Was Scientific American Sokal’d?

Here’s yesterday’s clickbait offering from Scientific American, the once-legendary home of Martin Gardner’s Mathematical Games column:

Why the Term ‘JEDI’ Is Problematic for Describing Programs That Promote Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

The sad thing is, I see few signs that this essay was meant as a Sokal-style parody, although in many ways it’s written as one. The essay actually develops a 100% cogent, reasoned argument: namely, that the ideology of the Star Wars films doesn’t easily fit with the new ideology of militant egalitarianism at the expense of all other human values, including irony, humor, joy, and the nurturing of unusual talents. The authors are merely oblivious to the conclusion that most people would draw from their argument: namely, so much the worse for the militant egalitarianism then!

I predict that this proposal—to send the acronym “JEDI” the way of “mankind,” “blacklist,” and, err, “quantum supremacy”—will meet with opposition even from the wokeists themselves, a huge fraction of whom (in my experience) have soft spots for the Star Wars franchise. Recall for example that in 2014, Laurie Penny used Star Wars metaphors in her interesting response to my comment-171, telling male nerds like me that we need to learn to accept that “[we’re] not the Rebel Alliance, [we’re] actually part of the Empire and have been all along.” Admittedly, I’ve never felt like part of an Empire, although I’ll confess to some labored breathing lately when ascending flights of stairs.

As for me, I spent much of my life opposed in principle to Star Wars—I hated how the most successful “science fiction” franchise of all time became that way precisely by ditching any pretense of science and fully embracing mystical woo—but sure, when the chips are down, I’m crazy and radical enough to take the side of Luke Skywalker, even if a team of woke theorists is earnestly, unironically explaining to me that lightsabers are phallocentric and that Vader ranks higher on the intersectional oppression axis because of his breathing problem.

Meantime, of course, the US continues to careen toward its worst Constitutional crisis since the Civil War, as Trump prepares to run again in 2024, and as this time around, the Republicans are systematically purging state governments of their last Brad Raffenspergers, of anyone who might stand in the way of them simply setting aside the vote totals and declaring Trump the winner regardless of the actual outcome. It’s good to know that my fellow progressives have their eyes on the ball—so that when that happens, at least universities will no longer be using offensive acronyms like “JEDI”!

71 Responses to “Was Scientific American Sokal’d?”

  1. Paul Topping Says:

    Jerry Coyne also has a take on this:

    Bizarre acronym pecksniffery in Scientific American
    https://whyevolutionistrue.com/2021/09/24/bizarre-acronym-pecksniffery-in-scientific-american/

  2. Rick Fleischer Says:

    I have no ability to read the opinion piece in the Washington Post: I don’t subscribe. I presume you summarized it in the sentence that contained the hotlink. But what to do and where to go?

  3. Ocelot Says:

    Delightful post. Love seeing the gloves coming off!! (in a way that is still respectful and clever)

    (also, you had me guffawing with the staircase line)

  4. Chip Says:

    “The essay actually develops a 100% cogent, reasoned argument: namely, that the ideology of the Star Wars films doesn’t easily fit with the newer ideology of ‘militant egalitarianism at the expense of all other human values, including irony, humor, joy, and the nurturing of unusual talents.’ ”

    Most of the points the authors make here about the problematic aspects of _Star Wars_ were made 22 years ago by science fiction writer David Brin in the context of contrasting it with the _Star Trek_ franchise (https://www.salon.com/1999/06/15/brin_main/). If you think that pointing out how the underlying worldview of “space opera” frequently involves highly objectionable aspects somehow robs the world of humor and joy, then feel free to b***** off and join the Sad Puppies.

    BTW, Scott, WTF is up with that material in direct quotes (“militant…talents”)? The way you wrote that sentence, you appear to be attributing it to the essay in question (where it doesn’t come from), and you don’t attribute it to anyone/where else. Even Googling several different chunks of it doesn’t turn up a source (i.e., ‘No results found for “other human values, including irony”.’).

  5. Mike Says:

    I can see the dark comedy. But I’m so depressed by all this.

  6. Scott Says:

    Chip #4: The quote marks really should’ve been parentheses, but that would’ve looked too nerdy. Just for you, I removed the quote marks.

    The question, as I would’ve thought obvious, is not whether there are aspects of Star Wars that one can reasonably criticize—as I said in the post, of course there are! The question is whether any of those aspects are at a level that could possibly justify having to tiptoe around the word “Jedi,” as if it were a racial slur or something. I don’t see why these authors should be allowed to equivocate between their sane motte and their lunatic bailey.

  7. Scott Says:

    Mike #5: Yeah, I’ve been bummed about it all day, and there’s a part of me that’s genuinely surprised how all my friends are just ignoring it and going about their day. It’s like, do they not understand what Scientific American used to be, in its 50s/60s/70s heyday? Can they not see that for Scientific American to print such self-parodying dreck is as shocking, in its way, as for the January 6 insurrectionists to gallavant all over the US Capitol waving Confederate flags? Or was no one else shocked by that either? I mean, if you support either ravaging of our culture’s main symbols of democracy and reason, then by all means say so, celebrate, cheer in the streets about this, but for God or Bertrand Russell’s sake don’t be indifferent about it! 🙂

  8. Jay L Gischer Says:

    I disagree with Brin about Yoda specifically, but otherwise, I have a somewhat low opinion of the Star Wars universe, and, in fact, the Jedi Order.

    And while writing articles about who is entitled to use “JEDI” to describe themselves or whether that’s a good idea doesn’t seem valuable to me, I also have to say that writing a blog post in reaction to such an article ALSO does not seem like a valuable use of time. We have some much more important things to worry about, not the least of which is that a lawyer pitched a scheme whereby Mike Pence was to lie in a session of Congress and engineer an unlawful takeover of the government.

    Of course, none of us can do much about this, so we just kind of hold on to that anxiety and express it in a variety of ways. Ahem.

  9. Scott Says:

    Jay Gischer #8:

      And while writing articles about who is entitled to use “JEDI” to describe themselves or whether that’s a good idea doesn’t seem valuable to me, I also have to say that writing a blog post in reaction to such an article ALSO does not seem like a valuable use of time.

    That … that is exactly what you’d think a priori would be the right position, isn’t it? And that is the position I took from 2000-2009, which coincidentally happened to be the most productive decade of my life. But then these weird things kept happening, and a weird thing that keeps happening in a shocking or depressing new way every day for an entire decade across the whole culture that you live in, and has aspects that seem vaguely oriented towards condemning nerds — yeah, that becomes a frightening thing as well.

    Or is none of this actually happening, or at least any more than it happened in the past, and is this all just a giant illusion manufactured by social media? But isn’t this plausibly one of the cases where illusion is reality?

