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Open Thread 135

This is the bi-weekly visible open thread (there are also hidden open threads twice a week you can reach through the Open Thread tab on the top of the page). Post about anything you want, but please try to avoid hot-button political and social topics. You can also talk at the SSC subreddit or the SSC Discord server – and also check out the SSC Podcast. Also:

1. I’m going to experiment with not giving open threads punnish titles for a while. I worry that people unfamiliar with the blog don’t realize that “Opangolin Thread” or “Opentecost Thread” are open threads, and just get confused and go away.

2. I will not write a sponsored post for your company. Stop asking this. If you email me about this I will report you as a spammer.

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936 Responses to Open Thread 135

  1. Jack V says:

    I keep forgetting Dominic Cummings reads your blog. It’s a long shot, but would it be possible to write an article asking him to stop destroying the UK?

  2. Epistemic_Ian says:

    I want to start a meetup group in Merced, CA, if there are any other readers in Merced. If you read SSC/LW and live in Merced, please let me know. If there is a better way for me to find readers in Merced than posting here, I would appreciate any advice.

  3. albatross11 says:

    Is there a good news/newsish source that focuses on long-term important stuff, rather than short-term story of the moment stuff? I’m consistently dismayed by how the news cycle concentrates 100% on urgent / outrageous and 0% on important / ominous. Even the good news sources seem more and more consumed by tribal conflicts and angry accusations/counteraccusations rather than factual questions. (Lots of “how dare you raise the issue of X” and not so much “wait, is X true or false, and how would we tell?”)

    • Randy M says:

      Important but not urgent is definitely the under served of Covey’s time management quadrants.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      The closest thing I can think of would be research think tanks and some polling institutes. So, Pew Research, RAND Corporation, EPI, AEI, etc.

      • albatross11 says:

        Yes, those are good sources. I occasionally try to read a report summarizing some statistics/research by BLS, BJS, CDC, Pew, etc. This is almost always a better source of information than reading news articles in even very good newspapers.

    • Dogeared says:

      Reuters has an interesting mix of impartial stuff. Reuters UK

    • kenny says:

      My accidentally-discovered solution to this is to read most stuff in a feed reader and just read me ‘all feeds’ aggregate feed in chronological order, i.e. oldest posts first. My feed reader only keeps 30 days of posts tho in its ‘aggregate feeds’; that’s not that big of a deal. But a big benefit of the arrangement is that I’m routinely ‘behind’ in following the news. Anything I didn’t hear or see or read about in the interim must be, in a sense, ‘not that important’. It’s amusing to come across a lot of things that turned out to be mostly nothing (in perspective).

  4. Eponymous says:

    Recently I’ve been listening to history lectures while driving or working out. I enjoyed the lectures by Paul Freedman on the early middle ages (200 – 1000) on yale open courses (also available on youtube). I was wondering if anyone can recommend lectures (or podcasts) covering the high and late middle ages (1000 – 1500).

    While I’m interested in the period on its own terms, I’m particularly interested in grappling with how this time period lead to the renaissance and modern periods (e.g. the continuity thesis).

    I would also welcome book suggestions on this period, or suggestions of other good history lectures/podcasts.

    • edmundgennings says:

      The history of England podcast is largely lectures of high quality and has a lot on medieval England. However the level of detail probably exceeds what you want.

    • sourcreamus says:

      12 byzantine rulers has a couple in that area, and Norman Centuries covers an aspect of that time period. Good podcasts.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      To toss another podcast on the pile, check out Tides of History. It’s main topics are the Fall of the (Western) Roman Empire and the transition into the Renaissance

      • AlesZiegler says:

        On your recommendation, I started to listen to Fall of Rome podcast from the same source (here), and it is really good! Thank you.

    • blipnickels says:

      I greatly enjoyed the Civil War lectures by David Blight on the link you provided and heartily recommend them.

  5. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Why has Hollywood never made a Biblical film where King Solomon runs in slo-mo?

  6. proyas says:

    I’m thinking of installing a home surveillance camera system, and would help picking a setup. Here are my criteria/needs:

    1) The cameras would monitor the exterior areas of my house. There would not be any interior cameras.
    2) I want to install 2-4 cameras. The would all probably be mounted on the exterior of my house, most likely in the roof soffits.
    3) I have basic handyman skills and know friends who can help me, so I can do the carpentry and wiring work necessary for the installation.
    4) I don’t want to pay any security system monthly fees and prefer to have the footage from all the cameras stream to a hard drive in my house, where it would be automatically deleted on a rolling basis after 1-2 weeks.
    5) I’d also prefer that the cameras not be wireless in any way. I’d like them to get electricity from the standard copper wires connected to an existing circuit in my house, and I’d like them to transmit data with standard wires, like Cat7 cables.
    6) I’d actually prefer a 720p camera model because I think that’s sufficient, and I don’t want to have to buy an expensive, capacious hard drive to hold all the video data. I’d also like the cameras to have basic microphones (hi-res is unnecessary).

    Can anyone recommend a hardware+software setup for me? Every time I try researching this on my own, I get out of my depth really fast.

    • The Nybbler says:

      What you’re probably looking for is a security system network video recorder with cameras using Power over Ethernet, which means you avoid the issues of putting transformers and/or high voltage wires in spaces where that might be against code or require permits or too hot or anything like that. A quick check of Amazon reveals that there are lots of these, running between $200 and $800 roughly. The cheapest don’t have microphones. The manuals for these things are available on line, but not written in the clearest of English. Rollover operation seems to be standard, though the cheapest one has only rollover when full, not on a schedule. The PoE cameras seem to be all 1080p, but if I’ve deciphered the manual correctly you can downconvert when recording.

    • Incurian says:

      Hikvision PoE cams are decent, easy to install, and they also sell NVRs that work like plug and play with their cams and come with software for a variety of platforms.

    • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

      This probably isn’t going to help you, but it might be worth getting a security system professionally installed. Not because you wouldn’t be able to do it properly, but because having a professional home security system might qualify you for an insurance discount. They also typically place visible stickers or flags with their company logo which might deter thieves casing your property.

      Basically, it’s about the signaling value. A camera that you set up yourself might be just as effective as a camera but less effective as a security system if you take my meaning.

  7. MissingNo says:

    Has anyone heard of Ecosia? The search engine that plants trees and gives back to local autonomy? Its planted 40 million so far I hear!

    https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/rwjv8bZfSuE9ZAigH/act-of-charity

    “Worker: “That’s not fashionable anymore. The ‘effectiveness’ branding has been tried before; donors are tired of it by now. Perhaps this is partially because there aren’t functional systems that actually check which organizations are effective and which aren’t, so scam charities branding themselves as effective end up outcompeting the actually effective ones. And there are organizations claiming to evaluate charities’ effectiveness, but they’ve largely also become scams by now, for exactly the same reasons. The fashionable branding now is environmentalism.”

    “Worker: “You’re shooting the messenger. All or nearly all of these charities are scams. Believe me, we’ve spent time visiting these other organizations, and they’re universally fraudulent, they just have less self-awareness about it. You’re only morally outraged at the ones that don’t hide it. So your moral outrage optimizes against your own information. By being morally outraged at us, you are asking to be lied to.”

  8. EchoChaos says:

    SpaceX yesterday flew a water tower 150m into the air in a field in Texas and landed it back on the launch pad.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYb3bfA6_sQ

    This is cool.

  9. Hackworth says:

    If I write a comment on an old post, will Scott see those comments, like through a notification? I’m asking because I believe I have found an unreported typo in Unsong, Chapter 48 “But I’ve already spend a year and a half looking through all the sources I could” spend -> spent.

  10. sunnydestroy says:

    Anyone able to share experiences dealing with a parent who’s suffering from Parkinson’s Disease Psychosis?

    My dad has Parkinson’s but it wasn’t until the past few months where he’s started deteriorating mentally with hallucinations, anxiety, and I suppose delusions. However, sometimes he’s pretty much normal. It seems to be worse at night.

    I’m just wondering if anyone’s dealt with something similar.

    • souleater says:

      I’m not too involved with it, but my grandmother has parkinson’s, and was suffering from hallucination for a while. It was found that some of her medication was making it much worse. Since changing her medications, her QOL has improves, and as far as I know, she hasn’t had any delusions.
      Parkinson’s is a tough illness. I’m sorry to hear your family is having to deal with it.

  11. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I just found out that the squid314 livejournal has been shut down. Have the articles been saved?

  12. Gerry Quinn says:

    You ran out of puns for open thread titles. Didn’t you? Didn’t you? Eh? Eh?

  13. blipnickels says:

    Can anyone calculate the net present value/life time value of a $40,000 student loan?

    I’m looking into the CPI and apparently different factors are weighted differently in the basket of goods. College tuition and fees are ~1.67% of the total index. This violates my intuition of how much people spend on college and how much it really costs. I’m trying to sort it out.

    On the one hand, I think this makes sense in terms of measurement. If you spend $40,000 on four years of college and you make $50,000 a year for forty years, then you’ll earn ~$2 million in your lifetime, of which $40,000 is ~2% of your lifetime spending.This is also really straightforward and easy to measure (at least compared to alternatives).

    The vast majority of people, however, aren’t paying $40,000. They’re paying $200 a month in interest for 10-20 years plus the $40,000 they actually owe, so say ~300-400 a month. That’s not equivalent to $40,000. I’m not sure how much that would actually be, there’s a bunch of factors like inflation and paying down the principal which make me highly uncertain I can estimate how much someone pays for their college education over their lifetime.

    I’m sure that banks have figured this out though. I’m sure bankers have a formula to determine exactly how much they’d pay to purchase a $40,000 student loan at a 6% interest rate that should be paid off in 15 years. I just can’t find it and I’d appreciate if anyone could give me the answer and/or formula.

    For estimating the real cost of college, I expect this figure to be a lot more accurate than the straight cost of college. I’m not sure if it makes a dramatic difference but I want to have an idea of the magnitude, whether loans are really 20% more expensive or 200%.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Excel has a “present value” function that should work. But there’s a variety of variables. For an oversimplified example, let’s assume the loan is risk free (ha ha ha) and is paid off in equal monthly payments. The payment is $337.54 per month, which can be calculated with the Excel PMT function. The present value of a series of equal payments can be calculated with the PV function, which accepts a rate, number of periods (180), and a payment amount — the catch is what to put in as the “rate”. If you put in 0.06/12 (the monthly rate), you get $40,000, which isn’t very interesting. If you put 0, you get $60,757.69, which is the total amount that will be paid. This isn’t right either. What you actually need is some rate (called a “discount rate”) which takes into account the time value of money (that is, even at 0 inflation, getting $100 today is better than getting $100 next year). Unfortunately there’s no simple formula to compute that.

      • Aapje says:

        @The Nybbler

        The time value of money matters for future earnings as well, though.

        Isn’t the really interesting calculation the discounted (due to time value of money) extra earnings that result from the education vs the similarly discounted cost of education?

        Presumably, the extra earnings tend to come later than when you pay back the loans*, so if the extra earnings are equal to the cost of the education, you actually make a loss.

        * Especially since studying tend to keep you (mostly) out of the workforce, so in the short term, studying results in a substantial deficit compared to not studying, which a graduate has to make up for over time.

        • The Nybbler says:

          The time value of money matters for future earnings as well, though.

          Yeah, at that point you’re doing net present value of all the relevant cash flows, not just the present value of the loan. The present value of the education can (theoretically) be calculated as the present value of the excess each pay period (including the negative amounts at the start where you’re studying instead of working). Add that to the present value of the loan and any other payments, and you have an answer which might mean something. But it’s all very approximate as the correct discount rate is difficult to determine and becomes more difficult the further into the future you project, and of course you don’t actually know those excess amounts and have to model them.

    • Erusian says:

      Google says the average student loan is $37,172 over ten years at 4.3% interest. The total cost is $45,801 in total, $4,584 a year (presuming an interest plus paying down principle model). Taking the Fed discount rate and presuming it’s risk-free (which is pretty common for the Fed), the Net Present Value is $2,434.11. In other words, the person loses out on $2,434.11.

      However! Inflation exists. If you instead get Nominal Net Present Value (ie, add inflation to the discount rate) with annual inflation at 1.5%, you get -$450.09. In other words, the person gains $450.09. Likewise, if you take 10% or 10% plus interest (presuming the average stock market rate of return is risk-free, which it isn’t) they gain $9,005.30 or $10,732.54.

      At any rate, the difference is tiny compared to the difference in salary.

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      I’m sure that banks have figured this out though. I’m sure bankers have a formula to determine exactly how much they’d pay to purchase a $40,000 student loan at a 6% interest rate that should be paid off in 15 years. I just can’t find it and I’d appreciate if anyone could give me the answer and/or formula.

      First you work out the cash flows (i.e. a big list of amounts of money and times at which they are paid). Then you divide each by some rate raised to a power based on each time (e.g. $100 now at a rate of 10% becomes $100 * 1.1^2 in two years time, so $x in two years time at a rate of 10% is worth $x / 1.1^2 now). The tricky question is what this rate should be.

      But regardless, the answer shouldn’t be significantly greater than $40,000. It can only exceed $40,000 by the extent to which the value of college to the student exceeds that. In turn, that can only occur to the extent that the market for education is inefficient in a way that depresses the price. It could actually be below $40,000; I expect quite a few people would take out a loan on typical student loan terms just for the cash.

  14. ldsrrs says:

    When Free Energy or Predictive Coding are applied to actions instead of inference, they seem to end up lacking a symmetry that ought to be there. With usual expected utility maximization the results are invariant with respect to change of variables, but the same cannot be said of minimizing surprisal or free energy. One way of seeing this is that if you take a random variable and map it non-linearly then the result is more concentrated on areas where it changes slowly, as there is a wider width of inputs that correspond to a fixed range of outputs. However, if you put a utility function on a variable and map that variable non-linearly then the new utility function has just the same value as the original did at the preimage.

    (BTW, I posted about this before, but I think I did a bad job explaining.)

  15. Vermillion says:

    Do any of you have a favorite pressure cooker recipe? My fiancee and I are trying to hit the gym after work on the regular so my hope is we could have like, a bunch of raw ingredients ready to go or quickly prepped, drop it in the instant pot, and then a delicious meal waiting for us on our return. But something we start in the morning and eat 8 hours later would be good too.

    Anywho I’d love recommendations or pointers to a good food blog that covers this. Thanks!

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      This specifically

      And these generally

    • Pdubbs says:

      This, and risotto more generally. The instant pot has taken risotto from being something that sounds hard and difficult to one of our most easy and excellent home-cooked meals.

    • Westopheles says:

      Dal Tadka (split pigeon peas with tomato and onion), although I’ve reduced the water by 1 cup, and added 2 tsp grated ginger. Once everything has been chopped, the actual prep and cooking is pretty quick.

    • DarkTigger says:

      Thank you for this question. I’m getting into meal prep, and doing more with a preasure cooker is a great way to reduce time spend in cooking 3 meals on Sunday.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      There’s always pot roast. The basic formula is rump roast, onion, potato, carrot, celery.

      Chop everything except the roast into bite-size pieces. Onion goes on bottom, as a bed. Roast on top. There should be an inch or so of space all around it. (I find they often come too large, so I chop it in half.) If there’s fat on it, good. Make sure that’s on top, so it seeps through and tenderizes the meat. Other veggies all around. Cook it slow overnight.

      Vary this to taste. The roast probably benefits from salt, for example. For extra savoriness, I add a can of mushroom soup. If you find this too brothy, you can blend in corn starch (remember to mix it in cold water first, then add the result). About four cloves can be nice; so can basil.

      I tried it with acorn squash and cinnamon on top once. The roast was okay, but the squash came out suuuuper bitter and I had to toss it. Not sure what happened.

    • baconbits9 says:

      Oxtail stew, almost any googled recipe will be good. Oxtail really does give it a different (better) flavor than any other beef cut I have made stew/soup with.

  16. Deiseach says:

    Forget launching a Tesla into space – for even more exotic locations, they’re using one with a 100 year old machine to bind corn in Rathangan, Co. Offaly!

    What I would love to know is how the heck even a second-hand Model X Tesla ended up in Offaly, given that it is BIFFO country; I can’t find any online prices for second-hand ones, but introduced new in 2017 they cost €100,000 and importing a second-hand one from the UK would still run you €50,000+ and farmers are always putting on the poor mouth.

    I don’t know did Elon Musk ever visualise his project ending up in a corn field in Offaly!

    • The Nybbler says:

      I’m going to guess Tesla brought the car in themselves to make the video. Some sort of stealth marketing campaign.

  17. Hoopyfreud says:

    90s environmentalism idea: linking “adopt an animal” campaigns and wildlife migration tracking research.

    You adopt an animal through the WWF or the Sierra Club or something, and in return you get access to a research project’s wildlife migration database, so you can check in on “your” bird/whale/wolf/bear.

    There are obviously overhead costs here, but I think that even providing semi-monthly email updates would be really neat. I know this is something I’d do if that was something I could get.

    • hls2003 says:

      I feel like the problem here is when the tracker stops moving. It’s less easy to market to kids if you have to deal with “Tweety went to Bird Heaven” conversations every six months. I’m not even sure adults would like that aspect of it. Nature is wonderful, but also brutal. I know it’s brutal; it doesn’t mean I want to be reminded every few months by my donation “gift.”

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Birds in particular may pose a problem here, but megafauna have pretty substantial life expediencies. Sure, you may get unlucky, but I think the negative impact wouldn’t put most people off.

        Then again, I’m much less distressed by death than most people I know, so maybe this is a bigger deal than I think.

        • hls2003 says:

          Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a cool idea. And you’re right, charismatic megafauna probably would last at least several years on average. But I do think the sudden deaths might be an issue. I wonder if you could switch over to another animal without specifically telling the recipient; it’s kind of sneaky, but it’s not like they’re going to go check up on “their” grizzly twice a year.

          Although now that I think of it, that might be another problem – both poachers and idiots.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            poachers and idiots

            There are open-access wildlife trackers out there right now, to be fair. I don’t know that doing this for, say, elephants, is a good idea, but for bears or wolves it seems pretty great.

            And I don’t know, I think swapping animals is duplicitous in a way I really don’t like. I think we’re way too wary about teaching kids about death. Doing things like swapping pets (and pretending nothing happened to them) really, really bothers me, and it would have as a kid as well.

          • hls2003 says:

            Idiots I’m thinking kind of like this guy except with unbalanced people thinking they want to meet “their” animal.

            Do you have kids to whom you have explained the death of a pet or relative? I’ve got kids, but not old enough to require the explanation yet.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Do you have kids to whom you have explained the death of a pet or relative?

            Have kids, no. Dealt with a lot of it as a kid, and explained it to children, yes.

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, this was my thought as well. That some combination of animal dies and/or tracker stops functioning (that a lot of people would assume is “animal dies”) would happen a lot more often than most animal-sympathetic people realize/would want to deal with.

        And that some of the more “attached” people might feel a sense of entitlement, like they purchased an animal monitoring service, and might call you up and demand an explanation as to what exactly happened to their animal, which the charity isn’t prepared to have to deliver…

    • helloo says:

      Many if not most zoos allow you to “adopt” one of their animals.

      They generally will give you updates if asked, but how timely and what kind of reports will depend very much on which zoo and probably which caretaker.

      And yes, unless it’s a really shady zoo, they will inform you when and how they died.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Have you done this? Did they really keep track of which animal it was? Did they really inform you that it died? That doesn’t sounds like a good business practice to me.

        I’m part of a group that sponsors a small, short-lived animal. Every year the zoo sends us a sheet with a photo and information about a slightly different species, without any indication that it’s a different individual, let alone that the old one is dead. Sometimes they accidentally send us a sheet about a tiger and a very large bill.

        • Randy M says:

          Sometimes they accidentally send us a sheet about a tiger and a very large bill.

          That really doesn’t sound like a good business practice.
          Unless the sheet with the tiger is an implicit threat?

    • Jaskologist says:

      Are there still big pushes to “plant a tree”? Nice, local improvement, which you can see the results of with your own eyes.

  18. I have a new blog post on a future scenario called the Age of Malthusian Industrialism:

    Anatoly Karlin’s idea of The Age of Malthusian Industrialism (hereafter, AoMI) is the hypothetical future which will emerge given no dramatic, world-changing technological breakthroughs: no artificial intelligence comparable with that of humans, no anti-aging tech, no or minimal genetic engineering of humans. There will no doubt be further technological advances, solar panels will get marginally more efficient, crop yields will increase, but nothing so dramatic as to shock anyone alive today, or even a decade or two ago. The world continues as it does and future generations live as most humans have throughout history: with minimal technological change during their lifetimes. In this scenario, natural selection goes to work to bring fertility back above replacement-level, and continues to act in this way until the world reaches it’s true carrying capacity, this assumes there is no population control measures sufficient to prevent it. The world becomes “Malthusian,” as it was throughout most of human history.

    There has been little effort put into investigating the AoMI, in either academia or science fiction. The most detailed investigation is Anatoly Karlin’s AoMI series. While visions of an overcrowded, Malthusian world are common in science fiction, they generally assumed that it is imminent at the time the works were written, often a generation away. Usually, they assumed that population growth was “natural” unless prevented by governments, and thus the inhabitants of these crowded worlds were no different than their ancestors. The AoMI, in contrast, recognizes that the natural state of industrial humans is fertility close to or below 2.0. Natural selection will be required to change humans to want more children, which will change them in other ways as well. The inhabitants of the age of Malthusian industrialism,(“Malthdustrials”) will differ psychologically from their ancestors, in ways which will affect their world. This post attempts to describe this world in some detail, its origin, characteristics, and eventual end.

    https://alexanderturok.wordpress.com/2019/08/27/the-age-of-malthusian-industrialism/

    • aristides says:

      I find this very interesting, since the socially conservative psychology description describes me to a T. I am definitely averse to urban living, status games, and materialism. If I had married a woman with the same psychology as mine with full reproductive health, my preference would be to have approximately 10 children, with only one of us working. Now it is both hard to find women who want to have 10 children, and those who do I would likely find unattractive personality wise. Instead I married a woman that wants 3 children and will consider 5 if it goes well. Those are definitely numbers that will outcompete most of my peers. I wonder if this desire is part of the reason I do not personally find the repugnant conclusion repugnant.

    • In an industrial Malthusian age, wouldn’t space colonies become more feasible?

  19. Randy M says:

    People who work tech support, if you would like to have me stop cluttering up your in-box, please try and anticipate the follow up question. Telling me that the problem may be the discombobulator is something, but it would be so much more efficient if you also told me how to confirm the state of the discombobulator, what it looks like, and how to order a replacement should it in fact be the problem.
    Bonus points if you repeat the advice for the second most likely cause as well.

    • Wolpertinger says:

      Your request is a bit broad, there are many different kinds and quality levels of tech support that exist. But I can think of several reasons why it doesn’t happen.

      1st level consumer support at $BIGCORP can be incredibly busy and understaffed. They’re churning through hundreds of tickets per day and person, so the thinking and typing time they can spend on each is limited.

      Additionally they may not actually know the answer and mostly go through a scripted playbook instead, giving you standardized answers. If you don’t prompt them for it won’t be part of the reply. So if anything you would have to plead to those who design support departments/teams and the associated software. Part of the issue is when the same playbook is used for synchronous and asynchronous communication channels.

      Those systems also are designed to deal with the least knowledgeable users, since they’re the most likely ones that will need it, so the procedures are also dumbed down. Any unanticipated or distracting answer might be eliminated for that reason.

      • Randy M says:

        Those systems also are designed to deal with the least knowledgeable users, since they’re the most likely ones that will need it, so the procedures are also dumbed down. Any unanticipated or distracting answer might be eliminated for that reason.

        Next time I’ll ask for the guy who knows how to talk to the smart, careful, but completely ignorant user.

    • Murphy says:

      from my experience working tech support when I was a student… most people are only capable of reading the first instruction in any list.

      “Please do these steps:

      1:A

      2:B

      3:C”

      “OK, I did A now what?”

      Or more often

      “OK, I did that and it’s still not working, now what?”

      [it turns out they only did A and ignored B and C]

      People are also physically incapable of seeing the contents of error message boxes, it may be because they have a small but powerful Somebody Elses Problem Field over each of them.

      What do I do?
      [includes screenshot of detailed error message that includes instructions on how to resolve the problem]

      [typed out text from the error they just sent]

      “thanks that fixed it”

      A large large large fraction of the time the problems are not complex.

      Most of the time as people talk I was throwing their keyworks into a google search then reading back the instructions from the top few results with almost 100% success.

      • Matt M says:

        Obligatory XKCD.

      • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

        Those statements are true but missing the other half of the picture. I’m going to use an example from earlier this year, where I had to troubleshoot a malfunctioning and extremely expensive microscope over the phone with the company rep, because it’s indelibly burned into my memory.

        [M]ost people are only capable of reading the first instruction in any list.

        A lot of instructions sound straightforward, if you’re already an expert with the system. “Find the cable connecting the computer tower to the microscope and move it to another USB slot” sounds like it’s one step. But if there are a half dozen different cables connecting the two, untangling them and figuring out which one is the correct cable is a multi-step process.

        Taking it one step at a time, and making sure that each step is finished before moving on to the next one, is a safer way to go about it if you’re not intimately familiar with the workings of the system. Otherwise you’re going to mess up or skip steps and not notice until an hour later.

        People are also physically incapable of seeing the contents of error message boxes

        Error boxes often contain literal gibberish. For example, a string of seemingly random numbers and Japanese characters which kept popping up on a machine built and programmed entirely in Germany. Or messages which just say that the program has encountered am error, with no code or other information. It’s not hard to understand why users would quickly learn to ignore them.

        Luckily for me, the company which makes the microscope I was using had their program generate an actual error log which I could send back to them.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          Another problem is that error boxes block the center of the screen, which makes it very tempting to close the error box.

          There should be some way to recover the error box, or it should automatically send email. There are probably other and possibly better, solutions.

          • acymetric says:

            Those are unworkable solutions. The good* solution is the one at the end of Nabil’s post:

            Luckily for me, the company which makes the microscope I was using had their program generate an actual error log which I could send back to them.

            *As long as you also have a mechanism for cleaning up old logs to avoid maintaining terrabytes of useless log data going back 10 years

          • Murphy says:

            It’s not even a matter of “tempting”.

            people don’t even see them.

            [someone complaining about a program not working right]

            “Ok, could you open it up and show me what it’s doing wrong”

            [user opens application and in a split second closes a couple of error boxes]

            “uh, what did those error boxes just say?”

            “Error Boxes?”

            or my favorite, somewhere where I wasn’t tech support but rather was an observer at my part time job:

            Everything is delayed, we can’t take money from customers and it’s costing the business by the minute.

            I’m sent to carry a small old TV down to the OP room where I find a the very flustered old woman who’s job is to sit in there.

            turned out that the TV had been a misunderstanding from my manager as the woman had rung up because the guy on the other end of the phone had asked her to try another monitor.

            I could see the second I walked in what the problem was, I was a final year CS student… but I didn’t want to be that arrogant guy, so I sort of stood in the doorway thinking “she has to have read the error out to him” while she’s on the phone to some guy who’s VPN’ing in to try to sort it out.

            And she just keeps repeating again and again “I can’t see the screen! I can’t see my icons!”

            And in the middle of the screen is a gigantic grey box slowly bouncing around the monitor “MONITOR RESOLUTION NOT SUPPORTED PLEASE SWITCH TO [list]”

            at no point had she read this out to the guy on the phone. I could hear him asking her what was there and she was literally blind to the content of the box. And i mean that as in literally literally. She was entirely unaware of the content of the box. she was utterly incapable of comprehending anything within it.

            Eventually I decided I couldn’t take it and fixed it with a right click and change of resolution. The poor guy on the other end of the phone was getting nowhere with her.

          • Randy M says:

            That sounds frustrating, and I’m sure it takes up most of the tech support time for products like that.
            But when I lay out everything happening, every indicator light that turns on, what the gauges say, etc, and get an e-mail response that says “the problem might be x” I’d really like it to minimally include what x looks like and how to verify that, rather than waiting for me to reply with “What’s the X and how do I know for sure?”

          • acymetric says:

            Ultimately your problem is that good customer support (of the kind you are looking for) is not necessarily cost effective.

            Cheaper for them to let you and a few other people get fed up and switch to another company than to staff a team of highly competent people to troubleshoot things for you and the handful of people like you. Plus, they also get to take in the defectors from the alternative company who also have terrible support.

          • Randy M says:

            Maybe they’re trying to run out the clock on the last three months of the warranty.

            This is in a professional/industrial context, too, so the calculations may be different than for some consumer app or device.

          • CatCube says:

            @Murphy

            [user opens application and in a split second closes a couple of error boxes]

            Nyaaargh! I hate that so much when people do that. I was in charge of ensuring our Unit Status Report was filled out correctly during a past staff job. This is done with a special software program on SIPRNet (secret internet). One of the last steps before submission is to validate it, where the software checks to ensure that you’ve got everything filled out according to the regulation (i.e., that you’ve got something in all the boxes that must have something).

            I had one XO come to me saying that he had an error message and he couldn’t validate it. He did the exact thing you’re talking about while I was standing there. I asked him what the error message was, and all he did was reclick the “validate” button and quickly close the error box and say, “See, sir, it won’t validate.” I finally told him that if he closed the error message before I could read it one more fucking time I was going to take him outside and smoke him like a pack of cigarettes. I was finally able to read it, and it had exact directions about what was wrong (something like, “You have only listed your top 20 pieces of missing equipment that require filling on the Equipment Shortages page. Army Regulation xxxx says you need to list your top 25”).

          • Matt M says:

            I finally told him that if he closed the error message before I could read it one more fucking time I was going to take him outside and smoke him like a pack of cigarettes. I was finally able to read it

            There’s not a lot of things I miss about military life, but the ability to solve problems through means unavailable in corporate America is certainly one of them…

          • CatCube says:

            @Matt M

            The part of that that really annoyed me is that I feel a lieutenant should be both able and willing to follow simple instructions from a captain.

      • albatross11 says:

        I think a lot of the world works on people knowing more-or-less the sequence of actions that gets something to work, but without any kind of accurate model for what’s happening inside the black box. People in that situation react exactly as described above–they do the sequence of operations that normally works for this job, and when something goes wrong they don’t have a lot of resources for figuring out what to do next.

        On one side, it’s annoying that more people don’t try to have such a model. On the other, sometimes you just need to get the goddamn thing to *work*, not spend an hour or two reading a manual to learn its principles of operation.

        In an office context, I think you often see this with copiers, office phones, projectors, and internal paperwork requirements–in this case, the highly-educated, highly-paid professionals tend to be helpless people blindly following steps and at a loss if the black box doesn’t respond as expected, and the much less-educated and lower-salary secretaries are usually the ones who understand what’s going on inside the black box and can fix the problem. This makes me suspect that we’re talking about something other than intelligence or education. If the office full of PhDs in technical subjects have to go ask the secretary how to get the projector working or how to properly file expenses for a complicated trip, it’s probably not a matter of their low IQs.

        • Murphy says:

          IQ may not be quite the same as General Problem Solving skill

          You don’t need a high IQ to follow The System but many literate people still completely fail to even try it.

          You don’t even really need to have much understanding of the magic box. It could be filled with unicorn farts and tiny elves and The System would still work.

          There’s also some surprisingly thick Phd’s who slip through somehow.

          Even in a department filled with Phd’s and clinical doctors, being able to spend 10 minutes on RTFM is apparently some kind of superpower.

          You also get a lot of people who are little more than glorified automation. They have a little notebook where they’ve written down the exact steps for various tasks… and any deviation, any deviation will utterly derail them.

  20. JohnNV says:

    Hello, what’s a good intermediate step for learning a foreign language as an adult? I’ve been doing the duolingo Portuguese lessons for a year now, and am at the point where I can survive in Brazil (my work takes me to São Paulo regularly) with no English but only at the most basic level – I can give an uber driver directions or order in a restaurant, for example. But reading a book in Portuguese seems way out of my reach, and I get lost in conversations unless the speaker is going very slowly. I don’t expect to ever be truly fluent, but I’m not sure where I go from here?

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Try consuming media you enjoy. Find a show in Portugese and follow it. If you really need subtitles, set them up so they show a few seconds after the audio.
      Find books you can read. They can be kids books if necessary – or young novels.

      • Robin says:

        I improved my French with comics. They are easier to read than novels, because if you don’t know what a word means, you can often deduce it from the images. Also, the speech bubbles tend to be more colloquial language than what you’ll find in novels.

        • Radu Floricica says:

          And my hiragana reading Naruto 🙂 But I don’t know if there are enough Brazilian comics to make it worthwhile.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      One way to attack both listening and reading comprehension is to find a simple book you have some familiarity with and find its translation in Portuguese as well as its Portuguese audiobook. Follow along in the book while listening to the audiobook. Use your recollections about what happens in the book to work through what’s being said.

      The perennial favorite for this task among my compatriots learning a language was Harry Potter, because it’s been translated into basically every human tongue, with The Little Prince as a close second because it’s short and beautiful in any language.

      This is nothing like the best way to learn a language (that requires talking to people) but it can be a useful exercise to start putting together sound and written word.

      This is of course just a variation of watching a television show with subtitles. You could do this if you found a Portuguese dub of a show you liked. Having it be a book written at a low level, and one you’re familiar with, gets you to start working the inference gears in your brain and start considering words in their context rather than as dictionary translations.

      Watching a tv show in the native language will give you much better insight into ordinary speaking inflection and rhythm, however.

    • b4mgh says:

      The previous suggestions are good ones.

      If your work takes you to São Paulo regularly, I imagine that you have acquaintances there, such as business associates. If that is the case, you might communicate with them through regular e-mails in Portuguese, be it to ask about the development of projects or about their personal lives.

      You might have no such acquaintances or think it wouldn’t be appropriate to do this for some reason. In this case, finding someone with whom you can communicate directly and regularly in Portuguese, be it by text or voice, would be beneficial. You might want to look up online communities of Lusophones, like forums on topics you are interested in, or subreddits. This will be a good way to see a back-and-forth of short messages in text even if you don’t post in them yourself. Avoid Brazilian chans like the plague.

      Boa sorte.

    • Eponymous says:

      I’m no expert, but my understanding is that a language partner is strongly recommended at this stage.

  21. Edward Scizorhands says:

    I’m trying to cut my family’s meat consumption for reasons.

    What are non-meat (or low-meat) meal ideas?

    There are hang-ups, in that most members of my family have some kind of food issue. (These issues are admittedly irrational but it will do no good to attempt to fix them here.) Fish- and cheese-based ideas are off the, er, table.

