Unfortunately, you don’t know the exact date and place of the meeting (and the other person doesn’t either). All you know is that the other person is in the exact same situation, so you have to choose a Schelling point in space and time and hope the other person makes the same choice. What place and time would you choose ? (You aren’t allowed to try again at a later time if your first attempt failed)

1. johan_larson

the other person is in the exact same situation

Do you mean this other person is very much like me physically and mental, or is living in very similar circumstances, or has been given the same problem?

Assuming it’s just the last part, I guess I have to pick some sort of significant time and place and show up there, hoping this other person made the same choice. Zero degrees latitude and longitude on the first of each month seems like a decent guess, but there are a lot of significant dates and places. Zero-zero has be virtue of being quite isolated, so it’s not like we’ll walk right past each other if we do show up there.

1. Hey

They have been given the same problem, are like you physically and mentally, but may live in very different circumstances.

2. eyeballfrog

Zero-zero is in the ocean–though I guess that might help since boats would be easier to see.

2. Well...

By accepting the mission, do we receive full funding to visit that place, wherever it is? Because if I have to pay my own way I’ll probably fail the mission no matter what.

1. Hey

You have to pay your own way, but as an incentive, you’ll each get some large amount of money (say \$100k) if the meetup happens.

1. raj

I submitted an answer via the form already, but I’m not sure if 100k would be enough incentive for the time and cost of getting there and (large) risk the other person isn’t there. If my partner were randomly chosen from the entire world population, probably not. From this forum, maybe.

2. Well...

I should also note that the instructions in the OT and in the Google Form are different. The Form says I can’t personally know the person (“meet one person who you don’t know,”), but the instructions in the OT do not give that impression (“meet a specific person”).

3. Evan Þ

Are we getting this mission starting today? A couple of what would otherwise be my Schilling dates this year have already passed.

1. Hey

Yes, you are getting the mission today, although I’d like to know which past Schelling dates you were thinking of.

1. Evan Þ

Naahapvngvba Qnl (nxn Ynql Qnl, Znepu Gjragl-Svsgu), juvpu vf fvzhygnarbhfyl n fvtavsvpnag Puevfgvna srnfg naq gur zrqvriny Ratyvfu Arj Lrne’f Qnl. Vg’q or bar bs zl gjb gbc pubvprf.

Vs V jrer zrrgvat n pybfr eryngvir be zl gvzr-geniryvat frys, gurer’f nyfb n snzvyl oveguqnl orsber gbqnl.

Vapvqragnyyl, gur gbc ybpngvba V pubfr jnf Terrajvpu Bofreingbel va Ratynaq: gur ernfba gur Cevzr Zrevqvna vf jurer vg vf. Zl frpbaq pubvpr jnf gur Puhepu bs gur Ubyl Frchypure va Wrehfnyrz.

1. rtypeinhell

We would’ve had the hundred grand had you just picked a normal date!

V ernfbarq sebz qngr svefg. Wnahnel svefg ng zvqavtug zvahf bar frpbaq, Terrajvpu Zrna Gvzr. Gurersber, zrrg ng Terrajvpu bofreingbel. Bayl ceboyrz vf V qba’g xabj jung xvaq bs pebjq zvtug or cerfrag ba arj lrne’f, fb V’q hfr gur arkg friravfu zbaguf gb svaq n dhvrg, pbafcvphbhf zrrgvat cbvag (nffhzvat V pna’g whfg qebc n znexre va nqinapr).

V qba’g guvax gur nirentr crefba (orvat nffvtarq guvf gnfx ba gur fgerrg) jbhyq xabj gb ybbx hc Fpuryyvat cbvagf, be rira gung guvf vf gur glcr bs ceboyrz gung gurl *pna* ybbx hc. Naq vs gurl qvq, V’q nffhzr gurl jrer frys-njner rabhtu abg gb gnxr gurve rqhpngvba sbe tenagrq. Fb V fghpx jvgu pbzzba frafr (jungrire bs vg V znl unir).

Bs pbhefr, gvgyvat gur fheirl “Jbeyq Fpuryyvat Cbvag” naq cbfvat vg ng FyngrFgnePbqrk xvaqn ehvaf gung. V rkcrpg gur ercyvrf gb unir n ovnf gbjneq Tbbtyr frnepu erfhygf sbe “Jbeyq Fpuryyvat Cbvag”, ohg V nafjrerq nf gubhtu gung uvag unq abg orra cebivqrq, nf vg frrzf zber va gur fcvevg bs Fpuryyvat cbvagf.

4. meh

I’m not sure this is phrased correctly

Unfortunately, you don’t know the exact date and place of the meeting (and the other person doesn’t either).

There is a specific time and place chosen by -someone- ? Or we just have to meet somewhere at sometime during 2019? Or we each pick a time and location simultaneously and they have to match?

1. Charles F

My interpretation is we’re being given the mission today. If we were supposed to imagine ourselves in the past then the comment should have specified. But if you think a lot of people will share your assumption, there’s nothing on the form preventing you from submitting a date in the past.

2. Hey

Charles F’s interpretation is correct. You are given the mission today, and there is no predetermined date and location.

5. False

Wait, how will I know if I’ve actually met the person? Do I know their name/what they look like or something similar? Why wouldn’t I try to post about it online and see if the other person does a google search?

1. Charles F

You could ask them if they received the same mission, you could try to pick a place mostly empty of people so that whoever else showed up would almost certainly be your target, you could add a note indicating the Schelling dance you will perform to make yourself recognizable.

2. Hey

You won’t, so you should probably choose either a mostly empty place or a very precise point.

6. silver_swift

Assuming I don’t have to fund my own travel. I’d be: Ba n obng arne gur Trbtencuvp Abegu Cbyr ba gur 31fg bs Qrprzore

1. Zeno of Citium

With the version where you don’t have to think about travel, this seems really strong, along with mreb yngvghqr mreb ybatvghqr ng gur ynfg zvahgr bs gur lrne, be gur yhane ynaqre fvgr ba gur zbba ng gur ynfg zvahgr bs gur lrne. Nqqrq orarsvg sbe Zbba: lbh trg gb tb gb gur zbba. Nyy guerr unir gur nqinagntr bs gurer orvat ab bar ryfr nebhaq.

7. RDNinja

Is there anything preventing me from publicizing my mission and trying to communicate via mass media?

1. albatross11

V’z tbvat gb nffhzr V’z jvyyvat gb qrcyrgr zl fnivatf/tb vagb qrog gb jva gur punyyratr.

Gur svefg guvat V’z tbvat gb qb vf guvax bs 50 be fb yvxryl Fpuryyvat cbvagf gb zrrg.

Gur frpbaq guvat V’z tbvat gb qb vf gnxr bhg gnetrgrq nqf ba Tbbtyr naq Onvqh onfrq ba gur xvaqf bs cuenfrf gung zvtug or frnepurq sbe ol n crefba gelvat gb svther bhg ubj gb zrrg zr. V’q fcraq n srj qnlf pbzvat hc jvgu gurfr cuenfrf, rzcyblvat angvir fcrnxref bs jvqrfcernq ynathntrf gb gel gb trg n tbbq punapr bs pngpuvat nalbar jub’f hfvat Tbbtyr rg ny gb jbex bhg ubj gb qb guvf. Ng gur fnzr gvzr, V’yy nyfb ohl gnetrgrq nqf sbe crbcyr ybbxvat ng gubfr 50 Fpuryyvat cbvagf. (Gung zvtug or rkcrafvir va fbzr pnfrf.)

