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Open Thread 136.5

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1,235 Responses to Open Thread 136.5

  1. Nabil ad Dajjal says:

    So the recent cancellation of Richard Stallman brings up an interesting question. A lot of the discussion has centered around how his off-putting habits, such as eating things off of his feet and sleeping on a mattress in his office, allegedly make women at MIT feel unsafe. This isn’t directly about that so much as inspired by it.

    So how unattractive can a man be, in appearance or behavior, before his continued presence constitutes a legal liability for his employer under harassment law? If someone is a smelly toe-eater it’s not hard to imagine that he’s going to make women feel uncomfortable, but at what point does being gross actually cross the line into creating a hostile work environment?

    • johan_larson says:

      Probably the point at which people, particularly people from protected groups, start complaining about it to their bosses.

      I’m reminded of a conversation I had back at Google with my boss. The company at the time had no dress code, and some people did come in wearing stuff that really would have looked more suitable at the gym or the beach. He told me there was no formal dress code, but if anyone actually complained, the issue would be sorted out considering the particulars of the case.

      There was in fact a bit of drama some time later around whether it was acceptable to walk around barefoot. After a LOT of back and forth, it was decided that bare feet were unacceptable, but socks were ok and so were flip-flops. I think the kitchen staff had to wear shoes, though, because of some sort of health-and-safety regs.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      When the team can tell you’ve entered the pod by smell alone

    • viVI_IViv says:

      It depends on the job. Any public facing job plausibly requires higher levels of decorum than a non-public facing job.

      For non-public facing jobs, it’s still reasonable to require employees to keep certain standards in their interactions with each other. E.g. walking around the office naked and shitting on the floor would be clearly unacceptable.

      As for Stallman’s smell and toe eating habits, having not directly interacted with him I can’t tell how bad they were. As far as I’ve heard though, he mostly kept to himself in his office, and nobody really had to interact with him if they didn’t want: he wasn’t a professor or anything like that.

      In any case, if his hygene, or his jokes or whatever aspect of his weirdness were enough of a problem that people complained to HR, the proper course of action would have been for HR to give him a lecture and a stern warning about expected professional conduct in the workplace, and then if the problem persisted eventually either fire him or take away his office and tell him to work from home, rather than wait for an excuse to pressure him into resignation for an ostensibly unrelated issue.

      If nobody actually complained to HR while he was employed there then I don’t think there was any reasonable justification for outsting him.

  2. Jon S says:

    Has anybody here actually been humbled by receiving an award (or other forms of accolades, or accomplishing something difficult, etc.)? If that’s a real thing can you unpack those feelings a little bit? If it’s just a thing that people say but nobody feels, how did that come to be a thing that people say?

    I’m assuming that being humbled this way is a rare phenomenon, but maybe it’s normal and I’m just atypical. I can’t imagine feeling that way.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      I mean, I can see how receiving an award could puff a typical mind up with pride like Lucifer, but if you feel that way, it’s not a socially acceptable thing to say.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      Receiving an award is usually done publicly at community get-togethers, and requires you to go up in front of a whole bunch of people to accept it. This stark reminder that you are not one individual, but a piece in a much larger community, can be quite humbling.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      Humility comes from realizing how much happened from a small act on your part.

      Suppose you wrote a book about how to deal with depression. Mostly it was just getting some stuff off your chest, recounting an experience you had, and figuring someone else might read it and find it useful. Next thing you know, the mayor is calling you up and asking you to get down to town hall, and you find out over a million people read your book and wrote your publisher, including a few thousand who decided not to commit suicide, just because of your book.

      It might feel a little like taking a quick walk up an ordinary-looking hill, and finding the Grand Canyon on the other side. Humbling.

    • HowardHolmes says:

      Imagine saying the opposite. “Well, it’s about time people starting recognizing how special I am!”

      We we get an award others do not think we are better than they. In fact those not getting the award are especially sensitive about that fact and don’t want any pride thrown in their face. They do not want to believe that this award in any way makes you start to think you are better than they. This is a very precarious time so one has to appear to be humble and reaffirm that he is no better because of getting the award. Think about the other common response which is to thank all those that contributed, blah, blah. One must guard against any hint of lack of humility (think Beto and “I was born to be president.”). “This is humbling” is so popular because it is exactly what your audience wants to hear.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        On the other hand, appearing too humble can come across as disingenuous, or even paradoxically arrogant.

        E.g. not showing enough excitement for the award or suggesting that you think your achievements weren’t that impressive can come across as implying you think of yourself as so much better the others that you don’t care of their judgment or that the things that are exciting to them are trivial to you.

    • AG says:

      For a lot of popularity contests, winning a larger number of fans is entirely subjective and arbitrary. So the winners of said popularity contests can be keenly aware of how little their own efforts mark them as genuinely superior to their competitors. It’s even moreso, when winning is not just about how many fans, but said fanbase mobilizing to accomplish things on their behalf. Complete luck of the draw on if someone wins over a charismatic fan who can spread word-of-mouth effectively, or a fan with technical skills to create a good fansite, etc.
      So the award is humbling because the process of getting the award reveals how much it’s about other people, not just the winner.

      Also, winning an award might kick the winner up into a higher tier, wherein they have more responsibility/pressure. The relative sizes of fish and ponds stuff.

    • Plumber says:

      @Jon S says:

      “Has anybody here actually been humbled by receiving an award..

      For my Junior High School yearbook my classmates voted me as the one of two who were the “Most patriotic”, which seems an accolade, but since it was Berkeley, California in 1981, and I was also voted “Most likely to live forever in a tent”, I’m guessing that it was an indication of how different they thought I was from them.

      Mixed pride and humiliation.

    • Jon S says:

      Thanks for the replies everyone. Some of these make sense to me for certain circumstances.

  3. proyas says:

    Is it possible for two siblings to share far less than 50% of the same DNA thanks to meiosis?

    Let me illustrate my reason for believing this might be possible by using a simplified example:
    1) Assume that the human genome consists of only one chromosome.
    2) One of the sister chromosomes comes from the offspring’s father, and the other sister chromosome comes from its mother.
    3) A man and a woman conceive a child. The sperm only contains a sister chromosome from the man’s mother, and the woman’s egg only contains a sister chromosome from the woman’s mother.
    4) A year later, the man and the same woman conceive a second child. The sperm only contains a sister chromosome from the man’s father, and the woman’s egg only contains a sister chromosome from the woman’s father.

    a. Wouldn’t the two children thus be genetically unrelated to each other?

    b. Even if we assume that some crossing-over happened during the meiotic production of the sperm and eggs, wouldn’t the two children share much less than 50% of the same DNA? (It’s my understanding that crossing over only changes a small minority of the alleles in a gamete)

    c. Are there statistical studies that address this issue, and that quantify the typical variance in genetic relatedness between full siblings? I’d like to see a bell curve graph showing how relatedness varies thanks to the vagaries of meiosis and the random matchups of sperm and eggs that happen.

    • Randy M says:

      I believe it it possible for two siblings (provided not both brothers) to share no DNA.
      This is unlikely enough to always assume otherwise. Like, 1 in 8 million if there’s no crossing over, which there will be.

      • EchoChaos says:

        This is actually a plot point in a Robert Heinlein novel! In Time Enough for Love he has a pair of unrelated twins, a boy and a girl.

        For Heinlein reasons, they have relentless sex with each other and get married.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Sure, Razib Khan displays a bell curve and reports that two of his siblings are 41% related.

      See also the unit of the Morgan.

    • A1987dM says:

      Under a few approximations, that’s kind of like asking whether it is possible to flip 46 coins and get “far less than” 23 heads.

      https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=46+coin+flips

      • eyeballfrog says:

        For more details, the binomial distribution with N = 46 and p = 1/2 (i.e., flipping 46 coins) is well-approximated by a normal distribution with a mean of 23 and a standard deviation of 3.4. In terms of percentages, the mean is 50% and the standard deviation is 7.37%. Knowing the sex of the children doesn’t change the numbers much: the mean for same sex is 51% and for opposite 49%, with about the same standard deviation.

        This means the majority of the time, siblings share between 45% and 55% of their DNA, and over 80% of the time they share between 40% and 60%. 1% of all siblings share less than 1/3 of their DNA, and 1% share more than 2/3. Only 1 in 3000 siblings share less than 1/4 of their DNA (less related than average-case half siblings), and only 1 in 5 million share less than 1/8 (less related than average-case cousins).

    • secondcityscientist says:

      b. Even if we assume that some crossing-over happened during the meiotic production of the sperm and eggs, wouldn’t the two children share much less than 50% of the same DNA? (It’s my understanding that crossing over only changes a small minority of the alleles in a gamete)

      This isn’t really correct. On larger chromosomes, two genes located far from each other behave more-or-less as though they are on different chromosomes due to the amount crossing over. It’s hard to talk about “changing the alleles of a gamete” because once it’s a gamete the recombination has occurred already. Any chromosome in an individual’s gamete will be approximately 1/2 derived from the individual’s mother, 1/2 derived from the individuals father.

      There are chromosomes that work like you suggest, but they’re artificial and I’ve only worked with them in Drosophila.

  4. J says:

    Warning: unsong spoilers.

    In light of current events, I’m finally starting to understand the thing about the other kind of Messiah. A major theme is that if we don’t accept the Messiah when he comes, we’ll get another one, but he’ll be the other kind, not as nice. The nice one goes away when he’s not wanted. The other one doesn’t.

    The other brilliant thing it took me years to notice is that the actual Jesus figure isn’t the main character. It’s a supporting character who lives a blameless life. And because she does it in the shadow of superheroes, it took me years to not just be sorry for her, but to realize that she’s the actual hero.

    That makes her by far the best Messiah figure I’ve encountered in literature. Everybody else gives their hero the spotlight, a glorious death, and usually a triumphant resurrection. So much that I couldn’t even spot the real one in the shadow of the comet.

    But that’s not how the Jesus story goes! “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”. He hangs out with the unclean, gets betrayed by the losers who follow him, and gets tortured to death.

    Aaron and Sohu and Uriel aren’t the heroes of unsong.

    SAVE ROBIN WEST!

  5. Radu Floricica says:

    I’m using the current article on pseudo addiction as meta-evidence that polarization in the Culture War is justified.

    If the medical establishment can take a memeplex and let it run so wild that letting patients scream in pain is somehow a thing, I’m going to go ahead and update on the fact that society at large can do similarly stupid things after being infected with various memeplexes.

    Two notes: This doesn’t favor any side of the CW, both are equally vulnerable. It only encourages putting more weight on using one’s own mind vs using one’s conventional wisdom, where conventional wisdom is by definition societal, contextual and lately very bubble-centric. And second, this doesn’t say anything about waging CW – only that actually having extreme positions is not as bad idea as you’d immediately think. Also, unfortunately for everybody’s ego, that other people having extreme positions is not automatically a bad thing. So on second thought, since it’s also more likely that the other extreme is also right it recommends a bit more restraint if waging CW.

    • Ketil says:

      I’m using the current article on pseudo addiction as meta-evidence that polarization in the Culture War is justified.

      I am puzzled. To me, polarization, especially in CW context, is almost synonymous with demonization and ad-hominem. Extreme positions and opinions of individuals are all right, but it is important to work towards a consensus using rational arguments and evidence, and make decisions based on that. In polarized CW, it is a battle where each extreme tries to force its own entrenched position onto the rest of the world.

      Perhaps I misunderstand what you mean?

      • Radu Floricica says:

        There’s a tendency to think the the truth is somewhere in the middle. I don’t really think so. I think on certain topics some sides are right and some are wrong. Trying to average things out may feel wise, but it’s probably a bad idea.

        It’s just one more way where the universe is sucky, because it doesn’t help you at all chose. It just means there’s no easy way out.

        • AlexanderTheGrand says:

          But the takeaway of the pseudoaddiction essay isn’t that doctors are crazy people who let people scream for no reason. I would say, the reason this is complicated at all is that pseudoaddiction presents nearly identically to real addiction –hence the name.

          When two things are identical to your eye, you have to use your priors to choose a side. A more charitable explanation: when doctors didn’t know opiods were heavily addicted, their prior leaned towards screams=pain. When they learned how addictive they were, their priors shifted. Scott is pointing out they may have overcorrected.

          The essay’s examples weren’t supposed to be fully representative, they were representative of times when the medical system got it wrong. And it’s important to make that point, but it shouldn’t push you to think that any doctor who refuses drugs to a patient who wants it is infected by memeitis.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            but it shouldn’t push you to think that any doctor who refuses drugs to a patient who wants it is infected by memeitis.

            … but… that’s exactly my reading of the article. There’s a memeitis epidemic going around that makes doctors overreact. And probably what makes it highly infectious is that this behavior is seen as conventional wisdom, best practice, default behavior, not at all controversial. “Of course you refuse a patient that insists he needs opioids. That’s What Is Done.”

            My initial point (probably not very brightly stated) is pretty much that if the medical establishment is not immune to memeitis, then definitely the society at large isn’t.

            Thank you for the metaphor 🙂

          • Eponymous says:

            The essay’s examples weren’t supposed to be fully representative, they were representative of times when the medical system got it wrong.

            Correct. Beware selective evidence. Scott is a great persuasive writer, but he sometimes lets persuasion get ahead of a fair presentation of the evidence (though he’s mostly upfront about when he’s arguing for a position rather than trying to simply seek the truth about a matter — and in this case the point he was arguing for has the advantage of being true).

            A fairer presentation would look at rates of type 1 and 2 errors, and also account for how costly each kind of error is.

    • albatross11 says:

      I’m not sure this supports CW so much as recognition that society can and does periodically have moral panics or waves of irrationality (satanic daycares, autism-causing vaccines, crack babies, etc.), and that a large and vocal fraction of your fellow citizens are usually up in arms about some goofy non-issue while ignoring serious and scary problems on the horizon.

      CW seems like the failure mode of using rational discussion to try to come to sensible conclusions about this stuff. Your being off-message on the dangers of witchcraft (“Hang on, I’m not 100% sure every friendless old lady with cats in town is actually having sexual relations with the devil.”) is proof that you’re on the side of the witches, or objectively pro-witch, or tone deaf and in need of shutting up. The very fact that you disagree with me on some issue is reason to decide you’re a monster. The culture war mindkills everyone so we can’t discuss the burning issues of the day in any sensible way.

      • Nick says:

        Yeah, I think considering moral panics as a somewhat distinct phenomenon is right here. I’m actually not sure the extent to which they’re a partisan phenomenon; was the Satanic daycare thing a left or right or both or neither thing?

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Yep, I was a bit sleep deprived at the time and my mind went too easily to CW. Best way of putting it is probably here.

      • Eponymous says:

        Moral panics are definitely not new, but modern information technology allows them to take on new destructive forms. Add in the set of factually wrong and morally dubious views rapidly becoming central to modern progressivism, and you have a significant cause of the latest phase in our civilizational collapse (though to be fair it has been ongoing for a while now, and has many causes).

  6. Suppose you had a “China-World” made up of multiple, self-aware, interacting “China-brains.” The operators of the China-World’s “neurons” fire a constant time after they observe neighboring neurons firing, making the whole process deterministic, start with the same brain-state and you’ll get the same series of firings, producing the same “people” experiencing the same “feelings.” The functionalist view says that the China-brains are conscious.

    Suppose, then, that you attached to this system a computer and recorded the brain state at every “step.” Then, in what I’ll call “Replay-World,” you tell the operators to ignore neighboring neurons, firing instead when the computer tells them to fire. The computer then gives the operators a sequence of neurons firing corresponding to the recording. So, the operators of the China-World behave exactly as they would if you gave them the same starting state, the same “people” seem to experience the same “feelings.” Are the minds in Replay-World conscious? Or are they philosophical zombies?

    Consider that in Replay-World, no actual computation occurs within the “brains,” if consciousness requires computation, Replay-World can’t contain conscious minds.* Likewise there is no casual link connecting any of Replay-World’s “brain-states,” you could just as easily play it backward as forward, and the minds inside Replay-World would seem to experience time as being reversed. We don’t consider that the man on the TV showing apparent self-awareness is a conscious being who will die if you turn the TV off, similarly, we’d be able to shut down Replay-World by telling ourselves that its minds are no more conscious.

    If you accept that the original China-World beings are conscious and the Replay-World beings are not conscious, you have another quandary: from the inside, it looks exactly the same. In both worlds, there can be minds asking the question “am I conscious;” with one being right and the other wrong. You could even switch back and forth. When one of the Replay-World mind wakes up, you tell the operators to go back to the original protocol, so that as he is contemplating the question of philosophical zombies in the mourning he will be truly conscious, but as he is reconsidering it later that night you switch it back. Thereafter, he can no longer think about it, though will think he is thinking about it.

    Another possibility is that there is no quandary here because there is no difference between China-World and Replay-World, because neither are really conscious in the sense that there is an “inner person” having experiences, instead, there are simply thoughts in the brain that bounce off of one another and form into a belief that it is conscious, which exists just as much in either scenario. There isn’t much difference between different parts of the brain communicating and deciding they are conscious and different beings communicating and coming to some shared conclusion about their world. Yudkowsky made the point that if you accept philosophical zombies as being mistaken about their consciousness, you cannot maintain a special right for us as individuals to maintain that we are not mistaken, we could be philosophical zombies too:

    https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/7DmA3yWwa6AT5jFXt/zombies-redacted

    If we are philosophical zombies, then the whole zombie-argument falls to the ground, there is no reason to suppose a “higher consciousness” that we do not possess but that some hypothetical being might.

    *Though you could say that the movement of the mind from one China-World-state to another is a type of computation, done outside the China-World-system, as the computer is summoning the memory of the given states.

    • broblawsky says:

      Consider that in Replay-World, no actual computation occurs within the “brains,” if consciousness requires computation, Replay-World can’t contain conscious minds.

      How can you replay a recorded pattern of information without computation? Just because Replay-World is deterministic, doesn’t mean it isn’t performing a computation.

    • toaDime says:

      I think Replay-World is not conscious for the same reason that a video of a person talking about consciousness is not conscious.

      It can’t actually “talk” about being conscious because it can’t answer questions etc. about the subject.

      • silver_swift says:

        I think Replay-World is not conscious for the same reason that a video of a person talking about consciousness is not conscious.

        Exactly this.

        Replay-World is basically the Zombie Master that Eliezer describes. A world that contains p-zombies talking about consciousness because a Zombie Master instructs them is not contradictory, the contradiction is a world that contains p-zombies that talk about consciousness because they believe themselves to be conscious (when they are not and have no reason to believe that they are).

      • Replay-world would contain beings appearing to talk to one another about consciousness.

        • toaDime says:

          So does a video of two beings talking to one another about consciousness.

          Replay-world is essentially a super-high-resolution 3D video. It requires consciousness to *produce* the realistic video of a conscious being, but the video itself is not conscious.

    • AG says:

      This seems to be just about moving the location of what we consider the source of consciousness.

      Consider Tool-Assisted Speedruns of video games. Someone hooks up wires to a video game controller, taking inputs from a program of when to fire certain button presses. The program is made by a human. There was one case where the game being run was based on taking touchscreen inputs from a stylus, so they made a robot to move and press the stylus to the screen (such that the robot was the one taking the input program, not the console).

      Your analogy here seems to be asking “what’s the difference between a human playing a video game, and a program replaying that human player’s button presses exactly?” However, your “inside view looks the same” frame of reference is the videogame itself as the China-brain.
      But neither the video game nor the TAS program is conscious. The source of consciousness is either the human directly playing the game, or the human making the TAS program.

      • “The source of consciousness is either the human directly playing the game, or the human making the TAS program.”

        It is different because in China-world, consciousness (or at least what appears to be consciousness) comes from within the system, whereas in the game-world it is traceable outside it.

        • AG says:

          The point of contention here is the “operator” firing the neurons in the China-brain. Ordinarily, the operators have their own procedure of when to fire neurons. In Replay-world, they follow the program instructions. So the question becomes if the operators have any choice in not following the program, within Replay world.

          Consider the video game Rhythm Heaven. The output of a perfect game is exactly the same no matter who the player is, because the rhythms are exactly set. That is basically what occurs with the Replay World, where operators are instructed to fire neurons/input video game commands in exactly the same sequence. But the source of consciousness still isn’t the firing of the neurons. It’s in the will of the operators/players to fire neurons as they please.

  7. I can look up anything on the internet except for memes, and that’s often because the text is contained inside the image. If someone wanted to build software which could do that, do we currently have the technology that would enable them to do so?

    • Nornagest says:

      I expect you could build software that parses meme text in an image pretty readily these days (quick and dirty version that only works for white text: isolate the white regions in the image, then run an OCR algorithm over them). But it’d be computationally intensive, and I’m not sure it’d scale to the volumes you’d need to index all the memes on the Web.

      Google does do some automated image recognition stuff for their image search, though, and that’s probably similarly expensive. So maybe you can do it, if you’re Google.

  8. BBA says:

    It’s somewhat ironic that Richard M. Stallman made his last public appearance at Microsoft, which for so long was built on values diametrically opposed to his own. Nowadays Microsoft owns GitHub and is actively maintaining and supporting some of RMS’s code for Windows, which would sound like an overwhelming victory for free software if you told me about it 15 years ago [GitHub didn’t exist, it would’ve been Sourceforge instead, but never mind that]. Instead, Microsoft is a has-been and Facebook rules the world. FB could GPL all the code they have tomorrow and it wouldn’t matter – it’s their userbase and their data that matter, not the code. For all “Stallman was right” has become a refrain among techno-libertarians, RMS never did figure out what to do about a situation like Facebook. But then RMS was never one to change with the times, that’s why he insisted on keeping the share-alike spirit of academia alive in the ’80s when all his colleagues were making more money writing commercial software for long-forgotten AI startups, and that’s why his career is over now.

    I never met the man, or dealt with him directly. I understand he was a total nightmare of a human being – there are stories going around about how his misogyny and poor hygiene made women feel uncomfortable in STEM, when in fact I don’t think he’s ever been accused of making anyone feel comfortable anywhere. Today I’m seeing positive glee from the enemies in FOSS he’s made over the years that he won’t be around to hold the movement back anymore. Now he has no job, no family, no community to support him, and I expect he’ll be dead or in jail within five years’ time. And I can’t say he doesn’t deserve this fate – the stubbornness and obliviousness to social norms that made him and FSF/GNU what they were are precisely what destroyed him, though FSF and GNU will live on.

    I say good riddance to RMS, but part of me still finds him a tragic figure.

    • Enkidum says:

      But then RMS was never one to change with the times, that’s why he insisted on keeping the share-alike spirit of academia alive in the ’80s when all his colleagues were making more money writing commercial software for long-forgotten AI startups, and that’s why his career is over now.

      I… don’t get this at all. Open source software has been remarkably successful, just not in the domains it was originally thought it would be most used for. The fact that he and others were part of this development is not because they were backward, it’s because they were forward thinking.

      His career is over (if it is, it’s only been a couple of days) because he’s apparently an awful person. This is very distinct from “has some old hippie-ish values that he applies to software”.

      EDIT: Ah, I think I misinterpreted and @liate is correct. Fair enough.

    • albatross11 says:

      Think about incentives.

      Richard Stallman, like James Watson, is apparently a big jerk. But both were also world-shaking brilliant innovators, and both built up important and wonderful institutions from scratch. And both have been chucked out of their powerful institutions for being off-message or saying offensive things which may or may not be factually true, but are definitely socially false.

      We will be a hell of a lot worse off if we find ourselves unable to accept brilliant assholes and benefit from their genius. And everyone who is now building up some institution (or does so in the future) and doesn’t want to be purged in the future is presumably going to be thinking very hard about how to make sure that can’t happen to them. How that plays out will probably have a big impact on the world.

      • Eponymous says:

        We will be a hell of a lot worse off if we find ourselves unable to accept brilliant assholes and benefit from their genius.

        But neither were axed for being jerks. Plenty of jerks do just fine in the current environment — many even find it to their liking, if they’re the right kind of jerk.

        They were axed for deviating from orthodoxy. This is fundamentally related to their contributions in a way that being a jerk isn’t. Making great contributions is a function of intelligence, but also of questioning received wisdom and following lines of reasoning even into dangerous territory. This is what did them in.

        • BBA says:

          It’s pretty clear to me that RMS’s comments were a pretext, and he was ousted for being such an insufferable jerk that absolutely nobody wanted his continued “leadership.”

          • salvorhardin says:

            Yeah. It’s still worrisome that those particular comments made such a ready pretext, though.

            For a historical analogy, think of those who spoke up in defense of Alger Hiss in the 50s. They were wrong to do so, in that he was in fact a Soviet spy. And some– plausibly many– of his defenders were Communist sympathizers if not outright Communist. Nonetheless, we would rightly say today that it’s disturbingly McCarthyite to declare that if someone defended Hiss, they must ipso facto have been a comsymp. If you want to root out comsymps you should have to rely on better evidence than that, lest we destroy the possibility of honest and open good-faith debate about who should count as a comsymp.

          • BBA says:

            I quite intentionally did not mention what the pretext was. I don’t consider it relevant. And yes, per Cardinal Richelieu, sooner or later everyone will say something cancellable.

            Though now I’m imagining an extreme asshole that everyone despises but nobody can get rid of because his opinions are infallibly politically correct.

            (Side note: RMS is an outright communist, as far as I can decipher his nutty political screeds.)

          • viVI_IViv says:

            He was ousted for refusing to bend the knee to the corporate overlords who now run the open source scene.

            Linus Torvalds almost suffered the same fate, but he eventually bent the knee and was able to keep his job as a figurehead.

            The #MeToo Epstein-Minsky stuff was indeed a pretext, how many people who defended Roman Polanski (a convicted child rapist) have suffered any negative consequence?

          • Eponymous says:

            @BBA

            It’s pretty clear to me that RMS’s comments were a pretext

            If true this would make me feel (a bit) better about this affair. But I’m skeptical. What do you mean by “a pretext”? Would he have been gone in the next month on some other grounds? The next year? Has he recently become more of a jerk? Why are people looking to push him out now in particular?

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @Eponymous

            That’s a very good point. If he wouldn’t have been ousted otherwise it
            just means it he had enemies that were ready to use free ammunition – which is to be expected for anybody this visible, and even more so for somebody known to be at least stubborn.

            Not knowing details about recent RMS, my prior is that he’s been in his positions for a long time – so they looked solid. The default assumption should be that the incident was a cause, not a pretext. At least without extra information.

          • Nick says:

            Not knowing details about recent RMS, my prior is that he’s been in his positions for a long time – so they looked solid. The default assumption should be that the incident was a cause, not a pretext.

            Fair enough, but are these his first controversial comments of this nature since #MeToo? I could see that making the difference.

      • salvorhardin says:

        “We will be a hell of a lot worse off if we find ourselves unable to accept brilliant assholes and benefit from their genius.”

        AIUI, the people cheering the departure of RMS and similar believe that this is not true: that these people’s apparent brilliance is typically overrated and not as special as it’s portrayed, and that the people who are put off making technological contributions by the assholes’ assholery would have, all in all, contributed more than the assholes did. It’s a kind of “what is seen and what is not seen” argument: you see what RMS built, you don’t see what would have been built by the people who would have stayed in the field if he wasn’t there, or even better, if he’d been forced to moderate his assholery in order to stay.

        Now the people who believe this tend to be IMO waaay overconfident of their belief, and it’s very hard to point to metrics that would be dispositive either way. But it’s not a prima facie ridiculous thing to think.

        • broblawsky says:

          I count myself on the side of the same people you’re describing. In addition to those arguments, I’d say that it’s hard to say how much of what’s considered Stallman’s work is his and how much of it is the product of people he worked with that’s merely attributed to him. Some brilliant people are actually brilliant, and some are merely good project managers.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            I’d say that it’s hard to say how much of what’s considered Stallman’s work is his and how much of it is the product of people he worked with that’s merely attributed to him. Some brilliant people are actually brilliant, and some are merely good project managers.

            If he was such a good project manager then he couldn’t have been so much of an insufferable jerk impossible to work with.

          • Jaskologist says:

            “merely good project managers” as if that’s a minor thing.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Jaskologist

            Good project managers are a dime a dozen. That’s why they regularly get paid high six figures and even seven figures, because businesses are bad at economics and just throw money at easily replaceable figures. 😉

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Project Managers are extremely important, particularly with high-contributing, assertive individuals. You might as well say Phil Jackson is overvalued because he doesn’t actually play basketball, but he has 11 NBA championships. Guy must be doing something right.

          • DinoNerd says:

            In his twenties and early thirties, he had a prodiguous personal output – at one point successfully competing with a team of half a dozen developers – basically any feature they implemented for their closed source project, he’d implement for the competing open source project, where he was the sole developer. (He got rather exhausted, but was keeping up with them.)

            If he’s anything like me, his personal output dropped as he got older, and got onto ever larger teams. But at the time his productivity was pretty much off-the-charts. (People quote a 10:1 ratio between the productivity of best and worst developers. But I was probably up near the top at the time, and he was notably faster than me.)

        • viVI_IViv says:

          AIUI, the people cheering the departure of RMS and similar believe that this is not true

          But these people are intellectual-yet-idiots, to quote another loud-mouthed asshole.

          It’s a kind of “what is seen and what is not seen” argument: you see what RMS built, you don’t see what would have been built by the people who would have stayed in the field if he wasn’t there, or even better, if he’d been forced to moderate his assholery in order to stay.

          Nothing stopped these other people from creating their own organizations according to their own principles of niceness and civil behavior and compete with jerks like Stallman and Torvalds. Until the corporate takeover of the last 10-15 years, the open source movement was completely voluntary with very little money involved. There wasn’t even much first-mover or networking effects which could create high barriers to entry to competitors, hence there wasn’t really any gatekeeping: any group of #GirlsWhoCode or whatever could have forked GCC and the Linux kernel and created their own better versions.

          The fact that this didn’t happen tells us about the kind of personality required to successfully run weird nerdy projects while the world of respectable corporate people say it’s all bunk.

    • Eponymous says:

      And I can’t say he doesn’t deserve this fate – the stubbornness and obliviousness to social norms that made him and FSF/GNU what they were are precisely what destroyed him

      A nerd oblivious to social norms? Inflexible and stubborn? These very qualities were likely critical to his launching a wildly successful movement. But yes, off with his head, not for anything he did, but for saying something impolitic. How very 2019. The collapse of our civilization continues.

    • Ketil says:

      I never met the man, or dealt with him directly. I understand he was a total nightmare of a human being – there are stories going around about how his misogyny and poor hygiene made women feel uncomfortable in STEM, when in fact I don’t think he’s ever been accused of making anyone feel comfortable anywhere.

      I have, on two occasions. He was never a “nightmare” as far as I could tell, and he spoke calmly and civilly, although he clearly was very principled about many things. I am not aware of any misogynistic comment or action of his either. He looks rather far from the hygienic, well built, polished, aryan masculine ideal – so to the extent that this “makes women uncomfortable” and works as an SJW/progressive argument for ostracizing people and ruining their careers, I’ll happily concede the “hygiene” point. You’re welcome¹.

      He probably made a lot of people uncomfortable, yes. Clearly, a lot of people think their (or someone else) being uncomfortable for whatever reason gives them the right to blame their discomfort on whomever it suits them (but not themselves, of course), and that society at large owes them disproportionate retaliation on their chosen victim du jour.

      So – I’ll keep my signed copy of the Emacs Manual, thank you.

      ¹ But on a charitable note, it isn’t as though I can’t sympathize with the point. There are people who “feel uncomfortable” around Muslims, homosexuals, and trans persons, for instance. And back in the day, it was the people who “felt uncomfortable” around black people who got to decide on things like bus seating. So there’s plenty of precedent.

      • DinoNerd says:

        Stallman and I were friends when I was in college, and for some years afterwards, though we later drifted into mere acquintances, and I haven’t seen him in decade(s).

        I don’t recall any creepy behaviour. Yes, he often acted like a typical young man – inclined to chat up any young woman in sight etc. But that wasn’t creepy in that time and place (college campus), just annoying to some of those constantly being approached.

        He did have a bit of a case of clue deficit disorder/empathy failure, in that he completely couldn’t imagine where (some) other people were coming from, in particular female comp sci graduate students. Some quantity of MIT students, presumably male, were openly campaigning to distribute women evenly, rather than lumpily, among class sections, seeing them (women) as an amenity to be shared; meanwhile they were opposed by women who wanted to be distributed lumpily (some sections have lots of women; others have few or none) because they either preferred the resulting social dynamic, or simply wanted to be with their friends/those instructors they preferred. Richard told me about this, and pretty clearly couldn’t understand the position taken by the female students – and I don’t think I managed to explain it. (We’d already been through the same pattern at Harvard, though in a more paternalistic way – Harvard intentionally offered houses (dorms) with a variety of gender ratios, and house asssignments were biased to acheive this – and people seemed content with that arrangement.)