  10. murmur Says:

    The wokes are not completely egalitarian. They have no problem if minorities dominate sports. They only have problem when groups they dislike are dominant.

    Regarding Trump, Democrats are trying very hard to portray the Jan. 6 incident as if it was the end of civilization. If one is trying to overthrow the government then he will not show up wearing a viking costume. Does anyone seriously think that motley group had the ability to overthrow the US government? How was this any different than the violent protests that rocked the nation in summer of 2020?

    In fact, Democrats have made far more serious attacks on our government. In 2017, a liberal attacked Republican congressmen; grievously injuring majority whip Steve Scalise. Nobody seems to care much about that though.

  11. asdf Says:

    Wait til they find out about the Dominated Convergence Theorem.

  12. Chip Says:

    Scott #6:

    Revisiting the post for a moment: When you say, “Meantime, of course, the US continues to careen toward its worst Constitutional crisis since the Civil War, as Trump prepares to run again in 2024…. It’s good to know that my fellow progressives have their eyes on the ball—so that when that happens, at least universities will no longer be using offensive acronyms like JEDI’!”, it’s worth pointing out that some of us think it’s possible to walk and chew gum at the same time.

    “The question, as I would’ve thought obvious, is not whether there are aspects of Star Wars that one can reasonably criticize—as I said in the post, of course there are!”. Well, no, as we drill down on this specific point, the question is which aspects you pick to criticize. Criticizing _Star Wars_ on the basis that you “hated how the most successful ‘science fiction’ franchise of all time became that way precisely by ditching any pretense of science and fully embracing mystical woo” is very different than criticizing it on the basis that Brin, say, does:

    “Just what bill of goods are we being sold, between the frames?
    “* Elites have an inherent right to arbitrary rule; common citizens needn’t be consulted. They may only choose which elite to follow.
    “* ‘Good’ elites should act on their subjective whims, without evidence, argument or accountability.
    “* Any amount of sin can be forgiven if you are important enough.
    “* True leaders are born. It’s genetic. The right to rule is inherited.
    “* Justified human emotions can turn a good person evil.”

    That’s a very different set of specific concerns than “ditching any pretense of science and fully embracing mystical woo.” Having things go “pew pew” in a vacuum because it makes for better cinema isn’t high on my list of things to get riled up about. “Mystical woo”, if handled well, can be a perfectly valid basis for world building in high quality fiction.

    “The question is whether any of those aspects are at a level that could possibly justify having to tiptoe around the word ‘Jedi,’ as if it were a racial slur or something.” The authors of the _Sci Am_ essay are not advocating making it illegal to use the acronym “JEDI”, they’re just making an argument that if you’re looking for role models for social justice causes the Jedi might not be a great choice, and maybe another acronym would be better. If that triggers you so hard, that’s on you, and maybe you need to think about why.

    “The quote marks really should’ve been parentheses, but that would’ve looked too nerdy. Just for you, I removed the quote marks.” The issue here isn’t quotation marks vs. parentheses vs. nothing at all, the issue here is that you are actively, deliberately, dishonestly misrepresenting the content of essay when you say, “The essay actually develops a 100% cogent, reasoned argument: namely, that the ideology of the Star Wars films doesn’t easily fit with the new ideology of militant egalitarianism at the expense of all other human values, including irony, humor, joy, and the nurturing of unusual talents.” That is the problem, so let me repeat it with emphasis added: you are _actively_, _deliberately_, *dishonestly* misrepresenting the content of essay when you say that. It is your (distorted) reaction to the essay, not an honest summary of the position it takes.

    “I don’t see why these authors should be allowed to equivocate between their sane motte and their lunatic bailey.” Until you actually engage with their argument to explain what in particular you found to be “lunatic” in it I don’t see why you think you’re allowed to get away with blithely characterizing it that way. Bludgeon words like “lunatic” are not a substitute for reasoned argument.

    Let’s take *one point* from the essay — *one single tiny point* — and you feel free to explain why it is “lunatic”:

    “Consider, as one example, its gender exclusionary
    potential.Studies
    suggest
    that the presence of
    /Star Wars/ and /Star Trek/ memorabilia (such as posters) in computer
    science classrooms can reinforce masculinist stereotypes about computer
    science—contributing to women’s sense that they don’t belong in that
    field
    .
    Relatedly, research indicates that even for self-identified female fans
    of /Star Wars/
    /,/ a
    sense of belonging within that fandom can be experienced as highly
    conditional, contingent on performances ‘proving’ their conformity to
    the preexisting gendered norms of dominant fan culture.”

    If you think that the point of the types of initiatives they’re talking about is to increase participation and engagement, and data shows that associating things with those franchises reduces women’s sense of inclusion and belonging, then *purely from a functional, utilitarian, “does this advance the objectives we’re trying to advance” POV* then doesn’t avoiding that make sense? You don’t get to choose or judge whether or not those things are/should be alienating to some women, you only get to choose whether you want to be part of the problem or part of the solution.

    Back to the original post for a moment, you refer to “the wokeists themselves, a huge fraction of whom (in my experience) have soft spots for the Star Wars franchise.” I don’t know that I consider myself “wokeist” per se; but I don’t see that having a “soft spot” for problematic works somehow requires turning a blind eye to how and why they are problematic. In fact, if anything it creates a greater responsibility to recognize those issues. I think Pete Davidson probably came close to getting it right when he said, “The rule should be…you could appreciate their work, but you only if you admit what they did….The full sentence should be ‘Mark Wahlberg beat up an old Asian dude, and I would like one ticket to _Daddy’s Home 3_ please.’” (Although there he was talking about situations where the creator is problematic, not necessarily the work itself. As Woody Allen films go, _Manhatten_ is problematic in a very different way than _Love and Death_ is; _Ender’s Game_ would be problematic even if Orson Scott Card’s politics were 100% Woke PC approved.)

  13. Scott Says:

    Chip #12: I’m also not primarily concerned about spaceships that go “pew pew” in a vacuum, or that travel faster than light. When I said that Star Wars entirely ditches the “science” part of science fiction, I was referring to the core idea of the franchise: the idea of a mystical Force that rules the galaxy, that’s responsive to human concerns, and that some people are able to tap into more than others. If that were the truth about how our universe works — and it’s not — then it would certainly justify inequality that isn’t justified in our actual universe. And this is a completely legitimate ground on which Star Wars can be, should be, and has been criticized.

    But you know what else should be criticized? Every essay advocating that a word or phrase be cancelled is more than an intellectual argument. It’s also an exercise in power, a threat: it says in effect, “You’re on notice. Use the word one more time, and social media mobs are hereby authorized to go after you and jeopardize your career. We decided; now you obey.”

    And there I go again with the quote marks! Both here and the previous time, I simply used quotation marks in their general sense — the sense of “these are some words with which you might describe the thing that I’m talking about” (see, I just did it a third time!). There’s no dishonesty here: you just mistakenly read it as quoting some unnamed specific person.

