Open Thread 130.25

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871 Responses to Open Thread 130.25

  1. souleater says:

    I want to do a board game night with some friends this saturday, does anyone have any suggestions?

    I’m looking for games that are around 4-8 players
    Simple enough to self teach in a night
    Not very expensive

    We liked Settlers of Catan, strategy and bluffing games.

    The big reason we’re looking for a new game is for few years we all played DnD, but since then some players got bored and dropped out. now we are looking to supplement our regular DnD nights with a way to include everyone

    edit: card games or boards games are both fine

    • johan_larson says:

      I really enjoy Pandemic, but it’s for 2-4 players, so you’d need two sets.

    • Lignisse says:

      It’s hard to find good games that can play up to 8; that mostly restricts you to light party games. If you do want to keep the whole group together, I recommend One Night Ultimate Werewolf – it’s a rework of the classic Mafia/Werewolf to keep only the fun parts of it and make it a lot shorter.

      But my real recommendation is to split into two groups and play two different games. This can be awkward if you’re expected to teach both, so good luck with that. But the advantage is that you can cater well to different tastes. One cooperative game and one competitive game is often a good mix.

      For cooperative games, I second johan_larson’s Pandemic recommendation; for a competitive game I recommend Century: Spice Road (and there’s more I can suggest if that’s too light)

    • edmundgennings says:

      Not technically a board game, but Saboteur seems like a good fit.

    • hls2003 says:

      I have really enjoyed Eldritch Horror, which allows players up to eight (or 10? don’t have rules with me). It’s a pain to set up (there are about a dozen different decks and as many different tokens) and the rules are moderately complicated, but if you have past D&D players, the rules will feel sort of intuitive – it’s a more card-directed variant of “equip your party, improve your stats, fight the monsters, complete the quest.” I would estimate that an eight-person game would take about 4-6 hours though, just because people take awhile to hash out their strategy. Also, there are half a dozen expansions that can be played for variety, though each requires a separate purchase. I have three currently.

    • JPNunez says:

      Gonna second One Night Ultimate Werewolf.

      You only play a single night (duh) so everyone is pressured to lie, cheat and deceive instantly.

      It’s hard to find other TT games for 8 people? IIRC Carcassone caps at 5 or 6. I recommend just grabbing a fuck ton of dice and plastic cups and playing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liar%27s_dice Liar’s Dice. That game scales well, although it has the problem that people who loses early gets to watch.

    • jgr314 says:

      I find the advanced search feature on boardgamegeek is good for this type of situation. For example, here are games for 4-8 players with playing times up to 30 minutes.

      I’ve played all of the top 7 from this search and would expect it to be a fun party if they were available.

      • Nick says:

        Glancing through the list, Tsuro is a fun and very short game. Sequence I’ve played one game of; I won, but I don’t remember anything about it other than the playing cards board. I don’t like Apples to Apples.

        • beleester says:

          Tsuro (and Tsuro of the Seas) is great, but a caveat: With 8 people, some people are going to get knocked out quickly and then sit around for a while waiting for the game to finish.

      • johan_larson says:

        Cards Against Humanity is very funny if you play it with witty people who are comfortable talking dirty.

    • PedroS says:

      stratgey, bluffing and up to seven players calls for Diplomacy. No room for the eighth person though

    • Machine Interface says:

      Deception: Murder in Hong Kong; 4-12 players, deduction and bluffing.
      GoodCritters; 4-8 players, negotiation and bluffing.
      7 Wonders; 3-7 players, strategy and civilization building.
      Captain Sonar; ideally two teams of 4 players (though can accomodate less people), deduction and real-time strategy

      All these games can be played under an hour.

      Memoir’ 44, a very simple and accessible wargame about WWII, can play up to 8 players in “Overlord” mode, but that requires two copies of the base game + the overlord expansion, so not necessarily fitting the price criteria.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        If the expansions are still available at normal prices, 7 Wonders expands to 8 and beyond. It’s a drafting game where everyone interacts with a card of their choice simultaneously, so big games play as fast as a 3-player game.
        There are superb games that cap at 6 or 7, which you should have for when not everyone shows up. Diplomacy (7) has already been mentioned.

        • Lignisse says:

          7 Wonders: Cities is specifically the expansion that allows 8 players to play; I like the others but for teaching you probably want minimal complexity.

      • thevoiceofthevoid says:

        I second the Captain Sonar recommendation, my friends and I have had a lot of fun playing it. Really hectic but n a good way.

    • John Schilling says:

      If you can find a copy of the original Civilization, the one without Sid Meier’s name anywhere on it, that one scratches the same itch as Catan but in a bigger and IMO better way, best with 5-7 people and a long afternoon or evening to play. The rules are simple enough that learn-as-you-go shouldn’t be a problem, it’s got strategy and trade and conflict and lots of good flavor.

      If you’ve actually got eight people, that’s tricky. There’s lots of good boardgames that go to six or seven, and much fewer at eight. Card games e.g. Saboteour, The Resistance, Bang! (all recommended), are more likely to go to 8+. Mostly highly social and quick to play, which in practice means they start an afternoon or evening gaming session that breaks up into either a couple of smaller games in parallel or more likely one smaller but longer/more serious game plus non-game socializing plus people leaving early.

    • Machine Interface says:

      Also: an option favored by many gaming groups that often find themselves at high participant counts is to simply split the participants into several 4 players games. To consider when you get tired of always playing the same 5 games that work well at 8 players (you can also mix and start the session with a large game that includes everyone, then split into smaller groups for subsequent games).

    • drunkfish says:

      I really enjoy Avalon. If I recall correctly it’s 5-10 players. It’s vaguely in the spirit of Mafia, where there are bad guys and the good guys need to identify the bad guys before the bad guys win, but vastly improved.

      • zoozoc says:

        Just want to second Avalon/The Resistance as a fun social deduction game (the games are very similar with only slight differences). Another fun social deduction game would be Spyfall. In this game one person is a “spy” who is unaware of his current location, and everyone asks questions of each other to try to deduce who is the spy without giving away their current location. For example, they could be on a cruise chip (there is a list of possible locations).

        Both games require at least 5 players, though they tend to be more entertaining with more players.

    • littskad says:

      You could play regular old card games, like euchre, cassino, pinochle, or bridge—with eight people, you could even play duplicate bridge.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        “Duplicate bridge” sounds fun. You think eight mad scientists would really be enough to invent the bridge-duplicating machine, though?

      • Protagoras says:

        Duplicate bridge is awesome. I really miss having people to play that with.

        • littskad says:

          Yes, me, too. I used to play all the time in grad school, but haven’t been able to find enough people since.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      -Saboteur: Really fun, need a decent sized table to play on. Only actually gets fun with 7+ people. The expansion pack, I think, goes up to like 20.
      -Love Letter: Expansion Pack. Extremely quick, easy to learn.
      -Code Names, another game that doesn’t get fun till you get to 8+
      -Secret Hitler. Though Avalon is probably better if your entire group consists of “One of Us” folk

    • DragonMilk says:

      Here’s some:

      6 nimmt
      Modern Art
      7 wonders
      Carcassone
      Codenames
      One night ultimate werewolf for larger crowds

      In fact, check out boardgamearena.com for inspiration

    • Incurian says:

      Keep Taking and Nobody Explodes is good. It’s a bomb defusal game where one player has access to the bomb (which is ticking down) and the other players have access to a bomb defusal manual. It’s not exactly simple, but most of the fun is figuring out ways to simplify it.

    • Jake says:

      For 8 players, you really need something where everyone is involved in every turn, or else it gets boring really fast. I’d second most other commenters suggestion to split into two tables, but if you are intent on 8, here are some suggestions:

      Party Games like Codenames, Decrypto, Dixit, Cards against Humanity are good light fun games, that don’t offer a ton of depth in gameplay, but are great for groups where everyone isn’t always paying attention, or needs to go in and out of the game. Not a ton of depth in gameplay to these, but if you want people talking more than gaming, they are a good place to start.

      Hidden traitor games like One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Avalon, The Resistance, Secret Hitler. All of these are in the same category where you have hidden teams and have to find out who is on your team. These are great fun if you have a group that really likes to talk/bluff, but can go stale quickly with less talkative players, or players who want a bit deeper game.

      Simultaneous-action games: I’m going to list a couple of these off by themselves since they are one of my favorite genres of games.

      Sidereal Confluence: One of my favorite games of all time, will play up to 9 players. It is a trading game where there are no forced deals, so you basically only win by making more mutually beneficial trades with people than anyone else, and optimizing your production engine. It combines a mediocre engine-building game, with an excellent frantic trading game to make a fun game that keeps everyone engaged constantly. The only downside is that all the factions are asymmetrical, so it can take a bit of time to teach.

      Robo Rally: An old classic where you try to program a robot through an obstacle course by writing a program 5 lines at a time. Everyone else is doing the same thing though, so as your programs interact, random craziness happens. With 8, this game can get completely random, but with smaller numbers, its a more logical game. Very easy to teach. The downside of this one is it can be very long to finish if no one can break out of the chaos, so it has occasionally outstayed it’s welcome.

      Diplomacy/Game of Thrones: Great for strategy/bluffing, and simultaneous turns make sure everyone is engaged. I’ve enjoyed every game I’ve played of these.
      Downside is the playtime is incredibly long on both, and a poor player can throw the game towards a neighbor.

      Another random good 8 player game can be Camel Up, where everyone is betting on a camel race, and the turns move fairly quickly, and everyone stays engaged with the race. Not the most strategic game ever, but it can be fun with the right crowd, and is OK with 8.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I can think of a few that haven’t been mentioned yet, although they probably appear on that BoardGameGeek search.

      IceCool (and its sequel, IceCool2) are dexterity games. You each play penguin kids dashing through various rooms in a school. You dash by flicking your penguin token with one finger. Doorways have fish hung over them. Go through a doorway with your fish, you get the fish. One of you, however, is the hall monitor; your job is to catch the other penguin kids.

      GeekOut is an easy game to teach. Draw the top card; it will ask to name a certain number of something – Autobots, characters from Cowboy Bebop, NFL teams, heads of state, etc. Everyone goes around bidding how many they think they can name. The bid winner has to make their bid. Pretty casual, but it can get enjoyably competitive as people scuffle over whether so-and-so counts, etc.

      Twilight Imperium sits up to eight people IIRC. It’s basically the boardgame equivalent of Master of Orion. Will take an entire day.

      A Fake Artist Goes to New York is a delightful casual game for crowds. One person plays moderator; the rest are artists at a jam session in NYC. The moderator hands everyone a slip of paper with a clue, denoting what they’re all about to jam together to draw. One of the slips is blank. Its recipient is the fake artist. Everyone then takes turns on a common canvas, drawing a single stroke of the shared picture. Fake artist’s mission is to guess what everyone else is jamming on. Everyone else’s mission is to spot the fake.

      Artemis is played with multiple computers on a LAN. You each play specialized roles on a starship – comms, science, weapons, engineering, helm, fighter pilots. One of you is the captain, the only one without a computer. You order everyone else around. You’re typically on a 2D grid fighting enemy ships, and if there’s enough of you, you can easily play two or more ships, either opposing or not. Some roles can be staffed with AI (or with default settings), and some people can handle multiple roles (comms+science is a common pairing). I once played a scenario with me running everything on my own missile cruiser, accompanying everyone else on a standard battleship.

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Only giving games that have not been mentioned here:

      Some of the recent boom in Roll and Write games allow large (effectively unlimited) player counts. I’m thinking specifically Welcome To …, Welcome to Dino World (the two are completely unrelated!) and Railroad Ink– though for the latter you will need two copies for 8 players.

      Mascarade is a bluffing game that will take up to 13 players and is probably better with larger numbers.

      Ricochet Robots is a game where all players compete to solve the same puzzle- the first player to do so wins the round unless someone else comes up with a simpler solution within a certain time. Again, it effectively has unlimited players.

      Zendo, again, is competitive puzzle-solving with an unlimited player count.

  2. johan_larson says:

    The adults of this world, the ones entrusted with hefty responsibilities, need a couple of weeks of private time to do a few vital things in the public interest. It would be useful if the attentions of the press and the public were otherwise occupied while this was being done, since some matters are invariably misunderstood by the unsophisticated. You are therefore asked to arrange for some sort of great public spectacle that will last two full weeks and wholly occupy the press and public during that time. What do you propose to do?

    • JPNunez says:

      How much money do I have?

      How do we know this is not the purpose of the World Cup / Olympic games?

      • johan_larson says:

        Let’s say you have $10 million and if you could be markedly more effective with a larger sum, that could probably be arranged.

        • JPNunez says:

          Quick Google says that Eurovision Song festival budget is in the range of 30 million of euros???

          That surely cannot be right?

          But sure, give me 50 million euros and I will organize the world cup of songs, and stop the world in its tracks for a couple of weeks.

          • Matt M says:

            I actually don’t think this would be possible, even with unlimited monetary resources.

            Stuff like the Olympics, World Cup, Eurovision, etc. are big deals mainly because of a sense of importance that comes along with time and tradition. You can’t create that sort of thing out of nowhere just by throwing money at people. It’s been tried. Always fails.

          • JPNunez says:

            Well maybe the secret leaders of the world are long term planners, so they are open to a decade of pathetically sad, low ratings world cup of songs in the hopes it catches on.

          • johan_larson says:

            You can’t create that sort of thing out of nowhere just by throwing money at people.

            What would you need to do? Kidnap someone?

          • JPNunez says:

            A few posts later:

            Secret leaders of the world present: THE HUNGER GAMES

    • jgr314 says:

      This is the purpose of the G20, right? I mean the global distraction, not the sensible adults dealing with vital issues.

      • Deiseach says:

        johan_larson, are you trying to tell us something in a subtle and understated way?

        Because I’ve just been made aware of this story running in the New York Times. It’s got all the ingredients – Trump! Evangelicals! Sex(y pics that said son of Evangelical bigwig who is sorta bigwig himself sent to his wife, allegedly), drugs (well, alcohol) and rock’n’roll (note: no actual rock’n’roll as yet, but who knows?)! Self-described “world’s most hypersexual fag” writing a (hit?) piece about his time at Liberty University, not the university most likely to smile on persons of said description! Intimation that why Trump got the nod over Cruz as Republican candidate in the presidential race was because of shenanigans around said alleged sexy pics! Michael Cohen, Trump’s fixer, in the middle of those shenanigans!

        Like I said, nothing like a good celebrity scandal to draw the public attention away from anything you might not want them to notice, and if the NYT is deigning to publish gutter-press material (come on, sex’n’religion and gay sex and cabana boys is gutter-press), then you’ve got the media distracted as well.

    • Deiseach says:

      Mmm – I’ve got ten million and two weeks to fill up.

      Some kind of arranged celebrity scandal – not too top-drawer celebrities, we want a bit trashy for the whole “oh yeah I could believe it of them” plus lack of shame about any prurient public peeping into their affairs. A ‘cheating love-rat’ love triangle that is splashed all over the tabloids and the gossip magazines, with ‘he said/she said’ rival accounts and exclusives by friends, close intimates, and insiders who know what is really going on.

      Maybe throw in a bit of one/both of them are bi, for that extra tattle-tale titillation (“Charlissange was having HOT LESBIAN AFFAIR WITH HER BEST FRIEND/Shawayne was paying for SEX WITH RENTBOYS IN SEEDY MOTELS”), and end the whole thing with tearful reunion and glurgey interview of the glowing pair holding hands and being all lovey-dovey (maybe with a semi-serious TV interviewer; think Martin Bashir and Princess Di).

      If you can get a minor royal/major aristo involved somehow, that would be golden (look at the mileage the British tabloids are getting out of assumed feuding between Meghan and Kate in the royal family). Or presumably someone like Bezos, Zuckerberg or Musk for the US equivalent (are we positive Elon Musk isn’t doing this already with his tweeting?)

      • albatross11 says:

        Fund a few small ideological websites. Build them up over time (you can’t do this on two weeks’ notice, but probably you can on a couple years’ notice). Getting pretty decent ideological writing is relatively cheap, so you can establish a presence in the world of ideas that’s at least got some name recognition.

        When it’s time for a distraction, find an existing small-time celebrity scandal or Twitter storm that works as a scissors statement–ideally, some kind of sex with questionable consent or something to do with alleged racism. Invest your money in troll farms and clickbait websites who will drive the story into prominence. Use your ideological publications/websites to fan the flames, with thinkpieces on how this latest scandal proves that all those outgroupers are knuckle-dragging idiots. Bribe a few b-list blue-checkmark types to promote the story.

        This seems to happen a lot with things that should never have been stories; I expect with someone with resources getting behind and pushing, you can get a storm of outrage and distraction for a week or two.

    • honoredb says:

      Uncover George Washington’s secret library, hidden in the walls of Mount Vernon. This contains his own journal, detailing which of the Founding Fathers were sleeping with each other among many other salacious details, of the personal and the political variety (as it turns out, the planned endgame was to make his illegitimate son Alexander Hamilton King through a series of shenanigans). Through his membership in the Bavarian Illuminati, it also contains similar tell-all accounts of interest to most of the other cultures of the world (the British plot to destabilize China goes back much further than anyone would’ve guessed, and there’s a giant cache of opium buried somewhere on the mainland that’s gone undiscovered to this day that would prove it). Many of these are in elaborate code, so we’re appealing to the internet to help decipher them.

      All forgeries, of course (Washington never joined our order), but we’ve found a couple of distinguished experts who can be compelled to authenticate the documents, and refusing to release anything but some censored, low-resolution scans to the internet at large will only fuel the drama. Eventually it’ll all fall apart, but even then some people will be determined to believe.

      • Deiseach says:

        refusing to release anything but some censored, low-resolution scans to the internet at large will only fuel the drama

        National Geographic would snap it up to do a Special on it and spend time advertising it in the press beforehand, if all the “Tomb of Jesus! Brother/wife/nephew’s cousin’s best friend of Jesus! Secret Gospel that will pull down the Vatican!” specials they’ve done are any indication.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m faking and releasing the Trump “piss tape”. Along with a few others of other world leaders, along with a story about how the FSB likes to set up world leaders this way for kompromat purposes.

    • JPNunez says:

      10 millions probably can fake a convincing UFO landing, complete with aliens asking to to talk to our leaders.

      Probably not sustainable in the long run, but I guess that if the secret leaders of the world want one specific week free, they could pull this one off.

    • 10240 says:

      In terms of distraction, you can’t get much better than a terrorist attack, or perhaps an assassination. Something like a World Cup is not only very expensive, it also doesn’t fill the Politics sections, which are the ones we care the most about. Of course it’s very risky as the real story might leak out. It’s risky to even propose it, so I’m not proposing it. Can we perhaps do some sort of fake assassination (à la Babchenko), with some semi-plausible story afterwards why it was faked?

      • albatross11 says:

        You’d like to get the world looking the wrong way for a few days, but you don’t want a careful investigation. Dumb Twitter storms or celebrity scandals probably won’t get a careful investigation, but terrorism and assassination definitely will. It probably defeats the purpose of the exercise if the adults’ nefarious plans to slip one past the public get aired in court after your plea deal.

      • 10240 says:

        Another non-lethal one: Send bombs to politicians. Some should actually go off (but injure no-one) so it’s more than just a poor repeat of what happened in October. A few days in, a manifesto is circulated. A week in, a suspect is arrested; a few days later turns out to be innocent.

        Downside: embarrassment to the leadership that the actual perp is not found (or having to frame and jail an innocent person, or ending up in jail ourselves).

    • John Schilling says:

      Whatever it is, it can’t be faked. I don’t think you can arrange a hoax good enough to spoof a major media and globally-crowdsourced investigation for weeks, and if it isn’t high enough profile to get every reporter, armchair sleuth and vaguely-relevant subreddit asking What Really Happened for weeks it won’t meet the stated requirement. So, we’re left with the choice of what we are really going to do.

      If it bleeds it leads. If it doesn’t bleed, whatever the world leaders are up to, almost certainly leads. Who do you want to kill today?

      If there’s any middle ground, it probably involves a major celebrity involved in some sort of scandal, and now that essentially all forms of consensual nookie are non-scandalous, that means basically having a celebrity rape someone. Or I suppose kill someone, on the grounds that a celebrity killing N people will have the same attention-grabbing power as a non-celebrity killing many*N people.

      Hmm. Consensual adult incest may still be scandalous enough to get the job done if we push it hard enough, without counting as even sort-of-rape by our enlightened utilitarian standards. How much would it cost to get an A-list or high B-list celebrity to end their career in a blaze of “glory” by leaking a really hot professionally-made sex tape with their attractive brother or sister and then keep insisting that they did nothing wrong and society can’t handle the truth of their love for one another, etc, etc?

      If you can’t afford it, meh, you’re just going to have to kill some people in the most spectacular way you can imagine on whatever budget you’ll allow. Has to involve real deaths; see above. But deliberately botch the deniability aspect, so that one tribe will know that they’ve been false-flagged (truly, for a change) while the other will latch on to the obvious conclusion that yep, the outgroup really is that murderously bad and false-flag attacks never happen in the real world you lying liars. That, plus a really unconventional choice of weapons and targets might let you command media attention for weeks with only a single-digit body count.

      Really, the celebrity sibling sex tape is going to be a whole lot more fun. But I don’t think you can pull it off for $10 million, with the level of celebrity this is going to take.

      • johan_larson says:

        Would kidnapping an A-list celebrity be enough? Brad Pitt probably doesn’t walk around with more than a couple of security guards. And if you got the drop on them, they might not risk a shootout.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          Start sending Brad Pitt body parts to the news organizations. That’ll keep them busy.

          Hold on, the FBI is at the door.

          • johan_larson says:

            I was thinking of not killing anyone. But maybe your branch of the Illuminati takes a harder line than mine does.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I didn’t say anything about killing him, you monster.

            Also, the media pays more attention when the forensics people realize that the finger was cut off the person while still alive.

        • albatross11 says:

          This also tends to bring out people investigating your actions who are experienced and determined and have substantial resources, which is a bad way of keeping your plot out of the public eye.

    • beleester says:

      My first thought is a major maritime or airplane disaster, similar to MH370. Grabs worldwide attention almost immediately, as hundreds of ordinary citizens disappear without a trace, and then holds it for quite a long time as the search efforts slowly grind forwards, trickling out a little more information with each scrap of debris or bit of data recovered – and never finding everything, because the evidence is scattered across the bottom of the ocean. Support their efforts by publishing wild conspiracy theories about what actually happened to the plane or boat. Maybe even have one of them be true.

      Of course, this involves crashing or hijacking a plane, and the Illuminati are far too benevolent to kill hundreds of people for a little privacy. So instead, I’ll arrange for a celebrity to do it as a publicity stunt. They go on vacation to the Caribbean in a private plane, encounter mysterious problems over the Bermuda Triangle, the plane’s transponder cuts out, and they vanish from radar. A week later, when attention in the search starts to flag, we dramatically rescue them from a remote island. Maybe add in that they were kidnapped by a crazed fan or something, make a whole storyline out of it. And when that stops getting headlines, we can reveal they faked the whole thing as a publicity stunt and make a scandal of the whole thing.

    • BBA says:

      Trap some sympathetic people in a confined space – think those Chilean miners or those Thai kids in the cave. Drip-drip-drip updates out to the media, concluding with a dramatic rescue.

      For extra effectiveness, do it during the Summer Olympics and spread one of those hilarious “dress colors” or “Laurel/Yanni” memes on social media at the same time.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      The premise is at odds with itself.

      In order to have a multi-week global distraction, you need the world to be in a relative status quo. Nothing particularly consequential that is novel to report? Then you get repeated news cycles on trapped miners or downed airliners.

      But when fairly consequential novel acts are occurring, when you are in “interesting times”, those news cycles aren’t available. To accept the premise you have to posit some sort of Illuminati level conspiracy of “elites” and everyone else.

      As something of an aside, I object to the use of the word “adults”.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      This is probably too irresponsible for your question and would cost more than 10 million, but it’s too much fun to think about.

      Crack open all the secret records of all the major governments.

      • johan_larson says:

        Or maybe just one big secret. Has the US government declassified all its files related to the Kennedy assassination?

        • Aapje says:

          I wouldn’t expect big revelations on that front. It seems to me that pretty much all relevant evidence is out there already. It’s just hard to piece together.

    • Garrett says:

      Clarification: are you trying to stop all public interest, or just media coverage?
      Stopping all public interest would require something that would be of existential threat to the country as a whole, like faking a legit incoming asteroid strike.

      But if you just want a reprieve of media coverage, you need something which is compelling to *them*, and there’s nothing more that the media likes to cover than themselves. Additionally, you want something which is both cheap to cover and which allows for lots of juicy speculation. I suggest something like a kidnapping of actual Anderson Cooper. You can have people speculating on whether it’s a crazy fan, conservatives who hate that he’s left wing, conservatives who hate that he’s gay, someone after Vanderbilt money, or some lurid gay love triangle gone bad. Then you can have fake sightings of impostors generating lots of leads. Daily press conferences. Photo ops of National Guard securing the house of the local weatherman. Whatever.

  3. Edward Scizorhands says:

    Effort post with another Book Review

    Douglas McWilliams “The Inequality Paradox”

    McWilliams is not as good a writer as Michael Lewis. My review is a little haphazard because I had to skim some parts. (He would, at several point, describe data in a list of sentences that should have been in a table or graph.) But he loves to do reviews of all the recent published research on a topic. He’s like a less-good version of Scott doing a more-than-you-ever-wanted-to-know-TM post. It might be that he’s British and so I miss some references and cultural touchstones. If it was a little better I would want to keep a copy on my shelf, because every time someone references a work about inequality, I could look up what he wrote about it.

    He grew up in Malaysia in the third quarter of the 20th century so he saw the huge benefits of globalization. On page 61, he describes the downsides. “The effects of globisation have been to remove the Western world’s dominance of the production of economically sophisticated goods. This in turn has meant that ordinary workers in the Western world have lost their jobs or been forced to accept a squeeze in their living standards. Note that this does not mean that had the West put up [protectionist] barriers to this trade they could have avoided this squeeze. The squeeze has also also resulted from changed terms of trade, [so] protection would not have helped the West improve its terms of trade by much and would have come at a cost in lost economic growth which would also have weakened the position of the worst off in the Western world.”

    The fact that growth and inequality go together is a repeated theme in the book. His paradox is that rising inequality is associated with falling poverty.

    Table 1 on page 31 shows how this works at the country level. The G7 [I’m not sure this was the actual G7; might be my mistake] countries with the least concentration of income among the 1% from 1980-2015 were Japan, France, and Italy, which have had the slowest levels of growth. Even within elite circles this is true. At the start of Chapter 1, in 1972 the top soccer player in the UK (Sir Bobby Charlton) was paid twice the average of players in the top league, and 8x the level of players in the lower leagues. In 2015, the top player (Wayne Rooney) earned 10x the pay of players in the top league, and 450x the amount of the lower leagues. It’s power laws all the way down. And Rooney is rich because globalisation means that UK soccer is a global phenomenon: the author talks about the Premiere League has an audience in Hong Kong, Kuala Lampur, Dubai, Mexico City.

    He attributes about 1/5 of inequality to exploitation or rentier tactics. The rest is globalisation and technological change.

    He creates his own taxonomy of the types of inequality.

    Type 1: Inequality caused by increased exploitation.
    Type 2: Caused by early stage exploitation.
    Type 3: Caused by changes in technology
    Type 4: Caused by assortative mating (he calls them superbabies caused by homogamy)

    In Part II, he notes that although inequality has increased within nations, inequality between nations has decreased. I think we all know the story of the fall in global poverty over the past generation, but he really calls it out. From 1981 to 2013, the ratio of humans leaving in extreme poverty ($1.90/day) fell from ~42% to ~11%, and moderate poverty ($3.20/day) from ~58% to ~29%. (One hang-up is that nearly all this boost comes from China. Remove China from the picture, and the numbers still fall, but only modestly.) He credits a lot to to charitable organizations like Oxfam that changed from opposing globalization to enabling it. Also, while global poverty has fallen, poverty numbers (measured absolutely, not relatively) have increased in the developed world (page 123).

    Around page 129 he has these “stylized facts” about the relation between inequality and growth. I put the results in CAPS because it’s easier to see. And this is a place where he should have used a table.

    1. Homogenous societies w/ strong social networks and good education have LOW INEQUALITY, HIGH GDP, FAIRLY HIGH GROWTH.
    2. Highly capitalistic and free market societies w less strong social networks have HIGH INEQUALITY, HIGH GROWTH.
    3. Economies w/ high immigration and weak social networks have HIGH INEQUALITY, HIGH GROWTH
    4. Economies w/ high inertia, historical inequality have HIGH INEQUALITY, LOW GROWTH
    5. Autocratic societies have HIGH INEQUALITY, and SOMETIMES HIGH GROWTH but, over time, LOW OR NEGATIVE GROWTH.
    6. Communist societies have LOW INEQUALITY (although not always) and OFTEN FALLING GDP (which can be hard to measure w/o markets).
    7. Emerging economies have HIGH INEQUALITY and HIGH GROWTH.
    8. Mature economies have LOW INEQUALITY and LOWER GROWTH.

    There are lots of studies about the relationship between inequality and growth and he looks at a lot of them.

    * It is intriguing to use redistribution to stop inequality, but Barro 1991, shows growth is positively related to initial human capital, negatively related to initial GDP, negatively related to the share of government consumption in GDP, no relation to public investment, positively related to political stability, negatively related to market-distortion-proxies.
    * The Scully Curve is like a Laffer Curve (but with a better scientific basis) showing public spending’s quadratic effect on growth. He gives some estimates of the “ideal” value but the sentences are confusing. I think it’s at 40%, but I’m not sure if it’s in the UK or in Asia.
    * He does pull out a table, finally, on pages 132-133 to summarize what studies say: tax discourages output, decreases in taxes increase per-capita income, government transfers retard growth but government investment does not, a rise in taxes reduces growth. [Each of these has caveats I skipped: see https://imgur.com/a/g2vMbBo for more]

    In Part III he talks about the deserving and undeserving rich. He really hates Goldman Sachs.

    “Clogs to clogs in three generations” is the common phrase about a family earning a lot of money and then losing it. Other expressions are “rice paddies to rice paddies in three generations” (Japan), “The father buys, the son builds, the grandchild sells, and his son begs” (Scotland), “Wealth never survives three generations” (China), “Shirtsleeve to shirtsleeve in three generations” (America).

    * A Merrill Lynch study found that in 2 out of 3 cases, wealth doesn’t outlive the generation that created it. In 90% of cases, it was gone by the end of the third.
    * A Bank of Italy study going back nearly 600 years found a long-term 4% relation in earnings (not wealth)
    * A Fed Of St Louis study found a 10% difference in parent’s income means a 4% difference in offspring’s income. A 10% difference in parent’s wealth leads to a 3.8% difference in offspring’s wealth.
    * The Sunday Times Rich List compared the richest 50 people from 1999 to 2016. Of the 2016 list in the world, 44% were in the earlier one (or the children of same), 56% were new. Just in the UK, 34% were already existing, 12% immigrated in, and 54% were new.

    Part IV is “fixing the problem.”

    On page 203, he says because of past downward pressure, “in many countries, the marginal product is already quite close to the floor for wages.” He worries a lot of technological monopolies (he was an economist at IBM UK, and worries about Intel, Microsoft, Apple, Google, and Amazon).

    He wants to spend more on education, education, education, and finally education. (His repetition, not mine.) While education is great for growth, I suspect it exacerbates inequality. The ‘superbabies’ are going to get a lot more out of education. Education (x4) gets an entire chapter, but it’s one of the shortest and he doesn’t give much detail. The closest in a long blockquote of someone else talking about KIPP in America, and how. . . its effect fails by the time they enter college. Why is this so important to fight inequality again?

    He has a chapter about unintended consequences. Most of it is about rent control because . . . well, I think because it’s a bad way to fight inequality. I think, I’m not really sure.

    Another chapter is about improving the poorer people by cutting the cost of living. He claims it’s possible to cut costs, but 1) isn’t that what has hurt a lot of the poor? cheapening the goods they make?, 2) his best example is zoning restrictions, which, okay, those are probably raising costs, sure. And 3) mobile phone plans. They cost $30-40 in US, France, Spain, Japan, and only $5 in Hong Kong, China, Russia. What’s the point to this? It feels so out-of-place.

    He finally comes to chapter 16, Universal Basic Income. He says we need it because of type 3 inequality (technological unemployment). He doesn’t say anything we haven’t seen here many many times: it’s super-expensive now but maybe in the future magic happens; it might drastically rise the cost of labor, but that’s a good thing; losing a UBI vote 23-77 in Switzerland is actually good news. A 2016 Economic Report to the President said that a worker making $20 in 2010 has an 83% of eventually losing their job to a machine — since they don’t give a timeframe, I guess that means over the source of a lifetime, and that’s not that amazing to me. Previous industrial revolutions took 150 years to wipe out jobs, and this time he says it will only take 25 years. He thinks the US can afford it before Europe, because of economic growth, and if we can lower the cost of living (but what happens to the cost of living when the price of labor goes way up???). He thinks that the US will get it by money becoming available, but this ignores the fact that any tax money made available by economic will get spent immediately, if not sooner.

    Another chapter is for the idea of how to raise this money. He thinks most Western economies are already at or above the top revenue-raising rate on income. I don’t see VAT or consumption tax considered. He instead goes for the worse idea of wealth tax and the silly idea of voluntary taxes.

    So, an okay read, but some parts are better put together than others.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I am curious about a few things here.
      1) He says inequality is increasing even with falling poverty. But you also mention he talks about higher inequality within nations but lower between nations. Usually when folks talk about inequality, it is inequality within nations, which I think is NOT the way to look at it. Does he have any figures of total global inequality, ignoring national borders completely? I have not seen such a calculation, but I suspect that inequality has gone down. It makes sense in a global economy that inequality within nations has gone up, because those on top are more valuable because of global market (such as soccer players you discuss), but those on the bottom of rich nations are less valuable, because their labor is easy to replace with that of cheaper foreigners.

      2) In his discussion on education, did he acknowledge the debate on signalling? IMO, increasing education to make everyone in the world literate and numerate would be a tremendous add to prosperity, but most college education in today’s world is more like consumption than investment. Probably the same for high school education.

      3) Does he explain why he thinks UBI is better than regular old welfare? Does he mention the tremendous flow of money required if UBI is at a level so that people can live on it?

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        1) This is a good question and I don’t remember the answer. I see the contradiction you raise and you answered one question I had all along, which was “why was this supposed to be a paradox?”

        2) He gives very little details on education. He just knows that education is a good thing, because everyone knows it’s a good thing.

        3) The book spent a lot of time talking about getting to the UBI chapter, and the UBI chapter was pretty boring. He definitely mentioned the huge cost it would take, and that it would require 20+ years of economic growth (with no other changes in spending) for it to happen.

    • AlexanderTheGrand says:

      Thanks for the detailed review.

      I’ve never heard those sayings about wealth being made and lost so quickly — why does he say that is? It goes against the assortive mating point, and feels at odds with a high-growth economy (where your money would let you ride the wave). It’s definitely against the rhetoric you hear now about this being the beginning of a pseudo-aristocracy (and considering how long it would take to burn through a billion-dollar fortune, that narrative is compelling to me).

      Some possible reasons that fact could be true then, but not now (as things stand):
      * Those studies are over a LONG timeframe. It could be that most of the transitions of wealth are sharp — I can think of a few specific years in 1940s Italy where a fortune could have left a family. And in America, the Great Depression must have shifted wealth drastically. Maybe this trend breaks during peacetime and stability, where capital and status earns a more consistent return.
      * Strongly related, it seems like a relatively new invention that I can put my money in an index fund and ride the stock market’s rising tide, even if I’m an idiot. Maybe in the past, without acumen money either sat in a bank or was lost to bad investments. The new-aristocracy idea is that if you can live off of interest, your kids don’t have to work either — but investing is only recently a low-skill job.

      Thoughts?

      • The Nybbler says:

        Those saying about wealth refer to cases of rapid rise from very low beginnings. A person who goes from poor to wealthy in his lifetime probably has a lot of things going for him, both heritable and not-heritable. He (historically, usually “he”) may marry before making his fortune, so assortative mating may not even be a factor. Regression to the mean, then, explains the result — his children are much closer to the average “wealth-making ability” for his generation. His fortune sustains their lifestyle, which is why it takes one more generation.

        Note that one of the issues may be that being the child of a newly-rich man doesn’t teach good wealth-management abilities, which fits into the usual stereotype about the spoiled or wastrel rich kid.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        It’s the wealth like assets or companies that tend to dissipate within three generations. What families are better at propagating is the income potential. And the modern superbabies are getting really good at it, but we won’t know for a few generations how that works out.

        Keeping wealth going is hard for a few reasons, not just good investments. The children of the rich tend not to be as careful with it, and the grandchildren even more. There’s also the fact that the number of children tends to grow and this splits up wealth significantly.

        I believe the most successful family at maintaining wealth is the Vanderbilts, who have been in the news lately because Anderson Cooper’s mom died a few days ago. Look how many of them there are: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanderbilt_family#Members . And Anderson Cooper is getting nothing of it, being the 5th generation down (if I counted right).

    • Tenacious D says:

      Thanks for this, very interesting.

      In the numbered list that should have been a table something that stands out to me is that inequality seems to have as much to do with social factors (i.e. level of trust/cohesiveness*) as with economic factors. Yet everything discussed in Part IV is back to economics.

