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Open Thread 147.25

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1,219 Responses to Open Thread 147.25

  1. Purplehermann says:

    I often have nothing to say during conversations, and a lot of my relationships suffer for it.

    On the other hand I occasionally start monologuing, which isn’t great either. (Though occasionally i do exactly the same thing but get an awesome dialogue instead)

    Any advice?

    • Erusian says:

      Have you contemplated becoming a supervillain? They don’t have a lot of casual conversations and monologue a lot.

      More seriously, casual conversation tends to be about giving the other person room to express themselves in a way you’ve indicated you want them to. Ask questions about them, follow it up with your own views/thoughts, etc. Go back and forth and soon enough you’ll be conversing.

      • Purplehermann says:

        Thanks

        How would you translate this into group discussions?

        Dinners, group hangouts, family reunions,etc.. are where my problem is the worst. (Sitting in a group like a mute for an hour is horrible, and realizing all conversation has stopped for a few minutes and you’ve been monologuing through os pretty bad too)

    • AG says:

      There are three approaches to this: change yourself to be able to contribute to more conversations more, change your environment to have more of the few conversations you do currently talk more in, or find people for whom talking isn’t a large part of their relationship calculus.

      1) A bit of a self-hacking to identify both what makes you contribute to conversations now, and try to get yourself in that mindset for a wider swath of topics, or to notice how kinds of mindsets talkers in your peer/friend group have, and emulate them. For example, I don’t have much interest in sportsball, but I can talk about it if I need to, by honing in on the elements of it I do find interesting.
      2) You still identify what makes you contribute to conversations now, and just try to get in that situation more often. For example, picking up more friends in your chosen hobby.
      3) Building relationships is about sharing experiences together. If your relationships are suffering for a lack of conversation, try to be more in situations where talking isn’t as required to share the experience, like attending concerts, playing games, going to an interactive museum, attending a dance class. (Things like movies are just a delay, people generally want to talk about them afterwards.) Do more things where you can interact more through nonverbal expressions of emotion.

      Erusian is also right, it may be a case of your definition of “this is worthy to contribute to conversation” being too narrow (it doesn’t have to be a “nothing or I control the topic with a monologue” binary), and change your role to a support position of “facilitate others to talk more.”

      • Purplehermann says:

        I already do 2 and 3, the problems come in when the relationships need normal socializing.

        1 sounds interesting and also pretty hard, thank you

        • AG says:

          Yeah, learning to small talk is easiest by getting the other person talking about themselves, even if you don’t particularly care about the topic. Prompt them with questions, ask for clarifying details, ask for their opinion on things and offer supporting factoids. You’d be surprised how far you can get with just nodding and “mm-hmms” and “yeah/yes” and “cool.”

          Getting conversation started if it’s currently silent is harder, but “how is your job going/what are you working on/how are your kids doing” tends to work as a good springboard. Otherwise, it is up to you to suss out what your family members like to talk about, figure out their interests. You can see what they post on social media, as a start.

          Approach number 1 is about identifying at the pattern in what you yourself like to talk about at a meta level. Do you like quantified things? Do you like speculating on motives? Do you like predicting events? Do you like talking about strategy? Do you like describing attributes or actions?
          Then you take that meta level interest and just apply it to whatever object level topic is at hand.
          For example, I might like reading books because I’m interested in the relationships. If the topic at hand is, instead, cars, then I could try steering the conversation towards industry talk about how various car companies are competing, or have the other people reminisce on their favorite experiences driving their cars (which tend to involve other people), instead getting bogged down in specs talk.

    • There’s an idea that our society has more fractures because of all the choices we have. Yeah, we have all these movies/tv shows/social media options but everyone is on a different wavelength. If you watch Game of Thrones and I watch Orange is the New Black, there isn’t much to go off on. We just have less to talk about. So all you need to do is start a fundamental restructuring of society and you should be good to go.

    • HowardHolmes says:

      I’ll suggest something you will surely reject as too radical. But here goes. I was never able to satisfactorily solve the conversation problem. About 7 years ago, I gave up. My wife and I live in silence. We literally do not say good morning or goodnight. We eliminate all other relationships.

      I know it sounds stupid, but for us it works wonders. Marriage is perfect (we never argue or criticize, duh). I am thankful everyday that I do not have to talk to people. I even feel thankful when we go to bed and don’t have to have any conversation.

      Like I said, no one would believe how well it works. If I had to go back to talking I would shoot myself.

  2. LesHapablap says:

    So this new building is under construction here in New Zealand:

    link text

    These weird angles seem to be on every new building around here. What’s the style called? Is it just a New Zealand thing? Am I alone in hating it?

    • BBA says:

      Judging from past discussions, everyone on SSC except me hates every building designed in the last 75 years. I think this one is kinda blah, I’ve seen much better and much worse.

      The building looks very 21st-century American “stumpy.” In America those buildings are designed to maximize height and floor space while staying small enough to be built with a cheaper wood frame instead of the steel or concrete required by our building codes for larger structures. Not sure if there are similar constraints in NZ. In any case, the weird angles are clearly decorative, in America it would probably have a rectangular design for cost reasons, and also rectangles look better.

      • Etoile says:

        I don’t hate everything built in the last 75 years. But I’m also not an architect so I don’t know how impractical all of the new construction is or isn’t — but I think New York City, for example, has a number of very cool new (or newER) skyscrapers, for instance. Last time I visited, I saw a bunch I hadn’t seen before, and I think they’re innovative and attractive. But then I’ve always liked tall glassy buildings.

    • Lambert says:

      Right now, I’d call it contemporary.
      Possibly a kind of postmodern aping of the Vanna Venturi House thing going on.
      I’m guessing that technologies like computer-aided design and CNC glass cutters have made this kind of design a lot more practical. It would once have been a nightmare to source all those different-sized pieces of glass and cladding.
      I don’t mind that building, but I’d get bored of them fast if that’s what they’re filling all the empty spaces in Christchurch and every square inch of land within 30 miles of Auckland with.

      For the record, I think there’s some very nice modern and postmoder architecture out there. It’s just that the bottom quartile is far uglier than anything traditional (with the exception of Prince Albert’s McMansion).

      • Deiseach says:

        That Vanna Venturi house – ouch. I can see that the architect is trying to do something, but the problem is that the thing he is trying to do is not working for me. The assymetry hurts my eyes and makes me twitch to balance everything out, and that rather muddy green colour is too flat and ugly. Light coloured paint and lots of sunlight in an open plot with nothing around save rockery and sky, and it could look okay, but on that site and in that context it makes me itchy.

        I just am too plebian in my tastes to appreciate the modern world!

        • BBA says:

          This goes back to what I was trying to say about not confusing modernism with postmodernism.

          Modernism: the old rules don’t make sense anymore, let’s throw them out and make new rules
          Postmodernism: the new rules are too restrictive, let’s throw them out and just do whatever

          • Deiseach says:

            Your second link is the kind of thing that, were I a builder and somebody handed me the plans for that, I’d go “FML” 🙂

            I’m impressed it got built, and even more impressed that somebody successfully translated “looks like a cartoon background from, say, the Powerpuff Girls” into the real world. Nobody gives enough credit to the construction workers who have to turn these things into reality!

          • bullseye says:

            Your second link is the kind of thing that, were I a builder and somebody handed me the plans for that, I’d go “FML” 🙂

            Really? I’d expect the reaction would be, “Oh, good, something I know exactly how to do because it’s just like the last six buildings.”

    • brad says:

      Don’t think it is just a New Zealand thing. I’m seeing a lot of that in new buildings around NYC.

      While that doesn’t look especially great to me, I do appreciate the effort to do something with texture instead of just not matching, but identically profiled, facades as far as the eye can see.

  3. Loriot says:

    What do you first see when looking at this photo? I think it might be another case of real life optical illusions.

    When I first looked at it, I thought that gur juvgr bs gur fxl nobir gur ubevmba jnf fnaq ba n ornpu, jvgu gur qnex pybhqf nobir orvat fbzr fbeg bs gerrf. Vg jnfa’g hagvy V abgvprq gur fuvc fvyubhrggrf gung V svtherq vg bhg.

  4. Deiseach says:

    Not to be spamming the site with LIVERPOOL’S SIXTH CHAMPIONS LEAGUE VICTORY IN 2019 but to demonstrate why the Champions League (and Manchester City getting a two-season ban) is a big deal is because it’s followed globally, not just European.

  5. Lambert says:

    Happy somewhat belated Lupercalia, everyone!

  6. johan_larson says:

    Here’s a demonstration of the famous H&K G11 assault rifle with caseless ammunition. The host takes the whole thing apart and shows how the (impossibly intricate) action operates.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGKcvM2Hh4g

    I have to wonder how something so intricate is going to keep working in the field, with mud and dust and snow and all the rest a military rifle has to deal with. Also, if that propellant isn’t immaculately clean-burning, the fouling is going to be a real pain.

    • Lambert says:

      >I have to wonder how something so intricate is going to keep working in the field, with mud and dust and snow and all the rest

      Not like that’s ever stopped the German military before.

    • Protagoras says:

      Apparently the propellant is, in fact, immaculately clean-burning. But perhaps concerns like yours are the reason nothing like that weapon has been adopted, although my understanding is that they really did work out most of the problems with the design before it was abandoned.

      • cassander says:

        I believe the weapon was formally adopted, the program was just almost immediately cancelled because of the end of the cold war.

        • John Schilling says:

          Cassander is correct. The Germans went to a great deal of trouble to get the propellant just right, and formally adopted it for service right at the time the German defense budget dropped through the floor because they didn’t have to pretend they were going to try to stop a Russian invasion any longer.

          Yes, the mechanism is perhaps a bit complex due to the separate three-round burst feature. But if this monstrosity can give reliable service on five continents across a hundred years, there’s no reason the G-11 couldn’t have done so as well. And not having an ejection port open to the sand and mud on every cycle, is a huge advantage in reliability.

    • johan_larson says:

      The same guy has a nifty series about the Thompson submachinegun. It’s a fascinating story. The company behind the Thompson, Auto-Ordnance, contracted with Colt in 1921 to manufacture 15,000 of the devices. They were complicated for their time, and were correspondingly expensive, retailing at something like $200, which was a lot in the 20s. Selling that first batch took a decade of small-batch sales mostly to private owners and police departments, through they did manage some sales to the USMC and the US Postal Inspection Service. Things got better when the world got worse and WWII started. After some redesigns to bring the cost down, over 1.5 million units were produced during the war.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QN1uUfMCQ0Y&list=PLypb6wjv1oOBV6SM7BEQGSno5FvhiXxvH&index=2

      Let me also recommend the video on the M3 “Grease Gun”, also a submachine gun, but designed from the ground up for manufacturability.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ivr4QdhVtU

      • Deiseach says:

        Thanks for the link, johan_larson. I was interested enough, because the Thompson gun is mentioned in a rebel ballad from the 60s, to try and find out if it was (a) period appropriate and (b) did the IRA ever get them, seeing as how you say they were expensive to manufacture.

        And we’re off to Dublin in the green, in the green
        Where the helmets glisten in the sun
        Where the bayonets flash and the rifles crash
        To the rattle of the Thompson Gun.

        Turns out the song passes the historical test!

        Some of the first batches of Thompsons were bought in America by agents of the Irish Republic, notably Harry Boland. The first test of a Thompson in Ireland was performed by West Cork Brigade commander Tom Barry in presence of IRA leader Michael Collins. They purchased a total of 653, but US customs authorities in New York seized 495 of them in June 1921. The remainder made their way to the Irish Republican Army by way of Liverpool and were used in the last month of the Irish War of Independence (1919–21). After a truce with the British in July 1921, the IRA imported more Thompsons and used them in the subsequent Irish Civil War (1922–23). They were not found to be very effective in Ireland; the Thompson caused serious casualties in only 32 percent of the actions in which it was used.

        • Nornagest says:

          The IRA seems to have made a habit of adopting odd guns. A couple years ago I came across a PIRA ballad called “My Little Armalite”. After doing a little more digging, it turns out that the Armalite in question is not the widespread AR-15 but the considerably more obscure AR-18, which was created as basically a legal dodge — it fires the same 5.56×45 round and uses the same magazines, but internally it uses a short-stroke piston system more reminiscent of the SKS rifle, and externally it resembles the FN FAL.

          It was a flop in the US, but it must have had quite a following in Northern Ireland if they wrote songs about it.

  7. rocoulm says:

    What’s the most fun thing to do with a 6 foot long, 8 inch diameter cardboard tube? ~1/4″ wall thickness.

    • Aftagley says:

      Chop it in half and have a swordfight with a buddy?

      Get on a rolling chair, have someone push you and start jousting strangers?

      Convert it into a railgun?

      • rocoulm says:

        8 inches seems a bit stout for a swordfight.

        The only thing I could think of was some sort of pneumatic cannon, but I’m not sure what would fit the barrel, or if I’d just be better off buying PVC at that point.

        • marshwiggle says:

          Yeah, too wide to hold in the hands for a sword fight, but that just makes it possible to put it over a forearm and have a truly zany swordfight, one where previous skill with swords is much less useful because who trains for that kind of motion?

    • Well... says:

      If you can saw it into lots of sections you could make a pretty neat building material.

    • AG says:

      something something castle/tower for cats?

    • johan_larson says:

      Are we young enough to play make-believe? Then it’s obviously the torpedo you’re going to use to sink the Yamato.

      Or along more peaceful lines, it’s the sewer pipe you need to replace so your town doesn’t drown in poo.

    • noyann says:

      1. Rally all kids you can get hold of.
      2. Cap both ends of the tube very firmly (a solid application of rolls of duck tape will do), make a dollar-sized hole in the center of one of the caps.
      3. Mount it, outdoors, firmly in vertical position, holed cap up.
      4. Fill the tube with cheap Diet Coke. Needs a stepladder, funnel, kids to help.
      5. Get everybody else into a safe distance.
      6. Drop 1kg of Menthos though the hole.
      7. Run like hell.
      8. Watch.
      9. Discuss with those so inclined.

      Note: “The results showed that Diet Coke created the most spectacular explosions with either fruit or mint Mentos, [ … ] But caffeine-free Diet Coke did just as well…” (source)
      You could add a contraption (out of cardboard?) to drop the Menthos at the pull of a string, to have some more fun-work for the kids and as a safety measure.

    • Business Analyst says:

      That’s the beginning of a nice Dobson telescope.

  8. HowardHolmes says:

    It appears to me that if we live in a world where God does not exist it would also be true that the more educated one is the more likely they would be to not believe in God. If we lived in a world where God was real then education would correlate positively with belief.

    • Statismagician says:

      This supposes that education is always positively correlated with accurate knowledge, which seems hard to justify without qualification.

      • rocoulm says:

        The Bible says basically exactly that – man’s reasoning is so perverted and flawed that he can never, on his own, arrive at knowledge of God.

        (Of course, that’s exactly what you would expect a religion to say if it weren’t true, as well; it needs an excuse to defend itself from well-thought-out criticism.)

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        Our dirty lying teachers use only the midnight to midnight 1 day (ignoring 3 other days). Time to not foul (already wrong) marshmallow time. Lie that corrupts earth you educated brilliant fools.

      • HowardHolmes says:

        If it does not correlate then why have education? I was (naively?) assuming that more education led to more knowledge.

        • Hoopyfreud says:

          The important word is “accurate,” not “more.” Education generally increases one’s store of useful knowledge (as measured by what that knowledge allows people to do rather than measured by what they wish to know), which is often strictly inaccurate. It way well be the case that if we lived in a world in which it was (generally) useful to believe in God, educated people would be more likely to be religious. The past was arguably such a world.

          • marshwiggle says:

            But if we’re looking at the benefits in this world (I think that is what you mean by ‘useful’), who needs them more? The Oxford professor? Or the woman in an African village where completing 5 years of schooling is rare and people live on a dollar a day? Unless you really think that woman is incapable of figuring out ‘hey, praying to God works, and I really need it’, or even ‘I’m desperate, I’ll even try praying to God to see if it works’, how exactly does the professor’s education make him more likely to believe in God in this scenario?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Store of useful knowledge isn’t necessarily proportional to aggregate usefulness of accumulated knowledge, and education represents an opportunity cost. And religiosity can be circumstantially useful for sub-Saharan Africans in a way it isn’t for frat bros. I think that right now believing in God isn’t particularly generally useful for members of the the American educated class.

          • marshwiggle says:

            It wasn’t (this world) useful to the educated members of Roman society refusing to reject their faith even if it meant their deaths either. The useful thing in that society was to pay token homage to the Emperor and the gods and get on with making money or prestige or literature or whatever. What does that have to do with truth though? A thing surely does not become untrue as soon as you threaten to punish believing it.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            It wasn’t (this world) useful to the educated members of Roman society refusing to reject their faith even if it meant their deaths either.

            Is it useful for the faithful tribal communities in the Congo to charge into battle believing they’re bulletproof? Evidence suggests the answer is yes, even though doing so probably makes the individuals mounting the charge more likely to die. So I disagree with your assessment.

            But despite my saying so, I don’t want to overplay my hand here. Understanding things that are true obviously has some value, but in terms of determining what gets institutionalized into an education, truth definitely trades off against (other forms of) usefulness, which is why they teach the Bohr model of the atom in high school and not Kant. I’m making no claim (at least, not here) about whether God exists, but rather about the circumstances that determine whether an education is likely to correlate (or not) with believing in God.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Evidence suggests the answer is yes, even though doing so probably makes the individuals mounting the charge more likely to die

            I thought it made them more likely to live, because no one waivers and runs away and therefore group cohesion improves individual survival chance.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Conrad

            In the counterfactual where they individually fight, they’re more likely to die because other people won’t be with them. In the counterfactual where they flee, they’re probably less likely to die because they won’t be shot at. I suppose I should clarify that the individuals who are convinced to fight by gri-gri magic are more likely to die then they would be if they weren’t convinced to fight. Gri-gri is a mechanism for reducing aggregate risk, but it also redistributes risk.

        • meh says:

          it does, but you are making a leap from probability to certainty in your statement.

      • meh says:

        I think it is erroneous even if we grant education is correlated with accurate knowledge (see below)

        HH needs to add a few ‘more likely’, ‘less likely’s to his statement

    • marshwiggle says:

      It occurs to me that in a world where God exists and pride was one of the main things keeping humans from Him, the rich and the intelligent would be more at risk.

      Less abstractly, the day I went to college I thought evangelism would become easy. Finally, I was surrounded by people intelligent and educated enough to understand the arguments for the faith. 2 weeks and 10 people convinced of the truth of those arguments and still rejecting the faith anyway, and I was disabused of that notion. That isn’t evidence that Christianity is true. It sure is evidence to me at least that if it was true, education wouldn’t help people accept it.

      • albatross11 says:

        It occurs to me that in a world where God exists and pride was one of the main things keeping humans from Him, the rich and the intelligent would be more at risk.

        I think there’s a fair bit of scriptural support for this idea, actually.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      Most education nowadays is of a fairly technocratic kind, with an emphasis on imparting economically-useful skills. It’s not obvious to me that that sort of education would correlate positively with having true religious beliefs.

    • Well... says:

      The actual data on this, IIRC, says if you graph education on an X axis and belief in God on a Y axis, you get kind of a backward Nike swoosh, where belief in God decreases as education increases but then rises again as people complete post-secondary education (PhDs and the like).

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        Source?

      • Anatid says:

        I’d also be interested in a source that shows this; these tables (which I found linked from here) show belief in God going steadily down as you look at people with higher degrees, all the way out to postgraduate degrees.

        Interestingly if you look at the pages 2+, where they condition on a person belonging to a particular religion, some measures of religiosity (particularly church attendance) seem to go up with eduation.

      • Atlas says:

        I’ve heard similar claims about conservatism. Dawkins, at least, makes the opposite argument:

        A study in the leading journal Nature by Larson and Witham in 1998 showed that of those American scientists considered eminent enough by their peers to have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (equivalent to being a Fellow of the Royal Society in Britain) only about 7 per cent believe in a personal God.53 This overwhelming preponderance of atheists is almost the exact opposite of the profile of the American population at large, of whom more than 90 per cent are believers in some sort of supernatural being. The figure for less eminent scientists, not elected to the National Academy, is intermediate. As with the more distinguished sample, religious believers are in a minority, but a less dramatic minority of about 40 per cent. It is completely as I would expect that American scientists are less religious than the American public generally, and that the most distinguished scientists are the least religious of all. What is remarkable is the polar opposition between the religiosity of the American public at large and the atheism of the intellectual elite.54

        • The original Mr. X says:

          In terms of formal education, though, shouldn’t NAS members be about as well-educated as scientists in general? Becoming an eminent scientist is more about the work you do after earning your PhD than about spending more years in school.

    • meh says:

      I think this is false, even if we grant that education is correlated with accurate knowledge.

      If we live in a world where accurate knowledge is correlated with education does not imply that every individual true fact correlates with education.

    • Jaskologist says:

      Didn’t work for Communism.

    • theredsheep says:

      I think intelligence is negatively correlated with religiosity for reasons unrelated to the truth of religious claims. The smarter you are, the more likely you are to have had unpleasant experiences with taking orders from or being under the control of someone stupider than yourself. Being a cleric is no longer high-status, and the job requires other skills besides exceptional intelligence–social finesse, for example. Priests are selected for those, not for being clever.

      (I suspect there are a lot of very smart libertarians for similar reasons)

    • teneditica says:

      So I guess whether god exists depends on what country and time we’re in?

    • Atlas says:

      Here’s a meta-analysis from 2013 on the relationship between intelligence and religiosity. (There seems to be a negative association, though how large and how important that is can certainly be debated.)

      Emil Kirkegaard had a recent paper replicating earlier findings with OKC data. Here’s his discussion on his YouTube channel.

  9. littskad says:

    Quick news roundup:

    Manchester City has been banned (pending appeals) for 2 years by UEFA from participating in UEFA events (which I guess is Champion’s League, right?) I know less than nothing about how soccer league stuff works, but wouldn’t this be kind of like Major League Baseball banning the Astros for a couple of years?

    What dates have the most and least births in the United States over the past 20 years? Most common: many days in late summer. Least: Christmas, New Year’s, Fourth of July.

    Stories like this one in the San Francisco Chronicle break my heart. I don’t know what it will take for this sort of thing to be absolutely not tolerated in schools. I’m not entirely sure even a murder will actually do it.

    • Statismagician says:

      In re: the Chronicle story.

      A group of sixth-graders is even organizing a walk-out for Feb. 21 to demand a beefed-up wellness center staffed with qualified therapists or social workers, crisis training for security guards, clear and consistent behavior guidelines, and follow-through when students violate them.

      Even for San Francisco, this seems like an unlikely list of demands to actually originate with sixth-graders.

      School administrators held a “restorative justice” meeting with the families of each girl. That’s the school district’s preferred way of resolving disputes, and it centers on mediation and acknowledging harm.

      Might this whole situation really be as simple as ‘school isn’t able/willing to punish troublemakers in any serious way; troublemakers have realized this?’ Yes, I think it might.

      • Plumber says:

        @Statismagician,
        “Restorative justice” (the school has a meeting with the victim and the victimizer’ and asks the perpetrator to apologize to the victim, nothing else is done) is why after a fellow student nicked him when he tried to stab our son we pulled our teenager out of his San Francisco bay area middle school and am homeschooling him (homework on computer and some community college classes), unfortunately California community colleges are greatly reducing high school level classes because adults keep taking them and “not matriculating” (passing the classes) enough, which means our younger son likely won’t be able to substitute community college for high school like his older brother. 

        As for the content of the Chronicle story it reads much like I remember my schools were like in the 1970’s and early ’80’s. 

        • andrewflicker says:

          Disappointing if that’s true about the community colleges. I used to work at Butte Community College, and thought very highly of it- lots of great remedial courses, high-school level stuff, as well as challenging transfer-plan courses. The chem courses I took there myself were quite a lot better than what my friends had taken at the nearby CSU school.

          • Plumber says:

            @andrewflicker says:
            Yeah, limiting access is the colleges way of complying with Assembly Bill 705.

            ’tis a shame, taking high school level classes at the community colleges instead of at the high school has worked great so far for our older son, but already the classes are becoming scarce.

        • albatross11 says:

          This just seems like a story of cascading institutional failures. First the middle school can’t keep minimal safety and order in the classroom, then the community colleges get overloaded because of the failures of the middle/high schools and become less and less functional.

        • toastengineer says:

          The extra, hidden layer of awfulness here is that now it’s going to become impossible to talk about actual restorative justice because the name has been taken over by pencil-pushers who don’t feel like doing their jobs and don’t care what the consequences are.

          @Plumber
          I took a GED pre-test out of a book and did well enough that I felt comfortable just dropping out, getting a GED, and going straight to a state college. Worked for me, though I don’t know how much luck was involved in actually getting in to college with a GED.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          “Restorative justice” (the school has a meeting with the victim and the victimizer’ and asks the perpetrator to apologize to the victim, nothing else is done)

          That’s how it works in the Seattle Public Schools as well.

          Noticing this gets you screamed at for “white supremacy”.

          ((Anyone wanna try to steelman the contrary view?))

      • Deiseach says:

        (1) I agree that a group of 12-13 year olds are unlikely to have originated the stated demands that way; it’s probably (if it’s like anything I ever experienced) a mix of ‘teachers firing up students about these kinds of problems and the preferred solutions’ and ‘kids deciding that a day off school is great, any excuse will do’ plus marching in a protest feels all grown-up and important

        (2) The school, and more importantly the school district – which is getting a lot of blame in the story, but the reporter doesn’t seem to have tried talking to any officials from there – are probably hampered by directives/regulations over ‘the right to an education’ which means you can’t just kick out disruptive students, they have to get an education somewhere. If there isn’t a programme for early school leavers/any other school willing to take them (and other schools will not take on trouble makers if they can avoid it), then sorry, original school is stuck with them. In the defence of the school district, they are the ones who will end up with the lawsuit taken by do-gooders/ambulance chasing lawyers over “your school expelled little Johnny for no reason, he has a right to an education, accommodate him or else we want $$$$$ in damages”. And just because little Johnny gets in fights or swears at the teacher and breaks up the classroom? That’s not a reason! Do you have it on tape? Independent witnesses? No good Teacher Jones saying little Johnny did it, that’s ‘he said/she said’. From the photos with that article, I also imagine there is some kind of outside pressure (they talk about bussing in kids to ‘increase diversity’) about it being racist to punish misbehaving black kids – or any colour kids, I guess: thanks, Governor Newsom, bleeding-heart do-gooders and ambulance-chasing lawyers!

        A principal concern of Skinner’s, and other child advocates who backed her bill, was the fact that disruption and willful defiance — vague categories that are subject to a range of interpretations — have had a disproportionate impact on African American students, males especially. When they are pushed out of school, they are more likely to come into contact with law enforcement, at times with disastrous consequences.

        “No student should be set back in their education for something as minor as chewing gum or talking in class,” said Angela McNair Turner, an attorney at Public Counsel, a public interest law firm that for years has been working to reduce suspensions and expulsions from California schools. “SB 419 is a huge step forward in addressing equity in schools across the state and eliminating the school to prison pipeline for youth in grades K-8, but there are still nearly 19,000 students who were suspended for defiance in the 2017-2018 school year who will not have these protections.”

        If you’re talking in class and you don’t shut up when the teacher tells you to stop, then you should be punished for it. It’s not minor, it leads to further bad behaviour, and if you don’t want to learn then you don’t get to prevent the other kids from learning.

        (3) They don’t need social workers. Well, they do, but not in the school. I agree that the loss of the home-school liaison co-ordinator was probably a huge disadvantage as the one n the school where I used to work did a great deal of work with parents and was involved with the entire team implementing the scheme:

        The scheme is also supported by the input of the Principal, Deputy Principal, Assistant Principals, Year Heads, Career Guidance teacher, Counsellor, Class Teachers and Subject Teachers all of whom are actively willing to listen to the needs of parents.

        The scheme recognises parents as the primary educators of their children and is constantly looking at ways to support parents in this important role. Home visits are an excellent way of checking in with parents and listening to their views and concerns.

        Parents are encouraged to take time for themselves and attend courses, which can be arranged free of charge during or after the school day. Courses can be on any subject e.g. Stress Management, Personal Development, Family Communication, First Aid, Alcohol and Drug Awareness, Cookery etc.

        These courses give parents the opportunity to share in the life and work of the school alongside their children e.g. Paired Reading – Helping students who have difficulty with reading, Maths for Fun – Maths games for students, Home Literacy Programme – Helps students work on their reading and comprehension in the home.

        Parents are welcome to drop into the H.S.C.L Office at any time during the school day. However the scheme is not confined within the school walls. As mentioned the H.S.C.L. teacher makes home visits.

        In addition the scheme builds bridges between the school and many groups, organisations and agencies which impinge on the lives of our students. Such links include The South East Health Board, Garda JLO, Fas, Youthreach etc.

        But what you need most of all is the authority to enforce discipline. There is only so much any school can do about the fucked-up home lives of its students, and little Johnny or Susie beating up other kids is not acceptable even if they have shitty parents who are all druggies and homeless. Until that’s fixed, no amount of “hire on more social workers” is going to make any difference.

    • Protagoras says:

      So far as I can tell, it’s Manchester City being banned from the Premier League which would be like the Astros being banned from Major League Baseball. The Champion’s League doesn’t really have an equivalent in American sports; it appears to be a big deal, but still being banned from that seems to be not quite so big as you seem to be imagining. But I don’t have a clear idea of the exact magnitude. I also have no clue if they’re also potentially in trouble with the Premier League and it just hasn’t been announced yet.

      • Deiseach says:

        So far as I can tell, it’s Manchester City being banned from the Premier League

        Not quite correct. The Premier League is the domestic league, and City could be looking at points deductions (though it’s not certain) there (I’m already waiting the chants of #taintedleague because some fans can’t handle real opposition, they have to conspiracy theorise that the fix is in). They’re not banned and won’t be, though.

        What they are banned from is banned for the next two seasons from European competitions. Ordinarily, the top four clubs from the Premier League automatically qualify to participate in the Champions League, and the fifth-placed team (and whoever wins the F.A. Cup, and the winners of the League Cup) qualify for the Europa League – the lesser competition.

        The ban means that from the next season (2020-21 and 2021-2022) even if City win the Premiership, have a top four placement or win the FA and/or League Cups, they will not be permitted to compete in either the Europa or Champions League.

        Is the Champions League a big deal? Well, yes. (2007 – the Miracle of Istanbul, 2019 – the Miracle of Anfield. Please watch the linked clip!) It’s the best clubs from across Europe all competing against each other (where “best” means “winners or top spots in their national leagues”), it generates a lot of revenue from television rights, and it’s seen as an important marker of a manager’s achievements – winning domestic trophies is the most important, but if you constantly win at home yet can’t make an impact in European competition, how good are you? (Liverpool have had the opposite problem: win handily enough, or at least do well, in Europe but cursed with not being able to win the Premiership in recent times). Win nothing either domestically or abroad, and you’re not very good now, are you? You ain’t got no history (warning: slightly NSFW language at the start). Oh, and it’s 6 European Cups now! 🙂

        EDIT: As the gaffer said, at least fail beautifully:

        “We want to celebrate the Champions League campaign, either with a proper finish or another goal. That is the plan: just try. If we can do it, wonderful. If not, then fail in the most beautiful way”

        • Protagoras says:

          Yeah, it occurred to me that I probably should have included an “and that isn’t what happened” at the end of my first sentence to make it clearer, rather than counting on the rest of my discussion to clarify things. Anyway, thanks for the insight into how big of a deal the Champions league is.

