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Small-Scale Question Sunday for May 28, 2023

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.

Question about forgotten essay:

I remember coming across writings on Africa somewhere online, a year or two ago. I'm not sure if this was a single essay, or two different essays, but I remember two striking fragments:

  • A description of a group of African laborers waiting (for work, or for the bus? I do not remember). The author was struck by the way these laborers could spend huge swathes of the day just waiting and doing literally nothing, save for moving themselves to stay in the shadow.

  • A description of a horrifically poor African village, where the sun heat was so exhausting that the inhabitants could just barely put in enough work in the fields every day to feed themselves, and spent the rest of the day lying listlessly in their huts.

I think the same essay (or another on the same website?) also had a discussion on why African countries have so often degraded into dictatorships.

Does anyone remember what I may be talking about?

RARBG just died.

What is the best alternative? For quick casual use, not as a fussy hobby.

Just back to TPB? I recall some sketchiness a few years ago, and it's missing some helpful features like screenshots and ratings.

Extreme long shot: I very distantly recall that there was a culture-war-secondary-character-for-literally-just-the-afternoon sometime in the last 7 years that was the unintentional spitting image of Zippy the Pinhead. Can anyone remember anything about this?

edit: found it. I recall him looking more Zippy-like on his twitter.

A number of times on this forum, posters with right-wing sensibilities have solicited dating advice along the lines of “Every woman I talk to expresses progressive opinions, so how do I navigate around the inevitable political disagreements?” Each time, several posters have asserted that this is not in fact as much of a problem as it may appear to be; if everything else in the relationship is going well and the woman respects you for other reasons, she not only won’t have a problem with your politics, she’ll actually start to mold her own political beliefs to become more in line with yours!

This assertion has always struck me as equal parts intriguing and bizarre. Certainly I’m familiar with much of the copious amount of commentary around psychological differences between men and women, including Dissident Right discussion of the “Woman Question”. I fully accept that aggregate differences in temperament and political reasoning between the sexes are real and substantial. Still, it’s tough for me to wrap my head around the idea that most adult women’s beliefs are malleable to that extent. Perhaps I just haven’t managed to wrap my head around the unavoidable truth that, when it comes to men and women, the inner machinations of each sex’s mind are an enigma to the other sex, and that a regime of healthy relations between the sexes requires both men and women to contort themselves into a mode of external presentation that renders them legible to each other.

Although I am currently in a situation wherein the relevance of this line of questioning is probably going to become significant to me in the pretty near future, I’m not actually asking for advice here. I’m actually more just curious as to how this supposed process actually operates. The claim is that a woman who is in a long-term relationship with a right-wing man will become more right-wing herself over time. How does this work? Is this only true of women who did not express a strong political worldview before the start of the relationship? If the woman did have progressive opinions before the relationship, will she end up explicitly repudiating those opinions later on? (i.e. “I was wrong about that, and you were right. I can’t believe I ever believed that!”) Or will it just be a more subtle shift over time, with the woman beginning to express right-wing opinions and either not noticing or not acknowledging the way in which these opinions contradict her earlier views? Does the shift reflect a genuine change of worldview within the woman’s mind, or is it merely a change in the views which she verbally expresses? (The really alarming and potentially blackpilling answer would be “There is no difference between those two things.”) Also, is this shift only sustainable if the woman does not have a larger social sphere of women who will reinforce progressive views and thus act as a countervailing force against the influence of the husband?

I realize that this is a series of questions and that the subject matter might be too broad for the “Small-Scale Questions Thread”, but it doesn’t seem to be appropriate for the Culture War thread either.

Still, it’s tough for me to wrap my head around the idea that most adult women’s beliefs are malleable to that extent

Maybe you interact with a lot of smart women? E.g. a less extreme version of cloudheadedtranshumanist's post where he didn't see many psychological differences between men and women because he was 'socialized in rationalist group houses'.

There's a hierarchy of persuadability, anyway. 99% of people are uncritically receptive to opinions held by all of their peers and people of higher status since birth. Probably 80% would be swayed in the same way at around age 20-25. A still-significant minority are the kind of person who, over a period of months, just absorbs whatever their friends or partner believe. It's stronger in women, but present in both men and women. (There are probably differences in the process by which it happens in women vs men too)

Also, for every 'i am far-right and my wife slowly became a far-right' story', theres a 'my wife broke up with me because i was a nazi' story. Most of those are in practice 'putting the values of the overall group ahead of the values of the partner' rather than any form of personal strong convictions.

But if you put all of that together, it doesn't seem that surprising anymore.

I realize that this is a series of questions and that the subject matter might be too broad for the “Small-Scale Questions Thread”, but it doesn’t seem to be appropriate for the Culture War thread either.

I often want to post something for the motte audience, but it really doesn't fit into the CWR and isn't a 'wellness', a 'small-scale question', or a 'fun', so I just don't. Most recently is this (nonfiction, account of a murder among some homeless people).

Also, for every 'i am far-right and my wife slowly became a far-right' story', theres a 'my wife broke up with me because i was a nazi' story.

Right, this is precisely how my last relationship ended - and this is with me substantially concealing the full extent of my real views - which is the main reason why I’m so dubious. To defend the original proposition, though, it’s also true that the relationship had other issues, and that perhaps if our relationship had otherwise been going perfectly, the political issue wouldn’t have been such a deal-breaker.

