This seems straight out of Bay Area House Party (warning - click bait)


TL;DR - Micro-dosing porn.

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Tyler Cowen has a recent post about "deculturation". https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2024/06/can-we-survive-deculturation-olivier-roys-the-crisis-of-culture.html

Not having read the book it is about I can only speculate. Deculturation sounds like the lost common culture of Europe and its spawns like the Americas and Australia. Whether I've got the subject of the book correct or not, it's something I've noticed. We're losing our collective culture. There was a time when most Europeans and Americans got biblical references. You could assume the well-educated got them, and even many uneducated people knew biblical stories. There was also a period when educated people in Europe and its peripheries knew a lot about Greek myths.

These common cultural currencies have disappeared rather recently. Probably the majority of people with college degrees under the age of forty now know very little about The Bible and Christian preachings in general. That's a dramatic change in culture, considering most educated people knew a lot about The Bible for 1500 years until about yesterday.

Add to that the fact that most educated Europeans and Americans over the past couple centuries knew plenty about literature. Knowing Dickens or Tolstoy in the 19th century was like knowing Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones today, only much, much moreso. Everyone knew Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms.

There's much fewer common cultural references today. Some of that is for good reasons. Those of us overly online think more globally. Abrahamic religions are no longer de facto.

But society can't exist without culture, so cultural entrepreneurs are rushing into the void. Hence wokeism, a brand new religion based on atheism and total equality. Or neo-reactionaries, who are good at seeing what we've lost and pretty terrible at coming up with good solutions for it.

In a sense, we are having to re-invent culture from scratch because we've either rejected the received culture or we are too ignorant to even know it.

Why might the loss of received old European culture be a bad thing? Because maybe something that took many centuries to create, undergoing cultural evolutionary pressures, has more value than something we are now creating on the fly.

Does that ring true for you, or do you think these fears of deculturation are the timeless fears of old people?

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I think Scott wrote about it here, once upon a time:


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Thanks, this is a great piece. Dancing round the maypole definitely has something to do with it, but there is also a hunger for creating Great Art in the West which makes the West a little different to Tibet etc, and is also at risk from universal culture. So I guess we summoned two demons, and the second destroyed the first and the summoner.

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Jun 9·edited Jun 9

Gak! Honestly, the "common culture" proponents all seem to be historically illiterate (at best), and culturally prejudiced *and* illiterate (at worst).

> We're losing our collective culture. There was a time when most Europeans and Americans got biblical references.

There was a time when Christians burned each other at the stake for believing slightly different things. But I suppose you could say that Europe in the Sixteenth Century had a common culture of religious intolerance!

> most educated Europeans and Americans over the past couple centuries knew plenty about literature. Knowing Dickens or Tolstoy in the 19th century was like knowing Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones today, only much, much moreso.

The idea that there's some sort of common "European" culture is bizarre on the face of it. One only has to travel to foreign countries to see that when it comes to the arts and literature this is absolutely not true.

You mention Tolstoy and Dickens. There was a 20 year gap between War and Peace publication in Russia — in Russian (a language that wasn't universal to the Russian Empire, BTW) — and when it was translated into English (rather poorly on the first pass, IMHO). And Tolstoy was not immediately embraced by the English-speaking world.

Dickens is not and never was well-regarded in France. "He is not considered a great or classic writer in France; his books are seen as old fashioned and mostly suitable for children."


As for most educated Americans in the Nineteenth Century — well, there weren't that many who were. Most Americans' education stopped at the 8th Grade (although in one of my previous posts to an earlier open thread, if you got your 8th Grade diploma you probably had a better general and practical education than most twenty-first-century high school graduates). In 1870 the Americans who had a college education (all 1.7% of them) probably did share a common culture, though — in the Greek and Latin classics (because the idea of Liberal Arts education hadn't yet been invented). Meanwhile, 20% of the nation was illiterate. And for those who were literate, books were tremendously expensive. Most households had a Bible, though. So the majority of Americans had a shared common culture based on the Bible and ignorance.

It wasn't until the last two decades of the Nineteenth Century that *free* lending libraries became common, and the rising middle class had access to books. Of course, that's when the first "common culture" complaints arose among the educated ("They're all reading the popular novels by Dickens instead of reading Cicero and Plato!")

The subtext of the "common culture" arguments seem to be about restricting educational opportunities to a narrow range of carefully curated subjects (that reflect the prejudices of the CC-crowd) to facilitate political and/or religious conformity. </rant off>

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So for me there are three rough epochs

(1). No real attempt to redistribute the goods of high culture (e.g Catholic Church pre-liturgical movement c. 1850)

(2). A genuine attempt to redistribute the goods of high culture (e.g Catholic Church from the liturgical movement to Vatican II)

(3). Gradual abandonment of (2) (e.g Catholic Church post Vatican II).

Now (3) is better than (1), but I do believe (2) is better than (3), and most people who are harking back to a common culture are harking back to (2) rather than (1). (1) has basically passed out of living memory so it is genuinely difficult to feel nostalgic for it, whereas (2) represents the world our parents and grandparents grew up in.

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Whenever someone complains about how they miss the glorious past, the glorious past either ever existed or was available to less than one person in thousand.

Imagine the glorious past when less than 1 person in 1000 was literate, and only a few of them had enough time to read books. The book-readers all over the planet probably knew each other by name, so they could recommend Tolstoy to each other, because there was no longer book to read. What an exciting era!

There are probably more Tolstoy readers today, in absolute numbers. The only problem is, having read Tolstoy does not clearly mark you today as a member of the elite.

Also, I have no idea why "memes" and "EU" are deculturation. No strong opinion on EU, but memes are definitely shared cultural artifacts -- shared by several orders of magnitude more people than Tolstoy's books. It's just not the kind of culture you like, because it is not high-status.

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I love memes. I've read more memes than Tolstoy, but I have confidence that Tolstoy has a more profound insight into the human condition. Memes on aggregate are genuinely insightful but you need a lot of them and there's a lot of dross. Whereas there's a soft test-of-time which filters out the dross from 19th century literature.

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I would for sure agree that we need some kind of common culture, and a culture that bends towards optimism and progress. It doesn't necessarily have to be the 1950s-style Europe-descended culture, but it's gotta be something if we want to not just survive but thrive.

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We do have a culture, it's just more recent, faster-changing, and more based in commerce than prestige.

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I'm fine with almost anything as long as it delivers the "optimism and progress" thing, but it doesn't appear to be getting the job done at the moment.

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How about just plain realism? Optimism is what makes you want to draw on an inside straight. Of course, pessimists all think the world will to end soon, but I've lived through at least half a dozen predicted end-of-the-worlds in my lifetime, so I don't buy into the latest round of EotW hysterias. OTOH the techno-optimism of Scientism is a religion that has replaced the Rapture of a Christian god with the Rapture of the Nerds.

Ironically, it's the common culture cultists who think the world is going to hell in a handbasket. But everyone else does, too! Although I don't necessarily believe our future will be a paradise.I think there's a low probability that our current *high-energy* civilization will continue much past the Twenty-first Century, I seem to be one of the few people left who thinks that come hell or high water humanity will muddle through somehow.

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>How about just plain realism?

If you're just plain realistic you'll never get anything cool done.

There's a proposal floating around to add extra land onto the south of Manhattan. This would massively expand space for housing in one of the most expensive cities in the world, and also protect the city against storm surges. Using landfill to expand cities is a well-known technology that's been used for decades or, depending on how you want to think about it, even centuries. But all the "realists" in NYC just lol their hearts out at the ridiculous idea that we could make the world a better place (in between marching to defund the police and re-electing crook after crook) and the idea was dead before it left the barn. Realism sucks. Enough of realism and enough of the realists..

>I seem to be one of the few people left who thinks that come hell or high water humanity will muddle through somehow.

I think humanity will too actually, but muddling through is not enough. Muddling through does not inspire. And if you don't inspire, you'll get trampled by those who do. Say what you will about the Chinese Communist Party, at least they have a vision for how they want the future to play out. It's a nasty, cramped, ethnonationalist vision, but you can't beat something with nothing.

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Are you sure that a society can't exist without culture? I think that's the central problem with your musing, the idea that there ought to be a general canon – preferably traditional and taste-filtered through some well-heeled, powerful stratum of society – that binds together everyone worthy of being called educated and cultured. That has a political valence all its own, doesn't it?

The reach for 'wokism' as replacement, regardless of whether you like equality and atheism (I think they're both quite dandy, but I get the vague sense that opinion is divided), is a category error. The egalitarian sentiment, in various forms, has been with us at least since the Gracchi, and (money aside) it's orthogonal to familiarity with art, music, and literature. It would have been thus in the 19th century, too.

The Western canon is still there, for anyone, Western or not, to enjoy. It's subsidised in various ways (no small irony that the right so often tends to hate these subsidies) which is fair enough, because otherwise it would sink even lower in the vicious commercial wrangling for attention. It just no longer marks you out as a rube if you don't know it well. And that's fine. Meanwhile you've got people walking around as experts on Sengoku Japan or the Spring and Autumn Period because they've gone through an anime or wuxia phase in adolescence, and then they memorised all of Poe for reasons, and then the pre-Raphaelites were big on Tumblr for a month, and then their favourite youtuber did a four-hour sprawl on Kierkegaard... give them a decade to weave a patchwork of weird interests, and they end up better-rounded individuals than most people in Europe in the 19th, even if Shakespeare and Homer can no longer be taken for granted. Is that strictly worse?

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I think what might be worse is that the result is less commonality. Everyone follows their own intellectual journey, learns a ton, but in the end speaks a different cultural language. So when people communicate, since they can't rely on a common culture that is deep, they resort to internet lingo, memes and emoji and the deeper culture they have learned has value for them personally but isn't something they can refer to when communicating with others because those others, however erudite they may be, focused on learning different things such as Raphael instead of the pre-Raphaelites, Goethe instead of Kierkegaard, Dickens instead of Poe.

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Chairman Xi is doing a good job of implementing a common culture in China. Everybody learns a common history. Everybody is educated in the same neo-Confucian philosophy. Everybody must speak the common tongue for official and commercial business. Minority cultures are being extinquished. The Internet is firewalled to create a shared view of the world. Seems like he's building a harmonious paradise that should be exported to the rest of Asia (whether they like it or not).

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I think there really is a cultural decline, and we should allow ourselves enough sadness to do something modest about it. Anything more will probably just feed in to the phenomenon we’re sad about. Ken Clarke thinks Great Civilizations are founded on confidence, and we are going to need a lot of it. Here are some things I think are contributing to the decline:

Lossiness - there's a whole lot of culture! Even people who make it their life's work to preserve it can only preserve a part of it, there are trade offs between promoting new work, promoting well-loved classics and promoting neglected classics. Some cultural artifacts inevitably fall through the cracks.

Egalitarianism - promoting neglected classics includes making space in the canon for e.g female composers, jazz, folk. Seems good, but any one work displaces other work. Specific older works/composers are in danger of cancellation e.g Wagner (seriously anti-semitic opinions by any standards)

Cool/Casual - my wife’s friends (c. 45) can't get enough of classic literature, but I wonder how long this can go on, given how different dating is now. The past just generally seems like a lot of hard work, running fast to stand still, and we’ve come to expect to approach things more casually. Even if you're good at empathy it's exhausting.

