## My values, howled into the wind

I’m about to leave for a family vacation—our first such since before the pandemic, one planned and paid for literally the day before the news of Omicron broke. On the negative side, staring at the case-count graphs that are just now going vertical, I estimate a ~25% chance that at least one of us will get Omicron on this trip. On the positive side, I estimate a ~60% chance that in the next 6 months, at least one of us would’ve gotten Omicron or some other variant even without this trip—so maybe it’s just as well if we get it now, when we’re vaxxed to the maxx and ready and school and university are out.

If, however, I do end this trip dead in an ICU, I wouldn’t want to do so without having clearly set out my values for posterity. So with that in mind: in the comments of my previous post, someone asked me why I identify as a liberal or a progressive, if I passionately support educational practices like tracking, ability grouping, acceleration, and (especially) encouraging kids to learn advanced math whenever they’re ready for it. (Indeed, that might be my single stablest political view, having been held, for recognizably similar reasons, since I was about 5.)

Incidentally, that previous post was guest-written by my colleagues Edith Cohen and Boaz Barak, and linked to an open letter that now has almost 1500 signatories. Our goal was, and is, to fight the imminent dumbing-down of precollege math education in the United States, spearheaded by the so-called “California Mathematics Framework.” In our joint efforts, we’ve been careful with every word—making sure to maintain the assent of our entire list of signatories, to attract broad support, to stay narrowly focused on the issue at hand, and to bend over backwards to concede much as we could. Perhaps because of those cautions, we—amazingly—got some actual traction, reaching people in government (such as Rep. Ro Khanna, D – Silicon Valley) and technology leaders, and forcing the “no one’s allowed to take Algebra in 8th grade” faction to respond to us.

This was disorienting to me. On this blog, I’m used just to howling into the wind, having some agree, some disagree, some take to Twitter to denounce me, but in any case, having no effect of any kind on the real world.

It’s like, what do you call someone who’s absolutely terrified about global warming, and who thinks the best response would’ve been (and actually, still is) a historic surge in nuclear energy, possibly with geoengineering to tide us over?

… who wants to end world hunger … and do it using GMO crops?

… who wants to smash systems of entrenched privilege in college admissions … and believes that the SAT and other standardized tests are the best tools ever invented for that purpose?

… who feels a personal distaste for free markets, for the triviality of what they so often elevate and the depth of what they let languish, but tolerates them because they’ve done more than anything else to lift up the world’s poor?

… who’s happiest when telling the truth for the cause of social justice … but who, if told to lie for the cause of social justice, will probably choose silence or even, if pushed hard enough, truth?

… who wants to legalize marijuana and psychedelics, and also legalize all the promising treatments currently languishing in FDA approval hell?

… who feels little attraction to the truth-claims of the world’s ancient religions, except insofar as they sometimes serve as prophylactics against newer and now even more virulent religions?

… who thinks the covid response of the CDC, FDA, and other authorities was a historic disgrace—not because it infringed on the personal liberties of antivaxxers or anything like that, but on the contrary, because it was weak, timid, bureaucratic, and slow, where it should’ve been like that of a general at war?

… who thinks the Nazi Holocaust was even worse than the mainstream holds it to be, because in addition to the staggering, one-lifetime-isn’t-enough-to-internalize-it human tragedy, the Holocaust also sent up into smoke whatever cultural process had just produced Einstein, von Neumann, Bohr, Szilard, Born, Meitner, Wigner, Haber, Pauli, Cantor, Hausdorff, Ulam, Tarski, Erdös, and Noether, and with it, one of the wellsprings of our technological civilization?

… who supports free speech, to the point of proudly tolerating views that really, actually disgust them at their workplace, university, or online forum?

… who believes in patriotism, the police, the rule of law, to the extent that they don’t understand why all the enablers of the January 6 insurrection, up to and including Trump, aren’t currently facing trial for treason against the United States?

… who’s (of course) disgusted to the core by Trump and everything he represents, but who’s also disgusted by the elite virtue-signalling hypocrisy that made the rise of a Trump-like backlash figure predictable?

… who not only supports abortion rights, but also looks forward to a near future when parents, if they choose, are free to use embryo selection to make their children happier, smarter, healthier, and free of life-crippling diseases (unless the “bioethicists” destroy that future, as a previous generation of Deep Thinkers destroyed our nuclear future)?

… who, when reading about the 1960s Sexual Revolution, instinctively sides with free-loving hippies and against the scolds … even if today’s scolds are themselves former hippies, or intellectual descendants thereof, who now clothe their denunciations of other people’s gross, creepy sexual desires in the garb of feminism and social justice?

What, finally, do you call someone whose image of an ideal world might include a young Black woman wearing a hijab, an old Orthodox man with black hat and sidecurls, a broad-shouldered white guy from the backwoods of Alabama, and a trans woman with purple hair, face tattoos and a nose ring … all of them standing in front of a blackboard and arguing about what would happen if Alice and Bob jumped into opposite ends of a wormhole?

Do you call such a person “liberal,” “progressive,” “center-left,” “centrist,” “Pinkerite,” “technocratic,” “neoliberal,” “libertarian-ish,” “classical liberal”? Why not simply call them “correct”? 🙂

### 224 Responses to “My values, howled into the wind”

1. bks Says:

I call you a realist.

2. orthonormal Says:

More humbly, “basically consequentialist” fits perfectly well for much of this. Accordingly, you can have reasonable disagreements with other consequentialists who disagree on values or on what effects certain actions will have. It’s people who put rules or tribal politics above consequences that drive you up the wall.

The specific remainder is that you place a great consequentialist weight on scientific progress.

Does that seem about right to you?

3. Scott Says:

bks #1 and orthonormal #2: OK, I’ll take “consequentialist” or “scientific realist”!

4. Rnd( Says:

Was on board until Trump derangement symptoms.

I’m saddened by lack of criticality towards BLM terrorism and sedition. No demands to jail and brand as treason anyone supporting these terrorist and their actions…

5. Ernest Davis Says:

Small typo: I presume you mean Pauli, not Pauling, who was born in Portland.

On the substance: I agree with most of that, not quite all; I imagine that most of the people you engage with on this blog and on Facebok would. The disagreements are partly on emphasis and partly on the issues that you haven’t listed.

Have a great trip and stay well!

6. the_explainable_variance Says:

> … who feels little attraction to the truth-claims of the world’s ancient religions, except insofar as they sometimes serve as prophylactics against newer and now even more virulent religions?

This might feel intuitively correct (in that a lack of belief leaves room for crazier beliefs), but all the evidence I have seen seems to indicate that this is incorrect.

Religious people are the most vulnerable to new religions like QAnon. (https://www.au.org/church-state/july-august-2021-church-state-magazine/people-events/survey-finds-wide-acceptance-of)

New religions like QAnon take advantage of existing religious belief instead of filling in a void.

You also don’t see increased partisanship in European countries with less religion.

7. Jon Awbrey Says:

Well, sweet, well-meaning, but pretty naive. I guess I am 2.

8. Scott Says:

Ernest Davis #5: Thanks, fixed!

If your disagreement is partly on issues that I didn’t list, then how do you know that I do disagree with you? 🙂 (Unless it’s stuff that we’ve discussed on Facebook or whatever)

9. Scott Says:

the_explainable_variance #6: I agree with you. Traditional religions seem to be prophylactic against certain specific modern religions, such as Marxism and wokeism. But as you pointed out, other modern religions, such as QAnon, are if anything parasitic on traditional religions.

10. Scott Says:

Jon Awbrey #7: “I guess I am 2” ← could you clarify this?

As for “naivete,” I wear that on my sleeve with pride! 🙂

11. Wow Says:

You think your views are nuanced but only insofar as a shitburger with carefully sourced jalapeños is nuanced.

12. Colby Says:

the elite virtue-signalling hypocrisy that made the rise of a Trump-like backlash figure predictable?

By “predictable”, do you mean “unsurprising, in hindsight”, or do you truly mean “predictable”?

13. Scott Says:

Wow #11: I forgot to mention one of my deepest views, namely that sneering and putdowns unaccompanied by any hint about where the person being attacked is actually wrong—and completely unembarrassed by that omission—are one of the most corrosive features of modern discourse. All the same, “shitburger with carefully sourced jalapenos” is kind of amusing. From this point forward, pure putdowns that aren’t at least as amusing are staying in the moderation queue!

14. Raymundo Arroyave Says:

Scott,

I have been a long time reader of your blog. I basically agree with almost all of your beliefs, except for the designer babies one. I call myself a liberal or center-left person. But such statements make so much sense to me, that I would agree to call you and myself and others who think similarly, simply “correct”. Be safe…

15. Jon Awbrey Says:

Okay, maybe I lied about being sweet, I’m feeling a bit bitter of late.

Once over lightly through what you wrote and it struck me as what I used to believe when I was a teenager, a StarTrekian vision of salvation through science and bit of good will, but that was before the Ferengi took over and a couple of Green Revolutionlater I grok why the latest miracle foodstuff will never cure world hunger, power will never be Too Cheap To Meter, and nuclear power won’t do squat but bring about Global Warming in One Big Flash, not so long as that Freedom-Ain’t-Free-Market-Mentality is calling the shots. Naive? That’s the little voice who thinks all the howling in the world will make a difference. 16. Diego Says: Scott, (1) I’d like to know your opinions on John Rawls’ difference principle, and on communitarianism (at least the version advocated by Michael Sandel). (2) If you didn’t watch it yet, I think you would love the TV series “For all mankind”. 17. Ernest Davis Says: Feel free to not allow this through moderation if you think it will lead to unwanted flame wars or if you just don’t want the conversation to go off in this direction. “If your disagreement is partly on issues that I didn’t list, then how do you know that I do disagree with you? (Unless it’s stuff that we’ve discussed on Facebook or whatever)” I’ve certainly seen plenty of disagreements on your Facebook posts. I didn’t mean points where you and I specifically disagree. I meant points where I feel safe in saying your readers and friends strongly disagree with one another, and therefore you must disagree with one or the other. For example: Is diversity a legitimate consideration in admission/hiring? I don’t think that many of your friends will argue strongly for the truth claims of the ancient religions, but have the religions historically had any value of any kind? May a parent indoctrinate their children with their own religious beliefs, or is that a form of child abuse? You may proudly tolerate views that disgust you, but to what extent are you obliged to give them a sounding board? Conversely, how far can you take your expressions of disgust? When disgusting view start to include lies, what can reasonably be done to combat that? 18. Scott Says: Jon Awbrey #15: If the “mature, sensible” view is that nothing serious can be done about any of the world’s problems, and obviously-rational courses of action have no chance of winning political support, then maybe it’s better to be naïve! 19. Miguel Says: > forcing the “no one’s allowed to take Algebra in 8th grade” faction to respond to us. I would appreciate a link to that response. 20. Ernest Davis Says: Just a couple more: What goods — food you’ve mentioned, but how about housing, health care, education, employment — should a society guarantee to all people, and how is that best achieved? What if anything should the US do about autocratic and oppressive regimes abroad? 21. Joshua Says: How did you do the math for one of you getting Omicron and or the math that 60% of your family will get Omicron in 6 months? If one or more of your family gets COVID then you have to consider the conditional probability of the transmission to others? 22. Scott Says: Miguel #19: See, e.g., here. The most amusing aspect of Boaler’s table is that several entries in her “Reality” column say exactly the same thing as the corresponding entries in her “Misrepresentations” column—they were just rewritten to sound better! With other entries, alas, the “Misrepresentations” column is much closer to the truth. For example: “Calculus is a valued pathway” = with the elimination of 8th-grade algebra, it will be impossible to take calculus without doubling up, tutoring, summer courses, or other workarounds of the privileged “delaying or changing the way tracking works” = tracking will be grudgingly allowed in 11th and 12th grades, well after STEM students’ math education has already been hopelessly delayed, and only because the CMF faction doesn’t have the power to eliminate it there yet “supported by decades of research” = they make up whatever they want and then favorably cite each other until it looks like a “consensus”! “High achievers will still be able to go to the highest levels” = if so, then despite the CMF’s very best efforts! 🙂 23. Scott Says: Ernest Davis #17 and #20: Hard questions all of them! Which might be related to why I had no “obvious” answers to them to include in this post. Experience shows, however, that what I consider morally “obvious” is already more than enough to spark debate and even get me denounced on social media. 🙂 24. Scott Says: Joshua #21: I didn’t do the math. It’s just a Bayesian self-report, or a statement about betting odds that I might be willing to accept. 25. Raoul Ohio Says: Rnd( #4: Maybe because BLM terrorism is a miniscule blip on the radar, vastly smaller than, say, the yearly college town event accompanying winning the national football title? Is that an OK reason to not have it in one’s top ten concerns? 26. StephenB Says: Scott, this old-school Leftie, hippie peacenik has heard your howl and endorses practically every word of it. Shanti! 🙏 27. murmur Says: I’m surprised that you detest the free market in spite of realizing that it lifted billions of people out of poverty. If it seems to elevate trivialities it’s only because many people like those trivialities and free market just makes those wishes a reality. The free market also makes deep works broadly available, but their popularity is limited. I like the free market because I instinctively hate the idea of government control. If two people want to enter into a consensual arrangement then the government has no right to stop them. Just like free speech or the right to abortion, this is a matter of personal freedom. 28. GMM Says: Well… shit. I like to think of myself as a contrarian, but I agree on substance with every point. Am now torn between wanting to buy you a beer at the Crown and Anchor the next time I’m in Austin, Scott, or hiring an assassin because There Can Be Only One. 29. Noah Motion Says: I agree with you that markets produce a lot of (what I consider) crap, appealing to many of our basest instincts, but I’m at a loss as to why the fact that “they’ve done more than anything else to lift up the world’s poor” doesn’t muster something more than mere tolerance from you. 30. Scott Says: StephenB #26 and GMM #28: Thanks so much for making my evening! 31. Scott Says: murmur #27 and Noah Motion #29: On reflection, I didn’t phrase that right. It really depends on my mood. Some days, I’m enraged at the injustice of some people making revolutionary scientific advances while barely scraping by on postdoc salaries, all the value they create captured by others; while others rake in billions from pyramid schemes or other ventures of dubious value to the world. Other days, I reflect that those scientists surely didn’t optimize their lives for making money, and there are surely diminishing returns to the ability of more money to make them happier. And I reflect that, in our species’ long and sorry history, no one has ever demonstrated any system with less aggregate injustice than a (somewhat-regulated) free market. 32. anon85 Says: Scott, my biggest gripe with you is not even listed on here: it’s that you seem to be pro-bitcoin, at least to the extent that you believe you should have invested in it 15 years ago. That’s an obviously wrong belief: if you had invested 15 years ago, you’d have lost all your money because you’d have lost your private key by now (unless you had invested through some intermediary, but most of the people who did that also lost all their money when the intermediary lost the key). Or can you honestly say “I am so organized, so non-scatter-brained, so proficient at technology, that I would definitely not lose a password over a span of 15 years”? That does not sound like you. Bitcoin is a disaster of wasted resources (and damage to the climate), but whenever it comes up all you ever say is how much you lament not investing in it. You advocate for investors to boycott fossil fuel companies, but you regret not investing in bitcoin? How do you not see the dissonance?? 33. Scott Says: anon85 #32: If someone had bought/mined a bunch of bitcoin in 2009, and held it, and saved the key—and done nothing else—they could now have tens of billions of dollars with which to lead the world’s fight against climate change. (This is despite the fact that, as far as I can tell, Bitcoin as nearly useless, except as a tulip-bulb-type speculative investment and as an enabler of black markets and extortion.) How can that thought not give you physical pain every time you think it? 34. Lilac Says: Thanks for sharing, Scott! I would certainly hope that none of you all catch COVID or, if you do, suffer any long term effects. I would think “center-left” is an OK descriptor maybe “rationalist” for now and I don’t really like “Pinkerite” – these are your views. In terms of the actual content and explicit claims these are worth engaging with in good faith: Yes on nuclear energy! Yes on ending world hunger! Yes on the SAT! Especially with a free .pdf of the official blue book for equity! Not really on free markets! No on religion! Psychedelics and marijuana can disgust me and yet I can stand for the general principle of bodily autonomy, and further defend the rights of people who choose no to vaccines. The elite virtue point struck me as non sequitur, one may think the natural prediction is of a politician who represents elite virtues. I did not predict like Trump in 2013 and in fact a strong democratic candidate could have won and been popular. Yes on free speech! Yes on diverse hiring! It is true that girls having girls role models leads to more girls dreaming and doing the day by day actions of attaining educational, graduate, career, and life outcomes e.g. It is great to learn, read, write, blog, contemplate maths. Maybe my 21st century image is of them all being super comfy alone on their machines, content to discuss Alice and Bob via instant messaging. 35. Sandro Says: @Scott #18: Jon Awbrey #15: If the “mature, sensible” view is that nothing serious can be done about any of the world’s problems, and obviously-rational courses of action have no chance of winning political support, then maybe it’s better to be naïve! “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” ― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman 36. GMM Says: Rereading the post, the only thing I would really quibble with is the ‘ideal world’ as it relates to religion. My opinion on religion and its place in the present/future fluctuates wildly, from a lassiez faire ‘I don’t care what you believe if you are helping in the soup kitchen line next to me’, to thinking it might be an odd ‘even though its false’ good in that it helps propagate alternative mentation patterns in a multiethnic society, to good ol’ New Atheism ‘it’s a poison’. So I don’t know how exactly to read that final vision. Instinctively, I think it’s good, and is obviously a damn sight better than a lot of the alternatives. But I can’t help but hope that the various cultural bricolage on display is just that, and not evidence of a deep-seeded belief in the irrational. And that definitely includes the trans woman. 37. not-a-real-name Says: I’m hoping this post doesn’t get moderated out, but I’d like to explain to you why – as someone who *used* to be all about classical liberalism, open debate, marketplace of ideas, insert other idea here – I’ve totally abandoned that entire way of thinking. I want to do this by telling you what my response is to most of the bullets you list. I hope you’ll take it to heart. > … who wants to smash systems of entrenched privilege in college admissions … and believes that the SAT and other standardized tests are the best tools ever invented for that purpose? It is a fact that minorities score worse on those tests than the standard advantaged classes. There are two possible explanations for this: 1) The tests are meritocratic, and minorities have less merit. 2) The tests are not meritocratic (and thus are probably reinforcing entrenched privilege, not eliminating it). You do not seem to believe (2), which means you must believe (1). (1) could be explained by things like early childhood inequality (something like the iodine deficiencies of the early 1900s), but given the emphasis on meritocracy in adulthood I’m not sure how you plan on solving this as a generational thing even if you do believe it. And I don’t think you do. I think you, like the other Scott and like most people in your ideological sphere, believe that it’s genetic. And I gotta be honest with you, Scott, I really don’t know how you can call yourself an advocate for social justice when you’re implicitly taking the stance “minorities are worse off because they’re naturally stupider”. Be a Bayesian for a second. Of all the people in history who claimed this, how many of them were right? Would they have been right when Ashkenazim were stuck in ghettoes for centuries, without a grand achievement to their name? Were they right when they closed the borders of Japan, believing nothing better could come from abroad? Were they right when they rolled their eyes at the challenge of some horseman from Mongolia? When people have made this kind of claim they have, without exception, been wrong and been reflecting the biases of their time and culture. And the people promoting these claims today are obvious, active, and malignant racists (seriously, have you *seen* Steve Sailer talk?). Why on Earth would you listen to them, and why on Earth would you trust they’re not just manipulating you? Are you so arrogant as to believe you can definitely avoid manipulation, even by groups of bad-faith actors, often with the support of major governments? > … who’s happiest when telling the truth for the cause of social justice … but who, if told to lie for the cause of social justice, will probably choose silence or even, if pushed hard enough, truth? If your “truth” is “racism isn’t bad because black people are stupid and that’s why they’re poor” (and that *is* what you’re implicitly saying if you’re pro-HBD), you are not telling anything for the cause of social justice. You are *at best* telling a truth that is fundamentally anti-justice, and at worst falling for a lie from those whose terminal goal is to maintain and intensify the oppression of others. > … who wants to legalize marijuana and psychedelics, and also legalize all the promising treatments currently languishing in FDA approval hell? (Almost) no one on the left has a problem with this. We *do* have a problem with the stance “the FDA isn’t approving this thing I like and therefore is irrevocably broken and all regulation is bad”. > … who feels little attraction to the truth-claims of the world’s ancient religions, except insofar as they sometimes serve as prophylactics against newer and now even more virulent religions? A few bullets ago, you declared proudly that you would not “lie for the cause of social justice”. Then why are you find with “ancient religions” whose truth value is surely on the darker side of grey at best? You’re either a disinterested seeker of truth who will declare it whatever its consequences (in which case you better be fighting those ancient religions at least as hard as you’re fighting SJWs), or you’re a responsible custodian who considers both the literal factual value of truth and its implicit effect on power structures (in which case you better take a real long look at the anti-social-justice forces you’re aligned with, whether you admit it or not). (Also, believers in “ancient religions” were the #1 converts to Trumpism. Evangelicals are the core of his base.) > … who thinks the Nazi Holocaust was even worse than the mainstream holds it to be, because in addition to the staggering, one-lifetime-isn’t-enough-to-internalize-it human tragedy, the Holocaust also sent up into smoke whatever cultural process had just produced Einstein, von Neumann, Bohr, Szilard, Born, Meitner, Wigner, Haber, Pauli, Ulam, Tarski, Erdös, and Noether, and with it, one of the wellsprings of our technological civilization? But how could they do that? If Ashkenazim were so superior, *why did they lose*? Why do they get a special pass for having been crushed by those who oppressesd them, while other racial groups get just-so stories about how it’s actually just reflective of their underlying abilities? Why is it meritocracy when a black man is poor today, but antisemitic oppression when a Jew was poor a century ago? (As an aside, I’m getting to the point where I’ve seen this line of thinking from Ashkenazim intellectuals so much that I now go on a “okay is this person a secret racist” safari every time I encounter a new one.) > … who supports free speech, to the point of proudly tolerating views that really, actually disgust them at their workplace, university, or online forum? Well, that I would just call a fool. The best ideas don’t always win. You’d think if there was ONE group that would understand how bad ideas can rise to the top, it would be “people who were just lamenting the Holocaust in the last bullet point”. > … who believes in patriotism, the police, the rule of law, to the extent that they don’t understand why all the enablers of the January 6 insurrection, up to and including Trump, aren’t currently facing trial for treason against the United States? Do you really not understand it? I’ll spell it out for you: because people like you keep going “well sure, it’s the *truth* that black people are inferior, but let’s just be really nice about it guys!” No one is going to do that. If HBD were commonly believed, every bit of racial justice we’ve achieved over recent decades would backslide. We already use weak and problematic proxies like college education and resumes to decide who to hire – you think people aren’t going to use a 15-point IQ prior? > … who’s (of course) disgusted to the core by Trump and everything he represents, but who’s also disgusted by the elite virtue-signalling hypocrisy that made the rise of a Trump-like backlash figure predictable? Yeah, like that. Good example. It can’t possibly be that people on the left actually believe these things are problems and are doing their best to help those in need, often at considerable cost to themselves. No, they must just be virtue-signaling. Insofar as virtue-signaling is a problem, it’s a problem when signaling replaces action. The solution to lukewarm nodding and lack of action to leftist principles is to go further and more militantly left, not to go right for some reason. > … who not only supports abortion rights, but also looks forward to a near future when parents, if they choose, are free to use embryo selection to make their children happier, smarter, healthier, and free of life-crippling diseases (unless the “bioethicists” destroy that future, as a previous generation of Deep Thinkers destroyed our nuclear future)? So we just need to select our black and hispanic babies to not be the dumb kind of black and hispanic? That’s your solution to racial inequality? > … who, when reading about the 1960s Sexual Revolution, instinctively sides with free-loving hippies and against the scolds … even if today’s scolds are themselves former hippies, or intellectual descendants thereof, who now clothe their denunciations of other people’s gross, creepy sexual desires in the garb of feminism and social justice? I have tons of weird sexual desires, and I’ve never faced criticism for them from the left. No one I still talk to is to the right of Liz Warren, and not a single one of them has any problem with you having an Elon Musk body pillow or whatever. The backlash you’ve faced is not for your desires. The backlash you’ve faced is for blaming your issues on the efforts of others to defend themselves, and for the opposition you’ve offered to their causes, which include their own safety and legitimacy. I’ll trust your good faith enough to take for granted you don’t actively oppose those as an explicit belief, but when you oppose the causes that promote them, you implicitly oppose the safety and legitimacy. > What, finally, do you call someone whose image of an ideal world might include a young woman wearing a hijab, an old Orthodox man with black hat and sidecurls, a broad-shouldered white guy from the backwoods of Alabama, and a trans woman with purple hair, face tattoos and a nose ring … all of them standing in front of a blackboard and arguing about what would happen if Alice and Bob jumped into opposite ends of a wormhole? I’d love that world. But it’s not the one we have. Our world is asymmetric. It has oppressors and oppressed. It has generational problems that are self-sustaining without active intervention. It has serious conflict-theoretic problems in which a small few will literally kill the world to get a little richer. You say “I want a world at peace”. I say the orcs are at the door, so shut up, pick up a spear, and stop debating whether the orcs might have a point that Denethor has some problems. Those without swords can still die on them, those with swords are never fighting for a perfect cause, and those who try to take a third side just get trampled and rightly so. You want the world we could create if we were all good. But we aren’t, and we’re not going to be, and the world gets better when we defeat those who destroy the public good for their own end. > Do you call such a person “liberal,” “progressive,” “center-left,” “centrist,” “Pinkerite,” “technocratic,” “neoliberal,” “libertarian-ish,” “classical liberal”? Why not simply call them “correct”? I’d call them a techbro – and increasingly, I’d call them my enemy, to the point that I am now a social orphan because the ideas and local social norms I love are overrun by this malignancy. ——– From some of the other comments: > More humbly, “basically consequentialist” fits perfectly well for much of this. I don’t think it does. A consequentialist can’t act in a vacuum and seek truth in its raw form and promote it without care. A consequentialist has to think about how what they do impacts power structures. And the truth can absolutely do harm when added to a competitive environment. > I like the free market because I instinctively hate the idea of government control. If two people want to enter into a consensual arrangement then the government has no right to stop them. Just like free speech or the right to abortion, this is a matter of personal freedom. This comment is the core of why classical liberalism is wrong. Government coercion is not the only coercion. 38. anon85 Says: Scott #33: the very fact that anyone who had done it would now have10 billion *can only be possible because virtually no one actually did it*. There is not actually enough money in the world (or more specifically, in the hands of bitcoin investors) to give more than a handful of people $10 billion. If it was indeed so easy to do that you almost did it, so that people in your situation in 2009 ended up doing this 10% of the time, then there’d be too many billionaires now — or in other words, these people would find it impossible to cash out their bitcoins now. It follows that it was not actually easy to do — that you didn’t “almost do it”. There can only be so many winners in a Ponzi scheme, at least at the$10 billion level.