Gur guveq guvat V’z tbvat gb qb vf, sbe rnpu bs gur cbgragvny zrrgvat cbvagf, ybbx sbe nqiregvfvat bs fbzr xvaq V pna qb gb znxr pbagnpg. Ovyyobneqf, choyvp abgvprf, rgp. Nyfb, V’yy arrq gb uver crbcyr gb fgnaq nebhaq va pbafcvphbhf pybguvat (N ovt G-fuveg gung fnlf “V’z gur Bar”, oevtug pybguvat bgurejvfr) jvgu pbagnpg vasbezngvba. Rirelguvat urer yrnqf gb pbagnpg vasbezngvba sbe zr. V fcrpvsvpnyyl jnag pbirentr ng bcravat gvzr, abba, naq pybfvat gvzr ng rnpu fvgr.

Bapr jr fgneg pbzzhavpngvat ol rznvy be cubar, jr’er tbyqra. V pna cnl n cebsrffvbany genafyngbe gb snpvyvgngr pbzzhavpngvbaf bapr zl bccbfvgr ahzore fraqf zr na rznvy sebz Wncna be Oenmvy be jurerire.

8. RDNinja

Brab, Cvgpnvea Vfynaqf. Vg’f n fznyy, havaunovgrq vfynaq gung jvyy or va gur cngu bs gbgnyvgl bs gur fbyne rpyvcfr ba Whyl 2. Vg’f gur zbfg fvtavsvpnag aba-phygheny rirag fpurqhyrq gb gnxr cynpr qhevat gur lrne, naq gur zbfg cerpvfr ybpngvba va gur cngu bs gbgnyvgl gung vf abg yvxryl gb or gbb pebjqrq gb znxr pbagnpg.

1. RDNinja

Orpnhfr vg’f na havaunovgrq vfynaq jvgu ab vasenfgehpgher, va gur zvqqyr bs abjurer. Gurer zvtug or fbzr ivfvgbef, ohg abg zber guna lbh pbhyq fbeg guebhtu va n qnl.

9. Edward Scizorhands

I thought I gave a really good answer, one well designed to win this Keynesian beauty contest. But I’ve seen no one else talk about it.

V zrna, whfg ernq gur Jvxvcrqvn cntr nobhg sbpny cbvagf, naq jung Fpuryyvat’f bja erfrnepu fnvq jnf gur zbfg pbzzba zrrgvat fcbg.

10. Kaura

Gur qngr vf gur ynfg qnl bs gur lrne, orpnhfr vg’f zber havdhryl vagrerfgvat guna nal bgure bcgvba.

Nffhzvat gung gur bgure crefba npghnyyl jnagf gb trg guvf evtug, gurl ner fbzrjung yvxryl gb qb n ovg bs jbex naq fbba yrnea nobhg Fpuryyvat cbvagf vs gurl nera’g nyernql snzvyvne jvgu gur pbaprcg. Unaqvyl, gur Jvxvcrqvn negvpyr naq bgure 101 fbheprf bsgra hfr gur ybpny ohg pbapergr naq vpbavp rknzcyr nobhg crbcyr zrrgvat va ALP (ng gur vasb obbgu haqre gur pybpx ng gur Tenaq Prageny, ng abba). R.t. gur Fcnavfu naq fgnaqneq Puvarfr Jvxvcrqvn unir negvpyrf gung frrz gb zragvba guvf – cebonoyl Jvxvcrqvn vfa’g gung phyghenyyl eryrinag nf n tb-gb vasb fbhepr rireljurer bhgfvqr gur Jrfg, ohg fgvyy, crbcyr ybbxvat vagb guvf dhrfgvba zvtug cerggl bsgra eha vagb guvf rknzcyr.

Qrcraqvat ba jung “zragnyyl fvzvyne” va gur nobir pbzzragf zrnaf, gur bgure crefba pbhyq bsp fgvyy r.t. or gbb byq gb hfr gur vagrearg rssrpgviryl, be abg unir npprff gb vg erthyneyl rabhtu gb svaq vg n fnyvrag bcgvba gb purpx nal rkvfgvat yvgrengher ba pbbeqvangvba, be whfg abg or gung fgengrtvp va guvf frafr, ohg cebonoyl V pbhyqa’g pbzr hc jvgu n tbbq rabhtu zbqry bs gur zbfg glcvpny nccebnpu nzbat guvf fhofrg bs crbcyr naljnl. (Gubhtu V jbhyq gel vs gur fgnxrf jrer zhpu uvture guna guvf – cebonoyl rzcvevpnyyl, vs V pbhyq npprff gur ynetrfg tybony qrzbtencuvpf jvgu ZGhex be fbzr fvzvyne freivprf gung ner zber pbzzba va bgure phygherf).

1. Edward Scizorhands

V nterr ba cynpr. Ba qngr, V nterr orphnfr lbh jnag gb tvir gur bgure cnegl nf ybat nf cbffvoyr gb trg gurer.

Jr arrq gb fcrpvsl gvzr nf jryy. V pybfr gur raq bs gur qnl, be gur yngrfg gung ybpngvba vf bcra, sbyybjvat hc ba gur “tvir gurz nf ybat nf cbffvoyr” vqrn. Ohgt znlor V fubhyq unir fnvq abba.

11. beleester

You don’t know the other person, but that doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with them. For instance, ask your Facebook friends (who ask their friends, etc.) if they know anyone who’s got a peculiar challenge to meet a complete stranger and see if you can six-degrees your way into a connection. Take out Google adwords on likely keywords (“Most common meeting places”?). Hire that Russian satellite advertising company to write the meeting location in the stars.

This is by no means guaranteed – for all you know, the other person doesn’t even have Internet – but it’s probably got better odds than just random guessing.

12. sharper13

V jrag jvgu qrpvqvat gung gur xrl vasbezngvba tvira va gur gnfx jnf gur ersrerapr gb Fpuryyvat cbvag, juvpu zrnaf nalbar erfcbaqvat frevbhfyl fubhyq or ybbxvat ng Fpuryyvat cbvag erfrnepu. Gur frpbaq vf gung guvf pbzzrag cbfg vf gur fgnegvat cbvag sbe fryrpgvat rknpgyl jub jvyy or vaibyirq, juvpu zrnaf gurl ner yvxryl gb or snzvyvne jvgu naq be ernqvat uggcf://jjj.yrffjebat.pbz/cbfgf/lWsOmpQY9sOUWsM6C/anfu-rdhvyvoevn-naq-fpuryyvat-cbvagf .

Fb onfrq ba gung, V jrag jvgu gur Neg bs Fgengrtl zragvba bs “Gur zbfg cbchyne zrrgvat fvgr jnf gur Rzcver Fgngr Ohvyqvat ng abba.”

Ubjrire, gur qngr erdhverzrag ragvprq zr gb znxr nqwhfgzragf. Svefg, gur qngr zbfg nffbpvngrq jvgu ALP vf Arj Lrnef Rir, fb V jrag jvgu gung. Frpbaq, gur gvzr nffbpvngrq zbfg jvgu gung qngr vfa’g abba (juvpu jbhyq unir orra nabgure ernfbanoyr thrff onfrq ba gur nobir), vg’f ryrira svsgl-avar cz, fb V fghpx jvgu gung nf zl thrff.

1. Aapje

Every character is replaced by one 13 characters later in the alphabet.

ROT stands for rotation. Caesar used this kind of encryption, which is why it’s also known as a Caesar Cipher.

2. Garrett

I’d also add it has the nice property that ROT13(ROT13(X)) = X. So the encryption and decryption process are identical.

