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Open Thread 130.5

This is the twice-weekly hidden open thread. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server.

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1,087 Responses to Open Thread 130.5

  1. Machine Interface says:

    I was at the Paris Air Show saturday. While it’s billed at the biggest Air Show in the world (in terms of attendance), it’s really more of an international trade show with a side of activities for the general public, so it didn’t feel as nice and welcoming as some smaller air shows I’ve been to.

    On the other hand, it was kind of touching to see military vehicles and personel from NATO countries, Japan, Russia, China, Turkey and Pakistan all standing peacefully and happily side by side.

    It also turns out there are a lot more already-underway projects of various pan-european developed weapons and vehicles than I thought. The idea of an european army may still have a long road of bureaucratic redtape to overcome before becoming a legal entity, but in terms of private-public international R&D, it looks like it’s already a reality.

    • bean says:

      There’s been a lot of international R&D since the 70s. The cost of doing the work had gotten too high for most countries to pay for. But the big advantage in forming a European Army is going to be NATO standards. The problem with international R&D is that it’s horribly inconsistent. For one system, Germany and the UK team up, while France builds its own system and Italy buys American. For another, It’s an Anglo-French project and a German-Italian-Spanish project. You very rarely see everyone in Europe in the same program. It’s a lot easier to build a logistics train with two or three systems than with five, but it’s not trivial.

    • Fitzroy says:

      It’s been that way very much since its inception.

      In 1934 Beverly Shenstone, one of the Spitfire’s designers, attended the Paris Airshow, where he marveled at the Heinkel 70’s wing – metal construction but with a surface so smooth it might have been wood (standard practice for metal aircraft construction at the time was the use of domed pop-rivets).

      After the airshow he wrote to Heinkel and asked how it was done. And he got a very nice letter back from Ernst Heinkel explaining how they countersunk the rivets into the skin and carefully filled them before painting. Shenstone decided that if the Germans could do it then with a little more effort so too could the British, leading to the Spitfire’s flush-riveted duralumin wing.

      • Lambert says:

        IIRC, some were still domed, because that was cheaper.
        They determined where to use countersunk and where to use domed using the all-countersunk prototype and a large number of split peas, to simulate domed rivets.

        • Fitzroy says:

          Lentils, I think, but yes. Where they didn’t impact aerodynamics they could use cheaper, quicker and easier domed rivets.

    • cassander says:

      I wish I’d known you were there! We could have gotten together. We’ll have to have a shout out at for Farnborough next year.

  2. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    You guys remember that discussion we had about My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic swerving to the Left half a year ago? In it, Conrad Honcho predicted:

    That said, incrementalism. This season it’s ambiguously gay ponies in the background, and I will not be terribly shocked when next season they “bravely” announce their first openly gay pony.

    Fucking called it, dude. As of S9E12 “The Last Crusade”, Scootaloo’s lesbian aunts from the tie-in book Ponyville Mysteries: Riddle of the Rusty Horseshoe are now canon. And just to remove all ambiguity, they have one of them call Scootaloo’s dad “my brother” in dialogue while addressing the other, thus negating the possibility that they are just spinster sisters who live together.

    This, of course, comes only a few episodes after S9E06 “Common Ground”, which is about Quibble Pants having trouble bonding with the daughter of the mare he is dating. But at least in that case they left it ambiguous whether the mare in question is divorced, or if she is just a widow (in which case it’s okay).

    I’m glad the show is ending now before anything worse happens. As it stands, the series can still be saved with a few judicious edits.

    (Good things about this season? The princess vacation episode was great, and I’m really interested in seeing whether the Sandbar/Yona thing is going anywhere.)

    • BBA says:

      Not into MLP but… you’re offended by a reference to divorce? Really? Isn’t it a few decades late for that? Or do you think, for some reason, that a television program made by mostly non-Catholics for a mostly non-Catholic audience in a mostly non-Catholic country should still conform to Catholic dogma?

      I dunno, man, having been raised Jewish I just find this attitude very foreign. But Judaism doesn’t expect non-Jews to follow halakha, and it has always permitted divorce, so what do I know.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Preventing positive (or any?) depictions of divorce in mass media doesn’t have much to do with Catholicism. It’s more like he’s saying children’s media such as My Little Pony ought to follow the Hay’s Code.

      • Nick says:

        Or do you think, for some reason, that a television program made by mostly non-Catholics for a mostly non-Catholic audience in a mostly non-Catholic country should still conform to Catholic dogma?

        Well, we still have the exorcism market cornered after all these years. So if no divorce is on the table, I mean, sure….

      • vV_Vv says:

        Even Christian denominations that allow divorce discourage it.

        Religious doctrine aside, from what I can understand from that clip (I don’t watch the show) it seems that they are trivializing the very real problem of relationships between step-children and step-parents. In the real world, such relationships can be traumatic. The “cinderella effect” refers to the observation that childrens are much more likely to be abused by a step-parent than by a biological parent, or really any other person. Even when there is no outright abuse, these relationships tend to be conflictual and are a source of distress to both parties.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          The step-parent effect is knowledge somehow lost in the Current Year despite being basic Darwinism and the people who passed “Cinderella” down orally not needing such science to have it.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Can we call this the Brady Bunch effect?

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Can we call this the Brady Bunch effect?

            Let’s not.

            I used to date someone who did lots of back office social work for various “family and child protective services” agencies. A not insignificant amount of “Brady Bunch” style blended families have all sorts of Really Bad failure modes, that everyone in the field all know about, but nobody wants to talk about in public and in front of the politicians, especially not now in Current Year.

            I try to forget what I learned.

            I especially get sick when people make light of it, or talk of making a kink of it. It’s part of why I couldn’t stand watching Arrested Development.

          • vV_Vv says:

            From the Wikipedia page this Brady Bunch show looks relatively tame: dad is a widower, mum is either a widow or divorced (it has been deliberately left ambiguous), the kids don’t bang each other.

            I think the shows of 80s and 90s were much worse. When I was a kid I used to spend time at my grandma’s place and she and my aunt used to watch this American tv show called The Bold and the Beautiful. It was madness: the main characters divorced and remarried multiple times per year, often to the siblings, parents or children of their former spouses. This resulted in a truckload of step-children, who grew at an accelerated rate, reaching their 20s in the span of a few years, and then proceeded to hook up with their step-siblings or even their step-parents.

            In addition to this, to spice up the drama, there was the constant cheating, fights, alcoholism, murder attempts, and so on. And yet everybody was a successful entrepreneur living in wealth and glamour, once an arc was resolved conflicts were forgotten and everybody got along just fine.

            This is how rich Americans live, or so we thought. Now I understand that not even the lowest trailer trash begin to approach this level of degeneracy. And yet, this show was setting role models, both in the US and abroad.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The Brady Bunch and The Bold and the Beautiful are two entirely different genres. The Brady Bunch was a sitcom, intended to be watched by the entire family; it was originally shown on weekday evenings. The Bold and the Beautiful is (it’s still on!) a daytime soap opera, originally aimed at an audience of adult housewives.

            They aren’t really comparable; there’s a lot more that’s different between them besides the era. The Bold and the Beautiful is a spinoff of The Young and the Restless, which was essentially similar as far as I know.

          • Matt M says:

            the kids don’t bang each other.

            The actors totally were, though!

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah, the objection to the Brady Bunch isn’t that it was outrageous and obvious propaganda to be used in the culture war, but rather that it was the first mainstream and popular presentation of “mixed families” and presented a complex and often fraught situation as “it just works out and everyone lives happily ever after” when statistically, in reality, that is usually far from the case.

          • Enkidum says:

            statistically, in reality, that is usually far from the case.

            Is this true I know that step-parents are the most likely to abuse, but the literal meaning of your sentence is that the majority of cases with step-parents are abusive (or otherwise awful). Is that not grossly overstating the case?

          • Matt M says:

            Fair point. I’d say it’s statistically unlikely that families in such situations end up as perfect and happy as the Bradys. Of course, it’s statistically unlikely that any family is as perfect and happy as the Bradys, so yeah…

          • baconbits9 says:

            My Brady Bunch effect statement was in response to

            The step-parent effect is knowledge somehow lost in the Current Year

            The Brady Bunch portrayed step parents basically the same as regular sit-com parents, and step sibling relationships basically the same as biological sibling relationships and stripped out all the drama with the exes and the financial stresses. Depictions like the Brady bunch represent what a tiny fraction of actual step families but serve as nearly 100% of the representations of them in modern culture which helps lead to the forgetting of basic concepts.

        • Machine Interface says:

          There’s an obvious confounder though: abusive people are more likely to get involved in divorces, thus more likely to remarry, thus more likely to end up with step-children.

          In general the traditional anti-divorce discourse seems to overlook a lot of possible confounders of that sort. Yes people who go through/have gone through a divorce tend to be less happy — but this could just as well be because they went through a failed, possibly traumatic/abusive marriage. If their marriage wasn’t a trainwreck, they would indeed be happier — and so not divorce! If anything, it seems that most divorces put a brutal but necessary end to an unsalvageable situation, and forcing these couples to stay married would just make things even worse. These people’s problem is not that they divorced, it’s that they never should have been married in the first place.

          Staying married “in spite of everything, for the sake of the children” seems like the mother of all sunk-cost fallacies.

          • vV_Vv says:

            There’s an obvious confounder though: abusive people are more likely to get involved in divorces, thus more likely to remarry, thus more likely to end up with step-children.

            But children are not more likely to be abused by biological parents who divorced, they are more likely to be abused by step-parents. And there is an obvious evolutionary explanation for it. E.g. look up what male lions do to cubs when they take over a pride.

            Yes people who go through/have gone through a divorce tend to be less happy — but this could just as well be because they went through a failed, possibly traumatic/abusive marriage.

            Are 50% of marriages traumatic/abusive? Most marriages end because people (usually women) get bored of the spouse/think they could do better/want to seize control of their spouse’s assets.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            There’s an obvious confounder though: abusive people are more likely to get involved in divorces, thus more likely to remarry, thus more likely to end up with step-children.

            But it’s the stepparent who’s the abusive one, not the divorced parent. The stepparent may never have been married to begin with.

            Staying married “in spite of everything, for the sake of the children” seems like the mother of all sunk-cost fallacies.

            No, it’s about the future cost to the children of having their parents divorce, which are well established.

          • acymetric says:

            Don’t at least some studies suggest that it looks something like:

            Two-parent househould (functional) > divorced/separated parents > two-parent household (dysfunctional)?

            In other words, if it is a broken marriage, divorce remains the better option for the kids. As ana53294 mentioned further downthread, staying together for the kids only works if you can stay together and create a loving, positive atmosphere.

          • Matt M says:

            My impression was that the smorgasbord of bad life outcomes were all tied specifically to “child living in arrangement other than with both biological parents” and that the “single mom” situation wasn’t really any better/worse than the “single mom remarried to other dude” situation…

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            The studies that I’ve seen have been very consistent.

            About 20% of divorces come from what you would call “dysfunctional” families, in technical terms high-conflict marriages. This covers abuse, infidelity, debts, addiction, and pretty much everything else that used to qualify as cause for divorce. Some of the kids in those families are probably better off for having their parents divorce.

            The remaining 80% of divorces come from low-conflict marriages, which are otherwise indistinguishable from marriages where the couples don’t divorce. There’s no discernable reason that the couple couldn’t stick through their rough patch and make it work, they just didn’t. Those are the families where the kids are absolutely getting shafted.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            I want to think it’s a mix of toxoplasma, and “outrage headlines generate clicks”, but …

            I’ve been seeing SJ-isty articles asserting that growing up with two parents in a traditional style stable family is an “unearned privilege” that needs compensating for.

            And this is on top of my lifetime of personal experience of regularly experiencing being in a group of people who learns that my parents are still married (to each other) and that my mother was a fulltime housemom, there is often at least one person who gets angry and aggressively snide about it.

          • Plumber says:

            @Mark Atwood,

            An alternative term for “unearned privilege”, is “dodged a bullet”, which one you’ll use depends on if one supports less bullets “equal rights” or more bullets “equal wrongs

            Spite exists.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @vV_Vv:

            But children are not more likely to be abused by biological parents who divorced, they are more likely to be abused by step-parents. And there is an obvious evolutionary explanation for it. E.g. look up what male lions do to cubs when they take over a pride.

            Lions are kind, patient fathers. Lion step-children don’t even exist.
            Evolutionary biology explains this. People understood human step-parents before Darwin. Yet here we are… WHY?!

          • albatross11 says:

            Everyone living in a first-world country in 2019 is so fucking far up the unearned privilege chain that it’s ridiculous to worry about other bits of unearned privilege.

          • Plumber says:

            @albatross11>

            Everyone living in a first-world country in 2019…

            …unearned privilege

            I see way too many of “the mosquito army” who scavenge trash to sell to the scrap yards, and live in RV.’s that have holes covered by tarps and duct tape, or live in tents and out of shopping carts to believe that.

            Unless you meant that San Francisco isn’t “first world” anymore, which I’ll concede.

          • Clutzy says:

            Everyone living in a first-world country in 2019 is so fucking far up the unearned privilege chain that it’s ridiculous to worry about other bits of unearned privilege.

            This is so false to me it hurts.

            You think your ancestors worked hard so other randos could live a good life, or did they do it so you could? Without this implicit promise everyone still walks around all the time hunting, gathering, and the like.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Everyone living on Earth as a member of homo sapiens is so fucking far up the unearned privilege chain relative to the rest of the biosphere that it’s ridiculous to worry about other bits of unearned privilege.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Paul

            Then was abolitionism fundamentally silly or…?

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            …or “unearned privilege” is.

          • albatross11 says:

            Clutzy:

            I think my ancestors and yours did backbreaking work under the hot sun for generations with little chance of leaving more to their kids than a reasonable shot at survival. About 500 years ago, humankind began our climb out of the world of subsistence farming and the Iron Law of Wages, and over many generations since then, most every generation has had more and better chances than the one before. The last couple centuries has been a more spectacular version of that progress, in which we went from a wood fire for heat and candles for a little light to read by to heat pumps and LED bulbs.

            Our ancestors did indeed work hard to leave us a legacy, but I doubt they worked any harder than the average Russian serf or German peasant. The difference is, we managed to organize our societies to accumulate knowledge and capital and pull ourselves out of the pigshit our ancestors lived in.

          • Clutzy says:

            Our ancestors did indeed work hard to leave us a legacy, but I doubt they worked any harder than the average Russian serf or German peasant. The difference is, we managed to organize our societies to accumulate knowledge and capital and pull ourselves out of the pigshit our ancestors lived in.

            Its impossible to know who worked harder, but an obvious aside is that we don’t know a doctor works harder than a garbage man, but they are compensated differently and that is not unjust. So maybe they worked harder, or maybe smarter, or some combination of the two. The point is that few would have worked at all without the prospect.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        Yes, I am very offended by casual references to divorce. Divorce is evil, and it should not be normalized. I don’t care if it’s the current year.

        It doesn’t help that this is the second MLP episode dealing with divorce. S8E06 “Surf and/or Turf” was about Terramar choosing which of his parents to live with after they separated.

        • Plumber says:

          @jaimeastorga2000,
          I’ve never watched My Little Pony (my son is more into Blippi, Curious George, and Ryan’s Toy Reviews), but while I’m in favor of the “Boomers” being put in stocks for what they did to my generation in the ’70’s and ’80’s when they normalized divorce, as far as I know MLP is for kids, and just like Mr. Rogers Neighborhood did decades ago, there’s a need for comforting lies to children about how “their parents still love them and everything is normal”.

          If their parents won’t “grin and bear it” for their children’s sake it’s the duty of mass media to step in.

          The kids will lose their illusions too soon already, a little mercy spared for them now is a good thing.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            I hate to break it to you but Saturday morning cartoons and school counselors saying that everything is normal are less than convincing when your parents are shouting at each other all night or breaking down crying during the day. It’s really fucking obvious even as a dumb kid that that’s not normal.

            I’m sure that it makes the parents or, let’s be honest here, the mothers feel better about what they’re doing to their kids. “It’s normal, see, look at the funny cartoon ponies!” But unless the cartoons come with a lobotomy the kids will know better.

          • Plumber says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal,
            When most of your classmates parents are also seperated/divorced it is “normal” (it was like a virus!), and the lessons come too soon anyway.

            Forty years later I’m still bitter.

            My hope would be that the sting is lessened a bit by the”cartoon ponies” or Mister Rogers re-runs (I”m still onboard for having their parents pelted with garbage for ehat they’re doing though).

            In this way “the Millennials” are superior, ’cause while it’s sad they have to delay or forgo marriage and parenthood so much, at least they haven’t (yet) produced a generation from broken homes

          • vV_Vv says:

            When most of your classmates parents are also seperated/divorced it is “normal” (it was like a virus!), and the lessons come too soon anyway.

            It’s “normal” in the same sense as when it’s 1350 and half of the people around you die from the plague.

            Imagine if in the 14th century someone wrote a collection of witty and fun stories set against the backdrop of the ongoing catastrophe. Well, actually someone did, though he managed not to trivialize the issue.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I hate to break it to you but Saturday morning cartoons and school counselors saying that everything is normal are less than convincing when your parents are shouting at each other all night or breaking down crying during the day. It’s really fucking obvious even as a dumb kid that that’s not normal.

            If something is presented as normal/fine/healthy and then your own experiences with it are awful that makes things worse for kids. It makes them more isolated and more likely to blame themselves.

          • AG says:

            Agree with baconbits9. People are still impressed with/have fond memories of the first season of Digimon, which included a pair of siblings who still had conflicted feelings over their parents’ divorce.

            Representation isn’t just about normalization, it’s about telling stories that resonate with the audience’s own realities.

        • BBA says:

          All right, I respect that view. I also consider divorce evil – it’s just often the lesser evil.

          But whether or not divorce is “normalized”, it’s become normal. Some children will have to deal with it. I think there’s room for escapist fluff that pretends the issue doesn’t exist, certainly a magical world of pastel horses could be that kind of fluff. On the other hand you also have kids’ shows in similarly fantastic settings like Sesame Street and Arthur that try to address these kinds of weighty issues head-on. Now, one can disagree with how they handle these issues, but you seem to be saying that just acknowledging they exist is itself immoral, and I’m going to register my disagreement with that.

          (I don’t mean “fluff” in a derogatory way. There are some shows that are pure fluff that I really enjoyed. Sheep in the Big City for instance.)

        • J Mann says:

          Is MLP a kid’s show? (I honestly don’t know).

          If so, presumably some of the kids watching have parents who are divorcing and/or dating after divorce. What do you want the show to say about that?

      • sfoil says:

        In the abstract, divorce is like killing: generally bad, but there are instances in which it is justified. Even the Catholic Church recognizes this.

        The manner in which many modern states handle “unilateral, no-fault” divorce is, however, pure evil straight and uncut from the deepest bowels of Hell. I’m a Christian, so I do believe that God will take his vengeance on the purveyors of this vile regime. It is, however, also just bad policy in terms of contract law, basic ethics, and population management, and absolutely should not be promoted in mass media.

      • Randy M says:

        I’m not Catholic, but I would like to shield my children from the idea of divorce while young. They should be able to rest safe in the thought of an indisoluble family, even if in the widespread culture it isn’t so.

        However, that was complicated by the fact that all their grandparents are divorced. :/

    • dick says:

      Were there not already gay and divorced characters? It kind of seems like that kind of show. I mean, it’s really hard to wrap my head around a person who disapproves of homosexuality and divorce, and also watches My Little Pony avidly. It seems like, I dunno, a guy who thinks the armed forces are immoral and also knows the names of specific GI Joe episodes.

      • sty_silver says:

        Oh, they exist. I have a friend who’s a hardcore conservative Catholic Christian, definitely disapproves of homosexuality and divorce, and was writing fanfiction until recently. That said, they are a minority.

        Afaik there were no explicitly gay characters in the first five seasons, although the population was portrayed as overwhelmingly female in the early seasons.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        The show didn’t use to be like this. AntiDem didn’t see anything wrong when he watched the first four episodes and the first movie. The Dreaded Jim himself sang the praises of the season 5 opener, “The Cutie Map”, in which the mane six have to defeat the evil dictator of a communist village dedicated to equality (they even use the equal sign as their logo!). Later, in the season 5 finale, when the same dictator comes back for revenge, Twilight Sparkle defeats her with the power of friendship and converts her to monarchism.

        Good times.

        • vV_Vv says:

          The popularity of MLP among neo*actionaries always puzzled me. You’d expect these people to be drawn towards things like Warhammer 40,000, but no, ponies.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Friendship is Magic
            Magic is heresy

          • Possible explanation: the “brony” started out as an ironic 4chan injoke thing that was memed into sincerity, and since 4chan is also home to a large contingent of supporters of reeeeee aktionary politics, the adult fandom tilts in that direction politically. I think the whole monarchism thing is post hoc, since a lot of fictions have monarchies and their fandom doesn’t lean this way.

        • dick says:

          I know, everything didn’t used to be like this, and now it is, that’s how progress works, but judging from that whole big ugly vitriolic thread we had about how terrible it is that MLP is pushing their evil leftist agenda, I kind of assumed they were a little further along already.

    • JPNunez says:

      Calling divorce evil is crazy times.

      • Plumber says:

        @JPNunez,
        Divorce isn’t evil parents of minor children divorcing enmasse as a fad was evil, I haven’t forgotten and I haven’t forgiven my parents generation for what they did and didn’t do

        Why the Hell were they like that?

        • JPNunez says:

          I would rather have my parents divorce earlier rather than later; if anything not divorcing in that situation is the evil thing.

          • ana53294 says:

            Not divorcing for the kids means not fighting in front of the kids, in the same house. It means being civil adults and staying under the same roof. And never, ever using your children as weapons against the other parent.

            Otherwise, if you are incapable of being adults for the kids, it is better to divorce.

          • Randy M says:

            if anything not divorcing in that situation is the evil thing.

            Being horrible to each other and breaking your marriage can both be evil.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Yes, let’s focus on the real evil: chicken sandwiches.

      • Garrett says:

        I would argue that as a general rule it is. There are a few cases where I don’t have a problem with it – two responsible adults coming to an amicable conclusion that they don’t work together any more and cleanly separating.
        Divorce is a violation of the standard marriage oaths.
        But in the cases of abuse which I hear as justified: don’t marry people like that. If you are going to spend so little time considering the character of the people you are going to swear to spend the rest of your life with, I’m not going to have much sympathy.

        • Theodoric says:

          But in the cases of abuse which I hear as justified: don’t marry people like that. If you are going to spend so little time considering the character of the people you are going to swear to spend the rest of your life with, I’m not going to have much sympathy.

          Let’s say the abuse didn’t manifest until after they got married. Does the other person have a duty to just suck it up and be a punching bag? Even if they were abusive earlier, and the other person was convinced they would change, would it not be better for any children in the marriage to not live with an abuser (who won’t necessarily stick to just abusing their spouse)?

          • vV_Vv says:

            Let’s say the abuse didn’t manifest until after they got married.

            You can think of all sorts of hypotethical scenarios, but how relevant are they to what actually happens?

            Do they justify no-fault divorce, or are they motte-and-bailey retorical devices?

            The only resonable justification for no-fault divorce consistent with classical liberal principles I can think of is that marriage is a contract, and any contract must have the option of unilateral termination.

            But unilateral termination often involves incurring in penalties, or at the very least not getting anything out of it. Instead no-fault divorce is currently set up in a way that creates a financial incentive for the spouse with lower income and/or the spouse who expects to become the custodial parent of the children (in both cases, usually the wife) to unilaterally terminate.

          • Theodoric says:

            @vV_Vv
            Garrett’s post seems to me to say that he would not allow divorce even in the case of abuse. So “be a punching bag to your abuser” would seem to be the motte in that case.

          • quanta413 says:

            The weird thing is he’s got “abused by your spouse” in the “don’t divorce” or “it’s kind of your fault” box, but “amicable mutual break” is morally ok????

            I’d bet most divorces aren’t for continuous mostly one way abuse, and are more like “mutual break” although messy. The moment people have children a “mutual break” seems way more evil to me than divorce because of abuse (which seems good or at least more good than not doing so). If they don’t have children I don’t think either reason bothers me.

          • Garrett says:

            The weird thing is he’s got “abused by your spouse” in the “don’t divorce” or “it’s kind of your fault” box, but “amicable mutual break” is morally ok????

            An “amicable mutual break” is a renegotiation of an existing contract by parties with an equal amount to gain and who are able to demonstrate that they have the wisdom to know this. It is when both parties can come to a mutually-beneficial arrangement, hold hands on the way to the courthouse, embrace each other one last time, smile, and sign the desolution of marriage documents that I believe that there is an appropriate divorce. If both parties aren’t as happy (not relieved, not resigned) as they were on the day of the marriage, they aren’t ready for dissolution. I don’t think that this is a common case, which is why I mention it as an exception.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            In any individual case of abuse, it’s definitely better for the abusee to get out.

            But part of me can’t help but feel that society as a whole would be better off if there were more reasons for people to think long and hard about whether they really want to shack up with Henrie(tta)s

            “Luckily” abuse is exactly the opposite of “no-fault”, so I can draw the line there and not experience any real dissonance.

          • Matt M says:

            But part of me can’t help but feel that society as a whole would be better off if there were more reasons for people to think long and hard about whether they really want to shack up with Henrie(tta)s

            Agreed. I consider it quite implausible that there exists any significant amount of people who behave like perfect gentlemen/women throughout an extended period of courtship and dating, and then suddenly transform into violent and horrific abusers post-marriage.

            It’s theoretically possible, and nearly every divorced person has a huge incentive to claim something like that is the case (who wants to admit to having made such a significant and horrible mistake in judgment, especially when it affects your children?), but that doesn’t make it likely.

            Divorce seems to nearly always be spun as “this other person changed/transformed/betrayed me” and nearly never as “I made a horrible mistake in partner selection.” Even in cases where it’s abundantly obvious to outsiders that a horrible mistake in partner selection is being made.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          WTF. I seriously can’t think of any explanation for this take except for you being an abuser who wants to trap their victims.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            WTF. I seriously can’t think of any explanation for this take except for you being an abuser who wants to trap their victims.

            Huh? Garrett’s comment read to me like standard caveat emptor. At some point, you bear responsibility for your own choices. That includes spouses. Garrett has probably seen enough cases where the abuser telegraphed their behavior well before rings were exchanged. In those cases, the choice is as clear as the choice of buying a 20YO McMansion.

            It’s definitely not the case that Garrett thinks that people should act kind solely to get that sweet marriage contract and then go full beater. Rather, it’s understood that some people are abusive, and you and I can’t help that as much as we can help being careful about our choice of spouse.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            I don’t understand what you are saying. Quite probably some people do marry obvious abusers (although I don’t think it is particularly common in comparison to people marrying non-obvious abusers). But these people are still victims, and pointing out your relative lack of sympathy for them is weird and pretty fucking creepy. If you further emphasise your lack of sympathy by saying you think they deserve to be abused (i.e. they don’t deserve to escape an abusive marriage through divorce) I don’t know what to say.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Yaaaaahhhh…? I mean, predicting mass media will further slide into promoting degeneracy to children is not hard.

      That said, I will make a prediction sort of in the other direction: within three years, corporations changing their logos on the Internet/TV to incorporate the rainbow flag for Pride Month will be passe. But not so much because “hey stop promoting this to children” but because the LGBTQs will eventually object to being another corporate marketing prop.

      • Matt M says:

        Yep. It’s hard to cast yourself as a heroic member of the resistance when Shell Oil, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, Boeing, and the CIA all agree with you on what you deem to be the most important issues in society…

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          This is something about the LGBT tribe that trips my moral foundations. You can’t claim to be part of Le anti-capitalist Resistance when you’re in bed with the CIA and feted by all the biggest corporations! Repent of serving Druj!

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Sort of related, especially since everyone this thread is talking about video games: Cyberpunk 2077 transphobia clickbait stuff. In the E3 presentations about Cyberpunk 2077, one of the fictional advertisements for a fictional beverage in the corporate dystopia game world featured an image of feminine-shaped person in a tight swimsuit sporting a rather impressive bulge. Rock, Paper, Shotgun called this out as somehow exploitative or transphobic. Mike Pondsmith (creator of Cyberpunk) responds with a big “WTF?!” on forum posts and other bloggers/tweeters/youtubers pile on one side or the other. No idea if any actual transfolk are offended, or just the RPS cisgendered folk begging for clicks being outraged on their behalf.

        I think it’s interesting that in the Cyberpunk corporate dystopia, advertisers exploit any aspect of your body or identity to sell unrelated products. This is unseemly and disturbing. In our totally-not-corporate-dystopia world…every major corporation is spending this month exploiting LGBTQ imagery to sell unrelated products. Eventually I think people will make the connection.

        As for the specific kerfuffle around Cyberpunk 2077, my response would be an unironic “did you just assume their gender?!?” There’s no indication the person in the advertisement is trans. It’s the Cyberpunk world where body modifications are cheap and readily available for any reason or no reason at all. Who’s to say in this world a person born with two X chromosomes who identifies as female wouldn’t opt for a cyberpenis? A woman with a strap-on dildo is not a transman.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          A woman with a strap-on dildo is not a transman.

          And furthermore (flips a table)
          Satan is not a f’ing pogo stick!

        • Randy M says:

          As Frued would say, sometimes a banana in your pocket really is just a banana in your pocket.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I mean it’s a bit passé at this point to note that we’re already in a cyberpunk dystopia, just with fewer trenchcoats and katanas.

          As far as the controversy goes, normally this sort of woke dust-up makes me marginally more favorable towards whatever product is being attacked. But in this case, knowing that there’s gross ads in the game makes me a lot less excited for it. As fun as it might be to play a cyberpunk Keanu Reeves simulator I don’t particularly want to see ‘women’ with bulges in my free time; I get more than enough of that during the day, thanks.

          • Matt M says:

            I mean it’s a bit passé at this point to note that we’re already in a cyberpunk dystopia, just with fewer trenchcoats and katanas.

            So, all of the drawbacks with none of the benefits? 🙁

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            It’s one ad on a poster in the massive game world. It’s not like it’s the central plot point or anything.

            ETA:

            normally this sort of woke dust-up makes me marginally more favorable towards whatever product is being attacked.

            You must be excited for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare then. Apparently the demo IGN saw left them…for lack of a better word “triggered”…by the realistic portrayal of anti-terrorism operations against Islamic terrorists in London.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Conrad:

            Apparently the demo IGN saw left them…for lack of a better word “triggered”…by the realistic portrayal of anti-terrorism operations against Islamic terrorists in London.

            Has Call of Duty found its marketing niche as trolling SJWs? First it was letting people play black female Nazis, now this.

          • Matt M says:

            First it was letting people play black female Nazis

            That wasn’t trolling the SJWs… that was caving to the SJWs by giving them exactly what they wanted… perhaps in the “mischievous and overly literal genie” sense, but still.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Matt M:

            That wasn’t trolling the SJWs… that was caving to the SJWs by giving them exactly what they wanted… perhaps in the “mischievous and overly literal genie” sense, but still.

            When you add that caveat, we’re in violent agreement.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @Conrad Honcho,

            I actually hadn’t heard of that one. It would certainly be a nostalgia trip to play a game where you’re actually fighting terrorists: I haven’t played a shooter like that since the mid aughts, it’s mostly Russians and/or PMCs.

            I’m actually kind of up to my eyeballs in games right now. My brother and girlfriend well-intentionedly bought me a bunch of games on Steam for my birthday but between grad school and trying to maintain a social life I haven’t had time to play any of them yet. So I’m probably going to buy at most one game released this year.

          • Matt M says:

            Eh, I still get the impression that particular decision was one that most SJWs were in support of, and most anti-SJWs opposed…

      • BBA says:

        I guess vomiting rainbows all June every June is the new normal. I find it irritating in precisely the same way I find vomiting tinsel all December every December irritating. But neither of these is for me and I respect both groups’ rights to celebrate themselves in the public square. Honestly if we had a month-long celebration pandering to some group I’m a member of, I’d probably find it irritating too.

        Optimistically, this is the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, so the current ridiculously over-the-top Corporate Pride Month might be a one-off and next year it’ll revert to something saner.

        Realistically, it needs a little while longer to burn out. We could conceivably end up in the position that, since nobody’s a perfect Kinsey 0 or 100% gender conforming, you either have to identify as some strain of LGBTQIA or you’re an evil bigot to be milkshaked. One would hope that enough people would notice that this is watering Pride down to generic social leftism, and push back before it gets there. One would hope.

        Anyway, I’m pretty damn atypical and everyone else on the left is still in OBERGEFELL FUCK YEAH mode so take as you will.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          We could conceivably end up in the position that, since nobody’s a perfect Kinsey 0 or 100% gender conforming, you either have to identify as some strain of LGBTQIA or you’re an evil bigot to be milkshaked

          Since there is already an “A” (I think for asexual?), maybe we’ll get a bizarro-world future where they add an “S” to the acronym ouroboros for those who focus their identity around being an Ally, to prevent friendly fire milkshaking

        • Plumber says:

          @BBA,
          I had to look up “Milkshaked”, and what I found makes me wonder how I avoided learning the term until now.

          Anyway, I’d say Halloween is my biggest peeve, it used to be little kids in cute costumes, but now there’s decorations and I see more adults dressed up, and some of it is legitimately scary – I really don’t want to see realistic looking “costumes” of knife wounds and the like (I also hate gruesome movie billboard advertising).

        • vV_Vv says:

          We could conceivably end up in the position that, since nobody’s a perfect Kinsey 0 or 100% gender conforming, you either have to identify as some strain of LGBTQIA or you’re an evil bigot to be milkshaked.

          Didn’t you get the last memo, comrade?

          There is this new sexual orientation called “greysexual”, which apparently means that you aren’t horny and eager to f*ck anything that moves all the time. Which is totally queer and special, and totally not how many straight people, and in particular most women, are.

          And if it sounds suspiciously similar to the failed orientation “demisexual” or its snobby cousin “sapiosexual”, never mind.

          Straight is the new degenerate.

          • DeWitt says:

            Didn’t you get the last memo, comrade?

            Did you get the one about charitability? Stop that.

          • Nick says:

            Wait, what happened to demisexual? Is it just that the name didn’t catch on, or was there pushback?

          • vV_Vv says:

            I think “demisexual” just didn’t catch on so people are trying again with “greysexual”.

            I didn’t mean to be so snarky, but I just wanted to note that in woke circles there is so much pressure to identify as some type of queer or another, that even people with a straight, vanilla sexuality try to invent new sexual orientations to fit in.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @vV_Vv: I feel bad for these people and wonder why they don’t just leave the woke tribe. Are there just no other viable social circles in their cities?

          • Nick says:

            @Le Maistre Chat
            They come in agreeing with the politics; the pressure to fit in by finding oneself an obscure sexuality comes later. If alternative social groups don’t fit the politics, that makes it harder to move to them.

            I’ve seen this happen in realtime to friends, and it seems to me that any transition would need to be motivated by something major. It’s all the entertainment these friends consume, all the news, most of their friends… it’s not easy to leave that, for all the obvious reasons.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Are there just no other viable social circles in their cities?

            Woke culture is mainstream. Didn’t you notice the rainbows this month? They are everywhere, it’s like Santa for Christmas.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @vV_Vv:

            Woke culture is mainstream. Didn’t you notice the rainbows this month? They are everywhere, it’s like Santa for Christmas.

            OK, so what can be done to fix this problem?

          • acymetric says:

            I think pressure might be the wrong term for the general explanation. I can’t figure out what the right term is. It does seem adjacent to peer pressure, but it also seems a bit different.

          • Nick says:

            I think pressure might be the wrong term for the general explanation. I can’t figure out what the right term is. It does seem adjacent to peer pressure, but it also seems a bit different.

            My impression is that it’s from within, so to speak, not from without, so yeah, it’s not the same thing as peer pressure. I imagine it’s a bit like if you became an evangelical Christian in like high school and then felt you needed a Conversion Story or something.

          • Matt M says:

            I mean you might also consider that for a decent amount of woke people, being woke is treated not as “just one of many social groups and lifestyles a person might choose” but more as “the basic minimum requirements for being considered a morally decent human being.”

            If you believe that, even a little bit, renouncing it is going to be much much harder than say, switching sports team allegiances or adopting a new hobby or something like that…

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Matt M:

            I mean you might also consider that for a decent amount of woke people, being woke is treated not as “just one of many social groups and lifestyles a person might choose” but more as “the basic minimum requirements for being considered a morally decent human being.”

            If you believe that, even a little bit, renouncing it is going to be much much harder than say, switching sports team allegiances or adopting a new hobby or something like that…

            I understand that, but nobody believed this stuff a few decades ago, so it must be a social construct. How can things be changed so people don’t get stuck in these harmful thought-canals too deep to climb out of? Right-wingers getting smart enough to take over the universities and Hollywood?

          • dick says:

            What’s harmful about coining a term for your sexuality?