    • CaptainCrutch says:

      I’ve never been to San Francisco but from what is described it seems like a universal problem – anything school can do to students will only ever deter students who weren’t going to or couldn’t bully anyone to begin with. I suppose it’s some kind of anarcho-tyranny variant.

      My edgy hypothesis is that lowered child mortality has screwed everyone up by robbing us of will to just let some unworthy children to suffer and die. In this case, we lack political will to just expel the troublemaker or even imprison them. Last time I got repeatedly kicked in the face, police got involved.

    • Deiseach says:

      I’m sort of sorry for City, as this news surprised me, but mostly I’m going “You can’t buy titles!” 🙂

      Chelsea were pilloried for this before (being the beneficiaries of the largesse of a Russian oligarch) and now it looks like City have the same (a Saudi moneybags with the club as his personal toy). I’m sorry for Pep Guardiola, and I can’t really enjoy Man Utd’s decline (I never had any animus against Ole Gunnar Solskjær), so I don’t know if this is a good omen or a bad omen for Liverpool (everyone keeps saying we’ve the league won already! don’t they know that is a jinx? don’t they know how things always go wrong on the last day for us????)

    • Etoile says:

      Oh my goodness on the San Francisco story.

      So… am I reading between the lines correctly that the problem kids are among those bused in? And the problem isn’t them bullying other kids, but that they don’t have enough social workers and their buses leave too early for them to participate in activities? (Where they totally wouldn’t pose a problem to the other kids!)

      Regardless, bullies and aggressive kids are harmful not just to the rich kids with silver spoon in their mouths. Those kids have options, parents who will advocate on their behalf, who can afford private school. It is the less privileged kids, including those bused in for diversity reasons, who suffer — they are also potential bullying targets, their classes are disrupted, they lose out in teacher attention in favor of the disruptive ones, are more likely to need to fight for themselves and less likely to have adults on their side.

      (Also, kids are part tortured little souls who just want to be loved and understood, but in part they’re little demons who will take a mile for every inch you give. To varying degrees of course, but sometimes you need to rein in the latter before you can reach the former.)

    • ana53294 says:

      One of the scariest incidents at Aptos this school year occurred in September, when two girls attacked a sixth-grade girl on the schoolyard. The girls pulled the sixth-grader to the ground by her hair, pulled a chunk of it out of her skull and kicked her in the face and the back of her head.

      That’s assault. AFAIU, the police should deal with it. And there are also civil liabilities? Why doesn’t the mother sue the school, the kids and the parents (who are probably too poor, so the school will pay, but whatever)?

      I really, really don’t understand the parents. Unless they’re poor and don’t have resources, why do they allow crimes to be committed against the children?

      The girl called her parents after the attack on the yard, and Merrall said the principal, counselor and dean of students phoned her promptly. She sent a follow-up email to them laying out her concerns and asking for a plan to protect her daughter.

      “Nobody got back to me for two weeks!” she said.

      The school is the school, they don’t give a shit about kids, but parents should. She should have sued them the very next day after they didn’t expell the kids, dammit.

  10. Seppo says:

    A month ago Neike told us to try dosing ourselves with preposterous amounts of vitamin B12 and see what happened, so I did. Results: promising?

    I was expecting that either I wasn’t B12 deficient, in which case nothing would happen, or I was, in which case my moderate depression would steadily improve and be basically gone by now.

    Instead, I’ve been having dramatic episodes of anti-depression: colours become almost painfully vivid, and I can feel my mind trying to do the depression thing and failing. This seems consistent with how Neike describes her B12 recovery. But these effects are showing up at random, like once or twice a week.

    My best guess is that B12 deficiency was one of several problems. Currently investigating what other factors might be involved.

    • noyann says:

      Also look into the reason for the B12 deficiency. Intrinsic factor? Alcohol? Others? Ask a good physician, likely some lab tests will be necessary.

    • OrangeInflation says:

      What were your methods here? I’m skeptical of vitamin supplements, having heard and read that they’re unregulated and may not contain the substance advertised or in the advertised quantities. Is there a brand you trust? What dosing did you use?

      • Seppo says:

        Where I live, vitamin supplements are regulated as medicine; I’ve just been going to the nearest store and picking up whichever B12 supplement is on sale at the time. This often means local brands, but one of them was Nature’s Bounty, which is also available in the US. They seem to have an excellent reputation everywhere.

        For B12 specifically, correct dosage is not a huge issue because there’s no known maximum; as long as there’s at least some B12 in there, you can just take more.

        I’ve settled on 10,000 micrograms (sic! 4,000 times a typical dietary intake), 5mg twice a day. I have no particular justification for that number. When I started I had frequent cravings for MOAR TABLETS and decided to just go with it, but now they’ve settled down.

        Today I learned that some people have strong opinions about methylcobalamin vs cyanocobalamin, but I haven’t been paying much attention to which one I’ve been taking.

  11. JohnNV says:

    Does anybody on here play Angband? I only recently found it but I played Moria as a kid back in the (showing my age…) late 80s, and it was amazing how quickly the interface came back to me. I’ve got my High-Elf Mage up to Level 42 and am handling dragons pretty easily but not quite ready to take on Morgoth. Pretty addictive for a game with ASCII graphics.

  12. Well... says:

    Car people of SSC: what would you say is the complete list of common car maintenance procedures and repairs someone can do in his driveway without buying any fancy tools or equipment? (Assuming the person already owns a floor jack/jack stands/wrenches/etc. — but not a scan tool.)

    Over the years, on my wife’s cars and my own cars I have…

    – Changed brake pads
    – Changed the oil
    – Replaced light bulbs
    – Replaced broken power mirrors
    – Replaced wiper blades
    – Replaced antennae masts
    – Topped off brake, wiper, and other fluids
    – And maybe done some other small stuff I’m forgetting.

    What else should I be able to do on my own?

    I’m asking both for my own knowledge and because I would use that as a kind of checklist of things I want to make sure my kids know how to do or are at least familiar with by the time they are adults. (ETA: I do not think EVs will completely replace gasoline cars within 20 years, even if they do I doubt my kids will be buying brand-new cars then, and I also don’t think any cars will ever be maintenance-free. If the model of car ownership, even for used cars, becomes subscription-based then I would hope my kids reject that model as I plan to, but it’s still useful knowledge to have and might at least help keep them from getting ripped off.)

    Worth noting: on two different cars I have attempted to remove old radios/CD players and install new ones, but have never been successful for whatever reason. Luckily, I’ve found it’s always been pretty inexpensive and quick to have a pro do this.

    • The Nybbler says:

      If you can change the brake pads you can (and should) flush the brakes as well. No fancy equipment required unless you need to do it alone (then you need a pump). Probably under small stuff you should include replacing any accessible fuel lines or vacuum or coolant hoses if necessary, as well as the air filter.

      Replacing spark plugs and wires.

      Cleaning the throttle body.

      Replacing oxygen sensors (and you really should get a scan tool)

      Replacing serpentine belt (not timing belt, that’s a big job)

      Replacing cooling fans.

      Replacing fuel filter (if not in-tank)

      Replacing battery.

      If your time is much less valuable than money there’s all sorts of things you can do that I probably wouldn’t recommend in general, such as:

      Replacing muffler and/or catalytic converter (You will be in an awkward position and all the bolts will be rusted solid)

      Cleaning EGR passage (this is a terrible job. Certain year Miatas tended to have theirs clog, which is why I’ve done it. Another one you need codes to diagnose.)

      Cleaning fuel injectors

      Replacing starter and replacing alternator.

      Replacing shocks/struts and other suspension parts. (will require an alignment after)

      Replace brake rotors (but note they often just need to be resurfaced instead, and resurfacing requires a lathe)

      Replace brake cylinders and lines. (replacing the slave cylinder is another nasty job done in an awkward position, and routing the lines is often a job for Reed Richards).

      As for the radios, yeah, they make them fiendishly difficult; it’s not uncommon to have to take the whole dash apart.

    • DragonMilk says:

      Conversely, what should you leave to a professional?

      I recently let the dealer change out the thermostat after a P0128 code due to possibility of me really messing up a car.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Ah, I forgot the thermostat and the cooling system flush. Both things reasonable for a DIYer, replacing the thermostat (and thermostat gaskets) is one of the simpler jobs in most cars. Cooling system flush is not hard but pretty messy, so would be on the second half of my list. I’ve never replaced a radiator but I think it would be on my first or second list depending on the car (specifically, how much crap you have to move out of the way to get it out)

        Things I would definitely leave to a professional, even beyond my second list — anything involving poking around inside the fuel tank, like replacing an in-tank pump or filter. Repairing the fuel tank. Timing belt and water pump. Pretty much anything that involves taking the engine significantly apart (e.g. head gasket). Alignment — it can be done without an alignment rack on some cars, but it’s tricky. Brake rotor resurfacing, as mentioned. Replacing motor mounts (since this requires lifting the engine). Any steering system internals (though the power steering pump would be on my second list, as would tie rods and U-joints). Body work. Air conditioning work (special equipment; also licenses).

        • DragonMilk says:

          I looked up the 2015 Jeep Renegade on youtube and noped my way to a mechanic…though mostly because it’s my wife’s car and the cost/benefit was not purely economical.

          • GearRatio says:

            To be fair, most Chrysler products are unbelievable clusterfucks to try and fix anything on.

          • Well... says:

            *Fiat products, but yeah same diff

          • The Nybbler says:

            I just took a look at the first video I found. It shows replacing it with the engine out of the car. WTF? I then found this article. That’s nuts. And a reason for my caveat “most cars”.

            (my car is mid-engine, which makes just about any repair ridiculously difficult. But I knew that going in)

          • Well... says:

            my car is mid-engine

            So you’re either driving a supercar or a Toyota Previa…

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s not a Toyota Previa. I remember those, my parents test-drove one once (but bought a different car). Also not a supercar, with power well below the usual supercar cutoffs. There are more things in heaven and asphalt than are dreamt of in your philosophy 🙂

        • JayT says:

          Redoing the head gaskets actually isn’t that hard of a job. If you can follow directions and keep track of parts you can definitely do it. I’m not a mechanic by any stretch, but I’ve actually done this twice. That said, both times were to older cars though, so it might be harder on newer ones.

          • GearRatio says:

            Depends a lot on the car. Subaru’s are sort of the gold standard “this is a pain in the ass” car to do it on; you have to take the engine out of the car, get the heads machined, know how to identify the “right” updated head gaskets to use and follow a really specific torque sequence to get the new (always new, never the old ones) head bolts tightened down correctly.

            My buddy has a early 2000’s civic that wasn’t nearly as much trouble – the head faces up, so for him he just popped a bunch of bolts off in about a half hour, cleaned the surfaces, tossed on the head and torqued everything to a (much simpler) spec.

            I think the rule of thumb here is if the model and year of vehicle is known for head gasket problems it’s a little bit more trouble to repair it correctly, and if you have to take the engine out to do it it’s enormously more difficult. Any machining requirements essentially take the possibility of doing it 100% by yourself without professional mechanics being involved out completely.

          • Paul Brinkley says:

            Experience has made me extremely leery of doing head gasket work, even on older models, mostly because anything I can think of that would require changing the head gasket typically involves warpage to the engine head or the block itself, which is often enough to total the vehicle. A specialist on Datsun / Nissan’s Z series once described it to me as “brain surgery”.

            So I’m very surprised you were able to do gasket work on a car that wasn’t new. What was the story?

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yeah, the last car I considered doing it on (but decided against) was a Subaru. I think you can get away without machining the heads if you catch the problem early enough, but you can’t know that until you have the engine apart and it’s STILL a major pain in the ass.

            Oh yeah, and it’s a boxer engine, so there’s two of them.

          • JayT says:

            One was on a Chevy 350 van that blew a gasket, and my dad wanted to get a few more years out of, so we worked on it together. The other was on an ’85 Mustang that my friends and I would race, and blew the gasket. There was warping on that one, so we eventually needed to replace the engine, but we got one more race out of it.

      • GearRatio says:

        The big “you shouldn’t do this” for most people is transmission work. It’s complex and hard and easy to screw up/lose parts.

        With everything else, it’s a difficulty + risk / benefit type of thing. Brake work is really expensive for the limited amount of work it takes. Brake work is moderately risky (difficulty level is low; non-working brakes are dangerous). Most careful people of low-to-moderate income would be benefited from taking the risk of doing brakes, especially if it’s just pads. Less people should remove an engine to do a clutch even though the potential financial benefit is higher, because it’s a lot more work and there’s a lot more to mess up.

    • noyann says:

      Are there diy books for your car, or a not too different model?
      They would also teach your kids the connection between technical documentation and manual work.

    • rocoulm says:

      Rotating your tires, while a pain, is possible with what you have. Surprisingly few people do this regularly, but you really should.

      That said, my local shop charges like $15 for it, so maybe it wouldn’t be worth it.

    • GearRatio says:

      With the stuff you listed, you can drop transmissions, remove axles, do motor mounts, do radiators, replace hoses, flush various fluids, remove gas tanks, remove or flush differentials, etc. It’s almost quicker to list the stuff you can’t do:

      -You can’t safely remove a motor. You would need an engine hoist.

      -You can’t machine things; you would need at minimum a belt sander and to do it right much more. Everyone shops this out.

      -You can’t do computer work/flashing. You need flashing stuff to do that.

      -You can’t do anything that requires welding.

      -You can’t do anything that requires a press (at least you can’t do it right; there’s some cheat-y stuff you can do for bearings).

      There’s also some stuff that you can do but shouldn’t, really – Alignments are like this.

      Almost anything else you can do, it’s all nut-and-bolt work; it’s just a question of whether it’s economical for you to do / worth the risk of injury or other catastrophe. If I had to make a short list of things to be competent at beyond what I perceive as “normal”, it would be this:

      Flood-clear mode for checking compression on cars you are buying + other stuff for buying used cars (getting underneath and looking for rust, reading maintenance records, shaking the car to check shocks, going full speed and letting go of the steering to see if it pulls, braking to see if it pulls/squeaks/squeals, assessing fluid colors, cranking the wheel for power steering system, etc).

      Tensioning belts properly

      Getting into the habit of paying attention to torque values (and having both a big and little torque wrench).

      Getting familiar with a voltage meter

      Getting a better obd reader that gives you more data about how a modern car is running beyond simple codes

      Knowing that hitting a starter with a hammer will make it work again for a while usually

      Knowing and heading off “big, known” issues with your car before they actually come up (subaru head gaskets, Nissan CVT issues, etc)

    • anon-e-moose says:

      First and foremost I would recommend acquiring a scan tool if you intend to work on anything from the late 90s forward. You’ll want an OBDII tool–it’s popular now to re-purpose an old android phone to run the software, and use a plug-in dongle to interface with the vehicle. For the cost of a good floor jack, you will be much better equipped to work on modern systems. There’s very little that you can do nowadays without a scan tool.

      Now, looking at your listed systems, you list is comprehensive for most home mechanics. Brakes are the generally the greatest money-savers in pure dollar outlay terms, while fluid changes are the least. It costs me more to change my oil than paying a quick-lube, even assuming no labor costs. Depending on the vehicle, spark plugs and coil pack replacement can save you a lot too. You should know how to replace various filters: cabin (sometimes multiple), intake and oil (to ensure the filter is new after change, rather than physically replacing it yourself). This is a common service center scam, particularly targeting young women—they’ll bill for a new filter but not replace it.

      I would then advance to basic mechanical systems and how they work. It’s beneficial, IMO to understand the bare basics of how systems function so that you can have a more informed discussion with you mechanic when troubleshooting. Fuel+spark+compression+air=propulsion, or how a tie rod functions to affect your steering. For example: If your engine is overheating, you can troubleshoot this yourself easily if you understand how your cooling system functions. Even if you can’t physically do the work, your mechanic will have a better understanding of the issue if you can describe the troubleshooting steps you’ve tried before they begin billing you. Engineering Explained on youtube is a good source for these types of discussions. Additionly, model-specifc forms on facebook and bulletin boards are an excellent resource for both pre and post purchase research—you can often find common pain points though these resources, though some may be overblown. (*cough* e46 M3 subframe *cough*)

      You’ll find that most new vehicles are much more difficult for non-professionals to diagnose and troubleshoot—hence the scan tool recommendation. A classic example is the headlight replacement on certain late model VWs—begin by removing the front bumper and accessories, and then blindly grope various electrical connectors until you find the right one. No problem if you’ve done it 100 times before but challenging for a home mechanic. Or the oil filter on the mid-00 Subie Outbacks, lol.

      Realistically, I believe automotive knowledge going forward will be more centered around ensuring that you don’t get ripped off by a bad mechanic, versus accurately diagnosing and correcting issues yourself. Modern automobiles are simply too complex for most home mechanics, unless it’s a hobby or passion. We maintain 3 vehicles now, 2 daily drivers (2014 and 2016) and a purpose built Jeep for rock crawling, and frankly I don’t work on the DDs aside from items on your list, despite having tools and ability to do engine-out work.

      I would add that I have lots of auto-savvy friends who purchase older, mechanically simple vehicles for their children’s first cars, with the intent of teaching these skills. I pretty strongly disagree with this idea, primarily because of safety and reliability issues. Modern vehicles are leagues safer than even mid 00s cars, and given new drivers accident rates, I believe more safety is worthwhile if the finances can support it.

      • DragonMilk says:

        What makes the modern vehicles safer?

        My dad once got in an accident where a sports car slammed into his Lincoln mark VII on the passenger side (other driver noticed he was on the wrong lane for a split and decided to swerve back than detour).

        Because my dad’s gas guzzler was built like a tank, he actually drove off with a severely dented door rather than get totaled or killed by the totaled sports car.

        As such, I’ve had a bias toward heavier and/or bigger vehicles for safety…what am I missing in this simplistic calculation?

        • anon-e-moose says:

          Old iron (your dad’s Lincoln) gives the impression that it’s safer due to it’s thicker sheet metal. However, that’s only a surface level impression. Modern crash cells and crumple zones are vastly superior to anything that’s been produced before CAD and force analysis (not the right terminology). I don’t know if youtube links are allowed here, but a search for “2009 Chevy Malibu vs 1959 Bel Air Crash Test” will be all you need. Note the intrusion into the passenger zone seen in the Bel Air.

          Your dad’s vehicles trades low-speed impact resistance (dented sheetmetal) with high speed impact distribution. In a new vehicle, that sheet metal crumples and distributed energy around the passenger compartment. Your dad’s Lincoln transmits that energy into the passenger compartment. Most modern vehicles are totaled after any significant impact anyway due to sensor costs, so the idea is “let’s divert as much force as possible around the passenger cell, so that the passengers receive less energy.”

          Sheet metal is replaceable, the squishy meatbags inside the sheet metal are not. This concept of energy distribution is the major advancement in crash protection. If the outside of your car looks like crumpled aluminum foil after impact, that’s a very good thing.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Very interesting, watched the vid and glad to correct my misconception!

            If I’m understanding right, modern cars are engineered so that any significant crash will total it as saving the passenger is the priority, whereas older cars may be cheaper to repair after a car, but leave the passengers…dead?

          • hls2003 says:

            The commentary on crumple zones vs. hard sheet metal is all true, but it does not falsify your initial reaction that heavier vehicles are safer. They are. It’s basic physics; the heavier vehicle will experience less (negative) acceleration in a crash than the lighter vehicle. Less acceleration means less damage to the occupant. For a thought experiment, imagine a semi truck hitting a car. The car will go flying, the truck will hardly move. This is unambiguously good for the occupant of the heavier vehicle.

          • DragonMilk says:

            @hls2003

            Yup, that was my starting point. Basic physics makes me want to be in a “mass”ive vehicle over a light, green one.

            But I had no idea how much engineering advances had been made in passenger safety/design. So all else equal I will still pick a very heavy modern car.

          • EchoChaos says:

            Note that video is an offset frontal impact, which is literally the worst possible collision for a 1959 Bel Air because it does have stiff bars in order to prevent a car from riding up into the compartment like that, but an offset frontal slides right beside them.

            Now, that still matters a lot, because offset frontal impacts happen in real life and surviving them is great.

            But even at low-speed impacts, a lot more of the force of impact in older cars ends up giving things like whiplash that doesn’t exist when the crumple zones are caved in.

          • Garrett says:

            I’ll add that in EMS the engineering work for safety done on vehicles has improved so fast that there are still people and protocols which haven’t caught up. It used to be that trauma patients would be treated/flown based on “mechanism of injury” alone. Read: highway-speed crash or roll-over.

            This is no longer the case. As you might imagine, a higher-speed impact is always going to be more dangerous. However, the safety cage design principle has *amazing* implications for survivability.

            Best thing you can do to improve your safety: wear your seatbelt. One of the remaining risks for serious injury is “ejection” – being thrown from the vehicle.

    • zoozoc says:

      I’m surprised no one has mentioned it yet.

      1. Draining and replacing coolant
      2. Draining and replacing transmission fluid (my understanding is that this is more necessary for older cars). A flush is usually necessary to get the other half of the fluid that is throughout the engine block.

      I recently did both. #1 was easy as there was a plug at the bottom of the radiator that I placed a bucket and just waited for it to drain. Then unplugged and filled it back up. I didn’t bother with flushing since I was replacing at a proper interval such that the old coolant wasn’t that old. #2 took more work and I did flush to get it all out. And #2 was a lot messier.

  13. Deiseach says:

    Listening to the news over the past couple of days, I think Boris Johnson has been very clever in appointing/getting Dominic Cummings to be part of his government.

    No, it’s not because “Hurrah, Cummings is rationalist-adjacent! He wants to break things and move fast!” and anyway I doubt much, if any at all, of Cummings’ grandiose imaginings will ever actually happen the way or on the scale he conceives.

    I’ve never thought Boris a fool, the “cripes, old chum” persona he affects is a carefully-crafted image to make people underestimate him. The reason I think he’s been very clever about Cummings is that, with the recent Cabinet reshuffle, all the talk is “Boris is being led around by Cummings, Cummings is the organ grinder and Boris the monkey, Cummings is behind it all, Cummings is purging the undesirables”. One news article even referred to him as Boris’ consigliere.

    Now, I don’t believe Boris is being led around anywhere by anyone (except by Little Boris, but that’s another matter) and I don’t believe Cummings is the grand mastermind lurking in the shadows, but I do think it’s damn handy for Boris to have people believing that. Boris is well able to maneouvre out people he doesn’t want – look how he finagled Sajid Javid into quitting – but having an attack dog to do the dirty work is also something in recent tradition within UK politics. For New Labour it was Peter Mandelson, the Prince of Darkness; for Tony Blair, it was Alastair Campbell; for the Tories (and Boris in his mayoral campaign) it was Lynton Crosby.

    And now it’s looking like Cummings for Boris as PM. Now, the attack dog does not have to be a hatchet man, but he is generally the enforcer of the message, making sure everyone listens to their master’s voice. And with the current purge getting rid of anyone not seen as a true-blue Leaver/Boris loyalist, including axing a competent Northern Ireland secretary (his predecessor was this clueless but was a Leaver and May loyalist in Theresa May’s administration), there may be people looking around for someone to blame.

    So having someone that Boris can go “Cripes, chum, I’d love to but Dominic says, you know?” when giving them the boot is very, very useful. And when Cummings’ usefulness is over, then Boris can get rid of him as well with little to no protest since all the grudges about poor treatment will be held against him, not Boris.

    Of course, I could be reading 4-dimensional chess-playing into all this that is just not there, but I do think (a) Boris is not the fool he likes to pretend to be (b) that he would forgive and forget Gove’s earlier backstabbing to the extent of genuinely embracing a former Gove protegé seems much less likely than that he would pragmatically use him (c) Cummings is well able to make enemies with his own personality and attitude and demeanour, and there is a lot of lingering dislike of him amongst civil servants from when he was Gove’s teacher’s pet (d) all this means that he’s conceited enough to think he’s the one wielding the power when he is not so (e) I would not be at all surprised if Boris is using him as a cat’s paw.

    • Nick says:

      I don’t know about the rest of your four dimensional chess, but (a) is definitely true, and (b) is less relevant, I think, than the fact that Cummings is the one who led the original Brexit campaign to victory. It’s not surprising that that came with spoils; that doesn’t mean Cummings becomes a dark mastermind, of course.

    • Are there really people who don’t think Boris knows what he’s doing? It seems obvious that he’s been playing 4-d chess since at least the Brexit vote.

      • Aftagley says:

        It seems obvious that he’s been playing 4-d chess since at least the Brexit vote.

        What? Obvious to whom?

        Let’s go through a quick Timeline post Brexit Vote:
        -Couldn’t get Conservative Support following the Brexit Vote. At the time, even former allies lacked confidence in his ability to lead the tories.
        – Supported Andrea Leadsom to be the new PM, she dropped out a week later.
        – Took the job as Foreign Secretary for 2 years and, well, didn’t do that great a job. Consistently acted in impulsive and/or bizarre ways, eventually left the government to return to parliament.
        – As PM, was unable to fufill promise to remove UK from EU by October 31st
        – Failed and damaged the power of the PM’s office during the whole prorogueing debacle.

        That’s just off the top of my head, and related to a pretty short period of time. If you’d like me to actually do some research, please let me know.

        I’m not saying he’s incompetent or whatever, just that his skillset seems to be in identifying opportunities and capitalizing on them, not necessarily long-term planning or manipulation.

        • Granted, I don’t know a lot about British politics. But I do remember people saying in 2016 that Boris Johnson didn’t attempt to become the prime minister after Cameron resigned because he expected turbulence and would swoop in later to be the hero and that’s exactly what happened.

          • Aftagley says:

            Right… but that kind of analysis depends on hindsight and prior belief in 4-d chess.

            What happened in 2016 is that Boris was standing for leadership and relied on a key endorsement from then-justice minister, Michael Gove. Immediately before the election, Gove either decided Johnson wasn’t capable of leading OR stabbed Johnson in the back. Either way, Gove absolutely savaged Johnson in the press then decided to run for the conservative nomination himself. Gove was more connected then Johnson and drew from the same supporter base and eroded Johnson’s support enough to where it was obvious Boris couldn’t win. Seeing that he now had little chance of winning, Johnson gave a speech in which he said he couldn’t be prime minister.

            Believing that this was all a plan on Johnson’s part is nuts. It also relies on Johnson enacting a plan that would severely diminish (at least temporarily) his prestige and overall reputation for the not-at-all guaranteed long term goal of May being hated and incompetent, but not enough of each to let labor win.

            I mean, I play a Tzeench warband in 40k, but even that’s a bit too much of a “JUST AS PLANNED” for me.

          • that kind of analysis depends on hindsight

            My point is that people were saying it all the way back in 2016. I don’t know what happened. It just seems strange how well that prediction bore out.

          • Aftagley says:

            Ah, ok. I see the issue. My apologies.

            My point is that people were saying it all the way back in 2016.

            I’m pretty sure this is false, or at least if it’s true it was only among the absolute fringes of society. I just read through around 25 different reports about Johnson dated from June-October 2016 (dates picked to be directly before and slightly after the Conservative Leadership election, but not extending far enough into May’s tenure for people to see just how truly ineffective she was). Literally none of them included this theory, even normally pro-Johnson papers.

            I think your memory of this series of events is incorrect, although if you’ve got any contemporaneous sources I’d be very interested in seeing them.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            Yeah, that can’t possibly be true. In the 5 days between Brexit and Gove stabbing him, literally everyone assumed Boris would stand. After Gove stabbed him, the obvious explanation for him not standing was that his chances of winning were low and even if he’d won he’d have had much less support than anticipated.

          • Deiseach says:

            Wrong Species, Boris went for the job of leader of the party and prime minister but was brutally stabbed in the back by Michael Gove, the guy who had up to then been his partner in crime (I have no idea why Gove thought anyone would pick him as potential PM, apart from his ambitious journalist wife, Sarah Vane, who played the Lady Macbeth to his dagger-wielding back-stabber).

            That’s how Theresa May happened. That Boris then managed to clamber his way back, and into the ultimate job, is testament to what I’ve been saying – he’s no fool. Using Cummings to help him was smart, and I do think he’s using Cummings rather than the other way round.

            Here, for example, is an opinion column by some judy whose job is to write clickbaity opinion columns, so don’t look to it for erudite political analysis. But the perception being peddled here is what I’m trying to get at – she may be sneering at a cabinet of all the talents (and she may not be wrong about the level of mediocrity and the selection been done on loyalty and supineness), but she’s sneering that Cummings is the one doing the puppeteering, not Boris:

            And so to a series of appointments widely reported as a triumph for prime ministerial carer Dominic Cummings, who never lets up in his quest for the best and the brightest.

            …Still, it’s always nice to see the prime minister allowed down from the attic to do a bit of prime ministering.

            …Downing Street characterised its new working relationship with this chancellor as “hand in glove”, an analogy that appears to cast Mr Sunak as a glove. The question is whether he will be of the puppet variety or simply the latex prophylactic worn as Cummings begins his cavity search of the public finances.

            …From one tedious fandom to another, meanwhile, as the reshuffle drama merely adds another 37 volumes to the vast amount of Cummingslore being churned out every week by the Classic Subs to his Classic Dom. Barely 10 days ago, reports of Cummings’s waning influence were dismissed breathlessly by some insider or other with the words: “Whitehall is littered with the bodies of those who have underestimated Dom.”

            And yet … is it really, babe? Whitehall is now littered with living secretaries of state such as Gavin Williamson, while Liz Truss – who’d lose a battle of wits with an emoji – is the longest serving cabinet minister. It’s not exactly Team of Rivals, is it?

            You see? If this reshuffled Cabinet turns out to be incapable of fighting its way out of a wet paper bag, then it’s Cummings fault because he’s the mastermind pulling the strings. Boris is the Prime Minister and it should be his responsibility, but he’s managed to set up a scapegoat to take the fall should that be necessary. And Cummings is managing to wield his (perceived) power and influence in such a way that he’s alienating all possible allies, so no-one is going to be there to help him when it’s time to take that fall. Rapid ascent can be followed by as rapid descent.

  14. sty_silver says:

    Bloomberg is at 31% on predictit and 30.8% on BetFair to win the nomination. Conversely, 538 has him on 7%.

    Earlier today, I’ve seen the theory on twitter that Bloomberg is buying stocks in the markets to artificially inflate his price.

    What do you think? It seems quite unlikely to me – while it is true that he has enough money to steer the market in whatever direction he wants to, it would a) be a pretty scandalous thing to do (anyone know if it would be illegal?) and b) probably not very effective, since most people don’t know that betting markets are a thing. It seems far more likely to me that 538 is just wrong.

    • mnov says:

      The gambling links are bets on who becomes the nominee, whereas the 538 link is about who wins a majority/plurality of delegates. 538 gives 37% to “no one gets a majority”, so the gambling odds are consistent with the 538 odds if P(Bloomberg wins nomination | No one gets a majority) ≈ 2/3

      • If no one gets the majority of delegates and Bloomberg gets the nomination, there are going to be honest-to-God riots. Bloomberg has no advantage against Trump and the Democrat party has to know that. There’s no way there’s a 2/3 chance that Bloomberg would win the nomination in that scenario.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Yes and no.
        The market number for Bloomberg winning is 4x the 538 number for his winning a majority. But it’s only 2x the 538 number for his winning a plurality. It seems to me extremely likely that if Bloomberg wins a plurality that he will win the nomination.