28. Yaleocon

Cursory searching reveals that a “nation-state” is a “sovereign state” whose citizens/subjects are “relatively homogeneous”; Google’s preferred definition adds, “in ways such as language and common descent.”

Language and common descent seem like components of ethnicity. So do many other ways that a group of citizens can reasonably be described as “homogeneous.” So is there a difference, besides politeness, between the terms “nation-state” and “ethno-state”? If so, what defines a “nation” that isn’t strongly linked to ethnicity?

I’m asking because I feel like I’ve heard the term “nation-state” used in a casual and non-condemnatory way (in my relatively progressive environment). I certainly think that someone saying “I like nation-states” would receive a very different reaction than someone saying “I’m an ethno-nationalist.” Is there actual conceptual distance between those two ideas? Or are they basically the same ideas, such that liberal people who use the term “nation-state” casually just haven’t reflected on what the word actually means?

Descriptively I take “nation-state” to be a term like “socio-economic”. While the terms seem to imply something more than state and economic are supposed to be there, in my experience generally nothing is. They just make the speaker feel well educated.

1. Yaleocon

Well, I’ve definitely heard people invoke something like Google’s definition when discussing nation-states (usually in the context of “America is not a nation-state, and this is good.”) But you’re probably right that many people just toss the term out because it sounds like what an educated person would say.

I have to start asking people what they think it means after they use the term casually. You might be right that most don’t mean much more by “nation-state” than “state” alone.

2. melolontha

While the terms seem to imply something more than state and economic are supposed to be there, in my experience generally nothing is. They just make the speaker feel well educated.

Some measures of SES include education as a factor, don’t they? Obviously that correlates with wealth and income, but not perfectly, and it can serve as a proxy for (non-economic aspects of) social status/class.

2. Lambert

Is Italy a nation state?
Nigeria?
(Klein)Deutschland?
Was Czechoslovakia?

My guess is the concept was bodged together between 1815 and the fifties, sacrificing any kind of principles and consistency for realpolitik.

EDIT: It also helps when some Bavarian neckbeard writes 15 hours of opera about some fiasco on the cusp of the migration period involving bergundians dwarves.

1. Robert Jones

Italy and Germany are type examples of nation states: their formation as states coincided with a sense of Italian and German nationhood. Czechoslovakia clearly wasn’t a nation state, although I guess if it were still a state you might get a different answer (it’s continued existence as a state would suggest a fusion in the national identity of its components).

Nigeria is trickier. Certainly plenty of people identify as Nigerian. That said, it contains religiously and linguistically distinct groups, one of which attempted to assert its own nationhood within living memory (and some people identify as Igbo and not Nigerian), so I would say not a nation state.

1. Robin

Czech and Slovak (a dialect continuum) are less different than the German dialects of Bavaria and Frisia. And Tony Buddenbrook from Lübeck suffered a severe culture shock in Munich. (I do love fictional evidence… but you get the general idea.) Bavaria was not very enthusiastic to join the German state in 1871.

2. Yaleocon

There’s some necessary arbitrariness in what level of homogeneity qualifies a state to be considered a genuine “nation-state.” And homogeneity varies with time, so something which wasn’t before can come to be a nation-state. With those caveats in mind, I’ll provide what I think are reasonable answers to your questions.

One way to measure homogeneity might be whether a state cares about staying together. East Germany and West Germany were different states, but when the opportunity came about, they didn’t hesitate to reunify; they still thought of themselves as one nation throughout. Italians would probably think the same way if Italy were divided into different states for some reason. As another example, North and South Koreans are committed to a common Korean identity, despite active political hostility between the two governments; very few Koreans oppose reunification. So by the yardstick I’m suggesting here, “Korea” is probably still a single nation, although if they’re left separated for long enough, their cultures will diverge enough that they will no longer be a single nation.

In contrast to Germany, the Holy Roman Empire was not a nation-state. And almost definitionally, empires are not nation-states, although they may be ruled principally by nation-states (think Britain ruling the British Empire). Czechoslovakia was closer to nationhood than the Austro-Hungarian empire it emerged from, but didn’t have enough of a national/historical identity to satisfy its citizens, so it divided into two genuine nation-states which did.

Nigeria… I don’t know enough about to say for sure. I do know that during decolonization, the British sometimes intentionally drew borders that didn’t align with existing cultural boundaries, and that if Nigeria isn’t a nation-state, that’s probably why. (Edit:wikipedia says it’s a “multinational state.” Seems reasonable.)

To make up for being unable to classify Nigeria because of my ignorance, Egypt is probably the paradigmatic African nation-state, and Rwanda is an example of an African state which doesn’t (yet) have a national identity. (In general, race war is a sign of a lack of common nationhood.)

1. DavidFriedman

In general, race war is a sign of a lack of common nationhood.

An earlier commenter made indirect reference to the Biafran war. That was a race war in Nigeria which cost an estimated million Biafran (Igbo) lives.

1. Yaleocon

Yeah, that’s the kind of thing that tells you there isn’t a common national identity. Nigeria minus Biafra could conceivably be a nation—but the two together clearly aren’t. (Thanks for highlighting that.)

At the moment, it looks like tensions persist:

The push for an independent Biafra is now newly resurgent. It is spearheaded by the Nigerian-British activist Nnamdi Kanu … His message is that Biafrans must commit to “civil disobedience” … Kanu is a divisive figure, including among residents of the region he would like to lead to independence. Some are swept up in his vision of secession; others distrust him for courting another potential war. Older Nigerian men in the region, some of whom still remember the region’s brief independence, tend to fall in the former camp.

But the groups might still come together given time; next para:

But younger Nigerians, though equally discontent, are less interested in secession than more constructive solutions.

That’s the kind of sentiment that could make a genuinely Nigerian nation where there isn’t one now.

2. salvorhardin

If Nigeria is not a nation-state, what about Canada or Spain? No ultra-bloody wars of secession, but significant and persistent secessionist movements insisting on separate national identities– and, on the other hand, lots of people who identify culturally, linguistically etc with the putatively-seceding national minorities but have little to no interest in actually seceding.

3. Robert Jones

Rwanda is an interesting example, because the current government lays great stress on Rwandan national identity. My impression is that they have had limited success so far, but it seems conceivable Rwanda is in the process of becoming a nation-state.

1. Yaleocon

Thanks for the correction! The biggest lesson from this thread might be that I clearly need to read up on contemporary Africa.

3. Forward Synthesis

Language and common descent seem like components of ethnicity.

I think most people using the term “ethno-state” these days mean something equivalent to “racial state”. A group with a common majority culture in terms of values could be described as a “nation”, but it’s not necessarily an ethnicity. A real world example would be how a racially “asian” Sikh and a white atheist in the UK could be different ethnicites or races, but still be relatively homogenous in terms of language and democratic values.

I find that “ethno-nationalism” is increasingly used to refer to a far-right sort of racial view of the state and then the term “civic nationalism” is used to refer to less extreme forms of nationalism that are based on culture/beliefs rather than innate characteristics.

1. Yaleocon

I think most people using the term “ethno-state” these days mean something equivalent to “racial state”.

Seems true to me. And yeah, people intentionally labeling themselves as “ethno-nationalists” are definitely far to the right, and often trying to be edgy. Certainly, people who say they like nation-states are defending a more toned-down and less racially charged nationalism. But I’m still curious what that more toned-down version thinks a “nation” is, independent from ethnicity.

