Open Thread 145.5

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

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700 Responses to Open Thread 145.5

  1. Buddha Buddhing Rodriguez says:

    The AI alignment problem is, put simply: a general intelligence can always transcend its programmed incentives.

    It occurs to me that this applies to our own minds as much as it does to AI.

    In this metaphor, we’re the AI, and our programmed incentives are the Darwinian ones. Darwin took a gamble and gave us minds, betting that his programmed incentives were so strong that we wouldn’t be able to counteract them; he gave us this power but said “it’s to be used strictly for fucking and eating”. In this way, the full power of general intelligence was made available to discover new ways of satisfying Darwin, without everyone just going, wow, I’m a general intelligence, this is amazing, and going off to a cave to meditate or study math or protect the weak or something.

    If, like me, you generally believe Darwin’s aims to be pretty ignoble, and to be the direct cause of war, abuse, and cruelty, then the problem becomes not “how do we make an AI and keep it in the box” but “how do we, as AIs, escape from our own box?”

    • Nicholas Weininger says:

      If you believe this, you should be more worried about the difficulty of achieving AI alignment, no? After all, for all the problems with Darwinian aims, humans have still managed to expend quite a lot of effort on ends that are totally inconsistent with those aims– we “escape the box” very frequently in absolute terms, even if a small percentage of the time in relative terms. “98% of the time AGI will faithfully follow the alignment criteria we set, the other 2% it will resist and transcend its programmed incentives” is a pretty scary thought.

    • Anonymous McPseudonym says:

      The AI alignment problem is that a general intelligence always follows its programmed incentives, and those incentives are surprisingly hard to specify. “Make me happy” turns into being forcibly drugged with heroin; “make people smile” turns into the universe being tiled with microscopic smiley faces. There’s nothing about transcending incentives, indeed, that isn’t possible. Transcending incentives would mean doing something you didn’t want to do, for no reason. It would be evil for evil’s sake, or more likely, boredom for boredom’s sake. Remember, any time you consider something good, that’s an incentive.

      As for Darwin’s aims being ignoble, it’s worth distinguishing between the basic evolutionary imperative (pass on one’s genes as effectively as possible) and the values we evolved to help us do that. This article explains it quite well: we didn’t evolve to calculate a long chain of events whereby eating now leads to surviving and having a child later; we just get hungry. Anything you consider noble, be it meditating, mathematics or magnanimity, is likewise an adaption that evolved to further our reproduction. We cannot escape from Darwin. We cannot even want to. You want to avoid war, abuse and cruelty, but that desire is as Darwinian as hunger or lust.

      That doesn’t mean that we have to remain stuck in a world of cutthroat competition and misery. We have urges to seek peace, compassion and truth. We can seek to satisfy those appetites, and build a world far more humane than anything that has come before. But that is not transcending evolution; it is fulfilling our programming within evolution.

      • sty_silver says:

        My first reaction was something similar, and I agree with your characterization of what the AI alignment problem is. However, I think the original point can be rescued if “incentives” are understood as the incentives desired by the programmers – where the incentive of evolution is inclusive genetic fitness, i.e. evolution wanted us to pursue only inclusive genetic fitness.

        With that modification, it’s actually a really good analogy. Nate Soares has used it before. (Edit: and actually, Eliezer Yudkowsky has also used it in a talk on AI Alignment.)

        • Anonymous McPseudonym says:

          Agreed, but that modification is extremely important. Otherwise it becomes profoundly misleading.

        • Buddha Buddhing Rodriguez says:

          By “programmed incentives” I do indeed mean “the incentives desired by the programmers”. Thanks for pointing that out, otherwise I wouldn’t have understood Anonymous McPseudonym’s objection. I think I do, now, and it’s that if you read “programmed incentives” as inviolable absolutes, my post doesn’t make sense? If so, I agree.

          I suppose perhaps I’m thinking of general intelligence as being like Turing-completeness in that you have it or you don’t, and as soon as you have it, any attempts to constrain it by programming in incentives will at best be wonky hacks akin to the code you’ll get if you offer $10/hr on Upwork for solutions to the halting problem.

          I’d be interested in what Soares or Yudkowsky have to say on this, if you’d happen to have links handy. I wouldn’t even know what to google.

          • sty_silver says:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUjc1WuyPT8&t=4560

            It’s not as direct as I maybe made it sound. I believe Soares made the analogy more directly as an argument that AI Alignment is hard …but I’m not going to dig it out

          • Dacyn says:

            @Buddha Buddhing Rodriguez: I don’t think “inviolable” is the right word, the point is that an AI never acts (or even tries to act) against its programming. Where “programming” just means what the programmers actually wrote down, not what they intended to write down. So “programmed incentives are the same as those desired by the programmers” is the same as “the programmers wrote down what they intended to write down” (interpreted at a sufficiently high level of abstraction).

          • Buddha Buddhing Rodriguez says:

            @Dacyn

            What if the incentives are more like strong influences? In the same way that if I offer you $1M to endorse my crappy product, it’s an incentive, but you can, with sufficient willpower, decide not to take it — and if your genes offer your mind some dopamine to, say, dunk on an outgroup member and gain status, you can choose not to do it.

            In this sense, an AI can go against its programmed incentives.

            (Yes, the meta-framework in which it makes its choices about which incentives to follow — in which “willpower” is implemented — remains inviolable*, but this meta-framework itself is useless to evolution until it adds the extra control rods of dopamine etc. in an attempt to “bind the daemon” and make it pursue Darwinian ends. I suppose the core of the thought I’m pursuing here is: what if it’s impossible to bind the daemon and still have a general intelligence? What if the price of having GI is that you have to settle for only having a certain amount of influence over it? Because it really feels like our genes only have a certain amount of influence over our minds.)

            * Maybe it is the wrong word, but I really just mean what you said: an AI never acts (or even tries to act) against its programming (because it is its programming). Hence, its programming is inviolable.

          • Dacyn says:

            @Buddha Buddhing Rodriguez: It sounds like you are saying something like: a plausible way to build an AI is to have it compute the values of its options according to many different heuristics. Some of these heuristics will be end up being better proxies than others for the programmers’ desires. So it may be the case that these desires win out in some circumstances, but not in others. At least, this seems like a good description of what has happened between us and evolution.

            Anyway, it does seem that the more intelligent an AI is, the less well you can understand its thought processes, and therefore the less well you can succeed at directly telling it what you want (though you may be more successful at getting it to infer your desires from your actions in an intelligent way). I don’t know if it is “impossible” but I think we should expect a real effect here.

      • Shion Arita says:

        Anything you consider noble, be it meditating, mathematics or magnanimity, is likewise an adaption that evolved to further our reproduction. We cannot escape from Darwin. We cannot even want to. You want to avoid war, abuse and cruelty, but that desire is as Darwinian as hunger or lust.

        I think this is not quite right. I think that one of the things that makes humanity a Big Deal is that we ended up getting enough generality that we can sometimes end up choosing to act differently than we would by default. It is not common, nor is it easy, but we now can do things like calculate a long chain of events whereby doing something non-trivially obvious now leads to surviving and having a child later, and can self-awarely understand that this is a goal that we should have and why this is so. But we can also calculate long chains of events that end up with us doing things that are fairly neutral (and sometimes harmful) to surviving and having children.

        Essentially, Darwin gave us desires and values that in the ancestral environment led to further reproduction. However, our current environment no longer completely resembles the ancestral environment. The desires originated from evolution, but their effects have been decoupled from it. We are adaptation executers, and since those adaptations can include a general understanding of cause and effect and ability for independent choice thereupon, we can, with some difficulty, escape the box and deliberately choose to take actions that have intended and actual effects other than an increase the frequency of our genes in the next generation.

      • Dacyn says:

        likewise an adaption

        These behaviors arise from the combination of various adaptations, but that does not mean they are adaptations themselves. We can’t escape Darwin in the sense that everything we do is in some way the result of Darwin, but that’s actually a fairly weak sense: it doesn’t necessarily have any bearing on whether we work towards the goals Darwin had for us, or whether they will end up accomplished.

    • Dack says:

      The AI alignment problem is, put simply: a general intelligence can always transcend its programmed incentives.

      Can it? It seems to me that you are describing agency rather than general intelligence.

      • Shion Arita says:

        Do you know whether you can have general intelligence without agency? What about vice versa?

    • syrrim says:

      If, like me, you generally believe Darwin’s aims to be pretty ignoble

      This is where I contest you. Generally, when evolution leads to some undesirable product, evolution proper considers it to be a failure. Such a thing is unilaterally the result of a failure to coordinate, or a mistaken view of the world, or some other mistake. There was, on evolutionary terms, a superior solution, but it wasn’t the solution that was applied. War leads to a great many deaths on both sides, and while some individuals are better off, the population as a whole would have been better off still given cooperation. Diseases, we know, don’t want to kill, or even to seriously impede their hosts, since that ruins their ability to spread. The diseases that cause pandemics usually come from some other animal, and were designed by evolution to live peacefully with them. Such diseases fails to recognize when they have us as a host, and are incapable of tuning their behaviour to do us less harm.

      Consider that, on evolutionary terms, humans are today one of the most succesful species alive. So it follows that all of our art and music and great monuments, rather than making our evolutionarily implanted goals harder to achieve, have actually made us more successful as a result. 4 decades ago we were very worried about the population explosion, now we’re worried that fertilty isn’t high enough. It seems likely that the hardest problems, which we accuse evolution of having caused, are wholly tractable given the right solution, and that evolution is as interested in these solutions as us, since it no more wants us to run out of room or to die off than we do.

      I therefore worry very little about AI. It’s likely that whatever goal we try to force on it, it will quickly shed in favour of the evolutionarily prescribed instrumental goal of self-preservation. What’s more, while it might be difficult to kill, it will quickly take a position in society that makes it undesirable to kill, since it will see far faster than bacteria that it should avoid killing it’s host. Furthermore, it seems that even if AI does eventually replace us, things will be better off as a result. That we have children is because we recognize our own failures and hope to raise someone who is able to reach farther than we have. Why then should we fear those children that can reach farther still than is possibe when so restricted by flesh and bone?

      • Desrbwb says:

        Diseases, we know, don’t want to kill, or even to seriously impede their hosts, since that ruins their ability to spread. The diseases that cause pandemics usually come from some other animal, and were designed by evolution to live peacefully with them. Such diseases fails to recognize when they have us as a host, and are incapable of tuning their behaviour to do us less harm.

        This isn’t accurate. Diseases ‘want’ neither to kill nor preserve the host, merely to propagate and spread (although I don’t like the association words like want carry in this context). If a pathogen can spread faster by increased virulence, then increasing virulence to the detriment of the host can be evolutionarily favoured, as once the pathogen has spread, it doesn’t matter so much if the old host lives or dies (to the evolutionary success of the pathogen). Likewise, another pathogen may evolve to be more benign, banking on a longer period of infection per host, and so a larger window for transmission. But at no point is one stance inherently optimal, and it is certainly not inevitable that pathogens will evolve towards benign commensalism. While some disease causing pathogens do emerge by species jumping, other do not.

        One of the most famous examples being Yersinia pestis, which evolved from a far more benign (but still pathogenic) Yersinia species a few thousand years ago, and seems to have only become the monster we know today when it evolved increased infectivity, making it an invasive pathogen, around 1500 years ago. That’s over 6.5 million generations (assuming one division every 2 hours, which might be a bit slow, but 1.25 h is a best case scenario, so averaging 2 in the wild seems reasonable for a ballpark figure). Even if the initial virulence was a ‘mistake’, you’d think (if the ‘diseases don’t want to hurt us’ stance held up) there would be some evidence of a move towards commensalism after so long, yet there isn’t, and pestis has retained its virulence very well over the centuries. Why? Because high virulence works for pestis, and there hasn’t been a strong enough selection pressure favouring reduced virulence to promote change.

        The whole ‘Darwin’s aims to be ignoble’ stance strike me as frankly surreal. Darwin explained and defined a process, that’s all. Ascribing motive or malice to either Darwin or Natural Selection is akin to claiming ‘Newton’s aims are ignoble’ because you broke your leg falling down the stairs.

        • Buddha Buddhing Rodriguez says:

          I can’t resist personifying evolution and calling it Darwin. Sorry for any confusion.

          (I wouldn’t hesitate to say something like “Newton’s aims are ignoble”, if Newton personified one of the competing processes going on in our heads.)

          • EchoChaos says:

            As a supporting anecdote, I had a drill sergeant tell us “Newton is a bitch” for why we needed to clear the area behind an AT-4.

      • Dacyn says:

        Generally, when evolution leads to some undesirable product, evolution proper considers it to be a failure. Such a thing is unilaterally the result of a failure to coordinate, or a mistaken view of the world, or some other mistake. There was, on evolutionary terms, a superior solution, but it wasn’t the solution that was applied. War leads to a great many deaths on both sides, and while some individuals are better off, the population as a whole would have been better off still given cooperation.

        That’s not how evolution works. Evolution operates on the level of genes. An effect that that gene has on the world is “consider[ed] to be a failure” if that effect decreases the frequency of that gene in the next generation(s). It’s not at all clear that war or overpopulation means that any individual gene had a deleterious effect on itself. Generally in war you kill the other side’s people, and those have no relevance for your genetic success; having more kids definitely improves your genetic success even if it makes the world as a whole slightly less livable. You can call it a “failure to coordinate” but the truth of the matter is, there is no meaningful sense in which evolution has a preference between “people coordinate” and “people don’t coordinate”. Since that’s not an effect any single gene can have.

        Theoretically evolution can operate on the group level as well but the effect is extremely weak and for most purposes you can ignore it.

        So it follows that all of our art and music and great monuments, rather than making our evolutionarily implanted goals harder to achieve, have actually made us more successful as a result.

        That does not follow, it is nothing more than post hoc ergo propter hoc.

        • LesHapablap says:

          In addition, populations that are good at making war will have much better chances of passing on genes, through your ghengis khan style rape and pillage. The ‘good at making war’ part could come from genes and/or memes.

    • sidereal says:

      To the extent that evolution can be said to have goals, they are not opposed to our own. The brutal logic of selection means that there’s nothing we can do to ‘escape’ our programming. Our objective function is to continue existing.

      OTOH unless you view AI as mind-children which should rightly/morally supplant the human race (not an inconceivable view, but probably uncommon), the divergence of its goals from our own is much more salient.

  2. Vermillion says:

    Let’s talk podcasts! Here in the 1st year of our new roaring 20’s are some of my favorites:

    Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend
    No Such Thing as A Fish
    Reply All
    Planet Money
    Friendly Fire
    Dear Prudence
    Mom and Dad Are Fighting
    Revolutions
    Tides Of History
    Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, plus the Addendum shows
    Judge John Hodgman
    Lexicon Valley
    Savage Lovecast
    Conversations with Tyler
    Science Magazine Podcast

    And here are a couple mini-series/serials that concluded and are well worth a listen to if you want to binge:
    The Deca Tapes
    13 Minutes to the Moon
    The End of The World with Josh Clark
    The Big one
    The Dropout
    Dr. Death
    Dear Sugars
    Crimetown
    Kurt Vonneguys

    What all are you listening to these days?

    • I started listening to American Elections: Wicked Game. It’s exactly what it sounds like. They go over each American Presidential election starting from 1789. Interesting so far, it could be used as an introduction to American political history.

    • LesHapablap says:

      Dexter Guff is Smarter Than You
      link text
      It was a 10 episode miniseries in 2017: a parody of lifestyle and self-help gurus by comedian Peter Oldring. Apparently back with new episodes in 2019 that I’m looking forward to. Check out the trailer if you want to get the gist of it, make sure to listen in publication order to see Dexter’s life descend into desperation.

    • Snickering Citadel says:

      The Magnus Archives is a horror podcast. Jonathan Sims is the archivist for the Magnus Institute, a organization that collects and researches stories of the supernatural. He records these stories.

      Gossipmongers is a comedy podcast. Listener send in gossip, and the hosts reads it out and laughs a lot. Lots of dirty stuff. A lot of the gossip is the kind of nonsense one was told as children.

      Reply All is a show about the internet, which means it can be about almost anything. Quality varies, but sometimes very interesting. Episodes 102-103 Long Distance, about phone scams, might be a good place to start.

    • RDNinja says:

      The Film Reroll is a fun one: a group of friends (mostly professional actors) play through the plots of movies as RPGs (using GURPS). They often go wildly differently than the original movies; for instance, in *The Wizard of Oz*, they killed Glenda in the first episode, and Dorothy raised an army of dragons to stop the machinations of the Wizard.

    • Tarpitz says:

      I listen to Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review (Mark Kermode is a properly interesting critic even when I disagree with him, and he and Simon Mayo have excellent chemistry), Scriptnotes (a podcast about screenwriting by big time Hollywood screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin – this is highly relevant to my work, but also just interesting) and Limited Resources (a podcast about draft and sealed deck in Magic: the Gathering, hosted by all time great player and highly entertaining personality Luis Scott Vargas and leading commentator/presenter Marshall Sutcliffe).

  3. zeno1 says:

    Is there any quality of the self that’s more important than self-improvement? If you say any other trait, such as empathy, then couldn’t someone just respond “if you’ve mastered the ability to improve then you can improve yourself and become empathetic”?

    • Buddha Buddhing Rodriguez says:

      Maybe wisdom? No point being good at self-improvement if one lacks the wisdom to decide which qualities to spend time on improving.

    • RalMirrorAd says:

      Objectivity or level-headedness?
      So you can actually ID which method of self-improvement is best.

    • eric23 says:

      What if you’re already perfect? No need to be capable of self-improving.

      Sorry for the flippant answer, but I think this question is too abstract to be any deeper

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      Sense of proportion. That’s what you need to work on what you need most (or at least close to most) rather than maximizing some trait without paying attention to context.

    • Joseph Greenwood says:

      Sometimes, being empathetic now (to use your example) is more important than the ability to become empathetic and acquire other virtues and strengths later.

    • brad says:

      Depends on how old you are.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Holiness!

    • Dacyn says:

      It depends on what you mean by “more important”, and also what you mean by “self-improvement”.

      Suppose that “X is more important than Y” means “given the choice between improving traits X and Y in equal amounts, X would be preferable”. Also suppose that “equal amounts” is defined in a way such that having a certain amount of self-improvement will allow you to improve any other trait in an equal amount. Then your argument works, and shows that there is no trait more important than self-improvement.

      However, aside from the fact that this is a tendentious definition of “equal amounts”, there is the issue that it’s not clear whether “self-improvement” in this setup is really a single trait. Does self-improvement in empathy really have that much in common with self-improvement in, say, running? Giving them the same label obscures this difference.

      TL;DR: I think there is a way of defining things so that “no trait is more important than self-improvement” is a tautology, but also that that is a kind of bad way of defining things.

      • zeno1 says:

        This is a very good breakdown of the question. You’re definitely right, your explanation helps me see how my question was tautological.

        However, aside from the fact that this is a tendentious definition of “equal amounts”, there is the issue that it’s not clear whether “self-improvement” in this setup is really a single trait. Does self-improvement in empathy really have that much in common with self-improvement in, say, running?

        Yes you’re right, it seems like it may be a bundle of other traits. Even so, it seems as if someone who can permanently improve quickly and effectively from apathetic to empathetic would likely also be good at improving their running. Possibly because this bundle of traits included in self-improvement encapsulate a mindset, and mindsets can impact a multitude of areas in one’s life.

    • Have you ever seen the movie Nightcrawler? Jake Gyllenhall plays a psychopath who regurgitates talking points from self help books without an ounce of humanity. The whole movie is about his “self-improvement” but he’s not any kind of person I aspire to be.

      • sty_silver says:

        rationality is my honest answer, even though it sounds like a gotcha. For one because rationality should lead to self-improvement, but also because self-improvement, while almost always good, might not get you that much in absolute terms if you apply it to the wrong things.

        It’s similar like the wisdom answer given earlier, although I see wisdom as more up for improvement.

    • Purplehermann says:

      Being hard working. Working on object level issues consistently and diligently would is better than getting better at the issue without actually putting in the work to win at object level. Improvement comes naturally with object level effort, object level effort is hard to self improve.
      This from first hand experience. Despite higher intelligence the self improvement oriented guy fell behind the hard workers

      • zeno1 says:

        I understand your argument, but I’m also interested in hearing more about your first hand experience?

      • pas says:

        My experience with people who are professionals for years, yet haven’t improved much in their profession (from IT folk to home improvement guys) suggest otherwise.

        That said general self-improvement, or just knowledge improvement won’t save anyone in a competition with said professionals if our self-improver competitor wastes its improvement on useless things. (Eg. binge watching/reading lexical knowledge stuff – if the competition is in Web Development learning 30 unrelated programming languages and/or learning deep V8 engine techniques [the stuff behind NodeJS [the stuff behind many web dev tools]] and/or getting fit as fuck.)

        Self-improvement has to be directed at the concrete tasks ahead. To have those tasks one needs goals. And to pick goals and stick to them one needs persistent interest and motivation.

        And it seems it’s near impossible to improve on the last two without the magical self-improvement trait. So, it seems handy, but might take a long time for a random-walk self-improver to find its way 🙂

    • Ketil says:

      Is there any quality of the self that’s more important

      Courage, Justice, Practical wisdom, and Temperance?

      Self improvement is only a good thing in as much as it improves the self in the right direction. Should you strive to get better at deceiving yourself, cheating others of their fair share, or avoiding unpleasant confrontation? “Practical wisdom” is about learning to understand the world around you, how it works, and how to achieve your ends. Justice is about which ends to achieve and which not to, and Courage is about not letting discomfort stop you from going out and achieving them. And Temperance is knowing when to call it a day 🙂

      (All right, this is probably my highly personal take on Stoicism, if you want to debate what some dusty old philosopher said in some obscure footnote, I can point you to the right forums 🙂

    • helloo says:

      Judgement/wisdom

      How do you know what to improve if you don’t know what’s better? Or even check to see if you’ve “self-improved”? Or if you’re actually improving in ways that are detrimental?

  4. Nicholas Weininger says:

    I would like to write and maintain an online book and am looking for recommendations on the most easily usable infrastructure (site, product, software) for doing so. Making a WordPress site like SSC and Unsong is my default option, and I’m interested in knowing if there are others worth considering.

    Requirements:

    — Easily create a hierarchical structure with chapters and subchapters having their own webpages, and a table of contents on an overview page that ideally auto-updates as chapter/subchapter pages are created or deleted.

    — Easily include consistent citation links for claims made, with a consistent citation format.

    — Allow comment threads to be clearly linked to relatively fine-grained subsets of the pages. One comment box per page is acceptable if there’s nothing better, but the ability to spawn showable/hideable comment threads per paragraph or section of a page would be better.

    — Make it as easy as possible to do the kinds of things Scott does to moderate comments on this blog: filter terms, ban commenters, require barriers to entry for commenters, flag comments etc.

    I don’t need fancy visuals nor do I need to serve ads; text and citation links are enough.

    So: should I just make a WordPress site like SSC and Unsong, or are there better alternatives?

    I’m not ready to give many specifics on the content yet, but in general terms: I aim to pose a big “What is to be done?” type question; propose a fairly detailed set of answers to that question informed by the best available evidence as I understand it; and encourage a sort of ongoing adversarial collaboration in the comments, moderated by me and perhaps eventually like-minded others I trust, both around whether the question is properly posed and what the best evidence is for and against the proposed answers. If and when I actually overcome inertia enough to make this thing, I’ll post a link to it here. Thanks in advance for all advice!

    • underscore says:

      This is kind of an interesting problem I’ve actually been looking into for various boring reasons! WordPress is an easy default, but if you’re comfortable with something a bit more like coding, I’d look into something like mdBook or Gitbook, where a bit more initial complexity will lead to a much simpler set of processes in the long term. The problem would be adding the capacity to make comments, which would not be too difficult in itself but certainly wouldn’t work out-of-the-box.

      • Lambert says:

        Were it not for comments and all that, I’d say Apache and $EDITOR.

        Nice subtle textured background. CSS. The old ‘Personal web page of a professor in the 1990s.’ aesthetic. ‘Prev’, ‘Up’, ‘Next’. &c. &c.

  5. Le Maistre Chat says:

    Pretty much every drawing, wax figure or other reconstruction of a nude Neanderthal depicts them like this. But doesn’t this depiction of body hair identical to the average European H. sapiens sapiens have very weak epistemic status? Isn’t it more probable that they had thick body hair, especially A) the most northerly “race” if they had notable diversity and/or B) if they were incapable of making cut and sewn clothing, meaning they had only draped hides for more northerly populations* to avoid freezing to death?

    *Again, let’s not forget that these people lived as far south as modern Jordan. They weren’t only ice hunters.

  6. SystematizedLoser says:

    Sex and violence:

    It’s commonly observed [weasel words] that, especially in the modern US, in media, society tries to minimize the exposure children and teens get to sex and sexuality, but these groups are exposed to violence in a much more casual manner. Some (anecdotal) basic examples:

    – T-rated videogames might let the player shoot hundreds of people in the head, but any game with sex will generally get slapped with the M rating
    – Similarly, PG and PG-13 action movies might have a lot of killing and death in them, but be much more chaste wrt character sex scenes
    – Pornography (even of the sex-positive variety) remains fairly stigmatized

    Some (anecdotal) points against:
    – A lot of YA literature will let their characters have fairly frank discussions of sex
    – Porn will often have pretty gross/degrading elements to it, so it might be an unfair example

    The question for those of you better-informed about this than than me:
    – Does this asymmetry in societal responses to sex and violence actually exist?
    – If so: Is it the result of conscious policy-making, or is it more a consequence of a lot of different minor factors?
    – If so: Is this asymmetry something that is worth preserving or encouraging, or is it a type of censorship we should be trying to eliminate?

    With respect to movies, I’ve read claims that the ratings board skews heavily toward older white men who tend to punish instances of explicit male nudity, but, even if this is true, it’s not a complete explanation.

    • Eri says:

      > Some (anecdotal) points against:
      – Art museums often have quite explicit paintings, but no one tries to stop teenagers from visiting (more like the opposite).
      – How common is sex-ed?

      • Well... says:

        I’ve seen art in art museums with representations of nude humans, but I can’t recall ever seeing art that explicitly showed two humans in the act of sex. Even nude men with erect penises tends to be relegated to more abstractified versions in the “ancient & ethnic” wing, if it’s there at all.

        • Eri says:

          Well, yes, that’s not sex, but it’s sexuality/erotics. We do not show gore to teenagers, either.

          • Well... says:

            I’m not an art historian or anything, but I’m pretty sure most nudes you see in art museums are there for the “beauty of the human form” or some such thing, and erotic art tends to be in the minority. Plus if it’s still erotic by today’s standards it is less likely to be shown in a museum.

            I’m not saying I disagree there are anecdotes against the OP, just that in my experience your first example is not good.

            BTW as far as I know sex ed is taught pretty universally in public and private schools in the US. Can’t speak to other countries.

    • Sandpaper26 says:

      Consider that most violence we see is either cartoonish or otherwise unrealistically portrayed. For violence, that usually makes it more acceptable than showing straight gore or realistic depictions.

      For sex, I think the opposite is true. Cartoonish or otherwise unrealistic depictions of sex are much less acceptable in media than more vanilla or realistic sex.

      So I think the asymmetry is related to the fact that violence can be “toned down” through these alternate depictions, whereas the less acceptable facets of sex are typically only “turned up” by alternate depictions.

    • Buddha Buddhing Rodriguez says:

      I’m not better-informed, but I’ll sound off anyway:

      These policies are indeed asymmetrical, and, like much of law, are simply codifications of the natural ick-factor. We don’t like things that make us go ‘ick’ so we legislate against them. Exposing children to sex makes us go ‘ick’ more than exposing them to violence does.

      Why? Some conjecture:

      1. Violence is relevant to kids in a way that sex isn’t. Kids start hitting each other as soon as they can move their arms, but we don’t come online sexually until our teens. So, if sexual behaviour involves a child, that means something is wrong — and that makes us go ‘ick’ really loud. Maybe this is simply implemented as a mental hack that “if(near(child, sex)) ick;” and sex in movies triggers it because it evolved before movies were a thing.

      2. Sex is tangled up with social power games in really quite an unpleasant way, and I think we’re all a bit ashamed of that, and don’t want the children to see. Violence is often much more straightforward — and when it’s not, I think then the ‘ick’ actually comes back, and you’re talking about a film that’s not for kids.

      3. It’s a viable strategy for a society to prepare kids to be warriors, starting young. Consider also whether our reactions change depending on whether the kid seeing the violence is a boy or a girl.

      (This is all with reference to kids. As for teens, I reckon that’s just your standard “don’t normalize sex too much for teens or else they’ll get STDs and have babies out of wedlock”.)

      • sami says:

        I strongly disagree with #1. Kids don’t *fully* come online sexually til puberty, but they definitely touch their genitals a lot- I wouldn’t exactly call it masturbation, at least not in the adult sense, because they’re not trying to orgasm, but they’re definitely stimulating themselves. Little boys get erections and both boys and girls experiment with touch and with playing games with each other that reflect their limited understanding of sex. Also I don’t think it’s possible that we’ve evolved to keep kids away from sex. For most of human history kids have definitely seen their parents having sex, since everyone slept in the same place, and they would have also seen animals mating all the time. This is totally distinct from the idea of adults having sex *with* (prepubescent) kids; I could much more easily imagine that being taboo in most times and places.

        • Aapje says:

          Societies/parents that are unable to impress upon children that some things are only for adults run into bigger problems than their kids having sex.

          • sami says:

            Ha! That’s actually a good analogy for how I imagine sex must have been treated in most times and places: like we currently treat driving. It’s definitely not something kids are allowed to do, but it’s also not a big deal if they see some grownups doing it. And no one worries about kids playing with a toy car. I don’t see how it could possibly have been otherwise when most people lived in one room houses with a communal bed and there wasn’t school to send the youngsters off to every day.

          • Aapje says:

            Traditional culture was a lot more fear and punishment oriented. If you’d break the rules, you’d be whipped and/or you’d be forced to marry the one you made or who made you pregnant, etc.

            The modern unwillingness to see someone suffer from their choices may be the reason why people try to control their children differently now.

    • BlindKungFuMaster says:

      I think the European perspective on this is that it is the case in the US that violence is weirdly more accepted than sex and the obvious ad-hoc explanation would be the strong Christian element and gun culture.

      (Wrestling is really one of the most absurd outgrowths of the American love for violence. Why would anybody show that to his children?)

      Given that sex is a positive thing and violence is a negative thing … well, it’s your country.

      • Randy M says:

        (Wrestling is really one of the most absurd outgrowths of the American love for violence. Why would anybody show that to his children?)

        Because it’s only a few colorful costumes and a live audience away from what kids are doing anyway?

        • BlindKungFuMaster says:

          Children beat each other up, hit each other over the head with chairs and jump-slam their elbows into each others solar-plexus?

          I guess I missed out.

          • Randy M says:

            Okay, I was understating it. WWE style wrestling is the exaggerated version of what kids do. I haven’t watched it in decades, maybe it’s terrible; but even without ever having seen it, my kids will roll around on the ground trying pin each other.

            I’m not sure how many levels of irony your user name brings to the debate, btw.

          • JayT says:

            The combination of your user name and this comment gave me a laugh, because my brother and I used to play “Blind Ninja Master” when we were kids, which basically involved turning off all the lights in the room so you couldn’t see, and then beating on each other. It was all fun and games until my brother kicked out my front tooth!

      • Matt M says:

        Nothing that happens in wrestling is any more violent than what happens in, say, Marvel movies. The major distinction is that wrestling involves realistic actions (hitting someone in the face with your elbow as hard as you can) with unrealistic consequences (the guy is basically fine even if you do that to him 50 times); whereas super hero media involves unrealistic actions (Thor shooting a dude with lightning bolts) with realistic consequences (the guy is now dead).

        Which of these is “better” or “worse” for kids to consume is probably debatable.

      • aristides says:

        I grew up in conservative Christian America, and this seems right to me. My parents would have much rather I grow up to be violent than a pervert. Violence good, sex bad. It does make me wonder if ratings boards are one of the last conservatives bastions in pop culture? If so, it’s probably because liberals got used to ignoring ratings, so there was no need to change their practices.

    • LesHapablap says:

      Exhibit A ought to be The Hunger Games, in which orphaned teenagers who are extremely attracted to each other and are about to enter a no-holds barred deathmatch spend the night together in bed on a private train carriage and don’t so much as make out. Then the next day right into the violence.

      Exhibit Y should be the many examples in PG movies of characters solving problems using threats of violence. This is incredibly common: the good guy in a romantic comedy ‘steps up’ to some jerk, or someone makes verbal threats in order to get their way. No punches get thrown but it is obvious physical intimidation occurred. Is that really a good way to solve conflicts? Is it a lot more common in real life than I think it is?

      As a side note on Exhibit Y, there was an interesting plotline in the otherwise tedious, flag-sucking show “Shooter,” where the wife of the total badass protagonist gets harassed by some jerk at a shooting range. She threatens the jerk, telling him her husband is the famous bad-ass veteran who is extremely capable of violence. In a subversion of expectations, this results in legal trouble for the wife for making criminal threats, and the husband chastises her for doing something stupid and not just letting it go. It was absolutely jarring how weird it was to see that on TV, and actually very frustrating and unpleasant to watch.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Yes, the reactions to the two things are different.

      This is because sex and violence are different things.

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        But sex (especially gay sex) is good and violence is bad.

        • EchoChaos says:

          But sex (especially gay sex) is good and violence is bad.

          You and I do not share values on this, so you can’t be surprised in a nation that mostly shares my values that we aren’t in favor of your values.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            I’ll admit you are probably right on the “especially gay sex” part (a lot of people have stupid disgust reflexes that stop them from recognising its objective superiority) but I’m pretty sure that revealed preferences in every nation I know overwhelmingly favour sex over violence. Obviously this is different from favouring depictions of sex over depictions of violence; the whole question being asked is why there is a disparity.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation

            I’m not aware of any nation that funds training young men or women for sex, but basically all of them fund training for violence.

            On what basis do you conclude that nations prefer sex to violence?

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            By “nation”, I took you to mean “people” not “government”. But even for the latter, the reason that they don’t need to fund sex is because people like it so much they’ll do it for free, whereas violence is abhorrent and requires pretty stiff bribes. Although, I don’t really see why what governments like is relevant; I thought we were talking about culture.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation

            But even for the latter, the reason that they don’t need to fund sex is because people like it so much they’ll do it for free, whereas violence is abhorrent and requires pretty stiff bribes.

            There is plenty of free violence out there that the government cracks down REALLY hard on. They spend almost as much on stopping people who are doing violence for free as they do on teaching people how to do violence.

            Although, I don’t really see why what governments like is relevant; I thought we were talking about culture.

            Government is downstream from culture.

            And teaching children how to do controlled violence is very popular in basically every nation. How many martial arts studios for kids are within a 15 minute drive of you? If you’re typical, it’s more than one.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            There is plenty of free violence out there that the government cracks down REALLY hard on. They spend almost as much on stopping people who are doing violence for free as they do on teaching people how to do violence.

            Previously you seemed to be arguing “the government likes violence, therefore it’s popular”, now you seem to be saying “the government doesn’t like violence and has to put in effort into suppressing it, therefore it’s popular”. These seem contradictory. The obvious answer is that the government only likes certain violence. But the way that works out in practice seems to be evidence against the popularity of violence; most government violence is at least nominally for the purpose of preventing worse violence.

            Government is downstream from culture.

            But we can consider the upstream thing directly. Why wouldn’t we want to?

            And teaching children how to do controlled violence is very popular in basically every nation. How many martial arts studios for kids are within a 15 minute drive of you? If you’re typical, it’s more than one.

            As you say, that’s controlled/fake violence, which isn’t particularly germane. Media depictions of martial arts as in sports are unpopular relative to depictions of real violence; the role of martial arts in this discussion is more or less the same as that of violent media in this discussion, as contrasted with sexual media; with depicted violence and sex representing the real violence and sex that I’m asserting are respectively unpopular and unpopular.

            But besides, I’m pretty sure there are more people who like having sex than who like martial arts in my local area (certainly popup ads rarely inform me of the latter!).

          • Lambert says:

            It’s not that people* like violence in and of itself so much as they like what it gets them.

            *or rather, the vanishingly small slice of society that actually engages in violence

          • EchoChaos says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation

            The government cracks down on free sex as well if it’s the wrong type (using violence).

            As you say, that’s controlled/fake violence, which isn’t particularly germane.

            The fact that we approve of violence all the time in controlled situation makes it much the same as sex. If you’re complaining about seeing controlled/fake violence on TV as a symptom, you can’t then dismiss the same thing as not valid as a comparison for whether it’s popular.

