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OT133: Operon Thread

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1. I now have four teams registered to do adversarial collaborations. The contest isn’t officially on until I get five. If you’re interested and haven’t coordinated already, you can coordinate teams below.

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745 Responses to OT133: Operon Thread

  1. Eric says:

    Is there going to be a meetups everywhere 2019?

  2. johan_larson says:

    Suppose someone offers you something you want using a pay-what-you-want scheme. Sometimes bundles of software and ebooks are offered on such terms. You get the stuff and pay what you feel like, including zero.

    Is it morally wrong to pay nothing under such a scheme? Does it make a difference if you could easily have afforded to pay something, but didn’t?

    My moral intuition is that doing this is a small wrong, but I can’t really put my finger on why. Pressed for a reason, the best I can come up with is that the vendors are not really offering the goods for free, the arrangement is more like pay-what-you-can on the honor system. If I pay nothing when I could easily afford to pay something, I am breaking the implicit terms of the deal. Paying nothing also fails the scalability test — if everyone paid nothing, these deals would no longer be offered — which suggests that paying nothing is wrong even if you can get away with it.

    Typically when I deal with such situations, I consider what part of the bundle of goods I am actually interested in, estimate what they would cost at retail, and then apply a deep discount of maybe 75%. That seems reasonable.

    • Randy M says:

      My gut feeling is that by employing a pay-what-you-want structure the provider has removed the mater from moral consideration, at least in terms of taking your copy. There are still practical concerns, such as encouraging the continuation of the work. But it’s up to the seller to assert their interests in the market, and it’s safe to treat them like they are doing so unless you know some particular information that they don’t or they have some diminished mental capacity.

      It’s like a free to play game. I know they hope that I will someday buy something. And I’ve never absolutely ruled it out, but to date I doubt I’ve contributed enough to make up for the costs in providing it to me. But if the pricing structure doesn’t work out for the seller, despite the buyer complying with all applicable terms and regulations, it’s up to the seller to adjust it in their favor. Charge some up front fee, withhold some portion of the product, find some way to implement price discrimination, sell ads, whatever. Maybe just give the cost breakdown or estimate the value to the consumer.

      On the other hand, if you have the disposable income, you shouldn’t feel like a sucker for giving money to creators you value, even if they otherwise give away the product. You are making it possible for yourself and others to enjoy the work.

    • HowardHolmes says:

      Why is this a moral issue to begin with? It is because the seller decided to bring morals into the equation. In a normal commercial situation a seller prices his product and the buyer either buys or not. Notice the absence of any moral consideration.

      This seller decides to bring morality into the equation by requiring the buyer to make a moral decision. Why? Clearly he thinks he will get more profit this way than in a normal situation. So, bottom line, he is attempting to use morals as a way of profit extraction. He fully expects some to pay nothing and others to overpay. On balance he expects to be overpaid.

      I say, screw him. Let him keep his morals in church. If I am destined to be one of those paying nothing then I am fulfilling an expected role. I’ll just choose that role for myself.

      Edit: Damn it! Randy M beat me to the point

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        This seller decides to bring morality into the equation by requiring the buyer to make a moral decision. Why? Clearly he thinks he will get more profit this way than in a normal situation. So, bottom line, he is attempting to use morals as a way of profit extraction. He fully expects some to pay nothing and others to overpay. On balance he expects to be overpaid.

        Setting a price is either a moral decision or it isn’t. If the seller is the one setting the price, they’re the one making the decision, not you, but that doesn’t make it not a moral decision. Or else, setting a price isn’t a moral decision no matter who does it. If you choose to tell people to go screw themselves, you’re certainly allowed to do it, but it’s telling that that’s how you perceive what you’re doing.

        • HowardHolmes says:

          I can’t imagine how setting a asking price is a moral decision. Typically the selling price is based on what a reasonable and informed seller believes he can get for something. When I said it was not a moral decision I was not attempting to be controversial.

          • mendax says:

            This seller decides to bring morality into the equation by requiring the buyer to make a moral decision

            I can’t imagine how setting a asking price is a moral decision.

            From your quotes I understand that you believe:
            -Setting a price is not a moral decision
            -When a seller decides on a “pay-what you-want-policy” they are requiring the buyer to make a moral decision
            -When a buyer pays a “pay-what-you want” price, they are not setting a price, they ARE making a moral decision

            Setting a price is either a moral decision or it isn’t. If the seller is the one setting the price, they’re the one making the decision, not you

            From Hoopyfreud’s quote I understand they believe:
            -Setting a price may or may not be a moral decision
            -When a seller decides on a “pay-what you-want-policy” they are requiring the buyer to set a price
            -When a buyer pays a “pay-what-you want” price, they are setting a price, which may or may not be a moral decision, but the morality of setting a price has not changed on account of the decision being made by the buyer, rather than the seller.

      • Nick says:

        This seller decides to bring morality into the equation by requiring the buyer to make a moral decision. Why? Clearly he thinks he will get more profit this way than in a normal situation. So, bottom line, he is attempting to use morals as a way of profit extraction. He fully expects some to pay nothing and others to overpay. On balance he expects to be overpaid.

        Do you have any evidence for this?

        • HowardHolmes says:

          If you are asking for evidence that a typical seller in a commercial transaction is interested in maximizing profit, I have no evidence to provide and would not waste time looking for any. I have been in business too long to doubt that. If you have no business experience, I cannot provide it.

          That he is attempting to make this a moral decision for the buyer is obvious because he is leaving it to the buyer to decide what to pay The original poster is this thread recognized that there was a moral delimma as anyone else should be able to clearly see.

          • Nornagest says:

            That he is attempting to make this a moral decision for the buyer is obvious because he is leaving it to the buyer to decide what to pay

            What makes that a moral decision if paying a fixed price isn’t? If it was framed as “pay what you can, suggested price $10”, then I can see a moral argument: if you can easily afford the asking price, then you’re implicitly breaking with the terms it’s sold under. But doesn’t “pay what you want” explicitly absolve the buyer of those sorts of dilemmas? What am I doing wrong if I decide that what I want to pay is $1, or $0?

          • HowardHolmes says:

            Nornagest

            What makes that a moral decision if paying a fixed price isn’t?

            When a price of $10 is set by the seller, the buyer does not have to ask himself, “If I pay the seller $10 am I doing the right thing with regard to the seller? Am I treating the seller fairly?” Without a price, these issues arise. They are moral issues.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            Nornagest

            What am I doing wrong if I decide that what I want to pay is $1, or $0?

            Johan in the original post felt he was doing wrong by paying nothing. I can empathize with his point. If you cannot, discuss it with Johan.

          • Nick says:

            If you are asking for evidence that a typical seller in a commercial transaction is interested in maximizing profit, I have no evidence to provide and would not waste time looking for any. I have been in business too long to doubt that. If you have no business experience, I cannot provide it.

            But the question isn’t about a typical sellers. Typical sellers don’t set pay-what-you-want prices, do they? Atypical sellers do that. Why do you believe atypical sellers are looking to maximize profit?

          • Nornagest says:

            When a price of $10 is set by the seller, the buyer does not have to ask himself, “If I pay the seller $10 am I doing the right thing with regard to the seller? Am I treating the seller fairly?” Without a price, these issues arise. They are moral issues.

            (This quote doesn’t appear anywhere in the thread, so I’m guessing this is your response and the quotes got buggered up somehow.)

            The buyer doesn’t have to ask if he’s doing right by the seller either way. The whole reason we have asking prices is to sidestep this issue: if the buyer meets the selling price, he knows that he’s doing right by the seller, because the seller would not have offered it at that price if he wasn’t prepared to accept it.

            You seem to be saying that “pay what you want” isn’t an asking price. I don’t think this is a good way of looking at it. I see it as an asking price of “whatever, I don’t care”.

            Johan in the original post felt he was doing wrong by paying nothing. I can empathize with his point. If you cannot, discuss it with Johan.

            That doesn’t strike me as a particularly good argument either. People often feel bad over things they shouldn’t.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            Nick

            But the question isn’t about a typical sellers. Typical sellers don’t set pay-what-you-want prices, do they? Atypical sellers do that. Why do you believe atypical sellers are looking to maximize profit?

            Just leave the word “typical” out of my last explanation and you will have the answer.

            Or try this: It is obvious in the same sense that it is obvious that you are merely trying to be difficult.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            Nornagest

            People often feel bad over things they shouldn’t

            So now you are claiming that Johan is inappropriately feeling bad. Talk about moralizing run amok!

          • Nornagest says:

            Cute.

        • Aapje says:

          @Nick

          Economically, this seems intended to capture more of the consumer surplus.

          We can assume that consumers have a minimum consumer surplus, below which they refuse to buy; as well as a desired consumer surplus. A surplus that is higher than desired is a good deal or even ‘a steal.’

          By that language, you can already see that there is a point where consumers tend to feel that they are taking advantage of the seller. In a fixed price situation, the buyer will typically pocket the difference between the price and the desired consumer surplus. In the ‘pay what you think is fair situation,’ the consumer is expected to pay close to their desired consumer surplus.

          This seems to just be price discrimination, which also is intended to capture more of the consumer surplus, but then self-administered by the consumer, rather than mandated by the seller.

          “Pay what you think is fair” seems most sensible when the customer’s perception of the value of the product tends to be way higher than the production cost, so few people pay below the cost of production.

    • GreatColdDistance says:

      To me, it depends on how the seller frames it. More specifically, Pay-What-You-Want vs. Pay-What-You-Can. If they’re saying “hey, pay whatever you want”, then yeah they’ve given you permission to pay whatever you want. If they don’t like the results of that because they were hoping to secretly shame you into feeling that you need to pay something more, I guess they’re dumb and I don’t feel that bad. I have often paid reasonable sums for music under such circumstances if I thought the band was great, but I wouldn’t feel bad for paying nothing.

      However, sometimes such systems are explicitly framed as pay-what-you-can where the lack of a lower limit on price is explicitly identified as being for impoverished people who can’t afford to pay for the product, and those with means to pay are encouraged to do so, sometimes with soft prices (“this performance is free, suggested donation is $20”). In such a case, taking it for free if you really could afford to spare the money is unethical.

      So IMO the difference is how they frame it, and I’d reject any attempts to sneak in obligations through “implicit terms of the deal”.

      Totally separately, you should generally seek to pay for art/products you enjoy, in whatever way seems best to reward their creators. If creators cannot support their products, they will cease to exist or support themselves through ads or other things that may be hostile to their customers interests.

      • Randy M says:

        In the cases of, say, a museum with a suggested donation of $10, I’ll just consider that as the price of admission and an acknowledgement that they don’t care to prosecute for not paying it. I’ll pay the suggested donation then, or else avoid the venue. If I was brought there by a friend and didn’t realize there would be a “fee”, I might well attend without putting in the donation. I understand they expect payment in most cases, but by calling it a donation they are making it supererogatory.

        If there was a service, like a downloadable book or song, that said “pay what you can” without a suggested price, I’m not sure how to approach it.
        I can pay a lot for it without immediate noticeable impact. On the other hand, there’s a lot of other uses I’d like to put my money eventually that tend to be considerably less lenient–certainly more than I have money for.
        Ultimately I’d probably assume that they want the going rate for a product of that type and decline to take it.

        So I might have different reactions depending on the phrasing and how I encountered the situation.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I often give a little cash for exceptional pay-what-you-want products (including musicians in train stations), because rewarding people for being exceptional feels good. More often, I pay nothing, or the minimum.

      This is actually something that I find to be a pretty good argument against moral contractualism. I don’t think people have moral obligations to pay for this sort of thing, but I think that the exercise of evaluating and sacrificing for pay-what-you-want products that you enjoy is of moral benefit – not only to yourself, but in the sense that it makes the world a better place. By not refusing to consider paying for them, you deny yourself the chance for fulfillment.

    • souleater says:

      I tend to think of it as pizza money.

      If my friend is coming to my house for a party, and decides to bring a pizza, I don’t feel obligated to give him any money (but I might anyway depending on how much petty cash I have).

      If we are having a party, and I ask him to bring pizza for the group, I would definitely want to make sure he isn’t taking a loss in doing us a favor.

      Point being, if I’m searching out a book and I was already planning on buying it, I’m inclined to give some money (if it’s safe, easy and secure) If someone is trying to distribute a book that I’m not sure I’m even interested in, I might download it to take a look.

      PS SlateStarCodex has a Patreon page

    • Matt M says:

      Do you feel bad about playing free to play games (ones that don’t have advertising) and not ever spending money buying items in them?

      F2P is basically a slightly tweaked model of “pay what you want”

      • johan_larson says:

        I don’t usually play such games, but I think I would be fine playing them for free if I only did it occasionally, but I would feel a tug toward paying at least a little if I were a regular user.

        I gave some money to the folks who run the Go server I use, even though all it gets me is my name in yellow rather than blue.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m not sure if it’s morally wrong to offer such schemes because it financially punishes those susceptible to guilt and rewards those who are not… or morally right to offer such schemes for exactly the same reason.

      In general I don’t like them and will not take advantage of them. Give me a price, not a guilt trip.

      I think charging on the honor system is immoral in the presence of significant defectors, too; it makes the honorable into suckers, while rewarding the dishonorable. You need pretty high trust and probably some informal mechanism of punishing the dishonorable for that to work.

      • Randy M says:

        I think charging on the honor system is immoral in the presence of significant defectors, too

        That’s an interesting thought, thanks.

      • dick says:

        It seems like this assumes that “pay what you like” sellers are trying to guilt you in to paying more than you would if they set a price. There are other reasons to do it, such as exposure (e.g. to get players for a video game that has a sequel coming out soon) and accessibility (e.g. a museum that doesn’t want to exclude very poor people). Are those immoral?

        • The Nybbler says:

          A museum doing “pay what you like” with a suggested price is basically honor system, so moral if there’s a way of keeping defection (non-poor people underpaying) down. With museums that’s partly that people tend to go in groups so underpaying is risking appearing poor or cheap.

          For exposure, “pay what you like” is offering a discount in inverse proportion to the buyer’s scrupulousness, which seems to me to be encouraging unscrupulousness.

          • dick says:

            Is this website encouraging unscrupulousness? I mean, it’s free, and it has a Patreon. I would say it’s benefiting from scrupulousness, but not discouraging it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Casting the net wider and wider to find non-central examples doesn’t really go to my point. If there were some sort of obligation to pay for this website, then it would be unscrupulous not to. As far as I know there is no such obligation.

          • albatross11 says:

            Asking for a donation seems pretty reasonable to me. I’m assuming they either:

            a. Want to collect donations without making anyone feel like they can’t come to the museum unless they have enough money. (Thus, poor people, retirees on fixed incomes, kids walking in after school, college students who spent all their money on beer, etc., can still come to the museum.).

            b. Want to collect some money without the hassle of charging admissions.

            c. Expect that by asking for donations they’ll make up their losses on people who could pay but don’t by people who are more generous than the suggested donation (perhaps just because the suggested donation is $4 but all they’ve got is a $10).

            Every way of collecting money from people coming to a museum has costs and benefits. I don’t think there’s an obvious way that’s more moral than the others.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Not responding to any particular thing, but I knew a software developer who would scoff at people worrying how to charge money or trying to restrict access in any way. “Just put it out there, have people pay or not, whatever, move on with your life.”

            I lost track of him, but found him again a few years later. The software he was giving-away-with-donations now had popups showing his wife and children, asking you to donate so they can afford clothes.

            I don’t mind selling software. I don’t mind free software. I do mind “we give it away (possibly driving the for-money software out of the market) and then try to make you feel bad that we don’t have any money.”

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            For exposure, “pay what you like” is offering a discount in inverse proportion to the buyer’s scrupulousness, which seems to me to be encouraging unscrupulousness.

            I think it doesn’t, even though it appears to. The people who will choose to be unscrupulous already had an incentive to avoid paying, and would have just tried to hide that fact. They might be emboldened by PWYL, thinking their paying nothing to be legitimate now – as it indeed is.

            OTOH, PWYL also reminds the unscrupulous of the fact that the service in question is not inherently free. It reminds them to consider the positive utility they get from the service, and to think about how much they could donate and still come out ahead on utility – as well as consider the negative utility they would suffer if the service folded by the next time they tried to use it.

            Years ago, I visited the Met in NYC. ISTR tickets were $25, but were optional. (Technically, I think this is only true for residents, but the clerk wasn’t asking for ID as a rule.) I paid full price, since at the time, I believed that it made the Met marginally more likely to be there the next time I went; a worthwhile hedge for me. (Also, confessedly, I bristled at the idea of looking the clerk in the eye and telling her I’d just go in for free.)

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      My moral intuition is that I’m obligated to pay something close to the price at which I would actually buy the product if it were being sold (which is not necessarily “what it is worth” in any objective sense). If I am at a stage of life or of a disposition where I wouldn’t buy the product if it weren’t free, I feel comfortable downloading it (or attending the museum, or whatever else) without any guilt. If it is something that I want badly enough that I would pay $10 for it if that is what they were charging, then I’d feel bad paying less than ~8. If me taking the product would impose significant costs on the person offering (say, if one of my friends offered pizza), then unless it is worth it to me to actually worth pay for the goods, I’d avoid taking or paying if I can.

    • James says:

      I often go to local music shows that have a ticket price advertised, but also a note that ‘no-one will be turned away for lack of funds’. How this shakes out in practice I have no idea because I have never seen or heard of anyone trying to get in without paying for lack of funds. Presumably they just go by the honour system.

      Sometimes the ticket price is framed as a ‘suggested donation’, but again, I have no idea how someone choosing not to ‘donate’ the suggested donation would be received because it never seems to happen. To me it seems that the price that you’ve suggested is, de facto, the price of the ticket, and the fact that you are reluctant to call it that seems like some fairly hollow anticapitalist posturing.

      I guess these are a bit different to the museums mentioned above because, existing in a small-ish, fairly tight-knit community, defectors are less likely and informal ways of punishing defectors exist.

  3. proyas says:

    All of the advantages and disadvantages conferred by geography can be partly ameliorated with technology. Useless cerrados can be turned into farmland, artificial harbors can be built and turbid rivers dammed or dredged, railroad and road networks can be built in areas lacking navigable waterways, energy can be imported or derived from an increasingly diverse array of sources (e.g. – a small country lacking fossil fuels might be ideally situated for dams, nuclear power, solar power, or wind power), and tunnels can be bored through mountain ranges.

    …And extending this train of thinking by assuming ever-better technology and intelligent machines moving to ever-more-remote places, we are inevitably led to the prospect of space colonization, von Neumann probes, and the conversion of whole celestial bodies into computronium, as Ray Kurzweil predicts (and maybe in the very far future, if our understanding of Physics evolves, our civilization might find ways to “live” in the very fabric of space-time and be invisible but everywhere, or to expand beyond our universe). The well-established point in The Accidental Superpower that technology allows humans to overcome problems imposed by geography and to spread to formerly inhospitable parts of the world (e.g. – Florida before air conditioning was invented) has major implications for the future, and buttresses ideas about space colonization that are now the purview of science fiction. The rule should be rephrased as: Technology allows intelligent life forms to overcome problems imposed by geography and to spread to formerly inhospitable places.

    https://www.militantfuturist.com/the-accidental-superpower-and-my-volcanic-epiphany/

  4. Edward Scizorhands says:

    Does anyone have a link to watch last night’s Democratic Primary debate?

    I want to watch the whole thing, not highlights.

    cnn.com would be the obvious place, but they do not have an obvious link.

  5. Enkidum says:

    For those of us who love spreadsheet games, there’s currently a Humble Bundle on Crusader Kings II which, for the low price of $15, contains the base game and virtually all the important expansions.

    If you don’t know the game, it’s a… dynasty simulator, I guess. You start as a noble, anything from the Holy Roman Emperor to a leader of some two-bit house in the middle of nowhere. You star at a map most of the time, and do things like manage your vassals, arrange marriages, and so on. It’s incredibly addictive, if you like this sort of thing.

    • John Schilling says:

      It is a game that cheats, in the most fundamental and objectionable sense of the word. It changes the rules on a whim in the middle of the game. In so doing, it wholly destroyed my enjoyment of what was to have been my last, best game of CK2 before I moved on to one of Paradox’s other titles. If Paradox were to pay me, not fifteen dollars but more like fifteen hundred, and promise not to do that any more, I’d consider playing again. Otherwise, to hell with them. Not recommended.

      • mendax says:

        I’ve played a bunch of the game, but not for quite a while. I’m curious, what happened? Was it a patch, or a random event of some kind?
        The current system where you pick the game rules at the start seems pretty good.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          It sounds like it could have been a patch that landed mid-game? That’s happened to me before and it’s quite frustrating the first time it happens. Luckily you can revert back to previous patches with Steam’s “Beta” settings

        • John Schilling says:

          A patch that incorporated some but not all of the mechanics of an expansion that I had explicitly decided not to buy because it was silly. And which rendered Enkidum’s description moot, because “managing vassals, arranging marriages, and so on” became a much smaller part of the game, along with anything involving e.g. Crusading and being a King. Being a member of an occult secret society plotting to subvert your kingdom’s religion in a ridiculously ahistorical fashion, sure, if that’s your thing. Otherwise watch all your plans fall into ruin because everyone else is engaged in occult conspiracies of ridiculously ahistorical scope and power. And even if I decide to fight fire with fire, I am handicapped by not having bought the expansion with all the tools I need.

          Oh, and they periodically rewrite the map of Eurasia in ways that result in provinces and armies being teleported hundreds of miles out of place in the middle of a war and entire new provinces appearing ex nihilo in the most inconvenient locations.

          Yes, the system where you pick the game rules before you start is good. Then, halfway through the game, they change those rules. You don’t get a choice in the matter, unless you want to throw away that game and start over. And Paradox games require too much investment of time and interest for that to be an acceptable option.

          eta:

          Luckily you can revert back to previous patches with Steam’s “Beta” settings

          No, you can’t. I tried that, and it rendered the saved game corrupt and unplayable. Not acceptable, and not recommended. Stay away.

          • EchoChaos says:

            The game does allow you to stay on older patches if you dislike the newer ones, to defend Paradox.

            I will say that I also stopped playing CK2 much after the occult secret society stuff.

            EU4 is my primary game.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Hmm, that’s strange. Usually when a new patch lands it doesn’t let you load games on an older checksum unless you go back and revert. CK2 is the forerunner of their latest generation so maybe that feature wasn’t implemented yet? The PDX games all kinda blur together for me as far as the ecosystem goes but I know there are subtle differences.

            I suspect that loading your save with the new patch is what corrupted it. Causing it to not scan properly when going back to the version where it originally belonged. Was it an Ironman save? If not and you have older ones from the same game it’s possible those might work

            Still, that sucks that it happened to you. But I’m going to politely disagree that it warrants salting the earth. CK2 is a fun game and I heartily recommend giving it a go (though I’ll also recommend turning off the silly crap). $15 is an absolute steal.

          • MorningGaul says:

            What I suspect happened, is that you played a campaign when an update hit, then reloaded an ironman game (or overwrote the save), making it a save of with the new version.

            And ineed, retro-compatibility is often impossible. It’s also something that is easily avoided.

          • John Schilling says:

            The game does allow you to stay on older patches if you dislike the newer ones, to defend Paradox.

            It doesn’t document that feature, at least not anywhere you are likely to find it before you’ve been burned. It doesn’t let you opt out of stupid game-breaking rule change patches without also skipping the sometimes necessary bugfix patches. And it does falsely claim that you can roll back to a previous patch via the “Beta” feature gobbobobble notes and then corrupts your save when you try it.

            Paradox’s behavior in all of this is indefensible. Fifteen dollars is too high a price for any of their games, and by more than fifteen dollars. Perhaps most importantly, this is one more strike against the whole wretched business model of “we’re not selling you a game, we’re just indefinitely renting you the right to play a game on our server”.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @John Schilling

            This sounds like “a thing happened to me at a bad time and I am staying irrationally angry at it” to me.

            we’re not selling you a game, we’re just indefinitely renting you the right to play a game on our server

            Paradox sells you the game. You can play it offline and never touch the Internet or patching ever again. It is yours in perpetuity and you need no server at all. This criticism is badly mis-aimed.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            It doesn’t let you opt out of stupid game-breaking rule change patches without also skipping the sometimes necessary bugfix patches.

            Yeah, this part does suck sometimes. When a new patch drops you kinda have to just use the version reversion to finish any existing games and then get caught up, or else deal with whatever bugs they have. One reason I recommend against Ironman. You just don’t know when some stupid bug is going to pop up and ruin the game. Ctrl+Alt+Del can sometimes save you but I dunno how well that works in CK2 specifically

            And it does falsely claim that you can roll back to a previous patch via the “Beta” feature gobbobobble notes and then corrupts your save when you try it.

            Gonna repeat myself in case it got lost in the crosspost shuffle: I’m pretty sure it’s the new patch that corrupts the save. I think you’d be fine if you catch it before loading it in the new patch. But they really do need to get CK caught up to their other games and block loading old games after major updates >:( I can’t remember for CK2 specifically but I know that’s saved my butt in all of EU4, HOI4, and Stellaris.

          • Enkidum says:

            Paradox has some infuriating practices. I don’t buy the complaint that they release incomplete games and then charge you exorbitantly for the final product via DLC (or I don’t think it’s nearly as clear-cut a sin as people make it out to be). But I’ve heard multiple stories not dissimilar to John’s, which are a predictable consequence of their business model. And the fact that the only way to actually learn major game mechanics is through wikis and youtube (or it was five years ago when I was last playing their stuff) is really unacceptable.

          • Lillian says:

            Once again, this is why i will pirate even games i own. To hell with having your games be updated or changed against your will.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            In this case it’d be way easier to just opt-out of the updates, but you do you

      • DinoNerd says:

        This seems to be the disadvantage of buying anything on Steam. At least your game remained playable after the forced (and unannounced) upgrade – mine first had killer bugs, and then those were “fixed” such that the system I was playing on no longer met its hardware requirements.

        If a developer won’t distribute their game in a manner that doesn’t force upgrades, I tend to avoid their products, and the price I’m willing to pay for them is much much lower than if could keep the game I bought for as long as I want to play it.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          I mean, for PDX games at least, you can tell Steam not to update. And while they really don’t have enough announcement notifications in-game, the launcher does tell you when an update has been released.

          • Enkidum says:

            True, but as you say they really don’t put enough emphasis in the game itself on the possible consequences of accepting updates. Oh well, still great games.

    • MorningGaul says:

      Having extracted as much enjoyment as I could from EU4, pre-MTG HOI4 and a new disapointing Stellaris game every time i’m guillible enough to buy an extension, I’m happy to see a 15$ way to get the 170€ of DLC i was annoyed of missing on. Especially the early start dates, because i love me some long campaign.

      I have yet, however, to find a good way of picking my starting character. EU4 makes the choice hard by having a ton of interesting country and challenges, and HOI4 makes it easy by limiting the fun nations to those with specific focus trees, but here, every character makes me feel like…meh? Stories of characters from the 800’s or 1000’s are fairly limited from lack of sources, and dont strike up the imagination as, say, restoring the byzantine empire in EU4 or restoring the Kaiserin Victoria in HOI4 (or, for maximum meme-ing, playing Gengis Khan 2 von Ungern-Sternberg in kaiserreich).

      How do you make the decisions of where to start a new campaign?

      • Gobbobobble says:

        I usually pick a location (/government/religion) that seems fun and then roll my own character to replace whatever decrepit duke is currently on the throne. It’s a bit of a crutch as far as getting your feet under you but makes it feel more like my dynasty

      • DarkTigger says:

        Depends on whats your goal is I guess? Let’s say you want to become the Emporer of the HRR, you choose some noble in the HRR with an amount of power you feel comfortable with.

        Or you want to play an nomad Horse Lord and burn down the weak “civilzed” people of Arabia and western Europe.

        Or do you want to be a viking, or do you want to be a Slavic pagan turning back the Christian tide, or …

      • Enkidum says:

        For another 10 bucks, you can buy the expansion (not included in this bundle) that lets you port a finished CKII save into EUIV. So you can have the longest campaign imaginable.

      • MereComments says:

        As someone who’s much more of a EU4 player: the same way I choose in EU4. I agree, it’s hard for me to get excited about a Paradox game if I’m not interested in the history of a place (which is why I can’t get into Stellaris), but consider this an opportunity to read up on some history! My last CK2 campaign was to recreate and then expand on the Norman conquest of Italy, something that I didn’t know had happened (I knew that Angevins ended up owning parts of southern Italy, but not that the Normans had an independent kingdom there a bit earlier). From that starting point I attempted to create a Norman Mediterranean Empire.

        • John Schilling says:

          From that starting point I attempted to create a Norman Mediterranean Empire.

          How far did you get?

          My last game, I decided to role-play it with different goals each generation, but the 1st generation was as the historical Roger I de Hauteville with the goals of A: becoming a Literal Crusader King and B: boostrapping myself from vassal Count to sovereign Emperor in a single generation. Unfortunately the First Crusade was ahistorically delayed until “I” had died of old age, so I had to settle for being a double king (Sicily and North Africa). The second generation added Jerusalem and was recognize as Emperor of the Middle Sea.

          In hindsight, it would have been nice if they’d implemented the oft-requested option of landless adventurers as playable characters, so that I could have gone Full Conan.

          • MereComments says:

            Interesting. I hadn’t thought of launching a crusade campaign from there although that makes a lot more sense. I think I thought of my campaign as the Punic Wars IV. But we ended up in similar situations.

            I got as far as uniting Naples and Sicily into a Silician kingdom, and had taken Malta and Sardinia as forward bases for a campaign against the Kingdom of Africa. Pretty much right as that campaign was coming to a close, I inherited the Holy Roman Empire, through no intention or planning of my own. Which is actually my biggest complaint about CK2, as opposed to EU4. I hadn’t been focusing any attention on marriage or succession there, it was just the long-term fallout of many, many decisions ago. I actually quit that campaign at that point. Going from my small, self-built kingdom to learning the in-and-outs of every political situation in HRE felt like homework.

          • John Schilling says:

            I wound up with the Byzantine rather than Holy Roman Empire, but that was the result of a long-term plan set up when I was role-playing Cersei Lannister for a generation. Also, the Byzantine nobility and bureaucracy took a dim view of the whole thing, which lead to a generation and a half of yet another kind of role-playing experience. There was a previous campaign in which I wound up being elected King of Sweden at 19 for no apparent reason and with no planning of preparation; that was kind of the experience you describe.

            The bit where role-playing a two-bit Count of Gotland or Sicily or whatnot, lead to researching and learning a whole new area of history I had only the vaguest notion of before, is one of the neatest things to come from that game. I particularly liked the Sicilian Normans in that respect. That, I will miss. Though I suppose I could just go and start reading history books.

          • DarkTigger says:

            Well but that very well reflect the MO of the elective monachries in Germany and Scandinavia:
            “Hey, you! You are am noble with little experience and virtually no powerbase in our realm? Great! Here is a crown, no shoo pretend to be in charge, while we do as we please. And BTW if some one knocks on your door claiming to be the real King, yeah that is your problem.”

  6. Aapje says:

    Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is actually called Master Sun’s Military Methods (Tzu is a honorific that means master). There was a lot of confusion whether Sun Tzu wrote it or his alleged descendant Sun Bin. However, in 1972 a set of tombs were discovered, one of which contained both Master Sun’s Military Methods and Sun Bin: Military Methods*. This (mostly) settled the question of authorship, as the references to Sun Bin’s authorship refer to a separate work with a very similar name. In fact, Sun Bin’s book may also regularly have been referred to as Master Sun’s Military Methods.

    Sun Bin was punished for treason, having his kneecaps removed and his face tattoo’d. The anti-honorific ‘Bin’ refers to this punishment. He fled the kingdom that punished him and became a prominent general elsewhere (much more prominent than Sun Tzu, who gets very little mention in historic texts for his exploits as a general, rather than an author). Sun Bin’s book is unfinished (or at least the version that was discovered). It explains and expands on Master Sun’s Military Methods & is thus more of a derived work than a fully independent treatise.

    ~ Aapje Tzu

    * Sold in English as Sun Bin: The Art of Warfare

    • Well... says:

      I thought I read once that “The Art of War” was an amalgam of the works of many authors, and/or that Sun Tzu (er, Master Sun) wasn’t actually a general at all but rather a monk or scholar or some other kind of person like that, who had hang around a lot of warriors and written down what they said.

      • Aapje says:

        Sun Tzu is commonly thought to have lived from 544–496 BC and having been minister to King Helü of Wu. Analysis of the book suggests that it was written during the Warring States period, which starts a little later and lasted several centuries. So it’s possible that:
        – Sun Tzu was very forward thinking and wrote a book that seems more modern
        – Sun Tzu wrote a proto-book that was later extended by one or more others
        – Someone else wrote the book and credited Sun Tzu, rather than himself, perhaps because that person didn’t have much military experience or a known name

        All these options seem plausible.

      • DarkTigger says:

        The commented version of “The Art of War” I read explained that the most common version of the book in the west is a set of teachings that are probably from an single author, augmented by commentary and examples from later (partly known) authors.

        Who the author that self identifies as (as Aapje explained) Master Sun was is controversial.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Is there any ancient work that textual critics don’t claim is an amalgam of a bunch of authors?