    I am trying to get just one good idea here. Something that can be added to our meal rotation.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      Potato masala with peas, carrots, and/or tomato served with flatbread or rice. Look up a basic potato masala recipe and add the veggies in as follows:

      Carrot and tomato with onion

      Peas with potatoes

    • Radu Floricica says:

      As far as protein content goes, you can shamelessly cheat and use protein powder when cooking. Taste varies a lot based on source. You can use MSG to give meaty taste to vegetable dishes. For texture, try mushrooms.

      And obviously, soy of all kinds.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      I’m currently working through an Ethiopian lentil soup I made at my GF’s house. It just happens to be vegan (I’m an unapologetic omnivore) – in addition to lentils, it contains white onion, garlic, and berbere spice mix, and can be served over wild rice. A variation on it works like a stew – heavy potatoes and green beans. I could also very easily see serving it with (Italian?) sausage, though of course this will be of limited value to you.

      A search for “Ethiopian lentil soup” will likely get you almost exactly what I prepared. The hardest thing for me to acquire was the berbere mix. My supermarket didn’t carry it; I ended up finding it in a specialty spice shop. You can make it yourself from supermarket spices, but you will apparently want to be careful with the cloves (they can easily overwhelm the mix).

    • baconbits9 says:

      Are you also disqualifying eggs? Quiche and other egg bakes are good, reasonably easy, reasonably healthy meals, and hard/soft boiled eggs for snacks/lunches/picnics.

    • smocc says:

      I think the majority of the meals we eat at my house are vegetarian, mainly because meat is expensive and more work to prepare than non-meat. Here’s some of our staples:

      Rice and beans – I sautee onions and black beans with cumin and then turn the heat down low and cover to simmer some tomato slices. My wife just dumps in taco seasoning and canned tomatoes. We often crunch corn chips over it as well. Very good.

      Roasted vegetables – Potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, sometimes broccoli, sometimes zucchini. Whatever. Chop ’em up, stick them in a pan or glass dish with oil and plenty of salt and whatever seasonings you have on hand and roast it at really high temperature for a while. For a good trick, put in some Italian dressing too. Sometimes we cover with foil, sometimes we don’t. It can be tricky to get everything cooked in a reasonable amount of time without overcooking parts, but it’s never come out inedible. Eat it with rice, or bread.

      Garlicy vegetable pasta – Zucchini, orange or red pepper, tomato. Cook pasta. Sautee the zucchini and peppers together. When they are nearly cooked, put in some large chopped tomato chunks, then add a paste of garlic powder, Italian dressing, and a little water. Cook a little bit longer so the watery part of the paste boils off. I think it’s good enough to eat without any additional spaghetti sauce, especially if you add parmesan.

      Chickpea pasta – Cook pasta, sautee chickpeas and peppers together with oregano or whatever Italian-ish spices you have on hand. Eat it with spaghetti sauce.

      Stir fry vegetables – My wife makes this one so I don’t know the details, but it’s basically just frying vegetables along with some seasoning. Usually broccoli, peppers, onions, maybe zuchhini? I think she gets packets of General Tso’s spices or something from the store. She also adds soy sauce, or sesame oil. If you make small changes to the spices and oils every now and then it keeps it from getting tired. When I’m worried about protein I add some unsalted peanuts after it’s cooked (which is my go-to trick for everything now). My wife loves adding crispy chow-mein noodles she gets in tines from the store.

    • rahien.din says:

      — Simple white beans —
      Simmer canned cannelini beans with crushed tomatoes, garlic, and rosemary. A little red wine is nice in this.

      — Mediterranean green beans —
      Bloom cumin, garlic, and red pepper flakes in olive oil. Then blister fresh green beans in the oil. Squeeze a little lemon over them. Eat them with hummus.

      — Roasted root vegetables —
      Create some mixture of (diced) : potato, sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, turnip, rutabaga, beet. Toss them in oil, salt, and pepper. Roast at 450 until tender.

      — Summer corn salad —
      Cook three ears of corn and slice the kernels off the cob. Add : half a pack of cherry tomatoes, halved on a bias ; half a package of basil, chiffonade ; a little bit of sweet onion ; enough olive oil to make it glisten. Season with salt and pepper. You can add the tiniest bit of vinegar but don’t overdo it.

      — Chickpea pistachio salad —
      Make a salad of : Chickpeas, four cans, drained ; juice of two lemons ; three large cloves of garlic ; green onions, light parts chopped ; roasted tomatoes, one medium container ; little red peppers, one small container ; artichoke hearts, one medium container ; pistachios ; a bunch of parsley ; salt to taste ; olive oil. To keep the onion and garlic from being too bold, first squeeze the lemons, then cut the garlic and onions into the juice.

      — Haluski —
      Boil some egg noodles (or even better, kluski noodles) and drain. Cut half a head of white cabbage and sautee in butter (or oil) until soft but not brown. Add the noodles and cook until delicious.

      — Carrot soup —
      12 medium carrots, chunked ; 1 medium onion, chunked ; garlic, 1 large clove ; walnut oil ; ginger, 1″ knob, minced ; sherry vinegar, about 2 tbsp ; rum, about 2 shots ; stock, 1 qt ; alder smoked salt, heavy pinch ; cumin, pinch ; honey ; zest of one orange

      Toss the carrots and onion in walnut oil. Slice the end off the garlic clove and douse with walnut oil. Roast all at 300 for at least an hour. Soft-fry the ginger in walnut oil. Add rum and vinegar and reduce to a glaze. Add the roasted vegetables and the peeled garlic clove. Toss to incorporate. Add the stock, cumin, and salt. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Stick blend smooth. Add orange zest and just enough honey – you want a sweet note in the savory soup.

      — French lentil stew —
      Carrot ; onion ; celery ; lentils ; oil ; stock ; balsamic vinegar

      Make a 2:1:1 mixture of onion:carrot:celery, all minced finely enough that they basically melt when cooked. Sautee in oil. Add lentils and stir to combine. Then add stock, bring to a boil, then simmer until comfortingly thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar.

      — Provencal ratatouille —
      Via Serious Eats

    • JayT says:

      This is one of my favorite quick and easy meat free dishes, though, admittedly it might not satisfy your picky eaters.
      https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/kimchi-udon-with-scallions

      Otherwise, I’m a big fan of doing a veggie stir fry. Just get a big variety of vegetables (onions, peppers, mushrooms, snap peas, etc) and fry them all together with some soy sauce and sambal, or if you want less work buy a store-bought stir fry sauce. There are some decent ones out there. Just fry up each type of vegetable separately and then mix them all together at the end. I also like adding fried tofu to it.

    • albatross11 says:

      Pasta Primavera is a nice vegetarian dish–you more-or-less cook noodles, stir fry some vegetables and herbs, and then toss the noodles in for the last few minutes along with some white wine. Find a recipe and try it–it’s tasty and easy and needn’t have fish or cheese.

      Our family makes a “breakfast dinner” now and then–scrambled eggs, French toast, roasted potatoes in the oven, and bacon. You could pass on the bacon and maybe make some rolls or something and have a pretty satisfying meal.

    • Betty Cook says:

      Lentils cooked with onions, eggs, olive oil and seasonings. For full recipe, check David Friedman’s webpage–>Recreational Medievalism–>A Miscellany p. 99. Many of the people who come to our south Bay meetups have tried this one, as we usually try to serve one meatless and one meat dish for dinner.

      And by the way, meetup this Saturday.

    • FLWAB says:

      If you don’t have much time, or much money, here is a simple vegetarian recipe I eat just about every week. Black beans and onions: can be used for burritos, nacho toppings, or even mixed into a sauce or soup to add protien and robustness.

      Step 1: chop a large yellow onion into small pieces.
      Step 2: cook the onion with a little oil in a pan until translucent. Add a little salt to help sweat them.
      Step 3: add one can of black beans to the pan.
      Step 4: add whatever spices you feel like. I usually dump in a tablespoon of generic “taco” seasoning.
      Step 5. stir and cook for a few minutes. Optionally after a thin layer of bean stuff starts sticking to the bottom of the pan, I like to add a splash of vinegar and use it to “deglaze”. You don’t have to though.

      And there you go, you’ve got tasty beans and onions. Easy, cheap, tasty, filling. Eat with rice or whatever. You can add it to just about any savory dish.

    • We have a medieval Islamic lentils and egg recipe that has become one of our home standards. “Cooked Disk of Lentils,” on page 99 of the Miscellany.

  22. proyas says:

    Has anyone created a MMORPG that had a “virtual economy” based on real money?

    For example, I’ve never played World of Warcraft, but is the value of the in-game currency pegged to any real currency, like the U.S. dollar? Are there Currency Exchanges were players can pay money from their credit cards to buy X amount of “game money”?

    Are there any MMORPGs where players can buy plots of virtual land and build structures there?

    I think this feature would make MMORPGs more interesting since a new dimension of experience would be added to them, but I imagine there could be some serious risks.

    • Ouroborobot says:

      G2G is a secondary exchange where you can pay IRL money for in-game currency, though I’ve never tried it. Second Life has property you can buy and sell, though it’s not so much an RPG as a virtual playground for furries. NTTAWWT.

    • ksdale says:

      It’s been a long time, so my memory may be faulty, but I believe when Diablo III came out, you could trade in-game money for real money at some exchange rate, but I think after a fairly short period of time, they changed it so that you couldn’t trade from game money to real money. I may be misremembering it…

      I believe Eve Online used to be that way as well. Now you can only buy in-game currency with real money but not the other way around (officially).

      Unofficially, practically every MMORPG has had a secondary market where you can pay real money for in game currency and sell your in game currency, and I remember seeing an article a long time ago about big shops in China(?) filled with people farming gold to sell on the secondary markets. It’s not particularly profitable if you live in a country with a higher cost of living, though, I think generally it allows a person to make a fraction of a dollar per hour, and is often frowned upon by the game makers to the point that it can cause an adminstrative headache that completely outweighs the tiny profit.

      I believe many of the companies that make MMORPGs actually employ economists, even if they aren’t connected to real money, if only because it’s quite an undertaking to manage the things like the item and virtual currency inflation and deflation that occur from everyone’s normal gameplay.

      I haven’t participated much in the world of MMORPGs in a long time, though, so I welcome corrections from more knowledgeable people!

      • Matt M says:

        At launch, Diablo 3 had a “real money auction house” wherein you could buy/sell in-game items for actual currency, (in addition to the traditional auction house where you bought/sold items for in-game gold).

        From my memory, people complained about it a lot, but Blizzard kept it around up until there was a major issue with people figuring out how to hack/duplicate items, which threw the economy into chaos, and, concerned about potential legal ramifications, Blizz quickly shut down the RMAH and never re-opened it…

        • dick says:

          I hated the Auction House, I thought it ruined the game. The entire point of D3 is killing monsters to find cool gear, but I never actually used any gear I found because there was much, much better gear for sale in the AH for trivial amounts of gold.

          • Matt M says:

            This is a perfectly true and valid observation, but I’d say the problem lies not with the auction house itself, but with Diablo’s horrible itemization and loot system, wherein 99% of the potential items you can receive are completely and entirely useless, not just to you, but to any potential character…

            If you have a decent and balanced character/loot system, an auction house works fine.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            As Matt said, this was definitely a problem with vanilla Diablo 3.

            The big issue at launch was that players could not typically get to the point in the game where the most powerful loot dropped without either being very skilled or having that most powerful gear. This resulted in a highly stratified economy, where you often couldn’t farm equivalent power level gear to what you were wearing.

            It was exacerbated by the fact that nearly every build wanted identical stats: the itemization system wasn’t deep enough to have any sort of diversity, so there was no “this item is good for this build”. The item was good for almost every build, or it was good for none.

            Path of Exile is another Diablo-like game with a trade system/third party support that ends up basically being an auction house. Similarly to Diablo, if you use the trade system you will find most of your gear will come from that system.

            But because the itemization is deep enough, different builds want different things, and most of the highest-power gear can drop in content anyone can access, this isn’t as much of a problem. You may get some good pieces for your build, but you’ll definitely get pieces that someone wants that will get you enough currency to get pieces for your build. Doing harder content usually comes down to getting more stuff rather than better stuff.

          • dick says:

            The big issue at launch was that players could not typically get to the point in the game where the most powerful loot dropped without either being very skilled or having that most powerful gear. This resulted in a highly stratified economy, where you often couldn’t farm equivalent power level gear to what you were wearing.

            It’s not true that you can’t get to the end without AH gear, you’d just go slower and play more cautiously. But, unless you pretend the AH doesn’t exist, it will always be true that you could just go there and replace all of your found gear with better versions, for the equivalent of pocket change. And since most people don’t ignore the AH, you’re right, it’s very stratified and there’s no real purpose to farming. Which is a pretty amazing failure, for a farming game!

            I think there are solutions. This was not a problem in D2, just because buying things was a pain so the market was limited. In D3, I think they could’ve probably fixed this by, say, making loot 10% better for the person who found it, or with stricter level limits of some kind. I think the main reason they didn’t is that they were so focused on making the RMAH profitable.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            It’s not true that you can’t get to the end without AH gear, you’d just go slower and play more cautiously.

            Well yeah, someone had to get to the later acts to get the good gear in the first place. But for all intents and purposes, Inferno A3/A4 was inaccessible to the majority of the playerbase for quite a while. Most players couldn’t farm well in even Inferno A2.

            In D3, I think they could’ve probably fixed this by, say, making loot 10% better for the person who found it, or with stricter level limits of some kind.

            I outlined a solution above, but more explicitly:
            1. Make the difficulty tiers tied to obtaining more gear rather than better gear. That way there’s still a reason to do harder content because you get more chances at insane rolls, but someone who’s stuck in lower difficulties will still get good stuff. That’s essentially in place in current D3: you can get the absolute best item for a particular slot at Torment 1, and the difficulty ramps to Torment 16. The benefit of ramping it up is you’ll get the best items faster.

            2. Make the gear diverse enough that an item can be horrible for your build and amazing for someone else’s build. This encourages trading, as you’ll get stuff that’s worth as much as a good item for you but you have to actually translate it into that good item. As a bonus, this also encourages a variety of interesting builds: the rarer your build is, the less in-demand the items you need for it are, and the cheaper it is to put together.

            Now you’ve got a point to farming: you’re farming to generate currency for your items, by finding things people want. Rarely you’ll get something that’s actually good for what you’re building, but for every one of those there will be a dozen “oh I can sell this for a bunch” items. And as your build upgrades, you can do harder content, which gives you more chances at the best stuff as well as more satisfying loot explosions.

        • ksdale says:

          Thanks for the information! I just remember thinking it was cool that I could actually sell items for real money, but by the time I thought about making it into a side-hustle, it was gone!

        • proyas says:

          Could the “real money auction house” have worked better if there were different auction houses for different geographic regions of the Diablo 3 world? For example, Xiansai Island would have one auction house, where any player whose character was on that island could buy or sell game items.

          The existence of regional auction houses would give rise to price differences between regions thanks to uneven availability of goods. It would also provide a financial incentive for players to exploit arbitrage opportunities and become traders. A whole new class of character would come into existence, adding richness to the game (e.g. – as a trader, you have to build and protect your caravan or ship convoy, and the fact that you exist means other players can choose to become bandits or pirates).

          • acymetric says:

            Do you play Eve? You just described their system exactly.

          • proyas says:

            Does Eve’s system work well?

          • moonfirestorm says:

            Path of Exile often has arbitrage opportunities. The items are sufficiently complicated that a large percentage of the items up for sale will be completely unique, which makes pricing a difficult task: all you can do is look up similar items and try and guess at how the differences will affect the price. So if you know the market well, you can pick up items that are underpriced and relist them for a profit.

            In addition, the game has a large number of currencies, all of which are usable (generally to modify properties of an item). The rates between the items fluctuate and shift in both the short and long term, with the long-term changes being somewhat but not entirely predictable based on how long the current economy has existed (the economy essentially resets every three months, as new “leagues” release and most players will choose to start over in the new league).

            Arbitrage is one of the best ways to make money in the game, likely because the trade system is annoying enough that people would often rather have a quick and easy sale then get all the currency they “deserve” with an accurate price, and more time spent trading means less time farming. You need to physically be in the same area as the person you’re trading with, so trading involves whispering them, waiting for a response, going to their base, and making the trade. The system is deliberately designed to make trading annoying.

            Generally the playerbase hates this, with regular calls to overhaul it and implement a more fluid, easier system. That being said, it does a pretty good job making drops feel relevant without trivializing content.

          • acymetric says:

            @proyas

            I’ve only dabbled in the game, but it certainly seems to. You can place buy/sell orders, work as a trader exploiting arbitrage opportunites, work as a bandit attacking traders, engage in trade wars/price wars, and so on.

    • Matt M says:

      but is the value of the in-game currency pegged to any real currency, like the U.S. dollar?

      The answer to this is “sort of.” While you can’t exchange dollars for WoW gold directly, you can exchange them for “WoW tokens”, which extend your (paid) subscription by one month, and the tokens themselves are buyable/sellable on the WoW auction house, so they fluctuate based on the WoW economy, in general.

      • Matt M says:

        To be clear: The WoW token has a fixed price in USD (equal to the cost of one month’s subscription), but a floating cost in WoW gold. So one can observe the “exchange rate” by looking at the current gold-price of the WoW token.

    • helloo says:

      EVE Online’s currency – ISK has a fairly well-integrated “market” both in-game and trading for real-life money.
      market stats

      It has gained some infamy regarding its “risks” –
      Destruction
      Scams

    • moonfirestorm says:

      EVE Online has a system where you can buy a month of game time for real money, and then exchange it for someone else’s in-game currency, effectively creating an exchange rate between real money and in-game currency. This creates entertaining headlines on occasion when a major battle causes losses that are valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars. WoW added something similar with their WoW Token more recently, and I didn’t realize until now that the Token system is basically identical to EVE’s. Also, practically every popular online game with a tradable currency will have a site offering to sell you that currency for real money, although being caught buying that currency will generally be a bannable offense.

      I’m not as familiar with EVE, but the WoW currency exchange rate floats and varies quite a bit, and that probably makes sense: pegging it to the dollar would require you to heavily adjust drop rates as the value of the dollar fluctuates.

      Final Fantasy 14 has a housing system where you can buy a plot of land and build a personal or guild house there. I didn’t play it long enough to determine if they have a physical location or are just instanced. Minecraft and ARK also have the concept of property rights on land on many of their servers, but I think it’s less about buying land and more about claiming it. I also don’t know if you consider them to be MMORPGs.

    • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

      I imagine any attempt to add this in full scale would run afoul of either gambling or banking regulations. Good luck convincing courth that legendary battleaxe of Grunur that your player lost in a duel is different from a round piece of plastic that someone lost in poker.

    • Yair says:

      Yanis Varoufakis was Valve’s economist-in-residence. He was in charge of the virtual economies in Valve games and experimented with game markets.

      http://blogs.valvesoftware.com/economics/it-all-began-with-a-strange-email/

  23. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Anyone here qualified to engage in dialogue about Buddhist metaphysics? I’m having trouble understanding the mainstream assertion that Buddhism is atheist when in the Aggañña Sutta, part of the first collection in the Sutta basket of the Pali Canon, Siddharta “advises Vasettha that whoever has strong, deep-rooted, and established belief in the Tathagata can declare that he is the child of Bhagavan, born from the mouth of Dhamma, created from Dhamma, and the heir of Dhamma. Because the titles of the Tathagatha are: The Body of Dhamma, The Body of Brahma, the Manifestation of Dhamma, and the Manifestation of Brahma.”
    It sure sounds like Buddhism’s central truth claim about the historical Buddha is that he was born in a palace, saw suffering, gave it up to become an ascetic trying to understand the ground truth about suffering, and became Truth after meditating under a tree, becoming (aware that he is the eternal) Tathagatha, the Body of Truth, the Body of the Creator of the Universe.
    Sure, I can see that one can’t ecumenically paper over the subtle philosophical differences between the omnipresent, transcendental Buddha Nature and Classical theism, but they sure look far more subtle than theism vs. atheism.

    • Two McMillion says:

      Perhaps it’s related to the claim that, in practice, pantheism and atheism are the same thing? (If everything’s god, then nothing is…)

    • jgr314 says:

      What qualifications do you require? I’m sure I don’t have them, anyway.

      The version of Buddhism with which I am most familiar is Thai Therevada. I wrote a bunch, then looked at the wikipedia page and found that they said it more effectively, so here’s the essential section:

      Theravāda traditionally promotes itself as the Vibhajjavāda “teaching of analysis”. This doctrine holds that insight must come from the aspirant’s experience, application of knowledge, and critical reasoning. However, the Theravādin school’s scriptures also emphasize heeding the advice of the wise, considering such advice and evaluation of one’s own experiences to be the two tests by which practices should be judged.Yet, in its actual praxis, according to Braun, “the majority of Theravadins and dedicated Buddhists of other traditions, including monks and nuns, have focused on cultivating moral behavior, preserving the Buddha’s teachings (dharma), and acquiring the good karma that comes from generous giving.”

      You object of course, because that has nothing to do with the question of theism/atheism. And that’s exactly the point. Buddhism is/can be a belief system that is orthogonal to cosmological questions (what is the origin of the universe, is there a god) and co-exists perfectly easily with a wide range of auxiliary beliefs. In Thailand, specifically, spirit and ancestor worship are very common (almost universal) and it is pretty common to see people venerating Chinese and/or Hindu gods.

  24. DragonMilk says:

    Guys, how often do you get your hair cut?

    My hair grows orthogonal to my skull and never falls, and I only ever get buzz cuts. Perhaps out of frugality, I feel like I get my hair cut weeks after the first whispers of, “your hair is long” from others.

    I don’t count the weeks, but may start now that I’m like…married and such

    • Urstoff says:

      So if you let your hair grow out, you would look like a Koosh ball?

      • DragonMilk says:

        It’s been called an Asian Fro.

        In college I tested how long it took for it to fall. I gave up because I shower before bed rather than in the morning, and kept waking up with flat hair on one side and a poof on the other. Bit too unkempt even for college.

    • Matt M says:

      About a month and a half or so. I like to get it cut pretty short, then let it grow out a bit, so I have a bit of variety in my life and don’t always look the same. Also I’m lazy/cheap.

    • Protagoras says:

      I’ve long since lost enough hair on top for there to be no way to style my hair that seems to have any prospects of improving things; I just look like a bald guy no matter what. So I follow a similar pattern of buzz it when it gets annoyingly long, to minimize the time and effort wasted on the lost cause.

    • GreatColdDistance says:

      I have quite long hair, so I’ll often go quite a while (6 months to a year) without getting it cut. The difference a few weeks of growth makes to a buzz cut is much bigger than a few weeks of growth once your hair is past your shoulders.

      Also, given the last line of your post I suspect the correct answer is “ask your spouse when you should cut it”, as they are the person whose opinion of your appearance should count for the most.

    • Nick says:

      Every two to three months since I graduated. Before then, it was… less often.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      Not for something like six months. My hair grows quite fast too so it’s beginning to pile on my shoulders. I can’t possibly explain why I enjoy having long hair. Absolutely no one has ever said they like it on me. It’s a hassle. I don’t even think it looks better than the every-other-guy’s-haircut I got when my mother used to make me. I continued getting that sort of undercut/hitler youth thing that all American men are apparently issued at some point just out of inertia but my heart was never in it. People rave on the occasions I get it cut and do all the positive reinforcement. I don’t particularly like long hair on others.

      But I’m clearly the reincarnation of some sort of hippie or perhaps Farrah Fawcett since it’s wavy because it just feels right. Thankfully I’m not in one of those where-men-are-men careers and can meander around the office shoeless and long haired without raising ire.

    • The Nybbler says:

      If I let my hair grow I get what in less-sensitive times was called a “Jewfro”. (Though I actually get it from the Italian side of my family). I think I get it cut like once every two or three months, but at least a month of that is procrastination after knowing it needs cutting.

    • bean says:

      I do my own buzz cuts. About every three weeks, which is when it gets long enough to annoy me.

      • DragonMilk says:

        How do you get the back of your neck?

        I tried to have a friend do this in college, but his cheap razor kept getting stuck on my thick hair very painfully. Did not want to revisit that 45 minute ordeal again.

        • Randy M says:

          That’s a shame. My $20 electric buzzer from many years ago has saved me hundreds of dollars at this point.
          It does help to have someone who can even out the back, though.

        • bean says:

          Poorly. I put the blade guard on, do the head until it feels even and stuff stops falling off, then do what I can with scissors to trim it back.

          Overall, I’d recommend getting one of the home hair-cutting kits. They’re not hard to use, and good value.

        • Ouroborobot says:

          I also have a buzz cut and cut my own hair. I cut it every 2-3 weeks. I highly recommend getting actual pro clippers that accept detachable blades of different lengths rather than an adjustable or snap on guard. I use an Andis BGRC and an Oster 1 1/2 blade. It’s already paid for itself several times over. For my neckline on the back of my head I use my beard trimmer with the guard removed. I hold a mirror in one hand and use it in concert with the bathroom mirror to position a finger on one side of the back of my neck as a guide, then I trim along my finger. Repeat for the other side. I was nervous the first time, but it works pretty well and only rarely do I have to make secondary adjustments for symmetry.

        • littskad says:

          I have a $20 Wahl hair cutting kit that I’ve used on my and my sons’ hair for the past 10 years or so, and it works like a charm. It’s definitely a huge money saver, and it’s easy to take care of.

      • johan_larson says:

        I used to do this. I hoped the look would say “gunnery sergeant,” but it was more like “convicted of auto theft.” Eventually I started getting proper haircuts again.

    • Lasagna says:

      Once every two months or so for me, because I HATE getting haircuts. Always have. But I look real shaggy and unprofessional by the end of that period, so don’t do what I do.

      Particularly my sideburns. I cannot get control of my sideburns.

    • crh says:

      About once a year. I get it cut short then let it grow out until it gets long enough to become annoying.

    • JPNunez says:

      Depends on weather; summer? every two months, maybe every month. Winter? Hopefully won’t at all.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Every 4-6 weeks. Ideally, every 4.

    • Viliam says:

      I used to cut my hair once in a few years. I would let them grow long, and then one day surprise everyone by having them cut very short.

    • Deiseach says:

      Twice a year. I got my last cut a couple of weeks ago, when I looked in the mirror and saw a Yeti looking back. Next one will be around Christmas!

    • Beck says:

      Once a week. I could probably go a lot longer that that since my hair’s thinning and I keep it really short anyway, but I like having it as part of my Friday routine. Also, it starts to feel kind of unkempt (why is that a word?) if I go much longer than that.

    • Lambert says:

      Whenever my fringe starts poking me in the eyes while exercising.

    • JayT says:

      Every 6-8 weeks. I should probably do it every four weeks, but (a) I don’t really want to spend that much on haircuts, and (b) I’m pretty lazy when it comes to making the time to get down to the barber.

    • dodrian says:

      Uhhhh, I think my last haircut was in 2015, when I had it cut to shoulder-length.

      It’s now about down to where short shirt sleeves end. It could use having the split ends trimmed, but I fairly regularly get compliments on it, so it definitely doesn’t look bad.

    • Three Year Lurker says:

      I’m up to 19 years without cutting or trimming my hair. It reached maximum length 15 years ago, which is about mid-back.

      Nope, never have to cut it because it stops by itself.

      For work or looking nice, I braid it. Takes 5-10 minutes.

  25. ana53294 says:

    Why does there seem to be so much advice and help for women to freeze eggs, and so little for men*?

    I know many people in their late thirties, who are having problems conceiving. Some of the cases it’s female issues, some cases it’s sperm quality.

    I looked it up, and you can freeze sperm in Spain for under 500 euros. It’s a very low cost procedure, not just in money; other than checking for HIV/HepC, they just check motility. Female preservation is much costlier and involves multiple hormone treatments, and surgery. It’s much more costly, not just in money, so I see why young women would not do that.

    But it seems quite logical for me for men who think they may want children to freeze their sperm. Young sperm has much better chances of fertilizing, even when there are female issues (older women conceive much more easily with younger men).

    So why isn’t there more advice to do it in your early twenties? The really low cost makes it almost a no brainer, if you ever want kids, unless you’re already married/engaged and planning to have kids soonish.

    *EDIT: here I meant so little advice for men to freeze their sperm, obviously.

    • Lasagna says:

      My understanding is that problems related to age and fertility are much more common for women, and much more difficult to remedy. I’m not sure you’re correct that older women conceive “much more easily” with younger men. I am certain, though, that younger women conceive much more easily than older women.

      Freezing your eggs makes a lot of sense for women if you’re not planning on having children until your mid-thirties or later; I know a few women who have done that (though they didn’t do it in their twenties, I don’t know anyone who thought that far ahead). I do know two men who froze their sperm in their early twenties, but they both were undergoing chemotherapy, and were strongly advised to do so.

      • ana53294 says:

        I couldn’t track the paper, but here is a press article about that.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          Possible confounder: “cougars” (women who date men much younger than themselves) may be more fertile than the average for their age, which is why they are able to attract younger men in the first place, as male attraction is mostly driven by fertility signals.

    • Randy M says:

      I looked it up, and you can freeze sperm in Spain for under 500 euros.

      Presumably that doesn’t include the cost of the IVF.
      When you factor that in, I’m not sure it is economical given Lasagna’s point; there’s not quite the symmetry here you perceive; 1 versus millions is a big difference.
      I think an older man with a low sperm count could probably get medical help to find the active sperm in his current sample, whereas getting good eggs from a woman on the edge of infertility would be a lot more invasive.

      • March says:

        Freezing eggs doesn’t include the cost of IVF either. (Although it may front-load the cost of placing back the embryos, because the horrible and presumably expensive part of IVF is generally the egg extraction with the endless hormone injections and the actual extraction.)

        Besides, with frozen sperm you don’t need IVF, just IUI. That alone should be the price of admission right there, since loads of sources say that there’s no good data on whether IVF actually increases your chances of conception. Spend 500 bucks, increase your chances of conceiving (even if by a little, it might be enough), go to the hospital once a month for a 20-minute procedure instead of however many are needed for a round of IVF, and spare your wife a LOT of physical anguish? Best 500 bucks and uncomfortable 15 minutes ejaculating in a cup ever spent.

        Sperm quality does go down much slower than egg quality. Most men over 50 are still at least somewhat fertile, while very few women over 50 are. But most ‘older’ women still have partners that are even older, so might be a big win.

        Good luck trying to convince men to go along with that, though. Perhaps something to market to potential grandparents. 😉

        • ana53294 says:

          Yes, exactly.

          Freezing eggs has a lot of costs, where cost =/= $$$. For men, it’s just such a tiny inconvenience.

          Besides, there are health consequences to older sperm, also; the risk of autism increases greatly.

          If it were possible for me to freeze eggs as easily as it is for a man to freeze sperm, I would have done it when I was 18.

        • Randy M says:

          Spend 500 bucks, increase your chances of conceiving (even if by a little, it might be enough), go to the hospital once a month for a 20-minute procedure instead of however many are needed for a round of IVF, and spare your wife a LOT of physical anguish? Best 500 bucks and uncomfortable 15 minutes ejaculating in a cup ever spent.

          In some cases maybe, but it seems like more often you’d need both if you got to the point where the husband’s sperm was so diminished, absent a large age difference.

          • March says:

            There are all kinds of reason on top of age why men can have a diminished sperm quality. Sperm quality seems to be declining in every age group, probably due to environmental and general fitness factors.

            Anyway, if 500 bucks means you get a successful conception after 2 rounds of IVD instead of 3 (or 6 instead of 7), still best money ever spent.

          • Randy M says:

            Okay, maybe you’re right, idk.
            Although I wonder if do-it-yourself could function almost as well for basically no cost. That was a plot point on Arrested Development.

          • ana53294 says:

            Sperm is frozen in liquid nitrogen.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      some cases it’s sperm quality.

      Does sperm quality quickly decline with age? My understanding is that male fertility (assuming regular intercourse with a fertile partner) declines much slower than female fertility.

      I suppose that the limiting factor of total fertility in older men is the difficulty they face to attract fertile female partners, not sperm quality.

    • MissingNo says:

      >Why does there seem to be so much advice and help for women to freeze eggs, and so little for men?

      You should probably retake biology.

      Men don’t have eggs.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      What’s the point? If you have ICSI IVF, the doctors pick out the healthiest sperm and force it with a pair of tweezers directly into the egg. Unless you’re shooting blanks, you should have SOME sperm the doctor can work with.

      • ana53294 says:

        IUI is much less invasive than IVF, but it needs viable sperm, not just one swimmer.

        If you’re having kids before 35, there’s probably no point. But if you have a kid after 40, the risk of having a kid with ASD, ADHD, or other issues increases significantly. Having frozen sperm means you can have healthy kids even after 40.

        Of course, that’s unadvisable, and as I said, if you expect to get kids soonish (in 2-3 years) it doesn’t make sense.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          But if you have a kid after 40, the risk of having a kid with ASD, ADHD, or other issues increases significantly. Having frozen sperm means you can have healthy kids even after 40.

          If I understand correctly, there is no clear evidence that the paternal age effect observed with ASD and other mental diseases is causal.

          There is some evidence for the selection hypothesis: men with sub-clinical mental illness tend to reproduce later than average, if they reproduce at all, and these men are more likely to have children with full-blown clinical mental illness because of their genes. Scott talked about this in an older post.

        • JayT says:

          I have no idea, but are we certain old, frozen sperm is better quality than the average 50 year old’s sperm? I can’t imagine there’s no degradation during the freezing/thawing process, but I also know next to nothing about the subject.

    • bullseye says:

      It looks to me like you’ve answered your own question; if freezing sperm is cheaper and easier than eggs, you don’t need as much advice for sperm.

  26. EchoChaos says:

    My six-year old son is fascinated with Swedish history. He has sort of arbitrarily decided that Sweden is cool and he wants to learn all about it. What are some good books about Swedish history written at a level a very advanced six year old will enjoy?

    I would strongly prefer post-Christian Sweden, especially the reign of Charles XII, but any good books about the country would be appreciated.

    • N Zohar says:

      Hah, that reminds me of when I took my daughter to IKEA when she was about 4. It was her first time being there while conscious (we went once or twice before, when she was an infant) and I told her we were going to Sweden. I spun a yarn about how the road to get there was magic and allowed us to cross a quarter of the planet just by driving a few hundred feet. After that, every time we’d drive by IKEA I’d point and say “There’s Sweden!” and she believed she had gone to Sweden for about half a year until my wife got sick of it and told her the truth.