Was this always the case, though? I wonder if generational differences are inextricably part of the answer in our current time. These two graphs [1][2] seem to indicate that young women post-Great Awokening are just so much more Left than women were at that age in past generations. And surely religiosity explains some of the remaining conservative/Republican young women. I wouldn't be surprised if perhaps as few as 10-15% of non-evangelical women under 30 identify as conservative or Republican.

I don't understand what happened.

Call me a romantic: Changing or hiding your political beliefs in order to obtain or maintain a loving relationship is the right choice in nearly all cases for an individual person.

A lot of Men and Women both do this, all the tine. The difference is that men who do so typically do so before the relationship begins, or in a general way. Men choose political beliefs all the time based on "will this get me laid?" That can be direct ("I'm going to the pro-choice rally, there are more chicks" or reading Foucault to hit on Ethereal Bisexuals) or general (Nazis/Communists/Georgists/PLO supporters are weirdos, weirdos don't get laid). A great many men pick their politics based on social desirability

Women on the other hand will often meet a man and then change their political beliefs. Because a woman can still be just as attractive despite holding unattractive political beliefs, there are very few situations where a woman's politics will make her more attractive.

Same dynamic, different order.

It should also be noted that the gender split on politics is vastly overstated in greentext comedies about "Women be like...Men be like"

Biden made gains with men, while Trump improved among women, narrowing the gender gap. The gender gap in the 2020 election was narrower than it had been in 2016, both because of gains that Biden made among men and because of gains Trump made among women. In 2020, men were almost evenly divided between Trump and Biden, unlike in 2016 when Trump won men by 11 points. Trump won a slightly larger share of women’s votes in 2020 than in 2016 (44% vs. 39%), while Biden’s share among women was nearly identical to Clinton’s (55% vs. 54%).

Even an 11% difference is barely noticeable or predictive in day to day life. 56-44 means that out of every twenty people men you meet, two or three more will be conservative compared to twenty women. Basically a non-event. The idea of a politics that primarily cleaves by gender is the fantasy of the extremely online.

I find that assertion to be true in my personal experience, though how much of that is simply an urge to fit in with someone you love, versus the fact that in all honesty, people with different political views can still be friendly with each other if they like each other for non-ideological reasons.

Certainly I had to disguise my power level when dating my girlfriend, she's as smart as me, but significantly more normie/woke on plenty of ideas, but even as I grew more comfortable expressing the more witchy ideas I hold, such as HBD, she ended up alright with it, since she trusts me to make well informed decisions. She might not agree with a lot, but it's not worth uprooting our differences while we have a good thing going.

Of course, I know men who went vegan for pussy, so it's not like it only goes one way, I'd be willing to say that people are quite malleable and only a small fraction truly believe in their ideology instead of uncritically following the crowd.

This isn't a uniquely female phenomenon, consider men who'll do, say and believe almost anything to get sex or to advance their careers.

The difference I believe is that women are a bit more malleable, have less genuine deeply held beliefs and their goal (securing, maintaining and developing longterm relationships) is more long term (and focused on a single other person) than the male one so their behaviour has a greater chance to affect their beliefs.

Of course, all these things applies to both genders in varying degrees depending on the individual.

I dont actually think an adult with reasoned convictions can actually be swayed all that much in either direction.

The kicker is that most adults dont have reasoned convictions. They just say the correct combinations of words to fit in and be high status among their group. In which case yes, you will be able to sway them.

This gets misattributed to a female trait because females in general tend to have less political convictions. So the swaying is usually done by the male most of the time.

I dont know if there is a term for inferences of this category where the statistics does back up what you say but the mechanism is entirely different. Particularly of this variety.

Nevetheless Im sure females being more agreeable also has something to do with it.

I don't think it's that women's beliefs are malleable, it's just that all people's beliefs are. And furthermore, most people these days think of the other political tribe, the wrong thinkers, as essentially like green monster aliens. When you have a relationship with someone, you can see that even if people disagree on distant political issues, they can still be a good person, who came to their beliefs genuinely and with good reason. You may disagree about several things, but what matters more for a relationship is whether you'd support them through cancer, or how you treat your friends and family.

I mean, there’s also the possibility that a large portion of liberal women are temperamentally very conservative but hold liberal views out of some form of paranoia/neuroticism(you have to destigmatize divorce- what if I get beaten up by my husband!), and that as she trusts you more she feels safe abandoning those views(hoffmeister would never hurt me!).

it’s tough for me to wrap my head around the idea that most adult women’s beliefs are malleable to that extent

It's not that women's beliefs are malleable to that extent, it's that people's beliefs are malleable to that extent. Having consistent political beliefs serves no purpose for the vast majority of people the vast majority of the time, and is often actively harmful to one's own social standing. Their behavior is not what requires explanation; it is a perfectly sensible way to go about life and reduces the likelihood of interpersonal conflict, including in this example of relationships.

We are the weird ones here, and even to the extent that any of us have unchanging, well thought-out principles with regard to certain issues, we all have other areas where we haven't spared a single thought and are happy to go along with the herd. As an example, my father has strongly held political beliefs and acts according to them, but he has almost no opinions whatsoever regarding food. Whatever he is presented with, be it burgers, sushi, silkworms on skewers, African peanut stew, or roasted guinea pig (all things he has actually eaten), he will eat it without complaint and promptly forget about it completely unless asked a set of leading questions, and he finds it baffling that I remember the characteristics of different foreign cuisines or have any sort of ranking of them in my head.