        And he was a complete nutzo fanatic about software, basically regarding restricting sftware distribution as something akin to rape, murder, theft etc. (I.e. it was a moral issue for him, and one where he couldn’t see those who disagreed as good people.)

        I’d say we drifted apart primarily because of this – I worked in industry, which (at best) had me enabling immoral behaviour from his POV.

        Assuming he didn’t grow out of his overall social cluelessness, adding any kind of power to that could indeed have been toxic. Random grad student chatting up every woman in sight = normal, if sometimes pathetic looking. Same thing taken into a work place, or a large organization, and being done by a high status person => often catastrophic results. I’d assumed that like most young men, he grew up – and indeed didn’t see any of this kind of behaviour the last time we met. But I didn’t check in with any young and attractive women about their experience at that time.

        I’d also expect him to be totally taken in by someone like Epstein (who I never met, so I’m going on descriptions); he’d believe what someone said and not notice non-verbal cues. At least, that’s what he was like in his twenties – typical high functioning person on the autistic spectrum.

        At any rate, I should probably read about whatever’s been causing this thread, and another one I saw on a mailing list, where it was shut down by the moderator before I could ask. Whatever it is, it hasn’t so far shown up in my news feed.

    • Lancelot says:

      I apologize in advance for the rant, and I understand that your post is far from the worst example of this, but

      Now he has no job, no family, no community to support him, and I expect he’ll be dead or in jail within five years’ time. And I can’t say he doesn’t deserve this fate – the stubbornness and obliviousness to social norms that made him and FSF/GNU what they were are precisely what destroyed him, though FSF and GNU will live on.

      I say good riddance to RMS, but part of me still finds him a tragic figure.

      This attitude honestly makes my blood boil. This is some Prometheus tier injustice. The man has laid foundation to so many important projects, all free to the public. If it was not for him, we wouldn’t have the open source movement nearly as widespread as it is today. And what reward is he going to get for his titanic contribution to the prosperity of humankind? “dead or in jail within five years’ time”, and somehow a whole lot of people are okay with that, because apparently he didn’t shower frequently enough for their taste, and happened to say some stupid thing once in a while.

      This is not even a rant about the modern leftism or the cancel culture or social justice or whatever. I felt exactly the same way when I learned about the life of Alan Turing. He did some essential contributions to the early computer science, to say the least, and it has been estimated his work on breaking the Enigma code likely shortened the WWII for years, and saved millions of lives on the Allied side — so what did he get? Driven to suicide over the ‘horrendous’ transgression of being gay.

      I am reminded of an old Russian adage, “не делай добра — не получишь зла” (“if you don’t do good, you won’t get evil in return”). What RMS should have done back in his day was to patent and copyright all his works to high heaven, and charge as much for them as the market would bear. If a society is willing to destroy the lives of such people despite what they have done, it doesn’t deserve their charity.

      • Jaskologist says:

        I feel like most of those comments could be summed up as “sorry, nuerodivergent people, you’re not useful anymore.”

        • DinoNerd says:

          Agree. If violating social norms is good reason for someone to be “dead or in jail in 5 years”, then I don’t want any part of the society involved.

          This is also why I like our atomized, individualistic etc. society – to the extent that it really is atomized etc. etc. then people aren’t trying to destroy other people’s lives for failure to observe (changing) local cultural norms, or celebrating when this happens to someone.

          [Note to the soundbite impaired – there are norms that should be enforced. Generally by the legal system. Violations tend to be considered felonies. This is not what I’m talking about. Note also that these norms are almost always explicit, and when they change there’s a huge public fuss about it. So not a problem for folks that are unusually poor at mind reading.]

          • BBA says:

            “Violating social norms” isn’t the least of it. RMS is a deeply mentally ill man, and I don’t think he’s capable of surviving outside the support networks at MIT and FSF that have sustained him for most of his life. And now he’ll have to. If he weren’t so thoroughly to blame for his situation, I’d feel more sorry for him.

          • John Schilling says:

            RMS is a deeply mentally ill man

            Citation very desperately needed, because this is sounding an awful lot like the old Soviet definition of “deeply mentally ill” and I’m not really sure I trust your unsupported word on this.

          • For what it’s worth, I’ve met Stallman and argued with him a little. He has very weird views, but in my limited sample I saw no evidence he was crazy.

          • BBA says:

            Oh, let’s see. He has such a phobia of water that he never showers, but he has been known to give himself sponge baths in public restrooms… do I need to continue?

      • EchoChaos says:

        I agree. For those arguing upstream, this is the “kind, true, necessary” way to say what J said.

      • BBA says:

        Do you know the name Jamie Zawinski? Miguel de Icaza? Matthew Garrett?

        They aren’t entryists. They’re coders who tried to work with RMS back in the day and couldn’t abide his bullshit. Now they’re among the many celebrating RMS’s downfall. And – here’s the key – each of them has produced a hell of a lot more software in the last ten years than RMS has. (Even JWZ, who long ago officially retired from software to sell beer.)

        Now you may say that his other ideas and activism are still worthwhile. To which I say: what other ideas? He came up with the GPL and the Four Software Freedoms in the ’80s, he was the first to raise the alarm about DRM in the ’90s… but what has he done for us lately? Best I can tell, for a long time he’s just been wandering around the world giving the same speech he’s been giving forever, mooching off and creeping out the poor fanboys who thought it’d be cool to let a legend stay over for a few days.

        What’s left? His community leadership? Some leader – his whole community is singing “ding dong the witch is dead” with nary a word of dissent from anyone who matters. (No, Eric Raymond doesn’t matter. He never did.)

        What good is a prophet who’s run out of prophesies?

        • Eponymous says:

          Wow. So pack him off to the old folks home, he’ll be dead soon anyway, what good is he to us now?

        • Radu Floricica says:

          but what has he done for us lately

          Really man?

          Actually, I’m calling Poe’s law here. Even if just for my mental sanity.

        • Lancelot says:

          I never claimed that RMS was doing anything useful in the last decade. In fact, I am a proponent of proprietary software and thus disagree strongly with most of his ideology and activism. That’s beside the point. The point is that over the course of his life he made a lot of very important work, to no other end but to improve the world by doing what he considered good and necessary. That, in my opinion, commands respect regardless of whether we agree with his views, and regardless of whether we would want to be his personal friends, and regardless of whether we would want to personally collaborate with him on some project.

          Now, I don’t think RMS should lead the open source community if the community doesn’t want him to. But I do think that he deserves a happy retirement, a honorary mention in the history of computer science, and to occasionally give the same speech he’s been giving forever to his fans and to whoever else who wants to hear them.

          What good is a prophet who’s run out of prophesies?

          So what if he did more important work throughout his life than most of the people who now drag his name through the mud ever will? We don’t need the man (not anymore), so why not just discard him.

          Right?

          • Aftagley says:

            So what if he did more important work throughout his life than most of the people who now drag his name through the mud ever will? We don’t need the man (not anymore), so why not just discard him.

            Ok, so what’s your proposed alternative? If someone in the 80s writes some good code, they get free reign to be creepy for the rest of their lives? MIT agrees to let a smelly old man harass female undergrads from now until he dies because he was right about DRM?

          • Lancelot says:

            Then there is also the point that the outrage mobs don’t really discriminate between people who did great things a long time ago, and those who did them recently.

            For example, consider the t-shirt scandal with Matt Taylor, the Rosetta comet landing lead scientist.

          • Eponymous says:

            f someone in the 80s writes some good code, they get free reign to be creepy for the rest of their lives?

            He wasn’t pushed out for being creepy or harassing women. He was pushed out for what he wrote about Epstein, Minsky, and age of consent.

          • Jaskologist says:

            free reign to be creepy

            There’s a lot to unpack in this.

            Why shouldn’t somebody be free to be “creepy,” whatever that is?

          • John Schilling says:

            Ok, so what’s your proposed alternative? If someone in the 80s writes some good code, they get free reign to be creepy for the rest of their lives? MIT agrees to let a smelly old man harass female undergrads from now until he dies because he was right about DRM?

            The obvious alternatives are,

            1. Give him a prestigious position at MIT but quietly arrange that he not have unchaperoned access to young woman, which is tedious and imperfect but can work reasonably well, or

            2. Say “Sorry, but the level of harassment is simply intolerable, and because of the way you are harassing young women we have decided to admire and respect your past work from a safe distance that does not include your future presence on the MIT campus”.

            And yes, there’s also

            3. Privately think the level of harassment is intolerable, then cleverly arrange to say “Because you have dissented from the regularly-scheduled two minutes’ hate against Jeffrey Epstein and anyone near him, you are officially Cancelled”.

            #3 has the advantage of being easy, effective, and uncontroversial outside of narrowly nerdish circles, at least in 2019. It has the disadvantages of being fundamentally dishonest and setting a dangerous precedent.

            Also, what’s the deal with “in the 80s”? Between you and BBA, there’s a recurring theme of, since RMS’s best work is in the past, we don’t owe him anything and can freely cancel him without even really explaining why. That would seem to imply that, if RMS were still actively doing good work, we would actually owe him a free pass on e.g. harassing pretty co-eds.

          • Randy M says:

            There’s a lot to unpack in this.

            Why shouldn’t somebody be free to be “creepy,” whatever that is?

            There is, but I feel like we’ve packed and unpacked it many times before. From untitled to ‘geek social fallacies’, to elevatorgate to metoo. It really shouldn’t be that complicated, but there’s a lot of intentional conflation to take more ground because having license to make new rules and take offense is power.

            Have some grace with awkward people awkwardly approaching you in public spaces. People who genuinely mean you harm are just as likely to be slick or go way beyond ‘creepy’.
            Back off when someone requests it, don’t take offense–even if it is meant, for you own sake if nothing else–and try again with someone else, preferably with a refined approach. And update your models so you are better able to read the ‘clearly uninterested’ signals.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            1. Give him a prestigious position at MIT but quietly arrange that he not have unchaperoned access to young woman, which is tedious and imperfect but can work reasonably well, or

            It’s not like he was trying to molest any girl on sight. The worst dirt GeekFeminism could dig up on him predating the Minsky affair is that he used to tell a sexist joke about “EMAC virgins” during his speeches, which he eventually stopped doing after people complained. And he had controversial opinions on various topics, but this is hardly being “creepy” and more in line with being a contrarian intellectual (e.g. Robin Hanson is also known for this sort of thing).

          • eyeballfrog says:

            Ok, so what’s your proposed alternative? If someone in the 80s writes some good code, they get free reign to be creepy for the rest of their lives? MIT agrees to let a smelly old man harass female undergrads from now until he dies because he was right about DRM?

            OK, I’m going to stop you there. Let’s go to the object level: is Richard Stallman accused of being creepy to women? Did he harass undergrads? Because if not, you’re arguing against a strawman.

          • Aftagley says:

            @EyeballFrog

            OK, I’m going to stop you there. Let’s go to the object level: is Richard Stallman accused of being creepy to women? Did he harass undergrads? Because if not, you’re arguing against a strawman.

            Being creepy to women: yes. Multiple sources report that he would make multiple overt passes at women in ways that made them feel uncomfortable. Elsewhere in the thread Dinonerd says he doesn’t think it was creepy, elsewhere online you’ll find multiple women/second hand sources saying it was creepy.

            Harassing Undergrads: I’m less confident on this assertion, and will partially retract it. It is true that the sign on his MIT office referenced “hot ladies” and he would send out emails to the entire department (students included) that reportedly included his views on women, underage sex, inappropriate jokes, etc. Second hand sources indicate that students on these lists felt harassed by this behavior, but I’ll admit that “harassing undergrads” implies more nefarious behavior than “acted inappropriately and unprofessionally around/to undergrads”

            @John Schilling

            Agree, it’s almost certainly number 3. Do you think that makes it any less valid?

            Also, what’s the deal with “in the 80s”? Between you and BBA, there’s a recurring theme of, since RMS’s best work is in the past, we don’t owe him anything and can freely cancel him without even really explaining why. That would seem to imply that, if RMS were still actively doing good work, we would actually owe him a free pass on e.g. harassing pretty co-eds.

            I made my comment explicitly in response to Lancelot’s when they said:

            So what if he did more important work throughout his life than most of the people who now drag his name through the mud ever will? We don’t need the man (not anymore), so why not just discard him.

            I was trying to imply that having some success back in the 80s doesn’t mean you therefore get a free pass for the rest of your existence. I don’t think his behavior would be acceptable if he was still producing today.

            @Jaskologist

            Why shouldn’t somebody be free to be “creepy,” whatever that is?

            Your Liberty To Swing Your Fist Ends Just Where My Nose Begins. Be as creepy as you want up until said creepiness starts negatively affecting the lives of those around you.

            @Randy

            You are correct, and I agree with you, mostly, but I’d like to challenge this notion that if you are unnerved by someone it’s entirely your fault. Existing in society is a two way street – in my opinion you have a duty to be as accommodating to everyone in your life as possible AND you also have a duty to present yourself as being universally accommodating as you are able.

            @ Everyone

            The man’s not dead; nobody who previously liked him is going to start hating him because of this one instance. His behavior was deemed unacceptable for the organizations he was professionally affiliated with and they chose to end their affiliation with him. T

            hey did this after he expressed views – in his professional capacity – that MIT and the foundation didn’t want to be associated with. If you think this is an unacceptable response, then what is the appropriate reaction?

          • Randy M says:

            @Randy
            You are correct, and I agree with you, mostly, but I’d like to challenge this notion that if you are unnerved by someone it’s entirely your fault.

            I don’t mean to advance that notion, although you’re likely to get more opinions than people when you try to draw the line between perfectly innocent and offensive behavior–especially if you care to have consideration of the differences in mental capacity between people. That’s why my suggestion is to have grace for offenses, even ‘should have known better’ offenses. (edit: Do I need to qualify that this doesn’t mean any and every harm? I think I will test the board’s charity level here) And to not dress up ‘off-put by strange behavior’ as ‘actually endangered’ like is sometimes done. And for the other side to learn and hopefully improve, and not brush off social skills as either unimportant or beyond learning.

            I do think it’s too much to ask that one have an expectation of never being approached romantically in public, including some professional environments, because finding mates is incredibly important and there simply is not a common script for how to do so any longer. (I’m not sure if this actually addresses the specific creepy behavior of stallman, though! Sorry if tangential)

            The man’s not dead

            Part of what people are reacting to is BBA saying

            I expect he’ll be dead or in jail within five years’ time. And I can’t say he doesn’t deserve this fate

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Your Liberty To Swing Your Fist Ends Just Where My Nose Begins. Be as creepy as you want up until said creepiness starts negatively affecting the lives of those around you.

            @Randy

            You are correct, and I agree with you, mostly, but I’d like to challenge this notion that if you are unnerved by someone it’s entirely your fault. Existing in society is a two way street – in my opinion you have a duty to be as accommodating to everyone in your life as possible AND you also have a duty to present yourself as being universally accommodating as you are able.

            So, similar to Nabil’s thread further up, how ugly does someone need to be for refusing plastic surgery to warrant cancellation?

          • ECD says:

            @viVI_IViv

            It’s not like he was trying to molest any girl on sight. The worst dirt GeekFeminism could dig up on him predating the Minsky affair is that he used to tell a sexist joke about “EMAC virgins” during his speeches, which he eventually stopped doing after people complained.

            Well, that and his repeated position that “voluntary” pedophilia and child pornography should be totally legal. Which has no bearing on his position on statutory rape at all, I’m sure.

          • Plumber says:

            @ECD >

            “…that and his repeated position that “voluntary”…”

            Yeah, ewww.

            Never heard of this RMS guy before but statements of that kind would creep me out.

          • but statements of that kind would creep me out.

            Very likely.

            But does it make any sense to describe someone holding and expressing those views as harassing anyone?

            If it does, I think I get to hold all anti-capitalists, here and elsewhere, as harassing me–expressing views I very strongly disagree with

          • albatross11 says:

            When you make people around you uncomfortable, that’s potentially a good reason to move you out of the organization/off the team. On the other hand, it’s pretty common to note that in some environments, you make people around you uncomfortable by, say, being openly trans, or being a Muslim woman and wearing a headscarf. There are a couple ethics for dealing with that:

            a. We cultivate a culture of accepting weirdness and saying that you’ll have to put up with the discomfort of dealing with a wide range of weird people, up to the point where they cross some pretty well-defined lines.

            b. We decide which kinds of weird we like, encourage or require acceptance of those, and purge the other kinds of offensive weirdos.

            I prefer (a), but I think more and more of the world is moving to (b)–including people who were originally accepted in tech culture because of (a). And that still doesn’t define what the lines are which mustn’t be crossed. That will inevitably be short of what would get you arrested.

            What behavior is creepy w.r.t. hitting on women changes over time and across cultures/contexts, but also changes based on who’s doing the hitting-on. A young, attractive man hitting on a woman gets perceived as less creepy that a fat, smelly old man doing the same thing, even using the same words. This works in exactly the same way that the same comment is *way* more threatening coming from a 20 year old man as coming from a 60 year old woman. Or that an ambiguously flirtatious comment gets perceived very differently when it comes from a 60 year old woman than from a 20 year old woman. (Older women will often complain that they become more-or-less invisible to young men at a certain age.).

            ETA: If we want to be able to benefit from weird geniuses, especially weird geniuses on the spectrum, then I think a good starting point is to make explicit rules and spell them out clearly. “No talk of sex, religion, or politics at work” is such a rule, and traditionally was used to prevent some kinds of dumb workplace conflicts among the socially-clueless. “Don’t hit on anyone in a subordinate position to you, and once you’ve hit on someone once and they’ve turned you down, wait at least a month till you try again” might be a workable rule.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            “No talk of sex, religion, or politics at work” is such a rule,

            Which if we started enforcing fairly would require shutting down entire academic departments of gender studies, cultural studies, etc., as well as most forms of workplace LGBT activism, sex education in schools and colleges, and so on.

          • Viliam says:

            No talk of sex, religion, or politics at work — other than nodding when your company representatives make an official statement on any of these topics.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          Do you know the name Jamie Zawinski? Miguel de Icaza? Matthew Garrett?

          Last time I’ve heard of Miguel de Icaza he was flaming with whoever was left to direct the trainwreck that Gnome had become and he was working on the controversial, and ultimately unsuccessful Mono project. Wikipedia tells me he now works for Microsoft as director of .NET Foundation. So, poster child for corporate open source.

          I have no idea who the other two people are.

      • J says:

        Damn, how did I miss Turing in my rant? And to BBA’s point of “what have you done for us in the last decade”, he was almost exactly a decade from his peak when he died in 1954.

        • BBA says:

          Turing’s behavior, detested in his time, would be accepted and celebrated today. I don’t know of a time or a place where someone who acted like RMS would ever be accepted, barring Howard Hughes levels of wealth.

    • souleater says:

      KOLMOGOROV COMPLICITY AND THE PARABLE OF LIGHTNING
      This article seems very relevant to me.

      Direct quote from RMS

      “The term ‘sexual assault’ is so vague and slippery that it facilitates accusation inflation: taking claims that someone did X and leading people to think of it as Y, which is much worse than X,” Stallman wrote in his message. “The reference reports the claim that Minsky had sex with one of Epstein’s harem. Let’s presume that was true (I see no reason to disbelieve it). The word ‘assaulting’ presumes that he applied force or violence, in some unspecified way, but the article itself says no such thing. Only that they had sex.”

      Stallman continued, “We can imagine many scenarios, but the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing.”

      “the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing.”

      I won’t comment on what he said for fear of being personally destroyed the same way RMS was. But I’ll just leave the text here and let the SSC commentariat, figure out the rest.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        I read the original article accusing him. Beyond anything else, my visceral spontaneous reaction when I got to the money shot, the quote above that’s suppose to condemn RMS, was getting a deep breath of fresh air. It’s like reading the rest of the article something in me wasn’t getting oxygen, and when I got to the quote it was “ahh, reason”.

        It’s probably the very mild spectrum in me, the part that’s better with concepts than with emotions. But then again, maybe it’s just my bullshit detector.

        • Aftagley says:

          Wait, just to be clear that I’m reading you correctly, your reaction to reading this:

          “the most plausible scenario is that she presented herself to him as entirely willing.”

          Which, for context, is describing an underage girl (allegedly) having sex with a man ~60 years her senior at the compound and at the clear direction of a suspected sex trafficker and your reaction was that this,

          was getting a deep breath of fresh air. It’s like reading the rest of the article something in me wasn’t getting oxygen, and when I got to the quote it was “ahh, reason”.

          Look, extending maximum charity here, there’s a bunch of defenses one could reasonably use to defend Minsky here, like “maybe he didn’t know she was underage”, or “I don’t think she’s a credibly witness,” but saying “whelp, the sex-slave probably made it look like she was willing, so it’s totally ok” isn’t one of them.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I don’t think “so it’s totally ok” is the implied conclusion? I read it as “so assault is the wrong term for it”

          • J says:

            How carefully have you researched this? The stuff I’m seeing is that the alleged event happened to Minsky in 2001, seven years before Epstein was convicted of anything, likely didn’t happen at all, and contra your claim that “it’s totally okay”, RMS was opposing the label “assault” for a hypothetical situation in which someone says “yep, I’m totes DTF.”

          • albatross11 says:

            How would Minsky have known that the woman he was sleeping with was underage? Why wouldn’t he have just said “Hey, that super-rich pimp guy who gives us so much money brought some whores around, and I don’t even have to pay. Score!”? I’m not going to call that admirable, but if he thought he was getting a freebie from an adult prostitute there of her own will, that doesn’t seem to me to be some horrible unforgivable moral lapse. (Casual voluntary sex with strangers is immoral under the moral code I believe in, but not, as far as I can tell, under the moral code that most of the outrage mob or open source community believes in.)

            I think the usual pattern of being “canceled” is that you have a lot of enemies but they lack a lever with which to force you out, and then you make some public comment that can be taken in an offensive way, and that becomes both the lever with which to pry you out, and the Schelling point for all your enemies to coordinate.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            You know, I’m kinda sick and tired of playing this charade, real name or not. Sex work is work. He wasn’t a sex trafficker, he was an employer. She wasn’t a slave, she was doing work that’s unlicensed by the state and without paying taxes. And judging from the same context, for more money than you and me are making together.

            Should she have been doing this at 17? I don’t know. That depends a lot on whether she’ll regret it later. Personally, I think either her or her parents deserve a good spanking. Probably both. But that’s just me, and it’s quite likely the morals of 30 years from now will say it was perfectly ok. Set a reminder if you want.

            But to describe an old academic having sex with her as slavery in anything but a metaphorical sense… There’s a disconnect here I don’t think we’ll be able to bridge. These things happen. Have been happening for as long as mankind existed, since the first girl discovered she can live better by offering sex than by withholding it. And that was way before age limits and taxes. And will continue to happen, because the choice remains: you can go to school and work and toil and maybe in 30 years pay all your debts and start new ones for a house, or make use of the fact that you’re kinda into older men and you’ve found a one in a lifetime opportunity to have sex with Bill Clinton and make a house worth of money in a summer.

            Call it slavery if you want. I call it common sense.

          • Lillian says:

            If someone gives me a bunch of money as a gift, and it later turns out the money was stolen, that doesn’t make me a thief, it arguably makes me a further victim of the thief. If someone appears to want to have sex with me, and we have sex, and it turns out she was coereced into it by a third party, that doesn’t make me a rapist, it arguably makes me a further victim of the third party. So i would say that, “She presented herself as willing” is indeed a completely reasonable defence. No different from, “He present it as a gift of his own money.”

            In any case Stallman’s argument is entirely hypothetical. The woman said that she was told to approach Minsky, not that she actually had sex with him. A witness to the event claims Minsky refused her. The balance of the evidence as it stands is that the sexual encounter did not even happen.

          • Aftagley says:

            How would Minsky have known that the woman he was sleeping with was underage? Why wouldn’t he have just said “Hey, that super-rich pimp guy who gives us so much money brought some whores around, and I don’t even have to pay. Score!”?

            As I said in my post above, “There’s a bunch of defenses one could reasonably use to defend Minsky here, like “maybe he didn’t know she was underage.” I agree, I don’t think this would be admirable behavior, but excusable.

            This is, hoever, NOT the point that Stallman was trying to make though. Like Gobo(..)ble says above, he was decrying the use of the term assault. Reading the entire text of the email, you get the idea that the age of the victim in this case just didn’t matter to him.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            This is a picture of the girl in question, at the time of the events, together with Prince Andrew, whom she also claims to have had sex with.

            As you can see, she could easily pass for a ~20 years old, and hardly looked distressed. Of course we couldn’t know exactly what her arrangements with Epstein were, but plausibly Epstein instructed her to seduce his powerful guests and she did a good job at it.

            The theory is that Epstein organized sex parties for powerful men with attractive girls. His guests might have understood that these girls were prostitutes, but thought they were safe because prostitution is a minor crime and they thought had plausible dependability anyway because they weren’t paying.
            Then Epstein was like “Gotcha! She is a minor, you’ve just committed rape in the second degree. Now about that deal we were talking about…”, which is presumably how Epstein got rich and powerful, as his official job hardly explains his wealth.

            Were the girls victims or accomplices? On a purely legal point of view they were victims, the laws of the US Virgin Islands are clear: ignorance of a minor’s age is not a valid defense. On a moral point of view, well, I doubt Epstein was forcing them at gunpoint, and if at age 17 you are apparently old enough to join the Army then you’re probably also old enough to understand what you’re doing in a scenario like that.

            Sure, the men weren’t completely free from blame: going to an orgy island to have sex with prostitutes hired by your sleazy billionaire friend, even if you think they are adult prostitutes, isn’t exactly the most moral thing you can do, but framing the story just as “old gross men rape poor innocent girls”, as the orthodox mainstream narrative does, isn’t accurate either.

          • Aftagley says:

            @J

            Yep, that’s why I when I was re-reading it before posting I changed the phrasing from “known sex trafficker” to “suspected sex trafficker.” As early as the 90s people were writing about/commenting on his predilection for young women. He was never particularly shy about it.

            @Radu
            I disagree with you; I think that age of consent is an important line in the sand for our society. I think there is a definite point before which someone is not capable of making the kind of decisions you’re talking about and given that a disturbingly high number of the women who were formerly in Epstein’s circle wound up emotionally broken (Jen Lisa-Jones), drug addicted (Julie Brown) or dead would indicate that exposure to this kind of life between the ages of 14 and 20 aren’t healthy for future development.

            As for slavery: could these women refuse? Could they chose to go back to their previous lives if they expressed that desire? Would Epstein have paid to fly them back from the Virgin Islands if they said, “no, I don’t in fact want to have sex with this septuagenarian academic?” If not, then the term slavery holds.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            I think there is a definite point before which someone is not capable of making the kind of decisions you’re talking about

            If we are talking of 14 years old, yes, but at 17 years old you’re relying on a technicality that varies between jurisdictions. From a legal point of view it’s normal and desirable that statuses depend on precise thresholds since this enables fair enforcement, from a moral point of view, not so much.

            and given that a disturbingly high number of the women who were formerly in Epstein’s circle wound up emotionally broken (Jen Lisa-Jones), drug addicted (Julie Brown) or dead would indicate that exposure to this kind of life between the ages of 14 and 20 aren’t healthy for future development.

            Alternatively, they had preexisting mental disorders, presumably cluster B personality disorders, which are associated with promiscuity and rule-breaking risk-seeking behaviors.

            Would Epstein have paid to fly them back from the Virgin Islands if they said, “no, I don’t in fact want to have sex with this septuagenarian academic?”

            Presumably yes? I mean, what was the alternative, drag them in chains to said septuagenarian academic?

          • Plumber says:

            @viVI_IViv says: This is a picture of the girl in question…

            ….As you can see, she could easily pass for a ~20 years old…”

            Um, that girl in that picture looks way more girl/teen than a woman to me, when I was still 20 I may have pursued a girl who looked like that, but after that?

            Right now when I’m 51 there’s a big bright line in the sand of “she looks way too young”!

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Right now when I’m 51 there’s a big bright line in the sand of “she looks way too young”!

            But would you pursue her if you were sure she was 20? If the answer is no, then you would be, quite justifiably, not pursuing that relationship due to age difference, rather than to avoid a child molestation accusation.

          • Randy M says:

            She’s got a bit of a baby face and no hips to speak of, but broad shoulders (for a girl), filled out chest, and quite the neck.
            I’d say 17 to 20 there. Looks about five years older than my oldest. Pretty similar too. Sigh.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            @Aftagley

            I disagree with you; I think that age of consent is an important line in the sand for our society. I think there is a definite point before which someone is not capable of making the kind of decisions you’re talking about and given that a disturbingly high number of the women who were formerly in Epstein’s circle wound up emotionally broken (Jen Lisa-Jones), drug addicted (Julie Brown) or dead would indicate that exposure to this kind of life between the ages of 14 and 20 aren’t healthy for future development.

            You won’t get much of an argument from me on that. I don’t wholeheartedly agree (for example I’m pretty sure it’s correlation, not causation). But whatever opinions I hold are comparatively weak, and anyways, I’d rather a girl I cared about go to school than do this, so it would be hypocritical to protest.

            But I think you’re utterly underestimating how common (and ultimately natural) this is. Hm. Let me make a proposal. I’m not sure of your sex, but regardless – try making an account on your local sugar dating site. Seeking.com, if nothing else comes up. Browse some profiles, chat some people up. If you’re a girl, expect some amount of “how much for an evening”, but this varies a lot by country. But mostly you’ll find… normality. People looking for what they’re missing. Some for relationships. Some even for marriage (there’s a tag for that). Most men for sex, most women for money – but pretty much always for something besides it.

            The Epstein case is slightly irregular (and I use the word “slightly” after consideration) because of the visibility of the men involved and the age of the girls. “Flying to Virgin Islands for sex” is a lot more TV material than “corporate employee looking for college girl to spend the weekend”. Which is how this usually plays out.

          • “whelp, the sex-slave probably made it look like she was willing, so it’s totally ok”

            What does “sex-slave” mean? In the stories I have read on Epstein, I don’t think I have seen even the accusation that he used force to keep women in his “harem.” What is described sounds like prostitution—he had lots of money and used it to reward young women with money and other desiderata in exchange for sleeping with him and his friends.

            Am I missing something?

          • If we are talking of 14 years old, yes, but at 17 years old you’re relying on a technicality that varies between jurisdictions.

            And at 14 you are relying on a rule that varies across time and space.

            In 1880, the age of consent was set at 10 or 12 in most states, with the exception of Delaware where it was 7.[2] … . The final state to raise its age of general consent was Hawaii, which changed it from 14 to 16 in 2001.

            (Wikipedia)

            In Jewish religious law it was (with some complications) twelve and a half.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            And at 14 you are relying on a rule that varies across time and space.

            True, but the higher the cultural distance, the more alien the moral norms become. While it is in some cases justifiable to reject moral norms of the past (e.g. w.r.t. slavery), it seems quite disingenuous for people at MIT, in Massachusetts, where the age of consent is 16, to condemn certain alleged acts as “child sexual assault” just because they supposedly happened in a jurisdiction where the age of consent is 18.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Worth noting that while age for sex is 16, most locations have a different age for sex work (usually 18). While I wouldn’t go as far as to yell assault and ask for jail time, I actually think that’s a pretty good idea: it’s easier to convince a 16 yo than an 18 yo that she should drop out of school for what’s comparatively little money, but may seem a lot to her. This kind of decision might even significantly lower her lifetime earnings.

            I’m not talking about Epstein here. I’m mostly thinking about small town girl meets small town pimp, and she doesn’t go to college anymore.

            It’s also worth noting that I’m not protesting on moral grounds but on plain utilitarian ones. Minors should be protected from obviously bad choices.

      • Eponymous says:

        I won’t comment on what he said for fear of being personally destroyed the same way RMS was.

        Here, I’ll help you out: anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see that RMS’s point is entirely reasonable, logical, and well-stated, and certainly not something someone should suffer any negative consequences for saying in a halfway functional civilization.

        Since my view of the sort of people pushing him out is unkind, I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader.