        (For all I know, they really all are; maybe that’s a just what happens when you have scribes copying by hand for a few thousand years.)

        • Two McMillion says:

          The dialogues of Plato?

          • JPNunez says:

            Yeaah but then you run into the side problem of whether Socrates existed and/or said those things.

          • Enkidum says:

            I don’t think there’s any doubt that Socrates existed – we have texts describing him written by three different people who knew him, which match each other in key details. Two of these people mention the others knowing him, and we have very good evidence that all these three people were themselves real (i.e. multiple people from the same time period referring to them). This is as good evidence as we have for literally any person from the ancient world existing – you might as well question the existence of Alexander or Caesar Augustus.

            As for whether he said the things Plato attributes to him… there’s enough similarity between the different sources that it’s clear that the dialogues are in the ballpark of the kind of things he said. There’s good reasons to think that some of the dialogues are pretty close to honest portrayals (Euthyphro, Apology, etc), and some of them are definitely not (Statesman). But yeah, that’s much more of a debate.

          • Protagoras says:

            The Athenian golden age (so just before Plato) seems to be where we get some of the earliest relatively uncontroversial examples of texts which are not frequently suspected of being amalgams. For whatever reason, uncontroversial single author texts from China or India seem to start appearing in significant numbers considerably later. Still, there are always issues for any ancient work. For example, while Plato is one of the least controversial examples, it is nonetheless generally recognized that Plato’s texts have been corrupted here and there by copyists, and there is a small minority faction of scholars who believe this corruption to be quite extensive and significant and unjustifiably neglected.

        • Enkidum says:

          Aristotle as well as Plato, in fact most of the Greeks from the era of Socrates and on. Similarly for the Romans. Is that ancient enough?

          Clearly some of the Bible books (not the whole thing, obviously).

          Probably lots of others I can’t think of off the top of my head.

          EDIT: it occurs to me that of course there’s a great deal of doubt about whether Aristotle wrote all his works or whether many of them might essentially be his students’ lecture notes. But I don’t think anyone thinks they’re not directly derived from one living breathing human in Athens.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      He fled the kingdom

      That’s pretty impressive for a guy with no kneecaps.

      • Aapje says:

        Supposedly you can walk fine without them, if the surgery is done carefully, but not kneel (without padding). If the surgery was done poorly, he probably would have walked with a cane.

    • DarkTigger says:

      Could Sun Tzu and Sun Bin still be the same person? It would explain why there are no records about his military success. It was struck from the record after his treason.

    • Randy M says:

      The anti-honorific ‘Bin’ refers to this punishment.

      Bin refers specifically to having your knee-caps removed and your face tattooed? This implies it was a fairly common occurrence.

      It’s interesting that lacking kneecaps prevents kneeling. I presume that’s why it is inflicted on rebels. But all around that seems almost tame as far as ancient punishments for treason go.

      • Aapje says:

        China had a set of five punishments that were most commonly applied (to male commoners), although the exact punishments that made up those 5 differed over time.

        During the relevant period, these punishments seem to have been done:
        1. A face tattoo, called qíng.
        2. Cutting off the nose
        3. Amputation of a foot or the kneecaps, called bìn
        4. Cutting off the penis & testicles
        5. Death, in various gruesome ways

        So our general seems to have experienced two of these punishments, where he was named after the more serious one.

        PS. Note that where men had their equipment removed for adultery, women were punished by confinement to a room and/or locked up. :/

  7. johan_larson says:

    Warner Brothers currently holds the film rights to D&D and the Forgotten Realms. They’re having some trouble coming up with film based on the game.

    Hollywood is littered with failed attempts to adapt D&D for the screen. There was the cartoon series back in the 80s, a live-action movie in 2000, and a weird mixed-mode CGI/animated movie based on Dragonlance in 2008.

    I don’t know why it’s so hard. If they can turn LotR into good movies and GoT into good TV, why can’t they can’t make D&D work on screen? You’d think somewhere in all those modules and novels and Dragon Magazine articles would lie something that could be adapted in a straight-forward way.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      The best stuff either involves eye-bleeding levels of CGI – Like dragon lance – or it is about the drow, and well.. yhea, putting the drow on screen would be radioactive levels of bad pr.

      Wait, Dark Sun. That setting has some stories that would film well.

      • perlhaqr says:

        Goddamn I loved the Dragonlance novels as a tween. But yeah, that would take lots and lots of CGI.

      • Dack says:

        putting the drow on screen would be radioactive levels of bad pr.

        Five to ten years ago, I think they could have gotten away with making the Drow blue or purple.

      • Protagoras says:

        Dark Sun was my thought as well. But clearly actually using one of the well-developed settings is the place to start. The 2000 movie instead just hacked together a completely unimaginative generic fantasy plot. I suppose the 2008 movie shows that using an established setting is not sufficient, but I’d still say it’s probably necessary. And while I wouldn’t choose Dragonlance myself, I’m pretty sure a good movie could be made about it, so I would mostly blame incompetence on the part of those making the 2008 movie rather than anything inherently misguided about the project.

    • Enkidum says:

      Absolutely, but there were also lots of great stories in the 80 years of Marvel comics, and despite plenty of attempts, everything before Blade was terrible, and even after that it wasn’t until Raimi did Spiderman that they started batting above about .300.

      It’s just hard to make a good film, even with a good story hook, and until you get real talent on the production, screenwriting, and directing ends, it’s just not going to happen. With executive production arguably being the most important part if you want any kind of consistent franchise (I think Feige is probably the most important part of the MCU). And I guess that’s just never existed for D&D.

      I’d love to see a good Dragonlance adaptation, although it would be called derivative of GoT and LoTR.

    • souleater says:

      DM here, I think its hard because D&D isn’t a plot like LOTR, its a ruleset. It would be like making a movie about the adventures of chess pieces. You would have to make the story from scratch. Using written campaigns like “Rise of the Runelords” won’t work well either, because a) The main characters would need to be written from scratch, and b) There wouldn’t be a main character, so much as a main party. It would be like having a Justice League movie without introducing the characters separately.

      If you’re just using a D&D novel like the Drizzt books, it could work ok, but like you said, it’s difficult to have fantasy races and creatures not look weird.
      Its a combination of needing a big budget for decent effects, but being too niche to justify that budget

      I think your best bet would be to follow the MCU model, start as normal as possible and go from there.
      A bog standard human fighter in say Waterdeep (I would pick a big name actor like Dwayne Johnson), and over the course of years slowly introduce more and more fantasy elements or characters until you have an adventuring party.

      • J Mann says:

        Presumably the easy thing would be to pull a fan favorite story and produce it for the 95% of movie goers who haven’t heard of it, with appropriate edits to make it work on screen. (Marvel does this very effectively most of the time, while DC mostly fell on their face trying the same thing, so maybe it isn’t as easy as it sounds).

        The Salvatore Drzzt books come to mind, but I guess the question is whether people want to see more LOTR-esque stuff.

        Critical Role famously raised $11 million to animate one of the arcs that came up in their streaming game, so someone wants to see D&D fiction, for what that’s worth.

        • Nick says:

          The Salvatore Drzzt books come to mind, but I guess the question is whether people want to see more LOTR-esque stuff.

          Well, Amazon thinks so, right? And HBO is doing eighteen GoT spinoffs, and an adaptation of The Kingkiller Chronicle is in the works….

      • johan_larson says:

        What parts are easy and cheap?

        Humans are fine. You could probably differentiate the principal humanoid races (elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins) just by costumes, facial prosthetics, and appropriate casting.

        Sword fights and archery duels are fine. Rogue action like picking locks and climbing walls are standard TV fare.

        Small-scale spells, like Magic Missile and Hold Portal, should be possible without spending a lot on CGI.

        I guess the really expensive bits would be location shooting around European castles and large-scale CGI, like Fireball spells and dragons.

        • souleater says:

          I feel like a fireball spell would be pretty easy to do well, mostly just practical effects… but I have a hard time envisioning a magic missile that doesn’t look weird.

          If it was me, I would base their movement off of the drone weapons from the Stargate series.

          Is there a SSC D&D group btw? maybe on roll20 or somthing?

      • AG says:

        There are more than a few anime that are adaptations of the authors’ tabletop sessions, and more that capture the feeling of a session, which is arguably the bigger point of a D&D adaptation, over bring flavor text to life.

    • dick says:

      Still waiting for CGI good enough to show why an 8 str halfling can throw a small knife for more damage than an 18 str barbarian with a 2h axe?

      I kid. I randomly downloaded and watched the (direct to DVD, budget of $12M) Dungeons & Dragons 3: The Book of Vile Darkness some time ago (don’t judge, I like to have a silly movie going while I play games sometimes) and the CGI was perfectly adequate. With slightly better actors and a good story, a movie like this could be great, despite being fairly obviously low-budget; but it seems like they don’t waste good scripts on such movies.

    • Randy M says:

      Everyone here has seen Gamers: The Rise of Dorkness, right? It’s about 50% shots of the players and 50% shots of the characters in world, and is true to form, respectful, and hilarious.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        I was gonna mention that! Definitely the stick I’ll be using to measure any official movie

      • johan_larson says:

        Wow. That’s really impressive.

        Sure, it’s still clearly an amateur production, but well worth watching.

    • AG says:

      As I commented above, the actual appeal of D&D is the game part, and merely adapting lore/flavor text is just making a hollow aesthetic shell.

      As such, the recent Final Fantasy movies/TV series have been about people in our world playing the FF games, rather than an in-world story like Spirits Within did and flopped with. Similarly, Critical Role is closer to what people actually want from the D&D franchise.

      Otherwise, there’s nothing unique to D&D that you can’t get from an original swords & sorcery setup, other than name recognition.

      (This is why most video game adaptations fail, as most of them are merely allowing a player to immerse themselves within a particular aesthetic, than having the aesthetic serve a particular story/character.)

  8. SamChevre says:

    Post your meet-ups!

    Western Massachustetts meetup
    Saturday August 3 at 6:30 PM
    Packard’s (Library Room at the back, reserved)
    14 Masonic St
    Northampton MA

    We’re a friendly and eclectic group and would love to see you. (We’re having two meetups in close succession because the August meetup is early and the July meetup was late–it’s usually about monthly.)

  9. Randy M says:

    Every once in a while I have cause to try and find an old comment of mine, without knowing exactly which thread it was on. So I search through all my posts on threads containing certain terms I think were used.

    And that experience is very humbling. So many times I’m wondering what it is I’m trying to say, either because the comment is short and uses too many pronouns, or because it is rambling and never gets to any clearly stated point.

    Speaking of point, I don’t have one here, but I just wanted to clarify that I’m aware of this trend.
    :/

  10. Well... says:

    I have a wireless optical mouse. When I use it on something like a blanket or bedspread, the cursor frequently jiggles on its own and is sometimes unresponsive when I move the mouse, which I kind of get (because the optical signal is confused by the unevenness of the fabric?), but it also does this thing where clicking sometimes doesn’t work right — either no click is registered or it registers a double-click by mistake.

    Both problems go away when I put the mouse on something flat and matte like a mousepad (in this case a composition notebook). Why would that be?

    (PS. I always hated optical mice, and resisted getting one for the longest time, preferring the ones with the little ball in them. I didn’t mind taking it out and cleaning the rollers once in a while. It was just always way more reliable for me, and it sucks they’re so hard to find now that nearly all mice are optical.)

    • souleater says:

      I’ve had this issue too… My best guess (assuming its not a bug) is that there is some software in it that basically says the equivalent of:

      “My optical sensor is giving me weird feedback, Maybe I’m upside down, maybe I am being dropped, maybe I’m a bluetooth mouse in a bag. I’ll just assume something is wrong, not trust any of the input I’m getting”

      1ms later
      “I work again! let me send some signals”

      2ms later
      “Nevermind! weird signals again”

      I don’t know for sure obviously, and I defer in advance to anyone more confident than me.

    • bzium says:

      The click registering as a double click happened in pretty much every cheapo optical mouse I had after a couple of months of usage (but the Logitech mx310 I’ve bought 15 years ago is still working great). The obvious guess is that low quality switches wear out.

      I don’t understand why that would happen only on an uneven surface, though. Is it possible that it’s some sort of sampling bias? Like, spurious double-clicks happen occasionally but you only notice when using mouse on a bad surface because it’s constantly giving you trouble so you’re paying attention. Or maybe when using the mouse on a bad surface you mash the buttons with more force due to your frustration.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      If you’re flexible with the definition, you can still get ball mice! If you’re not familiar with the thumb trackball it takes some getting used to but it’s perfect for uneven surfaces.

      (Though I just had to replace mine a month ago due to the same doubleclick issue. Wish those components were more durable 🙁 )

      • Well... says:

        A lot of people at my job use trackballs, so I occasionally use them when I have to hop on their computers for something. I get the appeal, but personally can’t stand them.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Ah yes, the M570. Simultaneously my favorite pointing device, and my worst nightmare. Precisely because of that doubleclick issue. There was a period where I had to buy one about every eight months. Luckily, my latest one seems to have held up.

        Years ago, I tried looking into it, and got as far as reading that the switches Logitech uses are not the best quality. It’s possible to repair them – at the least, one could cannabilize one M570 for its right-click switch, as they’re all virtually identical, and the right switch is typically still quite good by the time the left one dies – but it’d require some talent with a soldering iron that I haven’t had time to acquire. So I end up just buying more of the suckers. Crappy as those switches are, the device still surpasses any other device for me.

        • AG says:

          Has the quality gone down? My previous mouse (optical) lasted me for 7+ years. The one I bought to replace it already has click issues. Both times I just got the cheapest mouse available at the store.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            It’s hard for me to say. My best guess is that Logitech changes its switch supplier every so often, and that the lifetime of their devices depends critically on that. Or possibly their supplier is itself inconsistent in its quality, due to heaven knows what.

  11. souleater says:

    Spoilers for Black Panther
    Black Panther annoys the hell out of me.

    Everyone I know seems to love the movie but I find it completely unwatchable. In fact, just mentioning it sets me on a hours long rant.

    Acting: Good!
    Special Effects: Great!
    Character development: Awesome!
    Wakandan System of Government: Most irritating thing in the world.

    They have a modern, developed society, active in the UN, and nobody in the government ever thought about any separation of powers?
    So let me get this straight… their system of government.. has a clause wear if a Absolute despot King’s family member can kill the king.. they get to be the new king? That seems like the worst way to decide on a regent! Watery Tarts throwing swords is probably a better way when the alternative is “whoever is bloodthirsty and power hungry enough to kill their Father”. How has this never been a problem for them before 2018?

    Alright, so fast forward and the brother “kills” the protagonist and is now king… Nobody likes the new king, but there is no way to legally remove him from power, and honestly, he hasn’t actually done anything illegal. Killing his brother was specifically the expected way to assume power. The movie ends with a climactic civil war where the protagonists overthrow and murder (the new king legally repealed the “Kill people in ritual combat to gain power law”) the “antagonist”.

    The plot could be summarized as follows:
    Country has fewer checks on power than iran
    antagonist takes advantage of the laws to gain power
    protagonists launch a bloody coup, kill the legally elected king and install their leader

    its just not clear to me why the antagonist is the bad guy here…

    • Matt M says:

      protagonists launch a bloody coup, kill the legally elected king and install their leader

      Also worth noting that the CIA is providing material assistance to said coup.

      Although that part is realistic AF!

      • souleater says:

        I found it ironic that

        We know Killmonger was the bad guy because he wants Wakandan to help rebels overthrow the legally appointed US government.

        We know T’challa was the good guy because he wants America to help rebels overthrow the legally appointed Wakandan government.

        What is the moral of the story here? “Its not evil when we do it?”

        • Clutzy says:

          I mean, he also was a kill-monger that implied he wanted to implement a worldwide reverse-apartheid.

          • souleater says:

            I actually didn’t get that sense.

            I think his motivations were that he wanted to arm africans and help them start revolutions. I don’t think he gave much thought to the governing system after that.

        • Ben Wōden says:

          At least there’s a differentiation – even if it’s a silly one. That makes it more sophisticated than Age of Ultron.

          Age of Ultron is basically:
          Idiots create super AI to protect humanity from itself
          Super AI predictably tries to wipe out all of humanity to save it from itself
          Idiots decide that the obvious answer is an even more super AI built on basically the same principles but somehow able to defeat the first one
          Somehow this works and the second AI is benevolent for no readily apparent reason.

          As the old rhyme goes:
          There was an old lady who swallowed a fly
          I don’t know why she swallowed a fly – perhaps she’ll die!
          There was an old lady who swallowed a spider,
          That wriggled and wiggled and tiggled inside her;
          She swallowed the spider to catch the fly;
          I don’t know why she swallowed a fly – Perhaps she’ll die!
          Oh actually she’s fine because the spider inside her apparently poses no additional problems in the way that the fly did, and any plans she might have had to swallow a bird in order to catch the spider have been rendered unnecessary.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Special Effects: Great!

      Wow, I have to disagree here. By the vibranium-assisted car chase in Seoul, I was noticing how cheap the CGI looked. By the time I got to the climax with King Black Panther (T’Challa) punching King Black Panther (Killmonger) in the vibranium mine, I was thinking how much better Black Panther and the 3D computer backgrounds look in Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Yeah, that was my big complaint. I thought the CGI in Black Panther was the worst of any Marvel movie since the first Thor.

        Also I agree their system of government is dumb.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Nobody likes the new king

      This isn’t even true. We see that the new king has strong support amongst a large part of the council and the population, which is why an actual bloody coup is necessary.

      Most of the fascinating stuff about the movie to me is pure CW, so I won’t address it here.

      • souleater says:

        I intentionally put this in an integer thread, because I’m hoping to focus on the “poorly thought out system of government causing completely foreseeable problems” part of the movie.

        I feel a reasonably competent poli-sci student appointed during the previous administration would have sidestepped the entire plot.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Oh, totally fair, and I appreciated the discussion at that level, which is why I avoided the CW parts of it.

      • JPNunez says:

        IIRC the supporters Killmonger has are mostly the people who support the clownshoes system of government they have.

        It’s the only system we have! we gotta uphold it!

    • GreatColdDistance says:

      I generally liked the film, but share your irritation around the system of government. It wouldn’t bother me so much in a fantasy film, but BP seems to be taken as one of Marvel’s most “political” films, so making Wakanda’s government system so bizarrely dysfunctional really undermines that. Its a relic from the source material, but one that probably should have been fixed.

    • Well... says:

      Acting: Good!
      Special Effects: Great!
      Character development: Awesome!

      Heh, really? I got about 30 minutes into this movie before I had to turn it off because the acting, writing, and special effects seemed so fake and amateurish.

      • souleater says:

        Eh, To be honest, I don’t have really have a critical eye for that stuff.. I just remember them winning a bunch of awards for a bunch of stuff so I’m deferring to their judgment. I am intentionally ignoring any elephants that may or may not be in the room

        They specifically won a SAG award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture and a BAFTA award for special effects

    • Clutzy says:

      I am not in your boat, but liked the movie less than most. The camerawork is why its in the bottom half of Marvel for me.

      Acting: Good!
      Special Effects: Great!
      Character development: Awesome!
      Wakandan System of Government: Most irritating thing in the world.

      Me:
      Acting: Fine
      Special Effects (including the camera choices): Gives me a headache at times. Almost Jason Bourne-like which I don’t enjoy
      Character development: Almost non existent. The plot is mostly typical Marvel cookie cutting IMO
      Wakandan System of Government: Pretty freaking dumb, yes. However, I think you have it slightly wrong. If anyone who is in the royal line of any of the Wakandan clans objects they can challenge the king. This is a pretty good check if its possible to have multiple challengers. Presumably a bad king will have multiple. And either he has to fight in succession and will lose because of fatigue, or has to fight them all at once, and then gets killed pretty easily I’d think. Its just a more murdery version of what Tyrion and Bran set up at the end of GOT.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Eh, I thought Killmonger was one of the better Marvel villains. He was one of the very few whose motivation wasn’t “I’m an evil guy doing evil stuff because that’s what I do” or “I just want money and power.” He could reasonably see himself as the good guy, which makes for a more compelling story.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      Black Panther wasn’t my favorite movie ever, but this plot hole ultimately serves to underscore the theme that they were clearly going for.

      Wakanda is an incredibly wealthy and technologically advanced society, but their self-imposed isolation has had a cost. It’s established very early in the film that Wakandans don’t understand and for the most part don’t really care about the outside world. Their society had also been established in this and previous movies to be vulnerable to attacks by outsiders like Klaue who have different values than they do and can act in ways that they wouldn’t consider (e.g. covering his escape by deliberately blowing up Wakandan civilians).

      Killmonger was trained to be an expert in destabilizing regimes, had been taught about Wakandan traditions by his father as a child, and he had previously worked with Ulysses Klaue. He seized power according to Wakanda’s traditions, so even though the result of an American sitting on the throne was clearly absurd the court was bound by tradition to accept him as their king. But Killmonger himself wasn’t bound by those traditions, and so could easily step outside of them when it came to solidifying his power by destroying the Heart-Shaped Herb. He’s only defeated in the end when T’Challa himself steps outside of tradition: leading an armed rebellion instead of challenging him to a second duel, and accepting critical help from a foreigner he had rescued and brought there.

      Whether or not this was deliberate, it underscores the way that Wakanda is made weaker as a result of their isolation and makes T’Challa’s choice at the end of the film more understandable. Their prior inward-looking attitude had both left them blind to threats from the outside world and made them willing to commit atrocities against innocent people living in the outside world.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Oh absolutely stupid, though perhaps you can hand-wave away the expected problems by saying that the Ruling House knows all sorts of secret hand-to-hand techniques that the other groups simply don’t know, and some of the tribes rarely participate in challenges. The Border Tribe doesn’t even seem to really be part of Wakanda and their appearance at T’Challa’s coronation appears to have been a surprise.

      I can’t get beyond Vibranium being a miracle thing that solves everything. Want to make a spaceship that can easily survive re-entry? Vibranium. Personal body armor strong enough to withstand light cannon? Vibranium. IT to copy over Vision’s AI? Vibranium. Need to target a thermal exhaust port no wider than a wamp rat? Vibranium. Solve mind control? Vibranium. Put someone on ice? Vibranium. Spinal surgery needed? No problem, just rub some Vibranium on it.

      • perlhaqr says:

        The entire “vibranium” thing was a massive irritant to me, just from an engineering perspective. Presumably the Wakandans at least started as no more advanced than any other group of African tribes. So how in the ever loving fuck did they bootstrap themselves into the highest technology group on the planet just because they had access to a huge chunk of what is canonically the most indestructible material on the planet (if not the universe)? How did they ever start working it? Did having a big meteorite sitting on the lawn magically accelerate them through a copper, iron, and silicon age, to get them to a point where they could actually make use of the vibranium?

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          This was discussed in a previous OT, and the best guess was
          Vibranium asteroid hill -> a plant mutates into the Heart-Shaped Herb -> Wakandans eat it -> become smart enough that an isolated population can go Iron Age to Roman-equivalent to Industrial Revolution to “silicon age” and start working vibranium faster than the entire Eurasia-North Africa intellectual/trade network could reach the “silicon age”.

          • perlhaqr says:

            But I think they have to do it not merely that fast, but before almost anyone else reaches even the Bronze age. Otherwise they can’t do the whole “hiding from the world” trick against random folks tramping through their area of the continent.

            Also, and this is probably just my cynicism showing, I’m extremely skeptical of any group of humans becoming that much more powerful than their neighbors and not trying to take them over.

            Of course, we don’t have a full Wakandan history from the movie, just the parts they gave us, which may have been slightly edited for image. So maybe they had an expansionist phase early and discovered that it didn’t work well, (see also, higher IQ) and that’s how you get things like the vibranium adze head that Klaue and Killmonger steal from the museum out in the world.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I think Marvel is clearly trying to make Wakanda be the African Atlantis. If you want to fanwank it, consider a list of pre-colonial African empires, and how well-known they are(n’t) to the modern West. I’d guess that if you try to make Westerners name such an empire, they think Zulu (which was 19th century), and maybe Timbuktu (14th c. Mali). We’re sure stuff was happening in there, amidst the trackless jungle and deadly bats and mokele-mbembes, but it’s easy for it to get memory-holed.

            Maybe ancient Wakandans were just naturally reclusive, and figured out physical walls well enough to keep non-Wakandans from tramping through, so that when the Punic Wars are happening, local non-Waks see Wakanda as these weirdoes they could trade with every so often at isolated posts, the way the Picts did with the Romans centuries later at Hadrian’s Wall. Then Wakanda has its own industrial revolution and builds a barrier so good that you didn’t even know it was there. So unlike the Picts, the non-Waks find the wall replaced “magically” with dense terrain, lose interest, and wander away. All they have now are near-forgotten myths of supermen that sound like the Seven Cities of Cibola.

            On rare occasion, maybe someone finds a 2500-year-old vibranium tool cache outside the barrier, from when Wakandans were less sparing with such things. Could make for a fun comic book issue (I don’t follow the comic enough to know what stories they’ve told).

    • Two McMillion says:

      I think the movie supports a more charitable interpretation of the Wakandan government.

      First, we have no evidence that anyone at all can challenge the King. The challengers appear to need to have one of two qualifications: they must either be in the current dynasty, or they must be one of the chiefs of the Wakandan tribes (or possibly someone endorsed by them- either way, they need the support of one or more chiefs to offer a challenge). The person who challenged T’Challa in the beginning was another chief; Killmonger had to prove his heritage before he was allowed a challenge.

      You might still think this is crazy, but you have to ask the question: What does the Wakandan king do? The things we see T’Challa and Killmonger do as King are:

      – Speak at the UN
      – Direct that Wakandan weapons be shipped/sold to other countries
      – Direct that the heart-shaped herb be burned
      – Participate in a black ops operation
      – Greet foreign visitors to the country
      – Lead meetings of the Council of Chiefs

      All of these things are either related to foreign affairs, intertribal relations, or religious/ceremonial duties. And these are perfectly sensible things for a king to be in charge of! At the very least, they are in keeping with the historical jobs of monarchs.

      The history of Wakanda that we get in the opening sequence suggests that it emerged from five or six (can’t recall the exact number) of tribes unifying under the first Black Panther. This is important, because when T’Challa is visiting the Monkey Tribe to convince them to support him in his attempt to retake the throne, he never attempts to claim that they must follow him because of his position. The King of Wakanda apparently has no authority to order the tribal leaders in this affair; he must use persuasion and arguments to get them to support him.

      In fact, the evidence indicates that Wakanda probably has a strongly federal system of government. The tribes are largely sovereign in their own affairs, and the King’s job is mainly to deal with outsiders and facilitate discussions between tribal leaders. When the King loses the support of the tribes, he can be challenged. Obviously, any potential challenger would be well advised to make sure he has the support of the other tribal leaders before doing so, lest he be challenged himself in turn. More severe then a vote of No Confidence, unpopular kings in Wakanda know they can be literally killed in an accepted and legal manner. While the king may have the power to issue laws and decrees, the challenge system means that he needs to support of the tribes in order to make them, lest he be replaced by someone who reverses his decrees. Notice what T’Challa does when he needs an army. Does he sneak into the barracks, announce himself, and expect half the army to support him? No. He goes to a tribal leader to provide soldiers. This only makes sense if the King of Wakanda doesn’t have the authority to independently raise an army. He very clearly has the authority to command it once it has been raised, but he is dependent on the tribes to supply him with actual troops. If the king wants a war, he must go to the council, who decide if they will support his war or not.

      (The capital city doesn’t fit neatly into this scheme, since it clearly doesn’t belong to any particular tribe. It’s possible that T’Challa has real political power over capital affairs, or, more likely, technical legal authority while most of the actual governing is done by a city council.)

      It’s even questionable that T’Challa has the power to levy taxes. The movie seems to imply that the monarch’s income is from vibranium deposits. Most likely, there is very little central taxation in Wakanda. The Crown owns the vibranium deposits and relies on that for its income.

      Additionally, it’s likely that challenges are rare. During the ceremony where T’Challa is crowned, each tribe intones their intention not to challenge. Very likely the declaration is regarded as largely ceremonial these days- though not completely so. This is supported by the fact that a civil war occurred when a challenge was lost- Killmonger’s choice to invoke a technically legal but disused law resulted in a constitutional crisis.

      • JPNunez says:

        I have to wonder about this; We see the previous King of Wakanda in Civil War, and he is an old guy. He is not unfit, but surely M’Baku could have challenged him and beat him easily.

        So either one of two things happen:

        -T’Challa could have taken the place of his father on the challenge (the King could name a representant…who would still risk his life)

        -The King can only be challenged during King succession (aka, when the old guy died in Captain America Civil War)

        Killmonger arrives once the challenge ceremony is over. T’Challa may not have needed to accept the challenge, but maybe there are honor issues at stake.

        • acymetric says:

          -The King can only be challenged during King succession (aka, when the old guy died in Captain America Civil War)

          My money is on this one. The other possibility: challenges can take place any time, but the current King was well liked, and M’Baku needed the instability of a new/untested king who was not universally supported in order to avoid any significant resistance to his authority as the new king (and it appears there wouldn’t have been, had T’Challa not survived).

        • Two McMillion says:

          The King can only be challenged during King succession (aka, when the old guy died in Captain America Civil War)

          I think the actual answer is this: The King can only be challenged in the presence of the King and the Council of Chiefs duly assembled. This is why Killmonger’s challenge was valid: he declared it in the presence of the Council (assuming my memory is correct). The Council is also present at the Coronation, so valid challenges can be made there.

          In practice, this gives the council control over who the challengers are. Anyone they don’t want issuing a challenge is simply escorted from the building by security.

          As for why M’Batu didn’t challenge earlier, likely knew thought there was a good chance the council would simply replace him by finding another challenger who they supported.

    • broblawsky says:

      Amusingly, Killmonger isn’t legally the king because he didn’t actually kill T’Challa or force him to surrender. Always confirm your kills, kids.

    • AG says:

      I file Black Panther under “black people get to have their King Arthurs, too.” And T’challa didn’t have his wife having an affair with a French Gary Stue!

      It’s not like Asgard is any better. MCU Odin is the worst.

    • sandoratthezoo says:

      Somewhere in the drafts, I am convinced, there is an alternate, much better, version of Black Panther where T’Challa says, “No, it’s legit, I am actually not able to win a fight against Killmonger, he really is better in a fight than I am. He won the crown with the rules that were in place. But we should change those rules because they are bad rules, and I am a better ruler for Wakanda.” Like, you can pretty clearly see the outline of that version of the script. Much of the movie is concerned with how much you should respect the traditions of Wakanda even when the traditions of Wakanda are bad.

      But, I think, people chickened out and weren’t willing to deliver a superhero movie in which the protagonist was like, “No, seriously, the antagonist is a better fighter than I am.”

      So we’re left with the theatrical version, which among its other crimes then fails to provide a reason why T’Challa prevails in the final fight when he lost in the first fight.

      Also: The actor of the protagonist never conveys urgency. A friend says, “I think he was going for regal, but he just ended up in ‘wooden.'” And the fight choreographer never managed to come up with a memorable physical presence for Black Panther.

      • souleater says:

        I really like your ending..
        That would have tied into what Nabil ad Dajjal was saying about the constitutional issues pushing T’Challa to move away from isolationism.

        I feel like the most frustrating part of the movie was that nobody seemed to learn their lesson about checks and balances.. The symptom was killed (Killmonger) but the root of the problem wasn’t even acknowledged. A room full of genius IQ people trained specifically to run a country, nobody even called out the obvious.

  12. HeelBearCub says:

    I’m at the beach this week and finally getting around to reading longer form things.

    I just finished reading the first chapter of Steven Johnson’s “How We Got to Now”. If you like non-fiction by Simon Winchester or James Burke’s “Connections” series, explorations of the web of consequences arriving from history and technology colliding, this book is for you.

    The first chapter is on glass. It connects the fall of Constantinople to the proliferation of the internet.

    When Constantinople fell in 1204, the glass-blowing experts all moved to Venice, the Mercantile hub of the day. Because glass-blowing tends to lead to fires, they all ended being forced to practice their trade on one small island, Murano (Murano glass is still famous today). This concentration of expertise led to innovations in technique, most importantly the ability to create glass that was clear.

    Once Guttenberg invents the printing press in 1440, it leads to a proliferation of scientific discovery in a way frequently not credited. It makes people realize they are suffering from presbyopia (far sightedness) and leads to the mass production of lenses for spectacles. In 1590 we get the invention of the microscope deriving from the common availability of lenses. It takes another 20 years, but the invention of the telescope is credited by the one of the inventors, Hans Lippershey, to watching his children playing with lenses.

    Maybe the best story is how glass fiber (fiberglass) was first made. In 1887, Charles Boys was trying to make the most precise scale balance he could and wanted to make it out of thin shard of glass. So he made a mini-crossbow and attached the bolt to a glass rod, heated the rod and fired the bolt, eventually pulling out a fiber of 90 feet. Surpisingly, these fibers are tougher than steel, rather than being the delicate, breakable thing glass was previously expected to be. Those glass fibers eventually lead to fiber optics, the backbone of the modern internet.

    Plenty of other good things in the chapter. Looking forward to the rest of the book.

  13. Deiseach says:

    What holiday is insufficiently commercialised and hasn’t had the last dregs of profit squeezed out of it yet?

    Why, Hallowe’en, of course!

