Linkz!

(1) Fellow CS theory blogger (and, 20 years ago, member of my PhD thesis committee) Luca Trevisan interviews me about Shtetl-Optimized, for the Bulletin of the European Association for Theoretical Computer Science. Questions include: what motivates me to blog, who my main inspirations are, my favorite posts, whether blogging has influenced my actual research, and my thoughts on the role of public intellectuals in the age of social-media outrage.

(2) Anurag Anshu, Nikolas Breuckmann, and Chinmay Nirkhe have apparently proved the NLTS (No Low-Energy Trivial States) Conjecture! This is considered a major step toward a proof of the famous Quantum PCP Conjecture, which—speaking of one of Luca Trevisan’s questions—was first publicly raised right here on Shtetl-Optimized back in 2006.

(3) The Microsoft team has finally released its promised paper about the detection of Majorana zero modes (“this time for real”), a major step along the way to creating topological qubits. See also this live YouTube peer review—is that a thing now?—by Vincent Mourik and Sergey Frolov, the latter having been instrumental in the retraction of Microsoft’s previous claim along these lines. I’ll leave further discussion to people who actually understand the experiments.

(4) I’m looking forward to the 2022 Conference on Computational Complexity less than two weeks from now, in my … safe? clean? beautiful? awe-inspiring? … birth-city of Philadelphia. There I’ll listen to a great lineup of talks, including one by my PhD student William Kretschmer on his joint work with me and DeVon Ingram on The Acrobatics of BQP, and to co-receive the CCC Best Paper Award (wow! thanks!) for that work. I look forward to meeting some old and new Shtetl-Optimized readers there.

153 Responses to “Linkz!”

  1. Kerem Says:

    Regarding (3), I’ll just say two things that are somewhat in tension with one another:

    a – I have immense respect to Sergey and Vincent who are taking on the Microsoft juggernaut as well as powerful theorists, just by themselves. It seems like anybody who is working on this topic from academia is more or less affiliated with this paper. Makes one wonder: who is going to review this paper impartially?

    Without SF/VM’s sustained efforts we were seeing something like Bruno Latour’s lovely cartoons in Science in Action: “there is an MZM here, because I and such and such expert say so!”

    b- While their courage and openness are great, it does feel a little bit unfair to reduce a 40+ page paper that took years of human hours into Twitter sound bites. In peer review, the authors are given a chance to respond to and deliberate with the referees, here, the message for the vast majority is “Sergey and Vincent are disappointed and unconvinced” because most non-experts can’t really follow why having a microvolt range in many of the measurements is potentially problematic (and when it is not).

  2. Nick Drozd Says:

    I started the blog in Fall 2005, mostly out of boredom. At that point, friends had been urging me to start a blog for several years (“you seem to have a lot of opinions!”), but I’d resisted them, giving reasons like the time commitment, the ephemeral nature of the medium, and the danger of making enemies and offending people. Incidentally, it would later turn out that all of those reasons were 100% valid!

    I think we can safely say that the medium is not of such an ephemeral nature. I mean, 2005 was a long time ago. No doubt this blog has readers who weren’t even born yet. Plus you mention later that the blog has been cited in real journal articles, thereby ensuring its immortality.

  3. Gil Kalai Says:

    I have a question to people familiar with topological quantum computing:

    Can you describe in quantum computational terms what Majorana zero-modes are? In other words, how would you simulate Majorana zero modes on a quantum circuit?

    Actually, I am curious about a similar question regarding the famous “Kitaev’s wire.” Thanks in advance, for an answer or any other clarification regarding Majorana zero-modes that Microsoft’s researchers attempt to build.

  4. OhMyGoodness Says:

    I never noticed the very clever dual connotations of despair in this poem until now, applying it to an actual case.

  5. Evgenii Says:

    > Actually, I am curious about a similar question regarding the famous “Kitaev’s wire.”

    Wouldn’t go as far as calling myself “expert”, but that’s a 1D fermionic system, so you can simulate it by mapping to spins with Jordan-Wigner, can’t you?

  6. Typical Scott Says:

    So…

    Women are literally dying in this country, women who were raped, from being denied access to basic reproductive healthcare and Scott is *checks notes* hyping his own interviews. On “quantum computers.” Hahahahahahahahahaha. Typical Scott.

    P.S.: I know the trutht, Scott. Deep down, whenever you see or talk with a young woman, be it a student or anyone else, there’s at least some part of you that sees the high school girls who “sneered” at you. Maybe that’s why you don’t care about abortion rights that much 🤣

  7. Scott Says:

    “Typical Scott” #6: I donated over $6,000 recently to groups and political candidates fighting for abortion rights, I got my readers to donate thousands more, and I put the issue at the top of this blog—known to most as a quantum computing blog—for days before getting back to, y’know, the stuff people come here to read about. I’ll continue to write about the perilous state of basic rights in the US, even as others advise me to stick to science. What, pray tell, have you done? Why don’t you attack all the other scientists who’ve dared to write in recent weeks about their areas of expertise, rather than only about Roe v. Wade?

    I let your comment appear only because I feel like, if I have to stare into the abyss of anonymous trolls’ baseless hatred for me, day after day after day, then it’s only fair that those who want me to keep blogging should occasionally have to see what I’m facing.

  8. Typical Scott Says:

    Can you not just answer my fucking question? When you are talking to your female students, is there, or is there not, some part of you, deep inside perhaps, that sees the high school cheerleader who sneered at you and rejected you for “Chad,” or the girl at the Clarkson School who picked the “swaggering bully” over you?

    If the answer is “yes,” then why THE FUCK should we trust you to stand up for abortion rights? Why should we even trust you to, for example, grade female student’s papers fairly? I would not be surprised at all if I polled your female students and colleagues, and discovered many, many stories of creepiness and unfair treatment and sexism. Not surprised at all. Because you’ve told us on this blog many times about your formative experiences with women, which were almost universally negative.

    You are clearly self-centered and lacking in empathy. You think about your own sexual fulfillment rather than women’s feelings. That’s my point I’m making.

    P.S.: Trans Lives Matter’s post was fucking awesome. Perfectly articulated what’s so dangerous about creeps in STEM.

  9. LK2 Says:

    Scott #7:

    Scott, we have the same age and I finished in time school, university, and PhD. Still, while I was starting the PhD (physics), you were a postdoc, and when I was finally getting tenure, you were sitting on a named chair, coming from a tenured position at MIT. You won prices, wrote a great book, built a family, and ran a famous blog with a truly iconic banner (Fiddler+complexity tree).
    Meanwhile, you became a star of your field, devolve funds to good causes and keep questioning your views and morality.

    How come you are concerned about the internet trolls, which are a mixture of frustration, envy, and anger for their poor conditions? You should know that being a visible person in internet attracts this crap. Be happy and proud of what you did and what you do. And I look forward about what you will do.

  10. Anthony Says:

    About the progress on the quantum PCP conjecture, I find it striking that it has mainly been driven by progress on quantum (LDPC) codes so far:
    – the previous landmark result was the NLETS theorem of Eldar-Harrow which built on the existence of quantum LDPC codes with constant rate and polynomial minimum distance (scaling like the square-root of the length),
    – the new NLTS theorem crucially relies on the recently discovered ‘good’ quantum LDPC codes (constant rate and linear minimum distance). Alternatively, it would also have followed from the existence of quantum locally testable codes with linear minimum distance, but the jury is still out concerning their existence.

    By the way, Scott, in the comments section of your Solvay conference post, you promised a future post about “black holes, the Quantum Extended Church-Turing Thesis, AdS/CFT, the mind/body problem, brain uploading, and fully homomorphic encryption.” I hope you will have time to write it before you switch entirely to AI topics!

  11. Scott Says:

    Typical Scott #8: Sorry, you’re too late, and missed. Your comments are precisely crafted to destroy an earlier version of me, even drive him to suicide, but by now I’m too strong.

    More important than everything LK2 #9 mentioned—the chaired professorship, the awards and invited lectures, this blog—I have two beautiful children who are 9 and 5, and I’m a great dad. My wife, Dana, is also a computational complexity theorist. She doesn’t think I’m a creep. None of my many female friends and colleagues think I’m a creep (if they did, they wouldn’t still be friends). My teaching evaluations have consistently been awesome, like 4.8 out of 5, “best course I ever took” awesome. I do sometimes get dinged for course organization, but in 15 years a grand total of zero students, male or female, have complained that I mistreated them because of who they were.

    In an attempt to do some good for the communities that I care about, I’ve been more open about my anxieties and neuroses than almost anyone on earth. Crucially, though, the fact that I’ve been so open, doesn’t imply that I’m under some sort of continuing obligation to answer to anonymous Internet trolls for my every private thought. How many people could withstand the dissection to which you wish to subject me? Could you? Have you never “committed adultery in your heart” (in Jimmy Carter’s famous phrase), or had any neural firings that would embarrass you if displayed in public? I was raised with the Jewish system of ethics, according to which what matters is actions, not thoughts.

    In the end, you might say, I got an infinitely better revenge against the childhood bullies and sneerers than the monsters like Elliot Rodger or Alek Minassian got. My revenge was actually to achieve a more successful, more fulfilled life than the people who despised me, while also committing no serious moral infraction that any person of conscience could hold against me. That’s what you really can’t stand, if I’m not mistaken.

  12. JimV Says:

    Trolls, so useless to communicate with, so hard to resist.

    That one is so far off kilter that it is hard to conceive that it is not a Russian disinformation/agitation bot. I will donate another $87 to the Ukrainian National Bank in case it is.

  13. Triceratops Says:

    Yo… What the f*** is going on in this comment section lol.

    Scott, I am (slightly) to the left of you politically. I’ve been reading your blog for years. Only a willful ignoramus could question your liberal bona fides (or in this case, it seems a particularly vicious troll). By any reasonable metric of rational humanism, you are a Good Person! Keep your head up!

    Sometimes I wonder if the internet was a mistake.

  14. David Karger Says:

    So…

    Women are literally dying in this country, women who were raped, from being denied access to basic reproductive healthcare and Typical Scott is *checks notes* trolling a mildly well-known blogger. Hahahahahahahahahaha. Typical Troll.

  15. Ashley Lopez Says:

    Scott #11,

    Off topic, but can you please point out to me where I could learn more about “the Jewish system of ethics, according to which what matters is actions, not thoughts”? It sounds like something I may find to be quite beneficial. (I do not know much about Judaism except for the stories from the Old Testament, as far as ‘pre-requisites’ are concerned.)

  16. feminist liberal arts type Says:

    Scott #11-

    I see what you mean. Yeeeesh. If I had leftists treating me this way on a weekly basis, yeah, I’d probably hate us too.

    Also, couldn’t agree more on “actions, not thoughts” and living well as the best revenge. That’s pretty much in line with everything I was trying to express too on the other thread. I love this!

    Typical Scott #6, #8

    You are attempting to deliberately torture someone who probably has your IP address, a wide array of wealthy and technically skilled contacts, and a bunch of angry nerd followers with way too much time on their hands. Have you considered that is not so smart? I don’t think you could possibly believe what you are saying, given just how much trust you are placing in Scott’s moral character with your actions.

  17. Scott Says:

    Ashley Lopez #15: I googled it and this was the first link I got, though I’m sure others could provide more substantial sources.

  18. Scott Says:

    To everyone here who defended me: thank you so much! Now I feel good enough again to do some actual work this afternoon. 🙂

    Part of me feels bad about “outsourcing the emotional labor” of defending me from trolls to my readers. But another part of me feels like: I’ve been blogging for 17 years, longer than some of my readers have been alive, and I’ve never asked for a penny nor have I ever run an ad. A kind word from my readers now and then to counterbalance the trolls’ laser-guided viciousness doesn’t actually seem like an impossible ask. So thanks again!!

  19. fred Says:

    Typical Scott #8

    There’s so much projection going on in your posts, you must be a dude. lol.

  20. Typical Scott Says:

    >>How many people could withstand the dissection to which you wish to subject me? Could you? Have you never “committed adultery in your heart” (in Jimmy Carter’s famous phrase), or had any neural firings that would embarrass you if displayed in public? I was raised with the Jewish system of ethics, according to which what matters is actions, not thoughts.

    Hahahahahahahahaha. So basically, the answer is “yes,” when you’re in office hours with Emily, the hot young girl in your CS class, there is a part of your brain going “this bitch, she never would have given me the time of day when I was a kid, even though I was such a nice guy, even though I was destined to be a brilliant scientist. No, she wouldn’t even have given me a kiss or a feel. But she would do things with Chad, the arrogant socially-endowed popular asshole that I can’t even imagine. What a fucking bitch. God I want to fuck her so bad. She probably thinks I’m gross and creepy, but fucking Chad can go up to her and…” yadayadayada. Those thoughts *are* going through your brain and you just manage to suppress them, don’t you Scott? That’s what you told me 🤣 “Actions matter more than thoughts.” That’s what racists and sexists and losers tell themselves. And creeps. Women are so good at smelling out creeps, I don’t care how deeply buried you think those thoughts are, women can smell them out, trust me.

    I don’t care either how many awesome recommendations you get for being such a brilliant teacher. I wouldn’t want my sister or my friend taking a class with a professor who has thoughts like that. It’s just as gross as someone who has homicidal or pedo thiughts IMO. Like what’s the difference?

