1127 Comments

You are suggesting. We're do you have to be in life to get something different? I understand and then it doesn't matter. I just wrote something without thinking about any of it. I never want to say anything in person or typing. I never wanted to sound like anyone because I am only what I think. I could sit around and beat myself up of make myself feel bad because someone had a thought. When it comes to needing to be aware of what I'm going to say. Words on earth will always be followed with more words. Say something good to someone today or don't. It's like asking me if a tree falls in the woods.....? I would stop you right their and tell you i wasn't there so why would you celebrate sence with something so common.

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Would you pay $1 a month for really good podcast Adblock? What about $10?

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Jan 15, 2023·edited Jan 15, 2023

$10 nope, $1 maybe. Most of that maybe is because I don’t like subscriptions. If it were possible to get into the epistemic state where I believed that paying $100 would mean I only had to listen to single-digit podcast ads in the next decade, I would gladly pay it, but it seems unlikely I could reach that epistemic state even if the product actually existed.

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Per this idea they in fact are (in the sense of having qualia subjectively experienced by their constituent matter in a manner determined by and inextricably linked to its current physical state), they just aren't self-aware. Arguing against the proposition that everything is (to some extremely primitive degree) conscious by rhetorically asking "why isn't x conscious?" is begging the question, wouldn't you agree?

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Context?

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Does anyone know how, exactly, the use of semaglutide as a weight loss drug got popularized? Scott started writing his article on it before Elon Musk endorsed it, so it isn't Musk, first and foremost.

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So, as anyone here gotten caught in the California flooding?

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Scott, are you aware that you were cited three times in a just-published takedown of common good constitutionalism in Harvard Law Review? https://harvardlawreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/136-Harv.-L.-Rev.-861.pdf

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I don't think that most people are even aware of when and where they are cited in general.

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Perhaps imprecise phrasing on my part. I meant it as "I thought you might be interested to know that...". Considering that the article in question is in a field of study a bit far removed from the remit of this blog.

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Historically, how many places have actively advertised for immigrants? I know that Texas did when it was part of Spain and Mexico and when it was an independent country (not so much recently tho). What other places have?

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I don't know if this counts, but some of the railway companies in the US advertised (and subsidized) some immigrants from England and Scandinavia to move to the plain states and be given farmland near their railroad lines.

They wanted to ensure there was adequate demand along the newly constructed lines, to help them become more profitable more quickly.

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Back in the 19th century, Canadian authorities were very keen to settle the prairies with Europeans so the area wouldn't be de facto claimed by the US. They even hired agents in Europe who persuaded whole villages to emigrate to the New World en masse. I expect in the course of this campaign they published plenty of advertisements.

Rhodesia after WWII also went out of its way to attract white settlers.

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Doug Saunders' *Maximum Canada*, which strongly influenced Matt Yglesias' *One Billion Americans*, goes into a lot of detail about Canada's ambivalent attitude towards immigrations in the 19th century.

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I am pretty sure the Mormons did early on, in particular for wives.

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The Statue of Liberty has the "give me your refuse" plaque.

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Where can one see how one did in the Astral Codex prediction contest from last year?

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I've been talking about the importance of teaching adult literacy for a long time, and it seems like I'm talking into a blind spot, as though people generally believe that if you didn't learn how to read in school, it's hopeless.

A man who's teaching himself to read at age 33.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-12-28/learning-to-read-one-tiktok-at-a-time

His TikTok:

https://www.tiktok.com/@oliverspeaks1/video/7186741515685858603

The NAACP is pushing phonics:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2022/12/27/phonics-reading-virginia-naacp/

Discussion: https://www.metafilter.com/197894/The-real-question-is-why-he-decided-at-age-33-to-learn

My facebook discussion: https://www.facebook.com/nancy.lebovitz/posts/pfbid02WjwnmawAmHdaF5yv16J1wQxjFCLHLMASyN5d3GY8DgCTAeooBor5Wg9HKSxKrgChl

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We have TV ads for adult literacy programs every so often in Australia.

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Do we still? I remember the old ones, but I haven't heard that one-three-double-oh-six-triple-fiiiiive-oh-six jingle in ages.

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I wanted to say hello. I have been traveling in my whole life to get here. Impartial, I would like to place 5% of the blame for my being late on opinions. If I had a dream it would be. May opinion never get between us. We are all faced with with the daunting task of coading and decoding information in the real world experience. I believe the unhealthy opinion is born when we are so quick to want to say something. Not speaking toward any one here. Just speaking for my life. When I take information from someone I fuses it or reject it by what I am receiving from the person. I tend to not want to say anything. Except I always want to engage in the opinion when it comes to just. That right there needs to be destroyed. I can't act that way. I seem to find myself in some what of what top gun is about. Just as dangerous due to I'm the pilot and the aircraft. If you crash their is no coming back. I understand that I have disorder when it is coming from crowd that doesn't see it that way. Wow it's a wonder their are not as many names for disorders as their are people. Wait they give us names at birth. Since we run out of names the number we have is the our disorders indentation. I truly try to be a better me than the person I was yesterday. I tried to stay the same but as each day I pass threw I can't be like anything that who I believe I want to be. I'm guessing that is why we say love by the code. Love is only a word. How will you know it if all you do Is hear it. If I say die do you die? I say live it goes off and dies. I just do what I can when I see it. I speak positive and I try to be respectful by smiling and staying quiet when it comes to those who are people to take from. My everyone live one way or other. See you on the Battle field of. Fight well. Who ever you may be. Be it. So that we may always see where you are.

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No offense, but is this a bot post, or have you been diagnosed with schizophrenia?

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You know, Carlos, it's really quite possible that this person does have schizophrenia. It's not a rare disorder. If it's a bot post, what would be the point of sending the bot here? The post is not at all offensive, and is way to disorganized to be an effort to convince us of anything. And I don't see any jokes or references to ACX topics, which if present would probably indicate that someone is pulling our leg. So I'd say your post is in fact offensive. Sort of like "hey, buddyt, did you get your head shaved or are you having chemo.?"

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Well, I wanted to engage with it due to its bizarreness and couldn't think of anything else. I don't think there's a polite way to ask someone if they have schizophrenia, and I am curious.

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I suspect someone is pulling our leg here.

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Do you believe there is little time left before transformative AI? Are you willing to put your money where your mouth is? Apparently, you can win big if you do:

https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/8c7LycgtkypkgYjZx/agi-and-the-emh-markets-are-not-expecting-aligned-or

because markets are not expecting transformative AI any time soon, meaning there are absolutely massive inefficiencies to exploit if AI timelines are as short as some are predicting. Some are even expecting a phase of explosive GDP growth (30% per year). I don't think I buy that, because it seems to me there is too much inertia and complexity for the market to transform that quickly in response to any tech, but that's just an uneducated intuition. I may throw some money at the funds indicated in the article, if only to save the world: if I win on those, those would be the first successful investments I ever made! The odds of it panning out strike me as miniscule, so the fact I'm considering investing like this maybe indicates the reasoning in that article (and by extension, that of the AI safety community) is shoddy.

Can there really be heaps of gold lying on the ground right now? What do you think?

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Are there analogous eras when a new invention was 1) fascinating to those paying attention, but error-prone, unrefined, and not widely used; and, 2) on the verge changing the economy, as we know from hindsight?

If so, you could compare with financial markets at that point in time.

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Jan 11, 2023·edited Jan 11, 2023

In recent living memory: personal computing and the internet. You could have made a lot of money buying companies like Microsoft at the right time. On the other hand, there was the dot-com bubble, where you could have lost a lot of money buying the wrong companies.

The difficulty is that "changing the economy" is step (3). There is a step (2), "some companies succeed at commercializing the invention and some others try and fail, stocks go up and down while people try to figure which companies are which".

The EA forum post linked above cuts through the difficulty of picking the right stocks by suggesting that one should bet on the real interest rate, instead. I am slightly unconvinced of their plots because (a) the interest rate data they have goes back only to early 1990s (real) or 1950s (nominal), so it misses some of the big transformative changes that could guide our intuition, and more importantly,

(b) in my layman's understanding, interest rates and GDP growth correlate in quite complicated ways, so plotting one against other may be less informative than one would think.

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I have a friend who's suffering from depersonalization / derealization disorder (DPD), the persistent sense that oneself / the external world is not real. DPD seems to be inherently poorly understood, and I'd be grateful for advice from anyone who has successfully treated or cured this condition, or could recommend a therapist in the Boston area.

Here's what I've got so far in terms of a bro science treatment protocol. I don't think there are any miracle cures or One Weird Tricks, but it seems like there are many bits of applied common sense that could plausibly help and are unlikely to hurt:

- Achieve brilliance in the basics of sleep, diet and especially exercise.

- Proactively limit and manage stress.

- Go outside, get as much sunlight as you can, quite literally touch grass.

- Engage in physical hobbies such as crafts, gardening and the like, that involve a lot of multisensory integration and not a lot of high-level thinking.

- Socialize IRL, especially in comfortable, low-stakes social situations.

- Limit screen time.

- Keep a journal of symptoms and note what aggravates or ameliorates symptoms but don't otherwise obsess over them (spend, say, 5min/day on journaling).

- Avoid sitting alone in your room pondering the nature of reality or otherwise ruminating.

- Try reciting common-sense mantras / affirmations ("The world is real. My name is X Y. I am sitting in a room right now" &c) if helpful but do not obsess over them.

- Engage moderately in your religious / spiritual tradition if applicable but do not attempt any week-long kundalini benders or whatever.

- Check for and address feelings of inadequacy / excessive self-criticism / low self-worth through CBT, talk therapy, or similar. (For some reason this seems to be a common co-morbidity of DPD,)

It seems that episodes of DPD often resolve spontaneously, but I think it's worth trying to resolve it as quickly as possible and limit the chances of future relapses. Thanks in advance for any breadcrumbs or advice.

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Jan 11, 2023·edited Jan 11, 2023

DPDR is *very* unpleasant. I had it myself when I was undergrad after a bad drug experience. I did not seek any treatment, in fact for some reason did not even think of it as an illness, and it eventually faded away after about 6 months. I'm a psychologist who treats OCD. I think DPDR is a form of OCD, or at least a close cousin of it. Somebody with regular OCD might check that their door is locked over and over again -- people with DPDR keep checking over and over again to make sure they and the stuff around them looks and feels "real." Of course doing that makes it feel less real, because they're staring at their hands, at the picture on the wall, etc., looking for a feeling of realness -- which is a weird activity that makes everything you're looking at seem sort of arbitrary and peculiar. It's like saying a certain word, like say "mosquito," over and over til it sounds like an arbitrary sequence of sounds, instead of like a familiar word. I think what keeps DPDR going is that the person harbors a belief that if they did not do this perpetual checking for realness, things would feel even *less* real, and the idea of them feeling any less real is terrifying.

The best approach to dismantling the mental checking is to do less and less of it. When you do, you discover that things don't feel less real because you're not slaving away at trying to make them feel real. However, it's not possible to make yourself not think about realness. It's really not possible to not make yourself think about anything that you crave to think about. What you can do, though, is to spend time doing things that capture your attention so much that there's not much room left in your mind to obsess about realness. Something like skiing, or any thrill sport or really any active sport is excellent for capturing attention. So is dancing. Outside the realm of vigorous physical activity, what captures somebody's attention depends more on their personality, but there is almost no solitary activity that is likely to work. Here is a random scattering of things that are pretty engaging for people who have a taste for them: Tutoring a small child; helping a friend move or repaint their kitchen or put together Ikea furniture; clicker training your cat; gardening; playing music or singing with a group; fancy, complicated cookingl

I noticed in the comments here somebody recommended the Reddit sub for DPDS. I actually do not recommend it. In online forums for people with health problems, people with severe and/or incurable cases are way overrepresented. There are a sprinkling of people in the process of getting better, and a very few people who have recovered and are sticking around to help others, but the reader's overall impression is likely to be that once you get this illness your are stuck with it for life. I'd recommend instead that you or your friend do a google search for stories of recovery from DPDR. I'm sure there are some out there.

If your friend decides to see a therapist, I'd recommend looking for one who describes themselves as a specialist in either OCD or DPDR, and says they use CBT (using other approaches in addition to CBT is fine, but CBT should be on this list). You can find OCD specialists at iocdf.org. Boston is probably the best town in the country for finding OCD specialists, because the OCD Institute is there. There are many therapists who have lots of good training and lots of experience with OCD and related disorders. The only bad thing about the Boston psych scene is that most specialists in private practice do not take insurance. If your friend has a kind of insurance that allows them to see what's called an "out of network" provider, they can probably get reimbursed by insurance for about half of what they've paid. If your friend doesn't have that kind of insurance, it's worth coughing up the cash if they possibly can. Treatment of DPDS is not a long process -- should be doable in 3 months or so. I do not think that having DPDS is grounds for believing somebody needs a complete psychic overhaul via years of therapy. It's an anxiety loop that the human mind can get caught in, and treatment that focuses on breaking the loop, without searching at length for some reason why the person was vulnerable to it, works well. There's a therapist in Lexington named Jim Vermilyea whom I recommend highly. He's in practice with some other people who are probably also very good, because he wouldn't have let them join his practice if they weren't.