      • BBA says:

        I didn’t want to address the specifics of what RMS said, both because I don’t consider them relevant (they were the final straw in a long history of bad behavior) and because my personal proximity to it makes it hard for me to discuss rationally. But the others in this thread have so thoroughly missed the point that I have no choice.

        Marvin Minsky was a child molester. That’s all he was. That’s all he’s ever been. That’s all he should ever be remembered as.

        This is not something that can be explained or defended. He was an evil man. I met him, took a course from him, and didn’t recognize him for what he was, to my eternal shame.

        (Yes, I’m aware of what Greg Benford said happened. But why should I believe a man who admittedly attended an Epstein party where underage prostitutes were present? How do I know he’s not just trying to save his own skin?)

        • Marvin Minsky was a child molester.

          You have told us, with great confidence, what you believe. But unless you are prepared to tell us why you believe it, there is little reason for the rest of us to take the claim seriously.

          It could be true. Equally well, it could mean that you dislike Minsky for some unrelated reason and so are inclined believe negative things about him.

          That’s all he was. That’s all he’s ever been.

          Obviously false.

          And that, and your response to the fact that an eye witness denies what you believe happened, gives further reason not to take your rant seriously.

          But why should I believe a man who admittedly attended an Epstein party where underage prostitutes were present?

          Do you think the invitation described it that way? That the prostitutes had name tags giving their age?

          • Machine Interface says:

            Then why did you go ahead and post what you knew to be a bad explanation that wouldn’t be understood?

          • albatross11 says:

            BBA:

            From the story as I’ve understood it, your description of Minsky here doesn’t make much sense to me.

            Would you continue believing that if (say) video showed up where he asked the girl her age and she said “I turned 18 last week?” Does your definition of “child molester” include “Once had sex with an underaged prostitute whom he thought was of age?”

          • BBA says:

            @MI: Because not everyone here thinks like Dr. Friedman does.

            @albatross: I have to be a moral absolutist. If I admit there are complexities, that makes me that much more complicit. You weren’t at the Media Lab. I was.

            The detail that matters most in my mind is that Minsky continued his affiliation with Epstein for over ten years after his encounter with Giuffre, including after Epstein’s 2008 arrest. He had to have known what kind of man Epstein was, and I find it much more likely that he was an active participant than that he simply didn’t care.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I have to be a moral absolutist. If I admit there are complexities, that makes me that much more complicit.

            Ow my Poe’s Law

          • Lillian says:

            I find it much more likely that he was an active participant than that he simply didn’t care

            Why? People not caring about evil are far more common than people actively participating in it. From base rates the default assumption should be that he didn’t care. That’s assuming he knew, which isn’t even a given. Though frankly you seem to have been caught up in some kind of moral horror at the fact that evil men cannot be recognised merely by looking at them, and are dealing with it by adopting an attitude of maximum detestation towards anyone who might be tainted by wicked deeds.

            You do you, but the fact of the matter is that casting condemnation on all who stand accused isn’t actually going to make you any better at detecting malice. I’m willing to bet that if I introduced you to Hitler and Stalin with their hair done differently and their moustaches shaved off you’d come away with a positive impression about my very charismatic friends. So would pretty much anyone else, bad men do not in fact go around wearing pants with the word Evil on them.

        • souleater says:

          Marvin Minsky was a child molester. That’s all he was. That’s all he’s ever been. That’s all he should ever be remembered as.

          This is not something that can be explained or defended. He was an evil man. I met him, took a course from him, and didn’t recognize him for what he was, to my eternal shame.

          Are we talking about the same thing? Maybe I don’t have a full understanding of the facts involved. I though the allegation was that he had consensual sex with a girl he thought was of the age of majority.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            I though the allegation was that he had consensual sex with a girl he thought was of the age of majority.

            Not even that.

            The girl in question says she was instructed to have sex with Minsky, but she glosses over whether they actually had sex, and there is one eyewitness who claims that Minsky refused her.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          Marvin Minsky was a child molester. That’s all he was. That’s all he’s ever been. That’s all he should ever be remembered as.

          Untrue, unkind and unnecessary.

          I don’t think I’ve ever reported a comment on SSC before, I’m not a fan of speech policing, but this behavior of yours is straight up provocation.

          Dragging the name of men greater than you through the dirt is not going to make any issue you have in your life any better, and does not foster productive discussions here.

        • Enkidum says:

          Adults who knowingly have sex with children (and teenagers) are morally wrong (let’s just take this as given, I have no desire to argue about it).

          Epstein was a moral monster who ran a ring of underage prostitutes.

          People should have known this about him decades ago, certainly after 2008.

          Anyone who continued to associate with him after they knew this was morally wrong.

          You are understandably upset because you have been lied to by some people who, at best, knew what Epstein was and didn’t care, and abetted him in his quest to launder his reputation.

          You don’t have a damn clue what Minsky knew or did.

          You are allowing your emotions to get the better of your thoughts. This is understandable, but still a mistake (in this case, not in all of them).

          All of the above, so far as I can tell, are true.

    • Dino says:

      I met RMS back in the mid-60s thru the MIT Folk Dance Club. (Here’s an image to haunt your nightmares – RMS on stage dancing the Tarantella in full costume.) I never interacted with him but saw him regularly at dances. He was creepy (in the “hitting on young women” sense) and a weirdo, but the more salient and precise word I would use is “crank”. Using the heuristic of “consider the source”, I discounted his opinions about things, including about what software the club should use when they transitioned away from using cassette tapes. The club went with software built on top of Microsoft Winamp, which was the correct choice – ITunes and *nix based solutions were years in the future back then. This was anathema to RMS, we never saw him again, and there was great rejoicing. I was not into computers back then and didn’t know much about that side of him. Decades later I got into computers, started my career in software and learned about Emacs and FSF and GNU. I was puzzled that people took his opinions about the economics of the software industry seriously – “haven’t you met him?”, “consider the source”. Eventually I realized they hadn’t met him, and “consider the source” meant source=”awesome coder” rather source=”crank”. Now taking his ideas seriously, I was skeptical that “awesome coder” means special insight into the economics of the software industry. But because I’m a socialist, I found I agreed with some of what he said. I disagree that software is somehow so special it deserves being socialized and other things don’t.

      Now he has no job, no family, no community to support him, and I expect he’ll be dead or in jail within five years’ time.

      I don’t think so – I predict he’ll do just fine. He can always make very big bucks doing *nix consulting work, lots of companies would pay for his skills. And lots of companies don’t care about being or appearing “evil”.

      he point is that over the course of his life he made a lot of very important work, to no other end but to improve the world by doing what he considered good and necessary. That, in my opinion, commands respect regardless of whether we agree with his views, and regardless of whether we would want to be his personal friends, and regardless of whether we would want to personally collaborate with him on some project.

      The age old issue of separating the man from his works. (Notice it’s always men.) We are still allowed to enjoy the operas of Wagner, the art of Picasso, the films of Woody Allen, the music of Michael Jackson.

      People quote a 10:1 ratio between the productivity of best and worst developers.

      It’s much bigger than that. I was 10x more productive than some developers I worked with, and there were stars 10x more productive than I was. My estimate is that a 90th percentile coder is 10x better than a 50th percentile, 95th is 10x that, and 99th 10x more again. Very non-linear at the top end, and >1000x between top and bottom.

      The rest of the story – the software for the folk dance club (written by Neal Rosen) was quite good and is still being used today many decades later. I recently found out it’s now also being used by other folk dance clubs. Freely sharing software – what a great idea! Neal likes penguins, so he included a penguin image in the UI – not the same one as the Linux penguin.

      • Viliam says:

        I disagree that software is somehow so special it deserves being socialized and other things don’t.

        The argument, if I understand it correctly, is that a piece of software can be copied to everyone for almost zero cost. And having your piece copied doesn’t make you lose it. These are the properties that most other things don’t have.

        Also, not sure if by “socialized” you mean “share voluntarily” or “taken by force”. In the free software movement, the former is usually meant. It’s about volunteers creating and providing GIMP for free, rather than about pirating Photoshop.

        In socialism, it’s usually the latter. Not how workers should build their own factories, but how they should take over the existing ones. Of course, when there is nothing more to take over, new factories have to be built, but that is never the first option. (Big respect to the exceptions, such as the workers at Mondragon.)

        • ana53294 says:

          Big respect to the exceptions, such as the workers at Mondragon.

          I don’t think it’s fair to call Mondragon socialist in that sense. Workers in it are capitalist, as they own shares they have to pay money for (usually by taking a loan). Not all workers of the company own shares. And it was started by a Catholic priest, not even one of those liberation doctrine types, although very social justice aligned (in the help the poor sense).

          They even get criticised by Chomsky for exploiting South American workers.

        • Also, not sure if by “socialized” you mean “share voluntarily” or “taken by force”.

          There are three relevant categories, not two:

          1. Private property. How we treat most stuff, including protected I.P.

          2. Government property. What the means of production are in a state socialist system.

          3. Commons. Not treated as a property at all, free to anyone.

          Stallman’s view is that software should be a commons. His approach to achieving that is to write software and release it without ordinary copyright protection and with source code, but with the requirement that anyone who builds it into future software must leave that similarly open. Variants of that approach seem to have produced a good deal of useful software.

          I think Stallman overstates how strong the arguments for his approach are, but there clearly are arguments for it.

          Most of my published articles and several of my published books are up on my website for free. I don’t think that makes me a socialist.

  9. broblawsky says:

    How personally responsible was Winston Churchill for the failure of the Allied invasion at Gallipoli in 1915?

    • AlesZiegler says:

      My understanding is that whole idea to conquer The Straits (Dardanelles and Bosporus) was doomed project from the start, and Churchill was the main guy pushing it, so in that sense his responsibility is undeniable.

      On the other hand, while ex post it was clearly a mistake, ex ante it wasn’t a stupid idea. Based on unimpressive performance of Ottoman army in First Balkan War (1912) it seemed reasonable to expect that they a weak link among Central Powers and that they are going to fold under pressure. They did not, unfortunately for the Entente.

      • Wency says:

        The idea of Britain using its command of the sea to direct force towards enemy vulnerabilities was certainly a good direction to explore. I think attempting Gallipoli, even if it was very risky or even borderline moronic, was still smarter than putting all resources into the Western Front meat grinder.

        Like many failures at the top, Gallipoli was a failure of intelligence. Worth noting that some on the British side thought the sight of British ships in Constantinople harbor would be enough to trigger an anti-war coup. I guess this sounds preposterous. Then again, Russia’s government was toppled (twice), arguably with less threat to the Russian heartland.

        But maybe the biggest intelligence failure was ignoring the role of German assistance from 1912-1915, particularly critical in improving the strait fortifications, but also the role of German officers in improving command and control throughout the campaign. The British thought they were still fighting the Ottoman Empire of 1912 and seem not to have thought critically about what difference Germany might have made.

        Then again, whatever their estimates for German assistance, the idea of using the fleet to open the straits to shipping, without any meaningful land support (I think this was Churchill’s original idea) also sounds preposterous. It doesn’t take much to seriously harass shipping that’s in sight of hostile land on both sides. So blame Churchill for kicking off that idea.

        McMeekin argued that the British should have attacked Alexandretta, a more vulnerable position, which would have cut the Ottoman realm into north and south and allowed for collaboration with the rebelling Armenians. This makes sense to me and could easily have been recognized ex ante. A maritime power like Britain needs to operate with local assistance whenever possible, especially when fighting a diverse power with large numbers of disaffected minorities. My understanding is that Alexandretta was dismissed for political concerns (French objections). Something tells me if Churchill had loved this idea, he could have overcome those concerns.

    • cassander says:

      It was his idea, so in some sense all of it. But it was mucked up on the ground by the local commanders who he didn’t get to choose and who largely ignored his orders to be more aggressive, so in some sense none of it. So definitely somewhere between all and none!

      • FLWAB says:

        Would being more aggressive have likely resulted in victory or less casualties?

        • EchoChaos says:

          Many historians (although not all) think so. The initial Turkish waves were badly bloodied and holding the high ground against the initial assaults was a very narrow thing for them. Overall casualties were surprisingly even despite massive Turkish superiority in terrain, so had the Allied forces taken that ground, the Turks would not likely have been able to win on even ground.

        • cassander says:

          Had the naval campaign been pushed more aggressively in the early days of the effort, very likely. The land campaign is more tricky. as echochaos notes.

        • AlesZiegler says:

          @EchoChaos

          I am a huge First World War nerd, so you get my half informed ramblings on any subject connected to it.

          EC is absolutely right that Allies did a lot of bungling during Gallipoli campaign. My assessment that it was doomed enterprise from a start takes quality of Allied mid-level command as endogenous. Amphibious operation of this kind was totally unprecedented, so mistakes were almost inevitable. But if Allied officers would be better, it is indeed possible that outcome would be different.

          Churchill however was not responsible for ground operations. He was First Lord of the Admiralty, i.e. cabinet minister responsible for the Royal Navy. Before ground operations commenced, Allied warships tried to get through Dardanelles against heavy opposition from coastal guns and from mines. They suffered heavy losses and ground operation was a response to their failure. Churchill claims in books he wrote after the war that purely naval push should have continued, since Ottomans were on a verge collapse. That is not supported by current historiographic mainstream, as far as I know. Here is an interesting (if you are into this sort of thing) lecture on the subject.

        • Protagoras says:

          In WWI generally, “all we have to do is break through here, and it will be easy going after that!” was frequently believed, but when the breakthrough happened it almost never worked out. Almost never /= never, of course, and maybe the circumstances EchoChaos mentioned would indeed have made Gallipoli one of the exceptions. But I tend to suspect it’s more likely that a more aggressive Allied effort would only have gotten a few more miles before stalling out, just because that was so much more typical of WWI warfare.

  10. Aqua says:

    Someone recently added ssc ads to uBlock origin (shame!), so if you want to support our host and associates, you should whitelist the site

    • Plumber says:

      And how do you “whitelist”” something, and what for?

      • broblawsky says:

        If you’re using an Adblocker extension to your browser, you usually just click on the icon for the extension and press a button to allow ads on that website. If you’re not using an Adblocker extension, don’t worry about it.

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      That’s what the blocklists are for. People who use them know exactly what they’re getting. I didn’t see this change and it doesn’t affect me, because I already meticulously removed every element from SSC that wasn’t bringing joy to my life. I suggest everyone do the same on sites they frequent.

  11. Joseph Greenwood says:

    Epistemic status: I don’t actually know what I’m talking about.

    This last Saturday, on September 15 of 2019, Iran appears to have launched a drone strike against Saudi Arabia’s main oil refinery. This maneuver forces the United States to answer a difficult question: how should it respond?

    On the one hand, the attack was not directed against the United States or any US asset. In fact, damage to Saudi refineries is comparative advantage to US shale oil, so in the short run US companies are benefited by this behavior (even if gas prices might go up a bit for consumers).

    On the other hand, the US is the de facto security guarantor for the an anti-Iranian alliance that spans the middle east, and Saudi Arabia is a pivotal player in that alliance. If the US does not defend the interests and security of this alliance against Iran, it may well fall apart, which would solidify Iran’s grip on the region and possibly (depending on how the dominoes fall) allow it to push towards a regional hegemony. Furthermore, the United States has enemies and rivals in other areas who could well be emboldened to move against US allies and further erode the Pax Americana that the current (rapidly adjusting) world order is built on.

    On the gripping hand, it’s not clear what the United States can do in this circumstance. A ground invasion could be won in approximately the same sense that the United States won in Iraq and Afghanistan. A blockade would risk US ships (which are getting quite expensive) and which might not force Iran to back down (in which case the US can de-escalate, leave its resources committed indefinitely, or escalate, none of which are attractive options). A limited strike against military targets is possible, but the likelihood of collateral damage is high and there is a lot of uncertainty (I’d think–more knowledgeable commenters may disagree) about how effectively this would cripple Iran’s military in any case.

    So, my question to the SSC Commentariat is this: what *should* the United States of America do in this situation?

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      Nuke Iran, it’s the only logical thing.

      Suppose the US does nothing, which somehow causes the Saudis and allies to self-destruct and leaves Iran being all hemegonous. Why would that be bad?

      • Statismagician says:

        It’s never been super clear to me why we don’t like Iran, specifically, as opposed to the vastly more vicious and unstable other ostentatiously Islamic regime in the area that we’re apparently best buds with. Just leftover resentment from the whole Embassy thing? Higher political yuck-factor from theocracy than absolute monarchy?

        • WarOnReasons says:

          Iranian government is organizing terrorist attacks all across the globe (like the bombing in Argentina which killed close to one hundred people). It funds and arms Hamas and Hezbollah. It threatens to erase another country of the map. It regularly organizes mass demonstrations under the slogan “Death to America”. There is a lot that goes beyond the “yuck-factor”.

          • Statismagician says:

            Right, but our dear friends the Saudis are just as, if not more in the ‘supporting

          • Machine Interface says:

            Iranian government is organizing terrorist attacks all across the globe (like the bombing in Argentina which killed close to one hundred people).

            This is not serious. Saudi, UAE and Qatari-back terrorists kill hundreds of people every year. The single most devastating terror attacks that occured in the US, France, Spain, Belgium and others were all the doing of Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other wahabi groups. In all the history of Islamic terrorism in the US, there hasn’t been a single attack linked even remotedly to Iran.

          • Ketil says:

            Right, but our dear friends the Saudis are just as, if not more in the ‘supporting

            I don’t think this is entirely true.

            Iran is actively supporting the destruction of Israel through Hezbollah (who are stocking up on Iranian missiles on the Lebanese border) and the Houthi rebels (who actually have “death to Israel and curse the jews” in their slogan)

            I think most terror in Western countries (“global”) is by ISIS supporters and the like, and probably not supported by either regime. Although there may be connections to wahabi and salafi faiths, which are supported by Saudis.

            Edit: what Machine Interface says. Very few if any shi’ite terrorists, except attacks against Israel.

      • WarOnReasons says:

        Are there many historic examples when an aggressive regime conquered its neighbors and then decided it is no longer interested in further expansion?

        • EchoChaos says:

          The United States?

          • a definitive maybe says:

            I know it sounds like a joke, but I very much believe that having a nice, even 50 states is a significant part of why the US stopped expanding, just as it was a significant part of obtaining alaska and hawaii.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @a definitive maybe

            No, the last imperial action of the United States was fifty years or more before the statehood of Alaska and Hawaii. The Spanish-American War was definitely imperial, although we gave up the most valuable piece (Cuba) right away and the rest somewhat slower.

            Before that, we were clearly imperial, sweeping across the continent in Manifest Destiny and taking huge chunks from weaker neighbors. After that, although we kept intervening in Latin America, we never were interested in any territory.

            48 states fits into an elegant square on the flag and made sense too. The reason we stopped at 50 is that new places stopped making sense since they were either too small (Guam, Virgin Islands) or Spanish (Puerto Rico).

        • Protagoras says:

          Whether “decided they were no longer interested” is the right way to describe it or not, the most common (not the only, but the most common) pattern of historical conquering nations was to have a short period of lots of conquests followed by very little if any additional conquering.

    • souleater says:

      I think the US should assist the Saudi’s from a logistical standpoint, but not intervene militarily.

      Getting involved in a major conflict with Iran would immediately be a conflict point between Trump and the democratic candidates. I think it would doom his campaign. After which, the new president would have a mandate to end the war quickly, and I suspect it will be ended on unfavorable terms.

      We are now an oil exporting nation, and have no economic benefit to force peace in the middle east, and will likely benefit from raising oil prices.

      This conflict has a good chance to expand quickly and out of proportion

      While I understand we have a long standing favored nation status, I don’t particularly like the Saudis.

      Higher oil prices is probably good from an environmental perspective.

      • broblawsky says:

        Yeah, this seems like the best bet. Iran isn’t our ally, but the Saudis are pretty bad allies, and they’re prosecuting an increasingly aggressive foreign policy backed by the certainty of American support. The burden of proof should be on the Saudis that the US needs to intervene.

    • John Schilling says:

      It’s possible, even likely, that the attack was carried out by the Houthi faction in Yemen’s civil war. They have their own well-founded grievance with the House of Saud, and they have been expressing that grievance by conducting missile strikes deep into Saudi territory for a couple of years now. But those blast points are too accurate for sand people, at least using their traditional weaponry, so if it was them it was possible only because someone decided to give them roughly Predator-equivalent drones in place of their 1960s-style ballistic missiles. And, yeah, Iran knew what was going to happen when they did that. Or maybe they actually did launch the drone from Iranian territory, to hell with deniability.

      What “The United States of America” should do in this situation, is to apologize to Iran for falsely accusing them of violating the 2015 accord and imposing a nigh-global trade embargo for no good reason, and ask if they’d be up for status quo ante. But doing that any time between now and 2021 at the earliest, would be perceived as a humiliating embarrassment by the sitting POTUS, so it is unlikely that the United States is going to do this. If we need a solution that can be implemented by the United States before 2021, stops these sorts of attacks, and preserves POTUS-45’s ego, we’re basically going to have to go to war with Iran.

      Alternately, the European Union could pretty quickly negotiate and end to this by promising to turn the global trade embargo into “yeah, the US was never going to trade with you anyway, so let’s the rest of us just leave them out of it”. But that would mean putting on their big-boy pants and not being America’s Bitches any more, and if two and a half years of Trump haven’t prompted them to do this across the board, I’m not optimistic.

      • broblawsky says:

        What “The United States of America” should do in this situation, is to apologize to Iran for falsely accusing them of violating the 2015 accord and imposing a nigh-global trade embargo for no good reason, and ask if they’d be up for status quo ante. But doing that any time between now and 2021 at the earliest, would be perceived as a humiliating embarrassment by the sitting POTUS, so it is unlikely that the United States is going to do this. If we need a solution that can be implemented by the United States before 2021, stops these sorts of attacks, and preserves POTUS-45’s ego, we’re basically going to have to go to war with Iran.

        Here’s the thing: I suspect that Trump will do nothing, or at least stick to sanctions. If I could legally bet money on there not being a war with Iran before 2021, I’d do it.

        • John Schilling says:

          Likewise, or possibly some very token military response. Which means we’ll be getting more of these provocations from Iran or Iran’s proxies through 2021 at least, because Iran either needs someone powerful to decide that the sanctions are more trouble than they are worth, or they need an external enemy for their economically suffering population to unite against.

        • If the US is now a net oil exporter, one obvious response is to retaliate by blowing up some Iranian wells and/or refineries. That hurts the Iranians, helps us, helps the Saudis by raising the price at which they can sell their remaining capacity. Not so good for all our allies who are net importers, and somehow I can’t see our getting thanked by Norway. Or Venezuela.

          If oil facilities are as vulnerable as this incident suggests, I wonder if the threat of retaliation isn’t the reason this sort of attack is uncommon in the Iran/Saudi conflict.

          • John Schilling says:

            If the US is now a net oil exporter, one obvious response is to retaliate by blowing up some Iranian wells and/or refineries. That hurts the Iranians,

            Not really. US policy since May 2018 is that Iran isn’t ever allowed to export any oil to anyone anywhere for any reason. The US has been less than perfectly efficient in implementing that policy, but enough of the major oil-using and trade-facilitating nations are in full-on America’s Bitch mode that about 40% of Iran’s oil production capacity has been offline for over a year for lack of customers (and now seizure of tankers).

            Blowing up a few idle wells and refineries doesn’t hurt Iran, at least in the short term, and probably helps them on the political front. It also reduces the potential gain for Iran in ever negotiating a new agreement to reopen trade. Blowing up most of Iran’s wells and refineries would hurt, by cutting into their domestic fuel supplies, but at that point we’re in full-scale war territory.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Iran is probably behind them with new technology, but it’s definitely not a new development. There’s some speculation that they’re even making some pretty decent new stuff themselves.

      • Ketil says:

        It’s possible, even likely, that the attack was carried out by the Houthi faction in Yemen’s civil war.

        My initial thought, too. An Iranian attack would be a very high risk of war, and one which Saudi-Arabia might not be able to win on its own, but one the US can’t afford to let them lose.

        But now US and SA officials claim it was launched from Iran? Is this another case of WMDs in Iraq, and if so, does US or SA actually want an all out war? I would think they would rather go along with the narrative of rebels south of the border to avoid it. Any evidence yet?

        If it did indeed enter from Yemen, it could be rebels having gotten access to Iranian weaponry (which doesn’t surprise anybody, it’s kind of a proxy war already). It could be Iranian operatives testing out new toys in an actual war setting. Or it could maybe be Hezbollah operatives wanting to test out their new toys from Iran, to see how American-made air defense deals with them, before a major attack on another country in the region.

        • John Schilling says:

          If it did indeed enter from Yemen, it could be rebels having gotten access to Iranian weaponry

          Rebels in Yemen don’t “get access” to Iranian Predator-oids; it’s on Iran to decide to give them such weapons (or not). And as such Iran takes a share of the responsibility for what said rebels will very predictably do with those weapons. Iran knows this, Iran knows that everybody else knows this, QED Iran wanted this. Maybe not “The Abqaiq and Khurais oil refineries, on September 14” this, but generically this.

          • albatross11 says:

            The same statement, of course, applies to US weapons used by the Saudis against Houthis in Yemen.

          • John Schilling says:

            Yes, absolutely. The United States has for some time been using Saudi Arabia as a proxy to block the expansion of whatever we are calling the Persian Empire this century, and even though the “blocking” predictably involves bombing people who are just trying to defend their homes and families and can’t find any better ally than an opportunistic Tehran to help them.

            That might be justifiable, depending on e.g. how much harm an opportunistically expansive Persian Empire is likely to cause, but it is what we have been doing.

          • Eponymous says:

            whatever we are calling the Persian Empire this century

            Meh, I don’t think this historical analogy is useful. The Persian Empire was not motivated by defending their coreligionists, which seems the primary motivation for the IRI.

          • Ketil says:

            Rebels in Yemen don’t “get access” to Iranian Predator-oids; it’s on Iran to decide to give them such weapons (or not)

            Yes, obviously. Well, for all I know there could be other routes, e.g. Iran could give them to Hezbollah to use against certain people, and Hezbolla could pass them on to friends in Yemen. But Iran supplies the Houthi, well aware.

            Still I think it makes a difference. The US could supply Mujahedeen with Stingers, and the Soviets could only gnash their teeth. If the US had shot downed a Hind with a missile from a ship or otherwise directly attacked the Soviet miliatry, things would be different.

      • Incurian says:

        apologize to Iran for falsely accusing them of violating the 2015 accord

        @John Schilling:
        Did they not? I’ve been out of the loop for a while, and I value your opinion on such things.

        • Aftagley says:

          Iran did not violate the 2015 accord.

          The deal focused solely on Iran’s stockpile of nuclear material and all available evidence indicates that Iran was complying. Trump decertified Iran because he didn’t like other aspects of their (incredibly destabilizing) foreign policy.

          • albatross11 says:

            Note that this kind of action, like our “kinetic humanitarian intervention” in Libya, teaches a lesson to the next ten potential rogue states that making a deal with the US is a really bad idea–we’ll turn on you when it’s convenient for us.

            Once again, it would have been cheaper and easier all around if we’d just taken out full-page ads in all the world’s newspapers, imploring dictators of rogue states to get nukes as quickly as possible.

          • FLWAB says:

            Note that this kind of action, like our “kinetic humanitarian intervention” in Libya, teaches a lesson to the next ten potential rogue states that making a deal with the US is a really bad idea–we’ll turn on you when it’s convenient for us.

            The Iran deal was never legally binding because Congress never passed it. Obama made it on his own presidential authority as a political commitment that “imposes no obligation under international law,” “incurs no state responsibility for its violation,” and which “a successor President is not bound by a previous President’s political commitment under either domestic or international law and can thus legally disregard it at will.”

            So the real lesson is that talk is cheap, but don’t trust that the president’s word will hold when there is a new president in office.

        • John Schilling says:

          What Aftagley says. Obama did not have the global clout to force Iran into a “do everything the US wants in all matters” deal, and had to settle for a “don’t enrich uranium outside of very strict and strictly-monitored limits, and don’t otherwise pursue the development of nuclear weapons” deal. It is impossible to prove a negative, but there is no significant evidence that Iran was violating the actual terms of this deal. Trump “decertified” them, which constitutes accusing them of violating the deal, apparently because he wanted to and thought he could then get credit for negotiating an “Iran does everything the US wants in all matters” deal, because he wrote the book on making great deals.

          Instead, Iran spend about six months trying to convince the other parties to hold up their end of the deal ignoring the US, which they wanted to but couldn’t because no big-boy pants to be found in Europe, and Iran is now simply not bound by any deal. Last time I checked, Trump was floating the possibility of “Maybe if we ‘loan’ Iran fifteen billion dollars they’ll accept a deal”, which will probably work if the deal is the not-enriching-uranium one rather than the do-everything-America-wants one. But the talk along those lines is apparently too vague to justify a cease-fire on Iran’s part.

    • b4mgh says:

      Consider the epistemic status of this reply to be the same as that of your post.

      First, what are the best and worst realistically possible outcomes? The best seems to be a resolution that does not incur a loss of life or infrastructure to anyone involved, a healthier relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia, and a less confrontational relationship between the US and Iran. The worst is significant loss of life and infrastructure for everyone involved, the destruction of the Iranian central government leading to the failed establishment of a US-backed puppet regime that’s constantly under attack by internal and external actors (state and non-state), and a significant loss of political capital for the US.

      What are the tools available to the US? Diplomacy, economic pressure, covert military action, and overt military action. They certainly aren’t mutually exclusive, and in fact cannot be used in a vacuum. Naturally the best possible scenario would require the use of diplomacy and preclude the military action.

      what *should* the United States of America do in this situation?

      The first and crucial step is to determine with certainty that Iran is behind the attacks. Intelligence collection and analysis can only achieve a certain level of certainty (unless the Iranians come forward with evidence and an admission), so this would be hard. Assuming they did it, why did they do it? And if it wasn’t Iran, why did this third party do it? Unless that can be determined, it’s possible that the American reaction end up being exactly what the attackers were hoping for. So, first things first: who did it and why.

      My understanding of the politics of the region is deficient enough that I’m not willing to speculate on who else might have done, and why it was done, so I’m skipping that part.

      Diplomatically, the only thing the US has to offer is a re-establishment of the nuclear deal, so it has a carrot but no stick. Economically, I suppose it could tighter sanctions, which only work if every other country stands with the US on the issue (either ideologically or out of self-interest), and I don’t know if that would happen.

      A ground invasion could be won in approximately the same sense that the United States won in Iraq and Afghanistan.

      That’s definitely not a good sense, unless you’re talking to contractors. Iran is larger than Iraq and Afghanistan put together. It is more populous than those two countries combined. It is significantly more mountainous than Iraq. Afghanistan was a culturally and technologically backwards country ruled by a theocracy which never had complete control of the territory, and was recognized by the international community as a haven for religious extremist militants. I know less about pre-invasion Iraq, but I’m not sure that it had recovered completely from the 1990 gulf war, and I think that their military might have gone through a purge. What I mean to say is that an invasion of Iran would, to put it lightly, not go well. Sending SOF in country to do SOF stuff sounds a lot more likely and less risky, although rescuing a captured Navy SEAL would make for good justification for more overt action.

      What then should the United States do? Well, considering all the previously mentioned caveats, and my lack of skin in the game, I’m gonna go with “send thoughts and prayers to the Saudis.”

      Also, I couldn’t work that in anywhere, but it’s entirely possible that Russia would take this opportunity to do something. I don’t know what exactly, or for what end, but something.

    • Enkidum says:

      I think I agree with the general thrust of the comments.

      Basically, Obama’s pivot towards Iran was a Good Thing. The regime is not a great one in many respects, but it is orders of magnitude better than the Saudis. So hang the Saudis out to dry.

      I realize that oil and money are somehow incredibly important here, and the Saudis have a lot of both, but I just can’t see why it’s that critical that we continue to allow the Saudis free reign to engage in brutal wars and export appalling religious philosophies that led directly to 9-11, among other things.

      My epistemic status is similar as well, I suppose.

      • Clutzy says:

        I have to disagree with you on the Saudi/Iranian leadership evaluation. The Saudi regime is much better than the Iranian regime. I base a significant portion of this evaluation on my evaluation of Iranian people as, generally, much better than Saudis based on culture, history, immigrants, etc. Thus, it stands to reason that if the overall outcome is even close, Iranian leadership is significantly worse. In your words, an order of magnitude worse.

