Is it common for students to graduate from an English-speaking university while still not really being fluent in the language?
We have to distinguish between positive-sum and zero-sum activities. If I'm hiring someone for the first kind of job, e.g. a contractor to build my house, then it's in my interest to do so meritocratically and without political favoritism, because I actually care about the result i.e. the house getting built. And by extension, if I delegate to you the task of finding me a contractor, but you recommend your cousin's firm as a personal favor to him, then I have a right to take issue with that because you (my agent) did not act according to the interest of me (the principal). The same is true if I'm a taxpayer and you're a government bureaucrat in charge of hiring a contractor to fix up the roads in my city, etc.
On the other hand, for the second kind of job (e.g. politicians, pundits, public intellectuals), there is no question of "merit" because the whole point of the job is to take stuff from one group and give it to another. The sole qualification for the job is "are you on my side or not". I may equally object to so-called "meritocracy" in this case, because it's a betrayal of the social contract by which I can focus my efforts on positive-sum value creation on the understanding that my interests will still be represented in the zero-sum arena. Without this understanding, we're left with a stagnant, materially impoverished society like the classic third-world oil dictatorship.
Where do honors classes fit into this dichotomy? It's hard to say, which is why this is such a difficult issue. Students taking honors classes may be doing so with the goal of going into a career of value-creation or a career of value-reallocation, or (more likely) they haven't even decided yet. Furthermore, there is an almost inevitable tendency (which classically-liberal society tries to stamp out, but lately without much success) for people to parlay status and wealth gained through the value-creation track into influence on value-reallocation. When society's direction is being shaped by a handful of tech billionaires, people may rightly see STEM education as a zero-sum game, even though it isn't inherently.
On the rationalist right, there is more skepticism around the practicality and utility of polyamory, promiscuity, substance use, and atheism. There is more sympathy for Christianity, having children, and the genders adopting their respective gender roles.
In the words of some commenter from I-don't-remember-where: I've retrieved my fedora from storage. Soon it will be time to don it once more.
Atheism and Christianity are not lifestyle choices like the other items on this list. I am an atheist because I am convinced that there are no immaterial mental entities within the causal domain that includes me. And likewise Christians are Christians because they are convinced that Jesus died and was raised (etc.).
I know that not everyone sees it this way. Back in the day I used to get into arguments on /r/atheism whenever someone would post an article about gay marriage or abortion - I would say (perhaps naïvely) "This has nothing to do with atheism" only to be met with dumbfounded replies to the effect of "Wait, why else would you be here?" I just came for the metaphysics; I didn't realize I needed to join your orgies as well!
More recently I've encountered people (like the author of this piece) who endorse Christianity tactically, in a post-modern, Jordan-Petersonian way - "This church seems to share my conservative values, so I'm going to join them and maybe their belief will rub off on me."
For me, conservatism is (and always has been) inseparable from atheism. The way of thinking that led me to agree with the "dissident right" is exactly the same as what led me to seek a naturalistic explanation for things and to see value in the long-term future of the material world. If I were willing to put faith in a loving Sky Father just because it made me feel good, I would also be willing to accept that "all men are created equal" just because it'd be nice if that were true. If all I cared about was being fashionable among my peers, it would've been so much easier to adopt the "woke" position on everything.
Some conservative Christians see atheism and conservatism as antagonistic. I disagree, but I would say, if you forced me to choose, I would choose atheism over conservatism. At least atheists pretend to be receptive to evidence. But Christian conservatives I can only ever see as fair-weather friends - maybe we're allied on this particular political issue, but if your social milieu had gone another way, then we would've been enemies.
My first impression is that "Asian American" is way more of a hyphenated identity than "White American" - the opposite of what you're saying. Most Asian people will identify primarily as Chinese-, Indian-, Filipino-American, etc., while a lot of white people in America don't even know their ancestry, or come from a mix of different European ethnicities. Is there a comparable amount of intermingling between different Asian groups? Is e.g. a Chinese-American any more likely to marry a Korean-American than a white or black person? (My guess is no, but I don't have any citations for this.) That would be an indicator of whether "Asian-American" is a real culture and not just a census checkbox.
