794 Comments

Can anyone recommend CD releases of John Lewis piano solos?

I've found new Darrell Scott and Tim O'Brien, and Ralph Towner -- which had to come from Germany -- but I need an hour or so of John Lewis noodling around to play when I drive. I have only Marian McPartland's interview and one CD. Any ideas? I have plenty of MJQ.

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Apr 14·edited Apr 14

I know this has been asked many times across the internet over the years, but I figured there's at least a chance that a Netflix employee who might know something reads this.

Why on earth does Netflix always only recommend the same 20 shows forever *most of which you have already watched*? Why do they recommend things you've already watched at all? Given this is the most obvious possible improvement to recommendations and trivial to implement, they must be doing it on purpose, but WHY?!?!

Some people have suggested that they recommend things you've already watched in order to cover up the lack of content, but even now they still have vastly more content than they show on the homepage, and while it may not be perfectly matched, anything would be better than just making the home page a static list of shows you've already watched. Doing this makes Netflix look *more* like a ghost town rather than less. So what gives?

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I don't know any particular reason, but many people enjoy watching shows that they've watched before. Sometimes people share a user profile and in that case it makes sense to recommend that way, though that might be kinda rare.

If Netflix is trying to hook me into a show, it would have better luck recommending a show I loved 5 years ago than a show I haven't seen.

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So, apparently Iran has finally launched an actual attack on Israel. https://apnews.com/article/strait-of-hormuz-vessel-33fcffde2d867380e98c89403776a8ac

Honestly, this whole situation has been a long time coming. It will be very interesting to see how bad it gets.

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Apr 14·edited Apr 14

They had to save face because Israelis are completely out of control and bombing embassies. Israelis have been creating new normals in the past six months. The cat is out of the bag and the world will be following suit. "A light unto nations" eh

Somehow, somehow this means my country has to get dragged into all of it. We have to spend our money and reputation on the Israelis because reasons. Meanwhile https://x.com/ryangrim/status/1779496494434812323

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There is precedent to this in Saddam's attacks in the 1990s, but in the 1990s Israel's ruling party was more committed to peace and Saddam didn't shoot Scuds in waves like this. Saddam was embroiled in vastly bigger conflicts than he could ever chew, unlike Iran which attacks US bases with impunity and has just took an Israeli owned ship off the coast of UAE earlier today.

Despite Arabic-speaking media making a substantially big deal out of this, English-speaking Haaretz reports the vast majority of cruise missiles intercepted and the only damage done is someone lightly wounded and a military base in Negev lightly damaged. Perhaps the biggest indication that this attack isn't as scary as some sources would want audiences to believe, is that the open-air anti-Netanyahu protests in Tel Aviv hasn't stopped yet.

But that's just the first wave, the slow-moving drones will arrive after launch by about 5 to 6 hours, some speculate that they will synchronize with faster moving later-wave cruise missiles timed so that they arrive after the drone exhaust the Israeli air defense. To say nothing of an opportunistic Hezbollah or Hamas barrage in the chaos.

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I think it's important to note that that ship is "Israeli-owned" meaning "owned by an Israeli civilian". Not owned by the Israeli government, or the Israeli military, etc.

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Yeah, that's not ideal. On the other hand, that civilian is a billionaire, which means he's pretty unsympathetic to begin with, before we even factor in his relationships and contacts with the scum ruling Israel.

I would support victimless Houthi/Iranian/other takeover of Israeli ships, owned by civilians or otherwise, everywhere in the Indian and the Pacific oceans. My only problem is that whatever money is made by those captures eventually goes into the coffers of scum, different scum than Likud, yes, but scum nonetheless. It's still a pressure tool on Israel, I wish the ones exercising it were a bit more eager to pretend they're the good guys.

No Rest for the Anarchists.

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Apr 14·edited Apr 14

Yeah, when I say "Israeli civilian", some people care about the word "civilian" and some people care about the word "Israeli."

Not much different than, say, Japanese interment in America. To some, these were Japanese civilians and thus should be treated like other civilians. To others, they were Japanese civilians and should be treated like Japanese soldiers.

So that's why it's "victimless" to take property from Israeli civilians. Or why you'd omit the word "civilian" in the first place. Once you know their nationality, what else do you need to know?

EDIT: Fixed a typo.

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Your comparison is faulty. Property is not like Freedom. The right to Freedom is a fundamental human right that very few circumstances would persuade me to want to see innocent people deprived of. Property is very different. The Israeli state destroyed untold billions in property of Gazans, I don't see why people on the side of Gaza can't do the same. If anything, not killing any Israelis while doing it makes them win this tournament by at least 20000 to 0 ahead of Israel. That's no mean feat.

> To other, they were Japanese civilians and should be treated like Japanese soldiers.

You know who's treating civilians like soldiers and detaining them in facilities so torture-like that they die in captivity?

No points for guessing.

> Or why you'd omit the word "civilian" in the first place.

That wasn't intentional to begin with.

> that's why it's "victimless" to take property from Israeli civilians.

The civilian owning a Yacht is no ordinary civilian, and he/she can regain his/her property when the democratically elected state that he/she votes for learns to behave like a non-genocidal superorganism.

What I'm saying - by the way - is not new at all. Not One Bit. That's exactly what happened to every single Russian civilian with money anywhere a Western/Nato government could reach, at the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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At best, you're just describing revenge. The Israeli government kills/steals/etc. from civilians and thus other countries can do the same to Israeli civilians. It's not really a moral framework at all.

It's a way to excuse things that you know are wrong. You know it's wrong to go around looking at people's passports and taking their property if they were born in the wrong country. There's no way you'd support that if it was targeting people on your side.

The only reason that you support it targeting people on my side is as revenge. That's why we have a concept of revenge - to allow us to do things that we know are wrong.

But you can't seriously tell me that if tomorrow the Israelis took every piece of property from the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, you'd shrug and say "Ehh, property is not like freedom. They can regain their property when they [insert criteria for government here]." You understand why that'd be wrong.

Revenge isn't going to make it right.

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https://twitter.com/muhammadshehad2/status/1779198875925926360

I think there is a growing case to be made that the Israeli public is more culpable and participating in the murdering of Palestinian civilians than the average German during the holocaust was.

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How many Palestinian civilians have died since the beginning of the war? Do we have a list that separates civilians from combatants?

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I had the unfortunate experience of watching a self-identified "Israeli special ops" man as a guest in a Fox interview a couple of hours earlier today, amidst all the posturing and the whining and the hand wringing at Iran he claimed that Israel killed 15K terrorists in total.

That figure is likely exaggerated. Israeli media (Haaretz and Times of Israel, in English editions) were reporting 13K just days ago, and when that number was 12K in mid February Hamas itself denied it and said only 6K were dead. Let's take a very generous "mean" and say that 10K combatant in this war has died.

That means that 23000 civilians, a square 1% of Gazan residents, has died to date, in 6 months. At this rate, all of Gaza - 2.3 million individuals - would be annihilated in 50 years, less than a 1/8 of the 408-years genocide that Europeans annihilated 95% (7.75 million) of Native Americans in.

I disagree with the specific point Glenn wants to make, as a matter of actual fact. But what's happening in Gaza is no ordinary war.

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I'm fine with the way you're calculating combatant fatalities and I'm glad we're excluding them from the frequently cited figure of 33k dead, which includes both civilians (who should never die in war) and combatants (who die in every war).

To the point about this being "no ordinary war", that's true, but pretty easily explained. Most wars generate huge numbers of internally displaced people, moderate numbers of refugees, and low numbers of deaths.

Take the war in Sudan - 6 million internally displaced, 2 million refugees, at least 5,000 civilians killed.

In Gaza, there have been almost zero refugees. In fact, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees has come out *against* any civilians leaving this war zone. To my knowledge, that's a world first.

Predictably, if you don't let civilians flee violence, they will be caught up in the violence. That's precisely why we have a UN High Commissioner on Refugees - to help get people away from violence and towards safety.

Sadly, we're seeing what happens when people are categorically refused the ability to seek safety. It turns out, lots of civilians die.

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How much % of the blame does Israel, which famously exploits the civilian tendency to flee combat zones and violence spots in every war it entered including - most infamously - the very war that birthed it, take for the fact that people don't want to displace Gazans again?

Before you calculate, make sure your output is a function of the input that is the fact that Israelis since the start of the war repeatedly declaring that Gaza must be resettled, culminating in a conference in late January in Jerusalem that 8 key ministers in the government including the Security Minister and the Finance Minister attended and were filmed dancing at.

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Apr 14·edited Apr 14

So we have two conflicting desires - one is that Gazans not be killed, the other is that Gazans not be displaced. Becoming a refugee means you (likely) won't be killed, but increases the chances that you'll be displaced.

In every other conflict on Earth, we prefer the living civilians to the dead civilians with their graves in the right spot.

That's why we have a High Commissioner on Refugees, and not a High Commissioner on Keeping Civilians Put.

I'd infinitely prefer having every Palestinian civilian resurrected and living in Cairo or Osaka or New York to having them be dead in Gaza. How about you?

Do you really think it's worse for a Palestinian to be a refugee and live, than to stay in Palestine and die?

EDIT: Corrected a typo.

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There is no doubt that if you leave me with admin access to Physics for an hour, and for some reason Physics only allows the Palestinians to **either** stay alive **or** stay in their ancestral homeland. I will very much choose them being alive every minute of this hour, whatever their own delusional religion might say, whatever their own delusional cousins speaking the same language might say.

Consider that Israel knows this. Israel also wants all of Mandatory Palestine to itself. So one very simple thing they could do is to exploit this, which is exactly what it did in 1948. Kill a few hundreds, rape a few tens, and 750K flee. Forever. Centuries old dreams, wiped. A society hollowed and collapsed. That's how Israel was formed. Humans might forget the moment of their birth, states never do. There is a lesson which is very tempting, if you're the wrong sort of person: How far can you push the Arabs? Rinse and repeat in Jerusalem? Rinse and repeat in Gaza? Rinse and repeat to the remnants of the Arabs in Israel? Rinse and repeat in the Western Bank of Jordan? Rinse and repeat in Southern Lebanon? Rinse and repeat in southern Syria? Assuming no morality and negative compassion, how far will this road take you?

Consider that the conflict between keeping Gazans alive and keeping them on their land is far from a natural property of Logic or Physics, but in a very large part a manufactured problem for a very precise and deliberate purpose.

Consider that the modern world is parceled into nation states that doesn't treat the stateless very well. This is the actual world we live in and which we have to calculate based on even if we hated it.

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OC ACXLW Sat April 13 Consciousness and The Dictatorship of the Small Minority

Hello Folks!

We are excited to announce the 61st Orange County ACX/LW meetup, happening this Saturday and most Saturdays after that.

Host: Michael Michalchik

Email: michaelmichalchik@gmail.com (For questions or requests)

Location: 1970 Port Laurent Place

(949) 375-2045

Date: Saturday, April 13 2024

Time 2 pm

Conversation Starters:

Your Book Review: Consciousness And The Brain: A review of Stanislas Dehaene's book "Consciousness and the Brain", which explores the cognitive neuroscience of consciousness. The book discusses the differences between conscious and unconscious processing, the neural signatures of consciousness, and theories of consciousness such as the Global Neuronal Workspace.

Summary: Dehaene's book delves into the neuroscience of consciousness, distinguishing between conscious and unconscious processes in the brain. He proposes that conscious perception occurs when information is globally broadcast and processed by multiple brain regions, leading to reportability and self-monitoring. Unconscious processing, on the other hand, is more localized and cannot be reported or used for complex tasks requiring working memory. Dehaene discusses various theories of consciousness, such as the Global Neuronal Workspace, Integrated Information Theory, and the Multiple Drafts Model, and presents evidence from experiments using techniques like masking and neuroimaging. The book also touches on the philosophical implications of the research, such as the hard problem of consciousness and the prospect of machine consciousness.

Text link:

https://www.astralcodexten.com/p/your-book-review-consciousness-and

Audio link:

https://podcastaddict.com/astral-codex-ten-podcast/episode/139738702

Questions for discussion:

a) How does Dehaene's Global Neuronal Workspace theory account for the differences between conscious and unconscious processing? What are the key neural signatures of conscious perception according to this theory?

b) Dehaene argues that consciousness is necessary for tasks requiring working memory, such as complex reasoning and decision-making. What are the implications of this view for our understanding of human cognition and the potential for machine consciousness?

c) The book suggests that many animals, particularly mammals, are likely to be conscious in ways similar to humans. What are the ethical implications of this view? How should it inform our treatment of animals and our understanding of their cognitive and emotional lives?

The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority by Nassim Nicholas Taleb: An essay discussing how a small, intolerant minority can disproportionately influence and dictate the choices and behaviors of the majority in various domains, such as religion, politics, and markets.