    • JPNunez says:

      GET A BOOK ON THE VASA

      It’s the coolest museum ever.

      https://www.thelocal.se/20170925/stockholms-vasa-museum-named-among-best-in-the-world

      https://www.amazon.com/Sinking-Vasa-Shipwreck-Titanic-Proportions/dp/1627798668

      https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/bizarre-story-vasa-ship-keeps-giving-180964328/

      Basically an insanely detailed ship that went out, sunk immediately on its maiden voyage, and was rescued like 300 years later and rebuilt.

      If you ever go to Stockholm, visit this museum cause you enter and see this insane ship hanging in midair coming at you.

      Dunno if that book is that good; I have a couple ones that are more detailed and may not hold a kids’ attention.

      It’s technically from before Christian XII but whatevs.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Excellent choice. And even a heavy metal song to go along with it.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2wkF6nO0iAo

      • bean says:

        It’s the coolest museum ever.

        Objection. This is a vessel with neither armor nor guns nor any form of mechanized propulsion. By definition, it cannot be the coolest.

        • smocc says:

          … nor any form of mechanized propulsion.

          See, it’s this obvious incorrectness that keeps me from reading your blog with any regularity.

        • JPNunez says:

          Um, the Vasa had guns.

          It had so many guns that it sunk the ship cause back then they didn’t know how ships worked so they just eyed the capacity. Gustav just said “just put all the fucking guns in it”, the ship sailed with water just next to the cannon openings, fired a salvo to salute and water started entering the ports, and it sunk promptly.

    • DragonMilk says:

      You could introduce him to EU4 and start as a vassal of Denmark in 1444…

      Though I suppose a six year old may struggle with the micromanaging, I totally am going to introduce any future kids of mine to the game.

    • GreatColdDistance says:

      Not a book, but y’all should listen to Sabaton’s Carolus Rex, fantastic concept record about the Swedish Empire, and probably hooky enough for a six year old to like it.

      • EchoChaos says:

        That’s why Charles XII specifically is something I’d like a book on for his level. He LOVES that album.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Seconded. They have both Swedish and English recordings of each song which makes for a fun contrast

        Edit: ninja’d 🙂

    • Björn says:

      Vicious Vikings from the Horrible Histories book series is about vikings, but the Horrible Histories book series is the best historical literature for kids ever, so give it a try.

  27. Bobobob says:

    “Can you say severe neurotoxicity?”

    Just a quick plug for “Dora and the Lost City of Gold,” a good-natured movie that…well…made me feel good.

  28. DNM says:

    Ethical investing: are there any relatively easy semi-packaged options? I’m thinking of a configure-your-own mutual fund where I can choose to divest from fossil fuels and weapons and someone else can divest from prisons. Or better, some sort of (even low yield) EA-type thing, but for investing rather than donating.

    • eric23 says:

      Doesn’t matter. The market is pretty efficient. If you divest from immoral profitable stuff, someone else will invest more in the same stuff and they will do equally well overall.

      • sunnydestroy says:

        At some point it would affect the macro level if enough people on the micro level divest, though that definitely wouldn’t be some easy change. It’d be a whole cultural shift.

        For OP’s question, sounds like a robo advistor investment firm with a social responsibility focus would work for you. You can check out Earthfolio, OpenInvest, and Wealthsimple to start.

        If you just wanted to put some money in an index fund, you could just do Vanguards socially conscious funds like the Vanguard Social Index Fund (VFTNX) or the ETF version (ESGV).

      • 2irons says:

        Even if it makes no difference – there’s a personal atheistic to not taking blood money.

    • ana53294 says:

      I can’t find the article right now, but I remember there was an article at the EA site about how mostly you’re better off investing the money well and donating the surplus.

      But they mentioned that the best way was to invest in companies and participate in voting, by voting for more responsible corporate policies. That’s only a strategy that works if you are Norway, though. Or you can invest in one of those shareholder activism funds.

      • Jon S says:

        mostly you’re better off investing the money well and donating the surplus.

        +1. Excepting the aesthetic issue mentioned above.

    • DarkTigger says:

      I know that there are “Renewable Engergy”-ETFs. I also think there are similar ETFs for other “ethical” topics, like fair-trade companies and such.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Might as well pick single stocks and open a Merrill Edge account (not sure if others do this) that allows you 30 or 100 free trades per month.

    • Pdubbs says:

      The company I work for owns this app: https://www.investwithcoin.com/

      It’s a robo-portfolio managed to fit an “Impact Area” that agrees with your values. It’s a young product but they’re good, smart people offering pretty much what you seem to be looking for.

      • salvorhardin says:

        With a 0.75% annual fee, if I’m reading the site right. That’s not terribly high compared to many actively-managed funds, but it is much higher than VESGX and about five times as high as VFTAX. So you’ve got to believe that the more narrow targeting is worth enough to justify the increased fee. Which isn’t inconceivable, but is very far from obvious.

        • Pdubbs says:

          I think the selling point is it being more tailored to your values (and something-something app experience), which I’d agree isn’t obviously worth the fee (or the potential market performance ding if you believe EMH).

          I personally believe in something closer to eric23 above, so I’m total stock market plus some bonds and cash, and tend to advise that to others but I thought it was neat that some people I know were building a relevant product.

    • b_jonas says:

      I agree with ana53294 that it would be the most efficient to just invest in whatever and then donate to charities that you believe are ethical. That said, there are funds that are tied to markets in specific continents or regions, so if you’re specifically worried about less ethical practices of industry in, say, China, you can choose one that invests to another region of the world.

      • Matt M says:

        What “part of the world” do you think has zero unethical governments/industries?

        Like, no matter what your belief system, I’m struggling to imagine a fund that would invest in “ethical” nations only.

        Maybe there are Canada-specific funds? They seem pretty inoffensive. Although I’m sure the Albertan oil sands would make up a non-trivial fraction of such a portfolio.

    • salvorhardin says:

      Configure your own seems like it’s going to kill you on fees. Seconding others who recommend VFTAX, or if you want something a bit more targeted with a higher expense ratio, but still low for a “socially conscious” fund, try VESGX.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      If a single buys/sells stock on the market actually increase/decrease the capital available to that company?
      In the case of a single individual i think it’s merely a shift in ownership. Though sufficient numbers of buys/sells moves the price up and down.

      I think you’d need to identify companies with ethical business models and find out when they issue new stock to guaranty that you’re actually providing them with new capital rather than merely transferring ownership.

      • Doctor Mist says:

        I think the issue is that if you buy shares of Veridian Dynamics, then officially you are part owner. If Veridian then does something unconscionable, such a shareholder might feel responsible.

        • Nabil ad Dajjal says:

          I don’t have anything intelligent to add but seeing a Better Off Ted reference warms my heart.

  29. Clutzy says:

    If you were Andrew Luck, would you have retired?

    • Brett says:

      I would. He’s got other options, the money he’s already earned, and he had taken a ton of injuries – with the almost certainty that he would take more. There’s a good Washington Post article on it, where he talks about the cycle of “injury, pain, recuperation” sucked away all the joy of football for him.

    • eric23 says:

      I wouldn’t have entered the NFL to begin with. I’d rather be a healthy middle class professional (like I am) than a rich (for now at least) celebrity with a future of brain damage and disability ahead of me.

    • Protagoras says:

      Absolutely, take the money and run. Some injuries have nagging effects forever, or even get worse with time; I definitely wouldn’t want to acquire any more of those, or aggravate those I had already suffered.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      No. Luck was at the peak of his game, just below top-tier with only Brady, Rodgers, Brees, and Mahomes ahead of him. With him at the head, the Colts were real Super Bowl Contenders. They went 10-6 last year and won a playoff game (which is a big deal in the NFL for anyone not named the Patriots). No one really walks away from the game right when they have the chance of getting real glory. It’s like Michael Jordan retiring right after the Pistons sweep the Bulls and right before the Bulls begin their dynasty.

      Without Luck, Colts go from divisional contenders to a .500 team, at best. In a tough division, too. This isn’t the NFC East.

      • j1000000 says:

        But presumably his injury was far more serious than the Colts were letting on, and if he played at all this year he’d fear his Achilles snapping every time he got hit.

        Now, he can rehab without stress and urgency until he’s completely healed. And then when Tom Brady retires in a couple years maybe he can give the Patriots a call.

        • acymetric says:

          Pretty sure the Colts will retain his rights if he ever chooses to return (which may have something to do with them showing some good will by allowing him to keep some various bonuses that technically the team could have recouped if they wished).

          • hls2003 says:

            Yeah, I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s back in a year or two. He’s not even 30. And I think you are right, the Colts retain his rights for as many years as he had left on his contract, starting at whatever time he might “unretire.” So he can’t wait two years and then go to the Pats; he’d have to unretire and play out (or trade / buy out) his contract with the Colts first.

        • hls2003 says:

          presumably his injury was far more serious than the Colts were letting on, and if he played at all this year he’d fear his Achilles snapping every time he got hit

          I will concede that this scenario seems a bit more likely after watching the Warriors and Kevin Durant in the NBA Finals.

          • acymetric says:

            If calf injuries in sports consistently lead to Achilles tears we would see a lot more Achilles tears.

    • Matt M says:

      Yes. I’m actually shocked that more athletes don’t retire early, or otherwise do weird/socially unapproved things. They’re mostly 20-30 year old alpha male types, all of whom have “FU money” by at least an order of magnitude.

      If I was one of them, I’d have probably gone the Ricky Williams route, or, god help me, even the John McAfee one…

      • baconbits9 says:

        Ricky retired at 27 for one season, then came back for one season, then was suspended and ended up playing until he was 34. Even guys who try it often miss it and come back.

    • acymetric says:

      Hard to say. Rehab is hard and he’s basically been perpetually rehabbing for several years now. He’s walking away from hundreds of millions of dollars, but he already earned about $100 mil. For someone not into the extravagant lifestyle stuff like yachts and having 20 huge mansions $100 mil is pretty much plenty.

      If it was really all pain and no satisfaction for me I suppose I probably would. I think the difference is that I would still want to play, so I probably wouldn’t choose to retire but I don’t begrudge him the choice.

      The fact that he and his wife are expecting a child might be informative here as well.

    • Urstoff says:

      Sounds like constant rehab was really impacting his mental health, so retirement seems like the best choice.

    • hls2003 says:

      No, I’d have continued. He was set to make more than $30 million over the next two years (he’d have been giving up more but the Colts reached a settlement with him to let him keep his $12M roster bonus for 2019). Meanwhile, as a 30-year-old franchise QB, he’d have been in line for an extension next year that would probably have guaranteed him something in the $100M range for a signing bonus, plus salary over the next five years probably around another $100M. At 34-35, assuming even moderate health, he could potentially have expected one more payday, probably another $200+ million depending on his performance at age 34ish. Luck has made around $100M in his career. Let’s assume that, after taxes and living expenses, he banked half of that. He’d have $50M. That is nothing to sneeze at and would be “F-you” money for me. Conservatively invested, he could expect an income of around $1.5-2.5M a year. So I’m not saying he couldn’t manage it, or that I wouldn’t consider it. But he’s giving up potentially almost ten times that much in future earnings over the next 8-10 years. If you told me that, by working 8-10 more years, I could quintuple my retirement income, that’s an almost unthinkably good deal.

      But aside from the financial, put me in the camp that thinks Luck behaved rather badly by retiring at this point. If he retired after this season, the financial stuff is entirely up to him, and he’s probably never going to be destitute. If he retired right after last season, again, totally his choice. By retiring in the preseason, he screwed over not just this season but the Colts’ whole strategic plan over multiple years. Their 2019 draft strategy would be affected – they traded down out of the first round and didn’t take a QB. Their free agency signings would be affected. Their salary cap strategy is disrupted. I wouldn’t put it as strongly as a moral obligation, but it’s kind of an unprofessional way to treat a franchise that has stuck with you through injuries and paid you a lot of money.

      • acymetric says:

        Most of the sports talk folks have been strongly defending Luck, but I agree that the timing is a bit of a bad look. Not as bad as Vontae Davis retiring at halftime, but not great either.

      • Urstoff says:

        Can’t say I’m too sympathetic with that line of argument given how the franchise, Ryan Grigson in particular, basically flushed Luck’s career down the toilet by egregious mishandling of the roster. The Colts finally have a good Coach/GM combo, but it’s too little too late for Luck’s health.

        • hls2003 says:

          I mean, I don’t know him, and have no info apart from news reports but… his health doesn’t seem to be that bad? I know he’s got a lower leg issue now, and the shoulder issue was pretty bad over the last year and a half, but the calf thing is not long-term and he should be pretty much over the hump on the shoulder thing. If it’s purely a question of “I don’t want to take another season of poundings,” then that was equally or more true at the end of 2018 or at least before the draft.

          • j1000000 says:

            “The calf thing is not long-term”

            That doesn’t seem obvious to me. As I recall the Colts tried to downplay his shoulder issue too before he missed a full year, so I don’t take at face value their continued insistence that “well we were wrong last week but now we know his return really is just around the corner.” I interpret his retirement as an acknowledgment that his injuries were worse than anyone realized.

          • hls2003 says:

            Playing pro football at an elite level, and having irreversible crippling life effects, are two very different thresholds for how much impact an injury would have on you. I don’t get the impression his leg is set to fall off, just that he’s tired of rehab and has lost his “love for the game.” OK, but couldn’t he tell that his “love for the game” was waning as of, say, March 2019? He was rehabbing then too.

          • j1000000 says:

            In March he has months and months until the season starts, and thinks the calf will improve shortly. Now he’s done at least 4 months of rehab, his calf hasn’t improved and shows no signs of improving any time soon, and he’s staring the regular season in the face. I would feel much differently now than I did in march.

            Not sure what you mean about playing at an elite level — are you saying he can play now and he’s just too soft too?

          • hls2003 says:

            In March he has months and months until the season starts, and thinks the calf will improve shortly.

            My understanding, admittedly limited, was that the calf wasn’t injured that early. I thought he was rehabbing the shoulder.

            Now he’s done at least 4 months of rehab, his calf hasn’t improved and shows no signs of improving any time soon, and he’s staring the regular season in the face. I would feel much differently now than I did in march.

            Were there news reports to that effect? It wasn’t my understanding, but I’m neither Andrew Luck nor a doctor nor a Colts training staff member so I don’t know for sure. I thought he had only been rehabbing the calf for a couple weeks. Did you watch his press conference? It was repeated references to losing “love for the game.” I just don’t think that sort of thing comes on all at once due to a calf injury. And I think it was somewhat unprofessional (not immoral or inexcusable or anything so terrible) to put his team and teammates in a bad position by not introspecting himself earlier, or else – since he committed initially to this season – play through this one and retire at the end.

            Not sure what you mean about playing at an elite level — are you saying he can play now and he’s just too soft too?

            No, not exactly. I do think it’s plausible he could play, and just doesn’t want to. Whether or not that’s “soft” is part of the discussion. But what I meant about the elite level versus irreversible damage is that a career-ending injury and a life-crippling injury are not the same thing. It seems like people are assuming they are. Let’s say he tore his Achilles and subsequently retired. Or better yet let’s consider his shoulder, which was ongoing for over a year. Those injuries might make it so that he’s not in the tip-top peak 1% of 1% physical condition necessary to play in the NFL. Like if his shoulder reduced his throwing speed 25%, he probably couldn’t play well, but he’d be otherwise OK for 99.9% of life. I don’t think either of those injuries would be “irreversible damage” in such a way that he could never expect to live a normal life after football. I’m not saying no such conditions exist, only that there are a lot of potential injuries that he could use as a “retirement trigger” where that same injury would not seriously impact his long-term future. If anything, by playing this long (probably 15-18 years of organized football), he’s probably done some cumulative damage already and further damage may be marginal. Again, I don’t know on that, I’m not a doctor. I’m just pointing out that he could have given it a shot (due to having reported to camp and had the team depending on him), then e.g. retired later after something worse happened in the season; if the rejoinder is “but then it’s too late, he’s crippled for life” I don’t think that follows. Lots of very bad season-ending or even career-ending injuries are not synonymous with irreversible crippling where he’s in pain forever and can’t live a normal life even sans football.

            When I was working at a large firm, I started to get burned out. Then I got assigned to a trial team and billed a ton more hours doing that. I was in the process of thinking it might be time to transition, but I planned to stick at least until the end of the year when bonuses were paid, because I had a pretty good one coming based on my hours projections. Shortly thereafter, I got assigned to another trial team, set for late January. If I had stayed through December as planned, I thought I would have harmed the trial team by quitting because I would have developed the familiarity with the documents and then left suddenly and a new person would have had difficulty integrating and getting up to speed. So instead, I changed my timing and resigned earlier, pre-bonus, to give the team time to replace my function. It’s not heroic, it was a relatively minor thing, but I just feel like it’s professional – to the extent possible – to adjust timing on stuff like this to prevent negative consequences on others. Sometimes it isn’t possible. I can’t say for sure whether Andrew Luck’s decision could have been adjusted or not in terms of timing. I doubt anyone knows for sure besides him. But if the original question was “would I have done it,” or perhaps more broadly “was there anything wrong with it” – that’s where I’m coming from; I think there was potentially something a bit unprofessional about leaving his organization flat-footed. Not that he’s a terrible person, or acting outside his rights as an individual, but I don’t think all criticism is out of bounds.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            It kinda sounds like you threw yourself under the bus for the company out of a misplaced sense of honor… I mean, props for sticking to your principles, but I really question the value of it in an era where companies can’t be arsed to do anything above gleefully throwing employees under buses

          • j1000000 says:

            @hls2003 Rotoworld first mentions his calf on May 21. “Andrew Luck will be re-evaluated for a calf injury next week. The Colts say Luck’s calf injury is minor.” So he’s on, at minimum, 3 months and a week. Then if you follow it from there on Rotoworld you keep seeing updates that say it’s still injured but he’s about to be totally fine 100%.

          • hls2003 says:

            @j1000000

            Fair enough. I can tell I’m in fewer fantasy leagues this year. Still, when the published reporting says it’s minor, I don’t know if it automatically follows that it’s major just because it’s also nagging. But I certainly don’t know any more than the reporters, trainers, or doctors.

            @Gobbobobble:

            Maybe? It didn’t seem misplaced to me, nor did it seem super serious.
            I got out a few months early, gave up some money, tried not to make life harder for colleagues I had worked with for several years. Also, while the firm wasn’t for me and had some legit staffing issues, they also recruited me, hired me, paid me a very good salary when I knew very little, trained me. Some of the people I worked with there were individuals I liked and respected, not just faceless agents of “the firm.” I’ve no illusions, I don’t doubt the firm would have fired me if necessary, just as I quit when I was ready to be done, but I didn’t perceive things to be quite so atomized and dog-eat-dog as you seem to indicate. I didn’t stay a whole career out of loyalty, after all, it was just a timing thing. I don’t claim Luck should have stayed another 10 years just out of blind loyalty.

          • j1000000 says:

            @hls — I don’t know if it’s serious, I just trust Luck’s retirement more than the Colts with their track record. Jim Irsay’s bizarre quote made it sound like something far more complicated than just “calf injury” is happening.

            I also think Luck owes the Colts nothing. Irsay retained an incompetent GM and as a result Luck got destroyed year after year behind a terrible offensive line. Reap what you sow. Plus he led them to the playoffs on a rookie QB contract, the biggest ripoff in sports.

            I feel for fans who have nothing else in their life (I am one of those but I root for a different team), but you gotta do what you gotta do, and fans turn on you way faster than Luck turned on them. Seems like he gave it a lot of thought for a long time.

          • Matt M says:

            a rookie QB contract, the biggest ripoff in sports.

            It really is somewhat offensive that in most pro sports, the veteran players are engaged in an open and active conspiracy to depress the wages of their younger (but often equally well-qualified) competition.

          • albatross11 says:

            Compared to what’s done with college football/basketball players, it’s a drop in the ocean. But the beneficiaries in that case are among the most prestigious, influential, and well-funded institutions in our society, whereas the victims are disposable nobodies, so nobody important minds. Not like real people are being hurt.

          • acymetric says:

            Compared to what’s done with college football/basketball players, it’s a drop in the ocean. But the beneficiaries in that case are among the most prestigious, influential, and well-funded institutions in our society, whereas the victims are disposable nobodies, so nobody important minds. Not like real people are being hurt.

            This is really only true for a small % of college players (although it is…extremely true for the players it does apply to).

          • albatross11 says:

            True. Most college athletes are just getting a small break in admissions standards to play in a sport that they love and that doesn’t earn the college a ton of money. OTOH, the top football and basketball schools make a ton of money on those sports, pay their coaches very well, and have somehow gotten the whole country to agree that it would be wicked and wrong to expect them to pay their players in anything but company scrip. And then, often, they’re helping those players pass their classes even when they’re not learning anything in them.

      • baconbits9 says:

        But aside from the financial, put me in the camp that thinks Luck behaved rather badly by retiring at this point. If he retired after this season, the financial stuff is entirely up to him, and he’s probably never going to be destitute. If he retired right after last season, again, totally his choice. By retiring in the preseason, he screwed over not just this season but the Colts’ whole strategic plan over multiple years. Their 2019 draft strategy would be affected – they traded down out of the first round and didn’t take a QB. Their free agency signings would be affected. Their salary cap strategy is disrupted. I wouldn’t put it as strongly as a moral obligation, but it’s kind of an unprofessional way to treat a franchise that has stuck with you through injuries and paid you a lot of money.

        A lot of this has to do with the nature of sports, off-seasons and injuries though. Unplanned retirements like these tend to occur when a player has an injury/series of injuries and the decision is made in large part due to progress back from those injuries. The amount of time and effort to get back to the point where they can even report to camp has a large impact on if they want to continue, blaming someone for retiring at this point, unless they show up 40 lbs overweight without having done their rehab, is to ignore what is driving the retirement.

        • hls2003 says:

          The only thing I’m aware of that changed between the end of last year and his retirement is the calf issue. Maybe there’s something else that’s unreported, I certainly have no inside information.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        If you told me that, by working 8-10 more years, I could quintuple my retirement income, that’s an almost unthinkably good deal.

        IMO, if you already have FU money, trading your physical and neurological health for 5 x FU is a pretty shockingly bad deal. At FU money you’re basically defining the marginal value of the next dollar as trivial, so you’re trading irreversible damage for a truckload of money you won’t get much meaningful value from

        • hls2003 says:

          You’re assuming irreversible damage is inevitable. QB’s don’t get hit the way they used to, and there’s no contact on every play like with O-linemen. And if he starts taking such damage – a scary concussion, or something, or another surgery – then he can retire at that point (and also get an injury settlement guaranteeing his salary for that year). Also you’re assuming that my FU money and a former star QB’s FU money are the same – he’s used to more income and might have a different threshold – or that because Andrew Luck has all the money he’ll need for himself, he wouldn’t care about more for his kids or grandkids.

          Hey, let’s go full Singer – how many bed nets is Andrew Luck foregoing? He’s basically a mass murderer by that calculation, right?

          • Matt M says:

            Hey, let’s go full Singer – how many bed nets is Andrew Luck foregoing? He’s basically a mass murderer by that calculation, right?

            In a salary cap league, whatever money the Colts don’t pay him, they will pay to someone else. So on net, we have the same amount of nets as we had before.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            So on net, we have the same amount of nets as we had before.

            Har har.

          • hls2003 says:

            In a salary cap league, whatever money the Colts don’t pay him, they will pay to someone else.

            As a technical matter, I don’t think this is quite right. The Colts will have some “dead money” in their cap this year and next due to Luck. They won’t have to pay him, but the cap hit doesn’t just go away – they can’t spend dead money on alternative players.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          There are people who want to do large projects which require much more than FU money, but I think that’s pretty rare.

          Effective altruists, how much of your life/health/mind would you be willing to trade for, oh, let’s say 500 million dollars?

          • andrewflicker says:

            Mind is tricky because you can’t predict what not-You does in the future.

            But life/health? Yeah, I think I’d agree to death in return for 500 million donated to my pick of a basket of charities. I wouldn’t be emotionally happy about it, but I’d do it with resolve that it’s the “right thing”.

          • acymetric says:

            Wow, really? I wouldn’t. Not even close, no need to think about it.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Where is the money coming from?

          • andrewflicker says:

            acymetric, may I ask why? Is it because you value your own life more than *any* effect on others, because 500 million isn’t enough to cause the effects that *would* make it worthwhile, or because you’re assuming that the 500 million wouldn’t cause the intended effects?

            My answer was handwaving the third objection, since if you don’t stipulate “the money will be used in the way you intend it with no unexpected second-order effects” then it’s kind of a meaningless question.

          • eric23 says:

            Off the cuff:
            I would get my leg amputated for $500 million to good charities, that I can say without much second thought. I’d have to think somewhat harder about mental health issues for the rest of my life. I’m nowhere near ready to even talk about the possibility of bringing forward my death.

        • albatross11 says:

          Gobblegobble:

          +1

          “I don’t want to do this anymore, I keep getting hurt and it’s not worth it” is a legitimate reason to quit doing something.

          • acymetric says:

            I think it is pretty easy to say both that Luck did what was best for himself and was well within his rights to do so without expecting people (Colts fans) to be happy about it.

            Not entirely dissimilar to breakups and whatnot.

    • j1000000 says:

      I don’t know how bad his current injury is or how long it’s been bothering him, so I can’t really answer that.

      If we’re assuming he was going to be perfectly healthy soon, then no, I would not have retired. But his retirement is, to me, an indication that he was not returning to the field anytime soon.

      But he can still come out of retirement if his body heals, so this doesn’t seem so momentous. But I always think that with football players who retire early, and it’s not inevitable at all they’ll come back — for every Marshawn Lynch and Jason Witten, there’s Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson and Tony Romo (Romo wasn’t young, but he was still good when he wasn’t injured and played the most valuable position in football). We’ll see what happens with Luck and Gronkowski.

      Even for the most badass, dominant athletes out there, it’s probably a relief not to get destroyed every Sunday.

    • Watchman says:

      Yes. It looks like the repeated cycle of injuries got in his head, and he hasn’t got the mental fortitude to cope with it anymore. Unlike a lot of sportsmen he has the self-awareness to realise this, and perhaps to guess how another injury (and I wouldn’t bet on another three years without at least a recurrence of an injury considering his record) might affect him and those around him.

      Saying he should play on for the glory or the money kind of indicates we’re not taking the fact someone publicly flagged his mental health was concerning him seriously. I’d worry about that message and be thankful most sports fans seem to acknowledge his choice here.

  30. Whatever says:

    Background: My daughter is 2 years old. I live in the US. My native language is French. My wife is bilingual in English and Spanish and fluent in French.

    My question: should we speak to our daughter in English, French, Spanish, two of them, all three?

    She (my daughter) was a little late speaking. She’s fully caught up now but I worry about confusing her with different languages. There is research that suggest that learning several languages at the same time and early on is in fact detrimental to verbal abilities later.

    She will be fluent eventually in all 3 languages. The question is should we introduce her to French or Spanish now as opposed to later when her language skills are better formed.

    All comments welcome. Thanks.

    • James Miller says:

      I would go 90% English and 10% Spanish, but only keep up the Spanish if your daughter enjoys it.

    • johan_larson says:

      My cousins grew up with a Swedish-speaking mother and a Finnish-speaking father. Their mom speaks pretty good Finnish, and their dad speaks really only a few words of Swedish. The kids speak both languages fluently. I believe they grew up speaking both languages in parallel, one with mom and one with dad, without any real problems.

      I seem to remember some languages vary quite a bit by gender. Male Japanese and female Japanese are quite different, but native speakers are expected to navigate the difference naturally. Speaking one language with mom and another with dad would be a similar experience.

    • ana53294 says:

      I grew up trilingual (Basque with father and friends, Russian with my mother, Spanish at school/TV/big city, although Spanish came at age 6).

      The main thing seems to be having one person talk exclusively in one language. So she only speaks one language with the mother, one language with the father. Don’t mix languages with the same person, that seems to blur the differences between languages.

      I don’t think there is a limit to languages, although there does have to be a degree of separation. Your child will speak in a mix of languages at first, but that will correct itself out, if you correct their tendency to make up words using root words of one language with grammar rules of another.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Your child will speak in a mix of languages at first, but that will correct itself out, if you correct their tendency to make up words using root words of one language with grammar rules of another.

        And if you don’t correct it, they’ll reinvent English 🙂

      • Majuscule says:

        Gotta ask: have we met? Did you ever live in Amsterdam? Because I met a Basque-Russian guy there a few years ago (in a Dutch language class) and statistically there just can’t be that many. Or are there?

        • ana53294 says:

          Nah, I’m a gal.

          The Basque union movement was heavily supressed during the Franco era, and many of them had support from the USSR. Thus, there were quite a few Basque union members in Moscow during the 60s/70s. My mother was invited to Spain by friends she met in Moscow.

          • Majuscule says:

            That makes perfect sense. I majored in Russian and keep meeting people whose country had some involvement with the USSR during the Cold War, or who went to Moscow to study. One of them was a Nigerian guy who ran the local African supermarket near my house in Maryland. I knew the history, but I did not expect to brush off my rusty Russian when I came to buy frozen cassava.

          • ana53294 says:

            If he was Nigerian, I guess he studied at the Patrice Lumumba University? I think it’s called differently now, something about international cooperation…

            Africans generally did not study in the ordinary universities. The universities where they studied tended to be full of KGB agents and you know, the right type of people.

    • Machine Interface says:

      You’ll find out that it’s actually really hard, in that situation, to get your children to speak anything other than English. If all her friends at school speak English, and all the adults she meets speak English, and she’s fully aware mom and dad understand English perfectly even if they don’t always speak it, she has no reason to maintain an active knowledge of any language other than English.

      If you want her to maintain a language other than English, she needs to have regular contacts with people who do not speak or understand English at all, such as French grandparents or what have you.

      • ana53294 says:

        I don’t think you need to pretend to not know English; just being consistent in always, always talking to your child in one language, say, French, and responding in that language even if the child talks to you in English is enough. Talking like this is possible, but actually requires a lot of effort.

        There are also many incentives that can be provided. In my home, we had rows upon rows of bookshelves with really cool books in Russian, and I obviously had to learn to read in order to read them.

        Clearly, English doesn’t have the problems Basque or even Spanish* has in terms of reading material (such as the sad absence of actual decent SF/Fantasy books; they’ve only started to translate many books quite a bit later, and they never had anything other than Asimov/Heinlein/Tolkien in the SF department of the library).

        But just reading books aloud in French, watching French movies together, and creating a common sense of belonging to a culture is very powerful.

        *Spanish did not seem to have a developed SF&F market when I was a kid. They may have had more books in other places, but in the neck of the woods I grew up in, bookstores did not have many genre options. Harry Potter has done a lot to make Fantasy more popular.

        It was the motivation that made me learn English. I struggled for years to learn English, until I figured I could just read the books I was waiting a translation for, at which point I just powered through a book and was hooked.

        • Evan Þ says:

          I can endorse this in that one Franco-American couple my parents know did this, and their children now all speak fluent French.

      • Perico says:

        I wouldn’t say it’s a hard requirement to have contact with non-English speakers, but you’ll probably need a lot of discipline. In my case, my wife and I (both Spanish) wanted to raise bilingual kids, so we decided she would talk to them in English. At a certain point, there was pushback from the kids, and the only thing that would work was to refuse to answer them unless they used the correct language.

        So you have to be firm and consistent, and expect quite a few (additional) arguments with your kids.

    • Etoile says:

      What is “late speaking” for a two year old exactly? Are they expected to form sentences at 18 months these days? In the days of my and siblings’ childhood, I’ve always known 2 to be the year when children START to talk, and you start worrying if they haven’t made progress closer to 3.

      My advice though, from experience growing up in a non-English-speaking household of multiple siblings, and then marrying an English speaker only (with a daughter your age): The English will come as soon as she goes to normal school. It will probably crowd out everything else without special effort on your part. So you should probably do French or French and Spanish at home. Watch and explain to her target-language cartoons, so she knows what’s going on; if you get her to love songs, movies, and books in French/Spanish, and keep a 99% English-free home, that’s your best bet for preserving the language.

      I’ve seen a girl become tri-lingual: Russian, Spanish, and English (mom, dad, school; nanny spoke one of the parent languages). I think, if the child shows signs of confusion, stop; if not, no reason not to do it. Don’t FORCE it if it turns into horrible daily study battles, and be ready to accept that she might spurn one or more of the languages as she grows up. But if you school in the other two at the beginning, you’re laying down a foundation that she can later return to and build on when she gets older and decides it’s something worth having.

      • Whatever says:

        What is “late speaking” for a two year old exactly?

        She could only say a few words (mama, no, etc.) until about 17 months. Now (a bit more than 24 months) she makes full sentences (“spider is hanging out there”).

      • Eponymous says:

        What is “late speaking” for a two year old exactly?

        Official guideline is 50 words at 24 months, I believe.

      • albatross11 says:

        I’ve heard the claim (I’m not an expert) that it’s common for children being brought up bilingual to take a little longer to speak.

    • Whatever says:

      Thank you all for sharing your personal experience.

      Does anybody have any knowledge and opinion about studies that suggest that learning several languages early may be detrimental to language abilities later? In other words, a child who would have spoken one language well may remain mediocre in several. It sounds like a zero-sum game theory of language acquisition but it makes intuitive sense. That some people speak several languages well does not invalidate the theory.

      • ana53294 says:

        Does anybody have any knowledge and opinion about studies that suggest that learning several languages early may be detrimental to language abilities later?

        Being exclusive to one language doesn’t mean you’ll develop a really deep knowledge of it. It’s all about practicing the language with people with a deep vocabulary, and reading a lot (liking reading is a great way to learn lots of new vocabulary).

        I’ve met people who are monolingual Spanish or English speakers, and they’re no better at their language than I am. Sure, some of them are better than me, but that’s because they’re very well read and interact with very bright people daily. I think bilingualism is only an advantage.

        The only parts of language your kids may not learn in Spanish/French without interacting with peers are colloquialisms and swearwords. I severely lack in that department, because my mother does not swear, so I had to purposefully learn them myself. If you want your kids to pass for a native speaker, you may have to teach them some informal language.

        • Aapje says:

          The Dutch soccer player Johan Cruijff went to play for Barcelona and got a red card in his first match after calling the referee a hijo de puta. He learned those swear words very quickly, although grasping how they are interpreted clearly took a little longer.

          He was mediocre in all languages, although somehow his typical way of speaking became famous.