It feels to me almost like regretting not buying the lottery ticket with number 056559312, right after finding out that this specific number won.

39. Justin Kee Says:

“… who supports free speech, to the point of proudly tolerating views that really, actually disgust them at their workplace, university, or online forum?”

Hear, hear. This is a perfect example of what makes liberal democracies the best form of Government. And to celebrate the principles espoused by the U.S. Constitution as a means for establishing and elevating liberal values of self-governance.

To quote a far better man than I am, “. . . and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

40. Luboš Motl Says:

A Leninist Bolshevik who has time-traveled from St Petersburg 1917 to a Red State (!) 2021 and who ignores the fact that the previous century has proven that almost all these beliefs are pernicious for the human society. Why don’t you move out from the Red State e.g. to North Korea that shares all your beliefs? It’s better to mine the advantages of the society built on the opposite beliefs, isn’t it?

41. T Says:

Einstein, von Neumann, Bohr, Szilard, Born, Meitner, Wigner, Haber, Pauli, Ulam, Tarski, Erdos, Noether………obviously from a moral standpoint those on this list who took part in the Manhattan Project or invention of the H bomb were just as bad and most likely worse than perpetrators of the Holocaust since they gambled with wiping out our whole species

Well, I don’t know if I agree with all of that… but as philosophies go, I think I could actually vote for it without a sick feeling of despair in the pit of my stomach, which puts it head and shoulders ahead of all the ones actually on offer. :/

43. David Says:

I agree with 95% of what you say, Scott but it’s the other 5% that is actually more valuable. I don’t tolerate that 5%, I treasure it and think about it. Anyway, enough of that. Have a great family holiday!

44. Fatalist Says:

Scott, would you reconsider your opinions that Covid could have been stopped if Governments around the world and people acted better? It is clear to me now that the level of contagiousness of this airborne virus and relative low-virulence sealed the fate. Once the genie was out of the bottle, nothing could have stopped it (except very severe travel restrictions throughout the globe in mid January maybe).

45. Scott Says:

not-a-real-name #37: I appreciate your comment—particularly, the fact that you actually engaged with my views rather than sneering at them, as so many of your faction have done in the past. It’s because of that appreciation (and, of course, because of the commitment to the free exchange of ideas that I reaffirmed in this very post 🙂 ) that I’ve allowed your comment to appear … even as it basically accuses me of racism, for a post that said nothing about race unless you count its celebration of cultural diversity!

Having said that, bitter experience has led me to be extremely wary of what I now think of as “asymmetric warfare”: the thing where others are allowed to make arbitrarily pointed criticisms of me, ask me “third rail” questions, etc. etc. all under cover of anonymity (!), but then I can’t provide equally pointed responses without “can-you-believe-Scott-Aaronson-just-said-such-and-such” exploding on Twitter and Facebook and Reddit.

So, I’ll tell you what: I’m going to spend the rest of the day with my kids, just enjoying the fuck out of this vacation that we paid for and are now on. All worries—including professional responsibilities, the Omicron variant, and blog comments implicitly calling me racist or sexist—are hereby deferred to another day, or at any rate tonight. Then, if other commenters haven’t satisfactorily responded to you by the time I get back to this, I’ll respond to you then. Have a great day!

46. Jon Awbrey Says:

One good howl deserves another … and Facebook’s Memory $$\alpha$$ just reminded me of a howl I howled a decade ago.

The naivest stuff I read from a few posters on this thread is the idea that Free Markets are some kind of brake on Government Control. And this old hippie is just as wary of government control as anyone can be. But it’s not a choice between government control and something else, it’s a choice between democratic government and corporate government, between one person one vote (OPOV) and one dollar one vote (ODOV). And the latter is where we are already and heading deeper as we speak.

So here’s what I wrote • https://www.facebook.com/JonnyCache/posts/2640545926435

In a complex society, people making decisions and taking actions at places remote from you have the power to affect your life in significant ways. Those people are your government, no matter what spheres of influence they inhabit, private or public. The only way you get a choice in that governance is if there are paths of feedback that allow you to affect the life of those decision makers and action takers in significant ways. That is what accountability, response-ability, and representative government are all about.

Naturally, some people are against that.

In the United States there has been a concerted campaign for as long as I can remember — but even more concerted since the Reagan Regime — to get the People to abdicate their hold on The Powers That Be and just let some anonymous corporate entity send us the bill after the fact. They keep trying to con the People into thinking they can starve the beast, to limit government, when what they are really doing is feeding the beast of corporate control, weakening their own power over the forces that govern their lives.

That is the road to perdition as far as responsible government goes. There is not much of anything one leader or one administration can do unsupported if the People do not constantly demand a government of, by, and for the People.

47. JimV Says:

Check, check, … and check.

Probably not with the identical distribution of fervor, but I agree with all those positions. I guess we are on the same team of Howling Commandos (old Marvel Comic reference).

In addition to nuclear energy though, I would like more trains (the small town of 144 people I grew up in has a long-defunct train station) and buses and walking, and fewer cars. I have never owned a car and since retirement have vowed never again to travel by airplane. It depresses me, as I walk to a grocery store, to count at least 100 cars passing me (going both ways) every five minutes, most with a single driver. Most of my best ideas have come to me while walking. There is something about not having a computer screen to stare at, or even a pencil and paper, which forces me to make wider assessments.

48. X Says:

I think you already know the terms: you’re a neoliberal technocrat. It’s a terminology developed by hostile parts of the left to insult, but you might as well embrace it. As in the case of the “Big Bang” theory, sounding ridiculous is not inconsistent with being right.

49. Ktt Says:

To not a real name:

Here is my rebuttal of your first points.

These are not the only possible explanations. Your woke mind does not realize that there are several other possibilities that may lead to this and it is worth trying our best to address them. Addressing Poverty, cultural issues, help in the form of affirmative action–all ideas can be on table and can be tried. And we have to wait for some time, maybe two decades to see the results. We have many top women mathematicians now, compared to the past. Surely, I believe we would see more number of black academicians in near future, not because of howlings of silly wokes like you, but because of better schooling, enrichment programs available now and a desire for helping the minorities wholeheartedly.

Secondly, as a woke you probably believe that privileged white or Asians should give up their privilege. I do not subscribe to that. Even a dumb woke professor’s children have more privilege compared to others for becoming academically successfull. Should we require them to shun this advantage? Our world needs more merit to solve the difficult problems of tomorrow not less. The good values of western civilization (respect for hard work, time, discipline, accuracy and many others) should be kept alive. Discrimination should go away and everyone should get fair (as much as possible, nothing is perfectly fair in real world) opportunity. But that does not mean that rich should become poor to make the poor rich.
Elon Musk may do more to save the world than Karen Warren.

Not addressing the other parts of your hubris as they are not worth a penny.

50. Tu Says:

T #41:

Your omission of Heisenberg from the above list (who was trying to build a nuclear bomb for the bad guys) makes it hard to take your comment seriously.

I would urge you to consider that the effort to build an atomic bomb (by the US, and by the names your mention above) did not come out of thin air, but rather was driven by direct knowledge that Hitler was already trying to do the same thing, and saving the world amounted to doing it before he did. If you are carrying out some hypothetical consequentialist calculation to calculate all of their moral worth, why not perform the consider what would have happened if had they not built an atomic bomb ?

In any case, I think I speak for most of the readers of this blog when I say that I strongly disagree with the content and spirit of your comment.

51. William Gasarch Says:

great post.
Don’t die!

If you do not fit into the categories (e.g., liberal’, conservative’) note that most people like some of each. Its the categories that are wrong.

Is it right wing or left wing to be in favor of Tariff’s. That has changed.

Is it right wing or left wing to believe in evolution? That has changed.

If (this happens in France) a Jewish or gay person is against immigration because of the fear that immigrants from Arab counties will be anti-jew, or anti-gay, is that point of view left wing or right wing?

Unfortunately politicians are stuck with parties that have a set of points of view that have little to do with each other.

I know Christians who joined the Rep party because they are pro-life- but also anti-war, and pro-birth control, and anti-captial punishment, and within 10 years they are anti-immigrant (Gee, doesn’t the bible say be kind to the stranger among you’) and pro cap Punishment and anti-vaxx and think Global Warming (the most important pro-life issue of our time) is a hoax.

I know Christians that are anti-gay-marriage but are so disgusted with Trump’s policies that they now just avoid the gay-marriage issue and say there are much more serious issues to deal with’

I’ve gone on to long so I’ll just say I WISH there was the `obviously correct party’ that Scott and others could join. As it is, classification is stupid because the categories are stupid.

52. Tu Says:

not-a-real-name #37

>”You say “I want a world at peace”. I say the orcs are at the door, so shut up, pick up a spear, and stop debating whether the orcs might have a point that Denethor has some problems. Those without swords can still die on them, those with swords are never fighting for a perfect cause, and those who try to take a third side just get trampled and rightly so.

You want the world we could create if we were all good. But we aren’t, and we’re not going to be, and the world gets better when we defeat those who destroy the public good for their own end.”

This is a genuine question– what do you mean by this? Who are the orcs, and what are the swords? More directly, like, what is your plan? What does it mean to take action and usher in the change that you clearly crave?

53. Aleksei Besogonov Says:

Wow. I love all your points, except the one about the FDA approval.

I worked in drug discovery and so I know about it firsthand. I think it absolutely is necessary and while it can be somewhat slower than I’d like, we can not get rid of it.

At least until we can use a quantum computer to check for drug interactions with all of the proteome.

54. Boaz Barak Says:

Hi Scott,

I disagree with some of these and agree with others, but also have a strongly held belief that you and your family deserve a vacation. So I hope you let this comment thread be, and it will be here when you get back.

Boaz

p.s. I don’t think it’s my place to express and defend an opinion on any subject, no matter how removed from my area of expertise, so won’t state or debate my points of disagreements. I see you have shied away from the really controversial topics, such as whether noisy (above ECC threshold) quantum circuits can provide super-polynomial advantage for combinatorial optimization 🙂

55. Daniel Reeves Says:

I think Scott Aaronson is an amazing human and feel indebted to him, so here’s my attempt to defend him against the accusation from not-a-real-name #37 so Scott can enjoy his vacation!

Mostly my response is that that’s an outrageous false dichotomy — that either (a) standardized tests are inherently unfair and racist or (b) that the tests are perfectly fair and racism is just true. Sheesh! How about options (c) through (z+) in which disparate outcomes on standardized tests are due to various systemic injustices and we need to fix them and eliminating standardized tests would make those injustices worse?

In fact, that’s so obvious and already spelled out so well in Scott’s post and the previous guest post that I think not-a-real-name #37 must themself be a racist troll, trying to set Scott up with “are you still beating your wife”-style questions. If not, they’re at least epitomizing the “woke racism” that John McWhorter talks about.

For the record, I also question the “black people do worse on standardized tests” claim that not-a-real-name is so confident about. Population-level differences from a statistical mean difference test can be very misleading. See http://messymatters.com/misleading-means/ (jump to “discriminatory attitudes” if you want to get straight to the point of relevance here).

56. Douglas Knight Says:

the_explainable_variance #6 and Scott #9,
Evangelical is just a word. Evangelicals who attend church are different from those who don’t. They may be Orange Dog Republicans, but in the primary, churchgoing evangelicals were not so supportive of Trump. I don’t know about QAnon, but it may well be filling a void in a hollow identity, rather than parasitizing the existing religion. (On the other hand, the high rates of Q belief among Hispanic evangelicals is more telling, since they are likely to be fairly new converts and thus not just inheriting a label from their parents.)

57. Douglas Knight Says:

It is a fact that minorities score worse on those tests than the standard advantaged classes. There are two possible explanations for this:

1) The tests are meritocratic, and minorities have less merit.
2) The tests are not meritocratic (and thus are probably reinforcing entrenched privilege, not eliminating it).

That is just irrelevant to what Scott said. You could equally well respond to his comment about nuclear energy by saying: Either you believe that nuclear pollutes, or you believe that it doesn’t. Compared to what? Nuclear power pollutes less than coal. It was bad for the environment when Germany closed its nuclear plants and replaced them with coal. It will be bad for the environment when California shuts its nuclear plant. The SAT reduces entrenched privilege compared to the system that preceded it and compared the system that is being rolled out at the moment. The only left-wing proposal I have heard for college admissions that could reduce entrenched privilege compared to the testing is random admissions. It probably would be more entrenching, but random assignment might work.

58. Erebus Says:

Aleksei Besogonov at #53:

The FDA’s safety testing requirements for new drugs are reasonable. Their efficacy testing requirements — which are the much more onerous and time consuming — are an absolute disgrace. “Better that ten thousand should die of neglect than one person die of quackery.”

If you do work in the industry, you ought to have learned that there was a very long period of time where drug efficacy testing was not required prior to approval. That time is now called “the Golden Age of drug development.”

59. Chris D Says:

If you’re concerned about ending up in an ICU, the more traditional thing to do is announce a solution to a long-standing intractable problem that you will present on your return from vacation. Which one was It?

… who despite not liking Netanyahu considers himself a Zionist.

… who, although he (presumably) would be open to certain regulations to reduce inequality or perhaps even some forms of redistribution, thinks that Bernie Sanders didn’t do enough to distance himself from Stalin.

As a leftist, the word you’re looking for is Liberal, the only way to make it fit better would be to reduce the sophistication of your arguments by 75% and sprinkle in some carefully enshrouded signaling and appeals to conformity.

61. STEM Caveman Says:

> Population-level differences from a statistical mean difference test can be very misleading.

In the cases you are talking about, tests and television, the mean differences (and standard deviations) tell exactly the right statistical story about the distributions, and the analysis you linked is badly wrong about the distributions being almost the same. One group’s distribution dominates another at all percentiles. The distributions are of the same shape, and a one parameter model is appropriate, as in the famous “normal distributions with standard deviation of 15” for IQ. That one distribution dominates the other means “the parameter has been shifted” is a reasonable interpretation of the data, and the standard deviation gives an idea of how important the shift is.