Were the Guinea pigs tasty? They always looked like snacks to go to me haha.

The taste is pretty good, like a cross between chicken and rabbit, but picking meat off all the little bones is quite time-consuming.

I’m actually more just curious as to how this supposed process actually operates.

I'm not sure such a process exists, but if it does, I'd imagine a big part of the mechanism would be something like this:

Consensus Blue politics is largely centered on the interests and activities of single women. Women in long-term, committed relationships begin experiencing a whole lot of facets of life that reveal the limits and flaws of single womens' collective worldview, and as these experiences accumulate, pressure to change their views accumulates as well. A Blue partner would help forestall this process somewhat, but a Red partner naturally encourages it, as they find themselves sympathizing more and more with the Red's viewpoint.

Getting older, serious relationships, and children all correlate pretty strongly with acquiring Red views, broadly speaking.

As I've previously joked, every contrarian-inclined college kid is a Libertarian right up until they've had to wrangle a 4-year-old ;-)

My experience has been:

shift over time, with the woman beginning to express right-wing opinions and either not noticing or not acknowledging the way in which these opinions contradict her earlier views

There is no difference between those two things

sustainable if the woman does not have a larger social sphere of women who will reinforce progressive views

This seems to lessen, as she finds and identifies with other non-progressive women.

You focus on the gender dynamics, but I think phenomenon is not primarily about gender.

The two main drivers are, IMO:

  1. When two people like each other and spend significant time together, they build trust. This means they will tend to be more charitable toward one another and less dismissive of one another's beliefs. This reduces confirmation bias by making it harder to dismiss the other partner's politics on flimsy grounds, e.g. "they only believe that because they're ignorant/evil."

  2. When a person with orthodox politics spends significant time with a person with heterodox politics, on average the person with orthodox politics is more likely to change their views than the person with heterodox politics. This is because it is easy to hold orthodox politics without considering carefully (or even encountering) arguments against those politics, whereas it is impossible to hold heterodox politics without constantly encountering counterarguments. Thus, heterodox beliefs will tend to come into the relationship more "battle hardened" and "stress tested" than orthodox beliefs.

Where gender might play into the dynamic above:

  1. Women tend to be more agreeable and thus more likely to hold orthodox beliefs.

  2. Women tend to be more agreeable and thus less likely to have engaged in "stress testing" (e.g. vigorous debate) of their political beliefs.

n=1, my wife supports my politics when our marriage is going well and she spends much time with me, else she supports [popular thing on social media].

Does she not experience this internally as a contradiction? Does she not reflect on herself and wonder how she could flip so rapidly between two incompatible beliefs?

I really like reading book review substacks/blog where someone I generally trust with intellectual ability and honesty goes over a book and critically describes it. It’s a great way to discover new ideas and books to read.

I am also realising that I should start taking more notes about books I read if I want to keep better memories of important insights. But I am honestly too lazy to write notes just for myself and then later check them out.

So my idea is to start a book review substack of my own. Competition is fierce in English language internet and many people are much better at this than I can ever be. But I see a big opening in Turkish internet for this sort of thing. There is a hunger for new ideas but very low foreign language proficiency. So I would be reading mostly non-fiction books in English (and couple other languages) and then write about them in Turkish. I believe I would be good at choosing books of interest to the local audience. I think I can gain a decent following but I am dazzled a bit by how to start something like this.

Should I just write a couple of them to basically no audience and then try to advertise by the blog twitter interactions? I know a fair amount of people with some reach in intellectual circles but I don’t want to associate the blog with my real identity since I don’t want to be restricted by political and social taboos or any unlikely but possible legal problems.

Anyone can give advise how to start out?

Not much advice, but I agree that there’s a huge gap in Turkey for this sort of thing. Start small and see what happens, just be careful not to translate anything too spicy or Baskan will come knocking.

I don’t know very much about turkish speech codes, but can you make an anon account and then retweet on your personal one? Or get a friend(maybe one with foreign residence) with more reach to retweet it for you?

My personal-ish twitter account is already anon and just following 20 people or so and has zero followers unfortunately. I will talk with some friends who might have more of a reach that is a good idea.

Anybody still check this out on Monday?

What's a good country and/or city just outside of the Schengen area to spend a month or two? Currently looking at Belgrade, Tirana, or somewhere in Montenegro. Cheapness is a very important consideration in this case.

I think Albania is the best choice. It's cheap, relatively safe, has decent amenities and some nice beaches. Depending on where you're from, you may also get a better reception from the locals than you would elsewhere in the Balkans (i.e. you'll find American and NATO flags all over Tirana, while street peddlers in Belgrade sell Russian Z merchandise).

Thanks for the advice. Update: I'm headed to Albania this Tuesday

There seems to be some currency weirdness in Albania, like you can't bring Albanian hard currency out of the country? Do you happen to know whether the exchange rate at ATMs is fair or do you have to bring a bunch of Euros/Dollars and exchange them on the street?

There are certain banks without ATM withdrawal fees (Credins Bank is the main one) that you should look for when exchanging cash. I think some places will also let you pay in Euros, but there will be a hefty markup.

Russians have raised the rent in most of your suggestions other than Tirana.


I was in Istanbul recently and couldn't wait to leave. To me it seemed very crowded, dirty, and hostile. The call to prayer was cool for one day and then extremely annoying. The people seem stressed out and never smile. What did I miss?