        But narrowing that last discrepancy is hard. Taking a lane model, I think that if any moderate had a plurality, the convention would pick them. And if Sanders has a narrow lead over a moderate, the convention would pick that moderate. So to reconcile the two, there has to be a 15% chance that Bloomberg comes in close second to Sanders. 538 says that there is a 15% chance that Sanders has a plurality but not a majority. Bloomberg needs all of that to match the betting markets. But what if he isn’t number 2? What if it isn’t close?

        I think that the markets disagree with 538, but not by a huge shocking amount.

        • acymetric says:

          I think that the markets disagree with 538, but not by a huge shocking amount.

          I think the difference can probably mostly be explained by the markets overestimating the liklihood of Bloomberg getting the nomination in a brokered convention where he does not have a majority or plurality.

          There has definitely been a narrative in some places that Bloomberg is the “obvious” choice to emerge from a brokered convention regardless of where he actually finishes, and that is probably inflating the market there.

      • sty_silver says:

        My bad – thanks.

    • acymetric says:

      Why are we discounting the possibility that PredictIt and BetFair are wrong?

      People here treat those sites like the Bible for some reason.

      • Vitor says:

        The “some reason” is called the efficient market hypothesis.

        Anyone who actually believes 538 could buy a thing for 69 cents that has 93% probability of being worth a dollar. That’s a huge profit! So, either 538 is not credible, or there are significant hurdles to actually execute large scale trades on predictit and betfair (i.e., “friction”).

        Anecdotal evidence for friction: in 2016, I put in $50 on betfair betting that trump will manage to finish his first term. Predictions were at ridiculous 50/50 odds back then. Now, three years later, betfair is no longer available in my country (I think they stopped operating due to a new gambling law?). I can’t even log into my account anymore. No idea if they’ll honor the bet, but I’ll at least try to collect my $100 from them come 2021.

        • Urstoff says:

          Doesn’t the relatively low volume of trades on betting markets make their information discovery abilities questionable?

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I wouldn’t say that the volume is low. Can you quantify that? How much volume would you say is enough?

          • Urstoff says:

            More of a hypothesis, I guess. Surely there’s some threshold of volume/participants below which information discovery is not reliable. A prediction market with two people won’t tell you anything, would it?

        • John Schilling says:

          Anyone who actually believes 538 could buy a thing for 69 cents that has 93% probability of being worth a dollar. That’s a huge profit!

          Not if the transaction costs are so much as a shiny quarter, it isn’t. Do you understand what the actual transaction costs in existing prediction markets are? And the capitalization limits?

          Also, the “efficient market hypothesis” is not, not not not not not, “anything that has the word ‘market’ in its name and involves people buying and selling stuff, will be ‘efficient'”. Put together a list of criteria that should be satisfied for a market to be considered efficient, assess how well predictit and betfair meet those criteria, and get back to us.

          • albatross11 says:

            ISTM that the fact that transaction costs, betting limits, etc., make it hard to do arbitrage between prediction markets, or to use prediction markets to hedge against undesirable outcomes, are part of why the market isn’t very efficient.

          • Vitor says:

            You’re being disingenuous. A shiny quarter per dollar would actually be a huge transaction cost.

            I know what the EMH says. In fact, I do research on markets that are inefficient in particular ways. And I even explicitly talked about friction being the prime candidate to explain what we’re seeing!

            My point (which I perhaps didn’t make explicit enough), is that at least one of two surprising things must be true: either prediction markets are very very far from efficient (further than I would have naively thought), or there is a meaningful, significant disagreement between them and 538.

          • John Schilling says:

            You’re being disingenuous. A shiny quarter per dollar would actually be a huge transaction cost.

            I’m not the one who expressed the problem in terms of a single-dollar investment. But yes, it would be a huge transaction cost.

            And I repeat my original question: Do you understand what the actual transaction costs in existing prediction markets are? Show your work, please.

        • This is the same market that said Kamala Harris was the front runner based on nothing but media hype. I have to wonder how wrong they can be before people stop believing them. I made this point a few months ago and some people said I was just missing something that the markets saw. But they weren’t any more predictive than Twitter journalists.

          • viVI_IViv says:

            I have to wonder how wrong they can be before people stop believing them.

            They appeal to a certain kind of libertarians who believe in them for ideological reasons (e.g. the efficient market hypothesis mentioned above), not because of empirical evidence.

          • Bet against them. Get paid!

          • Lambert says:

            Have all your winnings eaten by transaction costs and regulatory uncertainty!

          • broblawsky says:

            Bet against them. Get paid!

            @Alexander_Turok: Out of curiosity, would you be willing to say what kind of return you’ve made on betting markets, and how much you’ve put into them? I understand if you’re uncomfortable with the idea. Thanks.

          • sty_silver says:

            So you’re concluding that BetFair is inaccurate based on a single case where an outcome didn’t come true – a case where the probability wasn’t even above 50% – even though any systematic evaluation shows that they’re excellently calibrated.

            Doesn’t seem convincing. I simply deny that Kamala wasn’t the front runner.

          • @broblawsky, Nothing yet. I have 850$ on Trump losing.

          • Jon S says:

            @broblawsky I’ve put in a total of $42k and am up $17K (pretax) over the last 3.5 years. I am a Superforecaster, I assume my results are ~99th percentile. The website has made about $12K in fees from my activity.

            It’s a hobby, not anywhere close to a profitable use of time (though if someone put some money in just to pick up the lowest-hanging fruit, they’d make a reasonable return).

          • broblawsky says:

            Nothing yet. I have 850$ on Trump losing.

            Thank you.

            I’ve put in a total of $42k and am up $17K (pretax) over the last 3.5 years. I am a Superforecaster, I assume my results are ~99th percentile. The website has made about $12K in fees from my activity.

            It’s a hobby, not anywhere close to a profitable use of time (though if someone put some money in just to pick up the lowest-hanging fruit, they’d make a reasonable return).

            Thanks. That’s actually a pretty decent rate of return (~10%), for gambling.

            I’m probably going to start a new post on the next open thread so I can see how people here do on betting markets.

          • J Mann says:

            This is the same market that said Kamala Harris was the front runner based on nothing but media hype.

            The EMH isn’t that an efficient market can predict the future accurately, it’s (roughly) that it accurately reflects all public information (and some private information).

            More precisely, it’s that there’s no mechanical rule you can apply to beat the market.

            I think predicting Kamala as the front-runner going in was a good prediction – she was smart, hard working, popular, demographically well suited, with prosecutorial bona-fides to help her appeal to middle America. I think it’s surprising that she crashed and burned, not predictable.

    • Jon S says:

      It would not be that scandalous, and in 2008 and 2012 it’s likely that InTrade (whose markets got talked about on TV) was manipulated when its McCain/Romney markets diverged sharply from BetFair (which was not as well known in the US despite being more liquid). But, I agree that it’s unlikely someone is manipulating it in this case.

      Markets in individual states give Bloomberg significant chances of winning those, which is more of a direct contradiction to 538’s results.

      If someone were manipulating these markets, I’d expect a few things to be different:
      – he’d be trading higher on PredictIt than BetFair, since PredictIt’s frictions to arbitrage are much greater
      – either the manipulation would be lazy and not extend to secondary markets like individual states (so he’d be trading fairly likely to win overall but very unlikely to win individual states), or the manipulation would be thorough and the individual states would be uniformly manipulated (and since they’re less liquid, the states would have some crazy markets). I don’t think either of those is the case – he’s trading with significant chances of winning individual states but not any higher than his nomination odds. There’s also a lot of variation in the level he’s trading in individual states.
      – if the less-liquid secondary markets are being manipulated, I’d expect to see large resting bids that aren’t present (if you want to trade efficiently and get a good price for your buys, you won’t show giant size at once and you’ll carefully work into a position; if you just want to move a price you can advertise a large bid).

    • Aftagley says:

      Bloomberg is at 31% on predictit and 30.8% on BetFair to win the nomination. Conversely, 538 has him on 7%.

      Maybe this isn’t an accurate way of looking at it, but I’ve always just seen predictit and betFair to be polling sites aimed at capturing the viewpoints of the kind of people who would use Predictit and BetFair

      I’d argue the opinions, mores and priorities of the type of people comfortable with online betting differ pretty highly from the general population.

      • I’d argue the opinions, mores and priorities of the type of people comfortable with online betting differ pretty highly from the general population.

        And if this leads to a predictable bias, you can bet against it and win money.

        • Aftagley says:

          Still though, the “you” in this case is still the kind of person who would use Predictit and BetFair, so presumably they’d also (in aggregate) still possess whatever bias was causing this discrepancy.

        • Guy in TN says:

          And if this leads to a predictable bias, you can bet against it and win money.

          Sure, but “can you make money off Predictit?” is a different question than “is Predictit more accurate than 538’s polling aggregation?”

          I make money off of Predictit, sure. I make money because it’s easy to identify the ways in which it is inaccurate.

      • sty_silver says:

        This is definitely the wrong way to look at it. It basically implies that everyone who bets is so blinded by their preferences that they exclusively bet on the person they want to win, which seems like an enormous accusation of incompetence on the part of the shareholders for which you provided zero evidence. It’s also contradicted by the only two cases of someone betting I can concretely recall, which is Scott betting on Biden and a friend of mine betting on Trump in 2016 because she thought he was undervalued. In neither case was the person supporting the candidate they bet on.

        • Aftagley says:

          I’m not implying they are betting for their favorite candidate, merely the candidate they think will win. My apologies for not making that clearer in the initial post.

          I don’t think that they’re blinded by preferences, but I do think that they may be blind in other ways.

          • Jon S says:

            Certainly the people who are interested in betting on probabilities of events is a group with different characteristics than the general population. Why would those differences make them particularly biased? At least as far as estimating probabilities goes, I’d expect them to be much less biased than the general population.

          • Aftagley says:

            Thisheavenlyconjugation mentions this below, but the current BetFair prediction has Clinton as being the 5th most likely candidate to win the Democratic nomination. Previously I believe she rose as high as 3rd. That is downright bonkers and implies a disconnect from reality that make me not trust anything about the system. Not even Clinton fans think she could/would win the nomination, and valuing her over someone like Warren is just nuts.

            I can’t tell why this bias exists or what particular factors cause it, but I can see the data input that goes into the black box and the predictions that come out.

          • sty_silver says:

            Clinton is about the last person you would expect betting folks to be biased towards, so this seems to be evidence against your theory?

          • Aftagley says:

            Like I said: I don’t think that they’re blinded by preferences, but I do think that they may be blind in other ways.

            I don’t think there is a large cohort of Hillary stans out there who are putting money behind there conviction that she’ll rise again. In fact, the only time I hear Hillary’s name come up as a potentially viable candidate, it’s from people below who see all Dems as an outgroup who are mysteriously in the thrall of the Clintons.

          • Deiseach says:

            the current BetFair prediction has Clinton as being the 5th most likely candidate to win the Democratic nomination

            Well, somebody is mischief-making!

          • The Nybbler says:

            I can’t see why Bloomberg would choose Hillary. Getting the last bit of Pantsuit Nation that wouldn’t already vote for him to do so wouldn’t be much worth to him. A black running mate would likely be his best bet. I suspect this rumor was started by a Republican.

        • Guy in TN says:

          @sty_silver

          It basically implies that everyone who bets is so blinded by their preferences that they exclusively bet on the person they want to win, which seems like an enormous accusation of incompetence on the part of the shareholders for which you provided zero evidence.

          His argument doesn’t imply that everyone who bets does so exclusively on the person they want to win. But it is reasonable to think that some portion of the betters are influenced by some degree of optimism bias. This seems far more reasonable than denying that optimism bias exists.

          The argument is straightforward: Aggregated dollars are not aggregated knowledge units. A rich man’s $100 bet does not contain the same knowledge units as a poor man’s $100 bet. And the greater the discrepancy, the more the “information” the market conveys is distorted.

          There’s no first-principles logic that leads to the conclusion that prediction markets will always be more accurate than simple polling, even in a hypothetical friction-less scenario.

      • Ghillie Dhu says:

        FWIW, I’ve made some money in the past on PredictIt by screening* multiway markets and buying all the ‘No’ contracts** for a guaranteed profit, even considering the costs.
        I’ve stopped because the ROI on the time wasn’t appealing anymore given the capitalization limits & my current financial circumstances.

        So there’s definitely some irrational exuberance by supporters (a point in favor of the poll view), but there are also shrikes keeping them somewhat in check.

        *Not all multiway markets are dutch books (~20% when I last checked)
        **Given the 10% rake on profits, the proper proportion is dependent on the mix of prices

        • Aftagley says:

          FWIW, I’ve made some money in the past on PredictIt by screening* multiway markets and buying all the ‘No’ contracts** for a guaranteed profit, even considering the costs.

          There’s a particular kind of post I see on here where I can tell that what’s been written is fascinating, but I don’t understand the topic well enough to know why. Would you be willing to unpack and/or explain this sentence please?

          • Ghillie Dhu says:

            Sure, I’ll give it a shot; I’m going to start with the very basics to try to avoid additional clarifications later, so apologies if it seems patronizing.

            There are two kinds of market on PredictIt: single question & multiway markets. The former lets you buy contracts on either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ but not both, and offers no way to make a guaranteed profit. The latter lets you buy either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on each of the options independently (but still can’t buy both ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ for the same option). In both types of market, PredictIt balances the ‘Yes’s & ‘No’s against each other so they’re not taking on any risk, but there’s no automatic mechanism balancing the prices in multiway markets across options.

            Contrived example:
            Rock - Yes: 45c; No: 55c
            Paper - Yes: 40c; No: 60c
            Scissors - Yes: 30c; No: 70c

            If you were to buy all the ‘Yes’ contracts, it would cost $1.15, and the best you’d get back would be 94.5c (if Rock won; PredictIt takes 10% of the profit on a winning contract, so 45c + 90% * 55c); guaranteed loss. However, if you bought all the ‘No’ contracts, it would cost $1.85 and the worst you’d get back would be $1.915 (if Scissors won); buying unequal numbers of contracts could get you close to a constant amount back regardless of the winner. PredictIt even recognizes what your aggregate risk is in a given market and will credit your account with the net (so your account balance goes down when buying the ‘No’ on the first option and back up when buying the other ‘No’s).

            The main limit on this strategy are that you can have no more than $850 “invested” in any one contract (i.e., the nominal value of the individual contracts; in the example, you could buy no more than 1214 ‘No’ Scissors contracts, and to get a guaranteed profit you end up buying more of the most expensive ‘No’s*).

            The additional caveat is that there’s a 5% charge when you withdraw money from your PredictIt account; the profit in my example isn’t enough to cover this, but since it’s only incurred on withdrawal, a string of <5% profit markets can result in enough accumulated to make you better off even after the withdrawal. Over the past couple years (between initial deposit & recent withdrawal), I netted ~30% after costs (albeit on a constrained investment due to the $850 limit).

            *In markets with many more options, it's possible for there to be a guaranteed profit across the full set to start, and then an additional possible profit using just the options where the $850 is not yet binding.

          • Jon S says:

            Edit: Ghillie Dhu beat me to it with more detail.

            You can frequently sell a package of mutually exclusive events on PredictIt for a total probability well over 100%, sometimes by enough to make money after fees. For most of the last year or two it was normal for the basket of Democratic presidential candidates to be trading ~120% to win the nomination.

          • Aftagley says:

            Thank you, that was entertaining and informative and, at least from my perspective not the least been patronizing.

            How do these Dutch Books come about? I would assume (maybe incorrectly?) that in functioning markets, these kind of anomalies either are prevented from developing or get exploited so heavily when they are detected that the total probability quickly reverts back to 100% (or, on second though, maybe 100% +/- the bookie’s take.)

          • Ghillie Dhu says:

            @Aftagley,

            The main culprits are:
            (a) The 10% rake, so the prices can’t be arbitraged to perfect efficiency
            (b) The $850 cap, so it can take multiple people noticing the same inefficiency to collectively arbitrage it to as efficient as (a) allows.

    • Bloomberg has spent his entire political career buying endorsements so it wouldn’t be surprising.

    • Thomas Jorgensen says:

      He doesnt have to. People generally believe money will get you further in politics than it actually will. That is, the markets are just wrong, because his candidacy plays into a very common false belief.

    • baconbits9 says:

      1. Bloomberg is running an unconventional campaign, and 538’s model works on historical data. Models generally do poorly when someone tries a new strategy, though this doesn’t mean the markets are correct.

      2. He is doing something intelligent at the very least, I get his ads fairly regularly now and in none of them has he attacked the other candidates. He is gunning to pick up their votes as they lose steam/drop out which is his only shot.

      3. His largest impediment is Biden’s age, this is his last hurrah and his 3rd attempt. He clearly wants to be president badly and isn’t going to pack in his campaign early in an effort to preserve a future run. Bloomberg could easily pick up a large chunk of his supporters if he were to drop out though.

    • Aftagley says:

      I thought that was a very nice article, Kelsey.

      • Aftagley says:

        Adding context to the above statement:

        Approximately an hour ago, Why Prediction Markets are Bad at predicting Who Will Be President was published on Vox. It covers a bunch of the same points as was made in this thread.

        I was originally going to chalk it up to random coincidence, but then I clicked through and saw that the author of that piece reps the EA movement and used to work at TripleByte, which if my calculations are correct, means there’s approximately a 120% chance they read SSC.

        • sty_silver says:

          Wow. Okay. I guess I was wrong all along. This is a pretty hard one to accept, but I kind of have to – Kelsey Piper is one of the people where, if she says something that contradicts what I believe and I’m not particularly confident, I’m assuming I’m wrong and she’s right. So I guess, probably, 538 is correct and BetFair isn’t.

          Small correction that doesn’t significantly impact the point of the article: Yang was only ~10% on PredictIt, his BetFair price hovered between 4-6% for most of the time.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            If you want to change your mind again, you should read this one.

          • KelseyPiper says:

            Hey! I didn’t see this thread before I posted the piece but yes, I read SSC.

            Some thoughts:

            FiveThirtyEight has updated in Bloomberg’s favor today, and I think yesterday they were underrating him; his odds are probably more like 15% or even 20% than 8%. They’re not 33%, though.

            To be clear, I don’t know that Bloomberg’s buying himself excessively high numbers. I just think that the numbers are excessively high, and this is (like most of the weird stuff coming out of prediction markets) because they’re not liquid or profitable enough.

            That said, he’s buying everything else? I’ve read credible reports that he’ll hire campaign staffers who tell his staff they support other candidates more. He threw a lot of money at endorsements on Instagram from teenage aesthetic bloggers. If you’re in his position it seems not-that-costly to throw money at everything anyone has thought of to get your name out there. And total betting volume on the Dem nominee so far on Betfair is under $10m, so you could probably produce the recent pop in numbers for a reasonable amount.

        • baconbits9 says:

          I was very disappointed in this article, basically it starts out saying that prediction markets are noisy (true) and then the evidence linked for models and sophisticated pundits getting things much better recently is a single data point in which one sophisticated model got it less wrong than the rest. It also makes some weird assertions

          And now they’ve become obsessed with Bloomberg over the space of a few days, with his odds on Betfair rocketing from 11 percent on February 6 to 34 percent on February 14 and then down somewhat, despite not much new information coming out that should have improved his prospects.

          Lots of things happened between February 6th and 14th, Biden and Warren’s chances of winning dropped quite a bit and Bloomberg’s poll numbers rose a lot. Perhaps the increase is to much but to say that nothing came out to improve his prospects is pretty weak.

    • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

      The markets are also putting Hillary Clinton (who the well-informed will be aware is not actually running) as having higher odds than Warren and Klobuchar (who unlike Bloomberg have actually won delegates). I’m not inclined to put too much trust in them.

      • baconbits9 says:

        Warren and Klobuchar having delegates is fairly meaningless, they would need 3-4 candidates to have heart attacks or something on that level to have a shot and even then Hillary might take the nomination ahead of them.

        • Aftagley says:

          and even then Hillary might take the nomination ahead of them.

          How?

          Via what mechanism could Hillary Clinton emerge from the dustbin of democratic politics and at this 11th hour sweep through to the nomination?

          Even the people who like Hillary don’t like her anymore.

          • nkurz says:

            > Via what mechanism could Hillary Clinton emerge from the dustbin of democratic politics and at this 11th hour sweep through to the nomination?

            The presumption is that no individual candidate will have more than half the pledged delegates, and thus there will be a “brokered convention”. If I understand it correctly, this releases the chosen delegates from any obligation to vote for any particular candidate, and also brings in another ~20% of votes from DNC “superdelegates”. After some debate, whoever gets the majority of votes is the nominee.

            Choosing Hillary Clinton as a last minute compromise candidate seems unlikely, but far from impossible. But I’m having trouble seeing any of the current candidates who have pledged delegates as that likely either, so I wouldn’t want to rule it out. While probably not Clinton, I do think that “last minute savior” (possibly from the closet of skeletons) is an entirely possible outcome.

            What would you put the chances that the eventual 2020 Democratic nominee does not currently have any pledged delegates? I’d put it as more likely than Warren being the nominee at this point.

        • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

          Given that Warren is currently fourth in national polling, if the three people in front of her had heart attacks I assume she would be in a pretty good position. Certainly ahead of Hillary, who has (a) missed the filing deadline for around a quarter of states including several of the most populous and (b) already lost an election against Trump. I agree the specific fact that they have delegates is irrelevant, but in general I can’t see how the Warren-Bloomberg polling difference of 10% vs 15% justifies a 10x difference in odds.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Warren is 4th and falling, roughly speaking that means people who thought they liked her decided that they didn’t and they aren’t likely to have her as a 2nd choice now.

            If the three people ahead of her all died right now she might have a chance because she could land enough delegates to avoid a brokered convention. If those people die/had a massive scandal discovered before the election but while Warren is pulling in 3rd/4th/5th in every state then there is no way they are selecting someone who ran a campaign and had those numbers. Its bad democratically- the person had their chance to get votes and didn’t, and its bad strategically- if only 15% of your party will vote for her then what are national elections going to look like. Either you run a sacrificial lamb and accept defeat or you run someone who has proved popular with the party before (Clinton, Gore, Kerry or beg a Michelle Obama to run).

            Not likely anyway.

            but in general I can’t see how the Warren-Bloomberg polling difference of 10% vs 15% justifies a 10x difference in odds.

            Warren’s poll numbers are dropping, she peaked in mid October. I would say the best description of someone whose poll numbers peak early and then decline for 3-4 months straight is ‘the more they speak the less people like them’. Meanwhile Bloomberg’s numbers have tripled in the last month and a half, and his rise has been steeper (eyeballing 538s graph) than Warren’s steepest rise into her peak and his national poll numbers are lagging well behind the places where he is buying ads. I haven’t looked at recent numbers but when his national polls were ~8% states he was targeting were 15-19%, and NY state was 19% where he is better known.

            I don’t know if 10X is the right ration, but Warren has to figure out how to stop losing support and then start winning people back, Bloomberg just has to keep doing what he is doing and see if the marginal returns on future campaigning are good enough to get his name called at the convention.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        We’re getting into the part of the campaign where anyone who’s at all pundit-minded starts fantasizing about a brokered convention. This is surely what the people talking about Clinton are relying on.

        • As I understand the situation, the Democratic primaries award delegates in proportion to votes, the Republican are a mix of proportional and winner take all. That makes it more difficult for any Democratic candidate to go into the convention with a majority. In New Hampshire, for instance, the most popular candidate got only about a quarter of the votes, will get only about a quarter of the delegates.

          So it looks as though the Democrats are likely to have a brokered convention, the Republicans less likely, even aside from the fact that the Republicans have an incumbent president running.

          • Le Maistre Chat says:

            As I understand the situation, the Democratic primaries award delegates in proportion to votes, the Republican are a mix of proportional and winner take all. That makes it more difficult for any Democratic candidate to go into the convention with a majority. In New Hampshire, for instance, the most popular candidate got only about a quarter of the votes, will get only about a quarter of the delegates.

            You’re not quite correct about the Democrats. There’s a percentage floor and the delegates are awarded proportionately among those who cleared it. So New Hampshire is sending 24 delegates, of which Bernie won 9, Buttgig 9, and Klobucher 6. Warren and Biden each got more than 8% but neither will get 2 delegates. B&B each get >37% of delegates off about 25% of Democrats’s votes.
            Still, the point that a tight race with more than two candidates is dramatically more likely to produce a brokered convention this way stands.

      • Deiseach says:

        The markets are also putting Hillary Clinton (who the well-informed will be aware is not actually running) as having higher odds than Warren and Klobuchar (who unlike Bloomberg have actually won delegates).

        That to me sounds less like “I think Hillary is the dark horse in this race” and more like “I’m trying to lure in some sucker to take this bet”.

        As far as I’m concerned, if you want to gamble on things like this, just use an ordinary bookies’ website (Paddy Power will give you 8/5 on Bernie and 7/4 on Bloomberg, Biden is 9/1). I don’t share the magical belief in the theory of prediction markets and I think anyone who is using them is trying to make money, not develop policy. And if making money means introducing deliberate distortions into the sacred and inviolable market, then the market had better drop its knickers and get ready to be violated.

        • meh says:

          The markets also probably have trouble estimating odds when the return is close to that of something risk free. The nominee bet wont pay out until July, so if return is low, who wants to take that bet since you have the added risk of the site disappearing or being regulated out of existence.

        • BBA says:

          The legal American bookies can’t take bets on elections, and the illegal ones don’t have websites. Which is why these guys go through the farce of calling themselves “prediction markets” in the first place.

          They need to stay small, to stay on good terms with the commodities regulators and off the radar of overzealous state attorney generals. But because the amount of money to be won (sorry, “earned”) is so tiny and the transaction fees accordingly are relatively high, the appeal of these things is limited to overly online “I am very smart” types. All of which means the ability of market forces to generate accurate predictions is limited at best.

          And of course, just because markets are efficient, doesn’t make them right. For an obvious example, the market for 1-year stock index futures in March 2008 was waaay off from where the stock market actually was in March 2009. And that’s on a highly liquid market with lots of real investors making real money – but sure, the amateurs on PredictIt with their piddling sums can do better than the freakin’ Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

          (Yes, I know, futures markets aren’t actually meant to predict the future prices of the underlying goods.)

          • Deiseach says:

            The legal American bookies can’t take bets on elections, and the illegal ones don’t have websites. Which is why these guys go through the farce of calling themselves “prediction markets” in the first place.

            Hello, dear American friends! I am a native Celtic princess with much assets unfortunately locked-up where I cannot liquidate them quickly! However, if you will grant me permission to use your bank accounts, I promise I will place the bets of your choice on the legally accessible to me bookmakers’ websites and then forward your winnings on to your account, minus a very small trivial handling fee!

            There is nothing that can go wrong with this transaction! Trust me on this, dear friends, and God bless you all! 🙂

  15. Silverlock says:

    OK, I admit I had found the whole “living in a simulation” thing ridiculous from the get-go, but now I capitulate. The Simulators are now toying with us. There is a recently-described Canadian tyrannosaurid going by the name Thanatotheristes . . . wait for it . . . degrootorum. Putatively, this is the “Reaper of Death” with an honoring nod to the De Groot family who discovered the bones, but I’m not buying it.

    I think this webcomic has the right idea.

    They are definitely no longer taking us seriously and have just been screwing around. Maybe American political hijinks should have been a clue.

  16. kipling_sapling says:

    I process slowly. Like many of you I find small talk very difficult, but one of my reasons is my slow processing. It’s just hard to keep up. In a conversation with a large group of people I’m rarely vocal because the conversation inevitably moves at a clip I can’t match, and in a one-on-one conversation there’s always a good deal of silences. My closest friends are all either like me in that way or simply accept it from me and don’t make me feel awkward about the fact that our conversations aren’t fast-paced.

    In a few contexts it seems like my processing is actually faster than average, but I think those contexts are all topics that I know a lot better than most people.

    Similar to speech, my reading speed is significantly slower than average, but with the tradeoff that my retention is extremely high.

    A lot of people think I have good self-control or am uptight and that’s why I deliberate for so long before consciously choosing my words and opening my mouth. The truth is that I know no other way. I am almost literally unable to speak without thinking.

    In some ways this is better than the alternative. But it’s also frequently a source of great frustration and angst for me. Is there a name for this, or is it something that has been studied as a category? It often makes me feel isolated and lonely and I’d like to get more of a handle on it, if possible.

    • Well... says:

      No clue if there’s a name for it, but I am well acquainted with at least two people who seem to have the same “slow-n-steady” thing going on as you describe, if it makes you feel any less isolated to know that.

    • ottomanflush says:

      I don’t have a solution for you, just here to tell you that I am exactly the same way. I’ve only recently come to realize and accept this about myself. I find it very frustrating to be in group conversations, especially with quick people, because I want to participate but the conversation passes me by and is three sentences ahead by the time I’ve thought about and decided what I want to say. I do find it is a bit less of a problem if I’m in a group where I don’t feel socially anxious; the anxiety makes it harder to think of things to say. But I still seek out small groups and one-on-one conversations.

    • Anteros says:

      As @Well said, I hope it helps to know that there are other people who experience something very similar. In my case, I found alcohol speeded up my part of conversations, although I wouldn’t recommend it as a solution (and now I don’t drink at all)
      I found a sort of explanation – for me – when I moved to France and therefore had to learn to speak French. It was torture, and a friend said the reason was because I’m the kind of person that wants to find the precise formulation of words to express what I mean – almost impossible in a new language. In other words, a form of perfectionism. I started to make a bit of progress when I made the effort to not care so much and got used to the feeling of ‘Oh sod it, here goes, and it doesn’t matter’.
      That may not apply at all in your case, and the only other thing I can think of is that you might be surprised by the number of people who a) don’t mind silences, and b) actually appreciate someone who doesn’t babble and shut everyone else out of conversations.

      • voso says:

        I’m kind of curious about this: what would happen if you tried actively to blurt out the first thing that came to your head?

        Is it a problem of nothing coming to your head, or is it a problem of anxiety/perfectionism preventing the quick response being said?

        Because your description sounds like the latter, while kipling’s sounds like the former.

        • Anteros says:

          It’s a little different with French v English. With the French I’m always concerned with getting it wrong – which is sort of inevitable – so I often avoid speaking at all, or more usually avoid circumstances where I’m obliged to speak French. I agree that that seems different to Kipling-sapling’s experience.
          Actually, with English I don’t really have much of an issue, although in the company of people who like to talk, I generally keep quiet. If I’m interrupted I stop talking, and I don’t tend to interrupt other people, so anyone used to doing that gets to talk as much as they want. One to one is generally fine – talking to my wife about how much I enjoy SSC can see me waxing lyrical and extended monologues aren’t uncommon. I don’t feel deprived of talking opportunities..

    • Lambert says:

      Same here.
      I think it’s probably worse since i’m hanging out with a disproportionate number of jazz musicians at the moment, which kind of selects for people with fast ears.

    • Thegnskald says:

      Question: If you’re explaining something, are you likely to use exactly the same phrasing every time you explain it, even if you haven’t memorized it?

      Another question: Do you think verbally (using language) or non-verbally (in abstract concepts that take time to translate)?