I'm sure there is a recommended drug treatment for DPDS, probably some SSRI. However, SSRI's aren't magic bullets, despite what the drug companies would like us to think, and they often interfere with sexual pleasure and cause weight gain, so there's definitely a downside to taking this road.

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I am so glad you chimed in here. I was especially concerned seeing a subreddit recommended, since visiting mental health forums is usually a terrible idea (for the reasons you mentioned). Treatment for OCD can be so counterintuitive and a lot of things that seem like common sense will just make it worse.

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Looked at the site you linked -- that looks great! And it's always good to find a resource that's more affordable to individual psychotherapy.

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Yeah, I'm in a weird spot where I haven't actually had DP/DR, but it's one of my OCD themes. Just reading the articles on that site helped me better understand what it actually is and helped me come to acceptance with it.

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Very hypothetical, but how about observing whether it's better or worse at some times than others, and possibly gathering some clues that way?

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founding

There’s a DPDR subreddit, which might be of some help.

A lot of New Agey traditions have things like “grounding exercises” to help counterbalance the weird mental states their other techniques conjure. Things like standing barefoot in the grass, naming the things around you, exercise, breath techniques, etc. The kundalini subreddit has some good examples in their wiki

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As I understand it, this is largely an anxiety symptom and has some elements in common with OCD. This site is a good source of info: https://www.dpmanual.com

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Thanks, will read

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Do you know of any religious, philosophies, or ideologies that correlate (positively or negatively) with DPD?

My guess was that DPD might correlate positively with religions which teach the concept of "philosophical realism", the belief that the words we use should refer unambiguously to discrete entities (possibly material, but often to an atomic spiritual essence of an entire named kind of material thing, as in ancient Greek myth, Aristotelianism, or many Native North American myths) which has a clear and firm boundary or definition. Some teach that these discrete real entities exist (e.g., Christianity); some teach that they don't (Hinduism, Buddhism).

Buddhism in particular seems to teach acceptance of DPD as its core doctrine.

People who believe in philosophical realism in the modern world should logically either deny that realism, embrace something like the Buddhist concept of emptiness, or conclude that the external world isn't real. So possibly this isn't always a mental disease, but can be caused by having the mental acuity to actually believe your metaphysical "beliefs", or to comprehend their consequences.

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9783-dependent-personality-disorder says:

Certain cultural and religious or family behaviors: Some people may develop DPD due to cultural or religious practices that emphasize reliance on authority.

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To answer my own question, Sartre's famous novel /Nausea/, which is often cited as the best existing explanation of existentialism, sounds like an extended description of DPDR. For instance, read this famous passage:

<<<

Black? I felt the word deflating, emptied of meaning with extraordinary rapidity. Black? The root was not black, there was no black on this piece of wood—there was . . . something else: black, like the circle, did not exist. I looked at the root: was it more than black or almost black? ... I had already scrutinized innumerable objects, with deep uneasiness. I had already tried—vainly—to think something about them: and I had already felt their cold, inert qualities elude me, slip through my fingers. ... And the hand of the Self-Taught Man; I held it and shook it one day in the library and then I had the feeling that it wasn’t quite a hand. I had thought of a great white worm, but that wasn’t it either. And the suspicious transparency of the glass of beer in the Café Mably. Suspicious: that’s what they were, the sounds, the smells, the tastes. When they ran quickly under your nose like startled hares and you didn’t pay too much attention, you might believe them to be simple and reassuring, you might believe that there was real blue in the world, real red, a real perfume of almonds or violets. But as soon as you held on to them for an instant, this feeling of comfort and security gave way to a deep uneasiness: colours, tastes, and smells were never real, never themselves and nothing but themselves. The simplest, most indefinable quality had too much content, in relation to itself, in its heart. That black against my foot, it didn’t look like black, but rather the confused effort to imagine black by someone who had never seen black and who wouldn’t know how to stop, who would have imagined an ambiguous being beyond colours. It looked like a colour, but also . . . like a bruise or a secretion, like an oozing—and something else, an odour, for example, it melted into the odour of wet earth, warm, moist wood, into a black odour that spread like varnish over this sensitive wood, in a flavour of chewed, sweet fibre. I did not simply see this black: sight is an abstract invention, a simplified idea, one of man’s ideas. That black, amorphous, weakly presence, far surpassed sight, smell and taste. But this richness was lost in confusion and finally was no more because it was too much.

... The essential thing is contingency. I mean that one cannot define existence as necessity [presumably a reference, but to whom?]. To exist is simply to be there; those who exist let themselves be encountered, but you can never deduce anything from them. I believe there are people who have understood this. Only they tried to overcome this contingency by inventing a necessary, causal being [God]. But no necessary being can explain existence: contingency is not a delusion, a probability which can be dissipated; it is the absolute, consequently, the perfect free gift. All is free, this park, this city and myself. When you realize that, it turns your heart upside down and everything begins to float,

– (Sartre 1938, transl. Lloyd Alexander 1949., the third Monday, 6:00 pm; from Google's scan of the New Editions 2013 printing, which lacks page numbers)

>>>

Sartre describes his nausea as being due to realizing his own "contingency", which is philosopher-speak meaning that he wasn't necessary to the universe--that it would have been possible for him never to have been. In Platonist philosophy, this means that he isn't real, as every Real thing is eternal, not temporal and contingent.

Sartre probably learned to consider temporal existence unreal from Hegel, though perhaps not directly. Hegel wrote in The Science of Logic, "The idealism of philosophy consists in nothing else than in the recognition that the finite is not truly an existent" (that which exists only temporarily, was never real).

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Yeah, really agree. I read Nausea after I'd had my own 6-month episode of DPDR, and not only did I recognize right away that Nausea was about the same kind of stuff, but I actually found Nausea quite disturbing to read. I felt afraid it was going to trigger another episode of DPDR. It didn't, though.

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Jan 13, 2023·edited Jan 13, 2023

I had much the same experience as you as an undergrad (drugs exacerbating latent dpdr /existential vertigo), I couldn't put Nausea down even though I thought it may be an info hazard.

Camus' Myth of Sisyphus was the antidote for me, at the time

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How did Myth of Sisyphus relieve you?

It seems to me that DPDR is one link in a giant web of problems induced by Western philosophy. It begins by taking mistakes of Plato as foundational. Foundationalism itself is one of those mistakes we get from Plato--the belief that you need to start with some certain truth, and then build on it deductively.

In foundationalism, the foundations can never be questioned. When the foundations are wrong, as in Plato, those errors can never be fixed. Instead, they propagate through belief networks. The initial error about X, E(X), leads to some obvious contradiction further down the line involving Y; but this can't be resolved by questioning E(X), so the contradiction is resolved by instead believing something wrong about Y, E(Y). This in turn leads to a contradiction with Z, and a compensating erroneous belief E(Z). So we see Western philosophers performing worse than random at even easy questions, like, Does the material world exist? Is life desirable? Is pain good? Is pleasure bad? Answer one of these wrong, and you'll likely answer the others wrong as well.

In this case, we begin with Plato's assertion that the Real consists of pure, eternal, transcendental, absolute Forms and Truths. This mistake leads to the belief that our lives ought to have some transcendental "purpose" or "meaning" derived from God--the second mistake.

The second mistake causes us great dissatisfaction with the messiness of reality, a distaste for life, and sometimes even a feeling of ghostliness--DPDR.

To get past DPDR, Camus proposes in the Myth of Sisyphus that we must acknowledge the absurdity of our lives. This seems to me to be the third mistake: the wrong belief that we should live with contradictions. We make this third mistake to protect us from the consequences of the second mistake.

This "third mistake" is quite common in the history of Western philosophy, whether it's to embrace contradictions (as Camus says), or not to acknowledge or even look for them. Other examples include:

- the development of the concept of "mysteries" by the Catholic Church, which teaches that it's necessary to be able to believe contradictory things at the same time (notably about the Trinity and Christology)

- Hegel's "dialectic", which teaches that contradictions need never be resolved, but should be welcomed and synthesized into a new wisdom formed by accepting both branches of the contradiction

- Kierkegaard's critique or parody of Hegel's dialectic, which I don't understand, but it definitely involves accepting things without understanding them

- the use of phenomenology by the Nazis to reject the validity of traditional values, empirical data, and non-contradiction, in favor of subjective feelings, "lived experience", and "authenticity"

It's found especially in totalitarian regimes, which must teach their citizens to hold contradictory beliefs–or rather, not to believe or disbelieve, but merely to accept. In fiction, this is "2+2 = 5" from 1985, "there are 5 lights" from Star Trek: TNG, and Plato forbidding the citizens of his Republic from studying philosophy before age 50.

I don't think all the different instances of it arose from the same chain of wrong beliefs (the Real is eternal > the temporal and contingent is unreal > we must be able to hold contradictory beliefs). There's a web of basic philosophical questions common to most philosophies, and whenever the answer to one of these questions tells you something about the answer to others of these questions, accepting a wrong answer to the first forces adoption of a wrong answer to all the others. But you can take those other nodes of the web in any order, with the consequence that there are many possible paths from any of the foundational beliefs to any derived belief.

If this continued indefinitely, a well thought-out and self-consistent belief system which began with a foundational error would eventually converge on pure error--an ideology of nothing but wrong or incoherent beliefs. The "third mistake", that we should reject reason, is necessary both to avoid renouncing the mistakes already made, and to stop the propagation of mistakes before the system becomes so wrong that it ceases to function.

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I have never heard it called existential vertigo before. Did you coin that phrase? I like it.

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I don't know. I do know of a couple cases where intensive Buddhist meditation practice led someone to a state sort of like DPDR.

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Do you know if they liked being in that state?

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The one I knew well was pretty anguished. He absolutely hated it. Along with his sense of being unreal, he had developed a habit of watching his breath, and a fear that it would stop if he did not make sure he was breathing "right" -- fast enough, deep enough, with just the right amount of attentiveness to the sensations. He was afraid to fall asleep because he felt like loss of consciousness was = loss of the little self he had left, and what if when he woke up he could not find that little bit again.

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Sign them up to working vacation in a labor intensive third world industry. Maybe coal mining or something.

They will quickly become reacquainted with how real the world is. (Real enough!).

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Has this actually worked for you, or are you grinding an axe?

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I mean I for sure find hard manual labor something that prevents existential maundering. But yes I am also grinding an axe. Someone who is having serious difficulties because they worry themselves the world isn't real needs to as the kids say "touch grass".

For example the past few weeks I have been spending evenings doing maintenance on a public skating rink as a volunteer. Dozens of hours shovels snow and dragging/holding hoses, often in sub zero temperatures and one night with a -45 wind chill. Maundering doesn't come to mind because you got too many other pressing problems.

I am half convinced a lot of modern "anxiety" is because the human mind is wired for a general level of day-to-day anxiety, and so when we have have constructed a life/society with so little actual need for it, people find stupid shit to get anxious about.

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Have you read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? Google "crisis inducer".

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Oh yeah I love those books.

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If someone goes to a Buddhist retreat for some intense meditation over days or weeks and they can’t turn off ‘monkey mind’, the severe form of background narration that happens when our mind isn’t ‘doing something’ someone will help them out by putting a broom in their hand or have them do dishes or any repetitive mindless tasks to get things to quiet down so the hapless meditator can get a start.

I have always experienced a lot of anxiety and I know that mowing the lawn or re-staining the deck or as you mentioned shoveling snow will always help me settle down.

Shoveling snow is especially appealing. I like to wait until the snow stops completely and go out after dark. The temperature usually drops, the night sky clears and I usually have the neighborhood to myself. It can take on the aspect of a mystical sacrament at times. A bit like making the sand mandalas that the monks carefully create and then immediately sweep away. A visual aid to appreciate the concept of impermanence.

Just like the mandalas, my tidy driveway and sidewalk will soon be covered with new snow.

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I agree with your point about modern anxiety. Something I often think about is that a century ago, people understood far more about the everyday objects around them:

Anybody can understand reasonably well how a horse pulling a wagon works, or an ax, or a staged play or concert, how a fire warms a room, etc etc. But most people understand very little about about the modern equivalents: Cars, jets, electronic entertainments, etc etc. It affects your feeling about your life to understand so little about basic elements of it. And I'm sure the cave man in all of us feels anxious because he knows that if it all breaks, we wouldn't be able to come anywhere close to reconstructing it ourselves.

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I had a similar thought the other day. When humans were primitive, our habitat was the natural world, in the sense that survival consisted primarily of interacting with things that exist in nature. That habitat was understood in terms of magic -- we created myths to explain natural phenomena and ascribed mystical properties to natural things. However, we developed extensive practical knowledge of those magic phenomena -- we could manipulate fire, and predict buffalo herds' grazing patterns.

