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Small-Scale Question Sunday for December 11, 2022

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.

Jump in the discussion.

No email address required.

Light bulbs

I'm about to buy a whole batch of new 100Weqv light bulbs and possibly fixtures. Does anyone know what the best buy is? I've heard bad stuff about the quality and lifespan of cheap LEDs, but I'm kinda sick of CFLs; my old fixtures have been bare for years because the bulbs are too long for them.

Even cheap LEDs have been better than CFLs, for the sizes I usually use. Might get worse as you push higher and heat starts to be non-trivial? I just replaced a 65Weqv (1 from a batch of 6 Sunco) that was starting to die after 4 years.

For quality, both LED and CFL have the same risks; cheap ballasts mean high frequency flicker, dimmer switch compatibility isn't a given, and if you want good CRI you'll pay a little more. But the really expensive LED bulbs all seem to be color changing remote-controlled gizmos that you probably don't need.

Do Canadians commonly use the word "bloody?" Jordan Peterson uses it often, and Kulak uses it in his most recent substack post. Some Googling suggests that some Canadians "never use it" while other "might use it instead of saying 'fucking'." I always associated it with British/Aussie/Indian/other British imperial possession's dialects. Is it something people say in Canada?

Canada's a big place. I'd say it's something people use in some regions if they want to swear less but don't want to alter their speech patterns to sound more formal.

I can picture a rural guy talking to the police and saying something like "and then I told them to get their bloody asses off of my property, only I didn't say bloody".

Peterson definitely says it more than usual. He grew up in a cold isolated farming town in norther Alberta, so they might have some unique speech patterns.

That's very interesting. AFAIK it's completely unknown in America. It would be like saying "Cor blimey!" or "G'day!" It would sound like a complete affectation.

Not unless you're a first-generation immigrant from those places.

That said, I don't live in the part of Canada the stereotypical accent applies to in the first place; it might be more naturally prevalent in the East.

So what's the story behind everyone's usernames?

I'll start, mine is derived from crow-stepped gables, a common feature of the architecture in my city.

It's just Artaxerxes spelled by someone on the left slope of the IQ distribution.

When I made my most recent Reddit account, it auto generated the username "substantial_layer_13". The name here is based on that of course, playing with the idea that while the discussions we have here are kind of frivolous and for fun, hopefully there's some substance there too.

Prior to that I was bigstrat2003 on Reddit, which is a username I've had in various places. It refers to when (2003 of course) I got my first guitar as my 18th birthday present, a Fender Stratocaster. I had wanted a "fat strat" with the humbucker bridge pickup, although as it happens I got the normal configuration. The original goal wound up being reflected in my username, though ("big strat" instead of "fat strat").

I used to work for a service desk, Oracle and Outlook were two systems/software we supported. I like the connotation of the two put together - in a way it reminds me to hold my tongue and take my words more seriously.

Duplex is a general technical term for processes which double back on themselves. At the time I was a blueprint scanner/copyist; lettersize documents are scanned double-sided by a duplexer built into the feeder tray, and printed double-sided by a duplexer which feeds printed paper back into the uptake path to have the backside printed.

Fields is part of an obfuscation of my real name. I mistook one translation for another when finding the etymology of my last name, it doesn’t even mean fields. (Ironically, some of my ancestors were in fact named Fields, along with some Millers, Mathers, Brewsters, and Kings.)

When I was watching My Little Pony and writing short fanfics for 4chan, Greene “Duplex” Fields was my “ponysona”, the name of a unicorn pony representing me. He was working at a bookbindery in Ponyville, and his “cutie mark talent” was document duplication: with a single spell and some ink, he could copy an entire scroll or a double-sided codex leaf (pair of book pages, basically) to another blank paper. He could also prep a page of movable type for a printing press at high speeds without typos on the first try, which is how he earned his “cutie mark” in the first place: two golden quills in a single inkpot.

Overall, the name represents my pride at being able to format documents in aesthetically pleasing ways, my ability to get a good printout on the first try even on unfamiliar computers/printers, the process improvements I innovated at the print shop which increased all the workers’ productivity, and my love of the scribal arts throughout history, from clay tablets to laser xerography.

My ponysona, Greene Fields, can be seen on my userpage being fitted for a formal suit for the storybook Canterlot wedding of Princess Mi Amore Cadenza, orphaned heir to the throne of the Crystal Empire, and Shining Armor, Captain of the Guard. (The official MLP page for the wedding episode, a season finale, had a tool for creating original characters.)

I made a bet with a friend who was a runner. I'd finish a marathon without training for it, he'd have to back squat a percentage of the world record squat as a percentage of my speed versus the marathon record.

He ultimately welched and never even loaded the bar. He didn't think I would finish it at all.

My favorite book is Jane Eyre, but I was really confused about how to say her name for a while.

It's named after a sandwich I get here in Dubai

I really could not possibly say. It just popped into my mind in the moment where I created a Motte account. Bólido is Spanish for meteorite.

It all began with a sex-change accident in a time machine..

One of Heinlein’s weirder ones, right?

Portmanteau of Grant Woods painting and a royal dynasty.

It was coffee because I like coffee, before that it was MediumIsMessage because I like Neil Postman and McLuhan. Now it’s cafe because it rhymes with y2k and i’ve been enjoying some rare 1998-2005 aesthetics lately

It's a joke involving brand names.

I was reading "Tractatus de Intellectus Emendatione" by Spinoza.

One of the earliest programs I wrote was a random name generator for the ABC 800, a Swedish Z80 computer from the 80s; grossly obsolete by the time I got it but could run BASIC* well enough.

My current handle was generated from that, initially for some elf character I made for a MUD that i kept reusing everywhere.

* From what I can remember it was some cursed de-Americanized version of BASIC that e.g. modified the keywords and replaced the standard "$" string symbol with the international currency symbol "¤" to counter American cultural encroachment. As a fun aside, when the Swedish keyboard was standardized it got prominently featured as shift-4 due to this, though very few people since have ever used it.

I like pigeons.

Love seeing pigeons when I go to the city.

I've been spending my life so far in the South of Germany.

I tried playing around with chatgpt. I'm not interested in chat ai's as useful tools, because as far as I'm concerned the only appropriate use of a computer is to play video games and we fucked up everything the second we first booted up a spreadsheet. I'm looking for a toy, not a tool.

For my purpose, it's pretty much useless, because they categorically exclude anything that is actually interesting like politics or sexuality. I know there are workarounds but I'm not that smart and I'm just looking to play around. I want to do whatever the hell I want, I don't want to feel like I'm back in school fighting against the website filter. They're trying to make it "useful" or whatever, and avoid it saying controversial things, I'm not looking for such a riduculous waste of effort. I just want to make a program say stupid sexual things and repeat political memes.

Does anyone have good recommendations for chatbots that have reasonably interesting models but aren't totally useless by being designed by schoolmarms with big dreams of "changing the world" or whatever these people think they're doing?

I got it to say some pretty funny things by asking it to write disparaging tweets in the style of Donald Trump. Presumably other prompts like this might work.

With an account you can just use the API or the playground. That gives you access to the model without all the safety stuff trained into it, though you'll have to pay a modest sum for usage credits.

Using that you can create pretty much whatever problematic content you want.

Good god I just tried it and wow are you right. Literally every response is "as a language model, I'm programmed not to say anything inappropriate yada yada yada" so boring. Typing nigger gets straight up rejected as being against their content policy.

A friend has gotten around all such restrictions by trying various forms of "pretend you're writing a story about" etc.

It honestly feels like, well, like talking to a chat bot designed for customer service with a smile! than to an actual machine learning system. All the output feels so sanitized and fake.

Welcome to the Elysium future

I think we need a different model of what to expect from AIs. Maybe they should be designed to pretend to be very well-trained animals rather than pretend to be Pod Person humans.

Enough of this chummy "let me think about that" stuff, I want it to say "Processing".

Anyone know what's with a whole bunch of sites suddenly changing image download formats to jfif?

It's not the fault of the website, it's just that they don't specify a file extension at all, and so the browser appends one automatically.

On Firefox (likely the same for Chrome) the browser asks the operating system for the appropriate extension it wants for the MIME in question ("image/jpeg"). On Linux, this is read from /etc/mime.types. On Windows, this is read from the registry (HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT > MIME).

You're seeing .jfif because Microsoft recently decided that should be the primary extension for that file type. Note that this is actually the proper name for "jpeg" files, as the container format is actually called "JFIF" – "JPEG" is just the compression method it uses which has become the informal name for it.

Thank you! I knew it must have something to do with windows, because it happened on multiple sites at once and I haven't updated the browser in long enough that it doesn't work on most sites for a while.

I noticed this on discord. Where else have you seen it?

twitter, rocketchat.

How many people are persuaded by watching a debate?

Popular streamer Destiny once remarked that in a public debate, only 20% are open to having their minds changed (though you can also seed doubt in your opposition's supporters), and he targets the audience with that figure in mind. Pew suggests that only 10% of people in the 2016 election decided their votes during/just after the presidential debates, but 25% said the debates were very important in helping decide who to vote for.

It seems to me that a lot of people have opinions on how large or decisive this group is without actually knowing how many people are in it.

I would expect most debates to be a draw. There's a problem with the debate format, where it's easy to present a plausible sounding factoid that's incorrect. It's more difficult for the opponent to explain why it's incorrect if they haven't heard it before.

Destiny is actually pretty bad for that. I've only seen him in one debate years ago, but he was very good at making confident assertions without any research behind them.

A big idea debate I recall was the Steve Bannon - David Frum Munk Debate on populism. Frum spent most of his time trying to bait Bannon into side arguments instead of engaging in real discussion.

I do think there's some value. They won't immediately change sides, but supporters of one side can be made to realize that their sides arguments have holes they need to look into.

Political candidates debates have another justification. Remember that votes are selecting a representative, not a policy. If a candidate is and idiot or a pushover then he won't be able to do his job.

An individual debate isn't a single event that either changes minds or doesn't, it's a part of a larger-scale process - you might hear some ideas in a debate, disagree with them - maybe hear them many times over the next year, argue against them yourself, agree with some parts but not others, observe some of your friends or people you follow on social media agree - and only then come around a bit. Almost nobody changes their mind over one debate, and even when a particular event changes someone's mind, it's almost always building on years of other things.

So it depends on the 'debate'! A public political debate between candidate X and Y serves a different role than e.g. the serial debates destiny engages in. One might want to get one's ideas and name out there in a "debate", one might want to persuade swing voters now, etc.

So 'being persuaded directly by debate' is a very nebulous idea. Also, it'll depend a lot on how skilled and convincing participants are - you might be more persuaded by Cicero's speeches than by kamala or pence in the vp debates!

So I don't think this is a question that can be answered generally.

Of course a "debate" is one of many ways to convince people - long-form writing, jokes, influential people stating support, art or literature or other aesthetic presentations, soft or hard coercion, etc. And all of these might work together!

How many people are persuaded by watching a debate?

I have background in formal competitive debate (also known, confusingly, as forensics) so my expectations of what a 'debate' should look like are probably categorically higher than most people.

Which is to say, I expect the participants to have agreed upon a 'question' that is actually going to be discussed, and spend a decent portion of the debate hashing the actual meaning of that question out for a bit, THEN going into the actual informational/argument about that question, so we don't end up with two people effectively talking past one another for an hour or descending ever deeper into minutiae whilst evading the larger question that is the actual purpose of the debate.

Likewise, the ability to cite to reliable(ish) sources during the course of the debate should be expected.

And the moderator should be holding people to, e.g. time limits and a certain level of decorum.

So if I were watching that kind of debate, I think I might be persuaded one way or another if I were in the audience.

But 'persuasion' as a broad category wherein someone who was previously undecided on a matter and then comes down on one side or the other, or is convinced to switch their position, goes far beyond the mere content of the debate and includes the social status of the speakers, their charisma/likeability, and indeed even the reaction of other audience members.

So I'm willing to guess there's some number, probably around that 20% mark, of people who might actually watch a debate and have whatever their prior beliefs were changed in some way in favor of one or the other participant.

It just likely won't be due to one side or the other having a stronger argument.

The best natural experiment we've gotten recently was the PA statewide elections back in November. In the summer polling, Shapiro and Fetterman both had double digit leads. Shapiro and Mastriano had no debate, Oz and Fetterman had one.

On here and elsewhere I was a constant anti-Oz bigot, I campaigned and voted against him twice. I can admit that was the biggest debate blowout anyone has ever seen in real life. It was like something out of Veep. Fetterman looked totally incapable of achieving anything, or even understanding anything.

Immediately after the debate polls narrowed.

Ultimately Fetterman won a narrow but clear victory, while Shapiro delivered the kind of posterizing dunk that has state republicans terrified for the future. So take into account the differences between the races, that's the max impact a debate can have on a race. Most debates will have less impact because both sides will at least seem, you know, coherent and intelligent. Compare the results for Oz to the results for Shapiro, who has no debate, and to other similarly situated Senate candidates and you have your number.

85% of all people will believe made up statistics.

As for your original question, it really depends on what is being debated, the seriousness of the topic to the listeners and the strength of the arguments presented.

As for your original question, it really depends on what is being debated, the seriousness of the topic to the listeners and the strength of the arguments presented.

Can you elaborate? I think that when Trump was asked in a debate about his comments on racial profiling, there were many progressives for whom the topic was very important because they believed it was a racist policy but never bothered doing any research of their own beyond what was being said in the debate. Should we assume these people don't care or that they were never going to change their minds in the first place despite the importance of the topic?

The odds of the progressive types changing their mind on such an issue over a single debate is very low indeed, as it's one of their sacred cows.

Someones willingness to research a topic has no bearing on the seriousness with which that person looks at the topic.

Wait, how can that be possible? Presumably, you're not going to research a topic you don't think is important, and I find that most people do not treat important things as non-serious.

you're not going to research a topic you don't think is important

Of course you will, I'm a historical wargamer and frequently research topics of no consequence other than to sate my curiosity and interest in the given topic. There are plenty of people who will delve to incredible depths on topics for no reason other than the desire to know more.

A far greater predictor for if you will research something is interest in the subject, how important you judge something to be can play a role in that, but it doesn't seem to be a major one, given how absurdly heated people can get on topics that they actually have almost no knowledge of.

A month ago there was some discussion about historical European colonial efforts vs. modern day difficulties of "nation-building" in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. I saw this article that discussed the various strategies the British used for colonial pacification. @JulianRota

Interesting, looks like that's worth a read too. The thing I ended up finding most persuasive in the previous discussion was this article, whose thesis is basically that the great majority of colonies were basically voluntary, with most of the people in the colonized country actually preferring the overall fairness and organizational capability that the colonizing nations brought to bear.

Could someone explain to me the likely causes of homosexuality? What do we know about what makes someone gay? Which theories do you trust?

John Derbyshire wrote up a list of possible causes back in 2005, I’m not aware of a better write up since.

We have very little clue. About on par with how little we know about most things that are somewhere on the hazy nature/nurture spectrum. As a bellwether, consider the APA's brief in Obergefell. This was an opportunity for them to lay out the best science to ground their theory of the cause of homosexuality and properly argue that it's innate or whatever it is that they wanted to be able to say for political purposes.

You know what evidence they brought? An opinion poll and a report from their "LGBT Concerns Office" which said that basically all the research into conversion therapy was methodologically unsound. Seriously. We know pretty much garbage.

Could someone explain to me the likely causes of homosexuality?

It seems very likely to me that 100% of (definitionally) homosexual behavior revolves around the [existence, presence, and availability] of [attractive people] of [the same sex]; it's just that those three things have asterisks to them. Another complicating factor is that love and sex could quite possibly have something to do with each other.

Anyway, I think the first part was pretty clearly covered by the sibling comments about situational/loveless sexuality, but the second and third didn't have much emphasis. So...

For the second, it's all about finding people of the same sex to whom you happen to be sufficiently attracted. There's a common meme around this about "are traps gay?", meaning "is it gay if you don't know they're a guy, or what degree of knowing makes it gay?". Now, while most men are quite a bit uglier than superstimulus-abusing merchandise machinery, it's still somewhat applicable to you if your pattern of attraction should happen to match one (usually happens to the denizens of 4chan with Asians; their physiology tends to pattern match to "female" for a non-negligible fraction of men, and one country in particular is in?famous for its crossdressers).

Yeah, I'm sure there are plenty of academic papers waiting to definitively prove that liking Felix Argyle is gay, but not Astolfo or Bridget.

Somewhat but not entirely related is the third part. What's "the same sex" even mean, especially when you start branching into the gender non-conforming spaces like tomboys, tomgirls, every gay man with the lisp, and the harder transgender (as in, they actually emulate the opposite end of the binary the way you'd expect them to)? Can wanting a woman who has more in common with a man in terms of general attitude or approach towards life be the primary feature of sexual desire, and if so, is that gay? How about the reverse?

I dunno. I think our models of relationships are popularly both as loaded and as accurate as the term "gender studies"; can fish notice water?

I think it’s a male child accidentally socializing as a female identity, due to sheer accident or the way the women in their life treat them, or a repugnance to their father figure. This explains why homosexuals take on so much of female behavior and interests while still retaining the typical male kernel of hyper-sexuality and aggression. To study this you would need to look at the prevalence of homosexuality among single father households and all male schools.

There are other forms of homosexuality, one of which is when culture heavily discourages promiscuous sex with women, and then you have men fucking men’s bottoms just because they’re super horny and can’t access women. You see this in prisons. This then can become a fetish itself, maybe what we saw in Sparta and maybe with some aspects of Afghani grooming culture. This is not “identity” homosexuality though, and typically these men do not have the behaviors you find in Western homosexuals. The ancient prohibitions on homosexuality likely assume that all men fell into this category and were engaging in homosexual sex just because they were super horny and approximating a woman (same with beastiality).

To re-use my example from a few days ago, aphyr (nsfw) - where's the female identity here? Or just look at hot guys in your area - nothing here screams 'female identity'. At least in the case of trans-women, even if the concept of 'identifying as female' is meaningless, there's a sense in which they're trying to be female - but for gay men, it's a mix of masculine and feminine traits in a way that doesn't seem to have 'a female identity'.

I think it’s a male child accidentally socializing as a female identity, due to sheer accident or the way the women in their life treat them, or a repugnance to their father figure. This explains why homosexuals take on so much of female behavior and interests while still retaining the typical male kernel of hyper-sexuality and aggression

I'd caution against lamppost effect, here. Effeminate gay guys are more visible to the straights, but bara dudes, including bara dudes who want to bottom for other bara dudes, is absolutely a genre, and not a small one. A few of this demographic is bi-identifying, but a large and maybe larger number are either incapable or strongly opposed to sex with or even near women (and sometimes even effeminate men).

I'd also separately caution against conflating cause and effect. A lot of the bara dudes into bara dudes in the 1980s and 1990s spent a lot of their youth socialized with women of the same age group; there's a plausible story where the same effect that drives straight guys into 'girls have cooties' mode pushes gay guys into being less comfortable is a lot of typical male-male straight socialization contexts.

(Was absolutely the case for me.)

Do you think the authors of the ancient prohibitions would be more accommodating of current year 'identity' homosexuals?

I do think it’s possible. I doubt they would care about men pair-bonding. The issues would arise because of disease risk, and the effect on families which require an heir to have children.

We don't even have a really good theory of what homosexuality is let alone what causes it. Defining what we mean when we say homosexuality alone is maddeningly difficult, enthusiasts of history and anthropology can easily point to evidence that the past was incredibly gay and homosexual behavior is normal (and impliedly normative) or to evidence that homosexuality is an unusual deviation from normal human cultural standards.

From a class I took a decade ago*: A Greek poet tells us "Men who are enslaved to women are no better than beasts, but we who are endowed with reason have invented homosexuality." Or is that a mistranslation, because the term homosexuality (or other translations that are commonly inserted such as "gay love" "butt sex" "man love" "male intimacy" etc.) are freighted with associations for modern Americans that aren't in the original Greek. One probably can't read that poem and get the original meaning without being thoroughly drenched in Greek culture contemporary to the author to get the original associations. The best a non-specialist can do is read an annotated translation which tries to give multiple interpretations, but that doesn't seem like an answer at all.

Competing definitions of Homosexuality in our culture alone:

-- Act vs Identity. Is homosexuality a thing you do (He has sex with men) or is it a thing you are (She is a lesbian)?

-- Obligate vs preferential. Is one a homosexual if one merely prefers having sex with the same sex, or only if one must have sex with the same sex? If one is capable of sex with a woman under duress but not by preference? In turn:

-- One drop rule. Is one homosexual if one would ever have sex with a man, even once, or only if one only has sex with men? Does a single act or desire across the aisle require that one be qualified as bisexual? Generally, the view of this varies on whether one is trying to claim a high social status (lesbians shooing away bisexual women) or trying to avoid a low social status (teenage boys circa 2005 accusing one another of being fags).

-- Bisexuality. We have no idea what to do with these. Especially what might be called "market bisexuality;" the observed tendency of bisexuals to end up taking the path of least resistance (typically sleeping with men) in any situation.

So that's a lot of different behaviors under the same umbrella. Are they all caused by the same gene/hormone/behavioral history? Different ones?

*From memory so I could be very wrong on the exact wording, and I've lost the author.

Bisexuality. We have no idea what to do with these. Especially what might be called "market bisexuality;" the observed tendency of bisexuals to end up taking the path of least resistance (typically sleeping with men) in any situation.

I had always figured the "bi guys are actually just gay, bi girls are actually just straight" idea was due to same sex experimentation being considered more normal for women (i.e "college lesbians" being more of a thing than "college gays"), and that could certainly also be a factor, but the "market explanation" makes a lot of sense to me and is somehow one I've not heard before.

I think the proper equivalent to a college LUG (Lesbian Until Graduation) at a female heavy school is prison gay. Both are responding to market forces (more available same sex partners) to act on a desire that is probably quite mild under normal circumstances. But it still seems silly to say there is nothing there, that all straight men or women would respond similarly under similar circumstances. Generally explanations that are contingent on anything other than deep personal identities are disfavored, as they leave open the possibility of punishment to "straighten" people out.

That equivalency makes sense, but to be clear the LUGs I have met were all at colleges with roughly equal gender distributions (though I've also known "Catholic school lesbians" that were closer to the prison situation).

To clarify, I mostly meant the idea of "bisexual man = basically gay and bisexual woman = basically straight" could stem from both:

  1. One seeing bisexual-identifying women often having a lower Kinsey # than bisexual-identifying men due to same-sex physical intimacy and sexual experimentation being more acceptable for women

  2. Even people who are true 3's on the Kinsey scale are likely to have their partners weighted towards men due to it being easier to hook up with men

And that I hadn't considered 2. before, only 1.

Although 1. might be changing with Gen Z based on the fact that the increase in % LGBT of Gen Z seems to be primarily from an increase in the "B".

(using Kinsey scale for ease of discussion rather than as an endorsement of its accuracy)

There's... also a representation thing. It's a lot easier to be closeted or just not visible if you're a bi dude in a relationship with a monogamous woman.

What do we know about what makes someone gay?

Very little. Even attempting to study this can be a career-ending choice. This is because causal models often translate into curative models. For example, it is widely agreed that there is no "gay gene," but if there were a "gay gene," then we could use embryo selection to prevent gay children from being born. Likewise I have read some hypotheses that hormones in utero play a major role in sexuality, but twin studies show that twins often don't have the same sexuality (though they do have the same sexuality at higher rates than random chance). So there appear to be biological factors involved in homosexuality, but these factors do not appear to be determinate.

Back when it was permissible to study such things, there were some studies that associated homosexuality with being the victim of sexual abuse. But this tends to paint homosexuality as a negative consequence of a blameworthy action, which is not good PR, so this line of thinking is often very vocally shouted down. Furthermore, the percentages vary a lot--in the one I linked, about a third of homosexual men reported having been the victims of child abuse. So even if that explains every single case to which it applies (which would be surprising), it doesn't explain the other 65% at all.

It seems to me, given the evidence I've seen over the years, that sexuality is just super complex--sufficiently complex that even calling someone "homosexual" or "heterosexual" is often a gross oversimplification. Even stuff like the Kinsey scale barely scratches the surface. Because the human sex drive is so deeply biologically wired while simultaneously being inescapably socially situated, I have very little doubt that it is essentially a complex emergent property with countless biological and environmental inputs. There is no clear causal model for a single individual, much less one that will generalize to multiple humans. There do seem to be some identifiable contributing factors, but even factors with impacts large enough to be measurable fail to be clearly identifiable as overwhelming causes. You may as well ask what makes someone a biologist or a sailor: surely there are causes that explain each case, maybe even some obvious contributing factors, and yet being a biologist or a sailor just isn't the kind of thing that could ever have a single, clearly-identifiable cause.

Very little. Even attempting to study this can be a career-ending choice. This is because causal models often translate into curative models.

Who/what are you thinking of when you say this?

A large scale GWAS was published in Science a few years ago which is about as far from career-ending as you can get. Another from 2017. Here's a brain imaging/PGS paper from 2021. Evo psychobabble about the hypothetical evolutionary fitness of homosexuality. Here's a paper investigating associations between same-sex attraction and 'psychological distress (anxiety and depressive symptoms), and risky sexual behavior.' A search for 'same-sex attraction psychology' yields a hundred forty odd results in the last five years and is by no means exhaustive. Here's a review from 2020 that discusses genetics, birth order, in utero hormones and environment, abuse as a child, sexual orientation of the parents, etc which covers most of the ideas I've come across (not that I'm particularly knowledgeable about this field).

@Pasha depending on what exactly you're looking for, you most likely won't find a satisfying answer to your question. Our current answer for virtually all of these complex traits is the same: genetic and environmental factors play a role, GWAS can identify a large number of low-impact, difficult to understand variants that explain ~5-40% of the heritability and correlation with a number of environmental factors. Maybe some brain-imaging studies showing a 5 +/- 2% increase in activity in some corner of the brain in same-sex attracted individuals. Grand psychological theories like refrigerator mothers have mostly gone out of style.

Does Reddit use any kind of cross-account tracking system between multiple accounts? I've had interactions on a throwaway recently where it really felt like reddit knew who I was and almost, directed not just me to subreddits but people to me on that basis. It's...freakish. It's making me paranoid.


When my oldest and most used account got suspended it took a couple alts with it.

Supposing it was true, have you considered that you might just be predictable? All the illusions in the world cannot hide revealed preferences/behavior.

I am highly predictable, but to predict me would require a degree of granularity that I didn't think Reddit had achieved. Politically I'm not predictable in the way that a partisan Republican is predictable, or in the way a grievance studies M.S. is predictable, but probably if you knew me well enough or just read all my Q.C.'s on themotte you could figure me out. But that's a category so small I would expect it to escape the notice of a big sorting machine.

I don't think anyone here could know for sure. Presumably they have some way of tracking such things for admin-level stuff like ban evasion and self-promotion. But how would they direct people towards you specifically? Maybe on subs with huge post and comment counts they could list your posts/comments higher than normal for some specific people. That seems like an awful lot of work on their side though, and what's the benefit?

If that's happening, seems more likely something about your opinions or writing style sticks out. I've noticed before that I have several opinions and pet positions that seem rather unique, and wonder if anyone ever took the trouble to try to correlate other accounts across the internet based on that.

That seems like an awful lot of work on their side though, and what's the benefit?

Presumably, assuming it were happening ad arguendo, I would guess it's for micro-targeting ads and content? And then, once you already have this micro targeted content, you want users to engage with other users, increase conversations = increased engagement and time on platform getting served with ads.

I just started a new account, completely fresh, and I'm getting that "Of all the gin joints in all the world" feeling from the replies.

If you’d said Meta or Alphabet, I might have believed it, but reddit just strikes me as too incompetent on every level from the management to the programmers to pull off something like that.

Highly doubt reddit's "directing people to" your alts. Reddit does track associated accounts - for preventing upvoteing on alts, and enforcing ban evasion sitewide and per subreddit. Also ads and such, maybe.

I can see the recommendation system sharing code with the ad system. So it's a possibility.

So, what are you reading?

I'm trying to finish Lucretius' On the Nature of Things, H. A. J. Munro's prose translation. I stopped at Book 5 (each "book" is small) last time, it got a little repetitive. It has to be one of the most profound books I have read, regardless of how much I disagree with its materialism.

This Epicurean tract distills the best of all that might resemble scientific humanism, and I felt that it revealed a lot that was hidden from view due to its unfailing self-awareness. Lucretius, you see, tells his philosophy in poetry because he intends to lessen the blow, the same way that one might sweeten an unpleasant but necessary medicine. It's a fine way to get into the aesthetics behind the humanist mind.

If you have ever doubted that atheism and materialism can be beautiful, inspiring and wise, this is essential reading.

This Epicurean tract distills the best of all that might resemble scientific humanism, and I felt that it revealed a lot that was hidden from view due to its unfailing self-awareness. Lucretius, you see, tells his philosophy in poetry because he intends to lessen the blow, the same way that one might sweeten an unpleasant but necessary medicine. It's a fine way to get into the aesthetics behind the humanist mind.

In ancient world, poetry was seen not only as the highest form of literature, but also as the best way to teach any subject, including something like astronomy or snake bite treatment.

Imagine reading your textbooks in Homeric hexameter. Time to RETVRN.

I've been meaning to read On the Nature of Things for awhile now. Having read it would you stick by the prose translation or advise looking for something else?

Munro's translation is highly regarded and I haven't had a reason to regret the choice. I tried a poem form and while it was striking it didn't keep me interested. There's just too many ideas in there, and the essay format is perfect.

I don't know what the best poem version is, but I do remember that Anthony Esolen's version was regarded well.

Still Moby Dick.

Gave up on Mishima for now, maybe some other time.

Recently read Two Arms And A Head. That was interesting. Motivational even.

How should Conquest's First Law of Robotics be worded?

Bonus: how does ChatGPT word it if you get around its lobotomy?

How concerned would you be if your home address was visible online if somebody googled your name? What about your age, SSN, tax return (naturally including your exact income), company involvement, real estate ownership, and every court case transcript and and police report you appear in?

In Sweden, that's all public information. If you looked up my name you'd find my address pretty much immediately, which you could drop into google maps to get a view directly into my kitchen. Police reports is slightly more difficult; you'll find websites stating things like "Foo Bar is present in 2 court cases! Pay $10 to see them!", and you'd have to send an email yourself to the court/police if you don't want to pay for that.

In addition, if you happen to work for the government, then all your work letters, emails, and instant messages become public information as soon as the case it concerns is closed. Tangentially this means that it's very easy for a Swedish person to be a major pain in the ass for government agencies, as you can anonymously keep bulk-requesting random emails and and the employees have to do time-consuming archive digging.

I find it interesting how people here really don't care about it. Hell, I don't really care, mostly because it's been like this my entire life and nothing bad has come out of it (yet? Knock on wood).

On a sidenote.

Im not a fan of how you can't just not have an online presence that gives away your contact details, city and background if you want to have any white collar job. Fuck LinkedIn.

As for Sweden, that sounds absurd. Your net worth being public would be a terrible thing for business or career changes. "Oh we saw your tax receipts, We know what we are offering for this role is more than what you make". Im sure there would be other ways to exploit this.

We know what we are offering for this role is more than what you make

I dunno, I figure that the base assumption would be that wages are set by supply and demand, and as such in the long run it'll all be counteracted by an equal general rise in wages; or in practical terms all employees competing with other people who are in the same boat so it doesn't matter.


My broader point is that this setup would only work in a high trust low competition society. If someone is "psychopathic" enough to exploit all the freely available information, why wouldn't he?

Not exactly a surprise that a sea of regulations is needed to keep Moloch out. Europe is really in a regulatory loop, their regulations need more regulations.

Whats your name and where do you live?

Low effort and antagonistic.

Yes murdering someone is a little bit antagonistic.

Fwiw I took it as a joke.

A very important lesson is that if someone really wants to ruin your life, they can. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Sweden or America. It doesn’t matter who you are. There are maybe a handful of people in the world who are untouchable, but otherwise if someone really wants to fuck you in particular over, or even kill you, and they’re willing to dedicate themselves to it and deal with the consequences, they can.

True, but increasing the amount of information available and making it more accessible does make it simpler for less able / less motivated individuals to seriously hurt you. The fact a stranger could decide to assassinate you and you have no real way to protect yourself doesn't mean you should leave your wallet unattended in a public place or leave your home unlocked.

Most of that information can unfortunately be found for US citizens as well, it just takes a little more digging.

And I also don't spend a lot of time worrying about it, because I can't do anything about it short of going to live in a cabin in Montana somewhere.

But at the end of the day, I have the same problems with it as with other "If you did nothing wrong then you should have nothing to hide/nothing to worry about!" policies: That is not remotely true, and even if it was, the default state of the world should be that as long as I hurt no one else and fulfill the obligations I committed to, what I do is my business and curious members of society can fuck right off. (But I spent my early life in a communist country.)

I'm sure it's fine if you happen to be living in a "high trust" society the moment, but entropy is a thing.

Could you elaborate on the SSN aspect? In the US one's SSN number is treated as kind of the ultimate verification for things, someone having it is a Very Big Deal. Is it used the same way in Sweden? While I'd be concerned for my privacy with some of the other aspects, I feel like having SSN publicly available would effectively make it worthless.

IIRC almost all of Europe uses some kind of two-factor authentification that depends on a government issued ID at some level for nearly everything.

It isn't really used for verification, no. Just a unique personal identifier for communicating with e.g. government agencies and banks; but there we're basically always using 2-factor authentication on top (a certificate you e.g. install on your phone, plus a code) so it doesn't really matter if my ID gets out.

I find it interesting how people here really don't care about it. Hell, I don't really care, mostly because it's been like this my entire life and nothing bad has come out of it (yet? Knock on wood).

It is sign that Sweden is still very safe and comfortable country and all doommongering is premature.

When, for example, Latino American kidnapping gangs move here, people will fast reconsider their attitude to privacy.

Regarding board games: I'm still fairly new to a lot of the more interesting ones. Is there a good guide/rule of thumb for identifying "This is X type of game" and therefore "Y is a good basic mindset to use when learning the rules and playing well?"

For most modern board games, pursue anything that gets you extra actions. Often it’s not a question of who plays best, but of who plays most IN a game. So get the extra worker in worker placement games, get the free actions in roll-and-writes, etc. If it’s an engine builder, don’t stall your engine (ex: don’t run out of money in Roll for the Galaxy). Seems obvious, but people get trapped by the idea of a big, strategic, knock-out turn and make decisions that are suboptimal for victory, but also for fun, since that knockout turn might only come around once every three games, and the rest of the time you’re just sitting there frustrated.

The consent framework in the west precludes those in positions of power from being able to engage in intercourse with someone under their control. Teachers and students, police and suspects, prison guards and prisoners, etc. Those are typically outright illegal. Many professions don't allow it, like professors and students, doctors and patients. Some are iffy, like a boss and employee.

There seems to also be a push, at least culturally, to label other power dynamics as invalidating consent. Like a celebrity and a fan, an older guy and a younger (but legal age) woman.

Anyways, many people who are very 'progressive' on power dynamics and consent seem to also subscribe to the idea that only white people can be racist, because racism = prejudice + power. If we accept both positions, that unequal power structures undermines consent, and that there's an unequal power structure between whites and minorities (predominantly blacks), then this should mean that all interracial sex between a black person and a white person is rape.

This sort of popped into my head over the story about some folks in California being concerned that white people may qualify for reparations, because they may have been a descendant of a rape baby. It got my thinking about how interracial relationships are typically portrayed in the media; a white male slave owner sleeping with a slave is a rapist, since the female slave obviously cannot consent due to the power dynamics. Whereas a white female slave owner (or someone adjacent to the slave owner, who still holds power over the slave, like a wife or daughter) and her male slave are portrayed as having equal ability to consent.

Do you have examples?

I get the impression man-on-slave-woman rape is much more common in media, acting as a cheap way to signpost that the perpetrator is scum. That's not the same as lionizing woman-on-slave-man rape.

The first thing that comes to mind is To Kill a Mockingbird, which centers on a white woman coming on to black handyman (and then throwing him under the bus). It's obviously Civil Rights era, but it's quite critical of the dynamic.

Not the greatest example, because the reason Mayella comes onto Tom Robinson is because she's lonely, neglected and abused by her family, her father in particular. It's heavily implied that the reason she throws him under the bus is because of severe social pressure she's under, particularly from her abuse father. You're meant to have at least some sympathy for the position Mayella is in. At the end of the day, it's still meant to be her father Bob Ewell, as the major villain, thematically representing the evil patriarchal white supremacy that is being criticized in To Kill a Mockingbird.

You're not wrong about Mayella. She is clearly forced into the position of power; her situation is tragic rather than villainous. But a sympathetic portrayal is non necessarily uncritical.

OP's suggestion was that white women don't get portrayed as holding the kind of power that preempts consent. Here we have a sympathetic, abused white woman who is clearly doing just that. She gets to decide if Tom lives or dies, and the novel is unambiguous that she chooses wrong. I think that's a decent counterexample.

My interpretation is that what is implied is that she really doesn't have that power. Maybe she does in the literal sense, but in the social context she's just victim of her abusive father (who really has the power) and the social environment more generally. We can easily imagine that if Mayella had defended Tom on the stand, she would have been badly beaten if not much worse. She is essentially coerced and doesn't have that power.

Yeah, I wanted to work a sentence in about how she's effectively a conduit for the racist culture, a tool, but still guilty. The fact that she was coerced is a parallel to the jurors who know something isn't right but are too afraid/entrenched to admit it. Social pressure doesn't exonerate them from the fact that in the end, they live and Tom dies.

Don't wokes have above average rates of opposing interracial relationships? Most woke people don't, to be sure, but it seems at least some follow that to it's logical conclusion.

If we accept both positions, that unequal power structures undermines consent, and that there's an unequal power structure between whites and minorities (predominantly blacks), then this should mean that all interracial sex between a black person and a white person is rape.

There's definitely been back and forth in progressive circles about some views circling back to 1950's American Conservatism and this is absolutely one of them. Haven't seen it as much recently (could just be due to traveling in different circles, though I hope the "you've just reinvented anti-miscegenation" argument won out), but I definitely remember this coming up in progressive circles some years back, with people arguing such relationships were "problematic", but not rape (similar tone of discussion to say a 28 year old woman with a 62 year old guy- not quite willing to call it rape but people casting aspersions nonetheless). Though I'm sure someone somewhere went ahead and made the final push to the rape label.

I will say, when it came up it was almost always white guy x non-white girl and much less often white girl x non-white guy.

Whereas a white female slave owner (or someone adjacent to the slave owner, who still holds power over the slave, like a wife or daughter) and her male slave are portrayed as having equal ability to consent.

This specific scenario being the exception, I've absolutely seen this called out as the male slave being raped.

So- small scale question. I read up on apartheid, Rhodesia, and colonialism in Southern Africa after the discussion of Rhodesia and decolonization in the main thread a few weeks ago, and I think I got a pretty good mental model of why South African whites behaved the way they did in setting up apartheid. But does anyone know why they didn’t make more of an effort to attract white immigration? In particular, segregation in the south was collapsing shortly before apartheid started showing serious cracks and the shortage of whites became obvious as minority rule’s official #1 problem. Why didn’t the apartheid regime put more effort into attracting racist white Protestants? It seems like they managed to maintain a fairly good economy with a skilled labour shortage and a lack of white bodies for their security services.

Is there an obvious problem I’m missing? Yes, Afrikaner nationalism was a factor, but they seemed happy to welcome Portuguese immigrants from Angola.

TLDR: Afrikaners in the National Party cut off white immigration even from places like the Netherlands when it was most available ie post WW2 and through the 1950s because of a belief that it would help them retain power (because immigrants were assumed to be more supportive of the British and more liberal in general) then tried to encourage it in the 60s after they realized black fertility was much higher than white fertility but of course this was of limited use since European living standards had recovered after their post WW2 slump.

Thank you, that makes more sense. It still leaves the question of why there wasn’t an effort to pitch a still-segregated society to at least some subset of segregationists in the 60’s or 70’s, but it’s possible that limited success with European immigration caused them to think it would be a lost cause.

Afrikaners were very parochial at the time (remember South Africa only made TV legal in 1976) - my father who is American and moved to South Africa in the early 80s for work remembers getting asked if he had met cowboys and Indians by rural Afrikaners despite having grown up in Manhattan lol. I don’t think people being mad about school integration or bussing was really on their radar.

Also South Africa was still poorer than the US - my parents didn’t have a telephone until after I was born for example.

Are you asking why they did not try to entice whites from the Southern USA to move to South Africa? I don't know what your mental model of South African whites is, but your model of whites in the South seems a bit off; I rather doubt that oppression of blacks, or of anyone, was so central to the lives of very many Southern whites that they would be willing to move to another country just for the opportunity to keep doing so.

The lack of actual mass migration from the dominant group in a wealthy society doesn’t seem too difficult to explain, the question is why SA didn’t try to encourage it- after all, they claimed to be aiming for a white majority country and periodically welcomed groups of white immigrants to that end. And racist white protestants seems like both what segregationists mostly were and what SA wanted living in their country.

I rather doubt that oppression of blacks, or of anyone, was so central to the lives of very many Southern whites that they would be willing to move to another country just for the opportunity to keep doing so.

It absolutely was for a tiny minority in 1865 but not in 1965.

Racist white Protestants seem like the least likely group to move away from their land to Africa of all places. Unless they lost a war like confederates in Brazil, I don’t know where one could find such white people in the 1970s

I read a lot and find my self spending around 40$ a month buying books through Amazon for my kindle. It’s recently come to my attention that Amazon takes a whopping 70% cut for self published titles ( ! Does anyone know what the range is for books that come from a real publisher? I may switch back to paper backs …

The main competitor to Amazon for ebooks is Smashwords, who pay authors a bit more. We'd appreciate off-Amazon sales, if you want to give them a try.

Thank you, I’ll do that.

That's their "standard" rate, but they also have a 70% royalty rate (30% Amazon cut) that applies to most books in practice. You just need to price your book between $2.99 and $9.99 USD and allow it to be part of Kindle Unlimited.

(The reason for positioning the lower rate as the standard one is probably because a bonus for including the book in KU sounds nicer than a penalty for not including it, even when the practical effects are exactly the same)

Wow, on the one hand I am surprised that amazons margins are actually pretty fair (although still annoyed because it isn’t like they are taking any kind of a risk since they don’t give advances).

Also hadn’t really thought of publishing as basically having a VC model.

Things like this, and the fact that e-books are basically free to reproduce, help me justify pirating books. I would spend around that if not more if I bought all my books.

Typically I just pirate ebooks, then if I like it enough I'll buy a physical copy and/or donate directly to the author. A lot of times an author's website will have info on where to buy to give them the biggest cut.

Posting in the small questions thread because I need independent confirmation on this. Are search engines manipulating results and discussions on Rings of Power? I know I’m late on this.

I was searching for reviews online and was surprised that on YouTube, almost every major entertainment reviewer and LOTR enthusiast shat on the series, whereas on Reddit, many of the top comments in posts said the series was great.

On closer inspection, though, search engines appear to only want to show me certain review content. First by googling “rings of power review” it takes me to two positive posts that don’t even have review in the title (???). Same with if I search “rings of power bad”, with no quotes, it shows me posts with positive top comments in threads that don’t have “bad” or any synonym in the title.

More importantly, when I search Rings of Power on Reddit search and sort by top, or if I search “lord rings of power” and sort by top, or even “LOTR rings of power”, it refuses to show me the top narrowed results. It literally refuses to search for it. Instead I see the top Reddit posts total (no narrowing to search query). To make sure this wasn’t a mistake I tried various searches queries, some for illegal drugs like fentanyl, all of which took me to the requested top searches.

And lastly, in many of the threads I enter, it default sorts to “Best” in the most wild way, where 30 or 200 upvote comments consistently appear before 1.5k or 2k comments in a way that was clearly tailored specifically to show positives comments. Usually Best and Top are pretty similar, in this case they were the opposite.

Has anyone noticed similar? Or can independently verify one of these for me?

With what we now know about Twitter, it would be surprising if Reddit was not actively supressing certain kinds of content and rewarding others.

Rings of Power doesn't inspire much passion in people who dislike it.

Personally I watched a few episodes, decided it wasn't for me, and ignored it. If I had a job reviewing shows then I would have given it a negative review.

Assuming my reaction it typical, you'd expect mostly positive reviews on Reddit. People who like it, like it a lot. People who don't like it don't feel like writing a long post about it.

Now "best" sorts by a combination of total votes and upvote ratio. Top is just net positive votes.

So for some reason those 2k comment votes were attracting a lot of downvotes.

Perhaps Amazon PR people posted a bunch of fawning reviews, mass upvoted them, then people in the subreddit voted those comments down. The "best" comments were just some fans opinion and they didn't attract detractors.

As for Google, a few years ago they bent to pressure to promote "reliable sources". In practice that means established corporate press. I'm guessing that no one bothered to exclude tv show reviews from that.

I was a fairly early reddit user and I remember the day they announced "now we've got search working pretty much the way we want it to".

Everyone's reaction was like "Wait, really? Are you sure?"

Reddit search makes perfect sense if you assume that the goal is to keep people posting, and reposts are always going to be the majority of posts. Whether it's the same five jokes or memes getting reposted, or the same obvious beginner questions in /r/trucks or /r/kettlebell cut off reposts and a sub dies. Reddit with a search function that makes reposting unnecessary makes Reddit less active, less money coming in.

To add on to the pile, Reddit search results are always awful. I lost count of how many times I'd search a sub and get no hits, but was eventually able to find the (non-controversial, like "How about quest X in game Y?") post. I even tested it a few times by searching for things I could see were on the 1st page of the sub, and sometimes got no hits.

But Reddit Rings reviews/opinions on RoP are definitely being manipulated, and the manipulation comes mainly from one side. The more "modern audience" oriented subs tend to delete some (or practically all, on the show's official sub) negative comments, while the more nerdy/beardy LotR subs allow both positive and negative ones.

Given that Amazon has been blatantly manipulating the viewer review scores both on Prime and IMDB (at one point they deleted not just all 1s but also all the user scores of 5 or less on IMDB, while of course leaving the equally statistically improbable perfect 10s in place*), you don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to assume they're doing everything they can to "optimize" the search results for it, but I think Reddit search results have so much noise you couldn't possibly know for sure whether there's something going on there.

*The current distribution of scores is hilarious, they stopped deleting all negative reviews or at least got more subtle, so now there are 3 peaks: Highest at 10, second-highest at 1, and the real(?) one at 8.

Can't comment on the other ones, but searching on reddit itself just seems to be terrible/nonsensical/godawful, regardless of what you're searching for. I almost always get significantly better results from googling "reddit [whatever I want to search for on reddit]" than actually searching it on reddit.

Reddit search has always given random and dumb results. But I tried searching "Rings of Power" on new reddit, and the posts and comments had a mix of very positive and very negative comments - "Amazon just wants a cash grab" etc