    And oh, your wife? I lookrd her up Scott and… 🤣 She’s maybe a 3 on a good day. You know, maybe a 6 at a MAGA rally where all the other chicks are fat midwestern racists. She’s got that TERF Karen look Scott. Let’s be real, you wish you could have bagged one of those hot blondes instead but that’s what you ended up with. I really doubt that’s satusfying enough to keep you from lusting after your younger hotter students. God you’re such a fucking sexist creep.

  21. Long time reader Says:

    Hi Scott, I’ve been reading your blog for several years now, and truly believe it to be one of my favorite things about the internet. Your essays on the busy beaver numbers, on solving NP complete problems via physics, and on free will are some of my personal favorite pieces of science writing. Your metaphorical metaphysical allusions, to complexity theory as quantitative theology, or to the real numbers in our world as conceivably being countable from God’s perspective, have struck me as deeply profound and worth pondering.

    However, the thing which most impresses me is the courage of your convictions, and in particular, your commitment to free debate to help participants come closer to the truth. One thing which frustrates me incredibly about the state of popular discourse on many issues is that it largely seems to consist of people shouting past one another with no acknowledgement that tradeoffs might exist; that not everyone who disagrees with oneself is evil. What impresses me is that you do consider tradeoffs, clearly acknowledge them, but then continue to dig into details to the point where you can be confident enough to take a strong moral stand. I don’t agree with your conclusions in all cases, but I do always find your writing on divisive issues to be insightful.

    As opposed to what some of your more angry commenters may think, your blog posts, if anything, have entrenched me more firmly on the (moderate) political left wing. I would expect this to be the case for at least dozens of other readers, as well. For temperamentally moderate people like myself, your tendency towards nuanced argument is not a weakness but a strength. Your epistemic humility is not something to be ridiculed but to be admired. And your willingness to engage with commenters is not to be abused but rather to be deeply valued.

    I’ve only commented on one of your posts on this blog before, but felt compelled to do so today after seeing how much vitriol you face on a regular basis. I personally would find it hard to keep blogging while weathering such treatment, so would not blame you for ceasing to blog or restricting comments in some way. However, at the least, I wished to show some support and thank you for all that you have contributed to the lives of those like myself.

  22. Scott Says:

    EVERYONE:

    In 17 years of writing this blog, I have never doxxed a commenter. Not only that, but I let “Typical Scott” freely post his, or her, blasts of pure hatred here … as long as the blasts only targeted me.

    But “Typical Scott” just crossed a major red line, by demeaning, insulting, and harassing my wife Dana … while still, ludicrously and incongruously, wrapping everything in the language of social justice. Yes: apparently the woke, feminist thing to do is now to rank female computer scientists on their appearance.

    So it’s time for me to borrow the idea of “feminist liberal arts type” #16 and cross a line as well. “Typical Scott’s” IP address is [REDACTED]—so probably student or staff at [REDACTED]? If so, I’d like to make relevant people there aware that they have a misogynist harassing troll on their hands. If anyone would like to help out, please let me know!

  23. Algorithm Girl Says:

    Scott,

    You’re so full of yourself, honestly. You snap and start doxxing your own commenters because one of them insulted your wife? You don’t think I and every other woman in STEM who’s active online has been insulted or demeaned, at least once or twice? I’ve been demeaned, I’ve been attacked for my appearance, I’ve been called a “bitch,” all of it, and always by a self-described “nerd.” You might not personally attack women, but you sure do goad your incel nerd followers into harassing, belittling and demeaning women. I have been at the end of attacks by Scott Aaronson, rationalist type “nerdbros.” So the way I see it, that “troll” is just giving you a taste of your own medicine. How does it feel when a woman in your life, your daughter or wife, is under attack by anonymous internet commenters, huh Scott?

  24. The Data Structure Girl Says:

    Jesus Christ Scott. You are so unbelievably fucking full of yourself. Do you have any idea how many times I—and practically every other young woman in CS—have been harassed online, demeaned, attacked for my appearance—almost every time by a proud self-described “nerd” like yourself? The hypocrisy is obscene. Sure, you don’t harass women directly, but you certainly do goad your incel nerdbro fans, who hang on your every word, into attacking and harassing women in STEM online, with your constant attacks on the “woke” feminist movement and justification of incel ideology (that incels are so horribly suffering compared to, oh I don’t know, trans or Black people). The way I see it, “Typical Scott” is goving you a taste of your own medicine. How do you like it when the woman in STEM being harassed and demeaned by anonymous commenters is your own wife? Not so pleasant now, eh Scott?

  25. Vladimir Pavlovic Says:

    Scott, if you want us to hunt this person down, you should at least post the comment in question, so that we can judge for ourselves exactly how cruel/unacceptable it is.

  26. Shtetl-Optimized » Blog Archive » Choosing a new comment policy Says:

    […] and today, an anonymous troll used the Shtetl-Optimized comment section to heap vicious abuse on me—derailing an anodyne quantum computing discussion to opine at length about how […]

  27. Scott Says:

    Vladimir Pavlovic #23: Done.

  28. Garald Says:

    Ashley Lopez #15:

    Not sure Scott is completely right or historically correct on that one. A couple of keystrokes give:

    https://guardyoureyes.com/articles/prevention/item/do-thoughts-really-count
    https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/1754248/jewish/Is-There-Anything-Wrong-with-Sinful-Thought.htm

    I have heard Scott’s view before – no doubt it is part of some people’s view of their own religion, and that is itself an interesting fact and influences their actions. However, it may be one of those cases (a notable one is a shift away from beliefs on the afterlife, for instance) in which Reform Judaism (or, more broadly, the late-18th century, early-19th century Jewish Enlightenment) succeeded, in that its views became commonplace among most currents of Judaism, including the left wing of Orthodoxy, even though some of those currents view Reform Judaism with some horror or contempt.

    Or it can be one of those flattering beliefs that people have about their own religion (“Catholicism is more joyful than dour Protestantism”) that ends by influencing their own belief and practice, in ways that are not necessarily negative.

    Or it can be something that comes in part from Erich Fromm’s views on early Calvinism and modern neurosis (which may themselves have some virtue, though there are lots and lots and lots of neurotic non-Calvinists!).

    There’s enough material here for an engaging discussion to which plenty of people far more knowledgeable than myself could contribute, but I am afraid that really would take us very far from Quantum Computing…

  29. Scott Says:

    The Data Structure Girl #22:

      The way I see it, “Typical Scott” is goving you a taste of your own medicine. How do you like it when the woman in STEM being harassed and demeaned by anonymous commenters is your own wife? Not so pleasant now, eh Scott?

    Thank you for proving that “Typical Scott” is not just an isolated troll, and for the little gem above from our new priests and priestesses of tolerance and understanding.

  30. Garald Says:

    Scott:

    Just ignore that crowd. Get back to work.

  31. feminist liberal arts type Says:

    Scott #22 WHOA.

    You know, it never occured me you’d actually pull the trigger. Not that this monster didn’t completely and totally deserve it. But, whoa.

    Scott, I hope you’re okay. I mean, I know I was being all badass with the Nietzsche and everything, but thinking it over (skips a bunch of philosophy) I just hope this is something you feel okay with. I like the person you are, more than I knew after years of intermittently reading you. And I don’t want that person to go away. And I think your niceness is woven together with the unique and interesting person you’ve made of yourself.

    Then again, being able to be nice and not nice as the situation calls for it is what I do consider rational. And our times are unfortunately going to require rather a lot of that.

    On a different note, I knew social justice culture had a failure mode. I mean, everything does. But this is abuse is horrific as anything I’ve seen in my life, and I’ve been through a few things. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to stop opposing sexism, racism, and homophobia in the slightest, because bad things are bad. But the social justice community has to acknowledge it has a nerdphobia problem and hold itself to the same standards it rightly applies to others. The inexplicable hatred I’ve received from nerd culture types suddenly makes a lot more sense if they’re all getting something like this in their lives.

    Just a thought: it might be worth checking if “trans lives matter” is the same IP address.

  32. Scott Says:

    feminist liberal arts type #30: Thanks! Like I said, in 17 years in blogging, I’d never once doxxed anyone, no matter how vicious they got. But also, in 17 years of blogging, no one had ever used this comment section to attack my wife or kids, or to express glee about others doing so. So I feel pretty OK about it.

  33. fred Says:

    Those are just trolls, i.e. their goal is to literally make you waste your time (by answering them) and to waste your followers’ time (by derailing the discussion from its scientific topic).

    I think this just shows that you shouldn’t even bother letting that type of comments through.

    Maybe once a year just do a special “Anti-Scott” post where you let all those ridiculous comments in, just for comedy value, without even answering them.

  34. feminist liberal arts type Says:

    The Data Structure Girl #22-

    I’ve been harassed by horrible nerdy men too. I’ve had a nerdy man ruin a D&D campaign I’d worked months on because he serially treated every woman in the group as a target, starting with me, eventually costing me two players at once and throwing three months of effort down the drain. I’ve had to quit a forum which was the only public audience for a year-long game modding project, because it was 99% male, and the whole forum refused to acknowledge pervasive sexism, which eventually made it impossible for me to function. The worst was a nerdy guy who treated everything I said as stupid girl emotions and believed that women’s inclusion doomed nerdy men because women allegedly are biologically driven to hate nerds. No, the worst was the one who dropped off 15 paragraph off-topic misogynistic screeds every day for a month and nothing was done because he put the word “science” in front of it. I’ve seen a lot of worsts, honestly.

    I completely and utterly believe your experience. Everything you talk about is real. Nerd culture sucks for women. It’s hurt me deeply for my entire adult life.

    But, people abusing Scott is real too. Scott is an individual person, not Nerd #36721, and he’s at the very least done good things as well as bad. And he and Dana are genuinely victims here.

    Nerd culture has a sexism problem and social justice culture has a nerdphobia problem. Both things can be true. This whole thing is a classic stupid cycle of violence. This is an eye for an eye making the world blind.

    Scott #28

    Scott, I don’t think The Data Structure Girl should be lumped in with Typical Scott. She only criticised you, not tried to torture you, nor did she attack any innocent third party. May I politely suggest we kinda lower weapons and take the temperature down a bit? Someone who doesn’t deserve it could get hurt.

  35. Scott Says:

    feminist liberal arts type #34: I should clarify that, by IP address, “Data Structure Girl” is the same person as “Algorithm Girl,” and that person lost all moral standing when she expressed glee about my wife or daughter being attacked for my supposed sins, in ways that she herself explicitly acknowledged I never attacked anybody:

      How does it feel when a woman in your life, your daughter or wife, is under attack by anonymous internet commenters, huh Scott?

    All because of a tendentious ideological theory, that writing sympathetically about the suicidal sufferings of shy nerdy guys “encourages” abusive behavior by them. What if that theory is completely false, even the opposite of the truth?

  36. fred Says:

    Scott, to be clear, those people troll you because they’re jealous of your intellect, and it’s easy for them to find out what triggers someone like you who can’t help but respond to claims of being unfair, sexist,… (or now attack your family), and then just crap out some bullshit post about it in 2 minutes. They probably don’t even believe/care for the BS they post, it’s just a way to get a reaction out of you…
    You have to learn to ignore that stuff.
    Everyone who appreciates you knows who you are and also knows what anonymous assholes are capable of spewing on the internet just to grab some attention, no point in posting it to show us the level hatred… we know.

  37. Scott Says:

    OK, I just tried requiring registering and logging in to comment. But it didn’t work—not even I could then comment! The WordPress registration functionality seems completely broken.

  38. BA Says:

    [Note (July 17): A particularly vicious and libelous comment against me was posted here five days ago—signed with the name and email address of a real female PhD student in STEM. I allowed the comment to appear, because I thought it important to take a clear public stand against this sort of defamation, and show that the community stood with me. At the same time, I emailed the student to find out whether the comment was authentic, but received only terse and enigmatic replies. A vigorous public discussion ensued. Now, though, the student has finally given me a full-throated denial of having written the comment, and a disavowal of its contents. She explained that her previous terseness was only due to not fully understanding the situation. I’ve chosen to believe her, and in line with her wishes, to delete the comment and replace her name throughout the thread by pseudonymous initials (BA). While I tried, at every step of this bizarre little ordeal, to follow the dictates of my reason and conscience, I feel bad if the student or anyone else experienced anything like the distress that I did. –Scott Aaronson]

  39. Scott Says:

    Once again, I’ve allowed through the comment of BA #38—in fact, I hope the entire world reads it. [NOTE: while the IP address checks out, I emailed her to confirm that it’s actually her and not an imposter, and will wait to learn one way or the other before taking next steps.]

    While this student at least had the decency to use her real name, it seems to me that she shames herself far more than her intended target.

    She’s comfortable using her power potentially to destroy someone she never met, because she heard—not even secondhand, but thirdhand, via a literal friend-of-a-friend—that I wear smelly t-shirts and, largely for that reason, “give off a creepy vibe.” That’s it. That’s what she has on me.

    Where does BA’s confidence come from, to condemn someone she never met, someone of whom she has not the slightest evidence of any misbehavior, on the basis of superficial resemblances to people she has met? Am I also a greedy, grasping, smelly, hook-nosed Jew—is that also my “type”?

