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Open Thread 141

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

Comments of the week:

– mtl1882 explains how 19th century “railway spine” was probably an early version of PTSD.

– John Schilling discusses the history of and politics surrounding “shell shock”.

– And from doesntliketocomment: “The unusual feature of the modern world is not that you can be exposed to trauma, it’s that you can be removed from it.”

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623 Responses to Open Thread 141

  1. SkyBlu says:

    Does anyone here at SSC know anything about the history of college sports? I’d love some guidance as to where to start learning about the topic. Specifically, I’m looking into the period when college sports when from an unsanctioned, amateur activity to being officially recognized by universities.

  2. I have decided to get solar for my house, and have now spoken, directly or over the phone, with four different providers (one of them a middleman). One thing that struck me was that all four seemed like nice people and reasonably bright, which is better than I would have expected–at the end of each discussion, I felt as though I might well go with that provider.

    One oddity struck me in my conversation yesterday with someone from Sunrun, which sells solar through Costco. There is currently a 30% federal tax credit for expenditures on solar, due to drop to 26% next year. If you buy from Costco, you pay them (say) $30,000. But Costco then gives you a visa card for $1000 (I think). And if you have the higher priced membership, they give you a 2% rebate on your year’s expenditure. At least according to the Sunrun agent, who seemed well informed, you get the tax credit on the full $30,000, even though your real cost is about $28,400.

    So why doesn’t Costco, or anyone else, raise the price by $10,000 and offer an additional $10,000 bonus, rebate, or whatever, thus getting the customer (next year–nobody is going to install before the end of the year) a free $2,600 from the federal government? Is this a result of careless legislation, or the federal authorities not paying attention?

    Another interesting feature of the business is that Sunrun offers two deals for people prepared to pay cash in advance. One is a straight purchase (through Costco). The other, which costs about the same amount, leaves the system belonging to Sunrun, which then has a contractual obligation to maintain the system for 25 years at no further charge, while providing you the power from it, the same result as if you owned it. I’m not sure what happens at the end of 25 years (I’ve emailed the agent to check), but my guess is that it becomes yours.

    It looks like a better deal than direct purchase, since they are obligated to replace the battery if it wears out, while the warranty on the battery is only ten years, along with some other useful obligations of keeping the system going. So why are they willing to give you better terms at the same price that way?

    The answer seems to be that if I own the system I can’t depreciate it, since it is a consumption expenditure not a business expense. If they own it they can. So they, in effect, are producing (and selling) tax deductions, and paying you to let them do so.

    At least, that’s what I think is going on. One concern is that perhaps they don’t really deliver on their obligation to maintain the system–googling finds a mixed pattern of customer reviews with regard to service. But that problem would also exist if I bought the system and was dependent on their fulfilling their warranties, which include 25 years on the solar panels (but only ten on the workmanship installing them).

    Anyone here know anything about the industry? At the moment it looks as though my preferred choices are either Sunrun or Sunpower.

    • achenx says:

      I’m curious:

      1) What is your reasoning for wanting to get a solar installation?

      2) Are you doing any on-site storage? I was interested in a solar installation for awhile, with part of the reasoning being that I thought it could serve as emergency backup power, but after some research it seemed like using solar power for your house directly (i.e. without being connected to the grid) is a bad idea for various reasons, but if you get a large enough battery system you can use that for emergency power. However, energy storage density of lithium batteries is way lower than e.g. propane, so it seemed that if emergency power was a concern, a generator was still a much better idea, whether we were producing solar power or not.

      • Eric Rall says:

        Home solar economics are unusually favorable in California compared to other US locales, for three reasons:
        1. California subsidizes rooftop solar pretty heavily, adding a state tax credit atop the federal tax credit.

        2. California has extremely high retail electricity prices compared to other states, because of reasons.

        3. California has a relatively favorable solar capacity factor (more direct sunlight on the average day, due to latitude and climate) compared to a lot of other places in the US. Not quite as good as the Desert Southwest or Hawaii, but a heck of a lot better than somewhere like Washington State or Illinois.

      • My rough calculations suggested that solar power would roughly pay for itself in monetary terms, although sellers claim it does much better than that—actual calculations depend on what you think will happen to power costs over the next 25 years.

        But electric power provision in California is somewhat unreliable, for reasons that probably mostly trace back to the regulatory environment in the state, and could easily become more unreliable. Having a system where having no grid power for several days is a minor inconvenience and having no power for months only a serious problem during periods of little sunlight, strikes me as a substantial further advantage.

        What I am planning includes a 10 kwh battery. That provides about half a day’s power. So if the grid goes down and the sun is shining, we charge up during the day, run down during the night, do any activities that use a lot of power, such as laundry, during the day.

        I was hoping to have a system where, if power went out for ten minutes, the battery took over fast enough so that the computer’s didn’t crash and clocks didn’t have to be reset, but it isn’t clear if that is possible. One provider claims its battery can do that, another points out that that is a new model of battery which officially has not yet been released.

        • The Nybbler says:

          For the computer, I’d recommend just putting in a small UPS (doesn’t have to be big because it’s just carrying you over the couple-second switching time) in front of it. Some clocks can actually handle a couple-second power loss.

        • nkurz says:

          We have two Tesla Powerwall 2’s acting a whole house backup for about 6 months. It’s been able to switch over fast enough to keep an iMac alive 3 out of 4 times that we’ve lost power since we got it. The iMac is plugged into an aging surge protector, and I’m wondering the “failure” might been the surge protector stepping in to try to protect the computer from a transient voltage spike rather than a timing difference in the Powerwall. All other electronics in the house have had complete success and have not noticed the outages. But as The Nybbler says, if you also want surge protection, you might consider adding a small UPS for the computer.

    • Charities have tried to do this, give you a 100$ “prize” for donating 1,000$ so you can claim the full 1,000$, so it’s specified that any tax deduction must subtract anything given back. It may be the same for the solar deduction, with the agent misinformed or intentionally misleading you to increase sales, so I would look into the language of the deduction. Of course, you could always “forget” to include the rebate when you file your tax return…

    • Eric Rall says:

      I have a Sunrun system on my house in Gilroy: the previous owners of the house had it installed with the monthly-payment lease option. I took over the lease with the sale (buying out the remaining payments with a lump sum, since the 5% discount rate in the buyout price is a very good return for a low-risk investment).

      According to my contract, at the end of the lease, Sunrun will assess the fair market value of the system. I can then buy the system from them at their valuation, sign a new lease agreement with them, or they will remove the system at their expense. So if the system’s usable lifetime (or that of enough individual components of the system) substantially exceeds the lease term, Sunrun’s in a position to capture significant residual value at the end of the term. From what I understand of the economics of rooftop solar, Sunrun is probably counting on leaseholders buying their system or renewing the lease at the end of the term: in the US at least, a solid majority of the cost of rooftop solar is design, permitting, and labor for the installation, so tearing out the system to recycle the components would only allow Sunrun a small fraction of the value of an installed system (even of a 25-year-old installed system).

      I’ve had absolutely no problems with the system itself, which is now about four years old (I’ve owned it for two). It hasn’t required any maintenance since I bought it. My one complaint is about the design: the panels are installed on the East-facing side of my roof, so they generate more power in the morning (when time-of-use electricity rates are lower) than during the peak energy rates. I suspect this was driven by the previous owners having a solar pool heating system installed on the West-facing side of the roof (the side closer to the pool).

      I did have some pretty serious problems with the billing department, though: they continued billing me for monthly payments even though I had bought out the remaining payments up front. There were several rounds of contacting customer service, being promised the situation would be sorted out and I wouldn’t have to do anything more, and then being sent another bill. And eventually being threatened with collections. I eventually got it sorted out with the help of a friend of mine who works for Sunrun in another state (she’s a mechanical engineer who does installation design work). She assures me that my experience was not typical, and I’m inclined to believe her.

      I also had problems with the transfer representative I worked with during the sale. She was persistently pretty hard to get in touch with, and she outright lied to me about the terms of the contract: she claimed the discount rate for the lease buyout option was zero, because “It’s a utility payment, not a loan, so there’s no interest”. It’s actually 5%, and is explicitly spelled out in the text of the contract.

      One other thing to be aware of with lease vs buy with Sunrun is that if you opt for a lease (at least for the monthly lease, not sure about the lump-sum lease), and you sell the house within the term of the lease, your contract with Sunrun can potentially make the house a bit harder to sell:

      (a) If you sell the Property you may assign this Agreement to the new owner, provided that the new owner meets Sunrun’s reasonable credit requirements and first agrees in writing to be bound by all of the terms and conditions set forth herein.

    • Dino says:

      We got solar panels (from a company called Vivint – no problems with them) and went with the “they own and maintain them” model. No lease, warranty, or time limited contract involved. I’m glad we did because they have the incentive to keep it running – they make money by selling us the generated power (at a price lower than the electric co.) And one day they did tell us “we noticed something’s not working, can we schedule a crew to come fix it”. I know other people who went with the (seems to be more common) model of “you buy it and it’s all yours”, and they had to #1 notice that there’s something wrong and #2 fix it themselves – and that meant a much longer outage, and more hassle.

      • Vivint is another company I spoke with.

        Your experience suggests one disadvantage of the Sunrun model relative to the more common “they own it, you pay for the power” model. If the system stops working, they are legally obliged to fix it, but they don’t stop receiving payments from me, since I don’t owe them any payments–the system is theirs but the power it produces is mine. Suing them to make them fulfill their contractual obligations is a lot harder than not writing them a check.

        I should see if they owe me a specified payment in the contract if the system isn’t delivering the promised power.

  3. Jaskologist says:

    Unpublished data from Stanley Milgram’s experiments cast doubt on his claims about obedience

    Most of the subjects (56 percent) were defiant and at some point refused to continue administering the electric shocks. These subjects were also more likely to have believed that the learner was suffering. Those who were less successfully convinced that the learner was in pain, however, were more obedient.

    “Milgram publicly dismissed any suggestion that his subjects might have seen through the experimental deception and his work stresses his success in convincing his volunteers that the experiment was ‘real’ even though his unpublished research showed that this was not the case,” Perry told PsyPost.

    “While Milgram reported on the amount of shock that subjects were prepared to administer he suppressed data that gives us insights into why people behaved the way they did. Our study shows that the believability of the experimental scenario was highly variable, contrary to Milgram’s claims and that it affected subjects’ behavior. Some subjects were convinced the learner was receiving painful shocks, others were sceptical and suspicious.”

    “Our analysis shows that people who believed the learner was in pain were two and a half more times likely to defy the experimenter and refuse to give further shocks. We found that contrary to Milgram’s claims, the majority of subjects in the obedience experiments were defiant, and a significant reason for their refusal to continue was to spare the man pain,” Perry said.

  4. johan_larson says:

    Google has ended its longstanding practice of end-of-week meetings called TGIFs, where senior managers explained upcoming plans to the entire staff, and entertained (sometimes impertinent) questions from them.

    https://www.wired.com/story/google-shakes-up-its-tgif-and-ends-its-culture-of-openness/

    What made the weekly all-hands so attractive was its power to bind a workforce to a shared mission. The fact that such meetings could continue when the head count reached five figures and more reflected a crazy optimism that, with the right kind of culture, the physics of corporate alienation could be defied.

    Now we’ve learned—no surprise—that physics wins. The big problems of these big companies have led employees to more aggressively question their bosses, and in some cases even sabotage them by leaking the secrets shared in these meetings. As any reader of spy novels can tell you, the presence of moles in an organization is a morale-killer. It also harshes the corporate mellow when workers use putatively feel-good meetings to stage hostile confrontations with their leaders on an increasing number of sore points. In earlier times, employees tended to express their gripes with the expectation that leaders and workers were colleagues, too evolved to get hung up on power disparities. Now, with giant corporations worrying more about market dominance and regulators than about feel-good missions, that kumbaya sensibility is gone.

    That’s why, when Google said Thank Goodness It’s Finished, it ended a lot more than a weekly meeting. Winter has come to Silicon Valley. And no beer for you.

    [Wipes away a tear…] Look at our little Google. It’s all grown up.

    • John Schilling says:

      I’m surprised that it lasted as long as it did. The idea that you’re going to have a “dialogue” in an all-hands meeting of a company of 10,000 is clearly unworkable, and it takes some pretty strong unwritten rules to stop it from being a pure time sink if not actively disruptive. Facilitating communication up and down the hierarchy is a laudable goal, but this stops being the way to do that an order of magnitude or two before you reach 2019 Google scale.

      • johan_larson says:

        I left in 2013, and the weekly all-company all-hands already seemed like an anachronism to me at that time. If they were going to have weekly all-hands, the meetings should have been several tiers lower down. The highest person in my report chain who I felt I actually knew as a person was my vp of engineering, and I think he was two, maybe three steps down from the founders. That might have been the right level for weekly meetings, if the company insisted on being very communicative.

        • Eric Rall says:

          I also left in 2013, and I had a similar impression. The Q&A was occasionally mildly interesting, and the founders were decently engaging public speakers, but for the most part the extended demos that made up the bulk of the meeting’s time I found tedious and irrelevant. I regularly skipped the meeting to go home early or streamed it in the background at my desk while I finished actually working.

    • Garrett says:

      IDK. When I was there it certainly didn’t feel like it was an “open culture”. Sure – information was generally accessible if you knew to look for it and could find it. But actual understanding of decision-making process wasn’t there. And TGIF (which occurred on Thursdays) felt far more controlled, like a practice press event. Frequently they were … selectively interesting. But I always enjoyed finding out what different parts of the company had recently launched.

      sabotage them by leaking the secrets shared in these meetings

      I believe the expression is “whistleblower”. When an large company is ostensibly politically neutral but internally shows itself to be actively working to promote a particular political agenda by shaping what people see, it’s a matter for public engagement. And, also, because it’s easier to shape corporate policy by selectively leaking to the press rather than by internal debate and reason.

      • Eric Rall says:

        But actual understanding of decision-making process wasn’t there.

        Agreed. One particularly bad episode from when I worked at Google, which I think is illustrative of problems in this area was the sudden big push to make Google’s products (especially Google Docs and Gmail, but also the rest of Google’s offerings) disability accessible (things like keyboard navigation, compatibility with screen reader apps for the blind, configurable for large fonts and high-contrast color schemes for people with moderate visual impairments, etc). This had previously been almost completely ignored, but there was a sudden huge push from the top level that “We care about accessibility because it’s the right thing to do”.

        I found out a little later the actual reason for the push from a friend who works IT at a state university that used Google Docs as their internal office suite for university employees. Apparently, at least one of the big disability advocacy groups had identified Google Docs’s lack of accessibility compliance as a big problem they wanted to deal with, and the group was contacting universities that used Google Docs and threatening to sue them under the ADA unless they switched to another (properly accessible) office suite (e.g. Microsoft Office). So Google had an urgent business reason for a big push to backfill accessibility compliance, but they couldn’t be honest with their employees about the actual reason for this.

        Contrast to my previous experience at Microsoft, on the other hand, where there’s a long-standing company-wide rule that teams need to validate accessibility compliance at certain stages of the development cycle. The internal training on this is explicitly explained in terms of accessibility compliance being a legal or regulatory requirement for many of Microsoft’s customers, and being non-compliant could make some customers unable to buy the products or expose them to legal liability.

        • johan_larson says:

          That seems like a strange lie to tell your employees. It’s perfectly reasonable to do something for the money, unless it’s somehow wrong in itself, which upgrading the provisions for the disabled is not. And I expect pretty much any PM would have ranked services for the disabled pretty low on Google Docs’ priority list, at least in the early days.

        • Aapje says:

          @Eric Rall

          they couldn’t be honest with their employees about the actual reason for this.

          Why do you say “couldn’t” rather than “wouldn’t”?

          Are you implying that they couldn’t admit failure for some reason (if so, why)?

          PS. Microsoft’s approach seems a lot more healthy. Google’s need or desire to frame this as a moral issue, even though the actual reason seem in large part financial or legal, probably says a lot about Google’s culture.

    • LesHapablap says:

      Within that article above this article was linked which outlines three years of problems at google:
      wired article

      How accurate is this? It presents a more balanced left-right situation inside Google, instead of a left-wing echo chamber.

      • Aapje says:

        I don’t interpret it as very balanced when the leadership believes in left-wing ideology, but is afraid to act on it too much, because there are right-wing people with power. When people whose main contribution seems to be a defense of free speech, rather than actual right-wing ideology, are portrayed as right-wing extremists whose non-removal is great tolerance of the right. When there are calls to cleanse right-wingers, but not left-wingers.

        I get that from a Californian progressive point of view this might look like balance and appeasement, but I don’t think it is, just like this story might seem balanced from that perspective, but isn’t, IMO.

        For example, when information is leaked about left-wing activists in Google, this is written:

        For the employees who were being targeted, the leaks were terrifying. How many of their coworkers were feeding material to the alt-right? How many more leaks were coming? And what was their employer going to do to protect them?

        Yet no such concern is expressed about Damore, Cernekee, etc; or people being targeted by the far-left in general. In fact, if Wired had any awareness, they could question the extent to which their own reporting contributed to people all over the spectrum being targeted.

        There is the claim that both sides were attacking each other with HR complaints, but that right-wingers were going further, by leaking things to the outside world. This ignores the leaks where the left targeted others, including the most famous leak: Damore. In general, the article seems to see open or secretive leaks by the left as justified whistleblowing and the same by the right as harassment.

        Basically, the Wired story seems written by a biased person, from a left-wing echo chamber, who can’t help but apply double standards.

      • The Nybbler says:

        It’s been just over three years since I worked there. There was no balanced left-right situation then, and from what I heard it only got more unbalanced (to the left) since then. What seems to have happened after Damore is a number of suppressed right-wingers inside Google who had documented this stuff (but not leaked it) decided that the gloves were off, and sent their screenshots to Breitbart and to (at the time Damore’s attorney) Harmeet Dhillon.

        Google has continued to purge heretics and agitators (mostly on the right, but a few of the worst offenders on the left) since then; I’m not sure any of them I knew when working there are still there.

  5. Pepe says:

    My understanding is limited, but I think that electricity is generally subsidized, while gasoline purchases are generally taxed rather heavily. Is that correct? Would that change when/if electric vehicles become more common?

    • Aftagley says:

      Did some research:

      think that electricity is generally subsidized

      Yes, but it looks like the amount of subsidies given correlate directly to how power is generated. Source. AFAICT wind and solar recieve the lion’s share of government subsidies while the rest of the industry doesn’t.

      while gasoline purchases are generally taxed rather heavily.

      This ignores the fairly massive subsidies the federal government gives the fossil fuel industry during the extraction/refinement phases of their operations. I know that this covers coal and natural gas (read: not gasoline), but these total around $20 billion a year, well more than is given to the entirety of the electricity generating sector ($11 to 18 billion, although this double-counts the electricity subsidies given to the hydrocarbon industry). Source.

      Also, gas taxes are comprised of both federal and state/local taxes of which the latter makes up the lions share. In this regard, I guess you could call federal fuel subsidies as kind of a transfer of federal funds to the state (subsidies keep gas prices low, meaning more people buy gas, meaning the states make more tax funding).

      Would that change when/if electric vehicles become more common?

      Unknown. AFAIK, gas taxes are supposed to be directed towards upkeep and maintenance of the state’s highway system. If people stop buying gas, these funds will need to come from somewhere, so I could possibly see an “electric car tax” or something springing. up.

      • I know that this covers coal and natural gas (read: not gasoline), but these total around $20 billion a year, well more than is given to the entirety of the electricity generating sector ($11 to 18 billion, although this double-counts the electricity subsidies given to the hydrocarbon industry).

        Checking your sourse:
        1. Much of it is to crude oil, hence gasoline.
        2. What counts as a subsidy is less clear than the summary makes it sound, since a lot of it involves rules on how to calculate tax owed by the producing company. Whether that’s a subsidy depends on how you think profit ought to be calculated for those industries.

        In one case, they count something as a subsidy because

        While this deduction was available to domestic manufacturers, it nevertheless benefitted fossil fuel companies by allowing “oil producers to claim a tax break intended for U.S. manufacturers to prevent job outsourcing.

        Or in other words, the deduction was available to everyone, but the author of the piece thinks it shouldn’t have been available to oil producers, hence counts it as a subsidy.

        • Aftagley says:

          Right, and the obvious bias of the source should definitely be noted, good catch pointing that out. That being said, that’s kind of why I passed along the very wide ballpark of $11-$18 billion – the final value is going to depend on what you count as a subsidy.

          Do you have a different ballpark estimate of total remittances from the USG to the fossil fuel industry?

        • Garrett says:

          IIRC, there was one such study which roughly concluded that the market *could* absorb a higher tax on gasoline, so the fact that the government didn’t increase the tax itself should be counted as a subsidy.

      • Evan Þ says:

        There already is an electric car tax here in Washington State which politicians have justified on just that basis, and as of this year it applies to hybrid cars too. It’s currently going to build new electric car charging stations, but they promise it’ll go to highway maintenance once that network’s built out.

      • LesHapablap says:

        All the direct subsidies from that source:

        Intangible Drilling Costs Deduction (26 U.S. Code § 263. Active). This provision allows companies to deduct a majority of the costs incurred from drilling new wells domestically.

        It is normal tax policy to be able to deduct costs of production, so this doesn’t seem out of line at all

        Percentage Depletion

        Don’t know what that is

        Credit for Clean Coal Investment Internal Revenue Code § 48A (Active) and 48B (Inactive). These subsidies create a series of tax credits for energy investments, particularly for coal. In 2005, Congress authorized $1.5 billion in credits for integrated gasification combined cycle properties, with $800 million of this amount reserved specifically for coal projects. In 2008, additional incentives for carbon sequestration were added to IRC § 48B and 48A. These included 30 percent investment credits, which were made available for gasification projects that sequester 75 percent of carbon emissions, as well as advanced coal projects that sequester 65 percent of carbon emissions. Eliminating credits for investment in these projects would save $1 billion between 2017 and 2026.

        This is an environmental subsidy from the sounds of it. The money doesn’t help the company’s bottom line, it just helps clean up emissions

        Nonconventional Fuels Tax Credit (Internal Revenue Code § 45. Inactive). Sunsetted in 2014, this tax credit was created by the Crude Oil Windfall Profit Tax Act of 1980 to promote domestic energy production and reduce dependence on foreign oil. Although amendments to the act limited the list of qualifying fuel sources, this credit provided $12.2 billion to the coal industry from 2002-2010.

        This one sounds like the only real subsidy, but it finished in 2014

        The indirect subsidies listed below those, and the R+D subsidies mostly don’t seem like subsidies. In many cases they are ‘green’ subsidies to try and clean up emissions. Other times they seem like normal tax policy. And then from wikipedia, state and federal fuel taxes seem to be about 90 to 100 billion per year, which is a lot more than the claimed 20 billion subsidies anyway.

        • Two other points:

          1. Arguably, the fuel taxes are to pay for the highways, so an imperfect user fee for using the highways. From that standpoint, it isn’t that fossil fuels are taxed but that electric cars (not other uses) are subsidized by not having to pay their share of the cost of maintaining the road system.

          2. The subsidy calculation ignores policies that amount to negative subsidies, as is often the case for policy arguments based on claimed externalities. In particular, the windfall profits tax that was mentioned in passing was a substantial tax imposed only on fossil fuel companies.

  6. proyas says:

    In the year 2069, Skynet orders you to travel back in time to the year 1919 to persuade the world’s leaders to change the Treaty of Versailles so that it will prevent the Second World War from happening. A T-800 accompanies you, along with a big suitcase full of gadgets (including some robot assassin mosquitoes). You have the ability to protect your own life and to kill world leaders, and you can show people your technology to prove you come from the future. However, you’re not strong enough to take over the world, nor could you prevail if any country decided to attack you with 1,000 soldiers at once. Likewise, if one country got fed up with your demands and decided to remove its delegates from the peace conference in the middle of the night and flee back to Paris or Rome to hide from you, it would be hard to impossible for you to retaliate. You must persuade them to do things on their own.

    What changes do you have them make to the Treaty of Versailles?

    How would those changes help avert WWII?

    What is your strategy for using your technology demonstrations and limited lethal force to achieve your diplomatic goals?

    • DarkTigger says:

      Four step plan:
      a) I would go to the OKH show of T-800 capabilities and tell them if I ever hear from one of them that they ever utter another interpreation about the surender then “The war was lost the moment US-Troops entered European soil” I will send it to murder the mother-loving-crap out of them.
      b) I would go to the French government show of T-800 capabilities and tell them, reperations would be okay, but if any of them would even think about occupying parts of Germany to press the repreations, I would send it to murder the moher-loving-crap out of them.
      c) I would ask all of the Entente Governments to not pay German officers to hier German Soldiers to fight in Baltic states, because on what planet does that sound like a good idea.
      d) I maybe would ask the Poles nicely to NOT FUCKING START THE NEXT BIG WAR IN EUROPE SIX MONTHS AFTER THE WAR TO END ALL WARS YOU DI************.

      I hope those demands are light enough so goverments would accept them, and the people would not lynch their respektive goverments for it.
      Also I hope it would lessen the three biggest factors in the raise of the Nazis (Dolchstoß-Myth, economic peril, and fear of an UsSR that is able to take Eastern Europe by storm)

      • Evan Þ says:

        I think your Step One will fail since a lot of the German people believed in the betrayal, not just the OKH. The army’s collapse wasn’t visible on the home front, and you can’t squelch a popular opinion that feels real to the public by a few T-800’s.

        • DarkTigger says:

          Yes but, the OKH did not believe that. Theire correspondance shows that they knew in autumn 1917 that the war was lost as soon as the US would be able to show up in numbers.
          Hindenburg publicly claiming the betrayal was the only reason for the loss, in parliament gave the people who believed it a huge boost.
          If he would have stood up and said: “Well we knew that the Spring offensive ’18 was our last straw. As soon as American combat troops arrived in numbers the gig was up. Sucks to be us.” would probably cost the the revanchist a lot momentum. And to stop WW2 as we know it, breaking the Nazis momentum in small ways just might be enough.

          Personaly I am more concerend about step b), the French economy in the early twenties was just as fucked as the German, not enforcing the reperations might be a deal breaker for the French public.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      I have the T-800 speak, have it bench-press a car, then tell them “this is what all Germans are like in the future because of their ‘master race’ stuff… so kill every last German, right now, before it is too late, then sow the land with salt with so that nothing grows for a thousand years.”

      There we go! No World War II!

    • Jaskologist says:

      Can I go back just a few years earlier to 1914? I have the T-800 (without the skin suit), assassinate Archduke Ferdinand in broad daylight in a very public place. Two world wars are prevented and technology advances considerably as humanity unites against the robot threat. And they have these nice T-800 remains to do their research from, which ensures that the presumably now-friendly Skynet gets to keep its place in future-history.

      • proyas says:

        The time machine can’t go farther back that 150 years due to limitations imposed by physics.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        If we were fighting a war against the robots, would technology advance faster, or would we put in place Common Sense Technology Regulation?

      • DarkTigger says:

        The throne-prince was one of the major opponents to a war with Serbia. Maybe you should kill his assasins instead? And then explain to him what you did and why, and act as an technical advisor for a time?

        • Jaskologist says:

          Sorry, it’s a fixed point in time.

          The world is a tinder-box with everybody ready to grab everybody else’s throats. If not this assassination, some other spark will set the whole thing off.

          So I keep the assassination, but let everybody unite against a new, non-human threat. This will shock them out of the path they were going down.

          How do you think we ended up with a Skynet that wanted to prevent a bunch of human deaths in the first place? It came about as the result of a humanity able to study technology advanced enough to make AIs (but not yet possessing any technology advanced enough for that Skynet to infect), highly incentivized to do so, but also very, very concerned about AI safety. This is the event that leads to the creation of Nice Skynet, and Nice Skynet is able to justify causing it because it’s actually saving millions of human lives in the process.

    • Nornagest says:

      Per tradition for time travelers, we’ll start by killing Hitler. Hell, just to be thorough, let’s murderlate everyone in the Nazi Party’s roster — that’s only about 50 people in Munich, the T-800 could do it in a weekend. You’ll probably still get a dictatorship in Germany — either right-wing or Communist — but the track record for mid-century West European dictatorships not headed by Hitler suggests that it’ll likely be a stabler, saner, and less genocidal one.

      After that, we’ll go to Eastern Europe. Late 1919 happens to have been the high-water mark for the White side in the Russian Revolution; we’ll wait until the capture of Kursk and Oryol, which is about as far as the Whites ever got. The game plan is to achieve a cease-fire along the current lines of advance, leaving Ukraine, the Baltics, and much of Siberia in White hands. That’s a tall order, but we might be able to achieve it by privately demoing the T-800 to both sides as combination threat and incentive. We’ll play it like The Day The Earth Stood Still: we’ve come from a wiser time, we have vast but mysterious powers, we want peace in Europe, and we can do that with you or against you. Between our surveillance capabilities and our ability to kill anyone inconvenient, we should be able to pull it off.

      With Russia divided between Red and White, and the Nazis a dead letter, the political landscape in Europe will be unrecognizable by 1939. I have no idea how we’re going to avert the Pacific War, though.

      • proyas says:

        Yes, you can get away with killing Hitler and other people who are unimportant in 1919. However, openly killing a high-ranking 1919 leader will provoke a severe response, particularly if you do it with the T-800 shooting their way through 50 guards in the Presidential Palace instead of using your killer robot mosquitoes in the middle of the night.

        • Nornagest says:

          Yeah, any deaths during phase 2 of this plan would have to look like mysterious heart attacks in bed, not like the police station scene from Terminator. I expect they’d still get the message, though.

      • proyas says:

        Your strategy succeeds in preventing the rise of the Nazis in Germany. Instead, the country follows Austria’s path and becomes an incompetently-led, right-wing dictatorship lacking a charismatic leader or cohesive philosophy other than nationalism and building a strong military. The odds of Germany starting WWII are reduced.

        I’m less sure if your strategy to end the Russian Civil War will work since the odds are high that you’ll be ambushed by a huge number of fighters from one side or the other while traveling in your traincar, or during a meeting with a factional leader. Having your food poisoned will also be a constant problem. In spite of your T-800, the Russians will consider attacking you anyway since their leaders will (1) not care about the lives of their infantry and/or (2) have elaborate plans for framing their enemies for your murder so your T-800 will attack them.

        This combination of sneakiness, back-stabbing, and boldness seems uniquely Russian and appropriate for that era.