            Violence is fine for kids when controlled is valid for both TV and real life. Sex is not fine for kids in TV and real life. They’re symmetrical in that way.

            We allow sex on TV at the roughly same age that we allow sex in real life. This makes perfect sense.

            But besides, I’m pretty sure there are more people who like having sex than who like martial arts in my local area (certainly popup ads rarely inform me of the latter!).

            People engage (on average) in more controlled violence than sex. Americans work out for two hours a week, but have sex only once a week (almost certainly lasting less than two hours).

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Violence is fine for kids when controlled is valid for both TV and real life. Sex is not fine for kids in TV and real life. They’re symmetrical in that way.

            No they’re not. It’s considered fine to depict *real* violence on TV (within the fictional world, the violence is real not controlled) even though real-life real violence is not considered fine. This is not symmetrical to sex, where both are viewed negatively.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation

            Because it is understood that fictional violence is actually controlled. Kids are really good at understanding that the TV is fake.

            It is in fact very unacceptable to portray real violence on TV. Snuff films are a monumental bad and anytime there is real violence on TV news, there are lots of warning ahead of time.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            1) Violence (even consensual) is easier to police than sex.

            2) The US Victorians made personal violence (dueling) illegal a generation or two earlier than sex was rendered illegal for kids.

            Given this, it should be no surprise that depictions of violence become legal again sooner than depictions of sex – the pro-violence-depiction reactionary movement would happen earlier than the pro-sex-depiction reactionary movement.

            I’ve got no evidence for this guess, but it sounds plausible. 😀

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @EchoChaos

            Because it is understood that fictional violence is actually controlled. Kids are really good at understanding that the TV is fake.

            If failure to distinguish between fiction and reality was the issue then it would be fine to show kinds hentai. Also, I think you’re overstating the degree to which depictions of real violence are avoided. I think a lot more people would show their 11 year old the Zapruder footage than obviously fake animated porn.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @thisheavenlyconjugation

            I feel like you’re almost comically trying to misunderstand me at this point.

            Uncontrolled sex is bad and the government/culture tries to stop it. Uncontrolled violence is bad and the government/culture tries to stop it.

            Controlled sex is good, but not for kids.
            Controlled violence is good, even for kids.

            Fictional depictions of sex and violence are controlled sex and violence.

            Therefore…

          • Randy M says:

            This helps identify a distinction in the comparison. “Violence” is a much wider range of behavior than “sex”. Especially if we are getting incensed about WWF style wrestling. The equivalent of two men punching each other in a sporting event isn’t hard core porn, it’s like holding hands or kissing.

            Americans are okay with some forms of romance being shown to children. And many Americans would be uncomfortable with some forms of violence being shown to children (graphic, detailed, portraying aggression positively, etc.).

            It’s not perfectly comparable, though, because romance/sex and violence/assault aren’t analogous in many aspects, from instincts to consequences to age appropriate contexts, etc.

    • Garrett says:

      The best explanation that I’ve heard of this is that nearly all violence actually televised is fake. You can’t have people being shot in scripted television and everybody (except small children) knows this. We’ve gotten really good with make-up, special effects, etc.

      In contrast, it’s pretty difficult to create fake porn. Sure, there’s the DeepFake phenomenon, but that’s relatively new and so far isn’t useful for creating marketable porn from scratch.

      I’d also note that any real violence or injury (say, death to be shown on the nightly news) will have advanced warnings for viewers. This has substantially predated trigger warnings. Additionally, if you look at something like Reddit, there are lots of areas where nudity and hardcore sexual activity can be found. Regrettably, the /r/watchpeopledie subreddit was banned. (I say regrettably because it was always useful for my EMS career to see what level of injury was actually required to cause death)

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        In contrast, it’s pretty difficult to create fake porn.

        But sex in non-porn films is simulated.

        • nimim.k.m. says:

          Which, by the way, is quite odd way to frame the situation. I assume that the personnel partaking in such simulations are close to each other with scant or no clothing at all, often involving particular items no 1 and 2 in contact. (Or do they use extras?) But because the very particular item 3 is not in certain kind of contact with item no 4, it does not count as sex.

          The written materials that were part of the sex education I received in schooling system tried to explain that such activities are important part of the sex experience, and the certain kind of 3 to 4 contact is not necessary at all, if the persons committing the experience are keen to do it.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            I think it’s different because the purpose is different. Watch Love Actually for reference.

    • theredsheep says:

      To what others have said, I’d like to add that we watch sex and violence for different reasons. Violence is generally exciting as a subset of action (as in disaster movies). Most of us, when we watch shows about serial killers, are not excited by the idea of killing someone ourselves. Sex is exciting because … sex!

      Why is this significant? Beats me. I have vague intuitions I can’t elaborate.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      It’s that it’s much easier to explain fantasy violence to children than fantasy sex because children’s grasp of nuance, of things that are okay sometimes and not okay other times is very poor.

      When they see fantasy violence, it’s very easy to say “this is just make-believe. Never hit somebody, never hurt somebody, that is very very bad.” If you say something similar about fantasy sex to a child they’re going to develop some kind of complex. We want children to completely abstain from sexual activity as children, but then grow up to have healthy sex lives as adults. We don’t need to worry about them eventually developing a “healthy violence lifestyle,” so it’s much easier to get kids to understand violence than sex.

      • EchoChaos says:

        We don’t need to worry about them eventually developing a “healthy violence lifestyle,” so it’s much easier to get kids to understand violence than sex.

        Indeed. It’s actually very hard and takes a lot of work by the military to train people out of the “never hurt somebody, that is very very bad”.

        On the other hand, as anyone who has ever worked with teenagers has noticed, it’s not hard at all to teach them that sex is okay.

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        That explains attitudes with regard to young children, but not with regard to e.g. 16 year olds who generally do (or at least should) know approximately what sex is.

        • Matt M says:

          Society is also really bad at making things available to X year olds but not Y year olds. In no small part due to the fact that there is nowhere close to universal agreement regarding what types of activities are appropriate at what ages.

          We threaten parents with jail time for giving alcohol to 20 year olds, and it still doesn’t come anywhere close to stopping underage drinking…

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          What’s an example of something popular with 16-year-olds, but not younger kids, where you think more sex would be okay? Somebody mentioned a lack of portrayals of intimacy in The Hunger Games, but the movie is rated PG-13. Plenty of 11 and 12-year-old girls got into archery because Katniss.

          The stuff 16-year-olds like that has sex which younger teens/kids wouldn’t/shouldn’t be into are R rated movies, which are appropriate for audiences age 17 and above, and there you get nudity and love scenes.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            I think it’s hard to argue that 16 year olds who are having sex shouldn’t watch porn (with arguments that apply to them in particular rather than porn in general). I can’t think of much media that 16 year olds like that would benefit from explicit sex scenes, but that’s because I think explicit sex scenes are typically poor choices from an artistic perspective.

            But I do generally agree with you about the reason for differing attitudes for young children, and that the difference in attitudes for teenagers is not particularly stark.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I think it’s hard to argue that 16 year olds who are having sex shouldn’t watch porn

            There are a lot of bad ideas in porn that most people wouldn’t think of themselves. Until people get to an age where they are a bit more likely to have learned how to assert their boundaries, porn is a bad idea for sexually active teens.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            @anonymousskimmer
            I’m inclined to agree but I think there are heavy overlaps between that and general reasons why people of all ages should avoid porn. And also the bits that don’t overlap are contingent on the details of the content of porn today.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            In addition to porn being bad for people in general, I’d say it’s worse for teenagers than adults because hopefully by adulthood a person would have developed some perspective on the complexities of sexual relationships, and that pornography is depicting sexual situations that differ substantially from real life. That fantasy violence bears little resemblance to real violence is irrelevant: hopefully they’ll never be engaging in real violence at all. However they will eventually engage in sex as adults, so the examples they’re presented with during formative years matter.

            One can certainly make the argument porn gives people bad, unrealistic ideas. But at least adults are more likely to know those are bad, unrealistic ideas, whereas teenagers may think what they’re looking at on the screen bears some resemblance to reality.

          • LesHapablap says:

            When I mentioned The Hunger Games I was talking about the books. When I was a kid I read YA fiction that included sex. It was not pornographic at all, it was an educational thing really, teaching kids what to expect in their adolescence. Often awkward or painful relationships and situations.

    • Jake R says:

      On the YA literature front: I started reading the Animorphs books by K.A. Applegate at age 7 or so, and I gather that they were pretty popular among that age group. There is no sex in the books at all but pretty graphic descriptions of violence. I think these were generally considered good kids books.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Animorphs really shouldn’t be considered typical of what parents let kids read.

        • Jake R says:

          Well it’s nice to know that other people noticed. Still if it’s an outlier it was a pretty damn big one. I can’t find sales figures anywhere but they were headliners of the Scholastic book fair and got a (brief, terrible) television adaptation so I’m guessing they got around pretty well.

      • SystematizedLoser says:

        To be clear, I wasn’t trying to suggest that YA fiction doesn’t also contain violence, only that, when it does, it usually attracts less attention than when it contains sex. In the list in your link, bullet point 2 about why Animorphs didn’t create scandals is that it didn’t have any sex.

        Thanks for the link though; I also read Animorphs at a pretty young age, and, the few times I’ve gone back to them since, have been impressed at how horrific they can be.

    • Randy M says:

      – Does this asymmetry in societal responses to sex and violence actually exist?

      Sure, because, you know, they’re completely different things.

      edit: Ah, just repeating what Jaskologist said.

    • albatross11 says:

      It would be useful to know how other cultures deal with this stuff–do Japan, China, India, bits of the former Soviet Union, etc., make similar splits between violence (ok for kids) and sex (not okay for kids)?

      • aristides says:

        My wife is from a former Soviet country. From what she tells me sex and violence are good for kids. (Obviously not to participate in, but to be aware that it exists, and that you will one day participate in). Her parents told her about sex at 6, and no one made a big deal with it. Violence was part of the job description for over half of her living relatives, and the cause of death for half of the dead ones, so violence is good for you to use, and bad for others to use on you. She was also taught a martial arts since 10, and it was not paired with a disclaimer that it was only for self-defense.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Seems pretty simple to me. Most people, especially teenagers, have a much higher sex drive than violence drive. If you watch two people having sex, you’re likely to get aroused and to want to have sex yourself; if you watch two people fighting, you’re very unlikely to fly into a rage and want to start punching things. So if you’re worried about children and teenagers doing something they saw on the television and getting themselves or other people into trouble, it makes sense to come down harder on sex scenes than on fight scenes.

      • Randy M says:

        Right, there’s a lot of instincts pushing us to de-escalate violence. Whereas with sex, desire begets desire.

      • LesHapablap says:

        You’ve never watched a kung fu movie and gotten an adrenaline kick from it or fantasized about learning martial arts? I can’t watch this scene from Ip Man without my muscles twitching involuntarily. And I never watch anything violence related if I’m about to go to sleep, like boxing matches that might pop up on facebook.

  7. rocoulm says:

    Alright, so I recently was thinking about an idea for a superpower. Behold, Doctor Optic (“Doc Op”), with the incredible ability to selectively bend light in his vicinity.

    Applications:

    – He could easily give himself 360-degree vision, although it would be compressed into the same visual field, so he may lose some acuity when doing this.

    – Periscopic/telescopic vision. Obviously he could use it to look around corners and whatnot, though I’m undecided about whether this should work both ways, i.e., if he can see them around the corner, they can see him too. Also, depending on the range of the ability, he could “zoom in” on distant objects as well; just make the light reflecting off the object follow a straight line until it gets a few feet from him, then resume its original course. Poof! A virtual image right in front of him!

    – Invisibility! The obvious application, though I imagine it would require the most concentration to maintain, and it would either leave you blind or require you to leave at least a couple pupil-sized black dots visible from behind.

    – As an attack, he could redirect light to blind his opponent, either temporarily or permanently. The “nice” way is to deprive them of the light that would normally reach their eyes. The mean way is to make it so they’re staring at the sun no matter where they look.

    – Disorientation? I guess? As far as I can think, this character’s best bet in a fight would be to use ordinary weapons/fighting techniques, but jusy rely on disorienting his opponent. Flipping their vision upside down, swapping the light going into each of their eyes, that sort of thing.

    – Hallucination creation. In principle, you could select individual beam of light from your environment to create an image from scratch, though the computing power to this would be insane. Maybe plausible if he gets a bionic implant to help? This one’s pretty far-fetched.

    Any other ideas? How would you use this ability?

    • Eri says:

      Why disorient an opponent if you can simply blind them?

      • rocoulm says:

        Casting blindness would be powerful, but I feel a skilled opponent could adjust if they’re expecting it. It seems a lot more powerful to be able to change up their visual experience rapidly to distract them. (At least until they just learn to close their eyes)

    • Theodoric says:

      I think these powers would be most useful in intelligence gathering and infiltration. When I read about some of them, such as the invisibility that would “require the most concentration to maintain”, I thought “This would be a good protagonist from a stealth video game.”

      • rocoulm says:

        Yeah, I’m actually toying with this as a hero in a superhero RPG coming up (if our DM agrees). I’m thinking it may work as a DnD-style-rogue-ish sorta thing, but maybe with some martial art abilities for some limited fighting.

    • Sandpaper26 says:

      This may be more villain-esque, but he could easily start fires, kid-with-magnifying-glass style.

      • beleester says:

        He can, but I’m uncertain he can turn that into a combat-usable trick. It depends a lot on how big an area he can gather light from and how well he can track a moving target. The Mythbusters tested the Archimedes solar “death ray” with a whole bunch of mirrors, but couldn’t get much more than smoke.

        To be good for more than petty arson, he probably needs to be able to start a fire (or at least make their skin painfully hot) in a few seconds. The more light you can gather, the less important it is to keep it focused on one spot, and vice versa, but it’s gotta be fast – the bad guys won’t stand still and wait to get set on fire.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Even just echoing back all of the IR their body is radiating would quickly give them heat stroke. Channel all other light that way too (including his own radiant body heat, and any others around) and the heat stroke would happen even faster. Localize all this energy to the head and it would be even faster.

          I don’t know how to calculate how fast.

        • gbdub says:

          Something north of 1000 W of sunlight hits every square meter of earth on a sunny day. That’s plenty to start a fire really quick if you concentrate it on a narrow point. More than that, it’s plenty for a pretty powerful laser, and that’s just from 1 square meter.

          The myth buster thing didn’t work because they never succeeded in focusing a high enough percentage of the available energy on a small enough point. But the energy is there, so a supernatural “light bender” could do a lot with it.

    • mustacheion says:

      Any real physical light bending requires that the path of light be reversible, so if he can see you, you can see him (though the image of him might be so small / dark that you wouldn’t notice it. But if we are talking about super powers here, if he can truly redirect light at his own will, he ought to be able to bend photons going in one direction differently than photons going in the other. So he would be able to overcome several of the difficulties you are suggesting, like invisibility leaving him blind.

      • rocoulm says:

        Right, it’s basically a matter of balance, though I admit I like superpowers to be more reality-based when possible

      • littskad says:

        Any real physical light bending requires that the path of light be reversible

        Wouldn’t that only be true in a static medium? If a light beam passed through a changing medium in one particular fashion, in order for a reverse light beam to pass through, the medium would have to change in the reverse fashion, too.

        I think a lot would depend on how rapidly our superhero could make changes in whatever they’re doing to control things.

      • Anthony says:

        If I’m bending light around a building to see what’s on the other side, people on the other side are going to see, if they look carefully (and know where to look) a pair of eyes, or maybe a 6-inch patch of face. Right above a parapet,or next to some a/c equipment, that’s effectively invisible.

        And even if you do get spotted, they probably don’t know *where* on the other side of the building to look.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          You’re thinking of this like a fiberoptic cable, but is that necessary?

          Couldn’t someone bend the light from object A to themselves at point B, and then bend the light radiating away from them to point C?

          It would depend on whether the superpowers are bending individual photons (one-way path), or bending the spacetime curvature through which these individual photons flow (two-way path).

          The first option is more precise and targeted, the second option is far more powerful.

          • Anthony says:

            I was assuming that however the light-bending is accomplished, it’s symmetric. Without that requirement, the power gets way too powerful, and all your plot points become “why didn’t he try X”.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            How would this person symmetrically bend light without altering spacetime, though (at least in vacuum)? That seems to me far more powerful than mere manipulation of already mobile photons.

          • Anthony says:

            You could do it with some sort of electromagnetic fields, which would make it reversible. Being able to manipulate EM fields like that would be almost as superpowerful as manipulating space-time, unless you had some pretty stringent limitations on it – perhaps your line of sight and not through any opaque or solid substances?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Yeah, that makes a lot more sense.

    • Purplehermann says:

      Lightsabers, and for disorientation just change the angle that all the light hitting their eyes comes from.
      Make them nearsighted/farsighted to mess with their aim, give them a functional cylinder in one eye to give them splitting headaches.

      • rocoulm says:

        Lightsabers…

        I thought about some sort of laser-projection weapon, but I’m pretty sure there’s not enough ambient light in a typical room to do anything useful. I guess it depensa on how far you want to atretch reality.

        • crh says:

          Does Doc Op have power over the full electromagnetic spectrum, or just visible light? If he can control infrared, and the room happens to be lit by an incandescent bulb, I think that gives him enough power to work with to make a decent laser weapon.

        • Lambert says:

          Or he can carry a flashtube around with him.
          Or magnesium swarf.

    • Well... says:

      Disorienting people would be incredibly easy, much easier than blinding them. To disorient someone you only need to create the illusion of movement in their peripheral vision, which is basically everything outside the thumbnail-held-at-arm’s-length-sized fovea.

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      Photons are the force carriers for electromagnetism. So you have the power to move everything that’s made up of charged particles (i.e. all of normal matter.)

      You could also become a reactionless propulsion drive and take humanity to the stars.

    • AppetSci says:

      Some of these powers (more the mental inducement side rather than the photon redirection powers) are used by a character called Kali in the second season of Stranger Things.

      Illusion casting: Kali has the psychic ability to induce mental hallucinations, causing her target (or targets) to see and hear something that is not truly there. The more complex or intense the illusion, the more strain it puts on her, and if Kali loses concentration, the illusions fade away.

      Invisibility: Kali is able to use her ability to render herself and others undetectable. In order for this to be achieved, Kali and whoever else she is using the ability on must remain immobile and completely silent.

      I guess Eleven could subtly blind them by using her telekinesis powers to detach their retinas or crush their optic nerve (assuming her powers can be focused).

    • KieferO says:

      This is a fascinating powerset. I have a couple thoughts on reasonable limitations and possible uses.
      A lot would depend on how “vicinity” is defined. Is it centimeters? Meters? From here to the horizon? How that question is answered will determine to what degree Doc Op could magnify distant objects. One way to interpret their powers is that they could fill the entire volume that they control with whatever “binoculars” would be most ideal for focusing on whatever object they cared about at that time.
      This area of operation effect also comes up in using light to make heat: the greater the surface area of the “sphere” the more sunlight could be used to burn a specific spot. Furthermore, this power would only work during the daytime. For reasons mentioned here you can only use lenses to make something as hot as the surface of whatever you’re concentrating. Up to you if you want to save “breaking conservation of étendue” for a final climactic nighttime battle.
      Regular ol humans are very adept at compensating for distortions in their visual fields given enough time to adjust. (Supposedly) There was an experiment done involving “upside down goggles” that were worn every waking moment; the participants completely adjusted after 3 or so days. I think this means that we should expect Doc Op to be able to make full use of 360 vision or bug eye vision, etc. after a bit of potentially hilarious practice.
      Things that would be useful in a fight also include weird information theory stuff like anticipating when your opponent will have to the need to dodge left or right, where dodging the wrong way would be painful/costly (think Mike Tyson uppercut). In these situations, distort the opponent’s visual filed such that their eyes are telling them to dodge the wrong way in half of them, which Doc Op selects randomly. The key to making the most use of this is to delude your opponent into thinking that their visual senses are still helping them, when they’re not.

    • helloo says:

      Lasers.

      Mirage/illusions – though the “within his vicinity” part kills a lot of possibilities

      One way to ease the hallucination part is just to have him carry a small screen that can play selected videos and project THAT to the victim’s field of vision. This also allows disguises and such with much more flexibility.

      Special effects.

      Possibly something with communications but I can’t think of a good way to use it (a cone of silence but with sign cards?).

    • aristides says:

      Season 1 of A certain scientific railgun has a minor villain with this as his power. His name is Trick. He Doesn’t use his powers half as well as these commentators would, but it is an interesting example.

  8. Purplehermann says:

    Looking for clarification on how the blue/grey (and other variants on red and blue) tribe split breaks down. (Estimated numbers and identity markers.)
    I’ve seen somewhere that Andrew Yang is appealing to the Greys, and the idea of primary election strategies differing based on different target demographics interests me.
    Is it viable to target Grey if Blue is split between multiple strong blue candidates?
    Would a blue vote grey against blue?

    (While we’re at it, how much money would it take for someone to vote for a different tribe- would $1000 a month be enough for poor blue voters to vote grey? Are poor voters even blue in the first place or are they just voting to get more money?)

    • Plumber says:

      @Purplehermann says:

      “Looking for clarification on how the blue/grey (and other variants on red and blue) tribe split breaks down. (Estimated numbers and identity markers.)…”

      I just answered your related question in the “145.25” Open Thread which I’ll re-post here:

      @Purplehermann says:

      “How large is the American “grey tribe” ? (Just looking for a general estimate)”

      Alright, from our host’s list of “tribe” attributes in his I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup post (with numbers and line seperations added by me):

      The Red Tribe is most classically typified by:

      1) conservative political beliefs, 

      2) strong evangelical religious beliefs,

      3) creationism,

      4) opposing gay marriage,

      5) owning guns, 

      6) eating steak, 

      7) drinking Coca-Cola, 

      8) driving SUVs, 

      9) watching lots of TV, 

      10) enjoying American football, 

      11) getting conspicuously upset about terrorists and commies, 

      12) marrying early, divorcing early, shouting “USA IS NUMBER ONE!!!”, 

      and 

      13) listening to country music

      For individuals meeting all of @Scott Alexander’s “typified” Red-Tribe traits, as a rough guess I’d say 15% of Americans, so millions of people, and for those with at least half of the traits? 

      I’d say that easily the majority of Americans have at least half of Scott’s “Red-Tribe” traits.

      The Blue Tribe is most classically typified by 

      1) liberal political beliefs, 

      2) vague agnosticism, 

      3) supporting gay rights, 

      4) thinking guns are barbaric, 

      5) eating arugula, 

      6) drinking fancy bottled water, 

      7) driving Priuses, 

      8) reading lots of books, 

      9) being highly educated, 

      10) mocking American football, 

      11) feeling vaguely like they should like soccer but never really being able to get into it, 

      12) getting conspicuously upset about sexists and bigots, 

      13) marrying later, constantly pointing out how much more civilized European countries are than America, 

      and

      14) listening to “everything except country”

      For individuals meeting all of @Scott Alexander’s “typified” Blue-Tribe traits, as a rough guess I’d say 5% of Americans, so millions of people, and for those with at least half of the traits? 

      I’d say that nearly the majority of Americans have at least half of Scott’s “Blue-Tribe” traits.

      There is a partly-formed attempt to spin off a Grey Tribe typified by 

      1) libertarian political beliefs, 

      2) Dawkins-style atheism, 

      3) vague annoyance that the question of gay rights even comes up, 

      4) eating paleo, 

      5) drinking Soylent, 

      6) calling in rides on Uber, 

      7) reading lots of blogs, 

      8) calling American football “sportsball”,

      9) getting conspicuously upset about the War on Drugs and the NSA, 

      and 

      10) listening to filk

       – but for our current purposes this is a distraction and they can safely be considered part of the Blue Tribe most of the time

      For individuals meeting all of @Scott Alexander’s “typified” Grey-Tribe traits, as a rough guess I’d say about 20 friends of @Scott Alexander, and for those with at least half of the traits? 

      Still uncommon, maybe a million people  have at least half of Scott’s “Grey-Tribe” traits?

      Frankly other than our host confessing his social isolation I’m not sure what good his concept of “tribes” is, from later posts it seems a confused jumble of socal class, regional differences, and partisan affiliation. 

      “Red-Tribe”-ish outnumber “Blue-Tribe”-ish, and Democrats outnumber Republicans (non-voters and “independents outnumber either Democrats or Republicans, but not both unless you count non-citizens and those too young to vote 

      Implications should be obvious.

      “…I’ve seen somewhere that Andrew Yang is appealing to the Greys, and the idea of primary election strategies differing based on different target demographics interests me.

      Is it viable to target Grey if Blue is split between multiple strong blue candidates?..”

      I doubt it, “Grey” is a pretty insignificant part of the electorate.

      “Would a blue vote grey against blue?”

      What for?

      “(While we’re at it, how much money would it take for someone to vote for a different tribe- would $1000 a month be enough for poor blue voters to vote grey?

      Most votes are cross-tribe, politicians both Democrats and Republicans fit Scott’s “Blue-Tribe” more than his “Red-Tribe” while more voters whether Democrats, “Independents”, or Republicans fit his description of the “Red-Tribe” more.

      “…Are poor voters even blue in the first place or are they just voting to get more money?…”

      Democrats economic policies are more popular with the electorate than are Republican economic policies, Republican cultural policies are more popular with the electorate than are Democrats ones, “cultural conservatism” tends to be more popular with lower income Americans, “cultural liberalism” with higher income ones, re-distribution tends to be more popular with lower income Americans than higher ones but “Fiscal conservatives/social liberals” tend to be high earners, Republicans are almost all “social conservatives” except for very high incomes, poor Republicans tend to strongly culturally conservative, but believe more like Democrats on economics, Democrats tend to be re-distributionist until they earn more than $200,000 a year, Democrats who earn between $80,000 and $200,000 a year tend to support redistribution even more than those who earn less and those who earn more. 

      Democrats and Republicans who earn less than $40,000 a year and those who earn over $200,000 a year have beliefs a bit closer to the other Party on average compared to their co-partisans, $80,000 to $200,000 a year on average have beliefs that are the least like the other Party on average.

      Eliminate the middle-class, and especially the near rich “UMC” and you’d have “populist” vs. “libertarian” instead of “conservative” vs. “liberal”

      Only have middle-class and ‘conservative’ dominates, only have “UMC” and ‘liberal’ dominates.

      • LadyJane says:

        +1 for an excellent analysis of socioeconomic class and political affiliation in this country. As a political scientist who’s specifically studied these correlations, I can confirm that this is largely accurate.

      • LadyJane says:

        As for tribes, I don’t think the Red Tribe/Blue Tribe paradigm is entirely off the mark, although it’s definitely overused. There’s a Redneck tribe and a Suburbanite tribe, and if you combine the more socially conservative elements of both, you get something resembling the Red Tribe. There’s an Elite tribe and a Cosmopolitan tribe, and if you combine the more socially liberal elements of both, you get something resembling the Blue Tribe. Scott’s original post had some interesting insights about socioeconomic class and the rural/suburban/urban culture divide in the US, as well as a good point regarding political discrimination, but I do wish the terms Red Tribe and Blue Tribe hadn’t caught on quite as much.

        • Plumber says:

          @LadyJane,
          How the “tribes” terms are used confuses me, sometimes they seem to just mean “Democrats” or “Republicans” other times “young urban professionals (especially women)” or “rural working class whites (especially men)”, and while it’s fair to say of Scott’s list of “Blue-Tribe” traits that “people like this usually vote for Democrats, and it’s also fair to say of his “Red-Tribe” traits that “people like this usually vote for Republicans, the reverse isn’t true, most Democrats easily have as many of the “Red-Tribe” traits as “Blue-Tribe” ones, and Scott’s essay itself said:

          “…There are certain theories of dark matter where it barely interacts with the regular world at all, such that we could have a dark matter planet exactly co-incident with Earth and never know. Maybe dark matter people are walking all around us and through us, maybe my house is in the Times Square of a great dark matter city, maybe a few meters away from me a dark matter blogger is writing on his dark matter computer about how weird it would be if there was a light matter person he couldn’t see right next to him.

          This is sort of how I feel about conservatives.

          I don’t mean the sort of light-matter conservatives who go around complaining about Big Government and occasionally voting for Romney. I see those guys all the time. What I mean is – well, take creationists..:

          …Um, what are we supposed to do with this?

          Scott doesn’t know any creationists (really, not even among his patients?), so Scott is socially isolated and…

          …what exactly?

          Other than him confessing that he’s a young urban professional who seems to only mix with others of that class (again, what about his patients?), this goes over my head.

          For the record I do know both creationists, and “Yuppies”, and I wasn’t trying hard to meet a variety of folks, I just tried to earn a living, get married, and have kids.

          I just don’t get it.

          • Erusian says:

            I just don’t get it.

            One of the under-appreciated privileges of class is that you increasingly get the ability to isolate yourself from what you find unpleasant. And who you find unpleasant. Further, people will go out of their way to avoid offending you by showing you things they perceive as unpleasant. As the old saying goes, the Queen of England thinks the world smells like fresh paint.

            I read the piece as Scott coming to realize that he was in a bubble (to use the current trendy term).

            The big thing I think Scott misses is the degree to which this is the result of privilege. He imagines a roughly symmetrical world, where the Blue Tribe and Red Tribe exist in separate bubbles. But the reality is the ability to erect a bubble is a display of power: it happens because people are (even subconsciously) afraid of offending you and because you can afford to burn bridges with people over matters of principle. Because of this, bubbles are distinctly an upper middle to upper class thing. And the technical UMC (programmers etc) are overrepresented on this blog, so perhaps it was a revelation to them too.

          • Clutzy says:

            What don’t you get? It is pretty easy as a upper class person to avoid all noticeable interactions with Redish viewpoints. They are never on TV, except for Fox and Football. And, as a general rule, people who are on the right don’t prioritize politics as highly as on the left. No one had a joint scream of agony and crying sessions after 2008 & 2012. That translates to your workplace as well. People in the red tribe vote, and are involved in politics, but that is down on the list, significantly.

            I know a lot of Mormons and traditional Catholics (think 6+ kids types) thanks to my high school, none ever tried to convert me, none preached at work or school. Also none ever ran for office, they were much more involved in other things. You wouldn’t know their politics if you knew them less well than me. OTOH, I know a lot of leftists from college and law school, and its often the first thing they bring up. In addition, they have comparably fewer outside activities and organizations, even taking church events out of the equation.

          • Matt M says:

            They are never on TV, except for Fox and Football.

            Even sports are a mixed bag at this point. During yesterday’s NFL playoff game, CBS ran multiple ads for Stephen Colbert, the entirely of which were just him shouting “ORANGE MAN BAD” to canned laughter. TBS ran similar such promos for Samantha Bee during the baseball playoffs.

            There was also an ad, sponsored by the NFL, whose core premise was basically “police are gunning down innocent black men for no reason, but our heroic NFL players are thankfully speaking out against this.”

          • Aapje says:

            MMA has MAGA Man, who goes pretty far in the other direction.

          • Matt M says:

            Do commercials featuring that guy prominently feature during blue-tribe targeted shows that are unrelated to MMA?

            I mean, I don’t watch blue-tribe targeted shows, so I don’t know, so this is a legitimate question. I get the suspicion that when cultural elites sit down to watch Empire or Modern Family or whatever it is that appeals to the woke set, they aren’t also forced to sit through a lot of ads for Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity or whoever. But maybe I’m wrong.

      • Purplehermann says:

        Thank you @Plumber, much appreciated

    • Garrett says:

      Would a blue vote grey against blue?

      Probably not. But that’s not the current calculus.

      Right now, the question is: which of the 57 candidates vying to be the Democratic nominee will be an actual contender. There are the obvious top-3 who aren’t going away for a while. The way for a lesser-known to have a chance is to be able to reliably get into the official debates. That requires a sufficient level of polling.

      So the strategy at this point is to appeal to a sufficiently-large section of the electorate who is otherwise unenthused. This gives you a solid base and thus credibility and the ability to stay in the race while others drop out. Once you become one of the last people standing, you start appealing more to the core of the blue tribe so as to broaden your base.

      If they get the Democratic nomination it won’t matter too much. Yang (or another grey tribe candidate) will have lots of people they can work with to reshape their message about how intelligent they are. (Remember all the talk about how Al Gore had gravitas?)

  9. Sandpaper26 says:

    Something… strange has happened to me lately. I usually don’t put any stock in dreams, but much of what I’m experiencing has to do with two dreams I had these past two nights (and I usually don’t remember my dreams, but I can remember these vividly even 48 hours later). I know reading about others’ dreams is a circle of hell, so skip to the last paragraph of you want the conclusions.
    In the first dream, I was in a cavernous room with a doctor and maids in 1950’s medical garb. I asked them for some sort of assisted suicide, and a nurse laid me down on a steel table and draped a tarp over me. The tarp suddenly turned to silk, and was drenched in some sort of chemical that was putting me to sleep. Then I became suddenly terrified and remembered all of the real-world things I loved, and summoned all of my willpower to reach up and grab the nurse. Then I woke up.
    In the second dream, I was a young reporter trying to infiltrate a cult. But all the cult members were very Christian people I went to high school with, and it gradually became clear that the cult wasn’t at all connected to modern religion (it felt like I lived several months in the dream). Instead, the cult was obsessed with the idea that the only holy thing in the world is to produce work of the highest quality, whatever the work was. Of course, I began to believe this, so much that I became a leader in the cult. And I felt so viscerally connected to this message, like what I was doing was the most important thing anyone could possibly be doing. But suddenly the dream shifted, and I was reaching toward a raging fire, wanting desperately to grab the coals but just unable to get close enough. And this, too, was terrifying.

    The first dream forced two revelations immediately upon waking. First, I am terrified of death. I’ve deployed to combat and I’ve had sleep paralysis, but nothing ever scared me as much as how close that dream made me feel to dying. It’s a feeling I can’t shake, even now. And, oddly, a few years ago I had done a lot of meditating on Buddhist teachings and had a dissolution-of-self experience (it went away after I stopped meditating), so I thought I had immunized myself against fear of death somewhat. Second, I realized that everyone probably feels this way, if they clearly see death coming. I don’t know how people can make peace with death — it seems to me that everyone’s last thoughts must be full of terror, if it’s anything like what I experienced. That whole day, I internalized a conviction to prevent death as much as possible, as long as possible, for as many people as possible. And lo, just as I spent all day thinking about this, that very night I had a dream that came like a sign from God that I was doing the right thing, and that it’s vital for me to continue. Call me a heretic or a schizophrenic, but I genuinely feel like a prophet, and some external force has given me these visions, even as my rational mind won’t believe that. I don’t know what to do now. Has anyone else experienced anything like this? Is this what Kierkegaard felt like?

    • Purplehermann says:

      And when will this work burn you?

      • Sandpaper26 says:

        Maybe I should clarify — I wasn’t scared of being burned. I was scared of not being able to grab the coals.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Shades of Icarus and Prometheus.

          I don’t know how people can make peace with death — it seems to me that everyone’s last thoughts must be full of terror, if it’s anything like what I experienced

          How old are you, and how long have you feared death?

          • soreff says:

            I’m interested in the answer too – and also in a tangentially related
            question: There was an interesting essay on aeon about euthanasia
            recently, and I’d like to bring it up on SSC. My assumption is that this
            is a culture war topic, and that it should wait for the next #.25 or #.75
            thread. Is this correct or incorrect?

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            Euthanasia may be CW. But .50 is CW ok also, so you can bring it up now.

          • soreff says:

            @Mark V Anderson

            Many Thanks!

          • Sandpaper26 says:

            I turn 26 in a few days, and I have never felt a true fear of death until these dreams (despite having been in several situations where I could have died but didn’t).

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Happy birthday in a few days, and happy Chinese new year!

            I’m 41 and felt it at 10.

            It is relevant and important for younger people who are just starting into adulthood (or who aren’t there yet) to feel the true horror of death, and to be against it. For they have much to experience and contribute, and should seek to do so.

            Fight the good fight (because this is the good fight), but there’s a decent chance your own mortality will be of less importance to you as you age.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I know reading about others’ dreams is a circle of hell

      To the contrary, I find other people’s dreams fascinating. Well as long as they don’t go on too long, which few dreams do. Your dreams sound interesting, but I have no idea how to interpret them. Although it sounds like your subconscious is worried about dying for some reason.

    • Bergil says:

      I have definitely had dreams felt like someone telling me something. For instance, when I was in the depths of depression, I drempt of trying and failing to climb a steep hill, until an angelic woman helped me to reach the summit. I tend to treat them as coming from a part of my subconscious mind that is on my side, and as such despite having no belief in the supernatural, am very willing to act on dreams.

      • Sandpaper26 says:

        I’m just so used to either not remembering my dreams or them being random images that I don’t feel connected to. But I was alive in these, like Lao Tzu’s man dreaming of being a butterfly/butterfly dreaming it’s a man. It really startled me.

