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Be advised; this thread is not for serious in depth discussion of weighty topics, this thread is not for anything Culture War related. This thread is for Fun. You got jokes? Share 'em. You got silly questions? Ask 'em.

We have somehow survived another move.

I feel like a broken record here, but, seriously, good job everyone, and thanks. While the moderators of a community are important, the community simply doesn't exist without its members. Y'all came over here and kept on posting, and that's exactly what we needed.

With luck, this is going to be the last move we ever need to make; we have our own domain and servers, we're no longer really existing with any specific other person's permission.

We are, however, not out of the woods.

I mentioned during some of the original Reddit-exodus posts that I had a serious medium-term worry about userbase. We've cut ourselves off from the Reddit pipeline and that means we're in danger of slowly eroding away; people will always leave the community and right now we don't have a good way of getting new users. We wouldn't be the first community to do so! Every community needs an influx of people, and now we need to figure out the right way to manage that.

So I now have a few requests, ordered roughly by how comfortable I am asking it.

First: Send links to people that you think will be interested. If you know someone looking for political discussion, send them a link to the site as a whole; if there's a specific post you think they'll be interested in, link that. Remember that we have The Vault, which has unfortunately gone a bit neglected while I worked on this changeover. Please don't spam anyone - I don't want anyone just posting links to our front page on a hundred subreddits - but if you have a good opportunity, either regarding friends or communities that you're an established member of, take it.

Second: Propose places that might be willing to do a link trade. I'm planning to reach out to a bunch of subreddits shortly and see if they're willing to crosslink, especially places that are serious-political-discussion-adjacent in the hopes that we can draw off that section of their population and both be better off for it. If you have personal connections you can bring it up to them yourself, otherwise just let me know and I'll see what I can do. I expect a low success rate but even a low success rate might be pretty dang valuable.

(And don't limit this to subreddits! There's a number of good communities out there that aren't on the big social sites.)

Third: If you have time, help out. We have a dev server that you can join if you want to work on a huge number of pending issues, and it's thanks to the people on this server that we've had such a constant flow of updates, fixes, and tweaks. If you're less programmery but more editorial, we do have a lot of Vault-related editing that we'd like to get done; this goes faster than you might think. If there's some other skill you have that you think might be valuable, hop on the dev server and send me a message.

And finally, fourth, which is the one that I really hate to ask, but I'm doin' it anyway.

I've set up a Patreon to take donations. If you have spare cash and think this is a worthy destination for it, please chip in.

I'm not sure what this whole "money" thing is going to end up looking like. At the very least this will pay for server costs; any income above that will go into making the site better, in whatever way seems most valuable. I've been thinking about taking out ads in an attempt to pull more users here, for example, and that isn't cheap.

This is going to be very experimental and will probably involve false starts. I'd love to hear suggestions on good ways to spend money on the site - if you have any, let me know - but note that in order to hire programmers we would need a lot of money.

For those who are more crypto-minded, I'm also taking donations via Ethereum (0xa97e126DCEcC7Ea3AF05d252B49c03ae35547dD9) and Bitcoin (bc1qnj0mvg90dfawjq3kxq4wdvcq0ejksgyf2m0xnq). All of these links are on the new (and very primitive) Support page.

I know there's going to be people who think that we left Reddit just so I could cash out. I frankly suspect that even if I just pile all of the results into a giant sack with a dollar sign on it and walk off while cackling evilly, I still won't be making minimum wage, so this would be a terrible plan :V No, I do actually like this community a ton, and want it to keep going, but I can't fund an indefinite amount of stuff on my own. And part of this push is to figure out just how useful this site is to all of you, in order to see what can be justified and what can't be justified.

So there's the ask! If you have connections, use them; if you have time, contribute it; if you have money and want to put it towards this, please provide financial support so I can figure out how to keep the new-user pipeline going.

If you don't, that's cool! Keep on posting and I hope you enjoy your time here.


Finally, this is the new Bugs/Suggestions/Small Comments thread. If you have feedback, post it here! A lot of the stuff in that Pending Issues link up above was submitted by users, and we're getting through it slowly.

This weekly roundup thread is intended for all culture war posts. 'Culture war' is vaguely defined, but it basically means controversial issues that fall along set tribal lines. Arguments over culture war issues generate a lot of heat and little light, and few deeply entrenched people ever change their minds. This thread is for voicing opinions and analyzing the state of the discussion while trying to optimize for light over heat.

Optimistically, we think that engaging with people you disagree with is worth your time, and so is being nice! Pessimistically, there are many dynamics that can lead discussions on Culture War topics to become unproductive. There's a human tendency to divide along tribal lines, praising your ingroup and vilifying your outgroup - and if you think you find it easy to criticize your ingroup, then it may be that your outgroup is not who you think it is. Extremists with opposing positions can feed off each other, highlighting each other's worst points to justify their own angry rhetoric, which becomes in turn a new example of bad behavior for the other side to highlight.

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Hi guys, I'm @idio3 from rdrama, one of the main jannies there. I like the idea of you running an offsite, but I'm absolutely floored by the implementation.