  14. Domotor Palvolgyi Says:

    You are linking to a Facebook address that redirects to Washington Post – why don’t you directly link to Washington Post so I can avoid Facebook?

  15. Sabine Says:

    It should be interesting if they’d do a survey among their readers how they think about this vocabulary cleaning obsession. I believe they grossly misunderstand their audience.

  16. bagel Says:

    I mean, Star Wars *isn’t* classic Science Fiction in that respect; it’s Space Opera, you know, Fantasy iiiiiiiin Spaaaaaaace.

    My favorite rule of thumb (has that saying been canceled?) between the extremes of Greg Egan and woo is that it’s science fiction if someone doing science – on screen – is a key part of the plot. Could you replace the tech mumbo-jumbo with magic mumbo-jumbo without fundamentally changing the story? If no, it’s science fiction.

    The O.G., Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, has the experimental development of artificial life as a key arc. Dr. Frankenstein works out the theories and is therefore able to do something new, and then of course the rest of the book explores whether he should have. Isaac Asimov’s Robots series walks a similar path, and like Frankenstein explores the implications of manmade life. Many of the subplots from Asimov’s Foundation series revolve around figuring out how the old Imperial tech works, all set within exploring the fictional science of psychohistory. More modern works like Anathem, Snow Crash, Cryptonomicon, or The Three Body Problem also involve the nitty gritty of scientific discovery as a key part of the story. Special mention to Andy Weir’s The Martian, the first piece of long form Engineering Fiction I can remember reading.

    And those are in this way different than, say, Star Wars or The Hyperion Cantos or Dune or The Culture or The Expanse, which all have exciting space settings but are Fantasy under the hood. The heroes are people of action, whose success comes from their morals, their determination, and their social discoveries rather than their scientific discoveries.

  17. David Duffy Says:

    Perhaps EDJI would be less problematic…

  18. Chip Says:

    Scott #13: “Every essay advocating that a word or phrase be cancelled is more than an intellectual argument. It’s also an exercise in power, a threat: it says in effect, ‘You’re on notice. Use the word one more time, and social media mobs are hereby authorized to go after you and jeopardize your career. We decided; now you obey.'”

    1) Please, *please*, PLEASE! stop confusing your internal mental caricature of the content of the essay with what the essay actually says. Whatever you may think “in effect” the essay says, what it *actually* says is, “…justice-oriented projects should approach connections to the Jedi and Star Wars with great caution, and perhaps even avoid the acronym JEDI entirely.” That’s not exactly a clarion call to “Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of doxing and Twitter cancellation!” on anyone who dares to disagree.

    2) You know what else is an exercise in power? Every essay claiming that representation doesn’t matter, every essay claiming that language and words don’t matter, every essay trivializing or invalidating the concerns of members of marginalized groups who think that they do.

    3) On 2nd thought, having given it mature consideration during a pee break, I think I am going to call BS on the blanket claim that “Every essay advocating that a word or phrase be cancelled is more than an intellectual argument. It’s also an exercise in power, a threat.” To point out (say) that the use of gendered default pronouns and terms (“fireman” rather than “firefighter”) has a well documented adverse effect in young women starting at a very early age (see the literature review in https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28902666, for example), and suggest that just maybe people could be slightly better human beings by avoiding those usages is not in any way, shape, or form in and of itself a threat of any sort. It’s only “an exercise in power, a threat” if there is an *actual threat*. Otherwise it’s simply an exercise in persuasion.

    4) And you’re still deflecting and refusing to engage in any way with the substance of the argument(s) made in the essay. What you’re “primarily concerned about” in _Star Wars_ — “…the core idea of the franchise: the idea of a mystical Force that rules the galaxy…that some people are able to tap into more than others” — what you acknowledge “is a completely legitimate ground on which Star Wars can be, should be, and has been criticized” — IS EXACTLY ONE OF THE ISSUES THE ESSAY RAISES (“Strikingly, Force-wielding talents are narratively explained in Star Wars not merely in spiritual terms but also in ableist and eugenic ones: These supernatural powers are naturalized as biological, hereditary attributes.”). It comes across as remarkably obtuse to acknowledge that while obstinately failing to see why branding equality-focused efforts with exactly the name of that group of people might be questionable. Kind of like picking the acronym SACKLER for your opiate addiction treatment project.

    (P.S. While my knowledge of the franchise is limited to the original trilogy and 2 of the prequels, I’m not sure “the Force” is itself sentient in any way, or “responsive to human concerns.” In fact I thought the whole point was that “the Force” was a neutral power that could be used in service of either of the two sides.)

  19. STEM Caveman Says:

    > Raffenspergers [or] anyone who might stand in the way of them simply setting aside the vote totals and declaring Trump the winner regardless of the actual outcome.

    Let’s get the facts straight, especially with the Arizona audit results potentially triggering the sort of extra-Constitutional problems you predict.

    Did Trump or any Republican (between Nov 3 and Jan 6) ever ask a state secretary to *declare Trump the winner* of a state he lost, or only to *decline to certify*, or de-certify, the results?

    Didn’t Raffensperger and his office produce deceptively edited tapes and transcripts of his call with Trump, later exposed as false, that were the basis of narrative-setting media stories that Trump told him to “find votes” that would swing the result in Georgia? I don’t remember the exact words Trump turned out to have used when the full transcript was revealed, but it was nothing like “ignore the votes and hand me the election”. More like the margin of victory was less than the number of invalid votes and that Raffensperger would discover as much should he investigate (and therefore should).

    Again, I’m not absolutely confident in my recall of every detail from the hundreds of conflicting and motivated articles about this since the election. But it seems that at the state level Trump and his people were pushing for recounts, audits and de- or non-certification, not to simply award states to Trump out of the blue. If there are sources that confirm Trump was saying that to Raffensperger, after the full transcript came out, I would like to see them. As I recall it was fake news with Raffensperger acting out the role of a cartoon villain with his edited leaks.

  20. Tamás V Says:

    Scott #13:

    the idea of a mystical Force that rules the galaxy, that’s responsive to human concerns, and that some people are able to tap into more than others. If that were the truth about how our universe works — and it’s not — then it would certainly justify inequality that isn’t justified in our actual universe

    The mystical Force might be intelligence. Hmm, but maybe not: so far I’ve never ever experienced that any of us is more/less intelligent than anyone else. There is a nice saying justifying this obvious equality: “In the whole world, it is human brain that is divided in the fairest way. Everybody thinks they’ve got a little bit more than others.”