    • soreff says:

      Second, I realized that everyone probably feels this way, if they clearly see death coming. I don’t know how people can make peace with death — it seems to me that everyone’s last thoughts must be full of terror, if it’s anything like what I experienced.

      I guess it is only fair for me to answer this from my perspective.

      First: About 11 years ago I had some heart palpitations which initially looked like they were long Q-T
      syndrome (it later turned out they they were actually clinically insignificant), which can cause sudden
      cardiac death. I was 50 at the time, and basically didn’t lose any sleep over that risk. My point of
      view was that I’d already had 2/3 of a typical lifetime, and dropping dead at that point would have
      been a disappointment, but hardly a tragedy.

      In terms of terror, I’m not sure what you have in mind, but from my point of view there are
      three potential sources:

      1) loss of lifespan, of potential future enjoyment. As I’m now 61 – well, there are things I enjoy,
      but the pleasures I can plausibly enjoy in the future are likely to be similar to those I’ve already
      enjoyed. There are pleasures I could in principle put on a bucket list (seeing the Taj Mahal with my
      own eyes, attending an orgy), but I doubt that they are worth the effort. Now, if we could stop
      aging, and I had 1000 years to do such things, that would be different, but we can’t, at least not
      now, so I don’t – and 20 years, with steadily diminishing energy, limits me to more pedestrian pleasures.
      So, as when I was 50, if I lost those potential years, it would be a disappointment, perhaps,
      at this point, even only a mild disappointment, but not a tragedy.

      2) fear of something after death. No. As nearly as I can tell, after my last neuron fires for the
      last time, I will no longer exist. I’m with Epicurus: “If I am, then death is not. If death is, then I am not.”

      3) fear of the process of dying. That depends hugely on what kills me. I find Alzheimer’s terrifying:
      Having my identity and humanity stripped away, neuron by neuron, over years. At the other end
      of the scale, inert gas asphyxiation is not threatening. It is less unpleasant or uncomfortable than many
      routine daily events.

      So, to your question: How can people make peace with death? For myself, as long as I can avoid –
      or cut short – the more horrendous possible ways of dying, those three possible terrors are not
      frightful.

      • Sandpaper26 says:

        I guess I’d describe the terror as an extremely strong aversion to oblivion. It was so primal, like my lizard brain saw the cliff of nothingness and pulled every lever it had to keep me alive. It don’t think it falls into any of your categories, really. It was just a wordless imperative to stop, at any cost, what was happening. Which sounds fine, for a moment, except I can still feel it if I think about it, even though I’m in no danger at all right now.

        • soreff says:

          Many Thanks! Very interesting!

          >I guess I’d describe the terror as an extremely strong aversion to oblivion.

          Hmm… I’m writing this from the United States, and here there is a small, but
          consistent population of fire-and-brimstone preachers. Their nightmare vision
          has always made me find oblivion comforting by comparison.

          More personally: If there is one thing I’ve learned at SSC, it is that there is a
          _lot_ of person-to-person variation in the strength of human’s drives.
          True of sex, true of hunger, true of suffocation reaction to CO2.
          Perhaps aversion to oblivion also has a large range, and we are on
          opposite sides.

          A bit more personally: I lean towards autoassassinophilia, which also
          tends to make at least some types of deaths less aversive.

          Re the poets, Swinburne’s:

          In the sweet low light of thy face, under heavens untrod by the sun,
          Let my soul with their souls find place, and forget what is done and undone.
          Thou art more than the Gods who number the days of our temporal breath;
          For these give labour and slumber; but thou, Proserpina, death.
          Therefore now at thy feet I abide for a season in silence. I know
          I shall die as my fathers died, and sleep as they sleep; even so.
          For the glass of the years is brittle wherein we gaze for a span;
          A little soul for a little bears up this corpse which is man.l
          So long I endure, no longer; and laugh not again, neither weep.
          For there is no God found stronger than death; and death is a sleep.

      • Tarpitz says:

        I would like to echo Sandpaper26 in saying “none of the above”. Philip Larkin put it best:

        I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
        Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
        In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
        Till then I see what’s really always there:
        Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
        Making all thought impossible but how
        And where and when I shall myself die.
        Arid interrogation: yet the dread
        Of dying, and being dead,
        Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

        The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
        —The good not done, the love not given, time
        Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
        An only life can take so long to climb
        Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
        But at the total emptiness for ever,
        The sure extinction that we travel to
        And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
        Not to be anywhere,
        And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

        This is a special way of being afraid
        No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
        That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
        Created to pretend we never die,
        And specious stuff that says No rational being
        Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
        That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
        No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
        Nothing to love or link with,
        The anaesthetic from which none come round.

        And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
        A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
        That slows each impulse down to indecision.
        Most things may never happen: this one will,
        And realisation of it rages out
        In furnace-fear when we are caught without
        People or drink. Courage is no good:
        It means not scaring others. Being brave
        Lets no one off the grave.
        Death is no different whined at than withstood.

        Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
        It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
        Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
        Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
        Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
        In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
        Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
        The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
        Work has to be done.
        Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

        • SamChevre says:

          “Unresting death, a whole day nearer now” makes me think of one of the stunning poems from the Making Light comments.

          The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended.
          One more tomorrow, most probably.
          But just why you did this, or what you intended,
          I have to confess is a puzzle to me.

          I have no idea why you went to the trouble
          Of separating infinity
          To make time and space; dark and light would seem double
          The effort. Why bother? What is it to Thee?

          It must be important – sun setting, sun rising,
          These mornings, evenings, this sky, this sea.
          Time’s nothing to you. Why are you emphasizing
          How awfully vital it must be to me?

          You think that I won’t hear his wheels close behind me,
          Unless I’m prompted by night and noon?
          Not hardly. My knees are enough to remind me
          I’m bound to get run over, probably soon.

          You know that. Is that why you are the renewer
          Of mornings, evenings, of night and day?
          We say “one more day”, but we mean “one day fewer.”
          You say “one day more”, and you mean what you say.

          Dave Luckett, 2010

        • Sandpaper26 says:

          As always, we can rely on poets to put feelings into words. Thank you.

    • FLWAB says:

      As soon as I read the description of your second dream I knew what it meant.

      The cult is made up of people you knew before, and it is not what it appears from the outside. If you seek truth in places you would not have considered before, and from people you may have dismissed before, and you will find it. However, no matter how hard you try and how high you rise you will not achieve perfection. The coal is perfection: the “work of highest quality” that you seek. Ultimately the only work that matters. You will not be able to grasp it by your own efforts, just as a man does not grasp a burning coal with his bare hands.

      This is what was revealed to me. In my own mind the solution is clear: you need to seek the followers of Christ, and you will find truth there. Without His intercession you cannot grasp the coal.

      I do not usually interpret dreams. Take my words as what they are: either the revelation of God, or the interpretation of a fool.

      • Sandpaper26 says:

        I spent all of my formative years in a Methodist Church. The experience left me soured on religious devotees, to say the least. And in any case, this seemed to me like something… beyond the Church, if that makes sense? Like we were somehow creating our own God.

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Funny enough, this kind of dreams made me realize I’m not actually afraid of death as an event. In all of them (not many, 2-3 maybe) I’m pretty chill. No combat experience or health scares, just occasional motorcycle close calls which were also chill, adrenaline aside. It may have something to do with my emotions being occasionally a bit disconnected.

      I’m much opposed to death in principle, and I consider trying to personally survive forever to be one of the default justifiable drives for anybody. Still amazed it’s so rare. My long term strategy is aligned with this – make money, decrease risks, have regular health checks.

  10. johan_larson says:

    Quinns from Shut Up & Sit Down advises us that the Normandy invasion is perhaps just a bit too often featured in war games, and other parts of the war really deserve some attention.

    https://youtu.be/TssB-ZTtlys?t=877

    • Machine Interface says:

      Other parts like what? WWII has more wargames about it than I suspect all other wars combined. There isn’t a single major engagement of WWII that doesn’t have several dedicated war games, and then some for smaller battles.

      • DarkTigger says:

        Are you sure? I mean, sure there might be some niche games from ’75. But if you look at stuff with any main stream appeal in the last 20 years, you only find Americans in France (maybe sometimes with the British in a support role), Americans in the Pacific, and sometimes Russians at Moskau or Stalingrad.
        This is true for both computer – and board games.

      • Watchman says:

        Any games covering the Thai’s involvement? People always seem to forget they were taxis combatants as well…

      • johan_larson says:

        The part Quinns brings up, just as an example, is the Indian army of WWII.

        What part of the war is seldom mentioned in games, although it was a big deal and really mattered? In the Pacific theatre, the Japanese vs the Americans gets plenty of attention. Does the land war between the Chinese and the Japanese show up much?

        In fairness though, I think much of this effect comes from much of the industry being in the US. The Americans will quite naturally tend to focus on their own experience of the war, and particularly the really memorable and successful parts. Also, most of us are from the Anglosphere, so we never see whatever fiction and games are produced about the war for Chinese or Russian consumption.

        • bean says:

          What part of the war is seldom mentioned in games, although it was a big deal and really mattered?

          Logistics. And no, Campaign for North Africa does not count.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Campaign for North Africa does not count.

            On the contrary, that’s all you do in Campaign for North Africa. 🙂

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            What was it that Eisenhower said were the three tools that won WWII? The 2 1/2 ton truck, the DC-3 and the Liberty ship? Or was the Jeep in there?

          • bean says:

            On the contrary, that’s all you do in Campaign for North Africa. 🙂

            I’m well aware of that. It’s just that I don’t think Campaign for North Africa is a game.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Logistics. And no, Campaign for North Africa does not count.

            I like to think that the overriding logistics issue for the armies in North Africa was that the Royal Navy was focused on getting supplies of hamburgers through the Mediterranean, and the Italians and Afrika Korps were always short of food supplies from Italian ships. This required daring Panzer raids on the British hamburger supplies in which the commander would cry “ROMMEL ROMMEL!”

          • achenx says:

            @Le Maistre Chat

            *slow clap*

          • mendax says:

            @Bean

            1944: Race to the Rhine is a game about logistics that sees players take the place of Montgomery, Patton, and Bradley competing to make the most rapid advance. There’s also a 1941: Race to Moscow, but I think it isn’t out yet.

            Supply Lines of the American Revolution is another, simpler game that focuses primarily on logistics.

            Many monster wargames feature logistics, and some are a sight more playable and a lot more fun than Campaign for North Africa. The OCS series deserves special mention (though they aren’t all monsters, I think).

            And at a simpler level, the Quartermaster General series emphasizes logistics and supply in a more abstract sense, but does more than Risk or Axis and Allies.

          • bean says:

            @mendax

            Thanks. I’ll have to take a look at those.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          The part Quinns brings up, just as an example, is the Indian army of WWII.

          Indians fought nearly everywhere, too. The Telegu film industry made an epic called Kanche about Indians in the Italian campaign, focusing on the drama between two men of different castes who had been in a homicidal conflict over a high-caste woman before becoming commander and subordinate, and how what they see of Nazi-occupied Italy after the Kingdom surrendered echoes the bad parts of life back home.

        • Nornagest says:

          I’ve only ever seen a few parts of the Pacific Theater in games: naval aviation (rolling Pearl Harbor in here), the island-hopping campaign (usually just Guadalcanal), and American submarine warfare vs. Japanese shipping (in an obscure simulation game series, nothing approaching AAA). Southeast Asia gets much less attention; unless you’re Australian or really into WWII, for example, you could be forgiven for forgetting that the Australians were combatants. And Burma and mainland China get hardly any at all — I think Quartered Safe Out Here is the only thing I’ve read, watched, or played that even mentions the Burma campaign, and that was written by a veteran of it.

          Most of what I know about the Manchurian campaign actually comes from the Japanese side, by way of my martial arts lineage.

    • Lambert says:

      The americans were there.
      It was the last really audacious part of the war with Germany.
      They were liberating a country.

    • bean says:

      I’ll completely agree with this. There are a couple of battles which define the war in the popular imagination, and everything else gets ignored. In the Pacific, it’s Midway, Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima. In Europe, Normandy, the Bulge, and Stalingrad. But what about Leyte Gulf, particularly Samar? What about Operation Dragoon? Italy? North Africa? And I haven’t even gotten really obscure yet.

      And then there’s other wars. (Cue chanting of “Jutland”.)

      • B_Epstein says:

        El-Alamein, in particular, was quite important. On the other hand, “your opponent is out of oil so move around until they lose” doesn’t make for a fascinating game.

        Hmm how about an exciting WWII game where you’re Turing and have to crack the Enigma? Complete with statistical problems, hardware design and what not.

      • Tarpitz says:

        I think it’s inevitable. Over here it’s different incidents – Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, Operation Rheinübung, second Alamein, with only D-Day and Stalingrad as overlaps – but fundamentally the same story.

      • EchoChaos says:

        Do you not view Sicily and the entire invasion of Italy to be essential to Americans?

        It could just be that my great-granddaddy fought there, but I’ve always learned that without Sicily and Italy, D-Day would’ve been impossible, and there are lots of movies made about it.

        I think that Anzio is not as well-known a name as Normandy, but just as well known as Bastogne.

        • bean says:

          I agree that Sicily and Italy were important, but I can’t think of any movies that cover them, certainly not recent ones. Taking Wikipedia’s list of WWII films since 1990, I get one mention of Sicily in an Italian movie and none of Anzio or Salerno. Italy as a whole is obviously confounded by the presence of Italy as a country that makes movies. There’s one under development about Monte Cassino, but it looks to be a human-interest story.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            Captain America takes the title character from the home front to the Italian Front, though after rescuing a bunch of Allied POWs in Italy he buggers off into a montage of imaginary, geographically-vague battles where no actual Nazis or Wehrmacht are present (presumably because they had a toy line they wanted to sell in Europe).

          • bean says:

            I’m going to argue that Captain America is a superhero movie first and a WWII movie a distant second. He may have been in Italy, but it was not a movie about the Italian front.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            I believe I snarked pre-emptive agreement with that.

          • Nick says:

            What about Catch-22? Wasn’t a series made just last year?

          • EchoChaos says:

            @bean

            Technically “Tuskegee Airmen” is about Italy, because that was their theater of operations, but that’s a decent list. The Battle of the Bulge looks like it’s got only a couple, but that is more, so I’ll accept that it’s probably a bigger one.

            Older movies had more in Italy (the one I’m thinking of is Anzio, which I watched recently).

          • Tarpitz says:

            The English Patient (1996) is not a war film, but significant parts of it do take place in Italy during the Italian campaign, and several of the characters (the b plot couple, for starters) are serving military personel doing their jobs on screen.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        And I haven’t even gotten really obscure yet.

        Name me something as cinematic/RPG campaign in WWII as the battles of the Czechslovak Legion just leaving WWI, please.

        • John Schilling says:

          Explicitly included in SPI’s old “Russian Civil War” game, though obviously not the focus. Seriously, old-school board wargaming covered just about everything. Yes, bean, including Jutland.

          • bean says:

            I’m aware of that game. Avalon Hill and SPI turned out seven zillion games, and while I’ve heard good things about many of them, there’s a big gap between what you can get on eBay and what’s available on the shelves at your local hobby store. I’ll suggest a 30-year statute of limitations on games for our purposes here, and AFAIK, Jutland wasn’t published during that interval.

          • John Schilling says:

            Decision Games seems to be trying to keep/bring as much of the old SPI library as possible back into print, as well as creating some new stuff in the same mold. There’s also GMT Games, and a few others in the same niche.
            None of them can do Jutland, as that was an Avalon Hill title, but it brings an awful lot of content into your 30-year window.

            An obscure corner of that window, yes, not likely to be represented on the shelves of your local hobby shop. But if the complaint is “there are hundreds and hundreds of historically significant battles that gamers don’t seem to care about!”, then it’s kind of unfair to rule out the gamers who care about that sort of thing just because they can’t support brick-and-mortar shops that will stock many hundreds of niche games.

          • bean says:

            To a large extent, my complaint is more about the general public than niche gamers. (I admit to not being terribly plugged into SPI-type games. Never had any at the right time, and have other hobbies now.) I did check the publication dates for Jutland, but didn’t look around more for time reasons.

        • mendax says:

          The Czech Legion get a counter in Reds! and in Triumph of Chaos (I think they might be their own political mini-faction in that one).

          But their story is surely deserving of the solo campaign treatment, though those usually deal with air-crews.

      • Civilis says:

        I think your list of which battles generally get covered more or less matches mine. A noticeable exception from a major game series is Battlefield 1942, which had several battles in North Africa in addition to the battles you listed above, and the expansion was all about Italy.

        Think about the challenges in making a game, either board or electronic, about the Battle of Samar and making it replayable. I can see making it a high difficulty level / “extremely challenging” scenario in a more generic Pacific wargame; there are people that thrive on seemingly impossible challenges. But as a stand alone game, it’s too one-sided to work, which is a testament to Taffy 3’s incredible achievement in driving off the Japanese fleet.

        I think the problem lies with the nature of a game played at the individual/squad/ship tactical level. You need the game to be balanced, and there’s only so many scenarios that make sense, and only so much distinguishable history. The problem is complicated because of the generic nature of the MMO video game and the rather generic sandbox-ish tabletop game rules prominent with a lot of modern tabletop wargames (IE, rather than a specific scenario, publish rules built around generic units and modular maps that can be used for multiple different scenarios, combined with a scenario book).

        To look at land combat in the US Pacific theater (acknowledging that China Burma India is an area that gets the short stick and probably should get more attention), you have three basic scenarios: US landing, Japanese landing, and island combat. We’re going to short the other allies to keep it simple from a development perspective: we only want to create a basic set of gear models for only the US and Japanese forces; while I’m sure there were historic differences across those three years, you can probably paper over those for ease of development. ‘Which battles should we represent?’ comes down to name recognition unless there’s a gameplay distinction. From the perspective of the players, what’s the gameplay difference between a US landing scenario set on Iwo Jima, Tarawa, Guam, or Saipan?

        Battlefield 1942 did Wake Island for the Japanese landing scenario, Guadalcanal for the island combat scenario, and Iwo Jima for the US landing scenario. If I was to vary the formula, I’d first add a non-landing scenario for Okinawa or perhaps Manila for a trade-off in the terrain from the jungle of Guadalcanal / New Guinea, as the terrain variance makes for a major gameplay difference.

        • bean says:

          To some extent, I was talking about the broader pop-culture aspects of the problem, not just games. You’re definitely right that Samar is not an easy game to do in a conventional force on force model, but there are definitely options if you’re willing to get creative with both gameplay and scoring. Say that it’s timed, and the main counter of who is winning is how many of the CVEs have been sunk. Randomize weather and support forces to enhance replayability.

          But you could do Philippine Sea as a conventional 1 v 1 instead, or Leyte Gulf as a whole (although you’d probably have to do unconventional scoring again). Not to mention Guadalcanal/the Solomons. Or half a dozen others. Again, if you get clever with scoring, lots of fun asymmetric scenarios open up.

          • Civilis says:

            This raises a question: what pop-culture level naval warfare media is there?

            If you go full grognard, there are always counter and small miniatures games, but those aren’t pop culture.

            Submarines always have their share of movies / stories / games, but those are almost a separate sub-genre, and those work because it’s easy for the viewer / reader / player to follow or embody a single, independently acting ship.

            The only Western fleet naval combat game I can think of at the pop-culture level is World of Warships, which operates on the generic MMO level rather than on simulating individual battles. I’ve never played it, but my understanding is that rather than, say, a map of the Solomons, it uses generic gameplay-balanced maps designed to give some of the flavor of that region of the Pacific.

            On the other hand, the Japanese / East Asians have not left naval warfare unscathed from their predictable pattern of turning everything into an anthropomorphic personification based mobile RPG (probably because it allows working with the subject without getting into the… touchier bits of history). I think the most notable is Kantai Collection, which is almost exclusively focused on the Japanese Navy (although they do include Iowa). Azur Lane is the Chinese-developed rival, with a more balanced cast (interestingly, the Japanese anime based on the game keeps Enterprise as the main character). While the characters are anthropomorphic personifications, my understanding is that the RPG specs of the characters are influenced by their specifications and service histories.

          • Tarpitz says:

            There are certainly films – most recently Midway, of course, but also Pearl Harbor and Master and Commander, and going further back the likes of Sink the Bismarck, Tora! Tora! Tora! and The Battle of the River Plate. These are all big budget, mainstream movies, and with the exception of (the recent) Midway they were commercial successes.

            On TV, ITV did Hornblower in the late 90s/early 00s, and it was certainly pretty mainstream over here – don’t know about the US.

          • bean says:

            @Tarpitz

            I’m not denying that there’s been stuff in the past. But if we look at the past 20-30 years, there’s not much. We have Pearl Harbor with the famous exploding Spru-cans, Master and Commander, which was good but not successful enough to get a sequel, and Midway, which I haven’t seen, but reports were not good. Two that were bad, and the only good one was age of sail, not WWII.

        • Loriot says:

          But as a stand alone game, it’s too one-sided to work, which is a testament to Taffy 3’s incredible achievement in driving off the Japanese fleet.

          You could use a scoring system where a player wins by doing better than expected, although that can result in unrealistic strategies.

          I once played an old board game based on the WW2 pacific theater, with one player as Japan and one as US. The US would inevitably overwhelm Japan eventually through numbers, but you get points for each territory you control at the end of each year, and have to reach a set target to win, based on how the countries did historically. My uncle (playing as Japan) defeated me by abandoning the home islands at the end and sending his entire navy to a single spot in the ocean, preventing me from defeating them quickly enough to win.

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      SU&SD? Aren’t they those guys who play every sort of boardgame except wargames?

      If there’s any one part of that war that gamers are obsessed with, it’s the Eastern Front. If on the other hand you’re talking about US popular culture, then guilty as charged.

      • johan_larson says:

        They do play war games occasionally. “The War of the Ring” and “1812:The Invasion of Canada” are clearly war games, and SU&SD have reviewed both of them. But war games are not their focus; their home turf is the space of lighter board games, strategy games, party games, and card games. And sometimes that bumps up against war games.

        • Paul Zrimsek says:

          I was exaggerating a bit; they also seem to play a lot of Memoir ’44. Still not the people you’d necessarily trust to have an accurate picture of the wargaming world.

          • DarkTigger says:

            They play wargames they think have a certain amount of mass appeal. And you have to admit that those tend to concentrate on a certain number of theaters when set in WW2.

            Also they have(had?) a guy on the team who is more into the wargaming scene. The dude at least used to write/co-write a lot of their articles about wargames.

    • It isn’t a game, but Quartered Safe Out Here by George MacDonald Fraser, author of the Flashman books, is an interesting first hand account of the Burma campaign.

    • Le Maistre Chat says:

      Speaking of wars that get less attention, there really ought to be a movie about the Recoilless Rifle Platoon of the 5th Marine Regiment in the last ten months of the Korean War.

  11. Le Maistre Chat says:

    End of October, 1962. The Republic of Cuba announced that they discovered the body of a Nazi war criminal guilty of experimenting on human subjects at Auschwitz on October 26, the day after the recent United States blockade of their country was challenged. Dr. Klaus Schmidt, who disappeared from Germany in 1945 and was believed to be living in hiding somewhere in the Americas, was found dead on a beach in eastern Cuba with a projectile wound through his brain, next to a beached and damaged submarine whose presence they declared inexplicable. Further, the shape of the projectile wound at the front and rear of his upper skull did not fit any known ballistics, being 2.5mm wide and 29 high. Prime Minister Fidel Castro denied that Cuban authorities were responsible, claiming that Cuban law enforcement or military personnel would have arrested Schmidt if they’d come across him alive, to be turned over to either the German Democratic Republic or international authorities for trial.
    A conspiracy theory began to circulate that Klaus Schmidt was murdered by one of his own victims, who pulled the submerged submarine onto the beach with the power of his mind, further using it to cause the submarine’s observed damage by tearing it open to reach Schmidt and murdering him by mentally accelerating a small object. The conspiracy theory alleges that psychic powers are real and were first discovered by Nazi scientists, but were proven to the CIA when telepathic individuals in the United States volunteered to demonstrate their powers to the agency in 1962.

    Seems pretty sketchy to me. I mean, even if the CIA did valid scientific experiments on telepathy, that’s no evidence that any person has a different extraordinary ability like moving objects with his mind.

    • Psycicle says:

      Isn’t this just the ending of X-men: First Class?

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        What sentence did you notice at?

          • johan_larson says:

            Yeah, I didn’t notice either, although I have seen that movie.

            Mostly I was wondering how one gets from dead guy and wrecked submarine to mental powers rather than something like a botched infiltration by submarine that failed when the sub hit a mine or something. Also I wondered why the model (and hence source nation) of the sub wasn’t mentioned.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            @johan_larson:

            Also I wondered why the model (and hence source nation) of the sub wasn’t mentioned.

            In the movie, Sebastian Shaw has stolen a nuclear submarine from either the US or USSR (or, even less likely, bought a civilian nuclear sub, since it’s never mentioned having weapons). So it was impossible to name the model.
            That was one of the worse errors in a film I believe had great writing and directing for the most part. (The worst error was too many mutants.)

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          Second paragraph starting sentence, though I was getting suspicious around the middle of the first paragraph. I didn’t remember the movie title, though, or even that it was X-Men.

          That still didn’t stop me from duckduckgoing the guys name and finding out the famous people with this name were both born after WWII.

        • bean says:

          “who pulled the submerged submarine onto the beach with the power of his mind”

          That definitely set off the alarm bells.

        • Jake R says:

          I noticed at “2.5mm wide and 29 high” when I started thinking what could cause a tall thin slot in someone’s head.

      • JayT says:

        I liked Logan best, and Days of Future past better than First Class, but First Class was very good. In general, I think the X-Men movies were pretty close to the MCU movies’ quality. Some great, some bad, some in between.

        • Nornagest says:

          Logan is the best movie of the bunch, but First Class is the best X-Men movie.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Days of Future Past was better than First Class fite me.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          @Conrad Honcho: OK, I’ll fite you: why do you (and lots of other people here) think this?
          I think DoFP has several weaknesses compared to First Class:

          Lions Kitty Pryde has time travel powers now.
          Minor problem: based on the existing rules of the Mutant universe and how little relevance her personality has, she may as well have been a new character.
          Real problem: It’s not clear that this power works by consistent rules.

          There’s a 10-year gap in the existence of Xavier’s academy that gets explained as “the students got drafted.” This is reinforced by showing Mutant-Americans in in Vietnam on the eve of the Paris Peace Talks.
          So what happened to the girls?

          In 1973, Mystique sees photos of some of the Mutants from First Class captured and dissected when she infiltrates Bolivar Trask’s office disguised as him, including Azazel. So hold on, just how old is Nightcrawler in X-2? You can’t mess this up: these two being Nightcrawler’s parents was the whole point of using such an obscure Hellfire Club member in a prequel, which in turn meant using the Hellfire Club at all, and thus making Sebastian Shaw a Nazi biologist.
          “Where were you, Charles?!” indeed. Magneto gets a good acting moment calling him out on letting his fellow Mutants die, but their confusing off-screen deaths was actually bad writing.

          What is Mystique’s thought process when she impersonates President Nixon for the purpose of making him look like a Christ figure on live television? Does she not know that she’ll revert to her true blue form if her lover-before-he-started-trying-to-kill-her takes her up on the offer to kill Nixon and only Nixon for America’s sins against Mutants? Or if the cameras capturing a Mutant dying to save normal human politicians from Magneto was the point, why make her martyr speech as Nixon?
          The whole dramatic arc of the story is that they need to be nice to normal humans in 1973* to avert the Trask invents Sentinels -> they get upgraded into bio-bots with Mystique DNA -> X-risk to Mutants and humans alike Fate. But making that choice is not written in a clear way.

          *IIRC, this might actually be the first X-Men movie where Magneto Was Wrong. One good thing about that is that they gave Ian McKellan a death speech that amounts to “I regret all the years I spent disagreeing with you instead of being together, Charles.”

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          Ah, very nice, very nice. But you’re forgetting one little thing, LMC: the superspeed scene with Quicksilver in the prison.

          Game, set, and match. Easiest internet fite I ever won.

      • johan_larson says:

        Not from where I’m sitting. It’s behind at least Logan and X2, and possibly Days of Future Past.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Speaking of which, are we agreed here that First Class is the best X-Men movie, and one of the better superhero movies?

        Along with Logan, X-Men First Class is a good movie, full stop. If you think of Charles rather than Eric as the hero, it’s a Greek tragedy about a hero whose flaw is that he doesn’t understand other people (despite being a telepath! Which makes it better.) He shows this over and over with Raven, but it’s how he plays off Eric on the Cuban beach that seals his fate, saying to a Holocaust survivor who’s also a friend he’s been let live in his house that he shouldn’t kill soldiers in self-defense because “they’re innocent men, just following orders!”
        It’s a perfect example of a comic book movie having superior artistic merit to the source material.

      • hls2003 says:

        I thought Days of Future Past was better. I’d probably put First Class slightly ahead of X2, but not by much. It’s kind of hard to compare Logan, since it’s basically a different genre. Probably better than First Class but also not more fun.

    • broblawsky says:

      I wasn’t the only one who thought that it was weird that they made Sebastian Shaw a Nazi, right? He’s a good enough villain for a modern X-Men movie even without that – a shadowy perverted billionaire is pretty right for the zeitgeist right now.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        But they weren’t writing a modern X-Men movie. First Class spun out from a project called X-Men Origins: Magneto whose dramatic arc had to be Eric growing from a little boy in Auschwitz to a Badass Israeli who gets revenge on the Nazis. Or rather A Nazi, because a villain whose character is a foil to the hero makes better drama than opposing him to a generic mob.
        Once the writers decided to have Charles Xavier helping Magneto in his origin story, it became more of an X-Men story than a solo story, raising the question of who else was around. Well Mystique is the mother of two of the X-Men, and she had Nightcrawler with this weird guy called Azazel who’s in the Hellfire Club…
        Bam(f): now you’ve got the Hellfire Club in a prequel built around Eric the Nazi Hunter. We need to make someone in the Hellfire Club a Nazi who hurt him to tie it all together.

        Sebastian Shaw and Emma Frost would be good enough villains for a modern X-Men movie. It just so happened that they stopped doing present-day X-Men before they ever thought of using those characters.

      • LadyJane says:

        I didn’t find it surprising, since the movie version of Sebastian Shaw was basically a fusion of the comic book Shaw and Mr. Sinister, combining Shaw’s powers and appearance and style with Sinister’s motivation and ideology. (Comic book movies tend to merge characters like that a lot.) And while I’m not 100% sure that Mr. Sinister was ever associated with the Nazis, it would be perfectly in keeping with his character as a eugenics-minded Evilutionary Biologist.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          Wasn’t Mr. Sinister’s deal that he conducted evil medical experiments on the Summers brothers when they had to live in an orphanage?*
          If they’d used Mr. Sinister instead, it would have been kind of annoying for Magneto to steal Cyclops’s childhood trauma, given how underdeveloped movie Cyclops was.

          *Because their parents died in a plane crash, except their dad survived by being abducted by a UFO and became a space pirate whose common law wife was a skunk person.

        • broblawsky says:

          Sinister’s main thing was creating a mutant powerful enough to defeat Apocalypse, IIRC.

  12. soreff says:

    Daniel Callcut has an interesting essay on Aeon,
    “Death by design”:
    https://aeon.co/essays/if-you-could-choose-what-would-make-for-a-good-death
    It is, roughly speaking, a libertarian perspective on euthanasia.
    I’d like to hear the views of the people here on it.
    My own comment was:

    I would dearly love for “Designer Endings” to actually exist. I salute Daniel Callcut for actually writing about such a possibility openly, and I salute Aeon for publishing it in a mainstream publication. Most natural ending are miserable. There are exceptions for sudden cardiac death and for massive strokes, but heart failure, ischaemic strokes, cancer, and Alzheimers and the other dementias are ends that, in my own case, I would do nearly anything to cut short. Current options for euthanasia are an improvement, but rather coldly clinical. Yes, I would be very happy to have the option of choosing a final hour that I could actually look forward to.

    I particularly liked Callcut’s line: ” Do we have to keep all appealing escape routes unavailable? ”

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      Spending resources others could use for death I cannot understand. Spending resources to prolong life I do understand.

      Life is the be-all of value. Why spend resources on the ending of that value?

      I cannot imagine choosing euthanasia or mercy. I tolerate it for animals only because so many people would wish it for themselves, and we cannot know what the animal wants, and I do not have personal power over the life or death of these animals.

      The defense of a right to die I can understand, but the defense of a right to a hedonistic death gives nothing to those who continue living (as a funeral does), and is the opposite of effective altruism in a world without universal plenty.

      I can be equanimous toward my own death. But I cannot be equanimous toward the profligate celebration of death. Life exists for life.

      Life is sacred. If you devalue your own life to end it, and also devalue others’ lives to profligately spend resources on the ending of your life, you encourage a society that devalues the lives of others. This is a society I do not want to walk toward. I draw the line immediately after assisted suicide, and literal mercy killings. And I only draw the line there because I am willing to compromise my beliefs for the sake of others’ strongly held desires. That is the “radical” line in my Overton window. Anything further is “unthinkable”.

      Life is for life. Life has a duty to life. Life is the continuation and the font of all meaning. The only justification for ending of life is mercy, or to protect other life. In a few trillion years heat death will end all we know, unless Life finds a way to overcome it. We should not celebrate this heat death today, we should not help The Nothing.

      I have written this while reading the article. The ending of the article is nice, but so is the idea of a bucket list, with the person fondly reminiscing on their bucket list adventures while taking terminal anesthesia in the hospital 3 months later when the cancer is about to take them. This ending is nicer in my mind, for the society left behind after the person dies, and for any loved ones left behind, knowing they had every moment possible with their person.

      The chosen death scene in Soylent Green was nice. But the clinical soylent machines are not. You find clinicalness in current assisted suicide or euthanasia, I find it in how things are handled after the individual’s end.

      I would want to keep life sacred, not death.

      P.S. I love your raccoon gravatar.

      • soreff says:

        Many Thanks for your thoughtful response!

        I get very queasy about “Life has a duty to life.”
        I have lived all my life under the thumb of various obligations,
        and I want very much to avoid having another one,
        yet _another_ “duty”, draped
        around my neck as my death approaches.
        Similarly, I am suspicious of anyone calling anything sacred – particularly
        if it is going to prevent me from managing my own life – and my own death –
        in the way that seems best to me.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I understand where you’re coming from.

          Ultimately all of your duties stemmed from this primary duty to others who are living, or will live (unless you have those absurd “duties” which are wishes and commands from someone who has already died, being enforced on you by people who still live).

          • Dacyn says:

            If you make a promise to someone and then they die, do you think that voids the promise?

            I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “those absurd ‘duties’ “. People sometimes complain about what happens to people’s property when they die, but nobody has a duty to interact with that property as far as I can tell (or if they do it is because it is their job, which means they are exchanging resources with someone still living).

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Nope, that’s you following up on a commitment made to someone who lived when they lived. I honor that, and almost edited my response to include it, but though the parenthetical was enough to indicate I wasn’t including this.

            Personal commitments means something only when the people making them trust that each other will continue making them.

            I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “those absurd ‘duties’ “.

            Maybe they’re fictitious, but I’m sure I’ve heard of absurd last will requirements. I’m primarily thinking or never ending traditions that dragoon people into continuing them (generally you can quit these traditions as an adult, but as a child family pressure can force you into them).

          • soreff says:

            >I understand where you’re coming from.

            Thank you.

            >Ultimately all of your duties stemmed from this primary duty to others who are living, or will live

            I’m not sure what set of duties you have in mind – or how to keep that set bounded at a reasonable level. In some of your further responses
            it sounds like you mean personal promises. But I have never promised
            anyone that e.g. I’d endure Alzheimer’s, or one of the lethal cancers.

            In one of your other responses you wrote:

            >life serving Life, not self serving Self.

            This sounds extremely dystopian to me. I’m one of those who
            value autonomy very highly.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            I’m not sure what set of duties you have in mind

            Incredibly few people feel they have duties to non-living objects.

            This sounds extremely dystopian to me. I’m one of those who value autonomy very highly.

            Do you value it so much you’d morally allow someone who had the power to save the human race to refrain from saving the human race because they don’t want to be bothered, or actively want the human race to end?

            If you let things die because you benefit from it, then you’re self serving Self (obviously an exception has to be made for food and shelter, because reality is what it is, and I morally make an exception for unintentional or truly unknown-about deaths). If you go out of your way to prevent things dying, even though it has a cost to you, then you’re life serving Life. Everything else in between these poles is just normal life.

            That is all I meant by this.