        The second part on religion is probably a pox on both their houses thing, but I suppose the best bet for the US is to keep SA and Iran in a constant “civil war” so as to postpone a replay of Islamic expansionism into the West as happened in Mohammed’s time. If there is a relative stalemate going on, that means supporting SA seems to be correct, as we would assume Iran would be the victor if we pulled out.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          Thus, it stands to reason that if the overall outcome is even close, Iranian leadership is significantly worse.

          I can think of two rather large confounding factors. One begins with “oi” and the other ends with “oreign policy of the US”.

        • ana53294 says:

          Thus, it stands to reason that if the overall outcome is even close, Iranian leadership is significantly worse. In your words, an order of magnitude worse.

          I mostly agree with your assessment of Iranians; the ones I met, at least, were more liberal and educated than their Saudi counterparts.

          But in a lot of matters, Iran is, or would be, much less awful (at least now; directly after the revolution it was worse) than Saudi Arabia, if there were no sanctions against them that cripple their whole economy. They are much better in regards to women’s liberty, a matter I consider very important, for example. They also allow elections. And sanctions have a lot to do with the state of the Iranian economy.

          Iran is also better when it comes to religion; there are Christian churches there, for example.

          In which ways is Iran equally awful to Saudi Arabia? Except for their war on America (which is reciprocated, mind), in what way are they as awful?

    • Tenacious D says:

      Ostensibly the strike was launched from Yemen. The civil war there has gone on for long enough. In addition to all of the human suffering, it’s a destabilizing influence in all kinds of ways (e.g. giving bad actors a chance to gain combat experience). And for all of their (at best) malignant negligence at avoiding collateral damage, KSA-aligned forces don’t seem to be gaining any ground. Letting the situation fester isn’t in American interests and this escalation provides a chance to call for action. Putting boots on the ground (officially) would likely be deeply unpopular as it would come with all the worst aspects of the war in Afghanistan. So call for a UN peacekeeping mission to stabilize the country (probably accompanied by a negotiated ceasefire locking in the status quo lines of control). It probably won’t happen–but making the UN look irrelevant would count as a diplomatic win to the White House, I think, so the BATNA is okay–but making such a call is a way to “do something” that’s not likely to start the biggest war in the region in decades.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Depends on how the Saudis want to proceed. The status quo is perfectly acceptable, as long as you can get the Saudis to up their air defenses. Iran is playing a game of escalation to try to break sanctions, but they are playing a dangerous game. At a certain point other nations are just going to get fed up with their garbage and Iran is going to turn into a pariah state. At that point they might try to double-down on their nuclear program, but that’s only going to amp up the pressure even more.

    • Eponymous says:

      This last Saturday, on September 15 of 2019, Iran appears to have launched a drone strike against Saudi Arabia’s main oil refinery. This maneuver forces the United States to answer a difficult question: how should it respond?

      Launch a cruise missile attack that wipes out half of Iran’s oil refining capacity. When Iran complains, tell them it was a drone attack by Syrian rebels. Definitely not us.

    • WarOnReasons says:

      what *should* the United States of America do in this situation?

      Given the current political environment in the US, *should* and *could* options may not overlap. Following the trauma of the Iraqi debacle, the public is very averse to anything that seems to carry a risk of escalation. So some options (like bombing the Iranian nuclear facilities) would not be on the table regardless of their strategic merits.

    • BBA says:

      The US should do absolutely nothing, except to consider closing its overseas military bases and advising its “allies” in the region to take care of themselves. They’re big boy countries, they can handle it.

  12. Dgalaxy43 says:

    Having trouble coming up with an open thread topic, so i’ll just say this:
    Was talking about esoteric religious facts a few weeks ago and the other person turned me towards Unsong. I haven’t been glued to a book in a long time, but Unsong had my constant attention. Naturally after i finished it I came here. Scott has an amazing way of writing that manages to be both informative and compelling. Extremely glad I found this place, and excited to keep reading. What are some essential SSC posts outside of the top 10?

  13. DragonMilk says:

    In era of replication crises, at least we can have excellent shitty experiments.

    • AG says:

      I dunno, has Kiwami Japan taken on the challenge yet? He’s made functional knives from pasta, milk, and gelatin before.

      (Although cutting a cucumber is much easier than slaying a dog, I guess.)

      • DragonMilk says:

        True, blacksmiths are trained. It may not be trivial to craft a proper knife. I suspect the researchers are inexperienced at proper forging techniques.

        More study is needed!

        • jermo sapiens says:

          Different diets need to be tried. Maybe the guy was eating too much corn.

          • Kuiperdolin says:

            An argument for extreme iron supplementation.

          • nkurz says:

            Maybe I’m missing an inside joke, but part of what makes it a beautiful paper is that the the authors controlled for that:

            “In order to procure the necessary raw materials for knife production, one of us (M.I.E.) went on a diet with high protein and fatty acids, which is consistent with an arctic diet, for eight days (Binford, 2012; Fumagalli et al., 2015) (Table S1).”

          • jermo sapiens says:

            lol ok I hadnt actually read the paper. maybe 8 days is not enough to change the intestinal flora to optimize for knife production.

    • b_jonas says:

      See previous open thread, where Tenacious D already posted about the same research: “https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/09/11/open-thread-136-25/#comment-798188”.

  14. DragonMilk says:

    I have a cooking mini-emergency.

    I had the bright idea of trying to make pulled pork for the first time by buying nearly 4 pounds of pork loin and putting it in the slow cooker (yes, I’m trying to make it more than just a chili-maker once every few months). Added seasoning, no water (google recipe told me water goes out not in and it’s pointless to add more).

    8 hours later, it didn’t pull, so I googled to give it more time. 4 hours later, it partially pulled so I put it on keep warm and went to bed.

    In the morning it was partial pull and looked…ok. Lots and lots of water. Tried a piece…I didn’t know meat could be so dry.

    How do you salvage this? Someone suggested stew but I’ve not made one of those…should I keep using slow cooker to salvage nearly 4 pounds of pork loin before heating?

    • jermo sapiens says:

      I’m not sure how to salvage your pork loin but if you want to make pulled pork you need pork shoulder. It has alot of connective tissue which melts slowly at low temperatures and when the connective tissue is melted all of the meat fibers dont really stick together and that is how you get pulled pork.

      Depending on the size and shape of your piece of meat though you may need to cook it for a very long time. I once decided to make pulled pork for about 20, and the night before I put the meat on the smoker for about 6 hours. The temperature is hard to control on a smoker but I was oscillating between 150 and 300 F. After 6 hours it wasnt ready. I put it in the oven overnight covered with some foil at 200 F and the next morning the house smelled like hickory smoke but the meat was spectacular.

    • FrankistGeorgist says:

      I don’t really believe it can be salvaged, for reasons I’ll expand on below, but my best effort would be:
      Keep cooking it and dry it out in the oven until you create meat floss.
      Mince it spectacularly fine (perhaps even puree it) with lots of flavorings, fat, and filler to make fillings for some kind of dumpling.
      Mince it for homemade dog food.

      The problem is you can’t realistically make pulled pork in a slow cooker from pork loin. The loin is an incredibly lean piece of meat with no connective tissue. Standard supermarket pigs in America at least are also bred to be clean and lean to emulate chicken. Some pork loin is so insipid it’s hard to distinguish from chicken breast. A pork loin responds best either to very quick cooking or very controlled cooking (like in an immersion circulator) and really benefits from brining beforehand to safeguard its already limited juiciness.

      Now it will go stringy eventually. That’s just a function of protein as it cooks. But the thing with slow cooking is that it relies on the breakdown of collagen into gelatin to account for the long cooking time which makes protein, in most cases, tough. This makes slow cooking excellent for the hardworking muscles and joints which have lots of connective tissues. The gelatin which results from slow cooking connective tissue lends a sense of succulence, lubrication, and richness. There’s basically none of that in loin so all you’re doing is cooking the protein.

      As protein cooks it squeezes out moisture within the muscle. A salt brine (wet or dry) beforehand can help counteract this by changing the I think osmotic pressure or something similar.

      So of the various factors in cooking meat, the water, protein, fat, and collagen content all matter in choosing how to cook it. In the absence of fat and collagen, you’re toughening protein and expelling water the longer you cook. This is why floating the resulting mess in a soup isn’t going to change the experience of dryness, because the protein can’t actually take back the water its lost or return the protein strands to their previous state of tenderness.

      Even in the dumpling scenario above I suspect there will be an inescapable sense of grainy-sandy dryness in the puree, as the protein is simply cooked beyond all reason. Nothing’s lubricating it. I don’t actually know what piece of meat is used for meat floss, but I suspect it isn’t loin.

      The good news is if you try again pork shoulder is generally cheaper than loin, by virtue of it requiring longer cooking times to soften (and there’s more shoulder on a pig than loin).

      • DragonMilk says:

        Thanks for the detailed explanation. How do you usually cook loin (or do you generally avoid it)?

        • jgr314 says:

          My wife has had a lot of success with cut thin, marinate, quick run through the broiler in our oven.

          Alternatively, anything you would do with chicken breast. As other commentators have mentioned, they are pretty similar.

        • FrankistGeorgist says:

          My favorite application would be Alton Brown’s Pork Wellington, which I actually prefer to the beef variety because of the natural affinity of pork, butter, apples, and mustard. And it’s cheap enough to make much more often than a full beef and duxelles nonsense.

          I’m a big fan of immersion circulators for cooking lean meats. But it’s a specialty device and the meat will come out looking quite anemic and it underperforms on anything that needs a good crust on it.

          But most commonly I like to cut very thin rounds, toss with oil and lime juice, and sear very very hot in bacon fat with onions until it’s all quite charred. I’ll be honest this is usually a bit overcooked but with some rice it’s a nice little weekday meal because it comes together quickly.

        • littskad says:

          Here’s my favorite way to cook pork loin, learnt from my Oma when I was a kid:
          Take a pound of sauerkraut, drained and rinsed; a small onion, chopped; a tart apple, peeled and chopped; a tablespoon brown sugar; salt; pepper; and caraway seeds (if you like them). Mix them up and put them in the bottom of a casserole. Lay your loin on top and cook, covered, at 350 until the loin reaches a temp of 145. Pull it out, and let it sit, still covered, for 10 minutes or so until you slice it. Serve with potatoes (I like mashed) or spaetzel and a veggie (I usually do carrots or beets).

        • matthewravery says:

          I made this Pork Marbella recipe the other day. (recipe video Plenty for my wife and I with leftovers for 1-3 days. It was actually the tenderest I’ve ever made; I usually grill it with a dry rub.

          I’ll also contradict the above and say that I have successfully done pork loin in the slow cooker. The trick is you have to supply your own liquid, since there’s no juices rendering from the lean meat. I believe there are internet recipes that’ll tell you how to do it with a bottle of rootbeer. Regardless, you shouldn’t bother. Use pork shoulder instead and it’ll taste better.

        • Matt says:

          Pork tenderloin: Marinate or dry rub, then cook it on the grill, flipping often. Take it off just before the internal temperature reaches 145 F. Measure with a meat thermometer. The closer you can get to 145, the better your meat will taste. Go too far over and it’ll be tough and dry.

          I cook tenderloin this way pretty regularly. For pork loin, I guess I would prefer it to be sliced into thick chops, then I would grill it the same way.

    • Phigment says:

      If your primary goal is to turn it into good pulled pork, I don’t have a lot of suggestions.

      Although, I would say that you might be able to get there by even more cooking. The “keep warm” setting on a slow cooker isn’t really hot enough to do much cooking. You need to be at least at low. Put it back on high for another six hours and it might work out OK.

      If your primary goal is to turn it into edible food, making stew is a very solid plan. Stew is simple and almost impossible to completely fail at, if you aren’t a picky eater.

      You’ve already got a bunch of meat more-or-less cooked. Pull it out of the pot, cut or pull it into bite-sized chunks. Put it back in the pot. Get a bag of frozen mixed vegetables. Your local grocery store will sell this. You want peas, carrots, corn, etc. Not, like, a back of broccoli florets. (Although that would be fine if you like mushy broccoli. Throw whatever you like in. That’s the benefit of stew.)

      Throw in some salt, some pepper, and some garlic powder. Maybe a cup of red wine. Enough liquid to almost fill the slow cooker after the solids are in. Slow-cook on high for 4 hours. Check it periodically to stir and taste-test. If it needs more seasoning, throw in more seasoning. If it needs more vegetables, throw in more vegetables, and keep cooking. Add onion. Add peppers. Add potatoes. Keep cooking.

      Never turn this slow cooker off. Just keep cooking it. Stew, like chili, just gets better and better with additional cooking. Just turn it to low, and keep cooking and adding ingredients, and then eat some, and then add more ingredients, and let it keep slow-cooking until the next meal, and so on.

      If you keep cooking it and eating it for a couple days, that’s great. If you go a week, it’ll be even better than when you started. Throw in different meats. Add chicken, or beef, or alligator. Doesn’t matter. As long as you never let it cool, just keep it cooking and add more liquid as needed, it’ll be fine.

      When you finally get tired of eating stew, freeze the remainder and pull it out later.

      • DragonMilk says:

        I think I’ll go with this approach. I’ve frozen it for now as it may be a few weeks before I’ll be able to use the slow cooker again (mix of location and limiting experiments).

    • broblawsky says:

      Mince it, mix it with mayonnaise and turn it into some kind of bbq pork salad. You’re not going to fix it by cooking it further – the fasces have contracted fully and no additional moisture will get in there.

    • viVI_IViv says:

      Possibly the only way of salvaging it now would be to mince or blend it with fat, then fry it with any choice of onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes or dried berries, and use it as a sauce for pasta or dumpling filling or spread. Essentially, try to turn it into something like pemmican.

      I’ve never tried this though, so no guarantees on the result.

  15. albatross11 says:

    This NPR story discusses a paper that claims that about 6.5% of womens’ first sexual experience was rape. But it then starts talking about what fraction of those involved actual coercion or threats, and what fraction involved “verbal coercion” aka stuff like threatening to end the relationship if they didn’t agree to sex. Here’s a quote that captures some of this:

    More than 26% said they were physically threatened during the encounter, 46% said they were physically held down. Over half (56%) of them said they were verbally pressured into having sex, and 16% said that their partner threatened to end the relationship if they didn’t have sex. These forms of coercion were not mutually exclusive.

    Now, I haven’t read the paper (it’s behind a paywall), just the NPR article, but sleeping with your boyfriend because he threatens to break up if you don’t is not remotely rape. Nor is being “verbally pressured into sex.” (The paper, whose abstract is visible before you hit the paywall, uses the term “forced sexual initiation,” and probably is a bit more precise about its definitions than the news article.).

    I came away from reading the article uncertain about the actual fraction whose first sexual experience was rape, except that it was probably lower than the headline. (From the numbers in the article, it looks like at least 3.25%.) And also thinking that the fuzzing of the working notion of rape in this article wasn’t helping anyone think more clearly, but was helping to write an extra-clickbaity headline.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      From that very article:

      The definition of rape is any sexual encounter that’s unwanted or nonconsensual

      You need to update your priors, or use different terminology (such as sexual assault, or physically violent rape), to defend your point.

      Note also that the definition of rape has changed tremendously over the centuries. This is not a term immediately obvious in definition to everyone who uses it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_rape

      Most recently a threat-of-violence rape victim jailed and almost prosecuted for false report of rape is the reason for the current DOJ definition of rape: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/dec/15/sara-reedy-rape-victim-wins-police-payout

      • J Mann says:

        anonymousskinner, I’m not sure that definition iis correct.

        That’s a quote in the article by Laura Hawks, but I think she’s mistaken. She says “the definition of rape” includes “any sexual encounter that’s unwanted”, but the link there is to Eric Holder’s guidelines, and those guidelines don’t include “unwanted” sexual contact. Instead, they state that any contact that occurs “without the consent of the victim” is rape.

        If “unwanted” is the standard, then someone who sleeps with their partner because their partner’s feelings would be hurt (but would rather play Minecraft) is a victim of rape, as well as someone who sleeps with their partner because they’re afraid their partner will leave them if they don’t, even if the partner hasn’t said anything.

        • Ketil says:

          …and if it is the second definition, then somebody who engages in sex with his or her spouse without asking first, is raping him or her (or most likely, each other).

          See also the recent case where Richard Stallman (when, oh when will you learn to shut your mouth?) gets into trouble for thinking “assault” means assault. Mixing up the two definitions of the word costs you your job. E.g:

          https://futurism.com/richard-stallman-epstein-scandal

          • Ketil says:

            “[Stallman’s comments] cannot go unchecked, simply because [Stallman] is seen as a ‘genius,’” Gano wrote. “Simply because they are powerful, influential, or have friends in high places. Those are the same forces that allowed Jeffrey Epstein to rape and traffick children for so long.”

            “Remove everyone, if we must,” she later adds, “and let something much better be built from the ashes.”

            This is…impressive. I’m not sure Gano (MIT graduate, unsure if there any other credentials) wants to remove everybody influential, or everybody who stumbles in linguistic humptydumptyism, but either way it is a remarkable position to hold. Equating Stallman’s remark with raping children is…well, I’m not going to tell you what I think, since it apparently can cost me my job these days.

            ¹ Most likely, she wants to take down anybody who dares speak out to nuance a case of alleged sexual misbehavior.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            …and if it is the second definition, then somebody who engages in sex with his or her spouse without asking first, is raping him or her (or most likely, each other).

            Yes, but people frequently give intimates passes on legal violations against themselves. For a more extreme example look at how hard it is to prosecute various acts of domestic violence that leave victims bruised or worse.

            Edit to respond on Stallman: I haven’t read about this yet. I will say that a major problem is the ability of employers in most of the US to unilaterally, and with any amount to no justification, fire people.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I believe you want the federal definition of “consent”:
          https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/10/920

          (7)Consent.—
          (A) The term “consent” means a freely given agreement to the conduct at issue by a competent person. An expression of lack of consent through words or conduct means there is no consent. Lack of verbal or physical resistance does not constitute consent. Submission resulting from the use of force, threat of force, or placing another person in fear also does not constitute consent. A current or previous dating or social or sexual relationship by itself or the manner of dress of the person involved with the accused in the conduct at issue does not constitute consent.
          (B) A sleeping, unconscious, or incompetent person cannot consent. A person cannot consent to force causing or likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm or to being rendered unconscious. A person cannot consent while under threat or in fear or under the circumstances described in subparagraph (B) or (C) of subsection (b)(1).
          (C) All the surrounding circumstances are to be considered in determining whether a person gave consent.

          Note that State definitions of consent vary and are sometimes non-existent (as of Jun 11 2018): https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/bj3p35/state-definition-of-consent-legislation

          • J Mann says:

            Thanks! IMHO:

            First, that definition still doesn’t mean all “unwanted” sex is rape.

            More directly, I assume the “under threat or in fear” language means under threat of or fear of wrongful conduct, and I don’t think anyone disagrees that if someone says “have sex with me or I’ll commit a crime against you” is committing rape.

            Let’s take three hypos:

            1) On the third date with my partner, although she hasn’t said anything specifically, I come to the conclusion that if I reject her passes for too long, she’ll feel rejected and move on. I have sex even though I would prefer not to, because I really enjoy our dates.

            2) My partner tells me “I am hypersexual. I couldn’t be in a relationship where I don’t have sex once a week.” I make a point to have sex at least once a week, even when I would prefer not to, because I love her.

            3) My partner tells me “We had a lot of sex when we started going out, but after 10 years of marriage, it’s down to once a month and it feels like you’re begrudging even that. I’m unhappy, and if we can’t resolve the situation, I’m leaving.” I make a point to have more sex because I love her.

            The first one is “in fear” but under not “under threat.” The second two are both “under threat” and “in fear,” but not of wrongful conduct.

            Is your position that under the standard definition, all three of those scenarios describe my partner committing a crime against me?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @J Mann

            IANAL, but legally when discussing whether someone allowed an action against themselves because of fear I would think that you must look to the actual state of mind of the victim. Whether the victim feared any results from the consequences threatened by the compeller.

            Social and personal consequences exist for ending a relationship. When those consequences are threatened to be called into being, unless someone perform an act they do not wish to perform, then coercion seems to me to be what’s happening.

            I understand your hypotheticals, and only the third is coercive IMO (the second is contingent on how long this relationship has existed). However, by that point in the relationship, you had set expectations, and now have changed the expectations. I don’t have an answer for this except that “(C) All the surrounding circumstances are to be considered in determining whether a person gave consent.”. Recall that this NPR article is about “first sexual experience”

          • ECD says:

            IANAL, but legally when discussing whether someone allowed an action against themselves because of fear I would think that you must look to the actual state of mind of the victim. Whether the victim feared any results from the consequences threatened by the compeller.

            None of what follows is legal advice. I haven’t researched this.

            This is from the uniform code of military justice, which is different from standard criminal law and it also defines

            “threatening or placing that other person in fear” means a communication or action that is of sufficient consequence to cause a reasonable fear that non-compliance will result in the victim or another person being subjected to the wrongful action contemplated by the communication or action.

            I think the requirement that the fear be reasonable and the act be wrongful are going to make this much narrower than you’re suggesting.

          • J Mann says:

            anonymousskimmer, thanks for engaging and sorry for all the pedantry, but if we’re working off the federal criminal definition of rape, then I’m pretty sure that none of the three cases are rape.

            1) Criminally, “rape” requires one of: unlawful force, force causing or likely to cause grievous bodily harm, threatening or placing a person in fear of grievous bodily harm, rendering the victim unconsciousness or improperly drugging the victim. 10 U.S.C. 920(a).

            2) “Sexual assault” occurs when the perpetrator commits a sexual act without consent (and for other reasons). 10 U.S.C. 920(b).

            So sleeping with someone because you’re afraid they’ll leave you can’t be rape under the federal criminal definition (section (a)) because it doesn’t even arguably fit the definition.

            You could argue that it constitutes “sexual assault,” but I don’t think you’d be right. Specifically, although a sexual act without “consent” is sexual assault, (section (b)), and “Submission resulting from the use of force, threat of force, or placing another person in fear also does not constitute consent” (f(7)), the statute also defines “placing another person in fear” as placing another person in fear of a wrongful action. (f)(6), as follows:

            (6)Threatening or placing that other person in fear.—
            The term “threatening or placing that other person in fear” means a communication or action that is of sufficient consequence to cause a reasonable fear that non-compliance will result in the victim or another person being subjected to the wrongful action contemplated by the communication or action.

            (emphasis added).

            Therefore, at least under the technical definition we’ve been using, I think otherwise voluntarily agreeing to sleep with someone because you are afraid they will end the relationship is definitely not rape, and probably not sexual assault, because ending a relationship is not a “wrongful action” and therefore doesn’t negate an otherwise voluntary consent.

            (None of this means it’s not morally wrong, of course, depending on the circumstances.)

            (Disclaimer: I’m not an expert by any means, but I think if you read the whole statute, it’s pretty clear.)

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            You could be right. I lack the time to search for a legal definition of “wrongful act” at the moment.

          • In this particular case, the expansion of the definition of “rape” is, in my reading, tactical and dishonest. The person who wrote the headline certainly, the expert quoted probably, intended readers to read rape as the traditional definition involving force or the threat of force. By doing that the author gets attention, the expert (probably) hopes to shift the strong negative emotive response appropriate to the traditional definition to also apply to her expanded definition.

            It is true that words change meaning over time, but sometimes the reason is that somebody is trying to con other people. The actual implication of the story, if I read it correctly, is about 3%, which is shocking enough.

          • Consider the application of the expanded definition of consent used here for “rape” to other contexts.

            A boxer continues to box because he makes more money that way than by working at MacDonalds. Is he the victim of assault?

            A student studies for an exam because he fears flunking it. Is he a slave?

          • albatross11 says:

            David:

            Also, the researcher was careful in the abstract (non-paywalled) to use a different word than rape. The newspaper reporter or press release writer took a bit of poetic license there.

        • EchoChaos says:

          @anonymousskimmer

          By that definition my wife has sexually assaulted me. That is a bad definition.

          That it is the legal definition does not change that it is bad.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Perhaps your wife has sexually assaulted you (though please note that “sexual assault” is a superset of “rape”, and the specific legal standards of rape may not be fully applicable to the sexual assault you have in mind).

            Or perhaps you had set up things such that “All the surrounding circumstances are to be considered in determining whether a person gave consent.” indicate that you gave consent to her activities earlier (perhaps years earlier) in your relationship.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            Or perhaps you had set up things such that “All the surrounding circumstances are to be considered in determining whether a person gave consent.” indicate that you gave consent to her activities earlier (perhaps years earlier) in your relationship.

            That used to be a reasonable defense, which is why someone who had given legal consent through marriage could not be said to have sexually assaulted.

            A sleeping, unconscious, or incompetent person cannot consent.

            This has happened to me. There is no wiggle room in this section, so I have been assaulted under the law. This is a bad law.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Does pre-hoc consent exist under the law?

            So you’ve been sexually assaulted. If you refuse to testify that you were actually asleep at the time your wife cannot be convicted on a reasonable doubt standard.

            The spousal privilege has been greatly weakened over the years, but you can still say that you “don’t recall” whether you were asleep or not.

            Jurors aren’t bureaucrats, compelled in their minds to toe the written law literally.

            It seems like a good law to me.

            (Note: even with the evidence* of sexual assault* in your comment to me, you can always claim hyperbole for argument’s sake.

            * – assuming said assault took place prior to the change in law)

          • EchoChaos says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            A law that requires perjury and/or prosecutorial decisions in order to prevent spouses in a happy marriage from being convicted is a bad law.

            The law as I read it has no pre-hoc consent, because most such provisions were stripped to enable the crime of marital rape.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            A law that requires perjury and/or prosecutorial decisions in order to prevent spouses in a happy marriage from being convicted is a bad law.

            That would definitely be true, but the actual preventative measure here is that fact that spouses in happy marriages don’t accuse each other of rape.

            The same thing applies to other laws. Suppose I break into my brother’s house and take some money I urgently need for something; he will be fine with this and I am aware of that fact but for whatever reason I can’t ask his permission beforehand. Legally this is theft, but clearly it would be bad if I were prosecuted for it because no-one has been harmed. But that doesn’t present a problem for the definition of theft, since my brother won’t contact the police and press charges.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation

            That is the practical thing that makes this bad law not ruin society, you are absolutely correct.

            But in a technical sense, that’s still prosecutorial discretion. The law as written does not require that the victim testify or even be involved at all.

            If the cops caught you breaking into your brother’s house they would arrest you on the spot and the defense of “but it was my brother” would technically not absolve you. An aggressive DA (maybe he’s prejudiced against heavenly bodies?) could prosecute you even if your brother didn’t want to.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            You can say it’s bad law, but I don’t see any obviously better alternative. And note that your theft example where you get caught by the cops and charged regardless of the victim’s wishes seems vaguely plausible (as thought experiments go) but I can’t imagine the same thing happening with rape; non-rape sex doesn’t usually have witnesses.

          • Randy M says:

            I can’t imagine the same thing happening with rape; non-rape sex doesn’t usually have witnesses.

            I don’t know if this is the kind of thing that is taken seriously in divorce court, but that is a risk if so.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation

            Most rape sex doesn’t have witnesses either.

            My alternative is “until a legal separation is filed, all sexual encounters between husband and wife are legally consensual”

            This was settled law in all the West for generations.

            @Randy M

            I don’t know if this is the kind of thing that is taken seriously in divorce court, but that is a risk if so.

            This hits the exact failure mode I am concerned about. A man/woman who doesn’t know the exact definition admits in court that “yeah, sometimes I started while my spouse was asleep” and gets cited for sexual assault. I don’t know that it’s ever happened, but making sex between husband and wife illegal is a bad precedent to ever set.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @EchoChaos
            CW: description of rape

            My alternative is “until a legal separation is filed, all sexual encounters between husband and wife are legally consensual”

            Suppose one day your wife gets you very drunk and then violently sodomises you. Would this be “legally consensual” by your standard? If not, why not? If so, can you see why some people might believe it should not be?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation

            Hypothetical not found. Why would I suppose that my wife overnight turned into someone who hated me?

            As a bonus, note that you’ve added simple assault to the definition by adding the word “violently”. This can be resolved because assault is still illegal against your husband or wife without resorting to making it sexual assault as well.

            Short answers to your question. It would be assault, not sexual assault and shouldn’t be sexual assault.

            If she did something to me non-violently, then it shouldn’t be any sort of crime. If it got to the point where she wouldn’t stop and I didn’t want any more wake-up sex in my relationship, I’m a big boy and can end that relationship.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @EchoChaos
            CW: description of rape

            It’s a hypothetical, the fact that it differs from reality is kind of the point. The fact that the perpetrator in that example could also be charged with non-sexual assault isn’t really relevant. If she is sentenced more heavily than she would be for committing the same assault in another context (probably a clearer example here would be if she instead “non-violently” sodomised you at gunpoint, since it is easier to separate the non-sexual assault) then you aren’t making a marital rape exception, you’re just changing the name.

            If she is not sentenced more heavily — please consider my example of sodomising you at gunpoint vs just pointing a gun at you, rather than substituting your own “wake up sex” scenario — then that seems like a major injustice to me and I don’t really understand how you could see it otherwise.

          • Jaskologist says:

            “At gunpoint” is mutually contradictory to “non-violently.”

          • EchoChaos says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation

            She should be sentenced less than she would be in another context, yes. The sexual aspect should absolutely be allowed. Again, pointing a gun is still a threat and assault.

            I am having trouble understanding the problem you are having. I am saying that consent should be assumed between husband and wife, which is not true in the law we are discussing.

            Let’s get this to a more object level without bringing sex into it, which makes all sorts of people wound up. My wife and I have a joint banking account. There is assumed consent with her withdrawing from that account. I could be sleeping, I could be drunk, I could be completely unaware if it is occurring. She could even be doing something I asked her specifically not to do, but the consent has been legally established.

            Obviously if she keeps taking money out of the account in ways I don’t like or approve of, I’m going to close that joint account and set up separate accounts.

            My lack of understanding is why you can’t understand why it is so important to me that the law not call my wife a criminal.

          • Randy M says:

            “At gunpoint” is mutually contradictory to “non-violently.”

            Frankly so is sodomy, for those unpracticed at it or unprepared for it. I’m certainly fine with the ‘no-marital rape’ having a sodomy exception.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            CW: description of rape
            @Jaskologist
            Yes, that’s why I put “non-violently” in quotes.

            @EchoChaos

            She should be sentenced less than she would be in another context, yes. The sexual aspect should absolutely be allowed.

            I find this really hard to believe. If a random woman sodomised you at gunpoint, I assume you would want her to be charged with rape and and sentenced to several years in prison. But if the woman is your wife, you’d be content with a month or two for the misdemeanour of brandishing a weapon?

            If that actually is the case, I can think of two possible explanations. Firstly, you’re answering based on the fact that you trust your wife not to rape you and therefore don’t care if the law has absurd results in the case that she does. This is understandable but not a good way of making law, because a lot of people and in particular the vast majority of people who would be affected by this law have abusive spouses (even though thankfully you don’t). Or secondly, you have a kink for overriding the popular notion of consent. This is fine, but you shouldn’t try to enforce it on other people through the law.

            @Randy M
            Please consider the implications of that statement. You seem to be claiming that non-consensual vaginal sex isn’t really all that bad. Or are you merely saying that it is probably traumatic, but so much less so than non-consensual anal sex as to not be worth the attention of the law.

          • Nornagest says:

            But if the woman is your wife, you’d be content with a month or two for the misdemeanour of brandishing a weapon?

            It’d be assault with a deadly weapon at the very least. Even though the gun presumably wasn’t fired, a credible threat would be enough to qualify.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation

            Yes, it is far more important to me that my wife’s current and real sexual activities be legalized than it is that a small set of people with abusive spouses have one additional charge that can be laid against those abusers. The number of people who commit only the crime of gently performing sexual actions against their non-consenting sleeping partners but absolutely no other crimes I consider too small to be notable.

            To explain this psychological phenomenon, one might look at the movement to legalize homosexual sex even though very few, if any were actually prosecuted for engaging in it.

            I quote from Lawrence v. Texas:

            The offense, to be sure, is but a class C misdemeanor, a minor offense in the Texas legal system. Still, it remains a criminal offense with all that imports for the dignity of the persons charged.

          • Randy M says:

            You seem to be claiming that non-consensual vaginal sex isn’t really all that bad.

            You’re going to have to unpack how you got those implications, especially in this context, before I simply assume you have poor reading comprehension. eh, fine, I was glib, so I guess that’s on me.