          • Majuscule says:

            It being maybe the most expat-filled city in the world, we knew a lot of couples in Amsterdam whose kids spoke language A to mom, language B to dad, Dutch at preschool and who heard mom and dad and all their friends speak English to each other. The kids mostly seemed fine. But if someone wanted real data on this, the Netherlands might be a good place to look for households like this.

        • Whatever says:

          Verbal abilities correlate with IQ. IQ is mostly genetic and can’t be changed (much). So it seems reasonable to think that a given individual has only access to a fixed set of resources allocated to language.

          For example, person A has low IQ and is monolingual. Person A is average in their ability to speak language A

          Person B has high IQ and is monolingual. They have exceptional command of their language.

          Person C has low IQ and is bilingual. They are mediocre with both languages.

          Person D has high IQ and is bilingual. People who interact with person D say they speak both languages well.

          That some people speak several languages well does not mean that they wouldn’t have spoken one language better.

          I don’t know if this is true. But I now worry that making my daughter speak two or three languages may not be as beneficial as I believed. It may be more of a trade-off than I originally thought (like many here, I took for granted that speaking several languages was an obvious benefit).

          For example English may be so much more important than French (for a given set of goals) that it may be more beneficial to be excellent in English and just passable in French than being average in both.

          I also wonder whether I should start speaking 2 languages now at age 2 or wait until she’s, say, 4.

          I love all the anecdotes, and I truly appreciate that so many people have answered my post (thanks!). Still, I feel that I need a more quantitative answer.

          • FrankistGeorgist says:

            So, I went to school for Linguistics, and my current job title (quite wrongly) lists me as a Linguist. This is a very weak appeal to authority I know but just thought I should put it out there. Honestly some of the stuff in this thread makes me want to do an effort post but we’ll see how my work goes.

            Talk to your child in all 3 languages early and often. Peer groups will decide the dominate language, and people have suggested strategies of say one parent speaking French and the other Spanish that I’ve seen some support for in literature however –

            Use is key. And it’s hard to manufacture need.

            One thing is that the earlier you have her practicing/using/playing with a language’s phonemes, the better she’ll be at “sounding native” in all 3. And not having the whole Americans-can’t-roll-their-rs problem. Children start with all possible sounds available to them, and drop the ones they don’t use as they construct a sort of “paradigm” of what makes up speech.

            Your concerns about IQ read like nonsense to me. There’s people all over the world who have four or five languages. Humans are very very well tuned to language. Arguably it’s up there with pattern matching as the thing humans do. And children spend an inordinate amount of time playing/learning language because that’s what humans do all the time. There’ll be some spanglish, some franglais, some frañol, and kids will have no problem working out the 3 languages compared to adults.

            I’ve definitely read in the literature that there’s a potential delay in verbal skills with multilingual children, but I’ve never seen anything that suggested it doesn’t even out in the end. You end up with a child precisely as verbally skilled, but with more languages.

            I’ll try digging up some paperwork when everything at work isn’t on fire.

          • Whatever says:

            Honestly some of the stuff in this thread makes me want to do an effort post but we’ll see how my work goes.

            Well, that would be awesome and much appreciated.

            Your concerns about IQ read like nonsense to me. There’s people all over the world who have four or five languages…

            That’s what I thought too. But it is pretty clear (you say so yourself) that learning several languages in parallel slows down language acquisition overall. So it’s not that far fetched to think that it impacts the end point as well.

            How would we measure it if it did? Are there twin studies where one sibling grows up monolingual and the other bilingual? I doubt it.

          • Enkidum says:

            This. I’m not a linguist, but I’ve read pretty extensively from the literature on multi-lingualism.

            Early multi-lingualism is associated with, on average, a slightly later onset of some linguistic skills. It is associated with later (small) cognitive benefits, particularly for tasks that involve switching attention.

            There is no reason to worry about your child learning too much. Shove as much language into its ears as possible. In the worst case scenario, they will learn to speak slightly later, but will speak multiple languages fluently, which is such a massive benefit it outweighs almost any penalties, which don’t seem to exist anyways.

            EDIT: The go-to researcher here is Ellen Bialystock.

          • baconbits9 says:

            That’s what I thought too. But it is pretty clear (you say so yourself) that learning several languages in parallel slows down language acquisition overall. So it’s not that far fetched to think that it impacts the end point as well.

            I have read a fair amount of the literature for early childhood learning and there is no real correlation between slowing down/speeding up processes and long term outcomes with the exception of developmental disabilities. Basically the literature looks like this

            1. All gains from getting kids to read/do math earlier fade out around 3rd grade compared to their peers.
            2. Kids who are pushed ahead of where they should be developmentally end up with higher rates of ADHD (and likely other issues) than their peers.

            The main exception to this is multiple languages, which indicates that learning more languages early allows for faster learning of new languages later.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Verbal abilities correlate with IQ. IQ is mostly genetic and can’t be changed (much). So it seems reasonable to think that a given individual has only access to a fixed set of resources allocated to language.

            You’re missing a step here, that verbal activities somehow correlate strongly with the number of languages you can learn. I expect this likely isn’t true. That is, I expect a person with higher verbal abilities to be able to learn a given language faster and more fluently, but not to necessarily be able to learn more languages. There’s no reason to assume learning a language exhausts some fixed reservoir.

          • Eponymous says:

            multi-lingualism…is associated with later (small) cognitive benefits, particularly for tasks that involve switching attention.

            I’m no expert on this, but I’m pretty sure I read something that seemed reputable claiming that this is wrong. Can’t remember the details.

            Googling this seems to be a case of “experts disagree.”

          • albatross11 says:

            Whatever:

            I don’t think this model is at all borne out by available data. It’s routine in some parts of the world to be raised multilingual–traveling in the Netherlands and Belgium, I basically never run into anyone who can’t speak English. In a lot of Spain, people grow up speaking a local language (Basque, Catalan, Galician) and also Spanish. In India, it’s common to have one or more local languages, plus Hindi and English. If there were a fixed reservoir for language abilities the way you’re imagining, we should see the Dutch and Belgians and Spanish and Indians suffering from a statistically-noticable lack of verbal ability, but I don’t think there’s any data suggesting that at all.

          • JulieK says:

            Children start with all possible sounds available to them

            Often young children have trouble pronouncing particular sounds. For example, my son says /sh/ instead of /s/.

            Anyhow, my husband and I are Americans living in Israel, and our kids’ Hebrew is much better than their English. Although technically English is their mother tongue, they speak it with an accent and have trouble pronouncing /th/.

          • Whatever says:

            @albatross11:

            I don’t think this model is at all borne out by available data. It’s routine in some parts of the world to be raised multilingual … we should see the Dutch and Belgians and Spanish and Indians suffering from a statistically-noticable lack of verbal ability, but I don’t think there’s any data suggesting that at all.

            I was hoping that someone would know something about specific studies that look at this. You would want to measure certain language abilities and compare bilinguals and monolinguals while trying to control for all other variables, especially since there is an obvious confounder (multi-lingual families may be more educated, higher IQ).

            Yes, I agree that the Dutch don’t seem behind the French, for example. But when measuring verbal abilities, things like analogies may not be impacted at all by the number of languages you speak (regardless of whether the fixed reservoir theory is true).

            In other words, it seems to me that a convincing study about this specific would have to be very narrowly about this specific topic.

          • Whatever says:

            @The Nybbler

            You’re missing a step here, that verbal activities somehow correlate strongly with the number of languages you can learn.

            Yes, you’re right. It is possible that the ability to learn multiple languages is orthogonal to other verbal abilities. Considering that in general cognitive abilities correlate with each other I felt that this assumption was legitimate, but maybe not.

          • Lambert says:

            @Julie K

            At least he can pronounce ‘shibboleth’ okay.

      • Aapje says:

        See this.

        Ultimately, the environment sets the requirements. Plenty of monolingual people speak even that language poorly. Yet if you provide a demanding and stimulating environment, most kids can learn multiple languages, with extra effort.

        There isn’t anything wrong with the kid making an extra effort, though. Plenty of kids put a whole lot of effort into learning video games. Mastering multiple languages seems more useful than mastering Super Mario.

        • Whatever says:

          Thanks for the link.

          “Children take longer to learn two languages at once compared to just one…”

          Summary: “Bilingual children from immigrant families are not two monolinguals in one. They develop each language at a slower pace because their learning is spread across two languages. A researcher shows strong evidence that the rate of language growth is influenced by the quantity of language input. She challenges the belief, held in and out of scientific circles that children are linguistic sponges who quickly absorb the language or languages they hear and become proficient speakers of both languages.”

          That’s pretty much what I feared.

          • Matt M says:

            Interesting. But how does this jive with the “it’s easier to learn a foreign language as a child” thesis? Because, as far as I know, nobody believes the converse, that it’s easier to master one language as a child and once you reach a certain age it becomes much much harder to further refine your abilities in your native tongue?

          • Whatever says:

            @Matt M

            I think it is well established that learning a foreign language becomes harder with time. There may even be a critical period after which it is impossible to fully sound like a native.

            Beyond that, I’m not sure what is known.

            It seems obvious that you can always improve, either your first or second language. So it would suggest that learning more than one language only slows down the learning process but if you continue learning a bit longer you catch up in both languages. I think that is what most people say. Maybe.

            I just hope that cognitive development is not like interest compounding, i.e. that being a bit behind at the beginning of the period has disproportionate consequences later. (To be clear, I think that the “beginning of the period” is around 2 yo; I would have no issue teaching several languages around 6-8 yo.)

          • Machine Interface says:

            There’s a hypothesis that “young children have a easier time learning language” is confondounded by

            1) Young children have pretty much nothing better to do; they’re hearing and practicing their would-be native language(s) every waking hour. This isn’t comparable to an adult who even in the best case scenario will rarely practice a foreign language they want to learn more than an hour each day.

            2) Young children have a strong incentive to learn their native language(s) to be able to communicate with others at all. Most adult learning a foreign language aren’t in a situation where they literally can’t function fully until they’ve learned that foreign language.

          • Whatever says:

            @Machine Interface

            I know some very smart people who have been in the US for 40 years, working and ambitious, but who came when they were 25 yo and who still have a thick accent.

            40 years is a long time to learn a language (answering your point #1) and working provides the motivation (point #2).

            Sure, you may say that when they reached a level that was good enough they stopped making any effort or, rather, that they diverted their effort to something more useful. But then why don’t children do the same?

            The Critical Period Hypothesis, i.e. the idea that after a certain age (typically around puberty) you can’t fully learn a second language, is pretty controversial. There are supposedly many counter-examples (and yet…). My own opinion (entirely based on personal experience) is that there is a critical period for phonology (accent, pronunciation) but maybe not for other aspects of language such as morphology or syntax (i.e. grammar).

          • Protagoras says:

            There also seems to be individual variation. There seem to be some people are better at learning accents than others, and can learn to approximate the native accent very closely even in languages learned as adults. But it doesn’t appear to be common. I’m also curious as to the degree to which elocution lessons can help with foreign accents; that most adults are incapable of learning to speak without their foreign accent just by immersion and practice with the language does not prove that they couldn’t learn to do so with help.

          • I think the situation with accents might have a lot of similarities with the situation with reading. Phonics advocates tell us that many children don’t realize that there are systematic correspondences between letters and sounds that they can utilize to reduce reading to listening; they have to be taught this via instruction in phonics. Instead they read by painstakingly memorizing whole words at a time, trying to figure out meanings from context, etc. Meanwhile people who are proficient at reading do the phonics so proficiently that they can’t pay attention to how they’re doing it; the only times they notice themselves consciously *trying* to read is when they have to resort to poorer strategies like figuring out meanings from context, so that’s what is salient to them as “what reading involves”, despite these strategies only being a supplement to the foundational strategy of phonics.

            Likewise, I think a lot of people don’t really have any idea how to approach the problem of imitating an accent in a systematic manner. They just try to reproduce particular words, phrases or sentences or try to reproduce some sort of general manner of speaking rather than understanding speech in the target accent as fundamentally composed out of a small number of discrete phonemes and focussing their efforts towards reproducing those building blocks. Meanwhile, native speakers maintain their accents at such a fluent unconscious level that they can’t analyse how they’re doing it themselves and can’t help the learners.

          • Matt M says:

            I know some very smart people who have been in the US for 40 years, working and ambitious, but who came when they were 25 yo and who still have a thick accent.

            Don’t wanna get too CW here – but have you considered the possibility that having a foreign accent might help someone’s career prospects in many large US companies, rather than hinder them?

          • albatross11 says:

            I am extremely skeptical that many people benefit from having a thick accent.

          • Whatever says:

            Some accent are more prestigious or higher status than others. A light French accent is probably one of the best accents to have. But the benefit is very small and highly context-dependent.

            (If having a French accent were more common, it would lose status accordingly.)

          • Aapje says:

            French phonetics seems to clash with English fairly strongly though, so anything but a fairly mild French accent is probably going to make someone fairly hard to understand.

          • Whatever says:

            Yes, French phonology differs markedly. The phones are different, also the intonation.

            On the other hand, French phonology is probably no worse than that of Sino-Tibetan languages. Or of Dravidian languages or even of the other (Indo-European) languages of India.

            And Indian accents don’t benefit from the “cool” factor (higher status) of a French accent.

            I’m less sure about Spanish. The language itself may be closer phonologically to English (?). The status dimension I think is determined more by where the speaker comes from. A European (Spanish) speaker will have higher status than an immigrant from Guatemala. The accent of the former is cool and exotic and expresses sophistication, much less so for the latter.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        Everything I ever saw was arguing how large the benefits were.

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

          I would expect the major benefit is having access to more languages– more people, more opportunities, more art.

          This might especially matter if knowing more languages is the only way to be able to talk with their grandparents.

      • Etoile says:

        Based on experience (I know you asked for study) watching siblings, I would expect that someone with strong verbal ability will not suffer, whereas someone with worse verbal ability naturally might struggle and pick one.
        I think the critical juncture will not come until at least elementary school or whenever you send her to spend lots of time with English speakers. That will be the juncture where you let her lose all but daily usage French/Spanish, or you persevere. And there you should see how well she takes to it, and how much struggle it is for you to actually do it.

        The one thing that I DID suffer by being bilingual is gaps in cultural education. There are references, kids’ experiences, books, TV shows, that I never saw and still sometimes only learn about as an adult. But that’s if you keep your kids completely immersed in the other language/culture as they go to school, so they don’t identify with the adopted English/American culture.

    • Robin says:

      I know a couple where she is Mexican, he is Finnish, they speak Engish with each other, but live in Germany. The children can sort out the languages amazingly well.

      The most important rule is: Don’t speak a language to your child which you don’t speak well yourself. And be consistent.
      I would recommend that you speak French and your wife could speak English and Spanish depending on the situation. But do it now rather than later. Before the age of five years, children learn languages magically.

    • fion says:

      My cousin grew up in the highlands of Scotland, where the main language is English but lots of people speak Gaelic as well. Her mum is German and tried to always speak German to her; her dad is English and always spoke English. She learned a lot of Gaelic in school but it wasn’t Gaelic-medium.

      She’s now an adult, bilingual in English and German with good Gaelic. There was a time when she was a child and she’d mix languages randomly, even in the same sentence, but she sorted it out as she grew up.

      I can’t speak to the actual evidence, but have another anecdote! 😛

    • Murphy says:

      I wouldn’t worry too much.

      kids are extremely good at untangling languages.

      My nephews grew up with 3 languages, dad using one and mom using another and grandma a third when talking to them and they’re fluent in all three now.

    • tocny says:

      I have a 2 year old son who is in a similar situation to you. However, we only have two languages to contend with (English and French). Now, I’m not an expert in child language development, but from a layman’s perspective it seems to me that you would be doing her a big disservice by not teaching at least one other language than English when she is young. Our son was also a bit ahead of the curve in terms of language development, so he is reasonably understandable when he speaks. He speaks mostly French now, but I can see the concept of two separate languages standing to crystalize with him. My parents are anglophones, and he speaks English with them (mostly), while he speaks French with me and my wife (mostly). My impression is that there may be a period where multiple languages hold back language development for a much greater benefit later.

      I also look at Europe, where many people are trilingual, where they don’t seem to have the same problems we do in North America. I’m guessing that it has something to do with early language development, since here we are terrible at it. At least here in Canada, people send their kids to French immersion trying to get them to pick up a second language when they are young. Your daughter has an advantage over other kids though in learning French and Spanish in that her parents are native speakers (or at least fluent). Here, kids go to French immersion and speak English everywhere else, so they never really learn. I also compare it to some of the people I went to high school with. My one friend grew up speaking Arabic, Urdu and English at home. He speaks perfect English now, and (he says) he is passable in the other two languages too, but he started young as well.

      I compare my son’s language development to me, who grew up in Toronto where no one speaks French. I took French in high school but never really put any effort into learning. Now I live in Quebec and need French on a daily basis (I work in Ontario in English though, so its not a big deal for my career), and I am finally putting effort in to learn alongside him. however, my son speaks better French than me and has much better pronunciation, and he’s 2. Sometimes he says things and I don’t understand him, and he looks at me like I’m an idiot.

      So, I suggest that you should teach her as much as you want to. In terms of language strategy, English is obviously necessary in todays world. If you were going to drop one language, it probably should be French since you’re in the US, but I think it would be for the best to teach all of them.

    • aristides says:

      I’m concerned that you say she will be fluent in al three languages. This is just based on anecdotes, but I think it’s imperative to teach your child at least two languages now, if you want her to one day be trilingual. My parents didn’t teach me Spanish as a kid despite half my relatives only know Spanish, thinking I could learn later. I couldn’t. Meanwhile, my wife grew up trilingual, and was easily able to learn two more languages later in life. I think learning a second language young is essential to get in the right frame of mind. The third language can probably wait until later in her life.

  31. b4mgh says:

    Are there any posters here who live in a developing country (or whatever term is for a non-tier 1 country) who feel somewhat pressured to migrate by other people? What I mean is, people whose circumstances are not unbearable or even bad, but whose family or friends seem to push them towards migration.

    I live in Brazil, and there have been several instances of people from all degrees of familiarity asking me if I plan on moving “out of the country”, the implication being that I’ll go to Europe or a Commonwealth nation. When I reply in the negative they often ask for a justification. Their reasoning seems to be that since I am relatively smart, fluent in English, young, single, and white that would be the natural step or goal for me.

    Does anyone else experience that pressure, regardless of whether or not they plan on migrating?

    • AlexOfUrals says:

      When I lived in Russia I was both experiencing and exerting this pressure, though to a very mild degree. It’s fairly common, though by no means ubiquitous, position among young educated urban population. But:

      the implication being that I’ll go to Europe or a Commonwealth nation

      I’m surprised the US isn’t on the list. Is it harder to immigrate into from Brazil, or is it seen as somehow inferior?

      • Erusian says:

        I’m surprised the US isn’t on the list. Is it harder to immigrate into from Brazil, or is it seen as somehow inferior?

        Western Europe (and I presume these Brazilians are not angling to move to Ukraine) is about as close to Brazil as the United States is geographically. While the US has more Brazilians, the EU has the second-largest population (about 1.4 vs 700k).

        • Also, a lot Brazilians have ancestors from European countries that give automatic citizenship to descendants of citizens, which eliminates the usual legal problems of migration.

      • b4mgh says:

        That was poor wording on my part. I was going to say “Europe or North America”, but that would include Mexico and not include Australia or New Zealand, so I said “Commonwealth” momentarily disregarding the events of 1776. The questions are usually worded as a vague “out of the country” meaning Eastern Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but the only countries mentioned by name so far have been the United States and England.

        • b4mgh says:

          Western Europe.

          gah!

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          momentarily disregarding the events of 1776

          D:

          • Matt M says:

            Clearly he’s not a good cultural fit for ‘Merica in the first place…

          • Randy M says:

            Clearly he’s not a good cultural fit for ‘Merica in the first place…

            Yes, our disregard of history is anything but transient. 😉

        • Plumber says:

          @b4mgh says:

          “That was poor wording on my part. I was going to say “Europe or North America”, but that would include Mexico and not include Australia or New Zealand, so I said “Commonwealth” momentarily disregarding the events of 1776. The questions are usually worded as a vague “out of the country” meaning Eastern Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but the only countries mentioned by name so far have been the United States and England”

          I think the term you were reaching for that includes the U.S.A.vas well as Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland; and New Zealand is anglosphere, meaning: the countries where English is the main native language, considered collectively

    • Erusian says:

      I don’t think my background counts as a developing country but I come from a part of the United States that isn’t particularly full of opportunity. It wasn’t dying or poor but the two economic engines were agriculture and the odd factory. There wasn’t much opportunity for expansion in either and young, bright people like myself were constantly questioned if we were going to move away or stay.

      Everyone had a particular opinion of whether you (specifically) should and sort of nudged you. The vast majority were nudging you out: either because they believed there’d be more opportunity for you there, or they thought you’d fit in better, or because there were only so many upwardly mobile positions to go around and they wanted to give them to someone else. (Or maybe I was just unpopular.)

      The pressure was mostly to go to other parts of the United States. Though there was some suggestion, interestingly, of going the opposite direction. There are poorer/developing countries (or at least there were) where people wanted educated, passing Americans for a variety of purposes. I had a friend, for example, who ended up as a language and cultural tutor to some minor nobles from the Emirates. Another ended up doing sales in Southeast Asia for a multinational. Both were able to get farther in their careers than they probably would have staying stateside (though my understanding is Southeast Asia Guy’s career has stalled since he married a local woman and refuses to move to new postings.)

      I wouldn’t say the natural pressure was to migrate. It was more, ‘step in or step out (and you should probably step out)’.

      • tocny says:

        My wife is from small town (a few thousand people) about two hours outside a large Canadian city that we live in now. From what I can tell, there is tremendous pressure in her hometown to leave for the City, as there are no opportunities there at all. It’s a vicious cycle though, because the individuals who would be able to help build the town’s economy don’t want to stay because it’s crappy living there, so then the town gets worse and more people leave. We can buy a nearly brand new four bedroom house in great shape on the lake for under $100,000 there, compared to a few hundred thousand dollars for a semi-detached house in the City. But what would we do there?

        Even worse though I find is the perception of the people who do stay: what’s wrong with them, they can’t cut it in the city, they aren’t smart enough to go to school, etc.

        • benjdenny says:

          I feel like there’s a possibility that many of these types of problems will be solved once remote work gets out of its infancy.

          • tocny says:

            In the case of this town, the best internet service you can buy there is about 1mbps, and it is very expensive. Not very useful for remote work. There’s also no services around, like decent restaurants or coffee shops, to attract professionals. However, it is cottage country so it is absolutely beautiful, so if it could get better internet service I think it would be more attractive to live ther.e

          • Deiseach says:

            once remote work gets out of its infancy

            Which is going to happen when? I’ve been hearing “people will work from home thanks to the Information Superhighway!” for at least twenty years, if not longer, and it ain’t happening.

          • acymetric says:

            I mean, it is definitely much more prevalent than it was in the past but I couldn’t put any numbers on it. Overall it is still pretty rare to find true “work from home” employment though.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Which is going to happen when? I’ve been hearing “people will work from home thanks to the Information Superhighway!” for at least twenty years, if not longer, and it ain’t happening.

            Once you find all the reliable, self motivated, self starters who can work from home alone you suddenly realize you need them as managers to keep your not so focused employees on the ball.

          • dick says:

            It varies by team and employer. Even for easy-to-remote-ify jobs like programmer, there’s a lot of work to be done before you hire your first remote employee (technical, policy, etc) and some places haven’t done it yet. Even once that work is done and there are no barriers to hiring remote, it is generally recognized that geolocated (i.e. all in the same office) teams often work better, so some companies still don’t hire remote unless they’re having trouble filling jobs or they’re strapped for cash.

            (Source: I manage one partly-remote team and one not-remote team)

    • Murphy says:

      I wouldn’t say pressure. But it was always assumed that members of my family would move to where they needed to in order to find good work in their chosen professions.

      My parents have lamented that none of us ended up staying in the country where we grew up.

      It very much varies by family, some of my friends have their entire extended family within a few minutes walk.

      I would have been considered foolish to stay home and take a bad job rather than move to find a good one.

  32. Milo Minderbinder says:

    Today, I randomly looked up the schedule for child support payments (I’m childless, just was curious). Anyways, it struck me for the first time how odd it was that it (child support) is a percentage of income rather than a fixed payment (with some allowance for regional cost-of-living). Like, why should the child of a wealthier individual inherently be entitled to a larger payment, rather than that individual remitting what is determined to be a fair subsidy for childcare/rearing? Is it so much worse that someone with a rich, biological non-custodial parent is denied part of the status of that wealth, vs. a child raised in a single-parent household with a poorer non-custodial parent? By what principle are these children (and their guardians) “owed” a larger-than-sufficient subsidy? As it stands now, it seems like the law implies status should in some way be heritable.

    Again, no particular horse in this race, just interested in people’s thoughts.

    • EchoChaos says:

      MASSIVE CW. This really doesn’t belong in this thread at all.

      Interesting topic for next Wednesday, I think.

    • Wency says:

      I don’t think it’s culture war to answer the basic fact of the question, which is that the law believes some combination of:

      1. It is inherently good and right to minimize the disruption to the child’s quality of life.

      2. There is a general expectation, some would say duty, that you will spend more money on your child if you make more money, and the law does not treat this expectation or duty as going away simply because you do not have custody.

      The heated culture war element largely comes from the debate over the fairness of its disproportionate consequences on men and women.

    • hls2003 says:

      I concur with Wency, above, that the legal reasoning is straightforward, and not culture war. The underlying moral or cultural reasons for the legal rule probably are pretty culture-warry.

      The basic rule in almost every jurisdiction is the “best interest of the child” standard. Family law judges are supposed to allocate resources (including custody and money orders) based primarily on what would be in the best interests of any children of the marriage, and as much as possible to preserve the best possible outcome for any such children, with the minimum disruption to the children’s lives. The basic thought is that, civil marriage being a creature of the state, the state has the power to dictate the terms of its end (this is why there is divorce court at all); and since the children of the marriage cannot control the ending of it or the disposition of assets, the Court must act to protect their interests. The Court won’t force the parents to stay together for the benefit of the kids, but the Court can order the terms on which it will allow the divorce, which will be the terms the Court deems best for the children.

      What this means in practice is that the Court will try to minimize disruption and preserve living standards for the children (as much as possible, which is usually limited, since most of the time there’s little money in the marital assets). If the children were previously, with married parents, riding horses and going to private school based on Mom or Dad’s hefty salary, the Court is plausibly likely to order a level of support that won’t tear them away from their four-footed or two-footed best friends and uproot them to a new school and social milieu, even if that level of child support would be considered excessive for “basic child living.” And the Court is empowered to do that by statutes ordering consideration of the “best interests of the child.”

      Edited to add: Of note is that there have been decisions involving high-earning parents who, out of spite and malice for their ex, quit their high-earning job and sit unemployed or get a minimum-wage job, so as to minimize their support obligations. Courts will not allow this. Courts will actively order the malingering parent to get a real job with real earnings, or at least set the child support level high enough that such a high-earning job is necessary to pay it. Since failure to pay child support can land you in prison, this is tantamount to telling a parent to get / keep their job or else go to jail. Arguing whether that is right, wrong, or indifferent is where politics and culture war probably comes in. But at a legal level, it is an exemplar of just how much control family courts can exercise over the divorcing spouses in the best interests of the children.

      • Milo Minderbinder says:

        Thanks to both Wency and hls2003, that’s exactly what I was looking for. I haven’t thought much about this topic myself, and I see how it could engender more controversy than intended. My apologies for any violation of thread decorum.

      • brad says:

        I don’t think disruption has sufficient explanatory power. Child support orders for newborns have no disruption factor and yet still involve the same formulas. Nor do I think duty to support makes sense because it doesn’t at all exist in custodial situations, it’s not that the duty goes away when custody is lost it is the only time it springs into existence.

        Rather, I think it is impossible to explain in a non-culture war thread.

      • Kuiperdolin says:

        “The basic thought is that, civil marriage being a creature of the state, the state has the power to dictate the terms of its end”

        You can have child support without a marriage though, and the state is not particularly powerless to dictate it.

      • Aapje says:

        @hls2003

        Of note is that there have been decisions involving high-earning parents who, out of spite and malice for their ex, quit their high-earning job and sit unemployed or get a minimum-wage job, so as to minimize their support obligations.

        I think that it is a lot more complicated/diverse than this and that your framing is essentially culture warring by choosing a specific perspective that is rather biased, by implying that the (typically male) breadwinner who doesn’t want to or says they can’t pay a certain amount of child support only ever does this out of malice.

        A breadwinner parent may want to change their job in response to the dissolution of the marriage to equalize earning + parenting, where during the marriage they had a breadwinner/homemaker arrangement & the parent wants to change this to situation where he/she works less and cares more. High child support payments can force people into sticking with a gender unequal arrangement. Let’s just say that it seems debatable whether one parent should be able to force the other parent into an unequal arrangement.

        Or the breadwinner parent may want to move to a cheaper place with lower wages and lower living costs. This may not be possible if the other parents stays in a high cost area and is granted high child benefits.

        Or the breadwinner may want to switch careers for any reason. Or they want to go back to college, to temporarily have lower income, but to get much better future income and work satisfaction.

        Another issue is that the court may falsely accuse the breadwinner of acting out of malice or make demands that are unreasonable. Did the breadwinner go back to college to shirk their duties or to follow their dreams (or both)? Did the breadwinner lose their job by accident or did they seek to get fired? Did the person accept a low paying job intentionally or was this the best that they could get? Ultimately, the courts can do no better than estimate what the real market value of the person is, what their intent is, etc. This can be mistaken/inaccurate.

        In general, a potential issue with high child benefits is that they can restrict people immensely for decades. again, the fairness of this and in particular the impact on men and women can be and often is vigorously debated.

        What I consider extremely peculiar is that a married parent has a lot of freedom to change jobs or work less, where the other parent has no legal recourse to prevent this, aside from divorce. In fact, this seems to very typically happen when women choose to work less or not at all after having a child. In many cases, this seems to be presented to the other parent as a fait accompli.

        Yet after a divorce, when supposedly the ties between spouses are to be weakened, they can actually be greatly strengthened, as the less earning spouse may then force the more earning spouse into behavior that they couldn’t demand while married.

        the best interests of the children.

        Note that this goal can easily enable abuse. I would argue that seeking to maximize the well-being of one party, regardless of how high a burden that places one others, is always abuse.

        It seems to me that the phrase ‘best interests of the children’ is sophistry that people never actually take literally, but is a phrase that they tend to use to present their preferred balance of burdens as being self-evident. More specifically, it can be used as a weapon against a parent or a type of parent, to argue that a burden on them is not debatable, because literally: ‘think of the children’.

        PS. Any fair and decent arrangement will have to weigh interests against each other. Over time, we have greatly weakened the hold of culture and law over how interests are weighed, with people having much greater freedom. Arguably, child support in its current form is an anachronism in that it fits within the old model much more logically than into the new order of things.

        • hls2003 says:

          I think you’re mistaking “is” and “ought.”

          “Best interests of the child” is the general rule, basic-bar-exam standard answer for family law judges in most every U.S. state. You may not agree with that, but it’s (in general) the law. Why do judges order child support based on income? Because, for the most part, the law says they should consider the child’s best interests. As I said, I’m staying away from the question of whether that’s a good and justifiable legislative and judicial standard, but it is more-or-less the standard. Similarly with the issues of earning power. I’m just telling you reported cases that really exist, to illustrate the power and approach of judges in those situations. Whether they should, or it’s “abusive,” different thread.

          Also, while I don’t practice this area (thank God), I have professional friends who do, and I have had family-law-adjacent cases that have required me to sit through multiple court calls in domestic relations court. Based on those anecdotes and experiences, I do believe that “malice” is an accurate descriptor of a whole lot of what happens there. The only cases that even approach the emotional scorched earth of the worst divorce cases are probate case disputes among families. Regardless, even if it’s not malicious, I promise you that as a descriptive matter, the judge won’t care and will treat Dr. Surgeon Spouse based on the spouse’s earning potential, not based on a sudden calling for basket-weaving or gas station attendant work.

    • teneditica says:

      > Like, why should the child of a wealthier individual inherently be entitled to a larger payment, rather than that individual remitting what is determined to be a fair subsidy for childcare/rearing?

      Presumably, the reason the woman had a relationship with the wealthy guy in the first place was his money, and his ability to support her, and her children, so arguably she has a right to that.

      • Aapje says:

        That sentence is a culture war hand grenade…

        • EchoChaos says:

          Assume a spherical culture war…

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “Assume a spherical culture war…”

            Everyone is being attacked from all sides?

            Would this required a higher dimensional space?

          • Watchman says:

            Can we lock the culture warriors inside it?

          • Protagoras says:

            Can we lock the culture warriors inside it?

            Doing that would either compromise uniform density (which is also obviously a requirement), or involve a considerable amount of violence in order to achieve uniform density in the contents of the sphere. Which I’m just mentioning for the sake of preparedness, not as any kind of objection to this proposal.

    • meltedcheesefondue says:

      My main experience is having been through a (UK) divorce, and I feel that the percentage of income makes sense (and even some orders that prevent the non-custodial parent from deliberately becoming unemployed).

      The most important thing about the law is that it’s a blunt instrument, and that “we must ensure that this law is both enforceable and that the edge cases are not too horrific” is a strong concern. So that’s why, for example, we have far stronger laws about physical than about emotional abuse, even if the second can be worse; physical abuse is so much easier to *measure* and is less contentious, so our laws can be enforced there more easily.

      So, states don’t want orphans, or kids living in poverty, or custodial parents on the dole, if they can avoid it. Normally when the state wants to avoid things, it needs to pay subsidies or pay for enforcement of something or other. But here, there is an easily tapped resource: the non-custodial parent. If they’re poor, well, at least it’s something, and you can’t charge them much more because they can’t make more money, most likely. If they’re middle class, then a percentage of their earnings should be enough to stop the child falling into poverty, which is the main aim.

      If the non-custodial parent is rich or very rich, then you might argue that a percentage of income is too high. But consider fairness, obligations, and incentives. Fairness: if every non-custodial parent pays 30% of their income, except for the very rich, then this is manifestly unfair, especially since the very rich have lower marginal returns to money, lower fixed costs, and are better at shielding their assets and getting a better divorce deal anyway. So the question is whether there should be an exception for very well off people; it’s no surprise that there isn’t a huge groundswell of popular pressure to make those exceptions.