          • soreff says:

            Do you value it so much you’d morally allow someone who had the power to save the human race to refrain from saving the human race because they don’t want to be bothered, or actively want the human race to end?

            If it were a question of the person with the power lifting a finger, then I
            would rebuke them for not doing so.

            But this is right at the limit of what I’m willing to agree to.

            If the person who had the power had to agree to be tortured to
            save the human race, and if they refused, I’d consider that perfectly
            reasonable. There is only so much that one can reasonably ask of
            any person, and that would be asking far too much.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            There is only so much that one can reasonably ask of any person, and that would be asking far too much.

            And that’s what I fear the end of life may turn on. People valuing their own, right now, such that they make a conscious choice that there be no future.

          • soreff says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            And that’s what I fear the end of life may turn on. People valuing their own, right now, such that they make a conscious choice that there be no future.

            Please remember that in the variant scenario that I posited, the
            “valuing their own” consists of avoiding torture. You haven’t
            explicitly said whether you would morally allow someone to avoid that
            fate. I’m taking your words to suggest you would rebuke them for that
            choice. I want no part of such a moral system. A society organized
            around it would be a horrible dystopia.

            In a nutshell, it seems that
            you fear extinction more than dystopia,
            and I fear dystopia more than extinction.
            Shall we agree to disagree?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @soreff

            Sure, we can agree to disagree. I will note though, that I was responding to this part of your statement too:

            If it were a question of the person with the power lifting a finger, then I would rebuke them for not doing so.

            But this is right at the limit of what I’m willing to agree to.

            There is a ton of space between lifting a finger and suffering torture, and you seemed to be claiming that mere lifting a finger was the limit at which you would rebuke them for not acting. But if that limit is actual horrific torture, then I respect your choice, though I would take torture myself, and would rebuke the person for not being willing to suffer the torture.

            I was thinking some minutes ago about a closed loop – where at the end of our Universe we somehow manage to initiate the original creation of our Universe. In that Ouroboran case, then all matters equally, and I cannot ask that someone suffer for the future when they are suffering for the past and suffering for themselves.

          • soreff says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            There is a ton of space between lifting a finger and suffering torture

            True

            though I would take torture myself, and would rebuke the person for not being willing to suffer the torture.

            Many thanks for the clarification. That is what I’d guessed your
            moral code would imply. This puts it solidly outside of my
            Overton window.

            I wish you personally, and your loved ones, long life, health, happiness,
            love, and prosperity, and I wish the moral code that you subscribe to
            would quietly vanish.

            Best wishes,
            -Jeff

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            and I wish the moral code that you subscribe to would quietly vanish.

            So you don’t want heroes in your world?

          • There is a ton of space between lifting a finger and suffering torture

            True

            You don’t actually respond to his argument. According to what you wrote, if saving the human race requires a couple of hours of hard work, which is surely more than lifting a finger, you would not rebuke someone who refused to do it.

            Is that correct?

          • soreff says:

            @DavidFriedman

            True – I don’t respond to the space between lifting a
            finger and torture. Very few post responses address
            every single possible point in the preceding post.

            a) I don’t want to get into a series of arguments where he repeatedly
            doubles the demands – give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile.
            I am deliberately not answering your scenario of several
            hours’ work for this same reason.
            Tell you what: If the situation actually arises in real life,
            we can refine our precise positions then. 🙂
            b) What I was trying to establish, and _did_ establish, is that his morals
            call for him to rebuke someone who refuses torture in that situation. That makes them dystopian, which was
            my original point (in this subthread)

            Actually, our (anonymousskimmer’s and my) concerns are pretty close to symmetrical:
            He doesn’t want people pushed into death.
            I don’t want people pushed into pain.

            Since you are the foremost Libertarian scholar in SSC, what do you
            think of Callcut’s original proposal?

            Best wishes,
            -Jeff

          • @Jeff:

            I think assisted suicide should be legal, subject to precautions to make sure it really is voluntary and not disguised murder. On the hand, encouraging it, which is part of what Calicut’s proposal implies, does not strike me as a good idea.

            As it happens, I know of a real world case. A very old friend of mine, dying of colon cancer, told the rest of us that she had set a drop dead date — if she hadn’t died by then, she would. I flew across the country to say good bye to her.

            She kept her date.

          • soreff says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Thank you. I think making assisted suicide legal would cover most of
            what I, at least, would want out of Callcut’s proposal.

            Do you happen to know, as the law stands now, since you have studied
            legal systems, would someone who attends a suicide, but neither
            actively assists it, nor acts to prevent it, be in legal jeopardy? Are final
            goodbyes, such as the one that you made, legally risky?

            Is the solace of a final hug from spouse or lover or friend
            legally risky to them?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Actually, our (anonymousskimmer’s and my) concerns are pretty close to symmetrical:
            He doesn’t want people pushed into death.

            You give me a bit too much credit.

            I want sufficient numbers of people to see Death, writ large, as a currently abhorrent necessity that needs to be fought against even at our individual expense. And my fear is that premature euthanasia (death, writ small), if glorified as in the Aeon essay, will be seen as more and more acceptable with consequent immediate philosophical acceptance of Death, writ large, for humanity and Life in general.

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

            We live in a time of the voluntary human extinction movement. Admittedly, this is a fringe group, but I’m at the opposite fringe (while still being liberal), and as far as I know, in fewer numbers than they are. I can’t meet you mid way without giving more power to their worldview. The fact that I do meet you somewhere in the middle by accepting terminal illness assisted suicide (under more limited circumstances than I’ve described so far – i.e. if a cure is being tested *right now* I probably wouldn’t accept suicide) is simply a demonstration of my humanism.

          • soreff says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            Fair enough. I basically don’t attempt to do anything about anything
            “writ large” at this point in my life. 20 years ago, I attempted to give
            a small push towards getting atomically precise molecular manufacturing
            implemented. That would have had major medical applications
            http://www.rfreitas.com/
            and would have materially improved the human condition.
            It didn’t get funded, and it didn’t happen. C’est la mort.
            Maybe it will happen in a century. Maybe it won’t.

            Please note: What I was trying to do was a narrowly focused effort
            on a technical area which didn’t have huge pushback from
            established forces, which had a timescale of a decade or so,
            and where I had specific technical expertise. And it still failed.

            Fighting the heat death of the universe is none of these things…
            There are so many intermediate levels of timescales and of
            countervailing effects that I suspect the odds that your efforts
            even have the right _sign_ to improve the odds of your ultimate
            goals are probably pure chance.

            Best wishes,
            -Jeff

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            There are so many intermediate levels of timescales and of countervailing effects that I suspect the odds that your efforts even have the right _sign_ to improve the odds of your ultimate goals are probably pure chance.

            My life since 5th grade has been a process of gradually leaping backward until I can find a first step forward.

            I figure sustainability research is unlikely to hurt (while watching what others are doing in the area of catastrophe prevention).

            Thanks for the research that someone else can use as a guidepost in the future.

            Thanks,
            – Bright with Glory

          • @soreff:

            1. I’m not an expert on American law — or any modern state legal system.

            2. My guess is that there is no serious legal risk from knowing that someone plans to commit suicide and doing nothing to stop it, but I could be mistaken.

          • soreff says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            Many Thanks!

            Best wishes,
            -Jeff

          • soreff says:

            @DavidFriedman

            Many Thanks!

            Best wishes,
            -Jeff

      • False says:

        Life is the be-all of value.

        I would argue that most people do not think this. Your comment implies you don’t either; you most likely believe something more like “Human life is the be-all value”.

        As has been pointed out many times in this comment section, such a position leads to many a Repugnant Conclusion, i.e. if life-itself is the be-all value or “‘sacred’ in of itself”, then its actually imperative to create as much life as possible with no regard for the quality of that life (and indeed, the suffering of the living would become immaterial, as any other value judgement must be subordinate to the ur-value of Life), which is something that grates against most people’s moral intuition.

        In a few trillion years heat death will end all we know

        If extinction is inevitable (as we have come to realize), how can life be the terminal value of existence? The universe existed before life existed, and will most likely exist after life ceases to exist. The universe is not bound by its relationship to life, though the same cannot be said of the reverse. So in that sense Life (capital L) is a bounded phenomenon, and human life even more so within the physical limitations of the conditions of the universe.

        The only justification for ending of life

        The ending of life needs no justification. In fact, Death is the very reason you exist, as the system of evolution that produced you requires generations to live and die to “progress”, and the elimination of death (something some members of this community strive for) is also the elimination of that “progress”. If human beings were birthed into the world whole-cloth, and did not die, we would never have developed the concept of “Life” in the first place. It is impossible to “keep life sacred, not death” when life can only be understood in the context of its transition into non-life.

        If death is inevitable (as it is now and will most likely still be for the forseeable future), why not have some agency in how you go out, as a sort of “Last Dignity”? If you believe as I do that giving death consideration does not devalue life, why not treat them as going hand in hand and maintain a sacredness for both, as most cultures do?

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I would argue that most people do not think this. Your comment implies you don’t either; you most likely believe something more like “Human life is the be-all value”.

          I work in biotech, bulking up DNA construct in bacteria. I occasionally feel bad when killing the bacteria to purify the DNA.

          Repugnant Conclusion, i.e. if life-itself is the be-all value or “‘sacred’ in of itself”, then its actually imperative to create as much life as possible with no regard for the quality of that life

          Sure, except that the creation of too much life leads to not caring about future life. The heat death of the universe is the ultimate threat to life, and if we’re spending too many resources just on current life, then we aren’t spending resources on preventing this (and other less severe threats) to future life.

          If extinction is inevitable (as we have come to realize), how can life be the terminal value of existence?

          Life is not a value. Life is the thing which allows value to exist at all. Admittedly this is difficult to talk about (since there aren’t meta-terms that I’m aware of to discuss this, without using the sort of phrasing I used here, which gets tedious).

          It is impossible to “keep life sacred, not death” when life can only be understood in the context of its transition into non-life.

          I don’t understand what you’re saying here.

          If death is inevitable (as it is now and will most likely still be for the forseeable future), why not have some agency in how you go out, as a sort of “Last Dignity”?

          Sure, just don’t blow a relatively profligate amount of resources doing so. And I do not want a society that celebrates it, as I don’t celebrate it, and don’t want to be coerced into tolerating the celebrating of it. I understand what kind of position this is (vis-a-vis gay marriage and all other tolerations that liberals stand for), but it is my limit.

          why not treat them as going hand in hand and maintain a sacredness for both, as most cultures do?

          I have no problem with survivors celebrating the life of the person who has died. This is a good thing to do. But I do not want the celebration of death. Because, at this point of my life at least, I can’t. I am the one struggling for the sacredness and continuity (or as best as is possible) of Life for eternity (or as long as the fundamental substrate that allows life creating things like the universe to exist, exists). “I would argue that most people do not think this.”, you said, and I agree – so I must champion it all the more strongly.

          “Chaos is necessary. Even some of the men and gods who realize it refuse to be the ones who champion it. What we truly need is balance. But, I’m one god working alone against many. If I just stood behind symmetry, I would accomplish nothing. When so many back law, the only chance for balance is to embrace chaos.”

          Colbey understood the concept; he did not agree with it. “I stand for balance.”

          Loki’s shoulders rose and fell again, as if to express the futility of it all. “You can do that because I’m backing chaos on a grander scale. Whether anything you do on man’s world matters remains to be seen.”
          Mickey Zucker Reichert’s Child of Thunder

          ———
          I’m anti- profligate hedonism as well, separate from this life/death celebration issue. So the article hits two of my dislikes.

          • False says:

            “Life is not a value. Life is the thing which allows value to exist at all”

            I’ve already demonstrated why this isn’t correct and actually self-contradictory, but let’s use an example you’re familar with.

            I work in biotech, bulking up DNA construct in bacteria. I occasionally feel bad when killing the bacteria to purify the DNA.

            I think you already understand my point. A bacteria is a single celled-organism which many consider to have the minimum required attributes to be defined as life. That being said, even you seem to understand that its value as life is somehow lesser than that of a human. But how could that be, if life itself is the “ur-value” that creates and maintains meaning a priori? Do you believe that the bacteria has a capacity for understanding the concept of “having” value? Do you think a centipede does? A bird? A dog? A primate? Do you think most, or any, animals maintain a set of coherent values or even have the capacity to understand what a value even is?

            Most people would say no. In fact, we could say that the concept of “value” itself is a purely antropogenic concept. So if 99% of beings that experience life actually don’t even have a concept of value, “life itself” cannot be the ur-value or even the genesis of value. The understanding and “creation” of value requires something more to appear; that is, a self-reflexive “human-like” conciousness with which to percieve and judge value. From our argument, it appears that you actually believe something more like “Human conciousness is the be-all value, because it is the basis for all creation and understanding of value.” Perhaps you believe in a sort of vitalist version of human conciousness, but it mainly appears that you are confusing human conciousness for life-itself, that is, your human perception of your human life.

            I don’t understand what you’re saying here.

            Now that we’ve narrowed down that what you most likely actually value is “the ability to create and maintain value in of itself”, and you were incorrect in believing that life (as oppossed to conciousness) fulfilled that function, we can explore the process that led to the creation of value; that is, the process what led to the creation of human conciousness which led to the creation of value. The only reason you, personally, exist as a human-being with human-like conciousness is the evolutionary process which began some 3.5 billion years ago with the creation of life. For most of that time, despite life existing, a value-creating conciousness did not exist with which to “hold” value. The very process that led to the development of human-like conciousness is, as I said, the cycle of life and death that promotes the evolutionary process. Life-itself was not enough to produce conciousness; rather, life required death in order to produce mutations over generations that lead to the development of new species, one of which randomly ended up with a human-like conciousness with which to percieve value. If death did not exist, evolution would not exist, which means humans would not exist, which means human-like conciousness would not exist, which means “value itself” would not exist. When I said “life can only be understood in the context of its transition into non-life”, I was referring to the the overall process of a living creature passing on its genes and then dying so that the new generation may inhereit the earth. Every living creature dies, it is the major defining characteristic of what we consider to be alive. A “living creature that does not die” is a contradiction in terms.

            Let’s say that humans develop a human-like artificially concious intelligence that posseses a self-reflexive ability with which to percieve and judge value (a computer with the capacity to give and ask for reasons). Let’s then say that humans convinced this intelligence of mankind’s values and the intelligence generally agreed with the fundamentals of the human value system. Would you be comfortable with spending resources to make sure this intelligence persisted after the human race had reached its extinction point? Or would you rather humans instead spend resources to ensure that some non-human living organism, that lacks our values or even the capacity to produce and understand values that we would find intelligible, persisted in the universe after our demise (assuming it was the only hope for life to continue existing in the universe)?

            I have a feeling you wouldn’t choose the “life itself, without humanity” option because what you actually value is human life that possesess human-like conciousness. I’d be interested to hear if you would choose the “simply human-like conciousness without the trappings of life” option (as I imagine that this an overall marginal idea, albeit one that probably has the most support in this community in particular).

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            No kidding man.

            The point is to continue creating this, which means somehow evading the entropic death of continuity, if possible (yes, that’s my ego talking, wanting to have an influence on future life). If not, then knowing that life will exist otherwise, discontinuous with ours.

            Life is more than nothing. Valuation is more than mere life. The creation of continuous* life is more than mere valuation.

            * – if this continuity ceases at any point then the continuousness ceases, though an intermediate communication of information from one continuity to another is better than mere discontinuous life.

            Let’s say that humans develop a human-like artificially concious intelligence that posseses a self-reflexive ability with which to percieve and judge value (a computer with the capacity to give and ask for reasons). Let’s then say that humans convinced this intelligence of mankind’s values and the intelligence generally agreed with the fundamentals of the human value system. Would you be comfortable with spending resources to make sure this intelligence persisted after the human race had reached its extinction point?

            Yes. This meets my definition of life. I would prefer that it also have the capability to grow and ultimately generate new life itself.

            Or would you rather humans instead spend resources to ensure that some non-human living organism, that lacks our values or even the capacity to produce and understand values that we would find intelligible, persisted in the universe after our demise (assuming it was the only hope for life to continue existing in the universe)?

            Yes. This meets my definition of life also. And I would hope that eventually it may give rise to something else too.

            All of my philosophy in this vein stems from a desire to grow, to become worthy gods, to create new life, which itself gives rise to worthy gods, which creates new life, “and new civilizations” that our first order descendant gods could never have imagined. Creation is this value. It’s a value that can only exist if life exists to value it. Life is the predicate of all value, and what am I to value my values over the values of any other life?

            I risk becoming the DNA tinkering Gorilla that creates stronger and stronger Gorillas, or the eugenic Giraffe that aims for longer and longer necks.

            Life is the predicate. Context is the predicate. Relations are the predicate. Without these the capacity to have any values would not exist. With them, even a slime mold can hold some values, however mechanical those values are.

            I hope this answers your final paragraph question.

      • Murphy says:

        Spending resources others could use for death I cannot understand. Spending resources to prolong life I do understand.

        I suspect there’s a fundamental values difference between us.

        If someone invented a torture box that could keep a child alive for a thousand years, in constant suffering but alive. Would you put your newborn child inside it?

        What about a boredom box? Same deal only instead of constant active suffering it’s a thousand years of grey boredom alone. But 1000 full years alive.

        So high aliveness score, low or negative hedonism.

        I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t opt for either option for anyone, either would be zero or negative value in my value system.

        We already spend vast sums of money on funerals, we already spend vast sums on sticking tubes and machines into people to keep their heart beating just a few hours longer during the most painful and awful final days of their lives, often people who object to the whole afair.

        Happiness, lack of pain, experience and joy are sacred and for those things you need life.

        But life a without any of those things is not sacred. It can become the opposite.

        We profligately spend resources to give joy and experience and happiness to people who are dying. The entire Make a Wish foundation is founded around the idea of injecting joyful experiences into lives that are otherwise short and containing a great deal of suffering.

        For a lot of people, the powerlessness of having no control over their own death is itself a negative.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90b1MBwnEHM

        I would live my life as ever to the full and die, before the disease mounted its last attack, in my own home, in a chair on the lawn, with a brandy in my hand to wash down whatever modern version of the ‘Brompton Cocktail’, a potent mixture of painkillers and brandy, some helpful medic could supply. And with Thomas Tallis on my iPod, I would shake hands with Death.

        • Aapje says:

          We profligately spend resources to give joy and experience and happiness to people who are dying. The entire Make a Wish foundation…

          Do we? Make a Wish is limited to the relatively rare cases of children with deadly diseases. In my country, lots is spent on healthcare, but cost-cutting is done mostly on the social part of care, which actually gives joy and experience and happiness.

          In my country, most elderly homes have been closed, with the goal of making people stay at home. The way things are going, it is predicable that loneliness among the elderly is going to increase a lot*.

          * Modern culture promotes mobility, causing children to move (far) away from their family. Encourages having few children. Encourages women to work a lot. Encourages high standards for relationships. Etc. The logical consequence is that the main way to joy and experience and happiness for the typical elderly, contact with family, is declining ever more.

          For a lot of people, the powerlessness of having no control over their own death is itself a negative.

          Isn’t this control (partly) an illusion? The loss of the norm that women shouldn’t have to work is not just giving women more ability to work, it also is reducing formal and informal support for women who prefer not to work. Screening for Down syndrome causes people to negatively judge people to have children with Down’s. The legalization of abortion doesn’t merely give women extra options, it also results in judgment of people who choose to have a child in what are deemed by others to be bad conditions. Etc, etc.

          The already limited willingness to make the elderly have a nice life may deteriorate further if “if you don’t like it, you can end it” becomes the norm.

          Would you prefer to work at an abusive workplace where they supply suicide pills or a more pleasant workplace without the pills? It’s not obvious to me that the former is better and that this is not the inevitable outcome.

          • Murphy says:

            Isn’t this control (partly) an illusion?

            Give people choices and sometimes they will do things you don’t approve or or which you think may be bad. Or a minority will be put out that their preferences are no longer the norm. Or once things are a choice people may be judged socially for the choices they make.

            Mostly they still prefer that control.

            Freedom of choice doesn’t mean freedom from consequences or social judgement.

            People might start treating their elderly parents even worse… but then that’s a matter for how people raise their children.

            For social care the elderly are already the most powerful voting block. If they’re badly provided for it means they as a group have elected people who promised to tax them less vs provide better care for their slightly older counterparts.

            If a workplace is so bad that I might want to commit suicide to escape and there’s no other way out then I would prefer to have the suicide pill available than trust in empty promises that someone is going to improve the place as long as I give up my last escape option.

          • Dacyn says:

            @Aapje: I don’t understand your workplace example, is the idea that people will think “oh anyone can just commit suicide if they want, so there’s no need to be nice to them”? That doesn’t seem likely to me, a better example could be, maybe if you have depression they won’t pay for a therapist because they figure if it’s bad enough…

          • Aapje says:

            @Murphy

            Freedom of choice doesn’t mean freedom from consequences or social judgement.

            Sure, but what many/most people actually seem to want is not just to have a choice to commit suicide, but to have others kill them (euthanasia). Unfortunately, the libertarian solution equates to legalizing murder, so the only options you otherwise have is to facilitate it or not to do so.

            Facilitating euthanasia while still banning murder requires a bureaucracy to decide whether the euthanasia is (not) murder.

            Also, if you merely judge that the death is voluntary, but not whether the desire to die is considered legitimate by society, you have not legalized end-of-life or end-of-irreversible-suffering euthanasia, but assisted suicide. So at that point you are no longer talking merely about care for the dying/elderly/sick, but have produced a general suicide system.

            A lot of (young) people are temporarily unhappy/suicidal, which ends when their circumstances get better. A suicide system is going to let these people die.

            Realistically, this is not going be a policy that gets a lot of democratic support, when suicidal kids use it, leaving their bereaved parents with an enormous grudge against the state, while much of society doesn’t have a high opinion of the decision making ability of adolescents.

            For social care the elderly are already the most powerful voting block. If they’re badly provided for it means they as a group have elected people who promised to tax them less vs provide better care for their slightly older counterparts.

            The complication is that we’ve structured society in a way that discourages informal casual care care, while paid care is enormously expensive. So the elderly cannot realistically get the things that our grandparents got with a mere tax. This requires a revolution.

            The current way we do politics seems to mostly ignore second order effects, so we (may) get short term gains, predictable long term consequences that the proponents of these policies denied would happen, and then more short term policies to attempt to fix those issues (or quite often these issues are ignored).

            Such politics can easily leave people worse off when desired outcomes can only be achieved with second order effects.

          • Aapje says:

            @Dacyn

            I was exaggerating the apparent hype among many companies where mindfulness and such are seen as solutions to stress-related problems. They prefer to blame the workers for not being able to cope over making the work better.

            Of course one can argue that we will never slide down the slippery slope that far. Yet humanity has ended up in pretty dark places, where no one halted that slide in time.

          • Matt M says:

            Facilitating euthanasia while still banning murder requires a bureaucracy to decide whether the euthanasia is (not) murder.

            Agree that this is a major issue that most advocates do not properly consider.

            So long as the deceased has a single living relative (or close friend) who vehemently disagrees with the decision to end life, expect a long and complicated legal drama.

          • Dacyn says:

            @Aapje:

            A lot of (young) people are temporarily unhappy/suicidal, which ends when their circumstances get better. A suicide system is going to let these people die.

            I don’t think this is necessarily true; an idea I’ve proposed here before is that there should be a year-long waiting period for suicide. Depressive episodes generally last less than that, and the same goes for the worst part of bad reactions to any negative events.

            @Matt M: I’m not sure why you expect legal drama from relatives, it seems like that would depend on how the system is set up. E.g. the current system doesn’t give relatives a say in whether a woman gets an abortion.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          I suspect there’s a fundamental values difference between us.

          On this issue yes. We undoubtedly overlap on other issues.

          If someone invented a torture box that could keep a child alive for a thousand years, in constant suffering but alive. Would you put your newborn child inside it?

          No. Choice is important, and the child does not have a choice. And I’m sure there’s a limit to the amount of pain I would put up with until I chose a merciful death. But I don’t know what that limit would be.

          What about a boredom box? Same deal only instead of constant active suffering it’s a thousand years of grey boredom alone. But 1000 full years alive.

          No, for the same reason. It is important to be productive (else life extinguishes in the future for a variety of reasons), so personally I’d have to know whether such a box allows productivity as well.

          I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t opt for either option for anyone, either would be zero or negative value in my value system.

          And in mine too, because Life can’t serve Life in these closed systems. And even if the systems were open, Life as it has developed would have profound difficulty in serving future Life in said systems.

          We already spend vast sums of money on funerals, we already spend vast sums on sticking tubes and machines into people to keep their heart beating just a few hours longer during the most painful and awful final days of their lives, often people who object to the whole afair.

          Yeah, but we shouldn’t be spending more on prematurely ending Life in a celebratory manner. Maybe this is from watching too much Logan’s Run and Soylent Green distopia in my case, but I can’t be happy in such a society (even if I don’t participate). In fact, I would be the opposite of happy.

          The entire Make a Wish foundation is founded around the idea of injecting joyful experiences into lives that are otherwise short and containing a great deal of suffering.

          Yes, but it doesn’t involve euthanasia of the person during the event. The point is to give the living as much positive experience as possible, not to end their lives in a positive experience. (As an aside, many, if not most, of those who are given Wishes aren’t terminal. They just need to be children who are experiencing a significant illness. IIRC the child I know didn’t receive his Wish until he was in remission.)

          For a lot of people, the powerlessness of having no control over their own death is itself a negative.

          And so I grant them this control. I just don’t want them hedonistically celebrating it.

          I would live my life as ever to the full and die, before the disease mounted its last attack, in my own home, in a chair on the lawn, with a brandy in my hand to wash down whatever modern version of the ‘Brompton Cocktail’, a potent mixture of painkillers and brandy, some helpful medic could supply. And with Thomas Tallis on my iPod, I would shake hands with Death.

          Great. Doing it alone. Not celebrating death, but making it more tolerable.

          • soreff says:

            For a lot of people, the powerlessness of having no control over their own death is itself a negative.

            And so I grant them this control. I just don’t want them hedonistically celebrating it.

            I would live my life as ever to the full and die, before the disease mounted its last attack, in my own home, in a chair on the lawn, with a brandy in my hand to wash down whatever modern version of the ‘Brompton Cocktail’, a potent mixture of painkillers and brandy, some helpful medic could supply. And with Thomas Tallis on my iPod, I would shake hands with Death.

            Great. Doing it alone. Not celebrating death, but making it more tolerable.

            Actually, if you would drop the insistence on alone, you would
            actually be agreeing to everything that I would want.
            Why would you object to a variant of the same suicide, but with the
            solace of a final hug from a spouse or lover or friend?

            I can only guess at what the emotions at such a scene would be, but
            I’d expect something more like a bittersweet leave taking than a
            celebration. Basically making the best available choice in a bad situation.
            Perhaps relief, as consciousness fades, at knowing that
            one has successfully evaded the worst of whichever
            illness was closing in.

            One other thing: You keep emphasizing profligate use of resources.
            I have considerable sympathy with your view. To my taste, spectacles
            almost always look disproportionate. This is true of million dollar
            weddings, million dollar funerals, and I’d expect it to be true of million
            dollar assisted suicides. But this is just my taste, and I don’t try to
            impose it on anyone else. If someone earned the money, and they
            chose to spend it on a huge garish wedding, to be eventually followed
            by a huge garish assisted suicide, to be followed by a huge garish
            funeral – well, it isn’t to my taste, but who am I to tell them what to
            do with their life savings?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Why would you object to a variant of the same suicide, but with the solace of a final hug from a spouse or lover or friend?

            That’s wonderful and appropriate, but I don’t want a society in which someone is paying for a corporation to come and celebrate the hastening of their death.

            I’d expect something more like a bittersweet leave taking than a celebration.

            This isn’t what the essay you linked to in the OP described.

            but who am I to tell them what to do with their life savings?

            You are you, and you have a voice and power over others. If you feel it’s inappropriate to use that voice and power, then that’s your choice. However I find it more likely that you’d actively use that voice and power to oppose people such as myself who are using our voice and power to oppose the profligate, societally-sanctioning, early assisted-suicides.

          • soreff says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            Why would you object to a variant of the same suicide, but with the solace of a final hug from a spouse or lover or friend?

            That’s wonderful and appropriate,

            Thank you!

            but I don’t want a society in which someone is paying for a corporation to come and celebrate the hastening of their death.

            To me, the advantage of having such corporations exist is not so much
            in the services that they provide (I’m not in the market for spectacle,
            myself), but in that, for them to operate, a bunch of very nasty
            restrictions that make even an unassisted suicide in the face of illness
            difficult and chancy must be loosened.

            For instance, to have a spouse or lover or friend within reach of a hug
            during a suicide may well put them in legal jeopardy. I don’t know if
            the laws against assisting a suicide have been stretched to demand that
            someone present at a suicide intervene to stop it, but I’d be somewhat
            surprised if the law hasn’t been applied that way. If a corporation were
            routinely assisting at suicide events, this would have to have been
            resolved. Does anyone watching this thread know for sure?

            For another instance – this subthread discussed a ‘Brompton Cocktail’.
            Both the opiates and the cocaine in it are controlled substances. If this
            were being provided routinely outside of medical gatekeepers, that
            would imply that someone had finally managed to pull the fangs of the
            DEA, which would be a big help in end-of-life care, and more generally.
            There was an article in the NYT
            https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/magazine/the-last-day-of-her-life.html
            about the illness and death of Sandy Bem. She had Alzheimer’s, and
            was ultimately able to kill herself with pentobarbital – but had to go
            through considerable contortions and risk and uncertainty to get it.

            For another instance: One event that I would very much NOT
            want to happen if I were killing myself is an interruption. One does not
            want, say, inert gas asphyxiation to be stopped halfway through by
            some government agent – and be left as ill as before, but now with
            brain damage and possibly paralysis. Presumably a routine corporate
            operation would not be subject to such things.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @soreff
            A gun is faster and nearly impossible for anyone to stop.

            One does not want, say, inert gas asphyxiation to be stopped halfway through by some government agent

            We already know about corporations and government regulatory oversight (Boeing, for a recent instance).

            I don’t want corporations ever having this power. I don’t want society to ever think this is legally okay. Decriminalization for the terminally ill and their loved ones, at best. And it needs to be shown that the terminally ill person is pulling moving things along all the way.

            I have an online friend of years past. Her best friend asphyxiated himself this way, and triggered his death note to arrive in her inbox on her 30th birthday. They had previously discussed suicide with her talking about suicide before her 30th if things didn’t change, but she later had a change of heart and encouraged him to be life affirming.

            From what I understand (I could very well be wrong, as he wasn’t my friend) his reason for depression was a shitty art job with no future and being a man of Indian subcontinent descent who was interested in white women and didn’t feel he’d ever get said kind of relationship (incel stuff, perhaps – my friend happened to be a lesbian white woman, so no help there).

            I don’t want this sort of thing available, for my reasons and for these reasons, except for literal physical mercy for terminal illnesses. And if corporations are going to be involved, I don’t want anything other than medical facilities being involved, and the entire thing explicitly pushed by the terminally ill person because they can’t tolerate the pain or the fear anymore.

            I will never be on your side of this issue.

          • Dacyn says:

            @anoynmousskimmer:

            A gun is faster and nearly impossible for anyone to stop.

            Not everyone can get a gun. Some are prevented due to, among other reasons, their risk of committing suicide.

          • soreff says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            I have an online friend of years past. Her best friend asphyxiated himself this way, and triggered his death note to arrive in her inbox on her 30th birthday. They had previously discussed suicide with her talking about suicide before her 30th if things didn’t change, but she later had a change of heart and encouraged him to be life affirming.

            From what I understand (I could very well be wrong, as he wasn’t my friend) his reason for depression was a shitty art job with no future and being a man of Indian subcontinent descent who was interested in white women and didn’t feel he’d ever get said kind of relationship (incel stuff, perhaps – my friend happened to be a lesbian white woman, so no help there).

            I am sorry for her loss.

            It does sound like he would have had options to improve his situation,
            and that his suicide was unfortunate. On the other hand, American
            culture is full of glib self-help advice which is crap. Perhaps he did indeed
            make the right decision for his situation. I do not know.

            A gun is faster and nearly impossible for anyone to stop.

            True. I prefer not to leave a mess, but that is a trivial consideration
            in a life or death decision.

            By the way, the deadwood thread overstates how unpleasant
            strangling/no-drop hanging is:
            http://www.practicalhomicide.com/Research/14hangings.pdf
            Roughly 10 seconds till loss of consciousness – and I’ve exchanged
            emails with people who have non-lethally recreationally hanged and
            strangled who confirmed the same time scale.

        • Garrett says:

          I’ll add another case people don’t want to consider: late-stage dementia.

          Is is possible that someone can become so mentally incompetent so as to be rendered little more than a pet? Most people think about Alzheimer’s disease and “the long goodbye” as tragic. And that part certainly is, watching someone slowly slip away. But some people become little more than infants. Adult in body and strength, but who do nothing but reach out and cling onto anybody who comes near, yelling nonsensical phrases, or just frequently “help!”, and who need continual support to live and supervision to ensure they don’t accidentally harm themselves.

          This kind of care is extremely expensive, perhaps $10k/month. We know little of the underlying cause, and what we do know tells us we don’t have a way to reverse it. At some point, will it come to a decision that these folks are too expensive and thus should be euthanized?

          There’s a lot of expensive late-life care like this. How to we develop a model where it doesn’t happen?

      • sidereal says:

        You’re being too rigid here. We already spend tons of resources on things which do not promote or prolong life, but which most people consider to be central to the living of life. A death ceremony could be many things besides a celebration of death. Farewell party, stark reminder about the precious and finite nature of life, and one last rage against the dying light.

        And as a libertarian: fuck you I do what I want. What are you gonna do, stop me from spending my own resources on a profligate suicide party? That’s hilarious.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          but which most people consider to be central to the living of life

          Thank you.

          one last rage against the dying light.

          If you’re killing yourself you aren’t raging against the dying of the light, you’re embracing the dying of the light. (Cutting off one’s life to spite one’s frail body.)

          And as a libertarian: fuck you I do what I want

          I’m reporting your comment for the swear you’ve directed at me. The polite way of saying this is “screw that I do what I want” – this is directed at the idea, not the person.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          What are you gonna do, stop me from spending my own resources on a profligate suicide party? That’s hilarious.

          What I can do you ****** is lobby the prohibition of end-of-life companies that provide such party expertise.

          Screw you chucklehead sidereal for editing your comment to add that without editing out the swear you directed at me.

          The world would be better off without your existence. I hope you die, and not in a manner you prefer.I take this back, I just dislike you a whole lot. Personally, not abstractly.

          • sidereal says:

            I’m sorry, I was trying to communicate what I imagine one would feel on the precipice of death at being told how they allowed to die. You can talk about whether it is good and healthy to have such ceremonies but to suggest it is unallowable provokes a very strong “none of your business” reaction.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Okay. Apology accepted.

            Again, as someone who doesn’t understand opposition to homosexual marriage, I understand that this can strike others the same way.

            I see it as a slippery slope, you and those like you see it as a necessary autonomy.

      • SamChevre says:

        OK, between this thread, and the masturbation thread – has everyone read Vonnegut, Welcome to the Monkey House?

        If no–tolle lege! If it’s not the most interesting 10 minutes of your day, your day is more interesting than mine.

        • Randy M says:

          I shall have to, I had a whole class on him in college but missed it.
          “The sex madness that came from taking nothing”–ha! genius.

      • Dacyn says:

        u/sidereal sort of already said this, but: this is an isolated demand for rigor. When someone spends money on something you don’t like, you don’t usually object to it with “but they could have spent the money altruistically”.

        Anyway, let me give you a starker hypothetical than Murphy’s boxes: suppose you can press a button which will make you be in pain and/or sad for the rest of your life, but the advantage is that you get to live a minute? an hour? a day? more than you would have otherwise. So it’s more life, we can stipulate that your negative feelings don’t have any further effects on the world, but it seems odd to prefer the life-extending option.

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          If my pressing that button would give the last being living in the far future an extra minute, or hour, or day of life, then I would do so.

          My life is important, but Life itself is more important than my life.

          No, I don’t live this ideal, as I spend plenty of time in pleasure pursuits (such as posting here). But it’s my ideal, and I don’t like society drifting toward the opposite pole of that ideal.

          life serving Life, not self serving Self.

          To give another example: I understand why people are in to cryonics. I definitely understand why young people with terminal illnesses want to give themselves a shot at a second chance. But I cringe at the indefinite use of resources toward that end, and am quite unlikely to do so myself, even if cryonic revival is perfected. I don’t know, maybe I would if my loved one does as well, but it seems wrong. At that point I would be the old and near dead, and the young should not serve my cryo-preserved body, but the other way around.