            If we are going to go back to not having a law specifically against marital rape, like EC is suggesting, I would not want that to assume that sodomy is covered. We traditionally assume vaginal sex is a given in a marriage relationship–indeed, the lack thereof is evidence the marriage is something of a sham. It is assumed you are consenting to vaginal sex at some point in the relationship when you wed–hence part of why the state cares about things like degree of relatedness.

            Absent any signs of physical trauma, which should most certainly remain illegal, trying to divine the degree of consent of any particular act of intercourse is far too much intrusion of the state into personal matters. I also don’t believe in a moral right to deny your spouse all forms of sexual gratification, especially assuming an expectation of monogamy and the aforementioned expectation of sex inside marriage. It’s basically fraud at that point. That doesn’t mean a license for the other party to violently obtain the sex in any way, however, and attempting sex with a person physically resisting is going to end up in assault. The mob is not justified in breaking kneecaps even if you do owe them money.

            And yeah, sodomy, especially of man, which would presumably involve some object and likely cause harm, is going to be by nature more violent than the normal way, especially sans preparation.

          • Dan L says:

            Or secondly, you have a kink for overriding the popular notion of consent. This is fine, but you shouldn’t try to enforce it on other people through the law.

            Galaxy brain take: that kink is actually really common, probably more so than the practice of explicitly negotiating sexual boundaries can realistically expect to be. It’s also anti-inductive. Any type of code regulating sexual behavior – legal, moral, or otherwise – is doomed to failure in a non-trivial number of cases. The question is which failure modes we prioritize.

          • ECD says:

            I assume the folks who are opposed to the idea of marital rape being rape are in favor of easy access to divorce?

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @EchoChaos

            Yes, it is far more important to me that my wife’s current and real sexual activities be legalized than it is that a small set of people with abusive spouses have one additional charge that can be laid against those abusers.

            That seems weird and abhorrent. Are you expecting the legal status of your wife’s sexual activities to have consequences in the future? If not, why are you (presumably) more aggrieved about that than about the various other unenforced laws that probably apply to you.

            The number of people who commit only the crime of gently performing sexual actions against their non-consenting sleeping partners but absolutely no other crimes I consider too small to be notable.

            That’s not the issue. The reason marital rape laws are important is because punishing someone for assault alone when they’ve also sexually violated someone is likely to be unjust in terms of sentencing. If you disagree then you’re making a general argument against *all* rape and sexual assault laws, not just marital rape ones (unless you hold that the only purpose of those laws is to punish people who do things like you described above outside of marriage).

            To explain this psychological phenomenon, one might look at the movement to legalize homosexual sex even though very few, if any were actually prosecuted for engaging in it./blockquote>
            That’s not equivalent. Obviously some people were prosecuted for sodomy (why do you think the Supreme Court case arose?) whereas I don’t know of any cases where people have been unjustly prosecuted for marital rape in the way you describe. And similarly there is no huge societal opposition to the kind of sex you are talking about, which makes the symbolism much less potent. But if somehow legalising homosexual sodomy also necessarily legalised rape in some situations, then I would certainly be opposed to it and I doubt many people would disagree.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @Randy M
            Do you think there should be a marital rape exception, or do you approve of current laws and are speaking hypothetically? In the latter case I can’t parse your argument; how are you deciding how a law you oppose should work?

            In the former case, from this

            Absent any signs of physical trauma, which should most certainly remain illegal, trying to divine the degree of consent of any particular act of intercourse is far too much intrusion of the state into personal matters. I also don’t believe in a moral right to deny your spouse all forms of sexual gratification

            it sounds like you believe there is some kind of marital rape that you think should be legal but that I think should be illegal and furthermore should be dealt with by “state intrusion”. But you’re ruling out “violence”, so exactly what are you talking about? If it’s the kind of technically-non-consensual-in-the-moment-but-enjoyed-by-all-involved-and-consented-to-implicitly-in-a-non-legally-binding-way thing that EchoChaos is referring to, then I would like to clarify that I don’t think that should be prosecuted; my whole point in the discussion with EchoChaos is that I think the legality of that is irrelevant because it won’t come up in court.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Doing away with marital rape as a crime altogether would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, wouldn’t it? If we keep it, but with a rebuttable presumption of consent between spouses, we can avoid the folly of making Mrs. EC a criminal, while still being able to prosecute acts which can more sensibly be called rape.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @Paul Zrimsek
            I wouldn’t support that, since I wouldn’t want to necessarily give up the protection of rape law in situations where someone is intoxicated or asleep even within a marriage. But I certainly agree that it is vastly more reasonable than the policies EchoChaos and Randy M seem to be proposing. One could speculate about motives based on this interesting difference, but I won’t do.

          • Randy M says:

            edit:

            One could speculate about motives based on this interesting difference, but I won’t do.

            I don’t believe there is any meaningful difference between speculating about motives, and speculating about speculating about motives, and consider myself duly offended at one remove. I now regret responding to the question with the answer below and presumption of good faith is gone, but so be it. /edit

            Do you think there should be a marital rape exception, or do you approve of current laws and are speaking hypothetically? In the latter case I can’t parse your argument; how are you deciding how a law you oppose should work?

            There’s varying degrees of senseless, aren’t there? (Or rather, varying degrees of sensible)

            This is a fraught topic and it is easy to twist nuanced positions.
            But, to be frank, I don’t think consent is a meaningful concept after the wedding vows.
            A spouse has the (moral, if not legal) right to presume consent and initiate sexual activities.
            Whereas, if I initiated “sexual activities” with a stranger, I’m rightly guilty of harassment or assault or rape, depending on how far it goes.
            But, a kind spouse will not do so if there is indication their partner will not enjoy it.
            And if the other party is non-cooperative, there’s not really any recourse to push the right, as harm inflicted in the course of doing so is wrong, and covered under other laws against assault–it’s possible for both parties to be morally wrong.
            If a spouse is withholding sex from a partner, I’d view this as a form of theft or fraud, although what frequency should be expected is going to be pretty subjective, very much a subject of premarital counseling and not so much a matter of easy legislation.

            The exact state of the law doesn’t really have an effect on my life, but we should probably avoid the situation where there is a common activity that is illegal. Both to avoid engendering disrespect of the law, and for purposes of entrapment should the relationship sour.
            We already have easy divorce for the situation where marital affections have waned.
            I’m not sure if initiating sexual intercourse without immediate and explicit verbal assent is yet considered rape by law in any jurisdiction, but there seems to be a cultural push for that, which will be hard to oppose without being smeared. Whereas, I would imagine this is the most common form of sexual activity practiced.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            I don’t believe there is any meaningful difference between speculating about motives, and speculating about speculating about motives, and consider myself duly offended at one remove.

            The former is aggressive, the latter merely passively so.

            Do you think there should be a marital rape exception, or do you approve of current laws and are speaking hypothetically? In the latter case I can’t parse your argument; how are you deciding how a law you oppose should work?

            Despite quoting this and writing several paragraphs presumably in reply thereto, I still can’t work out what your answers to my questions are.

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Randy M, have some statistics on women who find sex painful.

            https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5638059/

            Note that this is among sexually active women– I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a good many women who’ve given up on sex because it hurts.

            I’m not sure what you think is owed in a marriage when it causes serious pain.

          • Randy M says:

            I’m not sure what you think

            I’m not sure if you are actually asking what I think. Just in case this is an awkwardly phrased question rather than an awkwardly phrased accusation:

            My advice would be to not marry someone who would hurt you.
            And conversely to not marry someone unable to meet your needs without suffering.
            I expect you could find a way to get such a marriage annulled if only discovered in retrospect.

          • Randy M says:

            The former is aggressive, the latter merely passively so.

            I remain unconvinced. Don’t expect answers from me in the future. I’m not actually in need of aggression in my life, of either variety.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @Randy M
            I’m sorry if I offended you. But you still have completely failed to answer my questions.

            Do you think there should be a marital rape exception, or do you approve of current laws and are speaking hypothetically?

            is a simple question with two answers. Avoiding (as far as I can tell) giving a straight answer to it is in my opinion worse faith than making the true and relevant claim that I could speculate about your motives.

      • “You need to update your priors, or use different terminology (such as sexual assault, or physically violent rape), to defend your point.”

        The DOJ definition of rape you cite does not include “any sexual encounter that’s unwanted or nonconsensual.”

        “Note also that the definition of rape has changed tremendously over the centuries. This is not a term immediately obvious in definition to everyone who uses it:”

        Sure, the definitions of many terms change throughout history. For instance, I could say I don’t like gay sex so any example of it is rape, then go around citing “rape” statistics and demanding everyone else “update your priors or use different terminology” when called out on it. To 95% of Americans, “unwanted” sex is not considered rape. Citing it as rape while knowing your audience has a different definition of that term is dishonesty.

      • albatross11 says:

        “Sleep with me tonight or I’m breaking up with you” is not anywhere in any criminal definition of rape I’ve ever heard of. Nowhere in the US are you getting prosecuted for that. Most people will think you’re a jerk for saying it to your girlfriend, but you won’t go to jail for it.

        • mdet says:

          I think it might be useful to have a definition of rape that is broader than the legal definition that will get you a prison sentence. I don’t think that having sex with someone who’s sloppy drunk is illegal, but many of us would consider it probably-rape*.

          But agreed that “sleep with me or I’ll break up with you” shouldn’t meet any definition of rape or assault.

          *”Sloppy drunk” doesn’t leave much room for consent but I’m hedging since I’m sure someone here could come up with some edge case where consent applies.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I don’t think that having sex with someone who’s sloppy drunk is illegal, but many of us would consider it possibly-but-not-necessarily-rape.

            It usually is, actually, although unless you got them drunk intentionally in order to bypass their consent it’s usually sexual assault rather than rape (see the code cited above).

          • John Schilling says:

            I think it might be useful to have a definition of rape that is broader than the legal definition that will get you a prison sentence.

            I think it would be worse than useless to have such a definition of rape.

            Having a different word that has the broad definition you want, would be useful, but both locking people away in prison and implying that people ought to be locked away in prison are serious business. Too serious to allow for any confusion with lesser accusations. I don’t know that we have a word for such conduct itself – “sexual assault” is and ought to remain a pedantic legal term for much the same reason – but we used to have words like “cad” and “rake” for people who engaged in such conduct.

          • mdet says:

            @John Schilling

            Rape is an especially emotionally-charged crime, so I get why there’s a need to keep the definition specific and narrow, but I think it’s a normal feature of language that the common usage of a word is often broader than the legal definition of the word. I don’t think a parent needs to be guilty of criminal neglect & endangerment before I call them abusive, for example.

          • Randy M says:

            I think it’s a normal feature of language that the common usage of a word is often broader than the legal definition of the word.

            I’m not sure whether this thread is about the common definition of the term, the legal definition, or an academic definition the standard for which falls somewhere in between.

            Regarding your example, “abusive” has gotten pretty vague. I think it’s too far gone to ever contest–or consequently to glean much meaning from. I don’t think “violent” is there yet, though. If someone said they lived with violent parents, and it turned out they yelled from time to time but never struck them or threw things, I’d consider them lying. But there is clearly a trend to use violence to mean a variety of actions that do not inflict physical harm to a person or object. That’s no more welcome than the expansion of rape.

            Just because people using language have a tendency to get overuse terms out of ignorance or contrivance, doesn’t mean we should let our thinking be similarly muddled. We want to know about reality, a place where the negative effects of nagging are not the same as the negative effects of physical assault.

          • mdet says:

            Much of this might be my own ignorance regarding what is covered by sexual assault law — can you be convicted of sexual assault for grabbing a stranger’s ass? I didn’t think so, but FindLaw’s overview of sexual assault law suggests that you could. (Although it’s also broad enough to call “unwanted bodily contact” a common example of sexual assault.)

            Regardless of what the law says, I think that getting your ass squeezed by a stranger falls in the same category as groping, fondling, forced kissing, etc. but also that it can generally be resolved without calling 911. I still agree that there are usages of “sexual assault”, “abuse”, “violence”, etc that expand the concept so far it becomes useless.

          • John Schilling says:

            I don’t think a parent needs to be guilty of criminal neglect & endangerment before I call them abusive, for example.

            “Abusive”, was never a word that refers primarily or centrally to a felony crime.

          • Randy M says:

            It’s possible that assault has gotten defined up, as well. It doesn’t necessarily indicate harm, which is (presumably) why there is the separate word “battery” to intensify that charge. In which case, ‘sexual assault’ would be a perfectly fair description of lesser forms of unwanted touching, even though to me the phrase has strong connotations.

          • hls2003 says:

            It doesn’t necessarily indicate harm, which is (presumably) why there is the separate word “battery” to intensify that charge. In which case, ‘sexual assault’ would be a perfectly fair description of lesser forms of unwanted touching, even though to me the phrase has strong connotations.

            I’m not going to go through various jurisdictions, and definitions are always jurisdiction-specific, but the lowest-common-denominator law school / bar exam definition of “assault” is a threat or use of force that puts someone in reasonable fear of imminent battery. Battery is intentionally making harmful or offensive contact with another person without consent. So lunging at someone and stopping your fist an inch from their nose is an assault. Punching someone is a battery (or more completely, an assault-and-battery, since your wind-up for the punch was an assault prior to the battery). Grabbing an ass would be a battery, if the other person didn’t see it coming, and didn’t consent.

          • mdet says:

            A tier of sexual offense in between harassment and assault would be useful, since I generally interpret “harassment” to only mean non-physical, usually verbal offenses, but “assault” does usually have stronger connotations than a quick grab, squeeze, slap, etc.

            As it is though, I generally do use “sexual assault” to refer to offenses that I wouldn’t consider and that may or may not actually be *criminally* wrong.

            Edit, re hls2003: Assault, a word whose popular understanding might actually be narrower than the legal one.

          • “I think it might be useful to have a definition of rape that is broader than the legal definition”

            How about “sexual morality?” The problem here is that the political left spent decades proclaiming that they didn’t care about sexual morality, consenting adults blah blah blah.

    • Randy M says:

      That’s what chaperones are for. Kids can’t use the swings by themselves, but you leave teens alone with their boyfriend/girlfriend? Let’s get the helicopter in the right place.

      If you mean already adult women, “have sex or we’ll break up” isn’t rape, it’s negotiating terms of a relationship. Terms I’m morally opposed to, mind, but that doesn’t make it equivalent to sexual assault.

      How much less culpability does Bonnie have for robbery if we find out Clyde said “Help me rob banks or we’re through?”, assuming no credible threat of violence was made against her own person? Imo, no less than otherwise.

      • albatross11 says:

        This definition of coercion also applies to my decision to pay my bills and go to work. Nobody is understanding the world more clearly by mixing together “pay your bill or we reposess your car” and “gimme your wallet or I’ll beat you senseless.”

        • Randy M says:

          Right. When I buy a drink because the barrista cleared her throat and pointed to the hypothetical “please leave seats for paying customers” sign, I have not been mugged.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          Or indeed “gimme your wallet or I’ll beat you senseless” and “pay your goddamn taxes”.

        • Secretly French says:

          Nobody is understanding the world more clearly by mixing together “pay your bill or we reposess your car” and “gimme your wallet or I’ll beat you senseless.”

          I strongly disagree with this statement. Are you operating in the world on some underlying assumption that everything is free and plentiful and readily available, other than that it has been sequestered by eeeevil capitalists, who then sell it back to you for profit? You are not owed a free car. We are all slaves. We have been cast out of the garden, and we must toil, or we shall perish. This remains true even if you are (somehow magically) the only human being dropped into the unspoilt unpeopled world of 12,000BC. The only difference between your two examples is the extent of the power structures (ie the de facto control of use of force): one (ultimately) a state, and the other a gang, or perhaps one individual. Do not elevate the state to godhood. Do not conflate the position of the state with moral truth.

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      I think you and a lot of other commenters may be misinterpreting things (I can’t get past the paywall to say for sure). From the quote it’s tempting to conclude that 46% of respondents were victims of rape but some proportion greater than 16% weren’t because those kinds of verbal coercion don’t imply rape. But it’s perfectly plausible, and I think more plausible that say 46% of respondents were physically held down and the vast majority of the rest were e.g. implicitly threatened with force or too drunk to consent (i.e. also incontrovertibly raped). If you look at the differences between the groups of respondents in the article abstract they seem too stark for a significant proportion of those who claimed to have been raped not to have been.

      • J Mann says:

        Here is an open copy of the study. Looking through it,

        – They asked 13,310 women aged 18-44 whether they considered their first sexual experience to be “voluntary or not voluntary, that is, did you choose to have sex of your own free will or not?” 6.5% said “not voluntary.” They they surveyed the “not voluntary” group and got the following responses:

        83.6% answered yes to at least 1 form of coercion, as follows:
        56.4% – “Were you pressured into it by his words or actions, but without threat of harm?”
        50% – “Did you do what he said because he was bigger than you or a grown-up, and you were young?”
        46.3% – “Were you physically held down?”
        26.5% – “Were you threatened with physical harm or injury?”
        25.1% – “Were you physically hurt or injured?”
        22.0% – “Were you given alcohol or drugs?”
        16.2% – “Were you told that the relationship would end if you didn’t have sex?”

        All in all, you can quibble on the margins, but it’s a pretty disturbing picture.

  16. Zephalinda says:

    I’m in the mood to read some SFF short stories on Genesis-type themes– making, artificial beings, creator-creation relationships, teleology, obedience and disobedience. Any recommendations?

    • Randy M says:

      The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Biblical Sci-fi is (spoiler alert, I guess) Assimov’s The Last Question and other stories like Battlestar Galactica and at least one Twilight zone episode where it turns out that the protagonists end up being the founders of Earth. But these don’t necessarily have the thematic ties to Genesis and the trope is fairly easy to spot these days. (Linked story still worth reading)

      The next thing to come to mind is not a short story at all, but Card’s Memory of Earth series. Which is unsurprising, because, unbeknownst to me for some years, it is basically a reskin of the book of Mormon, which echoes Genesis. It does capture a lot of the themes you mention–actually, all of them, pretty well–but what brings it to mind when thinking about Genesis is the epic feel more than anything; we see in some detail the lives of the individuals, and then over the course of the series (well, mostly the last couple books) we see the nations that come from them, and see how the interpersonal conflicts early on have echoes through generations. It strikes a very resonant chord with me and not incidentally at all is something I am trying to recreate.

    • phi says:

      Have you read Bronte’s Egg?

  17. johan_larson says:

    It’s a simple plan. First, find a chemical that is mildly psychoactive, safe under most circumstances and cheap to manufacture but currently either generally unknown or (more likely) known but illegal. Second, do the hard social work of convincing people (including lawmakers) that this chemical is fun and safe, and therefore desirable, and should be legal. Third, set ourselves up as the Starbucks of this stuff, and reap a harvest of riches from our fields of slightly buzzed fans. Nice!

    So, the first thing we need is the right chemical. What are some candidates?

  18. Tarpitz says:

    I would like to revise an opinion I gave in a previous open thread in response to johan_larson’s question about the Mono-red Cavalcade deck in Magic. I believe the newly-spoiled Thorbran, Thane of Red Fell will have a transformative effect on the competitive viability of the deck, making it in all probability an excellent choice for post-rotation Standard, not a poor one as I previously thought.

  19. Well... says:

    I just listened to Barbara Tversky’s interview on Sam Harris’s podcast and it’s got me wondering how old uptalk is, as a vocal inflection/habit. We tend to associate it with young people but Tversky’s gotta be at least 70. Wikipedia provides no history, but does at least contain a link to an article about Sexy Baby Voice that you always knew you wanted to read.

  20. The year is 1884, and you have seized control of the International Meridian Conference. You convince the delegates to explicitly demarcate the International Date Line rather than merely implying one by determining the Prime Meridian.

    However, you are also the world’s greatest troll. By exploiting the 19th century’s love of drawing straight lines on maps, you guide all attending to agree that it would be so much simpler if the IDL was a meridian, and that it couldn’t possibly cause major problems. Where do you put the PM and IDL?

    I think the obvious choice would be to set the PM at what we call 178 degrees West, thereby putting the IDL at 2 degrees East and separating London and Paris. I would expect this to greatly annoy the British and infuriate the French. (A French troll might prefer to have the PM/IDL at 105 degrees East / 75 degrees West, slicing right through Philadelphia and separating New York City and Washington, D.C.)

    Are there any other options for maximum chaos?

  21. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Today I Learned that 1 in 68 Americans is born with autism.
    That’s 4.8 million of us.
    That’s about as common as being of Chinese descent in the US.
    We’re 7-8x more common than transgender.

    • Well... says:

      That explains all those autism awareness bumper stickers, I guess.

      I wonder, how are people with autism distributed? Like, are you X% more likely to have autism if one of your siblings does? Do people with autism tend to be underrepresented in rural areas? Etc.

      • Enkidum says:

        Like, are you X% more likely to have autism if one of your siblings does?

        There is a strong genetic component, so yes. Dunno about the rest.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Having a sibling other than an identical twin who has ASD means you have a 2-18% risk.
        Parental age is supposedly a factor.
        10% of autistic people have nasty chromosomal disorders like Downs.
        44% of us are high-functioning.
        There is a racial component, which a lot of scientists ignore. For example, Somali children are at significantly higher risk than the population normally meant by “African-Americans”, and whites have a higher % than A-As.

        Rural vs. urban? I have no idea.

        • albatross11 says:

          I wonder about cultural effects on diagnosis, especially of edge cases. Some parents are likely to take their kids to multiple specialists and push to get a diagnosis; others aren’t. I suspect there’s a largish amount of undiagnosed high-functioning autism in the world, though it’s also not quite clear to me how much this is just being too far to the left of the mean on a couple of social-skill/intentions-inferring sorts of bell curves.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Yeah, we don’t know total prevalence because your parents’ culture plays a role in getting diagnosed, especially for edge cases. In Hans Aspergers’ day, tons of Aspies went un-diagnosed because “affluent eccentric” was a social category and no country had a middle-class norm of seeking diagnosis and support.
            It’s definitely an issue at the margin. Severe autism was getting diagnosed, of course. Asperger had to argue with the Nazis that a high-functioning version that contributed to genius at a mild level even existed.

        • Nornagest says:

          44% of us are high-functioning.

          Lower than I’d have expected. Where’s the line for “high-functioning” drawn in this context?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Communicative enough to take an IQ test and score 100+, I believe. You could draw a line that includes more people by including IQs down to 85 + ability to communicate and deal with sensory overload/irritability/etc. enough to work a menial job.
            As I said, 10% are severely disabled with chromosomal disorders. Then there’s another, larger group who are low-functioning without that extra burden. Draw a low line for “high-functioning” and you may capture a super-majority of us with it, though.

          • Nornagest says:

            We’d expect only 50% of the general population to be high-functioning by those standards, autism or no. I suppose the category’s mainly concerned with the kind of support an individual needs, so the statistic might still make sense in that light, but in that case it shouldn’t be taken to say much about the severity of the condition.

          • Lambert says:

            100+?
            Doesn’t that make 50% of neurotypicals ‘low functioning’?
            i.e. only 6% are low functioning ‘due to autism’.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @Lambert: Some of these statements are calibrated against a psychotherapy background where autism was thought to be an intellectual disability by definition. The DSM-V doesn’t have Aspergers anymore, which was a separate diagnosis for us smarties named after the first (?) clinician to argue that we exist and are important.
            Compared to the human baseline, people with ASD are only 6% more likely to be intellectually disabled. But ASD is also a disability in itself: it’s harder to multitask, noise gets overwhelming easily, we’re at much higher risk of never making friends, etc.

  22. JPNunez says:

    Feature request: Could the XXX comments since yyyy-MM-dd notice be kept across computers?

    I post from two computers and when switching between them it just tells me that I have all the comments to read again.

    • Nornagest says:

      It’s stored in a cookie, so you need something that shares cookies between computers. I think some browsers will let you sync them across hosts, although I’ve never enabled the feature myself.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I post from two computers and when switching between them it just tells me that I have all the comments to read again.

      Is that your only issue? I post from only one computer, and half the time ~new doesn’t work. Sometimes I get no new posts and sometimes all new. In those cases I have to go by date, not the best substitute.

    • Matt says:

      You should be able to copy/paste the string in the editable field in that widget. Right now, mine says:

      2019-09-16 09:27

      If I paste that my personal computer from my work computer, then it will treat all the same comments as ‘new’. In practice, I would just remember “today at 9:30” and change whatever the number is on my home computer to

      2019-09-16 09:30

      and maybe miss one or two comments.

      You really just have to make a good guess and fill in the field.

  23. J Mann says:

    So the NYT is reporting that some Yalie says that he saw (or heard about – I’m not sure), Kavenaugh drunk at a party, at which point some friends (a) led over a similarly drunk female friend and (b) then a number of the friends “pushed [Kavenaugh’s] [gavel] into the hand” of the female friend.

    – 100% serious question: If true, doesn’t that sound like both Kavenaugh and the female friend were subject to a sexual assault at Yale? Does the book discuss whether Kavenaugh was complicit in this supposed pushing, or is he a survivor of it?

    – Less serious question: does it actually require several friends to push Kavenaugh’s [gavel]? If I were falling down drunk, I think one friend would suffice or even exceed the available terrain.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Small hands or a very large gavel, that’s all I have to say.

      • albatross11 says:

        Isn’t the claim also that the woman involved doesn’t remember any of this?

        • J Mann says:

          Yeah, and it was weird that the Time reporters named her (both her name at Yale and her current married name) given that (a) she wouldn’t talk to them, (b) her friends say she doesn’t recall this, and (c) by their account, she’s an assault survivor.

          If she was drunk enough, it’s possible that she wouldn’t remember, of course.

          • albatross11 says:

            It seems like a continuing scissors statement. There’s a set of people who are convinced Kavenaugh is a sexual predator, and another set who’s convinced he’s an innocent man railroaded by ethics-free political operatives[1]. For the first group, this is still more evidence of the absolutely obvious fact that this guy is a sexual predator and a monster. For the second, this is still more evidence that partisans trying to smear this innocent guy. The actual evidence offered is extremely weak and ambiguous, so your priors determine your conclusions. And since people tend to be in a personal/media bubble, there’s plenty of overwhelming “social proof” of whichever viewpoint your tribe has.

            ETA: I wonder what fraction of people would end up with similarly strong evidence of being a sexual predator/pest, after the resources expended on finding such evidence for Kavenaugh. I’m guessing it’s a substantial fraction of the population.

            [1] It’s also possible he’s a sexual predator railroaded by ethics-free political operatives, but that doesn’t align to tribal positions so it’s not heard much.

          • Jiro says:

            I think that is disqualified from being a scissor statement–the interpretations aren’t equally reasonable.

            Slaveowners used to think that slaves tried to escape because of an illness that led them to want to escape. That doesn’t make “that slave tried to escape” into a scissor statement, because although it’s true that two sides interpret it differently, there’s only one natural interpretation and it doesn’t make sense to count “is interpreted differently, with sufficient motivated reasoning” as a scissor statement being interpreted differently.

          • bullseye says:

            @Jiro

            You say the interpretations aren’t equally reasonable, but I’m sure both appear reasonable to their supporters.

            I have *no idea* which one you think is more reasonable. I can assure you that I’m not trying to make excuses for the other side because I don’t know which side that is.

          • Jiro says:

            The victim remembering would be evidence that it happened. Therefore, by conservation of expected evidence, the victim not remembering must be evidence that it did not happen. There are scenarios where it happened even if the victim didn’t remember, but these are scenarios that happen despite the evidence pointing in the opposite direction; the evidence itself can only be reasonably interpreted as “it is less likely to have happened”, not that it is more likely.

          • At a slight tangent, how many of those who don’t take the story seriously reject it because the evidence is so weak, how many because they assume the event happened but do not regard it as sexual assault by Kavanaugh, or as a significant negative against him (beyond evidence that he sometimes got drunk).

          • Plumber says:

            @albatross11 says: "It seems like a continuing scissors statement..."

            “Scissor” indeed!

            During the Kavanaugh hearings was the only time that I renember the “culture war” showing up face-to-face amomg guys at work this decade, and it wasn’t pleasant!

            I haven’t read the newest allegations ‘cept in this thread, and as to the truth or falsehood of them I wasn’t in the room so I don’t know.

      • J Mann says:

        So you’re saying the President is a suspect? That explains a lot.

    • Randy M says:

      Is this going to be the new how-many-to-screw-in-a-lightbulb quip?

      • J Mann says:

        I couldn’t resist the joke, but I should have. The serious question is 100% serious, and not something I’ve seen discussed.

        • Randy M says:

          The serious question is 100% serious, and not something I’ve seen discussed.

          Really? I’ve seen it brought up plenty, that if the man and the woman are both drunk, how come only he is accused of rape? This is basically the same thing, with the additional detail that the drunk perpetrator had sober accomplices.

          • J Mann says:

            The accusation here isn’t that Kavanaugh put his junk in the female friend’s hand, it’s that his other friends somehow pushed his junk into her hand.

            My first assumption is that if multiple people are manipulating your genitals while you’re drunk, they’re assaulting you, absent some evidence that you consented.

          • Randy M says:

            The accusation here isn’t that Kavanaugh put his junk in the female friend’s hand, it’s that his other friends somehow pushed his junk into her hand.

            I assumed the implication was “and therefore we were right about Kavanaugh all along.” Otherwise, what’s the point?

    • Jaskologist says:

      Editors’ Note: Sept. 15, 2019
      An earlier version of this article, which was adapted from a forthcoming book, did not include one element of the book’s account regarding an assertion by a Yale classmate that friends of Brett Kavanaugh pushed his penis into the hand of a female student at a drunken dorm party. The book reports that the female student declined to be interviewed and friends say that she does not recall the incident. That information has been added to the article.

      • Nick says:

        It’s to NYT’s credit that this correction was made. It’s to NYT’s immense discredit that it had to be made at all.

        At a tangent: I’ve noticed that folks who criticize media bias—the sort like, well, us, who sit around dunking on NYT or WaPo stories—have this hope at times that, if we just point out enough failures like this, share the right outrageous story, everyone will finally wake up. The evidence will at last be incontrovertible, and everyone paying attention will just have to admit media bias exists. I’ve heard more or less this said by e.g. David French and Alexandra DeSanctis on their National Review podcast, where they fisk a lot of articles.

        But polarizing interpretations are symptom, not disease. We’re not treating the underlying causes of polarization by showing where the New York Times gets it wrong. A few folks will be persuaded each time, but as the gap between our interpretations grows and common ground thins, this will get rarer. The result is that the NYT’s errors get worse, but the likelihood they see anything to correct goes down, too. We’re headed toward a time when they won’t see anything wrong with a case like the Kavanaugh reporting or the Covington Catholic misfire.

        • I don’t think the number persuaded ever goes to zero, because some misleading journalism involves issues where some people have first hand knowledge, independent of political bias.

          Consider Scott’s post on psudoaddiction. Even if a psychiatrist had strong left-wing anti-corporate sympathies, it would be hard to observe the examples Scott cites and not conclude that the anti-pseudoaddiction campaign was misleading.

    • EchoChaos says:

      does it actually require several friends to push Kavenaugh’s [gavel]?

      Depends on how turgid the terrain is.

    • BBA says:

      I think it’s unquestionable that Kav was a drunkard and a lout when he was a teenager. It’s not clear that by the standards of prep school kids/Yale frat boys in the 1980s he was anything out of the ordinary, or that anyone at the time would have considered him to have done much if anything wrong. “Boys will be boys” and all that.

      Thank god we have higher standards today.

      Anyway, this all seems so…performative? There’s no way in hell Kav is getting removed from the court, we all know it, yet we’re all obliged to argue about it some more.

      • I W​ri​te ​B​ug​s No​t O​ut​ag​es says:

        Yeah, this is such a lame rerun since there’s no confirmation hearing to provide dramatic tension. It’s like when they remade The Manchurian Candidate with corporations or whatever instead of the Communists.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        As I said at the time, I really did not get why the republicans did not just pick someone else out of the federalist hat. Those justices are all interchangeable parts, finding one with less of a stank attached to them would have taken all of five minutes.

        I will add that I do, in fact, give it decent odds that will turn out to be a mistake, and he will get impeached off the bench. (20+%)

        Not for the sexual stuff. That is all too old to make finding something really actionable likely. But his finances stank to high heaven, that is a whole lot more recent, and if you dig you can usually find documentation for financial improprieties that rise well beyond the “He said, she said” level.