          • acymetric says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            Cynical/pessimistic answer? You can’t, because people have been doing it way longer than the current trend, the trends are just different (and will be different again some time in the future). People want to fit in, and will do weird, maybe even harmful stuff to do it. Nothing new, and not something unique to current movements.

          • acymetric says:

            @dick

            I would say there isn’t anything harmful about it on its face, but that there is (or can be) a sense of self-victimization that comes along with it that can be harmful (which, again, is not unique to this particular trend or time period).

            I don’t really feel equipped to do so, but I think understanding this kind of thing requires stepping up a level and looking more generally at social behavior and not specifically at this specific example of fitting in or defining one’s identity.

            I will agree with the point someone made upthread…sapiosexual always struck me as mostly pretentious.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @dick:

            What’s harmful about coining a term for your sexuality?

            The fact that “heterosexual” is put at the bottom of the status stack? MSM (Men who have Sex with Men) and people whose sexuality channels them toward elective surgery on their genitals shouldn’t be people’s role models for how to increase their status. The best role models for one’s sexuality are mommies and daddies who love each other very much, and when…

          • Plumber says:

            @Le Maistre Chat >

            @vV_Vv:

            Woke culture is mainstream. Didn’t you notice the rainbows this month? They are everywhere, it’s like Santa for Christmas.

            OK, so what can be done to fix this problem?

            The rent is too damn high!

            Repeal the economic conditions that make the mid-20th century style “nuclear family” long delayed or foregoed.

            Bring back “the family wage”, and make it easier to be a parent and spouse rather than a hipster.

            Have a third of the population be private industry unionized workers (like in 1955), instead of in-debt college graduates (like now).

            The percentage of unmarried adults was higher in the turn of the last century lower east side of Manhattan than the rest of the U.S.A., just as San Francisco today has children be the lowest percentage of it’s population ever on record.

            Too little space, too low wages, too long commutes.

            Subsidize married couples with children lots more, tax unmarried adults lots more, have less apartment tower warrens, have more single family homes close to jobs that allow one an income to live in them, and watch “traditional families” be the social norm again instead of atomized extended adolescence.

            More backyards and less coffee shops in other words, it’s no accident that the age American women first give birth is younger on average in cheaper areas, i.e. San Francisco, California vs. Zapata County, Texas.

            If you want 1950’s social mores, you might try recreating the economic conditions of then, I strongly suspect that neo-liberalist economics and social liberalism ascended together for a reason.

            More expensive and smaller homes = more hipsters.
            (And don’t given me any of that “Actually the average home newly built is larger than in 1970” claptrap, I can clearly see where rainbow flags are flying and what is being built there with my own eyes, Hell I’ve had jobs on crews building those tower warren apartments!).

            “Woke” is because of broke.

          • dick says:

            What’s harmful about coining a term for your sexuality?

            The fact that “heterosexual” is put at the bottom of the status stack?

            I don’t really know what that means. When gays were at the bottom, it meant getting beaten up a lot and living a life of fear. Are you getting beaten up for being straight?

            What it sounds like you’re complaining about is that being straight is uncool. It seems a lot like in the 90s, when black culture was ascendant and Arsenio was on TV and white people were complaining about feeling uncool. So, the straight kids inventing a novel term for their own sexuality in an attempt to be included in the newly-cool “sexual minority” group would be analagous to the white kids I knew who wore African medallions and told their parents they wanted to be rappers.

            The good news is, very few of them ended up turning black. So, it’s probably gonna work out okay. We’re barely a generation in to the “Let’s try not treating sexual minorities like absolute shit” experiment, and not everyone’s on board yet, so give it a little time.

          • Enkidum says:

            +1 to plumber and, uh, dick.

          • acymetric says:

            I’m not sure if I made my point very well, but I was basically trying to say what dick just said. I’m not sure the psychology behind all that is necessarily healthy, but it isn’t new or unusual.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            @Dick

            I think VV_VV is exaggerating. Yes, The pride stuff is pretty ubitquitous and that being straight is perceived as uncool. I don’t expect people will or can actually change who they find attractive nor do i anticipate political persecution of opposite sex attraction. That’s something of a red herring.

            But making certain lifestyles once seen as normative and to some degree necessary for civilization seem ‘uncool’ has negative long term ramifications, in my opinion.

            I suspect as plumber has argued that family formation is ultimately driven by economics, but whether people see it as worthwhile to build an economy around family formation is a matter of cultural priorities.

          • dick says:

            But making certain lifestyles once seen as normative and to some degree necessary for civilization seem ‘uncool’ has negative long term ramifications, in my opinion.

            I don’t know what that means, either. Are you concerned that queerness will become so hip that straight people will stop fucking?

          • acymetric says:

            If that should come the past, I will be happy to go against the grain on that one and pick up the slack…

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Are you concerned that queerness will become so hip that straight people will stop fucking?

            At the margins, basically yes. Especially for weird aspie types. Not so much that straight fucking becomes undesirable due to being unhip, but that the process for getting there gets even more unnavigable.

            Obviously not everybody, but it certainly raises the bar. Compare: kids with married parents still exist, and even are likely still a majority, but the proportion has certainly declined. Which is… less than optimal.

            Do note that this isn’t an issue with queerness existing – it’s specifically when woke glorification of “nobody’s sexuality is the same; nothing is normal” takes hold in high school/university culture.

          • Matt M says:

            Don’t the available statistics indicate that people basically have stopped… copulating?

            I suppose the “why” is still up for debate though.

          • acymetric says:

            @Matt M

            Have they? That would be surprising.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Don’t the available statistics indicate that people basically have stopped… copulating?

            Yes.
            “For most of the past three decades, 20-something men and women reported similar rates of sexlessness. But that has changed in recent years. Since 2008, the share of men younger than 30 reporting no sex has nearly tripled, to 28 percent. That’s a much steeper increase than the 8 percentage point increase reported among their female peers.”

            Correlation is not causation, of course, but still I don’t see how a culture where normal, reproductive sexuality is increasingly seen as “uncool” can be considered healthy.

            Natural selection at the memetic level will eventually take care of this, one way or the other, but it could cost us the Western civilization.

          • dick says:

            Correlation is not causation, of course, but still I don’t see how a culture where normal, reproductive sexuality is increasingly seen as “uncool” can be considered healthy.

            Natural selection at the memetic level will eventually take care of this, one way or the other, but it could cost us the Western civilization.

            Er, this doesn’t sound a little over-dramatic to you? Remember, we started this conversation with you complaining about straight kids inventing funny names for their sexuality in order to seem cool. That’s what’s endangering Western Civilization?

            If it’s that brittle, it was going to get fall apart anyway. And I don’t think it is. It survived ~1000 years of the meme “SEX FOR FUN IS BAD AND WILL GET YOU TORTURED FOR ALL ETERNITY” being loudly and explicitly broadcast at all levels of society and enforced with social exclusion, jail, and occasionally literal death squads. I feel like it will survive #StraightPeopleSuck trending on Twitter.

          • Randy M says:

            “For most of the past three decades, 20-something men and women reported similar rates of sexlessness. But that has changed in recent years. Since 2008, the share of men younger than 30 reporting no sex has nearly tripled, to 28 percent. That’s a much steeper increase than the 8 percentage point increase reported among their female peers.”

            Headline: Unexplained outbreak of honesty discovered.

            edit: Actually, reading more closely, that’s not right. Seems like either women have started having sex with each other or more women are having sex with the same men. So it’s indicative of a breakdown of monogamy–possibly related to a later marriage age.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Difference being that “sex for fun bad” was marginally reproductively useful (broadly unnecessary in the age of contraceptives, I’ll grant) and “heteronormative sex bad” is Shaker-style autogenocide.

            Luxury gay space communism kind of needs to master luxury and communism (i.e. technologically and culturally innovate beyond the need for families to propagate your society) before expanding to the others or else you get Great Filtered

          • acymetric says:

            @Randy M

            Taking the data at face value (I’m not sure that I’m inclined to), what it actually suggests is:

            Fewer men are having sex.
            Fewer women are having sex (but not by as much as men).

            Thus of the remaining men who are having sex, they are having sex with way more women on average and/or women are having way more sex with women. I don’t think an increase in lesbian sex can fully account for this, especially since I would expect that to apply to gay men as well.

          • Randy M says:

            @acymetric ;
            Fully agreed. In fact, if it looks like I didn’t say all that, I apologize for the lack of clarity.

          • Enkidum says:

            Speaking as someone who spends a lot of time with the younguns, I think very few of them would say that straight sex is uncool. They’re just busy, stressed, and tired. The fact that the gays are super trendy is not really here or there.

          • Randy M says:

            @Enkidum,
            In other words, it’s not what they’re learning in college, it’s the debt they leave the college with?

          • It survived ~1000 years of the meme “SEX FOR FUN IS BAD AND WILL GET YOU TORTURED FOR ALL ETERNITY” being loudly and explicitly broadcast at all levels of society and enforced with social exclusion, jail, and occasionally literal death squads

            I think that is a considerable exaggeration. Sex for pleasure within marriage was fine. The most effective form of contraception then available, interruptus, was disapproved of but, so far as I can tell, there was no serious enforcement of that disapproval.

            Sex outside of marriage was risky for women, pretty widely practiced and taken for granted for men, even if in theory disapproved of.

          • I doubt the reduction in sexual activity has much to do with normalizing homosexual relationships. There are other changes in the society that look like more plausible explanations, including the “making advances to a woman is sexual harassment and deserves punishment” meme and increasing disenchantment with casual sex as the ideal lifestyle.

          • BBA says:

            Speaking as the accidental instigator of this discussion: a fertility crisis wasn’t what I was getting at at all. I meant we’re heading to an equilibrium where most people are still functional monogamous heterosexuals but fly rainbow flags and identify as “bi” or “pan” or use different pronouns than the ones they would’ve in previous generations. Which strikes me as losing the plot, and irritating for those of us who’ll get seen as bigoted because we aren’t super-enthusiastic about Pride Month Century, but ultimately harmless.

            I personally don’t get super-enthusiastic about much of anything.

          • albatross11 says:

            BBA:

            +1

            I think this is basically right–trendiness or social contagion can convince people who are gay, trans, or bi to openly identify as such, and can convince people who in previous generations would have identified as straight to identify as nonbinary or genderfluid, or for people who are a little bisexual (occasionally attracted to the same sex but never enough to act on it) to self-identify as bi. But it probably can’t change actual sexual behavior all that much.

            I mean, we had centuries of heavy social pressure on gays that they should identify as straight and be sexually interested in members of the opposite sex. And sometimes, that even worked a little (closeted gay men sometimes married and even had a kid or two). But mostly, I think it didn’t work very well, because making someone find something they don’t want desirable is really, really hard. And the current rainbow-flags-everywhere trendy-complex-sexual-identity stuff is nowhere near as strong social pressure as the previous “If you’re a man who finds men sexy, you’re a dirty sick pervert who should be shunned, beaten up or killed and who will burn in hell if you act on those desires” kind of social pressure.

          • dick says:

            I think that is a considerable exaggeration.

            I see. And “straight is the new degenerate”? Or “the available statistics indicate that people basically have stopped… copulating”? Or “a culture where normal, reproductive sexuality is increasingly seen as “uncool” … could cost us the Western civilization”? Kind of selectively nit-picky, aren’t you?

          • vV_Vv says:

            Apropos of gay politics AND people who appropriate minority status for woke points, candidate Elizabeth Warren is proposing gay reparations.

            I’d make some reference to danegeld or jizya, but then people complain that I’m uncharitable and I exaggerate things.

          • dick says:

            Correct, we would. It’s a bill to return unjustly-collected taxes to married couples. If there was one thing I thought conservatives might not complain about…

          • acymetric says:

            I think framing it as “reparations” is bad politics for a number of reasons and using that terminology is going to end of rankling people on both ends of the political spectrum (for very different reasons), but the concept seems pretty legit.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Is Warren framing it as reparations? I can’t see any evidence for that.

          • dick says:

            I don’t think so. When I search “elizabeth warren gay reparations” I mainly see recognizably right-wing urls.

          • acymetric says:

            I honestly can’t tell if she ever used that word or not. I could just be inflammatory language being used by people opposed to it.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I think acymetric is correct. Following the links in those articles, I find the following statement:

            “The federal government forced legally married same-sex couples in Massachusetts to file as individuals and pay more in taxes for almost a decade,” Warren said in a statement. “We need to call out that discrimination and to make it right — Congress should pass the Refund Equality Act immediately.”

            If she said the R word, I would’ve expected a source such as the Washington Examiner to have found it. So this reads to me as manufactured outrage, as charged.

            Especially since this is just for Massachusetts. How many couples could there have been? A couple hundred? A few thousand dollars altogether? Warren probably spent more than that just talking about the bill.

          • albatross11 says:

            vV_Vv:

            So, it seems like the “gay reparations” bit is a smear applied to a pretty small and apparently sensible proposal to reemburse some folks who got slightly screwed over by the way the IRS processed their tax returns for a few years. Am I missing something? This is common as dirt for political rhetoric, but I wish we saw less of it here on SSC.

          • albatross11 says:

            dick:

            Yeah, this seems like the sort of thing you might be able to get the Rand Paul/Justin Amash type Republicans to support on general principles.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            Banned for one month

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Banned for one month

            Who?

          • Nornagest says:

            v V_V v (spaces added because you can’t speak a banned user’s name), according to the comments page. But yeah, I had to go check too.

      • rationalist_person says:

        Was the word “degeneracy” a part of your vernacular before or after you played – or were exposed to memes originating from – Fallout: New Vegas? I have a working theory that the term only rose to prominence because people discovered that they felt empowered when they LARPed as a member of Caesar’s Legion.

        I’m not sure exactly why you think you’re the one who gets to decide what does and does not qualify as “degeneracy”? The free market has clearly decided that LGBTQ+ identities are ripe for exploitation, which is the highest form of validation it can give.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Not sure really where to put this comment, but …

      This is another in a long lineage of threads that should put to rest the idea that the commentariat here is liberal/left/whatever.

      You just never get these ping-pongs of building outrage, disgust, and “me too” over any idea on the left side of the spectrum.

      • Enkidum says:

        I think Scott’s analysis of two surveys ago should have made you wary of making claims that the commentariat here is dominantly right-wing (which you haven’t yet made, but you seem to be edging in that direction). It’s just stuff like this sticks out like a sore thumb.

        At any rate, you’ve got several people pushing back against OP, and, I mean, OP is taking a Position-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named stance on My Little Fucking Pony…. surely there are more important battles to fight? I think half the discussion above is batshit nuts, but I’ve got better things to do with my time.

        And speaking as someone who’s at least as leftie as you, your last sentence is just fundamentally untrue. If you can’t see parallels to this in our movements, you’re being wilfully blind.

        EDIT: I think I was being unfair – you were talking about the commentariat here, in which case you’re right, there’s no left-wing equivalent to this.

        • DeWitt says:

          The surveys, as best I could remember, only contained questions about readership. Most people who read SSC don’t also comment.

          Your final point seems wrong to me. There’s plenty of spazzing out about shows and what have you leaning too left for some people’s tastes, and I’d dredge up the examples if the OT’s weren’t a hassle to navigate. Do you sincerely get the impression many people here complain about their entertainment being too right of wing instead?

          • Enkidum says:

            You’re right in your second paragraph – see my edit.

            I’m pretty sure the surveys included questions about frequency of commenting.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          @Enkidum:

          Yes, I was talking specifically about people who comment the most.

          And Scott did ask about frequency of commenting in the survey. I’m failing to remember who, but someone did the analysis recently, and the regular commenters skew as much to the right (or more so) than the readership skews left. This is especially true because some large chunk of the regular commenters identify as Social Democrat, i.e. these are Europeans. Many of those commenters are not actually taking left-wing positions, being more motivated by anti-SJ positions.

          ETA:

          At any rate, you’ve got several people pushing back against OP

          Yeah, go back and look through all of comments. There really aren’t many people pushing back. Hell, even BBA, who called out the “Divorce? We’re talking about divorce?” originally, said he thought divorce was “evil”.

          • Plumber says:

            @HeelBearCub,
            It was Dan L who sussed out the survey results.

            FWLIW, despite being an American, I chose “social democrat” as probably the closest label to describe my political leanings amongst the ones our host listed.

          • DeWitt says:

            Many of those commenters are not actually taking left-wing positions, being more motivated by anti-SJ positions.

            Excuse me?

            Social democrats lean anywhere from left to centrist on economical matters, depending on the person and where they live. The anti-SJ thing is a social matter, which, yeah, that’s not really something central to social democracy in the slightest.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @DeWitt:
            To clarify, I’m saying that many of them aren’t here to talk economic policy, not that they don’t have left wing economic positions.

          • acymetric says:

            I think there is confusion on the term Social Democrat (and I’m not sure which interpretation is correct). DeWitt appears to be aligning them with identity politics/SJ types, where I would have considered it more or less a synonym for Democratic Socialists which is how I think HeelBearCub is interpreting it, which is why it would make sense that they would have left-leaning economic views but not necessarily left leaning social views.

          • Enkidum says:

            Fair, apologies for misunderstanding/misrepresenting.

          • 10240 says:

            someone did the analysis recently, and the regular commenters skew as much to the right (or more so) than the readership skews left.

            Based on the charts Plumber linked, regular commenters seem to be roughly balanced, while the readership skews left. However, I find it quite possible that commenters who tend to comment about politics skew right. Many commenters rarely comment about politics; many tend to comment under blog posts but not in OTs.

      • Clutzy says:

        Wouldn’t you have to find some pop culture examples of something like:

        Handmaid’s Tale, but this isn’t dystopian at all.

        To get enraged about?

      • dick says:

        This is another in a long lineage of threads that should put to rest the idea that the commentariat here is liberal/left/whatever.

        A lot of the “X has been taken over by the Left, how dare they” comments here seem equivalent to “The world today is too left-wing for my tastes, with X being yet another example of that”.

        I think this is just how large societal changes happen, when you’re watching them in realtime. Like, the CW topics of the past, e.g. interracial marriage, look today like a simple thing you’re either “for” or “against”; but during the time they were transitioning from controversial to uncontroversial, there was a lot of nuance and fretting over each tiny step. So, someone here today saying, “Dammit, I was okay with gay characters in Adventure Time, but My Little Pony is going too far!” is analogous to someone a generation ago saying “Dammit, I was okay with interracial couples in the Sears catalog, but putting them on billboards is going too far!”.

      • Plumber says:

        @HeelBearCub,
        I recall that just a few Open Threads ago @John Schilling posted some number crunching of the last survey showing.that more of the readership leans left but more of frequent commenters lean right, which fits my impression at least.

        There’s far-left commenters like @citizencokane, from time-to-time but they’re seldom frequent commenters.

        @Conrad Honcho sometimes posts what seem to me to be “old left”-ish comments, but he’s clearly on the neo-populist right (as he’ll point out).

        @DavidFriedman argues for open borders, which these days is considered “Left”, but I’m pretty certain he’d feel insulted to be called a “Leftist”.

        Among frequent commenters @brad, and @Lady Jane argue for the “Left” sometimes (as I think I do as well), but I’d say you and @Guy in TN (who I haven’t seen any recent posts of lately) are about the only consistently center-left (U.S. “liberal”/”social democrat”-ish) frequent commenters that I notice.

        I hope you keep posting here.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          It wasn’t John who did the analysis. Blanking on who. It’s in an OT from about 2 or 3 weeks ago I think.

          Friedman is a Libertarian, close to anCap (anarcho-capitalist), if not all the way there. He holds positions consistent with that.

          Otherwise I’m just going to avoid generally commenting on individuals unless you think that would help clarify something for you.

          • Plumber says:

            @HeelBearCub,
            Found it!:

            https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/06/05/open-thread-129-25/#comment-759402

            It was @Dan L who did “some multivariate analyses”, that showed the difference in average political leanings between the readership (that answered the survey) and frequent commenters (that answered the survey).

          • quanta413 says:

            I thought David Friedman was practically the definition of an anarcho-capitalist. But I am not an expert.

          • sentientbeings says:

            @HeelBearCub

            Friedman is a Libertarian, close to anCap (anarcho-capitalist), if not all the way there.

            I am absolutely flabbergasted by this statement. Friedman is literally one of the two prototypical anarcho-capitalists.

            To paraphrase the other: It is no great crime to be ignorant of anarcho-capitalists, who are, after all, a peripheral group and one that most people consider to be personae non gratae. But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on them while remaining in this state of ignorance.

            If that statement sounds overly harsh, perhaps it’s because I’ve come too close to the original phrasing; its originator was overly inclined toward polemic, IMO. On the other hand, you have been reading, and responding forcefully, to DF’s comments here for years. Your error in this regard is surprising.

            (Aside: while I am a DF fanboy, I don’t think that has significant bearing on my interpretation here. The implicit reference to the source of my adapted statement might be evidence in that regard.)

      • BBA says:

        Since I was a bit subtle above, let me make myself clear: I support the LGBT rights movement. I think Obergefell was rightly decided and Masterpiece Cakeshop should just bake the damn cake. Calling it “degeneracy” is just as offensive as calling me a “Christ-killer” and everyone using that kind of language should knock it off.

        I may grouse a little bit about the month of ubiquitous rainbow flags from businesses that didn’t give two shits about the gay community ten years ago. And there are some ideas trickling into the mainstream from the fringes of queer theory departments that I can’t bring myself to agree with. But the country as a whole is in a much better place now than it was in the ’00s (to say nothing of earlier). I wouldn’t want to go back.

        Oh, and divorce is bad, but being trapped in a loveless or abusive marriage is so much worse, I can’t believe we’re even debating this.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          I wasn’t particularly trying to call out your or anyone else’s position, just noting how much of it was essentially agreeing with the premise.

          But I am surprised by your incredulity. This kind of conversation pops up frequently, IME.

          • BBA says:

            I’m not a partisan bomb-thrower by nature. If there’s some common ground I’ll try to latch onto it, if there’s no way to sidle into a conversation I’ll just keep my big mouth shut. Usually.

            There are many things that happen often that I remain incredulous of every damn time.

            I think we’re in violent agreement here.

          • j1000000 says:

            @HeelBearCub: Very subjective, but I’d agree that it does seem like high-frequency posters are more often very right than left. But in general, low-frequency commenters like me combine to post more than high-frequency people, and I tend to think most low-frequency people are somewhat like me — holding something like (American) centrist beliefs

          • Randy M says:

            Very subjective, but I’d agree that it does seem like high-frequency posters are more often very right than left.

            Doppler Effect predicts that posters will be further apart as their frequency increases.

          • My impression is that conservatives are less common than liberals. The reason the commentariat appears right is that “right” lumps together conservatives and libertarians, and there are a fair number of the latter.

          • albatross11 says:

            Also, there are a lot of people here who don’t fit all that neatly into the left/right spectrum.

        • Matt M says:

          Oh, and divorce is bad, but being trapped in a loveless or abusive marriage is so much worse, I can’t believe we’re even debating this.

          The relevant questions here I think are:

          1. Who’s fault is it that one becomes “trapped” in a subpar marriage?

          2. Who bears much of the burden of the negative consequence of divorce?

          If the answer to 1 is clearly and obviously “the parent” and the answer to 2 is clearly and obviously “the children” then I think there’s a strong argument that even if it’s net negative utility for the parent to stay in the marriage, they have an obligation to do so anyway, because leaving is essentially punishing your children due to your own mistake.

          • acymetric says:

            This assumes that a home with a subpar marriage is superior to divorced parents. I suppose it depends on how we parse “subpar” but the answer isn’t clear and definitive in favor of staying married.

          • JPNunez says:

            The kids will suffer more in a loveless marriage most of the time. The couple won’t be able to avoid fighting and being an asshole to each other.

          • baconbits9 says:

            @ JPNunez- do you have evidence for that claim?

          • ana53294 says:

            Unless the marriage is outright criminally abusive, in many cases, divorce will not lead to better outcomes.

            If the parents have a habit of plate-breaking shouting matches, wouldn’t they do the same with their next partner? But now instead of the parents, you introduce at least two additional step-parents who participate in those matches. And step parents have even less reason to not fight in front of the kids.

            I have seen miserable couples divorce, then the parents re-marry, they are happy for a couple of years, and they go to same old. With the additional shuttling of the kid between two homes. And you introduce step siblings, half siblings; reduce the economies of scale and add more mouths to feed, which means less money, too.

            Unless you fix the underlying issue, it is quite likely that patterns of behaviour and partner choice will repeat.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @JPNunez,

            Is your definition of a loveless but not abusive marriage equivalent to what researchers who study marriage call low-conflict marriages?

            Because that category, which makes up 80% of all divorced couples, are indistinguishable from non-divorced couples aside from the fact that they divorce. If you think that children in those families are better off if their parents divorce, you should logically support divorce in every marriage.

            Marriages have rough patches and, yes, parents sometimes fight. But the empirical evidence is clear that most couples who divorce are causing unnecessary harm to their children by breaking up their families over temporary problems.

          • Randy M says:

            The kids will suffer more in a loveless marriage most of the time.

            Source?

            The couple won’t be able to avoid fighting and being an asshole to each other.

            That might be true. But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t taking an evil option because they don’t bother taking the superior one.

            (edit: slow posting, not intentional dog-piling)

          • JPNunez says:

            But if people are indeed trapped in the marriage for the final good of their children, their utility will be even worse, and this may make for an even worse, more violent marriage. Just that the possibility of divorce existing makes for a less oppressive social environment. Think about Sun Tsu on fighting a cornered enemy vs fighting an enemy who can retreat.

            Stevenson and Wolfers 2006 found declining numbers of domestic violence, female suicide and intimate murder after unilateral divorce was introduced. Surely a divorced mother will lead to better outcomes than a dead one.

          • baconbits9 says:

            But if people are indeed trapped in the marriage for the final good of their children, their utility will be even worse, and this may make for an even worse, more violent marriage.

            No, not if the people choose to stay in the marriage for the children, that gives the marriage positive utility for them.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @JPNunez,

            Again, any instance of domestic violence automatically bumps you up to a high-conflict marriage. If a couple has serious enough problems that the woman is in any danger whatsoever of losing her life, she’s in a subset of a subset of marriages.

            We could cut the divorce rate by a factor of five and not even come close to touching these people.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Stevenson and Wolfers 2006 found declining numbers of domestic violence, female suicide and intimate murder after unilateral divorce was introduced. Surely a divorced mother will lead to better outcomes than a dead one.

            It’s not a 1:1 tradeoff. Are 100,000 divorced mothers better than 5 dead ones? (That’s the actual US murder rate, so they’re probably realistic tradeoff numbers).

          • Matt M says:

            Just that the possibility of divorce existing makes for a less oppressive social environment.

            I don’t favor making divorce illegal. Or even “completely and totally socially unacceptable in all cases.”

            I just feel like on the pendulum between “This is a bad thing always and everyone who does it should feel bad” and “This is just another decision among consenting adults like any other and who are YOU to judge how they choose to live their lives anyway” we’ve probably swung, as a society, too far towards the latter, and I believe a little bit of corrective action is necessary to remind people that divorce is a very bad outcome that people should make a huge amount of effort to avoid (and part of the avoison strategy definitely should be “be more careful about who you marry in the first place”)

          • dick says:

            Is your definition of a loveless but not abusive marriage equivalent to what researchers who study marriage call low-conflict marriages?

            Because that category, which makes up 80% of all divorced couples, are indistinguishable from non-divorced couples aside from the fact that they divorce.

            Something must be getting lost in translation here, because this seems tautological to the point of meaninglessness. What does it mean, beyond “we don’t know how to distinguish the marriages that will end in divorce from the ones that won’t”?

          • a loveless but not abusive marriage

            If reasonable people neither love each other nor hate each other, they should be able to work together–after all, there are lots of non-marital small teams that function without loving each other. There are certainly advantages to being married to someone you love who loves you, but I don’t see why it would be essential in order for a marriage to function.

          • acymetric says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I think the key question is whether that is a stable equilibrium over long periods of time. Co-habitation is can be hard hard even without the added stresses/pressures involved in a marriage or raising a child. There is a lot of room in between “love each other” and “hate each other” where potentially insurmountable problems can arise. I have a decent roommate, but if we ended up rooming together for the next 20 years due to some obligation I can’t say for sure that it wouldn’t come to blows at some point.

            Nabil mentions that 80% of divorces are “low-conflict” marriages at the time of divorce (the number I’ve seen is more like 50-60%, but I’ll grant 80% as it doesn’t change my point much). How would we test whether those marriages were likely to remain low-conflict?
            Having it as only two groups (low-conflict vs. high-conflict) doesn’t separate things out enough, IMO, as it seems to group great, good, tolerable, and bad but not terrible marriages all under “low-conflict”. How many of those low-conflict marriages that ended in divorce would have ended up as high-conflict if not for the divorce?

            If a marriage is trending towards high-conflict, is an amicable divorce/post divorce relationship better or worse than forcing it until it becomes an intolerable high-conflict marriage, at which point the split is contentious and the post-divorce relationship potentially adversarial?

          • Randy M says:

            Co-habitation can be hard even without the added stresses/pressures involved in a marriage

            If you mean cohabitation in the romantic sense, I’m not convinced marriage makes it any harder. The stability that comes from a long term commitment (… yeah, I know) allows for more mutual dependence and cooperation than an arrangement that either party can end at any time. On the other hand, it may also lead to taking the other for granted. Could go either way, but I’d lean towards expecting the enduring economic partnership to make life easier than harder.

            If a marriage is trending towards high-conflict, is an amicable divorce/post divorce relationship better or worse than forcing it until it becomes an intolerable high-conflict marriage, at which point the split is contentious and the post-divorce relationship potentially adversarial?

            Worse (or, rather, false dichotomy). Better is to take responsibility for your life, stop being inconsiderate of each other, and live up to your promises.
            It’s silly to assume all trends are linear.

          • Enkidum says:

            Something no one has mentioned here is that the majority of divorces are of childless couples. So some of the invective here seems misplaced, or at least grossly overstated.

            That being said, divorce often has negative consequences for children, and all things being equal, parents who can be civil to each other, even if they do not particularly like each other, have a very strong a priori reason to stay together.

            But that being said, I knew plenty of kids from divorced families and they mostly seemed all right. Poverty seems a much more directly bad thing for most kids, and I’m highly skeptical that most of those crusading against divorce have the same attitude to that.

          • acymetric says:

            @Randy M

            If you mean cohabitation in the romantic sense, I’m not convinced marriage makes it any harder.

            No, I just mean in the “living under one roof” sense. My response was to a line of conversation suggesting that loveless but low-conflict married couples should be able to keep things together, presumably there isn’t a lot of romance in such a marriage (hence, loveless). There doesn’t need to be passionate, romantic style love but if a married couple aren’t at least “friends” with each other I’m not confident that the arrangement would be stable.

            Worse (or, rather, false dichotomy). Better is to take responsibility for your life, stop being inconsiderate of each other, and live up to your promises.

            If the solution is “everyone should be good people” I agree that would be best, but I’m not sure we should bank on that. If the contention is that every (non-abusive) marriage can be saved, I would suggest that is probably overly optimistic even though the world would certainly be better if it were true.

          • Randy M says:

            But that being said, I knew plenty of kids from divorced families and they mostly seemed all right. Poverty seems a much more directly bad thing for most kids, and I’m highly skeptical that most of those crusading against divorce have the same attitude to that.

            Depends on the poverty. Kids don’t need two cars, or meals out, or electronics to have a good childhood. But if you are living out of your car, you are a pretty inconsiderate jerk to be conceiving kids.
            But marriage does mitigate that kind of poverty by putting two adults into the family prior to children arriving. That’s part of the reason why divorce is bad.

            Poverty and divorce each cover a wide range of experiences.

            If the solution is “everyone should be good people” I agree that would be best, but I’m not sure we should bank on that. If the contention is that every (non-abusive) marriage can be saved, I would suggest that is probably overly optimistic even though the world would certainly be better if it were true.

            The advice I’d give to people in a marriage “trending towards” high-conflict is very rarely going to be to end it, even if we know some of them will fail. Things worth doing are hard at points.
            This is assuming it’s not the case that one person is ceaselessly cruel, or cheating, or a wastrel, etc. But I’m with those who think these people can probably be identified beforehand.

          • JPNunez says:

            @Jaskologist.

            That’s innacurate; the divorce rate is 0.32% and is falling.

            That’s 320 divorced mothers per 5 murdered ones as per your comparison.

            The point is that in the extreme case, women would get murdered in a marriage they couldn’t escape from, but that doesn’t mean the rest were ok. Chances are there’s a whole spectrum of domestic violence before you get to a generic loveless but amiable marriage, and very little of that violence is justifiable to endure in name of the children, who probably receive part of that too.

          • Matt M says:

            Does “leaving” an abusive marriage actually make being murdered less likely?

            Anecdote time: I had an extended family member who was married to a violent drug dealer. The threat against this person was always “I’ll kill you if you leave,” and sure enough, there was never no actual attempt against their life… until after they left. Fortunately, the drug dealer was pretty incompetent and their attempt was a pretty big failure, and they’re now in jail for attempted murder. But, in terms of physical safety, my family member was far safer while staying with the person than after leaving them… (Granted, they are ultimately safest now that the person is in jail, but I’m not sure that “I’ll bet when he tries to kill me he doesn’t succeed” isn’t a bet most people would want to take…)

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Matt

            This is a fully general argument in favor of giving hostage-takers everything they want, is it not?

            E:

            And to respond to the thread, as a child of a single parent (the other one died, didn’t leave), I think the problems with divorce aren’t exactly overstated, but that the analysis is a bit misplaced. My problems were related to guilt and resentment, not a shortage of good childrearing. I find I have a lot more in common with other (pretty sensitive, IMO) people who felt unloved by (particularly one of) their parents, divorced or not, than I do with children of single (never married) parents who loved them.

            The things that damage kids worst IMO are:

            Abuse > the withdrawal of love > instability (in residence, living situation, friends, etc.) > domestic disharmony > mediocre parenting (in terms of teaching, passing down skills, engagement) >>> being raised by a single parent.

            By this reckoning, abuse and the withdrawal of love are good reasons for divorce (which introduces instability and domestic disharmony), which seems right to me. If the marriage requires the family to move around every 6 months, divorce may be a benefit for the kid. If the parents are fighting occasionally but still love each other and the kid and aren’t disrupting the home life when they fight, divorce is probably not a benefit to the kid.

          • Matt M says:

            I didn’t mean to imply that my anecdote suggests any particular behavior is or isn’t warranted.

            My question is genuine. I wonder about, in terms of “risk of murder”, whether “staying with an abusive spouse” or “attempting to leave an abusive spouse” is more risky. My general impression is that many abusive spouses do not respond to being left with a shrug and an “OK, I guess that’s the end of that!”

          • albatross11 says:

            The decision to get a divorce has substantial externalities, especially when kids are involved. We’d like prospective divorcees to take this into account, while still leaving the really horrible marriages where they’re getting beaten up or something.

          • albatross11 says:

            Enkidum:

            Yeah, in terms of harm-reduction and externalities, divorces where small kids are involved are much, much worse than divorces where either there are no kids or the kids are grown. A 19-year-old whose parents have just divorced is likely going to find the whole thing very upsetting, but probably won’t have his life turned upside down; a 9-year-old in the same situation will have his whole world shaken up in upsetting and scary ways.

            In terms of rules that lead to happy lives for most people, my guess is that there’d be more total well-being even among the childless adults if marriage was taken a lot more seriously, and if divorce was seen as a huge terrible step you only take if there are no other options. (You need both of those, because a really good way to end up getting a divorce is to get married on the spur of the moment. Marry in haste, repent at leisure.) But I don’t really know that for sure.

            One moral problem here is that both broken homes and miserable broken marriages are really bad things that we should want less of.

          • Nornagest says:

            Abuse > the withdrawal of love > instability (in residence, living situation, friends, etc.) > domestic disharmony > mediocre parenting (in terms of teaching, passing down skills, engagement) >>> being raised by a single parent.

            Even assuming that’s right, which I’m not certain of, being raised by a single parent materially increases the chances of everything else on the list: partly because single parents have less bandwidth for showing love, passing down skills, and negotiating resentment of parents or disharmony between siblings, partly because they have fewer resources to provide stability, and partly because, WRT abuse, there really is something to the evil stepparent trope.

        • albatross11 says:

          BBA:

          I’d say divorce was once so hard to get/socially frowned upon that too few people got them–people stayed in horrible marriages “for the children” or to stay respectable, and much human suffering resulted.

          Then, the pendulum swung. Divorce became very easy to get, and much less socially frowned upon. And the people in the horrible marriages mostly got out, but then so did a lot of people whp weren’t in horrible marriages, but were merely going through a hard period in their marriage, or got bored, or got involved with someone at work and decided to change partners, or whatever. And that did a lot of collateral damage to kids who were caught in the middle of that, as well as to people who got divorced and probably shouldn’t have done so, and to the broader society that got less stable families as a result.