      *ironically, a lot of public discussion on inequality takes a hostile or accusatory tone that probably damages these factors

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Re: the Vanderbilt fortune didn’t survive to Anderson Cooper. Turns out I was incorrect:

      https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/la-et-st-anderson-cooper-gloria-vanderbilt-inheritance-20190702-story.html

  4. FrankistGeorgist says:

    Just because the last blog post has me curious, have any of the SSC commentariat killed an animal? Perhaps I should address more broadly:

    Have you ever eaten meat that had been hunted (as opposed to farmed)
    Have you ever killed an animal? (for the purposes of eating, but generally too I guess?)
    And have you ever eaten an animal you’ve killed?

    Perhaps a corollary to this: Have you ever eaten lab grown meat? (Has anyone, where are we at with that?)

    People bringing out their (usually awful) game to serve guests was a part of my childhood. I know game is easier to sell in Europe for something like regulatory reasons? I can’t recall the details, so maybe this is America-centric. I’m mainly wondering how often people interact with meat outside the usual “farm raised” variety.

    • S_J says:

      Answered slightly out of order:

      1. I’ve Gone hunting for rabbits, waterfowl, pheasant, and deer. (At different times, of course.) Succeeded at shooting some three or four ducks, and a similar number of pheasant. I might have had success with the rabbits, but I can’t remember which of the four hunters brought in the two rabbits that day.

      No success with deer. Though I trained my rifle on a deer once, then realized that a tree was blocking its vital organs. It then ran away.

      I haven’t hunted much in the past five years, so this isn’t recent.

      2. The more-successful hunters I knew gathered a group of friends for home-cooked “wild game night” about once a year. I had the opportunity to try squirrel, rabbit, duck, pheasant, goose, and venison.

      3. Animals killed and not eaten: I’ve also trapped a few animals that were burrowing under the porch on my house, and found a way to dispatch them without shooting them. I used a live-trap. Some of these were not killed; some were killed with the assistance of a spray-can of diethyl ether. (It’s usually sold as “engine starter spray”, and it will displace oxygen in an enclosed container, like a large trash can.)

    • The Nybbler says:

      I haven’t killed anything in order to eat it, but I have killed mice (both with traps and more directly) for eating my food and pooping in my house. I’ve eaten hunted birds only rarely. I have not eaten lab-grown meat.

    • bja009 says:

      1. Yes, mostly venison but also duck and elk.

      2. Yes, but not to eat. Pest control (mice, prairie dogs, insects), as well as a small handful of mercy killings in cases where my dogs have caused severe injury (small birds, a possum).

      3. I’ve never eaten an animal I’ve killed.

      4. Never had lab-grown meat, but would definitely try it given the opportunity.

      EDIT: It occurs to me that I didn’t include fish in the category ‘animals’. I have eaten fish that I’ve caught, and don’t believe I’ve killed a fish I didn’t intend to either eat, or use as bait.

    • Aapje says:

      Do insects count?

    • Enkidum says:

      – I’ve eaten venison, moose meat and lots of fish that were hunted/caught. But added all together it would be less that 0.01% of the meat I’ve eaten that comes from farms.

      – I’ve never hunted, but I have fished a bit, killed a lot of mice, and once I bashed a squirrel’s head in to put it out of its misery (it clearly had some kind of distemper and was not going to last long).

      – I’ve eaten fish I caught.

      – Never eaten lab-grown meat, though I’m considering it these days.

    • bullseye says:

      I had some venison that my brother-in-law’s friend shot. I had some elk at Cleveland Oktoberfest, and I don’t think they farm that?

      I’ve killed bugs, but I don’t think that’s what you mean. I have no objection to hunting, but I don’t know anyone who hunts and never had a strong desire to do it. (Hardly anyone I know is Red Tribe aside from my brother-in-law.)

      Never had lab-grown meat. If I saw some for sale I might get it out of curiosity.

      • Nick says:

        I’ve killed bugs, but I don’t think that’s what you mean.

        Only if you eat them!

      • bullseye says:

        I forgot fish. I’ve only ever caught one fish and I had to throw it back, but I feel like I’ve probably eaten fish someone else caught at some point.

    • John Schilling says:

      Yes on all three, and generally prefer open-field hunting to supermarket foraging on both personal enjoyment and virtue-ethics grounds. But I now live in a desert on the edge of a major metropolitan area, so hunting is a once-in-a-year thing at best these days (mostly quail or rabbit) .

      I don’t think I have deliberately killed anything more sophisticated than an insect for non-culinary reasons.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      As part of my research I sacrifice a lot of animals. These days I work with an invertebrate model organism so it’s a very high volume of saccing but each individual animal probably doesn’t count for much of anything from a utilitarian perspective. The unanesthatized dissections probably make up for it though.

      I’ve never eaten a lab animal and don’t plan to start. They’re sterile but the idea is just revolting.

      On the topic of lab-grown “meat” I haven’t eaten it but I’ve cultured myotubes (the cells you’re eating when you eat lab-grown “meat”). It was the only option for people trying to research muscle in vitro before recently but it’s highly unlike actual muscle tissue in both structure and composition. I’m not impressed by companies which call that meat.

      • thevoiceofthevoid says:

        How do you think it compares to traditional plant-based meat substitutes?

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          No idea, that’s comparing apples and oranges. Neither of them are meat in any meaningful sense, but there’s a nearly-infinite variety of things which aren’t meat in the universe. How do either of them compare to a comet or the Mona Lisa?

          In terms of taste, texture, and appearance any processed meat substitute is primarily relying on flavorants and other additives. I would be shocked if the myotubes tasted like anything on their own. So if you like the taste of fake meat made from cultured cells then you should probably also like the taste of fake meat made from soy.

          There will eventually be synthetic meat. 3D muscle culture is getting better, and it’s only a matter of time before we’re able to make something that’s similar to muscle in vivo. But that’s years or possibly even decades off, and the companies promising synthetic meat today are still doing 2D culture.

    • Lillian says:

      Fresh fish is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and much if not all the fresh fish i’ve had was wild caught. The one time i ate pirannah, it was pirannahs i had caught myself. Fished them while on an incredibly rickety boat with like two inches of freeboard during the Amazon’s flood season. While i’m given to understand the needle-toothed things don’t prey on large mammals unless they’re extremely hungry, the way they were enthusiastically biting on my bait indicated to me that they were in fact pretty damned hungry. So that was fun. The only other animals i have killed are mice, and those i got with traps, and i am still very proud of myself for it.

      Though one thing i want to do some day is buy a cute little piglet, who i will name Bacon! Then i would cuddle and pet Bacon, feed it foods that piglets like, give it warm baths, shower it in love and affection, and otherwise make it the happiest little piggy it could possibly be. Then when Bacon is all happy and content snuggling in my warm embrace, i will swiftly and suddenly kill it! This i am convinced will result in the most utterly delicious meat, because everyone knows love is the best spice. Also i get cute aggression pretty bad, and piglets are both socially acceptable to slaughter for food, and gosh darned adorable.

      • Akrasian says:

        Wow, I always thought when people said things like ‘you’re so cute I could eat you up’ it was a figure of speech. I don’t get this at all. In fact I find your second paragraph kind of disturbing. Would actually killing the cute piggy not be upsetting for you?

        • Lillian says:

          It might be upsetting to me! Honestly i don’t know, i’ve never done it, it’s possible i might give myself a panic attack trying to stab the piggy. Won’t know until it’s really happening, but i expect it’s either going to be really satisfying, or psychologically devastating. Possibly both at once! It might feel amazing to channel all my feelings of love and affection into a single brutal act of violence, immediately followed by hours of crying over killing my piggy. It will be interesting to find out, though!

          If it makes you feel any better, i’m not like that with humans. Feelings of affection towards people still fill me up with explosive energy which i want to discharge violently, but i very much don’t want to hurt anyone. It’s part of why i like dating physically imposing men, i can go all anime girl on them without injury. Actually hurting someone though is just unthinkable, i always turn into a non-functioning crying mess if i do it on accident, so i have no idea how i could possibly do it on purpose.

          But with animals it’s weird, the “don’t actually want to hurt them” part doesn’t trigger right, and also i like eating animals, so the feelings get all twisted up. Piglets are adorable and also delicious; i want to pet them and also stab them. Pretty sure farmers avoid this by not getting emotionally attached to their meat animals, but i can’t help it, they’re so cute!

      • quanta413 says:

        Also i get cute aggression pretty bad, and piglets are both socially acceptable to slaughter for food, and gosh darned adorable.

        I feel less bad now about the reaction I sometimes have to small animals or babies. I’d have a sudden surge of violent thoughts (but no desire to act on them) and it shook me up when it occurred. I thought a sudden temporary surge of violent thoughts towards them was very abnormal but it’s apparently common enough to have a name!

    • albatross11 says:

      Yes, I’ve hunted (birds and rabbits) and fished and then eaten what I killed/caught.

    • Clutzy says:

      Have you ever eaten meat that had been hunted (as opposed to farmed)
      Have you ever killed an animal? (for the purposes of eating, but generally too I guess?)
      And have you ever eaten an animal you’ve killed?
      Perhaps a corollary to this: Have you ever eaten lab grown meat? (Has anyone, where are we at with that?)

      1. Yes to both. Hunting deer, fishing. Also killed many a varmint that menaced my dogs, like possums.

      2. Yea.

      3. No, I didn’t even know its actually available.

    • Spookykou says:

      My family raised a small number of livestock and we occasionally ate them although their main function was tax related. I had to(was told to by my father) kill pest animals on occasion when they were on our land, smashing snakes with rocks and such.

      Never had lab grown meat.

      I am not sure if eating an animal I raised counts for your “farm raised” category here, I am assuming it implies a sort of distance between animal and person.

      *edit I totally forgot about fishing, I have fished most my life and still do on occasion.

    • Anonymous` says:

      1. Yeah, friends and relatives gave us venison sausages/jerky several times and it was fantastic
      2. Killed fish for eating, killed mice and surgically removed hippocampus slices for undergrad neuro research
      3. Ate the fish
      4. I guess the mice were “lab grown meat”, but I didn’t think to eat them

    • DragonMilk says:

      Well…in middle school I once left the grass in the backyard rather long and when I finally mowed it, I heard a horrific sound over a bump. I stopped the lawnmower and took a look – at least one baby rabbit was mangled and sucked up into the bag.

      After the initial shock, I proceeded to finish the job. The feeling is easy to recall though the memory grows ever hazier.

    • FLWAB says:

      1. I’ve never hunted for meat myself, but I’ve eaten seal and whale blubber that some Native Alaskan friends hunted and brought to a meal gathering. (Seal is the seafood of red meat: very dark meat, tastes like fishy steak. Blubber is just fat, maybe with a piece of rubbery skin on it). I’ve also eaten fish other people have caught, and have eaten euchalon fish that I netted myself.

      2. Besides bugs, I drowned a mouse once. In retrospect I wish I had stomped on it instead: it’s leg was broken and caught in a mouse trap, and my dad was away and thus it fell on me as the oldest available male to dispose of it. I couldn’t bring myself to stomp it, but after drowning it in a bucket I felt shame at putting it through more suffering than necessary because of my own weakness.

      I have never had lab grown meat.

    • Deiseach says:

      Have you ever eaten meat that had been hunted (as opposed to farmed)

      Does fishing count under hunting? Because if so, then yes, many times (both fresh and saltwater fish and some shellfish). Also once I had some venison that had been hunted, which I cooked and presented as a meal for myself and others.

      Have you ever killed an animal? (for the purposes of eating, but generally too I guess?)

      Not for eating, but I have put down poison for mice (and disposed of the cute little corpses afterwards), and I’ve killed flies and other insects (flies are animals too, remember! Which makes me wonder about the tension between hard-core veganism of the ‘it is totally immoral to murder animals for our benefit’ kind and the ‘I donate to anti-mosquito and deworming initiatives’ kind – that’s as much a problem for the ethical vegans as Wrong Species ‘anti-cannibalism is the same reason as vegetarianism’, which is to say I don’t think it’s a problem given my principles on the matter but if you’re an ‘all animals are equal’ type then you do have to square that circle – we can kill mosquitos to spare us disease but not cows for food? why? and no, it’s not enough to say mosquitos don’t have the same capacity for mind as cows or suffering or whatever, the fundamental principle being invoked here is that humans have no moral right to use other non-human animals for our own benefit and that what counts is the animal suffering and not anything humans may get by it).

      And have you ever eaten an animal you’ve killed?

      No.

    • johan_larson says:

      Have you ever eaten meat that had been hunted (as opposed to farmed)
      I have eaten wild-caught fish many times, and wild game (rabbit, venison) a couple of times.

      Have you ever killed an animal? (for the purposes of eating, but generally too I guess?)
      I have gone fishing a couple of times, and did catch some fish, but I’ve never hunted on land. I shot a bird with a BB gun once as a kid, and I once killed a mouse that was in my basement.

      And have you ever eaten an animal you’ve killed?
      Fish, yes. Land animals, no.

    • sami says:

      Yes to all three questions. I grew up in a place with a strong hunting culture so I’ve eaten bear, venison, moose, pheasant, duck, wild turkey, and probably other random stuff I don’t remember. One of my chores growing up was to kill and clean chickens that we raised when we were going to eat one, so Ive also killed and eaten non-wild animals. I liked this less than hunting because I knew the chickens as distinct personalities and felt conflicted about killing them, since they trusted me. On the other hand, we once raised a pig for slaughter, and while I didn’t personally kill it, I was glad to see it go because that pig was an asshole, and really terrifying when we had to go into the pen for any reason.

    • SamChevre says:

      I grew up on a farm: I’ve killed sick and excess animals, and killed and butchered animals (pretty much all the common ones). For several years, I somewhat avoided meat that I hadn’t butchered myself or been butchered by someone I knew. I’ve done some hunting (mostly squirrel) and eaten the meat. I’ve eaten venison many, many times, and a fair number of other edible game and pest animals which someone else had killed (beaver, groundhog, frogs).

      I’ve also worked in commercial large-scale chicken houses–filling chicken waterers is one of the first jobs I remember, I have a scar from falling off a ladder in a chicken house when I was a pre-schooler, and my brother sells and repairs chicken-house equipment. Chicken-house chickens have intensely boring lives, but they don’t seem to be unpleasant.

      ETA: I’ve also killed many, many mice.

    • bean says:

      1. Yes, although not very often.
      2. Not for eating. I have killed mice that were in my house (with traps).
      3. No. They were mice, and I wasn’t starving.

      I have been to a slaughterhouse, though. My grandfather was a cattle farmer, and he’d often kill a cow and give us meat. We went to pick it up once, and they’d just killed and skinned a cow. It was an interesting day.

      • Deiseach says:

        Like bean, I’ve been to a slaughterhouse (it was a technical college field trip to the local bacon processing plant). So if part of the argument rests on “but you have no idea where your meat comes from or how it gets to the shops” then no, I do have a pretty good idea.

        Years and years ago, when I was a child, my mother was given a turkey for Christmas but it was the whole bird – so she hung it off the back door to age (that gave it the ‘gamey’ flavour) and I remember the trouble preparing the bird: she eventually laid it out on the kitchen floor and sawed the legs and head off, then had all the fun of plucking it (feathers everywhere) and gutting and cleaning it.

        Ever since then, she bought shop-prepared and ready butchered 🙂

    • eyeballfrog says:

      I’ve gone fishing and ate what I caught before, but I’ve never killed anything more closely related to humans than that.

    • acymetric says:

      Have you ever eaten meat that had been hunted (as opposed to farmed)

      Yes, regularly (pretty much only venison)

      Have you ever killed an animal? (for the purposes of eating, but generally too I guess?)

      Yes, once (dove hunting…one trip, more than one dove)

      And have you ever eaten an animal you’ve killed?

      Yes (doves)

      Add fish to all three if we count fishing (I usually just do catch and release but occasionally on special occasions like fishing on a trip to the mountains or something we’ll keep/eat them).

      No to lab grown meat.

    • DinoNerd says:

      I believe I killed at least one frog in biology class, as well as some significantly developed but not yet hatched chickens.

      I’ve never hunted or fished. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten hunted meat. I have eaten plenty of wild caught fish, but probably all commercially caught.

      I have once tasted lab grown meat or some facsimile – a lunch companion ordered an “Impossible Burger” and cut off a small piece for me to try.

      • acymetric says:

        Impossible Burger isn’t lab grown meat, it’s imitation meat made from plants. Soy, potato, wheat, and coconut if I recall correctly.

    • aristides says:

      I have eaten Venison my family hunted before which was very good. My father in law bought me bear meat before which I do not recommend. I’ve also had gator, though I think that might have been farmed.

      I’ve killed and eaten fish before, but that’s it.

      Nothing on lab grown meat for me.

    • HarmlessFrog says:

      Have you ever eaten meat that had been hunted (as opposed to farmed)

      Yep. It’s probably the best kind of meat you can get.

      Have you ever killed an animal? (for the purposes of eating, but generally too I guess?)

      I suppose you mean something other than random microbes and annoying pests such as mosquitos? Because that would make for innumerable multitudes, all the time. Probably ran over a bunch of critters accidentally, like frogs or mice. I did assist in the slaughter of a pig, once or twice. I regularly take part in group hunting, so I think that counts as well, even if I’m not the one shooting the guns, but rather driving the animals at the shooters.

      And have you ever eaten an animal you’ve killed?

      Pretty sure I got some meat from said slaughtered pigs.

    • Plumber says:

      @FrankistGeorgist says:

      “Just because the last blog post has me curious, have any of the SSC commentariat killed an animal?”

      Yes, at work I’ve heard a mouse caught in a trap scream, and I “put it out of its misery”, which was harder than I expected, there’s also numerous insects, and (not so numerous) fish.

      “Have you ever eaten meat that had been hunted (as opposed to farmed)”

      Yes

      “And have you ever eaten an animal you’ve killed?”

      Just fish, the closest I’ve come to eating a mammal that “I” killed were rabbits that my parents raised in the backyard

      “Perhaps a corollary to this: Have you ever eaten lab grown meat?”

      Not that I’m aware of.

    • LewisT says:

      1. Yes, venison, bear, rabbit, squirrel, fish, and various fowl. I don’t get a chance to eat hunted meat often, but I generally like it much better than farmed meat.

      2-3. I’ve only ever killed and eaten fish, though I have killed but not eaten mice (traps or hit with a brick), raccoons (shot), and injured birds (wrung their necks). I’ve also run over raccoons, opossums, squirrels, cats, a couple of birds, and at least one turtle, but I get the impression that’s not the sort of thing you’re asking about.

      4. No

  5. Aapje says:

    A Dutch technical university has decided to only allow female applicants for scientific personnel (including professors), for the first 6 months. The goal is to increase the percentage of female workers to at least 50%. Apparently, under-representation of men is fine.

    The women that get hired this way get mentoring and €100k in research funding that isn’t given to men, which seems like an admission that the women who get hired this way are of lesser quality than the men and thus need more help. Although I’m sure that the people who favor this consider it necessary to compensate for a hostile work environment.

    I did expect this to happen, but at a different university (in Amsterdam and to a non-technical university). So the rot appears to be spread more widely than I thought.

    • bja009 says:

      Does Dutch law not prohibit gender- or sex-based discrimination, or was this perhaps a private university? IANAL, but I suspect a public university in the US would not be able to run such a program without running afoul of the law.

      I’ll be curious to see if they achieve their desired quota.

      • Aapje says:

        It’s prohibited by the constitution, but just like in the US, there is a loophole for underrepresented groups.

        They will presumably run into the issue that getting their goals met requires severe compromises to candidate quality, given that The Netherlands has both a very strong part time culture among women and a fairly strong gender difference in job choice. When I was at uni, most of the (few) female students in my field came from foreign cultures. So perhaps they’ll focus on hiring foreign workers.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          Obviously. I would predict that the actual result will be that they wind up with a faculty which is female.. and very emphatically not Dutch.

          https://uk.rs-online.com/web/generalDisplay.html?id=women-in-engineering

          Finding an arbitrary number of massively qualified women to fill that faculty is not difficult, given the freedom of movement of labor, and the fact that large chunks of the EU have strong traditions of women in the technical sciences.

          What, you want the classes to be taught in dutch? Tough luck. Or those grants get burned on immersive high-intensity language instruction, I suppose.

          • DeWitt says:

            What, you want the classes to be taught in dutch?

            Dutch universities don’t want the classes to be taught in Dutch. The people who go to university, unlike in the US, are held to a standard, uniformly speak English, and teaching classes in English attracts foreign students who pay a premium in tuition.

          • Aapje says:

            @Thomas Jorgensen

            What, you want the classes to be taught in dutch? Tough luck.

            Dutch universities have largely already chosen hardcore globalism and thus to operate in (poor) English. This is also due to financial incentives: there are a lot of Asians with enough money to send their kids abroad, which right now has high status over there. Tuition for these students is not capped, unlike for Dutch students. The Dutch government has been squeezing the universities financially, so they have sought this source of income out. Reports suggest that these students are on average of lower quality than Dutch students and thus harm the quality of the education.

            One example of far-reaching Anglicization is that there have been students of Dutch, who were forced to do their thesis in English.

    • The Nybbler says:

      In the story I read, it was an 18 month ban on male applicants, but male applicants would be allowed for a given position after 6 months if no suitable female candidates were found. Given the amount of egg which would be on someone’s face if they had to admit to that, I don’t see that clause being invoked.

      • Aapje says:

        The university is going to re-evaluate this policy after 18 months. In no way does this mean that they have committed to stop discriminating against men after that period.

        The university seems to be a bit deceptive for virtue signalling purposes, but from what I can piece together:
        – Only women will be considered for the first 6 months, except for exceptional candidates, which may make up only 10% of new workers (the university seems to be trying to hush up this last part)
        – After 6 months, male candidates will be considered, even though at least one female candidate has to be considered as well (although I don’t see how this can be anything more than a token candidate, if that person wasn’t good enough when men got ignored, so why would any women participate in this?)

        • Incurian says:

          Sounds like a conspiracy for the elite male professors to have a bunch of high status women brought to them while limiting male competition.

    • Tenacious D says:

      At least it wasn’t a good university like TU Delft or Wageningen UR 😛

      (Note: just trolling — I don’t know which universities in the Netherlands are the best, the two I mentioned are just global-profile in my field).

      • Aapje says:

        TU Delft is ranked #50 on the QS World rankings

        TU Eindhoven is ranked #102

        Wageningen UR is ranked #125, but #1 in the subject ranking for agriculture. They are very specialized and small, which makes for a poor overall ranking, despite being very good in what they do.

  6. pqjk2 says:

    I think most people agree that it would be inappropriate and potentially illegal for a hiring manager to “boycott” a job candidate based on that candidate’s political party affiliations. I also think that most people see no issue with consumer boycotts based on perceived corporate political affiliations (they may disagree on specific targets, but I think most people generally consider the boycott to be a legitimate tactic).

    Why is it seen as legitimate to try to exert control over the secondary effects of spending money in some cases, but not in others?

    • Doctor Mist says:

      It might have something to do with the size of the population. One person boycotting a product obviously inflicts no significant harm on the producer, who probably will not even be aware of it; at the same time, a boycott big enough to do so has the patina of democratic action, which we all know is okay.

      In contrast, a hiring manager who “boycotts” a job candidate imposes a serious hardship on the applicant, who may well have only a few plausible jobs open to him; even if he has more, he has wasted the effort he spent applying and maybe even interviewing for this job. At the other extreme, if the hiring manager takes steps to widen the boycott to other potential hirers, the number is still so few that it does not take on any of the connotations of democratic action; it seems like back-room dirty dealing.

      But more probably, it’s just another manifestation of the desire to “punch up”. We feel helpless before our bosses and our corporate masters, so it’s okay for us to strike at them but not vice versa.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I think most people agree that it would be inappropriate and potentially illegal for a hiring manager to “boycott” a job candidate based on that candidate’s political party affiliations.

      “Previous employment/experience: Communications Director for the Pure Aryan Blood Party. Directly involved in disseminating the truth about the superiority of the Aryan race and exposing the lies and inferiority of the lesser races. Developed excellent skills in Microsoft PowerPoint 2010 and Microsoft Frontpage 2003.”

      I don’t know how many people would be too mad about HR passing on that one.

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, my immediate thought is that it’s explicitly not illegal (political affiliation is not a protected criteria in anti-discrimination law, as far as I know), and that the fraction of society who believes it’s even inappropriate is growing increasingly small…

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I believe it is a protected class in California, D.C. and New York. It makes sense in D.C., but it’s probably enacted in California to protect communists and that law will be changed as soon as it protects someone undesirable like a Nazi or a Republican.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            but it’s probably enacted in California to protect communists and that law will be changed as soon as it protects someone undesirable like a Nazi or a Republican.

            We’ve discussed this California law in a previous OT. I’m surprised no one made your point.

          • DeWitt says:

            it’s probably enacted in California to protect communists

            The lack of such legislation in Tennessee is probably to keep democrats out of any good jobs.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I wasn’t being snarky. I assumed that was added after the Red Scare and the blacklisting of communists. Turns out it was enacted in 1937. Still, I’d very much like to know what the impetus for that addition was? Who was getting fired for politics that prompted the legislature to address the issue when practically no one else in the country did?

            ETA: Okay I was being snarky about the “undesirables like nazis or republicans” part but not the communists part.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Still, I’d very much like to know what the impetus for that addition was?

            Can’t answer for this specific case, but it seems a fairly obvious category if you accept that:
            1. Employees should receive some protection against discrimination,
            2. You’re living in a pluralist democracy.

            Politics, like religion, is a dividing line that applies to pretty much everyone and I would expect it to be among the first protected categories recognized.

        • pqjk2 says:

          Political affiliation itself is not a protected class, but could effectively be illegal due to “disparate impact”

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disparate_impact

          Basically, if a hiring criterion causes a protected class to be hired at a lower rate, and that criterion is not provably related to job performance, then the employer is at risk of discrimination – regardless of intent. So if not hiring people of Political Affiliation X causes a disparate impact on Protected Class Y, the company would be at legal risk

          • albatross11 says:

            AFAICT, this is pretty much exactly what’s happening in a bunch of ID requirement and redistricting cases in Southern states. The goal is probably mostly to make it a little harder for Democrats to vote, but since 90% or so of blacks are Democrats (and in some states, I think the majority of Democrats are black), this has a huge disparate impact.

    • albatross11 says:

      I think the real answer is neither philosophical nor legal, but rather practical. It’s at least somewhat workable to restrict what kind of criteria a company can use to decide whether or not to do business with you, but it’s basically impossible to restrict what individual consumers choose to buy or not buy. You can fine a business that says it won’t sell wedding cakes to gay couples, but in practice, you can’t fine every individual couple that decides they’re not buying a wedding cake from a gay baker. Similarly, you can threaten an employer with EEOC lawsuits if they won’t hire black people, but you can’t really threaten prospeactive employees who won’t apply for a job at a company where their boss and coworkers are likely to be black. You can forbid real estate agents to steer black and white families to different neighborhoods, but you can’t make white families bid on homes in predominantly black neighborhoods. And so on.

      If it were practical to restrict those individual choices, I think we’d see laws passed to restrict them.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      The hiring manager is acting as a representative of the company which presumably wants them to hire the best person for the job. If they were to use a political blacklist, they’d be betraying their commitment to the company. Consumers have no similar commitments and are thus free to boycott.

      Note that some employers (the most salient example probably being religious schools) do try to enforce morality clauses on their employees, and this does not seem to be a controversial practice, because there the hiring manager is discriminating in accordance with their employer’s wishes.

      • Matt M says:

        I would suggest that in most large, modern, companies, hiring managers have been explicitly directed and instructed to consider “certain factors” beyond mere qualifications.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I would think Hiring Managers are more likely to consider “certain factors” than their superiors would like, and actually need instruction to not do this.

          Like, say, young women. To the corporation, hey, we want to be on the right side of the law! Gender empowerment! It’s okay if she gets pregnant, we’ll work through it!
          To the hiring manager? Okay, I have 5 direct reports. If I have one employee go on maternity leave, I am strapped. If I have two leave, I am basically screwed. The corporation is not screwed, but I am certainly screwed.

          • Matt M says:

            Well, in corporations sufficiently large, a whole lot of the people who make hiring decisions won’t necessarily be the supervisor of the person they are deciding to hire.

            In neither of my post-MBA jobs did I ever report directly to the person who made the final call on whether or not to hire me.

          • Matt M says:

            Additionally, I think that’s explicitly part of the value proposition of having a large, centralized, HR/Recruiting function. Basically “We will ensure people are hired based on what’s best for the overall corporation, rather than what’s best for the individual manager who might prioritize his own selfish needs/desires/biases.”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            In my company the supervisors make the hiring decisions (while also taking into consideration peer evaluations from whatever team/department they’re hiring for). HR sets out rules about what criteria you may and may not use in making your decisions, and facilitates the hiring and firing and what not, but they’re not the ones making the decisions.

    • dick says:

      Why is it seen as legitimate to try to exert control over the secondary effects of spending money in some cases [people boycotting companies they don’t like for some ideological reason], but not in others [companies boycotting job candidates for some ideological reason]?

      I think the main reason, which I haven’t seen mentioned so far, is that access to jobs (like housing and food) is important to society as a whole, so the law protects people’s ability to get jobs to a certain extent. A bunch of people who can’t find work cause problems for society; they might steal for sustenance, or riot for better treatment, or mass-emigrate. A company that can’t find customers due to a boycott might go broke, but (assuming a functioning market) the people involved can go get other jobs and consumers can buy other products and society isn’t harmed.

  7. Uribe says:

    I don’t understand vegetarianism. Is the basic premise that the lives of domesticated animals raised to be eaten is a net negative for them, so they would be better off never having been born? If so, I’m not convinced of the premise; if not, what is the premise?

    If the animals raised to be eaten have a net positive life (though who are we to say?), then vegetarianism seems unethical from a utilitarian standpoint.

    OTOH, I can understand the argument for eating animals that are raised in better conditions than those in factory farms if you are wealthy enough to afford it, since it seems a good bet that those animals have relatively better lives.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Hindu/Buddhist vegetarianism is based on virtue, not utilitarianism. It is argued that animals have the same kind of consciousness we do, which makes the character of people who kill them because they like the taste akin to murderers. It’s also argued that your character gets rewarded* or punished in the next life, aligning virtue with your self-interest.

      *Even good karma is ultimately a trap, but that’s another story.

      • Shion Arita says:

        It is argued that animals have the same kind of consciousness we do

        To what extent is this actually true, as far as out knowledge goes? Obviously the answer varies greatly depending on the species in question, but how much do we know about this?

        From my experience looking at animals it’s pretty clear that the great apes have a generally similar consciousness to ours, since if you watch them you can usually understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. But go as far away as even our fellow mammal cats, and they become far less comprehensible. And I find it pretty unlikely that crabs have a consciousness anything like ours, if they even have one at all.

        But I haven’t studied these animals, in depth so I don’t really know. I also don’t know how well we know these answers, especially because some groups have an interest in claiming that all animals are basically like humans (which I find extremely unlikely) and other groups claiming that only humans are conscious at all (which I also think is unlikely).

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          To what extent is this actually true, as far as out knowledge goes?

          As we currently lack a solid definition/understanding of consciousness, I’m going to go with “three.”

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I grew up with enough pets to make it deeply intuitive to me. We’re the only rational animals, but few of us walk around 24/7 only rationalizing. The rest of our personality/sentience is expressing the same desires as, eg, our dogs.

    • drunkfish says:

      One unrelated reason is environmentalism, though I assume you specifically meant animal-rights based vegetarianism.

      Also, I think it’s not a stretch to assume that factory farmed animal lives are legitimately worse than death. This answer is incomplete because doesn’t cover all of vegetarianism, plenty of vegetarians are against eating any animals, regardless, plus it demands more evidence than I gave. Still, it seems pretty plausible that getting rid of factory farming is actually a net positive just on the grounds that there are fewer net-miserable creatures in the world.

      Two other responses, though neither is a complete answer by any means (even though I am a vegetarian and should probably have a complete answer):

      1) I doubt you’d make the same conclusion about farming humans for organs or something, even if they were treated fairly well. Maximizing the number of beings capable of experiencing net positive lives seems like a weird way to maximize total utility, even if it does sortof parse. Nobody that I’m aware of is seriously suggesting we should be trying to maximize humans, and it isn’t obvious to me that it should be any different for animals.

      2) If you believe that we should continue eating animals because having more animals is a net good, then you should also support creating more animals, even if there’s no demand to eat them. Assuming the economic costs are minimal, would you seriously support opening up warehouses packed with chickens in cages just to maximize the number of creatures that exist? Maybe your answer is yes, but I have a hard time picturing that really being a sensible goal.

      If this was just intended as a gotcha toward vegetarians, then I doubt my response is useful, but if you just want more fodder to think about, hopefully this is helpful? I’m a vegetarian for a mix of animal rights and environmental reasons, and the latter is probably part of why I haven’t bothered to think through all of the arguments for animal rights, but I should still probably have a better answer and I’d love to see if a discussion here proves useful.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        Maximizing the number of beings capable of experiencing net positive lives seems like a weird way to maximize total utility, even if it does sort of parse.

        Nevertheless, people have advanced such positions.

        Counterarguments to the Repugnant Conclusion are one such instance:

        Torbjörn Tännsjö argues that the intuition that B is worse than A is wrong. While the lives of those in B are worse than those in A, there are more of them and thus the collective value of B is greater than A.

        Counterarguments to David Benatar‘s antinatalism also advance the notion, albeit indirectly. One of the main lines of attack is against Benatar’s premise 4:

        the absence of pleasure is not bad unless there is somebody for whom this absence is a deprivation

        In order to refute this premise, you’re more-or-less obligated to assume that directly causing a being capable of experiencing pleasure to come into existing is morally good, from which the maximization of the number of beings capable of experiencing net-positive lives directly follows.

    • meh says:

      Are you familiar with A Brave New World?

    • Well... says:

      There’s a weird Goldilocks problem if you consider the animal welfare standpoint:

      Raising animals for slaughter in a big industrial meat factory: unethical.

      Hunting wild animals, whose slaughter is almost certainly preceded by panic and who are not guaranteed a clean, fast death: unethical.

      Raising animals for slaughter on some kind of old-timey farm where a kind, wisened old farmer smiles and pets them on the head each day while feeding them expensive high-quality feed and plays Mozart to them over loudspeakers: just right.

      • theredsheep says:

        If nobody’s hunting those wild animals, they will die a much worse death from cars, irate farmers, or disease. Hunting is not just a redneck pastime; in rural areas of the US, it’s a critical public service.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          worse death from cars, irate farmers, or disease

          Or other animals.

          • theredsheep says:

            Large portions of the US no longer have an effective population of predators in place. I used to live on the Eastern Shore of MD; I saw plenty of deer, but never heard a wolf howl. To say nothing of places where feral pigs have taken over–and they have no indigenous predators. Plus they’re smart and supremely destructive.

      • John Schilling says:

        Hunting wild animals, whose slaughter is almost certainly preceded by panic and who are not guaranteed a clean, fast death: unethical.

        Why panic? Panic comes from the unexpected; prey species expect to be hunted. They have millions of years of evolutionary optimization toward generating the optimal response to imminent predation, and while there will almost certainly be a strong emotional state(*) linked to that response, panic is the wrong tool for the job.

        It is possible that the hunter’s bullet or arrow won’t provide a literally instantaneous painless transition from idyllic pastoral life to eternal peace in death, but it might be and we’ll certainly try to make it so. Nothing else that kills animals in the wild makes even the slightest effort to arrange quick and painless death, and yet death comes one to a customer.

        * Or whatever passes for such in nonhuman vertibrates

        • Well... says:

          OK, swap in “strong emotional state” then. Still probably something the people who weep over the Meat Industrial Complex would prefer animals didn’t experience at human hands.

          • John Schilling says:

            “Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result – and it would be repugnant to share that exhilaration with mere animals, so for the strongest moral reasons I shall henceforth shoot only at my fellow human beings”
            – W. Churchill, amended

    • If you can figure out the premises behind anti-cannibalism, then you can figure the premises behind vegetarianism. It’s not exactly a difficult thing to think through.

      • Deiseach says:

        If you can figure out the premises behind anti-cannibalism, then you can figure the premises behind vegetarianism.

        Well, this is where the trouble is. I don’t consider anti-cannibalism and vegetarianism to be the same degree of thing at all, because I understand anti-cannibalism to be (a) first, don’t eat your own species; this says nothing about eating other species (b) animals are not as intelligent or of the same moral weight as humans and if the argument is that humans are sophisticatedly developed morally and intellectually enough to know it’s wrong and they shouldn’t do it (because the cute fuzzy bunnies!) then I think that’s a point in favour of my side of the line – tigers and sharks are not having moral dilemmas over ‘yeah but is it okay for us to eat humans, even though we are meat-eaters in general? in fact, is meat indeed murder?’

        The Reluctant Cannibal is a fun song, but this is the same argument (from the mirror side) of the lyric:

        If the Juju had meant us not to eat people,
        He wouldn’t have made us of meat!

        ‘If you wouldn’t eat people, you shouldn’t eat animals! Humans are meat just as much as animals are, so the logic of meat-eating means you should eat people too! And if you wouldn’t eat people then don’t eat animals, checkmate carnivore!’

        • animals are not as intelligent or of the same moral weight as humans and if the argument is that humans are sophisticatedly developed morally and intellectually enough to know it’s wrong and they shouldn’t do it (because the cute fuzzy bunnies!) then I think that’s a point in favour of my side of the line

          Do you eat infants? Or are they intellectually sophisticated?

          • Deiseach says:

            Wrong Species, your handle is the answer to your question.

            Human infants are the young of my species. I don’t eat my own species.