Atheism - obviously people used to take the Bible and biblical inspired art seriously because they thought it really was the word of God, then there was a long hegelian/nietzschian twilight period, where it's like “this is false, but it's a crucial step on our journey towards true Spiritual Enlightenment” (e.g Wagner's depiction of medieval pilgrimage in Tannhaeuser). But to the extent people don't believe in God, even in a vague 18th/19th century way, I don't see how the Bible can avoid dropping out of mass culture.

Tech - even when tech enables genuine works of art to happen, it is art skewed towards our own time and values. If it weren't for film I probably would have read more classic literature. Technological mindset displaces ‘useless’ subjects from the curriculum in favour of STEM.

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> Lossiness - there's a whole lot of culture!

I'm reminded of a great quote: "History is not what you thought. It is what you can remember. All other history defeats itself."

The same probably applies to "culture".

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I think your historical perspective is off. For the vast majority of human existence, only a very tiny elite of society would know about music or writing. Most people were engaged in subsistence agriculture and simply didn't have time to spare from survival. Practically no one outside the clergy would have been able to read the bible on their own before the Protestant Reformation, because even if they were literate in their native language the bible was in Latin. All of this was standard until maybe 150 years ago. If anything, the culture you are describing is the anomaly.

And I doubt most people knew what you claim they knew. Ask a bunch of random people in 1900 America who Tolstoy is, and maybe half would answer a famous writer. I imagine very few would have actually read Tolstoy, and only a fraction of them would have understood it and been able to carry out an analysis of his writing. You have to keep in mind that the historical record is mostly made up of highly educated elites talking about things that interest them, which does not reflect the experience of the common man.

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Even if this is all true, there really was a time when people really believed that progress in education and technology could give the masses access to culture e.g the founders of the BBC. "Nothing is too good for the working class" Nye Bevan

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While I agree that for most of human existence only a tiny elite knew literature and music and such, in Europe at least for the last 1200-1500 years even the peasants knew Bible stories. Though most church services were in Latin, priests were supposed to preach something in the vernacular every few weeks. Churches and cathedrals were filled with art telling Bible stories (for a modern example, the bronze front door of St. John the Divine's Cathedral in New York contains images taken from Bible stories that cover the whole Bible, from Genesis to Revelation). Friars would travel from place to place preaching about the Bible, and plays on Bible stories would be put on regularly. So even peasants would know the cultural basics of Christianity: know David and Goliath, Jonah and the Whale, Noah and the Ark, Moses and the 10 Plagues, etc.

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I generally agree with the premise that there were shared cultural institutions in the past that are much less shared today. I was objecting to that shared experience being characterized as something like the ideal Renaissance Man. There were cultural practices that made French people distinctly French, but it wasn't talking about Tolstoy and Mozart.

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GPT's ignorance about the physical world is astounding. I asked it to make me an image of a whirlpool, and gave some details about what I wanted it to look like.. This is what I got: https://imgur.com/cTAIVjZ

And yet, GPT has no doubt read a fair amount about whirlpools online. If I asked it to name a famous short story with a whirlpool in it I'll bet it could. If I asked it what conditions produce whirlpools I'll bet it could tell me. If I asked it whether part of the ocean can form itself into a disk and lie on edge on the ocean surface like a tire on a floor it would tell me no.

I'm not sure people who think these suckers are going to understand pretty much everything better than we do grasp how enormous the gap is between what we know about the ordinary world and what LLM's know. There are a million things like whirlpools -- dogs, beauty salons, tar, lipstick, bubble goo, ferris wheels, needle-nosed pliers, harvest moons, folk dancing enthusiasts, communists, nightmares . . . -- that we understand the basics about. We know what they look like, what they feel like, whether you can put them in your pocket, how they would behave if set on fire, what sentences about them make sense and which don't. We learned all that while walking around the world interacting with these things, plus absorbing info via reading or talking. We put it all together somehow, those 2 channels of information. It comes so naturally to us to do that that it's not immediately obvious what an amazing feat it is.

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I like that whirlpool a great deal better than most of what I see from LLMs. It's got that computer art insipidity, but I rarely see an image where I think "I want to see this done by a good artist".

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That's a bossfight against Charybdis right there.

...actually that's literally just a Charybdis drawing. https://paleothea.com/mythical-creatures/charybdis-greek-mythology/ https://www.greekmythology.com/Myths/Monsters/Charybdis/charybdis.html

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The new models are being trained multi-modally, but I think your point still stands w.r.t. emotions, smell and tactile sensations.

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This is an extremely practical bicycle, built to be durable and easy to maintain. Made of steel, 50 pounds, $150. It's apparently only available through the charity rather than for sale in the first world.

This may not be a perfectly effective charity, but it's sensibly built around an existing device, and the charity also supports people learning how to repair the bicycles as a business.

I speak as a person who likes the idea of a handbrake which goes to the hub rather than squeezing the rim-- the rim is too slippery when wet.

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"My son was born last night," said Tom, apparently.

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"I really like the actor who played Saruman," said Tom, lovingly.

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"We are towing urine" said the people.

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"These aren't usually about me" said Taylor, swiftly.

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my magnum opus:

> "A popstar is always on time; she arrives precisely when she means to" said Taylor, wizenly.


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I think I’ll save the amputee’s offhanded remarks for a hidden open thread.

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Should have worked it into the adverb form, as offhandedly?

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“And no, I’m not getting a vasectomy,” he continued, testily.

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"I do want to talk to the doctor, though," said Tom, patiently.

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"No kids for me" said Other Tom, half in Earnest.

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"Or me!" Other Tom's partner insisted, earnestly.

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"Yuck, those mice have made their bedding out of dismembered hearing organs," said Tom, earnestly.

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"Warner Erhard sure got a lot of income from developing a quasi-cult," said Tom, earnESTly

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I missed the last open thread, so here's a link for everyone who might still be checking FiveThirtyEight, with Nate Silver explaining how low the management of his former site has fallen:


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I finally figured out my solution to Newcomb's paradox. Either I'm in a world where I will choose both boxes, or a world where I will choose box B. If I'm in the world where I will choose both boxes then the optimal choice is to choose box B, which I can't do because I'm in the world where I will choose both boxes. This paradox means I can't be in the world where I will choose both boxes. If I'm in the world where I will choose box B, the optimal choice is to choose box B, no problem. Therefore choosing box B has to be correct.

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Thanks for the responses, they have helped me refine my solution. I still think the "which world am I in" framing is the key. So - take 2:

If I'm in the world where I will choose both boxes, I will get $1000. If I'm in the world where I will choose box B, I will get $1000000. Therefore I prefer to be in the world where I will choose box B, and I'm still a one-boxer.

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The optimal choice is to pick both boxes, because the reliable predictor will be able to better spend that $1,000,000 than you could hope to anyway.

If the money somehow ceases to exist if the predictor predicts you taking both boxes, then you take both boxes, and that guy can go fuck himself for deliberately destroying $1,000,000 in value.

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Jun 7·edited Jun 7

The real solution to the "paradox" is to recognize the true nature of the paradox. It's only a "paradox" because it violates the axioms of Game Theory (and Rationalism).

In Game Theory, agents are assumed to have infinite computation and knowledge and float *outside* the world in some uncomputable astral plane. As they are floating outside of the world of the "game" they're playing, their decision processes can't possibly effect anything, etc.

As with frictionless cows or whatever, sometimes the Game Theory axioms are a useful approximation of reality, and sometimes they aren't.

In the real world, everyone has extremely limited computation and information, and everyone is *embodied* in the world, which means that they are part of the world they are acting in, and their own decision processes can affect the world and vice versa. E.g. someone could conceivably put you in an MRI machine and see what you're thinking before you think it. Or just give you drugs.

Newcomb's paradox is only a "paradox" because the setup of the problem directly contradicts these axioms. It's just an illustration of the limitation of Game Theory/Rationalist axioms, nothing deeper.

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>If I'm in the world where I will choose both boxes then the optimal choice is to choose box B

This is wrong. In the world where you choose both boxes box B will be empty and box A will have a little money so the optimal choice is to take both boxes.

>If I'm in the world where I will choose box B, the optimal choice is to choose box B

This is also wrong. In the world where you choose only box B both boxes contain money so the optimum choice is to take both boxes. Unfortunately you can't actually do that since you are in the world where you only take box B.

The main intuition for one-boxing is that the decision to one-box itself affects which 'world' you inhabit but if you assume from the start that you must inhabit one 'world' or the other already, independent of the decision you would prefer/attempt to make, you kneecap that line of reasoning and leave two-boxing as the only viable strategy left standing.

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>In the world where you choose only box B both boxes contain money so the optimum choice is to take both boxes.

If you take both boxes, how are you in the world where you only choose box B? The only way you can be in the world where you choose only box B is by taking only box B. Isn't that definitional?

I think the paradox gets resolved by substituting one supernatural device for another. Get rid of the person who can see the future, substitute a magic spell.

If you pick both, the million will disappear thanks to the spell, and the thousand will be all you get. If you pick one, you can get whichever you choose (probably the million). There's no paradox at all.

It's just a sci-fi Excalibur. Only the pure of heart can get the million, and if you try to take the thousand, you fail the test.

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>If you take both boxes, how are you in the world where you only choose box B?

Because you don't take both boxes. Read the very next sentence after the one you quoted.

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Yo, my bad! Apologies, disregard what I wrote. I must be going blind. Sorry about that!

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>if you assume from the start that you must inhabit one 'world' or the other already, independent of the decision you would prefer/attempt to make, you kneecap that line of reasoning and leave two-boxing as the only viable strategy left standing.

I wouldn't say so. The relevant part of the 'world' you already inhabit in the scenario is not what's in the boxes, it's what kind of character you have. If the world you inhabit is one where you are the kind of person who will two box, then the alien (or computer, or Jin, or God, or whoever) will only put money in the one box. If the world you inhabit contains a you where you are the kind of person who will one box, then both boxes will have money. Our character locks us in: to say that in the world where I'm the kind of person who one boxes it would be more advantageous to two box is to say "Unfortunately you can't do that, since you are in the world where you are the kind of person who only takes box B"

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Sure, that's fine. The framing device isn't actually important so long as it doesn't sever the dependency.

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Saw this on Mathew Yglesias Thursday thread:

The Indiana Pacer's can still make the NBA Finals if only Mike Pence has the courage...

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"A major cause of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) has been discovered by UK scientists.

They found a weak spot in our DNA that is present in 95% of people with the disease.

It makes it much easier for some immune cells to go haywire and drive excessive inflammation in the bowels.

The team have found drugs that already exist seem to reverse the disease in laboratory experiments and are now aiming for human trials."

Good news, even if it's a slow roll-out.

Any thoughts about speeding up the process while taking reasonable care?