You are right about all of these things but I would still recommend Istanbul nevertheless. It can't be matched with regards to history/food/vibe as the other comment says. There is a youthful energy to the city that I am yet to experience anywhere else. If you want orderly clean streets and gray haired pensioners counting their days in peaceful obscurity you should rather just stay in Western Europe.

Also the nightlife is pretty good if you go to the right places, and it is not a dangerous place in general.

I would say history, food and vibe. If you don't like it, you don't like it.

I enjoy it for how different it is to my home city but I wouldn't want to live there long term.

I've only been there with friends who have family in the city so maybe my experience is unrepresentative.

It all depends on your risk tolerance and how much healthcare you think you’ll require in those 3 months.

If you’re otherwise healthy just get the catastrophic option, it shouldn’t be more than 400-500 per month depending on your state.

As far as I’m aware there is nothing better than what you’d find on the marketplace given your circumstances.

Is it me or does $6000 a year for a ‘catastrophic plan’ with a $10,000 deductible for someone under 30 seem extremely expensive?

I just looked on the NY marketplace place, and the cheapest catastrophic plan for 1 person us $213/mo.

Considering I'm over 30 and pay less than $400 per month for a platinum-level (or whatever else is highest) plan that has a $1000 deductible and includes dental, yes, this seems extremely expensive. It may vary by state, though.

Meat eating in the sense of all meat eating, or meat eating in the sense of current meat-at-every-meal culture that wouldn't work in a similar way without capitalism-enabled factory farming?

Steelman = A doesn't have to be the original cause for B, for A to make B much better/worse. At one point that difference becomes moot.

It's like pouring gasoline all over a housefire didn't actually start the housefire, forgetting to turn off the stove did, but you might as well stop pouring gasoline over everything.

It is clearly ignorance of what the term means. It is used as a synonym for greed, or the profit motive. There are similar idiocies on the right, of course.

There’s a very amusing irony to internet socialists claiming patriarchy is the result of capitalism.

In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels discuss ‘patriarchy’ in an interesting and sometimes under-remarked upon way. They don’t support or criticize it, necessarily, but they analyze it. As most know, they say that patriarchy or the general form of family relations is essentially a form of property relationship that, in securing paternity, allows for the inheritance of private property (principally land).

Interestingly, Marx and Engels also argued that patriarchy was in terminal decline by the mid 19th century, because capitalism (a) made conditions so poor for proletarians that most had no property to pass on, reducing the power of the patriarch and (b) women increasingly had their own wealth because capitalism pressed them (and children) into the labor market, also reducing the power of the patriarch.

So the great irony is that while, yes, Marx and Engels weren’t ‘defenders’ of patriarchy and did indeed criticize the effect on women of socially conservative societal norms (especially in bourgeois society, where they were personally more comfortable), they actually considered many aspects of patriarchy to be in severe decline under capitalism due to the profit incentive and desire of capitalists to erode the traditional family to grow their workforce.

In other words, Karl Marx himself thought capitalism eroded patriarchy.

Alternatively the fact that it didn't happen as a result of the industrial revolution should make us downgrade the chances of anything like it happening as a result of AI, or whatever the latest gadget is.

What didn't happen? The decline of the patriarchy?

Surely patriarchy has declined enormously in the last 60 years, let alone the last 200! You don't see Sean Connery dismissing women with a slap on the ass in blockbuster films these days:

While there's surely lots of them who simply don't understand what capitalism is and unironically drink communist fan fiction about imagined utopias in deep time, it does actually make a lot of sense for someone stuck in OG Marxist theory to blame insert bad thing here on capitalism, because Marx predicted that society would advance out of capitalism into a worker's paradise where no problems remained to be solved.

You'll notice that this has not, in fact, happened, and the usual rejoinder from actual factual Marxists is to claim that pro-Capitalism forces are intentionally holding back development for the benefit of X. This has the handy-dandy advantage of changing a claim from "false" to "unfalsifiable", but people who are wedded to worldviews have been known to do that. And from that, unfalsifiable perspective, literally anything the speaker identifies as a problem is because of capitalism, for reasons that are mostly tautological. I mean of course it's not really intended to apply to environmentalism or feminist theory or what have you, but most far leftists swim in Marxist waters even when "communism" isn't really their focus, so it just kind of becomes a thing they claim.

One argument I find persuasive is that modern day capitalism fails to capture externalities in a pretty spectacular way. Climate change is the standard bugbear here, but many modern problems genuinely do exist because we don't tax away externalities. This isn't an issue with capitalism per say but the way that it is being implemented.

So, what are you reading?

I'm on Comte's A General View of Positivism. For various reasons I've recently been thinking about the word "utopia" often. I can't help but feel that the current AI obsession is missing the forest for the trees, that there's still useful and necessary work to be done which our current intellectual leaders will not themselves start. Perhaps studying old reformers will spark some ideas.

The book itself is odd. Comte's an atheist who talks about spirituality, and though my impression of him has always been as the founder of an elite philosophy, he seems to be claiming that his new system would never find a home in the elites, but would find root among the working class and women. Would like to hear his thoughts on education.

I’ve been rereading the Alaistair Reynolds Revelation Space series. One of my fav sci fi series. Started back in 2002 or so and been going strong for 20 years.

The author has somehow not been wrapped up in culture war nonsense. He typically has a decent balance of men and women protagonists and has flown under their radar. Even his latest book theirs a sequence that I can’t tell if he’s endorsing some obscure culture war talking points or taking the piss on them.