Text link: https://docs.google.com/document/d/19lQrNJ7-XNBvhjn0gSS7I2vAGJC-C3oJcKTJXIfz7K8/edit

Questions for discussion:

a) In what ways does the "minority rule" described by Taleb differ from the traditional understanding of democratic decision-making? What are the implications of this rule for the functioning of societies and institutions?

b) Taleb provides several examples of how the preferences of a small, intolerant minority can determine the options available to the majority, such as in the case of Kosher food or allergen-free environments. Can you think of other examples where this dynamic plays out, either in your personal life or in the broader society?

c) How might the "minority rule" contribute to the polarization and gridlock in contemporary politics? What strategies, if any, could be employed to mitigate the negative effects of this dynamic while still respecting individual rights and preferences?

Walk & Talk: We usually have an hour-long walk and talk after the meeting starts. Two mini-malls with hot takeout food are readily accessible nearby. Search for Gelson's or Pavilions in the zip code 92660.

Share a Surprise: Tell the group about something unexpected that changed your perspective on the universe.

Future Direction Ideas: Contribute ideas for the group's future direction, including topics, meeting types, activities, etc.

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Last day to apply for jobs at MATS to help accelerate AI safety! Hiring a Community Manager and 1-3 Research Managers.

https://matsprogram.org/careers

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9SGlBUMbeA&ab_channel=CaspianReport

The UAE is building a city in Egypt. I have no idea whether this is a good idea for either the UAE or Egypt.

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From what I've seen, these kinds of planned cities tend to work in two scenarios: 1) it's a new capital (and thus the government can throw a huge amount of money at the city, regardless of return on investment) or 2) it's a suburb for an existing city.

Building a new city from scratch is really, really hard. So my reaction is that this is probably a huge waste of money, but I hope they prove me wrong and beat the odds.

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Is there a connection between UAE and the Palestinians' Hamas?

It has been my impression that neither Egypt nor Jordan wants to accommodate them; I'm not sure about Lebanon.

Let's hope it's a temporary camp for refugees from Gaza.

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I have no idea whether there's a connection to Hamas.

It's important to remember that there's more to the Middle East than what's going on with Israel and Palestine.

I'm assuming it will mostly be a loss for both countries, but that's a guess because I don't trust planned cities.

I don't think they'll be accepting Palestinian refugees in large numbers, and possibly not at all.

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Hamas are Palestinians; Palestinians overwhelmingly support Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel, and celebrated it. They're the same people who breathlessly complain about Israel's response to the attack nightly on the news.

If Gaza refugees move to a UAE city in Egypt, I'm sure the IDF will screen them for combatants on the way out. But Jordan and Egypt have long had a distaste for terrorists.

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So, remember that cautionary post about "studies in elderly Hispanic women" way back when?

That may be relevant here: a Spanish study appears to find gut bacteria linked to obesity, but different for men and women:

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/gut-bacteria-linked-to-higher-obesity-risk-is-different-for-men-and-women?utm_source=ReadNext

"For their study, Spanish researchers recruited 361 adults with an average age of 44 years old. More than two-thirds (251) were women. Participants were separated into two classes based on a measurement called the “obesity index”: low level of obesity or high level of obesity.

While many studies on obesity rely on body mass index or BMI alone, the investigators took a multifaceted approach with their obesity index. The obesity index is not a standardized gauge for obesity but one that includes three variables: BMI, fat mass percentage, and waist circumference.

...They looked at metagenomic data, which is genetic material from a collection of microorganisms in a sample — in this case, stool samples. In addition, they looked at metabolomic data to analyze small molecules known as metabolites produced during cellular metabolism.

These two types of data, when analyzed in concert, can give a very precise picture of gut health and metabolism.

Using all of this data, researchers profiled some of the specific strains of bacteria found in the guts of the participants.

The researchers then looked at the microbiome for people classified as “high” on the obesity index compared to those classified as “low” on the index.

They found certain bacteria were linked with obesity risk, but that it was different for men versus women.

In the study, the gut microbiome of both men and women who ranked high on the obesity index is characterized by a lack of a potentially protective bacteria known as Christensenella minuta.

Interestingly, women and men who were obese had distinct gut microbiota profiles from one another. In men, two other forms of bacteria associated with obesity were prolific: Parabacteroides helcogenes and Campylobacter canadensis.

“Different microbes can be protective or they can increase risk for obesity. The way that they do that is by stimulating different aspects of our metabolic response and of our immune response…There are microbes such as E. coli that have been shown to increase risk of obesity because they’re known to be pro-inflammatory,” Mariana X. Byndloss, DVM, PhD, the Co-director of the Vanderbilt Microbiome Innovation Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told Healthline. She wasn’t affiliated with the research.

In the study the bacterium species Prevotella micans, Prevotella brevis, and Prevotella sacharolitica were associated with obesity in women but not in men."

I have no idea if this is a wild goose chase or not, but the emerging research on obesity is rather cold comfort for me; at least it helps me understand "how is it that my sister, born of the same parents and raised in the same environment, is thin and was thin all her life, while I am fat and was fat all my life?" as contributory factors besides "It's because you're stupid, lazy, and greedy and sit around stuffing your face with junk food 24/7, calories in = calories out, exercise, laws of thermodynamics, metabolism works the same for everyone, you dumb tub of lard".

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But how can that coincide with your belief in free will? Why can't you just choose to eat less? Just because your metabolism is different doesn't mean you're going to instantly drop dead from a calorie deficiency. Obviously you are physically capable of losing weight without dying. So what's stopping you?

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Does a belief in free will make it impossible for biology to intervene in any way?

Do you believe that, for example, drunk people can simply willpower their way through the biological effects of alcohol? Obviously they're physically capable of turning a steering wheel, so why don't drunk drivers simply not crash their cars?

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A while back, Scott raises an eyebrows at the idea of lesbians who have extra with men..

Meanwhile, over in the U.K. we have the Cass report on treatment of trans kids ... and I'm getting the impression that certain political factions want to say "you're not trans, you're just a lesbian". Which, in the case of afab people who are masculin identified but attracted to men, would make them lesbians who have sex with men...

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Just so you know, "afab" isn't a thing. Claiming that newborn babies are "assigned" a sex makes about as much sense as claiming they are "assigned" an eye color.

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It means, precisely, what the doctor write on the birth certificate. In particular, in the case of intersex persons, it is most definitely not necessarly the same as chromosomal sex. If what you're measuring is what's on the birth certificate, that what your measuring

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>It means, precisely, what the doctor write on the birth certificate.

Yes, that's the motte. The bailey is "so therefore biological sex is an arbitrary social construct that has no physical significance."

I recommend using the terms "girls" or "women."

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Apr 15·edited Apr 15

Imagine claiming that something is not a thing, then, when explained that it is, immediately switching to a accusing *other people* of doing motte-and-bailey.

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Just because somewhat "explains that it is" doesn't mean it's real. I could "explain" all about Dread Cthul'hu lying dreaming at the bottom of the sea; that doesn't make Dread Cthul'hu an actual thing.

Speaking of which, "afab" continues to not be a thing.

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Yes, because doctors writing on birth certificates are exactly as real as Ctulhu - got it.

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In any case, you knew what it meant.

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Everyone would have known what you meant if you said "women," too. Why not say "women"? What makes you shy away from that word?

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deletedApr 15·edited Apr 15
Comment deleted
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Your counterexample would be more persuasive if it was a real thing. The fact that you need to invent an imaginary scenario means that in actual reality, the letter that the doctor wrote on a form is very good correlate towards whether a person was raised and lived first part of their life as a man or as a woman. Which is not at all a question of biological sex, but of social construct of gender and this is what everyone is actually interested in.

When I say something like "As AMAB I have such and such experience" I'm being more accurate than saying "As an XY-person I have such and such experience" because being assigned male is more correlated with such experience than having XY chromosomes. Also I've actually seen my birth certeficate but have never checked my chromosomes. It's quite likely that I indeed have XY chromosomes. But I can't be as certain as with the certificate that I've seen.

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This is an idea th seemed in need of some satirical skewering.

You're all (of whatever political slant) clear that transnesscan't be simply reduced to gayness.

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"certain political factions want to say "you're not trans, you're just a lesbian"

I'm not a political faction, but I am very inclined to say for some of them "You're not a lesbian and you're not trans, you're a straight guy with a fetish" when it comes to the transbians versus lesbians fight over "how can you reject me based on 'you have a penis and I'm not attracted to people with a penis', you bigot".

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That would just make them straight women, wouldn't it? The terminology confuses me.

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More seriously: is transness just about sexual preference? Particularly, is it just about sexual preference in the afab people who form a growing portion of trans patients? I think there gotta be more to it.

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>is transness just about sexual preference?

No, of course not.

Why wouldn't a woman who is attracted to other women... just have sexual relationships with women? Why would the idea to seriously and irreversibly modify her body even come to her mind just in order to date other women which she can already perfectly do?

One can imagine a world where no one knows that homosexuality is a thing, but transgenderness is a well established phenomena. Or a world where trans people are universally supported and celebrated, while lesbians are an extremely oppressed minority. There, indeed, would be reasons for geniune lesbians to go through transition.

But our world is very different! Homosexuality is more acknowledged and respected phenomena that transgenderness. Trans people are generally more looked down upon than lesbians. So one has to believe that trans people are very stupid to think that they are going through gender transition just for the sake of sexual preference.

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The original comment seems to be trying to argue as follows:

(1) Some people deny transness and claim that 'you are not trans (men), you are lesbian (women)' in regard to trans men who identify as straight men who are attracted to women

(2) This labels *all* trans people, be they trans women or trans men, as lesbians because of being trans

(3) Thus a trans man who is attracted to men is a lesbian (by virtue of being trans, not by virtue of sexual orientation)

(4) This then makes them a lesbian who sleeps with men

It's a very elaborate set-up for a joke, that doesn't quite come off

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Here, I'm referring to people assigned female at birth, but male identified

U.K. schools guidance says to consider the possibility they might be lesbians

... but, a considerable portions of this group are asexual, or in relationship with a guy

.. who, therefore, are not lesbian by previous reasonable definition of what a lesbian is

.. but, hey, U.K. schools and nhs therapists are going to insist they're lesbians, not trans, despite them not being attracted to females

.. hence U.K. guidance to schools etc appears to be creating a class of person who is attracted to men, but is officially, in the eyes of their school and their therapist, a lesbian

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Apr 12·edited Apr 12

Can you refer me to the actual guidance document or text so I can read it and not be arguing with you over second-hand accounts?

I think if you're in a relationship with a boy and identifying as male they won't take you as being lesbian, but neither would they say you must be trans. You could be non-gender conforming to notions of femininity. Or a butch lesbian, that too is a possibility. Or even bi.

This is what I've got so far, and while it's very cautious and clearly in response to parents' concerns, there's nothing there that says "tell them they're lesbians":

https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/2023/12/19/gender-questioning-children-guidance-schools-colleges/

"In England, children can’t obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate so their legal sex will always be the same as their biological sex. There is also no general duty that says schools and colleges must support a child to take steps that are part of ‘social transition’ – such as agreeing to change their name or pronouns.

This guidance is clear that schools and colleges have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of all children, which means that a cautious approach should be taken when responding to requests to social transition.

Schools and colleges should create an environment that is respectful of all beliefs. This means no one should be expected to use preferred pronouns and they should not be sanctioned for making honest mistakes. In all cases, bullying must not be tolerated.

While the guidance is there to help teachers, parents’ views should be at the centre of every decision schools make about their child.

This is draft guidance for consultation and we would like to encourage schools, colleges, parents and the sector to share their feedback. The consultation will run for 12 weeks.

What does it mean for a child who asks to socially transition at school or college?

Teachers shouldn’t initiate or suggest to a child that they socially transition – they should begin to consider a request if a student has asked to do so.

If a child does ask to socially transition, for example, to use a pronoun that is different to their biological sex, then teachers shouldn’t automatically agree.

Parents have a right to know and teachers should discuss the child’s request with their parents or guardian and take into account their views, except in exceptional circumstances where this risks significant harm to the child.

They should also consider whether it’s in their best interest, considering the wider context, including whether it will have an impact on the wider school, and allow a good amount of time to think before rushing into a decision.

What about single-sex spaces like toilets and changing rooms?

It’s important that single-sex spaces such as toilets, showers and changing rooms, remain single-sex, and schools should continue to ensure children aged 11 or older should not be made to get changed or wash in front of children of the opposite sex.

Schools and colleges should also not allow children to share a room overnight with those of the opposite sex.

Where possible, schools and colleges should consider providing alternative facilities for gender questioning children who aren’t comfortable using the single-sex areas designated for their biological sex.

These alternative facilities, however, should never undermine the single-sex facilities, for example a boy should never be allowed to go into a girls toilet, or vice versa."