As humans civilized, human artifacts came to play an increasingly large role in the human habitat, yet those artifacts -- by virtue of being the creation of human minds -- were not magical. While we could not explain the physics of how a bow shot an arrow, the component parts were visible and we understood their various functions and how they worked together. This remained the case for the bulk of human history, perhaps even through the start of the Industrial Revolution.

As human artifacts came to dominate our habitat (e.g., cities, themselves a human artifact), natural phenomena both played less of a role in daily survival and became less magical. The Scientific Revolution began to explain natural phenomena in non-magical terms, and while those explanations remained inaccessible to ordinary people, people accepted that nature operates according to laws rather than magic. Daily survival increasingly consisted of navigating a habitat composed of human artifacts that were generally comprehensible to the average observer (a loom, a hearth, a mill).

However, with the advent of modern technology and the rise of a post-industrial society, daily survival consists of navigating and manipulating human artifacts about which the average person has extensive practical knowledge but no scientific knowledge. This is both because human artifacts are increasingly complex and because the division of labor in a post-industrial society permits the average person to be ignorant about their complexity. I spend 10 hours a day on a computer but know nothing about how a computer actually works. We understand these artifacts are not magic, but we cannot explain them ourselves.

So we are reverting to a state of understanding of our habitat similar to that of primitive man - we know how to manipulate our habitats in order to survive, but we cannot explain our habitats. The difference is that primitive man at least thought he could explain his.

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Jan 12, 2023·edited Jan 12, 2023

Yeah, and primitive man thought gods or magic were running the show. That's a lot more comforting, thrilling and special than thinking that Elon Musk & Mark Zuckerberg are in charge. They are a truly tiny and nasty stand-in for gods. Eww.

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I dunno. I feel like anxiety issues have gone to the Moon just in the last 50 years. Young people in my kids' cohort seem signifinicantly more anxious than I or my friends were at their age decades ago -- and it was hard to explain nuclear fission or the transistor back then.

What about the explosion in communications and always-connectedness that the Internet and devices have caused? At least there's the virtue that the growth in potential cause and effect have tracked each other. And...it seems to me people are almost always more self-aware, nervous, anxious -- whatever their inherent level of social skills -- when they are aware they are being watched by strangers.

These days, in much of what we do, we're always being watched by hundred to hundreds of millions of strangers. And not even just strangers! There's very few moments of the average day when you're *not* potentially in touch with your wife, your husband, your parents or children, all your friends from the most intimate to the most casual (not to mention assorted past flings and affairs, sometimes). Your boss, your employees, your customers, your clients. When I was young, there were big chunks of the day when I was out of touch, unreachable. Walking to school, 20 minutes where my mother couldn't call me, no friends could text me. Driving to work, nobody could call me. When I got home from work, my boss couldn't reach me except in the direst emergency. If I talked to an acquaintance by phone, or wrote a letter, nobody else overheard the conversation, the way zillions of people do when we write on our FB page, post a comment, Tweet.

It's like Panopticon crossed with the Stasi, where everyone watches everyone, not in general with malevolent intent, but....doesn't seem natural to our monkey brains, I bet.

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Yes, I think that's true. I remember the first time I ever posted anything on an online forum, probably about 25 years ago: It felt like a huge deal, like being on Dancing with the Stars or having an editorial in the NYTimes. Thousands of people were going to read my words. I felt nervous and excited and presumptuous. Now of course I'm used to it, like everybody else, and yet I think a part of my brain is still registering that a LOT of people are reading this, and I know very few of them. Even on here, even among the names I recognize I don't know most people's gender or age. And then of course fairly regularly you get a reminder that some members of the group you are speaking to are not the kind of person you'd ordinarily disclose anything to, because they make clear right away that they despise your ideas and hate you for having them. Heh.

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That sounds like a very fulfilling use of one's time. As I mentioned in the OP, I think manual labor is good! As is--also already mentioned--literally touching grass.

Consider the analogy to depression: from the outside, depression often looks like someone being a little mopey, slow, or avoidant. Big deal! Cheer up, you big baby!! But dig a little deeper and it turns out that severely depressed people sound like they're suffering more than cancer patients, who objectively suffer a lot but seem to adjust and even find the bright side of their diagnosis, in a way that rarely / never happens with depression. Add to that a bunch of weird physiological symptoms that seem hard to predict and fake in advance (why would malingerers all come up with psychomotor retardation, for example?) and depression starts to look pretty different from "just being really sad".

Much like depression, this derealization thing seems multicausal. Some people are depressed because their lives suck (sometimes for reasons within their control, at that!) and some people are depressed in the midst of the fullness of life, for no obvious reason. Which camp you're in is helpful intel, in case your life just sucks and there's something you might could do about that. But "unsuck your life" isn't helpful advice if your life doesn't really suck in the first place. DPD seems correlated with "having the sort of childhood that would alarm CPS", but "don't have an abusive childhood" isn't actionable. (And yes there is obvious genetic confounding but "don't have child abuser genes" is even less actionable.)

Or consider the analogy to obesity, the bulk (heh) of which is pretty obviously due to some combination of sedentary lifestyle plus cheap and hyperpalatable foods. A victimhood of our own success if there ever was one. Yet "stop being a coddled modern" is not actionable advice in the way that "eat exactly this much and exercise" is.

It's possible that DPD is just another disease of modernity and can be treated by consciously unwinding some of its more virtualizing aspects. It also sounds like a real hell to be trapped in, so I have some sympathy for people who find themselves stuck there, never having chosen to inherit the broken social tech that made their condition all the more likely. So yeah I encourage them to touch grass and meanwhile I'm polling here to ask if there's anything else I've missed.

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A) I think a high enough % of people who present with depression or other things like DPD or whatever are just basically malingering, that one of the first main pieces of advice and attempts at therapy should just be to "grow up and start getting out there and doing stuff.

B) Not to mention which that is generally good advice anyway even if it doesn't work. I think even for the people who are actually having some sort of underlying issue that isn't just "I have worked myself into a crummy series of behaviors and excuses that make me unhappy but I am in a local minima and so I struggle to get out", it is still helpful in most cases.

I was "depressed" with an actual diagnosis and at one point an SSRI prescription (which I only took for a couple months before I started reselling) from ages ~11-26. And severely depressed for most of of ages ~13-19.

Now I had a lot to be depressed about. A father who was totally out of the picture since 4, and alcoholic mother who was passed out more days than she wasn't by about 7PM. I was super into girls and horny, and tried really hard to be charming and pleasant, yet high status girls more or less hated me from ~11-16 (had a lot of success after that). Had 2 very serious, embarrassing and public medical issues (one of which involved removing half a testicle). And also generally hated myself and was ashamed at my overall behavior.

Nevertheless on top of that at times it felt like I was literally not in control of my own mind. Like there was a dark whirlpool in my brain just sucking it down into dark, intrusive self-harming thoughts. I got lots of advice, mostly about talking SSRIs or about therapy related to my mother. None of that was very helpful, SSRIs just made me feel numb.

What was helpful was when my life started going better. And going out and accomplishing things and building up some self esteem. And I am positive that my uncles conscripting me into manual labor and things like that, while I HATED it, was at a minimum more helpful than the therapy, and looking back now I wish they had done it more.

What I needed was less candy coating. More people pointing out all the good things I had in my life, and how easy it would be to turn it around. (Which I did eventually stumble into on my own). But everyone was so concerned with servicing/validating my whining that there weren't nearly enough people saying "even with all this shit you are probably sitting in a top 3% situation globally and a top 1% situation historically, and you are going to fucking whine and wallow about this instead of turn it into something?". That is a message that would have resonated with me, and did resonate with me the one time I heard it.

Anyway, I jsut think we are way too precious about these things. You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs, and the world needs omelets not cracked eggs.

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Jan 11, 2023·edited Jan 12, 2023

I'm more sympathetic to your tough love approach than you'd think a shrink would be. For instance, I'm pretty sure that the best approach with kids who have school phobia is to make them go to school Sure, also talk with them about their worries, try to teach them some coping techniques -- but meanwhile, they gotta go to school. I had a school phobia in 7th grade, no idea why, and after my parents saw that I wasn't really sick they gently but firmly insisted I go to school. My fear faded away in a few days, & I as fine with school forever after. And last I checked research supports that view.

On the other hand, I think you overestimate how many people are malingering. I definitely was not, when I had my school phobia. For some reason I had been seized by a fear that if I went to school I was going to throw up in some horrible public way, like right on my desk in the middle of class, and would lay awake literally half the night trying to get unscared, trying to convince myself it wouldn't happen. And in college when I had DPDR I most certainly was not malingering. I was terrified and miserable, and would have paid any amount of money to get the feeling to stop. And, by the way, I was not using the fact that I had that problem to get out of anything. I didn't even tell anybody but a few close friends that I had it. And I continued going to classes, and ended the term with a high GPA.

Telling people who are suffering like that they they're faking it is really a bad move. If they're not, it's very destructive, especially if you are important to them. Think how you'd feel if you had pretty severe pain from a migraine or a whatever and somebody important to you said they didn't believe you that it hurt very bad! On the other hand, a moderate amount of pushing can really help people people who are depressed or anxious. But if you're going to push, the message to give isn't "you're malingering -- get to work" but "it is very likely that being active will make you feel better, even though it feels like it will make you feel worse. Give it a try, for god's sake!"

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You have better grounds for your beliefs than I expected, but I wonder how you'd tell if someone had a physical reason (say, a dietary deficiency) for problems with manual labor.

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Eh, that could also go in the opposite direction. The few times in my life I've had to endure grueling physical labor I actually found myself dissociating more and more as a coping mechanism.

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Jan 10, 2023·edited Jan 10, 2023

Asking for someone else: does anyone know of good resources to find rental apartments in the south peninsula (Bay Area, California, USA), within ~5 miles or 20 minutes from San Bruno, ideally under $3k for 1 bedroom plus parking? Person is currently there and scrambling to find something in the next day or two, but all their early leads collapsed.

Apparently all they're getting is automated responses and AI-generated content.

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Done, thanks.

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Jan 10, 2023·edited Jan 10, 2023

(moved due to below)

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This is probably in response to a thread from below, there is a well known substack bug where replying in the email sends your reply to the top-level.

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Yes. It's remarkable how substack is worse at its core functioning than list-serv email was 30 years ago.

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Yes, a remarkable achievement. Who woulda thunk it?

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I just want to know what makes the website so godawefully slow, it makes me sad.

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Hi all,

Surf, an app that helps you make new friends based on mutual interests and that some of you will already be familiar with, is looking for a CTO.

A word on the product - on Surf, users open the platform and type in a desired outcome (e.g. "I want to find a partner in London for a Kilimanjaro climbing trip."). We match them with someone who wants to achieve the same outcome. They chat. They become friends. That's it. Elegant. Simple. Life-changing. We want to use it to eradicate loneliness from the world.

A word on who we're looking for - we need someone with considerable NLP/AI/ML pedigree and experience who can also do good things with simple app creation softwares like Expo. Someone who loves the early stage challenges of startup life. Someone so enthused about the idea of eliminating loneliness from the world and finding a friend for everyone that they would happily work on this for a year+ pre-funding.

In terms of existing assets, we've already got lots of proprietary technology incl. key algorithms, and an app that's 80% finished. Our waiting list has seen uptake in over 40 countries (+1 if you consider ACX its own pirate nation) and we're in promising talks with universities over pilot schemes. We already have one advisor (prior exp. at Google) onboard and are actively seeking others to make near-term fundraising more straightforward. Any CTO coming into this project will be well-set-up for success.

Early stage - equity only, but we'll be pursuing funding immediately after launch.

The ideal candidate would be in London, UK but fundamentally we don't care where you live, especially if you're the next Aaron Swartz/Tarun Mathur/Mira Murati.

Get in touch by emailing us at team@imsurf.in with the subject line "Surf CTO Position".

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Excellent sentiments, but far afield from the topic: is it 'odd' for conservatives to not want their communities or nations filled with folks who are not 'their people'?

Looking at immigration from an economic perspective is always reasonable, of course -- that's why the white anglo-saxon protestant elite in my example above was willing to let irish (and then italian) catholics overrun some parts of new england. That lens itself is reasonable, but to pretend there are no other possible lenses through which to view the issue is not reasonable.

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Are you sure New England hadn't already been overrun?

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The irish weren't fond of losing Boston when it happened, either. All of history is every place being overrun and people being sad. I'm no conservative, and I don't believe conserving places/peoples against this kind of thing is even possible. It's just not 'odd' to want to do it. You know what I mean?

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Jan 11, 2023·edited Jan 11, 2023

The idea that immigration is always economically beneficial is fantasy (unless you think a larger GDP is the sole determinant of a "good" economy). And Irish and Anglo-Saxons are very, very similar genetically/culturally comapred to anglos and somalians.

