Nothing non-obvious to say…

… but these antiwar protesters in St. Petersburg know that they’re all going to be arrested and are doing it anyway.

Meanwhile, I just spent an hour giving Lily, my 9-year-old, a crash course on geopolitics, including WWII, the Cold War, the formation of NATO, Article 5, nuclear deterrence, economic sanctions, the breakup of the USSR, Ukraine, the Baltic Republics, and the prospects now for WWIII. Her comment at the end was that from now on she’s going to refer to Putin as “Poopin,” in the hope that that shames him into changing course.

Update (March 1): A longtime Shtetl-Optimized reader has a friend who’s trying to raise funds to get her family out of Ukraine. See here if you’d like to help.

313 Responses to “Nothing non-obvious to say…”

  1. youreatwat Says:

    You’re still a smug twat. Go fuck yourself.

  2. Scott Says:

    Everyone: The thoughtful sage who wrote #1 submits a similar comment to virtually every one of my posts, even apolitical ones. I decided to let this one through, simply because having a Putin troll here on Shtetl-Optimized makes me feel infinitesimally more connected to the courageous people in the photo. Further Putin trolls will be left in moderation.

  3. Matt297 Says:

    In case it might help lighten the mood a little in these dark times, it’s interesting to note that there was a Serbian physicist 100 years ago actually named Mihajlo Pupin – pronounced “Poopin.” Columbia named their physics building after him, much to glee of generations of Columbia physics students.

  4. Oleg Eterevsky Says:

    This is my home city. I’ve been living away from Russia for 6 years now, but just two weeks ago I’ve been to St. Petersburg for a few days. If I were there yesterday instead, I would’ve been in this photo. The protesters are risking a night in jail and a heavy fine, though if you are not particularly active, you’ll be probably safe.

    Nobody except Putin and those brainwashed by the official propaganda wants this war. Most Russian people have Ukrainian friends and relatives. There is no good outcome for anyone in this war.

    One thing I’m really frustrated about is that this is happening in the 21st century. We should be colonizing Mars and curing ageing. Nobody needs this cold war shit.

  5. Anon93 Says:

    I have sympathy for the anti-war protesters, still I’m not sure they are doing anything productive. Still better than China where if you joined such a protest you would just be disappeared and never heard from again or something. Maybe better to just emigrate and brain drain Russia.

    Russian irredentism is definitely the main motivation for Putin. NATO expansion is a thing, and it’s certainly an unenforced error and a needless provocation that we kept talking about NATO expansion for Ukraine and Georgia (and earlier that we promised no NATO expansion but expanded it anyway), but if that were really Putin’s goal he would have acted differently. I would guess that Macron offered Putin Finlandization of Ukraine or something.

    Of course in terms of GDP and importance to the global economy Afghanistan<Ukraine<Taiwan. The real worry here is if China takes over Taiwan.

    Anyway, Afghanistan, Ukraine, the Eric Lander fiasco, the crack pipe fiasco, inflation, and the general awfulness of wokeness are enough of a reason not to vote Democrat. Scott, will you consider voting for a non-Trump Republican, or at least potentially voting third party?

  6. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Ukraine is the poorest country in Europe based on per capita GDP, has seen no real growth in GDP in a decade, has seen substantially declining population over a decade as people emigrated, has the highest corruption index in Western Europe, couldn’t pay for their critical natural gas imports, and played a very vocal geopolitical game to receive financial support from others. Ukranians that emigrate have a reputation as being valued members of their adoptive societies. I saw a European news broadcast with a Ukranian girl sheltered in the Kiev metro that explained she had a Masters in Gender Studies and explained the problem with patriarchal constructs.

    Is it surprising it ended in this?

    The Crimean and Iberian peninsulas were the outposts of humanity in Europe at the heigth of the last Ice Age in Europe. Most of us had ancestors huddled there in the cold. Europeans often seem downright determined to huddle in the cold once again but this time warmed by elevated political rhetoric.

  7. Jester Says:

    Haha, children with poopy words, that´s great; I am sure Ukraine will appreciate it immensely.

    Meanwhile, those of you who voted for the senile vegetable president, rest assured:

    This is on you.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Perhaps Lily should write the EU, they seem to be out of ideas for sanctions.

  9. Jester Says:

    Oleg Eterevsky #4:

    “The protesters are risking a night in jail and a heavy fine”

    Ooh, tough…

    “though if you are not particularly active, you’ll be probably safe.”

    Exactly. So, basically just for show. Which admittedly is all the rage these days.

    “We should be colonizing Mars”
    “and curing ageing”
    Uh, no. That is a gross misunderstanding of the role of biology. Which, again, is all the rage today.

    “Nobody needs this cold war shit.” Full agreement. Alas, preventing it comes at a price, and we were not willing to pay it. And now the chicken have come home to roost.

  10. asdf Says:

    It took me a minute to figure out that the protests were in Saint Petersburg, Russia. First I thought Florida, then I wondered if there was one in Texas, then remembered, oh yes. OMG.

  11. Jr Says:

    Scott, I suppose you can join the calls to cancel the ICM which is planned to take place in St. Petersburg this summer. The rights and wrongs of sanctions are tricky, but not arranging big conferences or sporting/cultural events in Russia for a while seems obvious.

    Oleg Eterevsky #4: Do people believe Putin’s propaganda? Are they even aware of that it is a fullscale invasion?

  12. Scott Says:

    Jester #7:

      Meanwhile, those of you who voted for the senile vegetable president, rest assured:
      This is on you.

    The Putin-admirer currently cheering his invasion would’ve been the better choice?

  13. Scott Says:

    Jr #11:

      Scott, I suppose you can join the calls to cancel the ICM which is planned to take place in St. Petersburg this summer.

    Yes, absolutely, the ICM should be relocated immediately. This strikes me as a complete no-brainer. Even apart from all the moral and political considerations, the West is about to impose crippling sanctions on Russia that could make it a logistical nightmare to travel there. And while St. Petersburg is a beautiful city and I had a wonderful visit there in 2011, I would not feel safe attending a conference in Russia right now, and those who’ve been more outspoken than me against Putin and his war would have even more reason to fear polonium in their conference breakfast.

  14. Anonymous Ocelot Says:

    Jester #9

    We should of course be curing aging. Aging kills people. What the hell are you on about?

  15. Jester Says:

    Scott #12: “The Putin-admirer currently cheering his invasion”
    How do you figure that one out? “Putin is intelligent, brutal and wily” = statement of fact, != Trump loves him for it.

    Putin would not have done it with Trump as president; sure didn´t during his term. Alas, your hatred of him makes you blind for this.

  16. Danylo Says:

    OhMyGoodness #6:

    > Ukraine is the poorest country in Europe based on per capita GDP, has seen no real growth in GDP in a decade, has seen substantially declining population over a decade …

    The first Russian invasion started 8 years ago. But even before that it was years of cultural war to weaken and suppress Ukrainian nation. And I’m not even talking about some distant history of oppression. Now we a have full-scale invasion, something that Europe has never seen since WWII.

    Saying that all of this is a geopolitical game of Ukraine to receive financial support from the West – is the stupidest thing to imagine. But it’s what Russian propaganda is pushing. A reference to Ice Age in Europe (hinting gas prices) is also distinctive.

    Scott, with all respect, but you’ve missed this troll.

  17. Scott Says:

    Jester #15: Trump hasn’t uttered a single word of moral condemnation of Putin, on this or any previous occassion.

    It’s never: “obviously, he’s an evil tyrant who poisons his opponents and brazenly lies to invade neighboring countries, but you still have to admire his savvy.” It’s only ever: “you have to admire his savvy.” Combined with Trump’s and his base’s open desire to turn the US into another Putinistan that jails its critics, this makes it obvious that the stance is one of pure admiration and support.

    And you know this, of course, and you’re deeply dishonest for not admitting it. But what I find even worse than the dishonesty is the implication that I’d be too dense to see it.

  18. Jester Says:

    Scott #17:

    Thank you for your reply., which strikes at the heart of the matter:

    You and many others are concerned with the right words and gestures, even if the practical results that follow improve nothing, even make things factually worse; I am much more concerned about actual improvement.

    “Combined with Trump’s and his base’s open desire to turn the US into another Putinistan that jails its critics, this makes it completely obvious that the stance is one of pure admiration.”

    Again, you are seeing through anti-Trump glasses. None of this is real.

    Please do not call me dishonest simply because we differ on this.

  19. Scott Says:

    Jester #18: Trump’s actions, in weakening NATO as Putin wanted him to do, helped make the current tragedy possible. Trump’s words and actions have been those of an unmixed Putin admirer and fan. And his supporters voted for him either because they don’t care, or because they admire Putin too and they want the US to be more like Putin’s Russia. And Trump obviously has no problem condemning others when it comes to (say) Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, so his refusal to condemn Putin or almost any of the world’s other murderous autocrats, even when making clear moral statements was part of his job as President of the United States, speaks volumes about his values and worldview. And if you won’t acknowledge at least this last point and continue to gaslight me about it, then you are permanently banned from this blog.

  20. fred Says:

    The US company I work for has about 250 Ukrainian developers in Kharkiv and 100 Russian devs.
    The modern connected world really isn’t suited to coexist with old school Russian and Chinese dictatorships.

  21. fred Says:

    Trump apparently said
    “He is pretty smart, he’s taken over a country for $2 worth of sanctions, taking over a country — really a vast, vast location, a great piece of land with a lot of people — and just walking right in.”

    See, Ukraine should have been building a wall…
    Of course Trump always makes it about himself, and he would rather let Putin have all of Europe than have to say one negative thing about him, because criticizing Putin, Xi, or Kim would be criticizing his own ideals of leadership and nationalism.

  22. fred Says:

    One last thing: it’s actually now much harder for any Western leader to be officially outraged that Putin is bringing up the threat of thermonuclear retaliation if anyone opposes him because Trump himself has pulled that card at least twice during his presidency (against Iran and North Korea).

  23. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Danylo #16

    I lived in Ukraine, have no reason for bias, and stand by my statements. My comments are not based on propaganda of any sort but direct personal observation. I appreciate you have a different view but object to your characterization of me as some mindless victim of propaganda or worse.

  24. Jester Says:

    Scott #19:

    “when making clear moral statements was part of his job as President of the United States”

    Well, my point is that it isn´t. (And neither did Trump weaken NATO…)

    I also object to your characterization of me “gaslighting” you; however, I believe you are sincere about it – a courtesy you unfortunately fail to show me.

    But as I said, we differ here, and it is your blog after all, so while I thank you for the heads-up, much as I regret forfeiting the privilege of commenting on your blog, I will not acknowledge what I do not believe; after all, this isn´t Communist Russia.

    My penultimate words on this blog will be from a tweet by Joe Biden:

    “Vladimir Putin doesn’t want me to be President. He doesn’t want me to be our nominee. If you’re wondering why — it’s because I’m the only person in this field who’s ever gone toe-to-toe with him.”

    Sometimes we get what we deserve.

    Bonne chance, und man sieht sich.

  25. 1Zer0 Says:

    I wont judge on who is right or wrong (NATO vs Russia),
    I see two perspectives:
    1) NATO members insisting that countries, including eastern european ones, can choose their own alliances.
    2) Russia insisting on being betrayed due to the expansion of NATO into eastern europe and NATO being close to their own border.

    1) and 2) will inevitably lead to conflict in some way.

    If Putin supposes that Russia is at its strongest it may ever be now and the West at its weakest, the time to act is now. I guess it’s similar to the argument of von Neumann who insisted on nuking the Soviet Union rather today than tomorrow and rather in 5 minutes than at afternoon.

  26. fred Says:

    Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, the USSR…

    If there’s one sad silver lining in all this Ukraine mess is that dictatorships *always* end up becoming so f’ing isolated and paranoid (with internal and external threats) that sooner or later they’re so disconnected from reality (and the life/goals of the average normal human being) that they end up doing crazy shit that hurts the world but also brings their own downfall, one way or another.
    They can’t have their cake and eat it too: i.e. thrive in a connected open world while acting like total bullies with their own population and the rest of the world… and isolation (North Korea style) really isn’t viable at all either.

  27. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Danylo #16

    I don’t have any interest in demonizing and so will explain some of the reasons for my views. I lived there during the Yushenko days and during the Yanukovich/Tymeshenko battles. My primary observation was that there was extreme polarization in Ukrainian society. My estimation at the time was that it was about a 50/50 split pro Russian/pro EU. My thought at the time was that any country cursed with around a 50/50 polarization had incredibly difficult prospects for advancement. My perception was that Eastern Ukraine and Crimea tended pro Russian and Urban centers and Western Ukraine tended to be pro EU. Those were my honest observations at the time and in hindsight I don’t see a major error.

    At that time the politics were more dysfunctional and corruption higher than any place I have ever lived and I have lived in some tough places. The Rada was having open food fights and everyone in politics was trying to put their opponents in prison and the oligarchs were out of control.

    I have no wishes other than self determination for any group of people and have nothing but best wishes for Ukraine and its people but also personally saw that there were difficult hurdles to overcome and no progress discernible.

    I had not the slightest inkling that many of my observations about societal polarization in Ukraine might apply in some years to the US. Extreme societal/cultural polarization can be a poison to any democracy.

    The EU probably should have provided more effective aid helping build a viable economy and civil society while allowing the Donbas and Crimea to go under Russian control. I realize the emotional content of that decision for Ukrainians but it would have relieved the most explosive portion of the societal polarization that I personally observed and allowed the rest of the country to get on with solving all the problems. You could always claim that wouldn’t have satisfied Russia and we cant determine the future in that case. I can only state what I believe would have been better decisions.

  28. SotCodeLaureate Says:

    This video seems relevant somehow:

    The girl says, in Russian:
    “Vladimir Putin, the children of Ukraine appeal to you – withdraw your armed forces.”

    And yeah, there is a (somewhat childish) rendition of “Putin” in Russian and Ukrainian, that is related closely to “Poopin”.

  29. Anon93 Says:

    Silver lining is that Putin had two options. One is to set up a puppet government with a 10% approval rating, and the other is to annex Ukraine with its millions of hostile residents who won’t vote for United Russia. Of course in the latter case maybe Putin will cancel Russia’s elections and just have a China-style dictatorship or something.

  30. f Says:

    so my silly takes for anyone reading it: both demo and autho are abomination, anarc was apparently right.
    politics is great filter.

  31. DR Says:

    Loved “polonium in their continental breakfast”. That really made me laugh out loud :).

    I read Garry Kasparov’s recommendations today in this article linked below and wanted to share it :

  32. fred Says:

    It’s interesting to note that Ukraine and Afghanistan have nearly the same population (~40M) and the same area (~230,000 sq miles).
    The population of Russia is 140M, so Ukraine will be quite difficult to control.

  33. JimV Says:

    I see President Biden as a fairly typical politician, by no means a great man. However, I think he acknowledges that there are smarter people than himself, whom he will listen to. Pretty much everything those people told him in the run-up to the invasion has turned out to be correct.

    The comparison with Trump, whose own advisors such as Bolton have gone on record disparaging his knowledge and judgement, is very stark.

    NATO is a provocation to Putin because it is designed to hinder the very thing he wants: annexation of all the territories who were once part of czarist Russia’s conquered territory but who preferred self-determination. Those who consider NATO a provocation must feel that it is Putin’s inalienable right to all the territory he can control militarily.

    One of my own young nephews was taken in by the right-wing propaganda and was heard to complain, “the media is so unfair to Trump”. His father calmly asked him to listen to Trump directly. After watching the Trump-Biden debate, the nephew realized, “Trump is a bad man.”

  34. David Says:

    The Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances signed by the USA, the UK and the Russian Federation in 1994 included security assurances against threats or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan in return for giving up their nuclear weapons. How trusting and how foolish they now appear.

    My thoughts are with Ukraine this night.

  35. Danylo Says:

    OhMyGoodness #27:

    Polarization in some questions exists everywhere, even in a family of people who love each other. But honest people find compromises. This can’t happen if one party doesn’t respect you and treats you like inferior, or even a slave.

    It’s clear how Putin treats Ukraine. In essence, he uses the same psychological tactic as Hitler – by creating an image that Russia is superior to everyone else from the Soviet Union (or even in the whole world). This factor alone is super polarizing. Because people love to feel superior to others.

    But the polarization that was in Ukraine is not important anymore. The free part of Ukraine is united now, even though the majority of Kyiv still speaks Russian at home. What’s important is that the whole civilized world sees all the lies, all the unjust hatred and aggression of Russia towards Ukraine. The truth is on our side. And we’ll win.

    I just hope that the price won’t be too much.

  36. Topologist Guy Says:


    I’m not a Putin troll. I don’t support Putin. But I simply find it hard to take you seriously, when you condemn Russia arresting political dissidents and protesters, but don’t say anything about (or even tacitly support) the crackdowns on protests against vaccines and mandates throughout Western Europe, and even in Canada. I’ve seen a German doctor get arrested by a SWAT team on a livestream for opposing mask mandates. It’s effectively illegal to protest COVID measures in Germany, because restrictions on gatherings give authorities the pretext to arrest any protesters. I know this because I know people in Germany who have literally been unable to organize any protests because the German government taps phones and arrests people before they can do anything. In Canada you can get your bank account frozen for organizing protests. It’s painfully obvious that Putin is far from the main threat to “liberal democracy” and “individual freedom” when across the Western world, until recently, you could be arrested for walking outside and targeted by the government for speaking out against pandemic policy. In fact in my personal estimation the globalists and U.S. democrats pose about a hundred times bigger threat to personal liberties than Putin. Putin isn’t trying to implement a “social credit system” unlike American liberals. Half of U.S. democrats want to put unvaccinated in internment camps. The reality is that the Democrats’ vision of social control poses a far more potent threat to the individual liberty of common people, and the ability of them to speak their mind, than Putin’s government ever has.

    I apologize Scott because I realize that I never got back to you about research on vaccine safety+efficacy that I promised I would. This weekend I’ll send you some serious research on the COVID vaccines that makes me question their safety. Thankfully it’s still legal fo view such research (although perhaps not in the Democrats’ fantasies).

  37. Glory to Ukraine Says:

    The “Putin-admirer” actually weakened Putin by giving the US energy independence and lowering the oil price. During the NATO summit, He also called out Germany for building Nord Stream 2 and depending too much on the natural gas from Russia. We now see the danger of this in full display.

    Then Biden lifted the sanction against Nord Stream 2 in the hope of getting Germany on board. Does Germany appreciate it and act like a good ally? You tell me.

    The liberal media twisted the news and told us that Trump “undermined NATO” and “alienated European allies.” The truth is that Trump wanted NATO members to pay their fair share which, logically, would only strengthen NATO. As for European countries like Germany, despite liberals’ wishful thinking, they are never reliable allies and don’t have common interests with the US. Look how hard it is to get them to approve the SWIFT ban. Oh, and Germany’s Gerhard Schröder is still on the board of directors of Gazprom and lobbying for Russia.

    “But but but the love letters to dictators and the mean tweets!” said liberals. “The adults are back to the room!” said the liberal media. And ironically, we are now closer to WWIII than ever.

  38. Scott Says:

    Glory to Ukraine #37:

      “But but but the love letters to dictators and the mean tweets!” said liberals.

    Tell me, then: what is it that explains the love letters to dictators and the mean tweets, in your alternative theory of the world? Reminiscent of the trickster God who planted the fossils in the ground to confound the paleontologists, is Trump playing a 26-dimensional chess game where he secretly does all the right things for the right reasons, while also spending his entire life trolling the liberals by building up an elaborate cover story (never once breaking character) in which he actually does stupid things for horrible, narcissistic reasons?

  39. Nate Says:

    I really thought there would be fewer Trumpites in here…

    The confirmation bias at work in the statements that Trump always made the right decision regardless of the immediate stated intentions is too strong to ever be taken down Scott, though I applaud you for trying to reason with them.

    I am no fan of Biden in many cases, I think he has been too hesitant to take certain actions in this situation, but at the same time I see actual diplomacy at work here not some ‘Do it my way or I take my aid money and go home’ acts of our former president. I can’t help but think of that meeting where Trump sat alone with Putin for over an hour with the door barred to journalists… you really think he just grilled him that whole time or something? Laughter is all I can have for you if you believe that.

    Whatever your politics if you don’t stand with the people of Ukraine to have self determination and freedom then I have no time for you. In the now immortal words of the Ukrainian coastguard, ‘Russian battleship, go f- yourself’.

  40. Rahul Says:

    What baffles me is where is the criticism of our western politicians? Criticism of Putin is all fine, but most of us we already agree that this agression is wrong and evil.

    That’s not the suprising part. The surprise to me is how passively the rest of the world will watch from the sidelines while a bully does what he pleases.

    The UN, NATO what’s the use of all these bodies? Isn’t this all reminiscent of WW2 and how Hitler invaded neighbours?

    What have we all learnt. If we need outrage it must be about Biden and Germany and all the strong western nations who will selfishly and passively watch a smaller weaker nation being invaded.

    I never imagined we could do worse than Trump. But Biden scarily might come close. The mess in Afghanistan. And now this. What is he doing exactly. Where is the response?!

    Are some half assed sanctions and conference cancelletions the best we can do? While Ukranians die as we speak?!

  41. Scott Says:

    Rahul #40: I emphatically share your impulse to do more! But what exactly would be your advice to Biden? Many of the obvious countermeasures have the drawback that they risk starting WWIII against a nuclear-armed power. Kasparov has what seem like excellent suggestions. My other favorite was for the US to offer visas to every single Russian scientist or engineer who wants to leave, thereby causing a huge brain drain. What else?

  42. pete Says:

    On a less serious note: google putin video hockey. You should get some videos where Putin is playing hockey – the worst player I have ever seen on a video. He gets 8+ goals a game, playing against pros; that is because the pros either give him the puck (teammates) of get out of his way (opposition). Any goalie who stops one of his shots will be on a gulag train in the morning.

    What gets me is that Putin is dead serious in these videos. He apparently thinks he can play the game and beat ex-pros and get many goals per game. He even takes a victory lap at the end of some games (one ends badly when he trips on a carpet on the ice). It’s monstrous that this crazy person is in our heads this much and that he single handedly controls a huge collection of nuclear weapons and that he’s destroyong a former soviet vassal that wants to move to democracy and…

  43. Daniel Seita Says:

    I’ll be brief. Thank you for sharing this. I, too, stand with Ukraine.

  44. Glory to Ukraine Says:

    I certainly don’t think Trump always made the right decisions (COVID being one obvious example, and there are many more). However, a gentle reminder that confirmation bias exists in every group and spreads the whole political spectrum.

    I believe that when it comes to foreign policy, Trump simply has not got the credits he deserves. As one example, aren’t the peace deals involving Israel a big deal, despite the US journalists’ indifference? There has been no success for decades. Ivy-League educated John Kerry told us there cannot be a peace deal without Palestine as part of it, and we saw how wrong it is. If Trump is an idiot, how do we gauge the competence of these traditional politicians?

    As for why Trump praises dictators, maybe it is a tactic of getting along with them, or maybe he truly appreciates some characteristics they have. You may rightfully say Trump is a terrible person. I just do not care. If Jimmy Carter is an example of a kind-hearted president implementing terrible foreign policies, an opposite example could well exist. Think Trump praising dictators in public is immoral? You should read old Bush’s secret letter to Deng Xiaoping after Deng massacred protesters in Tiananmen [1]. Never Trumpers praised the “decency” of Bush. I think it is hilarious.


  45. David D Says:

    Scott #38:

    >”Tell me, then: what is it that explains the love letters to dictators and the mean tweets, in your alternative theory of the world”

    The Art of the Deal.

    Praise those dictators publicly, say good things about them, and then threaten to annihilate them if they step out of line. (Here’s a concrete example:

    Sticks and carrots.

  46. Rahul Says:


    I think we should have put NATO and US troops on Ukranian soil once it was clear that an invasion was immenant.

    Sure there’s a threat of a WW3 against a nuclear power, but if so where do we draw the line? If we don’t act the first time when is the appropriate time to act. Which other countries can Russia invade and would we act then? What if other nations like China are emboldened by this to try similar shenanigans.

    Do we refrain from a military response every time just because Russia has a nuclear capability. What if Russia invaded a NATO member, would we then still have the willpower to retaliate, given that even there we have the risk of a nuclear retaliation from Russia?

    Historically if you see Chamberlains response to German invasions of neighbouring nations most of that was also well intentioned in order to not spark out WW2 given the history of WW1. See where that got us.

    It’s my opinion, and of course I could be wrong, that if western troops had been on the ground in Ukraine, Putin would have pulled back from an invasion. Furthermore the time for the kind of sanctions Kasparov and you mention should have been months ago when Russia started mobilising forces on Ukraine’s border. Not once an invasion is fait accompli.

    We are doing too little too late. And while the nuclear risk is a part of the assessment i think the deeper problem is US and most other western nations have become politically loathe to tolerate even the smallest casualties to their own soldiers. The result is what comes across as a selfish response: it’s not our war so we won’t get involved. We have lost our appetite to take some losses to stand up for whats right.

  47. Rahul Says:

    Even if we forget the moral and ethical dimensions of the weak sauce western response to the Russian invasion of Ukrain what about the formal treaty obligations under the Budapest Memorandum?

    Don’t US and the other western nations have a treaty obligation to defend Ukraine? If we renege this time what credibility does our word have on future occasions?

    Even from a purely utilitarian viewpoint shouldn’t the US honor it’s treaty obligations?!

  48. Michel Says:

    I myself am very much afraid we only see here the start of the pan-European war. Putin is obviously no longer sane, creating here hís (second) Afghanistan. Seeing him standing upright in some recent pictures also reminds me heavily of some Parkinson diseased people I have known. It also may be Korzakov disease of course.
    And no to some of the responders, Putin showing wilyness and craftyness are not signs of intelligence.

  49. Nonstandard Topologist Says:

    Topologist Guy #36: I am from Germany, and your claims are outright false. Protests here are legal and happen (far to often, but that’s not my point). Medicals do face legal charges if faking vaccine certificates or mask exemptions, but certainly they do not get arrested “for opposing mask mandates”.

  50. Adam Treat Says:

    Here is something maybe non obvious:

    As a guy, kinda wondering where are the mass protests in the US and around the world that Ukraine has ordered all *men* from 18 – 60 are not allowed to leave the country but must stay and fight while the women are allowed to leave? Surely feminists around the world are appalled?

  51. David Says:

    It is surprisingly sad and depressing reading some of these comments. I am a fan of your blog and religiously read it. I know that “wokeness” is one feature of it, but certainly, for me, not it’s main appeal. But, I was not aware of how this feature had attracted such a “basket of deplorables” to your site. There are rare events when there is a clear distinction between good and evil. The last time was probably WWII, which I was too young to fully appreciate. But, from the comments on your site, somehow a significant fraction of your readers has not been able to make this distinction. Although I find this heartbreaking, it just reinforces what seems to be a horrible sign of our times and gives me little hope for our future.
    You are obviously not responsible for who gets attracted to your site. But, I think you may share some blame for your overemphasis on the idea that “wokeness” is primarily a problem of the left. Although there clearly is a form of leftist wokeness (and I gather you have personally experienced it) it is trivial and pales in comparison to that of the right. The left is not creating laws stating what can be taught in schools and universities, it is not rewriting history books (eg, critical race theory), it is not forming truck caravans to prevent the government from enforcing reasonable public health standards. It is not denying clear scientific results, from global warming to vaccinations. I peeked at a right wing site yesterday (Redstate) and came away physically ill. There is significant fraction of the US and the world that is vile, and the fact that even something as evil as this Russian invasion cannot bring them to their senses, shows how incorrigible and unapproachable they are to reason.

  52. JK Says:

    What would have Trump done if Putin attacked Ukraine while he was president? You don’t know right?
    Neither would Putin. If Trump was president, Putin would never be able to calculate his risk.

    We knew exactly what Biden would do: Nothing. He even announced that publicly from White House weeks before the attack.