        • EchoChaos says:

          If they got to before Kavanaugh, they probably would have in retrospect, but once he became the target of Democrat attacks, which may or may not be baseless, they had to fight for him or risk looking weak to their base.

          It was a winning strategy too. The Senate was the one place Republicans did well this election.

        • Chalid says:

          This doesn’t matter. It takes a 2/3 majority in the Senate to impeach, which is way, way out of reach for either party. There is no way enough Republicans would vote to impeach him if a Democrat got to replace him. Kavanaugh could literally auction his votes to the highest bidder during oral arguments and he wouldn’t be impeached under a Democratic President.

          • albatross11 says:

            Chalid:

            +1

          • Controls Freak says:

            Kavanaugh could literally auction his votes to the highest bidder during oral arguments and he wouldn’t be impeached under a Democratic President.

            I want to briefly note that this isn’t really true. It’s a nice bit of hyperbole to say, “The bar is really high.” But this plays into claims that, “Actually, Kavanaugh is totally guilty and everyone knows it; it’s just party affiliation in the Senate that is preventing impeachment.” And that’s just not the case. If something legitimately incredibly serious like openly selling his vote (especially since this gets at a core matter of integrity of the Court) were undeniably true, I have no doubt that Republicans would turn and say, “Look, we weren’t on board with the other stuff, but this is unacceptable no matter what. You have to go.” I find it vastly more likely that Republicans are mostly judging the accusations to be insufficiently supported (to get over what is admittedly a somewhat-higher bar due to political polarization) than that political polarization has suitably insulated a sitting justice from impeachment over openly soliciting bribes.

          • Corey says:

            than that political polarization has suitably insulated a sitting justice from impeachment over openly soliciting bribes

            Counterexample: Presidency.

            One could make a small-d-democratic argument that voters knew what they were getting into and knew there would be no way for Trump to divest, or that Trump is slightly quieter about steering government business to his properties than holding auctions on C-SPAN, I suppose.

        • Nick says:

          But his finances stank to high heaven, that is a whole lot more recent, and if you dig you can usually find documentation for financial improprieties that rise well beyond the “He said, she said” level.

          Why didn’t anyone find it, then?? Given the enormous effort to sink Kavanaugh’s nomination, this makes little sense.

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            Optics of “I know people are reporting him for sexual assault, but we are going to try to bust him for what looks a whole lot like a gambling habit, very expensive mistress or something in that vein” were absolutely terrible so the democrats didn’t bother?

            Heck, it is even possible the dnc did the digging, know exactly where that “ticket” money went, but it would not actually be politically useful ammo. Like, he had a kid on the side 20 years ago, and it is the college fund.

            But cracking it would still make the bones of an investigative reporter.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Optics of “I know people are reporting him for sexual assault, but we are going to try to bust him for what looks a whole lot like a gambling habit, very expensive mistress or something in that vein” were absolutely terrible so the democrats didn’t bother?

            There is no need for it to be one or the other. If you find the bad finances you can still say you kept an alleged harasser out of office, and most moderates are probably going to be happy that you caught a crook before he became a SC justice.

          • Ketil says:

            Why didn’t anyone find it, then?? Given the enormous effort to sink Kavanaugh’s nomination, this makes little sense.

            Not that I believe they wouldn’t also have used financial misbehavior, but if you assume the accusers are doing this for their own benefit, perhaps it looks better for them to come out hard against sexual abuse against women? Like is pointed out, impeachment is very unlikely, and prominent democrats are all over Twitter condemning Kavanaugh.

        • Matt says:

          Someone else? If you let your political enemies destroy your political allies based on what your side assumes is a pack of baseless lies, who will volunteer to be ‘next’?

          • Thomas Jorgensen says:

            “Not getting on the highest court in the land” != “destroyed”.
            And “the 19 other candidates on the federalist list”?

          • albatross11 says:

            Having every major media source in the US spend a couple months discussing whether you’re some kind of sexual predator, and having partisans on the other side spend the next several months calling you a rapist, however, does look more like being destroyed. Especially if the result of that is that the administration withdraws your nomination and leaves you hanging out to dry. Do that a couple times, and your list of interested candidates for judgeships will dry up considerably.

          • Matt says:

            “Not getting on the highest court in the land” != “destroyed”.

            I presume that the list of candidates who want to be falsely accused of sexual assault, serial rape, and gang rape is zero. If you believe the accusations are false, but you see that the accusations will stick anyway because the administration will choose to abandon you, then who in the world would make the attempt?

          • John Schilling says:

            This usage of “destroyed” is literally always 100.00% the worst sort of hyperbole in history, so I’m not a big fan of it and wish Matt would have chosen a different word.

            But the point remains, a Brett Kavanaugh who hypothetically accepted a supreme court nomination, had his name dragged through the mud in the court of public opinion and the halls of the senate, didn’t actually get the SCOTUS job and had to go back to being the same ordinary federal judge he was before but with a diminished reputation, is at least substantially damaged. The remainder of his life will be less pleasant than it would have been if he had just said “no” up front.

            So if that becomes the likely outcome of accepting a supreme court nomination, lots of good judges won’t accept such a nomination. And the ones who still will accept, will be disproportionately weighted towards those who don’t care about reputation and (perceived) honor and who enjoy adversarial confrontations with the hated outgroup. That would be bad for the GOP and bad for the nation. We don’t want that.

          • One point that people may be missing is that even if there are 20 judges on the Federalist Society list, they are not interchangeable, for two reasons.

            One is that they may be on the list for different reasons. One obvious distinction is between libertarian views and conservative views. Is wanting to interpret the Constitution as severely limiting government action a plus or a minus? Depends on what sort of actions you want to limit. Different senators may disagree on that.

            A second reason is that different judges differ in how persuasive they are to colleagues, how influential their opinions are on the legal academy.

          • Randy M says:

            John Schilling speaks with clarity.

          • Matt says:

            Point taken about the language. I could have done better.

            Apologies

          • Aftagley says:

            So if that becomes the likely outcome of accepting a supreme court nomination, lots of good judges won’t accept such a nomination.

            This only holds true if you also believe that a majority of good judges ALSO have the kind of past that either contains several credible allegations of sexual assault or has been conducted in such a way as to open yourself up to numerous allegations of sexual assault.

            As someone who doesn’t hold this viewpoint, I think your overall point is incorrect. For example: look at Gorsuch as an example of a jurist that the dems emphatically didn’t want, yet didn’t get dragged through the mud in his confirmation hearings.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            This only holds true if you also believe that a majority of good judges ALSO have the kind of past that either contains several credible allegations of sexual assault or has been conducted in such a way as to open yourself up to numerous allegations of sexual assault.

            Or that your opponents will find people who can convincingly* masquerade as such

            *at least to their own choir

          • Aftagley says:

            Or that your opponents will find people who can convincingly* masquerade as such

            From literally the second half of my post:

            for example: look at Gorsuch as an example of a jurist that the dems emphatically didn’t want, yet didn’t get dragged through the mud in his confirmation hearings

            You are proposing that democrats will find or make up sexual impropriety in the past of anyone the republicans will appoint to the supreme court. I’m providing a recent counterexample where that emphatically didn’t happen. I’m further postulating that, even more than Brett, the democrats had every reason to try and sink Gorsuch during his confirmation process, yet the most divisive thing I remember from those was Al Franken yelling about unions and trucks drivers.

            Your theory doesn’t hold.

          • Randy M says:

            This only holds true if you also believe that a majority of good judges ALSO have the kind of past that either contains several credible allegations of sexual assault

            This only holds if you think those were credible allegations of sexual assault.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Aftagley

            From my perspective, the allegations against Kavanaugh aren’t particularly credible in any way that couldn’t be replicated by purely bad actors.

            And the big difference between Kavanaugh and Gorsuch was that Gorsuch didn’t shift the balance of the Court.

          • Aftagley says:

            This only holds if you think those were credible allegations of sexual assault.

            If you’re going to quote me, please don’t selectively quote only half of my argument /sentence when the second half directly addresses your point.

            …the kind of past that either contains several credible allegations of sexual assault or has been conducted in such a way as to open yourself up to numerous allegations of sexual assault.

            Whether or not you believe the specific allegations of sexual assault, at this point it’s not particularly controversial that Brett Kavanaugh has a history of excessive drinking, blacking out, and behaving in ways that don’t stand up to future scrutiny. His classmates both in school and at Yale have supported these claims.

          • John Schilling says:

            or has been conducted in such a way as to open yourself up to numerous allegations of sexual assault.

            At this point, I’m pretty certain that having lived as a cis-hetero adult-ish male in the 1990s or before, is sufficient to “open yourself up to” at least Avenatti/Swetnick level allegations of sexual assault, if someone with at least Avenatti-level power thinks it will actually serve their ambitions to conjure such accusations. And if it is seen as something that will actually swing a SCOTUS nomination, that level of power will be called in to play.

            I’m providing a recent counterexample where that emphatically didn’t happen.

            “Recent” by some standards, but pre-Kavanaugh. The claim is that the Kavanaugh allegations(*) represent a dangerous escalation, presumably part of a two-tits-for-a-tat cycle that dates back to Robert Bork. What happened pre-Kavanaugh is irrelevant to the claim that this is a dangerous escalation, just as all the justices whose nominations weren’t held up until the next election is irrelevant to the (IMO true) claim that Merrick Garland was a dangerous escalation.

            Also, “recent” but pre-#MeToo. In April 2017, it would have been blatantly obvious to anyone that an unproven accusation of drunken-fratboy level sexual assault was not going to derail a SCOTUS nomination with a supportive majority in the Senate. And it should have been obvious, just as it was actually true, that this wasn’t going to work in 2018 either. But #MeToo made it barely plausible that it might work, so in that environment it was at least tried.

            Many of us are raising the concern that, if such an attack against Kavanaugh were to succeed, it would set a dangerous precedent that would lead to false accusations in the future. You are claiming that the absence of false accusations, at a past time when the standing precedent was Clarence Thomas, disproves this. I do not find this argument to be convincing.

            * Whether fabricated from scratch or just raised and debated where they would previously have been ignored

          • Randy M says:

            or has been conducted in such a way as to open yourself up to numerous allegations of sexual assault.

            There were also not so many allegations against him as to overlook the incredibility of most of them.

        • J Mann says:

          1) In addition to using the issue to pump up their base, I think part of it was:

          a) “Pick someone else” was seen as playing into Dem hands. It was pretty clear at the time that the strategy was to run out the clock. If the next person turned out to have a skeleton in their closet, Dems would use it to try to get past the next election. (And if one uncorroborated accusation qualified as a skeleton, it was likely that one or more would turn up for the next candidate.)

          b) It’s possible that some of the Republicans honestly saw this as unjust.

          2) For what it’s worth, my prior on the financial argument is that it will turn out to be a nothingburger, based on the fact that:

          a) Most of the time a breathless but unproven accusation gets dragged to light, it turns out to be almost nothing, and

          b) The Dems had every incentive to catch him and didn’t. IMHO, the most likely scenario is that his financial records and witness testimony were consistent with his explanation.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          When you have a theory which predicts that no one on either side will care very much whether a particular candidate gets confirmed, it’s a problem when it turns out that a great many people on both sides care whether he gets confirmed.

      • J Mann says:

        It’s another step towards court packing – this will be another one of the list of wrongs that need redressing by adding another 5 justices to the court.

        I’m hopeful it doesn’t come to that, but if the base is convinced that the GOP knowingly put a rapist on the court and breached all tradition by refusing to vote on a judge, they may not settle for much less.

      • Thank god we have higher standards today.

        By current standards, I don’t think Kavanaugh did anything wrong (aside from getting drunk). Arguably someone else did.

        • matthewravery says:

          Depending on your perspective, there are a couple different things you could’ve thought were “wrong”:

          1) The alleged sexual misconduct
          2) The thoroughness of the FBI’s investigation into the claims of sexual misconduct
          3) Kavanaugh’s testimony

          I’ve found the discussion on the topic disappointing, since it seems to have focused on these issues in the order I listed them, which is also the order from most to least “eye-of-the-beholder”. In addition to being the thing for which we have the most clear evidence, (3) is also the issue most likely to tell us about how Kavanaugh will act in the job he was recently confirmed to.

      • Clutzy says:

        I assure you, the kids do not. Their generalized lewdness is much greater, which leads to our even greater reporting levels by people holding less open views.

        Indeed, the overlap between that which is privately expected, yet publicly condemned/criminal has not been this large since at least before the Reformation.

  24. FLWAB says:

    I can still remember where I was when I first heard that studies had conclusively proved (the words of a newspaper headline, I’m sure that actual scientists would not be so hyperbolic) that free will does not exist. It was yet another high tech replication of an experiment performed in 1964, where German scientists observed brain activity while asking subjects to randomly tap their fingers, and to inform the experimenters at the exact moment they decided to tap. They found that while the subjects informed the experimenters about 150 milliseconds before the tap occurred, a large burst off brain activity (dubbed the Bereitschaftspotential) preceded that tap by 500 milliseconds. The conclusion drawn for decades was that the brain “decided” to move the finger before you had any conscious awareness of a decision to move the finger. In other words, we do not decide to do something and then do it, activity in the brain leads to doing something which makes us believe that we decided to do it. Free will was perhaps an illusion: the brain does was it does, and our feelings of volition play catch up. When I read about another more advanced study that confirmed the result I was taken aback. No free will? Ridiculous! Though I could find no fault in the study myself (being a layman) I concluded that it was wrong. Something must be wrong about the experiment or the conclusions reached.

    Why was I so confident? Cognito ergo sum. Out of all the things I know, the fact that I am a mind is the most foundational. That I had free will seems nearly as foundational. I experience free will much more directly than I experience the world around me: it would be easier to believe that the universe did not exist than to believe that I did not exist, and without free will “I” seems meaningless. I won’t go into he nitty gritty details, but with that as my prior I concluded the study must be wrong.

    Recently the study, and the ones before it, have been disproved. My faith in free will seems vindicated.

    As it turns out the observations were correct, but the interpretation had rested on false assumptions. The Bereitschaftspotential appears to not be directly connected to decision making but is rather a natural rise and fall in overall brain activity. It is brain “noise” in other words. Static. Sometimes it rises, and sometimes it falls. When it rises it seems like it is easier to activate our motor nuerons. Thus when participants are told to tap randomly: that is, to tap whenever they felt like it, with no external cue, they naturally tapped when their brain activity was high. That just seems like the best time to tap, absent any other input. This new study demonstrated that the Bereitschaftspotential was noise and not the brain’s decision making process by also observing subjects who were told to just sit quietly for the same amount of time. Both subjects, the tappers and the sitters, had bursts of Bereitschaftspotential regularly. The only relevant difference between their brain patters occurred 150 milliseconds before the tappers tapped: exactly when the tappers reported deciding to tap their fingers.

    In a bit more detail, from the article:

    From a bird’s-eye view, all these cases of noisy data look like any other noise, devoid of pattern. But it occurred to Schurger that if someone lined them up by their peaks (thunderstorms, market records) and reverse-averaged them in the manner of Kornhuber and Deecke’s innovative approach, the results’ visual representations would look like climbing trends (intensifying weather, rising stocks). There would be no purpose behind these apparent trends—no prior plan to cause a storm or bolster the market. Really, the pattern would simply reflect how various factors had happened to coincide.

    “I thought, Wait a minute,” Schurger says. If he applied the same method to the spontaneous brain noise he studied, what shape would he get? “I looked at my screen, and I saw something that looked like the Bereitschaftspotential.” Perhaps, Schurger realized, the Bereitschaftspotential’s rising pattern wasn’t a mark of a brain’s brewing intention at all, but something much more circumstantial.

    In a new study under review for publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Schurger and two Princeton researchers repeated a version of Libet’s experiment. To avoid unintentionally cherry-picking brain noise, they included a control condition in which people didn’t move at all. An artificial-intelligence classifier allowed them to find at what point brain activity in the two conditions diverged. If Libet was right, that should have happened at 500 milliseconds before the movement. But the algorithm couldn’t tell any difference until about only 150 milliseconds before the movement, the time people reported making decisions in Libet’s original experiment.

    In other words, people’s subjective experience of a decision—what Libet’s study seemed to suggest was just an illusion—appeared to match the actual moment their brains showed them making a decision.

    The moral: if a study comes out claiming that you don’t exist, you should probably discount it.

    • Randy M says:

      Interesting. Thanks for the update.

    • Elephant says:

      This study is in no way a validation that free will exists; it’s simply a refutation of a (strange) neurological measure that (maybe) relates to the notion of free will. Moreover, denying free will is in no way claiming that you don’t exist. For better exposition on this, see for example Dennet’s Elbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting .

      • jermo sapiens says:

        When Christopher Hitchens was asked if he believed in free will, his response was “I have no choice”.

        But this seems to be a case where different people talk of different things. Free will as we experience it is obviously real. I can choose chocolate or vanilla ice cream. But I cant choose whether I prefer chocolate or vanilla ice cream. So when I am offered the choice, it’s not surprising that there is activity in my subconscious brain that tells my conscious brain to choose chocolate. And that subconscious activity is almost certainly predetermined based on my brain chemistry and wiring, which in turn is predetermined based on my genetics and the environment I grew up in.

        I’m open to the idea that we have a soul which is separate from the body (after all, we have absolutely no idea how to create consciousness from the building blocks of the universe like atoms, energy…), but we shouldnt expect this soul to be something that can be tested experimentally.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          As Sam Harris (and presumably others but he’s the one I’m most familiar with) has pointed out, even if we do have a non-material soul, that still doesn’t support the hypothesis that we have free will in the sense that philosophers seem to want – everything that our brains do, or that our souls do if we have them, would still be the product of some combination of determinism and randomness, with nowhere to stand outside the chain of causality and influence it.

          • FLWAB says:

            I think the problem is that free will can be difficult to define, and people use the term to mean many different things. As far as I can tell the crux of it is this: free will exists if it is possible to choose something different, regardless of whether you do, and free will does not exist if it is impossible for you to chose something different. If you offer me a choice between ice cream and death by torture, I will always choose ice cream. That doesn’t mean that it was impossible for me to choose death by torture. It is a fine distinction but philosophically important.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            yes, i agree with you. to the extent that what “philosophers seem to want” refers to a free will which is independent of any physical process, I’m not sure this is a particularly valuable concept. maybe it is for philosophers, but for normal people, the notion of free will as real is true and useful. Even Sam Harris admits that “my brain chemistry made me do it” is not a good excuse for anything.

          • Philosophisticat says:

            The majority of philosophers are compatibilists, and hold that free will does not require the falsity of determinism (or for us to stand outside the chain of causality, etc.). Indeed, it is one of relatively few issues in philosophy on which there is something like a dominant position. This is an example of why one shouldn’t get one’s understanding of philosophy from Sam Harris.

      • FLWAB says:

        This study is in no way a validation that free will exists; it’s simply a refutation of a (strange) neurological measure that (maybe) relates to the notion of free will.

        I agree. I don’t have the foggiest idea how you would design an experiment to prove free will exists. And while I agree I could potentially exist without free will, the existence of free will is far more evident to me than that, say, you or anyone else exists.

        • Viliam says:

          Free will as a psychological phenomenon exists, free will as a magical ability to avoid causality does not.

          At the core, it is the usual map/territory confusion. In our mind we perceive ourselves as “having multiple choices”, and then choosing one of them. This is our everyday experience.

          At the same time, if the brain is made of atoms that follow the laws of physics, all our activities — including making the choice — are predetermined. And this seems like a correct assumption to me. (Ignoring the quantum things for the moment, which simply add some randomness to the process, which is ultimately not what the proponents of “free will” mean by those words.)

          The solution to this apparent paradox is that “how my mind perceives itself” is of course not a 100% reflection of reality, but rather it’s simplification. Like, obviously, the mind cannot simulate itself with 100% fidelity. So instead of simulating every single atom of itself, it uses a simplification — a “black box” that has multiple options, and chooses one of them mysteriously (i.e. by a process that isn’t simulated in detail). So, the “mind as imagined by itself” is underspecified, and “free will” is the degree of freedom that exists as a result; but the actual mind is made of atoms, and fully deterministic. The mind just cannot see itself in a sufficient detail to observe this.

          • Elephant says:

            Very well put.

            To me this seems so obvious — the apparent paradox, and its resolution — but I suppose the alternative perspectives somehow seem obvious to other people!

          • FLWAB says:

            At the same time, if the brain is made of atoms that follow the laws of physics, all our activities — including making the choice — are predetermined.

            I agree: which is why I believe the mind must somehow be more than the brain. If the mind consisted of only what the brain does, then naturally our mind is predetermined. But if our mind is predetermined then, as you pointed out, “how my mind perceives itself” could not be a reflection of reality. But my perception is all I have access to: if my perception is fundamentally false, and my thoughts which I believe are the result of will and reason are actually the cascading of so many chemical dominoes then I cannot trust my mind to come to true conclusions. But if my perception of my own mind is false, then how can I trust the conclusion that my mind is the result of atoms following the laws of physics? I can’t.

            There is a thought that ends thought: there is a line of reasoning that ends all reasoning. If I am required to chose between believing that my thoughts are illusions or that my mind is more than atoms then the latter is far more believable. That my thoughts are real and that my will is real is far more evident to me than any theory about atoms, brains, and mind. If you really think that your thoughts and perceptions are only a low fidelity simulation, feel free. But I don’t know why I should trust the reasoning of a low fidelity simulation that only thinks that it is thinking.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @FLWAB:

            But if our mind is predetermined then, as you pointed out, “how my mind perceives itself” could not be a reflection of reality. But my perception is all I have access to: if my perception is fundamentally false, and my thoughts which I believe are the result of will and reason are actually the cascading of so many chemical dominoes then I cannot trust my mind to come to true conclusions. But if my perception of my own mind is false, then how can I trust the conclusion that my mind is the result of atoms following the laws of physics? I can’t.

            There is a thought that ends thought: there is a line of reasoning that ends all reasoning. If I am required to chose between believing that my thoughts are illusions or that my mind is more than atoms then the latter is far more believable.

            Thank you for taking the time to defend rationalism against the materialists like this.

          • Elephant says:

            @FLWAB

            and my thoughts which I believe are the result of will and reason are actually the cascading of so many chemical dominoes then I cannot trust my mind to come to true conclusions.

            Isn’t the opposite equally true? If you think your mind is somehow outside the bounds of causality, how can you trust it to come to true conclusions that will materially affect the world around you? Or does causality somehow a one-way-street, by which your mind affects the world, but is not affected by it?

          • Zephalinda says:

            I think the bigger question is how, within this system, we believe that intellection is possible.

            Your account seems to take for granted the independent existence of a territory out there, one really made up of objects like “atoms,” actions like “determine”/”cause,” patterns like “random,” and logical relations like “high-fidelity.” Surely if we were being thorough about applying the “mind = just brain atoms” model, it would mean that the concept “atoms” is itself just an arrangement of atoms in your brain, as is the math we believe determines their motion, etc.

            Effectively, what we treat as territory is actually also just map– and a pretty fanciful/speculative map, at that, the farther we stray from concrete sense-experience and into purely notional concepts cobbled together from math and distant inferences.

            I would say that it’s silly to talk as though one arrangement of brain atoms could ever “mean” another set of atoms outside the brain, except that our idea of meaning is also just atoms. I don’t really understand how to get around this (“Eh, leave it alone” has worked OK so far), but it does seem highly inconsistent to get just materialist enough to use science against metaphysics, but not materialist enough to deny the possibility of science altogether.

          • FLWAB says:

            @Elephant

            If you think your mind is somehow outside the bounds of causality, how can you trust it to come to true conclusions that will materially affect the world around you? Or does causality somehow a one-way-street, by which your mind affects the world, but is not affected by it?

            I think this is looking at the problem the wrong way. I have far more direct evidence and experience that free will exists than that deterministic causality is universal.

            We live our lives and it is obvious (being obvious does not make it true, but it must be acknowledged that it is obvious) that there are things that choose and there are things that cannot choose. We go around making choices: it appears that rocks, dust, ropes, shoes, and countless other things do not. On the same token, our own bodies often resist our will: we might choose to fly, but our bodies fall to the ground regardless. Yet the fact that they resist our will just makes the odd dichotomy more evident: there is will, which can choose, and there is everything else, which can’t. If there was no distinction than the statement “against my will” has no meaning, yet things happening against my will is one of the most obvious facts about the universe.

            One explanation of this strange division is that will does not actually exist: that everything, including our will, has no choice. But this is only to say that will does not exist, yet our will is one of the most obvious, plain, and foundational facts of our existence. It is far more real than any theory about how atoms are supposed to behave. We don’t even know why the laws of physics work: we just suspect that they are because it matches our current observations.

            But we need to separate this from the idea of causality in general. Causality means that nothing happens for no reason: every change that occurs has a cause. But that doesn’t mean every outcome was set in stone. I woke up this morning because the dog tried to get into my bed. Eventually I got out of bed and put on my bathrobe. So you could say that my getting out of bed was caused by the dog getting into it, and that is exactly right. But I had a choice of what effect would follow that cause: I could have stayed in bed with the dog, or kicked the dog out of bed, or sat up and browsed the internet. Cause and effect remain, but not in a deterministic fashion. Why? Because my will one of those things that can choose, not one of those things that can’t. Rocks and steam can’t choose, my fingers can’t choose, but my will can.

            To put it simply: causality only demands determinism if the only thing that exists is things that can’t choose. If something exists that can choose than causality will work differently for it than for things that can’t choose. Saying that if everything doesn’t react to a cause the same way as rocks than causality is broken is like saying that if everything doesn’t react to a blowtorch the same way as paper than combustion is broken.

          • rahien.din says:

            @FLWAB

            Cause and effect remain, but not in a deterministic fashion. Why? Because my will is one of those things that can choose

            Therefore, if I identify the causes that led you to experience the choice to get out of bed, then I have proved that you don’t have free will?

            Causality means that nothing happens for no reason: every change that occurs has a cause. But that doesn’t mean every outcome was set in stone.

            If free will means “given the same factors, I could have chosen differently,” then the notion of free will rests on decisions that are inherently meaningless. And if the exercise of free will is essentially to make a choice in the absence of reasons, then free will is only exercised in nonrational nonvolitional circumstances.

            The situations you identify as “exercise of free will” are those in which it makes the least sense to say “I did it.”

            If my thoughts which I believe are the result of will and reason are actually the cascading of so many chemical dominoes then I cannot trust my mind to come to true conclusions.

            We only need to evaluate the position that “there exists an immaterial mind.” By our own reproducible experiences, such an immaterial mind can not function or be accessed without those chemical dominoes cascading in very precise and specific ways. If the brain becomes structurally or chemically disrupted, that does not simply alter the mind’s function, but alters access to the mind.

            Thus, even if you posit an immaterial mind, that immaterial mind is entirely beholden to and inseparable from the material brain. And if there is a divide between the immaterial and the material, we are trapped on the material side.

          • Elephant says:

            @FLWAB, the thing you keep stating is “obvious” is not free will, it is the perception of free will, which no one is denying exists. (See also Villian’s comments.) Simply repeating that it’s “obvious” doesn’t help your case!

            For example, you write: “I have far more direct evidence and experience that free will exists than that deterministic causality is universal.” That’s interesting, because I have no evidence at all that free will exists! I certainly have evidence that I act as if it does, but I’m also aware that I would act in the same way if I were a conscious being who doesn’t have omniscient insight into every sensory input to and component of my decision-making processes. It would feel just like the decisions are coming from “me,” which of course they are, but not in a non-deterministic sense.

          • FLWAB says:

            @rahien.din

            Therefore, if I identify the causes that led you to experience the choice to get out of bed, then I have proved that you don’t have free will?

            I don’t see how that follows based on what I wrote.

            And if the exercise of free will is essentially to make a choice in the absence of reasons, then free will is only exercised in nonrational nonvolitional circumstances.

            I never said or supported such a ridiculous idea. All our choices are made in the presence of “reasons.” You seem to be replying to an idea that I did not write.

            The situations you identify as “exercise of free will” are those in which it makes the least sense to say “I did it.”

            Again, I don’t see how this follows from what I wrote. All of my decisions are exercises of free will: from getting out of bed instead of sleeping in, to proposing to my wife and rocking my daughter to sleep.

            We only need to evaluate the position that “there exists an immaterial mind.” By our own reproducible experiences, such an immaterial mind can not function or be accessed without those chemical dominoes cascading in very precise and specific ways. If the brain becomes structurally or chemically disrupted, that does not simply alter the mind’s function, but alters access to the mind.

            First, I never posited an immaterial mind. I may have one, I may not. I posit that there are some things that choose, and some things that don’t. I make choices: it appears that rocks do not. However that came about, I am more sure of that than I am sure that rocks exist.

            @Elephant

            For example, you write: “I have far more direct evidence and experience that free will exists than that deterministic causality is universal.” That’s interesting, because I have no evidence at all that free will exists! I certainly have evidence that I act as if it does, but I’m also aware that I would act in the same way if I were a conscious being who doesn’t have omniscient insight into every sensory input to and component of my decision-making processes.

            If that is to be our standard of evidence, than I have to humbly point out that we have no evidence that deterministic causality exists, only that the things we observe behave as if it does. Now I would say that our perceptions of things behaving as if they had a certain nature is evidence that they have that nature. If you disagree that is fine, but it gives us just as much doubt about the laws of physics as it does about the existence of free will.

            You posit that free will could conceivably be an illusion. I would posit that atoms and the laws of physics could also conceivably be an illusion. When it comes down to it I have far more direct experience of will than direct experience of atoms and reactions. If free will is an illusion that means that decisions, choices, debate, internal conflict, repentance, stubbornness, submission, and loyalty are also illusions. That’s a big ask. That doesn’t seem to comport with our observations of reality.

            Right now I believe I am debating with a man. You believe I am debating with clockwork. If I am right than I will only convince you with the use of good logic, reason, and persuasion, and only then if you are willing to accept my view. If you are right then I will only convince you if my words collide with your clockwork in just the right way to turn on the agreement light. Which seems more likely to you?

          • rahien.din says:

            @FLWAB

            I never posited an immaterial mind.

            It appears we’ve reached a necessary question.

            You agree that if the mind consisted of only what the brain does, then naturally our mind is predetermined [link]. But, you also believe that (presumably like Kripke and Feser?) if thoughts are actually the actions of a material system, then the mind cannot be trusted to come to true conclusions [link]. You (therefore) believe that the mind must be something more than the actions of the brain [link]. You contend that you do not necessarily posit any immaterial mind [link].

            IE, you claim that the mind must consist of “something more” than material systems, and contend that the “something more” is not necessarily immaterial. A thing may either be material or immaterial. So, if the mind may consist of the material brain and a not-immaterial something, then the mind may consist of entirely of material systems… which permits determinism.

            That’s confusing. Help clarify. There are further questions, but this one seems fundamental. For instance, we need to know what you think “reasons” actually are.

          • FLWAB says:

            @rahien.din

            I did feel some regret after posting my comment about “not positing an immaterial mind”. While literally true, it is also true that as you have pointed out there really aren’t many other options given my premises. I mostly didn’t want to get into the weeds, you might say. How free will works is much less obviously evident than the fact that it works, so to speak. But you’re right, I was showing a lack of candor. Mea culpa.

            As far as what I think “reasons” are, a reason is a cause or explanation of an effect. I got out of bed in my example for multiple reasons: I wanted to go to work that day. I wanted to take a shower before going to work. I wanted to get to work on time. If I was going to achieve all these desires then I would have to get out of bed before too much time had passed. So, given those reasons, I chose to get out of bed. I made a decision. But I was capable of choosing otherwise, and if I had I would have had reasons for that as well. After all I also wanted to go back to sleep, and wanted to be warm. I was capable of deciding to follow those desires instead. I chose not to. My choice in either case would not have been without “reasons”.

            If my mind is purely deterministic in nature then all of those desires are simply illusions that are born out of complicated interactions of electrical potential in the brain. . I thought I was choosing and desiring, but in reality I was running out a program. Yet, I have much more direct experience with will than I do with neurons. If my perceptions are so completely untrustworthy then how can I trust the perception that neurons exist? If my perceptions are generally trustworthy then I should trust my perception that will exists, which is obvious to me, than that will is an illusion, with is very obscure.

          • rahien.din says:

            @FLWAB,

            Thanks for your reply! And moreover, it’s fair to not want to get into those particular weeds if we can help it.

            It may be difficult to make our ideas meet, though, if we can’t talk about the “how” of the mind. This seems to be the sticking point.