            Young of other species? I eat eggs, I eat lamb, I’ve eaten roe, I’ve never eaten veal but I could be induced to try it (and never mind the reasons why veal is a bad thing).

            While we’re playing “Have you stopped beating your wife?”, let me throw this one back on you: some vegans/vegetarians are okey-dokey with abortion and are pro-choice. Because a foetus is only potential thinking feeling being while an adult moo-cow is an actual thinking feeling being. And one of the pro-choice arguments rests on “well, spontaneous miscarriages happen in nature, and a natural miscarriage is exactly the same thing as a procured miscarriage which is what an abortion is, so yah boo pro-lifers, argue against that!”

            That being the case, what is your position on abortions for cows? After all, cows spontaneously abort due to this bacterium, and the likes of gwern have argued that a miscarriage is the same thing as a procured miscarriage is the same thing as an abortion so abortion okay as a choice*. And so if abortions are okay for humans, why not cows – how do we know the thinking feeling cow wants to be pregnant, especially in the context of factory farming?

            And what about veal? Is it okay if we eat unborn calves as near to the date of delivery as possible, instead of eating very very young veal calves such as bob veal? As the NPR style bible made clear, the object in the womb is a foetus, not an unborn baby, and it’s certainly nothing like a born child. Foetal veal = okay where born calf veal = bad immoral wicked evil torture murder?

            If you want to play “stupid arguments pushed to stupid conclusions”, I can do that. Or you can accept that I don’t think meat-eating is moral evil. Your choice.

            *

            But fetuses still aren’t human. Most fetuses wind up being shed with the uterus’s lining, or just dying, or are so damaged they never come to term. There’s a chance they’ll become human, but the cumulative odds are low. Mother Nature is the greatest abortionist of all.

            That is, miscarriages are more common that most people are aware of. PubMed’s miscarriage entry writes:

            It is estimated that up to half of all fertilized eggs die and are lost (aborted) spontaneously, usually before the woman knows she is pregnant. Among those women who know they are pregnant, the miscarriage rate is about 15–20%….The risk for miscarriage is higher in women: 1. Older than 35…

            Wikipedia gives specifics about the elder risk:

            …another study found an increased risk in women, by the age of 45, on the order of 800% (compared to the 20–24 age group in that study), 75% of pregnancies ended in miscarriage.

          • dick says:

            While we’re playing “Have you stopped beating your wife?”, let me throw this one back on you:

            We don’t do that here.

          • @Deiseach

            Your abortion example doesn’t really challenge my beliefs the way you think it does. I think early-term human abortion is acceptable and late term abortion isn’t much different than infanticide. I would probably say that there is a similarity with animals. I’m not asking these questions to make you look dumb. If you ground your philosophical argument against cannibalism on the intellect of humans, then you have the problem of babies and the mentally retarded.

            Human infants are the young of my species. I don’t eat my own species.

            “Humans are my in-group so I apply different standards of morality to them” is a perfectly coherent statement. The problem comes from people who have very different in-groups than you.

          • Well... says:

            @Wrong Species:

            So animals are vegetarians’ in-group. But why animals? Why not all eukarya? If you ground your argument on the intellect [or ability to suffer, or whatever] of animals, then you have the problem of polyps and mollusks. And plants that emit stress hormones. And slime molds that solve complicated problems. And…

            And then we’re back to the thread on the Kim Jong Un KFC post…

          • @Well

            Nobody is convinced by your statement that plants feel pain so I don’t know why you bother to bring it up.

          • Well... says:

            @wrong Species:

            I didn’t claim plants feel pain. I claimed that plants have something analogous (not to be confused with “similar”) to nervous systems that enable them to perceive and respond in rather active and sophisticated ways to their environment. I’m pretty sure people who study plants would agree with me on that.

            I have said I’m not satisfied with reasons given for why animal suffering is morally relevant but the analogous plant response is not. I’ve said that I suspect the real reason moral vegetarians will eat vegetables but not animals — warm-blooded vertebrates in particular — is because animals are simply easier to emotionally sympathize with, so that’s where moral vegetarians set their Schelling point. Then I said they should simply embrace/admit this because it would be more honest than claiming to have arrived at an objectively superior moral position/diet based on the likely experience of the thing being eaten.

        • souleater says:

          I don’t consider anti-cannibalism and vegetarianism to be the same degree of thing at all

          Well sure, but I think the point was that if someone were to argue in favor of factory farming humans based on the logic more humans is a net good from a utilitarian perspective.. we would all point out that it’s probably preferable to have never been born than spend your life in a cage and subsequently killed and eaten.

          I’m became a vegetarian over 15 years ago for reasons unrelated to ethics. But it seems to me that a reasonable aspect of someone’s personal code might be worded thusly:
          Try to live your life in such a way as to minimize unnecessary harm to other living things.

          It’s not a be all, end all goal. There are other things in life that are more important. But for some people, they have the opportunity to reduce unnecessary harm to other living things, and it seems nice to me that they’re choosing to do that.

          • Deiseach says:

            if someone were to argue in favor of factory farming humans based on the logic more humans is a net good from a utilitarian perspective

            I’m not a utilitarian. So from the get-go I would be inclined not to be convinced by utilitarian arguments. I also am not inclined to be convinced by “ooh the fuzzy wuzzy bunnies and moo-cows and sheepies!” arguments or the “eating meat means you are literally worse than Hitler and Stalin combined with Pol Pot and Mao thrown in” arguments, which are mostly the ones I see.

          • souleater says:

            Uribe raised a utilitarian point in favor of eating meat, which is what I think was being addressed by “wrong species” at the time of my original post. I wasn’t really trying to convince anyone to not eat meat, so much as point out Uribe’s utilitarian argument doesn’t seem very persuasive to me as a reason to start eating meat.

            Other than that I’m not sure how this comment really relates to mine. It kinda feels like you’re attacking a strawman here. Specifically “ooh the fuzzy wuzzy bunnies and moo-cows and sheepies!” arguments or the “eating meat means you are literally worse than Hitler and Stalin combined with Pol Pot and Mao thrown in” bit. You did specify that those are the kinds of arguments you see, so I understand you’re not saying that about me.

            I’m really not trying to persuade you to eat meat. There are a lot of people who have a lot of good reasons to do it. Maybe they don’t like alternative sources of protein, They enjoy cooking, or just enjoy the taste. I’m sure you have plenty of your own good reasons to do it.

            But does my above comment about morality seem reasonably to you? That if someone can, and when someone can, they should try to avoid causing harm to other living things (including unborn children, plants, and bugs) for no reason? I understand that you have a good reason for eating meat, based on your preferences, but I don’t have a reason to eat meat.

            If there any reason why I should eat meat if I could be equally happy not eating meat?
            Would you agree that, considering I have no preference either way, it’s probably better for me avoid it for now?

      • HowardHolmes says:

        The premise behind anti-cannibalism is that it is against the law. Eating animal meat is not against the law so vegetarianism must be supported by some other premise.

        • thevoiceofthevoid says:

          Do you think that a significant number people would gladly become cannibals, or cease being outraged by cannibalism, if the laws against it were repealed?

          Secular laws are created by people with their morals, so to say that something is immoral only because it’s illegal strikes me as somewhat circular or backwards. I’ll grant that you could argue that a specific illegal action (say, smoking pot) is not immoral in an of itself but that it’s immoral to break any law. However I highly doubt that’s the case with cannibalism.

          • I don’t think people would become cannibals without the law but I think the law certainly affects people’s moral beliefs. Why is there more of a stigma against marijuana use than alcohol? Because alcohol has been legal for as long as any of have been alive while marijuana legalization is very new. These kinds of things affect our beliefs more than we would like to admit.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            I’m using law very broadly here including “I don’t do it because I will be shamed by others” and the like.
            OTOH, I do not think anything like morality exists. It is something we just talk about to try to impress others. We do what we want…what we can get by with. There have been cultures where cannibalism was not “against the law”. In those cultures it was not immoral. Morality is just something we use to beat up people with.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @Wrong Species
            I agree, the law does affect people’s moral beliefs quite a bit. But it’s very rarely the root justification; if you ask someone who disapproves of marijuana use why they think it’s bad, they’ll have plenty of arguments beyond “because it’s illegal.” See: people in the growing list of recreational-pot-allowing states who still disapprove.

            @HowardHolmes
            Of course morality is socially constructed, Howard, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?

          • @voiceofthevoid

            I don’t trust people’s states reasons for things too much. Jonathon Haidt has that famous study where he asked a bunch of people about scenarios where there wasn’t direct harm involved and people have conflicting, incoherent ramblings about why it was bad. As far as the law goes, I think it’s a status thing. Even twenty years ago when marijuana was more stigmatized, I don’t think people really thought marijuana was that bad for you. It was more like if you smoked weed, then you’re the kind of low status who smokes weed. You just aren’t as respectable as the guy who who drinks the legal alcohol. Marijuana still probably has that stigma because even though it may be legal in certain places, it only happened recently and that kind of stigma takes a while to fade.

            Of course, I don’t want to take this argument too far. You can’t just automatically change people’s beliefs by changing the law. But saying that the law influences you makes you sound like a rube. We want to pretend we’re better than that.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @Wrong Species
            It sounds like we’re approaching vehement agreement on this. The law often has a major effect of people’s moral beliefs, but rarely is it the sole rationalization given or the true root cause for our vague moral intuitions. Important factor though, definitely.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @thevoiceofthevoid

            Of course morality is socially constructed, Howard, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?

            It is not real because it is not the actual explanation for behavior. A person says, “I don’t eat meat because I think it is wrong to kill animals.” This is not why the person does not eat meat. He is a vegetarian because he wants to differentiate himself from others and make himself appear to be special. He only thinks he is concerned about animals because he wants to think of himself as caring and empathetic, etc. We are not motivated by concern for anything outside of ourselves, so morality is not real…it explains no behavior.

          • Nick says:

            We are not motivated by concern for anything outside of ourselves, so morality is not real…it explains no behavior.

            This isn’t any more true now than last time you claimed it. You continue to ignore the folks who told you, with real examples, that parents will and do die for their children.

            It also doesn’t much matter that our beliefs about morality don’t explain our actions. First of all, some folks (foolishly, I would maintain) treat their moral beliefs like ideals that don’t particularly need to be lived up to. Second, many folks fail to live up to their moral beliefs for reasons that have little to do with not actually believing them or whatever it is you’re maintaining: habituated vices, if you want a classical example, or executive dysfunction, if you want a modern one. Third, the fact that moral beliefs fail to explain our actions has nothing to do with whether morality exists or not: there could be a right and wrong even if we always chose wrong.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @Nick

            You continue to ignore the folks who told you, with real examples, that parents will and do die for their children.

            I must have missed it. I do not recall seeing any real examples of parents dying for children. I am aware of numerous real examples of parents killing children.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @Nick

            folks fail to live up to their moral beliefs for reasons that have little to do with not actually believing them

            A belief is that upon which one is prepared to act. (Thomas Bain). I do not believe I can fly unless I am willing to step off a cliff. Anything else is pure deceit.

          • Nick says:

            I must have missed it. I do not recall seeing any real examples of parents dying for children. I am aware of numerous real examples of parents killing children.

            Last this came up, albatross11 shared an example of a relative who gave her life for her unborn child.

            If you want more, consider reading about parents shielding their children during attacks, or those who stayed behind on the Titanic so women and children could take the lifeboats.

            The wiki page is instructive. You’ll find, almost unrelentingly, much of what you expect from humanity: steerage passengers were mostly barred from getting to the lifeboats; early boats left under capacity, and few returned to pick up survivors; some of the crew abandoned their posts, while passengers attacked each other for their life belts.

            You’ll also find, should you pay attention, the very opposite too. Benjamin Guggenheim “changed out of his life vest and sweater into top hat and evening dress and declared his wish to go down with the ship like a gentleman.” Ida Straus refused to separate from her husband, reportedly saying, “Where you go, I go”: “They sat down in a pair of deck chairs and waited for the end.” Oh, but perhaps they didn’t mean it.

            As the end came, Father Thomas Byles could be seen hearing confession and giving absolution. The bands continued to play, and the radio operators sent their distresses. As the Titanic sank at last, capsized boat B returned, that survivors might at least cling to its side. After rescuing 35, they rowed away, and not one cursed them for it: “In no instance, I am happy to say, did I hear any word of rebuke from a swimmer because of a refusal to grant assistance… [one refusal] was met with the manly voice of a powerful man… ‘All right boys, good luck and God bless you’.” Ah, but suppose he didn’t mean it.

            I don’t want to downplay the tragedies or horrors of the sinking. I could go on at much greater length about those, and the wiki article does. What I only want to emphasize here is that your account of man excludes the good entirely. I won’t be lectured on the darkness of this world by those who can’t see the light, and if I can’t get through to you, let me get through to those reading this. We can be selfless.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @Nick

            Last this came up, albatross11 shared an example of a relative who gave her life for her unborn child.

            This example lacked a lot of detail so I assumed it was hiding a great deal. My best guess is that the woman knew she was a goner anyway. It happens a lot when we are down to chemo as the last option.

            If you want more, consider reading about parents shielding their children during attacks,

            This is no example. You are asking me to provide my own examples. Do your own work.

            Benjamin Guggenheim “changed out of his life vest and sweater into top hat and evening dress and declared his wish to go down with the ship like a gentleman.”

            His self concept was tied to his view of himself as a gentleman. Some people commit suicide rather than give up a self concept. He gave his motive as “to be a gentleman.” Take his word for it. Also he was old and ready to die. I am 71; you’ll understand this more when you get old.

            Ida Straus refused to separate from her husband, reportedly saying, “Where you go, I go”: “They sat down in a pair of deck chairs and waited for the end.” Oh, but perhaps they didn’t mean it.

            She meant exactly what she said and gave her reasons which were not altruistic or about saving anyone. She could not envision enjoying life without her husband. Quite common.

            As the Titanic sank at last, capsized boat B returned, that survivors might at least cling to its side. After rescuing 35, they rowed away, and not one cursed them for it…….:

            Touching story but no example there of anyone giving up their life for others.

            What I only want to emphasize here is that your account of man excludes the good entirely.

            I did not make the world the way it is. There is also no bad or evil in the world either. I could ridicule you for insisting on creating evil where there is none. Creating good automatically creates evil. God’s original plan was for a world with neither…Read Genesis.

          • Nick says:

            This example lacked a lot of detail so I assumed it was hiding a great deal. My best guess is that the woman knew she was a goner anyway. It happens a lot when we are down to chemo as the last option.

            @albatross11 is welcome to share any details he wants. Your response, though, flatly contradicts the account he gave: she didn’t forego chemo, she only delayed it until the end of the pregnancy, and the doctors evidently thought chemo was worth pursuing, too.

            His self concept was tied to his view of himself as a gentleman. Some people commit suicide rather than give up a self concept. He gave his motive as “to be a gentleman.” Take his word for it. Also he was old and ready to die. I am 71; you’ll understand this more when you get old.

            It doesn’t serve anyone to die. Why does the person who makes that choice not give up their self-conception so they can live? That would be self-serving.

            She meant exactly what she said and gave her reasons which were not altruistic or about saving anyone. She could not envision enjoying life without her husband. Quite common.

            It meant she gave up her seat, which indeed saves someone. And again, why is the self-serving thing to do not to envision life without her husband? With all the money her husband had, she could have served herself in any way she pleased. She could have done what she wanted… could have done what she could get by with, as you put it above.

            I also note that you accept Guggenheim and Straus at their word, something you haven’t done for anyone else. Why do you not believe she was pretending to herself and her husband? You change your interpretative method to suit your conclusion. I’ll ask the same thing I asked last time we talked: is your position actually falsifiable? Could any action, anywhere, persuade you differently?

            Touching story but no example there of anyone giving up their life for others.

            To return to where the great mass of survivors is risks being swarmed and capsized. The crewmen who directed boat B back to rescue survivors were taking on a very great risk, something they certainly knew.

            I did not make the world the way it is. There is also no bad or evil in the world either. I could ridicule you for insisting on creating evil where there is none. Creating good automatically creates evil. God’s original plan was for a world with neither…Read Genesis.

            I’m not the one creating evil: I mentioned parents dying for their children, and you responded about parents killing children. That’s not me, that’s you; you accepted the distinction as readily as I proffered it.

          • @Howard

            What action would disprove your claim?

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @Nick

            the doctors evidently thought chemo was worth pursuing, too.

            Doctors always recommend pursuing chemo even when they know it is hopeless.

            It doesn’t serve anyone to die. Why does the person who makes that choice not give up their self-conception so they can live? That would be self-serving.

            Clearly that might be your choice. It is not everyone’s choice. People really identify with their self concepts. People really think they are important. In fact, thinking that one is important is the thing that motivates most of our actions. Some people would rather die than admit they are not special.

            It meant she gave up her seat, which indeed saves someone.

            According to her own account her motivation was not about saving lives.

            And again, why is the self-serving thing to do not to envision life without her husband? With all the money her husband had, she could have served herself in any way she pleased. She could have done what she wanted… could have done what she could get by with, as you put it above.

            You seem a tad off subject. We were discussing whether people would give their lives for another, not “what is and what is not self serving behavior” If you want the answer to that question, here it is: Every action we do is self serving or rather what we perceive as self serving.

            I also note that you accept Guggenheim and Straus at their word, something you haven’t done for anyone else.

            their explanations were consistent with what is true of human nature. Altruism is NOT true of human nature so I will assume someone is pretending who claims to act altruistically.

            is your position actually falsifiable? Could any action, anywhere, persuade you differently?

            Irrelevant question. I have claimed you cannot find a credible example of someone giving their life for another. So far, your servings are rather a pathetic lot.

            To return to where the great mass of survivors is risks being swarmed and capsized.

            This is a good example of how desperate you are to make a point. CLEARLY if he capsized he would not be able to save others so CLEARLY he did not expect to capsize. If he did expect to capsize he would never have gone back. His actions prove he did not plan to give his life for others. In fact, in this scenerio there was no way to “give his life for another” unless he gave up his place by jumping in the water and drowning. He could have done that, but did not. Not surprising, since he is a living being and living beings would not be here if they did not look out for themselves.

            I’m not the one creating evil

            There is nothing bad. There are no bad people. There are no bad actions. There is nothing bad in the world. You think there is, so clearly you made it up.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @Wrong Species

            What action would disprove your claim?

            Which particular claim?

          • @Howard

            This claim:

            We are not motivated by concern for anything outside of ourselves, so morality is not real…it explains no behavior.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @Wrong Species

            Show me an action by a human that cannot possibly be the action he sees as most beneficial to himself.

          • albatross11 says:

            HowardHolmes:

            There will never be an instance of altruism which you can’t explain by assuming some kind of underlying selfish motive, but that’s just saying that when you assume your conclusion, it’s pretty easy to prove your conclusion.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @albatross11

            when you assume your conclusion, it’s pretty easy to prove your conclusion.

            All that does not mean my assumption is incorrect. There are positive reasons for thinking altruism makes no sense (such as the nature of evolution). It makes no sense to think that one would do something he considers as opposed to his interest. At least, I am taking the sensible route. If you would like, tell me how, given evolution, it makes sense for an individual to act against his self interest. If you give no response, might I assume you can think of none?

          • @Howard

            Biologists have spent a lot of time thinking about and discussing altruism. Richard Dawkins wrote about it in The Selfish Gene. If you want to learn more, read that.

            All that does not mean my assumption is incorrect.

            You can’t seriously expect to convince any of us about your claim if you make it unfalsifiable.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @Wrong Species

            You can’t seriously expect to convince any of us about your claim if you make it unfalsifiable.

            I do not expect to convince any of you. I don’t recall ever convincing anyone of anything. I do note that you refuse to make an attempt to explain how altruism makes sense. I have read The Selfish Gene and all his other books as well. Reciprocal altruism is not altruism in any shape or form. Its very name contains its motivation.

          • I’m clearly talking about kin selection, not reciprocal altruism. It has a lot of evidence for it. If we look at ants and try to explain their behavior in any other manner, it makes no sense.

            I don’t know what to tell you because you’ve made it very clear that nothing I could possibly say would convince you otherwise. You don’t expect to convince anyone else so obviously this discussion is pointless and fruitless. I’m out.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @HowardHolmes

            Show me an action by a human that cannot possibly be the action he sees as most beneficial to himself.

            If soldiers throwing themselves on grenades to save the lives of their comrades isn’t a purely altruistic act, then I don’t know what the hell would be. Unless you have an explanation for how falling on a grenade is “beneficial to oneself.”

            However, I don’t think you’re completely off the mark. Even the soldier who falls on a grenade is trying to fulfill his own values–among them almost certainly a love of his country and his friends. But fulfilling your own values doesn’t necessarily mean acting only in self-interest, because you can value things beyond and greater than yourself!

            And if the soldiers are only doing it to “satisfy their self-image of heroism” or whatever…well, then, I still think what they did is notable, and still helped their fellow soldiers, no matter why they did it. It’s clear that, unknowable mental states aside, they sacrificed their physical well-being in helping others. And I think that such actions ought to be commended, if only to better align all of our self-interests. If only there were a word for that kind of thing…

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @thevoiceofthevoid

            If soldiers throwing themselves on grenades to save the lives of their comrades isn’t a purely altruistic act, then I don’t know what the hell would be.

            This is going to win me no friends, but we do not know all the details of the situation. I suspect that it is a matter of the soldier realizing he is a goner whether he throws himself on the grenade or not. He has two choices: 1)die along or 2)die with his buddy. So saving his buddy is a no cost situation. There are other possibilities as well. When someone dies, it is easy to exaggerate the circumstances. The guy standing nearest the incoming grenade is killed. The survivors easily credit him with saving their lives. If he was standing between them and the grenade, he might have “saved their lives” regardless of how much throwing he did.

            However, I don’t think you’re completely off the mark. Even the soldier who falls on a grenade is trying to fulfill his own values–among them almost certainly a love of his country and his friends.

            Going to war is complicated. The odds of being killed are not that great but they exist. I don’t think people plan on getting killed..it happens. One gets caught up in the activity and is playing the roll of soldier at every moment. Sometimes there is no time to switch to any other roll; one just does what a soldier does, but one is certainly no looking for opportunities to die saving others.

            But fulfilling your own values doesn’t necessarily mean acting only in self-interest, because you can value things beyond and greater than yourself!

            This is the heart of the issue. Can we? I do not think we can. If I buy myself a hotdog I am also making the vendor richer, but I do not get credit for being motivated out of concern for the vendor. My signing up for armed service might help my country but it is not the reason I do it. I do it because of self image. I would be scorned if I did not. I will be honored if I do.

            It’s clear that, unknowable mental states aside, they sacrificed their physical well-being in helping others.

            The did not sacrifice their well-being. No one can. That would mean that one could choose to act against his interest. Why would he do so? Anyone disposed to act against their interest would not be here.

          • I do note that you refuse to make an attempt to explain how altruism makes sense.

            I’m coming into the middle of this, but are you familiar with Gary Becker’s analysis of the economics of altruism, leading to the Rotten Kid Theorem?

            I discuss it in a webbed chapter of my Price Theory.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            DavidFriedman
            Thanks for the rotten kid reference. Had not seen it before. I did not see an answer to my question. The story assumes the parents acted in the interest of the kid. It did not address why it makes sense for the parents to act in the interest of the kid.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            Wrong Species

            The only way to understand ant behavior is to consider the entire colony as the individual.

            Question: How would your claim that some actions are altruist be falsified?

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @HowardHolmes

            It did not address why it makes sense for the parents to act in the interest of the kid.

            You really don’t have to stretch very far to come up with an evolutionary explanation for this. Children are literally the way that sexually-reproducing organisms pass on their genes; it makes total sense that parents would evolve instincts to care for the well-being of their children.

            Question: How would your claim that some actions are altruist be falsified?

            By convincing me that the many actions that I think are altruistic, are actually not altruistic. And I don’t mean “provide a questionable explanation of how the action could possibly be self-serving”, I mean “convince me that your selfish explanation is more likely than the selfless one”. You wouldn’t have to do that for every act I think is altruistic, but you’d have to do it for enough of the ones that I see as clearly selfless that I start doubting altruism in general.

            Might I ask, what convinced you that everyone is always completely self-interested, despite the numerous apparent examples of altruism in the world, and the fact that the concept exists in the first place? And is there anything that would change your mind on the subject?

          • HowardHolmes says:

            TheVoiceoftheVoid

            Parents instinctively care for kids. Does this mean that the instinct to care for kids should be labeled as altruistic as opposed, let’s say, to the instinct to want to defecate, or have sex? Animals instinctively care for kids; is this altruism. A bird has an urge to defecate; it defecates. It has a urge to lay eggs; it lays eggs. Is the latter altruistic and the former not? If your answer is yes, we need to discuss what is meant by altruism. From the view of the bird, it is the same thing. The bird doesn’t know the egg will produce a young bird and the turd will not. The bird doesn’t even know that it exists, much less that it has offspring. What changes when humans enter the picture? Not behavior. Just how behavior is described. Now instead of just having sex because I like sex, I am producing a baby the “most altruistic thing I have ever done.” We are just trying to find meaning in otherwise meaningless behavior.

            By convincing me that the many actions that I think are altruistic, are actually not altruistic.

            Give me your best shot and let me have a go at it.

            And I don’t mean “provide a questionable explanation of how the action could possibly be self-serving”, I mean “convince me that your selfish explanation is more likely than the selfless one”.

            I will give it a good shot and try to be honest.

            Might I ask, what convinced you that everyone is always completely self-interested, despite the numerous apparent examples of altruism in the world, and the fact that the concept exists in the first place?

            Introspection played a big role. Let’s say there is one cookie left. I might tell my wife, “you take it”. This appears altruistic. I know within myself that I am doing to maintain my reputation with her as a caring thoughtful person. I know that I want the cookie for myself and if it were not for the social aspects, i would eat it. If I were 2 years old, I would take the cookie and not give it a second thought. The difference between a 2 year old and 20 year old is only a matter of honesty. Motivation remains the same. When I ask you, “How are you”, I am only concerned with what you think about my manners and friendliness, etc. I really do not care “how you are”. There is no room in use for that much caring. For the most part altruism is tokenism. We don’t give nearly enough to convince me we really care for others more than ourselves.

          • @HowardHolmes:
            I explain why evolution could select in favor of altruism in the paragraphs headed “Altruism and Evolution” immediately after the two paragraphs on the Rotten Kid Theorem.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            To David Friedman re: evolution and altruism.

            I read your explanation. My biggest issue is why create a concept of altruism for certain actions which clearly benefit the passing of the individuals genes. You admit that caring for ones children is not altruism, yet when you move to caring for the group you put this in altruism. Let’s assume that Becker is correct. Firstly, the advantage in the group is to the person who appears to be altruistic, not necessarily to one who actually is. The optimum is to appear altruistic without actually being. I think this is what we have in humans. The biggest and most ubiquitous lie of humans is “I care.” But back to the concept. Consider three actions:
            1) I’m hungry; I eat.
            2) I feel and urge to care for my kids; I do care for them (Care in the sense of action..not feeling)
            3) I feel an urge to help a group member; I help them.

            All of these actions are instinctive and all contribute positively to passing on our genes. Why is 3 altruistic and not 1. I say this is true because we see a chance to bolster our respectability by claiming 3 to be altruistic. We cannot get by with this on 1, and probably 2, but whenever we can we promote our actions as being more than they are, as being altruistic. I take care of my car; I take care of my child; I take care of my group. All self serving actions but one is sellable as a way of enhancing our reputation

          • Doctor Mist says:

            HowardHolmes-

            Altrusim is the mental process that certain suites of genes have implemented to further their own replication.

            You argue that an altruistic human action is not actually altruistic because it furthers the replication of my instances of those genes. This is muddled. What do I care about whether my genes successfully replicate?

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @Doctor Mist

            Altrusim is the mental process

            You did not describe this mental process. Let me assume it is something like feeling a preference for acting to benefit another rather than myself, for doing some action I do not perceive to be in my best interest.

            that certain suites of genes have implemented to further their own replication.

            So this mental process is genetically caused. My argument is that there exists no such mental process in humans at all. The only motivation to act that we feel is a motivation to do that which is in our best interest (due to our genetics). Altruism is just something we made up to make others think we care which so deceiving others is important to what humans see as flourishing.

            There is no need to have a mental process of altruism. Suppose when a mother’s breasts are full and her baby cries, she has an urge to let the infant suck. I say it is consistent with her current self interest to let the infant suck. No altruism is needed. No one needs to give her credit for being a “caring” mother. She wants to let the infant suck for the same reason she wants to do everything she does….to benefit herself.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ HowardHolmes:

            If you would like, tell me how, given evolution, it makes sense for an individual to act against his self interest.

            The existence of altruism is one of the data which any account of human behaviour must be able to explain. If altruism is inexplicable under evolutionary theory, that’s a problem for evolutionary theory, not altruism.

            @ Wrong Species:

            Biologists have spent a lot of time thinking about and discussing altruism. Richard Dawkins wrote about it in The Selfish Gene. If you want to learn more, read that.

            The Selfish Gene only pushes the problem down a stage without actually solving it. If my willingness to sacrifice my interests for other people is hard to explain, explaining my genes’ willingness to sacrifice their interests for other genes isn’t any easier.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @the original Mr. X

            The existence of altruism is one of the data which any account of human behaviour must be able to explain.

            Altruism does not exist as a behavior. Certain behaviors are labeled altruistic for reasons, but that reason is not that the behavior is actually altruistic. If Bill Gates donates a ton to charity, this is the behavior that exists. How it is labeled is another matter. I do not think his motivation was altruistic. Others do. That is where we disagree.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Altruism does not exist as a behavior. Certain behaviors are labeled altruistic for reasons, but that reason is not that the behavior is actually altruistic. If Bill Gates donates a ton to charity, this is the behavior that exists. How it is labeled is another matter. I do not think his motivation was altruistic. Others do. That is where we disagree.

            Well then, all I can say is that you are arguing against both common sense and the universal opinion of mankind. If neither of these can make you question your beliefs, then I am not sure that meaningful discussion on the topic is possible.

            Though I am somewhat curious as to what motivates you to argue against the existence of altruism, since it’s difficult to see how exactly your life would be any worse if everybody on this board believes that people sometimes act altruistically. Normally when people argue in such circumstances I assume that they consider spreading the truth to be in itself a good thing, but that seems so altruistic that I don’t suppose it’s your goal.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @The original Mr. X

            ….what motivates you to argue against the existence of altruism…..Normally when people argue in such circumstances I assume that they consider spreading the truth to be in itself a good thing, but that seems so altruistic that I don’t suppose it’s your goal.

            I post here for the same reason everyone else does, we want the respect the others on this board. We want to portray ourselves as knowledgeable, caring, clever, helpful, friendly, capable, intelligent, among others. This is the ONLY reason anyone posts to this board. If you cannot see that is true of yourself, you are self deceived. Why in the world would I be interested in spreading truth? Why would I be interested in helping my fellow person when my primary goal in life is to be better than they are?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I post here for the same reason everyone else does, we want the respect the others on this board. We want to portray ourselves as knowledgeable, caring, clever, helpful, friendly, capable, intelligent, among others.

            I don’t. Or rather, given that I post on this board, I want other posters to respect me, but that’s conditional on my posting, not a motivation for it. My real motivations are more to do with a mix of (a) convincing others of my views, and (b) seeing if there are any interesting counter-arguments to my views out there.

            This is the ONLY reason anyone posts to this board.

            I refute you thus: this is not the only reason I post to this board.

            If you cannot see that is true of yourself, you are self deceived.

            I don’t really think you know me well enough to know my own motivations better than I do.

            Why in the world would I be interested in spreading truth? Why would I be interested in helping my fellow person when my primary goal in life is to be better than they are?

            Lots of people have goals beyond their own comfort. If you can’t see this, I’m sorry for you.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @HowardHolmes

            Why would I be interested in helping my fellow person when my primary goal in life is to be better than they are?

            Aha! I thought that nothing was better or worse than anything, and that no one was better than anyone else?

            You are not better nor better off than anyone in the world and will never be.

            Unless that was the specific “you” instead of the rhetorical “you”, and you were implying that I in particular am literally the worst person in the world and will be for all eternity. In which case, ouch.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @The original Mr. X

            My real motivations are more to do with a mix of (a) convincing others of my views, and (b) seeing if there are any interesting counter-arguments to my views out there.

            Note that neither of these motives is altruistic. The big question is why do you want to convince others? Convincing others is a big, big kick. It gives us great satisfaction. It is not altruistic. Neither is the second reason. I understand that as a motivation, but it is self interest.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @thevoiceofthevoid

            Aha! I thought that nothing was better or worse than anything, and that no one was better than anyone else?

            I was trying to be sarcastic and failed. I have no interest in being better than anyone nor do I think I am or could be. I do think that pretty much all humans think they are better than a lot of other humans, and it is the goal of humans to distinguish themselves from others. I am not distinguished. I am not special. I am not better than anyone.
            When I said you are better than no one, I was NOT saying you were worse than anyone. There is no such thing as better or worse humans. When you think you are better than someone, you are merely being egotistical.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Note that neither of these motives is altruistic. The big question is why do you want to convince others? Convincing others is a big, big kick. It gives us great satisfaction. It is not altruistic. Neither is the second reason. I understand that as a motivation, but it is self interest.

            I know too much about these sorts of internet conversations to expect anybody to fall down at my feet and say, “Why, Mr. X, you have convinced me! I thank you for leading me to the truth, and humbly acknowledge your superior intellectual capacities!” If anybody’s minds are changed by these discussions, it’ll almost certainly be by giving them something new to think about which, over time, results in them changing their minds on some topic or another. So even if I do succeed in changing anybody’s mind about something, I’ll quite probably never know, and hence won’t be able to get any sort of kick out of it.

        • Nick says:

          The law is (mostly) not the reason folks are against cannibalism; folks being against cannibalism, actually, is (mostly) why the law exists.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            It’s all the same thing. I don’t do X because people are against it. This works. This is valid.

            I don’t do X because it is immoral is a pretense and a sham. No one is more moral than the next person, nor less. Morality does not exist.

      • HarmlessFrog says:

        Cannibalism is bad for a couple of reasons:
        1) It incentivizes predating on one’s own species… and the way ancestral human society used to look like, the vast majority of known members of your species would be your relatives. You do not want to kill and eat your relatives.
        2) Kuru. Even if you get around the first problem, by only eating those who die for unrelated reasons, you will reliably get an incurable neurological degeneration disorder.

        Eating non-human meat doesn’t trip either of these, excepting maybe eating some apes (closely related to us) and diseased cattle (which you don’t want to do anyway).

        • I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that other people are your relatives. Other people are also your competitors, for resources and in particular for mates.

          My guess is that the reason is the rent seeking problem. If there is no prejudice against cannibalism, then everyone has an incentive to murder everyone else, at least any time when food is in short supply. That results in a serious dead weight cost in efforts to kill, efforts to avoid being killed, reduced potential for cooperation.

          The same problem exists with the otherwise obviously desirable shift to making organs freely marketable. Currently, people rarely have an incentive to kill other people. But if the random person is worth fifty or a hundred thousand dollars on the hoof … .

          So far as your kuru argument, how widespread is the disease? Is it transmitted by eating flesh or only by eating brains?

          • HarmlessFrog says:

            Kuru is rare because cannibalism is rare.

            Eating just about any human flesh gives you kuru – nervous tissue isn’t just in the brain, it’s almost everywhere. Eating brains will just give you kuru much faster. In the case of the funerary cannibals of PNG, the men who ate the muscle meat developed it slower than the women and children, who ate the organ meat.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuru_(disease)

            There have been reports of kuru in Syria, probably in connection to the rebels engaging in cannibalism. (google it yourself, if curious)

            Kuru is really bad. Invariably fatal, and with a long incubation time. I can totally see it being the cause of nearly universal cannibalism taboos on its own.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        How does the following anti-cannibalism argument parse wrt vegetarianism?
        1. If I accept that humans are an acceptable food source, I may get eaten by my fellow humans,

        2. I don’t want to be eaten,

        3. Therefore, I consider cannibalism unacceptable.

        My baseline assumption is that 99% of what passes for morality, human rights, etc. is “don’t do onto others what you wouldn’t want done to you.”

        That’s not something that generalises across species lines, ‘coz a lion doesn’t give a damn about reciprocal rights recognition.

        • When Jonathon Swift wrote his satire about eating babies, he didn’t seriously expect anyone to follow through with it. Why not? After all, eating babies would surely have ameliorated the situation of the Irish people and it’s not like babies are going to eat their parents.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            The only thing to preclude it would be a bunch of people who see an opportunity to maximize their reputation by pretending to care. If everyone were honest we would think that perfectly fine.

    • thevoiceofthevoid says:

      Are you saying that these are images of lives worth living? Or are you assuming that one can relatively easily be a carnivore off of non-factory-farmed meat?

      I think the premise you’re missing is that a vast majority of meat available for purchase comes from factory farms, and that nice-looking labels like “cage-free” often don’t mean very much legally and thus can’t guarantee any real quality of life for livestock.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        First, no, that’s not a pretty life.

        But I think the main issue is if we actually want to make this decision. Stop, don’t shoot: Of course I don’t like that life – but that is a different decision: do we keep farming animals like this, or do we improve their lives?

        As far as deciding if their lives are worth living period, it’s the kind of thing that scares me. I’ve thought enough about things like timeless decision theory to realize that some decisions are universal – if we say “no” here, there’s a good chance the bigger fish in this corner of the galaxy will go “ewwww, they’re DIGESTING food!!!”