    In my opinion, Ukraine’s fate was sealed when Biden made his exit from Afghanistan because he couldn’t keep 5000 soldiers there who were mostly operating drones.

    Lets hope Putin won’t gobble up more countries in the 3 years Biden has left.

  53. Mantas Says:

    Dear Scott,
    thank you so much for the clearly stated position. I am a reader of your blog for a long time, and this is my first post. I am also grateful for mentioning the Baltic states. I know you have at least one friend in Latvia, and as a Lithuanian all I can say is that if Ukraine falls and the madness is not stopped, we are literally next in a row. Thus, every sane word counts in our times, and I am grateful for your words and support for Ukraine.

  54. TCS Persona Says:

    Can we at least agree on the facts?

    The correlation is clear:

    Trump era: no new large scale wars.

    Biden in power for less than two years: Taliban takes over Afghanistan, US troops escaping by the skin of their teeth. Hamas strikes Israel with rockets escalating to a war in Gaza. Iran escalating its hold in the middle east and declares its escalation of the nuclear program. China takes Hong Kong. Russia invades Ukraine!

    Is there a causation beyond mere correlation? I don’t know, but as a purely rational person I assume that having an unexpected bully as president (Trump) deters rogue nations more than having an admin that is concerned more about using the right pronouns. But maybe that’s only me.

  55. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Rahul #47

    A note of explanation from Germany that answers your question in part-

    “Germany’s highest-ranking military officer cast doubt on the Germany army’s combat readiness, claiming that years of neglect have left it in a questionable state amid the ongoing Ukrainian-Russian war.”

    Merkel apparently didn’t consider combat readiness as a worthy goal for the economic powerhouse of the EU. I am not sure what the usual suspect could have done to weaken NATO combat readiness more than the EU member states were able to accomplish by their own devices.

    When I read comments like Putin maintaining vigilance for global warming emissions during military operations then I think that the entire country should file a class action suit against the Ivies for malpractice.

    There is God awful plenty of ignorance to go around amongst our politicians in both parties.

  56. Sept Says:

    Of all the bizarre positions accompanying Trumpism, this newly-minted one is surely one of the strangest: that Joe Biden is responsible for the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

    No matter that Trump is an open admirer of Putin eager to draw moral equivalence between the US and Putin’s Russia. No matter that he’s the guy who witheld congressionally-approved military aid to Ukraine on the explicit condition that Ukraine’s president produce propaganda for Trump’s re-election bid, for which he was impeached the first time. No matter that Trump and his base do not support US military intervention! No, we’re currently being told that all of this is a particular kind of “strength” Trump has which Biden lacks, and that this makes Biden responsible for Russian tanks rolling toward Kiev.

    I didn’t think it would get even harder to understand Trumpism, but here we are. Scott, you’ve been very generous with the pro-Trump, pro–Putin commenters.

  57. DR Says:

    This BBC show, “Yes, Prime Minister”aired in ~1980 :). When would you use the nuclear weapon ? I was about Lily’s current age as I watched this with my grandfather on TV in India. I remember this episode!

  58. Anon, a moose Says:

    I’m shocked at some of the opinions on display here. This has long been a blog of vigorous and thoughtful debate, but now I see comments decrying Democrats as worse than Putin (because of mask mandates, apparently), extolling Trump’s foreign policy (whatever that was), and insinuating Biden’s weakness and supposed senility.

    I’m even more shocked at how many times such views have been expressed to me personally in the last few years; it seems almost like a species of collective madness. Can we all at least agree that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a bad thing, that COVID is dangerous enough to merit collective action to protect the vulnerable (like masks and vaccines), and that democracy is preferable to entrenched minority rule?

    I just don’t understand how we got to this point. A substantial minority of Americans denounce liberals as a threat to the Republic, but turn a blind eye to events like January 6. Many of those same people now rush to blame Putin’s rash and devastating invasion of Ukraine on Biden’s “weakness,” as if that made any sense at all. It seems we can’t find any common ground to stand on, even in the face of the most extreme provocations imaginable: COVID, the insurrection, and now this…

  59. murmur Says:

    Hi Scott, are you going to write a blog post based on the responses to Why Quantum Mechanics?

  60. me Says:

    @ #58

    There is this elementary school game where you ask someone a series of questions whose answer is “fork,” until they’re used to saying it, and then ask them what they eat soup with and laugh when they say fork again.

    I understand basically all of the wild hot takes were hearing about this through that lens. Take someone, ask them a several questions which can be answered inside their ideology by saying “he’s not *that* bad,” and then ask for their opinion on an ongoing invasion. That’s the best theory I have for why people are still quoting culture war lines during an, you know, actual war.

  61. Stewart Peterson Says:

    Scott #41:

    I’d volunteer three ideas:

    1. Lend-Lease II. Let the Ukrainians have anything they want out of the U.S. arsenal that they know how to operate, except for nuclear weapons. Similarly to the relationship between the U.S. and Britain in 1940, we should also provide them with an open intelligence channel and ensure that they know anything we know.

    2. A crash program for portable fusion power. This would revolutionize military operations and allow us to leapfrog the Russian and Chinese advances of recent years. This would necessarily begin as a research program, but surprisingly few attempts have been made to create dynamically-stable electromagnetic configurations, and we need to start there. Like the Wright Brothers’ approach to flight, better control is going to beat more power. Start small, with a few hundred electrical engineers and physicists coming up with any electrode or electromagnet geometry that might work, and an alternative configurations test facility to fabricate the results and quickly test them in a vacuum chamber with live plasma. This doesn’t have to be elaborate, just benchtop-sized and well-instrumented. Any configuration that can keep a plasma dynamically stable and compress it should be built as a dedicated unit and we’ll see how many of them get to fusion conditions. It floors me that this hasn’t been done already, just in general.

    3. A similar crash program for stationary, very-high-power, x-ray FELs with plasma windows as a reliable counter-ICBM capability for cities. Deterrence works against statesmen; we are now dealing with gangsters, and the political side of this change is important to manage as well. The Putin-Xi worldview is for organized crime syndicates to control territory, enjoy all the internal immunity of Westphalian sovereignty, use high technology to suppress all dissent, rob the national treasury and launder the money abroad, and then cry disingenuously when they’re not treated like everyone else. Xi, largely, has this vision of the world and Putin is merely the most powerful of a long list of similar tinpots whose corruption he tolerates. The good news is that personal corruption as a political strategy never works for very long; it destroys the economy by destroying confidence in the business climate, destroys civil society, creates rival low-level gangs, and so on. The price of access to the market is indulging the gangster, and eventually, everybody figures out it’s not worth it. When that happens, though, and the syndicate collapses, there is a civil war or series of coups as various colonels and intelligence officials try to rub out their internal opponents. (Think Africa in the 80s.) This did not occur after the fall of the Soviet Union, for both political reasons (it was more organized than it looked on the outside) and technical reasons (interlocks on nuclear weapons and the massive infrastructure needed to support delivery systems, which could not all be taken over by a single organized crime organization, no matter how sophisticated). However, today, Russia *is* an international organized crime syndicate and the collapse of the Putin regime – which absolutely will happen when he dies, and the guy’s almost 70 – is less likely to produce a smooth transition than Yeltsin (who already controlled Russia internally) assuming Gorbachev’s external-relations and military authority. The best we could hope for is a power struggle along the lines of the aftermath of the death of Stalin, and it is not clear that any of the people who are likely to be well-positioned from a power perspective are interested in the well-being of Russia and the Russian people as opposed to the continuation of their families’ personal financial privileges. (In short: Stalin didn’t tolerate corruption or create a gangster state, so the people who were fighting over power after he died didn’t have the extensive practice that these guys have had. They were amateurs, and Khrushchev divided and conquered them, and reestablished order.) Russia has a big advantage over Africa in the 80s in the sense that it has a reasonably professional officer corps which will probably not get too involved in the power struggle – but which will obey an order to launch from a nut who gains at least titular power, hates the U.S., and has all his property and family overseas and figures he has nothing personally to lose. Nobody in the 1950s USSR would have done that; circumstances have changed. We need both the practical capability to defend civilization from this menace (as well as to be militarily strong enough to clean up the mess when it does all fall in), and to articulate a coherent political alternative to the “Xi Worldview” above. To me, that’s federalism on the American constitutional model, but I have been searching a la Diogenes for anyone in the foreign policy establishment who agrees and have come up with nothing.

    Telling a large organization that it is wrong is one of the endeavors least likely to lead to success in the world, of course, and I do not expect anyone to do any of this. It would require vision among small-minded people, a worldview which is absent at the top levels of government everywhere, and enormous administrative skills to reorganize the Department of Defense procurement process. Hence, we shall sleepwalk into the next major crisis, as we always do, suffer avoidable setbacks, as we always do, and spend way too much money on legacy systems that will be rendered useless in the opening operations plus a vast bureaucracy to support it all, as we always do. I just hope we don’t find ourselves in a situation where we don’t have enough time and space to fix our problems before we lose a world war.

  62. Scott Says:

    Topologist Guy #36: I find it obscene even to mention Justin Trudeau’s action against the unvaccinated truckers in the same breath as Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The truckers were not persecuted in any real sense. It’s 100% reasonable to require vaccination for those who travel in the midst of a global pandemic. And this isn’t some new, woke moral invention, but something that would’ve made perfect sense to (e.g.) George Washington, who ordered the entire Continental Army to be vaccinated against smallpox. What would Washington have said about the orders-of-magnitude safer mRNA vaccines that we have today?

    And the truckers didn’t just protest and march; they shut down Canada’s capital city for weeks by parking their trucks in its streets and blaring their horns. No government in the world could tolerate that. To me, what was remarkable was that Trudeau let it go on for as long as he did, rather than immediately clearing out the trucks (or, with better planning, preventing them from shutting down the city in the first place, as Toronto managed to do).

    And crucially, if the citizens of Canada don’t like their prime minister, they have the recourse of voting him out—something they notably didn’t do in their recent election. The citizens of Ukraine who are about to suffer under Vladimir Putin’s tyranny will have no similar recourse.

  63. Scott Says:

    Glory to Ukraine #44:

      I believe that when it comes to foreign policy, Trump simply has not got the credits he deserves. As one example, aren’t the peace deals involving Israel a big deal, despite the US journalists’ indifference?

    As someone who supported those peace deals, I can tell you why they were less of a big deal than they looked. They were all with countries with which Israel de facto already had peaceful relationships. What happened was that Trump essentially bribed those countries to make their peace with Israel official and legal, in order to be able to claim a foreign policy victory. Even so, since I do think there’s value in making peace common knowledge (rather than merely known to both sides), I’ll rank this as a mildly positive thing Trump did, to be weighed against 500 catastrophically negative things, possibly up to and including the end of the United States as a functional democracy.

  64. Scott Says:

    Rahul #46:

      Sure there’s a threat of a WW3 against a nuclear power, but if so where do we draw the line? If we don’t act the first time when is the appropriate time to act. Which other countries can Russia invade and would we act then? What if other nations like China are emboldened by this to try similar shenanigans.

      Do we refrain from a military response every time just because Russia has a nuclear capability. What if Russia invaded a NATO member, would we then still have the willpower to retaliate, given that even there we have the risk of a nuclear retaliation from Russia?

    I don’t know. These are indeed huge questions. I hope we at least support Ukraine militarily in every possible way other than American boots on ground (for now), in order to maintain credibility that we’ll defend Taiwan if and when it comes to that, and also that we’ll honor our obligation to defend every NATO country including the Baltic republics. I’m really scared about the next decade.

  65. Scott Says:

    David #51: I agree that wokeism is a fundamentally different kind of problem from Putinism. The latter literally shoots you, poisons your tea, throws you out of a third-floor window; the former merely mobs you on Twitter and tries to get you fired and tries to turn your friends against you.

    But we can’t say that the two are completely unconnected. Putin and his far-right admirers constantly invoke the excesses of wokeism as the justification for what they’re doing: “we must pay any price to prevent Russia and Hungary and Poland, at least, from being this corrupted by Western liberal decadence!” As absurd as I find that, I wince at the way the woke supply them with an unending stream of material—as with the recent orthodoxy that K-12 math education needs to be massively dumbed down, and that anyone who doesn’t agree is a racist. (Coincidentally, I just learned this afternoon that my support for successful efforts to resist this dumbing-down has gotten my name onto an “enemies list,” along with hundreds of my colleagues.)

    Meanwhile, the woke also sap our own energies to stand up for liberal Enlightenment values, by getting a thousand times more exercised about an Eric Lander, a Dorian Abbot, or an E. O. Wilson than they do about a Viktor Orbán or a Vladimir Putin.

    Yes, you say, but the far right is still vastly worse. And I’d strongly agree with you, and I’ll continue loudly saying so, as I have on many occassions.

    But it’s like, imagine someone tried to burn down your house because they didn’t like something you said. Even if it turned out that the arsonist was on your side about abortion and climate change and resisting Trump, and even if you agreed that those things were more important to the world than your one measly house, you’d still be sort of pissed, wouldn’t you? After what Amanda Marcotte and Arthur Chu and so many others tried to do to me, I’m unashamed to admit that there’s also that element in my reaction to them.

    All in all, I think I’ll continue to use this blog to write what I think on whatever comes to my attention, whether it’s about the murderous authoritarians in the Kremlin or the petty authoritarians in education departments.

  66. Rahul Says:


    One other aspect which is not discussed enough is the tradeoff between environmental versus geopolitical objectives.

    A large part of the lukewarm response from the west eg Germany or US was due to the excessive dependence on Russian gas and oil. Politicians are wary of annoying their domestic constituency with energy shortages or price rises.

    The German obsession with going green seems to have just left them vulnerable to Russian gas. The Germans are unrealistically antagonistic to both coal and nuclear power.

    A similar blindspot for the US seems to be the descisions on infrastructure like the Keystone pipeline.

  67. Scott Says:

    Rahul #66: Indeed, and incredibly, nuclear power could save the world both from climate change and from Vladimir Putin, if only the world would let it. When the end comes, it will be an end that the antinuclear people chose for us.

  68. Scott Says:

    Incidentally, some minor good news: the IMU announced today that the International Congress of Mathematicians has been made into virtual conference, with a small in-person component to take place outside of Russia.

  69. Rahul Says:

    Scott #67:

    Indeed nuclear power would be great.

    But we shouldn’t make the awesome an enemy of the good enough! Till we get to such a world I wish more people would be realistic and at least acknowledge the role to be played by options such as coal and oil pipelines.

    Dependence on powers such as Russia seems clearly the greater evil compared to a pipeline. The misguided thinking seems to be that we can somehow “blackmail” the world to go green by blocking projects like the Keystone pipeline ( just an example).

    That’s counterproductive. The impact of these projects is miniscule compared to the harm that could come to the world by playing into the plans of someone like Putin.

  70. Stewart Peterson Says:

    Rahul #66,#69; Scott #67:

    While it would take multilateral action, doing everything we can to minimize Russian minerals exports is clearly crucial. If the question is what can be done now, then any nuclear or coal power plant that is capable of being operated should be operated right now, and I say that as someone who has publicly and bitterly opposed almost all coal use. Any such plant that is not operable but can be brought into operating condition in relatively short order should be. Keystone’s abandonment proceedings should be reversed and it should be brought online as soon as possible, to give another example.

    The major question, however, is LNG terminal capacity. I don’t personally have any data on European excess LNG terminal capacity, and last I checked, it was not publicly available. (That was, however, a while ago.) Petrochem market experts would know better than I would about the specific numbers, but FWIW, LNG raw quantities are not the constraint – there isn’t enough space in the European terminals to take up the slack. If it weren’t still winter, it wouldn’t be as bad, and it depends on how many industrial users can shut down, but if Europe had to stop using Russian gas, there would still be a shortfall and some rationing system would be required. Just like in 1973, the fuel is there, the demand is there, and the distribution isn’t.

    How far we go depends on how much of a shock we’re willing to take.

  71. Rahul Says:

    Regarding Trump, I just read the recent statement by him. If correct, this seems quite reasonable to me. I never liked the guy as a President but cannot say i can find anything to fault in this particular statement.

    If there’s any criticism for the current US response, it must lay squarely with Biden.

    [Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Florida, former US president Donald Trump condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and blamed the Biden administration for allowing it to happen.

    “The Russian attack on Ukraine is appalling. It’s an outrage and an atrocity that should never have happened. It never would have occured… We are praying for the proud people of Ukraine,” said Trump.]

  72. Scott Says:

    Rahul #22: The well-established pattern with Trump, for six years running, is that he says an insane, horrifying thing (at a rally, in an interview, in a tweet, etc.), then his advisers force him to walk it back and say a sane, reasonable thing, reading robotically from a teleprompter, then he reverts to form and says the horrifying thing again, and so on. His most ardent supporters understand perfectly well that the insane, horrifying version is the one he really means—that’s why they love him. The only purpose of the sane version is to help a few establishment Republicans stay in denial about who and what they’re supporting.

    Trump has been crystal-clear, over and over and in his own words, about his admiration for Putin—indeed, he praised Putin’s “genius” in invading Ukraine just a few days ago, unmixed with a single word of condemnation. Given that, and given the clear-as-day pattern, I submit that an adviser-written teleprompter statement from him decrying the invasion should be discounted entirely as though it didn’t exist.

  73. Veedrac Says:

    TCS Persona #54:

    Isn’t it pretty obvious that Putin (in particular, but not exclusively) would not want to undermine pro-Putin leadership in the US? Invading during Trump’s term would force Trump either to respond, which would hurt their allegiance, or force Trump to be so egregiously open about his traitorship that it harms him irreparably. Trump is obviously Putin’s strongest source of power in America.

    This way Trump supporters get to hold their hateful beliefs while publicly claiming Trump would totally have held a much harder line contrary to anything substantive Trump actually says, and all those same people can point fingers at Biden and talk about how it’s all (correlationally) his fault.

    One can of course consider the opposite tact where Putin throws Trump in the trash and sacrifices his downstream and future American alliances for the benefit of a short-term delay on sanctions during the war, and by no means am I an expert in politics, so I’m not claiming that this point is slam-dunk at all, probably a lot of things I’m not factoring in matter here also, I just think people transparently need a better reason than yours to think things like “well actually the best way to oppose Putin is to constantly say nice things about him and his regime.”

  74. Michel Says:

    Re Trumps words: If I interpret these correctly, the fine line we are treading now would not have occurred. He would have involved NATO directly and so started the third world war. He was already an international disaster, and would have destroyed the last chances on peace. And chosen to sacrifice (my) Europe for his ego.

    As we see now, NATO as a union is not involved, and an all out war with Russia has – as yet- been avoided. Most NATO allied countries are now sending, or on the brink of sending, defensive weapons to Ukraine. But these are all local decisions, and no direct NATO involvement in the war. As it should be. It is now too late to include Ukraine in the NATO, but still time to include Finland asap. And to help Ukraine to send Russia home limping.

    Of course we are waging wars at two fronts: economic and information wars. And the EU people are now showing that they are willing to suffer the economic consequences of these wars. Our households are already paying prices up to double for heating. We here in Europe see the direct consequences of this war, and the decisions taken by our governements. And accept them, maybe grudgingly, but accept them. It is in our continent that the agressor is playing his Hitler like insane games.

  75. Michel Says:

    Well, we must admit there is some difference between Trumps and Putins appraoches:
    Trump: Make America great again, by destroying all friendship bonds.
    Putin: Make Russia great again, by re-enslaving all liberated slave countries.

  76. Anon, a moose Says:

    Rahul #47, #66, #69:

    One could make much the opposite argument, that efforts to develop alternative energy sources are in our long term strategic interest precisely because they lessen our dependence on foreign oil. This isn’t a question of leftist ideology run amok; it was inevitable that we would have to shift some portion of our energy consumption away from fossil fuels eventually. Why should Putin be allowed to hold American energy policy hostage? What, we have to keep the Keystone pipeline flowing indefinitely on the off chance he might invade another country?

    We might just as well have advised Africa, China, many parts of Europe, and many former Soviet republics to reduce their dependence on Ukrainian corn and grain. After all, Putin might invade! If only we had had actionable intelligence 20 years ago, maybe everyone could have shifted global supply chains to offset the possibility of an invasion…

    My point is, it’s easy to snipe from the sidelines, but what’s happening now was far from inevitable, and impossible to predict with any certainty. Yes, we provoked Russia by expanding NATO, and yes, we convinced Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons way back in ’94 (though, it only had physical custody of the weapons, and couldn’t actually launch them). Were these strategic blunders? Maybe so. But just about everyone (except maybe John Mearsheimer, and even he stopped short of predicting an invasion) failed to foresee this. Even Putin’s own senior leadership seemed dubious about the prospect of invasion.

    I mean, why now, as opposed to 6 years ago? And what possible strategic purpose could it serve? And how on God’s green earth does he intend to keep Ukraine if he can take it?

    Lastly, there’s the question of what, precisely, Biden should do about it. We are trapped in a dance with the largest nuclear power in the world. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here when I say that Biden is keen to avoid touching off WWIII. Is that “weakness” or merely good sense? Biden has to weigh the understandable desire to support Ukraine against the prospect of a wider war. A wider war carries the very real possibility of a nuclear exchange. Right now, I suspect he is choosing to interpret the language of the Budapest memorandum, which assures Ukraine of our “assistance,” in the narrowest possible terms.

  77. SotCodeLaureate Says:

    Re: huge brain drain

    Looking at all this from the inside, from the Ukrainian side to be more precise, I don’t know… this seems like a hugely bad idea.
    Russia is a brainless ghoul of a country at it is, it needs more brains, not less.

  78. Harvey Friedman Says:

    I was rather moved by Scott’s opening on another blog topic (and will relate to this blog below):
    “By my age, Einstein had completed general relativity, Turing had founded CS, won WWII, and proposed the Turing Test, and Galois, Ramanujan, and Ramsey had been dead for years.
    Thus, whatever I wanted to accomplish in my intellectual life, I should probably get started on it now.”

    Quibbles: the biggest is “Turing won WWII”. It does suggest a weakness in how Scott – at least on his blog – makes dramatic claims which really depend on careful interpretations of constituent concepts which, in fact, remain largely unanalyzed and lead to difficult conceptual issues (as does QM). E.g., what does it mean to say that X won war Y?

    is there an opportunity for Scott to become the Turing of Historical Scholarship? Seems to me to be a worthy goal.

    One thing of course Scott and all top scientists do is really try to reconcile their instincts with the actual record. Sometimes this is easy and sometimes it requires rather imaginative constructions that themselves need to be subject to their own scrutiny.

    Relevant to this particular discussion of Ukraine, I see a number points. Firstly #45 discusses Trump’s supposed modus operandi with regard to “love letters”. How much of Trump’s statements in question can be how well explained by what #45 is referring to?

    Secondly, #54 discusses some facts from the historical record. As a profound scientist, Scott must carefully explain these facts and reconcile it with his views expressed here.

    “The correlation is clear:”

    “Trump era: no new large scale wars.”

    “Biden in power for less than two years: Taliban takes over Afghanistan, US troops escaping by the skin of their teeth. Hamas strikes Israel with rockets escalating to a war in Gaza. Iran escalating its hold in the middle east and declares its escalation of the nuclear program. China takes Hong Kong. Russia invades Ukraine!”

    “Is there a causation beyond mere correlation? I don’t know, but as a purely rational person I assume that having an unexpected bully as president (Trump) deters rogue nations more than having an admin that is concerned more about using the right pronouns. But maybe that’s only me.”

    Of course one naturally gravitates towards instant debunking of these points as either ‘not facts’ or “irrelevant facts’ or just plain dumb luck of Trump, or whatever. But this kind of debunking must conform to a high level of careful thinking else one descends into drivel.

    To keep these postings of reasonable length I have a kind of gedanken experiment I would like to offer us. See my next posting.

  79. Harvey Friedman Says:

    As a kind of Gedanken experiment, let me offer up Dinesh D’Souza’s announcement of one of his many political documentaries or “documentaries”.

    An interesting experiment is to see what reactions various people have to this based on specific information available about this, and based on their prior beliefs about the 2020 election and about D’Souza’s career. For many it is all very simple: 2020 Pres election fraud is a ridiculous right wing conspiracy theory with nothing to back it up, totally dismissed by the Courts and a sign of Trump’s treasonous attempt to remain in power encouraging an insurrection. So the D’Souza film will show nothing of the kind being presented, with either fabricated videos or videos taken out of context not showing election fraud, or at most minor amounts of such.

    For others it is also very simple: The Courts bounced election fraud issues back to the State Legislatures where various processes are in place, and the sworn affidavits and documentation of improperly destroyed election records make it reasonably clear that claims of election fraud are valid, and clever conservative operatives suspected that drop boxes were going to be used to collect fraudulent ballots, therefore arranged for geo tracking of their exact location for use later. Trump explicitly offered thousands of National Guards in response to expected crowds of protestors and these were turned down by Pelosi and DC Mayor because the expected mayhem would benefit the Democrat Party.

    For some, D’Souza is a racist right wing conspiracy nut that served time in prison for illegal campaign contributions, and has a history of making absurd conspiratorial films that have been reviewed negatively.

    For others, D’Souza is a brilliant academic who is a master at bringing complex issues down to basics, a master at documentaries, and has a great reputation among the enlightened to maintain and that he has put at great risk.

    So we definitely see opposite lines being drawn over this, but it seems fairly clear that the facts surrounding this movie and the facts or “facts” it depicts will become rather clear and visible.

    Game on. Predictions please!

  80. fred Says:

    In a shocking turn of events, Europe bans Russia from Eurovision, and Putin puts his nuclear arsenal on high alert.

  81. TCS Persona Says:

    Veedrac #73: “Trump is obviously Putin’s strongest source of power in America.”

    Trump to be so egregiously open about his traitorship

    Unfortunately I find these statements quite exaggerated.

    But even if we ignore these accusations against Trump, I don’t follow your argument. It seems then we both agree that there is a *causation* here and that Trump brings world-peace and Biden war.
    Is this a bad thing? I understand that you claim that “Trump is a traitor”, so maybe you can use this fascinating claim to help you express your argument better.

  82. Jr Says:

    It seems that Putin may have understimated both Ukraine’s defense capabilities, and the Western response. (The two are probably related, in that the Western response would have been muted if Russia’s war went really well.) In a sense I am less worried about the Baltic states, and Finland at the moment, the Russian army does not look fit to fight Nato forces. But I find it difficult to see how an agreement to end the war in Ukraine is reached with Putin. Can the West really lift the sanctions as easily as they implemented them? The best solution is a coup d’etat in Russia, and a new more pragramatic president, but I am not very optimistic about it. (Popular protests I don’t believe in at all will work.)

  83. Veedrac Says:

    TCS Persona #81:

    If it was so important to avoid war that all principles and institutions could be sacrificed for it, Ukraine should have just surrendered the moment they were attacked. To say that Biden is at fault for Putin’s war because he was willing to protect America’s institutions is to say that America should have just given up its sovereignty to Russia out of the gate. The only reason Trump was able to offer up the flesh of his country to sate the wolves was because better people than him had made the country strong first. A free world cannot be built by kowtowing to autocrats and despots.

  84. TCS Persona Says:

    Veedrac #84:

    It’s good that we at least agree that Trump policies and style bring world peace while Biden’s attract war.

    Since I provided other examples of wars purportedly avoided by Trump, your argument that it’s only by his betrayal of the US *in favor of Putin* that Trump could have achieved world-peace, and that he was “kowtowing to autocrats and despots”, is not overly convincing. It must be, I claim, that Trump being a hawk in general is the reason why he promotes world-peace.

    This is enough for me. I don’t support Trump not care for him personally. I’d prefer a calculated sane hawkish right-leaning leader instead of an amusing provocateur like Trump. I only wanted to make a simple point: hawkish policies promote peace, and appeasement the opposite. SAD.

  85. Scott Says:

    TVS Persona #84: When it comes to Russia, my problem is that Trump isn’t nearly hawkish enough, due to his inability to stay mad at Putin for long.