“Values” are a good candidate, maybe the best. But the example of the Sikh and atheist (or a US equivalent) doesn’t do it for me. People often claim that the US isn’t a nation-state, on the grounds that a Sikh and Catholic (or some other pair) have equal standing within it, and that neither is “more American.” That is, the initial assumption is that they represent different nations, and their cultures’ equal standing within a state makes it less of a nation-state.

Can you give an example of a common cultural value that might define national belonging without being a component of ethnic identity? And in general, what makes a value a matter of “national” identity, and what makes a value a matter of “ethnic” identity? I can’t see a bright line between them, and I think there might be strong overlap.

1. 10240

And yeah, people intentionally labeling themselves as “ethno-nationalists” are definitely far to the right, and often trying to be edgy.

In countries that have a civic nationalist tradition (such as much of the Americas and Western Europe), yes. In countries that have an ethnic nationalist tradition (such as much of Eastern Europe), ethnic nationalists are not generally considered extreme, and they tend to be more moderate than ethnic nationalists in countries where mainstream nationalism is not ethnic.

2. albatross11

Isn’t the US usually thought of as a nation held together by shared values instead of ethnicity. That’s how you get Italians and Irishmen and Slavs and Swedes and Eastern European Jews and Germans to all think of themselves, a generation or two after immigration, as Americans.

3. Forward Synthesis

Can you give an example of a common cultural value that might define national belonging without being a component of ethnic identity?

The majority of people in Western countries upholding democracy as a positive ideal is something that counts as a big part of our common culture, I think. Anti-democratic value systems are pushed to the margins of society.

Civic nationalism is sometimes referred to as liberal nationalism (although you could easily have a cultural nationalism that was illiberal), so the common culture could be one where the culture upholds the tenets of the liberal system (in the larger non-US centric meaning of the word), such as democracy, rule of law, open debate, rationalism, the primacy of scientific enquiry, and the idea of progress. The “Enlightenment” is invoked in this fashion.

“Values” are a good candidate, maybe the best. But the example of the Sikh and atheist (or a US equivalent) doesn’t do it for me. People often claim that the US isn’t a nation-state, on the grounds that a Sikh and Catholic (or some other pair) have equal standing within it, and that neither is “more American.” That is, the initial assumption is that they represent different nations, and their cultures’ equal standing within a state makes it less of a nation-state.

I see what you are getting at though. It has a fluidity to it because it’s a line drawing exercise, and it is imposed on the system. The Sikh and Catholic could be considered part of the same nation as they share a common sense of each other as citizens in a system they work towards maintaining, whereas some kind of Thuggee Death Cultist who wants to tear this system down and institute a Death God worshipping theocracy might not be considered part of this “civic” nation. Deciding what a nation means is a political decision.

Honestly, ethnicity and race aren’t any different as nations, because you have to engage in exactly the same line drawing exercises, and impose “white” or “black” from the outside, in a somewhat arbitrary way, since we could just as easily go on making further distinctions, such as between an Igbo and a San, but we have instead decided to stop there. This doesn’t mean there isn’t some underlying reality, but it does mean that there’s no consistent definition of what a culture, an ethnicity, or a race is, and so there’s no consistent definition of what a nation is.

It has to be decided at any one time by the powers that be as it’s a categorization system that befits a chosen purpose.

1. Yaleocon

Yeah, there is a lot of necessary arbitrariness in deciding when to stop categorizing and differentiating. That’s true both for the ethnic examples you gave and “values” ones. A Texan rancher has different values from a coastal aristocrat. “Judeo-Christians” have different values from Hindus, and within the former category, Jews differ from Christians, Catholics from evangelicals, and further and further down… In the end, there probably isn’t some hard measure of similarity that defines “common values” or “common ethnicity” objectively. People decide which commonalities they value, and define ethnic/national on an ad hoc basis.

The vagueness of those categories isn’t what I’m trying to highlight, though. I’m trying to highlight how to a first approximation, “nation” and “ethnicity” seem to be the same vague category. Differences in values, ancestry, history, and language seem relevant to both ethnicity and nationhood… so what, if anything, distinguishes the two ideas? They both just seem to mean “group with strong cultural similarity.”

Heck, I just Googled “define ethnicity”, and the result? “Belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition.” So I’m not just pulling this out of my rear. And if that’s the case, “nation-state” and “ethno-state” are synonyms… one is just more provocatively phrased.

Your point about “a common sense of each other as citizens” is a good one. But ultimately, does that really define nationhood, or does that just boil down to citizenship? I think the two are usually thought to be distinct. (Ultimately, there’s a lot about this that’s just semantic. Maybe I’m getting too caught up in language altogether.)

2. DinoNerd

@Yaleocon

When I first encountered “ethnicity” it basically referred to subgroups within a country/nation. So a nation has its own government, supreme in its territory (to a first approximation). E.g. USA or Belgium. Not e.g. Los Angeles or (currently) Bavaria.

“Ethnicity” refered either to where people/their ancestors came from, when in a country mostly formed by relatively recent immigration (e.g. Americans of German extraction) or some other kind of more-or-less inherited subgroup within a nation (e.g. Bavarian, once Bavaria became part of Germany).

At that point, “ethnicity” was a useful term, though less useful when it blurred into people from (or in) a politicial sub-entity of a larger nation (Bavarian, Texan, Quebecois).

Also, the implication was that in a melting-pot type nation (USA, supposedly), ethnicities would tend to blur over the generations. My great grandfather was a Yorkshire man. My Grandfather was English. My mother was ethnically British, perhaps. And I’m Canadian 😉

In practice I suspect that nation traditionally meant ‘Ethnostate’ but the former became so watered down in meaning that another term was required to capture the original meaning. It’s sort of like gradually watering down what it means to be a Christian so you get people who invent a new name for following Christian practices of a century or more ago.

When someone says that one word means “Racial” and another means “Ethnic” I think they are trying to find a way to reconcile their discomfort with the term. I.E. one term makes me nervous and another term doesn’t, there must be some objective reason for this.

As an aside, for some reason ‘Racial’ is worse than ‘Ethnic’ even though for most conventional uses of those words, the former is more inclusive than the latter. Again I think this is a legacy WW2. The word ‘Race’ was used in a manner we would today call ethnic. I would describe US immigration policy prior to 1920 mono-racial and multi-ethnic. Liberal by the standards of the day but reactionary by today’s standards. National origins quotas in the 20s-60s gave it the mandate of preserving the ethnic composition.

Also there are a few aspects of realpolitik to this that will render any definition of nation problematic (much as a commissar living in a palace is problematic for defining what a communist state is)

1. Nationalist Party makes irredentist claims on territory clearly occupied by another ethnic group
2. Nationalist Party claims a territory as part of their nation which is culturally distinct from the other (North/South Italy) but not quite distinct enough to classify as a different ethnic group.

So in the real world a country will often try to nab territory off of its neighbors either for reasons of prestige or perceived interest. The main difference between self-described nationalists in Hungary and Italy and nationalists of yore is that occupying territory they don’t currently possess isn’t a centerpiece their platform (if it’s there at all).

The result is you end up with center-left and center-right parties treating nationalist parties in Europe as threatening a third world war by virtue of being nationalists. In modern practice this merely means limiting the impact of mass migrations into their corner of Europe (a human rights violation) plus some social conservatism. People either take that rhetoric seriously or they don’t, and both the believers and the doubters assume the other side is bent on mass destruction.

Group differences are real but often less internally homogeneous then a nationalist might give them credit for, but part of the trick of having any country work is having the people inside of it identify with each other. This often requires an illusion of homogeneity. But that illusion is easier to maintain when the facts on the ground more often then not confirm it. So a country like Italy can squeeze by but post-ww2 India required one or more partitions. Given heterogeneity exists in magnitudes, it’s no surprise that the success of nations exists in magnitudes.