          The pendulum seems to be swinging back the other way now, and that seems reasonable to me. While I don’t think all divorces are evil, I think divorce imposes a lot of externalities on others, especially on any kids involved, and I’d like to see it become more of a last resort than it is.

      • Matt M says:

        You just never get these ping-pongs of building outrage, disgust, and “me too” over any idea on the left side of the spectrum.

        Wasn’t there some mainstream/left magazine a few months back that decided to do a cover profile on the “average young white male”, and received so much pushback that they basically issued a public apology for daring to do such a reactionary thing?

        • acymetric says:

          I think HBC was referring to conversations on this site specifically, given that he was referring to the leanings of SSC commenters in the rest of his post.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        This is another in a long lineage of threads that should put to rest the idea that the commentariat here is liberal/left/whatever.

        I thought somebody did a comparison using post data (not survey data) to show that the commentariat leans left while the survey data shows the readership is much more left. That is, the commentariat is further right than the readership, but not overall right.

        You just never get these ping-pongs of building outrage, disgust, and “me too” over any idea on the left side of the spectrum.

        Any thread about Trump.

  3. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    So I’ve been on a Firefly binge recently, and the premature cancelation has left me kind of hungry for space westerns.

    What, if any, science fiction shows or movies do the denizens of SSC recommend with a western motif? It doesn’t have to be quite as literal as Firefly was, but it should be closer than Star Trek’s “wagon train to the stars” premise.

    • bullseye says:

      Closest thing I can think of is Cowboy Bebop. (“Cowboy” means bounty hunter in that series.)

      • LesHapablap says:

        Second Cowboy Bebop and The Expanse. Both are brilliant: Cowboy Bebop is more explicitly western.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        Cowboy Bebop and Trigun are both great choices.

        I’ve heard good things about The Expanse, but I haven’t watched it.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          The Expanse, at least what I watched of it (YMMV), runs into the problem of “however fucked you think things are, on the bright side they don’t get better”.

          That show is just relentlessly grim. I’m not sure I saw anyone ever make a decision or take an action that the show regarded as good or successful.

          That’s basically the opposite of pretty much every Western, even the fairly dark ones.

          • DarkTigger says:

            Until what point did you watch?
            Because while I do think that there is a lot of really grim dark stuff in there, there is also a lot of people saving the day by “doing the right thing”^(tm).

            And the end of the last series was literally uhznavgl trggvat npprf gb n fgryne tngr argjbex.

    • Nick says:

      Farscape is a space western too, but it’s also military sf and a comedy.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Aside from the first scene of the pilot and arguably a few minutes of Serenity, there really isn’t anything military in the series. The series explores the consequences of the war but since it’s firmly in the show’s past I wouldn’t really call it MilSF.

        That said, it would be interesting to see something like the Lost Cause IN SPACE! that Firefly had. It’s not hard to find stories with Civil War allegories but somehow Joss Whedon got away with telling a story about Space Confederates-turned-outlaw robbing interplanetary carpetbaggers and dodging the union star cavalry.

        • LHN says:

          He got away with it to the extent that he did (I saw a fair amount of carping) by explicitly writing out any hint of slavery or racial discrimination from the independents (when anyone is using people as tools, it’s the Core worlds and their loyalists) and underscoring that by making Zoe the other major visible veteran from Mal’s side.

          Granted, I liked it better in the show where both sides had reasonable adherents and the victorious government had good points (e.g., provision of emergency medical care) as well as bad, vs the film where they’re pretty much the Evil Empire.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            I got the impression that the Independents had plenty of “indenture”, “sharecrop”, and “debt peonage” style near-slavery, lots of violent blackmarket with a seasoning of “the big man with the town under his thumb”. And the Core had plenty of “surveillance state police state wage slave”, with a bunch of secret police, seasoned with “senate aristo”. And both sides had plenty of “nearly destitute personal servants to much wealthier masters”.

            That Mal thought the Doctor was transporting a sex slave in a hibernation case was portrayed as “enraging to Mal, but not actually socially surprising”. So yeah, that’s a point against the Core.

          • LHN says:

            I don’t think the politics of the rich guys holding people in debt peonage, etc. were ever clearly ex-Independent, even if that really should have been the case. While that might make sense given the historical analogy, Mal and crew were always on the side of the downtrodden and at odds with the guys with money and power. There was never (that I recall) a scene where one of them expects that as a former colonel (or whatever) in the lost cause he can of course expect Sergeant Reynolds’ support. (Let alone any de jure liberation of e.g., mudders by the Core Worlds that everyone’s systematically nullifying as far as they can.)

            The Core in the show was absolutely shot through with corruption, evil black projects, amoral corporations, and malign neglect of the frontier. But I didn’t think there was anything that suggested it was per se worse than, say, a contemporary western democracy at the time it was made. The really evil stuff was kill-all-the-witnesses secret and appeared to be unknown even to most people involved with the government (vs MPs being given a walkthrough in the film).

            Since the show was cut short, it may be that the state would have in fact been shown to be wholly corrupt in the end. But what I saw of the show’s version felt a lot more nuanced– even though the Feds were clearly our heroes’ antagonists (and kind of jerks) even when they weren’t actually bad, as in The Train Job.

      • Don_Flamingo says:

        Seconding Farscape.
        Farscape is great. When it’s not repetitive low-budget trash.
        Use this guide, skip liberally you’ll have an enjoyable time with it.
        http://kethinov.com/farscapeepisodes.php

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          Thanks for the guide, but I’ve already watched Farscape through a few times. It’s a really fun show although again I’d hesitate to call it a western.

    • Theodoric says:

      Guardians of the Galaxy (both films and the cartoon).

    • Atlas says:

      Maybe Westworld, if non-space science fiction counts?

      Cowboys and Aliens and Wild Wild West are both apparently widely reviled, but if you like the genre mashup enough perhaps you’d enjoy them. (I haven’t seen either one.)

      Also you could check out the TvTropes page on Space Westerns: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/SpaceWestern

      Also also, at sort of a tangent to the main question, Joss Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men was really, really frickin’ good, and it did involve space.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        You know I had honestly kind of forgotten that TVTropes existed. It’s been a long time since I actually fell down a trope-hole.

        Anyway it looks like Defiance and Outcasts both fit the general description. I’m leaning towards the latter but I’ll give both a fair shake.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        I really liked Cowboys and Aliens. It worked because it played its premise absolutely straight, made a better show of visual verasity than 99% of westerns, none of the (human) characters were “hollywood idiots”, in that they were all doing the best they could to live with their personal history and the knowledge and situations they had, AND many of them were even showing awareness of the tech-level role reversal they are facing.

      • Jiro says:

        Wild Wild West the old TV show is not reviled, however. There’s also Brisco County Jr. for a newer show that mixes Western and sci-fi elements.

        • Deiseach says:

          Oh, the old TV show is great! And the late Ross Martin is one of the few actors that convincingly pulled off “stick on a beard and a false nose as a disguise and you really can’t tell it’s the same guy”. Robert Conrad is also good as the charming, capable, and not-just-a-pretty-face secret agent.

          The movie was a total mess, though; they got the “initial mutual disdain and despising” down pat, but there was no chemistry between the leads and it never blossomed into “grudging respect becomes working partnership becomes buddy-buddy pair” and what they thought they were doing with Kenneth Branagh I have no idea (Ken must have been doing this as a “pay the rent” movie is the only sense I can make of it).

    • Well... says:

      “American Astronaut”, if I’m remembering the name correctly, is a bizarre space western musical.

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      The Expanse
      favorite show since Firefly. For very similar reasons.

      • bja009 says:

        I second this recommendation.

        Also the novels are quite entertaining, and it’s one of a very small set of cases where I didn’t find myself frustrated with the translation from novel to screen.

      • Incurian says:

        Agreed.

    • John Schilling says:

      What, if any, science fiction shows or movies do the denizens of SSC recommend with a western motif?

      Depends on what you mean by “western motif”. One of my least-favorite bits about Firefly was the bit where they took “western in space” to the point of having people ride around on horses and shoot at each other with six-guns and Winchesters in small towns with architecture and stock characters lifted straight from the fictionalized version of the Old West. None of that makes sense, and waving “they’re poor so they can’t afford fancy technology” doesn’t make it make sense, and I want to never see it again.

      If you’re just looking for Space as a possibly-final frontier and frontiers not usually being populated by elite paramilitary teams of society’s best and brightest, then The Expanse is where you need to go. Three seasons on SyFy before they realized they don’t really do science fiction any more, season four due on Amazon later this year. Does have the crew of misfits with a spaceship they can’t really afford to maintain, trying to keep flying while being stuck in the middle of events far bigger than themselves, but also puts some thought into how e.g. an asteroid miner’s drinking establishment will be a very different sort of low-rent place than a Deadwood saloon. Really, the invention and depiction of a distinct Belter culture, rather than Firefly’s “Space Chinese” and “Space Rednecks”, is one of the more pleasant surprises.

      Also, better long-term story arcs, and a more realistic depiction of space travel.

      And I’m pretty sure Amos Burton is a distant ancestor of Jayne Cobb. “Why do you have so many guns? The armory was on the way”.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Eh, I mean Firefly’s premise was a bit dumb but I’ve watched and enjoyed SF with much, much dumber premises. If Star Trek can be considered “smart” science fiction for throwing the word quantum in front of every third made-up science term, I’m inclined to cut Firefly slack for never answering the question of why the people fleeing “Earth-that-was” in interstellar spaceships brought along herds of cattle and horses.

        I will check out the Expanse though. I’ve heard good things about it before, and three recommendations in this subthread counts for a lot. I hadn’t really figured it was my thing based on what I had heard about the books, it sounded like the plot was centered around a murder mystery and a Big (not so) Dumb Object which displaced the more interesting-sounding Earth-Mars-Belt conflict.

        • Incurian says:

          You’re a biologist or something right? That fact may make The Expanse either much more interesting or much stupider depending on how good a job they did with their science.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            Yeah, I am.

            I would be very pleasantly surprised if the show has some plausible biology, but not having it isn’t a deal-breaker. Again, I’ve watched and enjoyed episodes of Star Trek where people “de-evolve” into spiders and iguanas. Bad science is only a problem if they take themselves too seriously.

          • Incurian says:

            It’s a rather serious show. I don’t know how plausible all the science is, but in general it may increase your enjoyment if you go in with the expectation that your disbelief may need to be suspended.

            Every de-evolution episode of Star Trek is terrible.

      • I didn’t like their whole “folksy” bit that they tried to play up. I’m not sure why but it never seemed believable to me.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Huh.

        I’ll just repeat what I said above, however well made The Expanse is, it doesn’t feel like a western to me, because everything the characters do seems to be fairly futile and meaningless. It’s just scene after scene of shit about to go bad, people trying to stop things going bad, and people failing to stop things going bad. Westerns embody the sense of agency that matters, even when it’s the grim kind of Western.

        But maybe that’s me. I stopped watching at some point into the second season because I was tired of waiting for something positive to happen.

    • AG says:

      Killjoys and Dark Matter are probably the recent shows most aping the Firefly mold, though both also incorporate more cyberpunk aesthetics, as well. There is no more frontier to run away to, space-corporatism is dominant.

      Dark Matter has a pretty poor first season, though, and ends on a cliffhanger. It has a larger core cast, and I quite enjoyed how creatively the writers plotted episodes so that most of them were subtly bottle episodes stuck on the ship.
      Killjoys just recently ended. It has a smaller core cast, and a little more competence porn.

      The “hey I recognize that actor” game is pretty fun for both shows, inundated as they are by regulars of the film-in-Canada genre show boom.

  4. Elliot says:

    Offering ~£60~ if anyone comes up with a good name for an app we’re developing: its purpose is to give people in the UK practical help accessing mental health treatment, and it also includes info on evidence-backed self-help advice; quizzes to see if you might benefit from help; and a daily reminder system to make the tasks manageable.

    The intended user is someone with mental health issues who isn’t currently receiving treatment, or doesn’t feel like they know how to help themselves. We hope it’ll be especially useful for those who are too depressed or anxious to get started on treatment.

    We were working with “Headstart”, but there were trademark issues. My favourite suggestions from last time I posted were Wellspring, Wellfinder, ReMind, WellBean. My mum came up with ‘Appy’ which might have legs. If anyone has any ideas, put them here. Thanks guys : )

    • Elliot says:

      Also: would anybody be interested in doing a very basic graphic design wireframe for the app in the next 7-8 days? Just things like font choices, colour schemes, etc. One chunk of my funding runs out in July, so I’m trying to spend some of it usefully before then. Can negotiate a decent fee.

      • Erusian says:

        I have access to graphic designers (though I’m not one myself). I know one in particular who might be interested. What were you thinking?

        • Elliot says:

          I’m after someone who can come up with some basic layout ideas for the app, some colour schemes and fonts, and maybe a placeholder logo. I have to submit expense claims in the first week of July, so they’d either have to finish and invoice me by the 1st, or we’d have to agree on a set number of hours and they’d invoice me for the work in advance (though I’m not certain the funding body will be cool with this, so the former is my preference). If anyone’s interested contact me at emckernon at gmail dot com! Thanks.

    • Erusian says:

      I vote WellBean or WellSpring. ReMind sounds like a reminder app and Wellfinder sounds like it’s for finding things.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Why don’t you guys poll people in your target audience or something? Like buy some banner ads and put up variants of a basic ad with a half-dozen different names, see which one gets the most engagement. I’m almost certain that would be cheaper than £60 and it would be an actual data-based approach.

      Unless you’re planning on selling this app to us, specifically, it seems like the SSC hivemind isn’t going to be able to give you the level of detailed information that you need here.

      • Elliot says:

        At the moment I’m just trying to come up with a good list of ideas and I have some OPM that runs out soon to burn, but something like that will be the next step.

    • Lambert says:

      I’d say Wellmind, but the NHS already has a mental health app called that.

      Are you expecting this to turn a profit? This sounds like it could be a rather difficult market in which to prevail.

      Either be better than all your competitors (including public and charitable efforts), or find a niche none of them can exploit.

      Coming back to the name, I’d suggest the Paul Graham solution of randomly pairing up relevant words until you find one you like.

      Edit: You’re not in Bristol or UWE, are you?

      • Elliot says:

        Nah, not expecting a profit. It seemed to me that there was a gap in care where people with mental illness really struggled to get started with treatment, and while helping my anxious friend get started it seemed like my role could be optimised easily.

        I’m in Manchester myself, though some of the team is in Bristol.

    • ManyCookies says:

      We were working with “Headstart”, but there were trademark issues.

      Damn it! That was my immediate idea, was so sure I was gonna win that 100 bucks. 🙁

      • Elliot says:

        Yeah, it would’ve been great :/ Alternatively I could alter the word “headstart” so that it’s visually, aurally and symbolically distinct to the current trademarks, but I’m not sure H34Dstrter” is gonna attract people.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      While I appreciate the invitation, and I contributed something last time you asked, I’d suggest that this be the last time you ask. More than three would be a bit spammy, and I believe you’re likely to see sharply diminishing returns starting this thread.

      • Elliot says:

        Agreed, I felt spammy this time. I’m trying to do as much as I can before this lump of funding runs out, which is why I’ve been posting so much recently. Thanks for your contribution last time!

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      @Elliot
      well it’s gotta have Cog in there somewhere. Everything fancy already does. CBT. CogMed…..
      But that sounds too much like cock. So perhaps not.
      It’s about unlearning learned helplessness. Framing it that way is wonderful, since unlearning seems more manageable than learning something.
      So…. UnHelpLess. A bit too close to UnHelpFul, though.
      UnlearnHelp? ULearnHelp. Help?…. No. Let’s go with something along “health”. And mental. But being called mental isn’t good either, especially in England.
      MentaLearn. Sounds like…. I meant to learn something. And didn’t. Cause reasons.

      ReMind is bad, cause it’s not a reminder app. WellBean? Sounds like the app is about beans. Wellfinder and Wellwater about….. finding a place to drink something. Though isn’t that what we all need? A place to rest? Ah yes.
      An Oasis! Health-Oasis. Nope. Not feeling this. Fuck water. Water is stupid. Who needs it?

      Look, when you are depressed your life is grey, dull and lacks lustre. So don’t call it something that sounds generic. Give it some color at least.
      Appy does have some of that covered, I can see why you like it. But it also sounds like what your mum would call the app. And she’d tell you to go to see a doctor. Which you obviously aren’t doing (by target group definition), so you don’t listen to your mum.
      It’s too cheesy in a mom kinda way. And your mum doesn’t understand what your problems are. Or you at least think she doesn’t, cause she’s a ridicolous person who’d call an app Appy!

      People who’d go for this app, they want to not feel condescended to. They want to take control of their lives, even if they are not sure what that means exactly. Independent-minded and somewhat cynical they are, otherwise they’d have gone to the doctor already. So emphasize reliance. Self-Rely! No, you don’t want to imply that that path of action is wise.
      So ignore all my suggestions above. Cause I just remembered that wonderful Monty Python-mini-sketch:
      “Are you nervy, irritable, depressed, tired of life? Keep it up!”
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aChRo7PrPQw
      Makes it light-hearted enough and very British. Radiates cheerful defiance to life’s hardship. Also reading “keep it up” in imperative form sounds absurd as well as a terrible idea. Which appeals to their darker self-destructive impulses. So that should elicit a dry chuckle (not like you can hope for much more, tough crowd those downers). You want to sell hope here.
      Can’t call it Upkeep, cause that’s already taken. Also sounds like way too much work. I don’t like KeepUp either. Cause they can’t keep up with their non-depressed peers. Or feel that way.
      But some variation of the phrase “keep it up” could work.
      QB-Up perhaps. With Q and B standing for some insane acronym.
      Quantitative, Behaviour or some nonsense like that. No, way too subtle.
      Just call the app:
      keepItUp
      No law against camel-case in the app-store (I hope). It’s light-hearted, but not completely unserious. And it’s fun to say.

      edit: just checked. On the Play and (Apple) Appstore “Keep it up” is taken. But by very small unsucessful games not updated in years. So they can be ignored or bought for a couple bucks.

      • Elliot says:

        Appy does have some of that covered, I can see why you like it. But it also sounds like what your mum would call the app.

        Haha. This was an entertaining and useful stream of consciousness. I think you identify well some of the ideas we want to hit. It’s tough because there’s no good and short synonym of mental health that isn’t cliche as fuck.

    • zqed says:

      Serious suggestions (edit – some o them already taken): MindSet, Sentiment.

      Non-serious suggestions (vaguely negative-sounding words that may nevertheless inspire someone to come up with a good one): WinSane, Madequate, Lunacease, Mentality.

    • a reader says:

      Name suggestions: Mens Sana, Saner, APPsy

      I might try the design, although I am still a beginner graphic designer and I have no real experience with app design, only with print and web (a little).

      If you like any of the color schemes of my menus here, I can try to adapt it for the app.

  5. Erusian says:

    Not an economist, but what do you want to comment about? The first paragraph is an obvious strawman (I don’t know of any economist that fatalistic) and I think most economists dislike rent-seeking.

  6. brad says:

    Are you looking for someone to explain the joke or …?

  7. Plumber says:

    I really want to see an economist comment on this please.

    • Plumber says:

      @Erusian >

      “Not an economist, but what do you want to comment about? The first paragraph is an obvious strawman (I don’t know of any economist that fatalistic) and I think most economists dislike rent-seeking”

      @brad >

      “Are you looking for someone to explain the joke or …?”

      I’m mostly curious if economists would find it close to true enough to laugh at it, or too inaccurate (maybe laughing at how wrong it is?).

      • I think both halves are wrong. Believing that one can explain much behavior by the logic of rational choice doesn’t prevent one from thinking badly of some people or being offended by others thinking badly of oneself. Economics is not, for example, inconsistent with sadism, but one can still disapprove of sadists.

        And I would expect any good economist to be willing to consider the possibility that some of his behavior is rent seeking.

        • Plumber says:

          @DavidFriedman,
          Thanks for the insight.

          Also, thanks very much for the link to a chapter of your Price Theory book in the last Open Thread.

    • Atlas says:

      I’m not an economist, but I am an economics major, and I’d like to think that I’ve spent enough time reading economics books/blogs/articles to have a decent general understanding of how economists think.

      It’s…not that funny, at least in my opinion? The economist’s initial position is a strawman, and the “economists think that rent-seeking is bad” punch line is kind of “the ocean is wet, news at 11.” And I’m not averse to jokes about economists at all; I think the oft-repeated “assume a can opener” one is quite funny and insightful.

      This comic is a good example of why I personally dislike webcomics in general. They seem to rely heavily on caricatures, cheap shots and shallow bumper-sticker insights. You know, now that I think about it, they remind me of a certain social media website…perhaps one that limits the amount of characters that you can you use…

      Also, while it could just be a coincidence, our host actually made a very similar joke a few years ago in this post: https://slatestarcodex.com/2015/10/07/contra-caplan-on-mental-illness/

      I think it was funnier when Scott told it because he made a less aggressive and long-winded caricature.

      • brad says:

        It didn’t strike me as especially mean-spirited. The nub of the joke is the strong negative connotation that’s attached to a phrase that sounds at first blush like innocuous technical jargon.

        And the red button part about tenure was a nod to the tendency to intellectual honesty.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          It didn’t strike me as especially mean-spirited.

          Me neither. It just came off as economics inside baseball.

          That said, maybe there needs to be an explain-smbc.com?

        • baconbits9 says:

          I think it would work better if the red button was the last panel where it goes ‘tenure is just a form of rent seeking’ with the economist choking the speaker.

    • J Mann says:

      IMHO:

      1) It’s true that economists tend to strongly disapprove of rent-seeking. I’d say this is because although economics is supposed to be a morality-agnostic scientific study, for almost all known public priorities, rent-seeking makes achieving those priorities harder.

      So an economist might feel that its not economics’ role to decide whether growth or equality is preferable, but only to measure and predict the trade-off, but no one except rent-seekers prefers a system with more rent-seeking.

      2) I don’t agree with the first part. Most economists are pretty easily insulted. (And “you’re bad at your job” seems to strike pretty deep for many academics, as it has professional consequences.)

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Contrary to what the first panel might lead you to think, economists use the word “because” the same way everyone else does– not as a way to introduce a non sequitur.

  8. edmundgennings says:

    What are people’s theories of moral progress? Most moderns seem to hold that our moral beliefs are far more correct than previous generations but I see no reason to think that. Our moral intuitions differ from our ancestors for a variety of reasons but there seems no inherent reason to think we are right and they were wrong. The most plausible accounts of moral progress that one could be certain was actually progress, advances in philosophy or divine revelation, are not how moral positions have changed. We may have improved by chance but we could have just as easily worsened.
    The Flynn effect would seem to give rise for some optimism if one held that average iq of a culture was positively correlated with the probability of its moral code matching the truth(a position I am deeply uncomfortable with), but even with that assumption the Flynn effect seems not to particularly be effecting the sorts of intelligence that would seem most relevant.
    One could make circular arguments along the lines of previous generations holding moral beliefs we now find abhorrent and so we can justly discount their other moral beliefs but had more regress happened, the same argument could be made.

    • Plumber says:

      @edmundgennings,
      In reading of the “bear-baiting” and lynching in the past one feels that people are more moral now, but I have my doubts.

      From reading Chaucer and Ovid I get the impression that people centuries ago were much the same as today, and I’ve seen posts by youngsters describing the 1980’s (and even the early 2000’s) as much less “tolerant”, but I remember people being much the same then as now, and if there’s been “moral progress” since then I haven’t noticed it.

      Put it this way: would you say someone from 1850 was likely to be less moral than someone from 1900?

      Compare what did humans do to each other from 1900 to 1950.

      • Enkidum says:

        It was commonplace when I grew up (the 80’s, in a fairly redneck area of Canada) to openly state that gay people deserved death, and I know quite a lot of gay people were justifiably scared of publicly acknowledging their preferences. This is no longer true. This seems like progress to me.

        That being said I think the idea that there’s a general trend towards improvement may be true with a very, very wide telescope, but does not apply at finer-grained scales, even on the order of decades, as your example of 1850-1900 and 1900-1950 show. I’m somewhat sympathetic to Pinker’s overall claims, despite his rather shoddy work on a lot of particulars, but only at a very high level.

        • Plumber says:

          @Enkidum,
          I’ll have to take your word about rural Canada, I was in High School in Berkeley, California in the 1980’s and “out” classmates were about one in ninety or so (only one was a good friend of mine, but more were acquaintances, my High School had over 3,000 students), and attitudes there and then seemed actually more blasé than today, both less celebratory and less hostile at once – no “pro” or “anti” ‘culture war’ (or so it seems judging by the viewpoint of teenage and young adult me, though I suspect that if the talk radio of the ’90e and the internet of today were available then the ’80’s would’ve seemed different).

          • Enkidum says:

            I mean, if there’s an epicentre of progressive culture, surely Berkeley has been it for many decades now? Even moreso than San Francisco, I would have thought. Never been, but that’s always been my impression.

            EDIT: And, while rural Canada may have been an outlier in the 80’s, the idea that gays were scum was hardly unusual pretty much anywhere in the world a few decades prior to that.

          • I can’t remember the idea that “gays were scum” circulating in my lifetime. I was much less aware of gays back in the sixties, but I remember one gay friend, I think pretty open, and one fellow student in college who I suspected was gay.

            That wasn’t Berkeley, but it was elite university environments (Harvard and Chicago).

            Of possible relevance to the general attitude … . My parents had a close female friend who I had known since I was a small child. She was divorced, with one adult son, lived with another woman and had done so for a long time. Looking back at it, I am reasonably certain that they were lesbians, but the possibility never occurred to me back when I knew her. If it occurred to my parents they didn’t mention it to me.

          • johan_larson says:

            I can’t remember the idea that “gays were scum” circulating in my lifetime.

            I was born in 1970, and in my high school not one student or teacher was openly gay. I once saw “AIDS: Kills fags dead” shirt, and some of the students, particularly the more working-class ones, were very hostile to homosexuals. Things seemed to be a bit more relaxed at the local university, which had an open club/association for gay students.

          • Enkidum says:

            I also saw the “Kills Fags Dead” thing many times, and had various experiences of greater or lesser horrifying-ness. As with “ironic” racism and similar things one might have encountered on Vice, 4Chan and the like a few decades later, the sincerity of these statements varied widely, with some people clearly making them just for the lulz, and others being completely open about their actual beliefs.

            If anyone is interested in more on this, I wrote a bit about the evolution of my own attitudes towards homosexuality (and 80’s hair metal) here, and suggested it is a form of moral progress.

            I guess the specifics will depend very much on geography, culture, and one’s immediate social circle. But I can promise you the atmosphere where I grew up was incredibly toxic, not that far removed from the kind of hate crimes one reads about in other cultures today. (I’m not gay, if that matters for interpretation.)

          • aristides says:

            I’ll add that in rural Florida 10 years ago F*g was still the insult of choice, and the one gay kid that was outed got bullied for it. I heard sermons preaching against homosexual activities as recently as 5 years ago in a church designed for college kids. My brother is only 5 years younger, and everything is different for him.

          • Rebecca Friedman says:

            I obviously don’t remember the sixties. But I have been reading old mysteries recently, and there is a British mystery, published 1927 in Britain and 1928 in America, which has two lesbian couples in it – one in backstory, presented very positively (but by implication – they are a pair of women living together, one of whom runs the household and one of whom runs a business, who are very fond of each other and seem to be functioning as a couple but are never explicitly specified to be lesbians; the subtext is loud, though) and the other in the present, presented much more negatively, largely due to the character of one of them – she’s a much less nice person than either member of the earlier couple, and is rather more enjoying being worshiped than actually fond of the other woman (that one’s closer to explicit; it isn’t the kind of book that talks about sex, but the younger woman talks about her love for the older woman, and they discuss settling down together like ). At least if you are paying attention, the message is certainly not clearly anti-gay; lesbians seem to be presented as people like any others. The author is not someone I would describe as liberal (she’s otherwise best known as a religious essayist and playwrite) but is certainly a scholar, university-educated in a time when that was less common. One more data point.

          • Enkidum says:

            @Rebecca Friedman – right, and there are plenty of coded gay stories going back a century or more (hell, The Decameron has a completely non-coded one). But there were also people talking about beating fags to death on a regular basis in my childhood without social penalty, and people are doing more than talking about it right now in numerous countries. To the extent that this is no longer socially acceptable, this is progress.

          • Plumber says:

            @Enkidum,

            I suppose my view is just skewed then as I personally have heard more bigoted comments in the last 19 years of the 21st century than I did in my 32 years in the 20th century so to me talk of “people were less tolerant until recently” just feels false as the opposite seems true, but that may just be because until I went down to work in San Jose in 2000 I seldom travelled far from my birthplace in Oakland, California. 

            But yeah to me the 21st century seems more  upfront bigoted than what I observed in the 20th. 

            Maybe that’s just do to my memory getting dimmer.

          • Lambert says:

            @Rebecca Friedman

            I wonder whether the dearth of men post-WWI made that sort of thing more socially-acceptable for a while.

          • John Schilling says:

            I wonder whether the dearth of men post-WWI made that sort of thing more socially-acceptable for a while.

            Tolerance for semi-closeted lesbian relationships seems to substantially predate WWI.

            As Rebecca notes, the tolerance may be conditional on discretion regarding the explicitly sexual nature of the relationship. And I would add that while people can argue about the boundaries of “sex”, erotic activities that don’t involve a penis on anyone’s part are much less likely to transmit STIs, very much less likely to result in babies of questionable paternity, and until recently wasn’t too likely to displace socially desirable baby-making sex. So all the reasons for a society to care about who is getting it on with whom, line up in favor of “maybe don’t care so much about this”.

          • Enkidum says:

            Plumber: huh, good point. I moved out of the country and have been in universities for well over a decade now, so likely am being biased in the other direction. I will say that anti-gay attitudes seem to be less prevalent among my kids’ friends, but they’re in a very different postal code from where I grew up (and that particular place is substantially gentrified now, so likely not a good test case either).

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      What are people’s theories of moral progress? Most moderns seem to hold that our moral beliefs are far more correct than previous generations but I see no reason to think that.

      I suspect this is zombie Hegelianism, so try to steelman Hegel for a reason?

      Our moral intuitions differ from our ancestors for a variety of reasons but there seems no inherent reason to think we are right and they were wrong.

      Moral foundations theory has been great for getting people to actually think about this.

      The most plausible accounts of moral progress that one could be certain was actually progress, advances in philosophy or divine revelation, are not how moral positions have changed. We may have improved by chance but we could have just as easily worsened.

      Advances in divine revelation is an intriguing possibility. Christianity better fits the moral intuitions of even non-Christian moderns than antique Paganism. The logical problem comes when “treating all religions and atheism equally” is treated as a moral advance.

      The Flynn effect would seem to give rise for some optimism if one held that average iq of a culture was positively correlated with the probability of its moral code matching the truth(a position I am deeply uncomfortable with), but even with that assumption the Flynn effect seems not to particularly be effecting the sorts of intelligence that would seem most relevant.

      Another intriguing possibility, especially if you go in for utilitarianism where the ability to calculate gain and harm for larger and larger numbers of entities with your high-IQ brain allows you to avoid more moral failings (but I think utilitarianism is an incoherent mess, so I get to escape any repugnant conclusions about the moral superiority of high-IQ people).

      • theredsheep says:

        Christianity fits the moral intuitions of moderns because those moral intuitions were informed by Christianity. 1700 years or so of cultural dominance does a lot to shape the language and assumptions involved.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Yes, exactly. Rejecting Christianity without rejecting its moral claims is silly, although such people make fine neighbors.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Rejecting Christianity without rejecting its moral claims is silly

            You’ll have to specify more, I think, given the numerous parallels between Christian and non- Christian moralities. This seems either tautological or false.

          • Nick says:

            To take the obvious example, Hoopyfreud, the Declaration of Independence says we’re endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, etc. Folks today who reject the existence of said creator but accept the existence of said rights have some philosophical work to do. Which is not to say some of them haven’t done it, but those who haven’t at least given the question serious thought deserve to be called silly.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Nick

            Agreed, but that’s incongruous with what Le Maistre Chat said. And it’s not like neo-Confucians are obligated to do any more heavy lifting with regard to justifying moral claims than Christians here.

          • Nick says:

            @Hoopyfreud
            If I understand you right: yes, LMC might mean that a non-Christian should have very different moral beliefs, and I didn’t consider that possibility. Incidentally, there’s a family of arguments with that conclusion I’ve heard from some Christians, basically as a reductio of atheism (“if you think murder is wrong, you’re a bad atheist!”), but I’m not sure I buy them, since I think there have been some pretty virtuous pagans who figured out a good bit of it. So maybe we actually agree.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Hoopyfreud: There’s a consensus morality, the morality C.S. Lewis tried to quantify as “Tao” in The Abolition of Man. Then there are special moral claims like “no one should marry their cousins” and “no one may own slaves.” People who reject Christianity knock the ground for the second set out from under themselves.

            It then gets more complicated if you keep thinking about it. Take utilitarianism: it can get you something similar to medieval Christianity, in that the most moral people are hard-working ascetics who generate utility for the needy. However, it runs aground on A) both the Blue tribe created by secularization and the Red remnant find some of your moral truth claims alien and repugnant, so they don’t become a consensus to build society around and B) it’s questionable how many people ever practice utilitarianism rather than just intellectually assenting.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            There are lots of specific moral claims that remain within consensus morality, such as “slavery bad.” You don’t need to be a Christian to believe that (and, as history shows, you don’t need to believe that to be a Christian). I think you’re missing something.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Hoopyfreud:

            There are lots of specific moral claims that remain within consensus morality, such as “slavery bad.”

            Then why did the Pagan Romans and all their predecessors back to the Sumerians and Egyptians keep slaves? Why is slavery legal under sharia, and fundamentalist Muslims will stick up for it against Middle Eastern law codes influenced by colonialism?
            So “slavery bad.” sure doesn’t look like a basic moral fact that every culture has grasped, the way they grasped basic members of the set “mathematical entities”.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            “slavery bad.” sure doesn’t look like a basic moral fact that every culture has grasped, the way they grasped basic members of the set “mathematical entities”.

            I didn’t say, “is an inevitable component of consensus morality,” I said, “remains a part of consensus morality.” Shit, it’s not like anti-slavery was a dominating part of Christendom’s consensus morality 300 years ago either (even if it was a component of many kinds of formal Christian morality). My point is that consensus morality is not predicated on a particular ideology, and that you shouldn’t predict that an abandonment of that ideology will result in an abandonment of particular moral claims. The relationship between dogma and consensus morality is not one-way.

      • edmundgennings says:

        My point with divine revelation is that someone in Rome in 700AD has a good reason to say where their(700 AD) moral judgements differs from those his ancestors in Rome in 1 AD we are right and they were wrong. If God took on flesh, taught moral truths and sent the Holy Ghost to lead his followers into all truth, then it makes sense that moral beliefs would be more accurate. One can question if Jesus is in fact God, but granting that improvements in the accuracy of moral beliefs makes sense. But someone in London in 2019 is not able to give an equivalent story for why contemporary moral beliefs are more likely to be correct than someone in London in 1318. (unless he is a rabidly anti-catholic liberal Anglican)

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Yes, that’s spot on. No one in 2019 London can coherently claim that mainstream 2019 morals represent progress over the past, but depending on our beliefs we might coherently point to some time in the past as representing moral progress over the deeper past (and then it got worse in our time).

    • quanta413 says:

      It seems to me a better terminology would be “moral evolution”. By analogy you could talk about the extinction of certain forms of morality, the speciation of one set of moral principles into two sets of moral principles etc.

      Although how morals replicate isn’t clear and why one set would win over another also often unclear. So maybe not a great analogy but not a terrible one.

      • edmundgennings says:

        But then we would have no reason to think that our moral beliefs were correct only selected for mematically or culturally.

        • quanta413 says:

          Yes. My answer to “Are my morals correct?” is “The question isn’t even well-defined if you don’t believe in some sort of supernatural lawgiver.”

          Morals are people’s description of what they believe are moral actions. If you try to justify morals with more morals it’s just turtles all the way down as you make more and more layers of morals. But there is no moral reason to believe the bottom layer is morally correct.

          However, you can give a non-moral reason why the bottom layer exists. One is “Because god says so”. Another is “morality is a description of what other hairless beach apes ought to do according to some set of hairless beach apes. Thus its substrate is biological and the bottom layer may change.”

          You can try to give reasons for the bottom layer like “self-interest”, but it seems unsatisfactory to me to skip the biological layer below. Although it’s still often useful to try to derive more complex moral rules from moral ideas that we think are more basic and approximately true. (EDIT: where true doesn’t mean something like Newton’s constant takes the value 6.674×10−11 m3⋅kg−1⋅s−2 in SI, but more something like “we all agree about this more basic idea.”)

          • 10240 says:

            However, you can give a non-moral reason why the bottom layer exists. One is “Because god says so”.