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While not related to this new discovery, I have personally found that helminthic (specifically TTO) therapy nearly completely alleviated my (comparatively mild, but properly diagnosed) UC. I've struggled with it for over 10 years, the first treatment worked for about 3-4 years before symptoms returned, and the second identical treatment produced the same results this year, so at this point I'm pretty positive that it is in fact the helminths that caused the improvement in my specific case. Of course, infecting oneself with a parasite procured from a questionable source is not everyone's cup of tea, but for me the benefits seem to outweigh the risks.

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The drugs are MEK inhibitors, all 4 of them I found on wikipedia are prescription only in the US. ;-(

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Techie people:

When you're drawing a diagram of how a complex system works:

Most of the time, any type of entity relationship can be drawn with some kind of bubbles connected with some kind of arrows. Causal chains can be represented in exactly the same way - with arrows that connect one event/action to the next.

There are two common circumstances I keep running into that I don't know how to viz:

- cases where something might come into existence, and at another point cease to exist again.

- cases where something might be instanced multiple times, and the "prototype" or "class" version (if it exists) may differ substantially from how a given instance could end up looking.

You can obviously draw these things on their own terms, but I'm talking about when you need to include them in and around a bigger-picture diagram of a whole system.

Has anyone seen any good diagrams/charts/visualisations that did a good job of showing those situations?

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fuhgettaboutit. type-definitions and object-instantiations are like oil and water. you gotta use two separate diagrams. E.g. if you're trying to do something like combine an *abstract* diagram of a family tree with your *actual* family tree... it's just not happening. (Or at least, not in any way that's coherent.) Instead, "the way of the programmer" (tm) is to: A) define types of hypothetical objects; B) instantiate concrete objects under main(); C) *label* any concrete instances with the corresponding type (aka category). E.g.

time = {hr, min, sec}

main() {

....time lunch.set(12, 00, 00);

....time dinner.set(18, 00, 00);


"main()" is where the verbs happen. Notice that the type-definition for the "time" struct occurs outside of main(). Because definitions live in the platonic nether realm, not in physical reality. So you basically need two separate diagrams.

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Are you familiar with https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unified_Modeling_Language ?

To put it simply, different types of diagrams for different perspectives. Class diagram = each class is one bubble. Object diagram = each instance is a separate bubble (or rectangle? not sure), so you can show relations between multiple instances of the same class. Some diagrams have a time axis, so you can show the order of things happening, which may include when some things appear and disappear.

Based on my short experience with modelling, I would recommend not trying to put everything in one picture, because there will be too many arrows, too difficult to follow. Or maybe make one huge diagram, but also make diagrams of individual parts. If you have a tool for drawing UML diagrams, the advantage is that you define all relations once, and then when you put some objects to a diagram, it will automatically include the arrows between them.

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If you are doing any object oriented programming UML is very useful.

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Is animation ever useful to indicate things that change?

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Yes it very definitely is. But I rarely see it in this context, probably because it's not the fashion and the tooling for it doesn't exist. But I would build the tooling if I knew what it was I was going for.

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Sometimes people argue over whether art should be political or not. To me it seems obvious that art is more important than politics and that therefore good art is rarely political. My premise is that art (broadly but also narrowly defined) is the main luxury good of civilization. In the hierarchy of needs you have food (more abstractly: nutrition & health), shelter (defense against mortal enemies through the night), love (social support), art. Politics is arguing over the distribution of those things, but it's more noble to produce those things than to argue over their distribution because the former is positive sum whereas the latter is zero or negative sum.

To put that in relatable day-to-day terms, who has been more valuable to our society: Larry David or Joe Biden? Beethoven or Napoleon? The Beatles or LBJ? Are there better comparisons?

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Is "Too Much Time on My Hands" by Styx political?


The bit with the watches reminds me of cryptocurrency. I don't think it's necessarily a scam, but so many of the sellers are scamming.

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No, it's likely a song about a rock-n-roll star who is bored and literally has too much time on his hands. The watch hustler isn't even mentioned in the song, which came out before MTV even existed, so that cheap video was a promotional video for buyers within the record business and not even intended for public consumption.

(The genius of MTV was that someone realized that by 1982 most bands were making these promotional videos and almost nobody was seeing them, so it was easy to start a cable channel and show them to the public for almost zero cost.)

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How do you make the distinction? Beethoven wrote his third symphony for Napoleon, until Napoleon let him down. The Beatles wrote songs about paranoid gun owners, tax policy, and so on. There’s no bright line between political content and art and never has been.

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I'm not arguing for bright lines, only that "good art is rarely political". Good Beatles' songs and Beethoven symphonies are rarely political too. But, sure, sometimes they are.

Even Bob Dylan is rarely political.

I was motivated to start this thread after seeing about a million people on Twitter agree that "Good art is always political".

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Which is heavier, feathers or lead?

Why do people pay more for diamonds than bread?

To be straightforward, since the temptation to explain things is stronger than the temptation to just snark, people apparently want both politics and art, and important stuff happens at the margin, not choosing between whole categories.

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"'Beauty is truth, truth beauty'—that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." -- Keats

Based purely on this, art and politics are completely incompatible, due to a utter dearth of beauty in politics.

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Contrasting them makes little sense, since the two are inseperably linked. As LearnsHebrew implies, your conception of art and politics feels overly narrow.

When I think of art, I think of it as a zip-file. It's a compact way of transmitting information across long intervals of space and time. But for wetware instead of software. Art doesn't *always* need to contain compressed information. But for central examples of art, it often does.

And often, (though not always,) the information reflects the value-system of the artist. The ant and the grasshopper, for example, is about the prudence of long-term planning. La Guernica was about the horrors of war. Punk rock often features a lot of rebellion and contrarianism. If you've read the Republic, Plato seemed to believe that art was upstream of ethics, which was upstream of culture, which was upstream of politics. individuals in a society were likened to body-parts, which needed to act in concert to produce Justice. IIRC plato wanted to ban poetry because it would impassion the hearts of men to act recklessly, or something.

So this idea of compartmentalizing art away from "politics" feels odd to me. Art isn't just decor that looks pretty on the mantle. It's also a natural means of participating in The Discourse. And The Discourse is a debate about priorities. Before you analyze "positive sum vs negative sum", you need to define what you're summing by settling on a value-system.

(Yes, you can contrast art and politics on the margin. But it sounds like you're making an argument about totality. i.e. that art is qualitatively, strictly superior to political rhetoric. which is roughly like arguing that having enough RAM entirely precludes the need for a CPU.)

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I think it's odd to argue that central examples of art often contain compressed information. When I think of central examples of art, I think of say The Mona Lisa, King Lear, Moby Dick, Beethoven's 9th Symphany, Das Rheingold. It's true that La Guernica can be viewed as political but that can't be said of the majority of Picasso's work. And to the extent La Guernica still has great value it's not as anti-fascist propaganda. Simply showing the horrors of war isn't particularly political.

Thinking of art as containing compressed information is a bad reading of art, IMO. Or maybe I'm misunderstand what you mean by compressed information. I agree that great art expresses itself with high efficiency.

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P.S. The other thing I should add, is that

when people complain about politics in art, it's usually not actually about the partisanism, per se. It's about the crudeness with which the partisanism is applied. Critical Drinker, for instance, has been ripping into Marvel and Disney for their wokeness. But the wokeness per se isn't actually the main issue (and I believe Critical Drinker would agree with me). The issue is that the wokeness comes at the expense of the stories, rather than enhances them. E.g. as I recall of his review of She Hulk: there's no struggle, no challenge, no journey, no dilemmas, but lots of girlbossing.

If progressivism were really the issue, then I wouldn't expect Startrek (which was considered radically progressive during the 60's) to have been as popular as it was. Studio Ghibli often features strong female protagonists, environmentalism, anti-war themes, and anti-capitalism themes. And their Spirited Away won an Oscar. Meanwhile, the latest strain of progressivism has convinced Disney and Marval that Stronk Female Representation is, by itself, an acceptable substitute for interesting content. Rather than offering an exploration of an interesting perspective, it thrusts upon the audience a dry, heavy-handed lecture.

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Let's the get easy one out of the way, first. Which is the diction.

> Simply showing the horrors of war isn't particularly political.

Politics is about policy. And war is an inherently political affair. What you really mean is "partisanism". Which we might describe as "tribalistic advocacy for a controversial position". It often comes across as crude. "Murder is bad", for example, isn't exactly controversial. It is political, however, since it normatively implies a policy over a group of people. Likewise, I agree with you insofar as I wouldn't describe La Guernica as partisan, since it doesn't posit anything controversial about then-contemporary ideological positions. But it does describe an event which is inherently political. WWII redrew the political map, after all.

> Thinking of art as containing compressed information is a bad reading of art, IMO. Or maybe I'm misunderstand what you mean by compressed information.

Yeah, I could've explained this better.

A pun, for example, exhibits compression. It uses a double-entendre to get two meanings across for the price of one. Math exhibits compression. Unary gets compressed into variables, which get compressed into equations (and from here, it can go in different directions). A painting exhibits compression, in the sense that a picture is worth a thousand words. The 2d nature of the medium allows encoding and decoding of lots of things in parallel, compared to 1D strings of speech/text. A story can be thought of as a parable which distills an idea down to its most representative example(s).

Consider this video [0] on The Death of Socrates. There's a remarkable amount of information being transmitted by the painting. It's essentially a high-quality meme. Another analysis that comes to mind is this one on Master & Commander [1]. The book/film wrestles with the correct balance between a liberal, forgiving approach to leadership vs a conservative, hierarchical approach. Does this diminish its merits? Great Art Explained has a great vid [2] about how The Mona Lisa represented the entire culmination of what Da Vinci knew about painting and anatomy. Not exactly a political treatise, mind you. Although it does a decent enough job of showing how much thought and detail can get squeezed into an art piece. Moby Dick is arguably an exploration of epistemology [3]. It also draws attention to slavery. Which is clearly political, even in the partisan sense. Does this spoil the rest of the book?

(Admittedly, I don't know enough about King Lear to comment. And music is an on-going mystery to me.)

Another way to view this is to consider film posters. There's an old meme about how movie posters always look the same, since they draw from a shared lexicon of design elements. E.g. posters for rom-coms frequently feature a man and woman looking at the audience, back to back, with their arms crossed. This isn't by accident, it's deliberate. The graphical artists who design movie posters have a job, which is to quickly and reliably communicate the genre to the audience. It sets expectations. "man & woman, back to back, arms crossed" is an efficient way to communicate that a film is a rom-com. Likewise, the Mona Lisa analysis mentions that it was common for renaissance paintings to feature a pyramid structure. This was deliberate, as it lent a sense of stability. This is often contrasted with the baroque period, which featured instability through a lot of diagonal lines.

Things that we more-canonically think of as "art", are often more complex and subtle though. Which demonstrates that there's a spectrum of artistry. As an analogy, hardly anyone would dispute that doughnuts are food. They provide calories, after all. They taste sweet. They're edible. And yet doughnuts are widely considered *junk* food. Because it does a poor job of providing nourishment beyond the bare-minimum requirement of "provides calories/tastes okay". Likewise, a banana taped to a wall... can be called art, in some respects. But does it communicate deep truths about the human condition? does it inspire? impart life lessons? nourish the soul? Art which doesn't communicate ideas of long-term value, e.g. perhaps a still-life of a vase, I'm less inclined to call "high-art" than simply "decor".