Now I get that there are features of the main site that wouldn't be appropriate for you guys, since you're looking for a different sort of discussion and atmosphere than we are. Longpostbot, annoying graphical and user-nerfing awards, bardbot, etc - it makes perfect sense to remove those. But other decisions I just don't understand. Most notably - what the hell is your beef with Marseys? Why don't image uploads work? It's like you guys intentionally wanted to preclude people from attempting to have fun :marseyshrug:, with the changes being essentially limited to cutting out as many of our features as you could get your hands on...

Anyway, if you could illuminate the rationale for these things, I'd greatly appreciate it! :marseyblowkiss:

be mottizens

set up own website

fork dramacode

remove 90% of features

manage to break the other 10% of features somehow

True story

5

Gab - hacked. Truth social - hacked. What if they come for us? The rdrama codebase probably isn't perfectly secure! Chrome or firefox has layers of sandboxes, a hundred different gadgets like 'stack protection' or 'W xor X', and still has a new RCE every week. rdrama can probably be trivially owned if someone googles all the dependency versions for a few hours. also, lol commit history, 'sneed'. If that happens - what leaks? i guess just associations between stored ip addresses (if they are) and post histories. And IP can reveal a lot, or nothing, depending on where you live, ISP, etc. Combine that with a post history referencing improvements you made to your house or your occupation ... might be bad.

Practically, seems incredibly unlikely anyone will care enough to do anything, it's a small community and the essay format gets in the way of 'omg these rightwingers grr'. But, always good to ponder potential security issues. Also, you wanted content, so content.

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I noticed that the comment counts don't seem to line up with the total comments on this post, and a couple others. Do we already have shadow bans in place here, or is this just some delay issue?

/images/1662333864401946.webp

The phrase "light only comes from heat" sounds so judicious. Who wouldn't want a pleasant, decorous argument where everyone respects everyone, no one's feelings are hurt, and plenty of light is generate, but no nasty heat.

Yet, if you think about it, where else does light come from but heat? Things that are very cold give off no light, yet everything that emits light will also be hot. If you don't like heat, you've no desire for light. If you want light, you musk risk heat.

Speaking from my own experience, it is the forceful, honest and clear arguments that have persuaded me, or have at the very least lodged the seed of doubt in my own mind, not those who argue by endlessly trying to flatter me, or search for middle ground, or who pretend to respect my argument more than they actually do.

All truth seekers should expunge this silly cliche from their vocabulary.

I end with the immortal words of John Milton:

I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat

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I come in peace, just want to see whats around here

Good morning.

We are always talking about how the news cycle has grabbed the attention of the people and is constantly making us focus on things that do not matter or have little relevance to our actual lived lives, forcing us to be forever locked within the overton window while whoever is in power does whatever they want. So far all of us have missed the next step that comes after that realization, which is, what are those important things that the news is not mentioning that is relevant to our lives? Today, we shall look at a few such examples:

  1. The politization of science - remember when there used to be scientific controversies, some of which would get into the public sphere where there would be intense discussions about the same until the issue was finally resolved. Me neither. However, in the past at least within the academy itself, the scientists used to seemingly have more freedom in regards to the subset of topics they could get behind. It was a period of the science determining the truth rather than the social truth determining the results of science. Today, we find ourselves in upside down world, where the moment the science finds anything controversial in its results, or anything that does not match current social norms, it is shut down or completely forgotten. This isn't a new phenomenon, simply one that continues to grow in strength, until science no longer exists separate from politics. Nobody is any longer allowed to question a medical procedure, or doubt a doctor, or ask any questions about data relating to ethnicity. All of it goes under the rug whenever something wrong happens. Cultural blackpills are no longer permitted even within hard science departments.

  2. Memes and Propaganda acceleration - A meme can be pushed onto the public and spread to millions of people within hours. Today the most expensive department of a company is the advertising section. Millions of bots exist on every single social media site, and if you are starting up as a social media personality, it is recommended that you learn to build bots for your channel to spread further. Today people are being directed towards more ideas and narratives to control their beliefs than ever before. In the past centuries the Church or the state controlled the minds of the people and told them what was right or wrong, today it is whatever echo chamber they end up falling into, resulting in people who do not even share common values with the neighbor right next door. Today you have a strong opinion of things that you have not experienced yourself a single time in life nor have any risk of ever experiencing or any reason to care about. What's worse you are being told that is actually a good thing. You are caring about everybody else's problems before your own, isn't that great!

  3. The death of integrity - Everybody is out to win. Everybody is out to be the right person the moment they are interacting with anyone outside. Why shouldn't they be, this is what the system that caters to their every idea has taught them. This is what their echo chambers have taught them. You are right, they are wrong. If they are able to prove you wrong, they are assholes who did it the wrong way, and anyways you have a right to your opinion. The only time people need to interact with anybody else now is when they have an agenda, so now people only ever interact with anybody else when they have an agenda. There is no you they are talking to, you are just another notebook or audiobook for them to store their opinion and hope to have it repeated somewhere else. Nobody cares about standards anymore, there is no right or wrong, only the desired end goal to be reached and then if anything breaks apart along the way then "look at what you made me do!".