        • Nornagest says:

          That’s why the demoes are private. Openly showing off future technology would be an invitation for one side or another of the Russian Civil War to try and kill us to take it. Doing it privately lets us limit that information to people we know from history to be relatively sane and trustworthy. If they’re not at the top of their respective org charts in 1919, well, that’s what the mosquitoes are for.

          We’d need a good cover story. Perhaps we could travel as diplomats from a neutral party that neither side can afford to antagonize — because of the nature of the conflict, that probably can’t be any of the Western powers (some of them have already committed troops on the White side), but a foreign socialist party ought to fit the bill, especially if it’s plausible that it might be taking power soon.

          • proyas says:

            That still doesn’t solve the problem. Going deep into Russian territory will put you at high risk of being killed for one reason or another. Maybe you go to a secret meeting with the leader of one side, but a spy in his camp leaked word of the meeting to the other side, and you’re ambushed on the way or at the meeting site, or the meeting site has time bombs installed in the walls or under the floor.

            Again, you would face the constant risk of hired assassins poisoning your food or running up to you in a crowd and shooting you in the head. The T-800 can’t protect you 100%.

          • Nornagest says:

            I don’t buy it. There’s a certain amount of risk, sure, we’re going into a warzone. But with the right choice of cover, there shouldn’t be any reason for either side to target us specifically, at least not until we’ve accomplished our mission.

            On my bookshelf at home I’ve got a copy of Red Star over China, a first-person account of the Chinese Civil War by a Western correspondent who met, among other people, Mao and various figures in the Kuomintang government. That was at least as nasty and chaotic a war; if he could do it, so can we.

          • proyas says:

            The guy who wrote Red Star Over China was merely a reporter. He was just collecting information and hence was no threat, so the combatants tolerated him. However, you would be in Russia as an antagonist, and your presence would threaten the plans of the different factions. Powerful men would want to kill you.

    • Lambert says:

      Killing Wilson is generally considered the optimal strategy for this kind of thing, is it not?

      • EchoChaos says:

        Always start with killing Wilson on principle.

      • proyas says:

        Why would killing Wilson in 1919 prevent WWII?

        • Protagoras says:

          It does seem a little late, but presumably the reasoning is that he had some influence on the Versailles treaty, and given the combination of the fact that Wilson’s influence was almost always bad and the Versailles treaty seems like it could hardly have ended up doing worse, there’s some reason to think removing Wilson’s influence might have produced something less bad.

          • Eric Rall says:

            The worst of Wilson’s damage is already done by 1919. His worst mistakes were during the pre-Armistice negotiations. Specifically, he insisted on the Kaiser’s abdication and the dissolution of the Habsburg Monarchy as preconditions for serious peace negotiations, and then he promised Germany relatively lenient peace terms without consulting his allies (and Britain and especially France turned out to be unwilling to agree terms in lines with Wilson’s promises, but didn’t present their harsher terms until after Germany had demobilized and suffered through another winter of blockade).

            Wilson’s other big mistake, proposing the partition of Eastern Europe along oversimplified ethnic lines, was also already mostly baked into the pie by 1919.

            Take Wilson out of the picture in early 1919, and Versailles probably becomes a bit more harsh, since Wilson was pushing for “peace without victory” and serving as a counterweight to the French (who wanted a “Carthaginian Peace”) with the British somewhere in the middle (they wanted Germany punished and weakened militarily, and wanted Germany to pay reparations to help manage the British and French war debts (mostly owed to America), but not crippled economically).

            I think you’re right that a significant change in either direction would have been an improvement: Versailles seemingly being calculated to maximize German resentment without leaving Germany too weak to have another go in 20 years after the Entente powers got tired of enforcing the strictures of the treaty. A much harsher treaty along the lines of some of the French proposals (annexing the Rhineland and Saarland to France and partially de-industrializing the rest of Germany) might have left Germany too weak to be as big a threat as they were historically. And a much milder treaty might left Germany more stable and less motivated to revanchism. I’m not sure removing Wilson would move the needle enough to make the difference, though.

    • proyas says:

      To answer my own question, I would use my T-800 and other technologies to pressure the Allies to make the following changes to the Treaty of Versailles:

      1) Germany has to give up Alsace-Lorraine, but can keep an equal amount of land that it conquered from Russia. No other changes to Germany’s 1914 borders are allowed.

      2) Italy gets most of the Dalmatian islands it wanted. (TOTALLY not worth denying Italy this since it helped Mussolini come to power)

      3) Remove the German “war guilt clause” and reduce the amount of reparations.

      4) Force Germany, France, and Benelux to form the European Coal and Steel Community early.

      I’d use my technology to show them holographic videos of the fascists and WWII, and my T-800 to strong-arm any diplomats were really mouthed off to me (preferably something like a strangle-and-lift-off-the-ground stunt in front of the whole chamber, but then throw the guy into a bunch of tables before he actually dies).

      Very troublesome diplomats who weren’t getting with the program would be killed by my robot mosquitoes in the middle of the night, and it would look like deaths from age-related problems.

      Also, just to be sure, I’d kill Hitler, Mussolini, and several dozen other Top Guys of the 1930s whose names you can guess.

      • b_jonas says:

        Would you kill Stalin?

        Also, I just want to quote Scott from the Rabbit hole story, because it sounds relevant to the hypothetical situation of preventing World War II by time traveling to 1919 and assassinating leaders.

        > This looks like one of the approximately 100% of problems that can be solved by BRUTE STRENGTH!

        • proyas says:

          Yes, although he and the other Russian strongmen would be last on my list since killing them would be the most dangerous as it would require me to go deep into Russia.

    • LesHapablap says:

      Amend the Treaty of Versailles so that instead of a treaty it is all the theoretical and practical information necessary to make atom bombs.

      WW2 is thus prevented by preempting it with the cold war. Or at least, the next big war will probably be unique enough to get its own proper name.

  7. zenojjones says:

    What are the best examples examples of companies, countries, teams or any other organization which has successfully built up a strong system based around a superstar? We’re reading good to great for my work book club and they talk about how having a humble leader who builds a good system set themselves up for long term success.

    I took this thought exercise and ran it through sports teams and Batman to look at the right way to build a system.
    The Dark Knight, Superstar Systems & Individualization

  8. Well... says:

    I know some people who like to jump into icy lakes in the winter, run barefoot and shirtless in the snow, and other crazy stuff in that genre. A consistent claim among them is that it has major health benefits, which is something I feel like I’ve seen lots of other people say before too.

    I assume there’s research on this. is anyone familiar with what it says and can summarize the practical recommendations (if any) that come out of it?

    • Statismagician says:

      I’ll look into it for you, but preregistering: I suspect there isn’t a lot of specific research, and that most research on vaguely similar topics will find a big mess of placebo effects and confounding with no particular real benefits.

      • Statismagician says:

        ^That, pretty much. There are a couple of meta-analyses showing mild increases in post-exercise recovery times over rest alone or no intervention, and some improvement in related self-report measures. There’s apparently some literature on Nordic sauna’s (ice bath + steam treatment) effect on heart function, but I don’t read the relevant languages and I couldn’t find a lot in translation that I trusted not to be badly garbled. Some evidence that you get increased blood flow directly after, but I didn’t see anything longer-term. This is fairly cursory, it has to be said.

        EDIT: This is for cold-immersion therapy. The only directly polar-plunge-related paper I could find quickly was on BMI in San Francisco polar plunge participants and is not worth reading.

    • Aftagley says:

      AFAIK, the data behind cold immersion therapy seems pretty credible.

      Would that work as an explanation for this behavior?

    • epenethesis says:

      Not directly answering your question, but one thing I didn’t expect before I did it is that it *feels* really good.

      You get a jolt of energy, and once you return to normal temperatures your skin feels… pleasantly glow-y?

      That’s to say, it may or may not have any health benefits, but regardless, that’s probably not the reason most people do it.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      One very practical recommendation is that there’s a small but very real risk of heart attack and/or drowning. Apparently you can condition against it, and the conditioning lasts a number of years, but pre-conditioning it’s really not predictible if you’re at risk – being healthy and without a history of heart problems doesn’t protect you completely. It’s a matter of individual responses to cold shock.

      One random resource from googlin a bit. Probably not the best, but enough to give the key words if you’re curious to search more.

  9. Canyon Fern says:

    In the same vein as my last post, here’s a China-themed version of a few verses of that American classic, “Oh My Darling, Clementine.”

    In the far-off land of China,
    It has lately been the play
    To go get things manufactured
    In an inexpensive way

    But of recent, we have witnessed
    The rise of a Mister Xi
    And it seems we’re on the shitlist
    Of this canny new zhuxi

    Not so fast there, not so fast there,
    Not so fast there, Mister Xi!
    I know just what you are after
    But you won’t get it from me

    Mister Xi is quite the caver
    But on deals he will not cave
    “Belt and Road” has other countries
    Spending money that he gave

    As for Chinese territory,
    Xi Zhuxi has made the call:
    With nine dashes ’round an ocean,
    Mister Xi has claimed it all

    Not so fast there, not so fast there,
    Not so fast there, Mister Xi!
    Keep your hands, forever after,
    Off that Southern China Sea

    As “one country with two systems
    Starts to fail dramatically
    Seems to me the knell is sounding
    For Hong Kong democracy

    Meanwhile, foreign firms are bowing
    To a Communistic squeeze
    For they dare not risk a market
    Of a billion Chinese

    Not so fast there, not so fast there,
    Not so fast there, Mister Xi!
    If your values are so scarlet
    Keep them in your own country

  10. DragonMilk says:

    What’s the easiest way to do a patent search? This website does not seem very google-like

    • liate says:

      I’ve never used it, but Google Patents exists.

    • sentientbeings says:

      Is your question, “What’s the easiest way to do a patent search?” or “What’s the easiest way to do a patent search, given certain constraints, like not paying very large subscription fees?”

      • DragonMilk says:

        The latter – I heard a professional search costs $1k to $2k

        • Lambert says:

          Figures.
          Imagine the cost of finding out the multi-million dollar factory you’ve just built uses a process that’s already been patented. Or that there’s prior art that invalidates your patent.
          $10^3 is nothing, compared to that.

          • GearRatio says:

            I’d guess a bigger cost is that the system discourages inventing in a general sense, at least much more than it has to.

    • Clutzy says:

      Don’t use a company like inventhelp or legalzoom. In some areas they are…adequate, in patent searches they are useless, sometimes worse than useless.

      APPFT and PATFT are indeed cumbersome, and google patents has bad problems as well. Examiners and professional searchers use EAST as a searching platform. But that is tricky for a layman. Indeed, any search you do even with the best software will likely be woefully inadequate. Patent examiners with years of experience in narrow fields are given 15+ hours to examine a patent and still often miss relevant prior art.

      So, in the end the only good advice I can give you is to contract professionals, probably a boutique patent firm.

      • DragonMilk says:

        That was my first step – they provided the $1k to $2k quote for a search…hence my question on how easy it is to just do a search yourself (I went to them first because I heard rumors of patents being difficult to navigate)

        • mitv150 says:

          The best available free resource right now is patents.google.com, although using it does have drawbacks.

          There are plenty of search firms that will conduct a search for you if you approach them directly without a patent law firm as an intermediary, potentially for costs in the $500, but interpreting the results may be dicey without training.

          I am a patent attorney and would be happy to give you a quick (free) primer on how to go about this on your own. Let me know how I can contact you outside of comments. If this is inappropriate for this space, please let me know and I will delete.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Thanks for the offer – in my google search, I realized that the idea isn’t novel enough and I’ll have to do a bit more planning/homework to get it into patentable shape.

            I told the patent agent that I was looking to make sure I could do my business without getting sued by patent sharks, and he said that a common misunderstanding is that patents protect…he said they really only are good for attacking and therefore counterattacking if the litigator has an underlying business.

          • mitv150 says:

            That’s right – patents “protect” only in the sense that they allow you to sue someone who may be practicing your invention. Patents do not give the patent holder any rights in practicing their own inventions.

        • Clutzy says:

          $1k to $2k is not so bad for a search through a reliable firm. The actual patent, which, again I strongly suggest you do through a good attorney, will end up making that cost look fairly trivial. $1k translates into roughly 3 hours billable from a good patent attorney. A patent is going to take 5x that, at least, to draft. I’d expect most billables to be more in the 25+ hour range if you have a useful patent.

          • hls2003 says:

            +1. $5k for a patent search and $15-25k for the patent process are not vastly out of line, depending on the legal market. It will also vary somewhat by the novelty and complexity of the subject matter.

  11. EchoChaos says:

    In viral marketing news, South Dakota has made headlines with their new anti-methamphetamine campaign slogan:

    “Meth. I’m on it.”

    https://onmeth.com/

    It spread across the entire internet nearly instantly due to its punchiness and implied contradictory nature. Although I have family in South Dakota, I wasn’t aware of how bad meth had gotten there, so it’s a win for me in making me aware of a problem, although I’m too far away to make a major difference.

    Is it a good or bad campaign? My impression is good because it’s naturally made to go viral, but some people are saying it’s bad because of how it normalizes meth usage.

    I’d love to get people’s reactions to it.

    • ana53294 says:

      I would say it’s a very cheap campaign. 500k to make the whole country aware of the issue of meth in South Dakota (which has a population of less than a million), seems quite affordable. Also seems useful in getting federal funding, if they need it.

      And the people they chose are people you’d expect to see in church, not the typical addict you imagine. So I guess it’s a very powerful campaign.

      • chrisminor0008 says:

        Dunno … If I lived in South Dakota I’d be pissed that my government spent half a million dollars on essentially propaganda.

        • ana53294 says:

          They aren’t lying.

          The thing is, they are combining this campaign with other activities, like opening treatment centers, a helpline, etc. Using propaganda to inform people of the capabilities is useful.

          My government regularly spends money on campaigns to convince people to recycle, and then we learn, that all the carefull work of sorting rubbish at home is for nothing, because it turns out it all goes to the same landfill in the end. So not only do they spend money on propaganda, they lie.

          • chrisminor0008 says:

            Yea, but I’m also a nutjob Libertarian who thinks the government shouldn’t be persuading people on what to put in their bodies.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @chrisminor0008

            Of all the government interventions that exist, “don’t do meth” has to be amongst the least objectionable.

            Especially unless we remove the government obligation to remediate the damage that meth users do to themselves and their surroundings.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Of all the government interventions that exist, “don’t do meth” has to be amongst the least objectionable.

            How much misery has resulted from the pseudoephederine pseudoban?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @The Nybbler

            Way less than that caused by meth. Meth is a horrifying monster that destroys lives and crushing it by any means necessary is a high moral good.

            And I will accept a minor reduction in convenience to obtain Sudafed in exchange for that every day of the week.

            I’m no drug warrior, but meth is the least reasonable drug to be arguing in favor of legalizing in any way.

          • cassander says:

            @EchoChaos says:

            Of all the government interventions that exist, “don’t do meth” has to be amongst the least objectionable.

            As someone who constantly has issues getting legal amphetamines that I need to function because of rules put in place to prevent people from trying to make meth, I can object. My suffering is pretty minor, but it’s very obnoxious, and doesn’t seem to actually be preventing people from getting meth.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Way less than that caused by meth. Meth is a horrifying monster that destroys lives and crushing it by any means necessary is a high moral good.

            Throwing infinities into your equation is a good way to get the results you’ve predetermined, but not very convincing to others.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @The Nybbler

            I’m not putting an infinity. I am saying that the damage done by meth is massively higher than the damage done by requiring Sudafed to be behind the shelf.

            There are two ways to argue against this. One is to argue that putting Sudafed behind a shelf does nothing to combat meth production. That’s @cassander’s argument, and it’s fair. I don’t know enough about the details and am not saying that the current restrictions on precursors are well tuned. I am willing to listen to “some precursors are being overregulated”.

            The other way is to argue that meth isn’t damaging enough to be regulated. This was @chrisminor0008’s argument and I think it’s very bad. Of all the things that the government regulates, meth is amongst the worst. Its primary effects are exceptionally bad and its secondary effects probably the worst of any major illegal drug.

          • Nick says:

            @EchoChaos
            Another way to argue against it is that the negative effects of the drug war outweigh the positive effects. This argument may or may not depend on cassander’s argument that it’s ineffective, because even if it were effective, there are a lot of negative effects of the drug war.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Nick

            I would count that as part of @cassander’s argument. Enforcement of the ban on meth has included enforcement of restrictions on precursors, drug raids, etc. All of those fall under “how are we enforcing the ban” rather than “should we ban it”.

          • Plumber says:

            @EchoChaos > “…meth is amongst the worst…”

            FWIW, about half of those involuntarily committed for being a danger to themselves and/or others to confinement at the San Francisco General Hospital “psych ward” last year were on meth, the “treatment” is holding them until the drug wears off, it just plain turns people evil.

            I’m not a fan of the opioid epidemic (on Friday I had to kick a bung of hypodermic needles out of the way to clear a drain, and when I had the duty of clearing drains at the San Francisco Main Library needles were usually the cause), but at least heroin addicts typically do the evil they do to get more drugs, speed freaks do evil both funding their addictions and while on it.

            Just vile stuff.

          • Aftagley says:

            I remember reading some literature a while back that analyzed the impact of the pseudoephedrine ban*. Here is what I remember the outcome chain was:

            1. Domestic producers’ ability to create meth was severely impacted.
            2. Meth prices temporarily skyrocketed.
            3. Mexican cartels stepped up their meth manufacturing from being a sidehustle to a prominent income stream. Why they did this is complex – for unrelated reasons the cartels were desperate for additional income sources at this time and this was slightly before everyone realized that heroin/synthetic heroin was going to be so popular.
            4. Meth, now being made in a lab by professionals, increased in quality/purity.
            5. Meth also became more regularly available and less dependent on individual producers, so law enforcement couldn’t shut down a town’s meth source just by going after one chemist, now they need to target distribution networks.

            This isn’t to say the ban isn’t a net positive, you don’t see so many stories about meth lab explosions or renters turning an airBNB into a chemical lab anymore, but the downside is that it definitely led to a “professionalization” of the meth market and didn’t decrease availability or increase price over the long term.

            That being said, going back to the previous system is almost certainly a bad idea.

            *I don’t remember where though. I’ll try and scare up the source.

          • Nick says:

            Following on what @Aftagley said (but granting he might not agree that it follows), a fourth way to argue against @EchoChaos is the threat of unknown unknowns. And evidently in this case there were a lot. This should make us very wary of intervening.

          • Aftagley says:

            @nick

            Yep, noting my disagreement here for the record.

            The 2005 CMEA was aimed at diminishing domestic production of meth. In that regard it was successful. I wasn’t around back in the early oughties, but I have to imagine that the DEA knew that TCOs would step up the supply; OMGs have been running meth for decades, so that supply lines were already extant any everyone knew it. These weren’t unknown unknowns.

          • Garrett says:

            Do we have any idea on the mechanism(s) by which meth makes people “evil”? I get dependence and people then committing crimes to fund their drug habit. But this sounds like more than that.

            FWIW, about half of those involuntarily committed for being a danger to themselves and/or others to confinement at the San Francisco General Hospital “psych ward” last year were on meth

            Post hoc ergo propter hoc.

            Are we certain the causation goes one way? Or might it be that meth is more appealing/self-medicating/destructive to people with certain psychiatric conditions which would likely result in commitment. (Scott?)
            Alternatively, could we find other substances with similar correlations? I suggest evaluating colas, milk, and cigarettes.

          • John Schilling says:

            The 2005 CMEA was aimed at diminishing domestic production of meth. In that regard it was successful.

            I’m with Aftagley on this. If we’re going to have meth, and we are, having it produced locally by American small businesses seems like the least-bad option. If nothing else, we can then tailor enforcement so that the meth which is going to make it to the streets is produced by the least-bad of the competing suppliers.

          • albatross11 says:

            Still another way to argue against this is that it’s outside of what powers government should have. Presumably most of us can agree that the Nazi Party’s newspaper is destructive to society and a net loss to mankind. I’m still not okay with the government banning it, for reasons that have nothing at all to do with how bad I think the Nazis are.

          • acymetric says:

            I’m not quite so sure about that. There are problems that come along with meth production that don’t exist solely with meth use (where production is done elsewhere). Maybe those problems are less bad than the problems of having large scale international drug trafficking operations for meth.

            But…

            I’f we’re going to have large scale international drug trafficking operations (and we are) we might as well let them handle cooking the meth as well. (Tongue approximately 40% in cheek)

    • Aftagley says:

      two questions:

      1. Does anyone have any good data on whether or not “normalization” is a real thing that we should be concerned about? The basic conceit of that concept seems to be “Society at large is too stupid to arrive at the morally correct view of thing X by themselves, therefore we must at all costs prevent any discussion of X.”

      2. Does meth need awareness? Aren’t we all pretty aware of meth now? I get that it’s been overshadowed by heroin/fentanyl in recent years, but I at least hadn’t forgotten about meth. What ROI do we get on reminding people that meth exists and is a problem?

      • Statismagician says:

        Less ‘meth’ and more ‘South Dakota,’ I would think. I regularly forget that South Dakota exists and am consequently unlikely to vote to send it a bunch of Federal aid money, which I think is probably the real point.

        Normalization is debatably a real thing, depending on how you interpret a very bad body of research. Mostly people have looked at marijuana (which is qualitatively different in important ways, and has been obviously so for a century) and D.A.R.E. program failures (which programs were so badly conceptualized, targeted, and run that it boggles the mind). My gloss is that if you tell somebody with a really bad quality of life about this thing which will make you feel good but might kill you in twenty years, or anybody about this drug that ~everybody in their parents’ generation used extensively with no particular ill effects, then normalization is a thing, but not otherwise. (Based on my recollection of a look I had at the research maybe five years ago, so YMMV.)

        • RalMirrorAd says:

          Marijuana’s big problem was that it didn’t have a massive body count associated with illicit drugs or legal ‘mature adult drugs’ like alcohol and tobacco. I haven’t studied the topic extensively myself for lack of interest but it almost reminds me a bit of climate change where the actual ‘bads’ of Marijuana were blown out of proportion to reality and because unlike with climate change this fact was made light of in popular mainstream culture supporting legalization became trendy. The case against Marijuana became reactionary and kitsch.

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            this should have said “associated with it, as it is with illicit drugs”

          • Garrett says:

            The before-and-after mugshots of meth users are pretty persuasive evidence of its harms, even if it comes with nothing else. “DO YOU WANT TO LOOK LIKE THIS!?!?”

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            Garrett i’m inclined to agree, I don’t see meth becoming seen as rebellious simply because the damage it causes is more immediate and obvious. Complacency and acceptance of large subpopulations becoming addicted and people with the self-control and social networks to avoid meth ignoring the phenomenon are the worst-case scenario IMO.

      • Two McMillion says:

        Regarding normalization, isn’t that basically what happened with the sexual revolution? Past people said, “If we permit open discussion of sex, we’ll eventually live in a society that has thrown off all the restraint in the area of sex that we think is important.” Eventually that’s exactly what happened.

    • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

      If they meant it to go viral, I’m not sure it will work out for them. Going viral by being mocked has a big downside of muddling your message by seeming stupid.

      What I presume most people will learn from it is
      a) South Dakotan officials saw fit to spend taxpayer money to raise awareness of meth
      b) South Dakotan are dumb as hell for not realizing how stupid their campaign sounds
      Neither of which is revelatory.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Another reason it might be bad. If the goal is, as @ana53294 says, to get Federal Funding, does b) hurt more than a) helps?

        • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

          I don’t think it would noticably swing either way. Nobody will think “God, I don’t want to look stupid by associating with this ad” but it also won’t make people go “They are serious about meth, I should find out why” because anti-drug PSA are hardly surprising.

    • Vosmyorka says:

      This sort of campaign, employing a simple double-entendre that gets widespread attention because of how odd it is that the message is coming from the government, has been used by South Dakota a lot over the past decade. Notably they had a campaign in 2014 called “Don’t Jerk and Drive” to raise winter driving-safety awareness: https://time.com/3632678/south-dakota-jerk-drive/

      It seems like something they’re doing quite deliberately and that has seen a great deal of success.

      • ARabbiAndAFrog says:

        I am not a driver, so I might be wrong, but “Don’t jerk and drive” seems like it would have more success because it’s not clear what it is about – and when one sees something this awkward, they might want to find out.

        With this one, it’s not really intriguing – go-to assumption is that government is trying to tell us not to do meth, but is doing so poorly. The ad might stick to mind, but won’t encourage people to seek out more.

      • Aftagley says:

        It seems like something they’re doing quite deliberately and that has seen a great deal of success.

        Along what axis do you measure success here though? Just getting famous for having a slightly risque slogan doesn’t directly correlate to less driving-and-jerking.

    • Well... says:

      I’d love to get people’s reactions to it.

      Meh. I’m over it — as the kids say.

      But that’s just me. I’m sure they focus-grouped it like crazy and did all kinds of market research to make sure enough of their target demographics would respond the way they wanted. It’s a lot more expensive not to.

  12. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    How do I search the comments at ssc? In particular, I’d like to find the thread I started about education not reliably leading to prosperity.

    • AppetSci says:

      I use google with – “site:slatestarcodex.com Lebovitz education prosperity” to find

      https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/11/13/open-thread-140-75/

      Then Ctrl+F Lebovitz to find:

      Nancy Lebovitz says:
      November 14, 2019 at 5:13 am ~new~

      Education doesn’t reliably lead to prosperity on either an individual or group level. I welcome theories about have does lead to prosperity.

      This comment is inspired by Millennials earn 20% less than baby boomers did—despite being better educated

    • albatross11 says:

      One way to start would be Googling for something like “Lebovitz AROUND(10) education site:slatestarcodex.com”, but in general I haven’t been too successful finding specific old comments.

      Was this the thread you were thinking of?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Step 1: Put all the comments into a full-text search engine

      Step 2: Use full-text search engine

      This is doing it the hard way, but on the plus side it generalizes.

      Unfortunately I don’t know of an easy-to-use full text search engine.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        *sigh*

        What are the hard-to-use full text search engines? Would I need to store a complete copy of scc?

        • The Nybbler says:

          Elasticsearch and Apache Solr are two (both based on Apache Lucene). They’re designed for much bigger jobs, which means they have a lot of configuration which is just extra complexity, and they’re just the “engine” — they don’t include the interface.

          Yes, you need a complete copy of SSC (probably several) with the comments broken out and tagged by author and such. SSC isn’t very big; less than 2G uncompressed.

          • Laukhi says:

            Couldn’t you just use grep or a similar utility once you have a copy of SSC?

          • Nick says:

            @Laukhi
            I thought the same thing, but on reflection grep uses regular expressions, and regular expressions seem poorly suited for searching. Like, it’s really easy to search an exact string, but suppose you wanted “Lebovitz” but also a misspelling/alternate spelling like “Lebowitz,” or you want words to be in the vicinity of each other but not necessarily in a particular order. A regular expressions can’t handle those well; it can’t even handle multiple search terms in no particular order without becoming unwieldy.

            Another advantage of search engines is ordering the results nicely, prioritizing e.g. how prominently search terms appear. grep isn’t going to that for you, either.

          • Laukhi says:

            @Nick
            I recalled a utility similar to grep that could do fuzzy searching; upon searching, I found agrep and fzf, but I’m sure there’s probably more.

            Not aware of anything that can do ordering like that, although there may be something. Still, if the full-text search engines mentioned above are sufficiently hard to use, it might be more worthwhile to not bother with them.

          • The Nybbler says:

            You can certainly use grep, but it’s a quite poor full text search engine. If you have a full text search engine you can do things “find me comments by Lauhki that contain the term ‘search’ near the term ‘engine’ or any terms related to them, scoring by by best match”. That’s way better than grep.

            It’s probably not _that_ hard to set up. It’s just that I’m a back-end and infrastructure programmer and UI isn’t my thing.

  13. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    Are sharks attracted to small amounts of blood? What about urine?

    Some guys do experiments. The answer is that sharks are attracted to a good bit of blood, but not to tiny amounts, and sharks don’t care about urine.

    They just did the experiments at one location, so it’s possible that great white sharks might be attracted to smaller amounts of blood. Or maybe not, since great whites are interested in efficiency.

    Great white sharks don’t attack nearly as many people as they could presumably because people are too low fat compared to sea mammals. The video makes extreme and probably untested claims that great whites can smell tiny amounts of blood at huge distances. It occurs to me that this would lead to a lot of false alarms (small fish not worth swimming to eat) if the shark took every drop of blood seriously.

    Divers believe that sharks are attracted to urine. They are apparently wrong, but I can believe people thought it was plausible and that it was better to be safe than sorry.

    I’m making this post because of Scott’s posts about non-empirical scientific beliefs, though this is about beliefs which could be tested but aren’t. How do you increase your sensitivity about what needs to be checked?

    • HeelBearCub says:

      Just FYI, the guy doing that testing of blood is Mark Rober, who is pretty cool and is actually qualified to say the phrase “it’s not rocket science”.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      It’s worth considering the idea that the experiment still doesn’t answer the question of what sharks are capable of detecting. It just shows that their behavior doesn’t change in ways that wouldn’t make sense outside of a horror movie.

      Just as a thought experiment, humpback whale blood in small concentrations might be worth swimming towards to see if it increases in concentration.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        Good point, though I suppose people are more interested in shark behavior than their sensory acuity. It wouldn’t surprise me if there’s a bloodscape for sharks, with a lot of it getting ignored.

        The second video tells the sad history or trying to keep great whites in captivity– they die fairly quickly– this makes it unlikely that there will be detailed experiments.

    • Aftagley says:

      Great white sharks don’t attack nearly as many people as they could presumably because people are too low fat compared to sea mammals.

      This was drilled into me at a pretty young age and has shaped how I interact with the ocean (IE, my fear of dying in a shark attack is essentially 0 and I am very comfortable diving around them). From my understanding of the data, shark attacks pretty much only occur when the shark isn’t really sure what it’s attacking such as in conditions of low visibility or when your surfboard makes you look like a manatee.

      • Nancy Lebovitz says:

        The video said that great whites seem to bite people out of curiosity. It makes them sound like really large dangerous toddlers.

        • Aftagley says:

          Right!

          It may say something weird about me that I find that behavior more cute than threatening.

        • John Schilling says:

          Humans don’t look or act much like any of the critters a shark is wired to recognize as “food”, so they’re usually not going to hunt us. Though as Aftagley notes, a human paddling a surfboard can sometimes pattern-match for one of the marine mammals.