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Jan 10, 2023·edited Jan 10, 2023

I think it is a bit more understandable in places like Europe where you have fairly homogeneous cultures that go back hundreds of years or are amalgams of smaller but very close cultures that do (those forced amalgams like France arguably already present a bit of a cultural loss). Denmark with 3 million extra Ugandans settling there over the period of say a hundred years is fundamentally going to be a different country. The same holds for 3 million Koreans or Russians or the Spanish or whatever, but the more distant the incoming culture is, the lower number of people from that culture is going to change Denmark a lot)

Less so in places like the US where the citizen's ancestral culture means next to nothing (to the point where absurdly broad categories like "white" or "black" are considered ethnicities) and almost no citizens can trace their ancestry to America in the 17th century or even the early 19th century (native Americans are an obvious exception, descendants of the original Dutch and English settlers also, to a lesser degree). USA with 60 million extra Ugandans settling there over a century is not going to be that much different. That is unless the melting pot of the US stops being a melting pot and the society atomizes in a way that you have a 60 million people with a completely different culture living separated from the rest of the society...

The difference I guess is that countries like Denmark (and by extension most countries in the Old World) cannot realistically be melting pots lest they stop being the countries they are whereas being a melting pot is kind of the point of the US and "melting" more people is therefore not going to change its nature much.

That said, you can have assimilation even in places like Denmark but I think the capacity for such assimilation is much lower and it is going to happen much slower. By the capacity I mean "absorbing more people from different cultures without changing the country in a fundamental way". So I think it is more understandable if people worry about the speed of immigration, or speed of immigration from distant cultures...but only to a certain degree - like I said, the capacity for assimilation is still nonzero even for the Old World countries (probably also somewhat different for each country).

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Yes, this...the way American and Canadian Right-Wingers criticise immigration based on European "tropes" is a bit annoying and just cringe IMO...I understand that some people, even in the US or Canada, might not feel comfortable with people from a different culture, but then to me it doesn't make much sense as one of the major arguments in Europe against immigration is that it will lead to the collapse of the Welfare State (which I share to some extent)… but for the US (and to a lesser extent Canada), this argument doesn't make much sense since the welfare state there isn't nearly as developed as it is in Western Europe... yes, I've heard some self-styled "libertarians" in the US being against immigration because they think foreigners don't appreciate Anglo-Americans libertarian values...which is even more ridiculous, since it not only goes against one of the major tenets of libertarianism (person-to-person exchanges should be the major considerations, and groups don't exist), and also is ridiculous for other reasons (aren't most founders of US startups of immigrant backup)… basically being Anti-Immigration in the US or Canada (either for economic or cultural reasons) is a very cringe position based IMO on egoism and maybe some kind of (White?) Supremacism (I understand that most alt-righters here will deny this, but IMO it's the same as being a leftist who complains about police violence against POCs in Europe)…

For Europe it makes more sense, but even in the (Western) European context I would focus on the economic dimension of immigration and base my criticism on this area (e.g. Daniel Stelter or Thilo Sarrazin).

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>this argument doesn't make much sense since the welfare state there isn't nearly as developed as it is in Western Europe.

Non-whites already cost white taxpayers around half a trillion dollars in government services received in excess of taxes paid (not considering the cost of crime and imprisonment, which would significantly increase it).

Importantly, non-whites overwhelmingly vote Democrat, and if enough of them come and Democrats amass enough political power, the welfare state will almost assuredly expand. You're assuming that America has a fixed set of policies that will not change, but they depend entirely on who makes up the voters of this country.

>which is even more ridiculous, since it not only goes against one of the major tenets of libertarianism (person-to-person exchanges should be the major considerations, and groups don't exist), and also is ridiculous for other reasons (aren't most founders of US startups of immigrant backup)…

It's not ridiculous. We don't live in a libertarian society, so groups have power to restrict other people's rights, therefore, its entirely reasonable to think about things in terms of groups.

>basically being Anti-Immigration in the US or Canada (either for economic or cultural reasons) is a very cringe position based IMO on egoism and maybe some kind of (White?) Supremacism

White people have a significantly higher mean IQ than all groups besides North-East Asians and Ashkenazi jews (selected populations of other groups will be high IQ, but pro-immigration people don't support selective immigration). This is a brute scientific fact, and you dismissing this as "white supremacist" is extremely bad faith. You're basically using a slur to dismiss scientific reality that doesn't suit your ideology.

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I am not sure how to argue with alt-righters like you...ok fine, are you suggesting that the US should base it's immigration policy solely on IQ? Anyway, if they did, should they still let in people from low-IQ groups if they have higher IQs themselves individually?

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Also, you did not provide any reliable source for your claim that "Non-whites already cost white taxpayers around half a trillion dollars in government services received in excess of taxes paid"?

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Tucker Carlson perhaps?

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> Importantly, non-whites overwhelmingly vote Democrat, and if enough of them come and Democrats amass enough political power, the welfare state will almost assuredly expand

For a guy likes to complain about the bad guys doing everything based on ‘ideology’ you spout an awful lot of dogmatic right wing ideology yourself. Are you oblivious to the irony?

Or do you think the crap you say is simply ‘the truth’? That is what you are accusing your adversaries of here. They think they are speaking the truth but really it’s just ‘ideology’.

FFS. The word Ideology by itself doesn’t even have inherent negative connotations.

Here let me be as clear as I can.. This is the dictionary definition of ideology:

ideology

noun

1. 
a system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy."the ideology of democracy"

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I might think that if there are too many Republicans, that Social Security and Medicare could be gutted. I wouldn’t state it as being almost assured.

I don’t know what the guy got banned for but his arguments were approaching the “No, you shut up” stage.

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Ton of assumptions there. I realize it's hard to put yourself in someone else's perspective but it's a valuable skill. Of course, if they're 'white supremacists' they're not really people and you don't have to work so hard. Whew!

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Nowhere in their comment to they at all claim or even imply that white supremacists aren't people. It seems that you are making assumptions about their motives rather than providing tangible facts that support your side of the argument.

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Fair enough. I was responding to the dismissive tone, but was not precise.

As for you responding to me, nowhere in any of my comments here or elsewhere have I advanced or even implied a "side", let alone one that would be served by "tangible facts". You must have me confused with some other commentator -- my point throughout has been that dismissing as 'odd' (or in the case of the comment under discussion here) or the products of pure 'egoism' or 'supremacism' the default position of human groups throughout history is myopic and absurd. Nowhere do I imply I hold this position, and if it seems shocking to you that someone can even describe a side without being on it, that's hardly anything to do with me.

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Also all excellent thoughts, but again beside the mark: it's not for us to say how good or meaningful of a culture an ethnic group or coalition needs to maintain in order for it not to be 'odd' for them to want to preserve whatever it is that they have.

And again, a deracinated concern for 'cultural values' is why republicans with very low non-white support can talk about how the good people from south of the border are 'natural conservatives' at the same time that their actual constituents wanted the border sealed shut fifty years ago. It's not something broad like "do these people believe in jesus (albeit a catholic version) and love their families" -- everyone believes in something and loves their own families -- that makes the difference, but merely the question "are these people recognizably 'my people' -- do they look like me, do they sound like me, will their sons have a natural sympathy for mine due to these similarities?" All of this takes place in a fraction of a second when we see another human being -- we notice body language, race (or ethnicity if we're from somewhere that distinguishes this to a high degree of granularity: anthropologists in africa are often amazed at what a tremendous distance a trained human eye can determine in/out group) almost instantly. Most of us here reading this substack learned to set aside these instinctual movements in favor of the individual and in favor of the brotherhood of the human race, but that people who haven't done this work continue to feel the way the vast majority of humanity until the modern period felt isn't 'odd' in any meaningful sense.

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Who in the US are "your people"? I am not American, but from what I gather (e.g. popular media, social media, news, blogs etc.) there seems to be little that various groups of Americans (broadly "liberals' and "conservatives"), so I think that time were "Americans" (or at least White Americans) of all kinds were feeling like they were part of the same group are now over for a long while...

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You can ctrl-f in this page (if substack will allow you) to see that I'm not talking about myself or 'my people' -- we're engaged in an anthropological exercise to explain the apparent motivations of people we would otherwise think of as "odd".

Now if we pretend you were addressing that question to a white american who opposes immigration, if he's smart he would look at you with disgust and say that he doesn't have to justify his sense of his people to an obviously hostile interlocutor engaged in tactical ignorance -- after all, we know exactly who this white conservative's people are when we call them backwards hicks who don't spice their food and think pro wrassling is real, but when we're talking about who they think they are suddenly they don't exist as a people group.

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Honestly, I don't deal much with White Americans, except on the internet...since I'm not planning to move to the US, I don't think I'll be having too many conversations with them... as for Europeans who are against immigrants: I understand the sentiment, but they should base their arguments rationally (i.e. in economics)...

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The idea that group-level preference is irrational and economics is rational is probably not your most rational opinion. People don't live in economies, they live in communities. And that goes for everyone. When black folk in Harlem complained they were being priced out by gentrification, shouting at them about economics probably wouldn't have reassured them much. Same thing everywhere else, every time this happens. Not saying it shouldn't happen or that you should care, just trying to help you understand people who aren't like you.

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The part left unsaid (but which we all know, and without which the conversation doesn't make any sense) is that some cultures are better than other cultures. Adding more Swiss people to US culture is likely to make it better, adding more Ugandans will likely make it worse.

It's no secret that Swiss culture is better than Ugandan culture, it's obvious from the fact that countries populated by Swiss people look like Switzerland, and countries populated by Ugandan people look like Uganda.

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Sorry, but this argument is unserious IMO... for two reasons:

Yes, Switzerland is a wealthy country with a high quality of life, but is it really only because it's inhabited by "Swiss" people? I mean, it is a country with 3 official languages, and this alone should cause "Ethno-Nationalists" to see where they went wrong by using Switzerland as an example of an "Ethnonationalist" country... IMO it's much more complicated why Switzerland is so wealthy, but it's partly because of Geography and obviously the institutions (which formed that way for various reasons further still) of that country...definitely not genetics/biology though... I mean, just saying that if Swiss People move somewhere a place automatically becomes "better" strikes me as unrealistic...

After all, there are places in the US where many people Swiss descent live , and let's see how they perform economically against the rest of the country (according to Wikipedia, these are the following places with the most Swiss Americans as a % of their population :

Berne, Indiana – 29.10%

Monticello, Wisconsin – 28.82%

New Glarus, Wisconsin – 28.26%

Boys Ranch, Texas – 23.30%

Monroe, Wisconsin – 18.91%

Pandora, Ohio – 18.90%

Argyle, Wisconsin – 17.84%

Sugarcreek, Ohio – 17.29%

Elgin, Iowa – 15.79%

Monroe, Indiana – 14.35%)

Looking at the median household income for some of these places, they were

- $35,491; $44,087; $36,922; $42,174; $36,103; $36,360; $28,833; and $42,946, which is less compared to the $54,951 US-wide average in 2000. (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_Americans#Population (+ top 10 cities there); https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d11/tables/dt11_025.asp .

Also, secondly, among Americans who are anti-immigration, there seems to be the believe that it would be simple to just get people from those wealthy European countries to move to the US...but the truth is simply that not many people in Western Europe are interested in moving to the US anymore...so it's simply not an option. So either you don't have any immigration (because there aren't many people from other Western Countries who would want to move to the US) and deal with US demography becoming more like Japan in the future, or simply accept that if economic growth is important to you (as it seems to be for most US conservatives), then the US will need immigration and the vast majority of it will come from "Non-Western" countries...

Also, lastly,, while I agree that most people would agree with you and say that Swiss culture is better than Ugandan culture, it is still subjective...since culture is inherently subjective.

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Oh come on. Instead of burying your nose in a book (or Googling random data), just freaking go to Switzerland, walk around and keep your eyes and ears open. Nobody who's actually been to Switzerland for any length of time can doubt that Switzerland is as successful as it is because it's full of Swiss people.

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"Who cares about statistics? What about my lived experience?" -> I suspect you dislike people who make arguments like this; why do it yourself?

(Have /you/ ever lived in Switzerland? If not, it's not even your own ~lived experience~ it's that of a hypothetical person you're imagining, even less grounded in reality.)

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I've been to Switzerland quite a few times (8 times in the past 12 years)…and it's a very beautiful place, both in terms of the natural and built environment.

But are you suggesting that if all 8 million people from Switzerland were to move to the US, then they would magically turn the US (with a population of 330 million people) into a society just like Switzerland...? Also, as I wrote before, Switzerland itself is a multicultural and multiethnic country, so to use Switzerland of all countries as an example for Ethnonationalism is a bit odd...

And also, once again I am asking why anyone from Switzerland would want to move to the US if it's already a better country (I think you could say objectively that this is the case, at least in terms of statistics like GDP and health outcomes)…?

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>Yes, Switzerland is a wealthy country with a high quality of life, but is it really only because it's inhabited by "Swiss" people?

OF COURSE!

It's not because of it's natural resources. It's not that Switzerland has magic soil. Switzerland is prosperous entirely because of the people living there, and if you change the people living there, you change the country. If replaced the Swiss population with the population of Haiti, the country collapses. People are what make a country.

> mean, it is a country with 3 official languages, and this alone should cause "Ethno-Nationalists" to see where they went wrong by using Switzerland as an example of an "Ethnonationalist" country...