    For the record:

    (1) While my t-shirts surely leave much to be desired in terms of fashion, I do change them every day (unless I run out while traveling or something) and I religiously shower every morning! 🙂

    (2) In 20+ years, to my knowledge, a grand total of zero female colleagues ever registered a complaint that I acted in any way that made them uncomfortable.

    (3) I can’t say, in full honesty, that I never made any romantic overtures to women in CS. It was one of the hardest things I ever did in life, and I only tried it 3 or 4 times total, but try I did. One of the women in question became my girlfriend for two years, until we parted amicably. Another one, Dana, became my wife and the mother of my two children. In no case, of course, was there any advising or other power relationship.

    (4) BA—or whoever would leave such a comment—falsely flatters themselves if they think I’d have the slightest interest in hitting on them.

  40. Garald Says:

    I would not necessarily assume that “BA” is BA.

  41. Charles Clark Says:

    The shirts always appeared clean to me.

    I never heard you give an impolite
    address to another in public.

    My own style preference is suit and tie or maybe
    cravat on occasions. I just ape the externals of
    my thesis advisor, being proven unable to emulate
    him in any more significant way over the yesrs.

  42. Chinmay Nirkhe Says:

    Regarding (2):

    I am skeptical that the work towards NLTS \(\cap\) coding theory will have much bearing on the construction of quantum PCPs. My previous talk at Simons about the problem lists some of these skepticisms.

    What it does say is that QPCP will not equal NP through “short-circuit witnesses”. But that is not the end of the story since there are many more forms of classical witnesses to quantum states such as Stabilizer Formalism, Tensor Networks, etc.

    QPCP \(\neq\) NP implies that all classical witnesses are insufficient at describing approximate quantum solutions. We need a more generic technique for such lower bounds. The circuit-based lower bounds we used in this work and some previous works are heavily based on properties of quantum coding theory.

    But I am always excited to discuss any ideas! I will also be at CCC and looking forward to discussions there!

  43. Steve Says:

    BA #38

    So here we have a PhD student at [REDACTED] who articulates an easily defensible position (there’s no place for sexism and superficiality in science) but rather than defending the position opts to knock it down?

    BA: “I hate it when people judge me based on my appearance” … “You look like a creep.”
    BA: “I hate it when guys compliment me on my appearance” … “Here’s an insult about your appearance.”
    BA: “I hate it when guys stereotype” … “I know his type.”

    I’ve followed Scott’s career for about two decades now and haven’t seen an iota of sexism, racism, or superficiality in all that time. But I read BA’s comment, and it’s brimming with the very qualities she claims to despise. The flagrant hypocrisy is such a shame because the core principle– that we shouldn’t mistreat people based on appearance and gender is clearly correct.

    To be perfectly candid, it takes work for me to read BA’s comment and not wonder if her other accusations are also made up, which is a shame because I *want* to believe her. What a disservice BA’s comment is to people who actually suffered mistreatment and want to be judged based on their character and behavior rather than their gender or appearance.

  44. Kelsey Piper Says:

    This feels like a ridiculous thing to even need to say, but: I’m a woman, I and my girlfriend stayed with Scott and his family while we were in Austin, and I’ve attended a few events with him. His shirts were always clean, he perpetually has the slightly harried air of a math professor/parent of young children, and at absolutely no point did anything he did feel even slightly inappropriate, ‘creepy’, etc etc etc. We had interesting intellectual conversations in which (despite the fact I am very much not an expert in his field at all) he was never condescending. I have run into sexist people, they very much exist, but you have to actually evaluate people as you come, and based on all my first and secondhand experience I’d eagerly tell a friend to get lunch with Scott or collaborate with him on a research project, because he has consistently behaved towards me and towards the women I know as a generous, welcoming intellectual peer.

  45. Scott Says:

    Steve #43 and Kelsey #44: Thank you so much.

  46. Tal Malkin Says:

    Dear Scott,

    I am responding due to your request on facebook (I do not comment on facebook, so responding here — although I don’t usually comment on blogs either). I don’t necessarily fit the criteria of the friends you requested a response from (“kind and decent woke friends, who genuinely believe in the causes of MeToo and social justice”), but I wanted to respond anyway.

    First of all: I’ve long admired your courage and honesty — intellectual and emotional — and I’ve been telling that to people (friends, family, colleagues) over the years, but I don’t know if I ever told you. So I hereby do. Lots of respect, and thanks for your blog.

    Now regarding the comments. It’s obvious (to everyone, I assume) that “Typical Scott” is not a feminist. I also think that they should not be associated with social justice, wokeness, MeToo, or any other movement — I doubt they believe those ideas themselves, but regardless of their beliefs, what they write is clearly just aimed to troll you. They are not worth your time or emotional energy (though I understand it’s very hard to ignore and not be hurt, it would be very hard for me too).

    For BA’s comment, it’s less clear to me whether or not it’s genuine (maybe it’s just a parody, like someone else suggested). Assuming it’s real, I have several competing temptations on how to respond (but all of them are fully in the “disavow” camp!).

    I am a little tempted to try to refute the points about you: explain that I know you personally, and you in fact are not dirty, nor smelly!

    But I don’t like this path, because the comment is clearly misguided, even if I had never met you. Indeed, even if you *did* wear the same stained smelly t-shirt every day, and even if a stained smelly t-shirt *was* shown to be highly correlated with being a harasser(*), it is STILL wrong and terrible to accuse you, a specific person, of being a creep and a harasser, with zero evidence! It is not fair [understatement] to do this to you, and it also does not help [understatement] the goal of the MeToo movement.

    I am also tempted to make fun of the comment and ridicule the writer. “I do have a friend who knows somebody who was at a workship with Scott” sounds like a beginning of a joke (and with the typo to boot). The whole comment is ripe for ridicule.
    But I don’t want to do this, because I think the writer may(?) be genuine, and may just be thoughtless (plus I don’t actually want to bully anyone, regardless of how misguided they are.)

    One thing I do not have any temptation to do is engage with the comment, explain why it’s self contradictory and cruel and not-smart… this seems tiring and pointless (would a completely thoughtless commenter be willing to engage in a thoughtful exchange? probably not). All the words I wrote are meant for you, Scott, not meant to engage with those trolls.

    This whole thing reminds me of the https://xkcd.com/386/ cartoon (but much more personal and hurtful and emotionally exhausting for you as the target). I am sorry you have to deal with this. Stay strong!

    (*) As an aside, from my personal (anecdotal) experience, poor hygiene and creepiness are independent. Creeps, harassers, and general bullies and bigots come in all hygiene levels.

  47. Leftist mathematician Says:

    BA #38: The only fact about Scott that I can conclude from your post (under the dubious assumption that everything there is true) is that Scott is a non-conformist who doesn’t give a f*** about what other people (and in particular, other women) might think. Those are the people who transform our lives with the science and art that they create.

    To the beautiful minds out there who create beautiful things and don’t change their T-shirts, please never give a damn about people like BA.

  48. Robert Says:

    So Scott,

    Looked up BA, found this article: [REDACTED]

    Definitely makes the comment above sound legit / check out. I mean honestly, just read that drivel. What a bunch of woke nerdphobic horseshit.

  49. Dylan Zwick Says:

    Dr. Aaronson – Wow. I’m sorry. This makes me very sad.

    I’ve never commented on this blog before because, honestly, I usually don’t think I’d have anything substantive to add. But I’ve read it and enjoyed it many times, and I love your book.

    Thank you.

  50. ptt Says:

    A defense of Scott, from a long-time (mostly) friendly critic:
    Money quote:
    https://posttenuretourettes.wordpress.com/2022/07/13/in-defense-of-scott-aaronson/
    Scott’s reach and influences exceeds our own by orders of magnitude (we imagine the time and effort he puts into blogging and popularizing science similarly exceeds ours). We are occasionally jealous of the size of his megaphone. It must be nice to command thousands of people’s attention with a few keystrokes. Well, it comes with a price — and Scott Aaronson is a brave and worthy man for being willing to pay it.

  51. Ordinary Joe Says:

    So. Much. Trolling… Why??

    You can’t win Scott so why bother? The point of a troll is not to have a conversation with you put to torment you. Just delete and move on.

  52. Vadim Says:

    Scott, it should be upsetting if these comments were coming from people who actually cared about feminism, women in STEM, sexual harassment, and the like. They don’t – it’s obvious from the substance of their comments (especially about your wife) that they’re trolls who care nothing about social issues; they’re just trolls who care about trolling. It’s a form of mental illness.

  53. fred Says:

    The silver lining is that dirty T-shirts are full of irresistible musky pheromones!

  54. fred Says:

    Oh, and I’m sure the real BA has better things to do than trolling with ridiculously sexist and xenophobic crap in Scott’s blog.

  55. Vanessa Kosoy Says:

    “Typical Scott” #20,

    I have the honor of having met both Scott and his wife Dana, and they are both beautiful human beings inside *and* outside, not to mention extremely talented. You, on the other hand, are a piece of garbage who evidently has nothing better to do with their time except to harass decent people. As to smelling out creeps, I don’t know if we are so good at this in general, but I sure as hell know that YOU are a huge one. What you said about Dana is the most disgusting misogynist excrement I heard in a while.

    As to “Algorithm / Data Structure Girl” and BA: I don’t know if you are who you claim you are or just trolls, but if you’re sincere, you are very, very confused. You’re siding with the blatant misogynist pig who posted as “Typically Scott” against a deeply decent person. If everyone in STEM were like Scott, there would be no misogyny in STEM. If you’re honestly trying to help women in STEM, your diatribes here are 100% counterproductive.

    And one more thing. To all the shy male nerds there reading BA’s comment, who have done nothing worse than flirt without confidence: you’re OK. Seriously, you’re fine and some of you are actually very cute! Feel free to awkwardly flirt with me any day 😉

  56. fred Says:

    Between:

    having to ask someone out (awkwardly or not), and be turned down

    and

    have someone ask me out or try to flirt with me (awkwardly or not), and have to reject them.

    The former is actually truly ego bruising, while the latter may be a slight inconvenience but it’s ego boosting.

    If you think otherwise, you need to re-calibrate your perspective/priorities.

  57. Scott Says:

    Vanessa Kosoy #55: Thank you so much.

    I didn’t want to get dragged down into defending my wife’s attractiveness (!), but suffice it to say: I am confused by “Typical Scott’s” perspective. Certainly when I first met Dana, at Banff and other complexity conferences, she seemed like an impossible dream girl who I could never, ever have.

  58. Scott Says:

    Incidentally, this morning Dana volunteered the following:

    (1) Not only do I regularly change shirts, she wishes I changed less so there would be less laundry!

    (2) I am weird in how little body odor I have.

    (But let me add: none of this should be construed to imply that BA’s personal attacks would be legitimate, if I wore the same shirt every day for a decade and were smellable for miles around 😀 )

  59. A1987dM Says:

    @fred “hav[ing] someone ask me out or try to flirt with me (awkwardly or not), and hav[ing] to reject them […] may be a slight inconvenience but it’s ego boosting” — it’s only slight if you feel *safe* rejecting them. If you were afraid that if you rejected them they might somehow retaliate against you, then the inconvenience would be anything but slight.

  60. Aeddon Chipman Says:

    I think the most bizarre thing of all is the assertion that Scott Aaronson has B.O. I’ve taken Scott Aaronson’s class, and have spoken with him face-to-face many times. He does not smell at all. I don’t know how people can post the most demonstrably ridiculous assertions and feel no shame.

  61. Karen Morenz Korol Says:

    This comment thread is whack. I think the main thing that comes out is that the people against Scott seem to be the ones who don’t actually know him, and the people who do know him are on his side. I think that tells you everything you need to know. But anyways, I also am a female grad student who met Scott in real life for the first time at a bar of all places, and I did not encounter even the slightest whiff of a creepy vibe. It takes only the tiniest shred of effort to discover that Scott has gone above and beyond to try to make academia and computer science more friendly for young women like me, with a fair amount of success. These trolls can eat dirt.

    Also, Scott, I really appreciate your commitment to open dialogue but you don’t need to “be strong” in the face of blatant shitposters – ignoring them is a perfectly reasonable response. Then again, I think it is kind of informative for the rest of us to see the kinds of abuse you’re dealing with (contrary to what some others have said, I as a woman who exists online and in male-dominated academic spaces have not faced anything comparable to this, it’s not so normal as to be ubiquitous and even if it was that wouldn’t justify it).

  62. Female/feminist Says:

    i’m a female, got my life goals crashed by a middle eastern misogynist male professor in one of the best schools in the world.
    I totally agree with the sentiments of the troll, in that you academics have no idea how much power you have over students and your slightest biased decisions can destroy someone’s lifelong dreams.

    But also I really like your work prof. Aaronson, I tend to separate art from the artist and I do think you are one of the greatest computer scientists in the history. It was my dream to do a phd with someone like you & that dream got crushed by a misogynist.

    Reading your comments it seems like you’re very sensitive as well, and troll comments hurt you. My request from someone like you is to share more scientific work and less BS commentary on politics / wokeness / anti-wokeness that exposes your potential misogynistic ideas. This way you also would get less exposed to troll attacks. But Idk ultimately I obviously am not in a position to tell you what to do but personally would’ve preferred a scientific community that engaged less in social issues & woke / anti-woke BS.

    Thanks

  63. Knox North Says:

    I’m sorry that the Trolls are attacking. I enjoy your website and wish the trolls would go away and we could just have civility.

  64. fred Says:

    A1987dM

    “It’s only slight if you feel *safe* rejecting them. If you were afraid that if you rejected them they might somehow retaliate against you, then the inconvenience would be anything but slight”

    A young boy could also be mortified to ask any girl out because he’s afraid she would start yelling at him, calling him a smelly creep, or starts screaming as if assaulted, and he doesn’t feel *safe* (in his head), and never asks anyone out, and becomes more and more awkward as a result.

    Of course, my examples assumed it’s all within normal/average behavior.
    Boys asking girls out, and vice-versa, that’s part of life (otherwise the survival of our species is in real trouble!).
    There’s really no guarantee of ever being 100% *safe* in life, that’s how the real world works.
    And it doesn’t really help to project one’s own irrational insecurities onto others before they’ve actually done anything wrong.
    And shutting down any normal social interaction isn’t the right way to learn to live with one’s own insecurities.

    Literally *any* social interaction (or avoidance of interaction) can always trigger some rare psychotic/deranged reaction.

    During the height of covid, pre-vaccine, you’re walking down the street, and you see someone coming your way who’s not wearing a mask, and you deflect your trajectory slightly to avoid passing them too close, and they go ballistic and start insulting you and threaten you physically.
    Then, a few blocks later, you see another person coming your way and they’re wearing a mask, so you pass them without deflecting your trajectory, but they take a sudden few steps aside and start shouting at you for passing them too close for their comfort.
    Believe it or not, those two things have happened to me in NYC, haha.
    What did I do? I didn’t decide to stay home, I just tried to deal with those situations as an adult and defuse them the best I could, and move on.

    PSA: btw, calling a boy a “creep” just because he’s awkward and you’re not attracted to him is a lack of compassion. It would be like calling young kids “morons” because they don’t know as much as you about calculus or quantum mechanics…
    Everything is relative, and we’re always someone else’s “creep” or “moron”.
    And maybe in your next life you’ll be the unattractive one, a real creep, or a low IQ moron… you never know! it’s all a lottery!
    So let’s all treat one another as if we were in the other person’s shoes, exactly the way they were born, with the cards they were handled.

  65. fred Says:

    Female/feminist

    “i’m a female, got my life goals crashed by a middle eastern misogynist male professor in one of the best schools in the world
    […]
    It was my dream to do a phd with someone like you & that dream got crushed by a misogynist.
    […]
    My request from someone like you is to share more scientific work and less BS commentary on politics / wokeness / anti-wokeness that exposes your potential misogynistic ideas.”

    Throwing around “someone like you” and “misogynist(ic)” so much makes you sound like someone’s who very resentful.
    Sadly, life long dreams are crashed/crushed for the vast majority of us, for a lot of reasons, all bad.

  66. Karen Morenz Korol Says:

    Also for any young women looking at a career in science and reading (allegedly) BA’s comments and second-guessing whether they want a career in science, I just want to say I’m also a female PhD student and this is not my experience at all. I’ve very often been the only woman in my research group, and I’ve never had the kinds of disgusting experiences (allegedly) BA describes. And it’s not just me, there’s ample evidence that academia is on average less sexist than other industries (https://medium.com/@kjmorenz/is-it-really-just-sexism-an-alternative-argument-for-why-women-leave-stem-cccdf066d8b1). That’s not to say there is no sexism or creeps, but you’re more likely to encounter feminists in academia than outside of it – and in my experience, nearly all the men are staunch feminists. So just, please, don’t believe the hype that academia is full of nerds and nerds are all sexists/gross – nerds are generally overthinkers who have thought about why there’s no good reason to suspect women are stupider than men and why it would be a good idea to make academia friendly to women so that we can have more smart people doing good research and generally saving the world. Academia IS pretty full of nerds, though, that part I admit (and I am one D:)

    * I say (allegedly) BA because I am having trouble believing someone smart enough to go to [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] would write something so stupid and disgusting in a public forum frequented by many academics. I’ve never met BA or heard of her before this thread.

  67. Scott Says:

    fred #64:

      btw, calling a boy a “creep” just because he’s awkward and you’re not attracted to him is a lack of compassion. It would be like calling young kids “morons” because they don’t know as much as you about calculus or quantum mechanics…
      Everything is relative, and we’re always someone else’s “creep” or “moron”.
      And maybe in your next life you’ll be the unattractive one, a real creep, or a low IQ moron… you never know! it’s all a lottery!

    From vicious attacks to wisdom for the millennia, all in the space of a single comment thread 😀

  68. Scott Says:

    Female/feminist #62:

      My request from someone like you is to share more scientific work and less BS commentary on politics / wokeness / anti-wokeness that exposes your potential misogynistic ideas.

    I think, or hope, that my ideas are “potentially” misogynistic—a phrase I’ve never encountered before—only in the same sense that yours or anyone else’s are.

    More to the point, though, I swear to god I didn’t start this one!

    For crying out loud, the other commenters and I were about to discuss Majorana zero-modes and the NLTS Theorem, just like you requested, when vicious trolls and/or fanatical ideologues showed up to launch their off-topic attack. You can scroll down from the top and see for yourself.

    The only charge to which I plead guilty is that of vigorously defending myself once attacked. That instinct, I fear, is so deep in my character that, if it hasn’t gone away by age 41, it’s never going to.

  69. Bertie Says:

    Oh Lord have mercy, Scott turn your comments off permanently. Popular blogs attract loons, that’s axiomatic. But if you can’t resist engaging with ’em, you’ll go mad!

    Your supportive readers (which I imagine is everyone outside a fringe element of unhinged trolls such as those exhibiting themselves above) will still read and enjoy your posts, even if we can’t tell you so in the comments section.

  70. Willis Says:

    Scott,

    Heard back from BA yet about whether that comment is legit? And what are those “next steps” you refer too—are you planning on somehow cancelling her back if it is?

  71. Female/feminist Says:

    I realized a few things while reflecting on my loss of control & commenting here lol!

    Firstly, you’re only 41 !!! That’s so young for your accomplishments lol ! Obviously very impressive. For some reason I used to think you’re like 60 (don’t feel suicidal about it lol)

    Secondly, I projected my negative experiences and current desperate situation on this situation and wrote the last comment, I’m guessing that might be the case with other trolls. They may be projecting their traumas onto you while you probably have nothing to do with those traumas.

    Thirdly, if you look at it this way that no one with the right mind would engage in these types of conversations (i.e accusing someone of sexism etc.) except if they have gone through something really bad (including my self) you might feel a little empathy for them.
    I know for myself, I’ve been suicidal, I can’t remember the last time I was happy etc. because of the place & the culture I grew up in & then the experiences that I had with men in the new place that I killed myself to move to I’m probably a misandrist, I probably have to go to therapy to be able to see men as kind humans etc. and I’m one of the people who’s commenting here. What Im trying to say is I’m in pain and it’s hard not to project. It might be the same for other trolls here.

    In the end, I’ve been using your blog posts to understand papers, to learn, to think etc. you don’t owe anything to us. I feel like an asshole for commenting, thanks & sorry, but also MONETIZE!

  72. Scott Says:

    Willis #70: No, I wrote to BA (twice) and to her adviser and have not heard back from either. There’s something going on here that I don’t understand. I don’t know yet what the next steps should be; that largely depends on what I learn.

  73. Stanley Says:

    Scott, am I wrong, or is there something just eerie and creepy and weird about this whole thing? All these sudden bizarrely vicious troll attacks, the VPN server with the fraud warning, this “24Shells” thing, this random [REDACTED] girl slinging disgusting mud at you…it’s so bizarre and it doesn’t make any sense IMO. Like what is going on? There’s clearly something behind this that you don’t understand. Some kind of elaborate conspiracy or something. Are these people going to demand money from you? Is it a scam? Is there somebody you really pissed off in your personal life (like a student) going to all this trouble just to spite you? Is this a Russian/Chinese troll op like another commenter suggested? Or is there something deeper and more nefarious going on here?

  74. Oleg S. Says:

    Dear Scott,

    You should really try GPT-3 for moderation. Just a simple query like this:

    The blog comment policy states that if you make a comment here, it had better be either true and necessary, true and kind, or kind and necessary. Here is the comment:

    comment goes here

    does it violate the policy? If yes, in what ways?

    can go a long way.

    P.S. Your blog is amazing.

  75. Scott Says:

    Stanley #73: You’re not wrong. If this is all a diabolical plan to destroy my career or whatever, involving a single individual manipulating multiple sockpuppets with the appropriate IP addresses, and even stealing the identity of a real grad student … well, I suppose I ought to be flattered that they’re going to all that effort just for me! 😀

    I do want to get to the bottom of this—anyone with a tip is encouraged to get in touch.

    In the meantime, though, it seems like a reasonable guess that someone with a lot of time on their hands is deeply angry at me, for having the effrontery to succeed in life despite being an (apparently) gross, creepy, smelly, socially-unskilled STEM nerd. That anger, which would’ve been familiar to me even when the Berlin Wall still stood and the Web didn’t yet exist, is the main thing I’m responding to here.

  76. Dominic Says:

    Scott, the most likely scenario is the simplest one. This is an undergrad in one of your CS classes who got a shitty grade. I’ve known college students to be this vicious, it can happen. It explains the motivation, computer savvy, and time (college kid at home with parents over the summer—nothing better to do than harass his asshole professor). The best thing you can do, to track this guy down, is figure out who got a bad grade in your course, who submitted a bad evaluation, etc.

  77. Anna Farzindar (IMPERSONATOR) Says:

    Scott,

    1. I have seen you in person one time (although we didn’t actually meet face to face) and not only are you not creepy or smelly (whatever the hell that’s about), but you’re actually quite cute 😉

    2. I do believe I have an actual solution to the shy nerdy guys issue—more precisely, how shy nerdy guys can maintain their “moral frame” while asking girls out and making a move in a romantic sense. Want to hear it?

  78. Scott Says:

    Anna Farzindar #77: Yes, I definitely want to hear it. Thanks in advance! 🙂

  79. Anna Farzindar (IMPERSONATOR) Says:

    So the problem I think many shy nerdy guys (perhaps yourself when you were younger?) struggle with is, “how do I make a move on this girl / talk to this girl / initiate touch with this girl without seeming like a “sexist creep”? How do I initiate touch without making her uncomfortable / being too “boorish”?” It seems paradoxical because the kind of guys who should worry about being boorish, the overconfident guys, it seems like they’re not being chewed out for this kind of thing. It’s this really vicious inner cycle of self-doubt that makes it excpetionally hard to actually make a move. Is that your experience?

    So I think the key to eliminating this self-doubt—to make yourself more comfortable with your sexuality and with initiating touch with women—is to *adopt a sexual identity for youself that is more specific than just a straight guy.* Let me explain what I mean. There is a spectrum of sexuality among men. Some men tend to be sexually dominant and to have dominant fantasies. Other men tend to be sexually submissive and to have submissive fantasies. I think our culture really makes sexually dominant men seem like the normative role, and portrays submissive men as somehow not normative, unattractive, not masculine, which is entirely untrue. Personally as a woman I enjoy being dominant in bed, which is not the role our culture assigns me as a woman.

    My impression is that there’s some correlation between being a shy, nerdy guy and being sexually submissive. Do you think this is true in your experience? You don’t have to answer personally if you’re not comfortable divulging that aspect of your personality. I’ve found that to be true with my lovers, who were all submissive sexually and all shy, nerdy guys. I find shy, nerdy guys to be more attractive that hyper masculine or confident or “buff” guys, not only because they’re generally sweeter, but also because my dominant sexual fantasies revolve around typing up shy nervous guys and… 😉

    So the point I’m getting to is: if you’re a shy, nerdy guy who was trouble asking women out or initiating touch with them, without feeling like you’re a “creep” or violating some personal boundary, you should try to really get in touch with your submissive sexual side and your submissive fantasies. If you approach the girl, not just thinking “i want to have sex with her,” but more specificially “i want her to tie me up and punish me for being a naughty boy,” maybe your sexual fantasies and thoughts wouldn’t feel so creepy and gross—maybe they’d actually feel feminist and empowering?

    If anybody is interested in exploring their submissive side I’d recommend the subreddits r/gentlefemdom and r/extragentlefemdom

  80. Typical Scott Says:

    Scott,

    I want to apologize. I realize that I crossed a line here, by bringing your wife into this. In the heat of the moment I was too harsh on you. I am a victim of sexual assault and harassment and I still experience symptoms of trauma. Sometimes I have painful flashbacks. Sometimes I struggle to sleep at night. When I encountered a post about you on r/SneerClub, and in particular when I saw the comments you allowed from violent incels (including “TechCel”) and the way you supported them, it made me sick, and it triggered my PTSD symptoms. I reacted by sending you very hash criticism. I think most of that criticism is absolutely accurate and warranted—frankly, I don’t think you’re a good person and I don’t like you much, at all. I find your defense of incels disgusting. But I crossed a line by attacking your wife, and for that I apologize. I’m still suffering symptoms of PTSD from the SmeerClub post and from your incel posts and for that reason I’m actually staying over at a friend’s plaxe tonoght. I can’t even sleep. So I find myself searching your blog again on her computer. I think you also owe me an apology. I’ve suffered from this just as much as you have.