[0] "The Death of Socrates: How To Read A Painting" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKhfFBbVtFg)

[1] "Master and Commander | The Most UNDERRATED Cinematic Masterpiece | Film Summary & Analysis" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMv_LOGMZN0)

[2] "Mona Lisa (Full Length): Great Art Explained" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElWG0_kjy_Y)

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moby-Dick#Themes

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Good points.

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thanks. glad you think so.

although i wish i could figure out what was going on with music.

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Banksy does a pretty good job of emphasising both the artistic and the political equally.

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>The Beatles or LBJ

Surely LBJ, given Medicaid, Medicare, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

>Larry David or Joe Biden

Joe Biden helped keep Robert Bork off the Supreme Court, played an important role in the US response to genocide in the Balkans, and has raised the refugee resettlement* limit from 15K under Trump to 125k. Now, of course, some people think those are bad things, but some people think I'll of Larry David's work, too.

>Are there better comparisons?

William Wilberforce and fill in the blank? Gandhi and xxx? MLK and yyy?

Your premise that art is more important than politics is flawed. It seems to me.

*refugee resettlement, not asylum

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The problem with political art is that sometimes people produce things that are strong on the political dimension, but weak or mediocre on the artistic dimension.

A mediocre *non-political* piece of art could be simply ignored, or perhaps get a few niche fans but be ignored by most people. A mediocre *political* piece of art will still be defended by people who like the political message, but they will hypocritically pretend that they actually see the artistic value that their opponents deny. And on the opposite site, people who oppose the political message will insist that the artistic value is zero. It becomes impossible to have a talk about the actual artistic value, because most people will see statements about the art as political statements.

> Politics is arguing over the distribution of those things, but it's more noble to produce those things than to argue over their distribution because the former is positive sum whereas the latter is zero or negative sum.

Unfortunately, refusing to play zero-sum games is sometimes not the same as avoiding them, but instead it means losing at them. You can argue that producing is better than distributing (and I agree with you), but if you stop paying attention to the distribution, someone else may take away everything you produced, and you probably won't be happy about it.

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I've made a similar argument about the corrupting role of political messaging in literary fiction.

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Jun 6·edited Jun 6

I don't think it's accurate to say that good art is rarely political. In my view, good art is good to the extent that it mirrors reality. Beauty is achieved when a work depicts something real and true, something difficult to capture using argument or analysis, something that, otherwise, is only attainable via direct experience. Art is, for the time being, the best tool we have for conveying what it is to be another person. For this ideal, this "realness," to be achieved, the art cannot be pointed. It cannot be a morality play. It cannot wag a finger at the observer, as if to say "do better." It must be a good faith attempt share your experience with others, and to the extent that politics is a feature of most people's lives, we should expect it to appear in art, even good art.

The vital distinction is between art that has political features (characters that hold certain opinions, politically-charged settings or backdrops, etc.), and that art that's making a pointed, political argument. The prior may very well be good, but the latter is, without exception, bad. Art that strives to argue some point, political or otherwise, ceases to be art, and becomes, instead, a particularly manipulative and emotional form of argument

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1984 is good art that's making pointed political arguments. Lots of science fiction is.

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I agree 100%. I don't consider say Shakespeare's Part 1 of Henry the Fourth to be "political art" even though politics is its subject. Atlas Shrugged or The Grapes of Wrath is political art.

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By some definitions of "Politics", any non-trivial piece of good art is never apolitical. Wikipedia English says:

>>> Politics (from Ancient Greek πολιτικά (politiká) 'affairs of the cities') is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations among individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status.

What story or song doesn't deal with decision-making in groups? or power relations? or the distributions of resources? One of the first stories I remember reading and writing was a reading lesson in 1st grade: [BEGIN] My name is X. I love Mommy. I listen to what Mommy says. [END] That's.... politics. This 3-sentence barely-a-story is encoding something very non-trivial about power relations in a house and who should listen to whom. You could say that telling a 7-year-old to listen to his mom is hardly a controversial opinion and that it has no sensible alternatives or opposition, it's still politics, a very instinctive and extremely ancient kind of politics, but politics nonetheless.

Furthermore, continuing on with the theme of state-controlled K12 education systems even though art is technically wider than that, the state in control of an education system dictates what that education system teaches. States are hardly "Apolitical". The very selection of which literature to study, which language to teach them in, which poetry to recite, which holidays to celebrate and with what songs and poems, etc.... This is all politics, and states use each and every one of those opportunities to advance their favorite politics. Does Israel teach Palestinian folk songs in its education system? Do Catholic schools teach erotic works of art such as the Kama Sutra?

"Art should be apolitical" is usually a proxy point for an actual point, which is usually one of those 2 (possibly more):

(1) Art shouldn't be obviously and unsubtly political. Because nobody likes to feel like a dumbass, and art that doesn't respect you enough to let you draw your own conclusions is art that makes you feel like a dumbass, or - worse - that the writer/producer/poet thinks you're a dumbass. Extreme unsubtlety is also a sign of artistic insecurity, the artist(s) is unsure of their capability to convince you through subtle winks, so they resort directly to beating you over the head with it.

(2) Art shouldn't have politics that suck. And "Politics that suck" will vary depending on - wait for it - politics. The current dominant politics, that is. It could encompass everything from fascism to arguing that people not having a religion or leaving their assigned-at-birth religion is completely okay. Notice that people take character descriptions in stories to be endorsements, so a story describing an atheist without explicitly indicating that being an atheist is wrong will be understood as endorsing and/or arguing for whatever perceived or real characteristics of atheists. A story describing extra-marital sex that doesn't end in regret or bad consequences for parties involved will be understood as advocacy for pre-marital-sex, etc.... I picked those 2 things in particular because the gap between how utterly and completely normal they are in some societies vs. how utterly and completely beyond the pale outrageous in other societies is remarkable.

The question is also too muddled by using the general term "Art" to describe the immensely different sub-categories contained therein. I don't think a lyric-less piece of music can have much of a politics, any political connotation it might have is solely through sideband associations, such as the political opinions of its authors, the lyrics usually sung over its tones, or what kinds of audience it's primarily performed to. Linguistic pieces of art - stories, poems, movies, novels, songs, etc... - have the full power of language at their disposal and thus can be inherently political. Paintings can be political through the implicit connotations that the painter can induce through sizes and colors and other visual info, but the meaning of those can vary in unexpected ways: Paintings of the Buddha depict him as fat because pre-industrial obesity meant health and contentment, but of course the connotation now is completely inverted. Language is not immune from those sorts of unexpected mutations, but paintings are more prone to them.

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>What story or song doesn't deal with decision-making in groups? or power relations? or the distributions of resources?

Twinkle-Twinke Little Star

Beethoven's 5th Symphony

The Inspecter Gadget theme song

Oh My Darling Clementine

Pretty much all love songs (unless you count two as a group and romance as decision-making, which is pretty unromantic if you ask me)

Like a Bat Out of Hell

The Cliffs of Dover

Frer Jacque

Axel F

I could go on, but it would probably be shorter to list all the songs that do deal with decision making in groups, or power relations, or the distribution of resources.

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Interesting that you start with the Greeks' definition of politics. Now let's consider ancient Greek art. How political is Homer? He's pro-Greek, that's for sure, but I don't any real political messages in his work. How about in Aeschylus or Sophocles? Aristotle's Poetics, which has a lot to say about the aesthetics of Greek Tragedy and Comedy, doesn't say anything about the value of political works, as best as I can recall. I suppose the satirist Aristophanes wrote political plays, so I will give you that one. Plato's opinions about art are utterly absurd, IMO.

As for government school systems worrying about what propaganda the kids have to read, I concur that they make the children read crap propaganda lit like 1984 (The CIA financed the movie version), The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Crucible in lieu of actual good literature. That governments choose propaganda pieces for schools doesn't weaken my case one bit. Political art is bad art.

Disagree 100% with your points 1 and 2.

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Aeschylus is very often quite overtly political, as is Euripides. Euripides' political plays aren't particularly good, but Aeschylus' are some of the highlights of Western culture.

The Oresteia ends with the tragic cycle of vengeance finally laid to rest by the establishment of the Areopagus--an Athenian judicial and political body.

The Persians is entirely about the defeat of Persian despotism by the Greek polis.

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Thanks. Interesting to learn that Aeschylus was more political than I had realized.

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I think it's a pretty controversial opinion - and thus in need of much more defense than you care to give - that 1984 is "crap Propaganda lit", you mention offhandedly in a pair of parentheses that the CIA financed (one of) the movie(s), but anybody who gives a shit about the movie version of 1984 is doing it completely wrong. Anyone who reads 1984 in a non-English language is doing it 60% wrong. 1984 is meant to be (a) Read, (b) In the original English, and it's a widely loved and widely admired (and so *so* much and often quoted) piece of literature that both Right-Wing and Left-Wing and all the politics in-between love (and accuse their political enemies of being the villains of). I didn't read To Kill a Mockingbird, but it's a household name that I recognize, and by analogy to 1984, I think you're also largely deluding yourself it's propaganda.

> How political is Homer?

Skimming the Wikipedia synopsis of the Iliad because I haven't read it and don't really care enough to: Very. Slavery is normal. Giving away sex-slave girls as rewards for fighting prowess is normal, generous, and/or commendable. Military commanders are expected to start wars based on dreams from Zeus. And that's just a 1-minute skimming of the very first section.

Recognizing that historical works of art are political is a far cry from insisting that they need to be "cleansed" or "wokified" for the modern day, I don't expect the 700s BC Homer or his audiences to stand up for women's rights or even use a different choice of words that even slightly indicates that using women as war spoils is bad or indicative of a moral failing, I really don't expect much from a 700s BC native. It's an insult to my intelligence if anyone tries to "adapt" the Iliad for "Modern Audiences" by removing the now-controversial parts and/or sugar-coating them. But I also think it's pretty deluded to think that there is not "any political messages in his work", there is plenty.

The entire point of art is this: it's a depiction of the artist viewpoint. Any linguistic depiction of a human group has a political message, because it reveals and advances - if not always explicitly advocate for - what the artist considers as the "Normal" politics. Any depiction of cities and warfare in the Middle Ages and before has a political message that slavery is normal and that you should always listen to your King (and/or feudal Lord), because that's all what the authors at the time knew and recognized as normal. It was a pretty **radical** politics back then to argue that Slavery is not normal or that people should govern themselves, that was the controversial, spicy flipside at the time.

But regardless of which of the 2 is more controversial at any given time and place, both messages are "Political". To say that "Human groups should enslave other human groups, especially those captured in war" is a political assertion - that is, it's literally about who should govern/dominate/control whom -, and to negate that statement is *also* a political assertion, for the same reason the original is. It just so happens that some human societies across time and space declares one of them controversial and the negation normal, and other human societies choose the opposite polarity, but that doesn't mean that one of them isn't political, it just means that whatever the society you happen to grow up in declares as "Normal" ceases to be perceived as "Political".