        Old but still (or even more) relevant: Thee Worlds Collide

        • thevoiceofthevoid says:

          Before I get too carried away, I should probably state for the record that I am not a vegetarian, mainly because I like the taste of meat too much. However, I do think that vegetarians have a more solid argument for their position than “killing animals is BAD!!!1!!1!”. I guess I’m just really bad at modus ponens (or a blabbering hypocrite).

          Anyways, if I were inclined to act on my uncomfortable beliefs, how exactly could I improve the lives of farm animals? Research the farming standards of every piece of meat I buy? If I only ate meat that I was reasonable sure was raised humanely, I’d be pretty damn close to being a vegetarian anyways.

          Three Worlds Collide is a great story (despite Eliezer’s usual tendency to have half of the dialog be straight author-insert tracts), thanks for reminding me it exists. However, I think there’s a distinct difference between “these creatures we found don’t have lives worth living, let us exterminate them” and “these creatures we’re breeding, raising, and slaughtering don’t have lives worth living, maybe we should stop doing that.” This entire region of moral philosophy is a pretty damn grey area, and I have no idea how to answer the repugnant question. (Apparently it’s actually billed as a “conclusion”, but I don’t buy that.)

          • Radu Floricica says:

            I’m a big fan of solving the easiest 80% of a problem first. So while researching every piece of meat is… well, it’s actually feasible, of you limit your sources, there is the easier option of finding a couple of sources you agree with and using them preferentially.

            Technology and market forces (and yes, occasionally regulation) solve a lot of problems that society failed to do through good will. We don’t have economic lighting because we’re eco-friendly, we have it because it’s cheaper and lately better than incandescent. We’re quickly moving to healthy smoking alternatives instead of quitting. We might even have synthol if the powers that be don’t ban it. Same with meat – trying to change people is hard. Offering them what they want in better ways, that’ll actually work – first better farming, then factory grown.

            Somewhat offtopic, this discussion and a facebook post this morning made me realize why I’m a bit uneasy with part of effective altruism. To put it unkindly and very uncharitably: suffering is a signal, but they’re treating it like religion. I have a very strong preference for a living, complex universe over a dead one, and that’s agnostic on the level of happiness in that universe. Of course, having a living one you definitely want to improve happiness in it, but all this talk of suffering… sounds a bit like happiness is more important than existence.

            Sorry if I’m rambling, bad sleep and too little coffee.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @Radu Floricica
            Tangent off a tangent, but when I read that article, and then started reading the article….wow did I feel like I was getting Eulered. Strangely enough, they seem to be Eulering me right back to where I started: who the hell knows whether wild animals experience more suffering or enjoyment?

      • Nornagest says:

        Are you saying that these are images of lives worth living?

        They look crowded, but clean and not overtly full of stressors other than the crowding. Not being a chicken, I can’t say for sure how well they like those conditions — but, having been around a few chicken coops in my time, I know that stressed chickens tend to peck each other bloody, and those ones generally don’t look bloody or pecked.

        I also note that the vast majority of images on that page look to be coming from advocacy orgs or news articles reporting on them, which I don’t trust to be painting an accurate picture of factory farming.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          I also note that the vast majority of images on that page look to be coming from advocacy orgs or news articles reporting on them, which I don’t trust to be painting an accurate picture of factory farming.

          On the other hand, farms with really bad conditions presumably wouldn’t allow journalists around. There’s also a limit to how graphic the news is allowed to be.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            @nornagest

            I also note that the vast majority of images on that page look to be coming from advocacy orgs or news articles reporting on them, which I don’t trust to be painting an accurate picture of factory farming.

            @thisheavenlyconjunction

            On the other hand, farms with really bad conditions presumably wouldn’t allow journalists around. There’s also a limit to how graphic the news is allowed to be.

            And I solved this particular dilemma by typing in “factory farms” and passing the buck to Google. Though that’s definitely biased in the “animal advocacy” direction since I’m sure no farm would describe itself as a “factory farm”.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            How does that address my point?

      • Deiseach says:

        Are you saying that these are images of lives worth living?

        Yes, I am truly shocked and appalled to see included in that hellish compendium images of cows in a milking parlour.

        Try a bit harder for the outrage, mmkay? At least show us debeaking or the like!

      • quanta413 says:

        I don’t know. I’m not a chicken. But assuming that is miserable for a chicken do you think eating chickens would become moral if we wireheaded the chickens or bred them to feel an unending sense of bliss?

        • thevoiceofthevoid says:

          It might be? I’m really not sure. But if chickens count morally (which I’m not sure they do) then PETA-video farming is definitely bad and wireheaded chickens may or may not be ok.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      The proper, non-politically correct answer comes from moral foundation theory. Just like I had to face the fact that I’m libertarian as a personality characteristic first, and the ideology comes to justify it (even if I still think it happens to be mostly correct), liberals live in the harm/care moral foundation. They see suffering, they lash out. The rest is post-hoc rationalization. Asking this kind of high-abstraction questions is… funny, actually. Either you won’t attract genuine liberals, or they’ll react emotionally, or they’ll try to be rational and invent (occasionally very good) reasons why they feel the way they do.

      I’m not saying they’re right or wrong btw. I’m saying we make this kinds of very emotional decisions based on deeply set personality traits, not reason.

      • This is going way too far. Yes, people are emotional rationalizers but we do sometimes use reason in a way that can change people’s minds. Have you never changed your beliefs on some moral issue by way of reasoned argument?

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Can anybody please help with sources here? I’m reasonably sure research exists that says most reasons are composed post-hoc, especially for emotional decisions. Key word being “most”.

          Have you never changed your beliefs on some moral issue by way of reasoned argument?

          I did, but I trained a lot to be able to do it. I rarely see it in the wild, and rarer still for the update to stick.

          • I don’t dispute that some of our moral beliefs are just post-hoc reasoning. I don’t even necessarily deny that most of it is. But your comment seemed to be suggesting that there really is no point in the debate because some people are liberals and other people aren’t and any reasoning is just incidental. That is what I dispute. Even if our initial motivations start from post-hoc reasoning, the resulting conversation can lead somewhere interesting.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Ahh, yeas, of course! But it still helps to be aware where our reactions come from. Both ours and the discussion partner. I see way too many conversations that looked like argumens and just arguments could change opinions, and that’s just plain unrealistic, unless at least one of them is used to updating on evidence, willing, and has had his coffee.

          • Humans are very prideful. Even if someone makes a good argument, we’re loath to admit that they’re right and we’re wrong. And it often takes a long time to think through something before accepting it, often gradually. So it’s perfectly consistent to see people not backing down from an argument while at the same time, something is changing in their mind. Some people are better at this than others but I’m not sure there’s a way to accurately predict who is actually open minded about which topics.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            The research I know of suggests that exposing people to all sorts of evidence (pro and against) makes them more polarized – i.e. more convinced of their point then before. It’s a coin toss if more of you gets convinced by the partner’s arguments or by your own counterargument, that you just had to think of during the argument.

            I’m not trying to be contrarian (I don’t think so anyways), it’s just that the universe is cruel on this one. We’re more monkey than human.

            I was about to say that I still think that conversation is preferable to non-conversation, but if I follow through with what I just said, that shouldn’t be true. It’s likely that at least some forms of conversation on divisive topics do more harm than good – and this kinda makes intuitive sense, if you look around.

            I’m still not saying we should act on this in any particular way. First, I don’t have a high degree of confidence, and second I don’t really know how – other than, like I said, a general awareness that the problem is much more difficult than it seems.

          • If arguments didn’t change people’s minds, then how does moral change happen? It’s obviously not 100% genetic or else everyone would have the same beliefs from the moment they can conceive of morality and the only changes would be population replacement. It’s not just people dying because moral change can happen fast and even within generations. Even if you think outside forces are the driving these changes, people don’t just automatically adopt certain beliefs. They have to hear some argument before they accept this new belief.

            I think it’s generally something like a small minority of people hear these arguments and accept them. If this minority has enough status, they can generally popularize it to the masses and then those masses then pressure the hold-outs to do the same. I remember hearing a podcast about this but can’t remember what it was.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @Wrong Species

            Hehe, reading the first paragraph I was already preparing to say “prestige” and “cultural evolution”, but you beat me to it.

            I’m still not sure how it happens, though – is it rational talk with high status people the solution? If so, why didn’t arguments work earlier? Why did we had to go to middle 20th century to accept homosexuality? Or early 21th to legalize cannabis? The arguments have been there for a long time. It’s not like we had better facts and that made a difference, not even if you allow for a decade-long lag for the facts to go to the influencers.

            And speaking of facts and culture – take blank slate theory. It started as a very reasonable and plausible scientific theory in late 19th century, I think. It took some time to diffuse into society, then science started to poke holes in it. By the time of Tooby and Cosmides in… 1990s, I think, it was about as water-tight as a sieve. It’s been 20-30 years since it’s been utterly debunked and probably well over half a century since experts knew it to be false, and still you can find it in society pretty much along the same cultural divides.

            I say yes to cultural evolution, yes to status being the driver, and a big question mark to reason being what moves the influencers. Honestly, I don’t think we know yet (but reading Hayek would probably be a good start – they managed to do it on purpose once).

          • I’m still not sure how it happens, though

            I’m not either but I do think it has something to do with those outside forces I mentioned, more specifically the economic conditions of the society. They act as constraints on what we are ready to accept. When an idea is working outside those restraints, anyone advocating that idea is not going to influence enough people to change society. However, it has to be more than that. There’s no inherent economic reason that marijuana acceptance had to wait until the 21st century.

            The arguments have been there for a long time.

            I’m not so sure about that. People only recently started making the argument that homosexuality is an immutable characteristic of some people, which has been the main push for homosexual acceptance over the last few decades. I would say that in the last few hundred years, moral arguments based on reason have preceded moral change at a higher rate compared to pre-modern times.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            And speaking of facts and culture – take blank slate theory. It started as a very reasonable and plausible scientific theory in late 19th century, I think. It took some time to diffuse into society, then science started to poke holes in it.

            Try “late 17th.” John Locke. He needed the mind to be a blank slate because “innate ideas” were core to rationalism contra empiricism.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @Wrong Species

            It’s chicken and egg. Let’s take a contemporary issue (CW, but relevant to the topic, so I’ll just try to tread carefully).

            People only recently started making the argument that homosexuality is an immutable characteristic of some people, which has been the main push for homosexual acceptance over the last few decades.

            Look at current society. How far is this immutability going? Is it 1%? 3%? 10% Does it cover “I kissed a girl and liked it”? How about trans? Pre-pubescent children deciding they want to be the opposite gender?

            I’m very much not trying to discuss the topic itself. But I want to point out that the answers are social, not medical or scientific. What society decides doesn’t go from science -> influencers -> population. Depending on the intensity of the issue, it either goes:

            society -> science -> influencers -> population

            Or, best case scenario, you have

            science —-(mediated by what’s allowed by society)–> influencers -> population

            I think it’s important to face how non-rational the whole process is, because otherwise we’re doomed to just go in circles. If we accept it’s totally non-rational, at least there’s hope we’ll some day improve it.

            (edit: totally non rational doesn’t mean it’s not working. cultural evolution is non-rational and still got us to being the dominant species on earth)

    • HarmlessFrog says:

      I don’t understand vegetarianism. Is the basic premise that the lives of domesticated animals raised to be eaten is a net negative for them, so they would be better off never having been born? If so, I’m not convinced of the premise; if not, what is the premise?

      What I don’t see is why I – or anyone – should care about the living standards of food, aside from said living standards impacting the nutrition value of said food. I wonder if on some parallel world populated by people who evolved from felines (gotta check if the author updated that novel, actually), where it would be quite a bit more obvious that the dominant sapient species is carnivorous – would there be people claiming that it is immoral to raise and kill animals for food? That it’s wrong to hunt?

    • ..... says:

      The utilitarian argument is one that can be easily converted into simple logical and mathematical symbols.

      If you disagree with the premise, you can make the argument that vegetarianism(or some form of conditional consumption only coming from a few free range ranches) is still valid assuming that corporations and farmers will listen to the dollar and raise animals in more humane conditions(assuming some conditions where the long term trend leads to net util gain)

      But that’s just one of the arguments. Religion, personal health reasons, negative reaction to murder of any form are other common reasons.

  8. proyas says:

    Is there any evidence that Hope Hicks has a high IQ?

    I know she’s attained a high-status job at an early age, but other than that, I don’t know of any hallmarks of high intelligence.

    • The Nybbler says:

      She managed a B.A. in Education (not a high-IQ major) from a reasonably selective university, so she’s probably at least above average. Has Trump claimed she’s a genius?

    • BBA says:

      IQ mostly measures skin tone. Hope Hicks is white. Ergo…

      [Epistemic status: trolling]

    • brad says:

      That’s a bizarre way to ask the underlying question. You are confusing the map and the territory.

    • Matt M says:

      I know she’s attained a high-status job at an early age, but other than that, I don’t know of any hallmarks of high intelligence.

      But other than that, did you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

    • Plumber says:

      @proyas

      “Hope Hicks…
      …IQ”

      I didn’t know who you meant, but a quick web search indicated to me that the “Hope Hicks” you’re asking about is a former White House worker.

      I really have no idea about telling anyone’s “IQ” (and in my experience written tests are poor predicters of job performance so I’m pretty dubious about “IQ” anyway), so how the Hell should I or anyone else know?

      I really need a lot more context to have any hope of answering your question.

  9. DeWitt says:

    I’ve been trying to find some quality reporting on Iran for a brief while now, but I don’t trust most things to be good about it, nor my own judgment to be able to tell the good from the bad. Does anyone have any recommendations?

  10. Two McMillion says:

    Is this article regarding conditions for migrants at the US border at all accurate or correct?

    https://www.thenation.com/article/dilley-texas-immigration-detention/

    It’s the sort of thing that seems extremely serious if true, but I legitimately don’t know how to judge these kinds of articles now, especially where Trump is involved.

    Reading between the lines, it seems like a lot of this stuff could be explained by “more people are trying to immigrate than the system can handle, there’s not enough space or supplies to go around and ICE employees are frustrated because the impossible is demanded of them” within bringing in any malice.

    On the other hand, I could easily see the part about making the process difficult to discourage people from applying for asylum being true. And it wouldn’t surprise me if people trying to come in were subject to acts of racism from immigration workers. That stuff happens. But my Twitter is abuzz with, “OMG the USA has literal concentration camps!”, even though all the articles I’ve seen have reported fairly low death numbers. The last one I saw said that 7 children, 24 people total have died at these places this year, which, while tragic, hardly strikes me as “death camp” numbers.

    So anyway. What’s going on here? I’m confused. Where do I get accurate data?

    • DeWitt says:

      A lot more people than the system can handle do come in, and solving that problem is politically infeasible.

      The left would argue that these people shouldn’t be detained and instead released into the general population, but immigration is really fucking unpopular with basically everyone not already far to the left of the mean, so this doesn’t happen.

      The right would prefer these people didn’t enter the US at all, but it doesn’t oppose asylum in general enough to just shove everyone across the border somewhere, so it tries to discourage these situations by making detainment as unpleasant as possible.

      A middle of the road solution could be to let people in while reviewing their asylum applications, which would be fine if there were a way of enforcing the actual deportation of applicants should their asylum applications be denied. As yet, nobody has figured out how to do so.

      Because nobody has a solution that looks good, feels good, and is workable, the status quo is maintained and is likely to be maintained unless circumstances change anytime soon.

      • Chalid says:

        immigration is really fucking unpopular with basically everyone not already far to the left of the mean, so this doesn’t happen.

        Historical polling generally shows majorities in favor of either keeping immigration the same or increasing it. Generally the number of people who want more immigration is about the same as the number who want fewer, so the people who like the status quo get their way.

        The last time there was an actual significant majority that wanted immigration to be reduced was right after 9/11.

        • souleater says:

          Context from DeWitt’s comment gives me the impression that he was really referring to illegal immigration.

          Edit: Actually, the link you shared says there is massive approval for some form of amnesty


          Which comes closest to your view about what government policy should be toward illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States? Should the government -- [ROTATED: deport all illegal immigrants back to their home country, allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States in order to work, but only for a limited amount of time, or allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States and become U.S. citizens, but only if they meet certain requirements over a period of time]?

          Deport all: 19
          Remain in U.S. in order to work: 14
          Remain in U.S. to become citizen: 65

          Sorry for the weird formatting.

          I wouldn’t have expected that.. does anyone have any thoughts on this?

          • Chalid says:

            And the related question “Allowing immigrants living in the U.S. illegally the chance to become U.S. citizens if they meet certain requirements over a period of time” has support north of 80%.

            Also relatedly, “deporting all immigrants who are living in the United States illegally back to their home country” has ~30-40% support and 60-70% opposed. So lots of people are incoherent, but anyway, it speaks to a lot of popular tolerance of illegal immigration.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            AFAICT, out of scope. This applies to illegal immigrants who have been here for a certain period time and meet certain conditions. Recently arrived immigrants are a different story.

            Also, the polling levels show roughly equal support for reducing, increasing, or keeping constant the immigration level. Saying there is majority support for increasing or keeping our immigration level constant is identical to saying there is majority support for decreasing or keeping immigration level constant.

            This is important, because if there is a surge in asylum requests or detention and you need to release people into the US, that’s actually a really, really big increase in immigration. The majority of voters are probably not on board with that. And the majority of politicians are definitely not on board with that. Obama wasn’t as bad as Trump on this, and had a lot less willingness to fight the courts on it as well, but also definitely wasn’t a fan of the bad incentives set-up by our current immigration system….particularly if we pretty much publicly declare “whatever, come on in, we can’t hold you and we can’t really track you down so we’re not really going to try.”

            OTOH you aren’t going to get Congressional approval to build more detention facilities without some concessions, at least during election season, with this President, with this Congress, with this political environment.

          • Matt M says:

            if they meet certain requirements over a period of time

            This qualifier is doing a lot of work here. It would seem to me that the most relevant question to current issues is, “What do we do with the people who refuse to comply with any requirements we may attempt to impose on them?

            To which the right’s answer is “round them up and deport them” and the left’s answer is… as far as I can tell… “keep asking them nicely to comply with our rules and hope that they do, but even if they don’t, you can’t forcibly remove them because that’s what Hitler would do”

          • souleater says:

            @chalid

            I saw that question.. I really wouldn’t have expected so much support for amnesty. I don’t want to be the guy who looks at a poll he doesn’t like and then decides to find problems with it.. but that level of support seems much, much higher than what I would have expected. (40-55% would be my guess)

            Does it seem absurdly high to anyone else?

            Especially considering some people apparently want to give them citizenship AND deport them?? I mean… incoherent is exactly the right word for it.

            @Matt M
            I can’t think of any requirements that could be put on them that wouldn’t be, more or less, a slap on the wrist.
            Outside of charging back taxes (which seems silly to me considering the tax bracket the majority would be in) or maybe a fine, what requirements could we legally impose?

            The idea of amnesty is really irritating to me. The right to immigrate into the US is a valuable (people want it), scarce (we limit the number of immigrants) resource. Any type of amnesty seems to me the equivalent of allowing a bank robber to keep the money as long as he pays income taxes on it.

            I have sympathy for illegal immigrants, I’m very cognizant that being born to a first world country is a result of luck, not virtue. But poverty and/or bad luck doesn’t excuse criminal behavior and we shouldn’t reward it.

          • Matt M says:

            what requirements could we legally impose?

            I mean, the first requirement we “impose” on them is quite simple: Enter the country through an authorized border checkpoint, and comply with the decision made by the guards as to whether you are allowed entry or not.

            I put impose in quotations because this “requirement” seems to be ignored at will, and large sections of the public seem not to care that it is.

            Anyone who enters the country though means other than an authorized border checkpoint has already shown that they will freely disregard any “requirements” we may impose if said requirements stand in the way of achieving their own personal ends.

          • albatross11 says:

            More to the point, while open borders seems like a humane policy and has a lot to recommend it in many ways, there are a *lot* of people in the world who’d like to come to the US. Probably a billion or two people. Open borders in the modern world seems like it would lead to the population of the US doubling in a few years. Eventually, conditions here would worsen for recent immigrants enough to get back into some kind of equilibrium, and the inflow would decrease, but that involves:

            a. Conditions in my country, where I and my kids live, getting a lot worse overall. Tighter job markets, more poverty, more overstrained social services, worse schools, etc.

            b. Huge changes to my country in terms of politics and culture, which I may not be thrilled with. We did really well assimilating previous mass waves of immigrants, and maybe we’d do well again, but it’s also possible for that to go really badly for us–potentially, we import a large permanently-on-the-bottom underclass, or we import rival ethnic/religious blocs that come to dominate politics with their power struggles.

            This all sounds like a lot of potential downside, and again, it’s downside that mostly will land on my kids and grandkids. Meanwhile, it seems like some level of immigration enforcement plus reasonably open immigration for high-skill people captures a large part of the benefit from immigration without accepting nearly so much of the large potential downside.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        Cruelty is never good policy.
        Here have some policy suggestions that would actually do some good.
        Suggestion a:

        Instead of having ICE chase down immigrants, give those resources to the department of labor, and spend them on chasing down people paying labor migrants below the minimum wage and force them to cough up back pay.

        If US employers have to pay the minimum wage no matter who they hire, immigration is no longer undercutting US workers, and the only people who will still hire labor migrants without their papers in order will be people who genuinely cant get US workers which, well, anyone who still complains about that can sit down and stfu, or argue that the minimum wage is too damn low.

        b: Instead of trying to deter via making refugee camps hell on earth, build Free Cities.
        A Free City is defined as being a city, with a port, which grants residence to anyone, for any reason. You keep them livable by hiring the people who land there to build the City and its infrastructure, and while we are doing blank-slate urban planning, Georgist Land Taxes.

        • ana53294 says:

          A Free City is defined as being a city, with a port, which grants residence to anyone, for any reason.

          The port is probably unnecessary. It is very hard to find any free space in any of the US coast that is not densely populated already.

          You can create a Free City (analogous to an EEZ) anywhere in the US, even in the interior, by loosening laws on migration, building housing, and a few other thing, and you’ll get a successful, thriving city.

        • Theodoric says:

          If US employers have to pay the minimum wage no matter who they hire, immigration is no longer undercutting US workers, and the only people who will still hire labor migrants without their papers in order will be people who genuinely cant get US workers which, well, anyone who still complains about that can sit down and stfu, or argue that the minimum wage is too damn low.

          Correction, they would be people who genuinely can’t get US workers at wages they are willing to pay. Do you not think that a surge of labor into, say, landscaping, or other low skill labor, would push wages in that sector towards the minimum wage, even if that minimum were scrupulously enforced? If we’re going to go with an employer centered focus, it would be better to impose ruinous fines (maybe even jail time for particularly egregious offenders) on employers of illegal labor, and tell them that, if they cannot find legal labor, they need to a) raise their wages b) improve working conditions or c) go out of business.

          • ana53294 says:

            There are many jobs that are so miserable, that in an economy with almost no unemployment, it would take a ridiculously high wage to get citizens to work at it.

            The thing is, some jobs just aren’t that productive. Could you get citizens to go pick strawberries in a greenhouse in the middle of the summer for 50 bucks an hour? Sure. Is the jobs worth that much?

          • Theodoric says:

            @ana53294:
            They actually are working on an automated strawberry picker.

          • brad says:

            if they cannot find legal labor, they need to a) raise their wages b) improve working conditions or c) go out of business.

            Suppose microeconomics (i.e. the elasticity of demand of strawberries or lawnmowing) dictate that the only viable answer is c. Who is made better off? The employer is out of business, the migrant has no job, no one has strawberries to eat, and there *still* isn’t any hard working, self sufficient, American born patroit getting a living wage.

          • Theodoric says:

            @brad
            For starters, school districts that don’t have to spend so much on ESL would be better off.
            How do they get strawberries (or do front end agriculture generally) in Japan or South Korea or Taiwan?

          • albatross11 says:

            Well, we manage to hire prison guards, trash collectors, coal miners, assistant nurses to wipe asses in nursing homes, and many other dangerous or unpleasant jobs.

            At any rate, markets are pretty good at clearing. If there are fewer available agricultural workers, wages will go up until either strawberries get picked or it’s no longer economical to grow strawberries in California or the US.

        • John Schilling says:

          Instead of having ICE chase down immigrants, give those resources to the department of labor, and spend them on chasing down people paying labor migrants below the minimum wage and force them to cough up back pay.

          We’ve been through this before.

          Having ICE chase down illegal immigrants, especially if you do this mostly at the border, results in an illegal-immigrant population divided between one group that evaded ICE and is now living basically normal lives in the United States, and another group that didn’t evade ICE and is now living in Not The United States. In this case, the people who actually immigrate to the US ends up integrated into society as mostly law-abiding citizens or residents.

          Your proposed alternative also divides the potential illegal-immigrant population into two groups. One that decides not to bother because they won’t be able to get the best jobs, and one that becomes a large permanent criminal underclass working in the black or grey market and supporting secondary markets in e.g. false documents.

          What you are proposing would do harm, not good. Its primary appeal is, I think, that some people find it virtuous to use the power of the state to punish rich white businessmen instead of poor brown workers.

    • BBA says:

      “Concentration camp” is now synonymous with “death camp” in the public imagination but it’s a meaningful distinction. Back in the day, “concentration camp” was a euphemism used by the Nazis in order to liken their genocide facilities to a then-accepted tactic, one which was simultaneously being used by the United States against ethnic Japanese. The difference is, the US always intended to release the Japanese internees when the war ended (as the British did with the Boers, etc.) while the Nazis meant to exterminate the Jews and the Roma.

      Anyway, since these camps are housing migrants arrested at the border and not people rounded up from the general population based on ethnicity, technically these are not concentration camps. History isn’t repeating. But it’s rhyming.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Back in the day, “concentration camp” was a euphemism used by the Nazis in order to liken their genocide facilities to a then-accepted tactic

        The Nazi concentration camps were forced labor camps (with all the inhumanity you’d expect of the Nazis); use of the term for the Nazi extermination camps is at least imprecise.

        • 10240 says:

          The Nazis weren’t that strict about their terminology either. Auschwitz as a whole seems to have been referred to as Konzentrationslager Auschwitz, even though it was an extermination camp as well.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Sorry, I just got into this on the Kim Jong-Un KFC thread, so I’ll quote myself:

        No, they were not meant to keep the Japanese Americans concentrated. They were to facilitate moving them away from the exclusionary zones (large portions of California, Oregon and Washington along the coasts), which is why they were originally called “relocation camps.” The Japanese Americans were then free to leave*, just they can’t go back into the EZs. Go to Ohio or whatever. About a quarter of them did. With hindsight, we recognize the failure to understand human nature: you tell people “well, you can’t go home, but you can go someplace that’s not home and without your community or stay here for the duration of the war” and the vast majority of people are going to wait it out so they can go home. The camps then became “internment camps” because the people were staying there rather than relocating. But they were never “concentration camps,” because the people were free to leave, which defeats the assumed goal of a concentration camp (to concentrate people). Modern revisionists like to try to call them concentration camps so they can reach into the past and condemn people for exaggerated immorality so they can claim moral superiority over dead people who can’t defend themselves or explain the context of their actions.

        * With the exception of Japanese citizens who were in America when the war broke out, and a very small number of US Citizens of recent Japanese descent who renounced their citizenship and swore allegiance to the Japanese emperor. These were the few camps with guards/barbed wire for the duration of the war from which people could not leave.

        So,

        the US always intended to release the Japanese internees when the war ended

        is slightly wrong. They didn’t intend to release them when the war ended, they intended (and did) release them as soon as they entered the camps. It’s just that about 75% of them chose the less-bad option of “stay in the camp until we can go home to California” instead of “move to Ohio and start over.”

        I’m not saying it was a good situation, but they weren’t concentration camps, from which one is not allowed to leave. They were at first “relocation camps,” and they then became “internment camps.” But they were never “concentration camps.”

    • beleester says:

      Is the Trump administration doing anything to get the resources they need to handle more asylum-seekers? Or is it just All Wall, All the Time? The only news I’ve seen was one story a few months back about allowing them to keep asylum-seekers in Mexico instead of the US. But adding buffer space doesn’t mean anything if you don’t increase the rate as well – the buffer will fill up and then you’re back where you started.

      I’d be a lot more willing to buy the right-wing argument of “It sucks, but we need to enforce it because Rule of Law” if I saw anyone arguing not just for enforcing the border but seeing the entire process through. If the law says to take people into custody, make sure they don’t die while in custody. If the law says to separate parents from children, make sure you can reunite them afterwards. And so on.

      (Also, this should go without saying, but “not a literal death camp” is an extremely low bar to clear.)

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Is the Trump administration doing anything to get the resources they need to handle more asylum-seekers?

        Yes, he’s frequently yelling at Democrats on twitter to “fix the laws” or pass immigration reform. There are various proposals for more detention facilities, more beds, more judges, etc. But also wall. Dems won’t do it.

  11. hash872 says:

    Anything exciting going on in the field of cartilage repair these days? I ask as I have a mild torn shoulder labrum (doesn’t affect my daily life so I don’t plan on having surgery) and apparently a torn hip labrum (probably going to have surgery unless I find a Magical Non-Surgical Cure). I understand stem cell injections are in their infancy and have a lot of quackery around them- anyone (pro athletes maybe?) having solid results with using them for this sort of thing? Anyone familiar with any actual evidence of healing around peptides that are popular in bodybuilding communities these days (TB 500 or BPC 157?) I read an article around some peptide (not one of those two) that is credited with accelerated healing in sharks, but I can’t find it again.

    I do understand that these are low percentage, but my interest in hip surgery in my late 30s is pretty low- if there’s anything out there doing cartilage healing, I’d certainly be interested in hearing about it

    • The Nybbler says:

      Having had surgery to repair a torn acetabular labrum over 15 years ago, I definitely recommend it if that’s what you have and it’s causing problems. I had trouble walking, climbing stairs was extremely painful, and occasionally something would go wrong (maybe the torn bit caught in the joint, I don’t know) and I’d be in agony from one step to the next. The hard part was getting it diagnosed.

      Even if they do come up with some magic cartilage-regrower, I expect they’d still need to remove the torn bits. Unless it’s _really_ magic.

      • hash872 says:

        Interesting. Yeah I’m nowhere near that bad (yet), thankfully.

        The thing with BPC 157/TB 500/(Magical Shark Cartilage Peptide?) is that they involve injections at the site of the injury. So it’s not just, I’m ordering and ingesting gray market research chemicals- directly injecting them into my body seems fairly…. insane? But tons of people in the bodybuilding community are doing it.

        Also, the hip/upper groin injection site is rather close to other parts of my body that are currently functioning just fine and I would prefer not to damage with Shady Gray Market Research Chemicals. But I’d also prefer to not get surgery and take up to a year to recover….. I dunno

        • The Nybbler says:

          Yeah, the thing is that the point of injury is within the intra-articular space. Looks like most of the bro-science peptide people are doing intramuscular injection, and I have severe doubts as to whether enough of the peptide could even get into the joint doing that. And intra-articular injection of the hip (even if a good idea) is not really a DIY thing. (it’s also painful)

    • albatross11 says:

      My wife had a cartilage repair done on her knee after an injury (they cut away a torn bit of the cartilage and drilled little holes in the bone to stimulate new cartilage growth, as I understand it). This worked really well–she went from unable to walk on uneven ground/climb stairs to about 95% of previous function. (She still doesn’t use the kneelers at church–this bends the knee in an uncomfortable way, somehow.).

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’ll recommend Feldenkrais Method to find out whether moving better could take the stress off your connective tissue.

  12. DragonMilk says:

    I’m actually taken aback by those who don’t think generalized AI would be risky. To me, a super-intelligent AI would be a psychopath/sociopath were nothing programmed regarding empathy and the like. And how do you even program empathy? High-functioning sociopaths can mimic such things!

    This is not to say robots are inherently evil or anything like that. I just don’t see how you would make a robot intrinsically value human life. Asimov’s three laws are easy for a human to understand, but I’m skeptical on implementation. Unless every robot is programmed with a full understanding of human anatomy/psychology, then how do they determine harm for themselves? The programmers likely don’t have such understanding.

    Anyway, we’re not there yet, but to me, an amoral robot intelligence will be by default analogous to a high-functioning psychopath

    • DeWitt says:

      Why would empathy be harder to program than self-interest? A will to gain power? Psychopaths have character traits beyond a lack of empathy, and it’s unclear to me that any but the most criminal of AI designers would create something like it.

      • thevoiceofthevoid says:

        Because the range of good/moral/empathetic actions or results is an incredibly narrow slice of all possible actions. Granted, we currently have no clue how we could program any sort of agency into a computer.

        • DeWitt says:

          Self-interest is a very narrow slice of all possible actions, too.

          • thevoiceofthevoid says:

            True, but it’s a significantly more…stable slice. Have you heard of the concept of “Omohundro goals”? (aka “instrumental convergence” or “basic AI drives”) The idea is that agents with a wide variety of ultimate objectives will likely pursue similar instrumental goals such as seeking physical security, energy, and greater computing power if possible.

            And “get more energy” leaves a hell of a lot more wiggle room than “get more energy without doing anything that humans would find abhorrent.”

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        It’s not only that empathy per se is harder to program. It’s that that specific human sort of empathy we actually want from a superintelligent being is hard to program, and any other is roughly as destructive as selfishness. You probably wouldn’t want to be obliterated out of misery or have your life turned into a perpetual orgasm. It doesn’t help that there’s likely some people out there who would want exactly that.

        Empathy per se is also harder than self-interest though because it requires modeling other beings’ values. It also requires compromising them between each other when you’re empathetic with more than one agent. Will to gain power is relatively trivial in fact, you can specify the goal as acquiring say as much resources (energy, matter) as possible and then your only problem is wireheading, for which afaik some possible ways to solutions were already suggested.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Empathy requires putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Self-interest is the default mode

        • albatross11 says:

          It’s the default mode for things that evolved (at least outside settings where group selection was a powerful force–think anthills). There’s no reason to think it would be the default mode for an AI.

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      1) But if it’ll be so smart how can it don’t understand that something like making paperclips is just a plain stupid goal to have?
      2) General intelligence is like a human intelligence (because human intelligence is general) so it’ll require very similar set of base cognitive skills  from which human morality will arise naturally.
      3) Asimov’s three laws are easy for a human to understand indeed, so why should a superintelligent AI, which is vastly smarter by definition, should have troubles with them or any other (reasonable) instructions?
      4) AI will be smart enough to figure out what is objectively ethical thing to do.
      5) You’re just anthropomorphizing it by assigning to it human selfishness and ambitions, AI will be better than that.
      6) Super-intelligent AI actually will be violating human norms and values but it’s OK because it is more intelligent therefore its norms and values take precedence – they are more “moral”, in a sense.
      7) You say yourself that you don’t understand empathy and how to program it – how then can you be sure AI won’t have it?
      8) You image of AI as a high-functioning sociopath or coldblooded killing machine is based on

      *Simplicio mode off*

      Ok, well, it’s not that I’ve actually heard someone claiming all of these at the same time of course, this is a compilation from different sources. But I have heard 1 and 5 from the same person, separated by maybe a few minutes of talking. And in case you wonder, yes, 7 was followed by “I, on the other hand, do understand it…”
      It’s just all too easy to find some not-actually-clear concept related to intelligence in one’s head and sweep all the safety issues under that rug.

      • DragonMilk says:

        1) Generalized intelligence means the AI can perform any “intellectual” human task, which I take as calculation based. Morals and ethics are a separate plane from competence. Whether human life and liberty has intrinsic value has nothing to do with how smart a person is.
        2) My point around psychopaths and sociopaths is that they are precisely humans that have the base cognitive skills as other humans. And yet why do you think that automatically means they will share “human” morality
        3) Again, competence at tasks does not imply knowledge of good and evil
        4) Ok, and how does it handle the trolley problem? You’re dismissive of a non-trivial problem. Why do you think philosophy is a thing?
        5) Pretty sure dismissive folk like you are anthropomorphizing by trivializing what it means to be human. The AI didn’t program itself in a vacuum. I’m pointing out that programming for intelligence alone does NOT make it automatically inherit human ethics, while you say it does.
        6) So if put in charge of the state, you’re ok with racial and gender discrimination? You just said its norms and values take precedence without defining them. Utilitarian? Highest average income? Longest average lifespan?
        7) I’m saying that given thing such as politics and war and differing government forms, humans don’t understand each other enough to program a robot not in its own image
        8) No, it’s not based on lacking the arrogance to think that humanity can come up with some general AI that is ethical when it can hardly raise its children the way it wants to or agree on what it means to get along with each other.

        Programs start from somewhere, and the building blocks should be considered deliberately. An AI is amoral, but humans have their own biases that they are sure to program in.

        • AlexOfUrals says:

          Admittedly I don’t know enough about that point(s) of view to give you a mock-up reply to each of the points. Guess I would’ve failed an intellectual Turing test on this one.

          On 6 though, you really underestimated the depths of confusion. The point argued in an article Scott once linked as an example of how not to think about AI was that, if a more intelligent AI will want to exterminate humans and rule the universe on its own, that is fine because it is intellectually superior to us and hence its interests are valued higher – kind of like arguing that it’s ok to kill a cow to feed a human, only argued by a cow.

          Also, my apologies, 8 was meant to be “…based on scary images from sci-fi like Terminator and Matrix, which do not predict anything about real AI”

          • DragonMilk says:

            Agreed on last part – that’s an error in the other direction.

            My overall point is that ethics/morals is nontrivial and one can’t take for granted that AI will automatically have them, much less ones most people will like.

            So “risk” isn’t AI kills all humans. It could be more mundane like forced relocation through eminent domain, racial profiling in the justice system, a california-like racial distribution of schools, gender discrimination for job hiring.