    It’s laughable to imaginr that Putin didn’t invade Ukraine while Trump was President because he was afraid of what Trump would do.. It’s more plausible—though I don’t know whether it’s true—that Putin is invading now as a middle-finger to the west, in part due to his anger that Trump lost.

  86. Rahul Says:

    Scott #85

    But is Biden hawkish enough?

    On a different note, I just find it amusing that we have right now the oldest President in US history? 79 years old? Is that the best we could do.

    It’s one thing to say we should not have an age bias but there’s a reason we have a retirement age for most positions isn’t there?

    Granted that Putin isn’t young either but just makes me wonder why we couldn’t find a better, younger Democrat for leading the nation.

    To state it differently, i don’t like Trump and I would love to have a democrat the likes of Clinton or Obama but Biden just seems so wrong and ineffective. And this is accentuated by the current military crisis.

  87. marc Says:

    “The truckers were not persecuted in any real sense”
    Well their bank accounts were blocked ; their insurances were cancelled – that not persecution enough for you?

    For a smart guy your views are extremely clouded by who you think is right.

    You may feel that “It’s 100% reasonable to require vaccination for those who travel in the midst of a global pandemic.” (despite evidence that the vax prevents transmission or indeed if it works, who is getting hurt if it is transmitted) but still be against a prime minister declaring martial law, imposing financial sanctions, revealing details of supporters etc without a government vote then closing parliament when they are supposed to vote! Canada is not the USA, you know – Trudeau is a PM, not a President and he is not supposed to have such power.

  88. Veedrac Says:

    TCS Persona, please stop asserting that I agree with you. We do not agree. A world led by Trumps is a world bathed in war.

  89. Scott Says:

    marc #87: The reason for all the martial-law stuff was that the protesters had shut down the seat of Canadian government. Once it got to that point, what government on earth wouldn’t have done likewise? As far as I can see, the only way it could possibly be illegitimate, is if you think (like the protesters) that Trudeau’s support for vaccination mandates had already made him an illegitimate PM—but again, I find that view to be hyperbolic and absurd.

  90. JimV Says:

    I have to repeat a point from my second comment: Post hoc, propter hoc is a logical fallacy that has been recognized as such for over 2000 years. The so-called argument “Trump, no Russian invasion; Biden, invasion” is a classic example of this fallacy.

  91. asdf Says:

    The US and allies have cut Russia off of the banking system. Am I bad for figuring Russia can do even more damage to the US, if it retaliates by cutting the US off of Sci-hub? I’ve actually been worrying about sci-hub during this. Yeah I’m a nerd, I know.

  92. Noah Says:

    I’d be interested to hear whether this war has given you any second thoughts about being a founding member of the one of the only major math organizations not to call for the ICM to be moved.

  93. Anonymous Ocelot Says:

    Scott #89: Scott, normally I agree with your opinion and respect your view. You need to take another look into the freezing of the financial assets without due process that was used against the truckers and anyone who supported them.. You realize that freezing a father’s financial assets also means his family cannot transact, right? Can’t buy groceries? Can’t pay rent?

    Arrest them … seize their trucks if they’re blocking public roads … but the freezing of financial assets was an enormous overreach, all the more disturbing because it proved unnecessary (the problem was resolved via arrests and towing, just as you’d expect. There was basically no violence as far as I’m aware). I’m just relieved such action wasn’t taken in the United States, or else I’d be much more acutely worried right now.

  94. Scott Says:

    Noah #92: I called for the ICM to be moved. I have no doubt that almost all individual AMR members supported the ICM being moved—this is not a question of woke vs. unwoke, but an older and more basic question of freedom vs. tyranny. The ICM was moved. If, during the few-day window in which this was relevant, the tiny AMR had come out with a statement supporting the ICM being moved, it wouldn’t have made the slightest difference. It’s unreasonable to ask every organization I’m involved with to explicitly affirm every one of my views.

    I agreed to join the AMR for three reasons:
    (1) I greatly respected the mathematicians who invited me.
    (2) While the AMS will obviously remain a central part of the math world, I was distressed by the way it had given an official platform to extreme and inflammatory views (e.g., Israel should be boycotted, police and prisons should be abolished, all white male mathematicians should resign their jobs), without giving any platform to responses to those views.
    (3) If a new organization was going to do something cool with reviews and seminar series, and I could support it in an almost cost-free way, why not?

    Having said that, nothing is set in stone for me. If AMR takes any positions that I don’t agree with, or even if it simply languishes and doesn’t do anything interesting, I probably won’t continue my membership.

  95. OhMyGoodness Says:

    JimV #90

    But there is another data point-annexation of Crimea under Obama. The correlation is strengthening. 🙂

  96. MichaelZ Says:


    It’s amazing that you somehow manage to blame Trump for this war…it’s a very strange perspective.

    And why are you posting vulgar comments (#1), let alone trying to interpret them? You shouldn’t let that stuff get under your skin so much.

  97. Andrea Says:

    With my kids we decided to call Putin Gollum.
    Zelenski ca va sans dir is Paddington

  98. Noah Says:

    My understanding was that the AMR’s view is that focusing solely on math research means avoiding “politics” like opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. If that’s not their viewpoint this would have been a great opportunity to clarify that.

    It is also my understanding that support for the St. Petersburg ICM against the “woke” boycott centered around LGBT rights was one of the big recruitment tools for AMR (though I assume that wasn’t the angle they used with you). I do not at all think that moving the ICM was supported by almost all individual members of AMR, certainly not immediately after the invasion started. Though again this would have been a great moment for the AMR to clarify that point.

  99. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Fred #32

    I have thought about this and don’t see a reasonable way it can be accomplished. I have noted previously that in my estimation Eastern Ukraine and Crimea actually did have pluralities pro Russia. My speculation is that Putin believed that the Ukrainian Army in the remainder of Ukraine would quickly capitulate and didn’t actually support the government.

    The question as to why he believed that is interesting. Maybe he received information that supported this belief from his intelligence services and supported by pro Russian sentiment in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. It has similarities to the neo-cons believing that US troops would be showered with rose petals as they entered Baghdad. In “post modern society” it seems to me that there is blurring between beliefs and facts and between ideals and reality. Reality continues to maintain independence from its idealizations no matter how powerful the beliefs or the people holding those beliefs. Tribal affiliations are still a strong force in human macro relations.

    On the other hand maybe I will be proved wrong by tomorrow’s events. :).

  100. Scott Says:

    Noah #98: Do you have any evidence for your claim that anti-LGBT played any role in recruiting people to AMR? I hadn’t heard anything about that, and if it were true, that might indeed be a reason to resign.

    For what it’s worth, though, I think that turning our backs on the entire Russian scientific world is an extraordinarily drastic step. Only with the invasion of Ukraine would I say that the balance of considerations shifted in favor of that step.

  101. asdf Says:

    I’ve seen McFaul on TV a few times and he seemed pretty sane. He says Putin is losing his marbles:

  102. Noah Says:

    The person i saw say this publicly was Nassif Ghoussoub. I’ve heard similar remarks elsewhere, but I have not seen direct proof myself, which is why I said it was just my understanding, and that I’d love to see clarification from AMR as to whether the role they see themselves playing is a math organization that doesn’t take a stand on freedom vs. tyranny and other political issues.

  103. Boaz Barak Says:

    While it’s still very early, and he has plenty of chances to screw it up, so far actually Biden has been doing a good job in handling this situation.

    Biden has been very clear on how he will react (strong economics sanctions) and what he will not do (direct armed conflict) as a consequence to an invasion, and has followed through. The sanctions have been very effective, thanks to the US and EU being on the same page in a way that wasn’t possible in the previous administration. Biden called out Putin’s intentions publicly and early, robbing Putin of his plan to present the invasion as a reaction to a Ukrainian provocation as opposed to pre planned. Finally, in a refreshing break from past US policy, Biden didn’t condition military aid to Ukraine on supplying dirt on his domestic political opponents.

    US presidents can’t control all world events, whether it’s a terrorist attack, one country invading another, or the emergence of a global pandemic. But they can control their reactions to such events.

  104. Scott Says:

    Noah #102: Sorry, but I’ll need more than a single obscure tweet that leaves unspecified which person at AMR was making such an argument and how the writer knows.

    After all, according to hundreds of people on Twitter who I don’t believe have ever met me or anyone who knows me, but who nevertheless feel 100% confident, I’m a fascist eugenicist racist techbro whose female students are terrified of him. Forgive me if I’m a little sensitive about such things.

    While I do think moving ICM was the right call, it’s not so obvious that I could never be friends with anyone who felt differently. Here’s a brief statement of four Russian mathematicians who’d been involved in organizing the ICM. From it, one learns three things:

    (1) They’re as opposed to Putin’s war as anyone.
    (2) They have the courage to say so despite severe risk of repercussions—as, one suspects, many Western keyboard-warriors wouldn’t.
    (3) They were pouring their heart into a St. Petersburg ICM and are devastated by its loss.

  105. Nate Says:

    To anyone possiting that two world events somehow provide evidence of a causal relationship between who was president at the time and an invasion you are woefully misunderstanding:

    1) How correlation works with regards to causality (summing up some loosely defined set of ‘correlated events’ and implying a strong connection to some other variable is not how it works btw)
    2) That invasions like this take time to plan. This was most likely being planned over the whole span of the 8 years since the initial annexation/occupation, maybe even since before that.

    Also, if we are to believe that it was only Trump being president that was stopping Putin then why did Putin stop at all when Obama was president? And why did he wait 2 years into Biden’s presidency to act on this? Oh and one more thing, why didn’t trump do anything at the end of his presidency to ‘scare Putin straight’, since he is the sole being capable of such a thing?

    Either he is malevolent for his unwillingness to do this under his ultimate power of Putin-scaring or your assertion must be incorrect. Which one do you want?

    There may be other options of the kind that Trump is just a person, a person who really did almost nothing to stop Putin in his desires and let him plan this along the lines he wanted all while refusing to aid Ukraine in any way to help them actually stop Putin should he decide to act. These kind of options may be more ‘realistic’ but you really don’t care about realism if you are trying to support an egotistical conman like Trump as a heroic figure.

  106. Noah Says:

    Fair enough, the point I was making was that they’re one of the only math organizations not to call for the ICM to be moved and if it were me that would give me pause.

    At any rate I agree that it’s certainly a tragedy. The Russian mathematical community and tradition is a tremendous asset to the world, and I personally owe a great debt to the St. Petersburg mathematical community. I hope for peace, and for democracy in Russia, and that one day we can have a conference there that’s worthy of their tradition.

  107. Shmi Says:

    The sad part is that might makes right: the unprovoked US/UK invasion of Iraq under a transparently false flag of WMDs was no better than the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and yet there were zero worldwide repercussions against the aggressors, despite over 100,000 civilian casualties. They also redefined the term “enemy combatants” under which a Ukrainian civilian throwing a Molotov cocktail is not protected by the Geneva conventions if captured. Real war criminals like W and Cheney will never be punished. Some 40 people are still in Guantanamo, and are not likely to get a fair trial ever. Pot. Kettle.

  108. Scott Says:

    Shmi #107: The Iraq invasion was ill-considered, justified by lies, and a humanitarian disaster, but was still done with the intention of replacing a brutal dictatorship by a democracy rather than the reverse. And you could go to Washington DC and protest the Iraq invasion without fear of being thrown from a third-story window. False equivalences risk normalizing and excusing what Putin is doing.

  109. Shmi Says:

    Good point about the freedom to protest it, and the Zelenskyy government being more democratic than Saddam’s. The “brutal dictatorship” part is a questionable excuse, since even more brutal dictatorships are happily supported by the US, and replacing one tends to be a “humanitarian disaster” (like, say, in Libya). Don’t think it’s a false equivalence, though, replacing a regime one dislikes is very much in the same reference class. But that’s kind of a reference class tennis, probably not a very productive discussion.

  110. bertie Says:

    While we drown our sorrows, pondering life’s horrible injustices, I would like to inquire whether you have reflected on the contempt you showed Sabine H in a thread here a few weeks back. Based on musings she posted on her blog on Saturday, I get the impression that she believes she has taken a legitimate 50:50 bet when the entire physics world has been locked into the other side of the bet for decades and still come up empty-handed. Based on this, it strikes me that Sabine will only get any respect as a physicist if she ‘solves’ the problem that has defied generations of the worlds best minds. Is there anything in this observation of mine, please?

  111. alyosha Says:

    My moral/political/””spiritual”” view is that even or especially when most parties are justifiably opposing or boycotting a bad actor, it can be a valuable addition to the mix to have some venues that are neutral / non-judgmental / apolitical / door always open / hand of friendship extended — especially between ordinary people as opposed to the more blameworthy political leaders. Prominent examples of this are the Olympics, cultural exchanges, and academic and STEM cooperation.

    I say this in general re any push that every person and entity must make statements or take action against Russia (as much as i am horrified by the invasion). And specifically, given my ignorance of decision making within AMR, i’m open to reading them charitably as one of those neutral, door always open venues.

  112. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Scott #108

    I don’t agree that there is an absolute hierarchy of intentions and that sufficiently noble intentions as determined by that hierarchy outweigh the consequences of action no matter how severe those consequences. If such an absolute hierarchy did exist then presumably the intention of preservation of innocent human life would reside at or near the top. In that case a tally of deaths would determine relative acceptability of action as a consequence of noblest intention. Assuming an intention to spread democracy resides at the top of the hierarchy then my observation would be that this intention is currently actualized in a haphazard manner often mediated by monetary considerations and/or tribal affiliation.

  113. Michel Says:

    And in the mean time, of course, Xi Jinping is sitting behind his desk calculator to check if he can afford to attack Taiwan, now that he knows Putin’s cost. And learns of Putin’s failures. Pretty instructive. Is Xi’s war chest large enough? Let us not be side blinded by this one war. We know of Xi’s genocidal treatment of the Uygurs. But for now, we have enough on our hands with Putin invading our Europe. The Eurasian pact of Russia and China is of later consequence…

  114. Danylo Says:

    OhMyGoodness #99:

    > On the other hand maybe I will be proved wrong by tomorrow’s events. 🙂

    Do you really think that the start of a shelling of civilian apartments without any military vehicles nearby will result in our capitulation?

  115. gentzen Says:

    Scott #108: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
    Ye shall know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:16).
    In 2016, a US colleague told me: “We survived our last idiot president, so …” and I had to tell him that his remark is quite thoughtless with respect to all those people who still have to suffer the consequences of the acts of that idiot president till that very day. Please try to avoid normalizing and excusing what they have done, independent of what Putin is doing.

  116. Scott Says:

    bertie #110: I’m not sure I understand your question. I’m 100% certain that superdeterminism to explain Bell inequality violations is a worthless idea and a dead end. I’m not certain at all that Sabine won’t be right in any of her other many contrarian takes about physics. Which of the two are you talking about?

  117. JimV Says:

    Dr. Scott, the frustrating thing for us laypeople is that, while we tend to trust your judgement that lack of statistical independence can never explain Bell’s Theorem experiments without destroying science, Dr. Sabine has published a toy model which she claims as a counterexample (without requiring any conspiracy or problem for scientific inquiry), and you seem to refuse to explain to her and us how it is invalid. That is your right, of course, but it seems like it would be a very beneficial thing to do.

    Perhaps some of us should volunteer to pay for your time and effort in some way, such as donating to some cause. I would gladly do so.

    Speaking of that, I have not yet seen many good options for donating to aid Ukrainians and perhaps some commenters could recommend some.

  118. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Danylo #114

    Could you at least extend some honesty? I thought I clearly stated that it appears to me that Putin mistakenly thought that the Ukrainian Army would capitulate quickly and wondered what led to his mistake. I had no opinion on the matter, and don’t believe I implied that I did, and was commenting on a post questioning how an ongoing occupation could be executed. I have been in that square in Kharkiv and it was a horrific video. If I provide a target for you to hate then I guess it fills a need that you have and so glad to oblige. It seems to be a common need these days.

  119. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Danylo #114

    I understand your comment now. In my view the time for quick capitulation came and went. That last statement that you quote was a disclaimer pointing out that I am purely speculating about what Putin thought and about his being mistaken. I am trying to understand how events took place since ongoing occupation doesn’t seem to make sense. The events maybe didn’t transpire as he expected and wondering what the end game is now.

  120. Triceratops Says:

    Holy cow Scott, why does your blog attract so many wingnuts? Even the most innocuous posts draw in unhinged right-wingers like moths to a flame. I don’t get it. Entering the comment section here feels like wandering into a minefield.

    I’m not sure which is more frightening: the horde of barely intelligible foul-mouthed trolls, or the handful of highly educated commenters — academics and scientists! — who nonetheless spend paragraphs preaching Trumpism and undermining truth.

    I’m to the left of you politically (although I’d wager we agree on 95% of the big stuff). I come here to learn about math, and to read about current events from the perspective of someone I consider a sharp, principled, and creative thinker.

    I think that’s why most of us follow your blog. The comment section is a biased sample. Keep up the good work!

  121. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Danylo #114

    Kharkiv always seems to be a center of fighting. A general impression of the city, long before this, was that some very tough people live there.

  122. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Americans have little understanding about many places in the world. The rural areas of Eastern Ukraine (including areas outside the Donbas) are extremely poor by European standards. The Ukrainian GDP per capita is around $3000/ yr and once you take out the cuts for oligarchs and politicians very little is left. The people are tough. If you are looking for trouble you will find all you want. If you are not looking for trouble, and treat people with respect, then very small chance you will encounter problems.

  123. Scott Says:

    Triceratops #120: Yeah, welcome to my world. 😀

    I’ve often remarked that if, e.g., I was ever curious about whether anyone believes that strawberries are offensive and evil, and why, all I’d have to do is blog that strawberries are delicious and then check my comments the next morning.

    The difference between the median opinion and the median opinion of those who show up to voice their opinion, and how to handle that emotionally, is an issue I’ve been struggling with for as long as I’ve been blogging.

  124. Nilima Nigam Says:

    Indeed, there’s very little non-obvious to say. What horrific times, and what a distance from the naive optimism of the world in the mid-nineties.

    I’ll state, then, something obvious: rigid moral consistency as a precondition for engagement is a fool’s errand. This is with reference to a somewhat popular strain of commentary “how can you criticize the invasion of Ukraine if you can’t see how different the response to Syria was?”. It would have been wrong to not critique the catastrophe in Syria [did we remember that Bashar al-Asaad, a Syrian, continued his hallowed family tradition of oppressing fellow Syrians?]. It would be equally wrong to not denounce Putin for the invasion of Russia. And even if you missed on the former, do the latter. It’s not rocket science.

    About conferences and boycotting them: I find this a very difficult issue. I have *personal* ethical stances, and these inform whether I attend or not a conference in a given country. I *personally* didn’t want to attend the ICM in Russia because of the threats to my LGBTQ colleagues.

    But calling for a boycott of the conference is something I’m less sure about. After all, I believe the USA is guilty of war crimes – unprosecuted! – in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is ongoing racism which is eye-poppingly egregious. Should I call for boycotts of all events in the USA? India’s army is guilty of a litany of crimes within the country; are we now committing to not going there? Would you go to a conference in Sri Lanka? Canada? Why?

    Others- my betters! – will have definite views on this matter. Me, I’m humbly trying to work on mathematics and uphold my own ethical principles. I can’t sit in an armchair and readily conflate nations with their people, nor reduce people to categories. I can state what my own principles are. I’m not able to categorically crusade or force my views upon others, but it’s not hard for me to state what’s happening in Ukraine is murder. What’s happening to anti-war protestors in Russia is state-sponsored tyranny. What the Taliban is doing right now in Afghanistan is criminal. Not all Ukrainians are saints, not all Russians are sinners, and not all Afghans are women-hating trolls. I try to give all humans credit for the range of possibilities of human things: mathematical, non-mathematical, good and evil. I don’t have a monopoly on a priori moral determinations of a person’s moral worth, nor a Hogwart’s-style sifting hat based on any previous views they held or their passport.

  125. Scott Says:

    Nilima Nigam #124: Hear hear!

  126. OhMyGoodness Says:

    One more post with the forbearance of Dr Aaronson and I will stop. Financial weapons as used now are a blunt weapon, even more so then a poorly aimed bomb. It is always the case that the most innocent bear the heaviest burdens. Really not trying to be overdramatic or an apologist but if a child requires insulin that is imported and no longer available and dies then natural that the parents will see the imposer of sanctions as a life long hated enemy. I understand that the West feels noble in defending Ukraine with financial sanctions but please remember they are a blunt weapon that can be harmful to the most innocent, to those that have no impact on political decisions.

  127. fred Says:

    I believe that the root of all this is that the West has been way too tolerant of dictatorships, “you leave us alone, we’ll leave you alone”, we naively think that freedom will always prevail naturally (but China and Russia have never known democracy). And the big problem is that, at the same time, the West has too often been increasing its dependency on such dictatorships for vital resources (oil, gas, computer chips, medical supplies, cheap plastic junk).

    At the same time the only threat those dictatorships worry about in the long run is the spread of democratic ideals… the longer dictators are in power, the more they become isolated, cut from reality, and paranoid about real or imaginary threats from the outside and inside (Putin wanting to restore the greatness of the Russian empire, Xi posing himself as the new Mao).

    Eventually some dictatorships will use the West dependency on their resources as a tool to pressure and weaken them (what China is doing), and others will just go for war because they think the West is weak (Uncle Saddham on Kuweit, Uncle Putin on Crimea/Georgia/Ukraine).

    I believe that the sane way for the West to resist is to cut all ties to those dictatorships, i.e. how we treat North Korea. And let them deal with one another, the wolves among the wolves.

  128. Noah Says:

    Triceratops: The comment section here used to actually be good, years ago.

  129. Anon93 Says:

    This is very upsetting. Academic boycotts are wrong.

  130. Ethan Says:

    Dear all,

    It has been a while since I last posted here and I thank Scott for allowing me to use his blog for this appeal.

    I condemn Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

    A personal acquittance of mine is trying to her family out of Ukraine, Kate Titarenko. Kate is a young talented professional of Belarus and Ukrainian ancestry who moved recently to the Bay Area. Her LinkedIn profile is . I met Kate through the new social media app, and I was very impressed by her abilities and particularly her positive attitude.

    She has a fundraiser to raise funds to get her father’s family -who lives in the Eastern side of Ukraine- out of there. If you can help -any amount of money you can contribute gets amplified in that part of the world- please do so here .

    Freedom will prevail and thanks again Scott for your help!

  131. JimV Says:

    The claim that children might not get insulin as a result of the financial sanctions targeted on Russian oligarchs is hard to ascribe to simple naivety. On the other hand, would one of Putin’s bots risk angering him with the implication that Russia was not technically capable of producing insulin? Russia can make all the insulin it needs internally and more children will die from lack of the bread that Ukrainian farms would have been producing, although that is a secondary effect compared to the shelling of civilians.

  132. Stewart Peterson Says:

    Scott #123:

    For what it’s worth, if I’m part of the problem, please let me know and I will stop. You have enough to deal with and I thought I was putting in a few words of support for the liberal order, opposition to the gangster paradigm that Trump wanted the U.S. to join, and an expression of hope that we would get our act together before it’s too late (and how to do so, in the unlikely event that anyone is interested in doing so). If, however, this is taking the discussion in the wrong direction, I will happily remain quiet. Thanks either way.

  133. Rahul Says:

    @Nilima Nigam #124

    I agree that what the Taliban is doing right now in Afghanistan is criminal!

    But wouldn’t you say that leaving the Afghan people to such a fate, when we knew exactly what was coming, was near criminal too?!

    Crimes of omission always seem to get a pass as opposed to crimes of comission. And that’s where I hold Biden culpable.

  134. Rahul Says:

    Oh my goodness #126:

    Weren’t bombs and artillary a bunt weapon too?

    If you oppose sanctions and boycotts and also abhor violence then what weapon do you have left against a bully?

    What’s your suggestion about how to retaliate humanely against aggression such as this one by Russia.

  135. Lorraine Ford Says:

    Bertie #110:

    I think that Sabine H’s view is that we live in a type of world where Putin’s aggression in the Ukraine, and its eventual future outcome, and everyone’s pain, suffering, or even death, has been determined since the beginning of time. She seemed to think that the death of the tens of thousands of koalas in the Australian bushfires was unfortunate, but determined since the beginning of time.

    I think that most people would think that this is NOT the type of world we live in. The type of world we live in is one where Putin’s free will, and everyone else’s free will, has a genuine effect on the world: Putin is, and everyone else is, in effect, assigning some of the numbers to their own variables (as opposed to the laws of nature determining every number for every variable).

  136. Scott Says:

    Lorraine Ford #135: No, Sabine’s view implies what you said but is much, much stronger! There’s a reason for the “super” in superdeterminism. 🙂 It really does go fundamentally beyond the familiar kind of determinism. It says that violations of the Bell inequality are to be explained by a cosmic conspiracy relating distant measuring devices that, on a sane understanding of reality, could be treated independently from one another. What superdeterminism says is so crazy, in fact, that in my experience, almost all laypeople who hear about it round it to a familiar but different claim that makes more sense (like ordinary determinism), and then I face a wall of incomprehension when I try to explain to them the nonsensical thing that it actually says.

  137. Anonymous Ocelot Says:

    Lorraine Ford #135

    I’d choose a deterministic world over a “many-worlds” world any day 😛 (as long my will would feel the same as it does now either way).

  138. Bertie Says:

    Scott @136
    Scott, I count myself as a fan, you are obviously a spectacular researcher and IMO a thoroughly decent fellow, full respect🙏
    However, I have enormous trouble accepting that Sabine is as boneheaded as might seem to follow from your commentary on superdeterminism (I know that is not your stated view, only my personal inference). For the time being I’m going to continue to believe that you have missed something elementary about her actual claim (just as she has protested – tho not about you – on her blog on Saturday)

  139. Scott Says:

    Bertie #138: Oh, she’s not boneheaded at all. Like t’ Hooft and the other superdeterminists, she just has an extreme ideological fixation. It’s not uncommon, and it’s something we all need to guard against. Imagine all the arguments that a knowledgeable, creative scientist might be able to invent for 1+1=3, or geocentrism, if for some reason they made that part of their life’s work, and you’ll get the idea.

  140. Lorraine Ford Says:

    Scott #136:
    I knew that Sabine H’s view, about the type of world we live in, was somehow worse than plain old determinism. But plain old determinism is bad enough because it says that we human beings are all a pack of fools who think WE are doing things, like trying to defend a country from Putin’s aggression, when actually everything, including our own selves and what we do, is nothing but the outcome of deterministic laws of nature. Also, determinism says that we live in a type of world where what is happening in the Ukraine, and what happened to the koalas, was destined to happen since the beginning of time. Plain old determinism is also crazy!

  141. Lorraine Ford Says:

    Anonymous Ocelot #137:
    I’m sure that there are many more options than just “deterministic world” or “many-worlds”!

  142. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Rahul #126

    I was just stating a fact and not an expert on these matters so really don’t know. I suppose targeted sanctions are more humane but don’t personally know if effective. Collective punishment by an occupying power was banned by the Geneva Convention. In the case of these sanctions there is an element of collective punishment albeit no occupying power.

    Globalization has increased the importance of critical imports for nearly all countries. When a country is suddenly cut off from imports it can have a severe impact on those not guilty of anything at all.

  143. Nilima Nigam Says:

    #134 Rahul,
    I’m unsure whether you’re asking me to state the obvious – that I regard Biden and his administration were criminally implicated in the disaster that is Afghanistan today. Or that guards at the border of Ukraine who are beating up students from India are thugs. And I’m quite likely to hold political views which are not informed, or downright wrong, or inconsistent.

    The point I made in my comment was perhaps naive, certainly simple: does it _matter_, with reference to any of this, what other moral opinions we as individuals have held before this? I personally don’t think so. It is hard enough for me to try to live up to my own ethical standard, and to be somewhat decent to my fellow human beings. I don’t have the energy or bandwidth or knowledge to ensure others follow my moral code!

    Is it somehow necessary that people furnish each other with some encyclopedically- complete listing of out previously-held views, complete with time-stamps, to demonstrate they’re now morally eligible to hold whatever view they may have? Or is this achieved with some kind of short-hand signalling? There are labels floating around, and I personally don’t find them very informative. I’m just grateful when people show up to protest bad stuff, even if they didn’t before.

  144. Ted Says:

    Scott #123,

    Just in case this helps: I can offer one additional data point that many of the readers of your blog – I suspect a large majority – are perfectly reasonable people, who agree with least 80% of what you say and could have a constructive and mutually respectful discussion with you about the remaining 20%, and whose reasons for reading this blog are some convex combination of “wanting to learn about quantum computing” and “wanting to read a thoughtful perspective on current events”. They – okay, fine, we – may rarely or never comment publicly, but we’re here.

  145. Martin Mertens Says:

    Hi Scott, I too have nothing non-obvious to say about Ukraine. But since it came up…

    I’m curious about the scope of the super-deterministic “cosmic conspiracy”. Suppose super-determinism is partially true, but the initial conditions of the universe are only tuned finely enough for the ‘conspiracy’ to last until midnight tonight. What happens after midnight? Is it just that certain laboratory experiments give different results, or does all matter in the universe instantly explode, or is it something in between?

  146. Harvey Friedman Says:

    I would like to call some attention to my 78 and 79, which I think if followed up, could really lead to something of more permanent value from this online discussion. I add two things. First there is material or “material” about the methodology or “methodology” used by True the Vote, the organization working with D’Souza, concerning the use of geo tracking on the drop boxes.

    The second is that we really have to get our evaluation of Trump right. I am unconvinced by almost everything I read concerning that, here and elsewhere. The confirmation basis is deafening. The reason I say this is that, for instance, as suggested by Predictitt, Trump and DeSantis are going to be with us big time in 2024. There will be the inevitable comparisons between Trump presidency and Biden presidency – in particular on Ukraine, Russia but more. And the D’Souza/True the Vote thing will be decided one way or another. Trump has already strongly endorsed D’Souza/True the Vote and stands to get hurt or gain by doing so.

  147. Scott Says:

    Martin Mertens #145: Who can say? These “theories” (ironically given their name) have essentially infinite freedom, to the point where you could presumably get anything you wanted, from the whole universe exploding at midnight to Bell/CHSH experiments merely ceasing to work.

  148. Nancy Lebovitz Says:

    I agree that pulling out of Afghanistan was a mess, and I’m inclined to think it was a bad idea– we should have been computing the likely cost of leaving as well as the cost of staying. However, it was something *Trump* ran on, and Biden felt he needed to not bail out on. I’m not blaming it entirely on Biden.

    The invasion of Ukraine was Putin’s choice, no one else’s. At least with a dictatorship, sometimes you know who to blame. In case anyone forgets, NATO wasn’t planning to admit Ukraine.

    #61 Stewart Peterson, we don’t even have stationary fusion yet.

    #87 Marc and Scott: As I understand it, the trucker convoy got started over an actually unreasonable restriction. Unvaccinated Canadian truckers were required to do a 2 week quarantine when they returned to Canada from the US, a restriction which was not imposed on Canadians in general. Also, it was a longer quarantine than is actually needed for COVID.

  149. JimV Says:

    My ideological fixation, although subject to change, is that Dr. Sabine absolutely does not believe in what Dr. Bell called super-determinism (a conspiracy theory), but in the possibility of an alternate in which measurement results, on the quantum level, are not independent of the detector degrees of freedom, in a way that results in the Bell Inequality violation as well as pseudo-random results generally, unless very precise, low-energy experiments are made as described in another paper of hers, and as proposed by Dr. von Neumann independently fifty years ago.

    I am also ideologically fixed on the opinion that if these experiments are done and the results falsify her hypothesis, she will abandon it. (My unqualified guess is that the experiments will fail.)

    Those who believe their free will can affect the universe could also prove or falsify their hypothesis by jumping off a tall building and seeing if they float down. I feel certain that such experiments would fail also, and do not recommend them.

    From my own news reading at the time, I am also ideologically fixed on the opinion that the decision and the commitment to abandon Afghanistan was made by Trump, against the advice of his advisors, and without much if any planning, and the incoming Biden administration had to scramble to extend the deadline which the Taliban had agreed to with Trump and plan the evacuation. The non-Taliban government of Afghanistan was fully aware of Trump’s decision and had their own time to plan, and the plan many of them made, from the top down, was to fill suitcases with cash and abandon their own responsibilities. (There was a sound reason behind the British Navy tradition that the Captain must be the last one to leave a sinking ship.) Meanwhile, a tribal leader told reporters, “The Taliban slaps us on one cheek and the (Afghan) government slaps us on the other,” meaning that they had no preference.

  150. ultimaniacy Says:

    Shmi #109:

    “Don’t think it’s a false equivalence, though, replacing a regime one dislikes is very much in the same reference class.”

    Reducing all geopolitical interests to “likes” and “dislikes”, as though the difference between governments was merely a matter of taste, is fundamentally amoral and contemptible. The regime that the US removed in Iraq was a den of pure evil that had time and again shown its contempt for the most elementary expectations of civilized life both in its treatment of its own people and in its relationships with other countries. The current government of the Ukraine has not committed any crimes comparable to Saddam’s genocide against the Kurds, nor his wars of conquest against neighbouring nations, sponsorship of international terrorism, violations of international arms control agreements, etc. Equating the American “dislike” of a totalitarian state with an extensive history of crimes against humanity with Putin’s “dislike” of an elected government that’s mean enough to not roll over and submit to being conquered is obscene.

    I still think that invading Iraq and toppling Saddam in 2003 was a bad idea, for a number of pragmatic reasons. But I see no *moral* issue with getting rid of that monster, and certainly no equivalence between that and what Putin is doing in the Ukraine.

  151. fred Says:

    Lorraine #136

    “But plain old determinism is bad enough because it says that we human beings are all a pack of fools who think WE are doing things, like trying to defend a country from Putin’s aggression, when actually everything, including our own selves and what we do, is nothing but the outcome of deterministic laws of nature.”

    As opposed to what? Like, what could your “thoughts”, “decisions” and “actions” be based on besides prior state of the world? Which is the definition of determinism… there’s only either causality or randomness, there’s nothing else out there to make you feel better about your own decisions/actions. One could maybe imagine a world where future outcomes influence retro-actively past decisions, with closed timelike loops (basically counterfactuals become a possibility), but even in that model a state is determined from a prior state (just that time is not strictly linear, and things evolve until some equilibrium is reached).
    And if you posit you have a magical soul that’s somehow living outside a reality that’s covered by the law of physics, or your decisions are maybe influenced by an omnipotent god or some universal sense of good and evil, there’s still only two ways for dynamical systems to evolve: direct causality or randomness.

  152. Scott Says:

    JimV #149:

      My ideological fixation, although subject to change, is that Dr. Sabine absolutely does not believe in what Dr. Bell called super-determinism (a conspiracy theory)

    Err, she explicitly refers to her own position as superdeterminism, and is perfectly clear that she means the same thing that Bell meant (and that Bell immediately rejected, rightly in my view).

      but in the possibility of an alternate in which measurement results, on the quantum level, are not independent of the detector degrees of freedom, in a way that results in the Bell Inequality violation as well as pseudo-random results generally…

    The measurement results depending on the detector settings is just standard QM! What superdeterminism does is to reverse the causality: it says that the detector settings must have been fixed from the beginning of time with foreknowledge of the measurement results! Because the latter is indeed what you need if you want to evade Bell’s theorem.

    Again we see what I called the “wall of incomprehension,” where people keep error-correcting superdeterminism’s insane claim to a sane one. Maybe it’s actually a hopeful sign if people can’t even correctly state what it is that superdeterminists believe … as if their minds keep rebelling against the idea that physicists would seriously advocate something so loony!

      I am also ideologically fixed on the opinion that if these experiments are done and the results falsify her hypothesis, she will abandon it. (My unqualified guess is that the experiments will fail.)

    Can you be more specific about what this experiment is, that would supposedly vindicate superdeterminism and overthrow standard QM? Would you like to bet me $500 that if and when such an experiment is done, and it (of course) vindicates standard QM, Sabine will do exactly the same thing that she always accuses the string theorists of doing, and simply invent reasons why superdeterminism might still be true and proceed as though nothing had happened? 😀

  153. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Rahul #134

    I looked back through the decades of sanctions against Iran and still conclude they have done nothing to change Iran’s trajectory. They have worsened life for the common person but not for the religious nor political elite. A case could be made that it actually strengthened the ruling elite. They increased refining capacity to be able to meet domestic fuel needs directly from their own crude production as an example. If Iran does become a nuclear power then the calculus changes because similar to the current case nuclear capability elevates risks to a different level.

    Iran sanctions did however spawn a large bureaucracy in DC and provided tough minded talking points for various administrations.

    The Stuxnet centrifuge attack was absolute genius-hat tip to whomever.

  154. fred Says:

    That’s where you see the fatal mistakes dictatorships are always making.
    Russia and China (among many) have basically only known autocracy through their entire history, and they are very puzzled as to why the people of all democracies in the world are now uniting behind the people of Ukraine. At best they know how to turn some of the freedoms of democracies against themselves (like China propaganda parroting the debates around freedom of speech in the free world social media), but they just don’t get the core strength of democracy.
    The only thing that really unites China, Russia, Iran, North Korea is their hatred of freedom ideals, and just like the WW2 axis between Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, that sort of “partnership” really never goes very far once shit starts to hit the fan.

  155. Lorraine Ford Says:

    JimV #149 “Those who believe their free will can affect the universe could also prove or falsify their hypothesis by jumping off a tall building and seeing if they float down”:

    Is Putin a genuine actor; are the people fighting against Putin genuine actors?

    Are people genuine actors, i.e. do people have a genuine effect on the fabric of reality, i.e. are people changing the numbers for some of the variables, as opposed to the laws of nature, or “randomness”, determining every number for every variable?

    Clearly Putin, and the people fighting Putin, and also other people and other living things, ARE genuine actors that change the fabric of reality. This is the type of world we live in.

    I wonder why anyone would ever bother discussing a world, a reality, where the numbers weren’t malleable.

  156. Lorraine Ford Says:

    fred #151: “there’s still only two ways for dynamical systems to evolve: direct causality or randomness”:

    The problem with symbolically representing the experimentally verified relationships, that have been found to exist in the world, with equations is that you also need to symbolically represent number movement. The delta symbols, that represent number movement, say nothing about the source or the magnitude of number movement: the equations with their delta symbols only specify the relationships that kick in WHEN some of the numbers move. To better represent real-world number movement, for the numbers that apply to the variables, you seemingly need to use the type of symbols found in computer programs.

  157. Martin Mertens Says:

    Scott 147: hmm well in any case, it seems like anyone who believes that our observations are primarily due to fine-tuning ought to believe in anti-induction. There have to be many times the number of initial states that lead to miraculous QM results for n days than n+1 days, right?

    Also, I’d think a simple counting argument would show that there probably is no initial state that does the job. Perhaps God can shuffle a deck of cards in just the right way that I win 10 poker games in a row. But 20 games? 100? There aren’t enough permutations.

  158. George H. Says:

    Scott, Yes! All my thoughts and prayers are with the Ukrainians. Second, it sucks that Ukraine has to become political in the US. (Personally, I’m very pleased by the world wide response, which includes the USA) And finally (my reason for this comment) about the Canadian Truckers. The MSM reports on this were wrong, but you had to have dug deep (or followed certain online groups) to find it. The real story of the Ottawa Occupiers, is one of the most heart warming and tragic (and scary) of tales. I liked this… (but I am hoping for the documentary.)

  159. Stewart Peterson Says:

    Nancy Lebovitz #148:

    Re: stationary fusion – sort of. Two reactors are under construction (ITER and SPARC) which will reach Q>1. Several others that carry more technical risk are also either under construction or in advanced stages of design, but those two should be slam dunks. It’s an engineering problem at this point, not a research problem.

    Why start work on portable fusion systems now? Tokamaks don’t scale down well, which is why the aforementioned machines are stationary units. None of the systems currently being envisioned as pilot plants would scale down, so they can’t be developed into portable systems. Hence, there’s no point waiting for them to come online before doing any work on portable fusion systems. Portable reactors will, just from the scaling physics, be completely different electrode or electromagnet configurations. They will have to be developed from scratch, and we should start now.

    These candidate reactors, again, are physically small and the only differences between them are internal geometry – not the support equipment that is the vast majority of the cost of a fusion reactor. A $150,000 test stand should be able to iterate over a large number of electrode or electromagnet geometries with a cost per test of a few hundred dollars at most. This is a task that should have been done 50 years ago and could save billions over the cost of building stationary pilot plants, but the AEC got tunnel vision in the late 60s and thought they could build a pilot plant with the technology they had at the time, so they cut everything but the tokamak as a gesture of fiscal responsibility. They wound up with nothing.

  160. William Gasarch Says:

    1) I was on an Amtrak and ran out of things to read so I read ALL of the comments on this blog entry in one sitting. Not good for my eyes or my brain.

    2) Whats easier- teaching Lilly Quantum or World events?

  161. Rahul Says:

    While the world sympathizes with Ukraine on this against the Russian aggressor, at the same time, now I see reports coming out from Indian and African students about how Ukranians are being absolutely brutal and violent against them during the exodus out of the nation.

    Reports of border guards kicking people, police selectively allowing only Ukranians to board trains, blocking Africans at the borders, hotels refusing rooms to colored people etc.

    Of course, how prevalant this is may not be clear right now but I am sure we will find out. I think Nigeria even issued an official statement on it.

    Just goes to show the irony of it all: the victims of one crisis can as easily turn brutal racist bullies in another.

  162. ultimaniacy Says:

    JimV #149:

    “Those who believe their free will can affect the universe could also prove or falsify their hypothesis by jumping off a tall building and seeing if they float down.”

    Huh? That would only disprove the specific claim that free will can overcome gravity. The vast majority of people who believe in free will don’t claim it can affect the universe *in that specific way* (do any?), so I don’t understand why you think this would settle the entire debate.

  163. Y Says:

    The thing that strikes me the most is that Iran has been doing worst things throughout the middle east for more than ten years, and their sanctions are going to be lifted next week.

    Iran and its proxies (with Russian help) killed almost 1M Syrians and deported 8M of them. They replaced the native population by Shia muslims, and changed the school program in Syria to match their values. They are causing civil wars in Iraq and Yemen with many casualties, famine and pain. They destroyed Lebanon, which was once called the Paris of the middle east. They support Hezbollah which is both a terror organization, and a crime organization specialized in drugs. And I’m not mentioning funding every terrorist which fights Israel.

    But all of their victims, are not white. They are Jews and Sunni Muslims. They are not blonde enough, and they are not so good with memes. Also, without Russia’s oil, Iranian Oil is much needed in Europe.

    So let there be chaos in the middle east, who cares? Europeans got their righteousness and their home is warm in winter. When another war comes in the middle east, I’m sure they will condemn Israel for not doing enough to peruse peace.

    Just to make sure, I support sanctions on Russia.

  164. Bruce Smith Says:

    Lorraine Ford #155 asks:

    Are people genuine actors, i.e. do people have a genuine effect on the fabric of reality, i.e. are people changing the numbers for some of the variables, as opposed to the laws of nature, or “randomness”, determining every number for every variable?

    If you believe people are made of physical things (e.g. atoms), then these “alternatives” are not actually different. (1) A person’s atoms act a certain way according to physical laws that affect atoms. (2) A person decides to do something (using their free will to decide something according to their own predilections) and does it. Those are just alternate but compatible descriptions of the same event.

    The key to not being mystified by this is to avoid the common trap of thinking that free will has anything to do with randomness. It doesn’t. The more deterministic your brain is, the better you can exercise free will. What your will is “free of” is not “making sense according to physical law as applied to your brain”, but “being usurped by influences outside of you” rather than being determined by your own thoughts and instincts.

  165. wolfgang Says:

    The average Russian conscript gets about 25$ per month.
    US and EU should offer 1000$ to every soldier who surrenders.

  166. amy Says:

    I’m actually with Rahul on this one, for a few reasons.

    One, I’m old enough to remember the last round of MAD (and to have spent time at SHAPE when there was still a Berlin Wall) and it was a very long time ago, and time hasn’t treated the former Soviet empire kindly. I’m skeptical that they can get any of that stuff, whatever they didn’t sell, out of a tube without blowing themselves up, and, given how their recent tests have gone, I bet they’re even more skeptical than I am. And I do not think that Putin, whatever his mental state, is anxious to embarrass himself in front of the world by being unable to make anything but a clicking noise happens when he presses the button. (Yes, I know it’s not an actual button.) If I lived in Europe, I might be more worried. Not about troops and conventional missiles, but about the prospect of a wonky desperado-launch nuke meant for Chicago landing in the garden.

    In other words, I don’t think this is the start of WWIII. I do think it’s very bad news for anyone living in Russia. I don’t see Putin coming out of this stronger at home, and he’s getting to be an old man. There’s no clear successor once he’s picked off, so my question’s about who, from outside, is going to be able to take advantage of that. It may be that that, and not WWIII, is the thing that none of the other leaders want to see happen just now. God, or some well-buried analyst no one will listen to, only knows what would emanate from an oligarchs’ war like that.

    Two, my experience is not that if you handle a wacko gingerly you’ll avoid setting him off. Wackos have their own timetables, often mysterious even to them. It’s also finally occurred to me to wonder who Russia’s reasonably-well-armed allies in this might be, and that’s not an easy question to answer. I also don’t know that he’s actually a wacko except in the “my every whim is law for 20 years” manner: he’s nearly out of time and I expect he knows it.

    Three, while I appreciate that Biden’s approach is also an effort at re-establishing legal and diplomatic norms and institutions — it’s the same foreign-policy thinking that took us out of Afghanistan — I think he’s overestimating what kind of power America has to maintain discipline among currently cooperative nations. Apart from changes in economic standing, nobody is forgetting the fact that we elected Trump, and nobody’s forgetting that there’s another presidential election soon. I think he’s operating in the wrong century. I also think he’s vastly underestimating Russian leaders’ tolerance for watching everything turn to shit across their own territory. He’s capable of real depths of grimness and horror, real bleakness, but I think there are lines in the imagination that he’s just constitutionally unable to cross, and they have to do with fellow-feeling.

    Four, I see no point in handing Putin whatever he can find in Ukraine to strengthen himself. And when is it not a mistake to hand over ports? That’s slow trouble, but it’s trouble, and it’s always very hard and expensive to reverse.

    That said, Rahul, I don’t see Putin as a Hitler, even if their supporters are similar; Hitler had serious planners on his side and they were allowed to operate, and did. In front of the whole world, which largely chose not to see what it was seeing. This guy…you know, a long time ago, I had a Hungarian friend a little younger than me, and I asked her if she’d had any clue about the Wall coming down, because we sure as hell didn’t; I was in East Berlin in ’88, and none of the conversation on the Western side took anything but “this is around for as far ahead as anyone can see” as the given. I’ve kept an ’89 copy of Foreign Affairs all these years just as a reminder. And she said yes, of course they knew, and I asked her how, and she said it was because everyone laughed at these old Soviets and at the USSR. She was just a kid at the time, of course, but the kids thought they were a joke. If the intelligentsia think you’re a joke, well, that’s their problem. But when the kids are pointing and laughing and mocking, you’re done. I don’t get the impression that the kids are taking Putin all that seriously.

    My general feeling is that NATO ought to be dealing with this like it’s a rabid squirrel in the street in front of the house. The answer is not to give the squirrel the street and hope that he gives it all a good think, stops frothing, and goes home like a good lad. When Clinton and Blair ignored institutions and went bombs-away in Belgrade, it was shocking, and the rationale seemed like a mistake, but I suspect it was just premature. However relieved some people may be to have a “normal” America to deal with, everyone knows that what’s going on here is not normal, even for us, which makes Pax Americana a lightly fraudulent thing to reach for: there just isn’t anything else handy on the shelf. Superficial, but an echo: a few years ago I finally toured the UN Security Council chamber, and while that kind of design’s right up my street, I will say it looked very, very tired.

    I hope we’ll have time to sort out whatever kind of order and institutions come next before things really slide off the table, but…well, I hope for pleasant surprises.

  167. OhMyGoodness Says:

    fred #154

    The countries that have benefitted substantially from Iran sanctions by way of increased trade are China and India. These same countries are likely to benefit from sanctions against Russia. Five countries voted against sanctions and forty one abstained. The percentage of global population represented by the countries that were against, or abstained, is actually substantially more than 50%. India is by far the largest democracy in the world, and the abstainers include other democracies, so it appears to me more muddled than simply democracy vs autocratic rule.

    Is “fred” a proper noun? 🙂

  168. Keith McLaren Says:

    Someone mentioned that Trump hasn’t uttered one word of moral condemnation over Putin’s invasion of the sovereign nation that is Ukraine.
    This is not surprising as the buffoon hasn’t got a single bit of moral fibre in his hideous looking body and appears to have a Macy’s window-sill brain.

  169. Nancy Lebovitz Says:

    #161 Rahul

    I’ve seen reports of poc refugees being abused in the receiving countries, too. I don’t know where the worse incidents are, if that matters.

  170. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Correct to 35 abstained from the UN vote and 12 just didn’t vote. Sorry!

  171. Lorraine Ford Says:

    Bruce Smith #164:

    To put what you said another way: I think you are saying that Putin, and the people fighting against Putin, are like formations in an evolving system, somewhat like the shapes that appear in a cellular automaton. I think you are saying that Putin, and the people fighting against Putin, are like shapes in a mathematical system where the ONLY inputs to the system occurred at the beginning of time when the variables were initialised with a set of numbers, and that there have been no further inputs to the system since then, unless you count some random number inputs. In other words, I think you are saying that there is no essential difference between the shape described as “Putin”, and the shape described as a “tennis ball”.

    I’m saying that Putin, and the people fighting against Putin, and indeed all living things, but not tennis balls, are inputting some new numbers to the system, i.e. assigning new numbers to variables. This is what free will is: assigning some new numbers to variables (more correctly, free will is what we would symbolically represent as assigning new numbers to variables).

  172. Harvey Friedman Says:

    This piece is by the Former director of National Intelligence and colleague. It argues that “fear of Trump Kept Putin from Invading Ukraine. Here’s how Trump Pulled it off”.

    “Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 when George W. Bush was president. Russia took Crimea in 2014 when Barack Obama was president. Russia has now invaded Ukraine with Joe Biden as president. However, when Donald Trump was president, Russia did not seize territory from any of its neighbors.”

    “During his four years in office, Trump not only successfully deterred Russia from acting against Ukraine, he effectively deterred a lot of bad behavior across the planet. He focused on ending America’s foreign wars rather than launching new ones. At the same time, he brokered the Abraham Accords to expand peace in the Middle East.”

    “Ultimately, the art of statecraft boils down to whether a president projects American strength that deters adversaries, or projects American weakness that emboldens our adversaries.

    1. Rebuilt the American Military
    2. Crusaded for American Energy Dominance
    3. Set the Tone by Launching Surgical Missile Strikes in Syria in Early 2017
    4. Developed Strong Relationships with Middle Eastern Nations Based on Mutual Interests
    5. Was Ruthless with the Taliban While Winding Down the Afghanistan War
    6. Crushed the ISIS Caliphate
    7. Demonstrated a Consistent Willingness to Take out the Bad Guys
    8. Stood Up to China
    9. Strategically Used Unpredictability as an Asset in Foreign Affairs
    10. Advanced Tough Russia Policies and Provided Lethal Aid to Ukraine while Maintaining an Open Dialogue ”

    And it goes on and on about critical mistakes made by Biden.

    My question is this: in light of this kind of argument, was Trump the greatest foreign policy President we have had since Ronald Regan? Or was Trump simply lucky?

  173. Stewart Peterson Says:

    amy #166:

    You’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have, but are you really – really – sure that you want to bet that their delivery systems *won’t* work? Don’t get me wrong; if I was in charge of them, I certainly wouldn’t bet that they *would* work, but betting that they won’t work is a much higher stakes bet on the receiving end when a 99% failure rate would result in 65-70 nuclear weapons landing. I mean, you know as well as I do that such a scenario would result in millions of casualties if even some of them were directed at countervalue targets.

    I certainly agree with the rabid squirrel analogy, but shouldn’t we keep Putin occupied in a very expensive regional conflict while working as fast as we can on a counter-ICBM capability so that when we do have to intervene, we can do it at minimum cost? Using your analogy, that would be getting the rabies shot *before* going after the squirrel, while the squirrel is busy fighting off two or three rats. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to go after the squirrel, it’s that we haven’t yet been forced into a position where there’s no other move but to intervene, or even where the lowest-cost option is to intervene. Why not arm the Ukrainians, use that conflict to degrade the Russian military, and buy time? With the Russian economy in the shape that it’s now in, isn’t time on our side?

  174. amy Says:

    Stewart #173, I’m a woman in my fifties. If there’s something I’m well-acquainted with, it’s the sound of men talking bollocks. You’re also looking for gamed-out absolutes and guarantees, but there aren’t any such things.

    Let me put it this way: I am immediately respectful and afraid of a highly communicable novel virus with a habit of causing brain and other internal organ damage. I believe it will do the things described in the various preprints at something possibly approximately like the advertised rates. But nothing in me is reacting with fear to Putin mumbling about nuclear weapons.

    Why? Oh, I don’t know. I mean, look at the guy. Apart from that: a lot of things would have to line up for even one attempt at a nuclear missile launch, and then there are all the technical things that have to go right, but haven’t been tested in forty, fifty, sixty years, half or more of which were probably duds the day they rolled off the line. The science and engineering for these things has been in a coma for decades and only very recently awoken in this country, and then there’s the matter of the humans who’d have to make it go. (I might point out that radioactive materials continue to be radioactive even when you’re not paying attention to them, they’re chemically reactive as well, and they eat away at whatever’s containing them. No knowing what’s inside the shinier metal casing at this point, what wires are still wires, etc.) When the Russians tried giving a tiny trial a PR go in 2019 it went rather spectacularly wrong. Even from an old-man Cold-War perspective, it’s stupid: you don’t walk into MAD for real with thousands of probable duds.

    There’s a lot of truth in what Bernard Woolley said forty years ago:

    …only there’s 40 more years’ worth now.

    Also, Stewart, those of us who grew up at a time when the gear was probably more reliable also grew up with the idea that it could happen. You do get used to this, though I am grateful that someone finally went post-Threads and gave us this:

    So if you’re going to risk it, it seems to me that the time to do it is when your enemy’s just got started and is relatively weak and in internal disarray, rather than after he’s had a chance to collect more ports (look, one went today, you really ought to take the ports seriously) and all the other things on the Risk board (it’s called Risk for a reason) and get organized internally and have time to persuade others of why they ought to join on his side. And then you’d better get your invading defanging operation in place and go see what they did have that might’ve been live, and do something about it.

    What I do think they are reasonably competent at is the thing they’re doing, which is doing as they normally do and throwing massive numbers of bodies and discount street-warfare munitions at whatever they want and mauling it in the process, and then deciding they’d like some more until something forces them to stop. We happen to be more than capable of being the thing that forces them to stop. So we should do that. I think the only serious problem we have there is that we’ve got a military that’s wildly susceptible to white-supremacist Christo-nationalist propaganda; he’d take a piece out of us that way.

    Of course, you know, I was wrong about the EU. Or at least temporarily wrong. Back in ’88 I didn’t think it’d be a goer because the notion of a polity based on a currency seemed…not at all compelling. And then it went and grew a whole culture, which, granted, wasn’t coming from nothing, but even so. And then, only 25 years later, blink of an eye, a large bit fell off in a way that I think will turn out to be important in how it destabilizes the core of the thing, because it turns out that most people don’t read 20th c. economics and don’t know what a customs union is or why they’re in one, so — polity based on a currency, maybe not a goer after all. Remains to be seen. What would help in its success, though, is not having a Russian war blob trying to eat its way through, so I think we should go stop that. Since we can.

    Also the business about being willing to go to war for oil and revenge, but here’s something attempting to be a recognizable democracy on the line and we’re pulling up short for what I think will be not very good reasons: I think we’ll regret that one.

  175. amy Says:

    Oh, Stewart, also forgot: you probably won’t remember this, but round about ’96 or so, there was this US general — someone help me with his name? — who was freaking out because there were all these ex-Soviet nukes that nobody could account for. Like they just evaporated from the books. Physically gone. Nobody would tell inspectors what happened to them. The presumption at the time was that the Russians had set up nuke chop shops and sold them, but I just remember this guy in a full panic and the Clinton admin people just kind of taking it all in wide-eyed and then sort of…not responding at all. Not in a “listen, Ed, why don’t you go play some golf” way but in a “we have no idea what to do with this” way. And then they just…moved on. No idea what happened — if I had to guess, I’d guess they buried the problem in the nuclear forensics programs they run through the national labs, but I don’t know. In any case, whatever count whoever’s scraping numbers together for news stories thinks they’ve got…betcha they don’t.

  176. Michel Bel Says:

    Harvey Friedman #172: Post hoc ergo proper hoc / Known to be a fallacy since several millenia,

  177. JimV Says:

    Balloon Juice has a post with links to several ways to donate to Ukrainian aid organizations:

  178. OhMyGoodness Says:

    amy #166

    What structure might replace the UN?

    The UN as constituted is certainly not democratic with Tuvalu of population 10,000 having a General Assembly vote equal to China’s 1,500,000,000. The Security Council that has the sole power of binding agreements over member nations bears the indelible imprint of 1945 Europe/Asia as it stood at the time of Yalta negotiations. If it is modified to be more democratic then I am very pessimistic for the impact on the Eurocentric West.

    In my opinion NGO’s that champion soft global power do more to weaken the West than to change the rest of the world to accept western ideals. My conclusion is that the West should remain strong and not idealistically dogmatic in a nuanced world. It is hardly ever Decepticons versus Autobots-there is usually a history that should be fairly considered.

    I know not popular with many here but the media does filter information that currently oscillates between promoting fear and fostering dopamine fueled waves of righteousness that wash through society.

    In the case of Ukraine the above implies there should be a negotiated settlement that recognizes the verifiable claims of both parties to include reasonable consideration of the pro Russian votes in Donbas and Crimea and violations of the Minsk agreement.

    There is ample evidence that NATO did promise no further expansion to the East (Der Spiegel has published some of this) and that also should be considered. I know very unpopular to say things like this when righteous fervor is high but just like Roosevelt in 1945 there must be some pragmatism to keep things moving. Maybe in another century or two Western ideals will have won out but in the meantime no viable option to strength and good faith negotiations.

    I am surprised how quickly sentiment turns to censorship and believe there was timeless wisdom in St Augustine’s observations on truth, falsehood, and lying.

  179. 1Zer0 Says:

    Scott, would you under any circumstances consider a nuclear first strike (accepting mutually assured destruction)?

  180. Joseph Shipman Says:

    Michel Bel #176
    Your reply is an an example of the fallacy of false fallacy-labeling, dismissing an argument by mischaracterizing it. It is not simply *assuming* that the absence of Russian expansion on Trump’s watch was due to Trump; rather, it is *observing* this absence and detailing a number of possible explanations.

  181. Scott Says:

    1Zer0 #179: Yes, I think a nuclear first strike can be morally acceptable if (and only if) one’s nation or people are being physically annihilated in a non-nuclear way — since there’s no deep moral difference between that and nuclear annihilation anyway.

  182. Michel Bel Says:

    Shipman #180: Agreed, unprovabilities do not fall under the stated motto – it was rather a warning that nothing can be proved from these observations. Let us not forget that Trump tried hard to reduce the US to UN funding. Putin and Xi are not the only enemies of United Nations, or any humanitarian council, Trump is another.

    Remains the situation that Putin is raving insane, having his army bomb a working nuclear power plant.

  183. Rahul Says:

    Scott # 181:

    Would that mean that in history you would have several occassions where you would have supported the use of a nuclear first strike?

    So it’s rather a pity ( for those people and fortunate for us ) that they didn’t have the nukes available for use?

    I mean I can think of many cases in the past century where this condition ”
    one’s nation or people are being physically annihilated” could reasonably be considered to be true.

    Furthermore doesn’t that create strong justification for non nuclear nations to start creating a nuclear arsenal?

  184. Bruce Smith Says:

    Lorraine Ford #171: I agree with the first part of what you said I said. But I don’t agree that it means “there is no essential difference between the shape described as “Putin”, and the shape described as a “tennis ball””. I think those “shapes” have many essential differences.

    But reading the rest of what you said, I guess the crucial issue on which we differ is that I do think a person and a tennis ball are made of atoms, and (in principle) all their behavior comes from that structure; but I think you think that is only true of the tennis ball and not of the person, and furthermore that the person’s free will is only possible due to that difference.

    That is a common view, but I don’t understand it, since I don’t understand what it *does* think a person is, physically. Perhaps the whole point is that it says a person is “off limits” to being understood (even in principle) as a purely physical structure at all?

  185. Scott Says:

    Rahul #183:

      Would that mean that in history you would have several occassions where you would have supported the use of a nuclear first strike?

    I mean, there are nuclear states that deserve to be annihilated—North Korea being the obvious example. It’s immoral for that regime to defend its existence with nuclear weapons only because it’s immoral for it to exist in the first place.

    More broadly, though, yes, I would’ve supported a nuclear first strike against Hitler to end the war in Europe and the Holocaust. (As, indeed, many Manhattan Project scientists did too: some of them felt lifelong regret, not that they’d worked on the bomb, but that it hadn’t been ready on time.) On balance, I think I supported the use of the Hiroshima bomb to end the war in Japan, but not the Nagasaki bomb.

    A case like Tibet is wrenching and difficult. If the Tibetans had had nuclear weapons, it would’ve been totally understandable for them to use them to defend their existence against China. That means, alas, that it’s probably better for the world that Tibet didn’t have them.

      Furthermore doesn’t that create strong justification for non nuclear nations to start creating a nuclear arsenal?

    You don’t say? Welcome to the world of the last 75 years. After Ukraine voluntarily gave up its nuclear weapons in 1994 in exchange for a paper security guarantee from Russia, with the results that we see today, do you think any country will ever do the same again?

  186. Stewart Peterson Says:

    amy #174:

    Firstly: I indeed suspected, due to your age and the fact that you’re enough of a technical person to follow this blog, that you have spent your career listening to unqualified men mistrust your judgment. That is precisely why I opened my comment by expressing deference to your age and experience (and presumably academic rank as well). If you believe that I am not deferential enough, please explain how I should become so and I will make every effort to express respect for your relevant professional accomplishments before raising any questions. (For example, if you would prefer to be addressed as Dr. or Professor, or the appropriate earned military rank, please specify this. I am going off of how you present yourself.)

    I still, however, don’t see any justification for direct military intervention at this point. Why risk nuclear war if there are options that would have the same effect – preventing Putin from attacking anyone else – without increasing our risk of an ICBM exchange? Surely, if the Russian Army keeps having as much trouble as it currently is having, just trying to do what it is currently trying to do, that would keep Putin from attacking anyone else while he deals with it. At the very least, we shouldn’t hand him a war with an outside enemy that would seemingly validate his conspiratorial ravings about NATO and unite the Russian people behind him, right when his public support is wavering. We are indeed capable of stopping him, and we indeed should do so – but why not exhaust our least-cost options first? If they don’t work, then we have to intervene, sure. But if they do work, we’ve saved ourselves a major war, and the associated casualties and financial losses. Nor have you addressed the difference between not betting that they won’t work (which I think is wise) and betting that they would work, which I contend is extremely important. It appears that you think that the high likelihood that Russian nuclear weapons will vastly underperform in combat is equivalent to a high likelihood that the low performance we would be likely to see would result in acceptable damage from our perspective. You have not shown that these two statements are equivalent.

    Nor am I looking for an absolute guarantee. If the upside were the ending of dictatorship throughout the world – a tall order, but a plausible outcome of a world war – I would be willing to take 3-5 hits on American cities to do it. (To be clear: depending on where and when these hits occurred, that could be close to the World War II civilian casualties of the Soviet Union, a massive amount of destruction. Nothing about that would be a “clean” war.) I would not be willing to take 60 hits, and not the 1,000 or so that would be more likely. (I share your low opinion of Russian high technology, and I think it’s probably safe to say that 50%-80% of Russian nuclear weapons would not reach their intended targets and function as intended. But as noted above, even 1% success is 65-70 detonations. Absolute hell on Earth and, I very respectfully suggest, something to take more seriously than you appear to be taking it.) Why isn’t the time to stop Putin the time when we have an effective countermeasure to his most damaging weapon system (i.e., not today)?

    You bring up Risk, and I’d like to raise a few issues that don’t come up in Risk, or even in more-sophisticated attempts to turn wars into points-based games. Let’s say you take a port. Can you operate the material handling equipment? Do the forklifts operate on a diesel-gas mix (many two-stroke engines do), with this fact not being documented anywhere? Do their cranes use the same hydraulic fluid you have available, and if not, is yours compatible with their systems? Will it attack their seals and filters? If it does, can you make new ones? Can you make spare parts, especially if you don’t have programs for your CNC machines that describe proprietary threaded fittings? (Most machinists today do not know how to manually cut threads. To be fair to them, it doesn’t really ever come up, and computer operations have taken over technical curricula as a result.) Do you have maintenance personnel who know how to do all this? And let’s say you can operate the port. Do you have rolling stock and locomotives, or container trailers and semi tractors, to take goods away from it? Are the tracks and roads intact? Signaling systems? There are vastly many similar opportunities to cause an asset taken by an enemy force to be, in practice, useless. That’s the difference between real military strategy and Risk. Risk has rules. War basically doesn’t. You can operate, as a mathematician does, on the edge cases and induce a procedure-following enemy to do things that are counterproductive but which their models show them will work. And, more importantly, if you can figure out a way to not pause between turns, in war you will win and in Risk you will be disqualified. Maurice Gamelin would have been a champion Risk player, and it wouldn’t have helped him.

    And in #175, are you referring to the Nunn-Lugar program? If so, I remember it, and I also remember helping to debunk some of the wilder claims made about ex-Soviet nuclear weapons being sold and so forth, which basically boiled down to two issues:
    1. Delivery systems are complex to the point where they are far beyond the technical reach of three guys on the back of a camel. Without effective delivery systems, the extreme expense of acquiring a nuclear weapon even from a willing seller would be pointless and would be much better spent on conventional weapons that a terrorist group would be capable of delivering to a target. Furthermore, the Russians were (and are) “securocrats,” who have no fixed ideology other than keeping control of everything, and what appeared to be chaotic from the outside was in fact a highly-effective counterintelligence system based on HUMINT. Nothing was going to get smuggled out of the Russian military, not even conventional weapons. The CIA tried to buy some of the relatively-advanced equipment and was unsuccessful.
    2. Nuclear weapons themselves require maintenance, as you have suggested. In particular, the boosted fission triggers of even the most modern thermonuclear weapons require gaseous tritium, which has a short half-life and must be periodically replaced. The supply chain necessary to do this is beyond the capacity of any organization without an isotope production reactor.
    Eventually, it dawned on people that if these devices had in fact been stolen or sold, they would have been used by now. More likely, they never existed at all, and were another example of Soviet exaggeration of production statistics. At best, the fissile material had been created, but not integrated into actual usable weapons.

  187. Lorraine Ford Says:

    Bruce Smith #184 “I think those “shapes” have many essential differences”:

    I think you are claiming that, despite surface appearances, when you look at the “Putin” shape and the “tennis ball” shape very closely, every numeric outcome for every variable in the system was determined by the laws of nature. So there are no ESSENTIAL differences in such a system (system 1); any so-called “essential differences” in such a system are actually superficial differences; you can use words to describe differences, but they are merely words describing superficial appearances.

    On the other hand, if you had a system where the “Putin” shape was able to assign at least some numbers to its own variables, as opposed to the laws of nature assigning all the numbers for all the “Putin” shape variables, then you would have a different type of system (system 2). And clearly such a system, where parts of the system (matter) were able to assign some numbers to their own variables, would have to go all the way down: it wouldn’t be confined to human beings.

    But I agree with you that structure makes a difference. However, structure can make no difference when you’ve got System 1; structure can only potentially make a difference when you’ve got System 2.

  188. JimV Says:

    Dr. Scott at 152: Thanks for the reply. I had given up on the thread and didn’t see it until now (checking to see if my comment about the donations links had passed moderation).

    Dr. Hossenfelder has stated many times that there are several different concepts for making QM compatible with General Relativity locality, and hers is not the one proposed by Dr. Bell. She says “super-determinism” is a misnomer, that some of the concepts are not even deterministic, but for historical reasons they are all lumped under Dr. Bell’s nomenclature. She has posts at Back Reaction where she discusses this, and gives links to her papers, including one two or three Saturdays ago. (These days she posts once a week, on Saturdays.) I have not read her paper on the experiment, beyond the general description which she gave in her blog.

    I will bet $50,000 against your $500, that if she agrees to the way the experiment is to be conducted (beforehand), per her paper, and it is conducted that way and the results are negative, she will formally abandon her hypothesis. Her whole incentive is that there is a mathematical inconsistency between QM and GR and she would like to resolve it, and thinks she has conceived a possible way.

    Having read and enjoyed her blog postings for almost as many years as this one (although I preferred the ones prior to her going on YouTube) I feel she combines brilliance with a good sense of humor and the combination predisposes one to rational integrity, so I am willing to risk my money. Besides, if I lose I can consider it payment for all those years of enjoying this blog, and feel that it will be put to good use.

    You have my email, so you can send me an address to send my check to–you can hold the money until such time, if ever, that the experiments are done. (They were never done in the past 50 years since Dr. von Neumann proposed them.)

  189. JimV Says:

    P.S. An alternate to the experiments would be your analysis of her papers, and her willingness to accept that analysis if it is conclusive. That is, if you have a formal proof that her hypothesis must be wrong and she refuses to accept it after back-and-forth discussion, you win the bet.

  190. Harvey Friedman Says:

    #182: Michel Bel
    (this goes back to my #172 through Shipman #176)

    “it was rather a warning that nothing can be proved from these observations”

    Such warning totally misplaced the way that #172 was constructed. It is pretty clear that the onus is generally on Trump detractors to address #172, which you haven’t. Nor have the many other Trump detractors on this discussion group.

    “Let us not forget that Trump tried hard to reduce the US to UN funding. Putin and Xi are not the only enemies of United Nations, or any humanitarian council, Trump is another.”

    There are many who see horrendous positions and declarations of the UN as beyond the pale, even viewing the UN as doing more harm than good. I don’t take a strong position on this, since it must be balanced with any good that the UN does. Look at the virtually endless condemnations of Israel at the UN, which prima facie already are so despicable and morally repugnant as to suggest it reasonable to least take the position that the UN should be radically altered or dissolved.

    Do you include Israel among Putin and Xi with regard to the UN?

  191. DR Says:

    Firstly, I know next to nothing about NATO other than what might be found on a I traveled from the U.S to India when all this was just starting up.

    Views in India are mixed. People have access to the whole internet here and can make up their own minds.

    Everyone I know here agrees Putin was crazy to invade Ukraine, everyone is worried about the possibility of WW3, but many have been angered by the way Ukraine is treating Indian students trying to board trains to get into Air India flights to fly back. Half the people here are mad at “ultra nationalist Ukranians” for “holding fleeing Indian students as hostages”.

    I haven’t had time to read and think about what I believe but I thought I’d share this.

  192. Douglas Knight Says:

    Scott 108,

    Since the Iraq invasion was “justified by lies,” how can you know that it was “done with the intention of replacing a brutal dictatorship by a democracy”?

    It doesn’t look to me that the cabinet had any coherent intention at all, let alone a plan. I thought that their job was to get together behind closed doors and hash things out, but I guess that was just a conspiracy theory. It looks to me like Rumsfeld had no plan beyond “throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business” in the immortal words of Jonah Goldberg and/or Michael Ledeen. I think Wolfowitz believed in democracy, but others planned for a democratic smokescreen electing Ahmed Chalabi and others for just installing him as dictator without any pretense.

  193. Scott Says:

    JimV #188: I’d actually be happy to accept $50,000 from you and put it towards a good cause. But I fear that there’s no experiment such that the superdeterminists will agree that one of the outcomes falsifies their hypothesis, and likewise, no theorem whose truth they’ll agree falsifies it. You’ll only ever get the opposite from them: experimental results (e.g., violations of the Born rule) that haven’t been seen but that they think would support superdeterminism if they were. If I’m wrong about this, then I repeat one more time my request for you to explain the experiment here, in this comment section, rather than telling me that Sabine described it in a paper somewhere. But I’m not wrong. 🙂

    The truth is that, just like the string theorists Sabine criticizes, but a million times more so, the superdeterminists have an infinitely flexible “get-out-of-jail free card” with which they can explain anything whatsoever, and the only way out from that sort of system of belief is to make the sound judgment that it’s a degenerating research program, rather than to wait for a “falsification” that (by construction) will never come.

    I find it telling that you don’t seem to have any argument for superdeterminism being a viable research program, other than “well, Sabine seems like an otherwise reasonable person.” Alas, there are otherwise reasonable people who believe the earth is 6,000 years old, the moon landing was faked, or Trump won the 2020 election. This is one of the very bitterest lessons about human nature—that the “reasonable person” heuristic catastrophically fails—but my choice many years ago was either to learn the lesson or abandon my sanity forever, so I learned it, and I suggest you do the same!

  194. 1Zer0 Says:

    Scott #181,

    Personally, I would set the bar lower. If a nuclear armed country X bullies other countries (Even “just invading and carpet bombing” without necessarily killing all civilians systematically), in Biden’s position, I personally would definitely increase the rhetoric towards X, including referencing a nuclear first strike. Just because mutually assured destruction would be the consequence, a nuclear first strike should not be off the table forever, certainly not rhetorically.

    For me, that threshold hasn’t been reached in Ukraine but Biden’s rhetoric is too weak.

    I hope the situation deescalates. But rather than getting bullied around by country X invading other countries while making nuclear threats for years, I would act first, an unfortunate (and rare?) fate for humanity in our branch of the wavefunction.

    Russians have these Doomsday devices, Torpedo-like Cobald bombs called “Poseidon”, so we know with quite confidence that humanity would cease to exist in this world.

  195. JimV Says:

    Dr. Scott, the recent post I referred to is and in that post she links to this paper about the experiment. I think her toy-model paper would be more conclusive:

    That is, like the searches for dark matter, an experiment that does not find evidence cannot be taken as proof that the evidence does not exist. So while it would convince me, it might not totally convince Dr. Hossenfelder. Still I would pay off the bet as proposed in that case. But since the experiments might never be done, your analysis of her toy model would be a a better method. The bet would be, if you find a flaw that invalidates the conclusions of that model, and she will not accept it, you win the bet. In all cases, you would be the judge of the outcome.

    As for me trying to summarize her papers in my own words, as a layperson I would be mostly cutting and pasting, which seems like unnecessary work. I don’t expect to win the bet in any case, I would just like her to get a fair hearing, which I don’t think my efforts as an intermediary could provide.

    There are many people, including some commenters here, whom I would not expect to be worth the time and effort to trade arguments with, but I cannot place you and Dr. Hossenfelder in that category–not without losing all remaining hope for humanity. That is, I trust in your integrity and rationality the same as I do in Dr. Hossenfelder’s, for the same reasons.

    Please at least note that in all her discussions she refers to super-determinism models, plural, meaning she does not think there is one and only one local model of QM which can be conceived (e.g., Bell’s). Without even reading her papers, perhaps you can prove that is the case? (That there is only that one possibility.) If so, and she does not agree with your reasoning in a way which seems spurious to you, I will accept that you win the bet, after the two of you have discussed it.

    Again, please send me an address I can mail a check to, for my side of the bet. I would like to have the money in place and things in motion before I die, and I am older than your father and probably in poorer health. (If I die before there is a resolution you keep the money, with no obligations.)

  196. asdf Says:

    According to the MWI, there is another universe where some electron came out the wrong slit, so Trump is still President. Is that really better than superdeterminism narrowing things down to the crappy universe we live in right now?

  197. Ben Standeven Says:

    @JimV (195):

    So the experiment involves bouncing a particle between two detectors which are calibrated so that their measurements tend to cancel each other out (with some probability). The hypothesis under consideration is that successive measurements by the same detector will still be strongly correlated, provided that the hidden variables that determine the result have not had time to change significantly from their previous values. Dr. Hossenfelder calls this hypothesis “superdeterminism”, but as far as I can see, it is actually just [deterministic] “chaos”. Superdeterminism would mean that the detector results can depend on the initial conditions of other objects, such as other runs of the experiment; and she specifically says, “Most crucially, we have made the minimalist assumption that the hidden variables stem from the correlation with the detector and possibly other parts of the experimental setup. This is a restriction to a subclass of SDHVTs since in principle the remainder of the universe might contain additional variables relevant to the evolution of the subsystem we are considering.” So it seems she is specifically excluding theories that are actually superdeterministic.

    (To see this directly, consider a typical Bell-type experiment; under the “minimalist assumption” coupled with locality, the result of Alice’s measurement should only depend on the states of her particle and her measurement device; it cannot depend on the state of Bob’s device because her particle does not interact with it. The usual “superdeterminism loophole” is that Alice’s measurement can depend on the state of Bob’s device when it left her past light cone. If we do not allow this type of dependency, Bell’s theorem follows anyway, in spite of the dependency on Alice’s device state.

  198. OhMyGoodness Says:

    If you want to see a chilling video then look for John McCain and Lindsey Graham addressing Ukrainian troops in 2016 promising equipment to go on the offensive against Russia. Did these guys ever see a conflict they didn’t think a few more stingers and javelins couldn’t solve no matter the details of the conflict? It is like they were/are the Acme Co always sending the latest package to Wily Coyote.

  199. DR Says:

    DR #191:
    On my own previous comment.

    It appears that there is a lot of misinformation being spread online. The govt of India has an official statement out, that it has zero evidence of Ukrainian soldiers holding fleeing Indian students hostage. This sort of a thing is being shared though, sometimes by TV news media.

  200. Danylo Says:

    This situation with Russia is the huge evidence that supports the Copenhagen interpretation. Now everyone can see that the collapse of a state, that was entangled, is quite a physical process.

  201. gentzen Says:

    DR #199: Even so the Indian students are not explicitly held hostage, it is still true that they (and other people without an Ukrainian passport) were given a much harder time to leave Ukrainia than Ukrainian women and children. This is not nice, you may say that EU countries have a serious issue here. But part of the truth is also that Belarus (and other countries I don’t want to mention explicit here, because it already happened a longer time ago) used that serious issue of the EU to blackmail it (by transporting refugies to EU borders), and intentionally increased that issue, which had been there before.

    There is an analogy to Trump, where the problems that lead to him becoming president were there before, but Russia used those problems to put even more pressure on the US, and helped Trump to become president. If you know the bible, this is how the devil is actually described there, it exploits our weak points and tries to tempt us. You still bear the responsibility yourself if you fall to those temptations.

  202. JimV Says:

    Ben Standeven at 197, yes as I have mentioned before in this thread and on others here, Dr. Hossenfelder does not believe in super-determinism as defined by Dr. Bell, but uses the words for a general class of theories which attempt to reconcile QM with GR locality. She claims this is a historical usage which she did not invent, but reluctantly accepts as a classification.

    I have been writing this over and over and nobody seems to understand and/or believe it. I am reluctantly beginning to believe it is the source of all the acrimony which has been directed at her: semantics.

    Another unqualified thought: I suspect Dr. Hossenfelder has more expertise in/respect for GR than QM, although she knows both, and therefore is more inclined to try to adapt QM to GR than vice-versa. Whereas Dr. Aaronson (and myself for that matter), think it is more likely that GR must adapt to QM.

  203. JimV Says:

    P.S. Note also that although Dr. Hossenfelder has become great at English it is not her native language and sometimes what she thinks an English phrase means is not the colloquial meaning. (She accepted corrections very graciously in the early days of her blog.) For example, when she says “argument”, she means a rigorous proof. So she may be confused on what “Super-determinism” is supposed to mean.

  204. Scott Says:

    JimV #202: I’ve argued on-and-off with Sabine about this stuff since 2007 (!). Not once did she ever distance herself from the loony version, where the detectors are set the way they are because of a nonlocal conspiracy that’s been in effect since the beginning of the universe and that infected the random-number generators and anything else that would make the detector settings independent on any sane understanding of the world. She can’t distance herself from that, because it’s the only way to explain Bell inequality violations in a local realistic model. Her main innovation here seems to be the rhetorical insistence that the loony version is not loony, but just the straightforward claim that the detectors are subject to the laws of physics like everything else.

  205. JimV Says:

    P.P.S. to Ben Standeven, as to Bell’s Theorem, her contention as I understand it is that it requires the assumption of statistical independence as well as Bell locality, and dependence of measurement results on detector dof may violate statistical independence. But don’t take my word for it, see her toy model paper.

    I apologize for all my off-topic comments (Glory to Ukraine!), but people keep dragging me back. Oh, here is another way to donate to Ukrainian aid, via World Central Kitchen:

  206. JimV Says:

    Dr. Aaronson, thanks for your reply. Well, one can’t rule out the loony version, as Dr. Bell himself knew, but perhaps one can make less loony versions, which is what I think Dr. Hossenfelder is trying to do.

  207. Scott Says:

    JimV #205: That’s exactly what I meant about rephrasing the loony so it sounds superficially sensible. “Statistical independence” just means that it’s possible for Alice and Bob to set their detectors in a way where they’re not conspiratorially correlated—for example, using separate lava lamps or computer random number generators or whatever. In any other part of science (e.g., randomized controlled trials in medicine), this would be so obvious that it wouldn’t even need to be stated as an assumption. It’s not an assumption about the mysterious microscopic world, but about the ordinary macroscopic world of our experience.

    In order to violate statistical independence, you absolutely do need a loony conspiracy theory. This is what Sabine euphemistically refers to with terms like “dependence of measurement results on detector degrees of freedom.” Yet again—yet again—what this actually means is “teleological dependence of the detectors on the future measurement outcomes, but I’m not going to come out and say that” (‘t Hooft, I guess to his credit, more openly embraces the utter insanity of what’s needed here).

  208. JimV Says:

    P.S. to Dr. Aaronson, no need to post this, but it seems possible to me that, again, she is referring to Super-Determinism as a class of models, not all of which require a conspiracy, and you are referring to it as one specific conspiracy–so not using the term the same way, and not understanding each other.

  209. JimV Says:

    Dr. Aaronson, thanks again for your sincerely generous attempts to educate me. If I accept what you say, as I am leaning toward, then it seems to me her toy model must be flawed, since it claims to demonstrate the possibility of non-conspiratorial solutions. If $50,000 isn’t enough to motivate you to point out the flaws to her, in a rigorous way, what would be?

    I myself do not understand whether or not there is a non-conspiratorial way to produce Bell Theorem violation results, and am too dumb to figure it out in the time I have left.

  210. Scott Says:

    JimV: If, in order to win the $50,000, I have to convince Sabine, then alas, I don’t expect that ever to happen. If she were capable of being convinced, she would’ve been convinced already; instead, she’ll just continue playing verbal games forever (e.g., the sleight-of-hand between the outcomes depending on the detector settings, and the detector settings depending on the outcomes).

    The “rigorous demonstration” that you ask for has been known for 60 years; it’s called Bell’s Theorem. What you’re now witnessing is that even a rigorous demonstration doesn’t convince everyone; at most it convinces ~98% of the people with any right to an opinion … as, indeed, Bell’s Theorem did.

    The other ~2%, the contrarians, will simply use special pleading forever to deny the assumptions behind the rigorous demonstration, even if they would never have thought to deny those same assumptions in any other situation, and are purely motivated by an ideological imperative to reject the conclusion in any way possible. We see this not only with Bell’s Theorem, but with Gödel’s Theorem and the unsolvability of the halting problem and countless other examples.

  211. Harvey Friedman Says:

    Scott #193 wrote:

    “Alas, there are otherwise reasonable people who believe the earth is 6,000 years old, the moon landing was faked, or Trump won the 2020 election.”

    I do not believe the earth is 6,000 years old and that the moon landing was faked, because I never saw any evidence of either, and with regard to the second, there are many checks and balances and I have not seen any believable story as to motivation and the process used for faking it.

    On the other hand, on the basis of statisticians having worked for polling companies and intimately familiar with election processes, who say it is obvious that the election was simply a much scaled up version of previous election frauds using the same methods, of a more local nature, and various other factors, I tentatively concluded that it is likely that the election was in fact won by Trump. After I came to this tentative conclusion, the following evidence and pre evidence surfaced which adds strength to my tentative conclusion.

    1. Pre evidence. The trailer for the D’Souza film 2000 mules not yet released. (Content clear from link).
    2. Pre evidence. True the Vote doing the research for D’Souza film not yet released. (Content clear from link). Also True the Vote website.
    3. D’Souza and True the Vote have a long track record going back before 2012.
    4. Official findings by the Special Counsel of the State of Wisconsin.
    a. Rampant voter fraud in Wisconsin retirement homes. (Content clear from link).
    b. Major voter machine scandal in Wisconsin.
    c. Actual official report of the Special Counsel of Wisconsin cited by a,b above:
    5. Numerous scattered articles like this: (Content clear from link)
    6. Numerous ongoing investigations and reports and inquiries in all critical states.
    7. Rebuttals are nonexistent or highly dubious.

  212. JimV Says:

    Dr. Scott, the bet is that after you have given rigorous grounds for rejecting her toy model, and answered any objections she may have to your own satisfaction, then if she still does not agree with you, you win the bet. By rigorous, I mean, not philosophical, but mathematical. Ruled out based on known data, or logically impossible, so that there is no need for any experiments. I state this to clarify the terms, but you will be the judge and jury. This was the extension I proposed after your original bet on the aftermath of the experiments. The bet is basically about whether two good and brilliant people can resolve a scientific disagreement, if they make an effort to.

    If she agrees with your objections but feels they might be overcome by a different toy model, she might choose to continue her research, but I will give up and consider the bet over, and the prestigious JV Award (not) will go to you.

    (As a side note, she has twin daughters of around your daughter’s age and it would be great for them to become acquainted. She used to give updates about them on her blog before going onto YouTube.)

  213. Michael Ball Says:

    Scott #2 He’s giving Scott Alexander a run for his money!

  214. 1Zer0 Says:

    amy #166

    There is really no indication that the strategic nuclear forces of Russia are in a bad shape, quite the contrary: Tests with civil and military rockets usually have a high success rate, most recently when they shut down one of their own old satellites in orbit.
    Most of russia’s military spending seems to go into strategic forces (Including submarines and special weapons like Poseidon) satellite program, cyber warfare and propaganda/ information warfare, the latter is being conducted with unparalleled success against the west during the last few years.

    In contrast, the only got about three fifth gen fighter jets ready (Sukhoi Su-57) while the US has 187 F-22 Raptor and over 700 F-35. Russian ground forces deployed in Ukraine mostly use old, disposable soviet equipment, aside from a few newer and rare systems like the TOS-1 and Iskander. NATO could unquestionable defeat Russia in a conventional war.

    In essence, if you go to war with Russia, you definitely have to expect a devastating nuclear strike – even if you can defeat the country conventionally.

  215. Lorraine Ford Says:

    JimV #149 “Those who believe their free will can affect the universe…”:

    Are you saying that the use of nuclear and other bombs, rape, pillage, murder, environmental destruction, and climate change are NOT examples of people’s free will having a genuine effect on the world?

    Are you saying that, when you look at it closely, the use of nuclear and other bombs, rape, pillage, murder, environmental destruction, and climate change can be traced back to nothing but the activity of the laws of nature and/or randomness?

  216. JimV Says:

    H.Friedman, Trump’s chosen Attorney General, Bill Barr, says there was no evidence of massive voter fraud anywhere, and resigned his position rather than go along with Trump’s orders to make up some. Numerous Republican-appointed judges threw out cases accusing voter fraud due to lack of evidence. The Republican Secretary of State of Georgia recorded Trump’s phone call ordering him to come up with the necessary 11,000+ votes to overturn the Biden win there, because he knew from previous efforts by the Trump administration that the call was coming. All the proven fraud is on the Trump side.

    To its credit, the organization in Arizona that audited all the ballots, seeking fraud, concluded that Biden won Arizona.

    As reported by Josh Dawsey from Trump’s recent donor event at Mar-a-Lago:

    Trump mused to donors that we should take our F-22 planes, “put the Chinese flag on them and bomb the shit out” out of Russia. “And then we say, China did it, we didn’t do, China did it, and then they start fighting with each other and we sit back and watch.”

    In other words, his go-to strategy is fraud and lies. Off hand, in my longish life I can’t remember anyone who has been in more scandals or told more public lies. E.g., when he promised to release his tax returns. Later he boasted publically that since he knew every way to cheat on taxes, he was the right man to catch others. Instead he reduced the IRS workforce by half to limit audits. His major legislative accomplishment: cutting taxes on the rich yet again.

    His Secretary of State, Pompeo, called him a moron. His National Security Advisor, Bolton, says Trump barely knows where Ukraine is. James Comey, the Republican Attorney General who helped Trump win (by publicizing the Clinton email investigation, which went nowhere, while concealing the Trump campaign investigation) left his first interview with Trump shaken, writing down Trump’s exact words so he would not forget them: that Trump wanted an oath of loyalty to himself personally, above the law and the Constitution, like a crime boss.

    These are not partisan sources, unlike all of yours (which include a convicted felon).

  217. Nick Drozd Says:

    This has certainly been an eye-opening thread. The pieces appear to be in place for another fascist coup attempt, and this time it might succeed.

    The war will get used as a pretext. When exactly this happens depends on how bad the war escalates. If American troops get involved or if the economy crashes, violence could be used to depose Biden. Otherwise if things just stay on a low burn, the Republicans win the House and Senate in November and then immediately impeach and convict Biden and then immediately impeach and convict Harris. This will install whatever empty suit has been chosen as Speaker, and the reins will then be handed to Trump.

    We will hear over and over, in all sorts of ways, that only Trump is strong enough to save us and prevail over our enemies. The evil far-left cultural Marxist dictator Biden is WEAK, and what we need now is STRENGTH. Americans as a whole are not accustomed to hardship, so if the going gets rough they will be desperate for a leader who can “get the job done”. And hey, the 2020 election was stolen anyway, right? So when you think about it, a coup is the truly Constitutional action.

  218. Sept Says:

    Jim #212: Your offer is to give $50,000 to Scott if he demonstrates to his own satisfaction that superdeterminism, the basically anti-science position that the initial state of the universe was carefully selected to give the false impression that the Bell Inequality is violated, is ludicrous?

    May I ask why you’re not just asking Scott which charity he’d prefer you donate $50,000 to, and doing that? Why not just show proof of the donation now? Generously assuming that you’re serious, What likelihood do you give the possibility that Scott will not demonstrate this to his own satisfaction?

  219. Scott Says:

    JimV: I had a similar confusion as Sept #218. All I need to do is read Sabine’s paper with her toy model and satisfy myself that it doesn’t work? Should those math outreach programs that I’m supporting expect an extra $50k from a generous reader very soon? 🙂

  220. Lorraine Ford Says:

    JimV #216 and JimV #149 “Those who believe their free will can affect the universe…”:

    Is Trump an example of a person whose free will has had a genuine effect on the world?

    Or are you saying that, when you look at it closely, Trump and his actions, and other such people and their actions, can be traced back to nothing more than the normal activity of the laws of nature and/or randomness?

  221. Stewart Peterson Says:

    Nick Drozd #217:

    If the Republicans swept every seat that’s up for election in November, they would only have 66 seats out of the 67 votes needed to convict. (I’m assuming a baseless charge for which there would be no Democratic votes to convict.) Plus Romney and Collins are unlikely to play ball in such a scenario, so they’re going to be at least three votes short.

    I don’t see Biden doing anything even remotely out of line – he has been the most scrupulously law-abiding President in my lifetime – so I think we’re safe until 2025, assuming he lives that long and I sure hope he does.

    (By the way – Trump could be chosen as Speaker directly. There is no legal requirement that the Speaker be a serving member of the House.)

  222. OhMyGoodness Says:

    A common belief was that increased global communication would foster more sophisticated views of the world and eliminate armed conflict. Actually there is now maximal global communication at the personal level but at the same time a reversion to zero sum polarized thought in the West. My speculation is that a lack of survival pressures allowed a zeitgeist of pure ideas to develop with little need to reference them to real human activities. When suddenly there is an agent that increases survival pressure on the West there is no analysis to determine how it came to be, it is strictly judged as shocking non-negotiable black behavior against the white ideas of the West.

    Most of the world resides outside the western zeitgeist and so I would expect more survival pressures to be applied to the western metaverse over the coming decades until there is understanding that thought representations of the world can be considerably different than the world itself no matter how attractive those representations may seem. In the mean time production of stingers and tomahawks will be preferred to compromise of any sort.

    Whoever started the process of labeling anyone that disagreed with them the four letter N word should be tried for crimes against humanity. It is trivial on the scale of an individual but in aggregate pernicious.

  223. Glory to Ukraine Says:

    JimV #216: I believe “put the Chinese flag on” is a joke. It would be great if the US could really do this without getting caught, which sadly is impossible.

    The word “moron” was used by Rex Tillerson, not Pompeo. Mike Pompeo, the worst Secretary of State according to the NYT but a great friend according to Taiwan, never said anything bad about Trump as far as I can remember.

    Both Tillerson and Bolton were fired by Trump, and so was Comey. It is quite possible that they held a grudge against Trump.

  224. Harvey Friedman Says:

    Re #216.

    “Trump’s chosen Attorney General, Bill Barr, says there was no evidence of massive voter fraud anywhere, and resigned his position rather than go along with Trump’s orders to make up some.”

    Barr said he didn’t see any. Maybe he didn’t look. There was already some and now there is a growing amount of it. As far as I can tell, Trump really was from way outside Washington and had no idea how to find competent and honest help. Perhaps Mnuchin was the most competent and honest help he found for his Cabinet.

    I outlined my reasons for it being increasingly compelling that there was massive election fraud of a kind that has precedence but this time on a much wider scale. I expect that as we watch this unfold this year we will really see what happened. I believe that R’s have also been involved in fraud in elections too, and that would explain why they have not been active in uncovering what happened.

    “Numerous Republican-appointed judges threw out cases accusing voter fraud due to lack of evidence.”

    This is misleading at best. The main issue for Courts other than massive pressure to ignore a hornet’s nest was to punt to the State Legislatures according to the US Constitution. Also there is a lot more evidence of massive fraud now than there was back then. But generally speaking essentially no in depth hearings on the facts occurred partly because the Trump people were not given any discovery or subpoena powers. I don’t believe any characterizations in the press concerning what happened in the Courts but don’t have the time to look at the Court transcripts, which one really needs to do. However this all should be moot going forward as things unfold. Meanwhile a number of State Legislatures are expected to have hearings regarding reforming laws designed to make such fraud less possible in the future.

    “The Republican Secretary of State of Georgia recorded Trump’s phone call ordering him to come up with the necessary 11,000+ votes to overturn the Biden win there, because he knew from previous efforts by the Trump administration that the call was coming. All the proven fraud is on the Trump side.”

    That is a ridiculous oversimplification of the situation. Since Trump (believed he) had absolute proof of massive voter fraud, some form of this is quite reasonable. It is much more likely that all of the fraud is on the election officials in Georgia than any fraud on the part of Trump.

    “To its credit, the organization in Arizona that audited all the ballots, seeking fraud, concluded that Biden won Arizona.”

    Completely misleading. Those recounts didn’t even consider the contention that there was massive fraudulent ballots. The final Arizona report that I read claims that the records that were required by law in order to trace possible fraud were destroyed with no explanation as to how this was done and I believe called for an investigation of that. I read that report as highly suggestive that there was massive election fraud by election officials.

    “As reported by Josh Dawsey from Trump’s recent donor event at Mar-a-Lago:

    Trump mused to donors that we should take our F-22 planes, “put the Chinese flag on them and bomb the shit out” out of Russia. “And then we say, China did it, we didn’t do, China did it, and then they start fighting with each other and we sit back and watch.”

    Look Trump is a stream of consciousness alpha male but he is an absolute genius. Some geniuses do that, and deeply offend “sensible” people. Sure he gets into trouble with that frequently. In particular, I think that a great many of highly educated people reflexively are disgusted by such people as Trump that they lose their objective thinking powers dramatically when thinking about such people. But if you look at his actual record while President, it is truly spectacular. Actually his achievements as President even poll well if you state what they are in their context.

    “In other words, his go-to strategy is fraud and lies.”

    I still haven’t heard of a single Trump lie on a seriously important matter. Lying about, e.g., Stormy Daniels doesn’t count. Nor does exaggeration of the number of people attending a rally. Nor does lying about his height count. Stop dwelling on trivia and focus on the great things he accomplished as President.

    “Off hand, in my longish life I can’t remember anyone who has been in more scandals or told more public lies. E.g., when he promised to release his tax returns. Later he boasted publically that since he knew every way to cheat on taxes, he was the right man to catch others. Instead he reduced the IRS workforce by half to limit audits. His major legislative accomplishment: cutting taxes on the rich yet again.”

    Biden (financial mainly) and Obama (all over the map) have corruption emanating from their office that is really important. Highly damaging to this country. Trump not at all. Not even close.

    Lots of rich people are paying more taxes than ever despite Trump’s tax cuts. Some are not. The IRS was already pretty much proven to be a horribly corrupt organization in its treatment of non profits and the use of its powers under various Presidents. Railing in the IRS – perhaps until they stop being so political and enact real reforms – polls very well as you well know.

    Trump cited ongoing audits as a reason not to release tax returns. Perhaps you are an insider, but as far as I know it is likely, especially given the political nature of the IRS, that he is still undergoing audits. Besides why are you focused on trivia? His tax returns have nothing to do with the great things that he did as President. And you well know that if there was anything really juicy in his tax returns besides fuel for silly gossip, the IRS would long ago have leaked it to selected Congressmen and then it goes to the press.

    “His Secretary of State, Pompeo, called him a moron.”

    Anybody can and generally will say anything privately and have it taken out of context. The main point is that Pompeo completely backs the Trump foreign policy and is continuing that now, contrasting it sharply with the worst President the US has ever had. Why do you focus on gossipy trivia?

    “His National Security Advisor, Bolton, says Trump barely knows where Ukraine is.”

    More gossipy trivia. Bolton if I recall was some extreme hawk that Trump fired? Maybe Bolton likes to get back at people who fire him? Have you ever heard of anyone who has been fired or about to get fired say anything negative about the person who is firing them?

    Once again, the bottom line is the spectacular record of the Trump Presidency. Let’s see if you can focus on that. I get it that you don’t like pompous asses who think (usually correctly) that they are the smartest person in the room, make a ton of money, have a lot of desirable women, talk stream of consciousness, put their name on buildings, and win their first election which is Prez of USA. I get it that you don’t want to teach your kids to be like Trump. Stop talking about this kind of trivia and focus on his spectacular record.

    “James Comey, the Republican Attorney General who helped Trump win (by publicizing the Clinton email investigation, which went nowhere, while concealing the Trump campaign investigation) left his first interview with Trump shaken, writing down Trump’s exact words so he would not forget them: that Trump wanted an oath of loyalty to himself personally, above the law and the Constitution, like a crime boss.”

    Clinton email investigation went nowhere because of the politization of the DOJ which continues to this day. Durnham has cited Clinton campaign operatives (presumably under Clinton’s orders) in major crimes in Court papers. And Trump perceived – probably quite rightly – that Comey and others were illegally leaking and otherwise undermining his Presidency, what Trump tried to do was perhaps naive but completely appropriate. It is expected that before Durnham is thru, players like Comey will be exposed as deeply corrupt. That is, if Durnham is not fired before he finishes.

    “These are not partisan sources, unlike all of yours (which include a convicted felon).”

    Yours are grotesquely partisan accounts and grotesquely partisan interpretations of matters that are mostly to Trump’s credit. He is a genius who walked into a hornet’s nest. He grossly underestimated Washington politics, a cesspool of incessant corruption with utter disregard for the typical American citizen.

    A simple going over of the incredibly positive things he did as President should hopefully cure you of your focus on such trivia.

  225. JimV Says:

    Lorraine Ford, your arguments do not and apparently never will engage with what I mean.

    A tennis ball hitting the ground affects the ground. Similarly, human actions affect the universe, but not by willful deviation from the laws of physics.

    Tennis balls do not have have neurons and synapses to do computations and store memories. Humans do, and therefore can make plans and learn from their mistakes. Those neurons and synapses work entirely within the laws of physics.

    As I have pointed out to you before, and others have in this thread, without determinism there is no cause and effect, no way to plan courses of action, no way to find out things by trial and error, and no way to learn from mistakes. You could repeat the same action over and over and get a different result each time. You want your determinism but want to eat it up with your “free will” also (“have your cake and eat it too” reference).

    Without determinism, there is no agency, and no one is responsible for their actions. Rather than hindering those things, determinism makes them possible.

  226. JimV Says:

    Dr. Scott, according to my recollection, it was you who offered to bet me $500 that you and Dr. Sabine could never reach any agreement on the issue of QM locality. I simply made the bet more attractive, in hopes of at least getting you to fully engage with her position by reading and analysing her papers, and giving her a chance to respond to your analyses. So far, from admittedly an outside perspective, I have only seen pejorative allegations (on both sides), not actual engagement. E.g., she has repeated stated that, in layperson terms, there is more than one conceivable way to restore determinism to QM, and not all involve conspiracies, and has published a toy model to demonstrate that, and your only response that I have seen, here, has been the assertion that it is nonsense. (Which maybe it is, but if so, why it is should be explainable to her.)

    I see a lot of that, especially on the Internet. It seems to me people ought to strive for maximum understandings of each other’s positions, at least as a starting point. Perhaps that point has been passed and I missed it.

    My offer stands, awaiting information on where to mail the check.

  227. JimV Says:

    P.S. Of course, if you lose the bet you have to return the money, along with your $500. I think I should put up the stakes though, as a demonstration of sincerity.

  228. JimV Says:

    P.S. to Lorraine Ford,

    Your question about Trump’s free will assumes that Trump has what you call free will, which is the logical fallacy known as “begging the question”.

  229. fred Says:

    Scott #207

    ““Statistical independence” just means that it’s possible for Alice and Bob to set their detectors in a way where they’re not conspiratorially correlated”

    Alice and Bob can’t even set their detectors in a way that’s not (simply) correlated. For that matter, there’s really no such thing as a choice.

    I.e. we can never prove that a counterfactual such as
    “During experiment 256, Alice selected X while Bob selected Y. Let’s not imagine that Bob had selected X instead”
    is even possible, i.e. that there exists a different initial condition of the universe where everything else would remain the same (the entire evolution of the universe including the creation of Alice and Bob, and their respective brains, and the occurrence of experiment 256), except that Bob brain’s now select X instead of Y… that’s seems incredibly unlikely to me. That would be an actual conspiracy!

    Same thing holds if you say
    “In experience 670, Alice selected her setting X based on the light from Quasar1, while Bob selected his setting Y based on the light from Quasar2”
    it seems really unlikely that the initial conditions of the universe could again be tweaked such that everything stays the same (including Alice and Bob’s using lights from Quasar to perform experience 670) except that light from Quasar2 now makes Bob chose X instead of Y!

    So, no conspiracy going on here, it’s just the basic fact that everything is based on cause and effect and that you can’t hope to change anything arbitrarily in “isolation” without also changing the entire future history of the universe from that point forward, i.e. Statistical Independence is really a myth, a convenient concept created by human brains to do the type of science that seems to break our intuition once we start to look at microscopic objects.

  230. JimV Says:

    “All I need to do is read Sabine’s paper with her toy model and satisfy myself that it doesn’t work? Should those math outreach programs that I’m supporting expect an extra $50k from a generous reader very soon?”

    This implies your mind is made up regardless of what is in the paper, which is exactly what I don’t want and am objecting to. My position, which I am betting on, is that if the paper is reasonable you will be able to recognize that, and that if it isn’t, you will be able to explain to Dr. Hossenfelder why not, and she will be able to recognize that. That meeting of the great minds is what I am betting on and you would be betting against. I wish there was a wise oracle I could use as the judge, but failing that I am willing to rely on you.

    As you state in your Comments Rules, it is not reasonable to expect that you will read any random paper and respond to it, but it seems reasonable to me to expect that if you wish to criticize the thesis of a paper (by a reputable scientist) you will read the paper.

    (These multiple efforts to explain what I have been saying all along are motivated by growing desperation as my replies seem not to produce any understanding. If you are simply not interested in the matter and your $500 bet was only rhetorical please put me out of my misery.)

  231. Lorraine Ford Says:

    It seems that many people lament Trump and Putin and what they’ve done, and many people lament climate change; but they also believe that every detail of Trump and Putin and what they’ve done, and every detail of climate change, was inevitable since the beginning of time. They believe that this is the type of system we live in.

    In other words, these people don’t believe that we live in a type of system where human beings and other living things could have any genuine input to the system: this is a type of system that could only potentially be represented by the type of symbols used in computer programs (as well as the usual equations, variables and numbers).

    Clearly, we do live in a type of world where human beings and other living things make inputs to the system: Trump and Putin are entities that HAVE had a genuine effect on the world, i.e. they HAVE made genuine inputs to the system, via (what we would represent as) assigning some new numbers to their own variables.

  232. Harvey Friedman Says:


    “I don’t see Biden doing anything even remotely out of line – he has been the most scrupulously law-abiding President in my lifetime – so I think we’re safe until 2025, assuming he lives that long and I sure hope he does.”

    Here is CNN, not exactly a right wing news outlet.
    It details ongoing investigations into Hunter Biden’s alleged corruption. I have a relative who teaches art at a College in PA. He is a Bernie Sanders supporter and hates Trump and Republicans. I mentioned Hunter Biden’s massive income from selling his art. He got infuriated and said ‘anyone can take a digital photograph of a monkey’.
    There are all kinds of stories about what Hunter Biden is really selling (can’t be art) and if true would put he and his father in prison for a long time, certainly his father’s lifetime. Of course I don’t know the facts of the matter. But it sounds like you do ‘he as been the most law-abiding President in your (my) lifetime’ you say. Where does your confidence come from to make that statement?

    “(By the way – Trump could be chosen as Speaker directly. There is no legal requirement that the Speaker be a serving member of the House.)”

    Trump being Speaker would poll badly among moderates. Would be a very bad mistake even if cute.

    The main impeachable offense of Biden is firstly failure to faithfully execute the laws. Specifically, the obvious open border policy he promotes contrary to US law. Secondarily, there are, after investigations, possible impeachable offenses connected with Afghanistan, though I don’t know specifics at this point.

    Also I would think it rather plausible that his moderately advanced dementia would advance before 2024 to provide a convenient move by Dems to install Harris as President and run her against Trump/DeSantis. She has youth and race and gender and lots of leftist credentials.

  233. Baeraad Says:

    #220: oh, for crying out loud. *Yes,* that is what they are saying! Because that’s in fact the case! There is not in fact a magical fount inside Trump’s head that “inserts new numbers into the universe.” Trump acts according to his nature, which is determined by the structure of his brain, which is composed of atoms, which follow the laws of physics. He is different from a rock only insofar as his internal structure is far more complicated. I can see absolutely no reason to believe otherwise except for human vanity, and you have certainly not provided one.

    Honestly, I’m a little perplexed why you’d choose Trump of all people as an example that you think everyone must *surely* agree has free will. Because even if I believed that most people had free will (and again, I do not), I would be tempted to believe that Trump was one of the rare exceptions. I mean, if Trump had free will, shouldn’t he sometimes use it to act unlike a big, dumb jerk? And yet, he always and invariably acts like a big, dumb jerk, because he is helpless to defy his big, dumb, jerkish nature.

  234. asdf Says:

    I meant to drop this link here earlier:

  235. Sept Says:

    @Lorraine #231:

    This is the claim you are making in your recent post: “if something has important effects, it must not be governed purely by physics.” You consider this self-evident.

    Stated concisely, I’m sure you can see that this claim is not at all self-evident, and you have a lot of work ahead to make it even plausible, yes?

  236. Harvey Friedman Says:

    I keep seeing Trump being mentioned in this discussion mainly about Ukraine. This just came out and it’s general content should be clear from the link:

    I’m expecting a number of participants here to automatically assume that this is garbage, so I await a debunking of practically all of this.

  237. Stewart Peterson Says:

    Harvey Friedman #232:

    Professor: I say this with deep respect for your lifetime of serious, deep work in mathematics. I equally-seriously question your political judgment. It appears that you essentially apply the interpretive framework of the pro-Trump media ecosystem rather than seeking out independent voices.

    A meta-analysis of polls in 2016 (can’t find it right now) found that anti-Trump Republicans were the only significant political group not subject to motivated thinking. Regardless of the validity of the study, I decided to try it out, and it was a complete success. Those people were right all along, and I now get most of my commentary from them. Look up Ken White, Tom Nichols, Patrick Chovanec, Walter Olson, George Conway, and those they mention and cite, if you haven’t already. (Honorable mentions to Kevin Underhill and Rick Wilson in their areas of specialty, and to Joe Walsh and Adam Kinzinger for being a bit late to the party but eventually getting there, albeit without making many original intellectual contributions.) Of course, most of these people have by now been driven out of the Republican Party, and all of these people can be and have been wrong – and before I get too wound up about something they say, I check it out with their enemies first, like anything else I read. They are also all uncharismatic snobs (a bit less so in the case of Walsh), which is why they lost their political influence, and their disgust at Trump’s personal behavior should be read through that lens. Trump’s personal behavior does indeed show that he is unfit for the Presidency, but not because he’s too “low class.” It’s because of what it shows about his character: low intelligence, selfishness, arrogance, the ease of gaining his favor through flattery, inability to execute, and the corrosive effect on society of a leader who acts like he’s leading a lynch mob.

    My personal view is a synthesis of the Federalist Papers – warning American society against electing someone like that – and the position of the German Resistance, which was that you don’t ever, for a moment, grant any respectability to a leader whose position is to unleash people from ethics, who says corruption of the heart is OK. It’s not that such a leader will automatically be Hitler – Trump isn’t, for example – but simply that a leader who is dishonest will lead you down a path that they didn’t tell you about when you were deciding whether to give them power, you don’t know what that path is, and it’s going to be some variation on “bad.” The moment that Trump announced his candidacy, I instantly knew that this was the situation they had all warned us about. I also knew that history vindicated the German Resistance, remembered that John McCain would have looked like Nostradamus by about 2005 if he had simply kept up his 2000 campaign messaging about George W. Bush’s poor judgment, and knew that it’s hard for people to go back on something they’ve said, leading people who make one accommodation for a slimeball to feel they have to keep going along with the slimeball, until they are destroyed along with him. I knew immediately that Trump’s character would lead him off the cliff when push came to shove, and to never give him an inch. It worked, and I can look back with a clean conscience. I will never have to apologize to my friends and family for how I reacted to Trump, at any stage.

    Anti-Trump Republicans care about character over policy statements when it comes to the Presidency, because character is destiny. It determines what you do under pressure, without a plan, and in the absence of good information, when you have to trust your gut. Character determines whether you can be trusted with power. By all means, vote for legislators on the basis of policy positions – all they can do is argue, and you’re sending them to D.C. or your state capital to argue for you, not to have power. But if you’re giving someone power – an executive office – their character matters. Joe Biden can be trusted with power, and Donald Trump can’t be. I based this judgment on following the publicly-available information about their careers, and having worked for someone whose character is much like Trump’s. I imagined what she would do as President, found that it was basically what Trump did, and concluded that this “hire for character, train for skills” approach was correct. For the record, I voted in 2016 for Gary Johnson and in 2020 for Joe Biden for President, and Republicans for everything else in both years.

    I say this, also, as someone who has repeatedly (among people I know, not publicly) tempered much Democratic Party puffery about Joe Biden. I said at the time that this guy is not Churchill. He’s basically what would happen if you threw a dart at the Chicago city council in the 70s and made whoever you hit the President. In a country where the political climate wasn’t completely toxic, Joe Biden would be a city councilman in Wilmington, DE. There is, however, a very low bar in today’s politics for people who know how to not tick off every single person they talk to. The Democratic Party is full of politicians who don’t even get to the point where people will give their ideas a hearing, because they open with a bunch of snide put-downs and putting words in their opponents’ mouths with “satire.” Joe Biden rolled over those people in the primary by being a basic old-school politician. That’s all he is. He isn’t a threat to the Republic, and that was enough in 2020. He is a tired old man who should not have to run for a second term, but there are no good people waiting in the wings. I worry not about Harris, who would be a weak candidate under most circumstances, but Ocasio-Cortez. She is the natural leader of her faction of the Democratic Party, and the natural leader of a major faction of a major party usually becomes a serious candidate for the Presidency. She is also smart and competent enough to do a lot of bad policy, and people now know Trump isn’t, and I worry greatly that most moderates would bet on the (perceived) incompetent in a race between two people whom 70% of the country think are both nuts.

    As specifically regards Hunter Biden: every family has a knucklehead in it somewhere, and it looks like that’s him. Easy answer: don’t vote for Hunter Biden. Vote for Joe Biden, who has never been influenced by his son’s grifting. For example: Joe Biden, as Vice President, pressured Ukraine to fire the prosecutor who had *declined* to investigate Burisma. You read that right. Joe Biden wanted his son’s company investigated! He acted *against* his family’s financial interest! Those are the actual facts, and completely different from what the pro-Trump media ecosystem has presented. Burisma clearly thought they were getting official influence by appointing Hunter Biden to their board – nobody seriously claims he was remotely qualified – and it backfired, because Joe Biden turned out to be an honest man. The new prosecutor investigated Burisma, obtaining a significant fine against it.

    Also: maladministration is not grounds for impeachment. It was specifically considered and rejected during the Constitutional Convention. Maladministration definitely occurred during the withdrawal from Afghanistan and is occurring at the border, but it’s not impeachable, nor is failing to completely enforce the vast amount of federal law that no single person has ever even been able to read. Treason, bribery, misappropriation of funds, and sedition (Trump), extrajudicial executions by drone (Obama), war crimes (Bush II), and sexual harassment (Clinton) are impeachable offenses. Waging war without a declaration of war (Bush I) is a gray area, and so was Reagan’s involvement in Iran-Contra – but Biden hasn’t even gone into a gray area. That’s my lifetime. If my lifetime went back to Ford, I would have to amend my statement. I can’t think of anything impeachable he did. (Nixon’s pardon, while unwise, was investigated and there was no evidence of a corrupt bargain over it.) But, again, Biden hasn’t come close. Merely promoting a policy with words while the bureaucracy continues on autopilot is not an impeachable offense. It’s not even a concrete action.

  238. Triceratops Says:

    Stewart Peterson #237: Excellent post. I can tell you have your head screwed on right — although I’m guessing we probably disagree on policy.

    Can you elaborate what your specific problems with AOC are? I fully support 95% of her policy platform, and can’t identify anything in there that one might refer to as “nuts”.

  239. Lorraine Ford Says:

    JimV #225, JimV #228, Baeraad #233, Sept #235:

    I think you are talking about a type of system where every number, that applies to every variable, was determined by the laws of nature, and where the only inputs to the system that ever occurred were the assignment of numbers to variables at the beginning of time (and maybe some subsequent random number-assignment inputs). So:

    1) Trump is equivalent to Putin is equivalent to a tennis ball. Because Trump, Putin and tennis balls, and what Trump, Putin and tennis balls do, are just some of the shapes, just some of the superficial appearances, that such a system assumes as the system evolves.
    2) Neither the Trump shape, nor the Putin shape, nor the shapes describable as “the people that flew the planes into the twin towers”, are/ were responsible in any way: it’s the laws of nature and the initial, and any subsequent, number assignment inputs to the system that are responsible for the shapes that such a system takes.
    3) In the type of system that you seem to be talking about, the shapes described as “people” are not responsible for the shapes described as “climate change” or the shapes described as “environmental destruction”: it’s the laws of nature and the initial, and any subsequent, number assignment inputs to the system that are responsible for the shapes that such a system takes.

    I was objecting to the words used in (e.g.) JimV #216 which seemed to imply that the Trump shape had free will or was somehow responsible for something. A system where Trump and Putin are responsible for what they do is a different type of system:

    I am saying that we live in a type of system where there are entities, like people and other living things, that assign some of the numbers to their own variables, and where the laws of nature are responsible for the rest of the numbers for the variables. I am saying that we live in a type of system where people are not just superficial shapes: people are genuinely responsible for what they do, and what they do is assign some numbers to their own variables (more correctly, what we would symbolically represent as assigning some numbers to their own variables).

  240. Ben Standeven Says:

    @JimV 230:

    Well, your position seems rather implausible… I mean, surely many people have already explained why Dr. Hossenfelder’s claim (that she has found a new form of superdeterminism that can actually be tested) can’t be true, sometimes even directly to her. So why would Dr. Aaronson doing the same thing make any difference?

    I suppose there is the possibility of Aaronson being convinced by the paper; but it seems that you don’t find it convincing yourself, so it’s hard to see why you would consider this a plausible scenario either.

  241. Ben Standeven Says:

    After actually reading the paper about the toy model, I see that it is not actually local. The argument for its “locality” is just that the theory is deterministic. So Bohmian mechanics is “local” too.

  242. OhMyGoodness Says:

    No surprise to me that it was Bennett that provided the best possible advice to Zelensky. The same advice should have been provided to Ukraine leadership by the EU and US over the last few years.

  243. Harvey Friedman Says:

    #237 doesn’t address my #236 but rather my #232. Hope to respond to #237 next week.

    I would like to add to my #236. I cited

    and now want to add

    which is a list of 25 rather specific and seemingly critical questions that seem to remain unanswered.

    So can correspondents here answer them or explain why they are not significant?

  244. 1Zer0 Says:

    Is anyone else feeling generally super motivated and productive ever since the Russio-Ukrainian conflict started? Whereas during the years before, time just flew by, every week seems to be like a month now – a process that somewhat already started with the C Virus outbreak in 2020. I never experienced the original cold war era, but it feels like the world is at the beginning of something new, a drastic change. It makes it worth to appreciate every moment and live life enjoying the things we love. There is a sense of unity among western nations, we now have a new common enemy, which is the alliance of Russia, China and a few other countries. It’s going to influence every corner of society; science, industry, pop culture – everything will “go back” to reinvent the “atmosphere” of the 50s-80s. It’s truly the start of cold war 2.0, a world that has long been in a dystopian stalemate finally moving again.

  245. JM Says:

    Apparently they’re arresting them for peacefully displaying blank signs now: It’s right out of your common knowledge article

  246. fred Says:

    Baeraad #233

    Don’t bother…
    I’ve noticed that other humans that seem totally confused about free will and determinism are also the same who struggle to draw direct conclusions about those concepts from doing simple practical self-introspective techniques like meditation (i.e. using their brain to observe how “things” appear in their supposed consciousness)… well, all those people are actual p-zombies!
    It must be something about the way their brain is connected limiting their consciousness in some major way.

    “A philosophical zombie or p-zombie argument is a thought experiment in philosophy of mind that imagines a hypothetical being that is physically identical to and indistinguishable from a normal person but does not have conscious experience, qualia, or sentience. For example, if a philosophical zombie were poked with a sharp object it would not inwardly feel any pain, yet it would outwardly behave exactly as if it did feel pain, including verbally expressing pain. Relatedly, a zombie world is a hypothetical world indistinguishable from our world but in which all beings lack conscious experience.”

  247. JimV Says:

    Another useless repetition from me, this time to Ben Standeven. Your statement seems to ignore the possibilities which have been my main thrust: a) that Dr. Hossenfelder might have a reasonable position, however poorly expressed by me and/or her or poorly understood by others; b) if her position is not reasonable, she might be able to understand the objections if people read her papers and discuss them with her. Granted, there have been some sort of discussions of the issues going back to 2007, but she has responded with papers which it seems some people who criticize her in harsh terms refuse to read. The reason for this which seems most likely to me is that she and her critics have different understandings of what “super-determinism” means.

    Yadda, yadda, yadda, I saw a chance to provide an incentive for the experts to try to reach some resolution where at least the two sides understand each other. As for which side my guesses lay on, who cares what I think, except for this: if two of our most reputable, accomplished, distinguished thinkers cannot reach some some sort of amiable agreement on what might be possible and what is not, we are all doomed. So my entire bet is not on who is right, but on whether some agreement can be reached.

    What have I written that leads people to think I am betting on one side or the other, rather than the possibility of some agreement? I apologize in advance for my miscommunication, if so.

  248. JimV Says:

    Lorraine Ford, to me your insistence that determinism would make you not responsible for your decisions is not a logical conclusion. The issue is whether, given your knowledge and emotions at the time, and computational ability, could you have made a different decision, or whether in fact your decisions were “determined” by all the conditions which led to the decision (as I hope mine are). Either they were, or the decisions were random, or your free will somehow imposed new conditions on the universe which were independent of all previous conditions. Only purely random choices, if imposed on you externally, would relieve you of responsibility.

    I believe my choices are made based on the facts as I assess them and my own computational abilities. Due to fallibilities in both, I make a lot of mistakes, and blame myself for them. Because of determinism, I know in hindsight that better choices could have been made. I did not know, or was not able to compute, the conditions which could have produced better decisions. It is determinism which points that out to me.

    People decided to continue to burn fossil fuels in power plants and machines (such as cars, which I have never owned), although the consequences were explained by, for instance, Dr. Teller in his speech to the American Petroleum Industries in 1959. That led to the climate conditions which produced the forest fires which burned the koalas. If we were a smarter, more forward-looking species in our decision-making, that would not have happened, but we aren’t, and bear the responsibility of that. However, thanks to determinism we can learn from such mistakes and try to do better next time.

    I am aware that a few people take the position that determinism relieves them of responsibility, but neither I nor Dr. Hossenfelder believe that. It is simply not a logically necessary conclusion. My decisions are determined by me, and I take responsibility for them. Whether those decisions could have been predicted by an omniscient oracle does not relieve me of that responsibility. Why would it?

  249. fred Says:


    “My decisions are determined by me, and I take responsibility for them.”

    that point of view in your brain to take responsibility for your own actions is something that’s the result of “luck” like everything else. It’s still the remnant of not being able to let go of the concept of free will.

    It’s a fact that if there’s no free will, noone’s responsible for their own actions or responsible to believe in their responsibility or not.

    But, practically, at the level of society, it’s still optimal to prevent people from doing bad things (that’s why we send kids to school to teach them morality, and criminals to jail, to maybe reform them or at the very least protect the rest of society).
    In other words, from an evolutionary point of view, even if responsibility is a tale, it’s still a useful one. Just like we don’t blame bears for attacking people, but we still don’t want to let them roam free in our cities.

  250. JimV Says:

    Fred: I disagree. Computational ability, memory, sensors, and manipulative ability (e.g., hands) allow us to make decisions which affect our future. At the most basic level, those who make the best decisions have the best chance to survive and reproduce. Nature holds us responsible, the law courts of every nation hold us responsible, and I for one blame myself for bad choices. Responsibility exists.

    Determinism, or cause and effect, is what allows us to make decisions. An essential part of the process is to recognize those decisions may help or harm ourselves and others. Thus, like death, if responsibility did not exist, evolution would have had to invent it. Which it did; and I feel it. (One could also argue that death does not exist, because nothing is alive. I see the denial of things we experience repeatedly such as responsibility as unuseful philosophical assertions.)

    Again, if an all-knowing oracle used determinism to predict all my decisions at the instant after the Big Bang, so what? The decisions I make don’t happen unless and until I make them. (I should be doing my taxes today instead of wasting time on the Internet. I am so predictable.)

  251. Triceratops Says:

    If we do have free will, then we should turn our attention to questions of moral responsibility. If we don’t have free will, then who cares?

    It sure feels like we have free will. I doubt you’d be able to convince a majority of people that they don’t have free will. And why would you want to convince people of that anyway? I don’t see much utility there. No matter what the truth is, I don’t want to live in a society where a majority of people don’t believe they are responsible for their own actions.

    In either case, with or without free will, our decisions are influenced by factors outside the scope of rational thought far more frequently than we’d like to admit. In a universe where agents can change the future, their actions will still be coerced by the invisible machinations of the unconscious brain; a dark actor totally divorced from the small sliver of frontal lobe where your executive functions hold court.

    An uncomfortable truth from contemporary neuroscience: You are a lot less you than you might think.

  252. Lorraine Ford Says:

    Is Putin responsible for starting a war; is someone responsible for bombing a maternity hospital and a school?

    Whether Putin is in fact responsible for anything, any more than a tennis ball is responsible for anything, depends on the type of system we live in.

    Do we live in a type of system where every number for every variable is determined by the laws of nature, and where the only inputs to the system were/are : 1) at the beginning of time, when initial numeric values were assigned to every variable; and 2) subsequent random number assignments to some of the variables? In this type of system, Putin could no more be responsible for anything than a tennis ball could be responsible for anything. No spin, no fancy philosophical words, no self-observation or meditation, can change the nature of this type of system, and make Putin responsible for anything.

    For Putin or Trump, or anyone else, to be responsible for anything requires a type of system where Putin and Trump and everyone else actually have genuine input to the system, i.e. a type of system where people can assign some numbers to some of their own variables, and where the laws of nature take care of the rest of the numbers for the rest of the variables. This is the type of system we are a part of.

  253. Lorraine Ford Says:

    fred #249 “In other words, from an evolutionary point of view, even if responsibility is a tale, it’s still a useful one”:

    It is not OK for physicists or philosophers or whoever, to lie, to pretend to other people that genuine responsibility exists, when what they really believe is that genuine responsibility doesn’t exist. I’m troubled that you think it is OK to lie to people, as if people somehow need to be shielded from the truth. Lying to people is NOT the best way forward.

  254. Ilio Says:

    @JimV #247,

    >So my entire bet is not on who is right, but on whether some agreement can be reached.

    Your central assumption seems to be: good thinking = rational thinking. Then, if two persons are among our most reputable, accomplished, distinguished thinkers, then surely they can both be described as rational agents. From that + math they must agree, so if they don’t we are all doomed -because that means even our bests are not actually good.

    A different starting assumption is: reality can be probably approximatly described by numerous mutually inconsistent paradigms who can never understand each other (unless they abandoned the naïve view they must agree on interpretations as much as on measurable outcomes). From that we might still all be doomed, but at least that’s no longer proven. 🙂

  255. Lorraine Ford Says:

    fred #249 “In other words, from an evolutionary point of view, even if responsibility is a tale, it’s still a useful one”:
    I’d like to add to my previous comment on this issue:

    I know that there are many, many people who believe that we live in a sham, fake world, a type of world where Putin and Trump, and everyone else, bear no genuine responsibility for their actions. And because of their beliefs, and allegedly for the good of the children etc., these people think they have to add to the sham fakeness by lying about their true beliefs about the nature of the world.

    These people, who believe that it is OK to lie, would rather hold onto their beliefs, about the type of system we live in, than consider that we actually live in a type of system where people ARE genuinely responsible for their actions.

  256. JimV Says:

    For me, the ability to reason and make decisions implies responsibility, and the more knowledge and logic available, the more responsibility. I can’t imagine a viable civilization without the concept of responsibility. That is, cooperation is the best strategy for a civilization, and cooperation requires responsibility. So ultimately nature will enforce responsibility, by the self-destruction of societies without it.

    There will always be cheaters, such as Trump and Putin, who refuse to accept responsibilities, but unless civilizations evolve ways to control them, the civilizations will not progress.

    Without determinism (effects having causes), there would be no way to make rational decisions in the first place, much less assign responsibility for them. With determinism, we are able to conclude that responsibility is useful and necessary. It seems paradoxical to me to claim that determinism destroys responsibility.

    I completed and submitted my tax forms today finally. That’s a responsibility met. AlphaGo was responsible for making unexpected and beautiful moves in its Go tournament with the world champion, and therefore won.

    This is probably another argument over semantics, with people using the same word but meaning different things.

  257. Lilac Says:

    Hey Dr. Scott Aaronson, I just wanted to let you know that your post:

    Contains an extremely minor factual error as Nick Land was on Scott Siskind’s Slate Star Codex blogroll the entire duration, well past the point in time when Nick Land made his neoreactionary turn under the supposed influence of stimulants! The Internet Archive and electronically mailed .mhtml files verify this claim which the New York Times editing team endorsed! I hope you have a lovely lovely day!

  258. Karan Says:


    As a person who I admire the most, and one of the best scientists atm, I want your honest opinion on this.

    1. I condemn the Putin’s crazy invasion

    2. I can’t stand the evil US propaganda

  259. Anonymous Ocelot Says:

    fred #246

    It’s funny, I’ve sometimes wondered if the “consciousness is nothing special, intelligence just comes from atoms nothing more to explain” people are p-zombies. I mean, people don’t just go around saying “it’s weird that I exist”, they say “it’s weird that I exist and am conscious”. However consciousness works, it has a measurable physical effect on the world (by having us say that sentence).

    Well … it does for some people I’ve met. Others can’t really recognize the difference between existence and consciousness, and you know, sometimes I wonder…

  260. OhMyGoodness Says:

    fred #249

    My 9 year old daughters agree with you partially. They have concluded that there is a duality in the universe. If they make choices that have bad consequences then they are not personally responsible-someone or something else was. If they make choices that have good consequences then they are solely responsible.

    If this is all Kabuki theater then how is the illusion of free will a useful fiction? The outcome is pre determined so how is this illusion useful in any objective sense if it has no impact on outcome. The illusion is astoundingly detailed since choices of childhood for the most part differ from those of adulthood. The determinism that applies is then age dependent.

    I guess your view also precludes the reality of quantum superposition. Is that right?

  261. OhMyGoodness Says:

    As for independent probability are you stating that choices outside my lightcone are necessarily correlated with choices I make?

  262. fred Says:

    @Lorraine #255

    “a type of world where Putin and Trump, and everyone else, bear no genuine responsibility for their actions.”

    I’m not sure how you define “responsibility”, but my actions at any given time are based on the inputs from the world *outside* my brain and from the neural connections *inside* my brain. That’s it.
    I don’t know about you, but I sure can’t control or take credit for the neural connections in my brain, and blaming me for the connections in my brain is therefore dubious.
    And even if I could control/correct my brain (say, using very advanced microsurgery at the neuron level), my modifications of the neural connections in my brain would also depend on the current neural connections in my brain (just like any other of my actions).
    The same probably holds about Putin and Trump, unless you consider them being some sort of omnipotent gods living outside the chains of causality.

  263. fred Says:

    … if by “responsibility” we mean the most immediate direct source of explanation (from a causality chain point of view) for some event, we can say that Putin’s brain is the most obvious source for the war in Ukraine (when looking at humans as agents), as opposed to the brain of some random native person living in a village deep inside the Amazon river.
    But it’s also the case that everything is deeply connected in non-obvious ways, and random noise is also a major cause of things happening (the butterfly effect is everywhere).
    If we could change the tiniest of things million of years ago, the whole world would probably be very different.

  264. fred Says:

    … so, even if noone’s responsible for their actions, the myth of responsibility is still a useful one because *blaming* Putin for his actions just means that, in the future, we may pay closer attention to what’s going on inside dictators’ brains. I.e. we learned a lesson as a species: the power given to any particular brain should be limited.
    We keep learning that lesson through history, but we also keep forgetting it… e.g. that’s what the book DUNE (Frank Herbert) is about.

  265. fred Says:

    This is an analogy of how we go through life:

    The water in a river is not responsible for where it goes, it only follows the riverbed in the landscape… but the riverbed in the landscape was carved by the flow of the water.

    So, even if our macro concepts of river, riverbed, landscape, water,… make it all seems like things can be clearly separated, everything is really deeply connected in an inextricable way.

  266. murmur Says:

    Scott, since you’re so much in favor of Justin Trudeau’s imposition of martial law in response to the truckers’ protest what do you think of the farmers’ protest in India? The farmers blocked the capital New Delhi for months, making life unbearable for many. Yet the international media hailed them; ironically Trudeau supported the farmers’ right to protest. Yet faced with much milder protest in his own country he imposed a draconian law and froze the bank accounts of people who even donated to the campaign. OTOH Modi never imposed martial law to end the protest. I’m sure the media would have called him fascist if he did anything like Trudeau. Do you see the hypocrisy?

  267. murmur Says:

    To add to my previous comment, if Trump did anything similar to Trudeau to stop the far more violent protests of 2020 wouldn’t he be called a fascist?

  268. JimV Says:

    Thanks to Dr. Aaronson for releasing my previous last comment, above. I had reconciled myself to the belief that it would be lost in time, like tears in rain.

    In case any more comments are approved, I will post this last comment to reply to a few things I had not noticed until now.

    To Harvey Friedman:

    I recall John Bolton’s book quoting Pompeo as calling Trump a moron, but my memory is fallible. At any rate, Pompeo had a low opinion of Trump (see Thanks for pointing out that Tillerson also had a low opinion of Trump. As do I, simply from listening to his speeches and knowing some of his history of scandals and bad judgement. E.g. (I could cite many instances), he has publically bragged that he was second in his class at university (while threatening to sue the university if his grades are made public), but in his commencement listing there are no honors, whereas several others had cum laude or magna cum laude mentions.

    To Ultimancy at 162, well, it was a bit smart-alecky, but it would be one way of testing the general proposition that humans have some magic that supersedes the laws of physics. I am open to any other tests.

    To Ilio at 254, thanks for the reply. I respond that everyone has a right to their own paradigms, or more generally, concepts of what might and might not be part of reality, but not to their own rules of logic. For example phlogiston vs. oxygen were two concepts. They were resolved by experimentation (as Dr. Hossenfelder has proposed), but I don’t think (it has been a long time since I read about this in school) that either side called the other side’s concept loony or nonsensical a priori, i.e., failures of logic. I myself am skeptical of Dr. Hossenfelder’s concept, but strongly doubt it is based on faulty logic which she is not capable of being reasoned out of. My guess is that it like phlogiston, something that is conceivable, prior to experimental data, but not reality. (Which will still leave the problem she hoped to address, reconciling QM with GR.)

  269. Lorraine Ford Says:

    JImV #256, fred #262 :
    Whether Putin, and other people and living things, could be genuinely responsible depends on the type of system we live in. One can only talk about responsibility in the context of the type of system, that we are a part of.

    Do we live in a type of system where every number for every variable is determined by the laws of nature, and where the only inputs to the system were/are : 1) at the beginning of time, when initial numeric values were assigned to every variable; and 2) subsequent random number assignments to some of the variables? In this type of system, the laws of nature, and the initial number inputs, and the random number inputs, are responsible for EVERY number for EVERY variable.

    In this type of system, Putin could no more be responsible for anything than a tennis ball could be responsible for anything. In this type of system, reasoning is totally irrelevant. In this type of system, what you reason or decide, or what the brain does, is totally irrelevant because what you reason and decide, and what the brain does, are just some of the superficial shapes the system takes as it evolves. Similarly, Putin, and what Putin does, are just some of the superficial shapes the system takes as it evolves. Similarly, a tennis ball, and what a tennis ball does, are just some of the superficial shapes the system takes as it evolves.

    The ever-changing superficial shapes that the system takes as it evolves have nothing whatsoever to do with responsibility. One can only talk about responsibility in the context of a particular type of system. It is the type of system that determines what is responsible for every number for every variable. If people do not assign some of the numbers to some of their own variables, which thereby influences the shape the system takes, then people can never be responsible for anything.

  270. Ben Standeven Says:


    So, instead of requesting emergency powers, you think Trudeau should have just sent the police in at the start, water cannons and rubber bullets blazing? I suppose people would be just as okay with that as they were with how Modi handled the Indian protests, or how Trump handled the protest at Lafayette Square…

  271. DR Says:

    murmur #266 :
    The farmers were just the rich ones from 2 states, Punjab and Haryana, protesting laws that were trying to modernize Indian agriculture. The new laws passed bythe Indian legislature, were to help small farmers sell anywhere, while the rich farmers protesting didn’t want to permit them that freedom. Hard to give up decades of dominance that came about unfairly. Biden supported Modi’s farm reform laws.. He was right to. America and other modern democracies have similar structures in place. It is hypocritical to oppose them in India. I disagreed with the protestors, as shoukd Trudeau. However, Canada has many Sikh voters who have family among the farm protestors. This is why Trudeau supported the farm protests in India. He was being lobbied hard in Canada for it. Modi then scrapped these laws himself, to further his own party’s election chances presumably, in Punjab. Any sane party in power would have modernized Indian agriculture. Hope Modi gets them back in – they were passed by legislature.

    The truckers in Canada though, were protesting vaccine mandates. I agree with vaccine mandates. They are similar to traffic laws, in my view.

    Trudeau’s hypocrisy – agree.

  272. ultimaniacy Says:

    Karan #258:

    As I said above in regards to Iraq, military interventions to remove a genocidal tyrant are not morally equivalent to interventions seeking to destroy a free country and turn it into a tyranny. The morality of the Kosovo intervention is easier to defend than the second Iraq War for a number of reasons, most obviously that Milosevic’s genocide was ongoing at the time of the NATO bombing, while Saddam’s worst atrocities were already long over by the time the US invaded. Nevertheless, neither is nearly as indefensible as what Putin is doing in Ukraine.

    This is not simply an “us vs. them” issue. I would have said more or less the same thing if you had compared Putin’s war to the Vietnamese invasion of Khmer Rouge Cambodia.

  273. Lorraine Ford Says:

    Either human responsibility is responsibility for at least some of the numbers for the variables in the system, or the concept of human responsibility is a complete sham, just playing around with words.

    Either, as a result of his conscious deliberations, Putin assigned some numbers to his own variables, which affected other numbers and variables in the system, or Putin and his actions are just the product of the laws of nature and randomness.

    If the laws of nature and randomness are responsible for every number for every variable since the beginning of time, then people are not responsible in any way.

  274. Lorraine Ford Says:

    JimV #256:
    People can assert that they are responsible; people can fool themselves that they are responsible; but unless we live in a type of system where people can assign some numbers to some of their own variables, people can’t in fact be responsible in any way for any actual outcomes in the world.

  275. Ilio Says:

    To JimV @268: Yes, we agree to disagree on how many valid rules of logic there can be.

    Thanks for the example. From my perspective, phlogiston vs. oxygen sound from the same
    (paradigm)/(rules of logic)/(set of priors on what kind of ideas you should test if you want to understand what the heck is happening). Indeed, in both cases there is one central, common idea: « even if combustion, metal corrosion, respiration, etc look completely different, in disguise this could be because of the same invisible substance that binds or unbinds other substances and this affect how they look and behave ».

    If two folks agree this kind of crazy could actually work (despite it’s in direct contradiction with everything Aristotle taught us for hundreds of years) then they are already sharing more or less the same paradigm, and they will accept each other ideas as sounded possibilities. Not because that’s not crazy (they think they know better than Aristotle!), but because they agree on what kind of crazy is ok.

    Obviously SA and SH don’t agree on what kind of crazy is ok.