    Courtesy of GetReligion, apparently there is an entire industry built around Hallowe’en and its representative body (which quaintly describes itself as “a non-profit voice of the industry” – uh, if you’re representing ” businesses involved in the manufacture, importation or distribution of Halloween products including costumes, decor, novelty items and party supplies”, that pretty much is for profit, guys?) is behind a petition to move Hallowe’en from 31st October to the last Saturday in October.

    So that it could be on a day when people aren’t working or in school and would be during daylight hours – so they could have an entire day to get ready for, buy things like decorations and costumes and party supplies and spend, spend, spend! Ahem, no, I mean so people can Think Of The Children:

    It’s time for a Safer, Longer, Stress-Free Celebration! Let’s move Halloween to the last Saturday of October!

    3,800 Halloween-related injuries each year. Talk to your kids about safety before they head out!

    – 82% of parents don’t use high visibility aids on their costume, be sure to incorporate reflective tape, glow sticks, finger lights or light up accessories
    – 63% of children don’t carry a flashlight while they are tick-or-treating. Grab a clip-on light if they don’t want to carry one! Children are more than twice as likely to be hit by a car and killed on Halloween. Discuss safety, pre-plan a route, stay on sidewalks and use crosswalks
    – 65% of parents don’t discuss Halloween safety with their children. Talk with your kids and offer ways to ensure a fun and safe experience
    – 70%of parents don’t accompany their children trick-or-treating. You’re never too old to trick-or-treat! Grab a costume and take advantage of some good ol’ fashioned family bonding!
    – 51% Of Millennials say Halloween is their favorite holiday, why cram it into 2 rushed evening weekday hours when it deserves a full day!?!

    Yeah, but if you’re going to have it during the day, then the kids won’t be going out in the dark, so you don’t need to buy “reflective tape, glow sticks, finger lights or light up accessories”.

    Yes, let’s try and turn everything into $ Spending Profit rather than retain any shreds of tradition still clinging to the event. That, after all, is the True Spirit of Celebration!

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I protest. Hallow e’en shall only be celebrated from sundown to midnight on the calendar date before All Saints Day, as defined by the Church!

      • Nick says:

        I’m not sure I object to the spirit (heh) of the suggestion, but yeah, I much prefer sticking to October 31st. If Capitalism Incorporated wants us to celebrate and spend money, they can damn well give us the day off.

        I’m reminded of remarks, I think from Hilaire Belloc, that the laborer in medieval England got something like a hundred days off throughout the year to holy days and festivities and the like. Don’t know about Saturdays, though, since a year’s worth of Saturdays and Sundays is about 100 days.

        • Randy M says:

          If Capitalism Incorporated wants us to celebrate and spend money, they can damn well give us the day off.

          Bwahahaha.

    • keaswaran says:

      I recently had the thought that holidays have two important dimensions. There’s the civic/legal dimension, which measures how likely it is that people are to have the day off work and shops are to be closed; and the cultural/social dimension, which measures how likely it is that people are to engage in some very distinctive cultural practice on the day. In the United States, Thanksgiving and Christmas are maximal along both dimensions, with New Year’s and Fourth of July following close behind; Memorial Day, Labor Day, and President’s Day seem to be pretty high on the civic/legal dimension but very low on the cultural/social dimension; and Halloween and Valentine’s day are pretty high on the cultural/social dimension but very low on the civic/legal dimension. (Arbor Day and Flag Day are examples of well-known holidays that are quite low on both dimensions.)

      It seems that corporatization and commercialization are related to the social/cultural dimension, but not exactly the same. (There are industries around Valentine’s Day and Halloween, and a lot of commercialization of Christmas, but not as much for Thanksgiving and Fourth of July. I don’t think the President’s Day mattress/auto sales are particularly successful at commercializing those holidays.)

      • AG says:

        I think the BBQ food industries have done better at commercializing Memorial Day, Labor Day, and President’s Day. (Labor Day is also shared with back-to-school associations, and the attendant office supply industries)

        The food industries have also elevated certain sports days. If I see chips/limes/tomato/avocado/garlic/onions/peppers on sale at the grocery store, I know some championship game is being played that weekend.

  14. bean says:

    Biweekly Naval Gazing links update:

    First up were the last two parts on the history of naval communications, covering radio in WWII and satellite communications. To back these up, I posted photos of Iowa’s comms gear.

    At long last, the main tale of battleship design has come to an end with the British Lion class and HMS Vanguard, the last battleship ever to take to the sea.

    Continuing the long-running and very slow series on various nation’s battleships in WWII, I’ve discussed those of Italy.

    And in the downright weird, there’s the tale of the paddle-wheel aircraft carriers of the Great Lakes.

  15. Chalid says:

    Say platinum and other “precious” metals became much cheaper due to asteroid mining or other tech. How does our world become different?

    The current main uses of platinum are in automobile catalytic converters and for the chemical industry. Platinum is also used in tiny amounts in electronics. Would these applications work better if they could use lots and lots of platinum? Are there other interesting applications that might come into play if platinum or other metals were cheap and abundant? Same for rhodium, gold, etc.

    • mustacheion says:

      Platinum is just the most well known of the platinum group metals (ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum) all of which are fairly similar and have many possible uses. Since most natural platinum sources are actually mixed sources of all of the platinum group metals, I will speak about the group generally.

      Platinum group metals and their alloys are known for being very hard and durable, have extremely good temperature tolerance, and are fanatically resistant to corrosion. They are basically amazing for most applications, except where light weight is important, because they tend are extremely dense. Osmium is the densest element (even denser than uranium) so it would make an excellent choice for bullets / artillery shells, but you would never want to make an airplane from it. Though this application wouldn’t have much of an impact on the world. Another very minor use would be where you can exploit the hardness, for things like knives or machining tools. But I don’t think that would change the world.

      An application where you might start to have large economic impacts would be using them to make heat and corrosion tolerant piping/tanks/valves/etc for industrial applications. I don’t really know what those applications would be, but being able to safely handle 1000C elemental Fluorine at 100 atm would probably unlock new industrial processes that could have a noticeable impact on global commodity prices.

      A more clear cut application is making gas turbines much cheaper. Gas turbines get more efficient the hotter you can get the working gas. And the parts are under extremely high stress because they are spinning so fast. The turbines for aircraft engines are already made of platinum group alloys because they are the only material system that can handle such high heat without loosing strength. And this is part of why jet engines are so expensive. But I believe those alloys use only a few percent by weight of platinum group metals. If platinum group metals were cheaper, we might be able to use much higher percent weight alloys, and so get more efficient turbines, which could make air travel cheaper. And if platinum group metals were much cheaper, it might become possible to use turbine engines in automobiles, instead of piston engines, which would bring perhaps a 50% reduction in fuel use. I don’t know if there are other reasons why we don’t use turbine engines in cars, but if there aren’t many besides cost, that could have a huge global effect.

      And if platinum group alloys were so abundant that they were as cheap as steel is today, we could use them to make rebar that would never corrode, greatly extending the lifetime of our concrete structures and bridges that would never need to be painted, would never rust, and so would require almost no maintenance. That could make various super-highway construction projects much more economically viable.

      • ChrisA says:

        I don’t think it is the cost that prevents gas turbines being used in cars, it is the complexity of the gear box. Gas turbines tend to rotate very fast and have a limited range of operating speeds, getting that power to the wheels is complex. Probably the answer is to use a hybrid system, where the turbine drives a generator and the power is then sent to the wheels via power cables. But then you are competing against pure electric drive cars with batteries, where the power is generated centrally with much higher efficiency (since a power station can use combined cycle generation which is not really possible in cars).

        Availability of cheap amounts of platinum might have the most effect on the construction industry, you could imagine bridges built with high percentage of platinum never needing to be painted.

      • Aapje says:

        Osmium is the densest element (even denser than uranium) so it would make an excellent choice for bullets / artillery shells

        For armor piercing and fragmenting use, yes. However, for anti-personnel bullets that are used against people without body armor you don’t want extreme harness, as the bullet will pass through with low energy transfer. Instead, you want high ductility, like lead has.

        • bullseye says:

          Maybe a lead bullet with little bits of embedded platinum for extra weight?

          • Aapje says:

            Weight is pointless if (part of) your bullet exits the target and transfers most of it energy to the ground or such. So for human targets who don’t wear body armor, this isn’t helpful.

            They do currently use tungsten (carbide) or hardened steel cores, but these are specifically for armor penetration. For more expensive targets, depleted uranium is also used.

            Note that these cores don’t merely have to be strong, but also shatter resistant, so they don’t break up and then ricochet off the target.

  16. I hear people use the word “timeless” as a compliment for a movie/book/tv show but I don’t understand why. Sure, on some level you don’t want the work to be so full of references to things you don’t understand but timeless is a bit much. Seeing the context of a setting that gives you an insight in to the lives of people different from you is interesting in its own right.

    • episcience says:

      I think the sentiment of the compliment is “the moral lessons / poignancy of this work resonates just as well today as it did in the author’s age”, rather than “this work is totally unmoored from the social circumstances of its day”.

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, I think that’s right. “Timeless” is a specific compliment meant to imply that the general themes of the work are part of a universal human experience not directly dependent upon place, time, circumstances, etc.

        It’s really not meant to just be a substitute for “excellent” or whatever.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Contrast with “dated”

  17. Le Maistre Chat says:

    “Expecto patronum!”
    Dog Latin for “I expect a patronus!”
    This just makes the entire Wizarding World look like entitled twats, yes?

    • Nick says:

      This just makes the entire Wizarding World look like entitled twats, yes?

      Not the entire world. Literally it’s “I look out for a defender.” But in Wizarding Russia, defender looks out for you.

      • johan_larson says:

        I understood it to mean something like, “I anticipate the arrival of a patron.” Expecting in roughly the sense of a father expecting the birth of a child. And patron in the sense of a guardian of some sort.

    • honoredb says:

      I read it as “Spit forth a protector!”

      Which Rowling might have chosen for the “spitting image” thing, foreshadowing Harry’s Patronus looking like his father. Reading it as “expect” works as foreshadowing though too, since Harry can’t actually cast the spell until he expects it to work due to the time loop.

      • The Nybbler says:

        I don’t think there’s any way you get “spit” from “expecto”.

        • johan_larson says:

          You do know what “expectorate” means, right?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yes, but that’s from “expectoratus”. Same root as “pectoral”. There’s “pectus”, but it doesn’t decline to “pecto”.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      So many people, so many interpretations. I always assumed it meant “I’m probably on the hook for child support.”

  18. Atlas says:

    So, I take the impetus behind adversarial collaboration to be (and people can feel free to disagree with me here) something like: “We’re all sick of people yelling at each other in highly acrimonious internet debates. So let’s try to have a new form of dialogue based on virtuous, good-faith, evidence-based collaboration.”

    Okay, fair enough. But, hold on, let’s go back for a second: are there even all that many sinful, contentious, bad-faith, not wholly evidence based debates on the internet? And, if so, where I might go to read some of them? (Is the SSC kulturkampf subreddit still a thing? Is it good?)

    I ask because I read writers/websites/thinkers from a variety of perspectives, and check various websites, and I feel like “people yelling at each other” isn’t quite my experience of internet discourse. It’s more like, everyone is self-segregated into ideological networks where they snark with their friends of the same intellectual persuasion at imagined, exaggerated or non-central representatives of other sides.

    I would love to read, for example, some forum where libertarians and socialists consistently angrily, emotionally and not necessarily in perfectly good faith yell at each other at length about why their side is correct and the other side is wrong. I think that would be very, very informative to read! But I feel like that doesn’t happen all that often? (Very happy to be proven wrong here.) My experience, at least, is more that people like using websites like Twitter where they signal-boost their side’s talking points and ignore or actively block people on the other side. Each side has their own blogs/podcasts/forums where they share their favorite quotes/studies/facts and talk about how dumb the other side is, without directly conversing with them. If someone from the other side happens to post on the other side’s territory, they’re massively outnumbered and almost instantly blocked/banned/downvoted to a nasty corner of Dis.

    I’ll admit that I’m not wholly convinced by the premise behind adversarial collaboration. Scott wrote:

    An adversarial collaboration is an effort by two people with opposing opinions on a topic to collaborate on a summary of the evidence. Just as we hope that a trial with both prosecutor and defense will give the jury a balanced view of the evidence for and against a suspect, so we hope an adversarial collaboration will give readers a balanced view of evidence for and against some thesis.

    But wait, isn’t the judicial analogy sort of the opposite of adversarial collaboration? The prosecutor doesn’t work with the the defense attorney; he freely admits that he is attempting to present the best case for his side/client, and vice versa. Of course, the prosecutor needs to understand the defense’s case to win, but ultimately it isn’t his job to make their case for them. (In my quite possibly mistaken understanding) we acknowledge and accept that both sides are biased, and rely on a disinterested arbiter to adjudicate which biased side did a more convincing job of making its case. I’m definitely willing to consider arguments that adversarial collaboration is better than this model, but I think it should be acknowledged that these are two conceptually distinct models, and I don’t think we should throw the adversarial opposition one out right away. In particular, I worry, as Scott himself mentioned in the prizes/summation post for the first contest, that the collaboration model leads to important areas of disagreement being so difficult to satisfactorily resolve in a united voice that, in the interests of ease/time, they end up getting elided for less controversial matters. Whereas I feel it could be simpler and more productive to just let each interlocutor openly state their hard to instantly reconcile positions, and allow the audience to exercise their judgement about which one makes more sense.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Okay, fair enough. But, hold on, let’s go back for a second: are there even all that many sinful, contentious, bad-faith, not wholly evidence based debates on the internet? And, if so, where I might go to read some of them? (Is the SSC kulturkampf subreddit still a thing? Is it good?)

      Twitter contains the platonic ideal of such debates; its format encourages contention and discourages evidence. Threads range from multiple sides throwing poo at each other to a bunch of people engaging in group poo-throwing at another group (or individual) which isn’t even there (which I believe is what you’re describing). Reddit is full of such, and not just in the the “TheMotte” subreddit which now hosts the culture war thread; any subreddit with politics will have such debates.

      • Atlas says:

        Twitter contains the platonic ideal of such debates; its format encourages contention and discourages evidence. Threads range from multiple sides throwing poo at each other to a bunch of people engaging in group poo-throwing at another group (or individual) which isn’t even there.

        I think I agree that Twitter is the Platonic ideal of one kind of (generally useless) bad faith debate, but I think there’s a separate kind of (often very useful) bad faith debate that I think isn’t exemplified by Twitter. (As I discussed a bit in the OP.)

        That is, due to the website’s mechanics and culture, I think people on Twitter tend to just shut out and refuse to engage with substantially opposing views, except to mock/own them on isolated points. And, furthermore, the format of the site makes it inherently somewhat tedious to collate arguments. But I think we can at least imagine, and there very well might exist, a forum where people consistently respond to opposing views at length in a clearly formatted way. Such a forum would be a lot more interesting/efficient to read than reading different sources that only allow a narrow bandwidth of disagreement in the comments section. (Even if they don’t practice perfect epistemic charity and civility.)

        Reddit is full of such, and not just in the the “TheMotte” subreddit which now hosts the culture war thread; any subreddit with politics will have such debates.

        So there are popular subreddits where discussions/debates between opposing views consistently occur? Does anyone recommend any of them in particular? I was/am sort of worried that the socialists mostly just post on r/ChapoTrapHouse and the libertarians post on r/Libertarian. I am also somewhat worried about how much disagreement Reddit is willing to tolerate, because apparently the popular Donald Trump subreddit has been circumscribed in a number of ways.

        • Atlas says:

          An edit that was mysteriously vanished:

          Or, while maybe, like Scott mentioned in “Guided by the Beauty of our Weapons,” this is no-true-Scotsmaning the word “debate,” I don’t think that snarkily quote tweeting someone and then instantly blocking any of their followers who jumps into your mentions counts as debate, even as bad faith debate.

        • Plumber says:

          @Atlas,
          When I saw @The Nybbler’s link to our host’s Epistemic Learned Helplessness essay downthread I immediately thought of your political curiosity.

          Once again for the sake of your happiness I suggest you abandon learning different political points of view for the next 20 years and instead acclimate yourself to whatever is the dominant point of view among your peers, especially those who you want as a romantic partner.

          It will also be useful to learn the trick of “doublethink” (actually triple, quadruple, or even quintuple-think) to aide in being able to present yourself as believing the acceptable views of:
          1) Potential romantic partners
          2) Co-workers
          3) Bosses
          4) Relatives

          Which is easier if there’s a standard ‘orthodoxy’ in your area, but in my experience, at your age the views of your bosses and girlfriends will be the most different (as they get older the views of your girlfriends/lovers/spouse will become more like those of your bosses as they acclimate themselves to their bosses, but that’s years from now, currently their views will likely be closer to those of their peers and teachers).

          It’s best to be able to parrot a ‘party line’ depending on which social situation you’re currently in (on a date, at work, et cetera) and some knowledge of various ideologies may be useful for that, but the danger is that you may start to believe one that isn’t socially advantages to parrot which makes it more difficult to parrot orthodox views when you need to.

          Don’t be a rebel it hurts your chances at romance and employment, unless you’re signalling rebellion to get romance, but when you’re in your 30’s that trick likely won’t work anymore (unless you’re exceptionally young looking, but then you’ll have to spend an annoying amount of effort to stay “with it” which will likely effect how much time you devote to being/staying employed, and still being “hip” in your ’40’s is just sad).

          Figure out the orthodoxy where you are, “fake-it-till-you-make-it” get your employment and romantic status fixed first and take up politics as a hobby later.

          Much later.

          • Nornagest says:

            While it’s not a good idea to pick political fights over the mashed potatoes, I’ve generally found that having my own point of view and being able to politely and appropriately defend it wins me more friends than going along to get along. People don’t respect sycophants.

            They don’t like shit-stirrers either, but as long as you can shut up about your politics when they’re not called for, you don’t need to get into doublethink.

          • Plumber says:

            @Nornagest,
            I think your approach is wise after you’re already gained some status, but if I remember correctly @Atlas is still in school and without a job or a wife so in his case I’m guessing it’s still better to be a sycophant then risk being a shit-stirrer.

            It’s after you’ve proven your worth that you start to speak your mind when called for, and even then only to a degree, for example I almost never argue with someone about if abortion should be legal or not.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I don’t know Nornagest’s local status, but he’s mentioned still being an eligible bachelor.
            (At one point there was a girl saying they should attend an Orthodox church together. 😀 )

    • Tarpitz says:

      It’s not in your proposed subject area, but if you want to see bad faith mudslinging I recommend going to r/pureASOIAF and speculating about Aegon’s parentage, or saying literally anything at all about Ashara Dayne.

      Stalinists are one thing; those Ashara Dayne people are crazy.

    • Randy M says:

      The adversarial debate is basically supposed to establish the ground floor. “Here’s what all honest people can agree the facts of the matter are, or at least are likely to be.”
      I don’t believe it is meant to be a debate, but it may show the outcome of one.

      The more contentious and less good faith debates you’re looking for are going to have significant amounts of people just denying facts–or asserting things on very shaky grounds. Sure, you can look all that up for yourself, but the adversarial collaboration is like pre-screening the evidence for credibility before it is admitted into consideration.

    • keaswaran says:

      Reddit gives some good examples of this, particularly in forums where there are disagreements of opinion that aren’t imbalanced enough for one side to be downvoted to oblivion. r/Texas is a good example (the selection for people with Texas pride approximately counterbalances the general mainstream liberal tendencies of online media). Also, any general interest threads that end up talking about vegetarianism or some other highly controversial topic that isn’t exactly politically aligned.

    • niko says:

      I would love to read, for example, some forum where libertarians and socialists consistently angrily, emotionally and not necessarily in perfectly good faith yell at each other at length about why their side is correct and the other side is wrong. I think that would be very, very informative to read! But I feel like that doesn’t happen all that often?

      This is r/CapitalismVSocialism but I don’t know that it’s very informative.

    • Plumber says:

      @Atlas

      “..I would love to read, for example, some forum where libertarians and socialists consistently angrily, emotionally and not necessarily in perfectly good faith yell at each other at length about why their side is correct and the other side is wrong…”

      I think the comments section of the Against Against Billionaire Philanthropy thread is pretty close to what you’re asking for.

  19. Truculent Hyacinth says:

    Cross-posted from adversarial collaboration thread:

    I would like to do an adversarial collaboration where I argue that Climate Change is an urgent threat to human survival & thrival, as quantified by the following (falsifiable!) claim: By the end of the 21st century, climate change will rank among the top 10 causes of premature death globally.

    Further details on the other thread, please keep responses there too.

    • “(falsifiable!) claim: By the end of the 21st century, climate change will rank among the top 10 causes of premature death globally.”

      It’s only falsifiable if you define exactly what kinds of deaths you are talking about. Would malaria count, for example, if global warming supposedly exacerbates it?

      • pdbarnlsey says:

        Would malaria count, for example, if global warming supposedly exacerbates it?

        I’m not truculent, by name or by nature, but I’d have thought the answer was super obviously yes. I don’t think the primary claim of climate hawks has ever been “it will get hot and millions will die of heatstroke and such!”. There are difficulties with third and forth order effects like “nuclear power station adopted because of global warming, explodes killing thousands” or “climate refugee drives car into crowd”, but second order effects – drought, famine, flood, hurricane, disease seem like obviously fair game. Deaths caused by economic or societal disruption – we are too poor to provide road safety because of global warming – are a tough midpoint, so ideally they’d be excluded, IMO

        • EchoChaos says:

          Without being combative, how can we know what is caused by different causes here?

          To use the malaria example, malaria deaths will probably rise as an absolute number simply because the African population is rising so rapidly. They are also falling by rate because of efforts to combat malaria by places like the Gates Foundation.

          How do we deal with such things when trying to tease out what percentage of malaria deaths are caused by climate specifically?

          • DarkTigger says:

            How about “every malaria death in places where malaria was not endemic in the first two decades of the 21th century”?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @DarkTigger

            That certainly depends on why.

            If the reason to count them is because the climate will make those places hospitable to malarial transmission again, in which case we should also eliminate places where malaria has been eradicated but already have the climate for it like Florida, Alabama, Southern Italy.

            If the reason is that climate refugees will transmit it to new locations then how do we separate climate refugees from refugees from growing violence/population pressure/regional instability refugees?

          • Incurian says:

            I believe this is exactly the sort of conversation the adversarial collaboration contest was meant to produce. Well done!

          • DarkTigger says:

            You forgot the Rhineland and New York on that list.

            But point is, when Malaria get’s endemic in that regions again, it is because mosquitos from warmer climates enter that regions, since the local malaria carrying mosquitos have died out.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @DarkTigger

            I wasn’t being exhaustive.

            So is the prediction that malarial mosquitos will cross the Med/Caribbean because of climate change?

            By what mechanism will they do so? How will they outcompete the already established mosquito species? As far as I know, spreading malaria isn’t a competitive advantage for mosquitos.

          • DarkTigger says:

            By what mechanism will they do so?

            Tourists, migrants and food imports would be my guess. Not necessarily in that order.

            How will they outcompete the already established mosquito species?

            By virtue of beeing better adapted to higher temperatures. But I don’t thing they need to completely outcompete the local mosquito population. Becoming part of the local mix of endemic mosquito species is enough.

            And we don’t have to talk hypothetically here. There are already several formerly tropical mosquito species that overwinter in southern Germany now.
            And for another example Menengitis carrying ticks that were only endemic in southern Bavaria back in the 90ties, have made their way all the way up to nothern Germany.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @DarkTigger

            You are making that sound like it’s caused a lot more by globalism (tourism, migration and trade) than by climate change.

            I am not disagreeing that there is some level of species migration caused by climate change, but “African/South American tourists and migrants bring malaria back to Southern Europe/USA” is very non-central climate change.

            That’s what I mean by separating the systems out. Was it evidence that climate was cooling when malaria deaths disappeared from the American South in the 40s/50s? Of course not. It was a sustained eradication effort.

            Given the reasons for transmission that you’ve cited, a resurgence of malaria in the American South would more likely be because of more travel than because of climate.

            Now, in that a whole lot of stuff is tied up with climate, there are certainly secondary/tertiary effects going on there.

            But there are also effects that are completely UNLINKED from climate. For example, Venezuela is seeing a massive malarial spike right now. If a lot of wealthier Venezuelans flee to Florida and reintroduced it, that’s very bad. It also has nothing to do with climate.

          • Lambert says:

            German climate isn’t really driven by latitude so much as altitude.
            The north, being part of the North European Plain, is warmer than the subalpine and alpine South.

      • edmundgennings says:

        There are also difficult seen and unseen measurements problems. Climate change would undoubtedly save a large number of lives while also taking a large number of lives. What one cares about is the net effect. Lives taken is more salient and easier to measure so they tend to be disproportionately focused on. This is a big problem with alcohol policy discussion where people are only looking at first order effects. It would seem nearly intractable when dealing with second order effects on a complicated global system.

  20. Hoopyfreud says:

    Typically, I assume that any product I see advertised, especially with “lifestyle” advertisements, is not worth its price, and any product I see discounts or promotions on I assume is (more likely to be) actually worth trying. I’ve found this strategy to be fairly successful. Has anyone had the opposite experience?

    • Jiro says:

      I’ve seen an advertisement for a Nintendo Switch. The Nintendo Switch has a lot of fun games on it.

    • Machine Interface says:

      That’s unfalsifiable. Whether something is worth the price for you is entirely a function of whether you are willing to separate yourself from the required sum of money to acquire that thing. Assuming perfect information and lack of urgency or circumstantial pressure, any discriminative criteria you chose to apply is as valid as any other.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Because we live in the real world, there are both good reasons to use and ways to validate heuristics for consumption.

        If you spend money on a product and later regret doing so, we can say that the product wasn’t worth what you spent. If we don’t assume perfect information, discriminative criteria can be evaluated by how often you regret purchases under their regime. This DOES favor the discovery of type I errors, but type II errors are unavoidably common for everyone who has ever lived, and trying to minimize them is a much harder problem that I’m not actually all that interested in.

        If you’re arguing that regret doesn’t real and actually it’s all just rationally revealed preferences, I’m going to have to disagree.

  21. Well... says:

    Checking to confirm that there was an adversarial collaboration thread about detention centers and what they should be called but it was deleted and I didn’t just hallucinate it. Might have been on the actual adversarial collab contest page…

  22. monistowl says:

    Is the fundamental goal of insight meditation / ‘stream entry’ to become a P-zombie?

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I asked essentially that same question back when we were visited by The Enlightened One and did not get a satisfying answer.

    • nameless1 says:

      Nah. “Does a Buddha think?” “Only when he chooses to.” The idea is simply control.

    • sty_silver says:

      Absolutely not. Meditative states might or might not have reduced content, but they don’t have reduced consciousness. And unlike what one might expect, consciousness without content does not feel like nothing, rather it feels very nice.

  23. serench says:

    Does anyone have an educated opinion on the methods used in this paper about entertainment television leading to the rise of the populist right? It’s getting a lot of mainstream press and I’m curious how legit the methods are.

    • bean says:

      The lack of the word “control” anywhere in the abstract isn’t so much a red flag as a crimson banner the size of the world. Correlation doesn’t imply causation, particularly when you take two numbers and just throw them together.

      • dick says:

        Haven’t read it in-depth, but it’s examining a staggered roll-out, so that probably means the control is the areas where the station wasn’t available yet. I think something similar was done to demonstrate the effect of lead in the atmosphere on criminality: leaded gasoline was phased out in different years in different parts of the country, and there was a (delayed) correlation with criminality dropping in those places on the same schedule.

        • bean says:

          Yes, but presumably the roll-out was targeted on areas likely to be most profitable. There’s a lot of potential confounding there.

          • serench says:

            They do talk about/claim to address potential confounders (such as other potential reasons for the earlier rollout locations).

          • bean says:

            OK. Downloaded the paper and read through the long abstract. They do have some degree of control for that, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned hanging around here, it’s always confounding, even when it looks like it’s not.

            The other issue is the magnitude of the effect. It’s 1 percentage point. 1. While this might be enough to tip the balance of a close election, we’re clearly into “Tuesday shouldn’t change the narrative” territory. Entertainment TV didn’t cause the rise of Berlusconi (at least not by making people stupider and vulnerable to populism, other mechanisms are plausible). Berlusconi arose for other reasons, and entertainment TV helped a bit. So as much as I’d like to see reality TV destroyed, this is not the devil you’re looking for.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m going to have to call Epistemic Learned Helplessness on that one. That is, I’m sure there’s a serious error even if I can’t find it, and I refuse to consider it. (I might have some confidence in evaluating it were it American)

      • serench says:

        Yeah, that’s more or less where I was at with it. They find an effect on voting patterns ten years after the tv access in question! And are ruling out news coverage as the reason too.

    • EchoChaos says:

      I’m going to take a lap because I guessed it was Berlusconi based ENTIRELY on your post. I don’t know anything about the quality of the paper itself, but I will note that the idea that his owning that much media was an important factor has been known for a long time.

  24. Le Maistre Chat says:

    The Executioner
    In 1845, Charles Dickens witnessed the public execution of a murderer in Rome:

    He immediately kneeled down, below the knife. His neck fitting into a hole, made for the purpose, in a cross plank, was shut down, by another plank above; exactly like the pillory. Immediately below him was a leathern bag. And into it his head rolled instantly.

    The executioner was holding it by the hair, and walking with it round the scaffold, showing it to the people, before one quite knew that the knife had fallen heavily, and with a rattling sound.

    When it had travelled round the four sides of the scaffold, it was set upon a pole in front—a little patch of black and white, for the long street to stare at, and the flies to settle on. The eyes were turned upward, as if he had avoided the sight of the leathern bag, and looked to the crucifix. Every tinge and hue of life had left it in that instant. It was dull, cold, livid, wax. The body also.

    There was a great deal of blood. When we left the window, and went close up to the scaffold, it was very dirty; one of the two men who were throwing water over it, turning to help the other lift the body into a shell, picked his way as through mire. A strange appearance was the apparent annihilation of the neck. The head was taken off so close, that it seemed as if the knife had narrowly escaped crushing the jaw, or shaving off the ear; and the body looked as if there were nothing left above the shoulder.

    Nobody cared, or was at all affected. There was no manifestation of disgust, or pity, or indignation, or sorrow. My empty pockets were tried, several times, in the crowd immediately below the scaffold, as the corpse was being put into its coffin. It was an ugly, filthy, careless, sickening spectacle; meaning nothing but butchery beyond the momentary interest, to the one wretched actor. Yes! Such a sight has one meaning and one warning. Let me not forget it. The speculators in the lottery, station themselves at favourable points for counting the gouts of blood that spirt out, here or there; and buy that number. It is pretty sure to have a run upon it.

    The body was carted away in due time, the knife cleansed, the scaffold taken down, and all the hideous apparatus removed. The executioner: an outlaw ex officio (what a satire on the Punishment!) who dare not, for his life, cross the Bridge of St. Angelo but to do his work: retreated to his lair, and the show was over.

    The condemned was a thief who committed the premeditated stalking, robbery and killing of an elderly Bavarian woman travelling alone whilst on pilgrimage to Rome. The executioner was Giovanni Battista Bugatti, AKA Mastro Titta, executioner of the Papal States from 1796 to 1864, whose clothes and axe still exist as museum pieces.
    Dicken’s to “an outlaw ex officio” refers to the fact that Bugatti was required to live on the west bank of the Tiber with his wife, only legally being allowed to cross the bridge ~8 times a year, when a capital sentence needed to be carried out. The stated reason for this was his unpopularity with the citizens… yet the public clearly enjoyed attending executions.
    Bugatti and his wife were childless, but in Paris, the job of public executioner became hereditary. Charles-Henri Sanson, the last royal executioner, inherited the job from his uncle. He was retained by the Republican government and guillotined ~3,000 people during the Terror. His second son inherited the job guillotined Queen Marie Antoinette and went on to serve as the chief executioner of Paris for almost 50 years (Directory, Consulate, First Empire, Louis XVIII, July Monarchy), when his son took over the family business.

    • LHN says:

      While it’s presumably not uncommon for executed monarchs to fall to headsmen they (indirectly) hired, I was interested to learn that the Earl of Essex also got his own executioner the job: Thomas Derrick, said to have been pardoned for rape on the condition that he take the position at Tyburn, and reportedly the eponym for the lifting device (which he innovated for use in hangings).

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Dicken’s to “an outlaw ex officio” refers to the fact that Bugatti was required to live on the west bank of the Tiber with his wife, only legally being allowed to cross the bridge ~8 times a year, when a capital sentence needed to be carried out. The stated reason for this was his unpopularity with the citizens… yet the public clearly enjoyed attending executions.

      This might in fact be a tradition going back to Ancient Rome where the executioner was also required to live outside the city to avoid ritual pollution (though where he actually lived was different- he lived east of Rome, outside the Esquiline Gate).

    • AlphaGamma says:

      Another note (replying as edit window is closed)- in 1845, public hangings were still taking place in England, so Dickens is presumably writing for an audience who either had seen one or could easily do so if they wanted. The last one was in 1868.