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Apr 12·edited Apr 12

Here's the draft document:

https://consult.education.gov.uk/equalities-political-impartiality-anti-bullying-team/gender-questioning-children-proposed-guidance/supporting_documents/Gender%20Questioning%20Children%20%20nonstatutory%20guidance.pdf

"This is non-statutory guidance from the Department for Education. Its focus is to provide practical advice, which we expect schools and colleges to follow to help them make decisions regarding children who are questioning their gender. Schools and colleges should make decisions to ensure that everyone is kept safe and treated with respect and understanding, within an environment that protects the rights of children fairly."

So it's non-statutory, meaning that if a school decides to do so, it can go "Okay Susie, you are now Johnny!" despite what the Department advises.

Okay, Ctrl+F for "lesbian" gets me this:

"Is there an interaction with a child’s sexual orientation? Schools and colleges should note that the Cass Review ‘heard from young lesbians who felt pressured to identify as transgender male, and conversely transgender males who felt pressured to come out as lesbian rather than transgender’. Where a child discloses that they are also questioning or exploring their sexual orientation, schools should make clear that they are under no pressure to reach a particular outcome."

So, you Cheeky Charlie you, the schools are *not* being told "Tell 'em they're really lesbian", they're being told "don't jump to 'you must be this or that' immediately".

I don't know where you got your view on what was being said, but I'm sure organisations like Mermaids (which I consider to have been steered by an absolute fruitcake raving parent to 'all trans all the time immediately now now now') would put the worst possible interpretation out there, e.g. "Schools are being told to force transgender male pupils to identify as lesbians" or the likes, for their own propaganda purposes.

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Were you taught any astronomy in K-12? I don't remember, I think I picked up most of my astronomy from science fiction, but astronomy might have been included in other science courses.

Please include when you were in school, at least the decade, and where. If you were in the US, let me know the state or region.

I've seen a claim that astronomy isn't taught in K-12 in the US because it conflicts with young earth creationism, but I have no idea whether this is true. I would have guessed that if it isn't taught, it would be just because they didn't get around to it.

So I'm taking this little survey. I realize ACX isn't a random sample, but I started the survey on Facebook, and ACX is at least generally younger and more geographically varied.

The Facebook results so far is that people were mostly taught astronomy in school.

I do think that if schools were dropping astronomy, I'd have heard of it, but maybe some schools never had it.

I think news stories have been pretty good about what happened, at least at the level of saying the moon got in front of the sun.

Perhaps the people who didn't know what was happening were picked by reporters. Perhaps astronomy, even on the minimal level, is a blur for a lot of people so they don't pay attention.

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Apr 14·edited Apr 14

In the 90s (Southern US), I took an astronomy class in middle school as an elective. I'm pretty sure the material wasn't covered in the standard science classes. (But certainly the basics like the number of pizzas my very elegant mother served us were covered.)

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"I've seen a claim that astronomy isn't taught in K-12 in the US because it conflicts with young earth creationism"

This is a useful hint that you don't need to listen to the person saying that on any topic whatsoever.

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The actual young-earth-creationist I knew in grade school, way back when, was quite clear that the universe looked to be a lot older, because it was created that way. Dinosaur fossils and all. But they were at least as smart as I was, and also the child of a fundamentalist preacher, so their beliefs might not be representative.

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The astronomy you'd get in grade school would just be planets and moons and orbits, and wouldn't conflict with young-earth creationism. I vaguely recall having Earth Science in 9th grade (in a very small town in the midwest) and hearing that the Earth was 4 billion years old, but I was a science-obsessed kid, so I'd probably read that a dozen times before then.

It actually takes some thought to work out why astronomy conflicts with a young-Earth creationist worldview, and I doubt many people have bothered. Those inclined to die on some related hill prefer dying on keeping the high school biology teacher from mentioning evolution.

There are also a bunch of other things that conflict with it (how far back does Egyptian history go?), but again, hardly anyone thinks that hard about the matter.

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Apr 12·edited Apr 12

Not American, my primary school education (4 to 12 years of age) did not include astronomy as such, but as part of the general science/nature studies classes (if I'm remembering correctly all the way back then).

Secondary school education (12-17 years of age) would have included that as part of physics classes. Certainly was nothing to do with young earth creationism, even though I was taught by nuns all my school life, and I'm old enough to be able to remember the moon landing when I was a young child so I would have had some idea of "the moon goes around the earth" for that 😀

I would venture that wherever you read that, it was perhaps one particular example of some school or class that then got generalised out to "all them Bible-basher rednecks deny SCIENCE!!!! and use their influence, backed up by the nefarious Republican Party who want to keep the populace ignorant and superstitious for their own benefit, to prevent SCIENCE!!!! being taught in schools". Probably some offshoot of the whole 'creationism in schools' fight. Never heard that bit about astronomy before, though, they usually stick to evolution as the casus belli.

"I think news stories have been pretty good about what happened, at least at the level of saying the moon got in front of the sun."

Speaking of that, another instance of a politician getting science wrong happened recently and is being covered by (mostly) the right-wing press because, to quote Sky News Australia, it's another instance of "a lefty losing it galactically":

https://nypost.com/2024/04/09/us-news/sheila-jackson-lee-tells-students-the-moon-is-a-planet-made-up-mostly-of-gases/

"The former top Democrat on the House Science Committee’s space subcommittee badly botched elementary lunar facts while speaking during the gathering at Booker T. Washington High School in Houston.

“You’ve heard the word ‘full moon.’ Sometimes you need to take the opportunity just to come out and see a full moon is that complete rounded circle, which is made up mostly of gases,” Jackson Lee, 74, told teenage pupils who gathered on a sports field ahead of the rare celestial event.

“And that’s why the question is why or how could we as humans live on the moon? Are the gases such that we could do that?” the congresswoman said.

“The sun is a mighty powerful heat, but it’s almost impossible to go near the sun. The moon is more manageable.”

I'm not mocking Texas Democrats for this (though it is tempting to have a jibe at the 'party of reason and science'), after all as pointed out on here, our own former Minister for Health thought Covid-19 was so named because there had been 18 previous Covids.

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My public elementary school had a planetarium. This was not common. When they rebuilt the school there was a big campaign to save the planetarium and have it reinstalled in the new building.

We went to the planetarium at least a few times a year. I remember learning about constellations and how meteors caused craters and stuff like that. I believe the "teachers" were parents who volunteered to come in and had some kind of experience/education in astronomy related things.

Otherwise, we learned astronomy within other science curriculum.

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Apr 11·edited Apr 11

I went to public schools in the U.S., and I was was taught astronomy in K-12. Also evolution, even though the teacher didn't believe it.

This was in Georgia. The town was conservative but not culturally southern.

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What does a "not culturally southern" town mean in Georgia?

Are there "not culturally northern" towns in Massachusetts?

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It's full of people from other parts of the country. Mostly military officers and airline pilots. I lost my southern accent living there.

I've never been to a comparable town in the north, but I suppose there probably are some.

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My educational background is non-typical for the U.S. However, I had a good idea of Lunar Eclipse by the time I was about 12 years old, and likely had a similar understanding of Solar Eclipses within a couple of years.

My parents taught me at home for most of my elementary/secondary education, and they used science textbooks published by a BIblical-literalist (or at least, Young Earth Creationist friendly) private college.

My parents also were heavy readers. For part of my life, they liked to read biographies of important men and women from history as evening entertainment for the family.

Both sources of info spend a lot of time discussing astronomy. The science textbook had a section on how Galileo Galilei, Tycho Brahe, and Johannes Kepler together revolutionized astronomy and the model of the Solar System.

Among the biographies were stories of the life of Kepler, as well as the life of Isaac Newton. (The biography of Kepler included some mention of the effects of the Gregorian calendar reform on daily life, as well as the time Kepler tried to intervene to save his mother from accusations of witchcraft. It also tried to provide an explanation for the fact that Kepler published horoscope-style predictions based on his study of the stars. The biography of Newton included his interactions with other members of the Royal Society, his role as Chief of the Mint, and the fact that he spent a lot of time and effort writing commentaries on the Apocalyptic sections of the Bible. Both biographies presented the men as Heroes of Science.)

It took me a while to figure out that both sets of stories may have been motivated by opposition to the historical influence of the Catholic church, as much as to teaching the history of Science. I can't tell if the authors had that impact in mind specifically, but I noticed that the English-speaking world has lots of assumptions about Science escaping the grip of the organized Catholic Church, alongside assumptions about Protestant reformers escaping the grip of Papal error. It's not that the biographies were wrong, but that they told stories which supported those assumptions.

To add another layer to this: I was also an airplane-and-spaceship nerd for a time, so I read lots of stories-for-kids about the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo missions, Skylab, and the Space Shuttle. I also paged through some books published by National Geographic which had lots of detail about astronomy, planets, the solar system... and even a cute diagram of how Eratosthenes calculated the approximate size of the Earth. (This last detail led to an early case of me doubting a piece of history my parents told me. They both said that Columbus sailed in 1492 to prove the Earth was round. But Eratosthenes apparently knew that sometime before the birth of Christ, and it was taught by Aristotle and Ptolemy.)

So I don't know which source included eclipses, but I know that I was aware of them before I ever had a chance to observe one.

For reference, I was six years old when the Shuttle Challenger exploded on takeoff, and was a college student when the Shuttle Columbia disintegrated during re-entry.

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People who complain about the loading time of comments here should probably be aware of how this works in tech.

Meeting.

Bob the engineer: next item, fixing the comments. They load very slowly after 500 or so.

Product manager: how many substacks is that?

Bob: er, less than 0.1% but obviously they are popular stacks given the number of comments. We estimate 1-2% of users. We could do a reddit type solution.

PM: we are not Reddit. Reddit is all about comments, and that’s what drives traffic there, we are driven by the top line posts.

Bob: which brings people who comment. And then it falls over.

PM: for 1-2% … what about the mobile apps?

Bob: the comments scroll quickly there

PM: so less than 1-2% then in total. And we have a workaround.

Bob: but the mobile apps have other problems like not being able to edit…

PM: that’s a different task also on the backlog. Are the people who complain leaving the platform

Bob: no evidence of that right now, but they do complain a lot.

PM: where? On the App Store?

Bob: (exasperated) … no, obviously on the website. We have 4.8/5.0 ratings on the store. They complain on the comment threads if they get too large.

Pm: well luckily those comments are not readable. How long would it take us to redesign the website like Reddit.

Bob: 1-2months if we applied all front end resources

PM: keep the task open. Priority 3.

Bob: as in never get to it. Anyway next item…

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Surveilling people without their permission is illegal, you know...

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I have a question if it is not too late to ask. I apologize in advance if it is a stupid one (and yes some questions are so ill-informed as to be stupid).. So here it is. Is there any? way to quantify the degree to which a particular course of action is subject to the law of unintended consequences. Two examples,

Corn Ethanol Subsidies: These subsidies were meant to promote energy independence and reduce carbon emissions. Instead, they contributed to the rise in food prices by diverting corn from food production to energy, affecting global food markets.

The Cobra Effect: This term comes from an incident during British rule in colonial India, where a bounty was offered for every dead cobra to reduce their numbers. Instead, people began breeding cobras for income, increasing the population when the program ended and breeders released the snakes.

In other words, if by definition you can't predict what unintended consequence will occur, can you somehow determine what actions are more likely to lead to one?

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> if by definition you can't predict what unintended consequence will occur

There is a difference between "unintended" and "unpredictable". Sometimes the person who designs the rule is just insufficiently competent or does not care about long-term consequences, but someone else easily could have predicted the consequences.

So I would recommend to bring some people whose paycheck does not depend on the person proposing the rule, and tell them to brainstorm for 5 minutes about possible perverse incentives this rule would create or how someone could easily circumvent the rule.

Those people should be familiar with the concepts of "if something gets more expensive, people may start buying less of it", "if something gets less expensive, people may start using it wastefully", "people may follow the letter of the rule in a way that goes against its spirit", "if you provide support for people who are in some situation, people may now be more likely to get in that situation or less likely to get out of it", "if you increase the tax on something, people may start doing less of it (or move to a different country)", etc. It might help to provide them a list of examples of similar things that have already happened.

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If I recall correctly the biggest boosters of ethanol subsidies — and ethanol mandates in gasoline — were politicians from the corn belt of the US (mostly Republican IIRC). The corn-belt pols were for them because they'd shore up corn prices for their constituents (and that was the primary reason they were put into the bill). This was part of a larger pork-barrel energy spending package to promote US energy independence. The (supposed) environmental benefits of ethanol were talked up, and pro-environmental pols were persuaded to get on board with the bill by a ban on oil drilling under the Great Lakes and the Alaska Wildlife Refuge (put in at the last minute, or it wouldn't have passed w/o some Dem support).

But let's be clear, the ethanol subsidies and gas formulation mandates were meant to boost corn prices, though. That was its primary intended consequence. And it did that. ;-)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_Policy_Act_of_2005

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By definition you cannot, but I think you can at least have some heuristics that help. For instance, the larger the change, the more likely there will be larger consequences. Also, the less we understand about the relevant systems or how those systems connect with other systems, the more likely the consequences will be unintended. New things we don't understand, such as AI, are more likely to have unintended consequences. How far-reaching those consequences will be (positive or negative) depends heavily on how much, in this case AI, gets integrated into other systems.