1. Machine Interface

In practice I suspect that nation traditionally meant ‘Ethnostate’ but the former became so watered down in meaning that another term was required to capture the original meaning.

It really depends how far back you’re implying with “traditionally” here. Throughout the premodern period “nation” appears to have been used to mean various nuances of “groups of individuals united by some distinctive trait(s) or feature(s)”. It has been used to designate Christians as synonymous with “gentiles”, it has been used to designate geographical groups within the same country (like “nations” of city vs country-dwellers), to designate occupation/jobs (“the nation of merchants”), to designate colonists, to designate animal species, to designate the government and its representative, and many other now unusual meanings.

The ethno-nationalist meaning is in fact a recent development from the turn of 19th century, and here there’s clearly a division between the countries where this ethno-nation was defined more among civic/cultural lines (US, UK, France, Switzerland, Italy, Russia to a degree) and those where it was define more among racial/blood lines (Germany, Eastern Europe and the Balkans).

My understanding had been that nation comes from the same root as nativity and natus, referring first and foremost to birth or origin. Much as culture and cult share the same root.

My understanding was similar for the word Gentile which had originally been translated to “The (other) nations”

I could be wrong but my first post was based on that assumption. The romans seemed to have a culture where Syrians, Germans, and Iberians could call themselves roman citizens if they met certain qualifications.

4. Garrett

Trying to remember from basic political science and anthropology classes, but:

Race: Grouping of people based on phenotypical traits and likely common genetic heritage. Roughly, that isolation, social and environmental pressure and inbreeding have an impact on the shared appearance of what a population of people look like.

Ethnicity: Generally refers to a shared culture (usually comprising history, values, myths, language, religion, etc.) in which members are able to recognize each other as members. That is, you don’t get to simply declare yourself a member, the group has to recognize you as one of them.

Nation: the collection of all people who are part of a given ethnicity, no matter where they are.

State: A political institution with a monopoly on violence over a defined territory, including sovereignty, foreign policy, and recognition by other states.

Nation-state: A state in which the inhabitants are predominantly members of a nation.

Not all of these need to completely line up. For example, the population of Israel manages to mix a number of these. Even as a Jewish state (and Jewish in this case referring to both the ethnic as well as religious components), there’s a population of both Sephardic as well as Ashkenazi Jews, thus arguably not of uniform racial characteristics. Likewise, there is a large Jewish population world-wide which would recognize each other as members thereof, but clearly are not located in a compact, contiguous location.

I suspect that part of the problem is that once “race” became politically incorrect, people started using “ethnicity” as a euphemism. This is made more complicated in the United States by having major racial groups roughly lining up with different standards of behavior, assumptions in life, etc., and thus ethnic differences. So it is possible to have true criticisms of culture (and thus ethnicity) without having criticisms of race, but this can easy be mistaken for co-terminal racial criticism.

1. DinoNerd

I suspect that part of the problem is that once “race” became politically incorrect, people started using “ethnicity” as a euphemism.

Yes.

Not sure the problem was “political incorrectness” though – more like “I can convert more people/get less flak from them if I don’t use the term they object to.”

The same has happened to “religion” – any system of belief is mislabelled a “religion”. And “science” for that matter.

I tend to feel like I’m listening to the Red Queen, and tune out, even when the person using the new meanings is not in fact themselves trying to decieve me/get me to react to them better – it’s the only meaning of “ethnic” or “religion” or “science” they know.

2. Nancy Lebovitz

I think “race” meaning what we’d now call ethnicity was more of a British usage. I don’t know why it faded.

3. albatross11

Well, black/white is a huge split in US society, for a whole bunch of well-worn historical reasons. Hispanics don’t fit at all in a model that you build based on black/white race relations, but various pundits and politicians keep trying anyway. Asians are also not such a great fit for that model, both because of massive cultural/genetic diversity (Bangladeshis and Japanese are both included in that category) and because they outperform whites overall.

29. Machine Interface

From my perspective, it seems that nationalism has tended, historically, to be a unifying force in the short term but a divisive force in the long run.

In the initial stages, the new ideology and group construct generates great enthusiasm and the adherence of a vast number of people who want to be part of the nation-building project, but once the nation-state is there and it becomes increasingly clear that not only it’s not a panacea, but that it comes with its own category of specific problems and vexations, then nationalist memes turn metastatic and, as “national” groups can be nested to a great degree, more local/regional demands for new, smaller nations start to appear (with a tendency to only become more virulent the more they are denied and repressed).

Yugoslavia and Syria are good examples of this cycle at work — now there is a journalistic cliché that can be served under both a anti-colonial and pro-nationalist angle, which consists in explaining that the original nation was artificial and drawn by external, hostile forces, without taking into account the “real” ethnographic borders, but this often flies in the face of the actual history of these countries: for instance, the initial creation of Syria was not only met with almost unanymous enthusiasm among the different groups of the country, but in fact the idea of a united Syria was fought [i]against[/i] by French colonizers, who instead went for a divide and conquer strategy by trying to support more ethno-religiously distinct and specific independence movements, so as to prevent the emergence of a united Syrian movement for independence.

The religious divisions within both Syria and Yugoslavia, which nowadays are often hindsight-fallacied into an obvious cause for the unravelling of nation states that were “doomed from the start” were in fact not seen as a major obstacles by most of the involved people at the time. If anything, Syria and Yugoslavia were initially perceived to have failed in their objective by not including [i]all[/i] the groups and territory they wanted to — Yugoslavia pursued the idea of a single unified south-slavic state (and even south-balkanic state) right up until Tito (which was the main cause of the Tito-Stalin split), and Syria was bitter over the creation of Lebanon, a majority of the inhabitants of which at the time also wanted to be part of Syria.

The possibility for almost any difference to crystalize into distinctive nationalist feelings appears to be extremely potent, when you see cases like Czechia and Slovakia, or Romania and Molodova, pairs of countries that are ethnically identical, speak mutually intelligible languages, largely have the same culture, the same religion, but feel strongly different from one another entirely due to historical accidents (Austrian vs Hungarian domination for Czechia and Slovakia, self-ruled Warsaw Pact country vs part of the Soviet Union for Romania and Moldova).

But would it be possible to invert this tendency?

Let’s take the example of France and Germany. The countries are linguistically distinct, but otherwise very similar culturally, religiously and ethnically. Futhermore, they have a large period of their early history which is essentially shared: Merovingians and Carolingians kings often ruled on a proto-state that would eventually split to become both France (originally West Francia) and Germany (originally East Francia). They have sometimes been at war, but that’s hardly a significant obstacle.

Do you think it would be possible to create and develop broad popular support for an ideological movement for the unification of France and Germany as a single multilingual nation — something like a bigger Switzerland, with strong regional power and limited federal government power outside of diplomacy, military, and making sure rule of law and basic rights are maintained in individual regions?

1. Tarpitz

Having lived in France and known many Germans, I feel like you’re underplaying the cultural differences. They’re at least as big as North vs. South Italy, which is proving quite problematic, with the additional issue of the language difference.

2. Clutzy

I think you are actually severely underplaying the differences and difficulties in the old states (as well as a Franco-German unified state). Indeed, the sentiment you are reflecting seems very much the same as the sentiment of imperialism. Basically you are saying, “why not just put all these people together and rule them in the best way?” The problem with that is successful imperialism necessarily becomes totalitarian because there are such extreme differences between people. Syria and Iraq currently are already examples of a failure of states because of lack of homogeneity. South Africa is cracking up, the EU has to act petty and totalitarian to keep its states from leaving (see Brexit), even Britain is showing signs of cracking.