Ethno-nationalism isn't linguistic nationalism. They're all the same race. They're literally more closely genetically related than people from different parts of India are!

> and obviously the institutions (which formed that way for various reasons further still)

They formed the way they did because of the people living there. There's no grand mystery here. It's the people. Africans have never, ever made a country with "good instutions" before, and the only non-genetic explanation of this is an endless series of just so stories to rationalize a denial of racial differences.

>I mean, just saying that if Swiss People move somewhere a place automatically becomes "better" strikes me as unrealistic...

Northern/western Europeans have made everywhere they go better. Look at the US, look at Canada, look at Australia, look at New Zealand, look at South Africa.

"unrealistic" is any narartive in which the sudden and rapid flourishing of these countries following european settlement has nothing to do with them being settled by the same type of people.

> deal with US demography becoming more like Japan in the future, or simply accept that if economic growth is important to you

Economic growth isn't important - per capita GDP growth is important, and you will not get that from low-IQ third world immigrants. They will continue to be a fiscal drain.

>Also, lastly,, while I agree that most people would agree with you and say that Swiss culture is better than Ugandan culture, it is still subjective...since culture is inherently subjective.

If we're talking about what leads to properous, safe, socities with good instiutions, then no, it's not subjective in the slightest.

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>Ethno-nationalism isn't linguistic nationalism. They're all the same race. They're literally more closely genetically related than people from different parts of India are!

India is an extremely large, diverse country that has 22 different languages recognised in its constitution. Being more homogenous than India is like being taller than Peter Dinklage.

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How do you define "race"? I mean, India of course is a very different category than any European country...

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Well, you don't seem to answer my arguments...Are you saying that it's because of the "genetics" of the Swiss people that Switzerland is such a rich country? Sorry, but how come Ticino is so rich, if large parts of Italy aren't? Also "Europeans have made everywhere they go better" is really debatable...I am not saying that colonialism was always bad, but what you are stating here is pure opinion..no sources to back up your claims. Also "per capita GDP growth is important" - if it's caused by IQ why isn't Japan growing faster than India or even the US, considering they have a higher IQ as a country?

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Jan 11, 2023·edited Jan 11, 2023

No they're not. South Africa was a much better place to live, even during apartheid, even for blacks, than was Zimbabwe. People can put up with a fair amount of petty racism in order to have enough to eat and not have a serious risk of being fed to a woodchipper because you said something disrespectful about the Chief Thug. Ranking racism as the #1 Evil is a First World Problem viewpoint.

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How is that comment racist? It was a comment about culture --social shibboleths, the values people cherish or don't, how they act or don't act on those, et cetera. I don't see any place where "people with black skin are better/worse than people with red/yellow/green skin" was stated. If you're seeing things that aren't really there -- maybe it's your own assumptions about people that need examining?

If you mean "diverse" in terms of skin color, I personally couldn't care less about that, any more than I care how many toes other commenters have, or the color of their pubic hair. Frankly, I would find it a little creepy if someone *was* interested in those things -- if it were of interest to other commenters whether I was black or yellow or white. Why do you want to know? Ew.

If you mean "diverse" in the sense of different life histories, different perspectives and talents, then I'm all for that, but I am baffled how this connects to skin color. Again, the fact that you seem to assume it does makes me wonder about your own unexamined and maybe unconscious race-based and race-oriented attitudes about other people.

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Anyone put off by "racism" here (i.e. discussing the scientific REALITY of racial differences) doesn't belong here, because it means they're incapable of good faith discuession of thorny issues.

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Speaking of melting pot, I have been thinking lately about that concept, and also the concept of "white." It seems to me that the woke left have been looking at those two terms as intricately linked. That to have cultures melt together means that the people sublimating their culture to the broader culture become "white" regardless of their skin color or racial background. That something is lost in the process of "melting" together. This is not as big a deal for Anglo-Saxons who change a little bit, but a really big deal for cultural minorities who have to change more from who they might be in order to fit it.

I would be curious to get other thoughts on this aspect, though I recognize it's a bit niche for a third tier post response.

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Well, I am not American and my impression of Americans (to a lesser degree also Canadians and Latin Americans, but they seem less "universalistic" to me) is that they underestimate a lot by how much Europeans differ from each other. The difference between say Spain and Sweden is at least as large as that between Mexico and Canada. And even the cultural between France and Germany is like the difference between Mexico and the US. Even the differences INSIDE European countries are probably at least as large as the differences between the US and Canada. E.g. Bavaria vs Schleswig-Holstein (it's basically not even the same language anymore :D ).

Americans with European ancestry might have a few specific family dishes that somewhat resemble something you might encounter in their "old country", maybe they know a little bit more about the history of that country...and that's about that. Otherwise they are Americans (even if they fancy calling themselves Italian-Americans, Polish-Americans or whatever). At least that is my experience with all Americans I've met in Europe and elsewhere (though I've never been to the US or anywhere in North America, actually).

If the "white ethnicities" (basically usually meaning European ethnicities) retained their individuality, then the US would look like the EU. It would never become a federation in the first place (though probably some states would be pushing for it in hopes of controlling it...*cough* France *cough*), you'd be stuck with the articles of the confederation and each state would have a very unique identity, most people form one state would not understand the people from another state unless they learned a foreign language, etc.

Of course, Germans and Ukrainians are a lot closer than Germans and Malaysians, but Bavarians and the people from Schleswig-Holstein (both parts of modern-day Germany) are very likely further away from each other culturally (even linguistically in a way) than German-Americans and Ukrainian-Americans.

So at the very least, the various Europeans largely melted to "whites" in the US. The same can probably be said of Africans although even though there it was often quite involuntary. But if you look at (sub-saharan) Africa, being "black" means very little there, being Bantu vs being say Oromo is a big difference there. For various historical reasons (but probably mostly slavery) the melting pot in the US seems to be worse at melting it much further than that (although both groups are still very American, i.e. American whites are not just an average of Europeans and American blacks are not an average of Africans...they are both distinctly American)

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Exactly... that's my impression too, though we Europeans do the same e.g. in regards to thinking of "Indian people" as being the same as a European nationality, even if India itself should be compared to the whole of Europe IMO, since both are subcontinents of (Eur)Asia...but yeah, the American view of "races" is quite peculiar to them, especially "White" vs "everyone else" and considering people of Pakistani and Japanese ancestry to be part of the same "race" strikes me as weird too...

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Not all of us think of "white" as some monolithic group, and especially not "Asian" - though some of our regulations and government counting rules may make it seem that way. "Woke" is not the only viewpoint in America, and is actually a pretty small minority (though apparently a majority in a number of fields, including academia, media, and tech).

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That's not exactly the case though. "White" ethnicities retain their individuality, they're just in a state of mutual intercomprehensibility with other whites.

In places where peoples live together, the groups will become "white" unless there are active steps taken to do otherwise. In Austin, Mexicans and Vietnamese were as white as anyone else. Things are different in New York. Though didn't realize how many white ethnic enclaves existed until I moved up here.

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founding

I'm also going to question the generalization of "White ethnicities retain their individuality". I believe that in the vast majority of cases, by the third generation any remnant of their ancestral identity is more of a hobby than anything else. And usually not even that. My Irish-American sister-in-law drinks Guinness, celebrates St. Patrick's day, visited Dublin when anyone else would have visited London or Paris, and is otherwise indistinguishable from any other mainstream American. For my part, I happen to know which European countries my ancestors came from, but that fact is about as relevant to me as my astrological sign (which I also happen to know). And the vast majority of the white Americans I know, I would have a hard time guessing their ancestry beyond "Europe" unless I recognized the surname's origin.

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Jan 11, 2023·edited Jan 11, 2023

I didn't know that white ethnics existed until I moved here. It was a revelation to be able to distinguish a Pole from a Dane from an Irishperson by sight.

But again, I'm not claiming that the mass-media "American" "ethnicity" doesn't exist or that people haven't been pressured to abandon previous identities in favor of it. What I'm claiming is that it's neither necessary nor sufficient to adopt it in order to be "white." That as long as those particular ethnicities are mutually intelligible with the existing "white" bloc, they will be considered as being "white."

This allows for the phenomenon that I saw in Texas of whiteness allowing for a larger variety of skin colors than elsewhere.

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I know a fair number of immigrants and their kids/grandkids. The kids who grew up here are basically Americans who will, if pressed, go ahead and speak some Spanish, but who think of themselves as Americans, hang out with and date other random Americans, and only mention that they're Salvadoran or Mexican or Peruvian or whatever if someone asks or there's some special reason it's relevant. The grandkids mostly don't even know Spanish or Tagalog or Chinese or whatever.

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I think the main difference is in culture though. Yes an average Pole looks different than an average Irishman and you can get a better than 50% accuracy guessing their ethnicity but with some people you can't really tell by just looking at them whether they are French or Irish or German or Swedish or Polish or even Spanish in some cases (if we are talking about northern Spain). Also, the looks are really not quite as important to people, I think.

It is the cultures which are different and that is what matters more to people, not the shade of your skin colour (though of course there is always some prejudice based on the first impressions). I know people with Vietnamese ancestry (born here, children of immigrants) here in the Czech republic who I consider pretty much Czech. And their kids will be culturally as Czech as Italian-Americans are Americans. So while a (ethnically) French guy looks a lot more like a Czech guy than these people, his culture is clearly French and not Czech and that is what matters. Or rather the physical looks give the first impression but that only lasts until you actually go and talk to the people.

By the way, I was actually really surprised that people consider Harry Windsor's (or whatever his surname is now that he is no longer an official part of the British royal family and so should use an actual surname) wife black. If nobody ever mentioned that to me and someone asked me I'd say she was white. She is definitely very American in any case :-)

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Yeah this just isn't the whole story. As the other person replied tons of "white" people in the US had lost almost all their individuality by the 1980s. Some families retained a small smattering of "ethnic" practices, but many did not or were so interbred as for them to be meaningless, or just ad hoc curiosities instead of some actual heritage.

My parents were between them like 6 different types of northern European minimum (though my dad wasn't in the picture anyway). Living in a pretty German/Scandinavian part of the country. I know some families who retained their "Finnishness", and a bit of Finnish cultural practices, and Swedish, and Polish, and German. But just a few. Most of them were like mine and were just "American" with no particular ethnic connection other than something researched for elementary school projects on "melting pots". And these are only like 4th generation families with 5th generation kids.

I really think the TV and mass culture of the 60s/70s did a good job of washing out much of the ethnic difference for a lot of people, especially white people.

The shared cultural heritage was Charlie Brown Christmas special not lutefisk.

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You a Minnesota guy Martin? I grew up in a small town up north notable for two things: Hot and Cold water towers and hockey.

https://www.evelethheritage.com/old-water-tower.html

https://www.quanthockey.com/nhl/city/nhl-players-career-stats.php?city_id=3984

https://www.exploreminnesota.com/profile/united-states-hockey-hall-fame-museum/3845

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My maternal side is from Virginia, and I spent ages 4-24 in Duluth.

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IMO it should be accepted that "White American" is an ethnicity just like "German" or "Russian" (which itself are also composites of people with many ethnic backgrounds)…of course, these days, White American could be split into "liberal" and "conservative" as sub-ethnicities... :D .

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founding

Except that the "white" part has been mostly optional since the 1980s at the latest. Not everybody takes the option, so it's still mostly white, but we shouldn't be trying to insist that it is exclusively white.

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Not all "white" ethnicities retain their individuality. Some lost it before coming to the US, and many lost it after. Some of it is a random mixing of previously separate people (my mom's family is Eastern European, with some German, Polish, Slovakian, etc. and various unknowns). My dad's family may or may not involve a variety of Western European cultures. We don't know or observe any of the culturally relevant practices from any of these countries. And assuming that one "white" cultural aspect is the same as another is part of the problem. Slovakians are not German, and may have good reason to resent them.

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IMO, the melting pot model describes American cities much better than it does American rural regions. I've only lived in one American rural region, so I might be generalizing wrong, but it definitely has a distinctive culture. This is slowly getting eroded by internal migration and cultural influence of people from the dominant cultural group.

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Jan 10, 2023·edited Jan 10, 2023

There have been observations and articles (whose accuracy I'm not remotely able to speak to except in the broadest sense) referring an ongoing homogenization and "Southernization" of US rural culture.

I have no firsthand knowledge if that's right, though it would help explain the popularity of Confederate iconography in places like southern Illinois (the Land of Lincoln!) and West Virginia (which exists as a state because people there in the 1860s were decidedly not Confederates).

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I’m in New Hampshire, and I’ve been surprised and disappointed to see a Confederate battle flag or two even this far north. Trumpy types, of course: more looking to flip the bird than express anything resembling a thought. The homogenization of hick culture via the internet is complete. Ironically enough, the Republican Party of the 21st century has become the Confederacy 2.0

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It makes a lot more sense if you don't insist that the flag can only mean "confederate" or "racist."

The bumper sitcker I was "Yankee by birth, Rebel by the grace of God."