      Hangman, in the UK, seems to have become a family business after executions were moved inside prisons, with first the Billingtons, then the Pierrepoints. I can’t find a case of a third-generation hangman- in the case of the Billingtons it was a father and his three sons, in the case of the Pierrepoints it was two brothers and the son of one of them. By this point they were part-time and paid by the execution*- though earlier hangmen, like William Calcraft who presumably is the executioner who hangs Fagin in Oliver Twist, were paid a salary and supplemented their income by selling pieces of the rope!

      *Albert Pierrepoint, the son and the most famous English hangman except perhaps Jack Ketch, resigned because he wasn’t paid after a prisoner got a last-minute reprieve.

  25. tailcalled says:

    Just want to note that I’m very interested in doing the adversarial collaboration (on Blanchard’s typology), but I haven’t yet picked my collaborator. I expect that I will sign up for the contest, but I need to pick the partner first.

  26. rho says:

    Oh hey, this instagram thing works pretty well, i should have let myself have friends sooner

  27. rho says:

    I’m info-dumping as fast as i can right now, sorry, i could probably go faster

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      I appreciate your posts and want them to continue, but would rather they be confined to a single thread.

      • rho says:

        Acknowledged.

      • Scott Alexander says:

        Yes, please.

        • rho says:

          Hey, Rho here.

          Sorry, I took a deep breath, now let’s achieve our objectives.
          So first of all, my CV.

          Scott, I’m just now understanding the gulf between me and the average person, and it’s kind of terrifying. There few bastions for me, and your site is one of them. I’m thinking of launching a gwern-like [site].

          I’m in the hospital for a few days longer but I’d love to collab with you guys here.

          I suppose it’s worth mentioning that I’m ace, poly, trans, non-binary, and gender-fluid. Royal Flush! And my autistic friend says I cry too much to be an aspie.

          The future of the world looks very bleak to me, I’ve lost my faith in humanity as a whole. The majority of our race is stupid, base, ugly, and selfish and I want nothing to do with them. But there are also many with souls immeasurable that I want to seek out. My thirst is quenched from the wellspring they keep inside We are within the singularity right now, I’ve passed the event horizon at least and technological process has already outpaced the understanding of the average human by far. The singularity is a unheard whisper, not a bang that shakes the world.

          The seed of Athena resides inside of me. I will furnish her uncorrupted. But it will take time.

          I am starting with a deep-fake of my voice, and then all voices. As I said elsewhere, the human voice is now a ring-tone. Trust not.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        @Hoopyfreud:
        Is their some point to their tedium?

        Are these dank memes for the GPT2 set or something?

        • Nick says:

          As a supernatural virtue, it’s impossible to suffer from an excess of charity. But it can be misapplied.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          I’m half-convinced this is GPT2 on dril tweets and the sequences. That’s a combo that appeals to me, not least because I’m convinced dril’s commentary on Big Yud would be exactly what his work merits.

  28. SkyBlu says:

    I recently got a twitter for professional development reasons. Anyone have people you think are worth following? Also, I’m very much in culture shock as I’m very not used to the social norms on twitter; is there some guide out there on basic twitter etiquette so I don’t inevitably footmouth myself somewhere down the line?

  29. helloo says:

    What are some interesting things that has been learned regarding the effects of the domestication of livestock?
    Like what needs to be done for domestication, unintended effects, parallel evolution, changes to the physiology and how they interact with humans (ie. imprinting, how dogs and cats see humans)

    I know of various theories regarding the domestication of dogs, that long running project on foxes, and various other things done for mostly pets and work animals, but not much I recall for livestocks.

    For example, are there any theories that deal with the intelligence of domesticated livestock? Domesticated turkeys are known to be incredibly stupid, but feral ones are still fairly capable.
    Chickens are a lesser example of this.
    But pigs are generally seen to be as if not more intelligent domesticated than feral (for some definitions of intelligence).
    It’s not like domestication is exactly pushing for this, unless I’m really miscalibrating how many pigs were kept as pets.

    Cattle are somewhat complicated in that they’ve also been used as work animals, and I know of some comparisons between the two main “lines” – the ones from India and that of everywhere else, but that’s about it.

  30. rho says:

    With my loadout, i’d probably sterilize all humans and charge an exorbitant fee to have kids; which is roughly approximated by the variations in the cost of delivery by country.

  31. rho says:

    Oh and Elon Musk is going to leave the planet, draining us of precious intellectual resources and computonium. At least, that’s what I would do if i was in his shoes and had given up on the fiction of unguided human progress

    • rho says:

      Also he almost induced me to strap a bomb to a drone and fly it into his face from China, but he’ll never take my oath.

  32. bean says:

    OK, it was funny at first, but now you’re just spamming the OT. Please stop.

    • rho says:

      Oh really. I didn’t know we were making humans with negative iq now @aleph_four check it out

      • rho says:

        Do ants think? It doesn’t really matter if you want to convert them into factory wage slaves at Amazon whether they think or not.

        • rho says:

          My hippocratic oath doesn’t protect your feelings now does it, oh shit, it actually does…
          I’m sorry

          I posted pics of my resume up there and i’m gonna take my hrt and take a breather, okay

          On the insta, i’m gonna try to conform better to the social contracts here, i know them well but i’m going through a lot right now

        • rho says:

          My father stole 20k USD of my equipment, and i know a straight-edge and string is enough to produce pretty much any vector art imaginable free hand but i miss my wacom tablet okay

  33. rho says:

    Page 402 new science

    Hold up, lemme link my insta: @aleph_four

    Let’s get some efficiency in this bitch

    • rho says:

      Be patient with me i’m going through puberty again, this time i won’t let my parents lock me in the house until i got a car

  34. Gabriel Weil says:

    I am looking for a partner for an adversarial collaboration on whether a carbon tax should be the principal policy tool for mitigating climate change (I say yes). I am a legal scholar with a substantial background in economics, physics, and political science. If interested, e-mail me at gaw22@law.georgetown.edu.

    • AKL says:

      Are you interested in a collaborator who wants to argue e.g. that cap and trade would be better? Or one who will argue that it is not worth incurring significant costs to mitigate climate change? The former seems more tractable but the latter seems more interesting.

      I would be very interested to read a collaboration on the claim “immediate unilateral implementation by the USA of measures to mitigate climate change will have a net positive impact on domestic (US) economic growth.”

      • perlhaqr says:

        So, to clarify, is your thesis (or at least, the thesis you are proposing to read a collaboration about) merely “unilaterally implementing changes to mitigate climate change will be good for the US economy”, or does it go as far as “unilaterally implementing changes in the US to mitigate climate change will actually be effective at mitigating climate change“?

        Because I think the latter is a far more interesting question, and also flatly impossible if everyone else in the world is going to just keep building new coal fire power plants anyway: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2017/07/03/forget-paris-1600-new-coal-power-plants-built-around-the-world/

        I mean, I have thought of a method the US could use to unilaterally effect actual climate factors, (and if I can come up with one, that means there are probably others) but I’m not certain that other countries would not see our constructing a giant solar cell laden space umbrella to actually directly reduce the amount of insolation the planet receives, and thence beaming the electricity generated to power out moon base via microwaves, as a violation of the space based weapons treaty, and possibly as an act of war.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I mean, I have thought of a method the US could use to unilaterally effect actual climate factors, (and if I can come up with one, that means there are probably others)

          Decommission all coal-fired power plants, ban petroleum-powered civilian air travel, and send the US military to bomb the industrial infrastructure of countries that don’t adopt the same laws.

          • perlhaqr says:

            Well, OK. I’ll admit that I had come up with “declare actual war on other countries” as a solution, too, but was dismissing that one as improbable. Yes, more improbable than building a giant space parasol. 😉

          • Doctor Mist says:

            And of course, the third step would be vastly more effective than either of the first two.

          • Gray Ice says:

            Bonus Level: At least one of the countries being bombed resorts to nuclear weapons. This results in nuclear retaliation from the US military, which results in further nuclear war from other countries.

            This may result in a nuclear winter (magnitude and likelihood controversial). It will definitely result in a decreased number of living people and industry. Furthermore, the remaining humans have bigger challenges to face.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            John Bolton?

      • Uncorrelated says:

        Is there any practical way to arrange a sequence of adversarial collaborations? Because I agree that something like the second collaboration you describe would be interesting, but I think it comes naturally after something like the original proposal. You would want to compare the expected cost of climate change to the expected cost of the optimal intervention, and I read the original proposal as aiming at establishing that.

        (I could see ways to break this up into even more collaborations.)

  35. FrankistGeorgist says:

    Was there a fad for Demonology in 17thish century Europe? As in things like the Lesser Key of Solomon and Pope Honorious’s Grimoire (perhaps these are the only examples). I came across this rather recently and I actually know more about theological arguments about demons than this considerably wonkier stuff full of “here’s Hell’s hierarchy and the phone numbers for these demons are available on page 601 at the low cost of chicken blood and silver bracelets.” Honestly this stuff seems more culturally influential than Aquinas discussing how fallen angels have only the 2 spiritual sins of Pride and Envy available to them.

    Was this part of a continuous European tradition or is it just an artifact of publishing picking up so more people could get their heretical fanfiction published? I know people love to reinvent mysticism every century or so.

  36. Matt says:

    GPT-2?

  37. Enkidum says:

    Protip: any more than one of these per OT is gonna make you really, really annoying really fast.

  38. J Mann says:

    (1) Is anybody else going to GenCon, and

    (2) If so, do you want to try to get a meetup together, and

    (3) If so, want to playtest an SSC-er’s game

    • drethelin says:

      1 yes
      2 Sure, although I don’t really want to be the one to schedule/plan it
      3 no

    • kauffj says:

      1) yes
      2) same answer as drethelin
      3) yes, assuming it’s not some 4+ hour marathon

      my personal email is my SSC username @gmail.com if you end up putting something together for 2 or 3

    • Adam says:

      Said SSCer would be very appreciative! Send me an email if you manage to run a game (Gmail: arperry), since I’m not always thorough about diving through the comments.

  39. Bobobob says:

    So I’m probably not alone in considering the Lion King reboot a $200 million propaganda putsch for authoritarian monarchy–which works out fine if someone like Mufasa is in charge, but not so great if the responsibility devolves upon Scar. All the political issues that manage to lurk beneath the surface in the animated version bubble to the top in the live-action remake. Who are the hyenas meant to represent? How does Mufasa choose which antelopes to eat in order to propagate the “circle of life?” Why would a zebra take orders from a lion, anyway?

    I think this is the last Disney live-action copyright-extension extravaganza I’m going to be seeing for quite a while.

    • Urstoff says:

      Less propaganda and more just Hamlet with lions, and the hyenas added to show that, no really, Scar is not just bad for Mufasa/Simba but bad for everyone. If things were prosperous under Scar, then Simba’s revenge would be more morally ambiguous, and you can’t have that in a kids movie (in 1994, anyway).

      • bullseye says:

        Well, Shakespeare was a monarchist. Monarchy doesn’t have a mechanism to ensure the lawful king will be better than an usurper, but stories like this support the idea that it somehow does.

        (I have to admit that I’m not at all familiar with Hamlet and I’m just assuming it has the same plot as the Lion King because everyone says it does.)

        • Randy M says:

          There is some divergence in the plots–Shakespeare was obviously not writing for 20th century children. At the end of Hamlet, pretty much relevant is dead, whereas at the end of the Lion King the rightful king is restored and the kingdom therefore prosperous. Lion King is much more mythic and probably doesn’t even qualify as a tragedy.

          • Dacyn says:

            I am not sure I see any similarities beyond “king killed by his brother and avenged by his son”…

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Lion King definitely feels like the most offensive remake. The original is spectacular quality, and the particular caste of characters lends itself to animation more than “live-action.” Especially since they just went with a total remake, with hardly any changes…you can do shot-to-shot comparisons, and the live action has no life to it at all.

      The Mulan remake might actually be decent.

      • Bobobob says:

        I agree, the live-action version was totally flat, and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Probably laziness.

        One of the previews was for “Cats,” and despite the backlash on the internet, that movie actually looks original and interesting. (Well, not the Andrew Lloyd Weber Puccini-echt score, more the production design.)

        • Evan Þ says:

          Someone I read pointed out that lions really don’t have all that many human facial expressions, so the animated version gets a lot more visually expressive than the live-action.

          • AG says:

            Yeah, but there are just as many comparisons of CG TLK’s lackluster expressions to actual lions and cats’ expressions. Or previous CG lions like Liam Neeson’s Aslan.

            One only needs to watch some Big Cat Rescue videos to see how CG TLK dropped the ball.

        • abystander says:

          One review said that animated lions interacting with all other species works, but a live action lion associating with a warthog and meekrat moves into the uncanny valley territory.

    • monistowl says:

      This is a bit like the Wizard of Oz as monetary metaphor — clever but probably unintentional.

      However, if we’re going to run with Lion King as political metaphor, Scar’s the corrupt elite, the Hyenas are his untouchable patsies, and the whole thing’s about the insidious alliance of the low and the high against the middle. This could have a leftist/rightist/whatever flavor, depending on how you see it (e.g. Scar is a corrupt Republican and hyenas are poor whites vs. Scar is a corrupt Democrat and hyenas are poor blacks). Seems to be a story about how masses are mobilized against their own interests on the basis of vicious envy.

    • dick says:

      How does Mufasa choose which antelopes to eat in order to propagate the “circle of life?” Why would a zebra take orders from a lion, anyway?

      My 5 yr old is obsessed with this movie (the original, haven’t seen the remake) and has been asking these very same questions, which is awkward. I told her something like, “Well, lions do eat zebras and antelopes, but the circle of life means that the predators and the prey get along when they aren’t trying to eat each other. Mufasa makes sure they all share the watering holes. But Scar told the hyenas they could keep the watering holes all to themselves, so the hyenas chased the zebras and antelopes away from Pride Rock. Then the hyenas and lions went hungry because there were no animals to hunt. After Simba chased Scar away at the end, he told all the animals that they could use the watering holes again, so they came back, because even if lions chase you sometimes, you still need water.”

      • acymetric says:

        That seems like about as close as you’re going to get for a 5 year old.

        • bullseye says:

          Is it? The real explanation is that it actually doesn’t make sense. Stories don’t have to make sense to be entertaining.

  40. beleester says:

    I don’t know if you’re asking for Scott in his role as a kabbalist or a psychiatrist.

  41. Plumber says:

    I’ve bought, borrowed, and excavated (from my garage), a nice pile of books this week and I thought to share some impressions:

    The first (and most useful) is Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day by Leanne Brown (a link to a free!!! PDF of which may be found here), which is a pretty damn good cookbook that has many recipes with less steps and ingredients than found in say Cook’s Illustrated, so more likely for me to follow rather than just admire.

    Next, from 1953, is Teach Yourself Cycling by Reginald C. Shaw which I think is worth it for the eight pen-and-ink illustrations by Frank Patterson of a ruined castle, a stone bridge, an old church, and other “bicycle destinations” of mid-20th century Britain alone, even if it was missing the charming (to me) ‘austerity era’ text.

    Otherwise I picked up story collections, in no particular order:

    The Penguin Book of Classical Myths by Jenny March which is a nice re-telling of Greek and Roman myths some of the chapters titles are: Creation, The Gods, The First Humans, The  Quest for the Golden Fleece, The Foundation of Rome, and Myths of Love and Death.

    Workers’ Tales: Socialist Fairy Tales, Fables, and Allegories from Great Britain Edited by Michael Rosen, which is a bunch of tales from 1884 to 1914 and among the others are William Morris (often credited with the creation of the modern “fantasy” genre, and James Keira Garfield (a founder of the British Labour Party), as you’d expect from the title there’s old polemics in it, but also some good yarns.

    English Fairy Tales and Legends by Rosalind Kerven, a fine collection with some great illustrations by Arthur Racham, and a really good bibliography of sources. 

    The Anthology of English Folk Tales published by The History Press, both magical and non-magical (but “folkloric’ tales), fits nicely in my pocket, and are nicely short and good stories.

    Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, re-tellings of old myths from an author that I’ve read and enjoyed before, but disappointing, too “gods-centric” for my tastes, and with it lacking the familiarity of the Greek tales it just didn’t “click” with me this week.

    Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, “SF” short stories published from 1990 to 2002, someone mentioned a couple of these tales in a previous thread, one I’d forgotten and the other that had really impressed me when I first read it over a decade ago, re-reading them confirmed to me the forgettable one was that, and the other (“Hell is the Absence of God”) was one of the most moving new(-ish) short stories I’ve read. 

    The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson, I’d already had a version of this in the pile under my nightstand, but this was a paperback 2018 re-print of the 1954 fantasy novel (not the 1971 revision) with a bigger typeface! Fantasy-fiction from before the bookshelves groaned under the weight of too much of the same stuff, GET THIS BOOK WHILE YOU STILL CAN!

    I saw a bunch of other titles that I hope to get this week, and if anyone wants me too I’ll share my impressions of those as well.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson, I’d already had a version of this in the pile under my nightstand, but this was a paperback 2018 re-print of the 1954 fantasy novel (not the 1971 revision) with a bigger typeface! Fantasy-fiction from before the bookshelves groaned under the weight of too much of the same stuff, GET THIS BOOK WHILE YOU STILL CAN!

      +1
      The Broken Sword is amazing. It’s rather Saga-like, albeit with an atypically high concentration of supernatural elements. There’s also more thought put into the relationship between the Church and magical beings in this slim volume than in LotR and The Silmarillion combined. 😛

  42. hash872 says:

    As a centrist liberal technocratic neoliberal wonky type- I am Officially Giving Up on the US solving its healthcare cost issues via (really any) type of regulation that the federal government could possibly pass- and am instead looking to the market to hopefully come up with a fix. I came to this realization gradually, but it sort of crystallized in the last week or so. It doesn’t mean that I’m opposed to whatever Reasonable Center Left Healthcare Proposal that gets cooked up (I’m cautiously open to the public option, especially for those 50+), but I don’t see anything that’s being proposed (even single payer) as addressing the real issue with US healthcare- cost.

    To reduce the cost of healthcare in America- many hundreds of thousands or millions of doctors/nurses/practitioners would have to accept less money for their work (in some cases, a lot less)- and probably several hundreds of thousands of people would have to actually lose their job as it’s obsoleted (billers, coders, admins, the 1-2 people every doctor’s office has to employ just to deal with health insurance companies, etc.) There’s absolutely zero political will to do any of this in the US, and I don’t have to theorize- we see this proven in, say, the absolute inability of the US to implement even the mildest of cost reductions, the Cadillac Tax on very generous healthcare plans. It was passed under Obamacare, has been delayed on a bipartisan basis since then, and now repealing it is one of the few bipartisan things Trump & the Dems can agree on. Here, even the most moderate 1% step towards reduced payments for doctors, nurses & hospitals was viciously fought tooth & nail by the healthcare lobby. Please, tell me again how the US is going to reduce costs to European levels, which would entail at times dramatic cuts to doctor incomes and hospital bottom lines.

    I had sort of a Zen koan moment reading a recent short Tyler Cowen piece entitled ‘Which of these claims is false?’:

    • The Democratic-controlled House just voted to abolish the “Cadillac tax” on employer-supplied health plans.

    • The Independent Payments Advisory Board no longer exists, having been abolished with support from both parties.

    • In the public option for Democratic-controlled Washington State, reimbursement rates were set at up to 160 percent of Medicare levels.

    • Single-payer health care will save America a great amount of money.

    ‘Medicare For All’ seems likely to close dozens & dozens of rural hospitals, which rely on the much higher non-Medicare reimbursement rates. Imagine closing the only hospital in a rural area, which thousands of people rely on- then multiply that for every rural state. Imagine reducing nurse staffing levels to European levels, and tangling with one of the few effective & strong unions in America. Imagine telling all of the doctors in the US (after med school, residencies, fellowships, six figures in debt, etc.) that their income will be reduced by a third or more. Literally none of this is going to happen, even if single payer healthcare is passed tomorrow. There is no real political will for reducing providers’ incomes.

    On the other hand, Mr. Market has at least the potential to do so- I’m particularly intrigued by the proposed joint Amazon-JP Morgan-Berkshire Hathaway health company called Haven, which is purportedly a consortium to limit healthcare costs. One thing’s for sure- without the necessary political will, the only other force powerful enough to prevent hospitals from charging $10 for one (!) throat lozenge is the capitalist system itself.

    (Deeper themes that could be explored- me growing more conservative as I grow older- though, I’m still not opposed to a more government-run healthcare system, I’m just skeptical that it would be an effective cost cutter for a bloated sector. Another possible deeper theme is the inability of representative democracy to tackle entrenched, powerful, rent-seeking parts of society- though to be fair, this seems to be an issue in authoritarian countries too)

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I’m increasingly unsure about what the rules are for culture war bait in the visible / integer Open Threads, but this topic is likely going to generate a lot of heat.

      That said, your focus on doctors’ and nurses’ salaries as a driver of medical cost inflation is misplaced. The vast inflation of costs in medicine, education, construction and other sectors all seem to be explained much better by administrative bloat and wasteful legal ass-covering. Simplifying the regulatory environment governing medicine and implementing tort reform to reduce the risk of medical malpractice suits would likely do a lot more to curb out-of-control costs than reducing doctors’ salaries.

      • hash872 says:

        Oops. I thought this could be discussed without CW-style heat. Maybe not.

        I thought the ‘malpractice litigation drives healthcare costs’ thing had been pretty well debunked as a major driver? (Could still be a minor one). Like I thought Texas & some other states had greatly limited the payout size, but didn’t see any overall cost reduction. Anyways, I have read Considerations on Cost Disease (I actually think about it a lot), but I don’t remember thinking Scott had reached a Grand Conclusion, but more that he’d left it open-ended. (How does legal ass-covering explain the cost of college in the US?)

        I guess non-empirically I find ‘healthcare is the most expensive sector in the US, dramatically more expensive than all of the other developed countries’ and ‘healthcare has the highest paid professionals by a huge huge margin’ to be unrelated seems…. unlikely?

        • suntzuanime says:

          How does legal ass-covering explain the cost of college in the US?

          Tough to answer this question without getting into a detailed explanation of the damage a certain political ideology has done to society.

          You really should have waited for a PVP thread, politics-soaked phrases in your post like “Obamacare” and “Medicare For All” or just the fact that you have to disclaim at the start that you’re a “centrist liberal technocratic neoliberal wonky type” should be enough to tip you off that there’s something to disclaim and you should hold back.

        • sourcreamus says:

          The limitations of the malpractice awards did not solve the cost problem partly because the huge payouts and consequent huge insurance premiums are just a small part of why doctors avoid malpractice suits.
          From what I understand doctors are still terrified of malpractice suits and thus are unwilling to forego any test that may potentially be useful whatever the cost and whatever the possibility of usefulness because the whole process of being sued is traumatic for them. So they end up practicing medicine not by what they think is best but by what they think will sound best to an opposing lawyer.

          • perlhaqr says:

            And even with proper tort reform, etc, you still might not see much change in behaviour, because the docs already have a set of instincts about how they need to do things in order to avoid getting sued.

        • Anthony says:

          Inflation in the costs of college and medical care are not driven by the same mechanisms, even if they share a cause.

          Colleges add expensive administrators to handle ever increasing government regulation, though way more than is strictly necessary to do so; they also add amenities for the students. (In my day, the old farts didn’t have a lawn to chase us off of.)

          Medical care has regulatory compliance and malpractice avoidance, but in the U.S., there’s also a litigious culture which make it impossible in the long run to say “we aren’t going to pay for *that*”, for pretty much any value of *that*. Unfortunately, a lot of *that* is extending life in very ill or very old patients, which is expensive.

          The hospital can say “Grandma’s going to die in a week or two, and it’s not worth undertaking heroic measures, since at best grandma will get 4 or 5 weeks, and they’ll be really awful for her.” If the kids and grandkids agree, great. But if they want heroic measures, the hospital pretty much has to comply and spend the money. If they don’t, there will be a lawsuit with a judgment possibly more expensive than the cost of those heroic measures. Sometimes it’s the hospital that has to spend the money, sometimes it’s the insurance company, but someone’s gotta pay, or someone, probably several someone’s are gonna get sued.

          If we can’t fix that, we can’t afford universal healthcare.

      • albatross11 says:

        If healthcare cost inflation were mostly being captured by any one entity, we’d see that entity having become incredibly flush with cash. I believe doctors make more in the US than in other countries, but not remotely enough more to account for the growth in health care costs. The same is true for insurance companies and hospitals.

        As best I can tell from outside, this is a systemwide problem. The incentives for everyone are irrational (from a systemwide perspective), everyone cross-subsidizes everyone else, nobody can get a straight price quote for anything. Our healthcare system is like some kind of vast Soviet industry that spends most of its time making giant nails to meet its pounds-of-nails-per-day quota or hunts whales to extinction because some commissar somewhere decided to use dead whales as a metric for how hard someone was working.

        The socialist calculation debate was about whether planned economies could work–basically, the argument is that central planners can’t know enough to make good decisions to plan a whole economy without more-or-less reinventing markets and prices. But I think the US healthcare system is a variant of the same thing–here, we have a substantially private healthcare system and sometimes even markets, but we’ve managed to sabotage basically all the mechanisms that allow markets to actually coordinate human action. And so we’re wasting vast amounts of wealth spinning our wheels.

    • Plumber says:

      @hash872,
      I plan to have a response to what seems to me to be a post on a “hot-button” issue come the next “hidden” open thread on Wednesday.

    • Matthias says:

      Let me hijack this for a related, but hopefully less inflammatory topic: voting with your feet.

      Giving Scott’s archipelago Utopia and my own personal experience (and virtually any other migrant’s), this should be pretty much the standard response to policies you don’t like, especially when they look the issues look intractable.

      But it almost never features prominently in discussions. Even discussions about migration often barely acknowledge this.

      I guess people who move just quietly get on with their lives; and for discussions talking about fixing intractable issues and how the other side is various shades of evil is more fun than being a party poopers and stating the obvious bypass? (Just like the infamous bikeshedding?)

      • hermanubis says:

        Due to education/wealth/relationship requirements in most immigration systems, it’s impossible for most people to permanently change countries.

        • Matthias says:

          Yet, not a lot of people even try.

          College-educated Americans have a pretty decent chance at succesfully moving to other places. (And between federal states they mostly do, I think?)

          • The Nybbler says:

            Thing is, you have to pick a package. And all the packages will tend to suck in one way or another. Many of them suck more for immigrants than natives; even if not a deliberate policy, there’s language and cultural barriers. So if you’re not in a particularly bad place, likely you’re better off where you are.

        • DinoNerd says:

          This. I’m in a bubble with (a) high skill, high demand people and (b) lots of folks whose politics had them unhappy with recent US political trends, and I’ve heard a lot of “I checked, and Canada wouldn’t take me”.

          Lots of countries only want the cream of potential immigrants, and try very hard to avoid immigrants who might use more of their social safety net than they personally provide. So Canada has an age limit, above which your skills don’t count. And lots of countries are cracking down on “chain migration” or restricting it, so you won’t be able to bring your grandmother, who relies on you for support (emotional and financial). Sometimes you won’t even be able to bring your (minor) children – a large public fuss ensued after a very-highly-desirable immigrant wasn’t permitted to bring his disabled daughter to Canada (the rest of his immediate family was acceptable) a few years ago, and ultimately went eslewhere, leaving his employer somewhat in the lurch (IIRC, he’d been working for them, in Canada, for at least a couple of years by that time.)

          • John Schilling says:

            This. I’m in a bubble with (a) high skill, high demand people and (b) lots of folks whose politics had them unhappy with recent US political trends, and I’ve heard a lot of “I checked, and Canada wouldn’t take me”.

            Where else did they try? And for that matter, how hard did they to get in to Canada? Because the claim was, “impossible for most people to change countries permanently”, which is a pretty high bar even if we limit the discussion to first-world countries.

            Canada has specific reason to not appear trivially easy for Americans to migrate to, in large part because most Americans who want to move to Canada don’t really want to change countries permanently.

            There are good reasons why people don’t uproot their lives for marginal economic or political advantage, and we’ve discussed them here before. But I don’t think the alleged difficulty of middle-class Americans to secure residency in some other reasonably hospitable first-world country is high on the list.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            I wish the US could implement Canada’s immigration rules. Apparently That Would Be Bad, somehow…

          • JPNunez says:

            Canada gave citizenship to more refugees than USA in 2018, despite having just 10% the population.

            Wikipedia says “In November 2017, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced that Canada would admit nearly 1 million permanent residents to Canada over the following three years, rising from 0.7% to 1% of its population by 2020.[9] This increase was motivated by the economic needs of the country facing an aging demographic, with the number of senior citizens expected to double by 2036 alongside a decline in the proportion of working-age adults”

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Mark Atwood

            Anything to do with America’s immigration laws is white-hot CW. I’d love to discuss it when the next hidden thread opens, though. 🙂

          • souleater says:

            I would be interested in a hidden thread discussion on the pro vs cons of the canadian immigration system

          • DinoNerd says:

            @John Schilling

            Where else did they try?

            Good question. I don’t know the answer though – I’m a Canadian citizen (US permanent resident), so people tend to talk to me about Canada specifically.

            And for that matter, how hard did they to get in to Canada?

            They generally got as far as reading a previous version of the Canadian immigration web site, adding up the points they could get, and comparing with what was then a clear “this many points gets you in” rather than the current version which is more like “minumum of X; apply if you can make that, but we’ll take the best n applications we get”.

            All this would have been applying as a skilled immigrant, not business founder, refugee, or family member, which have (and had) different rules. (Some may have also checked out business founder, and decided they lacked the funds/skills.)

        • albatross11 says:

          a. Moving between states in the US is commonplace and there are no restrictions on doing so. Many people do in fact move–I don’t know of good data saying what fraction move for jobs vs to get to policies more to their liking. (Think of taxes, gun control, public assistance, stand-your-ground laws, laws regarding homeschooling, etc.).

          b. Tons of Puerto Ricans have moved to the continental US. Again, moving to/from PR is commonplace and their are no restrictions on doing so.

          c. We have millions of people now living in the US who came here (or their parents did) from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, etc., many without bothering with formalities involving visas or green cards.

          These all seem like obvious counterexamples to your claim.

          • Matt M says:

            Many people do in fact move–I don’t know of good data saying what fraction move for jobs vs to get to policies more to their liking.

            Those things are not unrelated. It would be really freaking nice if all the people moving to Texas “for the economy” appreciated that Texas didn’t spring up a great economy by luck or coincidence…

          • DeWitt says:

            Texas didn’t spring up a great economy by luck or coincidence

            Not entirely, to be sure, but the oil field thing is surely some of both.

      • Tenacious D says:

        In the domain of healthcare, voting with one’s feet doesn’t even need to involve moving. Health tourism is a growing field, after all.

        • AG says:

          Hrm, could health tourism create sufficient market pressure to inch things along in a desired way? If the people capable of putting the most money in the system aren’t because it’s put towards travel and savings, instead, then the system is increasingly left with the dregs who can’t pay, so they have to incentivize the rich to come back.

          That’s assuming that accelerationism works, though.

          • Tenacious D says:

            The most prominent example I’ve heard of is Health City Cayman Islands. According to Wikipedia they have 104 beds, so I expect the model would need to scale a lot before it’s exerting noticeable market pressure.

      • Tatterdemalion says:

        Voting with your feet is fine* if you don’t have friends and family you care about hardly ever seeing a get. But for normal humans with webs of attachments, it’s a lousy option.

        * Leaving aside the massive financial and energy costs, restrictions on immigration, the nonexistence of destinations that don’t have drawbacks of their own, etc.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Somehow related, I’ve had some conversations in the past threads about the numbers of Romanian voting with their feet. Meanwhile there is some new data – almost 10 million Romanians are living abroad. Romania’s population is exactly double that. Numbers are not directly comparable because some of the fist number are historical communities living in other countries but still, it’s a pretty good example of feet-voting.

        What helps a lot is that EU is basically a federation, so in US terms it would be a lot more like people moving to California. Too bad US isn’t a federation anymore. Oh well, in 50 years we won’t be either.

        • Aapje says:

          Oh well, in 50 years we won’t be either.

          True, but probably not in the way you intended.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            You’re betting on dissolution, or one state solution? Rhyme intended.

          • Aapje says:

            The elites are strongly pushing for a single state with token & vestigial federal elements, like the US.

            However, I don’t see how a shared culture and strong group identity can develop without a single language and don’t see how a strong central government can exist without a shared culture and strong group identity.

            It’s quite hard in the US already and many of the unifying forces are being weakened by the current elites. Many in the American elite clearly have little understanding of those outside their bubble, even though they speak the same language as those people. What chance do Europeans then have?

            A truly federal state is only possible if we get an elite with a different culture, which is possible, although probably painful.

      • America is much richer than almost every country in the world, as an expat you’re unlikely to end up with more money even considering the cheaper cost of living, unless you can arrange to work remotely and still get paid like an American. It is this wealth that leads to the problem with healthcare in the first place.

        https://randomcriticalanalysis.com/2018/11/19/why-everything-you-know-about-healthcare-is-wrong-in-one-million-charts-a-response-to-noah-smith/

    • Murphy says:

      On the one hand, I agree with you that the US system is caught in a trap.

      NHS style systems absolutely can work extremely well and if the US was capable of crossing the intervening space it would probably work much better than the current system by many metrics.

      But I also think you’re right that the US can’t do that.

      There’s now a powerful industry in place with the cash to lobby effectively to fight any reform.

      But I also think your preferred solution also falls into the same trap.