In other words, if Homer himself read or saw a modern work depicting a war, say any of the Call of Duty games, (s)he would be astonished at the radical and "political" messages contained in those works, one of which is that the defeated people in a war aren't slaves to the victors. It's anyone's guess whether he would love that or hate it, but there is not a single sliver of doubt in my mind that it would be the first thing he would notice, that the defeated aren't made slaves. He is right: what is an entirely unconscious choice of the authors of Call of Duty is actually a pretty radical political message to someone from a time when the defeated in a war were almost always enslaved afterwards. That's the thing about politics, you stop noticing it if enough people consider it to be the normal and inevitable state of affairs.

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"The entire point of art is this: it's a depiction of the artist viewpoint. Any linguistic depiction of a human group has a political message, because it reveals and advances - if not always explicitly advocate for - what the artist considers as the "Normal" politics. Any depiction of cities and warfare in the Middle Ages and before has a political message that slavery is normal and that you should always listen to your King (and/or feudal Lord), because that's all what the authors at the time knew and recognized as normal."

This is the view of art that both the prude and the woke agree upon, and it is dead wrong. Depiction is not prescription in art. In Joyce's Ulysses, does the author side with the Irish nationalists or is he merely mocking them? To answer the question one way or another is to misunderstand the work. A novel, if it is art and not a mere political work, is about understanding, and understanding is the opposite of judgment.

1984, OTOH, is a work of judgment. Nobody's understanding of the world is enhanced by reading 1984. "Totalitarianism is bad." That's the work. You don't need to write a novel to point that out. I agree that it is a book that many people like when they read it as a kid. It's basically a children's book, much like Harry Potter. But it isn't great art. Its continued popularity is because the US and British (I think) governments decided that it worked as tremendous anti-Communist propaganda during the Cold War (Nevermind and don't mention it to the kids that Orwell was a Socialist) and required every schoolkid to read it.

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1984 is art about how knowledge is denied in totalitarian countries, how hard it is to be clear that you're being lied to, and even if you know that, how hard it is to get to anything true.

This is a richer message than just saying totalitarianism is bad, or that a particular totalitarian government is bad.

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1984 was prescient in many ways, and one can see instances of it becoming truer as time goes on. It had the concept of double-think, constant monitoring of the populace, government controlling the way the people think and what they think about, and more.

Great art reflects life in an interesting way not before documented. The message isn't comfortable, but 1984 gives a glimpse into how life could be. How one can dispute 1984 is art is beyond me.

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> To put that in relatable day-to-day terms, who has been more valuable to our society: Larry David or Joe Biden? Beethoven or Napoleon? The Beatles or LBJ? Are there better comparisons?

You imply that the answer is obvious and it's Larry David, Beethoven and The Beatles.

But to me it seems that the question just has no objective answer, so everything basically boils down to "well I feel that Larry David is more important than LBJ".

Like, Napoleon had a large impact on Europe at the time and it's plausible the Europe of today would look different if not for him. Possibly substantially so, but I'm not remotely certain.

On the other hand, the Beatles had a large impact on Pop music and it's plausible the music we listen to today would sound different if not for them. Possibly substantially so, but I'm not remotely certain.

How do you compare that and come away with "Obviously the Beetles have been more valuable to society"? My takeaway surely is "who the fuck knows"

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I tried to make comparisons that one could potentially argue either way, though it's true I show my hand about which way I would argue. An argument I would make regarding say Napoleon is that while a universe without Napoleon would likely look different today (how much, we don't know), it's basically random whether he made the 21st century better or worse, and there's almost no way to argue one way or the other in earnest. Whereas while one can debate Beethoven's relative contribution to the 21st century, it's hard to argue on the side that it's been negative.

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I confess I read your post and somehow thought you had made an argument based on importance not positivity.

But if it's net positive impact we're considering I can see the "art is directionally positive, politics can be negative" argument.

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1984 and Animal Farm are political art that might have staying power. What else?

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Atlas Shrugged

The Dispossessed

The Fountainhead

The Rebellion of the Hanged


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I wouldn't really call The Fountainhead political art. There are a handful of scenes that address contemporary political issues, but its primary themes are all about behaving morally at the individual level.

Atlas Shrugged is definitely political art, but it's also not particularly good.

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Yeah, I also found The Fountainhead strangely apolitical when I read it some time ago. (https://www.ahponen.fi/p/book-review-fountainhead)

It's not an accident that even ostensibly liberal celebrities have praised the book, it really can be read as a "doing your own thing, being your own person" book, almost a self-help novel.

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I think one of the signs of art is that it communicates on many levels simultaneously. As in other areas of life, this rule can be broken occasionally while still allowing for the breakers to remain in the category, but if it's broken too often the breakers cease to be part of the category.

Politics is tricky because, like engineering, it's under pressure to perform usefully. So most political "art" lacks subtlety, but there can be exceptions.

A "titanomachy" showing Zeus and Cronus could say a whole lot, about the replacement of the old order with the new, the hope of revolution and the realization that the abuses of the old order were a result of social forces that will inevitably recapitulate themselves in the new order, sadness for the death of the old tempered by realization that the old had done the same in its day... There's a whole lot that could be packed into a painting of a couple of old Greek dudes, stuff that could be relevant for millennia to come.

Stuff that's tied too closely to specific contingent details becomes banal. Few people today would care about Disraeli vs Gladstone, unless you find a way to make them care. On the other hand, with Churchill vs. Hitler you'd have to find something besides the obvious. Hitler vs. Stalin has potential, though.

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Offhand I'd say... "beauty" is the luxury good, while "art" is a style of communication. Art doesn't have to be beautiful, and on the other hand, sometimes all it communicates is "this is beautiful (to someone)".

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Interesting take. As a passionate supporter of beauty, I'd have said that beauty is out of style, and that most contemporary art merely 'challenges' the viewer.

Think it's ugly? - No, you are being challenged by what you see.

Think it's stupid or facile? - No, you are being _challenged_ by that artistic piece.

It's much easier to shock or annoy the viewer than it is to render them awestruck or thoughtful, and so that's what most contemporary art does.

If one questions the art one sees, the fault never lies with the (unskilled, unthoughtful) artist but inevitably falls at the feet of the viewer, who isn't adequately responding to the 'challenge' before them.

Disclaimer; this comment may or may not have been heavily influenced by an invitation to a gallery opening that landed in my inbox two minutes ago - and which I would pay money to avoid attending!

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A lot of modern painting-and-sculptures art is an unmitigated and unrepentant dumpster of trash, but I would say that in the realm of writings and moving pictures there is now more backlash against meaningless "Subversion of Expectation" just for the sake of it. I base this impression primarily on the reaction to the 3rd trilogy of Star Wars, where every dumb and incoherent authorial decision was justified by "It's a SuvVersiOn of ExPeCtatiONs" but most of the audience weren't having it and still called it dumb and meaningless.

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I agree; I think you've got a separate and entirely valid critique. :-)

Making artificial beauty is hard, and I think there might be a subconscious element of "sour grapes" in the currently popular style of art.

Or perhaps it's that, in order to create beauty, you have to be able to see beauty and imagine beauty. And I think there are ideologies today which claim that physical beauty is worthless, or which try to redefine beauty to better match their political/ethical views. And the result is a vision of ugliness with some abstract pattern applied to it.

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At this point, I've seen more claims that art is inevitably political. Even the most innocuous genre fiction might be implying that the existing system isn't too bad, or at least it's inevitable.

I have a small bet with myself that people who say art should be political actually mean it should be promoting *their* politics.

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I think that is one of those things that is pithy and kinda ‘sounds good’ but is not always true.

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When it comes to art, politics fades in the sun and disappears. Any biting political statement from five hundred years ago just looks like a nice poem or a pretty picture to us now, because we don't know the argument and all references to it are lost on us.

If your "political" point is actually something so fundamental that it hasn't changed in 500 years, then arguably you're actually highlighting some aspect of the human condition and you've moved beyond mere politics into something more profound.

But otherwise, the politics will evapourate away and what's left will be the physical artifact you have created, which people will judge on its own aesthetic terms.

If a strong political feeling is the thing that motivates you to get up and create that artifact, I say that's just as valid as love, loneliness, aggression, or any of the other creative drivers. Just provided you do a good job with the result.

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This was beautiful. Thank you.

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Well said.

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Beautifully put.

Politics - and indeed many motivating factors - ultimately fade, but good art is enduring.

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Does anyone know a simple rule of thumb for comparing compensation as a salaried employee versus as a contractor? I realize that it depends on the details but that's why I'm asking for a simple rule of thumb. USA.

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I think the 1.5-2x figure given is fairly accurate. The payroll taxes and health insurance deductions that big employers absorb hides a lot of the tax burden that the self-employed are exposed to. In my experience, $50,000 as a contractor is roughly equivalent to $30,000 salaried. So you need to get an extra 2/3rds from your income.

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You need to make about 1.5 - 2x as a contractor generally (depending on your usual salary range), to offset the cost of benefits like health insurance and the extra self-employment taxes. There are some benefits to forming corporations and doing B2B contracting if possible.

Also keep in mind that if you're going independent, you'll need to be spending time and possibly money marketing yourself, maintaining connections, and diversifying your clients, to ensure that your pipeline of work is resilient and paying enough - that has an extra cost in time and sometimes quality of life too. 2x might be underselling it in that case.

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I'll just add that every single person I've known who switched from salaried work to independent consulting/contractual ("hung out their shingle" in whatever their field is), has initially underestimated what they needed to charge per hour or day to be doing at least as well as from the salary that they left. Literally no exceptions during my decades-long professional life. And some of them hugely underestimated it.

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Thanks. Good to know.

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A very smart and knowledgeable scientist thinks of a whole number between 1 and 9 inclusive. You are allowed two questions, to each of which the scientist will truthfully answer YES, NO or I DON'T KNOW. Find out the number.

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N erny ahzore E vf fho-Evrznaa vs gurer rkvfg abagevivny mrebrf bs gur Evrznaa mrgn shapgvba jvgu erny cneg fgevpgyl terngre guna E.

1) Qvivqr lbhe ahzore ol 3 naq unyir gur erznvaqre. Vf gur erfhyg fho-Evrznaa?

2) Qvivqr lbhe ahzore ol 3 naq sybbe gur erfhyg. Gura unyir gung ahzore. Vf gur erfhyg fho-Evrznaa?

* 0 vf qrsvavgryl fho-Evrznaa fvapr gurer ner xabja mrebrf jvgu erny cneg 1/2.

* 1/2 zvtug or fho-Evrznaa vs gur Evrznaa Ulcbgurfvf vf snyfr, ohg jr qba'g xabj.

* 1 vf abg fho Evrznaa, fvapr jr xabj gurer ner ab mrebrf jvgu erny cneg terngre guna bar.

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"V unir whfg cvpxrq zl bja, erny-inyhrq ahzore va gur vagreiny ]guerr,fvk]. Vf lbhe ahzore ynetre guna zl ahzore?" Gura ercrng jvgu n fhvgnoyr vagreiny.

Be, vs lbh jnag gb nibvq vagebqhpvat n zbqry-qrcraqrag dhrfgvba, lbh pbhyq fnl:

Yrg x or gur erznvaqre bs lbhe ahzore nsgre qvivfvba guebhtu guerr. Vf gur fgngrzrag "tvira a vf n cbfvgvir jubyr ahzore, vf 2*a+(x+1) trarenyyl gur fhz bs (x+1) cevzrf?"

Sbe x=0, gur nafjre vf ab orpnhfr avar vf abg gur fhz bs bar cevzr.

Sbe x=2, gur nafjre vf lrf, orpnhfr jr unir n cebbs sbe gur jrnx Tbyqonpu pbawrpgher.

Sbe x=1, gur nafjre vf "V qba'g xabj", orpnhfr gur fgngrzrag vf gur Tbyqonpu pbawrpgher.

Gura whfg ercrng jvgu "Yrg x or gur vagrtre qvivfvba erfhyg bs lbhe ahzore naq guerr".

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V unir n cbgragvnyyl purngl, ohg ryrtnag fbyhgvba gb guvf ceboyrz. Jr arrq gb znxr fher gung obgu bs gur dhrfgvbaf unir hfr nyy guerr cbffvoyr nafjref, tvira gur ahzoref cebivqrq. Gb qb fb, V'ir qrirybc gur sbyybjvat cnve bs dhrfgvbaf:

Dhrfgvba 1: Vs lbh jrer gb ercerfrag rnpu ahzore nf 2-ovg gevanel inyhr fhpu fhpu 1 vf “00” naq 9 vf “22”, naq nffhzvat gung “0” vf “AB”, “1” vf “V QBA’G XABJ”, naq “2” vf “LRF”, jung vf gur yrsgzbfg qvtvg bs gur gevanel ercerfragngvba bs lbhe pubfra ahzore?

Dhrfgvba 2: Tvira gur fnzr fgvchyngvbaf nf Dhrfgvba 1, Jung vf gur evtugzbfg qvtvg bs gur gevanel ercerfragngvba bs lbhe pubfra ahzore?

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Thanks for this. I have a very inelegant brute-force solution!

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Jun 6·edited Jun 6

I really appreciate these puzzles.

Probably the intended solution:

Svefg Dhrfgvba: V'z guvaxvat bs rvgure gur frg pbagnvavat gur ahzoref bar guebhtu guerr be gur frg pbagnvavat gur ahzoref bar guebhtu fvk. Vf lbhe ahzore jvguva zl frg?

Frpbaq Dhrfgvba: Sebz ubj ur nafjrerq gur svefg dhrfgvba, V abj xabj gung uvf ahzore vf bar bs guerr pbafrphgvir ahzoref. Gura nybat gur fnzr yvarf nf orsber V pna fnl: V'z guvaxvat bs rvgure gur frg pbagnvavat gur svefg ahzore be gur frg pbagnvavat gur svefg naq frpbaq ahzore. Vf lbhe ahzore jvguva zl frg?

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Yeah, I think something like this, or chickenmythic's below, is intended. But I'm getting a kick out of all these high-powered solutions below, too!

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Nuu... fb "xabjyrqtnoyr fpvragvfg" jnf haarprffnel vasbezngvba. V sryy sbe vg!

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Jun 6·edited Jun 6

Fnzr. Vs n fbyhgvba pna'g or nqwhfgrq gb jbex ntnvafg n cflpuvp rdhvccrq jvgu nal nffvfgvat grpuabybtl fubeg bs fbzrguvat yvxr n mrab znpuvar, gura vf vg ernyyl tbbq rabhtu?

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Jun 6·edited Jun 6

(Some important parts of my answer use numbers and symbols, which stay the same under rot13. Sorry everyone; spoilers below!)


Yrg k or lbhe ahzore. Yrg c(a) qrabgr gur agu cevzr ahzore, fgnegvat ng c(0)=2.

Dhrfgvba 1: Vf c(⌊(k-1)/3⌋^5793826498140572948164895)+1 n zhygvcyr bs 4?

Dhrfgvba 2: Vf c(((k-1)%3)^7814392508473549821875294)+1 n zhygvcyr bs 4?


Ab/Ab: 1

Ab/Lrf: 2

Ab/VQX: 3

Lrf/Ab: 4

Lrf/Lrf: 5

Lrf/VQX: 6

VQX/Ab: 7

VQX/Lrf: 8


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Gur rnfvrfg jnl gb frr jul guvf jbexf vf gb cvpx n ahzore 1-9 naq grfg vg.

Sbe gur svefg dhrfgvba, gur vzcbegnag cneg vf l=⌊(k-1)/3⌋. Vs k=1,2,3, gura guvf vf 0; vs k=4,5,6, guvf vf 1; vs k=7,8,9, guvf vf 2. Fb abj jr whfg arrq gb ghea "0, 1, be 2" vagb "Ab, Lrf, be VQX". Vs jr qb m=l^(enaqbz tvtnagvp ahzore), gura gur nafjre m jvyy rvgure or 0, 1, be n enaqbz tvtnagvp ahzore. Vs jr nfx sbe gur mgu cevzr cyhf 1, jr'yy trg 3, 4, be "V qba'g xabj". Nobhg unys bs cevzrf+1 ner zhygvcyrf bs 4, naq NSNVPG gurer'f ab pyrire zngurzngvpny grpuavdhrf gb trg gur nafjre va guvf pnfr; V guvax lbh'q whfg arrq infg pbzchgngvbany cbjre. Fb vs jr nfx vs gur mgu cevzr cyhf 1 vf n zhygvcyr bs 4, jr'yy trg Ab, Lrf, be V qba'g xabj.

Gur frpbaq dhrfgvba vf gur rknpg fnzr vqrn, rkprcg gur vavgvny sbezhyn vf l=(k-1)%3. Vs k=1,4,7, vg'f 0. Vs k=2,5,8, vg'f 1. Vs k=3,6,9, vg'f 2. Gura jr whfg qb gur fnzr cebprff nf nobir.

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Yrg K or gur inevnoyr jr unir gb npdhver. Jr arrq ybt(9) ovgf bs vasbezngvba naq jr unir gjb dhrfgvbaf, fb jr arrq gb npdhver ybt(9)/2=ybt(3) ovgf cre dhrfgvba. Guvf vf cbffvoyr orpnhfr jr unir guerr cbffvoyr nafjref sbe n dhrfgvba. Vs jr nffhzr gurer vf fbzrguvat gur fpvragvfg qbrf ABG xabj, sbe rknzcyr jurgure gur Evrznaa ulcbgurfvf vf gehr naq jr ner nyybjrq gur unir n inevnoyr L juvpu vf 0 vs vg vf snyfr naq 1 vs vg vf gehr, bhe ceboyrz pna or sbezhyngrq nf n frnepu sbe n shapgvba s {0,1,2}K{0,1}->{0,1} qrsvarq nf s(0,0) = s(0,1) = s(2,0) = 0 naq s(1,0) = s(1,1) = s(2,1) = 1 naq gura jr pna nfx gur fpvragvfg jurgure s(K zbq 3,L) = 0 naq jurgure s(K-1 vagrtre qvivfvba 3,L)=0?

Vs jr arrq na rkcyvpvg sbezhyn sbe s gura 0.5*K*(K-1)*L+K*(2-K) fhssvprf.

Chggvat vg nyy gbtrgure bhe gjb dhrfgvbaf:

1. Vs K vf gur ahzore lbh gubhtug bs naq L vf 0 vs gur Evrznaa Ulcbgurfvf gehr naq 1 bgurejvfr, gura Vf 0.5*((K-1) qvi 3)*((K-1) qvi 3 - 1)*L+((K - 1) qvi 3)*(2-((K-1) qvi 3)) rdhny 0?

2. Vs K vf gur ahzore lbh gubhtug bs naq L vf 0 vs gur Evrznaa Ulcbgurfvf gehr naq 1 bgurejvfr, gura Vf 0.5*(K zbq 3)*(K zbq 3 - 1)*L+(K zbq 3)*(2 - (K zbq 3)) rdhny 0?

Gur pbeerfcbaqrapr orgjrra gurve nafjref naq K vf gur sbyybjvat: (L=lrf, A=ab, Q=qba'g xabj)










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Avar ahzoref, gjb thrffrf: zrguvaxf jr arrq gb qvivqr gjvpr ol guerr hfvat lrf, ab naq V qba'g xabj nf bhe fyvpre. "xabjyrqtrnoyr fpvragvfg" vf cebononoyl n Purxubi'f Tha. Thrffvat jr arrq gb hfr fpvragvsvp xabjyrqtr sbe gur V qba'g xabj. V'z abg n xabjyrqtrnoyr fpvragvfg fb V qba'g xabj gur nafjre ohg zhfg or fbzrguvat yvxr: Vs jr zhygvcyl guvf ahzore ol K qbrf na ryrzrag jvgu gung ngbzvp jrvtug rkvfg? Ercrng jvgu L. Fbzrguvat yvxr gung. Fbzr svryq bs fpvragvsvp xabjyrqtr V qba'g xabj naq abar bs hf xabj ragveryl.

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I enjoyed this, thank you!

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Sbe gur 1-3 pnfr, V jbhyq nfx: “V nz guvaxvat bs n ahzore orgjrra 2 naq 3. Vf gur ahzore lbh unir va zvaq terngre guna be rdhny gb zl ahzore?”

Vs gurl unir 3 va zvaq, gurl pna pbasvqragyl nafjre lrf. Vs 1, gurl pna nafjre ab. Vs 2, gur nafjre qrcraqf ba xabjyrqtr gurl qba’g unir (juvpu ahzore V unir va zvaq), fb gurl zhfg nafjre “V qba’g xabj”.

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Jun 6·edited Jun 6

Guvf vf gur zbfg ryrtnag fbyhgvba, V guvax. V rkcnaqrq bhg gur shyy irefvba sbe gubfr vagrerfgrq:

* V’z guvaxvat bs n ahzore orgjrra 4 naq 7 vapyhfvir. Vf lbhe ahzore terngre guna be rdhny gb zl ahzore?

***** LRF (7 8 9)

********* V’z guvaxvat bs n ahzore orgjrra 8 naq 9 vapyhfvir. Vf lbhe ahzore terngre guna be rdhny gb zl ahzore?

************* LRF (9)

************* AB(7)

************* QBA’G XABJ (8)

***** AB (1 2 3)

********* V’z guvaxvat bs n ahzore orgjrra 2 naq 3 vapyhfvir. Vf lbhe ahzore terngre guna be rdhny gb zl ahzore?

************* LRF (3)

************* AB(1)

************* QBA’G XABJ (2)

***** QBA’G XABJ (4 5 6)

********* V’z guvaxvat bs n ahzore orgjrra 5 naq 6 vapyhfvir. Vf lbhe ahzore terngre guna be rdhny gb zl ahzore?

************* LRF (6)

************* AB(4)

************* QBA’G XABJ (5)

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oh that's good, nice

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Vg frrzf fvzcyr rabhtu gb erqhpr gur ceboyrz gb gur irefvba jurer lbh nfx bar dhrfgvba naq qvfgvathvfu orgjrra vagrtref bar, gjb naq guerr. Fb jr whfg arrq n dhrfgvba gung jvyy znc gb lrf, ab naq V qba'g xabj sbe gur svefg guerr vagrtref.

Bar boivbhf ohg pyhaxvyl jbeqrq irefvba jbhyq or "pna nyy fhssvpvragyl ynetr bqq be rira vagrtref or rkcerffrq nf n fhz bs guvf znal cevzrf?" Gung'f n ab sbe bar, n lrf sbe guerr, naq na V qba'g xabj sbe gjb. (Ohg abj V'z qbhoyr purpxvat, vg gheaf bhg gung gur cebbs bs gur guerr cevzr pnfr vf fgvyy pbafvqrerq irel fyvtugyl qhovbhf, ryrira lrnef nsgre vavgvny choyvpngvba.)

Gurer zhfg or n pyrnare irefvba bs guvf.

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V jnf guvaxvat, nsgre erqhpvat gb gur "1-3 pnfr", gb nfx "Ner gurer vasvavgryl znal cevzrf c naq d fhpu gung d - c + 1 rdhnyf gur tvira ahzore a orgjrra 1 naq 3", naq ubcvat gung gur fpvragvfg vf abg zhpu fznegre guna Greel Gnb naq Lvgnat Munat gb nafjre gur gjva cevzr pbawrpgher! Ohg puvpxrazlguvp nobir unf n orggre nccebnpu.

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Today somebody told me that when he spontaneously tells people an observation he thinks is interesting they are turned off and conclude that he’s a weird geek. The example he gave was of an idea that was, yeah, kind of quirky, but seemed smart and interesting to me. I’d like to be able to give him some examples of similar thoughts other people have had. ACX seems like the ideal place to ask. Anyone want to volunteer a quirky personal observation or two? His example: The placement of eyes in our species probably determines some important things about how we function. For instance rabbits have nearly a 360 degree view. Their eyes are on the side of their head, and they have notches in their ears that keep the ears from blocking rabbit’s view of what’s behind. So our awareness is especially geared towards what’s in front of us. “What’s in front of me” & “what I’m aware of” aren’t identical categories, but they’re very similar.

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I find it reassuring to know that there are sheets of connective tissue between the pairs of smaller bones in the lower legs and arms. It makes me feel more held together.

I also like knowing that the heart is between the lungs and resting on the diaphragm.

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Jun 6·edited Jun 6

Your friend would enjoy the Equations of Life (Cockell, 2018).

My personal observation/question: I wonder why isn't it common to have multiple tenants on a single shoplot in the west? The few examples near me are all Asian restaurants import the practice from their homeland. But rent in the west is very expensive - it seems like if you have a "morning business" (like a cafe), it could be good to sublet the space to a night business (like a bar) and greatly reduce the rent burden. This also means you can massively compress the footprint of your city, making it much more convenient for everyone. So there must be a tradeoff that is a larger limiting factor in the west that I'm not considering, because this sort of thing is fairly common practice in Asia.

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There was a place in Mexico (probably still there, but I haven't checked in many years) that was a car shop during the day and turned into a taco restaurant at night. Never got any work done to my car there, but the tacos were fantastic.

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I would guess that the tradeoff is the inconvenience of having another business's equipment in your work area. I suppose a cafe and a bar in the same space would use the same tables and chairs, but not everything could be dual-purpose.

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I can remember a specific case that's a lot like his. I was sitting on a bench with my girlfriend, watching a pigeon bob its head back and forth. Pigeons have eyes on opposite sides of their heads, giving them closer to a 360-degree view. Having eyes on opposite sides of the head usually comes at the expense of stereoscopic vision; however, I suggested that the rapid bobs of the pigeon's head allowed one eye to have distinct images from two places in rapid succession, so maybe their brains can process that as a stereoscopic image... girlfriend said I was weird.

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There's a song called "Good Luck, Babe!" by Chappell Roan that is becoming quite popular. Every time I hear this song, I'm struck by how similar it is to "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by the Proclaimers. Everyone I tell about this agrees with me, but I've never seen anyone else mention it, even though most of the people I know have both heard this song and the song by the Proclaimers.

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We evolved to feel sexual pleasure in response to activity that leads to reproduction. The instincts are blind and we can get that same pleasure from proximate activities even when there's no real woman in the room. This implies that if plants could feel, eating or chopping fruit would be giving it an orgasm.

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I'm no botanist, but I think having a pollenator visit your flowers would be more analogous to sex. Having your fruit drop to the ground or get eaten is maybe more like sending your kids off to college.

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I've heard it said that predators' eyes face forwards, and prey have eyes that look all around.

I'm sure there are some perfectly good counterexamples, but it holds for most of the terrestrial vertebrates I can think of.

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All primates I have seen have eyes facing forwards, and primates aren't necessarily predators.

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Sloths too. And koalas.

Tree-dwellers in general seem to be a major class of exceptions, they have fewer worries about ambush predators and more concerns about exactly what's in front of their face and how far away it is.

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Yes, I remember learning this in school. The explanation was that prey need to be aware, and detect predators as quickly as possible while feeding etc. Predators need forward focus when they hunt.

So our forward facing eyes may suggest about us that we are predators rather tgan prey.

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I would think the reason predators have eyes in front is depth perception. A cat needs to know how far the prey is in front of it to pounce correctly, raptors need to know how far to dive.

I was looking up information about birds of prey and vision, and found this neat diagram that shows the difference very well: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_vision#/media/File:Fieldofview01.png

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While we are predators, we inherited eyes in the front from herbivorous ancestors. Primates need eyes in the front to judge distance when jumping from one branch to another.

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That's a good point. I was using the eyes in front as evidence that we're omnivores rather than naturally vegetarian.

I've seen a theory that early humans? pre-humans? were scavengers, but the eyes in front suggest that they were at least hunting small game even if they were also scavenging large game.

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No, all primates have forward-facing eyes regardless of their diet. Depth perception is not useful only for hunting; in the case of primates, it's for navigating the three-dimensional environment of the treetops, as Bullseye above notes.

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Oh, well, so much for that theory. People having both molars and incisors might still be indicative.

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Jun 11·edited Jun 11

Most herbivores run on cellulose, whereas those humans who get their calories from plants run on carbs and plant fat (I.e. we eat tubers, nuts, fruit, grains seeds, and pulses, as opposed to grass, leaves, shoots, and stems).

Therefore, even if the human plant based diet were the evolutionarily correct one, there is no reason to expect the human anatomy to resemble the typical herbivore.

I think we've evolved as flexible eaters (come on this is common sense), who can live almost exclusively on animals, or almost exclusively on carbs and plant fat, or anything in between. In any case, we cannot eat plants as horses or gorillas do in the wild, and they cannot eat plants as we do. Our herbivory is not typical mammalian herbivory, it's something else. I'm a vegetarian and near vegan myself, by the way.

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Not to be contrarian on purpose, but I don't think that would work either. Both incisors and molars are useful to process plants; perhaps you were thinking of canines? But even then, having incisors, canines, and molars is an ancestral feature of mammals, and one that is not only shared by all primates, but also nearly all other mammals. Even horses and camels still have all three tooth types, though rodents and ruminants lost their canines.

Humans only became active hunters when we already had stone tools and fire, so most of the hard work of processing carcasses is outsourced, so to speak. So you shouldn't expect many physiological correlates of that sort with other predator mammals. I think your best bet would be intestine size: our intestine, and particularly our caecum (which many herbivores use as fermentation chamber to break down cellulose), is closer in relative size to that of carnivorous mammals than to that of herbivores. But I think that would be true even if we were herbivores, since plant food still gets ground and baked.

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I've wondered why nipples haven't evolved towards the bottom of the breast as humans started walking upright. It seems that most women who breastfeed do so when sitting upright. Wouldn't having the nipple at the bottom be a better idea from a fluid flow perspective?

Perhaps the reason is that there's a sexual selection effect going on, where having a nipple in the very center of the breast is a marker for good genes (much like facial symmetry and many other features).

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There might be a common knowledge answer to this, but why the hell do men have nipples?

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I assume it's because nipples are harmless on men (I assume males in all mammal species have nipples but I don't actually know), so it was easier to let them exist than to edit them out.

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I expect it has something to do with us being bipedal and thus weird? Centering the mammary glands around the nipples seems like a good idea for quadrapeds, where they would hang straight down. Maybe the genetic design for this got solidified early on, to the point where random mutations today aren't able to affect it without bollixing up the whole system.

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The breast isn't a big sack of milk with the nipple serving as the exit hole. The milk is all in the nipple; the rest of the breast is just fat.

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Your username and avatar make that observation rather more disconcerting 😅

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Maybe centered nipples have survived because they provide a positive selection effect on babies and allocate more resources to only the healthiest offspring, like a built-in form of eugenics. Babies that die of thirst because they can't overcome the struggle of horizontal fluid flow suction probably wouldn't have made it very far anyway, after all—Okay, I'm not being serious and that might've unnecessarily morbid. But I do wonder how many persistent suboptimal features of parenting could be explained that way, as built-in parental eugenics gauntlets, the rarely mentioned third important evolutionary factor beside natural selection and sexual selection.

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Humans are K-selected. Most births are single births. If you have just invested nine months, tons of energy and risked your life in childbed to create another carrier of half of your genes, any "eugenics" gene would be strongly selected against unless it was a nearly perfect predictor of reproductive fitness.

If you have a gene which decreases the survival odds of kids with competitive genomes by 1% and of kids with non-competitive genomes by 20%, depending on the frequency of severe gene defects (inbreeding, radiation, etc), this would likely be a massive liability. The selection pressure in childhood is likely enough to produce most of this effect for free.

Theoretically, if you had a gene which causes your offspring to die if and only if they are sterile, this would be beneficial, but "predict if an individual is sterile" is a bit beyond what a gene could do.

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Jun 5·edited Jun 5

I'm joining tumblr. Is there a rationalist/neoliberal/economist outpost there?

Like: Twitter is insane on average, but with careful curation my feed is full of nerdy economically-literate liberals who buy malaria bednets and are worried about AI and are in love with NGDP targeting. Who should I follow if I want to replicate that experience on Tumblr?

I've found Scott's, Yudkowksy's, and Kelsey Piper's blog, but none of them seem to post very much. Is there an active community?

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Some of the people on Scott's old map are still active, including myself. https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/05/mapmaker-mapmaker-make-me-a-map/

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I think you can pick one of rationalism and neoliberalism but not both.

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No, I pick both. Do you have tumblr follow recommendations for either? (Especially neoliberalism, not enough neoliberal economics in my feed atm)

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Argumate. Not strictly rationalist, but similar enough discourse norms (will debate anything in good faith, seems to possess a reasonable baseline of empathy and reason), and posts a frankly prodigious amount due to constantly reblogging past discourse and commenting on how the situation is now. You'll find lots of the same names arguing with him.

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Jun 6·edited Jun 6

thank you!