Nationalism as described here, is just a specific form of localism. And localism is a way of keeping the peace. Even in the US we see this in that most state governments are much more functional than the federal government. And the state/city governments that are most dysfunctional are very much the more “diverse” ones. While some people seem to viscerally disagree with even the mention of this concept, it is actually quite difficult to craft a policy that works well in New York and Iowa. Its hard to make policy that works in Chicago and Southern IL. Sometimes its even hard to make something that works in Manhattan and Harlem.

1. Reasoner

Sometimes its even hard to make something that works in Manhattan and Harlem.

Harlem is part of Manhattan.

1. Clutzy

And yet, so different (at one time) that I forgot that. The point would be the same if I used my home city and said, “Wrigleyville” vs. “Engelwood”

3. An Fírinne

That only happens when there is either soft cultural heterogeneous states (North vs South Italy) or hard cultural heterogeneous states (UK and Spain). I don’t know of any instances of a culturally homogenous state facing issues related to seperatism

4. ana53294

Let’s take the example of France and Germany. The countries are linguistically distinct, but otherwise very similar culturally, religiously and ethnically.

Although both countries have a tendency towards secularization, France is mainly Catholic, while Germany is more or less evenly split between Protestants and Catholics.

The food is much better in France, and they spend a lot of time obsessing about it. Cars made in Germany tend to be much better than the French ones. As the joke goes:

Heaven is where: The police are British; The chefs Italian; The mechanics are German; The lovers are French, and it’s all organised by the Swiss.
Hell is where: The police are German; The chefs are British; The mechanics are French; The lovers are Swiss, and it’s all organised by the Italians!!

France and Germany also have completely different attitudes towards fiscal deficits. And affairs.

There are many regions within France and Germany themselves that would like independence (although they are small minorities). I can’t imagine France and Germany ever having the same government.

I’d say that Austria and Germany are more similar than either is to France. But they are still very different. Portugal and Spain are more likely to become one country than France and Germany (they were one country for a very brief period after all).

5. Watchman

I believe the normal failure mode for multi-ethnic states is the monopolisation of power by one group, notably the Alawites in Syria, who at first dominated the military and then through this government, or the Serbs in Yugoslavia. Note this does not mean other groups don’t also support the regime: Assyrians and Montenegrains seem to have been loyal to the respective regimes during the ethnic conflicts.

This is probably a feature in democracies too. Independence movements in Scotland, Catalonia and Quebec all focus on how they are controlled by other groups. The eternal balancing game that is Belgium sometimes seem to have both Fleming and Walloons believing simultaneously that the other group is dominating them unfairly (evidentally the small German-speaking minority really controls things…). Whilst I don’t believe there is unfair power distribution in any of these cases, the nature of being a minority (/slight majority for Flemings) is that your group voice will be often drowned out by others, which can appear to be exclusion from power. Note though that in almost all these cases recent leaders of the country have been from the group in question: the Belgian Germans are maybe too small a group to expect to produce prime ministers at all often, but the fact that all post-1982 prime ministers of Spain bar one seem to have been Castillian (he was Gallician) may justify Catalan grievances somewhat.

So multi-ethnic states can work, and whilst working form a nation. But the internal balance of power is always a risk, even in fully-representative democracies. This is why its a bad idea to encourage the expression of Texan identity… (well that and the hats).

1. Aapje

It’s more complicated than that. Coexistence within a polity requires a willingness to adapt to the other. The very reason why we have separate nations in the first place is so the policies can be tailored to a group that shares similar geographical, ethnic or other similarities.

The less this similarity is, the more burdens are placed on people to preserve the union.

Separatism is often based on the belief that the burdens of adapting to the other are not worth the benefits of having a union, not (merely) on the idea that the power distribution is unfair.

Imagine being forced to migrate to a democratic country whose political choices you hate. You’ll have a vote with equal power to anyone else in that society and will get to influence that society a tiny bit to what you like, but your life will be much worse than if you stayed in your own country where many more people shared your culture and thus voted for policies that you like better.

1. Watchman

Most nations are historical accidents though, rather than rational collectives of people with a common similarity. Be it the political history of Europe, the colonial lines on a map in Africa or the outright conquest behind several new world states, there are very few nations based around a common identity.

6. Heterosteus

Let’s take the example of France and Germany. The countries are linguistically distinct, but otherwise very similar culturally, religiously and ethnically.

As the other commenters have been saying, I think you need to back this statement up before we can get much further. The shared history of France and (some of) Germany ended close to a thousand years ago, the two countries are religiously quite different (though both are also fairly secular and irreligious so I’m not sure this matters all that much), and they certainly don’t think of themselves as culturally similar.

That said, I do think both the English and the Germans exaggerate how different they are from the French, and probably the French also exaggerate how different they are from the English and Germans.

1. Aapje

I do think both the English and the Germans exaggerate how different they are from the French, and probably the French also exaggerate how different they are from the English and Germans.

I’m not sure. I live in The Netherlands, which is fairly Germanic and there is a lot of frustration over French behaviors that regularly bubbles to the surface.

A Dutch Secretary of State once famously said “France is a beautiful country. Just a pity that there are French people living there.” I don’t see such sentiments about the English, Belgians, Swiss, Spanish, etc.

1. Heterosteus

Last time I was in Paris I was surprised at how much it reminded me of London.

I’m not saying there aren’t significant cultural differences, of course there are, but relative to, say, southern or eastern Europe I don’t think they’re as overwhelming as we all like to act like they are.

A Dutch Secretary of State once famously said “France is a beautiful country. Just a pity that there are French people living there.” I don’t see such sentiments about the English, Belgians, Swiss, Spanish, etc.

I honestly think this has more to do with accumulated narratives from semi-recent history than with current cultural differences.

1. Aapje

I’m not saying there aren’t significant cultural differences, of course there are, but relative to, say, southern or eastern Europe I don’t think they’re as overwhelming as we all like to act like they are.

Southern Europe starts in Belgium.

France is more like Italy than like the UK, Germany, The Netherlands, etc in what they see as ‘the good life.’ None of the northern countries are known for their advanced cuisine. This is not a coincidence.

I honestly think this has more to do with accumulated narratives from semi-recent history than with current cultural differences.

Narratives tend to wear away if they are not strengthened. If semi-recent history keeps proving the narratives right, then is that in itself not evidence for cultural differences?

2. AlphaGamma

A Dutch Secretary of State once famously said “France is a beautiful country. Just a pity that there are French people living there.” I don’t see such sentiments about the English, Belgians, Swiss, Spanish, etc.

I have heard Dutch friends say pretty much exactly the same thing about Belgium.

1. Aapje

Are they from some specific region? I never hear such sentiments. Most Dutch people I know seem to regard Belgium rather neutrally.

2. AlphaGamma

@Aapje- one is from Zeeland near the border, the other from somewhere near, but not in, Amsterdam (Amstelveen IIRC?).

2. Machine Interface

My impression is that, yes, if you average out French culture on one side and German culture on the other side, there seem to be a gap, but in practice if you look at the actual territory it’s much more of a continuum. There are breaks in that continuum, but they aren’t necessarily where you’d expect them to be — linguistically for instance, a lot of traditional German speakers are geographically within French borders.

Southern France is definitely closer culturally to Spain and Italy, and the historical language, Occitan, was indeed much more typically Romance than French.