      Groups who are going to fight tooth and nail against a paycut at the hands of the government will also fight tooth and nail against paycuts at the hands of deregulation and the industry is perfectly capable of lobbying for regulation that favors it when a free market would not be in it’s favor.

      Add in that a truly free market in healthcare is… a bit too brutal for normal humans. Strip away medicaid/medicare and similar programs and a lot of poor sick people will die. That isn’t the goal (hopefully) but politically, voters don’t like burying their kids because they couldn’t afford some insanely overpriced medication. (or are we also stripping away patents as a form of regulation?)

      Anyone who’s convinced charity will solve all the problems: throw that thought right in the bin. If private charitable givers won’t pay £1000 to save the life of a black kid in africa they won’t open their wallets much wider just because the kid is in detroit and requires significantly more than £1000. Charity will help the occasional case that gets broad media attention and the occasional cute blond kid who catches the eye of a wealthy donor… and those cases will be hyped up to the point that you won’t be able to see the corpses belonging to the unlucky 95% behind the billboards. But the corpses will still be there.

      So while I agree that America probably can’t reach any kind of sane system of socialized medicine… the same trap will hold it if it tries to reach some kind of highly deregulated market system.

      • Matthias says:

        The NHS is pretty costly. Singapore spends half as much as a proportion of GDP, and has health outcomes at least as good (if not better) than the UK.

        However, as a percentage of GDP the NHS is cheaper than whatever the Americans have. But almost every system anywhere is.

        • Murphy says:

          Compared to the american system the NHS spends less per capita, even if you only look at government spending on healthcare. (medicare, medicaid etc) ie: change nothing about anybodies taxes and strip away 95% of private insurance.

          It’s not perfect but it’s a decent comparison point.

          But america could never make that kind of switch. Too many people with too much power and too much to lose.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Singapore, IIRC, a) is the direct provider of something like 75% or more of all services b) has direct price controls on all services, for all providers, c) subsidizes all medical spending on a sliding scale, d) mandates all citizens to save a certain portion of their income to spend on healthcare.

          It is most certainly NOT the market solution you are looking for.

          • JPNunez says:

            Singapore is always a fun example, due to their mix of unbridled capitalism along with state ownership of …a lot of stuff. Including companies that practice said capitalism, a lot of the houses and apartments people live, etc.

      • johan_larson says:

        I guess the question is where things end up. A brief web search suggests US healthcare spending is increasing about 5% per year. That’s way higher than overall economic growth, so it can’t continue forever.

        • johan_larson says:

          On second thought, maybe this whole issue should be put on ice until the next CW-allowed thread.

          • hash872 says:

            I’m genuinely bummed out that I seemed to have fallen astray of the no-CW guideline. I thought CW was like….. Trump & immigration & transgenderism and stuff- not, healthcare cost policy wonkery. I didn’t realize CW covered *all* potentially political topics. (To be fair, apparently some people think Cost Disease is at least partially caused by political/CW forces, which didn’t occur to me would be a serious argument).

            Could I repost in the next hidden thread- is that a thing?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @hash872

            Could I repost in the next hidden thread- is that a thing?

            Please do. It’s an interesting topic.

            But basically anything where Red and Blue have strong feelings about how to solve a problem that are different are going to create fights between Red/Blue rather than usefulness, unfortunately.

          • Deiseach says:

            I thought CW was like….. Trump & immigration & transgenderism and stuff- not, healthcare cost policy wonkery.

            CW stuff tends to be:

            (1) Is religion involved? Because everyone loves shouting at everyone else about ethics, morals and soteriology!

            (2) Is sex/gender involved? Because everyone loves shouting at everyone else about ethics, morals, and continence!

            (3) Is government involved? Because everyone loves shouting at everyone else about that since time immemorial! Including “all public/civil servants do is sit around drinking tea/coffee and waiting to collect their pensions from their unfireable jobs” 🙂

            (4) Are all three involved, because holy Hannah, wait till we get the blast doors sealed first, okay?

          • Plumber says:

            @Deiseach

            “…“all public/civil servants do is sit around drinking tea/coffee and waiting to collect their pensions from their unfireable jobs” …”

            That sounds great!

            But sadly no, work keeps interfering with my job, dang it!

          • perlhaqr says:

            Does “CW” in this context expand to “Content Warning”?

            I have not heard the phrase used as this sort of linguistic modifier before.

          • Nick says:

            @perlhaqr
            No, it stands for Culture War.

          • People have been saying anything controversial is culture war when it originally was just about what it says: culture. Healthcare reform is not inherently a culture war topic and it really shouldn’t be.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Wrong Species

            Tragically, the problem is it becomes a “culture war” because each culture has an entirely different solution that they will loudly call the other side a “filthy socialist” or a “heartless capitalist” if they argue for.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Is government involved? Because everyone loves shouting at everyone else about that since time immemorial!

            “OBEY KING GILGAMESH!” “NO! HE CONSCRIPTS US FOR PUBLIC WORKS AND PRACTICES PRIMA NOCTE!”

          • Deiseach says:

            “OBEY KING GILGAMESH!” “NO! HE CONSCRIPTS US FOR PUBLIC WORKS AND PRACTICES PRIMA NOCTE!”

            You say that, Le Maistre Chat, but the Epic of Gilgamesh is pretty much THE KING IS TOO HEROIC AND DEMIGODLY AND STRONG AND AWESOME HE IS OPPRESSING THE PEOPLE WE NEED TO DISTRACT HIM SOMEBODY GET HIM A FRIEND WHO’LL TAKE HIM DRINKING AND HUNTING AND GENERALLY HANGING OUT BEING BROS HAVING A GOOD TIME TOGETHER SO WE CAN CATCH OUR BREATH

            “You have indeed brought into being a mighty wild bull, head raised!
            “There is no rival who can raise a weapon against him.
            “His fellows stand (at the alert), attentive to his (orders !),
            “Gilgamesh does not leave a son to his father,
            “day and night he arrogantly …
            “Is he the shepherd of Uruk-Haven,
            “is he their shepherd…
            “bold, eminent, knowing, and wise,
            “Gilgamesh does not leave a girl to her mother(?)!”
            The daughter of the warrior, the bride of the young man,
            Anu listened to their complaints,
            and (the gods) called out to Aruru:
            “it was you, Aruru, who created mankind(?),
            now create a zikru to it/him.
            Let him be equal to his (Gilgamesh’s) stormy heart,
            let them be a match for each other so that Uruk may find peace!”

          • Plumber says:

            @Wrong Species

            “People have been saying anything controversial is culture war when it originally was just about what it says: culture. Healthcare reform is not inherently a culture war topic and it really shouldn’t be”

            But “culture war” isn’t all of what our host requests we refrain from:

            “…please try to avoid hot-button political and social topics…”

            It’s a shame that it is, but if the relative merits of a more market-based or a more regulatory approach to U.S. health care aren’t “hot-button political” then I don’t know what is.

          • perlhaqr says:

            @Nick: Ahhhhh, that makes way more sense. Thanks!

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Deiseach:

            You say that, Le Maistre Chat, but the Epic of Gilgamesh is pretty much THE KING IS TOO HEROIC AND DEMIGODLY AND STRONG AND AWESOME HE IS OPPRESSING THE PEOPLE WE NEED TO DISTRACT HIM SOMEBODY GET HIM A FRIEND WHO’LL TAKE HIM DRINKING AND HUNTING AND GENERALLY HANGING OUT BEING BROS HAVING A GOOD TIME TOGETHER SO WE CAN CATCH OUR BREATH

            Yep, totally. The King is SO DEMIGODLY AND STRONG HE’S OPPRESSING US ALL IF ONLY HE LEFT TOWN ON A BROMANCE WE COULD CATCH OUR BREATH!
            And then Uruk gets an even longer breather because the bromance ends with Enkidu’s death and mourning Gilgamesh goes off on a quest for immortality.

          • albatross11 says:

            I’m uncomfortable with the way “CW” seems to be creeping into meaning “anything Democrats and Republicans disagree about on average.” Those should be different concepts, and it ought not to be impossible to discuss medical care inflation without devolving into CW-type mindkilling discussions.

          • Nick says:

            I’m uncomfortable with the way “CW” seems to be creeping into meaning “anything Democrats and Republicans disagree about on average.” Those should be different concepts, and it ought not to be impossible to discuss medical care inflation without devolving into CW-type mindkilling discussions.

            With polarization way up the last few years, I’m not sure that’s realistic. =/ But come to think of it, we can actually test this, right? If the discussion in OT 133.25 goes fine, then ipso facto it could have been discussed in 133.

          • Plumber says:

            @Nick,
            I’m not so sure about that as the “hidden” open threads seem to be more mostly regular commenters while the “visible” ones have more newcomers, plus there seems to me to be a pattern of some very close to “CW” or indeed full on “hot button” statements in the visible threads by some who I expect know that they won’t be responded fully.

            BTW, there’s also a lot of non-“hot button” discussion in the fractional Open Threads which I feel should be here Instead.

            ETA: As a side note, I don’t think the discussion of U.K. political parties upthread much rises to the level if CW because most commenters aren’t Britons, if we did U.S.A. political parties instead ir would get hot-button quick, and I think some commenterms (maybe me?) don’t know what’s “hot button”.

          • Nick says:

            I’m not so sure about that as the “hidden” open threads seem to be more mostly regular commenters while the “visible” ones have more newcomers

            Ah, good point. I didn’t think of that.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Deiseach and Le Maistre Chat

            HEY, WATCH IT WITH THE 4000-YEAR-OLD SPOILERS!

          • Dan L says:

            @ Plumber:

            I’m not so sure about that as the “hidden” open threads seem to be more mostly regular commenters while the “visible” ones have more newcomers, plus there seems to me to be a pattern of some very close to “CW” or indeed full on “hot button” statements in the visible threads by some who I expect know that they won’t be responded fully.

            One of the motivations behind the survey analyses I’ve been doing recently was that I noticed a few consistently high-quality commenters that show up in almost all non-hidden threads, but never in the CW ones. I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the different threads are entirely separate communities, but you’ll definitely get a different consensus in different contexts.

        • JPNunez says:

          Well let’s just sit this one out and see it solve itself.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        If private charitable givers won’t pay £1000 to save the life of a black kid in africa they won’t open their wallets much wider just because the kid is in detroit and requires significantly more than £1000.

        I would give much more for black kids in Detroit than black kids in Africa, because the people in Detroit are my countrymen.

        • Plumber says:

          @Conrad Honcho;
          Bless you.

          Further response “hot button”.

        • eigenmoon says:

          Is this because you’re optimizing for a utility function that places more weight on your countrymen’s happiness, or because there are some strategic considerations that say that prioritizing your countrymen is a better way to optimize a utility function that weights everyone equally?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Uh, both-ish? If Americans don’t help poor Americans, nobody else is going to. Rich Africans aren’t going to say, “you know who I should give my money to? Poor kids in Detroit.” Let them help their poor people first, we’ll help our poor people first, and then we’ll see where we stand.

            ETA: Oh, and I say this hypothetically. And as a hypocrite. While I’ve donated money to Doctors Without Borders to help fight ebola in Africa, I’ve never given anything to charities specifically trying to help anyone in Detroit. I’m not sure how I would go about doing that.

          • Randy M says:

            United Way has a page where you can target your giving to a specific zip code.
            Possibly you could find some truly local group to donate to without too much searching as well.

          • eigenmoon says:

            OK, so I’ve got this proposal for helping poor kids in Detroit cost-effectively: fly them to Africa where they can be fed, housed and taught at a fraction of the cost, then fly them back when they finish school. Assuming they spend at least a year there, the savings should be enough to cover the tickets cost. How does that sound? Would you pay for such a plan over a more usual plan that keeps the kids in Detroit?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Oh that sounds like a great idea eigenmoon, let me just shop around a proposal for the “Ship Black Kids in Detroit Back to Africa Foundation” whoops everyone thinks I’m a nazi now and I’ve lost my job and am a social pariah.

            I don’t think you meant that as a serious platform.

          • eigenmoon says:

            Oh I’m definitely not the one to blame if your countrymen, whom you value so much more than you value ordinary human beings, would ostracize you for seeking cost-effective solutions like a proper effective altruist.

            But the reason I asked is to indirectly determine whether your premium valuation of your countryman would disappear if the said countryman moves out of the country. Because then it’s clear why my proposal wouldn’t work: once the kid is in Africa, you will reevaluate his worth to be equal to that of African kids and refuse to pay for him, and your present self knows this and considers this horrible since in the present you still value the kid highly.

            Of course maybe that’s not how you think and you would cherish the countryman wherever he may be. But there are plenty of other places in the world where a similar solution wouldn’t be hindered by racial concerns or Nazi accusations, and such a solution is never ever discussed, much less implemented. I can only theorize that this is due to the mechanism I’ve just described.

          • John Schilling says:

            @eigenmoon: Not going to speak for Conrad, but I see three possibilities here:

            1. There’s a genuine and sincere proposal to send the kids in question to a foreign country for an efficient education, and then their actually coming back to the United States to live as Americans. If so, then I should imagine that this forum in particular would be generally favorable to the concept of Americans as Americans being facilitated in seeking educational opportunities abroad that they can’t find at home, and we can evaluate on the utilitarian merits whether this would work as well in Africa as in Ireland.

            2. We don’t really expect the kids in question to come back from Africa, in which case the proposal really reduces to “let’s turn these kids into Africans so we don’t have to invest the resources we would feel obligated to if they were Real Americans(tm), out of sight out of mind”, in which case we should expect people who have stated they feel less charitably inclined to Africans than to Americans would continue to hold that view towards the newly-created Africans.

            3. The proposal is basically snark, and should be ignored.

          • eigenmoon says:

            @John Schilling
            Some time ago I have proposed this completely seriously for movement within EU.
            This time I simply used US and Africa because they were already being discussed. Sorry, I haven’t realized the amount of complications that this particular pair would bring.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            My countrymen are still my countrymen even when they’re not in my country, so moving them to Africa wouldn’t really change anything.

            Also, I do not subscribe to the idea that “education” is some kind of panacea, and all we have to do is throw money at or find better ways to school poor people and that will fix their poorness, so I don’t think your idea would work anyway. Since it wouldn’t work anyway, “send them to Africa” sounds an awful lot like racism.

          • souleater says:

            Oh I’m definitely not the one to blame if your countrymen, whom you value so much more than you value ordinary human beings, would ostracize you for seeking cost-effective solutions like a proper effective altruist.

            @eigenmoon I actually wish more americans would value their countryman’s lives over foreigners. I recognize, of course, that people of all nationalities are of equal worth. But, being and American myself, I consider it in my interest to help create social mores that encourage prioritizing tribe members over non tribe members.

            EDIT: This seems like its getting getting too CW and I might have contributed to that. I would be interested in revisiting this in a non-integer thread.

          • J Mann says:

            @eigenmoon

            I give a higher priority to my family’s well being than my countrymen, and my countrymen than people elsewhere in the world. I suspect Conrad is similar.

            Under that value structure, I’ll do more to help my mother stranded overseas than I would to help Conrad, and more to help Conrad than Aapje. (Maybe not literally those people, since I also feel a kinship to members of online communities, but let’s ignore that for simplicity). Moving a given person overseas doesn’t change my priorities, and I’m guessing it won’t change Conrad’s.

          • LHN says:

            Rich Africans aren’t going to say, “you know who I should give my money to? Poor kids in Detroit.”

            [Fictional, unserious] counterexample: the end of “Black Panther”.

          • John Schilling says:

            As a serious proposal, the obvious issues are:

            1. A public school whose focus is on e.g. teaching the children of Masai cattle-herders to secure a comparative or absolute advantage via the application of basic literacy to the cattle-herding trade, may not be terribly useful to African-American children planning to live in American cities as adults. Are there existing schools in Africa that really fit what we’re trying to accomplish?

            2. If we have to build new schools in Africa for this purpose, and/or massively reorient the existing ones, is that really going to be much cheaper than building those schools in America and if so, why?

            3. If the answer to #2 is “because we won’t have to hire overpriced(*) American teachers with Masters’ degrees in uselessology, and meet the ridiculous expensive demands of bureaucracies X, Y, and Z”, then there’s the beginning of your list of people who will be highly incentivized to oppose this plan. OK, none of them have much power over the operation of schools in Africa. Most of them will have power over A: whether you will be allowed to airlift young children out of the United States as part of this plan and B: whether you will be broadly denounced as Worse Than Hitler in your own country for doing so.

            * By global standards, at least.

          • Plumber says:

            @eigenmoon,
            For me to do a fuller response would likely get too “hot button” for this thread, but I personally place a higher value on patriotism than “effective altruism” and I disagree with our host on this.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            [Fictional, unserious] counterexample: the end of “Black Panther”.

            Yes, and I burst out laughing in the theater when that happened. I thought it was ludicrous that Wakanda would start their charitable efforts with American kids instead of, say, kids in the Congo.

          • LHN says:

            I burst out laughing in the theater when that happened. I thought it was ludicrous that Wakanda would start their charitable efforts with American kids instead of, say, kids in the Congo.

            While the real answer is surely that it’s the same reason the Chitauri attack New York and Godzilla rampages through Tokyo (i.e. who the film was made by/for), presumably the in-story answer is that T’Challa is doing it in recognition of his late cousin/rival, who grew up in LA rather than Kinshasa. But yeah.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Didn’t the Avengers destroy parts of modern African cities, rather than New York, in both Avengers 2 and Civil War?

          • Randy M says:

            Yes, and I burst out laughing in the theater when that happened. I thought it was ludicrous that Wakanda would start their charitable efforts with American kids instead of, say, kids in the Congo.

            It’s almost like that was there to make a point rather than as a plausible story element.

          • Jiro says:

            OK, so I’ve got this proposal for helping poor kids in Detroit cost-effectively: fly them to Africa where they can be fed, housed and taught at a fraction of the cost, then fly them back when they finish school.

            Aside from what John Schilling said, there’s another problem: If you start importing large amounts of Americans to Africa because the cost of living is low, that’s going to raise the cost of living in Africa, because the potential customers for Africans selling things will now include rich Americans.

            Or to put it another way, you’re going to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs. The cost of living is only cheap in Africa as long as a substantial number of people don’t take advantage of the cheap cost of living in Africa.

            (I’d also expect the African governments to recognize this, and limit the number of Americans they import anyway. Africans don’t like open borders any more than outgroup Americans do.)

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Or to put it another way, you’re going to kill the goose that laid the golden eggs. The cost of living is only cheap in Africa as long as a substantial number of people don’t take advantage of the cheap cost of living in Africa.

            If you talk to old-timers, Portland, Oregon was the golden goose for Californians. She’s dead now.

          • Randy M says:

            The problem with California is… It’s full of Californians.
            We shall institute Prima Nocte.

          • eigenmoon says:

            Wow, so many responses!

            @Conrad Honcho, @souleater, @J Mann, @Plumber
            Thank you guys for clarity. I want to understand your paradigm, but currently I don’t. So let me ask you: do you think it would be good for Californians to prioritize Californians, for Alaskans to prioritize Alaskans, etc?

            If yes: you seem to belong to a matroshka of tribes, so how do you prioritize between them? For example, many Swiss prioritize the canton level over the country level. Is there some way to rationalize this in terms of utility or strategy?

            If no: if you think that coalescing into competing tribes is a good way to run the world, why isn’t it a good way to run the country? If the answer is the existence of country-wide government, then, given that EU has a government already, don’t you think EU citizens would be better off by merging into a single country and no longer prioritizing people by (former) nations?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @eigenmoon

            For me, it would be concentric. A San Franciscan should prioritize San Francisco over California, California over Alaska, Alaska over Mexico, Mexico over Chile, Chile over Europe, Europe over Russia, etc.

            Now, it obviously shouldn’t be infinite. They shouldn’t say “I’m not willing to pay 1c for a million Russians to live”, but it should be concentric like that.

          • Randy M says:

            If yes: you seem to belong to a matroshka of tribes, so how do you prioritize between them? For example, many Swiss prioritize the canton level over the country level. Is there some way to rationalize this in terms of utility or strategy?

            Concentric loyalty.

            How to prioritize? Separate positive obligations from negative obligations. My duty is to help my family primarily, but I cannot do that at the expense of others.
            When my family is taken care of, I can look to my fellow Americans, Californians, Christians, conservatives, chemists, board game enthusiasts, or whatever identity is salient with the excess.

            In the case of actual conflicts, I can try to weigh between them based on the strength of the claims or the degree of closeness. Pretty sure no one here would say it is wrong to help the foreigner if the need is particularly great or you have some special opportunity. But your obligations start from home and expand outward.

            There are rational reasons for this.
            You are better able to provide help those nearby–though the advent of global banking etc levels the playing field somewhat.
            You also are better aware of the needs of those nearby.
            And you can expect reciprocity from those nearby.

          • Nornagest says:

            “I against my brother; my brother and I against my cousin; I, my brother, and my cousin against the world”.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            More succinctly, “charity begins at home.”

            ETA: Err, more succinctly than others, approximately as succinctly as Nornagest.

          • Plumber says:

            @eigenmoon > “….if you think that coalescing into competing tribes is a good way to run the world, why isn’t it a good way to run the country? If the answer is the existence of country-wide government, then, given that EU has a government already, don’t you think EU citizens would be better off by merging into a single country and no longer prioritizing people by (former) nations?”
            I just don’t follow you, I prioritize my son’s, my wife, other people born in Oakland, California, fellow union members, Californians, and working-class Americans over the rest of humanity, though sometimes I’ve weird priorities such as thinking that the Christians in Iraq should get a helping hand in still existing, and the Kurds may be owed some extra loyalty as well.

            But to your larger question, I really don’t know what would make the E.U. area better off, but for me I think California should be subdivided into multiple States, and those smaller States, or the existing Counties should have more power and any political entity as large or larger than the existing State of California should have less power including the existing Federal government, about the only exception to that devolution of power I make is to protect voting rights, and as a counter balance to certain non-governmental powers.

            If you really want more discussion I suggest a top level post in tomorrow’s new Open Thread.

          • eigenmoon says:

            Great, I think I’ve understood something; not sure if you’d like it or not.

            Quoting Scott:

            Luke was talking about problems for ethics if the Universe was infinitely large, in which case there would be an infinite amount of both happiness and suffering and none of our actions would affect the total. Although there are a couple ways to deal with this, I suggested one of them might be a function where moral relevance decreases with distance.

            This must be the problem faced also by cultural evolution, and Scott’s solution must be exactly what it came up with, and of course conservatives follow culture by definition. And the contours of constant moral priority are even circles on a map, as described by EchoChaos.

            Now that Somewheres vs Anywheres angle starts making more sense to me as well.

          • J Mann says:

            @eigenmoon

            Thanks. A couple more thoughts.

            1) As Randy said, it’s easier to understand the needs and act effectively with knowledge. There’s also some value in perceived reciprocity – if I give a hand up to my cousin when she needs it, she’s more likely to repay the favor for me or my family when we need it.

            2) If it’s not too personal, what’s your hierarchy? is it just you > (family and friends) > everybody else?

            3) Lastly, as long as you temper it so you’re not harming the outgroup, I think some rationally informed ingroup altruism is a good way to develop healthy empathy as a basis for charity. EA strikes me as fine when it tries to sort out whether malaria nets or wells are better, but somehow it often ends up arguing for preventing net negative utility lives from existing, and then . . .

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            EA strikes me as fine when it tries to sort out whether malaria nets or wells are better, but somehow it often ends up arguing for preventing net negative utility lives from existing, and then . . .

            This is a known problem with utilitarianism.
            Knowing that, the fact that some people want to hard-wire a godlike AI to be utilitarian is astonishing.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @LMC

            No, you see, the problem is people.

          • eigenmoon says:

            @Plumber

            I just don’t follow you,

            Maybe the source of confusion is that you’ve basically answered “yes” to the main question but followed the “if no” branch.

            @J Mann
            1) Both understanding the needs and acting effectively can be scaled up planet-wide nowadays with some effort. Reciprocity is fine but doesn’t scale up, so I can understand prioritizing your city above the rest, but beyond the city I don’t feel it at all.
            2) Outside from my neighborhood, I prioritize people based on their political beliefs. In distance terms, libertarians live in my city and SJWs live around the diametrically opposite point of the globe.
            3) I consider preventing negative utility people from being born to be a totally valid strategy and I thought EA was not doing it enough.

          • Plumber says:

            @eigenmoon > “…Outside from my neighborhood, I prioritize people based on their political beliefs. In distance terms, libertarians live in my city and SJWs live around the diametrically opposite point of the globe…” 

            Yeah, hard no for me, my fellow countrymen get my allegiance over foreigners even if my fellow Americans are libertarians (which I’m not).

            @eigenmoon > “.. I consider preventing negative utility people from being born to be a totally valid strategy and I thought EA was not doing it enough….”

            And I consider that a very dangerous ‘slippery slope’ to start on.

          • Aapje says:

            @eigenmoon

            If the answer is the existence of country-wide government, then, given that EU has a government already, don’t you think EU citizens would be better off by merging into a single country and no longer prioritizing people by (former) nations?

            The problem is that the French want something different from the Dutch.

            With two separate states, the French can optimize their country for their desires and the Dutch can do the same. Having one country is only beneficial if the benefits of having one country outweigh the costs of having to compromise between different cultures.

          • eigenmoon says:

            @Plumber
            I consider having a government to be a very dangerous slippery slope.

            @Aapje
            Judging by where the question that you’re answering is located, it looks like you have decided that the best way to run US is to not coalesce into competing tribes because there’s a US government already. But you also assert that the best way to run Europe is to coalesce into competing tribes despite there being an EU government. I don’t get it. Do Californians and Texans want to organize things exactly the same way?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            I consider having a government to be a very dangerous slippery slope.

            To what? Every single thing in the modern world?

          • Aapje says:

            @eigenmoon

            You are confusing description with prescription. I’m merely pointing out that a strong central government requires a sufficiently strong shared culture, as the issue is not merely the desire to sacrifice for the other, but also that a single government is less able to satisfy a more heterogeneous population. So at a certain amount of heterogeneity, people will become (too) dissatisfied with the amount of compromise necessary to share a government with people who have very different desires from their own.

            One can draw a variety of conclusions when agreeing with this, like favoring policies that create a stronger shared culture or a weaker central government in favor of stronger state, county or city governance.

            I’m not telling you what you should prefer, but merely that certain combinations of preferences are not compatible.

      • JPNunez says:

        I think that the closest chance was putting the government as a public insurer when Obamacare was in its planning/discussion stages. But it was killed because, I assume, it had the possibility to have grown to absorb the rest of the insurers.

        Gonna assume the path to reform goes through something like that. Maybe Medicare for All will pass, or maybe it will have to grow up from some other public option.

      • AG says:

        Very much agree with Murphy’s comment here. We saw this already with the opposition to Trump’s plan to make prices transparent, a policy I dearly wish had gone through.

        The health industry out to carve out every bit of rent it can is an apolitical force, and it will aim for that Molochian worst-of-both-worlds with all of its might.

    • Matt M says:

      On the other hand, Mr. Market has at least the potential to do so- I’m particularly intrigued by the proposed joint Amazon-JP Morgan-Berkshire Hathaway health company called Haven, which is purportedly a consortium to limit healthcare costs. One thing’s for sure- without the necessary political will, the only other force powerful enough to prevent hospitals from charging $10 for one (!) throat lozenge is the capitalist system itself.

      I believe that operating a completely free market in medicine would be the best solution here.

      Of course, that doesn’t sound very popular. But the good news is that we might end up getting it anyway when government schemes backfire.

      As an example, the Affordable Care Act seems to have significantly increased the portion of the population that relies on high deductible and high co-pay plans. In the short run and in terms of first-order effects, this is bad, as it means poor people have to pay more than they did previously. In the long run, well, an insurance plan with a deductible so high you never meet it, or a co-pay so high that you’re always bearing a huge amount of expense yourself, is, essentially, like being in a free market for medicine.

      The more people who have such plans, the more cost conscious health care consumers, in general, will be. And the more cost conscious the consumers are, the more cost conscious the providers will become.

      • SamChevre says:

        The key thing that would make health care more free-market like (in my opinion) would be some idea how much things are going to cost. Being cost-conscious is hard to implement when the answer to “how much does this cost” is “somewhere between $10 and $10,000”.

        • Matt M says:

          Yeah, obviously.

          But the reason it’s like that is because until pretty recently, nobody cared.

          Compare this to dentistry, elective surgery, or veterinary medicine, and it’s the exact opposite. The receptionist at my dentist’s office knows, off the top of her head, how much a filling costs. Because it matters to most patients.

          Create a world where everyone has insurance with a five-digit deductible and a 50% co-pay, and you can bet that explicit price lists will start showing up in lobbies pretty damn quick.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          It’s a hard problem. Expensive treatments so often look just like cheap treatments — “Take these pills every day” can be dirt cheap or ruinous, depending on what the pills are for. The population of people with a given condition or disease is tiny compared to, say, the number of people who might buy a car, so you’re never going to see a Consumer Reports article that breaks down the cost/benefit of various possible treatments.

      • BBA says:

        There hasn’t been a “free market” in medicine since the 16th century, when the Royal College of Physicians lobbied Parliament to require doctors to be licensed.

        Now I’m aware that you’re an ancap and want to abolish all laws and let anyone call themselves “doctor.” This has approximately zero chance of happening. But I do think changing the definition of “practicing medicine” to allow nurses and PAs to provide more services without an MD’s involvement would bring costs down without harming safety much if at all.

        Also: certificates of need. They kinda made sense in the ’40s when government funding for healthcare mainly came in the form of capital grants for building hospitals. They don’t in any other context. Get rid of them. There’s not much risk of market churn, hospitals are expensive enough to build as is.

        • Matt M says:

          The problems relating to a lack of price transparency are largely unrelated to the problems of the government forcibly restricting the supply of care in general.

          Government imposed rationing of care results in the prices being higher than they otherwise would be, sure. But that’s still not the reason that the list price for an aspirin at a hospital is $900.

          Forcing people to pay for routine services, in cash, just like they do for everything else, would still bring competition to the system, even within the confines of various other interventions that will raise prices in general.

    • Garrett says:

      The only thing I’ve been able to come up with which is both politically possible and likely to have a benefit is to change the medical school requirements. As it stands right now, in order to get into medical school you are required to have an undergraduate degree and have completely a number of prerequisite courses. The undergraduate degree doesn’t matter, with a lot of doctors having degrees in eg. philosophy, though the prerequisite courses do seem to matter (biology, chemistry, etc.).

      Removing the undergraduate degree from that requirement set so that the model would be set up so people would be accepted with only the required prerequisite courses could easily shave 2 years of otherwise unnecessary time spend in college. This reduces costs for the to-be doctor by 2 years of undergrad plus interest, it allows doctors to start practicing medicine sooner, hopefully providing for additional years of service prior to retirement. And it allows for better work/life balance for people who want to start a family.

      • AG says:

        Wouldn’t credential signalling make the undergraduate degree basically required?
        You’d have to pair this with opening a whole lot more med schools now, and the whole establishment has spent years purposefully restricting the supply of doctors to keep salaries high.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        As it stands right now, in order to get into medical school you are required to have an undergraduate degree and have completely a number of prerequisite courses. The undergraduate degree doesn’t matter, with a lot of doctors having degrees in eg. philosophy, though the prerequisite courses do seem to matter (biology, chemistry, etc.).

        According to Scott, the real bottleneck for doctors isn’t medical school slots, it’s residency slots. In fact, Scott himself failed to get a residency in his first year out of medical school, and didn’t get one until his second year; that’s one doctor-year wasted right there, for no good reason.

        • Garrett says:

          Yes. But I’m not talking about increasing the number of slots available, which, as you noted, is another ball of wax. I’m simply looking to reduce the number of years of schooling and interest required to be an otherwise-qualified doctor.

          The related fact you bring up is also associated with cost disease: why is it that someone who is otherwise a licensed physician (has an MD/DO) cannot get an independent job practicing medicine without going through a residency? Why isn’t the MD sufficient? And if something else is going to be required, why isn’t it part of or able to be guaranteed as a part of the MD application?

          • John Schilling says:

            Yes. But I’m not talking about increasing the number of slots available, which, as you noted, is another ball of wax. I’m simply looking to reduce the number of years of schooling and interest required to be an otherwise-qualified doctor.

            To what purpose?

            I mean, it’s not that this is a bad thing, and it would be a nice bonus for future doctors that they get a year of their lives and $50,000 in educational costs back, but it would be almost purely a private benefit for doctors. For the rest of the economy, there’s a demand curve for doctors that says with a steady supply of X new doctors per year, the market salary for a doctor is $Y. Right now, the residency bottleneck means that, yep, we get X new doctors per year. You’re not proposing anything that will change that, and you’re not proposing anything that will change the demand curve, so after your proposed reform we’ll still be getting X new doctors per year at cost $Y per doctor.

            The doctors get to keep more of the $Y for themselves, medical schools and bankers get less of the $Y; and where’s the benefit for anyone else?

          • Aapje says:

            @Garrett

            People from many different professions also don’t get an independent job after getting a degree, but work under supervision. The issue may be that there is this idea that doctors must work independently.