Rebellion was still considered a good trait as recently as 1977 after all.

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Couldn’t agree more! 😉

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Oh yeah in rural areas you will for sure see confederate flags even in union states. I have seen them in rural Minnesota.

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Dunno about WV, but in Illinois (where I live and where I have spent lots of times in the rural parts for more than a decade now) the overall trend may be related to US rural culture shrinking. There are small cities all over central and southern Illinois that are now half-ghost towns: built out for 3,000 residents but now home to only 1,000, etc. (Driving through places like Henry, Illinois is downright spooky -- the empty houses mostly aren't boarded up they're just sitting there like a dusty old movie set.)

Illinois now has 40 entire counties each having resident populations under 20,000 people, and 15 of them have fewer than 10,000. That drain-out is not new of course but it is very current, those rural counties' current population curves all look like this:

https://www.illinois-demographics.com/putnam-county-demographics

https://www.illinois-demographics.com/calhoun-county-demographics

https://www.illinois-demographics.com/hamilton-county-demographics

https://www.illinois-demographics.com/pulaski-county-demographics

Our statewide population decreased by 0.1% from 2010 to 2020 while the City of Chicago population increased by a similar tiny fraction. The suburban areas generally increased, the medium-sized cities like Rockford stayed flat. The part of the state which is really draining out is that vast farm belt. And the people remaining are disproportionately older; you see hardly any 30somethings or 40somethings anymore except for the Mexican-immigrant pockets, every farm-county elected official or community leader now is in his/her 70s, etc.

To what degree the homogenization/Southernization (which is absolutely true) is a cause of the rural drain as opposed to vice versa, I have no idea. The two are simultaneous though and surely connected in some way.

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Jan 11, 2023·edited Jan 11, 2023

Yeah but Illinois is a dumpster fire next to 55-gallon drums of aviation fuel stored in the mail hold of RMS Titanic, so most people with a brain have fled or are making plans to flee.

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Yea that's been the talking point in certain circles for a while now, it just isn't supported by reality. For instance I need to correct something I wrote above: in fact Illinois statewide had a net population gain of 250,000 residents from the 2010 to 2020 censuses. (I had accidentally looked at a preliminary estimate of the 2020 census not the actual final census results.)

The population-loss meme is connected to the one about Illinois being one of the highest-taxing states, when in fact it ranks 30th among 50 states by state income tax rates. Is also very average nationally (23rd) in sales taxes; where Illinois does crack the top ten (8th) is in property-tax rates.

And the part of Illinois which genuinely is emptying out is that huge farm belt in the middle. Since that is the part of our state's economy which is least impacted by the property tax rates (farmland in Illinois is taxed at 1/6th the rate of residential or commercial properties), it does not appear that levels of taxation are a driving factor in which parts of the state are losing/gaining population.

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The US also has the advantage of hundreds of years of development of social technologies for turning people into new Americans. For example, we Americans tend to be less subtle in communication than most places but that's for obvious reasons.

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Even if that's true, it doesn't make it unreasonable at all. And people in 19th century America would have considered it laughable to suggest whites would ever be a minority in the US, and yet this is an inevitability this century.

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I'm not sure that's the question intended. Everyone already knows that that fear is common around the world. Historically, that's how many nations and peoples perished, dissolved, or were conquered. It's the usual explanation for the fall of Rome. (I recently posted my own disagreement with that here, but I can't deny that the Goths arrived as refugees, then became the rulers of Western Rome). I think outright conquest was more common, but it's often hard to tell at great distances in time. Historians now argue over whether the Celts wiped out the Picts; whether the Anglo-Saxons invaded England suddenly and violently, or slowly and peacefully; whether the Hyksos invaded ancient Egypt from outside or were immigrants who seized power (https://www.science.org/content/article/invasion-ancient-egypt-may-have-actually-been-immigrant-uprising), and whether the "sea people" invaded ancient Egypt, or were originally just refugees.

I also note that the question is posed using the words "their people", and not ethnic or racial terms. Today, conservatives don't want their nation filled with folks who are radicals, and radicals don't want their nation filled with folks who are conservatives. Is one of those "odder" than the other?

So I think that, if there's a question to ask here, it's, "Why do so many people today think the fear of being outnumbered by people who don't respect your cultural values is unreasonable or immoral?" Or perhaps, "Why is everyone in America today in denial about their reluctance to live with people who aren't 'their people'?"

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This might be common knowledge around here but are you the Palgrave Macmillan Phil Getz?

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No, and thanks for making me aware of his existence. Curious that his interests are so similar to mine.

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One other thing… Zeyde play tenor sax? :)

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Nope. (And Zeyde is now my new word for the day. :)

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Is 'radical' really the opposite side of coin here? I thought that 'liberal' filled that spot.

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Radical is the opposite of conservative. Liberal is, if anything, the opposite of authoritarian. Today America has a conservative party and a radical party, but no uniquely liberal or authoritarian party. Both liberal and authoritarian ideals are split about equally between our parties.

Liberalism historically emphasized individualism, equality before the law, equality of opportunity, free markets, private property, the limitation of state power, freedom of speech, toleration of diverse opinions, and the right to own weapons. Conservatives are clearly the liberals today in that original meaning of the term. But they fail when it comes to newer freedoms that weren't thought of 2 centuries ago, like control over one's own body (sexual preference and practice, prostitution, medical treatment, recreational drug use, abortion if your community's metaphysics allow it); the freedom to have privacy (no search without a warrant, freedom to travel and to buy things without it being tracked), cryptography, and pornography; and freedom from gender roles.

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Forgive me Phil, I’m way out my wheelhouse here but your definitions seem a bit fusty.

I’ve poked around a bit and having completely absorbed the thinking of Edmund Burke [joke] I see radical being used to describe Margret Thatcher and that weird bit of CosPlay that just went down in Brasilia.

Help me out here with some fairly recent examples. Would you label all these people as Conservative?

Barry Goldwater

Bill Buckley

Ronald Reagan

Jack Kemp

George Will

Donald Trump

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Hmm, I should restate some things.

The word "radical" has a clear meaning. Radicals are people who want to make large changes right now.

The word "conservative" doesn't denote a particular set of beliefs, but the desire to keep things mostly the way they are at the present moment, or to revert them to how they were at some prior time. This means it doesn't have a clear meaning, because often one party wants to keep things as they are, while the other wants to adopt a policy that was national policy sometime in the (possibly distant) past.

So these terms aren't really opposites. There are radical conservatives, who want to make big changes right now to revert to some (possibly imaginary) earlier time, like the Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, or maybe Margaret Thatcher (I don't follow British politics).

I'd call all those people you listed mostly conservative, but "conservative" meant something different in Reagan's time than it does today. For instance,

- In the 1950s, conservatives were against free speech if it might be communist propaganda. Today, radicals are against free speech in general. So you could call them "conservative" because they want to blacklist and silence people as was done in the 1950s.

- In Woodrow Wilson's day, conservatives thought America should worry about America, while Wilsonian progressives said it should take on poverty and bad governments in other nations, preferably working toward a world government. After World War 2, the Marshall Plan was definitely radical and interventionist, but was supported by "conservatives". In Reagan's day, conservatives felt that America had a responsibility for the rest of the world, while radicals felt America should stop interfering with other nations. Today, conservatives again think America should worry about America, while radicals again say it should take on poverty in other nations, preferably working toward a world government.

The term "liberal" is clearer than "conservative". Historically, it refers to principles of liberty described by Enlightenment thinkers, especially John Locke in the 17th century. The main point of what I wrote is about the meaning of "liberal", not about the meaning of "conservative".

The confusion over the meaning of "liberal" is probably due to the Civil War. The Old South considered itself liberal in the old sense, and yet was a hierarchical society that didn't extend the freedoms it praised to slaves or the lower classes. I would argue that it wasn't really liberal. There was no freedom of speech. Abolitionists or workmen trying to claim equal rights before the law would get beaten up. And the North was both radical and liberal (in any sense).

You could argue that the term "liberal" today has come to mean simply people who want radical changes. I object to people doing that, because I believe personal liberty is important, and the people who want radical changes today are generally opposed to personal liberty. I don't like it when people call for censorship, government control of sex and gender, racial separatism, and the elimination of gun rights, free trade, and private property, and call it "liberal".

So my use of the word "liberal" isn't as objectively correct as I implied. I just think it's more honest.

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New information to me. Thanks. I’ll look into it some more.

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Succinctly put. I just spent 5 minutes typing far more to say the same thing in another reply.

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The Iroquois and Mohicans might have felt that way.

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Indeed, they did from long before any Europeans showed up. E.g. when the first French voyageurs arrived in the Great Lakes they found that the Iroquois and Algonquin confederacies had been engaged in a mutually-genocidal war for something like a century, with the core issue being which tribe was entitled to live where.

Similar examples are found throughout history around the world going as far back as we have any historical records. It does seem as if that is one of those fundamental gut human fears.

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If resources are scarce, people are going to fight about resources. Where resources are not scarce , people might fight over ethnicity and ideology , but also might not. Western societies tend to deliver abundance, and enforce tolerance.

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I know. The Cree didn’t get along with the Ojibway and those folks didn’t get along with the Lakota Sioux either.

This universal problem seems like it deserves more attention than it gets.

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Jan 10, 2023·edited Jan 10, 2023

One reason for the Norman conquest of Ireland was a petty king inviting in Anglo-Norman mercenaries to help him in a political row with another petty king which escalated up to the high king. Petty 1 seals the deal by marrying his daughter off to leader of said mercs, with promises that merc will be king after him. Mercs then decide they like the place, settle down all over, and set up as local lordlings. Local chieftains and kings who are fighting each other decide that having the new guys on *their* side whacking their enemies over the head is a great idea.

Then the king in England decides "hey, my former vassals may be getting ideas above their station, time to remind them who's the king" and claims lordship of Ireland. Fast-forward the Eight Hundred Years 😁

It happened all over: A and B are at each other's throats, C turns up, A and/or B thinks this is great opportunity to get C on their side, eventually C ends up owning the place. Then it's hard to kick them out again:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4h0J6VrHuQE

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Same happened in Middle/South-America. I'm certainly confusing which is one was which, but the Mayas and Aztecs were at each others throats. Then spanish conquistadors showed up and Mayans invited them to crush the Aztecs (or the other way round?) and guess who ended up owning the place.

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Will the international drug trade inevitably collapse thanks to future machines that can synthesize any drug from simple precursors? I ask because I just read a report describing how advances in chemistry over the last 15 years had made it possible to synthesize methamphetamine from more common types of chemicals that governments have difficulty tracking.

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founding

What's the market case for anyone ever developing a "future machine that can synthesize any drug from simple precursors"? It may be technologically feasible at some point, but it's going to be competing with an extant global supply chain that can connect you with a factory that produces the particular chemical you want at scale and with full economies of scale, now with overnight delivery. I can see niche applications, but they may not be enough to finance the development and it may not be enough for hypothetical future you to get lost in the crowd when you buy one for your home drug-peddling business.

I remember the early hype about 3-D printers as the inevitable, omnipresent home appliance of the future, and the speculation about how that would mean e.g. gun control was futile because anyone would be able to print a Glock or an AR-15 on demand. I also remember what happened when that dream met the reality of Amazon, leaving 3-D printers as mostly hobbyist toys that are nowhere near capable of printing serious guns, with a handful of high-end industrial machines that could *maybe* do so but not at a competitive scale even on the black market.

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You mean illegal drug trade, I assume? Doesn't seem likely. It's very unlikely that any time in the next 100 years it will be possible to dial into a simple machine the structure of some random small molecule and have it synthesize it from whatever random feedstocks you can source from your local grocery, hardware, and animal feed stores. A more plausible scenario is that it becomes possible to type your structure and desired precursors into OChemChatBot and have it outline a plausible synthesis.

Of course, whether the synthesis works or causes your garage/backwoods lab to explode in blue-green fire because OChemChatBot hallucinated the answer will remain a business risk.

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I think it's more likely that the tech will be available, but giving the recipe to your Synth-o-matic will be illegal. Defense Distributed will be an indicator.

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I hadn’t read either of these before and they created a lot of new tracks of thought and a tall stack of new reading I want to do.

Right now I’ll only say that my take on Daniel Ingram, from watching videos of people interviewing him, is that he is playing the long con. Sorry David , if you are really enlightened this won’t bother you, if you are running a con it probably won’t either.

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Sounds like a reasonable hypothesis, except for Browne regarding his “enlightenment” as negative instead of positive

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In the simplest model, yes, down to zero. (See Robert Schiller’s 2007 Financial Markets course on Yale Open Courses, which is phenomenal btw.)

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I'm trying to help a young guy I know find a job that's a good fit. He's in his mid-20's, and has ADD & Asperger's. He's distractible, and a bit odd -- on the other hand he is friendly, honest, hard-working, and quite bright. He's got a college degree in computer animation, and knows how to use Blendr, Photoshop and some of the lower-end animation and video editing software. Is also competent, though not expert, with the basic office suite apps -- Word, Excel, etc. -- and had a couple courses in Python. Has built a couple simple web sites.