  21. Alessandro Strumia Says:

    The WashingtonPost article you linked is a call to action to prevent the “destruction of democracy”, “saving the republic”. The problem is that the other side has the same belief. WP writes: “they believe the U.S. government and society have been captured by socialists, minority groups”. What else explains a former scientific journal that attacks the JEDI as “(white) saviorism and toxically masculine approaches to conflict resolution” (and, even worse, political censorship in science)?

    My understanding is that the Western lefts turned into a coalition of minorities, kept together by an intersectional Marxian conflict narrative (class replaced by race and gender), and become intolerant and authoritarian again. Contrasting this danger become popular on the other side. On both sides moderates lost space to extremists. Lefts started identity politics, its targeted groups started its mirror image. If nobody downplays this divisive tool, history will repeat.

  22. Anonymous Says:

    Channelling my inner Marxist, I actually find the Jedi order to be a surprisingly apt metaphor. Except, of course, it’s not the shining-beacon-of-hope Jedi order of the original trilogy, representing a mythical ideal for the rebels to strive for. It’s the inept, arrogant, complacent, hypocritical Jedi order of the prequels, who under high-minded pretences of peacekeeping and selflessness neglect the actual suffering of the peoples of the Galactic Republic and perpetuate the corrupt status quo. (Just for one example, Anakin Skywalker was born a slave. The Jedi neither object nor are surprised by this. They free Anakin in particular because they find him valuable, but never so much as question slavery in general.)

    Like the Jedi, the JEDI are big on paying lip service to ideals like fighting inequality and banning terms ‘master‘ and ’slave’, but when it comes to meaningful change, I don’t expect them to lift a finger.

  23. Scott Says:

    Chip #18: Can you point me to any example of, let’s say, a disabled person who relies on mechanically-assisted breathing, saying “you know, the prominence of Darth Vader as the embodiment of evil in our culture has really made my life suck more than it had to”? In such a case, I’d say: oh wow, I guess there really is an issue here that I hadn’t appreciated. This person’s rare issue needs to be weighed against whatever enjoyment hundreds of millions of people derive from Star Wars (or even perhaps whatever positive social values they got from the franchise, or even people with mechanical breathing who derive humor or joy or respite from their ability to do a Darth Vader impression), but it really is a quantitative weighing: if the negative experience of the guy with the breathing machine were either common enough or severe enough, then it really would morally outweigh everyone else’s enjoyment.

    By contrast, if — as with “JEDI,” or for that matter “quantum supremacy” — I only ever see quite privileged people denouncing the term on behalf of others who might theoretically be hurt by it — in that case it naturally does seem much more performative, like an attempt by one privileged group to assert its power over another one.

    Unrelatedly, when I wrote that the Force is “responsive to human concerns,” I didn’t mean that it takes sides. I’m hardly an expert on the series — I’ve only even seen half the episodes at all because my 8-year-old daughter went through a phase of Star Wars obsession last year — but I believe that [get ready for a humorous understatement] the series is pretty clear about the existence and power of the Dark Side of the Force. I rather meant that the Force can be talked about at all in terms of its “Light Side” and its “Dark Side” — rather than, let’s say, its bosonic and fermionic, or CP-violating and CP-respecting sectors.

  24. John Stricker Says:

    Rick Fleischer #2, Domotor Palvolgyi #14, and perhaps others:

    Here is the direct Washington Post link:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/09/23/robert-kagan-constitutional-crisis/
    (Here is also an archived version: https://archive.is/I0qLb)

    David Duffy #17 — Funny!

  25. anon Says:

    The Scientific American article is ridiculous, but I do wish scientists didn’t try so hard to come up with “funny” acronyms.

  26. Ocelot Says:

    Chip #18

    If someone writes “we’re striving for more JEDI in our institution”, how do you think these supposed negative connotations of Star Wars weigh against the fact that it’s explicitly an acronym for “Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion”? I feel like I would never write the above sentence if I wasn’t trying to communicate the latter, and all my readers are more than capable of understanding that.

    Thus, all this hand wringing over “connotation” as if it really truly matters is, in my opinion, a waste of breath.

    Also, the fact that you don’t think language policing is weaponized all the time makes me seriously question your experience here … I’ve seen it in my institution. I’ve seen countless examples in the news. How can you deny that there is a large body of people waiting to police others’ language in these areas; especially having seen the example of quantum supremacy covered on this very blog?

    You talk of a data-driven approach to solving inclusion. Well, here’s some data: I find language policing tedious and tiresome, and I try to find institutions that have less of it. If there are others like me (I’m a man , but I know for a fact there are many women who feel the same way), then maybe policing Star Trek posters is a total non-starter for building an inclusive tech group, because everybody will eventually find the policing (of which there is bound to be loads more) tedious, and decide to leave for other groups.

    As for me, I have ideas for at least removing barriers to women … the first of which is to crack down on any actual stalker-ey behavior from men, that is a real problem disproportionately faced by women. Beyond that, we need to increase opportunities to enter STEM across the board (with a variety of maker spaces with different subcultures. And hey: organically, this will mean some subgroups will have no interest in Star Trek!). If we can get to the point where everyone who is interested in STEM feels comfortable enough to join a group, that will be mission accomplished in my book.

  27. anti work liberal conservative Says:

    @chip, “it’s worth pointing out that some of us think it’s possible to walk and chew gum at the same time”.

    The facts are however, that if you optimize for wokeness for privileged people, you are going to get sub-optimal results for others. In this case, instead of engaging in rethorical discussions about Star Wars, why didn’t you spend your time helping disabled people in your community? Is it that you have chosen to exercise wokeness to elicit your sense of power and drive enjoyment from intellectual debates instead of sacrificing your own wellness for the unprivileged? By woke logic (not mine) this is immoral it seems.

    The above exemplifies the absurdity of the radical woke faction in privileged Western societies. As Scott rightly said, it is a political drive exercising power for the sake of control and self joy.

  28. Anon32 Says:

    #20 wrote: “so far I’ve never ever experienced that any of us is more/less intelligent than anyone else.”

    I doubt if you have been looking very hard. Scott is smarter than I am—as are lots of other people. I’m smarter than most but very far from the smartest.

    I suggest you read a good biography of Freeman Dyson or Richard Feynman.

    Anon32

  29. JimV Says:

    Great post! Once again, I wish I could write like that.

    I stopped going to Star Wars movies with the third (to be released) which was about three too many. I guess, in fairness, it is no worse than most movies, which have one main goal: to do whatever it takes to attract mass audiences and make money, regardless of whether it makes sense or not.

    I have read about the Kagan opinion piece in other blogs (e.g., Lawyers, Guns, and Money). It makes some valid and concerning points. My knowledge of Trump as a public persona goes back about 40 years and at no point has he appeared as anything but a predatory con man with no concept of duty to anyone but himself. It amazes me that anyone sees anything redeeming in his career or behavior. His sole talent appears to be in harnessing the hatred and biases of other people to his own benefit.