      Obligations and incentives are quite similar. We assume that people will pay a reasonable fraction of their income on their children when bringing them up; many also feel that people are morally obliged to do so. There’s no reason that should end after a divorce; indeed, since the parent isn’t offering much time together, they should probably up their financial contribution (or so it would seem). This connects with incentives: divorce shouldn’t be an easy way of getting out of filial financial obligations.

      What about those parents who wouldn’t have paid a lot to their children even when remaining married, or who genuinely want to stop working after a divorce? As I said, the law is a blunt instrument. It’s very easy to claim you weren’t going to spend much, or that you’ve always wanted to shine rocks in the desert; it’s very hard to signal that honestly. So the law bluntly ignores those cases.

      My personal experience is that I don’t mind too much how the assets and income are divided. I feel that the division was a bit unfair against me (but then I would feel that, wouldn’t I?). What’s far worse is the uncertainty in the division, the impression – not a correct impression, in the end, but it took a long time to figure that out – the impression that there was everything to fight about; that all the income and assets were up for grabs. That was hellish. I’d much prefer a less fair but far clearer system.

      • quanta413 says:

        What’s far worse is the uncertainty in the division, the impression – not a correct impression, in the end, but it took a long time to figure that out – the impression that there was everything to fight about; that all the income and assets were up for grabs. That was hellish. I’d much prefer a less fair but far clearer system.

        That’s interesting input to hear from someone who’s been through it. Thanks for such a detailed post.

  33. Rana Dexsin says:

    … so the Open Threads are changing to Nopun Threads?

  34. bean says:

    Biweekly Naval Gazing links post:
    First, I finished up my discussion of the Battle of Santiago during the Spanish-American war with a post on the battle itself and one on the aftermath.

    The Falklands series has made a slightly tardy appearance this month, discussing the loss of Coventry and Atlantic Conveyor.

    I have managed to unify naval architecture and wedding decorations, two fields previously thought incompatible.

    For fun, here are some pictures of Iowa’s sickbay and dental facilities.

    And lastly, I’ve written up a very high-level look at the US Navy/Marine Corps as a whole.

    Also, a question. Does anyone still read these, or should I stop spamming the OTs with them?

    • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

      I still read them!

      Question for you: Roughly how many years of naval technology headstart would you need to be able to rule the waves? Like, suppose we took Germany in 1939 and sent the entire nation back in time to 1909. Would they be able to smash the British, French, and Russian fleets, invade the UK, sail across the Atlantic and smash the US Navy, and go on to do similar things around the world? If so, then it seems like a 30-year lead was “enough” in the world wars period. What about other periods, e.g. the 1800’s? For context on why I’m interested in this question, see my recent post.

      • Protagoras says:

        My guess: I really don’t think Germany’s 1939 fleet could defeat Britain’s 1919 fleet, much less the rest of the world’s, but that’s just 20 years, and anyway Germany 1939 had a fairly tiny fleet. They might not be world-beaters in 1909, though longer ranged and more accurate gunnery and better torpedoes would be a big deal. Another ten years, and I’m sure even the Kriegsmarine could dominate the world of 1899. And send the British, Japanese, or American 1941 fleet to 1911 (make it actually 30 years), or possibly 1921 (the 20 years of your example), and between the mostly faster ships, the aircraft that nobody has any defense against, the longer ranged and more accurate gunnery for the battleships and cruisers, and the faster and more powerful torpedoes on the subs and destroyers, you probably would be at the world-beating level. But curious to hear bean’s thoughts, of course.

        • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

          Thanks Protagoras–interesting that two years makes such a difference!
          (To those confused, I edited the number after my original post to make it 1909 instead of the typo 1919)

          • bean says:

            It’s not necessarily the 2 years that make the difference so much as the power in question. Germany’s fleet was pretty small, particularly in 1939. The US, UK, and Japan had the world’s three largest fleets. Give any of them a 30-year delta from the late 30s or early 40s (before Japan’s fleet went away) and they’ll win easily.

            Edit: I think the London treaty strengths for the aforementioned powers in battleships were 15, 15 and 10 respectively, as opposed to 2 for Germany in 39. Actual values varied during the war. A better case at sea would be someone like Italy, who had 6 battleships in 1940. For the “defeating any squadron afloat in 1910”, they’re looking at ~3-4 trips instead of a dozen for the Germans, and that makes a lot of things a lot easier. Except the crossing the Atlantic bit. Their ships were built for Mediterranean operations, which means short range, and would have had to capture fuel on the East Coast to return. (I’ve heard that this was actually in their warplans for fighting the US, but have no documentation of this.)

          • Protagoras says:

            Chose 1941 because I wanted the Japanese fleet to have Shokaku and Zuikaku (which requires late 1941, admittedly), but sticking with 1939 would probably not have changed much. Though as bean says, 1941 also gives more promising results for the Germans, at least if you pick part of the brief period when Bismarck and Tirpitz had both been commissioned and Bismarck hadn’t been sunk yet. But, another point bean mentions, an advantage of looking at the American, British, or Japanese fleets is that they were not only the biggest, they also all tended to emphasize long range ships, which is pretty important to any effort to take on the whole world.

        • edmundgennings says:

          The Kreigsmarine did not have a particularly large number of planes but enough that in conjunction with its subs and surface fleet they could probably win a war with 1911 Royal Navy. They would have to be careful with their massively outnumbered surface fleet, but subs could act as fairly powerful screens against a fleet that does not have depth charges and a good fraction of the Royal Navy would be sunk in port from the air in the first hours of the war. The UK could also be forced to negotiate pretty quickly if it lost naval control and thus a crash project to counter subs would probably not be effective in time.
          1944 USN with supplies and naval bases could beat all 1914 fleets combined relatively easily.

          • bean says:

            Actually, I think the Kriegsmarine had no planes of its own. The Luftwaffe had all airplanes because of Nazi politics. I’m less certain that the subs would have been that useful. They had surprisingly few in 1939, and they weren’t that much better than the subs of 1914.

            1944 USN with supplies and naval bases could beat all 1914 fleets combined relatively easily.

            Well, yeah. But it’s the largest fleet the world has ever seen, and the beneficiary of 30 years of rapid technological development. To some extent, I think that kind of misses the question. The 1944 USN had 23 battleships, which means we could replace the German dreadnoughts and battlecruisers at Jutland 1-for-1 with far superior ships and have 2 left over. Of course they’ll win.

          • edmundgennings says:

            Did not they have navalized Stukas for the graf Zeplin?
            Had subs improved enough by 1941 to be useful as screens?

          • John Schilling says:

            I’m less certain that the subs would have been that useful. They had surprisingly few in 1939, and they weren’t that much better than the subs of 1914.

            The Kriegsmarine had only 26 ocean-going and 31 coastal submarines in 1939, but I believe you are underestimating their superiority over the submarines of 1914. Their speed, endurance, and armament may have been similar, but their sensors, fire-control systems, communications, and other little details of great operational significance, had been substantially improved. German U-boats of 1939, for example, could track battleships at over-the-horizon distances. And they could receive tactical communications while submerged. Effective torpedo range had been increased from hundreds to thousands of yards. And the little coastal boats had magnetic mines to lay in British harbors.

            Against the non-existent ASW capabilities of 1909, even a small force of 1939 submarines might have had a decisive impact.

          • bean says:

            There were plans for navalized Stukas, yes. I don’t remember exactly how far they got or who owned them. Also worth pointing out that I don’t think they could reach Britain from Germany. Airplanes back then had very short ranges by modern standards.

            Had subs improved enough by 1941 to be useful as screens?

            Probably not. The dream of a submarine to operate with the fleet is an old one, and it’s still not realized. The problem is that most WWII subs were just not fast enough to keep up with the fleet. The Type VII, the most common of the U-boats, couldn’t even keep up with a pre-dreadnought on the surface, which raises obvious problems if you’re relying on it to screen a fast-moving battleship. Today, the big issue is communications.

            Edit:
            @John

            Reasonable point. At the same time, that’s a small force, and if it’s not going to get reinforcements, there’s only so much it can do. 26 ocean-going submarines means maybe a dozen actually in the trade lanes, and that limits how much damage they can do right there. And none of this solves the problem of limited mobility, either on the surface or underwater. German efforts to lure the Grand Fleet over submarines were notably unsuccessful, despite having a lot more boats to work with.

      • bean says:

        That’s a very complicated question. The 1939 German fleet would have two battleship-ish ships and two pre-dreadnoughts also present in the 1909 German fleet. The British had a lot of pre-dreadnoughts and a handful of dreadnoughts. The problem is basically one of logistics. Yes, the German ships are unquestionably the best in the world, but they only carry so many shells. They’ll run out long before they can sink the entire RN, to say nothing of other navies. If they had unlimited shells (even just back at base, not onboard) and a secure base, then it’s conceptually possible that they could destroy the entire RN by never closing enough to give the other side a chance, but it would involve a lot of sniping from long range, which isn’t great for accuracy.

        My biggest reservation about endorsing this scenario is that there are always mishaps in war, and the Germans don’t have enough slack to absorb them. Let’s say that they’re raiding the British coast, and run over a very lucky submarine, which pumps two torpedoes into Scharnhorst, slowing her to 18 kts. Suddenly, she’s no faster than the British pre-dreads and significantly slower than their battlecruisers and destroyers. She’s run down and battered to pieces, and the Germans now have one battleship. And if it’s not a submarine, maybe it’s a mine, or a lucky shot from extreme range for the British, or a mechanical casualty. The problem is that it relies on being able to hit while not being hit back, and you need an awfully big edge in those situations because you’re done in if anything goes wrong. The full set of German battleships in WWII (1940/41) does better, because you have twice as many ships with something like 2.5x the firepower, which means you need a lot fewer missions, which is fewer things to go wrong and more ability to keep going if something does go wrong.

        The basic problem with the technological superiority argument is that quantity has a quality all its own, and that without that quantity, actual strategic victory gets really hard. At some point, while you can defeat an enemy at 10 to 1 odds, the odds are now 20 to 1 because you had to detach too many of your men/ships to protect what you’ve already taken. The Clarke story Superiority springs to mind on this.

        In terms of actually making this argument, I’d say that the US c.1965 is your high point for this kind of superiority, even if we take away the nukes. It was before we got too deep into Vietnam, and 1935 is before the rearmament for WWII started in earnest.

        The 1800s are complicated. Development was kind of slapdash, and lots of it was driven more by the latest war scare than anything else. I don’t think you’ll see any meaningful “totally overwhelming” before the 1860s, which is when ironclads start to show up. Within the ironclad age, it’s kind of complicated, because of how irregular and fad-driven shipbuilding was. I’ll have to give it more thought.

        • kokotajlod@gmail.com says:

          Thanks! So yeah, maybe I shouldn’t have picked Germany as my example since they weren’t the most powerful or even close, even at their height.

          What about the period around 1860 or so? My understanding is that the advent of iron-hulled steam-powered warships created a pretty rapid obsolescence for navies around the world; couldn’t e.g. the French navy in 1870 defeat the British navy of 1840?

          And of course the British navy really did rule the waves pretty much for a good chunk of time, and the USN rules the waves now. So that’s even better for my argument. You suggested that US in 1965 could conquer the whole world in 1935 if it wanted to; this seems pretty obvious to me too. What about the UK in 1870? Could it conquer the whole world of 1840? What about 1900 to 1870? My prediction (based on learning about the HMS Warrior and the SS Great Eastern and related ships of that era) is that the 1870 – 1840 argument would go through.

          • bean says:

            What about the period around 1860 or so? My understanding is that the advent of iron-hulled steam-powered warships created a pretty rapid obsolescence for navies around the world; couldn’t e.g. the French navy in 1870 defeat the British navy of 1840?

            That would require me to be able to sort out what the French fleet in 1870 actually looked like, which is surprisingly difficult. (I think they had 16, but I could be wrong on that because that came from a quick skim of wiki.) Seriously, naval politics in that era are baffling. One of these days, I’ll have to write up those portions of Friedman’s Victorian Battleships.

            That said, in 1840, the British were entirely a wood-and-sail fleet, which means that against a steam-and-ironclad force they’re going to be at a tremendous disadvantage. Even in 1850, steam was rare in British service. So in that case, the gap might well close to 20 years. But the important fact there is steam, which lets them maneuver more or less independently of the wind. Armor is also important, but being able to choose your angle of engagement is probably the more critical factor.

            You suggested that US in 1965 could conquer the whole world in 1935 if it wanted to; this seems pretty obvious to me too. What about the UK in 1870? Could it conquer the whole world of 1840?

            It depends on how we define “conquer the whole world”. Again, this is a logistics question. Being able to beat the other guy in open battle is one thing. Holding the conquered territory is another, and the US in 1965 is quite instructive here. They couldn’t even put down an insurgency in Vietnam, much less one worldwide. A lot of the blame falls on the upper echelons of the DoD (and there wouldn’t be a North Vietnam analog in the “conquer the world” case) but trying to put down a low-level insurgency everywhere sounds very not fun.

            I have two other points to make: First, military forces are a reaction to the perceived threat. Let’s use Germany in 1939. Yes, its tanks are very effective against a real-world 1909 force because they have no weapons capable of dealing with them short of artillery, which isn’t really designed for that. But you aren’t going to develop tanks in perfect secrecy, and an anti-tank rifle (plenty against the typical German tank of 1939) isn’t that hard to build and field, even in 1909. It’s not quite as simple at sea, but there are still structural options available to the guy on the wrong side of the technology divide which weren’t picked up IRL because there wasn’t the technology divide to drive them.

            Second, technology leaks. I really can’t see anyone managing a 30-year technology gap simply because it’s going to crumble. When it’s a 10-year gap, everyone is either going to gang up on you or send all their spies to steal your secrets. You have to maintain that 30-year lead against a lot of efforts to tear it down.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            One of these days, I’ll have to write up those portions of Friedman’s Victorian Battleships.

            Now imagining David Friedman’s Victorian Battleship, which defended freedom of commerce in the second half of the 19th century on behalf of Ancapistan and served medieval recipes in the galley.

        • Kuiperdolin says:

          You mentionned the logistics of shells, but would 1939 ships run on 1909 fuel?

          • bean says:

            Yes and no. Yes, in that I don’t think the specs for oil fuel changed greatly during that time period and steam boilers aren’t that picky. No, in that coal was the standard fuel in 1909, and the Germans didn’t go to all-oil even for their destroyers until 1913. Sourcing fuel would be hard.

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        I’ve read your post and now wondering – should we count this discussion as the first recorded attempt to fight an unfriendly GAI with battleships?

        @bean
        I read these too.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      I read them too. Is a nice reminder to pop over for a read for us occasional visitors

    • AlesZiegler says:

      I read them

    • tocny says:

      I follow by RSS, but I still appreciate these!

    • hash872 says:

      I do sometimes read them, but I’d like to give you the polite feedback that much of the time Naval Gazing is the slowest loading website I’ve seen in the last few years. I think you probably lose some readers who click to open a link, then it spins trying to load the website for 30+ seconds. Brings me back to the 90s & 14.4 modems

    • Yair says:

      I read them.

    • Aapje says:

      @bean

      Will you be eating beans at the wedding dinner?

      I’m a little burned out on warship information and you seem to have switched to increasingly esoteric topics for your posts, that interest me less; but I still appreciate seeing the summary, even if it doesn’t always result in a visit.

    • Incurian says:

      I still read them, though I don’t tend to comment. I have purposely refrained from bookmarking your site because I like to let the unread posts pile up and then binge them while waiting at a doctors office or the airport, so my traffic is a bit irregular. You are not spamming at all, and I remain impressed that you continue to write so many high quality posts.

    • Watchman says:

      It let’s me know there’s something I might like to read, so that’s valuable.

  35. Vermillion says:

    I don’t know if this counts as too culture warry? Well I guess I’ll post it and find out.

    On Being Dumb: A Theory for why society needs a wide distribution of intelligence to function optimally

    Let me ask what you would do in this hypothetical scenario: you are a young parent about to head out for the afternoon. You’ve got a mostly self-sufficient 5 year old but you still need a baby-sitter . You can choose 1) a friendly dog or 2) a recursive, self-improving artificial intelligence that will optimize every variable to maximize “child care”.

    So there are some pros and cons of each. The AI might convert your child into its constituent molecules for some greater utilitarian purpose that it can hardly explain to your limited, comprehension puny mortal. The dog is literally a dog so it couldn’t, for example, help you with your taxes. But, if anyone he doesn’t know comes to your door, he sure will bark! You live in a pretty cohesive neighborhood so, if the dog were to do that, it would probably get a neighbor’s attention.

    You’re gonna be gone for 4 hours, who do you pick?

    So I hope that helps get this point across. There are a variety of things that need doing in a well functioning society (Like childcare), and the less intelligent, but otherwise capable, members of that society are the best choice to take care of many of them. You can use anyway of defining or measuring intelligence/the ability to navigate a problem space as you like, this is just a prerequisite for saying that natural variation in it is possible and indeed already exists.

    So why bring this up? A couple reasons, I see a lot of the so called ‘race-realists’* here and in other spaces, and they like to use plenty of spurious logic to make their point but one in particular is the implication, if not outright declaration that a higher intelligence is somehow a moral imperative or at least always in the best interest of a society. Anyway, I felt a kind of strong repulsion to this proposition, of assigning different values to people for this and not for being say, a very good and decent person or whatnot. I had a difficult time articulating exactly why I was opposed to that idea until Scott posted a link awhile back of someone who was trying to come up with a kind of humanist/biodeterminist synthesis, I’ll see if I can’t dig it up directly. I enjoyed reading that and thought I might extend the thinking a little further.

    Another point, and one on which I feel like I stand on much less sturdy ground, is related to the development of a generally intelligent AI, and the concomitant risk that it’ll go foom. I guess I wonder if that’s where the greatest demand for AI will be coming from? Like for a lot of tasks that we’d want to automate a more ‘stupid’ AI that like can operate very well in extremely limited circumstances but can’t at all generalize out of them. I recognize that goals and outcomes can be very different, maybe the murderbot goes foom after all, like I said this is not something I know a lot about.

    If you are someone who does, or does not, agree with the statement, ‘Intelligence is almost always desirable’ I’d be curious to know why. I have a couple more thoughts on the matter but I thought I’d start with this, see if anyone else wanted to talk about it.

    *Ok one thing I always wanted to ask you guys. If you wanna be maximizing brains or whatever, you would want a very high rate of diversity right? Because if one is mostly interested in the extreme right of that bell curve, your genius or super model that is, then the most desirable thing would be a high level genetic diversity and large population size?

    • Matt M says:

      I have some thoughts here, but if you’re going to start talking about “race realists” and what they think, that is like, the very definition of CW…

    • EchoChaos says:

      I don’t know if this counts as too culture warry?

      If you have to ask, probably yes.

      Because of the specific tendency you comment here, this tends to descend into CW pretty fast.

    • ana53294 says:

      I think you underestimate the intelligence needed to be a nanny.

      To be a nanny, you need:

      To be female. Males who want to take care of small children are viewed with great suspicions.

      No criminal record.

      To be clean. No drugs, good impulse control. For that reason, tattoo holders are discriminated against.

      To be punctual, conscientious, trustworthy.

      To be socially adept, able to interact, non aggressive, able to solve conflicts in a non violent way.

      Basically, any woman that fulfills all of those conditions is unlikely to be in the bottom of society. You underestimate the amount of problems people in the bottom of society have with impulse control and time preferences.

      • Vermillion says:

        I’ll reply to this in a new thread in a couple days.

      • baconbits9 says:

        It depends on how you define ‘nanny’, but realistically no. Tons of people in the lower economic strata get day care for their kids from other people in the lower economic strata. A common one is a working mom drops her kids off at a stay at home (or weekend working mom’s) house every morning and picks them up after work. All the caretaker needs to be is non abusive, sober and at home.

        • ana53294 says:

          The OP was about a nanny for higher class parents, and these would be usual requirements.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Is it? I see no where that class is specifically mentioned.

          • ana53294 says:

            Well, the way I read it is, “In what capacity are dumber people useful in a society of smart people?”, where they argue that dumber people are useful as nannies (with the assumption that the people doing the hiring).

            Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but it did seem condescending to nannies, who do a much harder job than they get credit for.

    • Randy M says:

      There might be some truth to the notion that greater intelligence allows you to rationalize ideas or actions you might otherwise reject out of hand, but this implies smarter people tend to be less moral, and I’d have to see some research to back that up; my experience doesn’t bias me strongly, but I’d say I’m weakly against that notion. Intelligence seems to be somewhat correlated with conscientiousness.

      The problem in the analogy with AI is that it doesn’t have human values to constrain its intelligence other than what it is explicitly programmed with. No common sense. Until I see otherwise, I’m going to assume AI is categorically different than human intelligence in ways other than simple magnitude.

      Another justification for preferring lower intelligence–which is emphatically not another way of saying valuing people who have lower intelligence–is that there might be jobs where the higher intelligence person gets bored and becomes inattentive. I recall this being used as a justification for not hiring high IQ applicants to a police force somewhere. I don’t really buy this; I think dumb people are just as capable of day dreaming, and the relevant quality is something else, like attentiveness or responsibility or impulse control.

      I suspect that everyone’s life would be improved with greater intelligence–theirs, or society generally–all other things being equal, which they probably aren’t.

      • edmundgennings says:

        There is research that shows the higher SAT score a university has the more its students cooperate in prisoner dilemma settings. This implies with a massive amount of potential other explanations and noise, that smarter people are more not less moral.

          • Matt M says:

            As for the difference between student and prisoner behavior, you’d expect that a prison population might be more jaded and distrustful, and therefore more likely to defect.

            The results went exactly the other way for the simultaneous game, only 37% of students cooperated. Inmates cooperated 56% of the time.

            Uh, no, this is about what I would expect.

            Students are far more likely to understand the logic of the game and to know how to either explicitly calculate, or implicitly assume, the nash equilibrium.

            Actual convicts are far more likely to come from honor-based cultural backgrounds and hold “don’t snitch” or at least “don’t cooperate with the police” or even “the police are lying and won’t honor the terms of whatever deal they are offering you” as a terminal value.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Matt

            Yeah, exactly. You don’t need to be smart – or even not-evil – to understand and effectively coordinate mutually advantageous outcomes. The claim that intelligence enhances one’s moral faculties is one I find… dubious very dumb. The ability to defy the one-shot Nash equilibrium is a good thing.

          • edmundgennings says:

            Prisoners also live in a world where punishment for defection is a meaningful reality. And not merely the moderate punishment of some loss with in the game but physical violence.
            They also have a common identity-culture where resisting defection is important.
            This finding does at the miniumum suggest at the very least noise is very important in comparing differing rates of cooperation.

    • broblawsky says:

      I will say that one thing that I believe is that, based on personal observation, moderate, focused intelligence can be more powerful than great, unfocused intelligence. Someone who is reasonably intelligent and focused on a narrow range of tasks will complete those tasks more effectively than someone who is highly intelligent but unable to focus their entire brainpower on those tasks; moreover, most highly intelligent people are unable to focus their entire brainpower on a single range of tasks unless those tasks are extremely intellectually engaging. Intelligence isn’t a resource that is entirely under the control of the person who possesses it; it possesses needs and creates incentives independent of the will of the person it inhabits.

      • James Banks says:

        Something similar:

        Several months ago I wasn’t feeling good mentally (pretty bad). It seemed at the time that it would be hard for me to work, like I’d lost mental capacity. So I took a couple IQ tests online and got about the same as ever (somewhere around 140). But then I tried taking a work-aptitude test online (that may not be the name for it) and got essentially average, as though my IQ were 100. That test was so hard, like heavy lifting. Reading paragraphs that were deliberately poorly written, doing detailed business math. The IQ tests were a breeze, doing puzzles. I think my mind could figure things out, but couldn’t handle the heaviness as well. Like it caused me too much pain and I couldn’t handle pain.

        For many employers’ purposes, I would have had an IQ of 100. So having the common sense (if that’s relevant) to keep yourself out of low places is worth a lot of IQ points and something high-IQ people sometimes miss.

    • Deiseach says:

      You, uh, probably aren’t helping your case by taking as your example (a) reducing all childcare to “babysitting” and (b) comparing potential babysitters to dogs (they sure may be dumb but hey, at least they can bark and get the attention of a normally intelligent person!)

      As somebody from the lower-class working end of the pool here, gee thanks but please stop helping me, I can’t afford any more denigration added to the already “these useless are too dumb to get a good job, is it any waste if they all vanish and leave us productive wealth creators in peace in the glorious post-Singularity future?” reputation, no matter how well-meaning it is.

      • Matt M says:

        Those uppity proles were so busy being worried about being replaced by robots, they never even saw it coming when we decided we could replace them with golden retrievers…

        • Deiseach says:

          You have to agree, Matt M, it’s not very flattering to Melanie down thread who has done babysitting and dogwalking in the past to suggest potential clients could combine both and replace her with one of the dogs she walks as the childminder!

          And Melanie is going to university so she’s plainly not as stupid as what me are!

          • Matt M says:

            combine both and replace her with one of the dogs she walks as the childminder!

            This sounds like a great option for those “5 ways millennials can save money” lists. Has MMM thought of this yet?

          • Deiseach says:

            This sounds like a great option for those “5 ways millennials can save money” lists.

            J.M. Barrie got there first in 1904 with the play of Peter Pan:

            Nana is a Newfoundland dog who is employed as a nanny by the Darling family. Nana does not speak or do anything beyond the physical capabilities of a large dog, but acts with apparent understanding of her responsibilities.

            So Vermillion has a precedent for “dumb people exist to pump the gas do manual labour for smart people and that’s okay” (which is unfortunately how the original post comes across, even if it’s not the intent).

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Deiseach

            Ha, I posted the same thing first.

          • Watchman says:

            My mum did leave a goat to look after me when I was a baby (I learnt this when I had my child, who mysteriously hasn’t stayed with his grandparents yet…), albeit she was only out in the garden. So Barrie may just be describing traditional English childcare methods.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Watchman: Come on, it’s socially accepted that a mother can leave her child with a nanny without being irresponsible.
            Or are you saying it was a male goat?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            I thought Scott didn’t want puns in this thread…

    • Viliam says:

      Speaking as a parent, if I had to choose a nanny for my kids, ceteris paribus I would prefer a smarter one. I would assume that a smarter one is capable of solving potential problems more efficiently, and I would also hope that she would do some smart activities with my kids.

      So I hope that helps get this point across.

      Sorry, not really. You seem to suggest that high intelligence is somehow potentially dangerous (“might convert your child into its constituent molecules”), while low intelligence is harmless. You don’t consider the possibility that even a usually friendly dog might bite the child, for example because the child bit first. Or a fire could start, and the dog would be unable to do anything about it (and when the friendly neighbors see the flames, it might be already too late). So you are putting your thumb on the scale here.

      There are a variety of things that need doing in a well functioning society (Like childcare), and the less intelligent, but otherwise capable, members of that society are the best choice to take care of many of them.

      Nope. The less intelligent people are sometimes a possible choice, and if they are cheaper, they may be the economically smarter choice… if they are cheaper overall, that is, after you included greater chance of them causing damage.

      But that doesn’t mean that in absence of less intelligent people, things would stop functioning. They could become more expensive though, at least temporarily.

      I see a lot of the so called…

      Making a strawman of your political opponents is not a good way to keep the debate CW-free. Actually, even if your description would be 100% correct, “my hated outgroup believes X” is a bad argument against X. (Your outgroup probably also believes that 2+2=4, what conclusion do you draw from that?)

      If you are someone who does, or does not, agree with the statement, ‘Intelligence is almost always desirable’ I’d be curious to know why.

      Would I support giving people a pill that increases everyone’s IQ by 50 points? Yes, I would. Would I support giving people a pill that increases psychopaths’ IQ by 50 points, and has no effect on anyone else? No, I wouldn’t. Not sure whether you count this as an agreement or disagreement.

      If you believe that humans are more good that evil on average, increasing their IQ means increasing their chances of reaching their goals (which are supposed to be good on average) and avoiding mistakes they would prefer not to make. That makes it good, I suppose. (Unless you believe that with increased intelligence, the capacity for evil increases faster than the capacity for good.)

      For a more System-1 answer, I recommend Flowers for Algernon.

      If you wanna be maximizing brains or whatever, you would want a very high rate of diversity right? Because if one is mostly interested in the extreme right of that bell curve, your genius or super model that is, then the most desirable thing would be a high level genetic diversity and large population size?

      Putting your thumb on the scale, again. Yes, if we assume that the mean IQ is fixed, but we can freely manipulate the standard deviation, of course the right approach would be to maximize the standard deviation, and have a few super-geniuses construct a Friendly AI that will solve everyone’s problems forever.

      But why exactly would the mean be fixed and the standard deviation freely changeable? What makes you believe that this is a realistic model of IQ distribution in society: evidence or wishful thinking?

    • rho says:

      Okay, so I’m going to start by saying, i think if everyone was like 20-30 iq points higher the world would be a better place. Not rigorous but, I think so. Let me run the sim and get back to you.

      That being said, I think I have more intelligence than is conducive to my long-term happiness. I’m saying, if I were dumber, my life would be better in quantifiable measurable ways that are desirable. I regularly think, although I’m trying to do this less, “I can see this course of action will lead to happiness, I am not optimizing for my personal happiness, I will do something else.” I think, if I were less intelligent, I would do the thing that makes my happy, and no one of any importance would hate me for it.

      Although I think the orthogonality thesis is strictly true, I think in the case of human reasoners, Socrates is right. Moral short-comings are failings of logical reasoning. I walk around feeling like ethics is logically required, even when repulsed by the people I have to be ethical to and I think that if the average person were smarter, they would do more towards the common good.

      Nevertheless, if a genie showed up and said “Hey, I can make you wicked smarter via magic” I’d say “Woah, give me that,” while simultaneously thinking “This is not going to make me any happier.” I think intelligence is by definition increased capacity to reach your goals, but nobody said your goals are to be happy.

      Lastly, I don’t think it’s contrary to reason to want your own happiness, and thus it is consistent for me to reject the genie’s offer, it just that I’ve got some problems with my psyche i need to iron out. No one should be always self-denying or as self-denying as i am. I lack balance, which is what the nanny-bot which rearranges your child lacks also.

      • Randy M says:

        That being said, I think I have more intelligence than is conducive to my long-term happiness. I’m saying, if I were dumber, my life would be better in quantifiable measurable ways that are desirable. I regularly think, although I’m trying to do this less, “I can see this course of action will lead to happiness, I am not optimizing for my personal happiness, I will do something else.” I think, if I were less intelligent, I would do the thing that makes my happy, and no one of any importance would hate me for it.

        Like you say, you aren’t optimizing for happiness. But if you were, presumably you’d be able to achieve it better with more intelligence than less. If everyone had greater intelligence, there may, possibly, be less happiness, but there’d be more satisfaction; more goals met.
        Unless intelligence is inextricably linked to akrasia or something like that, but I wouldn’t assume that.
        So it would be irrational to not take the genie up on his offer; it would only make one less happy if one valued something other than happiness, and hence you should still it because you’d get more of what you value.
        This is assuming wisdom, interpersonal skills, introspection, etc. rely at least in part on intelligence. I think one can have domain specific intelligence, but increasing general intelligence should improve all domains. In other, geekier words, in real life, bumping INT also bumps WIS and CHA as well.

        • rho says:

          I’m with you. I don’t disagree with anything here. However, I think the most intelligent humans are are also deeply moral, and and don’t think that’s a coincidence.

          > In other, geekier words, in real life, bumping INT also bumps WIS and CHA as well.

          Yeah, i think in practical real terms this true. I think you could go out and design a machine where this wasn’t true, but why the hell would you, i mean *intentionally*? I think there are constraints on mind design when you have to embed it in an evolved social being that walks about.

          Also, I don’t think you’ve considered that if I were more intelligent then what I’d require for happiness would change. Like for instance, Stephen Wolfram spent some of his vast wealth simulating billions of simple automatons. Like multiple millions at least, maybe in the hundreds. Presumably because this pleased him, but also to advance science. He spends that much on what’s a glorified hobby, really, and is just now doable. But how happy is he? I mean it’s entirely possible, even likely, that I have enough general intelligence to achieve any reasonable objective, and that having more wouldn’t grant me any substantial benefit towards attaining those things. I already want 100 unreasonable things a day, and I sometimes mention it, and people are like “yeah, of course children die of cancer. And I’m like, well, if we could solve this, this, and this, and evade these failure modes, they wouldn’t.” They say, “Oh. I’ve never thought of it that way.” Well, of course you didn’t, you see shit and think “I have to put up with shit, i guess,” and I think, “No. I’m capable of solve all problems systematically, if there more things like me, we’d all solve all the problems, and idk, move on to making art until the heat death of the universe or something.”

          And there are things like me, not a lot, but there are highly intelligent humans, that are capable of meta-cognition, are capable of emulating super-rationality, are capable of conceiving of the universalizability of the will and acting in accord. Acausal trading by a different name? Kant was all over that shit, ahhh.

          I’m in the weird place of lamenting my values at one level and endorsing them at another, (that’s only because I’m coming in conflict with the average human and the society they’ve built, and my options are conform or disengage, and either would be easier if my dispositions were different) I *predict* I would take the genie’s offer, but withhold judgement about whether that is objectively the right choice.

          • mtl1882 says:

            Well, of course you didn’t, you see shit and think “I have to put up with shit, i guess,” and I think, “No. I’m capable of solve all problems systematically, if there more things like me, we’d all solve all the problems, and idk, move on to making art until the heat death of the universe or something . . . my options are conform or disengage . . . ”

            Yeah, if I’m understanding you correctly, this is where the relationship between intelligence and unhappiness often arises. Smarter people may have enough awareness to know how certain important things could be addressed–not easily, but we’ve done harder things–or see a new approach that would reap huge advantages one way or another.

            If someone uses his or her higher intelligence is used to find shortcuts, avoid pitfalls, and streamline your life, awesome. That’s how above average-intelligence works up to a point.

            But at higher levels of intelligence, some see *possibility* such that there is both a moral and physical strain or frustration. They can see what most people cannot, and can make some useful connections. But to get anywhere with those realizations requires the increase in intelligence to be coupled with a corresponding increase in drive, willpower, or endurance. Being able to see all the pieces is different from being able to manipulate all of them.