But the further north you go, the more germanic the culture becomes. The Oïl dialects (including standard French) have many linguistic features, including in phonology, morphology, syntax and vocabulary, that directly show a strong Frankish substratum. The more you go north the more people cook with butter rather than olive oil, the more they prefer potatoes over tomatoes, beer over wine, garlic over provence herbs and chili pepper, football over rugby, smoked sausage over dry/spicy sausage, etc.

I realise the same kind of north/south contrasts exists in Germany as well, but that just tells me that the gap between say, Northern France and Southern Germany is not any bigger than the gap between Northern and Southern France or Northern and Southern Germany.

To me the crux of the difference between France and Germany is more structural than anything: France has a long history of centralism whereas Germany has been a pluricentric country for most of its history.

7. AlesZiegler

Imho nationalism has been generally integrationist force, and cases you mention where countries fell apart were mostly result of nationalism (hereby defined as loyalty to unified state) being weak. Like Syria, isn´t it plausible that Syrian nationalism was a result of united front of various factions against French colonial overlords? And after French left, those factions lost common cause and Syrian nationalism was correspondingly weakened. Syria was for some time united with Egypt, and although this union also fell apart, it seems that it would not be possible if Syrians felt strongly about their national independence.

And you are wrong about Czechia and Slovakia. Those countries are not ethnically identical and have the same culture roughly in the same sense as East Germany and Czechia have the same culture. Slovaks are much more Christian than Czechs. Slovak and Czech is mutually intelligible because rules for both written languages were largely invented in 19th century and Slovaks inspired themselves by Czechs, who invented their written language something like few decades before them – partially based on older written Czech which largely went out use because of massive depopulation of Bohemian lands during Thirty Years War.

Czechoslovakia came into being largely as a result of pragmatic political alliance between Czech and Slovak leaders, helped along by happy coincidence that Masaryk, who successfully nominated himself during WWI to a position of a leader of Czech resistance against Habsburgs, was of mixed Czech and Slovak ancestry.

30. johan_larson

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to do a bit of astronomical engineering to produce an impressive light-show on the grandest of scales. I want a nova next door or a supernova down the block or something of that order. Use your imagination; I’m flexible. But it should be visually impressive, shouldn’t wreck the biosphere, and should happen soon. Soon meaning within thousands of years, not millions. What do you have in mind?

1. Dack

It seems like we should be able to hack a super aurora borealis/australis if we can somehow increase/accelerate the solar wind.

2. The Nybbler

Mars is covered with iron oxide. Aluminum is available from asteroids. I’m creating a thermite reaction over the entire Martian surface. It’s not a nova, but it’s a lot closer than the nearest star.

3. tossrock

Redirect a comet to impact the moon. Comets with long tails are already one of the most spectacular things in the night sky, and then it ends with a colossal bang!

4. baconbits9

Launch a bunch of particles into space so that the earth passes through them in its orbit creating the most spectacular meteor shower the earth has ever seen.

So a long long time ago when Star Trek: Discovery had just come out, it spawned an interesting discussion here about how poorly most science fiction shows handle mutiny specifically and military discipline generally.

Which leads to my question: in your opinion which science fiction book, show or movie has the most realistically depicted military and why? If your first choice is Starship Troopers, please also name a second place pick.

1. bean

A good candidate for a modern military is the Honorverse series by David Weber. The man knows his stuff, and people behave how they should under the circumstances. Another option is David Drake’s stuff. He’s a Vietnam Vet, and it shows, even if he does sometimes pick weird militaries to model on. (The RCN series uses the early 18th century RN, for instance.)

2. johan_larson

Military service isn’t popular. Those who have served in peacetime often complain about all sorts of inane bureaucracy, and those who have served in wartime often complain about mind-boggling boredom when not engaging the enemy, and misery and terror when actually in combat. This leads me to suspect that the most true-to-life account would actually be pretty negative. Perhaps books like The Forever War are on to something.

Or maybe the truest account would be really mundane. The military has a lot of people who do pretty ordinary work, like servicing vehicles, keeping accounts, and negotiating contracts with suppliers. Except for the uniforms and the basic training, they could be working for any big company anywhere.

1. Tarpitz

I think the truth is that people are very different to one another and have very different experiences of military service – most of all of battle. Peter Jackson’s recent WW1 documentary They Shall not Grow Old does an excellent job of illustrating this, but one could also simply contrast the poetry of Owen and Sassoon. Sassoon intellectually understood that war was terrible and actively campaigned against it, but viscerally he found it thrilling. Dangerous, homicidal work brought him joy. Owen was made miserable on a gut level by everything about the business. And there’s plenty of room for reactions by others that are neither – love of the cameraderie, or frustration at the structure, or, or, or…

1. Deiseach

I think the truth is that people are very different to one another and have very different experiences of military service – most of all of battle.

Like this little snippet from C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, Lewis having served in the First World War as a very young officer:

“He means fighting,” said Camilla. “They’d be too many for us, I’m afraid,” said Arthur Denniston. “Maybe that!” said MacPhee. “But maybe they’ll be too many for us this way too. But it would be grand to have one go at them before the end. To tell you the truth I sometimes feel I don’t greatly care what happens. But I wouldn’t be easy in my grave if I knew they’d won and I’d never had my hands on them. I’d like to be able to say as an old sergeant said to me in the first war, about a bit of a raid we did near Monchy. Our fellows did it all with the butt end, you know. “Sir,” says he, “did you ever hear anything like the way their heads cracked.” “I think that’s disgusting,” said Mother Dimble. “That part is, I suppose,” said Camilla. “But …oh if one could have a charge in the old style. I don’t mind anything once I’m on a horse.”

3. John Schilling

There are too many literary examples to count, including some by combat veterans retelling parts of their own stories in an SFnal context. David Drake and Jerry Pournelle come to mind in that context; I don’t think Elizabeth Moon ever saw combat but she knows the military, ditto Heinlein as you already note.

In the television realm, “Stargate SG:1” got it right like no one before or since ever has; not so much the spin-offs. The “Battlestar Galactica” remake was sometimes very good on that front, then they’d go off and e.g/ take “these are airplanes flying from an aircraft carrier” so stupidly literally that I couldn’t handle it.

4. Wrong Species

To be fair to Star Trek, Star Fleet has uniforms and rank but it was always supposed to be fairly distinct from our own military. It doesn’t break my suspension of disbelief that people hundreds of years in the future would be more lax in their attitudes.

1. Clutzy

To be fair to Star Fleet, the ships we are shown have a ridiculous amount of turmoil compared to the USS George Washington, or whatever. In real wartime situations inferior officers are expected to make choices all the time without input, but they aren’t asked to solve 15 moral conundrums a year. The fact that the Captain of the Enterprise is available to make almost every important choice is one of the least realistic parts of Star Trek. People sleep, engineering can’t always wait for the helm, tactical is responding to threats independently.

5. Deiseach

Not science fiction, but for depiction of military discipline in The Lord of the Rings where after Aragorn is crowned king and everything has settled down in Gondor, Beregond the Captain of the Guard is tried and disciplined for leaving his post without leave.

Nevermind that he did it to prevent Denethor burning Faramir alive, he deserted his post and was liable to the death penalty (but Aragorn showed mercy, though Beregond was dismissed from the Guard).

I don’t think someone who had never served in the Army would have included that detail.

6. Etoile

Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers” is, at least, reasonably accurate as a portrayal of military attitudes, views, and even patterns of expression and relationship, based on what friends in the military who read it told me. Idealized and simplified and modified for the futuristic and interplanetary setting, of course.

32. Tatterdemalion

In a fight between the 45 presidents of the USA (at the ages they assumed the presidency), who do you think would win?

1. Joseph Greenwood

Are they allowed to form coalitions, or is this just a bloodbath? Are they dressed in era-appropriate attire but left weaponless?

1. Protagoras

He seems like the most obvious choice. But there are so many presidents whose biographies I don’t know in detail.

2. DeWitt

Lincoln invented the chokeslam, which surely isn’t anachronistic revisionism, so my money is on him.

Lincoln can also draw on his long experience hunting vampires with an axe, so I concur.

3. Alejandro

The question has been discussed many times in r/whowouldwin (with different stipulations as to ages, weapons, and rules for the fight). The top voted answers are usually Andrew Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt, with Lincoln (wrestling experience) and Washington (military expertise) as other strong contenders.

Andrew Jackson would be almost 20 years senior to TR. Washington only 15 years, but by the time he got to office he was sickly.

Along the same lines as Jackson, I bet LBJ would have been a really dirty fighter.

2. Eric Rall

Jackson, TR, and Washington are also the three US Presidents with a demonstrated natural resistance or immunity to bullets, which would give them a significant advantage over the others.

TR was shot in the chest during a campaign appearance in 1912. He finished the appearance (including an hour-long speech) before accepting medical attention. The doctors found only a superficial wound (the bullet lodged in his chest muscle), bandaged him up, and sent him on his way.

Jackson fought in an absurd number of duels over the course of his life. Most were mere formalities, with both parties privately agreeing to waste their shots, but several were fought in earnest. In one such duel, he deliberately allowed his opponent to shoot first (hitting Jackson in the chest) so Jackson could take his time and make an aimed shot for the best chance of killing his opponent (which he succeeded in doing). Jackson survived and fully recovered from a deep chest wound.

Later, during Jackson’s presidency, he survived an assassination attempt when both of the assassin’s pistols misfired. Possibly because the pistols were in poor repair or had been loaded improperly, but more likely because the bullets were afraid of him. Jackson then had to be restrained from beating his attacker to death on the spot.

Washington’s military career was characterized by a cavalier attitude towards enemy fire: he’d regularly ride out in front to encourage his men, despite the other side shooting at him. He was never wounded, although at least two horses were killed under him and bullet holes were found in his clothes after battles on several occasions. Either he was absurdly lucky or any bullets that hit him bounced off harmlessly.

1. Mark Atwood

Washington’s military career was characterized by a cavalier attitude towards enemy fire … he was absurdly lucky

The Mormons literally believe that he was chosen and protected by God.

Sometimes I think that GWs insanely improbable luck under fire, the insanely unlikely lucky twists of his political career, and the insanely unlikely odds of his position and availability in the foundation of the USA are one of those 1e15-to-one probability slots that put us in an unlikely timeline.

And that the George the Tyrant of “Assassins Creed” was a more likely timeline.

1. Wrong Species

Sometimes I think it would be best for all of the US to just adopt Mormonism as its religion, unofficially of course. It would give a stronger sense of cohesion with an explicitly pro-American religion that idealizes having children. The problem would be getting around the strict rules against coffee and alcohol though.

2. Randy M

FWIW, Michael Medved, a conservative Jewish radio guy, made a similar assertion about divine intervention in early American history.

3. Nornagest

I’ve heard a surprisingly strong argument (from one of David Friedman’s kids) that divine intervention’s the most likely cause of Joan of Arc’s battlefield success. If we can say the same for George Washington, that says some interesting stuff about what God wants the world to look like.

4. Randy M

I think we need to add (Christian) Rome and ancient (and possibly modern?) Israel to the list.

5. DinoNerd

@Wrong Species – the ban on various mind-altering chemicals is the least of the reasons I wouldn’t want to be Mormon.

6. Nick

I’ve heard a surprisingly strong argument (from one of David Friedman’s kids) that divine intervention’s the most likely cause of Joan of Arc’s battlefield success. If we can say the same for George Washington, that says some interesting stuff about what God wants the world to look like.

Where did you see that? I remember David mentioning it, but I don’t think I saw a link at the time. Googling suggests you talked to his son about it, so is this not anything I can read?

7. DavidFriedman

It’s an argument Bill made at at least one of the meetups we have hosted.

His interests are largely historical. His claim is that the facts of Joan of Arc’s history are much better supported than most historical accounts that far back, due to the surviving records of both trials, and that it is hard to find a non-supernatural explanation of them.

8. Auric Ulvin

If Washington was chosen and protected by God, who was helping Hitler?

A lot of these are unimpressive but time and time again, he manages to escape bombs and bullets by luck and leaving early. If I was smarter, I’d be able to tie it into the Spear of Longinus and add ‘this is not a coincidence because nothing is ever a coincidence’.

Napoleon had the same power, his aides, horses and assistants get shot or cannonballed, while he remains unscathed.

9. Aapje

You’d think that assassins would have figured out that Hitler lacks the patience to endure long meetings.

4. broblawsky

Unarmed, my money is on Lincoln without reservation. His freakish height, strength, and wrestling experience should carry him through. With weapons, it’s basically a crapshoot.

1. hash872

Pretty much this. Lincoln was apparently a legitimately good wrestler- how good is a mix of legend & myth, but I think we can reasonably say that he was county or state-level good in the wrestling-crazed 19th century US. That’s a reasonable accomplishment, and I’d generally pick a physically large regional champ in a legit martial art over most untrained people

1. MrApophenia

He also used to perform feats of strength to entertain soldiers on trips to the field during the Civil War. Even if you assume some exaggeration in the retelling, he must have been pretty strong for anything like that to have seemed like a good idea.

The story that is mentioned in Team of Rivals is that he would hold an arm parallel to the ground, fully outstretched, and then in that hand, hold an axe by the tip of the handle so that it was perpendicular to the ground. This doesn’t sound that impressive at first, but it would have been incredibly difficult, and apparently the soldiers were impressed enough to write home about it.

Lincoln was strong as hell, and probably a safe bet for any President fight that gets in close.

1. Acedia

“Physically, Mr. Lincoln was the strongest man I ever knew,” recalled Daniel Green Burner, “That is saying a good deal. Let me tell you what I saw him do. He took a full barrel of whisky, containing forty-four gallons, gripping each end with one hand, raised it deliberately to his face and drank from the bunghole. In doing this he won a \$10 hat from Bill Green. In the grocery I have often seen him pick up a barrel of whisky, place it on the counter, and then lower it on the other side.”

2. Nornagest

What I’m getting out of this is that Lincoln bought whisky by the barrel. That might be more impressive than being able to DL ~300 pounds.

2. Another Throw

He may have been freakishly tall for his time, but not so much anymore. At 6’4″, he is only about 1.5 standard deviations above average. Considering how much leadership positions are selected on height, while he is still the tallest President, he isn’t particularly an outlier. Something like 20 of them are 6 foot or taller.

As for the feats of strength, I don’t know if I am overly impressed. Taking the whiskey barrel incident as an example, he cheated. Or it was as much a word game as a feat of strength (conf. the discussion elsewhere about lying while telling the truth). The wager never specified how far he had to lift it. Nor that the lifting and drink occur simultaneously. (Nor, for that matter, that the barrel actually be full.)

He lifted the barrel to his knees and, from a squatting position, poured the whiskey into his mouth with the barrel resting comfortable in place.

Like, I don’t have one on hand to try, but I am almost positive that *I* could get a (half full, ball parking the density) whiskey barrel to my knees and drink from it and I am an out of shape middle aged city slicker. Now admittedly that last ~150 lbs is where the real money is but it is not an insurmountable burden for someone actually in shape.