  4. Reality disconnect - Should you worry about not having any savings? Well nobody else around me is worried lmao. Should you care about higher education. Why, it doesn't even pay any real money. Should you try to hold a real job. No, the people are too mean and they hold the wrong opinions.

  5. Illegal actions of the state- All states commit atrocities or immoral acts. We always find out a century later with the present always promising that we are totally clean now guys. Any time there is a controversy in the world, the news cycle drowns it in all the noise, telling you what you should be caring about instead, until you no longer have any clue what was seriously wrong in the first place. Most people don't even know where the newest war broke out or when their own state wrongfully broke a contract or hurt people for questionable reasons. These are things that the state will do everything in its power to memory hole.

  6. Existential threats - Climate change will likely kill far more people than what the news lets on. The energy crisis turned out to be far worse than the news ever let on. The population collapse will almost certainly be far worse than the news lets on as the news keeps assuming an increase in fertility in between for no reason whatsoever. The news does not completely hide these things, because the common man is obviously not completely blind, but they will do all they can to hide the exact details, to hide any real insurmountable risk for the people, and when the blow hits, everyone will act surprised as to where it came from. Remember, in the case of climate change at least, there were reports about it since the start of the 20th century if not earlier. We simply have no capacity to get our heads around existential risks, and the news has no interest in reporting on real existential risk as people giving up or realizing they are completely fucked is not good for business.

You see the problem?

You aren't supposed to be determining the course of your life based on what the neighbor or friend a country away thinks. Your education is still going to give you a better job than no education. Holding a job has never been about being surrounded by people who love you. That's why you work 8 hours so you can do what you want with the other waking 8 and actually enjoy yourself with the money you make once you are away from work! People have become completely disconnected from how the societal system works at even the most basic level.

People now have zero conception of how the social contract works or why it was kept the way it was. Thinking the entirety of the social contract was about controlling people by the richest men and women. That was certainly a part of it but not 100%!! There was a whole bit in there about being able to live functional lives!

Conclusion - In a manner of speaking, outside of the overton window we are certainly in one of the decaying society phases where the people have lost complete connection with why we were living the lives we were in the first place and the understanding that the world runs on the basis of material input which is limited in supply. People have zero concept of the social contract and forgot one of the bigger chapters in the social contract was about how to utilize our resources and get the most out of the average individual in exchange for providing them the maximum resources possible without breaking or stagnating the system.

The overton window simply exists to keep whoever has free time on their hands still focused on issues that do not actually matter 9 times out of 10 so that they are never able to beat the system.

Nor will you ever be able to doubt the system. The system is perfect, and when its not perfect its your neighbors fault for choosing the wrong option. The state is the final answer. Always has been. Always will be.

Leave the overton window and realize the only winning condition is what you do at the individual level for 90% of the human population and then to do things for your community or your city once you reach the remaining 10%.

Because it isn't obvious

Do you have some separate web app? I don't really see what the difference is between this and something with Angular or whatever.

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As the title says. I noticed it while poking at Zorba's profile, and clicked the button thinking it would tell me what it does. All I got was "help message sent". So uh, sorry @ZorbaTHut. But seriously, what does that button do?

Do you have a dumb question that you're kind of embarrassed to ask in the main thread? Is there something you're just not sure about?

This is your opportunity to ask questions. No question too simple or too silly.

Culture war topics are accepted, and proposals for a better intro post are appreciated.

Posted because I didn't see Zorba post one today. Feel free to delete if that's an issue.

Scrolling trough window sort of works with great marking of new comments but is quite absurd.

Also, if new comment is hidden in some "show more comments" branch one will not spot it.

10

I liked to post in the Friday fun threads what video games I've been playing recently. Sometimes I recommend the games, and sometimes I ask for recommendations.

I've always enjoyed talking about video games. But themotte has made me picky over the years. Its not just talk that I want. It is thinking, understanding, and discussion of video games that interest me. Video games are mostly a mental activity for me, and so diving into a mental discussion about them often enhances my enjoyment.

I didn't post in the Friday fun thread about what I've been playing, so I'll post now. And I'd like to know what others are playing.


The post I would have written:

This week I've been hooked on factorio (again). I've done many playthroughs of this game. A few vanilla playthroughs (some multiplayer and some not). A krastorio 1 mod playthrough. A few different attempts at the bob's, angels, and seablock mods (never could get into them, too much work, and not enough reward). A krastorio II and space exploration playthrough.

This week though I have been playing with just the space exploration mod. There has been some hints in blogposts that factorio might have an expansion, and that the expansion might be related to the space exploration mod. I thought I'd try and wait for that expansion. But my patience has failed me.

Playing space exploration without the krastorio II mod has been surprisingly way more different than I would have expected. The major difference in my mind is that krastorio II makes the starting world gameplay last too long, and gives too many advantages. I never thought this would be a real problem, but I've never managed to truly beat a space exploration game before. And I realized part of the problem is that krastorio II ties you to the homeworld too strongly. While space exploration on its own forces you off planet just for the sake of some quality of life improvements. For example, you have to go to space in order to get the logistics network chests. The tech is not unlockable based on ground items alone. I don't remember if krastorio II mod combination forced me to go to space, but I do remember that the belt inserters made so many logists aspects so much simpler that the need for drone based logistics didn't seem as pressing. There were also special ground based fabricator buildings for Krastorio II that were larger and much faster (matching the space based ones). But with just the space exploration mod I'm realizing there is an intentional difference. Either you can choose land based production to get productivity bonuses. (and usually the first steps in refinement for special resources). Or you can choose space based production for speed bonuses.

6

Recently it was widely reported that the – to use its lengthy official name - Monument to the Liberators of Soviet Latvia and Riga from the German Fascist Invaders was destroyed by local authorities in the Latvian capital. This is certainly not without precedent, as numerous Red Army monuments have been removed in the Baltic states and also in Poland, Czechia and other nations formerly in the Warsaw Pact, many of these decisions being clearly driven by events in the Ukraine since 2004. I think we on this forum are mostly aware of the talking points used to justify their removal so I won’t bother to repeat those here. Instead I’d make the simple assumption in this particular case that those Latvians who support this decision are clearly unhappy with the direction their national history took in the past, and ask the question what sort of past they’d have preferred to have. I suppose this is a relevant Culture War question in Eastern Europe.

Let’s suppose, for the sake of argument, that Operation Barbarossa begins as it did, and then history develops differently. From then on, I think Latvia had the following options:

A – Germany wins decisive victory in the East and incorporates Latvia directly into the Reich; it only remains as an administrative area, if that; presumably, local Jews and Russians are either deported/killed or used as slave labor, and German settlers move in

B – same as A, but Latvia is allowed to retain limited autonomy as a vassal state / protectorate

C – the war in the East concludes with a separate negotiated peace in 1941 or 1942, and Latvia remains an independent nation as part of some demilitarized neutral zone between Germany and the USSR

D – same as C, but Latvia remains under German influence and its autonomy remains limited in the practical sense, maybe the Germans even retain military bases in Latvian territory

E – the war concludes with decisive Allied victory, but Stalin recognizes the independence of the Baltic states and withdraws his troops from there; still, Soviet influence remains palpable

F – same as E, but the USSR incorporates Latvia into a new military and economic system of cooperation under Soviet hegemony, and maintains military bases on Latvian soil; also, the Soviets have enough influence, soft power and political mechanisms to ensure that Latvia cannot leave this sphere of influence

G – everything happens as it actually did, but the Baltic states get nominal independence after 1945 instead of getting turned back into Soviet republics. Basically, the Warsaw Pact and COMECON have 3 more members.

I assume hardliner Latvian nationalists would prefer B (even for them, A is too extreme), and more moderate nationalists would prefer C or D. For obvious reasons however, even in the current climate of general anti-Russian/Soviet sentiment, I very much doubt they’d be willing to say this out loud. After all, A, B, C and D all mean that Nazi Germany remains undefeated, and Latvian Jews get genocided and pogromed. For the same reason, I believe these 4 options are unacceptable for the Russian and Jewish minorities in Latvia. After all, even C entails the strong possibility that they get oppressed and ethnically cleansed.

Also, I cannot help but notice that the same very obviously applies to Ukrainian nationalists in general, no matter how much leeway they currently get in Western media.

I’ll make the guess that E is the most ideal option in the eyes of Latvian centrists/normies at first sight; however, it still means that, realistically speaking, Latvia never gets to join either NATO or the EU. It’s the same as Finland’s fate but worse, as the border region between Russia and Finland at least consists of dense forests and numerous lakes, practically impassable ground for Russians if they invade (again). Also, I think it’s clear that the Soviets would agree to something (in their eyes) so unrealistic only if the US agrees to the same in Western Europe. In short, this means that even if NATO is formed, it remains limited in its geographical scope i.e. West Germany never gets incorporated into it, in other words, either the two German states remain neutral or the German state never gets divided and remains neutral.

G is very obviously unacceptable for most Latvians, as the difference from what actually happened is negligible.

F is, I think, also something most of them would only begrudgingly accept. However, the issue with this is that it’s basically merely the local version of NATO, but overseen by Russians. If our position today is that this would be unacceptable and violates our political norms, we’d also have to say that it was not acceptable for the Americans to maintain hegemony over Western European states and station their military units and nuclear weapons on their soil. (I’ll make an expectation for West Germany, as it was a defeated enemy and no peace treaty was signed.) Alternatively, one can make an argument that “but it’s different when the Americans do it, the Russians have always been Mongoloid Ugric-Turkic savages”, but I don’t know how many normies would be willing to say this unironically.

Also, both F and G entail the very real likelihood that the Soviets still get to erect a huge monument in Riga. Even in the case of E it’s relatively likely.

So where does that leave us?

Highlights

I'd prefer comments or questions here on account of themotte.org site being pretty young. Long live The Motte!

25

Mottizens sometimes use terms with obscure origins that can be confusing to newcomers. This is an attempt to provide a brief explanation of what these terms mean and where they came from to help anyone new to the community.

50 Stalins: A style of commentary which pretends to criticize something while actually praising it, e.g. “critiquing” Stalinist Russia by suggesting that it is not Stalinist enough and it should have even more Stalins. The term was coined by Scott Alexander in Reactionary Philosophy in an Enormous, Planet-sized Nutshell (2013).

Chinese Robber Fallacy: A dishonest argument that uses a generic problem to attack a specific person or group, even when the other groups have the problem just as much, e.g. complaining about the problem of Chinese robbers without providing evidence that Chinese people are more likely to be robbers than other groups. It was first described by blogger Alyssa Vance in 2015.

CultureWarRoundup / CWR: A splinter community of the Motte that lives at the subreddit /r/CultureWarRoundup, founded primarily by users who felt that the Motte's moderation policies were too strict. It has very little moderation.

Effective Altruism / EA : A philosophical and social movement that aims to use evidence and reason to do the most good possible. It has a lot of overlap with the rationalist community and LessWrong and experienced much of its early growth on LessWrong.

Human Biodiversity / HBD: A viewpoint that holds that there are socially relevant differences between groups of people that are genetic in origin. Most controversially, HBD advocates generally maintain that the observed differences between the average intelligence of people of different races originate in genetics.

Ideological Turing Test / ITT: An exercise where you try to pretend to hold an opposing ideology convincingly enough that outside observers can't reliably distinguish you from a true believer. It was first described by economist Bryan Caplan in 2011.

LessWrong: A discussion forum founded by AI theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky in 2009. The forum focuses on cognitive biases, rationality, artificial intelligence, and other topics. It is the primary nexus for the so-called “rationalist community.” LessWrong could be considered an ancestor forum to the Motte, since Scott Alexander blogged there before founding Slate Star Codex and this community originated in the subreddit for Slate Star Codex.

Lizardman's Constant: The share of the population (around 4%) who gives absurd responses in opinion polls (such as saying that lizardmen run the world); perhaps a combination of trolls, people who don't understand the question, people who just want to agree with the pollster, and people who are completely apathetic to the poll. It was coined by Scott Alexander in Lizardman's Constant is 4% (2013).

Motte and Bailey fallacy: A dishonest form of argument where one conflates two positions, one easy to defend but with limited implications (the motte) and another hard to defend but with far-reaching implications (the bailey). The fallacy was named after a kind of castle. It was coined by the philosopher Nicholas Shakel in 2005 and popularized by Scott Alexander via Social Justice and Words, Words, Words (2014) and All in All, Another Brick in the Motte (2014). The motte-and-bailey fallacy is the namesake of the Motte; in this community, we would like people to only hold positions that they can defend.

Neoreaction / NRx: A right-wing political philosophy whose signature viewpoint is that monarchy is a better form of government than democracy. Its most famous advocate is the blogger Curtis Yarvin, aka Mencius Moldbug. The neoreactionary movement first grew on LessWrong, although they were always a very small faction there.

Prior: A term from Bayesian Statistics that essentially means one's belief about something before they take new evidence into account. To say that one's prior is X is essentially to say that one's belief is X. To say that one has "adjusted their priors" is essentially to say that one has changed one's mind to some degree about the topic at hand based on the evidence presented; in theory this is done by applying Bayes' theorem.

Quokka: A kind of Australian macropod. They have no natural predators and are therefore not particularly fearful. Some people, beginning with a 2020 Twitter thread by “Zero HP Lovecraft”, who believe rationalists are too trusting or naive compare rationalists to Quokkas.

Rationalist: An online community of people originally formed around the blog Overcoming Bias, founded in 2006 by economist Robin Hanson and AI theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky; the discussion forum LessWrong, founded in 2009 by Yudkowsky; and the blog Slate Star Codex, founded in 2013 by Scott Alexander. The rationalist community is generally focused on cognitive bias and reason. Because the Motte originated in the subreddit for Slate Star Codex, it could be considered part of a rationalist “diaspora.”

rDrama: A humorous forum about Internet drama. Originally the subreddit /r/drama, the community now lives at rdrama.net. The Motte forked the code they use to run their site when we moved from Reddit to this website in 2022 because it was a proven example of a Reddit community successfully moving offsite and had many of the features we wanted.

Red Tribe / Blue Tribe / Gray Tribe: Terms used to describe different cultural groups in America. The terms were coined by Scott Alexander in I Can Tolerate Anything Except the Outgroup (2014). They are sometimes used interchangeably with the concepts of Republicans (Red Tribe) and Democrats (Blue Tribe), but in their original conception, Red Tribe (or Blue Tribe) meant something more precisely stated as “the sorts of people likely to be Republicans (or Democrats), regardless of their actual political views.” For example, a vegan Harvard graduate who lives in Manhattan and loves musical theater is part of the Blue Tribe even if he is actually politically conservative. The Gray Tribe is a sub-tribe of the Blue Tribe characterized by things like working in STEM fields and often having libertarian-ish politics.

Scissor Statement: A highly controversial statement that reliably provokes arguments. Coined by Scott Alexander in Sort By Controversial (2018), a work of fiction in which scissor statements are generated by a machine learning system trained on Reddit comments.

Slate Star Codex / SSC / Astral Codex Ten / Scott Alexander: Scott Alexander is a psychiatrist who lives in the Bay

Area. He blogged from 2013-2020 at Slate Star Codex and since 2021 at Astral Codex Ten. The Motte was created as a subreddit in 2019 as the home for a weekly "culture war roundup" thread that was hosted on the subreddit for SSC until then. The culture war roundup threads were removed from /r/slatestarcodex at Scott Alexander’s request. Scott Alexander’s writings are a major influence on the norms of this community. His blog and the community around it are generally considered part of the rationalist community. Scott Alexander was a popular writer at LessWrong before founding SSC and the community around SSC has a lot of overlap with LessWrong.

SneerClub: A community of people critical of the rationalist community, including the Motte, that lives at the subreddit /r/SneerClub.

Steelman: The strongest possible form of an opposing argument; the opposite of a strawman.

TheSchism: A splinter community of the Motte founded in 2020 that lives at the subreddit /r/TheSchism.

Weakman: A weak argument that someone has actually made (so it’s not a strawman). A poor form of argument is to choose the weakest argument that someone has actually made in favor of a position and argue against that while ignoring stronger arguments for that position.

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The move from Reddit to a dedicated forum is a huge opportunity to mix things up. We should take advantage. Never let a crisis go to waste, etc.

One thing I would suggest (if technical limitations allow) would be the addition of a two-tiered voting system, somewhat like what LessWrong has implemented, where users can vote both on the quality of a post, and separately on whether or not they agree with it. I think this could have really positive effects for the kind of community and discussion the Motte was created to promote. The Motte's raison d'etre is to promote discussion and debate with people you disagree with. Separating voting on quality from voting on agreement would promote that goal in a couple different ways. Fundamentally, there is a tension between upvoting a post you think is well-done, and downvoting that same post because you disagree with its content. I think the Motte wants to be a place that encourages outsider or minority views, and separating the "quality" vote from the "agreement" vote would help promote this. From what I have noticed in this community, despite our commitments to encouraging debate and discussion with people you disagree with, posts coming from a more liberal/left-wing/social justice/woke viewpoint tend to get downvoted, even when their quality is equivalent or superior to other posts.

I'll also quote from the reasons given on the above LessWrong post about this feature, because I think the reasons given are good ones.:

I personally feel much more comfortable upvoting good comments that I disagree with or whose truth value I am highly uncertain about, because I don’t feel that my vote will be mistaken as setting the social reality of what is true.

I also feel very comfortable strong-agreeing with things while not up/downvoting on them, so as to indicate which side of an argument seems true to me without my voting being read as “this person gets to keep accruing more and more social status for just repeating a common position at length”.

Similarly to the first bullet, I think that many writers have interesting and valuable ideas but whose truth-value I am quite unsure about or even disagree with. This split allows voters to repeatedly signal that a given writer's comments are of high value, without building a false-consensus that LessWrong has high confidence that the ideas are true. (For example, many people have incompatible but valuable ideas about how AGI development will go, and I want authors to get lots of karma and visibility for excellent contributions without this ambiguity.)

There are many comments I think are bad but am averse to downvoting, because I feel that it is ambiguous whether the person is being downvoted because everyone thinks their take is unfashionable or whether it's because the person is wasting the commons with their behavior (e.g. belittling, starting bravery debates, not doing basic reading comprehension, etc). With this split I feel more comfortable downvoting bad comments without worrying that everyone else who states the position will worry if they'll also be downvoted.

I have seen some comments that previously would have been "downvoted to hell" are now on positive karma, and are instead "disagreed to hell". I won't point them out to avoid focusing on individuals, but this seems like an obvious improvement in communication ability.

Would this be a doable change? And would it be a good one? I am strongly in favor, but open to reasons why I'm wrong.

There was a culture war post several years ago where users contributed their favourite books, including many out of print. I have looked for it in vain, can we maintain a Motte book thread?

Be advised; this thread is not for serious in depth discussion of weighty topics, this thread is not for anything Culture War related. This thread is for Fun. You got jokes? Share 'em. You got silly questions? Ask 'em.

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For discussing the move away from Reddit.

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I'm going to talk about what the Boring Company is doing and why I think it is not only not a terrible idea, but actively a good idea!

Preamble:

This is a complicated idea with a lot of moving parts, both metaphorically and literally. You will have totally reasonable questions! Hopefully they will be answered by the time I reach the end, but keep reading until you get to the end; in written format I can only answer questions one at a time, and your specific question might take longer to get to.

In addition, this is describing the system that I think Elon Musk is working on. He hasn't announced that this is what he's working on - it's guesswork and theorycrafting by me - but there is some evidence to it.