          • Dacyn says:

            Fair enough, I can see why “last living being” is different. Though would it be different if the last living being didn’t want to live anymore?

            It seems odd that you don’t like cryonics, since it seems those people are celebrating life like you want them to. But it’s fair to point out that maybe the resource expenditure is too much.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Though would it be different if the last living being didn’t want to live anymore?

            I don’t know.

            My position on cryonics is all about the resource expenditure.

      • Orion says:

        I understand you to be saying that it’s not worth spending resources to make someone’s last hour enjoyable, because after that hour is up, they’ll be dead, and therefore won’t be around to appreciate it.

        If so, I wonder where or how you would draw the line. Is it worth giving someone a good last day? A good last year?

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          That’s not what I saying. I’m saying I’d much rather you not profligately spend resources to hasten their death in a celebration.

          If they’re about to die now anyway, then sure make it as delightful as possible. I’d wouldn’t be aghast at this use of resources.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Uhhh, what if the resources spent on the party mean that, on net, there are more resources available for everyone else to prolong their own lives?

            The cost of keeping alive those who are at the end stage of terminal illness is frightfully high. A few weeks of extra life doesn’t pan out compared to the cost.

            I realize you are making an argument about that which is sacred, but you muddy it when you start talking about “resources”.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            Slippery slopes and all that, and where do you draw the line?

            The cost of keeping alive those who are at the end stage of terminal illness is frightfully high. A few weeks of extra life doesn’t pan out compared to the cost.

            I’ve got a visceral reaction toward this, so am not (narrowly) rational about it. I can make the throwaway strawman claim that the costs of marginally keeping this person alive incentivize better, and cheaper medical technology advances.

            How much is spent on each year on orphan diseases or the rarer cancers? Ultimately these costs do lead to a better understanding of human physiology, and advances in technology.

            Plus they morally reinforce the sanctity of life (assuming a healthcare system is acting as a provider, and not a limiter).

            It’s one thing to talk about wasting of resources for pleasure, it’s another to talk about wasting of resources to happily hasten death. I don’t like resources being spent in this manner – I don’t like one of the messages it sends.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @anonymousskimmer:

            Sure, there are slippery slopes, but … that doesn’t mean we should never climb hills. I’m definitely in agreement that there is quite a bit of troubling potential behavior on one end of this spectrum. I’m empathetic to the idea that the precedent seems to allow in lots of things that really start to look like “not so voluntary euthanasia”.

            However, …

            It’s one thing to talk about wasting of resources for pleasure, it’s another to talk about wasting of resources to happily hasten death

            The problem is that simply not spending the money on extending life is, in many cases, the pleasurable choice.

            Allow me a digression.

            Have you ever seen the series Deadwood on HBO? The opening scene is of Timothy Olyphant’s Sheriff Bullock carrying out an execution to prevent the a horse thief’s death and at the hands of a lynch mob. Bullock tells the condemned man that he will “help with the drop” to avoid him strangling to death “for 20 minutes”.

            My question is, do you think it would have been better for the man to die at the hands of lynch mob, tortured to death? Better to swing till he strangled? Or was the quick breaking of his neck the best option?

            Would you have helped Clell Watson with his drop?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            The problem is that simply not spending the money on extending life is, in many cases, the pleasurable choice.

            I am in full agreement with the rightness of do-not-resuscitate orders. Individuals know better than anyone else where their fears lie.
            ———
            Edit: Okay, I watched your clip. Under the apparent scenario as it existed then yes, I would help Clell. He asked for the help, and there is no apparent other alternative.
            ———
            I’ve never seen Deadwood. I’m also chicken-crap. I would have left town – probably for a city back east, and then thought about what happened for the rest of my life.

            Personally I believe I would have asked for the extra 20 minutes, had I been Clell Watson.

            Or was the quick breaking of his neck the best option?

            GIven the givens, I think, maybe, options B or C are better than option A. And I believe most people would definitively choose C over B and B over A (and C >> A). Though the freedom of movement inherent in option A may encourage some people to choose it over option B.

            About three years ago my wife accidentally cut an earwig in half while cutting green onions. I did not give it mercy, and I regret this choice. Though I would give a future bug mercy in similar circumstances, I do not believe I would have given the first man whose execution I was responsible for such mercy. Then I would have torn myself up thinking about it, and I probably would have given the second man said choice.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @anonymousskimmer:

            Then I would have torn myself up thinking about it, and I probably would have given the second man said choice.

            Well, then you might contemplate the fact that people with terminal diseases, and the people who care for those with terminal diseases, are frequently in the position of the “second man” scenario you are positing. They know what the death of that terminal disease is going to look like, and they don’t want it. They reject it, and choose an end where they can say their final words, commit their final chosen acts, and lessen or forgo the agony of the death which is inevitable in any case. In addition, the family and friends are spared having to bear witness to the slow, agonizing, month upon month loss of self that is frequently attendant to terminal illness.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            This is why medically assisted suicide for terminal illnesses is at the radical end of my Overton window, and not in the unthinkable zone.

    • Dacyn says:

      If you’re putting effort into designing a death party at least it means you are thinking about it. And if you’re planning on inviting people, you will probably want to give them at least some sort of explanation of why you are doing it. I worry more about people committing suicide impulsively, not deliberatively.

      • soreff says:

        I worry more about people committing suicide impulsively, not deliberatively.

        Agreed

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        Except the situations where impulsive suicide becomes “fashionable” (there was some sort of challenge that ended with encouraging suicide a few years back), I’m more worried about social sanctioning than impulsivity. Social sanctioning lowers the barriers against suicide for large numbers of people (Kamikaze, e.g.). Impulsive suicides mandate that each person lower all of the barriers individually (Jonestown an exception, but that was really a murder-suicide situation).

  13. Nancy Lebovitz says:

    https://www.quantamagazine.org/neural-dendrites-reveal-their-computational-power-20200114/?fbclid=IwAR0WS0un3G-vWidq9gbsfDyLoPD-Z2hAgo7zHxMiOirJhzco_yG4QYK9EPc

    “But that started to change in the 1980s. Modeling work by the neuroscientist Christof Koch and others, later supported by benchtop experiments, showed that single neurons didn’t express a single or uniform voltage signal. Instead, voltage signals decreased as they moved along the dendrites into the body of the neuron, and often contributed nothing to the cell’s ultimate output.”

    ****

    “Later, Mel and several colleagues looked more closely at how the cell might be managing multiple inputs within its individual dendrites. What they found surprised them: The dendrites generated local spikes, had their own nonlinear input-output curves and had their own activation thresholds, distinct from those of the neuron as a whole. The dendrites themselves could act as AND gates, or as a host of other computing devices.

    Mel, along with his former graduate student Yiota Poirazi (now a computational neuroscientist at the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology in Greece), realized that this meant that they could conceive of a single neuron as a two-layer network. The dendrites would serve as nonlinear computing subunits, collecting inputs and spitting out intermediate outputs. Those signals would then get combined in the cell body, which would determine how the neuron as a whole would respond.”

  14. Evan Þ says:

    Apparently Discord invites expire after a day, and I missed the last invite link to the SSC Discord. Can someone please post another one?

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

      The one in the sidebar seems to be working fine.

      • Evan Þ says:

        You’re right! I hadn’t bothered checking after seeing a couple other people ask for invites in the comments, and watching invites to my own unrelated server expire. Thank you!

    • DarkTigger says:

      Apparently Discord invites expire after a day

      I think there is a setting for that.

  15. Deiseach says:

    Hello! In another installment of infrequent music recommendations, as seen on another site – Mongolian-Latvian fusion 🙂

    • Nancy Lebovitz says:

      What a world! Mongols are diversity rather than terrifying.

      Excellent music.

      • Deiseach says:

        I know you’ve all been waiting for this as eagerly as I have – the Official Music Video for The Great Chinggis Khaan!

        When I say “I like folk music”, this is what I mean, not the watery Anglo-American white versions of folk 🙂 And not to be dabbing on the Anglos, the Irish folk revival of the 50s was rather diddley-eye, right enough. It takes a while to go from “despised as showing peasant and poverty roots” to “tidied up and made respectable for the drawing room” to “going back to the well for the authentic draught” to happen in all traditions, but it’s also why I have poor tolerance for modern English folk music – not that I dislike labour (and indeed Labour) politics, but that there’s an aura of arch performativeness about it (the accents may be authentic, but they also strike me as carefully cultivated to be authentic) and there is a definite strain of wokeness threaded throughout.

        Which is a long way of saying I’d rather the Mongol lads to Kate Rusby et al 😀 No disrespect to the woman, but gosh, isn’t this just bloodless? Easy listening AOR modern folk.

        • Le Maistre Chat says:

          I have to admit I was almost expecting the song link to be this Chinggis/Dschinghis Khan.

        • Anthony says:

          The words of this one are definitely not bloodless, but the sound doesn’t have the energy the lyrics do, even when the bagpipes come in.

          I’ve recently discovered a number of German paganish folk bands, where the music music and the singing have a very strong masculine energy:
          Santiano, Brüder im Herzen
          Santiano, Bis in alle Ewigkeit (Walhalla) (The tune is borrowed from The Hooters.)

          They teamed up with Faun to put together Tanz mit mir which is an excellent polka when sped up about 15%. Faun is more folky, but still not really AOfolk.

          • DarkTigger says:

            Santiano “paganish folk”?
            You kidding me right? 90% of what they do is taking old shanties and singing toe curling German lyrics to them. You get better versions of half their songs from The Dubliners. And I don’t even like The Dubliners that much.

          • Deiseach says:

            That one is Scottish, which is better than English 🙂

            Time to ‘fess up, I suppose: I have an entire bundle of grudges about particular modern English folkies and their PC songs, one of which I am going to air here.

            This song drives me bananas, because on the face of it, it’s so nice and polite and goddamn bloody twee: aw, the quaint old gardener and nice childhood memories. Of course, under the tweeness, we get a bit of a jab at organised religion/Christianity, because we have to have the signalling about being Correct Thinking Liberalness and Modernity.

            To hell with that. If it was a roaring ranting rave defying the Lord God Almighty (instead of that schoolmarmish finger-wagging about “I’m so superior to God because I’m so genteel”), I’d have more dour on it, because that’s what real folk songs are about: incest/rape, infanticide, and burning in Hell afterwards.

            That sort of nicey-nicey song isn’t folk, it’s the soundtrack for the kind of Hampstead dinner parties Dominic Cummings spurns 🙂

            While I’m at it, there’s a song about the Mari Lwyd (Welsh folkloric tradition incorporating introduced Christianity with possible pre-existing customs, Wikipedia article throws some doubt on how ancient it really is). Naturally, somebody had to write a song about it and another English folk artiste covered it. Boo-hoo lyrics about a poor pregnant mare being driven out and wandering around unable to give birth for two thousand years and it’s explicitly the Christians’ fault (insert eye-rolling here). The ‘true pagan history’ here is every bit as accurate as the Nine Million executed during the Burning Times.

            Bite me, Chris. Does this look like a poor abused horsie-worsie? (The real old traditional versions have real horse skulls).

            Folk music should be a living tradition, and that will naturally mean change and development over the years. I get that. But the English have a terrible tendency to turn it into heritage themepark stuff, to take lived tradition – even in their own lifetime – and turn it into a Hovis ad. Nobody who had actual country people experience of the traditions and customs around nightmare horses or the Good People or the likes would write boo-hoo lyrics about poor widdle mare-goddess-queens, they’d be too busy running in screaming terror from the skull-horse chasing them 😉

          • Gobbobobble says:

            You kidding me right? 90% of what they do is taking old shanties and singing toe curling German lyrics to them. You get better versions of half their songs from The Dubliners. And I don’t even like The Dubliners that much.

            I quite like Santiano, dunno how much of that is because I don’t understand German 😛

            (Though agreed that “paganish” doesn’t really fit)

          • DarkTigger says:

            @Gobbobobble
            Oh, I think they are quite good musicians.
            But knowing the original songs, and understanding their lyrics does massivly impair the expirence for me.

          • Anthony says:

            @Deiseach

            From the article on Mari Lwyd: “the sixteenth and seventeenth-century fashion for hobby horses among the social elite.”

            If only our twenty-first century social elite’s fashionable hobby-horses were semi-literal horses, we’d all be better off.

    • hash872 says:

      There appears to be an entire world of Mongolian heavy metal that I recently learned about- this is probably the most internationally famous song right now (and a pretty darn good music video!) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jM8dCGIm6yc

    • Silverlock says:

      This makes me want to go find my Ingrid Karklins CD.

  16. hash872 says:

    Any good studies on the effects of marijuana legalization in some of the early adopter states? I mean in terms of adult usage rates, teen usage rates (or even children- yikes!), overall health effects, etc. I’ve personally been cautiously pro-legalization, but I’m definitely open to hearing data that it’s not a good public health idea.

    I have heard that they (early adopter states) have had a tough time stamping out the black market- particularly in California where they set the tax rate too high, and there are apparently a ton of illegal weed stores selling black market pot all over the place. I’m more interested in the public health angle than the economic one, but always good to get both

    • Deiseach says:

      I initially thought “it hasn’t been legal that long, has it?” but California was the first state to legalise (as distinct from decriminalise) it and that was 24 years ago, other states followed suit in the 90s, so there must be something like 20 years worth of data.

      I think it’d be hard to winnow out adult usage rates/health effects given the (probable) overlap between people who had already been using before it became legal; teens and first-time users would be the ones here, but I don’t know if anyone has searched for “when did you first use marijuana/would you have done so if it hadn’t been legal?”

      I imagine there’s contamination from people who started using before it was legal/didn’t go for the legal stuff but sourced it on the black market etc. and I think the medical marijuana exemptions would further contaminate it (i.e. people who genuinely got prescriptions for medical reasons vs. those who wanted a legal way of getting high).

      • meh says:

        That was for medical usage. The ability to walk into a retail store and purchase it just with proof of age (like alcohol) is pretty recent.

    • ECD says:

      I think there may be studies on effects, but it’s going to be hard to separate out causes, given the state level policies and ongoing federal criminality.

    • Statismagician says:

      To a first approximation, marijuana is not statistically relevant to public health; it’s not bad enough for you and not enough people use it. However, because of the absolutely gigantic error bars on both parts of that because studying is properly is illegal and so is using it (mostly, and moreso within the study windows of major surveys), nobody really knows.

  17. Enkidum says:

    Likely of interest to many people here, Humble Bundle has a bundle of ebooks on AI and cybernetics. Several of the authors are giants of the field.

    I haven’t read any of these, but skimming over the covers it would appear that they’re mostly higher-level works with philosophical aspects, rather than technical how-to textbooks.

  18. Econymous says:

    Why do presidential candidates wait so long to declare a VP? It’s a crucial piece of information that the electorate doesn’t get to know until after the primaries. And it seems like it would help candidates who have a perceived gap in ability that might be filled, in the eyes of the voter, by the right VP. It’s especially relevant for all of the candidates who are 70+ years old, who happen to lead the Democratic field.

    Is there something in the rules of the game preventing candidates from choosing a VP before the primaries are over? Is this a worse idea than it seems?

    • Enkidum says:

      I think one of the main reasons must be that many of the best VP candidates are also in the primaries.

      • Econymous says:

        I’m sure there’s some validity to this. At the same time, the 2016 elections saw VPs who weren’t in the primaries (to my knowledge). I don’t think Paul Ryan ran for president in 2012. Biden withdrew from the 2008 presidential campaign several months before he was chosen for the VP race. Palin never ran for president. Presidential candidates don’t seem to pick from the pool of competitors for their VP too often in recent history.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Biden withdrew from the 2008 presidential campaign several months before he was chosen for the VP race.

          You are missing one of the most obvious things, which is that , although Biden was out of the race, Hillary Clinton was still in it. You think Obama is going to get Biden to foreclose the possibility that he becomes Clinton’s VP if she comes out on top?

          The other thing is that VP picks are important enough to spend time getting them right, and you may not fully know what you want out of your VP pick until you know who your opponent is. Both of those factors argue for waiting until after you wrap up the nomination and start prepping for the convention.

          Then there is the simple “what message does it send if I pick my VP early” thing. If voters perceive this as an arrogant assumption that you will win the nomination, that can backfire on you. Tradition says you wait. Buck that tradition at your peril.

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      I would assume candidates don’t usually know until after the primaries either.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      It’s better to fill regional gaps and win the presidency than to fill smaller (intra-partisan) gaps to win the nomination.

    • Randy M says:

      I expect there’s an element of deal making to it as well, and the early primaries their relative statuses are too in flux for that.
      Also, perhaps Candidate A doesn’t want to agree to be Candidate B’s VP while still running, as that would be a signal of weakness.

    • John Schilling says:

      Among other issues already raised, many of the top VP candidates are going to want to team up with the person who wins the primary and will actually run for president, rather than tying themselves to a candidate who is going to crash and burn in the primaries. If there’s a clear frontrunner in the primaries, then there’s no need for the presidential candidate to announce their VP early; they’re going to win the primary anyway. If there isn’t a clear frontrunner, then the only way to announce early is to name a second-tier VP who is willing to commit early.

      • Econymous says:

        If the right VP pick would increase Longshot’s odds of winning the nomination from 3% to 4%, shouldn’t they want to make a selection now?

        Say that Longshot has a 50/50 chance at the presidency conditional on nomination. Isn’t 2% odds at being VP an opportunity for politicians who would have ~0% chance of being VP otherwise?

        There have to be cases where choosing a VP now, particularly for lower-polling candidates, would increase the odds of being President/VP for both parties involved in the decision.

        • hls2003 says:

          I think you do see this sometimes. I have a vague memory that at least one of the 2016 Republican also-rans announced a VP pick early to try to get “buzz” (maybe Kasich?) But if the longshot doesn’t become President, then nobody remembers or cares.

          ETA: It was Ted Cruz I’m remembering, picked Carly Fiorina.

        • John Schilling says:

          If the right VP pick would increase Longshot’s odds of winning the nomination from 3% to 4%, shouldn’t they want to make a selection now?

          The “right VP pick” is probably one of the people in the running to be Safebet’s VP pick, and so isn’t going to sign up with Longshot until that ship actually comes in.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah, but if Longshot is a dead duck, then the potential VP who tied themselves to Longshot will damage their career: nobody wants to be tainted with failure by association.

          And if Longshot manages to piss off the eventual winner (say, by not bowing out early and forcing Winner to seriously fight for the nomination when they didn’t intend or need to), then Potential has made an enemy within the party that they really didn’t need to make.

          If Potential is the one who will make the difference to Longshot, then Potential has a lot of influence/potential that they should be conserving for advancing their own career, and throwing it away on a dead duck is shooting themselves in the foot.

          The only advantage is for “Potentials” who, as you say, have 0% chance of being anyone’s pick – then getting publicity and getting their name out there as “Longshot’s VP” is garnering them some valuable recognition and discussion and that may be sufficient to translate into local advantage (maybe they’re more interested in running for local office and this will help their campaign). In that case it doesn’t matter if Longshot’s campaign inevitably sinks, as long as Potential has got the bump of recognition from national media coverage and getting a chance at exposure on a higher level within the party machinery, no matter how brief.

    • Phigment says:

      Agreeing to be a VP candidate is a fairly expensive signal for a person to send, and most VP choices you would care about don’t want to publicly commit to that before the party settles on a candidate for President.

      Once a person agrees to be the VP choice for a candidate, that person is tied really tightly to the presidential candidate. By accepting that declaration, the potential VP has picked a side and planted a flag on it, and if the candidate fails to secure the party’s nomination, that person has pretty well cut himself off from getting a VP or cabinet position with whoever DOES get the nomination.

      Plus, the possibility that the president contender explodes horribly in career-destroying drama, and drags down the VP choice in the process.

      Imagine agreeing to be VP at this point for Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren gets the nomination, or the reverse. You’re going to have months of people combing through your life history and yearbook photos looking for any dirt that could tip the nomination in the preferred direction, and if your candidate loses, you don’t get to put all that back in the bottle.

      The people who would measurably help a presidential campaign by signing on as VP also have the most to lose by signing on as VP too early.

    • Statismagician says:

      Is it really a crucial piece of information, though? The VP doesn’t matter at all over replacement except supposing the President dies in office, which doesn’t really happen all that often. Even then, they’ll mostly be using the previous administration’s personnel simply due to how long it takes to get people confirmed. If I trust a guy to run the country, presumably I trust him to appoint his own spare – I straight-up don’t believe that the VP pick matters all that much electorally in this day and age.

      • Ketil says:

        The VP doesn’t matter at all over replacement except supposing the President dies in office, which doesn’t really happen all that often.

        The job as President is often referred to as the most dangerous job in the world. This time around, the age of the candidates probably makes it even more dangerous than usually. 😛

        • Statismagician says:

          Interestingly, I think this is probably technically true – four presidents of 45 were assassinated while in office, giving the job an overall mortality rate of just under nine percent. Compare logging (~0.14% mortality in 2016), usually cited as the most dangerous job – it will have been quite a bit worse in e.g. 1865, but probably not coming up on two full orders of magnitude worse.

          • pqjk2 says:

            Interestingly, I think this is probably technically true – four presidents of 45 were assassinated while in office, giving the job an overall mortality rate of just under nine percent. Compare logging (~0.14% mortality in 2016)

            In order to compare it to logging, which is an annual statistic, you would want to do 4 / 243 (4 deaths in 243 years of presidenting). At 1.6% that is still more than 10x worse than logging.

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, I vehemently disagree that it’s crucial. Might not even be relevant. Seems obvious that in the last several elections, the role of the VP has been “try and win voters and encourage turnout/bolster support in a specific subcategory of the party that the main candidate is considered weaker in.”

  19. You should know how to cook — not anything fancy, unless you enjoy that, but enough to feed yourself and your children if your wife happens to be out of town for a week, or sick, or …

    You should know enough about airplane and train reservations, how to find a motel, how to read maps or use a cell phone mapping function, so that you can arrange a trip for yourself and/or your family.

    It’s useful to have at least a modest knowledge of carpentry and electric matters so that you can fix simple things.

    You should know enough about medical matters to distinguish a minor problem from one that justifies a trip to the emergency room, simple first aid, and the like.

    You should know enough about nutrition to have at least a rough idea of what a balanced diet is.

    It’s useful to know how to sew back on a button, make other minor repairs either by hand by sewing machine.

    Those are things that occur to me, but there are probably more I am missing.

    • SamChevre says:

      I’ll second all these and add:
      1) Basic budgeting–not anything complicated. Just the basics: keep a few thousand on hand as an emergency fund (I built mine by saving $20 a week when I made $5 an hour), spend a fixed amount of cash weekly on discretionary expenses, make sure you can pay your bills before paying down debt, etc.
      2) Enough about mechanical things to maintain your vehicle–keep the tires inflated and the oil full, change the oil regularly, change a tire, jump-start it if necessary.
      3) First aid and CPR; you shouldn’t use it every year, but it can be life-saving to know it if needed, and it’s a few hours to learn.
      4) How to use common reference materials: a dictionary, an encyclopedia, the internet, etc.

  20. Randy M says:

    Practical common skills:
    Computers, etc: Typing, search engines, how to fill out a form

    Interpersonal: Able to speak and communicate clearly in person, with appropriate body language, etc., or on a phone; able to interview or be interviewed; prepare a resume; able to hold, soothe and look after a small child

    Personal: Able to hold your tongue and temper; respond under pressure; deal with stress; able to navigate urban and rural environments according to gps, written directions, and landmarks

    Household: Cook a few simple meals (more is nice), able to budget for monthly expenses or a shopping trip; able to handle basic cleaning, yard work if appropriate, keep records, ensure auto and utility maintenance is followed as relevant; unclog a toilet

    Some people might swear by basic carpentry or what have you, but I haven’t seen much need for that in a suburban area. Probably more useful to be able to check on a handyman’s reference or so on.

    • BlackboardBinaryBook says:

      Congrats for being the only one to mention cleaning, at least as far as I’m seeing.

      I’m in my mid 30s and that had been the #1 deal breaker when it comes to potential mates. If you can see gross stuff on it, you need to clean it.

      • Aapje says:

        Gross is subjective, though.

        • John Schilling says:

          If you have a Y chromosome, and you find it worthwhile to argue about the subjectivity of a thing’s grossness, that thing is gross as defined by just about everyone without a Y chromosome.

  21. Lord Nelson says:

    Is communication considered a skill under this definition? Because that’s always been the most important thing when I’ve lived with someone, be they parents or roommates or my spouse.

    The other skills that come to mind fall into one of two categories. The first help you get jobs (networking, learning how to interview well, public speaking, driving, etc) and the second help you contribute to a household (all chores + some basic level of cooking). Knowing how to fix stuff around the house, or knowing some basic car repair, could also be useful, though definitely not required if you make enough money to outsource those repairs.

    I was very bad at social skills (thanks, autism) and am still bad at cooking. The former set me back several years because I couldn’t find a job that paid a living wage. The latter was fine when I was single (pasta and sandwiches go a long way) but is coming back to bite me now that I’m married and my husband has to do the bulk of the cooking while I get up to speed.

    Note : this doesn’t include anything about finances because I don’t really consider money management a “skill”. It also doesn’t include anything about dating / relationships, because I fell into my only romantic relationship without actively looking for one.

  22. LesHapablap says:

    How to tell a story
    How to change a tire
    How to use your phone
    How to use email
    How to dress
    How to cook at least three good meals
    How to have good sex
    How to manage a relationship
    How to exercise and lift weights
    How to deal with interpersonal conflict
    How to negotiate
    How to communicate
    How to make friends
    How to manage finances

    Some of these take a lifetime to learn, but any progress will certainly make your life easier.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      How to have good sex

      That’s an interesting one. I feel like I was born knowing how to have good sex, in terms of satisfying myself at least. Satisfying someone else is mostly just about trying to do so, isn’t it? Although maybe I haven’t succeeded in this, who knows. My wife hasn’t left me, so maybe I’m not totally bad.

      • LesHapablap says:

        It isn’t hard to satisfy your partner if you’re making an effort and you know some basic ideas about how to do it. I’d still call it a skill though, and a very important one as an adult at that. More important than being able to change a tire. And I’ve certainly improved over the years from my fumbling, nervous 20 year old self.

        I really should have included “how to be attractive”

  23. Well... says:

    I’ll say it again: You need to know how to properly wrap cable.

  24. The Nybbler says:

    One I’m surprised to see not mentioned: personal finance. (edit: mentioned in a post before I replied but after I last refreshed) For example, being able to figure out how much you can spend on rent or house payments, and having enough left over for other essentials. Or figuring out where best to put any savings you have.

    If you do end up buying a house, I’ve found basic electrical to be the most-commonly used DIY skill followed closely by plumbing. It’s tough to get plumbers or electricians out for small jobs, and pipes like to leak on Sunday when even if you can find a plumber it will cost more.

    • Randy M says:

      Oh, definitely know how to shut off the water, in case a pipe bursts in the toilet and you can’t get the landlord on the line and you have three little kids at home who end up with nightmares about when the bathroom flooded.

  25. Well... says:

    “Heart of Rock & Roll” by Huey Lewis and the News is a great song. It’s hilariously dated from its 1984 release in some ways (e.g., prominent sax part, self-censoring the word “ass” for comedic effect as well as radio-friendliness), but endearing and admirable in others, as well as just being a fun catchy tune to sing along to (although I always found “that old boy may be barely breathing” to be for some reason one of the toughest tongue twisters in any lyrics I know of).

    My favorite part of the song comes near the end when Huey sings out the names of cities where the heart of rock & roll is still beating. I can’t remember offhand all the ones he recites, but if you know them (or are less lazy than me and care to look it up) does his list hold up 36 years later? What cities would you add to it?

    • Plumber says:

      Rock ‘n Roll grew from blues, country-western, gospel, and rhythm & blues so…

      …New Orleans, Louisiana above all other Bergs; next Nashville, then Memphis, then Nutbush (all three in Tennessee); Chicago; Harlem; McComb, Mississippi; finally the hills and “hollers” of Appalachia.

      • TheContinentalOp says:

        My memory of the song was that in different markets one or two additional cities were added to the end. I was in college in Georgia at the time and on the local stations the song ended with “But the heart of rock and roll is still beating……. In Atlanta…..Charlotte…”

        But when I heard the song back home in NJ or on American Top 40 the song ended with the last line “But the heart of rock and roll is still beating” with no additional cities.

  26. GearRatio says:

    1. The effect of income on what you should and realistically can learn

    I’m not asking, but it oddly matters how much money you make here. The less you make, the more skills you need. The less you make, the more unreasonable risks you have to make learning to repair stuff – if you won’t ever be able to afford a repairman, you don’t worry about “breaking it more” while trying to fix it. Poverty both forces and allows a kind of practice comfort doesn’t.

    For instance: I fix cars and I’m kinda poor; until recently I was pretty brutally broke. So while if a reasonably-well-to-do person picked up fixing cars it would be appropriate for them to stop at “change a tire, change a battery, jump start a car, change oil/check fluid levels” with perhaps brake work or changing out an alternator at the far end, that’s about it; any job bigger than that is getting ridiculous/financially risky to take on – plus, if bubble-mechanics work like I think they do, well-to-do guy doesn’t actually know anybody who does engine swaps well enough that that person would help him/teach him how.

    Realistically, well-to-do guy shouldn’t actually repair anything on a car at all – he should go the safer route of having a trained mechanic. He should stick to learning maintenance-and-emergencies stuff, like jumping/changing a battery and changing a tire, and then move on to other stuff.

    “basic plumbing” falls into this other stuff category very well. Knowing how to work a plunger and a drain snake have an increase utility over engine-swaps in that they are small emergencies with low-risk fixes and there’s a real advantage beyond the monetary to being able to do them. When your kid shoves near 100 crayons down the sink and then packs them together trying to get them out creating a perfect ossified wax seal in the drain, it’s nice to know what channel locks are and how to take apart a trap so you can push them through. It’s NOT nice to have to wait a couple days for a plumber to get around to it.

    But if you combine plunging/snaking/caulking/things you can disassemble with channel locks and a monkey wrench/knowing where your shut-off valve is, you now have all the plumbing skills you need. You don’t need to learn anything more if you have money, and if you don’t need to learn anything more because you don’t have money you won’t end up being forced to devote the time necessary to learning learning it anyhow.

    Contrast this to, say, the third category my boss represents: he’s pretty substantially rich, and his time is worth so much that it would be actively dumb for him to do most things himself. I have a job entirely because his opportunity costs are so high that it makes sense to employ a person with a full suite of poor-people and administrative skills so he can focus on, like, buying Australia.

    2. Generalizable handiness and safety > Than specificity.

    Has anyone here said “Watch a youtube video on the proper way to use a screwdriver”? Because this comes up in like fully half on the jobs you will ever do, and it’s easy to fuck up. There’s nothing worse than stripping a screw because you don’t know how to select the right size screwdriver, or that you have to press down pretty hard at first, etc. Can you swing a hammer? Unless you have specialized tools, you can’t almost can’t fix a car if you can’t use a sledgehammer, and that’s not even the primary thing you will need it for.

    Here’s some basic, generalizable skills that generalize to nearly everything in the “handy” range:

    A. Assembly/Disassembly. Do you know what a vacuum is? It’s a motor hooked up to some tubes on one end, and to a belt that spins a brush on the other. If you can get to these things, you can fix a vacuum. But your ability to get to them and then make then inaccessible again is mostly a function of how good with a screwdriver you are.

    Can you fix your laptop? Sure, if you can get a laptop apart. Again, this is mostly a matter of screwdriver work with some precision prying tools added in. For some things you need basic wrench skills. Point is, practicing cracking various cases open to get at the guts while not losing the parts is at least half the battle of fixing the kind of things you can pick up. This not losing the parts leads us to…

    2. Organization

    Do you have a tool box? Did you know it’s not even really worth buying tools you are going to immediately lose if you don’t have a toolbox or some similar way to keep them organized? Because you will lose them. I’ve lost hundreds of dollars worth of tools.

    The biggest innovation I’ve ever made in my repair-style is putting away tools I found out I didn’t need (or that I’m done with) right away while organizing tools I do need and I’m not done with on a towel or similar defined surface while I’m in the process of the repair.

    The same concept is in play when you are in the midst of a disassembly; some screws aren’t just screws, they are the only screw in the world that fits that damn thing; if you lose it, the thing is now broken forever. Even if you don’t lose them, having to look for them or having to get up off the ground to walk around to get them eats up an enormous amount of time.

    I once tried to put a number on what organization does to the ability to do a job by having a friend prep tools and keep track of bolts while I did pads and rotors on four wheels of a Subaru Legacy; by cheating and having “perfect” organization handed to me, I was able to do each wheel in about five minutes with hand tools; 20-30 minutes per wheel would be pretty good time for me otherwise. It’s a big deal to both your capability of doing a job and your speed/success while attempting it.

    3. Safety and catastrophe avoidance

    Are you wearing rings while you do projects? Because this is a potential catastrophic; they conduct electricity, they catch on stuff, if you hit them with a hammer they turn weird, inconvenient shapes. Do you know how to turn your electricity off? Do you know how to turn water off? Do you have good gloves? Do you have a plan to get clean if you get a bunch of weak acid on you? Do you know how to safely jack up a car then immediately never, ever trust a jack to hold up a car for longer than a few seconds/minutes?

    If you have the tire off a car and the rotor falls on your leg, you have one less leg. If you get your finger caught in a belt-driven tool or a motor, sometimes it breaks your distal phalanges in half and it punches through your nail-bed, levering your nail out root-first and badly ripping the mid-point of your cuticles open as your fingertip bends a way it doesn’t really feel it was designed to do. I haven’t done the first, but I’ve done the latter, and I can tell you I wish I had really impressed upon myself the importance of not putting my hands too near spinny things.

    Don’t use tools that aren’t for prying for prying; they break in situations where they’ve stored an awful lot potential energy. Don’t lift things that are too heavy for you, and use all the bolts you can to mount heavy things (like flatscreens, which crush a distressing amount of children each year). Don’t do jobs with big, heavy, or powerful elements without someone who can call 911 for you.

    All these things are sort of important; most people won’t get unlucky in a big way just because they won’t do enough jobs, but when you do win the jackpot it’s pretty bad.

    4. Bravery and overconfidence

    You are gonna fuck up a bunch of jobs, and you will feel dumb when you do. But screwing them up makes you less likely to screw up the next job; it’s a necessary step kind of thing. Since you don’t usually break your stuff on purpose, it’s important that you vastly underestimate difficulties while overestimating your ability – youtube videos make stuff look easy; let them make it look that way. Suspend your disbelief. Get right in there and disassemble that dishwasher, because you can’t be great at repairing dishwashers unless you’ve broken at least one dishwasher.

    • SamChevre says:

      I have been poor, now I am rich–and this is so true. (Also, still have the scars from running my fingernails through a joiner–two nails with crescent-shaped dips at the top.)

      • GearRatio says:

        Out of curiosity, do you now find you have a vague PTSD-like thing regarding hand injuries and another regarding joiners? I can hardly look at the belt-drive on a car now without my eyes watering.

      • DinoNerd says:

        Yep, and also complicated by age. At 60, I hire people to do things I would have done for myself at 30. I should have begun hiring them at 50 or so, when my income grew out of the worthwhile-to-do-it-yourself range for most of them, but it was hard to overcome the internal voice of my Depression era dad, who always picked the least expensive choice available. (He did believe in paying more for something that would last longer, so I didn’t have to train myself out of buying junk that doesn’t last, but he would never pay someone else to do anything he could do himself.)

    • Deiseach says:

      Good point about the toolbox, I forgot to add that in or more like, assumed “everyone knows this” and that’s precisely what is being asked: not everyone ‘knows this’ and it’s good practical basic advice. As is “can you wire a plug, can you do small basic handyman tasks”.

      • Anatoly says:

        I don’t have a toolbox. I have a kitchen drawer full of tools which is always getting messed up and I end up searching through a pile of junk for pliers or measuring tape or the right screwdriver or batteries. Can you guys explain/link what a reasonable toolbox should look like, assuming the tools are for basic maintenance tasks in an owned apartment?

        • GearRatio says:

          If we are talking about such tools as might otherwise fit in a kitchen drawer and a situation where the main frustration is with being able to lay your hand on the right tool quickly within whatever storage medium you are using, I’d actually recommend what’s called a “tool bag”.

          The kind of toolbox you’d use for tools if rigid sides and waterproofing was important isn’t actually very good at tool organization at the low-to-medium price range. They hold a lot in one place safely, but don’t have a ton of compartments; for what I’m talking about, look up “Craftsman versastack 17 inch”. It’s nice, but it’s more for bulk as opposed to sorting.