Do keep in mind that some unintended consequences must be positive, but, complex systems are much easier to break than to create, so we would also have to know that most unintended consequences must therefore be negative.

Global shipping is extremely complicated and massive, so most system-wide changes will cause negative unintended consequences and likely more problems than it solves. The same could be said of passenger airplanes, international law, etc.

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I think this is in general hard, but probably you can see a little ahead by thinking about how your policy changes peoples' incentives, and then how the world created by those new incentives will change incentives, and so on. And probably even more by knowing about many past policy changes and how they worked out.

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Yes, but the recursive nature of the changes only becomes clear in retrospect. First order incentives can be, though not necessarily are, relatively easy to guess. Second order effects are significantly harder, and depend completely on being correct about the first order effects. Anything beyond that feels like guesswork with massive error bars.

One of the trickiest things is knowing what people's real incentives are. Sometimes we think their incentives are A, but instead they are more B. Sometimes they don't even know until forced to make a choice, which means polling or any other kind of work to predict what people want will be wrong and wasted effort. In fact, worse, because you're reacting to incentives that don't really exist and ignoring the real incentives.

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I agree that this is hard. In the example of the cobra bounties, the people offering the bounties expected the incentive "kill cobras to get bounties" but not the incentive of "raise cobras to get bounties."

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I don’t think there’s a way to quantify that, however the first question is just simple economics. Food prices had to rise in that scenario. I assume that was an intended, but assumed acceptable, consequence

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In a move nobody could have seen coming (or at least, not the gentlemen who hysterically calling Scott, myself and others "white supremacists" for casting doubts on the project when scott first posted on it), the Saudis have been forced to scale back their planes for 'The Line' linear city: https://archive.is/xetJQ

Instead of being open to residents by 2030 as first planned, the city is expected to measure only 1.5 miles of the full 105 miles by that time.

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Apr 11·edited Apr 11

I remember a *lot* of people mocking The Line on this site, and I don't remember any of them getting called white supremacists for it. I'm not going to say there were *zero* comments, because it's the internet and there is always at least one nutcase who holds any position, but, come on man. Stop making every fucking news article on the planet into a story about how liberals are evil.

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Exactly. It's like Hammond doesn't even read the site he's posting on. (Given the volume of his comments though, he obviously does read it and just doesn't care.)

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Some dimwit on the internet will call you a racist if you put two sugars in your tea. (Probably because it proves you're not a real Scottsman.) But you don't have to care.

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Black woman of color Lisa Cook, Biden's diversity hire at the fed, has all too predictably turned out to be a plagiarist: https://www.dailywire.com/news/trouble-at-the-fed

For those playing along at home, Cook was one of the co-authors of an infamous paper alleging that racist violence was responsible for a drop off in black patents after 1900, but which was revealed to be a product of the data of main dataset they were using ending in 1900: https://twitter.com/AnechoicMedia_/status/1489847148862742531

And all of this makes me laugh so much considering the number of people on here who have claimed, apparently very sincerely, that DEI is simply about making sure that capable minority candidates aren't discriminated against (this is trivially false from the name 'diversity, equity and inclusion', but it's nice to have real world counter-examples).

Of course, the fact that nobody seemed interested in a far more egregious case of affirmative action in government hiring when Scott posted a link to it makes me suspect we're dealing with people unwilling to update regardless of the evidence: https://www.tracingwoodgrains.com/p/the-faas-hiring-scandal-a-quick-overview

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founding

Nobody here is playing along at home, and we'd prefer you not keep trying to drag us into your game.

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Very disappointing dark pattern in Substack's iOS app.

I attempted to read the linked post below, which was subscriber-only. Substack offered an opportunity to “Continue reading this post, courtesy of Jeff Maurer [Claim my free post]”. Just to be clear, I don’t object to this arrangement—many other authors have similar terms.

https://imightbewrong.substack.com/p/more-evidence-emerges-that-lefty

Clicking [Claim my free post] opened a dialog to [Subscribe and unlock]. Clicking through opened another dialog: “Verify your number: We need to verify your phone number before unlocking this post”.

This is misleading and exploitative. I have never given Substack my phone number. There is nothing which can be “verified”. Substack is simply using Jeff Maurer’s article as a lever to collect my phone number.

Why?

(I had posted a version of this to Jeff in Substack Notes; posting to ACX for posterity.)

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Apr 11·edited Apr 11

> Why?

...Because they want your phone number? Why are you still expecting anything of this site?

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I'm on Safari on a laptop. I do not use Substack apps, just go to Substack site using my browser, and I seem to have less trouble with the site than many. (It loads very slowly when there are more than 500 comments, and occasionally swallows a half-written post, but those are the only 2 problems.). So I clicked that link, and after a few paragraphs of the author's post Substack offered me a free subscription, but first asked for my email address, which I gave, so it could send me a link to sign in. Substack has it already anyhow (and I was already signed in.) I was not asked for my phone number. Checked my email, and found I got not a link for signing in, but a link for downloading the app. WTF? I don't want the app.

And this is new.

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This may be new, but Substack being an objectively awful website isn't new. I'm a little surprised that a competing platform hasn't popped up with the simple value proposition "Substack, but things work."

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Whenever it annoys me enough (which is often), I go back to the old slatestarcodex site, to a post with over a thousand comments, like

https://slatestarcodex.com/2016/04/27/book-review-albions-seed/

and grab the scroll bar, fling it up and down, and just marvel at the speed, the efficiency.

Remember what they took from you!

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People who complain about the loading time of comments here should probably be aware of how this works in tech.

Meeting.

Bob the engineer: next item, fixing the comments. They load very slowly after 500 or so.

Product manager: how many substacks is that?

Bob: er, less than 0.1% but obviously they are popular stacks given the number of comments. We estimate 1-2% of users. We could do a reddit type solution.

PM: we are not Reddit. Reddit is all about comments, and that’s what drives traffic there, we are driven by the top line posts.

Bob: which brings people who comment. And then it falls over.

PM: for 1-2% … what about the mobile apps?

Bob: the comments scroll quickly there

PM: so less than 1-2% then in total. And we have a workaround.

Bob: but the mobile apps have other problems like not being able to edit…

PM: that’s a different task also on the backlog. Are the people who complain leaving the platform

Bob: no evidence of that right now, but they do complain a lot.

PM: where? On the App Store?

Bob: (exasperated) … no, obviously on the website. We have 4.8/5.0 ratings on the store. They complain on the comment threads if they get too large.

Pm: well luckily those comments are not readable. How long would it take us to redesign the website like Reddit.

Bob: 1-2months if we applied all front end resources

PM: keep the task open. Priority 3.

Bob: as in never get to it. Anyway next item…

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I am not at all surprised that a network monopoly with years of programmer time spent on the site has not been disrupted by an upstart spending years of programming time with zero revenue to catch up.

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What exactly does being a network monopoly mean in this context? If another platform with better functionality emerged, I think most authors could easily move there, taking their audiences with them. The more money they make, the more careful they need to be, but they could also pay someone to help with the process.

Assuming that the other site is "like Substack, but better", that is, it supports the concept of paying subscribers, but offers better technical solutions for writing and commenting, you could simply start posting the same content on both websites, but only allow commenting on the new one. People who do not care about the comment section can stay subscribed on Substack. People who want to comment have a motivation to move to the new website, but if they procrastinate with the move, they still get to read your articles on the old website -- so it's not like you suddenly took away from them something they keep paying for.

You could even create an unpaid category "people who are still subscribed on Substack" on the new website (and you would pay someone to keep this category synchronized with the actual Substack membership) and give them a right to also comment on the new website. But new users could no longer subscribe on Substack, only on the new website. And once in a while you would add some content for the users subscribed on the new website only, to encourage the Substack subscribers to move. Basically, you would need to carefully balance "I don't want to make the Substack subscribers angry at me" with "but I want them to have an incentiive to move to the new website". Anyway, time is on your side now, because new users can only subscribe on the new website. And when the people who stayed on Substack become a minority of your total audience, you can increase the pressure on them by removing their ability to comment on the new website completely.

From the perspective of the new website, you don't have to become as big as Substack in short term. You only need to become big enough to survive. That should be doable with a fraction of authors. I may be wrong here, but I do not think that Substack is more complicated than LessWrong, so the costs should be comparable.

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I've been wondering if liveable neighborhoods have been proven to have an effect on screen addiction, or screen time, but I can't seem to find any studies on it. Are any of you in the know?

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I'm not aware of studies in on, but my guess is that the effect would be pretty minimal, based on my own experience. I live in what, by almost any definition, would be a "livable neighborhood" and kids don't play outside all that often. My best guess is that screens now provide so much of what people want from entertainment to social connection that there is less need to go outside. The solution to this would then need to be two-fold - safe and enjoyable places to go (your question) and screens offering less utility.

My hope at this point is that people begin to seriously recognize the disutility that comes from screens and more accurately rate their experience on them. I think that doing this will result in people spending less time on screens, if they have alternatives available.

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"Liveable neighborhood" is a problematic term. I mean, I'm sure high-crime racial minorities being absent from the neighborhood actually counts *against* liveability metrics....

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Your pony has shown us its trick now.

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Will every comment of yours have a race element? Its so tiring and low quality.

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Also "screen addiction".

I would guess that people who live in nice neighbourhoods spend more time staring at screens. Why? Because they're white-collar workers with desk jobs. Although the _really_ nice neighbourhoods are disproprortionately populated by old people, who spend less time staring at screens.

Once you tease out all the age and class effects maybe you'll have a meaningful study, maybe you won't. But what's the point? If you're actively deciding whether to build a nice neighbourhood or a crappy neighbourhood then you don't need some crappy study to tell you to build a nice one. Crappy neighbourhoods are not built because people actively decide to build crappy neighbourhoods.

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Well, there's the problem of defining "livable neighborhood" in a way that lends itself to a meaningful study.

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I guess I should have offered proxies for liveable neighborhoods in my opening comment. I think we can make a reasonable approximation. After all, liveability is what so many planners, architects and yimby/nimbys are fighting for, and I dont see them engaging in-fighting about definitions. It's a fuzzy cluster, where the center has the properties that:

The area surrounding the home...

- Either has a low rate of through traffic, maybe less than 500 motorized vehicles a day, and has slow moving motorized traffic, probably maximum 40 km/h

- Or has a separate path for soft traffic (bikes, pedestrians)

And when the home is no more than 4 floors up from ground level

And when there are "third spaces" in the vicinity of the home, such as:

- Seating that is comfortable year-round, that people can use without the expectation of paying

Etc. I'm sure it can be done more elegantly or with fewer parameters than I gave as example. Designing the study definitely requires attention, but I'm sure it's possible. I'd be surprised if it hasn't been done.

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Is the basic idea here just a neighborhood where it's easy to walk places, or pleasant to be outside?

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I just read Dr Bess Stillman's article, Debugging the Doctor Brain (about the perverse incentives that makes learning during residency difficult) and I'm wondering whether there's a single white collar field (I have no experience in blue collar, I don't know if it holds true there) that is actually good at (or taking steps to improve) training university graduates or if they're all awful.

I'm an engineer < 5 years out of uni, and many in my social circle are too. I'm finding, and this agrees with my other junior engineer friends, that there's not enough senior engineering oversight to go around. Most of us are making do, until we find out that management (often not engineering) has been asking us to sign off on things that are supposed to be checked by chartered engineers (which require evidence of professional development - most of us don't have that yet).

I learn in bits and pieces, and I'm grateful for any amount of time I get from senior people around me, but corporate cost-cutting has drastically shifted the ratios of experienced engineers and fresh grads. In many disciplines, there's a missing level of experience - around the 10 year mark. Most of us only have a group of equally clueless peers or one very busy subject matter expert (20+ years experience). I'm not sure if this is a retention issue or a retrenchment issue. It's all really really similar to Bess' observation on residents not being given sufficient guidance or learning space!

I am worried that this is happening to every professional field simultaneously - most of the workforce is inexperienced (because they're cheaper), experienced personnel are scarce and overloaded, the standard of the practice goes down because of this "figure it out" culture, where there's not quite enough people to even do the job, and people aren't being trained to do it properly. Obvious implications are worse healthcare, more mistakes in engineering (more expensive, less efficient, and unsafe infrastructure), more incompetence and fraud in everything.

I want to figure out if I'm noticing a real problem, but also wondering how to fix it.

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>I'm wondering whether there's a single white collar field (I have no experience in blue collar, I don't know if it holds true there) that is actually good at (or taking steps to improve) training university graduates or if they're all awful.