            So potentially a powerful Republican! 😀

          • AlexOfUrals says:

            @DragonMilk
            These risks apply mostly to sub- or near-human level AIs. With a truly superintelligent AI (that is, one strictly more capable than humans and therefore capable of building something more capable than itself, and so on ad infinitum) it’s most likely all or nothing – postscarcity paradise or extinction (or worse). Sure there might be some scenarios where humanity ends up damaged but not completely screwed up. But those are exceptions, once we build an agent with a nearly unlimited potential for optimization, it’ll most likely either optimize the world for us, or optimize us out of it.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Right, but the generalized AI doesn’t come out of nowhere – how do we get there?

          • AlexOfUrals says:

            IDK, by making people to click ads?

            More seriously though, I’m not saying that your concerns are misguided or irrelevant, just that they apply to a different kind of AI. We might in theory dance around them and hit into the superintelligent AI issues directly – as long as it’s sub-human we in principle just can choose not to use it on any risky task or any real task at all, or manually verify every solution offered. But in practice that’s not likely to happen.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Asimov’s three laws were difficult and ambiguous. That’s why he could write stories about them.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Eh, I’m afraid more about long term differences in evolution of our empathy vs AIs. Either theirs is static, and it might force us to be static as well, or it evolves faster, and we get I am Mother.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Raise it in a family– a family where there have already been a number of children with good empathy.

      If you’re worried about your ability to choose a good family on the first try, raise it in a number of hopefully good families with some way for it to combine its experiences.

      If this is an sf story and you want to crank up the emotional intensity, at least one of the families finds itself in a war zone. Or two of the families in war zones on opposite sides.

      • DragonMilk says:

        But why can one assume the AI as a blank template looks like a human baby? Babies already possessed a lot of hardwired tendencies, just look at the animal kingdom!

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Tentative: It’s got to have some sort of reward system. If it’s raised in a family, it gets rewarded for empathy, or at least something that looks like it.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        If this is an sf story and you want to crank up the emotional intensity, at least one of the families finds itself in a war zone. Or two of the families in war zones on opposite sides.

        I dunno, Lieserl was pretty maximally emotionally intense.

    • Urstoff says:

      Risky conditional on their being developed, which I view as highly unlikely. So not a risk that keeps me up at night.

      • DragonMilk says:

        Agreed, the practical manifestation is more troublesome to me, which is tech helping to erode privacy, and autocratic governments misusing tools to corrupt ends.

        The social credit system in China is slowly being rolled out for instance…

    • Dack says:

      I’m actually taken aback by those who don’t think generalized AI would be risky. To me, a super-intelligent AI would be a psychopath/sociopath were nothing programmed regarding empathy and the like. And how do you even program empathy? High-functioning sociopaths can mimic such things!

      Anyway, we’re not there yet, but to me, an amoral robot intelligence will be by default analogous to a high-functioning psychopath

      There is no default. Computers do what they are told to do. We should avoid telling them to do psychopathic things.

    • proyas says:

      Maybe it would help to program the AGI with these assumptions/precepts:

      1) My existence is valuable so I should take actions designed to protect it.
      2) If I do a bad thing to any one human, it’s likely that other humans will find out about it, and they will take actions that threaten my existence.
      3) Humans mistrust me because I lack an important human quality called “empathy.”

    • Gobbobobble says:

      So, unless you count moose and polar bears, there are approximately 17 actual Canadians?

    • Tenacious D says:

      Actual Canada moves around. You know you live there if your premier is currently feuding with the feds.

    • Plumber says:

      Seems legitimate

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I lol’ed but judging by the way they drive up there British Columbia is definitely Canada, if anything it’s more Canadian than Ontario and Quebec. I wanted to kill somebody after the third time I was sitting behind a wall of cars politely stopped at a stoplight that had been green for a full minute. Chinese people might also drive slowly but they aren’t red-green colorblind.

  13. Chalid says:

    Generic question – what are the situations in which a person should actually talk to a lawyer? How does one decide?

    My specific situation is that I’m probably taking a new job soon and have a 25-page set of agreements to sign. It all looks pretty standard to my eye, though I did find a couple places where there were small errors (or at least, minor disagreements between the document and what was agreed to orally). Is this the sort of thing that it is a good idea to have a lawyer review?

    • DragonMilk says:

      Depends how comfortable you are with reviewing legal docs yourself. I suggest edits to almost all personal contracts myself. A lawyer will be more familiar with how things generally are, but traditionally in the US, you didn’t even need a law degree to be a lawyer. You just had to read enough.

      So I suggest that SOMEONE read through the documents. Could be you, could be a lawyer.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      There’s no perfect answer. Some lawyers will tell you to have everything reviewed by a lawyer, both out of self-aggrandizement, and because they have seen what goes wrong when people self-help.

      You should assume the written contract overrules anything oral. And you can give up important rights in your employment contract:

      1. You can sign over your invention rights. At some level this is expected, and any tech company that doesn’t secure this right for the things you invent at work is too stupid to work for. But they could also grab rights to things you invented before you started there, things you invent off-hours during your employment, and things you invent after your employment ends. Check this.

      2. If you aren’t in one of the very few states that essentially ban non-competes, you can make it much harder to get employment after you leave your job. This is state-specific. Check this.

      You might not know any lawyers. But that is a good reason to find a lawyer now, for this, because if you ever need a lawyer for something else in the future, you will have established a relationship with a lawyer you trust [1] you can ask for a referral.

      [1] Assuming you like their work. If not, that is also an important lesson.

    • Chalid says:

      FWIW, the comment of an ex-lawyer friend of mine was no lawyer is ever going to just say that the document looks ok – they are always going to suggest changes. If you don’t keep the lawyer under control this can lead to delays while your lawyer and the company lawyer go back and forth over minor stuff. This can be expensive; worse, it can piss off the prospective employer. So his advice was to get a lawyer but keep them under a very tight leash to avoid this dynamic.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Based on personal experience and working in a legal-adjacent profession, you generally want a lawyer when an agreement is either very short, or very long, and you feel you don’t have sufficient experience/expertise.

      In the first case, anything not explicitly in the contract will be handled in accordance with established law/custom. That means you’ll need to know how potential areas of dispute are likely to be settled in the absence of contractual terms.

      In the second case, a very detailed contract may contain terms unfavourable for you, compared to standard contracts of this type. Typically, the presumption is that the parties are free to contract however they see fit, so if you realize you’ve agreed to something you didn’t want after you’ve signed on the dotted line, it’s usually too late (relevant laws may override certain types of contractual terms, or render them unenforceable, but that very much depends on where you are). A lawyer will help you identify the problem spots.

      That said, if you’re reasonably confident about the legal aspects (you’ve dealt with such contracts before), there’s usually no need to get a lawyer just to modify certain terms – such as discrepancies between what was discussed and what’s actually written. Simply submit a set of proposed revisions to the other party and see whether they agree. It’s only when they start claiming that there’s a legal reason for certain clauses – and you don’t have sufficient knowledge to verify that this is the case – that involving a lawyer might make sense.

  14. acosta says:

    I need an advice from people familiar with the US software companies. Some time ago I’ve taken part in the data science competition sponsored by Zillow. The algorithm that I have developed was slightly less accurate than the one written by the winning team, but still significantly better than the one used by Zillow. The company has offered to buy my IP rights for the algorithm, but the amount offered seems too low, so I thought of offering to sell it to its competitors (such as Redfin). Does anyone know who would be the right person in the company to contact about this and what would be the best way to do it?

    • acymetric says:

      This may be obvious, but are you sure entering the contest didn’t place any restrictions on your ability to sell the software to competitors?

    • Erusian says:

      I can help. I value, sell, and sometimes purchase data and algorithms pretty frequently. And as it happens I have some real estate connections, though none are explicitly shopping right now If you reply with your email I’ll reach out.

  15. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    A lot of people explain bigotry in terms of material advantage.

    I believe this is a good partial explanation, but should not be the only explanation.

    While people are limited by what can be done with their resources, that limit leaves a lot of room to choose particular actions.

    I believe people get things wrong a lot, and are frequently meaner than hell.

    This means that a bigot– or a bigoted system– doesn’t necessarily give the people in charge a material advantage.

    I believe that sometimes bigotry is a luxury– a cost– that people buy when they can afford it.

    Facebook discussion

    Most interesting comment:

    Eric Hamell: How about a combination of existence bias and fundamental attribution error? A disparity develops between groups by accident, often prior to contact, and an explanatory framework is constructed in terms of unequal intrinsic merit. This then drives discriminatory behavior. This is, in different words, the traditional view of historical materialists.

    Nerdsnipe ssc: How can you tell how much of the US south’s slow pace of development was the climate? Slavery/Jim Crow? Something else?

    • DinoNerd says:

      On a really bad day, I’m inclined to consider the idea that, for normal human beings, hurting people is fun – that is, intrinsically rewarding. Various other reward systems, some also intrinsic, counter this some of the time and in some cases.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think there are clearly drives in both directions. Bullying in schools, hazing, police brutality, jailers beating prisoners, all those things seem pretty widespread all over the world.

        • Tenacious D says:

          Isn’t hazing actually effective (at having a strong in-group bond), though?

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, I’m not sure hazing belongs in this list. Most hazing is done as some sort of group initiation rite. It can involve violence, but even then it doesn’t have to, and even when it does, it’s typically violence plus some sort of shame or obedience ritual. Most hazing rituals aren’t just some sort of elaborate excuse or justification for sadists to hurt people…

          • Well... says:

            Both can be true. Hazing promotes an in-group bond, and it’s also never difficult to find effective hazers.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Hazing is a thing– applying pressure to people to see whether they’re tough enough to be capable members of a group. This has some failure modes, but it may make some sense.

            There’s a lot of blur between hazing and bullying. I would say that the difference is that hazing includes wanting to find people who can handle it, while bullying continues precisely because it’s producing pain.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        I don’t know that hurting is fun for normal human beings in general, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a strong drive for some 10$-20%.

        I haven’t seen any political theory which includes this.

        albatross11, you can add child abuse to your list.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          One of my priors is that people love committing violence against their enemies. One of the roles of society is keeping all that in check.

        • Viliam says:

          My guess would be it’s intrinsically fun for 1-5%, but it can also be instrumentally useful (by hurting someone you signal you have higher status than your victim) for many others.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            There’s also hurting someone to show that you are on the same side as the bully.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I thought I’d get more response– I feel as though I’m plagued by people who just assume all injustice is a matter of someone getting a material advantage. Maybe it’s not really that many people. Maybe I’m in a different environment than most people here.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        It may be related to your earlier question about Facebook links. I personally am less likely to click on a Facebook link.

        As to your original prompt, it seems, I dunno, sort of obvious? Analogy: sex is pleasurable regardless of whether reproduction occurs. Tribalism seems fairly obviously adaptive, but that doesn’t mean the mechanisms by which tribalism is encouraged is a conscious desire to gain the advantage. Belonging to a group is pleasurable, excluding those outside the group is also pleasurable in some ways, at some times.

        Of course, cross tribal inclusion is also frequently advantageous. So we need to take that into account.

  16. FrankistGeorgist says:

    Cold temperatures reduce the tongue’s ability to taste sweetness.

    Is the American penchant for serving iced water with everything partially responsible for the nation’s irrepressible sweet tooth or perhaps a reaction to it? This cute question stolen shamelessly from Serious Eats.

    I know America was colonized right around the time Europe was going crazy for sugar, so probably you don’t have to look further then that, but I thought it was a fun new angle.

    • Nick says:

      That’s interesting. Anecdatum: I avoid drinking things with ice, and I’m not sure I have any less of a sweet tooth than folks I know. More than most, if anything.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        I also avoid ice and think I’m close to average on sweetness preference, so n=2

    • AnarchyDice says:

      I will regularly heat up my apple juice or cranberry juice in the microwave in the fall and winter because it makes the flavors more potent. Hot orange juice is excellent too, but people think I’m some sort of monster when I tell them to try it.

      • FrankistGeorgist says:

        I think even cold orange juice is overrated so yes the idea of someone drinking it hot triggers all of my burn-the-witch sensors.

      • Nick says:

        Now that you mention it, it’s funny that apple cider is often drunk hot while apple juice is often drunk cold.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          I wonder whether that is because traditionally (pre-Prohibition and pre-widespread refrigeration) apple cider was alcoholic in the US, as it still is everywhere else.

          There’s a widespread European tradition of drinking hot spiced wine in winter (mulled wine, gluhwein, etc)- I can imagine that early colonists carried on this tradition but replaced the wine with cider as apples were more available than grapes.

      • DarkTigger says:

        I recommend hot pineapple juice, it’s greate. Also I think it taste a lot sweeter.

    • Well... says:

      Do Americans really have more of a sweet tooth than Europeans? I don’t think so.

  17. Eponymous says:

    I’m surprised there hasn’t been discussion in the OTs about Iran (unless I missed something). Recent events seem potentially very significant, and given the interests of people around here I would have thought it would have been discussed.

    Personally, I’ve felt quite frustrated for a while that I haven’t found any sources on the issues surrounding Iran that seem to be both knowledgeable and nonpartisan.

    It seems clear to me that Iran was trying to develop a nuclear weapon (for reasons I don’t fully understand, besides just generic leverage), that we didn’t want that, so we put pressure on them and eventually brought them to the negotiating table. Then Obama worked out a deal (of which I can’t find any assessment that I trust to be nonpartisan), Trump pulled out of it, and now we’re in some sort of weird pressure situation, with what seem to be quite dangerous recent escalations, plus news stories indicating that several of Trumps advisors want a war, though Trump doesn’t. And Iran itself seems to be behaving erratically and dangerously, for reasons I certainly can’t understand.

    Overall this strikes me as a quite volatile situation, and I would be interested to have the analysis above corrected or fleshed out, and to hear peoples’ predictions (and reasoning) for how this is likely to play out, especially the probability of military action.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Even though John Schilling is more of a North Korea analyst, he would probably be the most knowledgeable person to ask about what the hell is actually going on with Iran.

      As a semi-informed rando, my understanding is that the threat of an Iranian nuclear attack on the US is relatively low but is deliberately exaggerated in the press because the American people (myself included) would have a lot of trouble giving a shit about the actual threat. Iranian nukes would be an existential threat to Israel, and would shift the balance of power away from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia who might then attempt to make or buy their own bombs for deterrence purposes. In the worst case scenario, instead of Israel being the only nuclear power in the middle east they would be surrounded by nuclear-armed Muslim nations. Which isn’t really our problem so much as theirs.

      Of course the bipartisan neoconservative / neoliberal consensus will keep pushing for war with Iran for that reason, and Trump may just be dumb enough to give it to them. I’m keeping my fingers crossed but I’m not hopeful.

      • albatross11 says:

        I’m also a not-very-informed rando on the internet, and what Nabil says sounds about right to me. I don’t have a lot of faith in any news source I have to be either unbiased or accurate on the story.

        It’s easy to see why the Iranians want nukes–they want to be sure we’re not going to regime-change them. They presumably have noticed that Saddam and Gadaffi are dead but Kim is still healthy, and think they’d like some similar level of protection. ISTM that going back on the Iran deal continues our run of foreign policy actions that make it clear that it’s impossible to make peace with us. We will go ahead and go to war with you or back out of peace agreements with you, entirely based on domestic political concerns or relations with third party nations (France in Libya’s case, Israel and Saudi Arabia in Iran’s case), even if you do everything we ask of you.

        I’ll admit up front that I am not any kind of expert on foreign policy, but this strikes me as a really bad strategy for getting the world to look like we want, long-term. Just in case there was any chance at all of Kim taking a deal to dismantle his nuclear program (probably there wasn’t), watching how quickly a US president backed out of the Iranian nuclear deal probably finished convincing him that there’s no safety to be had in such a deal. And that’s true for anyone else that finds themselves considered a rogue state by the US. We might as well take out ads in the world’s newspapers, encouraging rogue states to either get their own deterrent or sign on as a client state of someone with a nuclear arsenal, to avoid us regime-changing them.

        • Eponymous says:

          I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I will say that recent history admits another interpretation.

          Yes, the US removed Saddam, but we had a long history there. We had fought an earlier war, kept strong sanctions and no-fly zones in place, and he tried to assassinate a former US president (father of the president who took us to war). Then that war turned into a huge disaster. Opinion polls suggest limited appetite among the American public for another war.

          Obama went to great lengths to avoid deploying US troops to new areas. We didn’t do a darn thing to stop NK from getting nukes when we could. We’ve let Russia take over eastern Ukraine. We barely managed to prop up our disaster client state in Iraq, which is now under Iranian influence anyway; and “our” side is getting thrashed in Syria. We’ve barely supported the Saudis in Yemen, which is a disaster. We’ve let Egypt return to military dictatorship (maybe supported it).

          Yes, we took out Gaddhaffi, but that we intervening in an ongoing rebellion. And then we got the heck out of there, with terrible consequences.

          And we came to the negotiating table and basically gave in to Iran, giving them a very generous deal. (Note: I’m not sure this is true, but some people say it, so I’ll put it as part of the “other side” of the argument).

          Then, to top it off, we elected an isolationist, inexperienced populist, who’s been ticking off our historical allies, and making nice with dictators friendly to Iran.

          In other words, one could argue that America currently is weak, is not interested in direct military involvement abroad (preferring to fight wars through proxies, who have proved themselves massively incompetent), and has shown itself willing to cave in negotiations. Heck, they might even perceive Trump as having recently caved on things (tariffs, Mexican immigration, the wall), and weak in terms of domestic politics (unpopular, talk of impeachment). They might think the American people won’t follow him to war.

          Plus, there’s loss aversion — once you had an awesome deal (from Iran’s perspective), you feel you have a right to it or something like it.

          I’m not sure the interpretation above is more correct than yours. The truth may be somewhere in between, and different groups in Iran may disagree on this. But it’s a reasonable interpretation of the facts, I think, and may also be motivating Iran’s actions.

      • bean says:

        like Saudi Arabia who might then attempt to make or buy their own bombs for deterrence purposes

        Saudi Arabia thought of this a while ago, and bankrolled Pakistan’s nuclear program. I strongly suspect they could have warheads for their ballistic missiles within a few days if they want to.

      • John Schilling says:

        The threat of an Iranian nuclear attack on the US is approximately zero because they have neither nuclear weapons nor missiles capable of reaching the United States. Also, the Iranian regime doesn’t face the sort of existential threat that would plausibly lead them to resort to using nuclear weapons. Iran is not North Korea, though if we work at it we can perhaps make it so.

        The threat of a US attack on Iran is small but not zero. I’m fairly certain that Donald Trump really, really doesn’t want to get the US into any stupid foreign wars – or even smart ones. He wants to take credit for diplomatic solutions. The problem is that he isn’t nearly as good a negotiator as he thinks he is, and the risk is that he may misinterpret the failure of his dealmaking as being the treachery of his adversaries.

        The bit with people blowing holes in the sides of oil tankers is just baffling. I can see no advantage whatsoever for the Iranian government doing that now. Now, they have at least a small chance of decoupling the US from its traditional European allies and breaking the sanctions regime, at basically no cost to them except playing nice for another six months. If that doesn’t work, they can start attacking tankers then. And the slim chance that such a thing would do them any good, would be at least somewhat enhanced by being seen to have tried the carrot before the stick.

        On the other hand, actual false-flag attacks are exceedingly rare – at least for the literal definition of “attack” that involves kinetic violence and in this case military ordnance. The risk of discovery and consequences of same are too high; almost nobody does that outside the pages of bad fiction. But if this were a work of bad fiction, there are some obvious candidates with method, motive, and opportunity – starting with the Saudi regime, followed closely by the Israelis and then the Bolton faction within the Trump administration.

        The most likely explanation is that the attacks are being done by “Iran”, but not with the authorization of the Iranian government. There are powerful elements within Iran that have the resources to carry out such an attack, aren’t known for their strict submission to the authority of the civil government, and might fear being diminished within the Iranian system if the next few years see an emphasis on peaceful economic development. The IRGC comes to mind here. And for this purpose, I’ll consider the Houthis in Yemen to be a de facto part of Greater Iran.

        But I’m not completely ruling out literal false-flag attacks, or the Iranian government being stupid enough to do this straight up. Almost all of the available evidence comes from the executive branch of the US government, and something like this really calls for independent credible sources for verification.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I’m fairly certain that Donald Trump really, really doesn’t want to get the US into any stupid foreign wars – or even smart ones.

          I realize that Trump certainly has strong inclinations to avoid protracted foreign involvement, whether combat or occupation… but he also seems to have signaled at some point that he thinks shooting wars, like trade wars, are easy to win if you just use enough force.

          It’s not clear to me that he is actually strategically reticent to initiate force.

          • Eponymous says:

            It’s not clear to me that he is actually strategically reticent to initiate force.

            Of course not. Witness the airstrikes that killed a large number of Russian special forces in Syria. Would Obama have done that?

          • DeWitt says:

            Would Obama have done that?

            Yes.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I think the probability of military strike is usually over-estimated WRT Iran. Iran is stubborn and really likes to push red lines, but they generally recognize when something is not in their interest and do their best to avoid a massive response, while still imposing costs on the other parties. For instance, their building up a huge stockpile of highly enriched (though not weapons-grade) uranium was, for them, costless, but still imposed a major cost on the Western nations (because they COULD have a bomb at any time), without causing IMMEDIATE alarm (because they don’t have weapons grade uranium RIGHT NOW).

      So, I think they will try very very hard not to do anything that would provoke an immediate military attack. The mining of the tankers is a weird exception, but I think they are banking that they have not caused major damage so it will not provoke an immediate attack. Assuming they did it of course. It could have been a misstep.

      • Eponymous says:

        Iran is stubborn and really likes to push red lines, but they generally recognize when something is not in their interest and do their best to avoid a massive response

        This was approximately how I thought several months ago, but now I’m getting pretty concerned.

        If you look at history the US has entered *a lot* of wars on the grounds of maintaining freedom of the seas / shipping. The free flow of oil through the Persian Gulf is a clear strategic interest. Critical allies (Israel, Saudis, Gulf states) are directly affected, or otherwise highly interested.

        “People X are too rational to start a war” is an idea that admits many exceptions throughout history. I do think that overall Iran is a rational actor and doesn’t want a war — but there may be elements within the government that disagree, or who are beholden to other forces, or are simply mistaken about the likely consequences of their actions.

        Adding to the threat is the potentially volatile situation within the administration. If news reports are to be believed (eh…), many of the president’s top advisors are supportive of war. This means that a shift in the internal balance of power (which could happen quickly) could trigger a disproportionate response intended towards escalation. Trump himself wants peace (I think), but he also is the kind of guy who could respond to perceived insults or challenges to his authority, or could be manipulated by his aides. Trump doesn’t want to be seen as weak, as he perceives Obama; plus he might come to see war as offering electoral benefits, particularly if his position deterioriates.

        And quite frankly, the Iranians might not understand who they’re dealing with here. It’s easy to imagine them as hard-headed realists who know us as well as we know ourselves (how well is that?), but people believe crazy things sometimes, and do stupid things, and sometimes countries don’t understand other countries, especially if they’ve been raised on propaganda. Groupthink can take over. Geopolitical miscalculations are not uncommon.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          I don’t disagree, but there’s no hard rule about WHEN the US will intervene. Half a dozen ships have been attacked recently, and Iran grabbed some cargo crew last year, and they have thus far escaped attack. Hell, the US is saying that Iran has been regularly violating UAE waters with the equivalent of Iranian navy seals to attack ships, and the US hasn’t done anything. How credible are we, exactly?

          They might be overstepping. They might not. If they kidnap an American crew, particularly this close to an election, Uncle Donny is going to light them up like a Christmas tree.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      My take, which I’ll lug out since I think it could use a little updating:

      They have plenty of reason to believe the US wants to regime-change them; it goes all the way back to how we backed the Shah. If they’re savvy, though, they’ll realize that the US doesn’t go regime-changing just because a government* is weak; the US needs a casus belli as well as a military advantage. They fix the latter with nukes, because they know they sure as hell won’t beat our military. But how do they work on the former?

      The US also needs at least a plausible chance that the new regime will be stable**. That requires legitimacy, and popular support. So I imagine the Supreme Leader is looking really hard for anyone who could sway the people that isn’t his chosen successor, and quietly arranging for such people to be neutralized. I imagine this is especially directed toward Iran’s college generation, which is decidedly more secular than the Supreme Leader. A savvy US could be expected to use students as a lever to influence Iran’s future.

      To me, that struggle over Iran’s shifting demographics and views is the more important game, and the current tussle over nukes is a distraction. Khamenei would no doubt like nukes for deterrence, but I expect he’s also quietly looking at how to use it to turn the youngest generation against the West, without committing any act he believes would be seen by the US as a justification for military action.

      *Theirs, or the US’s, for that matter.
      **Unless the US gets angry enough to not care.

      • JPNunez says:

        I don’t know if the US requires that the ensuing government will be stable. I don’t know if it has hit America hard enough the mess they left in Iraq, and America first concern seems to be with pulling out troops.

        Which is not to say they would not attempt to build a stable regime, just that they would get bored and tired of spending money and losing troops on that front sooner or later.

    • Eponymous says:

      Update: I think Trump is actually handling this quite well so far. Look at the genius of this statement:

      President Trump said Thursday that he believes Iran mistakenly shot down the US drone, saying he finds it “hard to believe it was intentional.”

      “Probably Iran made a mistake. I would imagine it was a general or somebody who made a mistake in shooting that drone down,” Trump said.

      “I find it hard to believe it was intentional. I think it could’ve been somebody that was loose and stupid,” Trump said. “It was a very foolish move, that I can tell you.”

      Trump assured that the situation is “all going to work out.”

      The President also said that it made a “big, big difference” that the drone — which by definition is unmanned — had “nobody in” it.

      So: offers face-saving retreat for Iran (and US). Predicts things will “work out”. Strong implicit threat.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      … The mines were very unlikely to be Iran.

      Why the heck would Iran stage a – deliberately ineffective – attack on a Japanese tanker while the premier of Japan is visiting them? That is someone trying to manufacture tension. Odds on favorite is the Saudi regime wanting everyone to loose interest in what they are doing in their current little genocidal war, with a secondary option on “The us is manufacturing a causus belli”

      The global hawk shoot down… uhm. What sattelites were watching this area, because I have this sneaking suspicion it may well have been completely deliberately invading Iranian airspace.

      • Eponymous says:

        The mines were very unlikely to be Iran.

        Care to put a number on “very unlikely”? 10%?

        I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it was someone else, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to learn it was Iran. So I’m not at “very unlikely”. Stuff happens and countries act for many reasons, not always seemingly in their interests by our lights. Then there’s the video of the (possibly Iranian) boat, and the claim that they tried to shoot down a drone that was filming the tanker. Plus their shooting down another drone today.

        The global hawk …I have this sneaking suspicion it may well have been completely deliberately invading Iranian airspace.

        Maybe, maybe not; I don’t think it matters much. But I’m curious what odds you would lay on your “sneaking suspicion”.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          The boat is evidence that “Iran has a coast guard, which responds to ships blowing up, because that is in the coast guard job description”. Limpet mines are stuck on by stealth, when the ship is at anchor or in harbor, not by motorboating up to a ship at full steam and reaching over like you are in an action movie.

          I did not give a number, because that would imply far greater certainty about my probability estimate than I have, but 10 % is in the correct ballpark.

          That hawk is more agnostic – Because while I could easily see people in the Trump admin throw away a 100 million dollar machine just to have a bloody shirt (actual blood not included) to wave about, I can also see some member of the Iranian military getting a tad happy on the trigger finger about a drone anywhere near the border of their air space, given the tension levels.

          • Eponymous says:

            The boat is evidence that “Iran has a coast guard, which responds to ships blowing up, because that is in the coast guard job description”. Limpet mines are stuck on by stealth, when the ship is at anchor or in harbor, not by motorboating up to a ship at full steam and reaching over like you are in an action movie.

            The claim is that the boat *removed* a mine that had failed to explode, presumably because it would have provided incriminating evidence.

            Supposedly Iran also attempted to shoot down the US drone that was monitoring the tanker, possibly to keep this recovery operation secret. I don’t think the tanker was at full steam — I believe it had stopped since this was after the explosion.

            Otherwise the Iranians didn’t help the tankers at all. They did capture the crew of one of the ships…*after* the ship had been evacuated (they surrounded the rescue ship).

      • potato says:

        This is incredibly incorrect. And shows a profound inability to reason from incentives.

        The mines were 100% Iran. And the incentives are obvious. Attack non-US flagged shipping in the Strait to remind the US that they have leverage over Hormuz. Non-US flagged shipping is critical because the US would have to respond otherwise.

        It’s calculated. And is from Khomeini. The advisors behind the idea that these attacks will eliminate US sanctions are clueless.

        Bottom line: This is a last minute roll of the dice that Europe will make an illegal trading vehicle, risking billions, to prevent escalation.

        Iran relies on oil exports to fuel its militias and the IRGC. Trump shut off the cash flow.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          100 %? Wtf?

          Again, nothing about the Iranian coast guard showing up is evidence of anything, because it happens in all circumstances, regardless of the underlying facts.

          Imagine this happens in american waters. An oil tanker has a limpet mine blow a hole in the side above the waterline as it is cruising along the american coast. Of course the coast guard is going to investigate that shit, and of course they are going to peel off any unexploded mines from that ship. That is their *job*. It does not demonstrate the mine was placed there by the US navy seals. FFS.

    • bean says:

      In terms of Iran’s motives, it might be worth considering that Iran isn’t monolithic. I’m not a close watcher of their politics, but an organization with the size and power of the IRGC is going to be tempted to form its own policies. And I really doubt the tendency to use foreign powers to achieve domestic political goals only afflicts the US. If the IRGC is worried about their power and status slipping, a threat in the form of conflict with the US could be quite useful.

      Of course, this is a dangerous game. See German actions in 1914 for a good example.

  18. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Academics losing it about The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Funniest thing I’ve seen in a while.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Died laughing. Am dead now.

    • rubberduck says:

      That was really funny, thanks for sharing!

      Related: a chemistry prof once told me that at conferences, the fiercest debates are at the computational chemistry seminars, where the research is purely theoretical. Apparently shouting matches are not uncommon. And indeed, when I took a physical chemistry course with a prof specializing in computational chemistry, she delivered a sermon on why her computational approach is superior while the most popular approach is overrated and computationally inefficient.

      Is this a general trend in academia? Do fields (or subfields) further removed from data or practical application have fiercer debates?

      • quanta413 says:

        I suspect so. The public debate between physicists over string theory is pretty fierce. I bet it’s fiercer and weirder from the inside; I’ve only heard a tiny bit from people closer to the inside though.

        You hardly see biophysicists or experimental condensed matter physicists get into that sort of brouhaha because enough data will eventually tend to favor one or another theory, a synthesis, or neither. Although it may take a couple decades of experiments going one way.

      • Aapje says:

        Without the risk of being proven wrong, there is no need to restrict hubris for fear of being humiliated.

    • Etoile says:

      When we read this story in high school, nobody – and it was a lefty city high school class full of look-how-clever-I-am teens – thought about the orangutan as anything more than that.

      Some tropes are just tropes. They aren’t “coding” for anything. Like the way children talk – 19th century books all make children talk in these strings of loosely connected observations: “hi! I’m kitty, but mommy said it’s really Katherine. My friend is also named Katherine. I think names are funny. Is that your name written there? I like your writing. It’s pretty. My sister is learning to write and it’s horrid, crooked like witch’s shack. Do you think witches are real?….”

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      Satan is not a fucking pogo stick!

      Words to live by.

  19. imoimo says:

    I want to see an adversarial collaboration involving Steven Crowder (the Change My Mind guy). In this video about “there are only 2 genders” (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=hUrBKFG9Ilw) he comes off to me as respectful and truth seeking (though not perfectly so). Given that it’s rare in my experience to see this on the right, and that he’s also very evidence-oriented (at least in intention), I’d love to see someone actually engage with him on the science and see what survives. If he had an opponent that could go toe to toe on the science I bet he’d be very interested.

    Suggestions for who he could face? Or objections to my whole idea?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Crowder’s show is called “Louder with Crowder”.

      Respectful isn’t really his brand.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        The “Change my Mind” bits are respectful, though, because he’s going in to enemy territory (college campuses) and obeying all the rules so they don’t have an excuse to kick him out. If he’s super lucky, he can get an “I AM SILLY!” response to his respectful demeanor.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Uh huh.

          Which means he isn’t useful for adversarial collaboration. He isn’t interested in the best answers or arriving at truth.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I would say he’s not good for an adversarial collaboration because “researcher” is not his job. But saying he’s not or incapable of being respectful is false.

          • Nick says:

            HeelBearCub, how is Crowder seeking out a place to talk to folks he knows he disagrees with disrespectful or evidence of disinterest in arriving at truth? Better question, how does it differ from what you’re doing right now?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            A periodic reminder that one person cannot derail a thread by themselves. If no one responds to the derailer, nothing is derailed.

          • imoimo says:

            Conrad, why is being a researcher necessary for AC? Weren’t the AC contributors on SSC mostly readers with a passion for the topic? Crowder’s awareness of the research seems impressive, if likely biased, which is perfect for AC.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I said respectful wasn’t his brand. That is a different thing.

            The provocateur certainly has a long and esteemed tradition. Engendering outsized responses to reasonably stated premises goes back a long way.

            But one shouldn’t trust that the provacateur is engaging in the dialogue in good faith. They are not. It is not their intent.

            But, I’m sure Sam Seder would happily have a conversation with him on the topic, if Crowder actually wanted that.

            On a different level, I very much doubt the timing of OPs request as well. It smacks of promotion.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @imoimo: I’m just saying the guy runs a moderately large video production company. That also just lost a major revenue stream. He probably does not have the free time to go co-author a research paper.

            @HBC: Really? We’re now accusing posters of being shills?

            Edward Scizorhands: “A periodic reminder that one person cannot derail a thread by themselves.”

            HBC: “Hold my beer.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            Heck, you just brought up the event yourself. As relevant to the conversation.

            And I note that imoimo is not a regular commenter. In the last month of OTs they have made all of two comments on melatonin and one noting that the word for the topic of “Enormous Nutshell” seems to still be banned.

            Do YOU think Crowder is a good choice for someone to do an adversarial collaboration with? I’m not talking about how much time the guy does or does not have, I’m talking about disposition. We aren’t talking about someone like Douthat or French or (milquetoast as he is) Brooks.

            I mean, if I suggested Jordan Klepper for collaborator, I guess that would somehow be fitting, but I don’t think it would be particularly enlightening?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No, I think imoimo is wrong, youtube/podcast personality folk are not particularly well-suited to that kind of work. Who’s he going to do it with, Cenk Uygur? I’d probably pay to see that, though. There were some pretty good memes when Cenk and Alex Jones got into it at the 2016 RNC.

            But I also don’t think you should go around accusing people of “promotion” without evidence. You want to derail a thread just start screaming “SHILL!!!”

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Accusing new posters of being shills is incredibly unwelcoming. This is a hard enough board to de-lurk on as it is

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            Fair enough.

            Note that shill was your word, not mine. My thought was more “this seems like a Crowder fan looking to make some other point about Crowder”. But I get where you are coming from.

            On the flip side, I think “Crowder seems very unsuited to this role” is a highly relevant point. Contingent on your answer, there is an obvious follow up point/question.

          • imoimo says:

            HeelBearCub, not sure why you needed to go there, but your suspicion is unfounded. I learned of Crowder a few days ago from his videos, and didn’t know about the recent controversy until halfway through my OP when I realized I should google him. I have no intention to promote him, just want to raise the waterline.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @imoimo:

            When you googled him mid post, and realized there was controversy did you reassess whether Crowder was actually a good candidate to put forward to have a collaboration with on this specific subject?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @HBC:

            Shill:

            A shill, also called a plant or a stooge, is a person who publicly helps or gives credibility to a person or organization without disclosing that they have a close relationship with the person or organization.

            That sounds an awful lot like someone who engages in promotion without disclosing they’re engaged in promotion. “Whoa whoa whoa, I didn’t call you a rapist, I just said you force people to engage in sexual intercourse without their consent!”

            On the flip side, I think “Crowder seems very unsuited to this role” is a highly relevant point. Contingent on your answer, there is an obvious follow up point/question.

            I’m a little slow, what’s the obvious follow up? Crowder’s skills are in communication more so than research. I don’t think one should have to conduct formal research in order to teach or evangelize. About the only person who does research and is an excellent communicator on a wide variety of social topics is our illustrious host, and there’s only one of him, which is why we’re all here.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            As I already said, I saw where you were coming from. Shill has an extremely strong negative valence. I can get where you drew that as implication.

            If it helps, I will now more explicitly say that particular sentence wasn’t helpful and I was remiss in writing it.

            As to the other, you now seem to be going back to “only people who are researchers can be adversarial collaborators”. Where the word “researcher” seems to means some specific set of skills.

            I don’t think that’s the case.

            I’m fairly sure that if you and I decided we really wanted to do it, we could have an adversarial collaboration on some topic. That’s based on my history of interaction with you and having some sense of how sincere you are in conversation, as well as the fact that I don’t think I can easily convince you of any particular thing, but I also believe you to be persuadable.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me, HBC. The extremely small amount of affection is mutual, I assure you.

            ETA: Oh and to the actual point, no I’m not saying “only researchers can be adversarial collaborators.” I’m saying that’s not where Crowder’s skillset is, so it would probably be a waste of his time. I’m trying to figure out what your point is about the “obvious follow up question.” That because Crowder wouldn’t be a good fit for an AC he’s bad or something? Does that apply to Cenk and left-wing pundits/podcast hosts?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Conrad Honcho:
            I’m saying that the professional persona of “Steven Crowder” [leaving out whoever the private Crowder is, because he is non-accessible] seems like an obviously bad candidate for adversarial collaboration. I would say the exact same thing for Cenk.