          But, lacking e.g. fingers, they don’t have many outlets for curiosity, and missing out on an unrecognized food source could be a big loss, so, yeah, taste it and see. Rather like dogs.

          Good news is, sharks apparently hate the taste of neoprene. So anyone wearing a wetsuit usually gets the one-bite catch-and-release treatment.

      • Lambert says:

        It seems that people overestimate the danger of sharks yet underestimate that of water in general.
        How many times more powerful is a riptide than a great white?

        • Nancy Lebovitz says:

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

          “According to NOAA, over a 10-year average, rip currents cause 46 deaths annually in the United States, and 64 people died in rip currents in 2013.[8] However, the United States Lifesaving Association “estimates that the annual number of deaths due to rip currents on our nation’s beaches exceeds 100.”[6]”

          https://sharkspotters.org.za/safety/shark-safety-advice/shark-bite-stats/

          “Globally the great white shark has been responsible for more attacks than any other species of shark. Last year (2015) saw the highest number of unprovoked shark attacks ever recorded in a single year – 98 attacks, with only 6 deaths.”

          • RalMirrorAd says:

            My one objection to these kinds of comparisons has to do with the relative prominence of the underlying risk factor. Pretty much anyone who is at risk of being killed or attacked by a shark is at risk of some form of drowning in the same instance, and I would imagine that vastly more people are exposed to risk of drowning (from, say, a rip current) from being exposed to water than they are at risk of being harmed by a shark due to being exposed to sharks.

            A similar thing can be said about automobiles as well as other more common household and farm animals. Far more likely to kill you but that’s a function of exposure rather than the fact that at any given moment the car is more likely to cause injury.

          • Well... says:

            Is there also an element of training? If you’re diving with sharks or paddling a surfboard you’re more likely to be an experienced/strong swimmer than if you’re just playing in the waves offshore at the beach where the water’s not more than about 6 or 8 feet deep (and usually considerably less).

            Like, compare the set of people who do the kinds of water activities that put them around sharks to the set [all people who engage in water activities that provide opportunities for drowning]. Which group has higher average proficiency as swimmers?

            There’s probably a comparison for driving cars too.

  14. johan_larson says:

    One of the ideas that’s running around right now is that we are just six weeks from the end of a decade. But that doesn’t seem right to me.

    The first century of the common era (AD or CE) was the years 1-100. The 20th century was the years 1901-2000, and the 21st century is the years 2001-2100. Decades nest within centuries, so the first decade of the century was 2001-2010, and the second decade is 2011-2020. Accordingly, we are just over a year from the end of the decade.

    • Lambert says:

      uggghh.
      Can one of use please just go and become Pontifex Maximus, then reform the calendar to be zero-based?

      So that Caesar lived in the 1st century BC, Jesus in the 0th century AD and that we’re in the 20th century AD, which began in the year 2000.
      Put 0AD where 1BC used to be, because it’s less disruptive to shift the whole of BC by one year than AD.

    • zqed says:

      Decades don’t nest within centuries, they’re just ten year periods. Under the usual naming scheme, the 1910s is a particular decade of the Gregorian calendar that began on January 1, 1910, and concluded on December 31, 1919.

      Cf. the second decade of the 20th century which started on January 1, 1911 and concluded on December 31, 1920; that decade is not the decade known as the 1910s.

      When people say that we are just six weeks from the end of a decade, they mean the end of the 2010s.

      • johan_larson says:

        Hold on now. People tend to talk about centuries more than decades, and when they speak of the century that included the US civil war, they tend to speak of “the nineteenth century” and “the eighteen hundreds”. The nineteenth century is definitely the years 1801 to 1900. This has a formal and consistent definition.

        But is it the same as “the eighteen hundreds”, or are “the eighteen hundreds” a slightly different range of years, 1800-1899? That would mean these are two different concepts that just happen to agree on 99 out of 100 years.

        It seems strange to me to have two concepts that are different but almost entirely overlapping. It makes more sense to me to think of there being one underlying concept, formalized (for consistency) as the years 1801-1900, and with two names, the formal “the 19th century” and the informal “the eighteen hundreds”.

        • meh says:

          It seems strange to me to have two concepts that are different but almost entirely overlapping

          This is not that strange, ie
          https://www.tripsavvy.com/difference-between-scandinavian-and-nordic-1626695

          SSC could probably fill an entire thread with examples

          also not that uncommon to be off 1 with numeric values. ‘everything in this store is less than a dollar’ vs ‘everything is one dollar or less’

          I would speak of both of those as ‘dollar’ stores

        • fibio says:

          The nineteenth century is definitely the years 1801 to 1900. This has a formal and consistent definition

          Really? I always had centuries as xx00 to xx99.

          Also, side point. Why is it that the century and the hundreds counts aren’t synced? It seems like every other type of timekeeping we start at zero, but for this specific case we stated at one.

          • Statismagician says:

            I think the actual answer is that ‘0’ wasn’t a number when the A.D. count started.

          • Ketil says:

            I think the actual answer is that ‘0’ wasn’t a number when the A.D. count started.

            And since there were only 99 years from 1 to 99 AD inclusive the “nought hundreds” were not a century, and ergo the first century was from 100-199.

            There. I fixed it.

          • Statismagician says:

            Counter: we drop the ‘x-th Century’ form entirely, and refer to everything as the whatever-hundreds. Same result, fewer overlapping concepts.

          • johan_larson says:

            What do you plan to call the years 1-99? The zero-hundreds?

            Come to think of it, we never did come up with a good name for the first decade of the 21st century, by either definition.

          • Statismagician says:

            @johan_larson – exactly. 2000-2009 can be the 20-oughts, which is what I’d always heard them called anyway.

          • Aftagley says:

            I’m still holding out that we eventually settle on “the Naughty Oughties” for that particular decade.

          • acymetric says:

            Ugh. Absolutely not. Oughts is not great, but it is fine, or at least functional. Oughties is insufferable.

        • zqed says:

          It seems strange to me to have two concepts that are different but almost entirely overlapping.

          But that’s exactly what’s happening. The 19th century of the common era is definitely the years 1801 to 1900; one just counts them, and it comes out as the 19th. If people talked about the the 192nd decade of the common era, it makes sense that it would denote the years 1911 to 1920.

          But I don’t see the argument for why the 192nd decade should correspond one-to-one with the referent of the informal name the 1910s.

          Anyway, all major dictionaries give the sixties as the decade between 1960 and 1969. Wikipedia goes further, and notes that the 1900s is the century ranging from 1900 to 1999, almost synonymous with the 20th century (1901–2000).

    • Thinking in terms of decades is arbitrary. If we’re going to do it, we might as well go with the one that is intuitive than the one that is “correct”.

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      What does it matter? Each “decade” has a different length of time anyways, given leap days fall on 4 year intervals.
      In cultural terms, the first decade was 9 years.

  15. HeelBearCub says:

    TIL of John B. Goodenough, who is, more than nomitavely, good enough to have played a big part in developing both RAM memory and Lithium Ion batteries.

    Apparently he may also play a huge part in the next wave of tech, as his lab has developed solid state battery technology, with myriad advantages over lithium ion, including apparently much higher energy density, longer life, cheaper manufacturing, with common materials like sodium, and more.

    Here is a video extolling the potential.

    • GearRatio says:

      I’m more excited about battery tech than any other technology. Lithium pretty much gave us pacemakers, e-cigarettes, cell phones and electric cars; y’all can keep your AI and such, I’ll take my batteries.

    • broblawsky says:

      I hate to be that guy, but Goodenough’s new “glass battery” technology might kind of be BS.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Interesting. I definitely can’t evaluate the ins and outs of the arguments for and against.

        Here is something more recent from IEEE that shows that they have been moving forward with further peer reviewed papers.

        Interestingly in the comments of this objection is a link to a paper published in October of 2018 that seems to take issue with Brage et. al. But Braga’s latest paper (I think, above) is from November of 2018. So hopefully the robust scientific debate will show something, one way or the other.

        • broblawsky says:

          Even if the technology works, the claims they make in the first paper for the mechanism are ridiculous – they’re essentially claiming to have created an electrochemical perpetual motion machine. The more likely answer is that the cell is using an air cathode, which only really works well for smaller cells.

  16. CatCube says:

    Maybe I’m the last person to see this SNL skit, but it was brilliant enough that I have to post it:

    Romano Tours – We Make Memories, not Miracles

  17. Paul Brinkley says:

    For years, I’ve had a peculiar fear of heights. It manifests most strongly when I’m hiking to summits – if I’m on the tip of a peak, it takes a noticeable amount of will to stand up straight. However, if it’s a plateau, I’m fine (as long as I’m not near the edge). If I’m on a plane, I’m quite fine (the worst turbulence does is give me motion sickness). If there’s a railing at the edge, I’m fine. If I’m surrounded by handholds, I’m fine. Apparently the promise of 3+ points of firm contact is enough to allay the fear. Alternately, if I’m on a high-dive board, I’m fine, provided it’s not too high (and of course, the pool is full).

    In case it matters: I’ve never broken a limb in my life – not even a finger. The farthest I’ve fallen onto earth is about five feet. I’ve dived about ten feet (feet first).

    There are occasions when the fear doesn’t happen, even on slopes where it has happened before.

    What is the easiest way to get myself out of this fear? Is it something I can talk myself through? Is it just psychosomatic or something?

    • cassander says:

      sky diving?

      • Bugmaster says:

        This is a bit off-topic, but still: I’m a short, fat, physically weak weirdo. Is sky diving something that I can realistically attempt and/or enjoy ?

        • LesHapablap says:

          You can certainly call up a local skydiving centre and ask, or go to their website. The one around here has a 115kg weight limit.

          Edit: this is from skydive santa barbara’s website:

          Good physical health is always a plus in any sport. You cannot jump within 48 hours of Scuba diving or within 24 hours after giving blood. If you are taking prescription drugs for an illness, you are required to have a doctors certificate stating that no adverse effects will result from making a parachute jump.

          Over the years, we have introduced Tandem Jumping to paraplegics, quadriplegics and one of our instructors taught a blind person! We have had people over 80 years old. So bring your grandmother along, she might end up jumping too!

          You must be at least 18 years old. There are special restrictions if you weigh more than 200 pounds.

          I would just use common sense about the medication. The medical risk would come from air pressure changes, low blood oxygen level above 10,000ft, and the extreme excitement.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            I was gonna say: your first jump will almost certainly be tandem, meaning you’re strapped to the chest of an experienced diver, and they handle everything. All you have to do is ride and enjoy the view.

            Skydiving as a hobby is a major investment, AIUI. You have to train a lot before you’re able to do your first solo jump. You have to learn how to properly pack a chute, and all the contingency plans. You have to learn how to land (I’ve watched a YouTube where someone with a GoPro demonstrates unintentionally how to end your career with a bad landing).

            And that’s even assuming you’ve mastered your fear of jumping out of a perfectly working plane. I think someone here mentioned that chute safety is a solved problem; someone could strap your unconscious body to a chute and throw it out the back of a plane and you’d end up safely on the ground if it came to that (has it ever?). And yet.

            I didn’t know about the scuba diving restriction. Interesting. It makes me idly curious about whether you have to wait some time after skydiving before scuba diving. Or alternately: what’s the farthest anyone’s gone in a three-hour period from high to low, in which they cross sea level? (I’m sure the world’s highest skydive is going to beat any current sky+scuba dive record.)

          • John Schilling says:

            I didn’t know about the scuba diving restriction. Interesting. It makes me idly curious about whether you have to wait some time after skydiving before scuba diving.

            The restriction only applies going from high pressure to low. Reason is, all the tables and computers for preventing decompression sickness assume that one is going to be decompressing to standard (sea level) atmospheric pressure. The usual rule is no flights above 4000′ for 24 hours after diving; 48 hours is almost someone adding margin to an already-margined number as a talisman against lawyers.

            ETA: corrected typo noted by woah77, below

          • woah77 says:

            @John Schilling
            I think you got your pressure backwards. The issue should be from High pressure to Low pressure, not the other way around. I’m certain there is a way to cause problems going from low pressure to high, but probably not in a way that will manifest in the time scale of skydiving -> scuba

          • Aftagley says:

            I didn’t know about the scuba diving restriction.

            They are worried about people getting bent (decomression sickness). Current good practice among diving networks is to not fly anywhere 12-18 hours after a dive. That scuba diving restriction is likely a bit too long (you’re almost certainly fine after 24 hours on the surface) but it makes sense that they’d go 2x just to be safe. Someone with a minor case of the bends on a plane is going to have a really shitty ride. Someone with a minor case of the bends jumping off a plane might end up dead.

            Interesting. It makes me idly curious about whether you have to wait some time after skydiving before scuba diving.

            Nah, you’d be fine. The concern with diving is that at high pressures your body will absorb more nitrogen than it can at high pressure. If you don’t take proper precautions to expel this nitrogen as you ascend (and then again at surface level) you run the risk of the nitrogen turning back into a gas while it’s in your blood. This is bad.

            Thing is, there’s no inverse mechanism of this function. As far as I know, there’s not gas or other risk you pick up when your at elevation that would become a problem when you’re diving.

        • fibio says:

          Is sky diving something that I can realistically attempt and/or enjoy ?

          There is such a thing as indoor skydiving for those who want to have the experience with less risk to life and limb (although I’m sure some will insist that that’s missing the point). Basically it’s a giant fan that blows you up into the air as if you’re in free-fall. Funnily, it’s actually more physically challenging than straight skydiving as you’re in their air for much longer. I couldn’t move my arms for about a day after trying it.

    • Statismagician says:

      I’ve got/had the same thing – the only way out is through, I’m sorry to say. Find somewhere on the low end of the height-related terror spectrum, make yourself stand around there until your heart rate settles down, rinse and repeat with a higher/less visibly secure place. As to the limb thing, you’re not missing much there.

    • LesHapablap says:

      I’m fascinated by how different people fear such different things. My boss was a champion motorbike racer, fearless when skiing, just doesn’t worry about consequences. Also seemingly has zero social anxiety. And yet he swears he wouldn’t go bungee jumping, too scary. Whereas I bungee jumped without hesitation (a lot of fear and adrenaline leading up to it of course), but I could not do big ski jumps or corner fast on a motorbike enough to be competitive, ever.

      My working theory is that some people (like me) focus a lot on potential consequences if things go wrong if they are in control of the situation (so I’m happy to bungee jump because someone else is guaranteeing the safety, but not do a big ski jump because I am in control), and some people can imagine and focus solely on the thing going right, as long as they feel they are in control, but if they aren’t in control they have a strong fear response.

      • woah77 says:

        This sounds like how I experience fear. I hate roller coasters, but enjoy driving quickly, pushing my skills to their limit. Now I’m not “competitive” but I’d love the opportunity to do that kind of thing. Trusting engineering/calculations/other people over myself is much harder.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        My boss was a champion motorbike racer, fearless when skiing, just doesn’t worry about consequences. Also seemingly has zero social anxiety. And yet he swears he wouldn’t go bungee jumping, too scary. Whereas I bungee jumped without hesitation (a lot of fear and adrenaline leading up to it of course), but I could not do big ski jumps or corner fast on a motorbike enough to be competitive, ever.

        Yeah, it’s weird. It’s like there’s a divide between doing things where you control your own safety, and where it’s completely up to someone else. And apparently some people are squarely on one side, or on the other.

        It’s not 100%. Your boss apparently trusted the motorbike equipment (or did he build his own?). Most extreme stunt people didn’t create all their gear, although they no doubt tested it personally before doing the deed.

        Exhaustion plays a role in me as well. My threshold for tolerance drops as I get tired. There’s a crevice one must step across near the summit of Old Rag in Virginia – it’s a two-foot step, but there are no handholds and the sides aren’t level, and it feels possible to slip and fall 15 feet to the bottom, possibly breaking ankles, teeth, etc. By the time I get there, I’m sometimes too worn out to feel confident. I’m 2/3 on that stupid crevice, and the first try was after a lot of talking myself into doing it.

        The third try had me giving up and finding an alternate route (one exists). In my defense, my right knee decided to lose the ability to straighten with my weight on it, halfway up the mountain, and I was also carrying something fragile in my pack (bottle of wine).

    • Phigment says:

      Talk yourself through it.

      Consider this: As you’ve described it, you aren’t actually afraid of heights. It’s not the state of being at higher altitude that bothers you.

      Rather, you are worried about falling. You feel uncomfortable in situations where it feels like you are at risk of a dangerous fall, because your footing is poor, there are no railing, etc. Being high on a plateau but not near the edge doesn’t bother you, because you aren’t going to fall off. Being on a high-dive doesn’t bother you, because you aren’t going to hurt yourself falling off. Etc.

      So, the next time you’re in a situation where it’s making you nervous, stop, assess, and say to yourself, “Self, I am not afraid of heights. I am uncomfortable due to concerns over falling. Being uncomfortable is not the same as being afraid. So I’m going to take reasonable precautions against falling, do whatever I came to do, and then calmly exit the situation that makes me uncomfortable.”

      Keep telling yourself that any time the heights make you feel nervous. If anyone else tries to suggest you are afraid of heights, explain to that other person the same thing. You aren’t afraid, you’re uncomfortable.

      Your brain is extremely gullible. If you keep telling it the same thing consistently, it will believe you. So tell it what you want it to believe.

      This worked well for me with a similar anxiety I had over heights and ladders, specifically. Hated ladders, thought I was afraid of heights. I came to realize that a big part of it was just the time and effort spent thinking about it and dreading it. The more energy you spend thinking about being afraid of something, the more afraid of it you get, and that makes you want to spend more energy working yourself up over being afraid of it.

      Once I started mind-gaming myself that I wasn’t afraid, I was just uncomfortable being up high on unstable things, I was able to stop the loop of dread–>misery–>dread–>misery and just climb the danged ladder. Eventually, I realized it was absolutely the truth; I do not feel fear when I climb a ladder, or stand on a ladder any more. Just like I don’t feel fear when I operate a table saw, which is just as potentially dangerous. I exercise whatever caution is smart and helps alleviate the discomfort, and get things done.

      It became more akin to cleaning up dog vomit, or I imagine, changing a child’s diaper; it’s not something I enjoy particularly, it’s just something I do when it needs doing and don’t spend a lot of brain cycles worrying about.

    • It manifests most strongly when I’m hiking to summits – if I’m on the tip of a peak, it takes a noticeable amount of will to stand up straight. However, if it’s a plateau, I’m fine (as long as I’m not near the edge). If I’m on a plane, I’m quite fine (the worst turbulence does is give me motion sickness). If there’s a railing at the edge, I’m fine. If I’m surrounded by handholds, I’m fine. Apparently the promise of 3+ points of firm contact is enough to allay the fear.

      Might this be a rational response? You ought to be afraid whenever you’re in a position where a sudden gust of wind could send you tumbling down with nothing to grab onto.

    • TJ2001 says:

      The hard part is that since “Fear” is an emotional response – not a logical reasoning mechanism… You can’t usually “treat it” with logic and reasoning, though you can use logic and reasoning as a coping technique. Generally “persuasion” techniques that don’t rely on an appeal to logic and reasoning work better… Aka – Suck it up you big baby… Nobody else here is afraid and you have literally already done this A MILLION TIMES! Soldier through and you will be fine.

      For example – I am afraid of getting stuck with needles… I KNOW they don’t hurt… I KNOW I won’t be injured. I KNOW it’s a phobia… I can give other people shots and do needle stuff to other people – I have absolutely no issue with this. But it literally doesn’t matter – I HATE HATE HATE being stuck by needles.. And I know it’s an irrational emotional response… And I can *eventually* force myself to get on with it though I grit my teeth like crazy the whole time.

      And so that has resulted in some “weird conversations” with nurses trying to give me shots or do blood work…. Which is an issue (Amongst other things) because I have to get monthly blood draws as part of my work – which I have had for over 10-years…. And I literally almost quit my job of over 10-years every single month because of it.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        This jibes with my experience.

        I do wonder if I could just turn off my brain. Or rather, the anxious part of it. I say this because whenever I contemplate going near a cliff, part of my brain can feel the other part growing increasingly paralyzed. That former part is very detached, and almost fascinated with the process. Meanwhile, the edge of the cliff might otherwise be a perfectly flat surface, and I’m not overweight and can stand on one foot for like a minute, so it ought to be a snap. I feel sure that if my bemused brain were the sole driver, this would be easy.

    • Ketil says:

      This describes me precisely. I think the solution is exposure — at least, when I was a teenager, we built a tree house in our garden about 10m up, and after some time to get used to it, I could swing around in the branches like a monkey.

      Funnily enough, when I did a tandem parachute jump, I was close to throwing up while sitting in the doorway of the plane, but as soon as we were falling, everything was great.

      • Tarpitz says:

        Not necessarily. I worked on and off for fifteen years doing maintenance for communal TV reception systems, which involved a lot of ladder work and roofs. When I started out I was totally fine with it; by the end I could barely stand to be on a ladder. Like OP, the fear was falling, not heights.

  18. N Zohar says:

    For any of you who write long-form fiction: what do you do when you reach a certain point in the first draft and realize some detail woven into the story up to that point needs to be reworked, and the surrounding material adjusted, to make the rest of the story work the way you want?

    Do you keep writing the first draft just to “get it out” and then go back and make the adjustments later?

    Or do you go back and iron out anything that needs ironing out before continuing?

    Or does this properly depend on what kind of person you are, like if you don’t trust yourself to remember to fix things later, or like if you know you’re unlikely to complete the first draft if you lose momentum? Or is there a workaround in either case?

    • Walter says:

      Go back and fix the offending detail, then continue. You don’t want to build more stuff on a foundation you’ve decided not to stick with.

    • xenon says:

      I think it’s going to depend a lot on what kind of writer you are.

      Personally, I’ll go back and fix immediately, as I get worried about “cascade changes” where one change ends up necessitating a slew of other ones. I’d rather stop and correct immediately than risk spending a lot of time on work that gets thrown away.

      I’ve also known people who get far too bogged down in details, and will rework a section or chapter over and over and over again and get nowhere.

    • I mark the parts affected for later editing, then continue as though it’s already been changed. Then I tackle it during the editing process.

    • sharper13 says:

      Personally, I stick in a note (like with []s) and go on as if it was written the new way the whole time. That’s also how Brandon Sanderson does it. Of course, we’re both more on the plotter side of the spectrum, so it’s pretty rare for me to need to change anything major. At most, I’ve re-arranged a couple of scenes, or written a new one to insert.

      However, I don’t think it’s bad to go back and redo/rewrite, as long as it’s at most once. What you never want to fall into is the trap of rewriting something over and over in place of just finishing the draft.

  19. Tenacious D says:

    I’m starting to develop my reading list (not something I stick to rigidly, but a starting point) for 2020 and figured asking here might yield some good ideas. Some specific topics I’d like to read up on are the history of Indian Ocean trade, and natural and/or cultural history of wetlands. But I’m open to other recommendations too.

    Thanks!

  20. Aftagley says:

    Update on a previous topic:

    Just over 2 months ago I began taking improv classes. Despite some initial skepticism, I ended up really, really enjoying it. I have just finished my first class and successfully performed a live show in front of an (admittedly very sympathetic) audience. If anyone has any questions about what it’s like to start out in improv I’ll answer them, but overall consider this a PSA: if you’re even slightly interested in doing improv, you should sign up for a class. You will likely have fun and learn some useful skills.

    • Lasagna says:

      That’s great to hear! Congratulations on a successful first performance.

      I remember you were worried that the group was too P.C., I think. I guess everything ended u OK with that?

      • Aftagley says:

        I remember you were worried that the group was too P.C., I think

        Yeah, I’ll avoid getting too deep, since that topic is probably a little spicy for a CW free thread, but it ended up not being a deal breaker.

        I think over the course of two months there were maybe three jokes made by the class in total which were deemed not appropriate by the teacher, but in each case the teacher handled it as well as possible (she didn’t call the person out on the spot, waited until the end of class, didn’t assign blame or mention who’d told the joke – she just explained why she personally thought it was not a great joke to be telling). I didn’t agree in all cases as to whether or not a certain joke was beyond the pale, but it never rose to being a deal-breaker for me.

        I guess everything ended u OK with that?

        Yeah, it’s over, but I’m going to keep doing improv, take other classes and try to find a group for more regular shows. I can’t stress this enough – improv is really, really fun.

    • rubberduck says:

      Is getting into improv something that requires you to already have some base level of acting skills? I’m interested in improv because I admire the quick thinking and spontaneity (and because I’ve been compulsively watching clips from Whose Line lately), but I’m a horrible actor.

      • Aftagley says:

        I would say prior acting experience is helpful but not even remotely necessary and can work to your detriment.

        It’s helpful in that if you create a scene in which (for example) you’re a baker who’s dog just died, you need to be able to successfully convey to the audience that you’re sad. It doesn’t need to be a Shakespearean performance of grief, but you should at least be able to demonstrate sadness, or anger, or joy.

        Too much experience, at least from what I saw, was not helpful. Acting and improv requires a fundamentally different mindset. The people in my group who are actors all tended towards being really… selfish (maybe not the right word) when it comes to getting attention on stage, and when doing improv they constantly tried to hijack the scenes. Maybe I had a sampling error, but it seemed like all the actors always wanted to go as big as possible, even in stuff where going small would work better and wanted to warp what was going on around their characters.

        All that being said – just do it. You’ll have fun, and even if you’re a terrible actor, that can still be funny.

  21. Atlas says:

    John Schilling discusses the history of and politics surrounding “shell shock”.

    In his book Fighting Power, which doesn’t seem to be available in electronic form so I’m going from hazy memory, I think the historian Martin van Creveld claimed that the Wehrmacht had a significantly lower rate of “mental casualties” than the US Army did in WW2. (I don’t think van Creveld was arguing that the Wehrmacht and US Army had the same rate of PTSD but the former just ignored it/covered it up, I think he was arguing that the former actually had a lower rate/was more successful at treating the cases it had.) I think he claimed that this was partly because the Germans had a more “Pattonesque” view of shell shock/PTSD than the Americans. Not sure if this is true, and frankly my bias on many levels is that I’d rather that it wasn’t, but it’s the sort of argument that I worry people tend to instantly reject out of hand rather than actually refuting.

    • Aftagley says:

      What does having a Pattonesque view of shellshock imply?

    • EchoChaos says:

      I wonder if that is because of how many soldiers they lost. If there is a degree of susceptibility to PTSD and it is even mildly correlated to dying in high-casualty battles, they would necessarily have fewer survivors with PTSD, which wouldn’t prove anything about whether their treatment is better.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Drugs? They were quite liberal with amfetamines and such. It’s not something that’s likely to make it into the history books, but if the soldiers discovered empirically that a certain pill helped with shell shock, they probably used it with success. And without being officially studied or validated, nobody bothered to document it. Especially if there was a hint of stigma attached to the condition.

    • John Schilling says:

      The Wehrmacht may have gotten lucky, or at least partially solved the problem without understanding what they were doing. Or possibly they did understand but didn’t write it down using the language we are looking for.

      I believe the consensus has long been that for incipient or low-level shell shock/battle fatigue/combat-related PTSD, the most effective treatment has been prompt supportive therapy as close to the front lines as practical, then quickly reintegrating the patient with their original unit. See also, horse, getting back onto.

      The Wehrmacht used a “unit rotation” policy where a combat unit would fight without rest or even replacement of losses until the combination of casualties and fatigue resulted in significant(*) reduction in combat efficiency. Then the entire unit is rotated back, but not too far back, for a combination of R&R and training/integrating the batch of replacements that will bring it up to strength, then sent back to the front. Whether intentional or not, that seems like an ideal environment for informally treating incipient or low-level PTSD cases before they are even recognized as psychiatric casualties.

      American and British policy was to keep the unit on the front until the war (or at least campaign) was won, rotating or replacing the soldiers individually and at need. That makes for a higher probability that someone will be officially listed as a psychiatric casualty, because why else would they “need” to be rotated back. And even if the Army believed the casualty had been effectively treated, they’d likely be sent back to a completely different unit as their original position had already been filled by a newbie. So, possibly more officially recognized psychiatric casualties, recognized later, with suboptimal treatment and worse long-term outcomes.

      The Germans may also have gone Full Patton on the men who broke regardless, but I think van Creveld is off in crediting that with any superior German results in this area.

      * Subjective definition of which varied substantially between 1939 and 945

      • Statismagician says:

        You never go Full Patton.

        This is really interesting – do you happen to know how the various armies arrived at their respective rotation policies? Different takes on WWI experiences or something?

        • cassander says:

          Rotating units back to the US would have been prohibitively difficult for US or Commonwealth units due to the sheer distance involved, while german units could travel back on trains with relative ease. the concept of individual replacements came under pretty severe criticism after the war, but it definitely made the most sense for the allies logistically. The german policy of unit rotation did date back to ww1.

          • Statismagician says:

            I’m not sure this quite works, though I could of course be missing something. The equivalent Allied policy to the German one would seem to be rotating units to secure bits of the relevant theatre, not all the way back to the US or Canada – units going to Surrey or Hawaii for a month or two, say. Also, since we’re already operating on a burst-capacity shipping schedule because of the need for convoying, I’m not sure I see the savings from moving x individuals vs. a unit of x strength.

          • Eric Rall says:

            I’m pretty sure I’ve heard about American units getting rotated back to England during the Normandy campaign, and back to the Paris area in late 1944 or early 1945.

            Although those might have been special cases: I think I heard about these rotations in the context of the 101st Airborne (specifically, from Band of Brothers), and paratrooper units seem like more natural candidates to be pulled off the line and rotated back to secure rear areas in preparation for the next major offensive than regular line infantry units.

          • John Schilling says:

            You don’t have to, and the Germans didn’t, rotate units all the way back to “home”. Basically anyplace the troops can get three hot meals and a good night’s sleep will do, though you would at least prefer something that looks more “peaceful town/countryside” than “recently-devastated war zone”.

            It is still more expensive in the short term, because you’re moving the entire unit at a time when only a fraction of its members would need to be moved under the policy of rotating only identified casualties and replacements.

          • albatross11 says:

            How did the USSR handle the problem?

          • woah77 says:

            How did the USSR handle the problem?

            This assumes that the USSR had many soldiers who survived long enough to experience symptoms. Which I find unlikely.

          • John Schilling says:

            How did the USSR handle the problem?