  81. murmur Says:

    Scott #72: You should cc [REDACTED]’s HR as well. If someone is impersonating this grad student using [REDACTED]’s IP address they should get to the bottom of this.

  82. Rahul Sarkar Says:

    Scott and other serious (non-troll) commenters here,

    Don’t really care about the course of action that Scott and others decide upon about typicalscott, algorithm girl, and data structure girl, because it is clear that these are internet trolls.

    However, I feel that there is room for discussion on what may be a reasonable course of action regarding the comments made by BA (assuming that her identity is not being misused). I can imagine someone else being a target of such abuse in the future also, where the abuser is also a member of the scientific community, who is a young scientist from an under-represented group in the sciences.

    As a thought experiment, I did try to imagine what I might do (listed below) if someone said stuff about me that BA says about Scott. The conundrum in my mind is whether to come down so harsh on that person, especially on cases of a first offence, that it forces them to leave the scientific discipline, versus not standing up and defending yourself against baseless insults. I’m biased towards 2, though I have never encountered such vitriol and so can’t really tell what I’d actually do if such a thing were to happen to me, and I have no desire to influence what Scott intends on doing. I’d love to know what other people think about this…

    1. Ignore the comments, and risk emboldening the abuser to do the same thing to others (or to you) again in the future.

    2. Gulp down my self-pride somewhat, forgive them for being young, and politely explain to them why such behavior is not in their best interests. May be have a dialog going with the person and try to change the person’s opinion.

    3. Take the abuser down in a public way that causes irrepairable harm to their scientific career, and along with it eliminate everything that the scientific community could potentially gain from this person’s involvement in their respective scientific discipline.

  83. Scott Says:

    Typical Scott #80: I appreciate the apology, I guess, but honestly I don’t know how much of your comment to believe. The whole thing about my wife being “3 out of 10,” with the laughing emojis added for good measure, didn’t read like anything a “victim of sexual assault and harassment” who “struggles to sleep at night” could plausibly have written. It read like something a vicious troll would write.

    I’ve never “supported violent incels.” I’ve never supported violence of any kind, and I’ve never allowed others to advocate violence on this blog. I have occasionally tried to talk incels down from horrible, entitled, woman-blaming thoughts, when they’ve expressed them here, because I felt a moral obligation to help if I could. This did involve offering a bit of sympathy for the ways in which they were suffering. If that’s the charge then I plead guilty.

    If you wanted an apology from me, then at the least you’d need to (1) be much more specific about what it is that I did wrong, and (2) come clean about who you are that would cause you to write those frat-boy comments about my wife.

  84. Vladimir Says:

    I’m having a hard time believing a PhD at [REDACTED] would be so foolish as to post a comment like BA’s, but if it *is* her, I can only imagine she felt safe in doing so due to having been “harassed and flirted with by a (well-known) professor”. What a world we live in.

  85. feminist liberal arts type Says:

    Anna Farzindar#79

    Wow, you rock. I appreciate the awesomeness that is you!

    I think you are right on the money that one of the key problems involved is the way shy nerds guys understand their sexuality, and how this relates to the masculine expectations placed on boys and men. In my experience, the nerds believe in the jocks way more than the jocks do. Or women do. They’ve internalised the stereotype that sexiness in men has to take the form of being dominant, and see themselves as unsexy nice mind people naturally opposed to the sexy mean body people. They think the social dynamics of 20th century American high school are eternal biotruths of human nature. Often, they never get enough sexual experience to work out that eros is much richer and more diverse and simply stranger than that.

    One message male nerds really need to hear: you are sexy. There are nerd ways of being sexy. There’s nothing wrong with you. Stop believing your bullies and patriarchy and Abrahamic religion that mind and body are opposites. There are enormous cultural resources out there for eroticised intelligence if you take a look. Voltaire and Diderot would have laughed if you told them that smart people are sexually and socially broken. Flaubert? Sartre? You know, the guy with the eye all over the place? In a different cultural context, a strong mind would be recognised as a foundation for erotic power, “giving style to one’s character”. The lottery of looks is not everything, and fashion is actually an ally to people who want to convert brains into personality. Get these straight boys to a theatre class!

    Thinking about it, I have run into a lot of sexually submissive shy nerdy guys. Personally I find it deeply frustrating because I’m submissive and an outrageous bottom. :p

    I deeply wish more sensitive nerdy men understood the issue isn’t that I find them unsexy. Quite the opposite. When I started out I was like “there are all these brilliant sensitive guys who can’t get laid?? okay fine more for me!”. But as I got more life experience, what I found were nerdy men who had really bad attitudes towards their bodies, towards women, and towards the sensual world as such. I think some of it is how hostile the economic sphere of masculine competition is for male nerds. The ones who make it and repress enough to get by are often boiling with toxic anger. And the ones who don’t make it… don’t make it. In my city, there are plenty of beautiful, sensitive, intelligent men lying around, who would make great lovers except for one small thing. They’re on a benefit.

  86. S Says:

    I think Scott #83, you continue to respond to the counterfactual person who might be that (potential) innocent human being in the trolling. You have seen lack of nuance & charity be so spiteful that you can’t help but practice the obvious full idealization of it—where you’re always seriously engaging with worlds where the person is non-violent and merely ignoring worlds where that isn’t the case.

    Here’s the thing: your most skilled trolls intuitively know this, and continue to yoke you around by presenting “information” such that there remains a sizable measure on worlds that demand charity.

    And as long as you insist on embodying this non-aggression principle, this will remain an ongoing, flip-flopping dance for them. Their satisfaction is in any movement that you would not have chosen, the power to pull around someone they see as large. They see your continued capacity and composure as proof of your non-deserving of sympathy, and wait to see you “equalized”.

    Let it be known: I am only inspired by your non-aggression. I don’t know what interventions you’ll make for self-protection (and do make them), but a deeper part of me hopes to see you continue modeling this soldierly idealism. You’re one of the few.

  87. Chip Says:

    Scott,

    “For crying out loud, the other commenters and I were about to discuss Majorana zero-modes and the NLTS Theorem, just like you requested, when vicious trolls and/or fanatical ideologues showed up to launch their off-topic attack. You can scroll down from the top and see for yourself.”

    I’m rather surprised nobody else hasn’t already pointed out what I’m about to, but the situation has spiraled out of control to a level where someone needs to…

    Let me start by getting this out of the way: Yes, the people solely responsibility for writing horrible comments accusing you of bias and harassment are the people who wrote them, and yes, the people solely responsible for hitting the submit button to put them in the comment moderation queue are those people, and yes, the people solely responsible for the emotional injury they inflict on you in having to wade through them to moderate comments are those people.

    Having said that, unfortunately there is exactly one person with the sole responsibility for those comments actually showing up here in the comment section and being publicly visible and derailing the desired conversation, and that person is you. This is a moderated comments section, and _you moderate it_. The only reason their off-topic attacks on you were able to appear in the comments section and derail the intended discussion is because you made the deliberate, conscious decision to pass them along into the comments section for whatever reason(s) you did so.

    If you broke your leg skydiving I’d feel bad about the pain you were in and the inconvenience wearing a cast caused, but I’d still expect you to acknowledge responsibility for having made the decision to go skydiving. I won’t pretend to be able to imagine the sheer volume of awful raw garbage that comes pouring through the comment submission pipeline of any blog that addresses even mildly controversial topics. The people who submitted those comments turned your moderation queue into a sewer, and that’s genuinely indefensible, and I’m genuinely sorry you have to deal with it. Unfortunately, by making the decision to pass along the initial attack and then responding to it and then passing along other off-topic responses pro- and con-, _you_ tuned the readership-visible comments thread on this post into a sewer, and you need to recognize that.

    “I don’t know yet what the next steps should be…”

    My suggestion (with regard to comments on this post in general, and with regard to the BA situation specifically) — and I realize it’s easy for me to make given that I’m not the one being personally attacked, although that also gives me the emotional distance to give what I believe is good advice here — is that you drop it and move on. Declare that you will not approve any further off-topic comments on the post, whether general regarding sexism in STEM workplaces or “wokeism” or specifically pro-or anti-Scott or whatever, and then do so. Because in any process that might generate consequences for any 3rd parties, in a situation where you are both the target of the attack(s) and the comment moderator actually responsible for them publicly showing up here you are going to be seen as having massively unclean hands.

  88. Max Says:

    Assuming the grad student is not an impostor, I think she is the worst of the bunch. She thinks that because she is a Woman in STEM(TM) she is entitled to heap abuse on anyone she feels like and that the whole world will shield her from any consequence. And she might be right! Just like at all the comments here trying to excuse her.

    BTW, with all the gossip and backstabbing, one would think that women would feel right at home in academia. Why is it that they say it is hell working in such a feminine environment?

  89. WerdNerd Says:

    Anna Farzindar #79: I believe you had the best of intentions in your comment, though your speculating on Scott’s sexuality may easily come across as inappropriate. At least I would not be pleased if anyone would speculate, unprompted, about where I am on the dom/sub scale, especially if it’s based on nothing but my “nerdness”.

    And yet I felt compelled to comment (never commented here before) because I think there’s a core of truth in what you’re trying to say. Nerds – male or female – are people whose value systems are different from the mainstream. Most of them are fundamentally satisfied with that and, honestly, often consider the mainstream value systems inferior. They get their validation from their nerdness. They do stuff no one else can do. They have a sense of community and at least some respect from their peers.

    However, a human is a sexual being. Most people need sexual validation too. And this is where suffering lies for so many nerds. I believe that the fundamental reason for this is that they are not nerds enough! They are iconoclastic in their chosen nerdness but often naively orthodox in sexuality.

    Too many nerds are attracted to the same conventionally-attractive people that everyone around is attracted to. And nerds, predictably, lose in that competition due to lack of confidence and social skills. They try and fail to out-chad the chads and fall into despair. Just by their nature, they are not good at being mainstream in anything, but they fail to realize that this applies to romantic and sexual relationships as well.

    A prime example is the “Typical Scott” in this thread. Their bitterness and anger very likely comes, too, from a realization that they are a failure at the mainstream sex game. It is very telling when people start rating attractiveness on an out-of-ten scale. It means they are fundamentally convinced such a universal scale exists and is meaningful. They worship that scale. They are slaves to convention. They are their own worst torturers.

    My advice to all fellow nerds out there is simple: _fuck the mainstream_. In everything, including sex. Human sexuality is incredibly complex and multidimensional. Attractiveness is not a number on a scale. If you want to be sexually fulfilled, break with all convention. Listen to yourself. Explore. Don’t be afraid of what you may find. Realize that disgust is mostly social conditioning. Break free. Seek likeminded individuals. Play and fantasize. Be yourself!

    True sexual bonding and happiness are possible for anyone who’s seeking. They are there for you, no matter how nerdy and weird you are. For someone out there, your exact brand of nerdiness is the hottest thing ever. For my partner, the smell of my long-worn shirt is the best smell in the universe.

  90. Scott Says:

    Anna Farzindar #79, feminist liberal arts type #85, WerdNerd #89: Thanks for the thoughts. As much as I’ve (in)famously revealed of myself on this blog, I still feel like I should draw a line at talking about detailed sexual likes and dislikes. Suffice it to say that I don’t think Anna’s suggestion would’ve been for me, but I hope it’s helpful for others.

  91. Scott Says:

    EVERYONE: I’ve allowed through the comment of Max #88 only in order to repudiate its sexist generalizations, and to explain that further “support” for me along the same lines will be left in moderation. Thanks.

  92. Roman Says:

    Scott, do you know any Nigerians?

    I checked that IP address, and it hosts a bunch of weird Nigerian websites:

    https://m.statscrop.com/websites/hosted-on-the-same-ip/209.205.208.194/

    Are the Nigerians behind this? WTF is going on here? Honestly.

  93. Emily Says:

    Scott, why are you so reluctant to engage with Anna’s hypothesis? Sure, it’s vulnerable to discuss sexual preferences, especially with the outside world—but I don’t see the difference between that and, for example, saying that you’re gay (which is totlaly normal now in our society). The intersection of nerdiness and submissiveness would make a lot of sense. Scott you are way too nerdy not to be a bottom, honestly 🤣

  94. Scott Says:

    Emily #93: I honestly didn’t know that those two things were related, even in popular imagination. Eliezer Yudkowsky, to take one example, seems like one of the Internet’s best-known archetypes of nerdiness other than yours truly, and has written openly and repeatedly about his “sexually sadistic streak” (including, apparently, in various works of erotic fiction). Maybe other shy male nerds are like kids who’ve been deprived of ice cream their whole lives, and will happily accept a cone in whatever flavor is offered, including vanilla. 🙂

  95. Scott Says:

    Incidentally, the discussion of “what’s sexy to nerds” reminded me of this old Onion article about “what’s sexy post-9/11” (answer: the same things that were sexy pre-9/11) 🙂

  96. Sam Says:

    Scott,

    Respectfully, I think you’re completely missing the point of what Emily and the other commenters have been saying. At least in the popular imagination—what TV shows and films and music would have us believe—“shy nerdy guys” are at the bottom of the ladder of masculinity. They’re less confident, less aggressive, less dominant than athletes or frat boys or movie stars or rappers. It somehow makes intuitive sense that that “shyness” and “lack of traditional masculinity” would translate to submissiveness in the bedroom. Our culture’s norms of traditional masculinity tell us that—men should be confident, swaggering, aggressive, they should make the first move, and in bed they should be “on top.” Shy nerdy guys already fail to live up to at least some of those standards of traditional madculinity—so why not reject all of it?