It’s on the harder side of sci fi, but not really. More of a expansive future history series. It’s right up my ally.

All audiobooks are free on

As an aside, I really love If you have an adblocker and a moderate amount of internet street smarts, you can find pretty much anything.

Alistair Reynold's Children of Poseiden. It's a medium term future sci-fi, pretty awesome.

I kept running into that when searching bookstores for the Revelation Space sequels. Or for Diamond Dogs, which I still have yet to find. Maybe I have to pick it up…

Haven’t heard of this book before, but it looks quite good. Putting it on my list.

GPT failed me on this, so I'm asking you folks: Find a sci-fi short story about a politician who was denied rejuvenation treatment and started a campaign against it in revenge, only to discover that being elderly he forgot to check mail and missed a letter offering permanent immortality as a space colonist. That plot twist came after he talked to a friend who explained that the only reason the treatment didn't grant permanent immortality was because of the lack of living space, once the space colonization issues were solved everyone would be allowed to become immortal.

I agree with all the other commenters. Just adding that one benefit of more kids is that it's easier for me to let each one be their own person with a different personality, rather than trying to force them to be mini-mes.

You eventually need a 4-bedroom house which is a step-change in cost compared with 'entry-level' homes and means paying a mortgage for longer.

Don't believe the propaganda. I grew up with two siblings and shared a room with my sister until she went off to college.

I have 3 (and we hope to have more!) - but I think my situation is very different than others. We started with twins, so in a way it doesn't feel like we really have 3 kids. More like 2.5 maybe, it almost feels like stolen valor. Our twins are a bit older (not like 2 years old), so that also helps quite a bit. I think having a 0 year old, 2 year old, and 4 year old simultaneously is much more difficult, so I think the ages of the kids makes a difference here.

As far as costs/house/vehicles - sometimes I feel like I won the lottery. My wife doesn't work, so we've always gotten used to a single income. I live in Canada, so our healthcare costs are literally 0 (except for occasional drugs, covered mostly by employer insurance). We also get around $400 per month per child in cash from the government, direct deposited (the Canada Child Benefit). We bought a dingy early 2000s 150k odo minivan for $2k cash about 5 years ago prior to our twins, and it has served us well up to this point. We bought a 5 bed 3 bath house in a low cost of living city for around 300k in 2020. At our current situation we could handle probably up to 5 kids without having to change anything.

As far as "rewards" - our 3rd is the most precious thing. I just feel like the more, the merrier. More cousins, more networking, more possible support later on in life, hopefully more grandkids or more likelihood of grandkids - I'm trying to build a clan, a kingdom, a tribe, echoing long after I depart this earth. 2 -> 3 is usually considered the hardest, but in a sense 0 -> 1 is definitely the hardest and you already did that.

I love my kids and Iove being a dad, so I'm glad we had a third (and I'm actually hoping for a fourth). We have a huge SUV, but I like huge SUVs. We might end up in a 4BR house, but not due to the number of kids. We're just going to stick all the girls in one room and all the boys in another; that's how my siblings and I were raised and we were all fine with it.

My wife is a SAHM who does freelance work. I'd say it's impacted both of our careers. I've had to work harder and at a more stable line of work, and she's had to pass up some larger projects.

But overall there's never been a single moment where we've regretted having our third kid. He's awesome.

My wife actually added a job in the year after the third kid was born. I'm not sure how far apart yours are, but ours are pretty close and the third didn't blow up much that wasn't already deconstructed after the first kid.

Our third one was temperamentally, and schedule-wise the worst by a long-shot (e.g. sleep-training and fussiness) and that sucked, but was really just luck of the draw. It didn't affect bigger things much once we got through the beginning period.

That said, overall, I think where possible mothers should be at home with their children at least part time in the first several years in their lives, and if you're trying to balance a career to the point that you throw that kid in daycare, I disagree with that call. Although I'll probably have disagreed with your first two. My wife went down to part time work when our first was born, then left work for a few years when the second was born, then went back to working part-time once the third was ~6 months old.

I have had to be much more scheduled to make it all work, and I've taken on more housework, but overall I don't socialize much less than I do now. I've probably given up a few hobby-projects due to time/budget constraints, but not consciously and not all at once. I don't feel like #3 really adds all that much to the time commitment, but makes some times within that commitment a little more stressful.

In terms of our social life, travel, DINK lifestyle, etc. The 2nd had blown-up that. We bought a lager house in the ex-burbs, a used SUV, and my wife became a SAHM then we had number 3 and 4 and briefly entertained the idea of 5, likely would have happened if we were younger. I should add that this coincided with a relocation from a western Europe capitol city to New England.

I think thoughtful competent people should absolutely have as many children as they can manage.

Combo, but more complicated. She was working as a junior doctor. It looked like she was getting stuck as an NCHD, despite jumping through a number of hoops, research PhD, etc. We wanted to buy somewhere, housing was really expensive. She took full maternity leave but once that ended we were both working full time and the kids were in creche, nearly full time. I had suggested retooling our lives to realign how we were living. Housing was better value. If she wasn't going to work, there were tax advantages in the US. She'd worked on being able to practice in the US, passed the USMLE but didn't match (no interviews).

Our 3rd was born 9 months after we closed on the house, the 4th 2 years after the 3rd.

She prefers it now, at the time, there were some rough days. We were together in rental accommodation for ~8 months following 6 months apart save 4 weeks, as I needed to take up my new position before her visa was issued. If I had to do it again I'd really want to shrink the time apart and in the rental.