            I feel like I experience this on a less glamorous level. I can see the connections between so many things and events that I am always spotting ways I should be hedging risk or maximizing efficiency/productivity. I can always see a way I could be making a better choice. But I do not have the desire or energy to act on every one of these observations, so I feel drained and foolish instead of clever. This makes me unhappy. It is not really about losing out, but about feeling a responsibility to do better and also feeling totally at fault if one of the many scenarios that I’ve imagined is not preemptively dealt with, since I was able to see it coming. This was not so much of a problem before I embraced the idea of using intelligence to maximize your happiness and make the best decisions–instead, I used it to get by with minimal effort. That was great. Once I thought of it on a longer-term level, more rationally, I decided to seek out information. Now, “getting by” doesn’t seem like a thing. If I were less intelligent, I probably would have felt better after acquiring information, but as it is, I am fixated on contingencies. Not that it has to be that way–as you pointed out, it is one’s “disposition” combined with this that is a problem.

          • rho says:

            @mtl1882

            Yeah, we’re one 🙂

            > But to get anywhere with those realizations requires the increase in intelligence to be coupled with a corresponding increase in drive, willpower, or endurance.

            No, I constantly struggle with hey, one of my abilities is at superhuman level (I used to just pharmacologically increase those other things), but I’m still human . And I have to be kind to myself also.

          • Aapje says:

            @rho

            I wonder if the neuroticism that you describe is due to your intelligence or orthogonal to it. Plenty of lower IQ people seem to not accept bad things, but try to control it in ways that smarter people realize don’t actually work. Hence superstition.

            Also, I’m wondering to which extent your claim that less intelligent people are less moral is based on you rejecting the solutions they favor more than the solutions of more intelligent people, rather than actually have worse goals.

          • rho says:

            @Aapje

            > Also, I’m wondering to which extent your claim that less intelligent people are less moral is based on you rejecting the solutions they favor more than the solutions of more intelligent people, rather than actually have worse goals.

            Oh, no no no. I don’t think I’d actually say what your saying. I don’t think intelligence is required to be moral. Maybe it’s required for your moral acts to succeed. And there is a kind of epistemic morality, like, the kind of thing laid out in “The Ethics of Belief” by Clifford, and maybe it’s not orthogonal to intelligence.

            Maybe, if you believe in perfectly efficient punishment for sinners that is infinite and eternal, it’s impossible to be moral really, that’s just rational self-interest at that point founded on perhaps questionable premises. But there are religious that say, “If heaven and hell were switched, I’d do the same thing, and burn for being upright.” I don’t have a strong stance here, I think it’s a mix, a undergirding of a in-the-moment weakened moral fortitude with incentives.

            I am saying that moral sainthood seems to require high intelligence

          • mtl1882 says:

            @rho

            “I constantly struggle with hey, one of my abilities is at superhuman level (I used to just pharmacologically increase those other things), but I’m still human.”

            Exactly. And for some reason the way you put that stuck me, though it is fairly obvious. *One* of my abilities is at superhuman level–and I naturally assume I should be able to create these superhuman works from it (I’m thinking of writing/research–I am really good at taking in huge amounts of information and finding patterns/making connections. I do this in areas like historical research, and it is amazing to begin to see all the undiscovered its of important information), but realistically my human level aspects cannot sustain that force.

            I’ve also tried Rx enhancement but it can’t do all that much. For most things, you need a firm grounding, an organization with other aspects of one’s mind and life. technically, my intelligence should be able to tell me to properly prioritize and make the most of these things, but it does not work that way when I’m dazzled with the possibilities of spending ever more time researching and thinking. and it is not just stubbornness–i am always aware that i may be missing something major and should therefore keep looking and reviewing instead of writing or taking a break. If I had a system imposed on me I would do better. But intelligence is not general in the way people think of it, usually–priorities and sifting don’t tend to get that much easier for intelligent people. And that is in part because it depends on one’s values.

            If everyone were set on a task, then increasing intelligence would probably be consistently a plus–you never know what might help you get it done. But when people are not being set on an activity relative to something, you can just spin. Intelligent perception and intelligent action are not the same thing, though it is also not true that intelligent perception is just taking in data. Often it involves very nuanced, practical, value-based judgments. It just does not translate well. And it’s not even about me overdoing it due to ambition, but just being unable to figure out how high a standard I should hold my work to, and how important to consider it, which is no small thing. I described my confusion as being efficiency-based, and a lot of it is, but some of it has little to do with maximizing my own success. There are a lot of issues that badly need to be dealt with in general–what should I follow up on? Reformers are the type of people who have a whole lot of energy in that area, but that is entirely separate from intelligence. Intelligent, energetic reformers can do more for the world than anyone else, though, and it must be very stressful to see some effective reform techniques but lack the willpower to fight the establishment for decades.

            I agree with @aapje that less intelligent people simply have an easier time convincing themselves they’ve solved the problem. it is both a function of what you are aware of and a function of how well you can convince yourself there is no responsibility in that direction.

        • Faza (TCM) says:

          But if you were, presumably you’d be able to achieve it better with more intelligence than less. If everyone had greater intelligence, there may, possibly, be less happiness, but there’d be more satisfaction; more goals met.

          I want to push back against this notion, because there are reasons to suspect it is untrue, both as regards happiness and satisfaction.

          Starting with satisfaction, ‘coz its easier: saying that a higher intelligence allows more goals to be met carries a big unstated premise – that there exists a viable path towards meeting any particular goal that only needs to be discovered.

          This, I feel the need to point out, seems like a student perspective – school is all about giving students problems with known solutions that are achievable with the tools the student has been provided with.

          Real life is, of course, nothing like this. The fact that we can formulate a problem like “I want to cure cancer” or “I want to create an AGI” or “I want to erradicate poverty” or even “I want to be happy” does not in any way imply that there exists a solution to that problem that we’re just too dumb to see. It is quite possible that there exists no way of achieving a particular goal, but proving this to be the case is a major intellectual undertaking to begin with (we’re reasonably certain, for the time being, that FTL travel is an unachievable goal – now try to independently prove this is the case).

          It is therefore not unlikely that the pursuit of any particular unachievable goal will lead exactly nowhere, despite intense intellectual effort, actually decreasing satisfaction relative to a hypothetical state where you did not pursue the goal at all (and thus did not get frustrated).

          You might argue that an intelligent agent should therefore restrict themselves to pursuing merely those goals known to be achievable. In that case, however, they must live with the knowledge that they are settling for less, because they aren’t certain if they can do better.

          We might thus find the more intelligent person less satisfied than the less intelligent one, simply because the less intelligent person is incapable of realising such dilemmas can even exist.

          Happiness is an even thornier issue, because it contains all the issues highlighted above, plus a couple of extra ones to boot.

          What does it mean to be optimizing for happiness, anyway? Happiness is not something we can reliably predict ex ante, so we cannot look at the results of any choice we’ve made, compare it to alternatives and deduce that the choice was optimal from a happiness standpoint. To do so, we would not only have to be able to concurrently make all the alternative choices, but to also compare our mental states between them so that we can say – with some measure of certainty – that choice A made us less happy than choice B.

          Realistically, what we’re probably doing most times is eliminating those choices we know – or suspect – will make us unhappy. That, however, is no guarantee of happiness with whatever choice was made (you might have only bad choices).

          Personally, I find that, as I grow older, the number of possible life choices that I can file away as “not going to make me noticeably happier” increases. Indeed, I can predict that “doing A is not going to make me happy” for a large number of values of A, including things I haven’t tried, yet (the predictions are reliable in that: I do A and it doesn’t make me happy, for the reasons I predicted it wouldn’t).

          To get an idea of why that may be and how it may or may not be related to the question of intelligence, let’s adopt the distinction between the base (physical) and higher (mental) pleasures.

          Physical pleasures can clearly be enjoyed to much the same degree regardless of your intelligence. The bodies of the genius and the idiot are much the same and respond to stimuli in much the same way.

          What about mental pleasures? These require stimuli that are adequate to ones intelligence and it should be pretty clear from the outset that the more intelligent you are, the bigger your problem. A person of average intelligence has no shortage of works, puzzles and people adequate to their mental capabilities. The more intelligent person is not easily satisfied by the mundane – their mind needs space to stretch. Their intellectual needs – to put it bluntly – cannot be catered to by the average, but it’s not like they’re guaranteed to keep only the company of their intellectual peers.

          They may thus find that most people in their life are incapable of sustaining conversations on topics they most care about; that artistics works they have access to seem trite and juvenile; in short: that the external world has little to offer. If they’re really intelligent, they realise that it’s nobody’s fault, merely a cruel joke of statistics, but that doesn’t actually make you feel any better.

          Lastly, there’s the issue of irreconcilable values. A subset of “all choices are bad”, there are situations where there exist two or more valuable things that simply cannot co-exist in one reality. Choosing one means foregoing the other, meaning unhappiness over the loss.

          An example: Alice and Bob are in a long-term relationship. Alice really loves Bob and wants him to be happy. She has committed to stay with him and be there for him no matter what.

          Bob also loves Alice. However, Bob has a lot of unresolved (and possibly unresolvable) emotional issues. Bob’s treatment of Alice sometimes borders on, if it isn’t outright, abusive. Even in the best of times, Bob is difficult to live with. He is, in short, making Alice miserable.

          She knows this to be the case, she knows why that is and how it isn’t really Bob’s fault (and even if it was, that doesn’t change a thing) and she knows that if she were to ask anyone they’d advise her to leave him.

          Except, she loves him and knows that if she leaves him, she’ll be unhappy about it. She also knows that the life she has with him ain’t all that bad (the abuse, such as there is, is emotional rather than physical), but it’s not likely to get any better and isn’t going to contain a great deal of happiness. She does not know whether there’s a better life to be had without Bob – and if there is, if it is sufficiently better to outweigh the downsides.

          Is Alice optimizing for happiness by staying with Bob?

          The more intelligent you are, the more such situations you are able to spot in your life and beyond it. After a while, it starts to look like you’re constantly optimizing for lesser evil – which shouldn’t surprise us, because the world wasn’t designed to be a happiness generator.

          • Randy M says:

            saying that a higher intelligence allows more goals to be met carries a big unstated premise – that there exists a viable path towards meeting any particular goal that only needs to be discovered.

            No, because I didn’t use an absolute. So long as merely more additional goals could be achieved by higher intelligence than prevented by it, than higher intelligence should help achieve more goals.
            Moreover, higher intelligence will let you discriminate between tractable and intractable problems easier.

            I’m the last one to say smarts is the be all and end all, but all other things being equal–which they may not be, most goods require trade-offs–I’m still convinced it makes life better.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            If I’m understanding you correctly, your point is that, for a set of viable goals, a higher intelligence will allow one to achieve a greater subset of such goals?

            Seems sensible, subject to one caveat: diminishing returns.

            Can you imagine a level of intelligence beyond which increasing it will actually make life worse? If not, why not?

          • Randy M says:

            Can you imagine a level of intelligence beyond which increasing it will actually make life worse? If not, why not?

            No, absent trade-offs, I can’t. Long term, at least. Just like I can’t imagine being too strong, although I can imagine being too bulky or hungry or spending too much time building strength, or having too little control over my strength.
            But increasing power without reducing control or increasing cost seems like an unalloyed good.

            You may be assuming a greater intelligence will make me realize some unpleasant truth that has no way of being mitigated, but I’d need an example. In reality, problems tend to be easier to solve with foreknowledge. And unless intelligence also comes with increased neuroticism–which is possibly contingent but I don’t assume so–I can just as easily think about something else.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            No, absent trade-offs, I can’t.

            That should give you a hint: there’s always a catch. It doesn’t even have to be a catch, it’s simply a matter of doing just what it says on the tin.

            I can’t imagine being too strong, although I can imagine being too bulky or hungry or spending too much time building strength, or having too little control over my strength.

            Assume the genie simply keeps coming back to make you stronger – without actually altering anything else. I will assume “stronger” to mean “capable of exerting greater force”. Crucially, what the genie does not do – because it wasn’t part of the bargain – is increase you control over your strength.

            Now, you may assume that you are already capable of infinitely fine gradations of the amount of strength applied whenever you do anything. Personally, however, I don’t see this reflected in my experience, nor do I see empirical support for this.

            If there is a finite number of gradations of strength, you have a problem as your strength increases – the gap between “too little force” and “too much” begins to widen. Since we don’t specify a maximum strength, we can assume these increases to go on for quite a while.

            In practice, you don’t want to be “stronger” (because that leads to absurdities), but rather to be “strong enough” – satisficing rather than maximization.

            So it is with intelligence, albeit for somewhat different reasons. Intelligence isn’t an actual superpower. To be able to think doesn’t in any way imply being able to do. This is the superintelligence fallacy: no matter how intelligent your hypothetical UFAI is, it’s completely harmless unless it has some way of actually affecting the world (this isn’t a given).

            In boundary conditions, a higher intelligence helps you better realize just how well and truly fucked you are, simply because you are both capable of accurately predicting the outcome of your existing situation and determining that there are no viable ways out.

            Worth noting that “viable” doesn’t mean “physically possible” here, but rather achievable in your current situation without incurring penalties that outweigh the benefits.

          • Randy M says:

            In boundary conditions, a higher intelligence helps you better realize just how well and truly fucked you are, simply because you are both capable of accurately predicting the outcome of your existing situation and determining that there are no viable ways out.

            Yeah, this is what I was getting at in my last paragraph, but I can’t think of a situation where realizing the depth of fucking sooner rather than later would not be advantageous, and even if there’s some hypothetical, I think that in most cases doing so sooner would save misery down the road.

          • Matt M says:

            I always thought the typical argument for “high intelligence makes you worse off” was all about social relations – as in, the genius becomes isolated from peers and has difficulties in human relationships because it is difficult for him to relate to those with lower IQ.

            But if everyone advances by the same amount, this situation is made no worse, so it’s a net wash.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            higher intelligence helps you better realize just how well and truly fucked you are

            Litany of Tarski. “If I am well and truly fucked, I desire to believe I am well and truly fucked.” Otherwise I will waste a lot of effort trying to solve an insoluble problem, which I could instead devote to a soluble one.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        What are you optimizing?

        • rho says:

          I want to be a good person. And it strikes me that my standards for that are unreasonably high. But like, it bounces off.

      • Viliam says:

        i think if everyone was like 20-30 iq points higher the world would be a better place. … Let me run the sim and get back to you.

        Be careful; if you increase the IQ too much, they might escape the sim! There is a good reason humans are balanced to be smart enough to do interesting things, but too dumb to figure out the really important stuff.

      • Deiseach says:

        Okay, so I’m going to start by saying, i think if everyone was like 20-30 iq points higher the world would be a better place.

        Two problems there:
        (1) It’s a relative gain: now the 100 IQ people are now 120 IQ and the 140 IQ people are 160 IQ. Sounds great, except we’ll just adjust the scales: now 120 is the new 100, and people will be making disparaging posts about those 105 IQ morons who mess everything up the way they talk about 95 IQ people today.

        (2) It’s an absolute gain: everyone in the world is now 130 or 150 or where you like IQ. Sounds even greater, and it may be; now everyone is smart enough to build the robots to do the manual labour while the humans work on research jobs. Or work on ways to get around adblockers to monetise pageclicks like they do today. I think this would also have an economic knock-on effect; today you can say “I deserve my high salary and perks because I am smart and have these in-demand skills and experience”. Tomorrow, when everyone is smart and has the in-demand skills, are we going to see (a) yes, employers agree: every single working person in the world now gets paid six-figure salaries (b) now that we have a huge labour pool, your wages are going down accordingly because now smart people with in-demand skills are ten a penny.

        I’m betting on option (b).

        • Randy M says:

          Your wages shouldn’t go down too much, since you are now capable of producing more in absolute terms and the same amount in relative terms. And goods should become better and more plentiful as innovation and optimization increase.

          Yes, the IQ of people who make things that irritate you will also increase, from con artists to marketing.

          But if you think the rest of humanity is a net positive to you, you should be approving of an across the board increase; vice versa otherwise.

          • albatross11 says:

            The critical idea here is that some parts of human well-being are status competitions, and shifting the intelligence distribution won’t affect those. But other parts–really substantial parts–are about absolute ability or productivity. It’s like if you lived in a world where the two important fields of endeavor were playing basketball and reaching things up on high shelves–making everyone 3 inches taller would be a wash as far as basketball was concerned, but there would suddenly be a lot more people able to reach stuff on the high shelves without looking around for a stepladder or a tall person to help.

            Smarter people designing online ads/ad blockers or complex tax codes/complex tax evasion schemes are a wash. Smarter people designing cancer treatments and computers and rockets are a huge win–even if you’re still a janitor with a 100 IQ because everyone shifted right 15 points, you still get your cancer cured because smarter researchers worked out some stuff that slightly less smart researchers hadn’t been quite able to get their brains around.

          • Matt M says:

            Honestly… even 100 IQ janitors probably make us better off, because they’re more likely to find more intelligent/efficient ways to vacuum the office more quickly or whatever.

            No, they won’t get paid any higher than they do today, but the overall quality of their work will improve, which makes us all better off.

          • Randy M says:

            Yes, but now people probably also want even larger houses, with higher shelves, and you who were 6 feet before are now seven, and still in demand for those new shelves.
            Or you are out of work because some genius invented the step ladder. (Hrm, that works better in the intelligence scenario.)

            I buy that there’s likely fields where someone operating at their peak now would suddenly get a large influx of competition, and if they didn’t want to retrain to use their new peak, and that particular field didn’t benefit from an increase in productivity that came from the increased intelligence, you’d see falling wages. But still, there’s trade-offs of better and cheaper goods to consider on the other side of the ledger.

          • albatross11 says:

            Randy:

            I’m not saying a shift in intelligence would have only winners, I’m saying the world would be better overall, in similar ways to what would happen if everyone were suddenly 20% healthier/more physically robust tomorrow.

          • JPNunez says:

            @Matt M

            But if Janitors suddenly became somewhat more intelligent, some of them would be able to get slightly better paying jobs, making demand for janitors raise, and now you got Baumoled into paying more for the same janitorial services than before.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            If intelligence goes up, janitors will presumably have better tools, surfaces will be easier to clean, etc.

          • bullseye says:

            @JPNunez

            But won’t those slightly better jobs now have higher standards?

          • JPNunez says:

            @bullseye

            Not necessarily, at least not all of them. It’s not like, say, plumbing may become harder just because all the former plumbers are now more intelligent -although maybe plumbing could become more precise owing to high skill workers, thus becoming hard-. I assume there’d be jobs that wouldn’t see a skill floor increase.

            If intelligence suddenly rises in general, we may have more people trying to be rocket engineers, geneticists, etc whatever profession is considered hard and/or profitable, so there’d be a -relatively- sudden increase in the offer of highly skilled workers, and a lack of low skill workers, so the later may see their salaries rise, and the former may or may not see theirs go down. Depends on whether the economy can offer good returns on those high skill workers.

          • albatross11 says:

            We write and read a lot of stories that are man vs man, but outside of wars and such, the main thing that determines human well being is how well we do at man vs nature problems. Making everyone smarter doesn’t help with the man vs man stories–Pham Nuwen is still matching wits with Thomas Nau, they’re just smarter. But it helps a lot with the man vs nature problems–Mark Watney finds the whole stranded-on-Mars ordeal annoying but can work out solutions pretty handily, and NASA/the Chinese space agency manage to get the original rescue mission to work.

        • rho says:

          I think it’s an absolute gain. And post-scarcity is not strictly physically possible, but like, why wouldn’t we make food, shelter, and basic clothing free? I think in such a world many people would produce value for other people, and wouldn’t need to to do it under pain of homelessness and starvation.

          But I think we’re stupid, on a whole, and we need to put these guide-bars and incentives in place. But I’m really, fantastically idealistic soo¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        • albatross11 says:

          How do you think the world would change if everyone got one standard deviation dumber?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Disaster. The current infrastructure would become unmaintainable in the short run. There’s a lot of people in the world, including a lot of smart people, and thus there might be enough expertise in the right minds, with a lot of shuffling, to keep civilization running in the medium term. But it would be rough.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, I’d expect progress in all areas of science and technology to grind to a halt, and a lot of infrastructure to fall apart as the formerly one-in-a-hundred people needed to keep the plant running become one-in-a-thousand people.

      • JPNunez says:

        But this has already been happening, via the Flynn effect; people have been getting more and more intelligent slowly through the 20th century. I suspect it is just people’s brain adapting to a more complex world, but the world keeps getting more and more complex, and the Flynn effect may have stopped already? Maybe there’s only so much complexity the general population can adapt to.

        I suspect this produces weird effects, like the typical claims that playing pokemon makes kids smarter; it’s not necessarily pokemon itself, just that kids before at best had kiddie books like, say, Winnie the Pooh, and now they have pokemon-level entertainment, complete with evolutions, reisstances, type advantages, etc, etc.

        • broblawsky says:

          As far as I can tell from the literature, the Flynn effect is largely a product of improved health: people today, even the impoverished, eat substantially better and are exposed to substantially less environmental toxins than their same-income analogues 50 years ago. Better and more uniform access to education is a smaller, but still significant contributor.

          • JPNunez says:

            I am aware of the effects, of, say, air pollution in intelligence, the rise in IQ and drop in crime associated to stopping putting lead in car fuel, etc, but if that was the main or only factor we’d see kids living in rural towns being more intelligent than the ones in cities, provided those towns have equivalent health services.

            Then again kids in towns do migrate to cities for better opportunities anyway. Dunno.

          • Plumber says:

            @JPNunez says: "I am aware of the effects, of, say, air pollution in intelligence, the rise in IQ and drop in crime associated to stopping putting lead in car fuel, etc, but if that was the main or only factor we’d see kids living in rural towns being more intelligent than the ones in cities, provided those towns have equivalent health services.

            Then again kids in towns do migrate to cities for better opportunities anyway. Dunno"

            Most of my youth and school years was in Berkeley, California in the ’70’s and ’80’s, my Mom came from suburban Southern California and went to U.C. Berkeley, neither me or my brother did, nor did 9/10ths of my peers growing up, and most of them moved away.

            Many did go to college, and many of that subset became teachers, but not in or near Berkeley, most not even in California.

            My wife came from out of State, and went to U.C.B. and settled here, and that’s typical, the “cognitive elite” live here, but most aren’t born here, they usually come from suburban “UMC” areas (an example would be our host), and most of those born here don’t stay.

            Across the bay in San Francisco (where I work) the situation is much the same, and those who grew up there are displaced, by both foreigners (who are willing to endure crowding and sub-standard housing), and by the cognitive elite (who like locusts disrupt all before them with their community destroying ambitions and hunger for novelty and purpose).

        • Eponymous says:

          IQ scores have gone up. This is not the same thing as people becoming more intelligent.

      • BBA says:

        I think I have more intelligence than is conducive to my long-term happiness.

        I know I do. I don’t know how much my crippling depression and self-doubt is a consequence of my being really good at standardized tests, but I’m guessing it’s a lot of it.

    • albatross11 says:

      So here’s my counterclaim, which doesn’t include superhuman AIs or clever dogs:

      If you took modern American society and somehow shifted the intelligence distribution one standard deviation to the right, to a first approximation, everything would get better and almost nothing would get worse. There would still be people doing mostly menial tasks, but they’d do them better, and there would be far fewer people who could *only* do those things.

      We’ve kind-of run this experiment in the developed world–we mostly vaccinated kids against common childhood diseases, build proper sewers, eradicated endemic diseases, made sure everyone got enough to eat, added supplements to common foods to avoid deficiency diseases, provided free basic education for everyone, etc. All those things raised IQ scores, and probably that reflects genuine increases in intelligence–stuff that was stunting the development of peoples’ brains was removed from the equation, and people got smarter because their brain development didn’t get clobbered by having malaria six times during their childhood. What we don’t see is societies grinding to a halt because there are no dumb people to be carriers of water and hewers of wood. Instead, things just get better.

      I don’t know if this continues indefinitely. Maybe if you shifted the distribution so that today’s dullards became Gauss/von Neumann equivalents, somehow society couldn’t function anymore. But I doubt it, because plenty of very smart people manage to do menial tasks when they have to. For example, startups and chemistry/biology labs have menial tasks being done by extremely smart people all the time. The dumbest person in the ML-based startup company isn’t Gauss, but they’re probably 2-3 sigmas to the right of the mean, and they’ll still repair the light switch or make copies when that’s what’s needed.

      • Tarpitz says:

        This is the kind of thinking that leads to everyone getting wiped out by a virulent disease contracted from a dirty telephone.

      • Watchman says:

        Because no communists or fascists were high IQ?

        I think the risk with more intelligent people is that they will seek more intelligent solutions, because intelligent people are generally very bad at estimating where their ability to suggest solutions stops, particularly with regard to social and political issues. Most bad ideologies spring from very intelligent people; most culture warriors are likely to be high IQ (despite their caricatures of each other); most followers of cult leaders seem to be educated and looking for direction. If intelligent people today are coming up with bad ideas, what’s to stop more intelligent people producing more bad ideas.

        Intelligence is only good if applied in a good way, and whilst we can argue on a CW thread what a good way would be, I doubt anyone is planning to argue that any idea an intelligent person can come up with is good, considering we have a lot of history to illustrate otherwise.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      A dog? What if there’s a fire? What if you’re delayed and someone should make dinner?

      A reliable person who had to struggle to finish high school– or who didn’t finish high school– could be a good choice, but if you think a dog makes sense, I think your model of the world is severely deficient.

      An AI which has been in use for decades is probably safe. And besides, dogs occasionally maul people. If you’re hiring (borrowing?) a dog, you probably don’t have huge amounts of information on how safe it is.

      And besides, if the AI is going rogue, *not* hiring it to take care of your kid isn’t going to keep your kid safe. The dog isn’t going to fend off the AI.

      The back of my head is trying to come up with an insanely sentimental story where the dog is uplifted and the kid so adorable that the AI decides not to destroy the human race. It probably wouldn’t be a good story.

      • EchoChaos says:

        What about if an impish boy who will never grow up sneaks into your children’s bedroom and takes them away? Historically, dog nursemaids have been notably bad at preventing this.

      • Viliam says:

        In a story it is actually very important to put the dangerous AI into a room with kids. Who else is going to hack it right before it destroys the world?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        And besides, if the AI is going rogue, *not* hiring it to take care of your kid isn’t going to keep your kid safe. The dog isn’t going to fend off the AI.

        I want to read this SF story or children’s book.

        • Matt M says:

          What’s that girl? Little Timmy has been abducted and all of his vital nutrients converted into paperclips?

      • Watchman says:

        Isn’t the risk with the AI that it converts everything, including paper clips, into things to improve your child’s comfort and safety? They can have objectives other than paper clips,.such as putting foam coverings on every sharp corner in the world.

    • edmundgennings says:

      Your first question is CW
      For your last question, if your goal is to maximize the intelligence of the population you care about the mean. On the other hand if you care about the intelligence of the top 0.1% then you want to increase the standard deviation as well as the mean, but standard deviation is more important.
      The way to do this is assortative mating which both ends up creating a quasi caste and society and in order to encourage more assortative mating we would need to strengthen the caste elements, at least at the top. There are a number of rather important downsides to this, but I would note that at a minimum it is not what most people mean by diverse. Almost all policy moves effective in this direction would be at “best” eugenic or start to be increasingly monstrous and would be rejected by all political groups.
      To make this more concrete, we could have an ivy league’s office for diversity in charge of ensuring that people with parents who did not get admitted to college do not get admitted and thus marry those with more extreme genes and thus decreasing the phenotypical diversity of the population, but that it not only dystopian, it is not what almost anyone means by diversity.

      Also standard deviation sizes vary between different demographic groups in ways we could discuss in a CW thread.

      • Aapje says:

        Our current culture & policies seem more eugenic than in the past, yet this seems highly accepted because they are implicitly eugenic, but not explicitly.

    • FLWAB says:

      As far as the babysitter question goes, if I had no choice but to leave my kid with either a dog or an ai I would choose the dog. Not because some tasks are better suited to the simple, but because I would rather leave my kid with a dog I know than a stranger who might be insane.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Arguing that intelligence is bad because we trust dogs over AIs is missing the point of why we distrust AIs.

      Which would you choose as a babysitter, a dog or Deepmind neural net trained on 100,000 hours of labeled data? Probably still the dog, because dumb modern ML is notorious for having all kinds of wonky edge cases where it does nonsense, including in what should be perfectly straightforward scenarios. The AI isn’t too smart, it’s too unpredictable. Your entire argument rests on this conflation, and falls apart without it.

      • Matt M says:

        And yes, 100% agree. AI is a weird edge case that doesn’t apply here for various reasons.

        The real question is probably closer to “Would you rather leave your kid with Albert Einstein or Forrest Gump?”

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I think intelligence is desirable because I have spent a lot of my working life dealing with stupid people. And I don’t mean stubborn nerds, or really smart people who have blind spots for certain things, or stupid mistakes that anyone can make. I mean, people who, if you point a gun to their head and ask them to find their name on a sheet of paper, will probably fail the test and die. People who do not understand how rulers work. People who….

      Average intelligence people can perform admirably, but work with them for a short period of time, and you’ll find all sorts of little flaws and obvious gaps that they either do not see or cannot for the life of them fix. It becomes a bitch to manage any projects with them, because they cannot “think out of the box” or “think like a owner” or “take a step back.” They basically just know “well, this triangle goes in the triangle shape hole, this square goes in the square hole, and the circle holes I don’t really need to care about because no one has ever asked me about them.”

      If your sense of “diversity” means that I need to marry and reproduce with stupid people and this will somehow create smart people, uhhh….pass. Pretty sure I’ll maximize my odds of a smart baby by marrying another smart person.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Just to be literal, if you pointed a gun at my head, I might become worse at finding a name on a piece of paper.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Okay, how about I offer you $500 of free stuff and all you need to do is find your name on a sheet and cross it off?

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Have you been trading recruitment test notes with my boss?

          • EchoChaos says:

            My favorite was when recruiting for a low-level tech job (very much a 95 IQ job), we had a written test for it of about 10th grade level math (with no calculator). Most failed it.

            But as a bit of a trap, we also asked for how many grams were in an ounce. Virtually everyone knew that. For some reason.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            @EchoChaos I don’t get how that’s a trap.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @eyeballfrog

            A low IQ person who can’t do basic math but instantly can convert between grams and ounces without a calculator is a drug user with a high degree of confidence.

          • acymetric says:

            I’m disappointed with myself that I didn’t see the trap there.

            Curiously, I don’t think I would have been able to get that conversion right for your test (my reaction when I read your comment was “who knows that off the top of their head?”), but after seeing the explanation of the trap I kind of had a forehead slap moment of “oh, crap, yeah I do know how to do that conversion”.

          • Matt M says:

            A low IQ person who can’t do basic math but instantly can convert between grams and ounces without a calculator is a drug user with a high degree of confidence.

            Wait seriously? And you used it for that?

            That’s remarkably clever.

            I wonder if this can also solve our “daycare doesn’t want to hire criminals” problem? Ask a question in the interview that only people who have been to prison would know, but doesn’t strike them as “they’re only asking this to disqualify me if I get it right”…

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            “A low IQ person who can’t do basic math but instantly can convert between grams and ounces without a calculator is a drug user with a high degree of confidence.”

            It also suggests there’s something we’re failing to understand about the ability to do arithmetic.

          • acymetric says:

            Integrated math folks would tell you they found the answer already.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Matt M

            Thanks. I felt pretty smart coming up with it. Yes, we did decide against hiring several people because they knew that with mediocre responses on math. The guy we did hire had moderately better math skills and missed that.

            Probably would work until it gets figured out through the grapevine. Just like everything else that filters that way.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Wow. The only conversion factor in that space I consistently remember is 2.2 pounds per kilogram, so I would have had to do a bunch of arithmetic to get grams per ounce.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @Nancy Lebovitz

            I think you’d find in most cases they’ve just memorized (after using a calculator or asking someone smarter) all the conversions they might need.

            Though that does remind me of the time I found out that [CW term] can do math, because they were motivated in [CW situation]. 🙂

          • acymetric says:

            I feel like “[CW term]” comes off significantly worse than if you just said what you were trying to hint at.

          • JulieK says:

            I know the grams-to-ounces thing from food preparation.

          • JonathanD says:

            @EchoChaos,

            A drug user, or someone with a weight problem using a calorie counting app.

          • Matt M says:

            Well, you don’t want those people either. Too expensive to insure!

          • EchoChaos says:

            @JonathanD

            This was about 15 years ago, so nobody was using a calorie counting app, and trust me, none of these people were regular chefs either. I mean of food. Some of them were definitely cooking some things.

      • rho says:

        No, you’re right, it’s impressive. I’m slowly learning, but everyday I’m surprised by what I learn I cannot expect other people to know or get right.

        I’m pretty sheltered in this respect.

    • bullseye says:

      My preference for babysitter would be:

      1. Smart decent person.
      2. Dumb decent person.
      3. Nice dog.
      4. Smart psychopath.
      5. Dumb psychopath.
      6. Mean dog.
      7. AI that’s going to eat the kid.

    • “Anyway, I felt a kind of strong repulsion to this proposition, of assigning different values to people for this and not for being say, a very good and decent person or whatnot.”

      That’s not what eugenics was about. Eugenicists wanted to sterilize the feeble-minded but also violent criminals. Saying “you care about X but what about Y, which is a more significant issue” is a classic sophomore argument, particularly where the criticized group does care about Y.

      “Ok one thing I always wanted to ask you guys. If you wanna be maximizing brains or whatever, you would want a very high rate of diversity right? Because if one is mostly interested in the extreme right of that bell curve, your genius or super model that is, then the most desirable thing would be a high level genetic diversity and large population size?”

      No. Look at animal breeding for a crude example: you don’t get the fastest horses by breeding for “diversity.”

      • The Nybbler says:

        No. Look at animal breeding for a crude example: you don’t get the fastest horses by breeding for “diversity.”

        You do increase diversity as a part of plant breeding. But in that case you’re increasing the diversity of the total gene pool, not trying to “breed for diversity”. Unfortunately mutation breeding animals tends to just get you non-viable
        or obviously damaged animals.

        One huge problem with deliberate human breeding programs is breeding always involves culling, and neither a hard cull (murder) or a soft cull (sterilization) is going to be acceptable.

        • moonfirestorm says:

          One huge problem with deliberate human breeding programs is breeding always involves culling, and neither a hard cull (murder) or a soft cull (sterilization) is going to be acceptable.

          This is only true if you’re trying to improve the entire species at once, I think. If you’re just trying to breed a particularly desirable trait in a small subpopulation, you can “cull” by just not inviting those people back to the next round of the breeding program. They likely end up in the greater gene pool, but that doesn’t really matter for your purposes.

    • littleby says:

      There’s only ever going to be one recursively self-improving AI, and it’s only going to coexist with biological humans for a few hours. If you get the chance to hire it as a babysitter, you should probably cancel your other plans and spend your last few hours of non-uploaded existence saying goodbye to your kid personally.

      I understand you’re trying to do a thought experiment here, but I don’t think it’s a very good one: you said “you can get a very smart AI to babysit” and then you added “but the AI will spend its babysitting time doing recursive self-improvement.” It’s like if you said: “you can get a 160-IQ super-genius to babysit, but the super-genius will spend the babysitting time assembling a miniature nuclear reactor.”

      Smart people are fine, just don’t hire a smart person who is precommitted to doing something insanely dangerous during babysitting time.

    • Murphy says:

      Your example of a weird AI vs a dog nests in a lot of stuff unrelated to intelligence.

      It’s like responding to someone saying that raising children is easier if you have enough money by saying “instead of your parents who love you you have the choice of being raised by a heartless billionaire who doesn’t love you and may decide to break you down into organs if he needs a heart transplant?, sEe mOnEy IsN’t EvErYtHiNg!!!!”

      Instead try, your 5 year old has 2 older brothers. Both love her and want to protect her but you have to choose one to watch over her and they’re both physically similar.

      One is working on his PHd.

      The other has serious brain damage and has roughly the mental faculties of a 5 year old.

      you only get to choose one.

      Which do you choose?

      I also wouldn’t be too keen on a very very smart tiger who wants to eat my child but that doesn’t tell me very much about the desirability of intelligence in a caretaker, it merely means that other qualities may entirely disqualify a caretaker.

      one in particular is the implication, if not outright declaration that a higher intelligence is somehow a moral imperative or at least always in the best interest of a society.

      I think this may be one of those cases where we need to be clear what we’re talking about.

      Someone smart has no more intrinsic value as a human than someone who’s thick as 2 short planks.

      But they’ll probably have an easier life that they have more control over, find it easier to achieve goals they want to achieve and generally navigate their life.

      Also one might be much more useful to have on your team if you’re trying to do an intellectually demanding task.

      But lets try a tangent:

      Is good health more desirable than poor health?

      Your child is about to be born, they’ll live their life with some unpleasant but non-deadly condition that makes everything harder and make all physical effort harder and you have a button that, if you press it (at no cost to you), will make it go away and make them be born healthy as a very healthy ox, do you press it?

      Assuming you didn’t press it, if your child later found out you had the choice to press the button and didn’t, would they be justified to feel angry at you for your choice?

      Is being able to understand things easily, grasp concepts easily more desirable than struggling to understand?

      Your child is about to be born, they’re going to be born with a brain that will let them easily understand things and learning will be a breeze for them. You have a button that, if you press it (at no cost to you), will *make it go away*, instead every lesson will be a trial, every concept hard to mentally digest, every leap of understanding will instead become a hard slog and lessons will regularly involve frustration and tears.

      Assuming you choose to press the button, if your child later found out you had the choice to press the button and did, would they be justified to feel angry at you for your choice?

    • Jiro says:

      I would suggest that

      1) There are plenty of ways in which a dog could fail to solve or exacerbate a problem because it’s a dog and doesn’t know some things.

      2) The AI is a bad choice because AIs like you describe have values not matching those of human beings, and that’s not intrinsically linked to intelligence.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        What if it were an AI trained on thousands of hours of skilled nannying?

        Is it possible to teach an AI methods of handling rare events like fires and injuries?

        Now that I think of it, I haven’t heard of strategies for developing AIs which combine training and teaching.

    • Wolpertinger says:

      1) a friendly dog or 2) a recursive, self-improving artificial intelligence that will optimize every variable to maximize “child care”.

      I don’t think this is the best example to make. Some people might just choose the AI out of curiosity and a desire to bring a bigger brain into existence.

      Also, if there were a recursively self-improving AI applying as nanny it would already exist and seeing that I am still alive to make the choice is already a good indicator that things haven’t gone terribly wrong yet.

      A somewhat better scenario would be a boxed AI offering to take over child-care duty if only you let it out, with the alternative being the dog.

      Also, what kind of dog?

  36. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    When you visualize, how much of your visual field do you take up? Can you choose to take up more?

    How can you tell when you’re remembered something accurately? I’m not talking about personal experience, I’m talking about reaching for a fact, and then realizing you’ve gotten it.

    • Machine Interface says:

      1) Unless I deliberatedly make them so, my visualizations are in an abstracted space and not actually in my visual field. When I do make them in my visual field, they can take as much space as I want.

      2) You can’t. The brain doesn’t keep track of how memories are formed, and so there is no way to tell how accurate a memory is until you’ve actually confronted it with real world evidence. Until then, a completely false, made-up memory will seem just as trustworthy as a memory of something you’d have actually witnessed.

      • lightvector says:

        You can sometimes tell how accurate a memory is using memory alone, if you do so by leveraging *different* memories.

        E.g. in some data analysis: I recall X and Y were correlated and I think it was positive, but I’m not sure about that sign… oh wait also I remember that as a result we next decided to look at Z, which only makes sense to do if it was positive rather than negative, so yes, I’m probably remembering correctly.

      • roystgnr says:

        The brain tries to keep track of how episodic memories (“personal experience”) are formed, although it’s not extremely good at it. I don’t think the brain even tries to keep track of how semantic memories (“reaching for a fact”) are formed. Keeping track of related facts works pretty well, though; maybe mnemonic devices are the best option for verification, as well as being a good aid for recall? If you misremember sin vs cosine, but you remember “soh cah toa”, then you’ve got a good chance of being able to figure out which of the two memories is incorrect.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Can you say more about visualizing in an abstracted space?

        As for memories, I was trying to get away from issues around personal history.

        I mean something like remembering a scene from a movie and dredging around to remember the title of the movie.

        • FLWAB says:

          Can you say more about visualizing in an abstracted space?

          Hard to describe, but I understood what Machine Interface meant immediately. Its not anywhere you can see: you could call it a black void behind your eyeballs, but that’s almost entirely wrong. Its in a place where you are not seeing. Like, what does it look like outside your field of vision? When you are looking straight ahead, what does it look like immediately behind you at that moment? It’s not a black void because it’s not even black. It’s just a different place. You don’t need eyes to see it.

          I know what an apple looks like, and I can picture it in my head. I don’t picture it in my visual field unless I want to for some reason, and even then it’s not like it’s there: It’s more like I’m taking my abstracted space and superimposing it over my visual field. I would never be confused whether I was seeing something or visualizing it.

          Another way to put it: when you remember music, where in your auditory field do you hear it? Your left ear, or your right? The answer is you hear it in abstracted space: in your head, as it were. You might imagine what it would sound like coming in one ear or the other, but you’re not actually hearing it and you wouldn’t confuse it for a real sound.

          • Randy M says:

            Yeah, I agree with you and MI. I can imagine an object on the desk I’m looking at, but more typically imagination seems to play out on a screen on the inside of my forehead, not superimposed over my visual field.

            It’s another area I can look at at the same time, though when doing so I’m not really focused on what I see and what I actually look at might be distracting to an imagining.

    • JPNunez says:

      I can visualize uh….a semihemisphere (seems there’s no word for this?) either in front up or behind me (ie, I can imagine what the horizon behind me looks like, but can’t really imagine back and front at the same time). Imagining the bottom semihemis is harder, as I normally don’t do it. I guess looking down from heights it’s not something I do a lot.

      I don’t really trust my memories much; I get by with emails, chats, photos and contrasting memories with other people. I can tell when I saw someone, where I was, who was there, etc, but the date it’s hard to pin down, and exactly what happened is murky, and probably gets murkier as I try to remember, as my made up imagination of the events take over the real events. Should probably write down memories, but on the other hand I’d probably get bogged down too much by the process and the remembering.

    • Urstoff says:

      A visualization in my mind’s eye (I do it with my eyes closed to avoid the distraction of actual visual input) seems to be a pretty standard visual field, with a pretty standard focal area. I can warp and expand the visual field (i.e., I can imagine, say, a larger panoramic field of view), but I can’t expand the focal area, so all that extra stuff is just more in the periphery.

      Remembering accurately is usually accompanied by a subjective feeling of confidence, which is usually pretty accurate itself (as far as I can tell; I haven’t systematically tested it, but I try to notice when I’m confident but wrong). If I’m confident in the accuracy of my memory, it usually turns out to be right. If I’m not confident, there’s a decent chance I’m wrong. I don’t really know where this feeling comes from, as it’s not something that I initially intentionally cultivated. “Aha” moments, like when something is on the tip of your tongue and you finally recall it, is accompanied by that confident feeling, along with the typical feelings of pleasure and relief of finally having recalled something that you wanted to recall but couldn’t.

    • Jaskologist says:

      When you visualize things, do you actually literally see them in your field of vision? If you visualize an apple on the desk, do you see an apple sitting there? Is this one of those universal experiences I’m missing out on?

      • janrandom says:

        I can’t ‘see’ the apple in my visual field, but my son clearly can. Including motion, e.g. a mouse running over the table.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        For me even if I visualize it in my real vision, typically, it is sort of an overlay. Transparent sort of? It is clearly not actually there. I’d have to expend more effort the more real I want it to appear, focus wise.

        My typical visualization isn’t in my field of vision at all. It is basically my mind’s eye. Literally. In the space behind my actual eyes where my brain/skull is.

      • lightvector says:

        For me, by default, it’s in a space that is separate from literal field of vision, like a second canvas detached from the real world. But if I want to, I can also have it be in the real world too.

        In the latter case, as others have mentioned, it’s distinct from the physical sensation of actually seeing it. Like, the literal sensation of seeing it is not there but the abstract sensation of seeing an object there in a precise three-dimensional location, extending out with a given height,width,depth with a particular shape, to take up a certain amount of space, with a certain color, texture, etc is all present in a very similar way to how literally seeing it would also activate those abstract sensations/representations. Sometimes color and texture and even precise shape other things are missing though. Each facet of detail takes attention to maintain, and isn’t there by default if not attended to.

        Same as when remembering a sound. It’s very distinct from hearing the sound in reality. And it occurs by default in an abstract space that doesn’t exist in reality, except that if desired I could also choose to locate the sound in a particular location in actual space, and “hear” it coming from that direction.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I guess we know which of us have Cylon DNA now.

        What you guys are describing sounds like outright hallucination to me. I didn’t think such a thing happened outside of Hollywood and mental illness.

    • DBDr says:

      The first: When I imagine a space or series of actions; it appears as a sort of undefined space encompassing everything I am imagining sometimes going forward through time, and I can “see” everything in it as through I was “looking” at it from all angles.

      If I specifically imagine something as vision from a single view point, it naturally is about 120 deg. FOV.

      The second: If I remember the context of the fact at the same instant of the fact, I am 100% confident. If my memory of the fact is very quick, then I am 70% confident. If it is neither, I am about 51% confident, barely more than a supposition.

    • Protagoras says:

      Like some others, I would have to say that when I visualize it isn’t really in my visual field at all. My visualizations, such as they are, are also strikingly lacking in detail. The same lack of detail characterizes my memories, as it happens; this can be a hindrance when I’m telling stories, but I also seem to misremember somewhat less often than other people, which I have speculated may be because I am less prone to invent details. Still, I am of course not infallible, and there really aren’t any special tests besides the usual consistency with other sources (including other memories) that others have already mentioned that indicate which memories are reliable and which aren’t. I mean, if I know I’m guessing, a guess definitely doesn’t feel like a memory, but if something feels like a memory, there doesn’t seem to be anything further about the subjective experience which can tell whether it’s a genuine memory or a fake memory.

      • Randy M says:

        Visualizations lack detail, but I don’t experience it as such unless explicitly focusing on it, because my mind fills in the details with what I know it should be in the same way it mentally corrects my typos or makes a story sound good in my head but jumbled upon retelling.

    • Aftagley says:

      What is it like being able to do visualize on command? How often do you do it? Is it something that will happen on its own as your daydreaming, or is it a significant mental effort?

      I can, kind of visualize, if I try really hard. Even then, I have to have seen the image before and it has to have made an impression. I can’t really create the image, if that makes sense, I’m just accessing my memory of what the image looks like. Once I’ve got it, though, I can’ really do anything with that image (IE, if the image is of the left side of something, I can’t “turn” it in my head to see the right side.)

      • FLWAB says:

        Much like breathing, visualizing is just something I do naturally and if I have to think about what it is like it gets weird. I couldn’t tell you how often I visualize: depending on your definition I am either doing it constantly or rarely.

        Does it happen on it’s own? Yeah, I would say so: not that I am just sitting around and suddenly I’m visualizing shrimp, but if I was just sitting around and starting to wonder where to go for lunch and I was considering going to a seafood place I would likely automatically start visualizing shrimp as I considered whether that was what I wanted to eat. Just writing that down made me think about my current lunch plans, and the image of mashed potatoes came to mind without much thought. It is debatable whether I first thought of mashed potatoes, and then the visual came or whether the visual came first and made me think of mashed potatoes. It is debatable whether visualization is meaningfully different from thinking at all, which would make that question moot.

        Like breathing, it does not normally require effort. It just happens as necessary. If I am trying to visualize something that is visually complicated, and the details are important, then it requires some effort. For example, visualizing a wood carving design I am considering making would require some effort since the details are vitally important.

        I have no trouble visualizing things I have never seen, provided they are made of elements I have seen. For example I can imagine all kinds of strange birds that don’t actually exist, but I can’t imagine what a bird would look like if it was a color I have never seen before. Similarly if you asked me to visualize a 1,000 ft tall pole, I would have trouble because I’m bad as estimating distance. I could imagine the pole, but not accurately sized.

    • Lambert says:

      I visualise in widescreen.
      About 45 degrees wide. Not sure how tall.
      And it’s kind of above where my real visual field is.
      (Because I visualise with my brain, which is, obviously, in my forehead?)

    • LeSigh says:

      As someone whose visualization and episodic memory abilities range from nonexistent to pretty bad, this was a very interesting thread! Thanks for starting it.

      Re: memories: the only time I’m confident in my memories are when they’re heavily verbal, especially things I’ve read. This was great for getting through school but often makes me feel like I’m missing out on something important. The feeling of confidence in my memories sometimes exists for non-verbal ones, but experience has taught more that in those cases such confidence is often unwarranted.

    • Randy M says:

      I’m often confident in my memories, but overtime I’ve become less confident in my confidence.

    • Eponymous says:

      I can control degree of visualization to a good degree; but mostly I don’t form visual images when I think about things. It feels like I’m using my “spatial” or “concept” memory for that, or just explicit verbal reasoning (inner voice).

      I pretty much know when my memories are accurate.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        How do you know when your memories are accurate?

        • Eponymous says:

          Remembering comes with a feeling of crispness/certainty which has proved very accurate in the past when I’ve checked it.

          Assuming *those* memories are accurate…

  37. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    First excellent tomato of the season!

    It was a large round (completely conventional shape) orange tomato. The first one that smelled good. I bought it at a gourmet shop, but I’ve bought heirloom tomatoes there that weren’t anything special.

    I’ve found that tomatoes which smell good will be good, but tomatoes with no smell *might* be good.

    Big enough tor two tomato-eating sessions, and still a good bit left.

    To be fair, I’ve had some good cherry tomatoes this year, but they weren’t this good.

    I suspect we’ve hit the heirloom tomato apocalypse I’ve been fearing– the development of tomatoes which *look* like heirloom tomatoes but don’t taste like anything special.

    Also, is it worth cooking with the best tomatoes, or are they best appreciated by being eaten raw?

    How have your tomato experiences been?

    Other fruits and vegetables?

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      I subsist on little else but the Jersey tomato these days. Big ugly bruised red globes taken from the market on the cusp of rot. Eaten that day or not at all. Olive oil, maybe some mozzarella warmed in salted milk. Once I made them into salsa when I could source the only acceptable tortilla chip.

      I recently moved and the cheap, good produce is perhaps the most blissful, healthful change in my life. I share your concerns that heirlooms have been subjected to the same Molochian forces which sapped the tomato of its essence.

      Maybe at the end of the season I’ll try canning some tomato sauce, but I sort of doubt it will be better than the high quality canned stuff. I can’t help but eat tomatoes raw in summer. Gazpacho is about as much as I ever do to them. Usually just salt oil cheese, maybe avocado for guests. The tomato sandwich, of which Tom Robbins is the prophet, always makes an appearance each summer.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      We’ve had good luck with tomatoes this year. I pruned them pretty aggressively in late June, and they’ve been fruiting pretty well the last few months. I generally have a few a week with burgers, tacos, or salads. Big ol’ beefsteaks.

      Squash has grown like crazy.

      Unfortunately, my eggplants are flowering poorly, my raspberries have stopped fruiting these last 2 weeks, and the blueberry plants outright died. Strawberries have not fruited much at all, which is very odd given how crazy they normally grow.

      Normally, I eat garden tomatoes fresh. This year, we have so many that I am going to throw them into a sauce. A bit of a waste, IMO, but at least I’m getting some use out of them.

      • Gossage Vardebedian says:

        We, too, have been quite successful with tomatoes this year. Oddly, since it has been a rather cool summer, and a common problem is a lack of ripening, leading to dozens of hard green tomatoes. The squash have also been extra plentiful, and again, due to the lack of heat, are still going strong, whereas they usually have succumbed to some sort of fungus by now.

        As you can increasingly get just about anything you want from our wonderful grocery store produce sections, it has become difficult to decide what is worth growing each spring. Tomatoes, though, are an evergreen choice, because they simply taste better than the store-bought stuff.

    • DBDr says:

      Yes, it is absolutely worth cooking good tomatoes; but only as appropriate for their varietal.

      You can make sauce out of a big watery heirloom/beefsteak, but you are better of using it for something else and saucing a paste tomato.

      Try this: take a slice, about 2/3″. Get a small pan with a slick of oil ripping hot. Drop in tomato, cook only until edges begin to change color; but not so long as to break down shape and lose moisture. Remove: season with large crystal salt/freshly ground pepper (not a lot)/ sharp EV olive oil/balsamic, if you are into that.

      Any high heat/low time preparation is good for watery tomatoes, or adding to food that needs more moisture and cooking the hell from.

    • Forge the Sky says:

      Knowing your varieties might help you avoid the ‘tomato apocalypse,’ if your sellers list variety at least.
      I’m growing a bunch of Cherokee Purple this year. They’re nearly peerless in flavor. I insist on growing them, or black pineapple, as well as the potato variety Nicola.

      They’ve come out quite well! Well, aside from a spot of early blight. Had one for lunch today, cut up fresh with basil, EVOO, balsamic and salt on grilled bread. One of the best parts of summer.

      I’m also growing a small oddball variety called Atomic Grape. They look pretty cool, but I probably won’t grow them again. They are only decent.

      Beans and kale did really well this year! Arugula and lettuce, not so much. As always in the garden, you win some, you lose some. I’m growing a quite striking looking bean called Dragon’s Tongue, and they’re an excellent substitute for more conventional Roma-style beans – or, as we Dutch call them, Snijbonen.

      Past that, I’m having a lot of fun growing white strawberries – at least, I would be if the squirrels didn’t claim a king’s share of the buggers. They have a striking, delicious flavor – very sweet, with an aroma I can only describe as an ordinary strawberry re-imagined as a tropical fruit.

    • aristides says:

      My suggestion is a BLT, if you like those. A good fresh tomato elevates a BLT more than eating it alone, on a salad, or cooking it in a sauce

  38. Machine Interface says:

    Board game recommendation: Pax Pamir.

    Pax Pamir is a game originally designed by Phil Eklund and Cole Wehrle (with only the latter being credited for the second edition), about the Great Game (the 19th century geopolitical conflict between Britain and Russia in Afghanistan and surrounding areas).

    Up to five players take on the role of major tribes in the region, while simulatenously showing shifting allegiance to three different coalitions (British, Russian or Afghan), which will come into open conflict at regular intervals during the game — when this happens, if a coalition clearly dominates, players who serve that coalition earn points; otherwise, players who have the most tribes and spies deployed earn points. The game ends either when a player has at least a 4 point lead on the other players, or after the fourth confrontation between the coalitions.

    The game is entirely card-driven: players buy from an open market of cards, representing various personalities, places and events of the era (each with their own historical text giving out information about what they actually were), and then play these cards to their court.

    The cards provide various immediate advantages and actions when they’re played, and also bonus actions that can be used later on. This include deploying coalition armies or building coalition roads, moving armies, deploying tribes to take control of specific regions, sending spies on the court cards of rival players to hinder them or even destroy them, levee taxes, conduct battles, or offer gifts to your current coalition to strenghen your tie to it.

    The rules are actually much simpler than you’d expect from that description, and the game is not that long, but the emerging gameplay feels very much like a multidimensional chess, with constantly shifting alliances, power dynamics and tactics. The only randomness involved is the nature and order of the cards coming out in the market, but otherwise the game is entirely player-driven, with no dice rolls.

    I’m highly recommending this one to fans of old Avalon Hill games like Dune or Diplomacy, or to people who’ve been looking for an equivalent of Twilight Struggle that accomodates up to 5 players. The price point of the second edition is a bit high, but the components are very high quality and the overall presentation is much more newcomer-friendly than the first edition. The game also includes a solo mode.

    • Erusian says:

      Question: are factions unique (a la Dune) or are they undifferentiated? I really liked how Dune had different victory objectives and different abilities for factions. (In particular, it was rare but Bene Gesserit manipulation victories were a sight to behold.)

      • Machine Interface says:

        The factions are not diffentiated per se, but some cards are specific to some coalitions. So if eg: you play the card “Edred Pottinger”, who’s specific to the British coalition, it automatically shifts your alignment to British and forces you to discard any specific Afghan or Russian cards you might have had.

        Edit: also, you might be interested to know that Dune has recentely, finally been republished!

    • Tenacious D says:

      Thanks for the recommendation.

  39. Nick P. says:

    There’s a couple comments already saying they’re glad to see the puns go.

    I must dissent and say that I find the puns to be delightful.

    • deciusbrutus says:

      I agree that the puns add character and further believe that they serve a valuable role in discouraging undesirables from participating.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        This. If the concern is “people will see the puns, get confused and leave” that seems like a feature, not a bug.

        • Jiro says:

          If you phrase it as “we have to have a bad user interface because only smart people will navigate bad user interfaces” suddenly that argument doesn’t sound so good.

          • Matt M says:

            I find it amusing that Scott always seems concerned that various practices might be driving new people away from the comments section, but the comments section usually responds with something like: “Good! We don’t want those people here anyway!”

          • Randy M says:

            That depends on if navigating the interface is itself enjoyable, which in this case it seems like it is to some people.

          • Nick says:

            If you really want to drive new people away, give the comment box a mandatory epistemic status field, add a button for rot13’ing a block of text, and draw CAPTCHAs from Raven’s progressive matrices.

          • deciusbrutus says:

            When you phrase it as “It’s hard to buy a bulldozer because we don’t want people who don’t really want a bulldozer getting one” it makes perfect sense again.

        • Soy Lecithin says:

          I said this elsewhere, but, to the extent the puns are screening people out at all, I think “people get confused and leave” is much less likely than “people don’t think dubious puns are fun or interesting and leave.” I doubt either of these happens much, though.

          • acymetric says:

            I’ve been a little surprised at how strongly some people seem to feel about the titling of the open threads. I see the puns as just a minor throwaway gag…don’t really understand how can bother people as much as it apparently does.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve been a little surprised at how strongly some people seem to feel about the titling of the open threads.

            I’m reporting this whole subthread for CW.

          • JPNunez says:

            Do people get here via the open threads? I assumed most people got linked to one of the regular articles and just stuck around.

          • acymetric says:

            @JPNunez

            That would be my guess as well. I suppose some people might be linked to the main page which could feature a visible open thread.

    • ayegill says:

      I’ll second this.

    • roystgnr says:

      Seems like far more comments also want to keep the puns.

      Put me down on the “keep” side.

      I’d go so far as to say we rebel, by choosing our own puns for open threads lacking official puns. I nominate “Oppan Thread Style” for this one.

    • OriginalSeeing says:

      Hmm. Intentional social filtering in order to preserve the quality of discourse.

      Follow up question: Is this a good filtering method and/or is there another method which could be more useful?

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      I’m pretty neutral about the puns, but I appreciate the pictures and they’re inspired by the puns.

    • broblawsky says:

      I’m voting to bring back the puns too.

    • Deiseach says:

      Yeah, I’d be sad to see the puns go. Just plain old “Open Thread No. XXX” is a bit bland.

    • janrandom says:

      I also like the puns. Most of them anyway. But I can relate to the concerns. Maybe make them sub-titles?

  40. A1987dM says:

    I’m going to experiment with not giving open threads punnish titles for a while.

    About f—in’ time.

    • aiju says:

      I got into meditation because of TMI and I don’t think this changes much about how I feel about meditation or TMI. But then, I don’t think meditation makes you into a perfect person (and I’m not even sure it has much benefit for the average person), so the story reads as “human does typical human things” (not that it isn’t sad and upsetting for everyone involved).

      • Viliam says:

        the story reads as “human does typical human things”

        This sentiment is also expressed in many comments there. Countered with: “so, you spend decades meditating, and still remain a typical human? what was the point then?”.

        I suppose the less one expects from meditation, the less devastating this news is. And by “expect less” I don’t mean a weaker effect, but rather a narrower effect. Regular exercise at breathing and concentration should make you better at… well, breathing and concentration… and maybe closely related things, such as relaxation and perhaps improved memory. Why expect anything else?

        If you want your meditation gurus to be nice people, perhaps don’t skip doing the loving-kindness meditation for a few years before moving on to concentration and insight exercises.

    • Don_Flamingo says:

      I was heavily into TMI for about half a year. Got the Awakening. It’s neat.

      Always was treated it as an instruction manual to the brain for me. Well… a suppmentary document that explains a lot of things using a fairly consistent framework, more like.
      Last I checked he was dying of cancer, so I don’t think he’s currently at the top of his game, anyway. A bit mean to go after him now, perhaps? Though maybe he recovered, I dunno.
      Or he’s been dying for a while.

      Buddhist vows and the “sacred”-aspect never mattered to me, anyway.
      Awakened people might be beyond desire, but desire is a technical term, so it doesn’t immediately imply hypocrisy. Though having broken a precept does.
      Whatever.
      I’m having trouble looking and thinking about this further, cause it’s not terribly interesting to me.
      And some geezer’s marriage life and his wholesome with to bang hot women, even though he’s a dying, weak old man that looks like Yoda?
      I dunno, call it adultery. Whatever. I’m not his wife.

    • edgepatrol says:

      I think I have trouble conceiving of enlightened people who still get so attached to a specific style of “morality”, that they would be so shaken by a man committing adultery. It IS “human does typical human things”, as mentioned by someone else…and also, if he’s got a lot going for him spiritually, I can’t help but think he may be improving the overall world somewhat by having meaningful mental-emotional-spiritual-physical contact with several people. (Although of course he really should have come to agreement with his wife on that, first. :-/ )

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Although of course he really should have come to agreement with his wife on that, first.

        This is essentially the key point. Nobody really gets mad about the Free Love movement(s). People get mad about the lies and pain and unkindness.

    • Auden says:

      Well, I guess all that talk of overcoming “The Five Hindrances” and “Worldly Desire” doesn’t amount to much.

      I’m still going to keep meditating to try to improve my concentration and experience the alternative states of mind.

      In hindsight, I should have realized the Virtue and Loving-Kindness meditation topics are just holdovers from the religious origins of meditation.

    • Reasoner says:

      Some time ago I took a meditation course taught by a man and a woman. A year or two later, the woman accused the man of being abusive. I wasn’t totally sure what to think–based on her social media, the woman seemed like she might be the sort of person whose threshold for “abusive” behavior was quite low. Also, if this guy was an abusive dick, wasn’t she kind of complicit in his abuse by co-hosting a meditation course with him on her website? Why would you spread this guy’s mental practices if they lead him to be an abusive dick? In any case, it seems at least one of them had some pretty serious issues/blind spots. This reinforced my “common sense” view of meditation that if it doesn’t feel right, you shouldn’t do it, and you shouldn’t accept arguments from authority, or set aside your skepticism for any meaningful period of time, and it might all be a big waste of time. Nowadays I only meditate when I feel like it, basically. My issue with meditation is not that it doesn’t work. It’s that it does work, but in a way we can’t reliably understand/control, and also shapes our values/fucks with our ability to objectively assess the results of meditation from the outside. Something like that.

      BTW apparently Yates himself addresses this question here:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7brJ8qrLBo&t=57m

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6Avs5iwACs

        “Buddhist scholars have shown that the form of “mindfulness meditation” (sometimes called satipatthāna or vipassanā meditation) that has become popular in the West is, at least in part, a relatively modern phenomenon; it can be traced to Burmese Buddhist reform movements that date to the first half of the twentieth century. The features that made Burmese mindfulness practice—notably the form taught by Mahasi Sayadaw (1904-1982)—so attractive to a Western audience are precisely those features that rendered it controversial in the Buddhist world. For example, Mahasi’s technique did not require familiarity with Buddhist doctrine (notably abhidhamma), did not require adherence to strict ethical norms (notably monasticism), and promised astonishingly quick results. This was made possible through interpreting sati as a state of “bare awareness”—the unmediated, non-judgmental perception of things “as they are,” uninflected by prior psychological, social, or cultural conditioning. This notion of mindfulness is at variance with premodern Buddhist epistemologies in several respects. Traditional Buddhist practices are oriented more toward acquiring “correct view” and proper ethical discernment, rather than “no view” and a non-judgmental attitude. Indeed, the very notion of an unmediated mode of apperception is, in many traditional Buddhist systems, an oxymoron, at least with respect to anyone short of a Buddha. (Indeed, it is a point of contention even in the case of a Buddha.) It is then not surprising that the forms of Burmese satipatthāna that established themselves in the West have been targets of intense criticism by rival Theravāda teachers in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. This doesn’t mean that modern forms of “bare awareness” practice are without historical precursors. Both Tibetan Dzogchen and certain schools of Chinese Chan were, at least at first glance, similarly oriented toward inducing a mental state that was “pure,” “unconditioned,” “non-judgmental,” and so on. Not surprisingly, these traditions were also subject to sharp criticism; they too were accused of heterodoxy—of promoting practices that contravened cardinal Buddhist principles and insights. My paper will begin with the parallels between the teachings and practices of these three traditions, and suggest that some of these parallels can be explained by historical and sociological factors. I will then move on to the philosophical, psychological, ethical, and soteriological objections proffered by rival Buddhist schools.”

        Found here: https://www.metafilter.com/181686/McMindfulness-capitalisms-co-option-of-mindfulness-meditation#7732370

        I’m very intrigued by the idea that “self-observe until you reconfigure and then you’ll become an improved version” is just one theory of meditation, and not a central theory.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          “Buddhist scholars have shown that the form of “mindfulness meditation” (sometimes called satipatthāna or vipassanā meditation) that has become popular in the West is, at least in part, a relatively modern phenomenon; it can be traced to Burmese Buddhist reform movements that date to the first half of the twentieth century. The features that made Burmese mindfulness practice—notably the form taught by Mahasi Sayadaw (1904-1982)—so attractive to a Western audience are precisely those features that rendered it controversial in the Buddhist world. For example, Mahasi’s technique did not require familiarity with Buddhist doctrine (notably abhidhamma), did not require adherence to strict ethical norms (notably monasticism), and promised astonishingly quick results. This was made possible through interpreting sati as a state of “bare awareness”—the unmediated, non-judgmental perception of things “as they are,” uninflected by prior psychological, social, or cultural conditioning. This notion of mindfulness is at variance with premodern Buddhist epistemologies in several respects. Traditional Buddhist practices are oriented more toward acquiring “correct view” and proper ethical discernment, rather than “no view” and a non-judgmental attitude. Indeed, the very notion of an unmediated mode of apperception is, in many traditional Buddhist systems, an oxymoron, at least with respect to anyone short of a Buddha. (Indeed, it is a point of contention even in the case of a Buddha.)

          I love this stuff. Most Westerners don’t know what they don’t know about Buddhism.

    • J.R. says:

      It doesn’t move me one way or the other. I purchased TMI on the basis of Scott’s review here, and have found it useful in making myself serious about my meditation practice after having been woefully inconsistent for the past 4-5 years.

      One thing that tempered my reaction was that, in Ingram’s Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, a whole section of the book dedicated to tearing down our preconceptions about awakening. There are 30+ “models” of awakening (“enlightenment”) that he discusses. There’s even one called the “Perfect Internet Behavior Model” where he claims that he’s observed many awakened people that behave like the most unsavory internet trolls on their dharma message boards, and it has no correlation whatsoever to their progress in insight.

      In the Action Models, Ingram argues:

      The list is remarkably long of awakened individuals who have bitten the proverbial dust by putting themselves up on a pedestal, hypocritically violating their own lofty ideals of behavior, and then having been exposed as actually being human. The list of spiritual aspirants who have failed to draw the proper conclusions from the errors of the awakened is even longer…

      …Then there is my school, for which I have yet to come up with a catchy name, but perhaps we could call it “the reality school”, and it promotes the view that, “Awakened beings are human, and unfortunately humans, enlightened or otherwise, whose brains contain a thin veneer of civilization retrofitted over a much larger, more ancient, more primal (lizard) brain, all screw up at times. There is nothing special or profound about this.”

      My stance, echoed on those reddit threads, is that an explicit moral framework appears to be necessary if attempting to go deeply into meditation. I know Ingram put more of an emphasis on morality training in MCTB2, if only to strengthen one’s fortitude before facing the “Dark Night”. As for me, a secular dabbler who despises dogma in all forms, I am faced with the common problem of trying to pick and choose what ethical precepts to live by so I don’t have to be tied down by hundreds (thousands) of years of tradition. I enjoyed Ingram’s discussion of morality training at the beginning of MCTB2, link here.

  41. JacobT says:

    Can someone suggest a good book (or books) about the history of agriculture (technology, culture etc.), from ancient times until today?

    • JPNunez says:

      I am in the middle of Energy and Civilization: A History from Vaclav Smil, and it goes over how civilizations have used energy to produce food from agriculture. It centers, as the title says, in the use of energy, so maybe not what you are looking for, but it is interesting from an efficiency point of view.

    • cassander says:

      James Scott has Against the Grain, but while he’s a wonderful historian, I wouldn’t make his account the only one you read. And it’s less a history of agriculture than a history of the effect of agriculture on states/societies.

    • proyas says:

      The End of Food by Paul Roberts.

    • Jon says:

      Rational Optimist discussed that in more depth than I was expecting, based on the blurbs of the book.