    As for the article in SA, I haven’t read it and don’t see any reason to. I had a subscription to SA in the 1990’s, and the subject article seems very far afield from the stated purpose of the magazine. Although, frankly, I think SA has had and does have a bit of the “controversy sells” syndrome.

  30. Tamás V Says:

    Anon32 #28: I read that of Feynman. I don’t think Scott is smarter than you 🙂 So what does “equality” actually mean here? (If tapping into intelligence is out of scope…)

  31. JimV Says:

    P.S. As for Yoda’s wisdom, as in “Do or do not. There is no try.”–bullshit! There is try!

    Read Einstein’s Zurich Notebook (available in English translation with explanations online). He tried a lot of things before getting the right equations for General Relativity. Trial and error is how all progress is made.

    My main problem with movies like Star Wars, aside from the fact that you leave the theater thinking “That didn’t make any sense” is that they teach wish-fulfillment fantasies. Yoda should have said, “There is no wish-fulfillment, only trial and error.”

    Star Wars riddle: what happens if you stay outside on the Ice Planet Hoth after the Shield Wall goes up?

    Answer: you’ll freeze your ton-ton.

  32. DR Says:

    Part of the fascinating thing about America to me has always been that every fringe idea has an audience here. The problem now is that the 2 far extremes are not fringe-sized anymore. The pandemic and the way it has messed with people’s sense of reality has not helped either.

    Thank you for your writing. It has helped put things in perspective each time. I read about the Trump menace on the sullydish substack (Andrew Sullivan). People around the center from the right and left ought to write, exactly like this, to help people understand.

  33. Brad Says:

    Chip #6

    You asked for examples of lunacy?

    “They are a religious order of intergalactic police-monks, prone to (white) saviorism and toxically masculine approaches to conflict resolution (violent duels with phallic lightsabers, gaslighting by means of “Jedi mind tricks,” etc.).”

    Behold the sentence above. This is glorious and inspired lunacy. Phallic lightsabers! Gasllighting by means of Jedi mind tricks!

    Chipper (if I may), is that not lunacy? If that is not lunacy, tell me where sanity ends and lunacy begins? Phallic lightsabers doesn’t cross your lunacy threshold?

    Are all things longer than they are wide now potentially phallic and therefore toxic?

    It’s lunacy, Chip. It’s lunacy.

  34. BTAMNZz Says:

    It shouldn’t have been that hard to unconditionally condemn wokeness but alas you couldn’t make it all the way through the post. Evil can’t be appeased or converted. Wokeness is an evil that has harmed many good people, and it is evil on its own terms and not just because its excesses can be exploited by Trump fans. The only ethically acceptable and psychologically healthy attitude toward the woke is (as FDR said about bankers) to welcome their hatred.

  35. Scott Says:

    BTAMNZz #34: What would you say about a European academic in the 1930s who regularly condemned the absurdities of campus communists, yet was completely silent about the … err, excesses of the anticommunist side? I’d say: such a person could be 100% correct in everything they said about the communists, yet would still have displayed an enormous moral blind spot. I’m determined not to be that person.

  36. Bill J Says:

    I almost re-subscribed to SciAm recently. Then I read their “Why Anti-Trans Laws Are Anti-Science” editorial. Clearly one-sided/political with no exploration of the conflicting research
    (also no comments on the low quality of the existing research). (The motions in Brandt v. Rutledge, 4:21-cv-00450, available for free on courtlistener are a good start to read up on the controversy; with pointers to research). ACLU being woke on these issues is also mind boggling (for example, the RBG quote). Is the entire world going crazy?

    There still seem to be reasonable people around (on a different topic; related to the “Please cheer me up” post): Quilette article “As US Schools Prioritize Diversity Over Merit, China Is
    Becoming the World’s STEM Leader”.

  37. jackjohnson Says:

    There’s something very wrong in the Star Wars universe:

    https://www.metafilter.com/164379/Did-Inadequate-Womens-Healthcare-Destroy-Star-Wars-Old-Republic

  38. Chip Says:

    Scott #23: Instead of addressing some arbitrary imagined hypothetical that you’ve chosen to pull out of thin air, I’ll just point you back to the specific issue raised by the essay that I quoted in Comment #12 that you chose to simply ignore. I’m not sure why the links to various studies from the essay disappeared in the comment, as I thought I’d cut and pasted from a Firefox-saved text version so they’d show, but obviously they’re in the essay on the _SA_ site.

    So lobbing it back at you: if explicitly associating STEM fields with stereotypical things like the _Star _ franchises reduces female interest in the computer science, and you’ve got an initiative aimed at increasing female interest and participation in the field, don’t you think that just maybe it might not be a good idea to pick acronyms associated with those things? You don’t get to choose or judge whether that effect does/should exist — it is what it is. Your only choice once its been brought to your attention is whether you’re going to be sensitive to it or not.

    And this has nothing to do with “morally outweigh(ing) everyone else’s enjoyment” of the films or the books or whatever. Nowhere do the authors of the essay that started this suggest that people shouldn’t consume and enjoy stuff from the franchise, just that maybe don’t use it to brand your STEM inclusiveness initiatives. Substituting your imagined mental caricature of what the essay says for what it actually says doesn’t do a lot for the credibility of your position, especially when you insist on doing it repeatedly.

    You say, “I only ever see quite privileged people denouncing the term on behalf of others who might theoretically be hurt by it — in that case it naturally does seem much more performative…” It’s not “theoretical” if there are documented impacts on attitudes. Also, I don’t see why someone should have to chain smoke to the point of getting lung cancer in order to point folks towards the Surgeon General’s report to explain why smoking might be a bad idea without being accused of being inauthentic. For that matter, 3 of the 5 authors of the essay are women, so it seems a little disingenuous to claim that applies here.

    As an aside, I’m really surprised by the way the writer for _Wired_ worded their article in reporting on the paper being talked about — a quick text search of the actual paper (https://depts.washington.edu/sibl/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Master_Computing.pdf) does not reveal any use of the words “unwashed” or “nerd(s)” either individually or as a phrase.

    Ocelot #26: With regard to cracking down on actual stalker-ey behavior from men, fully on board with the idea, again just pointing out walking and chewing gum not mutually exclusive activities.

    I don’t deny the existence of issues with excessive language policing; I just refuse to accept the logical fallacy that the existence of those excesses justifies engaging in blanket dismissiveness of the underlying concerns.

    As for the rest of it, I can certainly understand why someone who thinks “all this hand wringing over ‘connotation’ as if it really truly matters is…a waste of breath” would find the idea that maybe it’s worth giving some thought to the way their language choices impact others around them as “tedious and tiresome.” I don’t *respect* it (which I’m sure you can live with and won’t lose any sleep over), but I understand it.