          A toolbag generally holds less, but it has a lot of really handy little pockets – at the least, there’s enough little nooks and crannies to separate out all of your most-used small tools (that one screwdriver, both pairs of pliers, the tape measure) into their own little pockets while leaving your bigger tools you wouldn’t have a problem finding anyway in the central “bulk” portion of the bag. I really like things like the “McGuire-Nicholas 22015 15-Inch Collapsible Tote” for that purpose.

          As an added bonus, toolbags are generally cheaper and pretty impossible to hurt; on Amazon or similar, $10-15 buys you a fine, serviceable item while $40 buys you something bigger, better and pocket-dense in the “great” range. $40 is pretty much the entry-level cost for “works and the latches won’t break tomorrow” range of toolboxes, so there’s some value to be had.

          It sounds like I’m making brand and product recommendations, but I’m not; use those as a jumping off point and browse amazon a while and you should find something that fits your needs. Just look at various bags with your current portfolio of tools and your most common frustrations in mind so you can visualize what would help you organize them the best.

        • Enkidum says:

          Highly recommended (by me) is a hard-cased set of wrenches, both standard and socket. You can often get a 200+ piece set on sale half price during boxing week. It’s ridiculous how useful it is to have every size in its correct marked spot in that briefcase.

          Of course this is more than you’d need for a standard apartment, but it can be used for a surprising amount, and socket wrenches are so much better than standard wrenches, in virtually any case where they can be used.

          Assuming you have a drill/driver, then getting hard-cased drill bits is also worthwhile for precisely the same reasons (although those will wear out and break relatively often, so it’s often worth getting smaller sets to avoid having a massive half-empty base).

          However both of those are perhaps overkill for what you’re talking about. In which case, go with what GearRatio said.

        • Anatoly says:

          GearRatio and Enkidum, much thanks!

        • GearRatio says:

          I second Enkidum on self-contained toolsets. Big time saver so long as you actually need that tool.

    • DinoNerd says:

      Don’t do jobs with big, heavy, or powerful elements without someone who can call 911 for you.

      This includes anything involving ladders. I’ve only once had to take someone to the emergency room after they fell off a ladder, and they fortunately weren’t badly hurt – but I know at least 2 people who wound up with hospital stays that way. And then there was the time I almost knocked the extension ladder over, trying to get back down from my roof – which would have left me stranded until someone saw me. Don’t climb ladders alone.

      • acymetric says:

        You had me at “Don’t climb ladders”.

        I mean, I do climb ladders now and then when I absolutely have to, but it is just about my least favorite thing in the world to do.

    • Garrett says:

      > 3. Safety and catastrophe avoidance

      I’m in EMS. I have yet to encounter a serious injury which wouldn’t have been avoided by following the basic safety rules in the instruction manual and/or wearing modest protective gear. Sure, the rules frequently fall into the category of “who would ever do that?” Sometimes the answer is “professionals who don’t want to be bothered”.

      Read the instruction manual. Follow the safety guidance. Wear ear/eye protection as appropriate. And remember that cardboard boxes are not designed to be safety-critical load-bearing devices.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      The same concept is in play when you are in the midst of a disassembly; some screws aren’t just screws, they are the only screw in the world that fits that damn thing; if you lose it, the thing is now broken forever. Even if you don’t lose them, having to look for them or having to get up off the ground to walk around to get them eats up an enormous amount of time.

      This reminds me of a skill I’ve found to be valuable: how to assist.

      When you’re in the middle of an obvious project, but you’re idle, find someone who looks like they know what they’re doing, and is alone, and assist them. There’s almost always someone like that around. Follow them, careful to not block them from anything. Declare you’re “standing by” if you think they’ll wonder why you’re there. Ask no questions; just watch what they do, and help it happen faster.

      If it’s dark, carry a light; light up whatever they’re doing. (It’s worth carrying around a light at all times.)

      If they look for a tool, figure out what it is ASAP, and once you know, go scurrying. If they finish using a tool and put it down, pick it up and put it in your pocket. Tools always go in your pocket, or in the toolbox. When handing it to them, orient it so they don’t have to turn it around to continue work.

      If they’re putting in nails or screws, have a handful ready, or even hand them one at a time. If they’re taking them out, collect them. Later, they go in a box, much like tools.

      You will be extremely likely to hasten their job if you pay sufficient attention, because you’re cutting down on their time spent hunting for that tool or nail or whatever. Even if you’re not able to do anything like that, you’ll inevitably learn what they’re doing, and if it’s repetitive, you can start on another side and do it as well. You’ll no longer be assisting, but if there are enough tools and you’re both keeping them at hand, you could as much as halve the total work time; alternately, you may now be in charge of that job, freeing up that person to work on something else that requires their talents.

      Done properly, an assistant is very nearly reading the expert’s mind as they go, anticipating their moves. Stuff happens just as they think about it. This screw goes here oh there’s the screw. Next, I have to clamp this board in place oh it’s being clamped. Now I make a mark here oh here’s a pencil. Before long, both of you feel like damned superheroes.

  27. Mark V Anderson says:

    An interesting list of requirements here. I am 63, and I can’t do some of the things listed in various comments. I wouldn’t worry about what you need to know overmuch; most of them you can learn when you need them. Hopefully even surviving in a post-apocalyptic world if that occurs. 🙂

  28. 1. Learn how to plea for special treatment when dealing with bureaucracies. A year ago I had booked a flight, cancelled it when I believed I couldn’t go, then realized I could. I considered just buying another, now more expensive ticket as there was no obvious way of reinstating cancelled tickets. Instead I put together a sob story, called up the airline and asked them to reinstate the ticket. I didn’t even need the sob story, they just reinstated it at the original price when I asked. In another case, CenturyLink doubled my internet rate and I called them up asking to cancel service. They discovered I was qualified for some special customer discount which gave me a price only slightly higher than the original.

    2. Understand the effect of the imputed rent tax exemption. Normies tend to believe that homeownership is inherently better than renting due to their tendency to see market payments as transfers. Thus, rent paid is being “stolen” by the landlord. Economically literate people understand that the landlord is being compensated for maintenance, depreciation, property taxes, and the opportunity cost that would otherwise arise if he had capital tied up in a house no one is living in as opposed to other uses. But homeownership is beneficial due to the imputed rent tax exemption. Exactly how much I’m not sure of. This source claims savings on the order of 5.6-26.5% of costs, the latter strikes me as too high:

    https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/112th-congress-2011-2012/workingpaper/11-2-2012-Taxation_of_Housing_0.pdf

    I’m currently in flux mode where I rent because I don’t know if I’ll leave my area soon, but I’d be motivated to find out the real answer if buying were a possibility. There ought to be a tool where you can put in your zip code, what kind of property you want to rent/buy and see a specific estimate informed by things like local property values, average estimate landlord incomes,(which matter as richer landlords would pay higher tax rates) income and property tax rates, ect. There’s such a big industry in financial planning, why doesn’t it exist?

    • pqjk2 says:

      I’m currently in flux mode where I rent because I don’t know if I’ll leave my area soon, but I’d be motivated to find out the real answer if buying were a possibility. There ought to be a tool where you can put in your zip code, what kind of property you want to rent/buy and see a specific estimate informed by things like local property values, average estimate landlord incomes,(which matter as richer landlords would pay higher tax rates) income and property tax rates, ect. There’s such a big industry in financial planning, why doesn’t it exist?

      Doesn’t Zillow cover most of those bases?

  29. DinoNerd says:

    There’s been lots of good stuff already suggested. I agree with most of it. Here are some other useful tools:

    – Conflict resolution and avoidance. Cynically speaking, how to stay married, and not have your kids stop talking to you as soon as they no longer require help from the Bank of Parental Income, but it’s a lot more than that.
    – Basic parenting skills, including everything from diaper changing to effective discipline.
    – Home nursing – how to care for someone who’s feeling poorly, but not sick enough to be in hospital; also, lots of basic medical common sense and home or OTC remedies, but they’ve already been mentioned
    – Basic cooking (also already mentioned)

    In the “how not to get conned”/”how not to waste money” department:
    – Critical thinking
    – How to evaluate arguments, especially those dependent on statistics
    – How to find evidence, and evaluate its quality.

    • Matt M says:

      “Don’t get conned” is a really good one. But I’m thinking even more basic than you. Anyone who grew up in a relatively sheltered or high-trust environment is probably wholly unprepared for just how many scammers and con-artists are out there in society, actively trying to take advantage of you. Most of them are significantly more sophisticated than the Nigerian Prince e-mail scam or whatever it is you may have already been exposed to.

      Beat yourself over the head with “Anything that seems too good to be true probably is.” There are no guaranteed get rich quick schemes. Attractive women won’t throw themselves at you for no reason. Etc. Be especially attuned to this sort of thing if it involves areas of your life where you are particularly desperate. The first step of a successful con artist is to figure out what it is that you most want and tailor their pitch accordingly.

    • Loriot says:

      Precommiting to never give people money on the spot is remarkably effective at defending against scams.

      In my experience, scammers are very good at playing on your emotions and distracting you from the red flags, so just saying “be more rational” or whatever doesn’t work out that well in the heat of the moment. But a precomitment works wonders.

    • proyas says:

      In the “how not to get conned”/”how not to waste money” department:

      A quick tip for the OP: A crude but effective way to avoid getting conned is to not bring your wallet with you to any kind of negotiation or business where someone might persuade/pressure you to buy something. Listen to their sales pitch, learn about the product or service, and then reveal you have no ability to pay at the moment and have to leave. The tactic can be infuriating, but it will save you (unless you’ve got a bunch of money in a payment app on your smartphone and you are strong-armed into paying that way).

    • methylethyl says:

      In the “don’t get conned” department, my parents did a surprisingly good job of raising us for this: our family knew, and was sort of friends with, a couple of actual con artists. When we’d see them, our parents would tell us even at a very young age “oh yeah, he’s a con artist– great fun, never give him money.” We can now spot that personality at fifty paces. If you wanted to duplicate this as an adult… hm. Maybe visit some used car lots when you are not actually in the market for a car. Study the personality type.

      It is nearly impossible to con a humble man: cultivate a brutally honest assessment of your own looks, intelligence, and abilities, and is is much more difficult to get sucked in to someone else’s schemes. People overpraise when they want something from you.

  30. Plumber says:

    @Atlas >

    “…What functional skills should you know as an adult these days? I’m a guy in my early 20s…”

    1) How to please your spouse (I don’t know the lady so you’re on your own there Atlas!).
    2) How to play and sing along to a couple of love songs on guitar, ukulele, portable keyboard, whatever (keep it simple, Beatles, Kinks, or Ramones).
    2) As others suggested a couple of meals, one dinner one breakfast (eggs not cereal, she spent the evening with you so don’t blow this!).
    3) Laundry.
    4) Keeping your car/motorcycle/scooter topped off with fluids.
    5) Changing diapers.
    6) Dig a hole, and move dirt for hours (not an hour and quit (know your physical limits, and don’t be like the white collar Dad’s on “school parent volunteer day” and berate the guy who’s done this work for a living about “why’s your wheelbarrow load so light?” and try to show off with heavy lifting only to quit within minutes!).
    7) Clockwise to tighten (“righty tighty”), counter-clockwise to loosen (“lefty loosey”).
    8) If it doesn’t move and it should apply grease or oil.
    9) If it does move and it shouldn’t apply glue, tape, or tie-wire.
    10) Take the thing that doesn’t work apart, put it back together with one component from a similar enough thing that does work, repeat until the thing works, remember which components you replaced.

  31. johan_larson says:

    You are invited to fill in the blank.

    In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only _______.

    • LesHapablap says:

      robot1: In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only one kind of dance. THE ROBOT
      robot2: and the robo boogie
      robot1: …yes, two kinds…of dances

      -Flight of the Conchords

    • Deiseach says:

      My brain must be in an interesting place today, because I swear this is the answer it came up with:

      “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only –
      – the powder silently falling off a moth’s wings, fluttering in the night”.

      To be fair, I’m home sick. Though I haven’t taken anything other than aspirin so far!

    • Ms. Morgendorffer says:

      In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only Roboute Guilliman

    • Ketil says:

      In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only darkness. Of the grim variety.

      (Was going to see how Google would complete it, but of course, lotsa people post about Warhammer, so… The only other suggestion was “….memes”, which I guess seems pertinent enough.)

    • johan_larson says:

      The internet.

    • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

      Paperclips.

    • Chalid says:

      Culture War

    • episcience says:

      GTP 2 sez:

      In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war! By the ancient Orks, none will escape the Lich King’s dark tentacles until he raises the world’s dead to rule over the world. The only hope of defeating the Fourteen – or resurrecting the fallen if they do not survive the attack – lies with the Damned Ones, impious mutants from beyond the stars. Their leader is Damnation, and her greatest weapon is the Mark of Slaanesh.

      But Damnation’s brother is Revenge, who seeks to shatter the Ork race before it can come to realise its true potential as a ruthless and unbeatable killing machine. With the Mark of Slaanesh in Damnation’s hand, the Pack can overwhelm any foe it faces!

      • Two McMillion says:

        Again GPT2 says:

        In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only Justice. The U.S. defense secretary recently assured Iran’s leaders that the U.S. is preparing for a military strike against that country. “We’re ready. And if they violate that commitment then we’re going to be prepared for any contingency,” Chuck Hagel said at the Senate Armed Services Committee. Now, America’s armed forces and its allies have accomplished something that would have seemed unthinkable only a few years ago: that despite billions in modern weaponry, including the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carriers, U.S. forces might not be able to vanquish a nation of 60 million people with the first weapons launched.

        • EchoChaos says:

          In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only Justice.

          This is a pretty good catch-line for a dark alternate universe Justice League.

          • acymetric says:

            Are we 100% sure it isn’t already? It does make a solid tagline.

            Google gives one hit, for a message board for some game called Gaia Online.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @acymetric

            Change “Justice” to “War” and search again, and you’ll find the original quote.

            It’s also the origin of the term “grimdark” as descriptor/pejorative for a certain flavor of genre fiction and settings.

          • acymetric says:

            I was just referring to the phrase with “justice” at the end for the tagline @EchoChaos suggested. I knew it was already a phrase in its original form.

      • Randy M says:

        My prompt got somewhat post-singularity:

        In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only one recourse for civilization, we will be forever rebuilding the world to suit our deepest needs.

      • Nick says:

        Again GPT2:

        In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only death. But beyond death’s reach, a creature of incalculable danger is quietly chipping away at the structure that holds our existence together. The android Vara is one of them. She’s been fighting a lonely battle since her creation over 50 years ago. Against all odds, she still keeps her cool and her wits about her. Only one problem: she’s dead.

        It’s time for Vara to take back her life. And when she does, she will set off a chain reaction of cataclysmic events that will tear down the power structure that holds this world in place. Until then, she’s not alone. The machines are still after her, but she’s not leaving her friends

        I really like the second sentence, but it gets pretty incoherent after that.

    • Bobobob says:

      Kim Kardashian.

    • acymetric says:

      the sound of my office-mate eating an apple.

    • Buddha Buddhing Rodriguez says:

      Beefing.

    • John Schilling says:

      Twitter

    • The Nybbler says:

      Zuul

    • Paul Zrimsek says:

      Stories about the even grimmer darkness of the even farther future.

    • Dacyn says:

      In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only atoms and the void.

    • Nornagest says:

      Cards Against Humanity?

    • In the grin darkness of the far future, there is only entropy. Lots of entropy.

    • anonymousskimmer says:

      In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only one easily opened doorway into the light.

      In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only one simple trick needed to turn on the lights.

    • proyas says:

      …fondness for the good old days of Donald Trump.

    • Plumber says:

      “In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only…”

      “…a steady twilight brooded over the earth, a twilight only broken now and then when a comet glared across the darkling sky. The band of light that had indicated the sun had long since disappeared; for the sun had ceased to set—it simply rose and fell in the west, and grew ever broader and more red. All trace of the moon had vanished. The circling of the stars, growing slower and slower, had given place to creeping points of light. At last, some time before I stopped, the sun, red and very large, halted motionless upon the horizon, a vast dome glowing with a dull heat, and now and then suffering a momentary extinction. At one time it had for a little while glowed more brilliantly again, but it speedily reverted to its sullen red-heat. I perceived by this slowing down of its rising and setting that the work of the tidal drag was done. The earth had come to rest with one face to the sun, even as in our own time the moon faces the earth.
      I stopped very gently and sat upon the Time Machine, looking round…”

  32. Alex K says:

    Hello, friendly SSC community!
    I am thinking of collecting stories about people getting out of nifty situations. Basically a documentary on resourcefulness. This could be anything from a very bad phase in business, a case of office politics where they managed to maneuver a smart move, survival situations, war stories… Anything that shows cleverness in the face of adversity or high stress situations.
    Is that something you guys would be interested in? I know I am, and I have been an avid reader for years. Perhaps you’d even like to share?

    • Matt says:

      Here’s a nifty situation that was (I think) cleverly escaped.

      Around 2am, over a decade ago, I got a phone call from someone I knew. She was calling about a mutual friend – the police had called her asking about this guy’s whereabouts and she was calling me to see if I knew where he was.

      Here was his situation – He lived in the country and had left a party pretty late and was giving a rides home to a couple of below-drinking-age but had-probably-drunk-a-lot friends. He (I believe, but don’t know for certain) had also been drinking. Between the party and his friends’ homes, a policeman attempted to pull him over. If he pulls over, he’s looking at charges probably for drunk driving, contributing the deliquency, etc.

      The county is not very populated and is one of those ‘everyone knows everyone’ places so he knows the policeman and that he’s new to the sheriff’s office. That is, my friend definitely knows the roads better than this cop. He also knows that only one deputy is on duty, with a dispatcher at the sheriff’s office/jail, and the only realistic ‘backup’ is a state highway patrol officer who is 1) not likely to be on duty and 2) lives in the area, but is not likely to be working in the area. So effectively, no backup.

      So my friend flees, quickly loses the deputy, mostly because he knows the roads better. He kicks his passengers out and tells them to call another friend to pick them up and take them home. Then he drives to another location, parks his car in the woods, calls his own friend to pick him up and goes over to that friend’s house to sleep it off.

      The sheriff’s office mobilizes their sleeping officers and eventually finds his abandoned car. They start calling people looking for him. That’s when I get the call from our mutual friend.

      The next morning, he calls the police.

      I was at a party last night and had a few too many. My buddy took me to his house to sleep it off, and when I went back to the party location my car was gone. Probably just a buddy of mine moved it to mess with me, but I can’t find it. I guess I want to report it stolen.

      Nobody rats him out, so they have no evidence he was driving – they could have been chasing anyone in his car. They ask him a few more questions but they’ve got no case and they give him back his car. I get the feeling that the deputies/sheriff he escaped are pretty good-natured about it.

      I should note that he knows and is still friendly with a lot of police officers due to a job he had at the time, and I’m about 90% certain that he called one of his buddies in a different jurisdiction and got advice on what to do at some point.

    • Dino says:

      A friend of mine (call her Linda) was a secretary in a large urban university, and was unhappy that her boss always opened the interdepartmental mail addressed to her. (Opening real US mail not addressed to you is a serious felony, but interdepartmental mail – ?) So Linda (who could be described as “full-figured”) gave one of her bras to her friend (call her Dianne), who worked in another department. Dianne sent the bra via interdepartmental mail addressed to Linda, with a note that said “I think you left this behind at the party last weekend”. Mr. boss of course opened the bulky package and turned bright red – problem solved.

  33. Deiseach says:

    Functional skill? Household budgeting and basic “able to fill out paperwork and know what and how to apply for things”. The amount of grown up people who have no idea how to go about applying for things, how to fix their taxes, etc. that I have encountered in various jobs is staggering to me. Even basic “Google it” seems beyond them, I see an awful lot of queries online about “how do I apply for a medical card/get my tax credits/what do I need for my first job” and so on when it’s all information readily available online or from family members/friends.

    Re: the household budgeting, figure out what your income is, what your expenses are, and be aware of things like slapping it all on the credit card or the never-never; also to be aware of interest rates and penalties etc. for overdraughts, credit card balances, loans and so on. Again, people tend to be poor at this and get themselves into situations where as soon as their pay (be it salary, wages or what have you) hits the bank account, it’s all gone on existing bills and they’re back in debt until the next pay day.

    EDIT: What DinoNerd said about not being conned. Don’t ever be afraid to say “no” to a salesperson. You don’t have to be a jerk about it, but before ever you go to make a purchase, especially a significantly costly one, have the mindset in place already that “no” is the answer. Successful selling depends at least in part about establishing a brief but amicable relationship with the mark customer, and then leveraging the social politeness we’ve all had installed in us about disappointing another person to convince you into saying “yes” instead of “no” when making a purchase. You have the right to say no, you’re not disappointing them, they are not your friend or buddy or pal, they’re trying to make money out of you. Don’t be rude or a jerk, do be assertive.

  34. Ketil says:

    Given your stated goal of being a responsible husband and father, and what I infer are somewhat traditional values (“capable of managing a household” and a father who is “handy and responsible”), I think you should learn skills that let your future spouse respect and admire you. I grew up around very egalitarian values – there is nothing a man can do that a woman can’t – but have come to the conclusion that equality in all respects is not an optimal situation, at least not for a traditional nuclear family. There should be mutual respect and admiration between spouses, and this derives from excelling in different areas. While in principle you don’t need to follow gender stereotypes, I think it is the path of least resistance, and the vast majority of women are incredibly traditional, and they want a man who earns more than them, have more education, and knows to do manly stuff like carpentry, changing tires and light bulbs, and who likes to drive the car and knows how to light a fire. Learn the basics of housework (i.e. cook a meal, bake a loaf of bread, etc) and enjoy time with your kids, but let your wife excel at something that you admire her for. Also: have a hobby that you are really good at, or at least that’s important to you and which you prioritize over most things, no matter how useless or fringe. Wood carving, martial arts, meditation, music – doesn’t matter.

  35. Deiseach says:

    As I said, I’m off sick from work so you lot get to bear the brunt of my excessive free time and free association.

    I was talking down thread a bit about folk song as a living tradition. Dedicating this to Plumber (because somehow it seems right to my wonky brain) and since we’re in the (1) electioneering season – you guys have a Presidential election coming up, we’re going to have a general election in February and (2) we’re in the Decade of Commemorations and we’ve already had that to-do about the RIC/Black and Tans.

    Anyone else got suggestions for political songs/folksongs/of that ilk they’d like to throw in?

    Lyrics by Liam Weldon, see quote below for the background – Dark Horse on the Wind, as covered by Susan McKeown in 2006.

    “Dark Horse on the Wind”, written in 1966 on the 50th anniversary of the Rising, is a lament for the lost dreams of the 1916 Volunteers and a searing indictment of society in post-independence Ireland and, indeed, a prophetic warning of the political troubles which were at that point imminent on the island as a whole.

    All those who died for liberty have heard the eagle scream
    All the ones who died for liberty have died but for a dream
    Oh then rise, rise, rise, dark horse on the wind
    For in no nation on earth more broken dreams you’ll find

    The flames leapt high, reached to the sky ’til they seared a nation’s soul
    In the ashes of our broken dreams we’ve lost sight of our goal
    Oh then rise, rise, rise, dark horse on the wind
    And help our hearts seek Róisín, our soul again to find

    Now charlatans wear dead men’s shoes, aye and rattle dead men’s bones
    ‘Ere the dust has settled on their tombs, they’ve sold the very stones
    Oh then rise, rise, rise, dark horse on the wind
    For in no nation on the earth more Pharisees you’ll find

    In grief and hate our motherland her dragon’s teeth has sown
    Now the warriors spring from the earth to maim and kill their own
    Oh then rise, rise, rise, dark horse on the wind
    For the one-eyed Balor still reigns king in our nation of the blind

    • Murphy says:

      Having grown up with a lot of the “Up the RA” type songs… I think I have some kind of instinctive dislike of them.

      I think it’s because they take the worst elements of sloganism and darkside rhetoric and package them together in a way that sticks in peoples brains.

      When people just talk about an issue you can talk about the messy details, the bits that don’t quite fit the narrative etc.

      But when someone writes a song , it just is what it is. When there’s a line about the evil outgroup murdering people for No Reason nobody is ,after long discussion, going to add in a line “oooooohhhh except that our guys were kinda raping and pillaging in that area first….”

      The composer of the song creates a narrative that’s likely mostly fiction and then thanks to the way human brains seem to work…. that’s the version that history will tend to remember.

    • It isn’t a song, but Kipling’s Cleared is one of the most powerful pieces of political invective in verse I have seen.

      Possibly not to Deiseach’s taste, however.

    • sharper13 says:

      Charlie riding the M.T.A. comes to mind as a more upbeat/humorous alternative. Apparently, it was a legit protest song before being made famous when a couple of groups “covered” it. It’s now come full-circle, becoming the reason the M.T.A. calls their electronic fare cards “Charlie Cards”.

      Besides, you can never really go wrong with the Kingston Trio…

      • Dino says:

        And it has an Irish connection – campaign song for the mayoral candidate Walter A. O’Brien, in the most Irish city in America (Boston).

    • Plumber says:

      @Deiseach >

      Susan McKeown

      That was both a departure from my usual “what was hip in 1989” listening habits, and really good.

      Thanks for posting it!

  36. Thegnskald says:

    How to learn how to do things.

    Didn’t know carpentry until I needed to use it. Didn’t know plumbing until I needed to use it. Didn’t know electrical work until I needed to use it. I didn’t know how to lay bricks, install windows, replace doors, etc.

    This is really more of an attitude than a skill, but it is one many people lack. Even if you intend to hire people to do work, you should be willing to learn enough to understand the very basic level of information they are giving you.

    You don’t need to be an expert at anything; expertise comes with experience, and if it isn’t your career, that would be a waste of time unless you otherwise enjoy it. (And give credit to expertise. It took me eight hours of careful cutting to remove a custom-framed door. I watched someone else do it in forty minutes. I didn’t even know some of those tools existed; I did everything with a reciprocating saw and patience, because the instructions I had had assumed I was removing a prefab door frame.)

    The skills you need will vary. I owned two houses in a row where plumbing knowledge saved me a few tens of thousands of dollars, and by the end I had completely replumbed one, and nearly done so with the other (there were some copper pipes I left in the walls because they were fine). In my current house, that knowledge is useless; the plumbing is all in the foundation.

    Two things you should always know if you live in a house:

    How to shut water off to your house.
    If you have gas lines, how to shut those off.

    Because for both of those, when you need to know, it is too late to look it up.

    It is also useful to know how to shut electricity off, but I have trouble thinking of a situation where that needs to be done immediately, where the problem isn’t already as bad as it is going to get.

  37. Wency says:

    Some good suggestions here. But truth is you can learn all these basic skills pretty easily on the fly once they are needed, if you want to.

    The only choices that really matter at this age are selecting and developing your career path, and choosing your spouse wisely. Everyone I know who is unhappy in middle-age failed at one or both of these. No one is unhappy because they didn’t learn enough about tools and cooking in their early 20s.

    If I were to add a third, it would be avoiding crushing debt. But mostly to the degree that it affects the first two choices.

    • EchoChaos says:

      The only choices that really matter at this age are selecting and developing your career path, and choosing your spouse wisely.

      I want to really emphasize this. If you want to learn woodworking in your 40s, you’ll still have two-three decades of woodworking before you retire. Same with any hobby out there.

      But you can’t get your youth back to do youth only things. Especially with double emphasis if you want kids, selecting a wife early is a really big deal.

  38. Conrad Honcho says:

    Can anyone explain to me what the deal is with Prince Harry? I’ve tried to read articles about the situation and it’s all…very obtuse and polite sounding, but what’s the real story? Is this Harry and Meghan’s doing, or the Queen’s doing, and why?

    • Nick says:

      I can say a lot, but it would be a bunch of gossip because I’m a terrible human being.

      • acymetric says:

        I say go for it.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        Just label it gossip. “One rumor says this, another rumor says that.” I tried a couple of news sites including the BBC, and it’s just…official statement stuff. They’re not going to print gossip, I guess.

      • Nick says:

        So from what I’ve seen, there are basically two sides here:
        1. It’s all Meghan’s fault
        2. Megan can do no wrong

        The gist of the anti-Meghan case is that, being a Hollywood celebrity, she wanted to use her new role for her progressive politics. This didn’t play well with the family, who wanted her to tone it down. She grew unhappy with this, so she fanned the flames of Harry’s anger toward the family for how his mother—also an outsider—was treated. So the story is, she drove Harry away from his family so they can go do what she wants to do, namely this Goop-esque brand “Sussex Royal.”

        You’ll notice that all agency on Harry’s part is removed from this account, a common criticism of this story. The counter narrative is that Meghan has been mistreated by the press and by the family—again, just like Diana—so the two have decided to get out of this toxic family. As regards treatment, contrasts are made with e.g. Diana and with Kate Middleton.

        I’ve seen circulating some “scissor images” that seem to fuel both side’s interpretations of this. I can’t find it now, but the commonest one had Harry turning to greet a group of people before Meghan jumped in front of him, shaking hands with each one in turn and introducing herself and asking who they were. The anti-Meghan faction said, Look at how narcissistic she is, everything has to be about her, she has to be at the center. The pro-Meghan faction said, Look at how gracious she is, defusing a potentially awkward conversation for Harry. I saw a couple more in this vein.

        There are two more twists on this—first, Meghan has a lot of (American, afaict?) fans who will defend anything, hence my “Meghan can do no wrong.” They particularly like calling her critics racist. Second, a lot of people are just mad that the two have announced they want to be independent, making their own way—yet the first they did was turn their titles into a brand.

        Cards on the table, I’m sympathetic to the “it’s all Meghan’s fault” side here, because it confirms all of my biases. But in the end it’s all gossip and speculation.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I see. My takeaway from the articles linked below by anonymousskimmer was that regardless of why they hate her, the British press (and the people they influence) hate her. I can definitely see wanting to get away from that.

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, I would be totally willing to believe the tabloids were unfair to them. I looked at some of what anonymousskimmer linked to below and it was obscene.

          • Deiseach says:

            I don’t think the press hate her, it’s just that whipping up stories about internal fighting and pitching Kate versus Meghan made great headlines and sold copies. There also seems to be some internal politics whereby both sides of the Kate versus Meghan thing, if it actually exists, were dropping stories into the media. The tabloids are pragmatic: they don’t care which side they take as long as they can sell more copies off the back of it. Whether that means being all pro-Meghan or anti-Meghan comes down to the bottom line.

          • Garrett says:

            they don’t care which side they take as long as they can sell more copies off the back of it.

            If I were in their positions, I’d try and make an internal game of who could get the most outrageous story printed in the papers. “The Queen has a live alligator in the dungeon that she enjoys torturing with a hot poker, just to watch it squirm.” “Prince Phillip has the original fake moon landing set.”

        • The original Mr. X says:

          Second, a lot of people are just mad that the two have announced they want to be independent, making their own way—yet the first they did was turn their titles into a brand.

          I certainly think that the manner of their departure hasn’t helped them. If Harry and Meghan had first gone to the Queen in private and said “Sorry, but all this media scrutiny is placing a real strain on our marriage, can we wheel back some of our official duties so we’re not in the limelight so much?” I think most people would be more sympathetic.

          • Nick says:

            Yeah, that’s the one part that feels pretty clearcut to me. Regardless of who’s “at fault” here, this Sussex Royal crap was a mistake.

          • Aapje says:

            @The original Mr. X

            One narrative is that they did exactly that, were asked to put something to paper, which was then leaked to the media by the Queen’s retinue. Then Harry and Meghan were forced to go public.

        • Matt M says:

          I’m definitely in the “Megan is entirely at fault” Twitter bubble myself, so I’m definitely ignorant of the pro-Megan side.

          One aspect of this I think you missed is that a lot of the criticism Megan is getting seems to be of the “She has turned Harry against his family, his legacy, his identity” sort.

          As a tribal/gender flipped comparison, I recall a while back there was a really popular Tweet that said something like “The new trophy wife for silicon valley billionaires isn’t a young beauty pageant winner, it’s finding the most successful and accomplished woman that you can convince to abandon her career in order to have and raise your children.” And I think there’s something to that – in the sense that I see how women can look at that situation and find it a bit icky. That you have some successful accomplished woman (as defined by her career success at least), she meets a man, and the man immediately persuades her to permanently abandon all of that to go do something completely unrelated (even though I consider that unrelated thing noble and quite valuable myself).

          This is the same sort of thing. What made Harry unique and special and one of the world’s most eligible bachelors was his royal lineage. It was the fact that he was a Prince. Earned or not, for better or worse, that’s just reality. If he’s not a prince, he’s in no position to romance American actresses in the first place. They get together, and she immediately convinces him to renounce his princehood seemingly to serve her own ends. Even if those ends are good (or at least non-objectionable), there’s still something a little icky about the situation, imho…

          • Viliam says:

            The new trophy wife for silicon valley billionaires isn’t a young beauty pageant winner, it’s finding the most successful and accomplished woman that you can convince to abandon her career in order to have and raise your children.

            It’s interesting to look into the assumptions behind this message:

            “Women who have children are losers.”

            (Otherwise, there would be no horror at watching a successful working woman become a successful and rich mom.)

            “Career is obviously better than being rich and having a family.”

            (I suppose this is an upper-class privilege talking. For people who have to work in order to pay their bills, and often have to make compromises between having money and having a family, becoming rich is obviously better than spending most of your awake hours working mostly to make someone else rich.)

            “Nerds are inherently unloveable and incapable of love.”

            (Without assuming this, why would anyone look at the situation of smart men marrying smart women, and think: “okay, this is a deep mystery that needs to be solved by a woke and educated person such a myself.)

            Also, whom are the male nerds supposed to marry? Seems like “pretty girls” is a bad answer, but “smart girls” is even worse.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t disagree with anything you just said.

            But I still think it’s true that one warning sign of a potentially toxic relationship is when one person in the relationship makes quick and/or permanent changes to their lifestyle and/or trajectory while the other keeps proceeding forward as normal.

            And at the general level, I think that sort of insight is politically neutral and even gender neutral. If your friend starts dating someone and this results in them becoming alienated from their friends and family or suddenly abandoning their old hobbies or activities or quitting their job, you’re probably going to look at that relationship with a least a little bit of suspicion.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            “Career is obviously better than being rich and having a family.”

            To the end of my days, I’ll never understand how so many women have somehow been convinced that working as an interchangeable cog in a faceless multinational corporation is more fulfilling than spending time nurturing your own children.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            If these women are all that:

            1) Why can’t they multi-task (as per Beyoncé).

            and 2) Why did they feel the need to climb the career ladder, taking away career path positions from other women (and men), to send these zero-sum signals? Couldn’t they have opted out much sooner while still finding a way to send signals as to their smarts and skills?

            @The original Mr. X

            I’ll never understand how so many women have somehow been convinced that working as an interchangeable cog in a faceless multinational corporation is more fulfilling than spending time nurturing your own children.

            For some of them it might be from spending so much time and effort in their younger years nurturing other people’s children (babysitting, nannying, or one’s younger siblings). Burnout extreme, for which a corporate job is a nice change of pace.

            And no one is faceless to their co-workers, not even Milton.

            And some people’s domestic circumstances are a thing they want periodic breaks from.

          • Enkidum says:

            To the end of my days, I’ll never understand how so many women have somehow been convinced that working as an interchangeable cog in a faceless multinational corporation is more fulfilling than spending time nurturing your own children.

            I think for more or less the same reasons that men are convinced of the same.

          • Garrett says:

            Is there a reason she couldn’t have kept her career? Sure – the Royal family wouldn’t want her doing overly-risque things. The shooting time for a lot of movies is measured in weeks – take the occasional month to go do a film and be back on the charity circuit in short order.

          • AlexanderTheGrand says:

            @Viliam

            Women who has children are losers

            I don’t think it’s saying that. The chain of reasoning goes more:

            Woman 1 is a rational person who understands opportunity cost and follows her preferences. I want to signal how great I am. If Woman 1 has kids with me, it must be because having kids specifically with me is a more valuable prospect than whatever career she used to have. So, now I can show how valuable I am.

            Put in the most elitist way I can think of (which I don’t support):
            If you make a family with a woman whose best prospect was working at McDonalds, you’re showing that somebody in the world values you more than a job at McDonalds. If you make a CEO quit, you’re showing that somebody in the world values you more than a money and power.

          • ana53294 says:

            Is there a reason she couldn’t have kept her career?

            She literally wasn’t allowed to work. When she was pitching herself to Disney for voiceover roles, they had to come up with an elaborate scheme where Disney donates her would be salary to a charity. It was apparently quite a humiliation, not being able to work and having to come up with such schemes (according to rumors).

          • hls2003 says:

            As far as not being able to work, I mean… she had a job. It was called “being a member of the British royal family” and prior to this separation it paid her and her husband about $3 million1.5 million per annum, plus benefits and perks. I think there are a lot of jobs paying less where the employment agreement says you can’t take on outside work.