            Penal battalions, or the apparent spontaneous remission of soldiers who realized that their PTSD symptoms were about to get them sent to a penal battalion.

            Or at least that’s the conventional wisdom, which was almost certainly filtered through a fair bit of German wartime propaganda. I don’t know that anyone has gone through old Soviet archives in the post-cold-war era to see if there was really more to it than that.

          • cassander says:

            @Statismagician

            Even getting units to hawaii was a considerably bigger logistical issue than getting them to the other side of germany.

            @John Schilling says:

            My understanding was that german units that were being rested and rebuilt were rotated to comfortable, quiet fronts whenever possible, like occupation duty in france prior to D-day.

            @albatross11

            A the vodka ration (supplemented wherever possible with pillage and homebrew) was not a small part of their “solution”.

          • fibio says:

            How did the USSR handle the problem?

            What with the Great Terror, many Russian soldiers found being shot at by the Germans to be vastly preferable.

          • MorningGaul says:

            It is still more expensive in the short term, because you’re moving the entire unit at a time when only a fraction of its members would need to be moved under the policy of rotating only identified casualties and replacements.

            Could such regular R&R would lower the rate of PTSD among the rest of the unit, or is it a risk that can’t be mitigated, only treated? If it can reduce the rate of PTSD occurences, rotating the entire unit may not be as costly as it seems on the long term.

      • abystander says:

        Doctrinally Western armies also believed rotating units out of the line, but due to manpower shortages resorted to moving divisions to quiet sectors which in the case of the Ardennes turned out to be not so quiet in December. At the lower regiment, battalion, etc levels, reserves could be stationed out of firing range, for equipment maintenance and integration of replacements.

      • onyomi says:

        Re. “horse, getting back onto”:

        If John Sarno is at all right about the quasi-psychosomatic nature of back spasm and other chronic pains (and I think he is, though he may go overboard), I wonder if it might not be useful to think of much e.g. back pain or whiplash as e.g. “back injury ptsd” or “car wreck ptsd”? This might also connect to phobias, mentioned above, including e.g. a literal fear of riding a horse developed after falling off one?

      • TJ2001 says:

        It would not surprise me to find that European Society at Large had developed coping mechanisms to deal with it because they were so frequently “All in.”

        So for example – military men who could not cope with life outside the military were conscripted for 25+ year terms…. Harsh military discipline took care of the rest.. Often military pensioners were dumped out to fend for themselves due to the cost to the government…

        Family life in many places often assumed a cold and distant father figure who drank and abused everybody else… If the husband beat the wife too badly – her brothers and father would go “correct the situation” – aka kill him..

        And then – many people’s childhood was so crazy and traumatic that The Military was a welcome, orderly, and friendly place… Several of my buddies enlisted in the US Marine Corps and said it was like a dream come true and the best, happiest time of their whole life vs their prior family life… Even combat was *less traumatic* than their prior family life… One of these guys later told me stories of his father and uncles “cage fighting” the young boys against eachother while the adults drank and bet money over the outcomes… The kid who lost not only got beaten by his cousin – he then got a severe beating from his own drunk dad for losing him money… So yeah – I could imagine The Military would be a breath of fresh air compared to this…

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      Given the Wehrmacht fatality rate in that war, I am going to guess this actually comes down to “sending a soldier currently having ptsd back into battle results in his very likely demise”

  22. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    I know a fair amount about print sf especially up to the 70s or so, but also after that, and also enough in the way of incomplete memory that I can pull out much more with google.

    Of course, I know this because I like sf, but I wonder whether there’s something else which would have served me better. I don’t have any candidates yet, but what do sscers know a lot about? Is there something else that might have better?

    • Nick says:

      I don’t understand what you’re asking. Serve you better how? In the sense of reading something different? Why would you do that, if you like sf?

    • Majuscule says:

      I’m the opposite- I’ve read hardly any fiction in the past decade, just because there’s so much history I want to read more.

      For starters, I think you’d enjoy “The Riddle of the Labyrinth” by Margalit Fox. She was the NYT obituary writer for years, and she came across the life of Alice Kober, who fascinated her. Kober probably contributed the most to deciphering the ancient Minoan language Linear B, but passed away before she could complete the work. Michael Ventris, also brilliant but given a major head start, basically filled in the blanks she left and got most of the credit until recently. The story of how she accomplished what she did is pretty cool and highly recommended.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      There should be a science of chosing hobbies – and finding resources to learn about said hobbies. My go-to example is archery vs climbing – I invested a bit over 6 months in each, and from climbing I got a probably life long knowledge and confidence in climbing and kinesthetics (that even helped with dancing) and from archery … I can shoot a bow at a static target, as long as it’s not very far away. No transferable skills whatsover.

      And to top it off, I invested the same time in a bodybuilding class online, and got a hellof a lot more than pretty much any hobby ever.

      I also know a bit about woodworking and motorcycle riding/repairing – each a multi-year investment that’s unlikely to every pay off in practical ways, but which I treasure because it’s profoundly enjoyable. It’s hard to put my finger on why, but I can much more easily consider archery a hedonic hobby than woodworking.

  23. Lasagna says:

    I figure I’ve got one more career change left in me (I’m 45), and I’ve been mulling over a big one.

    I graduated from law school 20 years ago, and have been practicing in different capacities since. Over the last few years, I’ve had some involvement with the the tech end of things, with people who are designing software targeted at attorneys (sorry to be so vague).

    In all this time I’ve never run into any programmers who are also attorneys, and it’s lead to some problems. Middlemen are always needed, a lot gets lost in translation, and, to my eyes, harms the end product.

    So I’m wondering if getting a CS degree might be a worthwhile career move, with the goal of starting my own shop.

    I know nothing about these degrees, though. Obviously I’d like to spend as little time in school as I can (again, 45). Is a four-year degree a requirement to be competitive in the industry? Is having a degree necessary, or can I take a more hodge-podge approach?

    I’m sure I’m not asking the right questions here. But I’m just trying to learn how to start thinking about it, and this is an excellent place for advice of this sort. Thanks in advance!

    • theroomgotheavy says:

      A 4 year degree would definitely not be the right approach for what you’re describing, because you’re not in need of any credential or trying to break into a company that’s looking for credentials. Google coding bootcamps! I’d suggest maybe a weekend workshop of some kind as well to be sure you like it (maybe via General Assembly?).

    • jermo sapiens says:

      I’m an attorney and my previous career was as a software developer. My first degree was a CS degree and after getting laid off after my employer was bought out I went to law school. I now practice intellectual property law. I’m now 42, but I got my law degree at 29, having started law school at 26.

      I would never advise against making a bold, entrepreneurial move, like the one you’re proposing. But you should be aware that this is a very risky move (you probably already know this).

      I wouldnt say that getting a CS degree is necessary, but it would certainly be helpful. I dont know what level of CS you’re familiar with already. But university CS degrees (mine anyways) included a lot of courses on theory (algorithm complexity, data structures, numerical analysis, statistics, etc…) and only a few practical courses (object-oriented programming, …). You’ll be doing alot of work that will help you get a broad understanding of CS, and which will undoubtedly help you out in the long run, but which you might find to be a waste considering your exact situation. And unless you do alot of practical work on the side, you wont learn how to really get going writing commercial software. I learned that in my job after I graduated, it was easier to pick up because of what I had learned in school, but out of school I was not ready to “start my own shop”.

      That’s not meant to discourage you at all. But if I were in your shoes I would hire professional software developers, and take a few CS courses where available (or honestly just watch alot of MIT opencourseware).

      Best of luck!

    • Izaak says:

      I don’t think you’d need a four year degree. Personally, the most useful classes for me were Operating Systems, Network Systems, Programming Languages (a PL theory class, not a PL survey class, although many classes do both), Cryptography, and Machine Learning (mostly because ML is everywhere and having taking this class keeps me grounded about its abilities).

      I think a bootcamp+hodge podging these areas would be acceptable.

      Projects I think are worthwhile:
      * rebuild the reliability aspect of TCP over UDP
      * write an interpreter for a small language
      * write some code in C complex enough to use pointers. Multithread, if you want to have fun.
      * Reimplement some ML algorithm
      * Reimplement some Crypto algorithm (Diffie Hellman key exchange is easy)

      I’ll try and find some links to guided versions of these projects/courses and reply to this comment with them when I have a little more time.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Why do you want to pursue CS?

    • DinoNerd says:

      A friend of mine went from software to law almost 20 years ago, and wound up in patent law. I suspect that there’s still a huge need for people that understand tech in that legal subfield, resulting in a shortage in other legal fields.

      If you are looking to be a middleman/translator of requirements, rather than a star developer, then you probably don’t need any kind of comp sci degree.

      If you want to be a developer, then degrees will be useful for 3 things
      – getting your foot in the door (= entry level) – but depending on goals, you may be able to use your middleman ability for that
      – getting a higher pay scale (but they may happily count your existing degrees for that)
      – learning comp sci *theory* as well as comp sci practice

      Personally, I’d try the hodge podge approach, but make sure to learn theory as well as coding. But I’m a software developer in my 60s, with no relevant degree whatsoever, who entered the field long before credentials mattered.

      • Lambert says:

        I hear patent law is a good field, because it requires mastery of both law and engineering.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          You can make a killing if you do litigation for pharmaceuticals. They appeal every order all the way to the highest court that will entertain the appeal, as their lawyer fees are not even a rounding error to the amounts involved.

    • herbert herberson says:

      I don’t have any advice but man do I ever know exactly what you’re talking about. Seeing the court I clerked for spend a boatload of money to get software that was designed and customized by people who didn’t even seem to have a Law-and-Order-fan level of legal understanding had me contemplating exactly the same thing.

    • Majuscule says:

      I looked into working in e-discovery a while back. I’m betting if you pursued the right IT skills, you could make serious bank as a lawyer who understands software development. It’s been almost a decade since I was really into this, but I’m still hearing stories of younger lawyers basically being flagged down by older lawyers in their firms to be the “e-discovery expert” because they “grew up with Nintendo and stuff”. There is nowhere near enough technological know-how or realistic appreciation of how software development works in law yet, though it seems to be no different from most other fields in that regard.

    • Lasagna says:

      I love this community. Thank you for all the excellent, targeted, helpful responses.

      I’m going to start looking in the Bootcamps and see what they have to offer. That seems like a great first step, to make sure I have the skills and the interest in pulling this off. Thanks to theroomgotheavy for recommending this.

      Jermo sapiens suggested that the CS degree might have value, if only to get a broad understanding of CS, which I definitely could use. Is it possible to take courses on this without the degree? Spending 4 years in night school would be difficult because of family obligations. I think I’d need to do this more ad hoc.

      I might have over-emphasized the urgency of going out on my own. I’d love to try it because I’ve never run my own business and I think there’s a need for my legal experience combined with software development, but I’m definitely not adverse to starting out working for someone else first just to hone my skills.

      Izaak, thank you for the suggested class list! It leads me to another question, also for Dino Nerd: does it matter where I take courses? Are there things I should avoid when looking for classes, and things I should look for in a course-provider?

      DragonMilk: a couple of reasons. Partly because it’s something I’ve always been interested in – really interested in – but didn’t end up in the field because the college I went to back in the 90s was behind the times and didn’t offer the degree. There’s another life where I’m a software developer instead of an attorney. 🙂 But also partly because I think there’s a niche that isn’t being filled. Like herbert herbertson and Majuscule suggest, there’s lots of software development going on in the legal space, but it sometimes feels like there are zero lawyers developing it.

      Herbert Herbertson and Majuscule: it’s really helpful to hear other attorneys feel the same way. And both working for the courts or in the e-discovery field are definitely the kind of projectsI had in mind. You find so many unnecessary mistakes in these places. Remember when e-filing first became a thing? How terrible and clunky those interfaces were (and are) and how they force an attorney to attach incorrect and unnecessary labels to their filings? There’s so much space for improvement there.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        Jermo sapiens suggested that the CS degree might have value, if only to get a broad understanding of CS, which I definitely could use. Is it possible to take courses on this without the degree?

        You could always audit courses on your own time, watch YouTube videos, etc. I think this is an excellent way to absorb some of the theory, since it’s on your own time – it also will give you a sense of how highly you really want to prioritize it.

        The personal CS axe I like to grind is theory, for example. I’m big on computational complexity and program correctness. The courses I took for this were bland. However, there are videos that show complexity in fun ways, such as comparing sorting algorithms, and the textbook I read for program correctness taught me more than the course ever did.

        Obviously, the big upside to courses is credentials. You’ll have to pay for the piece of paper that says you know that stuff, but going the video route first might make the formal coursework easier.

        OTOH, if your goal is to gain proficiency in coding, or in some practical field such as cloud services, then a certification is arguably a much better value. You couple that with auditing some of the courses on theory, and that will hopefully offset some of the ageism I expect you will run into when looking for work. (Young code monkeys will know how to whip out lots and lots of modules for this or that app, but theory lets you debug why that app takes ten times as much memory and time as it ought to, and why it won’t run at all on some huge dataset.)

    • Eric Rall says:

      As you’re already an attorney, you presumably already have an undergraduate degree. If you decide to go back for a degree, I’d recommend going for an MS instead of a bachelors: it looks a bit better on your resume, and it will cover somewhat more advanced material than a BS.

      It can also save you time and money earning the degree. A second bachelor’s degree will take you at least two years of full time study, and may take up to the full four years if you need to re-take intro and general education courses (which there’s a good chance you will, since your original undergrad work is more than 20 years old).

      A Masters, on the other hand, is more focused on in-major courses and would probably take you no more than two years (one year’s worth of courses you specifically need for your degree, plus about year of backfilling prerequisite courses that you probably didn’t get for your original bachelor’s degree). And a lot of the year of backfilling can be done at your local community college or university extension, which will likely be cheaper and more convenient than taking all the classes at the university.

    • mingyuan says:

      Standard disclaimer that I work for a software recruiting company but am not a software developer myself.

      I second the suggestion of a bootcamp over a four-year CS degree. There are also tons of free or cheap online CS courses on sites like edX, Coursera, and Udacity, although of course that will be a very different experience than an immersive software engineering program. Also, for an entry-level role, raw coding ability is probably the most important factor, so once you’ve got a solid foundation in programming, practicing a bunch on sites like LeetCode or Hacker Rank is a good idea. (Things may be different if you’re going into an entry-level role at 45, but in general, people are willing to give junior devs a pass on not having a ton of background knowledge if they’re really good at coding, with the assumption that they’ll pick up the knowledge they need on the job.)

    • brad says:

      I’m a former lawyer that’s now a professional programmer, but I was already a programmer before I went to law school, so it’s a somewhat different boat.

      If I were you, I’d a take a MOOC and see if you really really love programming. If not, I’d consider trying to get involved in some aspect of software project management rather than programming per se. This may seem like just another middleman role, and in some ways it is, but in any well developed piece of software with a GUI* there’s a lot of important input from people other than programmers.

      *Many without GUIs as well, but there are cases of well written pieces of computational software involving only programmers.

    • Erusian says:

      I’ve run into programmers who used to be attorneys or attorneys that also learned to code. They’re not normal but not highly scarce either. Getting a CS degree probably isn’t the best move. Tech companies really care about your ability to produce code and a CS degree isn’t a guarantee of that. Further, if you want to leverage your lawyer experience you’re probably not going to be hired primarily as a coder. You’re probably going to do something like sales or project management. Being tech savvy there helps (and is probably necessary) but you don’t need to be a full coder.

      What are you interested in doing? What would ‘your own shop’ do? Do you want to develop custom solutions for law firms? Or do you have some piece of software you know people would need? Or something else?

    • Dino says:

      There’s a lot of age discrimination in the software industry, so you may have to go right to your goal of starting your own shop.

    • I’m a 20-something programmer who has never hired anyone but might conceivably do so in the future. I would consider hiring a lawyer who self-taught programming as I’d have the tools to detect BS.(“What is the time complexity of the Javascript language?”) My concern here would be how would you sell yourself to non-technical employers. If you’re trying to convince a law firm you’ll be their lawyer who understands tech, how do they know you aren’t BS-ing? The whole reason they need you is because they don’t understand any of it. Do you already have an “in,” people who can say “oh yes, I’ve worked with this guy, if he says he knows programming then he knows programming.”

      If you want to self teach, I would start with going through the tutorials for a commonly-used programming language. After that, start practicing with challenges on Hackerank, you might get challenges like them in interviews. Then start mastering the jargon. Read the descriptions of LinkedIn jobs and google the jargon you don’t understand. You can find lots of books, lecture slides, ect. from university courses to help master this jargon. More helpful than what you should pay attention to is what you should ignore. The following are likely to come up in interviews:

      Sorting algorithms, space and time complexity, data structures, differences between programming languages,(static vs dynamic typed, interpreted versus compiled ect.) networking, machine learning basics(over-fitting versus under-fitting, ect.)

      The following are unlikely to come up in interviews:

      Assembly code, instruction sets, operating systems, pointers(you should know what they are, but that’s about it), dynamic arrays, embedded systems, anything having to do with hardware,(RAM, ect.) HTML/CSS.*

      *HTML might be very useful on the job, but the chance that your expertise with HTML tags will get you the job is pretty slim.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Assembly code, instruction sets, operating systems, pointers(you should know what they are, but that’s about it), dynamic arrays, embedded systems, anything having to do with hardware,(RAM, ect.) HTML/CSS.*

        Most of those would be unusual on an interview except for specialized jobs (embedded, driver development, or front-end), but pointers come up in interviews all the time in the context of linked lists and trees. The infamous and occasionally still asked “reverse a linked list” problem requires pointers, for instance.

    • johan_larson says:

      You might want to look into Lambda School. They offer nine-month specialized programs in Data Science, Full Stack Web Development, iOS Development, and UX Design. You also don’t pay if you don’t get a job after graduation.

      https://lambdaschool.com/

      What impresses me most is the duration. You could pick up quite in nine months. Some bootcamp-style training programs are pretty short, on the order of six weeks or so, which sounds very short. That’s really only enough time for an introduction to a field.

      But before diving into this, figure out whether you really want to do software full time. Take a two-week vacation and spend it learning some sort of software development in a disciplined manner. At the end of the two weeks, you should have a good sense of whether this coding stuff is for you.

    • Garrett says:

      As someone with a degree in software engineering who’s plan in life was to get a law degree: my experience with patent attorneys turned me off of the whole idea. The actual practice of law in this kind of area came across to me as all of the worst aspects of never-ending meetings with pretty much none of the fun. Half the fun of programming is bending the world to your will. Law seems like a never-ending supply of TPS reports to fill out.

  24. DragonMilk says:

    So I played Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition this weekend. Hopefully “optimization” improves, but my 2012 PC is not qualified to run ranked multiplayer (though my newly built PC from this summer is).

    For now though, it appears those have nostalgia for the game but also have a nostalgic hardware setup will only be able to play casually.

    So that said, who wants some casual play of AOE2 DE during the week?

  25. Garrett says:

    I noticed that my local Burger King started carrying the Impossible Burger. So I figured I’d go try one. I’m of two minds on this. On one hand, the Impossible Whopper indeed did taste like a regular Whopper. On the other hand, the Impossible Whopper did indeed taste like a regular Whopper.

    What I mean is that the two seemed to be reasonably indistinguishable. Poking at the patty failed to show anything which differentiated it from beef. It broke off and crumbled as expected. However, this serving context is a poor way to determine how well it will be accepted by the general public. The Burger King patties are thin and overcooked to the point that they are an embarrassment of an example of product quality. The flip side is that this might be able to provide the greatest offset to cattle usage, but a quick search fails to account for the percentage of beef consumption used by fast food restaurants.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Hopefully you actually got served an Impossible Whopper! One of the Burger King’s in NYC was serving regular whoppers as impossible ones…

    • theonetruemango says:

      I did the same thing about a month ago, but I have to disagree with you. While the impossible whopper was a reasonable facsimile, you could definitely tell the difference between the two. To be clear, I had one of each the impossible whopper and the normal whopper, and the impossible whopper was noticeably drier.

    • j1000000 says:

      Interesting. I bought Beyond Burgers from the grocery store a few months ago and grilled them alongside real burgers. IMO they looked and tasted nothing like real burgers. They tasted fine, just not like a burger.

      • Protagoras says:

        I agree that Beyond Burgers do not taste like real burgers. I have heard that Impossible Burgers are closer, but haven’t had a chance to test that claim.

        • xenon says:

          Having tried both, I’d judge the Impossible as much closer to meat than Beyond, but still distinguishably different. I actually prefer Impossible to ground beef, though.

    • herbert herberson says:

      I had an Impossible Burger at a restaurant about a year ago. There, it was distinguishable from what they would have normally served, but it wasn’t “this doesn’t seem like meat” so much as “this seems like something I’d get at McDonalds or a gas station.” I have no trouble believing that they’ve hit parity in the fast food context, but I think you’re correct in believing that they have at least a little work to do to get beyond that.

    • Aftagley says:

      On one hand, the Impossible Whopper indeed did taste like a regular Whopper. On the other hand, the Impossible Whopper did indeed taste like a regular Whopper.

      You’re describing the mental process i went through literally over the course of 6-10 bites. I started out thinking “oh my god, It’s been literally a dozen years since I had a fast-food burger this tastes exactly like I remember” and by bite 7 I thought “oh yeah, this is why I had such an easy time giving up meat.” It tastes like I’m eating shoe leather. At least to my meat-deprived mind they successfully recreated the fast-food patty, but why?

      That being said, if you get impossible patties and cook them yourself, they are delicious.

    • JayT says:

      I got an Impossible burger and cooked it myself. It tasted about like a frozen Costco hamburger patty that had been overcooked. Not good, but about what you would expect from a mediocre backyard barbeque. They have a very long way to go.

    • acymetric says:

      Yeah, as soon as I started seeing those ads my immediate thought was “sure they can make it taste just like a Whopper, Whoppers are the worst burgers in the fast food business”. Ever since Burger King stopped carrying the Spicy Tendercrisp sandwich I have had 0 reason to go there*, and I haven’t.

      *Well, except occasionally for their breakfast, which I would rank 3rd among fast food joints behind Bojangles and Hardee’s (Carl’s Jr. for you crazy folks out west) and just ahead of McDonalds.

  26. WarOnReasons says:

    Question for people with knowledge of ancient Greek and Roman history –

    In history books I have seen many mentions of slaves saving money to buy their freedom. Do these stories imply that in ancient Greece and Rome slaves under certain circumstances could possess money which their owner could not requisite at will? Or was the whole arrangement completely dependent on the good will and honesty of the owners?

    • EchoChaos says:

      Greek/Roman/Jewish/early Christian slavery was far closer to what we would call “indentured servitude” than what we think of as slavery in the West, which is mostly based on the Confederate model, or even on a modern stereotype of the Confederate model.

      Slaves in all of those societies had legal rights and owned property (sometimes even their own slaves). They were less than those of freemen and substantially less than those of citizens, but they were able to own their own things and even to bring suit against their owners if they were treated unfairly.

      • AlphaGamma says:

        In Rome at least AFAIK the peculium remained legally the property of the master, who could confiscate it at will. I don’t know to what extent law or custom prevented this, and a lot of the sources I’ve found contradict each other.

        This may also have applied to a father and any property held by his (adult, citizen) sons.

        • EchoChaos says:

          a lot of the sources I’ve found contradict each other.

          Roman history in one sentence.

          Yes, a lot of those things are unclear, especially between people who voluntarily sell themselves into slavery for ready cash, people who are sold because they fell into debt and those who are slaves captured in war. All three were “slaves”, but I am sure both culturally and legally there were some differences.

        • Mary says:

          The thing is, confiscating the peculium merely because the slave could pay you for his freedom is a good way to get a sudden decline in his work. The reason why a master would reward a slave for good work — something also known in the South — is to get him to do good work by the simplest means.

          AND — it’s a good way to get a sudden decline in every slave’s work. Why would any slave do more than the rock-bottom level to avoid punishment if the reward is snatched away?

        • Erusian says:

          Roman slave law has numerous issues because slaves were legally not people… except they were actually people in reality. Thus it wavers back and forth between insisting they are not human and needing to invent legal mechanisms to deal with their practical on the ground status. The peculium was one such innovation. A slave could not make contracts or own property so the slave master would make a peculium which functioned vaguely like a corporation: it could make contracts or hold property on the master’s behalf. It even limited liability in some instances.

          Rolling up the peculium was therefore usually more like closing a business than nicking a slave’s stuff. For example, we know of one probate case where a man left a peculium (a business with slave workers) to one person and all his money to another person. The suit was about who got the peculium’s accounts receivable: the payments for work already done before the person’s death but not yet paid.

          A master could just take all their slaves money and not free them… but then again, the master never had to free them. It’s not like there was a law that any slave could buy their freedom for a certain price. It was always in the master’s gift and while money might be an inducement, it was not always necessary. There were other reasons a master might want to free a slave. A common case is when the slave ran a successful peculium: by making the slave a freedman and gifting them the peculium, the master limited their liability further, incentivized the former slave to work harder, and allowed them to operate as an independent agent that was still legally obligated to the former master (as all freed slaves were).

          Roman aristocrats operated large patronage networks and freed slaves were legally obligated to be part of their former master’s patronage network. This was actually more attractive the richer the slave would be if freed. A wealthy, influential (if only in their neighborhood) client could be useful politically or in supplying funds for campaigns or whatever. They could also engage in activities that were illegal for aristocrats, like certain kinds of commerce, and funnel the money up to them. They could marry, even into relatively elite families if they had the money, and even achieve minor nobility (the equestrian order).

          Of course, only relatively skilled or favored slaves could even gain a peculium: mines and agriculture work often involved working the slaves very hard. These slaves were basically held in chain gangs and many masters talked about their relatively limited life spans.

          (If all this seems unfair, Roman law had a view that concentrated power in patriarchs. Not men, actual patriarchs: early on, when the institution was at its strictest, even adult sons sometimes couldn’t own property and could still be killed or sold into slavery by their fathers. Though it obviously also changed over time.)

          • mtl1882 says:

            Great post!

            Roman slave law has numerous issues because slaves were legally not people… except they were actually people in reality. Thus it wavers back and forth between insisting they are not human and needing to invent legal mechanisms to deal with their practical on the ground status.

            Yeah, a lot of “surprising” historical things can be reasoned out if you think long enough about people who lived then as *actual people* with human behaviors and motives. Deals will be made, relationships will form, different people and communities will try different approaches, people will create and respond to incentives, etc. You have to understand the whole ecosystem.

          • Nick says:

            This is a great post. Where did you read about this? Can you recommend a book?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Erusian

            +1 to all the responses.

            Thanks for all this detail!

          • Erusian says:

            If you’re interested in a highly textual and yet accessible work with a lot of minute detail about Roman life, then As The Romans Did is a very good work. It’s a series of little snippets of translated Latin text with context and illumination of the context.

            But otherwise, I have the distinct privilege of being able to read Latin and Ancient Greek. I’ve read a lot of their primary sources, including much of the more dull stuff, and some analysis of them. The Digests is a good entrypoint if you’re into that level, ideally an annotated version. It’s also very long and very dull.

      • Byrel Mitchell says:

        Indeed, even in the early US slaves owned property and occasionally purchased their freedom. That got stomped down pretty hard (along with any rights at all for free blacks in the southern states) in the few decades before the civil war as the southern states became more and more entrenched and defensive of the institution.

        • Majuscule says:

          Yes, something unfortunate (er, more unfortunate than usual) happened to several “unfree” classes of people in the early days of the Industrial Revolution, though there were political causes that were probably just as important. In particular, a reliable way of getting nobles and large landowners on board for political reforms is to give them more power over people on their land. After some big political changes in the 18th century, both slavery in the United States and serfdom in Russia grew into increasingly brutal and dehumanizing chattel systems before officially ending within a few years of each other. This period in the 19th century tends to be what most modern people think of when they think of “slavery” or any state of being unfree, but yes, the terms and their meaning were really very variable for the thousands of years up until then. For most of history and in most places, slaves were at the very least considered *people* with certain rights, often including a right to property.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think brute-force slavery (mines, plantations) was always brutal, because you can get a good result with brutality. And I think slaves who made your food and tended your kids were always treated a lot better, because you were going to get very bad results treating those slaves with brutality.

          • CatCube says:

            @albatross11

            About 15 years ago I was chatting with some fellow grad students and a discussion of how some-or-other group of terrorists had kidnapped some climbing guides and the response of one who was an avid climber was, “Y’know, there’s a limit to what jobs you can force people to do. ‘Sorry, I didn’t catch that, did you say ‘Off belay?””

    • Protagoras says:

      I expected the answer to be “it’s complicated,” and a quick check supports that answer (as do other people’s comments). Combining Greece and Rome you’re talking about an enormous geographical area and an enormous amount of time; rules were certainly not the same through all that space and time, and of course local traditions often played a bigger role than explicit law. But I don’t find much sign that official legal protection of property for slaves was widespread (most of the places that legally recognized slave property seem to have still allowed the master to confiscate at will). Of course, figuring out what the traditions were in different places and different times is even harder than figuring out the laws. And figuring out the laws isn’t trivial in itself; legal texts and records of legal decisions were not necessarily the highest priority for preservation by the medieval copyists through whom we have gotten almost all of our copies of ancient texts.

    • broblawsky says:

      It’s worth bearing in mind that there was a big difference between different slave categories or occupations. For example, household slaves were much more likely to be set free than plantation slaves, and mining slaves were almost uniformly worked to death. Also, slaves in the Classical world had a much better chance of escaping than slaves in the Americas; an escaped Roman slave could blend into the relatively diverse society of Rome more easily than an African-American slave could’ve blended into the uniformly white society of antebellum America. Giving slaves the hope of manumission made them less likely to rebel, one imagines.

    • Erusian says:

      Well, Rome was one relatively continuous legal tradition. Greece, in contrast, had many statelets with huge changes. Regardless, neither let slaves own property independently of their master. The entire arrangement was not only reliant on the goodwill and honesty of the owners, in some places it wasn’t even possible. Where it was, it was never an obligation. In most (but not all) systems where the master was allowed to free slaves, they could do so at their sole discretion.

      The systems were rather different in how they treated this process and what the incentives around it were. To give a simple example of the difference, Athens was ambivalent about whether you could free slaves, which led to a series of legal fictions, which were in turn cracked down on. And then went through cycles of re-legalization etc. (Citizenship status was a political hot button in Athens.) Even after freed, slaves (and all their descendants forever) would have an inferior legal status and fairly onerous burdens. In contrast, Rome always allowed for freeing slaves, put very limited restrictions on freed slaves, and made the status non-hereditary.

      Further, the freeing slaves seems to have been relatively rare in Athens and relatively common in Rome. The Athenian freedman class (including their descendants, since it was a hereditary condition) was tiny. The Romans class was larger, despite the fact the status was not hereditary. Also, while the Romans had more slaves in absolute terms, the Greeks appear to have been much more intensive slave societies. One Athenian census put 93% of the population of Attika as enslaved while Italy never had more than 40% of the population (as a high estimate).

      • WarOnReasons says:

        Thanks!

        The Athenian freedman class (including their descendants, since it was a hereditary condition) was tiny.

        I seem to recall that Solon freed all Greeks that were enslaved for their debts. Was their number small or was their legal status different from other freedmen?

        • Erusian says:

          So this has to do with what I consider a bad translation. It’s often said ‘Solon freed the debt-slaves’. This is not exactly wrong but it gives a false idea of the social system at the time. What Solon did was cancel all debts and forbid people from taking out new debts against their person. This effectively ‘freed’ a few classes of people who were forced to work or give over some portion of their crop in a quasi-feudal arrangement or things like that to their creditors. And it stopped them from forming again. Yet, none of these people were legally slaves to begin with. They were free people forced to work off a debt.

          To give a somewhat crass and inaccurate analogy, imagine a state in the Antebellum South. A man comes forward burning with the spirit of justice and democracy… towards his fellow Athenians white men. He believes it’s grossly unfair that the rich are loaning out money and then using this to shackle Athenians white men and forcing them to work. So he abolishes all debts, frees all the debt prisoners, and makes laws to prevent it from happening ever again. However, he doesn’t touch the institution of slavery at all. That’s a very rough analogy of what Solon did.

          (Aristophanes would, about a century later, mock the extremists of the democratic faction who wanted to redistribute property and create an even playing field. He has a character advocate for the equality of all people, so that no one has to work and all citizens will be equal and politics will be free from money. And her husband asks her, if she frees everyone and makes them equal and gives them leisure, who will do hard tasks. And the character replies, “The slaves.” While this is a satire, that really was the radical leveler position of the time: we should break up the great estates and redistribute them to all citizens, including the slaves who definitely wouldn’t be freed.)

      • DarkTigger says:

        he Athenian freedman class (including their descendants, since it was a hereditary condition) was tiny.

        And IIRC the freedman class included what we would call legal emmigrants.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          AFAIK immigrants and freedmen (and their descendants) were both legally considered metics. The metic class was relatively large- there were about half as many metics as citizens- but freedmen and their descendants may well have been only a small proportion of it.

          • DarkTigger says:

            Yes metics was the word I was thinking of, but couldn’t recall. While I’m not sure if Erusian is refering to metics, or maybe a more distinct group of freedmen, but according to Wikipedia in 317 BC the population of Athens was 21,000 citizens, 10,000 metcis and 400,000 slaves. Which would make them a minority, even compared to the citizen class.

            So I think the point stands. The not-citizen but free people class was very small, the amount among them who weren’t former slaves (or there descendants) were even smaller.

  27. bean says:

    Biweekly Naval Gazing links post:

    I’ve kicked off a new series, looking at Billy Mitchell and the early wars over air power.

    My look at aircraft weapons continues. First, the look at early guided weapons has wrapped up with those developed by the US Navy, and on the modern front, I’ve examined glide bombs, which fall between low-cost gravity weapons and long-range standoff missiles.

    The tour of cool DoD research facilities comes to Massachusetts, home to Natick Labs, the Army’s main facility for personal equipment research.

    Also worth noting is John Schilling’s review of Midway in the Naval Gazing Open Thread.

  28. Jarl Gertz says:

    Do children do fine when raised by two men (all other things being equal)? (Context: I’m a married gay man in my early thirties considering having a child by surrogacy. I imagine it’s hard to find clear answers about child outcomes in situations like this because people feared supplying arguments to opponents of marriage equality)

    • Tarpitz says:

      I doubt we have enough data to be confident in how it compares to being brought up by a man and a woman, but if you’re considering adoption that’s not the relevant comparison. I would be astonished if being brought up by two men wasn’t vastly better than not being adopted at all.

      • “I would be astonished if being brought up by two men wasn’t vastly better than not being adopted at all.”

        That would only be the relevant comparison if there were a shortage of adoptive families, which there isn’t.

        • Byrel Mitchell says:

          This claim surprised me, so I went and looked it up. Turns out both it and my preconceptions to the contrary are correct. This article seems like a decently well cited and well-written summary for anyone wanting more info (though I haven’t dug into the quality of any of the citations.): https://consideringadoption.com/adoptive-family/is-there-a-shortage-of-adoptive-families-in-the-united-states

          tl;dr:
          – There’s a significant surplus of adoptive parents for infant adoptions (which is what’s relevant here.)
          – There’s a significant shortage of adoptive parents for foster-care children (which is the system I had some experience with and had led me to believe there was a general shortage in adoptive parents.)

          Thanks for educating me!

          • ana53294 says:

            There’s a significant shortage of adoptive parents for foster-care children

            I think this phrasing is wrong, and leads to confusion. The more correct way of saying this is:

            There’s a significant shortage of foster parents for foster-care children

            Because many of the children in foster care are not adoptable. They have parents whose custody has been taken away, but they could potentially return to the parents (they mostly don’t, but they still can’t be adopted). Parents may have visitation rights, which, considering, may also undo a lot of the hard work of the foster family.

            In Spain, at least, actually legally adoptable kids get adopted, up to age 12. Many families adopt internationally, even.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @ana53294

            From my experiences with the US foster system, unadopted children aged 6+ fall into two camps.

            The first is unadoptable because they have parents who still oppose adoption as you mentioned.

            The second is near-unadoptable because of severe mental or physical problems. These do sometimes get adopted, but mostly by parents of no other children, because they tend to be vectors of severe sibling abuse.

          • ana53294 says:

            @EchoChaos:

            My family been quite involved in the international adoptions from Russia in Spain, although my parents didn’t adopt any kids. But they did provide support, and helped parents and kids navigate many issues.

            I met many kids who came from Russia for adoptions. There were a few older kids who were disabled; none of them got adopted, because they presented a danger to themselves and others (the ones I met had no physical disability, but many behaviour issues, such as aggression). These kids needed constant attention.

            Older kids, who were normal (as much as a kid in an orphanage can be normal), and adoptable, were adopted. Especially because Spanish law specifies a maximum of 45 years of difference between the parent’s age (or the parent’s average age) and the kids’ age. This means you get 45+ couples who went through rounds of IVF and failed adopting; they can’t legally adopt babies.

            Although no kids with such disabilities came, I cannot imagine the families I met being stopped by issues of physical disability like being in a wheelchair. The disability would have to be quite extreme.

            In general, families seemed to care about disabilities that affect aggression and the ability to bond more than physical impediments.

            As for the ones who are legally unadoptable, that’s another case of heartbreak. In my town, there was a couple who fostered two young boys. They had many issues, which the couple worked on, with love and care. One parental visit was enough to revert all that love and attention, and the kids regressed to their previous behaviour, with indicators like peeing themselves (at ages 12+). The foster parents were absolutely powerless at stopping the abuse of their kids at the parent’s hands. It was utterly heartbreaking.

          • Byrel Mitchell says:

            @ana53294 The link I provided distinguished between those two cases (though it’s US-centric; stats in Spain may be different.) According to them, you’re right that the majority are unadoptable. But there’s a severe shortage of adoptive parents for the adoptable kids as well. Part of this is due to direct physical/mental impairment as EchoChaos points out, and part is due to behavioral issues (frequently induced by abuse from foster parents or siblings.) The foster care system in the US has pretty terrible outcomes and rampant abuse. Turns out that if you offer people money if they’ll care for kids, many of the people you attract are a lot more interested in money than kids. (Though obviously, designing a foster care system with sufficient throughput and without bad incentives is probably impossible.)

            Edit: posted this prior to seeing your most recent post mentioning the behavioral issues.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @ana53294

            I second every single thing you’ve said there for my experiences in the American foster care system. I am less familiar with international adoption, although two of my cousins were adopted from Kazakhstan.

            Your sad story is so similar to a story I know about a childless couple who left the American foster system that it could have been told by them.

          • ana53294 says:

            Turns out that if you offer people money if they’ll care for kids, many of the people you attract are a lot more interested in money than kids. (Though obviously, designing a foster care system with sufficient throughput and without bad incentives is probably impossible.)

            I don’t think offering money is that bad. My cousin fostered a 14 year old boy she met at an orphanage when she was an art teacher there. She later had a child of her own. She is quite poor, as she is an art teacher, and her husband works in a factory. Without the foster payments, they couldn’t have afforded to foster him.

            The issue is, that the system has a lot of anti-incentives for the people who actually care about the kids. So you don’t just incentivise the people who are in it for the money; you also scare away the people who actually care about the kids. Forcing foster parents to allow visitation rights is one of them. Having the Damocles’ sword of losing custody over them the whole time they raise the child and get emotionally invested is another.

          • Byrel Mitchell says:

            Far from being bad, I think offering money is necessary to get enough parents into the foster care system. It’s not a walk in the park, and it’s expensive to do well.

            I’m just lamenting the bad actors it attracts. Perhaps some concessions to make it easier on a non-monetary-front for good actors (as you suggest) would help tho.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            Last time this came up, I linked to Megan McArdle’s summary of the kids waiting for adoption. There is a list of kids waiting to be adopted at AdoptUSKids and she just grabbed the top 15. I couldn’t make it through the list of all the kids then, but I forced myself to do it this time.

            https://www.thedailybeast.com/can-gay-marriage-solve-our-adoption-problem?ref=home

            And those are not small physical ailments, like “deaf in one ear.” Half those kids will require feeding tubes and/or wheelchairs for the rest of their lives. These kids will require giant amounts of love and I’ll support any couple or person who wants to adopt them.

            In the US, healthy babies of any race are adopted more-or-less immediately.

    • EchoChaos says:

      My understanding (I don’t have studies on hand) is that adopted children of homosexual couples do substantially worse than heterosexual couples, but that biological children of homosexual couples worse than both.

      The confounder is that for obvious biological reasons, a massive percentage of biological children of homosexual couples are from lesbians, not gays. I don’t know if there is a major difference because of that, but I suspect there is.

      • Garrett says:

        Might we get some sourcing on this? I’d been under the impression that children of committed two-parent households did better than single-parent households, regardless of the sex makeup of the two parents. That is, that homosexual vs. heterosexual couples were equivalent, holding socioeconomic status constant. But I could be wrong and would appreciate quality references in either direction.

        • EchoChaos says:

          I don’t have studies at hand because I’m at work. I have seen such studies, and I’ll have to dig them up.

          The majority of biological children of homosexual parents are from lesbian women who had one or more previous heterosexual relationships that the father isn’t sticking around for. This tends to select for poor women whose relationships, heterosexual and homosexual, are filled with abuse and dysfunction. The reason this is bad for children is obvious.

          • eric23 says:

            That’s not really relevant to a couple in a homosexual relationship who are pondering whether to have/raise children together.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @eric23

            Which I said in my initial comment.

            The question of whether his specific relationship is more likely to be filled with abuse and dysfunction is one that I wouldn’t speculate on from across the internet.

            He asked for general statements, and I gave it, with my qualification that it was my recollection and not a specific study.

            Personally I’m opposed to the whole process of surrogacy for anyone, homosexual or heterosexual, for religious reasons, but that’s a different culture-war-ish issue.

        • Atlas says:

          Might we get some sourcing on this? I’d been under the impression that children of committed two-parent households did better than single-parent households, regardless of the sex makeup of the two parents.

          I don’t think that this is true for all categories, and I especially don’t think that it is a (at least very large) causal relationship. (Not that you were necessarily suggesting this, but I think it’s a common belief.) Judith Rich Harris raises an interesting point in The Nurture Assumption: Wouldn’t children of widows be expected to suffer the same terrible developmental consequences of fatherlessness as children of single mothers?

          But the graphs and tables in McLanahan and Sandefur’s book contain
          some curious findings: a lot of things you’d think would matter turn out not to
          matter. The presence of a stepfather in the home doesn’t improve the kids’
          chances at all. Nor does contact with the biological father outside the home:
          “Studies based on large nationally representative surveys indicate that frequent father contact has no detectable benefits for children.” Nor does having
          another biological relative living in the home: the presence of a grandmother
          doesn’t help. In homes with live-in grandmothers, kids are left alone less often
          than in homes with two biological parents, yet that doesn’t stop them from
          dropping out of school or getting pregnant. In homes with stepfathers, kids
          * At least they give that impression. Curiously, their activities result in remarkably few pregnancies. This phenomenon deserves further investigation, but not here.
          are given as much supervision as in homes with biological fathers— they are as
          likely to have their whereabouts monitored or their homework checked— yet
          that doesn’t stop them from dropping out o f school or getting pregnant. The
          number of years the kids spend in a single-parent family also doesn’t matter:
          those whose fathers stuck around until they were on the brink o f adolescence
          are no better off than the ones whose fathers went bye-bye when they were
          babies or, for that matter, fetuses.

          The fatherless ones who are better off—and this is curious, too— are the
          ones whose fathers have died. “Children who grow up with widowed m others,” McLanahan said, “fare better than children in other types of single-parent
          families.” In some studies, in fact, they fare as well as children who grow up
          with two living biological parents.21 Researchers have had to grasp at straws to
          account for the different “consequences” of missing fathers and dead fathers.
          Widows are more financially secure than other single mothers? But remarried
          mothers are also more financially secure and having a stepfather doesn’t help.
          The death of a parent is less stressful than a parental divorce? Among the more
          common causes of the premature death of a parent are suicide, homicide, cancer, and AIDS, and none of these strikes me as particularly stress-free.

          Consequences is the word the researchers like to use, and even when they virtuously refrain from using it you can tell that’s what they’re thinking. But the
          data they use to support their beliefs do not show causes and consequences:
          the data are entirely correlational. They show only that certain things tend to
          go together with certain other things. If the epidemiological researchers I
          talked about in Chapter 2 had discovered that broccoli eaters are, on average,
          wealthier than broccoli shunners— and quite possibly they are— it would be
          rash to assume that if you start eating broccoli your income will go up or that
          if you stop eating it you will lose all your money. It would be equally rash to
          assume that if you win the lottery you will develop a taste for broccoli. The
          daughter of a married couple is, on average, more likely than the daughter of
          a single parent to graduate from high school and to avoid getting pregnant:
          that is a correlation. To conclude from it that the daughter of the married couple will drop out o f school and have a baby if her parents split up is no better
          than concluding that if you stop eating broccoli you’ll lose all your money. It
          could be true but the data do not prove it.

          (From 319 of the PDF)

          To be clear, there are lots of other reasons to support and practice monogamy, two-parent households, etc. But I don’t think (happy to see counter-arguments) that the evidence shows that “it causally produces significantly better developmental results for children” is one of them.

        • mtl1882 says:

          Sometimes I wonder if the two-parent household is beneficial in that the child has twice the chance of getting one good caregiver/role model, and by “good,” I mean someone who they feel wants the best for them and encourages some constructive behavior, a sense that it is possible for most people to figure things out when faced with a challenge. Someone who believes in them and gives them a sense that they have some level of control over how things go. This person may have a lot of problems people assume make them “bad”, but the presence of that core dynamic can go very far in overcoming other disadvantages, especially where the kid has exceptional potential. As most social groups tend to reward conformity and following along, I don’t think it correlates well with other success or status markers, such as economic security or the stability of being married (or marrying wisely)–most people seem rather mediocre in this particular area to me, across the board, but I also see outliers across the board. I work with kids and get to know a lot of families, and I also read a lot of biographies. I’ve become fascinated by people who manage to raise several self-confident, resourceful kids (often one sibling will be very socially “acceptable” or similar to the parent, and and another less so, and the parent will obsess on having them learn to “look good,” unintentionally destroying self-assurance even if achieving superficial success in the short term, so one who can teach confidence to different types of kids is much more skilled at this).

          I believe the percentage of U.S. presidents who were raised by both biological parents is unexpectedly low, even for more recent ones who grew up when people were less likely to die young. But they usually had at least one caregiver with a strong personality who encouraged them throughout their difficulties. I would argue that Bush II’s parents and Trump’s parents were quite exceptional personalities bursting with a sense of agency (I know less about Trump’s mother, but I believe he’s made comments that behind-the-scenes she could be a force), but they weren’t necessarily around physically that much, which is the opposite of the average case. Obama’s mother and grandparents seem to have similarly been people with a sense of independence and adaptability, in a way that is much different from both the average two-parent family and the average one-parent family. It seems to me a few strong spirits can have an extremely outsized force on society by their ability to turn out a variety of broadly capable, productive kids, even if none of them are Harvard valedictorians.

          • albatross11 says:

            This seems plausible in light of my experiences parenting three kids, but I’m not sure how consistent it is with the data on widows vs divorcees.

          • mtl1882 says:

            @albatross11

            It seems likely to me that women who remain widows tend, on average, to have different characteristics than those who divorce or are widowed and remarry. This is obviously a huge generalization, but if we’re looking at it really broadly, as the studies seem to do…

            Divorce is going to tend to correlate with some instability historically, whether financial or emotional or whatever, plus a break with social norms. The divorce in many cases may have been far less traumatic than staying together, but if the husband/father was abusive, abandoned the family, or had other issues leading to the divorce, that’s traumatic for the child and may leave the mother with a lot of issues as well. Bringing a stepfather into the situation can work out great, but often introduces conflict or at least awkwardness. This is especially true if for financial or other reasons, the mother has to remarry ASAP and may not have great options or time to adjust. There’s more room for complex dysfunction and resentment, I think. Especially when the child is young at the death of his or her father, the emotional turmoil may not be as high, even if the situation seems objectively worse.

            But I think the biggest difference is with women who stay widows by choice for long periods of time. There are many reasons for this, but it is likely they are more financially and emotionally independent than average, and more willing to resist social pressure. They also probably feel capable of raising their kids alone, and project confidence–and probably some of them married men who found this attractive, so it is part of the family culture. And historically, this is more significant due to the way things were arranged legally and otherwise. Look at George Washington’s mother—she decided she’d raise all of her sons herself to keep control over property, which had a lot of other implications for her own independence and her sons’. And she had the force of character to do it, in a way that left a mark. As easy as it is to criticize her personality, I’m guessing an example of that kind of intensity, self-confidence, and independence helped make Washington into the man he was.

      • broblawsky says:

        I’m going to also have to ask for sources, because the balance of evidence suggests that child outcomes are not significantly impacted by same-sex/different-sex parents. For example.

          • broblawsky says:

            That’s an apples-to-oranges comparison – it’s a study of people whose parents had a same-sex romantic relationship, not people who were raised by same-sex couples. You can’t compare the childhood outcomes of people with unfaithful parents to those of people with (presumably) faithful parents who happen to be homosexual. That study doesn’t prove what your cited source claims it proves.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @broblawsky

            Let’s defer the culture war argument to Wednesday. This was in fact the source I recalled.

          • broblawsky says:

            That’s fair.

          • meh says:

            Is this a culture war topic, or just run of the mill mis-reporting of a scientific study?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @meh

            Once you start arguing about conflicting studies and people’s views on them, especially around such a Culture War issue as homosexual parents, it’s best to steer away from them entirely in the full number threads in my opinion.

            @broblawsky and I have sparred enjoyably many times, but that’s a thing to do in fractional threads.

          • meh says:

            Then I await the fractional. Though ‘news outlet misrepresents study’ should be pretty non controversial around here, even if it is for a cherished belief.

    • Byrel Mitchell says:

      I’ve never seen any studies on this that weren’t more ideology than useful research. We know that the component of child outcomes that’s due to shared environmental effects is fairly low (and any impact there has to be spread between parents and school and community… etc.) And I think it’s safe to say that if homosexual parents do have some negative impact, it’s not going to be a dramatic outlier like child abuse. Your parenting is probably not going to have a huge impact on your children’s outcomes provided you keep them from getting hit by cars or abused.

      One of my biggest prior revisions now that I have kids (starting 4.5 years ago) is just how radically different they are from the earliest age I can perceive personality. (Say, 7-9 months.) A lot of who the kid is is simply not a result of parental interaction. You’re reacting to who they are more than shaping who they are.

    • Atlas says:

      My prior, based on books like The Nurture Assumption, Blueprint, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids and The Blank Slate, is that people generally greatly overestimate how much variation in parenting matters to children’s development. Genes and the non-shared environment are important.

      Also, you might want to ask again in a CW thread, because people might want to refrain from discussing some of the issues that this raises in the non-CW thread.

    • quanta413 says:

      I’m going to agree with some of the above that the environmental effects are hard to suss out and horribly confounded by genetic effects, but we do know that genetic effects are really strong. Exception for environmental effects that occur in the womb which can be very strong (whether this is due to the mother’s behavior or the mother’s genes). So I think things would go about as well as things would go for a heterosexual couple where the wife is infertile and a surrogate is needed, but my uncertainty is high.

      So my thoughts are to try to do the best you can before the parenting starts, if one of you or your husband has any serious genetic diseases (or failing that was just a very, very hard to handle child or teenager), have the other person be the biological father. And screen the surrogate mother very carefully and be willing to pay through the nose to get the best you can. Good physical and mental health are obviously crucial. I’d then focus on trying to get a surrogate who is as conscientious as possible; you want someone who will keep taking care of themselves and the baby well during pregnancy which is tough times. Then things like intelligence, athleticism, artistic ability, yada yada are concerns you can think about if you manage to get multiple candidates who fulfill the most important requirements.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Do children do fine when raised by two men (all other things being equal)? (Context: I’m a married gay man in my early thirties considering having a child by surrogacy. I imagine it’s hard to find clear answers about child outcomes in situations like this because people feared supplying arguments to opponents of marriage equality)

      The fact that you’re asking this question is evidence that you’d make a good dad.
      As has been pointed out to you, most children of homosexual couples are children of divorce being raised by their mother and another woman, which is doubly irrelevant to your situation.
      There have been studies that only used surrogacy by homosexual women having their first children, and those showed good outcomes. Confounder: these women were all affluent.
      I am not aware of anything recent enough to get a sample of men.
      The more evidence that accumulates for genetics being the biggest factor, the more important the choice of surrogate mother will be.
      That’s all I can say without walking into CW.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Is this a relevant question? If children raised by two men do worse than children raised by a man and a woman, then maybe society should regulate adoption. But you’re not planning adoption. The question is whether the child will exist at all. I think that it’s pretty clear that even if the child has worse outcomes, they’re not so much worse as to prefer not to live.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        This really deserves a fractional thread, but seems broadly correct even from a SocCon perspective.

      • Aftagley says:

        I think that it’s pretty clear that even if the child has worse outcomes, they’re not so much worse as to prefer not to live.

        Can you weigh the preferences of an entity that doesn’t exist yet? Because that seems bonkers to me and runs the risk of a bunch of weird outcomes being deemed moral.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          A number of philosophers have done it, though not necessarily formally.
          First example to mind: Edmund Burke asserted that social contract theory is only valid between “the living, the dead, and those who are to be born.” (Reflections on the Revolution in France)

        • Douglas Knight says:

          There are lots of issues where people say “how dare you have an opinion on such a difficult philosophical problem,” but, in fact, everyone does have opinions on philosophical issues relevant to normal action. Perhaps we fail at grounding our morality and have to fall back on crude traditions or instincts, but we must think about fine-grained distinctions branching out from the shaky base.

          Most people appear to hold that it is morally permissible to create children. It is difficult to ground this, but however you ground it, the outcome is unlikely to depend on such fine details as the range of outcomes under discussion.

          I probably should have included some such preface. I was talking in terms of the preferences of the hypothetical individual because most anti-natalists usually phrase their arguments that way. If their arguments do not sway you, adding this detail is unlikely to push you over the edge. We could also ask this of the various ways of justifying the creation of children, but it seems more relevant to focus on the extreme, but I should have made that clearer.

      • Jiro says:

        This is the non-identity problem and the naive conclusion has much broader implications than just “the child is better off because he’s alive”.

        • Aftagley says:

          Does it? I admittedly skimmed that page, but that really seemed to be the takeaway of that line of thought.

          ETA: the obvious preference of any being that doesn’t exist yet is to maximize the probability of their own existence. I don’t necessarily disagree with that proposition, but I strongly disagree that preference should be considered with any degree of seriousness. That line of thought leads to some pretty repugnant conclusions.

          • The repugnant conclusion is fun to think about but not terribly relevant in our underpopulated world. For a potential parent whose economically self-supporting, having a kid is always a better deal for the kid and the rest of the world. If you are delaying having kids because you have to check off the boxes x, y, z, …, well, there are plenty of people who will unthinkably reproduce and do a whole lot worse then you if you half-ass it.

    • Nurture generally doesn’t effect outcomes within first-world families. You’ve problem heard it’s “half nature, half nurture,” it’s more like “half nature, half random chance.” Maybe they’d be missing something abstract, not measurable by IQ tests, but in our underpopulated world with sub-replacement fertility in most developed countries, the question should be “will I and the world be better off?” The world will, I’d be interested to see a study of the effects on happiness of male homosexuals who have kids through surrogacy.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Nurture generally doesn’t effect outcomes within first-world families. You’ve problem heard it’s “half nature, half nurture,” it’s more like “half nature, half random chance.”

        No, not really. There are things first-world parents do or don’t do that have big effects on life outcomes besides de facto eugenics of mate selection. Mothers being or not being teetotalers throughout pregnancy, most obviously. Breastfeeding or not.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      One important thing: how do you plan to handle breastfeeding? My understanding is that studies show it’s better than formula, but for obvious reasons you and your husband are going to run into problems providing it.

      • hls2003 says:

        I looked into this when my wife and I were expecting, since for various reasons breastfeeding was not a feasible option. The short answer is that the studies are much more equivocal than they are generally presented; any effect they measure is generally tiny even if found significant; and there are so many confounders that I don’t believe any robust causal relationship has ever been rigorously identified. The biggest problems with modern formula are not its efficacy for a baby that has it; it is that temporary “free” distributions to poor women who could not afford it in perpetuity (it’s very expensive) caused them to prematurely cease to lactate and left them dependent on a product they could not afford.

        From a scientific perspective it’s a little mystifying how the consensus became so strong in favor of breast milk. But from a medical/legal perspective, it makes complete sense. Nobody ever got sued from recommending human breast milk for babies. Because it is the human default, advising anything else puts the onus on the person giving the advice. So nobody does it.

        There are certainly some advantages to breast feeding, but I’ve seen very little evidence that they are specifically nutritional benefits. There are big financial benefits, some emotional benefits, and probably soothing/stress benefits with regard to suckling. Some antibody advantages for preemies / newborns with colostrum, but those are more in the “prevent sudden problem” rather than “confer lasting benefit” category. So sure, I wouldn’t avoid breastfeeding for trivial reasons, but I think unfortunately, the myth of massive superiority of breast milk has led to a lot of emotional damage to women for whom nursing is not an option.

        • Statismagician says:

          See here for a very thorough treatment from WHO.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            If I read that correctly, they did a bunch of randomized controlled experiments, which showed no effect from breastfeeding. So they declared that breastfeeding was so valuable that it was unethical to do randomized controlled experiments. So now they do retrospective studies and they get lots of results, and they’re happy.

          • Statismagician says:

            It’s a bit more complicated than that – what they’re saying is that breastfeeding has strong positive effects on infant immune function, but that’s not vital in a first-world country because [health care]. There are lots of biologically-plausible longer-term benefits, which are overstated in small studies because everything is overstated in small studies because [publication bias], and much more modest in larger studies because everything is modest in larger studies because [reversion to the mean].

            So it’s very good in at least some contexts and probably not bad in any, even if the reasons you usually see thrown around in first-world settings specifically are vastly overstated/imaginary. Also, given the history of medical parenting advice, erring on the side of evolutionary adaptation is probably the way to go without very good evidence to the contrary. The ethical standard in pediatric trials is non-inferiority to current treatment, which by definition you can’t have proved against biology before doing the trial, so…

          • hls2003 says:

            Also, a lot of the effects they are trying to measure for health outcomes (e.g. blood pressure, obesity, diabetes) are deeply confounded because they are also key indicators of maternal predilection for low milk / lactation failure. So it’s practically impossible even for good-quality studies to show that formula caused the effects, when those same effects are maternal risk factors for needing to use formula in the first place.

          • So it’s very good in at least some contexts and probably not bad in any,

            It’s bad because it wastes time. One of the reasons fertility rates are down is because we’ve used technology to make alternatives of work, leisure, ect. easier but are resistant to using it to make parenting easier.

          • hls2003 says:

            A lot of nursing mothers wouldn’t consider that time “wasted,” but rather some of the most enjoyable time they have with their baby (contented, warm, not hungry or crying, physical bonding). I don’t think you’d improve TFR by eliminating (by some accounts) one of the best parts of mothering.

          • Statismagician says:

            Also, we absolutely do have technology and (emerging, admittedly) systems to help out with this; what do you think breast pumps and lactation rooms at workplaces are for?

        • Nobody ever got sued from recommending human breast milk for babies.

          It seems far-fetched that any doctors are afraid of getting sued for not recommending breastfeeding. Rather, they are a mix of people who believe in Gaianism and those who say “sure, that’s bs, but what’s the harm in it? It’s not like people’s time has value and I shouldn’t recommend wasting it.”

          • albatross11 says:

            IIRC, breastfeeding gives the baby antibodies from the mom, which protects him or her from a bunch of infections mom is immune to. But I also have the not-that-informed impression that it’s a culture/social class thing in the US, and that more educated/better off women are more likely to breastfeed. This has a pretty obvious confounding effect on various observed correlations between, say, breastfeeding and IQ.

  29. deluks917 says:

    I turned off public invites to SSC for awhile. (I have reasons). So the current discord invite link wont work. (Or at least it should not).

  30. Exa says:

    Was just notified of this: patreon.com/posts/31604740 (post accessible to non-patrons)
    Summary: The FDA is considering moving towards “abuse-deterrent formulations” of stimulants such as ritalin, and also restricting access further to “a small number of central pharmacies.” This is, obviously, a very bad thing (since “abuse-deterrent” basically means “very unpleasant to take” or “too toxic to take much of,” and additional restrictions on distribution would make the current hard-to-get-your-prescription-filled issues even worse.) They are inviting public comments (for all of three days) and it seems likely that there’s a lot of people around here who this would affect or who know others who would be affected (you do not need to be taking stimulants to comment, pretty much anyone in America can comment)

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I had trouble following the bureaucratese there, but I would guess the FDA means developing abuse-deterrent forms in addition to the current forms, so that patients with especially high abuse risk can be given them.

      I would be really surprised if they tried to replace all stimulants with something abuse-deterrent, both because stimulant users are common enough / rich enough to be a major voting bloc who would protest, and because any abuse-deterrent form would be novel and patented and probably cost $100s per month for a while, which means insurance companies would protest.

      • Exa says:

        The point about potentially just giving patients with high abuse risk the alternative formulations is a good one, I hadn’t considered that possibility.

      • bean says:

        Yeah, I’m reading the FDA proposal, and while it’s heavy on the “people are abusing prescription stimulants” angle, it’s talking about the development of anti-abuse stimulants, not about imposing, say, a national 30-day limit on Schedule II stimulants. (In fact, it explicitly says 90 days for long-term treatment with low probability of abuse.) Basically, they’re proposing labeling Vyvanse as “this can’t be snorted/injected successfully, please use on people who are likely to abuse.”

        • The Nybbler says:

          not about imposing, say, a national 30-day limit on Schedule II stimulants.

          Not today, anyway.

          • bean says:

            Oh, I’m not claiming that there’s no possibility that they go that way, or that it wouldn’t be a terrible thing. (Oklahoma has such a limit, and I loathe it.) But that’s not what they’re actually talking about here.

      • LeSigh says:

        I worry that people with ADD are already getting false positive “high addiction risk” flags for many of the reasons discussed in the pseudo-addiction post. Having ADD makes it really easy to misplace your pills or prescription, for example, and asking for replacements of controlled substances is generally looked upon with great suspicion.

        • Aftagley says:

          I want to push back on this. Sure, maybe some ADD people are misplacing their drugs, but way more of them are selling it to their buddies.

          • LeSigh says:

            May very well be true. Just pointing out that this is another case where “drug seeking behavior” for “bad” reasons looks much the same as the behavior of a person who actually needs the meds to be used for their intended propose, as discussed in Scott’s post.

  31. hnau says:

    A little puzzle / question for any who might be interested in such things:

    What’s with Costa Rica?

    Some context: Like most of its neighbors in Latin America, Costa Rica gained independence from Spain in the early 19th century and then spent most of the next hundered years under on-and-off caudillo rule. Unlike most of its neighbors, Costa Rica has had a stable, peaceful, representative government for over 70 years. It abolished its military after a short and bloody civil war in 1948. From that point on, its political situation has been– as far as I can tell– indistinguishable from that of, say, the Nordic countries: a multi-party system varying from moderate conservatism to moderate socialism, with no political violence, repression, or instability to speak of.

    My reaction on learning about this was roughly: wait, a third-world country can just do that? If so, why haven’t more of them done it? If not, what makes Costa Rica so special?

    Some of my guesses that I later threw out: Tourism? No, that didn’t take off until later and still only accounts for ~5% of GDP. Some other natural source of wealth? I couldn’t find one, and overall the country is still relatively poor. Lack of US meddling? Given the timeline this looks much more like an effect than a cause. Only free-riders can abolish their military? That doesn’t explain the cultural impetus for it, and surely there must be room for way more than one such free rider.

    My current theory is that Costa Rica was historically such a backwater (sparsely populated, full of jungles and mountains, no obvious high-value natural resources) that the rewards of military rule and exploitation (imperial or local) were relatively low and so the area was mostly left alone to develop its own broadly democratic culture. (For example, supposedly the Spanish hacienda system never really took hold there.) But I’m not convinced this theory explains the data well enough. Anyone else want to suggest alternative or improved explanations?

    (No particular agenda here, I’m just curious.)

    • FWIW it is unusually white compared to its neighbors, though I’m not sure if that represents identity versus actual descent:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_people#/media/File:European_Ancestry_Large.svg

    • Erusian says:

      It’s not indistinguishable from that of the Nordic countries but I can see the similarities. You’re falling victim to stereotypes. Different Latin American nations tend to have recurring political patterns based on various domestic political factors. Venezuela has hardly ever been a democracy, neighboring Colombia has hardly ever been dictatorship, and so on.

      As for abolishing the military, you’re somewhat misunderstanding the role of the military in most Latin American countries and the reasons behind its abolition in Costa Rica. Latin American nations tend to be culturally similar (especially among the elites), geographically isolated, and possess relatively weak states. This, plus the protection of the United States, means the military serves relatively little foreign policy purpose. It usually serves a more strident domestic purpose against internal enemies. Further, most Latin American militaries are relatively weak and tend to be equipped more along the lines of heavily armed police/special weapons forces than as solders in the US mold. For example, the Mexican government (despite having one of the largest militaries) does not have a single tank of any sort.

      So why did Costa Rica abolish its military? Costa Rica abolished its military because it was getting coup happy. They installed a military dictator in 1917, influenced politics several times afterward, and tried again in 1948. The coup failed and the victors abolished the military in order to eliminate a domestic political obstacle. They reformed it into the Public Force, with the Civil Guard taking over responsibility for national defense. This is basically an ersatz army with a much larger focus on policing and enforcement, as well as some defensive functions. They possess military equipment like heavy machine guns and even a few APCs (though it’s mostly older).

      Otherwise, Costa Rica isn’t particularly notable. Its economy is middle of the pack for Latin America. Its inequality is somewhat better than Latin America but it’s still very high. It’s mostly remained democratic but it’s hardly alone in that. Its history is slightly more peaceful than average but that’s fairly typical of Latin America. It has less of a reputation for crime but there’s plenty of gangs and criminal activity in the Central American mold. It might be better off relatively but it’s still not great (or even #1 in all categories).

    • Jliw says:

      I think Costa Rica isn’t that special in most respects, re: stuff like quality of life, personal freedoms, sanitation, etc. IMO, the real “Nord” (so to speak) of Latin America is Uruguay.

      • hnau says:

        Right, that’s part of what’s interesting to me: economically Costa Rica isn’t overperforming even by Latin American standards, but politically it’s been stable for much longer than Uruguay has.

    • teneditica says:

      Just looking at a map, I see that it has only two neighbours, one of which is panama, which doesn’t have a real military either.

  32. Eric Rall says:

    Welcome to the first installment of my prediction calibration series on the predictions made in the 1985 first edition of A Quick and Dirty Guide to War by Jim Dunnigan and Austin Bay. The book is a survey of various major areas of conflict and contention around the world at the time it was written, about five years before what TvTropes terms The Great Politics Mess-Up. One of the sections in each chapter is “Potential Outcomes”, in the authors’ words

    Gives the readers a look at possible futures, depending on certain events. Consider this to be the authors’ betting line.

    With the benefit of 34 years of hindsight, I will attempt to score their predictions against actual events.

    The first chapter deals with the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War. Lebanon had broken free of French Colonial rule (technically, a League of Nations Mandate) during World War Two, and at the time had been a majority ethnically Arab and religiously Christian country. The newly-independent nation’s constitution had explicit provisions entrenching the sectarian balance of power within the country: Christians and Muslims each had an explicit quota of seats in Parliament (55% Christian and 45% Muslim, reflecting a 1932 census), and the top government posts (the President, Prime Minister, and Speaker of Parliament) were reserved for a Maronite Catholic (the dominant Christian group in Lebanon at the time), a Sunni Muslim, and a Shia Muslim respectively. In practice, the Maronites dominated the government from independence until the outbreak of civil war. The civil war started as a PLO-lead insurgency among Lebanon’s large Palestinian refugee population. In a way that reminds me a bit of the current Syrian civil war, once shooting broke out, things devolved into a multi-cornered conflict. Several countries intervened at various points in the conflict (most notably Syria and Israel, but also the US, France, Italy, and peacekeeping forces from the UN and the Arab League). At the time Dunnigan & Bay were writing, Israel was occupying a big chunk of southern Lebanon with support from Maronite militias, while Syria and their allies and clients controlled most of the north, and the areas outside the two occupation zones featured low-level conflict between various militias and warlord factions.

    After the book was published in 1985, the Syrians and their Amal Movement allies (the major Shia militia group) focused most of their efforts against PLO forces in the War of the Camps. The war wound down after the November 1989 Taif Agreement, brokered by Saudi Arabia with the Syrian government and the surviving members of Lebanon’s last pre-war Parliament. The agreement adjusted the constitutional apportionment of Parliament from 55:45 Christian to a 50:50 split, strengthened the powers of the (Sunni) Prime Minister, and provided for disarming the militias. The agreement went into effect in 1990. Israel continued occupying South Lebanon (and fighting Hezbollah there) until unilaterally withdrawing in 2000. Syria also remained in Lebanon (with the official consent of the Lebanese government), eventually withdrawing in 2005 in the face of the Cedar Revolution protest movement.

    Dunnigan & Bay listed the following as the Potential Outcomes of the conflict:

    1. 40 percent chance: Lebanon is partitioned. Southern Lebanon below the Litani because a quasi-military state run by Israeli-backed Christians and Shiites. The Bekaa, Baalbek, and northern Lebanon, including Tripoli, become a province of Syria. Sidon, the Shuf, and West Beirut become a Moslem state with an autonomous Druze region. The area from East Beirut to Tripoli becomes a Maronite Christian state. Diplomatic terms for this include “cantonization into confessor states”.
    2. 15 percent chance: Factional fighting continues and after more bloodletting, a political accommodation is reached. The Maronites lose parliamentary power. If Israel alone withdraws, chance drops to 10 percent; if Syria withdraws, goes to 25 percent. If both Syria and Israel withdraw, goes to 40 percent.
    3. 15 percent chance: Same situation as outcome 1 vis-à-vis Israel and Syria, but the remaining Lebanese state does not become fractured.
    4. 10 percent chance: United States peace plan is accepted by the Lebanese and mutual withdrawal of Israeli and Syrian troops arranged. Goes to 15 percent when Khomeini dies; to 40 percent if the United States tiltes to Iraq; to 60 percent if Sunnis in Syria revel against the Alawites or if threat of rebellion is very serious.
    5. 10 percent chance: Syria attacks and absorbs all of Lebanon. Stops Israeli counterattack (politically more than militarily) and gives Israel assurances it will close border to terrorists as it has along the Golan. If this happens, there will be a long guerrilla war waged by Lebanese factions.
    6. 5 percent chance: a Maronite victory: 5 percent chance: a Druze victory. Bloodbath occurs with either Maronite-Phalange or Druse-Moslem victory

    I’m scoring predictions on a subjective scale of No, Sort of, Mostly, or Yes. When I do a calibration analysis at the end, I’ll run it separately with different threshold for which rating counts as a successful prediction. For this chapter, I’m scoring prediction #2 as Yes: there was a political accommodation after more factional fighting and bloodletting, and the Maronites did give up their constitutionally-mandated control of Parliament as part of the deal. The conditional probabilities won’t be scored here, since neither Syria nor Israel withdrew until long after the political accommodation went into effect.

    I considered scoring #1 as “Sort of”, on the basis of the lasting occupations of North and South Lebanon by Syria and Israel respectively, but ultimately decided against it. I’m scoring outcomes 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 as No. And since Khomeini died before the Taif Agreement was signed, I’ll also be scoring the conditional prediction of a US-backed comprehensive peace deal including mutual withdrawal by Israel and Syria as a No.

    • Atlas says:

      I imagine that many readers here, possibly including yourself, are already familiar with it, but for anyone who isn’t and is interested in the subject of political forecasting, Philip Tetlock’s research is fascinating. (Here’s Scott’s review of his popular audience book Superforecasting.)

    • I don’t know how many wars are being covered, but here’s a stab in the dark.

      Prediction: The majority of the incorrect predictions about conflicts will either predict something way over the top that only happens in a few cases (such as total partition, continuous occupation, or a genocide), or underestimate what happens by suggesting the war winds down with an inconclusive result. Predictions of some sort of major settlement (as here) that alters the status quo will tend to be correct in the case of civil wars, and withdrawals will take place in the case of invasions.

  33. Eric Rall says:

    Welcome to the first installment of my prediction calibration series on the predictions made in the 1985 first edition of A Quick and Dirty Guide to War by Jim Dunnigan and Austin Bay. The book is a survey of various major areas of conflict and contention around the world at the time it was written, about five years before what TvTropes terms The Great Politics Mess-Up. One of the sections in each chapter is “Potential Outcomes”, in the authors’ words

    Gives the readers a look at possible futures, depending on certain events. Consider this to be the authors’ betting line.

    With the benefit of 34 years of hindsight, I will attempt to score their predictions against actual events.

    The first chapter deals with the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War. Lebanon had broken free of French Colonial rule (technically, a League of Nations Mandate) during World War Two, and at the time had been a majority ethnically Arab and religiously Christian country. The newly-independent nation’s constitution had explicit provisions entrenching the sectarian balance of power within the country: Christians and Muslims each had an explicit quota of seats in Parliament (55% Christian and 45% Muslim, reflecting a 1932 census), and the top government posts (the President, Prime Minister, and Speaker of Parliament) were reserved for a Maronite Catholic (the dominant Christian group in Lebanon at the time), a Sunni Muslim, and a Shia Muslim respectively. In practice, the Maronites dominated the government from independence until the outbreak of civil war. The civil war started as a PLO-lead insurgency among Lebanon’s large Palestinian refugee population. In a way that reminds me a bit of the current Syrian civil war, once shooting broke out, things devolved into a multi-cornered conflict. Several countries intervened at various points in the conflict (most notably Syria and Israel, but also the US, France, Italy, and peacekeeping forces from the UN and the Arab League). At the time Dunnigan & Bay were writing, Israel was occupying a big chunk of southern Lebanon with support from Maronite militias, while Syria and their allies and clients controlled most of the north, and the areas outside the two occupation zones featured low-level conflict between various militias and warlord factions.

    After the book was published in 1985, the Syrians and their Amal Movement allies (the major Shia militia group) focused most of their efforts against PLO forces in the War of the Camps. The war wound down after the November 1989 Taif Agreement, brokered by Saudi Arabia with the Syrian government and the surviving members of Lebanon’s last pre-war Parliament. The agreement adjusted the constitutional apportionment of Parliament from 55:45 Christian to a 50:50 split, strengthened the powers of the (Sunni) Prime Minister, and provided for disarming the militias. The agreement went into effect in 1990. Israel continued occupying South Lebanon (and fighting Hezbollah there) until unilaterally withdrawing in 2000. Syria also remained in Lebanon (with the official consent of the Lebanese government), eventually withdrawing in 2005 in the face of the Cedar Revolution protest movement.

    Dunnigan & Bay listed the following as the Potential Outcomes of the conflict:

    1. 40 percent chance: Lebanon is partitioned. Southern Lebanon below the Litani because a quasi-military state run by Israeli-backed Christians and Shiites. The Bekaa, Baalbek, and northern Lebanon, including Tripoli, become a province of Syria. Sidon, the Shuf, and West Beirut become a Moslem state with an autonomous Druze region. The area from East Beirut to Tripoli becomes a Maronite Christian state. Diplomatic terms for this include “cantonization into confessor states”.

    2. 15 percent chance: Factional fighting continues and after more bloodletting, a political accommodation is reached. The Maronites lose parliamentary power. If Israel alone withdraws, chance drops to 10 percent; if Syria withdraws, goes to 25 percent. If both Syria and Israel withdraw, goes to 40 percent.

    3. 15 percent chance: Same situation as outcome 1 vis-à-vis Israel and Syria, but the remaining Lebanese state does not become fractured.

    4. 10 percent chance: United States peace plan is accepted by the Lebanese and mutual withdrawal of Israeli and Syrian troops arranged. Goes to 15 percent when Khomeini dies; to 40 percent if the United States tiltes to Iraq; to 60 percent if Sunnis in Syria revel against the Alawites or if threat of rebellion is very serious.

    5. 10 percent chance: Syria attacks and absorbs all of Lebanon. Stops Israeli counterattack (politically more than militarily) and gives Israel assurances it will close border to terrorists as it has along the Golan. If this happens, there will be a long guerrilla war waged by Lebanese factions.

    6. 5 percent chance: a Maronite victory: 5 percent chance: a Druze victory. Bloodbath occurs with either Maronite-Phalange or Druse-Moslem victory

    I’m scoring predictions on a subjective scale of No, Sort of, Mostly, or Yes. When I do a calibration analysis at the end, I’ll run it separately with different threshold for which rating counts as a successful prediction. For this chapter, I’m scoring prediction #2 as Yes: there was a political accommodation after more factional fighting and bloodletting, and the Maronites did give up their constitutionally-mandated control of Parliament as part of the deal. The conditional probabilities won’t be scored here, since neither Syria nor Israel withdrew until long after the political accommodation went into effect.

    I considered scoring #1 as “Sort of”, on the basis of the lasting occupations of North and South Lebanon by Syria and Israel respectively, but ultimately decided against it. I’m scoring outcomes 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 as No. And since Khomeini died before the Taif Agreement was signed, I’ll also be scoring the conditional prediction of a US-backed comprehensive peace deal including mutual withdrawal by Israel and Syria as a No.

  34. Eric Rall says:

    Welcome to the first installment of my prediction calibration series on the predictions made in the 1985 first edition of A Quick and Dirty Guide to War by Jim Dunnigan and Austin Bay. The book is a survey of various major areas of conflict and contention around the world at the time it was written, about five years before what TvTropes terms The Great Politics Mess-Up. One of the sections in each chapter is “Potential Outcomes”, in the authors’ words

    Gives the readers a look at possible futures, depending on certain events. Consider this to be the authors’ betting line.

    With the benefit of 34 years of hindsight, I will attempt to score their predictions against actual events.

    The first chapter deals with the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War. Lebanon had broken free of French Colonial rule (technically, a League of Nations Mandate) during World War Two, and at the time had been a majority ethnically Arab and religiously Christian country. The newly-independent nation’s constitution had explicit provisions entrenching the sectarian balance of power within the country: Christians and Muslims each had an explicit quota of seats in Parliament (55% Christian and 45% Muslim, reflecting a 1932 census), and the top government posts (the President, Prime Minister, and Speaker of Parliament) were reserved for a Maronite Catholic (the dominant Christian group in Lebanon at the time), a Sunni Muslim, and a Shia Muslim respectively. In practice, the Maronites dominated the government from independence until the outbreak of civil war. The civil war started as a PLO-lead insurgency among Lebanon’s large Palestinian refugee population. In a way that reminds me a bit of the current Syrian civil war, once shooting broke out, things devolved into a multi-cornered conflict. Several countries intervened at various points in the conflict (most notably Syria and Israel, but also the US, France, Italy, and peacekeeping forces from the UN and the Arab League). At the time Dunnigan & Bay were writing, Israel was occupying a big chunk of southern Lebanon with support from Maronite militias, while Syria and their allies and clients controlled most of the north, and the areas outside the two occupation zones featured low-level conflict between various militias and warlord factions.

    After the book was published in 1985, the Syrians and their Amal Movement allies (the major Shia militia group) focused most of their efforts against PLO forces in the War of the Camps. The war wound down after the November 1989 Taif Agreement, brokered by Saudi Arabia with the Syrian government and the surviving members of Lebanon’s last pre-war Parliament. The agreement adjusted the constitutional apportionment of Parliament from 55:45 Christian to a 50:50 split, strengthened the powers of the (Sunni) Prime Minister, and provided for disarming the militias. The agreement went into effect in 1990. Israel continued occupying South Lebanon (and fighting Hezbollah there) until unilaterally withdrawing in 2000. Syria also remained in Lebanon (with the official consent of the Lebanese government), eventually withdrawing in 2005 in the face of the Cedar Revolution protest movement.

    Dunnigan & Bay listed the following as the Potential Outcomes of the conflict:

    1. 40 percent chance: Lebanon is partitioned. Southern Lebanon below the Litani because a quasi-military state run by Israeli-backed Christians and Shiites. The Bekaa, Baalbek, and northern Lebanon, including Tripoli, become a province of Syria. Sidon, the Shuf, and West Beirut become a Moslem state with an autonomous Druze region. The area from East Beirut to Tripoli becomes a Maronite Christian state. Diplomatic terms for this include “cantonization into confessor states”.

    2. 15 percent chance: Factional fighting continues and after more bloodletting, a political accommodation is reached. The Maronites lose parliamentary power. If Israel alone withdraws, chance drops to 10 percent; if Syria withdraws, goes to 25 percent. If both Syria and Israel withdraw, goes to 40 percent.

    3. 15 percent chance: Same situation as outcome 1 vis-à-vis Israel and Syria, but the remaining Lebanese state does not become fractured.

    4. 10 percent chance: United States peace plan is accepted by the Lebanese and mutual withdrawal of Israeli and Syrian troops arranged. Goes to 15 percent when Khomeini dies; to 40 percent if the United States tiltes to Iraq; to 60 percent if Sunnis in Syria revel against the Alawites or if threat of rebellion is very serious.

    5. 10 percent chance: Syria attacks and absorbs all of Lebanon. Stops Israeli counterattack (politically more than militarily) and gives Israel assurances it will close border to terrorists as it has along the Golan. If this happens, there will be a long guerrilla war waged by Lebanese factions.

    6. 5 percent chance: a Maronite victory: 5 percent chance: a Druze victory. Bloodbath occurs with either Maronite-Phalange or Druse-Moslem victory

    I’m scoring predictions on a subjective scale of No, Sort of, Mostly, or Yes. When I do a calibration analysis at the end, I’ll run it separately with different threshold for which rating counts as a successful prediction. For this chapter, I’m scoring prediction #2 as Yes: there was a political accommodation after more factional fighting and bloodletting, and the Maronites did give up their constitutionally-mandated control of Parliament as part of the deal. The conditional probabilities won’t be scored here, since neither Syria nor Israel withdrew until long after the political accommodation went into effect.

    I considered scoring #1 as “Sort of”, on the basis of the lasting occupations of North and South Lebanon by Syria and Israel respectively, but ultimately decided against it. I’m scoring outcomes 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 as No. And since Khomeini died before the Taif Agreement was signed, I’ll also be scoring the conditional prediction of a US-backed comprehensive peace deal including mutual withdrawal by Israel and Syria as a No.

  35. MikeInMass says:

    Seventy open threads ago, I posted about cryptographer Don Davis’s lawsuit against defense giant BAE systems, which fired him on his first day of work, after learning he didn’t want to work more than 40 hours a week while caring for his dying wife. The Boston Globe suggested that the company should settle with Davis rather than try to defend the “soullessness of the machine”.

    BAE and Davis have now issued a joint statement that the lawsuit is resolved, with one division of BAE announcing that they will retrain their HR staff about male employees with caregiving responsibilities. Usually, settlements of lawsuits like this are kept confidential, so it’s surprising– but perhaps heartening– to hear about this publicly.

  36. Dino says:

    I know there’s some here who are familiar with the Sid Meier Civilization games. I was really into Civ 2, missed Civ 3 & 4, did not like Civ 5. Now I’m playing with the open source version called FreeCiv –
    freeciv.org
    Anyone else tried it? Opinions?

    • LeSigh says:

      Didn’t know this existed, thank you! I’ll check it out and perhaps have opinions in a few months.

    • James Banks says:

      I played the version of freeciv that was out around 2000 – 2005, when I was in junior high and high school. I remember listening to music and playing it. Sometimes I played my friend over a LAN. I had this idea (which became his, or which perhaps he thought of independently) of making a “mega-game” which would be some kind of interplanetary conquest game, and each planet’s territory would be contested by a freeciv game, and each battle would be fought with an RTS (or AI if necessary) and people could be super-soldiers in the RTS by playing an FPS view of the RTS battle. Each freeciv turn would be spaced out 24 hours of IRL time apart, to give time for all the battles to happen. There would be a lot of communication within the sides running each civilization and the possibility of rebellion, intrigue, and diplomacy. It would take some servers and a lot of people and I think would probably substitute for life (in a sense) for people who got into it, like MMORPGs do for some.

      I guess that’s to say that freeciv appealed to people who thought big.

      My main opinion from back then was that I liked the old grid-based tileset and not the isometric view. Fortunately (back then at least), I could use the older clients with the newer server.

      I’m not sure exactly why I lost interest, but I don’t think it was the game’s fault.

      • woah77 says:

        I also have had a similar idea for such a game, but pursued a different path for skill development. If you did create such a game, I would be very interested.

        • Aftagley says:

          This is one of those game ideas that nearly everyone who’s played a grand strategy game like this has had at one point or the other. I’ve had it, most of my friends have had it and I’d be shocked if proffesional game developers hadn’t had it. Which makes me wonder why a version of this game hasn’t ever been made.

          As far as I can remember, the only game that’s tried something like this was EVE online with their DUST 514 spin off. The guilds in EVE would hire mercenaries to take over planets, and those mercenaries would then fight FPS battles in dust. EVE players could contribute resources/air strikes which would affect the battle. As far as I remember it never quite worked and DUST collapsed pretty quickly.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      I really wanted to like Freeciv. I love the idea of a FLOSS alternative to Civilization, specially one with such low system requirements. The default graphics are not great, but the abstract Chess tileset is amazing. I’m a little annoyed that they decided to include over 500 civilizations in the game (which is possible because civs are identical except for their flag and their city names), but it doesn’t affect me much, since I can just play with the major civs that are included in the commercial games. And there is no music, but that’s okay; I can just blast an appropriate instrumental theme on YouTube in another window through my earbuds.

      Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get into the Civ II ruleset. Stacks that get destroyed if a single unit is killed (unless the stack is in a city or fort)? Well, at least that rule can be turned off. More importantly, the game uses the Civ II model of unit support, in which units are supported by the individual cities that built them (unless you move them to another city and click the option to update their supporting city). This results in an insane amount of micromanagement. Contrast with Civ III and Civ IV, where unit support is global; you can have up to X free units (where X is a function of the difficulty level, your government type and the amount of cities/people you own) and any unit after that costs gold from the global treasury. This is a much better system.

      Or what about air units? In Civ III and Civ IV, air units behave differently from other units; they are “based” on a city, which is their current location, and they conduct missions from that city, immediately returning to the city after completing their mission (if they survive). When attacking ground and sea units, they do a set amount of damage rather than engaging in a duel to the death like when ground units fight ground units and sea units fight sea units. In Civ II and its clone, Freeciv, however, air units behave just like ground and sea units, except that they are invulnerable to attack from most units and they have to return to a city (or carrier or air base) every other turn or crash due to lack of fuel. Again, this results in a tremendous amount of micromanagement as you constantly cycle your air units back to their bases and send them out again. It also leads to nonsensical situations like defending spearmen taking out bombers.

      Ultimately, what I really want is a Civ IV clone, or at least a Civ III clone. Civ II was groundbreaking for its time, but its just too primitive for me to get into a clone of it after having experienced the perfection of Civ IV.

      I also tried C-evo and FreeCol, but not much luck there either.

      Speaking of disappointing Civ games, did anybody else try Civilization Revolution? I got a copy for my DS. I enjoyed the cartoon style, I loved the idea of a game that played the same on a handheld as on a console, and I was down with most of the rules simplification. Unfortunately, the development team decided to let the AI teleport its units around any tile that you could not see. From “The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard” at TVTropes:

      The AI can teleport units throughout the Fog of War (even previously uncovered). Explicitly. The devs did this to save on processing resources for consoles, but it’s quite annoying to have armies marching out of ANY tile you don’t currently have vision of at the moment. Boats also count as outside your vision, as you can’t see what’s in them. The AI uses them like conduits to vomit units into your borders no matter how far away their cities actually are.

      This one choice completely ruined the game for me. It made the concepts like choke points, front lines, amphibious operations, etc. completely meaningless. As long as there was one dark square along your borders or one enemy galley off your coast, the AI had free rein to teleport its armies into your territory. It was infuriating.

    • pressedForTime says:

      Looks interesting.
      However, I purchased Civ 5 a couple of years ago and have been perfectly satisfied playing it since.

    • Lasagna says:

      I’ve never played Freeciv, though it looks really interesting. If you like the series, though, I’d recommend Civilization 6. It has it’s issues – they all do, and many of Civ 6’s problems are chronic for the series – but the new installment adds a lot of really interesting mechanics, and the expansions changes the game substantially. In the early game, at least, there is now an enormous (and fun) number of things to do. I definitely recommend it.

  37. clipmaker says:

    Btw does anyone know if left and right brain hemispheres is still a thing? I mean in pop psychology the left hemisphere was supposed to be in charge of thinking and the right hemisphere of feeling, or maybe it was the other way around. But I had the impression that picture is now considered bogus. I’m asking for the current status if anyone knows. Reason I’m asking is that Dr. Allan Schore, who previously has done a bunch of highly regarded work on neurobiology and psychology, has now written a book about right-brained therapy and I’m like wtf. Thanks.

    • alwhite says:

      The simple version is wrong, but there are hemispheres and they do different things. The big one that I know of is language happens in the left hemisphere.

    • Murphy says:

      to the best of my knowledge most claims are popsci though some things like language tend to be concentrated in one hemisphere.

      Plus there’s a procedure known as a Wada Test.

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

      Where they anaesthetise one hemisphere at a time to help identify which side that particular patient uses more for language.

      I find it facinating that you can have a coherent conversation with one half of a persons brain.

      Though typically one half isn’t a good conversationalist.

  38. SkyBlu says:

    What kind of music does SSC listen to? I personally listen to a mix of lofi, J-rock, and some sad pop stuff, but I’m curious what everyone else prefers.

    • James Miller says:

      I don’t like any type of music.

        • The Nybbler says:

          Believe it or not, in a world that’s been completely music-soaked since the 1979 release of the Sony Walkman, there still are a few of us who just don’t listen to music.

          • I like music that is supporting the words—Tom Lehrer, Joan Baez, Buffy St. Marie. But I spend almost no time actually listening to it. Music without words strikes me as beautiful but boring.

            I have, however, played my part in the three generation long project to breed musical ability back into my father’s descendants.

          • Dino says:

            Wow – Buffy St. Marie, one of my favorites. Mostly forgotten and obscure now, I was lucky enough to see her in concert back when. Right up there in quality with the other big names of that period (like Joan Baez), even her weirder later stuff (The Goddess is Alive, Magic is Afoot) is good. Glad to see someone else is a fan.
            And Tom Lehrer – what a genius! I literally don’t know anyone that doesn’t love his songs. I’ve been trying to get someone to organize a local Tom Lehrer sing-along. Fun factoids – he stopped writing when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and Werner Von Braun really did sue him (successfully).