    “anti work liberal conservative”#27. a) I think you meant “anti woke” (although you’d be a lot more interesting if you actually had meant “anti work”); b) interesting that you make assumptions about how much time I’ve spent engaging in direct community service work; I’m going to return the favor and bet that I’ve spent a hell of a lot more time over the course of my life engaging in it than you have.

  39. Brad Says:

    Chip #38

    I’m imagining a counterfactual world in which all current JEDI organizations were named, instead, IDEJ. How does this impact female participation in STEM? I’m really liking the null hypothesis on this one. I’m laying money on the null hypothesis, even with a big sample size.

    And yet … I’m imaging the story of little Sarah. In the IDEJ world, she becomes famous for her work on quarks. In the JEDI world, she chooses critical theory and becomes a pretty successful professor in the Education department at Cornell. Ahh, the power of acronym in this chaotic world! Poor Sarah of the JEDI world–marvelous Sarah of the quark world!

    Long live IDEJ, down with JEDI! Down with phallic light-sabers! Down with Ben Kenobi! Down, frankly, with Han Solo!

  40. Anti Woke Liberal Conservative Says:

    @chip,

    “interesting that you make assumptions about how much time I’ve spent engaging in direct community service work; I’m going to return the favor and bet that I’ve spent a hell of a lot more time over the course of my life engaging in it than you have.”

    I didn’t make that assumption. You misunderstood the argument. It’s a fact that you spend time here debating what might be considered petty wokestry rhetorical wars. In this time you could have helped disabled people in your community. But you chose your own good, against doing other good. It’s an immoral decision of yours (by woke standards): the net loss in social good benefits caused by your decision is higher than the net loss due to someone sticking to the JEDI acronym despite its alleged negative social justice signals.
    That is the petty bickering the woke ideology brings society to.

    “I’m going to return the favor and bet that I’ve spent a hell of a lot more time over the course of my life engaging in it than you have.”

    What’s your point? I’m not engaged in volunteering or helping the community. Never claimed otherwise.

  41. Chip Says:

    AWLC #40: Your argument begs the question by assuming that your assessments of utility are correct.

    Brad #39: The obvious question has to be, given studies that show associating CS (specifically) with various stereotypical trappings that include the _Star [Trek/Wars]_ franchises decreases female interest in the field, why are you “really liking the null hypothesis on this one”?

    Of course, any of the academics in this thread could always choose to mock up a couple logos (one for the “JEDI CS Initiative” complete with light saber battle superimposed on a Death Star, and one for a stereotype-neutral Acronym X), bop over to the Psych Department, and pitch doing an experiment to a buddy on the faculty there. Obviously I’m not talking about a long term longitudinal study, something more like having two sets of female subjects respond to a survey/questionnaire about interest in CS that had the different logos similar to the study I gave the link to. Probably be a good Master’s thesis for someone, and being subjects in that kind of experiment is what sophomore undergrad Psych students are for. I’m always in favor of more data.

  42. Greg Guy Says:

    I don’t understand the problem. It seems that JEDI is the perfect acronym for those that promote Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. A privileged elite that has given itself the holier than thou mission to save everyone whether they need to be saved or not – check! Perhaps the Wokeratii’s real problem with the acronym is that it’s a little too on the nose? This is not a group that is fond of the mirror being turned back on them.

  43. Gadi Says:

    The left has undergone complete ideological confusion and subversion. You’re noticing it only now but there is simply nothing left (pun intended). Every real left liberal democratic values was replaced by propaganda with comically absurd inconsistent values. It’s amazing because instead of convincing people against real liberal values, they brainwash people into a twisted version of these values, managing to receive the support of those who should oppose them the most.

    – freedom and liberty, which conflict with vaccine mandates, coronavirus lockdowns.
    – freedom of speech, which conflict with cancel culture and wokeism.
    – equality, which conflicts with affirmative action and anti-white discrimination everywhere
    – women rights, which conflicts with the compromised left’s obsession with loving Muslims
    – elections as a way to hold the government accountable, which conflicts with mail-in ballots and electronic voting which means the government is only accountable to itself.
    – supporting the low-class workers, while your supposedly leftist government is actually supported by huge corporations abusing low-class workers overseas and gig-workers at home.

    There is absolutely nothing liberal at all in what you Americans call liberals. There is nothing democratic at all in what you Americans call democratic elections. Your democratic party is an insult to the concept of democracy, with the way they rig elections. You’re constantly bombarded with incredibly obvious doublespeak and you’re too blind to see it.

    You don’t need to lie about a single objective fact in order to control a nation. You only need to lie about ideologies. Brainwash a nation to believe voting in the internet is democratic election and you can control a country indefinitely. Your election process isn’t practically harder to rig than that from the government’s perspective.

  44. Watson Ladd Says:

    Scientific American has gone downhill for years. The days when it was a journal for explaining important results in research in terms anyone could understand are gone. It’s steadily gotten less detailed, more medicine and personal health coverage and sensational headlines.

  45. Anti woke liberal conservative Says:

    @Chip:
    “AWLC #40: Your argument begs the question by assuming that your assessments of utility are correct.”

    Your refutation of my argument begs the question by assuming my assessment of utility are incorrect. It is self evident that helping disabled people in your community will enhance the amount of goodness in the world much more than arguing with two to three people in some blog post’s comment section about the potential harmfulness of using the JEDI acronym. Yet here you are.

    More broadly, Diversity and Equity and wokeness in general is a self serving ideology. Like most other idealogies and religions. In which those who are most vocal about it are those usually benefiting it by securing high earning and desirable jobs, promotion, respect and control. This does not mean the woke ideology is evil, because even good endeavours can be promoted by self serving people. However, continuous focus on petty bickering about unimportant matters like “NIPS”, “JEDI”, and other forms of speech control, do harm the reputation of this idealogy.

  46. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Ah yes. I remember finding all the old issues of SA in the stacks at the library and going through them in delight. The allure lessened post Martin Gardner and became actual repulsion once leftist politics crept in. I had a hard time accepting that US science had become a handmaiden to politics but eventually forced to consider it as fact.

    I just started reading Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and realized a couple pages in it would be a top priority for the woke firemen if a US author.

  47. Laurence Cox Says:

    Is anyone really against “Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion”, in other words is anyone standing for injustice, inequity, lack of diversity and exclusion – I think not (well perhaps Trump and his uneducated legions are, but I am talking about people in universities). Using ‘Star Wars’ is a sure sign that the authors have not read much, if any, science fiction and certainly have not been exposed to high-quality science fiction (Sturgeon’s law applies to everything including sf).

    If we were wanting to compare, say, equality of outcome against equality of opportunity then the natural sf story to use to illustrate why the latter is better is Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”, first published in 1961.