            That still involves the moral axiom that “something is moral if and only if it’s moral according to God”, from which everything else follows.

            That’s a non-trivial moral axiom, though I presume most Christians subscribe to it. Why is it non-obvious? Let’s say I simulate a world with sapient inhabitants. To them, I’m much like a God. I somehow communicate to them that it’s a moral imperative to whip themselves on every full moon. Those who don’t I send to a simulated hell. Is it actually immoral for them to not torture themselves? Most people would say no.

            Alternatively, it may be that Christians define morality to be whatever God said; then no axiom is needed. That would be substantially different from how atheists define morality: I presume most atheists who are moral cognitivists treat morality as some sort of metaphysical property of the world. If one defines morality as “whatever God says is moral”, it’s still not obvious why one should be angry when morality, under this definition, is violated; the fact that religious people tend to be angry at that suggests that some sort of axiom of “(God-given) morality = (feeling) good/bad (about something)” is still involved.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            The moral realist would say that morals are real things, and our beliefs about them are the result of our evolution in that context, just like our perceptions about the physical world, and that there is no a priori reason to suppose that our moral perceptions would be any less reliable than our perceptions of shape and sound.

            You don’t have to explain where morals come from for this narrative, any more than you have to explain where the physical world came from.

            My own feeling is that there is more disagreement across humans about moral perceptions than about physical perceptions, but when I have raised that objection myself, David Friedman has suggested (I if understand him correctly) that I am considering chunks of moral perception that are too large.

          • quanta413 says:

            @10240

            I fully agree it’s a nontrivial axiom. But in some sense it’s a very strong axiom if you believe in an interventionist God. Because if you’re bad, maybe you burn in hell forever or are reincarnated as a slug or whatever. There can be some appeal to awe or fear there to help encourage any behaviors that aren’t easy. I’ve never seen a purely atheist axiom for moral realism that was nearly as forceful.

            Let’s say I simulate a world with sapient inhabitants. To them, I’m much like a God. I somehow communicate to them that it’s a moral imperative to whip themselves on every full moon. Those who don’t I send to a simulated hell. Is it actually immoral for them to not torture themselves? Most people would say no.

            Sounds much like the classic question “Is it good because god loves it or does god love it because it is good?” I like your example of whipping on the full moon.

            I agree that would clash with most people’s intuitions. Some would just respond that there is no evidence that that is like their God though so what does it matter?

            If one defines morality as “whatever God says is moral”, it’s still not obvious why one should be angry when morality, under this definition, is violated; the fact that religious people tend to be angry at that suggests that some sort of axiom of “(God-given) morality = (feeling) good/bad (about something)” is still involved.

            Traditionally, part of the reason is that disobeying God leads to punishment. Almost everyone fears disease or natural disaster and not for moral reasons. In some cultures, the supposed target of God’s wrath is not just the rule-breaker but for their neighbors too.

            And if you believe that god(s) created humans, then it makes sense that to some extent intuition should align with what god wants. But not necessarily perfectly because of the devil or free will or something else.

          • albatross11 says:

            It could also be that there is such a thing as objective morality that doesn’t rely on God, and that God, being wholly good, follows that objective morality.

    • onyomi says:

      What I’d be interested to find would be a clear-cut case of what seems like moral progress without any associated improvement in living standards or technology.

      For example, we were talking about intuitions about when a fetus or baby counts as a “person” not too long ago (in some premodern cultures it would be at some point after birth, not immediately upon birth) and my view was that premodern people had similar intuitions to us about issues like the value of fetal/infant life or, indeed, slavery, but were prevented taking them as far as us by material exigencies.

      Related to the above examples about e.g. bear baiting (recall that some people still hold illegal dog fights in the US), it strikes me as a similar phenomenon: watching things fight is entertaining, but not when it’s perceived as cruel. Whether or not it seems cruel depends on how far you extend your empathy (and how deep–gladiatorial fights to the death seem cruel today, but not boxing or mma so much). How far you can afford to extend your empathy may be a function of material circumstances.

      Possible counter-example (but don’t know the relevant details about economy, technology, agricultural output etc. to determine if passes above criteria): Buddhist and Jainist development of idea of ahimsa c. 2500 years ago, at a time when living standards were probably pretty low by comparison to Elizabethan England or Spain at the height of bullfighting’s popularity.

      • edmundgennings says:

        The dramatic reduction in infanticide seems like a massive improvements that was not conditioned by any change in material circumstances despite it being potentially very costly.

    • Zephalinda says:

      Demonizing The Past as a hated outgroup is how modern industrial/technological consumer society functions. How else are you going to persuade people that it is very very important, not just in practical terms but for their psyche, status and identity, that they immediately purchase the new shiny version of this thing instead of keeping the one they already have from five years back?

      That, plus garden-variety self-serving bias (My society’s morals must be better, because duh, mine!) and attribution error (Look at all the cool stuff I have, it must be because I’m a smart, wonderful person with great morals!) pretty well account for the free-floating assumption of our own moral superiority over past eras, I think. But to try to actually defend that assumption seems like it’d be hard, given that the very premises for moral reasoning itself are part of what’s changed in modern society. Like, how can I argue that my squeamishness about bear-baiting makes me superior in utilitarian terms, when nobody from bear-baiting eras was a utilitarian?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Demonizing The Past as a hated outgroup is how modern industrial/technological consumer society functions. How else are you going to persuade people that it is very very important, not just in practical terms but for their psyche, status and identity, that they immediately purchase the new shiny version of this thing instead of keeping the one they already have from five years back?

        Progressivism = consumerism, which is very funny given their feelings toward Marxism.

    • brad says:

      Does this question boil down to “are any of you not moral relativists?”

      • I am not only skeptical of moral relativism, I am skeptical of the existence of moral relativists.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          Strictly speaking, I would consider myself a moral non-realist, but I’m not sure that the distinction is that meaningful. I’ll try to explain.

          Nobody has ever given me a quantity of Good (or Evil, for that matter) to hold in my hand and examine to find its various properties. Instead, I always encounter statements along the lines of “X is good/right” or “Y is evil/bad/wrong”.

          From this, I surmise that the speaker is not making a statement about independently existing properties of the external world, but rather espressing opinions about particular acts or circumstances.

          Now, I don’t consider such statements of opinion truth-apt (in other words, I see no reason to believe there is a way to determine whether they are true or false). What is indisputably true, however, is that the speaker holds (or pretends to hold) such opinions.

          The fun begins when we realize that if I were to bite the bullet and claim the moral relativist label, I am in no way obligated to accept opposing moral judgements as “just as correct” as my own. If I believe that morality is simply a matter of opinion, then cleary my opinion is most important – to me.

          I can therefore not only combine a relativist stance with a consistent ethical system as applies to me, but I can even make moral judgements about the actions and views of others.

          The only thing I must give up is the expectation that they will agree with me on everything, but that wasn’t ever on the table anyway.

          • Nick says:

            From this, I surmise that the speaker is not making a statement about independently existing properties of the external world, but rather espressing opinions about particular acts or circumstances.

            If you’re interested in a non-theistic counterargument, consider reading Philippa Foot’s book Natural Goodness.

            If I call a rosebush blooming with many flowers “healthy” or “thriving,” am I describing it or merely stating my opinion? It seems to me I’m doing the former; our notion of a rosebush covers its thriving or withering, but these descriptions are grounded in facts like whether the rosebush actually grows large or withers, whether it reproduces, whether it survives the winter, and so on. So “healthy” and “thriving” are normative properties, but properties of the rosebush all the same. And they’re no different from “good” or “bad” here, since we would call a healthy rosebush a good rosebush too.

            Some complications are introduced when we leap from plants to people, but arguing for the existence of this natural normativity is her book’s first task.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            So “healthy” and “thriving” are normative properties, but properties of the rosebush all the same. And they’re no different from “good” or “bad” here, since we would call a healthy rosebush a good rosebush too.

            Not quite.

            There’s an equivocation being introduced here between “healthy” and “good” that is unsupported and – frankly – unwarranted.

            To show this is the case, all we require is an example of a “healthy” or “thriving” plant that would not be typically considered “good” – say, kudzu.

            Of course, it is not impossible to consider the fact that kudzu is as invasive – and potentially damaging to ecosystems – as it is, “good”. Kudzu is certainly “good at what it does” – famously so.

            However, when we speak of morality there is not a mere hint of desirability (nay, obligation!) involved: thou shall X (it is good/right), thou shall not Y (it is evil/bad/wrong).

            I can imagine “thou shall spread like kudzu” being a commandment that finds much favour with kudzu, but not with all the other plants on the receiving end.

            ETA:
            The error here is mixing positive and normative statements. “Healthy” or “thriving” can be positive signifiers of observable properties, as you note. It’s when we start to assign desirability to specific values of said properties that the rot sets in.

          • Nick says:

            To show this is the case, all we require is an example of a “healthy” or “thriving” plant that would not be typically considered “good” – say, kudzu.

            Careful—I wasn’t very clear there, but I didn’t say good simpliciter, I said good rosebush. We’re not talking about what’s good or bad for humans, since a good rosebush will, after all, prick more than a few hands, or even what’s good or bad for ecosystems (though that’s a very worthy question in another context). I’d agree that kudzu taken out of its environment may well be bad for us or bad for its new ecosystem, but I don’t see how that makes it bad kudzu. Unless you’re suggesting that the kudzu is going to kill its ecosystem and thereby itself this way; then sure, it’s some very bad kudzu.

            Incidentally, I don’t think the question of fitness to environment applies much to humans, since we can make ourselves pretty well suited to any environment, at least if we don’t destroy it.

            However, when we speak of morality there is not a mere hint of desirability (nay, obligation!) involved: thou shall X (it is good/right), thou shall not Y (it is evil/bad/wrong).

            Humans have wills, unlike plants, so we can choose to do or not do things that contribute to our flourishing or not. On Foot’s view, obligation enters the picture where practical reason dictates only one reasonable course of action; in the case of our flourishing, that might well be a moral obligation*, but practical reason works just the same way for nonmoral matters. She considers an example in which a man has to get to the bank to deposit some money before his account gets an overdraft fee. Given that overdraft fees are bad, the only reasonable thing to do is to go to the bank and deposit the money. But other considerations may change the calculus: suppose he has a quite bad fever. In that case, the only reasonable thing to do is stay home: the fever getting worse would be much worse than a $30 fee. Once again, suppose the terms change: the fee is actually $3,000! Then the only reasonable thing to do is risk a higher fever; he can’t afford the $3,000. (Also, he should consider switching banks or monitoring his balance more closely.) Practical reason often, but doesn’t always, dictate one course of action ‘all things considered.’

            *This isn’t my own view, but I don’t think it makes a difference to this discussion.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Careful—I wasn’t very clear there, but I didn’t say good simpliciter, I said good rosebush.

            But that takes us straight out of a discussion about morality (and moral relativism) and on trip through the… ahem… daisies.

            On Foot’s view, obligation enters the picture where practical reason dictates only one reasonable course of action; in the case of our flourishing, that might well be a moral obligation*, but practical reason works just the same way for nonmoral matters.

            I have a lot of respect for Foot (if only for giving virtue ethics a much needed shot in the arm), but there simply ain’t no situation where “practical reason dictates only one reasonable course of action”. That requires a preordained teleology and even then there will usually be several ways of achieving any particular goal.

            Humans have wills, unlike plants, so we can choose to do or not do things that contribute to our flourishing or not.

            The moral problem arises pretty much from the outset when we consider the issue of “contribut[ing] to our flourishing or not”. Do we mean the flourishing of the human race in general or the flourishing of the individual human making the choice? What if the two teleologies conflict? What counts as flourishing anyway?

            Even materialistic thinkers (I’m thinking Epicurus or Mill) had to grapple with the issue that pure biological hedonism wasn’t the kind of moral compass they were willing to accept. Thus you get things like Mill’s “higher” and “lower” pleasures. What if someone considers sensual pleasures more… pleasurable than mental, moral, and aesthetic pleasures? J.S. Mill might disapprove, but he’s dead, so why should we care?

            To end the floral detour and hopefully get us back on track: once you have a goal, it is possible to determine what paths plausibly lead towards that goal and what paths don’t. Consequentialism is usually a good enough differentiator. However, neither it, nor any other means of reasoning about the means to a particular end, can inform us of what ends are to be pursued.

            Needless to say, morality is in the first place a question of ends.

          • Nick says:

            But that takes us straight out of a discussion about morality (and moral relativism) and on trip through the… ahem… daisies.

            Well of course! You started by claiming you’ve never seen any good or bad; that’s why I started with the rosebush example. Step one is to establish normativity exists at all. Step two is connecting what good and bad exists with the more specialized ways we use the terms, like moral good and evil.

            I’m a believer, anyway, in stopping to smell the roses.

            I have a lot of respect for Foot (if only for giving virtue ethics a much needed shot in the arm), but there simply ain’t no situation where “practical reason dictates only one reasonable course of action”. That requires a preordained teleology and even then there will usually be several ways of achieving any particular goal.

            I don’t follow you. Like, if the man needs to get to the bank and deposit the money, practical reason hasn’t dictated his precise means of travel, or route, or whether to adjust his mirrors before he starts the car or after; there is a range of means appropriate to achieving the end, yes. Even so, it would be irrational to choose a means inappropriate to achieving said end, and practical reason can very well dictate more specifically than “go to the bank”: if, say, it is at the other end of town and closes in half an hour, such that he can only get there by driving, then practical reason dictates that he should drive.

            What does any of that have to do with a “preordained teleology”? How is that not just how we reason about acting in everyday life?

            Do we mean the flourishing of the human race in general or the flourishing of the individual human making the choice? What if the two teleologies conflict? What counts as flourishing anyway?

            Foot begins with what she calls “Aristotelian necessities” or “norms,” facts like “Rabbits eat grass” that are not about all x nor just one or a group of x; they have a special logical form of their own. Foot distinguishes among these between teleological and non-teleological ones (the blue splotch on the head of a tit isn’t teleological, but the pattern on the tail of a peacock is), and suggests rather obscurely that the latter are related teleologically to “maintenance of life and reproduction,” I think is how she puts it (I don’t have the book handy). So these norms occur at the level of species, but they can concern the flourishing of an individual: to go back to the “Rabbits eat grass” example, it matters foremost to a particular rabbit’s flourishing whether it eats or not.

            That doesn’t tell you much on its own about how it works for humans, but for one thing, “Humans eat meat” sounds like a pretty good norm for us. Bite me, vegetarians. 😉 Foot suggests socialization as another human norm.

            A later chapter is devoted to explaining why in her view human goodness takes the form of virtues like honesty and practices like making and keeping promises, but to be honest I found it pretty obscure when I read it. I can take a look for you when I get home.

            To end the floral detour and hopefully get us back on track: once you have a goal, it is possible to determine what paths plausibly lead towards that goal and what paths don’t. Consequentialism is usually a good enough differentiator. However, neither it, nor any other means of reasoning about the means to a particular end, can inform us of what ends are to be pursued.

            Ends are important, yes. Practical reason isn’t the whole story, yes. I brought it up because you brought up why morality talks in terms of obligation, man. “No one should ever watch Star Trek Enterprise! Why are we watching Enterprise?!” “Well you wanted to watch Star Trek, and it’s the only one on, and we don’t have Netflix….” “Why are we talking about Netflix?! We should be talking about how no one should watch Enterprise!” 😛

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            You started by claiming you’ve never seen any good or bad; that’s why I started with the rosebush example. Step one is to establish normativity exists at all.

            “The rosebush is healthy” is not a normative statement. It is a positive statement equivalent to “predicates X, Y, Z about the rosebush are true”.

            “The rosebush ought to be healthy” is a normative statement.

            The two don’t mean the same thing. You’ll need a better example, ‘coz right now you’re failing at the first step. Equivocating between an “is” statement and an “ought” statement does not establish the objective existence of normative judgements. Surely you realize this?

            What does any of that have to do with a “preordained teleology”?

            The “preordained teleology” is the part when our man decides to go to the bank in the first place. You can’t simply gloss over that bit – not when morality is the topic. How we do things is the less interesting bit (but easier to reason about). What we’re choosing to do is the real focus.

            You’ll forgive me if I don’t address the longer section on Foot and Aristotle in greater detail, I hope, but I don’t think it currently helps to illuminate the main point. For one thing, the very notion of “Aristotelian necessities” is hard to square with evolution through natural selection. A statement like “rabbits eat grass” may be true of some (most?) rabbits, some (most?) of the time, but clearly cannot be true of all rabbits all of the time or species would be fixed (and we know they are not). We also know that species transitions are gradual, so you’re not going to get a population of killer, carnivorous rabbits in one fell swoop. Instead, you’ll have a gradual shift where a norm becomes untrue for an increasing number of your existing population (over generations), until it is replaced by a new norm.

            Ends are important, yes. Practical reason isn’t the whole story, yes. I brought it up because you brought up why morality talks in terms of obligation, man.

            And for good reason. When discussing morality, ends are the only thing that matters. Practical reason – understood as effective achievement of ends – is wholly neutral ethically. How I get to the bank, once I’ve decided to go there, is a morally neutral question.

            Unless we introduce additional ends that also must be met. If I, for example, want to minimize my carbon footprint en route, I can use practical reason to help me find solutions that meet both goals. However, once it is determined that both walking and riding a bicycle are equally good solutions as far as these two ends are concerned, the choice between the two becomes morally neutral.

            The only thing that made driving or not a morally significant choice was the introduction of an additional end which constrained the viable solution space.

            In short, what ends to pursue is the only interesting question. Everything else we’ve talked about so far is mostly a distraction, I’m afraid.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Faza

            When discussing morality, ends are the only thing that matters.

            This makes sense if you’re a reductive physicalist, but there’s a decent argument that will, if you’ll allow that to refer to the experience of consciousness, has moral valence. I can’t give you a quantity of self-actualization any more than I can give you a quantity of good, but I’m willing to state that self-actualization can be meaningfully said to be real, if only because it exists in my consciousness.

            I am in no way obligated to accept opposing moral judgements as “just as correct” as my own. If I believe that morality is simply a matter of opinion, then clearly my opinion is most important – to me.

            This is, of course, still true! I myself believe that you’re obligated to believe your own opinions to the precise extent that you feel them to be true, and that that’s quite morally good! But I don’t think that’s the same thing as relativism; certain features of morality seem to be implied by the nature of consciousness/”will” in ways that seem quite unescapable for non-p-zombies to me. Call that teleos if you want, but that doesn’t seem quite right to me, at least in the Aristotelian sense. It doesn’t imply a final cause or direction, but only a restriction of the possible actual states of consciousness to a subset of those we can imagine.

          • Nick says:

            I myself believe that you’re obligated to believe your own opinions to the precise extent that you feel them to be true, and that that’s quite morally good! But I don’t think that’s the same thing as relativism

            It’s definitely not the same thing as relativism, yes. You’re saying, more or less, that we have to follow our consciences to the extent we think it’s well formed. Some fascinating complications arise here, like what to do when you think your conscience may be ill formed, but those are neither here nor there: the point is that this is entirely compatible with the existence of objective morality, since morality remains the measure for how well-formed a conscience is.

            P.S. @Faza (TCM)
            Sorry for the delay! I wanted Foot’s book handy when I replied so I didn’t get her views wrong. So I started a reply to you but haven’t finished it yet. I will try to get it up soon.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Nick

            the point is that this is entirely compatible with the existence of objective morality, since morality remains the measure for how well-formed a conscience is

            On the contrary, the strength and assent of one’s conscience is the measure for morality! We have to follow our consciences until we become convinced that they are ill-formed, and then create for ourselves a new and truer conscience that we can more perfectly hew to.

            (I’m very, very sure you disagree with this, and I’m playing more the Nietzschean than I really am deep down, but I swear this is not a complete shitpost.)

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            @Hoopyfreud:
            Re ends, I would just like to make clear that I was talking primarily in the context of ends v. means, to address what Nick said on practical reason.

            I can’t give you a quantity of self-actualization any more than I can give you a quantity of good, but I’m willing to state that self-actualization can be meaningfully said to be real, if only because it exists in my consciousness.

            That’s an interesting angle. I feel compelled to point out that this, however, also means that Discworld or Middle Earth can be meaningfully said to be real (as ontologies, rather than literature), because we can have meaningful conversations about them (they exist in our shared consciousness). This need not be a problem.

            That said, it is not immediately clear how we get from the existence of mental states, to the objective existence of moral obligations – how we bridge the gap from “is” to “ought”, as it were.

            Certainly, I can believe that I ought to do something and that belief certainly exists, in the aforementioned sense (the predicate “Faza believes X”, where X is “Faza ought to do Y”, is truth-apt), but I can’t see a way to prove “Faza ought to believe that Faza ought to do Y” from that. I am capable of believing six impossible things before breakfast, I’ll have you know.

            certain features of morality seem to be implied by the nature of consciousness/”will” in ways that seem quite unescapable for non-p-zombies to me

            It doesn’t imply a final cause or direction, but only a restriction of the possible actual states of consciousness to a subset of those we can imagine

            I would love for you to elaborate on this.

            ETA:
            @Nick:

            Some fascinating complications arise here, like what to do when you think your conscience may be ill formed, but those are neither here nor there: the point is that this is entirely compatible with the existence of objective morality, since morality remains the measure for how well-formed a conscience is.

            I can’t help but think that obtaining a measurement may be an issue here.

        • HowardHolmes says:

          I’ll accept that challenge. Nothing is right or wrong. No one thinks anything is right or wrong. They merely pretend to do so for purposes of self promotion

          • 10240 says:

            That’s moral nihilism, while moral relativism holds that moral sentences are meaningful.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            “I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”

    • Atlas says:

      It’s definitely worth giving Pinker’s latest book, Enlightenment Now, a shout-out here.

      https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-enlightenment-is-working-1518191343

    • DinoNerd says:

      I fear that at a cultural scale, morals are like languages – change doesn’t lead to improvement. At best, it’s like evolution – the new morals (that survive) are better for their new environment than what they replace, which was suited to the environment where it developed.

      That said, our current morals are probably more suitable for large scale urban societies than most of their predecessors. They may also be better suited for other aspects of our environment – birth control; survival of most children to reproductive age; etc. etc.

      I have some fairly strong ideas of what is and isn’t right, but I know that in many cases the majority of those around me would disagree, and in other cases, the majority of those at some other time or place would disagree. That doesn’t make them right, but what I do at a personal level isn’t something I can enforce, or even effectively proselytize for – and sure isn’t going to be counted as either current morality or progress by those who disagree with me.

      People have various theories of what is right – some especially popular among rationalists – but I’ve yet to see a theory that didn’t soon wind up recommending things that violate my sense of “right” – and that of lots of others too.

      Our best hope is probably a lot of individual intuitions, based on experience, inborn tendencies, and how they were raised, with some layer of theory on top, whether that theory is utilitarianism or “follow what this religious leader says”. Those intuitions conflict, and hopefully the less harmful/more useful set of practices win out – in the long run at least. But stagnation isn’t going to work – not in a changing environment. and ideologies generally lead somewhere horrific, when not tempered with common sense – which would be another word for “individual intuitions, based on experience, inborn tendencies, and how they were raised”.

    • HarmlessFrog says:

      As far as I can see, there is a universal human morality – since all non-grossly-damaged humans share certain physical, biological and mental traits – which we have been developing for ages, but lately seems to have been increasingly discarded in favor of just doing what feels good.

      • Faza (TCM) says:

        I’m not sure how:

        there is a universal human morality – since all non-grossly-damaged humans share certain physical, biological and mental traits – which we have been developing for ages

        squares with:

        lately seems to have been increasingly discarded in favor of just doing what feels good

        If everyone continues “just doing what feels good” for long enough, won’t that essentially become an equivalent replacement for what you consider to be the universal human morality that’s been developed over ages?

        • Nick says:

          Not if “just doing what feels good” destroys the very conditions which enable it, like if these folks fail to reproduce, or fail to pass on their values, or fail to maintain the material conditions required for their lifestyles.

        • HarmlessFrog says:

          What Nick said.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          Not if “just doing what feels good” destroys the very conditions which enable it

          And if it doesn’t?

          • Nick says:

            I can’t speak for HarmlessFrog, but sure.

          • HarmlessFrog says:

            Theoretically, sure. That’s not what I’m seeing, though.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            @HarmlessFrog:
            The issue I wanted to point out – albeit in a roundabout sort of way – is that once you’ve proposed an evolutionary path to morality, by saying:

            As far as I can see, there is a universal human morality […] which we have been developing for ages

            you’ve pre-committed to morality changing in the future, because that’s what evolution is. In an evolutionary context, any strategy that works is good enough – right until it stops and isn’t any more. That means, among other things, that looking at what our ancestors considered moral isn’t a more sensible approach to moral decisions than looking at dinosaur fossils for body plans that will work today. The environment in which we function has changed.

            The deeper message is that you can’t get evolutionary and universal morality at the same time. Any morality that evolves cannot be universal because:
            1. Evolution means change – potentially to the complete opposite of the current state (at one time, bigger bodies win out, at other times, small bodies are the way to go – for example, because food became scarce),

            2. Evolution is driven by environment (including the other actors in your ecosystem) and therefore the optimum strategy will differ among the various environments you may find yourself in (a different body plan works for warm environments, a different one for cold).

            I’ve purposefully chosen easy to understand examples of biological evolution because we see it in action. However, the exact same considerations apply to an evolving morality, negating any claim of universality.

            On a more down-to-earth level, if “just doing what feels good” is currently a successful moral strategy, it is – in evolutionary terms – good.

          • HarmlessFrog says:

            @Faza (TCM)

            you’ve pre-committed to morality changing in the future, because that’s what evolution is.

            If we become, say, beings of pure energy, or some robotic form of life, or lose our sapience, or ascend out of the boundaries of time to some form of spiritual existence – then obviously, appropriate morality will have changed for us.

            In addition, the development I meant was in the sense of discovering principles, akin to learning the laws of physics, rather than constructing a code of law.

            In an evolutionary context, any strategy that works is good enough – right until it stops and isn’t any more. That means, among other things, that looking at what our ancestors considered moral isn’t a more sensible approach to moral decisions than looking at dinosaur fossils for body plans that will work today. The environment in which we function has changed.

            Ceasing to enforce the old moral code is an environmental change. Chicken, egg.

            The deeper message is that you can’t get evolutionary and universal morality at the same time. (…) the exact same considerations apply to an evolving morality, negating any claim of universality.

            I don’t agree. A moral system that takes into account the pertinent constitutions of the beings it governs can be universal. It would be silly to judge the actions of ants according to standards for humans, etc.

            On a more down-to-earth level, if “just doing what feels good” is currently a successful moral strategy, it is – in evolutionary terms – good.

            Quite the contrary, I think. It’s destroying everything. But there’s a lot to destroy, so I expect the whole shebang to continue for a while yet, unlike the folks suggesting that the collapse will come sometime soon.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            If we become, say, beings of pure energy, or some robotic form of life, or lose our sapience, or ascend out of the boundaries of time to some form of spiritual existence – then obviously, appropriate morality will have changed for us.

            It would be silly to judge the actions of ants according to standards for humans, etc.

            You can see that broad differences between existences can result in different moralities. We are on the same page.

            A moral system that takes into account the pertinent constitutions of the beings it governs can be universal.

            Differences don’t need to be broad.

            We know that ethical systems change over time. We also know that different ethical systems are present at the current time, separated by geography. Human biology hasn’t changed much over the (pre)history we are aware of, nor are there major biological differences between humans alive in various places today. When comparing ourselves to ants or putative “beings of pure energy”, differences between humans alive today round to zero, essentially.

            Clearly, there are numerous ethical systems compatible with our “pertinent constitution” as humans. We aren’t required to assume a universal system of ethics to explain how humans do things.

            Indeed, the development of varying ethics across both time and space suggests that lesser differences play a role when deciding what system of ethics actually succeeds in a given time and place. Plus, all the other bits (including blind luck), of course.

            In addition, the development I meant was in the sense of discovering principles, akin to learning the laws of physics, rather than constructing a code of law.

            Now that needs exploration and supporting evidence, because I am presently not in any way convinced that there are – or ever were – any pre-existing principles to discover.

            We can agree to disagree, of course. I’m the one who considers morality a matter of opinion, after all… 🙂

            Ceasing to enforce the old moral code is an environmental change.

            No disagreements there.

            Quite the contrary, I think. It’s destroying everything.

            Did the emergence of birds and mammals “destroy” the dinosaurs?* It’s a way of looking at it, I suppose. Is the fact that dinosaurs, as we define them, no longer exist a “bad” thing (morally speaking)? I don’t think so; I don’t think it’s a moral issue at all.

            If you’ve decided the preservation of dinosaurs (whatever subset of traditional morality you subscribe to) is a morally worthwhile goal (meta-ethics is also ethics), you are naturally going to be concerned about the possible extinction of dinosaurs.

            If, like me, you accept that there is no particular reason why dinosaurs ought to exist, their extinction is just a thing that happened – much like their emergence in the first place.

            Same thing with any particular moral code.

            ETA:
            * Just so we don’t get fixated on the whole impactor theory of dinosaur extinction: whatever happened across the K/T boundary, mammals and birds survived, dinosaurs didn’t. You don’t need major environmental disruptions to drive extinctions – they happen all the time, often because a new species emerges that outcompetes the incumbents.

          • HarmlessFrog says:

            Clearly, there are numerous ethical systems compatible with our “pertinent constitution” as humans.

            More like: There are numerous ethical systems which imperfectly attempt to grasp at the universal one.

            Now that needs exploration and supporting evidence, because I am presently not in any way convinced that there are – or ever were – any pre-existing principles to discover.

            Why live?

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Why live?

            Now that’s a human tendency that never ceases to make me wonder: why is it so important to everyone for there to be some overarching purpose?

            My personal approach is this: I’m alive because that’s, you guessed it, a thing that happened. There was a time I was not, and there will come a time when I will be no more. There’s nothing particularly special about either one of these cases. They are completely irrelevant to the overwhelming majority of all people ever to have lived, to say nothing of everyone else (i.e. not people). I might care – then again, I might not, either (I certainly won’t care once I’m dead; there’ll be nobody to care).

    • g says:

      Here are some things one can coherently say. (I am not claiming that any instance of them is actually right.)

      “Typical contemporary moral values lead to less human suffering than those of 200 years ago.” (Whether “less human suffering” is good or bad is a question of values, but which of two moral systems more effectively minimizes human suffering is a question of fact, albeit probably a difficult one. You might want to specify whose suffering too, since what entities count as human may be a value-laden question too. Obviously “suffering” is not the only thing you could do this with, though it’s one of the more likely candidates.)

      “If you look carefully at moral values from 200 years back, you see that they imply that human suffering is tremendously important, but that in practice attempting to follow those values led to a lot of human suffering. Typical contemporary moral values do better by that metric.” (If system X does better than system Y even according to system Y, rightly understood, then that seems like it might count as progress. Though of course you should be careful about whether followers of X really rightly understand Y, and you should also check whether it happens that Y is better at attaining X’s values as well as the other way around.)

      “Typical contemporary moral values are better than those of 200 years ago, in my view and also that of almost everyone currently alive.” (Circular, for sure, but that doesn’t necessarily matter. Silly example: suppose someone comes along with a time machine and offers to place me in any period of human history up to and including the present. If I say “All earlier periods’ morals are repugnant to me, so I’ll stay here” then I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.)

      These are all things most likely to be said by moral nonrealists rather than moral realists. A moral realist is more likely to claim simply that today’s values are better, or worse, than those of a previous time. Moral realism often goes along with religious commitment; religious moral realists who feel that we’re improving morally might say things like “humanity is gradually understanding the will of God better” or “the Holy Spirit is working in people’s hearts to improve our ethics”; I can’t agree that it wouldn’t be an instance of “how moral positions have changed” if, e.g., people used to think that slavery was right and proper but the gods gradually nudged us until now almost no one thinks that.

      Here’s another sort of moral realist position that claims there’s real moral progress. “Utilitarianism is the truth about morality. This wasn’t recognized until fairly recently, but ever since Bentham, Mill, etc., it’s had increasing influence on how people think about right and wrong, as a result of which moral positions have shifted in the right direction. Most people are still not actual utiliarians; if utilitarianism continues to have increasing influence then that will mean continuing moral progress; if not, not.”

      (For my part: I’m a moral nonrealist and a roughly preference-utilitarian consequentialist. I think, but not very confidently, that typical present-day values do a better job of giving people what they want than typical past ones. I do think this is partly because utilitarianism has had increasing influence over time. I haven’t seriously tried to put together an argument that present moral systems do a better job of attaining the real goals of past moral systems than those systems did, and suspect it isn’t true. I do think that typical present-day values are more to my taste than typical older ones, unsurprisingly.)

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Moral progress is made when more people are afforded the opportunity to fulfill their ambitions. Moral progress can therefore logically be made by increasing people’s ability to attempt to fulfill ambitions or by decreasing the scope of ambitions that people have. The degree to which the second option can be practically accomplished is dubious IMO.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        Moral progress is made when more people are afforded the opportunity to fulfill their ambitions.

        I’m afraid I don’t see the relevance of the latter to the former.

        Edited: Sorry, I had gotten too deep in the thread and missed that your comment is your answer to the top question: What are people’s theories of moral progress?

      • Aapje says:

        @Hoopyfreud

        What about the creation of ambitions?

        Isn’t it also moral progress when more people have the ambition to do good for others and themselves?

    • J Mann says:

      What are people’s theories of moral progress? Most moderns seem to hold that our moral beliefs are far more correct than previous generations but I see no reason to think that. Our moral intuitions differ from our ancestors for a variety of reasons but there seems no inherent reason to think we are right and they were wrong. The most plausible accounts of moral progress that one could be certain was actually progress, advances in philosophy or divine revelation, are not how moral positions have changed. We may have improved by chance but we could have just as easily worsened.

      1) Well, I tend to think that society is on average closer to my preferred morality in most respects now that it has been in the past, but I agree that I can’t justify my preferred morality other than to explain why I prefer it. (And I certainly can’t rule out that I prefer it because I grew up in the modern era.)

      2) More generally, I do think that modern society may be a little more advanced morally because:

      2.1) I believe we’re on average better informed about questions of fact.

      2.2) I believe we’re sufficiently richer that we are somewhat more insulated from questions of survival that often trump moral progress.

      Of course, even if 2.1 and .2 are true, I can’t prove that the morality of the better informed and more economically secure is “better” than their predecessors, but it might provide a somewhat consistent path of “progress.”

      • edmundgennings says:

        2.2 is interesting.
        2.1 seems likely to be trivial in most cases. “Is putting arsenic in someone’s water immoral?” Knowing that arsenic is poisonous is very relevant but hardly moral progress. There may be more interesting cases but the most interesting cases presuppose a commitment to some sort of natural law. If one holds to some form of natural law, advances in knowledge of the natural world could improve our knowledge of the ends of things and so provide not merely practical but even normative knowledge.

    • 10240 says:

      I. Morality is meaningless beyond feeling good or bad about people’s actions. It feels like there is an objective morality that’s an independent metaphysical property of the world, but there isn’t.

      What we feel good or bad about depends mainly on what we pick up from out parents and environment, and it may then be somewhat altered through reflection. From my perspective, people’s behavior has gradually gotten better the closer we get to the present (up to some point, and with some major downward spikes in the mid-20th century) as the moral views of the era in question get closer to mine. On the same token, from my point of view, the future will most likely get worse and worse, as it gets farther than today’s views. These are not absolute facts, but my own subjective opinions. Someone living in another era should put the peak in his time — or perhaps a few decades or rarely centuries in the past or the future, depending on how conservative or progressive his views are relative to his era.

      II. While I don’t think morality is a fact of the universe, and terminal values regarding what one feels good or bad about are not subject to rational reasoning, there are nevertheless arguments that may nudge one’s terminal values through an emotional, not-fully-logical process. And we more-or-less know all the arguments from the past and present for all moral views, contemporary and past ones, while people in the past haven’t heard the newer arguments. (Or at least philosophically educated people know arguments from the past; if some of them are really convincing, presumably some of them get convinced and disseminate the argument.) This introduces an objective time asymmetry into the change in moral views, a limitation to my symmetric description in I.

      E.g. it would probably be easier for someone from the present to convince someone from a slave society that slavery is wrong than to convince a contemporary person that slavery is OK. I don’t think this means that modern society is objectively better than the past since I don’t think there is an objective morality, but it does mean that someone exposed to all arguments up to present is more likely to favor the behavior of today’s society than most past ones.

      On the other hand, some questions seem to be pretty symmetric. E.g. pro-choice and pro-life people don’t seem to be convincing each other; and I suspect it wouldn’t be any easier to convince an ancient Spartan that throwing newborns from the Taygetos is wrong (especially in a society without safe abortion and pre-natal testing) than it would be for him to convince us that it’s OK, or for pro-life and pro-choice people to convince one another. It all depends on one’s upbringing.