She wants to homeschool the kids next year.

It’s unfortunately very difficult for foreign doctors to get residency in the US, part of a very deliberate effort to ensure high labor prices for doctors. Glad that your wife seems happy now though.

It's a career that often doesn't map well to home / family life. Before we moved, looking at her senior colleagues we were hard pressed to find success stories, large families, intact marriages and successful careers.

It would have been nice for her to have the option. Though I think the money can be kind of a trap too. As DINK we didn't really have to think much about our spending. Now we're much more aware, and watch more closely.

Three is probably the most difficult number. Once you move on to four, the older one(s) can start helping to take care of the youngers.

In big cities having three or four kids is a sign of either wealth or poverty. Maintaining a semi-affluent PMC existence becomes impossible on all but the highest doctor/lawyer/banker incomes with four children. Unless the kids are very close together they need multiple nannies, at least 2-3 rooms at hotels when you travel, a full-time housekeeper to clean up (or stay at home parent), a much larger apartment or a house and so on.

People struggle to either get used to a lifestyle well below their means (often little better than people on much more modest incomes who live in welfare states that provide generous per-child benefits, free childcare etc) or are in a constant financial struggle even if they make a nominally very comfortable income. You have to really want it.

That said, I grew up with two siblings and my parents always say they wished they had a fourth child. In their case it’s at least partially because they eventually had more money than they expected to, though.

I'd say that it's mostly a sign of religiousness.

We have two kids (no plans for more), and the clear majority of our child-having friends have 1 or 2 kids (though of course not all have finished their effective child-bearing years). Apart from some individual cases at the very outer edge of my (huge) list of acquaintances, all cases where there's more than three kids are religious.

Do you think that tik tok's particularly strong boosting of local content, especially compared with other social media platforms, is possibly tied to a desire by the platform to deepen partisan and regional divides across the US?

There is also something dark in the way the algorithm is great at boosting content that shows us exactly what we desire in the most degrading way. For example I'm socially anxious and insecure about my masculinity so my feed was overrun with hypermasculine extremely affable men to a ridiculous degree. I have never had that experience with any other social media platform. I haven't used the app in over a year but there was something about it that always struck me as more toxic than any other. It is almost like the mirror of Erised, the magic device that shows us our deepest desires but never gives them to us. I found it completely maddening.

Part of it is a content moderation solution. At one point I remember reading that they assessed if a person was likely to be bullied and if so they limited their reach to their home country to cut back on complaints.

I will occasionally get those, “Make women desire you; stop being so nice,” ads on YouTube, delivered by an attractive-but-not-unreasonably-attractive woman with exaggerated gestures and expressions offering to tell you “the secret” to getting girls. I am generally pretty resistant to advertising. I will usually click the “skip ad” button, but in a world of finely-tuned manipulative advertising, where every ad for me is like this, could this be the key to emptying my bank account?

If you get the uBlock Origin extension, you'll never see ads of any kind on YouTube.

Interesting observation but I'm somewhat not convinced. For me as an example it didn't feed me a string of endless redheads with freckles and nice boobs - to - waist - to - hips ratios.

Well, let me say first that I have read the response by @Primaprimaprima and found it very entertaining. My own response would be that your allusion to that Harry Potter mirror was evocative for me. I have similar suspicions about all the platforms that currently ape TikTok's manner of presenting these what I will call microvideos (I despise what I feel is the wildly inaccurate term content to describe them).

I have friends (male) who launch private, anonymous accounts (equivalent to a reddit throwaway) expressly for the purpose of following whatever fetish artist or bikini model charges their battery. These aren't horny teenagers, either, I mean adult men. They don't do it to follow muscle cars or sports teams, however, thiugh that undoubtedly has to do with shame--no one's going to care if they have a few corvette fan club accounts in their follow list.

Do you have, in your who-you-are-following, a few GNC or similar accounts? Obviously we're all being tracked, both on-

and off-platforms, in various ways. I sometimes wonder of my friends' wormhole(s) of sexy elves or furry fandom (I just made that up; I don't actually know what the accounts are) spiral them further and further into planes of lasciviousness, or plush mink, or whatever.

I deleted my Instagram app some time ago but before I did so I got a lot of unsolicited geeky sci- fi stuff in my feed, which makes sense based on my (random) clicks.

the algorithm is great at boosting content that shows us exactly what we desire

I think this is too hasty of a claim to make. There are several problems that need to be explored here.

First: An obvious point, but one that bears repeating. TikTok cannot show you what you desire in its actuality, in the sense that it cannot manifest physical objects or states of affairs in reality; it can only show you representations of what you desire, in the form of videos. This allows us to inquire about the gap between the representation and the thing purportedly being represented. I claim that this gap is always irreducible, and thus problematizes any straightforward notion of TikTok showing you "exactly" what you desire.

It is easy to find examples of desires that elude direct representation. Christians have historically had a difficult time explaining exactly what the experience of Paradiso is supposed to be like, and communists have similarly had difficulty explaining how a true communist society would function, except through the via negativa: Heaven is not the state of earthly sin, communism is not the alienation of capitalism, and so forth. Plainly, if words and images alone are incapable of capturing these hypothetical states of affairs, then the combination of words and images in the form of video contributes nothing to the problem of their representation. But we need not confine ourselves to such rarefied examples; even in the most concrete and earthly desires, problems arise. Suppose you have a desire to eat steak. Suppose you are shown a TikTok video of a steak sizzling in a pan. This causes you to think: I desire to eat steak; I was shown an image of steak; thus TikTok has shown me what I desire; where's the problem? But this is based on a misrecognition of your own desire, as a simple thought experiment shows.