If you could wave a magic wand to establish some collective norm to improve this situation, what would you do?
Because socializing is (obviously) social, it's easy to imagine that individual interventions will be non- or counter-productive. For example, maybe you think that people lack social ties because they move around so often, and we'd all have better social lives if we all stayed in the towns we grew up in. But if I alone did that, my social life will be even worse than usual because everyone I could've been friends with has moved away.
I suspect there's something about the way we're using technology that makes social life worse for everyone, effectively polluting the social commons. The problem is that we don't know how that's happening. It's like we see the thinning ozone layer, we agree that it's bad, but we don't know that CFCs are causing it.
Because this technology is so new, our cultural evolution hasn't caught up. (Maybe this is what OP's description means by "our transitional period"). At some point someone will figure this out, perhaps by accident. But we're not just genes mutating at random; intentional thought and experimentation have their place as well.
Most people who are in support of circumcision absolutely aren't doing it for logical reasons, they're doing it entirely because of emotion.
To be fair, I'm "against" circumcision by default (being uncircumcised myself), and this feeling is also based purely on emotion rather than reason. However, I don't really understand where logic comes into the picture anyway. There are very few things whose mere verbal descriptions are enough to make me wince in pain. Circumcision is one of them, and "having my fingernails yanked out with pliers" is another. My opposition to these things is not based on any rational argument; it's as close to a terminal value as I can think of.
This is one of those areas where I have a severe empathy gap - I can't even imagine what it's like to have any other perspective. Reading arguments about it causes me anxiety, not because I feel personally attacked by either side, but because I feel like I've been transported to some incomprehensible alien planet. I would never in a million years have invented the idea of circumcision, and even having consciously learned about it I still intuit that it must be some massive joke that everyone but me is in on. ("You actually thought it was a real thing! You should've seen your face!") Even so, the anti-circumcision arguments also seem like the writings of aliens because they present the view of someone who could have supported it but decided not to.
From the article:
After all the LGBT, black, and women stuff that I’ve posted, this is like Al Capone going away for tax evasion.
Can someone who follows his Twitter feed give some examples? This would help calibrate how much censoring Twitter is doing.
If you all happen to believe there’s an omnipotent power that rewards good behavior after you die, and you’re in a close-knit community where betrayals have huge social costs, then you can all trust each other.
I suspect the second factor is doing a lot more work than the first. (Suppose the diamond marketplace were 50/50 Jews and Jains; would we expect each trader to do exactly as much business with their own group as with the other?)
Maybe right and wrong don’t “really” exist. But it’s tough out there and you don’t want people will hurt you. So you loudly advertise that if anyone defects against you, you’ll go out of your way to punish them—even “irrationally” hurting yourself if that’s necessary to get revenge. To make this threat maximally credible, you adopt as core beliefs that right and wrong do exist and that defectors are wrong.
I'm not sure I'd count adopting a certain game-theoretic strategy as "believing an untrue thing" - a strategy can be effective or ineffective, but it can't be "false". The article seems to imply that this is an example of a false meta-ethical belief, but this is a controversial assertion and we can't take for granted that everyone understands "right" and "wrong" in the same way. (Maybe I've just defined "right" as whatever strategies are effective?) Which leads to the next point:
At least in recent history, people on both sides of wars seem to believe they are fighting for the side of good. Obviously, that can’t be right, and in a sense, two such parties fighting should be cause for them to sit down and work through Aumann’s agreement dynamics.
A disagreement over values isn't like a disagreement over facts - we wouldn't expect it to be resolvable through Aumann's agreement theorem even if both sides were being perfectly rational.
I don't support the use of strategies like apps that automatically cut off your access during certain times of the day.
One problem I have participating in sites like TheMotte is the "Red Queen effect" whereby I feel compelled to reply to comments quickly if I want them to be generally visible. If I unilaterally limit my engagement to 1 hour per day, I'll often find that the discussions I want to join have already been buried under newer content by the time I get to them. This is a zero-sum game, because everyone else is doing the same thing.
In an ideal world, everyone's comments would get posted in bulk at 6AM every day, so I could read the day's content over my morning coffee, contemplate how I'd like to reply, and then post those replies at my leisure later in the day. This would make participation much less addictive in nature. If everything on the internet worked like that, I would only need to actually go online twice a day, while still getting all the benefits of engaging in discussions. In fact, I could just swing by a library or cafe and I wouldn't even need a home internet connection!
(I'm not seriously suggesting that TheMotte should do this - there are enough technical kinks to work out as it is.)
The appeal of democracy makes a lot more sense when you think of it as civil-war-by-proxy rather than as a method for harnessing the "wisdom of crowds" to achieve some idea of good government. The whole reason we do politics in the first place is precisely because we don't agree on what a good outcome would be. We therefore try to create a system that roughly reflects what would happen if we did fight a war over every issue, without actually having to do so.
But a problem arises when reality marches on and the proxy doesn't catch up. Take for example the English Civil War: the actual power of the monarchy had already declined relative to that of the parliamentarians due to economic and military developments, but on paper the king still had all the powers of his medieval predecessors. Eventually, a few centuries of war and struggle reduced him to a mere figurehead.
In our own time we may see the emergence of a "technocratic ceremonial democracy" where appealing to popular sovereignty is as quaint and absurd as appealing to the Divine Right of Kings in the UK today.
How does this work? My understanding was that the only "learning" that took place is when the model is trained on the dataset (which is done only once, requiring a huge amount of computational resources), and any subsequent usage of the model has no effect on the training.
Moravec's paradox suggests that white-collar jobs will get automated first. What blue-collar job will be most impacted by AI? Maybe truck driving? Now, there have been advances on that front, but this is still tentative and much less significant than the amount of AI art that's already been created.
Interestingly, the fact that autonomous vehicle companies need government approval before deploying their products shows that the regulatory environment already favors blue-collar workers (at least in this case). By contrast, "creative" work like art etc. is pretty much unregulated.
I've long believed that computer programming would be the last human job to be automated, because once that happens we've basically hit the Singularity already and the new post-human age will dawn the next day. This may be true at the highest levels, but we've already seen over the past few years that the sort of grunt-level work with which most programmers are occupied (hooking up one API to another, getting CSS layouts to look right, etc.) are easy to automate and yet far from eschatological.
This may be tangential to your main thesis, but when the opening quote says
Yes, the whole history of humanity, intellectual and moral, political and social, is but a reflection of its economic history.
it's expressing "historical materialism", which is altogether distinct from the metaphysical materialism that the rest of the article focuses on. We might ask e.g. "Did the philosophical ideas of John Locke cause the growth of democracy in the US, or were those ideas epiphenomena of power relations that were emerging anyway?" - but the answer could go either way regardless of whether physical matter is the fundamental stuff of the universe.
I think there's a reason why "tortured animals as a kid" is a common trope for psychopaths.
I was wondering whether this was a real thing or just a fictional trope. Seems like it's real:
When the science of behavioural profiling began to emerge in the 1970s, one of the most consistent findings reported by the FBI profiling unit was that childhood IATC [intentional animal torture and cruelty] appeared to be a common behaviour among serial murderers and rapists (i.e., those with psychopathic traits characterized by impulsivity, selfishness, and lack of remorse).
But psychology is tricky, especially with things like this, because it's hard to tell what's really human nature versus what's really social conditioning. If there weren't a widespread sentiment in our society that torturing animals is bad, would the psychopathy correlation still hold? I suspect not, based on a hunch that other societies (present and past) don't have such attitudes about torturing animals and yet aren't filled with serial killers. (Admittedly I don't have time to look up examples right now.)
Returning to the topic of vegetarianism, the idea that animal cruelty is bad for psychological reasons has the curious consequence that ethical vegetarianism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy - if you believe that eating meat is morally equivalent to inflicting suffering on an animal, then it's a sign of psychopathy for you to do it, but not for someone else who doesn't believe that!
I suspect that my amount of social activity would drop by about half if I tried to enforce this norm on my friends. I've had people no-show with no notice (text message or otherwise), and when I see them again later they seemingly have no memory of ever having made plans. Can I afford to cut all flaky people out of my life? It seems like a losing battle, but maybe I'll feel differently as I get older.
I seem to have been shadowbanned already - if I'm not logged in I can't see any of the comments I've made. This is only my 4th comment; how did this happen? I had such high hopes!
Because all the Cool Kids are doing it, and if you don't join them then you'll find all your friends have disappeared.
I've lately begun to realize that I don't actually need a phone for anything I do by myself. Sure, I sometimes need to provide a phone number for government forms, buying airplane tickets, etc. but that could easily be done through Google Voice or throwaway SMS receivers or something like that. I know my way around town well enough not to need map apps. If I want to listen to music I can use an MP3 player. Etc.
The only problem is social: the norm of making plans and sticking to them is long gone. If I make arrangements to meet someone at location X at time Y, about half the time I'll get a text message while en-route saying "Let's meet at location Z at time W instead". If I later complained that they didn't show up to X@Y as planned, they would accuse me of being unreasonable for not getting with the times and for deigning to leave home without an always-online communication device.
I got rid of Facebook years ago and never looked back, but I have been burned at least once, when I tried to go to an event at the time that had been conveyed to me by word-of-mouth but was later rescheduled via Facebook without my knowledge. Imagine my embarrassment when I was the only person who showed up at the original time!
When COVID began, I finally relented and signed up for Discord to stay in touch with my local friends. What else could I have done? Should I instead have been all alone through that time of crisis, because of my "weird insistence" that my social life should not be mediated by unfriendly third-parties?
Don't get me wrong; I know where you're coming from. But let's not delude ourselves that it's just a matter of our own individual choices. Resistance to the digitization of social life must take place collectively, or not at all.
if you get off on torture there's probably something dangerous in your psyche
But why would this be so, if it really is a matter of moral indifference? Why would it suggest anything worse about someone's psyche than, say, playing violent video games, or for that matter something totally neutral and unrelated like doing pushups, singing, etc.?
can white people just do stuff together?
If it's a social club or political movement, sure. A hobby group, same thing - there's nothing about knitting that says it should appeal equally to all kinds of people, or that knitters need to recruit all of humanity into knitting. Likewise, a "pagan" practice like Hinduism / Shinto / etc. would hardly surprise anyone to disproportionately attract Indian / Japanese / etc. people.
But a church (so I've been told - I'm not a churchgoer myself, much less part of your particular denomination) is explicitly not any of those things. The fundamental self-concept of Christianity is that it's the One True Faith and that it's desirable for all people to believe in it. When I see an organization that professes such a doctrine and yet inexplicably has a demographic profile vastly out-of-step with the local population, I begin to suspect that the members don't actually take their own beliefs seriously. This sort of hypocrisy rubs me the wrong way because it seems to demand a greater degree of deference (from both members and non-members) than would be given if they were just open about being a social/political/hobby/cultural etc. group. (I would say the same about the black church.)
You may accuse me of uncharity or of cynically bludgeoning you with Christian doctrine despite not being a Christian myself - which may be valid, but you can take it as just one outsider's impression given my limited time and ability to discern who among the vast array of characters demanding my attention, resources, and respect is actually deserving of them. Whether this is important to you and your church is something for you/them to decide.
Now that I know this test exists, I want to take it so that if I lack the capacity to learn a new language I can spare myself the wasted effort. Is the test (or a variant of it) available online anywhere?
Context Copy link