      All in all, chances are the future will bring some changes in moral views that I’d today feel are wrong, but about which I could be convinced to feel they’re right; and other changes about which I couldn’t be convinced. The same would probably be true about e.g. someone from 1800 learning about the present.

  9. Don_Flamingo says:

    continuing the thread in “if only Turing was alive to see this”
    @C.F.Hollander
    yes, you are correct that the belief in creator God and belief in this world being a simulation are very similar.

    If there is a God that created the universe, then how can it not be likened to a “simulation”? It’s not the real thing. Whatever that God is made of is more real than we are.
    However there’s no implicit assumption in the simulation hypothesis that the God talks to us or is concerned with us. I’d say, that if the simulation hypothesis is true as well as the assumption that an advanced species would be simulating itself, that we might not even be the advanced species in question. Might even have been part of the simulation’s design, but are just an accidental byproduct and the simulated species of interest lives outside our observable universe entirely.
    (who knows what the simulators consider to be “Big Data” or how their world, even their physics look like)

    The assumption of:
    “Advanced species would simulate themselves, cause we’d totally do that, thus there’s more simulated species around than simulating ones” is a very different argument from the usual God-proofs (perhaps it isn’t, not super deep in that topic). And it is also one that’s unfalsifiable, but at least much more plausible.

    If the simulation hypothesis is correct/God or Gods exists, then I would be a little sad. For me, that just feels terribly random.
    If someone told me magic was real today and showed it to me, I would facepalm hard. I would cry out: “Seriously! This sim is that bloody cheap?!”

    There’s a certain elegance of our kind having sprung from bottom-up processes and in some way, there is no obvious ceiling in what we can become. With simulators/Gods in the mix, there is an end to the adventure in sight. And a too quick end to the unknown without the joy of much discovery ahead.
    Though some points to take heart in:
    There is no magic and/or whimsy in this simulation of ours. Our world is predictable to a very large degree in that it follows discoverable and consistent natural laws. So at least our simulation is somewhat coherent and not some stupid video game or toy. Perhaps then our simulators/creators are not interested in meddling with the creation and we’re just the equivalent of a bottled flask in which we try to find the origin of life on earth.
    Perhaps they are dead or we are long-forgotten and will never actually figure out, that we are simulated.
    Or perhaps again, the laws of the simulation is broken in far, far away places where the simulators meddle only with the things they actually are interested in. And we’ll just be decoration on the interesting alien planet’s night skies.

    Assuming that the Gods care about us, our little species in any way whatsoever specifically presupposes that the simulators are human and since we are so incredibly cool and complex, we must be getting a lot of their ultrahuman computing power.
    But since we do not know how the world of the simulators work, I think that’s an unwarranted assumption.

    Actually figuring out, whether this is merely a sim might not be possible if the sim is designed in such a way. I hope, we’ll never find evidence for it. If Gods exist then perhaps we will be lucky enough to never find out. And for what it’s worth, it might very well be a question that our Gods have to face as well.
    Who created the Gods, who created the Gods, who created the Gods…… doesn’t stop being a niggling question at any point perhaps.
    So in that sense the similarity between the God-hypothesis and the simulator-hypothesis ends. The simulation hypothesis does not assume that there exist all-knowing simulators, that can know themselves to be only creator, but not themselves be created.
    And for us it could be worse, anyway. Could be like Season 2 episode 6 of Rick & Morty.

  10. Plumber says:

    I may be alone here in finding:

    The Green New Deal is fracturing a critical base for Democrats: unions
    National labor leaders oppose the Green New Deal but some state unions endorse it. That’s a challenge for presidential contenders”

    interesting, but if anyone has comments about the story I’m curious.

    • Clutzy says:

      I think its simply a divide with unions that the Democratic party was destined to make. Only public sector unions are even mildly aligned in interest with their broad set of goals like universal healthcare, pre-K, and climate regulation.

      A working person, union or not, who is in those middle quintiles has other interests, mainly fostering stability in society.

  11. Jeremiah says:

    I used Scott’s posts on cultural evolution as a starting point for an examination of how to determine which traditions are important and which are inconsequential. If it’s going to take a long time to determine whether a tradition is important or not, and if for that reason, and others, reason isn’t very useful. I suggest four other criteria that might be useful in it’s place:

    1- The duration of the tradition. How long has it been around?
    2- The strength of enforcement for the tradition. How severe are the penalties for going against it?
    3- The frequency of the tradition among the various cultures. How widespread is it? Is it present in many different cultures?
    4- The domain of the tradition. Is the tradition related to something which could impact survival or reproduction?

    I then take these criteria and apply them to the recent revocation of the taboo against two people of the same sex marrying each other. With perhaps predictable results.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      If you want to parallel actual biology, why not just look at conservation on its own?

      If you break something important, you and any descendants you might have are less likely to survive. If this principle holds true for cultures the same way it does for biological organisms, we should expect the most important traditions to be passed down mostly intact while less vital ones rapidly change.

      It’s fairly straightforward to compute a conservation score for a nucleic acid or amino acid sequence, whereas determining how much a tradition is conserved seems more problematic. But it seems like the sort of thing that ought to be possible to do qualitatively based on anthropological study of different cultures with common cultural descent.

      • quanta413 says:

        I agree with Nabil on trying the criteria he suggests. It basically wraps (1) and (3) together and a measure of (1) and (3) implies a great deal about (4) if culture evolves in a manner similar to phenotypes.

        I think (2) strength of enforcement will give too many false negative signals. There may be no enforcement of a norm for a very long time if there’s no incentive for people to break it. When incentives suddenly change, tailspin.

        (4) is a better criteria than (2) except that most traditions have no direct effect on survival or reproduction. It’s too easy to game something as being irrelevant or not irrelevant to survival and reproduction because we don’t have good ways of measuring. It’s not even clear to me that just because something doesn’t affect survival and reproduction means it’s not going to matter to almost every human in a massively negative way if it changes.

        • Jeremiah says:

          As far as your criticisms of (4) I think you make some good points, and certainly there could be something that looks like it has no relationship to survival which ends up being super important, but I still have a sense that there is some value to giving additional weight to a tradition which directly speaks to, say pregnancy.

          To return to the manioc example, if start vomiting, you’d at least start by looking at traditions related to food and food preparation.

      • Jeremiah says:

        That is definitely an interesting idea. Far outside of my resources, but I’d love to see it done (or get pointed to where it was done.)

    • JPNunez says:

      Slavery:

      1) Millenia long.
      2) Normally escaped slaves would be punished by death; Crassus famously crucified every slave participating in the Spartacus revolt.
      3) It’s very common.
      4) Sure: The Confederacy decided slavery was so vital to their survival, they went to war for it. See again the Spartacus rebellion.

      Seems your criteria need work.

      • quanta413 says:

        It’s actually expected for this reasoning method to sometimes fail drastically if cultural evolution is like genetic evolution. But to really test it, it would have to be found to fail fairly rarely when applied to many different traditions. (EDIT: makes it a rather hard method to test)

        Most important things will be stable for a long time, so the same criteria he’s trying to adapt will sometimes fail spectacularly as applied to biology. Like genetic mutations, most novel traditions should fail or be harmful, but a few should sweep all before them because they’re a great improvement.

        Notably, you can trace a drop in slavery across certain cultures over ~1 millenia though. So that tradition changed more slowly than it looks. I think it might have died earlier if not for the somewhat unique conditions when Europeans invaded the Americas. Slavery had already dropped off a lot in Europe at the time.

      • DinoNerd says:

        Hmmm – I just presumed the OP thought slavery was a good idea – provided other people are the slaves 🙁

        • Radu Floricica says:

          It could also be hawks and doves. If everybody else is keeping slaves, it’s cultural+genetic suicide not to. What to do with defeated enemies? Leave them to recover, so they can come back and fight you again? Kill them wastefully, and thus make them fight even harder?

          You can try extracting tribute, but that’s just slavery with extra steps, and it’s riskier.

      • Jeremiah says:

        I think it’s going to be hard to talk about slavery without it getting messy, but remember that cultural evolution doesn’t care about morality, it cares about survival. The question is not whether a given tradition was good, but whether it might have increased survival or reproduction. As I said I think this is dangerous territory to wade into just because of how radioactive it, but one could certainly see where being submissive to slavery (i.e. accepting enslavement rather than committing mass suicide or fighting to the last man) might have survival utility.

        I should also say I appreciate you bringing it up, this is the kind of thing I wasn’t eager to hear, but definitely needed to. So, thanks. That said, I found your response to 4) to be less useful, and maybe even a little flippant.

        • JPNunez says:

          I somehow doubt that slavery has been necessary for survival; maybe for survival of a specific economic system, of a given regime (see, the Confederacy), but certainly not for survival of those particular humans (the slave owners just lost their slaves after the civil war).

          Whether it would make for more reproduction _in general_ is another discussion altogether.

          That’s the problem with traditions; they may well be necessary for survival of the group’s current configuration, but ritual preparation of manioc is more of the exception than the rule.

          IIRC there is a rationality principle that good advice needs to come with a specification of when the advice no longer applies. Traditions do not come with such specification, and only are broken when absolutely necessary.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            If there is such a thing as cultural evolution, survival of the culture would be the thing being selected for. It would be no more concerned with the survival of individuals than evolution is with the survival of individual cells.

            That said, I’m not sure if evolution is the right metaphor here. Much of culture seems like it could be better explained by behavioral genetics, and what’s left is transmitted in such a different way that I wouldn’t expect it to be governed by the same rules as heredity.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I somehow doubt that slavery has been necessary for survival; maybe for survival of a specific economic system, of a given regime (see, the Confederacy), but certainly not for survival of those particular humans (the slave owners just lost their slaves after the civil war).

            But the specific humans are the ones in the regime propagating the economic system. Humans are constantly warring with each other. If you want to avoid being conquered by your neighbors (and therefore likely killed), you need to be able to field healthy and well-trained soldiers. This means your soldiers, your knights or whatever, need to be 1) well fed and 2) spend their time training to fight rather than tilling fields. And it took a lot of labor to till the fields, so, slavery.

            This was true up until the industrial revolution, at which point the system of slavery died or was extinguished.

          • JPNunez says:

            I think there are periods of feudalistic rule -couple with intense warfare- in China and Japan where slavery was forbidden, although you may argue that feudal peasants see little difference from slavery, so dunno.

            It is possible that such solutions may not be arrived naturally most of the time, but that does not mean they are not possible.

            There’s always the argument that, for example, the greeks were in the verge of having steam engines, but didn’t because slavery made such early machines economically impractical, tho dunno how much water does that really hold.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            although you may argue that feudal peasants see little difference from slavery, so dunno.

            That’s what I would argue, yes. If slavery (or, “systems in which a politically subjugated lower class has no choice but to labor for the direct benefit of the ruling/martial classes”) were not culturally reproductively fit, it wouldn’t have been common and such societies would have been easily conquered by neighbors who had a more successful strategy. It turns out that more successful strategy is the steam engine and everything else great we got from the industrial revolution. Up until then, though, the alternative to “have slaves” was “be slaves.”

          • Enkidum says:

            That said, I’m not sure if evolution is the right metaphor here. Much of culture seems like it could be better explained by behavioral genetics, and what’s left is transmitted in such a different way that I wouldn’t expect it to be governed by the same rules as heredity.

            Could you expand on the behavioural genetics point, or provide a relevant link? I’m not able to parse what you mean here.

          • quanta413 says:

            Could you expand on the behavioural genetics point, or provide a relevant link? I’m not able to parse what you mean here.

            I think the point is partly (1) that culture doesn’t transmit very faithfully from person to person (2) that culture is transmitted horizontally as much as vertically and (3) lots of culture is irrelevant to human reproduction and so is uninfluenced by evolution that way. Culture is a weird type of phenotype from behavioral genotype + environment. And behavioral genotype is definitely transmissible by definition. It’s complicated because we don’t know what parts lead to relatively stable phenotype (which may not look like culture at all if every culture has a similar distribution of people with some phenotypes!) and less stable phenotype that a biological type of selection won’t really act on (most of culture).

            Horizontal transmission is more the exception in the genetic case, and transmission of phenotype is… somewhat more faithful? More of a difference of degree than of kind since every phenotype interacts with environment. Obesity for example is heritable, but modern obesity occurs because of the novel food saturated environment and sedentary lifestyle.

            But most of culture has obvious strong environmental components. For example, is listening to swing heritable? Probably, but when almost no one listens to swing, even if it was heritable it doesn’t explain much about how much swing someone will listen to. You’d know more about how much swing a person listens to by knowing the year they were born and the year it is.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Enkidum,

            David Deutch’s Beginning of Infinity is in part the attempt to answer the question of why humans evolved such capacity for innovation and creativity, and then failed to do anything with it for 100,000 years. The answer lies with what quanta413 is talking about with cultural transmission of memes: creativity and innovation that evolved was not for creating technological progress but in order to replicate cultural ideas as accurately as possible.

            Anyway he explains it much better than I and he takes a couple chapters to do it. Really good book though.

          • Enkidum says:

            @LesHabablap

            I’ve seen it mentioned here and elsewhere. Thanks for the recommendation, sounds very much up my alley (although as was discussed in the previous OT, I’m very skeptical that we didn’t do anything fitness-enhancing with innovation and creativity in the ancestral past).

        • souleater says:

          I feel like a careful examination of the facts may demonstrate why your criteria still has merit.

          Using slavery to try to poke holes in cultural evolution is like using filial cannibalism to try to poke holes in evolution.

          Interesting personal note… I am finding that I would be more comfortable launching a spirited defense on the evolutionary value of eating your own children than the evolutionary basis for slavery.

          • JPNunez says:

            Well, I am a programmer by trade so I like to test border cases.

            If you feel Slavery is unfair, do Female Genital Mutilation (“circumcision”) then.

            Keep in mind that the tradition does claim it has hygienic properties.

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            Tradition only exists at the group level, so you gotta consider group survival; however, groups (and individuals) are resistant to change and seem to think they will die without their traditions, when this is not necessarily true, but the end of these traditions may induce some social change.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      I dispute that tradition of not allowing same sex marriage in a society which does not otherwise supress homosexuality exists.

      There definitely exists long tradition of supressing homosexuality across various cultures, but reasons for it are not mysterious. they are 1) prevention of a spread of STIs, and 2), which I think is even more important, maintaining family line, i.e. reproduction. Having a society which does not supress homesexuality and does not allow SSM does not help with any of those evolutionary problems. On the contrary, not allowing SSM probably increases problem 1), since marriage is the great traditional barrier against promiscuity.

      It is interesting that OP arrived at his conclusions via Scott´s series on cultural evolution, since I agree with all seven of Scott´s rules inspired by Heinrich, but I take from them that homosexuality is one of those weird illegible preferences that should be respected.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        1), since marriage is the great traditional barrier against promiscuity.

        We’ll see about that. My suspicion is that it is not marriage which civilizes men, but women.

        I have seen statistics that say about half of male homosexual couples are not monogamous. However, this may change as gay marriage is only just now a thing. Googling around I find pop-left journals like Slate, Daily Beast, HuffPo alternately pointing out studies that gays aren’t monogamous and that’s great and that gays are now monogamous and that’s great. I think the jury’s still out and we’ll need to check back in 20 years to see whether or not gay marriage has any impact on gay promiscuity.

        • Nick says:

          It seems to me that marriage can make gay men more monogamous if the norms of opposite-sex marriage carry over. How much they carry over depends on a lot of things, like how much we enforce said norms.

        • Plumber says:

          @Conrad Honcho,
          Take this with a very big grain of salt as I don’t remember where I read it and aren’t willing to slog through a web search to see if a remember correctly, but I thought that I read that male homosexual long term couples were more likely that cheat on each other than other couples on average, but still stay together despite that, and female homosexual couples were more likely to be faithful, but also more likely to seperate than average.

    • So there’s the two kinds of traditions, the legible and the illegible. Legible ideas we understand why we practice them. Illegible ideas we don’t. There’s also the idea of Chesterton’s fence. Don’t knock down fences(traditions) unless you know why they are there. But for any illegible tradition, it won’t become legible to us unless we knock down the fence. Most of our illegible traditions predate the Industrial Revolution, when the material life of our societies transformed dramatically, something that was not “anticipated” by our traditions. So isn’t there some value in knocking down fences, if for no other reason than that the illegible becomes legible?

      Soviet-style socialism is a good example. Traditionalists had really terrible reasons for opposing socialism, and the socialists had plausible reasons for believing it would be better. When they implemented their ideas, they failed but now we know better. Isn’t it good to experiment?

      • Matt M says:

        Isn’t it good to experiment?

        Not for the tens of millions who died for the sake of “experimentation.”

        I mean, I get your point, but yeesh, you may have picked the worst possible example…

        • Plumber says:

          @Matt M,
          I think the “Isn’t it good to experiment? was sarcasm.

          If it wasn’t….

        • It was a little tongue in cheek but not completely. I think we are better off now knowing what we do but that doesn’t mean I would have been cheering on Stalin as purged his opponents just so we could learn. Jeremiah is taking the idea that we have these traditions and we can’t use reason so maybe we can find another justification. What I’m trying to say in my own clumsy way is a sort of corrective to that kind of thinking. It’s more of a half-baked devils advocate idea than anything coheret.

  12. hash872 says:

    What are the major medical advances of the 21st century? Not public health- like smoking cessation- but actual advances in treatment. Just curious as sometimes I feel the results of so much research is negative, so many ideas being disproven etc.

    Just shooting from the hip as someone not in the field- it seems like arthroscopic surgery is a big one? From what I hear many or most surgeries were ‘major’ in the late 20th century, now advances in arthroscopy have come to shoulders, knees, more recently hips, etc. Pretty big advance in making surgeries less stressful for the patient.

    What else is new (and proven and used in the field) this century?

    • Clutzy says:

      Joint replacement has certainly experienced leaps and bounds. That was an area of study for me in college. In a similar vein, Ventricular assist devices (VADS) have gone from extremely temporary, to an implant people can live with for years, either with the goal of a heart transplant, or simply live out the rest of their days with them.

      Less in my wheelhouse, but somewhat close, surgical robotics is rounding into form nicely.

      The pharma and other fields are out of my knowledge base, mostly. My brother does some work with that, and it seems to me that most is incremental, but again I don’t know enough.

      • metacelsus says:

        In a similar vein

        I see what you did there . . .

        In pharmaceuticals: lots of progress in cancer treatment, especially with therapies targeted against a particular type of cancer. Imantinib (Gleevec) was FDA-approved in 2001 although development started in the late 90s. Moving beyond small molecules, immunotherapy is also having a big impact.

        However, the return on research investment is definitely slowing down compared to the late 20th century. Check out Derek Lowe’s blog (In the Pipeline) for some good perspectives.

    • Robin says:

      Antibiotics, especially Penicillin.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        21st century, not 20th century.

        If we are doing 20th century, then yeah, penicillin. Either that or oral rehydration therapy. Actually, does smallpox eradication count as a medical advance, or is that considered part of public health? Vaccination itself was invented in the late 18th century, but the 20th century was the first time a disease was deliberately eradicated through a global campaign.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Probably “just” incremental changes, mainly taking things from “mind-boggling expensive and risky” and into routine. Which kinda makes cost disease and regulation look a lot worse – it’s braking the main advancement front towards living longer and healthier.

      Other than that – google. Both patients and doctors use it with glee and success.

    • johan_larson says:

      Chemotherapy for cancer is a big one. Cancer used to be a death sentence. It isn’t one any more. Lots of cancers are treatable now.

      • Gossage Vardebedian says:

        Regarding cancer, the biggest broad improvement is that most new therapies aren’t cytotoxic, but are targeted to specific bad actors in the way that most non-oncology drugs have always been. In addition, for many of the new drugs, genetic testing of the individual patient’s cancer can give an accurate indication of whether the drug will work, sparing a lot of unnecessary drug-taking and sometimes allowing patients to move on to the next-most-likely-to-work drug. You might also see the genetic typing of cancers themselves as a big improvement.

    • b_jonas says:

      Vaccine against varicella (chicken pox). Technically it first became available in the 20th century, but it will take a few more decades until most newborns get vaccinated, and a few years after that for the illness to get much rarer.

      Laparoscopic (endoscopic) surgery. That too was already available three decades ago, but it takes time until hospitals get the equipment and training so that they can use laparoscopic surgery as a routine for a significant number of patients.

      Digital blood pressure meters and blood glucose meters. They allow untrained people to measure blood pressure and blood glucose level easily, which helps in both monitoring a known disease and early screening.

      Better medical imaging. Yes, we had CT scanners and MRI and more already in the 20th century, but we now have better quality and cheaper ones, thus we can diagnose problems in a larger mass of patients.

      There are probably more advances, but the 21th century is long, and it will take more time to see what sticks.

    • SamChevre says:

      Anti-retrovirals and antivirals–start being available in the mid-1990’s, but they have become far more available and better understood. They have dramatically changed the prognosis for Hepatitis C and HIV.

    • broblawsky says:

      As much as people like to complain about it, Truvada (Emtricitabine/tenofovir) is a big deal.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      Both of my parents are laced with fairly significant amounts of custom-fit titanium and bone glue. They have nearly full mobility, and can go for long walks and can climb stairs. They both have suffered both chronic disorders and multi compound fracture accidents that, if the tech level was retarded only 20 years, they would both be confined to wheelchairs and be constantly fighting the DEA’s retarded and evil prescription limits on pain medication.

      That’s something.

      A developer that I manage had what could have been a pretty catastrophic bone injury almost completely repaired with tech that only started going mainstream in the US in the past couple of years, and that is still not available from the NHSs in Europe and Canada.

      That’s something.

      Orthopedics is getting a lot better really fast, and that appears to be driven by improvements in material science, in high resolution medical imaging, and in robot-aided high-speed low-invasive surgery.

      When was the last time you saw someone in a plaster cast, or even using full length crutches?

    • Urstoff says:

      Microbiome treatments? Have those actually been effective?

      The continually plummeting cost of gene sequencing?

      3D printed tissues?

      Just guesses, don’t really know if any have had a significant impact at the level of actual patients.

      Also, and I have personal experience with this, the development of TNF inhibitors has made having many autoimmune disorders much more manageable.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Hip arthroscopy is solidly 20th century; the operation I had for a labral tear was first performed in 1986. The chicken pox vaccine is also 20th century (1995).

    • Rock Lobster says:

      Hepatitis C cures, most notably Gilead’s Sovaldi and derivative cocktails.

      Gilead was in the spotlight for the cost of the drug ($84k for a treatment in the US) but the drug was actually a textbook example of a “good” expensive drug: it was a straight-up cure (most successful drugs merely manage a condition), the price was relatively efficient on a dollars per additional QALY basis, the drug saved the healthcare system, particularly Medicaid, money on hospitalizations, it was a much better treatment than existing interferon treatments, and it was a true innovative drug with no roll-up jack up the prices nonsense. Oh, AND, there was a competing series of drugs made by AbbVie so the PBMs could use competition to drive better pricing over time.

  13. HarmlessFrog says:

    Suppose a hypothetical parallel reality. It’s mostly like our world, except smoking is culturally regarded as healthy, to the point where there are products like Baby’s First Pipe and the medical community explicitly endorses the proper amount of smoking one should do. Just about everyone smokes between 1 and 2 packs a day. In the outer fringes of the bell curve (call it two standard deviations out) there are some people who smoke like 10 packs and people who don’t smoke at all and stay away from public spaces because of all the secondhand smoke. Just like in our world, smoking causes certain types of cancer, which are widespread in this parallel world’s society, but neither the scientific establishment nor the public is aware of the fact.

    Suppose there are epidemiological studies that try to generate hypotheses as to what causes certain ailments, including the types of cancer caused (uknowingly for the parallel people) by smoking. How would a study like that need to be conducted (both in terms of data acquisition and data analysis) to detect the association?

    • Clutzy says:

      TBH I don’t think it would be that hard. People knew in 1700 that tobacco was unhealthy. They knew in 1800. They knew in 1970 at the supposed height of scientific disinformation campaigns. The reality is people were basically never fooled, instead the fake sciences was really just employed as cover to continue doing what people wanted to do anyways.

      Your “starting point” would have required a coordinated “war against noticing” to be successful for centuries. It is my experience that such endeavors are not very successful, and doubly so if people actually have any stake in the outcome (like their own health). Maybe for a while you can trick people into eating bread if bread is only 1% less healthy than rice. But that is because 1% is tiny, and most people don’t know the bread/rice ratios of their neighbors. If there was, essentially, a 10% subset of superhumans that consistently won all the marathons and lived to 75+ while everyone else is keeling over of lung cancer/heart disease at 55 your disinformation campaign is DOA.

      • Deiseach says:

        I’m in agreement with Clutzy; we know smoking is bad for you, so now people have turned to vaping as a nicotine delivery system. As though finding a different way to introduce a poison into your system is going to be healthier.

        From what I’ve seen of people who vape (and before I start: this rant brought to you courtesy of having to stand in a semi-enclosed area with two people vaping away) they vape as they used to smoke. It smells the same, the stink hangs around on your clothes the same, the way they inhale and hold the vapour in their lungs for the maximum hit is the same, they way they puff away is the same as when they used to smoke cigarettes. The only thing I see different is that it’s cleaner, in the sense that there aren’t discarded butts on the ground. Everything else is the same as cigarette smoking and the vapers are just as much addicts as the smokers.

        • Aapje says:

          It smells the same

          ???

          This is not at all my experience. Vape smell seems way less obnoxious than tobacco smoke.

          • Robin says:

            Also, consider carbon monoxide, tar and thousands of other cancerogene substances in tobacco smoke.
            And people can slowly reduce the nicotin content of their vapes, thus slowly turning it into a harmless pacifier.

          • j1000000 says:

            Yes, it absolutely does not smell the same. I had one friend who smoked, and now he switched to vaping, and neither the smoke nor his clothes smell anymore. He now vapes inside his apartment even when guests are around and no one really minds.

          • acymetric says:

            I’ll add a +1 to this point.

            There are also vaporizers that actually burn plant matter (as opposed to vaporizing some blend of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin). They are usually associated with pot but I suppose they could be used for tobacco as well, maybe this is what Deseich encountered?

            I would be kicked out of the family if I sparked up a cigarette in my parents’ home, but they do allow me to vape inside. That wouldn’t be the case if it smelled anything like cigarettes or left a hanging odor that clung to clothes/fabric.

          • benjdenny says:

            Adding a bit more: Someone going “this is just as unhealthy as cigarettes” re: vaping is usually a pretty good indicator they just dislike the visual of it and haven’t done a whole hell of a lot of study on it; the science has been pretty hard pressed to consistently show any significant harm from it beyond the nicotine used.

            In this case, the “it smells the same, hangs on your clothes the same” thing is just factually untrue, even for tobacco-derived flavors. Some people just want it to be worse than it is so they can keep socially kicking a disfavored group.

        • Enkidum says:

          As though finding a different way to introduce a poison into your system is going to be healthier.

          It is vastly healthier. One of the main issues with smoking is, well, the smoke – inhaling burning stuff is incredibly bad for you. From what I understand, this is connected to the fact that barbecue is bad for you – burnt stuff is dangerous. Also, so far as I know it’s not at all understood how bad pure nicotine is for you – it’s certainly not a good thing for your body, but it’s vastly better that nicotine + cigarette.

        • Deiseach says:

          Well, whatever brand these people were using, it certainly smelled like cigarette smoke (upon first catching a whiff, I was extremely puzzled as to who was lighting up until I saw the vapers).

          As to the cutting-down, some people may indeed do that. But I think a lot of vapers are replacing cigarettes with vaping and they’re going to stick to the equivalent of “I was on forty a day” with no interest in cutting down or quitting.

          • My (possibly mistaken) understanding is that the health risks of smoking are not mainly due to nicotine, hence that vaping largely avoids them. I’ve been mildly tempted to try either vaping or a nicotine patch in order to see if the benefits of a wildly popular and reasonably safe drug are worth the costs.

          • HarmlessFrog says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Yeah, I’ve seen some research that free iron getting where it doesn’t belong is a major factor.

        • RebusGlider says:

          It is healthier. Nicotine by itself isn’t carcinogenic and vaping liquids generally don’t include the variety of toxic additives used in traditional cigarettes. It isn’t healthy and is addictive but the same can be said of alcohol and caffeine.

      • HarmlessFrog says:

        Your hypothetical-fighting ability is respectable, but this is not what I wanted to focus on. 🙂

        • Clutzy says:

          But the problem of a war against noticing is the point. People will notice whether you coordinate an effort or not. And when people notice things they then study them and with the effects of smoking being so strong, the study is not as hard.

          Notably, since smoking is considered healthy, you can run single blind studies and it wont be considered unethical.

          • HarmlessFrog says:

            But the problem of a war against noticing is the point.

            Your point, but not mine. I want to explore the limitations of epidemiology in the presence of a near-total saturation with causal factor (“everyone is doing it”). Being alive causing death and so forth.

            People will notice whether you coordinate an effort or not. And when people notice things they then study them and with the effects of smoking being so strong, the study is not as hard.

            Science advances one funeral at a time.

            Notably, since smoking is considered healthy, you can run single blind studies and it wont be considered unethical.

            Which is not epidemiology.

          • Clutzy says:

            Maybe we can explore an analogous situation in the real world. Height is similar in that it follows a Bell Curve distribution.

            https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIRCGENETICS.116.001651

            Here’s a study along your lines connecting tallness to Thromboembolism.

          • HarmlessFrog says:

            @Clutzy

            Thank you! This is interesting.

            Notably:
            – Gigantic Ns.
            – Confidence intervals don’t cross 1.
            – Strong RR.
            – Extreme categories an order of magnitude or two less numerous than the middle ones.

      • SamChevre says:

        If there was, essentially, a 10% subset of superhumans…

        Except that this effect would be hard to notice, because “not smoking” would tend to correlate with “terrible respiratory health”–a good chunk of the non-smokers would have severe allergies, asthma, etc that are aggravated by smoking.

        • HarmlessFrog says:

          An excellent point. Any ideas on how one might separate the smoking effect from the non-smoking effect on respiratory health?

          • LewisT says:

            Conduct your studies among old-school Baptists, Methodists, and Mormons, who forbid smoking? That should provide a more random sample of non-smokers, at least in terms of previous health conditions.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      What would make it obvious would be the concentration of effects to the fringes. If somebody smokes 10 packs a day and gets lung cancer, you have two rare events and your mind wants to correlate them. If however the effect tops or at least tappers at 2-3 cigarettes per day, then at most you can realize non-smokers get 1/3 less cancers (with another 1/3 due to passive smoking and possibly pollution). And if there are some confounders, like those that don’t smoke have asthma or are poor… Add to this the fact that habitual smokers may be richer and thus healthier, and that nicotine has real positive effects, so you also have an opposite trend.

      So first thing to do is locate the hypothesis. Nothing can start before this. Of of the miriad factors out there, you have to look around and say hmmm… nicotine is great, but I wonder if it would be even healthier without this delivery mechanism…

      • HarmlessFrog says:

        What would make it obvious would be the concentration of effects to the fringes. If somebody smokes 10 packs a day and gets lung cancer, you have two rare events and your mind wants to correlate them. If however the effect tops or at least tappers at 2-3 cigarettes per day, then at most you can realize non-smokers get 1/3 less cancers (with another 1/3 due to passive smoking and possibly pollution). And if there are some confounders, like those that don’t smoke have asthma or are poor… Add to this the fact that habitual smokers may be richer and thus healthier, and that nicotine has real positive effects, so you also have an opposite trend.

        Valid points, but those fringes need to be visible in analysis in the first place, right? That means that the study has to be large enough (otherwise the fringes contain too few people to be statistically significant) and the stratification needs to be fine enough to catch them too (if you just have quartiles, for instance, the non-smokers are gonna get lumped with the 1/day smokers and the signal will be lost). What I’m curious about is just how large the N needs to be, and what the relevant properties of the analysis method need to be. (I am not a statistician.)

        So first thing to do is locate the hypothesis. Nothing can start before this. Of of the miriad factors out there, you have to look around and say hmmm… nicotine is great, but I wonder if it would be even healthier without this delivery mechanism…

        The study’s purpose is to generate the hypothesis. “Oh, hey, there’s a strong association between X and Y, let’s do some experiments to see if a relationship exists and if so, where the causality is.”

    • johan_larson says:

      I would expect the issue to be noticed first in domains where aerobic performance is very important, such as long-distance running. Coaches would probably catch on that few to none of their winning athletes smoke. Not smoking would become part of the folk-wisdom of sports coaching in those domain.

      High-level sports are pretty important in the modern world. Countries spend real money making sure their athletes grab a respectable share of medals, and these days that includes funds for rigorous studies of various training and selection methods. One of those shouldn’t have any trouble detecting to correlation between high performance and not smoking, at least in endurance sports. Even in a world where there is a broad consensus that smoking is just fine, I could see those results filtering out through the coaching hierarchy, until it became common wisdom among high school coaches that serious athletes should not smoke.

      • HarmlessFrog says:

        I’m talking about cancer, not performance. Athletes aren’t exactly optimizing for health, either.

    • b_jonas says:

      Do men still generally smoke more than women? If so, then to generate hypothesis, you should start with conditions that appear more often among men. Data about that is probably already readily available, because everyone likes to makes statistics separated by gender.

      Some well-known ones in our world are prostate cancer and the more common forms of color blindness. But the more important are the general classes of deaths with slightly different frequency among men and women. In our world, slightly more men die to cancer than women, slightly less men die to heart diseases than women (but this is worth to examine in detail, splitting different types of diseases), and much more men die to liver problems, traffic accidents, and suicide than women do. If the statistics showed the same in your parallel reality, I’d start to examine if smoking makes car drivers more likely to cause accidents, and if so, try to encourage people not to smoke while driving; and get experts to try to find out whether smoking causes liver disease. The flip side is important too: test which types of heart disease smoking helps prevent.

      • HarmlessFrog says:

        Do men still generally smoke more than women? If so, then to generate hypothesis, you should start with conditions that appear more often among men. Data about that is probably already readily available, because everyone likes to makes statistics separated by gender.

        Interesting. So simply sexing the data should provide some association – but it would probably be small, I think, in proportion of the difference between smoking rates of men and women.

    • Murphy says:

      Mutation signatures.

      Sequencing cancer genomes you can build up a signature of the mutagen. Typically tissue that’s gone cancerous doesn’t have just one mutation, typically it’s ended up full of mutations before cancer was triggered.

      https://cancer.sanger.ac.uk/cosmic/signatures_v2

      funny side note: sequencing tens of thousands of cancers this crowd found ~30 distinct signatures

      They gave a talk about #22: apparently families were coming down with an unusual bladder cancer only seen in some countries.

      turned out to be aristolochic acid: a chemical in some traditional herbs in Chinese medicine in countries where that’s common and in another location it turned out that the seeds of a particular plant were getting mixed up with the wheat and people eating local bread were getting this cancer.

      for 13 of them the cause remains unknown in our current society. (some very rare though)

      tobacco chewing and smoking are 2 of the known signatures.

      • HarmlessFrog says:

        Mutation signatures.

        Sequencing cancer genomes you can build up a signature of the mutagen. Typically tissue that’s gone cancerous doesn’t have just one mutation, typically it’s ended up full of mutations before cancer was triggered.

        That’s mechanistic evidence. I’m trying to discuss the requirements of epidemiology, not other types of studies.

        • Murphy says:

          epidemiology doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

          part of my point is that we do seem to live in a very similar world where there’s likely quite a few mutagens that we’re currently entirely unaware of… but we can get hints they exist to untangle them from the other cancers with known causes.

          Whatever answer you come to: there’s like a dozen cancer-sets to apply it to in the real world, at least as a thought experiment.

    • helloo says:

      Remember that they did animal testing for the effects of smoking and cancer.

      I think a better analog would be to look at “real world” commonly used products – such as wheat, GMO corn/soy, meat – all of which have had studies trying to link them with cancer.

      The major difference is that this is a lot easier with smoking given the effect size.

    • Doctor Mist says:

      I have the feeling this hypothetical is trying to make a point about some analogous part of our own culture, but I’m baffled about what it might be.

      • HarmlessFrog says:

        You are perceptive.

        I’m trying to assense which, if any, staples of our modern diet are behind the rise of chronic illness. Nutrition is regrettably a field where epidemiology is wrongly used to make claims about cause and effect, as opposed to generating hypotheses on the basis of statistical associations of sufficient strength. Hence the focus on it. (Yes, I know there is non-epidemiological, and even “non-scientific” data out there on the subject. I’m familiar with it, and trust it more than most observational studies, but that’s not how the field overall works, unfortunately.)

        The study Clutzy linked above is instructive. Immense in scope (n=millions), working with objective characteristics (height, VTE diagnosis), with comparatively small fringes not lumped together a larger category. The association they got was clearly strong, dose dependent and consistent.