            Music without words strikes me as beautiful but boring.

            I’m the opposite. Not only do I like instrumentals, I like songs with words in foreign languages that I don’t understand.

          • The Goddess is Alive, Magic is Afoot) is good. Glad to see someone else is a fan.

            I’m pretty sure it is “God is alive.” “God is” and “Goddess” sound rather similar, but I believe the word “he” shows up in the lyrics.

            The words are by Leonard Cohen, the one modern songwriter who impresses me as a poet.

            And Tom Lehrer – what a genius! I literally don’t know anyone that doesn’t love his songs.

            I do. Other members of my family. And “not love” is an understatement.

          • LesHapablap says:

            DavidFriedman,

            I believe you developed a betting game that could be used to predict movie outcomes. Do you have a link to that?

          • onyomi says:

            Well I guess there’s a difference between “I’m not that into music” or “I don’t make a habit of listening to music” and “I don’t like music.”

            I’m not surprised to hear someone say “I’m not a gourmet”; I am surprised to hear someone say “I don’t really like food.”

            That said, unlike food, it is conceivable you could get by just fine without it; Scott Adams claims to avoid listening to music as much as possible, I guess because he feels it manipulates his emotional state or something.

            Though music’s healing properties are much touted by e.g. Oliver Sacks, I’m also totally willing to believe it’s not an unalloyed good, especially depending on what one listens to (listening to loud, cacophonous music a lot might increase your anxiety, for example). I do also sometimes find it annoying to have an “ear worm,” though typically I find that’s more a result of being in a certain mindset rather than having listened to music recently or not (if I am in a higher state of arousal or a “my mind is racing” type of mood I’m also more likely to suffer an earworm–it will be something I’ve heard recently if I’ve recently listened to music, but my brain can dig up an old one if not; that said listening to music may increase its incidence).

          • @LesHapablap:

            Betting game? Doesn’t sound like anything I’ve done, although it might be someone else’s application of some idea of mine.

            Speaking of which, and entirely off the subject, rereading my Hidden Order in the process of bringing it back to print, I noticed a reference to the Apollo mission crashing into the crystalline sphere of the moon. The book was published in 1996.

            The question is, did Scott read it, or is this a true case of parallel invention? Certainly he uses the idea in Unsong in an entirely different way than I was using it.

          • LesHapablap says:

            Ah damn, if it wasn’t you then this is going to be hard to find.

            It was a tray with multiple columns, and you could stack chips in each column. Each column represented a certain outcome (character dies or a battle gets won etc). The game involved buying and selling chips among the different columns as you thought the odds changed on certain events, but I can’t remember how exactly it functioned.

          • Dino says:

            DavidFriedman is correct about that Buffy St. Marie song – I mis-heard “God is” as “Goddess”. Also didn’t know that it was written by Leonard Cohen, so I learned some things today, thanx.

            Leonard Cohen, the one modern songwriter who impresses me as a poet

            I’d like to see a new separate thread about modern songwriters as poets. blah, blah, Bob Dylan Nobel Prize, blah, blah… One of my favorites is Robert Hunter – his book “Box of Rain”.

          • LesHapablap says:

            liate,

            Yes that’s it! Thanks very much.

          • I haven’t heard much modern music, so I could easily be missing other poets as good as Cohen.

        • brad says:

          I’m not quite in that camp, sometimes I listen to music from the years when I was 15-25 for a nostalgic kick, but it’s more recognizable to me than all the folks who are passionate about the music they love and consider it a part of their identities.

        • Nick says:

          I hardly ever listen to music or seek it out, either. I’ve tried to remedy this, but I just don’t like most music, or feel a particular need to listen to what I do like on loop.

      • LeSigh says:

        This is one of those “universal” things that I seem to miss out on. It’s even more confusing for me because I do remember caring about/being moved by/seeking out music when I was younger. Now it’s just meh.

        • sty_silver says:

          Would a plausible explanation for this me that 90%+ of music, and 99%+ of music that is shoved in your face, is boring? Maybe you just haven’t sought out the right thing?

          Another issue is that, in my experience, a lot (though not all) of the really good stuff is uninteresting on first listen.

          • Nick says:

            Sturgeon’s Law, I know, but this is not sounding like a good use of time. Like, to paraphrase, 90% of music you’ll ever encounter is not worth listening to, 99% of the music you’re most likely to encounter is not worth listening to, and even the music that is worth listening to you’ll have to listen to multiple times to discover that.

            I’m guessing most folks don’t experience music that way—if they did, no one would bother. I’d also wonder whether there’s any other field in the world that frontloads its trash that badly. Are 99% of the video games shoved in your face boring?

          • sty_silver says:

            Interesting post.

            I’m guessing most folks don’t experience music that way—if they did, no one would bother.

            Well, I think clearly most people like the stuff that you hear most often, which is why you hear it most often. Not saying this isn’t a trivial implication – you could possibly end up with stuff that’s popular even though most people don’t like it – but I don’t think that’s the case for music.

            Speaking for myself, I vehemently diagree that it’s not worth the time. It’s not like I’m spending most of my time listening to music I don’t like. I’m spending most time listening to music I deeply appreciate. Good albums can be listened to hundreds of times. And it is not the case that I cannot tell the uninteresting apart from the difficult until I listened to it several times. For most music I don’t like, I know as much after 10 seconds. It’s only if music is complex enough to have real promise that I have to give it time to figure it out, and yeah sometimes I end up listening to something many times without ever liking it. But it’s still a relatively minor part of the experience.

            And the upside of finding the good stuff is enormous.

            I’m certainly not claiming to be typical. But “I liked music once, now eh” sounded to me a bit like “I was once simple-minded enough to be impressed by mainstream stuff, now I’m not anymore, and it just so happens that no-one has ever guided me deeper into the rabbit hole, so even though there is stuff I would enjoy immensely, I’ve never come across it.”

            I’d also wonder whether there’s any other field in the world that frontloads its trash that badly. Are 99% of the video games shoved in your face boring?

            Philosophy?

            It’s not like that with Video games for me. It’s a bit like that with movies, but less extreme.

      • Atlas says:

        I was like this until I was 15 or so. I think I might have remained so if I hadn’t grown up in the era of Spotify/YouTube/iPhones etc.

        • Randy M says:

          Similarly, I grew up without much music outside of church. Got a few discs I liked through exposure in college, and now we have spotify or youtube playing fairly often (~1-2 hrs a day), mostly in the background.

          Things I like lately: Celtic Women, Lindsey Sterling, Evanescence, Third Day, Home Free

          The latter ones I’ll sing along to, the former whistle. Luckily my kids aren’t to the age that they’re embarrassed by having a silly dad.

      • Edward Scizorhands says:

        Can you recommend a playlist on YouTube?

    • Nornagest says:

      Mostly rock and metal, and mostly (but not exclusively) older stuff. Some stuff I’ve been obsessed with in the past includes: Social Distortion, Nightwish, Sisters of Mercy, Nick Cave, The Damned, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Rainbow, Leonard Cohen, Misfits, Ghost.

    • Lambert says:

      Baroque, minimalist funk, free jazz, Ancient Greek, Billie Eilish, Lebanese trip-hop, prog, Early 20th c. classical, Jolene but played back at 16rpm, meme music, Zappa, microtonal jungle/dnb etc.

    • rahien.din says:

      Metal, such as Opeth, Revocation, Lamb of God, Kvelertak, Aephanemer, Voyager, Elder
      Carly Rae Jepsen
      Electronic, such as Goldfrapp, Justice, Zero 7, Kubbi, John Carpenter
      Baroque choral
      Other weird stuff, like Buke and Gass
      Some jazz. Old soul.

    • liate says:

      20th century classical music, mostly for strings (Bartók, Hindemith, Britten, Bloch, Shostakovich)

      Baroque music (well, mostly just Bach)

      Chiptunes and adjacent electronic stuff (soundtracks of various indie games, MASTER BOOT RECORD)

      (Arguably also Renaissance music, although I haven’t gone to the lengths of actually downloading any yet, unlike all of the above)

    • johan_larson says:

      Right now I basically don’t listen to music. My interest in music tends to come and go. At various times in the past, I’ve been into country, classical, and mainstream pop (Bruce Springsteen, The Who, The Supremes, Roxette, Joan Jett, The Beatles, ABBA.)

    • Dino says:

      I like so many different types it’s shorter to list what I don’t like – atonal, punk, opera, rap, pop. Some recent new faves are Macedonian Chalgia, northern Greek Epirot folk music, and a hot New Orleans jazz band called Young Fellaz Brass Band.

    • Plumber says:

      SkyBlu says:

      “What kind of music does SSC listen to?”

      Voluntarily?

      I have very different tastes driving to work than I have driving from work.

      Off the top of my head of songs/works that I’ve heard before and decided to listen to again this month have included:

      Some symphony orchestra performing Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis composed be Ralph Vaughan Williams (early 20th century classical music)

      The Renegades (mid ’60’s Garage Rock) performing Thirteen Women which was originally by Bill Halley and the Comets (50’s Rock n’ Roll)

      Wanda Jackson performing Shakin’ All Over (rockabilly)

      Lou Reed: Ocean (early 70’s Rock)

      Wire: Mannequin (late ’70’s Punk/New Wave)

      Joy Division: Dead Souls

      Gun Club: Moonlight Motel and a lot of their ither songs (early ’80’s punk band that then went New Wave, then Country, Blues, Folk, and even a bit of Funk, demon haunted songs that calling them “problematic” is an understatement, basically confessions of a damned soul, songs I both love and fear)

      Madrugada: Mother Of Earth (some newish band I never heard of before this month; the song is a Gun Club song, but they made it more Nick Cave-ish, and it’s better than the original)

      Some choral group and an orchestra: Carmina Burana composed by Carl Orff (early 20th century classical)

      The Briefs: Poor and Weird (late 20th century punk rock)

      X: The Have Nots (basically a country song written and recorded in the ’80’s by a Los Angeles punk/rockabilly band)

      The Wipers: Over the Edge (early 80’s New Wavish punk)

      Chuck Berry: Downbound Train and Back in the USA (50’s Rock n’ Roll)

      Sister Rosetta Tharpe: This Train (60’s Gospel)

      Some chorus and symphony: The Planets composed by Gustav Holst (20th century classical)

      KC and the Sunshine Band: I’m Your Boogie Man (’70’s Disco/Funk)

      Lotte Lenya (in German) and Marianne Faithful (in English): Surabaya Johnny (early to mid 20th century ‘caberet music- written by Kurt Weill )

      Johnny Cash: God’s Gonna Cut You Down (early 21st century version of a ’50’s blues/gospel song) and also a lot of other songs performed by Johnny Cash

      The Ramones: She’s the One and some more of their songs (’70’s punk)

      Negative Trend: Black & Red (’70’s punk)

      Some two opera singers: ‘Flower Duet’ from Lakme composed by Delibes (late 19th century classical)

      Suburban Lawns: Flavor Crystals (early ’80’s New Wave)

      The MC5: Kick Out the Jams and Back in the USA (late 60’s/early ’70’s Rock)

      Hawkwind: Motorhead (’70’s Rock/Metal)

      Screamin’ Jay Hawkins: I Put a Spell on You (’50’s Rock ‘n Roll)

      A few songs from 1930’s movie musicals

      The Yardbirds: Stroll On (’60’s Rock)

      Paul Evans: Midnight Special (’50’s Country)

      Robert Johnson Me and the Devil Blues (’30’s blues)

      Dorothy Dandridge: Cow Cow Boogie and Zoot Suit (’40’s Swing)

      Billie Holiday: I Hear Music (’40’s Jazz)

      Nina Simone: My Man’s Gone Now (’50’s Jazz)

      Leadbelly: Gallis Pole (’30’s blues/’60’s folk)

      The Maid Freed from the Gallows (specifically this version, folk song lyrics written down in the 19th century)

      The Jam: I got by in Time (’70’s punk/new wave)

      I personally listen to a mix of lofi, J-rock, and some sad pop stuff,

      I’ll need most of that translated into 1980’s American English to know what you meant.

      but I’m curious what everyone else prefers

      I prefer songs of lust, murder, voodoo, love, loss, hunger, hope, damnation, and redemption, though in going over my personal playlist of this month it’s mostly songs of damnation.

      • Brassfjord says:

        Good list.

        I get the difference when driving to and from work. I would assume that in the morning you would want some music to wake you up and energize you. For that I think a lot of overtures are good (like those of William Tell, the Marriage of Figaro, Carmen etc) and also pompous marches (if that’s your cup of tea).

        On the way home, you want to calm down and then Chopin’s nocturnes would be good.

    • eyeballfrog says:

      I mostly listen to music while working, and when I do, it tends to be soundtracks from the Fire Emblem series. Radiant Dawn and Shadows of Valentia were the standbys, but I started to warm to Genealogy and now Three Houses is making a showing in the rotation.

    • rubberduck says:

      Industrial, metal, industrial metal, 80’s and pseudo-80’s stuff, the odd electronic song spat out by the Youtube recommendation algorithm.

    • sty_silver says:

      I got into decent music via metal. I think the trend has been me gravitating towards more eccentric and complicated things over time.

      Right now the two bands I would most highly recommend are Kayo Dot and the solo artist Kashiwa Daisuke. Kayo Dot is most known for changing their sound completely with each record. Different genre, different vocal style, even different approach to songwriting. Some examples are this or this or this or this or this.

      Kashiwa also changes a lot between albums, but “modern classic and electronic additions” or something like that could be a reasonable description. There’s this or this or this or this really stellar recent live performance. I definitely think of this guy as the greatest composer I’ve ever heard of.

      And I guess Alcest and Cult of Luna are two metal bands that I’m still quite interested in. Alcest is the far softer and more melodic of the two. This is their latest album. It’s just so pleasant.

    • EchoChaos says:

      Mostly power metal, with some thrash and symphonic metal thrown in.

      Core bands for this would be Sabaton, Blind Guardian, Judicator, Unleash the Archers, Powerwolf, DragonForce, Gloryhammer, etc.

      Some more “out there” bands that I still enjoy are Epica, Avantasia, Van Canto, Vektor, Iced Earth.

    • Jaskologist says:

      I only listen to good Christian music, so it’s just Kanye West for me these days.

    • achenx says:

      Baroque (lots of this here I’m noticing), some Classical/Romantic/newer in that tradition, classic rock (Fleetwood Mac, Dire Straits), 80s-90s alternative (R.E.M. and bands trying to imitate them), newer singer-songwriter/folk artists (i.e. one guy or a girl playing an acoustic guitar), Americana-influenced pop-rock (trying to think of a moderately well-known example here.. maybe First Aid Kit fits), sometimes an outlier that doesn’t fit with anything else I listen to (Meg Myers — dark electronic-influenced pop-rock).

    • DragonMilk says:

      If the composer was still alive by the time I was born, I’m not listening to it.

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      It’s a big mix. Folk, classical (including early), rock from the sixties (my imprint period), more recent rock so long as its somewhat melodious, jazz… I might just be a boomer. There might be a category or two I’ll think of later.

      There’s also music I don’t listen to– rap (I usually can’t make out the words) and game music. Would anyone else care to list the music they aren’t interested in?

    • Atlas says:

      These days, I listen to a lot of chillwave/synthwave mixes on YouTube collated by Astral Throb and Odysseus.

      The soundtrack to Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood was really good (as was the movie IMHO), I’ve been listening to it quite frequently for the past few months.

      Glancing at my recently played on Spotify, I see that I’ve been listening to Belle & Sebastian, Stereolab, The Shins, Ulrich Schnauss, Lilys, Tycho, 50s/60s easy listening, Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto, Frank Sinatra and Blondie lately.

      I wonder, pursuant with a different thread, how much influence parenting has on music tastes. It would be easy for me to tell a story about how, because my parents played new wave and bossa nova (those are different things even though apparently the latter phrase can be translated as “new wave”) music when I was a kid, today I like that kind of music. But it could be confounded by genetics, random, something that I’ll grow out of, etc.

      Steve Sailer made a very interesting observation along the lines of: in the past, because people listened to more semi-random music on the radio, artists had to try to have broader appeal to be successful. But today, music consumption is more individualized, so maybe you can be successful just by appealing to a niche. I definitely feel this personally in that I think I’ve literally never heard—nor frankly do I ever particularly want to hear—any songs by musicians/singers like “Billie Eilish” and “Lizzo” who are allegedly extremely popular with my generation.

      • Lambert says:

        Don’t knock Billie till you’ve listened to her.
        It’s not exactly my jam, but she’s a really talented musician. And there’s some interesting gaelic influences that come through in her work.

    • DinoNerd says:

      Mostly classical, but that’s at least partly an effect of the way music access is currently being sold.

      In noisy work environments, I listen to opera, preferably in German with lots of male voices. (The idea is for my subconsious to think all the surrounding conversations are just part of the opera, and so don’t require attention. Surprisingly enough, this works for me.)

      The rest of the time, I’m especially fond of baroque and the period called classical (1730-1820, per primephonic). Also almost anything involving flutes.

    • Lasagna says:

      The other commenters have way more interesting taste in music than me. 🙂 I mostly listen to the straight-ahead stuff: some of the classic rockers (The Rolling Stones, The Kinks), a good helping of folk-adjacent stuff (Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell), lots of country music (a slightly more recent passion), the rock I went to college with (Nirvana, The Pixies). Despite this I’m not a guitar head. Anything with Eric Clapton in it bores me. I like guitarists who are part of the band – more rhythm, less up front. Say Keith Richards. The only guitar-god I love is Jimi.

      But I listen to very little music these days for kind of a weird reason. I get way too worked up. I must have been the only person in college who didn’t listen to music while studying – it was absolutely impossible. I’d just get obsessed with what I was listening to. Now the only time I’d have to really give something a good listen would be during my commute, but again, getting my head spun over what’s going on on Highway 61 Revisited doesn’t do me any favors right before I’ve got to sit down and focus on work.

    • Well... says:

      Class 1: music I like so much I go buy albums and listen to them repeatedly until they are very familiar. Artists in this category span many genres, time periods, and places on the globe, but probably if you did a quantitative analysis you’d find some disproportionate number of them are rock musicians from Seattle who did their most significant work in the early 90s. I would happily shell out as much as $60 and drive sometimes 2 or 3 hours to see performances by some of the artists in this category (those who aren’t dead, obviously).

      Class 2: music I like enough to create Pandora stations for or program radio stations in my car for, which I listen to at least a few times a month but sometimes daily. There’s also a lot of music that fits into this category but Pandora doesn’t have a good selection of it, or they don’t play it a lot on the radio, etc. I would buy tickets to go see these artists if they were in town and the price was reasonable.

      Class 3: music I like enough to occasionally summon it from the internet, or which I consistently enjoy when I am passively exposed to it. Most of this is songs from my youthier days that I was never really into but have good associations with, or stuff my wife and close friends like a lot. It’d be cool to see these artists live if I happened across them at an event, but I wouldn’t pay money for tickets or drive more than 20 minutes to get to the venue.

      Class 4: music I don’t really care for but can tolerate. I hear this type of music a lot in grocery stores, waiting rooms, in the background of TV commercials, at parties, at sporting events, etc. If any of these artists were performing at a place where I happened to be, I’d try to ignore them.

      Class 5: music I dislike and which grinds on me when I hear it. With very few exceptions, electronic music fits into this category. I do my best to avoid performances of this type of music (again, with very few exceptions).

    • kai.teorn says:

      Music is hardly in deficit in today’s world, and perhaps as a reaction to its ubiquity I find that what I mostly value in music is that which is the rarest and, from what I can judge, most difficult to achieve. “Raw energy”, “psychedelic depth”, “refreshing roughness” or “sublime smoothness” are examples of qualities that are, apparently, easy enough to emulate; artists that can be thus described are a dime a dozen. However, melodic interestingness, non-banality of the collocations of notes, memorability of melodies are exceedingly rare and require a special kind of talent that most good and even excellent musicians lack almost entirely. It looks like it’s much, much easier to come up with an interesting lyric line than with an interesting melodic/harmonic line. When I come across an artist with a talent for melodies, I’m willing to forgive almost anything else imperfect. My most recent exciting find of this kind is Laura Marling.

    • *eyes the things mostly mentioned so far* …well, well, well, it looks like I in the “odd one out” camp! I suppose that means it’s time to contribute.

      I tend to listen to a group of genres I umbrella under the tongue-in-cheek phrase creepy electronica and tend to disclaimer as “might make your ears bleed”, since it usually gets bonus points for a certain kind of scratchiness I find appealing, but hard to describe (e.g. to contrast, Autechre is not so much my thing). This is meant as a genuine disclaimer, not as something for bragging rights – I just know some people get negative pleasure out of this stuff, so I try to give a descriptive warning.

      Some examples (loosely ordered from least likely to be painful to listen to, to most likely to be painful to listen to):

      Diaphane – Insight
      This Morn’ Omina – Toltec
      Detritus – After (Poordream Remix)
      Dahlia’s Tear – 2nd Sky Between Lights, Unreleased Colours And Earth
      HPC – Run
      Empusae – Sphère des Bois (Live)
      Blamstrain – Turn Back
      Lackluster – Zithertrak2
      Sonic Area – The Soul of a Robot

      This music is basically pure background ecstasy for me, helps me focus, gives me energy and drives me to creativity. Something about it resonates deeply with my positive moods. I’ve told people before that I need music to stay sane – it’s this kind of music that keeps me sane more than any others I listen to. Sometimes I just stop, close my eyes, and sink into it. I tend to be a rhythm-driven person and I suppose it shows.

      (I cannot overstate how incredibly powerful I find this kind of music. It’s really a little eerie how much it energises me.)

      • Aftagley says:

        I love this genre, but have to consciously limit how much of it I listen to. Listening to it just gets me supremely, but subliminally, anxious. Something about how the songs keep subtly escalating but never reach a climax freaks me out.

        There’s a strong possibility that early and sustained exposure to dubstep (my earmilk of choice) has permanently damaged my ability to appreciate this stuff. Being on the edge of your seat and waiting for a bass drop that just doesn’t happen can’t be good for the soul.

        • I think I know what you mean, although my reaction to that is, for some reason, the opposite. I love being kept on that edge, though I have no real understanding of why. I’m tempted to quip that it’s because I’m a masochist (which I am), and this might be the musical equivalent of what I tend to be after, but I don’t have any way of knowing whether that gut feeling is actually true.

          Sphère des Bois is particularly nasty in this regard. It is one long build-up to nowhere. And of the tracks I listed, I would have to say it’s my favourite.

          I don’t know what my brain is doing with this music, but I’m glad it is doing it, and the music exists to make it do that.

          (…do you have any recommendations in that musical vicinity? :D)

      • LesHapablap says:

        I don’t listen to this kind of music though I do listen to some stuff adjacent to it. Here are my opinions:

        Diaphane – Insight 5/5 awesome
        This Morn’ Omina – Toltec 3/5 not very melodic, too repetitive
        Detritus – After (Poordream Remix) 3/5 feels cheap
        Dahlia’s Tear – 2nd Sky Between Lights, Unreleased Colours And Earth 3/5 really cool as background music but wouldn’t seek it out
        HPC – Run 4/5
        Empusae – Sphère des Bois (Live) 5/5 very cool
        Blamstrain – Turn Back 3/5, good but probably wouldn’t seek it out
        Lackluster – Zithertrak2 3/5 good background music but wouldn’t seek it out
        Sonic Area – The Soul of a Robot 4/5

        You might like Amon Tobin, his live performance ISAM incorporates several visual artists representations of each track on a very large screen consisting of a random arrangement of blocks: Amon Tobin – ISAM 2.0

        And I agree about Autechre just being lame

        • Empusae – Sphère des Bois (Live) 5/5 very cool

          This actually happens to be one of my favourite tracks ever, so I’m very happy to see you enjoyed it!

          And thanks a bunch for the recommendation! I will check him out when I’m back to my regular schedule (I am currently on a week of infosec bootcamp).

          • Nancy Lebovitz says:

            Thank you for the recommendation for Sphere du Bois– I’m enjoying it a lot.

            I don’t think it’s a buildup to nowhere, it’s music for a movie which unfortunately doesn’t exist.

            I don’t think it’s a buildup to nowhere, it winds down quite satisfyingly.

    • McClain says:

      According to my iTunes “Most Played” function, Arctic Monkeys are my favorite. There are 36 Arctic Monkeys songs which I’ve listened to several dozen times this year. Three examples: “You’re So Dark”, “From the Ritz to the Rubble”, and “Crying Lightning” are all excellent examples of different things they do well. Ty Segall comes in second: he has 15 songs which I’ve listened to scores of times this year. “Orange Color Queen” and “Tall Man Skinny Lady” are a couple of his best. Angelique Kidjo’s cover of Talking Heads’ “Remain in Light” album (yes, she covered the whole album) has also been in high rotation.

    • SkyBlu says:

      So skimming through responses, I see a lot classical, rock that isn’t pop-rock (especially metal), folk or fok-adjacent music and and anythign niche and “weird”. This mostly tracks with my experiences with music tastes in other internet spaces, and I’m curious as to why? What links posting on RPG forums and liking, say for example, Black Sabbath?

      • johan_larson says:

        Maybe the really mundane stuff is just going unmentioned. Pretty much everyone seems to like The Beatles, say, so listing them among the bands you like just doesn’t provide a lot of information about your musical tastes.

        You like The Beatles? Congratulations. I bet you like ice cream too.

      • Lambert says:

        On the internet, it only takes a hyperlink to potentially convince someone that some weird, niche music is cool.

    • sidereal says:

      I like ambient, downtempo, triphop, chillwave, my favorite musicians are Tycho and Loscil. But also classical, indie rock, and jazz.

    • Cayzle says:

      For about half my listening time I really enjoy clever funny music. Weird Al, They Might Be Giants, Jonathan Coulton, Garfunkel and Oates, Lonely Island. They all make me smile / lol.

  39. Chevalier Mal Fet says:

    SSCers who exited long-term relationships, what were your best strategies for coping and moving on?

    This past weekend, my girlfriend of 9 years left me and I’m in a bit of an emotional fugue at the moment. I’d like to draw on the collective wisdom of the site to help me deal, because I don’t think I’m doing such a great job at the moment.

    • Gossage Vardebedian says:

      Very sorry to hear that. First, you’re simply going to feel shitty for a while, so try to look right at that and say, “Well, fuck this.”

      The best advice I can give is to take up a new hobby, preferably but not necessarily one that gets you out among people. You will have more free time and you don’t want to fill it by watching porn or eating ice cream and pizza and listening to emo. Turn this big negative into something positive and keep at it.

      Also, get in better physical shape. This is a near-must. This will make you feel better about yourself in a way that will probably address a particular sort of vulnerability right now, and work off some aggravation and anger.

      Hang in there. It gets better.

      • LeSigh says:

        Good advice, seconded.

        Try to keep busy/distracted in positive & novel ways, preferably around people.

        It will be tempting to try to go back to your relationship. Don’t.

    • LesHapablap says:

      Start working out now. That’s very important. If you can’t motivate yourself get a personal trainer or a good friend to act as one.

      Keep your house clean. Very important and easily done if you keep on it.

      Get an expensive haircut and good shoes. Keep up with the haircuts.

      There are advantages to being single, even if they get old fast, so take advantage of those. They include: -being able to buy toys for yourself guilt free. Electronic drum kit, new mountain bike, motorcycle, new car, skydive lessons, rock climbing gym membership, whatever. Buy yourself a few toys.
      -The ability to move to a new city, or back to an old one. Can’t do that with a partner so if you wanted to move, now is the time.
      -If you want to change careers or take a career risk this is the time to do it.
      -You can go on a road trip to see old friends.

      Be very careful about the media you consume: ‘you are what you eat’ applies to you brain as well. This means no Radiohead. You want to fill your brain with things that are upbeat to help your mood, and popular to help your social life. So if you’re going to binge netflix, watch shows that people you socialize with are watching.

      Get a Tinder account or one of the other dating apps: dating has changed a lot since you were single and it is now much easier to dip your toe in the water. Depending on whether this was your first major relationship, women will like that fact that you are house-trained and relationship-trained now so you may find dating much easier than when you were younger. All you have to do is sit there and swipe on the app and chat occasionally, don’t put pressure on yourself.

      • aiju says:

        Get a Tinder account or one of the other dating apps

        I’m in a different situation but after a few weeks on basically all the dating apps I have had essentially zero success in getting anywhere near an actual date with a woman. I wasn’t expecting much success, but like, one date would have been nice. Or even just an actual conversation.

        So if this is much easier, it must have been truly impossible hard nine years ago… or maybe I’m just undateably ugly…

        • LesHapablap says:

          Your expectations are too high if you think not getting a date after a few weeks is a sign of a problem. If you’re struggling then I suggest paying for the app upgrades and getting someone with camera skills to take good photos of you.

          • Vermillion says:

            Before that I would suggest having a friend you trust give you a full and honest appraisal of your profile. Ideally one who’s had success on those apps, however you’d like to define that.

            General advice for people who are considering the apps (I met my now wife on one), don’t try and appeal as some idealized generic version of yourself, emphasize what’s original and interesting and weird. You’ll have better initial conversations and I think that’s the biggest determinant to getting to the date stage. Also don’t spend too long messaging back and forth, if they seem like they’re fun to talk to they’re hopefully feeling the same, at which point ask if they’d like to get a coffee.

            And good luck Chev, it’s a shitty situation but it’ll pass. For you specifically I’ll second all the advice above about exercising, and add that volunteering is a really good way both to meet people and to impart meaning into your life.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        I’m recently separated and on dating apps. I agree completely with your general advice except the prohibition on Radiohead. Listening to it doesnt get me in a bad mood at all, it fills me with a deep joy that there is such beauty in the world. But maybe you have a point about not consuming depressing media, it’s just to me Radiohead is not depressing at all.

    • Ketil says:

      Do:

      1. Accept that a break will take an emotional toll on you. I had short-term (months) relationships before I married, getting over those would take a few days. Getting divorced after 17 years was much heavier going, either because long term relationships get deeply woven into every aspect of life, or because of children being part of the picture, or just because I’m older and less pliable. But there’s always an impact, and it gradually passes as things stabilize.