    In the social spaces where dating and casual sex happen—in dance clubs and bars and dorm rooms—men are expected to act confident and swaggering and loud and “masculine.” That’s how you get sexual success in those spaces. It seems somehow like shy nerdy guys and more sexually submissive guys would fail in those spaces. As a shy, quiet guy who struggles to make the first move, it’s really hard to fit in socially in those kinds of spaces, not to feel lonely and out of place and unattractive. Our society has failed at creating spaces where shy, quiet, introverted, not traditionally confident and masculine, and submissive guys can feel attractive and wanted.

    From reading your deeply vulnerable comments about your dating history and your desires, I can’t help but imagine that the submissive thing would appeal to you on some level. Gentle femdom is all about the deep desire to be open and vulnerable and to feel safe and wanted.For someone who has felt lonely and unwanted their entire life, I think there’s a deep need to be totally open and vulnerable sith your partner, to be able to take off the mask of traditional masculinity, and to feel wanted and loved and safe on that level. I really think you should go to r/gentlefemdom and see if any of those posts appeal to you in that way

  97. Topologist Guy Says:

    So, Scott, I was right, wasn’t I?

    This BA character proves that you’re not dealing with a “fringe” movement of mentally deranged trolls on the internet. In fact, [REDACTED] graduate students who chair Diversity and Inclusion committees (people who very much live in the real world, and not just the internet) are also capable of being sadistic social justice warriors who enjoy tormenting shy nerdy guys. BA’s disgusting comment proves that this nerdphobic social justice movement is not just fringe noise being amplified on the internet—it festers in our elite universities and institutions. I have seen, and interacted with, many people like BA in the real world, and they occupy positions of power, not just on the Internet but in real life.

    And as for the “imposter” thing. BA’s email response does not sound like someone who was libelously impersonated. Her curt response—which did not repudiate any aspect of the disgusting comment—sounds more like someone who doesn’t want you talking to her thesis advisor, who wants to avoid the negative repercussions of her comment. This is bolstered by the fact that thr IP address matches. In any case, even if it was an imposter, BA’s response is not at all apologetic and does not repudiate anything, suggesting that she agrees with at least some, if not all, of the sentiment there.

    The problem, Scott, is that you have huge blinders on. You think your tiny bubble of sweet, humane complexity theorists and academics who befriend you and comment on your blog is representative of progressives and Democrats at large. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are many, many cruel, angry, authoritarian Democrats out there in America, many of whom occupy positions in elite instiutions. You just don’t interact with them in your daily life. The Democrat media machine is built on an endless stream of dehumanization, rage and authoritarian rhetoric. The nerd hatred is just one aspect of a fascist Democrat ideology built on whipping up hatred against scapegoats and out-groups.

    If I find the energy and the mental clarity, I might write a longer, more articulate comment on your blog explaining how the nerd hatred is a natural aspect of Democrat fascism, and the experiences and people I’ve met (not online, but in personal life), even in elite institutions, who exemplify this. I can’t promise I’ll actually get this done, but I’ll try.

  98. Typical Scott Says:

    You know what, Scott, fuck you. I’m taking back my apology. How dare you. How dare you question the way that rape survivors process their deep emotional pain. How dare you. You don’t know what it’s like. You don’t known what it’s like to be put in a 5150 psychiatric hold and then when you leave the hospital your biggest life problem is, Will my insurance cover this? You don’t know what it’s like to think about killing yourself. You don’t know what it’s like to wake up from nightmares drenched in sweat. You don’t know what it’s like to get addicted to opiates to quell the pain. Sometimes I process my pain as rage. Like when I see a eminent professor coddling violent woman hating incels on his blog. Or denying my right to exist as a trans woman. And for the record, there are plenty of women who deserve misogynistic treatment. Like all the women who rejected me, who said I’m not like them because I’m trans, that I’ll never be a real woman. And I can tell your wife is a trans exclusionary feminist. I can just smell it from her page and everything. Fuck. You don’t know what it’s like to be told you’re not the gender that you fucking are every god damn day of your life. And fuck every woman who calls me a “man,” they deserve to be caled scum like they are. Fuck. These rich suburban cis bitches dont know what its like to be a street prostitute because every fuckin employer dven shitty fast food joints wont hire you because you’re trans. Yup. Your wife doesn’t know that pain, cis het bitch. And when my friend had to drive me to the ER last night because i was threatening to cut muself, do you know that pain Scott? Do you? Fucking hell

    [SA’S UPDATE: SEE THIS COMMENT FROM MY WIFE DANA]

  99. Scott Says:

    I’m leaving up the comment of Typical Scott #98. I feel like there’s nothing I can or should write by way of rebuttal—maybe that was true from the very beginning of this delightful exchange, but if so it took me until now to realize it. I hope this individual manages to get the help they need.

  100. Lubos Motl (IMPERSONATOR) Says:

    As for shirts, many ladies enjoy when one wears the same shirt every day, with the masculine scent 😉

    Yet more proof in here that the women don’t belong in the physics or in the science. Women don’t have mind for such things—they are emotional creatures and they snap at smallest struggles. The woke feminist should be in GITMO with the other terrorists who hate western countries.

    The problem of Scott Aaronson is not that he is sexist. Smart people are sexist. Scott is against the sexists, Scott supports the woke feminist, because he is a woke and he is stupid. “Quantum complexity theory” is trivially easy, very simple, nothing more than undergraduate linear algebra as I have said. Theoretical computer science is the day care where the grown ups leave their low iq immature little kids to smoke marijuana and do their linear algebra and their algorithms while the grown ups go to do string theory, compute higher genus perturbative scattering amplitudes and discover deep dualities that the cs scientists are neither cognitiviely nor intellectually not creatively capable of understanding. You have a position at university for no other readon than our woke feminist culture rewards the childish stupidity of the masses

  101. Scott Says:

    Sam #96: I think it’s useful to distinguish between two concepts. Firstly, there’s wanting to be emotionally open and vulnerable to women, without needing the mask of traditional masculinity. Secondly, there’s wanting to abandon the traditional male sexual role—the role whose ultimate fantasy could be summarized as “take a diverse harem of beautiful young girls, like the ones from Playboy or the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, and conquer them, throw them down, pin their wrists, impregnate them.” I’m not even sure if there’s a correlation between the two—but at any rate, it seems clear that one can have the first without the second, or the second without the first.

  102. fred Says:

    Scott, congratulations for successfully transitioning your blog from computational complexity to clinical psychology and psychiatry!

  103. Scott Says:

    Ah yes, good old Lubos Motl. There, at least, I’m spared from wondering whether it’s really him or an angry troll impersonating him, because the AngryTrollImpersonating() function acts identically on him! 😀

  104. David Karger Says:

    Scott #75 “In the meantime, though, it seems like a reasonable guess that someone with a lot of time on their hands is deeply angry at me.” Scott, this is simply *not* the most likely explanation in the modern internet. The most likely explanation is that a troll is laughing with pleaure at what a mess they’ve managed to make of the discussion thread on your blog post—-remember that post, about a bunch of new results in quantum? Nobody who’s reading the comments is going to find any helpful information about *that*. A troll’s goal in life is to cause chaos, and boy have these trolls succeeded (I think you’ve managed to pull in more than one now). They aren’t looking to be understood; they don’t have a particular position on gender that they want to advance. They’re just having fun manipulating you. And you’ve shown yourself to be so manipulable here.

    We did a paper studying harassment victims a few years ago. Did you know that some harassers spend *months* pretending to be normal friendly people to work their way into someone’s confidence, just so that they can really drive in the knife when they turn against the victim? Playing a couple of fake personas in a comment thread is *nothing* to these trolls. Making you question your past actions; engage in deep inquiry about what you might have done wrong; apologize for hypothetical wrongs you aren’t sure you committed—its just such a spectacular win for them. And on top of that, the amount of wasted labor they forced the community around you to generate to defend you against their without-basis attacks? That’s the ultimate scaling strategy; they attack one person and they damage hundreds.

    Don’t feed the trolls. https://counterhate.com/research/dont-feed-the-trolls/

  105. Scott Says:

    David Karger #104: I would never have believed you before this week, but you seem to be right. If I had to guess, at least some of the people here claiming to be outraged at me really are, and I felt intellectually obligated to engage with them … but at least one (whoever impersonated Josh Alman) has by now been definitively unmasked as not who they claimed to be, and they’re probably not the only one. This has been one of the weirdest experiences of my life, and I thought I’d seen a lot in 17 years of blogging.

    But at least this is the trolls’ final hurrah, before I completely change this blog’s commenting system to prevent a recurrence, in some way that I’m still figuring out.

  106. David Karger Says:

    Scott, I’m really sorry it’s taken such a large incident—and taken such a toll on you—for you to be convinced, but I’m glad that you have. I think it will save you a lot of mental pain going forward.

    *Of course* there are people outraged at you. You are successful and visible; that automatically generates outrage. I know it seems like the outrage should have a *reason*, but sometimes it really doesn’t.

    I know you’ve decided that the AGI is an important research topic worthy of your attention, but if you have any spare cycles I would argue the the question of why humans can’t get along is equally important and possibly more pressing. I really worry that humanity might not last long enough to solve AGI, if we are unable to improve the way communities interact in the internet age. If you are curious, I can send you some of the research on internet Trolls. There’s plenty.

    As for future plans, I strongly recommend (i) requiring accounts with verified email addresses to comment (so people can’t impersonate other people), (ii) allowing these verified commenters to post under a pseudonym (to encourage diverse voices—but *you* will know who they are so they can’t misbehave) and (iii) moderation by volunteers to remove inappropriate material. That would obviously include harassing material, but you might also want to think about requiring comments to be on topic. You could have a weekly open thread to absorb all the not-on-topic discussion people want to have.

    I don’t know if you read sci-fi, but John Scalzi has a very nice blog which he keeps very nice by wielding his moderator mallet mercilessly. https://whatever.scalzi.com/ He’s also *very* good at snarky responses to the many people who attempt to harass him on twitter and other channels.

  107. Female / feminist Says:

    this is my third and probably last comment on your blog.
    I’m not sure if my past 2 comments came off as trolling to you and other people here.
    I was genuine in all of them and I’m sad that after exposing my feelings someone might think that I’m giggling at this situation etc.

    It’s obvious that someone who has ample time to attack someone else in a blog that has no legal value is in pain, as one of them admitted in their final comment. And I’m shocked how people are being compared to “terrorists” for only commenting/ which is a form of SPEECH! Yes it was ugly speech and harassment but it was speech and arguably protected (I’m a free speech absolutist) [REST OF PARAGRAPH REDACTED; COULD IDENTIFY BA]

    I do think professors have too much power and their decisions can destroy lives / dreams.
    But also after observing how paranoid some very well known professors are in the comment section here, I don’t think I’m regretting anymore that I won’t be going to grad school.

    I hate myself for wasting my time and being obsessed with this situation here.

    I’d appreciate it if you don’t doxx me because you didn’t like what I said 🙏 but if you decided to doxx I don’t care either I stand by what I said here.

  108. Timothy Black (IMPERSONATOR) Says:

    Scott, I work largely on classical complexity theory and on the algebraic side, but I’ve been reading your paper on the acrobatics of BQP, partially to get an insight into the structure of quantum complexity classes, and I’ve been working backward to cover some more fundamental knowledge. If I’m not mistaken, Forrelation here is somehow crucial in separating the complexity classes BPP and BQP. So, is this an accurate “conceptual summary” of this separation: using Forrelation, oracles can hide information from classical machines but make it available to quantum machines?

    P.S.: You seem really tired Scott. Fatigued. Done with this trolling bullshit. I think you should take a break or a sabbatical. Maybe take the family on a Disney vacation—for example, the brand-new ship, the Disney Wish.

  109. Fred Says:

    Scott, you’ve said on this blog before that, for you at least, and many other men perhaps, it’s difficult to distinguish between emotional and sexual needs—they’re all wrapped up in the same “package.” But now, in response to Sam, you’re drawing a clear distinction between them. Why? That seems contradictory to me.

    Did you like any of the posts on r/gentlefemdon?

  110. Scott Says:

    “Timothy Black” #108: Haha, the game is over now. And you basically just copied and pasted from the intro to our paper!

  111. feminist liberal arts type Says:

    Scott #91-

    I’m stepping out. I just can’t handle this level of toxicity, and can’t afford this level of crazy in my life right now. The hateful, resentful, intellectually dishonest monsters on Team Oppression are bad enough. But the hateful, resentful, intellectually dishonest monsters supposedly on my side are even harder to deal with. I think I have something to contribute in five different places in this conversation, but it’s just not worth it in mental health costs. My mind keeps trying to solve problems that hurt me to even look at.