  276. 1Zer0 Says:

    fred #262

    You don’t need surgery to influence your own brain. Anything you see, hear, smell, taste, feel, the things you eat and drink, generalized any kind of matter, light or gravity “penetrating” your skull will influence your brain, although in many cases completely negligible. You just need a few high tryptophan cashews, eat them, eat some high carbon food 1h later and the insulin released due to the carbon consumption will let the tryptophan into your blood stream and eventually through the brain blood barrier where it’s converted into serotonin and melatonin. High serotonin affects mood and ability to learn, there we go, you modified your brain without any kind of surgery.
    I think there are multiple cases to consider;
    1. “You” – as in the center of consciousness – are you brain
    a) the brain is a deterministic working biomachine (nondeterministic – not probabilistic – turing machine)
    b) the brain is a probabilistic turing machine
    c) the brain is a hypercomputer
    All of this could work with or without panpsychism.

    2. “You” – as in the center of consciousness – are not your brain
    a) have a soul and somehow the brain and the soul interact, but the will is entirely determined by the brain according to one of the principles from 1 a) – 1 c).
    b) have a soul and somehow the brain and the soul interact, but the will is entirely determined by the soul.
    c) have a soul and somehow the brain and the soul interact, the will is determined partially by the soul and partially by the brain.

    All of those things would have (and should have) probably very different implications when it comes to judging somebody’s acts and even if something from 2. would be true, the brain is a necessity to interact with the physical world.

    Most days, I tend to 1b, some days with panpsychism – but without a truly strong conviction.

  277. Raoul Ohio Says:

    QC vs. Reality:

  278. David Simmons Says:

    I hope that Putin sees the light and repents of his decision to attack Ukraine. I don’t know what might happen after that but I hope that even Putin, in his heart of hearts, is worth saving. This may appear to be a shocking or deeply disturbing hope but it is based on my lived experience. If you have any questions about it, I would invite you to pray to whatever God, gods, or higher powers of any kind you believe in to guide you in interpreting my words.

  279. WanderingAlbatross Says:

    Hope you’re alright, Scott; you’ve been uncharacteristically silent. Even though it is obvious what you would say, you definitely may say it and still teach someone something!

  280. hao Says:

    Hello scott
    Could this study have a negative effect on Google’s quantum supremacy experiment?

  281. Scott Says:

    hao #280: What’s even the claimed connection to Google’s supremacy experiment? It seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with it, except that in both cases Gil Kalai has a conjecture… 🙂

  282. Filip Dimitrovski Says:

    Hi Scott,

    What’s your opinion on prediction markets? I heard about them from AstralCodexTen and they seem to have predicted this (terrible) war quite well.

    Best regards

  283. Concerned Scientist Says:

    @ Raoul Ohio: The opinion piece by Sankar Das Sarma in MIT Tech Review is a good example of why public trust in science is so low these days. Almost concurrently with his article, he participated as a neutral interviewer in Microsoft Research’s corporate youtube video (linked below). The aim of this production is, apparently, to discuss a recent fundamental breakthrough towards their topological quantum computer efforts. However, no data is presented whatsoever and there’s no discussion or context. It is never even clear what it is that has actually been achieved. The two academics simply talk for an hour about the significance of this super secret breakthrough. This is all the more bizarre, given Microsoft’s string of recent scandals involving retracted high profile papers, researcher exits, and failed product launches. It can only be surmised that the purpose of the youtube video is to create a hype around Microsoft’s efforts without the scientific scrutiny and with the willing participation of a practicing academic actor. SDS who appears extremely critical of a NISQ machine’s practical utility in the MIT TR article, has no issues whatsoever with participating in what is clearly corporate hype and propaganda. I am no NISQ expert but I find it difficult to trust SDS’s opinion after this. As everything else these days, the only articles that’ll ever get published in popular press on quantum computing are the ones that take extreme positions – that it’ll either solve the world’s greatest challenges or that it is nothing but hype. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle but these balanced views will never get published. Until then, if pop sci articles are to have any value at all – it’ll be best to ask for a conflict of interest statement from the academic authors or simply hold ourselves to a higher standard than SDS.

  284. fred Says:

    1ZeRO #276

    There’s no getting around causation, no matter what “you” think you are or what “your brain” is: the current state of the universe is ENTIRELY determined by its prior state. End of the story…
    It’s not even a fact of physics, it’s a fact of logic. Not even a God can escape this, and so does any subset of the universe (including your brain)… the whole thing has just as much “freedom” as a particular run of The Game of Life.
    Complexity doesn’t matter at all, it’s just noise that confuses us and makes us forget this fundamental fact.
    Not only “free will” doesn’t exist, but the “illusion of free will” doesn’t even exist either!

  285. fred Says:

    And when a system has events in its current state that don’t depend on its prior state, it’s called “randomness”, not “free will”.
    That’s all there is and all there can be: “cause and effect” and/or “randomness”.
    You can move the needle between those two, but there’s zero room for anything else.

    I think people started getting confused when QM was invented… all the mumbo-jumbo about “conscious observers collapsing the wave function”… but none of that stuff (whether true or not) changes the fact that it’s still only cause/effect and/or randomness.

  286. fred Says:

    Case in point: the Romans living 2000 years ago didn’t know squat about QM but they were less confused (than many “modern” people in this thread) about how the world and the mind really work… again, because cause and effect is an inescapable fact of fundamental logic.

    From Marcus Aurelius’ MEDITATIONS:

    “Whatever happens to you has been waiting to happen since the beginning of time. The twining strands of fate wove both of them together: your own existence and the things that happen to you.”

    “All things are interwoven with one another; a sacred bond unites them; there is scarcely one thing that is isolated from another. Everything is coordinated, everything works together in giving form to one universe.”

  287. JimV Says:

    If humans were infallible we would always make the best decision possible, by determining in advance all the repercussions of every decision. That is, assuming determinism exists, and whatever randomness also exists is small enough or has enough constraints that it can be factored into decisions accurately. Without that, the whole conversation is moot–no one is responsible since no actual reasoned decisions can be made. Assuming we have that, our fallibility has consequences, and taking responsibility for them is the only way a species and civilization can evolve and prosper (since if we don’t police ourselves, nature will). If philosophers want to argue that this is not True-Scotsman-Responsibility, then we disagree on what the term means. I hold Putin mostly responsible for the war in Ukraine, whether philosophers do or not. I hope at least philosophers will agree that without determinism and fallibility, responsibility does not even make sense. If they are saying the concept makes no sense even with determinism and fallibility, I wonder what they teach their children.

    As for humans making numbers, I take it numbers there means decisions (do I redo my taxes with the belated, revised information E-trade just sent me, yes or no, a binary number). Yes, humans make numbers. Their neurons determine them similar to AlphaGo making a Go move, but with more fallibility, due to less dedicated training. (AlphaGoZero in turn beats AlphaGo at Go, due to more training and capacity.)

    I repeat all this hoping to at least make clear what I believe and why I believe it. It feels like I must not have, as I see constrary assertions made without any reference to my points.

    Ilio, I am not following you. Of course crazy people will disagree on their crazy notions, but rational people like Drs. Aaronson and Hossenfelder should be able to resolve scientific differences if they are willing to take the time and effort to, without simply calling each other crazy. That’s the whole point and aim of science. As for Aristotle’s logic, he jumped to several false conclusions, which science has since resolved. (E.g., women are not born with fewer teeth than men.) I hope and think that it he were given the evidence for the correct conclusions he would not stick to his own brand of crazy; or even if he were given the alternative conclusions (e.g., women lost teeth from child-bearing due to insufficient calcium in their diet) without the evidence, he would agree they were logically possible.

    Perhaps we have another semantic disagreement, on our definitions of crazy. To me it implies lacking logic, such as ignoring evidence. It does not imply any of us are imbued with intrinsic information as to what may be and what may not be part of reality, which we can use to judge other people’s concepts. For example, I don’t currently believe there is a multiverse, but I don’t think it is a crazy idea. On the other hand, there is so much evidence against a flat earth that I consider it a crazy idea now.

    Evolution proceeds by trial and error, including design and scientific evolution. (The Ford Edsel did not survive in the marketplace.) Lots of errors are inevitable. Again, acknowledging those errors responsibly is the only way forward, and if that is impossible for even the best humans we are doomed.

    Meanwhile, I hereby cast my vote that the USA government does much more to help Ukraine, albeit my only concrete notion is to put Lt. Colonel Vindermann in charge of the effort.

  288. Esso Says:

    David #278: Many people speak of Russian WW2 victory day as a some sort of deadline for Putin to achieve concrete objectives in his special operation. But what about Easter? Some kind of emotional breakdown might happen then. They know it’s their cousins out there, and they are on Telegram too.

    When the war is over, I hope both sides take a New testament attitude to dealing with the enemy. For neonazis of both sides there is the precedent of Baldr and his unwitting killer the blind god waking up after Ragnarök, with no hard feelings.

  289. hao Says:

    Scott #281
    Thank you for answering a question that has nothing to do with the main text.

  290. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Webb commissioning is going surprisingly well it seems to me and the mid-infrared instrument is down to the target temperature of 6 Kelvin. Based on the released temperature plots the cryocooler appears to have worked well. Soon (early summer) we should be able to peer back to the sixth day of Creation just prior to the divine rest period. 🙂

    Once results are available I have no doubt this instrument is then the absolute pinnacle of man’s creations to date.

  291. OhMyGoodness Says:

    I remember an old short sci fi story entitled something like the Six Billion Names of God. A computer engineer installed an advanced computer in the Himalayas for an obscure cult that believed the sole purpose of Man was to list the six billion names of God. He stayed and helped run the system until the list was complete. He started to trek out, looked up at the night sky, and noticed the stars were going out one by one.

    I hope Webb isn’t the sole purpose of Man. 🙂

  292. OhMyGoodness Says:

    fred #262

    In that case as I understand it you believe all human action is computable if the, call it, effective grid size of the numerical model is on the scale of neurons and time step of milliseconds. I personally then look forward to just a simulation of the human brain based on neuronal level modeling that is able to reliably predict my actions no matter how I choose to determine those actions. I expect that no such simulation will ever exist. To prove that in fact free will does not exist I propose you will need a classic computation device that reliable predicts human actions even in the case the human is actively trying to confound the device with his choices. Color me in the school of It Will Never Happen.

    If you then take the position that only a classic computation device that reliably simulates the entire history of the universe can perform the reliable prediction of my action then it seems just some metaphysical theory rather than a scientific theory.

  293. OhMyGoodness Says:

    fred #286

    Marcus Aurelius also noted that-

    “If you can cut yourself – your mind – free of what other people do and say, of what you’ve said or done, of the things that you’re afraid will happen, the impositions of the body that contains you and the breath within, and what the whirling chaos sweeps in from outside, so that the mind is freed from fate, brought to clarity, and lives life on its own recognizance – doing what’s right, accepting what happens, and speaking the truth –

    If you can cut free of impressions that cling to the mind, free of the future and the past – can make yourself, as Empedocles says, ‘a sphere rejoicing in its perfect stillness,’ and concentrate on living what can be lived (which means the present)…then you can spend the time you have left in tranquility. And in kindness. And at peace with the spirit within you.”

    “It is we who generate the judgments – inscribing them on ourselves. And we don’t have to. We could leave the page blank – and if a mark slips through, erase it instantly.”

    If you look at the entirety of Meditations it is clear that Marcus Aurelius considered mind to be fundamental and the exerciser of free will. His fundamental idea was that mind was an independent observer of the external world and allowed free will in responding to the external. I suggest that QM just formalized the observation in Meditations of the fundamental dichotomy between observer and observed. 🙂

    In #262 you noted-

    “I am not sure how you define “responsibility”, but my actions at any given time are based on the inputs from the world *outside* my brain and from the neural connections *inside* my brain. That’s it.”

    In you later posts you introduce randomness so not sure if your position is that choice is the deterministic result of neural activity or if some randomizer is involved in the brain that overwrites neural activity for the final output.

  294. fred Says:


    “In that case as I understand it you believe all human action is computable if the, call it, effective grid size of the numerical model is on the scale of neurons and time step of milliseconds. I personally then look forward to just a simulation of the human brain based on neuronal level modeling that is able to reliably predict my actions no matter how I choose to determine those actions.”

    Determinism doesn’t imply computability/predictability, those are two different things.

    Even super simple classical systems like a double pendulum or three objects in orbit around one another are unpredictable yet deterministic. Last time I checked, noone claimed those systems have “free will”, the brain is just the same.

    Again, to object, you need to come up with an “evolution” mechanism that’s neither based on cause->effect or randomness.
    That’s also implied without a doubt from the known dynamical evolution laws of physical systems of our universe (unsurprisingly), not based on some metaphysical musing.

  295. Lorraine Ford Says:

    JimV #287:
    You can’t logically claim that you are more responsible than a tennis ball, if you also claim that you live in a type of system where every number for every variable is determined by the laws of nature, and where there might be some random number assignment inputs to the system too.

    It doesn’t matter that you have a brain, and a tennis ball doesn’t have a brain. And it doesn’t matter whether or not you can define what a number is. There is no accountability gap in the above system, there is nothing missing in the above system, because every number for every variable has been fully accounted for. In other words, the responsibility for every outcome in the system has already been fully accounted for: it would be illogical to try to claim that a person could be responsible for outcomes in this type of system.

    If you want to claim that you are responsible for at least some outcomes in the system, then you have to posit a type of system where you, as opposed to the laws of nature and randomness, can make at least some number assignment inputs to the system. If you want to claim that Putin is ultimately responsible for the atrocities in Ukraine, then you have to posit a type of system where Putin, as opposed to the laws of nature and randomness, can make at least some number assignment inputs to the system.

    Clearly, we DO live in a type of system where you are responsible for doing your taxes. And clearly, we DO live in a type of system where Putin is ultimately responsible for the atrocities in Ukraine.

  296. OhMyGoodness Says:

    fred #294

    “Even super simple classical systems like a double pendulum or three objects in orbit around one another are unpredictable yet deterministic. Last time I checked, noone claimed those systems have “free will”, the brain is just the same.”

    This simply isn’t true. The three body problem and double pendulum are predictable and can be numerically simulated to any required degree of accuracy. They just do not have analytic solutions in the general case.

    “Again, to object, you need to come up with an “evolution” mechanism that’s neither based on cause->effect or randomness.”

    I am not sure what you mean by this. Photosynthesis is an evolutionary process that incorporates the quantum mechanical process of electron tunneling. Conserved traits aren’t conserved based on how they arose but simply if once in place provide some survival advantage. If some laboratory in say Wuhan China genetically engineers a virus it may outcompete other fully natural viruses and spawn even more effective variants through natural means that outcompete the original virus. Competitive advantage is in no way dependent on the origin history of the genetic code in question. Whether from the divine, the mortal, or other, it is all the same-advantage, no advantage, or disadvantage.

  297. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Sorry-Photosynthesis is an evolutionarily conserved process…

  298. OhMyGoodness Says:

    Today is World Quantum Day (April 14th 2022). Happy WQD everyone and to you especially Dr. Aaronson!

  299. JimV Says:

    Lorraine, I can believe that given the state of the universe at the time I made a decision, including my mental state and the instincts that evolution programmed into me and the number of photons which were hitting my retinas at that time (a possible seed for a pseudo-random-number generator in my neurons), I would always have made the same decision–and still accept responsibility for that decision. Proof: I do believe all that, and I do feel and accept the responsibility. (It could be that this a useful instinct for survival which evolution has programmed into me.)

    Because if it was the wrong decision (as it has been many times, probably including this reply), in hindsight I can see that I could have done more research, gotten more relevant information, asked an expert’s advice, triple-checked my calculations, had a good night’s sleep first, etc.; and given those counter-factual but possible actions, I could have made a better decision.

    In other words, my definition of free will is, and only is, the legal definition: the ability to make a decision using my own experience, instincts, heuristics, pattern-recognition, and computational abilities, without being forced to do otherwise by some other decision-making entities. E.g., “I enter into this contract of my own free will–nobody is holding a gun to my head.” (Obviously, this only applies to decision capable entities, not tennis balls). In particular, it applies to AlphaGo in its Go-tournament against the world champion, in which it made “rogue” (unexpected) moves which amazed the onlooking experts, including the world champion. (Who later said of one of them, “I never believed that a machine could beat me, but when I saw that move, I knew I would lose.”)

    I think our disagreement is over the semantic meaning of “free will”. In my case, no extra-physics magic is or could be involved. I am not sure what your definition is but I get the impression that it is somehow not bounded by physics.

    There is no finite calculation which could definitively prove what I stated in my first paragraph, but there is plenty of evidence, which is all that is needed for a successful scientific theory.

    I thank Dr. Aaronson again for hosting this philosophical seminar, at some expense and effort, and hope his time is being used more productively elsewhere, as I am sure it is. For my part, I make a donation to Ukrainian aid (e.g., the World Central Kitchen, Doctors Without Borders, Project Hope, the link in the update, etc.) for every comment (whether the comment is posted or not).

  300. OhMyGoodness Says:

    fred #294

    I understand the distinction you are making about predictability and determinism. Many predictions about the real world have some error and that error tends to increase over time due to imprecise measurement of the initial state of the system. For some period of time a prediction may be reasonably accurate but the error may increase over time. When a later state of the system is sufficiently sensitive to initial measurement error then agreed deterministic but difficult to predict. If however the simulation is continuously updated to better estimate initial conditions then this allows progressively better prediction. In the case of a choice not sure how this applies since there is no long term evolution of the system involved. If you have a detailed map of my brain at the neuronal level and I make a choice and even if you know exactly the classical state of my brain before during and after my choice my contention is that you couldn’t determine the choice I made with a classical computation. There is evidence that quantum processes are at work in the brain. I don’t believe a mapping is possible based on knowing what neurons fired during my choice in the general case.If simply a classical mapping then certainly not an insurmountable problem.

    I tried to take the time evolution unpredictability out of this by allowing continuous monitoring. I agree that some choices could be identified such as what finger I lifted but not complex ethical choices nor other purely mental choices not requiring physical actions.

  301. OhMyGoodness Says:

    fred #294

    Last response to 294 I promise. Here is a reference to a paper from 2021 dealing with choice and eye movement in a primate with 80% or so reliability predicting a choice of left or right by monitoring neuronal activity and running through a signal processing package developed for those suffering from profound paralysis. This is more along the line of your view.

    The last paragraph is interesting-

    “This last experiment, led by Jessie [Verhein], really allowed us to rule out some of the common models of decision making,” said Newsome. According to one such model, people and animals make decisions based on the cumulative sum of evidence during a trial. But if this were true, then the bias the researchers introduced with the new dots should have had the same effect no matter when it was introduced. Instead, the results seemed to support an alternative model, which states that if a subject has enough confidence in a decision building in their mind, or has spent too long deliberating, they are less inclined to consider new evidence.”

    I guess this is the way biases take root. 🙂

    Optical techniques for monitoring large numbers of neurons over long periods are improving rapidly using fluorescence associated with calcium concentration in neurons.

  302. Ilio Says:

    JimV #287

    >Ilio, I am not following you.

    Yep. Here is what I think is happening: I am saying you can’t assume SA and SH must agree, because blabla Khun blabla. You’re trying to interpret what I said *assuming SA and SH must agree*, because blabla Science blabla.

    > Perhaps we have another semantic disagreement, on our definitions of crazy.

    Yes, that sounds like a good way to put it. For you crazy means (obvious) deviation from the Truth -the right one. I used crazy as meaning « outside your own paradigm ». Application: Tegmark multiverse is not crazy from your perspective (no obvious deviation from anything we know), but I would guess that, from SA point of view, multiverse is almost as crazy as superdeterminism (although he might prefer the word « empty »).

    PS: actually this is a retrodiction!

  303. JimV Says:

    Lorraine, here’s a concrete example for you. People who follow Russian politics have been predicting that Putin would invade Ukraine again since 2014. If we could rewind time to just before Putin decided to invade and replay it, with Putin believing his forces would rip through Ukraine and no other country would dare to come to its aid, he would make the same decision 1000 out of a 1000 tries, agreed? Yet you still hold him responsible, as does most of the world, even though it was a completely deterministic action.

    Determinism does not remove responsibility. It allows responsibility to be determined. Without Putin, or someone like him, there would have been no invasion. Therefore he is responsible.

    Responsibility is not some absolute moral force to be added to the Standard Model. We determine it, as best we can. It indicates who made the critical decisions which led to some good or bad results.

    In doing so, we factor in considerations of the person’s decision-making ability and available range of options, so that insanity and lack of fully-formed brains in children offer some excuses for bad decisions, but even in those cases there are consequences for bad decisions. The intent is a practical one, to discourage more bad decisions in the future.

  304. OhMyGoodness Says:

    fred (not #294)

    I am not an expert on the 3 body problem but apparently there is an analytic solution to the 3 body problem BUT it is an infinite series that converges so slowly that it is impractical to calculate with convergence only after an unbelievably large number of terms (like googolplex squared terms).

    Modeling indicates that the third body is always ejected leaving only a two body problem. There is apparently a recent paper that provides insight as to why and when this happens. Nature must abhor situations where the computational complexity is too high. 🙂 Dr Aaronson certainly knows more about this then I could ever imagine.

    NASA does an outstanding job of simulating missions with complex multi body gravitational fields like close passes to the moons of the gas giants.

  305. fred Says:

    Lorraine Ford #295

    “If you want to claim that you are responsible for at least some outcomes in the system, then you have to posit a type of system where you, as opposed to the laws of nature and randomness, can make at least some number assignment inputs to the system. If you want to claim that Putin is ultimately responsible for the atrocities in Ukraine, then you have to posit a type of system where Putin, as opposed to the laws of nature and randomness, can make at least some number assignment inputs to the system.”

    First you don’t explain what’s “you” or what’s “putin”.
    You seem to posit that those things (with or without free will) exist independently from the system where cause and effect happen. Basically like “souls”.
    But that’s the thing: even if souls existed, even if “you” or “putin” could somehow override the laws of nature, and modify the state of the universe arbitrarily from the outside, on what would “you” or “putin” base their decisions? There’s only the prior state of the observe universe, and then another state and set of laws for the system that’s outside the observed universe.
    Again, it’s not a matter of the details of the laws of physics, it’s a matter of pure logic. All you need to posit is a system/universe that dynamically evolves. Anything that evolves either follows a set of laws (that set can itself be dynamic and depend on the prior state) or from randomness (by definition, randomness is when something happens without a cause).

    “Clearly, we DO live in a type of system where you are responsible for doing your taxes.”

    Blaming you is only clear as far as looking for the most direct cause of filling or not your taxes, but the more one would dig, the more one would realize that everything is so connected that pretty much the entire universe would be to blame for you not filling your taxes.
    That’s also conflating the philosophical/logical discussion of responsibility (i.e. the universe is deterministic) with the legal definition of responsibility.
    As I said before, it’s not because some concept is “wrong” that it doesn’t serve some purpose from an evolutionary point of view. So, as humans, we use the concept of responsibility because, in many situations, the myth of responsibility (and its flip side, credit) often induces the “right” behavior in people. It’s basic reward/punishment, i.e. another form of learning.
    quote: It has been suggested that Whitman’s violent impulses, with which he had been struggling for several years, were caused by a tumor found in the white matter above his amygdala upon autopsy.

    Then people would say “Oh, ok, he had a brain tumor, so I guess he really wasn’t responsible for his actions”.
    Yes, Whitman didn’t chose to have a tumor in his brain, but that exact same thing can be said about anyone’s neural connections at any given time. The closer we look at “why” we do things, from a series of cascading neural triggers, the more everything starts to look like a tumor, i.e. neural connections just happen based on prior past connections and triggers.
    Yet, we blame some brains for doing bad things and we give other brains credit for doing good things. But even if a brain could magically modify itself, it would only do so based on the prior state of the universe, like every other subsystem, no matter its simplicity or complexity.

  306. fred Says:

    That’s not to say that Putin isn’t behaving like total asshole (that probably depends on who you ask).
    That’s an observation of his actions.
    But blaming Putin for being who he is isn’t useful.
    Sure, if we could reconnect all his brain connections in just the right way, we could override his behavior arbitrarily, like change him into Mother Theresa (that’d be like removing a brain tumor, just way more subtle).
    Putin being Putin is just an unfortunate side effect of the way things are everywhere else in the universe at this moment.
    And probably you can’t change the initial conditions of the universe in such a way that Putin wouldn’t happen without making things way worse (or at least way different) somewhere/sometime else.

  307. OhMyGoodness Says:

    So many papers behind firewalls these days. Here is a paper on a proposed updated control systems for double pendulum gantry cranes-

  308. JimV Says:

    P.S. I forgot to add, at the end of my previous comment, the following: Lily understands this.

  309. JimV Says:

    I found another place to donate today: Good Bread (bakery in Kyiv which is distributing free bread)

  310. Lorraine Ford Says:

    JimV #299, JimV #303:
    The issue is: who or what is responsible? In a type of system where the laws of nature and randomness are responsible for every number for every variable, the shape described as “Putin” can be no more responsible for outcomes than the shape described as a “tennis ball” is responsible for outcomes. You and what you do, Putin and what he does, tennis balls and what they do, your mental state, the photons hitting your retina, evolution, your feelings etc., are just more descriptions of the outcomes of this type of system. By definition of the type of system, it is the laws of nature and randomness that are responsible for every detail of every outcome.

    On the other hand, the legal definition of responsibility assumes that we live in a different type of system to the above type of system. The legal definition assumes that we live in a type of system where people, e.g. Putin, are genuinely responsible for their own outcomes, i.e. that people are genuinely responsible for some of the numbers for some of their own variables, i.e. that people can make number assignment inputs to the system.

  311. Lorraine Ford Says:

    fred #305, fred #306:
    I’m saying that responsibility is responsibility for outcomes, i.e. responsibility for the numbers that apply to the variables. Whether people could ever be genuinely responsible for at least some of the numbers for some of the variables depends on the type of system we live in. If we live in a type of system where the underlying laws of nature and randomness are responsible for every number for every variable, then despite superficial appearances, people can never be responsible in any way for any outcomes.

    Similarly, what “you” are, and what “Putin” is, depends on the type of system we live in. If we live in a type of system where the underlying laws of nature and randomness are responsible for every number for every variable, then “you” and what “you” do, and “Putin” and what “Putin” does, are just shapes that the system assumes as it evolves.

    But if we live in a type of system where people can assign at least some numbers to some of their own variables, then people are not just shapes that the system assumes as it evolves. Exactly how people (and other living things!) in this type of system should be viewed is another issue.

  312. JimV Says:

    Loraine, it is very simple. Without determinism, there is no responsibility. With determinism, decision-making entities are responsible for their decisions. Because it is possible for other decision makers to determine who made the critical decisions, and determine consequences (good or bad) for those decisions.

    Once a decision is made and implemented, it cannot be changed. The past is fixed in this universe. So what good does it do to blame the decision maker? Answer, because future decisions can take into account past decisions, their results, and the consequences for those results. That is how determinism works. Survival of the fittest is a deterministic principle. Without it, we would not be here.

    If AlphaGo had made bad decisions it would be on the trash heap of failed decision-making systems.

    No romantic notions of “moral responsibility” need to be ascribed, although many may prefer to. Responsibility is a hard fact of how a (somewhat) deterministic universe works.

    The bad decision-maker will probably claim it was not its fault, for various reasons beyond its control. That too is a predictable, deterministic action, aimed at staving off consequences.

    As a fallible decision maker myself, I may have made errors in assembling my world view, but none of your assertions have shaken it. All of evolution history is my evidence (including AlphaGo). I have yet to see yours.

    (As a consequence of my decision to post another comment stating the same position I owe Ukrainians another $50 donation. No, let’s take more responsibility and make it $100.)

  313. Lorraine Ford Says:

    JimV #312:
    Your logic is faulty. With 100% determinism, or even determinism with randomness, there can be no personal responsibility for outcomes. I.e. in a system where the laws of nature and randomness are 100% responsible for every detail of every outcome, then people can be no more responsible than a tennis ball.

    For people, e.g. Putin, to be genuinely responsible for what they have done, then they must live in a type of system where they can make input to the system.