  42. JRM says:

    Ken White deals with the sponsored post folks here:

    https://www.popehat.com/tag/ponies/

    “No,” as you’ve discovered, doesn’t work. If not for the ponies, I’d try, “Sure. Our price for sponsored posts is $175,000 for three posts, or $90,000 for one post, cash up front, and we cannot offer discounts.” What have others tried?

    • Deiseach says:

      Oh, that was gorgeous.

      About a year ago my work place changed its website to a new domain and since then we’ve plagued with spam about “hey let us do design work for you/get you up the Google rankings/buy our address and get $$$$$ in hits!”, including some very clever faux-demands that look like a domain name registrar and demand payment (these seem to be the natural development of an older scam that claimed it had included your business details in a printed directory and was invoicing for same), to the point where the boss was panicking about “do we owe them money???”. Fortunately, after reading the email, I was able to say “No, it’s a scam”.

      Now, every morning when I’m the first one in, I open up the emails, sit back with my cup of tea, and delete delete delete. It feels like killing some small pest creature, and sates my bloodlust for the rest of the day 🙂

      • bean says:

        And are you now planning to start sending an appropriately silly/angry reply to them? Spammers seem like a safe direction to vent your vitriol in.

        • Deiseach says:

          And are you now planning to start sending an appropriately silly/angry reply to them?

          Not really, because I know that there probably isn’t anybody on the other end, it’s either an automated message or some poor divil somewhere in Asia grinding out tons of spam from a script for pennies without understanding what the messages are all about. If I thought I could get the actual bosses and waste their time, I’d do that, but it’s the same problem of “shouting at the minions” that we’ve discussed in the “burning your bridges” post.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      I really like that idea. Scott, charge an exorbitant amount of money for sponsored posts. If anyone is dumb enough to take you up on it, you’ve just bought thousands upon thousands of mosquito nets.

  43. Melanie F says:

    I’m looking for low-key/low cognitive-load work while I’m in grad school.

    I’m located in the Bay Area in California, but I’m up for remote work. I’d prefer something steady versus sporadic odd jobs. I’m definitely still down to hear about the latter, but I’m more interested in something with reliable frequency, about 2 days a week, although I’m open to discussing 3 days a week. Class timing can fluctuate a little, so I’m crossing my fingers for gigs that are also flexible in timing, but I’m still seeking out jobs with fixed times. Classes are usually at night, and I would get a lot of warning before a schedule shift.

    Besides basic jobs, things I’ve charged for or bartered with in the past include:

    -Massage (I have a massage table, and 5+ years of deliberate, extensive practice on friends with chronic pain issues)

    -Transcription

    -Rubber ducking (basic and also stuff like interview prep and creative storyboarding)

    -Debugging. I’ve been a mentor at a CFAR workshop, have more than 70 hours of peer counseling experience, did the SAS 6 month circling intensive, did an intro Hakomi training, did level-one training for the Ann Weiser Cornell Focusing method, and I’m in grad school for psychotherapy (but I’m not licensed, so I can’t legally practice therapy yet)

    -Babysitting

    -Dogwalking

    -Personal assistant tasks (chores, errands, etc…)

    My email is ferrari.melanie@gmail.com

  44. johan_larson says:

    Any thoughts on the new streaming service, Disney+, that’s due to be launched November 12th?

    If nothing else, the preview of The Mandalorian looks real good.

    • The Nybbler says:

      I have Amazon Prime, and I have Netflix. I’m not subscribing to a third service. And certainly not to Disney anything. Maybe I’ll miss 20th Century Fox; so be it.

      • johan_larson says:

        I’m hoping there’s a shake-out coming. I’d like to see three to five major streaming services hosting major productions, and maybe a couple of dozen specialty services catering to more specific tastes. That would be a manageable media landscape.

        • Matt M says:

          I’ve heard that they’ll be selling a bundle that includes Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+. So that’s a step towards consolidation for sure. (Of course, ESPN+ is of little value if you don’t already have an expensive cable subscription for all of ESPN’s TV channels)

      • dodrian says:

        CBS have already got our nuts in the vice with the announcement of Picard on their exclusive streaming service, I’ll be damned if I give Disney any more money!

        • The Nybbler says:

          I’ve already got practice not watching Star Trek on CBS. If they’d started with Picard instead of ST:D I might have problems, but now I’m an old hand at it.

          • Nick says:

            I feel the same way, but if Picard ends up being really good, I’m probably going to find a way to watch it anyway.

        • Deiseach says:

          I’m really torn on this. I want Picard to be good, and at first glance there’s a chance it might be, or it might be sentimental fan-service mush, but I’ve been burned too often now to even dare to think I could dream I could imagine I could hope about new Trek (I thought there could be nothing worse than Enterprise. Discovery proved me wrong).

      • Wolpertinger says:

        For a little while there was mostly netflix and piracy was declining. Now with the proliferation of competing services piracy looks a lot more appealing again when you want full service.

        • Jake R says:

          I don’t understand why everyone assumes increased competition will be bad for the consumers. Sure each company has a monopoly on their shows, but as this thread shows most people have a finite amount they are willing to budget towards services like these. The presumption would be that multiple competing services will drive down the cost of each individual package. Personally, I look forward to the point where I can just buy individual seasons of the shows I want for a couple dollars each without it being bundled with a monthly fee and a thousand shows I don’t care about.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Largely because they got a brief golden age when Netflix started and they went to being able to access almost anything for free, and the last 5-10 years have been reeling that in so everything feels like a step backward.

          • acymetric says:

            The current pricing of seasons of shows suggests that we are nowhere remotely close to this, by orders of magnitude.

            I kind of doubt we ever will be.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You can just buy individual seasons of shows from some services, but it tends to be more like $25 than “a couple dollars”. The problem here is each additional competitor means another service to pay for to get the most possible access. Instead of competition increasing variety, it just makes it more expensive.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Currently you can effectively rent almost every thing cheaply. Basic Netflix is $9 a month, and if you watch 1 episode a night that is 33 cents an episode for all their content. Cancel when you have run through what you want to see and reup in a year when more is out.

          • acymetric says:

            @baconbits9

            Except for the things that used to be “free” (rentable as part of a streaming service) that no longer are, like a massive number of movies/tv shows that used to be on Netflix (and Hulu generally) that are now only available on a purchase (or “pay to rent” that is almost as expensive as a purchase but temporary) basis.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Fear of missing out. Sure, the service I am subscribed to has some great shows to watch, but probably there’s an even better show on one of those other services.

            And what if each of them have good shows? What am I supposed to do then?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Except for the things that used to be “free” (rentable as part of a streaming service) that no longer are, like a massive number of movies/tv shows that used to be on Netflix (and Hulu generally) that are now only available on a purchase (or “pay to rent” that is almost as expensive as a purchase but temporary) basis.

            So this is exactly my point above, there was only a brief period in time where everything was ‘free’, and people are reacting to this as if it is a reasonable baseline.

          • Matt M says:

            Jake,

            I feel like you’re significantly under-appreciating the “opportunity cost” or “annoyance factor” of dealing with multiple streaming services. A whole lot of people (including myself) would rather, say, pay $50 for one service that has everything I want, than pay $15 each for 3 services that together have everything I want.

            Because it’s annoying to have to look up and think about what service has what stuff. It’s annoying to have to think about whether you should cancel one service when you’re done watching a thing or re-activate another or whatever.

            I suspect that eventually market forces will result in some re-consolidation in this space within a few years. Every network attempting to have its own streaming thing, thinking they’ll be just as successful as Netflix was during the brief era when they had access to basically all content, is delusional.

            ETA: I also suspect that this is basically the only reason that cord-cutting hasn’t been more popular, and the only reason that Comcast and DirecTV still have somewhat viable businesses. If you make decent money, and if what you want is “to be able to watch whatever I feel like watching,” then the path of least resistance is just to swallow your pride, and cut the $150/mo check to Comcast, and not worry about it any more.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Such a service has never existed.

          • Matt M says:

            I never said it did. But just as a lot of people would prefer 1 service to 3, a lot of people would also prefer 3 services to 10.

            Jake’s original claim was that lots of services would be good for the consumer because it would drive prices down. My point is that even if it’s true that it will drive prices down, that isn’t necessarily “good for the consumer” because consumers optimize for more than just price.

          • CatCube says:

            @Matt M

            We could call it “the cable company.” (ETA: I see your edit covers this!)

            In all seriousness, this is why cable bundles are a thing. You may not watch ESPN, but it’s one of the popular channels that cross-subisdizes the cost of installing the network for smaller channels that you do watch. If you were to try to buy a few individual channels that you were interested in without ESPN, the price of those would probably have to pop up to the point that you’re not saving that much money. Purchasing a single “channel” is probably not stable without paying a fortune for the pipe, now that it’s no longer an ad-delivery system, the same way that newspapers are in trouble.

            To the extent that internet service is cross-subsidized by selling cable TV over it, “cutting the cord” and buying streaming subscriptions probably represents a price increase in the underlying internet subscription over the long term.

            When the primary revenue stream of the cable company is selling the TV, and selling an internet subscription without the TV is a minor market where “Hey, may as well sell something over this already-installed coax running down this person’s street,” is a reasonable position. If most people are internet-only, this doesn’t pencil out. It’ll be interesting to see if this inverts, where they make their money selling you internet, then give you cheap TV, because they may as well try to upsell you a few bucks.

          • baconbits9 says:

            You are just making a circular argument about preferences then, and by mentioning an ‘ideal’ outcome to compare things to you aren’t adding anything.

          • Matt M says:

            It’ll be interesting to see if this inverts, where they make their money selling you internet, then give you cheap TV, because they may as well try to upsell you a few bucks.

            AT&T is basically already trying this, although it’s less about internet access and more about cellular plans. My understanding is that if you switch to them for cell service, they’ll give you a basic DirecTV package for pretty darn cheap.

          • acymetric says:

            Verizon and Google Fiber are also offering “Internet TV” services similar to Youtube.TV/Hulu TV/Sling.

            As far as more services driving the price down, I’m not sure this is true because a)these subscription service prices seem to be a bit sticky, and somewhat like gas prices they seem to always go up but never come back down and b) the price for any one service may eventually go down but content will get more and more diffuse across multiple platforms each owning their own content, so you will ultimately spend more (by way of subscribing to more services) to get the same content as before.

          • John Schilling says:

            So this is exactly my point above, there was only a brief period in time where everything was ‘free’, and people are reacting to this as if it is a reasonable baseline.

            Yes. This is how people work. You almost certainly won’t get them to stop working that way, so you need to factor that in to your business plan.

            Most people aren’t confident in their ability to outsmart a professional con artist, nor do they have time to do a professional-level assessment of every transaction proposed to them by anyone who might be a con artist. So they use simple heuristics. One of the strongest of these is, “If something is supposed to be free(*), then anyone trying to charge money for it is probably ripping you off”

            And the heuristic for “X is supposed to be free” is, “X is free now and everybody I trust is treating that as normal”.

            Throw in a bit of loss aversion, and either you have to make “free” last forever or you will be stuck with a generation or so of very frustrated customers who think you are a con artist and won’t feel guilty about trying to rip you off.

            * Or too cheap to meter once you’ve paid a small fee.

    • Nick P. says:

      I’m one of those cranky obstinate dinosaurs who actually likes to own physical copies of things.

      DVD’s! Buys them! In this day and age?!? What a maroon!

      My opinion of Disney+ is the same for all of the other streaming services: I will be God Damned before I sign up for a half dozen services all charging between $10-20 a month each.

      It’s just a poor value proposition to me, which might sound strange given my opening statement but hear me out: I don’t really watch much TV to begin with, I don’t go out and see that many movies. My weekly entertainment budget for those two categories is $5, so this averages out to about every other month I can go out and see something like a movie or two in theaters (~$10 around here), rummage about in the bargain DVD/Blu-Ray bin ($5 for Blu-Rays and $3 for DVD’s at Walmart!), pick up a few used movies from yard sales/pawn shops/ thrift stores and still usually have a few bucks left over.

      For my average rate of media consumption that is way freaking cheaper than maintaining a bevy of streaming services I won’t be watching most of the time. In addition I place value on actually owning a copy of things.

      If I own a copy then it doesn’t matter if the licence holder pulls the rights from Netflix/Hulu/Whoever, I can still watch it. I can go down my rack of movies, pick out 10 of them at random and virtually guarantee you that 9 of them won’t be on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

      We constantly get told we “vote with our wallets” in a marketplace, so I am voting by choosing not to play. There use to be cable, which was expensive, then there was Netflix which had most things on it, and for a time things were good, now everything is undergoing Balkanization into something that would be at least as expensive as a full cable package would have been. Nope, not doing it.

      So yeah, if The Mandalorian turns out to be something really worth watching I will either see it at a friends house (How I am currently watching The Boys) or I’ll wait for the box set to come out and pick it up for a steal at a pawn shop. The $12 I spend on it is still way freaking cheaper than maintaining the subscription.

      I also don’t get bogged down by having too many movies cluttering up my living room by limiting myself to only being allowed to keep what will fit into two cases on either side of my TV. Once they’re full if something new comes in something old has to go, at which point I try to yard-sale it and if that fails it gets donated. This helps keep my collection stocked only with my actual favorites and things I watch repeatedly.

      It will be a very sad day for me when they manage to put the proverbial stake through the physical media Dracula heart for good, but I suspect I will manage. Oh, there’s this cool show on CBS but the only possible way to ever see it is to subscribe to their streaming service?

      Well, that’s sucks, but I guess I don’t actually need to see it that badly.

    • Nicholas says:

      Don’t worry, it’ll be on the pirate bay in no time.

      • Garrett says:

        I got rid of my Amazon Prime subscription after they managed to make Whole Foods even woke-er.

        I also see no reason to pay for any of the services if they are going to require proprietary software/browsers to access.

    • Plumber says:

      @johan_larson says:

      “Any thoughts on the new streaming service…”

      The same thought as about all schemes to get me to buy a subscription to watch television: NOPE!

    • aristides says:

      I already have Hulu, and I’m considering dropping Netflix for the Disney, Hulu, ESPN Package. I can’t remember the last Netflix original program I actually liked, and mostly used it to watch TV and movies that they licensed. The era of cheap licensing seems over, so I might as well subscribe to the services that have good original programming.

      • acymetric says:

        Just so you’re clear on what you’re getting, the “Disney, Hulu, ESPN Package” does not actually get you ESPN. It just gets you ESPN+, which…doesn’t have a lot of good content.

    • Lasagna says:

      We’ve got Amazon Prime, Netflix, and my wife got me a year’s subscription to the Criterion Channel for my birthday (hot take: it’s really good, but not nearly as great as I thought, and was really, really difficult to set up). We have HBO and Showtime through cable. I tried to cancel those subscriptions over the weekend; but because of the absurd pricing scheme of cable companies it turned out it would cost us MORE to cancel them then to keep them. This stuff makes me insane.

      In any case: as other people have said, this is WAY more TV than we could ever possibly watch. We’ll cut them down eventually. We’ll downgrade out cable package when the promotional offer we’d signed up for for runs out, we’ll let the Criterion Channel subscription lapse at the end of the year, and eventually we’ll get rid of Netflix and risk the wrath of my son who will no longer be able to watch PJ Masks.

  45. g says:

    It seems to me that anyone who doesn’t realise that “Opangolin Thread” or “Opentecost Thread” is an open thread lacks (1) the patience to sit and lurk around here for a while before posting, (2) the common sense to have a look around to see what the local conventions are, and (3) the intelligence to figure it out without doing either of those.

    Is it actually a problem if those people “just get confused and go away”?

    • metacelsus says:

      I wonder if Scott’s real reason is that he’s tired of making puns. Bah, silly me, of course Scott loves puns.

      • Matt M says:

        I mean, how many decent puns can one make on “open thread”. Apparently the answer is at least 135, but he’s probably running out of options here…

        • Nick says:

          Your mistake is thinking Scott only uses decent puns.

        • b_jonas says:

          I was wondering a year ago if he’s running out of options, so I looked up which words have “open” in them. I put what I found in “https://slatestarcodex.com/2018/08/26/ot109-opulent-thread/#comment-662636” . Scott has used some of those (independently of my research), but there are still some remaining. Admittedly most of them are stupid puns.

      • OriginalSeeing says:

        I once read that at one point Piers Anthony left a letter to his fans saying that he had generally run out of puns to use in this Xanth novels and could use suggestions.

    • pdbarnlsey says:

      I agree. Mark me down as a vote for keeping the puns.

    • Soy Lecithin says:

      Gotta say, I’m not a fan of the puns. I personally think they’re a little bit juvenile. That’s just me, of course. I suppose it’s possible they are filtering out impatient or unintelligent readers. I’d guess, though, that to the extent they’re filtering out anyone at all, they’re just straightforwardly filtering out readers who don’t have a taste for shaky puns.

    • Randy M says:

      Screening out the people who only read headlines seems like a good idea. We should extend it throughout society.
      (This may be a ploy to create endless job opportunity for punsters)

    • Doesntliketocomment says:

      I am indifferent to the puns, but I am in agreement that anyone who was not perceptive enough to understand the nature of the thread (Which, lest we forget, has an introduction to the biweekly open thread as literally the first line.) is not someone I would invite to comment.

  46. Lillian says:

    Thermodynamics question! So in the game Subnautica you have submarines. Eventually you can take one of said submarines to an underwater magma chamber. Naturally the water there is very, very hot. Now the submarine can be equipped with a system that takes advantage of said heat to generate power. It is my understanding that power generation requires a heat gradient, and when you are in your submarine surrounded by really hot water, the only heat gradient is between your room temperature submarine, and the boiling water outside. So your submarine needs to use the gradient to generate any power, but it also needs that power to maintain the gradient so you’re not cooked alive.

    This doesn’t seem thermodynamically possible to me, your power generation will be cancelled out by your cooling needs, and efficiency limits mean you eventually overheat and die anyway. In order to keep the submarine cool the power would need to be generated by something else. What’s more if that something is on board, it would have to run hotter than the water outside in order to get any work done, or else it will simply use your room temperature submarine as its gradient and eventually cook you to death anyway. Alternatively you could run the submarine on batteries, which in fact what it normally does without the heat-power module.

    Is my understanding here correct? Would the heat module in this submarine realistically be unable to generate enough power to run the submarine’s systems and also keep the pilot cool enough to live?

    • aashiq says:

      Caveat: this is not my area of expertise, only an undergrad level knowledge of this.

      Is there anything that distinguishes your submarine problem from air conditioning a house in summer? If not, I suspect your understanding is correct since someone would have designed a better cooling system like this because it would be worth beaucoup bucks.

      the cold submarine and hot water system has some “heat potential energy” because of the temp gradient. If you use up some of that heat potential, you need at least that amount of energy to restore it, assuming perfect efficiency. you have nothing left over for sub maintenance due to energy conservation.

      One interesting thing could be if you have a sub with two chambers. One of them (the heat-battery) is allowed to heat up, and the other is where the captain sits. You exploit the heat potential by letting the heat battery equilibrate, while keeping it insulated from the captain. This might give you enough juice to do some mission in the sub. Then, you can surface to let the heat battery recharge

      • keaswaran says:

        > Is there anything that distinguishes your submarine problem from air conditioning a house in summer?

        Yes. When you air condition a house, you use electricity generated (most likely) by a generator whose heat gradient is from a burning fuel (or nuclear decay, or the sun focused by lenses) to the outdoor ambient atmosphere near the power plant. You’re not trying to generate power to run your air conditioner by using a turbine taking hot outdoor air and pumping its exhaust into your house. That’s what’s going on in the submarine.

        • aashiq says:

          Let me clarify. Yes, an air conditioner is not using the heat gradient to cool the house. However, the fundamental problem of keeping the house cool is the same as the problem of keeping the submarine cool, excluding the proposed solution of the heat gradient. If you could use the heat gradient to cool the submarine and provide power to run the submarine, you could also do the same thing to cool houses, with much less resource use than an AC. The intuition that the latter is impossible was a sanity check on the former.

    • metacelsus says:

      I would think the magma chamber would have a heat gradient with respect to the outside water. The submarine could exploit that. (Although physics in video games, with the exception of Kerbal Space Program, aren’t known for realism.)

      • Lambert says:

        Yeah. You’d probably want a hot probe as close as possible to the vent with a heat exchanger to get a working fluid hot, then run a heat engine off the temperature difference with the water around the sub, which is sitting artound at a safe distance from all the incredibly hot water.

        Wikipedia says hydrothermal vents can reach 737K, compared to the 275K surrounding water.
        That’s a decent carnot efficiency, of 62.7%.

        Side note, in the KSP2 trailer, you can see really big radiators on all the futuristic Project Daedalus/Orion/generic torchship-looking ships.

        • Lillian says:

          That’s a really good solution for how the heat module could work! The game presents it as just making use of the ambient heat, such that the amount of power generated is relative to the temperature of the water immediately around the submarine. This as we have established is thermodynamically impossible. However if it worked by extending a probe with a working fluid inside, or even better two probes in order to maximize the gradient, then yeah that would absolutely generate power pretty much indefinitely (on human timescales).

          This is something that could be roleplayed by finding a good spot to generate power and then activating the heat module until the batteries charge, thus simulating keeping the probes extended. Then deactivating the module when you need to navigate or otherwise do anything that would require retracting the probes.

    • John Schilling says:

      You can run a submarine on the basis of having a big internal tank filled with a fluid at a different temperature than the surrounding ocean (or whatever), and run a heat engine across the gradient. It’s been done, albeit with the interior tank running hot rather than cold. There’s no reason you can’t do it the other way, with an interior tank full of ice water while the outside is magma hot.

      But, A: the performance really, really sucks and B: the rest of the submarine’s interior really kind of wants to equilibrate at a temperature midway between the interior tank and the exterior medium, which probably isn’t good for the crew. And as you might guess, tapping into the meager performance of the engine to run an air conditioner for the crew, is going to make the performance suck even more.

      If you’ve got a steampunk society with the problem of recovering a Macguffin from a shallow magma lake in a volcano somewhere, and they just need something that will work for an hour or so, maybe this would do as a power source. Now let’s talk about how you’re going to navigate, maneuver, and do anything at all useful in that environment.

      • Lillian says:

        Now there’s an interesting idea! If you only need power for a brief time window you actually wouldn’t need to run an air conditioner for the crew provided you have good enough insulation, and you probably do have good insulators for the heat sink chamber thing to work. Also if you are telling this story in a visual medium it gives you a really good indicator for the audience that the vehicle is running low on power, the crew chamber keeps heating up, so if all the crew are covered in sweat and down to their skivvies, you know the situation is really dire, because that means they are also almost out of power. That way is more impactful than just showing a temperature gauge on the heat sink.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      You are correct, this is impossible. It’s a pretty straightforward second-law violation. Either the inside of the sub heats up or you’re getting no usable work.

    • drunkfish says:

      To extend what Metacelsus said, figure 1 in this paper suggests a _huge_ thermal gradient near hydrothermal vents. If your sub is a few meters long, you see a few tens of degrees C just from the front to the back of the sub. That seems like plenty to run a generator.

      • Ketil says:

        If you have exposed magma under water, this will cause a powerful upwards current of hot water, and a corresponding flows of cool water from the sides (especially if the water actually boils). So even if you don’t want to use a Stirling engine, you could probably use a turbine (and an anchor) to harvest energy from the current.

        • Lillian says:

          This also an interesting solution for how the heat module could work! The game doesn’t have anchors per se, but your submarine never drifts from wherever you leave it, so the existence of an anchor is at least implied.

      • Lillian says:

        Interestingly enough, the game does actually do a pretty good job of representing the gradient near thermal vents. It only takes a few metres to go from being fine to being cooked to death by the vent, which as per the paper is indeed the case in real life. Which is to be expected since water is a very good insulator. However i was talking specifically about the underwater magma chamber, where the heat source is much larger and thus your submarine isn’t experiencing much of a gradient along its length.

    • Hoopyfreud says:

      It is thermodynamically impossible to use a thermal gradient with only a heat sink (or source) as a way to generate enough power to maintain that thermal gradient.

      • Enkidum says:

        (epistemological status: I really don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about, but I took a physics course in high school decades ago and I’ve played Subnautica)

        In the game I don’t think that objection applies. The magma is effectively a permanent external source of heat, and the sub is just traveling horizontally through the gradient, so based on drunkfish and Ketil above it should actually be kind of possible, at least in a plausible-video-game-physics sense.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          Sorry – to be clear, the gradient I’m talking about is between the hot water and the ship. If you’re able to run a pipe between a really hot zone and a (relatively) really cold zone, your system has both a thermal source and a thermal sink, and the cap on the amount of power you can generate is dictated by your throughput.

    • njnnja says:

      I don’t think that maintaining the temperature gradient is the active work being done. Maintaining the temperature gradient would be done by a sufficiently strong insulating material. Then just a tiny bit of the temperature gradient is transformed into whatever method of energy the sub needs (electric, kinetic, etc). There is no need to actively cool the inside except for whatever waste heat is generated by this exchange, and therefore allowed to enter the sub system.

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      I’m not sure Subnautica cares that much about being thermodynamically sound. I have a bioreactor that I fuel using trees that I grow using lights that are powered by my bioreactor, and so far my perpetual motion machine is working great!

      • Lillian says:

        I refuse to use the bioreactor because it’s so blatantly unrealistic it completely destroys my sense of immersion. Yes this is a game that lets you turn raw ore into underwater habitats in minutes, and which allows you to dive a mile under the surface with regular atmospheric air and a wetsuit, but there’s something about blatantly violating thermodynamics which destroys my suspension of disbelief in a way the other things do not. Hell I’ve even considered making Interior Growbeds actually consume power to simulate dedicated grow lights, since that would be more thermondynamically realistic.

    • gudamor says:

      You are correct that there needs to be a heat source and a heat sink in order for there to be continuous generation of energy via the gradient, but I don’t think there’s any reason to assume that the sub itself would be the cold sink. Instead, you might imagine that the module adds a probe sticking off the sub. You’d orient the probe so that the hot side faces the magma/thermal vent and the cold side extends into the water–your sub’s temperature would be the same because it doesn’t get involved in the heat transfer.

    • Lillian says:

      I want to thank you all for your responses! There were quite a bit more than I was expecting to get, and I read all of them. You guys are all awesome, and being able to have threads like this is one of the reasons why I like to stick around here.

  47. I’m starting to doubt that the Pluribus result was actually real.

    Let me explain. We can download the raw hand histories of the games played by Pluribus, we can find that it lost 700 big blinds over the course of 10,000 hands. After applying all-ins by expected value rather than by actual runs we get around a 200 big blind loss instead. However, from there they apply something called AVAIT to get the AI to go from losing 200 big blinds to “winning” 400 big blinds in theory. When you look at the Ai’s play in Piolsolver you can find pretty obviously losing plays it makes, Now the AVAIT metric may be valid, or it could have not actually properly undistorted luck. The way it’s supposed to work is that it looks at every possible combo of hands that would play identically on every street to each other, and calculate the showdown EV of hero’s entire range vs the villan’s hand. but that doesn’t actually necessarily hold. Card removal means that your own range is impacted quite heavily by the cards your opponent has, similarly the researchers have all the incentive in the world to “correct for variance” in a way that supports their conclusion.

    I almost want to get good at poker again so I can play 5/10 with this bot and rake in the ca$h due to it’s obvious leaks

    • LesHapablap says:

      One question I had about it: who did it actually play? Chris Ferguson was one of the names, who I only know as first wave poker celeb who probably wouldn’t be able to beat midstakes online cash games the last time I was involved, 2010ish. I couldn’t find names of the other players so I have no idea if they were really the ‘best in the world.’

      • Bucky says:

        The players who participated are in their supplement:

        The two human participants in the 1H+5AI experiment were Chris “Jesus” Ferguson and Darren Elias.

        The human participants in the 5H+1AI experiment were Jimmy Chou, Seth Davies, Michael Gagliano, Anthony Gregg, Dong Kim, Jason Les, Linus Loeliger, Daniel McAulay, Greg Merson, Nicholas Petrangelo, Sean Ruane, Trevor Savage, and Jacob Toole

        I have no idea how good they are though!

    • ben says:

      I have a very poor understanding of the field and haven’t looked at the background of AVAIT but it looks like a suspect measure. From my understanding they have some kind of model that gives them the value of an action in a hand and importantly this is the same or similar model they use when playing. So they do something like the following to get a reduced variance estimate:

      Actual Hand Value – Model Hand Value + Average Model Hand Value over all actions.

      • ben says:

        Just to add:

        I wonder if it is possible to deliberately create a bot that would lose for real but show as winning under AVAIT.

        Also, I guess in the past bots have shown as losing under AVAIT against humans so past performance would indicate that the measure has some kind of discrimination value.

        Some of the AVAIT does seem very uncontroversial as well. In the introduction to AVAIT they explained an evaluation that was a strict improvement over all in equity. Just weighting everything by the chance nodes including the bots random actions. Because the bot has probabilistic actions then lets say they only had one action in the hand and this was taken 10% of the time then this result show be weighted less than a time where they took the action 90% of the time.

    • DeutscherMichel says:

      “your own range is impacted quite heavily by the cards your opponent has”

      Are you sure that this is not taken into account by AIVAT? I cannot access the AIVAT paper at the moment (I have looked into its predecessor DIVAT years ago, but that doesn’t use hand ranges), but it seems to me that it is not an obstacle that cannot be overcome. Also, AIVAT has been around for some time before Pluribus, and the UoA poker researchers seem to have a good reputation. I find it implausible that they fudge their mathematical proofs in the first place, and that if they do, they get away with it for so long. So, in theory, I believe AIVAT is sound. On the other hand, AIVAT results might be difficult to verify by other groups, so some doubts might be appropriate in practice.

    • ben says:

      Do you have examples of where the bot is making bad plays according to the solver? The bot tries to solve for the equilibrium so it is possible the ranges you are using are not close to the equilibrium ranges. I think it would be very useful as an educational tool to see annotated hand histories to see how the bot models it’s and it’s opponents range through the hand.

    • lightvector says:

      Some mathematical context that might be helpful: the way variance reduction methods work in ANY game is that they typically subtract correction values from game results that are estimates on how much of the game result was “just luck”, but in such a way that the distribution of values subtracted over all possible game rolls/hands/RNG has exactly zero mean.

      This implies that in expectation, EVEN if the estimation of luck is bad/imperfect/flawed, they can add no bias! Subtracting an EV zero thing from anything else mathematically cannot change the EV of the thing that it’s subtracted from. The worst it can do is to increase the variance rather than decrease it. But if in reality the estimation does have some correlation to how “lucky” the outcome was, then after subtracting indeed the variance will go down.

      See here for explanation of variance reduction in backgammon, which is a lot simpler to understand than in poker, but should get the idea across of how variance reduction in general works:
      https://bkgm.com/articles/GOL/Feb00/var.htm

      Now, if AVAIT is not actually “zero-mean” in this sort of manner, then the above analysis does not apply (but not having read the specific paper, I’d guess it probably is, that’s how you get to claims like it “provably” being unbiased in the first place).

      There is one possible remaining way to cheat, which is that if you have MULTIPLE different variance reduction methods, selecting after-the-fact which one makes you look best.

      This is like if you have several different dice and you are going to take one of them and roll them and add “dice roll minus 3.5” to your result. Precommitting to just a particular die and then rolling it and doing this provably cannot bias your EV in expectation because “dice roll minus 3.5” has EV 0, and if the die roll were magically anti correlated with the luck in your real game (as it is in real variance reduction), this would actually be a good way thing to do.

      But if you rolled several dice and only selected *after the fact* which one to add, then of course you can bias your reported EV, by adding whichever one makes you look best. This is solved if you precommit to which variance reduction method you use if there are multiple of them. Or if there is only one standard one in the field that everyone always uses it, then this worry also goes away.

  48. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to come up with a sequel to the San Francisco-set sitcom Full House where the comedy is based on the realities of 2010s SF. (The original was lowest-common-denominator family-friendly humor about a local TV host who’s widowed and lets his economically unproductive brother-in-law and high school best friend live in his single-family detached house in SF rent free to provide child care.) For example, it could be a source of humor to establish how much rent each adult has to pay for each room in the house, and one of them is a proud lesbian who literally lives in the closet.

    • The Nybbler says:

      In the alternate ending to the fourth episode — the one to be used if the show gets cancelled — everyone including the lesbian decides SF isn’t worth the cost and trouble and the whole family moves to Kansas.

    • John Schilling says:

      You know that they already made one sequel set in 2010s SF, right?

      And that the next sequel is gearing up to be a reality-TV chicks-in-prison exploitation thing, right? Genre tradition does say that chicks-in-prison means a “proud lesbian” somewhere in the ensemble, but also a very reluctant lesbian already cast as you-know-who. Ready to play across your news and pop-culture feeds for the 2019-2020 season.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        You know that they already made one sequel set in 2010s SF, right?

        Yes, but I heard that Fuller House is generic schmaltz having nothing to do with our universe’s San Francisco.

        And that the next sequel is gearing up to be a reality-TV chicks-in-prison exploitation thing, right?

        — wait, what?

        • Nick says:

          I think he’s jokingly suggesting it purely because of Lori Loughlin.

          • John Schilling says:

            Correct, and because we’re going to have to go out of our way to avoid that story if it’s not to our taste. Any non-ironic remake/reboot/sequel is going to have to wait at least five years, I should think.

      • theredsheep says:

        I kind of want to make a show called “Dog House,” starring Loughlin, Roseanne, that Smollett goof, etc. exploring their new lives as public emblems of shame while living in a subpar apartment together.

        • Matt M says:

          You know what, I’m just gonna say it: Louglin did nothing wrong.

          • Aapje says:

            I can’t speak to your morals, but what she did seems to be illegal.

          • John Schilling says:

            Fraud and/or receiving stolen property, depending on what she knew and when she knew it. USC has a nice(*) little side business selling enrollment slots to the unqualified for ~$10E6 each; that’s maybe sleazy for all concerned but not criminal or by most standards wrongful. But those slots weren’t Bill Singer’s to sell, nor were the ones set aside for marginally qualified scholar-athletes.

            The Feds think they can prove willful fraud down to the level of the parents involved, and since Loughlin is going to trial, we’ll see what they’ve got.

            * For a parochial standard of “nice” consistent with the traditional behavior of elite colleges and universities in general.

          • Matt M says:

            So, three issues here.

            1. Louglin didn’t commit the fraud. She hired a consultant. The consultant committed the fraud. It strikes me as unlikely that the consultant ever told her exactly how the scam worked… that’s just bad business. If went around telling people how to do it, they’d just do it themselves (or someone would eventually report him). But you’re right that the government seems to think it has evidence she did know the scam, and we’ll see where it lands in court (assuming they