Software engineering at Big Tech companies. I've worked for three (Microsoft, Google, and Adobe) and have friends who've worked for a bunch of others. In most cases, the companies recruit junior programmers primarily with the goal of developing them into senior programmers. In general, junior programmers start out doing well-defined bite-sized tasks under guidance from their more senior peers while mid-career programmers are gradually given bigger tasks with more autonomy. There's a pretty smooth pyramid between different experience levels, although past a certain point (maybe ~10 years of experience) you start seeing seniority becoming only very loosely correlated with years of experience as many people plateau at the the mid-career workhorse paygrades.

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You're right! Software is also kind of unique - it's one of the only fields that has an actual skills test in the interview process. If you're interviewing to be an auditor (to my knowledge) they don't hand you a ledger to audit.

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Software engineering at smaller/mid sized tech companies is not usually like that, in my experience.

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> I am worried that this is happening to every professional field simultaneously

One harmful meme that I noticed is the idea which many managers seem to share, that you can separate the company into "cost centers" and "profit centers" as if you could treat them independently. The salesmen bring you money, so they are the important ones. The people who actually produce the stuff you sell, they just increase your costs of running business, so you spend on them as little as possible... you experiment how far you can push things before the production collapses. The managers, well, technically they also don't sell, but they are the ones who make the reports, which usually allows them to spin their work as "saved the company a lot of money by cutting costs", which is almost as good as bringing the money from outside. (Except, the salesman can sell the same type of product every quarter, while the manager needs to always find new ways to cut costs.)

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The way I remember it from business school in the mid-2000s, "profit centers" include the entire production and distribution chain for your money-making products: not just salesmen, but also manufacturing, logistics, procurement, and (often) R&D. "Cost centers" are stuff that supports (or is supposed to support) the profit centers' operation but don't directly make and sell stuff: HR, legal, IT, facilities, etc.

The takeaway isn't that you necessarily cut cost centers to the bone, just that you judge them on how cost-effective they are at enabling your profit centers to do their profit-generating activities.

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I learned about "line" and "staff" positions. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staff_and_line

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Interesting that these terms have jumped from military to business jargon. You start to run into serious problems when staff orgs expand and begin to eclipse the line units. c.f. university admins, some militaries.

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That makes more sense.

Though I wonder whether there is some game of telephone involved between the school and the real life. (Similarly how in IT development there is a theory of "agile development", and then there is the standard practice which is almost the exact opposite of it.)

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I'm in a decidedly less high-stakes industry, at a high-end boutique luxury hotel, and have noticed a similar pattern, except that in this case I'm a 20+ year pro who has very deliberately chosen to be underemployed in a front-of-house role rather than taken on the stress and hassle of promoting into management.

So I'm in the unusual position of being almost infinitely more knowledgeable about our absurdly complex day-to-day processes than anyone who has promoted away from the product we sell (which is of course the onsite experience of the hotel stay). Just to give you an idea of why this matters, our onsite general manager would be the first to admit that, were the entire front of house team to walk off the job, he and every offsite executive above him would not know how to check a guest in, make a key, properly bill them, etc. I'm not totally confident they'd be able to even find the reports they'd need to run the hotel "analog." The software and systems have changed too much since they last touched the end product, and if you're thinking, "how hard could it be to check in a guest?", well, literally hundreds of travel agencies with thousands of rate codes and dozens of sales groups each with 5 different billing options for 13 different types of rooms and hair-trigger guests paying $450 a night with totally reasonable high expectations might reply, "we make it pretty difficult, especially when the luxury hotel experience requires a show of flawless, polished competence."

That's why, in the Before Times, no new front desk agent was ever left unsupervised for even ten minutes their first twelve weeks of the job, much less allowed to work a shift alone (with all of the administrative duties in addition to interacting with guests). The front of house manager or a supervisor always had an eye on them so that after 12 weeks, pretty much every agent could be depended on to deliver the end product more or less flawlessly.

That standard was starting to degrade a little even before the pandemic, but post-pandemic, it now feels like a golden age fever dream of competency, pun intended.

Almost our entire front of house staff was laid off in March of 2020 - over a dozen people who were all fully trained with highly polished soft skills and a deep understanding of how to deliver a truly luxury experience. The front of house manager, plus an accountant, plus me ran the front of house for 2-3 guests a night for the bulk of 2020. Luxury standards like daily housekeeping and turndown service, concierge services, doormen, wine hour, room service, amenity treats in rooms and so on were of course dropped - we weren't allowed to provide them and guests weren't expecting them and no one was on staff to perform them, anyway.

As demand gradually started to rise again, we went through a particularly dark period where we needed staff, but no one competent wanted to work. Literally. Job postings would go up and no one would answer. Then one person would answer, get hired, and be an absurd parody of insouciant slacker entitlement (or worse, and there was *much* worse!) before being replaced, usually be someone almost equally bad.

Oh, and while this was happening, our property had what was effectively a pandemic-enabled "hostile takeover" by a new hotel management company which didn't have any experience in the luxury market. The chaos of that transition drove away our remaining end-product-touching front-of-house manager.

Eventually pandemic unemployment benefits expired and "normal" new employees began to drift in. But with upper management not being able to train employees on the Before Times end product, and brand new lower level managers who never even knew the what the Before Times product was like, training new employees fell to...whomever was around, even if that was an almost equally new employee hired three weeks before.

So just to recap: We've gone from having no front-of-house staffer ever left alone until they were highly polished and competent to people who don't know what they're doing training people who know even less. The luxury product itself degraded at every level - most of the grace-note services haven't returned and the luxury standards dropped considerably. Positions which used to require a polished uniform are now performed in jeans and a t-shirt, often absent even a name-tag to differentiate an employee from a random person off the street. It's okay for a valet to tell a guest, "Oh, I don't drive stick," and for a front desk agent to say, "I don't know how to do that," or "I'll have to get my manager," or even, "No."

Oh, and the rate for a room?

It's as high as it was pre-pandemic, even though the competency of our staffing is wholly dependent on a given individual employee's work ethic.

And *none* of them understand the sort of Carson-the-Butler-from-Downton-Abbey-esque pride in delivering an expertly *professional* service to the upper class (or people who are paying for an upper class experience), so it's simply been lost as part of the product...unless a guest is interacting with *me.*

I think you're right, this phenomenon is happening everywhere. I see signs of it in almost every business I patronize, sometimes in large degrees, sometimes in small.

How to fix it?

Go six levels down.

Michael Lewis describes the idea in this podcast (https://www.pushkin.fm/podcasts/against-the-rules/six-levels-down). If a company's end product is broken, find the most knowledgeable person who is still touching the end product and then follow their advice about how to fix the system. This person is usually six levels down from the C-suite.

It makes sense. Upper management can't fix a product they no longer have time - or perhaps even understand how - to make. New employees can't fix a product they don't yet understand.

Only the "middle" can fix the issue, and just like the middle class, they are rapidly vanishing, and no one is interested in what the remaining few have to say.

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(Just want to say, this is an excellent comment, thank you for posting it.)

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Hey thanks for saying that!

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I found myself thinking about it (and your followups) several times in the following day or two, and figured I should say something. :-)

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I wonder if the vanishing middle managers (which, actually, tend to be peak technical knowledge and experience - it's the final layer of management that has contact with the core business, the layers above do more abstract management things)

That should be scary for everyone. The ability to buy a true luxury experience is now gone (the competency to make everything seamless is gone). The competency to treat patients is only being maintained by a system that abuses junior doctors and works them 80 hours a week - on the job learning, to make up for inadequate educstion. The competency for everything else - building a safe airplane, maintaining bridges, building products that work - are just being lost.

I think you're also onto something - culture. Pre pandemic, your workplace had a culture of excellence. You had a clear vision of what you're delivering and knew all the nuts and bolts to achieve it, including measures like "this is how long it takes to integrate a new person into our ways of working and culture".

At a place like Boeing, this is a safety and quality culture - when you make a big deal and get managers to look at things, how much effort you go to to deliver the plane. At a place like Burger King, it's also a safety culture, enforced by management. The corporate food safety guy has no ability to personally visit every store and check that they're storing lettuce correctly. They're writing rules and relying on the store manager to enforce it. They're relying on staff throwing out the onions when they're moldy instead of just cooking them anyway because ordering onions will be more effort and annoy the regional manager and affect the KPIs. PG&E let a guy who wasn't a chartered professional engineer look after all their buried gas pipeline in the suburbs, and it sounded like he didn't really have engineering oversight to check his risk assessments, just a non technical manager who approved the maintenance budget (who of course mostly grilled him if it costs too much).

I think this is completely because the corporate and business world no longer valid the business-specific technical knowledge and attitudes that make the whole business work. The middle manager is vanishing because people are correctly perceiving that the corporate world doesn't value doing your job well, it values whatever the hell upper management does, so they develop the skills to be upper managers at the expense of actual technical excellence.

I wonder if the same thing is happening in government? I do have a friend in government - same graduation year as me - who is already overseeing new intake, so probably a similar enough picture.

The inexperienced leading the incompetent. I hate it here!!!

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Oh man I hit a button and my browser ate my draft.

But basically, yes, I agree with everything here!

I think because my job is much lower-stakes and not especially technical, it's a lot easier to spot the chain of events that led to a degradation in the product. Boeing is almost infinitely more complex (plus they're obviously willing to murder people to prevent details from getting out (oh sure a whistleblower committed "suicide" hours after saying he would never do that and the day before he was due to finally testify in court...sadlol)) but I think many of the same forces are present.

Apparel in general has followed the same track - pretty much every brand has noticeably worse quality of materials and construction than it did 10 or 15 years ago, a phenomenon frequently observed by folk in the fashion/apparel industry.

And veterinary medicine in the US is a real disaster after private equity bought huge numbers of private practices and then brutally raised prices.

And on, and on.

I'm not feeling good about where this is heading.

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> Oh man I hit a button and my browser ate my draft.

As I do whenever I see someone mention this issue, I will now plug this browser plugin: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/textarea-cache/

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Why only the middle? Why not also ask lower level employees of long standing? Is the assumption here that any lower-level employees who would have anything valuable to say have already been squeezed out or have left on their own?

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Well of course exquisitely competent lower level employees should also be consulted, but I think they tend to be very rare in my particular industry - lower level positions tend to have high turnover as people either rise in the business or go elsewhere.

Ironically to your question, I actually *am* one of the lowest level employees in the corporate structure (though not at my property), which is one of many reasons I've not been consulted, even though a somewhat high-level visiting executive noticed my knowledge base and said I should probably be consulted on some property management software policy.

I enthusiastically volunteered myself in any capacity they needed, but never got the call.

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In my field, the lower level now consists mostly of contractors. A constant churn of contractors. I'm fairly far down, I interact with the contractors, and while we'd like to keep the ones that already know the job really well, a few levels up from me someone is bungling an enterprise agreement (so the competent workers we have either strike or leave), or writing a new contract with a different cheaper company that we have to bring up to speed anew.

The sticker price of a new contract is highly legible. The amount of lost productivity from having to bring a new crop of people up to speed, not so much.

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I think the goal is to find the sergeants of whatever organization it is; privates wouldn't have the necessary perspective.

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Yup, Senior NCOs who know their craft and describe the issues in terms that management will accept.

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Apr 10·edited Apr 10

"if you're thinking, "how hard could it be to check in a guest?"

I think there's a lot of this attitude towards what I'd call 'support staff', the general administration - the receptionists, secretaries, filing clerks, etc. The assumption there also is "well this is pretty much unskilled labour, if you were smart enough you'd have a degree or qualification and be an accountant or manager". These are often the roles that get squeezed or cut to reduce costs (think of customer service, think of outsourcing to call centres and how they run on scripts and through-put rather than dealing with queries, and now the push to automate even that away with AI).

But as you say, if all the front-line/public-facing/support staff walked out in the morning, the people who feel they contribute the most to making the money (be they sales or software engineers) would find things that routinely operate to make the running of the company smooth are missing. You may complain about "what does HR/payroll/etc. actually *do*?" but if your salary with the bonuses or allowances or expenses included doesn't end up in your bank account by the end of the month, you'll find out.

A lot of those processes are automated, but not all, and some real person has to enter in the data in the first place and correct any mistakes or screw-ups. (This plaint brought to you courtesy of low-level minion/administrative staff 😁)

EDIT: I would say that while you are correct that the problem can only be fixed by going to the level of the last competent person, the big problem is in the C-suite level. If they are operating on "we can still charge pre-pandemic prices while delivering a degraded service, which means lower costs", they have no incentive to change. Pushing up the share price is what counts today, and one way of doing that is to reduce costs (hence rounds of lay-offs). If the ycan produce an X Quarter report that says profitability has gone up (because of degraded service), then this means all the reports on them will be favourable, share price go up, trebles all round! (as "Private Eye" likes to say).

I think the notion of pride in providing a service is slowly dying. I could rumble on about schools these days etc. but I honestly, genuinely think there is a big difference in how younger generations approach everything. There was a mention in a comment elsewhere in another thread, I think, about "honor is no longer a concept" and that made me go "But I hold to honour!"