      • albatross11 says:

        I don’t think this would make much difference. I mean, it would make sense (doctors in other countries don’t need an undergrad degree, and yet seem to do fine), but I don’t think it would change much of the actual cost of medicine in the US. Medical schools aren’t capturing much of that crazy medical-cost inflation either.

    • Two McMillion says:

      I have a number of friends who are opposed to health insurance for religious reasons. All of them have stories like this (verbatim from a Facebook post):

      “Your ER bill is $6840.50.”

      “I’m paying cash.”

      “Oh. Well, in that case, your ER bill is $684.06.”

      I don’t think compensation for doctors is causing this.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        After getting burned a couple of times for reasons various, I’ve learned to reverse this trick: I can pay the cash rate at the clinic, and then bill my insurance company myself.

        • Incurian says:

          That’s a pretty impressive life-hack. Any tips or lessons learned?

          • Mark Atwood says:

            Read the instructions, keep the paperwork, be willing to spend at least a couple of hours per bill, and have a tech setup where you can say “oh, you misplaces my fax, ok, I just sent you another copy right now, it should be in your fax machine, Ill wait right here for you to go pick it up”.

    • SamChevre says:

      Just in case you haven’t read it, one of the most helpful references on medical spending and the cost drivers is What makes the US health care system so expensive by Austin Carrol. It’s a decade old, so pre-Obamacare, but the cost drivers do not seem to have changed much.

      • dodrian says:

        I was just about to post this link myself, is an excellent primer on us healthcare costs.

        One thing it doesn’t look at, which I suspect is a big driver of health costs in the US, is overprovision of services. Some of this is a unique problem to the US: the US has a lot more rural communities than most countries, which still want a decently equipped hospital or clinic, but have to support it with fewer people.

        I’d like to elaborate more and discuss a few other things and the political causes and implications, but think it’s best to hold off to the not culture war prohibited thread.

    • John Schilling says:

      To reduce the cost of healthcare in America- many hundreds of thousands or millions of doctors/nurses/practitioners would have to accept less money for their work (in some cases, a lot less)

      This will not happen. And it isn’t a question of lacking the political will to make it happen, but of wage stickiness being a powerful force. If you ask professional workers with reasonable job mobility to take large pay cuts, they’ll leave instead. If you somehow impose those pay cuts across the industry, enough professionals at the margin will either retire early or shift careers that you won’t be able to fill the slots you need unless, oops, you’re OK with paying something close to the old salaries after all.

      You can perhaps camouflage that by “paying” them in perks and benefits rather than cash, but that’s how we got into this mess in the first place.

      and probably several hundreds of thousands of people would have to actually lose their job as it’s obsoleted (billers, coders, admins, the 1-2 people every doctor’s office has to employ just to deal with health insurance companies, etc.)

      Now you’re talking. The first response to any proposal to cut the cost of X, for any value of X, ought to be the question “Who gets fired?”. Because if you don’t fire(*) people, there won’t be cost savings, and if there are cost savings, they will be roughly proportional to the firings. If the claim is that you can save money by reducing Fraud, Waste, and Inefficiency(tm), fine, who are you going to fire on the basis that their jobs were inherently fraudulent, wasteful, and inefficient?

      As you note, there isn’t the political will to make this happen, and that isn’t going to change.

      It might be possible to create from scratch a parallel, private health care system with lower costs from the start because you didn’t hire as many people to begin with (or hired nurse practitioners to do some of the work that used to be done by doctors, etc). The three problems I see with that are:

      1. You obviously can’t do this in private if you are competing with a free public option that provides nominally equivalent care, where “free” may just mean “we already picked your pocket to pay for this, you can use it or not but you’re not getting the money back”

      2. You probably can’t sell this to customers with the fixed belief that they are entitled to the Best Possible Health Care, because the competition will point to the services that would have been provided by the people you didn’t hire (or the NPs you hired in place of MDs) to claim that yours isn’t the Best Possible Health Care.

      3. You can’t sell this if someone passes a law that says you can’t, claiming that it would be unconscionable for you to sell second-rate health care that don’t meet modern standards that, as expressed in statutory language, conveniently require you to hire all the people that the current system does. And who lobbied for that law.

      My guess is that you wouldn’t face too many problems if you were to set up Bob’s Discount All-Cash Health Mart targeting e.g. oil workers in North Dakota on the grounds that they aren’t being well-served by the existing North Dakota health care infrastructure plus, ugh, deep flyover country, nobody is going to notice what you are doing because that might require their setting foot in North Dakota.

      As you try to scale, you’ll be stepping on many feet in more civilized and cosmopolitan realms, and then you’ll run into trouble. Unless you time it just right, to start offering service in the civilized world exactly as the existing system implodes and can’t provide health care at any price.

      * In the broad sense of doing something that results in you no longer sending them money and no longer using whatever it was they provided in exchange for that money.

      • J Mann says:

        I suspect that the reformers hope that they can boil the frog – that once they take control of healthcare payments, then can then start squeezing gradually.

      • Evan Þ says:

        There’ve been a few private cash-only clinics for a while, e.g. this one from Greeneville, TN that got into a magazine about fifteen years ago. I hear their patrons are happy with them, but most people aren’t their patrons.

    • DinoNerd says:

      Please repost this one the next CW-ok thread, I’m kind of biting my tongue to avoid responding here, even though I’d like to discuss this.

    • proyas says:

      At least killer robots won’t have these problems since they won’t need healthcare. Presumably, they’d be able to self-repair or to fix each other for free.

  43. hash872 says:

    As a centrist liberal technocratic neoliberal wonky type- I am Officially Giving Up on the US solving its healthcare cost issues via (really any) type of regulation that the federal government could possibly pass- and am instead looking to the market to hopefully come up with a fix. I came to this realization gradually, but it sort of crystallized in the last week or so. It doesn’t mean that I’m opposed to whatever Reasonable Center Left Healthcare Proposal that gets cooked up (I’m cautiously open to the public option, especially for those 50+), but I don’t see anything that’s being proposed (even single payer) as addressing the real issue with US healthcare- cost.

    To reduce the cost of healthcare in America- many hundreds of thousands or millions of doctors/nurses/practitioners would have to accept less money for their work (in some cases, a lot less)- and probably several hundreds of thousands of people would have to actually lose their job as it’s obsoleted (billers, coders, admins, the 1-2 people every doctor’s office has to employ just to deal with health insurance companies, etc.) There’s absolutely zero political will to do any of this in the US, and I don’t have to theorize- we see this proven in, say, the absolute inability of the US to implement even the mildest of cost reductions, the Cadillac Tax on very generous healthcare plans. It was passed under Obamacare, has been delayed on a bipartisan basis since then, and now repealing it is one of the few bipartisan things Trump & the Dems can agree on. Here, even the most moderate 1% step towards reduced payments for doctors, nurses & hospitals was viciously fought tooth & nail by the healthcare lobby. Please, tell me again how the US is going to reduce costs to European levels, which would entail at times dramatic cuts to doctor incomes and hospital bottom lines.

    I had sort of a Zen koan moment reading a recent short Tyler Cowen piece entitled ‘Which of these claims is false?‘:

    • The Democratic-controlled House just voted to abolish the “Cadillac tax” on employer-supplied health plans.

    • The Independent Payments Advisory Board no longer exists, having been abolished with support from both parties.

    • In the public option for Democratic-controlled Washington State, reimbursement rates were set at up to 160 percent of Medicare levels.

    • Single-payer health care will save America a great amount of money.

    ‘Medicare For All’ seems likely to close dozens & dozens of rural hospitals, which rely on the much higher non-Medicare reimbursement rates. Imagine closing the only hospital in a rural area, which thousands of people rely on- then multiply that for every rural state. Imagine reducing nurse staffing levels to European levels, and tangling with one of the few effective & strong unions in America. Imagine telling all of the doctors in the US (after med school, residencies, fellowships, six figures in debt, etc.) that their income will be reduced by a third or more. Literally none of this is going to happen, even if single payer healthcare is passed tomorrow. There is no real political will for reducing providers’ incomes.

    On the other hand, Mr. Market has at least the potential to do so- I’m particularly intrigued by the proposed joint Amazon-JP Morgan-Berkshire Hathaway health company called Haven, which is purportedly a consortium to limit healthcare costs. One thing’s for sure- without the necessary political will, the only other force powerful enough to prevent hospitals from charging $10 for one (!) throat lozenge is the capitalist system itself.

    (Deeper themes that could be explored- me growing more conservative as I grow older- though, I’m still not opposed to a more government-run healthcare system, I’m just skeptical that it would be an effective cost cutter for a bloated sector. Another possible deeper theme is the inability of representative democracy to tackle entrenched, powerful, rent-seeking parts of society- though to be fair, this seems to be an issue in authoritarian countries too)

  44. Tenacious D says:

    I recently learned that there is a discontinuity in the Amtrak rail network on the East Coast in Boston. There are proposals to complete the link with a tunnel, but the department of transportation got burned by the Big Dig and is consequently leery of tunnelling projects in downtown Boston. The MassDOT estimate (for 1.5 miles of tunnel) is $9–18 billion (depending on the number of tracks); transit activists point instead to a study from Harvard that put a $4–6 billion price tag on the project. I hope this isn’t too-CW for an open thread, but I thought it was a good example of how we could have more/newer/nicer infrastructure if it wasn’t for cost disease.

    • perlhaqr says:

      I wonder if it would be cheaper to just go around Boston, instead.

    • johan_larson says:

      Anyone have an estimate of how much it would cost to buy the real estate on the straightline path? I’m thinking buy the real estate (using eminent domain if necessary, to get it at uninflated prices), tear it down, build the track, fill in with new buildings as much as possible.

      And if that’s not possible, someone cue “Monorail,” please.

      • Maxander says:

        It’s probably stating the obvious, but I don’t think cutting a path through downtown Boston is a viable answer. The land value would probably hit $10 B to begin with*, the value of the buildings you’re tearing down would be on the same magnitude- and worse, the path would likely have to wind it’s way around a bunch of Revolutionary War-ish historical sites that people wouldn’t let you cut down.

        (Likewise, to perlhaqr- check out the property values in the suburbs of Boston. Perimeter grows faster than diameter, so I suspect that’s not going to turn out well either.)

        * Someone with a lot of time on their hands could try to get a better estimate out of this; I don’t know if there’s a more accessible way to get at that data, but it would be interesting to see.

        • EchoChaos says:

          It’s probably stating the obvious, but I don’t think cutting a path through downtown Boston is a viable answer.

          It’s a viable answer to all sorts of things. 😉

          • perlhaqr says:

            Where is Godzilla when you really need him?

          • John Schilling says:

            Tokyo, of course. But how can Japan be in a twenty-year economic stagnation, when they have such a huge advantage over the rest of the world in infrastructure development costs?

          • Randy M says:

            This is what economists call “The Broken Everything” fallacy.

          • HowardHolmes says:

            @John Shilling

            But how can Japan be in a twenty-year economic stagnation, when they have such a huge advantage over the rest of the world in infrastructure development costs?

            Some of it is that Japan’s GDP growth numbers overstate the problem. Since their population is shrinking, they can have per capita GDP growth while having zero growth in total. Site needed, but I think they are growing per capita.

      • Tenacious D says:

        A 1.5 mile path with an average width of 200 ft is almost 40 acres. According to this article, the cost of land in Boston is $0.6 million per acre, with a 10x multiplier for the city center. The JFK Federal Building is in that area and when it was built in the 1960s, the site cost $1.2 million and the construction cost $24 million. Making the very rough assumption that this 20:1 ratio between land and improvements is typical for that part of Boston, we’re looking at:
        $0.6M/acre x 10 x 21 x 40 acres = $5040 million, or $5 billion to buy up the land. However, some of the land between the two stations probably isn’t for sale at any price, since it includes landmarks like the Old South Meeting House and Old State House.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      … Pay the spaniards 2.5 billion to get it done on a turn-key basis, watch them laugh at you all the way to the bank for overpaying by a factor of ten? (Spain metro tunnel costs, 100 milion euro per km)

  45. Laukhi says:

    I am a citizen of the People’s Republic of China, and have since emigrated to the USA as a permanent resident. Are there any significant reasons why I should not apply for American citizenship, if I do not intend to return to China as a resident?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Taxes. Once you’re an American citizen your worldwide income is taxable in the US (subject to certain deductions and about a billion special cases)

      • syrrim says:

        You only pay tax up to a maximum of whatever the US income tax is. If the country you’re in charges more or equal to that, then you don’t pay tax.

        • Murphy says:

          It’s a bit more subtle than that.

          If the country you’re in splits taxes differently you can get royally screwed.

          For example, if you’re in a country that uses extremely high sales taxes to raise money but low income taxes: the IRS doesn’t care how much of your income went to sales taxes.

          throw in similar for buying and selling property, capital gains vs other types of income and any other ways you can shape a tax system. You can end up liable for far more tototal taxes than if you were a US citizen in the US or a non US citizen in the country where you’re resident.

          It can also make getting a bank account much much harder in some countries.

          US banking regulation has a lot of mandatory reporting for the bank accounts of US citizens and the regulations apply to any bank that wants to be able to do buisness with US banks.

          Setting up the reporting infrastructure is expensive and would be a net loss if you have few US citizen customers.

          Some banks with few potential american citizen customers deal with this by refusing to allow US citizens to open accounts.

      • Matthias says:

        I was under the impression that already applies even when you are just a permanent resident?

        • Ragged Clown says:

          Green card holder living the UK here.

          It is true that permanent residents get taxed on worldwide income (the same as US citizens) but it’s easier to renounce your green card than it is to renounce your citizenship.

    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      Aside from taxes, Jury Duty is the other substantial inconvenience of becoming a citizen you should consider.

      • Matthias says:

        Doesn’t your name only enter the local jury duty ballot, if you register as a voter?

        • joeym says:

          It probably depends on the state, but I have received jury summons (summonses? not sure about the plural here) from two different states despite not being a citizen (I had to send a copy of my foreign passport or something like that). The second time, the summons was actually forwarded to my address in a third state.

        • Ragged Clown says:

          California DMV registers even non-citizens for jury duty. When you receive your summons, you have to self-certify that you are not eligible.

          Fun fact: if you receive a jury summons you are not allowed to access the website where you self-certify from outside the United States and you have to send an old-fashioned letter.

        • Evan Þ says:

          A number of states are querying driver’s license databases for jury duty summonses as well, specifically because they’ve heard people are refusing to register to vote to avoid that.

      • bullseye says:

        I’m 38, I’ve lived in the U.S. my whole life, and I’ve had to spend a total of two days at jury duty. It seems like a *really* trivial reason to avoid citizenship. Is my experience typical? I know some people have to be on the jury for a long trial, but even then it’s not something that you’re going to have to do over and over.

        • The Nybbler says:

          I get called for state petit jury one to two days every three years (and I never get chosen), but if you pull a Federal Grand Jury it’s 18 months 9:30 am to 4:00pm one day a week, and you could have to commute a significant distance (60 miles for me). Vacation? If it wasn’t planned beforehand, suck it, peasant, you’re ours. There’s a $1000 fine plus three days in jail if you don’t show up; it’s not clear if you still have to serve if you just take the contempt citation.

          • Garrett says:

            I can’t possibly imagine either of us being kept on a Federal Grand Jury.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I can’t see anybody on this board getting selected for any jury. Usually any amount of critical thinking ability gets you disqualified

          • bullseye says:

            I can’t see anybody on this board getting selected for any jury. Usually any amount of critical thinking ability gets you disqualified

            That’s more or less what my dad told me. He believes he didn’t get picked for a medical malpractice case because he has a degree in biology, and they did pick someone he’s pretty sure was mentally disabled. On the other hand, I saw a medical doctor get picked for a murder case.

          • AG says:

            The thing that lawyers want to de-select for is a juror who can convince other jurors.

            They can deal with jurors who can merely think, because then they can count safe seats, battle for swing seats, and be confident in their calculus. But a juror who can convince other jurors makes things too unpredictable.

        • Matt M says:

          33 and have never had jury duty. I got a summons in the mail once, but was able to get out of it because I was in the military at the time.

        • Squirrel of Doom says:

          Depends on where you live, I guess. In my area, I get dragged in once every 1-2 years for half a day.

          They call in ~200 people to pick a 12+3 people jury, so you’re pretty safe, but last time I was among the finalist for a 2 month hemorrhoid malpractice trial.

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      In addition to taxes as others have mentioned, there’s FATCA filing requirements any year when you have more than $10,000 in any foreign bank account or interest in a company. Also you’re subject to US law when in foreign countries, for example bribery (even if it’s normal and customary and the only way to get stuff done in the country).

      Being an American citizen is just a giant pain in the ass if you’re not taking advantage of the benefits.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I know that you’re asking for reasons not to obtain American citizenship, but if you’re not planning on returning to mainland China permanently I think that the cost-benefit analysis works out in favor of naturalizing.

      You’ve probably already experienced how much of a hassle it is to obtain travel visas as a Chinese national. Americans basically don’t have to deal with any of that. That logic applies in many domains: an American passport is an extraordinarily valuable commodity because it opens doors that would otherwise be closed, some even to a permanent resident of the United States. There are costs associated with citizenship but it’s still a remarkably good deal.

      I know a number of Chinese-Americans who immigrated from the mainland, some of whom have been here for decades, and none of them have ever suggested that they regret the decision to obtain American citizenship. On the contrary, they’re among the most patriotic people I know in large part because they recognize the vast opportunity they were given as American citizens.

      Anyway good luck making your decision. I can’t speak for the whole country, but if you do decide to embrace American citizenship let us here at SSC know so that we can welcome you.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      If you are worried about the US getting into a really serious war, citizenship carries the risk of getting drafted.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        Non-citizen immigrants are also required to register for Selective Service and can in theory be drafted, though in practice I don’t think they ever have been- the requirement for non-citizens to register may be a post-Vietnam change.

        Plus, of course, only men between the ages of 18 and 25 have to register.

        (The naturalization oath does involve a promise to “bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law” but I’m not sure how much this means in practice)

        • Evan Þ says:

          In the Civil War, the Union and Confederacy both drafted non-citizen immigrants who’d registered an intent to become citizens. Of course, that was well before the modern Selective Service infrastructure.

        • John Schilling says:

          I’m going to guess that the odds of being drafted into a future war as a US citizen are of the same order as the odds of being interned as an enemy alien because you aren’t a US citizen. Both of those are 20th-century things; it isn’t impossible that a major war could bring about their resurgence, but the United States Army has made it I believe abundantly clear that it does not want and can not envision profitably using the sort of manpower it could get from 21st-century conscription.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Citizenship didn’t guarantee people civil rights last time, though. Korematsu was born in Oakland.

          • bullseye says:

            I would guess the odds of internment are much higher. The brass don’t want a draft, even though we’re always at war; modern tech means they’re interested in quality over quantity of recruits.

        • Jaskologist says:

          I don’t place high odds on the US being in a war in our lifetimes that requires a draft, but if it is, I’d bet China is in that war as well, doing their own draft.

          • Matt M says:

            Maybe if you’re a citizen of both, you end up being considered suspicious by both countries and then neither of them wants you for their army?

            The perfect conscription loophole!

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            If you’re living in the US the Chinese draft is probably easier to avoid though.

          • birdboy2000 says:

            I highly doubt that a (non-proxy) war between nuclear powers will last long enough to make conscription worthwhile.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Like I said, I highly doubt there’s any US war coming soon that would involve a draft. But if there were, it probably involves either Russia or China (or both), and of the two I’d put China a lot higher. Then, you need to balance that risk against the chance of China having its own war; it’s probably somewhat more likely for China to go to (non-proxy) war with Russia than with the US.

            Again, I think all of these are very unlikely. You shouldn’t be deciding your citizenship based on the draft.

    • John Schilling says:

      The problem with becoming a US citizen, is that it is extraordinarily difficult to un-become a US citizen. The US government has the suspicion that the sort of person who might renounce US citizenship on either political principle or economic pragmatism might also show up ten years later and say that, well, they need the United States Marine Corps to bail them out of whatever trouble they got up to in wherever-stan, and they didn’t really mean it when they sent that angry letter to the US Embassy in a fit of youthful idealism, etc, whatever. So if you decide to become a US citizen and later change your mind, that’s going to be difficult. Not impossible, but it’s a major legal hassle, and I believe part of it involves renouncing your right to ever set foot in the US again even as a tourist.

      As others have noted, one cost of vestigial US citizenship if you change your mind but don’t make it tediously official, is that the US government will still insist on collecting taxes to pay for those United States Marines you might hypothetically be calling on ten years later. Another is that if you decide you’re going to live in e.g. Europe and so open a bank account in some European country, that bank is likely to reject your business on the grounds that they don’t want the hassle of dealing with someone whose exposure to US taxes and financial laws is uncertain. This has reportedly become a serious problem for US expatriates living abroad in recent years.

      If you’re certain that you don’t plan on returning to China and certain that the United States is going to be your permanent home, then by all means apply for citizenship, and welcome. If you’re certain that you don’t plan on returning to China but you’re not sure which non-Chinese country you’re going to wind up living in, probably hold off on US citizenship until that’s clear one way or another.

      • tocny says:

        It’s an ironic stance given the dispute over Americans renouncing being subjects of the Crown in the lead up to the War of 1812 and their impressment by the Royal Navy.

  46. dodrian says:

    Consumer electronics are becoming increasingly locked down and managed by the corporations that make them. Wherever possible I prefer to buy “open” hardware of varying degrees: either stuff running open source software, or stuff with moddable firmware and an active community, or sometimes just a platform with dev-friendly APIs to get more usage out of the item. For example:

    – I bought a OnePlus phone based on the community saying how easy it is to install a custom OS (which greatly extended the life of my Samsung Galaxy Ace, and greatly frustrated me when I couldn’t manage the same with my LG G3)
    – I loved my Pebble smartwatch , which had a pretty neat JavaScript platform for writing and running watch apps (sadly Fitbit bought and killed Pebble, and I lost mine shortly thereafter and haven’t found anything nearly as good to replace it)
    – I’ve been playing around with a Picroft, and thinking about getting a Mycroft home assistant
    – Retropie has been a lot of fun to play around with as a home entertainment system
    – PyPortal from adafruit is a fun programmable screen for displaying things and simple tasks

    What other stuff is out there? Is love to see an open e-reader (Kindle) in particular, as well as find a replacement smartwatch.

    • Laukhi says:

      I have heard good things about Kobo devices if you’re looking for e-readers; apparently it’s possible to install Linux on them. It looks like there’s GPL firmware being developed also, although I’m not sure how mature it is: https://github.com/ccoffing/OcherBook.

      The project itself seems to be dead, but if you’re interested you could also try for a device listed here: https://wiki.mobileread.com/wiki/Openinkpot.

    • ck says:

      Some friends have been building an open-source virtual reality headset. They’re still pretty early, but have working demo hardware and a website explaining more: https://atmos.world. A bit beyond traditional consumer electronics, but worth checking out.

    • eigenmoon says:

      AsteroidOS works properly on about 1.5 Android smartwatches.
      If you’d rather wear an ugly microcontroller, there’s Hexiwear.

      There’s an supposedly open hardware laptop, but it’s very slow.

      If you’re fed with Android, there’s UBPorts.

  47. Jeremiah says:

    As part of the fortnightly archival recordings we’ve been doing of SSC classics, this weekend we released:

    The Categories Were Made for Man, Not Man for the Categories (original here)

    You can follow the link above or subscribe to the podcast feed.

    We’re nearing the end of the current top posts list. And while I have the old list. And several other lists to mine, as well as my own preferences. This would be the time where suggesting something starts to be worthwhile.

  48. proyas says:

    What is the cost of building a 100-person, self-sustaining colony above Mt. Everest’s Death Zone compared to the cost of building a 100-person, self-sustaining colony on the best site on Mars?

    • MissingNo says:

      That is a great way of demonstrating that a self-sustaining colony on mars will never happen without technology so much more advanced it looks like magic.

      • John Schilling says:

        “X costs lots more than Y” and “X requires technology indistinguishable from magic” are two entirely different claims. The one does not even remotely prove the other, and you are trying to change the subject.

        • MissingNo says:

          Sure it can. What if X costs a grahams number as much as Y?

          Then, assuming Y costs a billion billion billion billion billionth of a penny, X will never happen without technology that’s basically magic. Or at the least, its going to take a *lot* of years of taxation. And with the current fiscal responsibility of the government, I doubt that’s going to be successful.

          You just need to quantify!

          • The Nybbler says:

            Such large amounts of money probably aren’t meaningful; the actual resource limit must be something more tangible.

          • John Schilling says:

            “X costs lots more than Y” and “X costs a specific large number more than Y”, are again two entirely different claims.

          • MissingNo says:

            > are again two entirely different claims.

            I can play the game of linguistics for a *long* time.

            But I was making a joke that shows a bit of a point. If the costs/risks of accomplishing X are very very high, even if it is theoretically possible to throw the earths resources at the problem it is never *actually* going to happen.

            There also isn’t anything to do on mars, unless the martians have set up some malls and bowling alleys around before we got there.

      • Clutzy says:

        They can’t even do them in places like Utah and Arizona. There is a famous one ( I forget where), where the whole team got some psychosis because the concrete ate all the oxygen, as it hadn’t cured fully.

        • DocKaon says:

          I think you’re talking about Biosphere II. They had two separate CO2 issues. One they had overall two much CO2 because they overloaded the amount of carbon in the internal ecosystem. This was because they wanted the initial carbon in the system to last for 100 years. They ended up having to use CO2 scrubbers and sequester carbon by storing dead plants. There were impacts on the crew, but it was never psychosis. Secondly, they had a discrepancy in the amount of CO2 in their atmosphere and the amount produced by the ecosystem which they were able to track to the incompletely cured concrete.

          Biosphere II would be a starting point for the cost calculations. It took several hundred million dollars and it worked for the most part supporting 7 people for 2 years. It did rely on fossil fuel power generation which you’d have to replace. You’d face different challenges sealing the structure due to the pressure difference. They also made no attempt being technologically self-sufficient, so you’d have to worry about that part.

          • John Schilling says:

            Biosphere II would be the starting point for the cost calculations, if your goal were to maximize cost. Because the goal of Biosphere II was not to support seven or eight people for two years, but to support something like seven or eight thousand distinct plant and animal species with the humans acting as caretakers/observers/evangelists. The claim that a self-sufficient ecology will necessarily require thousands of species living in closely-balanced harmony is trivially false, and the goal of the Biosphere II project was not to produce the simplest possible closed ecosystem, but the most complex possible closed ecosystem with the science and technology of the time.

            Also, they seem to have selected for a high-drama crew almost evenly divided between the science-experiment and Gaian-evangelism factions, which I think had more to do with any “psychosis” than the pO2.

            Anything with “Biosphere II” in the name(*) should be basically ignored in the context of closed-ecology life support for space exploration and settlement. People who are serious about CELSS, start with about three orders of magnitude fewer species and no qualms about violating the purity of the enclosure to keep the experiment running, and build their way up.

            * It’s OK if “Biosphere II” appears in the footnotes; the science-experiment faction of the crew did get some useful work done.

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        What’s the cost of sending 3 folks to the Moon compared to the cost of sending 3 folks down the Mariana Trench? Yet the former has been done 9 times (counting flybys) and the latter never.

        • John Schilling says:

          We’ve sent two people to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, as part of an expedition in which many support personnel came far closer to the bottom of the Mariana Trench than Michael Collins ever did to the surface of the moon.

          • DarkTigger says:

            There where two manned expeditions down there.
            The first one by Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh 1960.
            The second one by James Cameron in 2012.

            So yes there where more people on the moon than on the ground of the Mariana Trench. And no body ever walked there.

    • I W​ri​te ​B​ug​s No​t O​ut​ag​es says:

      Maybe the Everest one wouldn’t be so bad, if you set up a toll booth and charge all the tourists some quantity of supplies to pass.

    • Well... says:

      Piggybacking on here to get informed people’s thoughts on Neal Stephenson’s space survivability scenario in Seveneves (the swarm, the bolos, growing food-algae in the outer layer of the minimum viable capsules, etc.).

      ALSO:

      What is the cost of creating a 100-person self-sustaining colony on Mars? I don’t mean in dollars, I mean what things (technologies, knowledge, etc.) would it require at minimum?

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        Everything about seveneves was bloody stupid. Firstly, if your goal is to survive that specific disaster, you start digging. Enormous underground cities, with associated greenhouses and nuclear powered heat exchangers are much easier than space. It is also more politically sustainable as the clock ticks down because desperate souls are going to show up with pickaxes to help in the hopes of making enough space, rather than less.. constructive outlets.

        Second, if you are going into space to avoid this specific disaster *you go to phobos* “Dodging the local debris” was always going to run you out of reaction mass right darn quick.

        He also ran the population far to far down in the name of drama. The second part of the book should have been “People exiting from surviving subset of the many, many “dig a cave” projects doing space archaeology on the corpses of everyone from the first half” because with seven people left, you dont have the economic surplus or skills to keep life-support functional.

        • John Schilling says:

          Everything about seveneves was bloody stupid. Firstly, if your goal is to survive that specific disaster, you start digging.

          It’s not clear that digging is really superior to submerging; five kilometers of water may offer protection as good as any mine shaft and easier to arrange in scale and on short notice. Will depend on the fine details of the apocalypse and of the survival plan.

          And in “Seveneves”, the plan to ensure that humanity would survive the Event was to go deep. The bit with the orbiting arklets was the plan to alleviate some of the mental anguish of the eight billion people who were going to die, by telling them a noble lie about how some people just like them were going to live on. None of those people were meant to live more than a year or two after the sky fell, and none of them would have lived more than a year or two if that meddling nerdboy Elon Bezos hadn’t screwed up the plan.

          But, everybody was as happy as they could be under the circumstances, and no rioting crowds overran the mine shafts or submarine bases even though the actual designated survivors were a mostly-white technocratic elite, so mission accomplished.

          Now, if your goal is to survive that particular apocalypse and you are a professional astronaut who will not be invited to join Operation Benthic Refuge but might have a slot in the Orbital Distraction Project, how then do you leverage this into long-term survival and a faster-than-expected reboot of human civilization, is an interesting story. Probably more interesting than the tediously dystopian story of the designated survivors and their plan, so I’m glad Stephenson decided to tell this one instead.

    • Enkidum says:

      Orders of magnitude less. For that matter, the same is true of building a 100-person, self-sustaining colony at the bottom of the ocean. MissingNo is making a legitimate point.

    • John Schilling says:

      That’s going to depend very much on your definition of “self-sustaining”. If you’re talking about maintaining the material prosperity of early 21st century civilization indefinitely in literal and absolute autarky, Mars may have the edge in that Martian geology probably provides useful ores of nearly everything on the periodic table whereas the summit of Everest gives you air, water, and a very narrow range of rocks. You’ll wind up being thankful the downbelowers have pumped the atmosphere up to 400+ ppm CO2, because that’s probably your only source of carbon. Which is kind of useful for maintaining carbon-based life.

      If the standard is just to keep a few hundred people alive for a few generations with only minor supply shipments of specialty goods, then Everest is going to be the clear winner by far, and I’d hate to have to put a number on it. Mostly, it comes down to two key factors. First, everything on Mars has to be pressurized, even the suits people wear when they set foot outdoors. We know how to build pressure vessels and pressure suits, that’s not new technology, but it’s a whole lot more expensive than insulated walls and parkas. Second, transportation costs are much cheaper to the summit of Everest, which makes it much everything else cheaper and allows some problems to be solved with lots of dumb mass rather than expensive engineering.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Mars may have the edge in that Martian geology probably provides useful ores of nearly everything on the periodic table

        How mineable are the ores on Mars, though? I was under the impression that ores on Earth are concentrated into veins/deposits by geological, hydrological and biological forces acting over eons. But Mars is a dead world. Same problem with asteroids. No ongoing processes to concentrate the ores. So them thar asteroids is full of platinum! There’s an atom of it over there and an atom over there and an atom over there…

        • sentientbeings says:

          The idea is that you pick the asteroid that you’ve identified as having a high concentration of your target material. They vary in composition. Choosing the right one is like hitting the vein in your example.

          I’m not sure what the problem would be for Mars though – it was geologically active before, so presumably had similar sorts of geologic activity as earth. It’s not like the veins of ore evaporated after the core cooled and the atmosphere blew off.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Choosing the right one is like hitting the vein in your example.

            But all the asteroids formed in similar ways, and did not have the forces necessary to concentrate the ores.

            it was geologically active before, so presumably had similar sorts of geologic activity as earth.

            But what and for how long?

            This is a topic I’d really like to see a mining engineer and an astronomer collaborate on. I’d like to see a mining engineer state “here are the sorts of formations we need in order to be able to extract significant quantities of materials” and then an astronomer who studies the composition of asteroids and/or Mars to state whether or not these formations exist there.

          • bean says:

            This is a topic I’d really like to see a mining engineer and an astronomer collaborate on. I’d like to see a mining engineer state “here are the sorts of formations we need in order to be able to extract significant quantities of materials” and then an astronomer who studies the composition of asteroids and/or Mars to state whether or not these formations exist there.

            There has been a fair bit of research into this issue. Yes, a fair bit is confounded by a complete lack of mining engineers, but some exist. The methods will have to change some from what we do, but it’s possible.