            Whether that “how” pertains to the source of our desires, or, the causes or reasons upstream from our actions, the information therein must somehow move from their source into the material world.

            Moreover, the more we come to understand the workings of the brain, the more we find that the mind’s functions (fluency, calculation, emotion) correspond to anatomical substrates, such that the disruption of a particular ion/molecule/protein/organelle/cell/gyrus/nucleus/region/network/assembly results in loss of mind-function. The strong implication is that the brain’s structure is synonymous with its operations – it does not seem you would object to this.

            It would be fair to point out that such correspondence does not indicate that these brain structures cause these mind-functions. But, it does indicate that these brain structures are entirely indispensable for those mind-functions. The mind’s expression within consciousness and its effects upon the material world – on every level – are dependent upon the operations of determined, stochastic, material systems. Being so dependent, the mind and our experiences thereof are subject to the limitations of material systems.

            So, whatever we posit the mind to be capable of, ultimately it can only perform the operations available to the brain. Whatever your conscious experiences, they would have been different if the physical state of your brain had been different.

            This is sort of the point of asking what you believe reasons are. If those reasons are things like “increased ADP concentration” or “homeostatic drives,” or “timing circuits,” then we approach a more mechanistic explanation, and the choice is less describable as “free” in the sense of “I could have chosen otherwise.”

        • Protagoras says:

          If you don’t have the foggiest idea how to design an experiment to prove free will exists, that is as much as to say you haven’t the foggiest idea how free will interacts with anything else. To me, it seem that this should make you less confident that free will is in conflict with materialism, or determinism, or anything else. I really don’t understand where the confident “compatibilism just isn’t real free will!” positions are coming from.

          • FLWAB says:

            If you don’t have the foggiest idea how to design an experiment to prove free will exists, that is as much as to say you haven’t the foggiest idea how free will interacts with anything else.

            I don’t have any idea how to design an experiment to prove that my mother loves me, yet I’m certain it is the case. Not all things that exist can be proven by experiment, and just because you can’t put something in a test tube doesn’t mean you can’t understand its nature.

            Edit (thoughts after posting): For instance, I could design a series of experiments to prove that my mother behaves as if she loves me but as love is not something that can be quantified or observed directly than I could not prove it: she could always be pretending. By the same token I am surrounded by beings who behave as if they had free will and made choices, but I don’t know how I could prove that they actually do and aren’t just clockwork.

          • Protagoras says:

            @FLWAB, Perhaps I’m missing something, but I don’t see in what way your response is relevant to my comment. You seem to be doubling down on your insistence that you know you have free will, but that’s not something I questioned.

          • FLWAB says:

            I was merely trying to clarify that I don’t have the foggiest idea how to design an experiment to prove free will exists because I think it is a category error to try. Just because I can’t design an experiment to prove the existence of something doesn’t mean I can’t have an understanding of how it works. I can’t design an experiment to prove the Pythagorean Theorem but I can have ideas about how it works.

          • Protagoras says:

            Yeah, I don’t think you understand what makes the Pythagorean theorem true either (I tend to think nobody does), but if you think otherwise, then I guess that’s my diagnosis of your mistaken views about free will; you’re massively overconfident about your understanding of things. Familiarity is not understanding.

      • Enkidum says:

        +1 to Dennett / Elbow Room recommendation. Best thing on the subject I’ve ever read – the other being Dennett’s postscript to a book going through the Libet experiment and related ideas, where he trashes basically everything that came before. I think the studies I’ve read are largely awful, because very few of the people designing them actually thought carefully about Dennett-style objections.

    • Machine Interface says:

      Since you can’t prove a negative, shouldn’t the onus of proof be on the side of those who claim that free will does exist?

      • FLWAB says:

        By the same logic you could say that the onus of proof is on the side who claim that you exist, and are not merely a trick or hallucination.

        • Machine Interface says:

          I am confortable with not actually existing being the default assumption. It happens not to bother me – I play with the rules I am given, even if it could turn out they’re illusory.

          • FLWAB says:

            And yet, cogito ergo sum. The fact that we exist is the only fact we can know with certainty. It is more foundational than any other fact. So while we can debate about free will, if anyone argues that you do not exist you can safely dismiss them. The world might be a dream within a dream, but you know that at minimum you are the dreamer.

          • Machine Interface says:

            I don’t understand how “cogito ergo sum” is a proof. It’s more like a tautology: “How do you know that you exist?” “Well, because I have thoughts that are mine” “How do you know those thoughts are yours” “Well, because I exist of course, so those thoughts have to be mine!”

            Being “certain” of a fact translates in Bayesian terms in being overconfident.

            And even if we accept cogito ergo sum, this has no bearing on free will; my computer has internal processes akin to thought, even if this thought is 100% determined by input and configuration — the computer has no free will, yet that doesn’t imply my computer doesn’t really exist.

          • FLWAB says:

            I don’t understand how “cogito ergo sum” is a proof.

            1. I think (more precisely, thinking is happening).
            2. The existence of thought requires the existence of a thinker.
            Therefore, I exist.

            More particularly, Descartes was trying to find the existence of a foundation of knowledge: something he could know to be true without having to trust anything. His exercise in radical skepticism showed him that the world and everything in it could conceivably be a hallucination or illusion: that his sense perceptions could conceivably be the same. But if there is a hallucination, there is a hallucinator. Though all his senses could be lies, somebody was being lied to. He doubted that he existed: but if he didn’t exist, than who was doing the doubting?

            We know that we exist far more securely than we know anything else. Everything else we have to take on faith, at least a little.

          • silver_swift says:

            The only thing you know with absolute certainties is that experiences exist. Descartes then extralopates from that (presumably without noticing it) that there is a single thing that is having these experiences and for that to be true, that thing has to exist as well, thus Cogito Ergo Sum.

            Now if we approach this from a Bayesian perspective, I do think that the existence of experiences that appear to form a coherent whole is damn strong evidence in favor of a thing existing that unifies these experiences, whether that be a metaphysical mind magical soul thingy or a real world brain from which consciousness emerges magically springs into existence, but it’s far from absolute proof.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @FLWAB:

            Though all his senses could be lies, somebody was being lied to. He doubted that he existed: but if he didn’t exist, than who was doing the doubting?

            We know that we exist far more securely than we know anything else. Everything else we have to take on faith, at least a little.

            I think science-oriented types assume materialism is more hegemonic with scientists than it actually was. For the last generation of great physicists (the ones who lived through WW2), belief in Mind was common, even up to monist idealism.

            “Today there is a wide measure of agreement, which on the physical side of science approaches almost to unanimity, that the stream of knowledge is heading towards a non-mechanical reality; the universe begins to look more like a great thought than like a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an accidental intruder into the realm of matter; we are beginning to suspect that we ought rather to hail it as a creator and governor of the realm of matter.” — Sir James Jeans, 1937

          • “How do you know those thoughts are yours”

            I never understood this objection. Who else’s thoughts would they be? If the answer is anything other than “me”, it just sounds like a redefining of words.

          • Machine Interface says:

            We know that our brain can trick us into retroactively thinking we’ve been witnessing that we haven’t.

            Eg: when you move your eyes, vision stops working, then the brain reconstructs what the smooth transition “should” have been, and retroactively prints it into our memory. We think that we’ve experienced in the present the shifting of our field of vision, but we haven’t, it’s a false memory.

            From this, we can in fact imagine that there would be a perceiving and thinking being A, and a non-perceiving, non-thinking being B who happens to have all the experiences of A continuously implemented into their memory.

            B has all the memory of the A, and has the illusory belief that they’re A, that they’re thinking as A, that they’re acting as A. But it’s an illusion – even the passage of time is an illusion for B.

            In this particular thought experiment both A and B exist (well, maybe), but it shows that there’s nothing self-evident about “if I exist then my thought and perceptions are mine, I am the thinking being”.

          • FLWAB says:

            From this, we can in fact imagine that there would be a perceiving and thinking being A, and a non-perceiving, non-thinking being B who happens to have all the experiences of A continuously implemented into their memory.

            Experience without perception or thought is a meaningless concept. If being B cannot perceive or think then they cannot have experiences or memories. This thought experiment is akin to saying “Imagine that there is a flying bird A, and a stationary hunk of lead B who happens to be given all the flying of A. If B is stationary, then it isn’t flying and saying that it somehow has all the flying of A is just a nonsense statement.

          • @Machine

            In your example, there is still clearly an “I” that is doing the thinking. It’s just that it originates from A and not B. It’s not any different than if I was a brain-in-a-vat and the physical body I’m aware of was just an illusion rather than being the source of my thoughts.

        • Like you said, cogito ergo sum is proof that I do exist, so I don’t need to worry about burden of proof arguments. A better example might be philosophical skepticism. Is the burden of proof on those who claim what I see is real to prove that it’s real?

    • bullseye says:

      Even if the original interpretation of the experiment were correct, I don’t think it would disprove free will. They didn’t show that we don’t make choices, only that we can’t articulate those choices the instant we make them.

      • Machine Interface says:

        The problem with reducing free will to “ability to make choices” is — has a vending machine free will because it choses in which internal conduct to send the coins you feed it according to their size?

      • bullseye says:

        The more I think about free will, the less meaningful it gets, so I’m tempted to answer, “sure, why not?”. A more serious answer would be that the machine’s “choice” is determined ahead of time by its designer.

      • John Schilling says:

        They didn’t show that we don’t make choices, only that we can’t articulate those choices the instant we make them.

        In the late industrial age, Queen Victoria embarks on a process that seems a lot like evaluating evidence and considering alternative courses of action to make what seems like the decision, “if the Sultan of Zanzibar does not stand down, We shall blast his palace off the face of the Earth”. Because reasons, this decision is implemented by having her general staff compile a set of specific, conditional orders which were sent by telegraph to an Admiral in Cairo, who sailed with a fleet of Her Majesty’s steamships to Zanzibar. A few days later, they evaluated facts not yet known in London or Cairo and blasted the palace of a recalcitrant Sultan off the face of the Earth. A few days after that, said Admiral was back in Cairo and able to send a telegram to the general staff in London. Later that afternoon, Queen Victoria became aware of the fact that the royal palace in Zanzibar had been a smoking crater for several days now.

        Did Queen Victoria exercise free will regarding the destruction of the palace? Discuss.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Very interesting. I certainly know that my tics and tic-like impulses aren’t voluntary decisions, and I know that movements are voluntary decisions.

      I wonder what the bereitschaftspotential is in people with tic disorders.

  25. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Why Does the School Day End Two Hours Before the Work Day?

    I thought I knew the answer to this when I was like 14. When Prussia invented universal public schools, they determined with German efficiency how many subjects future citizens should learn five days a week and made school that many hours plus a meal break. And the homeschooling argument was based around the truth claim of whether or not individual attention from a non-expert (i.e. Mom) could deliver equal or better content in less time.
    Seeing school as a safe place to warehouse children for however many hours their parents work seems like a Mistake.

    • The Nybbler says:

      Seeing school as a safe place to warehouse children for however many hours their parents work seems like a Mistake.

      It might be a mistake as an “ought”, but it’s not a mistake as an “is”.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        It might be a mistake as an “ought”, but it’s not a mistake as an “is”.

        Yeah, I meant “parents ought not do this.” As I have kids, I’ll want to give them excellence. I ought not try to fit them into a self-prioritizing schedule.

        • Chalid says:

          Well, it’s hard to know what the right thing to do in education is. But you can at least know what is convenient. So why not judge on convenience?

          Similarly, I have a bunch of different preschools that I could send my kids to, with various different philosophies that I can’t really evaluate. I send my kids to the closest one.

        • Jiro says:

          Isn’t giving everyone excellence sort of like having everyone be above average?

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Isn’t giving everyone excellence sort of like having everyone be above average?

            If every set of parents could do that, there would still be individual differences, so we’d be looking at kids above and below a higher average. Or waterline, if you will. 🙂

          • Randy M says:

            I don’t think so; average is relative, excellence is objective.

          • ECD says:

            I don’t think so; average is relative, excellence is objective.

            I think that’s right. My school actually did quite a nice thing by neatly labeling the classes as either ‘curved’ (and therefore subject to the strict rules on proportions of grades, or ‘mastery’ which were not.

    • John Schilling says:

      The school day ends two hours before the work day because we are still trying to at least pretend school is still about education, where making children sit in classrooms for 8+ hours a day is clearly well past the point of diminishing and probably into negative returns, and because the school day has to begin well before the work day so that working parents can deliver their kids to school (or at least see them safely on the bus) before themselves heading off to work.

      We can make the state-financed child warehousing day run past the end of the standard work day, if there’s sufficient demand. But it will be expensive, and it will be increasingly difficult to pretend that this has anything to do with education, and even trying to pretend will make it even more expensive.

      • albatross11 says:

        Lots of schools (public and private) offer “aftercare,” which is basically just daycare for your kids till you can pick them up.

        • Randy M says:

          aftercare

          Your (or their) euphemism ability is failing. It’s clearly after school enrichment activities.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            “Aftercare” also means emotional care following a BDSM scene. Let’s hope no schoolteachers are into BDSM.

          • Anthony says:

            Let’s hope no schoolteachers are into BDSM.

            Ha! Teachers aren’t as over-represented among the BDSM community as they are in, say, historical reenactment, but I know a number of teachers into BDSM.

      • Thomas Jorgensen says:

        In your view, what would school look like if we explicitly designed it to serve the purposes of “Teaching” and “Keep kids out of trouble while the parental units are at work”?
        4 hours of teaching, then loosely supervised play time until they get picked up?

        • John Schilling says:

          Probably something like that. Ideally we’d track students individually, and for many of them the answer would be basically Unschooling in a learning-optimized environment with a side order of “No, you really do have to sit through readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic until we’re sure you’ve got them down pat” and a few other structured activities. Realistically, if a government is going to handle it, it’s going to be somewhat more standardized and more regimented than optimal, but hopefully not too much more.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            This. Maybe 8:45 to Noon would be the Three Rs separated by the traditional Prussian bells, then lunch and PE, then turn them loose in the school building with activities like the science lab to learn in?

          • Clutzy says:

            @Le Maistre

            Its foolish to not have PE in between classes, or perhaps even before. Its a boost to the mind, and a reset.

            Probably: Class > PE > Class > Lunch > Break > Class would work best. Or something similar. I don’t know, it would be an excellent and actually useful social study. But setting it merely at the end of the day is largely wasting it.

    • Well... says:

      Above comments are all pretty negative on before/after-care programs. Some women aren’t cut out to be stay-at-home moms (and one nice thing about our post-feminist age is that most of these women aren’t ostracized when they figure it out), but they still make great moms and should definitely be reproducing. I think the number of such women is high enough that our current school arrangement is decent enough. Yeah, it’d be great to go back to one-room schoolhouses where all the kids leave at 1pm and go home to help Mom with chores, but all the other things that would have to change to make that feasible would result in a world most people don’t want.

      Most offsite before/after-care programs are fine from what I’ve seen — basically lots of semi-unsupervised play with peers: 20-30 kids of mixed ages in a big room having fun (and sometimes the older ones starting on their homework) while an adult sits in a chair or prepares plates of snacks and intervenes in disputes if she hears any starting.

      These programs are not subsidized as far as I know, but discounts are available if you’re employed by certain companies or if you already have another child in the offsite facility. They’re not horrendously expensive anyway, at least not where I live.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      All these articles just remind me how lucky I (and my parents) were to have my grandmother living with us. Grandma would watch us both before school and after school, Mom would be home by 4:30 and we’d have dinner by 5:30.

      Not really sure what we’d do. Theoretically I can have a “flexible” schedule, but that’s not really practical if I have to leave work every day at 2:45 to pick kids up.

    • baconbits9 says:

      This is why we can’t have nice things

      This mismatch creates a child-care crisis between 3 and 5 p.m. that has parents scrambling for options.

      Yeah, a problem known in advance that multiple generations have dealt with is a crisis?

      • baconbits9 says:

        Without an after-school program provided by their district, working parents in South Windsor are left to find an alternative on their own.

        Parents required to find care for their children on their own? The Horror.

      • Enkidum says:

        Multiple generations have not dealt with it, certainly not with the kind of prevalence that people deal with it today.

        • Nick says:

          Just a thought: we talk a lot on SSC about bad outcomes for children from divorces. Have we ever talked about bad outcomes for latchkey kids? Are there bad outcomes for latchkey kids?

          • baconbits9 says:

            Latchkey is harder to define though. I was a latchkey kid for a few years around age 10 when my mom went back to school to get her masters and started working again. This was fairly transitory for me though as I was doing at least 2 after school sports a year from 11-13 and one from 14-17. I would say that I would have spent 1 year as the oldest child home as a ‘latch key’, probably for less than 2 hours typically. Some of the time I would have been technically latch key, getting home half an hour or so before my mother, and some of the time my oldest brother would have been latch key in high school for a short period between school and the start of whatever sport was in season for him. Likewise my younger siblings would have had fairly different experiences.

            Divorce is closer to a hard line than latch key.

          • Clutzy says:

            Probably impossible to study, but I don’t see how it would reasonably be a negative with the right kind of parents and community. Its pretty “normal” for kids who don’t poop their own pants to have several unsupervised hours of life, historically.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Multiple generations have not dealt with it, certainly not with the kind of prevalence that people deal with it today

          Dual income families have been at roughly the same level since the early 90s, and single parent families peaked in the late 90s. That is 20-30 years of people figuring out this ‘crisis’ at this level, and roughly half of families were dual income (as in half of dual parent families) in 1970.

      • AG says:

        Not to mention the myriads of other nations who don’t have an issue with kids doing their own thing after school.

        • Clutzy says:

          The thing is, we WANT kids to be “doing their own thing” in a generalized sense. Its true we want them to also to have a central hub to run back to in case someone gets hurt, but realistically that is only one adult for a thousand+ kids over a gigantic area.

          The problem is that we have captured interests that prevent this normal state of things. Most kids over 5 can grab a lunch out of their fridge and run about all day with no incident. They just need a failsafe in case one of the ten kids steps on a rusty nail.

  26. Byrel Mitchell says:

    So, I’ve been reading some research indicating that most people primarily listen to music released in their teens-early 20s. While this makes some sense developmentally, I’d like to avert it personally by intentionally seeking out top quality music from the last decade or so.

    Does anyone have a go-to source or ranking for the best recent music? I’m not sure how well the Billboard rankings do as a long-term quality metric, but they only somewhat correlate with my perception of the best-regarded music from previous time periods.

    • rahien.din says:

      What kind of music?

      Why limit it to music from the most recent decade?

      • Byrel Mitchell says:

        Because I already appreciate an eclectic variety of music from pre-1990. It’s the modern stuff I’m missing all the referents for.

        • Plumber says:

          @Byrel Mitchell,
          I’m the same way, and not just regarding music, I simply remember books, movies, and television shows from the ’70’s and ’80’s better and I just had more time to explore culture then than now.

        • Well... says:

          I interpret rahien.din’s question to mean you could open up to new kinds of music more generally — they don’t have to be recent. There are undoubtedly artists who recorded great music while you were in your teens but you never knew about them or even their genres. And of course there’s a whole century of music recordings to listen to if you go back further.

    • albatross11 says:

      I’ve heard this claim and think it’s probably true on average, but I listen to a *lot* of music and even musical styles I had never heard of when I was a teenager. OTOH, for awhile I was driving to school with my son every day in an area where just about the only decent radio station was an all-80s-all-the-time station, and it was really entertaining how consistently I could name the song and artist after the first two or three seconds of the song, so that stuff clearly burned itself into my brain somehow.

      • Enkidum says:

        Yeah. I listen to very little that could be described as “classic rock” but I could probably name >70% of the songs that play on most classic rock stations within a few bars. Same for “80’s music” (which definitely includes things like Prince’s hits, but never something like Jane’s Addiction for some reason).

        • Well... says:

          “Been Caught Stealing” was Jane’s Addiction’s biggest hit, and the album it’s from, Ritual De Lo Habitual, came out in 1990. (“Jane Says”, off of Nothing’s Shocking, did come out in 1988, but it doesn’t get as much airplay. Also it lacks that over-produced, synth-heavy sound most people seem to look for in 80s music. And instead of the iconic 80s gunshots-as-snare-hits, Steve Perkins ditches the drumset entirely for a steel pan!)

          I don’t know how obsessive radio programmers are, but that probably disqualifies it from an all-80s station. 😛

          • Enkidum says:

            Yeah I realized as I was writing it that it there’s maybe two songs which could ever get radio play from Nothing’s Shocking (“Mountain Song” was kind of a thing for a while) and no one is ever going to play the first album outside of college radio.

            I dunno, Talking Heads or something like that makes the point equally well. But I guess they will play Psycho Killer.

            Fine, I’m just annoyed that radio isn’t as snobby as me.

          • Well... says:

            Heck, I’m annoyed that radio doesn’t play more Jane’s Addiction in general. Even “college radio” or “alternative rock” or whatever.

          • Enkidum says:

            At my high school prom they played “Been Caught Stealing” and all the freaks came out and danced. It was the only time I felt like one of the coolest kids in the room during those years. Because no one else knew what the hell was going on but they sure as hell wanted to feel like us.

            Makes it sound like I hold grudges, but I mostly don’t.

    • Enkidum says:

      When I listen to music I listened to in my late teens / early 20’s, with a few exceptions it’s almost a deliberate nostalgia trip. There are probably only 10 or 20 albums that I listened to all the time then that I still listen to at least once a year now. I’d guess most of what I listen to now is stuff I’ve discovered in the past decade (I’m mid-40’s).

      But as @rahien.din implies, the music one listens to at a given time need not be music from that time. If you listen to anything other than top-40 radio, it almost certainly isn’t.

      I think the best solution is to be extremely liberal in what motivates you to check something out. Band you like names an influence in an interview or in a song? Look them up. You read an article that compares band you like to some other band you’ve never heard of? Look them up. Friend mentions something she thinks you’d be into? Check it out. Etc etc etc. Even with a super low success rate, you’ll quickly develop far more new avenues of musical exploration than you can possibly have the time to fill. Especially if its an old and well-studied genre, there will be broad-scale agreement (somewhere) about many of the important foundational works, well-written introductions to all the major milestones, and even to many of the lesser works. Always worth checking those out, if you’re nerdy in that way at any rate.

      As for specific sources for recent music, I am definitively not the guy to answer that question. I think you’re right to avoid Billboard as any kind of a guide, way too poor a signal/noise ratio. I suspect podcasts are your friend here, though I don’t know any that fit the bill you’re looking for.

      • Byrel Mitchell says:

        My trouble is that I’ve got 2 kids, a job, and a side business going. If I don’t do something intentionally, it ain’t happening. So an opportunistic approach like that will end up in me not doing anything to improve my modern music fluency.

        I’m already pretty broadly versed in oldies; my wife is a big fan of some and I like others so I get decent coverage. I don’t have anyone close to me who’s into modern music, and so I’m really missing almost everything from the last decade ATM.

    • gettin_schwifty says:

      I’m not sure if my taste is good enough to answer this question. I almost avoid new music, as I’ve been catching up on the 50s-90s for the last couple years.
      Other than the heavier metal, I’d recommend Battles’ output, especially the instrumental album La Di Da Di (2016). There is a bit of an electronic feel with the guitar tones and the use of looping, and some of the melodies are unconventional, but it’s really interesting music, with a nice balance of weird and catchy.

      For progressive metal, Devin Townsend’s Empath (2019) is a mix of all sorts of genres and sounds, I recommend it if you can stomach the heavy metal, there are harsh vocals and aggressive instruments interspersed throughout. On the other hand, the song “Why?” is a mostly orchestral track that could fit in a musical. Thematically it’s barely metal at all, a lot of positivity on the album (and the closer is a 24ish minute track called Singularity, which may interest some here).

      The last decade hasn’t had much of interest to me, I feel I may check it out in another 20 years and pick out some more gems.

      • gettin_schwifty says:

        I forgot to mention, if any of this is interesting I can recommend more, but I know nothing about what you like.

        The Cactus Blossoms’ album “You’re Dreaming” (2016 or ’17) is a pleasant mix of 50s pop a la Everly Brothers and classic country, most songs center around the two harmonizing lead vocalists, really pretty music. It’s far less eclectic than my other recommendations.

      • j1000000 says:

        I am only familiar with popular music (in the more expansive British sense of the term) but since we live in a poptimist era, these lists seem right in terms of what has been most critically acclaimed. Some stuff gets forgotten faster than others, though (or, if not “forgotten,” people just stop talking about it.)

        I’d say the albums that have had the strongest and most lasting acclaim are Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN (which won the Pulitzer Prize), and Beyonce’s Lemonade.

        My personal favorites are Yeezus and Lost in the Dream.

    • AG says:

      The Singles Jukebox scores songs along with their reviews, so you can conveniently see what their top scorers were for previous years in the sidebar. I believe that there are also roundup posts so you can see past the top 10 for previous years. (For the current year, anything scoring above 7 is in the sidebar. 5 is generally “mediocre” and 6 is “solid but not special.”)
      It’s pretty good for a starting point.

      I personally enjoy pop music, so if you like that, I’d also recommend Youtuber Todd in the Shadows’ yearly top 10 videos.

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      Opinion: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly is the only great music of the millennium so far.

    • Paper Rat says:

      Not quite sure what you mean by “top quality”, since tastes are subjective and critics are not immune to this. If you want to broaden your horizons, then general rankings probably are a not the best place to look, you mostly get the same stuff slightly repackaged, also they are very much influenced by current trends/fashion which doesn’t always correlate with goodness (whatever “goodness” means for you).

      Listing your preferences in genre/style or even mood would give some much needed direction to people recommending you stuff (this goes for recommending rankings as well, cause say free jazz rankings would be very different from drum and bass rankings and so on).

      That said, here’s some scattershot recommendations of modern music:
      Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra (Germany) (IMO one of the most interesting contemporary collectives, compositions are really complex, but at the same time have amazing flow, words really don’t do them justice)
      https://andromedamegaexpressorchestra.bandcamp.com/album/vula
      they also perform live and it’s a real treat to watch:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkOamWGMuKE&list=RDzl0h4cwHLNI&index=5

      Phronesis (UK) (really interesting jazz trio, intricate rhythms, tasty clear sound)
      https://phronesistrio.bandcamp.com/album/walking-dark
      here’s them playing in a bike shop:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZIszxMLvOo

      TOO MANY ZOOS (US) (sorta brass techno house thingy, very (very!) danceable)
      https://toomanyzooz.bandcamp.com/album/subway-gawdz
      they play in subways:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMe6Y8GDVEI

      The Apples (Israel) (weird fusion funk with turntables)
      https://theapplesfunk.bandcamp.com/album/attention

      1/2 Orchestra (Russia) (brass bands had somewhat of a resurgence in recent years, here’s a slightly unorthodox example)
      https://polorkestra.bandcamp.com/album/half-and-half-2

    • bullseye says:

      I listen to a lot of music on Youtube, and I used to listen to a lot of music on Pandora; both introduced me to a lot of bands I like, and it’s mostly recent stuff (I’m 39). So my recommendation would be to pick a recent band in a genre you like, and follow the computer’s recommendations until you find something that sounds good.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      I have no idea what you mean by best quality. I listen to primarily top Billboard music.

      The defining music of the decade (for me, anyways):
      -Kesha’s entire career
      -Most of Katy Perry’s career
      -Bruno Mars
      -That Macklemore guy
      -“Blurred Lines” aka “get the girls naked in the hot tub” song
      -Call Me Maybe (which has go to be one of the cathciest songs in history)
      -Taylor Swift at her peak
      -The Fast and Furious Paul Walker is Dead song
      -Lots of Halsey
      -Tove Lo
      -Despacito
      -Ariana Grande’s whole thing

      I’d say Top Billboard music stopped appealing to me after the summer of 2015. I see the #1s and I think they almost all suck. However, I really, really, really like Halsey.

    • Well... says:

      For discovering new artists, I’ve had good luck with Pandora.

      For discovering new genres, you’ll probably have good results by finding those people around you who are into strange or obscure things and asking them for recommendations. Since I’m kinda one of those people, I can probably recommend stuff if you first tell me what you already listen to.

    • Plumber says:

      @Byrel Mitchell says:

      “So, I’ve been reading some research indicating that most people primarily listen to music released in their teens-early 20s”

      That’s true for me

      ‘While this makes some sense developmentally, I’d like to avert it personally by intentionally seeking out top quality music from the last decade or so.

      Does anyone have a go-to source or ranking for the best recent music? I’m not sure how well the Billboard rankings do as a long-term quality metric, but they only somewhat correlate with my perception of the best-regarded music from previous time periods”

      What has worked well for me is to go to “Google” “Outdoor Miner Wire cover” (a song fron Wire’s 1978 “Chairs Missing” album) and check out all the versions that different bands have done of that song, most were recorded in the ’90’s, but some from afterwards and some of the bands have good original songs.

      Other songs by Wire such as “Fragile” and “Mannequin” have been covered well (and in a surprising range of genres), but not as many results.

      MC5, Stooges, and Velvet Underground songs have also yielded results.

      Going with Beatles, Chuck Berry, or Rolling Stones songs have also yielded a few good results, but too many bad ones to wade through as well, and too few good original songs by the cover artists along with all the bad ones (though a few of the good were very good), just so I recommend starting by thinking of a few of the more obscure songs you like, than see who else has done cover versions of those songs well, and then check out those bands original songs.

      If “Layla” by Eric Clapton pops up, stop and start over because that song is an abomination, hates it forever!

    • Dgalaxy43 says:

      Younger reader, I love music. Made an account to answer. I will try to give a mixture of quality popular acts and quality less popular acts that I think deserve more recognition. For the record, how much I am personally familiar with the works listed ranges from heard a few songs and intend on listening to more, to heard everything.

      I will attempt to give thorough but succinct descriptions of each artist and band. Succinct is hard however, so I apologize in advance for the wall of text.

      King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard
      Band formed in 2010 in Australia. They are perhaps best known for their use of many musical styles. Just this year they released two albums about climate change, a softer boogie-centric album, and a harder thrash metal album. I recommend listening to their 2016 release Nonagon Infinity first.
      First song off of Nonagon Infinity

      Молчат Дома, or Molchat Doma
      Newer post-punk new wave band from Belarus. Very good. Found them due to YouTube algorithms recommending them to a lot of people for some reason. This has led to them gaining a bigger following in the US than in their home country of Belarus. After discovering them, I proceeded to repeatedly listen to their album Этажи (Etahzi).
      Full album

      Death Grips
      Perhaps my favorite band right now. They are very influential to many musicians, both modern and not. One such musician was David Bowie, who cited them as an influence for his last album Blackstar. Their sound varies between albums of course, but recurring genres are hip hop, punk, noise, industrial. Lyrics seem crass and often nonsensical at first glance, but upon analyzation are revealed to be extremely well thought out. Lyrical themes include but are not limited to excess, occultism, mental illness and paranoid delusions. Lyrics often hard to understand by ear, but they are aware of this and their lyrics in text are very easy to find. I will post three of their songs, each showing a different sound and lyrical angle. Gonna give a minor seizure warning on videos 2 and 3 to be safe.
      First song off of their debut mixtape
      First song off of their first studio album
      First song off of their second studio album

      Anderson .Paak
      Extremely talented drummer/rapper/singer. I recently discovered this guy. Great basslines, great drumming.
      Tiny Desk Concert

      Clarence Clarity
      Creator of really weird interesting pop music. Doesn’t have a big enough fanbase to tour outside the UK yet, definitely deserves to gain a bigger following.
      “Those Who Can’t, Cheat”

      I noticed somebody else recommended Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. It is considered one of the best albums released in recent years, and for good reason. Also worth mentioning that when David Bowie cited influences for Blackstar, he also cited this guy.

      Since you said you know a lot of music pre-1990, I’ll also include some from the 90s and the 00s

      Boards of Canada
      Electronic duo that makes down-tempo ambient music that is often beat-centric. No lyrics, still very emotion stirring. Two most well known albums are 1998’s Music Has The Right To Children and 2002’s very unsettling Geogaddi.
      Their most well known song
      Also well known song that is more representative of their sound

      Mr. Bungle
      The three albums to this bands name are all very different, but share a few things in common. They all are likely to change genres mid song, for one. Of all three however, I would most recommend their final album, 1999’s California. Their first venture into songwriting (rather than improvising and putting whatever sounded good on the album), it is a very good album from start to finish, covering genres such as beach boys style surf rock, lounge music, thrash metal, and too many others to mention. That sounds weird, having typed it out. But it’s worth a listen.
      “The Air-Conditioned Nightmare”

      Aphex Twin
      Well known, extremely influential electronic musician hailing from Cornwall. His wide range of works speak for themselves.
      “Rhubarb”
      “Alberto Balsalm”

      I’m gonna stop there, as I fear how long this post will be. I hope I was able to be of some help.