    • BlackboardBinaryBook says:

      I have a friend who is like this, and it took me a while to realize what was going on. He’s highly intelligent and has one of the best minds for recall I’ve ever encountered. Like you, he can be quite quick if the subject is an area of special interest or experience. But he speaks slowly and has a tendency to get steamrolled in conversations, especially in groups.

      Once I noticed this, I started making an extra effort not to interrupt him, and to ask him what he was going to say when someone else does. Do you find that helpful? If so, you could ask the people close to you to make such an effort.

      Conversely, do you have any suggestions for the rest of us? “Don’t interrupt people” and “be comfortable with silence” are good rules in general, but if you have any more specific advice I’d love to hear it!

  17. johan_larson says:

    This one’s for the programmers in the audience.

    Have you heard the rule that functions should be short, ideally no longer than a screenful? Well, feast your eyes on row_search_mvcc(), a function in the MySQL open source database system. This function weighs in at a glorious 1607 lines, including inline documentation.

    https://github.com/mysql/mysql-server/blob/1aa553074cec9c269bca7f50e1d8656f9ccd0201/storage/innobase/row/row0sel.cc#L4397

    Any bigger horrors out there in the wild anyone would like to share?

    • The Nybbler says:

      Have you heard the rule that functions should be short, ideally no longer than a screenful?

      Yes. I’ve also heard of the rule that you’re supposed to drive no more than 65mph on the New Jersey Turnpike. Alas, many of the horrors I am aware of I cannot share.

      From the computing neolithic, there’s Crowther & Woods Adventure. Source code is here. In the main file, there are 2088 lines from the comment at the top to the END statement…. and not one subroutine (the other file has subroutines for I/O)

      • The Pachyderminator says:

        Donald Knuth’s rewrite of Adventure in C (or rather CWEB), which faithfully reproduces the logic of the original program, has a main() function that’s 2854 lines of code.

        On the plus side, Woods meticulously commented his Fortran IV code, such that when Knuth translated the program for the specific purpose of demonstrating his “literate programming” paradigm, he copied many of Woods’ comments verbatim.

    • dodrian says:

      Video game VVVVVV recently released their source code and void Game::updatestate( ... ) clocks in at a whopping 3453 lines.

      In prior roles I’ve had to deal with some truly monstrous legacy code that honestly would have been easier to deal with if it was all in one function rather than spread across three 15000+ line files. Thankfully, no longer working there, I get to join the select group that gets to complain about having to have made changes to it.

    • Enkidum says:

      I have plenty of analysis scripts that are +1000 lines. I like to think I’ve learned a lesson from this.

      • Skeptic says:

        This comment gave me the worst guilt I’ve felt in years.

        To every man who has had to own my analytics tools and databases from when i was just starting to teach myself machine learning, database schema design, and Hadoop…

        I’m so sorry. So, so, so sorry.

        There’s definitely a special place in hell for me for leaving Fortune 50 companies with some spaghetti code tools. They’re functional but…I never have to maintain them…incentives etc

    • Radu Floricica says:

      Sure. I write in Java, but in a very opinionated kind of Java and with full acceptance of consequences. I happen to think that for business software functional is better than object oriented. So my main class is currently… let me count … 29921 lines.

      • johan_larson says:

        You don’t divide up the code even into functions? Or do you write your functions inline as lambdas?

        • Radu Floricica says:

          Of course it’s divided in functions, most pretty decent in size. I just don’t do classes, except for utility stuff (under 10%).

          • johan_larson says:

            Oh, sorry, I misread. I thought you had a main function of 29 thousand lines. But it’s a class of 29 thousand lines. That’s different. Still really large, though.

          • Radu Floricica says:

            It’s surprisingly ok – you’d think in 20 years there would be instances where I’d shoot myself in the foot with large classes. But other than having to take this into consideration when I change the IDE, it just works. I’m considering now taking a few pieces of code out into their own classes, partly to make outsourcing them easier, but it’d be just 2% code at most.

    • Aapje says:

      An entire generator tool that was one single function, over 10,000 lines of code. Not released publicly, but for internal company use (the programmer actually created it on his own time and was paid to transfer it to the company).

    • Unsaintly says:

      As a professional programmer, I disagree with this rule anyway. A function should be a logical unit, regardless of size. The only time a task should be split off into a new function is if it A) is repeated or B) needs to be referenced externally. I have driven many of my reviewers mad by refusing to split out big functions into parts and I am not sorry.

      • moonfirestorm says:

        “Logical unit” is extremely subjective, however.

        If you’ve got a function that’s a thousand lines long, it’s almost certainly doing more than one “thing”, and each “thing” can be its own function. This still creates functions that are logical units.

        This makes it far easier to debug later: if you run into a problem, it’s far easier to narrow the problem down to the dozen-or-so lines of code that are in the function that has to do with that thing, and now you’re confident there’s nothing a hundred lines up that interferes with the behavior. You can consider each “thing” as its own input-output box, which lets you categorically rule out one box at a time.

        Part of my job as a programmer is dealing with a legacy codebase that has this exact problem: functions are written from start-of-behavior to end-of-behavior without any thought of whether there are bits that can be abstracted out. Works great for the first month or so after writing the function, assuming that the guy who wrote it gets to keep fixing any problems with it. Then three years go by and a guy who’s never looked at it before has to do something with it, and it does not go well.

    • marshwiggle says:

      Tongue completely in cheek:

      Is this the scissors statement that will doom us all, after all the culture war attempts that failed?

    • brad says:

      We are writers that happen to write programs. Like all types of writers we have our rules of thumb. Beginners violate them at their peril, but the very best of us transcend them.

  18. proyas says:

    The official justification for the Air Force’s interest in UFOs has always been that they only care because the objects might be advanced, foreign planes and space ships that threaten U.S. security.

    Among the many official UFO investigation reports compiled by the USAF, how many have determined that the sighted UFO was in fact a Soviet/Russian/Chinese craft?

  19. broblawsky says:

    Human body temperatures may have been getting cooler over the last 150 years or so – since the mid 19th century, 0.59 degrees for men and 0.32 degrees for women. This study appears to be relatively robust (n = 677,423) and claims to have adjusted for measurement error for the older studies. They claim that the change may be the result of a reduction in low-grade fevers and improved climate control in our homes.

    • jermo sapiens says:

      claims to have adjusted for measurement error for the older studies

      That’s quite a claim. There are similar claims made with respect to temperature measurements in the global temperature record relevant in the global warming issue, and I’m skeptical of that claim also. Do you have any idea how they did it in the human body temperature study?

      • broblawsky says:

        By checking their hypothesis (that temperature declines about ~0.02-0.03 degrees per birth decade) within the individual measurements, as well as across multiple experiments. The results appear to back that up: in both the older measurements and the newer ones, younger subjects are on average cooler than older subjects.

        • jermo sapiens says:

          The results appear to back that up: in both the older measurements and the newer ones, younger subjects are on average cooler than older subjects.

          Very interesting. Could it be that people just get slightly warmer as they age?

          • broblawsky says:

            The results appear to hold true for both the people of different birth decades measured at the same time people of the same age measured over experiments decades apart: 0.02 degrees per birth decade.

        • rocoulm says:

          Couldn’t that be explained by average body temperature changing with individual age?

    • Body size is up, could that be it?

      • JayT says:

        I have no idea, but intuitively, I would think being bigger would have the opposite effect.

        • hls2003 says:

          Not necessarily. Larger body sizes reduce the capacity for heat dissipation, because they have a lower surface area ratio. This is why Ice Age mammals tend to be large, for example. If body size is increasing on average, it would be beneficial to have a slightly lower homeostatic temperature to make overheating less likely. Not saying that’s definitely the issue here, but cooler resting temps would be the direction I would think the effect would go.

          • JayT says:

            Yeah, that makes sense. I looked at different animals, and saw that elephants have slightly lower temperatures than humans, however, so do mice. Dogs and blue whales are higher though, so I’m not sure this little exercise taught me anything!

      • broblawsky says:

        That’s an interesting idea. Maybe?

      • noyann says:

        You’d have to factor in body mass, ideally differentiated by heat production (e.g. muscle and fat). Together with height that might be saying something. Else you would compare a fern and a globe of equal height.

    • DarkTigger says:

      Different explanation: Less physical work leads to less heat generating muscle mass.
      Would be easy to test for, compare athelits and those who still do a lot of physical work, with office workers.

  20. Aftagley says:

    I was recently in a quasi-job interview (long story) that seemed to be going well until the person I was speaking with asked, “Has there ever been a time when you’ve given less than 100% to your work?”

    When I replied, honestly, “Yes,” she seemed really taken aback and asked for more details.

    Without making myself look bad, I pointed out that sometimes people are tired, distracted or in some way unable to give it their all. Given that the position we were talking about was supervisory, I told an anecdote about a former subordinate of mine who was normally a stellar performer, but went through a tough divorce and had some trouble focusing. I then talked about how I worked with this employee and helped them get back up to standard.

    The interviewer continued to look uncomfortable and replied that their expectation was that employees who physically weren’t a peak condition shouldn’t come in, and that personal problems were expected to be left at the door.

    She then grilled me for some specifics on times when I hadn’t given it my all. I provided an honest and (IMO) acceptable answer about occasionally getting tired while working an overnight shift when I was younger. She seemed to accept this and the conversation moved on.

    My question here is, what the heck was going on in this interaction?

    I’ve got three theories:
    1. This was just a test to see if I’d honestly answer an unflattering question.
    2. This was all a setup to just see what kind of goofing off I’d admit to.
    3. This person legitimately expects all employees to always operate at 100%
    4. We had very different definitions of operating at 100%

    Options 1 and 2 both seem weirdly aggressive/deceptive based on how the rest of the conversation went, but I legitimately can’t imagine option 3 being the case and I’m not sure what her definition of 100% would be if it’s option 4. Anyone with experience in this world have any ideas?

    • Brassfjord says:

      I hate it when people use 100 % (or even worse 110 %) as a metaphorical expression. I would’ve told her that I don’t know what she means by that because no one has ever “given 100 % to work”.

    • baconbits9 says:

      5. This person asks a lot of stock questions and is used to stock answers and you threw her with a different reply.

      How reasonable was the rest of the interview?

    • albatross11 says:

      Perhaps she’s just used to having people handwave a “no, I always give 100% to my job” answer?

    • Randy M says:

      Maybe it was a test to see if you’re willing to tell pleasant lies for them?
      I’d probably try and avoid answering the question, like “I consider it an obligation to give my all to my employer when at work,” and hope they don’t follow up and ask how often I fail to meet said obligation.

    • Plumber says:

      @Aftagley says:

      “I was recently in a quasi-job interview (long story) that seemed to be going well until the person I was speaking with asked, “Has there ever been a time when you’ve given less than 100% to your work?…”

      That looks like a pretty standard “Are you willing to lie the way we want you to?” question that private industry employers use to weed out the clueless and/or honest, if you haven’t encountered such before I’m guessing you’ve been blessed and/or are young, sounds like you recovered well from it.

      Good luck!

      • Aftagley says:

        I’m guessing you’ve been blessed and/or are young

        Yes and yes.

        That looks like a pretty standard “Are you willing to lie the way we want you to?” question that private industry employers use to weed out the clueless and/or honest

        Wait, what? I was supposed to parse this question as “This is your opportunity to prove you can lie to me in a semi-convincing fashion?” What possible benefit would a prospective employer get out of that?

        Good luck!

        Thank you!

        • Randy M says:

          What possible benefit would a prospective employer get out of that?

          At some point you might be promoted to sales (fudge the truth to customers) or management (avoid spilling the beans to employees about some pending reorg/firing/HR changes).

          • theredsheep says:

            It may also be part of the company culture to simply mouth absurdities because they are expected, and think no more of their literal meaning than you do of “God bless you” after a sneeze. I have encountered such attitudes before; thankfully, I was never in a sufficiently prominent position for anybody to ask me to blither in that fashion.

            Also, a good percentage of people do, in fact, not “give 100%” to their jobs at times, simply because the job is not worth it. That doesn’t mean you’d necessarily be a slacker at the job she’s interviewing you for, but it’s bad form to admit, “yeah, when I worked for the gas station I basically stared into space for hours at a time.” Might have been aiming to weed that out. Some employers really want someone who will throw themselves on every available grenade.

          • woah77 says:

            This is not a good filter for engineers who are often too honest and why you don’t want them in front of customers. I’ve lost count of the number of times a service guy has told me to shut my mouth and to not be so honest.

        • Viliam says:

          I was supposed to parse this question as “This is your opportunity to prove you can lie to me in a semi-convincing fashion?”

          No no no, you are making it needlessly specific. The lesson is, you are supposed to parse any question that way. It’s called “social skills”.

          People exaggerate all the time. People also expect others to exaggerate all the time, and therefore they always discount what they hear. So if you describe yourself truthfully, and they discount that… well, what you said was effectively perceived as “LOL, I don’t give a fuck about my work”. That is a really shocking thing to do at a job interview.

          • Randy M says:

            Seen that way, a bit of exaggeration isn’t even lying, but the practice would seem to push language to drift in less useful, but occasionally amusingly absurd, directions.

            And I say that as the local recognized grandmaster in absurdity.

          • Nick says:

            People also expect others to exaggerate all the time, and therefore they always discount what they hear.

            If that’s what the interviewer was doing, then she was being really stupid, because unusually honest people exist, and how does one miss that?

          • Plumber says:

            @Nick >

            “…unusually honest people exist…”

            Sure they do, and most are bad fits for the jobs that such interview questions are for.

          • Aftagley says:

            So if you describe yourself truthfully, and they discount that… well, what you said was effectively perceived as “LOL, I don’t give a fuck about my work”. That is a really shocking thing to do at a job interview.

            Hmmm, this is a fairly depressing outcome.

            Sure they do, and most are bad fits for the jobs that such interview questions are for.

            I can tell you with 100% honestly that the job I was interviewing for would literally never have me interacting with any member of the public, and wasn’t pipeline for any kind of sales or public facing position.

            It would, however, have put me in charge of a bunch of resources (money, time, etc) which led me to thinking maximum transparent honesty was the way to go. I’ll likely reevaluate this moving forward.

          • Nick says:

            @Plumber
            Sure, but note well that this explanation contradicts Viliam’s. It can’t simultaneously be the case that businesses are looking for people who will lie smoothly and that businesses think these are just reasonable social skills and have never heard of honest people. If the latter were true, they wouldn’t be filtering for it.

        • Spookykou says:

          I have worked at several places where lying to customers and lying about ourselves was standard. For example when I worked for a very large company 90% of my job was being a living person in the building in case of an emergency, as such I spent most of my time goofing off on my computer. I still kept a spreadsheet ready to alt tab in case my boss came in. He would joke about how busy he was, I would agree, and then he would go back to his office and sit down and goof off on his computer/make personal calls(I could hear him through the wall). Nobody actually had any work to do, but we were serious business people doing serious business, and of course I always gave 100%.

        • herbert herberson says:

          Wait, what? I was supposed to parse this question as “This is your opportunity to prove you can lie to me in a semi-convincing fashion?” What possible benefit would a prospective employer get out of that?

          Not “could,” but “will.” An employee who values honesty and his own integrity too much to smile and nod at obvious bullshit isn’t the kind of employee all managers want.

      • Radu Floricica says:

        Huh. That sounds like a way to verify Zvi’s Moral Mazes idea. If corporate is systematically filtering for this, for at least some positions, this would be a pretty good evidence in favor.

        I wonder if there’s a way to create job profile that differ only on this kind of question and how employees respond?…

    • jermo sapiens says:

      I would add option 5: This person is not used to have an interviewee answer a question like that truthfully. But 4. is also a very reasonable explanation.

    • GearRatio says:

      Were more than about half the interview questions STAR questions? Anybody who relies on those isn’t really in the “I will ask meaningful questions and apply realistic assessment standards to the answers” camp to begin with.

    • helloo says:

      You should have given her an equally stock answer – ie. Work Life Balance. Turn off phone/email during vacations.

      It’s also common enough for interviewers to try and force you to act “diplomatically”.
      The cliche “what is your greatest weakness” would be one if it weren’t so cliche.
      Some others include “if you feel your manager is wrong about something, what would you do?” “suppose something changed/added that makes it tough to complete with the given time, how would you handle/prioritize things?”

      How these questions should be answered is… debatable. If you’re not great at diplomacy, then honest should be fine as long as it won’t be a HR nightmare. Assuming your job is not something that requires diplomacy.

      • albatross11 says:

        “My greatest weakness? Probably my meth habit. Or maybe my porn addiction–that’s pretty bad. Oh, and my extremely violent temper, that’s kind-of a weakness. Or maybe….”

        • Randy M says:

          Would a good answer be “I’ve been told I interview pretty badly,” or is that totally transparent?

        • Viliam says:

          “What is your greatest weakness?”
          “Sincerity.”
          “Well, I don’t think that sincerity is a weakness.”
          “Well, I don’t give a fuck about what you think.”

          • Plumber says:

            @Viliam

            Sincerity

            That made me laugh as much as @Conrad Honcho’s musings on Conan the Cimmerian’s dating habits!

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I hate the questions with obvious answers. At the interview for my current job I was asked during the peer interview section (where I was interviewed by members of the team I was joining), “How would your co-workers describe you?” I answered: “Sexy. Reeeeeally, really sexy.” They thought it was hilarious, and I did obviously get the job. But what am I supposed to say? “It’s a toss-up between ‘violent’ and ‘stupid,’ I guess.”

    • AlesZiegler says:

      As others have pointed out, you are being naive.

      This is totally normal part of corporate oppression, where you are expected to spit humiliating platitudes. Vaclav Havel, Czech dramatic, dissident and later president, captured reasons for this well in his (very real) example of a Czechoslovak grocery store forced to display a sign proclaiming loyalty to communist regime.

      • theredsheep says:

        I was tempted to reference something like that myself, though I was thinking more of Stalin punishing dissident artists by forcing them to praise him. In both cases, the intent is to degrade the individual’s will by forcing them into complicity with falsehood. In this case, however, I don’t think it’s anything so conscious as all that; it’s more that people at the company are accustomed to a culture of inanities, and meeting someone who does not cotton on and accommodate themselves to it comes as something of a shock.

    • Three Year Lurker says:

      To answer your question:
      The interview process is about lying convincingly, especially when it comes to why you love your job and want to work for this specific company. Honesty or bluntness just puts you back in the unemployment queue. So prepare some standard lies for the junk questions that are not about actual capabilities.

      My own experience:

      If I put 100% into my job they’d get upset at having 1000 lines of code to review every week, and not understand any of what I was doing.

      So I put in almost no effort because that’s what they can keep up with.

      At previous jobs, this wasn’t a problem because I had free reign and a long list of features to work through. More importantly, no entrenched customer base that hates change.

      I’ve even seen this problem when playing multiplayer games like Minecraft or Terraria with friends. That same monomaniacal focus made cooperation with other people mostly irrelevant because creating something was always faster and a larger supply than asking someone else for it.

      So giving 100% is not viable because it’s often more than can be easily processed.

      • The Nybbler says:

        Maybe, but if you go into an interview and scream “100%? You couldn’t handle my 100%! You probably couldn’t even handle my 10%! I’ll give you 5% and you’ll beg me to slow down!” you will not get the job. Don’t ask me how I know this.

        I am surprised that the “right” answer _isn’t_ along the lines of “Oh yeah, after doing several weeks of 24/7 work to meet a deadline, I was only able to put in 99%”.

    • TheAncientGeeksTAG says:

      “Have you?”

    • Deiseach says:

      Unless you’re a superstar, the must-hire genius/wunderkind of the field that can walk into and walk out of any job with any company they like with no repercussions and no problem walking into another job, then you’ll generally have to toe the line in job interviews and do the ‘usual thing’ when it comes to selling yourself, tailoring your presentation to the needs of the job, and answering the questions. Most of us are ordinary people applying for mid-level positions and sending out several applications at once, and most of us don’t get the ‘live your passion, make your hobby your work’ dream but have to do boring old slog because you have to work to live. Not to say it’s always boring old slog, you can and will enjoy your work, but there’s going to be a lot of ‘plough my way through the dull but necessary parts’ as well.

      (1) Job interviews are all about lying. The honest answer to “Why do you want to work here?” is “Duh, because I need money to live, and you need a job to get money”/”I want a promotion and/or more money than my old job would give me”. The honest answer will get you crossed off the list. Instead, you are supposed to warble on about how it has been your dream since infancy to work for Wilson’s Widgets. Never mind that you’ve applied to five other companies and if any of them make you an offer, Wilson’s Widgets can go sink into the sea.

      (2) Employers really do expect you to live, breathe, eat and sleep the job. It’s bollocks, because of course no human being ever gives or gave 100% to the job every day; you get distracted, sick, personal problems, even the trivial ‘finished big project and now just tootling around with busywork and surfing the Internet until the next big project’. Again, you are not supposed to answer honestly, you’re supposed to fudge up some “I’ve always made it a priority to put the work first/leave personal life outside/whatever excuse sounds good”.

      (3) This is along the same lines as being asked “What is your greatest weakness?” They don’t want to know your weaknesses, and if you tell them, then you don’t get the job. Again, you are supposed to burble about “I’m too committed” or whatever: it’s all about selling yourself. Sell, sell, sell!

      Any and every professional coaching/training I’ve had to undergo for job-seeking techniques has said the above. Even when I’ve had the confidence to be that one in the class asking “But it’s all rubbish, it’s all boilerplate, canned answers”, the reply has been “Oh yeah but you still have to do it”. There’s a grab-bag list of phrases and traits for every job and you just have to shuffle them about: everyone puts down in the “personal statement” part of their CV that they can work on their own and as part of a team, they’re conscientious and painstaking and creative and innovative, etc. etc. etc.

      Yes it’s contradictory. Yes it’s boilerplate. Yes you have to do it. It winnows out applications until there’s a neat pile of ‘possibles’ on the desk to call for interview. And this is the whole point of preparation for interviews: you make up a list of possible questions, make up a series of stock answers to them, then practice until you can rattle them off like a script. Then you practice some more until you sound as if you’re not rattling them off like a script. Faking sincerity is the big thing here.

      What an employer is looking for is “how can I get the most work out of this person for the least expenditure and disruption?” Doing the stock answers means you’re less likely to be disruptive, you know the expectations that you are supposed to follow. Honest answers mean you are likely to be the square peg in the round hole. Most people don’t take any of this crap too seriously (job coaches, HR, and the guy ultimately making money off your labour probably do take it seriously) so once you’ve got the job, you can be a human who is not 100% all the time on the work.

      But to get the job, you first have to pretend that yes indeed, if by shedding every single drop of blood in your body it would increase the share price of Wilson’s Widgets stock by 0.001 cent, you would gladly do so, and only regret that you had but one life to give for the cause.

      • Nick says:

        What an employer is looking for is “how can I get the most work out of this person for the least expenditure and disruption?” Doing the stock answers means you’re less likely to be disruptive, you know the expectations that you are supposed to follow.

        This makes no sense. A system that is optimized for liars and grifters is not going to benefit the company! I know, because I have met liars and grifters, and they are not good to work with!

        ETA: Like, okay, suppose you get the smooth talking grifter who is happy to lie all day and night about anything and everything. Is he actually working to the benefit of your company? Of course not! He’s going to take credit for other people’s work, shift blame onto everyone else, and probably steal people’s stuff when they aren’t looking. Why would you design an interview process to pick up this guy?

        • Lambert says:

          But it benefits the liars and grifters who are calling the shots.

        • AlexOfUrals says:

          It makes sense if your company has more than two levels of hierarchy. You’re hiring for your team, but you don’t care about doing what’s best for the company, you care about you and your team looking good. If you accidentally hire a too honest person who actually cares, they may begin to (sticking to the area of my own job) complain that you should write clean and maintainable code, test it properly, wonder whether clients even need this feature, or some such. While a grifter will be happy to do whatever it takes to roll out the project in time and get a promotion/bonus.

        • Deiseach says:

          Why would you design an interview process to pick up this guy?

          Nick, it’s not about constant lying, it’s about regurgitating the acceptable answers. There’s a list of “this is what we want in an employee” which gets landed on the desk of HR (in this case) and then they go to work on selecting the CVs and setting up the interviews and so on (where I’m now working, I often get the job of “sort out these CVs then print out the list of interview questions” and I’m not at all trained in HR). To give you an example, about two vacancies ago I got one application in from a guy who worked on European space agency project. It was an interesting and unique work history. Did he even get considered for the job? Hell, no, because that was not what we were looking for. Could he have done the job? Maybe, even probably. Did he have a snowball in Hell’s chance? No, because he stuck out too much as outside the usual range of applications.

          The guy who gives the honest answers about not being 100% when they’re tired or sick, or who doesn’t spin the stock answers out when asked “what do you consider your greatest weakness?” is probably the guy who is going to stick out like a sore thumb on the job: the guy who won’t ‘go along to get along’ with his co-workers, the guy who will rock the boat if he thinks he’s not getting a fair shake, the guy who will fight with the boss instead of finding a diplomatic and face-saving way of ‘this request is bullshit but I can’t say that straight out, let’s find some way to get around it’.

          For example, from that list I linked, I think this is complete codswallop (if I have an “entrepreneurial mind-set”, not alone am I going to leave this job as fast as I can, I may even become your competitor if I think I can do the same service better and cheaper), but some idiot out there is going to think this is perfect advice for when they’re hiring someone, so coming out with “I don’t want to start a business, that’s a stupid idea” is not going to get you hired:

          For interviewers, here’s a better question: “What business would you love to start?”

          That question applies to any organization, because every employee at every company should have an entrepreneurial mind-set.

          The business a candidate would love to start tells you about her hopes and dreams, her interests and passions, the work she likes to do, the people she likes to work with … so just sit back and listen.

          Tell a prospective employer that “Heck no, if I/my kid is sick, I’m not going to be 100% concentrating on the job, I’m going to be at home until I’m/they’re better”, you’re telling the employer “I’m too risky to hire because I’m not dependable time-keeper who will put in the contracted hours”. It would be nice if the world was different, but that’s how it is: they’re hiring you to work X hours a week, they want X hours a week of work, you tell them “Sure I’m gonna give you X hours a week of work” not “I’ll give you X hours a week except if my personal life takes priority”. Yes, people get sick and will take time off, everybody understands that, but this is like asking about “what are my holiday entitlements?” before you even get the job: it makes you sound as if you are not serious about working.

          I’ve had to learn the hard way to bite my tongue and reel off the standard answers. Once you get into the job, it’s different, but to get to that point, you have to be the Usual Product. The unique, quirky, stand-out from the crowd may work in some areas and some jobs, but the usual run-of-the-mill world of work just wants the usual-run-of-the-mill kind of workers.

          Yes of course liars and grifters are bad for a business! But it’s precisely because they know how to play the game of agreeability and standard answers that they get hired!

      • Aftagley says:

        …then you’ll generally have to toe the line in job interviews and do the ‘usual thing’ when it comes to selling yourself, tailoring your presentation to the needs of the job, and answering the questions.

        The thing is, in this interaction, it was fairly clear that I was being headhunted. I’m not a wunderkid, but I have had the good luck to stumble into a position where there’s just not many people on earth who do what I do and have my existing skillset – this is a skillset the interviewer’s organization presumably was interested in acquiring.

        I’m currently, as I said several times before and during the interview, happily employed somewhere else and didn’t need this job. They could maybe offer me more pay but not a life-changing amount. I get the whole “we need to filter out all these applicants somehow, so we’ll just see who can toe the line in the application process” thing, but presumably the people doing so know what they’re doing, and no when it’s no longer necessary/appropriate. Why would you ask someone you’re actively recruiting these kinds of questions?

        • AlesZiegler says:

          Why would you ask someone you’re actively recruiting these kinds of questions?

          Force of habit, probably.

        • Deiseach says:

          Yeah, if you were being head-hunted, then that sounds – to be frank – more like a recruiter looking to make commission on placing a new client than seriously considering you as a candidate for a particular job.

          Had a standard list of questions, expected the standard stock answers, was thrown when you insisted on being honest, tried pushing to make sure you were persuadable. You stuck to what you said and weren’t biting, so that ended it.

      • woah77 says:

        On the other hand, if you are interviewing for a job that indeed aligns with your dreams (such as a pinball manufacturer when you’re an electrical engineer), being honestly enthusiastic probably shows.

        • Deiseach says:

          if you are interviewing for a job that indeed aligns with your dreams

          That is the ideal and would be great if it happens, but it doesn’t always (ironically, the interview I was most prepared for because I really wanted the job and felt it suited me and I suited it was probably the one that went worst – I got the impression I was more prepared than the interviewers!; the interview that was ‘stock questions and answers’ got me hired).

    • A Definite Beta Guy says:

      Man, I’ve worked at some pretty toxic environments, and even THERE they didn’t expect people to give 100% all the time. This just seems like a stupid question. It doesn’t seem like a standard STAR or other behavioral question, either.

      What was the position of your interviewer in the company? Also, was she the hiring manager? Approximate age?

      • Aftagley says:

        On the youngish side; not a hiring manager but I’m pretty sure she’d done interviews before.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          It sounds like you were getting head-hunted based on one of your posts above. Was she with a recruiting agency or a HR person on behalf of a company trying to poach you?
          Both of these people have a very good chance of not knowing WTF they are doing. Either that or they were trying to get you into a position that would require a ton of hours and this question was an essential filter (those positions sometimes exist, and certain people need to fill them, but they aren’t for everyone).

          I don’t think I’ve ever had head hunter try to informally pre-screen interview me in this fashion. They are usually trying to dangle bait, and once you bite, they are trying to aggressively reel you in and put you in front of a decision-maker to see if you stick.

      • Deiseach says:

        This just seems like a stupid question.

        Probably some dumb question she picked up from some dumb article or book or seminar: next time you’re interviewing, throw this one in! It’ll winnow out the diamonds from the fakes!

        It’s like the bullshit “what business do you want to start?” question I linked from that list above; some idiot will pick up some buzzword or modish trope and think it’s the bees’ knees and use it even where not applicable. Being able to take bullshit in stride is all part of learning to deal with life’s rich tapestry as it applies to the world of work 🙄

    • Mark V Anderson says:

      Lots of good answers here. Yes, it is true, to get a job one has to lie with as much sincerity as possible. I don’t understand why this is so, but it is. I don’t think this results in hiring the best employees, but that is the way it is. It sounds very cynical, but job interviews are one area where cynicism is the best approach.

      I suppose the main reason for requiring fake answers to dumb questions is the point someone made above about a square peg in a round hole. If you learn lie politely, you’ll fit in much better. I don’t really think that employee “fit” is such an important thing for a company to succeed as HR always insists. But if you hire only round pegs, then everyone else’s life will be easier. Really managers hire people to make their life easier, not to benefit the enterprise. Hopefully you can do the job too, so the manager doesn’t have to find someone else to do it, but the most important qualification is that you fit into your round hole comfortably.

      • My experience in getting a job is pretty nearly limited to the academic market, and I don’t think lying was ever necessary. I’m also not sure how practical it would be. Before being hired by SCA, I had an interview with the university’s number two person, a Jesuit who I had been told was a fan of liberation theology. I didn’t make any attempt to pretend to be either a Christian or a leftist, and if he had done his homework doing so probably wouldn’t have worked.

        But I was told that he supported hiring me.