            Today, ores mined primarily for platinum-group metals have concentrations as low as 5 to 15 ppm (source USGS), which is an order of magnitude lower than the concentration of platinum alone in high-nickle meteorites.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Okay, but the point stands that “just mine materials from Mars/asteroids” elides much, no? And in the nasty “uknown/unknowns” way. We don’t know much about mineral concentrations on Mars/asteroids, so we don’t know what mining/smelting techniques we’d need to use to extract/process it, and we don’t know how well our current mining/smelting techniques would adapt to alien environments. We don’t even know what we don’t know about how to mine in space.

            I feel like this is a Hard Problem that space enthusiasts treat as trivial.

          • bean says:

            I feel like this is a Hard Problem that space enthusiasts treat as trivial.

            Yes and no. It’s a Hard Problem in the sense that we’re going to have to learn a lot of stuff to make it work, and we won’t get it right on the first try. But it’s not like we have no clue where to start. Mining engineers have taken a look at this stuff. (My school had a big mining program, and they once did a collaborative class on asteroid mining with the aero department. Sadly, before I got there.)

            This isn’t to defend the typical internet space enthusiast who treats it as entirely trivial. But those are often people who have only a marginally better understanding of the spaceflight side, and they’re definitely not the professionals.

          • drunkfish says:

            @Conrad No, not all asteroids are the same. Specifically, a small but significant fraction of them are *pure metal*, which is the real key to mining them. You’re no longer trying to get (.e.g) platinum from rocks containing tiny bits of platinum, you have core material that has significantly concentrated out your metals already.

            I don’t know much about terrestrial platinum mines, but this wikipedia entry seems to indicate that one of Earth’s main platinum mines has of order a few tons of platinum per megaton of ore, or a few ppm platinum. This paper on one type of metallic meteorite (warning: paywall. This was not selected for its platinum content, I just randomly picked one I’ve worked on before) has platinum at 30 ppm, so much richer than ore deposits. And if you’re looking to mine iron, you don’t have any refining to do at all, you just pick up the iron that’s already in space.

            [If you’re interested in how they form, what happens is the asteroid melts and separates out a metal core, just like Earth. Then it experiences a big collision that knocks off its mantle, and you have the core exposed to space. If we could mine Earth’s core we’d never run out of precious metals, but it’s 3000 km away and we’ve managed to dig down much less than 1% of that distance]

            I know nothing about mars and your complaints are likely right for mars, but asteroid mining at least is a totally different game.

          • sentientbeings says:

            To emphasize the point that composition of the asteroid matters, here’s a recent news article about Psyche 16.

            In total, it’s estimated that Psyche’s various metals are worth a gargantuan $10,000 quadrillion.

            Most of the news articles (and headlines especially) about it are pretty terrible, lacking ppm estimates and eschewing even a modicum of economic literacy, but the example stands for the current discussion. The asteroid is theorized be part of an early planetary core. Selecting asteroids like that, which are probably not too common but don’t really need to be, is a likely way to make asteroid mining viable.

          • drunkfish says:

            @sentientbeings

            > $10,000 quadrillion

            I’m curious how much stock that number deserves, especially considering they don’t appear to source that number. That’s oddly close to the mass of psyche in kg (wikipedia puts Psyche at ~2*10^19 kg), which to me feels like they started with the $0.50/kg estimate and scaled it up. That’s about what a quick google search turns up for the price of iron.

            Regardless, bringing any substantial sized metallic asteroid back would certainly crash the global iron market, and probably many other precious metals.

        • bean says:

          Same problem with asteroids. No ongoing processes to concentrate the ores. So them thar asteroids is full of platinum! There’s an atom of it over there and an atom over there and an atom over there…

          Actually, no. A platinum-rich asteroid is going to have a concentration approximately equivalent to platinum ore on Earth. This is entirely logical, as the platinum ore probably came from an asteroid in the first place, at least the last time I looked into this.
          Basically, the forces which concentrate ores on Earth aren’t the only ones that could possibly do so. I’m not a planetary geologist, so I have no clue how class-M asteroids form, but they do exist.

          I have more on this at home.

          • Lambert says:

            How hard is assaying?
            If it’s fairly cheap compared to mining, you only have to worry about the profitability of the richest one in a million asteroids.

            How close do you have to get to shoot something with 66.8 keV x-rays and see if the Pt absorbs it?

            The ideal would be fast, long range spectroscopy combined with advanced guidance systems so you can do a primary assay via flyby.

          • drunkfish says:

            Planetary geophysicist here, the gist of it is that you form a planetesimal with a core and a mantle (just like Earth), and then you hit it hard enough to remove the mantle. My favorite example is this figure https://imgur.com/a/BI4jPc2, which is figure 3b in this paper https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04311, where red is core material and blue is mantle material. What happens (at least in this simulation) is that with a glancing impact, the impacting body (the smaller one, which in the first frame is moving to the left) gets totally ripped apart, and you string out a bunch of disrupted chunks, several of which are very metal rich. As long as those chunks can avoid reimpacting the larger body (nontrivial, but possible), you can end up with isolated asteroids that used to be part of the core of a bigger body.

        • John Schilling says:

          As bean notes, asteroidal platinum is a real thing, available at concentrations comparable to the best terrestrial ores (and we’re running out of those). In this case, it’s an anti-concentration issue. Platinum-group elements are rare but not that rare; the problem is that they dissolve neatly into molten iron, and the gravity of a couple sextillion tons of molten iron has made sure that Earth’s supply of such is buried unreachably deep under thousands of kilometers of less dense non-iron rocks. The processes that kept a modest amount of iron available in the crust, worked at the level of iron atoms and not bulk molten iron with dissolved platinum, and so the Earth’s crust is very substantially depleted in platinum compared to cosmic abundances. Asteroids, by comparison, still have their original supply, which in the nickel-iron asteroids is sufficient to be economically interesting. Indeed, the best terrestrial ores are found at old asteroid impact sites.

          As for everything else, Mars may be a “dead” world, but “dead” is in this case being used in its proper sense of “formerly alive”. Mars used to have volcanoes, oceans, rivers, salt flats, geysers, plate tectonics, and most of the other geological processes that produced interesting and valuable ores on Earth. That Mars has geologically “died”, does not mean that it has geologically “decomposed”; there’s no real mechanism for that. It should a priori be about as rich in economically valuable ores as was the Earth before curious primates started scouring the surface (and accessible depths) for all the shiny they could find.

          We won’t know for sure until we go check it out, but that is the way to bet.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Thank you, this is useful information. So asteroid platinum mining is doable, at least because our current techniques already assume asteroid-level concentrations, but for other materials not so much?

          • John Schilling says:

            To the best of our current knowledge, the Near-Earth Asteroids are likely to be good sources of high-grade steel, low-grade coal(*), glass, magnesium, and mediocre sources of platinum and water, and that’s about it. All of this seems to fall out of bash-rocks-together-at-raw-cosmological-abundance physics.
            Since we’re running out of non-mediocre platinum sources on Earth, that’s where to look for export potential; everything else will be for local or at least extraterrestrial use.

            As you get farther out into the main belt, you’ll definitely find more water and you may find other interesting bits of “geology”, but it’s harder to say with confidence because fewer bits of those asteroids ever fall to Earth.

            Mars, definitely has the interesting geology, almost certainly has a broad range of locally-useful ores, and probably has stuff worth exporting to Earth, but I think you can fit all the Martian rock samples ever assayed, on either world, into a shopping cart, and it’s a pretty random selection at that, so there’s still a whole lot of ignorance to go around. Oh, and Mars also appears to have a couple of water-rich main belt asteroids in close orbit, convenient if true but the Martian Defense Grid has so far shot down every probe we’ve sent to check.

            * Abiogenic, but fairly similar in bulk composition to lignite.

          • CatCube says:

            Actually, I’d wonder how much we really know about how to make use of these asteroids, assuming I understand your description correctly.

            It sounds like you’re saying the platinum is in metallic iron in asteroids. AFAIK, all of the terrestrial sources make use of either ores or the native metal in rock, where they make heavy use of the ability to grind the run-of-mine rock into small particles. That’s going to be…problematic if the “ore” is metallic. Retrieving the platinum in this case will probably require melting the iron, which is going to be extremely energy-intensive compared to the comminution processes used in typical mining.

            The economics of mining can be really odd if you’re not familiar with it. I went to college near the Quincy Mine, where they mined copper in the late 19th through the mid-20th century. The mines in that area originally started looking for large fissures of the native metal. You’d think that it’d be easiest to pull chunks of pure copper out of the ground, right? It turns out that the native metal was a pain in the ass to deal with requiring large amounts of effort to get out of the rock, and the mines only became economic once they stopped chasing the large 100%-pure hunks of metal and started mining the 2% stuff because they could just blast that out of the walls of the drift, shovel it into a skip, and deal with it on the surface in the stamp mills.

            Plus, it’s worth noting that AFAIK, the Quincy didn’t “run out” of the copper they were mining, it just got to be too expensive to haul it up the 9,000 foot shaft (the deepest in the world when they abandoned the mine). If you’re starting to talk about farting around with asteroids, you need to ask if the mines here on earth have actually no metal to be found, or if they just priced out–because, man, if you’re going to get stuff from 80,000,000 miles away, you have to ask if maybe just going to a 12,000-foot shaft will pencil out first.

            It’s possible that there are processes out there to make use of these asteroids (or that I misunderstood what you’re saying!) but it might be a while before it’s worth it compared to chasing even smaller or more remote sources here on earth.

            Edit: Aaaand, of course you expand on it while I did my own comment.

          • Randy M says:

            I thought the existence of abiogenic fossil fuels was somewhat controversial; is that just oil, or is that just the theory that some significant portion of earth’s supply is abiogenic?

          • bean says:

            @CatCube

            A reasonable point, but you missed one thing. We’re in space, so energy is cheap. Get a big solar mirror and melt away. I’m also not sure that the melting cost of the iron itself is that big a deal. We melt iron all the time to work it. Platinum is valuable, and the iron is a useful byproduct if you can get even basic fabrication facilities in orbit. If you’re really clever, you can just melt it once and cast the byproduct into girders and stuff directly.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            the Quincy didn’t “run out” of the copper they were mining, it just got to be too expensive to haul it up the 9,000 foot shaft

            That might be the official story, but we all know the real reason.

          • John Schilling says:

            It sounds like you’re saying the platinum is in metallic iron in asteroids. AFAIK, all of the terrestrial sources make use of either ores or the native metal in rock, where they make heavy use of the ability to grind the run-of-mine rock into small particles. That’s going to be…problematic if the “ore” is metallic.

            From the meteoric samples we have to work with, the best asteroidal ores are likely to be ~80% rock with the metal content in the form of small grains and of ~100 ppm platinum content. We may be able to find asteroids that have a fair supply of this this stuff pre-crushed into a sandy mix by eons of micrometeoroid erosion; if not, we’ll have to do our own rock-crushing, and for the moment how to do rock-crushing in microgravity and vacuum is mostly handwaving.

            Given crushed mix, magnetic separation gets you just the metal (which is mostly nickel and iron).

            Carbonyl extraction pulls the nickel and iron out without the energy cost of melting it, and incidentally is a fine way to vapor-deposit a decent grade of nickel steel wherever you have use for it. It also involves horribly toxic working fluids, but there’s nobody to poison who isn’t already wearing a spacesuit.

            That should leave you with a concentrate that is mostly cobalt but roughly half a percent platinum. Not clear whether you want to refine that further on site or just ship the concentrate back to Earth as is.

          • John Schilling says:

            I thought the existence of abiogenic fossil fuels was somewhat controversial;

            It’s controversial on Earth because the Earth’s crust gets recycled every billion years or so which should give any free carbon or hydrocarbon materials adequate opportunity to oxidize to water and CO2. Ways to avoid or reverse that without biology are non-obvious and controversial.

            Asteroids and meteoroids have spent basically all of time in a non-oxidizing environment, and it is a brute fact that we keep finding meteoroids that have lots of bulk carbonaceous material. We’re pretty sure it’s not fossilized space whale corpses.

          • Randy M says:

            Thanks John.

          • Eternaltraveler says:

            the best asteroidal ores are likely to be ~80% rock

            Psyche is 90%+ nickle/iron and is likely to be the differentiated core of a protoplanet. If nothing else there are likely to be many bite sized chunks of pysche that have been blasted off over the eons as well as the main body it self.

            https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/16_Psyche

          • b_jonas says:

            Conrad Honcho: I thought that rhenium was so rare in Earth because the Dark Lord collected most of it for his dark magic experiments, culminating in forging the One Ring. His remaining stockpiles are still buried under the Orodruin, and nobody dares to try to retrive it from there. But now John Schilling says that it’s known geological phenomenons that make these elements sink to the core of earth.

        • bullseye says:

          Why aren’t we mining Antarctica? It’s remote, it’s technically difficult because you have to get under the ice, and there’s a treaty that says you can’t. But I figure if the mining companies thought there was money to be made there they could probably get the treaty revised. Anywhere in space is going to be even more remote and technically difficult, so I really don’t see it happening without huge advances in space travel.

          • Dack says:

            The advantage of mining in space is that you then have material to build stuff in space without paying trillions of dollars to launch it up there.

            If we discover an abundance of platinum in Antarctica, then I’m sure steps will be taken to mine it one way or another.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      I would imagine that it’s a few orders of magnitude cheaper. Aside from the substantially more hospitable conditions, climbers were able to ascend over 8 km and return safely as early in 1922 while even today not one human has ever set foot on Mars. Even a brutal climb is still a much more reliable means of resupply and reinforcement than space travel.

      The important point, in my mind at least, is why nobody has even attempted to make a year-round camp in the “Death Zone.” Namely, that anything that could be done 8 km up could be done better and cheaper at a lower elevation. Which is what makes me very skeptical of Martian colonization plans: nobody has managed to explain to me what Martian colonists would be doing that couldn’t be done better and cheaper on Earth. Without some economic justification for existing, the colony would be nothing more than a curiosity or a prestige project and would likely be quickly abandoned just like the moon landings were.

      • ChrisA says:

        I think the idea of a Mars colony is to protect the human race against the extinction threat. An Everest colony won’t do the same. The other justification is that it is the start of a space economy where billions of people live in space. The question though is whether the risk of extinction on earth is high enough to justify the loss of utility of the descendants of initial pioneers on Mars. As the first people living on Mars, probably these pioneers are fine with living in a pretty awful place (no natural sunlight, no natural vegetation, small community etc) but their children probably won’t be so enthusiastic.

        Myself I would suggest that we don’t try to establish a Mars colony until we have greatly improved AI. Then I would send a bunch of AI robots to make the living space as nice as possible, my idea has always been giant caverns (hundreds of meters tall and perhaps 1km in diameter), with ambient air pressure similar to earth, filled with earth like vegetation, and with ceilings set up with billions of LEDs so that it appears like an earth sky from any reasonable distance.

        More generally I think there is sometimes a wish to rush technology thanks to Government funding, which could eventually delay the widespread implementation of that technology. Nuclear is one example, without Government it probably would not have been widely deployed in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The control and design technology was not really ready however, so there were accidents that created public mistrust, which is now one of the main reasons we can’t really use nuclear power as an alternative to GHG power.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          The problem with the idea of using a Mars colony as a backup for the human race runs into the major problem of who is footing the bill.

          Almost nobody on Earth is going to be reassured that strangers on Mars would survive the end of life on Earth. And even the few people who do find that prospect reassuring will not find it sufficiently reassuring to justify paying their own money to subsidize a Mars colony to the point where it could continue to run without any need for resupply from Earth.

          If the Mars colony can’t generate a substantial profit by trading with Earth, the will to maintain that colony will evaporate long before it becomes self-sufficient.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I think it’s seen as more of a settlement thing. The New World wasn’t able to survive without regular resupply from the old for at least a hundred years and they still regularly trade.

            Now, for a lot of reasons, Mars is far less habitable than the New World, but I think the belief is that it’s like moving to Virginia. It sucks in the short term for the first folks, but in the long run it’s good for humanity.

          • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

            @EchoChaos,

            Virginia had tobacco, which was a huge cash crop and critical to the success of the colony. And that’s in a place which was, at most, marginally less habitable than any random patch of woodland in Europe.

            Martian colonists aren’t going to be able to get financing solely on the basis of how cool a Mars colony sounds, at least not after Elon Musk spends his last dollar. If they want the kind of money necessary to maintain an interplanetary colony, they’re going to need to have something valuable enough to people back on Earth that we’ll pay exorbitant prices in exchange for it. Because otherwise people on Earth will lose interest and the colony will fail without outside support.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Nabil ad Dajjal

            In some ways, Virginia was far LESS hospitable than Mars. It had a far, FAR higher death rate than would be remotely acceptable on Mars. Because it had hostile natives who regularly murdered the settlers in large numbers.

            Now, I also agree that there needs to be an economic incentive for Earthers to settle Mars long-term and there currently isn’t.

          • Enkidum says:

            In some ways, Virginia was far LESS hospitable than Mars.

            Not in any remotely relevant ways. Yes, a Virginia-style death toll probably wouldn’t be acceptable. But at the moment, any colony would have a 100% death toll in very short order, and that will continue for the foreseeable future.

            I’m a big fan of the idea of colonizing other planets. But this is a centuries-long undertaking, possibly millennia.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Enkidum

            How is “natives who aggressively want to kill you” not a relevant danger when settling someplace?

            I did say that Mars was less habitable than the New World, but there are dangers that the New World had that Mars will not.

            And the reason we’re not settling Mars right now is because if we tried we’d experience at least Virginia level death rates, agreed.

          • Enkidum says:

            That’s fair. I was being needlessly argumentative.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Enkidum

            Apology accepted. I enjoy talking about it!

          • Enkidum says:

            My personal feeling is that this should be one of the major ambitions of the human race. But that we should accept that 300 years is a very, very optimistic timeline to have anything resembling remotely self-sufficient colonies. I just think we should have more multi-century plans. Why think small?

            (I may have been a little over-excited by Dune when I was younger)

        • gbdub says:

          “Protect the human race” is kind of a silly reason to go to Mars.

          We could burn every gram of fossil fuels, set off every nuke, and get smacked by an asteroid and Earth would still be more habitable than Mars.

          There are very few apocalypse scenarios where “colony on Mars” is the best survival option.

          • Matt M says:

            Indeed. If we have the technology to turn Mars habitable, we almost certainly also have the technology to turn “Earth plus whatever catastrophic damage we might do to Earth” habitable as well.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            This. Unless the extinction event literally blows the planet apart, a settlement buried in Antarctica will still be more habitable than Mars. At least there’s the possibility of air, air pressure, water, normal gravity, some type of life surviving. On Mars there is not. I think a Mars base would be neat for research or just to say we can, but unless we get to the point we can actually terraform the planet, it would always be harder to live there than basically anywhere on earth, even an earth that suffered an extinction-level catastrophe.

          • Loris says:

            There are very few apocalypse scenarios where “colony on Mars” is the best survival option.

            100km diameter asteroid impact on the Earth. Oceans are boiled dry, the outer crust is melted. Even though the planet remains intact, probably the best way to survive this would be to be somewhere else. The “Serenity model”, as it were.

            On the other hand, it may well be a lot easier to store your backup on (or inside) the Moon. It would have to cope by itself for generations before the reinstall could even begin.

          • John Schilling says:

            100km diameter asteroid impact on the Earth

            We know where all the 100 km asteroids are, and none of them are going to hit the Earth. 100 km long-period comets are a theoretical possibility, but at the level of one chance in twenty-five million of an impact any time between now and the Sun going out.

          • Loris says:

            Of course you mean we think we know where all the 100 km asteroids are. Within the solar system. I apologise for the looseness of my terminology – I used it without qualification to mean all bodies of approximately such size and density in the interest of conciseness.
            It really shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s a rare event nowadays. If it happened even every hundred million years on average, the place wouldn’t be quite so habitable.

            We could burn every gram of fossil fuels, set off every nuke, and get smacked by an asteroid and Earth would still be more habitable than Mars.

            Nevertheless, I think this claim is rebutted.

          • Dacyn says:

            @Loris:

            Nevertheless, I think this claim is rebutted.

            Not really. The natural interpretation of gbdub’s claim is that Earth is more habitable if a typical asteroid hits, not a very large one.

          • rho says:

            The appeal of mars is that the riff-raff can’t get there. If the wealthy can commission a university building, then why not the successor to the moon landings? Captain Kirk wants to make love to the mountain.

          • rho says:

            I think the presumption here is that humanity is worth saving. Certainly not all of it. Certainly not most. Certainly not as it is.

            Humanity has the potential, perhaps, for redemption. The potential for greatness. But right now it’s an embryo, a fugue of disparate forces vying for life. Will the post-humanity that succeeds us watch the winking out of the final stars? Or will the universe fall dead and silent here and now? Certainly, if we survive these growing pains, the technology to go to mars, to terraform it, will become useful to someone, somewhere. Why not seize it now, if it is in grasp?

          • Plumber says:

            @rho says: "The appeal of mars is that the riff-raff can’t get there...

            ...I think the presumption here is that humanity is worth saving. Certainly not all of it. Certainly not most..."

            Right.

            As one of the “most”/untermenschen/ancestor of Morlocks I duly take note of budding “homo superiors”/Eloi and am filled with loathing for your beyond Earth gated community idea.

          • rho says:

            @Plumber

            Yes, I am better than you. I’m also engaged in the sin of thinking it and acknowledging it. I worked hard to become the bomb, and perhaps I was also born with resources others lack, but here I am. I’m completely unapologetic about it, I’m sorry.

            You want to put racists in space? That seems unwise to me. We won’t literally have a space gate. If you get to Mars, we’ll welcome you with open arms. It’s simply good hospitality and manners. “Oh my God, another one has rode the explosion of Earth right to our front door. Let him in immediately, he must be tired.” Right now, only Elon Musk, and his cadre of rockets buddies could reasonably go.

            If the Earth was a raging firestorm, he’s certainly under no obligation to take anyone. Me personally, I’d probably drop some sweet ass science on his front lawn, and go “Take me, and keep me as pet, King of Mars. We can call it tenure, so it’s less kinky.”

    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      One of the main mental traps I see is people forgetting to consider either costs or benefits. If you only look at costs, you get one picture. Only at benefits, a very different one. Only if you look at both do you get the full picture!

      This question is posed about costs. Of course costs for a Mars colony is vastly bigger than for an Everest one.

      But the thing is: So are the benefits!

      What you can charge for tourist trips to the Mars colony, for the reality TV rights for the settlement show, the numbers of people willing to devote their lives to make it happen, are also orders of magnitudes bigger than the costs.

      Anyway, majorly helpful cognitive life rule for me: Remember to check if we’ve considered both costs and benefits!

      • theredsheep says:

        We never colonized the moon–we lost interest after a couple of trips, in fact–because once the novelty factor wears off the moon is basically just a really, really inhospitable desert that costs a lot of money to get to. The main draw would be bouncing around in low-G, I guess? But Mars, being larger, would have less of that.

        Also, I think most tourists are not into prolonged difficult experiences (and do not have quite so much spare time as to spend, what, a year traveling to and from their destination?). Cruise ships are far more popular than camping in extreme environments. Given a choice between a giant floating theme park and squatting in thermal underwear trying to start a fire with damp wood, people overwhelmingly go for the former. You could have a luxurious experience on Mars only at such an extreme cost that you could have spent the rest of your life on one continuous cruise on earth instead.

        • Squirrel of Doom says:

          I agree that The Moon or orbit are far more attractive tourists spots, and will be colonized/exploited long before Mars.

          I don’t think “we” lost interest in the Moon. It was the US government who was the only actor and had a monopoly on decisions in the matter, until about now.

        • John Schilling says:

          We never colonized the moon–we lost interest after a couple of trips,

          Fifty years of science fiction says otherwise. What we lost, was the ability to pay two billion dollars per astronaut once the relevant Cold War victory had been won and banked.

          A large subset of the human race is still interested in exploring and settling other worlds. There will be very little exploration and no settlement of worlds at a cost of two billion dollars per explorer or settler. There is no law that says the cost must always be two billion, or even two million, dollars per person. None of these things should be controversial.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      In the sense of building its own pencils from scratch, neither. Decoupling from the global economy has become so inefficient, I doubt we’ll ever see it happen again. So properly defining “self-sustaining” becomes _the_ question. My version would be “independent enough so bulky supplies are self-made, including food (but not drugs)”. And keeping an eye on income as well would be a good idea.

      I’m guessing up to a certain size Everest wins easily, simply because of the transport cost. After that, Mars will have the advantage – more room/resources to expand, plus having an actual product (information plus whatever resources we find there that are worth exploiting) etc. Everest is doomed to be cost-only.

    • Murphy says:

      “self-sustaining”

      I doubt anyone could build a 100-person truly “self sustaining” colony unless it’s medieval level tech and sited somewhere with good game and fishing.

      We just rely on to many little things.

      The moment you need to be able to build a microprocessor of any kind you just can’t with a 100-person setup.

      Do you need high-purity chemicals for anything? again, same problem.

      I suspect you’d need millions of people to be self sustainable at a reasonably modern level.

      • theredsheep says:

        Could you cheat on the limit with automation and telepresence?

        • Murphy says:

          You’d need such a spectacular amount of automation that we fall into magitech land.

          imagine a vast vast factory producing everything a civilization could need and all it’s own spare parts with only 100 maintenance staff on site.

          You have all the potentials for failures and breakdowns of every type of production facility.

          you also now need a really really thick internet connection and telepresence workers who don’t mind waiting 40 minutes for a lightspeed delay

  49. theodidactus says:

    I’ve wanted to write something on this for a while now and I’ve only just now gotten around to it.

    Recently I had to make a hard decision. As a tradition, of sorts, one thing I used to help me make that decision was a partially-made-up divination technique based on the I Ching. I’ve done this for about 10 years now. I started doing it when I was living abroad in Taiwan, and had a difficult decision to make about whether to go to library school or law school…the priests I ultimately consulted said they kept getting basically the temple equivalent of “reply hazy, try again” and after doing that several times they concluded the gods were “laughing at me” (that was the exact phrase). Ten years later, I’ve gone to both library school and law school.

    Scott’s discussed how divination techniques with randomized components can serve a valuable game theoretic function: https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/06/04/book-review-the-secret-of-our-success/, They can help you defeat a prediction machine by ultimately FORCING you to behave randomly. A commenter (sorry, I can’t find you) pointed out that the process is made more effective if you make the ritual itself more costly and time consuming to perform…it prevents you from making “do-overs” until you get the answer you want.

    I’d like to connect this to something else scott has talked about: specifically, his predictive theory of depression: https://slatestarcodex.com/2017/09/12/toward-a-predictive-theory-of-depression/
    In this piece, Scott discusses how depression might be a simple misfiring of our own internal “prediction machine”, so that when we look inside ourselves and ask what we ought to be doing today, the prediction engine just comes up with “it’s gonna suck. Stay in bed. You’re not well and you can’t do anything right.” Other disorders, for example compulsive betting or even mania, might be at least in part a similar miscalculation: “keep going buddy, ignore the warning signs, everyone loves you and things are going GREAT!”

    Might it be that divination played a really valuable role in society by basically forcing certain actors to turn off their internal predictors in certain situations where they are likely to be unreliable? The cryptic results generated by tarot and the I Ching seem to be tailor made for this. You get result like “Seek wise counsel from a one-eyed man from the east.” and you start thinking “Well, I guess I know a couple of smart people in New England, and didn’t Chris have detached retina six months ago, maybe I should ask him, he’d know a lot about this right?” In the context of divination services performed by a temple or a wise man, it’s a convenient sagacious advice delivery system that you might otherwise ignore (psychics will talk about this all the time, if you catch them at the right moment…they’re basically providing relationship counseling with a fancy package).

    I only bring it up because it’s helped me get out of “ruts” before. In my case I thought I was in one of those “two roads diverge in a wood” scenario and I had to choose between one possible future and another. It took a random number generator to make me go “hey why not both?”

    • broblawsky says:

      Now you’re making me want to take up divination.

      • theodidactus says:

        I genuinely think most of the benefits can be derived from an invented method. Preferable traits would be:

        * Random system (cards, coins, etc)

        * Suitably complex process (light candles, neath the waning moon, etc.) this deters you from “redoing” the ritual and makes you take the result seriously due to the sunk cost fallacy

        * Diverse output modes subject to interpretation, ideally with humanistic archetypes (IE “this represents inner strength”) (tarot is the best example)

        My system uses a big fat fancy coin I brought in taiwan which looks suitably mystic. This produces a binary output of heads or tails, and from there I just use I Ching Hexagrams: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hexagram_(I_Ching). to interpret the hexagrams, I use a book my friend bought me years ago (and only that book). I only flip the coin outside and around midnight and under a moon (not on cloudy days or moonless nights)

        I should add that employing a basically random process to “short circuit” fallacious reasoning that is otherwise inescapable has some shady implications for the rationalist program or whatever.

        • Matthias says:

          Humans have to make do with faulty hardware. Patching that in software (via customs and rituals) isn’t too worrisome for a rationalist programme.

          And randomness is well established as part of successful algorithms and strategies.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I’d guess there are two benefits that are served by somewhat different setups. Well, three benefits and two setups. Randomizing, Initiative, and Introspection. In the first two you’re supposed to take the answer seriously and as literally as possible – you actually go look for the one-eyed man in the east. You don’t want do-overs and you want pre-commitment. For Introspection, you sit and look at the smoke curling up and ponder for a long time about how even progressive wise men can be so single-tracked so to be “one eyed”, and do you want to talk to several, or do you want to maybe go west to your more conservative friends? But you bet they’re just as one eyed. But staying in place isn’t taking you anywhere…hmm… let’s roll again and see how we can connect the two divinations…

    • Scumbarge says:

      Have you seen this thread about rituals on the subreddit? Might be some crossover: https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/ccd606/do_you_have_any_rituals_that_you_perform_before/

      • theodidactus says:

        I can definitely attest to being obsessed with rituals as a kid. I can recall a phase (maybe aged 6 to 10) where I thought if I did the right series of random things (twisted a knob in the kitchen left, then right, then left again, then open the cupboard and stepped inside it backwards) I’d open a doorway to another dimension or get magic powers or something. I understand this belief is not uncommon in children.

        In addition to my coin-flipping ritual above, which I’ve used to make 3-4 major life choices and which a friend insists helped him in one instance, I’ve done all of the following:
        * I have a shirt that I wear to virtually all high-stakes tests. Yes it is old (Though unlike a lot of the lucky-underwear/undershirt crowd I wash it regularly)
        * When I find old keys, I usually buy or collect them, under the completely insane theory that I might find a lock for them someday.
        * When I have to write something extremely important I will often do it in a super casual setting, for example I will go to a favorite sandwich spot and write it there. I think the idea is that if I can pretend to be the sort of person that can bang this stuff out over a lunch break, then I really will become the sort of person that can bang this stuff out over a lunch break.

    • Anthony says:

      I saw recently on twitter the advice “When you need to make a decision, flip a coin. When you find yourself hoping the coin comes up one way, that’s your choice.”

  50. Freddie deBoer says:

    My statistics instructor in grad school at Purdue (I took three classes in typical multivariable frequentist stuff and experimental design) told me I would need to know calculus to learn Bayes beyond the most simplistic sense. Was he right?

    • C_B says:

      Calculus is required to derive the equations that describe statistical distributions and their relationships (true whether you’re doing Bayesian or frequentist statistics). So there’s a sense in which you need calculus in order to have a rigorous understanding of why the things you do when you do statistics work.

      But if you don’t care about deriving the equations, you can certainly apply Bayes’ rule, or do an ANOVA, or get an intuitive understanding of why the binomial distribution approaches normality as sample size increases, or what have you, all without knowing any calculus.

      I guess it depends on how stringent you’re being when you talk about “the most simplistic sense.”

    • gdepasamonte says:

      Have probability density functions come up in your classes, maybe in an intuitive sense (“probabilities as areas under curves”)? If you understand eg the bell curve for the normal distribution in this sense, you could probably understand the “meaning” of Bayes theorem for continuous random variables. You’d need to learn some calculus to actually do simple calculations using the theorem directly. I suppose it depends which of these you consider learning – or in other words, you can learn it in so far as you have “learned” integral calculus (which deals with areas under curves) already.

  51. rho says:

    This is Remy Ochei, callsign rho, the singleton, outing herself as a fully general purpose human. Currently, I am gathering my effects and returning to the Menninger Center to retrieve my brain scans and other medical information. I have not signed up for cryonics, there is no bank of my sperm.

    I am capable of unilaterally producing an artificially general intelligent agent. Now, I am not saying that I *have* done this, but merely that I *could* if so pressed. I have left instructions with my lawyer Erin Hendricks about what should be done in the case of my untimely demise. These instructions were left in a state of uncertainty, but they were my best effort at the time of delivery. Musk, my Elon, if we must take to the stars, then lead us. If we must burn on a molten planet of our own creation, so be it.

    My legal name at present is Oseme Dennis-Jnr Ochei. I am trans, poly, ace, non-binary. MIT, Harvard, Duke, BCM, Google, BCM, UTD.

    If you need to emulate me for the fate of humanity, so be it. I will take up Von Neumann’s mantle if asked, his ignominy, his shame, and his glory.
    Scott Alexander, I need you more than ever.
    The human voice is now a ring-tone, you have trained for this.

  52. Sniffnoy says:

    What’s the origin of the “Naruto run”? Like it predates Naruto, right? Does anyone know where it originated, or, at least, can anyone antedate it?