A summary: Elon Musk is attempting to redesign urban and suburban transportation on a grand scale, so thoroughly that the majority of commuters choose to use this system because it's better. This is not a thing you accomplish by building a few tunnels under Las Vegas. The Loop is a prototype of a prototype of a prototype; the beginnings can be seen there, but claiming his plans are invalid because of Loop's problems is like criticizing the concept of trains based on Locomotion #1's terrible speed.


Elon Musk has a unique goal: to make a fast inexpensive public transportation system.

Uber and Lyft have a similar goal! They want to make a fast public transportation system, and they have succeeded! They don't care about inexpensive, and in fact they can't accomplish inexpensive, because drivers are expensive. They're working on self-driving vehicles, and this will help, but it won't solve the issue because Uber and Lyft need lots of roads, roads take up land, and land is also expensive. Note that land isn't just financially expensive, it's valuable - we only have so many square meters of sunlight surface on this planet, and it's a shame we're using it on transportation. This is opportunity-cost even if we don't normally count it as a cost of roads; it's kinda factored in right now because we don't have an alternative, but we could have an alternative and we should consider land usage as part of cost.

Car manufacturers also have a similar goal! They want to make a fast inexpensive transportation system, and they have succeeded! They've abandoned "public" by requiring people to buy into the system with a large upfront expenditure (specifically, "buying a car".) This allows them to get rid of that whole "pay for a driver" thing - the passenger is the driver. It's not as inexpensive as it could be, though, because cars need lots of roads, thus land, thus expense.

Public transport systems also have a similar goal! They want to make an inexpensive public transportation system, and they have succeeded! But it's not fast. In fact, it cannot be fast. Group transportation is intrinsically slow; putting more people on a vehicle either requires frequent stops which slows down everyone else on board, or it requires stops at junction nodes which implies transfers which also take a lot of time. Short-to-mid-distance buses, trains, and subways cannot match uncongested cars, and you can test this on Google Maps by going to a city of your choice, picking two positions, and twiddling with the "Start At" option until you find the fastest times for cars and the fastest times for public transportation; in almost all cases, cars are significantly faster, and I've never found a case where cars are more than a minute slower.

(Airplanes have the same problem, but they're fast enough that people put up with it; nevertheless, an airplane trip still involves an hour or two of bureaucracy and waiting on either side, and chances are good you're not landing at the exact time you'd prefer to. Long-distance trains also have the same problem and the same solution, specifically, "we put up with it because the speed makes it worth it". In both cases, avoiding all that added complexity would make them significantly better. If you can think of a way to accomplish that without a drastic price increase you will become extremely rich.)

tl;dr: Transportation has traditionally been "fast, inexpensive, public; pick two", and Elon Musk is trying to pick all three at the same time.


The Basic Idea

If you haven't heard of the Boring company or the Las Vegas Loop, here's the concept:

Elon Musk thinks tunnels can be built for much cheaper than they previously could be. He is building a large underground network under Las Vegas, with something like 45 stops (this number keeps increasing as they add more to the plan). You will walk up to a stop, request a car, and travel to any other stop in the network. You can do this today, although right now they only have 3 stops, but construction continues.

This is literally the basis of the plan; "let's make tunnels and drive cars through them". I acknowledge this sounds dumb, but it may actually be the best way to accomplish Fast, Inexpensive, and Public.


Let's tackle the easy ones first.

Boring Company tunnels are public because you don't need to buy in with a large investment to use them. You can just show up at a stop, pay a fare, and ride a vehicle to wherever you want to go.

Boring Company tunnels are fast . . . sort of . . . because it's point-to-point transportation. The vehicle is ideally already at the stop, or close by, when you request it, and it takes you directly to your destination, as long as your destination is on the system. This "on the system" limitation is a flaw! We'll get back to that, though.

Boring Company cars currently require drivers, which is expensive. They've said multiple times that this is a stopgap until they have self-driving working. I see no reason to doubt them and the rest of this post is going to take on faith that they'll get self-driving working. Again, prototype of a prototype of a prototype. If you're skeptical about self-driving in general, note that as of this writing there are multiple companies running public services in multiple cities; if you're skeptical about Tesla self-driving, well, me too, but they can always license it. I'm going to just accept this part as solved-in-the-next-decade-one-way-or-another.

Boring Company tunnels are inexpensive because oh god this is where the complicated part starts


Price

Tunnels are, traditionally, very expensive.

There's a lot of reasons for this. Cost disease, in general, is one of the big ones, and if Boring Company gets hit by cost disease then this entire thing might be doomed. I think they're more resistant to this because they are not having cities come to them asking for services, they are going to cities to propose services, and if they're expensive, they won't get any contracts. Note that Boring Company has already turned down a contract because the company was going to waste a lot of money on things that weren't the tunnel, and they just didn't want to be a part of that. I'm going to just cross my fingers that this doesn't happen.

Tunnel size is another big one. Tunnels get much more expensive as they get larger. Train tunnels need to be surprisingly large; they need to hold a train that's big enough for people to stand up in and walk around in. They also need to hold some kind of emergency exit system. With trains, this traditionally hasn't been compatible with the train rails themselves; the cross-ties are a tripping hazard. If you have to run a second extra walkway next to your train then that makes your tunnels even larger. Finally, you need a lot of emergency equipment. The reason this is required is that stations are rather far apart; if stations were closer, the safety regulations let you basically say "look, there's an exit right there, just walk to the exit". Far-apart stations cause significant added tunnel expenses.

The biggest issue, surprisingly, is the underground stations. The most common way of making an underground station is as simple as it is costly:

  • Knock down all the buildings above the station

  • Dig a giant rectangular hole

  • Reinforce the top of the hole

  • Fill the top of the hole back in

  • Build new buildings on top

This isn't a lack of foresight on the part of the builders, this is actually how it tends to be done. Underground stations are horribly expensive, and this has consequences for the rest of the system. Remember how I kind of skimmed past "far-apart stations cause significant tunnel expenses"? Well, they do, but this is still cheaper than building more underground stations!

This is how the Boring Company is going to solve tunnel price:

  • Cars are much smaller than trains [citation needed] and don't require as much sheer size.

  • Cars travel on concrete, not rail, and this surface is perfectly suited for passenger exit, meaning that you don't need an extra passenger lane as long as there's enough room to get past the cars. (Note: in the current Loop tunnels, there is, even though it's not obvious in a lot of the videos that have been posted. It's not comfortable, but it's enough for emergency evac.)

  • We can reduce the necessary emergency equipment by having frequent stations. Trust me on this for now! I'll get back to this one very quickly.

All of this put together makes Boring Company tunnels a whole lot cheaper than train tunnels.


Stations

Twice, now, I've glossed past issues with stations. The Las Vegas Loop requires stations at every stop so people can get on and off; our emergency system also requires frequent stations. These can both be solved by having lots of stations.

but wait, I thought stations were expensive Nope! Stations are cheap. Underground stations are expensive. The solution is that you just put your stations above-ground. Any parking lot can become a station terminal, as can underground floors of already-constructed buildings.

This works for Boring Company cars because car station positioning is far more flexible than train station positioning is. Train stations have to be long because trains are long; cars are short and so car stations can have basically any layout. Trains run on rails, which have extremely low friction - this is good from an efficiency perspective, but means that trains cannot handle significant slopes without expensive equipment like cable cars. If trains can't handle slopes then above-ground stations for underground rails simply aren't possible. Meanwhile, the minimum footprint of a full-fledged aboveground car station connecting to an underground network is the same footprint as a small house; a tunnel up, a tunnel down, and a few parking spaces, done.

Now we have cheap stations! We can toss a station at every casino on the Las Vegas Loop and not think twice about it. Our tunnels become smaller because we don't need as much emergency equipment, and our trips are faster because you can enter and exit from the cars in more places.

This is a reasonable solution. But it's not a great solution. We still have to drop people off at stations and pick people up at stations; what if someone doesn't have a station nearby? What if someone wants a car from their house off in a suburb or true rural area? Do we need to build tunnels to every single neighborhood, and then require that people walk across half their neighborhood to get home? It's 108 degrees out right now, I'm not walking in that weather. Screw that. And worst, we still need significant land dedicated to this system for the parking-lot terminuses, and land, as I've mentioned, is expensive.

We can do better.


Stationless Point-To-Point

This is where I move into speculation territory. But I really do think this is the plan.

We have an underground network of self-driving vehicles. We have cheap entry and exit tunnels. This is all we need to finish the entire system.

We keep our entry and exit tunnels, and we put them everywhere (which also solves our emergency exit requirements.) However, we get rid of the stations. The tunnels are simply a way of transiting from the underground network to the aboveground road network. "The aboveground road network", you ask? Sure; we're going to co-opt the aboveground road network for part of this. We're not using it for long-distance travel, so we can get rid of the giant tangles of freeways and onramps. But we are using it for last-mile travel, because it's there.

When you request a vehicle, one shows up at your doorway. You get inside and it heads to the nearest convenient tunnel entrance. Most of your trip is spent underground, and then it pops back up into the sunlight to bring you straight to your destination.

No stations, low land usage, point-to-point congestionless travel.

That's the actual goal.


Common Objections

Moved to its own comment due to character count limitations.


Conclusion

The goal of the Boring Company is to make the first fast inexpensive public transportation system. Cars are fast and kinda inexpensive, but not public; Uber/Lyft are fast and public, but expensive; trains and buses are inexpensive and public, but not fast. Elon Musk is trying to get all three at once, and the decisions being made are in service to that. The thing being designed really could not exist before self-driving vehicles; it is a truly 21st-century transportation system and hopes to redesign the urban landscape on a level that we haven't seen in a century.

I have no idea if it will succeed.

Do you have a dumb question that you're kind of embarrassed to ask in the main thread? Is there something you're just not sure about?

This is your opportunity to ask questions. No question too simple or too silly.

Culture war topics are accepted, and proposals for a better intro post are appreciated.