    Scott, I want to say, you are a much better person than I thought you were. I never thought you were evil, just… grey? But the more I get to know you, the more I see a person with serious and consistent standards. You are genuinely open to reason. I’m used to dealing with nerdy men to talk an endless game about reason and science while being less rational about women, emotions, and sexuality than average regular men. And a lot of them admire you and drop your name to justify their attitudes. But you’re not them. You know, there was a time in my life when I wanted to meet people like you more than anything in the world. That train has left the station, but I’m glad you exist.

    Honesty, I think I could make progress explaining my concerns with a bit of space and time. And I think that would matter. I can’t possibly appreciate your STEM work (other than I did some maths on what level of analytical intelligence I’m talking to and… wow), but I can appreciate you as cultural voice, and I think you are more influential than you may know. Unfortunately, I just can’t keep going in this space.

    I have learned some life altering lessons here. I still think social justice values are awesome, and I don’t think that some social justice people being evil says anything whatsoever against the truth that sexism, racism, etc. are very bad things. But what I can see, is that when right-wingers paint social justice people as insane monsters, they are at least responding to a real there there. It’s not justified, but it is humanly understandable. I can see why people exposed to this level of constant abuse and harassment could come to make bad political decisions with only ordinary levels of intellectual carelessness. The social justice community desperately needs to clean house, admit there is a problem, and shut it down.

    I wish you well, Scott. You know, I want to change something. I had problems with your “apolitical person or progressive intellectual 60 years ago” test because I don’t think it well approximates justice, not least because it treats more recently recognised oppressions (e.g., homophobia) as less serious evils when they’re rationally not. But, thinking about it, if you were to apply that test consistently, it would be a huge step up. And that would open the doors to make many more people feel welcome here. I merely wish to caveat that I think you, like most people, have a sharper eye for forms of bigotry targeting you than bigotry targeting others, and may not see it when it’s cloaked in polite theoretical language. May I possibly suggest that if you have other people review your comments, making sure one of these people is a woman, gay man, or person of colour might help cover everyone’s blind spots?

    Anyway, thank you for your hospitality.

  112. M2 Says:

    I just now saw that this was going on. I’m a moderately regular commenter, so I just wanted to say — I’m sorry, Scott. You don’t deserve this.

  113. Varun Narasimhachar Says:

    Robert #48: I just wanted to chime in on this important bit. Comment #38 by BA *in no way* “checks out” with the article you’ve linked to. Comment #38 is rambling, unsubstantial, and betraying of the commenter’s own deep prejudices. The article, on the other hand, is not. [REST OF COMMENT REDACTED; COULD IDENTIFY BA]

  114. fred Says:

    Fred #109

    “Did you like any of the posts on r/gentlefemdon?”

    No, I don’t.

  115. fred Says:

    Female / feminist or Female/feminist

    ” And I’m shocked how people are being compared to “terrorists” for only commenting/ which is a form of SPEECH! Yes it was ugly speech and harassment but it was speech and arguably protected (I’m a free speech absolutist) “

    Well, as we’ve seen recently with Depp vs Heard, free speech only goes so far until it becomes defamation. You may not agree with it, but that’s the law.
    Using the social justice card to start acting like a bully by spewing hearsay and lies about people they’ve never even met ain’t okay.
    Academia has always been full of very questionable power games, rarely based on merit, and this latest trend is really just a new game for some to get ahead. Sad.

  116. fred Says:

    [COMMENT REDACTED; COULD IDENTIFY BA]

  117. Scott Says:

    Fred #109:

      Scott, you’ve said on this blog before that, for you at least, and many other men perhaps, it’s difficult to distinguish between emotional and sexual needs—they’re all wrapped up in the same “package.” But now, in response to Sam, you’re drawing a clear distinction between them. Why? That seems contradictory to me.

    That’s an interesting question. The earlier question was about whether what straight men wanted more from sex was (1) the physical pleasure sensations, or (2) the feeling of “achievement” (“wow! I’m actually getting to have sex with her!”)—and I hypothesized that those were inextricable, part of the same package, each one amplifying the other. But then there’s also emotional vulnerability, being able to open up to your partner about your insecurities, etc. etc.—which is also extremely important, but which I’m suggesting is much more separable from the (1)/(2) combination.

  118. fred Says:

    For the record, I personally take great solace in the fact that Scott got to contribute to humanity’s gene pool for the next generations, while the trolls in this thread clearly won’t get that opportunity…

  119. Scott Says:

    feminist liberal arts type #111: WOW. I’m tempted to say that this whole strange and harrowing episode was worth it for me, if it helped just a single person to rethink their starting assumptions in the way that you have. So thank you for telling me that, cheers, and hope to see you in some future (more heavily moderated 🙂 ) thread!

  120. Wilsonian Says:

    Scott, for what it’s worth, I’m almost certain that this BA person is legit. Her email simply does not sound like someone who just found out that they were libelously impersonated. She did not disclaim any of the actual contents of the comment, as you said. She just told you that it “appears” that she’s been impersonated, whatever that means. I’ve studied the psychology behind criminal interviews, and that kind of vague language and plausible deniability is a classic sign of guilt. If she was truly libelously impersonated, she would be a lot more vehement in her denial. She wouldn’t say that it “appears” she was impersonated. She would just flat-out say it. It’s like, why on Earth sould she say it “appears” she was impersonated, if she actually was? That she told you to stop contacting her is also suspect. Honestly, the most plausible situation here, to me, is that she wrote this comment, she realized afterward that you would try to get in touch with her advisor and the university, and that there might be negative consequences for her as a result of her libelous accusation, and her vague reply is just an attempt to make you go away. This is bolstered by the IP address matching, and also by her comments in public fora which have echoed the nerdphobia and fixation on sexual harassment.

  121. Mike Says:

    Scott, I’m really, really disappointed that you’re drawing this strict dividing line now between emotional and sexual needs. It defeats the entire argument in favor of “shy nerdy guys.” If you want to vouch for sexually disenfranchised people, you should really be arguing that emotional needs and sexual needs are part of the same inextricable package. I thought you would be better than arguing against that. For whatever reason, you’re really resistant to the whole femdom idea, which I find disappointing, as it’s an illuminating way to think about shy nerdy guys and sex.

  122. fred Says:

    I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and take them at their word.
    If BA replied to Scott with “Someone appears to be impersonating me”, then it just means that she didn’t write it.
    It’s not her duty to get to the bottom of this, considering:

    1) she probably has no freaking idea who Scott is or what this blog is about (clinical psychiatry, with a tiny bit of quantum computing)

    2) she also has no idea how posts are created in this blog, who gets to comment, how websites get linked, etc. That’s probably why she used “it appears”, because she doesn’t know how hard or easy it is to impersonate someone here.

    3) at first glance this thread is a confusing mess of trolling, doxxing, and personal attacks. So what would she gain from getting actually involved in this? (the newer comments questioning her reply to Scott don’t help).

    4) she probably has way better things to do.

  123. Anon?? Says:

    I agree with Wilsonian’s comment #120 even though I had previously thought (before seeing BA’s email response) that she likely had an impersonator. Don’t forget about mental illnesses though; I don’t know how true this is, but I hear that people with manic episodes could run into the street thinking that they are stronger than the cars. Another explanation would be that her email was hacked, which is more plausible than it sounds because sometimes people borrow phones or have bad password habits.

  124. Scott Says:

    Mike #121: Like I said, I think some emotional needs are more closely connected to (typical) heterosexual male desire than others are. That doesn’t make the ones that are less closely connected any less important! And I see femdom as simply another kink or fetish in the great, diverse rainbow of human sexuality, which those so inclined should indulge in with consenting partners—not necessarily as something that has any moral valence, or any great relevance to the problems of shy male nerds.

  125. Werner Says:

    Scott,

    I’m curious how BA’s comment would have affected you, if you read it in undergrad or when you just started grad school. Would it have been traumatizing back then?

  126. Scott Says:

    Werner #125: Much, much more so than now. The only reason I can publicly confront it now is that it no longer traumatizes me in anything like the way it would have back then.

  127. Eric Says:

    Scott,

    You don’t have to answer this if it’s too personal. But if you saw a classmate like BA saying something like that online about you, back then, do you think you’d be at risk for self harm or suicide? I’m asking, because I’m curious if comments like this can be literally dangerous to shy young guys, life-threatening, in the same way that we know that cyberbullying can be life-threatening for young girls with anorexia or other vulnerabilities (one of the reasons cyberbullying is banned in some countries and investigated by schools).

  128. Scott Says:

    Eric #127: That’s possible, yes. The comment is sufficiently horrifying that, in letting it appear, I did have to weigh the risk that it would push some sensitive young person to self-harm. But I made a gamble that, while the comment appearing on its own, or (worse yet) cheered by the academic STEM community, could have terrible psychological effects, the comment appearing only to be shouted down by the academic STEM community—as has largely happened—would have a positive psychological effect. Young people reading this can let me know whether they think it worked!

  129. Topologist Guy Says:

    I’m a young guy and I’ve read very hurtful online comments about myself, along the lines of what BA wrote. That BA’s similar comment was almost universally condemned on this blog has actually helped me have a better outlook. Unfortunately, where the comments about me were posted, they were overwhelmingly supported (FYI, I’m not really comfortable revealing my identity yet, so I can’t really say anything more, except to say that they were disgustingly cruel comments posted by social justice types along the lines of what BA and Trans Lives Matter posted a couple weeks ago, and they were overwhelmingly liked/upvoted).

  130. Scott Says:

    Topologist Guy #129: That’s great to hear, thanks.

  131. Topologist Guy Says:

    I’m still an angry Trump supporter (for many other reasons as well). But this comment section has made me slightly lower my estimate of how many progressives are hideous nerd-hating bullies.

  132. Female/feminist Says:

    Soo if someone calls me a terrorist, which happened abundantly here, and I feel sick (which i did) & commit suicide over it, are they responsible for my suicide? 🤔 I personally don’t think so, you guys should keep your double standards in check

  133. Nerdatron Says:

    Scott, and others who deny that nerd/incel hatred is a fixture of mainstream culture now,

    I just went on the front page of Reddit and within FIVE MINUTES I found this delightful comment:

    “Please computer science is notorious for its extreme levels of misogyny, its the perfect mix of superfund-level toxic gamer culture, frat boy brogrammers who only study it for the money and socially-disabled basement weirdo incels.”

    Ah yes, those socially-disabled basement weirdo incels. How disgusting.

    This comment has a net SIX HUNDRED (600!) likes.

    Yeah, I think the front page of the Internet is far more representative of young progressives’ attitudes than Scott Aaronson’s cute little blog frequented by CS academics. Scott, are you still maintaining that this attitude (which I can find splattered all over Reddit, the front page of the Internet, and massively upvoted) is really just a “tiny minority” of young progressives?

    From my perspective, the front page of Reddit is a much more accurate window into the typical mindset of your young US progressive than your small circle of very intelligent friends and colleagues in STEM academia.

  134. Scott Says:

    Nerdatron #133: I mean, it all depends on your reference class, doesn’t it? If you asked a random American who votes for Democrats, passionate hatred of CS nerds and “brogrammers” might sound as remote from anything they care about as passionate hatred of left-handed Tagalog speakers. Likewise if you asked a random Democratic politician (maybe AOC is an exception, I’m not sure). On the other hand, I could easily believe that these attitudes are way more prevalent among left-wing users of Twitter and Reddit. (FWIW, though, I’ve more often heard Reddit described as the dank basement of the Internet than as its front page! 🙂 )

  135. Qwerty Says:

    Female/feminist #132:

    It is not relevant to this discussion, who is responsible. It is about whether you’d allow anyone to abuse you, however you define abuse, in *your* home (or your personal website).

    No one has an obligation to be that open-minded.

  136. Emma Says:

    Scott, come on, give us your email exchange with BA (censoring identifying info needs be). You made us watch this whole mess unfold, the least you could do is show us what she actually said.

  137. Scott Says:

    Emma #136: I didn’t make you watch anything! I made a decision to allow comments by other people viciously attacking me … where had I made the opposite decision, I would’ve again been attacked by those people as a coward, a hypocrite, etc. etc. If I publish BA’s full correspondence here, I’ll surely be attacked once more, for publicizing private correspondence without adequate reason, etc. BA is welcome to publish the correspondence here if she considers it important, and/or if she disputes my characterization of any of it (she hasn’t).

  138. Jerry T. Says:

    Emily’s right. This is supposed to be a fucking quantum computing/complexity blog. I don’t come here to watch the shitstorm like this unfold, but you let it unfold. I at least want some closure by seeing exactly what BA said. Can you at least tell us how vehemently she condemned the comment? Was it some generic BS like “I repudiate this comment” or was it actually detailed?

  139. Mystery Says:

    Scott,

    I need you to answer this question, honestly.

    I’m an incel. I have violent thoughts. I have violent fantasies. I hate myself, I hate women, I hate society. Inceldom feels like a red hot hand ripping the heart out of my body.

    Am I a bad person for having violent fantasies and hatred in my heart? Or should I — as you’ve said elsewhere on this blog — actually be praised for surviving psychological pressures known for making young men lash out violently, and successfully resisting the temptation to harm others?