But it could be mine is the last generation that does so, because the culture has changed around us so much. Values have shifted, emphases on different ideals, scorn for the past and the assumption that it was all hypocrisy, to say the least.

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I wonder about the effects Covid/lockdown specifically had on that? I feel like, before 2020, I was much more concerned about pride in my work, and strived much more to do things properly. Now, I happen to be a student, and to have executive function issues from ASD, so maybe my workload just got harder as time went by, eventually exceeding my abilities, but that seems unlikely, and besides, a lot of people around me report the same feeling. I have no clue what could explain it, though.

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Big picture, the last 3ish years have had employees with significantly more control over their careers, a lot of places hiring at dramatically increased wages and reduced expectations, and little obvious signs of that changing.

If I can get a 30% raise going to some place at the drop of a hat, my current employer is going to walk on eggshells around me, even if I'm not very good. If I say I want to wear jeans every day, that's much more likely to be accepted or at least tolerated. If I do a lackluster job, same thing.

Honor culture/pride in your work operates on longer timeframes and reputation. In a short timeframe, employers don't know you or your work ethic, so there's not much to show or prove. If your manager may be gone in six months, there's even less reason to do things that don't have a tracked metric somewhere - like volunteering for tough tasks or always being on time.

I think honor will come back if/when the economy tightens up again, and employees want and need to differentiate themselves better. It may also happen if society develops better social scoring technology. Maybe not as thorough as China, but something more than word-of-mouth references or Google searches.

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I weirdly developed a much *better* work ethic during Covid. Sheer boredom pressed me into taking on more responsibilities than I normally would and I discovered it was actually personally satisfying to hammer all the nails, not just the ones my managers might notice.

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That's definitely part of it, I know since I spent a lot of time at home during the lockdown that my attitude towards work has changed (I definitely much prefer working from home).

But at the same time, I do get my job done and don't shrug it off as "who cares?"

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Incredible how many people and how many times all those people need to have the conversation, "you know janitors are important too right?" It's demoralizing.

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Janitors are very important, but some janitors are much better than others. Source: I've been through a janitor strike.

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I think people who've never worked those kinds of jobs, even as summer jobs, have no idea what's involved. There's the perennial comedy trope of the secretary who does nothing but file her nails and flirt with the boss, and from the outside it's easy to think "What is so hard about pushing a broom/answering the phone/typing some letters?"

Because those kind of jobs aren't *directly* making money for the business, then it's easy to think of them as useless/makeweight/ripe to be replaced by automation. Unless you need to know about it, or have worked those jobs, you don't realise the background support they provide. The first point of contact for potential clients and the public with your business is the person who answers the phone, and unprofessional attitudes will make a bad first impression and lose you business.

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When hiring a local business for work around the house (plumbing, construction, etc.) it's pretty common to find an owner-operator that tries to do a lot of the actual work and also scheduling/front end tasks. These people are hard to get in touch with and often forget important details, like what work you wanted to get done.

Also pretty often some will hire their wives or adult daughter to answer the phone and do the scheduling, and these places are *significantly* easier to work with. Just someone keeping track of the details so the workers and owner can keep up with the important stuff.

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I think you get that a lot with small tradesmen, they're doing every thing themselves plus probably working on three jobs at once, so they tend (at least the guys we've gotten to do small jobs at home) to hop around between your place and the other places they're working, so there is a lot of "are you doing that thing?/what thing? oh yeah that thing you wanted".

But there is such demand that they are kept busy, because it's a case of "well at least the guy is free now to work on this, if I turn him down I'll be waiting another six months for somebody else to do it". You can always tell when eventually wife/sister/daughter/someone takes over the paperwork, though 😁

Mind you, a lot of these guys are also "cash in hand" so... maybe not too anxious to have a paper trail behind them for tax purposes!

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I absolutely agree with you that the C-suite has no incentive to change when a degraded end product continues to make money or possible makes even *more* money than the higher standard.

In fact, I'd argue that's one of the contributing factors to products degrading over time, especially if market forces occur across an entire industry. Consumers resign themselves to a universally lower standard and then...well...that's the new standard, until various forces lower the standard even more.

And I agree with you that the idea of "service," much less *pride* in service, is absolutely dying, and I think some of it can be laid at the feet of oppression olympics culture. I've occasionally had to pull neophyte agents aside to explain to them that yes, the complaints the older rich white guy unloaded on them are actually valid considering that he's paying an average total of $500 a night to have a "perfect" experience and not be annoyed by *anything at all,* much less preventable problems like room attendants waking him at 7:30 in the morning shouting to one another in the hallways and then almost being late to a critical meeting because the valet kept him waiting half an hour.

I've had early-20s newbies look me right in the eye and say, "He's rich, he should get over it."

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That's the thing with culture. If this same agent is surrounded by people who take pride in providing a good service, they'll keep their opinions to themselves even just to fit in. Eventually they'll probably even come round to the idea that it's worth taking pride in providing top tier customer care - that this is a special thing your team can do.

But you lost your culture of amazing hospitality when corporate laid off the whole team overnight, and once lost it's somewhere between very difficult to impossible to rebuild.

Boeing used to have a culture of not accepting things not done to process, not accepting anything but perfect in their finished product - a big management shakeup completely destroyed that safety culture. The recent door thing - they couldn't even find a workpack relating to the door removal at the NTSB's request. There was a time when that course of action was unthinkable, but somehow now it's normal to bypass procedure when it's inconvenient.

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Might some of this have to do with the fact that the company, the guests, and apparently you and Deiseach, expect Carson-the-butler-from-Downton-Abbey-level professionalism when these employees are not being provided with anything approaching a Carson-the-butler-from-Downton-Abbey level of lifetime job security and wages in exchange for such polished and flawless service?

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Not really.

My property pays a higher wage than any budget hotel because there is more "work" than an average budget hotel. Consistently performing the highest level of warm, professional, polished hospitality *IS* this particular job. In fact, onsite management is so serious about employees nailing this performance that there are significant cash bonuses whenever a guest mentions an employee's performance in a survey or review.

And when I say "performing," I literally mean "acting." Our front desk is a stage, and just like a theater company requires its actors to stay in character, so to does the hotel.

Let me make this clear: I have none of Carson-the-Butler's reverence for the people I serve or our relative class status. Guests often really annoy me, and sometimes their complaints are trivial (or simply insane).

But part of being a service professional is never letting them see that, and I am very, *very* good at never letting them see that. So good that I frequently receive bonuses for pleasing guests who I privately think are total assholes.

It's in the best interest of the folks receiving wages here to get as close to Carson-the-Butler as they can manage.

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(1) Carson probably wasn't being paid all that much either

(2) There is the well-known saying "pay peanuts, get monkeys"

(3) I'm not on any level of bonuses etc. to go with increasing demands of the job

(4) All that being said, there's a bare minimum standard for every job, and half-assing it because "crappy pay, crappy conditions" won't make things better. I agree that crappy pay and crappy conditions will attract crappy workers, but the attitude that Christina is talking about, that of not even bothering to do the job because "fuck the rich" isn't good, either. Carry that over to a better job than being a hotel valet, and you'll be out the door for not doing your job competently.

There is a level of pride even in a crappy job, though I agree that being treated like dirt by management does engender the "fuck them, I'm doing the bare minimum" attitude. But that does mean the bare minimum, not "not even doing that much" e.g. turning up on time for the waiting customer.

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Well, Carson was senior management. Most of the staff got a tiny dorm room, free meals, 16 hour days with one day off every few weeks, and a salary in the tens of pounds a year.

And job security, subject to the whims and financial situation of your employers. And if you lose your job you lose your home too.

How easy, in comparison, is the life of a modern day hotel employee!

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Apr 10·edited Apr 10

"I've had early-20s newbies look me right in the eye and say, "He's rich, he should get over it.""

To which the answer is "You can think in the privacy of your mind as much as you like, 'fuck you rich guy', but outwardly you say 'I'm very sorry, sir, we'll get right on that' because he's the one paying your wages and you're doing a job".

"The valet was late" is a perfectly valid complaint. I'm sure if you kept these kids waiting half an hour or more for their break or their pay or whatever, they'd quickly start complaining. Someone complaining about something out of your control may be unreasonable, but you do the job. Someone complaining about bad service, be they rich or poor, is in the right. They're paying for a service/product, you're supplying it, it's no more acceptable than selling a defective product or item.

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Yes, but also, one of many, *many* mistakes our inexperienced corporate overlords continue to make is not providing front-of-house employees the opportunity to be on the receiving end of a luxury experience themselves- and a chance to see how annoying it can be when it goes wrong.

Even I get so used to hearing the same set of complaints from guests (generally about unfixable infrastructure issues with the building) that I internally grow a bit indifferent and "what's the big deal?" about some of them out of sheer repetition.

That's why it's incredibly helpful to be a guest yourself. Six months ago I had an objectively shitty stay in a different hotel in the brand (on a discounted employee rate which is was nevertheless offensively high), and when I say "objectively," I mean the floor of the room and the bed were *visibly* slopped to one side by like 4-5 degrees, so sloped that a water bottle set on the floor would simply roll away under its own weight. It was *instantly* noticeable when one laid on the bed, as my mother did right before her hip replacement surgery.

Later we independently discovered some maniac installed motion-sensor light switches in all of the interior bathrooms which would shut off the light if it didn't detect activity within two feet of the switch after ten minutes.

You know what wasn't within two feet of the switch? The shower, and the toilet.

Nothing like being plunged into almost perfect pitch-black while standing in a glass shower with unfamiliar controls.

And the elevators were frequently out, an issue when we were on the 15th floor.

And - most outrageous - the front desk employees lied right to my fellow-employee face and told me they didn't have anywhere they could freeze my mother's medical cold packs. The answer to "wait, how can I get this cold?" was "I dunno, maybe put them in an ice bucket and scoop some ice on them?" A current co-worker who used to work for that property said there were 6 different employee office fridges and freezers that the cold packs could have been stored in without violating food safety codes.

Let me tell you.

I was *OUTRAGED.*

Outraged that I was paying what was a lot (to me) to experience very obvious, fixable problems. Outraged that I was told an absurd lie.

And especially outraged that when I gently mentioned this stuff at checkout from a, "hey I'm a fellow employee, if I had been a real guest, they'd probably be yelling right now" approach, I was dismissed with an upbeat "sorry, yeah, we know..." and nothing else.

Most brands give all employees 10+ free room nights a year across the brand, but our brand hasn't quite figured that out yet, and so we have employees at my front desk who've never stayed in a hotel of our caliber - *not even our own*, and thus *really* have no sense whatsoever of what it's like to be a guest, period.

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It's that exactly. I try to be patient with retail and other customer-facing roles because I've been on the other side, I know things happen that are out of your control, I've had to deal with shitty customers, so I understand some of the problems. Getting mad and yelling at someone who can't do things faster than they already are doing them or magically pull a solution out of thin air is not going to do anything.

Someone with the sloppy attitude that they obviously don't care about the job is a different matter. But it really is that until you've had a similar experience you can't and don't understand why they can't take those coupons or do that return for cash or the other thing you're asking them to do. Not because they don't care or don't want to, but because they're not permitted to do so/don't have the resources.

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Apparently professional consultants quite frequently figure out what's wrong in a company by asking the lower-level staff. It's one of their standard techniques.

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That's often the problem with top-down implementation of new strategies; the 'mission statement' has grandiose goals, the idea is that naturally all the efficiency and cost-saving will happen as planned, but the tactics about how to make the plans work are missing and any input by the low-level staff who will have to carry out the new practices are dismissed or ignored. It'll work, and you will have to make it work. Telling them that "our clients are never going to be able to handle this", for instance, are brushed aside.

Just yesterday I had an example of this in work; the parents have to apply for a particular service. But they can no longer do this online or over the phone, they have to use "the app". So we had one parent coming in to us for help filling this out as they couldn't manage it.

I can only suppose the rationale there is "everyone has a smartphone, everyone knows how to use apps" but that is definitely not the case (and it's the most inconvenient way to try and fill out forms; part of this involved having to put a piece of paper with information on the desk, take a photo of it with the phone, and then upload that photo along with the form to the app).

That's somebody's Grand Top-Down Idea and how it works out in practice.

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I have a whole file folder of similar examples.

"Let's introduce an automated process to post credits to certain guests' accounts when they use certain services during their stay in a way that makes it invisible to agents unless they click through two different windows despite the fact that most usage of the credit will occur the day of check out and thus will not be automated and must be posted manually by the front desk agent."

"Seems like that automation is going to cause a lot of over-crediting. Can't we forget about the automation and manually post all credits at the end of the stay?"

"Nah, just tell the front desk agents to be more careful!"

LOL.

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I've heard that in the military, this sort of thing is talked about in terms of the commanding officer having been visited by the "Good Idea Fairy".