        It’s true that I failed to be offered tenure at three or four different schools, but I find it hard to think of any lies I could have told that would have changed that.

        • HowardHolmes says:

          @DavidFriedman

          I find it hard to think of any lies I could have told that would have changed that.

          Or maybe your not being the kind of person who could come up with those lies is the reason for the lack of tenure.

        • Deiseach says:

          “Lies” is perhaps a little extreme for what I meant, but there is a level of insincerity which is unavoidable in a lot of job interviews. If you’ve never had to fake-smile your way through an interview, I am truly delighted for you! I seem to have an unfortunate face for this, that others can read my true feelings; one interview was for a very minor role but the guy doing it was a Little Tin God in his own mind, and while describing to me the Blue Book (I swear to God this is what he called it) that he had himself personally written about the requirements and duties of the job, and that he expected me (if hired) to take home and study every night (because there would be tests! on if I had read and internalised it!), I think he may possibly have garnered some faint hint from my demeanour that I was thinking “This is bullshit, you are not Chairman Mao and I am not a child that you can make me do homework”. Needless to say, I did not get that job 🙂

          Interviews are a performance, I should have said; you’re playing the part of “perfect employee for this job” and that includes dressing properly, advice on how to comport yourself (e.g. sit up straight, don’t chew gum, don’t be over-familiar or over-relaxed, be polite), and preparing and practicing answers to possible questions so you don’t “um” and “ah” your way through the interview.

          It’s partly theatre, as well as needing the right qualifications and experience. Five to twenty other interviews are being held for this job, what makes you stand out? In the good way, not in the “will think it’s hilarious to pretend to be dying of coronavirus around co-workers” way!

          • Mark V Anderson says:

            “Lies” is perhaps a little extreme for what I meant, but there is a level of insincerity which is unavoidable in a lot of job interviews.

            Well, lies in the sense that you buy all the stupid tropes HR is always pushing. You really shouldn’t tell HR that you won’t be working 100% every day, even though that is obviously absurd. My bet is the HR person who asked that question hasn’t really thought about it, so doesn’t realize how dumb the question is, but you really shouldn’t tell them this, as was apparently implied by the OP.

            You do need to tell the interviewer that their organization is a great place that you really want to work, even though that is a lie 90% of the time. If you are asked for weaknesses, you better not tell them the truth, or you’ve lost the job. If you are unusual in any way, don’t tell them that, because you will lose out on the almighty “fit” that HR is always looking for. If you ever had a bad situation at work, and you honestly can’t think of a way you could have handled it better, for God’s sake don’t talk about it. Remember, everyone else interviewing for the same position will likely be telling these polite lies, so why would they hire you if you reveal you aren’t perfect? You may end up with the job anyway in the rare case that you are much better than your competition, but by telling the truth you put yourself at a great disadvantage.

            Maybe my opinions can be discounted because I am a terrible interviewer and I seem to get the job very rarely (3 offers of permanent jobs in my professional career). But I have had over 100 interviews in my life, and I’ve tried every approach. The interviews that went the worst, where I knew I had zero chance when I walked out, were the ones where I tried to relax and be myself. That doesn’t work.

          • but by telling the truth you put yourself at a great disadvantage.

            That makes sense with regard to believable lies. But the discussion is about a lie, “I always work 100%,” that the interviewer is not expected to believe.

  21. albatross11 says:

    It’s pretty common to see comments that “race doesn’t exist” or “race has no biological meaning” or “race is just a social construct” or “race is unscientific.” An old post by razib khan (13 years old) that I saw linked today goes over some of the reasons this is nonsense.

    • birdboy2000 says:

      People don’t really dispute that people with ancestors from different continents look different or have some degree of related genetic differences, but the associated, highly ideological assumptions grafted onto that fact.

      • albatross11 says:

        birdboy2000:

        Sure. The problem is, the only way to decide whether those highly ideological assumptions are correct is to examine them directly, not to try to define away the whole question.

        Douglas Knight:

        Thanks, I missed that!

        • Milo Minderbinder says:

          It’s pretty common to see comments that “race doesn’t exist” or “race has no biological meaning” or “race is just a social construct” or “race is unscientific.”

          In the (Western) general public, sure. Around here, not so much. I think the majority of this blog’s readership privately (or extremely vocally, in some cases) believes that there are significant differences in human characteristics across different genetic clusters/regions of origin.

          The issue of course comes when race is used badly as a proxy for traits that have better indicators in a particular individual. For an obvious example, knowing that someone has a Harvard degree will give me a better rough estimate of their level of intelligence than knowing if their ancestors hailed from Nairobi or Nanjing.

          Even at the macro level, using race is somewhat ~problematic~ at the national level without taking into account the history and governmental institutions of the nation. It would be an extraordinary claim to say “race” doesn’t explain any of the variance in outcomes, but pinning down what percent is the contentious thing.

          I myself (being thoroughly mixed-race) am strongly in favor of further research into human genetic diversity for the potential medical benefits. But then, I don’t have a horse in the race, no pun intended.

        • broblawsky says:

          When those definitions are based on centuries-old observations, it’s reasonable to ask whether they accurately represent reality.

          • albatross11 says:

            broblawsky:

            So, it seems like this quote from the linked post kind-of addresses that:

            The basis for this assertion comes from a paper (open access) by a different set of researchers at Stanford, who assembled a group of Americans who identified themselves as either African-American, white, East Asian, or Hispanic. They followed a similar protocal as the studies in the first section– they took DNA from all individuals, looked a hundreds of different DNA variants, and applied a clustering algorithm. They then looked to see if their clusters corresponded to self-reported group. And indeed, in 3631 out of 3636 cases (99.85%), the individuals were clustered by the algorithm into the “correct” racial group.

            This says that among American particiants, at least, you get the same racial categories by asking people what race they are (using more-or-less the centuries-old racial categories) as by looking at DNA.

            This seems rather like the way that pre-DNA scientists inferred a sort-of tree of ancestry among animals. Later on, using DNA, people found that the old tree was a reasonably good fit for reality, but got things wrong in a few places. The older observations weren’t wrong, they just weren’t as good as what you could get with better tools.

            Note that none of this says anything about racial superiority theories or any particular claim of racial differences–just that you have to address those arguments directly, not by ruling the whole category of race somehow non-scientific and therefore out-of-order.

          • Machine Interface says:

            This says that among American particiants, at least, you get the same racial categories by asking people what race they are (using more-or-less the centuries-old racial categories) as by looking at DNA.

            This is an often repeated claim that seems suspicious to me, because

            1) If you interrogate DNA you can get a wide variety of answers depending on what markers you look at and which number of categories you tell your algorithm to construct.

            2) People are actually not that good at the telling race of others (given the many anecdotes of white people successfully passing as black, and reciprocally) and often have fanciful ideas about their own ancestry.

          • The Nybbler says:

            People are actually not that good at the telling race of others (given the many anecdotes of white people successfully passing as black, and reciprocally)

            This is noise in the measurement, and there isn’t that much of it, which is why it’s only anecdotes.

            and often have fanciful ideas about their own ancestry.

            Even Elizabeth Warren didn’t claim to be anything like full-blooded American Indian.

          • EchoChaos says:

            I am fully aware of the “fuzziness” between races from personal experience, but that doesn’t make the distinctions not real.

            Just because it’s tough to tell where red becomes purple doesn’t mean that purple and blue don’t exist.

          • Machine Interface says:

            (You could have picked a better color for your example, given that purple doesn’t in fact exist — it’s just a trick of the brain to avoid seeing equal amounts of blue and red as green, which it should logically do, but would be highly impractical)

      • DinoNerd says:

        I might even go so far as to dispute what you just said, if what you turn out to mean is that you can group people into clusters where all members of cluster A are more like every other member of cluster A than like any members of cluster B.

        Unfortunately, many people like nice categories. They don’t want cars blending imperceptibly into trucks, or blue blending imperceptibly into green – they want everything to be A or B. Much nonsense results, and a fair amount of that nonsense is on display in discussions of race.

        And this is before ideological assumptions are grafted on – it’s even before they decide that one of these groups includes them personally, so they therefore prefer it.

        • Aapje says:

          That objection is equally true for other racial discussions though. If some blacks earn more than some whites, is it sensible to discuss black and white people as groups with different opportunities in life?

          • DinoNerd says:

            Just for fun: most Americans seem to think they can assign races to individuals easily and automatically. If they also have a conception that Klingons are likely to murder them in their sleep, they might well refuse opportunities to those they consider to be Klingon, convict them of murder on evidence that wouldn’t convict those they believe to be other races, etc. At that point you can easily produce evidence that the more someone appears to be Klingon, the more of this type of trouble they tend to experience. And a category thinker would just phrase that as “Klingons ….”.

            Note that I agree with you – most discussions of “race” are flawed, sometimes to the point of uselessness, because of this kind of simplification. But a social category/construct can have effects like the above.

          • @DinoNerd, Have you considered evidence which might falsify the Klingon story? Have you heard of the Galactic Crime Victimization Survey?

          • Aapje says:

            @DinoNerd

            Note that I agree with you – most discussions of “race” are flawed, sometimes to the point of uselessness, because of this kind of simplification.

            That wasn’t actually what I was arguing. I was being a devil’s advocate to show that extremist claims intended to completely undermine racism, actually also undermine the very claim that racism is an issue.

            Categorizations are in general only valid if they (can) actually give you an answer for the specific question you have. Categorizing by race is neither always useful nor always useless.

            most Americans seem to think they can assign races to individuals easily and automatically.

            I’m not convinced that this is true or that you are just pointing out a tautology: people believe that they can categorize people who obviously belong to an ethnic group rather well.

            But a social category/construct can have effects like the above.

            Culture tends to have a substantial correlation with race/skin color/etc, which makes race/skin color/etc an indicator of culture, just like clothing may be (and in some or even many cases it may actually be a better indicator than cultural behaviors like clothing choice, when the culture is not worn on the or as a sleeve).

            If they also have a conception that Klingons are likely to murder them in their sleep, they might well refuse opportunities to those they consider to be Klingon, convict them of murder on evidence that wouldn’t convict those they believe to be other races, etc.

            A complication here is that if Klingons are actually substantially more violent, not discriminating against them doesn’t actually cause equal outcomes, but different victims.

            For example, if every other Klingon murders their host who rents them an Airbnb, then not doing rental discrimination will cause far more hosts to be killed per rental to a Klingon, than per rental to a non-Klingon. This is really quite unfair to the hosts.

            However, discriminating against Klingon renters to keep the hosts’ chance of being murdered per rental low, is unfair to the Klingons who weren’t going to murder their host.

            There isn’t actually a (non-)discrimination solution that is truly fair to all Klingons and all hosts, except to equalize the host-murdering tendencies of Klingons and non-Klingons or to perfectly be able to predict who is going to murder.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @Aapje

            This is an old and tired argument. Some people discover, let’s say, that 1 in a million Klingons are criminals, but only one in 1,100,000 Vulcans are criminal. Maybe they have good evidence; maybe some liar seeking tenure produced “research” “proving” this.

            Now they know that Klingons are more likely to be criminals than Vulcans, so instead of looking for the one in a million who actually are criminals, they simply treat all Klingon appearing people as likely criminals – and when they actually catch a Vulcan appearing person in the act of commiting a crime, they announce that s/he was really a Klingon passing themselves off as a Vulcan, or fail to mention their categorization – or acquit them in spite of evidence, since Vulcan’s aren’t criminals.

            Whatever they do they commit a massive injustice – one that’s still unjust even with numbers more like what they possibly imagine (1 in 2 Klingons are criminals, and only 1 in 10 Vulcans). It’s not especially unjust to those people categorized as Klingon who actually are criminals, or those categorized as Vulcan who are not. But the rest are punished or rewarded for what they don’t in fact do, just because it’s common in their group.

            They also fail at their own goal, if that’s preventing or avoiding crime. But they feel really good about their own Vulcan moral rectitude, and proud to be part of the more desirable group ;-( And it’s not too strange to refer to this as their “revealed preference”, though of course it’s also possible that they simply don’t think very effectively.

            In any case, I’m afraid I was just playing with ideas. Given what you have stipulated, one possible explanation is … All this in response to people who appeared to be touting false contradictions in the ideas of those who regard race as essentially a social construct.

            In the unlikely event that all you can know about a person is whether they look like a Vulcan or a Klingon – no reference checks, criminal records, job history, etc. etc. then you *might* get some advantage using their categorization as an extremely unreliable heuristic, though equally possibly at a cost of convincing previously innocent Klingons that they might as well do what they are going to be punished for in any case.

            That’s not realistic. Yet we’ve had poster(s) here who clearly prefer such heuristics, having made claims like “If I wanted an engineer, I’d hire the person from the group that produces proportionately more engineers, rather than the person with engineering training and/or experience”. I presume that people who behave this way are attached to reified categories in a way I completely can’t empathize with. (Those simply making such statements might merely be trolling, but I don’t think that’s the case in the current thread.)

            I don’t understand why so many people can’t see this.

          • albatross11 says:

            Dinonerd:

            I understand some people use racial categories and related statistics in dumb ways, or use them to prop up their prejudices. And yet, that *still* doesn’t justify saying untrue things in order to weaken the arguments of the dumb and prejudiced.

            If Klingons kill a lot more people per capita than Vulcans, and some dumb people decide that this must mean that all Klingons are murderers and no Vulcans are, that’s an error in reasoning that should be disputed directly. It doesn’t justify trying to convince everyone that Klingon-ness is a social construct and there’s no scientific meaning of species and it’s all species-ist pseudoscience.

          • Deiseach says:

            when they actually catch a Vulcan appearing person in the act of commiting a crime, they announce that s/he was really a Klingon passing themselves off as a Vulcan, or fail to mention their categorization – or acquit them in spite of evidence, since Vulcan’s aren’t criminals.

            DinoNerd, I am shocked that you are ignoring the existence of Romulans. No need to introduce conspiracy theory gambits about “Klingons passing themselves off as Vulcans” when there is a simple, factual explanation for why some self-identified “Vulcans” are nothing of the type!

            What next – arguing that Tellarites and Terrans are the same thing, because “Tellus” is another name for “Terra“?

        • albatross11 says:

          How do you feel about species? Exactly the same issues commonly arise there.

          Or how about social science research which uses socioeconomic class or poverty as category variables?

        • EchoChaos says:

          They don’t want cars blending imperceptibly into trucks

          This is literally the largest part of the American car market (SUVs and crossovers)

        • DinoNerd says:

          @Albatross11

          What I thought I was arguing above was that something can be a reified social category, and still be of interest to sociologists and others because of its effects on those so categorized, without representing anything more real.

          It’s self evident to me that there are no firm borders between races, that I had to learn – in adulthood – which people would be categorized as “black” in the US – and that the borders not only could easily be somewhere else, they are somewhere else in other cultures. I started out looking for an explanation of people who insist on treating race as something independently meaningful – and in particular, “race” in the modern sense of 4 or 5 big categores, with no interest in smaller ones.

          I can construct a dozen thought experiments that produce “racial” differences that are both statistically significant and ultimately meaningless, (Did you know that the “tall” race has proportionately more males and the “short” race has proportionately more females. Let’s all construct a pseudo-evolutionary just-so story to explain it. Or better yet, note that the “tall” race, containing proportionately more (young adult) males, is statistically more prone to violence than the “short” race.)

          It’s very hard for me to understand my opponents in this situation. I can find both mistake theory and conflict theory explanations for their expressed beliefs, but that’s just about all. There isn’t a convincing argument in sight, and for me there never has been.

          I can also construct thought experiments that produce meaningful correlations, which are what my opponents seem to be insisting are proof of race as a tangible thing, without producing non-socially-constructed boundaries between races. Some of them appear likely to be simplifications of what’s actually happening. (Simple example – some trait is statistically speaking, distributed based on ancestral latitud e- 10% of those with long term ancestry at the equator have it, and 90% of those with long term ancestry at the Arctic Circle. The trait severely increases the risk of some disease, so it’s important to check for it… but more so in those whose ancestry suggests they are more likely to have it…)

          I’d be much more sympathetic to people interested in much smaller scale differences. Those seem plausible. But even then, people are individuals, and treating them as the average of their race isn’t something we do with those we actually relate to as people.

          [Edit: Aargh – put this in the wrong place in the thread. I think we’re just too deep for an effective conversation.]

          • @DinoNerd,

            I can construct a dozen thought experiments that produce “racial” differences that are both statistically significant and ultimately meaningless, (Did you know that the “tall” race has proportionately more males and the “short” race has proportionately more females. Let’s all construct a pseudo-evolutionary just-so story to explain it. Or better yet, note that the “tall” race, containing proportionately more (young adult) males, is statistically more prone to violence than the “short” race.)

            Do you support affirmative action? Maybe you’re an exception, but people who make these kinds of claims tend to see very clear “racial borders” when it comes to that particular issue.

          • The Nybbler says:

            It’s self evident to me that there are no firm borders between races, that I had to learn – in adulthood – which people would be categorized as “black” in the US – and that the borders not only could easily be somewhere else, they are somewhere else in other cultures.

            We could argue all day about Meghan Markle or Barack Obama, but there’s pretty much no doubt that Donald Trump is white and Kanye West is black.

            I can construct a dozen thought experiments that produce “racial” differences that are both statistically significant and ultimately meaningless, (Did you know that the “tall” race has proportionately more males and the “short” race has proportionately more females. Let’s all construct a pseudo-evolutionary just-so story to explain it. Or better yet, note that the “tall” race, containing proportionately more (young adult) males, is statistically more prone to violence than the “short” race.)

            But it turns out that the people who are studying these things are not idiots; they adjust for age and they consider the sexes separately.

            And it turns out the second-tallest race is more prone to murder than the tallest or the others, even when considering age. (you have to bring in the population figures to confirm this… but at the high-homicide ages, it’s not even close)

            This all to me looks like coming up with specious objections in an attempt to deny clear but uncomfortable statistics.

          • Machine Interface says:

            Why are they considering the sexes separately? If some race has not the same ratio of males to females, we ought to want to know that! Ditto for age!

            That’s not adjusting for confounders, that’s arbitrarily deciding that significant traits you don’t like are confounders.

          • The Nybbler says:

            Yes, if some race has a lopsided sex ratio that’s probably interesting information. The way to find that out is not, however, to come up with a height figure that is affected by the sex ratio. Rather, you measure the sex ratio separately. And the same for age.

          • albatross11 says:

            Just to clarify:

            What I am not saying: American racial categories cut nature at a joint; race is the most important thing to know about a person; racial divisions are deep and important.

            What I am saying: Race has a biological meaning in the sense that knowing someone’s self-reported or apparent race gives me important statistical knowledge about their genes and biology. Large groups of people labeled “black” differ in a bunch of observable physical traits from large groups of people labeled “white.” When we observe some important-in-life statistical difference between blacks and whites, genetic differences could possibly explain some or all of that difference, and the only way to find out is to dig down and check.

            The trick here is that race is a somewhat fuzzy socially-defined category that has a genetic basis, and that also involves a bunch of shared history and culture.

            There are things that differ across races that are definitely genetic, like consumption of sunblock and choice of hair-care products. And there are things that differ across races that are definitely cultural, like the black dialect of American English. And there are things that may be best explained by either one (or more likely some of each), like the higher rate of heart disease among blacks.

          • albatross11 says:

            DinoNerd:

            But even then, people are individuals, and treating them as the average of their race isn’t something we do with those we actually relate to as people.

            The place where average group differences matter is mostly when you’re measuring group differences in outcome. If you want to figure out which kids in your class belong in the advanced math track, you don’t need to worry about group averages for that–you can just give the kids a math test and put the ones with the high scores in the advanced track. But if someone demands to know why Asians are half the advanced math track even though they’re only 10% of the school, then we’re talking about group differences in outcomes–there we need to be able to talk about group differences in ability, to make sense of what’s going on.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s self evident to me that there are no firm borders between races, that I had to learn – in adulthood – which people would be categorized as “black” in the US – and that the borders not only could easily be somewhere else, they are somewhere else in other cultures.

            Sure, racial categories are fuzzy and largely socially defined. Compare with:

            a. Sorting people into “poor” vs “not-poor”

            b. Sorting people into “tall” vs “not-tall”

            c. Sorting people into “obese” vs “not-obese”

            d. Sorting people into “old” vs “not-old”

            All of these are fuzzy categories that you could argue either way, and that are largely arbitrary and socially constructed distinctions that don’t exactly cut nature at a joint. And yet, if you use those fuzzy categories to split a group of people into obese/non-obese, the obese ones will have, on average, worse health in particular areas. If you use those fuzzy categories to split a group of people into old vs not old, again, you’ll see practically important differences in disease prevalence and interest in playing contact sports and energy level between the old people and the young people. If you use your arbitrary/fuzzy categories to divide a group into poor and non-poor, you’ll see important differences in a bunch of social stuff. And so on.

            I see American racial categories as being very much like these categories–there’s an underlying real difference, but exactly who should go in which bin is a bit ambiguous and could often be argued. But any sensible way of binning people will still give you some interesting results.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @Alexander Turok I’m exceedingly unhappy with affirmative action. I see too many cases where the people who benefit were those of the target group who were already most advantaged. OTOH, as long as being “black” gets you a higher risk of various kinds of nasty actions being directed at you, for whatever reason, some kind of counter balance makes sense.

            I first came to the US to take a programming job. One of my first experiences here was hearing that another person hired at the same time had changed their mind and gone back where he came from – apparantly he couldn’t find any vacant places to rent, whereas I’d had no trouble. No one seemed surprised, since that priogrammer was black. (Regretful, yes; surprised, no.)

            The other early experience was being required to attend some kind of AA meeting. I initially parsed AA as Alcoholics Anonymous, but of course it turned out to be Affirmative Action. That meeting told me, a literalist programmer type, that if people wanted to do things to me I didn’t like, because it was part of their culture, I mustn’t attempt to stop them. (Actually, the meeting didn’t raise the idea that I might conceivably dislike their actions for reasons other than cultural bias. But I’d been previously involved in an incident with an immigrant’s ‘culturally normal’ behaviour which had been problematic enough that I’d resolved with low grade violence… so I was sensitized.)

            I interpreted the AA meeting, correctly I think, as warning me of requirements for certain kinds of speech at that employer, if I wanted to avoid getting in trouble. But it might just have been “see we’re trying” theater to impress some government agency.

            That was nearly 30 years ago. I doubt things have gotten any better.

            My bias would be to direct any affirmative action at people who are poor, regardless of other categorization. But that’s before I think about what evidence I have of the lived experience of black people in this country, which still seems pretty bad. That experience justifies some kind of counterbalance.

          • DinoNerd says:

            @albatross11 Your comment deserves a direct response, made with it in front of me, but that’s hard to do at this level of threading.

            What I am saying: Race has a biological meaning in the sense that knowing someone’s self-reported or apparent race gives me important statistical knowledge about their genes and biology. Large groups of people labeled “black” differ in a bunch of observable physical traits from large groups of people labeled “white.”

            I can’t argue with any of the above, except perhaps for quibbling about the word “important”, and pointing out that smaller groupings would give you better knowledge.

            When we observe some important-in-life statistical difference between blacks and whites, genetic differences could possibly explain some or all of that difference, and the only way to find out is to dig down and check.

            This is where I’m less certain. Ultimately, I don’t especially care.

            I can see two reasons to care about this:

            – One is arguments about outcomes. When it’s argued that unless the proportion of Klingons in management matches the proportion in the population, there’s something wrong with the company, this becomes part of the set of responses the company might use.
            – The other is in an attempt to improve individual outcomes, where I think it’s 90+% wrong-headed, because the categories are too broad. (The other 10% is things like screening for Tay Sachs disease primarily among people of Ashkenazi descent [a category much smaller than any modern race, by the way].)

            The arguments about outcomes are overall unfortunate. It’s hard to distinguish between:
            – obstacles at every step, because of reactions to one’s appearance
            – socialized not to attempt such an achievement at all
            – hereditable statistical differences in capacity and/or interest

            Worse, most of the attempts to do so are highly motivated. The set of people who care about differences in outcomes for some reason other than trying to help a favoured group seems miniscule, except for those who are just trying to get excused from changing business as usual.

            I certainly don’t have a solution. But what I see in practice is that looking at this sort of thing simply gives more “scientific support” for people who do believe what you are not claiming:

            What I am not saying: American racial categories cut nature at a joint; race is the most important thing to know about a person; racial divisions are deep and important.

            I somewhat seriously suggest studying genetic differences involving Tibetan, or Inuit or Pygmy populations – each with their own unique environment with real physical challenges – compared perhaps to some kind of average human. Leave the “racial” categories alone for a century or two, until society stops providing differing opportunities etc. based on them (if that ever happens – my guess is that if it does, it will be because they’ve been replaced by new categories serving the same social function.)

          • But what I see in practice is that looking at this sort of thing simply gives more “scientific support” for people who do believe what you are not claiming

            And refusing to look at it gives more “scientific support” for people who believe that any difference in outcomes must be due to discrimination, and if the difference persists that shows we are not doing enough to prevent discrimination.

            Try reading popular articles that mention differences in average wages between men and women or between blacks and whites. What fraction even consider explanations other than discrimination, or conclusions other than that this must be unfair?

    • Douglas Knight says:

      GNXP was originally a group blog. This particular post is by “p-ter”

    • Brassfjord says:

      Race is a difficult characteristic to use since there is no distinct definition of a race that will include all you think belong to that race and exclude all others. But it’s double difficult when those who deny that races exists, sometimes uses racial definitions, e. g. talking about “white males” as something problematic.

      • AG says:

        “White males as problematic” is using the “race is social construct” definition, though (as well as gender as social construction). Whether or not someone “passes” as a white male is inherently about how they pattern-match to the social construction.

      • albatross11 says:

        Brassford:

        Fair enough, but that’s true for a lot of other categories we use all the time, such as species and socioeconomic class.

    • Unsaintly says:

      Okay, so first of all there are people who hold or at least pretend to hold extreme beliefs. They genuinely believe there is no genetic basis to race whatsoever. They are wrong, but are also a (vocal) minority.

      The more reasonable similar view is basically this: there are genetic tendencies among humans for a wide range of traits that are clustered by ancestry. Certain genes are more or less common among various human subgroups in a way that can have measurable impact (albeit often a small one). However, these groups map very poorly onto the modern concepts of “race”. Attempting to blame genetics for different outcomes among groups as broad as “White” or “Black” is as foolish as trying to compare the density of blue objects against yellow objects*. Furthermore, as racial barriers continue to decline and ancestry trees get let distinct, trying to determine what genetic subgroups an individual falls into becomes increasingly difficult and less useful.

      *”We’ve run the numbers, and blue objects are 9% denser on average than yellow objects”
      “Okay, but that probably has nothing to do with the color and the color of an object is one of the least useful things you could learn if you’re interested in density”
      “Why are you denying that color exists? Don’t you know that color is a well understood scientific concept?”

      • albatross11 says:

        Unsaintly:

        Fair enough–that’s a reasonable argument to make, but when you say

        Attempting to blame genetics for different outcomes among groups as broad as “White” or “Black” is as foolish as trying to compare the density of blue objects against yellow objects*.

        that seems to me to be a claim needing some kind of justification. (Also, it’s worth pointing out that in an American context, we’re not talking about all people of European ancestry vs all people of African ancestry, we’re talking about populations that were mostly drawn from a smallish part of Africa and a few countries in Europe.)

        How do you feel about using genetics to explain different outcomes between blacks and whites in rates of sunburn? Or sickle-cell disease? Those seem to me to be obvious counterexamples to your statement above. The first one is kind-of trivial, the second is a weird special case, but both are places where genetics drive some observable real-world differences. And there are more–IIRC, there are a number of diseases that have different prevalence in blacks and whites and American Indians and Asians, which also seems like a pretty obvious counterexample.

        Now, that doesn’t tell you whether any particular observed correlation between race and some given outcome is ultimately genetic–that’s a research question, and often a pretty hard one with tons of potential confounds. But it does mean that you can’t define away the whole question by saying that race doesn’t exist or that it’s foolish to imagine that genetic differences could explain some observed difference in outcomes. You have to actually make the argument for the claim you’re making, and provide evidence.

      • The Nybbler says:

        However, these groups map very poorly onto the modern concepts of “race”.

        No, they don’t.

        • Machine Interface says:

          So 1 (one) study, which starts by saying that it contradicts several previous studies, has found that 1 (one) way to look at genetic markers (out of the many different ways that exist) is a match for 1 (one) way to classify race (among the many ways that exist).

          Color me unimpressed.

      • SamChevre says:

        I think I disagree on the blue/yellow objects.

        If you are trying to figure out “what determines density, color is really not likely to be helpful.

        But if you are answering the question “why, when you pick the densest objects in the building, are they disproportionately blue vs yellow?”, then it can be very useful.

    • helloo says:

      Meh. Just say vegetables doesn’t exists (as a scientific concept). Is it meaningful to talk about vegetables?

    • John Schilling says:

      “Race is just a social construct” means pretty much the same thing as “I never give less than 100% to my job”.

  22. During WW1, some countries quickly realized that they were completely unprepared for industrialized, total warfare and gave up pretty soon. Was this just a matter of lack of will or was it the case that they literally could not keep going?

    • Milo Minderbinder says:

      Can you give specific examples of what countries you have in mind? As far as countries that got rolled pretty quickly, Romania jumps to mind, but in their case they entered the war late and immediately faced the German war machine in full swing (Germany arguably being the most prepared country and probably top-3 if not #1 in overall fighting will).

      • Romania was the first country that came to my mind but I’m generally thinking of those countries in Eastern Europe that couldn’t handle industrialized warfare. My understanding is that by 1918, Germany was doing almost all the heavy lifting in Europe for the Central Powers. To a lesser extent, I’m thinking of Russia. They did put up stiff resistance for three years but then folded in 1917. How much of that was low morale, and how much of that was just not having the resources to keep going?

    • Statismagician says:

      At a surface level, being willing to spend huge quantities of blood and treasure is itself a big part of being prepared for industrial war, so I’m not really sure how to approach this – you can’t really separate the morale from the materiel dimensions, they each feed into each other.

    • Clutzy says:

      WW1 is a complex beast wherein the Germans were basically always “winning” while they knew they were technically losing because America was totally not neutral and Britain controlled the Atlantic.

      So it is certainly a case by case basis. Countries falling to Germany couldn’t match the tech. The French/English couldn’t match the tech. Also, you have to understand that its not a popular decision to throw away 50% of your males age 16-40 just to lose a war more slowly.

    • AlesZiegler says:

      Unless there is a case of total genocide slash selling captive population to slavery (think Rome vs Carthage), all defeats in war are essentially matters of lack of will to resist. Even if your field army is broken and your country occupied, there is always a possibility of guerilla resistence.

  23. epenethesis says:

    Is there any way to fix aromanticism? Or failing a general solution, to force yourself to develop romantic attachment to someone?

    I used to be able to develop crushes in high school and college, but for typical nerd reasons, didn’t really date. It feels like I stopped developing crushes on friends and acquaintances around 23. Ironically, starting at around 25 (I’m 29 now), I’ve been able to get dates pretty regularly via a combination of apps and social situations. But despite going on 57 first dates, 18 2nd dates, 10 3rd dates, and 3 times that I kept seeing the women I felt most likely I’d *eventually* develop feelings for for over a month, nothing’s ever clicked.