He's been working at a hardware store stocking shelves and helping customers for several years. He is well-liked there but makes little more than minimum wage, and really needs to earn more. It seems to me that his computer skills should help him get a job that pays above minimum wage, but I can't think of a job that might suit. But if I were opening a store on a tight budget, and was not very computer literate myself, I'd love to have somebody like him who could help me get oriented with using a computer for the store, could build a simple website for the store, could explain spread sheets to me, could make attractive notices in a nice font to post somewhere -- things like that -- and then later help me unload boxes and put the stuff on the shelves.

He is willing to take one or 2 courses if improving certain crucial skills would make him more hirable for jobs that pay at least 50% more than minimum wage, but he's clueless about what courses to take.

One last thing: It would not work for him to be self-employed. He needs the structure of a regular job.

What ideas have you got for this amiable young oddball?.

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Jan 11, 2023·edited Jan 11, 2023

He could start as an office assistant for some small law/accounting/insurance firms etc, develop his computer skills and grow with the business or move on to a larger firm for a better position after 6 months -1 year of experience.

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It sounds like his social skills might be the core problem? If you're only looking for "above minimum wage" and he has a college degree, this seems like an extremely easy problem to solve. Even if his degree were in something completely unusable, he should be able to land a generic office job somewhere. Adding in what could be summarized as "IT skills" to a lot of jobs should also open up a small world of Help Desk or basic tech department jobs. 50% more than minimum wage should be easy going either route, with reasonable expectations of 2X+ minimum wage at least as growth potential.

That is to say, if I'm reading you correctly that he's got social interaction issues holding him back from pursuing something more obvious, then it's not so much his skill set that's in question, as where he can fit in. Assuming that, it seems that his best bets would be to improve his work skills to the point that a large tech firm (or local equivalent if relevant) would want him for his skills and would be willing to overlook the other difficulties, or for him to look for a smaller company where there would be some clearly missing skills (probably general IT/MS Office) that would be willing to give the guy a chance.

If his social skills are strong enough, then the other option I would suggest is doubling down on one or more specific aspects of his degree or tech knowledge and applying specifically for those kinds of jobs. I don't know computer animation as a field specifically, but it sounds to me like a field that is hard to get into because it's so niche (geographically dependent, limited general use for most companies). If so, he may need to figure out all of the related fields that have some kind of crossover, and apply there as well.

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"But if I were opening a store on a tight budget, and was not very computer literate myself, I'd love to have somebody like him who could help me get oriented with using a computer for the store, could build a simple website for the store, could explain spread sheets to me, could make attractive notices in a nice font to post somewhere -- things like that -- and then later help me unload boxes and put the stuff on the shelves."

Some of these things you only need once, and you can buy them separately. There are Word and Excel courses for beginners. There are companies that will create for you a static website cheaply.

I do not think it is realistic to look for a tailored "stock-keeper / Python web developer" role. That is very unlikely to happen... and even if by a miracle it happens, he would lose all the leverage that comes from being able to say "I quit", because it is unlikely he would find a job of the same type again. So he needs to choose one or the other.

However, that does *not* mean that he needs to make the choice in advance. He can simply apply to both types of jobs simultaneously, and take the first job offer that is an improvement over his current position. But he needs to remember that the two different roles require two different personae. When applying to a stock-keeper job, do not emphasize Python and Photoshop. When applying to a Python development job, the experience in stock-keeping is only relevant in the sense of "can keep a job".

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So, the first option is to try becoming a better-paid stock-keeper. Write a CV that displays (1) previous experience with stocking shelves, and (2) the knowledge of office applications, that is: Word, Excel, e-mail. (Everything else is dark magic that the stock-keepers are not supposed to know.) Send this to shops, both large and small. Or maybe, let a job agency do it for you. The image you are selling here is "an intelligent stock-keeper, who can also do the related administrative work". (Which might be a reason to pay him better than mere stock-keeper.) In longer term, possible advancement to a position of a supervisor, or maybe a purely administrative position. Or the company might immediately offer an administrative position instead.

*

Another option is to put the focus on Python and web development. The problem with developing simple web sites is that a company only needs such thing *once*; and them maybe an update a few months later. That is not enough to justify a full-time job. He would need to develop for many companies, but if self-employment is not an option, he needs an employer who does this kind of business. But in 2023, such company will probably use some content management system, and create the new websites by clicking "create web site" in the user interface. The ability to create a simple web site from scratch is only useful as a stepping stone towards something more complicated.

So the image here is "a young person with basic IT skills". Apply for a position of tester or junior Python developer.

Before applying as a tester, download https://www.selenium.dev/ and write a few Python scripts. Try automating something simple; like log in to a website, go to some list and verify that an item with certain properties exists, maybe also select that item and perform some action and verify that you received a success message. You can do this over a weekend, and it could make a dramatic difference over "I have never done anything testing-related". As a web developer, I assume you already know HTML and CSS; also learn how to write (the most simple) XPath expressions to use in the Selenium scripts.

Advantages of being a tester: requires less knowledge than applying as a developer, and you can transition to a developer later. Disadvantages: many software companies do not use testers, because the testing is done by the developers.

To apply as a Python developer... I am out of my depth here, not a Python developer. Learn how to use "venv", "pytest", https://jupyter.org/ . Maybe ask someone, what are the most popular Python frameworks these days, and write something simple in one of them. Notice that Python is useful not just for web development, but also to write command-line scripts which e.g. process JSON files or find something in a database.

Don't overthink it. The idea is that you spend a year or two in your first IT job, and then you can apply elsewhere and ask for a significantly higher salary.

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Thanks for your detailed advice. I was thinking that it would probably help this guy to meet with someone whose job it is to assess somebody's skills and tell them what jobs are a good fit, also which of the good-fit jobs are currently looking for more employees, and what skills, if mastered, would make the person more hirable. Looked online, found ads for places that advertised that they do that. For instance one called STEM Career Services: "STEM Career Services retains a panel of expert career coaches, each with invaluable experience in consulting, biotech, pharma, federal government, nonprofits and more – all ready to help you find the perfect job." Is this bogus, or a real service? Seems like there should be places offering actual help of the kind I have in mind, because there must be a need for it.

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I have never seen a service like that, so no idea. Perhaps try to find a review online? Also, it could be something in a middle: a mere job agency that tries to look more impressive than it really is. Which might still be a good outcome.

I only have a job experience with the job market in Slovakia; I have no idea whether in other countries it works similarly or not. Most job agencies are not specializing on IT; they provide jobs for everyone. Which means that they have a few hundred job positions they hunt for, and maybe five of them are IT related. So it does not make sense to give them a too detailed list of your skills and preferences, they will anyway just give you one of those five options that seems to match best the keywords you have mentioned. Might as well say "Python developer" and save time. There is also one job agency specializing on IT, but they only want self-employed contractors.

I always thought that something better should exist, and I am not really sure why it does not. Maybe Slovakia is just a too little market. Or maybe it is a chicken-and-egg problem, like trying to build a new Facebook. It does not matter how good idea you have, it is most likely to fail, because people want to be where other people already are. Imagine you start a new job agency tomorrow, now what? Companies reject you because you have no job candidates waiting. Candidates reject you because you have no job offers waiting. So you either fail, or you desperately take anything you can, and become the general job agency with hundred company clients and five IT positions. This is just my guess; never tried that.

Then there is coaching, which is a different type of business: you pay them money, they give you lessons. Can they actually find you a job? Probably only in the sense that if you have skills, any job agency would find you the same job. Maybe they cooperate with a job agency or two, and send them CVs of people who completed their courses. But finding you a job is *not* their core business; it is giving you lessons for money. Probably might as well take lessons from someone who doesn't call themselves a "career service". But again, just a guess.

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eaThanks. Can you give me an idea how someone could learn about server maintenance? Is that the sort of thing you can learn with an online course? I do not work in tech and don't know about this sort of thing to advise him, or to judge whether he's up to mastering server maintenance..

I was thinking that it would probably help this guy to meet with someone whose job it is to assess somebody's skills and tell them what jobs are a good fit, also which of the good-fit jobs are currently looking for more employees, and what skills, if mastered, would make the person more hirable. Looked online, found ads for places that advertised that they do that. For instance one called STEM Career Services: "STEM Career Services retains a panel of expert career coaches, each with invaluable experience in consulting, biotech, pharma, federal government, nonprofits and more – all ready to help you find the perfect job." Is this bogus, or a real service? Seems like there should be places offering actual help of the kind I have in mind, because there must be a need for it.

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Finally got DALL-e to produce an image of Shrimp Love Me, Unaligned AI's Fear Me. It's here if you want to have a look: https://i.imgur.com/fBwwZSq.png

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What was your prompt?

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I had to make 2 images and photoshop them together. Main prompt was "Steampunk style: A man standing in water is dismantling a huge machine. Many shrimp are swimming towards him." But DALL-e just would not do the damn shrimp no matter how I phrased it. I tried mentioning them before the huge machine, but then I got machine versions of shrimp -- short of robotic metallic ones. I also tried editing the original by erasing a lot of little areas and then putting "swimming shrimp" as the prompt for the edit. DALL-e simply filled the erased areas with what had been there before, or with plain blue water. So finally I just did a separate image with prompt "Many pink shrimp are swimming towards the center of the image," which DALL-e rendered just fine, and I photoshopped the 2 together. That's the first time I've used Photoshop for a DALL-e image, and it definitely made the process less fun. There's something magical about just using what DALL-e gives me, but in this case I hadda have the shrimp.

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Plug: I suppose open threads are plug friendly? It's unclear if there's gonna be another classified sometime soon.

I've written some things over the last few years and finally decided to put them on the internet:

https://medium.com/@nickmc3

I have a couple related to AI (The Ol' Job and What Dreams May Come), The Shell Game relates to economics, and there are some others like Gourbain's Flux Capacity Theorem that I think some people round here might like. Also the pinned, No Hot Take Under the Sun, is short and directly inspired by something Scott said once.

Any thoughts or feedback much appreciated!

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> God created each one of us to live out our lives in one or another cognitive and ideological bubble, and though we may paw desperately at the inside of the slippery surface, there is no outward progress. Every inch up the wall just rotates the sphere around us.

I am the worst sort of reader, the sort who comes up with obscure exceptions without addressing the gist. Anyway, have you read about craniopagus twins, i.e. conjoined twins joined at the head? I have read that their cognition seems to overlap somewhat (e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krista_and_Tatiana_Hogan). Can their minds fit into the bubble metaphor?

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that's really interesting! i imagine they have a lot in common and probably don't disagree with each other too much on political or social issues, but who knows. It'd be interesting to be physically and cognitively attached to someone you can never agree with on anything. If they see the same things, but perceive them differently, it'd just go to show how important perception is in terms of interpreting and understanding the world

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When I look at AI-generated art, it generally has an aesthetic that I would describe as "Tartarian": https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/whither-tartaria

If, in general, the "Art World" hates Tartarianism and everyone else likes it, this might be an opportunity to break out of a local maximum and mainstream Tartarianism again. AI could allow the capitalists to cut the Art World out of the loop and sell people the styles they like. Of course. this would likely depend on AI design being able to generalize to things like woodworking if it wants to compete with IKEA.

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I doubt it. The commercial art for commission world has always been Tartarianism meets Furry Porn.

The Art World is filled with weird stuff like bananas taped to the wall because it's defined in opposition to the large and thriving beautiful and thus actually popular art scene, not because there is a shortage of actually beautiful stuff around.

AI Art will make changes within that beautiful art scene, but it won't change the relationship between the pretty scene and the Art World. To the extent that Ai Art actually enters the art would, it will do so by continuing it's existing un-pretty styles.

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I don't expect AI art to enter the Art World at all; the opposite, in fact. I propose that AI could break the Art World's influence on commercial art/design. I have two end tables in my living room: one is a Brutalist IKEA piece, while the other is a more Tartarian design that I inherited from my grandmother. What if AI made it possible to compete with IKEA by selling Tartarian furniture? The Art World might end up becoming a hermetic scene with no broader influence.

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It seems that you are saying the Art World produces ugly art because pretty art is an oversaturated field? I can see that, and it makes sense to me. Given that, then the only real chance to break into art (or fashion, etc.) is to make ugly art. That would apply to AIs as much as people, so yes, AIs would have to make ugly art that is somehow novel in order to get recognized. Being from an AI seems enough right now to be novel, though that will likely change if there are free or cheap ways to get AI to create art on demand.

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It's not oversaturated so much as low-status.

If you're producing pretty art it means you're just one of those low-status artists who goes around making decorative landscapes for lower-upper-middle-class people to buy and hang in their houses. Maybe you have a small gallery in a popular tourist area where people wander in and consider which of your pretty landscapes would look best in their dining room.

This means that your whole career is dependent on outsiders, not artists, which is adjacent to being an outsider yourself.