        Compare this study of carbohydrates and all-cause mortality. Two orders of magnitude smaller, using food questionnaires for dietary information (as if most people remember what they had for lunch a week ago, and as if that was an accurate way to estimate macronutrients). While the extreme low caloric intake exclusion was justified (people following starvation diets), the extreme high exclusion was probably not (why would you exclude various bodybuilders, athletes, physical labourers, large individuals and people who just eat a lot of calorically dense food?). Their “extreme” carbohydrate categories (below 40% and above 70%) are severely lacking for a macronutrient whose floor is apparently zero. Why not actually take a look at the fringe types who eat only trace amounts? And to top it all off, the relative risks they got were only weak to moderate, no strong associations. And this crap gets heralded in the news as solid evidence for the official guideline of 55-60% carbohydrate intake.

  14. johan_larson says:

    Your benevolent dictator for life has observed that there are no readily available slapstick comedies about hilariously incompetent time travelers who try but fail to assassinate Hitler. That’s surely a market failure, but those can be remedied by some concerted effort from the Right People. Who we have right here.

    Let’s start with a plot summary and a proposed cast.

    • Murphy says:

      Ripping off SMBC:

      The constant barrage of time travelers attempting to kill Hitler has made him the worlds most skilled fighter of time travellers.

      Eventually the time travellers give up until the world is threatened by time travelers from an even more distant future… only one man is skilled enough combating time travelers to save the world from them.

      http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=3266

      Ripping off “everybody kills Hitler on their first trip”

      A time-cop is tasked with maintaining the integrity of the timeline. Unfortunately everybody kills Hitler on their first trip so he spends his life constantly saving hitler from time travelers.

      https://www.tor.com/2011/08/31/wikihistory/

    • Nick says:

      You’re forgetting Doctor Who‘s Let’s Kill Hitler.

    • broblawsky says:

      I’d want Will Ferrell and Melissa McCarthy.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Will Ferrell as Hitler?

      • I W​ri​te ​B​ug​s No​t O​ut​ag​es says:

        Melissa McCarthy attempts to kill Hitler by injecting him with anthrax. But as it turns out, the bacteria had been stored at the wrong temperature and died before the assassination attempt. Not only does Hitler not die; he develops SUPER ANTHRAX RESISTANCE!

    • The Nybbler says:

      There’s ample written fiction about this. Good hooks for slapstick include Hitler being protected by the timestream so the attempts always somehow go wrong, and so many time travelers taking shots at him that they interfere with each other.

      A few attempts to include:

      An attempt during the Beer Hall Putsch. Unfortunately, our assassin is told only to shoot “the man with the funny mustache” and he kills Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter instead. (cut to time traveler, who is sporting the popular-in-the-25th-century toothbrush mustache)

      The real-life assassination attempt. From Wikipedia: “It is presumed that Colonel Heinz Brandt, who was standing next to Hitler, used his foot to move the briefcase aside by pushing it behind the leg of the conference table”

      Not in our version. In our version, the time traveler decided to substitute more powerful explosives, believing the problem was the bomb just wasn’t big enough. Lots of crawling around under the table and trying to avoid being discovered. Our hapless traveler substitutes more powerful explosives, but moves the bomb behind the table, preventing the assassination.

      The last attempt: A time traveler finally manages to shoot Hitler. Outside his bunker, on April 30, 1945.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        My favorite twist on the plot is still the one I concocted a while back, where a gang of young idealists travels back to kill the evil dictator, just misses him, then finds him again through sheer luck, because Plans Go Awry for the bad guys as well. So they kill him. Mission successful.

        Except, his name is Francis Ferdinand.

        And we’re all living in the new timeline.

    • Civilis says:

      Our protagonist is a genius inventor that has built a time machine, and takes it back in time to kill Hitler. He arrives in 1934, manages to sneak into Hitler’s residence, and shoots Hitler, but before he can make sure Hitler is dead, he’s distracted by another time traveler arriving. The new time traveler catches sight of our protagonist and immediately attacks, and the running battle takes them away from Hitler. The protagonist manages to lose the attacker, but in the process manages to catch a glimpse of himself in a mirror, only to find that he’s suddenly acquired a suspicious hairstyle and short black mustache…

      Turns out, there’s only so much paradox that the timestream can take, and in extreme cases, the corrections aren’t always subtle. The existence of Hitler is so necessary to history that killing him would cause untold paradox, so somehow, anyone that kills Hitler ends up being forced to take his place in history…. the hard way. And it also prevents the new Hitler from leaving the current time period, as he’s now a necessary component in history.

      The good news is that the original Hitler (or the previous Hitler, at any rate) isn’t quite dead yet. Our protagonist can avoid becoming Hitler if he can get someone else to kill Hitler before he dies of his wounds. The bad news is that our protagonist is noticing his body develop a mind of its own (cue Strangelove shout-out), and the fact that our hero now looks like Hitler means that the other time-travelers are gunning for him. Throw in a Nazi mad scientist keeping the previous Hitler alive (and secret) and trying to both find a worthy replacement Hitler and get his hands on a time machine, and the mess as our protagonist tries to get someone else to kill Hitler so he can go home is a recipe for a quite entertaining disaster.

      I have no idea who should star in such a movie (or be willing to star in such a movie, for that matter), but this is absolutely calling for Mel Brooks to direct.

    • Tarpitz says:

      I propose a mash-up of Hollywood’s two most successful time travel franchises. Our hero is dispatched to 1880s Braunau am Inn. His mission: to prevent Hitler’s conception by breaking up his parents. Of course, future Antarctic/space Nazis send a Nazi cyborg back in time to stop him. And of course of course, he falls in love with Klara Hitler, and in July 1888 he knocks her up…

      We can probably even work in a Freud-as-Silverman scene.

    • Deiseach says:

      This sounds like the basic template for ‘Allo ‘Allo would be the way to go (slapstick farce is plainly the only way to portray the German occupation of France), and if anyone isn’t looking we could probably steal pay homage to the title of It’s That Man Again – It’s That Adolf Again?

      Pilot episode plot summary: we open with a long line of variously outlandishly dressed people queuing up outside a small Austrian town. Just like everyone queuing up to climb Everest, the sheer volume of time-travellers who want to kill Hitler means that there’s a traffic jam of potential assassins.

      Thus it is that we are introduced to our plucky gang of loveable misfits, and they are introduced to one another – time travellers from different eras who aren’t all that very much successful in their own time, so decide that the quick way to fame (and possibly fortune) is to be The Person Who Killed Hitler And Saved The World.

      Naturally, they don’t – but each week they fail in an even more convoluted and hilarious way! The gags write themselves (which is why I’m leaving it to someone actually funny to write them). Potential cast – haven’t a clue, who’s famous and can act, who’s irritating but box office magic for incomprehensible reasons (e.g. the televisual equivalent of Adam Sandler), who’s a sexy blonde with big bazooms – I’ve seen an episode of The Expanse, I thought it was a good show but I was constantly distracted wondering if the leading lady was going to have her girls plop out of her unzipped top, I know what you need in a modern SF lead actress – who’s comic relief who is genuinely funny unlike the irritating star, and so on?

      • The Nybbler says:

        Incidentally, it’s a testament to how boring I found _The Expanse_ to be that I don’t even remember the lady you refer to.

        • Randy M says:

          Oh, I’m not the only one? I’m about four episodes in and trying to like it… but it’s not hooking me.

        • Deiseach says:

          It was only one episode, and she may not have been the lead female, I was very distracted by her bazooms wondering “Yeah but this is a spaceship, it’s climate controlled, she has no reason to be walking around with her top unzipped and if she has a reason, then she has no reason to be walking around in her push-up bra when all the guys have their tops zipped up or are wearing tops that cover their torsos and arms”.

          Apart from the fact that this is a modern gritty(ish) SF show and she’s the lead female (or this week’s guest star) and so she has to have bazooms for the fan boys (and any fan girls that like lady bazooms).

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            “Yeah but this is a spaceship, it’s climate controlled, she has no reason to be walking around with her top unzipped and if she has a reason, then she has no reason to be walking around in her push-up bra when all the guys have their tops zipped up or are wearing tops that cover their torsos and arms”.

            I haven’t seen the show yet, but this may be a case of art imitating life.

            I spent a few years in a very snowy part of the country, where the temperature would stay below 0°F (-18°C) for most of the winter and a 3-4 foot snowfall was considered normal. If you went out on a Friday night you would still see young women in fishnets and miniskirts plodding through the snow on their way to a bar or house party.

            “Bazooms” know no temperature.

          • J Mann says:

            Hmm. If it’s the blonde love interest in Episode 1, the climate control is probably a little off, because they’re flying a piece of junk hauler ship. Of course, that doesn’t explain why all the men are fully clothed, but there are worse problems, like sbhe bhg bs svir crbcyr frag ba na njnl zvffvba sebz guvf perj bs ynfg-punapr qebc-bhgf ghea bhg gb or nzbat gur orfg crbcyr va gur jubyr flfgrz ng gurve fcrpvnygvrf, naq gur svsgu vf xvyyrq (enaqbzyl engure guna nf n erfhyg bs gurve eryngvir pbzcrgrapr) juvyr gur sbhe rffragvny zrzoref fheivir and that the love interest is sevqtrq.

            If you mean the engineer in episodes after episode one, well, my understanding is some people just like showing off their bazooms for reasons other than climate control. (Although I can’t remember if she does or not.)

          • Deiseach says:

            If you went out on a Friday night you would still see young women in fishnets and miniskirts plodding through the snow on their way to a bar or house party.

            That happens in certain parts round here as well 🙂

            Well, I mostly noticed it because nobody else had visible bazooms, including one or two other ladies (who were plainly the efficient get the job done professional crew types, thus not the lead female/guest star but supporting cast). If there had been a hunky gentleman or two (perhaps down in Engineering or the likes) showing off his manly bazoom with unzipped top, I could have continued suspending my disbelief re: ‘goodness, who turned the thermostat up?’, but everyone else (including the guy who was setting up a romantic dinner in his cabin for the lady?) was fully dressed, and she had unzipped top and visible bazooms which, as I said, I was genuinely concerned might spill out of her space bra 🙂

            And to be fair to The Expanse, I might be taking its name in vain – this was something I saw while channel-hopping so I jumped in in media res (and in media bazooms).

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            …… you mean you wanted something like this:
            Scene: Scantily clad crew people visibly glistening with sweat all over the place.

            Captain, toweling off abs: “…can you do something about this intolerable heat?”.

            Engineer With Large Knockers, And a slightly homocidal glare starts ticking points of on her fingers:
            “I did. The coolant pumps are going to have to be replaced months ahead of schedule, I am running them that hard. The navigator and bursar are currently playing chess with an entirely imaginary chess board because I turned off all the non-critical computers, I just got done isolating the cargo hold to the maximum extent possible – and if you want anything from there, fuck you, not getting it until after we unload.”.

            Navigator. In boxers. And nothing else. “Knight to D5”.

            Captain: “… So. Nothing for it?”

            Engineer: “I. Am. Not. The person who thought it was a good idea to buy 30. Again, I feel this needs repeating. 30 fucking tonnes of p-238 from the French”.

            Captain, with a shit-eating grin: “We are going to be so fucking rich when we reach Ceres”.

          • Matt M says:

            Come on D, this is a proud tradition in SciFi, dating at least as far back as Deanna Troi having a custom-made cleavage-accenting uniform that apparently has never been worn by anyone in Starfleet other than her.

            Delightfully lampshaded when the Enterprise gets a new captain, and one of his first orders is for her to put a shirt on, already.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Delightfully lampshaded when the Enterprise gets a new captain, and one of his first orders is for her to put a shirt on, already.

            Which she does, and then leaves it on for the rest of the series.

          • Deiseach says:

            you mean you wanted something like this:
            Scene: Scantily clad crew people visibly glistening with sweat all over the place.

            Tasteful scantily clad glistening attractive persons of both genders, Thomas Jorgensen!

            Your description of the putative scene is giving me flashbacks to Enterprise and the Orgy Sauna I mean Decontamination Gel Application Chamber, which thank all the gods they dropped as too dumb even for their show. (Archer had to bring his dog along as well? That was taking his dog adoration too far!)

            Half-naked Phlox? NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Deiseach: … wait, the writers put the dog in a sexy gel-application chamber? 🙁

          • Plumber says:

            @Deiseach >

            “gel”

            I still think that the last season of Enterprise (after they dropped the Xindi and brought in the Andorians) showed potential, and ‘sides those scenes are CLEARLY there to demonstrate the inter-species familiarity and commitment to hygiene of the far future (also the actors all deserve applause for not laughing, how many takes must they’ve needed?).

          • Deiseach says:

            Le Maistre Chat, Archer really, really loved his dog O_o

            Whatever about The Expanse (if it was indeed that show) and Ooh I’m So Warm I Must Unzip My Top To Air My Bazooms, The Sexy Lube Chamber had no justification at all; there was a feeble nod (more of a nod and a wink) towards “No guys, this is totally how decon works in the less technically advanced time of Enterprise” but come on: if they’re going to have people slathered in decon gel, then semi-realistically it’ll be in shower cubicles where it gets sprayed on or the like, not “everyone in their skivvies in cramped space with no curtains so they’re on top of each other rubbing gel on themselves and each other”.

            I want to try and be delicate, but you saw the linked video and how the first instance showed that T’Pol had, um, functioning breasts if she needed to feed a baby? Yeah, that’s nothing but fan service, and the fans didn’t particularly want it.

            Plumber, I have been told it got much better in later seasons but as far as I was concerned, the damage had been done with (a) trying to make T’Pol the new Seven of Nine (sexy babe in tight-fitting catsuit) (b) the crap they pulled with the Vulcans (yeah, now they’re racist xenophobes and closet fascists, doncha know? also making it canon that Vulcans literally think Humans stink????) (c) the sexy lube chamber foolishness (d) Trip Tucker whom I abominate (e) the Xindi time-travel nonsense where they decide to turn Archer into Kick-Ass Action Hero, and where the less technologically able Enterprise (remember, we don’t even have the Universal Translator yet and the transporter is still new experimental and uncertain kit) and Federation will be able to stand up to species that are advanced enough to have time travel (f) that bloody dog – well, you get my gist 🙂

            Which is why I gave up on it and never came back for the better later seasons. Though to be fair, I thought Enterprise was the worst new attempt at making more Trek, then they launched Discovery on me! (Oh hi, we’re going to give Spock yet more hitherto unknown siblings, and moreover we’re gonna make that sib a self-righteous turnip-head, and we’re gonna have Mirror Universe from the start, and and and so much fun! stuff! like a mushroom obsessed engineer! yeah let me off Mr Toad’s Wild Ride, thanks all the same).

          • Plumber says:

            @Deiseach

            “…I have been told it got much better in later seasons…”

            Um…

            …not seasons so much as “most of the last season” (solitary), though they were some good episodes before then.

            Just like Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine (I never did watch early Voyager, so maybe that as well), it had a rough start, but that start lasted years.

            Once they dropped the novelty stuff and did more of a homage to the original series it shined, but few viewers were left then.

            I haven’t seen any Discovery so I can’t compare that, maybe Picard will be broadcast, but I guess they’ll paywall that as well like they’ve done with Doctor Who.

      • acymetric says:

        who’s famous and can act, who’s irritating but box office magic for incomprehensible reasons (e.g. the televisual equivalent of Adam Sandler)

        Total tangent, but Adam Sandler had two great movies (Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison in that order). A few decent ones (50 Fist Dates was a cute rom-com, Click had some nice moments, The Longest Yard remake was decent), and the rest, as far as I’m concerned, are…not great. What’s really bad is what happens outside his acting career. If I have to hear one more of his stupid damn songs I’ll freaking lose it. Just awful.

    • BBA says:

      Slapstick? No, I think it’s going to have to be one of those darkly ironic deals. You send your time travelers back to the Weimar Republic to kill the future leader of the Nazi regime, which they do, shooting him point-blank in his home and framing some Communist ruffians for the deed. And so Horst Wessel never lived to overthrow Hitler.

  15. johan_larson says:

    I recently started play Arena, the online version of Magic: the Gathering, and noticed that it seems to be possible to play this game for absolutely nothing. Does anyone here know enough about the economics of online games to comment on the distribution of paying vs non-paying players, and of the amounts spent by the paying players?

    Is it typical for nearly everyone to play for free, or do most people pay a little?
    Among paying players, is there a broad middle group of people who pay moderate amounts, or it is more like a high-order power law, with a few people dropping big bucks and everyone else paying token sums?

    • ManyCookies says:

      If you’re playing higher ranked constructed, you’ll either need to spend money or grind for long enough where spending money looks attractive. Set releases are a big incentive too, since you can’t quickly accumulate the new cards from grinding (unless you stockpile a ton of wildcards I guess).

      I was a successful f2p Hearthstone player, but I played a lot of its limited (in an era where people suuuucked at limited) and that game has a kinder economy than Arena’s.

    • Murphy says:

      It’s the F2P model. It’s similar to the freemium model but slightly less horrible.

      The model is basically that teeeeeeechnically everything in the game can be acquired through grinding (drop rate 1 in 1000000000000 mega-boss kills)

      They know people will try to play for free but people with jobs/money will eventually find themselves grinding for something needed to be competitive.

      Eventually such people aren’t having fun grinding and do the math

      “well it will take 20 hours grinding… or I could spend 5 bucks…”

      So they spend 5 bucks. But then the next week there’s something else and pretty soon they’re in the habit of just pulling out their wallet and very fast they’ll pay 100 bucks for a game they wouldn’t spend 60 bucks to buy.

      Often the game itself suffers because so many design decisions hinge around making the players sick of the grind to the point where they’re willing to spend money to make it stop.

      The only game I know that really made it work without harming game mechanics was Eve online but that’s because they just sell game-time tokens as an ingame item that people buy and sell and let players make money however they want to trade for them.

      • baconbits9 says:

        This explanation sounds incomplete, you have to make the game enjoyable enough to get players to this point of buying to avoid the grind.

        So they spend 5 bucks. But then the next week there’s something else and pretty soon they’re in the habit of just pulling out their wallet and very fast they’ll pay 100 bucks for a game they wouldn’t spend 60 bucks to buy.

        Spending $100 on a game you know you enjoy is better than spending $60 on a game you might enjoy in a lot of situations.

        • Murphy says:

          No,It has to be just barely fun.

          South park did what can only be described as a documentary on mobile gaming.

          Minister of Mobile Gaming: And so in conclusion, the successful fremium game is based on five principles: Entice the player with a simple game loop, use lots of flashing cashings and compliments to make the player feel good about themselves, train the players to spend your fake currency, offer the player a way to spend real currency for your fake currency…

          Prince of Canada: So they’ll forget they’re spending money.

          Minister of Mobile Gaming: …and make the game about waiting. But let the player pay not to wait. It’s a surefire way to make lots of money.

          Phillip: We understand micropaying, but can’t the game hidden inside the charade just at least be fun?

          Minister of Mobile Gaming: No no! It has to be just barely fun. If the game were too fun, then there would be no reason to micropay in order to make it more fun.

          https://getyarn.io/yarn-clip/3fe73cf0-fd46-477e-9ed7-00c997d079eb

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, this is why I never play f2p games and won’t let my kids near them either.

            I like the model where if you want to make a video game, you set out to make a game as fun as possible, and then sell it for money. I give the developer money and they give me a fun game.

            For a f2p game, you start from “let’s make a fun game. Okay, we’ve made a fun game…now make it intentionally bad and annoying so people will give us money to get back to somewhere sort of fun.” No. This is evil and I will not support it.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            For a f2p game, you start from “let’s make a fun game. Okay, we’ve made a fun game…now make it intentionally bad and annoying so people will give us money to get back to somewhere sort of fun.” No. This is evil and I will not support it.

            You’re being too kind to them. F2P starts from “there’s a lot of money being spent on games; how can I cash in with the least possible effort?”

            Making fun games is hard but that doesn’t stop people from wanting to hop on the gravy train.

          • baconbits9 says:

            It has to be fun enough that they stick with that game and not the other free games using the same model.

          • Murphy says:

            @baconbits9

            Ah but this is where pressing peoples addiction buttons comes in.

            things don’t have to be fun to be addictive.

            Eventually people are sitting playing games they’re not enjoying but just chasing the next loot drop.

            It’s why the fun tends to fall off rapidly while the push towards basically-gambling stuff gets intensified in these games.

        • Bamboozle says:

          It starts off being really fun and then the economy shifts once enough people are bought in. Then the sunk cost fallacy kicks in where you think you can reclaim that fun feeling if you just drop 5 bucks and you don’t want everything you’ve earned and especially the time exclusive content you got at the start that offers prestige to be worthless. They pit your own investment in their product against you.

    • Matt M says:

      I don’t have any links or references handy, but my general impression is that these games are financed by a small handful of “whales” who spend hundreds/thousands on bonus “vanity” content, while the vast majority of players play for free and never spend a dime.

      The “middle group” is essentially irrelevant, from an economic standpoint.

      • Nick says:

        That’s my impression too.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        Like air travel, then, only more so.

      • Murphy says:

        In theory whales are just people who feel like spending a load of money on a game.

        In practice it can simply be preying on people with gambling addiction problems.

        the number of games that gradually morph into slot machines inclines me to think it’s more the latter.

        Spin the wheel! you’ve used your free 2 spins for today!!!”

        • Matt M says:

          The irony is that the people who complain loudest about this system don’t seem to be the whales, who are psychologically manipulated into subsidizing hordes of free players… but the free players themselves, who find it morally offensive that other people are allowed to “pay to win.”

          The comparisons to real life politics are obvious.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            “Pay 2 win” can be a motte-and-bailey.

            There is a serious problem where the people who spend the most money are those who win. There is a huge gravity well that pulls the game in this direction, and unless constant and consistent effort is applied fighting this gravity well, the game will fall into the singularity: they are making more money, then more money, then huge amounts of money, and just as their financial model predicts they will be making infinite money, they are spaghetii’d apart as players mass quit.

            That’s the motte. The bailey is that any spending of money by other people is “pay 2 win.”

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t think there’s actually a significant Pay2win problem in games. At least not in any I’ve ever played.

            The Steelman for such systems is that “pay for advantage” is actually necessary to maintain something resembling a competitive balance between casual and hardcore players.

            Let’s say there are two ways to gain an advantage in any particular game: Gear, and skill. Gear can be bought directly. Skill requires dedicating several hours to practice. In a very general sense, the people who have the means and desire to buy gear directly are the ones who don’t have/want to put in the time to practice and develop the skill.

            I think the problem here is that “gaming culture” and gaming forums and gaming media are still dominated by young-ish people with much more free time than disposable income. But if you consider things from the perspective of a working adult, who wants to play and compete (but not necessarily dominate) a game without being instantly and immediately destroyed by a bunch of high-schoolers who play the game for 8 hours a day, the dynamic seems both fair and necessary.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I’ve played games which do it right. One of the best was a three-tiered model:

            a) free-to-play which is actually an unlimited-time preview, so you can decide when to start paying to compete

            b) pay a certain amount to level up into the competitive ranks, with everyone paying essentially the same

            c) a bunch of cosmetic or limited-use items, such that spending a crapload does not have any noticeable improvement on your chances of winning.

            I have also seen online economies blown apart by a new marketing team that decides to throw away 10+ years of currency stability.

          • Murphy says:

            Sure, most people don’t care if someone else gets conned.

            but they do care if their opponent in a skill based game can suddenly just buy advantage.

            “and so bill gates wins the 7th world chess championship in a row. He used a daring strategy of paying the competition runners to upgrade all his pieces to queens at the start of the game. This adds to his accomplishments as an athlete where he recently won an Olympic gold medal in the 100 meters after paying the Olympic committee to chain all the other runners to large granite blocks at the start of the race”

            Since the game makers incentives all align around trying to convert non-paying players into paying players they also take every opportunity to rub free players faces in it.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I had totally forgotten about an online game I was in where I was there at rollout, and then one day the other player brought out a bunch of cards that were way better than anything I would ever have access to.

            The whole thing shut down ~3 months later.

          • Matt M says:

            but they do care if their opponent in a skill based game can suddenly just buy advantage.

            The thing is, the non-paying players are also “buying advantage.” They just pay with time, rather than with currency.

            If you’re a working adult with a full time job and a family, should any and all “skill based” games just be assumed to be closed to you because, while you can easily “invest” $50 to buy gear, you can’t invest 100 hours of practice to “get gud?”

            And when the game companies themselves tend to prefer to receive actual currency rather than “hours played,” why shouldn’t they cater, or at least make some minimum effort towards serving the needs of the “willing to spend cash, but not time” demographic?

          • Drew says:

            @Edward Scizorhands’ 3-tiered model sounds really reasonable.

            I could imagine companies setting things up as “seasons” where I’d buy access for a 3-month season, and get the same access to good cards as anyone else.

            I’m OK paying finite amounts of money. I just want to know (1) that the amount is actually finite, and (2) that I’m not going to get slaughtered by someone who dumped $10,000 into the game.

          • Spookykou says:

            There are different ways to use money to circumvent a lack of skill. Game coaching services exist for video games, and I have never seen anyone seriously complain about them as being pay to win.

            I think that ‘gaming culture’ in this case is similar to ‘sports culture’ or ‘music culture’ or really any other culture that values individual skill.

            Edit:

            If you’re a working adult with a full time job and a family, should any and all difficult piano pieces just be assumed to be closed to you because … you can’t invest 100 hours of practice to “get gud?”

            Yes.

          • Murphy says:

            @Matt M

            Sure, the companies see it as a cash cow, it’s the players who see it as something to get skilled at.

            How would you feel watching a version of the Olympics where half the long distance runners were normal runners, competing and showing their ability… and the other half were obese millionaires who thought it was totally unfair that those silly athletes were able to “pay with fitness and training” to get into the Olympics… so they paid an extra fee to be allowed to use a quad bike in the race.

            The winners podium for the 5000 meters is entirely obese people with quad bikes.

            How much is that a 5000 meter foot race and how much is it a competition about who can spend the most on quad upgrades?

          • Matt M says:

            If you’re a working adult with a full time job and a family, should any and all difficult piano pieces just be assumed to be closed to you because … you can’t invest 100 hours of practice to “get gud?”

            A restrictions that exists because of technological limitations we have not yet figured out a way to overcome.

            But let’s suppose we do. Assume a Matrix-style ability to “download” skills directly into your brain. Should we make the sale of the “learn to play Mozart” skill illegal, under the grounds that it would be unfair to all the people who learned to play Mozart the hard way?

            Would that make society better off?

            The entire chain of reasoning is based on nothing other than petty jealousy and tribal turf wars. Online multiplayer games are good when a: there are a lot of players available to play with and b: when the competitive balance is such that the game is reasonably challenging for all involved (not too easy or too hard for anyone).

            Giving people the ability to increase their competitive viability based on either time spent or cash paid, depending on which of those resources is less scarce for them, increases competitive balance, and makes games more accessible to a wider audience.

            Most of the adults I know who pay money for good items in competitive online games, if you took that option away from them, wouldn’t say “oh well, guess I need to spend the 100 hours now.” Rather, they wouldn’t play at all. Who is made better off by that, exactly?

          • Matt M says:

            @Murphy,

            I can’t tell whether my biggest objection is that you’re making a false comparison (the Olympics to some random no-stakes game of whatever online) or whether you’re proposing what you think is an absurd hypothetical that by and large already exists.

            Go to a random triathlon in a small city and you’ll see a wide mix of competitors. Some will have got there by pure practice and dedication. They won’t have the fanciest bike or shoes. They won’t have private coaches. They’ll be competitive through brute force training. Of course, you’ll also see other people who are a little different. People who are less “I was a gym freak my whole life” and more “I’m a rich techbro who just started doing this a year ago.” They won’t be “obese” but they probably won’t be as well practiced or as in-shape as the first group. They have less time, more other commitments. They will have absolutely top of the line gear, private coaches, etc. This will make them competitive. Sometimes, they even win.

            And yet, life goes on. Triathlons are more accessible to people, and everyone is better off for it. Society in general becomes more fit, and Ironman makes more money in entrance fees, thereby being able to stage more triathlons in more places.

            And there are no obese triathletes winning major races, because buying the best equipment only takes you so far, and at the upper levels of competition, everyone is going to have the best equipment anyway.

          • Spookykou says:

            @Matt M

            So for your piano future the question is how they handle piano competitions. If we find a way to trivialize human skill in something, then we might stop competing in that thing, or we might place restrictions that mean in order to compete you have to use human skill anyways.

            We have cars that will let you move faster than a person can run, so we don’t have Speed contests*, we have foot races. (see Murphy’s comment)

            *Well we do have speed contests, but those are done by machines and the human skill in question is the engineering/piloting.

            Edit.

            Based on your reply to Murphy you seem to be using a different kind of ‘competitive’ from myself. As for the triathlon, You can buy a high end computer with a 120 hz monitor and a mouse with twenty keys on it, you can pay for a coach, and nobody is going to complain about pay to win.

          • Matt M says:

            “Pay for the best lootboxes” does not seem to be a viable competitive strategy at the high levels of any videogame I’m aware of that has high level competitions. I’m not aware of any successful pro gamers whose primary attributes are a huge bankroll and very little practice.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I think we hit a whole ‘nother motte-and-bailey when talking about making buying advantages illegal.

            Regulate lootboxes as gambling, sure. At the minimum, if you can spend real-world money to open a lootbox, the game should publish the complete odds of the distinction of players getting what they want out of it. I’d probably want to go further than than, but let’s start there for now.

            But making advantages illegal to buy is just capital-D dumb. Deciding what’s fun and what isn’t will be handled by the market. If people like watching a pay-to-win Olympics, well, good for them. If they don’t, they won’t watch and it will disappear. Stop trying to micromanage an industry for its own good.

            This doesn’t mean this discussion is worthless. It’s good for people to debate what makes a good game or doesn’t, because people want to have those experiences, and if there is something we can’t have we should understand it.

            (Also, that Robot Congress link does have a date on it. I probably just missed it before. It was October 2017. Sorry for any false aspersion I made against the site. I’m listening to it now and will try to summarize Mark Whipple’s point about the distinction between pokemon cards and loot boxes.)

          • Matt M says:

            Regulate lootboxes as gambling, sure.

            I might also point out the irony that the push to de facto outlaw lootboxes by classifying them as gambling is occurring right alongside a generally growing public acceptance of obvious, no kidding, actual gambling.

            Online sports betting has recently been legalized in a number of states, and is projected to be legalized in a majority of them within the next few years.

          • Spookykou says:

            I am confused by the core premise, you play a competitive game, your skill sets you at rank 5, with 1 being the best and 6 being the worst. Why do you want to spend money to get to rank 3? In as much as rank reflects something you value, might people who earned that rank with their skill, be equally and oppositely invested in you not being able to buy your way up to their rank?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            I didn’t say to make them illegal. I wanted this:

            If you can pay money for a loot box, the publisher needs to publish the odds of what’s inside it.

            Is this too burdensome?

          • Matt M says:

            Why do you want to spend money to get to rank 3?

            Are you asking me?

            It’s a good question. In my view, most people don’t. “Pay2win” is a derogatory term created and used by people who don’t pay and care a lot about winning.

            My impression is that the vast majority of people who do pay for “advantage” items don’t see it as “paying to win” but rather “paying to compete” or maybe even “paying to survive.” They aren’t obsessed with winning for its own sake, so much as they want to be able to play and enjoy the game online, in a competitive environment, without being instantly killed by people vastly above their own skill level.

            That said, the general attitude of “I want to be as good and competitive as I can at Activity X, within the constraints I face as it regards the amount of time I have to spend on activity X, seems to be universally common, whether X is video games, triathlons, or piano playing.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            They aren’t obsessed with winning for its own sake, so much as they want to be able to play and enjoy the game online, in a competitive environment, without being instantly killed by people vastly above their own skill level.

            The usual solution is ranked matchmaking. If you’re a teenager off for the summer you can grind train your way up to Diamond and play against other people who’ve invested the time to git gud. If you’re a Busy Adult With Many Important Things To Do you can bum around on Bronze League Heroes in your spare time (which, imho is actually more fun).

            If hanging out in the lower ranks rankles, that sound awfully like wanting to win for its own sake, now doesn’t it?

          • Matt M says:

            Yes, matchmaking does also attempt to solve that problem. It’s just less effective when there are fewer players, and more specifically, fewer players of your same approximate skill level.

            And typically, people aren’t willing to wait very long for matches to be made, so when the game can’t quickly find opponents of your skill level, rather than keep you waiting, it throws you into whatever is available at the moment, which for lower skilled players, means a game full of people who can kill you before you even see them coming.

          • Spookykou says:

            I am just not familiar with competitive multiplayer games that will regularly result in the kinds of skill mismatches you are describing. Competitive games with ranks/skill indicators normally use an ELO like system to insure that people of comparative skill get matched up against each other, save the occasional Smurf.

            I would add that I don’t think pay-to-win is a problem in any games I play, but ELO boosting is, and the motivation for that behavior is clearly low skill players wanting to appear to be high skill players. They value rank, as a reflection of skill, as much or more than everyone else.

            Edit: Well actually I had exactly this experience last night. The new player experience in Hearthstone is a nightmare, using the default paladin deck I was getting absolutely monstered by other chickens with decks full of rare cards. But I don’t think of Hearthstone as Pay-to-win any more than MTG, or Warhammer, etc. Some games do require you to pay to play, so if that is what you are talking about, we might be talking past each other.

          • Jaskologist says:

            There are a lot of F2P models that aren’t oriented around lootboxes or anything resembling gambling. Some let you pay for aesthetic in-game items like a nifty-looking hat with no stat boosts at all. Some let you pay to get at things faster than you would have to grind for them (which can incentivize them to make the game grindy, but games were grindy even before this business model). Some do let you buy special, more powerful items, which might make existing content easier, or might open up new areas of content, just as game expansions would in an earlier era.

            It still feels wrong in my gut if these end up mostly being funded by a few players who pay thousands a month, but they’re not playing on the gambling instinct, and it’s really hard to even call it shady when the player is knowingly buying a purely aesthetic item.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            https://headgum.com/robot-congress/robot-congress-52-are-loot-boxes-gambling-ft-marc-whipple

            1. Gambling is a state law. In general, current gambling requires:

            * Consideration
            * Chance
            * Something of value

            “Chance” means there are components out of your control. If skill is a portion, it still includes chance.

            “Something of value” is very broad. If you can exchange it to someone else for consideration, it’s something of value. If there is no trade or exchange system, you are probably escaping gambling laws. This is one reason that game companies work hard at stopping account selling.

            2. “But what about baseball cards?” as an analogy.

            This starts around minute 27.

            First, if you are using an analogy to defend yourself, you are in a lot of danger, because the judge/prosecutor/regulator have huge power and could blast you away if that analogy happens to fail. You often have to prove your gambling scheme is legal.

            One reason the analogy doesn’t work is that judges have said so. Another is that you always get something out of the baseball card pack. You were getting something of value, while often in video game lootboxes you are getting useless crap. There is a discussion of phone-card-sweepstakes, where you buy a phone card for $5 worth of phone time for $5, and get entered in a sweepstakes. But no one was actually using the phone cards, so it was decided to be gambling. There are many court cases where people have lost for selling useless crap for money with sweepstakes-as-a-side-channel. Another point is that physical gambling machines often have required minimum payouts, in Nevada it’s 80%.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            The new player experience in Hearthstone is a nightmare, using the default paladin deck I was getting absolutely monstered by other chickens with decks full of rare cards.

            I’m guessing that this is the type of experience that grinds the most people’s gears. Namely, artificial excellence.

            It’s like the example brought up earlier of the athlete who figures out and perfects the fastest or best way to perform, versus the rich newcomer who powers through with steroids. Set aside the intuitive unfairness of buying your way in, and there still a gut feeling I have that the veteran athlete knows how to figure out ways to physically excel. Faced with a future physical problem, I think the veteran can figure out a solution, while the roided newcomer will just flail.

            If the newcomer instead studied the veteran’s skills for problem solving, and combined that with the newcomer’s wealth to solve a problem, I think I’d be impressed. An athlete who also works as a chemist and perfects his own drugs would not bother me.

            But a game with cards you can simply improve by incrementing the numbers on them is giving you power for free. It doesn’t matter whether you grinded 64 commons and fused them into a rare, or paid $50 for them; you’re not showing me anything clever. More importantly, any game that incorporates buffs like this strikes me as a game for casual players. Contrast this with online card games with a draft feature – given a random list of 30 cards, say, choose 10 for your play deck within two minutes. Skill should be the greatest differentiator.

          • Jiro says:

            The thing is, the non-paying players are also “buying advantage.” They just pay with time, rather than with currency.

            But the incentives on the game creator are different when it comes to players paying with time and with money, since the creator doesn’t benefit when the players pay with time.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes, I agree. Which is precisely why it’s weird that people act as if game companies have some sort of moral obligation to prioritize the money-scarce people and to ignore the time-scarce people.