When you imagine eating a steak, you must always imagine that you are eating it in a particular concrete environment, in a particular location in spacetime, in a particular relationship with the other objects and people in your surroundings. You will certainly never imagine eating the steak in a pure black void, you and the steak alone in the universe; such a void would be bizarre and disquieting, and would certainly ruin the experience of the meal. Thus you do not have a pure and simple desire for "steak" as such, but rather you desire steak only insofar as it is embedded in the proper relational network. A video of a steak being cooked by a random person you don't know leaves obscure the fact that you don't desire to share a meal with just anyone; perhaps there are times where you desire to eat alone, but there are also times where you desire to eat with friends and family, people you have meaningful relationships with, in a comfortable and familiar environment. A random video can never capture the specificity of your particular relationships, of the social meanings that you attach to the act of dining with others, because it will always depict someone else who is not you.

We can imagine a magic version of TikTok that always displays your own private fantasy: we can imagine that it literally depicts you and your friends, sharing a meal, laughing and having a good time, etc. But even here, the gap between the representation and the reality of your desire can never be reduced to nothing. Consider the possibility that one of your friends (depicted in the magic video) is actually not your friend, but is instead your secret enemy, and while he is with you, he is constantly struggling to prevent himself from flying into a violent rage, even though on the surface he maintains a perfect act of being friendly and amicable. You desire to have a guarantee that this possibility can never come to pass, but how could such a guarantee ever be represented? Even if text were to appear on the video stating "this is the voice of God, and I guarantee that all the people assembled here genuinely love you, and none of them mean you harm", it would always be an open question whether that declaration were actually veridical or not. Because there can be no direct representation of the contents of consciousness of another conscious entity, your desire can never be fully sated, and it never reaches an end to its questioning.

We can easily apply this type of relational analysis to other examples. You desire beautiful women, TikTok shows you a beautiful woman who is just your type, thus it has reflected your desire, right? But don't you desire more than just the image of a woman? Don't you desire to have an authentic relationship with her, with all the vicissitudes that an actual relationship entails? All the ups and downs, the happy moments, the painful moments, even the long stretches of boredom where nothing much happens, all that is essential to an actual relationship as opposed to the falsified image of one? Because of the necessary extension of such a relationship in time, because of the necessity of the unfolding of the process itself (as opposed to the mere end result, the "final" image of happiness), it's the sort of thing that could not even be represented in a feature film, let alone a 10 second short.

Second: Continuing with the theme of the misrecognition of one's desire. Because the algorithm is based on your own volitional act of clicking on videos, your own self-reported desire, the algorithm reflects what you think your desire is, but this is frequently quite different from what your desire is in actuality. I doubt you have any serious desire for masculinity qua masculinity for example; I doubt you have made a genuine assessment that being masculine is virtuous as such. More than likely you only desire it on instrumental grounds because you believe it makes you more desirable to women, or that it accords you more social status. Imagine if tomorrow everyone around you held the opposite opinion; imagine that women found social anxiety to be attractive, and your colleagues at work started apportioning the most social status to those who were the most socially anxious. I imagine that you would abandon your desire for masculinity in a heartbeat, and you would instead become fixated on finding ways to make yourself appear more socially anxious.

Thus your "deepest desire" reveals itself to be quite fragile, and we should instead seek the reality of your desire elsewhere. The point, of course, is not to arrive at your true and final desire, beyond which there is nothing left that can deceive us; the point rather is that this self-movement and self-sublation is the nature of desire itself. The tendency of the algorithm to produce "gravitational attractors" based on your own self-reports arrests the movement of desire and falsifies it.

Third: Can TikTok represent the self-contradictory nature of desire? Desire never takes a simple and direct path to its object, flying straight as Cupid's arrow. Desire is always mutilated; it is always shattered from the start, at odds with itself.

Your issues with masculinity are not issues of knowledge or capability. If you're posting here, you're probably of above average intelligence and above average financial means, and you could enact this transformation in yourself if you really wanted to. I have personally seen men of meager means make quite dramatic personality shifts. You already know what you would have to do and how you would have to act in order to make yourself more outgoing. The fact that you haven't done so already indicates a certain trepidation on your part. You desire one thing, but also its opposite. Such is the nature of desire.

I am not in principle opposed to the idea of the direct representation of contradiction in audiovisual form. But, I don't believe that TikTok in its current form is designed with such possibilities in mind; it is predicated on the idea that you have one pure and simple desire, and that accessing the truth of this desire poses no special problems.

It is almost like the mirror of Erised, the magic device that shows us our deepest desires but never gives them to us.

It does no such thing. You simply fell prey to an illusion.

Ultimately, you're just not giving yourself enough credit. TikTok did not reflect the truth of your desire. It simply took one small and insignificant part of it, a part that is meaningless when it is deprived of its relationship to the whole, and drew a caricature of it, magnifying it to comic proportions. Your desire cannot be mastered by a series of 10 second videos. It is something far greater than that. Once you start to understand the nature of your own desire, you begin to chip away at the illusion of the algorithm's power.

Hmm, thank you for your interesting response to my post. I may be misinterpreting your conclusions and theories but I feel like we really aren't as much in disagreement as you are implying, maybe I was too vague or worded things too hastily in my original post.

Responding to your first point: I think you're actually illustrating the frustration that I found with tiktok and that I was trying to illustrate with the Mirror of Erised comparison. The Mirror in the book shows just a facsimile of our deepest desire- it is a sort of masturbatory object that just displays an image on a surface of ourselves owning or doing what we desire. We could imagine an actual Mirror of Erised app that, say, records our faces and bodies and then AI generates videos of us doing whatever we want- battling foes in Ancient Rome, sleeping with any celebrity, whatever- but this would actually be even a step removed from the reality of seeing just a video of someone doing or being what we want of their own volition, because we as independent actors imagine ourselves in relation to whatever we're viewing. Basically, if I see a hypermasculine friendly guy in a video, I am also seeing the shadow of the qualities that I lack projected onto the subject. If I was shown a video of an AI version of myself acting this way, it would probably be less maddening because it's so fantastical that I wouldn't be seeing my own lack in this video but rather either enjoy seeing a fantasy version of myself for a moment, or just dismiss it outright as silly.

I think I'm rambling and losing the plot here so let me go back- Yes, you're correct that there is always a distance between what tiktok shows us and what we desire. I think this is also part of the irony that Rowling was trying to elucidate by inventing the Mirror of Erised.

Point two: Yes, my desires are shaped by what I think they will give me. I think I could be happier and more popular if I was friendlier and more masculine so I seek to become more masculine and friendly, because those are traits that I believe I lack.

The tendency of the algorithm to produce "gravitational attractors" based on your own self-reports arrests the movement of desire and falsifies it.

I don't see that as evident... The second level desires I have (to become more masculine and be friendlier) are still strong enough for me to be hung up on it, I'm not gullible enough to waste time on some literal clickbait that's like "This one weird trick to masculinity will get you a thousand new friends in 50 seconds or less" but I am gullible enough to waste hours scrolling through feeds of masculine affable men to try and glean some tips from them or otherwise, in my monkey brain, try to glean some kind of affect from. It is showing me the second layer of what I want because I think that's the level that tik tok can provide me with, because I don't think it can provide me with the underlying actuality of being happier and having more friends as such. Thus, the layer of abstraction from being able to get anything out of the platform as I tried to allude to when I framed tik tok as "maddening" in my original post.

Point three: I actually am and have taken many steps to correct the things that I'm trying to improve in myself, including masculinity and friendliness. It's not something that can be fixed overnight and I'm likely to struggle with it for years and years, just like I've struggled with overeating and low self esteem. Of course my nature is to be unmasculine, unfriendly, eat tons of food and hate myself, but I have to resist all of these urges every day. I am proud of the progress I've made in all these areas. I don't know if watching the content I was fed on tiktok was a positive path to self improvement or a toxic mirror that felt like a needle at the side of my insecurities. In a way it was both, perhaps.

Interesting, good post.

with all the vicissitudes that an actual relationship entails? All the ups and downs, the happy moments, the painful moments, even the long stretches of boredom where nothing much happens, all that is essential to an actual relationship as opposed to the falsified image of one?

Really? Wouldn't relationships be better if they lacked painful moments? Imagine an omnipotent goes all out and makes you a soulmate. Every gene, every memory, every quirk of personality and every atom is specifically designed to maximize the happy moments in the relationship and prevent unhappy moments. That is strictly superior to standard relationships. On a purely definitional level, this must be true. It's not achievable by us but it's still an ideal.

I don't really have a full answer right now. This sounds quite hellish to me:

an omnipotent goes all out and makes you a soulmate. Every gene, every memory, every quirk of personality and every atom is specifically designed to maximize the happy moments in the relationship and prevent unhappy moments

but I'm not prepared to give an argument for why that should be the case, so I'll have to just let it stand as an assertion of preference.

This piece by Orwell is a good starting point. Utopia always gets boring after a while.

There is also something dark in the way the algorithm is great at boosting content that shows us exactly what we desire in the most degrading way. For example I'm socially anxious and insecure about my masculinity so my feed was overrun with hypermasculine extremely affable men to a ridiculous degree

I've never heard this about TikTok, but that's probably because I've stayed far away from it. I know close to nothing about TikTok. But I'm wondering, what is the mechanism/algorithm by which they tailor this content for you and give it to you? Is it that you're looking up those videos of hypermasculine content, and then they give you more of it?

I've deleted and re-downloaded the app a handful of times and every time I do I get tons of local content and videos that seem to highlight things people are insecure about- for example, one video I saw was something like "my [rich] mom's insane skincare collection," (playing on people's class anxieties and appearance anxieties,) videos of really hot local people with lots of followers (playing on people's social anxieties), I can imagine other people get tons of social justice related type content that plays on people's anxieties around race and such. It just seems to boost content that shows what people find themselves lacking. It's kind of Girardian in how it shows memetic desire of others in one platform. So it seems like it's already designed to figure out what you want and then give you a simulacra of that thing.

Of course I'm not blameless as I chose to follow and interact with the accounts that show me what I want, but I suspect most people would be even worse at resisting the bait than I was.

I do not know much about TikTok specifically, but every social media has a large section of content aimed at highlighting the objects of people's insecurities. I think that insecurity's compulsiveness mixed with TikTok's uniquely high content turnover rate which also influences the algorithm's recommendations in totality(the watchtime itself is a metric of engagement), gives rise to the amount.