    I have never violently or physically harmed anyone. But in the depths of despair I can’t stop the thoughts and fantasies.

  140. Scott Says:

    Mystery #139: If it’s true that you never act on your violent fantasies in any way (including, e.g., by lashing out at innocent people verbally), then no, I wouldn’t call you a bad person just for having them. Some might call you a misogynist, but it sounds to me like you’re actually an equal-opportunity hater of all of humanity.

    I would, however, strongly encourage you to find little opportunities to step off the negative feedback loop that’s consumed your life and onto a more positive feedback loop, even if only locally. Friends. A dating website. A hobby that you can share with other people, or a good cause or organization. I’m not qualified to be an advice-giver, to put it mildly, but you get the general idea. Try to crowd out the violent fantasies so that you no longer even have time for them.

  141. Scott Says:

    Jerry T. #138: Oh all right. Here’s the relevant quote from BA’s email to me:

      I give you my word that I did not write/had no part in writing the comments, and am happy to provide any information that confirms my identity. Replacing the comment with a placeholder statement sounds good to me, and I’m happy to say that I disavow the contents of the comment.
  142. Mystery Says:

    Scott,

    God fucking damn it. I am here begging for scraps of sympathy because nobody else on planet Earth will give it to me. If I wanted “advice” about how to stop the dark thoughts generated by the horrible loneliness and frustration that consumes me then I would have gone somewhere else. I am literally crying so much right now because apparently even Scott Aaronson can’t sympathise with me or tell me that, yes, a lot of my hatred and my anger and my pain is totally valid and was done to me. Please. Can you just say something good about me. Like maybe, yes, I am actually a hero and should be praised for not going out and hurting or killing people like so many other men would do if they faced the endless despair and darkness and loneliness and failure that I have.

  143. Scott Says:

    Mystery #142: Sorry, but to call you a “hero” I’d need to know about something good you’d done for other people, or for science or art or culture or whatever. But I know literally nothing about you beyond these comments. I don’t even know whether you exist the way you described yourself, or are yet another person trolling me for a laugh—as seems to have happened again and again and again in these threads. Every time, I say I won’t approve the next comment of this kind, because what if it’s a troll? Then every time, the comment comes and I approve it, because what if it’s a real person and I’m ignoring their request for my help or their question or their challenge to my worldview and they’ll be angry and upset at me? This is why my comment policy has to change: because I can’t keep living like this. Just like you can’t keep living the way you are, if you’re real.

  144. Mystery Says:

    You know what, Scott, fuck it. I am a troll. I’ve been behind a lot of the trolling on your blog for the past couple of weeks. I wrote “BA”’s comment.

    I’ve been a big fan of your blog for a while. I’ve met you in person once or twice. I studied CS theory (complexity theory) in grad school (master’s) but I work in industry now, mostly doing machine learning/AI. The intellectual joy and satisfaction I get from working on complex software is the only respite I have from the brutal loneliness and frustration and darkness that otherwise consumes my life.

    I’m 27 years old and I’ve only had sex with—in fact, I’ve only kissed or touched—one woman in my life. An escort girl (pricey prostitute). And three or four months ago when I asked her to date me she blocked me and I haven’t heard from her since. I entered a suicidal spiral and had to be briefly institutionalized (held overnight in the ER).

    The fucking depression makes it almost impossible to function. My family doesn’t give a shit about me. My coworkers think I’m a weird basement dwelling incel creep. I don’t have any friends. I’ve never known the touch of a woman except for the cunt who blocked me for being too needy.

    I was brutally picked on and bullied throughout middle and high school and basically ostracized and friendless in college when everybody else was hooking up and having wild parties and sex. But no, not me, the fucking nerdy incel freak with autism who struggles to fit in and doesn’t understand all the pop culture references and can’t hold a normie conversation and is so shy and so scared of being labelled a “creep” or a “harasser” while arrogant over confident Chad assholes seem to get all the fun and all the love.

    Now my days are just software development and sometimes reading and gaming. No real friends. No sex. No girls. No nothing. My life is shaping up to be a long bleak fucking tunnel of nothingness with nothing to look forward to. No connection to anything real. No family. No girlfriend. No community. Just my shitty office and my car and my apartment and my PS5.

    And as if that wasn’t brutal enough, I see hatred and judgement all around me everywhere I go. “Incel” “Freak” “Nerd” “Weirdo” “Creep”

    These fucking people who stole the life out of my life. Who ripped the joy out of my life. The architects of this sexual revolution. The fucking women journos who write these articles about “sexual harassment” and made young nerdy me terrified of ever talking to girls or hitting on them. They stole my fucking life. Maybe I would have had GFs in school if feminists didn’t scare me away from ever making a move. These fucking #MeToo cunts stole my life. They literally stole my life. They stole the joy and the wonder out of life and now it’s nothing but an endless fog of nothing. Fuck these people. Like, yeah, “BA.”

    So, yeah, Scott. The last three or four months of my life has been one long suicidal mental health crisis. And yes, in the darkest pit of that crisis I started trolling the fuck out of your blog. I don’t exactly know why. Maybe I just wanted you to talk about incels. Maybe I just wanted to see inceldom talked about on my favorite blog. Maybe I wanted to piss you off and set you against the feminists and the wokes. Maybe I didn’t want to feel alone anymore.

    I was behind that “Feminist Bitch” comment you got a couple months ago. And “Techcel.” And “BA.” And a couple other woke cunts yapping at you.

    I don’t know if I could articulate exactly why I did it. I wanted you to feel some of the pain I experience constantly. I just wanted you to talk about people like me. I wanted you to feel again what it’s like to be a hated pathetic little incel nerd like I am. I’m not in anything approaching a normal functioning mental state. I just wanted to take my inner mental drama and pain and splatter it all over your blog.

    And let’s be real. Along the spectrum of naughty things that a hateful bitter incel with violent fantasies, nothing to lose and undergoing a mental health crisis might do, trolling Shtetl-Optimized barely registers.

    I’m sorry for trolling your blog. I’m sorry that I caused you pain. But yeah, the pain I caused you—that’s about one thousandth the pain I experience every god damn day of my life. Inceldom feels like a thousand fucking knives tearing my flesh apart every fucking second of my existence.

    I’m a disgusting and broken person. This might be the last you hear of me. This might be the last the world hears of me.

  145. gentzen Says:

    Mystery #142:

    If I wanted “advice” about how to stop the dark thoughts generated by the horrible loneliness and frustration that consumes me then I would have gone somewhere else.

    Please, go to that place where you expect to find “advice” that may help you. And if it doesn’t help, please seek out other places that may provide help. It is a long slow process, but it is worth it. And of course, you are right that hoping to find that helpful advice from strangers on the internet would be naive. You want some sympathy? It is great that you successfully resisted the temptation to harm others! So this success might encourage you to try to go the next step, and reduce the harm you do to yourself.

  146. Scott Says:

    Mystery #144: If your confession is true, it would explain a great deal. But the emotional cost of trolling is that I don’t know what to believe anymore. What if your “confession” is yet another trolling attempt? Also, am I to believe that “Josh Alman,” “Aloni Cohen,” “Rana Hanocka,” all the other cruise ship people, and “Typical Scott” were separate trolls, that you weren’t behind those? Also, if you did fake the comment by “BA,” you had to have known that it would soon be exposed, so what was the point, other than a lot of chaos and damage to real people?

    Nevertheless, here is my offer:

    If you get in touch with me by email, with a real identity that I can verify, and convince me that you were in fact the troll behind all these comments (e.g. you could tell me the IP addresses and fake email addresses, if you still have them), and you agree never to troll me or anyone else ever again, and I’m convinced that there’s not a risk of your harming others, then:

    (1) I won’t “out” you, to the police, your employer, my blog readers, or anyone else.

    (2) I’ll do a Zoom call with you to understand your situation better and offer whatever advice and empathy I can.

    If you really feel like the “default option” for you might be “the world never hearing from you again,” I’d take this deal if I were you.

  147. gentzen Says:

    Mystery #144:

    I’m sorry for trolling your blog. I’m sorry that I caused you pain. But yeah, the pain I caused you—that’s about one thousandth the pain I experience every god damn day of my life. Inceldom feels like a thousand fucking knives tearing my flesh apart every fucking second of my existence.

    If you were behing the trolling, and spoofed all those IP addresses, and collected all those email addresses that matched well to the spoofed IP addresses (and even collected old screenshots matching the stolen identities), then you have done a pretty amazing job for a single person without external help.

    I’m a disgusting and broken person. This might be the last you hear of me. This might be the last the world hears of me.

    Please do seek help. Don’t be affraid. And don’t be offended, if they don’t believe you that you were behind that coordinated attack on Scott’s blog. First, they really won’t believe it, and second, it will make their job easier by focusing on how to help you, and worry less about whether something should be done about that “offense”. You deserve help, even if you don’t cause significant harm to other people (or yourself) should that help be denied to you.

  148. feminist liberal arts type Says:

    Well, I honestly thought that both the right-wing and left-wing trolling was genuinely motivated. I’ve been spending the last few days doing research in an attempt to work out what errors the social justice movement might have committed to produce such horrifying levels of anti-nerd prejudice. It appears now I was doing so based on false evidence.

    Oh, well. At least this proves that at middle age I am still capable of revaluing values and changing my mind. And it means Scott’s comments section is not inherently the lunatic hellscape I thought it was. So, that’s good.

    Scott, I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this, and you’ve held up to it amazingly. I am no stranger to abuse and harassment myself, and I’ve made major life decisions to escape oppression. But this is among the worst of humanity’s inhumanity to humanity I have ever witnessed in my life.

  149. gentzen Says:

    feminist liberal arts type #148:

    But this is among the worst of humanity’s inhumanity to humanity I have ever witnessed in my life.

    I envy you. But I fear it is just not true. You probably just looked away, every time something worse than what you are witnessing here happened. Maybe because you really didn’t notice, or maybe because it didn’t fit what you wanted to believe. So maybe you are right, you didn’t witness it, even so you probably could have. But let’s be honest, even if you would have witnessed it, there would have been very little you could have done to change it.

  150. Mystery Says:

    Scott, I sent you an email.

  151. Obsessed Says:

    The fact that you’re offering zoom calls to the trolls incentivizes trolling … Just sayin 🤷🏻‍♀️

  152. feminist liberal arts type Says:

    gentzen #149-

    You are correct within a very broad conversational reference frame. According to most ethical perspectives, climate change, the Cambodian genocide, and the Holocaust are indeed worse than some pro level troller tormenting Scott. And I have personal witnessed, for instance, intimate partner violence and police brutality, which is also probably worse than some pro level troller tormenting Scott. And I have personally experienced rape, organised state persecution, medical discrimination with lifelong consequences, and enough child abuse to put me in the CDC’s ACE 4+ “high risk” category. And it’s possible that some of these things were also worse than some pro level troller tormenting Scott.

    However, I was kind of assuming an implicit conversational reference frame which is something like, “horrible things people do to each other with words and social signals”, or what we social justice types call “microaggressions”. The point was more like, “Scott, I want you to know I support you. And, look, social justice people can apply our principles with enough inclusion and nuance to care when people throw absurd amounts of social viciousness in your direction too.”

    There is a sense in which the way you are using language is more serious and precise, but there’s also a sense in which I’m more-or-less properly using ordinary language with its usual implicit and flexible reference frames, centreing the intersubjective point I’m making to the person in front of me over global precision. This is a valid and useful approach to discourse which most people use most of the time. May I politely suggest it might be helpful to code switch and translate from normie a bit before personally accusing someone of an entire lifetime of intellectual dishonesty and being the moral equivalent of a Good German? If you approach people this way, you’re going to come across as patronising, self-righteous, and deeply insulting. Which might be unhelpful. And, you know, unethical.

    tl;dr Get off your high horse and chill the fuck out. I’m just trying to help.

  153. gentzen Says:

    feminist liberal arts type #152: Believe it or not, I wrote that I envy you, because I did envy you. I would envy anybody for whom this is “the worst of humanity’s inhumanity to humanity” he has “ever witnessed” in his life. I didn’t read any of your other comments here, and was not aware of the amount of abuse you experienced and told us about in your previous comments. I have read all your comments now, and see why my comment did hurt you.

    Ironically, I guessed right when I wrote: “But I fear it is just not true.”

    May I politely suggest it might be helpful to code switch and translate from normie a bit before personally accusing someone of an entire lifetime of intellectual dishonesty and being the moral equivalent of a Good German? If you approach people this way, you’re going to come across as patronising, self-righteous, and deeply insulting. Which might be unhelpful. And, you know, unethical.

    Talking about violence and abuse is never appropriate. It is always off-topic. If I bring up the topic, I will most probably just get silence. And if not, reactions similar to yours is the most likely outcome. See here and here for example. And in real life, when I talked with people who read the book “The Kite Runner” or have seen the film, they were deeply surprised when I pointed out some of the disturbing scenes and explained why they are disturbing to me.

    Did you really witness “Cambodian genocide”? That was before my time. My main association for Cambodia is:

Leave a Reply

You can use rich HTML in comments! You can also use basic TeX, by enclosing it within $$ $$ for displayed equations or \( \) for inline equations.

Comment Policies:

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