          • Murphy says:

            @Edward Scizorhands

            Where did i say anything about illegal?

            My point comparing to the Olympics is that matt seems to be taking personal offense that others look down those who “pay to win.”

            My only point is that it’s utterly reasonable to look down on such people. They enter a skill game and buy a victory.

            He poses a false dilemma between penniless kids with nothing but free time (painted as some kind of outgroup) and poor little rich adults who just want to even the playing field but in reality it’s trust fund kids with nothing but time and a pile of money vs everyone else. they have the hours and the cash so victory becomes primarily about who can buy more advantage.

            There’s a reason “pay to win” is a criticism of a video game. Often a very damning one which will prompt a large fraction of the player base to quit if it appears true.

            the entire model pushes companies towards design decisions that make their games less fun… but always trying to dangle the temptation of “if you just spend a liiittle bit more”

            Socially, there’s also nothing wrong with openly mocking people who pay to win in games of skill and still somehow feel proud of their “achievements”.

            That’s somewhat separate to the issue of games basically becoming casinos targeted at children while desperately pressing every addiction button they can. “pay to win” is just one small hook of that issue.

            @Matt M

            Online sports betting has recently been legalized in a number of states, and is projected to be legalized in a majority of them within the next few years.

            Sure, but not targeting children.

            I have no issue with gambling in general, it’s only an issue when it targets children and to a lesser extent when it goes out of it’s way to target people with mental health problems and gambling addictions.

        • Spookykou says:

          I think the diminishing value of money is a bigger factor than you imply and while these kinds of games increasingly include gambling elements whales predate them. League of Legends for example was largely supported by whales for years before their first loot box.

          There are also other examples that seem similar enough to possible cover the same cohort of people. The random twitch donor who totally financially supports some small time streamer with hundreds of dollars a week, the people buying thousand dollar T-shirts, apple products, etc. It is easy to ascribe ulterior motives to spending that seems gratuitous to me, but I think it often just reflects different preferences and means.

          I can believe the gambling model makes more money and that is why everyone is moving to it, but is it responsible for a 50% increase or a 10% increase? Either way everyone would still move to it.

      • Tarpitz says:

        I think in the specific case of Arena, there is a large group of players (myself included) who spend exactly $5 for the welcome bundle (or whatever it’s called), which is heavily discounted.

      • dick says:

        Whales are a major part of, sometimes the only important part of, how ome small mobile games get paid for, but I don’t think they’re very relevant for the very largest and most expensive ones, which certainly includes Arena. They really need typical players to be making purchases.

    • CatCube says:

      They call high-paying players “whales,” having stolen that term from the gambling industry for the high-paying players that keep casinos afloat. As you might surmise, they’re responsible for a large fraction of the revenue.

      Here’s a link from a consultancy firm for mobile games:
      https://deltadna.com/blog/how-whales-spend/

      One of the harsh realities of the free-to-play (F2P) model in games is that the vast majority of revenue is generated by a fraction of a percent of the player base. In the best F2P games, these whales can spend $1,000s, but even modest F2P games will likely have players spending well over $100.

      How to find and manage high speding players is the holy grail of F2P monetization, and to do this, you need to understand their spending behavior.

      One of the common misconceptions about whale-like spenders is that they are indiscriminate spenders who can afford anything offered to them. However, in many cases whales are anything but; they may not even know that they are whales! i.e. they do not realize how much they have spent in a game over time. The proof of this is in their spending patterns.

    • Randy M says:

      Remember the slogan, if you don’t pay them, you’re the product.
      People pay into this because they can play, which works better with a larger player pool. I assume their server costs are low enough that the marginal player who wouldn’t otherwise pay them basically costs nothing to add.

      I play this and Eternal without paying, but I could probably participate at a slightly higher level by buying packs and having more cards quicker; but I’m not trying to compete, just have fun, and it serves that need without dropping a cent. As far as Magic goes, they get my anyway money for the cardboard (though I’ve moved to second hand singles mostly).

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        There’s the good argument that the free players are the content for the whales.

        One issue is that the game companies could set up bots acting like people to be the free content for the whales.

        My wife was playing an online game where she thought she was competing against real people. One day the Internet died, and she could still play the game. We discovered it was being done offline against simulated players. The game had never explicitly said otherwise, and my wife hadn’t put money in so there was no fraud. But people enjoy the social aspect of beating humans more than beating bots, and online card games make it trivial enough to simulate players, so someone actually trying could get pretty far by making people think they are taking on tens of thousands of humans when it is actually just hundreds of humans plus lots of bots.

        • Matt M says:

          My wife was playing an online game where she thought she was competing against real people. One day the Internet died, and she could still play the game. We discovered it was being done offline against simulated players. The game had never explicitly said otherwise

          Almost every big, phone-based f2p “multiplayer” game is actually doing this. True, live, PvP is quite rare.

          • souleater says:

            I never realized that, but now that you mention it… that makes a ton of sense… huh..

            I imagine they are able to calibrate the opponents difficulty to help entice you to buy boosters.. Just enough wins so you don’t get discouraged.. and the sense that if you just buy that one new item (that all your opponents coincidentally have) you can really dominate

        • Randy M says:

          One issue is that the game companies could set up bots acting like people to be the free content for the whales.

          But none of those bots will ever be converted to whales.
          Unless the AI is really, really good, I guess.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            The point wasn’t to convert those bots to paying. The point is to create the magic content that will keep whales paying and/or make whales pay more and/or convert dolphins to whales and/or convert f2p’s to dolphins.

            In rank order, people prefer

            1) Beating other humans
            2) Playing against other humans
            3) Beating bots
            4) Playing against bots

            Maybe 2 & 3 are swapped.

          • Randy M says:

            But you don’t need to create the content if people are clamoring to provide it for free. And some of those ftp players might be converted to paying customers.

    • Tarpitz says:

      I bought the $5 welcome bundle, but have spent no further money since. I don’t play every day, but I have access to pretty much every competitive Standard deck and a significant reserve of rare and mythic wildcards. I think this is typical of the experience of fairly strong limited players (not pro level – I expect to day 2 GPs, and have a couple of PTQ top 8s and an English Nationals top 16, but I’ve never qualified for a PT/MC; my limited rating on MTGO used to hover around 1850), but not of the average player.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Related: Last week the UK Parliament was holding hearings about loot boxes/gambling in video games, and the lawyer from EA informed us that these are not, in fact, “loot boxes,” but “surprise mechanics.” And people love surprises, so I guess problem solved.

      To see a clip, just go to youtube and search for “EA surprise mechanics” and pick your favorite gaming youtuber’s rant on the topic. I’m not going to link anyone specifically because any video I pick will just be a torrent of obscenities hurled at EA.

      • JPNunez says:

        I assume when this hits the USA they will go with first ammendment issues, tho in Europe that won’t fly.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I don’t think the first amendment has anything to do with it. It’s gambling marketed indiscriminately to children and adults. We absolutely regulate gambling.

          The obvious counterargument is “but what about baseball cards and kinder eggs and trading card games?” Jim Sterling addressed that in his rant on the topic. Now that I think about it…yeah giving somebody money for a chance at getting something valuable is gambling. I would not be terribly surprised if such things also get regulated. If I were the company that makes MTG or baseball cards or whatever, I would be begging for EA to shut the f**k up right now before they ruin the scam for everyone.

          This is also the reason I don’t play Magic. I would probably enjoy it a lot. It looks right up my alley. I had as much if not more fun playing Gwent in Witcher 3 than…playing Witcher 3. But I have no interest in buying packs of cards hoping I can build a deck I want. Just let me buy the cards I want for my deck and play the game. Maybe that will eventually happen, because…yeah everybody hates EA and everybody hates loot boxes.

          • acymetric says:

            Can you paraphrase/bulletpoint Sterling’s rant? I’m curious about his points but don’t especially enjoy consuming video/audio content for stuff like that.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Our occasional community member Marc Whipple has an interview with Robot Congress a year or two ago about the legal situation. (They don’t date their podcasts so I can’t tell you exactly when. The lack of date-information is probably also a result of Moloch.)

            https://headgum.com/robot-congress/robot-congress-52-are-loot-boxes-gambling-ft-marc-whipple

          • Randy M says:

            Just let me buy the cards I want for my deck and play the game.

            You can absolutely do this for physical releases.
            Buy a couple of commander decks to play against your son. Never buy a pack after that.

          • JPNunez says:

            The first amendment is really vague, as is the loot box bill recently introduced by a democrat in the american congress; for example it tries to outlaw pay to win mechanics in competitive games, where you can buy a better weapon than your opponent and thus help you beat them.

            That will probably fall into free speech. Random loot boxes may not tho, dunno.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Can you paraphrase/bulletpoint Sterling’s rant?

            Most of it is just the usual “F*** you, EA, you do not get to change the language once the thing you do becomes unpopular.” These companies promoted “loot boxes,” a term they themselves used when, for instance, proudly announcing that the new Jedi: Fallen Order game will not have, quote, “loot boxes” and now claim “we don’t use that term, we say ‘surprise mechanics.'” Lie lie lie lie lie. They also promoted “microtransactions,” and now that everyone hates “microtransactions” they’re called “recurrent user spending.” Reminds me of George Carlin’s bit about “shell shock -> post traumatic stress disorder.”

            EA is getting called on the carpet here because games are big business, and they’re tying in with other very big businesses like the NFL and FIFA. The Madden and FIFA franchises are also loot box hell now. The insightful part of Sterling’s rant, though, was about the reexamining of “surprise mechanics” in other businesses. EA likes to defend themselves by pointing out other “surprise” items marketed at kids, like card games, kinder eggs, the “LOL dolls” or I think “neopets” or something? And yeah we let that stuff slide for a long time, but when I think about it now…maybe little kids blowing their allowance on Pokemon cards hoping they get the rare card they want, not getting it and then saving up their allowance to blow it again is an awful lot like gambling. Maybe that’s not okay either. So EA might want wind up ruining the “surprise mechanics” biz for everyone else, too. Maybe. This could all go nowhere, but I’m not sure. Nobody who isn’t EA likes loot boxes. EA is frequently way up there on those “most hated companies” surveys. First world problems, sure, but if you’re a politician who wants to stick it to corporations for big applause…this one’s kind of a no-brainer.

            ETA:

            @JPNunez

            Yeah that’s a bit of a different thing. I could see that failing. But with loot boxes the problem is 1) chance, 2) non-disclosure what the odds of ‘winning’ are, 3) no independent regulation to verify the odds really are what they say they are like we have with slot machines and state gaming commissions and 4) marketing all of this to children.

          • Matt M says:

            The Madden and FIFA franchises are also loot box hell now.

            I call BS on this. These franchises have lootbox mechanics in place for a few very specific entirely optional game modes that didn’t even exist a few years ago / pre-lootbox.

            If you still want to play these franchises the way you did back in 1998 and not have to worry about lootboxes, you can. I still play the NHL franchise every once in awhile. I just play random matches against the AI just like I did on my Super Nintendo. No lootboxes.

          • birdboy2000 says:

            Competitive TCG players almost never buy booster packs, they buy singles on the secondary market. At least I know that’s the case for Pokemon, and AFAIK it’s the case for other games like Yu-gi-oh and Magic. I’m kind of worried about a too-broad lootbox ban hitting said games though, if only for selfish reasons; I get the sense the casuals who do buy boosters are indirectly subsidizing the competitive scene.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t play Madden anymore, but I was under the impression that online play had all the grindy progression and loot box stuff in it. Not so?

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t play Madden anymore, but I was under the impression that online play had all the grindy progression and loot box stuff in it. Not so?

            Certain very popular modes of it do, but you can play online without any of it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But does anybody do that? Or is this just the “but you can play for freeeeee!” response to pay-to-win mechanics in f2p games?

          • Tarpitz says:

            No sensible person builds a constructed deck by buying booster packs. There’s a thriving secondary market in singles, which is how every competitive player and many casuals acquire most of their (relevant) cards.

          • aristides says:

            @Conrad Honcho, not everyone hates lootboxes, but everyone hates EA’s loot box. They really killed the golden goose by charging for the game and charging for the lootboxes. There are plenty of other lootbox games that are not hated, because they are F2P normally. In particular, I like several gatcha games, which are just lootboxes in Japan, that all disclose what winning odds are and formed a coalition that promised that all odds were accurate, that make them more fair. It’s a shame that EA is probably going to ruin it for gatcha games as well.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            No sensible person builds a constructed deck by buying booster packs. There’s a thriving secondary market in singles, which is how every competitive player and many casuals acquire most of their (relevant) cards.

            The primary market, the one the companies making the thing are doing, is gambling. I’m buying the pack, hoping to get the card I want, or cards I can sell on the secondary market. If I have bad luck, I’m worse off, with cards I don’t want and nobody else wants to buy. When you spend money on a chance to wind up better off or worse off, that’s gambling.

            Also, to the extent these things are being marketed to kids, the kids don’t understand this. “Somebody’s selling the card I want for $50, but I only have $5, so maybe I’ll get lucky if I buy a pack…”

          • dick says:

            This is also the reason I don’t play Magic. I would probably enjoy it a lot. It looks right up my alley. I had as much if not more fun playing Gwent in Witcher 3 than…playing Witcher 3. But I have no interest in buying packs of cards hoping I can build a deck I want.

            @Conrad, you might be interested in Keyforge. It’s essentially Magic except every deck is a unique (and in theory, balanced) combination of cards that can’t be swapped out.

          • JPNunez says:

            Some modern loot box games disclose the odds (particularly those from japan), and those with big fanbase size have people check the chances by mass efforts.

            Kids get this marketed to, yes.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            “F*** you, EA, you do not get to change the language once the thing you do becomes unpopular.”

            Oddly, I like that EA uses the euphemism treadmill so baldly and haplessly. People can learn from it. If EA can do this, so can anyone else, so people are now being careful to look at what other people mean by a new term they are defending.

            Cf. “global warming” -> “climate change”; “torture” -> “enhanced interrogation”; etc.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @dick: looks neat, I’ll check it out, thanks.

            @JP: EA would have been wise to start working out some kind of “ethical lootboxing” before the government gets involved. People maybe wouldn’t be quite so mad if they knew what their chance of getting an epic Star Card in Battlefront II* was. Also, there’s no secondary market for electronic lootbox stuff.

            @Paul: This is a good opportunity to link Orwell’s Politics and the English Language for anyone who hasn’t already read it.

            * Also, I’ll take this time to plug Star Wars Battlefront II. The game was great to begin with…when they killed the MTX lootboxes before release. They didn’t give up on the game and it’s now really excellent. I hadn’t played in awhile but came back last week to try out the new characters, maps, modes, units, etc. My son and I spent all week playing and leveled up Count Dooku, Anakin, Obi-wan and Greivous to level 25 (full epic cards). And I love the infiltration droid with the vibrosword. Was a lot of fun. Game is now incredibly cheap, too, if you’re looking for a fun Star Wars FPS.

      • Nick says:

        I’m not going to link anyone specifically because any video I pick will just be a torrent of obscenities hurled at EA.

        You say that like it’s a bad thing!

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          And what if we redesigned the videos so that they only fed you a handful of obscenities hurled at EA, and only gave you the torrent if you took enough surveys or bought a subscription?

    • acymetric says:

      I’ll just point out that while I’m not a fan of F2P or freemium models, they are actually kind of reasonable for card collecting type games…given that is essentially the model for the actual physical card games as well, right? The fact that you can even attempt to play for free might arguably be an improvement (although probably outweighed by how easy they make it to overspend for the highly susceptible).

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        they are actually kind of reasonable for card collecting type games…given that is essentially the model for the actual physical card games as well, right

        Maybe they’re unreasonable for physical card games, too. That’s why I don’t play them and wouldn’t let my kids play them. It’s gambling, but without the fun of gambling.

        • Matt M says:

          Don’t you think that at some point, your kids need to learn to resist the various attempts to psychologically part them from their money?

          “Play this free phone game and have the patience to wait for your farm to finish building rather than pay $5 to make it build immediately” seems like a low-stakes enough version of teaching them such a lesson.

          I don’t have kids yet, but I feel like I’d prefer to expose them to frauds and hucksters and manipulators as soon as possible. Teach them young so they don’t fall for a far more serious scam when they’re old…

          • JPNunez says:

            I think that is a valid worry but I’d rather try to immunize them with something not as well designed to make them part with their money.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Don’t you think that at some point, your kids need to learn to resist the various attempts to psychologically part them from their money?

            Maybe do that with something that doesn’t actually part them from their money, then? Also, I’m not going to give them money to do that, so the lesson they would learn is “if only I could give these people money I’d have a fun time with this.”

            Also, I’d rather them just play good video games. Thankfully daddy’s addiction is “buying good video games.” My son has his own Switch and access to daddy’s account, so he’s playing Cuphead, and Dead Cells, and now My Friend Pedro and all that kind of stuff.

          • aristides says:

            Another good tip, is to give your kids physical money, not access to a credit card. If they want to buy something digital, they have to physically hand over the money and realize what they are loosing , plus at one point you can cut them off if they try to spend more than $100 on a F2P game. Seems basic, but there seems to be plenty of people that don’t do it

        • Randy M says:

          Heh… and as I walking through a casino last week, I though “Gee, I could get all the skinner box thrills of this, plus an actual game by playing Magic.”
          But that mostly applies to slot machines, card games can be fun.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            If you’re looking at slot machines, sure, there’s no real game, there. But I enjoy playing blackjack. So I will go into a casino with $200, knowing I’m going to get the enjoyment of $200 worth of blackjack playing at least. And since I’m not awful at it…I mean, last time I went with my drinking buddies to New Orleans, while they were all passed out from day drinking, I went over to Harrah’s, played for an hour and a half, won $600, treated myself to a $100 steak dinner at Brennan’s and came out ahead on the whole trip 😉

          • Randy M says:

            You either definitely should or definitely shouldn’t play Magic, then. $200 will get you 3 months of weekly gaming in a draft format, where you can recoup some of the cost by selling off the cards or make your own decks to play at home, with probably at least as much actual enjoyment of the game. And in a draft, it’s all luck and skill, you can’t buy an advantage since you all use the same number of random cards given at the site.

            There’s a few MtG pros or comentaters who come from the professional poker scene.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            For $200 I can buy a dozen or more excellent video games (eBay, Steam or eShop sales) that I’ll have forever. I think I’ll pass on MtG.

          • Randy M says:

            Sure, and I recently bought a switch partly on your recommendation–stayed up all night last night playing Dead Cells with a buddy.

            But you are the one who said, in the post I replied to, that you’ll go spend $200 on blackjack in one night.
            Unless you are regularly getting 300% returns on that, in which case more power to you, I’m suggesting that you get longer and more interesting (in terms of depth and variety) gameplay from Magic than blackjack.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            “Regularly,” no absolutely not. Once a year at most, and right now I haven’t been in a casino in probably 2 years. And usually I break even, so it’s mainly just I get to drink for free. That time in New Orleans is the only time I ever won big. But I’ll always look for an excuse to tell the story because it was awesome.

            And glad you like Dead Cells. I got burned out after 2 BSC, though and couldn’t bring myself to grind out more cells for the S rank forge.

          • Randy M says:

            Fair enough–everyone has their own sticking points. You couldn’t talk me into paying my way into a movie theater this century, for instance.

        • silver_swift says:

          It’s gambling, but without the fun of gambling.

          I’m kinda conflicted on this topic. On the one hand, boosters for mtg (and similar card games) are definitely gambling when you buy and open them to get the cards you want. Which is also definitely, at least to some extent, the way those boosters have been marketed by the companies that make them and there are almost certainly kids out there that are blowing their allowances hoping to get the one card they want.

          On the other hand, nobody who gets even slightly serious about magic (including myself and every other casual player I know) actually buys boosters for the cards they contain. You buy them to draft, which is a separate game mode that is based on the randomness and to some extend the defined rarity distribution of cards in a pack. Afterwards you keep the cards you want and optionally sell the rest to recoup a (small) fraction of the cost of the draft .

          I happen to really like drafting and I think it is a legitimate business model, but I also really want lootboxes to go away and I can’t think of a plausible law that allows one and forbids the other.

          By the way, there are card games now that have deliberately stepped away from booster packs and are instead just selling boxes with some pre-specified number (1-3) of every card in a set. They’re called Living Card Games, might be a good alternative for your kids if they want to get into card games.

    • Deiseach says:

      Does anyone here know enough about the economics of online games to comment on the distribution of paying vs non-paying players, and of the amounts spent by the paying players?

      Very very limited experience, but even the best “free to play” games eventually hit that barrier where if you want to advance to higher levels/play the cool fun areas, you need the better gear. And you can either grind for eternity and stay stuck at level 50 until you get that one in X million drop for every single piece you need for that set of killer gear, or you can buy your build.

      There’s also cosmetic effects for people who want to splash out money on looking flash, which do nothing about gameplay just look fancy, and games do that as well to raise money.

      Any complaints from the ‘doing it the hard way’ players usually get met with “But the game is FREEEEEEE” and yeah, that’s a very valid point – until you’re stuck on a loading screen that eventually times out and boots you back to log in because it’s a chokepoint with everyone and their fancy cosmetics eating up the bandwidth. Ahem, not like this has been happening recently after the latest patch in a particular online game or anything…

    • Dack says:

      Arena doesn’t seem to have any of the typical F2P pitfalls. It’s fairly easy to make a good deck on a new account, and then you have it forever.

  16. Aapje says:

    So I’ve been thinking about a problem of modern, socially liberal society: that it is really bad at helping people achieve their goals and teach (the actual and full) norms to people who are bad at picking norms up organically.

    In socially liberal society, the often espoused ideal is that people should be free to make their own choices, as long as they don’t harm others. Yet this ideal obscures that most human behavior has benefits and harms to others. So in reality, the only reasonably standard is to accept harms that are below a certain threshold and/or that are relatively low compared to the benefits. Furthermore, because people are incredibly diverse, it is impossible to make a full set of manageable rules that are fair to everyone. Any rule that is simple enough to teach and is also fair, is going to be at the extreme end of the harm-scale. No such thing is possible for the grey area where most actual behavior happens.

    So this results in a quandary, which social liberals often resolve by:
    – only making rules explicit against extreme behavior
    – denying that the grey area exist and portraying everything they don’t want to happen as extreme behavior

    For example, anti-sexual harassment training never seems to actually teach something reasonable for people who are not asexual, like what legitimate displays of affection and interest are, what behaviors are conditionally OK & where they cross over into behavior that is never acceptable. Also, the more socially liberal people are, the more they seem to respond to undesired sexual behavior by interpreting it as an extreme transgression, even if merely exceeds their preferences a little.

    In general, what I see is an immense resistance (and not in the least among social liberals) to voicing displeasure directly to a person, negotiating compromises, etc. Arguably, doing this is extremely unpleasant and thus felt as a great harm. So many people who have social liberal ideals where many different desires and behaviors are valid if other people are fine with that behavior, nevertheless often expect strict adherence by others to their specific needs/desires and are unwilling to make their needs/desires explicit. This result in a contradiction: how are people supposed to know these needs/desires?

    The increasing urbanization, globalization and multiculturalism makes this even harder, as we are more likely to meet people who don’t know us and are so different from us that they have a hard time recognizing our needs (or seeing them as valid). Without the willingness to communicate and to react moderately to minor transgressions, only those with very high social skills can negotiate this.

    A related issue is that socially liberal society espouses the ideal that differences are valid and people should not be shamed for them. This ideal obscures that they do have an effect on outcomes. Regardless of whether being fat is or is not considered a personal failing, it does reduce the number of people who want to date you. Yet the mere act of correctly stating the consequences is now considered indistinguisable from shaming/policing, which makes sense. A statement like “if you do/are X, society will cause negative outcomes for you,” is both norm-explaining and norm-setting. So if you want to change the norm, you need to punish those who merely seek to explain/teach causality.

    With socially liberal society rejecting the idea that exclusionary preferences are wrong, but either ignoring that these are not random or assuming that the patterns are merely due to shaming that will dissipate without that shaming, we see a great reluctance to teach these patterns.

    How bad this has become is perhaps best exemplified with Peterson’s adage: “Clean up your room!” Basic advice that makes most people like you more and want to hang out with you, is relevatory to many people.

    • JPNunez says:

      I think this is a huge problem, yeah. Particularly as we become more secular and throw away the group traditions of church, which at the very least is a contact network -although it is not without its issues-.

      Not sure what to do about it; I think more political participation should be a thing. More secular festivities that are more than just a family meeting.

      It’s possible technology could solve this; imagine Pokemon Go with a more social component.

      Reminds me of the post about the israeli army from a few threads back, where people meet in different ranks, so someone high status may become a lower status inside the army.

      That but…without the army.

    • DinoNerd says:

      The old ways didn’t teach either – at least, they didn’t teach those on the autistic spectrum. Instead, they punished. I suspect it was much the same for normal children, except that they were better able to figure out the never-stated rules, and hence less often punished for “willfully” violating them.

      • 10240 says:

        Also, with informal norms, very small violations lead to very small punishment, moderate violations lead to moderate punishment etc. Thus people can figure out what is acceptable by trial-and-error without causing major harm or getting into major trouble. On the other hand, with formal norms there is usually a large jump between no punishment and the minimum punishment.

        That’s OK when the formal rule is precise, or when the behavior that violates the formal rule is much more serious than similar behavior that violates informal norms. That’s the case with most laws, but not sexual harassment law.

        • DinoNerd says:

          Thus people can figure out what is acceptable by trial-and-error without causing major harm or getting into major trouble.

          Hmm, wouldn’t you have to know what the norm is, in order to reliably miss it by only a small amount?

          And then there’s the problem (for autistics) that if you don’t recognize looks of disapproval, distancing, attempts to change the subject, gossip etc., the first you notice is when someone actually hits you. Or explicitly and clearly says “don’t do that”, with enough description to figure out what “that” means, but that seems to be far less common 🙁

          • 10240 says:

            Indeed, you have to know roughly where the norm is, just not precisely. Much of the time you do get told or hear about the norm, if vaguely. It’s not always enough for everyone, though.

          • John Schilling says:

            Hmm, wouldn’t you have to know what the norm is, in order to reliably miss it by only a small amount?

            The norm is not a point, but a volume that almost certainly includes “say nothing, do nothing”. So right there, you know where the norm is. Not all of the norm, but enough to be safe. If you then make small steps in whatever direction seems best to you, and note the feedback as you step slightly out of bounds, then as 10240 says you can safely “figure out what is acceptable by trial-and-error”.

            Not recognizing the negative feedback, breaks this. Obviously trial-and-error doesn’t work if you can’t identify the errors. That can be a big problem in some cases. But it’s pretty much the whole of the problem, not a minor perturbation on the imagined harm of society requiring you to know the unspoken norms up front.

          • DinoNerd says:

            The norm is not a point, but a volume that almost certainly includes “say nothing, do nothing”.

            Wouldn’t that simply generalize to “the safe thing to do is to do nothing; if I do anything at all, people may more or less randomly attack me.” (Again, in the presence of poor recognition of subtle clues.)

            Perhaps that accounts for females on the Asperger’s spectrum often acting as if they were “shy” – even if actually extroverted. It’s safer to wait till someone else does something, and then either imitate them as best you can, or continue to do nothing. (But males get negative responses to acting shy, so don’t seem to take up that strategy.)

          • John Schilling says:

            Wouldn’t that simply generalize to “the safe thing to do is to do nothing; if I do anything at all, people may more or less randomly attack me.

            Not usually, because the reaction is not random and will rarely go from zero to “attack” on the basis of a single misstep.

            For a person who does not recognize the indicators most other people use for “hey, those last three steps took you right to the edge of the retaliatory attack threshold, why haven’t you backed off already?”, then yes.

    • 10240 says:

      Liberal society is capable of having informal norms against moderately harmful behaviors (in addition to laws against extreme ones). We handle many forms of assholery using informal norms. That’s also how most countries other than the US and perhaps a few others handle most sexual harassment, and how the US handled it before the 90s. Consequences for violations of informal norms range from being told you’re an asshole, to people gossiping about you and distancing themselves from you, to being fired by an informal decision of your boss that you cause more trouble than you’re worth. I doubt that informal norms against sexual harassment are weaker in liberal societies than in others; it’s not an inability of liberal societies to enforce informal norms that led to creating laws against it.

      The issue is that informal norms are imperfect (even more than laws): they don’t prevent the harmful behavior completely. American society has decided that any amount of harm is unacceptable if it falls disproportionately on women. (Or, rather, courts and Congress decided, and Americans went with it.) Most people have no problem picking up informal norms (with occasional minor violations). However, the formal norms (laws) that now exist in the US are vague, potentially risky behavior includes actions against which no informal norms exist, and behavior that would have previously lead to minor informal repercussions can now lead to major formal repercussions.

      • Viliam says:

        Suppose the asshole is higher on the progressive stack than you. The asshole violates some unwritten rule, and you punish them according to the informal norm.

        The asshole documents your behavior on internet and accuses you of being anti-X (where X is the trait that puts them higher on the progressive stack than you). Who is the bad guy now?

        • 10240 says:

          If I get in trouble for that, that doesn’t point to society being unable to have and enforce informal norms. It points to society having informal norms that are, IMO, wrong: that rules are relaxed for minorities etc., and that the norm against being anti-X is too strong.

          Or it may point to the existence of legal rules that force people to be too strict against alleged anti-X-ism, preventing the enforcement of informal rules in this case. However, that’s not the situation that Aapje has suggested, were society treats some behavior as extreme, and creates legal rules against it, because it couldn’t have norms against at all. I’m unaware of cases where a legal rule has been created against something because informal rules have proved impossible to enforce against minorities.

    • 10240 says:

      In general, what I see is an immense resistance (and not in the least among social liberals) to voicing displeasure directly to a person, negotiating compromises, etc.

      Is this resistance common? I’m not American, but I’ve always assumed that most Americans most of the time handle these issues in an informal way as before, and the people who make (e.g.) harassment complaints are those who are unusually sensitive, or have ended up in an environment that’s unusually unwilling to enforce norms in an informal way, or want to get rid of a coworker, or if the harassment is unusually serious (and probably criminal but they prefer to make a complaint to their workplace or college than go to the police).

      • Aapje says:

        In The Netherlands, the number one thing people complain about when surveyed is antisocial behavior. However, willingness to confront it seems at an all time low. So people stew and complain to their friends & family, but rarely police norms. They seem to expect authorities to do so, but those are often not around or have the same mindset. Also, the behavior is often legal, so then authorities have no legal right to make people stop.

        The lack of norm enforcement means that a number of people feel entitled to selfish behavior and react very angrily to norm setting. This sometimes causes nasty incidents when they get corrected, which get pointed out in the media, which makes people consider it more common than it is, which in turn makes people even more wary to enforce norms.

        The people who do enforce norms often let their anger stew a lot before they dare to say anything, causing a huge outburst & they often expect a bad response, which feeds into the anger even more. So the people who do correct others, fairly often do so aggressively and angrily, expecting the worst from the other person.

        My newspaper had an undercover story with the people who direct traffic at road works and events, where they expected these people to constantly have to deal with violence (they actually found that their primary problem is boredom and bad behavior by coworkers).

    • Jiro says:

      I think that this analysis assumes that people’s motives are what they say they are. They might not even intend to make a set of rules that is easily manageable; the fact that it is hard to define boundaries is a feature, because a rule with hard to define boundaries is easy to use as a weapon against people you don’t like.

      Don’t be too charitable and don’t be too quick to assume mistake theory.

      • Aapje says:

        See my comment above. I think that one issue is that we are losing a set of shared norms, so people have personal norms (and get angry when those are violated), but there is no Schelling point that people can commonly rally around. So when people do succeed at gathering a mob or when they are in a position of power, punishing a person becomes cathartic. Bob doesn’t just get punished for what he did, but he also gets punished for what Jack said, what Bill did and what a random twitter user said to another woman.

  17. Bobobob says:

    Toy Story 4–the existential horror! There’s a character called “Forky,” a spork with googly eyes, created from a pile of trash. He spends the first quarter of the movie trying to throw himself into various garbage cans, chanting “Trash! Trash!,” and the other characters have to keep him from committing suicide.

    I am not making this up. Even my wife thought it was seriously weird, and she is the last person to read negative messages into movies.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I haven’t seen yet, but it’s what sporks are intended for.

      The ability for humans to create souls was already established in the Toy Story Cinematic Universe. They’ve just confirmed that little kids can do it, in addition to mega corps.

      • Bobobob says:

        Yeah, my patience for the epistemology/phenomenology/whatever you want to call it of the Toy Story universe ran thin after #2. To what extent does a toy have to be anthropomorphized to become conscious? What if you gradually removed its eyes, arms, etc.–at what point does it stop springing to life when no one is around? (This is why my kids don’t like going to the movies with me)

        • helloo says:

          To be fair, I don’t think humans have a good grasp on that question either.

          Of course, consciousnesses is a lot clearer and easily defined for toys than humans.

        • j1000000 says:

          I watched Toy Story 1 yesterday for the first time in maybe 20 years, and I had a new question every minute about its complete lack of internal logic. Still enjoyed it though!

        • It must be that when humans (1? 5? 7?) decide it looks like a character that confers it with life… but this would also mean comic book characters would be alive and stuck to the page, conscious of every moment but unable to move, and cartoon characters would be killed and resurrected every time you changed the channel. This is indeed a disturbing universe.

    • Lord Nelson says:

      I’ll be honest: Forky is the only reason I want to see this movie.

      One of my pet peeves is when movie studios release a new sequel after the previous one was heavily marketed as being “the final chapter”. I was planning to skip Toy Story 4 out of a combination of spite and boredom. (Pixar, please just let Woody and Buzz rest.)

      But a suicidal spork? I changed my mind, I will gladly pay money to watch this.

  18. Edward Scizorhands says:

    I am studying quantum mechanics. (I did in college, but not much stuck.) I have a question about my intuition.

    Here is one thing I understand: A single qubit can be in a state that is represented by a 2-by-1 vector. (I am going to represent them here as 1-by-2 vectors, because of the text medium.) The sum of the squares of the two elements must be one, so we have a vector pointing to a unit circle.

    That visualization worked well while the two elements of the vector were real numbers. However, either of the two elements could be imaginary or complex. I tried to imagine a positive imaginary number rising up into the third dimension, and a negative imaginary number going underneath. But I have two numbers in my vector. So I would need to visualize 4 dimensions, which I don’t know how to do (yet?).

    Is there some trick I could use here, or do I just need to abandon visualization and stick to symbolic interpretation?

    • Hamish Todd says:

      Nobody can visualize four dimensions in the way that humans can visualize three dimensions (if someone tells you they can then they are just showing off, I have talked to fields medal winners about this, nobody can do it).

      However, you don’t need to abandon visualization, but you do either have to get creative or stretch things a bit. One thing that helps is a place where you’re a little wrong: it’s not the sum of the squares of the complex numbers, but the sum of the squares of the *modulus* of the complex numbers, which you can picture as the length. So the question becomes simpler: “how do I picture a pair of positive numbers such that their sum is equal to 1?” Well that is simple, it’s just a point confined to the straight line y = 1 – x such that x and y are positive!

      This picture has thrown away some information, namely the phase of the complex numbers. Note that this is not too bad, because we never get to measure the phase (in a manner of speaking), only the modulus. But we certainly want to think about the phase sometimes. So one thing you can do is:
      Picture two arrows, one pointing along x axis and other along y.
      Their lengths are equal to the modulus of the two complex coordinates in your wave function.
      Now you COLOR in those arrows such that their color is equal to the phase of those complex coordinates. Phase varies over 2*pi (tau!), so it maps directly to the color wheel.

      https://www.ibiblio.org/e-notes/webgl/gpu/schrodinger.htm Here’s a webpage where someone has done something kinda like this. I thiiiiiiink there’s meant to be a particle confined to the square, starting in the middle. Then we simulate its position, and for every point on the plane, we get the complex number corresponding to the probability of it being there, and then set the height of the surface to be the modulus of it being there, and we color based on the phase.

    • k10293 says:

      A lot of what Hamish said is right for unconstrained 4-dimensional spaces. But because of the constraint that the sum of the squared norms is equal to 1, this is a system with only three degrees of freedom. You can subsequently go down to two degrees of freedom once you notice the absolute values of the phases is not observable and only the difference is.

      The best visualization tool I know of for a qubit is the Bloch sphere.

    • I W​ri​te ​B​ug​s No​t O​ut​ag​es says:

      According to Scott Aaronson [link would be here if the post didn’t keep getting blocked], you can do practically all of quantum computing using only real numbers. Assuming your primary interest is QC, this suggests the possible solution of simply disregarding the imaginary axis. (But I’m just a symbol manipulation guy myself.)

      • k10293 says:

        I haven’t thought deeply about real number quantum computing so correct me if I’m wrong. But I’d imagine that converting from complex number QC to real number QC is more complex than just ignoring the imaginary parts.