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Eternally. New ideas come down From Above, you can tell within five minutes This Won't Work (at least not like this), but who listens to the people who have to use the process? They've already paid ££££/$$$$/€€€€ for the shiny new software package (which won't work with existing systems and is unsuitable for the purposes we need), so just make it work, peon, and if it doesn't, that's *your* fault.

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Indeed, that's what the podcast episode is about.

BUT.

It only works if the professional consultant is genuinely interested in fixing the company rather than wracking up billable hours spinning plates AND upper management either never finds out where the consultant got their recommendations or has enough humility to acknowledge that lower-level staff know the products and systems much better than upper-level staff.

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Jordan Peterson is so lame. A recent Dwarkish RT said to listen to him on Cain and Able. I have so many criticisms.

1) Peterson plays the classic boring preacher. His sin is the boringness of the lecture, the slow pace, the stupidity of the audience applauding an insipid point.

2) His interpretations don't ring true. In it, Able is successful and deservingly so. This plays to Peterson's biases. Outside the biblical story it is a good point: people do tend to demonize the successful for no other reason than that they are successful. But this point is made all the time in comedy. It's not profound and probably not Biblical. Is Able more deservingly successful than Cain? I thought the point of the story was that God simply decided he preferred one offering over the other. Cain nor Able could predict which one would be preferred. Yet Peterson considers Able more successful due to cause.

His moment in history has probably passed, but why did anyone consider Jordan Peterson deep ever?

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>Is Able more deservingly successful than Cain? I thought the point of the story was that God simply decided he preferred one offering over the other

If an all-knowing and perfectly just deity decided that Abel's offering was better, then that's pretty strong evidence Abel was more deserving of the honour.

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>Jordan Peterson is so lame

Yep. He's basically a vice principle - annoying, pedantic, excited to enforce his rules or lecture you about them.

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What is weird about JP is how often he shows up on my feeds. The algorithms seem to have decided I fit the profile of a JP cultist. Quite the opposite; he strikes me as devoid of content and incredibly banal. I get more insight from GPT. I have a rule now to simply give him none of my brain cycles; hopefully the algorithms will eventually catch on. (Actually lately they've decided I want true crime and air disasters, sprinkled with medieval torture pr0n)

Maybe he's a (lame) AI?

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>His moment in history has probably passed, but why did anyone consider Jordan Peterson deep ever?

Not for his bible lectures. More for his self-help and his very public opposition to 'misgendering' laws.

But at least Peterson is obviously a smart guy. I'm more concerned that apparently many people think clowns like Cornell West are smart.

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I'd say that the main point of his Cain and Able lecture is not that people tend to demonize the successful, it's that *you don't want to be Cain*. Maybe Able deserved his success, or maybe he didn't (the passage in question is somewhat vague) but regardless if you allow yourself to submit to resentfulness and envy then you are in danger of becoming Cain. You will make the world worse instead of better. You will be consumed by your own sin. So don't be Cain!

Peterson's primary reason for lecturing is to try to teach people this basic idea: that you are capable of evil, and unless you shape up you will end up in a hell of your own making. That any of us is capable of being the Nazi gaurd at Auschwitz, or the NKVD officer driving a Black Maria, or a school shooter. But that you can do something about it. You can stand up straight with your shoulders back, you can clean your room, you can tell the truth, and you can make the world better instead of worse. That message resonates powerfully with a lot of people (evidence, the massive success of his books and lectures).

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Able is more deserving than Cain.

The Bible says that Able provided from the "fat portions from some of the firstborn" - meaning the highest value portions of the best animals. This was the best of the best that Able had. God reaches out to Cain in the next verses and asks why he is angry (rhetorically) and also asks rhetorically "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?" This says that Cain has the same opportunity to be accepted that Able had, but there was a responsibility on his part if he wanted to be accepted. He had to reach a higher level than he was at now, implying that he was giving lesser portions and knew it. He could have chosen to give the better portions, but instead let his envy of his brother lead him to murder. He allows his own sin to compound into greater sin, which God warns him will happen if he doesn't choose a different path: "But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it."

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Am I missing a joke? Why are three people in this thread separately mispelling Abel and nobody is spelling it correctly?

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I had a similar thought.

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Oh goodness, call it mental autocorrect and not checking my work. Sorry about that.

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(joke) AI is Berenstain Bearing us.

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Autocorrect, probably.

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founding

peterson was just fortunate to come along when half the country was being insane. sure his advice can be simple, but sometimes simple is effective. he is a motivational/self help speaker, and in that context he is fine. the problem is when people elevate him to be a deep intellectual. there are plenty of good motivational speakers that are helpful to many people, and we more or less are ok with that, but nobody is elevating how smart they are.

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You will probably enjoy this, which I've watched like eight times and it always makes me laugh:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io9xTYvfbkk&pp=ygUcZnJlZWRvbXRvb25zIGNsZWFuIHlvdXIgcm9vbQ%3D%3D

...I just started watching it again, and I think I might need to make it into a ringtone.

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Peterson, much like Jesus, only became interesting after he got crucified.

At this point, a lot of the people who disagreed with his crucifixion started looking at the things he said earlier and finding that they seemed like reasonable common-sense things which they could get behind. But that's all they ever were.

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(I am assuming that we are discussing his university lessons that were recorded and published on YouTube. If you meant something else, please correct me.)

As I see it, you make basically three objections: (1) the lessons are boring, (2) you could get the information from other sources, and (3) Peterson's interpretation of the Biblical stories and probably also other things is just that -- his interpretation.

I agree with you on point 3. I also had an impression that sometimes Peterson discusses the sources, but sometimes he merely uses the sources so that he can *project* on them the things he wants to talk about. A different guy could project completely different things on e.g. the story of C&A, so why should I specifically care about Peterson's version? (There is also a possibility that sometimes Peterson explains *someone else's* interpretation of the sources. But again, why should I care, unless I am specifically attending a lesson on the guy whose interpretation it was.)

I disagree on point 1, and I think that point 2 is irrelevant. Many people delivering the same information is a good thing per se, if they deliver the information better, or they reach a new audience. When I watch a video on e.g. some math concept, I don't care that other videos on the same topic exist. All I care about is whether this video explains the concept to me in a clear and nice way. And sometimes different versions work better for different people. Presumably, Peterson's videos are watched and recommended by people who like his style of explaining things. People who prefer to watch other sources should watch the other sources instead.

It would be wrong to deliver an information that exists elsewhere while pretending that it was you who invented it. But as far as I know, Peterson is *not* doing that. He plays the role of a teacher who explains things. Teachers are generally not expected to invent new things; they are expected to explain standard things, in a way accessible for their students. (Actually, we have just accused Peterson of the *opposite* sin -- talking about his own ideas, while pretending that he is merely teaching some standard knowledge.)

Point 1 is subjective. You find Peterson's lessons boring. I find them way more interesting than most lessons I had at university. Both perspectives are valid. Peterson's fans should not expect that everyone will like Peterson's style. That said, I like his style a lot, and I know a few more people who do.

> His moment in history has probably passed, but why did anyone consider Jordan Peterson deep ever?

I think that whatever message Peterson had to bring, he already did it. Listening to him now just means getting more of the same. (And that's the best case. The worst case would be, if in a desperate attempt to stay relevant, he went crazy.) I don't mean this as a criticism -- this is how things work naturally. His interpretation of mythology took him *decades* to develop: "Maps of Meaning" published in 1999 already contains the core of his philosophy; most of what he did since then was improving the delivery: the university lectures are way more accessible than the book, and his second book "12 Rules for Life" is even more accessible because shorter. (I haven't read the third one yet.) To bring a new content of comparable quality would again take years or decades of preparation.

I find his perspective on "chaos and order" useful in some situations, surprisingly so for such an abstract concept. For example, it provides some insight into dysfunctions of the rationalist community already described in the Sequences as "why our kind can't cooperate" (also the obsession with "akrasia"). If you adopt Peterson's perspective, it's all quite *obvious* -- we are psychologically out of balance, on the side of chaos. We instinctively say "no" to things; which on one hand allows us to avoid a lot of normie bullshit, on the other hand prevents us from building something better.

Basically, the extreme version of this is Mensa, which is completely chaotic (beyond having to pass the IQ test there is virtually no structure) and completely incompetent. And a large part of Eliezer's project could be interpreted as a pushback against this -- as an attempt to create a culture that keeps the good parts of the intelligent contrarianism, and hopefully overcomes the bad parts. On the ideological level, there is an invisible battle between Bayesianism and Popperianism. (Bayesianism vs Frequentism is just a red herring.) Popperianism, at least its version popular on the internet, is pure negativity: things can only be falsified, but saying anything nice about them, even "yeah, this seems likely", is a heresy. As a Popperian, you can only do science by compartmentalizing: by assuming that certain things (such as evolution, relativity, or quantum physics) are true, while verbally denying that you are doing so ("I am only *saying* that they were not falsified yet, not that they are true", yeah but you are *acting as if* they are true or at least very likely). Bayesianism brings back symmetry by saying that evidence against X is necessarily evidence for non-X, that "absence of evidence *is* evidence of absence", that we can't have a 100% certainty, but we definitely can have probabilities like 99% or higher; we are allowed to admit that sometimes we know things. Most rationalists do not participate in this battle explicitly, most are probably unaware that it exists, but there is a reason why so much importance is put on Bayesianism being the right way to think about beliefs.

Not sure how useful this perspective is, but I think it provides some intuition about which things might work and which might make the situation worse.

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PART 2: More thoughts on implications of Peterson's "chaos and order"...

Peterson's message, as I understand it, is that although there are things you should say "no" to, you cannot build better things by saying "no" to everything; at some moment you need to also say "yes" to something else.

In politics, this is associated with right vs left, as the right traditionally represents saying "yes" to existing things (i.e. "order"), and the left represents saying "no" to existing things (i.e. "chaos"). That works fine as long as the left is the weaker side. But when the left *wins*, then... one option is the Soviet way, when the left basically becomes the new right (the leftists critical of Soviet Union call is "state capitalism") and you get all the thing the leftists originally fought against (inequality, lack of food, lack of freedoms, etc.) except now it is supposed to be okay, because under the new regime these things nominally happen in the name of the left... and the other option I would perhaps call the California way, when the left has the power but denies having it (e.g. the weird system where if you disagree with certain people, you will predictably lose your job, and yet those people call themselves oppressed and call you an oppressor), where the streets are full of homeless people on drugs, and universities produce pseudoscience.

When you look at the population the rationalist community recruits from, other typical words associated with them are "contrarian" or "skeptic" or "atheist". Notice that these are all *negative* words; they basically mean saying "no" to the mainstream, saying "no" to non-obvious ideas, and saying "no" to religion. This is not necessarily a problem per se (I am an atheist myself), but it becomes a problem when saying "no" becomes a strong habit (socially rewarded by other people having the same habit), and the entire thing converges to a 3 years old's mentality. When people start saying "no" to things merely because others believe those things, or because they know they will be applauded for saying "no", regardless of the actual merit of the thing they are saying "no" to. Now try to achieve something with the help of such people, and I can easily predict what happens... they will say "no". Yeah, funny game, until it gets boring. Stops being fun when there is something you actually care about ("something to protect").

So how does a herd of cats build a city? Ideological layer: Bayesianism, and reminding people that they have something to protect. Technical layer: forum with moderators, downvotes, bans. Knowledge layer: Sequences, yearly reviews of best posts. Fiction layer: "beisutsukai", "dath ilan" (note the evolution from a semi-permanent small group to a planet-wide civilization). From a certain perspective, these are all steps in the same direction; Eliezer yelling "cooperate", i.e. trying to bring more order. And as a result, a few things actually get built. Yeah, we have hoped for more. But the default option was getting even less.

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Thanks for writing these out. I found them interesting and helpful.

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This all reminds me of a great quote by Terry Pratchett:

"According to the philosopher, Ly Tin Wheedle, chaos is found in greatest abundance wherever order is being sought. It always defeats order, because it is better organized."

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Will there be another web series like Unsong in the future?

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There is certainly going to be more web fiction/web comics, even if restricted to the ratfic genre. (Homestuck, HPMOR, Planecrash, etc. all come to mind.) I think that whether there's going to be anything *good* (or anything *very similar* to Unsong) is still up in the air, though.

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Similar to Unsong is an incredible high bar, but there are some good web serials out there. (I am once again telling everyone I know to read A Practical Guide to Evil.)

Also, I wouldn't count Homestuck as ratfic. It's a good story, but it's very un-systematized and silly. It's not a story about understanding the world and making smart decisions, it's a story about... well... uh... I'm not sure how you sum it up in a pithy way. A research project to discover how many words you can invent before the story becomes incomprehensible to readers? An attempt to set the world record for most convoluted time-travel plot?

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I would definitely be very interested in an Unsong sequel. After all, the story ends with the universe becoming perfect but...we never get to see it.

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So during our get together for the eclipse the door into our garage broke and couldn't be opened. (I know! this a weak data point for equating total eclipses with the zombie apocalypse, because the first thing that happens when zombies arrive is either doors are locked or can't be locked.) So (after ripping the old door lock out.) I stopped at the local hardware and bought another.