The analysis you linked is badly wrong, a 1/2 SD difference is large for socially relevant indicators like IQ, and a 1/3 SD difference (which is what I would guess from that graph) is moderate but enough to cause some differences. E.g., a 1.6 hour difference in average TV watching could be significant as a drain on time at home available for schoolwork, and the same difference at the tails of the distribution can affect the fraction of students with very high or low results at school.

The differences for IQ and academic tests are of course a lot larger, on a much more predictive indicator, and have been vetted as extensively as anything in social science.

62. danny landau Says:

It seems like you forgot to mention in your paragraph on the Holocaust some of the more prominent figures of 20th century from that region, including but of course not an exhaustive list: Freud, Teller, Bethe, Courant, Von Karman (and a bunch of other mathematicians in particular).

P.S. I wonder if Teller was left off on purpose.

63. marxbro Says:

“Traditional religions seem to be prophylactic against certain specific modern religions, such as Marxism and wokeism.”

How is Marxism a “modern religion”? Marxism is a political position that makes claims about class conflict and the production of surplus value in capitalism. Do you speak to Marxists often? Surely they could clear up your confusion on this matter.

64. M2 Says:

I’d call you a doctrinaire old-school liberal. I don’t think it’s a correct position, but there are far worse things to be, and I have respect for you that I lack for many more modern combatants on all sides.

65. ultimaniacy Says:

not-a-real-name #37:

I wouldn’t normally acknowledge a comment this repellent, but I see that everyone else who’s tried to refute you has been so distracted by the rest of your Gish Gallop that they seem to have missed this point:

“But how could they do that? If Ashkenazim were so superior, *why did they lose*? Why do they get a special pass for having been crushed by those who oppressesd them, while other racial groups get just-so stories about how it’s actually just reflective of their underlying abilities? Why is it meritocracy when a black man is poor today, but antisemitic oppression when a Jew was poor a century ago?”

First of all, how did we go from “the reasons why black people do worse at SATs (on average)” to “the reason why black people are poorer on average”? Secondly, how did German Jews lose what? The least-likely-to-get-targeted-by-a-genocidal-regime contest? The Jews who died in the Holocaust did not “lose” because of the implicit biases of the people judging them, they “lost” because of a government that *openly*, *explicitly* forbid them from participating in normal society, then rounded them up and murdered them for the sole and explicit reason that they did not want Jews to be allowed to live. What the fuck is wrong with you? Whatever problems black people in America have historically faced and still face, no sane, decent person could take seriously the suggestion that they have faced barriers comparable to Jews in Nazi Germany or that it’s somehow a double standard to think of one differently than the other.

(For the record, I don’t believe in either of the options in your false dichotomy re: SATs, but I see others already got there.)

66. Anon93 Says:

not-a-real-name #37: Embryo selection is fantastic. Embryo selection for intelligence will make everyone super smart and solve many problems. Regardless of whether it solves inequality, it’s good to make people smarter. Why are you against it? As for HBD, yes I think it’s true. I take your point about epistemic humility and environment also affecting group outcomes but this stuff has been studied pretty well, though not as well as it should have because of the taboo. With the BW gap it indeed narrowed a while, but at some point it stopped narrowing even as by all accounts America became less racist.

At this point we even have polygenic scores for educational attainment, but no one is publishing on group differences in those polygenic scores. If there was no significant genetic component you’d expect papers to have come out on that by now. Does your worldview depend on HBD being false? If you *do* believe that HBD is false, what environmental interventions can we do to boost White Americans up to the level of Jews? Why do you not care a lot about this?

I’m not a leftist (I’m liberal like Scott, though a bit more right-wing than him) don’t see why leftism is even incompatible with HBD. Many of the HBD people are anti-Semitic White nationalists who admit the IQ gap between Jews and Whites. Mahathir Mohammed is HBD and said Chinese were smarter in The Malay Dilemma and supported affirmative action for Malay on those grounds. See also the hereditarian leftists like Freddie DeBoer and Kathryn Paige Harden. Anyway, I strongly support the government subsidizing embryo selection for intelligence. I want a future where everyone of every race has IQ>150 and we colonize space.

67. 1Zer0 Says:

> If, however, I do end this trip dead in an ICU, I wouldn’t want to do so without having clearly set out my values for posterity

I think I agree with ~85% of the enumerated statements, however if you do fear ending up in ICU, wouldn’t it – as your potentially last chance as a computer scientist – be called for to also list your most firmly hold central scientific, mathematical and philosophical convictions?

68. mjgeddes Says:

My best attempt at ‘Utopia’ so far amounts to a 3-tier system, which is a mixture of smart futarchy, georgism, democracy & meritocracy.

Abstract: The default is decentralized decision-making on the base tier, there’s *some* centralization on the higher tiers, but decision-making only goes to these higher tiers when more coordination is needed, and the issues the higher tiers can handle are strictly limited via constitution.

Base Tier: Smart Futarchy. Decentralized automonous organizations (DAOs) make decisions locally via smart contracts on the blockchain. Can include democratic decision-making , but direct democracy only, no elections needed at this level. At this level, the government has been largely removed from interfering in business (exceptions explained below on 2nd, 3rd tiers), any bureaucracy is minimal: it’s free market, smart libertarianism.

In place of a bureaucratic welfare system, Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been deployed. Everyone simply receives an affordable minimum income, no questions asked.

2nd Tier: Georgism & Global Democracy

A Georgist democracy that deploys global democratic decision-making, but *only* for issues that are clearly public goods and/or are connected to life sciences : at a minimum: health-care, environment, science, large-scale engineering, security.

Land-Value Tax (LVT): The environment is not for sale. It’s held by the democratic government, and rented (this is Georgism). Land Value Tax can mostly fund the government at this level (although some additional environmental taxes are likely needed) There is no income tax. Besides LVT & environmental taxes, there are no other forms of taxation.

Representative, democratic governance issues likely include: health-care, science, big engineering, big tech, and the environment (along with any other clearly defined public goods).

3rd-Tier: Meritocracy

Whilst the mechanisms proposed in 1st & 2nd Tiers explained above all are great ideas, even in combination these are still not by themselves a stable system. The problem is that “democracy” can slip all too easily into bureaucracy, authoritarianism & mob rule, even when limited by checks and balances (and this is especially dangerous when proposing mechanisms of global governance). Furthermore, a small minority of issues (e.g., existential risks, advanced technology) might require that they be handled by experts only. In addition, both free markets and democracy also suffer from the problem of short planning horizons. It would be good to have experts handle very long-range planning.

The 3rd tier (and the highest authority in this proposed system) is the meritocratic level. Here, entry is open to all and there are no elections. Instead, members simply have to pass tests of merit.

Members on the 3rd tier can veto any decisions on the 1st and 2nd tiers that would be a slip into authoritarianism or bureaucratic malaise or violate the constitution of Utopia. They also work on their specialist areas and general long-range plans.

Proposed entry qualification:

Show working code for friendly artificial super-intelligence.

The first person/s/group to get SAI qualifies and becomes the first members of the meritocracy. They then deploy SAI to instantiate Utopia.

69. Centrist Says:

Scott, I do not agree to all your views and do not think all are correct. But unlike Wokes, you give others a chance to explain.

Like you, I often think truth lies in the middle. I have some extreme views too (both left and right), otherwise I would be a dogmatic centrist which I am not.

What I find most frustrating about elite wokes is that they constantly ignore a huge part of the story. They are not alone in doing that, same is done by conservatives too. But recently, wokes even more.

For example, the oppressed-oppressor dynamics. Without denying that oppression exists, Victimology is not the theory and solution of everything.
In the book San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities, Michael Shellenberger makes this point. https://michaelshellenberger.substack.com/p/why-progressives-defend-drug-dealers

I would like the police in US to be less aggressive, but violent crimes are a grim reality and we cannot afford to defund the police yet. Status quo is not all good, but it can always be worse. A couple of weeks ago, a Columbia CS grad student was killed in a park near the university. Also, the recent case of Wisconsin tragedy. They were largely ignored in the progressive media/twitter as they don’t fit the woke narratives. Mental health is bigger problem than racism in the united states.

70. not-a-real-name Says:

Re: ultimaniacy @ 65:

> First of all, how did we go from “the reasons why black people do worse at SATs (on average)” to “the reason why black people are poorer on average”?

Because the two are directly related, because the SAT drives admissions drives opportunity, and the same is true for other proxies that favor existing power structures.

> Secondly, how did German Jews lose what? The least-likely-to-get-targeted-by-a-genocidal-regime contest? The Jews who died in the Holocaust did not “lose” because of the implicit biases of the people judging them, they “lost” because of a government that *openly*, *explicitly* forbid them from participating in normal society

Yeah, good thing no one ever did that to black people. Really dodged that bullet.

Oh no, wait, they *did* do that. For literal centuries. With continued efforts to do so by skirting the law right up to the present day.

> then rounded them up and murdered them for the sole and explicit reason that they did not want Jews to be allowed to live.

They eventually did that, yes. But that group got into power based on much more mundane bigotry very comparable to what is and has been seen directed at black people in America.

> Whatever problems black people in America have historically faced and still face, no sane, decent person could take seriously the suggestion that they have faced barriers comparable to Jews in Nazi Germany

I would, in fact, say the net total of American racism is worse than the Holocaust. I don’t know how you weight extermination against slavery – I weight a lifetime of slavery as approximately equal to murder – but they are surely on the same order of magnitude.

From 1790 to 1860 alone, in the US alone, and considering slavery alone, you’ve got (assuming a 35-year average lifetime for slaves [about the average lifespan at the time and likely thus an OVERestimate for slaves] and using data from the censuses of those years) 4.6 million lifetimes of slavery.

When you incorporate the colonial era, the de facto return of slavery in the South after the end of Reconstruction, slavery in the rest of the Americas, and the collective impact of the many other injustices that were not outright slavery, you get an injustice that is at least numerically quite a bit larger than the Holocaust. The exact comparison depends on how you weight a lifetime of slavery versus the gas chambers, but I don’t think my weight differs too far from 1.

But my point here is not to focus on the comparison itself. My point is that when you take the outcomes within a society as an indicator of innate capability, you’re ignoring the effect of that society being horrible to certain groups. The fact is that the master Ashkenazim race (a phrase that is loaded with SO much historical irony I don’t know where to start) everyone here believes in suddenly appeared RIGHT at the time you’d expect if oppression does indeed screw up your chances of success, and hadn’t appeared for centuries before.

==============

Re: Anon93 @ 66

> Embryo selection is fantastic. Embryo selection for intelligence will make everyone super smart and solve many problems. Regardless of whether it solves inequality, it’s good to make people smarter. Why are you against it?

I’m not, necessarily, but I’m a lot less for it than that very superficial analysis would suggest.

Outside view: what past civilization would *you* have trusted to decide your genes?

Or for that matter, how about we engineer for anti-racism? Want me to decide what genes you’ll have now? Want me inside the collective genetics of humanity making people not just disinclined, but literally incapable, of not being woke?

You should be a lot more terrified of this than you are.

> As for HBD, yes I think it’s true.

Well, at least you admit it. That’s more than some. Not that it makes you any better.

> Does your worldview depend on HBD being false?

This is such a condescending question. Does yours depend on it being true?

I do not feel any more obligation to listen to the racial claims of HBD enthusiasts than I feel obligated to listen to the physics claims of the Time Cube guy.

> If you *do* believe that HBD is false, what environmental interventions can we do to boost White Americans up to the level of Jews?

If you believe it’s true, why did Ashkenazim wait centuries to display their hypothetically-vastly-superior intellects, until *exactly* the moment at which they began to face less systemic oppression?

> I’m not a leftist (I’m liberal like Scott, though a bit more right-wing than him) don’t see why leftism is even incompatible with HBD.

If I did believe in HBD, I would have to be more of a leftist than I already am, because that implies that NO incentive structure will drive our most vulnerable to achieve more.

> Many of the HBD people are anti-Semitic White nationalists who admit the IQ gap between Jews and Whites.

Every HBD person I have ever seen is an Ashkenazim/Asian-supremacist as much as a white one. (A few are still anti-semitic, but more in the jews-are-evil sense than the jews-are-dumb one.)

> I want a future where everyone of every race has IQ>150 and we colonize space.

What you’ll get – if you can indeed select in such a way – is a race of engineered super-geniuses among those already privileged and everyone else left to be exploited or die. At best.

But again, if it came to such a future, I would absolutely engineer for anti-racism. Why wouldn’t I? We’re engineering for desirable traits, aren’t we?

71. Jr Says:

Why would some women wear the Islamic headdress in an ideal world? (For fashion reasons etc some might wear a scarf of course, but not label it a hijab.) Sounds more like a second-best world to me.

I would agree on many of your points, do I have an instinctive like of free markets. I would also add a point about stopping current way we treat animals, I have been convinced this is a very important moral issue.

72. Filip Dimitrovski Says:

Trump won, and a significant proportion of his supporters are to some point fine with Nazism, which is based on eugenics and racial hygiene.

Therefore, the embryo selection point is incompatible and dangerous with the current reality, even if we don’t screw up the biology part! If there’s probability that some of the early adopters that have access to such tech have completely opposite moral values, we don’t know what could happen.

73. Bertie Says:

If you are howling then at least you know you are still alive.
Howl on🙏

74. Saah Says:

#70 not a real name

*My point is that when you take the outcomes within a society as an indicator of innate capability, you’re ignoring the effect of that society being horrible to certain groups.*

–Not all of us are doing that. Of course, systemic disadvantages play a role. But that is one part. There are many factors behind a complicated reality. You choose to focus on only one aspect, seeing from the lens of oppressor-oppressed dynamics. That often results in bad policy ideas and that is harmful to the disadvantaged groups too, as “victim mentality” may do psychological harm. I won’t take names, but many wokes in the twitter sphere are psychologically unstable, have severe ADHD and anger issues.

75. Scott Says:

not-a-real-name #70: Rather than wading into questions that I really don’t want to wade into right now, I thought it might be interesting to note our substantial points of agreement.

I agree that what was done to Blacks in the United States, beginning with though not limited to slavery, was in the same universe of terribleness as the Holocaust. Indeed, it feels strange even to have to say that, since given the tendency of woke leaders to ignore or deny antisemitism as a historically unique form of oppression, nowadays the much more common case one has to make is that the Holocaust was in the same universe of terribleness as American slavery.

I love your statement that if HBD ideas turned out to be true, or partly true, then your response would be to become even more leftist than you are now. Peter Singer would approve of the sentiment. Indeed, while it might make you retch, I suspect Steve Pinker and Scott Alexander would approve of the sentiment as well.

Finally, I love the idea of genetically engineering babies to be antiracist! Indeed, if you’ll grant that we mean “antiracist” in the sense of the 1960s Civil Rights heroes, rather than the full modern Ibram X. Kendi package, then I’d say you’ve got yourself a political program that you and I could someday work on together. 🙂

76. Scott Says:

Everyone: All future comments arguing (for any position) about HBD, the genetics of IQ, etc. will be left in my moderation queue. I’m sorry. Find someplace else on the Internet if you want to discuss that stuff. Discussion on this blog is about as free as I can make it, but no more than that! 🙂

77. ultimaniacy Says:

not-a-real-name #70:

Sorry for the confusion, I seem to have forgotten a word in my earlier comment:

“Whatever problems black people in America have historically faced and still face, no sane, decent person could take seriously the suggestion that those *living today* have faced barriers comparable to Jews in Nazi Germany”

I would indeed agree that black people during the era of slavery faced barriers comparable to Jews in Nazi Germany, but it’s not slaves who are taking the SAT nowadays.

As for the rest:

“Oh no, wait, they *did* do that. For literal centuries”

No shit? That’d be a relevant point if I were arguing that Ashkenazi Jews 60 years after the Holocaust were still held back from showing their intelligence by lingering effects of the ghettos, but I’m not, so you don’t.

“But that group got into power based on much more mundane bigotry very comparable to what is and has been seen directed at black people in America.”

Nazi anti-Semitism was never based on the notion that Jews were losing because they were inferior. It was based on the notion that Jews seemed to always win, and since that couldn’t be because they were superior to the gentiles, it must be because society was secretly set up to favour them. Jews control the banks, the media and all the world governments, remember?

78. OhMyGoodness Says:

Considering that an estimated 17% of all men seven feet or taller in the US play at some time in their life in the NBA, and that current NBA player salaries (in total) are approaching \$4billion/year, a good business case can be made for extreme height being a desirable trait to consider for early adopters. Sure clothes will be expensive but hard to beat free secondary private school and college educations (at the college of your choice) plus the very high expected value of income by say 22 years of age.

Shouldn’t the woke demand (for logical consistency) that no ruler based measurements can be used to advantage any individuals in any aspect of basketball. Everyone must be treated and play as though they are 5’9″ and taller players must be fitted with ankle weights to reduce their effective height to 5’9″.

I really don’t see much difference between ideologues on the right versus on the left. Both are rife with inconsistencies and the realization of their expectations dominated by wholly unexpected results.

79. Marvin Says:

Someone who calls themselves a simply “correct” and is a scientist is most definitely a technocrat. Of course, you’re a western technocrat, so you believe in liberty, there is no need to compare yourself with Singapore. You list many problems that others “solve” with conflict theory, but you solve with mistake theory. This is why you do not fall into an obvious political side, political sides are usually not a part of your solution to this problem.

Just be careful to not become a High Modernist, and you’ll be fine.

80. = Says:

It’s an annoying feeling that I agree, almost entirely, with these views. I want to argue just out of principle, because it feels too easy. (Maybe it’s calling it correct (as a joke?) that triggers my immune system!).

But more interesting to me is: if we believe those viewpoints are true enough and ought to be roughly uncontroversial, then how do we make people believe truth?

And it’s not so much the increasingly finer questions that would divide even this comment section that I think is priority, but the sheer amount and intensity of disagreement on much more basic points that is endemic in the wider political discourse.

Wouldn’t we make faster progress towards all of those complex topics if we prioritized understanding what makes people distrust fact and fall prey to nonsense?
It’s painful to see people stuck in paranoia, hurting themselves, who could be supporting good sense, empathy, and reason.

I’d like to be told that I’m wrong, that we can safely ignore disinformation as a problem. Spilling pixels about increasingly finer ethical questions is somehow less stressful: it feels more abstract that counting preventable deaths.

81. yet-another-anon-poster Says:

not-a-real-name #37

Here’s what’s wrong with your argument: “I think you (…) believe that it’s genetic”. So here you openly constructed yourself a textbook strawman for you to bash throughout the rest of the post. Because you don’t get to decide what Scott Aaronson believes, just as little as I get to decide what you believe. Unfortunately it is hard to believe you were unaware of the fallacy, given the high level of literacy you display, so I have to assume you are dishonest. And that’s a shame, because I found many of your thoughts here and in post #70 quite interesting and insightful. Sorry for my bad English.

82. Scott Says:

1Zer0 #67:

however if you do fear ending up in ICU, wouldn’t it – as your potentially last chance as a computer scientist – be called for to also list your most firmly hold central scientific, mathematical and philosophical convictions?

Oh there are all my papers and surveys and lecture notes and book for that! But yes, I agree, it could be an interesting exercise as well to try to sum up my most basic views about philosophy and science in a single blog post. If I caught Omicron yesterday or today (as for all I know I did), then for all I know I might only have another couple weeks until the ICU, so I suppose I’d better get started soon! 🙂

83. JhanicManifold Says:

Scott, in the interest of making your vacation more pleasant, I’d just like to remind you that the IFR of covid (non-omicron) for ages 35-44 is 0.068% (see https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10654-020-00698-1/tables/3), and that the vaccines drop that by an additional order of magnitude, and that most of those who die in that range also have a host of preconditions that you don’t have. At this point the stress of you worrying about Omicron is likely to be worse for you than Omicron itself. The risk of you being diagnosed with cancer in the next 10 years is 2.7% (see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4544764/ table 3).

Your worrying is horribly miscalibrated to the things likely to actually impact your life. Relax and enjoy your life, everything’s gonna be fine.

84. Jacob Says:

“Do you call such a person

“liberal,”
Yes.

“progressive,”
ish, but not very, and I’d try to choose other words in preference – I think “progressive” has connotations of further left, and of a different, social-justice-activist, flavour of left, than you are.

“center-left,”
Yes, definitely.

“centrist,”
Not really – there are more people to the right of you than to the left of you.

“Pinkerite,”
I would not use this word to describe anyone, even Pinker, because while it may be accurate, it’s not likely to be helpful, except to a very select audience.

“technocratic,”
Yes, definitely.

“neoliberal,”
Again, this is not a word I would ever use – I think it’s become basically just a left-wing perjorative for centre-leftists. And the original neoliberals – Friedman et al – were far further right than you, or than most of the other people called neoliberals today.

“libertarian-ish,”
Possibly, but I think you’re probably in favour of too much state spending to qualify.

“classical liberal”
Possibly – I think it’s more or less accurate, but I also think it has connotations of economic views further right than yours.

85. Cheerfully careless Says:

Here’s a stupid reflection prompted by scrolling through the blog archives, because some of the words you see flying around in political discussions seem to have picked up very secondary definitions, or to have lost some meaning. People often bring up fascism (this is not a comment about fascism).

The Wikipedia articles for elitism is funny.
Its definition is that “a group of people with an intrinsic quality, high intellect, wealth, power, notability, special skills, or experience would be more likely to be constructive to society as a whole, and therefore deserve influence or authority greater than that of others.”

Is elitism good? Is it an insult, like fascist? Would this comment section claim itself elitist?

It seems like, between the lines, the implication may be that said aforementioned group of people may not accurately be able to have the rest of the population’s best interests in mind. I wonder if that’s really a reasonable concern.

Worthless diatribe aside, I wish you all happy holidays and hedonism within reason! =)

86. Paul Topping Says:

Nicely done! Now I’m going to look up “Pinkerist”. If I find anyone who uses that term, I may lash back. Are there any “Aaronsonists”?

87. Scott Says:

Everyone: Alright, so it’s settled then. I’m a liberal technocratic Aaronsonist (not to be confused with arsonist).

88. Shmi Says:

Were your post linked on LW, not sure if it was, you’d probably get 90%+ agreement from the local crowd. So, your views are rat-aligned, or post-rat-aligned, or ACX-aligned (a big surprise there), whatever you want to call it. Personally, I don’t find a single point of disagreement.

Your values are somewhat American-centric and Western-centric, unsurprisingly, after all, they are your views. Still maybe you can add something if you think through your views more globally.

89. A. Karhukainen Says:

“So we just need to select our black and hispanic babies to not be the dumb kind of black and hispanic? That’s your solution to racial inequality?”

And again we see the blatant racism of the white wokes in such clear sight.

90. A. Karhukainen Says:

Scott: I would just call you well-meaning and naive. Like my uncle, who’s seventy-something now.

A note about old hippies: I have seen many hang around in the comment sections of the blogs like https://www.ecosophia.net/ where the tone nowadays is much less optimistic about the future of our civilization. Many even see the current cultural war issues just as a distraction, like also
do rising commentators like Paul Kingsnorth, who see our predicament in the jaws of the ever growing technosphere.

But of course, when things start making visibly a bad turn, we could just write an open letter and demand that the course should be changed.

In any case, have a relaxing holiday.

91. William Gasarch Says:

I humbly submit that you might want to add one more item to your list of what you believe in. It is this:

IF solid evidence convinces me that I am WRONG about any of the above, THEN I will rethink my position and change my viewpoint.

(E.g. if we find that Nuclear power causes severe health problems you might change to wanting to support research to see how we can make it safe OR look into renewables OR.. but whatever you settle on it will be after a rational examination of the evidence.)

92. Steve Sailer Says:

“And the people promoting these claims today are obvious, active, and malignant racists (seriously, have you *seen* Steve Sailer talk?).”

After all, you can tell how malignant Steve Sailer is just by looking at him!

Seriously, I’m fascinated by the number of obviously intelligent people like “not-a-real-name” whose ultimate proof for their arguments is their rage-driven perception of my own personal evilness.

Myself, in contrast, I think I’m a pretty good guy. (But I would say that, wouldn’t I?)

Clearly, I’m not shielded from criticism, so I try hard to avoid getting my ideas criticized for objectively good reasons (with far from complete success, of course). I therefore work pretty hard to contribute to public discourse ideas that are, in declining order of priority, true, interesting, funny, and/or new.

On the other hand, I have a thick skin for being attacked by sputtering rage ad hominems like “obvious, active, and malignant racists (seriously, have you *seen* Steve Sailer talk?).”

93. Scott Says:

Shmi #88: I’ve held many of these views since before the rationalist community existed—so to whatever extent we align, I suspect it’s mostly just a byproduct of me and rationalists both optimizing for being “correct even if unpopular and unaligned with both major US political tribes.”

94. Jacob Says:

@ not-a-real-name

I suspect you’re just driving more traffic to Steve Sailer with your name-calling.

95. Douglas Knight Says:

… who believes in patriotism, the police, the rule of law, to the extent that they don’t understand why all the enablers of the January 6 insurrection, up to and including Trump, aren’t currently facing trial for treason against the United States?

This is the only one where you used the phrasing “believes in.” Isn’t that an odd phrasing that you rarely use? Shouldn’t that be a red flag that something weird is going on here? It seems to equivocate between positive and normative claims. Do you think that rule of law is a good idea, or do you think that it exists? Which are you confused about? Most of your claims are conditional that if you want to achieve X, you should use method Y, and you are apparently confused that people who claim to want to achieve X aren’t using Y. In most of them you aren’t confused about the facts on the ground. You aren’t confused about the number of nuclear power plants. You’re disappointed, but you are not confused. (Maybe you should be confused about things other than policy that affect the number of plants, like their destruction in routine maintenance.) You’re confused about policy as advocated by people. Whereas here, you’re confused about reality. Of course, reality is implemented by people. Presumably you want to conclude something about some people, who wants the rule of law, who can block it, etc.

96. marxbro Says:

Scott, if you’re optimizing for being correct, why do you say so many obviously untrue things like calling Marxism a religion?

97. me Says:

I think most of those are beliefs about what’s true and what isn’t moreso than they are values. A value is something like diversity or collegiality, something that could exist on a distant planet, or in another universe with different laws of physics. Thinking that GMO crops are the way forward is almost a business plan – it has everything to do with what’s possible and what the tradeoffs are and very little to do with trolley problems and other questions which can only be answered by fiat.

I do think there’s a value implied in there, though, which is to avoid those kinds of questions and focus on the other kind.

98. Scott Says:

marxbro #96: I’m sorry if I offended your religious sensibilities by calling Marxism a religion! 😀

99. Scott Says:

me #97: I agree with that. My values are whatever values a good machine-learning algorithm would infer from the data that I consider all of these to be sensible policies.

100. Scott Says:

Douglas Knight #95: Yeah, sorry, I don’t love the “I believe in” phrasing either, but couldn’t think of anything better on my way to the airport. I meant to indicate that

(1) I think that police, or whatever else you want to call them, have a legitimate role in enforcing laws and securing the peace, with force if necessary,

(2) for that reason, I’ve never supported ideas like “defund the police,” even when it would’ve been popular or expedient to do so—I strongly support cracking down on police brutality, which disproportionately victimizes minorities and the poor, but a priori, whatever is actually effective at doing that might require more police funding rather than less,

(3) I’ve also never made, and never would make, fashionable defenses for vandalism and looting, and

(4) I feel that a consistent application of my “respect for rule of law” principle leads to the conclusion that those who stormed the Capitol on January 6, as well as those who incited them, should all be on trial for high crimes against the United States — specifically, for a plot to overthrow its duly elected government, one that in branches of the wavefunction close to ours actually succeeded, and that might yet do so in the future, as the Beer Hall Putsch was followed a decade later by the Reichstag Fire. And the fact that this isn’t happening terrifies me and keeps me awake at night.

101. 1Zer0 Says:

Scott #82,

> Oh there are all my papers and surveys and lecture notes and book for that!
I learned a lot from the ones I read! They always seem to capture the essence and central questions of a topic.

> so I suppose I’d better get started soon!

🙂
Given the supposed high transmissibility of omicron, it seems we are all in the same boat and may only have a few more weeks to exchange the most basics convictions about science, philosophy and mathematics before ICU /S.

102. anon7858 Says:

Maybe FDA is changing. They did approve Aducanumab for Alzheimer’s despite many (most, probably) experts agreeing that it showed no real benefit.

I’m fine with people being able to get such treatments with their own money. What I don’t like is when public money gets spent on such unproven, expensive stuff. Though I guess that’s not much of a problem with the way medical care works in the US.

103. marxbro Says:

Scott, you’re not “offending” any of my “sensibilities”. I’m just discussing your tendency to dismiss political stances that you disagree with as “religions”. Surely if you fail to provide any evidence that Marxism is a religion you should update your beliefs away from that prior?

Again, I’m just asking you to provide evidence that Marxism is a religion. Or you could tell me what chain of logic lead you to believe that Marxism is a religion. Since you’re a scientist I assume that you take things like logic and evidence very seriously, and that you have a good reason for holding that belief in the first place.

104. fred Says:

When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily
Oh joyfully, playfully watching me
But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible
Logical, oh responsible, practical
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable
Oh clinical, oh intellectual, cynical
There are times when all the world’s asleep
The questions run too deep
For such a simple man
I know it sounds absurd
Please tell me who I am
I said, watch what you say or they’ll be calling you a radical
Liberal, oh fanatical, criminal
Respectable, oh presentable, a vegetable
Oh, take it take it yeah
But at night, when all the world’s asleep
The questions run so deep
For such a simple man
Won’t you please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds absurd
Please tell me who I am, who I am, who I am, who I am
‘Cause I was feeling so logical
D-d-digital
One, two, three, five
Oh, oh, oh, oh
It’s getting unbelievable

105. OhMyGoodness Says:

marxbro #103

I have no idea what you would call Marxism other than a religion. The belief that the ultimate reality of human nature is above nature and divorced from the physical. Marxism will free that real human nature to live in a state of Utopia and allow it to satisfy its yearning to create spontaneously to benefit all equally.

What is it other than a metaphysical appeal to some transcendent view of ultimate human nature?

I like the opium of the masses appeal as though Marxism is a Narcan nasal spray that will allow the true ultimate transcendent state of human nature to appear.

106. Michel Says:

About what you might be called: I sincerely hope that people like you once will be called normal people, e.g. setting the norm. As long as we give room to a decent deviation from the norm as ‘decent’.

As for marxbro: If marxism isn’t a religion, it is at least a ‘belief system’, and one that has failed to deliver any of it’s expected results up to now.

107. russell oswald Says:

You’re a progressive with nuanced takes on some issues that other progressives tend not to take.

108. Ben Standeven Says:

@marxbro:

He’s calling Marxism a religion because it tends to attract fanatics. (I’ve never liked this usage, but it does seem quite common.)

109. Qwerty Says:

An extraordinarily sensitive, intellectually honest, compassionate human being.

110. Anon93 Says:

Steve Sailer #92: It’s true that you get a lot of ad hominem attacks. There are reasons for this. The first is your opinions, and I agree with some and disagree with others, and second, your snark and communication style. The snark is often really funny, and it’s understandable given what a lot of these woke people are like and that people in general are snarky on the Internet, but probably comes off as bad faith to people who disagree with you even if it’s not intended that way.

Since I’m communicating with you, can I ask something? Are you genetically 1/2 Ashkenazi? I heard this at some point but I couldn’t find independent confirmation of this.

111. Anon93 Says:

Fred #104: What song is that supposed to be? I vaguely do recall a song that repeats triples of adjectives ending in -ful, but I forgot which ones exactly.

112. jemand Says:

< …had just produced Einstein, von Neumann, Bohr, Szilard, Born, Meitner, Wigner, Haber, Pauli, Ulam, Tarski, Erdös, and Noether …
I am surprised that you do not mention Cantor. (or Hausdorff: he died by suicide in 1942 a few days before he was to be deported into a concentration camp.)

113. Aspect Says:

@Scott:
I agree with a lot (not all) of your views but I find one thing interesting. I’ve seen you say that you have basically stuck to the same moral views since the 90s or something.
Does that not worry you? It seems to me that moral (and sociopolitical) questions can be extremely tough to deal with. In math and science, people are always keeping an open mind because the answers can always be counter-intuitive or surprising. Can’t your moral views evolve in a similar fashion?

I have continuously reevaluated my stance on a ton of issues over the past decade and, to be honest, I’m not sure if I’ll ever converge 100% to something. I’m closer to a stable position now but I still feel like there are tons of subtleties to consider and the problems tend to be not that well defined, so I’m not too confident that I can always make progress towards being “correct”. Of course, there are some “easy” problems that you can more or less have a fixed position on, but when it comes to matters of freedom, identity, human progress, etc. it feels like the answers are very hard to figure out. Do you actually feel like you have that stuff figured out, or have I misunderstood you?

114. Topologist Guy Says:

> If I do end this trip dead in an ICU

Seriously Scott? Are you being facetious here, or do you really not understand how overwhelmingly unlikely it is for a relatively young, healthy person to die from COVID? Statistically speaking, your fears are completely unfounded in reality. Sure, COVID-19 is a nasty disease, and should be taken seriously if you’re over 65 or immunocompromised. But the idea that we should radically change our way of life and abstain from some of the basic comforts and joys of life because of a disease a couple times worse than the seasonal flu is fucking rediculous. In your age group you’re more likely to die this year from a car accident, a drug overdose, suicide or homicide than from COVID-19. And yet I doubt you avoided driving your entire life because of the small risk that entailed!

American liberals behave like COVID is the black death or something. In reality, it’s caused a marginal increase in the death rate of people over 65. Heart disease and cancer are still by far the leading causes of death in that demographic group. It’s like this, Scott—your chance of death before COVID was maybe 0.6% per year and now it’s 0.7%. It’s gone up by like 14%. And that’s before you got triple vaxxed. So if you’re so scared of the world now why weren’t you terrified of dying from homicide or an accident or cancer before? It makes no logical sense. Fun fact: the opioid epidemic has caused three times as much loss of life than COVID. And what did the government do to stop that? Smoking kills 400,000 a year. Alcoholism kills hundreds of thousands a year. Deaths of despair in poor white America have caused a far more pronounced and sustained drop in life expectancy than COVID. COVID is not the black death and it’s not the epochal, historically unprecedented moment you seem to think it is. It’s an illness a couple times worse than the seasonal flu, that’s caused a marginal increase in the death rate of seniors and that’s not even comparable in its toll on life expectancy and lives to the opioid epidemic, alcoholism and smoking.

https://data.cdc.gov/widgets/9bhg-hcku?mobile_redirect=true

115. Scott Says:

116. Scott Says:

Aspect #113: I guess it would be more accurate to say that, to the extent my moral views have evolved, it hasn’t been at all in lockstep with the evolution of the culture around me. I.e., it hasn’t been like the moral evolution of Obama or Hillary Clinton, who looked deep into their hearts and realized that they’d been in favor of gay marriage all along after it had 2/3 popular support. 🙂 It’s been much more driven by the reflection on the things I witness in my own life, or possibly by subconscious sources that I can’t even articulate.

117. marxbro Says:

@OhMyGoodness

“The belief that the ultimate reality of human nature is above nature and divorced from the physical.”

Where does Marx make this claim? Direct quotations please. Remember, I’m looking for evidence.

@Ben Standeven

Having a strong determination and passion for something does not make it a “religion”. Otherwise all political positions would be considered religions.

118. Bill Kaminsky Says:

[This is in regard Aspect’s query #113 about Scott’s moral evolution (or lack thereof) since the 1990s and Scott’s initial reply #116]

For what it’s worth, Scott, I found your post “Alan Turing, Moralist” from way back in 2006 (https://scottaaronson.blog/?p=63) to be extremely poignant ever since I read it way back then. The Turing Test / Imitation Game is NOT (just) some proxy for “intelligent” behavior.
It’s really an *ethical* thought experiment. All sentiences — be they natural or artificial — should be judged by their significant, individual actions as much as possible and definitely *shouldn’t* be subject to flagrant double standards like “Oh, yeah, they’re acting indistinguishably from a human according to every test we run, but we know they’re not human, and thus when all’s said and done, they have no moral standing that obligates me to treat them as human because… well, because… just obviously! Why are we even discussing the point??!!”

Indeed, I’d say that thus-far-still-basically-in-the-future double standard is just a souped-up version of dehumanizing prejudicial double standards humans presently apply against other humans: “Sure, this [fill in the out-group in question] is acting in accord with all the standards I find commendable with [fill in your own in-group]… but, you know, most of his or her or [insert more au courant possessive pronoun if desired] kind don’t act so commendably. So maybe this one is ‘one of the good ones’… more power to them… and, heck, more power to me for noting that ‘good ones’ exist in their kind… I’m soooo not prejudiced. But, all said and done, I certainly don’t need to update my beliefs even one iota about the prevalance of such ‘good one’s in [out-group in question]. I don’t need to update my beliefs about the base rates of specific non-commendable behaviors I ascribe to [out-group in question] within my own, obviously more virtuous, [in-group], either. And I certainly don’t need to revise my political beliefs to see if any significant fraction of the populace could be inclined to more virtue for reasonable expenditures of time, money, thought to remove perverse incentives, etc.”

Again, I don’t want to presume to know what you’re thinking, but I can easily imagine if that belief is a bedrock of your personal morality and politics, then the inclination of group essentialism that is seen throughout “Wokeism” and is wholeheartedly extolled by a certain fringe of the “Woke” then… jeez… the past 5-10 years of general cultural discussion could be really, really aggravating.

All the best. Hope you’re enjoying your vacation.

119. Scott Says:

Topologist Guy #114: You obviously don’t know me well — I did stop driving over 4 years ago, because of terror that I was endangering myself, my wife and kids, and others! I now rely on walking, Uber, and my wife Dana, who’s a much less distracted driver than I am.

As I’ve said since the beginning of the pandemic, I’m scared of covid mostly for the sake of my parents, who spend a great deal of time with us, who we need to help with our kids, and who are both immune-compromised, with few or no antibodies even after 3 vaccines each.

Having said that, I’m 40 and not in the best physical shape myself. Even if I don’t die, even if I don’t end up in an ICU, to get Long Covid symptoms like “brain fog” would obviously have a huge effect on my life as well, potentially ending my research career. And the percentage of covid sufferers who report such symptoms is quite high, isn’t it?

120. Anon93 Says:

I think https://twitter.com/RichardHanania/status/1473055692273504257 is interesting. If Trump won the Republicans would be pro-vax and only very few Democrats would be anti-vax. Far fewer people would have died of COVID. I think https://twitter.com/steve_sailer/status/1413658719938748428 is also interesting. It does look like the vaccine was delayed for political purposes.

121. Scott Says:

Anon93 #120: If that’s true (and I have strong doubts), then another way to interpret it would be that Republicans engaged in a form of collective kamikaze blackmail: saying, in effect, either re-elect Trump or else we’ll refuse the vaccine, thereby unleashing a deadly pandemic on the whole country.

From a short-term perspective, the “utilitarian” option usually is indeed to give in to blackmail — otherwise blackmail wouldn’t work!

122. Anon93 Says:

Scott, do you think that it was a conscious decision by Republicans to blackmail them like that? I don’t think so. Anyway, thanks Steve Sailer for drawing my attention to this. Yes it was a 5 day delay and fortunately not a several month delay, but it did probably cost some lives, and for a blatant political purpose. I’m very pro-vaccine and pro-booster but when Pfizer is doing nonsense like this it’s very understandable that Republicans are suspicious of the vaccine.

123. Alexander Says:

thank you for publishing a piece that I can now refer to when someone asks me about my values. I would put my name under every single one of these.

124. Topologist Guy Says:

Scott,

I’m sorry for being rude to you. It’s not my place to critique your personal lifestyle, and if I were living with my elderly and vulnerable parents I might have a similar risk tolerance. I’m glad you brought up the brain fog / long COVID issue, because that highlights one of my frustrations with the pro-vaxx mandate crowd. I’m aware that a number of people have experienced long-COVID-like symptoms (brain fog, neurological issues, heart issues) after vaccination. Tangentially (in my social circle) I’m aware of a healthy, young person who’s basically become crippled post-vaccine (myocarditis). A brief investigation of VAERS data shows tens of thousands of cases of heart problems in vaccinated men <30 years, and this is before a large underreporting factor. It may be that some of the mechanisms of long COVID (spike protein and ACE2, autoimmune reaction) are also behind post-vaccine syndrome.

It really makes me angry that there are people suffering from chronic health problems post-vaccine, who are basically mocked, ridiculed and ignored by the health establishment. Imagine if you were unlucky enough to get neurological problems from the vaccine, or were crippled by chronic heart issues, and every doctor dismissed you. You try to report your symptoms to the FDA and they laugh you off. You talk about them on your blog and rabid pro-vaxx-liberals call you a Trumper and say you deserve it for being an anti-vaxx conservative. Your colleagues ostracize you, and meanwhile you’re too crippled to work on your research, or anything else.

It really wouldn’t surprise me if rates of past-vaccine neurological and heart problems are similar to rates of long COVID. The mechanisms at work are probably similar, and I’ve seen two peer-reviewed research articles (one in a top cardiology journal) showing that rates of vascular damage are similar between double-vaxxed people and COVID positive people. I don’t know about “brain fog,” but there are also many neurological problems reported in VAERS. The spike protein was chosen as the mechanism for the COVID vaccine before we knew about its ability to cause vascular damage. So it really makes me frustrated that you want to get rid of basically all FDA safeguards and roll out experimental vaccines to a virus we don’t fully understand using a protein we don’t fully understand. You’re afraid of long COVID but you want to inject people with the protein that (potentially) causes long COVID?

125. Scott Says:

Topologist Guy #124: Honestly, I hadn’t heard about the vaccines causing brain fog or other Long-Covid-like effects. Do you have a link to some serious research on the question?

If that were a possible vaccine side effect, though, given that we’re all going to be exposed to this spike protein sooner or later, just on first principles it seems vastly preferable for one’s first exposures to be “controlled,” via vaccine, rather than totally uncontrolled via nature, right?

In any case, after my second and third Moderna shots, I felt like shit for a day and thereafter was fine.

126. Tim McCormack Says:

Well, you didn’t take a stance on *my* pet issue in either direction, so clearly you’re on the Wrong Side.

127. Tim McCormack Says:

Snark aside, I think you’re pretty clearly in the progressive/liberal region as observed over the past N decades, just not necessarily aligning as precisely to those terms as some people might prefer.

128. OhMyGoodness Says:

No surprise that someone with an atypical brain displays atypical risk aversion. If one should start including detailed calculations of flux from possible nearby supernovas in the decision as to what spf sunscreen to buy, then maybe time to discuss.

Personal risk aversion behavior is not entirely an intellectual rational process.

129. Scott Says:

OhMyGoodness #128: While there are many other things about myself that I would change, I’m actually pretty satisfied with my intuitive assessments of physical risks. As an example, I’ve always been terrified of driving (or of being in a car when the driver or other drivers seemed reckless), and not the slightest bit terrified to fly commercial aircraft. (Or to whatever extent I’m now a bit nervous on planes, just because of covid!) While fear of flying is vastly more common, my car phobia is of course the one that matches the statistical reality.

Maybe you should wake up and realize that the meaning of the word “liberal” was silently replaced while you weren’t noticing, and it now stands for completely different values. There’s nothing liberal about a modern American “liberal”. It was successfully replaced with leftism and only uses the same word, calling itself “liberal” and “democratic” as before to lure naïve voters like you.

The new leftism liberal values don’t even show once in all that you wrote. Leftism now focuses on identity politics. It focuses on “fighting racism” by somehow intentionally reducing everything to race, and lecturing everyone with critical race theory about how everything is a result of race, and racism, and how every single white person is racist (which is actually a pretty racist view in itself).

It focuses on LGBT, but not only in allowing them to freely express themselves, but in spanish inquisition style hunting of anyone who disagrees with them and destroying their lives, thereby taking others ability to freely express themselves too.

The new leftism is against freedom of speech, and for cancel culture, which you denounced yourself.

The new leftism might be all in on “my body my choice” when it comes to abortions, but somehow is also all in on completely dictatorial measures with vaccines which show that “my body my choice” isn’t a real value they hold, but just a backwards compatible view to keep old liberals like you still in their ranks.

“Liberal” etymologically comes from liberty, freedom, which should’ve stood for human rights, and should stand guard against the taking of human rights by the government no matter what. The new so called “liberals” are the ones pushing for even stricter human rights violation by the government because of covid. They are the ones pushing for vaccine passports and dictatorial measures.

The new leftism hugs communistic governments like China which violate human rights.

The old left was all about change, and conservatives were about resisting change. The new left voted for a Joe Biden, which was there for nearly 50 years. The conservatives were the ones voting for an outsider promising change. And it’s not like the democrats didn’t have an option, they intentionally rigged the last two primaries against Bernie sanders. Same fraud patterns from the 2020 presidential election also happened in the two primaries Bernie lost.

There is literally nothing left of the old left. What you really have is extremely powerful people controlling the mainstream media and the narrative, who do their best to make sure you vote according to some pathetic reason that doesn’t include holding them accountable, looking at how they distribute the budget, or assessing their competence and corruption.

They do this by first of all distracting you with political causes like BLM, LGBT, CRT, etc, gaining some votes from people seeking to virtue signal their superiority. They also gain a lot of votes from voters like you who will vote for liberal no matter who or what it means. Most of the votes they just gain from media control and constant pumping of lies about their opponents, opinionated “fact checks” etc. And to top it off they just use election fraud.

It’s effective beyond my wildest imagination, as they managed to elect an Alzheimer’s patient unpopular in his own party (just look at early primaries before everyone mysteriously resigned) as a puppet into the highest office.

131. OhMyGoodness Says:

Scott #129

If you are say going to the store then your choices are not either by car or plane. A person typically makes numerous risk decisions each day. The assessments are based on imperfect knowledge and so may involve some naive probability distribution and then a subjective decision if you are willing, or not willing, to accept that risk. You may determine that you are not willing to accept a one in a thousand risk of a car accident to buy a loaf of bread but someone else may make a subjective determination they are willing to take that same risk. So there are two components that may reasonably differ from individual to individual. The assignment of risk and then the subjective determination if willing to assume that risk.

Some individuals seem to engage in risk seeking behaviors and others various levels of risk avoidance. Tangentially related to this are studies that show a correlation between medications that increase dopamine levels in the brain and risk seeking behaviors. “Grandma started this medication and the next week she flew to Vegas and lost all her retirement savings and contracted multiple STD’s” are not that uncommon.

All I am claiming is that acceptance of risks at the personal level involve a subjective determination that varies by individual and is influenced by the brain.

If you consider a common progression of risk assessments of Covid infection then let me suggest the following progression-
1) Lockdown for everyone until vaccine is available minimizes risk for each individual
2) Vaccine is available and approved as safe and effective and so individuals are safe as soon as vaccinated
3)Vaccination has proceeded but unvaccinated have spoiled individual protection and so must be forced to vaccinate or separated from the rest of us
4) Oh well we will all be infected

My view is that commonly the risks associated with the vaccine not being effective were unreasonably underestimated at the initial stages as was the mutation risk of the virus and that the subjective determination of risk avoidance behaviors were also unreasonable for otherwise healthy individuals. You and I had different assessments at these stages and that is fine. It only becomes a problem for me when I consider a faulty risk assessment (by my standards) is coercively forced on me.

There is no long term data about the safety of the vaccine (this is consistent with the view of the initial developer of mrna vacines at Scripps). I may have pre existing resistance to the virus (consistent with studies of old blood samples in LA that found 40% had T cells sensitized to Covid) and this might result in my having low viral load if infected. My health is good and my blood vitamin levels good so low risk if infected and even without pre existing resistance. The vaccine over a term of months is not effective against the delta strain and certainly not the omicron strain nor likely against future strains and these because the spike protein is different. There are hints that vaccinated may fair worse than unvaccinated with respect to some strains (nothing certain yet-imperfect knowledge).

My conclusion is that I prefer the risk of infection to the vaccine. Your conclusion was different and I have no problem with that.

132. JimV Says:

Speaking anecdotally as someone who has had Long Covid for over a year, it started when I had my first mild bout of Covid, lasting about 12 hours, in May of 2020, did not increase or decrease after my two Moderna shots, in May of 2021, and increased when I had my second bout of Covid (3 days, the first and second days being the sickest I have ever felt in my life) starting on November 10, 2021. (My booster shot is scheduled in a few days.)

In my case the symptoms are weakness for about a month, and changes in taste which seem to be permanent. After the first bout, a few things I had liked my whole life suddenly tasted bad; after the second bout, almost everything does. (Harsh, bitter, sour.) So far I have lost about 25 pounds, which I could afford to lose. I am starting to get used to the bad taste and can choke enough down to survive when I get hungry enough. It might well force a healthier life style, but for a life that is not as worth living as it used to be. (No great tragedy, I am still luckier than most people in the world.)

I recently saw an article on Long Covid by Mike the Mad Biologist which estimated that around 20% of the people 40 and above who get Covid have some LC symptoms, and that this may be one of the reasons for “The Great Resignation”–people not returning to jobs. I am retired, but would not have been able to return to my old job for a month or so due to weakness. After ten minutes of routine house chores I had to lie down. I had to stand up in a Verizon store for a half-hour while getting a new phone installed in their system, and wound up flat on my back with my glasses broken, ten days after my second bout. When the back of my head hit the floor I woke up and did not immediately know where (or who) I was.

133. OhMyGoodness Says:

I had a friend who had a phobia of cars and rode a bicycle for transportation. When he rode a bicycle though he used full motorcycle safety gear including an elaborate helmet. So what, it didn’t cause problems for anyone and gave him a sense of comfort. If I were forced to do the same however then a problem. 🙂

134. Scott Says:

JimV #132: Thanks so much for sharing that. It’s funny: on the one hand, I’ve got people, including on this thread, claiming that the dangers of covid have been massively exaggerated (except for the elderly, immune-compromised, etc.), but then on the other hand, I’ve got firsthand accounts like yours. On the whole, I lean to the conclusion that, even apart from my parents, I should avoid my kids, wife, and I getting Omicron or any other variant if we can possibly manage it! But I’m also resigned to the possibility that we might get it anyway.

135. Ratufa Says:

I think the distinction you’re trying to draw is between the modernist and the post-modernist left. With you being on the modernist side.

It’s a bit hard articulate the difference because it’s epistemological as opposed to value or policy based. But it seems to be mostly driven by the notion of linguistic and cultural relativism. If you think about the prototypical “non-woke” leftist academics: Steven Pinker, John McWhorter, and Noam Chomsky are all strong opponents of linguistic relatavism and Sapir-Whorf. And a lot of what I (and presumably you) see as the flawed argumentation on the far left is driven by motte and bailey type arguments around linguistic and cultural relativism.

136. HasH Says:

1- Yes for “end world hunger” No for “GMO crops”, pro-depopulation (without killing people).

2- We have brilliant brains; they can find best exam model for college admissions.

3- Believe in Real Socialism for all. %99,9 countries changed their economic model to mixed with lots of Socialist policies. Our brilliant minds in economy can find best solution for world. I still have hope for Professors refuse to bow before 1%.

3- I believe in Kantian moral principle about “Lying” with rare exceptions (dealing with Evil scenarios). Lie is lie, there is no difference between “Red and Black” vs. “Grey or White”.

4- LEGALIZE CANNABIS AND PSYCHEDELICS (only used Cannabis for a short time period; 0,4gram/week, max. 4 times a month). Cannabis helped me quit heavy alcohol (8lt beer/day and tobacco (3,5packs/day 28 yrs.). This is why even I don’t smoke it, I advocate for legalization last 15 yrs.

5- All organized religions are root for; Evil, pain and suffering on earth.

6- Trump (and Trump like world leaders with fewer exception); CDC, FDA, WHO and other authorities was a historic DISGRACE!

7- “Holocaust” my primitive English is not enough to describe sadness, anger against human darkness.

8- Pro-Free Speech, Against Hate-Speech!

9- I do not believe in patriotism. (same for borders, races, classes)

10- “who’s (of course) disgusted to the core by Trump and everything he represents, but who’s also disgusted by the elite virtue-signalling hypocrisy that made the rise of a Trump-like backlash figure predictable?” AMEN!

11- Pro-abortion (but pro reasonable penalty for mother and father side if they abuse abortion right). And Pro embryo selection for disease free childeren and Pro CRISPR for adults (in future) who want upgrade their human life form. But mostly I want governments who openly support for “Mortal-immortality” can be ended by person when they want.
12- “Even if today’s scolds are themselves former hippies, or intellectual descendants thereof, who now clothe their denunciations of other people’s gross, creepy sexual desires in the garb of feminism and social justice?” AMEN

13- “What, finally, do you call someone whose image of an ideal world might include a young Black woman wearing a hijab, an old Orthodox man with black hat and side curls, a broad-shouldered white guy from the backwoods of Alabama, and a trans woman with purple hair, face tattoos and a nose ring … all of them standing in front of a blackboard and arguing about what would happen if Alice and Bob jumped into opposite ends of a wormhole?”

I call them “ÜBERMENSCH”. “Man is something that is to surpassed” Nietzsche.

If you are, I am “scientific Realist” too!

137. Scott Says:

OhMyGoodness: The obvious problem, which none of your comments even address, is that of externalities! A motorcyclist without a helmet endangers only his or her own life, but an unmasked, unvaxxed person has much a greater chance of infecting those around them. A public health campaign can often defeat a disease to the immense benefit of all, but only with buy-in from a large enough majority of the population.

And this is not some new, woke insight: it’s the reason why enforced quarantines during pandemics go back to the Middle Ages if not the beginning of civilization.

Furthermore, presumably there’s some level of severity of pandemic where even you would agree with this logic: e.g., suppose covid had had an IFR of 20% (like in the movie Contagion), rather than 1% or less, and with the same reproduction rate? So then, how low does the IFR have to be before mask and vax requirements are an unacceptable intrusion on individual liberty? Is 800,000+ American dead too low a number?

138. Mike W Says:

Is it not true, though, that all your positions (or any position anyone takes, ever) are sort of like axioms? There’s no “correct” here. I realize I’m delving into post-modernist stuff I guess, but no other viewpoint makes the most sense to me, even if it makes me uncomfortable that most views are really just opinions, that are products largely due to environment.

What I find immoral, a religious man may find to be perfectly normal or even preferred (like child marriages for example). I can’t seem to reconcile this, and it’s why I can’t for the life of me understand why super geniuses like yourself say things like “correct” when talking about views. I agree that post modernist thought can be unproductive and unnerving at times, but I don’t see how that detracts from its validity.

139. Yisrael Peikes Says:

Scott,

Two points:

1-A counter point to your response to OhMyGoodness is that those that choose to isolate can still do so without any lockdown. It’s possible that many of the deaths are the result of people taking risks they felt were acceptable. This is tragic but there’s an argument to be made that individuals should choose what to deem as acceptable risk and not have a one size fits all rule. It might have made more sense for the elderly to lock down hard and younger people continue with business as usual.

2-I emailed what I though was your email with a request/question. If you chose not to respond or didn’t have the time that’s obviously fine but I wanted to make sure I didn’t send to the wrong email.

140. OhMyGoodness Says:

Scott #137

First the analogy would be a bicyclist that thought his risks to be the same as a motorcyclist. Second so long as citing history please show me in the historical record of vaccines a widespread case that the vaccine didn’t protect the vaccinated from infection regardless of the vaccination status of those they encountered. Was this the case for-
1) Smallpox
2) Polio
3) Measles
4) Rubella

No, no, no, no

Please look at the date delta was identified. It was prior to the start of any vaccination. The vaccine was targeted for the alpha spike protein and not very effective against the delta spike and this was prior to the start of vaccinations. The delta variant is/was replicating in the vaccinated as well as the unvaccinated.

If magically the entire population of the earth had been vaccinated at a faster rate from the start of vaccination the delta virus would have still spread as it has. Every study I have seen indicates that viral load of asymptomatic and symptomatic cases are the same as are the viral loads for breakthrough cases vs unvaccinated cases.

Are you claiming that delta doesn’t replicate in vaccinated individuals or that vaccinated individuals do not transmit the virus? The delta strain was certainly in circulation prior to the very first vaccination so you must be claiming one or the other to continue to blame the unvaccinated.

These vaccines are not sufficiently effective and now even WHO is suggesting continuing boosters are a lost cause in each and every country regardless of vaccination rates.

141. Scott Says:

Mike W #138: If all opinions are equally valid, then so is my opinion that all opinions are not equally valid — that’s always been the obvious problem with postmodernism and other radically skeptical theories, that they’re self-defeating.

Furthermore, this is far from just an abstract point. Over the past 25 years, we’ve all witnessed how the radical skepticism of the original postmodernists burned itself out, was unsustainable, and was replaced by a hardened orthodoxy, holding that it possesses a new, correct morality, centered around race, gender, and sexual orientation, and that anyone who deviates from the correct morality — even, say, disagreeing with 20% while affirming the other 80% — deserves to be fired, hounded out of academia, shamed on social media, deplatformed, etc.

In other words, it’s not just that postmodernism is self-defeating: it’s that it has now defeated itself.

And so, if even the “postmodernists” are now committed to the existence of objectively correct answers to moral questions, then I don’t see how I can be called hubristic for putting forward my own actually correct answers, some of which disagree with theirs! 😀

142. OhMyGoodness Says:

Not fair that you usually use the middle ages in a pejorative sense to indicate a lack of knowledge with respect to modern knowledge but here you seem to use it positively to suggest if they were doing it in the middle ages then of course we should do it now. :).

If high risk individuals were protected in some manner (more effectively than they actually were in fact protected) than the number of deaths would have been materially lower during that period. The science of disease transmission could have been used more wisely than it was to reduce total deaths without a general lockdown.

143. OhMyGoodness Says:

Below is a link to the UK data for hospital admissions during the period February 2021 to September 2021. They indicate 50% of admissions were vaccinated and 50% unvaccinated. As for deaths 72% were vaccinated and 28% unvaccinated. I don’t know the basis of the claim that the vaccines are effective against delta.

These stats are shown bottom of page 19and top of 20. The UK has stringent and uniform reporting requirements for all hospitals in the NIH in contrast to the US syle of reporting by individual hospital.

144. Mike W Says:

Scott #139:
>If all opinions are equally valid, then so is my opinion that all opinions are not equally valid
I don’t see a problem with this from the perspective of “what is true”. Do I find it productive for building a functioning world? Nope.

I find the claim that your view of the world is *correct* to be problematic. This is what I have trouble with. You could say things like “my views are correct given what I believe is the most viable path forward for humanity” or something similar. But even then, those views just boil down to questions like “Why should I subscribe to what you think is viable for humanity?”. I suppose this delves into a sort of “is and ought” conversation, so it’d be interesting to hear your thoughts on that if you feel that’s something you would want to respond to. Thanks for taking the time.

145. OhMyGoodness Says:

Your IFR argument would have relevance if deaths were randomly distributed amongst the infected population. It isn’t and so inappropriate to use it as blanket statistic. There are co risk factors that must that should reasonably be included.

146. OhMyGoodness Says:

I looked at the latest stats for Sweden and the USA. The population fatality rate for Sweden (no lockdown) is 150/100,000 while in the US now 280/100,000. Sweden has very low current death rate. Sweden still freely admits they didn’t protect patients in assisted care facilities adequately.

I don’t understand why you claim I am insensitive to others deaths because I question the lockdown when I present data and reasoning to support my position. I can’t imagine that you are so certain that out of the set of possible choices the exact optimum choice was made and my suggesting otherwise requires that I support hundreds of thousands of deaths.

147. Scott Says:

Mike W #144: The trouble is that to believe X at all, is to believe the statement that X is correct. If I weren’t willing to affirm that my beliefs are correct ones, they wouldn’t be my beliefs in the first place! 🙂

148. Scott Says:

OhMyGoodness #146: I don’t believe for a nanosecond that our choices were the “exact optimum” ones. I think our response to the virus should have been far more aggressive. That would’ve meant, most importantly, things that don’t even infringe at all on individual liberty, like voluntary human challenge trials, 10-100x more spending on vaccines, ramping up of their production at least 6 months earlier, and nearly-immediate booster shots for each new variant as it evolved. Plus flooding the whole country with free tests, moving school outdoors wherever the weather allows, and much more. But yes, I’m also totally in favor of saying that if someone doesn’t want to mask, get vaccinated, and otherwise do their part, then they can live in woods or hole up inside their house, homeschool their kids, and not participate in society. If a draft in wartime is morally justified, then surely it must be justified to ask people to do 1000x less to help win a war against a deadly pathogen.

149. Lizardbreath Says:

I’d agree with him on freedom of speech. 😉

(For example, two points of disagreement: I believe that if someone has a healthy, natural desire not to be D/s’d at without warning, and not to have D or s assumed to be natural to their or “the opposite” sex, that does not make them bad in any way, let alone deserving of being shamed as a “prude” or “Puritan” or w/e. I also believe that acceleration is necessary for a lot of kids, but also that the current math curriculum in American schools is typically either too fast for the average kid, or else watered down to *cope* with the fact that actually teaching what you’re officially supposed to IS too fast for the average kid. IOW: Algebra is too hard for the average 8th grader. At the very same time, it’s appropriate for, and even desperately needed by, some 8- or 9-year-olds, who should be given access to it.)

Since we’re sharing values, let me share what I consider to be a quintessentially American song:

The sun is shining, the grass is green
The orange and palm trees sway
There’s never been such a day
In Beverly Hills, LA.
But it’s December the 24th
And I’m longing to be up north

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know.
Where the treetops glisten,
And children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write,
“May your days be merry and bright.
And may all your Christmases be white.”

You have to include that intro to get the full effect. Because “There’s never been such a day” is a characteristically Yiddish-influenced construction.

A child came to a new land. Grew up there among children who’d arrived from many different lands. The festival of another religion, which had meant only bad things to his family in the old country, here in the new land could mean good things to this child. That’s how different things were. So he was able to grow up and write this song.

In this new land we aren’t perfect. We still have our disagreements and even hostilities. But old enmities, we did our best to leave behind in the old countries. At least in Israel Beilin’s day.

150. g Says:

OMG #143: A large majority of the UK population is vaccinated, and I think this was already true when the Delta wave began. Older and more-at-risk people were a higher priority for vaccination, so among the population more likely to need hospitalization if they get COVID-19 the vaccinated proportion was higher still.

Suppose that (say) 80% of the population, weighted by hospitalization risk, are vaccinated (this is probably in the right ballpark but I haven’t made any attempt at greater accuracy than that; it’s just illustrative); and that 50% of people hospitalized are vaccinated. This means that 4x as many people-at-risk are vaccinated than not, which means that if they’re showing up in hospital at equal rates then vaccination makes you 4x less likely to get hospitalized.

Likewise for deaths, but the vaccinated-to-unvaccinated ratio is even higher when you weight by risk of death rather than risk of hospitalization because very old people are far more likely to die of COVID-19 than the rest of the population, and almost all the very old people were vaccinated.

Look at the “delta cases” section, and the “>=50” row. It’s less than 10% unvaccinated! Does this mean that vaccination makes you more likely to be hospitalized if you’re old? Nope, it means that being old makes you much more likely to be vaccinated.

(I notice that there are several things in that table that I don’t understand. E.g., the “cases with specimen date in past 28 days” column. Why isn’t every case where someone was hospitalized for Covid-19 and where it’s known what variant of it they have one “with specimen date in past 28 days”? It is very likely that there are subtleties in these statistics that I don’t grasp. Please consider the possibility that there might be subtleties you don’t grasp, too.)

151. marxbro Says:

Scott, you still haven’t given any evidence or reasoning as to why you’re calling Marxism a religion. Do you have any basis at all for this opinion of yours?

152. OhMyGoodness Says:

Scott #148

My points are that in fact Sweden fared materially better than the US with no lockdown. No shunning by the community and no forced segregation camps for anyone. All children were welcomed into the schools. Sweden provides a sort of control on the effectiveness of a general lockdown on the progression of this virus. The control did better than the treatment arm.

My point was that even now with current vaccines the vaccinated are ravaged by infection. The delta virus was identified and sequenced prior to the start of vaccinations. The unvaccinated cannot be blamed for being a repository host for mutation that allowed the delta variant.

I can’t argue with the proposition that if vaccines were produced more quickly, and if vaccines were developed effective against those variants, and if everyone on earth received each booster quickly enough to disallow further mutations so that no additional problematic mutations occurred, that the outcome would be better than it actually was. How could anyone argue against that assuming the real feasibility of each of those statements.To me it sounds like near magical thinking in the real world but I agree if all satisfied then certainly better.

Considering your support for draconian measures that were not required elsewhere for a better result I respectfully submit that I am glad you do not authoritarian oversight for the response.

g #150

I do agre there may be confounding subtleties to determine meaningful statistics but see no problem with my general view that these vaccines are not adequately effective against viral strains that have mutated spike proteins. In countries with very high rates of vaccination such as the UK, Singapore, and Israel the vaccinated have been ravaged by a mutated strain. These vaccines target a very small portion of the virus (much more limited than previous vaccines or natural immune system response) and as expected the Coronavirus thus far has produced mutations that evade the protection afforded by the very specifically targeted vaccines.

I look forward to the UK’s end of year report. Also apologize that I used NIH instead of NHS. Have you looked at the equivalent reports for the remainder of the UK? I haven’t had time to look.

153. Mike W Says:

Scott 147:
For some reason, it seems like you’re not at all interested in engaging the topic of there most likely not existing such a thing as an objective morality. Is it because you think it’s a waste of time? Your reply seems to indicate you can see that you have to admit they’re your beliefs, but that they are your beliefs have no bearing on whether the world ought to live according to them. All the best.

154. Scott Says:

marxbro #151: Marxism is obviously unlike a religion in not having a god or explicitly supernatural elements. But it’s obviously like a religion in having prophets (Marx, Engels, Lenin), unquestionable texts, elites who master those texts and then interpret them for everyone else, a large mass of people who pay lip service to the doctrine without really believing it, bitter schisms between rival sects, devils (the bourgeoisie), a system of punishment and confession that aims to remake people’s psyches, an end-times eschatology (the classless utopia), and infinite flexibility in explaining why the predicted utopia hasn’t been reached and everything is shitty instead. It’s also, crucially, more-or-less exclusive with traditional religions, which it holds to be the opiate of the masses, correctly seeing them as competitors.

155. Scott Says:

Mike W #153: I’ve read (and participated in) various debates about whether morality is objective, but never felt like I understood more than when I started. If others want to debate that here it’s fine. For myself, though … well, if anyone asks me to justify any of the specific views I’ve expressed, here or anywhere else (pro-nuclear, pro-GMO, etc etc), time permitting I’m happy to do so! That, and only that, is the sense in which I think my moral views are “objectively right”: that I’ll defend them if asked (or, occasionally, realize that one is wrong and change it).

156. marxbro Says:

Scott, you’ve already softened your claim to Marxism is “like” a religion. Before you claimed that it was a “modern religion” and that you had offended my “religious sensibilities”. Now you’ve downgraded it to simply “like” a religion, in a standard motte and baily move. This is likely because you realised that your original position is indefensible, but you don’t want to admit it on your own blog.

Now, pretty much anything that people are passionate about can be described as “like” a religion. Your own liberal positions could be described as like a religion. But personally I think describing political positions as religions is a very inaccurate thing to do. Political parties have very different goals than religious organizations.

“having prophets (Marx, Engels, Lenin), unquestionable texts”

Marx, Lenin and Engels are not prophets or unquestionable, they are simply clever men who are worth reading, just like others might read Charles Darwin, Adam Smith, JS Mill, etc. But I hope you can see how describing Darwinists as “like” a religion would be myopic. Personally, I think you should actually be in favour of a popular intellectual culture which elevates and reads smart critics like Marx instead of listening to reality show figures like Donald Trump.

“elites who master those texts and then interpret them for everyone else”

I’m not sure which “elite” you are referring to here. Professors? I’m not an elite myself and I’ve read all the classics (Marx, Engels, Lenin, etc). I know most of my comrades make an effort to do the same. As far as I can tell your own field of interest (Science) actually has many more elites who master texts and interpret them for everyone else. I mean, that’s kind of what this blog is. Does that make science “like” a religion? In itself that’s not religious or a bad thing at all. That’s indicative of a good education and communication system, where intellectual labour is divided up and then people can explain different aspects to each other. Again, we can see that describing something as “like” a religion has become so broad that it doesn’t really describe anything specific to religions.

“a large mass of people who pay lip service to the doctrine without really believing it”

I’m not sure what you’re really talking about here. Usually communists get accused of being too passionate, if anything. Do the large masses of people really believe in capitalism? Expand on this point because at the moment it seems like something you just shoe-horned in.

“bitter schisms between rival sects”

That’s politics. Let’s take the civil war in the USA as an example. This was a bitter schism between rival sects, does that mean the contending sides should be described as “like” a religion? Personally I think that description would mislead much more than it would enlighten, and that such acrimonious splits should be described in their historical and political contexts with reference to economic interests and such.

I could also describe bitter schisms between rival scientific sects. Let’s take Big Bang vs Solid State. Does this mean that adherents of the Big Bang are “like” a religion? Of course not, what it means is that people fight all the time over pretty much everything.

“devils (the bourgeoisie)”

That a political group has political opponents should be unsurprising to you. This is pretty basic political stuff. The bourgeoisie also have their own “devils”, such as the aristocracy and slave-holders. Does this make them a religious sect?

“a system of punishment and confession that aims to remake people’s psyches”

Seems like you’re describing the education system here? It’s hard to tell. Personally, I am in favour of education, yes. I don’t think that makes me religious or “like” a religious person.

“an end-times eschatology (the classless utopia), and infinite flexibility in explaining why the predicted utopia hasn’t been reached and everything is shitty instead.”

This is where you stray from ‘person who is making extremely broad metaphors that they mistakenly think are sharp and enlightening’ to ‘person who clearly hasn’t done the required reading’. Marx and Engels were very much against utopian thinking and wrote about it at length, for example here:

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1880/soc-utop/ch01.htm

It’s even in the Communist Manifesto, here in section 3 “Critical-Utopian Socialism and Communism”:

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/ch03.htm

Now the question becomes; what does it mean that your anti-Marxist stance can be debunked with the most introductory and basic of sources? Perhaps it means that anti-Marxism is actually “like” a religion? Or would that be unfair of me to claim?

“It’s also, crucially, more-or-less exclusive with traditional religions, which it holds to be the opiate of the masses, correctly seeing them as competitors.”

Have you actually read the section where Marx talks about religion as the opiate of the masses? Because he’s not characterizing religion as a competitor. I suggest you read the full introduction:

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm

I’ll reproduce the very beginning here, because I honestly think it’s a statement that you would not disagree with:

“For Germany, the criticism of religion has been essentially completed, and the criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism.

The profane existence of error is compromised as soon as its heavenly oratio pro aris et focis [“speech for the altars and hearths,” i.e., for God and country] has been refuted. Man, who has found only the reflection of himself in the fantastic reality of heaven, where he sought a superman, will no longer feel disposed to find the mere appearance of himself, the non-man [Unmensch], where he seeks and must seek his true reality.

The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.”

You’re correct that Marxism is mostly an atheistic field of inquiry. Just as quantum computing is mostly an atheistic field of inquiry. To then claim that this is because these fields see religion as a “competitor” is a little strange and very much conspiratorial-minded.

If you’re really interested counter-examples you could look into Liberation Theology; there are many Catholics who have been inspired by Marxist literature. I’m friends with a few of them (although I myself am an atheist).

I hope this clears up a few of your misconceptions.

157. Peter Gerdes Says:

Scott #154 Yes, I agree with everything you said about Marxism being like a religion in quite a number of ways. However, I can’t help but note that the same things could be said about a number of ‘academic’ subjects.

For instance, take continental philosophy (I have a huge respect for analytic philosophy so I find it particularly sad that this goes by the same name).

Again, we find we have prophets. Not everyone’s arguments are equally good but certain key figures are heroworshiped and their writings studied and puzzled over as if they contain secret mysteries. This is despite the fact that there isn’t really any plausible story which treats them as merely smart dudes where it makes sense to think that puzzling over their word choices is a faster means to truth than just figuring it out from scratch (informed by broad ideas perhaps). Their is also an analog of the priesthood in that only those who have proved their worth by spending huge amounts of their lives pouring over these books are considered worthy to raise objections (very effective means for preventing criticism). We also have the lip service aspect, or, perhaps a better way to describe it would be, an unfalsifiable faith in the correctness of the approach combined with very weak commitment to any particular consequence, so you can always claim that your ideology supports the ‘right’ on the ground political judgements.

It might not have some of the other aspects but if these subjects have all the epistemically relevant attributes do we not, as academics, have a duty to drive them out of the university the same way we would drive out mathematical/scientific quackery?

I think lots of people in the hard sciences just kinda choose not to think about philosophy etc.. but I think if we take it seriously it would be a grave moral fault to simply accede to people being taught subjects that are in some sense actively hostile to learning the truth as if they were on a level playing field with subjects like mathematics or analytic philosophy.

158. Scott Says:

Peter Gerdes #157: Oh, Continental philosophy definitely has features of a religion also! I 100% accept that implication. The difference is that, because of its abstruseness as well as its epistemic nihilism, Continental philosophy was a religion of rather limited appeal (an academic cult?), until it merged with antiracism and gender politics, and shed much of the nihilism that was the original point, to produce the much fitter religion that we now know as wokeism.

The book Cynical Theories, by James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose, explains how this happened in eye-watering detail.

159. marxbro Says:

“Oh, Continental philosophy definitely has features of a religion also!”

Which continental philosopher are you referring to?

160. Scott Says:

marxbro #159: Mostly the postmodernists, but also the Nazi enthusiasts (Heidegger, Paul de Man) from whom they drew their inspiration.

161. marxbro Says:

Post-modernists refers to a lot of people who drew their inspiration from a variety of sources, so can you actually narrow down:

1. Who you are referring to.

2. What that person said or did which you are judging to have “features of a religion”.

162. OhMyGoodness Says:

marxbro #150

“Marx and Engels were very much against utopian thinking and wrote about it at length, for example here:”

I believe you are confusing criticism of the utopian socialists of the day with Marx’s view on the ultimate stage of development. The following from Private Property and Communism-

“3) Communism as the positive transcendence of private property as human self-estrangement, and therefore as the real appropriation of the human essence by and for man; communism therefore as the complete return of man to himself as a social (i.e., human) being – a return accomplished consciously and embracing the entire wealth of previous development. This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism; it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man – the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence, between objectification and self-confirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species. Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows itself to be this solution.”

So the finally evolved state completely lacking in conflict of any kind-Utopian.

I read through your links and realized that anyone who can wade through thousands of pages containing paragraphs like the following, and find valuable insights there, has powers of attention far above my own-

“The robe of speculative cobwebs, embroidered with flowers of rhetoric, steeped in the dew of sickly sentiment, this transcendental robe in which the German Socialists wrapped their sorry “eternal truths”, all skin and bone, served to wonderfully increase the sale of their goods amongst such a public.”

I am so glad that Marx’s criticisms of Newton and Leibniz as mystics didn’t have a larger impact on modern Calculus texts. If I had to wade through paragraphs like the above for Calculus…well…not sure what the result would have been.

163. OhMyGoodness Says:

But for something I hope we all can agree on. This is a beautiful shot of James Webb moving away and can hardly wait for data (fingers crossed and rapped on wood). I hope this link to a beautiful video works okay.

164. marxbro Says:

@OhMyGoodness : Where does Marx say “completely lacking in conflict of any kind”?

165. g Says:

OMG #152: It seems to me that (for reasons I described) the same figures that you quoted as showing that the vaccines are not effective against Delta actually show e.g. that they make you ~4x less likely to get hospitalized with Delta. (In a crude calculation that no doubt needs refining, but a less crude one than the one you used to claim that the vaccines are not effective against Delta.)

The vaccinated are not really being “ravaged” by a mutant strain, if you’re talking about Omicron. Case numbers are pretty high, but hospitalizations and deaths aren’t; it seems as if vaccination continues to do its most important work of making it much less likely that one gets something dangerous.

It’s true that the vaccines target a particular bit of the virus. It’s also true that that particular bit appears to be the bit that does a substantial amount of the damage done by the virus. (Though, as is quite common, in many cases a lot of the damage is done by victims’ immune systems as they try to fight the virus.) Most of the mutations we’ve seen don’t appear to be very effective in evading the protection of the vaccines. Omicron does look as if it’s pretty good at that, but it also looks as if one consequence is that it doesn’t do so much harm when you get it. (It’s hard to disentangle that from “more people who get Omicron are vaccinated, which makes it do less harm”, but both of those are good news for similar reasons.)

166. OhMyGoodness Says:

marxbro #164

“it is the genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and man-the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence, between objectification and self-confirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species”

A full enumeration of the types of conflict a man can experience and each resolved.

167. Vampyricon Says:

Since marxbro is still here, I’ll just mention that he’s been in the AstralCodexTen comment section, and in my opinion is a major contributor to its being worse than the SlateStarCodex comments. He exemplifies the classic definition of a fanatic as defined by, allegedly, Winston Churchill, “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” So if anyone else decides to engage with him, there’s my PSA.

168. Jeff Says:

We hail from similar sensibilities oiginally, but you’ve not paid close enough attention:

I consider Trump and COVID to be minor distractions, so ignoring them..

Yes, nuclear reactors provide wonderfully stable base loads without pollution and with low risks in sane countries like France, Switzerland, Germany, etc., and acceptable risks in batshit crazy places like the UK, US, Russia, etc., but..
– We should’ve explored more diverse designs, including scrapping non-proliferation concerns.
– We should’ve built more reactors decades ago because building them takes decades.

We can build renewable capacity much faster. Also, recent work shows renewables could successfully provide base load in the U.S. and presumably other large nations, like China and Russia.

In the US and EU, we could halt CO2 emissions, retain some economy, and have enough energy provided we build out renewables, nuclear, and trains, but also almost completely abandon coal, natural gas, oil, cars, airplanes, meat, imported good, most new construction, and redesign consumer goods for longevity over price. It won’t be our current oil drunk lifestyle, but overall westerners could live happy lives.
http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2021/BrightFuture.03December2021.pdf?fbclid=IwAR0bOmUHo8Ma8Gz6e5doJ0FJR6GjEjVzUcIsus3jUZg_qbi3ShLNy4MVGYc

I’ve zero clue if Asia could follow this path. It’s clear everything becomes harder when you’ve billions of people, but who knows..

We do however know that ecosystem collapse poses an even larger long term threat than climate change! We must stop making so many plastics, cutting down forests, poisoning the insects, poisoning the oceans, abusing and poisoning the soil, etc.
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/humans-are-doomed-to-go-extinct/

“Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.” ― Carl Sagan

We’re still obeying this suicidal growth directive from our fraudulent economist priest class, when really energy imposes physical limits upon GDP.
https://www.growthbusters.org/exponential-economist-meets-finite-physicist/
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jul/25/gaya-herrington-mit-study-the-limits-to-growth

I highly recommend Nate Hagens’ interviews, like
https://www.planetcritical.com/p/seeing-the-big-picture-nate-hagens
and

Are there solutions? We’ve now almost locked in staggering famines by the 2040s, but
yes many solutions exist..

We humans can rearchitect our societies, away from growth ala
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dawn_of_Everything
or

We could still do so even after locking in wide spread ecosystem collapse and dramatic climate change, but 100s of millions or billions die, depending upon when.

We could solve climate change more unilaterally too. As climate change models are considerably understated and nuclear winters are exaggerated, a large scale nuclear war between the U.S. and China would buy the world far more time. At least in my reading, Cixin Liu’s The Three body Problem and The Dark Forest are this masterfully veiled argument that China should reform its own emissions, and reform emissions of the US and others with preemptive nuclear strikes. Just fyi, their China’s first Hugo winner and Obama loved them, so highly recommended reading.

Is geo-engeneering among the solutions? I think geo-engeneering increases the odds of extinction because geo-engeneering permits emitting more CO2, ongoing economic growth, etc. and thus we’d hit ecosystem collapse much harder.

We’re better off without realistic geo-engeneering options whenever web-bulb heat flashes suddenly kill millions in the middle east, SE Asia, Florida, etc. because then maybe groups like Mossad turn violently against the fossil fuel industry.

If otoh we geo-engeneer away excessive climate change, and somehow delay ecosystem collapse, then we’ll face an idiocracy-like future from educational collapse, purely because excessive CO2 still harms human cognition. And ditto other pollutants.

“The fraction of carbon dioxide [we breathe] just crossed 400 parts per million, and high-end estimates extrapolating current trends suggest 1,000 ppm by 2100. At that concentration .. human cognitive ability declines by 21 percent.”
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2017/07/climate-change-earth-too-hot-for-humans.html

At 1000 ppm CO2 you’re basically always inside a stuffy room, but concentrations double or more in-doors. At 2000 ppm CO2 you’ll develop a headache and suffer continual distraction, so goodbye educational system. 5000 ppm CO2 is the legal limit for an 8 hour workday.

169. Rollo Burgess Says:

Dunno what I call you (it is unfortunate that our labels for political positions are hopelessly outmoded and unfit for purpose), but for what it’s worth I agree with you about almost all of that… except the designer baby stuff. I’d have little problem with that being used responsibly; it won’t be though.

170. Scott Says:

Vampyricon #167:

[marxbro] exemplifies the classic definition of a fanatic as defined by, allegedly, Winston Churchill, “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

Having interacted with him in this comment section for several years, that made me laugh.

171. OhMyGoodness Says:

Jeff #168

The limit for NASA is 180 day limit of 7000 ppm and the ISS average is 2000 ppm. Nuclear submarines average around 4500 ppm and can be 10000 ppm. Extensive studies used to set these limits have indicated no diminution in mental abilities nor medical problems at these levels. Exhaled breath is 40000-50000 ppm and measurements with nasal canula indicated average of around 2700 ppm carbon dioxide inhaled with a KN 95 face mask in place.

I must stop reading doom posts-New Years resolution.

172. Martin S. Says:

Dear Scott,
first of all, wishing you a good family vacation. I have even a tendency to say that you are a lucky bastard, to have both a good family and a good vacation 😀 Enjoy it!

Your values are amusing, and I can relate on so many points in there. For example it causes me a physical pain when I compare demographics and attitudes here in a European region before and after WWII. I wonder if there ever will be a period somewhere fruitful alike it was here before the disaster.

Well, there is still something within your warm words that fills me we an unease though. You know, it is not that hard to find a moderate follower of Islam who defends the less moderate followers. It is commonly about downplaying the atrocities of those who are of the same House, and turning to whataboutery.

I guess you understand what I mean by that with respect to your statements, thus forgive me for not being more explicit here. Just to avoid confusion, I do not argue about Islam here, for sure. I just use that as a mirror.

BTW You apologetics of those who fight against mathematics reminds me of Daesh that forbade mathematics, and only allowed teaching of sciences via statements “Allah wants it so.” It looks to me that the less moderate inhabitants of your House are more like Daesh than alike the other forms of insanity. They try to demolish education of mathematics too, and anything in sciences turns to “because of (in)equality.”

173. Bill Kaminsky Says:

A quotation that I heard in 1998 [see footnote] has been coming to mind throughout this comment thread. With the caveat that the following “quote” is much more of a true-in-spirit paraphrase than verbatim rendition, here goes:

For most of human history, the study of other cultures — such as it was — was essentially motivated by the sentiment: “These are strange and different than our own. We must shun them.”

Then, slowly over the course of the 19th and 20th Centuries, those of us studying other cultures came to be motivated by the sentiment: “These are strange and different than our own. We should study them.”

But now, as we come to the new millennium, we are finally beginning to adopt the motivation: “These, though admittedly at times starkly different than our own, are human. We would do well to learn from them.”

===== [Attention Conservation Notice: Feel free end your reading right here. The remainder is possibly just self-indulgent verbiage. (I hope, however, even those who eventually condemn it as self-indulgent find it witty and amusing!) ] =====

Please note that I don’t mean the above quote to be hokey and/or preachy like, say, Linus at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas expounding on the “true meaning of Christmas”. Of course, it was just Christmas, after all. So, maybe we can continue the ritual nodding toward all that saccharine “peace on Earth and goodwill toward men” jazz for a few days more.

Moreover, please note that I don’t mean the quote to be ironic hokey and/or preachy like Kyle at the end of so many South Park episodes. Granted, this would be at least somewhat appropriate for yours truly. At the very least, I’m not an innocent Christian child like mid-1960s-era Linus, but more a cynical Joo-ish one like late-1990s-to-the-present-era Kyle.

Please note instead that I really do offer the above quote in a spirit of utmost seriousness. I sincerely do think/fear that this quote points to the only way we can get through just the next few years (let alone the next few decades) without a whole lot of tragic civil unrest that will piss away whatever counted as societal progress post-WWII. That is, I think we must be charitably curious conversation partners to people with whom we vociferously disagree — so long as those people aren’t actively violent, arguably inciting violence, or seemingly just trolling/playing us for chumps, of course. I think this is imperative even if the effort involved in remaining charitably curious seems unduly high at times — or, hell, almost all of the time. 🙄

Footnote: At the risk of straining the charity of those conversation partners who’d like to raze coastal elitist academic institutions to the ground and maybe even shun the rootless, cosmopolitian, atheistic Ashenazic Joos who attend them (especially the subset of such Joos that moreover would then gleefully marry semi-rooted-but-still-basically-cosmopolitan, quite-believing-in-God-though-quite-distrusting-of-the-Church-as-an-institution Haitian Catholics), I feel I must disclose I heard this quote in the final lecture of “Foreign Cultures 28: The Religion and Culture of Islam” by Prof. William A. Graham, Jr. at Harvard. I’m 99% sure the quote is not from Prof. Graham himself and that he said quite explicitly at the time whatever famous scholar of religion, anthropologist, etc. said it… it’s just my po’ po’ lil’ brain remembers such administrative trivia like the course title and not the important stuff.

[Footnote to the footnote #1: Hmmm… on second thought maybe I’ve set back the cause of mutual understanding here by so fully disclosing that I so completely fall into some of the other side’s stereotypes. What can I say… other than: “Oy!” 😉 ]

[Footnote to the footnote #2: Oh right, the point of the original post is to find concise and hopefully non-misleading descriptions of our worldviews. I still need to work on mine, but I’m going with “aspiring to altruistic non-hypocrisy” as my world-view. That’s to say I have a platform organized around making sure everyone can share in the benefits of key aspects of society that I myself have greatly benefited from:

(1) a robust economic safety net (not all necessarily directly given from the federal or even state government, as I myself have benefited from robust family and local community group support),

(2) promotion of general economic opportunity in the moderate-regulation-of-capitalism sense (which, hopefully needless to say, makes promotion of #1 through families and local community groups a LOT more likely to actually work IMHO)

(3) firm protection of personal political self-expression (e.g., being able to make such arguably overly self-disclosing statements in fora such as these… robust “public squares” for debate in both cyberspace and meatspace, FTW!!!)

(4) promotion of general political participation (e.g., voting rights and correct tabulations guaranteed by things at which professionally paranoid cryptographers and such would nod appreciatively and say, “Not bad… not great… but not bad at all…”, see https://arxiv.org/abs/1404.6822 for an example that’s both nontrivial and actually-trial-deployed in Australian provincial elections)

(5) and last-but-CERTAINLY-not-least: having as few people as possible murdered by either state or private actors in the name of “defense” or other supposedly occasionally-necessitating-murder social goals, or heck, for any reason whatsoever… oh s#!t, I’m American… we still need to do a LOT more work IMHO on this one… but that’s a topic for a different post. 😱]

If you’ve read to the bottom here — heck, even if you just skipped to the bottom — I wish you and yours the happiest and healthiest of new years!!

174. marxbro Says:

@OhMyGoodness

Firstly, listing several kinds of conflict that will be resolved in communism is not equivalent to “completely lacking in conflict of any kind”, which was your claim. Solving numerous problems is not the same as solving all problems. I’ve found this happens quite often with Marx; people have been told by their teachers that Marx was Utopian, therefore they are primed to read his statements in a particular way and misread into him meanings that simply aren’t there.

Secondly, we have not yet established that wanting to solve problems is “Utopian”. Let’s take Scott Aarsonson’s stated values as an example here. “wants to end world hunger … and do it using GMO crops?” Ending world hunger? Is this not Utopian? I would argue no, it isn’t, for the exact same reason that solving types of conflict is not Utopian.

175. marxbro Says:

@Vampyricon:

“A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

I didn’t bring Marxism up, Scott Aaronson did. I also provided extensive reasoning and evidence as to why political stances (and Marxism in particular) should not count as religions. Has Scott Aaronson changed his mind on the subject?

In this case I think it is clear that the anti-Marxists are the ones who are behaving as fanatics. But I’ll make my standards for changing my mind regarding Marxism as a “modern religion” explicit:

Provide quotation(s) from Marx in which he appeals to supernatural powers or some sort of mystical being (e.g. Gods) as explanation for worldly phenomena.

If Marxism is a religion this should be a pretty easy task for Scott Aarsonson to complete, the evidence should be abundant since Marx wrote so much. If Scott Aarsonson finds any evidence of this nature we can then discuss it.

In return I’ll ask Scott Aarsonson to do the same. What evidence can be provided that would change his mind on this matter? What would convince him that Marxism is not a religion?

176. OhMyGoodness Says:

marxbro #174

If you can name a single conflict that isn’t in one of the categories enumerated by Marx as resolved by Communism (man against nature, man against men, man against man, man against himself) then much appreciated.

I do value the advice provided above that it is not useful to discuss these topics with you. I see this as proof of Dr Aaronson’s statement that Marxism requires a special few, such as yourself, to inform the rest of us as to the true meaning of the texts.

A question that naturally arises in the manufacturing sector in implementations of Marxism is the quantity vs quality of produced goods. Quantity naturally prevails. To my view, not understanding the true meanings, the foundational Marxist writers found the same to be true of words. I believe it was Stalin that said quantity has its own quality and I find this to be especially true of Marx’s word production. But then I am unqualified to divine the true meanings.

177. marxbro Says:

“If you can name a single conflict that isn’t in one of the categories enumerated by Marx as resolved by Communism (man against nature, man against men, man against man, man against himself) then much appreciated.”

Nowhere does he say “man against himself”. Again, you seem to be reading into Marx positions that he has not actually said. Perhaps this would be easier if you could define what you mean by “conflict”.

Importantly, none of this is indicative of Utopian thinking any more than Scott Aaronson wishing to eliminate world hunger.

“I do value the advice provided above that it is not useful to discuss these topics with you. I see this as proof of Dr Aaronson’s statement that Marxism requires a special few, such as yourself, to inform the rest of us as to the true meaning of the texts.”

I’m not among any “special few” – I simply read things carefully and try to read outgroup thinkers charitably. We’re all intelligent people here, there’s nothing stopping Scott Aaronson or yourself from reading Marx and finding some actual evidence that he was a religious thinker.

“A question that naturally arises in the manufacturing sector in implementations of Marxism is the quantity vs quality of produced goods. Quantity naturally prevails. To my view, not understanding the true meanings, the foundational Marxist writers found the same to be true of words. I believe it was Stalin that said quantity has its own quality and I find this to be especially true of Marx’s word production. But then I am unqualified to divine the true meanings.”

There’s nothing that makes you “unqualified”. You just have to get used to reading political theory and know what words like “Utopia” mean to most people. If you’re using Utopian in the sense of “believes the world can improve”, then I would agree that Marx would qualify. However, that statement is also true for political thinkers of any persuasion. Your paragraph seems to be complaining that Marxists write too much. I’m really at a loss at why you would complain about lengthy discussions about important political and economic matters.

178. JimV Says:

Update on Long Covid: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41582-021-00593-7 (h/t Mike the Mad Biologist)

I would define a utopian system as “from all according to their abilities, to all according to their needs”.

I naively see capitalism and communism as examples of the two main survival strategies, competition and cooperation. We all come from a long line of survivors who used mixtures of those strategies, but it seems to me that competition dominates, i.e., the sociopaths tend to rise to the top. Given that premise, utopia will never occur. (Unless, as in Iain Banks great “Culture” novels, we become governed by non-sociopathic AI minds. I don’t expect this to happen, but it is pretty to contemplate.)

In the USA, we have a health-care system in which hospitals and pharmaceutical suppliers charge individuals about ten times an appropriate amount which forces us to pay insurance companies to negotiate for us, so that between the two payments we wind up paying about twice the appropriate amount. I would prefer a socialist system (run by non-sociopaths).

179. OhMyGoodness Says:

g#152

Omicron is playing out now and so no, I was referring to Delta.

180. OhMyGoodness Says:

g #165

The point is that this virus invokes an immune system response to a limited specific feature of the virus and that the virus readily produces copy mutations that the immune system hasn’t been primed to recognize by the vaccination. It has nothing to do with the relative toxicity of the targeted feature.

If the virus hasn’t impacted the vaccinated materially then we are done because the vaccinated are sufficiently protected and the unvaccinated are willing to accept their risk.

181. OhMyGoodness Says:

marxbro #177

I think you are too modest. When I read-

“ the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence, between objectification and self-confirmation, between freedom and necessity, ”

I understand that this means the conflicts associated with self (man against himself) are eliminated under Communism. It would help my understanding if you provide a specific counter example of a conflict that is not included in his statement of resolved conflicts.

The best epithet I personally could write for Marx, at this stage of my understanding, is-
He produced words on an industrial scale concerning industrial scale production.

Do you call such a person “liberal,” “progressive,” “center-left,” “centrist,” “Pinkerite,” “technocratic,” “neoliberal,” “libertarian-ish,” “classical liberal”? Why not simply call them “correct”? 🙂

How about calling them the epitome of the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect?

Reading through the comments on this post, it has become stunningly obvious that Scott has never truly engaged with Marx/Marxists or with any continental philosophers and despises them because of some summary of both pulled from a similar place to Jordan Peterson’s own stash of philosophy summaries. I’d suggest Frederic Lordon for a critique of late-capitalist work (or the development of a regime of desire), Frederic Jameson for a critique of late-capitalist aesthetics, Judith Butler on gender, and Zizek for late-capitalist subjectivity. The incredible thing about classical liberals, to quote Zizek, “is how they are not even aware they’re not free. The most dangerous unfreedom is the unfreedom that we experience as freedom.”

Not only that but it seems Scott has also not brushed up on contemporary Economics. His preference for “(somewhat-regulated) free markets” is outdated, the consensus within the field is that heavy regulation is necessary in almost every market (carbon pricing, child labor, high progressive/marginal global taxation [see Piketty, Saez, Zucman and co.], direct redistribution [see Banerjee, Duflo, and Kremer], wage theft, housing/general market regulations post-2008 that avoid asset speculation and improve stability, and on and on).

To claim that free-markets have lifted more poor out of poverty than anything else is to ignore China entirely which is almost incomprehensible to me. One can make the argument that allowing some level of market economy is what led to China’s growth but this is ignoring the main causal agent in China’s rise which was central planning. The IMF has attempted free-market liberalization all across the globe and it has very rarely, if ever, succeeded. (Obviously not defending China as some kind of model but the omission in the thought process is very glaring.)

I guess my general disappointment is at the fact that someone as intelligent as Scott (I’d deem him a genius) can be so convinced of his own knowledge as to call himself “correct” despite evidently having very little engagement with the literature in the subjects he is touching on.

183. STEM Caveman Says:

The strategy is not cooperation, but parasitism sold as cooperation, followed by defection with impunity. As the Babylon Bee says, a true communist party has never been thrown. Doing it right would require 24/7 surveillance with teeth. To the extent it works in small communities it relies on tight asabiyah (group solidarity) which has not been demonstrated at scale outside of, e.g., Nazi rallies.

184. Scott Says:

Icareaboutpeople #182: Have you considered the possibility that I’ve read plenty of literature about these topics—but different literature than you have? And that I’ve also read the sort of literature you mention, but only until I decided that the number of insights per word was too low?

As Descartes started with the fact of his own existence, I start with the fact that Alan Turing, Richard Feynman, Steven Weinberg and other great physicists, mathematicians, and other hard scientists of the past century clearly knew what they were talking about. Therefore, in economics and sociology, one should seek out the people who sound the most like Turing, Feynman, or Weinberg—the ones with the most similar intellectual approaches, the ones who constantly ask themselves “but what if I’m wrong? what if this system doesn’t actually work the way I think it does? How would I check?” That still leaves a great variety of opinions, much more so than in physics, but it immediately rules out almost all Continental philosophy and Marxist “analysis.”

185. N Sawaya Says:

Nuclear is certainly *desirable* and very helpful, but it no longer appears to be *necessary* for fighting climate change, in the way that it seemed to be in 2012 or so. The price of renewables and batteries have decreased much faster than even the most optimistic experts had predicted. This is good news, since hopefully we won’t have to overcoming the large political obstacles to nuclear power.

My main point: Those of us who obtained the view that nuclear was the *best* way forward against climate change in 2016 or before, should *really* consider updating our priors! The data simply does not support this view anymore. (The data probably did support this view pre-2016 though.)

Hopefully we can build out a lot of nuclear too (don’t hold your breath), but it is a mistake to advocate for nuclear at the expense of advocating for solar/wind/storage.

Unlike 10 years ago, it is now a common view among the world’s most respected energy experts that we can do without nuclear if we must. For example: https://gspp.berkeley.edu/faculty-and-impact/news/recent-news/the-us-can-reach-90-percent-clean-electricity-by-2035-dependably-and-without-increasing-consumer-bills.

Another interesting article, making the argument that pro-nuclear/anti-nuclear has much to do with virtue signaling and tribal signaling: https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/9/6/20852313/december-democratic-debate-nuclear-power-energy

(Oh, final comment here trying to anticipate a common objection. 90% reduction is enough to effectively solve the problem. Sure, you could use nuclear for the final 10%, but obviously 90 is a bigger priority than 10.)

186. marxbro Says:

“I understand that this means the conflicts associated with self (man against himself) are eliminated under Communism. It would help my understanding if you provide a specific counter example of a conflict that is not included in his statement of resolved conflicts.”

There are all sorts of conflicts that an individual can struggle with. Let’s give a simple one, do I eat the last donut or do I watch my calorie intake more stringently? Marx isn’t talking about stuff like that, Marx is talking about the conflicts that arise because of the system of private property that exists in capitalism. Which is fairly obvious, since that’s what the larger piece is all about.

“The best epithet I personally could write for Marx, at this stage of my understanding, is-
He produced words on an industrial scale concerning industrial scale production.”

Again, I don’t think writing and discussing important political issues at length is a bad thing. If you’re having trouble reading and understanding Marx I would suggest looking at his completed works written when he was older (e.g. Capital Vol. 1), rather than unpublished/unfinished manuscripts that were written in his mid 20s.

187. marxbro Says:

“but what if I’m wrong? what if this system doesn’t actually work the way I think it does? How would I check?”

Scott, do you ever think this about capitalism? I’m just curious.

188. STEM Caveman Says:

> the number of insights per word was too low

No equations, theorems, experiments or data analysis = not worth the time, 90+ percent of the time. Ignore it or find a better source. If it does have those things, read those first and usually nothing else is necessary for understanding. Normie “intellectual” communication is aimed at midwits but a savvy consumer can optimize away the cruft.

And yes, almost everything in philosophy can be safely ignored in this way. If it doesn’t formalize, it doesn’t work, and if it does, STEMlords have probably already done it in more precise/effective language, assuming it is not obvious, trivial or unwittingly wrong and stupid to begin with.

189. OhMyGoodness Says:

marxbro #187

Jelly filled? Hmm…maybe I have been looking at this the wrong way.

I don’t think many people would see the overconsumption of donuts as a big disqualifier for Utopian status. In fact to the contrary. It would be instructive to think about who decides what “each’s” nutritional needs are after the government has withered away and no longer any need for coercive controls. Maybe the post capitalist second stage of development was not really a true outcome of the definitive science of historical materialism (HM), just an attractive add on. Society actually gets stuck in the authoritarian first stage under the inevitable laws of HM (I believe Marx preferred historical materialism to the use of dialectic materialism but not sure). Marx was sure however that is how the future would inevitably transpire-no avoiding it. I doubt he would have been a fan of the full unfolding of quantum science.

Scott #188 So you’ve read Banerjee, Duflo, and Kremer *they won a nobel* and Piketty, Saez, and Zucman (in the running for a Nobel)? This is mainstream economics. With equations and RCTs and everything.

With regard Lordon, Zizek, Butler, and the other continental philosophers do you really think the entire field is populated by a bunch of morons who are just waffling on about banal things and the word/information ratio being low was never picked up/celebrated by an entire profession of hard-working academics? Seems rather conceited.

By the same metric Andrew Wiles’ proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem has a low information/symbol ratio. Perhaps not to you because you are in the field and are intimately familiar and interested in every piece of the proof. The same holds true for continental philosophy writing.

And obviously there is novel information there otherwise how would they have influenced the modern world so profoundly through your so-called “wokeism”?

Out of curiosity would you care to list out which economists and which continental philosophers you HAVE attempted to read? I wonder if it might skew one certain direction…

I’d also love a response to my point about China. I could make the same argument for the USSR who pulled millions out of feudalistic absolute poverty in the first few decades of its existence and then sent an object into orbit before any other country on Earth.

191. marxbro Says:

“I don’t think many people would see the overconsumption of donuts as a big disqualifier for Utopian status.”

You argued that Marx thought that communism would be “lacking in conflict of any kind”. I said that he never actually says that. You asked for an example of a conflict that would still exist, and I gave one. Pretty simple.

As for Utopian status, you never gave any sort of argument as to why conflict resolution is Utopian but Scott Aarsonson’s desire to end world hunger is not. Or would you say that Scott Aaronson is just as Utopian as Marx, in your view?

“I believe Marx preferred historical materialism to the use of dialectic materialism but not sure”

Perhaps you could find quotes about what he prefers by reading Marx?

192. Scott Says:

Icareaboutpeople #190: On this planet, China experienced a surge of economic growth when it finally got past Mao’s collectivization fantasies, with their toll of tens of millions dead, and became somewhat capitalist, while still (amusingly) calling itself communist. It’s impressive that you have a portal to an alternate reality where China’s rise is somehow a data point against market economies (rather than against the idea that market economies inevitably being liberal democracy in their wake—that is indeed a huge question). No doubt I’d have to study Frederic Jameson and the other Marxist writers you mentioned for many years before I’d developed the same alternate-reality portal.

193. Scott Says:

marxbro #187:

Scott, do you ever think this about capitalism? I’m just curious.

Oh, all the time! But then—and this is crucial—I ask myself what we’ve actually seen over the past century. And it all seems to fall into three broad categories:

(1) free-market economies, which generate tremendous prosperity and progress but also inequality, pollution, and CO2 emissions,

(2) efforts to ameliorate the bad effects of free-market economies via government intervention while retaining the good parts, with varying degrees of success, and

(3) radically collectivist economic systems, which have led to gulags, show trials, summary executions, engineered mass famines, horrific poverty, and a corrupt elite of men with large harems, not just once but over and over and over until the experiments were either abandoned or watered down.

Have I missed something? 🙂

194. Scott Says:

STEM Caveman #188:

No equations, theorems, experiments or data analysis = not worth the time, 90+ percent of the time.

I’m not quite that radical. Hume, Russell, William James and many others produced writing that was almost purely conceptual, but so clear and beautiful that it changed the way I think. But few have described the writings of the postmodernists or of Marxist academics as either “clear” or “beautiful.” 🙂

So when it suits you China is capitalist/free market. You really need to read up on Deng if you see China of the past 30yrs as a (somewhat-regulated) free market. But when it comes to discussing China’s shortcomings you’d go straight to its Marxist nature. Also nice dodge on the USSR’s massive industrialization and everything else I asked… not a super intellectually honest conversation if I may say so myself, or do you disagree that picking out one tiny portion of an argument and disingenuously claiming that it is entirely wrong (you are claiming that the free-market has lifted more people out of poverty while ignoring the two main examples of mass enriching of a previously feudal society in the 20th century: the USSR and Communist China) and not acknowledging everything else is intellectually dishonest?

Btw Dengism is Marxist:

China largely owes its economic growth to Deng Xiaoping’s emphasis on economic production, under the theory of the productive forces – a subset of 20th century Marxist theory. In the view of Deng, the task faced by the leadership of China was twofold: (i) promoting modernization of the Chinese economy, and (ii) preserving the ideological unity of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and its control of the difficult reforms required by modernization.[7]

Modernization efforts were generalized by the concept of the Four Modernizations. The Four Modernizations were goals, set forth by Zhou Enlai in 1963, to improve agriculture, industry, national defense, and science and technology in China.

To preserve ideological unity, Deng Xiaoping Theory formulated “Four Cardinal Principles” which the Communist Party must uphold:

the “basic spirit of communism”;
the political system of the PRC, known as the people’s democratic dictatorship;
the leadership of the Communist Party, and;
Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought.

Wikipedia.

If you see China as a free-market then almost any economy without complete and total central planning is a free market to you. You’ll be surprised to hear perhaps that all the histories you’ve listed of communist experiments happened in very underdeveloped nations. China is actually the country that has followed Marx’s strategy the closest. Marx stated that market forces were necessary to reach the productive capacity at which point a socialist transition would/could occur.

“The adoption of market reforms was seen to be consistent with China’s level of development and a necessary step in advancing the productive forces of society. This aligned Chinese policy with a more traditional Marxist perspective where a fully developed socialist planned economy can only come into existence after a market economy has exhausted its historical role and gradually transforms itself into a planned economy, nudged by technological advances that make economic planning possible and therefore market relations less necessary.”

If you had read Marx you’d know this and I think that definitely gives Marx two huge points with both Russia and China being the major examples of poverty reduction in the last century in terms of population size.

197. OhMyGoodness Says:

marxbro #191

Thank you for the suggestion-

Relevant
“ Historical materialism is not a dogma, not a formula, but an empirical science and a guide to concrete study and historical investigation.”
“Materialism History is as Solid as the Ground!”

Irrelevant But Interesting
“Machines were, it may be said, the weapon employed by the capitalist to quell the revolt of specialized labor.”

So historical materialism it is.

Dr. Aaronson stated that he supports the use of GMO crops to impact world hunger. How is that analogous to proposing that an empirical science has been developed that shows inevitably the proletariat will seize control and then government will wither away and a utopian state will come into being with all conflicts resolved (except maybe for minor personal decisions).

What puzzles me is that Marx admired Darwin and yet proposed that man had no behavioral nature from millions of years of evolution but only an impressed nature from society. At the ultimate stage of development (second-stage post capitalism) life would be idyllic and coercion free strictly and only because class conflict was eliminated. Does anyone actually believe this to be the case or is it accepted that a perpetual state of authoritarian statism is the actual final state of Marxism?

Isn’t it odd that academics and their recent students have a romance with Marxism while the proletarian rural areas of the US and proletarians who previously lived in centrally planned Marxist economies are opposed.

As for the USSR it wasn’t a revolution against capitalism as practiced at that time in Europe and elsewhere but against the Tsarist system that grossly abused the serfs that were freed and then saddled with huge debts and that ignored the burgeoning population of urban poor. Central planning and Marxism didn’t result in the surpluses promised by Marx but rather scarcities. Stalin was sufficiently strong to make great strides in industrialization but there were also real costs involved. The direction of society wasn’t advancing in the direction of Marx’s post-capitalism second stage and scarcities not surpluses were the rule.

Marx claimed that his predictions were based on empirical science but they were just flat wrong. If they had been correct then likely a much different world now.

198. marxbro Says:

“Dr. Aaronson stated that he supports the use of GMO crops to impact world hunger.”

Dr. Aaronson didn’t state that. He said he wanted to _end_ world hunger using GMO crops. That’s utopian, isn’t it?

I’m not an academic by the way, I’m just a regular proletarian who sees that Marx was right. The only elite academic here (Aaronson) actually seems to oppose Marxism, although he doesn’t seem to have any concrete reasons for doing so.

If you’re talking evolution then surely the communist class struggle that people exhibit must also be a result of that same evolutionary system?

199. marxbro Says:

@Scott

“Have I missed something?”

Well, you missed giving any sort of evidence or sources. You seem to just be confidently re-stating what you already think with very little of the “but what if I’m wrong? what if this system doesn’t actually work the way I think it does? How would I check?” introspection that you were talking about being indicative of good insightful writing.

200. OhMyGoodness Says:

marxbro #198

No it’s not utopian and in fact the cycle of great African famines has already stopped due to advances in Agronomy in capitalist countries.

201. STEM Caveman Says:

> With regard Lordon, Zizek, Butler, and the other continental philosophers
> do you really think the entire field is populated by a bunch of morons

Verbalistic philosophy is a dead end activity pursued by rather smart people, because it attracts bookish people to begin with, and demand for academic positions greatly exceeds supply allowing for fierce selectivity. This leads to the usual pathologies of a signaling hierarchy when the signal doesn’t carry any objective hard to fake indicator (such as proof, experiment, or market value). It degenerates into performance art for cognoscenti; an expensive intellectual Onlyfans.

A funny story about Zizek. He had a plagiarism scandal that was discovered by Steve Sailer and his comment section, because Sailer posted an excerpt from a Zizek book review and pointedly noted that it was uncharacteristically lucid compared to anything else Zizek had written. The commenters soon figured out that was because Zizek didn’t write it himself.

>By the same metric Andrew Wiles’ proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem has a low information/symbol ratio.

All expositions of Wiles’ proof greatly expand it, but there is no verbal philosopher whose work cannot be enormously compressed (losslessly, indeed improved) using standard STEM concepts. That’s because one body of work has tremendous content and the other has little that isn’t expressed better in a different framework. You could of course debate the value of proving Fermat’s Last Theorem, but any standard that devalues that would leave nothing standing from the profession of Derrida and Zizek.

202. OhMyGoodness Says:

I consider it the height of irony that the only remaining global power that espouses Marxism is a global power due to the low cost of labor. China is the worlds factory exactly because of a high delta between labor output and labor cost.

Marxism is steam punk socioeconomic theory that manages to charm and/or provide employment to certain set of people that require a topic with sufficiently labyrinthine logic and ample opportunity for deluded claims of virtue.

203. marxbro Says:

“No it’s not utopian and in fact the cycle of great African famines has already stopped due to advances in Agronomy in capitalist countries.”

World hunger has not been eliminated and for Scott Aaronson to claim it will happen is Utopian. I’m simply using your own logic here.

204. marxbro Says:

“China is the worlds factory exactly because of a high delta between labor output and labor cost.”

If you agree that labor creates surplus value as compared to the price of labor power then you already agree with one of Marx’s major propositions. Far from Marx showing “labyrinthine logic” you seem to realise, through your own intuition, that he is correct.

205. OhMyGoodness Says:

I think there must be an unidentified portion of the immune system that protects ideas from infection by reality-ideabodies and killer truth cells.

206. Anon93 Says:

Why do you censor HBD but not Marxism? Which has a higher body count?

207. Scott Says:

Anon93 #206: If Nazism falls under the broad umbrella of “HBD,” then … well, Marxism probably still wins on body count, but it’s uncomfortably close.

Regrettably, you’re not allowed to talk directly about HBD ideas in this comment section, for reasons that you’re also not allowed to talk directly about, and so on ad infinitum. 😀

STEM Caveman #201

“There is no verbal philosopher whose work cannot be enormously compressed (losslessly, indeed improved) using standard STEM concepts. That’s because one body of work has tremendous content and the other has little that isn’t expressed better in a different framework. ”

What a claim to make with no proof. Show me where this has been done. Also way to dodge everything else I said about the current state of economics etc. Have you ever even engaged with contemporary economics? It has equations, you might like it, not too many words.

209. A. Karhukainen Says:

@JimV at #132. Some people have reported that certain neuroregenerative substances (e.g. psilocybin) have helped them to regain their lost sense of smell (or taste) after covid.

210. marxbro Says:

@Scott

Can you show me an example of Marxist writing that you found unclear? I might be able to help you understand it.

211. JimV Says:

@A.K.@209–Thanks for the suggestion. As far as I can tell though, psilocybin has not been tested scientifically (vs. a control group), and we know that some people lose long covid symptoms after about a month, and others after a longer time, so the fact that some of them ingested psilocybin could be a coincidence. I appreciate that you are trying to help however.

In my case I still taste things, but they taste different (and much worse) then I remember. I was born with highly sensitive taste buds (what the Internet has called a “super taster”) which might have something something to do with it. (I don’t like the name because it is not a super power, rather the reverse.) It seems like an interesting and potentially important subject for scientific study.

212. STEM Caveman Says:

just point to some (verbal) philosophy papers from any continent, that say something of value that cannot be clarified and compressed enormously using STEMmy concepts. From long experience I claim that examples of pure verbal added value, beyond what was already better done as STEM, are rare, and examples that are not severely incompressible are unicorns.

Your economics debate was with Scott, not me. I count ideas from economics as part of the toolkit (much of which is explictly mathematics) that is missing in philosophy and other verbalistic pursuits.

213. Anon93 Says:

Scott #207: It’s a bit strange to call the Nazis HBD, given that they suppressed IQ tests since they knew Jews would do better, said that the Jewish overrepresentation was because of cheating and not HBD, and used Kendi-like rhetoric as part of their anti-Semitic propaganda. On the other hand Churchill was HBD and pro-Jew and pro-Zionist. Furthermore, Churchill was a eugenicist! He would smile on embryo selection for intelligence, and on Dominic Cummings for suggesting it.

214. Mitchell Porter Says:

@STEM Caveman #201: Can your own posts here be “enormously compressed… using standard STEM concepts”? Or are they already an example of optimized prose?

@stemcaveman nice dodging completely moving the goalposts. Now it’s not about you proving your ridiculous comment but the onus is on me. That’s not how these discussions are supposed to go. If you make a ridiculous claim you need to be able to back it up.

216. STEM Caveman Says:

this is a case in point. You are playing an evasive word game of the sort familiar in academia, trying to shift the burden of proof (by blustering about it), when the relevant concept is from STEM: sampling. If my claim is true it is obviously impossible for anyone to prove it to you by reading and compressing the entire philosophy literature on command. However, if we sample the literature and it’s demonstrably easy to compress adversarially chosen samples, that does count as evidence and is the most efficient procedure available for giving evidence of the claim. As I said, I have been through this exercise many times before. You claim that Butler(!) and world famous bullshitter Zizek(!!!) are masters of substance, so presumably you can point to something of importance that they say in a paper or book chapter. Of course, to prevent bad faith queries you should be able to sketch what the importance is yourself before I radically compress it in STEM language.

217. STEM Caveman Says:

There’s also a sort of a priori argument why philosophy tends to converge toward either genuine formalization (turning it into logic, math, statistics, or CS which are most productively pursued in the tradition of those subjects) or extremely compressible verbalism (what Scott called low insight per word).

As a nonempirical discipline without assessable objective content, credit in verbal philosophy accrues for novelty, which is rare and difficult to achieve, or superior rigor (refining or criticizing existing analyses). Since it’s hard to be notably original, the pressure to protect one’s position leads to a cascade of increased rigor or increased obscurity. Anything in between is unstable and can be attacked from either side. In the limit, different parts of the field approach either full formalization, often resulting in that area becoming nonverbal nonphilosophy, or Zizek-like incomprehensibility as stable endgames.

218. Jeff Says:

OhMyGoodness #171: Oh thank you! I’ll check out those field’s regulations sometime! I’d blindly assumed the 8 hour 5000 ppm limit was established for good reason. It’s hopeful if people adapt to way more. 🙂

I’m not a doomer like you insinuate..

We’ve myriad possible solutions to climate change and ecosystem collapse, but some work out fairly nicely, especially if enacted soon, while others work out really horribly, but still save our species. Afaik, we do not depend upon adopting any particular new economic or political system, but..

We’ve an economist priest class that believes most everything shall be solved by increased energy and resource usage aka increased GWP, and that all other problems are minor inconveniences to be engineered away. Although self evidently false long-term, we accept the economists flawed ideology when embracing technologies like geo-engineering.

As an aside, there do exist geo-engineering proposals that sounds helpful, but maybe out of scope here. Almost all geo-engineering proposals commonly discussed aims towards maintaining economic growth, which worsens risks of ecological collapses or other runaway effects. We need real longer term fixes like economic degrowth.

Although I’d primarily criticize neo-classical economics, afaik all modern communism pushes this same ideology of increasing energy and resource usage, simply by virtue of being born in the industrial revolution. This is not to say communism is wrong per se, just that afaik it’s economics remains broken.

We need to replace “more more” with doing what matters with less energy and resources, aka degroth. We should end economics religious-like hold over our business and politics, and/or subjugate economics to the real sciences, especially physics and biology.

There exist physical economists like Nate Hagens who describe some path forward, as well as aligned political economists like Steve Keen, Bichler & Nitzan, or Blair Fix.

219. Keith McLaren Says:

Wow Scott,

I have just found your blog. Great writing.
We are similar in having a deep hatred of the clown that is Donald trump, the utter importance of free speech and sound journalism (I was delighted and amused that it was the WSJ that eventually exposed Elizabeth Holmes, when old Rupert had invested in the thing- I had to mention this in my blog after reading your comments about the NYT, which are very well said) and a similar inability to crack the dating code as a young man.

220. Joe Shipman Says:

I agree on lots of what you say, lots of the rest of what you say is reasonable enough to agree to disagree, and I can even give you a pass on your overly—reflexive anti-Trumpism because you show understanding of the forces that led to Trump getting elected in the first place.

The main thing I think you fail to get (which is related to why I criticize not anti-Trumpism but specifically “overly-reflexive” anti-Trumpism) is the colossally corrupt and dishonest and undemocratic and illegal way in which the media-bigtech-Democrat complex in conjunction with entrenched government officials hijacked both the public discourse and the state investigative and judicial apparatus to bring down Trump with fake charges and prevent his re-election. No matter how bad Trump might be from a policy point of view, these attempts by the unelected to unelect him represent a much deeper threat.

The one thread I would really like you to pursue honestly in order to come to a more realistic appraisal here is the absolutely central involvement of Federally organized provocateurs in making the events of January 6th happen.

221. Ellie Kesselman Says:

Hello, Scott. Long time, no see. Don’t listen to the critics. You are correct about everything that truly matters.
–Nuclear energy is ESSENTIAL.
–If it weren’t for the SAT, PSAT, and ACT, I would have never escaped my impoverished small town in New Mexico and been able to study mathematics, statistics, and the sciences at Swarthmore and Stanford. Standardized admissions testing is a good thing, allowing the economically disadvantaged, not-politically connected, rural, unattractive (like me), socially inept, and marginalized to access the same opportunities as the privileged.
–GMO foods are good. Consider Norman Borlaugh who saved more lives than anyone in human history. He is known and highly regarded by every Pakistani person who has ever talked with me about global food insecurity.
–You are NOT a eugenicist regarding babies.

I don’t recall anything else that caught my attention, and for which anyone criticized you.

–Regarding Donald Trump, and saying that you despise everything he did or stood for, be aware that he is the first president in decades who wanted to resuscitate antitrust law. Also, that the president of the AFL-CIO (recently deceased Richard Trumka may he rest in peace) wrote many articles published on the AFL-CIO website and in US newspapers about Trump being the first US president in 25 years that cared about labor. They worked together to prevent TPP and replace NAFTA.

I hope you had a great time on your vacation, with no Omicron!

222. Nonlazy Says:

Someone once said libertarians are just lazy Marxists. I’m not sure where that places you in the totem pole.

223. Howard Says:

What, finally, do you call someone whose image of an ideal world might include a young Black woman wearing a hijab, an old Orthodox man with black hat and sidecurls, a broad-shouldered white guy from the backwoods of Alabama, and a trans woman with purple hair, face tattoos and a nose ring … all of them standing in front of a blackboard and arguing about what would happen if Alice and Bob jumped into opposite ends of a wormhole?

A degenerate for believing that a man can be a woman.

224. norwegian Says:

>> Embryo selection is fantastic. Embryo selection for intelligence will make everyone super smart and solve many problems. Regardless of whether it solves inequality, it’s good to make people smarter. Why are you against it?

>I’m not, necessarily, but I’m a lot less for it than that very superficial analysis would suggest.

>Outside view: what past civilization would *you* have trusted to decide your genes?

Come on. We can just let people decide for themselves what they engineer for.

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2. You'll also be sent a verification email to the email address you provided.
YOU MUST CLICK THE LINK IN YOUR VERIFICATION EMAIL BEFORE YOUR COMMENT CAN APPEAR. WHY IS THIS BOLD, UNDERLINED, ALL-CAPS, AND IN RED? BECAUSE PEOPLE ARE STILL FORGETTING TO DO IT.
3. Comments can be left in moderation for any reason, but in particular, for ad-hominem attacks, hatred of groups of people, snide and patronizing tone, trollishness, disingenuousness, or presumptuousness (e.g., linking to a long paper or article and challenging me to respond to it).
4. Even when no individual comment violates policy, when there are dozens of comments from a single commenter hammering home the same few themes, and the commenter shows no interest in changing their views or learning from anyone else, the commenter will receive a warning followed by a 3-month ban.
5. Whenever I'm in doubt, I'll forward comments to Shtetl-Optimized Committee of Guardians, and respect SOCG's judgments on whether those comments should appear.
6. I sometimes accidentally miss perfectly reasonable comments in the moderation queue, or they get caught in the spam filter. If you feel this may have been the case with your comment, shoot me an email.