        • I W​ri​te ​B​ug​s No​t O​ut​ag​es says:

          Yeah, there are some things like that. But a lot of the most important stuff like Grover’s algorithm is already normally done with only real numbers.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Thank you for the responses. They will take some time to internalize.

      I am also primarily interested in QC, so knowing that I can ignore some things is great, especially if I know I have left a big asterisk by them.

    • smocc says:

      For single qubits there is a visualization called the Bloch sphere. It is a useful visualization because it gives you a way to physically interpret the state.

      Every qubit state is the +1 eigenvector of the spin measured along some unit vector. So (1,0) is the +1 eigenvector of the spin the z-direction, and (1,1) is the +1 evec of the x-direction, etc.

      To visualize, first write the qubit in the form (cos(θ/2), sin(θ/2)e^(iɸ)). You can make the first component real by multiplying the whole vector by a complex phase, which does not change the state. This state is then the +1 evec of the unit vector (sinθcosɸ, sinθsinɸ, cosθ), which you can visualize in 3D space.

      This visualization can be extended to qubit mixed-states, which map to 3D vectors with magnitude less than 1.

      However, let me emphasize that too much reliance on visualization may turn into a block. The Bloch sphere is useful not because it gives you any old picture. It is useful because it gives you a physical interpretation about possible measurements. There are lots of other visualizations you could use but they wouldn’t be useful. And systems more complicated than a single qubit quickly get near impossible to visualize usefully.

    • Soy Lecithin says:

      Just seconding what others have said. The good visualization here is the Bloch sphere. I’d go so far as to say it’s not really a visualization, as the space of distinct qubit states actually is a sphere.

      What’s especially nice about the Bloch sphere is that you can generalize it to get the Bloch ball, which gives a correct visualization of mixed state qubits.

  19. silver_swift says:

    Here in The Netherlands Shell has an action going where they let you to pay a little extra for each liter of fuel to compensate for the CO2 expelled from that fuel. They use the money to buy CO2 credits from various reforestation/forest protection charities equivalent to the amount of CO2 expelled in acquiring, transporting and finally burning the fuel.

    The thing that got me was that they claim to be able to do this for 1 cent per liter. Does anyone know if this claim is remotely close to being plausible? I don’t know how CO2 credits are calculated exactly, but €0.01 sounds unreasonably low to me. Given that the fuel itself already costs €1,60-ish per liter, that would mean we would be able to completely zero out our CO2 emissions from fossil fuels by making everything 0.63% more expensive.

    If that number is plausible, why the hell are we fiddling around with electric cars and sustainable energy sources instead of just making this process mandatory?

    • bean says:

      I’d guess it’s a matter of marginal improvements vs major ones. Right now, you can offset the CO2 released by a liter of fuel for a very low price by planting trees or improving the efficiency of a factory somewhere in Bangladesh. But there are only so many places you can plant trees, and so many factories in Bangladesh that run on boilers dating back to the 19th century. Once those cheap gains are all used up, the price starts going up. I’m sure David Friedman or someone else has better numbers for what it’s going to be if we’re trying to be Carbon-neutral.

      (All of this assumes it’s not somehow subsidized, either by Shell to get people used to checking the “yes, I want to neutralize my carbon” box before they jack up the price or by the government in some way.)

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      A liter of gasoline produces somewhere around 2.3kg of CO2 emissions, so this translates to about €4.34 per metric ton of CO2. Most offsets I’m aware of cost more than that but not wildly more, e.g. Carbonfund.org charges $10/metric ton in the US and Terrapass charges $4.99 per short ton. I would question whether Shell is being as careful about “additionality” (i.e. a good answer to “would this reduction have happened anyway without us”) as other providers, but maybe they are and have got an unusually good volume discount going. Also, what bean said about picking low-hanging fruit is totally right; if everyone tried to offset their vehicles’ footprint either the marginal cost would shoot up or the additionality would get iffier.

  20. baconbits9 says:

    I had some ideas for MMORPG mechanics that I think are interesting and could be novel or semi-novel, so I thought I would post them here to see what you guys think (I don’t really play them, I played the Diablo series years ago and I might be way off in terms of how these games have progressed and what options are currently available). What I am interested in is the ability of the players to create a really rich world.

    Idea #1: New character creation. So many games have classes of characters where each class has different maximum point levels. A warrior class might have a max of 100 strength and 50 magic, and a sorcerer class might have a max of 50 strength and 100 magic. In this game there would be a basic number of classes that you could start with but then you could create a hybrid character by mating a male and a female. Basic idea is if you mate a male and a female of different classes then you get an average of the two classes, with our example above you create a W/S character with 75 max strength and 75 max magic. However if you use a male and female of the same class then you get a boost to your top end stats, and a loss to your bottom end, so a warrior+warrior would then have offspring with 110 max strength and 40 max magic.
    This can go on indefinitely, because each new hybrid is a new class, so you can combine a w/w with another w/w to create a class with 120 strength and 30 magic, or hybridize a w/w with a sorcerer and get a character with 80 strength and 70 magic. Each of these would then be a new class on its own.
    There would also be breeding restrictions, conceptually every account would cost $ to set up, and each account could hold a reasonably large number of characters but there would be a ban on incest. No character could breed with another character of the same account. Then breeding has to occur across accounts, and part of the agreement to breed would be which account the new character would join. To add to this each female character could only breed once in a while, something like once a month it would reset and they could create another offspring, and the offspring’s starting level would be based on the level of their parents making higher level partners more desirable. My thought/hope is that this would create a market for pairing up and would work with other game mechanics that I have in mind.

    • Randy M says:

      I’m sure the typical MMORPG player would approach that concept with the maturity it deserved.
      But seriously, that sounds better suited to a single player game. We recently discussed Massive Chalice, which is similar.

      • baconbits9 says:

        I’m interested why it sounds better for a single player game to you, one of the big aspects for me would be having so seek out other players and negotiate with them to create the bloodline that you want and creating long term alliances of trust (other aspects of the game play would make this part clearer).

        • Randy M says:

          What is the generational timespan? In a single player story game it’s easier to skip 30 years and get to the next iteration than in a game where everyone is moving along at their own pace. I guess you can gloss over that.
          Secondly, you can have more control over the experiment in a single player game. You can control the breeding over many generations to get what you want, rather than, well, “having so seek out other players and negotiate with them.”

          That said, I’d be interested to see more details.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Maybe gender imbalance in MMORPGs isn’t as bad now as it used to be, but you’re going to get an awful lot of IRL females really annoyed with gamer nerds aggressively demanding you mate with them. With the state of woke clickbait “journalism” being what it is, I fully expect all the usual suspects on twitter and youtube to condemn it as a “rape simulator.” Then again, free marketing.

          • baconbits9 says:

            You could go the reactionary marketing route or just make every player a hermaphrodite where your player can create a new player 1/X days by mating with another player, and also limiting how frequently you can impregnate (for lack of a better term) another player.

            However my guess/intention with this is partially to shield female players, by giving female characters some extra value lots of male players should choose female characters which should (might?) stop some of the assumptions when you run into a female character.

    • Incurian says:

      Maybe this is an idea that would work better with pets (like pokemon!) than characters as such. What were the other mechanics you had in mind?

      • baconbits9 says:

        Some broad strokes, with some half thought out ideas.

        1. Basic game play is a combination mining/fighting game with a traveling option. You can go off to areas with ghouls/demons etc and fight them and pick up what they drop, with the usual increasing difficulty as you get deeper into their territory with occasional bosses, or you can go off looking for resources deposits. For example if you come to a river you can pan for gold, and if there is gold a few pannings will give you an idea if there is a rich gold mine upstream or not (or in a well developed game you could tell how much gold was being washed down the river but not know if it was from one or many different sources and would only allow you to estimate the total value to be mined). The traveling option would be to go out and look around places and then sell that information to other players you happened across, if you ran across a mining character you could sell them the location where you found evidence of a gold vein etc, or a warrior directions to a caves mouth where demons lurked. You could optimize characters for any one role, or play ones that are jack of all trades or play multiple specialist characters (where the breeding comes in) and use them to explore specific areas.

        2. The world is large and you’re first character is dropped into a random village/town setting. Each town has NPCs who can perform tasks for you, sell you goods etc and have limited knowledge of the surrounding area. You get a dark map to start with and every time you talk to an NPC with knowledge of an area it shows up on your map. The world is generally fixed so every time you play you can expand your vision of the world. You can also pay other players to see their maps (or you can exchange maps, or just let someone see your map to be nice).

        3. The map is not the territory though. Roads on the map will be graded at the time you are walking on them, areas that are frequently walked will have few resources to find/demons to fight, but will also be safer/faster to travel. The grades will be based on certain fixed aspects like terrain (ie mountain roads are more dangerous/slower per mile) and also on how many people have traveled on them recently. The less a road is used the less safe it becomes, and perhaps even things like river crossings could be destroyed when you get to them.

        4. There are two types of travel speed, one is active where you can look for things along the side of the road/fight/talk to other travelers, the other is passive where you cover the distance faster but can’t interact. The latter is only possible when your character level is high enough relative to the safety of the road, but also requires not playing that character for that period of time while they cross.

        5. Stashes, exchanges and theft. The town you spawn in is your home town, and you get a location (house) there where you can stash your goods and they can’t be stolen. New characters that you create spawn under the same account spawn at this location, and stuff can be shared between them here (dropped off by one and picked up by another passing later). You can abandon your town and create a new stash location in any other town you come across as long as that new town isn’t full, creating a new permanent stash location for a cost of two way travel time (ie going back and bringing your stuff from your old stash) or just abandoning your old stash that can be looted by passing players.

        Other stashes can be created as you move but these can be discovered and looted by other players, there will be methods of concealment and methods of breaking concealment. There will be two types of goods as well- commodities and personalized goods. Commodities will be common things with no tracking that can be exchanged freely, and are things like unrefined gold or basic weapons and tools etc. Personalized items are things like basic weapons imbued with powers and linked to the rightful owner. If you create a personalized weapon you can sell it and then the buyer becomes the rightful owner, however if you steal a personalized weapon then it is still linked to that owner and their character name. The rest isn’t fleshed out yet but it goes something like this: It is obvious if someone is trying to sell you their own item or a stolen one (for non commodities), if you are caught trying to sell a stolen item by the rightful owner then they can kill your character and loot their corpse and become the rightful owner of any of their personalized items. You can also give power or attorney to people, if one of your agents comes across someone selling your stolen goods they can kill and loot from that person- however their loot will not become legitimate until they return the stolen good to you. This section gets complicated and to make it work (ie so there is an equilibrium with some stealing but not just everyone stealing indiscriminately), I think you need rating systems where if someone offers you a stolen item from someone you aren’t an agent of and you refuse to buy it you can then flag them as selling stolen merchandise, and likewise if you have agents who get your stuff back and message you to meetup to return it and you never reply then your rating gets dinged and people won’t agree to be your agents.

        I think if you built these features well into the game then the breeding aspect becomes useful, where really obsessed players could basically delve indefinitely deep into the game but without making it unplayable for newer or less obsessed players despite them existing in the same world.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      In this game there would be a basic number of classes that you could start with but then you could create a hybrid character by mating a male and a female. Basic idea is if you mate a male and a female of different classes then you get an average of the two classes, with our example above you create a W/S character with 75 max strength and 75 max magic. However if you use a male and female of the same class then you get a boost to your top end stats, and a loss to your bottom end, so a warrior+warrior would then have offspring with 110 max strength and 40 max magic.

      You have my interest. 😛

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      One thing you would want to make sure you do is have hybrid classes not be garbage. In 9 out of 10 games the swordmage is worse than the swordsman or the mage.

      • Plumber says:

        @Conrad Honcho,
        And that’s how it should be: “Jack of all trades, master of none”.

        Besides, the old word for “Gish” was “Elf”, and there were level limits on them for a reason dagnabbit!

        Also, magicians most properly belong on the end of a hero’s sword, there’s too many Elric’s and not enough Conan’s, Gandalf and Iucounu are NPC’s dagnabbit!

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          If you’re talking about a pen and paper RPG where it’s more about the story than min-maxing, that’s fine. But in a video game, if a swordsmage using their mix of swords and magery doesn’t do as much damage as a swordsman using his swords and a mage use his magic then nobody’s going to want the swordsmage in their party.

          Source: played hunter in vanilla WoW.

      • baconbits9 says:

        I agree with this, I lay some more details out higher up but the way I hope the game would address this is by putting the character into a world that reveals itself to the player and the directions that they go would determine which skills are best. You could create just a warrior and go hunt demons but in doing so you would have to pass up resources along the way that a jack of all trades could pick up while being worse at fighting demons, but leveling as fast or faster perhaps.

        • baconbits9 says:

          One example would be to steal from Tolkien and the mines of Moria, if you create a mine the richer the vein the more likely your mine will be attacked by or expose demons living within. If your character is maxed for a miner every time you get flooded with demons you have retreat to the town and find someone to help you kill them or hire mercenaries or something.

          On a side note- one thing I have always wanted in a game that lets you hire mercenaries is that the price should go up for people who walk them into death constantly, and lower for people who manage them well/take care of them.

          • Joseph Greenwood says:

            I know that the Endless Sky community discussed whether to implement exactly the idea you are suggesting; I think they decided it would be ‘unfun’ though.

    • souleater says:

      Guild Wars 1 had a class-combining mechanic. it was great, but I think I remember hearing that they moved away from it because it was too hard to balance the PvP. Maybe look into that for ideas?

    • dick says:

      After you get done breeding these characters, what do they do? Kill monsters, fight other players, something else? For a game like Diablo, the point of having variegated character classes is replayability, but it doesn’t sound like that will be part of your game if it takes a month to change your stats incrementally.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      To add to the proposed issues:

      People who pay for more subscriptions will have Bene Gesserit breeding programs that will seem (and seem likely to actually be) unfair.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      As someone who has played MMOs all the way up to server-top guild, here is what I want in a game before I go back.

      No Whack-A-Mole.

      In fact, No Minigames Forced by the UI, Whatsoever.

      A good experience in an mmo is a joint fight to overcome an adversary. However, in non trivial content, you usually end up with healers looking at peoples health bars to the exclusion of looking at the fight, dps being focused on maintaining complicated ability rotations to the exclusion of looking at the fight, and if the game has boss-fight mods, even the tank ends up looking at timers half the time to know when the next time the boss is going to use a great big special attack is coming up.

      Thus: Here is what I want: No UI inside the game. You set your keybinds and mouse preferences before you log in, but in game, the UI is just a window into the world the art team has made. No health bars, no ability icons, Nothing. 100 % of screen real estate is the world.

      Dps and healing abilities are all point and shoot. No target locks, if you want to heal someone you better actually hit that character with the Divine Beam of Healing Radiance. If you want to dps the boss, well, there is not going to be any floating numbers telling you how hard you hit, but the boss will have weakpoints and defenses. Hit the ogres shield, not going to notice that. Land a ray of incineration or arrow on the ogres left knee…

      Goal here is to maximize actual fun by forcing both the design team and the players to focus on the imaginary world you are playing in. I want a game where no healer ever ends up dying because they were too buzy scanning the raid interface for people to heal to notice they are standing in fire.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        However, in non trivial content, you usually end up with healers looking at peoples health bars to the exclusion of looking at the fight, dps being focused on maintaining complicated ability rotations to the exclusion of looking at the fight, and if the game has boss-fight mods, even the tank ends up looking at timers half the time to know when the next time the boss is going to use a great big special attack is coming up.

        Seems realistic to me.

        In the real world, in high-stakes coordinated small-team activities, the generally correct thing to do is “fly the instruments, not the window” and “stick to the runbook” and “keep track of the clock”.

        This is true from things ranging from “save the passengers on this airplane after losing an engine” to “sev2 outage in AWS, get it back online” to well, actual military combat, so I am told.

        Even high performance team sports, despite not being tech mediated with a glass UI, they are still playing out a decision-tree runbook in their heads, while physically executing “macros” out of muscle memory, while running healthbars and timers in their heads.

        to notice they are standing in fire.

        Also realistic. Losing situational awareness is a real thing.

        • Thomas Jorgensen says:

          It is terrible gameplay, because it makes you annoyed at your fellow players, not the pixel monster you are there to fight.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            A close family member is a world class FFXIV player.

            makes you annoyed at your fellow players

            From what I can tell, that is the *point*. The pixel monster is just an excuse and part of the coordination exercise. The actual fun and the actual challenge is getting all the players on a team coordinated. Nobody cares about the pixel monster, they come to care (both positive and negative) about the other humans they raid with.

        • John Schilling says:

          Seems realistic to me.

          Reality rarely provides us with guidance as simple and authoritative as e.g. the health status bar in an online RPG (or for that matter the hit-point score in a tabletop one). Even a glideslope requires cross-checking the other instruments to make sure the one you are focused on isn’t lying to you, and then the glidescope gives way to “look out the window or give up already” at about 200′

          And the objective here isn’t realism, but entertainment. Even if we’re looking for realistic entertainment, that almost always means cutting out a lot of material to get to the most entertaining subset of reality.

          Because of the fuzzy nature of reality, humans are evolved to find exhilaration, excitement, entertainment, in holistically evaluating a broad sensorium to acquire situational awareness and develop imprecise responses to uncertain threats. Needle-chasing, not so much fun even when it is realistically necessary.

          So I would not be surprised to find that game designers, who necessarily reduce their simulated reality to simple, quantified metrics like “health” within their engines, have generally presented an entertainment-suboptimal level of detail to the players via simplistic “instruments” rather than broad contextual clues. I find no fault in Thomas Jorgensen’s desire to see more of the latter.

          I also have some idea how difficult it would be to implement effectively, alas.

          • johan_larson says:

            In my experience, the game version of anything is much simpler than the real thing. The Rock Band guitar is an extreme simplification of a guitar. Also, games are set up to deliver a lot more ego-bumps than actual paxis or training. Practicing a martial art will see you leveling up formally every few months initially; playing a game will have you leveling up after a few hours of play.

          • Matt M says:

            MMOs also add the complication that everything worth doing is based on group performance, and therefore, there is a strong desire for mechanisms by which you can easily evaluate the performance of each and every individual in the group.

            The reason people in MMOs concentrate on their damage rotation even while standing in the fire is because they know the group leader is judging them, primarily, based on their overall damage.

            Part of this is simply a social attitude, that is already within the control of any particular group to change. I’ve been in some pretty successful WoW PUGs where the raid leader said, at the beginning, “For these fights, I don’t care how much damage you do, but if you die to something preventable, I will kick you.” This results in a whole lot more attention being paid to mechanics.

      • Matt M says:

        I want a game where no healer ever ends up dying because they were too buzy scanning the raid interface for people to heal to notice they are standing in fire.

        I feel like feedback like this is exactly why modern WoW content is so over-loaded with a crap-ton of gimmicky mechanics on every single boss fight, including ones where “a single person messes this up and you wipe.”

        The simple fact of the matter is that yes, while healers will mostly be looking at their heal bars, a healer who isn’t aware of what’s going on in the fight isn’t going to do well, at all, in any remotely challenging content. “All you have to do is hit your rotation and ignore everything else” hasn’t been true, in WoW at least, for nearly a decade.

      • DinoNerd says:

        I enjoyed many aspects of MUDs much more than I’ve enjoyed most MMORPGs, and the need to focus on complex combat rotation mechanics is part of that. With many MUDs, most classes could simply attack the opponent – one action – and the game engine would keep them using effective combat moves until they did something else explicitly, or one or other combatant “died”. Healers often had to pay a bit more attention – but it was still repeating the same action, and sometimes one could get that effect by simply holding down a single key. (Other times, timing mattered, so as not to run out of spell points).

        IMNSHO, online shared RPGs lost when technology and fashion advanced to the point where they became tactical combat games in an explore-and-level-up setting, rather than explore-and-level-up games that included combat. (And much the same happened to single player RPGs.)

        The last good MMORPG I remember was Runescape, before they updated its combat system to make it into a poor imitation of World of Warcraft and similar.

  21. souleater says:

    I had a couple of app ideas I wanted to run by everyone before I put any work into it… I’m a fair hand with Java so I would be building it on android.

    a Chess game with RPG elements, You gain experience points and gold by playing the game, and you use choose starting position and buy new pieces with gold. new pieces are unlocked as you gain Exp.

    This idea seems like a ton of work… I wouldn’t be able to do this without significant financial investment. 90% sure its not worth it.

    An app where people can, using a QR code, take photos and seamlessly uploaded to a cloud server. So for a concert, wedding, or other event, you use the QR code (or regular text code) as you walk in and have access to all the photos taken at the event. Maybe a moderation option and a voting system for very large events.

    This idea seems much more doable/practical.. Thoughts?

    • Randy M says:

      Are you familiar with The Duke or For the Crown or Onitama?
      These are board games, not apps, but they offer some variability to a chess like game that may inspire you.

    • Murphy says:

      first one: seems like it could work. Puzzle Quest did something similar and did it well.

      They even had a novel crafting system based on the same: want to make a ridiculously awesome item? sure but it’ll take actual skill. You could do the same with chess puzzles. that there’s big databases of chess puzzles graded by difficulty works to your advantage.

      Second one, 2 big problems.

      1: nobody except marketing people have ever seen a QR code stamped on anything and gone “I must scan that!”…. ever.

      2: for the intended use you’re gonna struggle to get over the initial hump: the one where nobody bothers with your app because there’s no content and there’s no content because nobody bothers with your app.

      people already share their photos through their favorite social network.

      • souleater says:

        1: nobody except marketing people have ever seen a QR code stamped on anything and gone “I must scan that!”…. ever.

        That’s a really good point. Thanks for taking the time to reply. I’m thinking now to move to a 5 letter code.. The shared albums will only need to exist for the duration of the event + a little extra so I imagine the room codes can be reused to keep complexity down.

        2: for the intended use you’re gonna struggle to get over the initial hump: the one where nobody bothers with your app because there’s no content and there’s no content because nobody bothers with your app.

        Can you elaborate on this? What you’re saying makes sense for social media, but what I’m talking about is a temporary content hosting site.
        You’re at a wedding and there is a sign/text/announcement that says “Download APP and enter code ABCD to see/access Jack & Jill’s wedding photos in real time, without an account.”
        The app would also explicitly and clearly asks permission to automatically upload all photos taken over the course of the event.

        • Murphy says:

          Most people won’t download every app they’re prompted to download.

          For a wedding though they’re likely already mostly on the same social network like facebook.

          Grandma barely copes with facebook as it is. She’s scared of technology and there’s no way in hell she’s gonna download an app and learn how to use it just for this one event.

          So any photos she takes are going up on facebook.

          So right off the bat you have a huge factor pulling everyone else to just use facebook for swapping the photos.

          Also people rarely want auto-upload. They want to be able to select the photos where they or the person they’re interested in looks good and are gonna be afraid of accidentally leaving it turned on and sending photos they don’t intend to send to grandma.

          Also curious whether such an app might suffer bugs from desynced clocks. if I don’t have geolocations turned on and my clock is wrong it might decide the photos I took last night with my girlfriend are event photos from today and auto-send them to grandma and everyone we know.

          • DinoNerd says:

            Grandma barely copes with facebook as it is.

            *chuckle* I know what you mean, but an awful lot of the over 60s of my acquaintance were on social media before facebook and don’t especially like it, if they use it at all. They have concerns about privacy, and click bait, and algorithms that don’t show them the updates they want to see.

            My own mother – who would have been 83 this month – never properly adapted to GUIs – she could handle command line, but with no scrollback to see what she or someone else had done, she just got confused and frustrated.

          • Murphy says:

            my mother was a fortran programmer and computer operator back in the days when part of the job was inferring whether something had gone wrong with the milti-story machine from the patterns of blinking lights, watching for infinite loops as you walked around inside and she’s an extremely smart woman.

            But she similarly struggles with newer email clients and apps.

          • Matt M says:

            and algorithms that don’t show them the updates they want to see.

            Yeah. I’ve found it very difficult to explain to my parents that sometimes you simply won’t see a post that I make, and it’s not because I’m blocking you or hiding it from you or because you’re doing something wrong on Facebook… it’s just because Facebook has a weird black box that sometimes decides you don’t really want to see my last post, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do to force them to cut it out.

            I think they don’t believe me. They insist that can’t possibly be true because “Why would Facebook do that?”

          • Nick says:

            I think they don’t believe me. They insist that can’t possibly be true because “Why would Facebook do that?”

            Which is a great question. I hate the transition from simple systems with easy to understand rules to black boxes that try to be smart and predict what I want. When I need something slightly different from what it thinks I want, I can’t reason with it or about it—I just have to route around it.

          • Nornagest says:

            “Why would Facebook do that?”

            Because they don’t want my business. But they haven’t figured that out yet.

    • helloo says:

      The first idea has been tried before. For example – this old flash game
      It isn’t a good time to do so either as you’ll be facing the new DoTA Chess Apps.
      Not sure why you’d think it’ll be that hard though.

      Second idea – I’m not sure what you mean by it, but still probably done before.
      QR codes can point to an URL, and when QR codes were more ubiquitous, some landmarks had their name/info markers contain a QR code that lead them to a site with either more info or a sort of virtual tour guide that played an audio desc. of that landmark.

      • souleater says:

        It’s not that the chessRPG idea is that hard… but it seems like it would be too much work for it to be done in my spare time and without injecting too much starting capital. Getting the chess engine, multiplayer, graphics, playtesting and then possibly advertising, and long term gameplay balance seems like it would be a fulltime job

        A cloud based, shared photo album accessible via QR code Alpha-numeric code seems like the kind of project that I build a working prototype of in 50-100 hours or so. I would be targeting it for use at weddings or birthdays and usable without a login, where you have a large number of people that you may not know personally, but would want to have a shared photo album. I might not know the bride’s great-aunt Sally, but if she takes a nice picture of the wedding, I might like to have access to it.

        edit: Also, good point about the DoTA chess apps.. I wasn’t really aware of them.

        • tossrock says:

          Generally speaking, it’s a financially terrible idea to make a game. Almost all games make negative money and languish forever on page ~infinity of their relevant store, ie Steam, Google Play, the iOS app store, or whatever. When it comes down to it, game quality has very little to do with success, which is determined primarily by inscrutable ranking algorithms. You have to be either extremely lucky or a marketing genius to cover your costs.

          That said, if you want to waste a bunch of time and money, I’d strongly recommend using an existing game engine rather than trying to build everything yourself. If you’re not experienced in graphics programming, entity/component systems, low level networking, performant serialization, etc, then you will be be reinventing a whole semi-trailer worth of wheels, many poorly. Being experienced with Java doesn’t mean you would be able to roll your own game engine ex nihilo in a reasonable timeframe.

          I’d recommend Unity, which can build for Android (as well as for iOS, and ~every other common platform), and uses C# as the primary scripting language, which is almost exactly the same as Java syntactically. Other options include Unreal Engine, which is nicer looking out of the box but harder to learn and use, or Godot, which is a much less fully featured platform, but free and open source.

          • Nornagest says:

            The problem with making a game as a financial investment is that there are a million and one people out there making games as passion projects and willing to take a loss on them to do it.

            It’s kinda like how many men and more than a few women, somewhere between the ages of twenty-one and thirty-five, will at some point end up thinking “hey, I should really open a bar!”

    • Incurian says:

      The digital coordination of arbitrary, ad hoc meatspace groups in a way that’s simple, fast, and flexible is an interesting problem. I think that’s a path worth taking, though I’m apathetic about the QR codes and photo sharing specifically.

    • Incurian says:

      Maybe that chess-rpg could work as a rogue-like?

    • Björn says:

      For the first project, you should read resources about chess programming, like the ones linked in this forum post. Building a chess engine is doable in 3 to 6 months, if you do your homework and read about how to do it. If you do it correctly, you should then have a chess engine that can be changed fairly quickly to represent and play similar games. Then you can iterate the game in your engine, and see if you can get some fun gameplay going.

      You can also get a chess board and some pieces, and start iterating on the gameplay right away. You probably need some skilled chess players that can tell you what gameplay is good and what stinks. I warn you, there are one million variants of chess already, and the only ones that are played in chess clubs for fun rather than for novelty are bughouse chess and bullet chess. The first is a 4 player variant, the second is blitz chess with ridiculously low time limits.

    • dick says:

      I like the second idea in theory, but I’m unclear on how it would work exactly. How are you getting the users’ photos? Are they installing your app and then using it to take pictures, as opposed to taking pictures with the default phone app and then manually adding them within your app? However you imagine this working, are you sure it can’t be done within a webapp? That would be way, way lower friction.

      • souleater says:

        I can see it going 2 ways

        1. Basically as you describe. a webapp similar to whats used for the “jackbox” games (rot13) wnpxobk.gi where you can punch in your 4 or 5 letter code and upload/download the event specific pictures.
        Pro: Fast, Easy, low friction, People have to affirmatively upload the images so no risk of inappropriateness
        Con: Images can’t be uploaded automatically for the event

        2. An app that gets downloaded that shows the images from the event, when first downloaded it explicitly and clearly asks for permission to automatically upload all images taken for as long as you’re at the event, and, gives access to the event photo album
        Pro: See the images load in real time, lots of images, downloads can be tracked and used to show best images
        Cons: Risk of unintentional sharing, Risk of Trolling, A little bit more legwork to get the app.

        The big advantage of the general idea, is that you can share and receive photos to a large group of people, you may not be friends with, without needing any sort of social media account.

        • dick says:

          I’m warming to the second option. The first one seems too high-friction to me – I think most people just take a shitload of pictures and then go weed out the bad ones hours/days later, and will have forgotten about the app by then. For the second one, obviously paranoid types might worry but I think a lot of people are okay giving access to the camera roll for an app that obviously uses it, especially if it doesn’t also try to get the contact list. “This app can access all of your pictures, but it will only upload the ones you take from 4-6pm within 500 yrds of 1234 Main St” doesn’t sound too scary.

          How would it be monetized? If someone is paying directly (the event organizer presumably) I can see some people paying for it, but you have a big hill to climb for advertising and SEO. You might even target it specifically to wedding photographers as an add-on service they offer to the bride, rather than marketing it to the bride. If it’s paid for indirectly (ads and add-ons, e.g. printed photobooks) then I think you’d get a lot of users but might struggle to make it profitable – the decimal points on how big your cut is and how many people order might make or break it.

          • souleater says:

            I’m thinking primarily banner ads. I would be doing this as a side project, in my spare time so my expenses would be pretty low. Just cloud storage and a web portal.. maybe $5/month?

            I’m not looking to replace my income with this project, and a utility like this seems like something that would bring in a small steady profit for years while not requiring too much work after launch.

            I am also thinking about having a “premium” service for wedding photographers where the album is branded with their advertising, and they have a consistent custom room code.

          • dick says:

            None of my apps are ad-supported so I’m talking out my butt here, but I’m worried about the costs. Best case scenario, the app is great and works well and people use it, so a wedding might have 50 people uploading 100 photos each, and then wanting to download everyone else’s, and they’re all super high-res, sounds like a lot more than pocket change for the hosting. And banner ad yields ain’t what they used to be… But I guess all I’m saying is, make sure the math adds up before you write any code, which you were probably going to do anyway. And with some kind of purchaseable stuff, like photo books or mugs or whatever, it might well work out.

          • souleater says:

            I really appreciate your expertise here. I’m a decent programmer, but I’ve never done any work in data storage or app development, so the points you’re making are really helpful.
            On your advice I ran the math and its definitely more than pocket change.
            Assuming 50 people upload 100 photos each = 5000 photos
            5000 photos @ 5mb each = 25,000 Mb or 25 Gb
            50 people download 25 Gb of data each = 1000 Gb
            1000 Gb downloaded by AWS ~ $900

            I don’t imagine most people actually would take 100 pictures at a wedding or subsequently download 25 Gbs of data but its still a failure mode I’ll have to put more thought into.

          • dick says:

            No problem, it’s fun to spitball app ideas, but sadly I don’t know a ton about this either (don’t deal with paying for or economizing on bandwidth either professionally or in my off time). Maybe users pay for full resolution? Er, actually not, you’d need them to upload the full size pictures and then you’d be paying for the cpu cycles to resize. The more I think about this, the more it seems like it might be something the bride and groom just pay a flat $20 for beforehand (not super dissimilar from the old practice of buying a bunch of disposable film cameras and putting one on each table).

        • Christophe Biocca says:

          I have to recommend the webapp route. Context: We built a very similar product for a different use case. Homeowner calls insurance company, call center handler sends an SMS/email link that homeowner can click, which lets them download the app. Once installed the app guides the homeowner through taking pictures, and “just knows” which claim to upload the pictures to.

          This worked but we ran into 3 main problems, in increasing severity:

          1. Download sizes were an issue.
          2. Getting the app to know which link was clicked prior to its installation is a mess. On android that’s straightforward enough (there’s a basically-undocumented API for this purpose, but it works), but on iOS, most methods (one of which was infamously called the “browser flip”) run afoul of Apple’s rules. They’re adamant that the app should work even if you never clicked such a link, and so we had to add a button for the sole purpose of adding photos to a claim no one else would ever actually see. We lost 4-5 weeks over the back and forth with reviewers (because if they don’t understand why you’re doing weird things, their feedback inevitably is “this feature should not be present at all” and so you have to password-guess your way to an app they’ll consider compliant).
          3. One of our customers had to discontinue the pilot because about half their iOS-using customers (so about 25% of all the calls) did not remember their app store password and so could not install the app.

          That last one made us rewrite the whole product as a mobile-web app, using input capture=camera, and a small-ish react web app.
          You lose the ability to customize the camera flow (you get whatever default camera app is on the device), but:

          1. The loading time is much lower (and launching involves fewer clicks).
          2. The “claim/user identifier” is a uuid that’s part of the URL. Therefore the webpage already has all authentication information ready to go.
          3. No one ever is asked for a password. You can easily re-click the link later if you need to add more images (and it will work just as well as the first time).

          If you’re going to have people print QR codes, you don’t need the jackbox-style code approach at all. Just include the identifier in the URL.

    • Well... says:

      One of my pet peeves is going to concerts and seeing the glow of everyone’s phones held up in the air the whole time. Same thing for conferences, where people are photographing every other slide. I understand taking a single photo, maybe as a cheeky way of saying “Guess where I am?” but why do people feel the need to experience the whole thing through their screens?? It’s distracting and annoying.

      So, I’d like to take this opportunity to ask you not to develop an app that would further encourage this kind of behavior. (Although really it doesn’t matter; the ship has sailed, and as someone else said, people just post their crappy pics and videos to social media websites anyway.)

      • souleater says:

        I hate that too, and I’m actually hoping that if people have real time access to photos and videos from the front row, they might be less inclined to try to zoom in from the nosebleeds.

        • Well... says:

          I don’t know but if I had to guess, I’d say they won’t be less inclined to zoom in from the nosebleeds. Still guessing: taking your own pictures and posting them on social media websites is a way to boost your status, especially if other people share your post. “I was there for this thing” and “I will now wear this as a partial representation of my identity” are pretty alluring to people.

          • Matt M says:

            Yes. 100% accurate. You take the picture to either remind yourself of a cool event you were at, or to boast about being at a cool event to others. Taking your own picture is the point. Someone else’s picture, even if from a better view or whatever, is completely without value.

          • acymetric says:

            This is accurate.

            I go to a lot of concerts, and although I don’t do a lot of photo taking (I’ll take one or two just to have something from the show) and don’t take any video it has never bothered me when other people have their phone out. I can still see/hear everything I need to, and it also means I can rest assured that the awesome rendition of [some awesome song] will almost definitely end up on Youtube for me to relive.

            Of course, I also don’t understand why people get so bent about (silent) cell phone use at movies although I find it more understandable than the same concern at concerts…maybe I’m missing some gene that makes me outraged about phone use.

          • Well... says:

            For me it’s 95% the annoying distraction, and it often obscures my line of sight as well.

            The other 5% is the sad feeling I get thinking about the reasons why they’re holding up their phones.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Two things here: Snaps and video. People are going to take their own still photos no matter what. If concerts routinely put up well shot video after the fact, not so much point in recording the whole thing.

    • Drew says:

      The second idea seems like “Facebook Moments” which used a GPS location / timestamp to figure out which people attended the same event. I think the problem is that people can be reluctant to install apps.

  22. Matt M says:

    I am considering buying an engagement ring online. Is there a reason this is a bad idea?

    I guess for a purchase this large it’s something you might typically inspect in-person, but the thing is, I know absolutely nothing about jewelry or diamonds or whatever. And I’d be buying from a respectable and reputable company so I don’t think there’s much risk of it being a giant scam or whatever. I feel like I’m just as likely to get scammed in person, given my complete lack of knowledge on the topic (and little desire to learn).

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Educate yourself, then buy. You can petition either Paypal or your bank to reimburse you if there’s any fraud on the part of the person who takes your money. I bank with Chase and they’re very generous about account holders’s fraud claims.
      If you get scammed because you didn’t know what all to ask the jewelry company, that’s on you. Whether you visually inspected the product or not, that would be the case.

    • hls2003 says: