(In the spirit of GiveWell, only less obsessive.)

This lists major mistakes I’ve made in my posts that somewhat affected my conclusions about things. Most are factual; a few are cases where I said things in a misleading way or a way I later regretted. This doesn’t list times other people thought I was wrong but after reading all the arguments I still stand by my original position, or minor corrections of typos/details.

1. (10/20/13) In The Anti-Reactionary FAQ, I claimed that there was likely not much difference in crime between the distant past (especially Victorian England) and today, because although the reported burglary rate was up, the reported murder rate stayed the same, and murder is the most accurately recorded crime. Michael Anissimov points out that medical care has improved since that time, so that many things that would have been murders in the past are now only attempted murders, lowering the apparent murder rate by as much as five times. Discovering the mistake caused me to reverse my conclusion that crime has not been increasing since the Victorian age.

2. (6/29/14) In Invisible Women, I pointed out a paradox – how come women are joining the workforce, but GDP has not gone up proportionally to the increased number of workers? Pseudoerasmus explained that men were working less often and working fewer hours in a way that counterbalanced increased female employment. Discovering the mistake did not affect any “conclusion” since I was just asking the question, but the question turned out to be much easier and less weird than I had expected.

3. (4/22/15) In Growth Mindset 3: A Pox On Growth Your Houses, I claimed that a graph showed that most conditions of an educational experiment deteriorated over time, and that since this was very strange the study probably couldn’t be trusted. In fact, the graph was standardized in a way I didn’t notice, and showed only that those conditions did worse than the other conditions, without deteriorating outright. This made the study much more believable than I had thought. The author of the original study corrected me and I explained the correction in detail here. Discovering the mistake lessened my confidence in my conclusion (growth mindset isn’t very impressive and often fails outright) without entirely reversing it.

4. (12/1/15) In College And Critical Thinking, I claimed that a graph showed a u-shaped relationship between time spent in college and critical thinking, which suggested that the relationship between the two was too confusing and unpredictable to be very strong. In fact, commenter PSJ pointed out that this was only true of a small sample of two-year college students, and that most college students showed the expected linear relationship. Discovering the mistake strengthened my conclusion (that college probably does improve critical thinking skills at least in the short term).

5. (1/1/15) In my January 2016 links post, I noted that according to an article in Mother Jones, OxyContin abuse kills three times more people than homicide. Although the article was about OxyContin abuse, the specific statistic cited was about all fatal drug overdoses. This wouldn’t have been such a big deal except that it was linked by Marginal Revolution. Sorry, Marginal Revolution.

6. (3/26/16) In my March 2016 links post, I linked to a Wikipedia page about a radar detector detector detector detector. Rational Conspiracy has looked into it further and believes that was a hoax and there was no such thing. The hierarchy of radar detection most likely ends at radar detector detector detectors.

8. (12/1/16) I mentioned a few times (eg here) a theory that increased carbon dioxide in poorly-ventilated areas might hurt cognition, especially in the context of global warming which we expect to cause increased carbon dioxide everywhere. Commenters pointed out that submarines had carbon dioxide levels double or triple those of anywhere else studied, but submariners seem pretty with-it and don’t show noticeable cognitive declines. My guess (75% confidence) is now that there’s no cognitive penalty for carbon dioxide within the levels humans encounter in normal situations, but this could change if I see more good studies on it.

9. (12/30/16) In Vegetarianism For Meat-Eaters, part 2 suggested that donating to animal welfare charities could save 3 – 11 animal lives per dollar. Based on critiques like those in this essay, I now think those numbers are heavily exaggerated, maybe by several orders of magnitude. I don’t know what the right numbers are or whether the point is still somewhat valid.

10. (12/31/16) In Contra NYT On Economists On Education, I said that an NYT article was so deceptive that it constituted journalistic malpractice. Some people commented that they interpreted the article in a different, non-deceptive way. Although I still think most people would interpret the article incorrectly, I think it’s sufficiently possible to interpret it as intended that it was probably just an honest disagreement in interpretations and not a deliberate attempt to mislead. I deleted the “journalistic malpractice” phrase after about an hour, and I apologize to the Times and to the author for imputing motive. I still think they dropped the ball, though.

11. (4/9/17) In Some Groups Of People Who May Not 100% Deserve Our Eternal Scorn, I said that I thought Vox was mostly behaving responsibly, insofar as everyone knows its biases, and looking beyond them it has good articles on a variety of subjects. Several commenters argued that they had an irresponsible tendency to publish informal “meta-analyses” of the arguments for and against a specific position, while exaggerating the arguments on their side and leaving out the best arguments on the other. They said the “review of evidence” format has an implicit claim to objectivity that can’t be sidestepped just by saying “everyone knows their biases”, and gave some examples of this being used really egregiously. After some thought, I agree. I continue to personally respect many of the people at Vox and enjoy their articles, but saying that they “may not 100% deserve our eternal scorn” was probably going too far.

12. (4/9/17) G.K Chesterton On AI Risk was an April Fools’ joke and not meant seriously. But it did criticize Maciej Ceglowski’s piece where he accused singularitarians of not caring enough about the poor. The fake Chesterton of the piece said that if Ceglowski himself gave to charity at the same level as the people he was criticizing, he would “eat his hat”. Ceglowski pointed out that he does indeed give a lot of money to charity, including a $15,000 donation last year. Under the circumstances, I felt honor-bound to eat my hat and post a video of it on Twitter.

13. (7/10/17) In Change Minds Or Drive Turnout, I repeated the claim that turnout was down 2% between 2012 and 2016, and tried to determine what that meant for political strategy. In fact, this was based on early numbers before all ballots were in, and turnout probably rose during that time. Some of my analysis in Part III of the post is invalid or obsolete, though it probably doesn’t affect the overall conclusion.

14. (9/24/17) In Hungarian Education III, I mention that it’s implausible that the same family could give birth to three geniuses – regardless of the IQ of the parents – due to regression to the mean. Several commenters pointed out this is true only if the parents had high IQ for non-genetic reasons. If the parents had high IQ for genetic reasons, and performed neither better nor worse than their genes, then regression to the mean would not be expected and the family could give birth to three geniuses.

15. (9/24/17) In Mental Disorders As Networks, I tentatively endorsed a theory that there may not be a single underlying cause to all the symptoms of psychiatric disorders, but that instead they might all cause each other by spreading activation through a symptom network. While I still think there might be some element of that, learning more about predictive coding has made me think that psychiatric disorders might come from imbalances in various really-high-level features of the kind of processing the brain does, like “too much bottom-up compared to top-down processing” or “overly high confidence in neural predictions”. See Towards A Predictive Theory Of Depression for an example. This would explain the previously inexplicable tendency of psychiatric disorders to be caused by practically anything but still have the same symptoms, and it would mean that network theory was at least mostly a dead end.

16. (10/22/17) In Book Review: Age of Em, I said we could calculate where hardware would be in fifty years by assuming Moore’s Law held. But Moore’s Law doesn’t seem to be holding anymore, or at least is on the verge of not holding, and that calculation would have been very wrong.

17. (11/19/2017) In Depression Is Not A Proxy For Social Dysfunction, I cited results that happier states had higher suicide rates. A more recent study using a finer level of analysis is not able to replicate those results. This strengthens the case that the European results are just an artifact of more vs. less industrialized, strengthens a possible case that western states and high-altitude states are correlated and western states have higher happiness while high-altitude states have more suicide, and weakens a case that high altitude directly causes higher suicide rates. Overall it weakens a case that happiness and suicide are correlated in a meaningful way.

18. (12/17/2017) In my posts about tax policy, I misunderstood the rates at which growth to the economy compounds; as a result, economy-expanding policies look better compared to direct-redistribution policies than I’d originally calculated. I still think the existing tax bill probably doesn’t expand the economy that much. There were a few other errors mentioned in the same post.

19. (12/17/2017) In Right Is The New Left, I predicted that liberalism was becoming so mainstream and busybodyish that rebellious young people would start leaning right just to avoid it. Instead, it looks like rebellious young people have moved to a democratic socialist Bernie-Sanders-esque position that constantly attacks mainstream liberals for being sellouts and shills and morons. In retrospect this makes a lot of sense, but it’s the opposite of what I predicted.

20. (4/10/2018) Despite some efforts otherwise, my post on adult neurogenesis came off sounding like it was settled science that it didn’t happen. A few days later, this study came out, providing some more evidence for the “it does happen” side. See also “this comment. Although the subject is still in doubt, and although there’s still a really interesting contrast between the certainty with which people discuss the intricacies of neurogenesis and the uncertainty about whether it happens at all, it would have been more accurate to frame the post in these terms instead of as “it definitely doesn’t happen”.

21. (4/12/2018) The post Why DC’s Low Graduation Rates found that DC has very low graduation rates relative to their test scores (relative to other cities and states) and concluded that the most likely explanation was DC had stricter standards. This was framed as other states and school districts likely had borderline-fraudulent practices of passing students who hadn’t learned very much. Although there’s independent evidence for this and it definitely happens to some degree, based on some of the evidence in Highlights From The Comments On DC Graduation Rates it looks like another major (more important?) factor is DC’s strict policies on student absences, and possible screwy incentives that make student absences difficult to avoid. If this is true, focusing so much on standards was a mistake of emphasis.

22. (6/16/18) In HPPD And The Specter Of Permanent Side Effects, I focused on cell death as the likely explanation for occasional permanent side effects from psychedelics. Some commenters brought up an alternate model based on aberrant learning. Although the specifics don’t make a lot of sense, this would present a better explanation for occasional LSD flashbacks and for seemingly-similar conditions like mal de debarquement. It was a mistake of emphasis to focus on cell death rather than on this possibility.

23. (8/28/18) In Elegy For John McCain, I tried to write a poem that balanced my various conflicting feelings about him, including as a high-minded and noble person, a martial hero who refused to tolerate evil, and somebody who when you got down to the consequentialist brass tacks of it spent a big part of his life promoting war and death in a disastrous way. I apparently failed terribly at this and everyone thought it was just attacking McCain in a way that was cruel to do in a period of mourning after his death. I don’t want to claim this is just them being wrong, because I think the poem does have an element of that and I misjudged its appropriateness at least as much as I misjudged other people’s reaction, and because enough smart people interpreted the poem that way that I probably have to accept that’s the way the poem is. I also should hold myself to higher standards since I’ve come out as against this kind of thing before.

24. (9/7/18) In my review of Thomas Piketty, I took too many of his claims at face value. Some people later came up with strong arguments against them, which I’ve discussed more here.

25. (11/20/18) My post The Economic Perspective On Moral Standards started with a discussion of the phrase “there is no ethical consumption under late capitalism”. Some people brought up that this phrase may usually be used in a way opposite to the way I was describing it. See the comments for discussion, but given the potential error I excised it from the post.

26. (3/28/19) I reported on a survey I did that showed people’s intuitive moral valuation of animals matched their number of cortical neurons spookily well. A commenter replicated the survey with a larger sample and got different results. I partially retracted the post on the survey based on these concerns, but then we found a way to sort of reconcile the two studies, so I updated the partial retraction. It’s complicated.

27. (4/24/19) A key piece of evidence in Why Were Early Psychedelicists So Weird? was a study finding psychedelics caused a permanent increase in openness. A more recent study failed to replicate this finding. I’m not sure how much to discount the post based on this.

28. (8/21/19) In It’s Bayes All The Way Up, I suggested that psychedelics might work by strengthening the brain’s top-down priors. A more recent paper by Carhart-Harris and Friston provides compelling evidence that psychedelics probably work by weakening the brain’s top-down priors, meaning I got this one maximally wrong. This probably suggests a few other related posts, like Mysticism and Pattern-Matching, have serious flaws or are looking at things in unproductive ways.

29. (9/8/19) In Age Gaps And Birth Order Effects, I found that birth order effects stop mattering suddenly after a seven year gap between siblings. A Less Wrong user tried to replicate and reanalyze the results, and found a less sudden decrease around seven years. They concluded that birth order effects likely decreased more gradually after “4 – 8” years. I agree their reanalysis is better and have edited my post to link to it.

30. (11/19/19) In Promising The Moon (written 2014), I argued that technological progress had not slowed from 1970 to the present (compared to its pre-1970 speed). Since then, research by a bunch of people (summarized very well here by Tyler Cowen) finds strong evidence that it has. Despite its confidence and snark, my 2014 post was wrong.

31. (2/9/20) In Adderall Risks: Much More Than You Wanted To Know (written 2017) I stated that although Adderall might increase risk of Parkinson’s Disease, Ritalin didn’t. Since then I’ve been informed of several studies showing Ritalin probably does this too (see eg here). I’m not sure what went wrong and I can’t retrace my steps to find what made me think Ritalin was safe before; I think it was personal communication with some people who I thought would have known. In any case, don’t switch to Ritalin because you’re worried about Parkinson’s; it won’t help.

32. (3/29/20) In my March 2 Coronalinks thread, I speculated that the CDC was intentionally downplaying the effectiveness of face masks in order to prevent people from hoarding them. Although I still think the CDC underestimated the effectiveness of face masks, my claim that it was intentional was wrong. They have had the same policy consistently for years. See section 7 here for more.

33. (3/29/20) In my March 27 Coronalinks thread, I said confidently that quitting smoking would lower your risk of mortality from coronavirus infections. Several readers then alerted me to research saying that it might raise the risk. Although the research is tentative and a little sketchy, it was a mistake to be so confident in the original thread.

Probably many other mistakes, but these are the ones I remembered to record. If you know of an objective mistake (not subjective disagreement!) that is not listed here, please let me know.

Leave a Reply

41 Responses to Mistakes

  1. Alex Zavoluk says:

    Are you referring to SSC only, or things you’ve written anywhere?

  2. DES3264 says:

    Surely, every “thing I will regret writing” was either a mistake to write, or else mistakenly identified as such a thing. 🙂

  3. Sam Rosen says:

    You doing this is awesome.

  4. BlackHumor says:

    I believe your original position on 1 was actually correct:

    If the drop in murder rate is entirely due to improvements in medical care, then if we could find some country which tracked a combined measure of murders AND attempted murders since the Victorian era, we’d expect it to be stable. As it happens, there totally is such a country: Japan, which has consistently tracked a combination of homicide and attempted homicide rates since the late 1800s. But Japan’s graph looks just like all the other graphs on that page: it’s high in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, then starting in the 1950s it slowly drops until bottoming out in about the 90s.

    (PS: The original source of this data is here, but it’s behind a paywall, so I’m linking to the summary I found originally.)

  5. Mortimer Mouse says:

    Scott, it’s 2016! 1/1/15 is wrong. And I believe 1/1/16 isn’t what you want either.

  6. Paul Weber says:

    I’m not sure where to post this mistake I discovered, but in the anti-reactionary FAQ in section 3.5 you evaluate the success of Republican party platform from 1920, and conclude that point nine was not achieved, however I would argue that it was achieved by Reagan, in this vox article, it details how radically he simplified the tax brackets, and I’m pretty sure since thatt kind of change is most going to benefit the average american, that’s what the 1920 republican party platform meant with “simplify income tax”

  7. Pku says:

    The first link in 4 (College And Critical Thinking) redirects to instead of the specific post.

    (Feel free to delete this comment).

  8. Han says:


    5. (1/1/15) In my January 2016 links post

    That appears to be posted 1/13/16, not 1/1/15?

  9. Maximu5 says:

    Waw. I stumbled on this blog today. I haven’t seen a blog with a section called “mistakes”. That is what I call intellectual honesty. I have instantly bookmarked this blog

  10. Buckyballas says:

    In Pope and Change (2013-02-28) you say:

    First, I kind of want him to be progressive. I have also accepted this will never happen*. For a while I thought I could kind of get away with hoping for relative progressivism, like rooting for the guy who was stuck in the 18th century over the guy who was stuck in the 15th century. But the differences between them seem so slight as to make this a dangerous game. And it seems sort of like a form of cultural imperialism to demand the head of a religion I don’t believe should parrot my views and ignore the views of his religion’s actual members.

    Doesn’t Pope Francis qualify as relatively progressive?

  11. mdet says:

    Since comments are disabled on the Crying Wolf post, I’ll respond to #7 & 8 here.

    Many outlets have reported that “Donald Trump outperformed both Romney & McCain among Black voters, and outperformed Romney among Hispanic, & Asian voters, therefore Trump actually made inroads among minorities for the Republican party!” This is halfway true. Trump received 8% of Black voters and 29% of Hispanic & Asian voters each, compared to Romney’s 6%, 27%, 26% respectively and McCain’s 4%, 31%, 35% respectively. But if you look at Republican candidates before 2008:
    2004—Bush got 11% of Black, 44% of Hispanic, 44% of Asian voters
    2000—Bush got 9% of Black, 35% of Hispanic, 41% of Asian voters
    1996—Dole got 12% of Black, 21% of Hispanic, 48% of Asian voters
    1992—Bush got 10% of Black, 25% of Hispanic, 55% of Asian voters

    While Trump may have gotten a greater share of the minority vote than McCain or Romney, he significantly underperformed among minorities compared to any Republican candidate from ’92-’04. I think the proper conclusion here is not “Trump made inroads among minorities” but “The ’08 & ’12 elections saw unusually high minority support for the Democratic presidential candidate, whoever that guy was”

    • Rasputin says:

      I’d really like to see a rebuttal to mdet’s point, because I had a feeling this was the case, but hadn’t bothered to check. Despite what my SJW friends might say, it’s should be beyond reproach to acknowledge that Obama’s race motivated an extra large share of minorities to vote, duh. It obviously wasn’t the only reason, and many people (minority and not) voted for him for many other reasons, but due to that alone, it seems there’s a decent chance anyone besides the Devil Himself would have received a higher share of minority votes than Romney or McCain.

      I suppose we could argue that turn out was down all together this year, or maybe that by 2012 the novelty should have worn off.

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      So Trump is not more popular among minorities than, say, an “average” Republican, but that still upends the narrative about him being particularly racist.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        Alternate hypothesis, belated:

        Define a thing called Racism Rays, that is emitted by politicians who are called racist.

        [Table, for the moment, all question of what physical thing is causing the Racism Rays; that’s a separate issue. This argument works exactly the same way if the accusations of racism are true or false]

        In the alternate hypothesis, an “average” Republican emits enough Racism Rays that all members of ethnic minorities who are sensitive to Racism Rays vote against them anyway.

        If so, then the typically single-digit percentage of blacks who vote Republican represent one or more splinter factions. The splinter factions are either:

        1) Blacks who do not share the other 90% of blacks’ perception of Racism Rays (see SSC post on different people living in entirely different mental worlds), OR
        2) Blacks who are extremely motivated single-issue voters on some issue where the Republican Party provides them with what they want. Black evangelical single-issue abortion voters come to mind, or blacks who are really really serious about libertarianism.

        A Republican candidate can emit twice as many Racism Rays as average and still not do much to move the needle of his popularity among the splinter factions, because the splinter factions of blacks are already ignoring a Racism Ray level that drives away almost all other blacks. Their tolerance for Racism Rays is, like, an order of magnitude higher than the median among black voters.

        Conversely, a Republican candidate may well emit only half as many Racism Rays as average… and still be getting only something like 10-15% of the black vote. Because even half the baseline level for a Republican candidate is still more than enough to repel 85-90% of black voters.

        This is exactly what we would expect in a situation where emitting Racism Rays is an adaptive trait for Republican politicians’ career prospects, and where the minimum necessary emission rate is enough that black voters cease to be a relevant support base for Republican politicians.

        In the Republican politician natural environment (a primary in, say, Indiana or Kentucky)… Well, the ‘optimum’ level of Racism Rays for a Republican politician rapidly becomes decoupled from the preferences of blacks, and Republican politicians have a strong incentive to optimize for a level that maximizes their overall appeal to people who will vote for them anyway. That is to say, not black people, but rather the kind of people who vote in Republican primaries, and to a lesser extent who vote (R) in general elections more often than not.

        There is no reason for Republican politicians in this particular incentive structure to stop increasing their Racism Ray output at a level where a marginal change in output would significantly affect their support among blacks.

        [I would like to emphasize again that even if Racism Rays are ‘this mysterious thing that people somehow emit and that makes people call totally nonracist people racist for no reason,’ my argument can still hold. The application to the alternate case where Racism Ray levels correlate with actual levels of individual racism is of course obvious.]

  12. ed74 says:

    I have to challenge your classification of stormfront as a “white nationalist” site, vs. “white supremacist.”
    Have you looked at stormfront, or googled it?
    As a rule of thumb, if someone or something is a self-described “white nationalist, ” they’re almost certainly white supremacist. No one actually describes themselves as”white supremacist,” because that term is pretty stigmatized (and rightly).
    If someone is a self-described “white supremacist,” they’re a ticking bomb.
    Acknowledging this skews your white supremacist numbers a bit, I think, as stormfront has something like 60,000 users, IIRC. Although not enough to make white supremacist a relevant demographic.

  13. Patrick Foley says:

    #8 and #7 – am I the only person who thought of the Holy Grail credits?

    Thanks so much for this blog – it’s awesome.

  14. Mr B J Mann says:

    In your You Are Still Crying Wolf Blog Posted on November 16, 2016

    Half way down you assume that Trump can’t have had trouble with his earpiece because he heard and repeated Duke’s name.

    However in the quotes you post it seems clear that he appears to be under the impression that he was asked about a number of organisations, and not just Duke’s, so if he was only asked about Duke’s it’s not Duke’s name, but which organisations he was being asked about, that he must have misheard.

  15. Gene McCulley says:

    Documenting mistakes in a standard way is a great idea. It reminds me of Bessemer Venture Partners’ Anti-Portfolio. Are there other good examples of this kind of document?

  16. playrighter says:

    Just finished your most excellent piece on “Still crying wolf”. While your points are overwhelmingly fair and balanced, I’d like to know the justification for claiming “Trump insult[ed] a disabled reporter just for being disabled?”

    Serge is incapable of making the motions Trump made. Trump has made similar gestures in reference to several able-bodied people, including himself. Nancy Pelosi made several similar gestures in her meeting with the Dali Lama.

    Sorry. This looks to me like another null hypothesis. Do you have objective proof for your allegation? Thanks.

  17. littlegreyowl says:

    It seems there are no moderators or admin to as for help. I was reading an article about Hegel, and wanted to join in so I signed up. After verifying my email I was taken to the main site and have no idea how to find that original page. How annoying!!!!!!!!!!

  18. phoenixy says:


    I have a proposed mistake, it’s in Contra Grant on Exaggerated Differences which seems to have comments disabled.

    In this article you state “.There are no prerequisites [for AP Computer Science classes] except basic mathematical competency or other open-access courses. It seems like of the people who voluntarily choose to take AP classes that nobody can stop them from going into, 80% are men and 20% are women, which exactly matches the ratio of each gender that eventually get tech company jobs.”

    Although the AP Board doesn’t have AP prerequisites, individual schools are absolutely free to impose prerequisites for AP classes and they can keep students from taking them. I personally am a woman who tried to take AP Computer Science in high school and was not allowed to, because I was only enrolled in regular calculus, and the school decided that students must take advanced calculus in order to enroll in AP Computer Science (despite the fact that the material in advanced calculus has nothing to do with the material in AP Computer Science). While I’m sure it’s not the primary cause for fewer women in engineering, I don’t think you can rule out the possibility that women are being directed away from these classes by their high schools.

  19. Aharon says:


    It’s by no means a major mistake, just a really minor one – but “Gendered Occupational Interests: Prenatal Androgen Effects on Psychological Orientation to Things Versus People” didn’t have 125 women with CAH: Occupational interests were assessed in 125 individuals: 46 females with CAH, 21 unaffected sisters, 27 males with CAH, and 31 unaffected brothers.

  20. chridd says:

    15. (9/24/17) […] network theory was at least mostly a dead end.

    I’m not sure it necessarily follows that the network idea would be wrong. Couldn’t predictive processing–related things simply be additional nodes in the network (which would mean, for instance, that low confidence could be part of the network of depressive symptoms, and narrow confidence intervals could be part of the network of autistic traits, but there are also other parts of the network that don’t involve that, and feedback loops where low confidence causes symptoms that in turn lower confidence)?

  21. g says:

    I am soooo disappointed that for #12 you did not emulate Colonel Crane.

  22. GrishaTigger says:

    Scott, I am a great fan of your writing. The mistake I would like to point out is so trivial that it may come across as tedious nitpicking. I apologize in advance. I do it out of love.

    In many of your posts, when discussing studies, you refer to their “methodology”, when you really just mean “methods”. “Method” is how you do something. “Methodology“, like any other “-ology”, is a study or discussion of methods. If you’re evaluating Thomas Kuhn’s critiques of the scientific method, you’re doing methodology. If you’re comparing multiple methods of achieving some goal, you’re doing methodology. If you’re just running an experiment/trial/study, the way you do it is just a “method”.

    I only bother to point this out because I work in an environment where people use long words, perhaps hoping to signal how smart they are, when short ones will do just fine (“utilize” for “use”, “methodology” for “method”, etc.). It just makes them seem pompous. I hope that a man of genuine erudition, such as yourself, will use simple words when simple words will do, moving forward.

  23. jasmith79 says:

    On the proposed rightward shift among rebellious young people (correction 19), you just called it an iteration early: the next cycle doesn’t have a far enough distance further left to go.