"John" I said, "sell me your cheapest door lock, thingie, knob."

"My most cost effective you mean?" (John and I are old buddies, I go down to the hardware to have a beer or two on fridays.)

"Yeah that one", I say. He pulls down a box from the top shelf.

"I over ordered these." John says.

And for something less than $20 I go home with a new door knob.

And I wouldn't be writing this post if it hadn't been the best door knob gizmo to install ever. Now mind you I have no idea of the lifetime of this door knob, but if you've ever put in a door knob. (which you all should learn how to do, Because of zombies!) well after all the other stuff, you have to line up these two screws. which hold the whole door knob together. And it always is a pita. And on this new knob, you screwed the two screws into the outside first, and then you twist the inside knob on, and it has gaps for the screw shaft and a place for the head to catch. And then you tighten it up. And at the moment it get's my vote for the best door knob gizmo ever.

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What's the brand? I have family working in construction & home renos. Door knobs can be a pain.

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Kwikset... hang on. there's no part number but,

featuring

SMARTKEY

SECURITY

is on the front

and EASY INSTALL on the back.

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Awesome, thanks!

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Ok so my understanding is that both (US) political parties are quite decentralized. Obviously primaries prevent much top-down control, but even party platforms and bylaws are decided pretty locally (?).

Given this, how hard would it be to “coup” a local political party? Eg imagine you’re a left-wing candidate running for election in a deep blue constituency. One strategy would be to get some of your friends to vote for you in the _Replublican_ primary, and then spend the general election convincing voters that you’re legit despite the nominal party label. Going further, you could imagine taking control of the whole local party apparatus and changing the “official” platform (not the these platforms mean much anyway).

Does this ever happen? I can’t find any instances but it’s a difficult-to-google scenario.

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This American Life did an episode on a similar situation that happened in Michigan last year. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/820/believe-in-me Its not as extreme as democrats taking over the republican party, but does a great job showing how this can happen in practice. There are real time interview and audio as party decisions are being made and outsiders are taking over.

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This is why Michael Bloomberg was nominally a Republican for the 2001 election in New York City. There were seven candidates in the primaries, all of whom had been Democrats prior to the campaign. The two most conservative of the seven democrats (Bloomberg and Badilo) ran as Republicans and faced a less-crowded primary than the other five who contested the Democratic nomination. It helped that both Bloomberg and Badilo were running on platforms of continuing at least some of the major policies of the outgoing Republican mayor (Giuliani), and Badilo had been part of Giuliani's administration. It also helped that no actual Republicans bothered to run.

A more systematic instance was the efforts of the Ron Paul campaigns in 2008 and 2012 and concurrent and subsequent activities of aligned organizations like the Campaign for Liberty and the Republican Liberty Caucus (*). The goal wasn't to get Paul the Republican nomination for President, and even getting the message out via debates and campaign appearances was a secondary goal. The main goal was to take control of local Republican Party organizations as part of a long-term effort to hijack the Republican Party. In many parts of the country, local party committee members are chosen in primaries or caucuses in races where hardly anyone pays attention (making it possible for a well-organized group take over by doing little more than showing up). And in some places (e.g. California) the Republican nominees for various offices get to appoint a certain number of delegates to the state party convention (that chooses the state party leadership and sets the platform) regardless of how badly they loose, enabling a strategy of running paper candidates for unwinnable races in order to get the otherwise-worthless nomination by default and thus gain control of a block of delegates.

(*) Campaign for Liberty was explicitly a Ron Paul organization. The Republican Liberty Caucus was not but had overlapping goals and a lot of people in this time period came to the RLC from the Ron Paul campaigns. When I was involved in the RLC (roughly 2009-2016), there was a significant spread of opinion between those who wanted to hijack the Republican party wholesale via organizational shenanigans and those who wanted to work with libertarian-adjacent groups within the mainstream Republican activist community to pull the party in a somewhat more libertarian direction; I was firmly in the latter camp.

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Apr 10·edited Apr 10

Back in the early '00s — and I think it was in one of the blue counties of WA or OR — some local Dems noticed that there was no longer a functioning Republican local committee. They changed their voter registration from Dem to Republican and following the rules promulgated by the RNC created their own "Republican" local party committee. BTW, these were "progressive" Dems. They adopted their own local platform, which included things like urging the GOP to support a withdrawal from Iraq, and they fielded their own "progressive" candidates against the centrist Dems who controlled the local party apparatus. At some point before the election, the national RNC got wind that the local GOP party apparatus had been taken over by progressive Dems. I think the RNC got the Secretary of State (who was Republican at the time) of that state to disqualify those candidates. Sorry, I don't have any links for this. It was almost twenty years ago.

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Yes, this happens a lot. Usually between competing wings within the same party, rather than an opposing party taking over the apparatus. For a complete outsider to take control would involve a significant amount of effort (as someone else said, more than participating in your own party's primary) and/or the opposing party essentially being non-existent.

Within the same party, this looks like factions who may support a particular candidate or slate or candidates or one or more particularly important policies within that faction. For instance Covid, education, trans sports, etc. which are all within the valence of the Republican party but may be more or less important to individual members. A group may get involved in local politics to pursue a stronger stance within those areas particularly.

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I won't say it's a coup, but isn't this what happened with the DSA candidates? They ran under the aegis of the local Democratic Party:

"In recent years, the DSA's stated long-term goal has been to form an independent workers' party, while in the meantime it adopts a "proto-party" strategy called the "dirty break". DSA's elected leadership has often seen running in Democratic Party primary elections, rather than immediately forming a third party, as necessary for socialist visibility and electoral victories while the organization builds the resources for a viable workers' party. DSA also developed a stricter endorsement policy since 2016, endorsing only democratic socialists."

"The Democratic Socialists of America is a political nonprofit organization and not a political party, therefore DSA members usually run as members of the Democratic Party, Green Party, Working Families Party, or as independents."

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At various times, there have been places where the local political party elected candidates quite different from the national party's preference. As I understand it, these were areas where one party was so dominant, that whatever candidate won that party's primary was guaranteed to win the general election. So everyone who wanted a say in the outcome joined the party. And so the local party base resembled the entire local electorate, and wound up choosing candidates in the primary who represented the overall electorate. And when the overall position of the local electorate shifted over time, the party affiliation stayed the same, leading to seemingly-odd results.

I think people have polarized enough in the last few decades that this might not be the case anywhere. But I had a friend during college who was quite liberal, outspokenly so, who was nevertheless a registered Republican in his home state.

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'Does this ever happen' yes it extremely famously happened in 2016. The affected party did a 360 on its longtime positions on free trade and the role of America as a global power, among other things. Did you not know that Trump taking over the Republican party is like the famous example of a party coup, like, ever?

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I'm unable to like comments, so consider this a like.

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They’ll still be writing books about this a hundred years from now. It’s truly mind boggling.

World class sycophant Lindsey Graham ‘respectfully disagreed’ with Trump a couple days ago and Trump spent half a day publicly tearing Lindsey a new one.

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It's scary how fast the Republican Party collapsed around him. And it's strange, because it resembles what's been going on at a grassroots level on the left, where the most extreme voices have been taking over and shaping the discourse around them, and it's hard to stand up against them. But the Democratic Party is still functional at higher levels.

I wonder what the difference is. Maybe the extremists took over low-level Republican discourse earlier, and the rot has had more time to spread? I remember things in the 2000s like the Tea Party and the purity spiral of calling people RINOs, but I've never been as plugged in to that side. Maybe it goes all the way back to the 90s and the rise of conservative talk radio and Fox News.

The thing that seems most salient for me is that the people who stood up against Trump from the right got shouted down and faded out of the discourse. There wasn't support for voices saying "this is wrong and stupid and dangerous", at least not as long as Trump polled well. And I wonder, if there were a Democratic candidate who was as venal and shallow as Trump, but got the same kind of reaction from the grassroots as Trump, would the establishment be able to stop them? Or is it just a matter of time?

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>One strategy would be to get some of your friends to vote for you in the _Republican_ primary, and then spend the general election convincing voters that you’re legit despite the nominal party label.

But to what purpose? if the town is indifferent enough for you to pull it off, that just means you're running a Democratic Party campaign against the Democratic Party candidate, without the support of the Democratic Party's funds. You can do that cheaper in the primaries.

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What made the LANBY ocean navigation network obsolete?

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If you don't get a decent answer here, try asking on this website:

https://www.navalgazing.net/ .

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbf4BGIBENk&ab_channel=SashaYanshin

I'm clearly not cynical enough. There's at least good reason to believe that Amazon's Just Walk Out-- a system that lets people take their purchases, walk out, and be charged automatically is actually a thousand people in India evaluating video. Possible evidence-- shouldn't the charge for the purchase happen immediately rather than, as it does, taking hours?

I'd figured out that the answers to questions that appear after searches are scraped from web sites, but I didn't realize that the scraping sometimes adds errors and that google isn't directing people to the sites. The sites are in bad financial shape as a result. Talk about eating your seed corn.

Google ranking also involves a lot of work by humans.

The major point is that the stock market likes claims of using ai, which isn't the same thing as actually using ai.

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Maybe they trained a neural net to analyze the shopping.

https://xkcd.com/2173/

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I think this is an example of what we're discussing further up-thread about Great Top-Down Policies. I imagine people working in the stores objected about shoplifting, people deliberately not paying, and just simply 'how can you be sure every item is tagged and charged appropriately?" (If you've ever used a self-service checkout, or even the ordinary check-outs, you'll probably have had the experience of one item is not reading the barcode or isn't on the data base, so it has to be manually entered).

And I imagine the higher-ups brushed this aside with "of course it will work, don't you know AI is the future?"

And then it didn't work. So they needed humans. So they hired outsourced cheap labour, because having visible human checkout operators in their swish new 'just walk out' stores would be an admission of failure 😀

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What Melvin said. Plus, if Amazon is doing it, it's probably a more cost-effective solution overall. I wouldn't be surprised if someone ran some numbers and figured that it would be better in the long run to roll out the service before the AI backend was capable of handling the entire thing, and then quietly ramp up the portion of the backend handled by AI. Or perhaps they're doing "on-the-job training": having humans double-check AI decisions, and then improving the AI based on the human feedback.

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But it hasn't worked out, as they're scrapping it and going back to self-service checking out (this time you scan your products as you put them into the trolley). So the bugs haven't been worked out and whatever training or improving the AI they did with the experiment showed that they don't yet have the kind of product they want and need.

The *idea* is very seductive, but the notion of "as you walk around the RF signal goes to the automated till about what products you took off the shelves" clearly has problems; for a start, I wonder how they manage with the way all the products are put into the shopping cart, some must surely be blocking the tags/barcodes of others. And picking up something to look at it then putting it back on the shelf might trigger false charges if the sensitivity is too high.

As this story puts it, the Just Walk Out is (for them) the best experience, so why are Amazon junking it? It has to be because it's not working as intended:

https://www.geekwire.com/2024/amazon-dash-cart-vs-just-walk-out-we-put-the-tech-giants-new-grocery-strategy-to-the-test/

"“Just Walk Out” is the most seamless way to shop here, faster than the other two options by a significant amount. We were left wondering why Amazon is moving away from this option at these stores.

Dash Carts were the most frustrating option, and didn’t save us much time. We found the process of scanning and entering items into the high-tech shopping cart to be clunky, inconsistent, and difficult to navigate.

Traditional shopping — using a non-digital cart and paying at the cashier — was the easiest and most simple option. It did take more time, including a few minutes waiting in line at the cashier’s station.“

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Yeah, Amazon isn't scared of trying stuff, seeing if it works, and scrapping it. Or it wasn't, anyway. It might have changed.

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Fair enough. It was a good idea, they just couldn't get it to work. I give them credit for trying. The good thing about being a $2 trillion company is that you can afford to try new ideas.

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I've no objection at all to trying out new things, I'm just laughing at "We do it all by AI!" (the AI is "people in India").

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I very much doubt that it's _just_ a manual process, more likely it's an AI model combined with manual review for tricky cases. The hope was presumably to improve the model over time (as you collect millions of hours of labelled in-the-wild video) and reduce the number of tricky cases requiring manual review to near zero.

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So at least in short term, artificial intelligence will *increase* employment. You may lose your job thanks to ChatGPT, but in turn you will be hired to write the answers for ChatGPT.

I imagine a glorious future where everything is automated, and everyone has a job where they sign a NDA and manually do some of the "automated" things.

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https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-024-00901-3

Patients investigating long COVID-- they started with a survey of symptoms, then looked into which medications they were already taking that seemed to help. They've turned up some promising possibilities.

Left to themselves, scientists had been only studying specific symptoms, a very expensive way to learn anything.

There is *still* going to be another study of exercise even though there's a lot of evidence that exercise is bad for long COVID.

However, there are also studies being done or soon to be done based on the patients' research.

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