    The real failings of the article for me are that the authors never define what they mean by the words “justice”, “equity”, “diversity” and “inclusion” and never seem to notice that what they criticise is not JEDI, but J.E.D.I (the periods indicating that it is not to be read as a single word). They, not surprisingly, misrepresent it by pretending that it is somehow related to a ‘Star Wars’ theme when, in reality, there is no such linkage (except, perhaps, in their imaginations). If it were a Sokal parody, then Scientific American should really have given it an April 1st dateline , just so no-one was fooled.

  48. 1Zer0 Says:

    Star Wars is already fairly unsufferable with robots/ AI showing high level intelligence yet seemingly with so poorly designed targeting algorithms, that they are unable to hit anything more than 10m away from them reliably – and even that stretches it.
    Come to think of it, the other one, Star Trek with their “neutrino phaser amplified by graviton interference” and in one episode an “exact replica” of the enterprise, just made out of slime, travelling superluminal and what not doesn’t deserve the “science fiction” label either.

  49. OhMyGoodness Says:

    1Zer0#48

    You have identified something of fundamental importance. Bad targeting algorithms are exactly why clashes between interstellar civilizations must be settled by swordplay or a fist fight.

  50. maline Says:

    Overall I do think that today’s Social Justice activism seems to be doing more harm than good, but I really don’t see any ‘cancelling’ in this article. The writers are not objecting to people mentioning Star Wars or the Jedi in general; they are worrying about the branding of their own movement. That is legitimately their own business to work out. The basic point – that they don’t want their cause to be called JEDI because the Jedi are not great role models – is also perfectly legit.

    Only question is, why is Scientific American publishing on this topic at all? Is this discussion supposed to be Science?

  51. fred Says:

    Given its Jewish connections, it’s not surprising that SW is finally a woke target:

    https://forward.com/culture/327265/the-secret-jewish-history-of-star-wars/

    “Laurie Penny used Star Wars metaphors in her interesting response to my comment-171, telling male nerds like me that we need to learn to accept that “[we’re] not the Rebel Alliance, [we’re] actually part of the Empire and have been all along.”

    Of course the far-left sees the Jews as too white, and the far-right sees them as not white enough, and, as a result, Hollywood doesn’t know how to position itself relative to wokeness.
    In the original trilogy, “The Empire” was clearly a depiction of “Nazis in space”, while the latest SW iterations kept the ‘1930’s Nuremberg rally’ imagery but also added oppressed minorities to the ranks of “The First Order”.

  52. fred Says:

    1Zer0 #48
    “Star Wars is already fairly unsufferable with robots/ AI showing high level intelligence yet seemingly with so poorly designed targeting algorithms, that they are unable to hit anything more than 10m away from them reliably – and even that stretches it.”

    It’s not that AI and robots have imprecise algorithms.
    The reason is that the JEDI, being prescient/attuned to the Force, are able to instantly and unconsciously influence the collapse of the wave function in such a way that blaster shots from normal humans or machines appear to always miss their intended target.

  53. fred Says:

    1Zer0 #48
    “Star Wars is already fairly unsufferable with robots/ AI showing high level intelligence yet seemingly with so poorly designed targeting algorithms, that they are unable to hit anything more than 10m away from them reliably – and even that stretches it.”

    Another explanation is that, George Lucas, being the absolute story teller of SW, is free to select which branch of the multiverse is the one the audience sees (he can’t possibly present them all at once).

    It happens to be the one where blaster shots from common humans and robots happen to miss their intended target, and where the hero will always survive even if “the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately three-thousand-seven-hundred-twenty to one”.

  54. Scott Says:

    maline #50: In the US, essentially every university and corporation now has a major office or initiative for DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), or whatever other acronym is used. So these questions concern all of us who work at such places! It’s not just “their movement.”

    Beyond that, though, it strikes me that the logic of the article is so extreme that, were it accepted, there’s no reason not to carry it further. E.g., why shouldn’t anyone who mentions Star Wars or the Jedi be guilty of a potential microaggression against anyone who felt marginalized by the movies, for any of the reasons painstakingly listed in the article? As I see things, it was the article’s responsibility to propose some limit on the generalizability of the offense-taking. Because it failed to do so, readers might reasonably fear that there is no limit, other than what the offense-takers believe they can currently get away with.

  55. Contentious Says:

    I recently read The Heart of Darkness, then a 1995 New Yorker piece on ‘The Trouble with Heart of Darkness’ — https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1995/11/06/the-trouble-with-heart-of-darkness — “Is Joseph Conrad’s novel a critique of colonialism, or an example of it?” With observation from a university classroom discussion. The political correctness of the nineties seems so mellow in comparison to what we see in America today.

  56. Turing's Enigma Says:

    Trump has a reasonable chance of winning. There is an hypothesis on which he is running. During covid he informed the republicans to not mail in their votes and they had more reason to be lazy than democrats who were mailing in (in fact had 6 weeks to procrastinate their votes). Do you buy the idea it is why Trump lost? If not I think a crisis might be very well averted.

  57. John T. Says:

    I don’t have any contact with these “wokes” in the real world, but I’ve run across them online and concluded that what we’re dealing with is not really about ideology so much as a particular psychological type. I suspect you’ll many of them in every fanatical, militant ideological cult or movement. Some of their common attributes include:

    * humorless
    * rigidly binary, Manichean thinkers (“you’re either with us or you’re against us”)
    * hyper-judgmental
    * hyper-ideological: ideas are more important than facts on the ground; words are equivalent to violence
    * authoritarian: their dictates are to be obeyed, not debated, and deviators are to be punished
    * guilt by association: you’re a bad person if you associate with other people they deem bad
    * cultish language: common, repetitive use of particular weaponized words and concepts
    * militant: life is a struggle for power; peaceful, happy existence is problematic
    * totalist: everything must serve the struggle—no aspect of life can be exempted

    Anyway, it’s fascinating and disturbing how our academies seem to be magnets for this pathological personality type. I’m encouraged to see prominent academics like Scott standing up to them, and would hope that they are further scorned like the members of any totalitarian cult would be in a place that is supposed to be about the free exchange of ideas.

  58. Michele Says:

    I think Spaceballs is far more entertaining and less pretentious than Star Wars.

  59. A. Karhukainen Says:

    @Michele: John Carpenter’s first movie, “Dark Star” (from 1974) is even better.

  60. Scott Says:

    Michele #58: Spaceballs is a silly, puerile, absolute f-ing classic and joy of my childhood that I was excited to share with my daughter, like a treasured heirloom. But of course, it could never have existed without Star Wars.