  24. phil says:

    Is there any data supporting correction 19? Or is that your antidotal observation?

    Categorizing which individuals get to count as ‘rebellious’ seems obviously tough, that said, it seems like most of the pusher of various internet ‘alt-right’ memes seem to skew pretty young.

    Not sure how to think about that in a systematic way.

  25. Rasputin says:

    Regarding 19, I wonder where you get your information? I think the evidence is still very difficult to sort, because most polls don’t ask the questions right, and the term “liberal” has different meanings to different people, especially between young vs old, and left vs right. So while there is certainly evidence young people are moving to support Democratic Socialists like Sanders and Occasio-Cortez, there is also evidence they are supporting the Republican Party.

    You can also see some evidence of this trend on Youtube, which is disproportionately young and disproportionately anti-SJW. Write that off to young white gamers if you want, but that’s a lot of people, and they’re responding in just the way you would expect to being vilified by the overly moralistic in the name of “empathy”.

  26. Toby Bartels says:

    We're more than halfway into 2018, and the Syrian Civil War is still going on. So I think that you should record that it was a mistake to claim that it had ended last year. (Which will improve your scores for your 2017 predictions.)

    PS: I can't seem to subscribe to new comments on this post, so send me an email if you want to make a reply that you want me to see. (ETA: This applies to anybody reading this.)

    ETA: Citation: #11 at

  27. Plumber says:

    “everyone thought it was just attacking McCain”

    @Scott Alexander,


    I didn’t think you were attacking McCain:

    Plumber says:
    August 28, 2018 at 7:44 am
    “I thought the poem was fun and from my guess of McCain’s sense of humor he would’ve liked it too.”

    Others had similar opinions.

  28. Robert L says:

    On 15, I think you were actually right first time. Either depression really is just symptoms all the way down, or if it isn’t, proceeding on the basis that it is is therapeutically valid. The predictive theory of depression is just wrong, on the other hand. It just isn’t the case that low confidence in one’s own predictions is a feature, let alone the defining feature, of depression. One the contrary over confidence in one’s predictions is highly typical of depression: accepting and focusing on this fact is what makes CBT work, when it does.

  29. vaticidalprophet says:

    Comments on HPPD And The Specter Of Permanent Side Effects have apparently been closed, so I’ll just come in here:

    >But if most people just get some mild visual issues – by all accounts the most common form of the condition – maybe they never tell anybody. Maybe 1-4% of people who have tried LSD are walking around with slightly distorted perception all the time.

    Oh, it’s far higher than that. The sheer mildness of it makes it hard to measure, of course. It appears truer in exactly the people you’d expect it to be truer for. It’s somehow both under- and over-reported — a significant portion of the people identifying themselves as having HPPD (particularly in non-clinical contexts) have it pointed out to them at some point that what they’re experiencing is prevalent to the point of ‘just expect this will happen’ and you shouldn’t assume it means you have a serious mental issue unless you’re showing other signs of one. This so happens to fix a lot of the related distress, given as a great way to convince yourself you’re going insane is to experience something where the only coherent description you can find of it is ‘also, this means you’re going insane’.

    It’s not troubling in the vast majority of people who experience it. I had closed-eye visuals before taking psychedelics (and before having any of a certain set of experiences, which in my case weren’t associated with hallucinations of any kind), from early childhood, and psychedelic use significantly intensified them and gave me open-eyed visuals that were slightly milder than my baseline CEVs. They aren’t disturbing and look pretty cool, all things considered. This is a much more representative HPPD-adjacent experience than the people distressed over it.

  30. fion says:

    Not sure if this is the right place for this, but I think there’s a typo in “It Was You Who Made My Blue Eyes Blue”

    But we’ve got to do it If we don’t kill ourselves tonight, then we’ve just got to go back to the lodge.

    You’re missing a full stop between it and If.

  31. ExplodingCabbage says:

    At, Jonatan Pallesen points out a factual claim from one of your posts that he considers in need of retraction. Not sure if you’ve seen it (or indeed if you’ll see this).

  32. Carvor says:

    Hey Scott, as far as I can tell the claim that the chloroquine fish tank poisoning is being investigated as a murder from the recent coronalinks Post is false. It is apparently routine to assign all deaths to a homicide detective, abd its not inherently indicative of a murder investigation.

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