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I agree that's the case now, but I'm more interested in how we got here. Renaissance artists painted and sculpted pretty things, and were deemed very high status for doing so. It's not a given that pretty = low status.

I'm blaming oversaturation on that switch.

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Jan 10, 2023·edited Jan 10, 2023

Do you think there could be a large scale (at least several million people EDIT: hundreds of thousands should suffice to make this interesting...the main aim of this is to avoid very small social structures which are much simpler to handle) society which worked on more or less on the same principles modern western democracies work on without modern technology?

What I mean by more or less "same principles" is something along the lines of close to universal suffrage (specifically with women also being on more or less equal footing with men), no slavery (or de facto slavery), high level of individualism and individual rights (the negative rights, i.e. not expecting state-run social welfare systems but expecting a society where people are more often than not free to do whatever they want to do as long as they don't interfere with the same freedoms of others).

Are there any real-world examples?

What is the minimum amount of technology required for such a society in your opinion? Is there in fact a minimum?

Bonus question: What do you think were the societies closest to this in each era/area of the world?

Note: I do not count philosophy and social institutions as technology (although in some sense it is a very important piece of technology) so I allow even rather implausible societies you'd get if you could magically transfer modern people to the world 20 000 years ago, had them all forget everything about their physical technology and replaced that knowledge with survival skills (so that such society doesn't just die out in a week).

I can think of 2 close but not quite examples:

1. Medieval Switzerland. Well, the last canton to give women a right to vote did it in 1990 (rather it was made to do that by the federal court) but an alt-history medieval Swiss confederation where even women get a say does not feel like that big a stretch of imagination. And the low level of centralization seems to overcome the technological burdens associated with democracy in a large-scale society (in fact, it seems to work better than most countries even today and the individual Swiss votes actually often have a meaningful weight).

2. Medieval Iceland, kinda?...something between direct democracy and a "libertarian anarcho-feudalism"...women were still not exactly equal to men there either (perhaps better than in medieval Switzerland, worse than anywhere in Europe today).

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Jan 10, 2023·edited Jan 10, 2023

I think the big question that needs to be answered is 'what are the military requirements of the society?' Most of the social details that matter for determining the principles involved are going to be determined by the answer to this question. With no military needs, there's very few things standing in the way of an ideal society. The two realistic military requirement scenarios I can think of are 'living alongside one or more potentially hostile peer societies' and 'the potential threat of an overwhelming number of hostile outsiders' (what we might label based on recent threads on ACX as 'SN risk').

There's a lot to unpack here. I define a 'peer society' as one with a similar general technological level, resource base, and population (but not necessarily the same). While in the long run I take as true that the more free society will advance more economically and technologically, that's meaningless if the current technology level allows the less free neighbor to win militarily in the short term.

With modern technology, we can produce and transport food and other essentials efficiently enough that we can survive on a permanent professional military and still maintain modern values. If, on the other hand, you need almost all the population producing food and other necessities, then permanent soldiers are a serious drag on your economy (unless you use them to pillage your neighbors, which modern values won't allow you to do). The first smaller question, then, is 'do you consider the principles of 'modern Western democracies' to allow conscription and/or a period of compulsory military service?'

Different military technologies and social organizations allow different levels of what permanent military capabilities and temporary military capabilities you can expect your society to be able to call on. To go with one of the more obvious real world examples, if your small landowners are practically born with a longbow in their hands for hunting, it's a lot easier to call up a competent militia capable of countering professional armored enemies than if you have to train them from scratch.

EDITED TO ADD: What's interesting is that the ebb and flow of military technology goes both ways. It's probably good for your hypothetical modern values society if useful weapons are commonly owned, either because your farmer's blade-on-a-stick farm tool is not significantly worse than the other guy's spear, or because longbows or muskets are common hunting weapons on the frontier. It's probably bad for your hypothetical modern values society if the battlefield is dominated by cavalry or other animal-based troops (chariots, elephants, etc.) This has several interesting implications: first, that your society could become worse off as technology progresses if the new tech favors a less democratic means of warfare. Second, that the geography of your society also needs to be taken into account, ie bad terrain for horses may be good terrain for a modern values low tech society.

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I think conscription in the ancient city-state style is ok, as long as the society only uses it to defend itself (an empire with city state at its core which is very free but lives of the work of the people it conquered does not count as the society I am looking for). By the way, some modern western democracies still have this kind of conscription (Switzerland for example, Germany until very recently, probably more examples exist).

I would say that a professional military paid by some form of taxation (or even something more voluntary, but that is out of scope) is ideal...provided that you structure it carefully in such a way that it does not take over the society like it gradually did in Rome after the Marian reforms. But like you said, it is typically not an option for a pre-modern society, so limited conscription stays within bounds for such a hypothetical society.

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To answer your question, I think there is a sweet spot at which a lasting modern values society is possible with a low tech base, at least as far as military tech goes. Switzerland is probably close to the ideal case. You want enough natural resources (especially farmland) to be at least self-sufficient in the necessities, but not be prosperous enough to be an obvious target. You want natural barriers to army movement (especially horse-based troops) but you want trade to be possible. You want to be far away from any steppe or steppe-like geographical feature that could produce nomad hordes, or at least ensure that by the time they get to your natural barriers you've had time to mobilize your farmers to make trying to pillage an expensive proposition not worth the rewards. At this point, modern values comes down to reducing the amount of infant and maternal mortality, reducing the risk of disasters, maintaining trade with neighbors (in ideas and culture as much as goods), and dealing with the cultural problems inherent to religious friction.

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Good points. I was thinking along the same lines but I underestimated the military aspect, I think, especially the steppe nomads. In fact, from what I can tell (and that is frankly not much, so feel free to correct me), very early Russia or at least parts of it were fairly "liberal" for their time. Places like the republic of Novgorod seemed to have a lot of potential in this respect. But it seems that the longest lasting impact of Mongol invasions was probably the way the Russian princes became a lot more like the Mongols themselves and places like Novgorod eventually went up in flames, being replaced by an authoritarian society that has not really changed that much until today. But maybe Novgorod was also pretty bad and I just assume it wasn't because they were a merchant republic very much connected to the Hansa.

Switzerland seems to meet all your requirements except for the birth mortality - modern medicine is probably the most important technology for the emancipation of women. The Swiss also seemed to fare better than most in dealing with the 16th century religious conflicts. Perhaps it also helps to have a somewhat more rural society. Most of the free places in the past were economically kind of backwater. Then again, Italy was very rich and probably more free than most places but probably quite a bit less free than Switzerland (my impression is that those places were mostly oligarchies if not outright monarchies). Maybe it has less to do with money and more with geography (which leads to less money). It is much harder to set up a more authoritarian regime in a country which is full of mountains.

So mountains and a distance from the steppe seem to be good candidates for two necessary conditions for a low-tech society to be liberal. And modern medicine (or something close to that, I guess that you could have discovered something like penicillin by accident even in the middle ages?) without which women are unlikely to achieve any significant emancipation.

If you have better tech, you might not need the mountains. Steppe warfare becomes obsolete and land becomes less valuable on its own (and costlier to conquer).

I wonder if the mountains are that crucial after all....the low countries have also been very close to being liberal (probably somewhat less so than Switzerland) for most of their history. They were even very rich from a certain point onwards (though boggy swamps before that). They were definitely very far away from steppe nomads (although it is flatland all the way from Russia to the Netherlands, it is just a bit too far away from Mongolia I guess).

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I've been thinking this over. It ultimately comes down to how much power you need to maintain your society from stresses both inside and outside. I would hope that having a democratic government would do a lot to alleviate most of the internal stresses from competing for power; you don't have elites raising private armies when that won't work to give them control over the levers of society.

War and religion are the two outside context problems your society has to contend with, in that you can do everything 'right' and still lose because of factors entirely out of your control. As I think about it, religion is a thornier issue because of your adherence to modern values, as in your values mean can't stop your people from adopting religious beliefs which may be against your values, at which point you have internal stress again. Switzerland was very lucky in having Christianity, even though it did experience some conflict.

I think the low countries were at their high point when their more powerful neighbors were distracted by the newly available ability to colonize the rest of the world. Why fight each other over Holland when you could more profitably establish control over lands other than Europe? Again, that's something you can't take for granted. I don't assume that mountains are the only natural barriers; I think the channel worked very well for England, in that it was wide enough to make invasion very difficult, yet was narrow enough that trade with the continent could flourish. Japan, on the other hand, was a bit too far away from the other east Asian countries (though there are obviously other factors as to why those two turned out differently).

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Offhand I'd say you've got cause and effect reversed here. It's technology that enables centralized oppression, and the concepts of republicanism and individual rights are a response to that, an effort to preserve the pre-technological style of living that humans evolved to prefer.

Without technology, it's not really plausible, nor is it of interest, for several million people to coordinate their actions to accomplish vast centralized goals, from building cities to making war, and so having your life hijacked by some far away strange authority doesn't happen naturally. A hunter-gatherer Stone Age society is inherently pretty liberal, because anyone who doesn't like the local social order can usually just walk away and fade over the horizon. Stuff gets decided by consensus, with a leaning towards the people who've been around the longest and/or have made good decisions before. There's not much concept of a franchise, because you wouldn't decline to listen to even a kid, if the kid had something useful to say.

Which is not to say there aren't Stone Age tribes that are oppressive or violent, of course. Human beings are of a nature that could fuck up Paradise if offered to them on a platter. But oppression and violence on a million-person scale -- and the development of the concepts of republican self-government and individual liberties as a bulwark against them -- requires technology.

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"Without technology, it's not really plausible, nor is it of interest, for several million people to coordinate their actions to accomplish vast centralized goals,"

I suppose it depends on what you and the OP mean by "technology" - if it includes any time of tools - then yeah. Without tools (aka technology) it's not clear that we are in any way talking about humans.

And is the "several million" a scale or metaphor for "lots"? A bee hive has about 60 -80,000 individuals. Is the hive structure to hold the honey a technology?

I suppose the biggest Neolithic cities maybe got to 100k, but still a lot of "technology" involved.

Christianity seemed to be able to coordinate a centralized mission on the scale of millions, but roads and ships were a necessary "technological aid" - even before the cooption of the the pagan war technology.

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several million - yes, that is a metaphor for many. I wanted to exclude tribes of tens of hundreds of people or even societies in the thousands. But hundreds of thousands would have probably been enough, millions is way too many for ancient civilizations.

technology - basically anything less than the sort of technology that we see as the societies which we recognize as modern appear in actual history (i.e. something like less than late 19th century technology more or less). The aim is to see if there is some minimum technology required (beyond that which allows complex societies of hundreds of thousands in the first place, basically agriculture is a must, writing probably also, everything else is optional). Or as Civilis points out above if there are some other nontechnological conditions which can compensate the lack of technology (tall mountains for example)

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Well, a social structure of a few hundred people is inherently simpler (and "easier") than that of millions or even tens to hundreds of thousands. That is why I am mostly interested in the latter. Now, society != state, so they do not have to be a part of a single state but they should not exist as atomic tribes.

I am no expert but I think it was often actually much harder for someone to leave one tribe and join another one. In fact, it seems that in many tribal societies expulsion is the ultimate punishment (rather than death). You are mostly protected by a network of your relatives and friends, as an alien without any of those connections you are basically free game and nobody will care too much if someone robs you and kills you. You might ask another tribe if they'd take you in but since your previous tribe forced you out you are automatically suspicious from the beginning so they are more likely to refuse unless you have something (ideally skills so they cannot just rob you) they don't and want.

In general, I'd rather think about examples of agrarian/settled societies - basically my "hidden" question is something like "could there have been a society that would over time develop to what we recognize as a modern 'western-like' society while being very familiar to us in its structure all the way since its inception in the distant past? And if not, why? Is it because of some crucial technology?

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Cities have been around. Why don't you explore that.

And I'm not sure of your artificial cut off of "modern" technology.

Is what you call liberal society possible before Christianity and the radical notion of loving your neighbor and aspirationally even loving your enemy? What is the feature you are really thinking about "pluralism", "cosmopolitanism" - these are features of cities.

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Jan 10, 2023·edited Jan 10, 2023

Ancient "Water Totalitarianisms" like Egypt or China might be a counter example your assertion that stone age societies can't coordinate oppression, though I don't know if million-person scale was typical for them or not.

Though I agree that technology typically has nothing to do with a free social order. In addition, I also want to add that the "Liberal social order" contains its own fair share of the exact same injustices and unfreedoms of past social orders, and then some. Like, congratulations on "freeing" women out of the need to marry to live..... and into the need to work to live. Double the workforce for the wage payers (and for the exact same amount of total wage), half (or less) the workforce for raising the kids. That's some really fucking impressive Civil Right bullshit you did right there, feminism.

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They might be counter-examples had I not prefaced "Stone Age" with "hunter-gatherer."

Hopefully it has not only just occured to you that that circa 1970 first-wave "feminism" had rather less to do with actual female liberation and rather more to do with the (at the time twenty-something) male Boomer desire to loosen up the sexual mores that kept their potential sex partners' legs closed until there was a ring on her finger.

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