    • Corey says:

      If you want to pick out stuff with (albeit short-term) cultural staying power, look at what Kidz Bop is covering or Weird Al is parodying. I’ve found enjoyable songs via KB.

    • Zeno of Citium says:

      If you want sources for new music, I highly recommend Reddit’s Listen To This subreddit. It’s a relatively unfiltered stream of music from bands that don’t have huge followings, with a tendency towards newer music but plenty of older stuff as well. It’s gotten me into an entire genre (nu-disco) I didn’t know existed beforehand, as well as a bunch of bands.

  27. viVI_IViv says:

    So, carbon offsets seem to be the new cool thing.

    They’ve recently come into discussion in elite cultural circles regarding to academic air travel, but they are a broad part of cap-and-trade programs.

    Ostensibly, they are relatively cheap: with $ 50-70 you could pay some company to plant enough trees to offset the carbon emissions of a round-trip flight between the US and Europe. In practice they don’t seem to work very well (e.g. ref, ref). Either the trees aren’t planted, or they die of natural causes, or somebody cuts or burns them down.

    Intuitively, I don’t expect that cheap carbon offsetting is possible with current technology (tree planting). 1) There is a huge principal-agent problem: how I’m practically going to check that the company I’m paying to plant the trees isn’t going to embezzle the money in a thousand different ways? 2) On a first order approximation, wherever trees can grow undisturbed for decades, there are already trees. So these companies, even assuming they operate in good faith, are going to plant trees on marginal forest land where either the conditions aren’t ideal and the trees die, or where somebody will cut the trees for wood or burn them to clear agricultural land.

    The only way to make it work would seem to be buying up valuable agricultural land and converting it to forest, but by definition valuable agricultural land is not cheap, unless perhaps it’s in the third world, but then if you deprive third-world farmers of their agricultural land by outbidding them, you are probably going to raise the food prices in these countries, which sounds like a very nasty thing to do.

    So, do you think that carbon offsets are a viable environmental action or are they an indulgence market?

    • Lambert says:

      On a global scale*, it sounds like it makes more sense to stop people from cutting down existing trees than it does to stick saplings in the ground then wait 50 years for them to grow.
      If you buy a pasture in the Amazon and plant trees on it, how likely is it that the money you paid for the land is going to be used to buy and deforest another bit of land.

      *one might want to reforest a place for local reasons, such as soil integrity, to counter habitat loss or to make the area more pleasant to humans. I’m not talking about that.

      • mitv150 says:

        It depends on what you do with the cut down trees.

        A growing tree sequesters more carbon than a mature tree. As long as you don’t burn or otherwise cause the release of the carbon sequestered in the mature tree, it is likely more effective (carbon sequestration-wise) to chop down mature trees, build things out of them, and plant new trees.

        • viVI_IViv says:

          It depends on how fast these trees grow.

          But even if they grow fast enough, cut trees are mostly used to make wooden items and paper, which usually eventually end up in the landfill or incinerator, releasing most/all of their carbon back into the atmosphere. I guess in principle you could compost them to biomass fuel and then burn it at power plants with carbon capture, but isn’t easy to do in practice.

          • Eric Rall says:

            Landfill gas (emissions from anaerobic decomposition of organics in the landfill) can be captured. It’s about 60% methane and 40% CO2. The former can be sold for use as fuel, and the CO2 can be sequestered.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            How is the CO2 sequestered? Not doubting it can be, just curious what the methods would be.

          • Eric Rall says:

            There have been a bunch of methods proposed for carbon sequestration. The main ones I’m aware of are underground (drilling and pumping into porous rock formations that will trap gasses for thousands or millions of years), underwater (pressure-liquifying the CO2 deep underwater and releasing it to sink to the ocean floor), and chemical (CO2 reacts exothermically with several common metal-oxides).

            AFAIK, underwater is mostly or entirely theoretical at this point, while underground and chemical both have proof-of-concept operations in the pipeline.

        • albatross11 says:

          Could we grow trees and then sequester the carbon by, say, encasing the trees in concrete or burying them in a deep hole or something? Because we can probably grow a hell of a lot of trees and harvest them and bury them and plant more, and if that would have a significant moderating effect on atmospheric CO2, it would seem pretty worthwhile.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            The new environmental solution: burying trees in concrete!

            Sorry, didnt mean to be snarky. But you gotta admit, that’s funny.

          • albatross11 says:

            The thing is, when non-environmentalists take AGW seriously, we probably think of a lot of responses that very few environmentalists would have considered. This is probably a good thing–if it’s a serious problem, we need as many ideas applied to it as possible.

            I think this is generally true–it’s good to get important issues out of their ideological silos. It’s a better world when conservatives start thinking about income inequality or liberals start thinking about genetically-determined intelligence differences–they’ll think about a bunch of issues and angles that weren’t much thought about before!

          • DarkTigger says:

            Can we do that? Maybe?
            Can we do that with out producing more CO2 than we just removed, by digging or making concrete? Without any evidence I would say, it’s doubtful.

          • Lambert says:

            Probably. That’s how all the CO2 ended up in the ground as coal in the first place.
            But it might well be more effectve to burn the trees for fuel, to funge against mining more coal.

          • baconbits9 says:

            You don’t need to encase them in concrete, trees will take ages to decompose in low oxygen environments like the bottom of the ocean.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            Or, you know, build with them 🙂

            I recently read David Brin’s Earth, and it was a pretty damn good exercise in imagining how a working environmentally friendly world might look like. And I realized by far the most used material in the world would be… wood. And not just for construction. It’s extremely versatile as well – there are A LOT of things you can do to it to make it behave differently. With a bit of effort you can probably even cast it.

            As for growth time and other practical considerations, they’re very easy to fix. Just start by mandating a x2 ratio between planted vs harvested, and give free hand to harvest. Have a minimum way of making sure the trees will actually grow – for example force companies to buy crop failure insurance, with the gov as beneficiary. Then (and NOT from the beginning) tweak the system to favor whatever conditions you think are ideal – like certain kinds of trees etc.

          • albatross11 says:

            I don’t have any numbers, but cutting down trees and digging big ditches neither one emit a huge amount of CO2, even if the chainsaws and the backhoes used are burning gasoline. Probably the real process would be like:

            a. Maintain a grove of fast-growing trees, as the paper industry and Christmas tree industry already do.

            b. Periodically harvest the trees in the most efficient manner possible.

            c. Ship the trees off to the Giant Carbon Sink, which is probably an abandoned mineshaft or huge already-dug hole or something.

            d. Cart the trees down into the mineshaft and cover them over with dirt or concrete or water or something every so often.

            If trees are about 50% carbon by weight, then we’re basically running a coal mine in reverse here–with rather less carbon in the “coal,” but still this should be pretty efficient. In principle, we could power all this by burning some of the wood, which would be carbon neutral. But it would probably be more efficient to just use existing freight trains and mining equipment and chainsaws and trucks and live with the added CO2 emissions of running the operation.

            From some quick Googling: A car puts about 3-4 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere a year, a 20′ tree weighs about 3-4 tons, and carbon is around half the weight of a tree. So like 2-3 harvested trees is one car’s CO2 emissions for a year.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I would doubt trees are 50% carbon by weight, most living things are mostly water by weight.

          • eyeballfrog says:

            I’d just like to say that reverse coal mining is such a delightful idea, regardless of whether it turns out to actually work as a sequestration method.

          • JPNunez says:

            Wait, this has merit.

            Could we precisely convert current coal mines into reverse coal mines? Thus solving the problem of giving jobs to the towns around coal mines that get closed.

          • broblawsky says:

            Mass planting is a serious topic of investigation in inhibiting climate change, although the people advocating it don’t seem interested in chopping down the trees after they’ve been planted.

          • benwave says:

            You don’t have to use concrete, you can process the trees into biochar and use that to increase carbon in agricultural soils. This is valuable because it tends to increase the fertility of the land. Come to think of it I should probably look into if there are any carbon offset companies that produce biochar, they’d be more likely to meaningfully offset CO2…

          • albatross11 says:

            I know there are tree farms that are planted with fast-growing trees for paper factories. The current situation is that we grow those trees and chop them down every few years to make paper. Switching over so we grow way more such trees, and reverse-coal-mine with them, seems eminently doable to me. But I certainly haven’t run the numbers carefully, so maybe I’m missing something. I think the biggest question is probably how much land/fill you need to have a significant impact.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Rather than throw it down a hole in the ground at great cost, you could sell the wood to lumberyards for a profit. There’s no need to mandate growth vs. harvesting rules. As long as carbon is being taken from the air and used for building stuff that’s all that matters.

            Any system that will provide economic value will end up removing orders of magnitude more carbon than a system that is an economic dead loss. It doesn’t matter if there is some leakage in the system where lumber ends up going back to the atmosphere.

            An analogy: two machines are available to process the same amount of carbon and sequester a portion of it. One costs $500, and sequesters 95% of the carbon that it takes in and releases the rest to the atmosphere. The other costs $5, but only sequesters 60% of the carbon it takes in. You have $100,000,000 to spend on machines. Which machine do you buy?

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, this makes sense. As long as we can avoid having a whole town burn down at once or something, and as long as we can avoid having the carbon from torn-down wooden buildings/furniture/etc end up back in the atmosphere, this probably works just fine. Subsidized wood and paper products FTW.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Rather than throw it down a hole in the ground at great cost, you could sell the wood to lumberyards for a profit. There’s no need to mandate growth vs. harvesting rules. As long as carbon is being taken from the air and used for building stuff that’s all that matters.

            If you are looking for a technocratic solution the ideal would be along the lines of taxing carbon releasing technology and using that money to subsidies carbon capturing. Something like a tax on concrete and a wood subsidy for building purposes.

          • LesHapablap says:

            I don’t know much about construction, but isn’t wood already very cheap?

            I was thinking a solution like a “fair trade” label for coffee, except that a logging operation / lumberyard gets certified as ‘approved carbon sequesterer,’ which means that a good % of their lumber goes to building and not to paper etc. Then they market themselves to airlines or anyone that wants to buy carbon credits.

            Subsidies for ‘approved carbon sequesterer’ logging and lumber suppliers would be a good way to inject government funding into carbon sequestration as well, which would have the side bonus of lowering building costs.

          • Jiro says:

            The thing is, when non-environmentalists take AGW seriously, we probably think of a lot of responses that very few environmentalists would have considered.

            This may be a warning sign that environmentalist’s belief in the seriousness of the problem is motivated reasoning.

          • albatross11 says:

            Jiro:

            Perhaps, but it may also be a sign that a relatively closed group of thinkers needed an infusion of new ideas from outside. I see this the same way I see it when Paige Harden writes about what I’d call human b-odiversity concerns from a politically liberal[1] perspective. This is really valuable–the folks who have clustered around human b-odiversity issues are a pretty unusual bunch, and we’re likely missing all kinds of important stuff. Having someone as smart and well-intentioned as Harden or Turkheimer thinking seriously about these issues, from a completely different perspective with different mental tools and concerns, is going to lead to better ideas than just continuing to kick the ideas around with the folks who read Sailer’s blog.

            [1] Ironically, reading _The Bell Curve_ made me much more supportive of social safety net type programs and a little more supportive of some kinds of liberal-aligned paternalistic laws.

          • bullseye says:

            If the solution is to have more carbon in the ground, it seems easier to stop pulling it out of the ground (that is, stop oil drilling etc.) than to keep pulling out out and also put it back in.

          • albatross11 says:

            Sure, but the point is that:

            a. It looks hard to make everyone stop digging it out of the ground and burning it–that includes several countries trying to pull their people out of widespread poverty. This is a hard international coordination problem.

            b. There’s also some stuff (to some extent cars, and to a greater extent air travel) where we really benefit from the energy density of fossil fuels we can dig out of the ground. If I can continue taking a jet to go from Washington DC to Las Angeles instead of having to take a train, I may be okay with spending the extra money needed to sequester a few tons of wood to pay for it.

            c. We’ve already dug a lot of coal out of the ground and burned it. Pulling some carbon out of the air and back into the ground seems reasonable.

          • bullseye says:

            Burying carbon would cost money. Failing to dig up carbon would also cost money. I feel like the burying would cost *more*. Not digging means we don’t get the utility of burning that oil, but at least we also don’t have to pay for the drill and processing. Burying wood, on the other hand, means we give up the utility of burning it, and also have to pay for the burial. And if we were going to use the wood for something better than burning, then we give up even more by burying it.

            By “we” I mean the entire species; these costs would be borne by different people, but I don’t see that as relevant.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Here is a nice line to drive an environmentalist nuts.

            Googling: The US recycles between 50 and 80 million tons of paper annually, and the total US emissions were 5-6 million tons of Co2, so if 10% of those products were carbon by weight and we stopped recycling all those products, sequestered them and managed to replace them with products from new growth we could be carbon neutral.

            (maybe, this is just a first run through of stuff and not deeply thought about).

          • albatross11 says:

            If we have other non-CO2-emitting uses for the wood, then we just go ahead and use them. But it seems reasonable to cost out a CO2 sequestration operation that’s just growing trees, chopping them down, and burying them. Probably one side effect of this being done on a large scale is that paper and some wood products become extremely cheap.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            @baconbits9

            The US recycles between 50 and 80 million tons of paper annually, and the total US emissions were 5-6 million tons of Co2, so if 10% of those products were carbon by weight and we stopped recycling all those products, sequestered them and managed to replace them with products from new growth we could be carbon neutral.

            CO2 is 27% carbon by weight, paper is about 6% water and 94% cellulose ( (C6H10O5)n ), thus it’s 39% carbon by weight. Therefore, paper recycling involves 19 – 31 million tons of carbon, equivalent to 71 – 114 million tons of CO2.

            The problem is that US CO2 emissions are actually three orders of magnitude higher than what you googled: Wikipedia says 5.14 billion metric tons (= 5.67 billion US tons).

            Still, saving 71 – 114 million tons of CO2 by burying waste paper or turning it into something that doesn’t quickly decompose seems like a sweet deal.

            There might be second order effects though, e.g. if you don’t recycle but the paper demand remains the same, then more forest is replaced by paper tree farms, and it’s not clear that these fast growing trees can capture more carbon than natural forests.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Thanks for the correction.

        • fion says:

          “A growing tree sequesters more carbon than a mature tree.”

          Is this definitely true? I was under the impression that even mature trees keep growing in the sense of gaining mass (but most of it is put around their trunk in each new annual ring rather than more height) and that they grow faster (in terms of absolute annual mass gain) the older they are.

    • EchoChaos says:

      In addition, the first world is already reforesting pretty rapidly. It’s the third world where major deforestation is a problem, which is exactly where you aren’t going to be able to stop them from deforesting without giving the government reason to tack action.

      • Zeno of Citium says:

        Most places that are deforested are being deforested for (short-sighted) economic reasons, often by desperately poor people who need even marginal farmland to not starve but sometimes by perfectly well off people or governments that simply want more money. There’s some definitely room to just pay people to do something else. The problem is obviously enforcement, but you could pay out every year or even every month in exchange for access, and if you’re talking about land the size of the entire Amazon you can measure de/reforestation via satellite (it’s hard to disrupt that).
        Has someone done this? If so, where, and how did it work out?

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      A combined carbon tax plus an equivalent credit for carbon that gets captured and sequestered is probably easier to monitor than a whole forest where the fate of the tree[s] that are planted is very uncertain. You could theoretically set the price per ton roughly equal to the cost per ton to capture and sequester.

      The ‘indulgences’ would be handled by a much smaller group of people.

      Unfortunately this approach likely wouldn’t work with automobiles, only power plants.

      • viVI_IViv says:

        Unfortunately this approach likely wouldn’t work with automobiles, only power plants.

        I was thinking of the carbon offsets for air travel that the academics I’ve linked were talking about. Indeed, it doesn’t seem practically possible to do carbon capture on airplane exhaust, and direct air capture isn’t yet technologically possible, and probably not in the foreseeable future.

        • and direct air capture isn’t yet technologically possible

          It’s not only possible, it has been happening for about two billion years now.

          And is likely to happen faster as CO2 concentration increases, due to the effect of CO2 fertilization.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            Obviously it’s not happening fast enough, given that atmospheric CO2 concentration is still raising.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            I think a better way of putting it is that pulling large amounts (relative to anthropogenic co2 production) of CO2 from the general atmosphere at a reasonable cost per ton isn’t economical. Not that it’s not possible to pull any co2 out of the atmosphere at any price.

    • DarkTigger says:

      There is a third problem. To offset a single car you need to plant ~2 hectar of trees every four years.

      ATM we pump the result of several dozend of millions of years of global forestation into the atmosphere. Offsetting that with planting trees, just can’t add up.

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      How about using the money to build nuclear power plants instead?

      • mitv150 says:

        Indeed. My general heuristic when considering credibility on AGW is as follows:

        If someone is proposing any solution to AGW that involves a substantial change to our current power generation mix that does not include significant use of nuclear power, that someone is not serious or credible.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          They could be credible as a serious policymaker. If yes, fight. If no, your implied “blow them off” is correct.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          If by “significant use of nuclear power” you mean “build new nuclear power plants” that isn’t true. Nowadays wind and solar is cheaper than nuclear.

          • Lambert says:

            Cheaper averaged over time.
            But solar’s really bloody expensive per watt during the night time.

            Batteries and transmission lines are not yet good enough to treat electricity as a fungible thing like oil.

          • Noah says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation

            That may be true, but it doesn’t have to be. A lot of the cost of nuclear is excessive regulation (where by excessive I mean that if you wanted your nuclear power plants to be merely as safe on expectation as your average coal power plants, they would be a lot cheaper).

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @Lambert
            Yes, it’s certainly not sensible to shut down existing nuclear power stations because (as happened in Germany) you will just have to build coal to fill the role of consistent power production.

            @Noah
            Quite possibly. But it *is* true, which is the relevant thing when you’re planning your energy sources, unless less-regulated nuclear is cheaper than renewables even taking into account the cost of lobbying to deregulate, which I am fairly sure it’s not (it’s a very tough sell politically).

    • Tenacious D says:

      What about carbon offsets that go towards build-own-operate smokestack CCS? I’ve seen prices of $100/tonne CO2 or less, and apparently it’s getting cheaper. For reference, a roundtrip transatlantic flight has a footprint per passenger in the ballpark of 1 tonne CO2. Smokestack CCS has the advantage of being easy to monitor and verify–there are some ideas in this thread about trees that I like, but they’re harder to tie to offsets.

  28. Enkidum says:

    First time I’ve ever come across someone using “privilege” in the way I often see the-kind-of-people-who-don’t-like-that-word describing the way they usually perceive its use – as a blatant attack on someone’s essential humanity. I don’t think this validates all the objections to the term by any means, and I’m still pretty ready to defend the vast majority of uses of it I’ve ever encountered, but the deleted Guardian editorial on David Cameron is really quite disgusting, and written by someone whose political leanings (which probably aren’t that far off mine) have clearly affected them for the worse.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Privilege is probably the single most motte and baileyed term in all of social language, so it is in some way refreshing to see someone use it as both motte and bailey in the exact same way.

      But it does validate a lot of prior criticisms of the term.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      You say political leanings, and certainly that had something to do with it, but could the editorialist also have personal reasons (such as seeking care for a “dying parent”, or using the “understaffed and overmanaged hospitals of much of England”, or having a significant acquaintance who did) as their primary motivation?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Oh, Graniuad, the internet is forever. Chalk up another point for conflict theory.

    • Evelyn Q. Greene says:

      What’s so awful about it? I mean, I agree that it’s meanspirited, and I would agree with the statement that “privilege” is generally used to attack someone’s essential humanity(I quite like that phrasing too), but I’ve seen far worse, and that looks like a typical Guardian hit piece to me. But your reaction isn’t atypical since the Guardian deleted the article, so what did you find unusual/disgusting?

      • Enkidum says:

        His six-year-old child died in front of him, apparently after years of immense pain and suffering. I think it’s beyond thoughtlessly insensitive to say that his pain was limited and not as real as that of the rest of us.

        I don’t see privilege as being used that way in general. (For what it’s worth, I’m a fairly middle-class white man, from a reasonably well-off family that’s been reasonably well-off and extremely well-educated for well over a century now. Hell, I’m tall, kind of fit, reasonably healthy, etc. I am precisely who people are talking about when they’re talking about privilege.)

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Perhaps “privilege” in leftist usage is pointing to a real thing, but in a nasty way. It redefines an existing word that refers to law (privy-lege) and loads it with bad connotations. Why should anyone feel bad about having successful and healthy ancestors or genetic luck? It’s not a zero-sum game.

          • Enkidum says:

            Why should anyone feel bad about having successful and healthy ancestors or genetic luck?

            You shouldn’t. I don’t think it’s generally used to suggest you should.

          • ECD says:

            Why should anyone feel bad about having successful and healthy ancestors or genetic luck?

            Okay, I don’t like the Guardian piece, but it literally said:

            “None of this is his fault. No one should be blamed for their parents or their luck.”

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Okay, I don’t like the Guardian piece, but it literally said:

            “None of this is his fault. No one should be blamed for their parents or their luck.”

            Ah, my bad. I’m used to a harsher use of “privilege”, and the Guardian didn’t go there.

  29. johan_larson says:

    In an earlier OT, we discussed things that lived up to the hype. I would like to add “Avengers: Endgame” to that list. I just watched it, and feared that there was no way they could bring all those characters together into a decent ending. But they did. Nicely done.

    • GreatColdDistance says:

      Indeed! I feel that it is cool to trash on Marvel films due to their colossal dominance of the market, but they still make really cool films. Nobody else is telling stories on that scale, and Endgame really brought that home in a big way. I’m nervously excited to see what they can do next.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        I’m nervously excited to see what they can do next.

        2020: Black Widow (prequel) and The Eternals (Jack Kirby’s Ancient Aliens, where the mythical gods are a superior race created by the ancient aliens, who are kaiju-size mute mecha).
        2021: Shang-Chi (kung fu hero), Doctor Strange 2, Thor 4 (Queen Amidala as Thor)
        2022: Black Panther 2 and maybe Blade (if you don’t already know, imagine Shaft as a dhampir.)

        It’s not clear how this slate builds up to anything, the way the first slate led up to The Avengers and the phases after it teased Grape Ape and the Six MacGuffins.

    • Anaxagoras says:

      My big issue with the movie was that the time travel was absurdly overpowered and made taking the character deaths seriously impossible. It demonstrably let characters resurrect definitely dead people by pulling them from the past before they died, including at a large scale. Given that the technology is still there at the end of the movie, and the limited resource powering it is no longer limited (not least because the time machine ALSO functions as a matter duplicator), this really renders moot pretty much everything else in the setting. It’s possible this is addressed in Far From Home, which I’ve not yet seen, but seriously, a time machine as good as what the Avengers build in this movie makes the full Infinity Gauntlet look like a sharp stick.

  30. Chalid says:

    I shop a lot on Amazon. They have enough data on me to know that I’m pretty price-insensitive on some things.

    Is there anything stopping them from showing me different, higher prices than they show everyone else, other than fear of bad publicity?

    • Well... says:

      I thought this was pretty much established as one of the things they do. For example, adjusting prices based on your recent browser history. If my memory’s wrong then I might be mistakenly substituting for a different online retailer though. I know SOME major online retailer does this.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Airline companies are famous for that. Haven’t heard about retailers yet…

        • bean says:

          Airlines in general are famous for playing games with their prices and trying to squeeze as much surplus as possible out of their customers. At this point, it’s pretty much an established part of dealing with them. The same is very much not true for physical goods, and I expect any attempts by Amazon to charge people different prices for the exact same item to end very poorly. I wouldn’t be surprised if they used this information to put a more expensive item at the top of your results, but I really doubt the price of an individual item will change.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Amazon has done this in the past. I don’t know if they still do.

          • bean says:

            I kind of doubt they do it on a large scale. Note that the examples given were from 2000, in an article from 2005. That’s several centuries in internet years, and Amazon is enough of a lightning rod for outrage that I suspect we’d know if they were still doing it. There are lots and lots of other ways for Amazon to use customer data to manipulate people into giving them more money without actually changing prices on a given item, and they’re all a lot less risky to their reputation.

          • Eric Rall says:

            From what I’ve seen, it looks like their main current strategy for price discrimination is to vary prices up and down at random-ish intervals. Price sensitive buyers will wait for the “sale”, while insensitive buyers will just buy it whenever.

          • AG says:

            What Amazon also does is that the “show search results in low-to-high price order” actually does nothing of the sort, because they jam in “featured/recommended/frequently viewed/etc.” products with higher prices in the list very frequently, with little to no sign to differentiate what’s genuinely in order and what’s not.

    • mitv150 says:

      Target was outed for something like this. The app would show the in-store price (often higher than online price) once you entered the store. It made it harder to price check items in the store.

      https://heavy.com/tech/2019/02/target-app-changes-prices-fix/

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      The camelizer lets you see the other prices.

    • DinoNerd says:

      In my limited adventures with economics/business courses, differential pricing at an individual level was praised. I don’t recall that specifically using an individual’s internet history was mentioned, even though this experience was recent enough for this to be possible. But I can’t imagine any properly educated executive believing there was anything morally wrong with doing this.

      • Chalid says:

        Well, it’s clearly bad in the sense that it raises transaction costs.

        If everyone is getting charged the same amount, I can go just buy things without fearing much that I’m getting horribly ripped off, because I can generally trust that the market price is reasonable.

        If a company is presenting me with personalized high prices, that encourages me to waste time with comparison shopping, and then lots of mental effort gets spent unproductively.

        • Well... says:

          It’s interesting that we will basically always assume our personalized prices are high prices rather than low ones. Somebody out there is getting the lowest price, dammit, but our brains will never permit us to believe we are those people.

          • DinoNerd says:

            FWIW, I watched this dynamic in action once, with one of those internet games that is supposedly free to play, but you can buy various advantages. (aka “cash shop” games.)

            As is typical, you spent real money for an in game currency, then spent in-game currency for the benefits. Prices quoted in in-game currency didn’t change.

            Prices to buy that currency were subject to various grades of special offers. I thought at first the offers were universal (available to all players), and then that they were random. But after comparing notes with many other players, I concluded that the price you would be charged would be higher, the more often you’d bought in game currency.

            That plus some other annoyances caused me to find a new game to play.

          • Chalid says:

            It’s not a cognitive bias or whatever. I would definitely get higher prices. I have a high income, I don’t spend time comparison shopping, and I’m generally not price sensitive. And Amazon has ample data to figure all this out about me.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            It’s interesting that we will basically always assume our personalized prices are high prices rather than low ones.

            It is the only reasonable expectation.

            Let’s be honest: no seller offers price discrimination for any reason other than maximising revenue. Offering many prices takes more effort – and therefore carries a higher cost – so you’re only gonna want to do it if it will make you more money.

            From a theoretical point of view, price discrimination exploits differences in price elasticity of demand: you raise prices where demand is price-inelastic (changes in price won’t affect quantity bought very much) and lower prices where demand is price-elastic (hoping to increase revenue through greater sales).

            Now, intuitively your personal demand is less price-elastic for stuff you want/need and more price-elastic for stuff you don’t want/can do without. Therefore, if you know that personalised price discrimination is being applied to you, then it follows that for anything that you really care about purchasing you are being charged towards the top end of what you are willing to pay.

            Somebody out there is getting the lowest price

            For much the same reasons as above, this person is paying the lowest price for stuff they don’t particularly want or need, and they could conceivably be better off not making the purchase at all (we’re talking about purchases where low price is the deciding factor, so – essentially – things bought “because they were on sale”).

          • Chalid says:

            @Faza

            You also have the situation where a poor person cannot afford to buy something, and Amazon drops the price to be within their reach.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Chalid,
            That’s a plausible scenario – contingent on there not being anyone willing to purchase the item for a higher price (realistically, Amazon will have a limited supply of goods and maximises revenues by selling them to the highest bidders*).

            However, that doesn’t invalidate the main point. Consider two alternatives:

            1. Alice is poor and cannot afford a product being sold on Amazon. Amazon has no buyers able and willing to buy the product at the listed price, so they sell it to Alice at a price she can just about afford.

            2. Alice is poor and cannot afford a product being sold on Amazon. Amazon has no buyers able and willing to buy the product at the listed price, so they put it on sale at 50% listed price.

            Which is better for Alice?

            Well, that depends, doesn’t it? If Alice can’t afford the product even at half-price, scenario 1 is obviously better.

            However, if Alice can afford the product at half-price, in the best-case the two options are interchangeable, but more likely she’d be better off under scenario 2 (Amazon slashes prices across the board).

            To see why that is, let’s assume that Alice can’t afford the product at full price, but could afford it at 25% off (three-quarters of the price). If Amazon is capable of perfect price discrimination, they will sell it to her for 75% of the listed price.

            If Amazon is not capable of perfect price discrimination, but instead forced to offer across-the-board discounts in order to shift unsold inventory, and settle on a 50% discount, Alice stands to realise a 25% of price consumer surplus on Amazon’s inability to price discriminate.

            I honestly have a problem imagining any situation where buyers stand to gain from sellers’ ability to price discriminate, because price discrimination by sellers is specifically intended to extract the most money from the buyers that they possibly can (integrating the demand curve over entire stock in trade).

            * By “bidders” I mean people able and willing to pay a particular price, not a literal auction.

          • Well... says:

            I didn’t mean that we never expect items to be artificially lowered in price for us (which is indeed not a reasonable expectation), but rather that we know someone out there is getting the lowest price yet we never expect it to be us.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            I didn’t mean that we never expect items to be artificially lowered in price for us

            Indeed, I hadn’t read it as such, although my reply may have given that impression.

            but rather that we know someone out there is getting the lowest price yet we never expect it to be us

            I’m not sure whether we actually know anything of the sort, other than in a very general way (as in: if some people are taller than others, then obviously someone is shortest).

            Is the general question interesting at all? If I know that I’m getting a worse deal due to price discrimination (for reasons outlined above), is the knowledge that Bob is getting shafted even worse supposed to make me feel better?

            I mean: Bob can at least turn to me and say: “At least I’m good for it, unlike your sorry, broke ass.”

          • John Schilling says:

            Let’s be honest: no seller offers price discrimination for any reason other than maximising revenue.

            Mostly true for nonessential consumer goods, though even there you’ll see some price discrimination for advertising/marketbuilding reasons.

            For the essentials, when e.g. a big pharma company sells a $9.50 bottle of pills to a poor person for $10.00, it’s not because they’re desperate for the fifty cents. It’s because if they don’t, they’ll very publicly look (and very possibly feel) like a bunch of evil meanies.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            For the essentials, when e.g. a big pharma company sells a $9.50 bottle of pills to a poor person for $10.00, it’s not because they’re desperate for the fifty cents.

            Are you sure you actually wanted to say that?

            (I’m guessing you didn’t, but it looks oddly fitting in context.)

            Realistically though, how often does that happen? And shouldn’t someone tell Scott that we’ve got the whole “cost disease” problem solved?

          • John Schilling says:

            What part of it do you think I didn’t mean to say? But just to clarify: The bottle of pills costs $9.50 to manufacture and deliver. It is sold to poor people for $10.00, to preferred insurance companies for $30.00, and to rich or ignorant middle-class people for $100.00

            And this happens a lot. Knowing that, does not at all help with the cost disease problem.

          • Faza (TCM) says:

            Ah. I see what you meant now, although the “It is sold […] to preferred insurance companies for $30.00, and to rich or ignorant middle-class people for $100.00” bit really needs to be stated up-front.

            The way it read, in the absence of this rather important piece of additional data, was as a mistype of “sells a $10.00 bottle of pills [list price – Fz] to a poor person for $9.50”.

            Regardless, it is pretty clear how this applies to the “cost disease” issue (as in: “why are necessities so expensive these days”, rather Baumol’s formulation, which I consider trivial and uninteresting) – if pharmaceutical companies are applying a more than tenfold markup at the counter, there’s plenty of room for decreasing prices if you raise a stink (your stated reason for the $10-to-poor price being optics).

            And this happens a lot.

            I’ll admit I find this so contrary to my experience and counter-intuitive that I’d feel muc