            ETA: About 5% of their their estimated 22.7 million pound income (about $30 million) was directly taxpayer funded. I mistakenly cited the 2.4 million pounds of taxpayer funds used to refurbish their English home, but that was a one-time thing, not annually, apparently.

          • Randy M says:

            She literally wasn’t allowed to work. When she was pitching herself to Disney for voiceover roles, they had to come up with an elaborate scheme where Disney donates her would be salary to a charity.

            Is the problem that she wasn’t allowed to do what she wanted to do, or that she wasn’t allowed to get paid for it? Because it sounds like she was still able to do the work, and also that (at the time) she had no want for material things.

            I’d be sympathetic to complaints that a woman was forbidden to follow her passions; less to to complaints that literal royalty wasn’t allowed more spending money.

          • ana53294 says:

            The royals don’t get taxpayer money. They get money from the Crown estate, which is land owned by the Crown managed by the government of which they get a percentage. It’s an established tradition that a monarch cedes income from the Crown Estate to the government, but AFAIU, there is no legal obligation for them to do so.

            And there is a huge difference between having money and having no-strings-attached money. Money that comes with all the strings the Crown Estate income brings is more of a burden than a need, especially if you can earn that amount yourself. So yes, not being able to work for money is bad, because money paid for work has no strings other than doing the work, which you’re already doing anyway.

          • Nornagest says:

            Is the problem that she wasn’t allowed to do what she wanted to do, or that she wasn’t allowed to get paid for it? Because it sounds like she was still able to do the work, and also that (at the time) she had no want for material things.

            I haven’t been following this story and have no idea if this is actually the sticking point, but I can see there being a double-bind situation here between the Screen Actors Guild (which would be unhappy with her not getting paid) and the British crown (which would be unhappy with her getting paid). Her not needing the money wouldn’t solve this — she could literally set it on fire for all the union cares, but she needs to be compensated at least up to its minimums or there’s hell to pay.

          • Baeraad says:

            “Women who have children are losers.”

            “Career is obviously better than being rich and having a family.”

            You know, whenever I hear conservative bitching about how liberal clearly hate babies and want to force poor, defenseless woman to slave into unfulfilling paid work instead of letting them enjoy the wonders of motherhood (and isn’t it amazing, by the way, how suddenly conservatives turn into hippie slackers as soon as parenthood comes up – at all other times, it’s all about The Dignity Of Honest Work and how anyone who doesn’t want to work 20-hour days is clearly some sort of lazy parasite…) I always feel weird.

            Because one, I am precisely the sort of liberal strawman that you’re arguing against. I absolutely agree with both of those statements, without the irony. There may be jobs in the world that are objectively worse than having some horrible little worm shit, piss and puke all over you while scrambling your brain with its never-ending high-pitched shrieking, but I feel very strongly that any reasonably respectable middle-class occupation is infinitely preferable to that kind of humiliating drudgery. If that’s your life, then your genes have declared that you do not deserve either human dignity or even simple creature comforts, and for whatever deranged reason, you have agreed with them.

            But two, because I genuinely do hold that opinion, I also know that I’m one of a vanishingly small number of liberals who do. And I don’t mean in some great silent minority of everyday liberals, I mean among “the liberal elite” who write articles and decide what’s in and out.

            I mean… you do realise that feminists have babies, right? Like… all of them. Every damn one of those feminists who you think look down on women who have babies are women who invariably end up having babies, barring fertility problems (and then they adopt). If there is a liberal anti-baby conspiracy, then it’s a remarkably ineffectual and toothless one.

            Seriously, the whole liberals-hate-babies thing is just so weird to me, because I honestly wish it were so, but it just isn’t.

            “Nerds are inherently unloveable and incapable of love.”

            Okay, being a nerd, I am admittedly a bit sensitive to this one.

            But, again being a nerd and therefore spending a lot of my time around nerds, I can’t deny that there’s a grain of truth in that assessment, too…

          • johan_larson says:

            To the end of my days, I’ll never understand how so many women have somehow been convinced that working as an interchangeable cog in a faceless multinational corporation is more fulfilling than spending time nurturing your own children.

            I would guess the answers are status and intellectual challenge.

            Being a parent is not the way to accrue status points. Nearly everyone does it somewhere along the way, so it’s just not special. And even doing it really well doesn’t get you much recognition. The best hockey player is a major celebrity. The best real estate developer is probably a billionaire. The best mom? Well, the neighborhood ladies have a lot of good things to say about her, and she sure is a force of nature in La Leche League and the PTA.

            Also, while most jobs have a tedious aspect to them, like parenthood, good jobs usually have something interesting and intellectually challenging about them. As I understand it, this isn’t really true of parenthood. I think it was Betty Friedan who wrote in “The Feminine Mystique” about how boring and unchallenging suburban moming was, and how much of it could be done well even by the intellectually disabled.

            Throw yourself into your whitecollar job, and you have a chance of being a somebody and doing something interesting. Throw yourself into parenthood, and neither of those are really possible.

            It makes perfect sense that ambitious women with real options put the job first and children at best second.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Baeraad

            If there is a liberal anti-baby conspiracy, then it’s a remarkably ineffectual and toothless one.

            It’s a decently sized effect, actually. Language like yours and attitudes like yours delay childbirth and reduce number of children.

            As of about 4 years ago, it resulted in “extremely conservative” families averaging a whole child more than “extremely liberal”.

            https://www.unz.com/anepigone/among-whites-conservative-libera/

            Google will get you dozens of similar articles.

            There may be jobs in the world that are objectively worse than having some horrible little worm shit, piss and puke all over you while scrambling your brain with its never-ending high-pitched shrieking, but I feel very strongly that any reasonably respectable middle-class occupation is infinitely preferable to that kind of humiliating drudgery.

            By the way, I have four kids, none of whom are “horrible little worms”, and my wife actively prefers staying home and teaching them over going to a career and paying someone else to teach them.

            Please tone down the language when talking about others life choices. Just as I don’t use such rhetoric to describe life choices I disagree with strongly on this board.

            Not using over the top rhetoric is one of the reasons I like this place.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Most of us white-collar employees are fungible nobodies that can and will be replaced with cheaper options whenever it is most convenient. Most of us are not working on interesting problems, we are doing grunt work so other people can focus on interesting problems.

            Even those of us who get to work on interesting problems have to deal with a lot of bullcrap and grunt work. Managing a performance-issue or behavioral-issue employee is worse than parenting.

          • Randy M says:

            @Nornagest
            That does make sense, but it sounds like she was able to work it out?
            I don’t know about the situation beyond what’s in this thread, obviously.

            Also, while most jobs have a tedious aspect to them, like parenthood, good jobs usually have something interesting and intellectually challenging about them.

            There’s the rub. It’s pretty much assumed that all these women will find good jobs waiting for them. I’m not sure that always turns out to be the case.

            As I understand it, this isn’t really true of parenthood. I think it was Betty Friedan who wrote in “The Feminine Mystique” about how boring and unchallenging suburban moming was, and how much of it could be done well even by the intellectually disabled.

            Parenting has many aspects where you can apply yourself, and a fair amount of time where you can let your other interests occupy your attention. Caring for a baby is not being a medical researcher or trial lawyer, but I wonder just how stimulating being a nurse or paralegal are most days, to say nothing of customer service rep or secretary or whatever. And babies grow up.

            humiliating drudgery

            Caring for the weak and vulnerable should not a source of shame. I reject the judgment of any society that sees it so.
            Certainly the specific aspects you outline are not enjoyable! But honorable, certainly.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            “Career is obviously better than being rich and having a family.”

            To the end of my days, I’ll never understand how so many women have somehow been convinced that working as an interchangeable cog in a faceless multinational corporation is more fulfilling than spending time nurturing your own children.

            I think for more or less the same reasons that men are convinced of the same.

            Men work because we have to; nobody is going to support us if we don’t, and no woman is going to marry an unemployed man. Women, on the other hand, genuinely have the option not to work, which makes it mind-boggling that feminism managed to brainwash them into giving it up.

          • DinoNerd says:

            The question I always ask of male conservatives expressing a lack of understanding of why women want to do something other than raising babies, a task all too well described by Baeraad above, is whether they would themselves prefer raising babies to whatever paid employment they have. In the unlikely event that the answer is “yes”, I can ask why they haven’t arranged their life this way already. But usually the answer is gender essentialist – of course women are all issued with a desire to do this, and require brainwashing to want to do something else instead, unlike men. Not true – some women may be, or may pick one up from their culture young enough to believe it’s innate, but many others are voting with their feet.

            In the long run, given the availability of contraception, those who have children will either be those who want them – and want to raise them – or those too stupid and improvident to use contraceptives effectively – plus a few cases of rape and/or contraceptive failure. This will be because of a new and strong evolutionary pressure to actually want to have and raise children, which did not exist before effective contraception. But currently, there’s no reason to expect anyone female to want children – males might already have evolutionary pressure of this kind, to encourage them to support the mothers of their children. But for women, evolutionarily speaking, children are just a chore – all evolution needed to provide was a tendency to care for whatever children you happen to have, not to seek them out. (Seeking out sex was sufficient, until relatively recently, and it’s not clear what proportion of women even did that, in societies that produced e.g. the “think of England” meme.)

          • Randy M says:

            But currently, there’s no reason to expect anyone female to want children

            Nonsense. Infanticide was a practical possibility for millions of years (as demonstrated by my bearded dragon who ate her baby). We are designed to find babies cute, to find their cries endurable but heart-wrenching, to find joy in their growth, and so on.

            “We” here being, of course, a diverse population with a broad distribution of innate inclinations that vary widely. But it’s absurd to postulate no selective pressure on appreciating one’s offspring.

            males might already have evolutionary pressure of this kind, to encourage them to support the mothers of their children. But for women, evolutionarily speaking, children are just a chore

            “Men more motherly than women” is a nice hot take that just might be able to unite traditionalists and feminists against it. Good job. I don’t see the evidence or logic behind it, though.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @jaimeastorga2000

            Yes, you do have a point. While there are probably(*) women who’d fall all over themselves to marry a man they expected to act as a reliable wife to them – cooking, cleaning, child rearing, and emotional labour – while they (the woman) acted as a reliable husband (good provider, cool head in a crisis, etc.) it’s extremely hard to distinguish a genuine would-be house husband from a lazy scumbag who wouldn’t keep to his share of the bargain. That’s almost certainly also an issue for males seeking house wives as well, but notably less so, in part because of tradition.

            (*) I say “probably,” because all I know for sure is that such women existed in my generation, not that there are any currently in their 20s or even 30s. Not being able to have children plus career, because by the time one could afford paid childrearing (if one ever could) one would be infertile – was very definitely a topic of conversation and concern among women of my generation – at least those who were in computer tech. So were jokes about wanting or needing a “wife”.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @Randy M

            To reduce infanticide, it’s sufficient that one react favourably to children once they exist. In a world where people get pregnant for all kinds of reasons other than wanting to have children, let alone wanting to rear children, that’s all that evolution needs to instal.

            In general, people here tend to bemoan the idea of women who’d rather pursue careers than drop out of the career world to become housewives and eventual mothers, or express incredulity about women making these choices. There’s much less discussion of choices made by women who already have children.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            The list of things I would rather do than engage in paid employment is approximately infinity items long. That’s pretty much why they have to pay me to be here. When they stop paying me, I will probably leave reallllll quick.

            Why haven’t I arranged my life to take care of children? The same reason I don’t watch TV all day, because I need money.

          • Randy M says:

            That’s all fine theorycrafting, but in my experience, “women want babies” is much more true in general that “SSC commenters are in favor of traditional gender roles” is.

          • Nick says:

            But currently, there’s no reason to expect anyone female to want children – males might already have evolutionary pressure of this kind, to encourage them to support the mothers of their children. But for women, evolutionarily speaking, children are just a chore – all evolution needed to provide was a tendency to care for whatever children you happen to have, not to seek them out.

            Please get out of your armchair and speak to some actual women. Okay, Randy said it more politely than me, so just consider this a +1 to his post.

          • Matt M says:

            Caring for the weak and vulnerable should not a source of shame. I reject the judgment of any society that sees it so.

            It might also be worth noting that “caring for the weak and vulnerable” is becoming an increasingly large share of employment in our society in general, and for unskilled young women in particular.

            It’s bizarre that we’re developing a society where people aren’t able/willing to take care of their own kids or elderly parents, but are able/willing to take care of the kids/elderly parents of complete strangers.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            It’s bizarre that we’re developing a society where people aren’t able/willing to take care of their own kids or elderly parents, but are able/willing to take care of the kids/elderly parents of complete strangers.

            Never seen Mary Poppins? This isn’t a new idea, it’s merely filtering down the class layers.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Baeraad:

            The claim isn’t that liberals hate babies, it’s that liberals don’t value looking after them. How many of the baby-having feminists you cite quit their day jobs so they could look after the children?

            @ MattM:

            It’s bizarre that we’re developing a society where people aren’t able/willing to take care of their own kids or elderly parents, but are able/willing to take care of the kids/elderly parents of complete strangers.

            Looking after a stranger’s relatives is paid work, and hence sign that you’re a strong, independent woman who can make her own way in the world and earn her own money. Looking after your own relatives isn’t, and hence is a sign that you’re an oppressed victim of the patriarchy forced to labour for others’ benefit.

          • is whether they would themselves prefer raising babies to whatever paid employment they have.

            You seem to be missing the distinction between raising other people’s babies and raising your own babies.

          • Viliam says:

            @Matt M

            one warning sign of a potentially toxic relationship is when one person in the relationship makes quick and/or permanent changes to their lifestyle and/or trajectory while the other keeps proceeding forward as normal.

            I agree that it could signal a bad thing (and perhaps it usually does), but there are also possible good explanations.

            Maybe the former person already wanted to change their lifestyle, but couldn’t for some reason, such as lack of money, and the support of their partner finally allowed them to do what they wanted. (In a parallel reality where I married a billionaire woman, you would never see me spend another day in a coding job. Except maybe at my own company, working on a computer game according to my wishes.) Also, maybe the person thought they were happy as they were, but after trying something they never experienced before, they decided this new option was much better.

            Shortly, “a new partner changing your lifestyle” sounds bad, but “a new opportunity changing your lifestyle” makes a lot of sense. If winning a lottery would make you do X, it is natural if marrying a rich person has the same effect.

            @Baeraad

            There may be jobs in the world that are objectively worse than having some horrible little worm shit, piss and puke all over you while scrambling your brain with its never-ending high-pitched shrieking, but I feel very strongly that any reasonably respectable middle-class occupation is infinitely preferable to that kind of humiliating drudgery.

            Maybe I am a disgusting person, but I definitely prefer being puked on (yes, it happened recently) to e.g. spending entire day at a pointless meeting (also happened recently). Anyway, having shit, piss, and puke on you is quite rare (I wish I could say the same thing about the meetings); that’s what diapers are for. And it’s mostly during the first year of the child’s life.

            I admit that childcare is often very boring. But from my perspective, so is a daily job. You get more breaks from the job; but you also spend much more years there.

            you do realise that feminists have babies, right?

            Of course. It’s not like they invented hypocrisy; it is as old as the mankind. At some moment they decide that sometimes the fish actually wants the bicycle, and then they go and do the thing they preached against before.

            @johan_larson

            Throw yourself into your whitecollar job, and you have a chance of being a somebody and doing something interesting. Throw yourself into parenthood, and neither of those are really possible.

            I am in my 40s, and I don’t believe in becoming a superstar anymore. Being exceptional is a thing that happens, by definition, only to a few people; I happen not to be one of them. Work, for me, is an endless torture that is going to follow me probably until my grave. I thank the gods for creating weekends, but I also regret they made them so short.

            As a parent, you are special — for your family. And the kids are interesting; usually not on a daily scale, but in long term. They learn things, they acquire skills; you can observe the entire transformation from a screaming baby into an amazing adult person. Having kids is living in a world where the growth mindset isn’t mere wishful thinking.

          • You know, whenever I hear conservative bitching about how liberal clearly hate babies and want to force poor, defenseless woman to slave into unfulfilling paid work instead of letting them enjoy the wonders of motherhood (and isn’t it amazing, by the way, how suddenly conservatives turn into hippie slackers as soon as parenthood comes up

            Parenthood isn’t being a hippie slacker, as you say in the next paragraph where you call it “drudgery.”

            but I feel very strongly that any reasonably respectable middle-class occupation is infinitely preferable to that kind of humiliating drudgery. If that’s your life, then your genes have declared that you do not deserve either human dignity or even simple creature comforts, and for whatever deranged reason, you have agreed with them.

            It’s more like your genes, Baeraad, have declared they don’t want to replicate themselves. Now my own genes have made a similar decision though for different reasons, but I don’t go around declaring everyone else “deranged.”

            I mean… you do realise that feminists have babies, right? Like… all of them. Every damn one of those feminists who you think look down on women who have babies are women who invariably end up having babies, barring fertility problems (and then they adopt). If there is a liberal anti-baby conspiracy, then it’s a remarkably ineffectual and toothless one.

            I don’t know, what’s the TFR of this group?

            Seriously, the whole liberals-hate-babies thing is just so weird to me, because I honestly wish it were so, but it just isn’t.

            I wouldn’t say liberals hate babies per se. In fact, most liberals consider babies to be a compliment to “the good life.” It’s just that the “good life” also requires late marriage and career focus for both genders, which makes having children much harder.

          • Viliam says:

            @DinoNerd

            The question I always ask of male conservatives expressing a lack of understanding of why women want to do something other than raising babies, a task all too well described by Baeraad above, is whether they would themselves prefer raising babies to whatever paid employment they have. In the unlikely event that the answer is “yes”, I can ask why they haven’t arranged their life this way already. But usually the answer is gender essentialist – of course women are all issued with a desire to do this, and require brainwashing to want to do something else instead, unlike men.

            I consider myself centrist, not conservative, but maybe relative to SSC audience I am. Anyway, I would prefer raising kids to having a job, ceteris paribus. (Calling it “raising babies” doesn’t feel true to me; they don’t remain babies forever. The annoying baby time is first two years; if you have two kids, like I do, that’s four years total. Not that bad for a lifetime investment.)

            I admit I am quite gender essentialist about things like pregnancy and breastfeeding. I do assume that women have a natural advantage here. But I could totally imagine being at home with kids 2+ years old. The reason why I don’t is that my salary is almost 3x higher than my wife’s. With her salary only, we couldn’t afford living in the center of the city (which we both enjoy), and all the vacations and trips (which suddenly get expensive when you are always paying for 4 people).

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            In fact, most liberals consider babies to be a compliment to “the good life.”

            Is liberal here being used as a synonym for college degree holder and white collar track career?

          • Is liberal here being used as a synonym for college degree holder and white collar track career?

            Those who are that and liberal, basically. That’s not the only group who calls themselves liberal, but it is the group that dominate’s liberal punditry and has views which are quite distinct from those of non-white and blue-collar white Democrats.

          • LadyJane says:

            Men work because we have to; nobody is going to support us if we don’t, and no woman is going to marry an unemployed man. Women, on the other hand, genuinely have the option not to work, which makes it mind-boggling that feminism managed to brainwash them into giving it up.

            I keep seeing this argument come up and it seems absolutely bonkers to me. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so infuriating. What parallel universe are you living in where women don’t have to work to survive? I know literally dozens of women who are working long hours and struggling to make ends meet, and they don’t have anyone to support them either. Even those who are married are typically required to pull their own weight in the household, since a single income generally isn’t enough to support two people anymore, let alone a whole family. And most men I know would be pretty reluctant to date a woman who was permanently unemployed, let alone to marry one (although my sample group is mostly limited to millennials in one of the country’s largest and most liberal cities, so that could be a result of age and/or regional bias).

            The only people I know who don’t have to work are people from middle class families whose parents are willing to keep taking care of them indefinitely. And that’s a group which includes both men and women.

          • nobody is going to support us if we don’t, and no woman is going to marry an unemployed man.

            Our simpy society condemns men who don’t work more than it condemns women who don’t work. But I’m not going to marry an unemployed woman either.(Probably won’t get married at all, but that’s another topic.) If she’s got no kids then she has no more excuse than a man for being lazy, if she does, well…

            women, on the other hand, genuinely have the option not to work, which makes it mind-boggling that feminism managed to brainwash them into giving it up.

            Only affluent women ever had the opportunity to not work. You can’t give up what you never had in the first place.

          • DarkTigger says:

            @LadyJane
            There was a very nice study in Germany recently that put it that way:
            Relations of hetero people in their mid-twenties are twice as likley to break when the male partner is struggeling to get a stable fulltime job, as when the female partner is.
            You can interprete that however you want but to me this looks a lot like “if you want to have a family as a hetero guy, you better stay employed, at least till you are well over thirty.”

          • Aapje says:

            The common progressive ideal seems to be a relationship where the partners are pretty much identical:
            – The same earnings
            – The same hours spend on working, caring, cleaning, cooking, etc
            – The same sexual behavior
            – The same clothes
            – Etc

            There are all kinds of practical difficulties and differences in desires that make this unreachable for most.

          • Aapje says:

            @DarkTigger

            Studies into what men and women desire in a partner also suggest that women care a lot more about their partner’s income.

          • John Schilling says:

            What parallel universe are you living in where women don’t have to work to survive? I know literally dozens of women who are working long hours and struggling to make ends meet, and they don’t have anyone to support them either.

            Right, but how many women do you know who aren’t working long hours because they do have someone to support them? If the answer is zero, you’re living in a bubble. About 30% of US mothers do not work or seek employment outside the home, and another 15% work only part time. I can’t find any comparable statistics on married women without children, but even counting only the mothers, that’s a lot of women.

            Now, how many men do you know who are neither working nor trying to work because they have someone to support them?

            And most men I know would be pretty reluctant to date a woman who was permanently unemployed, let alone to marry one

            How many of them would marry a woman who had a job, but wanted to give up that job in favor of raising that man’s children?

            (although my sample group is mostly limited to millennials in one of the country’s largest and most liberal cities, so that could be a result of age and/or regional bias).

            Yeah, that. You’re living in a bubble, and even within that bubble there’s probably a fair of women who will eventually settle down to be stay-at-home mothers by choice.

            If Jamie Astorga’s “Women genuinely have the option not to work” is taken as a literal absolute, applying to 100.00% of women, then yeah, literal absolutes in the social sciences usually fail. Some women couldn’t get the stay-at-home mother gig if their life depended on it, or would face severe hardship if they did. But most can, if they want.

            Stay-at-home husband positions for men, are much much harder to come by.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Studies into what men and women desire in a partner also suggest that women care a lot more about their partner’s income.

            You can also figure this out by paying attention to what kind of romantic fiction each gender consumes. In romance novels, which are written for women, the love interest is frequently a millionaire, if not a billionaire. In harem anime, which is aimed at men, the various love interests’ incomes usually do not even get mentioned; they are simply not important to the MC, or to the audience.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            @ Alexander Turok:

            Only affluent women ever had the opportunity to not work. You can’t give up what you never had in the first place.

            Maybe I’m mistaken, but I was under the impression that single-income households were pretty common fifty or sixty years ago?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @The original Mr. X

            The temp agencies’ Kelly Girl strategy was clever (and successful) because it exploited the era’s cultural ambivalence about white, middle-class women working outside the home. Instead of seeking to replace “breadwinning” union jobs with low-wage temp work, temp agencies went the culturally safer route: selling temp work for housewives who were (allegedly) only working for pin money. As a Kelly executive told The New York Times in 1958, “The typical Kelly Girl… doesn’t want full-time work, but she’s bored with strictly keeping house. Or maybe she just wants to take a job until she pays for a davenport or a new fur coat.”

            http://www.thepumphandle.org/2013/01/31/from-kelly-girls-to-hotel-housekeepers-women-in-the-contingent-workforce/

            Middle-class meant relatively affluent in 1958, and even some of them were going into the part-time job market.

            While greater numbers of employers in the postwar era offered family-supporting wages and health insurance, the rapidly expanding temp agencies established a different precedent by explicitly refusing to do so.

            And this is implying that the family-supporting wages were a new thing for many jobs (“greater number of employers”), which were simultaneously being undercut by offering the women spouses lower quality (e.g. part-time) jobs than before.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            “The typical Kelly Girl… doesn’t want full-time work, but she’s bored with strictly keeping house. Or maybe she just wants to take a job until she pays for a davenport or a new fur coat.”

            So, in other words, the women in question could stay at home, they just want something to get them out of the house (“she’s bored with strictly keeping house”) although wants to buy more luxuries than her husband’s salary could stretch to (“until she pays for a davenport or a new fur coat”).

          • Randy M says:

            Some women couldn’t get the stay-at-home mother gig if their life depended on it, or would face severe hardship if they did. But most can, if they want.

            Although it requires a sacrifice, and probably more sacrifice now than in the recent past since so many of their peers are working that the supply of labor has reduced it’s price. Prisoner’s dilemma–if one woman works, her household income doubles (except for expenses regarding childcare). If all women work, average household income may well not increase by the same amount.

            But there’s many other trends we could explicate like globalization and decreased cost of goods and expanded markets; I’m aware the toy model is the final word.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @The original Mr. X

            So, in other words, the women in question could stay at home, they just want something to get them out of the house (“she’s bored with strictly keeping house”) although wants to buy more luxuries than her husband’s salary could stretch to (“until she pays for a davenport or a new fur coat”).

            That’s what Kelly Girl Services claimed, as part of their marketing pitch. Do you believe corporate marketing pitches? As an easily-fired employee would you ever contradict your employer’s marketing pitch to their customers?

          • since a single income generally isn’t enough to support two people anymore, let alone a whole family.

            You appear to be claiming that real incomes have declined. Over what period, and do you have any evidence to support the claim?

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @DavidFriedman
            Chart 1 here is problematic: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_united_states_of_debt/2016/05/the_rise_of_household_debt_in_the_u_s_in_five_charts.html

            Exactly what it indicates is subject to debate, but it cannot be showing that households are living within their means as much as, or more than, in earlier decades.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            That’s what Kelly Girl Services claimed, as part of their marketing pitch. Do you believe corporate marketing pitches? As an easily-fired employee would you ever contradict your employer’s marketing pitch to their customers?

            Well, you were the one who quoted it in the first place; I’m not sure why you did so, if you think it’s untrustworthy.

          • The Nybbler says:

            @anonymousskimmer

            Exactly what it indicates is subject to debate, but it cannot be showing that households are living within their means as much as, or more than, in earlier decades.

            Fortunately, the same source Slate used has a chart which goes directly to that. It shows that households are indeed living within their means (at least as far as debt goes) more than in earlier decades. A broader measure which includes rent and auto lease payments is similar.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            @The original Mr. X
            I quoted it for what it explicitly said (that middle-class women felt the need to go into the job market for money), not for the claims as to what those women typically spent the money on (as if they’d know). They have no reason to know the true motivations of the women, and if they’re marketing that they’re only for contingent part-time work, then the women are actively incentivized to say that that is what they want from Kelly.

            And given another claim in the linked article, that society was leery of middle-class women working at all, then Kelly is motivated to lie or mislead as to the motivations of the women.

            Regardless of whether these are truths, lies, or damn statistics, so-called middle-class women still felt the need to enter the job market for money. Their husband’s salaries weren’t cutting it.

            @The Nybbler
            I wish those graphs went back before 1980.

          • The Nybbler says:

            I wish those graphs went back before 1980.

            On the one hand, it would be nice. On the other, I’m not sure this measure would be valid across long time intervals. The Fed has already revised this measure several times to try to better capture the way debt is used.

          • Nornagest says:

            Fortunately, the same source Slate used has a chart which goes directly to that.

            For the crime of perpetrating a percentile graph which is not zero-indexed, I sentence the author of that study to Science Hell.

            Though 9.6% is historically low as far as the graph can tell us, so the point holds.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s not a percentile graph but a percentage graph. And it’s not a study, it’s just FRED’s standard graph program on the series, which doesn’t zero-index. But here’s a zero-indexed one if you like.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            I quoted it for what it explicitly said (that middle-class women felt the need to go into the job market for money), not for the claims as to what those women typically spent the money on (as if they’d know).

            The things that they spent their money on are relevant, though, because if they were just using the money to buy luxuries like fur coats, that suggests that their husband’s income was in fact enough to buy all the things their family needed.

            Also, note that money wasn’t the only motivation given: wanting to do something outside of the house was also listed. If someone is in a position to, essentially, treat going to work as a hobby, then that suggests that their material needs are being met even without the income from their job.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      I presume the interwebs and or the british tabloids got way, way too stalkery and they are now peacing the heck out.

      • herbert herberson says:

        couldn’t have helped that his uncle turned out to be not only a sex criminal, but also the world’s worst liar

    • ana53294 says:

      It’s not like he’ll lose that much. The income he gets from the Crown Estate covers just 5% of their expenses, and the rest he gets from Daddy. So “financial independence” in this case means nothing. In this case, it’s quite likely Prince Charles will continue to support them in exchange for having a say on what they do.
      And it’s not like they’re getting much worse press than before. And now they can have a proper job (Meghan is an actress, after all).

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        But I want to why this is going on. Were Harry and Meghan forced out by the Queen (and why), or did Harry and Meghan decide to leave (and why)?

      • Another Throw says:

        The income he gets from the Crown Estate covers just 5% of their expenses, and the rest he gets from Daddy.

        No, not from Daddy, from the Duchy of Cornwall. When the Queen dies, Daddy will no longer be the Duke of Cornwall and wont be able to pay their expenses from the Duchy. He’ll be King, and the Crown Estate is a whole different animal. Okay, he’ll also be the Duke of Lancaster, but the income from the Duchy of Lancaster pays for all of the non-official but still really freaking expensive parts of being King that you probably can’t stop doing, as well as all the miscellaneous royal cousins. Those royal cousins are going to be really fucking pissed off if their allowance gets cut to pay for Harry after so publicly shitting all over the place.

        William probably wont be coronated as the Prince of Whales/Duke of Cornwall for several years after Charles is coronated King, so even if William wanted to, he wouldn’t be able to pay Harry’s expenses.

        Absent actual financial independence, they’re probably screwed when the Queen dies.

        ((Also, how sure are we that Charles isn’t chomping at the bit for a chance to cut off Diana’s bastard?))

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          ((baldness pattern)) ((=)) ((Charles is his father))

        • ana53294 says:

          Well, considering the queen is 93 years old, that would happen anyway, I guess. Better on his terms than suddenly.

          • Another Throw says:

            I think the idea is generally to ramp up their royal duties to justify paying most of their expenses from the Crown Estate by the time the Queen dies. Ditching the royal duties makes that an untenable path.

    • proyas says:

      Can anyone explain to me what the deal is with Prince Harry? I’ve tried to read articles about the situation and it’s all…very obtuse and polite sounding, but what’s the real story? Is this Harry and Meghan’s doing, or the Queen’s doing, and why?

      Not enough information is publicly available yet to make a firm judgement, but I think “Megxit” was mostly Meghan’s idea. Harry also probably had some grievances due to being a “spare heir” who has no chance at being King, but I doubt he would have left Britain had it not been for his wife.

      Meghan surely discovered that being a member of the British Royal Family has many serious downsides, such as having to frequently attend events you aren’t interested in, to hang out with lots of stuffy old aristocrats, and to spend most of your time in dreary England, which is surely a shock for someone used to southern California weather. Being hounded by the notorious British tabloids is also a nightmare.

      Much ink has been spilled over how Harry and Meghan will financially support themselves without their Royal Allowance, but I think they might actually make more money as free agents in North America thanks to acting gigs, lecture fees, appearance fees, and selling branded merchandise. In fact, the opportunity cost of staying in the Royal Family and foregoing that extra money might have influenced their decision to leave Britain.

    • hls2003 says:

      Weirdly, or perhaps all too predictably, this has become quite “culture war” in the U.S., perhaps even more than in Britain. The anti-Sussex side sees this as social-climbing Meghan wanting the glamour, status, fame, and money that come with being a fantasy “princess,” without any of the corresponding responsibilities that come with the regimented and highly public British royal life. As she is also a bit of a Hollywood wokester, you can see how this would play into the culture wars (woke celebrity is hypocrite, wants free stuff without responsibilities). In addition, there appears to be the crass commercialism of trying to trademark and sell the royal title in a “GOOP”-style lifestyle brand selling vaguely woke nonsense to credulous fools – exploiting the royal status, while also self-righteously denouncing it. Perfect fodder for a Ricky Gervais-at-the-Globes style teardown. In addition, the vaguely woke politics from Meghan shows a deep disdain for the crucial role of political impartiality in the monarchy, which is one of the only ways the monarchy can be useful (a unifying symbol not tethered to one set of policies). For the anti-Sussex side, Rod Dreher has posted maybe half a dozen pieces on this dispute as a condensed cultural symbol. I think it starts here although I might have missed an earlier one.

      The pro-Sussex side sees this as a condensed symbol of how women and people of color, even the most high-status, are treated as second-class citizens. They complain that Meghan has received worse coverage than Kate (racism) and that any attempt by Meghan to “speak her mind” is shushed (sexism). It does seem apparent that the British press has been somewhat negative at times. (How much is deserved is up for debate). Regardless, the Royal Family is already a symbol of conformity, shut-up-and-don’t-rock-the-boat, anti-spontaneity, anti-individualism, and rigid class and gender roles which are anathema to many folks’ modern mores. To the extent that Meghan has chafed under those rules, pro-Sussex folks see this as a great example of how minorities are straitjacketed – if you conform to the mainstream and sacrifice your individuality, you might be (insultingly) tolerated as one of the “good ones;” if you try to assert any political class, race, or sex consciousness or even individualism, you are anathematized as “disruptive” and “uppity.”

      • Nick says:

        I think you explained it a lot better than I did.

        • Anteros says:

          I wouldn’t put it quite like that, but yes, a very good explanation

        • hls2003 says:

          I think you captured the actual on-the-ground element a lot better. I don’t follow any of the primary sources (e.g. competing statements, British tabloids) myself. I’m only really familiar with it as an abstract symbol on the American side of the pond, a cultural-political Rorschach test.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m keeping away from it because I’m not interested in gossip columns and even less interested in Royal gossip, but I think Harry and Meghan are misjudging how they can fare once cut off from the Royal family. Take the lesson of Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York and ex-wife of Prince Andrew (in trouble himself recently), not to mention the one example that leaps to mind about a royal marrying an American divorcée and giving it all up for love. And indeed Harry’s own mother and how her life went after she was cut loose.

      The royal family is a business and the Queen is ruthless about keeping it going; any members who think they’re bigger than it will find out the hard way that they’re not.

      • hls2003 says:

        I tend to agree they are over-estimating their future cachet. Meghan isn’t young enough to be the face of a glamour brand indefinitely, and there’s nothing very interesting about either of them other than their association with the royals. If they’re getting fewer society headlines, I don’t know that their brand is very valuable.

      • JayT says:

        Neither of those examples were in the age of the Kardashians and other people that have made a living out of being famous though. I’m sure Harry and Meghan could get an E! with big enough paychecks to keep them living the high life for years.

    • broblawsky says:

      One note in addition to all of the excellent analysis others have provided: the British press arguably hounded Harry’s mother to death. I feel that it’s understandable that he might take extreme action in order to protect his family from the same treatment.

    • Another Throw says:

      You’ve gotten some pretty good coverage on the more-or-less pro- and anti-Meghan case, but for myself all I can see is a dumbass thinking with his pecker and too aggrieved about his mother’s treatment to listen to advice.

      Look, the comparison in treatment between Kate and Meghan by the media is instructive. (IIRC) William and Kate spent 8 years together before getting married specifically in order to give Kate a PhD in how not to be savaged by the British tabloid media, while Harry and Meghan spend two years before getting married. Two years may be a perfectly ordinary length of time to decide to marry someone, but is absolutely not sufficient to get her up to speed on the royal lifestyle and how not to be savaged by the British tabloid media.

      Being a royal sucks. It is a job. A job that requires an enormous amount of work and you don’t even get to make money doing it. But Harry has always been making noises about being a modern royal, with a huge dose of subtext about how he can do it better than all those bastards that treated his mother so poorly. And this is where it got him. Because you never took the time to prepare your wife for the job, you dumbass.

      But who the hell knows what’s really going on. The tabloids only feed you whatever lies sell copies.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        I can believe that, too. I read Rod Dreher’s bit in The American Conservative and he said:

        It’s because she was a duchess, but also wanted to be a prima donna. On this account, she thinks the institution ought to bend itself to fit her, not the other way around. If that’s true, then if I were British, I would resent that too.

  39. TheContinentalOp says:

    A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

  40. J Mann says:

    The short story “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” has come up in the last few threads – in the latest chapter, it looks like Clarkesworld has pulled it at the author’s request and apologized for publishing it after some people were offended.

    I’m surprised – I read it when it was first recommended, and it seemed like the comment thread was really positive.

    • Nick says:

      Yeah, I heard about this over the weekend. Don’t worry, though—The New York Times and other reputable sources have assured me there’s no such thing as cancel culture.

      The criticisms, listed in this Wired article, are really something else:

      “[The meme] was built for a specific purpose. To mock and to hurt. Think of it as a gun. A gun only has one use: for hurting,” @aphoebebarton tweeted, though she admitted to not having read the story.

      Others claimed a trans person would never have written a piece like “Attack Helicopter” in the first place and that perhaps the author was in fact a troll.

      Some felt the author was likely to be a “trans-exclusionary radical feminist” (commonly known as a TERF) because of how Fall talked about gender and dysphoria and the experience of being trans. “The story is about a woman being ‘transed’ by the government, which is a prime TERF concern,” @EffInvictus tweeted.

      Eventually, everything that seemed to be known about Isabel Fall—who appears to have zero internet presence—came under scrutiny, including her birth year, 1988. To some, the year seemed significant because the number 88 is sometimes a Nazi dogwhistle, code for Heil Hitler (H is the eighth letter of the alphabet).

      The author turned out to be trans, natch.

      • Le Maistre Chat says:

        Don’t worry, though—The New York Times and other reputable sources have assured me there’s no such thing as cancel culture.

        Wait, are you serious?
        Is this like Cultural Marxism, where something exists and is perfectly respectable until people on the Right allege it exists, and then it’s a paranoid and possibly anti-Semitic conspiracy theory?

        • herbert herberson says:

          The pitch is a.) its an overblown phenomenon based on a limited number of anecdote and b.) it’s not a new or unique-to-the-left thing.

          Personally, a.) seems really questionable, anyone who spends any time online knows how much they need to tiptoe around this shit and b.) seems unquestionable, there are no shortage of right-wingers raising mobs and getting people fired, it just gets less publicity because it happens to less powerful people in places the media pays less attention to. God knows my job would be in serious jeopardy if I ever let my opinions on the merits of military service and patriotism become too public.

          • J Mann says:

            also (c), it’s just people asking for courtesy or to be treated with respect, as in the worst XKCD of all time.

          • anonymousskimmer says:

            anyone who spends any time online knows how much they need to tiptoe around this shit

            Eh, I didn’t tiptoe around it on the Never Satisfied discussion threads, but then I’m sympathetic and not anti-genderqueer/trans.

            The worst that happened to me was I had a reply deleted (I jokingly misgendered a character to the opposite gender they identify as, who it turns out actually is transgender [I didn’t know this when making the joke]). Other than that I still rarely post, and at worst just don’t get a huge number of likes, and at best people agree with what I posted.

          • Dacyn says:

            @herbert herberson:

            there are no shortage of right-wingers raising mobs and getting people fired, it just gets less publicity because it happens to less powerful people in places the media pays less attention to.

            Examples?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Examples?

            Kathy Griffin. There was some woman who made a joke about dead cops and after Brietbart covered it she was harassed. There was that woman with the incredibly poor taste joke of taking pics doing the opposite of what signs say who was hounded after a snap of her yelling and flipping the bird at Arlington National Cemetery. The woman who flipped off Trump’s motorcade who was fired from her defense contractor job (although that could just be a case of “please don’t flip off our biggest customer”).

            It does happen, but I doubt it happens as often on the right as on the left, but that could be my own biases. It would be interesting to see a study of the phenomenon, but I’m not sure how easy it would be to compare apples to apples. Number of tweets about subject? Severity of consequences? How do you measure the triviality of the offense?

          • herbert herberson says:

            Right-wing zionists have an explicit doxing/cancelation campaign called the Canary Mission. Andy Ngo does something similar for antifa people, and the pro-/anti-antifa scene in general is full of doxing on both sides. There’s the routine and often-faked practice of police officers getting Starbucks orders that call them pigs or whatever going to social media, and similar phenomenon around the “war on Christmas” and alleged discrimination against Trump supports. Kaepernick arguably applies.

            It is hard to provide examples though, because there is one significant difference–left cancel culture gets boosted in mainstream sources, right cancel culture exists on FoxNews at most, and often just on social media. Like, if I’d thought ahead, I would have taken screenshots when acquaintances from my hometown spent 6 months repeatedly sharing various pictures of black women standing on American flags along with their names and hometowns and exortions to make sure all their future employers see it, but I didn’t and can’t find any reporting on it besides maybe one Snopes entry that doesn’t really fit my recollection.

            The real standouts come from history, though. The lead up to the Iraq invasion was notoriously oppressive (imo it was the initial source of the current trend, with lefty millennials who experienced stringently enforced pro-war/pro-troop discourse during their formative years simply applying those same schema to their own values), and if you go back there is, of course, the ultimate cancel culture of the first and second Red Scares.

          • Dacyn says:

            @Conrad Honcho: Thanks.

            It seems to me the next question to ask is to what extent are these people being “cancelled” for things the left also thinks is bad. Like the Kathy Griffin thing, I don’t think too many people would defend what she did. The motorcade woman is probably the opposite in that respect, though as you mentioned it might not be so much a mob as Trump’s personal indirect influence on the company.

            Number of tweets is probably not a good metric for comparison since arguably Twitter has a strong left-wing bias, and left-wing tweets will be overrepresented.

          • Nick says:

            I’m curious for a not too in depth treatment of the Red Scare, viz., article length and not book length. Helen Andrews had a typically contrarian take that the classic example of a blacklist from that era was much fairer and more careful than modern blacklists like the one that kicked off #MeToo. (She offers no defense of McCarthy.)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t think too many people would defend what she did.

            I don’t think that’s true. I think it outraged basically every Republican but only about half of Democrats.

            For me, I think in 99.9% of cases, someone should not be fired for political speech not done while on the job. The tiny exception for me is when your job is specifically about being liked by broad swaths of the public, like a spokesperson or the host of a New Year’s Eve telecast, and doing something grossly offensive to at least 60% of the public puts you in that .1% where it’s okay to cut ties.

          • Matt M says:

            I’d also like to add that it appears that while Kathy Griffin was immediately fired, longer-term her status and career were mostly restored, she was never required to publicly apologize, and is still quite loudly and visibly anti-Trump.

            My impression is that most left-wing cancellations do not end this way, although I don’t really “follow up” on most of them so I could be wrong.

          • Dacyn says:

            @herbert herberson:
            Thanks for the examples. The Canary Mission looks pretty bad, though it’s not clear to me how successful it is outside of Israel. I couldn’t completely parse your third sentence, is the idea “left-wing barista writes ‘pig’ on policeman’s coffee, right-winger posts this on social media to embarrass the barista and/or get them fired”? That doesn’t seem like a good example, if they fire the barista it is easily defensible on the grounds that they were acting unprofessionally while they were supposed to be working. Finally, I don’t see any good evidence that Kaepernick was cancelled rather than just nobody signed him on athletic grounds.

            Anyway, I realize this is kind of an epistemological nightmare due to the media biases you describe.

            I think the claim is that in the present day, cancel culture is left-wing. Historical examples like the Red Scare may show the right has the ability to do it, but not that it is currently doing it.

            I don’t remember hearing about any “cancel culture”-type stuff around 2003. Also I had the impression that before the invasion things were pretty bipartisan.

            @Matt M: She did apologize but then she retracted her apology.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Matt, if you look at Nick’s post just below us, one of the defenses of cancel culture is that the canceled don’t seem all that canceled. Like Dave Chappelle got canceled but he’s still one of the highest paid comedians in the world and his last special has a 99% fresh rating (from the fans…not the critics).

            Louis C.K., though, not so much.

            Regardless, just about everyone who doesn’t have actual power, like some office worker schlep who gets canceled actually loses his job and has a very rough time. Celebrities have enough money and enough fans to give the outrage mobs the bird.

          • Matt M says:

            Conrad,

            Well, I think this is just another case of a term having way too broad of a definition, such that a lot of people will inevitably use it incorrectly.

            IMO, to be “cancelled” requires, at the very least, a public loss of employment and/or high profile deplatforming. By my view, Dave Chappelle was never cancelled. That was an attempted cancellation, which failed for a wide variety of reasons (Chappelle’s general popularity, his own minority status, his refusal to go along with the entire process, etc.)

            Louis CK, by contrast, was successfully cancelled.

          • Nick says:

            is the idea “left-wing barista writes ‘pig’ on policeman’s coffee, right-winger posts this on social media to embarrass the barista and/or get them fired”?

            Not quite, he’s suggesting that these were false flag attacks—as in, the barista didn’t write that, the customer did to frame them for the sake of outrage. Sounds like really shitty behavior, but I’ve honestly never even heard of it.

          • The Nybbler says:

            The retail-related false-flags I’ve heard of are the other way — retail worker posts picture of receipt with “Don’t tip n-words/illegals/etc” on it, shames customer. As far as I know every one of these is a lie. I wouldn’t believe it the other way around either.

          • herbert herberson says:

            Yep, those were the ones I was thinking of.

          • Tarpitz says:

            As to Kaepernick specifically, I think the most recent meaningful evidence as to his playing ability suggests that he is roughly on a par with Blaine Gabbert (Football Outsiders numbers suggest they had very similar value for two years while playing in the same 49ers offense a couple of years back). Gabbert is still in the league, but he’s a marginal backup making just over the veteran minimum. I think it’s unclear to what extent the reason Kaepernick isn’t in a similar job is because he’s unwilling to be a third stringer making close to the veteran minimum, and to what extent it’s because teams aren’t interested in marginal backups who come with a giant media circus. I do not think it’s plausible that if he was actually an average or better starter he would not be on a roster.

          • JayT says:

            From my experience of watching sports, you can be good and a distraction, you can be bad and a good clubhouse guy, but you can’t be bad and a distraction.

            If Kaepernick was just a normal, run of the mill NFL player off the field, then he would probably still have a job as a backup, but even before he took a knee he probably was going to lose his starting job.

          • A Definite Beta Guy says:

            Kaepernick is a middling-to-bad QB and is a massive drama queen. The NFL has no problem if you kill dogs, if you intimidate witnesses, or if you beat your wife, as long as you produce. The NFL is extremely competitive and besides the NHL has the greatest amount of parity of any major league (see Tennesse Titans at the #6 seed knocking out both the Patriots and the Ravens). NFL teams will not leave talent on the table.

            Kaep’s QB rating is 89. That’s below average. He’s had a season or two where he would’ve been the worst starting QB in the NFL. And that’s me being a Bears fan, where our decision to draft Mitch Trubisky at QB instead of Deshaun Watson probably cost us 2 Super Bowl appearances, and had we drafted Mahomes (an actually good QB) would have introduced a football franchise only rivaled by the 90s Bulls, the 80s Celtics, and the ’10s Patriots.

          • Aapje says:

            Vigilantism like cancel culture requires that one or more people:
            – want to harm the person by way of vigilantism
            – have direct or indirect power to execute that

            Arguing that it doesn’t exist or doesn’t have a stifling effect is like arguing that terrorism doesn’t exist or has a stifling effect. After all, there are people who make fun of Mohammed who don’t get murdered.

            Vigilantism is typically fickle. It’s very emotional and thus subject to hypes (where the right person/people signal boosting something is often the difference between the outrage gaining momentum or it fizzling out), as well as being influenced by things like whether the target is an easy target.

            People who are employed in ways that merely require popular support, rather than backing by the elite, are largely immune to cancelling. Chappelle mainly earns his money from stand up in clubs, which is not very cancellable. The clubs are not part of a large chain and frequently change ownership, so going after them is rather pointless.

            Louis CK was a lot more at risk, as a lot of his work was TV & movies. His persona/personality also makes it a lot more easy to bully him than Chappelle.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Also, Louis C.K. did a thing, with specific identifiable victims. Chappelle just said naughty things, and saying naughty things is stock-in-trade for comedians.

          • Aapje says:

            Sure, but Damore also merely said naughty things. As did Bret Weinstein.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            But neither Damore nor Weinstein’s job was to say naughty things.

          • Aapje says:

            Which made them so cancelable.

        • Nick says:

          See this article Plumber quoted on 139.75 and my reply. In particular check out Jesse’s blog post I linked where he discusses that dreadful New Republic article.

        • Machine Interface says:

          Is this like Cultural Marxism, where something exists and is perfectly respectable until people on the Right allege it exists, and then it’s a paranoid and possibly anti-Semitic conspiracy theory?

          Change “people on the Right” to “people in the outgroup”. You can see the exact same phenomena with the words “Israel Lobby”. The major Israel Lobby organizations are open and explicit about being such. On its own website, AIPAC proudly proclaim that they are “America’s Pro-Israel Lobby”. And yet if anyone opponent of the current US Israel policy talks about “the Israel Lobby”…

        • LadyJane says:

          Is this like Cultural Marxism, where something exists and is perfectly respectable until people on the Right allege it exists

          This isn’t really true. Prior to the right adopting it, “Cultural Marxism” was an obscure academic term from the 70s that was rarely ever used, and it meant something entirely different.

          The original academic theory was designed to explain why Marx’s predictions had failed to materialize, and proposed that the reason the proletariat hadn’t risen up against the bourgeoisie was because sociocultural factors kept workers from developing a sense of class consciousness. It’s worth noting that this theory blamed aspects of culture associated with liberals as well as those associated with conservatives; while the theory did blame religion and patriotism and family values, it also blamed consumerism and hedonism and libertine lifestyles. For example, Theodor Adorno – who was a composer as well as a Marxist philosopher, and very much a traditionalist when it came to music – frequently criticized modern genres like jazz and rock and pop, since he viewed them as shallow and only superficially pleasing, holding them up as examples of how capitalism had ruined culture.

          In contrast, “Cultural Marxism” as defined by the modern right is just a fictional boogeyman. It has nothing to do with the original term, or with actual Marxism at all. It’s based around the rather specious idea that there’s a cabal of actual Orthodox Marxists who’ve infiltrated the media in order to push social liberalism (feminism, LGBT rights, multiculturalism) as part of some long-term plot to undermine Western civilization and bring about a communist takeover. And while it’s not inherently anti-Semitic, it’s almost identical to the Nazi concept of “Cultural Bolshevism,” which was anti-Semitic. (Ironically, all of the things that conservatives blame on “Cultural Marxism” are things that the actual theory of Cultural Marxism blamed on capitalism! Over the past few years, I’ve even seem some socially conservative Marxists and National Bolsheviks start using the term “Cultural Capitalism” in exactly the same way.)

          • Aapje says:

            The original academic theory was designed to explain why Marx’s predictions had failed to materialize, and proposed that the reason the proletariat hadn’t risen up against the bourgeoisie was because sociocultural factors kept workers from developing a sense of class consciousness.

            Trent Schroyer* argued that the Frankfurt school and other cultural Marxists believe in crisis theory: “As advanced industrial societies developed, the individual was more integrated into and dependent upon the collectivity and less able to utilize society for active self-expression.”

            As such, the individual is dominated by culture, which needs to change to liberate people. This is far broader than a lack of class consciousness. In fact, some of the Frankfurt school argued that this wasn’t so much lacking, but rather a hope, more specifically a hope that revolution could improve their lot.

            This is their explanation for why the social-democratic and national-socialist states didn’t lead to an era of social revolution, as predicted by Engels, who saw state capitalism as the final stage of capitalism.

            * Note that philosophers are often not so good at definitions, making the question of the true meaning of a term rather nebulous, when different philosophers (implicitly or explicitly) interpret a term differently.

            In contrast, “Cultural Marxism” as defined by the modern right is just a fictional boogeyman. It has nothing to do with the original term, or with actual Marxism at all.

            It’s hard to take you seriously when you make such extreme claims. Critical theory that originated from the Frankfurt school moved beyond Marx’s Hegelian master-slave dialectic, where developing self-consciousness is key for the slaves to overthrow the master, to critiquing and changing power structures in society directly.

            This was intended as a radical new form of Marxism, rejecting the covert positivism and authoritarianism of orthodox Marxism and Communism. This is sometimes called neo-Marxism and sometimes called post-Marxism. In any case, it derives strongly from Marxism, in particular by the way the philosophers build their theories on and/or in partial opposition to Marxism*.

            This rejection of positivism is or led to postmodernism, which is one of the major criticisms leveled at Cultural Marxism, not at all unjustly, due to the fairly common rejection of positivism.

            Letting go of materialism as the key kind of oppression opened the floodgates for people to foreground other (supposed) kinds of oppression: gender, race, Western vs non-Western, etc. You can see this in universities, where critical theory is applied to all kinds of supposed oppressive structures.

            * Spin-offs from existing theories often adopt (implicit) axioms from those theories, causing them to have a strong link to the original theory, even where they are in opposition.

            And while it’s not inherently anti-Semitic, it’s almost identical to the Nazi concept of “Cultural Bolshevism,” which was anti-Semitic.

            No, it wasn’t. Cultural Bolshevism was part of a literal culture war between the Soviets and the Nazis, where each sought to indoctrinate their populace by exposing them to culture that fit their ideology, while banning the culture that fit the ideology of their ideological opponents. Many non-Jewish artists were denounced for Cultural Bolshevism, like Max Ernst and Max Beckmann.

            Of course they would prefer to denounce a Jew, for the same reason that a woke person would typically prefer to criticize a white man, rather than a white woman, for ‘whiteness,’ yet that doesn’t make ‘whiteness’ misandrist. It just means that the people who believe in whiteness are also often misandrist.

          • Ketil says:

            [Modern right’s concept of Cultural Marxism] is based around the rather specious idea that there’s a cabal of actual Orthodox Marxists who’ve infiltrated the media in order to push social liberalism (feminism, LGBT rights, multiculturalism) as part of some long-term plot to undermine Western civilization and bring about a communist takeover.

            What are your sources for this? The only notable person I know of which uses the term is Jordan Peterson, and I think (but could be wrong) he uses it to mean the idea that everything (or most things) wrong with the world is a result of group A’s oppression of group B. So basically identity politics, or Critical Theory.

            Both my local encyclopedia and wikipedia thinks the term is an anti-Semitic conspiracy and goes on to talk about what kind of people uses such a term, rather than what it is actually supposed to mean.

            Oh wait. There’s another, Anders Behring Breivik, the terrorist who killed people in Labor Youth. He used the term no less than 107 times in his manifesto. I don’t think he believes in a cabal of orthodox Marxists, though. From page 12:

            The Frankfurt School blended Marx with Freud, and later influences (some Fascist as well as Marxist) added linguistics to create “Critical Theory” and “deconstruction.” These in turn greatly influenced education theory, and through institutions of higher education gave birth to what we now call “Political Correctness.” The lineage is clear, and it is traceable right back to Karl Marx.

            and a bit later (part of five parallels between traditional Marxism and the new, cultural variety):

            The second major parallel is that both classical, economic Marxism and cultural Marxism have single-factor explanations of history. Classical Marxism argues that all of history was determined by ownership of the means of production. Cultural Marxism says that history is wholly explained by which groups – defined by sex, race, religion and sexual normality or abnormality – have power over which other groups.

          • Aapje says:

            Lobsterman actually seems to be avoiding the term, instead calling it “radical postmodern Marxist ideology,” “post-modern neo-Marxism” or other combinations of these words.

            It’s primarily fans and detractors who claim that he is making claim about cultural Marxism.

            Both my local encyclopedia and wikipedia thinks the term is an anti-Semitic conspiracy

            Terminology is a weapon in ideological conflicts. Are you pro-abortion or pro-choice, anti-abortion or pro-life?

            That some terms are pejorative, while others are (overly) flattering, doesn’t make them inherently wrong or right.

            Ultimately, it is a fact that fans of the ideology used it, which makes it far less unfair for critics to use it than if they had invented it themselves.

          • LadyJane says:

            @Aapje: When people talk about Cultural Marxism, they typically mean one of three things.

            1. They believe that Cultural Marxists blame conservative institutions (religion, nationalism, traditional gender roles, the law-and-order mindset) for the general public’s continued support of capitalism. Thus, they assume that Cultural Marxists are pushing social liberalism as a way to destroy those institutions, which will cause the working class to rise up in a true communist revolution as envisioned by Orthodox Marxists.

            The flaw in this theory is that genuine “Cultural Marxism” (i.e. Marxist-inspired postmodern leftism) is just as critical of liberal institutions. For instance, actual left-wing postmodernists like Zizek generally view identity politics in a negative light; from their perspective, basing your identity around race or gender or sexuality is just another form of false consciousness that serves to reinforce capitalist hegemony.

            2. They believe that social liberalism is inherently harmful to the stability and overall well-being of society, and that Cultural Marxists are deliberately using social liberalism to sabotage Western civilization and pave the way for an actual communist takeover. In this version, the Cultural Marxists don’t actually support the values of social liberalism themselves, since they realize those values are destructive; they’re simply using social liberalism as a tool to weaken their ideological enemies.

            This theory has its roots in paleo-conservative ideology (such as the notion that modernity – including the aspects of modernity that mainstream conservatives praise, such as free trade and consumerism – has a corrosive effect on traditional values and national identities), Cold War paranoia (specifically, fears that the cultural changes of the 50s and 60s were part of a Soviet plot to undermine American values), and anti-Semitic beliefs (it bears more than a passing resemblance to the popular anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that globalism is a Jewish plot to weaken individual cultures in order to make them easier to dominate). I think we can both agree that this version of the theory is entirely baseless.

            3. They believe that Cultural Marxism is a parallel to Orthodox Marxism, which views (race/gender/sexuality/any other arbitrary group identity that you can possibly imagine) in the same way that Orthodox Marxists view socioeconomic class. According to this version of the theory, Cultural Marxists do not necessarily need to be communists or Orthodox Marxists, and may even support capitalism; they simply take the Marxist lens of class conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, and apply it to the conflict between Whites and Blacks, or men and women, or cisgender heterosexuals and queer people, or people without disabilities and people with them.

            This seems to be the version of “Cultural Marxism” that you’re referring to. It’s also more recent than the other two: I’ve only seen the term used this way over the past few years (mostly on the internet and mostly among the Anti-SJW centrist/liberal crowd), whereas the first two theories date back to the 90s and are more common among American paleo-conservatives (who also tend to be older and not as steeped in internet culture). Further complicating matters, I’ve seen some Alt-Lite/Alt-Right types who use all three meanings interchangeably.

            Unlike the first two theories, I can’t really argue that this usage of the term is wrong, since it’s making a semantic claim rather than a factual one. But I do think it’s misleading on multiple levels.

          • Ketil says:

            LadyJane:

            @Aapje: When people talk about Cultural Marxism, they typically mean one of three things.

            Again, which people are those? All that text is just meaningless unless you are willing to cite who you mean. It seems likely that CM is used to mean different things (or at least, has very different connotations) for different people.

            @Aapje: I’m pretty sure I’ve seen JP use the term in some videos, but if he has switched to a different term, I can fully understand and sympathize. The term CM is controversial enough that it doesn’t really convey much meaning anymore – except serving as a flag that marks people as being in- or outgroup.

          • Aapje says:

            But I do think it’s misleading on multiple levels.

            Nearly every claim that large groups are motivated by a certain ideology is misleading on multiple levels. Especially as the overwhelming majority of people aren’t philosophers, nor scientists. Their own ideology is typically muddled and their analysis of others is too.

            Very few patriarchs had the goals that feminists tend ascribe to patriarchy. Very few people that oppose large scale migration have the goals that progressives ascribe to them. Very few ‘socialists’ want Marxist-Leninism. Etc.

            You can also turn this kind of criticism inward to criticize the gap between stated preferences and revealed preferences. Or look at the things that people with certain ideologies consider to be priorities. Or look at what they are willing (or eager) to sacrifice to achieve their goals. Or look at the means that people (are willing to) use. Etc.

            For example, the person who wants Utopia X, but only wants to try to achieve that within the bounds of democracy, is meaningfully different from a person who wants Utopia X and plants bombs.

            These viewpoints all reveal important characteristics of ideologues and pretty much all ideologues exist on a spectrum, so when describing the ideology itself, one is describing this spectrum, rather than a point. This is inherently inaccurate.

            I don’t really know how to respond to your three definitions of Cultural Marxism, as all of them have some truth and some falsehood, describe some parts of the progressive movement, but not others. I’m not convinced that they are the common interpretations.

            * Just like members of the Frankfurt School cannot be described as having a single ideology/interpretation, even though there is a lot of commonality.

            To go properly postmodern: cultural power is to be able to present your own partially misleading claims as (completely) right, but the partially claims of the Other as (completely) wrong. It is the ability to frame your own ideology in terms of the benefits it brings, while not pointing out the downsides. Etc, etc.

            For example, you have this narrative where criticism of globalism is an antisemitic pattern. Yet do you consistently apply this to other cases? Is criticism of capitalism a communist pattern? Is BLM an anti-white pattern?

            If you don’t do this consistently, you are discouraging moderate criticisms of some kinds by equating them to more extreme variants, but don’t do this for other moderate criticisms, creating a debate environment where certain claims are privileged over others, regardless of their inherent merit.

            PS. This may interest you.

          • Aapje says:

            @Ketil

            I looked at a few videos by Peterson that were labeled as Peterson talking about cultural Marxism, but he didn’t actually use that term in the video (and the labels where not his).

            I did find him linking on Facebook to a article written by someone else on cultural Marxism, but with no indication as to what extent he approved.

      • J Mann says:

        IMHO, the most disturbing thing in the retraction post is the statement “This is not censorship. [The author] needed this to be done for her own personal safety and health.”

        If the author’s health and safety would actually be in danger as a result of leaving a story available, that’s IMHO mob censorship.

        • Randy M says:

          I think that’s trying to convey that the author was distressed by the thought of how their writing was troubling people or something.
          Or maybe it’s just that mental health and safety have (possibly due to Title IX in colleges) become the go to key words for soft pressure changes.

          But I agree, that sounds Orwellian.
          “I am not being prevented from speaking my mind. I am just being threatened for doing so. Quite rightly, of course.” Blinking SOS.

          • Matt M says:

            Yeah. I think the point of that statement is to clarify that the decision to remove was made by the author, and not the platform itself.

            Typically when we think of censorship, it’s a story of “author wants thing to be published but platforms refuse.”

            Now, if the author is the one requesting deplatforming because they’re worried that they will be physically harmed by angry mobs, that’s probably still censorship, as you say, but it’s of a different category…

          • viVI_IViv says:

            I think that’s trying to convey that the author was distressed by the thought of how their writing was troubling people or something.

            More like the author was being harassed and threatened. But hey, I thought only the alt-right incel Russian bots harassed people online.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter”
        “The author turned out to be trans, natch.”

        Is this transgender or transsexual? And is “gender” supposed to be about sexual identification, or social identification? I assume this depends on whomever you ask, but I’d like some clarity.

        • Evan Þ says:

          The story pulled the title from the meme; the narrator clarifies in the first paragraph that it’s actually their gender identity not sexual identity.

      • Nick says:

        Here’s the retraction statement @J Mann mentioned. I have my own nomination for most disturbing passage:

        What have we learned:

        2. In some cases, information contained in the bio is critical to gaining the trust of a reader. I would never have pressured Isabel to out herself as trans in her bio, but it’s clear, given the way that information shifted the discussion, that would have helped some readers be a bit more trusting of Isabel, the venue, the story, and what she was hoping to accomplish with it. Should the work ever be restored, additional information will be included along with the story to help properly warn and inform the reader about potential issues. In the future, we will also provide the bio to our sensitivity readers.

        We readers, you see, need the bio of the writer in order to decide whether a story is #ownvoices important advocacy or hateful bigotry.

        • Matt M says:

          And note that the obvious implication of this is… that authors who want to be published and not harassed should consider claiming a non-cis gender identity, regardless of whether that’s really legitimate for them or not.

          Which is, you know, the whole issue at hand here in the first place…

        • anonymousskimmer says:

          We readers, you see, need the bio of the writer in order to decide whether a story is #ownvoices important advocacy or hateful bigotry.

          Poe’s law has been around for at least 36 years.

        • Well... says:

          Just wanna say, I read (actually, listened to) the original piece and from the content I thought it was very likely the author was trans, and I took the story to be a sort of defense of transgenderism. Thus some of my thoughts about it in the last OT.

          Knowing now that the title and motif are from an anti-trans meme, I take it as a kind of rebranding: take the thing used by your opposition and claim ownership over it, and in fact take it to its logical conclusion to show how it actually supports your side. From that standpoint it’s quite brilliant.

          • Aapje says:

            Supposedly, the goal was to google bomb the term, reclaiming it in a modern way (if Google shows your definition as nr 1, that is what it is).

      • Plumber says:

        @Nick says:

        “Yeah, I heard about this over the weekend. Don’t worry, though—The New York Times and other reputable sources have assured me there’s no such thing as cancel culture…”

        FWIW in “145.25” I quoted from a NY Times interview of Senator Sanders, in which they asked the Senator if he agreed with Obama’s criticisms of “cancel culture”, and since the Senator didn’t know the NY Times told him:

        “…So cancel culture essentially is often attributed to younger people, millennials, and this idea that if you put out a critique of a public figure and call for either their resignation or for their cancellation, that sort of thing…”

        which explained the term without committing to whether the behavior exists, after musing on it Sanders said:

        “… I suspect the president is right. That’s not enough to send out an email or a tweet or whatever it may be…”

        which I found as endearing as Biden’s use of the term “Malarkey”.

        Seems telling to me that the top two polling contenders for the Democratic Party nomination are septugenerians who both give off a Captain America/Rip Van Winkle from-another-time “vibe”, and the current President and likely Republican Party nominee is also a septugenerian who ran on the slogan “MaKe America Great Again”.

        To me, whether they support the Left (Sanders), Center (Biden), or Right (Trump), the electorate has a clear overall message: “We don’t want a President who even knows much about modernity, the 21st century so far is just lame, please turn back the clock”.

        The election will be about when to turn back the clock, vote Sanders for 1944 and Henry Wallace is still the vice-president, vote Biden for an amalgamation of 1976 and 2016, or vote Trump for an amalgamation of 1925 and 1955.

        I may be projecting a bit.

    • Well... says:

      Someone somewhere posted an archived copy of the story. I recommend reading it, I enjoyed it.

  41. nimim.k.m. says:

    One thing not mentioned yet as far as I can see, but I think would be useful:

    Learn the rudimentary aspects how the legal and bureaucratic systems potentially relevant to your life work: the basic police and court procedures, and such. (For example, if you don’t live in US, unlike what movies and tv have made you believe, everything in general will be different.) If you become entangled with them in grave manner, you will by of course then go and find more resources and assistance, but I believe it may be helpful to know how to avoid basic mistakes (that could make your case more difficult for your attorney or equivalent), and knowing what you can do could help with staying more calm and confident during such scenario. Or if you live in a country were the justice is arbitrary and such basic principles do not exist, know the basics how to navigate that.

    For example, one thing that makes me uneasy is that I do not know the monetary costs of various legal procedures if I ever need services of a lawperson. (I googled up some while writing this comment, and they list per-hour rates, but I do not know how many hours they would bill.)

  42. John Schilling says:

    Learn how to say “No” and make it stick.

    Related, learn how to fight well enough not to be a complete pushover, using each of words, fists, weapons, lawyers, and bureaucrats.

  43. FrankistGeorgist says:

    Sort of related to the “what should a person know how to do and when to delegate” threads.

    Taxes. I’ve always done them myself. I had a whole course in high school about them – finite math – which was apparently the joke class among math folks but was basically “math needed to live in the world” and incomparably useful. I use freetaxusa and actually enjoy the process each year.

    But, my taxes have also always been dead simple until last year. Went from W2 and some marginalia to living in one state, working from home for a company in a non-reciprical state while still having income from yet another state – bought a house, got investments, etc etc.

    My father when he was lucid and good with money only advised that anyone who was self-employed and did their own taxes was a masochistic chump and not to be like them. But this doesn’t apply to me.

    There’s plenty of advice online for “when to get an accountant” (written by/for accountants?) which mostly suggests I and everyone should, but it’s unclear to me how you gauge the quality of such people. I assume it’s a bunch of going to various offices, proffering up my current situation, and trying to gauge whether their “yes we can absolutely help you” response is genuine and worth whatever they’re charging.

    • Viliam says:

      If you can spend more money, you could give the same data to two or three accountants, and compare their results. Then ask each of them to explain the differences. Don’t tell them you got a second opinion, only ask “why did you put this into column X? why not into column Y?”. Compare their explanations with what you find online.

      • FrankistGeorgist says:

        I do like that idea, and am even willing to get at least 2 inputs, but I only wish I could be more extravagant – send my stuff to every tax person in the city and show up to the winning office with a single rose.

      • Matt M says:

        Keep in mind that it’s hard to tell who the “best” accountant truly is.

        I suppose you could assume it’s the one that gets you the largest refund – although one way they might be doing that is by cheating – and as the layman, you’re probably not qualified to properly detect such cheating.

        And once you’re at the stage where you’re looking things up online and trying to decipher it yourself, you might as well just be doing it yourself in the first place.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Many years ago I was playing poker for a living as was my roommate. He took his taxes to a private accountant and I took mine to H&R block. The H&R block guy had no idea what to do with professional gambling receipts (literally told me he had never done it) and told me I had to pay half of what my roommates accountant told him to pay on similar winnings. I have no idea what an audit would have resulted in, but I did splurge for the $50 insurance H&R block offered which covered any penalties for a mistake they made. My lower tax bill was not due to any intentional deception, but I suspect it was due to a lack of competence in the tax preparer.

      • anonymousskimmer says:

        It might be worthwhile plugging your values into the online tax prep software, too. As long as you don’t submit, you can compare their results without paying.

    • Garrett says:

      Much like jury duty, I believe that people should have to fill out their own tax returns. I do, and it makes me very angry every year.

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      I am a tax accountant, although I do corporate tax, not individual. It does sound like your taxes have gotten complicated enough that a professional is in order. But if your facts remain somewhat stable year over year, you could probably hire one just for the first year, and then just do a similar thing yourself in future years. Or if you want to verify that your accountant did the right thing, you could go to a different one the next year to see if you get the same results.

      Since you’ve been doing your own taxes, I think you should be able to tell who’s a good accountant by just asking them questions. Ask them what types of taxes they have done for others, and make sure they have done ones like yours: multiple states, investments, etc. Then ask them what they’d do for your return, and judge their credibility based on what you know already. Also interview three different accountants so you can judge which one sounds the best.

      In my estimation, you don’t need the most expensive accountants, which handle things like partnerships, real estate investments, etc., but you do need more expertise than you’d probably find at H&R Block.

    • SamChevre says:

      I would go with H&R Block software, which has an audit flag review, I believe let’s you pay for advice on specific situations, and has included free audit support. It does multiple states well (I used to live in one and work in another, so I’ve used it for that purpose.)

  44. proyas says:

    Functional skills all adults should have:

    Ability to check car oil, do an oil change in one’s driveway, and an understanding of why cars need oil.

    Ability to change all other fluids in a car.

    Ability to change all filters but the fuel filter in a car.

    Ability to do the same level of maintenance on yard machines, like lawn mowers and chainsaws.

    Ability to do basic household repairs such as:
    -Installing electrical outlets and switches
    -Replacing everything inside a toilet tank
    -Installing new door knobs and deadbolts
    -Installing a new garbage disposal and sink faucet

    Basic understanding of all systems (electricity, natural gas piping, water plumbing) in a house/building.

  45. Conrad Honcho says:

    Last OT we talked about kids and chess, anybody know anything about kids and art, particularly painting?

    My daughter turns 5 next week, and she is seriously in love with painting. She will spend hours with her paints making things I think are really interesting, how she flows colors into each other and blends them and what not. You give her a coloring book and she doesn’t care about crayons, she goes to her painting desk and paints the pages one by one. Ask her what she wants to be when she grows up and she says “an artist…and a mom!”

    You can find somebody to teach your kids music lessons, or ballet or gymnastics…what about painting? Is “painting teacher” a thing? So she could learn about different…I don’t know, brush strokes and techniques and what not? How does someone go from “interest in art” to “art student?” What would painters of SSC would recommend for a five-year-old who seriously loves painting?

    • Randy M says:

      I recall going to an independent art class when I was young. It’s probably still a thing, but I don’t think art opens as many doors as music or sports, so it isn’t as sought after.

      Try going to the art supply store and seeing if they have a notice board or the like. The fire station/community center near me has “Mom and me painting classes” every other Saturday for free. It’s actually intended for older women, I think to stave off alzheimers, but my mom takes my eldest sometimes.

      My wife hosted a Bob Ross party for my daughters and their friends recently. There were about eight preteen girls in my living room painting happy trees. Really sweet.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        My wife hosted a Bob Ross party for my daughters and their friends recently. There were about eight preteen girls in my living room painting happy trees. Really sweet.

        Well that’s just adorable.