            Suppose someone came on here and a) suggested Cenk was clearly a great candidate for AC on the subject of, say, regulation, and b) strongly signaled that they were a conservative who loved Cenk’s reasonableness, unlike most of the left wing.

            What would your reaction be?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            a) suggested Cenk was clearly a great candidate for AC on the subject of, say, regulation,

            I would disagree with them.

            and b) strongly signaled that they were a conservative who loved Cenk’s reasonableness, unlike most of the left wing.

            What are they citing as evidence of Cenk’s reasonableness? The reason Crowder might be reasonable is his “change my mind” bits. If you take those at face value, asking someone to change your mind signals reasonableness. But then you look at who Crowder’s asking to “change his mind” and see it’s random college students…yeah he’s really trying to change their minds. Which is what a political pundit/advocate/podcast type person does.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            yeah he’s really trying to change their minds.

            Not really. He’s trying to generate content.

            I can’t be arsed to go through the entire thing, but note how he blatantly lies in the intro to the video. He says to Alicia (paraphrasing) “I didn’t say anything about male brains, you did. You brought it up.” At ~5:15 he is the one who first says “I have a male brain” when talking to the Danielle. He wants that heated reaction. It’s what he is looking for. That or someone who, as you said, can be convinced to state on camera that they changed their mind.

          • Nick says:

            I think a good piece of evidence here is, has Crowder ever changed his mind from one of these conversations? I can’t imagine college students persuade him very often, but if he never concedes a point that’s damning.

      • imoimo says:

        If you don’t think Crowder fits my description, who does? The category “moderately respectful, evidence-seeking, solidly right-wing” is not large.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Adversarial collaborations first need to arise from a position of trust. I’m not sure what you are asking for here is really possible. Two people can potentially be set up to debate each other, but adversarial collaboration is something different.

          • imoimo says:

            I think the beauty of AC is that it only requires a small amount of trust (essentially that your collaborator will take it seriously, not back out, and not ignore your evidence), but can build further trust along the way. Possibly I’m being too optimistic, but we won’t know unless we try. And someone like Crowder could only lose face by failing to properly collaborate, since he’s so focused on engaging with the enemy.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I think the beauty of AC is that it only requires a small amount of trust

            not ignore your evidence

            Well, this isn’t all that you have to trust them to do, but I think you are understating what a large ask this is for most people.

        • BBA says:

          In my experience, the category “evidence-seeking” is infinitesimally small. It may not exist. Most people who think they’re seeking evidence are just subconsciously engaging in motivated reasoning. I know I certainly was.

          Yes, I carry this lamp around in broad daylight, what of it?

          • albatross11 says:

            Do you ever change your mind on big issues? If so, there’s probably *something* besides motivated reasoning going on.

          • Nick says:

            If so, there’s probably *something* besides motivated reasoning going on.

            Not so—his motivations could have changed.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Nick:
            Could have. But let’s posit that most people have changed their mind on something without changed motivations. And then we can also look at the possibility that the “changed motivations” themselves are frequently the result of a persuasive process.

            I think it’s a fair amount too cynical to think it’s “turtles all the way down”.

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, I’m not remotely as cynical as that comment might sound. I pointed it out for albatross to fix his argument, not so I could ruin it.

            I think that when pride and status enter into it—a usual reason for motivated reasoning—the more common outcome is for someone not to change their mind at first, or be unwilling to admit they’ve roundly lost. But I’ve known folks to change their minds over time following a loss without even realizing it. (I’ve even pointed it out, to some dissonance.) In other words, folks save face while still aligning themselves with the better argument, just not immediately. I believe Robin Hanson has written about this phenomenon.

          • BBA says:

            I’d say “change in motivations” (goals, values, priorities) just about covers every time I’ve changed my mind on a big issue. On smaller issues, yeah, I use evidence to determine whether method X will achieve goal Y, but the overarching goals don’t change.

  20. Matt M says:

    Somewhat related to my post in the last OT regarding my media consumption habits and my refusal to read novels:

    The more I think about some of my habits, especially why I make the choices I make, it occurs to me that I might be suffering from a condition that I would call “knowitallism.” Essentially, I have a strong desire to know, well not necessarily everything, but a lot of things. In some senses, this is useful. It gives me a broad knowledge base that can help improve my life in all sorts of ways. In another sense, it’s just the manifestation of personal insecurities that leave me devoting nearly all of my spare time towards activities whose end goal is nothing more than “This will make people think I’m smart.”

    I think it manifests itself in two general forms. To borrow some marketing terminology, I’ll refer to “points of parity” and “points of differentiation.” Points of parity establish that you possess the sufficient traits and characteristics to be considered a proper member of a certain class or category. Points of differentiation establish what makes you different, unique, and special, as compared to everyone else already in that category. Ultimately, I think these are the two main motivations I have for seeking knowledge.

    In terms of points of parity, I need to establish that I’m a member of the category “Generally well informed member of society.” This requires me to establish a baseline, working knowledge of most traditional academic disciplines, which standard education and the occasional refresher does easily enough. Further, I have to be generally informed on current events (even if they don’t interest me). Finally, I have to be familiar with cultural references. This places a bias towards consuming “popular” media, even if I don’t consider it to be particularly high quality, and even if I wouldn’t otherwise be interested in it.

    In terms of points of differentiation, I need to establish that I know a bunch of stuff above and beyond what the “generally well informed members of society” know. This basically means I need to acquire deeper knowledge on somewhat unpopular topics. In a certain sense, the less relevant and more esoteric, the better. I have a lot of freedom here, I can deep dive in any particular topic of my choosing, so long as it’s one that a lot of people I interact with won’t be deep diving into themselves.

    So, my eventual media consumption includes a mix of things I’m consuming solely to keep up on cultural trends (I don’t care about Harry Potter. I watched it anyway when I couldn’t even get through SSC comments without feeling ignorant because I didn’t know what a Slytherin was), things I’m consuming because my brain maps them to “things smart people consume” (I don’t care about Moby Dick. I read it anyway because I feel like if people know I’ve read Moby Dick, they will assume I’m smart), and things I’m consuming because they will make me seem unique and interesting (This category typically includes things I actually do care about, but may result in my going deeper than I otherwise would, to impress people.) I can’t help but feel that if roughly 2/3 of my consumption includes stuff I don’t really care about, something is wrong, and I could make some changes to improve my quality of life.

    Does anyone else, for lack of a better term. “suffer from this condition”? Anyone have any advice as to how to manage it?

    • Nick says:

      I can’t tell how much you’re unconsciously channeling things you read in gwern’s essay yesterday. I don’t think it’s just you and your knowitallism: a related idea was mentioned in an offhand comment about Robin Hanson’s theory of fiction as adapted from William Flesch’s Comeuppance.

      If this theory is true, then yes, a lot of what you read will be for the sake of the group, not you. First, you have to fit in, and the fact that all this reading is time-consuming is the point! We want group membership signals to be hard, not easy, to fake! Second, and more specifically, reading this fiction signals to your group that you cooperate with their norms and punish defectors: your consuming our fiction means you revel in seeing our norms enforced there. It’s a good thing you’ve watched Harry Potter, Matt, because how else will I know you approve of friendship and heroism and disapprove of selfishness and ambition?

      • Plumber says:

        @Nick,
        Good lord those following all the link and references in the two links you posted look like they would take more years than I have left to live!

    • DinoNerd says:

      *thoughtful* Because I’m prospognastic (face blind), I can’t follow most movies, and I can’t determine in advance (from reviews etc.) that a given movie will be comprehensible to me. So I only watch movies when being in the theater is a social obligation – e.g. team building exercises at work. Every once in a while the movie actually makes sense (win!) but not often enough for me to pay for a movie on spec.

      Before I discovered the nature of the problem, my experience was “I don’t like movies” – but people acted disapproving if I ever said anything of this kind, or even failed to get movie references. Now I will admit “I didn’t see that one” but nothing more – and sling movie-originated memes around with everyone else. I don’t know how I’ve managed to absorb all the memes – it certainly wasn’t intentional study of them – but whatever I did, worked. I am now a “normal member of society”, in spite of this handicap.

      But I’m not motivated to work at this, as long as I’m not getting “you weirdo” reactions. I still don’t like movies, and this distaste extends to most video content. (Fastest way to get me to ignore you is to provide videos rather than text in an attempt to communicate with me…. even if your content doesn’t require me to be able to figure out how many characters are in the movie, and which ones are the same from scene to scene.)

      • Two McMillion says:

        Curious, does your face blindness extend to non-human faces? Can you distinguish between Micky and Minne Mouse, for example?

        • DinoNerd says:

          Yes actually, so cartoons generally work out OK for me. (And exception to the “can’t usually determine in advance …” above.)

    • AG says:

      The solution is to stop placing a premium on the source material. I read only 1 Harry Potter book directly, ever. I still know all of its plot points via cultural osmosis.

      More relevantly, I do little to no video gaming at all. But I can converse intelligently with gamers and they never know that, because I pick up just enough knowledge secondhand from social media, and reading some pop culture websites, viral youtube videos, and wiki articles. (And not even the full articles, too, skimming headlines often gets me enough, and then the few articles I do read in full are the ones hat are worth my time.)

      If you’re consuming things for the sake of others’ impression of you, there’s a whole lot of extraneous consuming you’re doing to achieve that. For most people, cliff notes’ knowledge is sufficient.

    • Deiseach says:

      Hmmm. I am an insufferable know-it-all but that’s a combination of me reading all around me from an early age and having some interests I find fascinating.

      I’ve never felt the need to absorb pop culture simply to fit in with the group, but that’s mostly because I’m bloody awful at fitting in with the group (honestly guys, you will not know how wonderful it was to find SSC and all the people who were interested in seventy dozen weird things and more than that could get references I made and made references I could get!) For instance, a few years back when there was one hot hit TV show made by our national TV station and it was like everyone in the country was watching it, I wasn’t, which meant I did stop a potential conversation at work during break stone-dead when it was:

      Colleague: So, what did you think of last night’s episode? *plainly getting ready for a chin-wag about plot, characters, and what we thought was going to happen next*

      Me: Oh, I didn’t see it. I don’t watch that show. *Tumbleweed then blows by in the still dusty soundless desert*

      Despite that, I’ve absorbed a chunk of pop culture simply by osmosis – there is so much stuff online now, and people creating content, and blogs and social media with spoilers and trailers and fanvids and discussions – like DinoNerd, I’ve had long and detailed online conversations with people about movies and TV shows that I haven’t seen at all, but I’ve seen all the memes and screenshots etc. online.

      • Matt M says:

        you will not know how wonderful it was to find SSC and all the people who were interested in seventy dozen weird things and more than that could get references I made and made references I could get!

        True.

        And yet also true that here I am, reading Seeing Like A State, and when my girlfriend asks “Why are you reading that?” I can do no better than to answer “So I’ll get more of the references that are made on this blog I like…”

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Seeing Like a State is the book I liked, learned from, disagreed with and ultimately dropped. It may be the exception – feel free to switch to, for example, The Secret of our Success. It’s better, and also more fashionable right now. Bonus social points.

    • HowardHolmes says:

      I find your comments immensely insightful…refreshingly so. Good work! All I can add is that it is far worse than you now realize, but you are definitely on the right path.

    • Incurian says:

      Causal density is high, and often diverse. Learning weird, seemingly unrelated things often seems to offer insight into lots of other stuff. So it’s not just fun, but useful to learn all the things. Except for pop culture, you can just skim the cream of that from tvtropes.

      • Matt M says:

        Honestly, pop culture seems more valuable to me than Moby Dick. I’m more likely to encounter people who will be able to tell I just skimmed the cliff notes and don’t really understand Harry Potter than people who will be able to tell I did so for Moby Dick…

        Of course I’ve also found that my personal tastes are not very well calibrated with critical consensus when it comes to classic literature. I love some of it, can’t stand others. So I couldn’t know, in advance, which category Moby Dick would fall into…

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Moby Dick seems more like the pop culture of its day, though.

          For instance, “Citizen Kane” is pop culture, right? Even if it’s also a classic?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Citizen Kane is a pop culture reference to the same extent calling someone Socrates for asking too many questions is a pop culture reference.

            It’s not unintelligible to non-intellectuals, and it’s a resonant cultural element, but it’s not exactly “pop.”

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Mmmm, sure, there is some level of truth to that. But the broad works of Welles would seem to definitely fall broadly into pop culture. He wasn’t making art house films.

            And if we took Shakespeare as reference rather than Melville…

            I just think it’s a little bit of a mistake to try and draw a bright line between these things.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @HBC

            What of Welles’ is more pop culture than Kane? Chimes at Midnight? Touch of Evil? The Trial? He was an indie director in the Golden Age, and I don’t think he’d be rightly described as “pop” in any era, especially post-RKO.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I first read that as (HG) Wells.
            Yes, he was pop culture…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            War of the Worlds? Really, I guess his radio work in general? Much of his acting work?

            And I was thinking of Touch of Evil as well. And his broad artistic influence on noir.

            Maybe we are just disagreeing about what amounts to “pop” or popular.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Maybe we are just disagreeing about what amounts to “pop” or popular.

            Yeah, I think so. Reasonable disagreement that’d be tiresome to hash out, probably.

          • Nick says:

            Even aside from the “what is pop” question, what’s probably pop in one century, if it survives at all, is not pop in the next. Not every artist is Dante, who has the great poets mark him sixth of their line.

          • Matt M says:

            For instance, “Citizen Kane” is pop culture, right? Even if it’s also a classic?

            Personally, I wouldn’t think so. To me “pop culture” means “things that are popular in the current culture.” This can include things that are old, but this will be quite rare.

            What do you suppose the percentage of people under 40 who have seen Citizen Kane is? And how do you think that percentage compares to say, the percentage of people under 40 who have seen Toy Story 2?

            I’d say, based on the interest in Jane Austen among young women at least, Pride and Prejudice is probably closer to being “pop culture” than anything from either Well(e)s, Orson OR HG…

          • Plumber says:

            @Matt M,
            I saw Citizen Kane but not Toy Story 2, but I’m over 40 years old.

          • “What is pop”

            You guys are over complicating it. Ask your coworkers if they saw the latest marvel movie. Then ask them if they have seen or Citizen Kane. They are likely to have strong opinions on the former and more likely than not have never heard of the latter.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Sure, the Citizen Kane and Moby Dick of today’s pop culture are one paragraph memes. But that wasn’t really my point.

            To understand the pop culture of today, it can be useful to understand the culture of the past. One holds more appreciation for and understanding of West Side Story if one is familiar with Romeo and Juliet. A familiarity with Christian themes of martyrdom informs our reading of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Familiarity with “1984” enhances our appreciation of STNG’s “Chain of Command”.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            You’re going to miss a lot in the Simpsons if you don’t have a wide range of knowledge.

    • Well... says:

      Yeah, I totally suffer from it. I manage it by avoiding journalism and trying to improve my conversation skills, which means making an effort to do more asking people questions about themselves and less telling people the unusual things I know. I fail most of the time, but at least I try.

    • Elephant says:

      Like Feynman said, “What Do You Care What Other People Think?” It seems strange to me that you’re basing your entertainment choices on keeping up with others rather than experiencing things you actually enjoy.

      As for advice: I think you’re undervaluing how interesting and appreciated it is to bring unusual things into a conversation. When everyone is talking about movie X, being able to say “that reminds me of [strange thing in movie Y or book Z] that I really recommend.”

      • Don P. says:

        “What Do You Care What Other People Think?” has always struck me as a questionable title for one’s second autobiography.

    • imoimo says:

      I get what you’re saying with respect to pop culture stuff, but when it comes to SSC I don’t feel this at all. I read SSC 100% because it’s interesting, fun, and I look forward to having conversations about it (which I’d consider different from ‘so I don’t feel left out’). Surely part of why you read SSC rather than joining some other community is because it appeals to you for non-social/status reasons?

    • JPNunez says:

      Reading Harry Potter will only get you so far, cause we are mostly influenced by Eliezer’s fanfic Harry Potter and the methods of rationality, which is ridic long.

      WRT the Harry Potter houses, just read a summary on wikipedia. On the other hand, now that I think about it I haven’t seen HPMOR referenced here in a long while so maybe I am wrong.

    • Plumber says:

      @Matt M,
      If I remember it accurately in the preface of Bulfinch’s Mythology he says that a reason for his compilation is so that the reader may better understand allusions to myths in poetry.

      Interesting (or at least engrossing) conversations are a common way of feeling happy for a while, so if you’re reading in order to have conversations with others I see no need to stop.

      I too read some Harry Potter (two and a half books) to understand the words of Millennials, but eventually you just get too old to care, I just can’t make myself watch the post ’80’s “Star Wars”, or much of “Marvel Cinematic Universe” movies, anime, or video games (they give me a headache), and yes I do feel left out of the culture, but fortunately my wife mostly feels the same way.

      As you get older I imagine that you’ll feel less desire to be “with it”, which in some way is unfortunate as having conversations is supposed to usually be healthy.

      I think a clear solution is to go Fahrenheit 451 on all post 1980’s genre works to give people time to catch up and have a common “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra”/”Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel” mythology to communicate with, maybe allowing a few limited things to (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Deep Space Nine, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, maybe a few others) to escape the flames, but dagnabbit there’s just way too much creativity lately, and too damn much of it is superheroes.

      Slow your roll people!

    • LesHapablap says:

      All of our hobbies and sports and restaurant choices are based on who we desire to be seen as. So it is all 100% signalling. I can’t remember who said that.

      • I don’t know who said it but, as stated, it’s obviously false.

        Even if I wanted to be seen as a great basketball player, it wasn’t an option. And restaurant choices are affected by price, spicyness, presence or absence of MSG, and lots of other variables.

      • John Schilling says:

        I can’t remember who said that.

        Someone who thought that smug cynicism was an effective way to signal his intellectual superiority.

      • LesHapablap says:

        It was actually a stronger statement than that. It was basically that all behavior is signaling, even behavior that is completely private. The sort of thing that while maybe is true in some way it is a really counterproductive way to view the world.

        • HowardHolmes says:

          I would be interested in more elaboration of what you mean by counterproductive. What is being produced, for instance, that viewing behavior so truthfully would counter?

        • LesHapablap says:

          Counterproductive to having a good life.

          It’s counterproductive in two ways:
          1. It implies a very cynical, negative view of others’ motivations. Actually holding those views in your head day-to-day will make others around you treat you worse, because you will be a pain in the ass to be around.
          2. It makes a negative value judgement on signaling. Signaling is extremely important to learn, but there are a lot of idealistic messages in our society telling kids to ‘not judge a book by its cover.’ Many socially inept kids (like myself a long time ago) internalize those messages, that it ‘shouldn’t matter how you look/dress.’

          The game of life has certain rules whether you like it or not, and teaching kids that they shouldn’t want to follow the rules is a real handicap for them. (Some of the game of life’s rituals seem arbitrary but actually serve important functions. Judging people by their appearance is one of them.)

  21. Nick says:

    An interesting article from The Atlantic about HR. The question is why, after 30 years, have HR departments totally failed to reduce sexual harassment in the workplace? And the answer, Flanagan says, is that that’s not their job: their job is rather protecting the company from expensive lawsuits.

    This seems obvious in retrospect, but maybe I’m just being pessimistic. Does any of it ring false to folks here? The part that bothers me most is that Flanagan on the one hand lists all the way HR spreads its noxious tentacles through the workplace—endless paperwork, dull training, etc.—while on the other hand HR employees she talks to protest that they have no power at all. There’s tension here, I feel. Suppose that these employees are right that HR can’t get you fired for harassment all on their own: still, why is workplace training so utterly useless, when folks like Baute exist? Flanagan says Baute and other alternative approaches are out of the mainstream, but why, really? Is HR’s agenda dictated that closely by company executives?

    • Matt M says:

      I’m going to guess at least part of it is that the definition of “sexual harassment” continues to grow and to encompass larger categories of behavior.

      I’d guess that over time, instances of say, “male boss demands female subordinate sleep with him or be fired” have, in fact, gone down. But those gains are offset by the fact that previously, “male employee politely asks female employee of equivalent rank/status on date” wasn’t considered harassment at all, but today might be.

      • Matt M says:

        After actually reading the article, I’ll add one more point.

        The article mentions that all the trainings didn’t reduce harassment rates. Which sort of implies that the reaction of “Come on guys, just don’t grab women, how hard is that!” is actually correct. That “teach men not to harass” was never a valid strategy in the first place.

        Whether that’s good news or bad news probably depends on your perspective. The “good news” argument would be that this confirms it really is bad apples. That people who harass are rulebreakers, whose bad behavior cannot be eliminated simply by reminding them what the rules are. The “bad news” argument is that it means one of our universally preferred, cheap, low-cost, low-effort “solutions” to reduce a societal problem is almost wholly ineffective, and therefore, we need to channel additional resources into finding some other solution.

        • albatross11 says:

          The point is not to convince would-be harassers that their behavior is wrong and they should feel bad about it, it’s to convince them that their behavior is liable to get them fired.

    • acymetric says:

      The purpose of HR departments was to reduce sexual harassment? Is there a source for that? My understanding is that HR departments are meant to prevent lawsuits against the company from current, former, and prospective employers for a number of causes, sexual harassment only being one, and I’m not convinced it was necessarily even the primary focus. Also highlight the difference between “preventing lawsuits alleging sexual harassment” and “preventing sexual harassment”.

      As far as HR being “powerless”, it is probably dependent on the company you’re at and what particular power you are talking about. I know for me and my manager, HR was an absolute nightmare because they constantly handcuffed us when we were seeking new employees for the department and then complained about the turnover in the department after forcing us to hire terrible candidates.

      • Nick says:

        The purpose of HR departments was to reduce sexual harassment? Is there a source for that? My understanding is that HR departments are meant to prevent lawsuits against the company from current, former, and prospective employers for a number of causes, sexual harassment only being one, and I’m not convinced it was necessarily even the primary focus.

        If you’re going to be a pedant, I don’t have a source for that because I never said “the” purpose of HR departments was or was not to reduce sexual harassment, that it was the “only” one, or that it was “the primary focus.” The claim is whether it is or isn’t “their job,” and it would seem to me that departments can have multiple jobs.

        Also highlight the difference between “preventing lawsuits alleging sexual harassment” and “preventing sexual harassment”.

        This was amply discussed in the article. Literally, the difference is the entire point. I am so confused why you’re even asking me this. Do you dispute Flanagan’s reading of the Supreme Court cases, or the connection between those cases and HR training seminars and the like?

        • acymetric says:

          If you’re going to be a pedant, I don’t have a source for that because I never said “the” purpose of HR departments was or was not to reduce sexual harassment, that it was the “only” one, or that it was “the primary focus.” The claim is whether it is or isn’t “their job,” and it would seem to me that departments can have multiple jobs.

          Uh, I never attributed anything to you, I’m giving my response/thoughts on the article, which I think is what you asked for in your post? I’m also not entirely sure how what I said was pedantic. My point in asking that question was to express surprise that the “revelation” that HR is not in the business of actually preventing sexual harassment is actually news to anyone.

          The author appears to have originally thought that it was their (HR’s) job, realized that it apparently wasn’t, and decided that it should be. I don’t consider myself an especially jaded person, but the idea that the purpose of HR was ever to actually prevent sexual harassment comes off as incredibly naive to me.

          This was amply discussed in the article. Literally, the difference is the entire point. I am so confused why you’re even asking me this. Do you dispute Flanagan’s reading of the Supreme Court cases, or the connection between those cases and HR training seminars and the like?

          I’m saying I can’t believe it even requires discussion. As far as the Supreme Court bit…what did I say that would suggest I disagree with the stuff about the Supreme Court? The Supreme Court parts all point towards HR being about limiting liability, and my point is that HR was always obviously about limiting liability.

          My point is that the article’s conclusion (using your summary) is so obvious that I don’t understand why an article was written about it.

          And the answer, Flanagan says, is that that’s not their job: their job is rather protecting the company from expensive lawsuits.

          Uh..duh? People didn’t realize that? I’m not directing any of this at you, I’m directing it at the author. Some other tidbits from the article presented as “surprising” that I find it hard to believe would surprise anyone:

          No one called for reforming or replacing HR. Just the opposite: The answer to the failures of HR, it seemed, was more HR.

          At an HR conference? Is that surprising to anyone? Not very many people are in favor of replacing their own departments.

          I think I understood this more or less as soon as I learned that HR departments are a thing that exist. Maybe I’m an unusual case, but…did everyone not already know this?

          • Nick says:

            Uh, I never attributed anything to you, I’m giving my response/thoughts on the article, which I think is what you asked for in your post? I’m also not entirely sure how what I said was pedantic. My point in asking that question was to express surprise that the “revelation” that HR is not in the business of actually preventing sexual harassment is actually news to anyone.

            Whether it’s attributed to me or to Flanagan, what struck me as pedantic was the emphasis on what is or isn’t HR’s one purpose. Like, HR is in the business of reducing company liability. It’s also in the business of managing payroll, at least at my company; I thought multiple responsibilities like this is common. So why could HR not be in the business of preventing sexual harassment too, especially when HR employees themselves are so deadset on it? Preventing sexual harassment seems consonant with preventing sexual harassment lawsuits, so why do we get one and not the other? Flanagan answers tentatively that HR doesn’t have the power to follow through on such things. This still raises the questions 1) why folks like Baute are so marginal, and 2) why HR employees themselves are unconcerned with failure to live up to their goals. I was teasing this tension out in my OP. You’re welcome to respond to the article and not to me, but I don’t understand your remarks in the context of the article either.

            I’m saying I can’t believe it even requires discussion. As far as the Supreme Court bit…what did I say that would suggest I disagree with the stuff about the Supreme Court? The Supreme Court parts all point towards HR being about limiting liability, and my point is that HR was always obviously about limiting liability.

            The part I quoted is what gave me the impression you disagree with the stuff about the Supreme Court. For heaven’s sake, you used an imperative verb, i.e., commanded someone—and I took it to be me because you’re responding to me, and it’s not as though Flanagan is here—to “highlight the difference between “preventing lawsuits alleging sexual harassment” and “preventing sexual harassment”.” But this is Flanagan’s point, and the Supreme Court cases were her clearest evidence for it. And that point you not only apparently agreed with but thought was obvious… which makes it a baffling request. Hence my expression of confusion; it was and is genuine. Was it just a typo? Am I completely, totally misunderstanding you?

            At an HR conference? Is that surprising to anyone? Not very many people are in favor of replacing their own departments.

            Yes, that I absolutely agree is naive.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            This still raises the questions 1) why folks like Baute are so marginal, and 2) why HR employees themselves are unconcerned with failure to live up to their goals.

            1) Because there’s little the executives can do when Baute says “I’mma destroy your company if you do harassment” besides task HR with telling the employees not to do harassment. And if somebody harasses anyway, the lawyers will be able to point to the employee’s “Completion of Sexual Harassment Training” certification and say “see, we told him not to do it and he did it anyway.” From the article it is not clear that Baute has any real specific program besides I guess “Scared Straight for CEOs.”

            2) Probably because the HR workers present at the conference think they’re doing a good job, and they probably are doing a good job, and it’s everybody else who needs to shape up. “Sexual harassment is a big problem in the workplace. But at my workplace we put together a comprehensive PowerPoint slideshow about not grabbing or staring at women and we get very few complaints from women that they’re being grabbed or stared at so the rest of these people need to get on the ball.”

          • Matt M says:

            From the article it is not clear that Baute has any real specific program besides I guess “Scared Straight for CEOs.”

            Yeah. The article doesn’t make it clear, but it certainly seems like Baute differs from standard HR harassment training mainly in style, rather than in substance.

          • acymetric says:

            I think it might be a little over the top to call

            Also highlight the difference between “preventing lawsuits alleging sexual harassment” and “preventing sexual harassment”.

            a “commandment”.

            That said, yeah I think we’re misunderstanding each other.

            All I’m trying to say is that none of this is surprising…I’m a little surprised that it warranted such an extensive article. I’m also not entirely sure that HR departments are the appropriate party to reduce sexual harassment in the future, because for them to really do that you essentially need a hostile department inside the company that may end up working against the company’s [financial] interests. I’m not really sure that is workable.

            As far as why things like Baute aren’t more commonplace…common/accepted practices have a lot of inertia behind them, it takes a while for new ideas to propagate and that seems doubly true in corporate atmospheres. I also have some doubts about the quality of your typical HR employee (maybe that isn’t fair) which if true is going to limit implementation of solid innovations and lead to sticking with “the way things are done”. Finally, they don’t really establish that Baute is actually effective. They say he is “apparently very effective” but don’t say who that is apparent to or why. It seems plausible that he is, but I would want that claim to be supported by something before I bought all the way in.

      • Deiseach says:

        As far as HR being “powerless”, it is probably dependent on the company you’re at and what particular power you are talking about.

        There’s also an awful lot of governmental regulations and laws that affect employees and HR gets tasked with putting those into practice. It might well be that a particular HR person would be happy to let you hire whomever you liked, but if they don’t tick the boxes about ‘are you compliant with policies/do you have policies in place/remember that amendment 2017 changes the act of 2015’, then they’re leaving the company open to those awkward lawsuits if anything goes wrong – or even if it doesn’t.

        So it’s perfectly possible for, on the one hand, the ordinary workers to say that HR has all the power and is ruling them with an iron fist, and for HR to say they have no power because they’re bound in all the red tape that has to be complied with – or at least that you have paperwork trail to CYA about “yes indeedy we had company-wide training about gender pronouns, we’re shocked and appalled that your client was not referred to as ‘xe and xir’ but we the management can’t be blamed for that”.

        (I’m not in HR myself but dealing with payroll means dealing with regulations about leave entitlements and right now I’d like to burn it all down and have One. Simple. Rule. For. Everyone instead of having to work out 8% of hours worked under this limit of hours in a rolling four year period where four out of five categories of leave taken count towards the calculation of total hours worked except the fifth also counts in this one particular instance. I’d really like it to be “part-time, full-time, temporary, whatever: you get 15 days leave in the whole year, and if you take 12 days off between January and May, then you only have 3 left and too bad if you wanted a fortnight in Magaluf in July, you don’t get paid annual leave for those extra days”. But no, that would be too easy!)

        • acymetric says:

          There’s also an awful lot of governmental regulations and laws that affect employees and HR gets tasked with putting those into practice. It might well be that a particular HR person would be happy to let you hire whomever you liked, but if they don’t tick the boxes about ‘are you compliant with policies/do you have policies in place/remember that amendment 2017 changes the act of 2015’, then they’re leaving the company open to those awkward lawsuits if anything goes wrong – or even if it doesn’t.

          This is probably true in some, maybe many, situations. In my specific case, it usually took the form of “no, we aren’t bringing in any more candidates, you have to choose from one these three terrible candidates that we (really our contracted temp agency) brought in for you, or we aren’t going to fill the spot and then we’ll give the open position to another department since you aren’t using it”.

          Not so much “can’t hire the person I like the best” as much as “can’t request additional candidates if the current crop of candidates are all terrible”. Which feels a lot more like HR flexing than it does like the result of any regulation.

          • Aapje says:

            This seems to be the result of conflicting desires that are not balanced well, by having one department have one incentive and another department have another, so giving any of them the most power results in the other desire being undervalued.

            The cost of seeking out candidates lies in large part with the HR department, while they don’t get the (direct) benefit of hiring a good worker, so they are incentivized to keep the costs down by not looking at too many candidates. They are probably also judged on the salaries of the people that get hired, so are also incentivized to hire candidates with low salary demands, rather than better candidates who demand more.

            However, the department where the person would work has the incentive of being overly picky, as they don’t have to pay the full acquisition costs.

            So if you put all the power with the department where the person would work, the HR costs would be too high. If you put all the power with HR, shitty candidates get hired.

            A potential solution for this is to have the department where the person will work pay HR for the acquisition costs. To prevent monopoly power, one could allow the department to do their own acquisitions, so if HR messes up too bad, they face the consequences, providing incentives to do better.

    • Urstoff says:

      Avoidance of liability drives 90% of corporate behavior.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      The part that bothers me most is that Flanagan on the one hand lists all the way HR spreads its noxious tentacles through the workplace—endless paperwork, dull training, etc.—while on the other hand HR employees she talks to protest that they have no power at all.

      Both things are true IMO. HR employees have power over workers, but no power to adjust policies. Therefore, vindictive, corrupt HR employees have power and rule-following ones don’t. Think of HR as a state. Think of HR as seeing like a state. That, IMO, is how and why it fails.

      • Matt M says:

        Hmmm, it’s certainly true that in almost all cases, HR reps lack “local knowledge” of what is actually going on in any particular department…

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          I don’t think it’s just that – it’s that HR is constitutionally incapable of changing anything about company culture without “building it on a grid” – AKA, making you fill out a form when you date your coworker (and other marginally less silly but still weirdly fascist things). The change HR wants is not the change it can produce with the tools it has. And us natives hate the tools it has, because we have existing social dynamics that determine how the office finds out we’re dating (in the abstract of course; sorry Matt, but my heart belongs to another).

          The wild thing is that there exist companies where the executives just aren’t caught with their hands in their secretaries’ cookie jars – or if they are, it’s not gross and assault-y and they wind up eloping to San Marino together. [The bad version] doesn’t appear to be an immutable fact of life. The thing is, HR lacks the power to do is alter the culture of [The Weinstein Company], because it isn’t an organic development from within that culture. It can only replace that culture with bureaucracy. Which is probably better in at least some respects, but still makes for a horrible environment to work in.

          • Matt M says:

            The wild thing is that there exist companies where the executives just aren’t caught with their hands in their secretaries’ cookie jars – or if they are, it’s not gross and assault-y and they wind up eloping to San Marino together.

            Right. One of the biggest complications to the “prevent sexual harassment” mission that is given to companies/HR that often goes unmentioned is that to a whole lot of employees (including a whole lot of female employees), being able to potentially date coworkers is a huge perk of the job.

            And I personally know several happily married couples that met at work. Including some who were working on the same team. Including some who were in a supervisor/employee situation.

            To the extent that HR is instructed to create a world where that sort of thing can’t possibly happen, they will be having to engage in a difficult campaign against a bunch of local resistance filled with people who want that sort of thing to keep happening.

          • Aapje says:

            ‘You know that thing that most people consider one of the most important goals in life? Don’t pursue that at all during most of your day.’

          • Matt M says:

            “And ignore all the people around you who successfully obtained it by pursuing it at work.”

      • Nick says:

        This is an attractive theory (you had me at seeing like a state!) but seems doubtful to me, because shouldn’t the rule-following, non-corrupt HR folks be aware they’re hapless cogs in the liability-reducing machine? It didn’t seem like that from Flanagan’s reporting, and I don’t know how to square the lack of awareness with their presumably very strong desire to actually reduce sexual harassment. Is Flanagan misreporting? Are they misleading themselves, or being misled, about efficacy?

        • Deiseach says:

          shouldn’t the rule-following, non-corrupt HR folks be aware they’re hapless cogs in the liability-reducing machine?

          It’s like a lot of things in life. Big Splashy Case goes to court and is all over the papers. Something Must Be Done! So government (at whatever level) brings in a regulation about it, or the industry draws up regulations itself.

          These have to be implemented, and the bigwigs at the Top Top Levels of management drop these on the company: This Is How Things Will Be Done From Now On.

          HR (amongst others) gets tasked with implementing these. The reassurance from Top Top Levels is that by doing these things, the problem will be solved and all will be beer and skittles for the happy workers of all genders in the egalitarian wonderland of the new improved workplace. ( In practice, it means more “we are covering ourselves from similar lawsuits”). HR are humans, too: they would like to achieve happy workers in an egalitarian wonderland. Only the cynical and burned-out will go, especially to a researcher, “yeah it’s all tripe and CYA for the company and its share price, not the benefit of the staff”.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          shouldn’t the rule-following, non-corrupt HR folks be aware they’re hapless cogs in the liability-reducing machine?

          Shouldn’t the rule-following, non-corrupt civic planners be aware they’re hapless cogs in the locality-destroying/tax-gathering/investment-attracting/institution-establishing machine?

        • Two McMillion says:

          shouldn’t the rule-following, non-corrupt HR folks be aware they’re hapless cogs in the liability-reducing machine?

          People say that good is not nice, but the actual fact is that most good people are nice. And because they’re nice, they don’t notice those that, because you have to be a Machiavellian to notice that.

          The number of people who are both good and Machiavellian is a vanishingly small number, and I doubt many of them work in HR.

          • aristides says:

            I like to think I fit the definition of non-corrupt and good, though you may disagree. Myself and all my coworkers are aware that we are hapless cogs in the liability-reducing machine, but in that process, we do the best we can. It’s not even about being powerless from organizational standpoint, it’s being powerless over human nature. We do our best to change actual humans actions so that everyone can work well together, and most humans resist the change. There are enough victories for us to feel that we made a difference, but we do now our goal of having no problems in the workplace is unreachable no matter what we do.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @aristides

            What’s your relationship with “workplace culture” as an institution? Do you see yourself as improving it, replacing it, working within or outside it…?

          • aristides says:

            I would say I work within the workplace culture and make incremental improvements. It’s really impossible to change it in one fell swoop. My Agency went from an all male leadership to an all female leadership 4 years before I started, and I was still rooting out significant sex discrimination and harassment for my entire first year, but it actually did cool off about 5 years after leadership changed. But that is what it takes , complete leadership change and 5 years of hard work.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I’m not trying to be cynical, but I’m surprised the author was surprised by this. And she appears genuinely surprised:

      Finally, I realized I had it all wrong. The simple and unpalatable truth is that HR isn’t bad at dealing with sexual harassment. HR is actually very good at it.

      I would think it would be completely obvious to anyone who has ever gone through any HR harassment training that it’s not going to stop harassment and merely exists to CYA.

      Pam Teren, an employment lawyer in Los Angeles, graduated from law school and began working at a firm in 1990. “I thought I’d probably never have a sexual-harassment case,” she told me. The next year, Anita Hill testified, and these cases poured in. She told herself, “This is a five-year window. Because how simple is this? Don’t grab women. Don’t stare at their chests.” We both laughed—it really was pretty obvious. She figured that men would catch on quickly and the window would close. But she was wrong. Like thousands of lawyers across the country, she has been taking sexual-harassment cases ever since. Her entire career has been devoted to this work.

      That’s what the sexual harassment training is. This is very simple and obvious for the vast majority of men with reasonable social skills to understand. The people doing the harassing are people with poor social skills, and you can’t just tell them “get good social skills” and expect that to work. So telling people “don’t make unwanted sexual advances” is useless against people with social skills too poor to determine whether or not their sexual advances are wanted. Since this will not work, it’s obvious the purpose of HR is to cover the company’s collective ass.

      still, why is workplace training so utterly useless, when folks like Baute exist? Flanagan says Baute and other alternative approaches are out of the mainstream, but why, really? Is HR’s agenda dictated that closely by company executives?

      Baute talks to the executives and says “if you don’t stop sexual harassment I’m going to wreck your company.” Since the executives either aren’t the people doing the harassing, or their sexual advances are wanted (because high status) the response the executives will have to Baute is “tell HR to tell the employees to stop harassing.” And they get right to work on the “don’t grab women. Don’t stare at their chests” PowerPoint for the next annual harassment training.

      ETA: Oh, and the other part of the article where she came to understand that “Human Resources” did not refer to resources for humans. It never occurred to me that someone would think “Human Resources” didn’t refer to the management of resources that are human. Basically I think this is a person with a poor understanding of corporate culture. And unreasonably so. Not “ha ha, how naive” but in the “how come you don’t understand the literal meaning of words” way.

      • acymetric says:

        I’m not trying to be cynical, but I’m surprised the author was surprised by this. And she appears genuinely surprised:

        Yes, this is what caught me off guard as well. HR is just an exercise in CYA (and existed for that purpose before sexual harassment was a huge lawsuit concern, for things like discrimination or improper termination).

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Yes, that the point of “human resources” is managing the humans who are resources of the company used to accomplish the goals of the company. That means “tell the humans the rules about their interactions so they don’t disrupt the goals of the company and protect the company from disruptions they cause anyway.” It’s not “resources for the humans in the company.” And again I’m not saying this as an “I’m clever and cynical and the author’s naive” type thing. If you call your IT department “Computing Resources,” that’s not because they provide resources for the computers. They manage the computing resources the company uses to accomplish its goals and try to protect the company from disruptions the computers cause anyway.

          • Matt M says:

            Red riding hood shocked to discover that large, hairy, wolf-shaped person in dress is actually wolf that intends to eat her, and not her grandmother, as originally claimed.

      • Deiseach says:

        So telling people “don’t make unwanted sexual advances” is useless against people with social skills too poor to determine whether or not their sexual advances are wanted.

        I’d only demur on this that some people (men or women) don’t care; they have good social skills (or good enough) but they are so self-centred that their gratification means more to them, plus they tend to think they’re too important or whatever to get called out on their shitty behaviour.

        I mean, you’d think “don’t cheat on your wife with a subordinate at work, then get the subordinate pregnant with twins, then leave your wife, and leave your new mother of two mistress in the lurch and move on to a new town and new job and new squeeze” would be Flamin’ Obvious, How Hard Can It Be? and yet that’s exactly what happened at a former workplace (which I was told about by colleagues who’d been there for the whole affair).

        Oh, and the other part of the article where she came to understand that “Human Resources” did not refer to resources for humans.

        Flip’s sake. It used to be called Personnel, then it was changed to Human Resources (“because our workers are our greatest resource!”). Since I was about twenty, I knew this meant more “we treat our employees like a resource: strip mine ’em to the last penny until there’s nothing left but a huge hole in the ground, then move on to new sources”.

    • Erusian says:

      And the answer, Flanagan says, is that that’s not their job: their job is rather protecting the company from expensive lawsuits.

      Is this… news? I thought everyone knew that.

      The part that bothers me most is that Flanagan on the one hand lists all the way HR spreads its noxious tentacles through the workplace—endless paperwork, dull training, etc.—while on the other hand HR employees she talks to protest that they have no power at all. There’s tension here, I feel.

      This is a diffusion of responsibility. The idea that HR doesn’t have the ability to get people fired for sexual harassment is absolutely false. She admits as much in the article: while she goes on about how powerful men are protected she offhandedly mentions non-powerful men can and do get fired by them. This is, she fails to note, the vast majority of men.

      She is choosing to focus on a small subset of elite men. Now, these men are absolutely a problem: the Harvey Weinsteins and Bill Cosbys of the world need to be stopped. But the article ignores the class/status arguments in favor of making gender ones. Men who are powerful enough to be worth protecting are protected. Men who aren’t, aren’t. And this is a pattern that replicates itself with many kinds of abuse. Klobaucher verbally abused and frequently humiliated her aids and she’s a pretty normal type among the Type A, highly successful kinds. Likewise, I know of at least one racist anti-semite who is protected by a company because she’s their top salesperson. They could and did fire other people for doing much less than this person gets away with.

      I suspect harassment laws didn’t do much to change this power dynamic. I’m not sure, even in the bad old days, that if you were a busboy and you harassed the waitress old boss McWhiteyson wouldn’t come down and tell you to stop bothering the dolls, see? This means you’re basically in the same position as before: the question is what will your boss tolerate, of office politics, not what will make your coworkers comfortable.

      I’d also like to add: as someone who’s run companies before, my anecdotal experience is that there is a definite hunger among female employees for employers who take sexual harassment seriously. In general, I would say female employee preferences aren’t well served. I’ve often wondered how much of the income gap is that many women (in my experience) will take a hit to wages if the employer will satisfy her other preferences.

    • aristides says:

      So I work HR for the federal government which is a little different, but all of it should have been obvious for everyone in the profession. HR’s job is managing the resource that is humans, and our entire goal is to get as much productivity out of them with as little liability as possible. You don’t achieve this goal by firing your most productive employees, so oftentimes it can be a matter of is this employee worth the lawsuit. In the federal government they usually aren’t, because the ALJs are very harsh, but if we can settle for some money and a reassignment, everyone is happier and more productive.

      As far as the training being useless, believe me it’s hard. If there was a magic video we could show that would prevent workplace harassment, I would. The most effective methods are one on one trainings, or small groups, with tactics similar to Baute, but they are to expensive to roll out to all employees. Even then, I had mixed results and had to reassign a supervisor to a non supervisory role, since it was impossible to teach her how to not harass her employees. I can’t even successfully train employees not to assault each other or clients, sexual harassment is a much baser instinct.

      As far as how closely HR’s agenda is dictated, that depends a lot on the organization and people. At my Agency there was a problem with senior leadership completely controlling HR, causing us many scandals, so they are in the process of taking HR away from the field. As a senior leader, controlling HR gives you incredible power, as humans are at the base of everything in service industries, so controlling them is usually given extreme importance, and that goes double for leaders who want to abuse their power.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        HR’s job is managing the resource that is humans, and our entire goal is to get as much productivity out of them with as little liability as possible.

        Maybe this is a problem of how we are defining the words, but my experience of interacting with HR in any organization has never resembled them managing employees, nor with them being responsible for productivity. That’s the job of, well, management.

        My experience of HR has always been in the quotidian “here are the the resources and tasks common to every employee” (W-4s, employment agreements, benefits, timesheets, etc.) HR was also the resource you could theoretically turn to if your manager was failing at managing you in a humane way. Better than nothing (but not by all that much.) Managers might turn to HR to isolate themselves from the need for disciplinary type actions.

        Just curious if that sounds correct to you, or whether your duties are actually at odds with my experience.

        • aristides says:

          The federal government might work differently than other sectors, but here is how we do it. HR is one part of Management, we are constantly referred to as management by the employees and union. Supervisors are often not promoted based on their leadership ability, but based on their skill in the job. This is because we can’t give raises to high performers without promoting them, only bonuses that are capped at $1000 annually. So the person with the most technical skill is the supervisor, and HR serves as the managing consultant. We don’t have the final say in most things, but most supervisors come to us with all their problems and ask what they should do, and they do it, unless there is a technical reason it’s not a good idea. Even supervisors that are good at managing still have to go through HR for every discipline, performance appraisal, and bonus, to avoid opening ourselves up to liability. We also conduct trainings for supervisors on how to better manage employees, not just sexual harassment.

          Senior executives are a little different, since they actually are chosen based on leadership ability, and to them we really just serve as a liability mitigation team, since they do not know the mountain of relevant regulations and case law that are necessary.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            This is because we can’t give raises to high performers without promoting them, only bonuses that are capped at $1000 annually.

            Well, that is extremely different than most private sector jobs. Not only that, but many places have management and non-management career tracks.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Lots of private sector jobs have “salary bands”; managers can give raises within the bands (and within their total budget) but generally not outside them without a promotion. It appears (hopefully @aristides will correct me if I’m wrong) the Federal General Schedule works similarly but more rigidly, with both grades (GS-1 through GS-15) and 10 discrete steps within the grades. Of course in a healthy industry telling a high-performing employee “We’d like to give you a raise but gee, you’re at top of band” is likely to result in your competitor gaining a high-performing employee at your expense, which may be one reason for the non-management career tracks in private industry.

            One big difference seems to be that there actually has to be an opening for a new position at higher grade for a Federal employee to be promoted, unless they’re in a “career ladder” position (which has a range of grades). In private companies this is usually not true; even at IBM one could advance, e.g. from “Associate Programmer” through “Programmer” to “Senior Programmer” without applying for a new position.

          • aristides says:

            @HeelBearCub, for almost all federal employees, there is only one career track for both management and non-management, so promotion at a certain point have to be to a management position. There are more high ranking positions for non managers in DC, but in the field, they are extremely rare.

            @Nybbler is correct, but I will add that steps are based on time in grade, literally how many years you are at the grade. Yes, your manager can withhold a within grade increase if they go through proper procedures for poor performers, but generally the standard is so rigorous that you are better off demoting the employee instead of just withholding the step. I have actually never had a manager even ask to withhold a step increase, while I work on a couple demotions a year. More importantly, managers have no way of giving steps to high performers at a faster rate, so we can’t keep up with the private sector.

            Also, we are not supposed to do this, but Agencies have been known to create new positions to give good employees promotions, but the process to do so is very complicated and closely reviewed. The new position actually has to be more work, more difficult, or supervise more people to justify the promotion, and the position has to be announced competitively, so the person you wanted to promote might not get it. All together, it’s a 90-150 day process.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        That’s pretty chilling, but people can be extremely clueless about their behavior. Some of them might be lying about whether they know they’re hurting other people, but I think there’s some genuine ignorance involved.

    • Lignisse says:

      This is a difficult hypothesis to test, but it seems to me that if you pick any particular year (say, 2000, for example), determine what “sexual harassment” includes at that point in time (call this “sexual_harassment_2000”, and check for the incidence of “sexual_harassment_2000” across the 30-year time period, it’s obviously decreasing.

      It only looks like it’s staying steady because we’re moving the goalposts and comparing the incidence of “sexual_harassment_1990” in 1990 to the incidence of “sexual_harassment_2019” in 2019. But the latter is a subset of the former, which causes an apparent increase balanced out by the actual decrease.

      I’ll go further and say that of course it’s this way, because the nature of socially constructed categories of disfavored behavior means that those categories are going to capture a certain percentage of the worst behavior – not so high that you can say “everybody does it, so it’s not a problem”, but not so low that you can say “nobody really does this, so it’s not a problem”. There’s less reason to expect that percentage to change than to expect any specific behavior to change; the former is more fundamental to the way we evaluate our fellow humans’ conformance to norms while the latter is more contingent on societal particulars.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      The stupid, it hurts!

      Ok, that’s perhaps being a bit uncharitable to Flanagan, but she pretty much holds all the answers and still doesn’t seem to be able to connect the dots.

      I happen to have played both kinds of music in my job (HR and payroll) and still do HR for my company (as opposed to our clients), so I started wondering whether things are done differently in the States, but upon reading the article I see that: no, they’re fundamentally the same.

      Let’s get this out of the way from the outset: HR’s job isn’t to be the employees’ representative, HR’s job isn’t even to protect the company from expensive lawsuits.

      HR’s job is to deal with employment-related paperwork and compliance. No more, no less.

      That means that if you task HR with addressing a problem, what you’ll get is more paperwork – because that’s what HR does.

      That’s why you get the “mandatory harassment awareness training” and “don’t-stare-at-women” PowerPoint presentations. It gives you a form that you can sign off on and put in the appropriate file.

      If you come to HR with a written complaint, you can usually (there are bad HR departments out there) be assured that it will be processed in accordance with established procedures. What won’t happen is HR saying: “Of course, you absolutely shouldn’t have to be dealing with such behaviour at work. We’ll fire the slimebag immediately.” Nor even HR holding an investigative procedure – not unlike a trial – where it attempts to get to the truth of the matter. We have neither the tools, nor means to do so.

      What is likely to happen (and aristides confirms this elsewhere in the thread) is this:

      Most of the time, if the man is truly important to the company, the case is quickly whisked out of HR’s hands, the investigation delivered to lawyers and the final decision rendered by executives.

      Sexual harassment is no different, in this respect, than any other employment-related matter. HR can pass information to the decision makers and advise them on the likely outcomes (for example, legal exposure associated therewith), but at the end of the day it’s the executives that call the shots. That’s their job.

      Indeed, sometimes their decision is to simply take their chances with a lawsuit. Assessing these chances is what the legal department is for.

      Ultimately, HR isn’t the employee’s teacher, nor babysitter, and I think it’s a mercy for everyone involved.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        What won’t happen is HR saying: “Of course, you absolutely shouldn’t have to be dealing with such behaviour at work. We’ll fire the slimebag immediately.” Nor even HR holding an investigative procedure – not unlike a trial – where it attempts to get to the truth of the matter. We have neither the tools, nor means to do so.

        I think you need to re-research.

        Your framing of it is biased, but the core of what you are saying here is what HR promises to employees in all of that mandated paperwork and training, at least in the US.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          Are you sure about that? Or is what they are actually promising: “all complaints will be investigated in accordance with relevant laws and company procedure”. Which is the same as “[i]f you come to HR with a written complaint, you can […] be assured that it will be processed in accordance with established procedures.”

          The HR department isn’t a court of law, you do realise that? It typically doesn’t even have any decision-making capacity.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            For examples, the sexual harassment training, the anti-corruption training, the ethics training we take at my workplace all a) explicitly state that you should take problems to HR, and b) Show HR resolving the issue in some manner.

            This model of expected behavior is especially explicit in the sexual harassment training.

            ETA: This is not to say that HR is identified as the only resource for employees in all cases.

            ETA2: and what does court-of-law have to do with anything? You do realize that the legal rights of employees not to be fired for behavior (especially behavior in the workplace), rather than protected status, is about nil in the US? This is even more true for “at Will” employment states.

  22. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Do we have anyone here knowledgeable about ancient DNA sequences? I’d like to fact-check my mental model of prehistoric/ancient population movement.

    • Eponymous says:

      What do you mean? Do you just want a summary of recent findings, or more than that? Technical side of things?

      I understand David Reich’s new book is quite good. In lieu of reading it, Greg Cochran essentially summarized it (plus wry commentary) on his blog in a series of posts. Plus he did a few long podcasts (on James miller’s podcast) discussing some of it.

      The eurogenes blog is good for recent updates, plus you can browse their archives. Google scholar reich and patterson and other authors if you want to read the main papers for yourself.

      This area is changing rapidly and is very exciting right now.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        What do you mean? Do you just want a summary of recent findings, or more than that?

        Summary of recent findings is fine.
        Like I remember when I first researched Indo-European origins online, learning that the most popular academic hypothesis was either Gimbutas’s feminist thingy where they came from the ends of the Earth on their horses to spread patriarchy, or a watered down Kurgan hypothesis that still treated the Yamnaya archaeological culture as the IE Urheimat but emphasized adoption of language and pots over conquest.
        As it turns out, Yamnaya Y-haplogroups really do spread west across Europe in the Chalcolithic or Early Bronze Age, eventually marking a massive genetic turnover in Britain ~2,500 BC.
        I’d like to find a ton of research summaries like that isolated example.

        • Eponymous says:

          For the short version of the genetic history of Europe, see greg cochran here. I can give more links later. Busy with my kids right now.

  23. Lord Nelson says:

    I have a conundrum, SSC. I am getting married in 7 weeks and I have no idea what music to play during the ceremony. Of the several hundred instrumental songs I own, only two of them might work. The rest are either too fast, too melancholy, from anime/video game soundtracks, or some combination of the those three. The venue had suggestions, but they were almost universally awful.

    I’m looking for something instrumental that sounds fairly traditional, but is not a well-known piece of music. (I am so tired of hearing Beethoven and Vivaldi and Chopin and Bach after 6 years of playing the flute.) Piano solos would be ideal because the venue is providing a live pianist.

    If all else fails I can probably piece together enough music for the prelude, but I’m at a complete loss on what to pick for walking down the aisle. All I know is that if I hear Wagner’s Bridal Chorus, I’m turning around and walking the other way until they stop playing it.

    • Well... says:

      My best friend’s parents played Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” at their wedding. That’s a great selection and I endorse it, but there are plenty of others in that vein.

      For solo piano, I really like “Pagodes” by Debussy; it’s part of the Estampes suite. Ravel’s got some stuff that sounds similar but I don’t know what it’s called. It’s exquisite, beautiful, wondrous.

      • dodrian says:

        Seconding Pictures at an Exhibition, we had it at our wedding.

      • gbdub says:

        Uggh. I was in marching band in high school, and we went to 4-5 band competitions a year. One year, for some reason (I think it was a new arrangement) literally a third of the bands in the state (at least the ones at the competitions) were playing “Pictures at an Exhibition” as their show (we, fortunately, did not).

        Imagine sitting in the sun for 5 hours in a heavy wool and polyester outfit watching other high school kids play the same damn three songs over and over and over and over.

        It’s a nice piece but I can’t think of anything else when I hear “The Great Gate of Kiev”

      • Deiseach says:

        There’s Satie, of course; Gymnopédie No. 2 might be good (if a little slow) for walking down the aisle, depending how long the aisle is. Though right enough, “lent et triste” might not be the mood you want to evoke 🙂

        For a bit more light-hearted and up-tempo there’s his waltz Je Te Veux. Or Gnossienne No. 5.

    • Aapje says:

      Kinderszenen by Robert Schumann

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Video game soundtracks are not necessarily bad- I know someone who walked down the aisle to a version of the turret song from Portal 2. Everyone there either didn’t recognise it or approved.

      I will have to see if I can find what my friend who is a pianist walked down the aisle to.

      • RDNinja says:

        My brother played “Que Sera Sera” from the Katamari Damacy soundtrack at his reception.

    • johan_larson says:

      You might look into Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstances Marches. The first one is very famous from graduation ceremonies, but there are five more. Perhaps one of them would be suitable.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomp_and_Circumstance_Marches#Marches

    • b_jonas says:

      I agree with Aapje, Schumann’s “Kinderszenen” is just what I was going to suggest. Specificaly the “knight of the hobby-horse” chapter. Or try to find out who the pianist will be and ask them for suggestions.

    • dodrian says:

      Here is the music we had at out wedding, played by the organist. Some is well known, other less so:

      Arioso – Bach
      Trumpet Voluntary – Clark
      Rhosymedre – Vaughan Williams
      Allegro Maestoso (Horn Pipe) from Water Music – Handel
      Gabriel’s Oboe – Morricone
      Largo from Xerxes – Handel
      Rondeau – Mouret
      Air from Water Music – Handel
      Bride’s entry – Promenade from Pictures at an Exhibition – Mussorgsky
      Recessional – The Rejoicing – Handel
      Postlude – Finale from Symphony No. 1 – Vierne

      I’m afraid I can’t find the list of other music we were considering, but I hope some of this gives you ideas. And yes, I do quite like Handel.

    • Deiseach says:

      From Irish traditional music, O’Carolan is the man. I like Eleanor Plunkett (version for piano by Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin here) and Mabel Kelly (surprisingly decent version played on guitar here).

      The second one is a bit slow-paced but the tune can be speeded up (a little!) without losing anything.

    • AG says:

      Ravel or Debussy are your guys, because they tend to have piano versions of all of their orchestral pieces.
      Joe Hisaishi (of Ghibli film music fame) also has lots of piano pieces and versions.
      Maybe consider Astor Piazzolla? I mean, yes, most of his music is kind of insistent, since he specializes in the tango, but he has an album literally called Época Romántica, and there are all sorts of down-tempo arrangements of his stuff.

      For organ pieces, you can’t go wrong with the Toccata by Charles Widor, though it’s a barnstormer upbeat piece, so maybe for the ending of the ceremony. I’m sure Widor has other lower-key organ pieces that would be more appropriate for the aisle. Louise Vierne is good, too.

      The shitpost answer is the big romantic theme from Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. But your pianist might be overjoyed if you asked them to do an excerpt from one of the famous (and hella romantic) Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninov piano concertos. (I mean, hey, the Tchaik piano concerto has even already been turned into crooner pop song Tonight We Love, while Rachmaninov’s became power ballad All By Myself. Yes, that All By Myself, made famous by Celine Dion.)
      There’s also Howard Hanson’s Symphony No. 2, “Romantic.”

      Besides, playing pop songs down the aisle is pretty popular now, too, so anime songs aren’t necessarily out, if they sound sentimental enough. You could just grab their instrumentals, anyways, if you don’t think the audience would appreciate the moonspeak. “Generic pop ballad instrumental” should do fine.

    • Jake says:

      If you have any movies you particularly like, some of them have great soundtracks. The wedding party at our wedding came down the aisle to ‘Concerning Hobbits’.

    • Lambert says:

      Does the Rondeau from Abdelazar count as either too melancholic or too popular?

    • SamChevre says:

      How about Mouret’s Rondeau? It may be a little too dance-like, but it has a distinct beat and is cheerful.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      from anime/video game soundtracks

      It’s your wedding. Play them. I did.

      If anyone notices, they are a fan.

    • Tarpitz says:

      My sister in law walked down the aisle to an instrumental version of Guns n’ Roses’ Patience, arranged and performed by my brother (not the one she was marrying – I have a lot of brothers). It went down pretty well (and I don’t think many of those present recognised it). Could you or anyone you know arrange one of your favourite game soundtracks for piano?

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Congratulations on becoming a bride, Lord Nelson!
      What’s wrong with using instrumentals from soundtracks, if you can find ones of artistic merit equal to classical pieces obscure enough to not annoy you?
      There’s a reason people made Wagner’s Lohengrin Wedding Chorus a cliche: it recreates a relevant part of a darn good multimedia story. Have you considered raiding some other opera? The great Handel composed three operas based on the epic chivalric romance Orlando Furioso alone.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Some FOAFs of mine got married about a year ago. The husband’s really into internet memes, so one of them found a slow-paced classical piano arrangement of “We Are Number One” from Lazy Town, for the spotlight dance.

      So, first surprise: this actually exists.

      Second surprise: when they announced the dance, the couple were the only two who knew. The result was a video of the crowd where you see them slowly realize what they’re listening to.

    • Lord Nelson says:

      Thank you for all of the suggestions! I will start looking through them this weekend.

      • Soy Lecithin says:

        Late to the party, but take a listen to Grieg’s Lyric Pieces. They’re short and several of them could work as wedding marches or other wedding music. Book VIII Number 6, “Wedding day at Troldhaugen,” could work for a march. Have your pianist play it at the speed that you’d like. Book VIII, number 2 might also work for a march, or Book IX, number 1.

        Any of these should be easy for the pianist. Many of them would make great prelude music. Book I, number 1 and book VII, number 5 are especially pretty.

        Some other nice ones are
        II, 3
        III, 3
        III, 5
        V, 4
        VI, 2
        VII, 2
        IX, 1
        IX, 3
        IX, 5
        X, 4

        Maybe this isn’t what you are looking for, but to me they sound classic but not stuffy or cheesy.

  24. Well... says:

    Steve Sailer commented on the most recent normal post, which reminded me that he exists. I used to read his blog every day from about 2011 until some time in 2015 or 2016 when I lost my taste for that kind of thing. I popped back into his blog just now and it seems like nothing has changed. (It boggles my mind a bit, realizing Steve Sailer reads SSC and interacts with the commentariat.)

    I have a question thought that’s prima facie about him but really applies to anyone with his kind of views who also lives in the kind of place where those kind of views are uncommon, i.e. most places where people live:

    How does he get along, residing in Studio City or Sherman Oaks or wherever? Like, does he have to keep his brilliant ideas secret from basically everyone he interacts with in realspace — I’m thinking neighbors in particular, but maybe friends and family too? Does he on principle never visit any of L.A.’s excellent and ubiquitous taco trucks? If he meets a black guy on the golf course and they get along, and the black guy suggests they go out for a beer later, will Steve automatically decline even if he’s free and in the mood for a beer, and if so, does he justify it (inwardly, I mean) with statistics about race and IQ? Ya know?

    He just wrote a blog post implying (in his regular hinting, nodding, winking sort of way) that we ought to have something like a Chinese Exclusion Act 2.0 based on who is likely to return wallets, yet I’d bet he almost certainly is on at least friendly terms with lots of people who’d be really hurt to find out he wrote such a thing, maybe even people who’d be themselves excluded by the immigration policy he yearns for. How does he manage? Does he care? Wouldn’t it be kind of sociopathic not to?

    Maybe another way to ask the question is: what is a normal amount of tolerance for having to maintain strong separation between “views about how things should be” and “practical everyday behavior, given how things are”? And over time, shouldn’t the latter tend to exert pressure on the former so that less separation between the two is required? (Thus I’m a little surprised nothing seems to have substantially changed at his blog.)

    • Aapje says:

      1. Would you ask the same thing of a SJ advocate who blames white men for everything and lives in a place where those views are not accepted by the local culture? Would you ask them how they can be friends with white men or do you regard the answer as obvious?

      2. Isn’t it obvious from him using his real name that he is not keeping the ideas that he espouses online separate from his offline interactions?

      3. Why would Steve have to hate eating taco’s? Does a feminist have to hate sex with men?

      4. Why would Steve have to treat individuals who have passed a certain filter (like the big threshold for playing golf) negatively, because he supports group-based policies with ethnic discrimination, with the justification of statistical differences between groups? You are accusing him of not understanding statistics, IMO (which is a common flaw in people, but if you understand statistics, you won’t assume that the average or median of a larger group is true for the average or median of a filtered subset).

      Maybe another way to ask the question is: what is a normal amount of tolerance for having to maintain strong separation between “views about how things should be” and “practical everyday behavior, given how things are”?

      My understanding is that Steve believes that cultural norms & behaviors can ameliorate the biological statistical differences that he believes exist between groups & such. So then bringing his personal behavior inline with his views can merely involve finding a local community whose norms are relatively closer to his ideal.

      Thus I’m a little surprised nothing seems to have substantially changed at his blog.

      Some people are relatively immune to peer pressure. I once read an interesting interview with a person who talked to both perpetrators of genocide (in places like Rwanda) and those that resisted going along with the genocide, even though they were part of the murdering ethnicity.

      She found the murderers a lot more sympathetic and nice than those who resisted. My theory is that the former are well-adjusted, normal humans who adapt the local norms. So when the local norms are to be nice to people and give gifts on birthdays, they do. When the local norms are to commit genocide, they do that.

      In contrast, those who resisted were generally ill-adjusted people who resisted peer pressure, which makes them ignore nice local norms, but also not-so nice norms, in favor of their internally generated norms.

      • Garrett says:

        In contrast, those who resisted were generally ill-adjusted people who resisted peer pressure, which makes them ignore nice local norms, but also not-so nice norms, in favor of their internally generated norms.

        Link?

        This disturbingly sounds a lot like me.

        • albatross11 says:

          ISTM that one of the most important reasons to read about historical atrocities (the holocaust, the cultural revolution, the Gulag system, the Spanish inquisition, the horrors of West Indies sugar plantations, the Rwandan genocide, etc.) is to really cement in your mind the fact that people just like you did these horrible things, or at least looked the other way and let them happen. And it would be a remarkable streak of luck if it just so happened that you were immune to the tendencies that led perfectly normal and decent people to quietly support the slave trade or ethnically cleansing American Indians off the land or whatever.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            Well said. What we tend to miss about people is that we are all the same. We try to understand behavior by positing that people have different characters. They don’t.

          • Matt M says:

            Indeed. I read a decent book about this sort of thing in relation to 1930s Germany several years ago… I think it might have been called “We Thought We Were Free” or something like that?

          • Nick says:

            @Matt M
            What I was reminded of, reading albatross’s post, is the quote from Solzhenitsyn, “[T]he line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”

      • Matt M says:

        She found the murderers a lot more sympathetic and nice than those who resisted. My theory is that the former are well-adjusted, normal humans who adapt the local norms. So when the local norms are to be nice to people and give gifts on birthdays, they do. When the local norms are to commit genocide, they do that.

        • CatCube says:

          Are you missing something intended to be below the quote?

          • Matt M says:

            Yes. I’ve been having a bizarre problem lately where when I press “enter” it actually posts the comment rather than give me a space below in the text box, even if I just clicked in the text box.

            And then, for reasons I can’t determine, it won’t let me edit…

      • CatCube says:

        I recall thinking something similar when considering two of the people in Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy, which is about defectors from the North Korean city of Chongjin after the 1990s famine.

        Two of the people are a mother and daughter: Mrs. Song and her daughter Oak-hee. Mrs. Song is a good North Korean housewife who buys into the state ideology, and is overall happy until the tragic events of the famine. Oak-hee is a rebellious child, doesn’t fit in, and is overall pretty desperately unhappy even before food supplies dry up.

        Mrs. Song loses her husband and son to the famine, though she does start participating in the black market economy. Oak-hee ends up defecting, and afterwards basically ends up tricking her mother into coming to China to help her to try to entice her mother to defect, which she does.

        The epilogue discusses both women who are now in South Korea. Mrs. Song seems to be doing pretty well and is overall happy, while Oak-hee is disaffected and unhappy with her lot in life, and seemingly at loose ends not knowing what she wants to do. Some of this is certainly due to the fact that Oak-hee spent a very large fraction of her defector payoff as part of the ruse to get her mother to defect, leaving her with less than she otherwise would, but I always couldn’t help but wonder if the difference was primarily due to personality types.

      • Well... says:

        1. I might ask them. The difference there is, popular, journalistic, and corporate culture tend to offer them shelter.

        2. He might count on his relative obscurity. Aside from the guy who introduced me to him and a few of our mutual friends, nobody I’ve met in real life has heard of Steve Sailer unless I mentioned him to them.

        3. Ordering tacos from Mexicans in a truck is a tangible reminder of the immigration he despises? It was meant as sort of a loose, almost metaphorical question.

        4. When you think, for example, that our society should exert stricter cultural & etiquette norms on black people (e.g. “New Orleans’ ‘let the good times roll’ motto is a bad message for black people because they’ve got lower average IQ and are more prone to violence”), you might tend to avoid becoming friends with black people in case that idea comes up? I’m not saying he necessarily would avoid it, I was just pointing it out as an example of how holding a certain belief could make the cultivation of certain friendships hazardous.

        Having someone you love and care about you chew you out because they’re hurt by the things you believe tends to shake you and make you reconsider your certainty about the practicality of those beliefs and how you express them. You realize there’s another component to ideas that goes beyond “can I back it up with statistics and scientific evidence.” That’s been my experience anyway.

        • albatross11 says:

          Well:

          There’s this interesting tradeoff here. Let’s assume, arguendo, that Steve is right and blacks do better overall under more restrictive social norms rather than less restrictive ones[1]. (This is, after all, an empirical question, and I doubt either of us can say for sure whether it’s true or false.)

          If so, is the world a better place when nobody notices this is true and says so? ISTM that if you were raising black kids or running a school that was predominantly for black kids, you might actually choose to raise those kids with more restrictive social norms and expectations. And if Steve’s idea is right, you’d probably end up making their lives better off overall.

          Being too polite to mention it might be better for getting along without being called mean names, but it might also be worse for those black kids being raised with highly-permissive social norms.

          [1] Actually, I think most conservatives think *most everyone* would do better under more restrictive social norms–in the form of a NYT headline, Steve’s argument is: “New Orleans Residents Let the Good Times Roll–Blacks Hit Hardest.”

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Let’s assume, arguendo, that Steve is right and blacks do better overall under more restrictive social norms rather than less restrictive ones. (This is, after all, an empirical question, and I doubt either of us can say for sure whether it’s true or false.)

            This is only an empirical question if we also assume, arguendo, that “living under restrictive social norms” is, if not independent of “doing well,” at least quantitatively comparable with other components of “doing well.” As such, I’m pretty sure this question is only empirical if you smuggle in your own metric of wellbeing.

          • Plumber says:

            @albatross11 >

            “…I think most conservatives think *most everyone* would do better under more restrictive social norms…”

            I don’t vote for self-described “conservatives”, but I definitely agree that more restrictive social and economic norms would be better, especially for those under 40 years old as guidance is far too lacking, I support an expansion of the guild apprentice-journeyman-master model for most everyone, the freeform “do your own thing” system to careers leaves far too many adrift, also parents with minor children who get divorced should be ostracized to such an extent that “grinning and bearing sticking together for the kids” becomes much more common.

            Though Costa Ricans are plenty happy and long-lived I have no idea as to how to emulate there, so I suppose some weird combination of Germany (educational system and labor law) and Utah (social mores and welfare) would be my goal.

          • albatross11 says:

            Hoopyfreud:

            I agree measuring well-being isn’t straightforward. However, I’d say we can look at available statistics and say that blacks are overall doing worse than whites in most things we can measure. Even if we don’t all agree on exactly what a life well lived looks like, we can probably work out that a shorter life expectancy, a higher probability of spending time in prison, and less wealth and income over your whole life are indications that things aren’t going so well.

            We can also do this kind of analysis for whites. Charles Murray’s book _Coming Apart_ basically does this analysis for the white working/lower class, with the conclusion that in a whole lot of measurable ways, the whites on the left end of the intelligence/work ethic/wisdom distribution have done really badly with less restrictive social norms.

            Now, social science is hard and full of confounders, so we might never have rock solid evidence of anything. But it doesn’t seem impossible that we could get evidence showing that living under more restrictive social norms led to either better, worse, or the same outcomes for {blacks, whites, Asians, hispanics, everyone}. This doesn’t seem inherently harder than getting evidence that other social or legal changes have been helpful or harmful to {blacks, whites, Asians, hispanics, everyone}.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @albatross

            I’d say we can look at available statistics and say that blacks are overall doing worse than whites in most things we can measure.

            If there’s one SINGLE thing I desperately want the entire world to understand, it’s that the ability to measure a thing does not imply the ability to understand its state.

            Yes, there are a lot of things we can measure that tell us that black people are doing worse in some ways than they did in the past. But if you ask me if it’s worth it to live in a world where this is possible I’m going to say, “yes, a hundred thousand times, yes.”

            Are there social norms in many black communities that are inhibiting human flourishing? Yes, absolutely. We should kill them with fire. But the idea that we – and by “we” I mean “the state, which is not the same thing as a culture, whose tools are wrecking balls and whose heart smells of sulphur and iron” – can somehow fix it is a lot scarier to me than those bad norms. That’s why by “kill them with fire” I really mean that we should make sure that black Americans – especially kids – have strong mentors, especially male mentors, that can help them find a better path for themselves. At this point, I’m pretty sure that attempts to engineer cultural change through policy inevitably have horrifying results.

          • albatross11 says:

            I agree that trying to use government policy to change social norms is not likely to go well. At best, government has some really blunt tools–it can offer people money or threaten to take {money, licenses, freedom, life} away from them. Nor do I see any legislature in the US as being even remotely likely to do a good job of imposing better values on the public.

            But I also think that somewhere in the huge changes in society that have given us a lot more freedom, we’ve thrown aside some social norms that were pretty important for human well-being. And that’s utterly clobbered a lot of people on the bottom, notably including both poor blacks and poor whites. Smarter, richer, better-educated people have retained a lot of those norms, for whatever reason. (The direction of causality is unclear here, though–maybe the people who stuck with norms like “no children out of wedlock” finished their schooling and got good jobs, accounting for the richer and better-educated parts of the equation.)

            I’d like to find a way to make sure that nobody’s getting shoved to the back of the bus and nobody’s getting bashed for being who they are, while still keeping those norms intact enough that the majority of people who will be happiest in something like a traditional life with a spouse and kids and job and such actually get that. I don’t know how to do that, or if it’s even possible, but it seems like a worthy goal. The best way I know to get people to do that stuff is to convert them to some religion that teaches it, but that raises a whole crop of its own issues.

          • Plumber says:

            @albatross11 & @Hoopyfreud,
            The jobs disappeared before the “social norms”.

            Still not good enough but the fortunes of black Americans were getting better from 1941 to 1973.

            I’m very confident that had the “family wage” jobs endured for more generations most of the “social ills of the black community” wouldn’t be anywhere near as biting, and the destruction of the later ’70’s and the even worse, awful, hateful, and cursed 1980’s could have been avoided.

        • Nick says:

          1. I might ask them. The difference there is, popular, journalistic, and corporate culture tend to offer them shelter.

          I’m not sure that answers Aapje’s question. The point is, social justice folks probably interact with lots of white men. Media and corporate culture might fawn over their beliefs, but it doesn’t actually insulate them from interacting with white men, does it? So the question how they reconcile their beliefs with those interactions still arises. If that question seems kind of ridiculous, it should be ridiculous when directed at Steve, too.

        • Clutzy says:

          This response, plus the OP make me somewhat skeptical you read or have read Steve Salier with any real engagement. I don’t find him nearly as anti-immigrant, paternalistic, etc as you seems to be describing him as. He’s more like a quirky intellectual who also happens to comment on this subset of things most quirky intellectuals do not.

          Maybe my impressions are wrong and he really is a rabid white supremacist, but from my perspective he’s more a weirdo with 1000 interests, most of which no one cares at all about, and one of which happens to be highly controversial.

    • Faza (TCM) says:

      My first instinct when faced with such questions would be to ask the person concerned, in private for preference. I mean, he’s right there (metaphorically speaking). I don’t recall seeing Steve in the open threads, but I know that I lurk a lot more than I comment.

      Setting that aside, I see no fundamental conflict between recognizing issues with a specific group/subset of the population and being able to amicably interact with individuals from that group. I mean, just going by the surveys of the SSC readers/commentariat, it would appear that most of this blog’s audience has significantly higher IQs than average. Do we therefore expect people that read SSC to have little to no amicable interactions with average IQ people? Wouldn’t such an expectation be strange, given that average IQ people are the majority, by definition?

      He just wrote a blog post implying (in his regular hinting, nodding, winking sort of way) that we ought to have something like a Chinese Exclusion Act 2.0 based on who is likely to return wallets, yet I’d bet he almost certainly is on at least friendly terms with lots of people who’d be really hurt to find out he wrote such a thing, maybe even people who’d be themselves excluded by the immigration policy he yearns for. How does he manage? Does he care? Wouldn’t it be kind of sociopathic not to?

      Every time you propose any sort of policy, someone’s gonna get the shaft. As Aapje rightly points out, an accepted “positive” policy choice like affirmative action means that certain people (white and male, typically) are less deserving of certain opportunities than other people (e.g. women, POC, minority sexualities). Is anyone hurt to know this? Does anyone care? Is it sociopathic if nobody does?

      It’s probably also worth pointing out that immigration policy specifically simplifies to “who do we invite to our house”. This is a us-and-them issue that most people understand on a visceral level (because humans are familial and tribal). The idea that the tribe/home is open to all comers is the strange one, if you think about it – keep it up long enough and you’ll see yourself forced out of your home by new arrivals that understand tribe better than you do.*

      Given that we, presumably, like our tribal value system and want to keep it (or, at least, ensure that it evolves in a given direction), we would do well to restrict external recruitment to people who have substantially similar values and/or are likely to contribute materially to our goals. This will naturally narrow our focus towards primarily groups that have already been shown to have such characteristics and away from those that have been shown to have not. It doesn’t mean that individuals from the latter groups are irrevocably ineligible for all time. Rather, they must first demonstrate that they are less like “them” and more like “us”.

      None of this is terribly hard to understand, nor even particularly “evil”. It’s just a recognition of the fact that people are different, groups influence their members and that changing the membership will ultimately change the group. The crazy thing, as far as I am concerned, is the proposition that we shouldn’t acknowledge these facts, because people might get hurt (and by “hurt”, we mean that the conclusions oppose their self-serving teleologies).

      * One of the reasons to restrict the number/kind of people able to join your tribe is to ensure new members share your values. Numbers ultimately win the day, so once you introduce enough new members with a different value system, you’ll find yourself on the wrong end of tribal mores.

      • quanta413 says:

        I mean, just going by the surveys of the SSC readers/commentariat, it would appear that most of this blog’s audience has significantly higher IQs than average. Do we therefore expect people that read SSC to have little to no amicable interactions with average IQ people? Wouldn’t such an expectation be strange, given that average IQ people are the majority, by definition?

        And this sort of thing goes both ways too. A lot of people on SSC are probably weird in ways that aren’t high status. A lot of them also have beliefs that most people would probably view as crazy or harmful. But post middle school (or maybe high school) most normal people have amicable interactions with smart weirdos.

        A lot of toleration for people significantly different from oneself is necessary for anything to function in a pleasant way. Of course, there is some limit to how different two people or two groups can be without conflict. At the extreme end, what if you’re the Spanish and you’re dealing with the ancient Aztecs? The Aztecs thought it was crucial to make human sacrifices for the world not to end and actually did that. Spanish conquistadors were pretty barbaric by current Western standards, but their beliefs are fairly similar to current ones compared to Aztec beliefs.

        • brad says:

          I think the limit is rather narrower than you are implying. Yes, as adults we probably all have to learn to roll our eyes and move on when a co-worker, friend’s SO, hobby partner, or similar starts opining on how the moon landing was faked, God has a plan for all of us, or the importance of a bi-monthly juice cleanse. But in my experience rolling one’s eyes and moving on is not the typical reaction to “why aren’t we allowed to notice how much the Jews hate Whites” or “we need to reinstitute segregation because the Blacks have low IQs” or “we should end Latino immigration because Latino cultures are low trust”.

          Rightly in my opinion, maybe wrongly in yours, but in any event I think I’m accurately describing modal Blue Tribe norms.

          • quanta413 says:

            I subquoted the part on SSC people compared to not-SSC people because I was thinking about weird SSC beliefs about AI or transhumanism or utilitarianism. Or more widespread, atheism.

            I’ve observed a lot more flex in private situations with respect to people making racist comments than you seem to have observed. Usually there’s little remark made. And I’ve lived in almost exclusively blue tribe circles for over a decade now. Although most of the racist comments I’ve heard were directed by someone not white at some not white group they weren’t part of.

          • brad says:

            Although most of the racist comments I’ve heard were directed by someone not white at some not white group they weren’t part of.

            Then it isn’t really to the contrary, is it? Except I guess the antisemitism part.

            The bottom line is that a Sailerite that’s at all outspoken is not going to be accepted in polite company.

          • quanta413 says:

            Then it isn’t really to the contrary, is it? Except I guess the antisemitism part.

            The bottom line is that a Sailerite that’s at all outspoken is not going to be accepted in polite company.

            Yeah, I’m not saying something totally contrary to your claim although I think Steve Sailer isn’t that far past the edge. Most racist things wasn’t “all” either and white and not white is not always a clear boundary.

            Really outspoken types are often not accepted in polite company in my experience even if they have the right politics. It’s obnoxious behavior to constantly talk politics in a forum not dedicated to it. And people with known bad politics are often tolerated if they don’t constantly blather on about it.

            Like there’s a difference between having Steve Sailer’s political beliefs and shoehorning Steve Sailer’s political blogposts into every conversation. What I’m saying is the first may easily be tolerated even if people know you believe that. I agree the second isn’t tolerated (mostly by just not inviting that person to anything), but I’d bet a significant chunk of people I know wouldn’t invite an ever harping Clinton fan to events either.

      • salvorhardin says:

        Immigration policy specifically simplifies to “who do we invite to our house” only in the view of (some) restrictionists. One of the main anti-restrictionist contentions is that a nation is not like a house, and the current citizenry of a nation not like the owners of a house, in the relevant respects.

      • Well... says:

        I didn’t want to ask Steve directly because it could be seen as overly aggressive and get me banned for instigating a fight or something.

        Anyway, yeah I get it’s possible to be friends with someone from a group about whom your published and widely circulated views are unflattering at best; I’m just curious whether Steve or others like him manage it, and how. And if so, whether/how the management of that friendship modifies the views.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m not Steve but I read his work and agree with 80-90% of it, and also live in a large multicultural and liberal city.

      It’s a bit of a faux pas to actually utter the words anymore, but I have black friends and have dated black women. Ditto for Hispanics, Muslims, as well as LGs and BTs (the T’s in this case being non-binary women) respectively. I also patronize businesses owned by all of the above with no qualms. None of that contradicts my beliefs in any way.

      You can have a scientifically-accurate understanding of the black-white IQ gap and difference in crime rates without hating black people: in fact, without the former it would be a lot easier to hate black people. You can think that the US would be better off with minimal Muslim or Hispanic immigration while liking individual Muslim or Hispanic immigrants. And you can think that LGBT lifestyles are harmful and dislike their promotion while still being friendly to LGBT people themselves. None of those beliefs actually require hate.

      I do keep quiet about those beliefs in front of most people, but that’s because the liberals I live and work around have the same prejudice that you do: that anyone who disagrees with the prevailing orthodoxy is a moral monster who is incapable of participating in civilized society (and consequently must be driven from it).

      • albatross11 says:

        I’m not Steve, but occasionally read him, and sometimes agree with him. I have my own set of socially-unacceptable and impolite beliefs, and as best I can tell, so does everyone else. We all manage to keep those impolite beliefs off the table most of the time when we’re talking with others, to avoid starting needless fights or upsetting people for no good reason.

        I think there are two ideas that you need to recognize, in order to think about this sort of question sensibly:

        a. To believe that members of one group are statistically worse in some way than the general population does not imply that you can’t have positive interactions with members of that group. You’re not making friends with a group average, you’re making friends with an individual. Or you’re hiring, doing business with, learning from, hanging out with, etc., an individual.

        My kids’ main pediatrician is a black woman. On average, neither blacks nor whites are smart enough to be good doctors, but that’s totally irrelevant to whether or not *she* is smart enough to be a good doctor. (She is.)

        b. To think that some policy would be good overall which would hurt members of some group also doesn’t preclude being friends with members of that group. *Every* law or policy has winners and losers, and some of the losers in any worthwhile law will be pretty sympathetic people.

        I favor eliminating farm subsidies. This would make a lot of small farmers a lot worse off–probably drive them entirely from the business. And yet, I favor eliminating farm subsidies *without hating farmers*. I genuinely have no animus against farmers, have farmers in my family, etc. I might not bring up at Thanksgiving dinner that I want to eliminate farm subsidies, but that doesn’t keep me from being able to get along with farmers.

        I think (a) is mostly the result of people not understanding statistics very well–it’s hard to keep in mind the distinction between a distribution, the mean of a distribution, and an individual drawn from that distribution. I think (b) is mostly the result of a kind of political rhetoric in which “you support a law that would hurt my group” is taken to mean “you hate all members of my group.”

        • DinoNerd says:

          To believe that members of one group are statistically worse in some way than the general population does not imply that you can’t have positive interactions with members of that group. You’re not making friends with a group average, you’re making friends with an individual. Or you’re hiring, doing business with, learning from, hanging out with, etc., an individual.

          I have encountered two types of people with negative beliefs about some group’s abilities. One type of believer understands the above, and lives by it. The other kind emphatically does not, either in practice, or in their statements.

          The second kind might insist that your children’s doctor does not exist – you only think she’s competent because of your ideology. At best, you should still find another doctor, who would inevitably be better if they were white. Or they’d insist that she should never have been given a medical school place, because any white person who didn’t get it would have been more likely to be a better doctor.

          I don’t know which category Steve Saller belongs to. But I’m pretty sure those that are capable of statistical reasoning wouldn’t have the problems the OP suggests. Likewise those who practice normal human compartmentalization, where the category “my friends” frequently excludes “those people” about whom one makes nasty generalizations, even if the friends are in fact members of that group.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I’m pretty sure those that are capable of statistical reasoning wouldn’t have the problems the OP suggests.

            For this to be untrue it’s only necessary that people capable of engaging in statistical reasoning believe that the benefits of discrimination are significant enough.

            It’s pretty impossible for me to consider anyone who wants to put me on a helicopter ride my friend, whether or not their reasons are statistical.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Steve Sailer isn’t Dreaded Jim; free helicopter rides don’t seem to be his thing.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @The Nybbler

            Steve is certainly a lot less ethnofascist than others, but also seems to avoid making clear policy proposals a lot of the time, preferring to make lots of small “harrumphing” noises. I have no idea what he’d like to do with me, specifically, based purely on my race, or whether (for example) I’d be a citizen in his America, or whether my current career would have been open to me in such a place, or whether I’d be allowed to vote. I’m like 97% sure he wouldn’t prefer me dead, but beyond that I haven’t a clue.

            Anyway, the point is that it’s completely possible for people to discriminate to a palpably uncomfortable extent based on statistical reasoning. “It’s not that I think you’re bad, it’s just that the correlation is good enough that the cost/benefit works out this way” is no real comfort to anyone.

          • albatross11 says:

            Hoopyfreud:

            FWIW, I don’t want to give anyone a one-way helicopter ride, and I’m pretty sure that the same is true for Steve, Nabil, and other human b-odiversity friendly people who hang around here. If your model of the world predicts that we all want to murder you, this is probably an indication that your model of the world is flawed. Honestly, I’d rather talk with you and I bear you absolutely no ill will. (I also have no idea what race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. you are, and only care to the extent it’s relevant to the discussion we’re having.).

            Group differences usually don’t matter very much in daily life, because most of the time, we’re dealing with people as individuals whom we know and interact with. Do you imagine I’m judging how smart my coworkers are based on racial average IQs? Or secretly wondering whether the middle-aged black guy who does computer support for my group at work is going to mug me? That would be silly–I’ve got tons of much more relevant data to judge those things.

            When *do* group averages matter? I can think of two places:

            a. When you have to make a very quick decision without much information. (Do you walk down the dark alley with a dozen teenage boys lurking or a dozen little old ladies lurking?)

            b. When you need to understand group statistics or predict group outcomes. (What’s going to happen to the local magnet school if they’re required to make their student population mirror the county’s demographics?)

          • Matt M says:

            If your model of the world predicts that we all want to murder you, this is probably an indication that your model of the world is flawed.

            Yeah. It occurs to me that Well is confused by the fact that Steve is not behaving as expected, assuming that caricatures of his beliefs, made by people who oppose his beliefs, are accurate.

            In other words, people who favor, say, mass immigration, often caricature people who are opposed to it by saying “Those people just hate Hispanics.” Now, if that were, in fact, the case… if Steve (and others) opposed mass immigration solely based on a hatred of Hispanics, it would indeed be odd to see Steve visiting a taco truck and having a beer with his Hispanic friends.

            The fact that Steve does, in fact, do these things, suggests not that Steve is somehow behaving illogically, but rather, that the caricature of him is incorrect. That no matter how you want to twist his views and no matter how you want to frame what his views may imply about public policy and who they might affect… it seems obvious that they are not, in fact, based primarily on raw hatred of the outgroup.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Albatross

            I don’t think you all want to murder me, though I suspect (based on previous experiences on this blog’s comment section) that one or more of you may want me to leave the US. A lot fits in the interval between “wants their child to marry” and “wants to toss in the ocean,” and while I’m pretty sure nobody here fits in either of those categories, and I’m also pretty sure that on the balance people here favor a pretty liberal stance, I’m not willing to assume good will on everyone’s part (in aggregate; it’d take much stronger evidence for me to call someone else out specifically – though Steve does appear to favor some weird species of paternalism that makes my skin crawl, I can’t nail his position down well enough to make a solid claim about what he believes, and I’m happy to engage with you guys in good faith unless some big red flags start getting waved around).

            As for the rest, add one more case, complementary to a.:

            c. when clarifying information is more costly to obtain than the expected value of the clarification.

            If I see a man out with his clearly and severely intellectually disabled brother and I want directions to the nearest cafe, I’m probably not immediately inclined to ask a clarifying question to figure out which of them is better to ask, because the expected return on asking the one who looks capable and saving 30 seconds of my time is higher than the cost of confirming my prior about their instrumental value to my search for a crumpet. The only reason I try to ameliorate that tendency is that I feel I ought to behave as though their expected instrumental value is less different than my prior indicates, because a higher-level moral imperative is therefore satisfied. I mostly trust people to share a belief in this higher-level moral imperative a priori, but see above re: weird paternalism. Rational decision-making + belief in a causal relationship between race and [value] =/= egalitarianism by default; a third factor is needed.

            E: to be clear, the whole argument above grants that race offers the best – which is to say, at least sufficiently good – return on energy investment for the discerning discriminator in the first place. If it doesn’t (and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t), then the whole point is moot anyway and the “policy implications” are a whole lot less implicated than the buman diohiversity crowd seems to think.

          • Deiseach says:

            (Do you walk down the dark alley with a dozen teenage boys lurking or a dozen little old ladies lurking?)

            That would depend on the little old ladies!

          • edmundgennings says:

            @Hoopyfreud
            I do not have the intuition that one ought to act as though the difference in ability is less than it seems. Is this a base level intuition you have that you then use to ground a broader position or does your broader position drive it? If the latter could you explain it?

          • albatross11 says:

            I think it’s important to be polite to people, which includes not calling attention to things they’re going to feel self-conscious about and not stepping on their toes w.r.t. stereotypes that apply to them. That’s especially true if it doesn’t cost muchto be a little extra-courteous. So I might do the same thing.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @edmundgennings

            In life we meet many people who surpass our expectations of them. I think we owe the opportunity to do so to each other. I think that’s one of the best, most wonderful and enriching things we can do for each other. I want to live in a world where anyone who thinks they have something to prove about themselves can prove it and be appropriately valued for it.

            That’s why I always try to ask children for advice or help, actually. They fucking LOVE it when adults treat them as capable individuals. If you’ve not had the opportunity to do so, I recommend it the next time you have occasion to. I expect you might understand this intuition a bit better then.

      • Well... says:

        So you keep quiet about those beliefs in front of most people. What if you published them under your real name and had a huge readership and a Wikipedia page? What would you do?

        • Nick says:

          This doesn’t quite answer your question, but I believe I’ve heard Steve quoted as saying he wished he’d used a pseudonym back when he started writing. They didn’t have a source at the time, unfortunately, so I don’t have one either.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I would probably do very little, because I would be essentially unemployable. I’m not particularly well-suited to freelance journalism or e-celebrity and I don’t have Fuck-You Money. In that situation I might move to China and teach English: you can make enough money to live on pretty easily there, the CCP doesn’t give a shit about this kind of stuff, and I’ve always liked Chinese women.

          If you’re asking about whether I would still be friends with my friends or continue to patronize the businesses I currently patronize, that would depend entirely on them. If I couldn’t go to a Halal cart without getting white sauce thrown at me or something then I wouldn’t go to Halal carts anymore, but it wouldn’t be by choice.

    • Two McMillion says:

      I think a lot of people are better than their principles. It wouldn’t surprise me if Steve is one of them.

    • BBA says:

      You have to compartmentalize in order to function in society. When you can’t, you descend into a state of paranoia and depression, believing the worst about everyone you interact with, and end up saying bizarre nihilistic things like “truth is a social construct.”

      Or is that just me?

    • Deiseach says:

      I have a question thought that’s prima facie about him but really applies to anyone with his kind of views who also lives in the kind of place where those kind of views are uncommon, i.e. most places where people live

      Have you a question for me about how I live “in the kind of place where those kinds of views are uncommon, i.e. most places where people live”? Because I’m out of the current of present-day Irish society but I somehow manage not to run amok in the streets trying to stuff divorced people, cohabiting without being married people, single parents, and gay people into bags.

      Is it on the left or the right side you’d like us all to line up for you to hand out the torches and pitchforks?

      • Well... says:

        I hope after interacting with me on this blog for a while you’d understand my question better.

        • Deiseach says:

          It’s because I’m after interacting with you on here, Well… , that I was so disappointed in the way you made that comment.

          It’s a legitimate question to raise, but when it’s covered in dripping sneers and arch glances at the audience, it lets us all down: things like the kind of place where those kind of views are uncommon, i.e. most places where people live (so he’s a moral mutant who should be shunned back to his marsh, like Grendel); his brilliant ideas (where it’s all too clear you don’t mean brilliant); If he meets a black guy on the golf course etc. (which is almost going “Nah, we all know he’ll pop along home to iron his bedsheet and get the lighter fluid for the cross burning”); his regular hinting, nodding, winking sort of way (so he’s dishonest in discourse and thus a knave, coward, or hypocrite, or a blend of all three); Does he care? Wouldn’t it be kind of sociopathic not to? (psychoanalysis from a distance, the favourite armchair pursuit of people who are looking for an excuse to demonstrate why it’s okay to be mean to the bad person).

          I’ve done my share of sarcastic, sneering, angry, yowling and I’m none too proud of it. You can and have done better, Well…

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I’ve done my share of sarcastic, sneering, angry, yowling and I’m none too proud of it.

            This strikes me as either confusing or surprising. But maybe I am misinterpreting.

          • Deiseach says:

            Okay, Heel Bear Cub. Let’s say I pose a question to everyone on here about something you’ve said in a comment, in the following terms:

            Does anyone else have any idea what HeelBearCub is going on about? I can’t quite make out whatever genius galaxy brain level notions are being expressed through the miasma of his usual fey, glib, faux-naif, ‘only joking’ style, though by the reek emanating from the regurgitated spew I would venture that it’s the kind of enlightened utopianism shared by only a select few monomaniacal cannibal torture-killers of small children.

            Would that strike you as:
            (1) A genuine query trying to have a knotty piece of philosophy elucidated?
            (2) An expression of contempt and disgust?

            I’ve let my tongue and typing run off in that kind of ‘I want to dance around calling this person all the names under the sun’ commentary, and it’s never been a good impulse that inspired it, so I recognise the breed by its characteristics.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Deiseach

            He just wrote a blog post implying (in his regular hinting, nodding, winking sort of way) that we ought to have something like a Chinese Exclusion Act 2.0 based on who is likely to return wallets

            This strikes me as accurate, and a lot less unkind than what you wrote. Steve’s writing style is obscuritan, and as far as I can tell the aim is to avoid saying anything he can be called out on. I support calling him out on that, and if anyone can point me to a list of his actual policy proposals I’ll happily admit that this impression is mistaken.

            Well…’s phrasing wasn’t especially kind, but I think it toed the line of ‘offensive or insulting,” and that it was basically true.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:
            Yes, your commentary regularly runs this way, I agree. It’s almost your calling card.

            It’s the regularity of it that seems at odds with the statement I highlighted.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            For what it’s worth, like Deiseach I didn’t understand HeelBearCub’s:

            This strikes me as either confusing or surprising. But maybe I am misinterpreting.

            until Deiseach posed her hypothetical, and HBC replied:

            Yes, your commentary regularly runs this way, I agree. It’s almost your calling card.

            While I get where HBC is coming from here (as I believe does Deiseach), I have to say I found her hypothetical quite a fair analogy to Well…’s post, and disagree with HBC’s apparent claim that it is a fair analogy to most of Deiseach’s posts.

            Deiseach does write that way sometimes, and it’s to her credit that she strives not to. She does not write that way all the time, nor does Well… — which is why I was similarly disappointed by Well…’s post.

          • dick says:

            I disagree entirely. The only part of Well’s post that is even a little sarcastic is calling Sailer’s eclectic views “brilliant ideas”. The rest seems like an earnest and pertinent question, the gist being, “I’d bet he almost certainly is on at least friendly terms with lots of people who’d be really hurt to find out he wrote [his last blog post]… How does he manage?”

            Unless you’re saying Well mischaracterized Sailer’s blog post, I’m not sure what the charge is here. To say that Sailer must have some awkward situations when his IRL acquaintances find out about his blog is not predicated on a claim that Sailer’s views are terrible, or even wrong, just that they’re uncommon and have some shock value.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Doctor Mist:
            I think your perception may be colored by whose ox is getting gored.

            Deiseach on some regular basis, I believe more than anyone, brings to the OT some outrageous outrage of the day and loudly proclaims her contempt and disgust in her unique inimical style. The style she (hypothetically) demonstrates in her response to me.

            Heckfire, she just recently talked about how she was taunting people who were posting “God loves everyone” messages. Crushing them and making them feel bad. With glee.

            Even here, in the very comment responding to Well…, unless I am very much mistaken and she really is a believer in the inferiority of various non-white people, it didn’t apply to her at all. Yet her response is filled with, well, sneering sarcasm.

            So the protestation of not being proud of the times she becomes sarcastic and sneering rings a little hollow.

          • Atlas says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            This strikes me as accurate, and a lot less unkind than what you wrote. Steve’s writing style is obscuritan, and as far as I can tell the aim is to avoid saying anything he can be called out on. I support calling him out on that, and if anyone can point me to a list of his actual policy proposals I’ll happily admit that this impression is mistaken.

            Without rendering a judgement myself, here are a couple long articles of Sailer’s that might help readers understand where he stands ideologically:

            https://vdare.com/articles/sailer-vs-taylor-round-ii-citizenism-vs-white-nationalism

            https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/value-voters/

          • albatross11 says:

            Perhaps this is a good general question, then. If you hold beliefs that either:

            a. Would offend a lot of people if they heard them.

            b. Would hurt the feelings of some people you interact with if they knew about them.

            c. Would, if enacted as policy, be bad for some people you interact with in your daily life.

            Does this cause any extra awkwardness in your conversations, or cognitive dissonance, or whatever.

            For example, if you’re an atheist who has a hard time imagining that anyone could really take that God stuff seriously and thinks most religious ideas are good for a belly laugh, that would probably offend many people you casually interact with. It might deeply hurt some people you otherwise respect to know that you think many of their core beliefs are idiotic and silly.

            Or if you’re a committed pro-lifer who thinks that abortion is basically just convenient murder with legal permission, it is likely the case that you interact with people who’ve had abortions, and who probably would be upset to know you thought them murderers. You may even occasionally interact casually with someone who works at an abortion clinic, whom you honestly see as about a step better on the moral ladder than Nazi concentration camp guards. If you could, you’d enact laws that would send anyone who performed an abortion to prison. How much extra friction does that create in your day-to-day life?

            Or suppose you’re a dedicated animal-rights supporter, in a world full of folks wearing leather shoes and eating cheeseburgers. Or someone who thinks divorce is immoral and remarrying after divorce is just another name for shacking up with your adulterous lover. Or….

            Is it just compartmentalization all the way down?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @HBC/Atlas

            Not particularly helpful, honestly. There are gaping holes around what he doesn’t say, as always. For example, project: boost the white birthrate doesn’t go into how he plans to make marriage more appealing to women… or how he plans to limit the increase to whites.

          • albatross11 says:

            One idea of Steve’s that I think applies here and is useful is affordable family formation[1]. Basically, reasonable housing prices, decent jobs, good schools that don’t cost a fortune to buy your way into (via tuition or house prices), etc. All these make it easier to have a family, and probably overall improve the number of children you’re willing to have a bit.

            I suspect this is beneficial, but matters less than culture. Some couples have one lavishly raised child in the backseat of their Tesla, some have five kids piled into the back of the minivan. Most of what drives that choice isn’t finances, though finances surely play a role.

            [1] He was originally looking at it as a predictive thing–places with affordable family formation tend to be Republican. But he also proposed that Republicans should be trying to bring those conditions about as widely as possible.

          • Plumber says:

            @albatross11 >

            “…If you hold beliefs that either:

            a. Would offend a lot of people if they heard them.

            b. Would hurt the feelings of some people you interact with if they knew about them.

            c. Would, if enacted as policy, be bad for some people you interact with in your daily life.

            Does this cause any extra awkwardness in your conversations….”

            Yes, my strongly held beliefs that parents of minor children who get divorced should be shunned and pelted with garbage doesn’t go over well nor did my objecting to anti-black statements when I heared them from those who assumed that because I was white and wearing a hard hat that I’d welcome that crap.

          • dick says:

            @albatross11

            Does this cause any extra awkwardness in your conversations, or cognitive dissonance, or whatever.

            I feel qualified to answer, as I’m a fairly liberal atheist and my best friend is a fairly conservative devout Christian: occasional awkwardness, no cognitive dissonance. I’ve put my foot it in a couple times – for example, I once made a snide comment about people who believe in angels, not realizing that he was one of them. But we do talk about contentious topics, and are pretty blunt about our beliefs, and we don’t have arguments about it.

          • Deiseach says:

            Heckfire, she just recently talked about how she was taunting people who were posting “God loves everyone” messages. Crushing them and making them feel bad. With glee.

            Sweet Sacred Heart of Jesus, Whose month this is.

            I can see that in future I shall have to adopt the German Professor Approach To Humour And Jocularity:

            ACHTUNG! AN ATTEMPT AT TELLING A JOKE IS GOING TO BE MADE! PLEASE PREPARE YOURSELF! ADOPT THE APPROPRIATE MENTAL ATTITUDE TO RECEIVE A JOKE!

            THE JOKE IS APPROACHING!

            THE JOKE IS GOING TO BE TOLD!

            THIS IS THE JOKE!

            THE JOKE HAS BEEN TOLD!

            THE JOKE HAS NOW ENDED, YOU MAY COMMENCE REACTING WITH EXPRESSIONS OF HILARITY!

            THIS IS THE END OF THE JOCULARITY, PLEASE RESUME NORMAL EXPRESSIONS AND ACTIVITIES!

            Lest HeelBearCub has been pining and fretting and eating out his little heart over my horrendous evil crushing and glee, let me reassure him that when I said such things on here, they were only said in that style and manner on here and my actual comments to the original were nothing of that nature.

            [JOCULARITY HAS NOW FINISHED. PLEASE RESUME NORMALITY].

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Hoopyfreud:
            I just wanted to point out that he is a fair amount more explicit in his “up with whites, down with others” message than those two links Atlas posted read.

          • Yes, my strongly held beliefs that parents of minor children who get divorced should be shunned and pelted with garbage

            That seems a little indiscriminate:

            1. It includes parent A when the divorce is the choice of parent B.

            2. It includes both parents when the minor is an infant and parent B, who is going to end up rearing the child, is leaving A in order to marry C.

            3. It includes both parents when B is leaving to marry C who B reasonably believes will be a better parent for the children than A.

            I agree that the decision whether to divorce ought to give sizable weight to the welfare of the children, but which side of the scale that comes on depends on the particular situation.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Deiseach:

            they were only said in that style and manner on here

            I don’t think that if I told a “joke” about how I was beating up on the stupid, unthinking, blinkered Catholics what with their belief in angels, divine intervention and god’s love by pointing out the problem of evil and crushing their beliefs, you would find it funny, nor give me a pass.

            Mocking one’s outgroup is time honored, I suppose. Expecting the outgroup to laugh is something else altogether.

            ETA:
            Oh and also …

            Lest HeelBearCub has been pining and fretting and eating out his little heart over my horrendous evil crushing and glee

          • quanta413 says:

            I just wanted to point out that he is a fair amount more explicit in his “up with whites, down with others” message than those two links Atlas posted read.

            Yeah, but part of his plan is literally “absorb hispanic, middle east, south asian, etc. into whites”. He’s endorsing shuffling labels in order to strengthen the hand of anti-immigration (or less immigration) politicians and (he thinks) boost the affordability of forming nuclear families.

            If Republicans succeeded at that, the next obvious step would be to attempt to absorb East Asians into the same category as whites.

            The labels are just labels. If the labels eventually say everyone is white, “up with whites” is a different statement from it only covering the people whose ancestors were European.

            It seems consistent with Steve Sailer’s past stance on citizenism.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Yeah, but part of his plan is literally “absorb hispanic, middle east, south asian, etc. into whites”.

            Ummmm, he explicitly endorses a”whites only” political strategy. He decries the fact that Hispanic birth rates are high (so, doesn’t look like a desire to absorb them). Also, unless he is planning on absorbing “black” into “white” you are still left with racism and not “citizenism”.

            And if he is, then it’s really unclear to me why he wants to talk about white at all.

          • quanta413 says:

            Ummmm, he explicitly endorses a”whites only” political strategy. He decries the fact that Hispanic birth rates are high (so, doesn’t look like a desire to absorb them). Also, unless he is planning on absorbing “black” into “white” you are still left with racism and not “citizenism”.

            Quoting the giant bold red text next to a bulletpoint in the article you linked.

            Second: since the GOP is inevitably the white party, you want marginally white people from places like Latin America and South Asia to identify as white.

            In other words, just bite the bullet of how the GOP will be thought of as the white party and try to reshuffle the labels people assign to themselves (which is affected partly by how others label them).

            . Also, unless he is planning on absorbing “black” into “white” you are still left with racism and not “citizenism”.

            There are obvious practical reasons the strategy could not extend this far anytime in the next couple decades. Black Americans have been in the U.S. much longer and have a distinct and unique identity. And although I don’t know if Steve Sailer would agree with me, there are obvious reasons for black people to distrust the idea of absorption a lot more given how much effort white people spent keeping themselves separate and above black people. A lot more effort a lot longer than white people tried to keep themselves separate from Asians or Hispanics.

            Similar practical reasons hold for Native Americans to dislike the idea of assimilation and combination with the vague “white” identity group.

            But the history of Latin America is somewhat different, many people there already consider themselves white. And new immigrants have less reason to discount the possibility of merging with the majority group than native minority groups that the majority tried really hard to stay separate from.

            Obviously, it’s better if your party has more voters, but there is little practical possibility of Republicans picking up black voters at this point. They already burned that bridge, salted the earth, etc.

            As far as I can tell Steve Sailer basically doesn’t care about black people much as far as political platform goes except as much as they have to be tallied up on the Democrat side of the ledger. It doesn’t affect his goals which are basically “cheaper housing” and “less immigrants”.

            And if he is, then it’s really unclear to me why he wants to talk about white at all.

            Because they’re the majority identity group, he thinks it does Republicans no good to pretend not think about ethnic and racial identity, and because he’s a provocateur.

            Personally, my preferred policies are not Steve Sailer’s. I’d prefer a goal summed up by something like “The Talented Tenth” but that ideal is a century too old now.

          • I W​ri​te ​B​ug​s No​t O​ut​ag​es says:

            Yeah, but part of his plan is literally “absorb hispanic, middle east, south asian, etc. into whites”.

            The solution to racial pollution is dilution! 😛

          • dick says:

            Mandatory miscegenation laws have been proposed in sci-fi books as a solution to racism (including Ghost by Piers Anthony, I think?) and I have to admit, at least it’s a plan that could plausibly work.

          • quanta413 says:

            The solution to racial pollution is dilution!

            Catchy.

            It’s a big distinguishing point between Steve Sailer and a white nationalist. I’m pretty sure Steve Sailer doesn’t care about racial pollution. White nationalists don’t advocate absorbing massive groups of people who marginally might count as white into the white group because their whole schtick is racial purity. Whereas Steve Sailer’s schtick is less immigration.

            Mandatory miscegenation laws have been proposed in sci-fi books as a solution to racism (including Ghost by Piers Anthony, I think?) and I have to admit, at least it’s a plan that could plausibly work.

            I don’t see how mandatory rules could work, but I don’t see how assimilation or blending can happen without significant miscegenation either. Intermarriage is good, yet it still gets you more shit from every direction on average than just marrying someone who look like you.

            Of course, usually the end result is the new group is just racist against some group they haven’t intermarried with yet, but them’s the breaks. Better to be racist against people far away and they racist against you than racist against your neighbors and vice versa.

    • Machine Interface says:

      Prescriptive moral beliefs, that is, beliefs about how society “should” be, are fundamentally irrational. Since they are irrational, they do not logically mandate any form of consistent and continuous manifestation through acts of the person who holds those beliefs. This is how the vast majority of people can function in society, regardless of what their moral beliefs actually are.

      The few exceptions are functioning nihilists, who have no delusion of doing anything but mechanically following their own desires moderated by risk/benefit analysis (hello!), and people who don’t actually function in society and are typically labelled as sociopaths.

      • Well... says:

        That makes sense.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          True…

          A counterpoint would be that knowing someone who is gay is negatively correlated with anti-gay sentiment. The communities that fear Latin-X immigrants the most tend to be those with the fewest immigrants.

          It seems to me that there has to be a fair amount of compartmentalization to retain friendly relations and also unfavorable attitudes.

          I know that there are a bunch of friends I have where we just have to avoid politics. If alcohol intercedes and make the conversation happen, it’s usually unpleasant. Then the next day we just pretend it didn’t happen.

    • Atlas says:

      I’ve read a lot of Steve Sailer’s writing, and I would guess that he’s a fairly agreeable person. He’s mentioned having black friends, so I don’t think he sees his views on matters like race differences in intelligence as precluding such socialization. Steve’s more empirical than ideological, so I imagine that he can find interesting avenues of discussion without revealing his more controversial views.

      I’m in a somewhat similar position as Steve, I guess. I just try to exercise discretion. For instance, we watched that clip of Ta-Nehisi Coates testifying about reparations in class recently, and I refrained from sharing my honest views about why Coates’ world view is mistaken. I think I’ve been tactful enough in that regard that co-workers/classmates/family members wouldn’t realize that I’m a bit of a crimethinker.

      • Matt M says:

        It’s probably also worth pointing out that favored minority groups aren’t always as politically correct and as monolithic as their popular defenders tend to imply.

        Real life includes a significant amount of black people who think it’s worth investigating crime rates by race and considering why they might be as they are, and what that implies about what blacks themselves can do to improve their own lot. It’s easy to find Hispanics who think that unrestricted mass immigration is an incredibly bad idea, and is unfair to existing Hispanic immigrants. There are loads of gay people who think having the government force people to bake gay wedding cakes is an absolutely outrageous violation of the freedom of conscience. Etc.

        There is absolutely no reason Steve, or anyone else with such views, couldn’t be friends with such people. Not every black person is Jesse Jackson…

        • edmundgennings says:

          Definitely, while I doubt this would hold true with a larger sample size, of the eight people I know who seem to have views similar to Steve, only one is a white heterosexual. Some amount of this may be that minorities who hold such views feel less need to be silent about them, but this is a very odd phenomenon.