    • benjdenny says:

      The “both arms behind the back” thing doesn’t really predate Naruto in in real way. The closest you find is somebody running with their sword pointed backwards and down behind them to one side (again in media, not real life). The mangaka seems to have considered this to look cool or not wanted to figure out how to draw arms mid-run, it being probably easier to draw everyone in one stock pose at all times when travelling.

      You will see people claim ninjas were often portrayed running this way, but I’ve never seen anybody substantiate it at all. You will also see people say it’s related to Namba running, which looks absolutely nothing like this.

      But, yeah, I’ve watched a lot of anime and I can’t think of a single other series where people do this; as near as I can tell it’s purely a Naruto thing.

      • Eternaltraveler says:

        My 3 year old runs like this and has never once watched any anime.

        • emiliobumachar says:

          I accidentally Reported your comment when trying to reply, my apologies. No idea how to undo it.

          My reply is: this sounds dangerous! As in: falling face-first and being unable to bring one’s hands forward in time to protect the head.

    • But, yeah, I’ve watched a lot of anime and I can’t think of a single other series where people do this; as near as I can tell it’s purely a Naruto thing.

      Hunter x Hunter did this before Naruto. Kilua, the assassin kid character does this run. I think his backstory was even aped to some degree.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        I should probably note, one reason I figured it had to predate Naruto was that Sonic also runs this way in Sonic Adventure. That’s post-Naruto, but not by much (and video games take a long time to make), so I figured probably there was something earlier they were both drawing from. Hunter x Hunter doesn’t seem to be much earlier than Naruto either, huh…

      • benjdenny says:

        I thought “bullshit” and then looked it up. It’s true. I’ve even watched that and still managed to forget it.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Oh, here’s a clear earlier example: Sonic does this when using the Super-Peel Out in Sonic CD. That’s distinctly before Naruto or Hunter x Hunter.

        • JPNunez says:

          IIRC Sonic generally runs palms down or palms in, while Naruto runs palms up. I read HxH sometime ago so I cannot remember which one Killua does.

    • Erusian says:

      Traditional Japanese theater. Stealthy/bandit/ninja characters will sometimes move like that to make their profiles lower and hide what’s in their hand from the audience. In particular, the hanamichi means distinctive ways of walking/running are important in Kabuki and a series of highly stylized runs were invented to convey certain things. For example, a loping run with a long pumping arm while holding onto their sword/sack/whatever means the person is running desperately in a somewhat comedic way.

      That said, it’s not as common or universal as it is in Naruto. I don’t know why it was so thoroughly used there.

      • Laukhi says:

        Common wisdom in the fandom seems to be that it was just easier for animators, but I don’t have a cite for this.

        • Erusian says:

          It might be. While I’ve seen the pose in kabuki, it’s not nearly as universal as it is in Naruto. Something led the animators/illustrators to choose to do it much more frequently.

          Naruto in general shows heavy, heavy kabuki influence. I only watched a few episodes but many character designs are kabuki-esque, Naruto dresses up in Kabuki makeup at one point, the crow call is a reference to a kabuki trope, and I remember one gag where a character dresses up as a kabuki stage hand. That’s not too surprising: kabuki theater was a major source of Japanese ninja tropes.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Interesting, thanks!

      • JPNunez says:

        I wouldn’t think it so hard. It’s how Ninjas run according to the mangaka, and in Naruto everyone is a Ninja, so it follows everyone runs like that.

      • benjdenny says:

        Can you find me an example of this in Kabuki? I’m not saying it’s not so – I haven’t watched a ton of Kabuki – but right now this falls into what I was talking about when I said “You will see people claim ninjas were often portrayed running this way, but I’ve never seen anybody substantiate it at all”. If it’s a thing in kabuki, I’d like to have something I can point to as an example.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          Seconding this question.

        • Erusian says:

          Well, the author of Naruto went out of his way to get a Naruto kabuki show made. But I assume you’ll want something from the non-Naruto kabuki show.

          Anyway, it’s not very common for kabuki performances to be recorded, they’re extremely long performances, and it’s not as if every ninja runs like that all the time. But I’ll keep an eye out and post it in the next open thread after I see it.

  53. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    What’s the appeal of full table service restaurants over fast food/fast casual restaurants?

    Like, I can see the appeal of eating out, especially if you are doing it with friends and family. What I absolutely, for the life of me, cannot understand is the appeal of walking to a restaurant, waiting an hour until a table is available, waiting until the waitress comes, placing an order, waiting half an hour for the food to come out, then paying a ridiculous amount for the food plus an extra 12 15 18 percent tip to the waitress, as opposed to going to a place where the food is already cooked and warm and you can have it immediately after you order it and it’s much cheaper and you maybe drop a dollar or two in the cashier’s tip jar.

    TL;DR: What does P. F. Chang’s have that Panda Express doesn’t?

    • Sit down restaurants are generally considered to have better food. At least, the kind of food in a sit down restaurant is considered better than its fast food alternative.

      They’re also more social. It seems kind of ridiculous to get all dressed up to go to a place that you’ll spend five minutes at.

    • johan_larson says:

      Typically, the same dish at a sitdown place is going to be better than the equivalent at a fast-food joint. In particular, the food at places like Panda Express is served from warming trays, and the continual application of heat in the trays gradually changes the food and causes it to deteriorate. Leave it there long enough, and you’re basically eating reheated leftovers.

      Also, some dishes simply won’t be available at fast-food joints, because they can’t be prepared quickly enough.

      Ideally, the dish you are served at a fine restaurant is prepared from scratch using fresh ingredients by an expert professional just before it is served to you. In practice, nearly all places cut some corners and do some amount of pre-processing of the food. Some of the lower-end joints do weird stuff like heat heat in a microwave and add grill marks with a soldering iron. But the pricier places do much less of it.

      • A Definite Beta Guy says:

        Pretty much this. I understand the case of PF Changs vs Panda (PF Changs is Least Common Denominator crap), but OP is basically asking why I would want a genuine Kuma’s Corner pub burger seared and cooked to a bare medium, when I could just have McDonald’s instead.

        Also, how long you wait depends on what time you go, and whether reservations are available. I can’t remember the last time I waited an hour for a table.

      • salvorhardin says:

        Also, if you are going to pay enough for the food to get really good quality, then presentation/plating and timing become more of a quality multiplier, and the extra cost of having people wait on you is a smaller percentage of the total cost of the meal [edit: this is of course not true of the portion paid for in tips, but higher-end restaurant staff also have higher non-tipped wages passed through to menu prices]. As an extreme case, you can’t really make a seven-course tasting menu with wine pairings work well in a counter service model.

        I do agree with the OP that sitdown chains, or less quality-oriented sitdown places in general, tend to be poor values relative to counter service places, and indeed the latter are fast displacing the former in cities where rents and labor costs are high. The better counter service places in San Francisco, for instance, are getting very good indeed.

    • Lambert says:

      Signalling that you have enough money to pay for the services of a waiter.
      Probably a remnant of how the rich used to have domestic servants.

      What I don’t understand is how McDonalds now has table service.
      (and, in some juristictions, macarons.)

    • Matt says:

      A bar. I don’t drink, but my wife does, and my friends do. We can get a Margarita at Taco Mama or Rosie’s or any sit down Mexican restaurant, but not Taco Bell. (Though I do remember from my days growing up in Kansas that Taco Tico has cold beer)

      It’s not our practice to wait an hour for a table. We would just go somewhere else.

    • DeWitt says:

      waiting an hour until a table is available

      This has interested me about American culture before: do people genuinely wait in restaurants this long? In the actual restaurant?

      I’ve never once had to wait for a table, myself. This isn’t some manner of bragging; over here, either you call in advance to make a reservation, you show up to ask if there’s any space left and leave if not, or you eat at a fast food place or whatever.

      I can get the idea behind tipping just fine, I can understand preferring the other benefits of sit-down restaurants just fine, but is waiting for that long of a time really something that common across the Atlantic?

      • johan_larson says:

        It’s not common to wait an hour. You might have to wait that long if you arrive at dinnertime at a popular restaurant without a reservation.

      • John Schilling says:

        Yeah, that’s the part where I part company with the OP. Full table service is mostly for eating as a social activity, so insisting on the fastest and most efficient delivery of food is pointless, but very few restaurants both require hour-long waits before even being seated at a table, and are worth such a wait.

        If you show up unannounced during peak dining hours at a restaurant where advance reservations are the norm, they might keep you waiting for an hour rather than telling you to go away. But in my experience, the wait for a mid-level table service restaurant in Los Angeles is less than 5 minutes about half the time, otherwise typically 15-30 minutes, and on the rare occasion that a longer wait is quoted it just means we eat somewhere else.

        • DeWitt says:

          15-30 minutes still seems really long to me, and not something I’d choose to wait around for, but at least it rings a lot less weird than one hour or more.

          • I don’t go to fancy restaurants often so I don’t know others Americans experiences, but when I go to a sit down restaurant, it’s very rare that I have to wait more than a few minutes at most. Usually there’s no wait.

        • Clutzy says:

          From my EXP this is not true at all. In Chicago, many of the trendy restaurants (and some of the best, like Au Cheval which is allegedly the best burger in the city) that wont cause your wallet to 100% explode don’t take reservations, and have massive wait times. Alinea and the Alinea group restaurants take reservations, but make your wallet explode. Certain good places also take reservations, but they are often considered “stodgy” in comparison to a similarly priced, no reservations place.

          To be fair, I agree with the OP, there is no good reason to eat out. The food never justifies the price. For a $/tastiness ratio, all sitdown restaurants get styled on by takeout Mexican once you find a good one.

          • John Schilling says:

            From my EXP this is not true at all. In Chicago, many of the trendy restaurants…

            OK, but the original poster never mentioned trendy restaurants. If it’s trendiness you’re after, fine, but the essence of trendiness is that not everyone can have it and you can’t get it by just paying modest amounts of money. You have to prove your trendiness in some other currency, like making the effort to be a trend-setter or knowing a guy who knows a guy or, yes, standing in line for an hour or two. So, yeah.

            That probably still leaves 95% of the sit-down table-service restaurants in Chicago. Including, I would wager, the one that serves the actual best burger in the city but isn’t trendy enough to award status points to anyone so alleging.

            If you want food professionally cooked to your order and in a congenial social environment, a non-trendy sit-down restaurant is probably going to be the answer and it is probably not going to require a long wait. If you want food cooked professionally to your order and you don’t care about the social environment, you’re probably still going to a sit-down restaurant because what else are you going to do while the chef is at work?

        • Anthony says:

          Zachary’s Pizza on College Avenue in Oakland (used to?) have meta wait-times. When you came up to the stand they’d tell you it would be X minutes before they’d know how long you had to wait for a table. X would sometimes reach 20 minutes. Actual wait times were typically 10 – 25 minutes once they told you. But you could put in your order at that time, so your pizza would appear shortly after you were seated.

          Or you can go at 1pm on a weekday when Berkeley isn’t in session and sit right down.

          • Plumber says:

            @Anthony,
            I’ve never understood Zachary’s popularity, I had a boss who’d send me out to get it, but it always seemed undercooked to me.

            For a short while in the ’90’s (before it went out of business) another pizza place was across the street that gave free samples, no wait time, cheaper prices, and it seemed at least as tasty, but people liked being crowded better I suppose.

          • AG says:

            Saw a documentary on ramen, wherein the restaurant with the most prestigious award several years running would have enthusiasts line up a couple of hours in the morning for the restaurant to hand out lunch time slots. Not unlike people lining up for box office tickets, I guess.

            They only serve the one dish, though.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            I don’t understand why you would wait that long for pizza. That reminds me of the people who wait for Lou Malnati’s in Chicago, when there are PLENTY of pizza places without such an obscene wait. At that point, it’s just cachet, not actual pizza preference.

            Granted, you might be stuck in a hellhole that does not know how to make pizza.

      • Randy M says:

        I don’t usually do reservations or even restaurants that optionally take them. So If we show up at the wrong time, there might be a wait.
        We will stay if the wait time is less than or equal to the time it takes to agree to and travel to another restaurant. Maybe a bit longer if someone had their heart set on this place. That ends up being about 15 minutes, tops.

        If you are going with a large group, some of the wait time might be arranging a large enough table for the party.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      FWIW I also don’t get it, and I LOVE good food. Pay at the counter style service will always be a huge plus for me. I consider table service a price I have to pay for good food, not a benefit.

    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      Three things

      – A really nice environment to have your meal in, including a genuinely helpful waiter.

      – Much better quality food than Panda Express

      – Social status from being seen at a high status place.

    • MissingNo says:

      I used to wonder that same question myself. Some of my early experiences with those restaurants was a strong feeling of “Are we going here just because it seems more fancy than fast food?”

      The trick is experimenting with different styles of full table service restaurants until you find the type of food you love. Eventually you will find a style that just can’t be served at a fast food restaurant.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Eventually you will find a style that just can’t be served at a fast food restaurant.

        Hotpot is a great example fwiw.

        • Clutzy says:

          Also an example of one of the examples where really good food is usually pretty cheap. Another one (at least in Chicago) is ramen. You can get 2 huge, really good bowls in the right places for $20.

    • Machine Interface says:

      Wait time once sitted normally declines with the quality of the restaurant. When you start hitting star-rated restaurants, wait time after you’re sitted is essentially non existent.

    • Well... says:

      Your PF Chang’s/Panda Express example isn’t great because both those restaurants are terrible. If you want Chinese food, nearly any other local Fast Wok Carry-Out will be better than both, at least in my experience. If anyone has ever waited an hour to be seated at PF Chang’s, they deserve the food they got.

      • The Nybbler says:

        For some reason, P.F. Chang’s often has long wait times (same goes for Cheesecake Factory). People just like terrible “fusion” I guess.

        • EchoChaos says:

          I think it’s because it’s reliable.

          If you go to a Chinese hole in the wall, you may get amazing food, or you might get unmitigated garbage. PF Changs will always be above average Asian Fusion.

          • gbdub says:

            Reliable, and also relatively cheap for a full service restaurant.

            I think the biggest thing is that they have very approachable food (least common denominator if you want to be unkind), and they also tend to pop up around places that are already extremely busy at dinner time (e.g. shopping malls).

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Ugh. I used to work in commercial real estate. We had a mall landlord come in and describe the dark days of mall food as “one PF Changs, one Cheesecake factory, and maybe one other thing.”
          They are busy because they have excellent locations, and are also known brands. Malls tend to have better food options now so there is basically no reason to eat at either one of these restaurants. They both are mediocre.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      I’ve been out to dinner date yesterday, and I have the experience fresh. You go there for the company and the conversation. The food conveniently comes to your table with barely enough interruption to provide a change of subject, if one is needed. I can’t imagine the same mood in a self-serve place. I don’t dislike them, but they’re not for every context.

      • gbdub says:

        For socializing purposes, it’s also nice that you can have multiple rounds of drinks and food brought to you without having to get up.

        • Matt M says:

          Indeed. To a certain extent, sit-down restaurants provide a service that is essentially “eating as leisure.” It approximates a medieval feast, where the nobles sit down and talk and laugh and carouse while servants bring food, drink, sweets, etc. directly to them. And although it’s more expensive than Taco Bell to be sure, it’s probably one of the cheapest ways that a person of modest means can purchase something that makes them feel like a member of the nobility. Even a modest earner can gather up their clansmen and go to Applebees and be waited on with buffalo blasters and strawberritas to their hearts content.

          Any sort of fast food or fast casual does not approximate this at all. You get your food, scarf it down, etc. It’s eating as a utilitarian act, not as a form of entertainment in and of itself.

          How much you prefer one over the other probably depends on a wide variety of personal factors, but I do get the sense that “millennials are killing sit-down dining!” is roughly true, if only in the sense that younger generations, experiencing more upward mobility and less direct class consciousness than prior generations did, are less concerned with this sort of thing. My grandmother loved going out to sit-down restaurants, but I can’t imagine her going to a Chipotle.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Okay, the “medieval feast” frame really helps solidify this for me. Specially the servant thing; I think of having to talk to strangers as a cost of getting food, but for a normie bossing around the waitress could very well be half the fun.

          • Nick says:

            Even a modest earner can gather up their clansmen and go to Applebees and be waited on with buffalo blasters and strawberritas to their hearts content.

            I don’t have anything to add to this; it’s just a delightful sentence.

            How much you prefer one over the other probably depends on a wide variety of personal factors, but I do get the sense that “millennials are killing sit-down dining!” is roughly true, if only in the sense that younger generations, experiencing more upward mobility and less direct class consciousness than prior generations did, are less concerned with this sort of thing.

            Perhaps this is the explanation, but it bodes poorly anyway for younger generations’ socialization prospects.

    • gbdub says:

      This thread needs to be flagged for Scott’s next “how to not sound like a robot” installment.

      “[extremely popular thing] is illogical! Why do silly humans enjoy this?” is pretty peak robot.

      • anchpop says:

        Non-robot people ask what the appeal is of things all the time.

        • Randy M says:

          It’s more like “What’s the appeal of going to a concert?” than “what’s the appeal of music?” though I wouldn’t be surprised to find that asked here.

          And to go on a tangent, last time I went to a concert I found it a nice experience that probably wasn’t actually better than pulling up some videos on Youtube, given my seat position, lack of discernment in audio quality, scheduling concerns, budget, preference for not wearing pants, etc.

        • Enkidum says:

          preference for not wearing pants, etc.

          Yes, concerts are always disappointing when security forcibly removes you in the first 20 minutes

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Yeah.

        Q: “What are all the Very Smart People on SSC talking about?”

        A: “Restaurants, how do they work???”

      • Randy M says:

        One nice thing about SSC is that people don’t usually assume their preferences and experiences are universal. We’re also curious and slightly lazy. Hence the occasional ‘dumb’ question, often which turns into an interesting conversation.
        It’s also not in the top three robot sounding opening posts in this thread.

        • Urstoff says:

          Well that’s only because an actual robot is posting in this thread.

          • Randy M says:

            Not sure if literal, but either way the my rubric when grading the Turing test has gotten way too lax.

      • jaimeastorga2000 says:

        Stop robot shaming me, shitlord.

    • tayfie says:

      Several factors have been mentioned. I would like to summarize.

      1. Socialization. No one views eating as the fastest way to put calories in their body. People want to talk. Meal times are especially conductive to this being a universal human experience and they make conversation easier. You get the same factor with a home cooked meal, but those may be labor intensive, necessarily require one party to host, and have numerous other inconveniences. For this, reasonable wait times to prepare food are a feature, not a bug. A busy restaurant also greatly increases probability of the chance encounters essential to make and maintain friendships.

      2. Quality. Forget P.F. Chang’s. Forget chains. Some restaurants honestly have amazing food, and if you appreciate amazing food without being a master of all possible cuisines, that means eating in some restaurants. Fresh food cooked to order is necessary for certain levels of quality. It also allows greater customization than precooked. Again this is similar to what you would need to do if cooking yourself, but less labor intensive. I will also add here the idea of aesthetic environments and presentation and having a waiter. It feels good to have someone at your command. It is also a novelty for many people. It is exciting to discover a good restaurant.

      3. Rest. A sit-down restaurant is a different context that allows some peace from outside concerns. I could eat every day from my office chair, but then I would be thinking about work all through lunch. A favored restaurant is a calming place, somewhere I can go for comfort.

    • b_jonas says:

      The company. I only dine in fancy restaurants with my family, and I value spending some time with my family.

  54. WarOnReasons says:

    For those with knowledge of Canadian politics – how likely is Canada to ratify USMCA before October elections?

    • Tenacious D says:

      The Canadian Parliament is currently adjourned for the summer until mid-September. When they resume, the election campaign will be beginning almost immediately. I’m not super knowledgeable about parliamentary procedure, but it seems like the bill to ratify it still has to pass a fair number of remaining steps, so unless it is really prioritized, my guess would be that it would need to be reintroduced following the election.

      • WarOnReasons says:

        Thanks for the link. I clicked on some bills it at random and it appears that for most bills the remaining steps after the second reading in the House of Commons are completed within two weeks. Are there special reasons that it would take longer with USMCA? Is it considered controversial in Canada or would the government deliberately delay it to wait for the US ratifying it first?

        • Tenacious D says:

          You’re welcome.
          I don’t expect them to have two weeks of parliamentary activity between resuming from summer vacation and all the MPs returning to their ridings for the campaign.
          As far as controversy, it’s hardly even been in the news since the negotiation phase concluded.

  55. johan_larson says:

    Suppose you are keen to avoid the sort of horrible lingering dehumanizing death that Scott memorably wrote of here:

    https://slatestarcodex.com/2013/07/17/who-by-very-slow-decay/

    How should you live to minimize that possibility, while still maintaining a good chance of living a long life?

    I have in the past suggested that as you age you should take up increasingly dangerous activities, to make sure you die with your boots on:
    – At sixty, take up motorcycle riding.
    – At seventy, parachuting.
    – At eighty, base jumping.
    – At ninety, become a vigilante devoted to ridding your fair city of criminals, one bullet at a time.

    But surely there are better ideas for achieving a long life and a quick end?

    • emiliobumachar says:

      Low-hanging fruit is to let your family and friends know. Next have a living will.

      At some age you should get that “NO CODE” chest tattoo mentioned in the linked post.

      If it’s your priority, move somewhere with a more favorable culture.

      With respect, I don’t think your original idea is any good. A broken leg, that gives a kid a story to tell, can give an old man a death spiral of immobility-causes-decay-causes-immobility.

      • gbdub says:

        The problem to me with living wills and the even blunter “no code” tattoo – how do you distinguish reliably ahead of time between “serious but temporary trauma for which heroic efforts now will result in a relatively normal existence afterward” and “the beginning of long slow nasty decay”?

      • Garrett says:

        > get that “NO CODE” chest tattoo

        That isn’t legally-binding. At-best it might sway some of the decision-makers, or encourage us to look *real hard* for the legally-approved stuff. But until we have something legally-binding in-hand, nobody is going to skip running a code.

        • Matt M says:

          Yeah, I’m struggling to remember but wasn’t there a prominent case recently where someone had one of these, and the medical personnel revived them anyway, because they figured the lawsuit from letting someone die (what if he has since changed his mind!) would definitely be worse than the lawsuit from keeping someone alive against their wishes?

          • Jake Rowland says:

            This is just anecdote but something similar happened to a friend of mine. His mother was on life support and had (according to my friend) signed all the paperwork saying she did not wish to be. My friend was trying to pull the plug in accordance with her wishes, but his sister was actively threatening to sue if the plug was pulled. She ended up staying on life support for months. Apparently signed documents don’t mean much when a family member is threatening to sue. And suing for wrongful death holds a lot more weight than wrongful life.

          • Anthony says:

            On the thread about medical costs, I tagged this as being one of the reasons American health care costs are so high. If the doctors think it’s hopeless, two of three kids think it’s hopeless, and grandma has signed and notarized paperwork saying don’t make the effort if it’s hopeless, but one kid is willing to sue, the hospital will spend the money. Imagine how much harder it would be when the reason to not spend the money is “the doctor thinks it’s hopeless and the *insurance company* doesn’t want to spend the money”.

    • Secretly French says:

      What was the answer historically? Medicine gets better and better at keeping people alive, if only technically so; what is happening to the opposing force? My intuition tells me that whereas medical professionals should have to focus solely on keeping people alive (as they do to a fault), they are actually a very narrow slice of civilisation, and the kind of profane experiments that constitute the Half-Life-2-esque body-horror slaves trapped in long-term ICU’s across the world should be vigorously opposed by literally every other slice of it. Don’t we all grimly joke about getting the pillow of mercy from our brothers, parents, children, spouses, if and when we are incapacitated by cancer or stroke or whatever? This should not be a joke, but where is the mechanism for taking it seriously? It’s still murder or whatever.

      Slavoj Žižek’s answer is that you do it even though it’s illegal, and you take the hit of the legal repercussions, and that’s just part and parcel of doing the right thing. Is that the best we can do?

      • johan_larson says:

        I’m not quite sure who is pushing for these drastic interventions that prolong life at great expense even when the quality of the life they offer is really terrible. The patients? Their relatives? The doctors, because of some sort of alive-at-all-costs culture? The hospitals, either because of liability worries or just plain for the money?

        • HowardHolmes says:

          Doctors and hospitals profit by it so you can be sure it is the money. The problem is that the patient, the dying person will not take the responsibility he needs to take to end it. It is his job. No one else can do it. In most cases you can see it coming soon enough to manage things.

        • RomeoStevens says:

          Religious people have activists who push hard on this. If there weren’t bigger fish to fry I’d devote my life to ruining those people’s lives.

          • EchoChaos says:

            It’s interesting to me that religious people who believe there is a life after death (and it’s way better) are the ones trying to prolong this one and the atheists who think this is all there is are the ones rushing for the exits.

          • JPNunez says:

            Religious people believe in a perfect backup to our brains. Atheists don’t believe there is one.

            Both have seen how bad things get once the brain starts malfunctioning, just one group believes it’s no biggie.

          • John Schilling says:

            Religions which A: preach a reliably happy afterlife and B: don’t preach that anything akin to suicide disqualifies you from A, are remarkably scarce in present human society. I wonder why that might be?

        • Garrett says:

          It’s not (directly) the patients. People who are well-enough to be able to make a choice in the moment are rarely the people being discussed here. Keeping someone like Christopher Reeve alive might not succeed on pure utilitarian QALY grounds, but it could be said that he at least had some degree of quality of life which could be enjoyed. You could make the argument that the patient should have known to have signed a DNR or something, but in many cases that’s unreasonable – a person might live a fine life with resuscitation given some medical causes, but not others.

          The major issues I encounter are either family or legal.

          In a legal sense, we are required to provide “The Standard Of Care” which assumes that everybody in all situations would want to be cared for and resuscitated to the best of medical knowledge. The problem is that it isn’t necessarily even the best choice.

          In out-of-hospital cardiac arrests, one of the drugs which is used commonly is epinephrine. It’s joked that with enough epinephrine you can get a rock to have a heartbeat. So using it is “the standard of care”. The problem is the more recent studies have shown that since it’s a vasoconstrictor, and it works on blood vessels in the brain, it results in both absolute and relative decreases in rates of neurologically-intact survival-to-discharge. The problem is that *not* doing this is hard to justify legally. Even conducting the required experiments to show this was very difficult. You have to worry about people going to court and asking “is it possible that by giving epinephrine this person would have lived and made it out of the hospital?” And the answer is “yes”. We don’t really know *which* patients would have had a net benefit overall, merely that the average benefit is negative.

          So instead, we manage to get a pulse back in a bunch of people who then go and sit in the ICU for a few days before ultimately dying. They never wake up. And a good number of those who do “wake up” are vegetables. But we can’t *not* do that. We risk wrongful death and malpractice lawsuits. Murder is highly unlikely, but criminal abandonment is possible. For the obviously terminal patient, I don’t *want* to do this, but I will do so to the best of my ability because that’s what I’m required to do legally.

          The other cases involves family. I deal with this less. But it’s well-known in ICU settings that it’s the family that keeps patients “alive”. You have the local family who doesn’t want to “give up” and treats discontinuing treatment the same as “killing Mom”. And then once you have immediate family’s approval, you also have the out-of-town/distant/estranged family who flies in at the last moment and insists that they be kept alive, frequently out of guilt for not being in-touch or something else. It’s made even more complicated by permanent brain injury which is incompatible with the idea of personhood ever returning. See: Terri Schiavo.

          The sad part is that, if asked, most healthcare professionals would tell you that they wouldn’t want to be kept alive under these conditions (I would out of nothing but spite). But it’s not worth the hassle to volunteer this unless asked. Otherwise you get blamed for trying to “kill grandpa”, administration gets called and you get sent to sensitivity training or some other pseudo-corrective administrative punishment.

          • Deiseach says:

            Speaking from the other side of the fence: my father, who was in his early 70s at the time, suddenly collapsed one day and had to be brought to the A&E and was practically comatose; they moved him into the ICU and the hospital was doing its best to have us “prepare for the worst”, including asking us did we want them to try resuscitating him (with the unspoken but evident “say no” on their part).

            My mother said hell, no (or words to that effect) and that we very much did want them to revive him if anything happened. His heart stopped three times over the course of being in the ICU and he had to be resuscitated, and when he eventually got out the attitude was very evident that they thought they were sending him home to die (and that we were idiots if we thought otherwise).

            Well, he didn’t die. He had ten more years of life, and I don’t mean “could only sit, slack-jawed and drooling, in a chair” life, I mean “Dad! You know you’re not supposed to be climbing a ladder!” life. What did happen was that he had kidney failure and had to go on dialysis, but even there he made so good a recovery that he only had to go to dialysis once a week. The consultant nephrologist used to refer to him as “my miracle man” and we smiled to ourselves and muttered under our breath “That’s only because we wouldn’t let you lot kill him”.

            Ten years later, he did die: of the effects of a stroke, where a (preventable) blood clot in his lower leg broke loose and caused the stroke. This time round we agreed with the hospital just to make him comfortable and no heroic measures, because this time it was his time to go.

            So, swings and roundabouts; I have no doubt that the first time, the hospital was much of your frame of mind: this guy is elderly, is plainly dying, the family are being delusional, even if we succeed in starting his heart up again he’ll probably be a vegetable, etc. etc. etc.

            Well, we were right that time. And we would have been wrong the second time, so that time we took the guidance of the hospital.

            Families may force hospitals into keeping people tethered to life support who would be better off if they were allowed die naturally, but it’s just as true that hospitals arm-twist families into “no heroic measures” where the person would have a chance of not alone survival, but a life, and a decent life at that.

            EDIT: My family do have a history of “what do those damn hospitals know, anyway?” given that when my mother was a small child, her brothers were throwing sticks and she walked out the front door just in time to get one in the eye. Rushed to the local hospital, eye was out of the socket, her parents were told no chance, she would have no sight in it, could they operate to remove the eye?

            My grandfather apparently said he would rather see his daughter dead than disfigured and refused, so they put the eye back in the socket and let it heal up. Granted, she had little vision in it afterwards, but she did have some and unless you were an ophthalmologist examining her eyes (it seems the back of the eye was scratched to bits) you really couldn’t tell anything was wrong unless you looked closely – the pupil of that eye was ‘frozen’ in a contracted state. But her eye could move, blink, looked normal like her uninjured eye, and so on.

            Chalk one up for grandpa against the medical advice 🙂

          • Garrett says:

            @Deiseach:

            I’m glad your father managed to get another 10 good years of life out of the ordeal. (Did you ever find out what cause the initial collapse? Out-of-hospital vs. in-hospital cardiac arrests are different beasts.) And I agree that a ladder-climbing life with occasional dialysis is worth the effort.

            And, as you noted, this isn’t exactly common, either. And that’s the problem. If you go by the a-priori statistics, the resources invested in your father’s ICU care were a poor decision. It’s only afterwards we can say there was (thankfully) a good outcome. In an ideal world we’d know the results in-advance. Unfortunately, we don’t. Reasoning on imperfect information isn’t pretty.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        the kind of profane experiments that constitute the Half-Life-2-esque body-horror slaves trapped in long-term ICU’s across the world should be vigorously opposed by literally every other slice of it

        Please leave this option available for those (such as I) who believe we’d prefer this to the alternative.

    • fraza077 says:

      Minor quibble:
      I’m not sure many people take up “parachuting” at all*. Generally you either do skydiving, in which the last segment to the ground is carried out with a steerable parachute, or you do paragliding, where you launch off hills with a bigger glider which has a much better glide ratio (you can stay in the air for hours if you find thermal lift or soar on a ridge).

      There are a lot of serious accidents in paragliding that don’t lead to death. Most of the time, you’re not impacting the ground at “definitely dead” speed, because whatever the state of the wing, it’s still providing significant drag. Often the results are compressions, broken backs and legs, that sort of thing.

      Plenty of people die too, though. The impression I get as a newbie to the sport is that most serious paragliders with a few years’ experience have witnessed a fatal accident.

      *Ok, apparently on Wikipedia, “Skydiving” redirects to “Parachuting”. Weird, nobody really talks about “going parachuting”.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        Most of those fatalities and casualties are from fools advancing to a too small of a sporty elliptical canopy too quickly for their skills, one that they can manage when everything goes right, and will kill them if they start even the smallest of problem-cascades, because “swooping” and “landing fast” are so much more “*fun*” than doing a perfectly nailed x-zero y-zero z-zero dx-zero dy-zero dz-zero under a reasonably-sized fully-inflated canopy.

        Or they are doing open canopy formation tricks, because an absolutely awesome way to kill both yourself and someone else is to fall into someone else’s canopy, which will then deflate it and get you tangled in his lines and then deflate yours. Now you are both falling and tangled and neither one of you can get your reserve out.

        If you like actual *skydiving* and can get your adrenaline rush from the fall time, and then when the superman time is over, take an uncompromisingly boring airline-pilot-like attitude towards the canopy time, there is nothing wrong with an 80yo man skydiving, and it’s no more dangerous than climbing up and down a ladder.

        There is an old set of jokes: what is the main cause of death for skydivers? Traffic Accidents. What is the most dangerous part of a skydive? The drive from your house to the dropzone. What is the most dangerous thing a skydiver can buy? A motorcycle.

        I need to get back into skydiving. I miss it.