      2. Take the opportunity to make other changes in your life. Go on a vacation to somewhere new. Pick up a new hobby. Meet some new people.

      Don’t:

      1. Brood and reminisce over her or over your life (definitely)

      2. Rush out to fill the void with a new girlfriend (arguably, but it’s certainly my view)

    • Lasagna says:

      I wrote a whole long thing, but after reading the excellent comments below, I’ll just amplify them:

      1. Working out is the most important piece of this. It’ll both make you feel better about yourself AND make it easier to get into another relationship. Five stars, definitely definitely do this.

      2. Dating apps are probably good, but approach them cautiously, and if they don’t pay off don’t read too much into it (the only one I ever used was “It’s Just Lunch”, and it worked fine – I recommend it – though I met my wife through a friend and not the service). My friends who are using dating apps have extremely mixed results, and it looks to me like it’s largely a function of geography. If you’re outside of a large city and you’re in any way the wrong demographic it might feel a bit ego-deflating. More traditional means of meeting people could work better.

    • JonathanD says:

      Besides everything that everyone else said, get a therapist. This sucks, and it hurts, and you’re going to want to talk about how much you’re hurting, or how she was in your dream last night, or you went to a restaurant and it reminded you of this great time with her, or, well, or a bunch of things. Nine years is a long time. Good friends will be supportive and sympathetic, but it’s easy to be a bore about this stuff, or worse, bottle it up because you’re afraid of being a bore. So pay someone to listen to you. It’ll help. They might even give you some decent advice, but really, just having someone to listen sympathetically will be worth it.

    • Beck says:

      Oh, man; I’m sorry to hear that.
      There’s a lot of good advice in the comments. The only thing I might add is to spend some time catching up with family if you haven’t seen them as much as you’d like. Not necessarily for advice or even sympathy, but it can be comforting just to be around people you’ve known your whole life.

  40. theodidactus says:

    IFComp 2019 is over! The results came out today, and I’m happy to tell you about them.
    Here are my recommendations in order of how they placed overall:

    #2 overall: Turandot: https://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=pp79m7ef4ekwa60r
    This is an extremely weird choice-based take on the opera of the same name. By turns literary, comical, and just plain horny. Features alligators.

    #4 overall: Sugarlawn: https://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=vwwt8cio2jkvnk79
    The author makes math-based games. This one is a variant on the old Traveling Salesman problem.

    #6 overall: RobotSexPartyMurder: https://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=svbgfuexixvh4pnk
    Okay there were a lot of horny games this year. This one was at times very close to straight-up porn, but it also features a really interesting plot.

    #7 Overall: Night Guard/Morning Star: https://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=h6jpja7b22x6bvk5
    A super creative game about paintings, told entirely with text. A good demonstration of what you can do with choice-based formats.

    #12 Overall: Skybreak!: https://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=b21j5feykymttixm
    My submission, a choice-based role-playing game where you explore a wild and wondrous galaxy aboard a spaceship you cannot steer. This game also won the “Golden Banana of Discord” for the submission with the highest standard deviation in scores.

    #15 overall: Saint City Sinners: https://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=hanbwf38vcoaqedf
    A hilarious, surreal murder mystery. Totally insubstantial but I promise it WILL make you laugh.

    #31 overall: Out: https://ifdb.tads.org/viewgame?id=f99kibzl2391pe02
    A game about going out.

  41. Brett says:

    Carbon Engineering is claiming that one of their full-sized commercial plants could pull 1 million tons of CO2 out of the air per year. That’s not quite as bad as I thought in terms of it making a serious dent. About 35,000 of those plants could pull all of the current global anthropogenic CO2 emissions out of the air, as opposed to needing millions of them (or worse).

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I can’t find the estimated cost of such a plant.

      I see them saying numbers like “$94 to 233 per ton”. I don’t know if that’s the pre-plant or with-plant number. But if it’s with the plant, it means the plant would cost $100 million and 35,000 plants would cost $3.5 trillion. At that point just dismantling industrial civilization would probably be cheaper.

      • brad says:

        That’s 1% of gross world product for 4 years. It’s not trivial by any means, but your last sentence seems way overboard.

        • Brett says:

          It wouldn’t even be that bad, either, because you wouldn’t build the plants over night. If if took a decade to build them and the cost was amortized over that, then it’s only $350 billion/year. The US alone could pay for them (with some budget pain). More realistically, the US, EU, China, Japan, etc could all chip in and easily pay for them.

          I mean, if we don’t do enough to mitigate climate change, the effects of climate change are probably going to cost more than $350 billion/year down the line. Hurricane Harvey’s estimated cost alone was $125 billion. It’d be cheaper still just to limit anthropogenic climate change emissions in the first place, but this could really help at the margins – the IPCC’s proposal to stop emissions at 1.5 degrees C by 2100 actually requires negative emissions.

          On my more cynical days, I suspect we just won’t do enough and will be looking at 4-6 degrees C warming by 2100. Sometime after 2050 that will translate to geo-engineering and sunlight modification efforts (IE dump aerosols into the upper atmosphere to reflect light) and hoping for the best.

          • I mean, if we don’t do enough to mitigate climate change, the effects of climate change are probably going to cost more than $350 billion/year down the line.

            A few years back, Nordhaus published a piece in the New York Review of Books, attacking a WSJ OpEd that had argued that there was no need to panic over global warming. In it, he gave his estimate of the net cost of waiting fifty years to do anything, relative to following the opimal policies immediately. It was $4.1 trillion dollars.

            That sounds like a lot of money—Nordhaus wrote that “Wars have been started over smaller sums.” But it’s a total spread out over a century or more–he isn’t entirely clear how far forward he is carrying his costs. Assuming it’s only a century, that is an average of $41 billion/year, or about .06% of world GNP.

            So your figure is almost an order of magnitude larger (a bit less, since you aren’t giving an average over a period starting today but what you expect to be starting a while from now) than the estimate offered by someone who was trying to argue that the cost was large.

            Do you have any reason to believe that Hurricane Harvey would not have happened without AGW? Cost of hurricanes has trended up because there is more stuff on the costs to be damaged, but I don’t think there is any evidence that hurricanes have actually become either more common or more powerful, although lots of people speak as though they have.

            To quote the IPCC:

            Economic losses due to extreme weather events have increased globally, mostly due to increase in wealth and exposure, with a possible influence of climate change (low confidence in attribution to climate change).

          • brad says:

            Seems like all of this in this little sub-thread agree that $4T is not *that* much and are just making different points from that starting line.

            I wonder what the largest reasonably conceivable project in, say, a ten year span might be. Consider asteroid is going to destroy the earth type scenarios, how much of global output could effectively be mobilized?

      • arabaga says:

        At that point just dismantling industrial civilization would probably be cheaper.

        Hmm, it doesn’t seem *that* bad. Taking the midpoint of $160 per ton cost – the US emits 5 billion tons, so if the US wanted to offset its carbon emissions, that would cost $800 billion a year. That is a *lot*, but Warren’s 2-3% wealth tax is estimated to bring in ~$300 billion a year, so presumably a 8% wealth tax would bring in ~$800 billion (I’m *not* saying that’s the best way of trying to pay for this, but just to give perspective).

        Probably a better way to pay for it would be with a carbox tax, which at $160 per ton would increase the price of a gallon of gas by about $1.44 for example (and other carbon-things by other amounts). Again, this is not an insignificant price, but probably not one that would lead to the dismantling of industrial civilization.

        (Obviously, the carbon tax should actually be less than $160 per ton, since a tax would reduce consumption and thus reduce total carbon emissions to be less than 5 billion tons.)

        • ~$300 billion a year, so presumably a 8% wealth tax would bring in ~$800 billion

          And a 100% wealth tax would bring in 10 trillion.

        • Nornagest says:

          For comparison, 800 billion a year is about 200 billion more than the 2018 defense budget, 180 billion less than the Social Security budget, or 170 billion less than Medicare and Medicaid (combined).

        • Brett says:

          That’s assuming the CO2 captured is a total loss as well. They’re actually trying to turn it into economically valuable products that could at least offset part of the cost (carbon neutral fuels, etc).

          On a side-note, I don’t think you could feasibly pass an 8% wealth tax. That would have a very noticeable and politically unacceptable effect on investment in corporate bonds and nonfinancial firms, at least without some very generous deferments and loopholes.

        • Murphy says:

          Problem is: there’s a lot of different types of spending.

          A program which merely shifts some wealth around a bit may ,on paper, have the same price tag as a program that buys useful things and sets fire to them.

          But the latter may have a far worse effect on your economy.

          Similarly a government program spending a trillion dollars paying people to carry water to the ocean may be worse than a program that costs a trillion dollars to have people build 900 billion dollars worth of roads and hospitals.

          Carbon capture is appealing because it feels like something where you can throw one simple plan at it.

          Rather than millions of little plans needed to replace all the coal plants and gas burning cars with others. But the latter is almost by definition far far cheaper.

          • Ketil says:

            Rather than millions of little plans needed to replace all the coal plants and gas burning cars with others. But the latter is almost by definition far far cheaper.

            One way to look at it: to reduce athmospheric carbon, you can either build industry to separate CO2 from the air, convert it into coal, and bury it…. or you can simply not dig up the coal that is already in the earth.

      • LesHapablap says:

        That’s quite a bit more than the estimates for crushed olivine sequestration. It’s also a lot more than the ‘low-hanging fruit’ carbon credits which range from $10 to $40 per ton.

        So if you started with the low hanging fruit and then only used these factories for the remainder, the cost would be a lot lower and possibly manageable.

      • Murphy says:

        I see them saying numbers like “$94 to 233 per ton”.

        This is something that bugs me about the carbon capture stuff.

        As a rule of thumb there’s about a ton of CO2 in a ton of sawdust.

        Sawdust runs $40 to $50 a ton on the open market.

        Meaning my hypothetical carbon capture startup which simply buys sawdust on the open market at current market rates and buries it under a peat bog can almost certainly undercut them by about half.

        It’s hard to beat simple trees.

        But it gets worse.

        Since it’s all apparently fungible…

        1 ton of coal = 2.86 tons of CO2 approximately

        Coal currently costs $43.55 per ton.

        So I propose another startup. One which instead of paying between $268 and $666 to capture CO2 from the atmosphere… they instead pay $43.55 to buy 1 ton of coal and not burn it.

        Weirdly people don’t seem so keen on my cost efficient carbon capture tech of not burning coal. They say it “doesn’t feel right”. Despite it all funging out the same.

        Lets say we’re willing to wait 100 years to solve it in the future and there was litterally zero negative impact from having that CO2 in the atmosphere we can imagine it like bonds where you accept $43.55 today and in 100 years you owe $666 (before we adjust for inflation).

        For context someone who took that deal in 1919, borrowing $43.55 1919 dollars with this bond would now owe $9,907.08 in 2019 dollars taking inflation into account.

        It’s not the worst deal ever but seems like generally a bad idea.

        Carbon capture overwhelmingly feels like an excuse. There’s no need to stop causing the problem now… someone else will fix it in 100 years, they can pay the cost and bonus: they’re not us so ROLL COAL!!!

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Your fungibility sword has two edges.

          Buying coal and not burning it merely increases the demand for coal. As demand for coal is currently falling, on net it just increases coal production.

          Buying sawdust at least has the advantage of theoretically encouraging more agricultural production of trees, which do pull CO2 from the atmosphere, but we still want to the net effect of putting more acres of land into forest growth and what the industrial uses for sawdust will be replaced with.

          As to your plan to “bury sawdust under peat bogs”, you need to prove that’s possible. Where are you getting these peat bogs from? Are you creating them? Will you actually destroy existing peat bogs, releasing carbon instead of capturing it? And you haven’t figured a price for doing whatever it is you need to do actually successfully bury the sawdust.

          • Murphy says:

            Since most of the carbon capture methods don’t go into how they’ll actually store it either and typically don’t include that in the capture price…. I’m gonna take the easy option and say “whatever their plan is”

            Re: buying coal, it also pushes up the price of coal, making it less economic to actually burn it.

            As a bonus my company will be willing to buy coal from operating mines in bulk and can further cut costs by being willing to buy it while it’s still in the ground on the condition it stay there. Neatly solving the storage problem at the same time.

            In terms of cost it’s lightyears ahead of any other proposed carbon proposed capture system.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Re: buying coal, it also pushes up the price of coal, making it less economic to actually burn it.

            This is literally the only effect of your coal buying plan. It doesn’t capture any carbon at all. It just props up the price of coal. It’s not a carbon capture plan as we aren’t anywhere near using up coal as fossil fuel.

            We currently actually have pipeline and deep injection of CO2, a more than theoretical means of storing it, something that your sawdust plan lacks. You can’t just handwave that.

          • Murphy says:

            Ya, it kinda highlights the complete and utter absurdity of carbon capture doesn’t it.

            If you inject a tank of carbon you just captured from the air or a block of carbon you got from another company that captured it from the air and sold it on the market or bought it from a company that was going to release it into the air so that they wouldn’t you’re locking away carbon that would otherwise be in the air.

            If your method of collecting and concentrating carbon costs much more than $15.2 per ton of CO2 then it makes dramatically more sense to just not burn it in the first place. Otherwise it’s just clumsily borrowing from the future, taking a tiny payout now that’ll be comparatively horribly expensive to clean up later.

            A much more sensible approach than capture and storage is to simply massively tax things like burning coal to massively disincentivize it and make it dramatically less economic to put carbon into the air in the first place.

            Even with how expensive other ways of generating power are, the stupid-high cost of capture says we should be pushing as hard as possible for that now. Not in 200 years.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Well, I’m not arguing against the idea that carbon capture isn’t a magic bullet. Doing something to substantially preferentially price non-carbon energy sources is needed, I agree.

            But, it’s no good arguing against carbon capture with bad arguments. That’s not helpful. At the end of the day we have to deal with the fact that the energy we use does things, and we will want to do those things in the future, which requires producing energy and using it. The only ways to stop that from increasing atmospheric CO2 are to produce non-fossil fuel energy, to increase efficiency, and/or perform carbon capture.

    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      What I always wonder:

      Where do you put all that captured CO₂, and in what form?

    • Ketil says:

      About 35,000 of those plants

      I see what you did there.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      I guess Scott has blessed this, but it occurs to me that it seems pretty CW…

  42. ARabbiAndAFrog says:

    Humanity is doomed. Earth is destroyed. It doesn’t really matter why.

    You were among the few saved from dying Earth by a mad scientist who spent last few decades on asteroid belt secretly reverse-engineering alien spaceship. He now has all the fancy sci-fi things like faster-than-light travel. But humanity is still doomed though – there’s not enough people to repopulate normally.

    Mad scientists has a solution. He has technology to put your mind on a computer chip. Unfortunately he doesn’t have a technology to make computer chip actually simulate ongoing consciousness so he’s going to need a warm sapient brain to revive you so he’s going to look for sapient alien life across the universe until he finds someone to implant your mind chip in and thus revive and the rest of humanity. Chip technology will kill your original body on copying and chip can’t be copied without destroying previous version either – must be alien DRM.

    He’s not going to force anyone, you are welcome to live the rest of your life on his ship doing whatever, or be left on a suitable planet. But there’s no way to repopulate the humanity and avoid mutational meltdown, so only form humanity can be preserved in long run is by invading alien bodies, interbreed with aliens and maybe educating your children into human culture. Either way, you have a chance to live forever as long as your chip can be salvaged and re-implanted.

    Would you take this offer for a chance to wake up as an alien body snatcher or would you rather live the rest of your natural life as yourself. If later, is this because you don’t trust it will work or because you aren’t willing to be a body snatcher?

    • Lambert says:

      Mad scientist should just raid a sperm bank.

    • Bugmaster says:

      What, all that tech and no cloning or advanced robotic bodies ?

      In any case, I’m not going to body-snatch any sapient aliens, unless the process is totally voluntary. If any alien is dying (or wants to die for some reason) and donate his (its ?) body to me, I’m fine with that.

      • Winter Shaker says:

        Piers Anthony’s Cluster series featured pretty much just that, at least in the first novel, with the protagonists being chosen for their unusually strong ‘kirlian aura’, powerful enough to inhabit and reanimate a recently deceased member of an alien species (as well as putting a lot of thought into how creatures with biologies very different from our own might reproduce…)

    • Placid Platypus says:

      Any reason I can’t just live out my natural lifespan and then get scanned into the chip when I’m about to die? That seems to me like the best choice.

    • fibio says:

      Hmm, you know there’s nothing about the scenario that prevents asking for volunteers. Heck, even bribery isn’t impossible as the payment could be made to the host’s family. That would certainly make the body snatching more ethical, although still a questionable strategy at best.

      Questioning the premise, though. If humanity has managed to wipe themselves out so thoroughly is human culture and values even worth preserving? Would it be better to go native and hope that your new species has some better ideas for building a society?

    • Murphy says:

      I’d probably stick around on his ship tryng to live some kind of life until old age then probably try for the chip.

      Though if the plan requires basically murdering a bunch of sentient aliens to get me a new body I’d probably go for a hard pass on that.

      These chips, do they somehow override the brain structure of the host? if I load into the brain of an alien squiril monster that navigates by scent do I still somehow have the brain structures to understand my memories of having sight? Do I suddenly get all the instincts of the host body, say if they tend to eat half their young or something?

      Plus small populations can often survive just fine, the problem is more with the sheer number of genetically screwed up kids your population would have.

      If you’re willing to take that ethical hit you can cope with a really quite tiny population.

      Minimum viable population size depends partly on how hostile the environment is. In wild animal populations it can be as low as 42.

      In a cushy space ship without predators and plenty of food and a decent understanding of biology and genetics we could probably push that down further.

    • DinoNerd says:

      This thread has gone first to implausibility, second to ethics – both of which make sense.

      But what about the question of what it would be like to inhabit a significantly different body, with its own physical reactions? Would you want to e.g. experience estrus? How about a spider-like reproductive cycle (part of reproduction, for a male, is being eaten by the female)? What about other physically mediated psychological and emotional effects, perhaps ones we don’t even have words for?

      In what sense would the body snatcher still be human, and in what sense would they not be? And what about their offspring, with no memories of living in a human body, and an idea of “human nature” based on their own experiences?

  43. Scumbarge says:

    Potentially interesting website for Adversarial Collaborations:
    https://letter.wiki/conversations
    Basically, you start a public exchange of letters with someone, and anyone who wants to can subscribe to the dialogue, getting an email whenever a participant replies.
    It can be about anything, but it seems particularly useful for exploring rational disagreement.
    From the about page:
    “We ask that participants make a sincere effort to be fair, open, and honest. This means assuming good intentions of those you’re in dialogue with, rigorously seeking clarity before reaching conclusions about their positions, and being open to changing one’s mind in light of good evidence.”

  44. clipmaker says:

    Tons of SSC posts about Bayesian this or that, but I don’t remember seeing mentions of the book “Probably Approximately Correct” by the computer scientist Les Valiant:

    http://probablyapproximatelycorrect.com/

    There is a Wikipedia article about PAC learning but it only is about the machine learning aspect of the idea. Valiant’s book mostly presents it as an evolutionary principle. Evolution converges on solutions that work well enough, most of the time. It doesn’t care much about solutions working all the time (it’s ok that organisms sometimes die) or if they work perfectly (good enough is good enough). There is statistical theory behind this.

    I bought the book some time ago so should really get around to reading it. It is popular-level and looks interesting.

  45. Jeremiah says:

    As part of the SSC Podcast project, every fortnight we take one of the posts from the archive and create an audio version. This week we actually did two because they were short and closely related:

    Sleep – Now by Prescription (Original Post)
    Fish – Now by Prescription (Original post)

    Feedback of any sort is appreciated.

  46. ARabbiAndAFrog says:

    This week I watched first two episodes of BBC/HBO’s His Dark Materials, knowing nothing about the books except that they are somehow about atheism.

    The amount of exposition in the first episode was a huge turn-off for me, even though second episode redeemed it for me. I feel like I listened a lecture that didn’t actually teach me anything and it could probably be condensed into half an episode splicing with some London scenes. I imagine Mrs. Coulter throwing letters into fireplace could make a decent cliffhanger for a first episode.

    I am still unsure who’s the target audience is, kids or adults.

    • Lambert says:

      Largely by chance, I happen to be (re)reading the books right now. Just reached the Mulefa (wonder how well they’ll be CGI’d). Some assorted thoughts:

      I’ve not seen the TV series yet. It’s a pretty idea-heavy trilogy, so a lot of things will have to be exposited sooner or later.

      It’s kind of Nu Atheist Narnia, with all different worlds and talking animals, but all edgy-like. Ozy notes that Pullman should really have written Humanist Narnia instead.
      It’s flawed in a number of ways, but still a good trilogy. And it has a very special place in my heart as the first SF I read.

      Mary Malone = μήλον (melon) = fruit?

      Apparently Nicholas Hytner is directing la Belle Sauvage in London. I really liked his take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, so I might check that out.

      Target audience is both older children and adults. It’s kind of a cosmological bildungsroman.
      I’d recommend reading while a child then again as an adult.

      ETA: which came first as a metaphor for depression: dementors or spectres?

    • Bugmaster says:

      I’ve read the trilogy. The first book was actually quite entertaining and well-written. The second book drags on a little bit, but it does reveal a lot of the mysteries that were set up in the first one. The third book is a straight up angry atheist rant from the early “CHECKMATE, XTIANS !!!” forum days — and I say this as an atheist. It really feels as though the author had finally snapped by the time he started writing it.

      • fibio says:

        I always felt that Amber Spyglass suffered from having been written into a corner. There was basically no way that was the war against Heaven could ever be translated into an actual military engagement (Salvation War series aside 😉 ) and be narratively satisfying.

        • Lambert says:

          > war against Heaven could ever be translated into an actual military engagement

          Paradise Lost gave it a good shot.

          Thir devillish glut, chaind Thunderbolts and Hail
          Of Iron Globes, which on the Victor Host
          Level’d, with such impetuous furie smote,
          That whom they hit, none on thir feet might stand,
          Though standing else as Rocks, but down they fell
          By thousands, Angel on Arch-Angel rowl’d;
          The sooner for thir Arms, unarm’d they might
          Have easily as Spirits evaded swift
          By quick contraction or remove; but now
          Foule dissipation follow’d and forc’t rout;
          Nor serv’d it to relax thir serried files.

          You also have the problem of how to make both the giant conflict and the human-scale story of the protagonist both relevant.
          RotK managed to do it well. The 3rd Matrix, otoh, fell kind of flat in that regard.

          • sfoil says:

            The airy, ethereal beings of Heaven yielding to the earth-fire-and-iron artifice of the Rebellion is almost certainly what Pullman was aiming for – you can sort of see it in some of the individual encounters with angelic beings – but he just couldn’t do it.

      • sfoil says:

        My impression of the decline in quality was that Pullman wasn’t able to manage the increase in scale, particularly when it came to the portrayal of the climactic war — which I had been looking forward to as a young reader. This bothered me a lot more than moral disagreements with the author (not just the atheism but stuff like repeatedly referring to Will accidentally killing someone as “murder”).

        I think the “CHECKMATE, THEIST” impression comes from this failure as well – not enough time is spent earlier in the trilogy actually explaining the principles of the Asriel and his minions so their actions and attitudes at the end just seem to come out of nowhere.

        • Aftagley says:

          like repeatedly referring to Will accidentally killing someone as “murder”

          Man, I just remembered this fact (haven’t read past the first book in over a decade) and it still infuriated me. I felt annoyed that Pullman thought his intended audience was to stupid to understand the concept of involuntary manslaughter.

          I remember being positive as a child that in Pullman’s first pass at writing the book Will had actually murdered someone, but that got changed down in a later printing.

    • Clutzy says:

      I just watched these 2 tonight. I’m finding the world kind of difficult to find amusing, and also finding it hard to understand the motivations of any of the characters.

      I will be watching the whole thing though, I think, unless the series turns off my gal.

    • AG says:

      Seems like Hugh Jackman would have made a much better Lord Asriel than James McAvoy…

      • Lambert says:

        Perhaps, were he a decade younger.
        And I think his role as Magneto demonstrated that he’s capable of doing the whole ‘dangerously ambitious will to reshape the world, regardless of the laws of God or Man’ thing.

        • AG says:

          I can’t tell if this is a joke response to my joke…here’s a serious response, just in case.

          James McAvoy played Xavier in his X-men films, not Magneto. As for my comment, it was a joke that Dafne Keen, who plays Lyra in HDM, played X-23 in Logan, so a case where we already saw Hugh Jackman play her father figure.

  47. proyas says:

    The recent flooding in Venice got me thinking: If sea levels rose by ten feet, could New York City adapt by waterproofing the first floors of all its buildings, turning its streets into canals, and replacing cars with boats? 

    Assume the city decides not to build dikes, and that most of the existing buildings must be kept and somehow altered to survive under the new conditions.

    • brad says:

      No. Boats are too low bandwidth. There’s no alternative to heavy rail (subways, commuter). Without them the city as it exists today is not possible.

      • They could build elevated railways.

        • Someone should write a comic book graphic novel about the subject. Since it would still be New York City, the boats would all be equipped with horns, and you’d hear a generous helping of “get out the way….” But it would be even harder to park your boat, as underground garages would be flooded. Central park would lose its purpose, so they’d build over it.

          Other areas to explore: there’s still a premium for formally beachfront property, but instead of the beach, your house would be facing a giant levee, and you get to climb up and sunbathe on the levee.

      • Clutzy says:

        I’d like to ask you to clarify the boats comment. Are boat de facto worse than cars on bandwidth? Or are they just designed like that now because they are mostly a luxury good? Like the cheap boats you rent to go fishing can technically hold like 8 people, and are smaller than a carolla.

        • AlphaGamma says:

          The issue isn’t passenger capacity. It’s that boats are much slower than cars (both in terms of top speed and acceleration), stop even more slowly than they speed up, are much less manoeuvrable than cars (except for a few highly specialised and expensive vessels like tugboats), and at anything other than very low speeds create wakes that throw other boats around.

          All of these facts mean that something like city traffic but with the cars replaced by motorboats would be impossible.

          • Ketil says:

            All of these facts mean that something like city traffic but with the cars replaced by motorboats would be impossible.

            Impossible is such a strong word.

            How about a system of barges with cranes or similar mechanisms, perhaps cranes mounted on buildings, or perhaps flying drones, to load and offload them without requiring a stop? Slower, probably, but perhaps high enough capacity? Combined with a light, elevated rail for quicker passenger transport?

          • Lambert says:

            Once you have enough infrastructure to support the barges, you’ll have enough drone/light rail etc. that you don’t even need the boats.

            Inland waterway freight is good for moving big heavy stuff (steel is cheap and air (buoyancy) is free) a long way slowly.
            e.g. big river barges full of tractors going up and down the Rhine.

            That’s more or less the opposite of what a city needs.

          • Another Throw says:

            Almost all of these factors are because, currently, boats are almost exclusively used by people that people that want to pay an order of magnitude less for it than for a car, almost never need to perform close maneuvering, and/or are operated by full time professionals.

            Just as an example, for the low, low price of a bucket you can make a boat freely translate/rotate along any of its degrees of freedom (including a full powered reverse, if you need to stop quickly). But even so, nobody actually does it because they don’t actually need the maneuverability.

        • brad says:

          I’m far from the boat expert on here, but I’m going based on what I’ve read about passenger ferries intended to be a part of a mass transit system. Compared to a subway that just have very little ability to move people.

    • johan_larson says:

      Christ. I’m trying to imagine how much it would cost to seal even a single skyscraper against water that reaches up to its first story. Most of them have substantial sublevels, don’t they, to say nothing of all the service connections (water, sewer, electricity, communications)?

      I haven’t done the math, but if the water really did rise tens of feet, I suspect we would simply (“simply”, heh) abandon the cheap places and build seawalls around the expensive places. And Dutch engineering firms would be ordering hookers and blow by the containerful.

      • CatCube says:

        Yeah, all you’re really doing at the point of “sealing a skyscraper” is building teeny little seawalls around each one, which is going to be way more difficult than just making a single purpose-built seawall around the city center.

        If you did do this with each building, you probably don’t have to seal all of the service connections completely. Odds are good that many of them are capable of being submerged, or they’re in their own tunnels. You’ll just seal them pretty good, then have a sump that collects the water and you pump it out. We don’t even seal dams completely, we just get the leakage down to an acceptable level and deal with it. At that point, the electricity and pump maintenance is just a cost of doing business.

    • Erusian says:

      Sea walls would be cheaper. We already have a major city underwater and an arguably major mid-tier country.

      • quanta413 says:

        I assume the country you mean is the Netherlands with a per capita GDP of about $50,000. We can sort of add Vietnam which is largely “underwater” at high tide, and its gdp per capita is only $2000.

    • Squirrel of Doom says:

      If it happened overnight, NYC would have very serious problems.

      If it happened gradually over 50-100 years, there are many ways to adapt. They would be expensive, but I’d guess far less so than moving the city to higher ground elsewhere.

      Raising the city to be higher ground in place, seems entirely possible though. Venice can’t do that, as it’s not built on ground in the first place.

    • cassander says:

      there’s an enormous amount of infrastructure under the streets in any major city. I imagine that all flooding would be… problematic.

    • Brett says:

      They could, but it would vastly less efficient and more expensive than building a single sea-wall around the below-sea-level parts rather. And as others have pointed out you’d need to build a replacement elevated track for the subway, because NYC just can’t function at its size without that forever.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      NYC is nothing like as flat as Venice, and very little of it is within 10 feet of sea level. (Times Square, for example, is at an elevation of 50′.)

    • I went to the flood maps page, set SLR at 3 meters, which is about ten feet, and zoomed in on New York. There is a little flooding at the edges, but essentially all of the city is still above water.

      At nine meters you start getting significant areas of the city flooded, especially in Staten Island, but most of Manhattan is still dry. The north end of Central Park floods at about 20 meters, but most of the park is still dry.

      • proyas says:

        Huh! I didn’t realize it was that high.

        Let me rephrase my question: If sea levels rise by 30 feet by the year 2300, will the interplanetary super AIs who control Earth and are insensitive to climatic factors find it worth their time to turn the city in a copy of Venice?

        • Huh! I didn’t realize it was that high.

          Judging by the thread, among other things, you had a lot of company. You may remember the governor of California talking about a four foot rise flooding LAX–which is over a hundred feet above sea level.

          The flood maps page is a useful antidote to a lot of catastrophist fantasy.