  61. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Contentious #55
    Thanks for the link to the New Yorker article-very interesting discussion. My view differs-Marlowe detests the Europeans he encounters throughout his journey (with one exception). He finds them vacuous exhibiting only simple behaviors programmed by society or guided by base instincts. They have no internal strength nor intelligence nor internal complexity. They are automatons with delusions of importance. With the external structure provided by European society (policemen, grocery stores, etc) they are able to maintain their internal fictions. Once the external structure is removed Marlowe sees they are reduced to scheming and ineffective pointless behaviors (with one exception).

    Kurtz is the exception. He does have inner strength and is capable of thoughtful reflection. My view of Kurtz however is that he threw off European culture and lived within the African culture where he found himself. He was barbaric to the extent that local customs were barbaric relative to European culture. His acceptance of local customs resulted in his being able to function in his job at a much higher level than any other European in the Company. His abrogation of European behavior branded him as a suspicious figure no longer conducting himself in the right manner. Kurtz is the sole character in the novel that establishes a personal relationship with Africans and so rather than his character being an icon for the evils of Colonialism as practiced in that place at that time he is rather the counterpoint to the evils of that particular Colonialism. It is incredibly ironic to me that cultural biases are sill so strong that Kurtz is considered the true villain.

    I am not otherwise familiar with Belgian colonialism in the Congo. If this novel is a fairly accurate rendering then I agree there is a material difference between the Congo and English colonialism in Africa. England for example overthrew a local pro-slavery regime in Lagos and set up a local representative democracy. The mistake England made in many places (my opinion) when they ended colonial rule was to consider that democracy would allow tribal and religious groups that had warred for centuries to peacefully coexist in a national state. That certainly hasn’t worked out as considered.

    Marlowe notes at the beginning of the novel that the Thames was a river of darkness for the Roman occupiers that came simply to conquer and plunder during their reign. The difference between Roman occupation and English colonialism was that there was an idea to improve living conditions of those in colonial lands. My view is English execution was imperfect but they did leave West Africa better then they found it and better than it would have been without their intercession.

  62. Charles Alexander Says:

    Martin Gardner was actually a fierce critic of force bullshit (Orgone theory).

  63. Nancy Lebovitz Says:

    Article about a desire for diversity and inclusion leading to teaching math better and finding that the proportion of people who can be good at math is higher than a lot of people think.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2021/09/bias-math-sexism-racism/620207/

    Non-paywalled: https://archive.is/BlkO2

    This is much better quality diversity and inclusion than I usually.

    *****

    There are a lot of women who like Star Wars. What about them?

    For a novel by a woman about the love of Star Wars, see Diane Duane’s High Wizardry.

  64. fred Says:

    John T. #57

    Another important trait seems to be youth.
    When you’re young, you tend to be very attached and vocal about your own opinions.
    When I was 16 or so and someone would bring up the death penalty (which I opposed strongly at the time, now I’m not so sure), I would really get all worked up about it.
    Same when the first golf war happened and I was in college and some of us would all have really intense discussions about it, some almost getting in physical fights about it.
    It seems that young people either don’t give a shit at all about such things, or, if they do, then they’re really radical about it.
    But how much can you really know about life when you’re only 16 or 18?

  65. Nilima Nigam Says:

    I read the Scientific American article. It came across as disappointingly US-centric. A lot of the terms and concerns perhaps have a particular meaning within the context of the USA, but don’t generalize particularly well to the rest of the planet. For example, it is a bit of a stretch to imagine the pressing concerns around equitable access to education are identical around the planet. They aren’t. The article doesn’t say they are.

    I miss the Martin Gardner era of the magazine, because there was a higher fraction of articles those of us in other places/cultures/first languages could appreciate. But this is a minor problem, I guess. The Scientific American can have discussion which leave thousands outside the country going ‘huh? They have posters in their classrooms?’
    I guess this is fair, given the name of the magazine.

  66. fred Says:

    The one thing I agree on with the article is that JEDI is a copyrighted term, part of a product pushed/owned by a mega-corporation.

  67. Bill Brice Says:

    https://chancellor.wisc.edu/blog/what-a-rock-has-to-do-with-racism/

    I can no longer distinguish parody from real news myself. It’s both sad and yet mildly entertaining. But I’ve got work to do and so do you. Those who can contribute meaningfully to the culture should just continue to do that. You can’t argue against people who view logical structures themselves as inherently racist.

  68. Laurence Cox Says:

    1Zer0 #48

    “Star Wars is already fairly unsufferable with robots/ AI showing high level intelligence yet seemingly with so poorly designed targeting algorithms, that they are unable to hit anything more than 10m away from them reliably – and even that stretches it.”

    I have now discovered the reason for it from this article in The Conversation

    https://theconversation.com/drugs-robots-and-the-pursuit-of-pleasure-why-experts-are-worried-about-ais-becoming-addicts-163376

    Training AIs using standard machine leaning protocols can cause ‘wireheading’. As the galaxy of Star Wars is ‘far, far away’ this knowledge has not reached them yet.

  69. arch1 Says:

    Ocelot #26 “I find language policing tedious and tiresome, and I try to find institutions that have less of it.”:

    I think that wokeism has gotten out of control, and am generally opposed to canceling people. That said I have a question: Does your term “language policing” include all efforts to convince people that long-accepted language constructs are harmful and should be discouraged/avoided?

    If so, I part ways with you there. That’s because I was convinced by a Doug Hofstadter essay (google “hofstadter sexism English”) that English is harmfully sexist. It did this by in effect making me consider the impact on young children of a *counterfactual* English which is racist to the same extent that real English is sexist. I could not convince myself that e.g. a black child growing up using a language pervaded by such constructs as “whitekind”, “chairwhite”, and “white is the measure of all things” among many others would be unharmed thereby; or that the dismissiveness of most adults towards any concern about this (don’t be silly Shana, everyone knows that “white does not live by bread alone” actually refers to people of all colors, etc.) would mitigate, as opposed to exacerbate, such harm.

    This exemplifies why I think a blanket rejection of wokeness is overly simplistic. Familiarity blinds us to certain things which still need fixing. Drawing peoples’ attention to such things, in the right ways, can be a good thing.

  70. Dan T. Says:

    The way things have been weaponized in the culture wars means that people on many different sides (there are way more than two) are likely to have big chips on their shoulders about it and interpret criticism as an attempt to get a rage mob formed to cancel their side. This can become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

  71. Tu Says:

    Were we, the comment section of S-O Sokal’d? Was this blog post written in good faith, or was Scott trying to run an experiment to see what would happen if he wrote an article forcing his commentors to choose between:

    1) Complaining about woke people in the comments section
    2) Complaining about Star Wars as a work of science fiction in the comment section

    Two matters of the utmost importance, two of the S-O communities favorite things to talk about, and almost impossible to choose from– which one will take the day?

    I personally find Star Wars to be slightly more offensive than the current university wokeness situation, but I will admit that I am really splitting hairs. The Return of the Sith was a great movie though…

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