    This is obviously very much at odds with how it seems to work for most people, and I find it pretty distressing. I do *want* to be in a romantic relationship, but I’m increasingly worried that that’s not possible.

    Probably worth noting that I have a very low, albeit not nonexistant sex drive, and it’s definitely gotten weaker as I’ve gotten older. That said, asexual people seem to have little problem developing romantic relationships (cf: our dear host), so I’m not sure that’s the real issue here.

    • Plumber says:

      @epenethesis,
      All that you described and especially how old you were when you notice the changes seem normal to me.

      Speaking for myself I’m just less passionate than I was in my youth, 15 year-old me wasn’t very different from 20 year-old me, but 25 and especially 30 year-old me were, and (among other ways) the differences match what you describe.

      Embrace it and call it “wisdom”.

      • epenethesis says:

        Well, most single 29 year olds still enter romantic relationships, which I seem to be unable to do.

        Or are they all just joining their lives with random people with very little emotional impetus behind it?

        • Plumber says:

          @epenethesis says:

          “…most single 29 year olds still enter romantic relationships, which I seem to be unable to do”

          Judging from The Atlantic Monthly and many “click bait” headlines romantic partners are increasingly rare for your generation, maybe because of more digital distractions and less cocaine and lead exposure?
          (I’ve also seen the rise of online “dating” blamed, paradox of choice or casino effect or something)

          “Or are they all just joining their lives with random people with very little emotional impetus behind it?”

          Maybe not “little” but judging from my experience definitely less, and frankly having lower emotional highs was worth the higher lows, adolescent “in-love” was mostly painful.

        • DragonMilk says:

          Do you still live in the Bay area? If so, I think there is a cultural contribution to the issue.

    • DragonMilk says:

      You don’t have to answer it, and excuse me if some of these come across as offensive, but do any of these apply to you?

      1. Had a tough breakup you didn’t get over
      2. Have a goal of hooking up when dating
      3. Have mostly male friends
      4. Have a list of expectations from a spouse-to-be
      5. Watch porn regularly

      Again, I don’t know you at all, but the process seems a bit off – I’d think you’d keep seeing people that click rather than go on even a 2nd or 3rd date.

      • epenethesis says:

        1. I had an *intense* crush around age 23 that took about a year to get over. However, I’ve never had a break up (as my original post states, I’ve never really been in a relationship)
        2. Nope. Again, low sex drive
        3. Mix. Was in the SF tech milieu through most of my 20s, so tilted male for that reason.
        4. Yes? I don’t think excessively exacting, but everyone has some standards
        5. ~1x a week

        the process seems a bit off – I’d think you’d keep seeing people that click rather than go on even a 2nd or 3rd date.

        The issue is that no one really seems to click. Going on 2nd or 3rd dates when I think “eh, she seems interesting” is just an attempt to check that the issue isn’t I’m writing people off too quickly/have too exacting of standards/expecting too much from a first encounter.

      • DragonMilk says:

        May just be a season of life – what other things do you enjoy doing? Cookoing? Games? Sports? Hiking?

        Perhaps try to find an existing friend or make new friends (who are female) that share those interests and go from there. The low sex drive will help those relationships! Girls really value guys that they trust are into what they are into rather into their pants.

        Can try a few meetups, again with the goal to befriend. Romance should blossom on its own when you find a companion you share a lot with.

        • Creutzer says:

          Perhaps try to find an existing friend or make new friends (who are female) that share those interests and go from there. The low sex drive will help those relationships! Girls really value guys that they trust are into what they are into rather into their pants.

          As a warning, however, it is my understanding that failure to declare romantic intentions in a timely fashion is generally not appreciated.

          • Aftagley says:

            Right. The Friendzone isn’t some inescapable black hole, but it’s definitely a thing you need to account for.

          • DragonMilk says:

            Desperate times call for desperate measures!

            But seconded

          • AG says:

            One possibility might be epenethesis is demiromantic, though, in which case the reason they don’t fall in love like other people is precisely because they need to become friends with a prospective partner first.

            As for avoiding getting labelled a creep, the solution is to be friends with a group of prospective partners, rather than befriending just the one, and have them on pins and needles about your intentions until the situation resolves.
            Which is to say, build/join a larger friend group that does group activities together on the regular.

    • Pink-Nazbol says:

      Why do you want to want a romantic relationship if you don’t have a high sex drive? Desire for family? Social pressure? The 14 words?

      You shouldn’t expect to develop romantic feelings for someone after a month of dating, particularly if you aren’t doing the dirty deed. It usually goes sex -> romance for men, and then often it’s just sex -> nothing. The whole soulmates meme is kind of gay.

    • Spookykou says:

      I am about your age, I still get nervous and excited when there is a prospect for physical interactions with someone I am attracted to, which gives me a ‘spark’ on almost any date I go on. That being said, I have never been in ‘love’ and don’t expect I ever will be. I do intend to marry, but I don’t think I will ever fall in love, I am just looking for someone who I think will make a compatible life partner/child raiser. I tend to typical mind pretty hard about this, and assume that nobody(or almost nobody) falls in love as depicted in movies, fiction, etc, but I am probably the weird one.

      To me the mental state that I associate with love involves elevating the other person, and I am generally really bad about this. Potentially related, I don’t experience and don’t really understand being a ‘fan’ of someone else. Yes so and so is funny, or a good actor, or whatever, but I just don’t care and I don’t really understand the head-space of people who do, who scream or freak out when they meet their favorite celebrity. (Iv’e never met Scott in person though, so maybe I just haven’t met the right celebrities yet)

  24. EchoChaos says:

    Coronavirus badness update:

    Still at a 5-6 (out of 10). China is clearly lying about the numbers at this point, especially with their update of 15,000 new cases in a day and it will affect global supply chains, but spread outside of China remains low and probably containable. Although I will update my belief about what percentage of the 5-6 level damage is human death and what percentage is the economic damage from the quarantines and lockdowns.

    The big question is what will happen in first world countries like Japan, which saw its first death today.

    • broblawsky says:

      The WHO is claiming that those 15k new cases represent multiple days or weeks of data, not a one-day spike, so it’s not quite as bad as that. I’m still at a 4 out of 10.

    • Aftagley says:

      Personal Badness – 6-7/10. My work has had to basically shut down all operations in Southeast Asia. Significant disruptions to planned events, basically every timeline we had is out the window.

      Overall Badness – 4/10. I’m with Broblawsky on this, I still think this will mostly be confined to China.

    • DragonMilk says:

      The Chinese rumor mill has it that the Wuhan lab that was studying the virus had workers that did not properly dispose of the dead specimens. Rather than burn them in hellfire and such, they sold them as food.

      Plausible, but yet to be borne out.

      • Deiseach says:

        Plausible, but yet to be borne out.

        As a rumour/conspiracy theory? Yeah, it sounds good.

        As reality? I would hold off on it. Even if we accept Chinese labs have shitty discipline, no standards of biological waste disposal and workers are corruptly making money on the side, they would probably have been doing this all along – they wouldn’t suddenly decide to sell the one lot of specimens that had this one particular virus.

        So if Wuhan routinely had outbreaks of “hmmm, never saw that one before”, then okay, entertain the possibility. But right now, that sounds more like the ordinary kind of crazy idea whipped up by lack of information and online frenzy.

        • DragonMilk says:

          That’s the thing, the contention is that they’ve been doing it all along, it just so happened that like SARS, the virus mutated in one of those specimens “improperly” disposed of.

      • marshwiggle says:

        I have heard this one from my Chinese contacts as well. They seemed to believe it. I am more skeptical. Anyone have anything better than rumor to confirm, deny, or cast doubt on it?

    • DragonMilk says:

      Rumor mill scoop #2: Deaths severely under-reported, based off of the uptick in cremations at funeral homes. The cremation rate is estimated at between 1k to 2k for the past two weeks.

      China’s death rate in 2019 was 7.2 per 1,000. Wuhan is 11 million people. So annually, one would expect 79,200 deaths, or around 217 a day. One of the 8 (not the largest) funeral homes was recently approached and a dude said they processed 127 bodies the prior day.

      So assuming the “excess” deaths of 800/day are from coronavirus, over 2 weeks the # of deaths in Wuhan alone should be at least 11,200, or around 10x the reported deaths.

      • jermo sapiens says:

        Yes, I’ve seen all sorts of rumors about that also. Not that I trust the Chinese government much, but I trust internet rumors less. That said, you may have heard this from a trusted source, and if so, which one?

        I’ve also heard internet rumors that this disease only really affects east asians, because they have more ACE II receptors and this virus enters cells through ACE II receptors. I have literally zero idea whether this is complete BS, plausible but unproven, or pretty certain.

        • DragonMilk says:

          I trust my source faithfully relayed to me untrustworthy internet rumors!

          As I lay out below, it’s moreso the # of cases being under-reported given the 2% or so mortality rate seems apparent to those who have talked to crematoriums. I suspect half a million are infected in China (mostly Wuhan) based on the early spread of the disease internationally, and now these alleged crematorium figures. That roughly corresponds to 1 in 22 having it, which I don’t think is too farfetched given how something like the flu works in the US, which there is actually a vaccine for. The CDC’s estimates for 2017-2018 were 44.8MM people in the US got it, or about 1 in 6 or 7. Again, with flu vaccine and all.

          • jermo sapiens says:

            I trust my source faithfully relayed to me untrustworthy internet rumors!

            LOL.

            That roughly corresponds to 1 in 22 having it, which I don’t think is too farfetched given how something like the flu works in the US, which there is actually a vaccine for.

            These numbers are certainly plausible.

      • Statismagician says:

        No.

        You can’t infer local excess deaths from national mortality rates, especially not in China for all sorts of reasons. You also can’t assume per-day rates are flat through the year (they’re not), or that some dude who may or may not actually work at the mortuary knows what he’s talking about, or that even if he did it’s meaningful and not just because, e.g., the owner of largest mortuary happened to be on vacation that week.

        • DragonMilk says:

          Agreed that it’s a very cursory methodology, but if you look at flu deaths from 2017-2018 in USA, I don’t think the numbers are particularly alarming.

          CDC estimated 61k died from the flu in the US. If half a million people in Wuhan actually have the virus, and the mortality rate is 2%, then 10k lines up.

          I’m not arguing that the mortality rate is higher than reported. I’m suggesting that the # of cases is underreported given the mortality rate based on admittedly sketchy funeral home cremation extrapolation

    • SolipsisticUtilitarian says:

      I have been looking for an explanation for the following observation, but cannot find one:

      The nCov is said to have a higher R0 than Sars, and is clearly worse in China. But Sars seems to have spread much worse internationally than the nCov. Going off memory, *one* person lead to an infection of close to 100 people in Toronto. Currently, there has been one(?) h2h transmission in the US (among >10 cases), no(?) h2h in Australia(>10 cases). There have been a lot of h2h in Germany, but all are confined to the employee’s of the affected company and their immediate relatives. Containment measures are surely part of the explanation, but according to case reports, many of the known cases were walking around quite freely before they got diagnosed or before the severity of the virus became a public topic. The numbers don’t add up for me.

      I would be interested in a summary of cases in Japan and Singapore, if anybody has one.

    • chrisminor0008 says:

      What reasons are there for the virus to spread so virulently inside China but not outside?

      • marshwiggle says:

        First, quality of health care system.

        Second, time. The disease started there, so it has had time to get enough infected to overwhelm that system and its supplies.

      • John Schilling says:

        My knowledge of China is more Beijing than Wuhan, but possible factors could include: High population density, extensive use of public transportation, heavy air pollution, common use of relatively unsanitary food carts, factory jobs that won’t take “I have the sniffles” as an excuse for missing work, extensive use of traditional Chinese medicine, low social trust limiting engagement with official medical and public-health services, and possibly climate, diet, or population genetics. Just off the top of my head.

        Some but not all of these will be present in neighboring southeast Asian nations, and we don’t know which ones may be most important.

  25. AlexOfUrals says:

    What are the most plausible non-humanoid alien races you’ve seen in sci-fi? Authors too often either go Starteck/Starwars way and give their aliens basically human body plan with some decorations (which is admittedly the only body plan we know for sure works for a sapient species, but that’s hardly a good justification), or err too far in the opposite side and, trying to make their aliens as alien and bizarre as possible, give them highly impractical or outright ridiculous features – odd-numbered legs, external digestion with food just glued to their bodies, piston-based locomotion, single cell organisms size of a human etc. I’d argue that multiple heads or mouths, single eye, no signs of skeleton for a terrestrial creature, extreme sexual dimorphism (especially where one of the sexes doesn’t get intelligence) or more than 2 sexes, tentacles over tentacles over tentacles (more than 1 branching) and some other commonly used features also fall into this category.

    What are the best examples of an author staying as far as possible from both extremes and keeping their alien race inhuman but biologically realistic? Bonus points if their ecology and evolutionary history is discussed and actually makes sense.

    • woah77 says:

      Skeletons in Space by Andries Louws has some of the best aliens I’ve seen in Scifi. I’m not sure if it meets your criteria across the board but they definitely aren’t just “humans dressed up” like many aliens are.

    • albatross11 says:

      Pierson’s puppeteers (Niven) have two heads and a complicated sexual reproduction scheme that involves a second helper species, and we get some discussion of how they evolved. They are also famously cowardly and paranoid.

      The Tines (Vinge) are doglike creatures who are basically bright animals as individuals, who form a fully sapient creature only in packs, using sound to network together the individual creatures.

      The Arachnoids (also Vinge) are spider-like creatures who (like all life on their planet) live 30-ish years at a time, then go into deep frozen hybernation for some time, and wake up and continue their life. They come off in _A Deepness in the Sky_ as being almost too human-like, but there’s a justification for that in-story.

      Brin has a bunch of aliens in his Uplift series, and while many are humanoid and relatively human-like, there are also sentient plants that aren’t remotely like humans. One is an important character in _Sundiver_.

      • Bobobob says:

        I loved that the leader of the Puppeteers is called “The Hindmost.”

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        Puppeteers was one of the specific examples I’ve been thinking about when plausibility was thrown away for the sake of weirdness. They have three legs – which is extremely maladaptive from the purely mechanical point of view, a creature with this body plan would’ve been surpassed by four (or more) legged competitors very early on. Their females aren’t sapient – while among sapient males, any mutation making a female smarter would’ve given a huge advantage and thus fixated. And it’s not that they would’ve need to evolve intelligence from scratch, just activate the genes which create it in males (of course in practice this means that a big gap would have never formed in the first place). They have two mouths, which I can’t exactly pinpoint what’s wrong with, but it’s never encountered in Earth biosphere ever, even though our last common ancestor was some extremely primitive cell – long before any mouths started to form. I’m very doubtful their evolutionary history justifies appearance of intelligence too.

        Sentient plans are even worse, since on Earth no multicellular autotroph evolved as much as self-propelled locomotion, let alone any senses, let alone intellect. And it makes perfect sense – why should they? If you don’t need to search for food, because you generate your own nutrients, it’s apparently more effective to evolve passive defences and/or procreate, then to try and outrun anyone trying to eat you.

        Hibernating arachnids sound more plausible though and from what you said I have no strong opinion on Tines.

        • albatross11 says:

          Nitpick: IIRC, male and female puppeteers are both intelligent. (Kzinti females aren’t sapient–maybe that’s what you’re thinking of?)

          For what it’s worth, I’m not sure “nothing like this evolved on Earth” is very convincing as a reason an alien could have evolved in a particular way, and am really unclear on why it’s obvious that a 3-legged thing couldn’t have evolved when we are 2-legged things that evolved in a world of mostly 4-legged big animals and 6, 8, or 10-legged smaller animals.

          My guess is that Puppeteers would have evolved intelligence by needing to understand, predict, and coordinate the actions of the rest of the herd. (By comparison, elephants seem quite intelligent, and they’re also large herd animals, so this doesn’t seem impossible to me.)

          • LHN says:

            The creatures described as “Puppeteer females” were really a separate nonsapient species the Puppeteers had parasitized to gestate their offspring. (Their two biological sexes, both sapient, were characterized as different types of male.)

            “…We have two kinds of male, Louis. My kind implants its sperm in the female’s flesh, and Nessus’s kind implants its egg in the female with a most similar organ.”

            Chmeee asked, “You have three sets of genes?”

            “No, two only. The female contributes none. In fact, females mate among themselves in another way to make more females. They are not properly of our species, though they have been symbiotic with us for all history.”

            Louis winced. The puppeteers bred like digger wasps: their progeny ate the flesh of a helpless host. Nessus had refused to talk about sex. Nessus was right. This was ugly.

          • AlexOfUrals says:

            You’re right, I was confusing them with Kzinti and/or what LHN describes in this regard.

            The mechanics, thermodynamics and game theory are the same on every planet. On the other hand, we have a vast range of environments on Earth (and Puppeteers specifically are known to have evolved in a very earthlike environment – grasslands or something if I’m not wrong). One common thing about the numbers of legs you mention is they are all even. An extra leg doesn’t add mobility when walking, let alone running, rather it hinders it, no matter how alien your species is, and for stability when stationary, there’s a thing called ass, or thick tail in some species, but not a fully developed leg. Also, we’re not remotely the first bipedal apex predator or the smartest species on Earth, these were both done by dinosaurs (including Avians), a number of times.

            For extra mouths, I’d guess it’s just added complexity for zero benefit (note that number of mouths would have evolved waaaay earlier than any appendages let alone Puppeteers using them as hands) but I’m really not sure about the cause. However, the fact that we started as a cellular bag with two holes, insects started as a bag with one hole, medusas started as the hell knows what, and over half a billion years and multitude of environments none of the groups ever evolved a second mouth does seem pretty suggestive.

            Yeah elephants are a strong argument against the idea that only omnivores can be really smart. I’m genuinely confused why are they so intelligent, and perhaps that makes Puppeteers’ evolutionary history more plausible.

        • noyann says:

          Puppeteers [ … ] have three legs – which is extremely maladaptive from the purely mechanical point of view

          I have not read it, so as a general thought:
          If the 3rd leg serves like the tail for a kangaroo — give balance while moving, and stable upright position — that could be an advantage.

          • albatross11 says:

            The back leg also functions as a weapon, quite possibly used instinctively. (They turn away from their attacker, use the eyes on each head to triangulate the target’s location, and kick it with their back leg.)

        • sandoratthezoo says:

          Tines are almost exactly dogs except they broadcast their thoughts in the auditory range. I don’t think you can actually make a principled case for their evolutionary plausibility — there are surely huge disadvantages to constantly making lots of sound that would be selected against long before you could achieve the advantages of a hive-mind.

          In terms of alien-seeming aliens from a Niven story, Moties strike me as interesting and, like, basically plausible barring their mental specializations. They’re from hexapodal stock, but have some kind of fiddler-crab style deal where on one side one of their arms became vestigial and largely vanished, and the other became giant, and on the other side they have two delicate manipulator arms, plus two legs. They have an endoskeleton and binocular vision. No neck, which then allows their big strong arm to pull on their skull to give mechanical advantage, with a sturdy, non-spine-based internal structure.

          They have to mate or die. If you assume that a starving motie-ancestor that mates auto-terminates its pregnancy and itself survives, that doesn’t strike me as hugely likely to be maladaptive — the inefficiencies seem on the general order of what we see on Earth species. They’re serial hermaphrodites, I guess you could make an argument that this is adaptive because it prevents self-impregnation, which is not a great reproductive strategy, but allows more possible options for genetic recombination.

          • albatross11 says:

            I can imagine a path from some kind of social pack species (like wolves) toward a collective intelligence, and using sound to coordinate between the pack members seems pretty reasonable. I mean, who knows whether it could really arise that way, but it’s not obviously impossible to me. We have at least one worked example of semi-social creatures that extensively use sound to coordinate their activities, and that have clearly undergone extensive evolution to support their sound-based communication and coordination mechanisms.

    • hnrq says:

      That’s actually something that is very interesting to think about. One would need to think on what are the necessary evolutionary pressures that lead to intelligence. I did some quick research, and it seems like the there is convergence in how the most intelligent non-human came about: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1439-0310.2009.01644.x

      Complex environments, social dynamics and dietary diversity seem to be needed, and are capable of making species as different as ravens and chimpanzees to achieve “high” intelligence. My intuition is that birds would pretty much never end up as intelligent as humans, because they can’t manipulate things as precisely as apes (fingers are better than beaks).

      Anyway, if I had to bet on what an alien probably looks like, I would bet that it would be bipedal and have hands.

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        That sounds very interesting, thank you, I’ll make sure to read the article!

        Why do you think creatures with 4 or more legs – given they also have at least one pair of dedicated hands aren’t plausible? IIRC when vertebrates started to colonize land there were 2 taxons of fish competing for it, one with 2 pairs of fins used as legs, the other with 3, and while the former won on reality, from what we know it’s possible things would’ve gone otherwise and all the terrestrial life would have inherited 3 pairs limbs. But maybe I’m misremembering or it was no accident that 2 pairs of limbs won?

        • albatross11 says:

          It seems like some body plans / environments make developing technology very hard. You might be able to become as intelligent as humans in an underwater environment, but it’s going to be hard to invent metalworking when you’re underwater!

        • noyann says:

          In a fluid environment, a simple bidirectional twitch wandering along an axis is enough to give propulsion.
          [illustration]
          Simple, robust mechanism => evolutionary advantage.
          And when mammals re-entered the sea, they used it again, this time with vertical bending for propulsion.
          [example]

      • AppetSci says:

        My intuition is that birds would pretty much never end up as intelligent as humans, because they can’t manipulate things as precisely as apes (fingers are better than beaks).

        It’s not inconceivable that with a few million years of evolutionary time, a crow could evolve to prop itself up on its tail feather and wings and manipulate objects with its beak and both feet. Its feet don’t have to bear much weight so can remain precise manipulating instruments, and its wings could easily remain functional with slightly stiffer feathers. If flight becomes a less important evolutionary advantage then maximum brain weight (and power) also becomes less of a limitation.

      • albatross11 says:

        One idea I had (but I haven’t seen his book): suppose the available solar radiation is all really long-wavelength stuff (radio). Then it might be workable for the plants to make wide antennas and absorb energy from it, but hard for the animals that need to move around to support sense organs that have to be, say, a couple meters long to be useful.

        • bullseye says:

          Pretty sure they don’t make stars like that. Temperature determines which wavelengths the star produces. A radio star would not only be colder than our sun, it would be colder than our earth (which glows in infrared).

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, I have no idea what kind of cosmological conditions would be needed to give you such a situation, just that it’s one way I can kind-of imagine the pattern we were discussing.

            ETA: Wikipedia says some pulsars emit strong radio signals–maybe that might be an explanation.

            Also, maybe a pulsar being your planet’s main energy source would give you some situation where no-eyes life would arise, if (for example) you got a one-minute burst of light energy every hour or something.

    • Well... says:

      The protobacteria that humans discover on their new planet (and are deathly allergic to) in Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Aurora”.

    • Bobobob says:

      I was impressed by the utter alienness, yet realistic-seeming behavior, of the creatures in Arrival. Would love to see a movie set on their planet. (FYI, I’m currently reading “Other Minds,” about octopus evolution, and I’ve always been partial to octopoid-like aliens, like the ones that appeared briefly in that Babylon 5 movie.)

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        Hm, I must admit I wasn’t impressed with the movie at all, from their whole nonsensical business with time, to rather pointless visit by the aliens (resolve the tensions created by said visit and help one woman reconcile with death of her to-be-born daughter isn’t particularly ambitious set of goals for a first contact). About the aliens in particular, they’re even called heptapods – and odd number of limbs on ground is both very maladaptive and easy to fix. And despite having so many of them, their limbs don’t show any signs of specialization afair. Also the idea of having 7 fingers on 7 hands may look cool numeralogically, but is really hard to justify evolutionary.

        • Bobobob says:

          Assuming the arms are arranged in a circular fashion, I can’t think of any reason why 8 arms would be favored by evolution over 7 arms. After all, starfish have an odd number of arms (5). My guess is that it’s just a random first-past-the-finish-line feature of biology.

          • AlexOfUrals says:

            Yes, but starfish live in water. Something coming out of water onto the land will most likely at first use all of it’s primary limbs for locomotion and thus have a huge pressure for them to be even numbered and symmetrical. And from there on yes it’s first-past-the-post, and all its terrestrial descendants will have an even number of limbs and consequently of arms. Although I can imagine the first terrestrial creature having two types of appendages, larger ones it uses for locomotion, and smaller manipulative ones, perhaps some kind of tentacles or chelicerae around its mouth. If the latter then form arms, I can’t think of any obvious reason why they can’t be odd-numbered. But that’s visibly not the case with heptapods.

          • Well... says:

            Regardless of all this, I thought the heptapods were not very imaginative or alien. Basically giant wise octopuses minus an arm. Pretty sure when Chiang created them he decided to put all his effort into exploring the (now debunked?) idea that language creates reality, and to reserve none for outside-the-box thinking with respect to exozoology.

            It’s a beautiful story but one of Chiang’s least impressive from a sci-fi perspective.

          • AppetSci says:

            I think we should at least entertain the idea of regressive evolution where something useful like a prehensile tail no longer conferred a competitive advantage and became the coccyx. When a species has evolved to the extent that it can leverage its own technology to take care of the fine-motor manipulation, there is no longer a particular selection pressure on those features and they go the way of the coccyx – the course that Wall-E’s humans are on.

    • JohnNV says:

      Asimov’s “The Gods Themselves” was his response to critics complaining that his science fiction didn’t have enough aliens or enough sex. So he wrote an entire novel full of alien sex. Not his best work, but it’s pretty entertaining.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      That’s easy. Expedition by Wayne Barlowe is a fake documentary of humanity’s landmark voyage to Darwin IV, with the intent of studying and cataloguing its diverse biosphere. The team quickly finds that all of the species there are blind, using sonar to sense their environment. The species are myriad, including medium-sized herd animals, raptorlike aerial predators, three-legged elephantine creatures so large that they sustain huge ecologies on their backs, an even larger sea composed of a single amoeba (think Great Red Spot), huge striders that roam across that amoeba, parasitizing it, and a variety of neutrally buoyant species, including one that appears to be proto-sapient.

      Illustrations are full size, and fill nearly every page; the work is basically a picture book that would fit well on a coffee table. Barlowe designed this entire world; he’s an artist with a degree in biology and a career in making extraterrestrials look like they could actually exist. If you’ve ever seen a realistic looking alien in a movie after about 1995, chances are that it was designed by either Guillermo del Toro, or Wayne Barlowe (and in at least one case, both).

      • Brassfjord says:

        Wayne Barlowe’s paintings are fascinating because he doesn’t only use variations of existing species, but they don’t strike me as very plausible.

      • AlexOfUrals says:

        That looks like an amazing example of world building, but I presume they planet have some amount of sunlight, since human colonize it – and then there must be plants for animals to eat? If so, how likely is it that over billions of years of evolutionary history not a single cell happened on synthetising a photosensitive molecule other than their analogue of chlorophyll? I’d say not a chance. On Earth it happened early on, and I believe multiple times independently. And I said a lot above about an odd number of legs.

        • albatross11 says:

          How could you get something like that? Maybe some weird property of the local star that occasionally either goes dark for unpredictable periods of time (so light isn’t so useful as a seeing mechanism) or has huge random flares that burn out all the proto-eyes that evolve before they can evolve a defense to the flares?

          Light gives you finer resolution, and more importantly, doesn’t require you to spend energy generating a signal or inform the world of where you are, so it seems like eyes would be a huge win.

          • AlexOfUrals says:

            I can’t really think of any way to achieve this. The problem is, whatever you change spectrum, intensity, modulation etc of your lighting, it must still allow your autotrophs to synthesize organic. And if it’s good enough to power roughly your whole ecosystem, it’s certainly good enough for some organisms to use it for navigation. Long dark periods? All life will have to hibernate or die out since there’ll be no influx of calories. Flares? They either burn your plants so you’re screwed, or they not and then the eyes can be resistant too. Although I can imagine this limiting their usefulness, since more resistant likely means less sensitive, so you can get much more species with echolocation, but not entire ecosystem of them.

            Chemotrophs are too low powered or unstable to support a big complex ecosystem, at least on Earth. Maaaaybe you can get around that, especially on a larger planet with different geological composition. But even then, assuming it was thrown out of the star system or something so it gets no light means it’ll freeze. Ok, it’ll remain warm for quite along time due to internal heat, more so for a large planet, but 1) I’m not sure it’ll be long enough for complex life to evolve 2) During that period the life can just use infrared for vision.

            Perhaps someone with more imagination and/or actually knowing biology can come up with better ideas.

          • albatross11 says:

            Another idea: For some reason (again, I have no idea how it would work), the solar energy arrives on the planet in short bursts–maybe five minutes in every hour or something–and its arrival is random or at least so complex as to be hard to predict. Most of life is spent in the dark, so being able to see in the dark is necessary to live, whereas being able to see during the occasional bursts of light isn’t all that helpful.

        • Paul Brinkley says:

          I got around to locating my copy of the book.

          Darwin IV is 6563km in diameter, and circles an F-class binary – so close together that they’re effectively one star. A Darwin IV day is 26.7 hours long. F-class is a yellow-white dwarf.

          The planet has no seas (other than the “sea” formed by that giant amoeba), but does have polar caps. The atmosphere is oxygen-rich, and the 3/5 Earth gravity yields some gigantic fauna. The plains are “blanketed with thick tube-grass, a stalky pencil-thin succulent that grows astonishingly fast.” These plants store huge amounts of the planet’s water.

          The fauna have evolved “sonar and infrared faculties” instead of true eyes, and also often have sophisticated pressure receptors along their lateral lines. They also have hot bioluminescent spots that show up well on infrared (Darwin IV is much colder than Earth). Temperature is their primary sense.

          There might be more background in the book that I’ve forgotten.

    • Bobobob says:

      The blobfish (oh wait, that’s real).

      Seriously, I think you could Google a picture of an existing species right here on earth and have 90% of the population assume it’s an alien special effect. Which prompts the question, has anyone written a book with aliens modeled on/evolved from tardigrades?

    • marshwiggle says:

      Mother of Demons has two mollusk like races. I’m no biologist, but the book seemed to at least be making an attempt to extrapolate what a planet ruled by mollusks would be like.

    • bullseye says:

      As for extreme sexual dimorphism, I could imagine a species where the female is sentient and the male is microscopic, first living inside his mother and then inside his wife. I figure an older female could transfer some of her sons to a young female, who then uses them to reproduce for the rest of her life.

    • One idea I have, which I’m not sure if anyone has explored, is a world in which the aliens reach adulthood far faster than humans do, around three years. You can’t just say “history would be like ours but just sped up,” because it takes just as long to drive your tank from Moscow to Berlin or cross the Atlantic in a ship. The effect would be that wherever there’s a vacuum it fills up far quicker than it has for humans. They never experience a world like ours where they are far underneath their carrying capacity. Theirs would be a more brutal world and that would be used to explain their lack of ‘morality’ when they first interact with humans.

  26. smilerz says:

    Interesting finding that I have no skill in evaluating:
    People Born Blind Are Mysteriously Protected from Schizophrenia

  27. Eponymous says:

    Question: Why do the odds on betfair and predictit differ so much?

    Right now, predictit has Sanders at 46 to win the nomination. On betfair you can pay $1 to win $2.72, which works out to just under 37%. This is a 9-point gap. That seems very big to me, and it’s persisted for at least a day (I noticed a similar-sized gap yesterday).

    Anyone with insight into why this gap hasn’t be arbitraged away? I don’t trade in these markets, so I assume there’s some cost to make trades, plus a bid/ask spread (but that looks to be around 1%). Also, is one of the two just much more likely to be accurate (i.e. more liquid, lower transaction costs / limits)? Would it be betfair?

    • smilerz says:

      not enough market makers is the simple answer. Given the volume of trades the market is predicting an outcome within a margin of error – those bids are likely within that margin of error.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Yes, but … why is the bid-ask spread on Predictit so small?
        Is it possible to see the whole order book?

        • Wency says:

          Yeah, bid-ask spread tells you the “margin of error” answer isn’t quite correct.

          I think the reason is different populations of users plus too many restrictions and fees to make arbitraging away the difference rational.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      From chapter 2 of Inadequate Equilibria by Eliezer Yudkowsky:

      At one point during the 2016 presidential election, the PredictIt prediction market—the only one legally open to US citizens (and only US citizens)—had Hillary Clinton at a 60% probability of winning the general election. The bigger, international prediction market BetFair had Clinton at 80% at that time.

      So I looked into buying Clinton shares on PredictIt—but discovered, alas, that PredictIt charged a 10% fee on profits, a 5% fee on withdrawals, had an $850 limit per contract bet… and on top of all that, I’d also have to pay 28% federal and 9.3% state income taxes on any gains. Which, in sum, meant I wouldn’t be getting much more than $30 in expected return for the time and hassle of buying the contracts.

      Oh, if only PredictIt didn’t charge that 10% fee on profits, that 5% fee on withdrawals! If only they didn’t have the $850 limit! If only the US didn’t have such high income taxes, and didn’t limit participation in overseas prediction markets! I could have bought Clinton shares at 60 cents on PredictIt and Trump shares at 20 cents on Betfair, winning a dollar either way and getting a near-guaranteed 25% return until the prices were in line! Curse those silly rules, preventing me from picking up that free money!

      Does that complaint sound reasonable to you?

      If so, then you haven’t yet fully internalized the notion of an inefficient-but-inexploitable market.

      If the taxes, fees, and betting limits hadn’t been there, the PredictIt and BetFair prices would have been the same.

      • Eponymous says:

        Thanks! Huh, I guess I hadn’t realized how large these transaction costs are.

        Though it doesn’t fully resolve the mystery for me. If you’re already trading on predictit (mostly for fun I guess), then it’s not that costly to adjust your position (you already know you’re going to pay taxes and fees on profits and withdrawals). So one would expect the prices to mostly line up, even if it wasn’t possible for one person to profitably arbitrage them, just because they’re both trading on the same information set, which critically includes the price in the other market.

        • sty_silver says:

          Maybe the average trader on predictit is actually just not very bright, and the wisdom (which does exist, even predictit has great calibration compared to non-betting markets) is just a cumulative effect.

  28. b_jonas says:

    The mad scientist who only goes by the pseudonym Nikola Tesla has created a prototype duplicator machine. He put something in the two boxes, presses a button, the contents of one box ceases to exist, and a copy of the contents of the other box appears in its place.

    Art historians examined a genuine 17th century painting before and after Tesla managed to duplicate it, and they certified both copies as original. Both copies of a trained bird not only survived, but, after getting past the shock from the unpleasant duplication procedure, was found to have her intelligence and memories intact. Microprocessor and memory chips can be duplicated while powered on and running, and both copies keep the exact memory state.

    There’s just one big problem. Which of the two objects ends up vanishing and which one gets copied is random. There’s no way to influence or predict the outcome, there’s always exactly 1/2 chance that the contents of the first box will vanish when you press the button.

    You are a rich investor. You have the opportunity to have a duplicator machine manufactured based on Tesla’s invention. Would you do so? What will you use the duplicator for?

    I pose two variants.
    (A) You were lucky enough to have sponsored Tesla’s mad science research early, so you are now the exclusive owner of this invention. You may keep it a closely guarded secret or patent it. If you play your cards right, you’ll be able to use duplicator technology for years before anyone else has access to it. The fact that the duplicator works has already hit the news though, so you can’t use it as a surprise.
    (B) Tesla is independently wealthy and eccentric. He talks about the workings of the duplicator to anyone who listens, and is not willing to protect it with a patent. Anyone with enough money to fund a research laboratory can now develop a duplicator. You can expect competition.

    Clarifications.

    The story happens in the near future. The mad scientist isn’t the Nicola Tesla who died in the 20th century, just some youngster who assumed his name.

    That the machine copies one of the two objects randomly is a fundamental physical limitation, not something that Tesla added as a joke. Your experts have assured you of this. They mentioned something about conservation laws, you haven’t understood the details.

    Some people claimed that the duplicator is impossible for reasons of quantum mechanics. Your experts assure you that the duplicator does not copy the exact quantum state of an object, it merely makes a copy that is close enough to the original that it’s indistinguishable in practice for any object that you’ll encounter in practice. It won’t be able to copy the individual photons of a fiberglass cable between one of those quantum cryptography gizmos and keep their polarity.

    Developing and building a duplicator won’t be cheap, your experts estimate that it will cost a few hundred thousand dollars and 6 to 36 months. They promise you a model that can copy objects as large as fits inside a truck. It is possible to make a bigger one, but it gets very expensive, because it’s hard to transport the parts on road or rail. The supporting machinery is big and heavy, it needs a fixed indoor installation such as you’d have for a medical magnetic resonance imaging machine. The machine will probably take a minute to recharge between duplications.

    Tesla’s prototype is smaller, it can copy objects that fit into a home microwave oven. If you want to dupliacte something urgently, you could use that prototype, but you are recommended against it. That machine is jury-rigged and looks like it could explode any minute. Nobody in their right mind would allow Tesla near a real engineering project. Tesla doesn’t keep lab notes, and he could explain just barely enough to your experts that, together with examining his prototype, the experts are now confident they’ll be able to reproduce the invention. You had to pay them danger money to even go near Tesla’s country house.

    • Aapje says:

      For socks. Put two single socks in the machine and you’ll have a matching pair 😛

    • meh says:

      I start a business selling identical snowflakes

      • CaptainCrutch says:

        You can probably get a lot of mileage on “100% identical wedding rings and friendship bracelets, certified created by magic duplicating machine”.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          I’m trying to think of other cases where you can put two items in the boxes and don’t care which gets duplicated – the value comes from synchronizing. Maybe I haven’t had enough coffee yet because nothing good is coming to mind…

          • CaptainCrutch says:

            I wonder if that would work for hardware random number generators. If it does, you can probably get some one time pad-esque encryption out of it.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @CaptainCrutch

            Ooh, that one is actually really good.

          • jaimeastorga2000 says:

            Lab mice and other experimental animals? The more similar the experimental subjects are, the more certain you can be that any differences in outcomes is due to the active variable.

    • Murphy says:

      This seems like a fantastic way to dispose of unwanted material.

      Nuclear waste, hazardous material etc.

      It’s hard to get rich by trying to double things because if you lose once you lose it all and the expected return isn’t positive. But if you’re trying to dispose of things then it’s no problem, you just keep running the machine until you “lose”.

      There will be occasional times when you get runs of duplications but if you build a large chamber, leave lots of extra space and just keep loading the duplicates back into the original until you “lose” (taking into account criticality etc for things like nuclear waste) then you’re golden.

    • EchoChaos says:

      The two obvious uses are machining QA, where you don’t care which tolerances a particular piece has as long as they all have the same tolerance and gambling, where people pay you for the opportunity to play double or nothing with some wealth.

      I don’t think that the waste disposal idea that @Murphy uses can be plausible because your machine can’t hold infinite doublings, which is what is required to “eventually” win double or nothing.

      If you can hold 5 doublings, then you will get rid of waste 31/32 times, but that 1/32 times will leave you with 64 times as much waste as you had before, so you’d expect to net zero.

      • albatross11 says:

        Note that if you want exactly matched tolerances for small components, and you can make a lot of them, you can get large numbers of these small components by running the machine a lot of times. Put one piece in each box, push the button, and you’ve got two. Do that twice and now you have two identical pairs of components. Put one in each box and push the button and you now have four identical components. Iterate so you have two boxes full of four identical components, push the button again, and you get eight. And so on. You can use the device to go from lousy manufacturing precision to having a million exactly-matched components.

        • EchoChaos says:

          Yep, this was exactly the use-case that I came up with as the most viable one.

          • albatross11 says:

            Ninja’d.

            Okay, so you can use this for biology experiments, too. Get a supply of captured wild animals, and then use the same technique to get 2^k identical animals (not just clones, identical). There have to be some cool experiments you can do with this.

            The same algorithm works for anything cheap you’d like a lot of exactly identical versions of. Find something that’s cheap to produce and not worth much when it varies, but that’s valuable when you have 2^k identical ones, and you can use the machine to make a lot of money.

            Imagine using it to mint money. We make a whole lot of weirdly inked/stamped/stained pieces of paper, no two alike, in ways that would be extremely hard to duplicate intentionally. Run the algorithm to get one big batch of identical hard-to-duplicate pieces of paper, which you can use as currency or tickets or travelers’ checks or something.

    • S_J says:

      Developing and building a duplicator won’t be cheap, your experts estimate that it will cost a few hundred thousand dollars and 6 to 36 months.

      I’m going to assume that you mistakenly said “hundred thousand” when you intended to say “ten million” or “hundred million”.

      At the ‘few-hundred-thousand’ price, there’s an obvious use for this device in manufacturing. The factory that stamps out expensive electronics suddenly has a way to increase production by a factor of roughly 50%, once they build and install one of these. Sure, there’s 50/50 odds that the cheap pile of stuff in one box might be duplicated instead of the current WizBangGadget. But if the WizBangGadget is duplicated the other half of the time, production can surge to a higher speed very quickly.

      • b_jonas says:

        You’re probably right that I gave a too low figure for the development costs. Make it say 10_000_000 dollars if the development team works here in Eastern Europe, 40_000_000 dollars if they work in Western Europe, 100_000_000 dollars if they work in the U.S. or Switzerland, 250_000_000 dollars if you want it all done in Silicon Valley.

        I don’t see how the duplicator would help production in manufacturing though, other than perhaps what EchoChaos says.

      • Expected change in the number of WizBangGadgets is zero.

    • Jake says:

      If we are going the mad scientist + rich investor combo, why not use it for consensus building among your minions. If there is a disagreement over direction of your corporation, have all the people on each side of the argument go in opposite chambers of the machine, pull the lever, and instant consensus! As a bonus, it may cause people to not reach that point in the first place.

      This could also be used for politics. The US Presidential race is pretty much a toss-up anyway most years, so just put both leading candidates in the machine and pull the lever, and the winner will come with their own VP/Backup.

    • Randy M says:

      As difficult as this is to make profitable in reality, it would make a great magic card.
      Telsa’s Explosive Duplicator
      1UR Artifact
      Tap: Target two creatures or artifacts you control. Choose one at random to create a copy of. Sacrifice the other.

    • helloo says:

      This could be a neat betting mechanism.

      Especially if we can pull of the infinite expected value bets –
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Petersburg_paradox

    • bottlerocket says:

      Are we expecting the amount of energy this sucker uses per button press to be independent of the contents?

      I’m thinking something like you charge up the plates of a huge capacitor, so one plate with a ton of positive charge and one plate with a ton of negative charge. Get your two chambers as close as physically possible, put a plate in each, and press the copy button. Now you have two plates with identical charges, so you’ve just created some amount of energy.

      There’s probably a more impactful variant with something besides capacitor plates, but it was the first thing that came to mind.

    • b_jonas says:

      Tommy: Mommy, mommy, Dave’s ice cream is bigger.
      Dave: Yeah, buy yours was bigger the last week.
      Tommy: Not by this much. It’s just so unfair!
      Mom: *sigh*

    • Jon S says:

      A few niche uses:
      – IVF for someone who wants identical twins.
      – Creating identical objects for those who want untraceable items (e.g. firearms with identical serial numbers and other testable properties). Presumably possessing a duplicated weapon will become criminalized, but it will create doubt concerning more serious charges.
      – Russian Roulette, now with much more interesting results for the survivor (many, many possibilities for the survivor to pursue).

    • The Nybbler says:

      I think there’s a niche here for things which are fairly easy to make but sometimes need to be absolutely identical in length or mass. Some scientific instruments, perhaps. Nuclear bomb explosive lens parts. Cables for high-frequency trading. But I don’t know if this device would be any better than current methods.

    • Assuming that our genetic technology has improved a little, the duplicator can be used to solve the problem of letting me choose, among the children I and my wife could have, which one we do have.

      Make up a package containing a lot of my sperm and several of my eggs, arranged so each individual sperm and egg is identifiable. Make another such package. Put one on each side of the duplicator, press the button.

      You now have two identical packages. You can destructively analyze everything in one of them to determine which subset of my or my wife’s genes each sperm and each egg has. Pick, from the other package, the sperm/egg combination that will produce the best offspring.

      The basic idea is from Heinlein, but with an easier solution to the problem of how to learn the genes in a sperm or egg without damaging it.

      • Jake R says:

        More generally this could be done for anything where destructive testing is easier/cheaper/more reliable than non-destructive testing.

        • albatross11 says:

          Weirdly, it still costs the same number of destroyed units, it’s just that you can use it to get much more fine quality control.

          • Jake R says:

            I’m thinking of cases where it’s not just “this type of widget is certified” but “this specific widget is certified.” Say you have a factory that makes bolts. Some of them are sold for $1, but some of them are x-rayed for imperfections and certified to absolutely guaranteed hold 1000 lbs of force. Those are sold for $20. My understanding is there are some things where this happens.

            If destructive testing is much cheaper than an x-ray then you can afford to lose a few dozen bolts to this device every now and then and still come out ahead.

          • Lambert says:

            Also for certain things, you might want an exact copy sat around for engineering forensics.
            Which I suppose is the same thing, but post-facto.

          • noyann says:

            Or while it is in use. Apollo 13.

      • Elementaldex says:

        This is the best answer yet. Highly lucrative and easily fits the constraints.

      • b_jonas says:

        This is my favorite solution so far, and Jake R explained why. You are making expensive technological objects that sometimes have faults, but it’s easiest to test the faults in a destructive way (in the wider sense of destructive: driving the first hundred kilometers with a new car is destructive because it reduces the price of the car so much). You duplicate the objects and test one copy destructively.

        I still feel like we’re missing some potential though. There’s got to be some way to break this invention more.

    • KieferO says:

      One potential use of this is that if you have 2^n distinct things, you can make all 2^n of them identical to one of the things from the initial set, though you have no way of controlling which. This would be useful for medical testing: animal models could be made to have a perfect control group, and arbitrary numbers of them at that. If we had had this 10 years ago, we probably could have decided to limp along much longer with the international prototype kilogram if every lab could know that they were getting a perfect copy.
      Another thing that this would be good for is single use products that have a low but detectable failure rate. For example, you could use the winnowing procedure above on 1024 packed parachutes. You could test one of these in very controlled circumstances, if it worked, you would know for certain that the other 1023 would work just as well.
      Depending on how expensive it is, it could be used for mining. Take n * 1024 rock samples that contain varying proportions of some mineral that is both expensive to test for and expensive to extract. Run the winnowing procedure n times for each of the sets of 1024 rock samples. Your expected amount of mineral extracted is still the same, but your test is suddenly 1024 times cheaper.

      • albatross11 says:

        Yeah, doing the 2^n identical replications algorithm lets you do exhaustive quality control testing on one or a few samples and know that the rest are good.

  29. VoiceOfTheVoid says:

    I’ve had a number of discussions here semi-recently about pronoun etiquette. While I think the issue of coming to an agreement on what politeness should look like between people who disagree on transgenderism is interesting and important, today I’m instead interested in trying to get at the crux of that core disagreement.

    I think that it is reasonable to treat gender dysphoria by allowing the dysphoric person to “identify” as the gender they want to be–that is, use a name and pronouns associated with their preferred gender, wear clothes associated with that gender, and possibly seek medical treatments to alter their physical appearance with the goal of “passing” as that gender.*

    People who disagree with the above statement: What would you say are your core reasons for disagreeing with me?

    *To preemptively address a point I know has come up: I acknowledge that this constitutes a redefinition of “man”, “woman”, “gender”, etc. However, note that this redefinition only affects the edge cases–the majority of people, who identify with their biological sex, remain in the same categories. Note also that English words are vague concepts (‘cloudlike clusters in thingspace,’ one could say), not logically precise definitions.

    • Walter says:

      I think the argument you are up against can be fairly summed up as “You don’t get to give me homework if you ain’t my Dad/teacher/boss.” There’s just a sort of bone deep reluctance to give so much as one inch in terms of people being able to unilaterally force you to do anything, ever.

      Like, raise your hand if just about everyone you know at one time or another has told you that they are ‘bad with names’. That isn’t random, it is because names are hard. If you meet a lot of people you have to remember something unique about them, and then properly assign it to them.

      People with fancy pronouns are basically getting 2 names worth of work. You have to remember their name, and also that they want you to use ‘they’, or switch up the he/she.

      So they want to know ‘why do I have to do this extra work’, and the answer boils down to ‘if you don’t I’ll be sad’, and, well, there’s your divide. Friends, family and a third group that can read as either altruistic or virtue signaling depending on your politics care how you feel, they’ll go that extra mile. Folks outside those categories narrow their eyes or roll them, depending on age.

      Like, the quote you bold is a long list of stuff that is getting reacted to differently. I’ll go down the list.

      – use a name associated with their preferred gender.
      * I don’t think anyone minds people changing their names, even to ones that you’d expect were the other gender. Most people are willing to learn a name per person.

      – use a pronoun associated with their preferred gender.
      * The only pronoun most people use for themselves is ‘I’, and that doesn’t change. I think what you mean here is ‘make other people use a particular pronoun’, and that’s the thing I talked about up above.

      – wear clothes associated with that gender
      * I feel like ‘ladies can’t wear pants’, is, like, super old fashioned stuff. I doubt you’d run into anyone who goes hard on that since at least, like, the invention of tv. Certainly I think the Dukes of Hazzard let America express an opinion on girls in shorts, and hasn’t there been a bunch of Drag Race shows that are super popular for the reverse? I dunno, I think if you run into someone who is hardcore interested in controlling what other people wear as they go about their lives beyond ‘cover up your naughty bits’ you are in a weird location.

      -seek medical treatments with the goal of ‘passing’ as that gender
      * Most people (see homework principle above) don’t want to pay for someone else’s voluntary medical stuff. But I’m not super aware of a movement to stop random strangers from blowing their own money on whatever they want.

      Hope that helped.

      • TheAncientGeeksTAG says:

        I think the argument you are up against can be fairly up as “You don’t get to give me homework if you ain’t my Dad/teacher/boss.”

        If you apply that consistently , you are going to be behaving with basically zero agreeableness/co-operation, and that has costs. People will respond by not anything for you that they don’t have to. But then “consistently” might be the key issue here.

        • baconbits9 says:

          Why would you apply it consistently? You don’t treat every person you meet exactly the same, Bill from accounting doesn’t get exactly the same treatment as your spouse/kids/friend from high school and none of those individuals gets exactly the same treatment.

          A really basic social norm is generic politeness, different levels in different areas and eras but the key here is the generic part. If you call every man you meet sir and every woman ma’am, but you call people you know a bit mr x or mrs y and then you call people you are intimate with by their first names or nicknames then you have a fairly clear gradient for your relationships.

          The norm that is being violated that I think causes the most problems is the request that transgenderd people should get treated differently than the broader generic politeness would dictate. The statement that you are trans and want to be called something different is more intimate knowledge that you would typically give a stranger or coworker you barely know. It would be considered awkward if on introducing yourself you said, ‘hi I’m Steven, please don’t call me Steve as that was my grandfather’s name and he was an abusive, racist, alcoholic that I don’t wish to be reminded of’. Not only is this TMI but it is also putting a burden on the person you are talking to that is out of proportion to your relationship. It is true that remembering one person’s specific preference for what to be called isn’t difficult, but if you were asked to remember specific preferences for every casual acquaintance, person you meet, co-worker, kids of co-workers etc then it would be overwhelming for most people.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Wait, do you not know people who request that everyone use a name for them that is not their full legal first name? Because I know lots of people like that, and it’s never an issue. Like, I’m pretty sure nobody in the world except DMV workers calls J. Michael Straczynski “Joseph” even though that’s his name. There are plenty of people whose names I don’t remember, but it’s very easy to remember the preferred names of the people whose names I do.

          • EchoChaos says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            Most people know lots of people like that.

            I work with a woman who goes by her middle name, but her first name is in the company directory, so we can always tell who doesn’t actually know her when they address her by her first name in an e-mail.

            The magnitude of reaction to mis-naming is somewhat different, though.

          • CaptainCrutch says:

            Name itself has less intrinsic information in it. Name is just the convention. What people are against is reducing sex to “just a convention”.

            I imagine reaction to being asked to call someone “Doctor” or something that is beyond convention would be pretty negative no matter how convincingly one can wear stethoscope.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            The magnitude of reaction to mis-naming is somewhat different, though.

            This seems like the key point, and in my experience it’s not actually generally true. There are people who react to misgendering like it’s genocide, but as far as I can tell they’re fairly rare and are way more commonly seen blowing up Twitter than in actual factual real-life gas stations.

            Name itself has less intrinsic information in it. Name is just the convention. What people are against is reducing sex to “just a convention”.

            Are you really sure that names are just conventions? I’m roughly about as upset when people get my (first, I expect people to mongle m last name at this point) name wrong as I am when they get my sex wrong. In particular, there is a certain diminuitive form of my first name that bothers the fuck out of me.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Wait, do you not know people who request that everyone use a name for them that is not their full legal first name? Because I know lots of people like that, and it’s never an issue. Like, I’m pretty sure nobody in the world except DMV workers calls J. Michael Straczynski “Joseph” even though that’s his name. There are plenty of people whose names I don’t remember, but it’s very easy to remember the preferred names of the people whose names I do.

            No, I am talking about the level of request.

            A: ‘I’d like you to meet Steven Jones’

            B: ‘Nice to meet you Steven’

            C: ‘Please, call me Steve’

            ——————————————

            A: I’d like you to meet Jamie Jones

            B: Nice to meet you Jamie

            C: Nice to meet you as well, please refer to me as He/Him.
            ———————

            The second example has an additional request, remember my name and remember that I have a specific pronoun preference that is probably counter to what you would naturally call me, but also has a lot of additional information that is not conveyed when you say ‘call me Steve’. It would be generally viewed as inappropriate to say ‘call me Steve and I suffer from depression so keep that in mind when talking with me’.

          • TheAncientGeeksTAG says:

            Which explanation is the real one?

            1) Don’t do things to be nice and agreeable, do things because you absolutely have to.

            2) Be generally nice and agreeable, but carve out an exception for this one thing because its bad and wrong.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Are you really sure that names are just conventions? I’m roughly about as upset when people get my (first, I expect people to mongle m last name at this point) name wrong as I am when they get my sex wrong. In particular, there is a certain diminuitive form of my first name that bothers the fuck out of me.

            Sure, some people feel this way but it says more about you than about the person using that, and if you convey this information to every single person you are introduced to you are asking something extra that most people aren’t asking.

          • CaptainCrutch says:

            Are you really sure that names are just conventions?

            Yes, the way I’m going to address you is a convention between you and me. Intentional or negligent misnaming would confer information about our relations (I can’t be bothered to make an agreement with it, or think I can get away with agressively violating it) but your name itself has very little information attached to it, beside maybe your background at times. I. e. if you introduced yourself as Hans, I will assume you are some kind of German.

            Declaring yourself a woman or a man has more ramifications as long as there’s more difference between a man and a woman that there is between a Hans and a Harry.

            I can’t choose to call myself a doctor and start prescribing treatments, or choose to call myself aquitted of murder and walk out of prison, because those words have meaning. Does word “woman” has a meaning or is it just another label you put on yourself?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @baconbits

            If someone calls me [redacted], I’m going to ask them not to. I have no compunctions about this, and I’ll consider them an asshole if they choose to continue. Sucks to be them if they reflexively refer to anyone with my name as [redacted], but I don’t really care. My distaste for it matters at least as much to me as their verbal tic.

            Also, consider:

            A: I’d like you to meet Riley.

            B: Nice to meet you, Riley. (To A:) Was she the person Jimmy worked with on the turbo-encabulator project?

            C: Yes, and it’s he.

            Note that it’s not even necessary for Riley to be trans for this conversation to happen – merely looking effeminate or androgenous is enough. I don’t see anything particularly egregious or onerous about this interaction; do you?

          • TheAncientGeeksTAG says:

            I imagine reaction to being asked to call someone “Doctor” or something that is beyond convention would be pretty negative no matter how convincingly one can wear stethoscope.

            How many people did the former artist known as Prince traumatise?

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @CaptainCrutch

            Does word “woman” has a meaning or is it just another label you put on yourself?

            Both, probably. I don’t think that “woman” exists as an ontological category, and I think it’s common for people to use the same words to refer to different things. For example, consider me and people who think that Pollock paintings are “peaceful.” I tend to infer that their epistemological construction of “peacefulness” is one I can relate to but not really experience. It may well be that your epistemological construction of womanhood is very different from mine, but I think that both of ours have meaning. And I disagree with you about the relative importance of gender and medical licensure.

          • CaptainCrutch says:

            Ontologically, a woman is someone who (Assuming they are not impended by some kind of illness and injury as well as age) can gestate. A man is someone who (Assuming the same) can fertilize a woman to make her gestate. This different functions lead them through different physical and mental development and causes the to assume different social roles. Transgender would be someone who is born to fertilize, but would rather have a body that is fit for gestation (Or vice versa) and suffers through that. But it seems to gotten to the point that a woman and a man is meaningless, yet you can definitively feel like one and demand to be treated as one.

            This whole thing makes me think of old Soviet comedy called Kin-Dza-Dza. The main characters, transported to another planet discover that all people in the universe are divided into two groups called Patsaks and Chatlanians who hate and oppress one another. The only way to tell them apart is to use a device that light up green or orange indicator when pointed at a person. One of the main characters tries to ask alien what’s the difference is, whenever it’s genetic or something, to which exasperated alien asks “Are you colour-blind?”. The distinction exists, but also there’s no difference. Except we haven’t yet invented gender-telling device.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            How many people did the former artist known as Prince traumatise?

            Wait, did the general public actually stop calling him Prince? Given the timeframe of his popularity and his strong opposition to having his stuff on the Internet, I don’t think I have a good perspective on this, but I assumed every time someone referred to him “the artist formerly known as Prince” it was being done to mock the silliness of his renaming, and most people just went on calling him Prince.

            If he lived next door or was my coworker and got exceedingly angry every time I called him Prince, I could see myself being pretty annoyed by that.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Ontologically, a woman is someone who (Assuming they are not impended by some kind of illness and injury as well as age) can gestate. A man is someone who (Assuming the same) can fertilize a woman to make her gestate. This different functions lead them through different physical and mental development and causes the to assume different social roles.

            There are pedantic arguments that challenge this definition and that it’s easy to be imprecise with, so I’m going to elide them and give the general principle: there are people who almost everyone thinks are [men/women] who have bodies with all the functions necessary to make a baby except for one or two. Some of these people are (tragically) fertile and some are (also tragically, but perhaps not quite as much) not. A definition that’s only valid for most people fails as an ontological category; ontological categories don’t have exceptions. It may be the case that you believe that the categories are perfect and it’s the people that are egregiously assigned to them, but even if you take that line all it establishes is that there’s a difference between ontological and (typical) epistemological gender categories. I still don’t see why the parallel to someone calling themselves a doctor is warranted.

          • Nick says:

            @Hoopyfreud

            A definition that’s only valid for most people fails as an ontological category; ontological categories don’t have exceptions.

            Maybe for you, but an Aristotelian would say that there are categories that work that way, like essences. “Dogs have four legs” is a true statement about caninity even though some dogs have three.

          • baconbits9 says:

            It appears I had a reply deleted, since I thought I was being neutral in my framing I am dropping out of this discussion.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Nick

            “Dogs have four legs” is a true statement about caninity even though some dogs have three.

            Aristotle would also say that only particular dogs are substances, and that caninity is a quality – and that substances can admit contradictory qualities. An Aristotelian might say that a trans man has the quality of womanhood, but also a contradictory quality (manhood). In that case, insofar as manhood (and womanhood) are binary, what we’re referring to when we speak of someone “being a man” is not necessarily a question of whether they have the quality of manhood.

            @baconbits

            It probably got eaten by a cheesegrater. If you’re committed to dropping out go ahead, but it almost certainly wasn’t manually removed.

          • Deiseach says:

            Note that it’s not even necessary for Riley to be trans for this conversation to happen – merely looking effeminate or androgenous is enough. I don’t see anything particularly egregious or onerous about this interaction; do you?

            That example is a simple mistake that can be corrected without making a huge fuss. The “everyone state their preferred pronouns” bit is where it gets silly and annoying. I’ve had my first example in the wild of an email with preferred pronouns attached, and while I understand why they did it (because of the particular job in the particular area) it was pointless signalling. This was a stranger to me, there was no picture attached to the email to need clarification as to “OH, Riley is a she not a he!”, and the name was conventional female name.

            The person on the other end could have been a balding, bearded rugby player named Terence pretending to be a lady and I wouldn’t have known (or cared) one way or the other, because it made absolutely no difference to the reason I got the email or what I was expected to do in return.

            This is not like the gay rights fight, even though it’s being coded the same way: nobody thought in that situation (or at least I never heard of it) that “hey, why don’t we try and normalise it that everyone introduces themselves with their preferred sexuality? That way it will be made easier for gay people, they’ll feel more comfortable, they won’t be singled out for this one thing!”

            Right now, if someone insists on “Hi, I’m Susan, please call me she/her”, that makes me think something weird is going on, whereas before I would not have done so. If the stated aim is to make trans people feel comfortable and confirmed in their gender presentation, and to remove any “hmm, there’s something that strikes me as a bit off about Susan” and replace it with “Susan is a perfectly normal woman”, then it’s not working and I don’t see how it will make a trans person who does not want to be known as trans because they don’t want the whole “oh that’s the woman who used to be a man” thing with their co-workers feel any more successful in that.

            The only thing I can see it going for is making the weirder pronouns clear: “use ‘they/them’ for me”, “I’m xie/xer” and the likes. Otherwise if you look like a woman and have a woman’s name, why on earth do you need to tell me “Oh by the way, use female pronouns for me”?

            EDIT: To sum up, if I get any more emails with preferred pronouns in the signature line, I will have one of two reactions:

            (1) If they’re cis, this is stupid and pointless
            (2) It’s possible they could be trans. But if they’re currently presenting as female, why feel the need to tell a perfect stranger (me) that they used to be a man?

          • Protagoras says:

            Prince changed his name in order to inconvenience Warner Bros., as part of a dispute with them over his contract and the pace at which new albums of his were being released. Once he and Warner Bros. came to a resolution and parted ways, he resumed calling himself Prince. He certainly didn’t care if anybody who wasn’t Warner Bros. or part of the press called him Prince (he cared what the press called him, as how this was reported was important to his efforts to annoy Warner Bros.) I suppose the story illustrates that people can change names for strange reasons, including reasons deliberately calculated to annoy others, but it does not seem especially typical.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @Deiseach

            If the stated aim is to make trans people feel comfortable and confirmed in their gender presentation, and to remove any “hmm, there’s something that strikes me as a bit off about Susan” and replace it with “Susan is a perfectly normal woman”, then it’s not working and I don’t see how it will make a trans person who does not want to be known as trans because they don’t want the whole “oh that’s the woman who used to be a man” thing with their co-workers feel any more successful in that.

            Not going to disagree with this, honestly. We already mostly have an equilibrium, low-drama interaction for correcting someone’s incorrect reference to one’s gender, and I don’t think the great pronoun sharing social engineering experiment is likely to work out in the long run. I’m not offended by it as such, but I don’t think it’s going to really catch on. It’s just not a useful enough social technology to get traction IMO. This is sad and unfortunate for people who get very bad dysphoric feelings when misgendered, in the same way that “gimme five” might be for a paraplegic, and I don’t begrudge them their efforts to change the norm; they certainly don’t deserve to be hurt by people’s casual references. But I think it’s doomed, and will probably be something they have to deal with among strangers, at least occasionally, for a long while.

            @Nick

            To clarify my last post: I don’t think an Aristotelian would say that properties like “caninity” or “manhood” ontologically exist. As far as I can tell, Aristotle only believed in the ontological existence of substances. I actually mostly agree, and the question of distinction between ontological categories is really just for the Platonists. I don’t think they exist at all (which, as a bonus, means that my arguments here can’t possibly prove too much).

          • The original Mr. X says:

            To clarify my last post: I don’t think an Aristotelian would say that properties like “caninity” or “manhood” ontologically exist. As far as I can tell, Aristotle only believed in the ontological existence of substances.

            No, Aristotle did believe that universals exist, he just thought that they depended on particulars for their existence. Plato thought it was the other way around. Neither thinker held that everything perfectly instantiates its form: four-legged-ness is part of the nature of dog-ness, even if your Fido lost one of his legs in an accident when he was a puppy.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            Aristotle did believe that universals exist, he just thought that they depended on particulars for their existence.

            I’m not entirely clear on whether Aristotle believed that universals are (secondary) substances and therefore have being in the way that primary substances do. He seems to suggest both that universals are merely descriptors of primary substances and that primary substances instantiate universals. I’m probably biased towards the first interpretation, but I do think it’s unclear, and that the first makes more sense.

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        If your true objection is the onus of having to remember that trans people use pronouns that you don’t expect then I propose a compromise. No-one will ever complain if you use male pronouns when referring to someone whose appearance gives no indication that they would prefer female ones or vice versa, or if you forget to use “they” or a neopronoun. In exchange, whenever there are obvious cues that someone would prefer pronouns that don’t match their observed sex at birth (for instance, you parse them as “a man in a dress”), then you use the their preferred pronouns.

        Note that the objection that it’s hard to remember the right pronouns is not the same as the objection that you experience cognitive dissonance when using preferred pronouns for trans people.

        • Spookykou says:

          No-one will ever complain if you use male pronouns when referring to someone whose appearance gives no indication that they would prefer female ones or vice versa

          I am not sure what coalition you are supposed to be representing but I don’t think this position is as universal as you seem to think it is.

          • Aapje says:

            It seems to be a poorly stated proposal, rather than an observation.

          • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

            I’m not saying that explicit position is universal or even popular. But do you disagree that the discourse around this topic would look very different if refusal to use preferred pronouns was limited to cases where the person doing so genuinely didn’t see any indications that someone preferring she/her was not a cis man?

      • Simulated Knave says:

        Pronouns, it must be remembered, are not for the convenience of the person they apply to.

        Which is why wanting to be he or she is OK, and wanting to be they sort of is, and wanting to be zir makes you at least a little bit of a self-important dick.

    • Phigment says:

      I think your statement is, on its face, reasonable.

      I have two chief concerns:

      1. I think your statement is perfectly reasonable for adults who have had enough time to mature, sort themselves out, and thus have the life experience and emotional stability to make reasonably informed decisions about permanent, life-altering things.

      On the other hand, it gives me the absolute heebie-jeebies every time I see some story about a pre-pubescent kid getting put on hormone blockers, or some four-year-old getting diagnosed as gender dysphoric because they liked pretending to be a particular character in a storybook. The same way I feel when I read about children getting tangled up in the sexual revolution politics of the ’60s and ’70s. I feel like there’s a certain amount of social experimentation going on, and it’s offputting but acceptable when people conduct experiments on themselves, but really scary when they conduct experiments on other, non-consenting people. And kids are the absolute model of people who cannot reasonably consent to most things; that’s what it means to be a child.

      2. It’s reasonable and polite to treat gender-dysphoric people as if they were the gender they identify as, wherever the associated costs are not too large. And it’s nice to be polite. However, it’s not reasonable to penalize other people for not being polite, especially where there are costs associated, or where the other person may not be aware that there’s something to be polite about.

      To put it more bluntly, it’s better if everyone is nice to weird people. That’s a good thing. I endorse being nice to weird people. But I don’t think it’s reasonable to demand that people not notice weirdness. If I met someone with a realistic skull tattooed on his face, I would try to be polite about it, but I would have real questions about hiring that person for a face-to-face customer service job. If I worked with a person who periodically experienced scary thrashing seizures, I would feel compassion for that person and try to be considerate about it, but I wouldn’t really blame anyone around for being freaked out about the whole thing, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting that person to drive the carpool.

      • On the other hand, it gives me the absolute heebie-jeebies every time I see some story about a pre-pubescent kid getting put on hormone blockers

        Back in 2008 when I wrote Future Imperfect, before either hormone blockers or transgenderism were an issue, indeed before I knew that hormone blockers existed, I speculated on a different purpose for them.

        In our society people are not supposed to become sexually active until they become adults. In practice, it doesn’t work that way, leading to problems with which anyone who reads newspapers, watches television, or worries about his own children, is familiar. The essential problem is that we are physically ready to reproduce before we are emotionally or economically ready. That has become increasingly true as the age of physical maturity has fallen–by about two years over the past century, probably as a result of improved nutrition.

        With the continuing progress of medical science, we may soon be able to reverse that change.

        Suppose a drug company announces a new medication–one that will safely delay puberty for a year, or two years, or three years. I predict that there will be a considerable demand for the product. Are parents who artificially delay the physical development of their daughters guilty of child abuse? May schools pressure parents to give the medication to boys about to reach puberty, as many now do for other forms of medication designed to make children behave more nearly as schoolteachers wish them to? If schools do require it, are parents who refuse to artificially delay the development of their sons guilty of child abuse—or at least subject to the same pressures as parents who today refuse to put their sons on Ritalin?

        While we are at it, what about the application of a similar technology to other species? Cats are lovely creatures, but kittens are much more fun. If only they stayed kittens a little longer … .

        I wonder how people who approve, or disapprove, of the use of hormone blockers in the context of transgenderism would react to that very different use.

        • Deiseach says:

          I think it would be a bad idea unless medically necessary. I don’t know if we can safely block puberty for years and there will be no side-effects and you can just start puberty at a later age by coming off the blockers.

          Even at that, the social effects on children? You’re in a class of your peers, they’re going through natural puberty, you’re on blockers. Now they’re getting taller, stronger, growing breasts, voices changing, all the rest of it. Now you’re chronologically fourteen and look like a ten or twelve year old in a class of fourteen year olds. That has got to be odd.

          • bean says:

            This isn’t too far from my experience growing up. I grade-skipped, and didn’t start growing until relatively late (big growth spurt was around 15). I was the second-smallest in my 8th grade class of ~150. It wasn’t horrible, but it was also kind of annoying. But it could have been a lot worse if I’d been, say, into sports.

          • Aapje says:

            I once refereed a kids match where one of the kids was pubescent and the rests weren’t. It was like a Hulk movie.

            The coach of the other side wanted me to intervene, but I could hardly give a red card to the player for being naturally big & strong.

    • that is, use a name and pronouns associated with their preferred gender,

      I think individuals have the right to use the pronouns associated with their preferred gender, although there are not very many contexts in which one uses a gendered pronoun to refer to oneself, the usual pronoun for that purpose being “I.”

      But that doesn’t mean that an individual has the right to have other people use the pronouns associated with that individual’s preferred gender, which seems to be what people are actually demanding. That would be the right to require other people to pretend to believe in the preferred gender, even when they don’t.

      • Hoopyfreud says:

        But that doesn’t mean that an individual has the right to have other people use the pronouns associated with that individual’s preferred gender, which seems to be what people are actually demanding.

        Relevant anecdote from a (cisgender) man who’s had long hair since high school: when I was younger, I’d occasionally get misgendered either by accident or out of malice. The accidents lasted exactly as long as it took me to open my mouth and speak, and the malicious incidents typically persisted until an authority figure noticed and told the offender to stop calling me “she.” Were those authority figures out of line here? You have no way to know that the offending party didn’t have a sincere belief that long hair was effeminate enough to disqualify a person from being called a man. Personally, I’m comfortable calling them assholes with opinions that were too stupid to respect, if they really thought that.

        • zqed says:

          You have no way to know that the offending party didn’t have a sincere belief that long hair was effeminate enough to disqualify a person from being called a man. I’m comfortable calling them assholes with opinions that were too stupid to respect, if they really thought that.

          Actually, we can be fairly sure of that, since these kinds of encounters tend to play out differently in worlds where Here’s how such an encounter would play out in a world where they really believe that:

          The authority figure tells the offenders to stop. The offenders explain that they don’t believe it appropriate to use male pronouns when referring to you. If the authority figure does not back down, then there’s a good chance that the offenders’ legal guardians eventually show up, and tell the authority figure to shove it.

          And in the straw-man world where they really do believe this, I’m totally comfortable defending their right to do it (doubly so if said hypothetical people make up a large percentage of the SSC commentariat). In fact, I’d be much more comfortable defending your strawmen than I am defending people who insist on associating pronouns with biological sex, since, you know, you can just cut your hair.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            I’m totally comfortable defending their right to do it

            Would you also be comfortable defending my right to call them a stupid asshole? And would you agree with my assessment?

            I cant tell exactly what David means by “require,” but surely it doesn’t apply only to literal brainwashing.

            The offenders explain that they don’t believe it appropriate to use male pronouns when referring to you. If the authority figure does not back down, then there’s a good chance that the offenders’ legal guardians eventually show up, and tell the authority figure to shove it.

            Actually what happened IRL was the authority figure punished them for being rude and the parents probably never heard a thing about it. The offender was sufficiently chastised that they (mostly) stopped. Is that unconscionable? The person claimed to sincerely hold this belief, probably because they thought it would mitigate their punishment. I think this was a lie, obviously, but I can’t read minds.

            I’d be much more comfortable defending your strawmen than I am defending people who insist on associating pronouns with biological sex, since, you know, you can just cut your hair.

            And other people can choose not to be rude. I’d rather spend time dealing with their rudeness and keep my hair, but I feel entirely comfortable leveraging other people’s standards of niceness and coordinating their behavior in order to deal with that rudeness by making certain behaviors too costly for most people to perform.

          • zqed says:

            Would you also be comfortable defending my right to call them a stupid asshole?

            Sure, whatever.

            And would you agree with my assessment?

            No. If I had good reason to believe that they believe what they profess to believe, then I would agree with your assessment of them being very stupid, but would not agree that this qualifies them as assholes, and would disagree with them being sanctioned in any way. I would probably suggest that you make an easy, reversible cosmetic intervention that will result in you being called your preferred pronoun (an intervention that, mind you, is not available to trans people!).

            I think your anecdote does not make a strong argument for “the right to have other people use the pronouns associated with that individual’s preferred gender”. You didn’t

            If Jenna buys a bag with a Louis Vuitton logo on it, and her classmates find out it’s a fake, and proceed to tease her about it, then teacher intervention is often appropriate. But that does not:

            1. make Jenna’s bag genuine,
            2. mean that calling a fake LV bag a fake LV bag is in itself harassment, even if it does make Jenna feel bad,
            3. mean that calling a fake LV bag a fake LV bag is in itself harassment, even if it does make Jenna feel bad,
            4. mean that people should call every fake LV bag a genuine LV bag,
            5. mean that everyone should refer to every bag by the random brand name preferred by its owner.

            The closest analogue to Friedman’s claim is #5.

            I feel entirely comfortable leveraging other people’s standards of niceness and coordinating their behavior in order to deal with that rudeness by making certain behaviors too costly for most people to perform.

            I don’t wish to indulge in people who disagree with me about pronouns are just rude at this time, and I certainly won’t be joining in the project to coordinate meanness against them.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            @zqed

            Your 2 and 3 are the same – typo? I think there’s a missing piece of your chain. I don’t think it’s material, but I would like to know what you intended to write.

            Consider the case where I think it’s highly probable that Jenna’s bag is fake, not because of any property of the bag, but because I know that Jenna is poor and that it’s therefore unlikely that the thing is genuine. In actuality, it might be the case that the bag is real and Jenna’s grandmother passed down the bag to her when she died. Alternatively, even if her grandmother did pass it down, Jenna might have no idea whether or not the bag is fake, even if her grandmother told her it was real. Imagine that, for both of these cases, if Jenna explains this, I believe not only that her bag is fake, but also that she’s a liar, and I start calling her “lying fake-bag Jenna” whenever I speak about or to her.

            I think we agree that teacher intervention is appropriate in this circumstance, but it’s not clear to me on what basis you think this is the case. I have a sincere belief that Jenna is lying, that her bag is actually fake, and that I’m being unjustly persecuted by the teacher. Jenna believes that my conviction that the bag is fake isn’t well-supported, because all she knows for sure is that her grandmother, a person whom she trusts, told her it was real. If the teacher intervenes against me, that teacher is privileging Jenna’s opinion over mine. I have no problem with this. I think that by calling Jenna a liar with a fake bag I’m being rude and mean, and that it’s perfectly appropriate for that to prompt discipline. I think that, given that neither of us have a strong basis for a definite belief about the nature of Jenna’s bag, we should either defer to Jenna’s belief, at least around her, remain silent, or seek evidence that might contradict it. But I think that going around casting aspersions on her character for claiming to have inherited a nice bag from her grandmother without any evidence to suggest that she didn’t is unacceptably unkind.

        • If the context is one where the authority figure is entitled to chastise rudeness, such as a school where being polite to each other is one of the conditions of attending, then it would be appropriate for him to tell the offending party that he doesn’t have to refer to you as “he,” or at all, but he may not make a point of referring to you as she.

          But I don’t think the situation of children in school is an appropriate model for adults in voluntary interactions.

          • Hoopyfreud says:

            So what would your suggestion be if this happened at a party, now that I’m grown up? I’d probably kick them out and never invite them again if it was my party, call them an asshole, complain to the host, and leave if they didn’t want to boot the offender, or leave and not go to any more of their parties if it was theirs. I get the feeling that neither of us see anything wrong with the first or third options, but how do you feel about the second?

    • Fitzroy says:

      I don’t think many people could disagree with your bolded section (notwithstanding caveats, as Walter and Phigment have noted, regarding decision-making capability and not imposing costs on others).

      One thing you don’t explicitly state a position on though, and where I suspect a lot of the actual disagreement lies, is whether dysphoric persons should be entitled to use gender-only spaces set aside for the gender they identify with? That’s where things become tricky.

    • ana53294 says:

      A lot of the anti-trans feeling comes from edge cases rather than naming/pronouns. But ceding ground on pronouns would mean ceding some ground on other aspects, too.

      Like, I’m fine with a trans female dressing femininely and going by she/her. Whatever. But I am against assigned male at birth athletes competing in female sports (I don’t care about the opposite; if AFAB athletes want to compete in male sports, power to them).

      There are issues with public bathrooms (to which I think the solution is to have a urinal room and a mixed gender bathroom).

      And then there are prisons. If a criminal claims to become female (but doesn’t medically transition, just changes dress), should that person be allowed to go to a female prison?

      • thisheavenlyconjugation says:

        I don’t care about the opposite; if AFAB athletes want to compete in male sports, power to them

        This is more common than the converse, for reasons that should be obvious if you know typical trans people of both genders.

    • Aapje says:

      @VoiceOfTheVoid

      When you say: “use a name and pronouns associated with their preferred gender,” do you actually mean: “get to force others to use a name and pronouns associated with their preferred gender”?

      Part of the core disagreement is whether the transgender person gets to force this on others, or whether others are allowed to choose their own words.

      Framing an obligation on person X to do Y as if it is no more than disallowing X to prevent others from doing Y, is actually one of the more irritating behavior of some activists, due to its dishonesty.

      • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

        Framing “trying to change a particular social convention to one we consider more polite” as a draconian attempt to force people to speak dishonestly is also irritating – even if you think it’s an accurate summary of the situation. It’s the least charitable framing of the position. People are free to choose their words in all kind of situations; they are not free to demand that there be no social penalty for doing so.

        Assuming we’re talking about social and not legal penalties. The comments on this thread (and the original) are unclear on which we’re talking about. I don’t support legal penalties for using “wrong” pronouns.

        • Aapje says:

          There is a huge amount of disagreement over what “man” and “woman” actually means. People who think that an important part of “man” or “woman” can’t be transitioned away and/or doesn’t necessarily match self-identification, are not merely asked to be polite, but to lie.

          This is different from being asked to not use gay or racial slurs, because there is very little strong disagreement on what gay or black refers to.

          Also, gender is different because there is extremely widespread agreement that people should be discriminated by gender (where even those who would disagree with that statement are nearly always in fact supportive of discriminatory policies and behaviors).

          This is different from sexual orientation and race, where very many people truly don’t want discrimination.

          The result is that a there is a huge amount of objection to adopting a gender categorization that doesn’t match how people want to discriminate.

          People are free to choose their words in all kind of situations; they are not free to demand that there be no social penalty for doing so.

          An issue is that people are worried that they will no longer be free to choose their words, because the penalty will actually exceed the social.

          Also, it is a common belief among the left that non-legal penalties can be extremely oppressive/discriminatory, yet in situations like these, it is very often implicitly or explicitly claimed that non-legal penalties are minor inconveniences against which it is silly to have strong objections.

          • NostalgiaForInfinity says:

            I’m not convinced that “obliging people to lie” is a good characterisation of the situation.
            I agree though that sex/gender is different, especially given that the pronoun question is part of a broader set of issues around self-identification.

            I also agree that there’s inconsistency in how people on the left generally approach non-legal penalties in cases like this.

          • Deiseach says:

            We’ve spent years arguing over sex and gender and how gender roles are constructed and that there is no “boys like trucks, girls like dolls, men go for hard science subjects, women go for nurturing roles” programming. Boys can wear pink and make-up! Girls can have short hair and like cars and motorbikes! Only traditionalists conservatives misogynists who want to keep women chained to the kitchen sink would say there is such a thing as a male brain and a female brain and they are different! And people who say there are male and female brains need to be shamed and punished to make them not say such bad things.

            And then along come (some) trans activists arguing that they simply have to wear dresses and long hair and pink and jewellery and make-up because they are real women, and they knew they were real women because they always liked pink and make-up, and that’s because they have female brains, Science Says So. And people who say there’s no such thing as male and female brains need to be shamed and punished so they will stop saying such bad things.

            Somebody make their fucking mind up, okay? I can say X or I can say Y but I can’t be a weathervane saying both X and Y at once.

        • NTD_SF says:

          No one’s saying you can’t use social penalties. What people are saying is that they aren’t going to enforce the social penalties for you, and they’ll oppose you if you try to use social penalties against them for that reason. It’s a pretty basic ‘no, you don’t yet have the social power to get your way’ response. There’s also an element of advice in it – if you start your coordinated meanness before you have proper coordination, it may well backfire on you.

      • Urstoff says:

        What do you mean by “force” here? Is a politeness norm considered force? Is being called a jerk because you refuse to call someone their preferred name considered force?

        • Deiseach says:

          Is being called a jerk because you refuse to call someone their preferred name considered force?

          If you dare to say that biological male sex is not the same thing as biological female sex (sex not gender, mind you), then you are liable to a court decision in employment law:

          However, I consider that the Claimant’s view, in its absolutist nature, is incompatible with human dignity and fundamental rights of others. She goes so far as to deny the right of a person with a Gender Recognition Certificate to be the sex to which they have transitioned. I do not accept the Claimant’s contention that the Gender Recognition Act produces a mere legal fiction. It provides a right, based on the assessment of the various interrelated convention rights, for a person to transition, in certain circumstances, and thereafter to be treated for all purposes as the being of the sex to which they have transitioned. In Goodwin a fundamental aspect of the reasoning of the ECHR was that a person who has transitioned should not be forced to identify their gender assigned at birth. Such a person should be entitled to live as a person of the sex to which they have transitioned. That was recognised in the Gender Recognition Act which states that the change of sex applies for “all purposes”. Therefore, if a person has transitioned from male to female and has a Gender Recognition Certificate that person is legally a woman. That is not something that the Claimant is entitled to ignore.

          …I do not accept that this analysis is undermined by the decision of the Supreme Court in Lee v Ashers that persons should not be compelled to express a message with which they profoundly disagreed unless justification is shown.
          The Claimant could generally avoid the huge offense caused by calling a trans woman a man without having to refer to her as a woman, as it is often not necessary to refer to a person sex at all. However, where it is, I consider requiring the Claimant to refer to a trans woman as a woman is justified to avoid harassment of that person. Similarly, I do not accept that there is a failure to engage with the importance of the Claimant’s qualified right to freedom of expression, as it is legitimate to exclude a belief that necessarily harms the rights of others through refusal to accept the full effect of a Gender Recognition Certificate or causing harassment to trans women by insisting they are men and trans men by insisting they are women. The human rights balancing exercise goes against the Claimant because of the absolutist approach she adopts.

          The judgement goes from some confusion between “gender assigned at birth” to “the sex to which they have transitioned” to “referring to a person’s sex”. Not their gender, their sex. And the gender is the part we’re being told is not the same thing as the sex at all, you can be sex A but gender B. Now, I think the claimant in that case probably didn’t help herself at all with some of her attitudes, but on the other hand we’ve got a legal ruling that thinking, holding and expressing “I believe C’s sex is biological male, even if C’s legal gender is female” is bad, wrong, hostile, absolutist, and abusive. You not alone have to “call someone their preferred name”, you have to agree that their new sex now matches their new gender – or else. It’s not just a matter of politeness norm, it’s enforcing that the new definitions are here and you’d better use them.

          • Urstoff says:

            Enforcing a law is clearly silly, but that’s not currently the case in the US (or the UK, I guess, since Brexit?). Using a person’s preferred pronoun seems to me to fall under the same norm of politeness as using a person’s preferred name. And that definitely doesn’t count as force.

            The broad middle of “being polite is good, but enforcing it via a legal framework is bad” seems to be missing from the discourse, probably because the discourse is largely driven by the extremes.

          • hls2003 says:

            The broad middle of “being polite is good, but enforcing it via a legal framework is bad” seems to be missing from the discourse,probably because the discourse is largely driven by the extremes.

            No. The “middle way” is missing because of employers and lawyers. Tolerating “not polite” people in the workplace, particularly where there is an “identity category” in play, is a recipe to get sued for discrimination. (In contrast, nobody sues companies for shutting down such speech). Therefore, “polite” behavior is made mandatory. This then creates a norm, which often gets enshrined into law because (1) most employers are already doing it because of the aforementioned, so “what’s the harm”, and (2) employers prefer to have clear rules to justify their policies.

            So the equilibrium of “impolite but not actionable” is unstable in such a legal regime. Impoliteness quickly gets legislated away.

          • baconbits9 says:

            Using a person’s preferred pronoun seems to me to fall under the same norm of politeness as using a person’s preferred name.

            I can’t help myself here, I don’t agree. If I am talking to another person about you and I forget your name and use a throw in like ‘that guy from accounting’ and it is totally acceptable. Under the name politeness system I can forget your name and entirely substitute something that I know is not your name and it is fine. I can also call you the wrong name repeatedly and its annoying but not considered aggression, or confuse you with someone else without notable risk.

          • Urstoff says:

            I can’t help myself here, I don’t agree. If I am talking to another person about you and I forget your name and use a throw in like ‘that guy from accounting’ and it is totally acceptable. Under the name politeness system I can forget your name and entirely substitute something that I know is not your name and it is fine. I can also call you the wrong name repeatedly and its annoying but not considered aggression, or confuse you with someone else without notable risk.

            I have no data, but I would guess the same is true of pronouns. Getting it wrong due to absent-mindedness is probably only aggressive to a very small but very loud percentage of trans people. Maybe that’s wrong and most consider it aggressive, which is clearly unreasonable.

            It should fall under the standard politeness norm, then, and (I’m guessing) probably does for most people.

            I do agree with hl2003 that HR and the all-consuming imperative to avoid liability does drive a lot of norms to extremes; this is also bad, but unfortunately not unique to pronouns but to an enormously wide swath of behavior.

          • baconbits9 says:

            I have no data, but I would guess the same is true of pronouns. Getting it wrong due to absent-mindedness is probably only aggressive to a very small but very loud percentage of trans people. Maybe that’s wrong and most consider it aggressive, which is clearly unreasonable.

            Not just absentmindedness, intentional misnaming is fine. If you remind be of a movie character and I am chatting with someone I might refer to you as that movie character without it automatically being a problem*. I can intentionally mis-name you without major objection, but I am not supposed to intentionally mis-gender you (at least according to some).

            *Obviously the individual choice in movie character could lead to issues.

          • Urstoff says:

            Not just absentmindedness, intentional misnaming is fine. If you remind be of a movie character and I am chatting with someone I might refer to you as that movie character without it automatically being a problem*. I can intentionally mis-name you without major objection, but I am not supposed to intentionally mis-gender you (at least according to some).

            Those don’t seem equivalent. Rather, the analogous instance of mis-naming would be calling someone a name or nickname they’ve explicitly asked you not to call them, which is indeed rude.

    • EchoChaos says:

      People who disagree with the above statement: What would you say are your core reasons for disagreeing with me?

      Two reasons.

      The first is I don’t believe it’s helping. I have known transgender individuals, and none of them improved visibly psychologically from the outside with their transition, although as far as I know none of them got surgery. One de-transitioned and was the mentally healthiest of them. This is small sample size, of course, but studies are just as muddled about the benefits.

      The second reason has to do with the control over others that it gives. It’s one thing for someone to make a request, it’s quite another to expect it to be automatically followed. There are always jocular examples of pronouns like “His Majesty” and such, but there is a natural visceral American reaction to compelled speech. It’s why the first thing that we put into our Constitutional Amendments is “you don’t get to do this”.

      I oppose it on moral grounds the same way I’d oppose any law that you have to call the President “His Excellency”, which is in fact the proper diplomatic form of address.

      • Clutzy says:

        Both closely mirror what I would say.

        For example, transgender partner of a friend of the groom at a wedding recently. Friend of the groom is in the wedding party, having been friends with groom for a dozen+ years. Transgender partner was generally just a person with oddities 5 years ago. 3 years ago caused a huge bird-related issue, wore a pikachu costume to the wedding.

        • profgerm says:

          While I understand wanting to protect someone’s privacy, I am immensely curious what a “huge bird-related issue” might be. Were they pet-sitting and the bird escaped? Did they ruin a Thanksgiving turkey? Did they pretend to be a Thanksgiving turkey? Did they bring a live turkey to Thanksgiving?

          Apparently most of my theoretical bird issues are just about Thanksgiving.

          • Elementaldex says:

            Argh… I too am immensely curious about bird related issues…

            Edited for abysmal spelling.

          • Clutzy says:

            Bought like 3 birds, didn’t take care of them, 2 died, had a freak out episode and bought 3 more. Then another died, partner is like, “no more birds”, person freaked and let out the birds, into the wild, then wanted them back like a day later.

            I don’t know much about it as this is like 3rd hand, but it was apparently quite a fiasco of birds.

          • toastengineer says:

            That 3rd hand will come in handy for taking advantage of the arbitrage between birds in hand vs. in the bush.

    • albatross11 says:

      VoiceoftheVoid:

      I agree with your basic position–if someone asks me to refer to them as “she” or “they” instead of “he,” I’ll do my best to remember to do that.

      There are cases where this doesn’t work, which center on either places where the male/female distinction is important (womens’ vs mens’ sports) or where someone’s likely to be trying to take advantage of our politeness rules to do something nasty (men declaring themselves female so they can be put in a womens’ prison).

      I’d also add that I don’t think anyone should be required to affirm things they don’t believe. I wouldn’t want the law demanding that someone use the right pronouns. And if a group of women want their women-only space to only include people with two X chromosomes or who were identified as female at birth, I’d say that’s within their rights, and I won’t condemn them for it and certainly won’t support someone trying to force them to knock it off via legal means.

    • Murphy says:

      I 99% agree.

      For people who just want to identify as male/female/they, meh.

      My one exception is people who pick stupid custom pronouns. When it’s just some attempt to pick something “unique” or unuausl it’s merely annoying. When it’s chosen to make communication harder it crosses the line into “no, just no”.

      The one that got to me was someone who wanted “the” as a a pronoun. Don’t care. Even if they’re not taking the piss which I wouldn’t be surprised if they were. “the” as a pronoun just leads to bad/confusing communication and trying to claim it for such is just abusing a norm there to help people.

      I am 100% comfortable with refusing to recognise “the” as a substitute or “he/she/they”.

    • Two McMillion says:

      One of the arguments against weak-manning a position is that you are not accurately representing the position as it exists in the real world- that you are deliberately attacking as weak a position as possible in order to make it difficult for opponents to argue against.

      I think that your bolded statement does this, but in reverse. It states transgender claims in as inoffensive a manner as possible and one which is designed to be maximally difficult to argue with. Like weak-manning, it does not accurately reflect the real-life positions and goals of the transgender movement as a whole. The transgender movement is not saying to me, “Let me choose how I dress”; it is saying to me, “Wax my balls“.

      Others have pointed out the problems with your framing of the issue as “use pronouns”. I will just add that people don’t have pronouns; languages have pronouns.

      • Nick says:

        The word you’re looking for is motte.

      • albatross11 says:

        No, this is just wrong. The overwhelming majority of trans people are really just saying “let me choose how I dress, don’t beat me up for looking weird, please call me she and her instead of he and him.” A tiny but visible minority reported on heavily in media are demanding someone wax their balls. Outrage-seeking media is a distorting filter.

        Obviously, we need rules that recognize that some people will try to exploit any rule of politeness to behave badly. That doesn’t mean that most people who want you to follow those rules are intending to behave badly.

        • EchoChaos says:

          When laying down any societal rules, both legal or just more broadly, one has to understand how people may abuse them, and look at actual attempted abuses.

          Unsurprisingly, high-profile abuses of the system will lead to less support of it in the future.

        • Randy M says:

          Outrage-seeking media is a distorting filter.

          Yes, but to the extent outrage media can point to actual court cases and government decisions that put people out of business and so on, there is justifiable outrage and real abuses of actual power in pursuit of an absurd agenda, which unfortunately probably gets misplaced to the wider more representative trans population.

        • Two McMillion says:

          No, this is just wrong. The overwhelming majority of trans people are really just saying “let me choose how I dress, don’t beat me up for looking weird, please call me she and her instead of he and him.”

          I don’t believe you. Prove it.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Most trans people are not trans activists. They’re just schmucks trying to get by like everyone else.