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is it possible to enter a Jhana-like state without trying by mistake? Normally when I'm going to sleep most of the time there's an increasing hum in my ears. If it goes too high (it increases rapidly after a while) it wakes me up even more and I become fully conscious or I fall asleep to the hum. It's like light being refracted or reflected from the water based on the angle it hits. Hum goes too loud too quickly and it wakes me up, or it's slower than a critical speed and I fall asleep.

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night and was falling back asleep, and for the first time in my life it was neither refraction nor reflection. By pure chance I hit the hum-increase-speed which didn't wake me up but barely. The hum increased to a real very loud thunder and the blackness that I see with closed eyes became gradually whiter to eventually be pure light. At that moment I felt something like bliss and got lost in it and fell asleep. I don't know if I really experienced this falling asleep, or I fell asleep in my dream and this was just a dream. It was weird though, anybody had anything like this?

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Many years ago during dreamless sleep I experienced a period of objectless awareness. An apparently different part of me became distressed by the state and it forced me to wake up.

Years later I would read in the Upanishads that dreamless sleep was the domain of the true self, the atman.

I’ve only experienced this that one time.

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Yes, that's Dhyana. I've read descriptions of that hum in Tibetan stuff and there's piles of Indian tantric stuff that corresponds with your experience. You may not have noticed but I guess that you would have experienced full sensory withdrawal (pratyahara) and possibly a rotating sensation in the lower abdomen as well as a distinct lowering of the tail bone. The rest of what you describe corresponds with the type of 'hard/true' Dhyana that's more written about in the yogic corpus than in the modern western Buddhist Jhana descriptions. It's much harder to achieve then the light Jhana that everyone is talking about currently, so give yourself a pat on the back.

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That sounds really impressive! The hum before going to sleep was something that I always experienced but as I said if it got loud slowly I just fell asleep and it got loud too fast I would just gain too much consciousness. For the first time in my life, I think out of pure luck, I hit the goldilocks spot.

The other sensations I wouldn't have noticed or remembered because I melted in the white light, hum and joy (pratyahara might be this) so I don't remember anything further about my abdomen or tailbone.

I'll report back on acx comments if I manage to experience this again or find a way to trigger it. Thanks for the comment!

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Dostoevsky had a kind of epilepsy, sometimes called "ecstatic epilepsy" that apparently gave him super pleasurable feelings during his episodes. There are lots of ways to ruin one's brain; Drugs, being a Neet, having lots of concussions or a brain tumor. Of course, this doesn't prove that there need to be multiple ways to be super happy, possibly all blissful brains are alike each depressed one is broken in a different way.

But I think it suggests that there would probably be a couple of ways to find some bliss. There is some sort of epilepsy that gives you bliss, probably one can have a tumor in the happiness center that has a similar effect, the Jhanas seem to be one way to hack bliss, maybe your dream humming is another kind of hack. Or possibly it's a very similar method to the Jhana route.

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> possibly all blissful brains are alike each depressed one is broken in a different way.

I enjoyed the Anna Karenina first sentence formulation.

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What's a Neet?

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"Not in Education, Employment, or Training", on the internet, especially 4chan it's often used to generally mean a loser. Not in Education, Employment, or Training, probably also has no friends or hobbies or really a will to live.

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I hope it's a hack or a jhana adjacent route and not epilepsy or a tumor:)

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That sounds more like entering a lucid dream from the waking state (except you lost lucidity at the end). Hypnagogic hallucinations in the form of buzzing noises and a boom when you cross over into the sleep state are common effects.

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P.S. There's state where you're dreaming, but there's nothing in the dream ... bodiless, formless nothing. In the Buddhist tradition, people try to do that deliberately. In the western lucid dreaming communities, it's more often "well, i entered that state accidentally and I think it really sucked".

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Interesting, I sometimes go s bit lucid in my dreams under certain conditions, for example close to waking up but I've never been a lucid dreamer that can go lucid and take control of the dream fully. By the way I wouldn't call what I experienced as something that sucks. It was on contrary very joyful. Last night I was thinking of trying to do that on purpose but I had a very early morning appointment so went directly to sleep.

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Andrew Holecheck, who writes on lucid dreaming from a Buddhist perspective, calls this "Discover the Clear Light Nature of Mind in Your Dreams".

Do meditators consider this different from jhanas? No idea.

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From the Six Yogas of Naropa:

"The perception-of-mind of the dream state is much easier to absorb than the perception-of-mind of the waking state. In the dream state, when some portion of the very coarse kind of Prana dissolves itself and gathers at the Heart Center, the dream will vanish, and one will fall into the sleeping state. This is the time in which one may recognize the Voidness; if not, through repeated practices, one will definitely be able to see the Voidness of sleep clearly. "

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Just to check, when you say the hum increases, do you mean it gets louder?

Does it seem like it might be voluntary tinnitus?

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It was different from tinnitus that it wasn't coming from my ears but from inside my head. It was indeed getting louder as in amplitude

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The best, most good-faith critiques of EA likely come from either inside EA or right on the periphery*. IMO I think it's a wise strategy to engage the highest-quality critiques first.

*In full transparency, I try to be one of these people.

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Hey everyone. I made PaperTalk.xyz to make finding, discussing, and understanding research papers easier. If anyone has any feature requests, let me know! Of course the hard part is getting enough people coming daily so it feels alive...working on it. Thanks.

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"In Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress (NBER Working Paper No. 10175), co-authors Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers evaluate three measures of family well being -- suicide rates, domestic violence, and murder -- to determine the effects of reforms nationwide that created unilateral divorce laws.

The authors find very real effects on the well being of families. For example, there was a large decline in the number of women committing suicide following the introduction of unilateral divorce, but no similar decline for men. States that passed unilateral divorce laws saw total female suicide decline by around 20 percent in the long run. The authors also find a large decline in domestic violence for both men and women following adoption of unilateral divorce. Finally, the evidence suggests that unilateral divorce led to a decline in females murdered by their partners, while the data reveal no discernible effects for homicide against men."


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> For example, there was a large decline in the number of women committing suicide following the introduction of unilateral divorce, but no similar decline for men.

This seems like one of those things where different people will draw completely opposite conclusions. One possible interpretation is that women were oppressed by the previous situation, now they are not or less so, so the situation improved for them. Nothing changes for men, because they were not oppressed in the first place. (Women couldn't leave bad partners, now they can.) Another possible interpretation is that the new law, in combination with other existing laws, successfully addressed the problems of women, but didn't address the problems of men. (Men can leave bad partners, but doing so probably means they will never see their children again.)

> Finally, the evidence suggests that unilateral divorce led to a decline in females murdered by their partners, while the data reveal no discernible effects for homicide against men.

The first part seems obvious. If your partner is violent, and it's getting worse, the sooner you leave them, the less likely something bad happens. The second part has two possible explanations. Maybe men are less likely to use the possibility of unilateral divorce even when their partner is abusive (e.g. because they know that doing so would have bad financial consequences plus probably never seeing their children again, plus the fact that the children would stay alone with the abusive partner). Or maybe the reasons women kill their husbands are different (e.g. economically motivated, either life insurance or "why get 50% of property at divorce when you could get 100% using this one simple trick").

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"The first part seems obvious. If your partner is violent, and it's getting worse, the sooner you leave them, the less likely something bad happens."

Abusive partners make it very hard for their victims to get away. This includes cutting off financial and relationship resources, threatening worse attacks for attempts to escape, and using pets and children as hostages. I think I've explained this to you before.

How often does the "wife gets the children, enforces no contact, and gets child support" scenario happen? I realize people can be very frightened and affected by rare disasters, but what are the stats?

My take on this is affected by the only bad divorce I know about-- I don't remember who initiated the divorce, but the wife ended up with the kid and no child support. She kept trying to get her ex to stay in contact with his son, but he made very little contact.

Why not consider that there are both men and women who are seriously bad partners?

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Stats wise, it looks like about 90% of divorced women get custody of the children, though that may be biased because many men do not seek custody. I saw statistics that indicated that when men seek primary custody for the children they get it 60% of the time, likely because they're more likely to contest custody if they have a particularly unfit partner. I don't know how often fathers who don't contest custody would have wanted to, but were dissuaded not to try because they were unlikely to succeed. But all these statistics should be taken with several grains of salt, I was not able to find official statistics and got these numbers off third party sites (mostly divorce lawyer websites).

Other similarly shaky statistics I found say that 63% of women with custody get child support, while 38% of men with custody do. And it looks like the average child support payment is about $300 per month. But, you know: averages.

Finding more solid statistics seems difficult due to the huge number of divorce lawyer websites that clutter up search when I tried to find info on this.

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Thank you for taking a crack at this.

I was especially interested in the outrage-maximizing situation of the ex-wife getting custody of the children *and* the ex-husband paying child support *and* the ex-husband not being permitted contact with his children. My guess is that this is pretty rare, but I don't really know.

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To make it clear, I don't think "outrage-maximizing" means false, just that I don't know how close it is to typical.

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> Why not consider that there are both men and women who are seriously bad partners?

Oh definitely; I suspect that maybe 20% of men and 20% of women are seriously bad partners.

I also suspect that a typical outcome of a hostile divorce is "whoever gets the better lawyer, wins", which in turn becomes "whoever gets the lawyer first, wins" because a good lawyer can give you advice on how to legally grab all the money in the shared accounts, which allows you to use that money for the lawyer, and prevents your partner from doing the same thing.

There are also other tricks, such as making a phone call to every lawyer in your jurisdiction. Now your partner cannot hire any of them, because they have already talked to you, so they would technically have a conflict of interest. Or accusing your partner of domestic violence and immediately withdrawing the accusation. Now you don't have to prove anything, because the accusation was withdrawn. However, everyone heard it, and sometimes they are actually required to act as if the accusation wasn't withdrawn, because everyone knows that victims can be pressured into withdrawing.

These legal tricks can of course be used by either sex. Finally, you can choose a jurisdiction known to be most biased towards your sex, and apply for divorce there. Sometimes a residence in given jurisdiction is required, but there are probably clever ways to technically do that without your partner noticing. Generally, there seems to be a huge first-mover advantage.

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"Oh definitely; I suspect that maybe 20% of men and 20% of women are seriously bad partners."

That's higher than I would have put it. Of course, we might have different ideas of "seriously bad", but I'd have said more like between 5% and 10%. Maybe even as low as 3%.

I'm still very unsure about what proportion of divorces lead to men losing all contact with their children. For that matter, I don't know what proportion of me still want contact with their children. Clearly, some don't.

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Jun 5·edited Jun 5

>There are also other tricks, such as making a phone call to every lawyer in your jurisdiction. Now your partner cannot hire any of them, because they have already talked to you, so they would technically have a conflict of interest.

The only incident I can recall like that was someone posting they had done this on Reddit, followed by all the internet lawyers telling him we was an idiot who was going to get the judge extremely pissed off at him and doubly so because he was posting it in public forum. The post was quickly deleted but you know, the internet never forgets


edit: Ok I got curious, seems like he learned his lesson: https://www.reddit.com/r/UnethicalLifeProTips/comments/cqtgnr/ulpt_if_youre_initiating_a_divorce_secretly/exf2ohq/

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